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I'm in Perth today, still playing aerial ping pong in the lead-up to what is laughingly called the festive season. I've also been in Canberra and Lismore since my last newsletter, firstly for the preview of the Versailles exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, and then to open an excellent show at the Lismore Regional gallery by René Bolten, who would take some beating for the title of Australia's Most Underrated Artist.
 
It was quite a contrast, going from the razzle dazzle of Versailles to a show by an artist completely devoted to his work, who evinces very little concern about his career, the vicissitudes of the art world, or anything else that gnaws away at those who measure success in terms of sales and visibility. Some artists will always want to be pop stars, but it's reassuring that others just want to make the best work they can.
 
Even though I was in Canberra for the NGA show, for this week's column I've written up A History of the World in 100 Objects at the National Museum of Australia. I've taken a little too long to get around to this show, which has been waiting patiently in the queue. Versailles will run until April.
 
The History of the World' is a felicitous idea that brings togther 100 objects from the voluminous collections of the British Museum to tell the story of human invention and creativity. It's a shamelessly populist affair that works on almost every level. As a critic it would be strange to complain about objects that are thousands of years old. The major pathway into the exhibition is to discuss the concept, and what some of the pieces reveal about the waxing and waning of civilisations. Juding by the latest ideological craziness about carbon pricing, I'm afraid that Australian civilsation is on the wane. (Should that be spelt "wayne" for Aussies?)
 
This week I'm providing not one, but two film reviews - just like the good old days, about six months ago. It's because I wrote a review of the only available film among a sparse crop of new releases - the wretched Office Christmas Party - then found out that the Australian Financial Review's publication dates get all mixed up over Christmas. So the request came to fast-track a review of La La Land, which isn't released until Boxing Day. It was a bit more writing, but I have to admit a certain relief at publishing a piece on a much better movie.
 
I've had a few requests about the new Star Wars film, but my interest in this endless franchise is slightly less than my interest in the courtship habits of the aardvark. I rather envy Jim Jarmusch who says he's never watched a Star Wars instalment. Nevertheless, for all those who are hanging out for another bout of inter-galactic derring-do this Christmas, may the Force be with you!
 
John.

Sydney Morning Herald

A History of the World in 100 Objects

Neil MacGregor, former director of both the National Gallery, London, and the British Museum, is rightly viewed as one of the great museum professionals of our times. Combining intelligence, sensitivity and personal modesty with bluff Scottish common sense, MacGregor should be a model for today's museum directors, as they struggle with declining attendances and governments that esteem cultural institutions only for purposes of political propaganda.... Read More

Film

La La Land

With seven nominations for this year's Golden Globes it will be surprising if La La Land doesn't blitz the coming awards season. 31-year-old writer-director, Damien Chazelle came to prominence with his impressive second feature, Whiplash (2014), described as a horror film about music. Now he has given us a musical that pays homage to the classics of the genre, wagering that even a cynical, disenchanted age like ours is aching to be seduced.... Read More

Film

Office Christmas Party

T.J.Miller, one of the stars of Office Christmas Party, was arrested last week for slapping someone across the back of the head after an argument about Donald Trump. In the movie he presides - with apparent impunity - over an evening of massive destruction of private property and numberless offences against good taste. In a fair world the penalties for these crimes would be reversed.... Read More

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John McDonald · PO Box 37 · Rosebery, NSW 1445 · Australia

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