Amelie

Thursday 16th July

I watched Amelie with my mother on my birthday this year and it was a movie that made me think a lot about what it meant to be getting older, to not be – quite so young any more, to have gotten to that age that I was in awe of and realise that life does not go according to the plans you made wearing rose-tinted spectacles and your mothers high heels.

Watching Amelie was almost like imagining my younger self – though the Amelie in the movie is my age I think – and wanting to love and protect her from everything the world will throw at her but also wanting to urge her to seize her destiny, to follow her heart and take a risk or she might just be stuck as a woman in a painting for the rest of her life.

In Amelie I see my secret shyness, her blunt bob and wide-eyed wonder is endearing and fascinating. Her caring nature results in some all thought out pranks on the grumpy fruit and vegetable vendor and restoring love and hope for her downstairs neighbour. When Amelie finally finds love and confronts the man she loves after she’s been quite literally playing hide and seek, too afraid that she might actually get what she wants, it is not only a triumph for her but for us the viewers, who have been secretly rooting for her for the last 2 hours.

It’s a beautifully artistic movie, almost lyrical in its cinematography and subtle nuances. I loved the way it began and ended, stating insignificant details that happened at the same time as her conception. The vibrant colours are pleasing to the eye and are symbolic of the hope and childlike wonder in Amelie’s own mind perhaps, of the dreams she harbours even if she’s too afraid to face them.

Spoiler: Ending of Amelie!

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The Movies my Mother watches

Wednesday 15th July

Whenever my mother suggests watching a movie on a rainy evening I am filled with a mixture of a silly smugness that I have the kind of relationship with my mother where we still curl up and watch movies together or quiet consternation at what she’s going to choose. The movies my mother wants to watch are more and more frequently about women just like her, you know the type. The working mother with grown up children who suddenly decides to change her career or travel around the world or sell her house and tick off things on her bucket list. My mother wants movies of the Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson variety, the Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in Hope Springs kind of rom coms as opposed to Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling (Swa-ooon), let alone Emma Stone and Spidey Boy (More swa-ooon). We both like Dramas but (I suspect) need to feel mentally prepared for the emotional upheaval and catharsis we know will come and so we make do with rom coms and breathe a sigh of relief.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS, Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, 1997, (c) Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

AS GOOD AS IT GETS, Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, 1997, (c) Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

I always say that if you want to find out about a person, you ask them what their favourite book is. Not only do you learn about what they like but if halfway through they stop and think about whether it’s what you like and if they would actually recommend the book to you or choose something more suitable to your interests and tastes…well let’s just say it says a lot about a person. My mum doesn’t do the stop and think. She is at a stage where she assumes the books and movies she likes will be ones that I will like by default as I am after all her daughter (and in her eyes an extension of her own limbs). Needless to say, I tolerate the Diane Keaton movies, in fact I enjoy some of them like The Wedding, which had yours truly – Diane Keaton – and Robert De Niro (something for mum) and Amanda Seyfried and Katherine Heigl (something for moi). But I find that we are increasingly watching more movies together about people closer to my mother’s age than mine.

I’m finding that this observation can also be extended to the books we read. Where once our reading tastes were vastly different – I was obsessed with Agatha Christie and murder mystery stories at 10 years old and I had no idea what my mum read and little did I care, now our tastes are more similar. When I lived in Melbourne at one stage we were both reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac at the same time by sheer coincidence, and moving back home with Uni and part time work and not much time to go to the library and choose books for myself, I found myself increasingly snagging books my mum had got out of the library for herself – some bestseller by Nora Ephron, and more recently ‘How to walk backwards in High Heels’, a humorously chatty fat book about dispelling myths about femininity which I have to grudgingly admit, has given me lots of fodder to mull over.

So I come to this realisation – shock horror – am I finally turning into my mother? And if I am, is it such a surprising thing? I thought this was supposed to happen in my thirties or forties, not mid-twenties. Yet I find myself increasingly boxing and labelling things, like my mother does. I choose clothes that are statement pieces like my mother tells me to do (but rarely does herself) and I cook food that is easy rather than what is intricate. Where once I believed that I would love to spend hours labouring over a meal and what you ate should be colourful and decorative, after a year of cooking for one and crawling into bed at midnight on a working night, I am all for shovelling food into my mouth to get through from one day to the next. Mind you, I still harbour romantic ideas of preparing colourful lunchbox meals for my kids with sliced carrots and hummus with a couscous salad but who am I kidding, 10 years from now I’m sure I will be packing tuna sandwiches.

The older I get the more I realise that what seemed like hours and hours of time to sit on my haunches and examine snails making their slimy way across a wall is time that runs out far too quickly as an adult. If I entertained thoughts of how organised and domesticated I would be as an ‘adult’, I say now look for an adultier adult because at 24 my time is far too precious to be wasted on food that is going to disappear into my mouth anyway. The older I get the more I appreciate everything my mother does, from trying to make us eat a variety of dried fruit and nuts (Anushka just eat one Brazil nut a day your body needs a minimum amount of Selenium to function!) to the subtle notes she makes on how we react to things and her not so subtle knack of questioning.

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So at 24, I find myself watching more Diane Keaton than Emma Stone and while I still complain about it to stick to tradition, I enjoy these movies about older women more than I used to. And it occurred to me that it’s probably because they are so much like my mother. The movies my mother watches, are as much about her as they are about me, they’re about the mother daughter dynamic, the relationship between people, and the stuff that life is made of. Yes they’re not going to have Ryan Gosling doing the lift from Dirty Dancing (though we do both love Dirty Dancing) and no I’m probably never going to see Kristen Stewart feature in them but after spending a year away from home, I’m finding that I am much more like my mum than I realised. Different, but kinda the same.

Bullet Train to Heaven: Departing….

Whether it be the Montagues and the Capulets, The Bloods and the Cripps, or a typical west side story remake, there is something about the friction between trigger-happy, punk-assed kids and the sexy men in blue uniforms that makes us all sit on the edge of our seats.

A daring twist to the usual New York gang spy scenario, The Departed released in the cinemas in October 2006 is the story of two just graduated officers from Massachusetts State Police Academy following opposing sides of the law; William Costigan is assigned to work undercover with the Irish Mobster Frank Costello to get proof to arrest him. His true identity is only known to his Bosses Sean Dignam and Oliver Queenan. Colin Sullivan, Costigan’s counterpart, is promoted in the Massachusetts State Police and is the informer of Costello. Each police officer tries his best to reveal the identity of the other “rat” to secure their own life. It is literarily a life or death situation. It is the story of lies betrayal, sacrifice and ultimately how far one man is willing to go – in other words, who will be the first to Depart?

The Casting in this film is extremely well suited. Leonardo Di Caprio, playing Billy (William) Costigan and Matt Damon playing Colin Sullivan, make great rivals and both of them do justice to their characters, developing them in different ways. Leo endears his character, Billy, to us through his vulnerability and fear which he shows only to Madolyn like a scared rabbit caught in a trap. On the other hand, our dislike of Matt Damon grows stronger when we see how his character Colin is intimidating Billy, like the shadow of the hunter falling upon the poor rabbit. You empathise with both characters because of the double lives they lead, but while you want Billy to escape unharmed; you want Queenan to catch the infiltrator, Colin.

Though the film is extremely fast paced, Scorsese proves once again his excellence in directing through the relationship he has with his cast and the selective freedom he allows them. The casting of Jack Nicholson as Frank adds a lot of volume and colour to the already colourful Frank, making his role much more believable because of the originality and freshness. One such example would be the scene where Costello throws cocaine at the prostitutes – the last thing you could accuse the movie of is truism. The scenes with Jack Nicholson were improvised to a large extent and were loosely scripted because Scorsese felt that Nicholson would add to the characters fright if he was given the chance to do whatever he wanted.

The film is really enjoyable because of the down-to-earth and witty dialogue. One of my favourite parts of the movie that embody this characteristic is when Frank Costello (Nicholson) meets Colin as a boy in a grocery store and he asks him “you do well in school?” Colin replies “Yeah”. Costello reflects “Good. So did I. They call that a paradox.” It is also the only film that has used the “F” word or derivations of it 237 times and also won an Oscar for Best Picture as well as three other Oscars, forty four wins and forty four nominations. It is also the second remake to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Considering that the first was Ben Hur, it puts this feat on an even higher pedestal for realistic acting.

The reason the acting was so realistic, enabling the movie to create and maintain an intense atmosphere, is because of the amount of research done by actors about their characters before hand. Mark Wahlberg based his performance on the Police Officers who’d arrested him countless times in his youth and the reactions of his parents who had to bail him out with their grocery money. Matt Damon worked in a Massachusetts State police unit out of Boston as research for his characters occupation. He accompanied them on routine patrols, took part in a drug raid and was taught proper police procedures like how to pat down a suspect. Overall, I was impressed with the use of clever cutting and camera work using complex angles and technical tricks to enhance the film’s suspense scenes, for example the scene where Queenan is pushed off the top of the building and lands with a gruesome “splat” right next to Billy. It holds the interest of the viewer in this enthralling 21st Century Crime film capturing the essence of the word subtlety in the departure of those on their way to pearly white gates – or not.

In the end, it’s not about the good or the bad, the rich or the poor, the bold or the beautiful – it’s about The Departed.

Top 10 Fictional Crushes

Wednesday 1st July 2015

Long before I knew what love was I was falling in love with fictional characters, as most people do. I have always been a voracious reader so it seemed only natural that I would discover perfection, or lovable imperfection in the dream worlds of my favourite authors.

Here’s my top 10 fictional crushes (in no particular order):

1. Sorensen Carlisle in ‘The Changeover’ by Margaret Mahy

With his youthful good looks, powerful charisma and not to mention – magic powers – Sorenson Carlisle was quite the teenage heartthrob when I was 15 years old. I used to fantasize that he would help me ‘changeover’ and then I would become who I was truly meant to be – A Witch. And we would live happily ever after.

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2. Rhett Butler in ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell

I watched Gone with the Wind years before I read the book so by that stage I was already in love with Rhett Butler. It had less to do with Clark Gable than the rambunctious charm and silver-fox appeal of Rhett himself. If I were ever stuck in the middle of a civil war with a sick woman and a new-born baby, there is no man I would want but Rhett. I feel like he would accept my wild impulsive nature, and encourage me to be independent and seek my own fate. Maybe he would grab me passionately in his arms and say ‘You need to be kissed and by a man who knows how’. Sigh.

3. Gilbert Blythe in ‘The Anne of Green Gables/ Avonlea etc series’ by Lucy Maud Montgomery

It’s strange that my mum read me a picture book version of Anne of Green Gables when I was 6 or 7 and I thought nothing of Gilbert Blythe. I think I was glad I didn’t have long hair so that no annoying boy could pull it and yell carrots. It did not occur to me that I didn’t have red hair so the insult carrots would have been redundant. Somehow, re-reading it years later, and later Anne of the Island, I fell in love with Gilbert Blythe. I sensed his shy soulfulness and his devotion to Anne and part of the attraction was wanting someone to want me like that.

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4. Gabriel in ‘The Secret Sacrament’ by Sheryl Jordon

The Secret Sacrament was my favourite book in year 8. I lived, ate, breathed The Secret Sacrament. It basically lived in my desk even though we were meant to return it to the SSR shelf in the class. Later when I won a voucher to Dymocks it was the first book I bought. My mum tried to convince me I would get sick of it in a couple of years but I insisted I would always love it and you know what, I still do. Gabriel will always be the face I imagine when I hear the hymn ‘Eagles Wings’, I imagine his golden high cheekbones giving way to feathers and angels wings beating behind his shoulders. His self-sacrifice and his vulnerability, his courage and love for Ashila, will always have a special place in my heart.

5. Rahel in ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy

Forced to witness the death of a man they loved as a child for no fault of his own, Rahel breaks the love laws again as an adult, the only way she knows how. They are the laws that dictate who she can love, and how and how much. Perhaps because I have broken the love laws myself, perhaps because in her I see my vulnerability and hunger for love, perhaps because I sense a connection with her unreachable depths, I love Rahel and want to save her from herself.

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6. Rudy Steiner in ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak

I read The Book Thief in late November last year and couldn’t put it down. It was such an endearing, heart-wrenching book about the friendship between Liesle and the young Jewish man hiding in her basement as well as her friendship with Rudy Steiner, her ‘Saukerl’. Rudy stood by her when she had no one, he understood her need to drop bread crumbs for the Jews being marched to concentration camps, he stopped her from going out into the crowd and getting whipped, he stole books with her when he didn’t know why she was taking them. Rudy was the boy who was with her no questions asked and would have stood beside her and in front of her if he thought her life was in danger. He died thinking of her and she wished she could have kissed him while he was still breathing. I will always wish I had a blonde-haired blue-eyed Rudy beside me.

7. Dicey in The Tillerman Series by Cynthia Voight

The first book I read in The Tillerman series was ‘A Solitary Blue’. In fact I read it 3 times in a row as it was the only book I had on a one week holiday in Fiji. I was moved by Jeff and his relationship with his mother, everything he had gone through with her manipulation. But more so by the girl who pulled him back – Dicey. Dicey is strong. She is resilient. She is protective of her family and loves fiercely. She is everything I want to be and so perhaps it is my ego that loves her more than my body does. In her I see the woman I want to be one day and parts of myself, parts of someone stronger. It’s easy to see her Achilles heel is her family and in that I want to save her from the hurt this will bring.

8. Sonia in ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Sonia was also something of a Mother Theresa, role-model figure to me. Forced into prostitution at the age of 17 or 18, she is one of the redemptive figures in the great Russian classic. I read it at the age of 15 and it was a really hard read for me but so rewarding. Sonia was one of the main reasons I finished the novel. She sees the good in Raskolnikov and finally at the end of the book he begins to treat her the way she has treated him all along. She’s an inspiration and an aspiration and I saw something saintly in her, an adulation to someone I could never be.

9. Holly Golightly in ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’ by Truman Capote

I fell in love with Holly Golightly the moment she walked out of her bedroom in the body of Audrey Hepburn and said she had the mean reds, wearing nothing but a man’s dinner shirt and an eye mask. Audrey Hepburn brought Holly Golightly or Luna Mae to life on screen, but she stayed true to the spirit of the Holly Capote wrote of. When I read the book, I saw her through Frank’s eyes – this tired broken lonely girl who was trying desperately to find some meaning in her life and latched onto anyone who could pull her out of this sorry existence. She looked for love in all the wrong places and like Frank, I felt like maybe I could save her too. I would have loved to sit in the library with her, have parties and escape through fire escapes, window-shop at Tiffany’s and even shop lift an animal mask from a store if that’s what she wanted to do.

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10. Robert Kincaid in ‘Bridges of Madison County’ by Robert James Waller

The Bridges of Madison County was a name I heard a lot as a kid but I never knew the reference, or if people were talking about a movie or a book. When I first read the novel as a teenager, I was swept away by Robert Kincaid, this independent nature photographer who treated a lonely housewife like she was something special, who respected her as a human being and gave her the attention she deserved. Their short-lived romance was one that kept them alive and hoping for a reunion, at some point in the future. I would love to meet a man who could make me come alive like that.