Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Pop Culture Odds and Ends, Part Two

These bits were originally posted to the now-closed Castle Co-op between December of Twenty-and-Eleven and March of Twenty-and-Twelve. I'm reposting because why not and shut up.

Best Robbed Picture

(or; Best film to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award but not win.)

The history of the Academy Awards is replete with Best Picture Winner travesties, so it’s been, as I’m sure it has been for others, difficult to single out the most frustratingly cheated nominee of all time.

1994 is a particular cornerstone of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ ability to get it so very, very wrong. The winner that year was Forrest Gump, against clearly superior films Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption and Quiz Show. (One suspects that the trio of more-deserving films split the vote and allowed Gump to triumph.)

But for me, the single greatest Best Picture nominee to have been so horridly deprived of its rightful crowning is Citizen Kane. Perhaps the most glaring mistake ever made by the members of the Academy was the loss of Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece to, of all things, How Green Was My Valley!

An intense investigation into the life and legacy of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane – based upon real-life newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst – Citizen Kane is often cited as the greatest American film ever made. Kane was a wonder of innovations in cinematography, film scoring and film narrative. It changed the way filmmakers told their stories. It began a new period in filmmaking history.

They went with How Green Was My Valley.

Best Picture To Rule Them All

(or; Best film to have won the Best Picture Academy Award.)

Rifling through all of the Best Picture winners, it becomes apparent the list of truly fantastic movies to win the Holy Grail of film awards is suspiciously thin, considering the number of truly fantastic movies to have existed.

You’d think that having a small pool to work from would make this decision easier, but it really doesn’t. Although angling towards the Coen brothers’ No Country For Old Men, I couldn’t escape the notion that it’s youth meant it hadn’t yet proven its status as a classic. But then, is such a status a prerequisite to winning or being considered the best of the winners? (Definitely not the latter, I know.)

I have therefore selected as Best Picture to Rule Them All, Francis Ford Coppola’s undeniable classic, commercial and artistic success, and sequel-of-all-sequels -- if we’re not talking about The Dark Knight -- The Godfather Part II, telling the story of two generations of Corleone men.

I’ll never forget how it made me feel on the first watching, the silhouette of Fredo sitting in apparent safely in the fishing boat, rod in hands, saying a Hail Mary to aid his efforts. Michael watches stoically from the house. We know what’s coming.

This was a culmination of two fantastic and engrossing movies, and represented, parallel with his father Vito’s journey, a great and decisive change in Michael’s character.

And, in my opinion, the best of what the Academy got right.

Most Anticipated Film of 2012

So many films to look forward to this year, but like a great white elephant with glow-sticks raving in the corner of the room, and with apologies to Messrs. Whedon, Anderson – both, actually – and CuarĂ³n, my most-anticipated film of 2012 just has to be The Dark Knight Rises.

Christopher Nolan has proven himself a master storyteller with each of his films, but with The Dark Knight he successfully melded genre with enriched, tense and masterful film-making, and now, he believes he can unleash a worthy sequel upon us.

Gotham City, after eight years without the Batman, has seemingly eradicated its organised crime problem. In the film’s trailer, the city’s elite is self-congratulatory and thoroughly unprepared for the inevitable fall. You think this can last. There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. ‘Cause when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us, warns Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle.

If the IMAX prologue is anything to go by, Tom Hardy’s Bane, the film’s primary antagonist, with his voice and physicality, will be the stuff of nightmares.

Am I nervous? Hell yes. The plot is mostly still under tight wraps, and there is a lot of anticipation and high expectation. But I’ll be there, day one, ready to be as enthralled as I was with The Dark Knight, and I can’t doubt it being my most anticipated film of 2012.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends, Part One

These bits were originally posted to the now-closed Castle Co-op between December of Twenty-and-Eleven and March of Twenty-and-Twelve. I'm reposting because why not, shut up, and in once instance to embarrass myself.

End-of-Year 2011: Favourite Film

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Screenplay by Hossein Amini
Bold Films, Odd Lot Entertainment, Marc Platt Productions, Seed Productions

Ryan Gosling’s The Driver, for all his kindness and capacity for love, is a man affected by violence. Although heroic in many ways, at some point in his mysterious past, he was forever changed by violence and became something almost monstrous. Not unlike David Fincher’s Seven, Refn’s wonderfully ethereal – yet sparingly and shockingly violent – film with its brilliant thumping electro-pop score eschews (stylistic) genre conventions to make a truly original and artistic film from a plot that abides by its genre’s conventions. Sure, it’s an appealing neo-noir crime-thiller kind-of, but it truly is the study of Gosling’s fascinating character that makes the film equally so.

End-of-Year 2011: Favourite Album

'Bon Iver'
Bon Iver

I’m sure there were a great many listeners who were initially taken aback by Justin Vernon’s follow-up to his wildly popular debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. When many had fallen in love with For Emma for its captivating and sorrowful account of a heart-broken man alone in a cabin in the woods without any lavish production equipment or techniques, there was bound to be some resistance to Bon Iver’s luscious soundscapes, obscure vocals, and sometimes big climactic moments. Despite my love for For Emma, Bon Iver fulfills the promise of the former, being both the greater album and the logical extension and expansion of Vernon’s wonderful music. But enough of that comparison, because Bon Iver in its own rights is my favourite album of the year, and dare I say even the best of the year. Vernon has crafted with his band a magnificent forty minutes of careful and affecting indie-folk-prog, again with Vernon’s melodic talent and poetic and learned lyrics. Look no further than the album’s closer, ‘Beth/rest’, which by all reason should be a whole mess of cheese, but after repeated listens reveals itself to be so much greater than its 80’s saxophone-ballad leanings.

End-of-Year 2011: Favourite Television Show

'Breaking Bad'
Created/Executive Produced by Vince Gilligan

A lot of people have jumped on board after some initial hesitation, and I do understand that to a certain extent. Breaking Bad is a slow burn that spends however much time it needs to earn every one of its bigger moments. Each season is a lesson in tension-building. Each season is a lesson in fine writing for television. This past season was Breaking Bad’s finest yet, once again building upon the foundation laid in previous years, offering more than a few oh-my-holy-good-god moments, and delivering one of the greatest payoffs surely in television history. Bryan Cranston is amazing as Walter White, with a fantastic ensemble surrounding him, most notably this year Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo Fring. Even its photography is second-to-none at the moment. I’ll never forget the extreme wide shot of Gus and Walt in the desert from ‘Crawl Space’, no movement but for the ominous rolling clouds. There’s really not much more to say about it. It’s a fine, fine show in every respect.

Film Guilty Pleasure

Okay, I got one. Brace yourselves. I’ve probably watched Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace more times than any other Star Wars film.


I say “probably,” but it’s a certainty. I have. I’ve watched The Phantom Menace more than any other Star Wars film.

God, how I hate this movie. I hate this movie so much, but I’m utterly fascinated by it.

Time has certainly allowed my watchings of this... “film” to abate, although I did recently give it a stab in order to listen to Red Letter Media’s Mr. Plinket commentary. It’s pacing, dialogue, it’s logic, almost everything about it is mind-bogglingly nonsensical or just plain hack. (Except, of course, the visual effects.)

But oh, how I loved to watch it over and over! I came to starting to fix it in my mind. To cut certain lines of dialogue, to lengthen or shorten different shots. I essentially re-edited it in my mind during every watching.

Let’s face it, though. It’s beyond saving. And now so am I.

STUPID FAT HOBBIT, YOU... fixed it? The Mars Volta and 'Noctourniquet'

This piece was originally posted to the now-closed Castle Co-op on March 19, 2012.

This is not a review.

From the moment I heard ‘Inertiatic ESP’ on Triple J sometime in the early 2004, it was inevitable I was going to spend the next months (and years) obsessed with The Mars Volta, the “partnership between Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala.”

Their 2003 debut album, De-loused in the Comatorium, was something I’d been waiting for for years, a perfect blend of progressive/experimental rock with latin and jazz tinges, a good spot of ambient weirdness, stupid-good musicianship, production value – engineering, I should point out, not the master – and a great deal of passion and heart. I took to it immediately and so completely that The Mars Volta catapulted themselves above my other musical deities to the top of Mount Olympus.

They followed De-loused in 2005 with Frances the Mute, a deepened exploration of their progressive tendencies, owing even more this time around to latin and jazz-fusion, but again avoiding, and this is something I’ll discuss a bit more later, being too self-indulgent. This is of course despite really only having five “tracks,” which many seemed to have trouble wrapping their head around, including Universal Music, who decided to split the album’s 30-plus-minute epic closer ‘Cassandra Gemini’ into eight tracks on the CD release. After an adjustment period, Frances revealed itself the band’s magnum opus, and is to this day my favourite album.

The Mars Volta followed Frances with Amputechture a year later in 2006, The Bedlam in Goliath in 2008, and Octahedron in 2009.

Kinda glossed over the next three, didn’t I? Let’s talk about why.

Plagued perhaps by a rotating roster of members or Rodriguez-Lopez’s self-confessed dictatorship, prolificity and working pace, the band’s releases lacked refinement and became woefully self-indulgent and passionless.

Amputechture was a cut-and-paste of a thousand elements, quickly recorded and assembled at the desk by Rodriguez-Lopez, and while there’s a lot to like about it, it suffered for it. Drummer extraordinaire John Theodore wasn’t keeping up with the pace and dedication expected of him and was dismissed -- the beginning of the band’s lineup troubles -- which certainly must have contributed to the need for this method of recording. It seemed as though this method was carried through to Bedlam and Octahedron but less successfully, Bedlam containing a whole bunch of fat and Octahedron just being generally uninteresting.

Assigning something as self-indulgent is difficult for me. Our perspective as critic or listener is entirely subjective, and it’s a strange thing to attempt to define where the line of self-indulgence is for a band like The Mars Volta, who are clearly experimental and have made a big deal about following their own compass. (But we know it when we feel it.) So perhaps self-indulgence is not the problem with these albums at all, and they are rather merely lacking in other qualities for balance.

Last week, I was going to write about my expectations for The Mars Volta’s latest offering, Noctourniquet. That piece probably would have been mostly the same as this one at this point. From here, though, it might have gone something like:

“My patience has been thoroughly tried, and I face the prospect of discarding a band that was at one time closer to my head and heart than any before or since.”

I’ve stopped caring about bands before when their releases ran off the rails – as I’m sure you have as well –and there are a couple, like Coheed & Cambria, that I feel I can give one last chance, but to be facing that prospect of a band I loved as hard as The Mars Volta was quite a heart-ache for me.

My girlfriend had taken to barbing, “You just wish they were on drugs again, don’t you?” (For the record, I really don’t.) It was an interesting comment to me, because it revealed me for the stereotypical fan that I was, yearning for the days of old rather than future.

There were these fans and their common suggestions on the message boards about where the band had gone wrong. That they needed to stop self-producing, or that they needed to simplify their song-writing -- which didn’t work for Octahedron, I’ll point out -- or somehow just be as they were in the De-loused days.

What Noctourniquet proves is that a band constantly reinventing itself and moving away from every suggestion a fan can make can still result in something wonderful. A return to form doesn’t necessarily have to sound like anything that came before it.

In this case, it can sound more fucking bizarre than anything they’ve done before, and yet... not. It’s rock, it’s punk, it’s got a bit of synth going on, it’s – gasp – self-indulgent, but what it’s captured more than the three albums before it is a sense of actual feeling and attitude.

So was that the key? What made this album different? Well, Rodriguez-Lopez attempted to let go of the reins and allow collaboration as much as he could allow*, and Bixler-Zavala quasi-famously took over a year to refine and complete his vocal parts, much to Rodriguez-Lopez’s chagrin.

Rodriguez-Lopez strikes me as a man who writes, records, and then moves on. While I don’t doubt his attention to detail or dedication for the minutest of seconds, I seriously doubt the last few albums have been allowed to breathe and evolve on their own before being committed to tape. (Yes, tape.) I doubt I’ll mind at all where or how weird The Mars Volta go from here as long as they learn the valuable lesson here.

But then, the next album might be written and recorded in two weeks as a thank-you present to Rodriguez-Lopez and be just as fantastic, and we realise we were the ones in need of the valuable lesson.

As critics and listeners, we have our theories, but when has music been truly quantifiable? We don’t really know a damned thing. If we or the musicians we listen to had any real clue, if we could see some kind of formula, every album would be great, and wouldn’t that be boring.

For today, faith restored. Noctourniquet is ahead of the curve. It’s recaptured some glory by running head-first to the future.

The heart-ache is gone.

* This was my understanding of the situation at the time of writing. However, it was since made clear that Rodriguez-Lopez was still in dictatorial mode while writing and recording Noctourniquet and that the band's next album is expected to be the more collaborative effort.


This piece was originally posted to the now-closed Castle Co-op on January 19, 2012.

I remember seeing Bryan Singer’s X-Men at a preview screening before its wide release in July of 2000. Not only had Australia managed to secure a release of the film one day ahead of the U.S. – generally unheard of at the time – 20th Century Fox had graced us with said preview screening.

The lights went down and I still distinctly remember the film’s brief pre-title sequence taking place in that cinema, despite many home-video watchings since. The commanding voice of Patrick Stewart explaining very basically a leap in genetic evolution occurring in human beings while some fizzy-looking sparkly computer-generated things that I can only assume are meant to be nucleotides begin to move against a frame of dense black.

Films before it had shown comic-book superheroes being taken seriously in a cinematic context, but X-Men kick-started a wave of comic-book-inspired movies that twelve years later has yet to recede, and may only now, with The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers just around the corner, be breaking after its pinnacle.

It made a shit-tonne of money for 20th Century Fox, making ~$296-million from a $75-million-dollar budget.

So it was surprising then, despite Fox’s reputation as a studio that interferes with the creative aspects of its valuable properties, when the film’s sequel, X2, was better than the first.

I harbour a strong suspicion that this was mainly due to Bryan Singer’s ability to manage the expectations of and justify his creative decisions to the studio, as well as his understanding of and unwillingness to compromise on story.

After X2 made ~$408-million from a $110-million-dollar budget, an X3 was inevitable. The X-Men and Women had proven themselves a powerful franchise that had connected with audiences.

Singer has begun work with X2 screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris plotting the story for “X3,” which included among other things, Jean Grey/Phoenix evolving by film’s end into a cosmic being not unlike Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s Star Child from the 2001: A Space Odyssey book and film. But Singer chose to leave the production for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to helm Superman Begins, and took his screenwriters with him.

Michael Vaughan, who would one day direct X-Men: First Class, replaced Singer for a short while, but in a move that could have irreparably damaged his career, chose to leave the film, citing a need to be with his family. Although, he later admitted to The Daily Telegraph that the strict release date imposed by the studio meant he would not be able to make the film he wanted and therefore left rather than be “accused of making a bad X-Men movie.”

So who would step in to be accused of making a bad X-Men movie?

Screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn had been hired separately to write a script for the film before Vaughan was even hired and had worked with him for a few months during his time on it. Fox refused to move their strict release date. A director was needed to jump in with two months of prep time remaining on a film that clearly wasn’t working at the script stage and just do the thing.

Enter Mr Brett Ratner.

Recently, with a spark of nostalgia and enticed by an incredibly low price for the Blu-ray Disc, I decided to sit down in the comfort of my lounge room and revisit X-Men: The Last Stand.

Would it still be the steaming shit-pile I had been so offended by in 2006? Would the years have tempered my expectations?

No, it’s still a steaming shit-pile.

I remember my anger at Ratner those nearly six years ago, and although there is a certain lack of heart that can only be attributed to the direction, I wonder now after my re-watch whether X3 could have been a serviceable sequel with Ratner in the chair had the script not been so awful.

The man came along when another director had already abandoned the project because they knew it wasn’t going to work, and with two months before filming, hardly any time at all for a big-budget action movie with all manner of expectations.

So while Ratner is most certainly a giant douchebag – Google it – I’m tempted to give him a pass on The Last Stand now that I’ve found other poor souls at which to aim my scorn.

X-Men: The Last Stand is a mess of poorly-constructed narrative, laziness, contrivance, and disrespect to the characters.

Professor Xavier, with Wolverine and Storm having found Jean Grey at Alkali Lake, recites to Logan in a scene of utterly heartless and lazy exposition that Jean Grey had two personalities as a child, that he actively suppressed that personality, it’s way bad, and now god help them all.

Logan, listen to me. I know I’ve always seemed like I was the moral backbone of these films, but you see, when I first met Jean, I decided to completely suppress an aspect of her personality.

(just angry, not at all shocked by
Xavier’s out-of-character behaviour)
But aren’t you always trying to help mutants understand and control their powers? Even if it’s as dangerous as you are stating matter-of-factly and without emotion, why would you--

Dammit, Logan, don’t you see! M*A*S*H was on -- that was an amazing show -- and I was like, I don’t have hours of my life to dedicate to helping this girl!
And see, now we don’t have to spend an entire act of this movie earning her full transformation into the Phoenix!

(still just angry)
But taking the time to earn that transformation will allow the audience to invest in--

Logan, please, we have to get on with it. We’ve been told to keep the running time to a solid 100 minutes to allow more sessions during the day, and that means more money!

I hope you die in, like, ten minutes from now.

Rogue, spurred by Bobby’s affection for Kitty Pryde, takes the cure in order to give him the sexytimes he’s so clearly after. It would be a shame if the primary thematic element of the X-Men stories was acceptance and even empowerment, wouldn’t it? If that was the case, Rogue taking the cure would be random and infuriating to an audience that has gotten to know the world of the X-Men through her point-of-view since the first film.

And so on.

Kinberg and Penn, with years to work, couldn’t see their script’s most glaring problems, and showed disregard for characters and themes they, as self-described X-Men geeks, supposedly cherish.

So just for fun, let’s look at their track record:

Kinberg has written XXX: State of the Union, Mr and Mrs Smith, Jumper and Sherlock Holmes (2009).

Penn has written, among other things, Inspector Gadget, Behind Enemy Lines, and, swear to god, Elektra.

Writers like Kinberg and Penn have their place in the movie industry. The movies they write, they make money. But when you have an established franchise that has enjoyed both critical and monetary success, why do you hire them? Why risk turning the fanbase away?

When you’re 20th Century Fox, and you want control. ‘Cause you love the money you’re making, but you don’t trust or understand what this X-Men thing really is, but these guys seem like fans, so surely they’ll just give the other fans what they want in between us telling them to change that thing we don’t like about it.

The franchise is seeing a bit of resurgence with X-Men: First Class, produced by the returning Bryan Singer and directed under strict time restraint, funnily enough, by Matthew Vaughan, telling the story of how the X-Men came to be in the 60’s. But I for one would appreciate a fine continuation of the original films. A retcon might not be out of order either.

In parting, I’ve decided to scare you a little.

Zak Penn wrote The Avengers.


It’s okay, Joss Whedon re-wrote it.

A New Despair: Musings on the Blu-ray Release of Star Wars

This piece was originally posted to the now-closed Castle Co-op on October 4, 2011.

Even if you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past month or so, beyond querying you on what kind of life situation has prompted you to go so far as to hide under a rock – and why the rock is large enough to hide you but hasn’t crushed you –  I’d still expect you to know that recently all six movies in the Star Wars Saga were released for the first time on Blu-ray Disc.

In Australia, September 14th 2011 was the day hundreds of thousands of voices cried out in terror and were expectedly and overwhelmingly ignored. Again.

There has been a lot of discussion and frustration expressed about George Lucas’s continued meddling with his, Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand’s films, often and in one recent example new to the Blu-ray set, altering the original intention and mood of beloved scenes. There is even a film about the love-hate relationship between Lucas and his fans called The People Vs. George Lucas.

But I would say, and this is certainly true for myself, the main frustration is not that changes are made, but that the original unaltered versions of these films are not made available along with their updated versions. Lucas is notoriously stubborn with regard to allowing the unaltered films to be released or seen, and even claimed at one point to have destroyed the films’ original negatives. (Which doesn’t actually mean that 35mm prints of the unaltered films don’t exist, by the way. Just go with it.)

However, the original and unaltered versions of the original trilogy of films were released on DVD in 2006 in individual sets coupled with the 2004 DVD release versions of each film, which everyone had already bought two years prior in a complete set with an extra bonus features disc. In the true childish spirit in which George Lucas must have felt forced to again release these versions of the films, they were non-anamorphic letterboxed widescreen for old 4:3 televisions (as opposed to anamorphic widescreen for 16:9 widescreen televisions) and were restored not one iota.

The image retained all manner of artifacts, dullness of colour and terrible black level consistent with Lucas’s apparent disdain for these versions of the films and his fans’ yearning for them, and the sound fared no better.

(I expect these were just sourced from the pre-1997 home video masters for VHS and/or laserdisc.)

So to celebrate the release of ‘The Complete Star Wars Saga’ on Blu-ray, I decided to sit down and watch this 2006 DVD release of the unaltered Star Wars.

It was, quite honestly, wonderful.

Despite crappy video quality and sound, this movie was comfortable. This movie was the classic. From beginning to end, I felt engrossed in Star Wars as I haven’t been since the mid-90s.

I discovered that the greatest damage to this film in recent versions is not actually altered intention such as when Han Solo, originally gunning down bounty hunter Greedo without giving the latter any chance to harm him and revealing a great deal about his character, instead kills Greedo in retaliation for firing first in an awkward display of computer-assisted tweaking. (Which isn’t to minimise this incredibly bothersome revision of a classic scene, nor any other examples sprinkled throughout the original trilogy of films.)

No, the greatest damage to this film is truly the random bursts of showy computer-generated imagery, often affecting the pacing of scenes and the flow of the movie.

These scenes break the movie. You are made acutely aware of the fact that this is a movie and that there are things happening that don’t belong in a movie that’s now thirty years old. It’s the antithesis of seamless.

I couldn’t even remember what it was like to not feel that subconsciously while watching Star Wars. I was able to just concentrate and let it take me where it was going. I got that feeling I used to have when I watched it as a child. I felt that connection to my childhood. Not because I was re-connecting with the film as I knew it years ago, but because I got the same feeling that I used to. Because the film worked. Because I wasn’t snapped out of it. Pulled out of it.

It’s difficult now, having resigned myself to no longer caring about the Star Wars Saga after purchasing the DVD set in 2004, to not get angry about the whole situation when for a while I was content with apathy.

This unaltered version of the film, with its crappy video and crappy sound, involved me way more than it has since that first “special edition” in 1997 and the 2004 revision with its pristine presentation and big, high-quality sound.

It makes me yearn for good restorations of the unaltered versions on Blu-ray, and it’s certainly solidified my decision to not buy the recent set.

Where Lucas’s head is at, I don’t know. He’s an extremely successful man surrounded now by a gaggle of awed employees who don’t know how to express a dissenting opinion. What that does to a person I’ll never know.

But I know that despite his feelings towards the unaltered films, he let them out again in 2006, relenting as lazily as he could to what must be great pressure from fans and film historians. Maybe he thought that’d get them off his back, but it didn’t. It most likely won’t, and maybe not even until his death.

I’ve seen pleas of reason, but maybe pressure, the kind of pressure that culminated in the 2006 releases, is really the only way to preserve this cultural icon.

That said, maybe it will just result in another low-quality throwaway release with next-to-no marketing, proving to Lucas again that no-one really cares about the theatrical versions.

But all of this has been said before. It’s a sentiment shared and echoed by a collective of people more numerous than seems reasonable. It’s not frustrating, it’s maddening. It defies any form of reason.

And now I care again.

God dammit.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Moment of Waking

There is a moment of waking. The moment my brain manages to catch up and survey the scene. It's that moment in that war movie where the protagonist has been shocked by a nearby grenade explosion. The sound is sucked away, leaving only the high tone of tinnitus and slow-motion movement.

The tiles have been splashed, covered in a coat of reddish-brown liquid. It has pooled at the base of the kettle, soiled the mat beside the sink for drying glassware. I can feel it against my face and down my torso, this liquid. I see it dripping down the face of the cabinets to the floor.

What has happened? Am I hurt?

I think. I remember a contemplation. A choice, of whether to indulge, knowing perhaps that I shouldn't.

And then I feel the glass held tight in my hand, and the metal object in my other. I hold the glass up to my eyes.

It says "Black Lung," and below, "Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Smokey Stout," and further below, "Moon Dog."

The horror.

The horror.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

2 Brothers Brewery

I hope the Kooinda boys have been to 2 Brothers Brewery. It really showcases how to make the best of a warehouse space.

Divided pretty much down the middle, the bar acts as a separator between the social area and the brewery, a series of towering, polished fermenters. Although cloaked in darkness, the fermenters remain clearly visible behind the bar, if only because they're so shiny and new-looking, reflecting and amplifying the lowest light rays right back to your eyeballs.

The social area, a series of tasteful couches and modern art, runs along the left-hand side and the length of the looong bar, before expanding at the rear.

As 2 Brothers Brewery is only open for business two nights of the week, I expect it's something of an occasion for the locals, who, on the night of my visit, occupied it very much like any local pub or bar. (The location, hidden a fair way south of Melbourne city in Moorabbin, probably deters a lot of visitors from making the trip.) A few security guards stand ready to eject any rowdy louts, stumblers, or the curious from crossing the Holy Line of Demarcation between bar and brewery. In that sense, it's probably the least brewery-esque brewery I've visited.

Which isn't to warn anyone away due to my general distaste for the common douchebag. 2 Brothers Brewery occupies a space between a local hangout and classic brewery that can form a bridge akin to that between mass-produced lager and the finer things in life, and I've already recommended it to some friends.

So, the beer! Have to say, I was a bit disappointed in this area. Not specifically in terms of quality, mind, more that there were only three brews on tap.

If you've spent any time moving about Melbourne's venues, you've probably at least seen the 2 Brothers Taxi Pilsener and the 2 Brothers Growler, their two mainstays. These beers too bridge the gap, containing a very serviceable level of complexity and quality while remaining highly sessionable.

So the only tap remaining belongs to a single seasonal, which I can certainly cope with as long as that seasonable is anything like the 2 Brothers James (Belgian) Brown.

I was first introduced to the James Brown at one of the Federation Square Microbrewery Showcases in 2010. Already heavily interested in exploring dark and Belgian beers, it sounded right up my alley. While certainly good, this batch of the brew was more an interesting curiosity. Very heavy on banana, it was something I imagined I could revisit, but only on odd occasions.

This time, however, James Brown was truly the right kind of funky, with the banana dialled back and the alcohol making it pop just that bit more. Very nicely done.

Still missed The Guvnor, though...