What does it take to ride out the coronavirus in relatively paradisiacal Australia? Well, it helps to not be Australian, at least if you’re abroad—you’ll have trouble getting back. And being well known can’t hurt, since you’ll probably be able to afford the super-expensive airline tickets created by the government’s “travel cap.” As the BBC reported, dozens of Hollywood refugees have headed halfway around the world for the duration—drawn mostly for film work but quite happy to settle into temporary homes. And why not, given how successfully Australia has handled the pandemic, and, consequently, how inviting its beaches, clubs, and restaurants are?
The list of transplants includes Julia Roberts, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, Zac Efron, Natalie Portman, Ron Howard, Taika Waititi, Tessa Thompson, Idris Elba, Chris Pratt, Michelle Ye, Paul Mescal, Rita Ora, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hanks, Awkwafina, Ed Sheeran, Jane Seymour, Melissa McCarthy, and Lord Alan Sugar, according to a tally by the BBC. There’s also the Australian stars who’ve come home: Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban; Kylie and Dannii Minogue; Rose Byrne; Isla Fisher and her British husband, Sacha Baron Cohen. But not everyone is pleased. One year on since Australia shut its borders, there are still at least 40,000 Australians stranded overseas. Well, they should have planned ahead—for fame, that is.
The “elite” airborne (Australia-bound or not) should pay for their frequent flying, according to the environmental charity Possible, whose new study The Guardian summarizes this way: “In the US, 12% of people took 66% of all flights, while in France 2% of people took half of the flights.… In China 5% of households took 40% of flights and in India just 1% of households took 45% of all the flights.” What the group is proposing is a frequent-flier levy “whereby the first flight in a year incurs little or no tax and it therefore does not penalise annual family holidays,” said the newspaper. “But the levy then ramps up for each additional flight.”
France’s premier finishing school for top civil servants is, well, finished. The École Nationale d’Administration, established by Charles de Gaulle in 1945 and the spawning ground for four of France’s last six presidents, will be replaced by the more egalitarian, diverse Institute of Public Service, it was announced by President Emmanuel Macron—himself an E.N.A. graduate. “The gruelling entrance system will still require a master’s-level degree but will abandon the emphasis on deep culture and improvised speaking skills that favour the rich,” reported The Times of London. E.N.A.—sorry, I.P.S.—trainees will henceforth intern for small businesses instead of at embassies and corporations. Not everyone is pleased. “Defenders of the ENA said that Macron was scrapping an institution that was envied around the world,” said the newspaper. “Daniel Keller, head of the alumnus association, said: ‘Would the UK erase Oxford with the stroke of a pen?’”
It’s Godzilla vs. Kong vs. An: My Sister, a small, quiet domestic drama about gender inequality, is the No. 1 film in China, making $69 million in its opening weekend and striking a chord that not even Godzilla vs. Kong could achieve. Created by two women—director Yin Ruoxin and screenwriter You Xiaoying—and starring Zhang Zifeng as An, a young woman pressured into caring for her younger brother after their parents die, the movie has “sparked a national discourse about China’s patriarchal culture and the widespread preference among parents to have boys,” according to the South China Morning Post. “The film drew comments from renowned scholars, such as Li Yinhe, a pioneering sociologist studying sex and gender roles in China…. She described the movie as ‘a profound work based on solid social reality.’” Just like the mayhem in the Hollow Earth in that other film, really.
You can’t call David Hockney a technophobe—he’s been experimenting with computer art since the 80s and has been creating digital work, mainly on his iPhone and iPad, since 2009 (including more than 200 iPad drawings during lockdown in France; he prints them out). But Hockney remains unimpressed with the current vogue for NFTs—“non-fungible tokens,” virtual art available to anyone, but to some collectors worth spending millions on just to possess a certificate of ownership. “The Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sold an image of his first tweet last month for $2.9 million (£2.1 million), even though it can be seen free online, while Damien Hirst has spent three years creating a collection of 10,000 NFTs,” reported The Times of London. “Mike Winkelmann, the artist better known as Beeple, sold a collage of 5,000 images for $69.3 million last month, the most paid for an NFT to date.”
“What is it that they’re owning? I don’t really know,” Hockney told the newspaper, characterizing the virtual art as “the preserve of ‘international crooks and swindlers.’” O.K., but what does he really think?
Marie-Louise and René Glémarec have been modeling for their grandson Florentin Glémarec and his label, EGONlab, since they were whippersnappers in their mid-80s, and a whole year later they can still steal the (fashion) show. Photos of the “granfluencer” couple in “modern punk,” gender-neutral outfits have gone viral, especially now that they’re featured in the label’s autumn-winter 2021 streetwear campaign. Modeling is the second career for both: she was a newspaper seller; he was a sailor.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL