Movie Reviews: Ferdinand and Paddington 2

Kids movies are winning at the moment, with Ferdinand and Paddington 2 both delightful films for young viewers.

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Firstly, Ferdinand, the bull who was a lover not a fighter. The beauty of this film is that it speaks to the viewer on so many levels. The fate of the bulls in this Spanish Provence is not unlike that of the gladiators in Ancient Rome–fight or die, and ultimately, you will die anyway–except that it’s still happening today.

As a young bull, Ferdinand watches his father go away to fight and never return. He decides to escape and finds himself in what can only be described as heaven–fields of flowers, a little girl who loves him, a peaceful life. But when he accidentally causes havoc in the town square he is caught and returned to the bull pit where he must save his friends and face the bull fighter. There are difficult themes here–such as humanity’s treatment of animals and even a scene inside an abattoir–but it is handled so sensitively that the younger viewers (such as my five-year-old son) might not directly understand what is happening. (Thankfully, this saved me from having a difficult conversation with him about animal slaughter and meat consumption, which I’m just not yet ready to have.) If you are an animal lover, you will be moved. Everyone will feel hope. A beautiful film. My only small criticism was that it was a tad long through the third quarter (time was filled with singing and dancing) and my son asked to leave. But he stuck it out and was soon rewarded with some fast action to re-engage him. Four stars.

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And then we come to Paddington 2, a charming film that is, in my opinion, better than the first one (and it’s not often you can say that about sequels). I do find Paddington a bit stiff and intellectual for small kids but the physical comedy does seem to counteract it. To my relief, this film isn’t as scary as the first one (which my boy hasn’t managed to sit through at all) and Hugh Grant is just fabulous as the villain Phoenix Buchanan (and Hugh Grant is always fabulous in a villainous role, in my opinion). My son, always short on patience, declared he wanted to leave in the first ten minutes, but I encouraged him to stick it out and was rewarded by him putting two thumbs up at me at the and declaring ‘that was a great movie, Mum’. I’m sure the train chase finale helped.

In this film, Paddington is trying to find the perfect birthday present for his aunty Lucy’s hundredth birthday but his desired pop-up book of London is stolen by Phoenix Buchanan and Paddington is framed for the theft and sent to jail. There are truly delightful moments in jail, especially as Paddington befriends the most feared inmate of all, Knuckles McGinty, played superbly by Brendan Gleeson (of recent film, Hampstead).

Do stay till the end for Hugh Grant’s encore during the credits.

Four stars.

 

 

Filling the Well in 2016

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Hungry unicorn

To keep myself accountable to my unicorn for providing her with input from which to draw inspiration for new work, this year, I am keeping a list of everything I’m feeding her. She’s a hungry magical being–an insatiable appetite for creativity–and does tend to get stroppy if I neglect her.

I’m excited about what’s on there already, and looking forward to seeing this grow. If you have any awesome events you know of in the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane or southeast Queensland area, I’m keen to hear them. 🙂

So far, I have:

Books Read (completed, or at least half way, not including the hundreds I read to my toddler). Don’t be alarmed by the brevity of this list. As I’ve said many times, I’m a very slow reader.

  • Hester & Harriet, by Hilary Spiers
  • Fall of the Beasts (Spirit Animals), Immortal Guardians, by Eliot Schaefer
  • Diamond Spirit, by Karen Wood

Theatre Productions/Music

  • Australia Day (Noosa Arts Theatre), February
  • 2016 Season of One Act Plays (BATS, Buderim), April
  • Educating Rita (The Events Centre), April

Speakers

  • Elizabeth Gilbert, February

Workshops/Courses

  • Cheesemaking, Brisbane, March

Travel (research, inspiration)

  • Melbourne, April
  • Writing Retreat, June
  • Burdekin Writers Festival, July
  • Bundaberg Writers Festival, October
  • Tuscany, September

Movies

  • Under the Tuscan Sun

Top 12 Sludgy Brain Activities for Writers

The sludge has hit the fan.

Sludgy brain days

Sludgy brain days

My brain is liquid tar. The reasons are pretty simple: a bubbalicious who doesn’t yet sleep through the night, the fourth day in a row of extreme heat in south-east Queensland (hence less sleep), storms that send one of our dogs into frantic drooling terrified mess (hence even less sleep), and that general worn out feeling you get at this time of year anyway as the life pace cracks its relentless whip to muster you towards Christmas day.

But I do like to try to do something towards my writing each day, even if it’s very small. How do you keep going when the sludge hits? Here’s my Top 12 activities to do when the sludge hits and no amount of coffee, fresh air, face slapping or hot-coal-walking will move it.

  1. Read. Our job as writers is first and foremost to read. No reading is ever a waste of time. It is valuable. It is research. It is educational. It’s relaxing. And it’s fun! Read, read, read.
  2. Watch DVDs. Seriously. Similar to reading (though obviously not as good), television and movies (when carefully chosen) can be a rich source of compost for the fertility challenged mind. This is a particularly great option if you’re researching another time period or another city or country. YouTube is also a fantastic source of research and often even better because it’s raw, without the gloss and professional spin.
  3. Pull out those literary magazines and association newsletters you’ve got stashed under the fruit bowl or nappy bag and catch up on snippets of tips, info and trends in the writing and publishing world.
  4. Fossick in magazines. Look for pictures of houses, people, products or anything that might be useful as inspiration for your book, grab some scissors and glue and act like a six-year-old and cut them out and paste them onto a vision board.
  5. Writer admin. This can be a trap for procrastination, but it’s still a good alternative to eating a block of chocolate and moaning about how tired you are. (I can speak from experience. The most oft spoken sentence in our house in the past six months is ‘I’m soooo tired!’ Yep. We know. Can’t fix it. But you can try to work around it.) Admin includes activities like buying that domain name; renewing your membership to the Queensland Writers Centre or Romance Writers of Australia; sending emails of enquiry; or even mindlessly entering receipts into your tax bookkeeping system.
  6. Now’s a great time of year to buy a year wall calendar and plan out your 2013 writing career. Take in the overview of the whole year. What goals do you have and how you can plan to achieve them? If you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo in November, what else would need to move over to make room for that? When do you plan to have holidays? Are you travelling? When are the writers festivals? Are there courses of study to do? And, oh yeah, when do you plan to write that 90,000 words??
  7. Internet research and Google map walking. God bless the internet. Seriously. If you’re writing a story set in another city or country, the internet is the most valuable tool you’ve got. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent satellite walking the streets of London. And if you need scientific research, a sludgy brain can often deal with writing down facts and numbers that you can go back to later.
  8. Write blog posts, Facebook updates and Twitter tweets and schedule them ahead of time. Okay, so I’m writing this blog post on a sludgy brain day, and it mightn’t be the most witty and entertaining thing I’ve ever written, but for some reason dealing with non-fiction is far easier for my sludgy brain than characters who may or may not want to play the game by the rules I’ve set for them. But social media is an important part of the business of writing and better you get it out the way on a day like today rather than on a day when you’re all fired up to write, write, write.
  9. Go for the experiential. If all of the above it too hard, and you think you will vomit if you look at the computer screen, try going for the experiential. My current book waiting for publication is about tea and the business of designing teas. Many an hour I spent picking random things from my garden and pouring boiling water over them to see what would happen. Unfortunately, my current book revolves around chocolate so the experiential… well, let’s just say my waistline isn’t going to benefit the same way my story will.
  10. Contact a writing friend. It’s so important to keep a close support network of writerly friends to share the creative journey. No one will understand you like another writer will. Phone or email and make a date in your diary to catch up and talk all things books and adjectival.
  11. Buy new stationery. Yes, I’m a nerd. But I don’t find too many things more inspiring and motivating than new stationery! Pens, notebooks, planners, rulers, paper clips… love, love, love.
  12. Clean your office or writing space. Can’t see your keyboard for the pile of unpaid bills and unfolded washing sitting on it? No brains needed for this activity. Just some mindless muscle. A brilliant last resort and one that tends to clear the way for a new flurry of activity tomorrow.

So, no excuses! Sludge be gone!

Top 10 Romantic Films

The lovely Anna Campbell recently guest blogged at ALOHA and was asked to name her top 7 romance films. And don’t we all love a good list making? I’m the sort of person who makes lists all the time and, yes, I have been known to add something I’ve already done just so I can tick it off. Totally inspired by Anna’s list, I decided to write my own.

I like a good dash of comedy in with my romance, so I’ll be focusing those, but I do

Ever After, my favourite romantic comedy of all time.

have an occasional favourite romance and have allowed those too, almost entirely so I can include Dirty Dancing, which I would estimate I have seen no less than thirty times. “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” (By the way, did you see the extras on the DVD that was released after Patrick died? Did you see the love scene that didn’t make it into the film? Holy cats!!!!!!!!!)

In no particular order:

  1. Dirty Dancing. Really, no explanation needed there. This film is as near to a perfect film as you can get.
  2. Love Actually. But I really only love the romance storyline between Colin Firth’s character and his cleaner, who can’t speak English. Such wonderful, captivating tension between them. I was working on my manuscript on the verandah just yesterday and a gust of wind blew the papers all across the yard and I thought of that delightfully funny scene where they both end up in the water chasing his manuscript. Gorgeous.
  3. Sense and Sensibility. Starring Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood. You can’t go past Jane Austen for great romance and this is a visual feast as well. Emma Thompson is such a star.
  4. Never Been Kissed. I think I might just have a bit of a girl crush on Drew Barrymore and will watch anything she is in. I just love her. This is one of the many, many Drew romantic comedies I love, and it’s a good one.
  5. The Holiday. An incredibly under-rated film starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black. A wonderful combination of actors, a funny and engaging script, gorgeous locations, charming. Another gorgeous film I could watch again and again.
  6. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I saw this film on the plane on the last leg of my return journey from the UK, so maybe I was delirious with fatigue, but I laughed and laughed and laughed in this film. You know, the kind of laughing that becomes embarrassing when you’re only one of a few people awake and the rest of the plane is quiet. (“What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? Oh, it’s okay, I make lamb.”) And what a clever, clever woman Nia Vardalos is to write and star in the movie! An inspiration to all us writers.
  7. Father of the Bride. What a beautiful and funny film this is, with romance on all levels, starring the wonderful Diane Keaton and Steve Martin.
  8. Something’s Gotta Give. Also starring Diane Keaton, this is a highly amusing and entertaining love story involving (shock, horror!) people over 50.
  9. The Princess Bride. Wonderful fairy tale about love that simply will not die. (“As you wish…”)
  10. Ever After. Although I put this list in no particular order, I might just have to say that this is my favourite romantic comedy of all time. And… gasp!…. it stars Drew Barrymore as a Cinderella but one that gets a good dose of feminist power and humour and gets to save her prince as much as he gets to save her. Funny, funny, funny. Fairy wings. A guest appearance from Leonardo da Vinci. And Anjelica Huston bringing home the evil stepmother. A rollicking good film.

Gosh, it’s hard to end there… I really also want to sneak in Titanic because it has such a powerful love story alongside the visual wonder, humour and historical interest.

What would you add to this list?