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Newsletter 306

Published September 30, 2019
The Three (dis)Graces

What a humiliating week to be an Australian! As world leaders attended an all-important Climate Change session at the United Nations, Scummo was in Ohio admiring a McDonalds drive-thru. Previously he had distinguished himself by his craven, fawning attitude to Donald Trump. “Blockade Iran? Yessir!”

“Would you like me to talk tough on China Mr. President? I know they’re our biggest trading partners, but I’d love a chance to demonstrate my loyalty to your great nation.”

Or words to that effect.

Appalling as he was, Scummo was upstaged by Anthony Pratt, who told Trump that our PM was “the Don Bradman of jobs creation”, hastily explaining that Bradman was Australia’s version of Babe Ruth. “Wow” said Trump, with a tone of glazed boredom that would’ve made Andy Warhol envious, before turning away completely.

Does being Australia’s richest man automatically confer the right to act like a buffoon in public? Perhaps Mr. Pratt was still smarting from being beaten by Joaquin Phoenix for the lead role in the new Joker movie. He has amply demonstrated his show business credentials by singing a duet with Burt Bacharach in 2010, where he took the familiar refrain: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”, and wittily made it into: “What the world needs now is a Visy box.” I wish the camera had done a quick pan of the audience.

It’s depressing to spend five glorious days in the bush with no phone or Internet, then return to witness the gloating triumphalism of the embarrassment-proof mega-rich. What the world needs now is a sense of shame.

John Kaldor may be feeling a touch of triumphalism at present, as he celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Kaldor Public Art Projects with a big show at the Art Gallery of NSW. That exhibition, Making Art Public, is the subject of this week’s SMH column. It’s a nostalgic event for those of us who remember many of these landmark shows, although I confess I was still in primary school when Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped Little Bay in 1969.

Guest curator, Michael Landy, has done a sterling job with this survey, but it’s hard to turn a mass of documentation into a rivetting experience for the viewer. If it doesn’t inspire shock and awe, it should at least stimulate a sense of curiosity.

The film being reviewed is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I would have preferred writing about Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, but wasn’t able to catch one of the previews, and as it’s distributed by Universal there’s no chance of anyone being extra helpful. As chance would have it they’re also distributing Scary Stories’, so they win either way.

I had no great expectations for this film but ended up liking it a lot. It may be pulp, but it’s classy pulp, probably thanks to the influence of Guillermo del Toro, who co-authored the script. If the movie wasn’t especially scary that may only be because I’d just been watching Anthony Pratt singing with Burt Bacharach. That’s the kind of horror Hollywood can’t beat.