Sunday, April 27, 2014

THIS ABOVE ALL: SHAKESPEARE


There has been much interest in the 450th birthday of Shakespeare this week. 
 
I adore Shakespeare and his words, I always have. So I have been thinking about him a lot this past week, contemplating all the things I love about him and his writing, and philosophising about whether he is the greatest writer that ever lived.
 
The answer of course is Yes!!
 
I cannot remember when I was introduced to Shakespeare, I do know my Dad had talked fondly of him, and we had a complete works at home. I used to look at the writing and was in awe of it, not knowing or understanding much more than letters on the page.
 
I remember reading Macbeth for school, probably in Year 8 or 9. What a marvelous play to start with, and it remains my favourite to this day.
 
What's not to love: witches, marching trees (Tolkien had to have stolen this one I reckon!), Scottish accents, OCD, powerful women, and much much more. Lead on Macduff!!
(which for the uninitiated, does not actually exist!)

 
I also have this memory of Shakespeare from A Country Practice, with the younger characters studying Shakespeare and one of them calling him Wagger Dagger! This amused me to no end.
 
So what is it about a man, long gone, that makes him so beloved...to me, and to many others?
 
His relevance.
 
These stories, once you get your head around the language, are timeless. Love, hate, feelings, and situations. There is something for everyone. Once you realise this, he is less intimidating and more intimate.
 
As I have said many times writing about great things in the arts, much has been written and I am not going to attempt to do what has been done far better before me. So I shall just explain my experiences and loves.
 
Macbeth is my favourite and always will be, as explained above.
 
A Midsummer's Night Dream is my favourite comedy. It's mystical and cheeky, usually staged in the most glorious way. It's the play I have seen staged the most. How can you not love the impish Puck?
 
King Lear is my favourite serious play. I studied this for the HSC and it was the bane of my life at the time. So much within, so serious, so dark, so much to learn, but how can you begin to unravel what was within. A friend once told me about reading this with a love in the rain...I thought that was the most romantic thing I had ever heard!


Richard III - is my favourite history play, and a popular culture favourite, and the one I can talk about forever.
 
It's got those great lines, "Now is the winter of our discontent" and "My Kingdom for a horse".
 
The first time I stood on the stage at my beloved Civic Theatre here in Newcastle, I actually projected that, much to the embarrassment of my sister who was with me at the time. Even more ironic, as we were there for a rehearsal of a fashion parade, such brilliance (the words, certainly not my 'performance') amongst such vacuousness amused me to no end!
 
Richard III has been in Red Dwarf, Blackadder, Queen sung about it, Steinbeck borrowed from it, Being John Malkovich and The King's Speech used it. Seller's spoken word version of A Hard Day's Night was inspired by Olivier's Richard III. 

And then there is Looking for Richard, Pacino's documentary, which explores the great play, including him wandering The Cloisters in New York reciting lines. Having spent much time meditating and dreaming at that very spot it was a moment of pure joy for me to observe.

 
And finally, the best ever death scene I have ever seen staged was Richard's death in Richard III, by Bell's Shakespeare Company of course. At the afore mentioned Civic Theatre, I had close up seats to the very spot with copious amounts of gushing 'blood' in a seamless display of possible magic, I was equally repulsed and utterly fascinated.
 
Of course, in the late 80s and early 90s, all things Shakespeare pointed to Kenneth Branagh, often with Emma Thompson. Ken and Em, oh how I loved them. They were indeed the most perfect Beatrice and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing, another favourite. His Henry V is the best film version in my opinion, highly accessible. Othello and Hamlet also outstanding. If you think you don't like Shakespeare (the horror) go and see these films, I am certain your mind will change.

 
Of course, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Taming of the Shrew is another favourite, in fact all of Zeffirelli's films of Shakespeare are masterpieces.
 
Another play I adore is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Funny, fast paced, and a raging romp. Again, great to introduce newbies too, and also for fans to sit back and enjoy.
 
And the Sonnets, I don't have a favourite, they're all simply perfect! I keep a lovely leather bound second hand copy of them permanently by my bedside table. Along with The Romantic Poets and 100 Great Movie Moments! I find them comforting and soulful to read if I am having trouble sleeping.


And Shakespeare's words are just that, comforting and soulful, poetic and sexy. They never change, they are honest and unflinching. Tragic and heartwrenching, wise and funny, like honest friends that will never let you down.
 
And so finally to my favourite thing about William Shakespeare.
 
His phrases, those impeccable words, most of which he coined and made it into our everyday language without some of us ever knowing.


  
My favourite - above all - is the following:
 
This above all: To thine own self be true. 

From Hamlet, it is Polonius's advice to his son, and it simply says everything anyone should know about me, and me about myself.


PROJECT READ

During 2014 I am working on 5 Projects and 10 things. One of the projects is PROJECT READ!
 
This is what I wrote on January 1:
 
I have a lot of books, I borrow a lot of books from work. I am a Librarian, this is what we do. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of books I have lying around. I think decluttering and shelving items better will be a great start, but I need a plan. I am working on a plan of reading. Something that gives me scope for movement. I have a list of books I really want to read, new, old, classics, difficult. I am going to work on a list of what ones I will try to knock over this year. I will also try to read a certain amount every day, say 100 pages. I am yet to work out the details, I will blog about it. I do know it will include Dickens, Murakami, Mantel, Tartt, and either Proust or Dante.  
 
{And I began this blog at the end of January, but I've been too busy to finish the post, but I have been thinking about it!}
 
The first half of this project is decluttering and shelving my books. I have a lot of book shelves, but many more books. Everything that doesn't fit on the shelves are stuffed into a spare wardrobe and lying on the floor and it is shameful. First step will be to go through, cull, chuck, giveaway and gift. Then I need to purchase more book shelves and get re-organising. It will happen slowly over the year!
 
{I have half sorted this out already, with a lovely new cabinet for the lounge room, the remaining books are sorted and in neat piles on a table in the study. More bookshelves will be added to that room to cover that and give room for expansion.}
 
The second half is far more interesting...the reading!
 
First of all when you want to read as many titles as I do and own as many unread books as I do, coming up with this list for difficult. Of course I will get to whatever is not on my list in years to come, but what to read this year!
 
Secondly, you will notice they are mostly Fiction. I tend to prefer Non-Fiction, which is why these books get missed each and every time.
 
And lastly, I will still be reading the regular 'stuff' that I like to read or feel I need to read for work and my two book groups.
 
1. Favourite authors
Here is a (bad) habit of mine, I read some books by an author, decide they are a favourite author as I love their style of writing or subject matter. Then I purchase more books they have written and leave them on a dedicated section in my book shelves or even worse on a pile on the floor somewhere. And there they sit...ummm...favourites...I have never read!
 
So I shall read at least 2 titles by each of the following:
 
Haruki Murakami {read one already!}
Charles Dickens
Michael Chabon
Ernest Hemingway
Virginia Woolf
Hunter S. Thompson
Anais Nin
 
2. Modern Classics
These are mostly the big books that come out each year, that win all the awards and everyone loves but I never get around to reading.
 
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Questions of travel - Michelle de Krester
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
 
3. Classics
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe - As a lover of all things Africa, I am ashamed to say I have never read this.

The Unbearable likeness of being - Milan Kundera - I have started this book about 3-4 times, always getting about 1/4 of the way in and then putting it down for one reason or another and never finishing, not because it is not good....because it really is very good...but because...I really don't know! {almost finished and it will go right into my top ten books of all time - utter perfection}

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy - I am halfway through this one, so a good head start, and must finish
 
4. The Crazy
I am either going to attempt to begin The Divine Comedy by Dante or In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.
I have wanted to read both for ages, and they are daunting, hence the word 'attempt'.
 
As an over achiever I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but it's lovely to have an interesting goal.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Newcastle Writers Festival Overview

Oh My, what a wonderful weekend I had at the Newcastle Writer's Festival. Last years inaugural festival was an incredibly busy and great weekend, this year I spread myself out a little more, covered more but not as intensely.
 
I have blogged in detail about each part of the festival, and there are links in this blog to those separate blogs if you wish to read further. I am mindful of my blogs being long, something you can read about further in Part 6! So basically rather than 1 long essay, I have written 6 shorter blogs, 7 if you include this overview!
 
On Friday I spent time with my nephew going to 2 of the children's sessions and they were fabulous, you can read about our experiences with Tristan Bancks and Oliver Phommavanh in Part One, Children's Friday.

 
That evening B and I attended Opening Night with Wendy Harmer.


The next day I attended 2 back to back sessions with local writers, Part 3 - Saturday
 
And that night we laughed till we cried with the brilliant Dear Diary session at The Edwards.


The next day was only two sessions, but two very full on sessions.
 
The first, 500 Words, my experience at the Newcastle Writer's Festival, is just that, a short look at my own participation that morning with 13 other fabulous local writers.

 
And the second, I Blog, Therefore I Am, featuring good friends Carol Duncan and Linda Drummond, with a sidebar of the evolution of this very blog and how the session influenced and inspired me.

 

Weekends like this are incredibly important for the soul. Words to me are my life, whether read, spoken or heard. As a Librarian I cannot begin to say how they have shaped my life and continue to do so. I can't wait for next years festival, scheduled for 20-22 March. If you haven't experienced this festival, you simply must!

Newcastle Writers Festival - Part 6 - I Blog, Therefore I Am

After missing out on getting into the radical Newcastle session, we were sure to be at this one early. Hosted by the wonderful Carol Duncan and showcasing the talents of the lovely Linda Drummond and the saucy Summer Land, this session was all about blogging, why they do it, and what they get out of it.


 This was a timely session to attend as I have been thinking about my blog and what it is lately. For many reasons. I had been concerned about it's title, I also wanted a by-line and to change my blurb. And I knew my blogs were long, and get a bit lazy in the editing process, that is to say by the time I edit it generally, I don't edit it for length at all!
The girls along with Carol were full of advice, ideas and thoughts on what a blog should be. My interpretation was it should be whatever you want it to be!! They spoke of how to get noticed, to get book deals and so on, this has never been my concern.
I started my blog, back in early 2008 as a diary of social events I have attended, mostly as I have a terrible memory, along the way I tried to remember past concerts, plays and the like, this was hit and miss which cemented the fact I needed this online record of my comings and goings. Simultaneously I embarked on a now paused project. I called it, terribly, The Best of Best of Best of. The project was to go through my CD collection disc by disc (alphabetically, such a Librarian!) and make the ultimate Best of Disc/Mixed Tape (which of course would be more than 1 CD) and write about why I choose those songs. I think I stopped in the early Cs, which was actually a lot of entries, but really sooo many more to go. I may pick it back up at some stage, who knows!?!
So over the years the blog has evolved, I include videos and photos now. When I turned 42 I got philosophical and made a list of 42 thing to do while I was 42 and reported back each month with how I was going, this has evolved into Monthly Round Ups, where I blog about the smaller things I did that month (a potted diary if you will) and another called Monthly Reviews, that details the best books read, DVDs viewed and Music listened to. I still review the big events and occasionally write other things that come to mind. It is rarely an opinion piece kind of blog, though I of course give my opinion on the topic I am writing about.
And people read it, many people read if the analytics serve me correct, which is endlessly fascinating for me. I still don't write for others, though if others read it and enjoy it that is ok by me!
Carol Duncan summed it up perfectly when she said in this very session, I was a Mood Blogger. And she is so true, I blog where my mood takes me or when I am in the mood to blog, it's sporadic, sometimes voracious, sometimes not. Lately I have been inspired by many events to write a lot. I cannot stop in fact, which is not a bad thing. I am not a writer, but I like to write. it's a good way to get things out of your head, I have so much inside my head, it's nice to let some of it go and drift out there. I do try to be conscious of it being pleasant and not ranty, though sometimes I do get ranty.
I learnt a lot listening to the bloggers and to others in the audience, mostly not to second guess myself, to keep it nice but personal, and to try and make the time for word editing. But mainly, to stick with what I am doing, I am happy with the tone and topic of the blog and I think those that read it are too, but you know that doesn't matter so much, as long as it is what I want it to be! And it is.
So I have not come up with a rewrite of my blurb, it will come in time I guess and I am still working on the by-line, something to do with mood for sure...copyright to Carol of course ;)
As for the title, I am going to keep it as it means a myriad of things to me, and not just the obvious connection, though that, funnily enough, is still important to me.

Because Art is Art, regardless of where it came from....


Newcastle Writers Festival - Part 5 - 500 Words, my experience at the Newcastle Writers Festival

How thrilled I was to be chosen as part of a small group of 500 Words Project contributors at the Newcastle Writer's Festival session, ABC Open Reading from the 500 Words Project!
 
Along with two of my fellow Swansea Library 500 Words Online Writing Group, Judy and Doug, we were to read a chosen piece out loud at the festival.
 
Some of us got to meet at ABC studios, the Thursday evening before, for a read through. What a diverse and interesting group we were and all so proud to be contributing.
 
With 14 of us reading, some taped, but mostly reading live, it was going to be a fabulous but tight session.
 
And so the day came, nerves were there, but I was collecting Doug, 97 and bringing him to the session, so my mind was full of getting him there on time. As we got to Charlestown from Swansea, the rain pelted down in a way that made driving difficult, but we got there and I drove right up the drive out the front of City Hall to drop him and a friend off. This was exciting for all involved, we felt like royalty. Then I set off to find a park, and get back to City Hall without getting completely soaked. I didn't do too badly, though my choice of suede shoes was probably a mistake!
 
One by one the group assembled, along with Bronwyn, our delightful acting leader and Anthony, our usual leader, who had been on holidays. The excitement was palpable, a heady mix of genuine excitement and flighty nerves. We took our places and went over the running order one last time.
 
It began with laughs and smiles, and I turned to look at the audience, and the room was packed. It made me catch my breathe, how fabulous!
 
And so Bronwyn continued to introduce us in small groups at a time, and then my time came, Doug and I  were joined on the stage by another lady, Diana. And I was up.


My story, In the wilds of Africa at night, was in fact my first contribution to the project over a year ago, the theme, A scary moment. I took a breath and began, taking time to look at all the smiling faces seemingly enjoying what I was saying. I speak fast and tried to slow it down, I have no idea if I succeeded, I didn't even look at the screen to my left to see what photos from Africa had been chosen to show. I remember thinking very briefly how wonderful I felt reading what is one of my favourite stories out loud to such an interested audience, despite my obvious nerves. People applauded and I sat back down.


After Diana, they played the video about Doug that had been filmed at Swansea Library. I love the video, despite it having an extreme close up of me in it, it shows how much Doug loves his library and writing experience and at 97 he has a lot to tell us! And then he was up to tell his haunting story of Captain Harry. Watching the audience watch and listen to Doug tell his story was one of the truly thrilling things I have participated in, in my life. The quietness in the room was telling, I could see love and concern and tears in people's eyes for such a wonderful man and such a chilling story. I was trying not to cry myself. It ended with applause, the special kind, that made me feel so proud and happy.



Then we were back in the audience for the final section, including Judy's fabulous story on An act of rebellion



And finally a Q and A, where Doug was indeed the star of the show, answering many questions and telling his tales. What a great mix of emotions the morning was and how proud was I to be included in such a grand array of people and stories.

 
And what an audience, standing room only, with many people turned away!


 

Thank goodness for the ABC, where would our cultural history be without them!?!

Newcastle Writers Festival - Part 4: Saturday Evening

The Saturday evening session was Dear Diary: an evening of over sharing, at The Edwards. A, S, L & I joined Summer Land and Jack Ellis for dinner, ordering an array of their finger food dishes. And then moved to the set up area for the show stopper of the weekend. 5 authors were going to read from their childhood or teen diaries! Dominic Knight was hosting and we were in for a wild ride.


Jeff Apter, author of many Australian rock bios, went first. He read a few varying entries from his late teens, where he was already writing about the music scene without even realising, going to clubs and drinking and delving into other bits and pieces, his was an interesting read and funny. Especially as he seemed to have little recollection of most of it.
 
Linda Jaivin read about her younger years mixing in waspy company in the US, very funny, very earnest, and of course charged with sexuality.
 
Tim Ferguson read some angsty teen poetry, and then read a couple of entries from his dairy whilst touring with DAAS in Edinburgh in his early 20s.
 
Monica Dux, the only participant I didn't know was the best. Her entries from her later teen years and her yearning and sexual thoughts as a slightly prudish catholic girl, had us rolling in the aisles with tears running down our faces. Her delivery of said pieces as also superb.
 
Summer Land took us on a very open and honest romp as you would expect, through her tween and early teen years, including how she accidentally lost her virginity. Again hilarious and well delivered.

After some drinks and mingling afterwards, we headed home as tomorrow morning was going to be big!

Newcastle Writers Festival - Part 3: Saturday

I only attended two sessions Saturday. They were back to back at City Hall, and were both equal parts inspiring and entertaining.
 
I realised all the day time events I went to this year were local authors and writers. I think it's nice to support those that are local, and we have so much talent in the city, it's nice to share in the excitement. I was also solo at these events.
 
Session 1 was Rough and Tumblr.


Siobhan Curran talked about her blog, Novocastrian Tales, and it's evolution over the years, why she started it up and what she likes to include. Siobhan is a generous promoter of all things cultural and arty in Newcastle. Her blog showcases this in her own unique way.
 
Michael Newton showed pictures from his tumblr, Showbag. Michael says he is an amateur photographer but the photos displayed would suggest otherwise. The photos are mostly of Newcastle and from a very interesting perspective. He was also the most wondrous presenter, delighting the audience with his light wit and snappy one liners.
 
Mark MacLean talked about his blog, Hamilton North, and subsequent books. I like this blog where he travels pretty much the same route, along Styx Creek with his dog in tow and describes what he sees. It is fascinating, and as he made an interesting comment about repetition which I cannot remember exactly, but something like after a while there is beauty in repetition and once you read his blog, you'll absolutely agree.
 
Session 2 was Wordy Women


Wordy Women was four creative writing PhD students from the Uni reading from their work in progress. It was a very inspiring session, and I found myself taking lots of notes, not so much on what the ladies were reading, but ideas I got from listening to them read. It's hard to explain and also sounds like I was being disrespectful, but not at all. I loved each and every one of the stories, but found phrases or subject matter triggered ideas in my own mind. It seemed wasteful not to write them down.
 
After back to back sessions, I took a wander in Civic Park. There was much happening, families running about, people picnicing, and outside the library storytelling, coffee carts, and a BBQ set up.  There was another late session I had my eye on, but decided to grab a sausage sandwich and zip home for a nap before heading out to the evening event.

 

Newcastle Writers Festival - Part 2: Opening Night with Wendy Harmer

My friend B and I braved a wet and windy night to attend the Opening night of the Newcastle Writer's Festival. The wonderful Dominic Knight (Chaser and ABC radio) was hosting, and had us all laughing even before the special guest graced the stage. And so after all the speeches and such, Wendy Harmer began her hilarious opening night talk.

It started off simply enough with her reading a piece she had just written for The Sydney Morning Herald, about writing, books, literature and Festivals. She then moved onto her own writing experience, particularly with critics who labeled her fiction for adults, chook lit. That is Chick Lit for older women! She was hilarious and I could go on, but really I am not Wendy Harmer, it might be in the writing, but it's also in the delivery of those words! Needless to say, I ended up with tears in my eyes from laughing.

The night included the amazing powerhouse that is Rosemarie Milsom taking the stage to thank her helpers and talk about putting the program together after last year's success. I may have had tears in my eyes then too, but that was just through the love in the room for such an amazing woman!



Newcastle Writers Festival - Part 1: Children's Friday

On the Friday of the Writer's Festival, my nephew, Mr 11, and I took the day off work and school to go to some of the workshops for children.
 
We headed to Newcastle Library for a look around before our first session. In the children's section we found the Sensory Zone with all these fabulous Seussical inspired pieces by Bliss. I had already bought the kids (and myself) one of her touch lights for Christmas so it was great for Mr 11 to see some of her larger designs...but he wasn't so keen to pose for me.  We had managed an Egg Head in Civic Park earlier so I guess that was that!


After a while we headed up to look at the Canoe Pool exhibition they had in their Local History area, loads of great old photos to look at. Mr 11 particularly liked the photo with kids his age wearing "really weird swimmers", no way you'd get him into a pair he muttered. Then we looked at the Shaun Tan exhibit, which was gorgeous as you would imagine.
 

From there we waited to go into the Tristan Bancks session, Writing for Boys.
 
The session was a fully loaded 90 minutes of work and fun. A group of about 27 young, (mostly) introverted boys sat on large cushions on the floor, and it was a glorious thing to behold. I had intended to stay a little while, go for a walk and come back, but the session was so interesting, I stayed the entire time! As the kids were a mostly shy bunch, poor Tristan had his work cut out for him, but he managed it effortlessly.
 
The session was well put together with lots of short videos and information from Tristan about his childhood, writing, books, television appearances etc. But it was the writing exercises scattered throughout that were the most fascinating. He set a range of 5 minute exercises, set his phone and timed them in fact. His instructions for each exercise were mostly, just write, don't worry about what you write, write what words come into your head. He further explained that in creative writing 90% of what you come up with is not that good, it's the 10% you get the gold from and often you never know where it comes from, so by writing everything down that's how you find the gold. (or something to that point, which I thought was gold indeed!!!)


Some of the exercises included first thoughts (whatever enters your head or what you see, write it down) best done first thing in the morning, I remember when (using memory as a device), listening to instrumental music for inspiration, reading sections of his book and asking them to jot down what they thought happened next and so on. 
 
Tristan also read a lot from his series of short stories, My Life and Other Stuff. These are funny stories based around a kid the boys age and other characters he knows from school and family. He asked the kids to brainstorm some ideas for his third book of these stories. He wrote all the kids ideas up on a whiteboard and named it after the session, he said if he included it in the book, he would acknowledge them in the book. I thought that was very cool, you could tell the kids did too.
 
Afterwards, we bought a few of his books and Mr 11 lined up for Tristan to sign them, which was pretty exciting.

 
We indulged in Coco Mondo for lunch and then hit Civic Park for a stretch and read. Mr 11 has been, like most boys his age, a reluctant reader, so for him to suggest we sit on a park bench and read was a heart warming moment.
 
Our other session was with comedian, Oliver Phommavanh. Oliver was a whirlwind and proved a hard object to photograph he moved that fast. Growing up Thai in Australia has left him with hilarious tales which he uses in his books, his stand up background makes him a dynamic performer and he had everyone in stitches. He collects toys - from films, video games, television, comics and the like - and uses them to tell his stories. It showed the kids that make believe was fun AND you might just get a good story from it. He told all sort of inappropriate jokes and was very into audience participation, but the kids loved it, even if the odd teacher raised an eyebrow.


Days like this are so important for our young readers and writers, especially those that may be reluctant or bullied because of their supposed nerdiness.
 

We were both exhausted at the end of the day, but excited and inspired, which is all you can really ask for.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FILM REVIEW: The Grand Budapest Hotel


Grand Budapest Hotel...the title of the film says it all really...
 
The latest offering from genius auteur, Wes Anderson, is nothing short of a masterpiece. I have been anticipating this film for what seems like close to a year.
 
My history and love of Wes starts with a friend recommending Rushmore to me, which I loved and immediately sought out Bottle Rocket. Not long after The Royal Tenenbaums came out and I was in love, and up until now it remained my favourite of his films. Though Moonrise Kingdom was hot on its heels and I have a very tender spot of the The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Look! I love all his films!
 
It is his curation of sets, attention to detail, superb casting and unique storytelling that make his films the complete package. Even his palette and use of colour is utterly unique. I am sure we would be firm friends...or maybe even more!


And so, Grand Budapest Hotel, his 8th film, set around this grand hotel in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. It is a romp and a caper set over the decades but mostly about when the hotel was at its height, in between the world wars.
 
It begins in 'the present' with a young girl mourning the death of 'the writer' (Tom Wilkinson), moves back to the late 60s when 'the writer' (now played by Jude Law) is staying at the now dilapidated hotel and chances upon the elderly owner of the hotel, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who tells him of how he became the owner of the hotel.
 
The film then goes back to the 30s when the Hotel was at its height and where most action takes place. This is a layered film, but told with stunning ease.
 
Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), is the suave concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, and Zero (now played Tony Revolori) is the Lobby Boy. When an elderly patron of the hotel (Tilda Swinton) is murdered, and a rare renaissance paining is stolen, Gustave is the main suspect. And so like many caper films, he goes on the run to clear his name, taking Zero along for the ride.
 
The cast is nothing short of stunning, also including Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe,Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, and Jason Schwartzman.
 
But it is Fiennes and Revolori that shine. Fiennes is outstanding, with a here to now unseen comic timing and amusing physicality that was incredibly hilarious. Revolori, young and new to film, is superb and with perfect delivery. Together they shine, what an unlikely but fabulous pairing.
 
There are many 'parts' to the film and whilst it all blends in smoothly with the film as a whole, they stand out visually in a way that has became Anderson's visual trademark. The scenes set in the museum with Goldblum and Dafoe are amusing, dark, wondrous, and grotesque. And the chase scene in the snow is one of the most thrilling, hilarious, ridiculous, and perfectly filmed chase scenes I have ever seen.
 
That is to say the cinematography on this is superb, and unlike anything I have ever seen. The set design out of this world, from funiculars, to artworks, to Mendl's bakery and the superb costumes.


This is a film about movement, the trains, lifts, funicular, ladders, rooftop jumping, the swing of a coat, or the flick of a hair, nothing is left to chance.
 
The attention to detail, as always, is nothing short of amazing, but even makes all his other films seem like he didn't even bother...which of course he did, but you get what I am trying to say!
 
The script was sharp and witty, poignant and dark, and the delivery of these words by the actors note perfect, vocally and visually.
 
Yes, Perfect, superb and genius pretty much sum up this magnificent film. It is a 5 star film and one of the most wondrous experiences I have had in many, many years!!!
 
I will see it again and it is most certainly my favourite Wes Anderson film to date.
 
I only have two concerns, I wanted more, and what will he do next???
 
I guess we'll wait and see...
 

Friday, April 11, 2014

MARCH REVIEWS

Despite a hectic month I did manage a few DVDs, mostly at the beginning of the month though.
 
Television
 
I caught up with episodes I missed of Redfern Now S2 and Miss Fisher S2. Both great Australian series at different ends of the spectrum. Without a doubt Redfern Now is the finest drama we have produced in, well, forever. Inspiring, thoughtful, and intelligent stories set in the western suburbs with mostly indigenous flavour with superb acting, Redfern Now is an instant classic. Miss Fisher is a elegant lady detective, in the 20s in Melbourne. The stories are light, a la Agatha Christie, but the set design, costumes and winsome characters are what makes this show a favourite. I also finally caught the superb British mini-series, The Bletchley Circle. Set in postwar London, about a group of women who had been code breakers during the war and come back together to solve a trail of murders by using their knowledge.
 
Also loving the return of two of my favourite shows on television, Puberty Blues and Rockwiz.
 
Documentaries
 
I also watched two superb Art documentary series, The Impressionists and Art Deco, Highly recommend both.
 
I also saw some amazing film documentaries. Roman Polanski: a film memoir, was good but didn't really expose anything we didn't already know. I suspect it was a PR exercise. Stories we tell, is a stunning family tale from the amazing Sarah Polley. I am unsure how to describe this, but she goes in search of the truth about her mother. Quite extraordinary. And finally, a documentary I loved so much I was compelled to review immediately, A Band Called Death.
 
Movies
 
The Way Way Back was the pick of the bunch this month. A lovely coming of age story with a great cast.
 
Therese Desqueyroux - a French period melodrama starring Audrey Tatou.
 
Parkland - could have been such a great movie. Based on the doctors in Parkland Hospital who had to operate of President Kennedy that day he was shot and also Lee Harvey Oswald the following day. Also told from the point of view of the Oswald family. It was fascinating, but with Zac Efron and Colin Hanks as the doctors...you get the picture!
 
Now You See me - was a flashy thriller about a group of magicians on an interesting mission
 
Satellite Boy - Great story about two young boys on an adventure in the outback with stunning cinematography
  
Books
 
I seemed to start about 4 or 5 books this month, but only finished one!
 
And that was Tiddas by Anita Heiss. It's is her latest book and the reason for her author tour during the month.
 
Tiddas is a rollicking romp about 5 close friends based in Brisbane. The women have been friends since school, and now they are in their 40s they are experiencing varying degrees of change in their lives. It is a fabulous and honest portrayal of friendship and life at 40, these women have such a wonderful bond. The story is also structured around their book club, so we not only find out what has been happening in their lives as the months pass by, but get to read about what they are reading. This is a wonderful device and has added additional reading to my already long to read list! 

As with all of Anita's books there is another subtle thread about Aboriginality, politics, and similar. I always enjoy this aspect of her books, there are things to be learnt, and ideas and philosophies to ponder. Most of all I love her sense of place. Each of her books have strong settings, usually the city where the book is set and the city or town where the main character/s come from. Brisbane is as much a character as the five women in Tiddas, as is Mudgee, their hometown. Whilst a fun read in the Chick Lit genre, this book has a great deal of substance and heart. I highly recommend!
 
Music

I've gone retro (again) and been listening to Fleetwood Mac and Bob Dylan. I also have been enjoying the new John Butler.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

MARCH ROUND UP

March did not get off to a good start and had been a roller coaster ride ever since. The things I did and got up to during this month are mind blowing!
 
I worked Sat 1st, and we had a lady collapse. We were kept busy keeping her well and alive until the ambulance arrived. To be honest I thought she was going to die, it was harrowing and scary. And of course even worse for the poor lady. It was a reaction to new medication, and she is ok. But boy, were we tested that day!
 
I lunched after with my good friend C, at Caves Beach Hotel, wasn't that hungry and in a bit of a state, but as always she made me feel heaps better.
 
The Oscars were held early in the month and as is my custom I took time off to watch it live. My sister A also had time off work and we had a celebratory afternoon with bubbles and seafood!

You can read all about my predictions, thoughts on the show, and wrap up of fashion.
 
As part of my Project Declutter and Revamp, my first new piece of furniture arrived. A lovely cabinet for the lounge room. This arriving set off a domino effect of clearing out and rearranging, but I'm pleased with the outcomes!

I've also been playing the guitar with my niece and nephew, who are having lessons. And I bought myself some Bongo Drums!!


And then things got really nuts.
 
Someone once said to me if you live large, large things happen, good and bad. And I guess bad happens to make us appreciate the finer things in our life. I have written about mental health moments before, and I am lucky to not suffer very much, but I do suffer them from time to time. Usually I can see warning signs and nip things in the bud, but this time it snuck up on me and I was down for the count but only briefly. The thing that pushed me over, was not how I was treated during an incident (which is to say not at all well!), but how others included in it were. Piss me off and upset me is one thing, but my friends, well that is a whole other thing and I admit my reaction to this was not at all classy. The combination brought me to my knees.
 
I've got a pretty tough exterior due to 'stuff', but that exists to protect a very fragile and sensitive interior. It takes a lot to break through to it, so kudos to the shitheads that get there!!! However, it's always pleasant to find out who one needs to avoid in life! I prefer to keep personal things private, but I see so many people suffering similarly or worse, I feel the need to share so they don't feel so isolated and alone.
 
But during all this I had a lot to be grateful for, things that jerked me right out of that bad head space. I attended a GenXWomen lunch at Noahs with the fantastic Joanne McCarthy as guest speaker, attended an literary dinner at Cooks Hill Hotel, talked Haruki Murakami at bookclub, and Marched in March. All the while supported and loved by fabulous friends and family, you all know who you are, godammit I love you guys!!!



 
Which was perfect timing, as I was entering one of the busiest fortnights I have ever had, in life and at work.
 
I have been organising for some months an author tour for my friend, Anita Heiss and her friend Lisa Heidke. It was a lot of work, but really can you call having so much fun at 5 events over 2 days work?
 
I also managed to squeeze in a Neil Finn concert, and celebrate what would have been my beloved Pop's 100th birthday.
 
My friend D, who I have known since I was 5 also dropped by with Vodka - now there's a friend that knows me well - for a catch up.
 
The second week brought the new Cardiff Library opening, a NAG Supporters public meeting, a large vintage fashion show and gardening talk and meetings at work, and a meeting with ABC about the Writer's Festival, of which I shall be part of. I lunched with D, bought a stack on vinyl, had another movie night at work, and then pretty much crashed.



In fact I literally crashed on the Thursday when I took quite the tumble in the rain, my mind was elsewhere and I think the universe wanted to bring me back to earth, lol. I did a fair bit of damage to some body parts but nothing broken, just my pride!
 
I got together with my beloved Tweeps, for another great Tweet Up, this time at The Edwards, as organised by C. And it was a fabulous night, of chatter, friendship, drinks, laughs, and funnily enough, not much tweeting! My lovely friend L stayed with me for the occasion and she finally got to meet a whole lot of people she had been conversing online with for years.
 
The following day, L and I headed into Frankies Place for a leisurely brunch and then checked out the latest exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery. We then wandered the length of the mall, chatting art, photography, and politics. I also saw The Great Beauty, and Inside Llewyn Davis.



I am planning on some quieter months, I need to bury myself in some great literature, and catch up on some quality viewing.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sistas Doing It For themselves: The Anita Heiss/Lisa Heidke Tour 2014

As you probably gathered I had an extremely busy and fabulous time hosting Anita Heiss on her Tiddas book tour. I am lucky enough to call Anita a friend, and met her just over a year ago through another fabulous friend, Susan. When Anita contacted me and asked me to do this late last year I was thrilled and honoured...and a little bit scared. But I said Yes!
So I have been working on it ever since, assisted by my great team at Swansea and other colleagues, and annoying the hell out of Anita with fifty bajillion emails.
Along the way, Anita decided to bring fellow chick lit author and friend, Lisa Heidke with her. Double the fun, and so it was!


To make the most of their visit, we planned three separate events over two days. This was a huge undertaking and something new as we organised two evening functions in venues outside of the library. Plus I organised two separate private functions for Anita and her friends. 
The first event was held at Charlestown Library, and Anita and Lisa charmed our audience with their beautiful friendship. They spoke about the writing process, how they research their books, their writing styles, and the editing process. They both had different perspectives and styles and habits, which made for a fascinating conversation. Their true friendship and knowledge of their profession shone through. The afternoon included book signings and a chance for those attending to get up close and personal with the ladies and ask them questions. 



That evening, a crowd turned up at Lake Macquarie Art Gallery to attend the Hunter Region Tiddas book launch. Lisa Heidke was MC for the evening and Carol Duncan from ABC 1233 Radio launched the book. It was a great evening with the Gallery and surrounds as a beautiful backdrop. Plenty of chatter, wine, cheese, and cake added to the elegance of then evening. Lisa and Carol spoke about Anita with humour, love, and respect, especially regarding some of the challenges Anita has to face in her day to day life. Anita responded with eloquence and grace and spoke about her book and characters. It was a fun and entertaining evening.





The next day a group of us met at Rustica for lunch and a relax. We had lots of laughs and conversations, over drinks and the fabulous Rustica food.


That evening we celebrated women’s literature with Sistas doing it for themselves at a Function Room and bar overlooking Lake Macquarie. A lovely group of women took the chance to frock up and join us for canap├ęs, drinks, and chocolate. Anita and Lisa read from their book, and entertained us with their charm and humour, before opening the room up to questions and discussions. The evening was loads of fun, with all of us enjoying an evening of conversation and laughs.






Afterwards some of headed to Le Passe Temps for a private after party to celebrate the end of a great couple of days and our endearing friendships.
I think I am still recovering, organising something like that is huge, but I am beyond thrilled with how well it all turned out.
Anita and Lisa were such fun to host and have around, I miss them dearly. They are the testament of finding your flock, great friends, but only recently so. 
And Anita's book, Tiddas, it is her finest yet. A great tale about 5 fabulous friends, stay tuned for my next book update for a proper review. In the meantime, go find yourself a copy and read it for yourself!
And I have to end by thanking all my fabulous friends, you listened and gave me advice, and helped me out throughout these past few months, and I am eternally grateful, you all know who you are. You are just incredibly special people!