Top 7 movies about art

Art on screen

Whether I’m at home watching my favourite sci-fi films while balancing dinner on my lap, heading out with friends to open-air screenings in the summer time or moseying off to a matinee on a quiet Sunday afternoon, not much makes me happier than a well-made flick. Which is why, after re-watching Basquiat recently, I went on a bit of a bender trying to find more movies about art and artists. From what I’ve seen, movies about art tend to be pretty good. For one thing, they often have pretty interesting cinematography and a rich mis-en-scene. Also, because artists so often live crazy, dramatic and otherwise unusual lives, these movies have pretty absorbing stories and zero in on fascinating sub-cultures and points in history.

I’ve still got a bunch of movies about art on my list I need to see, but I’ve compiled a list of my Top 7 so far. Here they are:

Frida Kahlo – Two Fridas (1939). Image by Cea, Flickr.

Top 7 movies about art

  1. Pollock – this highly acclaimed film starring Ed Harris as Jackson Pollock and Marcia Gay Harden as Lee Krasner is an absolute must-watch for fans of this artist and those interested in the machinations of the creative process. Tense and absorbing.
  2. Caravaggio – one of those movies about art often found in first year cinema studies courses. Beautifully shot in a painterly style reminiscent of Caravaggio’s work, it’s a film some will find difficult to watch, while others may be mesmerised.
  3. I Shot Andy Warhol – more about Valerie Solanas, the radical feminist who famously shot Andy Warhol, than the artist himself, this film captures the feel of those heady Factory days and boasts an incredible performance from Lily Taylor as Solanas.
  4. Basquiat – a wonderfully entertaining film which examines the New York art scene at a truly interesting time. It also has a terrific lead performance from Jeffrey Wright and appearances by real life icons Dennis Hopper and David Bowie.
  5. Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon – dark, disturbing, imaginative; the tone of this biopic suits its subject perfectly. Powerful performances from Derek Jacobi as Bacon and Daniel Craig as his petty criminal lover George Dyer will stay with you.
  6. Frida – if you weren’t already a little in love with Salma Hayek before seeing this film, you will be by the end of it. Funny, dramatic and tragic by turns, this movie about art and artists is a feast for the eyes and soul.
  7. Crumb – this documentary is about the rude, crude, hilarious and talented comic book artist Robert Crumb. Directed by long term friend Terry Zwigoff, this doco is both uncomfortable and insightful and casts light on the craziness so often found behind creativity.

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11 2012

How to shop at Ikea

Ikea: Some people love it to bits and with others the loathing is strong. For me, there are mixed emotions when it comes time to shop at Ikea. Like the millions of Ikea fans around the world, I can’t deny the price point of many of their items is very appealing and appreciate how they have delivered contemporary clever designs to the masses. At the same time, the very fact that so many of us now shop at Ikea for everything from furniture to bathroom accessories, kitchen wares and curtains, means interior decorating is losing the individuality the makes these spaces special.

Despite this, it cannot be denied that Ikea is the best place to shop for a range of items. The key is to know what to shop for at Ikea and what to look elsewhere for.

To help you navigate the pitfalls of shopping at Ikea and target the best buys available, here are my Top Tips for how to shop at Ikea!

Ikea items mixed up with unique pieces. Dog not included. Image by nkeppol, Flickr.

What to shop for at Ikea


  • Lighting and Lamps. Compared to furniture and department stores, Ikea has some terrific contemporary designs at very low prices. Avoid colours or frilly details and go for designs using white glass, metal or high grade moulded plastic.
  • Rugs and throws. It’s hard to think of another store that has a range this cheap and diverse in natural fabrics. Avoid patterns and go for ones in monochromatic or single-colour palettes.
  • Home office and studio storage supplies. One of my favourite areas, Ikea puts their competitors to shame. You can kit out our working space with cool storage, chairs, desks and shelving without breaking the bank.
  • PS. Metal tables and cabinets. Ikea’s school locker inspired cabinets and cupboards in their PS design series are brilliant and give an industrial edge to any space. Affordable, durable, very cool and not available anywhere else.

What not to shop for at Ikea

  • Patterned curtains, cushions, rugs and doona covers. Decorative soft furnishings give your room personality and you don’t want it to be the same as your neighbours! Generally speaking, plain curtains, blinds and doona covers are more chic anyway but if you want some decorative cushions or a detailed rug then consider making your own cushions and visiting a rug/carpet wholesaler when they have a sale.
  • Avoid Ikea’s fake wood, acrylic veneer furniture. It’s tempting when you need a chest of drawers to run to Ikea and get something plain to do the job but their fake light pine, dark wood and white particle board drawers and cupboards are very over-priced and look really cheap. Instead, opt for good quality second hand wooden furniture. Often far cheaper, when it’s not at least you know it’s worth the money and there is the added bonus of not having to assemble it when you get home!
  • Art. It’s generic and will make your home look like a hotel. These days you can get fantastic affordable art from art markets, artist studios and online. Vintage shops and well stocked op shops are great for unique retro pieces of art and carefully chosen photos printed onto stretched canvas are another creative, budget friendly idea to put an individual stamp on your home decor.

The grey area when shopping at Ikea

  • Kitchen wares: Considering a lot of kitchen wares are mass produced in some poor corner of the world it’s pretty outrageous how expensive these items can be. Which makes Ikea even harder to resist when you need a new pot, spatula, dinner plates or wine glasses! But if you can afford it – especially when it comes to pots, pans and professional grade utensils versus cheap plastic Ikea versions – it is worth forking out for high quality items that will last a lifetime and be a pleasure to use.

Final tip: if you’re heading off to shop at Ikea, my advice is go during weekdays or night to avoid the population of parents with kids in tow that turn this mega-market into a giant crèche!

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09 2012

The best sci fi films for design

A night at the movies

I admit this is one of those posts with a slightly exaggerated title. There are, of course, a ton more awesome sci films out there with incredible design in them but to keep my ranting at bay and this post a manageable length I’ve edited it down to my Top 5 and offer this to you with the caveat that I may alter or add to this list as I see fit. Which no doubt I will do.

As you can tell from my post on the Melbourne Film Festival, I’m a bit of a film freak and enjoy movies from practically every genre except torture porn. But, if I had to choose one film genre to commit to if would be sci fi films no contest.

The nature of sci fi films means there’s always a huge emphasis on creating a new world through set and costume design and the films that do this well stand the test of time even if the film itself if lacking in other areas. Movies are fundamentally a visual medium and that’s why the best sci fi films don’t hold back with their production values and why you can watch them on repeat.

Disagree with my list below? I’d love to know what you think the best sci fi films for design are! Hit me up via the blog or on twitter to let me know.


Still from Blade Runner. Image by irina slutsky, Flickr.

Top 5: The best sci fi films for design

  1. A Clockwork Orange – no surprises with this entry eh? The costumes and set design are a fabulously eccentric mix of late 60s/early 70s mod fashions, psychedelic modern interiors and a very surrealist take on what aesthetics are in the ‘not too distant future’ where the story unfolds.
  2. Blade Runner – this future film noir is one of my favourites with a dark moody urban landscape which was apparently created using references as diverse as Milan, Hong Kong and New York and designs from architects including Gaudi and Lloyd Wright. The costumes are a cool blend of 40s fashion with a dark, futuristic twist. For another brilliant, dark, highly detailed sci fi film mis-en-scene see Alien.
  3. Brazil – I actually haven’t seen Brazil in many years but numerous images have stayed with me since my first viewing because it is such a weird film and the design is really out there. Super retro-futuristic in style, there are lots of wide angled shots and trippy costumes too.
  4. The Fifth Element – this 90s hit is a visual fest with creator Luc Besson’s love of comics coming to the fore. The sets are a series of magazine shiny designs featuring a ton of colour and neon lighting in their depiction of the future. French fashion designer Jean Paul Gautier did the costumes – almost 1000 in fact – and many have become iconic in status for good reason.
  5. Inception – because the story largely takes place inside dreams, the sets are hugely varied and switch from large hotels to Parisian street-scapes, snow covered mountains, Japanese club houses and mind bending surreal landscapes with crumbling skyscrapers perched on the edge of a cliff, continuously crashing into the ocean below. A stellar example of what awesome design, tons of money and clever special FX can do.

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08 2012

Best winter cheap eats in Melbourne

Stay warm, kick back and chow down

Melbourne’s weather isn’t one of the selling points of my new home town. I knew it going in. Everybody knows it. Melbournians can’t stop moaning about and Sydneysiders remain a little smug about it. It’s just the way it is: Melbourne has cafes and galleries in spades but the weather is almost always just another shade of grey. Especially in autumn and winter and the one we’re having at the moment is brutal. A low of 5 degrees at night and not particularly pleasant during the day, it’s hardly weather that makes you want to get out and about.

But the time has come to stop bitching about it. There’s always stuff on to do under-cover in this most cosmopolitan of cities. Hit the cinema and catch something at MIFF – these are my top picks. Or check out new exhibition at your favourite art gallery and find out about the next local design market. And then of course there’s always food. You’ve got to eat three times a day and it’s always nice when someone else is doing the cooking. And washing up. But eating out can be expensive so it’s important to find cheap eats that offer top quality nosh. In winter, for me that means something steamy hot, perhaps with a little kick of chilli. Luckily there are loads of awesome Asian cheap eats in this city so you never have to spend much to have great feed.

Here are my Top 5 places of where to head for cheap eats this winter.


Image by acme, Flickr.

Top 5 cheap eats in Melbourne for winter

  1. Malaymas – those North Fitzroy locals have it so good with the best Malaysian food I’ve eaten outside of Malaysia! Hawker style chicken curry, laksa and smoky char kway teow will warm you up on a cold day no doubt. Around $10-15 a head, less if you go in a group and share dishes: really amazing value.
  2. Pho Chu – some people like bacon and eggs, for me a hearty chicken pho soup with plenty of chilli, herbs and a lemon squeezed in is the ultimate hang over cure. Head to Pho Chu on Victoria Street for an authentic pho and satisfying cheat eat in Melbourne’s Little Vietnam.
  3. Ying Thai 2 – pretty damned decent Thai on Lygon Street, Carlton. Don’t let the location in Little Italy put you off, this is always way above average and a great value cheap eat in Melbourne. Plus you can ask for plenty of chilli when you’re feeling under the weather – or over the weather.
  4. Momotaro Ragmen – it’s hard to find really authentic, strong stocky ramen anywhere in Melbourne (suggestions please?!) but I have a soft spot for Momotaro Ragmen on Bridge Road. It’s a tiny place that doesn’t take bookings and have a small menu of dishes they do well. Ramens range from $10-14 and are often described as being ‘three times the size of your head.’ Talk about a cheap eat! They’re also delicious. Get there.
  5. Cornershop – if the weather is too miserable and getting around is a chore: don’t!  I’m happy to have pho soup or nasi lemak for brekkie but for those who can’t do Asian food so early in the day there are lots of cafes offering seriously good traditional European style breakfast options in Melbourne. Make breakfast a lengthy brunch and you’ve got a good chunk of the day covered with back to back coffees, baked eggs or sweet things served with compote. A recent find for me is Cornershop in Yarraville – really high quality dishes and, unlike a lot of brunch places, really well priced too.

Image by Kennymatic, Flickr.

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08 2012

When night falls: White Night Arts Festivals

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche is the name for an all-night arts festival. A French term dreamed up by artistic director Jean Blaise, it literally translates as ‘white night’ and is a French expression meaning ‘all-nighter’. The first two happened in Nantes and Helsinki in 1989 and since then a slew of countries in the northern hemisphere.

Stretching from early evening to early morning, these all night arts festivals usually involve free entry to major museums and galleries, a programme of specially organised arts events, exhibitions, performances and creative happening unconventional public spaces. The crux of the idea is to turn the city’s streets, buildings and public spaces into a huge creative space, open and accessible to all for one almost magical night of creative expression and adventure.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of Nuit Blanche continues to grow and over 120 countries have held their own all night arts festivals, including Barcelona, Naples, Paris, Brussels, Rome, Bucharest, Toronto, Montreal, Buenos Aires and Cairo.

A version of this all night festival is The White Nights – the same deal, it is staged on the longest day of the year around the Summer Solstice. This began in St Petersburg where twilight lasts almost all night.

However, 2013 is a while off yet so in the meantime why not get down to the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Image by Karma Jaxx, Flickr.

Australia’s first all-night arts festival

An evening of arts intrigue and taking to the streets…sounds pretty damned good doesn’t it? Well I have happy news fellow Antipodeans: Melbourne will be hosting its first White Night event in 2013. As a city said to have one of the highest densities of galleries per capita in the world, my new home town is the perfect fit for having a Nuit Blanche. As a city, Melbourne is also a certified festival freak so it makes sense it doesn’t let the opportunity to fit yet another one into the calendar go by….

I’m not complaining.

Image by Computer Hotline, Flickr.

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07 2012

Melbourne International Film Festival

The magic of MIFF

I’ve recently moved from Sydney to Melbourne and it feels really good to be here. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in Sydney and have great love for that city. I know I’ll miss the warmer weather, beaches and big city feel, especially when the grey climes and city grid of Melbourne start to grate. But I’ve spent so much time visiting Melbourne in these last few years, every time having a blast, that when a friend of mine had a room become available and I found I could get work there easily, it felt like the right time to take the plunge and move to Melbourne full time.

One of the things that has kept me coming back to Melbourne is its packed calendar of arts events. Sydney has them too of course, but there is a different feeling to the cultural life of Melbourne. It might sound both wanky and cliché, but it feels like the artistic life of the city is more firmly imbedded into the fabric of the place and the psyche of Melbournians general, whereas Sydney feels equally wrapped up in sports or commerce centred events as it does with the arts. And that’s cool. But with architecture, design, art, good food and damned good coffee being my guiding interests, at the moment Melbourne is for me.

Perfect example? I’ve arrived just in time for the Melbourne International Film Festival. An institution which has run for over 50 years, its programme encompasses films in many genres, new and old, Australian and international, popular and obscure. I cannot wait.

melbourne international film festival at acmi

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Image by Frostnova, Flickr.

Melbourne International Film Festival: my short list

It’s almost impossible for me to select just a handful of films I want to see at MIFF, the selection is so good this year. But since I don’t have the time or funds to take up residence at the cinema for the entirety of the festival, it seems like a good exercise to at least try. I’m sure I won’t stick to it, but here’s my short list of must-sees at MIFF.


  • Aloi Nebel – cool, film noir stylings from the Czech Republic
  • The Suicide Shop – a francophone affair with a mix of modern gothic, humour and whimsy
  • Bobby Yeah – I have no idea what this is about but the name and poster grabs me.



  • Marina Abramovi?: The Artist Is Present – documenting her famous performance work which I wish I could have experienced for myself, this will mollify my disappointment at missing out…if only a mite.
  • This Ain’t California – exploring skateboarding culture in East Germany in the 80s, nuff said.
  • The House I Live In – critiquing 40 years of America’s War on Drugs, this ambitious documentary has already been hailed as a masterpiece.


  • Beasts of the Southern Wild – it’s set in Louisiana USA, has a magical realism bent and there are prehistoric pig creatures involved. I’m in.
  • ALPS – set in an underground club where people mourn the loss of loved ones by inhabiting their homes, clothes, mannerisms. A completely unique story and off-beat film from Greece, I’m really looking forward to this one.
  • Shadow Dancer  – James Marsh of documentaries Man on a Wire and Project Nim brings us his first fictional film described as a ‘nail biting thriller’. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a film that fit that description: bring it on.


Who am I kidding? There are many, many, many more….See you at the cinema.

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07 2012

Interior design for very small spaces

A moveable feat

Clever interior design for compact spaces is a passion of mine. As urban sprawl gets worse and the world’s population increases it seems only sensible to let go of the old Australian dream of a huge house and large backyard and start embracing high density living and the positive things about it.

Of course from an aesthetic and practical point of view space is great but as this video I shared with you previously shows, small spaces has infinite possibilities when it comes to interior design if people are prepared to get creative and think outside the mainstream interior design box.

Today I wanted to post another super cool video of a tiny apartment in Hong Kong. By re-imaging how he could live in such a small space, this architect has transformed his compact studio into a living space that can evolve into a vast array of rooms – including a home cinema!

The quality of the film isn’t great but you can still appreciate the design and contemporary approach to living in a spaces that moves and changes with your needs.

Check out my post about interior design for small spaces for practical DIY tips.

Interior design video

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06 2012