Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Film Review: Moonlight

Moonlight: 4.5 Stars


I'm not an ordinary Australian movie viewer - and I loved this, even though it was confronting and unsettling at times. Juxtaposing this is the fact that it looks at life in the raw, without blinkers and with a stark beauty which is rarely seen. There's a slightly disturbing feel to this film, like your watching something you don't know whether you should be seeing - and this is what makes the film great.
Despite the numerous awards and brilliant reviews, very little is known heard about this film in Australia - which is a pity, as this is an important film. A very important film, even if it will not appeal to all viewers. The elements of the film which make it less desirable to ordinary Australian viewer are due to the theme and the content. In ordinary Australian life we see little of sexually conflicted men on the mean streets of Miami.

The film is based on three iterations of the life of Chiron (pronounced Shyrone in the film). On finding out the spelling of his name, something kicked in. Chiron, in Greek Mythology is both a nurturing centaur and the wounded healer. This element, which would go over most viewer's heads, only makes this film the more poignant - supplying a key to the film's true meaning.

Known as Little as a boy, Chiron is rescued from bullies by an imposing but kind drug dealer, Juan, played by an impressive Maharshala Ali. Juan rescues the lad from bullies and takes him back to his partner, Teresa (Janelle Monae) for nurturing and a touch of normality. The couple become parental figures to the conflicted boy, whose drug-addled mother and the knowledge that he's not like everybody else - though he cannot put a name to this.

Here is where this film's importance lies. Moonlight shines a light on what it is to be gay and black and on the fringes of an underbelly which many of us never see. It's subtle and incredibly powerful as we see the young Chiron begin to blossom under the gentle firm care of Juan and Teresa, while his home and school life begin to crumble.

The second section presents Chiron's teenage years. Things aren't looking up for the kid, who is still a misfit, still being mercilessly bullied and his mother's drug dependence has increased to a point where she sells herself for her fix. Teresa remains a calming and stable influence on the boy.

This second part of the film is brutal in it's power. As Chiron is still struggling with his place, his sexuality and his dreadful home life, made a little less awful by the presence of the Kevin, a confident kid who becomes Chiron's ally , the film present an aspect of real life that is familiar as it is shocking. What effected me most about this section is how universal these themes of questions, exclusion and how life can turn on a dime. The conclusion of this section is gut-wrenching.

Finally, we see Chiron, or Black as he is now known, as a hardened adult, dealing drugs on the streets of Atlanta. After calls from his mother from the rehab facility in which she now lives, he makes the journey back to Florida to reconnect with his past, including Kevin. The last section of the film is about forgiveness and redemption.

You cannot help but empathise with Chiron. There is little which any feeling, emotionally connected person will not understand from this child, then teenager, then man looking for some sense of peace and self.

There are far too few films which look at what it is to be gay, especially at a young age. Moonlight looks at this unflinchingly, but with a sensitivity that very few films can achieve.

This film deserves the numerous awards and nominations it has received. A Golden Globe for Best Film - Drama. It has been nominated for Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Supporting Actress (Naomi Harris is up there, but I'll still give this to Michelle Williams in "Manchester on the Sea") Best Supporting Actor for Maharshala Ali and Best Adapted Screenplay.

There is a reason why this film has so many award nominations. It's too important not to have them. We need more cinema of this quality and honesty.

This film isn't everybody's cup of tea, but it is very worthwhile.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Bungalow 26 Meme

Lazy Sunday morning in Sydney. Going to see a film soon. Watching Remington Steele on Fox Classics (Oh, Pierce Brosnan - still cute) with a cup of coffee in my hand. Life doesn't get much better than this (Though they're good questions, Sunday Stealing)

1. Which living person do you admire the most, and why?

I have a huge respect for Catherine Hamlin. She's done so much to make better the lives of so many women. Incredible. Fred Hollows is up there too. His foundation gets money off me each month so people can have their eyesight back. I like people who make the world a better place.

2. When were you the happiest?

I think, at this stage of my life, I've been the happiest I've ever been. With friends, a good mind and a bit of security, I'm doing okay.

3. Besides property, automobile or furniture, what is the most expensive thing you have bought?

My Pandora bracelets are probably it. I don't wear them enough.

4. What is your most treasured possession?

My battered and signed copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin - that and the small teddy my grandfather gave me when I was born.

5. Where would you like to live?

I still would love to have the ways and means of living well in London. To live in London you need to live well. But it is expensive.

6. Who would you get to play you in a film of your life?

I think Melissa McCarthy would do a great job of it.

7. What is your favorite book?

Just one? Louis de Bernieres' "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" and Richard Flanagan's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" are equally stunning. Honorable Mentions to:

  • "The Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • "The Natural Way of Things" by Charlotte Wood
  • "Burial Rites" by Hannah Kent

8. What is your most unappealing habit?

I still have a security blanket - though it's more a security ribbon. It hurts nobody so it stays.

9. Twitter or Facebook? (Or if both share the differences in your opinion.) 

Facebook. I really don't get Twitter.

10. What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?

Hack off a branch from a tree and go as Burnham Wood from Macbeth.

11. What is your earliest memory?

I have a flickering memory of being in a bassinette under a tree at a picnic ground listening to the broadcast of man landing on the moon. I also remember visiting my mum in hospital when my sister was born.

12. What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Ice cream. It's the sixth food group.

13. What do you owe your parents?

Nothing except thanks for letting me having opportunities and giving me the knowledge of how to be resilient and cunning.

14. To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?

Far too long and complex to write about here. So I'm not going to.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Reading and writing. Quite simple really.

16. What does love feel like to you?

A cup of coffee and a cuddle first thing in the morning. Being completely comfortable in the presence of another. As an introvert this is a very rare feeling.

17. What was the best kiss of your life?

I had one of those wonderful kissing in the rain down a dingy London Street kisses many years ago. It was wonderful.

18. Which words or phrases do you overuse?

Actually... I put that in to sentences far too often, actually...  And when I write, I have to go in and remove all of the "that"s. They aren't that needed.

19. What's the worst job you have done?

Putting on price tags at a Department Store when I was at university was dire to say the least.

20. If you could edit your past, what would you change?

I'd make sure that I got fitter far earlier than I did. Would have made life much easier.

21. What is the closest you have came to death?

I've been lucky. Nearly mowed down by a car a few months ago wasn't fun, but I've been healthy all my life. The nearest I've felt to death was when I had both ears infected and the drums were about to burst. Never felt pain like it - never want to feel that again.

22. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Running five half marathons. With my fitness history, this is a miracle.

23. When did you cry last?

I went and saw "Lion" on Tuesday. Shed a few tears then.



24. How do you relax?

Read, write, see films and have the odd gin and tonic.

25. What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

Losing 20 kilos. I'm working on it.

26. What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Never give up. Never, not ever. What you give you get back - maybe not in the way you expect, but it does come back.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Disappearing Questions

I was interstate with friends yesterday and was fully intending to get these questions done when I got home, but my flight back was delayed and didn't get in until nearly midnight.

Never to mind, here we go.  Questions, as per normal are from Sunday Stealing.



1. Last movie you saw in a theatre?




Manchester by the Sea. Great film. See my review here.
2. What book are you reading?



Currently, Schindler's Ark by the Australian author, Thomas Keneally. It's the book behind Schindler's List.
3. Favorite board game?





Probably Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit.

4. Favorite magazine?


I don't really read magazines, but I am fond of a flick through Marie Claire and the Australian Woman's Weekly


5. Favorite smells?



Dog's paws in the morning. Anything baking. Fresh coffee.

6. Favorite sounds?



Laughter. A well played saxaphone. Temple bells.
7. Worst feeling in the world?


Humiliation. Powerlessness.
8. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up?


What time is it? First thing I do when I wake up is reach for the phone.
9. Favorite fast food place?


Nandos. Love their chicken and its reasonably healthy.
10. Future child’s name?


I won't be having children, but I'd go something fairly traditional for a boy and possibly Freya for a girl.
11. Finish this statement. “If I had lot of money I’d….?



Be traveling as much as possible and in style.
12. Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?



No. There is a panda on my bedside table, but I don't have one on the bed.
13. Storms – cool or scary?


I love them, as long as I am undercover and don't have to be out in the elements.
14. Favorite drink?


Gin and tonic.
15. Finish this statement, “If I had the time I would….”?

Three novels finished.
16. Do you eat the stems on broccoli?


Of course.
17. If you could dye your hair any color, what would be your choice?


Probably chestnut brown, not too far from what it is now.
18. Name all the different cities/towns you’ve lived in?


Adelaide, Myponga, London, Mykonos, Melbourne.
19. Favorite sports to watch?


AFL Football, snooker, cricket
20. One nice thing about the person who sent this to you?


Sunday Stealing is very diligent about getting in the questions every week - which is a thankless job.
21. What’s under your bed?




Dust and a storage container in which are found my skinny clothes.
22. Would you like to be born as yourself again?





I don't know how to be anybody else but me.
23. Morning person, or night owl?


Morning person.

24. Over easy, or sunny side up?


I'm not a fan of fried eggs - much prefer my eggs scrambled or poached.

25. Favorite place to relax?


Bed, reading a book. I also love going to Ubud, Indonesia - love it there.
26. Favorite pie?


Apple pie is pretty good.
27. Favorite ice cream flavor?





Do I have to name just one? Maggie Beer's caramel and burnt fig jam is pretty good.
28. Of all the people who play, how many of the posts do you usually read?


One or two. time is a bit of a factor here.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Film Review: Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea: 4.5 Stars

I'm going to preface this review by saying that the person I went to the movies came out of the movie and said, 'That was SOOOOOOO slow."

Half of me wanted to ask if we were in the same movie. The other half wanted to ask if she got the point of the film. I let it go. It was late in the evening and this particular friend and I have different ways of viewing films. She has a tendency to nit pick. Just the way it is.

I tend to look for the good.

And this is very good.

The other comment I'll make is I was discussing this film with another friend over breakfast the next morning and we saw the same film. We identified the same things. We were blown away by the same scenes. We were taken with the rawness of the script, the music, the performances, the truth that lies behind the film. I was also very taken with Manchester, Massachusetts - I have been up that way, so it's scenery with which I'm familiar. I was in awe of this movie.

 I suspect some people will find it slow, like my friend. Then again, you write a film which is predominantly an exploration of grief, loss and understanding, you don't expect it to run like the 'Da Vinci Code" or some other action filled blockbuster.

This is not a film for everybody. Like my friend. I would also put in a caveat and say this isn't a film you want to see if you've suffered a recent bereavement or aren't in a great state of mind. For a lot of this film, things are pretty grim for all concerned.

"Manchester by the Sea" is phenomenal, but somewhat hard-going in a lot of places. It's not easy viewing at times, and it has a sucker punch attached to it in numerous places that can, and will take your breath away.

The story is fairly simple. Lee, exquisitely played by Casey Affleck, is a janitor living on minimum wage in Boston. He is called back to Manchester MA, his home town, on the death of his brother, where he is the nominated custodian of his 16-year-old nephew.

From the beginning, you work out that Lee has no desire to be in this town. At all. Ever. And the town's people aren't really that happy to see him, but are okay with him, under the circumstances, having to come back and to look after his parent-less nephew.

What follows is just over two hours of the story of how Lee comes to work out why Lee doesn't want to be in Manchester - shown in flashbacks, as well as how he will get out of the dilemma of having custody of his nephew, Patrick.

I won't say much more about the plot - not knowing makes this all the more better.

The performances are outstanding. Casey Affleck, no matter the controversy, deserves his Oscar nomination. He's wound up like a cheap watch for the whole film and once the true reason for his behaviour is shown, you understand why. Lucas Hedges is outstanding as Patrick, the fatherless, motherless boy who's dealing with the joys of adolescence. There is one scene of Michelle Williams, playing Lee's ex-wife that is mind-blowing - and one again deserving of the Oscar nod - and I really hope she gets it. She is incredible in this. Cameos from Gretchen Mol, Matthew Broderick and Kyle Chandler round out this film. Oh, and Patrick's band - FABULOUS.

The other thing I loved about this film was the scenery - Massachusetts being a US State I have visited in the past. The haunting use of Handel's choir music is also apt and atmospheric.

"Manchester by the Sea" is a film that you'll think about for days. It's not a particularly happy film, although there is a bit to snort about, particularly watching Patrick navigate the joys of being a teenager.

Coming out of this film was similar to when I came out of Calvary.

This is so worthwhile, despite the hard themes.Hats off to all concerned. This is a masterpiece.



Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Raquet Questions

Another weekend, another blog. Far too much to do today and would rather be reading, but here we go.

Questions, as always, from Sunday Stealing.


01  What is the worst nickname that anyone has ever called you?

I really hate being called "Babe" or "Baby". Just loathe it. I'm an adult.

02  Have you got a favorite flower?

Roses. Love all sorts of roses.

03  Do you add a sauce, ketchup or other artificial flavorings to your food?

Yes to these, but only certain foods. Barbeque and eggs need tomato sauce. Ham needs mustard. Chips need something too.

04  Describe yourself using only words that begin with the letter 'T'.

Terrible, tremendous, toned, tenacious, tender, target-focussed, tipsy,

05  What is/was your lover's pet name for you?

Never had a pet name.

06  What is your least favorite color?

Chartreuse. Not overly fold of pink either.

07  Who did you vote for in the last election, and did they win?

I voted for our Greens candidate in the last federal election - he did get in - Adam Bandt is a god guy and represents what I think well. In the senate (upper house) I did a good mix of Labor (The more liberal of the parties) the Greens and a couple of independents. I live in the only Green Federal district in Australia.

08  What is/was your grandfathers’ names?

Darcy Elliot and Reginald Lancelot. Be thankful the latter two names have not come back into fashion.

09  What is the best present you ever received?

I got a full Pandora bracelet for my 40th - I love it.

10  What is 17 1/2% of 97 + 42 x (6 / 2) – 137 ? [Editor's note: Holy shit!]

49 - I used a calculator.

11  What would be the best possible way you could die?

Peacefully, in my sleep, with somebody to find me and smile that I had a good life in the morning.

12  Given the choice of absolutely anything, what would be your dream job?

Still a writer.

13  What position do you sleep in at night?

I'm a tummy sleeper - though I do go only my side a bit too. But I start off on my tummy.

14  What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?

Too many things to mention. Having my dress split at work one day in the 90s was awful and mortifying.

15  Who is your favorite fictional character?

In no order - Severus Snape from Harry Potter, Jeffrey Lu from Jasper Jones, Cal from Middlesex, Willem from "A Little Life". Too many more to mention.

16  What food do you hate most in the world?

I'm not a fan of bananas or chick peas. And I don't eat much pork either.

17  When was the last time you were ill?

I had a virus over Xmas, but that wasn't a big sick. Had the flu in May - that wasn't fun.

18  If you were transformed into a wild creature, what would it be?

I'd love to be a tiger. Love tigers.

19  What was your favorite toy as a child, and whatever happened to it?

I used to love lego - and my mother still has the box of it in the cupboard which my nieces loved to play with. Lego is great stuff. Still love it.

20  What's the most amazing thing you've ever seen?

I've seen a number of animals born and die, but I still think you can't beat a good sunset. Vermeer's "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" and Jackson Pollock's "Blue Poles" are amazing, but in different ways.