Harry Clarke On economics, politics & other things

August 9, 2014

Around the Block

Filed under: movies — hc @ 9:33 pm

This is a preposterous, improbable Australian movie. A young American women gets a group of young aboriginals to do a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Based in Redfern, Sydney. The movie is not even going to be released in conventional cinema.  But I loved it and scenes moved me to tears.  A great Australian film that trounces Hollywood and the garbage we are delivered via the mainstream cinema.  Entranced and moved by this gorgeous Australian-motivated and Australian-made movie.

September 11, 2013


Filed under: movies — hc @ 10:17 pm

Greatly enjoyed Baz Luhrmann’s “Gatsby”. A triumph after the poor “Australia”. Cinematically refined and beautifully scripted I thought this was an enlightening portrayal of New York 1922 and a great love story between Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Daisy. DiCaprio’s performance was perfection. A lot of poetry in this movie on extravagance and mystery that resolves into human passion. A gripping dreamlike quality – we awoke when passion became clear. Why didn’t many critics like this film? The reviews were so negative I nearly avoided it – particularly after “Australia”.

I’ll reread the book with interest after twenty years. The best movie I have watched in 2013.

August 15, 2013

Inside Job

Filed under: economics,movies — hc @ 10:24 pm

I watched the movie with this title on a blu-ray tonight. A fascinating tele-documentary on the GFC.  Some of the prominent macroeconomists* that I had learnt to respect reveal themselves to be utter s***s who would say or do anything for a moderately large cash pay-out.   A word from the wise guy: There is more to life than selling out to the highest bidder you discredited louses.  Of course these economists only got the scraps from the table – obviously the big payoffs went to those stealing, lying to the public and corrupting the public policy process who mainly came from the large finance firms.  The finance executives continue to enjoy high political status and of course retain their ill-gotten wealth. An excellent film that proved a good history of the events leading up to the GFC, the scandals that developed once it occurred and the ongoing scandals involving Obama.  Capitalism is creating bad values that undermine itself.

I am interested in ethics. This film does not only show poor ethical positions that stem from inadequate economics methodology.  It also illustrates straightforward corruption and dishonesty. The economists exposed here should be shamed, sacked from any involvement in public life and certainly should not be allowed to inflict their evil nature on students in universities.   The mainly corrupt finance executives should, of course, be in jail.

*I have been discussing, in class, over the past week the Larry Summers memorandum on trading pollution with developing countries in order to deliver “gains-from-trade”.  I have tried to take what is a morally preposterous argument seriously but I won’t any more.  Summers has bad values and poor judgment. He deserves explicit condemnation and should enjoy zero academic tolerance.    Ditto Mischkin, Bernanke….

January 30, 2013

Anna Karenina

Filed under: movies — hc @ 11:34 pm

I saw the most recent filmed version of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina this evening. It  was one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen in a long time.  It had mixed reviews – many criticised its ‘theatrical’ aspects as detracting from the story. Most of the  reviews are worth ignoring particular the silly nationalistic Russian claims that the Anna portrayed is too thin. Here’s one of the less antagonistic.  The Tolstoy novel is a favourite of mine (I could be similarly expansive about it and indeed it seems to make an impression on all who read it).  I have seen several movie versions of AK – it has been filmed 25 times – but this will be the most memorable for me.  Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard have produced a masterpiece. Yes, it is theatrical, impressionist and surrealist – so too is the novel.  Anna is superb in this movie as is her amour Count Vronsky ( a handsome dashing dandy, so what silly critics?) in a magnificent erotic dalliance.   A masterly romance that becomes a tragedy with a nice twist involving the contrast with the happy ending enjoyed by the “rejects” Kitty and husband.  A technically superb  cross between a movie and a filmed theatre production. Grade 9.9/10.

Update: Some quick comments on other movies I have recently watched: (more…)

June 7, 2011

Thoughts on Polanski

Filed under: film,movies — hc @ 10:57 pm

I have been overwhelmed with academic work of late.  My blog postings have obviously suffered and countless thousands of grief-stricken readers around the world have made complaints.  In the evenings I ‘ve also entered into an intellectually lazy mode and done the Norm-like, Bogan thing.

For recreation I have enjoyed playing with my new Mac computers. I have also been watching some vintage and more recent films by director Roman Polanski.   Along with Robert Altman he is one of my favorite movie directors.

Polanski is indeed one of the more interesting modern directors. He has a sense of deviance that throws a new light on drama and on the human condition.  Polanski is above all else a technically capable director who has been a long-term serious student of film. He has a mastery of the technical side of movie photography and is simultaneously interested in exploring all film genres.  Polanski has a perceptive grasp of character and an ability to arouse intense atmosphere.  His dramatic films are intensely suspenseful and draw you into their visions. You want to know. (more…)

January 27, 2010

Unchained Goddess/Hemo the Magnificent

Filed under: climate change,movies — hc @ 11:31 pm

Another retrieved post from hacking attack:

I mentioned in an earlier post that the animated film Unchained Goddess unambiguously forecast anthropogenic climate change in 1958.  I’d only seen a clip and couldn’t find the complete film in local video stores so bought a copy from Amazon.  It is an outstanding, partly animated, documentary film by Frank Capra (he produced one of the greatest films of all times, It’s a Wonderful Life with Donna Reed and Frank Stewart).  I haven’t enjoyed a documentary film more for years. Obviously designed for school kids it is a fascinating introduction to weather and climate that would entertain and inform any age group.  The science is a little dated but includes a fascinating still of John von Neumann who, amongst his many talents, developed the early use of computers in meteorology*.  The film closes with some prescient words “man may be unwittingly altering the world’s climate” by releasing pollutants. Then unambiguously the prospect of melting icecaps and rising sea levels is discussed.  Fascinating stuff.

With the film came Hemo The Magnificent which is a biology film that discusses the human body’s blood plumbing system.  Again by Capra, the film again includes animation and some amazing photography.  Truly superb. 

My son watched both films with me and he was as enchanted by the presentation as I was.

Also available is Our Mr. Sun and Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays which I will try to get. 

These films were commission by AT&T (Bell Telephone) during the 1950s to develop school and general community interest in science.  If I had been exposed to this approach to science in the 1960s I might not have become an economist! I can’t find any record of use of these films in Australian schools.

* Von Neumann of course invented game theory and made pioneering contributions to the multi-sectoral analysis of growth. His interest in meteorological prediction led him to propose manipulating the environment by spreading colorants on the polar ice caps in order to enhance absorption of solar radiation (by reducing the albedo), thereby raising global temperatures. It is also interesting to note that two of the most prominent economists initially worked in meteorology. Quote: “That might be a bit of a stretch, but meteorology and economics have a lot more in common then you might think. Both the youngest and oldest winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics were meteorologists before they were professional economists. Kenneth Arrow, the youngest to win, was a weather forecaster during his military service in World War II. Similarly, Leonid Hurwicz, one of this year’s winners, taught meteorology at the University of Chicago between 1942 and 1944 before entering the field of economics. At 90 years of age, he is the oldest person awarded a Nobel Prize in any field.”

January 6, 2010

Environmental movies

Filed under: climate change,movies — hc @ 11:35 am

The extreme political right are showing their hatred for the movie (that I reviewed recently) Avatar presumably because of its pro-environmental and anti-military themes.  It is hard for me to appreciate the viewpoint of those who see something positive in environmental destruction and in killing people  but that seems to be where these kooks end up.

There are in fact a number of early movies that take up environmental issues and even specific climate change themes.

I recently viewed once again the film Soylent Green a science fiction classic that takes up environmental themes and provides early (around 1973) glimpses of the possible implications of climate change with explicit mention here of the greenhouse effect.  But I  really want to see Frank Capra’s Unchained Goddess which, in 1958,  very directly examined the specific anthropogenic warming hypothesis – a clip is here.  I’ll try to chase this up in my local video store and report back.

April 30, 2009

They smell worse when they burn

Filed under: movies — Tags: — hc @ 12:11 am

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas:  Mom dad and the two kids shift housing and set up digs in the countryside. Dad’s job? He runs a concentration camp and his son gets to talk to a dirty, starving Jewish kid whom he befriends, betrays and then reunites with.  Both end up in ovens.

This movie – based on a novel for children – was overwhelmingly powerful.  Almost too much so.  Too heavy, too sad.  Gripping but, almost, too sad.  It disintegrated into melodrama at the end but I had just about had it by then.   Harrowing – here is a review that I liked – others were less positive in directions I disagree with. It wasn’t so much ‘obvious’ as (this is the key word) harrowing.  A beautiful German boy’s view of war – you almost ended up feeling more for him  than for his comrade.

A great movie that I hesitate to recommend.  See it or, maybe, don’t.  No see it. I am interested in the views of others.

January 3, 2009


Filed under: movies — hc @ 12:11 pm

Yesterday I saw my first movie of 2009 – Frost/Nixon – the stylised account of the lead-up to and the actual interviews between the British interviewer David Frost and disgraced US President Richard Milhous Nixon. There were a few much-criticised historical inaccuracies in the film (many relating to the claimed priority Frost enjoyed in getting admissions from Nixon) but it is a dramatic and suspenseful movie. There is also much grim humour. Frank Langella is superb as Nixon and must be a contender for an Oscar – the film has been nominated for Golden Globes awards for best dramatic picture, best actor in a drama (Langella), best director (Ron Howard), best screenplay (Peter Morgan) and best original score (Hans Zimmer).

I also thought Michael Sheen was a more than capable David Frost – some critics found his smile wooden but his frivolous easy-going character was the exact counterweight to the neurotic intelligence of Nixon. Both lead actors previously participated in performances of a play with the same title.

By the way my sympathies during the film were almost entirely with Nixon – an imperfect, difficult although obviously highly intelligent man. In the film he runs rings around Frost until the final 2 hours of 30 hours of interviewing when finally and climactically Frost induces Nixon to spill the beans on his complicity in the Watergate scandal. The final admission almost seems cathartic for Nixon who finally realises it is over for him.

An enjoyable dramatic film.

January 26, 2008

The Kiterunner

Filed under: movies — hc @ 2:52 am

I watched The Kiterunner movie last night with mixed emotions. It was a film that provided an intriguing account of children caught up in Afghanistan’s conflicts. But it is essentially American sentimentality and an overdone account of good-versus-evil.

Spoiler: The next para outlines the plot.

The Kiterunner is the story of a sooky, intellectual Afghan boy, with a brave and wealthy father. The boy is nasty and dishonest to his loyal, though poor, friend who is a member of an Afghan racial minority. The boys fly fighting kites together but this fun ends when the Russians arrive and the sooky boy and his dad skedaddle to the US. The friend grows up but is eventually killed by the Taliban but his son survives. The grown-up sook of course discovers courage in America and returns to Pakistan where he finds out about his friend’s son and heads off to Kabul to rescue him from a bunch of sadistic, homosexual Taliban members. The boy gets rescued, heads off to America with the ex-sook and lives happily ever after with the ex-sook in middle class bliss (‘do you like your room’).

Americans are very much concerned with the issue of perfectibility and redemption. It is certainly here. They are also concerned with evil and that is here also – racism and some truly hideous Taliban creeps. The homosexual rape issue occurs twice in the film and it is confronting. Young boys carry out one of the rapes and religious hypocrites carry out the other. Creepy homosexuals add an element of disgust to the tale but are essentially irrelevant – they are an overdone attempt to add drama to a story which generally lacks it.

The film has had some glowing reviews but in my view it is overdone melodrama.

August 29, 2007

Nostalgia: The Forsyte Saga

Filed under: drama,movies — hc @ 1:20 pm

I have been occupied for the past few days watching the complete original version of The Forsyte Saga based on the novels by John Galsworthy. A couple of years ago I tried to watch a more recent 2002 TV adaptation of the same tale but lost interest – the characters lacked conviction compared to the earlier version in my memory.

The original adaptation was first screened on TV in Australia in the late 1960s. It is one of the most memorable and engaging TV dramas I can recall. In Britain, 18 million people watched the final episode of this 26 part series and, as a measure of its near universal appeal, it was the first British drama sold to the former Soviet Union. It was the last major TV drama shot in black and white.

The version I purchased from Amazon.com was a replication of the original version transferred to a set of 7 DVDs from BBC video. Its 26 episodes run for nearly 22 hours with nearly 2 hours of trailers. Once I stated watching I found it as difficult to stop as it is to put down an engaging novel.

What a totally absorbing drama The Forsyte Saga is. Succinct dialogue, superb acting and an engrossing nostalgic look at Victorian and post-Victorian society.

The distinguished Shakespearian actor Eric Porter played the part of the unforgettable, dour Soames Forsyte. Soames was a ‘man of property’ who did have a soft affectionate side but had a very limited capacity to communicate that. In a remarkable trailer on the final DVD Porter reveals that he coped well with the Soames part because it reflected his own character – his own communication problems turned him into an actor.

The other character who was a clear image in my head after nearly 30 years was Soames’ daughter by his second wife, Fleur, played by Susan Hampshire. I still find her performance totally captivating. A flighty, charming yet very determined young post-Victorian woman who was used to getting what she wanted.

Less interesting to me was the beautiful Irene, played by Nyree Porter. She was Soames’ first wife in a tragic, loveless marriage that never worked. Irene did have beauty on her side – she was almost statuesque – but seemed about as cold as Soames without his depth or good qualities.

One of the memories that re-watching the series stirred was the community debate that occurred during the first series over who was the culpable party in the Soames –Irene conflict. Was it the dour Soames or a cold, unyielding Irene? I remember it split viewers strongly. I always had some affection and sympathy for Soames. I thought this might be an unpopular choice but I was interested to learn recently that surveys in Britain at the time suggested most people backed Soames too.

Good story-telling is often about nostalgia. It can be about shifting us to another place or time where we can fantasise. Victorian and post-Victorian England is a convenient source of bourgeois fantasy. Indeed leftwing critics of the series criticised it as such. But The Forsyte Saga is more than nostalgia – it is great drama – indeed I have seen nothing comparable to it for years.

April 11, 2007

Oldie movies by Fritz Lang & some modern movies

Filed under: entertainment,movies — hc @ 12:59 am

I’ve watched a couple of Fritz Lang movie masterpieces over the last days and several modern films. Its been a long, lazy Easter break.

Metropolis is a silent Lang classic from 1926, perhaps the first science fiction epic, with a wild plot involving downtrodden workers, mad engineers and feminoid robots. This astounding film is highly moralistic with a message about the balance between heart and mind in an industrial society that has, I think, contemporary relevance. I couldn’t get the original version of this flick but was left with one having a new (1998) music soundtrack by Peter Osborne. What a surreal and stylistically exaggerated movie this is. With the silent movies the emphasis fell on acting skill and this is one of the greatest of its genre from the viewpoint of displaying precisely that skill – the acting is dramatic, exaggerated and gripping. Rank 10/10 ‘fantastic’ is the accurate adjective.

The Lang movie M (1931) features Peter Lorre in one of his first starring roles as a serial child killer who whistles Grieg. Lorre is put on trial by a criminal gang who are annoyed that the crime crackdown following the murders isa cutting into their ability to act – Lorre pleads that while they choose to commit crime, he is compelled to commit it. This is early film noir. This is a spooky, thriller (in German with subtitles) with good mob scenes and cop-versus-robber adventures. The German city is fearful of the murderer and these fears provide an interesting picture of pre-War Germany with criminal gangs and authoritarian coppers. I originally had problems getting a copy – I normally search for these older movies on EBay – but I bought a splendid DVD of this in a remainder bin outside a Tandy’s store for exactly $2. Grade 7/10.

I watched Marie Antoinette which I enjoyed. It stars the blood-warming Kirsten Dunst - you will fall in love with her after viewing this delightful tale. It is almost a historical movie but poetic licence intrudes more than a little. It is presented in a modern idiom but with historical costumes and exquisite presentations of the extravagant, luxurious lifestyles of Versailles that lead to the collapse of Louis V1. Sad moments of sexual- and life-starved frustration for Marie though she sticks with dense Louis through thick-and-thin. Both are on a gravy train that they do not entirely welcome and from which they cannot get off. The images that stick in my mind are of the sumptuous strawberry deserts, Marie’s shoes and clothes and the general sumpyuous glory of Versailles! Rank 8/10.

I watched The Painted Veil which gets 7/10. Based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, this is a love story set in the 1920s telling the tale of a young English couple, Walter (Edward Norton), a bacteriologist, and Kitty (Naomi Watts), an upper-class woman. They get married for the wrong reasons and relocate to Shanghai, where Kitty falls in love with a sleazy cad. Walter uncovers the infidelity and, in an act of spite, accepts a job in a remote village in China ravaged by cholera and KMT anger, and takes Kitty with him. Watching her husband working with KMT nationalists and cholera sufferers gives Kitty a new respect for him and they re-engage. It is a ‘solidity versus fickleness’ story with impressive photography of Chinese countryside.

Finally, I watched and enjoyed The Illusionist – the story of a man from the ‘lower classes’ (Edward Norton again) who secures the love of a woman of far higher social rank and retains this love using his skills as a magician, illusionist and strategist. This is a delightful fairytale that I strongly recommend – a 9/10. The magic is awesome and the intriguing punch line (which I won’t preannounce) is compelling. It’s a pleasant, well-acted fantasy. Norton is excellent as is Jessica Biel, the target of his affections.

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