We’re all in this together


Sitting at a rail platform observing and listening to all the people collecting, ready to get on the train, and the Ben Lee song, We’re all in this together pops into my mind. I smile to myself with this realisation – and this was before I checked his lyrics,

“Woke up this morning
I started smiling
Cos you were smiling
And were all in this together
I’m made of atoms
You’re made of atoms
And were all in this together …

“And on the subway
We feel like strangers
But were all in this together”

It has been a week of it, hasn’t it? We may try to distance ourselves from what we see as the ‘other’ in politics or geography. But today more than ever, we realise that the world is actually small and that something that affects one of us, affects all of us.

We can take opportunities that present to us every day to enhance the connection we have to the people around us, whether familiar or unfamiliar.

Having a break from my survey work today, I was eating lunch at Flinders St station. I took a seat at a picnic table and it wasn’t long before the 82-year-old across from me struck up a conversation.

It doesn’t take much to connect with someone. Just listening to what they are saying, and responding with questions and observations builds a rapport that makes both of us feel connected.

I might not be able to solve all of the world’s problems or address suffering on a broad scale, but I can take opportunities to connect deeply and well with those who cross my path.

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” The Talmud



December 8th, 2015

The Belier Family, Eric Lartigau (2015)

If you didn’t see this film at the French film festival, you’ll get another chance now – it’s your lucky day. Continuing my signing theme of this week it is a heartwarming film about a family just doing their thing, and grappling with giving their child both roots and wings. You’ll laugh and cry. It is a treat!

The. The. Dazed. Cider. Shaw shank. To.


July Flicks

The Shipping News, Lasse Hallstrom (2001)
This film is such suitable viewing for a wannabe writer, “It’s finding the centre of your story, the beating heart of it, that’s what makes a reporter“. Among other things, this is a story of a man recovering his sense of esteem and voice. In the process of making a new life for himself and his young daughter in the place of his ancestors, he discovers several skeletons and a new love. A beautiful portrayal of ‘sensitive’ people – those who seem to be able to tap into a universal knowledge. Kevin Spacey and Julienne Moore are brilliant. Judi Dench – of course is wonderful, but the real winner is the wonderful book that the film is based on by Annie Proulx.

The Railway Man, Jonathan Teplitzky (2013)
Can’t go past Colin Firth … ever. In this film he shows his flexibility and accomplishment as a seriously fantastic actor. Jeremy Irvine was great also as the young Eric Lomax. I don’t even mind Nicole Kidman – that’s saying something. Based on a true story, this is a testament to the capacity of the human being to transcend huge trauma and suffering through forgiveness. Having gone through my own version of the Spanish Inquisition in the past few months, this film impressed on me that although you may tell the truth, your inquisitors may not be interested in it, or be able to see it with their own colouring of the situation. When this happens, you can only practice forbearance. It also holds a powerful lesson for the way we are the ones that continue our own suffering, continuing to engage with paper tigers. “Sometime the hating has to stop“. Brilliant film.

Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater  (1993)
Quite a stupid film, but I think that is the idea. Unbelievably violent, yet blaze about it. Parker Posey, Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich all looking a whole lot younger!

Night at the Museum, Shawn Levy (2006) 
Another story of a father finding his place in the world, although Ben Stiller isn’t so convincing to me as a father. It had the fantasy elements of the father/son relationship in Big Fish, but also the importance of a father to the imagination of a child as in Life is Beautiful. Reminder of the late, great, Robin Williams with the ever drawling Owen Wilson going head to head with Steve Coogan – a winning combo? Entertaining Sunday night film.

Cider House Rules, Lasse Hallstrom  (1999) 
A simple man working out what his business is. Films always speak to me. This one challenged me to work out what my business is. Maybe this is what I’ll work out in the next 10 weeks (see Via Tolosana posts). I loved Michael Caine in this film, his honour yet brokenness and Toby Maguire for his simpleness and principles. Interesting that both this and the Shipping News (the two were packaged together in a twin case) are of course by the same director and both deal with themes of unwanted children, incest and complicated family relationships. Strongly directed – I’ll put Lasse on my list. Once again also a testament to a great writer, John Irving.

Films about men, but aren’t they all? Fathers, men working out what their business is or as some would put it, with ‘failure to grow up scripts’. I can’t be too critical, after all, I think I have one of those too. Incest – not the most cheery topic, but it makes for very real and raw film material. Water nightmares – an unexpected common theme!

Shawshank Redemption, Frank Darabont (1994)
I had no idea what this film was about, having heard the name for all of the years since it was released, but expecting more of a Bourne Identity-type action thriller. This film couldn’t have been more different but at the same time, so exceed my expectations. The story of this film is so very powerful, yet hopeful. As with Cider House Rules, racism figures strongly amongst the themes of this movie, as does the play between innocence and guilt – and are these just relative concepts anyway? What is the price of freedom? Morgan Freeman has always been a favourite of mine, and once again doesn’t disappoint and as you’d expect, neither does Tim Robbins.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Robert Mulligan (1962)
Despite this film being now over 50 years old, it speaks to a universal truth and will never date. Wrongfully accused of raping a white woman, black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) is defended by a lawyer who at all times stands against the bigotry and racism of his town. Meanwhile his children see literally first-hand how justice and the law are two very different things, and in turn are challenged to bring new understanding to the other ‘mockingbirds’ in their midst. I first read this book, and saw this film in Year 8 of high school, however the only thing I remember is Scout swinging on the tyre swing in the first scene. It is strange how such an image of innocence stays with me when in fact it is the central theme of this film. I had the pleasure of seeing this last night with my friend Natalie at the Marrickville Library, as they were celebrating the release of Harper Lee’s prior written, but never before released book, Go Set a Watchman. A local film buff spoke about the film, and mentioned the deep impact that making this film had on it’s actors, saying that Gregory Peck and Brock Peters remained friends until Peck died. It is worth going back in film history to see how far we have come, and yet how much further we still have to go in terms of seeing justice for all people.

My. New. The. Then.


June 24th, 2015

Latest movie marathon

My Afternoons with Margueritte, Jean Becker (2010). I like simple French films. I don’t need some fancy plot, a mind-bending mystery or drop-dead gorgeous stars. This is a film about the love of words, and the actions of love. It has its pleasant surprises, but deals with the harsh reality of growing up truthfully as well. It certainly doesn’t glamorise its character’s lives. Thoughtful, entertaining and real! Pregnancy.

New Year’s Eve, Garry Marshall (2011). Love Actually meets … well, nothing actually. It is just Love Actually in a different guise. There are so many big name actors in this film that it kind of reads like Who’s Who. It was entertaining and the variety of stories centering around New Year’s Eve was interesting. It is romantic. It is slightly funny – I think that serves the definition of RomCom. Two babies.

The Sweetest Thing, Roger Kumble (2002). More ‘sexual’ than ‘comedy’, this is an unsurprising next chapter to ‘He’s just not that into you‘. Pretty mindless. No stars from Margaret or David I’d guess!

Then she found me, Helen Hunt (2008). Colin Firth. Now there’s two words that work for me in a romantic story! Biological clock. There’s another two words for me that seemed to sum up my movie watching this week, and also make me convinced that we see what we want to see, or are currently trying to wrestle with in our lives. I suppose film and theatre have always been that for me. I liked that this film put lots of different, difficult life events into one 100 minute film. It is nothing to write home about, but the themes of motherhood, partnerhood, grief and loss and providence are worth pondering and more than a little familiar!

Being. Certified. After. The. Edge


May 23rd, 2015 Part 2

So, the films for the week:

Being There, Hal Ashby (1979). If you’ve seen Harold and Maude, this will come as no surprise. The premise is similar to a cross between Forest Gump and The Truman Show and leaves you questioning what is real anyway. Just because you’re ‘there’, it doesn’t mean you have the same take on reality. A really clever and funny exploration of the ruse of capitalism and the trappings of wealth laid bare by a simple gardener. It was strange seeing Peter Sellers in a serious role (one he asked for and got) and it was great seeing Shirley McLaine. Whilst the film looks a little dated now, the portrayal of wealth in it and After the Wedding (below) look strangely similar.

Certified Copy, Abbas Kiarostmi, (2009). This film once again plays with the viewer’s sense of reality. This time some features of long-term relationships such as expectations are explored. I could watch Juliette Binoche forever although it all felt a little too scripted about the art theme of ‘originality’, yet refreshingly original and ambiguous in the true relationship of the two main characters. Maybe there was something lost in the translation between French, Italian and English. William Shimmel was a new one to me, but strangely familiar. He is a highly experienced and accomplished opera singer, however looks to have moved into films – the latest one I’ve seen being Amour.

After the Wedding, Susanne Bier (2007). The best ‘wedding’ genre film I’ve seen, with a close second going to Monsoon Wedding. What a powerful and real film. Set between India and Denmark (with the as-recommended amazing Mads Mikkelsen). The themes of the previous two films come together here – the trappings of wealth and the features of relationships all unfolding with a good pace to reveal the truth of a complex situation.

The Squid and the Whale, Noah Baumbach (2005). Laura Linney is fast becoming my favourite female US actress, not least because I just learnt she gave birth at 49! She seems to pick the most quirky and philosophical films, and does an amazing job with all of them. Her English accent in Driving Lessons was fantastic. So this film, in the long line of her great films breaks my heart for it’s bittersweet content and humour. For me it captured perfectly how we tell the truths that justify our position, the way we repeat the same mistakes over and over, and don’t understand that we are causing the pain in our lives, and most powerfully how parents indoctrinate their children. A really uncomfortable yet valuable film. Jeff Daniels and William Baldwin were hilariously type-cast, and the latter’s tennis-playing ‘brother’ smacked of Wes Anderson … who surprise, surprise was producer. Go Wes!

The Edge of Heaven, Fatih Akin, (2007). WOW. There isn’t an issue of ‘the day’ that this film does not cover. It is such a poignant portrayal of human beings, their foibles, passions and freedoms. In some ways it mirrors the coincidences and seeming serendipitous of After the Wedding and Certified Copy, asking the question, are we connected after all? But despite the search, no-one is truly successful in completing the picture. The characters lives are intertwined, yet they are oblivious to this. It is such a clever story and acted beautifully. Thank you Fatih Akin.

The. Up. Waiting. A. Message


May 23rd, 2015

This week, I’m down one film because Arthur my video man, bless his cotton socks, put ‘The Line of Fire‘ in the ‘Message in the Bottle‘ DVD case, and I didn’t feel like an action film. So …

The Notebook, Nick Cassavettes (2004). A friend has this thing about Ryan Gosling, which she was hoping I would get, mostly if I saw this film. And I must say, yes I now get ‘it’. Is it just me, or is this every woman’s idea of cool? This guy that just comes up to you out of the blue, is absolutely in love with you, and would do anything for you and will be with you for the rest of your life, in sickness and in health. I’m just a crazy, single lady aren’t I. But I now get it. Just so we’re clear, just because his name is Gosling, he, that is, Ryan, didn’t arrange the geese ‘on golden pond’ in the middle of the film. That was just his character – just so you know. Gena Rowlands and James Garner are also lovely. Gena has been in another few of my favourites, Night on Earth, Broken English and Paris Je t’aime (of course!!) and she’s the director’s mother from what I can see. Nice film to watch in hopeful singledom especially given the Bridget Jones-type decision the heroine needs to make.

Up in the Air, Jason Reitman, (2009). George Clooney as a bachelor. Nostalgia. He is now married. That’s all. I’ve seen it before, and it wasn’t that impressive that time either. Being quite a keen flyer and observer of the earth from the air, I did enjoy looking down on all the cities that this frequent flyer frequented. Nice touch.

Waiting for Guffman, Christopher Guest, (1997). To call Christopher Guest the director seems a little misleading, as it is quite clear that the assembled cast (similar to a Wes Anderson line up and crossing over with Best in Show, Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind) are the consummate professionals when it comes to their stylised/improvised mockumentaries. Whilst not the laugh a minute that Spinal Tap or Best in Show are, I was nevertheless both amused and impressed by the stools and martian landings of Blaine. It really is ridiculous, but oh so funny! Guest is brilliant, so too are Parker Posey and the hilarious Eugene Levy, and what really gets me when you see Guest’s whole oeuvre back to back, is the amazing acting skills they bring to bear. Really different characters brought to life by wonderful actors. I can imagine filming tends to resemble theatre sports. Really funny.

A Mighty Wind, Christopher Guest, (2003). Back together for the first time, again” It got me thinking that this little clutch of films is really Andersonian, minus the prop and set detail. It is striking what a group of actors who work together over a period can achieve. The films are quite formulaic, but they really tickle my funny bone, because their observation of the chosen ‘genre’ is just so spot on. Sandals and sock wearing hippies, Lars, Sven and Pippi Olfen and the ex-band members that go off to start sex shops, just as with Spinal Tap, you’d have to read the script to really get all of the ‘in-jokes’. So very simple, so very clever and entirely worth the $2 I paid to hire the DVD. Thanks for recommending these ones (musician friends – you know who you are!!).

with the correct disc in the cover …

Message in a Bottle, Luis Mandoki (1999). Maybe being descended from boat builders makes me a sucker for boat films. Maybe I liked The Police a little too much. Maybe I like Paul Newman, Kevin Costner and Robin Wright (Princess Bride got me early – that’s where I’ve seen her before) (and the connection with all the other films this week – Christopher Guest of course!!!!). Maybe I’m just a great big romantic. Maybe this is just a lovely, sentimental film that provides a really good excuse to cry my eyes out. Or all of the above. I enjoyed it, and I particularly liked that Therese’s boss secretly liked her all along, and that he was always telling her instead of being a researcher, that she should write. I had always thought I’d make a good researcher, and now I’m getting around to thinking I should write. Maybe that’s why I liked this film.

This. Venus. Sweet. Oh.


May 15th, 2015

This is Spinal Tap, Rob Riener (1984). As a musician, I can’t believe I had got to 45 and hadn’t seen this (scuse the pun). It was time to remedy that. There really are only are four words to say about this film “see it and laugh”. But everyone probably knows that already, so I’ll just highlight some of my favourite lines. Characters called Derek Smalls and Stumpy Peeps … “he died in a bizarre gardening accident … best leave it unsolved really“, “choked on vomit, someone else’s vomit“. Then, wait, Fran Fine, yes the Nanny herself working for Polymer records! “The Boston gig’s been cancelled, it’s not a very big college town“, “I’m how God made me“, “barber-shop raga“, Mozart and Bach – Mach, “patron saint of quality footwear“. With lovely cameos of Billy Crystal and Angelica Houston, it almost felt like a pre-cursor to a Wes Anderson film in a particularly ‘British’ way. I loved it!

Venus in Furs, Roman Polanski (2013). I didn’t realise this film was so young, so I broke my usual pattern and hired one nightly and 3 weeklies for $10. This film was recommended for me, and while it was good, I was actually not that interested. Emmanuelle Seigner was absolutely fantastic, but overall the experience was ordinary. It may have also had something to do with trying to watch a French (subtitled film) and have a conversation on OK Cupid – neither of which I did very well. Lesson: just watch a film :)!

Sweet Sixteen, Ken Loach (2002). For all of Ken Loach’s appeal because of his strong stance as a human being, telling stories of people who have been voiceless and powerless in society for decades, I’d have to say I’m uncomfortable with it. But I suppose that’s the idea. Sweet Sixteen is a gritty, powerful, yet predictable drama about a boy who just wants his mum to be happy, and to escape the awful life he thinks she has. It is extremely violent, disturbing and highly frustrating to watch. I’ll be carefully vetting any future Ken Loach film, they are too traumatising!

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Joel and Ethan Coen (2000). I like watching George Clooney (who doesn’t), and in this film he really shines as an actor – ie. he doesn’t seem to just be playing himself. But he does this with strong support from Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro. I found myself asking at the siren scene, what are the stories of Homer’s Odyssey (must read that!), as it was quite clear that this film follows the plot (as the prologue indicates) and I think it would have added extra if I had a knowledge of that. Alas, I didn’t study Classics in High School (aside: it would be great to see what people think they should have studies in Year 12 now they have life experience. For me Classics and French of course would have been there!). Fantastic sound track, and great film.

Le. Me. HeartBreaker. Lourdes.Letters


May 3rd 2015

So, the movie marathon for this week – reportage:

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki) 2011. I remember this one coming to the cinemas and I had always meant to see it back then. It is a delightful film about a community hiding a young African illegal immigrant before trying to get him safely re-united with his mother in England. This story is delicately intertwined with the shoe-shiner, Marcel’s (the boy’s protector) wife’s sudden illness and hospitalisation. It is a delightful, yet simple film which is so very French (right down to the in-joke about whether Mont St Michel is in Normandy or Brittany).

Me and You and Everyone we Know (Miranda July) 2006. With the discomfort of a Noah Baumbach film, this one goes everywhere with its young cast that you’d probably rather not see on screen (or is that just my sensitivities). It is quirky, strange, strained, awkward and so very arthouse. Its R rating is for good reason, and if you’re not a fan of seeing sexualised youngsters on film, I’d steer clear of it. I enjoyed it for all of its boundary-pushing. I think it deals with serious issues bravely and with a large dose of whimsy. It deservedly has won at lots of festivals and the main actress (along with being it’s writer and director), Miranda July is great.

HeartBreaker (Pascal Chaumeil) 2011. What is there not to like about a film with Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis trying not to fall in love? Especially as they’re scooting around Monarco. It had a flavour of the high jinx of the Ocean’s 11 series mixed with Audrey Tatou’s, Priceless that I watched last year. It is always cool to see things catching up with tricksters and tricksters speaking French, well you already know I’m in heaven there! It was also nice to see Belgian, François Damiens again. He was fantastic in Le Famille Belier and I loved him in Delicacy, with Audrey Tatou. He has made over 30 films since 2000 – he’s a machine!

Lourdes (Jessica Hausner) 2011. I have long thought I’d like to see the spectacle of this place in the south of France where hoards of pilgrims line up to see the site of St Bernadette’s apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes in the 1800s. This was a very meditative, if a little naive look at one pilgrim’s experience. There is minimal dialogue, and it moves slowly, but it is an interesting study of the place and pilgrims and basically, human nature – very quick to believe the unbelievable, however when it happens cutting down the tall poppy. This film got best film in Vienna, Warsaw and Seville, not surprisingly given those country’s Catholic heritages. If you’re put off by religion, Catholicism and miracles, don’t watch it. It was good armchair tourism for me.

Note: in 2015, I did visit Lourdes on a detour from my Via Tolosana walk.

Letters to Father Jacob (Klaus Haro). A topical film for this week, this beautiful Finnish film asks the big questions about pardon, forgiveness, compassion, and the power of love. It is the story of Leila, a pardoned life-sentenced prisoner and her new role of letter reader for the blind priest, Jacob. Once again, a contemplative, but deeply moving film about who benefits from our service to others. Also such a simple exploration and plea for understanding of the troubled lives of people who commit murder. Once again, lots of awards won for this one. The cover compared it with As it is in Heaven, and I’d agree it had the weight and skill of that film, however was rather minimalistic by comparison.

Well, that’s your lot for the week 🙂! Took me two weeks to get through that lot.

Tea. Syriana. In. Brazil. Best.


April 2nd, 2015

So, latest movie marathon – something for everyone!

Tea with Mussolini, Franco Zeffirelli (1999)– the combination of Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith never fails to satisfy. Add in Joan Plowright, Cher and Lily Tomlin, and what more could you want. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story – especially about Mussolini. Some may say I’m old before my time. Let them.

Syriana, Stephen Gaghan (2005)– Kind of have to say the same for this line up – George and Matt – but I’m a fan of this combo from way back (ie. Oceans ….). Oh, and did I see William Hurt – that’s also got to be good :)! Same old CIA games – gotta wonder when this story will tire. Same story, different countries. American foreign policy is like a broken record. I seem to remember this film was well reviewed (David and Margaret gave it 4 stars each), but unfortunately for me, good needs to have some kind of originality involved. Maybe some people were surprised about the content. Others of us are just, ‘same old, same old’. Maybe they need to bring out another film about how they won the Vietnam war.

In the Cut, Jane Campion (2003) – A thriller would not normally be on my list, but I have an article about Margaret’s top 5 films of all times. This was on the list. I’d have to say, apart from being annoyed about watching Meg Ryan’s Botox’d upper lip for 2 hours, this was a fantastic Jane Campion film. You can tell by the cinematography – it was reminiscent of Bright Star for lingering shots on quirky colour/texture. I love it.

Brazil, Terry Gilliam (1985) – there should be more films like this made. The dystopian world portrayed strikes at every excess of our current ‘lifestyle’. So very relevant today in so many ways. Who could have known in the eighties how the small screens people could watch anywhere, including in the bath would take over our life. Life really does imitate art (we’re only running 30 years behind science fiction really). Plastic surgery etc etc etc. Love the ducts – ever present (making me smile in every scene). Love the girl of his dreams, bureaucracy, complicity, it was Fahrenheit 451 in a film – j’adore!

and from the sublime to the ridiculous … Best in Show, Christopher Guest (2000). A laugh a minute, out loud. I’ve seen this before, but it is just so, so good and so very funny. ‘Stop listing nuts’ you ventriloquist … :)! The show commentator/UK expert is of course the highlight, but then there’s Parker Posey also a favourite of mine. Big smile, best thing to watch when you’ve been home sick from work all day.

So there you have it. Themes of the week – torture – of all different kinds, plastic surgery or the merits of growing old gracefully and 2-hour-long films.

Moonrise. Wes-o-rama


September 8th, 2014

Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson (2012). Edward Norton – now there’s an actor I’ve never taken any notice of, but is worth noticing. Moonrise Kingdom – all-star, Wes Anderson classic with substantial nod to Benjamin Britten! Fantastic (scuse the pun) night’s entertainment.

The Royal Tanenbaums, Wes Anderson (2001) & Night on Earth, Jim Jarmusch (1991) So film buffs – which African country do The Royal Tenenbaums and Night on Earth have in common?  I find it so serendipitous that when I hire out several films at once and watch them on the same night, there are always things that either connect between them or with something going on in my life. Ah life!

September 10th, 2014

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson (2004) & Elizabethtown, Cameron Crowe (2005)

Continuing the Wes-o-rama quiz questions, what US city (28th largest) do the films The Life Aquatic and Elizabethtown have in common – hint – Kentucky?

October 12th, 2014

In My Father’s Den, Brad McGann (2004)  Junebug, Phil Morrison (2005)

Well, I’ve done it again. Common themes in randomly rented videos. In My Father’s Den and Junebug – common theme – conflict between brothers. Both multi-award nominated/winning. Great music by Yo La Tengo in Junebug.

November 28th, 2014

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson (2004 ).

Is it bad that when our VC was addressing staff at an all staff meeting this morning, and mentioned the sub-marine theme of higher education, all I could think of was Wes Anderson and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou? Particularly the funky music.

November 28th, 2014

Broken English, Zoe Cassavetes (2007) & Basquiat, Julian Schnabel (1996)

Playing movie serendipity again this week. And the theme is …. Parker Posey. Never heard of her before, and I see her in two random films. How about it! First Broken English, a lovely story about a woman, not unlike me, worn out by dating who finds unlikely love with a French man. What a novel idea! 😉! The second, Basquiat with a Walken as well, and an absolutely star studded line up – Willem Dafoe, David Bowie etc. Story of a genius. Quite simply. And the link with Blondie’s Rapture? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHCdS7O248g

Some of the films I have watched in 2014:

Bella, Departures, My Mother’s Castle, My Father’s Glory, Driving Lesson, 50 First Dates, Julie and Julia, Moonrise Kingdom, The Truman Show, Priceless, Calvary, Night on Earth, Secretary, The Darjeeling Ltd, Lars and the Real Girl, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Dan in Real Life, Rushmore, Fantastic Mr Fox, Virgin Suicides, Junebug, In My Father’s Den, Gainsbourg, Lemon Tree, A big year, Yves Saint Laurent (in French), Philomena (in French), The Trip Italy, Le Mepris, Two Days, One Night, Magic in the Moonlight, Mr Turner. Basquait, Broken English.