Tag Archives: films

A season for reading

When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.

That’s a quote from the classic film ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and it regularly runs through my head.

I watched that film in the cinema with my parents as a 12 year old and I remember that quote. It was shocking! I heard it as ‘children read differently to, more meaningfully than, better than adults’ and I thought ‘No way.’

No way. How could that be? We were taught to read as part of growing up. How could a kid do such a grown up thing, like reading, in a superior way to an adult?

Well, unsurprisingly, Nora Ephron was right in all her screenwriting brilliance. It’s exactly how life has panned out for me. I devoured books as a kid and a teenager, and I can tell you about so many books that have shaped my outlook on life, my identity. And then I finished school, I had to read piles of textbooks and journal articles for uni, and suddenly I stopped reading fiction. I had forgotten how to lose myself in a book! And then when I tried to start reading again, well, it was enjoyable enough, but very few books – especially fiction books – have stayed with me in the same way they did when I was young.

This year I began properly working four days a week. I’ve had extra time up my sleeve for housework, for visiting family and friends, and for reading. It’s my season for reading. And I know that these books will never become a part of my identity in the way that my reading as a child did, but I’d like to try and remember it at least! I’m going to record and review this year’s fiction reading here. Maybe some reflecting will help these books to become more of my identity after all.

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The Ethics of Elfland

What role do fairy tales play in the lives of grown ups?

Last week I had the surprising privilege of seeing Disney’s adaptation of Into the Woods and reading G.K. Chesterton’s chapter The Ethics of Elfland on the same day.

I know, I know that the stage musical is better. Certainly the film of Into the Woods lost out by downplaying the infidelity and not killing off the narrator and not drawing as much attention to our fear of death. But they only had so much time and the story is still so good and it was beautifully filmed. I really enjoyed it.

Mostly I think I enjoyed it because I have been reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and I finished reading his chapter The Ethics of Elfland right before I walked into the cinema. I was not expecting to read an extensive exploration of how fairy tales connect with grown up thought that day. It definitely put me in an unusual frame of mind to see Stephen Sondheim’s take on all these fairy tales and how they speak to grown ups today.

There are many interesting themes in Into the Woods but one of the biggest overarching themes is that nothing is black and white. The message takes on so many forms in the story. There is confusion about how to seek justice in the middle of chaos; characters learn to be content with a not-as-happy ending; there is the powerful line in ‘You are not alone’: ‘you decide what’s right, you decide what’s good’. G.K. Chesterton, on the other hand, seems pretty sure that objective morality exists. He has been convinced – by fairy tales no less! – that there is some kind limit or rule imposed on us that we do well to keep, even if we don’t understand why.

This princess lives in a glass castle, that princess on a glass hill; this one sees all things in a mirror; they may all live in glass houses if they will not throw stones. For this thin glitter of glass everywhere is the expression of the fact that the happiness is bright but brittle, like the substance most easily smashed by a housemaid or a cat.

And this fairy-tale sentiment also sank into me and became my sentiment towards the whole world. I felt and feel that life itself is as bright as the diamond, but as brittle as the window-pane ; and when the heavens were compared to the terrible crystal I can remember a shudder. I was afraid that God would drop the cosmos with a smash.

Remember, however, that to be breakable is not the same as to be perishable. Strike a glass, and it will not endure an instant; simply do not strike it and it will endure a thousand years. Such, it seemed, was the joy of man, either in elfland or on earth ; the happiness depended on not doing something which you could at any moment do and which, very often, it was not obvious why you should not do.

Now, the point here is that to me this did not seem unjust. If the miller’s third son said to the fairy, “Explain to me why I must not stand on my head in the fairy palace,” the other might fairly reply, “Well, if it comes to that, explain the fairy palace.” If Cinderella says, “How is it that I must leave the ball at twelve?” her godmother might answer, “How is it that you are going there till twelve?” If I leave a man in my will ten talking elephants and a hundred winged horses, he cannot complain if the conditions partake of the slight eccentricity of the gift. He must not look a winged horse in the mouth.

And it seemed to me that existence was itself so very eccentric a legacy that I could not complain of not understanding the limitations of the vision when I did not understand the vision they limited. The frame was no stranger than the picture. The veto might be as wild as the vision ; it might be as startling as the sun, as elusive as the waters, as fantastic and terrible as the towering trees.

5 Favourite Films Set In (American) High Schools

A number of factors have converged to make this season of life particularly amenable to watching silly movies set in American high schools. I’in between jobs with lots of free time; I’ve been reunited with old friends who I used to watch these movies with; it’s been ten years since I finished high school myself and I’m feeling nostalgic.

When it comes to movies set in American high schools it’s usually hard to tell one from another. They all have almost the exact same story line, the exact same characters, the exact same jokes – sometimes it even feels like they are filmed on the same sets. But there are a handful I really love watching in spite of myself.

Here they are: my top 5 films set in (American) high schools.

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Frozen

I finally got around to watching Disney’s Frozen, at the suggestion of my three-year-old buddy Herbie. It’s his favourite movie at the moment. Frozen was really lovely, and wonderful, and Disney/Pixar animated children are the cutest ever, and HOORAY for Disney abandoning some of it’s silly romantic and gender-role tropes, and HOORAY for Disney celebrating love between sisters, etc.

I had a chat with Herbie about his birthday invitations, which are of course Frozen themed. As I pointed out the characters and asked him questions about the story our conversation went something like this:

“So who is this?”
“Anna.”
“And who is this?”
“Elsa. She made the monsters.”
“Oh, OK. Who helps get rid of the monsters?”
“The man.”
“Oh! Does Anna help at all?”
“It’s the man. The man is the helper.”

I’m not sure what to make of that interchange at all. Which man is he talking about? Is “helper’ synonymous with “hero” for a three year old? Did Herbie think he was he saving the day? Or did Herbie think he was helping out Anna or Elsa as the two sisters saved each other and brought the story to a happy end?

Maybe Disney needs to produce a few more of these kinds of stories for these ideas to clear up!

Midnight in Paris

Last night Matt took me to the movies on a date. If you know anything at all about me and movies you will know that I really dislike going to the cinema. I hate being in a dark space for so long and then coming outside and realising that that was two hours of your life that you will never get back – even if it was a very good two hours!

This time was different. This time the experience was so delightful I would live those 1.5 hours over and over again if I could!

We went to see Midnight in Paris. I knew absolutely nothing about this film except that Clare had said it was wonderful. We found some seats at the back of a little theatre in Palace Leichhardt and I sat waiting to see what was so great about this movie. Immediately the film pulled me stright into the spirit of Paris with a beautiful montage and music. We were off! For about 2 minutes I was worried that we had wasted money on a cheesy romantic comedy but my fears were alleviated with the appearance of Michael Sheen (always Tony Blair to me!). And a few scenes later my fears completely dissipated as the plot suddenly plunged into being. Just like Owen Wilson’s character, my draw dropped open, and I sat there in the dark of the cinema, incredulous, mothing my surprise along with his character (“Zelda!?”). I was hooked; it was beautiful. All reality was suspended and I went along for the ride, only stopping occasionally to turn to Matt in the darkness, gesticulate wildly and whisper “this movie is AWESOME!”.

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You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city? You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form…

Please see it. Especially if you don’t know anything about this movie at all. It will make the experience even more magical!

When I came home I had a craving for Paris like never before so I went through my movie drawer and pulled out Funny Face, just to watch the Bonjour Paris! number with all of its shots of the city. I think if I get a chance soon I will also need to watch some of the other beautiful Paris movies in my DVD drawer: An American in Paris, Amelie, and my absolute favourite: A Little Romance.

Do you have a favourite Paris movie?

A quick succession of busy nothings

Oh Livejournal! So glad you are back! I have been trying to fill the hole with some other sites – twitter is becoming a bit of a staple and I have just discovered Pinterest. Is anyone else out there using Pinterest? (My user name is still spally…!)

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This time next week I will be at the market, running a stall for the first time. I’m pretty excited, with a little bit of terror thrown into the mix. At least I will be there with my friend Celia, and not doing it alone is making is much less scary. I’m hoping the weather holds and that I can get everything organised in time.

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Last night Matt and I broke a record for the number of people in our apartment at one time. The geography-plus-everyone-else kids came over for dinner and somehow we managed to sit and feed fourteen people. Admittedly a lot of people had to bring things to sit on, and things to eat with, but it all worked and I had a wonderful time. I also learnt how to cook heaps of neat things in preparation, like Massaman curry, roasted pumpkin soup and stewed apples. Lifetime skills!

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My sister did a shift as a cheerleader for the Sydney Roosters last night. It was just filling in for someone else – hopefully not permanent! I had this weird sensation of disappointment and pride when I saw pictures on facebook. It’s so great that she is doing something she loves but there is so much wrong with the cheerleading culture I don’t even know where to begin.

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I started watching some Jane Eyre adaptations after re-reading the novel (thanks for the tips, ringsandcoffee!). The one with Ciaran Hinds was OK (that’s all I will say about it, to try and mask my disappointment). Now I am onto the recent miniseries. I’m excited because:

1. It has the cute actress that played Lucy in Narnia
2. So far they haven’t dumbed down the religious parts of the characters as much as the other version I watched – although I am only 20 minutes in so I’m not sure what is going to happen from now on!

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I wish there were three days to a weekend.

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“Oh I love you a lot. I love you from the top of my heart.”

Jane Austen on film

I watched the old school Pride and Predjudice today – the really really old school one, with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. Normally I avoid this film because it is possibly the worst ever remake of a book. That said I really enjoyed it today. Even with the Victorian costuming and befuddled plot lines, Greer Garson makes an amazingly pretty and witty Lizzy Bennet.

As I was watching, a number of things jumped out at me as being extremely familiar.

What!? What is familiar!? Find out under the cut!