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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. 

More on caveats 

Do you use a rating system for books or films? If so, do you give full marks?

 

I don’t think most people would think 2 stars means the book is OK. Then again, I know people who won’t give five stars. (Just as I’ve known English teachers who wouldn’t give full marks for an essay!)

Well besides the fact that if you have a scale, say one to five, and you leave off the ends, haven’t you just made the scale one to four? 

I find the fact that on Goodreads you can’t give half marks so by using one to four difficult. It limits you so you have to capture books together that you may not have lumped together on your satisfaction rating. You’ve only got four groupings!!!


Anyway, put aside those queries on the logic of not giving top marks, to deal with my main objection. 

Giving any mark is dependent on contexts and caveats. 

Let’s use TripAdvisor as an example. I might stay at a cheap place that’s a bit down at the heels but give it four, because  it was good FOR the price and expectations. Conversely if I stayed at a five star resort but felt it didn’t live up to the price, even if the accommodation and included activities were better than the cheap down-at-heels place, I might give it three, or even four stars. The latter rating doesn’t mean it is equal to or the same as the down-at-heels place but that it is not the best expensive place to stay. 

Does this make sense?

Here’s another example. I ate out at our recent trip to Canberra. One was an expensive restaurant. $150 for two without wine. (And I had two entrees rather than an entree and a main which would have bumped up the price.) I gave it five stars. The food was divine and the service friendly and attentive. The service at the other restaurant, a modern Indian, was also friendly and attentive, but without that finesse from the expensive restaurant. The modern Indian was cuts above your average suburban Indian, and priced accordingly. I gave it four stars. You want something nice and tasty and above your normal butter chicken and beef vindaloo? This is it. But if you expected, and prefer, your normal suburban Patak style Indian, you might be shocked at the price and give this restaurant two stars. Alternatively, if the Indian restaurant was priced higher, say at the same as the expensive restaurant, my rating would drop from four to three, maybe even two. 

Films have contextualised expectations too. It could depend on whether I watched it for free on TV or paid for it at the cinema. Or my expectations. Let’s say I paid for a movie, I might give it five stars, even with caveats, because it spoke to me, made my heart sing, or made me laugh a lot. 

And books? Books that I read and say, “That was awesome. I couldn’t put it down,” they get five stars. 

But beyond caveats and contexts, I get to the heart of star ratings. I hate them for books and films. How can you compare a self-help book with a work of fiction? A piece of literature with some Woman’s-Weekly-stickered, trashy, quickly written novel? (Yes, I’m a book snob.)

And at the heart of it, how can you sum up a book or a film in a number? I need to explain my caveats. I loved it but … It was good but … It was OK but … It was shit but …  

I give it five stars but

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.