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How do they get it so scary? 

As a child I used to watch Dr Who through my fingers or behind a pillow. 

The first episode of the latest series was no different. 

How do they get it so creepy?  

The threat of menace. The unknown. The implied. 

How can a puddle of water be so creepy?


As a character says, “But what if it attacks us?”

And then the juxtaposition of humour. Did you run out of money? Can I use the toilet? This is a lift. 

All about the TARDIS. 

The Pilot could be a pilot for a new series, attracting new viewers as the series seems to be starting a new. Of course it has a double meaning. 

And how good is it that the Doctor visits Australia? 

And I love the new offsider. 

Best of all, I watched the first two episodes and I understood them fully. 

The second episode wasn’t as scary but was novel. I love the juxtaposition of cute but scary. 


Are you a Whovarian? I am!

The Crown

I won’t pay for Netflix but won’t say no to one of my sons paying for it. And quite glad I was to when The Dreamer took up a subscription.  

I thought I’d give the much lauded series, The Crown, a go. I didn’t think I’d like it. Possibly too hagiographic. Or sensationalised. 

But no, it’s dramatic, touching, funny, romantic, frustrating in turns. And it gives a insight into the politics and religious values in the 50s. 


Fantastic settings and props; brilliant acting; sharp scripts. 

Oh! And the clothes. And jewellery. 


Worth spending two afternoons on the lounge. 

Any viewing suggestions? And not Nordic noir. 

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!!!

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. 

Watching 

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. 


Saving Mr Banks

I don’t know how many times I watched Disney’s Mary Poppins while growing up. 

There were scenes I hated, scenes I loved. Dick Van Dyke as a cockney? Save me. That whole half-animated scene where they jump into the picture. I’m with Travers. Awful. But the dancing chimney sweeps and the song “Feed the Birds”. Love it. 

Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height, let’s go fly a kite and send it souring, up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear. (I know I’ve got you singing.)

I read the Mary Poppins books as a teenager. It took me that long as I was put off by the sweetness of Disney’s representation. She’s not sweet but she’s not wicked either. 

I saw the staged version a few years ago, which quite closely follows the movie. The stage production was impressive, especially the dancing around the stage, as in up the walls and across the ceiling and down the walls. I’ve read a biography on Travers too. Knew she was Australian, and that she hid that fact. 

So to Saving Mr Banks. I love Emma Thompson. And thought the film’d be an interesting take on the creative process. 

So did I like the film?

I couldn’t get over the Australian scenes in towns. They looked so clean. So tidy. So unAustralian with the neatly painted and complete two story buildings, all lined up together. No huge corner pub. Come on. This is Australia. The biggest buildings are usually the corner pub. And such an impressive train station! In rural Queensland? 

This Australia is So Disneyfied. And so it is. Filmed on sets on America. 


However they did get the Australian light and countryside. (Apparently filmed where Little House on the Prairie was filmed.) even if they didn’t live in the countryside but in the small town. (And why when carrying bags full of their possessions are their arms not dragging?)


The fake Americanised Australia made me question what else has been Disneyfied. 

A lot apparently. 

I get it is a film and the story is fictionalised to get to the inner kernel of truth, the heart of the story. (OK. Really, just to entertain, to appeal to large numbers, to sell. And Disney does that well.)

But why have Travers as such a stereotype of British repressed womanhood? Her true story is so interesting – adopted one of a twin and not the other because the numbers as told by an astrologer were wrong; bisexual; studied Zen meditation. Why have us cheering for the big corporation rather than the creator? (Cause it is a Disney production.)

In the end it was a very Tom Hanks sort of film. No subtlety. We get it. She had a traumatic childhood. She wants to save her father. Did you not get it? Well, let’s keep giving you flashbacks every 10 minutes until you do get it. 

Glad I watched it on TV and didn’t pay for it at the cinema. The only down side was I really wanted to hear the original tapes of her meetings with the production team which played over the credits. The TV station dubbed ads for other programs. 

Read her books. Read her biography. This is good movie for a sick bed viewer. No concentration. No deep emotion. No real nastiness. 

Will the real Thomas please stand up!

While we’re on books, I never got around to publishing my post on which Thomas I love. Remember my post about Wolf Hall?

I have read, watched and taught the play, The Man for all Seasons by Robert Bolt. 

In that play Thomas More is portrayed as a noble, strong and honourable man. Thomas Cromwell is plainly evil. 

Mantel’s portrayal is less simplistic, less dichotomous. 

In Wolf Hall there are no true heroes, no noble, pure of spirit men. Everyone is ambitious, out to use what they have to advance – in power, in wealth, in the king’s favour. 

The More here is not the More of Bolt’s play.  Nor is Cromwell. 

Mantel’s More is a misogynst who enjoys embarrassing his wife. Hypocritical, he claims to harm no one yet tortures heretics.  He is a wholly unappealing man. 

Cromwell on the other hand is a supreme manipulator yet sees his own foibles, character flaws, weaknesses. He has that mix of menace, physical and mental strength, self-awareness, tenderness and necessary humour that makes him so appealing. 

Is it accurate? Is the language too modern? Is the humour of its time? Was Cromwell ever thus? So perceptive, so understanding of others with such a quick mind, fast to calculate all manner of figures, concepts, verbal arguments, linguistic gymnastics. Multi-lingual. Tender and attentive to his extended family. 

 Is this rewriting history?

Well, it’s a novel so fiction can take liberties. It does make you reconsider how things are portrayed. What is “the truth”.

The BBC series is brilliant. 

As in the book, Henry VIII is presented as a self-absorbed, self-indulgent perpetual adolescent. Damien Lewis, who I loved as the maligned Soames Forsyte in the TV series of The Forstye Saga, makes a grand Henry. 

It is the Thomas Cromwell of the novel who has sparked my interest in the whole Henry-Anne Boleyn saga, more than any other representation. I so want to go back to  Hampton Court; walk the corridors and think of Cromwell, Rylance’s Cromwell. 

It is for this Thomas Cromwell that I keep reading the novel. 

And I see Mark Rylance may win the BAFTA for his acting as Cromwell. 

Cromwell was my man of last summer. And will keep a warm spot for him when I finally get around to reading the second book.