Jane Austen's Fight Club: travesty or triumph?

Posted by Bel. The time is 2.34pm here in Wellington NZ.

This faux trailer "Jane Austen's Fight Club" is the latest mash-up: Elizabeth Bennett meets Tyler Durden, with a bit of Kill Bill thrown in for good measure. These ladies look fun!

Austen has found herself in back the spotlight recently, with the release of what is now a series of books, starting with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. When I first saw this floating around the internet, I assumed it was some kind of perverse fanfic art.

But no, it was for real - the Noughties unconquerable love of all that is undead, sucking blood, ninjafied, or, alternately, cupcake-sized and so exquisite you hardly bear to bite it (oooh back to biting - there we go!).

Tiger Beatdown guest blogger Garland Grey has written a brilliant piece on Austen, the male author of the new books and how the co-opting of her work is part of a greater issue of white male privilege exploiting minorities in any way possible.

I bet Ms. Austen had to work very hard to hammer out a structure and a flow and a rhythm to the story, and you pull up next to that process in your giant SUV of male privilege and start plugging your electricity and water into it, taking all the work that Austen did to get the thing published, all of the work that made her writing world famous, and you make YOURSELF world famous. And then you talk about how easy it was on NPR, a necessary addendum to the telling of the story of this book. Austen would probably prefer the story of this book to be about HER in some way. But let’s just talk about you and your rip-off.

PS I googled "Jane Austen cupcake" just to check if the internet had actually come full circle, and got this:


Lou, you are the expert. I'm still stalled 30 pages into Persuasion. Is this Jane Austen recreated in chocolate icing, or did we miss when Te Papa branded their Giant Squid merch for the afternoon tea crowd?

Let Me In remake? Rehash more like it.

Posted by Bel. The time 3.08pm here in Wellington NZ.

I reviewed the Swedish film Let The Right One In back in February. I should have known that anything so entertaining and cinematic would eventually be trampled on by Hollywood.

The trailer for the American remake (directed by the auteur behind Cloverfield and several episodes of Felicity) has just hit the web - and, well, it looks familiar, huh?

Please, do yourself a favour and see the original first. As anyone who's been treating themselves to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, etc, can attest, Swedish language films are easy to follow. The language patterns are eerily similiar to English, so you get into it easily with the subtitles and don't find yourself as conscious of them as with some foreign films. (A trait I know puts a lot of people of exploring non-mainstream movies).

America's continuing fascination with re-doing overseas films instead of releasing and distributing the originals has a sad valid economic reasoning. [Read more here on the LA Times if you want to nerd out]

Less than ten foreign films have ever grossed over US$20 million in America - and only one has made more than US$100 million.

To put that in perspective, Tim Burton's recent release Alice in Wonderland made over US$100 million 'domestically' just on its opening weekend alone - and then made US$265 million in just over a fortnight.

Box Office Mojo have all the info in a big juicy table and, although it's interesting to see a few titles there to add to the must-see list, all in all it's pretty dire.

When you realise that an utter bomb like All About Steve, featuring Sandra Bullock's Razzie Award-winning 'Most Awful Performance', made as much money in the US as Amelie (ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVAH) ...Well. It kinda breaks your heart.

Jelloware: good glasses inside and out

Posted by Bel. The time is 10.34am here Wellington NZ.

Nothing like a delicious refreshing drink - and the cherry on top (paper umbrella on top?) could now be knowing that your glassware is eco-friendly as well as chic.

"Jelloware" has just been a prize winner in the annual Jell-O mold competition (apparently it's a big deal in the design world. Go figure!).

The cups are made from agar, which is a vegetarian gelatin substitute, created from a seaweed extract. They are even cast in different flavours, to complement the tastes of your summer cocktails. And yes, the natural constitution of this product means that you can happily litter after your picnic (Draper family style... yes? anyone?), nourishing the soil as it quickly biodegrades!

The brains behind this brilliant concept are a design consultancy called The Way We See The World.

Judging from this photo, they believe in pairing the drinks with cute frocks.

Cheers to that, I say!

(Lou, this was written with you in mind. It is raining and foggy here today. I want a milo not a cocktail.)

[via If It's Hip, It's Here]

Potato Peel Pie

Posted by Lou. The time is 1.07pm here in London UK.

Don't worry, this isn't a recipe for Potato Peel Pie, but rather a quick review of a wonderful book that I think you should all read: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

I have to start by telling you a little something about the author, Mary Ann Shaffer. She was a book-lover who worked in libraries and bookshops, and dreamed of writing her own novel one day. In her later years she set about doing just that but became very ill with cancer, so brought her niece Annie Barrows on to help finish it as co-writer. Unfortunately Shaffer passed away just months before the book was published - but she has given us exactly what I am sure she set out to do: a book for book-lovers.

The central character Juliet is absolutely delightful and the sort of woman you like to think you would be if you lived in London through the WWII bombings. She is witty, clever, self-deprecating, and a deliciously cheeky writer who makes the most of the material devastation and the deprivation that went hand-in-hand with the times. Her personality leaps off the page, and of course provides more than a little insight into the personality of her author.

Chance brings Juliet into contact with a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and natural curiosity takes over. He in turn puts her into contact with various other members and soon she decides to write a book about their stories of Nazi occupation.

Did I mention that the entire thing is told through the letters that fly back and forth between Guernsey and the mainland?

I read this book on recommendation from bookworm friend Meredith after I had visited Guernsey earlier this year. I'm going to be honest and say that before my visit I hadn't known about the Nazi occupation of Guernsey, but it is impossible not to be affected by it after visiting the island and seeing how this is the defining event of their existence.

(I had the good fortune of being there for the 65th anniversary of the end of the occupation, so was treated to a wonderful parade of the old military vehicles and '40s dress-up by the surviving Guerns who were children at the time and their families. I wish I had read this book beforehand.)

One of the more fascinating elements of the occupation is the way that the constancy of the occupation led to people overcoming the division between occupier and occupied, with relationships developing between local women and members of the German army. A strange idea to comprehend romance in the midst of horrors, but a reminder that members of the German army were people too.

Shaffer captures the experience of occupation with empathy and warmth, but does not shy away from the brutality. In this she manages to inject an emotional depth despite the light medium, and I think has created a work that is respectful to its subject matter. I absolutely loved it, and think you will too.

Movie review: Inception

Posted by Bel. The time is 11.32am here in Wellington NZ.

Christopher Nolan's new film has layer after layer of deception until you find that the light at the end of the tunnel is actually a frieght train headed right for you.

The mind-fuck of his early work Momento meets the stylish modern noir of The Dark Knight, resulting in a pyschological thriller that has enough explosions to keep it fun for the mainstream.

It is impossible to write about this film without being completely spoilerrific, so if you're planning on seeing this - and you should - then run away now. SPOILERS AHOY!

Okay, I can say a few things.

If you liked Shutter Island, you will like this film. If you liked A Scanner Darkly, you will like this film. If you liked Pi or Scanners or Flatliners, you will like this film.

Did you read A Wrinkle In Time when you were a kid? As an adult?? Yeah, you will like this movie.

It's kinda like all that weirdo mind-melt dreamscape shape-shifter time-travel you-can't be-crazy-if-you-think-you're-sane sort of thing ...meets Ocean's Eleven.

Oooooh have I said too much??


Leonardo DiCaprio plays a thief. No common household burglar, but someone who can enter your mind and steal the very thoughts from within. If you found yourself getting sick of Leo's ponderous looks and guilt-stricken grimaces in Shutter Island, then you might want to give Inception a pass - as he is once again in the role of a widower with a shadowy past and a rather loose grip on reality.

Here his wife (a combination of soulmate and nemesis) is played by Marion Cotillard, whose luminous face features eyes which manage to out blue even Mr Titanic. Her performance is a fusion of fragility and furious power, sealing her as one of the rare European cross-overs to Hollywood.

His team of merry men (just the one lady, Ellen Page demonstrating there's far more to her than roller skates and fake bellies - remember how she scared us to the bone[r] in Hard Candy?) is rounded out by everyone from Ken Wantanbe to Cillian Murphy.

The stand out is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Maybe it's the sharp suits, but this film maximises the talent he demonstrated in Brick and just how far he's come since cutting his teeth on sitcoms like Third Rock From The Sun.


Wow. Yeah, sorry. That was just kinda mean, huh?

The storyline may seem convoluted, but fans of sci-fi will get on board easily. And Nolan makes sure there is plenty of action for those who are finding the concepts a bit arty-farty.

There's even a bit that he just straight ripped off classic computer game (by which I mean one of two (the other was Minesweeper) we had on our computer), SkiFree. They are all skiing around in white jumpsuits and they have to dodge the trees and do jumps and - unfortunately - there is no hungry yeti, but there are lots of baddies on snowmobiles instead:

Yep. SPOILERS. Told ya.

Leo and his crew have embarked on this dangerous psychic mission in an attempt to do something they believe has never happened before: plant a thought deep inside someone's subconscious, so that they will believe it is their own thought and act upon it within their life, without ever realising they didn't think of it themselves.

(Is this not the plot of Mad Men, every single friggin week?)

They are asked by a businessman (Ken Watanabe), who promises them shitloads of cash and to Leo, the chance to have his life back - he is estranged from his children as a result of a crime which is revealed as the film unravels (or spirals tighter, depending on your point of view).


There are two emotional climaxes of the film (as opposed to the Bourne-esque orgies of violence that occur at regular intervals). One is when it is revealed that Leo has achieved this 'inception' before, upon his own wife as they lived within a dream, and when returning to waking life, it was this that lead to her suicide and the catastrophic destruction of his life and possibly sanity.

The other is when the team's hyper-manufactured inception comes to its peak upon their mark (played by Cillian Murphy, pleased to see he's a Nolan favourite; that guy does not get enough attention). He has a heartfelt and unexpected reconciliation with his dying mogul father, which changes the path of his life - seemingly for the better, but only because Watanabe's character has paid for it to play out that way.

And why did he want it like that? There is a hurried conversation at the start of the film, about how the father-and-son corporation is a energy multi-conglomerate, dominating the market, and 'must be stopped'. Oh, okay, so another businessman is threatened by them? And initiates corporate espionage? And then what?? Why couldn't they have been planting the thought that all G20 countries would band together to solve climate change? Or that the IWC would actually end commercial whaling? Or for the World Bank to unify on eliminating the debts of third world countries?

But you know, whateeevvvver... How about that bit when everything was all upside-downy?! WHOOO!! Because, you know, it totally wouldn't have made sense for Leo to have had a paradigm shift after he came to terms with how his first inception-thingy was such a bad idea and then to go about trying to reverse the damage they were doing fulfilling the commands of another inception planting done purely for financial motivation??

(Man, I am writing a lot lately about how evil people's financial motivations are. What a hippie.)

Okay I really did write some epic SPOILERS in there so I hope you didn't read this far unless you've actually seen the movie. That'll teach you.

Inception is released nationwide in New Zealand on Thursday 22 July. Thanks to Flicks.co.nz for the preview screening.

Movie review: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Posted by Bel. The time is 3.47pm here in Wellington NZ.

What happens when underground art is exposed to the glare of a camera lens? Does talent shine the brightest? Or does exposure just bring out the worst of the art world: hype, greed and bloody long queues?

Exit Through The Gift Shop is not a Banksy biopic. In fact, I'm guessing all those straight-to-camera interviews, even with the shadowy lighting and distorted voice, are still not the man himself.

It is an exploration of what street art has become, thanks to Banksy. Because of Banksy, and our fascination with him. Our desire for art to be accessible and yet still edgy, to feel like an outsider and to be included. To be able to stand up and say something and to still look cool while doing it. And, you know what? To make a shitload of money too.

Thierry Guetta was a man with a video camera. All the time. He fell into the street art scene at the right time, and after a decade of film incessantly, and telling everyone he met he was making a documentary, he'd accumulated literally thousands of tapes.

[I googled to try and find a screengrab of the scenes where they show the boxes and boxes and boxes of tapes that he had, but no dice. But. Oh my god. Seriously. As someone who is by nature messy and by daily conscious decision tidy, it gave me the sweats.]

He had hours (days, weeks) of footage of every street artist you could imagine - in particular, a guy who was getting up called OBEY. Also known as Shepherd Fairey, also known as the guy who did that Obama poster and then got sued.

Eventually Fairey introduced Guetta to Banksy. Guetta nearly dies of excitement. His incoherence in describing this is one of the highlights of the film. (Imagine Inspector Clouseau crossed with Anna Paquin's Oscar acceptance speech.)

The extremely condensed version of what happens next is:
  • Guetta treats Banksy like it's prom night and shows him every good wall in LA
  • Banksy manages to wrangle the tapes off him after seeing a cut of the long-awaited documentary that looks more like something I made in 6th Form Media Studies
  • Guetta is encouraged instead to create his own street art and maybe even put on a show
  • Guetta decides his first show must be the Biggest Spectacular on Earth
  • He pretty much pulls this off
  • Every other street artist around kinda thinks he's a dick though
Guetta - now rebranded as Mr Brainwash - skips that whole part of an artist's career in which they might build up their portfolio/black book and skills and so on - and just takes over an enormous space in downtown Hollywood which he mortgages his house to refit as a purpose-built gallery.

He hires a legion of assistants, one of whom is seen with a heavily Post-It-ed art reference book, the annotated images of which he has been instructed to put into PhotoShop and apply effects to, before printing out and silkscreening into posters to frame. Voila! Art show a go go. With the egos to boot.

Although both Banksy and Fairey gave quotes to Guetta to use in the promotion of his debut exhibition, the film portrays them as, with hindsight, somewhat retiscent of this involvement. Is it because his five day show was extended to two months, and he sold $US1,000,000 worth of art in a week?

Or it is because his art is so goddam awful? Here's some recent Mr Brainwash stuff from a show this year. I must say I did LOL when Banksy made a comment along the lines of 'Andy Warhol repeated images until they meant something different... Thierry is just repeating them until they mean nothing at all'.

With its hero's journey of a man determined to reach the heights of those he idolises, Exit Through The Gift Shop is almost a morality tale, with a kick in the pants to those money grubbers who are in it for the wrong reasons. There's no doubt that Team Banksy is behind this film, as he is the one that comes out look like the cool cat...

The footage of Banksy in action has never been seen before, and is breath-taking. To see him (with an accomplice steadying the ladder) spray-painting his whimsical art onto the West Bank barrier is both inspirational and powerful. Full gallery of the works here at The Guardian.

Equally confrontational is his broad daylight planting of a replica Guantanamo Bay detainee in the middle of Disneyland. (Reminder: US President Barack Obama, who last year accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, made a promise to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba and has not yet done so.)

With Guetta filming all the while, Banksy simply jumps a fence and puts the orange jumpsuited, life-sized dummy in full public view of visitors to 'The Happy Place On Earth'. He then bolts it, with a change of clothes to secure his safe exit. Guetta was unaware the stunt had been planned and was apparently held for questioning for four hours; a useful accomplice or perhaps simply a decoy to the experienced man of mystery.

Let's not forget that Shepherd Fairey recently burst the bubble that Banksy is a lone ranger, after highly recognisable Banksy art went up rapidly in each of the American cities where Exit Through The Gift Shop premiered:
“To me, it doesn’t matter whether he was there... He orchestrated it. If you’re still into believing that Batman cleans up the city by himself, fine.’’
Fairey seems to be alluding that he ("he") may operate in a collective way, as does C215, Fairey himself, and numerous other graff writers and street artists. Taking this as fact, how is what Banksy does any different to Mr Brainwash's crash (and crass) attack on the street art world?

Banksy at least appears to have reconciled himself to the commercialisation of his chosen art form. In an interview this year with Time Out London, he said
"I plead not guilty to selling out. But I plead it from a bigger house than I used to live in."

Family Guy and abortion in New Zealand

Posted by Bel. The time is 10pm here in Wellington NZ.

The controversial "abortion" episode of Family Guy screened last night here on C4 in New Zealand. This clip seems to be anti-anti-abortion, but does that make it pro-choice?

Labour MP Steve Chadwick has just proposed a bill that would decriminalise abortion in New Zealand and mean it was truly a woman's choice, rather than part of a process which 98% of the time involves having to be declared mentally unstable by two different doctors.

For further information, please check out The Hand Mirror's recent postings on these important developments.

Please note: These comments are moderated and your bullshit will not be tolerated.

Hamlet on Alcatraz Island

Posted by Bel. The time is 2.49pm here in Wellington NZ.

A San Francisco based theatre company will be performing Shakespeare's Hamlet in a site-specific production later this year. The site? Alcatraz Island, home to one of America's most notorious prisons.

Known as 'The Rock', until 1963 it was the final resort for incarcerating criminals such as Al Capone and many other mobsters and scumbags. It is now part-tourist attraction, part-nature reserve - and some say still haunted by its troubled past. Lou told me it gave her the heebee-jeebees when she visited here in daylight hours!

We Players will be staging a show that delves into the themes of isolation, justice and redemption, leading the audience on a journey around the island setting...

Hamlet has always struck me as a story where the character's lack of criminality caused him more trouble than anything else - perhaps a more fitting choice would have been MacBeth (that guy needed to be locked up!) or The Tempest (Island! Helllooo!)?

Afternoon Tea: two ideas for the sweet course

Posted by Lou. The time is 9.35pm here in London UK.

This past weekend I had the good fortune of sharing afternoon tea with two wonderful ladies in a gorgeous backyard on one of the sunniest most beautiful days I have seen in London.

We shared out a course each with Heidi providing sandwiches, Kelly (our host) the baked course, and me sweet treats. I decided to keep it simple and make two different sets of mini tarts, going for citrus and chocolate (which, of course, between them are the cornerstone of my cooking life!).

My first set of tarts were bitter chocolate meringue, which consisted of a basic biscuit base (approx 100g crushed digestives per 25g melted butter, mixed till they hold form when squeezed in your fist) with a dash of cocoa added, with an extraordinarily simple filling of 70% chocolate melted (200g) with cream (1/2 cup).

After they have been left in the fridge to set for a while, chuck on meringue (4 egg whites beaten till stiff with approx 220g castor sugar gradually added), and cook for 15 mins/ until golden.

Lemon in the ramekins on the left, bitter chocolate in the
silicon muffin cases on the right (not that you can tell the difference)

Second was lemon meringue, with the same base as above minus the cocoa, and a filling of lemon curd (I use Delia's simple recipe), meringue chucked on top. Conveniently, by the time you've made the lemon curd the bitter chocolate filling will be chilled so they can go into the oven together (if you happen to be making both!).

The added bonus was that with leftover egg white you can make some (flat, in my case) meringues as an extra treat!

I perhaps went a little bit too not-mini on the size as after eating Heidi's delicious cucumber and bellpepper cream-cheese sandwiches over a cup of tea, followed by Kelly's perfect scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream over a couple of glasses of bubbly, we were feeling a bit too full for the whole sweet delight. But managed to get it down in the end, of course.

Please note the awesome doily tray Kelly scored for £1 in a local store