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.