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Hollywood | John McDonald


Hail, Caesar!

February 24, 2016
George Clooney in 'Hail, Caesar!' (2016)

“Comedy deserves to be taken seriously,” wrote Aldous Huxley, in 1924, before going on to denounce those “lesser exponents” of the genre who specialise in “triviality, ugliness and vulgarity.” Three years later The Jazz Singer ushered in a new era of ‘talkies’ that would change the way Hollywood made comedies, as slapstick and sight gags … More

Marilyn at MAMA

February 19, 2016
Marilyn Monroe, Source for Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ Series, c. 1953. Collection of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Image provided by The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.

“Men grow cold as girls grow old, and we all lose our charms in the end…” sang Marilyn Monroe in Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. Yet Marilyn would never lose her charms, cheating old age by dying at the age of 36, fixing her image forever as the glamorous blonde starlet we see in … More


February 18, 2016
Bryan Cranston in 'Trumbo' (2015)

It doesn’t require a philosopher to point out discrepancies between the law and justice. This was born out last week – as Trumbo hit the cinemas – by the convulsions over the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia. By all accounts this is a game-breaker in the bitter conflict between Left and Right … More

Hollywood Costume

July 27, 2013
A costume worn by Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey, 1936

In Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, a turning point arrives through a change of costume. James Stewart, playing the damaged cop, Scottie, sees a girl who closely resembles the dead woman who haunts his thoughts. That woman, Madeleine, is on Scottie’s conscience and in his heart. In Judy, a shop girl from Kansas, he recognises Madeleine’s double … More

Total Recall

September 1, 2012
Screen shot 2012-09-19 at 12.13.10 PM

Philip K. Dick’s brief science fiction story, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (1965) has travelled a long way since it was adapted for Paul Verhoeven’s film, Total Recall in 1990. In Dick’s original version, Doug Quail visits a business called Rekall that promises to provide its clients with a false memory superior to … More

The Bourne Legacy

August 25, 2012
Screen shot 2012-09-12 at 1.41.57 PM

One wonders what a cultural theorist such as Slavoj Zizek would make of the Bourne films? Beyond the lashings of action, suspense and skullduggery they are textbook lessons in the repressive power of the state, guaranteed to appeal to conspiracy theorists of both left and right persuasions. The world in which Jason Bourne, and new … More

Forever Marilyn

August 4, 2012
Screen shot 2012-08-28 at 8.26.26 AM

Exactly fifty years ago, on the night of 4 August 1962, Marilyn Monroe died of an overdose of barbituates. The world’s greatest sex symbol, the most idolised actress of her age, was dead. Now 20th Century Fox has decided to commemorate this tragic event in the way they know best: by cashing in. Marilyn may … More

The Dark Knight Rises

July 28, 2012
Screen shot 2012-08-25 at 2.09.55 PM

To say Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is “dark” is a dismal understatement. It is pitch-black, numinous. Christian Bale’s Batman appears to be permanently depressed, wracked with guilt and self-loathing. Gotham City, which he strives to rescue from one apocalypse after another, is so corrupt and ugly it is barely worth saving. With Heath Ledger’s death … More


June 16, 2012
Screen shot 2012-06-27 at 6.05.12 PM

No film this year has arrived with such high expectations as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, the long-awaited prequel to Alien – a movie that spawned a franchise and a cult. I attended a preview at the iMax in Darling Harbour on a night when the wind and rain were causing mayhem all over Sydney. The place … More

Get the Gringo

June 2, 2012
Screen shot 2012-06-23 at 4.26.30 PM

South of the border, down Mexico way. We’ve been here before, but never in the company of Mel Gibson, working to restore a reputation that has taken a dive in recent years. There have been slight problems with alcohol, domestic violence, and anti-Semitic pronouncements delivered to officers of the law. “Sick to his empty core … More