Monday, 26 January 2009

Happy Australia Day


Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

To grow younger seems like the ideal – youth is wasted on the young, and all that, so by the time you are young, but old in years and all that, you can enjoy the wisdom of your years. Or something like that. But for Benjamin Button, it would seem that growing young, rather like growing old, is a curse. Ultimately, Benjamin realises three things about growing young, the same of which could be said for growing old; no one is perfect forever, nothing lasts (isn’t that a shame) and "it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be."

This is not a Brad Pitt movie, in which Brad Pitt plays a man who becomes younger; he is Benjamin Button, whose burden it is to grow young before his time, to live his life backwards, as it were. He first walks, unaided, at age seven (or eighty-something), drinks his first beer shortly after, goes to a brothel (where he surprises with his teenager-like energy), gets drunk and has his first kiss when he is maybe 60 years old (or twenty-something) with Tilda Swinton, who is perfectly cast as an older, unhappily married woman with whom Benjamin has an affair.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is, at its heart, a love story of two people for whom the time never seems right, mostly because one of them is growing older while the other is growing younger. The story is told from Benjamin’s point of view, as Daisy’s daughter reads his diary aloud to her on her deathbed, whilst the horrible Katrina gathers force outside. Pitt’s voice is truly suited to voiceover as he recalls his life in a lilting Southern accent. As we remember his life with Daisy, the returns to her hospital bed become unwelcome intrusions in the story of Benjamin Button, born as an old man in a baby’s body, abandoned by his father who, distraught by his wife’s death in childbirth, cannot bear to look upon his bizarre face, and is adopted by the kindly and sterile Queenie.

As a youthful old man, with spirit and energy beyond his years, Benjamin first meets Daisy when she is seven, and he not much older. Though in that moment he falls in love, their time has not yet come. While down at the docks one day, a captain is looking for a man to do a day’s work. Benjamin volunteers, and so becomes part of the crew aboard the Chelsea. He travels to sea ports all around the world, from which he writes to Daisy from everywhere, and in Russia, he meets Elizabeth Abbott (Swinton.) In 1940, when Benjamin is only 22 (in a fifty year old body), the Chelsea is called to serve in the navy. After seeing many terrible things, he returns home, only to meet the lovely Daisy, now a twenty year old dancer (Cate Blancett, as captivating as always.) Over time, they will both meet again, but isn’t until they are both in their forties (by some estimation) that they can finally consummate their love for each other.

Benjamin Button Pictures, Images and Photos

There are two things that make this film Oscar-worthy; the witty, sharp, entertaining dialogue (“Would you still love me if I were old and saggy?" "Would you still love ME if I were young and had acne?") and raw passion and emotion of the acting in the film is what carries it. We do not need Daisy to tell us she could not stand seeing Benjamin becoming younger, better looking, as she became older. The devotion between Daisy and Benjamin is obvious. And the decision Benjamin has to make is painful and heartbreaking. From their first candlelit tryst under a table to their carefree years spent froliking in a New Orleans apartment, it is a sensual love affair, captured just as delightfully by the cinematography. The CGI aging effects are equally incredible. A middle-aged Brad Pitt (I mean Benjamin Button) on a motorbike or a sail boat is a fine thing indeed, but a young, 20-something Brad Pitt is a much, much finer thing.

I had a completely surreal experience in this film in that I lost all sense of time and space, until I saw a koala postcard, and, feeling a jolt of recognition and pride, remembered that I was, in fact, in Australia, in the middle of a warm summer’s afternoon, not in New Orleans, weathering out Katrina, or watching Daisy dance on a Parisian stage, sometime earlier in the last century. Sure and it’s a loooong film, but it is completely engaging, moving to the point of tears in several instances. It is well deserving of the 13 Oscars it has been nominated for, and I hope it is recognised and rewarded as such.



Hey, Oscar

I’ve only seen two of the films in the Big 5 categories for the Oscars – TDK and CCoBB (somehow, I don’t think that’s going to catch on), the latter of which I saw just yesterday. So, based on such extensive knowledge, I’m going to list who I’d like to/think will win:

Best Picture

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button



The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire

This category, perhaps, has the toughest competition. I could really see any of these films winning. I’d really like to see Slumdog Millionaire win, or even Milk.

Best Actor

Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn, Milk

Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Another tough category. It would be really nice if Mickey Rourke won, but I’d also like to see Sean Penn win for Milk – I’ve heard it’s a stunning performance (which I’m dying to see), which he won awards for in the New York Critics’ ceremony, and in recognition of his fine body of work.

Best Supporting Actor

Josh Brolin, Milk

Robert Downey Jr, Tropic Thunder

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Micheal Shannon, Revolutionary Road

It’s too bad RDJ didn’t get nominated for best actor for Ironman, because Heath Ledger obviously has this category all tied up – and deservingly.

Best Actress

Anne Hathaway, Rachael Getting Married

Angelina Jolie, Changeling

Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Meryl Streep, Doubt

Kate Winslet, The Reader

Kate Winslet, having won two Golden Globes, for her roles in Revolutionary Road and The Reader, stands a good chance. It’s nice that Anne Hathaway got a nod for her role in Rachael Getting Married – critically well reviewed, I’d like to see it (she’s one of my favourite actresses.)

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, Doubt

Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Viola Davis, Doubt

Tanaji Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

This category is up for grabs, however, I think with two nominated from Doubt they’re likely to knock each other out, so it’s between Penelope Cruz, who has been celebrated for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and is a very worthy actress, and Tanaji Henson, who I thought was very good in CCoBB.

It’s also too bad WALL-E didn’t get nominated for Best Film. I really hope it wins Best Animated Picture and Best Screenplay.



Wednesday, 21 January 2009


George W. Bush Jr’s presidency – and rhetoric – plays like a blooper reel out of a bad B-grade political film. Except that this is reality, and the scary truth of it is, the man who said “you teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test” ran what is arguably the world’s superpower for the last eight years (can anyone believe he won a second term?) Bush may have unintentionally entertained us, year after year, with his long list of quotes such as "Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?", his ducking of shoe missiles, his coining of words such as “internets,” introducing the APEC summit as the OPEC summit, but his policy, such as the war in Iraq, is no joke.

An article in Time summed it up well: “OK, but didn’t [Bush] do anything right? Well, he came up with serious money to treat AIDS and malaria in Africa. He used the bully pulpit to embrace Muslims in the great post-9/11 American bear hug, when there was a real danger of the opposite reaction. And you could say that Bush’s disastrous presidency vindicates democracy. Let’s not forget that, in 2000, more people voted for the other guy.” (Essay, Michael Kinsley)

God. It is really too bad we didn’t have that other guy.

However, I suspect that, behind the buffoonery, Bush – like fellow Republican Sarah Palin – is a good person, a devoted parent, and a patriotic American. Unfortunately, good leaders and good people are too rarely the same person.

Hopefully, we can look forward to both in Obama.

I watched - like millions around the world - Obama's inauguration speech. While it wasn't quite as inspirational or as uplifting as his victory speech, and may have lacked a catchphrase, a central, ideological quote that summed it up, like FDR's "the only thing we have reason to fear is fear itself" and JFK's "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," that's not to say it wasn't optimistic, determined and empowering. And so what if he mucked up the oath a little? I've always thought that the way they say, in such long sentences, much be hard to be remember. He's only human, after all - he's not the Messiah.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

The time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the fire fighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate."

inauguration ozio Pictures, Images and Photos

But let’s be straight about one thing. It would do us well to remember that Obama is half-black. That is not to question or undermine that he is black, but only to point out that Obama’s background has arguably been a mostly white one. Does that make him any less black? Perhaps, in some people’s eyes. But more than anything we should celebrate that he is of mixed race. Like the young boy Nulla in Australia, who is accepted by neither whites nor Aboriginal because he is both, is it not those of mixed race who are, at least not so long ago, shunned by both? So it is not of greater significance, then, that Obama, being not black or white but both, should be able to unite all Americans, black, white, alike?



Have you always had that mole? It’s lovely

It only took me a year or two after everyone else, but I’ve finally caught onto the craze (read: newfound addiction) that is Skins. And by golly am I addicted! It’s a good thing (relatively) that I’m not currently in possession of any Scrubs, or I wouldn’t get any sleep at night!

skins Pictures, Images and Photos

I was intrigued by this show a while back, and highly recommended it, first by Gem, then by Emma whose season one review is much better than mine, and basically mirrors my thoughts.

What's not to love? The British accents that are almost impossible to understand (“these are my frans”), the cute boys, the scrapes, the attempts to lose virginity, the constant sex, the drug highs, the alcohol binges, the wild parties, the angry parents – it’s like a page out of our own lives, right?

Well, maybe for Brits.

skins Pictures, Images and Photos

Sid is a bumbling, lovesick sweetheart (no, I’m not developing another TV crush…OK, maybe just a little. But he could lose the beanie more than once.) Cassie, though, is my darling. She’s spacey, but she’s smarter than people give her credit for. Well, except when it comes to the not eating. She’s working on it, though.

cassie 2 Pictures, Images and Photos

Tony (Nicholas Hoult, who has come a long way – and a lot cuter – since his miserable About A Boy days), on the other hand, is a complete and utter arse.

skins icon Pictures, Images and Photos

It’s hilarious, but it hits you with some pretty hardcore shit. Drugs, overdoses, death, secrets, homosexuality, betrayal, and I know pregnancy is in the bag – but this isn’t in some glossy, Gossip Girl, “my daddy will pay for this to go away” afternoon recreation, it’s gritty, “fuck it all” drama, and therein lies its allure. It’s tough, complicated – each teen has their own messed up universe to deal with – and down to earth, which is a nice change from airy fairy shows like The OC.


Saturday, 17 January 2009

Summer When It Burns

Australian summers are, perhaps, unlike any other. They inevitably involve dry, oppressive heat; bushfires; snakes; grass going to seed; cricket; tennis; beer.


Kate Holden sums it up pretty well: “the windows and doors open, the sweet zephyrs wafting, the bare skin sunning, the beer gardens, picnics and cricket grounds your new pleasure palaces, the fridge full of cold drinks and cucumbers…the scent of hot eucalypt bark…pub crowds spilling out on to the street…perplexity at where all the young women have bought their perfect, smooth, tanned legs: there must be a shop, surely they aren’t simply born with them? Nectarines. Treeless streets of parched asphalt down which one much stumble laden with shopping under the pitiless glare of afternoon sun. The extraordinary russet gilding of trees around dinner time, when each leaf seems brassed with warmth. Storms. The irresistible temptation of late-night strolls in air as soft as warm water.”


But, as she rightly points out, “there are a few drawbacks to the heat. Unbearable lassitude, for one. It’s hard to be productive when you’re forced to lie prone one a couch weakly soaking your feet in buckets of cold water and letting the watermelon juice trickle from your mouth into your ears.”


For me, summer is the Australian Open – we usually go, but this year we aren’t, as my brother is going to be in Cambodia doing charity work – either in Melbourne or watching from home under a struggling air conditioner, icy poles, lemonade, endless hours reading, dust storms, looking out for snakes, seeking cool solace in the creek, and playing tennis on our gravel court.


How are your winters and/or summers?



I’m Ba-a-a-ck!

I have returned to sunny, sultry, sunburnt shores of Australia (and am sure to subsequently become sunburned too soon), recovering from jet lag. As a result, full post(s) and photos to come,* but at the moment, only highlights.

-Hawaii was beautiful, green, overgrown and wet, as per usual. Shared my holiday destination with the President-elect, who was staying on another side of the Island (and made the paper everyday with his golf playing and use of the military gym.)

-The Grand Canyon was the absolute highlight. It snowed! And it was spectacular. We were able to see it both by walking around the South Rim and by helicopter flight. Amazing and awe-inspiring from every angle.

-Las Vegas was a shock to the system; girls, gambling and gluttony. The Strip itself is surreal, replicas of New York, Paris, Rome, Venice, and Egypt. Being underage in Vegas, about the only thing we could do (apart from shop, which believe me, we did!) was go to a show – Cirque du Soleil and Criss Angel’s** Believe, which was stupefying.

-LA was lovely, even if there are too many people and the smog is so
mething horrific. But the beaches – and shopping! – were very impressive. No celebrity spotting, probably because we flew out the day before the Golden Globes. We stayed in Beverly Hills, which was very nice (but that’s not to say we stayed in a 5 star hotel.)

I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed reading your blogs, I feel like I’ve missed so much. Feel free to leave me a summary comment about how your Christmas/holiday
s have been (with links, if you like) – much appreciated! Tell me everything. ;-)

Did anyone see any good movies over the summer? I’m dying to see Slumdog Millionaire, Benjamin Button, Changeling and Milk.


*Unfortunately, my new 1GB memory card – bought solely for the purpose of being able to take more photos – decided it wanted to be formatted after I’d taken almost 200 photos in Hawaii. I was able to use my brother’s camera for the rest of the trip, but can’t get any of the photos I took off my memory card. So frustrated.

**Has anyone heard of him before? He has a TV show called Mind Freak, and apparently is quite the sensation.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Years' Resolution(s)

live with intention Pictures, Images and Photos