A Letter to Rape Apologists

Posted by Lou. The time is 4.40pm here in London.

Dear Pedro Almodovar, Tilda Swinton, Woody Allen, Terry Gilliam, Monica Belluci, Alfonso Cuaron, Stephen Frears, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Darren Aranofsky, and others,

Drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl - orally, vaginally and anally - isn't merely a "case of morals". It is not cancelled out by him being "one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers". And quite frankly, the right of filmmakers to present their films "freely and safely" is light-years behind the importance of 13-year-old girls being able to live their lives "freely and safely" from the threat of rape.

You say "The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance, undermines this tradition: it opens the way for actions of which no-one [sic] can know the effects." You know what for me opens the way for actions of which nobody can know the effects? A 44-year-old man raping a 13-year-old girl and effectively getting away with it. No, not just getting away with it, but having people defend his getting away with it and position him as the victim.

You have completely lost my respect.

Yours sincerely,

Petition for Polanski's release
Polanski defenders lose sight of true victim

Book review: Persepolis - contains 'graphic content' heh heh

Posted by Bel. The time is 1:35pm here in Wellington, NZ.

To truly succeed, a graphic novel must work on both levels - appealing on a visual level while hand-in-hand delivering a story makes you want to keep turning the pages.

The autobiographical Persepolis does this wonderfully, as the bold black and white images enhance and strengthen a narrative that is breath-taking enough on its own.

This is a coming-of-age story, not just for a woman wrestling with self-image, feminism and romance, but also for her nation, as it is torn apart by revolution, religion and attacks.

I took this book to the gym with me one day, to read while pedalling away mindlessly on the exercycle. Big mistake. I found myself brought to tears in the middle of working out - yes, just by a comic book, but man, this one sure packs a whallop at times.

Funny, honest, thought-provoking, educational. If you didn't dig the movie, trust me - there's much, much more here.


Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - Highly recommended
First published 2000. Set in Iran/Austria, 1970/80s
#6 on 'The List' of 75 books total i.e I read this ages ago

Period piece: advertising and the dreaded b-word

Posted by Bel. The time is 12:01pm here in Wellington, NZ.

I know that Lou is the tennis fan, and that due to my lack of a television, there's a high chance everyone else has already seen this - but I'm posting it anyway. I love it.

Advertising for "women's sanitary products" tends to be rather coy, particularly in the American market from what I've read. Great to see this champion doing such an edgy and funny piece - I hope she got a lifetime supply as part of her endorsement! Jezebel has an article about the ad, questioning why aren't more famous faces used to sell such an essential product.

Along the same lines, copyranter praises a French print ad (Tampax again!) which actually emphasises the no-leakage benefits of a tampon (for when you're swimming with sharks, in particular), rather the demurely using blue liquid and euphemisms.

Away We Go to the cinema

Posted by Lou. The time is 7.15pm here in London, UK.

First up I'll explain that Away We Go is co-written by Our Dave and his wife. "Our Dave" is of course Dave Eggers, he of the fantabulous novels A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and What is the What. (If you haven't read them, do so now. NOW. Cuz he has a new one out about a guy in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath that promises to be as good if not better.) He is also an all-round upstanding guy, following on from raising his younger brother after the premature death of his parents to spending his adulthood using his talents and status to promote educational programmes and focus on world-improving subjects. Okay, I'm glad we got that out of the way.

Away We Go is, in a very first-screenplay kind of way, like a series of vignettes as Verona and Burt, expecting their first child and worried that they might be "fuck-ups", travel around North America trying to figure out where to plant their roots and call home for the upcoming stage of their life. On the way they of course interact with a brilliant series of supporting characters - at times funny, at times shocking, at times very moving.

For a first feature it is well written and has a definite added depth from the fact that it is written by a couple with a young family of their own - there is real emotion and care that lets you know they care about their subject matter, and it is a film that truly manages to be a two-hander between a man and a woman where they are a real equal team with neither perspective or role dominating. (Possibly ironically, with it seeming so personal, the part that rang least true for me was the part most overtly ripped from real-life - where Verona speaks to her sister of losing both her parents in her early-20s.) This is also a potential downfall, as it does perhaps start to err into being too caring... if you know what I mean? Like you'd go to dinner with Dave and his Wife and end up telling them all your emotional problems and they'd make you feel better with their perfect empathy and undestanding... and you'd possibly not like them for it because you'd somehow end up feeling like a bad person in contrast to their perfect likeability and niceness?

Anyhoo... the stand-out feature of this film is one scene in particular that manages to elicit the kind of emotional reaction that most filmmakers dream of, combining script, directing and acting to maximum effect. I predict two Best Supporting Actor nominations arising from it (one with an exciting Kiwi connection, and one for my new fave actor currently also starring in Julie and Julia). Speaking of the direction, I had sort of forgotten who the director was and kind of assumed that it being a first-script it would be a new-ish director, and I was thus extremely impressed by the unassuming but distinctive direction... well, I then wasn't surprised when the credits came up to be reminded it was a certain Mr Mendes...

In summary, this isn't the best film you'll ever see. It's not going to rock the world. It might irritate you. But for a lot of people it's going to be a direct hit to the ol' heart and create a real sense of empathy and understanding about how you feel about things, ya'know?

1st anniversary of 'The List'

Posted by Bel. The time is 4:13pm here in Wellington, NZ.

For one whole year now I have read nothing but books from 'The List'.

Okay, there have been a few exceptions, but probably less than five! And two of them were for work. Almost everything I have read has been reviewed on this site (label: 'The List'), but I thought today was a good day to go over it as a whole...

'The List' came from this article on Jezebel entitled 75 Books Every Woman Should Read: The Complete List. It was a collective response, compiled by the blog editors from commentors' suggestions, after Esquire magazine had released a list of '75 Books Every Man Should Read' that they felt was "myopic" due to its old white dude predominance (in fact, one female author, four non-white authors *shudder*).

This list is not without its biases too. Obviously, it tends towards female authors and themes, but more unintentionally many of the authors are from the United States. I think this is one of those unfortunate stereotypes where Americans just don't think far enough outside the square. Part of this is because they have a fantastic education system that focusses on their own history and own literary successes - but it does mean that other cultures get left out in the cold.

There were quite a few seemingly obvious ones that got missed as well. There's no Margaret Atwood on 'The List'. The Vagina Monologues isn't there. Katherine Mansfield doesn't get a mention, despite the fact she's probably more well-regarded overseas than she is here.

But all in all, it's a solid effort. I'd only read 7 of the books when I started. Now, with a recount to sort out various mix-ups, I am up to 42. That means 26 to go! Yes, I did abandon Middlemarch and A Vindication of the Rights of Women, but I am planning to make another attempt - on Middlemarch, at least. So really only 25. Assuming all of the rest are readable. And something has to be pretty awful for me to give it up, I'm dogged like that with books, though who knows why.

I've been able to find every book so far at the Wellington Central Library, bless! However I am now hitting a few dead end. Alison Bechdel's Fun Home has been out each and every time I have looked on the library catelogue. FOR A YEAR. I am quite keen to read this graphic novel, having enjoyed her other work and being a fan of applying 'The Bechdel Rule' to films.

I'm also having to read around Martha Gellhorn. They don't have her collection of war journalism, The Face of War, but do have collections of letters and travel memoirs, as well as some novels in stack, so I figure this will have to do as a way of getting to know her writing.

Below is the complete 'The List' for your perusal - let me know if you would like it as a handy one page Word doc, perfect for keeping handy in your wallet:

  • The Lottery (and Other Stories), Shirley Jackson
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  • The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
  • White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  • The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
  • Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  • The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  • Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
  • The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  • Like Life, Lorrie Moore
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  • The Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
  • A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
  • A Good Man Is Hard To Find (and Other Stories), Flannery O'Connor
  • The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
  • You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Alice Walker
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
  • Earthly Paradise, Colette
  • Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
  • Property, Valerie Martin
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot
  • Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
  • The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
  • Runaway, Alice Munro
  • The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  • The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  • You Must Remember This, Joyce Carol Oates
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  • Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
  • The Liars' Club, Mary Karr
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  • A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  • And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
  • Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison
  • The Secret History, Donna Tartt
  • The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
  • The Group, Mary McCarthy
  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  • The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  • The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
  • In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
  • The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  • Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
  • Three Junes, Julia Glass
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Sophie's Choice, William Styron
  • Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
  • Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
  • Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
  • The Face of War, Martha Gellhorn
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather
  • Love In The Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Harsh Voice, Rebecca West
  • Spending, Mary Gordon
  • The Lover, Marguerite Duras
  • The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  • Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
  • Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
  • Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
  • Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
  • Possession, A.S. Byatt

Triumph of the nerds (again)

Posted by Lou. The time is 4.15pm here in London, UK.

Once again it's triumph of the nerds as a hobbying metal detector defies social ostracism to find what a jaw-droppingly magnificent, breath-takingly significant, bank-breakingly effluent stash of anglo-saxon gold.

After 18 years detecting, Terry Herbert has found 1,500 pieces of gold and silver dating back to the 7th century just sitting there buried in a field - an unparalleled find.

I mean seriously - check this shit out! It's amazing!

An expert says they don't even know who it could possibly have belonged to as finding such a mammoth collection defies wealth of the time.

It reminds me what a mind-fuck living in Britain is - walking around on several-hundred-year-old cobblestones with god-knows-what under our feet.

Perhaps I should take up metal detecting...

Imma let you finish, baby, but Beyonce is the best dancer of all time! Of all time!

Posted by Bel. The time is 5:24pm here in Wellington, NZ.

When there's a catchy beat, it doesn't matter what age you are, sometimes you just need to dance:

This has gone viral and is all over US websites - but has its origins right here in NZ. Note the C4 logo on the telly screen!

Now excuse me while I go take my pants off and dance around.

14 films in 7 days: Part II

Posted by Bel. The time is 3:36pm here in Wellington, NZ.

Welcome back! Are you ready to get continue on my epic saga of movies consumed over the last week?

  1. Ok. Go!

  2. The King of Kong

    After the first few minutes of this, Mark turned and asked, “Is this for real…?” Sadly, yes, yes it is.

    The quirky, nerdy, obsessive and – as said by the mother of someone in the documentary, so I’ll repeat it – possibly autistic people in this film seem so out of whack with reality that they must be works of fiction. But of course, it is all true. People really do care this much about “competitive arcade gaming”.

    There was drama in this film, caused by the decades-held records of Billy Mitchell being threatened by upstart outsider Steve Wiebe. But that was pretty much it.

    Just the one storyline, not much attempt to put it in a wider context of the gaming world, and when it came down to it, much of the footage was of someone’s shoulder and some bright lights pinging around on the screen in front of them. It is a bit simplistic, with the underdog portrayed in a glowing family man light, as he battles the evil entrenched boy wonder gone to seed.

  3. The Valet

    From the same director as The Dinner Game and Tais-toi!, I knew this was going to be that special brand of stupid slapstick that only the French can do. Okay, and the Italians. Sometimes I'd rather poke out my own eyes, other nights (when befuddled by flu, par example) I'm in just the right mood.

    This starred Daniel Auteuil and Kristen Scott Thomas, so seemed a safe bet. It must have been fun for these two (known for rather more serious fare) to have spent some time on this fluff piece, which involved a working class type having to let a supermodel move in with him because she is the mistress of a wealthy businessman who just can't face divorcing his wife but must avoid a paparazzi frenzy. THOSE FRENCHIES!!

    Filming was also no doubt fun for this dude

    It pretty much contributed nothing to my life but at least I got to reinforce some vocab and see some nice shots of Paris in there.

  4. Ferpect Crime

    This was a completely random choice. I would describe it as an episode of The Office directed by Almodovar, crossed with Are You Being Served?.

    Rafael is a born salesman, the debonair king of the department store and a dab hand at wooing all those who stray into his Ladies' Wear zone. But he is as of yet uncrowned - awaiting his promotion to floor manager. But fate plays a cruel trick when everything hinges on the one woman he cannot stand: the obsessive and equally determined Lourdes. She can help him fulfill his ambitions, but at a price... (Whooo! You're totally dying to see this now, huh??)

    You know how sometimes you watch a film, where a hapless crime has been committed, and they then do something really stupid and illogical, instead of just panicking and coming clean, like you assume most people do? Well this film had just the perfect (ferpect) balance of absolute lunacy that we were willing to go along with whatever mad plot twist happened next - it did all seem 'realistic' within the characters' world. (The Coens are masters of this.)

    This was a very entertaining, sexy and funny black comedy - and would translate very well to an English language Western setting. I'm surprised it hasn't been remade already!

    *Quakes in fear that Cameron Crowe will do it the way that he butchered Open Your Eyes *

  5. Lost In La Mancha

    It's fairly widely recognised that Terry Gilliam is a genius. However he also has the reputation that he cannot hold his shit together. Although other projects have been costly and ran over schedule, this is mostly due to the attention this film drew to the disaster that became of his production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.

    It is a fascinating documentary, both for the insight it gives to big budget filmmaking and for the calamitous series of events which unfold. As a fictional film, it just wouldn't be believable and as it plays out in real life, you just don't want it to be true.

    Gilliam comes across as very, um, focussed. Getting film in the can is his only goal and he is caught up in his excitement about having a camera in his hand. If it wasn't for Australian 1st AD Phil Patterson, who knows how long the shoot would have dragged on for, hemorrhaging money and losing cast members like flies due to scheduling and illness.

    The terrible thing is that things went even worse on his latest project, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, with the untimely death of its star, Heath Ledger. But Gilliam remains undaunted, with reports claiming that he is in the process of buying back the rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (from the financiers who laid claim to anything they could when it all went pear-shaped) aiming to commence production in 2010...

  6. Below

    We got halfway through this and then the next evening weren't motivated enough to put it on again and finish it. Not a good sign. (It was about a haunted WWII submarine and there are no relevant google-images. Again, not a good sign.)

    It's by the same guy who directed Pitch Black which is a surprisingly good sci-fi action film starring Vin Diesel, bless his heart. My only problem with it is that around the same time we watched a Dogme 95 film which had a similar desert-like setting and now I have the two confused - or rather, fused.

    In my head, a fractious bunch of weirdos attempt to re-enact King Lear to deal with their isolation and then take off across the planet/desert, having to battle aliens along the way. (That would actually be quite a cool movie.)

    'The Pitch Black King Is Alive' has a record-breaking $200 billion opening weekend

    (This is the same thing that happened when John Hughes died. I realised that I had John Hughes and John Waters mixed up/combined! I'd been thinking pretty much all my life that the guy who directed The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, etc had also made Cry Baby, Hairspray, etc. At first I did indeed mourn that Hollywood had suffered the loss of one its most prolific and diverse protégées and then I WISED UP. (Please don't speak of this to anyone. Kthnxbai.))

  7. Mad Max

    Another one from the 'To Watch' shelf of our DVD cabinet. This was so not what I expected it to be like. So much of this film is devoted to boring character development. It should take half a scene to establish that your lead is a happily married family man, NOT AN HOUR. Cut the crap and get back to the exploding cars please.

    I was appalled at how badly written and poorly structured this film was. One of the great things about most action films is that they have this nice basic three-act arc and you bang through it quickly and everything is punctuated by a fuck off explosion. For the first third of Mad Max I couldn't figure out who the protagonist was!!

    It's the gormless looking teenager to the left, btw

    Another thing about this film. HOMOEROTIC MUCH?! Well, that's when it's not being incredibly homophobic that is. And women all get the punnies. I just googled and this guy has written about it much more concisely than I ever bloody will - check it out.

    Very strange to see such a baby-faced Mel Gibson and to remember that he was just an Australian lad at one point, many years ago. This film doesn't have much to say for itself, I'm assuming it's the later ones in the trilogy that have had the aesthetic impacts and so on.

  8. The Abyss

  9. We were 5 minutes into this when I realised it was a submarine movie and started getting a sinking feeling, based on our previous bad experience (no pun intended). I began needling Mark about it, concerned about the potential negligible quality and he said, "Who do you think the director is?". After a few more shots (on screen, not liquid, I wish), it struck me: James Cameron. And I was right. (This is like psychically guessing the lottery numbers in our household. I was so proud of myself.)

    This does start out as a submarine movie, but it is so much more. Cameron is willing to push the storyline to the very edge - and then out beyond where you would expect. (Haha another borderline pun: like, the edge of the underwater reef? Geddit?? ...sorry, my mum raised me a punner.)

    The Abyss has the close-knit crew camaraderie of Alien (without quite the-edge-of-your-seat horror aspect), combined with the romantic pairing angle of Titanic (steering clear of the all encompassing plot of that love). Through in a heap of sci-fi intrigue from his up-coming venture Avatar and you have a classic combo. I quite enjoyed this film and it has aged well.

Dammit I know my keys are round here somewhere...

    Hear ye! SPOILERS ahoy!

    Okay, now here are some things that I must say, but am loathe to because chances are I am not actually the final person on earth to see this film - and a wonderful part of watching it was really just not knowing what was coming next.

    That said, for those of you who have seen the film:
    1) I kind of wanted Lindsay to actually be dead. When Ed Harris (totes didn't recognise him! To the extent that I said "huh that guy could be Ed Harris' younger brother." and Mark checked the case and was like "that IS Ed Harris" and then I was like "SHAME". But I did last see him in multiple viewing of A History Of Violence when he is looking a bit worse for wear.) Where was I? Oh yeah.
    When young, handsome Ed Harris is desperately trying against all hope to revive her, it wasn't until he really lost the plot that I got EMOTIONAL and then I was like, no, she has to be dead now - but instead she came to and there was a cheesy reunion. But then the tables turn again when you think HE's dead, so I suppose the film still has a bit to go at that point.
    2) Did the guy who made Donnie Darko just totally rip that whole thing off this movie?? You know - this thing.

    Okay, that covers it. END SPOILERS.

End everything in fact.

I think I am going to get back into watching telly seriesesesesss now! I am movied out.

14 films in 7 days: Part I

Posted by Bel. The time is 8:11pm here in Wellington, NZ.

I've been sick. Poor me! I'm feeling better now and I have to thank the healing power of cinema. I've averaged 2 films a day over the last week, which is pretty good considering I've also read nearly half a dozen novels. And slept for about 8 hours a day. Extra. Heh heh.

  1. The Machinist

    I am a huge Christian Bale fan (not least of all because his stepmum is Gloria Steinem) but lordy me, he is not easy to watch in this film. The DVD cover describes it as ‘Fight Club meets Memento’ which is apt – if a littler spoilery? (I am so sensitive.)

    Portraying a man whose demons drag him down a path of paranoia, complusion and anorexia, Bale’s acting in this beautifully shot film is overwhelmed by his physicality. Time and time again his skeletal frame is so literally breath-taking that I found myself disturbed and distracted from everything else in the movie.

    * shudder *

    I know that everybody else talked this out already (when the film was released, a million years ago) but it’s hard to let it slide. Particularly when you keep in mind that he then went to make Batman (as pictured), followed by Rescue Dawn with Werner Herzog. Even the director lost 30 pounds (13 kilos) shooting that harrowing prisoner-of-war jungle escape film, Bale's weight reportedly yo-yoed by 55 pounds (25 kilos). There's committed to the cause, and then there's whoa boy, take a chill pill, it's just acting!

  2. Once Upon A Time In The Midlands

    Seemed like a very good cast (Robert Carlyle, Rhys Ifans, Kathy Burke and Shirley Henderson) but we turned it off after about 5 minutes. Not that funny.

    Not that funny, guys!!

  3. Unbreakable

    We own hundreds of DVDs and I’m on a mission at the moment to watch the ones I’ve never seen. This was not a good pick for first off the list. How did Samuel L Jackson read pieces of dialogue like "I believe comic book heroes walk the earth, I believe you are one of those individuals. It's time for someone like you." and not tell M Night Shyamalan where to get off??

    "blah blah idiotic rhetoric blah blah meaningless goobledygook"

    I could not believe how ridiculous this film was. And not just the preposterous storyline, but also the poor filmmaking.

    Why is there that ridiculous extended scene of Bruce Willis (bless his heart) with his son boy, doing the stupid weightlifting scene, for about a million years? How could he have not ever noticed before that he is strong? And, after making such a big deal, with this long dragged-out scene, why is his strength never once again referenced in the film?? Why? WHY??

    Why did I not just turn this film off after 5 minutes?! Why would anyone think “Mr Glass” was a good name for a villian? It’s not! “The Shard” would be a good name for a villian – “Mr Glass” sounds like a window cleaning service. GOD!! You vex me, M Night Shyamalan.

  4. Resident Evil

    Because I am a noob, I had no idea a) that this was based on a video game, b) that it was a zombie movie.

    So I was sitting there (by my ralph) being all ‘hmm… overlaid graphics referencing video gaming… how dated… rahrah’ and thinking I was awesome, and then proceeded to be all terrified by the zombies and flesh eating and the freaky dogs and SO ON. Shame on my name.

    (What did I think it was going to be about?? …World War II probably. Like most of the DVDs we own.)

    German paratroopers invading Crete

    I quite liked this because there were two female leads kicking arse, except Michelle Rodriguez's character is so stripped of femininity (sexuality in general?) I’m not sure she counts. There were some cool special effects, like the guy getting all diced up by the laser thing, although the main DNA mutant creature did looked a bit passé in light of having seen District 9 recently with its cutting edge CGI.

  5. Definitely Maybe

    Confession: I quite like Ryan Reynolds. I was secretly thrilled when my stepdaughter Maia chose this at the DVD store and even more so when it turned out to be quite entertaining.

    From trailers, I thought the storyline was his little girl doesn’t know who her mother is and he tells her three stories about three women, not revealing which is the truth. This triggered my ‘utter Hollywood bullshit’ alarm, as who ON EARTH would do such a thing to a child searching for security. And SURELY NOT Ryan Reynolds, bless his heart.

    The goss on you & Alanis now, plz. And then I give you Oscar tips.

    But rest assured, the plot is more along the lines of the precocious daughter (played by the ever lovely Abigail Breslin, of Little Miss Sunshine) wanting to know how her mid-divorce parents first got together. The story, of course, is not so simple, and involves a few different time periods (with some nice references to the Clinton era – Bill’s, that is).

    The cast is nicely rounded out by Rachel Weisz, who is just wonderful; Isla Fisher, who is just wonderful; and Elizabeth Banks, who is a bit of a non-event. Kevin Kline also has a rather large cameo, playing some kind of Jeff-Bridges-as-The-Dude-meets-Ben-Kingsley-in-The-Wackness character.

    I’m not saying ‘HUNT THIS FILM OUT’ but I did genuinely laugh at some of it and it was nice to enjoy a rom-com without having to completely disengage. (Haha such a snob.)

  6. Cinema Paradiso

    Yes, a classic, and one of Mark’s favourite films – meaning that we only have it in a special edition Italian language version. Wow, cool: packaged up in a 35mm can with a commemorative booklet. And completely unwatchable. What’s Italian for “D’OH!”??

    Luckily the video store had this DVD of it with an amazing invention called SUBTITLES and I finally got to watch it in a language I understand. It was epically long but really lovely.


    It is a film for lovers of film. Set mostly in the 1950s, it revels in nostalgia, referencing the golden age of cinema, filled with passion for life and love.

    It is the story of a prodigal son who returns to his village where his childhood was spent enthralled in the projection booth of the rustic movie theatre. Unsurprisingly, many scenes from this film have become iconic, including when the town square spontaneously becomes the venue for an outdoor screening.

    EDIT: Guess what I just found out from your friend and mine, Google. What we watched was the 'Director's Cut', which is an hour longer than the original cinematic release - mainly because he revised the previously ambiguous ending. I love me an ambiguous ending! Dang it. I say go with the original. I have little regard for 'Director's Cut' versions.

    *Wipes away a tear at the thought of the butchering of her beloved Donnie Darko*

  7. 6 Days 6 Nights

    This was a French movie with that lady from Betty Blue in it, but we turned it off after 5 minutes because nothing had happened.

    And yet it looked so promising.


A musical juxtaposition

Posted by Lou. The time is 6.45pm here in London, UK.

On Friday I had the rather bizarre experience of seeing Coldplay at a sold-out Wembley Stadium, supported by Girls Aloud and Jay-Z. Yes, Girls Aloud and Jay-Z. I know. [For anyone wondering, Girls Aloud are the biggest girl group in the UK, having emerged from a reality talent show years back. If you're wondering who Jay-Z is you need to get out more.] This was followed up by the magnificence of Michael Ball at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, completing the journey through a weird and (mostly) wonderful combination of music performances.

I had expected Girls Aloud to be a bit shit, but was totally wrong. They were total shit. Utter, complete, embarrassing, cringeful shit. I knew that they can't sing, but had expected them to at least do a few moves, display some charisma, work the crowd... no. They just teetered on 6 inch heels looking terrified. Dismal. And made to look even more pathetically crap when Jay-Z walked out after them and set the whole fucken crowd alight - he exuded everything they didn't: charisma, talent, confidence, and the ability to wrap 50,000 Coldplay fans around his little finger. I've never known anyone to be so... so... electric.

I had mixed feelings about seeing Coldplay - these days I find it hard to get past Chris Martin's righteousness and my suspicion towards anyone who marries Gwyneth "Goop" Paltrow - but shouldn't have doubted them. Irrespective of whether or not you're a fan, the actual show itself was one of the best you'd ever see. Throughout their headlining 2 hours the staging moved and evolved through some fantastic backdrop visuals and fx, with my favourite being the entire back of the stage turning into a journey though the solar system. Speaking of favourites, they hit all mine by including Politik, Fix You and a fantastic encore performance of The Scientist into their set.

There was a total focus on the audience, with a tiny little stage appearing in the middle of the people at the very back in the standing arena that the guys walked out to for a few songs (one of which was a brilliant cover of Billie Jean, played to accompany a mobile phone mexican wave). Whilst the audience was largely screaming and clapping and dancing and singing, we seemed to find ourselves in the midst of lamesville, with those around us barely seeming alive. We moved to a different spot where we could see a Dad rocking out and loving it - realising very quickly that his enthusiasm actually stemmed from autistism (Coldplay haters can take what they will from that anecdote).

Saturday brought a strange, hazy, warm evening for visiting the glorious Royal Albert Hall and its vulgar neighbouring Albert Memorial (seriously - check out that hideously misuse of gold!) for Michael Ball. As usual, we arrived to see the usual crowd of old ladies and old men and then even more old ladies - a sea of pastels and silver. Then us. Three modern lasses aged 28-31 joining the grannies for a night of ol' Dimples.

The opening was very much to the grannies' tastes - the pop covers that brought him fame and infamy in Britain, and leave us very much unmoved and wishing he would move on to the good stuff. The women in front of us were sure loving it - prompting me to suspect that it was the closest any of them had been to cumming in years. However one pop song that quietened their claps and dancing was a song that perhaps the three of Young'uns were the only ones to recognise - Are We Human by The Killers. Oh dear. It was perhaps even stranger than the previous night's combo.

Luckily he quickly moved on to dazzle us with his perfect renditions of musicals numbers, including Gethsemane, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, I Know Where I've Been, Love Changes Everything, and Starlight Express. His backing singers were also excellent, with one in particular leaving us breathless with her I Don't Know How To Love Him, and another joining him for a fantastic duet of The Prayer. Hilariously, his penultimate number You Can't Stop the Beat led to the grannies leaping from their seats to swarm at the front of the stage for a bit of a boogie. And just when we thought it couldn't get better, he ended the night by blowing the roof off with a tear-inducing performance of The Impossible Dream. Oh, Michael.

Book reviews: Wide Sargasso Sea & Annie John

Posted by Bel. The time is 5:15pm here in Wellington, NZ.

A double up book review, because I read these very quickly and as they were both set in the Caribbean, with themes of racism, colonialism and a young woman struggling to establish/maintain her identity, it almost felt like a flow-on from one to the other.

Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea was written in 1966 as a prequel to Charlotte Brontë's classic Jane Eyre. It could work as a stand-alone book, but the characters are so much more enriched if you are familiar with the story of Jane Eyre. (SPOILERS ahoy, if you aren't!)

The book's main character, Antoinette Cosway AKA Bertha Mason, is best known as the ominous crazy woman in the attic of Brontë's 1847 tome, responsible for 'haunting' the lovely lead and wreaking fiery havoc.

Wide Sargasso Sea tells of her early life, where being Creole means she cannot feel part of, or be accepted by, white or black society. She comes to be distanced from her remarried mother, and Antoinette's own marriage only causes further harm. The unnamed British husband (a young Rochester) seems to despise the marital arrangement, despite his profiting financially from it. He basically persistently mind-fucks with Antoinette, unable to transcend the communication gulf between them - and increasingly intimidated by his perceived fears about her race and family history of mental illness.

I'm probably making this sound a rather dark and dreary book - and it's true that there's no happy ending. (Especially when you take in account what occurs once Rochester gets her back to ye olde England!) But Wide Sargasso Sea is a good read, with descriptions of the island life and scenery that are lush and livid, expressing the vitality that Antoinette once had. I found it unusual that chunks of the book where in the first-person from Rochester's perspective, when I'd expected it very much to be Antoinette's personal tale. But it did give perspective on his behaviours and thus on their impact on her and her mental stability.

To follow that up, I read another book set in the Caribbean, telling a young woman's story - some themes overlapped, but fortunately it was all somewhat lighter to read.

Annie John has that 'autobiographical' feel to it, and is described by wiki as being "an imaginative account of her experience". (Apparently Jamaica Kincaid was born Elaine Richardson, but changed her name in the 60s as her family did not approve of her writing.)

As in Wide Sargasso Sea, Annie's relationship with her mother becomes distant as she grows older. The awkwardness of the mother-daughter relationship and the conflict arising as the adolescent begins to establish their own identity is beautifully rendered. There is a lot of pain, but at the same time it is such an important thing - and something that is so frequently reduced to cliche in American television, etc.

Colonialism (and its dangerous restrictions) is another dual theme. Education is important to bright-spark Annie, but the school she attends in mired in an institutionally British approach which she seems unable to help rebelling against. This is emphasised by the issues that arise when she is ill, and her mother must sneak in the obeah woman (AKA voodoo, the Haitian word apparently) because her father only approves of 'Western medicine' - just as in Wide Sargasso Sea Rochester was suspicious of anything potentially associated with these local traditions.

Funnily enough, I felt there were some parallels with Jane Eyre even. Annie strikes up an strong friendship with another schoolgirl, similar to the relationship between Jane and Helen early on in Jane Eyre. In both books, this does not seem to be an explicitly lesbian connection, but rather a celebration of the intensity of friendship unique to that age and an exploration of sexuality that happens sometimes at that turbulent phase of hormones and chemistry.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys - Recommended if you have read Jane Eyre
First published 1966. Set in Jamaica, 1840s
#36 on 'The List' of 75 books total (39 to go!)

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid - Recommended if you were an angsty teen
First published 1985. Set in Antigua, 1950s.
#37 on 'The List' of 75 books total (38 to go!)

A Wonderful Trip To The Cinema, aka Go See This Film!!!!!

Posted by Lou. The time is 10.59pm here in London, UK.

It was with a sense of real trepidation I went to the cinema tonight to see The Time Traveller's Wife. I love the book - love the book - and from the preview sneak-peeks believe them to have it fundamentally wrong. (It's not a fucking fairytale! It's a serious romance!) So how did I come to have such a wonderful cinematic experience? Could I have been totally wrong about it?! Well, I don't know yet. It was sold-out so I ended up going to Julie and Julia, and fuck is it brilliant. A film inspired by women, made by women, for women. Thank you thank you thank you!

The film is by comic genius Nora Ephron, who gave us the sublime When Harry Met Sally and the fucking piss-poor The Holiday with Sleepless in Seattle somewhere in between. She also wrote a wonderful and hilarious novel about food and heartbreak back in the early '80s called Heartburn*, and here returns to food taking on two books about female cooks in two different time periods and rolling them into one. Back in late-'40s/ early-'50s Paris wife-of-civil-servant Julia Child (Meryl Streep) discovers a love for fine French food, and sets about becoming a chef. In early-00s Queens civil-servant Julie Powell (Amy Adams) challenges herself to blog a 365-day 524-recipe frenzy of cooking her way through Julia's famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking recipe book. It is funny, heart-warming, and an absolute delight for food-lovers.

The performances are great - everybody is funny, everybody is likeable, and Streep is gloriously positioned on the precipice of satire, pulling in a wonderfully eccentric bit of acting. The characters are well-drawn and I just loved that it focussed on two women who - with the support of the men in their lives - seek a further sense of self-fulfilment in life. An all-too-rare thing for in cinema these days. Another all-too-rare element is that Streep is an actress in her late-50s playing a women in her 40s, opposite an actor in his 40s playing a man in his 50s - another role reversal from the typical Hollywood young-woman-playing-partner-to-much-older-man scenario. Better yet, they look like normal 40-and-50-somethings and yet are depicted as having a passionate love-life! Hallelujah!

Please go see this - give them your box office dollar to encourage more woman-woman-woman films (whether or not you are a woman yourself, of course). Take men with you - it's a film for all lovers of great characters and scrumptious food. You won't regret it as this is one helluva feel-good film that will leave you buzzing.

Bon appetit!

*interesting side story - I just went on wiki to check when Heartburn dates from and it mentions how her ex-husband - the cheating, scuzzy, lying bastard who inspired Heartburn - had been one of the journalists covering Watergate, and thus Ephron herself was one of only a handful of people who knew the identity of Deep Throat. After he fucked her over she very openly would tell people - sometimes a room of 500 people - who Deep Throat was, but it was never picked up or reported. (And it was, of course, the correct person, as verified when he revealed himself in 2005.)

L'amour for Polyvore - at a price

Posted by Bel. The time is 11:26pm here in Wellington, NZ.

My latest internet obsession: polyvore.com

It's kinda like paper dolls meets Project Runway - online. Stardoll but for grown-ups, I desperately tried to convince Mark, who has seen his daughters fall prey to that site (the most popular children's website in the world).

Here are my evening's efforts (I spent, like, 15 minutes, tops - honest. Cough)...

So as you can see, I'm sorted for my sister-in-law's wedding next month. Assuming I can transform myself into Audrey Hepburn that is. Le sigh.

But, seriously it was quite fun and useful for 'mocking up' outfits and the functionality of the site is just mind-blowing. You can search by whatever item you have in mind (e.g. shirt, shoes, etc) or set the colour and it will pull up every possible thing in that corresponding shade. There's a social networking aspect to it as well - let alone the fact that every item on the site links back to the merchant's website: so you can buy that gorgeous hot pink Diane Von Furtenburg dress in real life if you feel so inspired! And so wealthy!

The fact that such a huge proportion of young web users are logging on to Stardoll (the 'higher levels' of which can only be reached through payment) means that a website like this will only grow in popularity - and profits - in coming years.

Addition by Lou. The time is 3.27pm here in London, United Kingdom.

I'm hijacking Bel's post coz thanks to her I've just spent about an hour on the site and bought 2 dresses. I am far too lacking in fashion knowledge to create such an interesting collection, but did challenge myself to put something together where each item costs over £1,000. The handbag is juuuust under £1k but I love it so couldn't resist. Predictably, it is a hot red dress with all black accessories, and what I would wear if Bel took me out for a girl's night in NYC and we were RICH (and I didn't have boobs to ruin the dress (and was able to walk in heels)):

Book review: The House Of The Spirits

Posted by Bel. The time is 5:00pm here in Wellington, NZ.

Filled with magical realism and historical details, this compelling story plays out over several generations of a vivacious Chilean family, divided and united by love, ghosts and politics.
I highly recommend this book - not just because it is a great read with wonderful memorable characters, but also because it tells an important story of South America.


I wrote that review thing for my goodreads profile back in November 08, when I was into it for about 2 minutes. I must've been feeling not very into anything that day, because although The House Of The Spirits was one of the first books I read off 'The List', it went straight to my All Time Faves list and remains there.

A quick note on the cover, to begin: The picture here is of the cover that I had. But! It is sort of an optical illusion, in that there are metallic sort of lines down the image, so you only see it on specific angles, or in a certain light. And I was like, half through the book before I even NOTICED!! Weird. But then I ALWAYS SAW IT from then on, so I was like 'how was I blind to this before!? Did someone switch books on me...??'.

But anyhoo, seriously - this is an amazing read. Soon after I read In The Time Of The Butterflies, which also has a tumultuous South American setting and I was like "meh... it's not The House Of The Spirits though, is it?".

The House Of The Spirits by Isabel Allende - Highly recommended
First published 1985, Chile
#4 on 'The List' of 75 books total (71 to go!)

Michael Jackson & R Kelly: More than just music in common

Posted by Bel. The time is 3:31pm here in Wellington, NZ.

In a macabre twist, Michael Jackson's sudden death caused a huge spike in his popularity. He went from being regarded as a debt-ridden weirdo with another precarious comeback hanging in the balance, to immediately being revered for his days of glory and various previous successes - with other matters swept aside as we took time to remember why we loved his music.

And it seems the music will be an on-going legacy, with the announcement that R Kelly intends to finish the album he and Michael Jackson were working on in June of this year. There has been a lot of speculation about unfinished and unreleased Jackson recordings, but Kelly seems to think he has the seal of approval: "Michael liked the way I would try to sing the songs just like him".

These two might not be such the odd couple, they have a long history, with R Kelly writing "You Are Not Alone", MJ's smash hit of 1995. His first #1, in fact, since being accused of having sex with an underage boy.

In the archives of Russell Brown's Hard News blog, check out the post from 2005 related to the second highly publicised set of allegations against Michael Jackson: detailing the pornographic magazines, DVDs and books that were found in his bedroom at the time and the implications this has upon someone who so frequently played host to other people's children.

Being found 'not guilty' does not always mean a person is innocent, as this BBC article about R Kelly's aquittal on charges of child pornography elaborates. Time covers the last moments of the trial and the jury's deliberations, including interviews with those who say they are certain it is R Kelly in the recording.

The Chicago Sun-Times lists R Kelly's repugnant past, including when they were first supplied with the tape reportedly showing him filming himself having sex with a 14 year old. It also covers in chronological order the many other attempted law suits and out of court settlements from various other young women who had involvements with R Kelly, and also his falsified and thus swiftly annulled marriage to Aaliyah, who was at that time the 15 year old niece of his manager.

If you have the stomach for it, it's worth a read:
R. Kelly timeline: A chronology from birth to trial (Chicago Sun-Times).

Two superstars, with pop music talent that has helped to sell millions of records around the world. Horrifying that with such success, the personal cost has been inflicted on those who have the least ability to protect themselves.

Two Beach Novels: Good trash, Bad trash

Posted by Lou. The time is 1.25pm here in London, UK.

After seeking beach holiday book recommendations I ended up packing these two in alongside my trusty Michael Chabon: Nora Roberts' Black Rose, and Pauline Simons' The Bronze Horseman.

Black Rose came about through a bookworm friend recommending Nora Roberts as being "REAL trash" with "beautiful, independent, intelligent heroines who meet gorgeous, rich, sensitive, sexy men and either solve crimes or better their lives in some way, all the while having graphic-but-romantic mind-blowing sex". Yep, sounds perfect. And it was exactly that: a very quick, addictive read that was - to steal another of her descriptors - like eating candy.

This one features a woman Roz who has inherited her family's estate and - after the tragic death of her first husband - raised three sons whilst developing a thriving garden centre on the property to fund keeping the estate in the family. The other thing kept in the family is a ghost, a mystery woman who has haunted the house from the late-19th century, keeping a protective eye on the children and watching over the loves of the ladies. The plot of this book has Roz hire genealogist to find out who the ghost is and what has happened to her to cause her to haunt their estate. The genealogist, of course, happens to be gorgeous, lovely, intelligent, sweet, very into her, etc... yadda yadda yadda, sex, ghostly happenings, a bit of romance, a mystery solved. You get the picture.

The one disappointment was that it turns out this is the middle book of a trilogy, a fact I didn't notice when buying it and didn't notice when reading it until I got to the end... where the characters find out who the ghost is, but not how she died. Now, as the reader has known who the ghost is from the beginning, this is quite a let down as the suspense becomes wondering how she came to die on the estate, and what exactly her bloody end was (suicide? murder? if so, at who's hand?). It seems I have to read the next book - focussed on another of the women living on the estate - to find out the details of her end.

The Bronze Horseman was one I have known of for years and years (it features highly on the Whitcoulls Top 100, so was - I assumed - a pretty safe beach choice), so bought on a whim. The book begins with Germany invading the Soviet Union in WWII, and is primarily set during the siege of Leningrad, specifically focussed on a 17-y-o girl (Tania) who falls in love with a solider (Alexander), who turns out to be dating her sister (Dasha). Conditions deteriorate as the Germans attempt to starve the residents of Leningrad into submission, and it goes on from there.

One thing I did like about the book was its context - it says the author's grandparents lived through it, and you can tell that the conditions within the walls of the city during such a dark period is written from having heard real accounts of what it was like. The insight into life within a Bolshevik Soviet Union is also rather good. And that's about all I have to say that is positive about this novel. Because oh my fucking god do you just want to punch the characters - no, make that the author - in the face.

Firstly, their behaviours are fundamentally nonsensical, irrational and illogical. When Tania and Alexander meet he has seen her sister a total of three times. Why doesn't he just tell her he has feelings for Tania? Instead it has him continue to date Dasha while professing his love for Tania, even going so far as to having Dasha send Tania up onto their roof so that her and Alexander can have private sexy times. Aha, riiiight... Even though it attempts to provide a rationale for why he would do this and why she would put up with it, it really doesn't work. Throughout all 500-and-something pages they go back-and-forth with actions that are at odds to their feelings and words, and arguing the same things over and over and over. It's just blah.

Secondly, the author abhorrently portrays the appeal of Tania as being that she is an innocent virgin - and her sister is "one of those girls" (is that meant to make it okay for him to have sex with her whilst supposedly being in love with her sister?). This isn't done with some sort of critical or knowing nod to double-standards or a contemporary stand-point that says "this is the way it was", but rather just bad, offensive, useless writing. And of course when she has had sex with him, she becomes an ever-available, always-eager-to-please, sex-kitten. Fuck off. (Oh man, the loooong passages detailing sex are cringeful to read - managing to be prudish whilst trying to be graphic.) Basically, instead of creating a consistent personality and spunk for her protagonist, the writer has relied on pathetic ideals of femininity. I mean, of course it makes total sense that she would have not had sexual experiences and would be shy and he - a disillusioned solider who has seem some things (yawn) - may be attracted to that, but don't for one minute suggest that that is her appeal to the reader!

Yeah, so check out Nora Roberts if you're ever looking for some quick-reading, plot-driven, not-so-bad-you-lose-your-intelligence trash, but treat The Bronze Horseman like you would treat a crack den - just don't go there.

If money was no object, I would still object

Posted by Bel. The time is 5:26pm here in Wellington, NZ.

Lou drew my attention to this article in the NZ Herald with its list of the world's most expensive wedding singers (ranging from $12M to a bargain basement $1.2M). I decided that expense was not the only way of ranking this 'big day' deal-breaker, and have added my own notes:

1 The Rolling Stones

These guys would be AWFUL at a wedding because, 1) they would drink all the piss, 2) they would shag half the bridesmaids and the mother-of-bride, and 3) they would steal the spotlight by then having a near O.D. and/or falling out of a tree and no one would remember who caught the bouquet.

2 Sir Elton John

He would be okaaay - except he would make snide comments about how your wedding is nowhere near as awesome as his was. And someone would request "Candle In The Wind" and turn your reception into an instant DOWNER. So scratch him.

2 (equal) Kylie Minogue

Hotter than the bride? She can fuck right off.

4 Christina Aguilera

See above. Hotties have no place at a wedding, this is well established.

3 George Michael

Just no. Isn't he still on probation anyway?

6 Amy Winehouse

I think a recently divorced junkie who is known for her dismal public performances may not be conduit to a happy wedding day. She would be kinda fun to have around beforehand when getting dressed though. (Perhaps not on hair and make-up duty however.)

(EDIT: Just added the photo and am changing my mind again. Dammit, Amy, I just can't quit you.)

6 equal Paul McCartney

I originally simply labelled him 'Boring Beatle', thinking this was reason enough to strike Sir Paul off the list. Then Lou pointed out a glaring omission: he has just been through quite possibly the century's messiest divorce. Let's err on the side of caution and not have our 'something old' not be a jinx on your nupitals.

('Something old' oooh burn, haha.)

6 equal Leona Lewis

Only the flower girls would care.

6 equal Jennifer Lopez

Same issues as Elton John, re: hating on your automatically inferior wedding, plus x1000000 attitude.

10 Barry Manilow

This is a joke, right?

11 Rod Stewart

Lou and I came to a consensus, having Rod there in person to sing the cheesy serenades and then start rockin' out as the night drew out, well, yes, that would be pretty awesome. As long as you kept all leggy blondes off the guest list, things could go just fine.

12 Duran Duran

They could be good to come on for the second half, once everyone is properly pissed and just wants to dance like munters.

Any other thoughts?