Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rose Heritage Cafe

Arch, originally uploaded by sleepy chan.

Monday was a public holiday, so I took a Japanese friend up to the Bickley valley in the Perth hills for a bit of local tourism.

We went to: Rose Heritage Cafe (Carmel), Cosham Wines, we attempted to go to Brookside Winery and the Packing Shed but both were closed for a private function, and lastly, Piesse Brook wines. Oh I forgot, we also went to Lesmurdie falls and... Lesmurdie IGA.

This photo is from Rose Heritage Cafe. I didn't really know what to expect from this place expect that we could eat lunch there. We did indeed eat lunch there, but this was not the highlight. This place actually has an extensive nursery with about a million different species of roses, plus a few extras. They also have a "French Garden" (for which I cannot vouch authenticity), but involved a pretty awesome bed of light-fluorescent succulents (click through the image above to see my flickr stream).

This is a pretty nice place in general. I would recommend it to: tourists, guys looking for a place to take their girlfriend or wife on a surprise day-date, anyone looking for a place to take their mother or grandmother out for a scone and cup of tea, people with small children (there was a pond with a million koi fish which many small kids were entertained by), people looking for a place to get married, and lastly, people who like plants.

This day spent in the hills reminded me of the fun of being a "home tourist". Sometimes, when you get bogged down by the same old schedule, just try and become a home tourist for a day and go somewhere you've never been before. I think I'll try it more, provided I don't run out of places to go to in Perth/Perth surrounds.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Just Like Heaven

Okay okay okay. I know I watch a lot of trash. Forgive me! There is a part of my heart that loves the cheesiest crap that Hollywood can deliver. Just Like Heaven, well, it was cheesy, no doubt about it. But was it trashy? Not really. It was more like a pleasant stroll in a rose garden or a lovely cup of earl-grey tea. Sweet, but somewhat unaffecting. Why did it not really affect me? Probably because I didn't buy the chemistry.

I notice a trend in some of these romantic comedies (well, in this movie, and also in The Proposal and I suppose in Suddenly 30). You have the over-achieving career-woman who works so much that they've not left any space for a personal life. Then you have the sweet, down-to-earth guy who the girl has overlooked until some kind of personal crisis delivers him to her. The girl is all righteous, self-centred and bossy and the guy just kind of puts up with it dopelybecause he has always loved her.

This is my problem with a lot of these films in this kind of post-feminist(?) film-production landscape. The leading female, as an extreme example of the single American career-woman, seems to be more of a caricature than a character. She works too hard, other people are perhaps a little afraid of her, she eats chinese take-away alone at home etc. This is the reason why I think this movie failed; Reese Witherspoon's character was based a little too completely on a stereotype and I couldn't really learn anything about her apart from the fact that she worked 20 hours a day as a doctor and drank too much coffee. When she did come into Mark Ruffalo's life (sorry I can't remember the character's name, just the actor's), she swiftly proceeded to lash out with the pussy-whip, forbidding him to talk to his next door neighbour because she answered the door wearing a crop-top, and totally ruining his night out when he simply tried to have a whisky with his friend at the pub. Geez. IF SHE WAS THAT BAD AS A GHOST (which she was at that point in the movie) HOW BAD WOULD SHE BE IN REAL LIFE? I couldn't even really believe that they were in love.

If you didn't really care or notice chemistry between characters, then this movie would be fine, but the more I think about it, the less convincing they were. If you can suspend criticism and belief for about 90 minutes though, it was all rather pleasant. Your heart-strings will be manipulated in the usual ways and you can vicariously experience elements of their newly found love for each other. If you find it hard to surrender your intellect in such films, and don't find enjoyment in the escapist ride on a side-show alley ride of romantic emotions, then you would find watching this film to be a rather pointless exercise as it makes no meaningful statement about men, women or humankind.

Can I just add as an aside though, I THINK I LOVE MARK RUFFALO.

He's a vegetarian.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Wow, I've actually been reading books lately! I used to be an avid reader when I was much younger, but then life seemed to get in the way. I stopped reading novels around year 11 and 12 when I started having to analyse them for the purposes of writing essays. Then at uni, if I had time to do any reading at all, it'd be for the purposes of researching for essays. After uni, if I had any free-time it would either be taken up with going out, sleeping, or doing housework. Now it seems that I have a bit more free-time, which is good because I can finally pick up on that old pastime.

I don't like to waste time with classics, or with "books I ought to read". If I read, I like to read something that is just exactly the kind of thing I want to read about. Does that make sense? Anyway, I have always been fascinated with escape stories (and survival stories). We had this book in the house ("True Stories of Great Escapes"), which I read at some point. I must've been pretty young at the time because I couldn't really remember anything from it. My sister had taken it from the house when she moved to Melbourne, and only just gave it back to me when I visited last September. When I re-read it the other week. I'm surprised that I read such a thing at a young age, because there's lots of semi-disturbing historical escapades involving bombs, death, amputation, starvation etc. But hey, my favourite part of Reader's Digest was always Drama in Real Life where people narrowly escaped encounters with sharks, mountain lions, falls from icy cliffs etc.

There are lots of amazing stories in this book. People digging tunnels to escape from POW camps, swimming 100km over the Baltic Sea to escape from East Germany (before the wall fell). And a simply EPIC tale of a group of Russians escaping from a Siberian prison camp and walking across the GOBI DESERT and the HIMALAYAS to INDIA.

After reading the stories in this book, I contemplated on whether I would be able to survive any of the many gruelling escapes. My answer was: NO. I think if I was in most of these situations, ie walking through barren deserts of sleet with clothes made out of deer and nothing to eat but tiny slithers of old black mangy pork, I would probably end up just curling up to die. I really am a massive wuss! I don't like being too hot, being too cold or being too hungry. Maybe that's why I find these stories so impressive, that the escapees can just keep on going despite extreme hardship and discomfort. Next time I find myself suddenly out on a cold night without a jacket, or when I forget to bring a muesli bar and apple to work and have to go without a morning snack, I'll think of them and try and toughen the f$#k up!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Places I would buy/live in if I were rich

You have to be rich to buy almost any house in Perth, Western Australia. I am not rich. But that doesn't stop me from appreciating nice houses on the interwebs. I think I am reconciled to the fact that I'll probably never be an owner/part-owner of a house in this city, unless the house is kinda poor. But let's ignore that, and look how beautiful this house in Lesmurdie is:

"Built by well known architect Wally Greenham in the early 1970's, this home has been fastidiously maintained and presents today as a testament and reminder of creative forces at work during this period. Wally Greenham was an important Western Australian architect who, upon graduating from the University of WA completed a study tour in Japan. This piqued an interest in Japanese architecture akin to the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff. His work has been described as being loose and experimental and as having great freedom of expression."

Here's a pic of a room in this house, and then a pic of an authentic Japanese interior.

You can really see the influence. The Japanese style really fits well with the bush setting.

I'd never tire of washing dishes with a view like that, but anyway, at a price of $990 000 which equates to $1517 a week for 30 YEARS, this aint never gonna happen.

Monday, May 3, 2010

13 Going On 30 / Suddenly 30

So if you haven't noticed already, I'm a big fan of comedies/romantic comedies that involve a fantasy/time-travel element. By this, I mean either a body swap, or a "going back in time to your previous self" type plot-line. Suddenly 30 involves the "going back in time to your previous self" story line.

I'm always entertained by the different methods by which the fantasy time travel takes place. Sometimes people bang heads in a pool and switch bodies, sometimes it's a voodoo statue in an art gallery that the characters accidentally invoke. In this case, it's some glitter on top of a dolls-house that falls on the 13-year-old Jenna's (Jennifer Garner) head and magically whisks her 17 years into the future; her 30 year old self.

She's ecstatic to discover that she is now the owner of a huge shelf of shoes, and the successful editor of her favourite magazine, Poise. Apart from that, she is rather shocked to find out that her 30-year-old self is also a huge bitch with a back-stabbing best-friend and lame jock/himbo boyfriend. She rushes to track down her old best friend (played by Mark Ruffalo) and is further shocked to find out that they had a falling out in high-school when she ditched him to hang out with the popular crew, the "Six Chicks". Of course, this ex-dweeb is now this AWESOME kind of indie, very modest, down to earth photographer living in New York and Jenna is now KICKING HERSELF HARD because he's totally awesome but now engaged and she has zero chance. Actually, I was in love with his character too. Here's a photo:

* sigh * . So Jenna realises that she totally stuffed up her life by choosing popularity, fame and the bitchy road to success instead of this completely awesome guy who was right in front of her. Is it too late!? You'll have to watch in order to find out. Hahah though it's not hard to guess what happens.

In terms of this particular genre, I thought this film was pretty successful - the characters had an authentic chemistry and Jennifer Garner really played a 13 year old in a 30 year old's body quite well. Her performance made me reflect on the way some adults become; as they get older they get wrapped up in money and career and stop seeing the magic in life. Well, it's ok to care about your career, and money to some extent, but not when you lose your heart in the process. It does make you realise that we do have choices in life, but sometimes they are so gradual that they don't even feel like choices. Over-time, these tiny little "mini-choices" add up and suddenly that's your life. I think this would be a good lesson for the 13 year old girls who probably made up the majority of the audience for this film, to ignore the superficial bitches and try and just live your life with heart and authenticity.

I think if this happened to me; if some wishing dust fell on my head and I was SUDDENLY 30, I'd be like, oh ok. Hahah actually it's only 3 years away so I can't imagine life will be hugely different. I won't be the editor of a successful magazine. Actually, when I was younger I couldn't wait to be old enough to move out and live my own life. Now I'm doing that, it's harder and not as much fun as I thought it'd be. By 30 I hope I'll be better at looking after myself so that it's less stress. Going from being the youngest of 7 children (with the whole dependent/slacker/wait-and-see style of living) to self-sufficient adult has been hard. I think my challenge in life is to get above that and not get weighed down by it all, which is how I often feel these days. Work seems to suck out a lot of my energy and then I just feel like sleeping the rest of the time. If I continue like this, then I think I'll be a boring 30 year old so I should give myself a kick up the ass eh.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Ok let me try and summarise the plot. If my summary is incorrect, forgive me, I'm trying to do this from memory instead of just looking on IMDB. So, Doctor Parnassus (top image) is this guy who gained immortality by promising his daughter to the devil on her 16th birthday. Her 16th birthday is fast approaching when the devil re-appears, keen for another gamble. So, Doctor Parnassus and the devil make a bet with his daughter as the wager; the winner has to "capture" five souls by her 16th birthday.

Doctor Parnassus has an "imaginarium", which is a kind of magic mirror. When someone goes through the mirror, they find themselves in their own imagination, surrounded by everything they'd ever wished for. They are then faced with a choice; of temporary, material, earthly satisfaction, or the eternal truth of life. In order to pass into the eternal/immaterial, they have to let go of their narcissism, hedonism, materialism, and their fear of death. If they choose the eternal, then Doctor Parnassus has "won" their soul, but if they choice hedonism/materialism/earthly desire, then the devil wins.

Doctor Parnassus is hopelessly struggling to attract willing participants to the Imaginarium when Tony (Heath Ledger) comes into the story. Tony revamps the stage and presentation of the show and manages to "win" several souls. As the story goes on, we realise that Tony is not who he claims to be, and the battle between dark and light is not as clear as one would imagine.

Gosh that was very hard to explain. I think it'd be best if you watched the movie for yourself and tried to make sense of it. The concept, the story and the film are all quite incredible, it's always a treat to watch something by Terry Gilliam. It reminded me a lot of Hermann Hesse's "Journey to the East" where the main character is on a long symbolic/metaphysical journey where things are not as they seem.

I tried to visualise what my imaginarium would look like. I think it would be very pretty and aesthetically perfect, I always want to be in nice surroundings. Is it bad to wish for a perfect life? Nice house to live in, nice clothes, nice friends, nice hobbies, nice family, nice partner, nice holidays, nice everything. Is it bad to wish for everything to be pleasant? Because that's what my imaginarium would be. I'd be living in a kind of amazing tree-house in a city with a perfect layout, brilliant public transport, intelligent and humane governance. I would have amazing clothes, toe-socks every day, and extremely cute pets. Then, what would be the choice I have to face? To accept things as they are instead of constantly chasing perfection? But sometimes it's better to strive for things or you go backwards. I guess the key is to strive whilst also being content with the imperfect moment? I'm not sure. I'm just thinking aloud here. Anyway, when you watch this film it'll definitely make you ponder your own imaginarium and how we create our own heaven and hell right here on earth.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Dinner Game / Le dîner de cons (1998)

A group of elite French businessmen host a weekly dinner where each of them must bring "an idiot", for the amusement of the group. Pierre Brochant's "idiot scout" finds him a premium idiot on the train, Finance Ministry employee and budding match-stick landmark replica builder François Pignon. On the day of the dinner, Brochant severely busts his back on the golf course and has to cancel on the dinner. His "idiot" Pignon is already on his way over. Hilarity ensues as Pignon manages to almost accidentally destry Brochant's whole life through a series of blundered telephone calls and cases of mistaken identity.

I didn't know this when I watched it, but the director of the film, Francis Veber, had actually originally written Le dîner de cons as a theatrical play. 95% of the film is set in Pierre's apartment, and the film moves along at a cracking pace by virtue of Pierre and François' often ridiculous dialogue.

Apart from a fleeting 87 minutes of entertainment, I didn't find much to contemplate on. What was the meaning here? That an idiot is not always an idiot? In my books, if someone can build realistic mini replica's of famous landmarks, then how can he really be an idiot? I couldn't do that. I think the essential quality of Pignon that had him defined as an "idiot" was not stupidity in itself, but a kind of lack of self-awareness whereby Pignon could not see himself as others did. Here's the formula for this kind of idiot:

1. A quirky/strange and/or obsessive hobby that sits on the border of normal and insane.
2. An innocent and earnest enthusiasm,
3. Total lack of awareness of how others see him.

In order to demonstrate this principle, let me use the example of Chocolate Rain by Tay Zonday. If you haven't seen Chocolate Rain yet, just type it into youtube and you'll see.

Why is Chocolate Rain hilarious? Well, firstly, the song really sits on the border of normal and crazy. What do I mean by this? Well, there are PLENTY of guys doing songs in such a way on youtube. That's pretty normal. BUT, why is his voice SOOO low? And the lyrics of this song? "chocolate rain"? It's not quite right is it? Secondly, Zonday seems totally earnest throughout his performance, and the interviews I've seen with him. What do I mean by earnest? Well, no irony, no intended humour. He's not trying to be cool, he truly is singing a song from the heart. Just like Pignon builds his match-stick replicas with completely and non-self-conscious, innocent enthusiasm. Lastly, it doesn't seem like Zonday can really appreciate why his video has gone viral,... because, I don't think Chocolate Rain is funny or strange to him. To him, it's an honest self expression.

I think the humour in this type of video/situation, is that Zonday is not aware of why his song is funny, which makes the song even funnier. There is a gap between the self-perception and the audience perception that really creates the humour. I have seen a lot of viral videos where this really seems to be the case. Ie, the recent barking dog man (which you will easily find on youtube). He wasn't trying to be the star of a viral video, he wasn't trying to be funny, but man, WTF. I think this is why engineered viral videos so often fail, because you can't manufacture that kind of innocent/earnest weirdo who sits on the border of weird and normal to create a song/performance that is sincere and heartfelt to the weirdo, but hilarious to everyone else. Another big example of this phenomenon is Tommy Wiseau in the 2003 film, The Room. Think about it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Uncle Buck

So, Uncle Buck is a story by John Hughes about an unmarried, fat, drinking, cigar-smoking uncle who comes to look after his brother's kids when the couple leaves town to visit the wife's father (who's just had a heart attack). The kids parents are extremely square and meal-times are tense. Then crazy ol' Uncle Buck arrives to stir things up. He swears and curses, smokes cigars indoors, makes giant pancakes, tells the daughter's nitpicking headmistress where to go, punches an alcoholic clown and threaten's the teenage daughter's boyfriend with a hatchet. My favourite scene is when he crashes a highschool party to find her and walks through with a cigar and beer in hand totally freaking out all the teens who are like, WTF who is this crazy old fat guy doing here? Basically, Uncle Buck is great because he doesn't stand for any kind of shit and he's not afraid to poke a stick in it no matter how many people it'll piss off. His honest humanity wins the kids over, and even breaks the icy wall of the teenage daughter. Society needs more Uncle Bucks.

As I was watching this movie, I constantly keep feeling, wow! That's nuts!? How the hell is he doing that??.... I think that today's society is a lot more square and regulated and you couldn't make and release Uncle Buck today. It's interesting, if you asked people if they thought society was more square or more liberal than 30 years ago, a lot of people might assume it's more liberal because of all the "sex, drugs and violence" on TV. I haven't seen any TV from the 70's but I've been told that there were totally naked people on TV all the time, and not just late at night. So, maybe there is more violence on TV today, but that doesn't exactly indicate a culturally liberal society. Yes, I definitely think that society has got more square in some ways.

Another reason why you wouldn't see this film made and released today, is due to the social climate in context of the recent "war on men". I'm not sure when it all started, but it seems that these days, the media is completely and overly obsessed with the threat of pedophilia and pedophilic porn. OK, so pedophilic porn is no good. Keep funding police programs to thwart it. So, sexual abuse of children is of course no good. Well, haven't studies shown that most sexual abuse comes from family members or those known to the family and not strangers? So, they should address that through family-centred social programs. So, why this very generalised, hyper-paranoia about men? Apparently it is hard for men nowadays who want to pursue careers child-care or early-childhood teaching without being seen as dodgy... And although we were always taught "stranger danger", I think it's really been hyped up generally over the last few years and especially towards men. Today's Uncle Buck wouldn't stand a chance. I think that's sad.

The end.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An Education

I can't really describe this film that well without showing heaps of photos. The 1960's setting is brilliant. I'm really hungry right now so it's a bit hard for me to write anything more about this film (I hate cooking in summer, and I'm all out of milk so I can't even eat cereal). Let me just say that most of this film is a highschool girl's dream come true. High school is, as depicted in the film, a total drag. Most highschool boys are useless (sorry boys), and if I were Jenny (the main character in this film), I wouldn't blame her for getting swept up! Ok, that's all I can write before I faint from heat and malnutrition.

Friday, February 5, 2010

District 9

Ok so here's another piece of compulsory viewing for 2009-2010. Well, compulsory only if you can handle shaky "documentary-style" camera-work and R-rated bloody alien gore. There is A LOT of alien gore.

So if you're not familiar with the storyline already, alien ship "washes up" on Johannesburg, South Africa, filled with hordes of malnourished extra-terrestrials. The local government sets up a refugee camp of sorts, which soon becomes an alien ghetto slum that causes all sorts of problems for the human citizens of J-burg. A tough and cheerful official is put in charge of a project to move over 1 million of these aliens to a distant location (ie, concentration camp). This is when the problems start.

Throughout the first part of the film (showing the interaction between humans and the aliens in the ghetto slum), I felt very weird inside. Partly because of the very-current refugee/ghetto situation and the cruelty aimed at the aliens. Also, because the director very successfully supplanted this very alien situation into an extremely believable contemporary reality. The first part of the film mostly uses documentary style/news footage clips, adding to the surreal believability of the scenario. This gave me a very unsettled and uneasy feeling - AWESOME,... this is what a good surreal-sci-fi/horror-type film should do. Imagine Cronenberg, add an alien-apartheid situation and put the whole thing on FAST FORWARD and then you've got District 9.

Oh, and I need to mention that the special effects are INSANE. People keep talking on about how the special effects in AVATAR changed their life. Sorry I haven't seen this film, but I reckon District 9 would stomp all over it. The director, Neill Blomkamp, worked for years as an animator... and the result is that you totally buy all the special effects. The aliens are REAL, which makes it all the more creepy. And, no 3D glasses required. Oh, and also, the story-line and dialogue are also ... really good.

Lastly, If you think you can bear the shaky camera work on a big screen, I recommend seeing this at the cinema. I watched this on our piddly TV and thought at times that it'd be heaps better with a big screen and full sound.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Up In the Air

In trying to find some good movies to watch, I was browsing top films on Rotten Tomatoes. Up In the Air had like 92%, so I thought I'd give it a go. The movie ratings on Rotten Tomatoes are not always reliable. Films that I've loved, have only scored in the 50's and 60's, and then some films that I think are total bullshit have scored in the 90's. So you can't use this website as a guide for all films. However, in this case, I realised that the film is by the writer/director of Thankyou for Smoking, Jason Reitman. If you haven't already seen that film, it's really funny and I recommend it. C and I once went to see it at Innaloo Megaplex Greater Union whatever it's called on a Saturday night and although the cinema foyer was PACKED, there were only about 5 other people watching the same film as us. So we could kinda stretch out across the seats of a row as if we were on a couch at home. I was kind of wearing my pyjamas under my coat, which made it all pretty awesome.

Anyway, what have I got to say about Jason Reitman based on these two films. Well, he knows how to WRITE. The characters and dialogue were great. Both films are pretty smart and I consider them both to be compulsory viewing. I don't know what else I can tell you about Up in the Air that you can't learn from other sources. Oh! Anna Kendrick's portrayal of a early 20's graduate go-getter was spot-on. Intense and still with a head full of book-learning from university. Aww.

I just realised I have neglected to mention that Jason Reitman also directed Juno, a film which upon retrospect, I realise that I didn't really like. I liked the aesthetics of the film, the music, the characters, everything. The only problem was, Ellen Page's character, Juno's lines were just WAY TOO witty/ironic/sarcastic for her age. It didn't seem believable to me. I wished they would've toned it down a bit so I could believe in her character a little more. But hey, Jason Reitman didn't actually write this film, so it's not entirely his fault.

Oh, and one last point, I never noticed this before but George Clooney's voice is REALLY DEEP. C recently built these funny sound-trap things for our lounge-room for his recording, and it makes the bass level on everything pretty immense. George is definitely a real man.