6 November 2000

Europeans fancied to lift Melbourne Cup

MELBOURNE, Australia, Nov 5 (AFP) - Irish entry Far Cry and England's Enzeli have firmed as favourites to lift the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday -- Australia's biggest and richest race.

Bookmakers report strong support for both the Martin Pipe-trained Far Cry, which has firmed into 7-1 second favourite, and 1999 Ascot Gold Cup winner Enzeli, which has been heavily backed this week into 10-1.

The other two European entrants, Arctic Owl and Godophin stables Lightning Arrow, both from English stables, also feature prominently in the market but have yet to be significantly backed in ante-post betting.


At a press conference Sunday, the visiting trainers all expressed satisfaction with the way their horses had settled in and preparedness for the big race.

"Far Cry is just as good as he was going into the Ascot Gold Cup when he ran second to a very good horse in Kayf Tara," said Pipe.

"Hes very laid back, doesnt worry about anything but he comes to life in a race so were very happy. We wouldn't change a thing going into the race."

Barring Arctic Owl, the European entries faired well in the crucial barrier draw.

Enzeli is perfectly placed in lane six, as is Far Cry in 10. Lightning Arrow in 14 will need luck, but they all do in two mile (3,200 metres) races with 24 runners.

Arctic Owls Newmarket trainer James Fanshawe said he was "not too disappointed" with the horses draw in barrier 21.

"Theres a long run to the first turn at Flemington so he has plenty of time to get into a position," he said.

While Fanshawe was concerned at the horses lacklustre temperament early last week, it worked strongly Sunday morning and was "much brighter now and more like his old self."

Enzelis Epsom Derby winning mentor, John Oxx, said his horse had not been flashy in his workout but he was still happy.

He did though sound a note of warning on the task ahead: "In these days of international competition in racing, to come halfway round the world and win this race is a much bigger task than people realise."


Melbourne property developer and former casino owner Lloyd Williams bought Enzeli last month from the Aga Khan for an undisclosed six figure sum, and promptly engaged local jockey Greg Hall for the Cup ride.

"We would normally have brought over Johnny Murtagh," Oxx said. "But Greg Hall is retained by Mr. Williams and he has the local knowledge.

"There is always a debate about who might be best -- the jockey who knows the horse or the jockey who knows the track. But the Melbourne Cup is a unique race, a tough race and Im not sorry to see Greg on the horse."

Godolphin stable manager Brad Marzato was bristling with confidence over Lightning Arrows prospects: "He has really picked up in his work and I couldnt be happier."

However, the five-year-old lacks the class of his fellow travellers and is the least fancied of the international runners.

Certainly he is rated inferior to Godolphins runner last year, Central Park, which ran a mighty race for second behind Bart Cummings 11th Melbourne Cup winner Rogan Josh.

Incredibly, Cummings will be without a runner this year after Oxford Dollar was balloted out of the race on Saturday night.

No Northern Hemisphere raider has been successful in the worlds greatest two mile handicap since Vintage Crops courageous Cup victory for Dermot Weld in 1993.

Every year international runners such as Double Trigger, Oscar Schindler, Arabian Story, Faithful Son and Travelmate have been touted as vastly superior to the home breds, but almost every year the local heroes win.

This year the John Hawkes trained Freemason will carry the Australian hopes.

Other local runners to attract betting support are Diatribe at 7- 1, and New Zealand's Kaapstad Way at 8-1, which will not run if the track is severely rain affected.

But after drying winds in Melbourne over the weekend, the track is likely to be in good order for "the race that stops a nation."

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First published by Agence France-Press

31 August 2000

Australian Aboriginal Art

With interest in Australian Aboriginal art at an all time high, MICHAEL HUTAK provides a primer for Olympics bound tourists...

It is ironic that the most vibrant sector of Australia's booming fine art market is barely four decades old, yet it has sprung from the world's oldest continuous surviving culture -- that of the Australia's indigenous people, the Aborigines.
Although Australia's indigenous people have produced arts and craft for tens of thousands of years, the fairy tale story of the Aboriginal fine art market begins in 1971 when a young school teacher, Geoffrey Bardon, arrived in the remote outback Aboriginal community of Papunya. Noticing the unusual patterns his pupils would draw in the sand, Bardon gave them paints and encouraged them to paint murals on the classroom walls.
Then something amazing happened. The children's efforts stirred something in the Papuya elders and they began painting vivid representations of their ancestral stories and legends on any available surface. Soon word spread that vivid, highly stylised, intensely colourful works of art were being made in the desert; works which depicted like never before the richness of Aboriginal culture and its heretofore oral traditions. Not to be confused with abstract art, these works susually depicted stories of the "Dreamtime", more accurately known as "tjukurrpas", and were being painted on bark, paper, canvas, anything! via a style which utilised fields of small dots.
Recognition, however, that these first dot paintings might constitute "fine art" was not immediate, and a market was slow to emerge, although several galleries in Australian cities began exhibiting Aboriginal works. The retail market in Aboriginal art grew from $AUD0.9 million in 1970-71 to $AUD2.5m in 1979-80 but by 1986-87 it had reached $AUD7m, after a series of landmark international exhibitions in the early 1980s put Aboriginal art firmly on the shopping lists of North American collectors.
By the mid 1990s the market had matured to the extent that Australia's larger auction houses began to get wise. On June 30, 1997, Sotheby's Australia conducted the first ever auction devoted exclusively to Aboriginal art. The sale was a remarkable success, grossing $AUD2.7m and setting a new benchmark of $206,000 (from a previous best of $86,000) for any work by an Aboriginal artist.
In June this year, the record breaking work, Water Dreaming at Kalinpinya by Papunya artist Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, was offered through Sotheby's Melbourne salerooms again and set another record of $486,500. Records were also set for other leading artists like Emily Kngwarreye ($156,500), Rover Thomas ($141,100), Shorty Lungkarda Tjungurrayi ($123,500) and Ronnie Tjampitjinpa ($63,000). The auction grossed $AUD4.4m and confirmed Aboriginal art as the raging bull of Australia art. And what is even more remarkable is that 62% of the gross came from overseas buyers, mainly North Amercan.
Fortunately, such stellar prices are reserved for only the very top end of the market, and international visitors to the Sydney Olympic Games won't need to spend such sums to acquire quality artworks by 'name' Aboriginal artists, works that will also represent sound investments. Paintings can come on canvas, paper or bark but you can also buy sculptures, weaving, carvings, ceramics, textiles or less expensive alternatives such as limited edition prints. Beautiful, fine works are available to suit all budgets.
But you will need to be aware of the pitfalls of buying art by "The First Australians". Upon landing in the Harbour City, you will be struck by the ubiquitous presence of Aboriginal art and design: on t-shirts, souvenirs, billboards and boomerangs, the unmistakable signature of Aboriginal 'dreaming', the dot painting style, is everywhere. There are plenty of opportunities to snap up a work that certainly looks like it came from the hand of an Australian aborigine but, as in all things, caveat emptor: indiscriminate buying might see you take home a dot painting concocted in a Jakarta sweatshop rather than a Western Desert workshop.
The success of Aboriginal art has also been marred in the late 1990's by several scandals surrounding frauds and the authenticity of works in the marketplace. Collectors should ensure they are dealing with reputable dealers who can provide satisfactory evidence of providence and/or certificates of authenticity. Look for dealers who are members of both or either the Australian Commercial Galleries Association, or Art.Trade, the Indigenous art dealers' association. To be doubly sure, seek out those dealers who act as direct agents for the remote communities that survive through their art. This means at least a portion of the sale proceeds returns to outback Aboriginal communities, who are among Australia's most economically and socially disadvantaged.

- Michael Hutak

WHO'S HOT and WHAT YOU SHOULD PAY

Prices vary widely depending on medium, condition, size and significance of the work in question. Beautiful works by all the artist quoted are available for under $10,000. These price ranges are a guide only for the best works on the market and are quoted for significant paintings in $AUD.

Price Range

Under $2,500

-- Samantha Hobson

$2,501 to $5,000

-- HJ Wedge

-- Rosella Namok

-- Judy Watson

-- Tracey Moffatt

$5,001 to $10,000

-- Kitty Kantilla

-- Yirawala (bark paintings)

$10,001 to $25,000

-- Michael Nelson Tjakamarra

-- John Mawandjul

-- Ada Bird Petyarre

-- Gloria Tamerre Petyarre

-- Kathleen Petyarre

-- Jack Britten (Joolama)

-- Queenie McKenzie (Nakarra)

-- Ronnie Tjampitjinpa

-- Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula

$25,001 to $50,000

-- Ginger Riley Munduwalawala

-- Uta Uta Tjangala

$50,001 to $100,000

-- Emily Kame Kngwarreye

-- Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri

-- Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

Above $100,001

-- Rover Thomas (Joolama)

-- Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri

-- Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula

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First published on www.worth.com

26 July 2000

Traffic (2000)


Dir: Stephen Soderbergh

...never fails to seduce.

It's beyond trite to say this is an landmark film, even though it is one of the most gripping and suspenseful thrillers I've ever sat through. This stylish and multi-faceted film sees Stephen Soderbergh display a command of the director’s craft that he only promised in earlier films like sex lies and videotape, King of the Hill or The Underneath. Latterly we have become accustomed to him bringing his independent smarts to the studio system in films like Out of Sight, or his crossover mainstream hit of last year, Erin Brockovich, a film which forced me to flip my view of Julia Roberts from appalling to appealing, such is the maestro's skill.

But Traffic is something else again - a film so accomplished it attracts critical clichés like moths to a flame. It is nothing less than the most authentic portrait of America’s drug trade yet committed to celluloid. With an all-star ensemble cast, filmed in 8 different cities and over 110 locations, it is a vast undertaking that takes the viewer on an exhilarating ride of intrigue, suspense and drama. Traffic’s tableaux is populated by characters which traverse all strata of the supply and consumption of illicit drugs, from the highest officials - both honest and corrupt - to the frontline victims of hard core addiction. Sparing us sermons on why people shouldn’t take drugs, the film ultimately demonstrates how America’s policy of waging an unwinnable supply-side "war against drugs” has only ended up entrenching organized crime, corrupting the public sector, and punishing the victims of addiction, while doing precisely nothing to stem the rising destructive tide of drug use at all levels of society.

Such a thesis is built quietly, subtly by a screenplay that intertwines three stories: an honest cop (Benicio Del Toro) trying to function within a “entrepreneurial” police force corrupted by the ruthless cartels that traffic drugs across the US/Mexico border; a conservative judge (Michael Douglas), whose appointment as the President's new national anti-drug czar coincides with his daughter's (Erika Christensen) slide into addiction; and a naïve society matron (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose bourgeois life is thrown into turmoil when her husband is arrested for drug trafficking. Hitherto, she thought he was an upstanding pillar of society.

Soderbergh mixes up the cinematic styles for each thread of the narrative, for instance the Mexican sequences are given a dreamy treatment, shot hand-held by Soderbergh himself in saturated colours on a stock so grainy it could be Super 8. The sequences where Douglas’s anti-drug czar goes on a fact-finding mission to “the frontline”, inspecting border crossings, or high tech anti-trafficking facilities have a semi-documentary feel, again shot hand held. Zeta-Jones sequences are shot like movie-of-the-week, as her lady-that-lunches, faced with losing everything, must swot up on the family business of engaging hit men, laundering money and dealing with the Tijuana cartels.

The detailed portrayal of police work rings true, in fact the whole films proffers a “no bullshit” authenticity, wrapped in the hip, contemporary apparel of independent filmmaking. This is intelligent cinema that assumes - and demands - an engaged and interested audience. That said, it flows freely and with ease and never fails to seduce. The cast is so good they render superlatives meaningless. Just go and see it. Then we can talk.

---

First published in Australian Style.

Traffic (2000)


Dir: Stephen Soderbergh

...never fails to seduce.

It's beyond trite to say this is an landmark film, even though it is one of the most gripping and suspenseful thrillers I've ever sat through. This stylish and multi-faceted film sees Stephen Soderbergh display a command of the director’s craft that he only promised in earlier films like sex lies and videotape, King of the Hill or The Underneath. Latterly we have become accustomed to him bringing his independent smarts to the studio system in films like Out of Sight, or his crossover mainstream hit of last year, Erin Brockovich, a film which forced me to flip my view of Julia Roberts from appalling to appealing, such is the maestro's skill.

But Traffic is something else again - a film so accomplished it attracts critical clichés like moths to a flame. It is nothing less than the most authentic portrait of America’s drug trade yet committed to celluloid. With an all-star ensemble cast, filmed in 8 different cities and over 110 locations, it is a vast undertaking that takes the viewer on an exhilarating ride of intrigue, suspense and drama. Traffic’s tableaux is populated by characters which traverse all strata of the supply and consumption of illicit drugs, from the highest officials - both honest and corrupt - to the frontline victims of hard core addiction. Sparing us sermons on why people shouldn’t take drugs, the film ultimately demonstrates how America’s policy of waging an unwinnable supply-side "war against drugs” has only ended up entrenching organized crime, corrupting the public sector, and punishing the victims of addiction, while doing precisely nothing to stem the rising destructive tide of drug use at all levels of society.

Such a thesis is built quietly, subtly by a screenplay that intertwines three stories: an honest cop (Benicio Del Toro) trying to function within a “entrepreneurial” police force corrupted by the ruthless cartels that traffic drugs across the US/Mexico border; a conservative judge (Michael Douglas), whose appointment as the President's new national anti-drug czar coincides with his daughter's (Erika Christensen) slide into addiction; and a naïve society matron (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose bourgeois life is thrown into turmoil when her husband is arrested for drug trafficking. Hitherto, she thought he was an upstanding pillar of society.

Soderbergh mixes up the cinematic styles for each thread of the narrative, for instance the Mexican sequences are given a dreamy treatment, shot hand-held by Soderbergh himself in saturated colours on a stock so grainy it could be Super 8. The sequences where Douglas’s anti-drug czar goes on a fact-finding mission to “the frontline”, inspecting border crossings, or high tech anti-trafficking facilities have a semi-documentary feel, again shot hand held. Zeta-Jones sequences are shot like movie-of-the-week, as her lady-that-lunches, faced with losing everything, must swot up on the family business of engaging hit men, laundering money and dealing with the Tijuana cartels.

The detailed portrayal of police work rings true, in fact the whole films proffers a “no bullshit” authenticity, wrapped in the hip, contemporary apparel of independent filmmaking. This is intelligent cinema that assumes - and demands - an engaged and interested audience. That said, it flows freely and with ease and never fails to seduce. The cast is so good they render superlatives meaningless. Just go and see it. Then we can talk.

---

First published in Australian Style.

20 June 2000

Gallery 19 closes

Another CBD `stepping-stone' Goes Under

By Nick Leys

When Gallery 19 closed its doors last Wednesday night a space where one of Sydney's few remaining artist-run galleries has displayed over 300 artists for the past two and a half years the invitation was more like an end of financial year closing down sale.
Several hundred well-wishers responded to the ``EVERYTHING MUST GO!'' bugle call, cramming into the previously disused coffee shop where artists including Adam Cullen, Max Cullen, Maclean Edwards, Simeon Nelson and indigenous artist Harry Wedge have hung their works.
Gallery 19's final exhibition called on displayed artists for a $20 donation ``to help meet our considerable wind-up costs'', with the gallery taking its usual zero per cent commission fee for sales.
A member of Gallery 19's 10-strong management committee, Michael Hutak, said the reason for the closure was the sale and redevelopment of the premises in the prime location of Campbell Street in Haymarket, opposite the Capitol Theatre.
``We were only able to keep the gallery going for so long because of the cheap rent, $300 a week on a month-by-month lease,'' he said after the doors had been shut for the last time.
``That's the only way you can run an artist-run space -- precariously.''
Gallery 19 is just the latest such display space to come to an end. In the last two years, other artist-run galleries like 151 Regent Street, Pendulum Gallery, Side-On-Studios and South have succumbed to rising rents in and around the Sydney CBD, a situation exacerbated by Olympics-driven redevelopment.
``The reality of the inner-city property market means the rich tradition of artist-run spaces in Sydney is coming to an end,'' Hutak said.
``I'm sad it's over, but glad we were able to get away with it for over two years.''
Archibald Prize winner Adam Cullen credited Gallery 19 and other spaces as crucial to his development as an artist.
``If these sorts of environments end, it sort of rings the death knell of art,'' he said.
``Artist-run spaces showcase art that is very fresh. It is straight from the artists' studios and so is usually of the best quality. I started in them, exhibiting in them for 10 years before being taken on by a commercial gallery those spaces are where dealers and owners get artists from.''
Fellow artist Mark Titmarsh said these spaces were of great importance for artists wishing to experiment with different media.
``They are definitely spaces for experimental artforms they quite often showcase the art of the future from up and coming artists,'' he said.
``They are the stepping stone between art school and commercial galleries.''
Anna Waldmann of the Australian Council of the Arts, which funds some artist-run spaces through the Emerging Artists Scheme, agreed the spaces were an important platform for emerging artists, but said they were always ``coming and going''.
``They are very fluid; that is their nature,'' she said.
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First published in


25 April 2000

Losing Tickets, Gallery 19 - press

Odds-on favourite

Michael Hutak's ``tribute to the little punter'' is a cool reworking of the ``found'' object the artist's failed betting tickets. Exhibited in the genteel, poverty-stricken surrounds of Gallery 19, the visual gesture creates a kind of wallpaper, combusting high modernism and lowly craft. The art of the racetrack is one place where aristocracy and the herd meet, not only in Landseer's and Wallinger's world, where the racehorse is more inbred than bred, but in egalitarian Australia too, where 17 cents in the betting dollar is squirrelled by government. This mug punter's Losing Tickets are scanned, mounted laserprints. Their pristine surfaces resemble more the calligraphic registrations of Marinetti's speedy posters than any humble betting tabs. In the reprocessing of such objects, questions of ethics and more take turns, for Hutak was once a racing journalist. However, a nose for the track is not needed to rate this finely edged show. Phone 9212 4776. Until Saturday. The Galleries - Courtney Kidd, 2 May 2000, Sydney Morning Herald.



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Colourful racing identity

IF you spent five years trawling the racetracks of NSW and then found a job in the artworld, what would you do on weekends. Former Gadfly columnist Michael Hutak put to use his days spent scraping up the seamy side of the track by collecting bookmaker's betting tickets. He has blown them up, put them on a wall and that's art, baby, opening in an exhibition at Gallery 19, Haymarket, on Tuesday. Hutak says Losing Tickets is a ``tribute to all punters who have done their dough'', i.e. Australia. Candace Sutton, 23 April 2000, Sun Herald.


21 April 2000

Baise-moi (2000)

CAST: Raffaëla Anderson - Manu; Karen Lancaume - Nadine
CO-DIRECTORS: Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi
CO-WRITING CREDITS: Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi, adapted from Despentes’s novel.
PRODUCERS: Phillippe Godeau, Dominique Chiron
DISTRIBUTOR: Wild Bunch

IN A NUTSHELL:

In a grimy contemporary urban France, Nadine (Lancaume), a bored prostitute, and Manu (Anderson), a rape victim, hook up by chance and hit the road on a wanton sex tour and thrill-kill crime spree, fucking and killing almost anyone who wanders into camera-shot, and attracting a manhunt with inevitable consequences.
---

So extreme it was banned in its native France, BAISE-MOI is screening here as ‘FUCK ME’, and in the US as ‘RAPE ME’. While you're at it, you could add ‘SHOOT HER’, ‘STOMP ON HIS FACE’, ‘BLOW THIS OUT YOUR ARSE’ and ‘FUCK YOU TOO’. Starring two actual porn stars, co-written and directed by a female team whose credits include 'CUNT SUCKING SLUTS 5', this psychotic yet ice-cool satire is a rotten stew of gratuitous violence, actual hard core sex, and feminist buddy flick, shamelessly referencing THELMA & LOUISE. 

The Office of Film and Literature Classification reckons STRONG SEXUAL VIOLENCE, HIGH LEVEL VIOLENCE, ACTUAL SEX, and ADULT THEMES, and that’s a fair call: a rape scene that repels you from the screen is the prelude to a rampage of quasi-feminist revenge, a brutal, sadistic assault on the world of the film and those that have to view it. That said, if you can stomach the violence – which is no less brutal than a thousand American teen horror flicks. And if you can ‘handle’ pornography the two leads can really act. 


This is ultimately a bitter place where ‘the money shot’ meets ‘Iron Jane’ polemics meet arthouse pretensions. Despite being designed to solicit maximum mass-media outrage, BAISE-MOI will probably have more lasting impact on the adult film industry it pillories, parodies and attacks.

ANY GOOD?

Is it just payback for every act of sexual violence against women shot on film? Or is it merely a bunch of porno professionals out to demonstrate that punk’s not dead? Either way, the filmmakers couldn’t care less what we think: ‘FUCK US’.

** (Two stars)

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First published in Empire

1 April 2000

2001: A Space Odyssey


Dir: Stanley Kubrick

Released at the height of psychedelic hysteria, Kubrick’s supra-philosophical mind fuck was billed as the ultimate trip, but was dismissed by critics as little more than a ponderous light-show with a few riddles thrown in for diversionm, and thus didn't rate even a nomination for Best Picture at the 1969 Oscars. Carol Reed’s musical, Oliver! won that year, with Kubrick nominated for Best Director but also losing out to Reed. Thirty three years later, if you haven’t seen 2001 on the big screen, then take the chance while it’s going. But if you’re all Kubricked out - and who isn’t after the orgy of hype surrounding the maestro’s death and the release of Eyes Wide Shut - rent Oliver! instead and see what all the fuss was about.
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First published in Australian Style magazine, national. April 2000