Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

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Wishing everyone in blogland and beyond a very Merry Christmas and an only slightly sore-headed Boxing Day!!

My family has cut quite an international swathe through this holiday season. The parents are freezing in NYC, my brother and sister-in-law honeymooning in Hawaii and my other brother and his girlfriend are cuddled up with soup in the south of France. Forget Vince Vaughn, this is the real Four Christmases!

For my part, I pretty much lived the Australian cliché yesterday. The Pom's parents are in town, so it was up early to take them over to my uncle's house for a BBQ breakfast, then back to the homestead for champagne and pressies before hitting up the beach for some sun and surf.

When we started to feel like we might in the nearish future possibly be hungry again, we made our way back home to prepare a seafood BBQ extravaganza. There were scallops to marinate, green prawns and vegetables to skewer, swordfish to char in expensive looking crisscrosses, as well as king prawns and tuna steaks to cook just right. Of course there were cheeses and crackers, chips and dips to whet/ruin our appetites, and salads, grilled asparagus, eggplant and hot chips to accompany the main course.

I did mention this was a meal for four?

To top it all off there was homemade pavlova for dessert. Yes indeed, we lived the cliché. The Pom's parents were certain this is how I must have spent Christmases growing up, but in fact my memories are much more about the hoards of cousins, hours in the pool and maybe a cold chicken leg and a bit of potato salad squeezed in their somewhere.

That said, I'm happy to have taken part in a quintessential Aussie Christmas, albeit with a bunch of Brits. Considering my far-flung family members, I guess I was the Australian contingent, represent'n.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In Flight Entertainment


Sure, it's essentially an oxymoron, but I've come to rely on the in flight entertainment to see me through the bum-numbing tedium of long haul flights. This dependence can't be rational, because invariably the screens short out, or entertainment system goes fut, or my favourite, just a select few rows are on the fritz, nothing to be done, sorry. Of course that's always where I'm seated.

Regardless, I've done enough flights that the law of averages has seen fit to bless me with many in flight movies, some of which I have even been able to select 'on demand'. Huzzah! For whatever reason, I don't like to read on flights, I'm often to cramped and fidgety to really be able to settle into a good book, hence my reliance on films.

So it was with some trepidation that I looked at my tickets for Hawaii and realised that although the Pom and I had booked Qantas flights, we were actually on a Jetstar plane. What does this mean?! 10 hours with nary a Simpsons rerun to watch? The Pom eyed me warily as we took our seats, the headrests devoid of tv screens...

I quickly whipped out the Jetstar in flight magazine and discovered that some tv shows and Mamma Mia would be screened on the central monitors that punctuated the plane; headsets could be purchased for $3.00. But then, jackpot! Individual, handheld tv sets could be rented for $15.00: Wall-E, Unfinished Sky and Bottle Shock (to name just a few) were a mere flight attendant away.

But of course I spoke too soon. Of course, my in flight entertainment karma put me in a seat surrounded by clever folk who had pre-ordered all the available the tv sets, leaving none for the Jetstar uninitiated. I feel I dealt with this disappointment maturely, though the Pom maintains a pathetic chin wobble gave me away.

Not all was lost, however, as our inflated Qantas prices scored us Jetstar packs which contained headsets, a small consolation prize indeed. On a separate point, our Qantas tickets were our meal tickets, along with the clever folk who stole my movies, who had also pre-ordered the food service. It was the first time I'd been on a flight where only select people were brought food; I felt like it established this weird quasi-class system, over aeroplane food, of all things!

Our return flight was on an actual Qantas plane, and even though it was an old school one with only one central screen per section, I wasn't complaining. Ghost Town, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Mamma Mia (enough already!) and The X-Files: I Want to Believe were all served up to this ecstatic passenger. Granted, they were all edited and censored to within an inch of their lives, but I was coming from the US where that's par for the course (I could hardly recognise a Sex and the City episode it had been so profoundly censored).

Ghost Town made a great plane movie: simple, funny-ish and easy enough to follow through rows of heads. Ricky Gervais does a rather muted version of his famed shtick, perhaps tamed down for American audiences. Playing a misanthrope, depressive dentist who starts seeing dead people after a medical mishap, Gervais brings a bit of life (ha!) to this paint-by-numbers comedy.

I'd recommend the far superior Hearts and Souls (with the captivating Robert Downey Jnr) over Ghost Town any day, but if you're keen, Gervais will hit the silver screen in Oz on February 12, 2009.

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day I LOVED! I actually saw this delightful film while I was struck down with black lung, so I was happy to reunite Miss Pettigrew on the flight. Frances McDormand and Amy Adams are simply remarkable, and they play so well off each other. The story of a destitute governess who hooks in on high society for a day, this film brims with old Hollywood charm.

Unfortunately, what I love most about the film - the to die for art-deco production design - was less enjoyable through said backs of heads, but I can highly recommend catching up with this movie on DVD.


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Though perhaps tainted with the inevitable 'plane cranky' that develops towards the end of a long haul flight, The X-Files: I Want to Believe found no convert in me. As a crime drama, it held my attention as we hurtled the final few hours to Sydney, but I wasn't at all engaged with the characters. And considering the characters were precisely what struck a friend of mine in his review, I can only assume the film was butchered to make it in flight friendly. I'll have to give this another try, if only for a 1990s tv nostalgia trip.

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Well, this jetsetter is cashing in a gazillion frequent flyer points, playing fast and loose with her carbon footprint and heading to Europe just after Christmas. So those of you not cursing my name for such reckless extravagance will hopefully stay posted for more in flight shenanigans.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Wedding: Post-production


I'm back from Maui, my mind still spinning with the jet lag and the fact that my big brother done gone got hitched. And what a wedding!

It strikes me that organising a wedding is probably much like producing a film. And if so, my new sister-in-law should be in the running for an Oscar. Imagine putting together a wedding in Maui from back in Sydney, and coordinating 60-odd guests of different locations, ages and drinking habits for three days of festivities. Fortunately, both my brother and sister-in-law are hyper-literate in Microsoft Excel, so they had some serious spreadsheets going on: the run-sheet for the three days was broken down to 5 minute increments (really).

As director, producer, costume and production designer, my sister-in-law was indefatigable. The bridesmaids dresses were sourced from New York, the table linens from LA and the celebrant from Maui by way of Bondi. This truly was an international affair.

Despite the fact that we had almost been washed away by a tropical storm earlier in the week, and that every subsequent afternoon had brought rain, even Mother Nature followed her cues come wedding day. After much location scouting, the selected setting, as you can see, was just sublime.


A trio of strings heralded the ceremony, while the soundtrack for the evening was a multicultural mix of American pop with the odd Aussie classic thrown in. Of course the dance floor went berserk for Men At Work's Land Down Under.

A surprise musical addition was a specially commissioned wedding song Pacific Love* by the ever entertaining Ben Walker. The tale of two love birds who traverse the ocean to meet in the middle, the song's fusion of Hawaiian style guitar and swing was an instant hit and even had the bride in tears (awww!).

At the scrumptious post-wedding BBQ the following day, I asked the somewhat weary lady who penned and produced this epic wedding how she felt about the final cut: "It was a dream come true," she said.

You can't ask for a better reception than that.


*I'm told Pacific Love will be the soundtrack for the DVD and photo-montage, both currently in post-production, release date TBA.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mawage is what brings us together...today...


That's right, folks, I'm off for a week in Hawaii to watch my big brother get Maui'd.

It's a hard life...really.

For me, weddings are always an inevitable combination of Princess Bride, Father of the Bride and Four Weddings and a Funeral. You could probably toss a bit of Wedding Crashers in there for good measure too...just for giggles.

Aloha!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Girls' Night In

A recent trip to the homestead found Mum and I both feeling a little fragile. Some tasty Thai, a glass of crisp white wine and some shameless chick flicks were just what the doctor ordered.


What better way to kick of a Mother/Daughter bonding evening than Mamma Mia!? Shameless is certainly the way to describe this ABBA stage musical turned movie: shameless fun. I know there wasn't a lot of love for this film, but I couldn't help but feel that all the cast were just having a cracking time! They were definitely being good sports about it - those ABBA tunes aren't at all easy songs to sing - and I especially loved the way Stellan Skarsgård growled his way through.

Meryl Streep is simply a force to be reckoned with, and belts out the songs with warmth, humour and feeling. Amanda Seyfried, who I recognised as the ditz from Mean Girls, also does surprisingly well as the wide-eyed bride-to-be.

Sure the direction is a bit clunky and some scenes totally camp it up, but I was won over by the sense of fun and frivolity that the actors brought to film. However, with the ABBA score and the baby boomer man-candy on offer, I think the film was much more Mum's cup o' tea.



Next we prepared ourselves to get Carried away with Sex and the City. Now I'm a big fan of the TV show and will even admit to digging out the DVDs in preparation for the film's release. Then I lined up with a confronting number of women wielding plastic champagne flutes to see the glamour girls grace the silver screen, and I was not disappointed. Perhaps it was the dangerous levels of oestrogen in the cinema, but my friends and I were carried away indeed.

Second time around, I let myself consider the niggling comments I'd heard from critics. Yes, Charlotte essentially squeals her way through the movie (although I do think she pulls off her climactic scene with Mr. Big). Yes, Samantha's arc is underwritten and a repeat of her breakup with Richard: "But I love me more". And yes, perhaps Jennifer Hudson's character Louise is a bit politically incorrect, as a black women coming in to rescue and restore the rich white lady.

But I don't care. As a fan of the show, I know I'm the target audience for the film and on that level I think they delivered. They dished up the labels, the laughs and our favourite foursome. I even think they had some interesting things to say about marriage, fidelity and forgiveness. Miranda's story dovetailed nicely with Carrie's, although my cousin did wonder when Miranda got so schmendy.*

All in all the film is a fabulous reunion of old friends - with fabulous being the operative word. I can happily watch the series and the movie without forfeiting any post/feminist leanings and without needing to go out and buy a Louis Vuitton.

That's just how I roll.

*I took this to be a combo of chic and trendy, and believe she was well on her way by the end of the tv series. Lawyers, it turns out, can look stylish.
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