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Valentines Day Viewing

14 Feb

For once, I actually did something ‘valentiny’ for Valentine’s Day. I went to the movies to see a romantic comedy. Unfortunately, I didn’t go with my ‘love’. Instead, I went with my six week old baby to a ‘mums and bubs’ session, while my dear husband took our toddler to a park. This is what acts of true love are like when you’re married with kids. It’s not about candlelit dinners and choccies. It’s about giving your partner some toddler-free time. That’s true love. The movie in question was ‘No Strings Attached’ starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, a ridiculously good-looking couple who enter into a relationship as ‘sex friends’ and end up in love. Sorry, too late for the spoiler alert. Maybe I should have warned that this post will divulge the movie’s ending. But really, in the first two seconds of the film you already know it’s going to end up happily ever after with the main protagonists walking off hand in hand into the sunset.
One of the most important scenes takes place on Valentine’s day, where ‘Adam’ (Ashton Kutcher) has organised a supremely romantic date with his sex friend ‘Emma’ (Natalie Portman). It made me think back to my own experiences of Valentines Day and how, as a teenager, I would tentatively open the letter box and peer in, hoping with all my heart for a card from my blonde-haired crush on the school bus declaring his undying love for me. It never happened. I never got a cracker. Nada. Zip. Nothing. Meanwhile, girls in the ‘cool’ group at school would receive massive bunch of flowers from mysterious paramaours they’d met on the daily train to school. The train seemed a much more successful boyfriend-finding service than the bus. Valentines Day remained a profoundly disappointing experience right through my twenties. I always managed to be boyfriend-less on Feb 14. It wasn’t until I met my husband that Valentines Day became vaguely enjoyable. He’s the only Valentine I have ever had, and will ever have. Today, as I watched the on-screen couple suffer through the angst of actually figuring out their relationship, I looked down at my peaceful, sleeping bundle and thought – thank god I’m not back there. I don’t mean to sound smug and I don’t mean that you can’t be happy if you’re single. Of course you can. But in my single twenties, I certainly wondered who I would grow old with. And now I have my answer. On Feb 14, I don’t bother checking the letterbox any more. And Valentines Day is the happier for it.

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The King’s Speech

2 Feb

Yes, Yes, I know. It’s no secret that ‘The King’s Speech’ is a great movie. I’m probably the billionth person to see it. And – hopefully – it’s going to sweep the pool at the Oscars. That said, the Academy can’t exactly be relied upon to always make the best choice. Anyone remember best picture 1998? ‘Shakespeare in Love’ beating our Cate’s masterpiece ‘Elizabeth’ – bizarre! I digress. What I wanted to write about was my experience of seeing ‘The King’s Speech’.
It was a Wednesday afternoon. Not just any old Wednesday afternoon. I was 8 hours away from being induced to have my second baby. Add to that, my husband and I were toddler-free, with my parents baby-sitting our 2 year old. We’d spent the morning mooching round the shops, had lunch at a cafe, and were spending the afternoon at the movies. It felt like the good old days of courting – except for my rather large 42 week pregnancy stomach reminding me that I was indeed married, and with a second child on the way. To cap it all off – it was cheap Wednesday at the cinema. I always thought the cheap day was Tuesday. But our cinema marches to the beat of its own drum. Bonus for us. Not only did it mean half price tickets – it also meant an audience completely dominated by older folk. My husband and I were the youngest by about 30 years. This was the perfect audience with which to share the delight of viewing ‘The King’s Speech’. It’s a wordy film, pitched at the more discerning cinema viewer – unlike most of the rubbish that Hollywood spits out, aimed mostly at an audience with the intellect of a 14 year old. This audience was highly appreciative. We were quiet in the tense parts. There was belly laughing in the funny bits. I think that once you get to a certain age – you’re not afraid to show your emotions. If it’s funny, you laugh. If it’s sad, you cry. No need to hide or put up pretenses – not like when you’re young, and still figuring out who you are, and trying to impress your mates. This older, and wiser, audience did not hold back. At the end – there was applause. Applause!! Can you remember the last time you went to a movie where people clapped at the end? So – that movie will forever have a special place in my heart. Namely, because it was fabulous. Secondly, because it starred an Aussie, and had a large Aussie presence in the production. Thirdly – the audience – they made it for me. Finally, I will remember it as being the last thing I did before my second baby arrived. It will probably be a long, long time before my husband and I are able to act like young lovers again.

Watching – Gran Torino – Available on DVD

23 Feb

‘Isn’t that the one with Clint Eastwood – and it’s about cars?’  I can hear you saying it – and thinking – ‘Not for me’.  But – just wait – give it chance.  Yes it does star Clint Eastwood and there is a car in it – but that shouldn’t put you off.  It’s great – and I’m certainly no rev-head, nor am I a Dirty Harry fanatic.

Gran Torino
follows Walt Kowalski, a grumpy veteran of the Korean war who lives in a neighbourhood undergoing change.  Traditionally the domain the white middle class, the suburb is now populated by poor Asian migrants and overrun by ethnic gangs.  As an initiation test to enter a gang, Walt’s young neighbour Thao attempts to steal his prized 1972 Gran Torino.  Walt catches Thao in the act and an unlikely relationship develops.

So – what’s to like about this movie?  Well – it is at once funny, sad, hopeful and thought provoking.  What more could one ask of a film?  Eastwood is a standout.  After 40 years of playing the gruff anti-hero, he well and truly has the act nailed.  I’ve never heard someone growl so convincingly – but growl Walt does – at everyone, including his own family.  Walt is an unapologetic bigot.  In this day and age of political correctness, to hear such racially offensive language is shocking and almost comedic.  You’re kind of laughing in the sense of ‘I can’t believe he just said that.’

Ultimately, this is a film about racism.  It exposes the great truth – that for no rational reason, many humans fear or distrust ‘others’ from a different cultural background.  And – it’s not just the domain of anglo saxons.  The film exposes tensions between migrant groups – namely, the asian and latino gangs.  Fortunately, Gran Torino does not go down the path of being a totally redemptive film.  Walt does not transform from being racist to being a peace-loving buddhist in the space of two hours.  He’s still a bigot in the end.  But – it’s the audience who take away the lesson – goodness and decency exists across all cultures.  We just need to reach out and find it.