Sunday, 31 August 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies - with Dallas and friends

A Week Without Movies... Almost
That's right. This last week we did not go out to see a movie and we didn't get a chance to watch any DVDs. Now, that isn't to say we didn't watch any movies. In fact, last night Helen was babysitting from 7PM till about midnight while I was home with Isabel. In that time Australia's great "free to air" television programming fit me like a glove. I started the night off with Pixar's The Incredibles on channel Seven which was immediately followed by Scary Movie 4 (absolute offal, but better than watching "Spicks and Specks"), after which I turned to channel Ten for The Return of the Jedi (HELLO!). So, watching three movies in one night could hardly be called a week without movies, but none of these movies are recent releases, and the fact of the matter is I didn't feel like doing a review on any of those films. Instead, I've decided to do a short review on a film Helen and I watched a few weeks ago. The classic Don Siegel film Dirty Harry starring the inimitable Clint Eastwood. I've also decided to list my top five Steven Spielberg films. ENJOY!!!

Top Five Steven Spielberg Films
1. Schindler's List
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
3. Jaws
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
5. Munich

Nihilism in the USA
a review by Dallas

Dirty Harry, released in 1971 tells the story of Harry Callahan a gritty San Francisco Police Detective, played to perfection by Clint Eastwood, as he tries to apprehend a serial killer known as Scorpio. This is a fascinating film that explores the power possessed by a maniac with a gun. Whether that maniac is an outlaw serial killer or a police officer with a badge makes no difference. They both wield considerable power that can and is abused.

At the core of this film is a masterful performance by Clint Eastwood. Consider the two ways he delivers his now classic "Do I feel lucky, punk?" speech. His delivery at the beginning of the film exudes an aura of arrogant petulance, which makes the speech feel practiced as though Harry has delivered it on thousands of occasions to minority criminals all over San Francisco. At the end of the film the speech is delivered with a barely contained fury and maniacal menace. Indeed, although Harry Callahan is the protagonist of the film he is far more frightening than the skittish Scorpio. Harry's nihilistic actions deepen his character, and enlighten the audience to the intentions of the filmmakers, which is to state that we tragically live in a world where criminals have more power than the police. But in a way, Harry's character also lessens the suspense. Scorpio is not a villain to be feared, or even wickedly enjoyed whilst on screen. He is more more like a pitiful insect, and is hardly a match for the elemental force of Harry Callahan. With this in mind, it is only a matter of time before Harry Callahan gets his man and wraps up the plot.

Nevertheless, this is still a "must see" film for anyone who enjoys Clint Eastwood, is interested in the exploitation or vigilante films of the 1970s, or would just like to watch a classic film with great location shooting in San Francisco and that classic speech by Mr. Eastwood.
***1/2 Stars

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Fathers Day

Here in this bizarre upside down land of Oz, we like to spread our parental celebrations apart a little, so we celebrate our fathers in September.

I was a little slow on the uptake in June and the American fathers day came and went before I had a chance to breathe. Fortunately I get two chances at this fathers day thing and have been thinking for some time about what I should get Mr. Smack for the day of all days.

The television seems to want to give plenty of unsolicited advice as to what "my special man" should receive. The height of ridiculousness it seems came when the Godfrey's man with his sexy comb-over told me that not only does my one and only WANT a hand held vacuum, but he also NEEDS one. My utter scorn for this suggestion came in the way of a scathing remark - made as usual to the empty space of the living room, "that's the STUPIDEST idea I have heard in my life. What idiot would suggest a hand held vacuum? I am completely CERTAIN that no man would ever want a hand held vacuum!"

Roll forward 24 hours. Mr. Smack is sitting on the couch with LQ. LQ has managed to "eat" a cookie in the exact manner of Cookie Monster - spraying crumbs all over the place. Before I can blink, Mr. Smack casually says "do you know what I'd really love to have right now .... one of those hand held vacuums..."

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

LQ - Just because she's cute

This is my favourite photo of LQ at the moment - doesn't she look like a little girl?? Now all she needs is some hair and the look will be complete.

For some reason LQ LOVES the taste of her wipes. I would say that it's the alcohol in them, but they are alcohol free. The wipes are usually kept out of reach, but sometimes we forget and she gets to taste the sweet goodness of baby wipes.

This photo is for my mum. We thought LQ looked exactly like mum when she wore her oversized sweater. The beads just make her look even more grown up.

Speaking of grown up - LQ's highchair has now been converted to a toddler booster seat. She sat at the table as a "toddler" just the other night.

Can someone please tell me what the attraction is to frozen peas and corn? As a child I was never inducted into this "fraternity" of frozen pea eater. But I've heard that it is a favourite - and LQ devours them.

A Heap of Laundry

When we arrived home from Alice Springs, we of course had a mound of washing to do.... that I promptly did (the first moment I had a chance) - what a wonderful housewife! The problem with doing a LOT of clothes washing is that there's an inevitable LOAD of clothes folding. Thus my problem is created.

I have no problem washing the clothing. I have no problem hanging the clothing on the line or putting it in the dryer. I have no problem taking it out of the dryer or taking it off the line. But when it comes to ironing and folding, I find both tasks so arduous! I usually just leave the clothes in the baskets until we've used most of those clothes again - then I'll drag myself to the few clothes that are left to fold and put them away.

The problem with this method - we just didn't have enough baskets or floor space to contain all the clothes that were washed after our holiday. But I was not going to be beaten! I found the perfect spot for all the clothes.

LQ doesn't sleep in her cot anymore (unfortunately), so why not find a more practical use for it?

P.S. I finally spent a good full morning folding the all the clothes that were dumped in the cot. It turns out sometimes I can't even stand having that amount of laundry left unfolded - and it was getting too hard searching out specific pieces of clothing.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Isabel Hearts Danielle

For fear of jealousy (from certain aunties and uncles), I have been hesitant to post this.

I have been careful not to let LQ harrass Danielle (our boarder) too much, but when Danielle has some time, LQ can't contain herself. She absolutely worships Danielle. To be allowed to play in Danielle's room is a real treat for LQ. She won't even yell out to me to find out where I am - this is usual if she is in any other room in the house.

Yesterday, Danielle came home after an unsuccessful venture to the university library. LQ couldn't contain herself. First they walked around the house - giggling the whole time. And then Danielle gave LQ some half empty water bottles to play with while she did a few "assignment" things. I caught LQ looking adoringly up at Danielle.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies - with Dallas and friends

After a week of roaming aimlessly in a camper-van through Australia's bewitching "red centre", I am back with this week's movie review and top ten list. The hiatus was good, and the escape from Sydney's hustle and bustle was quite refreshing. But, it's now back to work and school and responsibility. As such, I haven't had a chance to venture to a cinema to sample the latest cinematic delights. The film reviewed tonight is Michael Clayton which is available to rent on DVD, and "the list" is Top Ten Hollywood Musicals. I hope you all enjoy, and have a great week!
- Dallas

Top Ten Hollywood Musicals
1. Singin' in the Rain
2. Top Hat
3. Mary Poppins
4. The Sound of Music
5. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
6. An American in Paris
7. Cabaret
8. The Court Jester
9. Fiddler on the Roof
10. Moulin Rouge (Baz Luhrmann)

"And The Truth Shall Set You Free"
- by Dallas

Michael Clayton, written and directed by Tony Gilroy and starring George Clooney as the titular character, tells the story of Michael Clayton, the in-house "fixer" working at the powerful New York law firm of Kenner, Bach and Ledeen. Clayton is shown in several scenes deftly using his skills of persuasion and negotiation with his myriad contacts to try and "fix" the various problems of some of his firm's high priority clients. He is able to arrange access to an "Authorized Personnel Only" crime scene as easily as scoring court-side tickets to the biggest game of the year. But, Clayton's most difficult challenge will come in the form of Arthur Edens, a senior attorney with Kenner, Bach and Ledeen who stops taking his medication and begins to sabotage his own work on the $3 billion lawsuit he's been working on for six years for the major agro-chemicals conglomerate U-North. What follows is a tautly constructed thriller that examines truth in the face of perspective, as the characters in this film each struggle with adhering to their own shifting moralities.

At the center of this exquisite gem of a film, is George Clooney's portrayal of Michael Clayton. Clooney plays Clayton as a man perpetually on the fringes of losing control of his life and his family. He appears the cool and collective fixer to his colleagues, but his gambling debts and penchant for alcohol have left him in search of a moral core. In the past he has used his work as a way to fill this void, but in his efforts to "contain" Arthur Edens he loses his moral grounding completely and is confronted with the question of "What is the right thing to do?"

Clayton's outward calm and inner turmoil is offset by Karen Crowder, a litigator under the employ of U-North who finds herself more and more discomfited by the actions of Arthur Edens. Played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton (she won the 2007 Best Supporting Actress Oscar), Crowder slowly loses control of everything around her, with devastating results, and the audience literally watches her implode on screen. Tom Wilkinson, also brilliant, plays Arthur Edens, the man responsible for the crises of so many individuals.

Michael Clayton begins like a good John Grisham "legal thriller", but as the film progresses little touches of greatness are manifest. One such moment comes in the murder of one of the characters. It is not a loud, gory, or bloody display of violence. It is quick, easy, silent; and it is one of the most disquieting and terrifying acts of violence I've ever seen on screen.

In a world of shifting values, where we sometimes find ourselves being swept away by forces out of our control, there will come a day when most, if not all of us will be forced to stand for something. When that day comes, will we be strong enough to do what's right? When that day comes, will we know what's right? Will there be a right and a wrong, or just choices and consequences? Similar questions were also posed by the excellent film Gone Baby Gone. Both films display the ugly consequences of our choices, both "right" and "wrong". My only criticism of Michael Clayton would be in its conclusion. I will not spoil the film by divulging it here, but it is enough to say that although I found the conclusion immensely satisfying, at the same time it felt hollow and a bit false. I mention Gone Baby Bone because one of the great triumphs of that film was in its honest and shattering conclusion.

My reservations about the conclusion aside, Michael Clayton is a superb film and I recommend it highly to anyone in the mood for a great film.

**** Stars

Friday, 22 August 2008

Mummy Cuddles

Finally, it seems LQ (Little Queen) has learned the real value of a "mummy cuddle".

For 16 long months I have endured a lack of reciprocal affection from LQ. Oh, there were the months where she was so tiny and didn't have the neck muscles to pull back from a snuggle, but that's not really affection. That's like getting love from a lump of - well, a lump of anything really... just a lump. But from the moment she had the muscles to push away from me, she has. It's been hard on this little mum. I thrive on cuddles (especially from my mum), so to have a daughter that was disinterested in just some quiet time with mummy, was disconcerting.

Just in this past week, in fact while we were in the true outback of Australia, LQ has started to snuggle up to me. At first I thought it was a freak accident, but she kept coming back to me when she was tired, or hurt, or just needed some love. Even when we are laying down for a nap or night time sleep, she now prefers to fall asleep curled up against me. Before the mood change, LQ chose to teeter on the other side of the bed before touching me as she went to sleep.

In my opinion, there's nothing more magical than a mummy cuddle. It acts as a perfect drug for so many different hurts, it can calm a raging beast (or an angry child), it is the best sleeping pill and best of all a mum is always willing to give them. As you get older, they turn into more of a "mum hug", but the healing power is still the same. Boyfriends, girlfriends, the tiresome trials of a teenager can all be quelled with a nice long "mum hug".

Mum, thanks for all your hugs and cuddles, no feeling can compare with the one I get when I think of all the love that goes into your hugs. They make me feel better.

After being woken up by a poke in the nose this morning, LQ and I got up out of bed. She was cuddling me and as we walked out of the bedroom she reached her [still] chubby arm around my shoulder and patted me on the back. It's as if she were saying, "Thanks for the ride mum. You know you really will regret it when I do start walking."

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

We Are Back

This time we traipsed around the countryside looking at various rocks, rock formations and cracks. That's right.... the Petersens have been to the Red Centre of Australia. With $10 flights with Tiger Air, we couldn't resist. We spent five days in a small van outfitted with two beds and a little kitchen. We drove over 1000km all told and reached speeds of 130km/hr (not easy when the winds are trying to blow you sideways). We took over 290 photos, we ran out of room on the card so had to delete some. My favourite photo from all of the photos is the following:

Ok... so this isn't EXACTLY my favourite photo, but it resembles the one I like the most. I was in fits of giggles when I was taking it - I've saved you the unpleasantness of unwittingly taking a peak at Dallas' white bum, though. Really, the sun reflects off it in the other photo.... hehe. sorry dal.

There are a few lessons learned from this trip.
  1. Taking a holiday with a child, can't really be classified as a holiday. As one lady put it so eloquently this morning - "Different scenery, same old crap/routine". I can't tell you how exhausted I am from this trip.
  2. If you are sitting in the back of a van, the bumps in the road are 50 times more severe.
  3. You can NEVER take too many photos of Ayers Rock.
  4. Don't buy a Ham/Cheese/Tomato sandwich on a flight that you only paid $10 for.... it's bound to be old.
  5. Trying to get a toddler to sit still is more exhausting than running around with her.
  6. Dallas is a maniac driver who likes to push the limits. (130km/hr in a hightop van?? That's living on the edge!)
  7. Chest straps on backpacks aren't really designed for ladies.
  8. Sometimes when you say nachos, you end up with wedges.
  9. The Australian Aborigines really do go on walkabout - we saw lots of them walking everywhere.

There was so much to see and so much to experience. Dallas and I have decided that we will become grey nomads after retiring and tour around Australia - without the children. Even with five days we missed much, but experienced even more. Here are a few photos to prove it.

Pope of the sick bags

Petersens in Alice Springs

Sending a message to Old London Town in the old telegraph office

Our view for most of the trip

On the top bunk in the van

Kings Canyon

Our Van in front of Ayers Rock

Isabel in the baby backpack

The Petersens and Ayers Rock

My "artsy" photo

Monday, 11 August 2008

I would walk 500 miles

So do you like my new look blog? I guess I was getting tired of the old one and had a bit of a play around with a few things. I hope you particularly enjoy the large photo of the Petersens that greets you as your page loads.

We took a video of Isabel "walking" with daddy. She's able to walk holding on to only one hand now. This video was filmed especially for Granny Jules

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies

In honor of the olympics I've decided to do a list of my favorite Chinese language films. Both Mandarin and Cantonese films will be included as they are both Chinese languages.

Top Five Chinese Language Films
1. Raise the Red Lantern
2. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
3. The Killer
4. Farewell My Concubine
5. Infernal Affairs

Let Chaos Reign
by Dallas Petersen

[Insert Superlative Here] Christopher Nolan's latest film The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. From the opening frame to the final frame it is absolutely riveting. Although strongly rooted in Frank Miller's groundbreaking graphic novel, The Dark Knight breaks new ground and takes the "Superhero Movie" to exhilarating new heights. Every aspect of this film from the acting to the writing and directing, and the music all complement each other to create a superb film-going experience.
Christopher Nolan has been making fine films since the intriguing pot boiler, Memento was released in 2000, but The Dark Knight is, to date, his crowning achievement. Nolan has seamlessly integrated heart-pumping action, with brilliant and honest character development. The intelligent script, co-written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan, explores the relationship between order and chaos and the depths that 'good' men and 'bad' men alike will sink to in order to maintain control. The action moves at such an incredible rate that the feeling of chaos is palpable and emanates from the film itself. As the citizens are in the grips of fear, due to the actions of the Joker, the audience gets a real sense of the fear a terrorist can induce by unleashing chaos.

As the Joker, Heath Ledger is [insert superlative here]. The Joker is more an elemental force than a mere mortal, and Ledger is a conduit for the Joker's maniacal machinations. Ledger gives a full body performance, with every word, cackle, wave of the hand, and step he takes embodying the almost childlike malevolence of the Joker. As a character, the Joker springs out of the night itself. The audience is given no back-story and no insight into his character. The only information given about the Joker is from the Joker's own mouth as he relates how he acquired his scars. He tells this story twice, and the stories contradict each other. Is either story the truth, or neither? The choice to give the Joker no history is a masterstroke. If the audience is given a back-story, or any information about a character, then the audience is given a small window of understanding the character. If something is understood, then it can be controlled, or contained. Anything controlled is not feared. The Joker is utterly frightening. He wants nothing more than to cause chaos. He is the dark core initiating the destruction of the established order.

Christian Bale is excellent as the dark force willing to commit all manner of sins in his efforts to stop the Joker and maintain order. In fact, all the acting in this film is particularly fine, with the veteran actors Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman adding just the right touches of humanity in the Manichean struggle for Gotham's soul.

The music by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard aids in heightening the intensity, and perfectly complementing the action. There is a certain music technique that is brilliantly implemented in a way which exemplifies the tenuous hold of order over chaos. Each time the Joker tears at the threads of order with his chaotic actions there is a single note played that slowly increases in pitch. The effect this has on the intensity of the film is tangible, and you can almost the feel the order slowly slipping away as its pulled down by chaos.

Rarely do I see a film that fills me with such awe (There Will Be Blood would be another case), and rarely will there be a review this superlative on this blog. Helen and I just saw this film yesterday, which I'm sure makes us the last people on the planet to have seen it. I'm sure there are impoverished African kids who have already seen The Dark Knight projected on the side of a village hut. So, I saw all the amazing reviews which have continued to pour out, and have looked forward to this film with growing anticipation. Usually I am disappointed when I am put in this situation, but in this case, my expectations have been exceeded.

In all fairness, some of the plot is rather contrived and it seems that neither Batman or the Joker are capable of making any mistakes as each of their schemes always go according to plan. Bombs always blow up on time, guns never misfire, and Batman is (almost) always in the right place at the right time. But, overall, The Dark Knight is such a joy to watch, that it is hard to quip. I simply can not recommend this film highly enough.
**** Stars out of 4.

Jones, A Celebration of Life by Dallas Petersen

Brandon Jones, how do I love thee, let me count the ways...

I dedicate this post to my boy Jonesey. I've come to realize that it's the simple pleasures in this life that are the ones worth savoring. I've been kickin' it south of the Equator down here in Oz for about three years now. Down here in the land of the BBQ sausage and the meat pie, it is a rare occasion that I'll be able to enjoy a fine chili dog, or a platter of buffalo wings douched in ranch dressing. So, when I discovered that there was a Tony Roma's restaurant here in Sydney, I knew that I needed to pay them a visit.

Australia's big brother (bully) across the drink has exported several things to this laid back, sun baked country; but the Tony Roma's in Sydney certainly ranks up there with Coca-Cola, So You Think You Can Dance, and the Hooters restaurant in Parramatta. As we took our seats in the rustic, warm atmosphere of the BBQ mecca of Sydney, the sight of Australians voraciously gnawing BBQ'd pork flesh directly from the bone brought me back to a much simpler time. I was transported back to Provo, Utah as a young, impressionable, rather rotund BYU student accompanying my roommate, Brandon Jones, to our first of many sessions of "All-You-Can-Eat" night at the Tony Roma's in Provo.

Sitting at my table in Sydney, I deftly motored through my regular slab of St. Louis ribs slathered in 'Blue Ridge Smoky' sauce. I recalled being in Provo, with my mouth full of succulent meat and asking the waitress for another rack of St. Louis ribs, but this time covered in 'Red Hots' sauce. Jonesey, my brother in arms, the only other member of my "All-You-Can-Eat" Army also orders another rack of ribs. We have our orders timed perfectly so that just as we finish our first rack of ribs, our second rack arrives. The second rack is placed on the table next to our uneaten bowls of cole slaw, and untouched bread rolls; for these items are just filler and can only distract us from our purpose of eating an entire farm's worth of pork ribs.

Back in Sydney I have now finished my rack of ribs, I have licked the bones, and sucked the sauce off of my fingers. But a trip to Tony Roma's is not complete until I have gone to the bathroom and expunged the remnants of BBQ sauce from my fingernails. Upon entering the bathroom I notice that each of the faucets have BBQ sauce fingerprints liberally applied. It seems several men have also come to the Tony Roma's bathroom to clean the goodness from their hands. We are all one in our appreciation of BBQ artistry.

So this post if for you, Brandon Jones. It was as simpler time, a purer time. We were babes in the woods. Serenaded by Eddie Vedder we would cruise from "All-You-Can-Eat" ribs at Roma's to the Buffalo Sampler platter at Hooters. If these could not satiate our cravings we only needed look to Beto's for a quesadilla dripping with furniture staining grease, all washed down with an ice cold Jamaica.

Brandon Jones, you're the Clinty-est bastard I've ever known. God bless you. And God bless America.
Dallas Petersen

Friday, 8 August 2008

Would you just WALK?!

Frustration. Complete and utter frustration has been my main emotion this week as "walking" Isabel has turned from an exciting venture into a chore. It seems any time she wants to be happy, she will call out to Dallas or me to come and take her for a walk. She has no confidence that she can walk even a few steps by herself and holds tightly to both hands as she walks. Isabel is fantastic at walking (with someone else), she even loves to run. She is happiest when she is walking. But I have other things to do aside from "walking" Isabel.

For this reason, we bought a cheap little car that Isabel can sit on and ride or just push from the back. I guess I was expecting her to take to it like "me to chocolate". More frustration ensued when she refused to push the car by herself. I wanted to scream. I think I've been told by every parent that has had the chance to talk to me about children and walking that I DO NOT want Isabel to walk, because "once they start, there's no stopping them." I appreciate the comments, but a 15 month old lump is not all that fun to carry around and is less fun to be around when all we do is walk up and down our hallway for 20 or more minutes. Which leads me to a tangent - I've noticed my attention span is a lot shorter than Isabel's. Isabel is quite content to pull out her blocks and then throw them back into their container over and over and over and over and over, etc. It's usually because I can't stand the monotony any longer that we move on to another activity.

So back to my original thought - I am begging for Isabel to start walking. If you are among the group of parents that think I am mad for wanting this, then so be it. Let me learn my lesson in my own time. But for the moment, I'll enjoy this following video as much as I can.

It's Over, It's All Over

After weeks of planning the logistics of a visit to the cinema, conditions were right yesterday. Dallas took some time from his busy schedule, we loaded Isabel and paraphernalia in the car and set off for a half hour journey to the nearest Gold Class Cinema.

In a recent post, I sang the praises of Gold Class Cinema. This was because of the perfect environment it provided for taking Isabel with us to watch a film. Yesterday we realised this perfect arrangement had come to an end.

Since before its release, the Dark Knight has been on the top of our "must see in the cinema" list. It was an obvious choice for our Gold Class experience. On our drive to the Macquarie Centre (where the cinema is and incidentally also where Dallas works), Isabel fell asleep. This was not a bad thing as she was due for a nap and the plan was for Isabel to stay asleep in the pram while we enjoyed some time with the Dark Knight together. It was unfortunate then that Isabel was awakened by the very loud beginning of the movie.

She sat placidly eating our potato wedges and snacks from her nappy bag for half of the movie. It was when the chicken tenders were delivered that things started to go pear shaped. Because of her fussing, we missed how Batman pulled the old switcheroo while he was trying to capture the Joker (I'm trying not to spoil it for the VERY few who still haven't seen it). Dallas took Isabel to the side of the cinema to calm her down. He was still watching the movie, but not in the best way - so I figured I would be able to settle Isabel down. I offered my services..... and missed the rest of the movie. I desperately peeked in the theatre occasionally, but Isabel got wise to the fact that I was not giving her my full attention and she wailed/whined a little bit louder.

The car ride home was a bit strained to say the least. My dear husband had given up a little of his valuable time to spend it with me (Isabel was an inevitable extra) and had instead spent it mostly by himself. Much discussion ensued - it is hard for us to find a babysitter, but it is even harder taking Isabel with us now. She is no longer the placid little baby that was happy just to sit with us.

Things that came from the debacle yesterday:
  • I still haven't seen the Dark Knight!
  • We have locked in our boarder to babysit Isabel at least once a week so Dallas and I can go on a date
  • Isabel will NOT be accompanying us to the movies until she is ready to appreciate Disney movies
  • AND as a present to me, we bought a cupcakes, cookies and cheesecake recipe book! So I'm off to make something yummy.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Books and Isabel

I'm sitting on the couch with the laptop about to write a post about something (probably about Isabel), but instead of writing about an Isabel milestone, I find myself watching our little princess go methodically through each of her books. She has been reading each one for the past 20 minutes and I have to admit.... I LOVE the peace and quiet. Why can't the Little Queen (LQ) be as quietly busy as this all the time?

Monday, 4 August 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies - with Dallas and friends

Thus begins the first post in a weekly series of movie reviews by Dallas Petersen. Helen wanted me to add some movie reviews to put a bit of variety on her blog. So, this will be a weekly segment, and all are free to make comments about my reviews, tell me I'm pretentious, or brilliant, or just plain crap. I can't promise all these reviews will be of current films. For those of you with children, you know how difficult it can be to get out to the movies, even for someone like me who used to see EVERYTHING. Nowadays, we just can't be bothered taking the trouble to go out. Isabel is great when we take her to movies, and she usually sits up in her seat and enjoys most of the film. But, taking a 1 year old anywhere is still a lot of work. And for Helen and I to go out alone involves finding a babysitter, which costs money, not to mention the fact that we actually have to TALK to someone to ask them to babysit Isabel.

This means that most of the films reviewed in this weekly segment will probably be movies we've rented instead of seen in the cinema. And sometimes I may just review some old classics just because I want to, because HEY... this is MY segment! Along with the weekly review will also be a series of movie lists. I'm NUTS about top 10 lists or top 5 lists about whatever movie genre you can think of. As I'm the type of person who can never pick a favorite movie (there's just too many good films to pick just one!) I love breaking down my favorites into various lists so that everyone can feel special!

I hope you enjoy reading these reviews as much as I love writing. And anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE talking film, so please feel free to start up a conversation on any of these reviews.

Top Five Pixar Feature Films

1. Finding Nemo

2. Toy Story 2

3. Toy Story


5. The Incredibles

*The Assassination of My Sleep by the Father of 28 Children, Brad Pitt*
a review by Dallas

Produced and starring Brad Pitt, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is an elegent vision of the final days in the life of the outlaw Jesse James. Assassination was written and directed by Andrew Dominik who's previous film was the  Australian made Chopper, which plays more like a sledgehammer to the brain and couldn't be more different to Assassination in mood and tone, though they both examine men who have become famous in their own time for thieving and murdering.

Assassination is a revisionist look at the American anti-hero, presenting James as a neurotic man very conscious, but not altogether comfortable with his own fame.  Pitt is superb as Jesse James. He brings a quiet complexity to the role, and his descents into paranoia flow easily with the rest of his characterization. But the standout performance, in a film of fine performances, is by Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. Affleck is unnerving as Robert Ford, and he dominates every scene that he's in, even stealing the show from Brad Pitt.

Watching Assassination is like reading an epic poem, or examining a vast oil painting; if patient, there is much to be enjoyed or savored. But the reverent tone of the film is at odds with the characters that inhabit the screen, who are mostly petty criminals. James himself is man that is shown lovingly engaging with his family in one scene, and shooting a friend in the back in another scene. The filmmakers have attempted to show Jesse James as a man, and not a mythic hero. But by presenting James amid the jaw dropping landscapes, hypnotic music, and long takes, there is an aura of reverence surrounding this character responsible for murdering seventeen men and robbing several banks and trains.

It is in this reverent tone that the filmmakers make their mistake. This is a gorgeously shot film by consummate cinematographer Roger Deakins, of Cohen Brothers fame. When watching this 2 1/2 hour 'piece of art', one is constantly aware of watching a film (especially if you're straining to keep your eyes open at midnight while watching it). There is never a moment when Assassination sweeps you away into just enjoying the story, and forgetting that you're watching such a gorgeous film. The filmmakers feel they are making a great movie, about a complex man, and they want the audience to know it.

*** Stars out of four.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Up for a Good Laugh? Don't Read This

Dallas and I love a good comedy and the Vicar of Dibley usually delivers laugh-out-loud comedy.  Its older stuff is (in my opinion) a little funnier than the new stuff, but Dallas and I highly recommend the show if you want a few good, belly laughs.

So when we saw that it was on TV last night, we immediately changed the channel from the American "So You Think You Can Dance" and began to watch Vicar of Dibley.  Once again, it delivered some stupid moments and a few good "Owen" quotes (you'll have to find out for yourself what those are).  The premise behind this particular episode was Geraldine's 40th birthday and the fact that she was trying to get those around her to act against world poverty in the 2005 Fight Against Poverty venture.  It was all very lighthearted with a few serious lines thrown in for effect.

BUT, at the very end in a last bid attempt to convince the dimwits that surrounded her to support the white armband she goes to the website and show's them a video.  I have imbedded that same video below.  The show ended and I was sobbing.  Never before had I experienced such emotions at the end of a Vicar of Dibley episode.  I was in shock.  Not only was I not expecting it, but it was such a powerful clip, I just couldn't get it out of my mind.  And of course because I kept thinking about it, I kept crying.  What a tragedy.  So here it is.  I warn you... if you want to have a good day, maybe you should refrain from watching the video.

WARNING!!!  This is not a happy clip!

Now, I may have been manipulated by a fantastic marketing ploy, but I am sure that although it was specifically made for suckers like me, that this situation is real.  As a result I am now sending my resume to UNICEF to volunteer at their Sydney office.  I'm sure they could find a use for my administrative and event skills.  Maybe we CAN each make a difference - I don't know, it's a possibility.

Global Call to Action Against Poverty

UNICEF Australia