Friday, October 31, 2008
My parents hung on for a while longer. By that I mean they'd usually tear up to the shops at dusk to pick up some fun size chocolate bars, but until the gorgeous American family moved in next-door, we'd usually end up gorging on chocolate for weeks (ok, days).
Anyway, the Pom sent me this a couple of days ago, which made me giggle, so Happy Halloween, folks!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Nic and Hugh have made a beeline for the oracle that is Oprah, recording an appearance on her show last week. Now, Oprah may love our UGGs, but it remains to be seen if she'll love the rest of Australia.
Although, I highly doubt the effusive Oprah will give Australia anything but a gushy tick of approval, which will surely set the tone of the publicity tour. That said, I don't envy Hugh or Nic the brain-numbing PR weeks ahead (all ten of them) as they spruik the film, with the added weight of a continent on their shoulders.
The official site boasts that Good Morning America, amongst others (including Ellen), has expressed interest in trekking over to Oz to film shows and publicise the film. I'm anticipating a passive-aggressive run-in with Kochie (a 'popcorn moment' as Bean would say), as well as every single Australia cliche under the sun...pun intended.
Even if the film and the tourism campaigns bomb, at least the diving dollar should help entice the Yanks over.
Let the games begin.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer is actually a fascinating look into the mathematics of networks, as developed by a couple of American and Australian über-geeks studying crickets, and developed into the study of the World Wide Web (as my Mum still refers to it), transport systems, the spread of pathogens and even the internal workings of a single cell.
I've often feared my encyclopedic knowledge of movies would come to nothing, but now I can sleep soundly knowing all those 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' games I've played over the years have at the very least contributed to an understanding of networks, their hubs, and the increasingly small world we living in.
Visit Sixdegrees.org to see how Kevin Bacon is doing his bit to spread the love.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
I've kept a wary eye on Valkyrie for a while now, and just revisited the trailer and featurette. Don't get me wrong, there are lot of great things going for this film: Bryan Singer is teaming up again with The Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie, which leads me to believe we're in for a stylish and tightly written thriller. In the featurette, Singer even takes on the assumption that a Cruise/Singer collaboration would be 'X-Men meets Mission Impossible', reminding viewers that he's done The Usual Suspects, and Cruise was in Born on the Fourth of July. An apt, if self-conscious clarification to be sure.
I'm also really excited by any film that puts Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Fry and Eddie Izzard in a room together. Although, it does seem a little unfair that all the 'good Nazis' are played by these British greats, and the 'bad Nazis' are played by German actors.
Most of all I'm geeking out on the German history (no surprises there!). In the wake of Der Untergang, I'm keen to see how the Germans will react to their story being told by a bunch of Yanks and Poms. Plus I have my own idea for a WWII Germany film, so I'll be taking notes!
My main concern centres around Mr. Cruise and his ability to not act like Mr. Cruise. I notice everyone is keeping their accents in this film, but I don't think it'll help audiences distance themselves from TomKat. I would have preferred everyone to at least attempt a nondescript, quasi-English accent a'la Russell Crowe in Gladiator.
Accents aside, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Cruise can pull this role off, and that history doesn't get too badly butchered in the process.
Valkyrie is opening in the US on Boxing Day. No word yet on the Australian release date.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
"Doc, tag him and bag him!"
Or so say Tori and Kate, only without the shouting, swearing or the Vietnam War. Indeed this is a much more pleasant, less fatal exercise - or so I trust!
Here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself, some random, some weird.
3.Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
And so I begin to bag myself out:
Fact #1Strawberries are known to me as "little...red...yummies". I'm not quite sure what happened to my brain that fateful day as I attempted to say "strawberry," but it was much like Homer and, "that...metal deely... used to...dig...food." Kate was on the receiving end of my brain spasm, though fortunately I think she laughed with me as much as at me.
I'm a shameless mimic. Sure it's helpful learning languages (evidently I speak German without an accent), but it can become a bit of a problem if I'm just talking to someone. I'll pick up their accent, their phrases and even their mannerisms. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I think I may just come across deranged! I had a field day in Ireland! And when I returned from a year in England, I had what my brothers described as "the dirtiest English accent," - one they ridiculed out of me, barring my pronunciation of "book".
Further to #2, I do love words and revel in languages. My German, though rusty, remains conversational, and I think I do English good, but Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Japanese and Mandarin are all on my pipe-dream to-do list. My German host sister can speak English, French and Spanish, which just makes me feel lazy, not to mention envious!
I have actually started in on Spanish, though I've encountered an interesting dilemma: whenever I'm searching for a Spanish word, my brain will wave around the German one. It's goes "Eee! Here you go! I've got it!" and I have to repeatedly, yet calmly tell my brain to put the Deutsch away and help me find the Español. It can be quite exasperating (and again I probably seem deranged!).
I'm a frustrated screenwriter. I have a moleskine full of ideas for grand historical epics, most of which place in far-away lands and in foreign tongues. I think the eternal student in me hopes to travel the world learning the history and languages of countries before writing films about them. Until I figure out how to bankroll that, I really should work on a more modest foray into the industry.
Between bouts of take-away apathy, I do actually enjoy cooking, and baking in particular. It's always more fun cooking with someone, or at the very least for someone. If left on my tod (a phrase stolen from the Pom), I'm all about simple pleasures: Vegemite and cheese on fresh sourdough.
I'm semi-obsessed with my stat-counter. I don't mean to pry (mostly), I'm honestly just fascinated by where people come from and how they come to be reading my lil'ol' blog. It certainly is a small world out there. And just for the record, Bean, Heaps Beached gets a lot of traffic, so surely I deserve a t-shirt?!
So there you have it, folks! Make of my own special brand of crazy what you will. It's been a lot of fun reading what others have divulged, so I hope I've added to the giggles.
And now to snap off some dog tags of my own:
1) Love You Big
2) eat tori
(ok I'm cheating, but I can recommend reading their entertaining lists)
3) Little Miss Monkey Mind
4) Dark Habits/Just Another Clumsy Romantic
5) Syms Covington
7) The Flashpacker
15 years in the making, Andy Garcia's The Lost City is a beautiful, deeply personal, if flawed film. In his ode to Havana, Garcia weaves a slightly wonky tale of a wealthy Cuban family, torn apart by the revolution. Two of the three brothers take up the cause, but Garcia's Fico tries in vain to maintain the status quo and continue his life as a successful nightclub owner.
Fico's reticence to react to the disintegrating world around him reflects Garcia's own slipping grip on this film. His story seems to get lost in the telling; this part drama, part love story, part political thriller mish-mash could perhaps have been held together by a strong lead character, but Fico remains aloof from the action, and the audience.
I was also completely confounded by Bill Murray's performance as The Writer. I'm always a fan of his endearing character roles, but his very presence was confusing: was he Fico's alter ego or perhaps a quirky Greek Chorus? The latter makes sense as this is certainly a tragic film.
Garcia's strengths lie in his portrayal of family and of music. Both aspects are at the heart of this story and are the source of its successful moments. Aside from producing, directing and starring in this film, Garcia also composed the original music. Such is the depth of his commitment to The Lost City, that you can forgive him its flaws. Perhaps, though, Havana may have been more beautifully revealed by someone less devastated by its loss.
Another ode to a favourite city of mine is Cédric Klapisch's Paris. Unlike Havana, I have been fortunate enough to visit Paris a few times and hence watched this film from my sick bed, wishing myself back to the banks of the Seine. Klapisch's Paris is told through the nostalgic and longing eyes of a dying Pierre (another standout performance by Romain Duris), who plays sentinel over the city as he awaits a heart transplant. Pierre's harangued social worker and single mum sister, Élise (my favourite Julliette Binoche), moves in with her brood to be with her brother.
The other colourful characters in this multi-narrative tale include an historian of Paris who falls in love with one of his students, an architect about to have his first child, an ethnic North African girl looking for a job, a group of local market vendors, some de rigueur fashionistas, and a Cameroonian man about to set sail for the promised land. These vignettes are well conceived and carefully interwoven, resulting in a wonderful and heartfelt snapshot of Paris.
Klapisch wisely avoids labouring the obvious cliché of Pierre as Paris: the romantic city, the beating heart of rose-coloured, bespectacled people everywhere. Instead he subtly teases out the themes of the heart - of hope, love, loss and life - within the lives of his characters. To be sure there's a healthy dollop of romance doled out with all the reality, and the final shot is more than a little rosy-lensed.
But if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself entirely caught up in the celebration of the everyday, the eternal, the magnificent, Paris.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Based on a true story, Lemon Tree follows the fate of Palestinian widow Salma Zidane as she struggles to protect her lemon grove from being destroyed by her new neighbour, the Israeli Defense Minister. Hiam Abbass, who was so wonderful in The Visitor, impresses again in her performance as Salma. She lives a simple and lonely life, yet one she fiercely defends, taking the Minister to court with the help of lawyer Ziad Daud (Ali Suliman). The love story between Salma and Ziad has received a bit of criticism, but I felt it was really well handled, and more poignant for developing from a recognition of loneliness in each other.
The Defense Minister's wife, Mira Navon also shares Salma's loneliness, and this mirrored experience is deftly handled by director Eran Riklis. Indeed the entire film benefits from Riklis' deft touch, never becoming shrill nor sinking into movie-of-the-week soppiness.
Lemon Tree is an engrossing parable about the West Bank, whose message is devastatingly confirmed in the film's final shot.
Image via Fribourg
Make sure you're sitting comfortably, and have your tissues handy.
...The shrink is in session.
Monkey Mind's post on Blue Day 2008 got me thinking about depression, general nutsiness and getting help. Her post has also coincided with a new TV obsession of mine, HBO's In Treatment. While I remain up at the homestead battling the black lung, I've been enjoying Foxtel's premier screenings of this fascinating show.
Much like blog posts hey...ahhhh bad joke.
Given all this sitting and chatting, I am fascinated by the way the show incorporates movement. At least once an episode, someone will get up in a huff, or need the bathroom, or want a drink, anything to create a bit of movement. Then there's the wave machine (or Tranquil Tide Machine as it's officially known), which sits behind the patients, providing a constant source of motion. But the most intriguing movement for me is in the editing. It's fascinating to watch how Garcia times the edits; he'll get you into a rhythm of a shot-reverse-shot then change the angle completely, to a subtle, yet great effect. All dialogue heavy films and TV series should take notes from In Treatment. It's a brilliantly crafted and absolutely riveting show.
Speaking of which, Movember is coming up next month, so hopefully more awareness will be raised about men's health issues and depression in particular.
In the meantime though, I can recommend getting yourself in treatment.
Not one to shy away from historical or political controversy, Stone's film is a very timely look at the life and leadership of George W. Bush. That the man behind the W, Josh Brolin suggests the film is akin to Dr. Strangelove, should fairly set the tone (and perhaps the tone of the reviews) of the film.
As a student of history trying to reconcile her love of (inaccurate/misleading/butchering - take your pick) historical films, I've always had a huge amount of respect for Oliver Stone. Audiences may disregard him as a crazed conspiracy theorist and historians may deride his treatment of the American past, but the man loves his history and knows how to make a compelling case for it on screen. Plus he's actually addressed the American Historical Association to discuss his films. The resulting book, Oliver Stone's USA, is a fascinating historiographical debate about his methods, his historical interpretations and indeed the very definition of history and her historians.
Needless to say, I'm eagerly anticipating W. and trust Stone won't scrimp on the history, or the controversy!
Nb. I haven't come across an Australian release date yet.
There's my cinematic historian! Check out W. The Official Film Guide which sources and references 83 key events and sections of dialogue.
Monday, October 13, 2008
It seems not everyone's a fan of this tourism tranformation, as this quote from The Age attests:
Advertiser Allan "Jo" Johnston, co-creator of the successful Paul Hogan "throw a shrimp on the barbie" campaign, says the new Tourism Australia TV ads leave him feeling similarly displaced. "Lack of friendliness, I think, is the main thing wrong with it," he says.
"It's all about a marriage breaking up, someone coming up and sprinkling magic dust on you, with a few standard shots of beautiful footage. This is just a bit too dark and mysterious for me. It's beautifully shot, but it looks like it's been shot in Siberia — talk about bloody sunniest country in the world, it's all dark."Then today the ads have been criticised for being too 'white-collar'. Not an unfair comment I suppose, but given the financial meltdown, I'm wondering if any collar colours will be springing for a ticket to the land of Oz?! I fear we may soon be back to demanding, "Where the bloody hell are you?"
Friday, October 10, 2008
How delightful to return to blogland and find myself the recipient of such a lovely award! Sure, I was nominated by the two women who inspired me to start this blog in the first place and who also happen to be family, but well, that's just my kind of nepotism!
Many many thanks to Kate (of Love You Big fame), and Little Miss Monkey Mind for the blog love, all the fun comments and for being such great and inspiring reading yourselves.
The rules of the award are thus:
1. Choose seven of your favourite blogs to nominate and link back to them
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award
3. Leave a message on the blogs that you've nominated
4. Post the award on your blog (optional)
Now I'm still fairly new to blogland, still building my Google Reader and discovering different blogs, but my award picks are (nepotism or no!) already firm favourites. I've also realised that despite their different subjects, they are all beautifully written. Turns out I'm just a sucker for language.
So in no particular order:
1. Eat Tori - my cooking, restaurant and travel guru, whose masterfully penned posts always get my tummy rumbling.
2. Love You Big - a veritable smorgasbord of all things literature, design, craft and chic. My inspiration in blogland (and in life!).
3. Little Miss Monkey Mind - fabulous observations of Oxford, PhD life, photography, family (ahem!) and the reluctant yet arduous battle of being an Aussie abroad.
4. I Hate Mornings - for catchy tunes about colourful characters, Ben always gets me smiling.
5. MetroDad - heartfelt and hilarious tales of family and fatherhood in NYC. (Thanks to Kate for introducing me to this great blogger).
6. The Flashpacker - a new travel blog by a friend and fellow wanderluster. His posts always leave me with itchy feet (to travel, not scratch).
7. Syms Covington - my window into the weird and wonderful world of Australian cinema.
So thanks again for my shiny award! I graciously accept. Here's my dramatic recreation:
Or perhaps that's just the temperature talking.
In any case, there is definitely something soothing about The Princess Bride. It's like a cold hand on a feverish forehead; conveying the comfort and nostalgia of childhood. William Goldman's screenplay is - unoriginally - pure gold. His quirky dialogue and creative characters are old friends, not to mention the source of timeless film quotes!
The two brothers in Lumet's film have similar motivations to their London counterparts: money and social mobility. The tremendous Philip Seymour Hoffman is unrepentantly self serving as older brother Andy, who recruits a reluctant Hank (Ethan Hawke) to rob their parents' jewelry store. Lumet cuts between the stories of the brothers in a self-consciously jarring fashion, showing there is little to like about either of them, nor the wife/lover role of Marisa Tomei, who came across as some sort of depressive space cadet. Albert Finney is a scene stealer as the distraught and determined father, Charles. I'm not sure I absolutely bought the climactic scene, but Finney's performance is terrifying!
This film is fueled by great performances and a car-crash like captivating plot. I'm fairly sure it's not just the flu talking when I say it leaves you feeling grimy and in need of a shower.
To restore your faith in families, I can recommend a dose of Dan in Real Life. Now I've never fully appreciated the 'home-for-the-holidays' genre of American films. These days I'm fortunate enough to have the family living locally, so we regularly catch up over barbecues and coffees; a pleasant couple of hours here and there, which seems entirely more civilised than torturing each other with a week under the same roof!
Dan in Real Life may avoid the added stress of Christmas cheer, but the family nonetheless comes together for some - gulp - quality time. Fortunately, the Burns clan seem like a fun bunch to be with. They're friendly, loving and nosey as all good families are, and gratefully devoid of the 'token outcast' role awkwardly written into so many family dramas. No, the drama (and comedy) here is provided by a painful love-triangle, and a healthy dose of teenage angst.
I was taken by this film from the very beginning. The opening scene is brilliant and immediately launches you into the life of widower Dan Burns, who is carefully and wonderfully portrayed by Steve Carell. I watched the 'making of' extras in which director Peter Hedges* describes how he was raised by a single father and really saw this film as a tribute to him. I think that goes a long way to explain how naturally and poignantly Carell comes across.
What I imagine Carell needs no direction in is playing awkward. When Dan unwittingly falls for his brother's girlfriend, Marie (played by the sublime Juliette Binoche), the awkward is palpable, and very very funny.
My favourite line: "This corn is like an angel."
See this film if you fancy a warm-hearted comedy about fatherhood, families and finding love. It's a lovely experience and a lot of fun to boot.
* I'm just seeing that Hedges wrote and directed another 'home for the holidays' flick, Pieces of April, with Mrs. Cruise. I really enjoyed that film and even thought Katie Holmes carried off the lead quite well. And would you look at that, it's another Burns family! Coincidence? I think not.
Don't you just love IMDb?
Monday, October 6, 2008
How did we get to October already?!
I feel like that bushy-eyebrowed guy from While You Were Sleeping; I've awoken from a flu-coma and everything is brighter, times have changed (literally, daylight saving always freaks me out), though fortunately I haven't found myself engaged to Sandra Bullock.
I have just lost three weeks to the lingering strains of Pilgrim Flu.
When I initially came down with the shivers, I chastised my inner Victorian* for swooning over the day's airborne excitement. But when the fierce cold turned into the tell-tale sweats, and a cracking cough joined the party, I knew I wasn't in for a good time.
Those sodding happy-clappers! I gave scads of them helpful directions and this is the thanks I get! Three weeks on and I'm still feverish, as weak as a kitten and as pale as a ghost. Ever afflicted by my quotation compulsion, however, I haven't referred to myself as suffering from the pilgrim flu so much as:
An incubus of viral plague.
I think I'm coming down with the Black Lung, Pop.
My parents whisked me up to the homestead to keep some worried eyes on me, which has been a pretty weird return to childhood. That said, I'm supremely grateful for all their help and well-honed nursing skills, and I imagine my flatmate is grateful too for ridding our place of the plague!
Although I've essentially been asleep for the past three weeks, my few waking hours were spent curled up on the couch in front of the TV. My parents, who tirelessly kept me in paracetamol, soft-drinks and jellybeans, also maintained a steady flow of DVDs. I hope to briefly write some of them up here, with the massive caveat that I wasn't in my right mind (evidenced by the fact that I quite enjoyed Made of Honour - a painful admission to be sure).
I'm also looking forward to getting back to the cinema, work, uni and my no doubt heaving Google Reader! Bear with me, people.
While I Was Sleeping: In Brief
~Friends seem to have sent me some blog love! Eee! I'm excited to find out what this means.
~Congratulations to my brother on his graduation, and for being a university medalist. Geek.
~The US Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates: I actually caught some of these, and only have two words to say about Sarah Palin: surely not?!
~ Also re: Palin, thanks to Jud for posting the Disney Trailer. Hilarious!
~ The Meltdown: I guess I should check to see if I still have a job.
*Victorian, as in the era. Far be it for me to suggest our fair state of Victoria is full of hypochondriacs! Ahem.