WolfmanOz at the Movies #74

I think it would be fun to run a newspaper.

It is with some trepidation that I write about a film that is often considered one of the greatest film ever made – Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane, released in 1941. This quasi-biographical drama examines the life and legacy of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane, brilliantly played by Welles, a composite character and although various sources were used as a model for Kane, William Randolph Hearst was the primary inspiration.

Anyone who sees Citizen Kane for the first time today does so because he or she has heard that it is one of the greatest films ever made. One simply doesn’t come across the film by accident on TV, watching it “for what it is”, so to speak. The common approach of seeing it to believe it can be at best exhilarating and at worst hostile. Unfortunately, the latter is usually, although quite understandably, the case. For how can one do anything but look down at a film that elitist snobs have praised for years and years? One simply must prove oneself right by falsifying the critics’ claims, leaving the theatre or the living room with a shrug and a condescending comment: “it was okay”.

One might begin with the basic fact that Citizen Kane was a relative flop when it was released. It was a financial risk for the RKO studios to give free hands to the novice prodigy Orson Welles, who had gained quite a reputation with the radio show of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, and not surprisingly it didn’t pay off. Despite the almost unanimous praises of critics at the time, Citizen Kane was soon forgotten. However, in France, the film was discovered after WWII, and it was hailed as a masterpiece. Thus the film’s new found reputation blossomed rapidly.

It has to be highlighted that the story of Citizen Kane is remarkable. It tells the story about a lonely giant of a man who conquered the American media. It’s a story about a man who dedicated his life to possession, but tragically became to be possessed by it himself. The film begins with the protagonist’s death, and then portrays the attempts of a journalist trying to figure out the meaning of his last word “Rosebud” by interviewing people who knew the man. “It will probably turn out to be a very simple thing”, he supposes. The uniqueness of Citizen Kane lies in the use of different perspectives, creating a non-linear narrative that is superbly expressed in the famous breakfast montage which in only 2 minutes shows the disintegration of Kane’s first marriage.

The innovative use of various cinematic means, the film made the style public, thus standardising it for Hollywood, including deep-focus cinematography, sequence shots, and deep-space composition. These had been used before, but hardly with similar unity. This stylistic tendency is enhanced by Welles’ relentless use of heavy low-angle shots and dynamic montage sequences. There are innovative cuts that spark imagination and soundtrack solutions that open the story and its characters to new dimensions. Citizen Kane is often celebrated as a bravura of the art of mise-en-scène since it puts a lot of emphasis on pre-filmic elements such as setting and lighting, but the real gist of the film’s brilliance lies in the unity of these together with cinematographic and post-filmic elements. We see this demonstrated in the final scene of the film where Rosebud is revealed to the audience.

It’s still amazing to think that Welles was only just 26 when he made his film debut, but it would be too easy to just focus on Welles incredible talent as Citizen Kane wouldn’t be the film it is without the outstanding contributions from fellow cast members Joseph Cotten, Agnes Morehead, Everett Sloane and Dorothy Comingore; co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz; cinematographer Gregg Toland and composer Bernard Herrmann.

Citizen Kane remains a gem to any lover of cinema. It’s up there with immortal works of art from poetry, music, and painting. It is, like all great art, a tightly and beautifully sealed original whole which is why the film has been considered to be of such magnificent proportions. It’s my third favourite film of all-time.

A postscript in regards to Orson Welles . . .

The conventional view is that Welles was destroyed by Hollywood, which with its usual crassness drove him into exile and refused to give him the chance to make great movies that would have been a credit to America. His downfall as the most important American film director has seldom been placed at his own door where he gallantly tried to do the impossible: he tried to create films as novelists create novels, as poets create poems, as composers create music, as painters create paintings. Snatching finances from any possible source, drawing from his own pocket when need be, taking all the time that seemed necessary, he went beyond any other figure of the screen in seeking to convey a personal vision through celluloid, at his own pace and without restraints.

It is an axiom in the commercial cinema that the central figure of any work must be a human being with whom the mass audience can identify. In Citizen Kane Welles created a selfish, heartless tycoon who is destroyed spiritually by his own greed and ambition. In The Magnificent Ambersons Welles delivered a story of an impudent, bad-tempered puppy of a man. The Stranger featured a protagonist who was a Nazi war criminal and in The Lady From Shanghai he took his wife, Rita Hayworth, the reigning sex goddess of the screen and made her into a murderess.

Shakespeare has never been strong box office, so Welles’s Shakespearean trilogy (Macbeth, Othello and Chimes At Midnight) sank without a trace. Ironically, while the films he directed were failing, Welles himself was highly bankable as an actor. In Europe though his discipline disintegrated and he lost control of his career. As his waistline grew, his career shrivelled, it was almost as though eating and drinking were substitutes for creativity.

Today we mourn Welles’s genius but to pretend that he was maliciously rubbed out by Hollywood is of no help to history. Some perverse streak of anti-commercialism drove him; he was the brilliant architect of his own downfall, and it is impossible to avoid that truth.


And the tease for next week post . . . Tourists on the menu.

Brereton’s Backup

Note: this article was written in January of 2021, after publication of the Brereton report. It didn’t find a publisher at that time. Cats may appreciate this and a companion article. Note that the Brereton report has been moved.

The most interesting, and in many ways the most useful, part of the Brereton report is Annex A, the Whetham Report, to Part 3, Strategic, Operational, Organisational and Cultural Issues. It’s written by Dr. David Whetham. Among (many) other things, he’s Director of the King’s Centre for Military Ethics at King’s College, London. He was made Assistant Inspector-General of the ADF for the purpose of this very report. Here’s his bio from King’s.

David Whetham is Professor of Ethics and the Military Profession in the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London. He is the Director of the King’s Centre for Military Ethics and delivers or coordinates the military ethics component of courses for between two and three thousand British and international officers a year at the UK’s Joint Services Command and Staff College. Before joining King’s as a permanent member fo staff in 2003, David worked as a BBC researcher and with the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] in Kosovo, supporting the 2001 and 2002 elections.

Continue reading “Brereton’s Backup”

No officers were harmed in the making of this report

Note: this article was written in January of 2021, after publication of the Brereton report. It didn’t find a publisher at that time. Cats may appreciate this and a companion article. Note that the Brereton report has been moved.

It’s like this, in the gospel according to Brereton

All that said, it was at the patrol commander level that the criminal behaviour was conceived, committed, continued, and concealed, and overwhelmingly at that level that responsibility resides…
The Inquiry has found no evidence that there was knowledge of, or reckless indifference to, the commission of war crimes, on the part of commanders at troop/platoon, squadron/company or Task Group Headquarters level, let alone at higher levels such as Commander Joint Task Force 633, Joint Operations Command, or Australian Defence Headquarters. Nor…was [there] any failure at any of those levels to take reasonable and practical steps that would have prevented or detected the commission of war crimes.
…responsibility and accountability does not extend to higher headquarters…
The responsibility lies in the Australian Defence Force, not with the government of the day.
…that culture was not created or enabled in SOTG, let alone by any individual Special Operations Task Group Commanding Officer. … It was in their parent units…that the cultures…were bred, and it is with the commanders of the domestic units who enabled that, rather than with the SOTG commanders, that greater responsibility rests.

Continue reading “No officers were harmed in the making of this report”

Insanity Reigns

Chris Bowen, Minister for Climate Change and Energy, is gung-ho for more wind despite rising power prices and evidence of frequent and extensive wind droughts across the whole of Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM). Apropos the period from 11 am on August 7 until 4 am on August 9. For 42 hours wind delivered just 7.64 percent of its plated capacity. Imagine, in your wildest febrile imaginings, how many ‘big batteries’ would be needed to fill the gap.

As I reported in Quadrant Online here, the NEM, basically the whole of South Eastern Australia, used 189 TWh in 2021-22. That comes to 21,575 MW delivered, on average, each and every hour. Australian’s biggest battery in Victoria stores 450 MWh. To be clear, this means it can provide 450 MW for one hour before going flat and needing to be recharged; from somewhere. OK then, how many “big batteries” of the Victorian size would be required to fill the gap? Answer, 2014. And the cost, based on the $160 million spent to install the Victorian battery? Answer, $322 billion.

True, I have assumed nothing from wind when it would be providing a little bit and have not taken account of solar power. Then again, 42 hours encompasses a lot of night when solar is providing zilch. The point is that fiddling with the numbers would still mean that batteries can provide no effective storage solution. It’s a crock to assume otherwise. A swindle of enormous proportions.

As Mr Micawber might have said. Annual electricity requirement continuous. Annual wind and sun power intermittent. Batteries deficient. Result energy misery.

Unfortunately, Mr Bowen has not nearly the same perspicacity as Mr Micawber. We are at the mercy of someone with an obsessive personality disorder, fixated on a quixotic quest to save the planet from an illusory attack from manmade climate change. It would be funny if it were not making us all poorer and, in a reversal of progress, subject again to the perfidious elements. Over 250 years of progress built, in large part, on reliable and affordable energy put at risk for no rational reason. Based on bought-and-paid-for so-called “science.” A bodgie science which comes up with no testable predictions but, instead, spews out tenuous extrapolations and unhinged speculations. All of which have foundered on the rock of unfolding reality.

In the meantime, in case you thought insanity among the powers that be was restricted to climate change, the Australian Department of Health is still running TV ads encouraging young healthy people – shown, e.g., playing outdoor basketball – to get a free booster. If, wait for it, it has been six months since their last bout of Covid or being jabbed.

Leave aside the absence of evidence that the vaccines are at all effective in preventing death among the only cohort at material risk – those, usually elderly, with several comorbidities. How many such people who caught Covid were saved by the vaccine? It would be nice to have some hard evidence. How about healthly youngish people? Recently, the Israeli health ministry said that there were “zero reports of people 18-50 dying of Covid without pre-existing conditions.” Nothing surprising about that to those paying attention to the data these past three years and more.

Are the apparatchiks in Australia’s Department of Health paying attention, I wonder? Youngish healthy people are at no risk from the virus, yet might suffer serious side effects from the vaccine. Logical conclusion: youngish healthy people shouldn’t be vaccinated. Yes, but only in a sane world.

On the edge of the cliff

With the closure of Liddell power station we have crossed the line into uncharted territory.

Now it actually matters whether the wind blows continuously, or at last between sunset and sunrise. 

it does not, although continental wind droughts have only been studied since about 2010 when Paul Miskelly and others started to look at the information from the windmills which are the most useful instruments for detecting them.

The outstanding contributor has been blogging under the name of Tony from Oz since 2018 and his thousands of records on all forms of generation must represent one of the most remarkable single-handed and unfunded research projects of all time. 

The BOM might have issued wind drought alerts but their system which was installed in the 1990s collected wind velocity measurements hourly and reported the data as averages for weeks, months and the year. The longest wind droughts max out around three days they only reduced the score for the week without actually revealing periods when there was effectively no useful wind.

The big question is how the meteorologists managed to avoid seeing and warning about the consequences of  the European Dunkelfauts that last for weeks. They only got an entry in Wikipedia in 2021!  Mariners and millers on land must have experienced them for centuries. Interest has been aroused since Germany and Britain are  now embarked on serious deindustrialization due to the Dunkelfauts plus the closure of coal and nuclear (in Germany.) There were clear signs of impending disaster at least a year before the Ukraine invasion.

So the plans for replacing coal with wind and solar need to be re-jigged to take account of these now well-recognized wind droughts and lulls.

Rabz’ Radio Show June 2023 – Favourite Songs

All killer, no filler, Cats.

One of the many things I love about music is its effortless ability to transfer you back to a particular time and place, emphatically triggering memories.

But what exactly are the constituent parts of that rare beast, a favourite song?

To me, the most important aspect (obviously) is the music, rather than the lyrics. “Musical Hooks” are important but ultimately a truly great song will blend both music and vocals into a memorable whole. Vocals can also be an additional instrument instead of just telling a story, see the mighty Liz Fraser, for example.

Song structure remains key as well. A potentially favourite song can be let down by poor structure, especially discordant or unnecessary musical or vocal sections.

A favourite song’s lyrics may be key if they seem to essay a particular situation in the listener’s experience – hence the goodness knows how many songs on attraction, love and heartbreak.

I won’t post my three favourite songs in this thread, as many Cats would already know what they are. This Radio Show is about celebrating and rediscovering our favourites, especially songs we may not have heard for many moons.

This thread’s first song, for example, was alluded to the other evening, as I hadn’t heard it for decades. It is as magical as I remembered – with a remastered audio highlighting the magnificent intro.

World Party – All come true

The second song is all about infatuation and here’s a movie scene that sheds some additional light on its subject matter (I’ll post the audio version later in the evening).

I met you at JC Penny …

So, feel free to post your favourite tunes in the comments, Cats and don’t be hesitant about engaging in some trawling through your archives over the evening.

You just know you want to.

WolfmanOz at the Movies #73

One flew East . . . One flew West.

The 70s produced some of the most interesting and worthy Hollywood movies. Before the era of blockbusters, and ever increasing dumbing down of the cinema art by the Hollywood power-brokers and greedy moneymakers, there was this short but truly amazing window of time that produced many timeless gems. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, directed by the great Czech director Miloš Forman and released in 1975, is the 2nd of the 3 great films from 1975 that I’m reviewing (the first was Barry Lyndon). The third will be reviewed in 2 weeks time.

Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, the story follows Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), who, in an attempt to get out of spending more time in prison, pleads insanity for his crime, and is therefore sentenced to time in a mental institution. This was McMurphy’s intention, as he believes the conditions in a “crazy house” will be significantly easier to contend with than another harsh stay in prison. However, he quickly finds out that surviving the institution with it’s desolate patients (including Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, Vincent Schiavelli and an absolutely brilliant Brad Dourif as the stuttering Billy Bibbit) and the monstrously repressive Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher, in a career defining role) is considerably harder than he imagined. McMurphy plays pranks, horseplay, and is generally defiant to the rules of the institution in an attempt to raise spirits. His constant optimism and reckless defiance to the out of date rules in the institution can be very uplifting, and often quite funny as well, but much of the movie can be very depressing – the generally decrepit state of the institution is a consistently (and intentionally) bleak background to a superb story with a truly bittersweet ending.

Jack Nicholson is at his best here, in one his two great signature roles (the other is as Jack Torrance in The Shining). McMurphy is an apparently unquenchable optimist, refusing to succumb to the defeated spirit of all the other patients. His livewire antics, inspiring the patients are generally uplifting, and when his indomitable spirit is finally broken, we really feel for him and his fellow patients. Nicholson conveys the essence of McMurphy to perfection, demonstrating his excellent understanding and interpretation of the character. When McMurphy announces that he is going to lift a huge stone fountain and hurl it through the window to escape, the other patients are so caught up in his intoxicating spirit of freedom that they honestly believe he can do it, despite the fact it would be impossible for him to do it. When McMurphy finally discovers that despite his best efforts, he cannot lift the fountain, he is so openly crushed that we can’t help but feel for him. Beneath the frequent profanities and livewire antics, there are real human emotions, which come across as truly touching.

Matching Nicholson is Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched in one of cinemas truly great villainess roles. But here there is no chewing the scenery or histrionics but a cold, heartless and pitiless tyrant; Nurse Ratched has become a popular metaphor for the corrupting influence of institutional power and authority in bureaucracies. We see this displayed in the following clip and notice the final shot of her look of quiet anger and resentment at McMurphy.

Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a landmark in cinema. Pretty much everything in this film is at or close to perfection. And rightfully so, it became only the 2nd film (one of three films in history along with It Happened One Night and The Silence of the Lambs) to win the top five Academy Awards – Best Picture, Actor (Jack Nicholson), Actress (Louise Fletcher), Director (Miloš Forman), and Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman).

What more can be said about One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest which hasn’t already been said? It has an excellent storyline, top notch acting, painfully bleak visuals, perfectly setting the tone for the movie, and alternates between being truly uplifting to devastatingly depressing. It features one of the most memorable film ending ever, next to a man on his horse riding off into the sunset, and leaves the viewer beaten down by the conflicting emotions, but enthralled by its glorious entirety. It’s hard to produce a final outcome any better than this.


and the tease for next weeks post . . . I think it would be fun to run a newspaper.