A few plays and movies

As well as a concert and an opera, in February, March and the start of April I saw a couple of plays and movies. The latter at the cinema, not just on tele. (I know. I lead an exciting life.)

I subscribe to the Sydney Theatre Company and see about six plays a year. I’ve seen two thus far. 

Play 1: The Testament of Mary based on the novel by Colm Toibin. I loved the book; one of my keepers which I reviewed earlier. The play was equally moving. It was impressive that the actor sustained the energy for basically what was a monologue.  Mary’s voice and her equivocating on the supernatural nature of Jesus is just as strong in the play. Before the play we had lunch at the Dance Cafe. Great venue – in the middle of one of the long wharves. And the food’s quite good too. 

Play 2: Another deeply moving play, The Bleeding Tree. With only three actors, it felt like there were more characters on stage, as the actors took on other voices. The mother and her two daughters kill the father as they suffered DV for years. The neighbours turned a blind eye to his death/murder, as many had to the DV. I normally do a matinee but for this play we went to a Saturday night performance. The city lights were awesome. We ate at a busy Italian before the play. I had the yummiest pizza with arancini balls to start. Of course I had to have a glass of prosecco. Or two. Afterwards we walked along the harbour. The city was pumping that night and everywhere was full.

Movie 1: Les Innocents. A French movie that was part of the French movie festival. I went with the young and lovely Sarah. (Such fresh and glowing skin!!!) Of course we ate and talked and had a cocktail and talked. Oo la la. (That was what the cocktail was called, apparently. Or maybe that was just for the festival!) I love unique tales that show me something I knew nothing about.  Polish nuns raped by Russian soldiers and tended by French medics at the immediate end of WWII was definitely new for me. 

Movie 2: I got free preview tickets to see Their Finest. (Love how I have scored free and discounted tics this year!!!) Bill Nighy was brilliant. Who knew he could sing? Highlight for my friend and me was hearing him sing Will Ye Go Lassie (Wild Mountain Thyme). The movie was a sweet and somewhat melodramatic love story set in WWII. My only caveats was the incidental music, which I found annoying, and something else which I have forgotten and as I only saw it a week ago, it couldn’t have been a big caveat. The country scenery was beautiful. Before this film, (you can guess the trend here) I also ate – at a Lebanese restaurant with the softest falafals I’ve ever had – and talked a lot. No drinking, though. I was driving.

On the small screen, I have watched quite a few films and series:

  • Sisters with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Funny and silly. Good to while away 90 minutes. 
  • Captain Fantastic. Father raises his children in the woods and then has to leave as the mother dies. I loved the challenge to what is normal. Worth watching. 
  • No Offence. Series 2. I love, love, love this series. Fast talking with northern English accents, it can be hard to follow. Crime with black humour, this was written by the fellow who wrote the first series of Shameless. Same take on the world. 
  • Vera. Another English crime series. Vera looks like a bag lady. I didn’t enjoy it so much after her first offsider left. 
  • Gogglebox. I love watching people watch TV. I like all the watchers. Well picked Gogglebox producers. I like how I get an overview of the shit on tele without watching all the shit. It’s like getting a dose of pop culture without suffering.  I mean who really wants to watch the stupid cooking shoes (only The Great British Bake Off is worth watching.) And any of the real housewives series is absolute shite. The reaction from the Gogglebox people makes it all funny. 
  • Distant Voices, Still Lives. Apparently this is considered a masterpiece. From England it tells of a working class family from Liverpool ruled by an abusive father. It wasn’t just the bleakness that lost me. It was so disjointed. Shhh, but I used the fast forward button. 
  • The Guard. An Irish black comedy with Brendan Gleeson. I do like black comedies and this one was brilliant. Gleeson was in the black comedy, In Bruges, that I liked too. 

I’m not going to tell you which ones of these films you should see, cause it really depends on what you like. But if you want me to pick one for you, tell me what sort of films or series you like, and I’ll tell you which one is for you. 

Anyway, you can see I’ve been busy in things beyond work. And I haven’t even written about our “out and about” adventures!!!

Watching in the rain

So there I was hoping it would rain. 

I bought a super umbrella. It’s inside out. 

I love good design. I love innovation. I love things that work. Here’s the man at work with video of the prototype that got me. 

I just wanted a little rain so I could test out my umbrella. Except it hasn’t stopped raining. Sorry, Sydney.

Anyway I’ve caught up on some movies. So all good. Here’s the movies in order of you must watch it to OK, if you want to waste some time. 

You simply must see the French film La Famille Bélier. It was so beautiful, I cried. Iit’s not a tragedy. It’s just a gorgeous tale of growing up with great singing and  humour. 

The novel The Light Between the Oceans was overly melodramatic for me. Likewise the movie, but I think the tale works better as a film. I kind of wished I had seen it on the big screen as the landscape is amazing. The acting is good but yeah, the story is soapy. 

Oldboys is a poignant road trip movie right down to the big classic American car. Except it’s Danish and set in Sweden. 

Another road trip movie, this one across Australia, Thunderstruck was silly. In some bits, really silly but it doesn’t pretend to be a deep piece of art and so you start watching with no expectations. 

If it stops raining, I might go on an adventure. For now it’s movies and books. Oh and planning my trip to France. 

Film catch-up. 

Some films have to be seen on the big screen. Luckily some don’t. And some are better at home on DVD where you have control over the rewind and fast forward. 

Love and Friendship, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella, Lady Susan, is one that benefited from watching at home. It’s a very enjoyable romp. My favourite reviewer, Deborah Ross, gives, as always, a better, and funnier, review than I can do. 

So why would I want to control the remote? There’s all this fast talking (as in arn’t we witty wordsmiths rather than a poor enunciation issue) and maybe I am just too old but I missed several bits, so I had to rewind to listen again. I would have been so annoyed in the cinema to have missed so much. 

Also some lines were of the “I need to write this down and use it” kind, so warranted listening to again. Except I didn’t write them down and now can’t recite it with the same pithy force. Like “facts are so tiresome” when someone finds something unflattering out about you. 

I chanced upon A Good Woman on the public broadcaster we have that has an online catch-up of movies from around the world. The film didn’t get rave reviews – I googled while watching. But I enjoyed it, with caveats. 

As a movie to watch at home, that I paid nothing for, that I expected little from, I give it five stars. (If I’d gone to the cinema and paid, it’d drop to three and a half, three if I’d be in a purist Wilde mood.) Enjoy it for the clothes, scenery and plot with a happy ending. 

By the by, in Spanish it was titled Seductress Perfect Lover. I’m no good at Spanish but wouldn’t that change the whole meaning of the movie – what is a good woman? And wouldn’t you expect something different? I’d be giving it much lower star rating if I expected a film with sex and sexuality. 

Besides being sumptuous period pieces based on works by famous English authors, both films adapted the tales to include American actors as Americans (as opposed to American actors speaking in English accents playing English). I have an equanimity about this. But does it bother you?

Caveats & reviews

Deborah Ross is a film reviewer who makes me, and a lot of people, laugh. She also expresses her thoughts much more eloquently, and humorously than I, hence she is a highly paid writer and I am a blogger without national syndication. (I don’t know if syndication is the right word; another reason I am not a paid writer but I think you know what I mean. I do value your reading but I don’t have many of you.)

I had to share her explanation of caveats for films she thinks are wonderful. (I know she will value the subsequent growth in her readership.)

See, when I like a book, I often still have concerns. And sometimes my readers think I found the book unsatisfactory. Such as my review on The Girl with all the Gifts. 

Here’s what Ms Ross said:

You will have registered the buzz surrounding La La Land and clocked its seven Golden Globe wins and 11 Bafta nominations. However, I know you won’t believe it’s wonderful unless you hear it directly from me, so here you are: it’s wonderful. Mostly. It’s wonderful, with a few caveats. I feel bad about the caveats but if you have caveats and repress them, it can make you quite ill in later years. Best to get them out there. But just so we’re clear: La La Land with caveats is still more wonderful than almost anything else.

Now you probably want to know what her caveats on La La Land are. Well you will just have to google her. This was not the point. It was that that even when you think something is wonderful, you can still have caveats. So too even if you enjoy something and don’t think it is wonderful but just OK and worth whiling away some time on, doesn’t mean you don’t have caveats. 

So please don’t take my caveats as a condemning of a book or film. 

And if want to laugh, read Deborah Ross’ review of Gone Girl. 

As to my view of La La Land. I loved it and I have no caveats. It was wonderful. Go see it. On the big screen. Don’t wait for it to come out, well you can’t say DVD anymore, but whatever it is that movies come it on after movie cinema release. 

We want our own hill 

Binge watching a TV series with a friend (Doctor Foster – the series’ name, not the friend’s, and yes, it was quite good, if you’re asking), we both commented at the same time when this scene came on:

Photo taken of my TV while watching

English movies and TV shows often have a scene where the characters sit on a hill overlooking London or the town or the village. 

Are there that many empty hills in England?

Does everyone walk up them to think or have deep and meaningfuls?

Well everyone from the village/town/London can’t be up the hill. Because the scenes rarely show any other people. 

Here’s two scenes from The Full Monty. 

Here’s a scene from the TV show Stella. 

Here’s one from Brassed Off. 

Can you name a movie or TV show with a similar scene?

Look out next time. They’ll turn up. 

In Brugge

I put this movie on my want to watch list after reading about Brugge as part of my planning for our trip next year. 

After a little bit I realised I had watched it before. But it is worth watching twice. 

The humour. The gratuitous violence. The  naivety of Colin Farrell’s character. The sadness. The beauty of Brugge. 

The second afternoon of my holidays well spent.  

Oh and I’m still alcohol free. More on that soon. 


The benefits of recuperating from a boring op is that I have time to watch TV. I’ve watched some absolute rubbish, some dirty secrets, some mindless stuff to distract myself. (But we won’t talk about that.)

Let’s talk about the good stuff, the worthy stuff. Well maybe not all of it would be that. Anyway…

I have finally finished Wolf Hall. I stopped watching this series months and months ago, possibly in January, at the end of episode 3, where the first novel, Wolf Hall, ended. All this time later I still love it. I love the setting (I want to travel to these places), the props, the clothing and the atmospheric music. Cromwell obviously has his eye on Jane Seymour but the king gets in first. I will have to get hold of the second novel by Hilary Mantel. 

Yes, we know the story but it is in the telling, the characterisation that lies the new, the interest. Mantel’s Cromwell observes and plots and manipulates; a man of honour, he wants to protect Jane. (I know it seems contradictory that Cromwell is a honourable while at the same time he plots intrigue to give the king his will. But therein lies the attraction. He sells his soul and he knows it but what choice does a bruiser have?)

We have a great public TV broadcaster that started as a multicultural station – “bringing the world back home” was its catch phrase. It still plays foreign language films and now it has a stack of films on catch-up. 

The Other Son, a French film, has similar themes to the novel I read recently, Mornings in Jenin. Set in Israel, two boys nearing 18 years of age, are discovered to have been swapped st birth during a missile attack. One raised as an Israel Jew, the other Palestinian Muslim. 
You know it is going to be heart-wrenching.  Not just for the parents. But the whole Israeli-Arab conflict which is st the heart of this intensely human story.  How would you feel if your child was swapped at birth and raised by a family that was your enemy? 

The actors move between Hebrew, French, English and Arabic with great skill as the characters struggle to find a common language. The different languages reflect the problems of understanding and communication. 

Beyond the political theme, lies the perennial question of nature/nurture. To what extent are our genes to play in who we are? Or is it how we are raised? The one raised as a Jew is told by his rabbi, that being the best student, being raised Jewish, being circumcised, doesn’t make him Jewish. He needs to convert. Whereas the Arab son is Jewish because his mother is. (What bloody rot religion is!)

Well worth watching, it does offer hope for reconciliation at individual levels, if not whole population. There were bits I had to mute; too scary for me! Surely I senior Israeli officer would not enter the enclosed lands alone? I kept preying that it wouldn’t end badly. 

I watched a German film, Fack ju Göhte (translated to Suck me, Shakespeer).  It was along the lines of a typical Hollywood movie, a German version of Bad Teacher, not that I’ve ever watched Bad Teacher. The characters had a warmth. And it was lighthearted fun. I enjoyed trying to understand the words without looking at the translation. 

The Dutch film Twin Sister was very sad. Twins, separated after their parents die, one raised by wealthy, urbane Dutch family, the other by a poor German peasant family. Anna, the one who remains in Germany is never allowed to attend school an, even as a young child; the family have her work as an unpaid drudge and beat her to point of death. All she wants to do is go to school, finally being sent to a school for domestic servants by the priest who rescues her after the savage beating.  The Dutch girl, Lottie, has a life of leisure, music and sailing. 

Through flashbacks we see their lives as little girls in the 1926, in the 30s, during the war and after the war. It raises lots of questions, questions of guilt, collective and personal; forgiveness; and to what extent those who did evil were in a position to chose. Anna was beaten, not allowed to school, forced into domestic service. She had no choice. Is she responsible for what went on? She did marry an SS officer? Does that mean she is guilty for supporting the regime?

I did fast forward bits. Not because it was bad but because it was sad. But of course that would be expected with a story set in WWII in Germany and The Netherlands, especially with one sister engaged to a Jewish fellow. Fast forwarding didn’t stop me crying though. A lot!

The worst movie I watched was Sleeping Beauty, an erotic drama. A girl is drugged for men to act out certain desires. It was crap. Thank heavens for fast forward. Do NOT waste your time watching this, unless you want to be outraged. Though I was impressed a character could say her lines with a straight face.  “Your vagina is a temple.” This was the only Aussie film I watched. What a waste of my time. 

I also started two series, Victoria and The Village. And watched some Friday Night Dinner. Some historical romance, grim historical drama and crass farce. Ticks all the boxes for TV series.