Sylvia, Charlotte and Aley

I wanted this to be about them, but in the end it was about her. The ether didn’t deliver – and perhaps, for Charlotte and Aley, that’s how it should be. The photo stands for itself.

sylvia

The State Library of NSW delivered up many pathways to investigate during my visit last year. A winning photograph, on display there for the 2018 Nikon-Walkley, certainly stopped me in my tracks as I perused the entries on show at the august institution. ‘Trapped in the Wrong Body’ was challenging to look at, but that was nothing compared to the challenges in setting it up. In turn, the image-sitters, Charlotte and Aley, were courageous, beautiful and ultimately, compelling.

The shooter, Sylvia Liber, graduated in fine arts in 1994 and began her career in photo-journalism at the Illawarra Mercury. She’s won other awards before, doubling up with two wins for this prize, the second being ‘Deep Love for Dance’ in the Community/Regional section. But let her tell the story of capturing the winning image for the Portraiture section:-

sylvia liber b deep love of the dance

For “Trapped in the Wrong Body”, I hoped to gain a greater understanding of the lives of transgender people. To most, someone’s sex is something determined by biology and gender is entirely separate. For many transgender people their gender identity is the way they feel they should fit into society, and does not align with the sex the doctor put on their birth certificate. I wanted to tell a story in an intimate way through the raw passion and love Charlotte and Aley share for each other. I wanted to push social boundaries in a way that would challenge and educate our community.

The biggest challenge for “Trapped in the Wrong Body” was my lack of understanding. I found I needed to educate myself on the subjects and gain their trust. The girls thought I was gravitating towards tired transgender tropes. I had to try and emphasise how that didn’t ring true in their lives.

It makes me proud to know these stories have the potential to open minds or inspire others in some way by pushing the boundaries. Being able to document these stories in time forever also gives me a deep sense of pride.

sylvia liber

The photographer’s website  = http://www.sylvialiberphotography.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=38713&Akey=4WAFJ7YF

Vice Thrice in January

This time last year, post-Boxing Day, as is usual, the pick of the crop were showing in the cinema houses around the country. Many of the award winners-to-be were on delayed release to capitalise on the holiday time-slot Down Under. They were of such quality, these gems viewed into the weeks of the first month of a new year, that several made my ‘best of’ for ‘18. These were exceptional movies.

Fast forward to the start of this mint new year and the same quality has not been provided – in other words, movies that will live long in the synapses. ‘Cold War’ was exquisite and has been the standout, but these other three, though well-represented in the current awards season, were eminently watchable, but didn’t make one marvel.

col

New Year’s Day took me to the State to see ‘Colette’. I’d been looking forward to it for various reasons, not the least of them being the lead, Keira Knightley. Most will know of the French literary sensation of the first half of last century. I knew the bare bones of her story and was relishing the prospect of flesh being added, for I knew her lifestyle was immeasurably unconventional for those times. And there was some fleshing out in real style.

As with most aspiring women back when Colette was in her late teenagerhood, breaking through the glass ceiling, even in a more liberal France, was not going to be easy. Initially her best hope would be to marry well – and in the much older Henry, she felt, she had hit the jackpot. Under the pseudonym of Willy he was a popular writer in Paris. In reality his scribings were produced by a group of aspiring young authors – he just replaced their names with his to ensure sales. Colette soon shows she has aptitude, as well, with the written word and joins his assembly line. Eventually she starts to produce her wildly successful ‘Claudine’ novels, which Henry (played by ‘The Affair’s’ Dominic West, endowed with a goatee that almost has as much life as its owner) naturally takes full credit for. Of course, its raciness for the times only enhances his cachet with the beautiful people of the city. He’s easy prey for women who want a piece of him. Henry declares this is only to be expected for, after all, a man has his needs outside of his marital duty. Colette starts to chaff under his philandering, misuse of the proceeds from her labours and his increasing fame on her back. She also breaks out sexually, taking lovers of all genders, although she still retains affection for her husband, despite his sins. Eventually, though, enough is enough, when he takes liberties that she comes to find totally unacceptable, even for him.

colette

One of these is bedding the gorgeous southern belle Georgie Raoul-Duva. She’s played by the ravishing Eleanor Tomlinson of ‘Poldark’ fame. Problem is, she’s been in lust with Colette for some time as well. And if I may quietly tell you a little secret, the loves scenes between Knightley and Tomlinson are something to behold.

But for all its attributes Walsh Westmoreland’s Belle Époque offering doesn’t quite crack it into the top league. That a love scene is the lasting memory says it all.

And the same could be said for ‘Vice’, not the love scene – there aren’t any – but not being a top notch contender for greatness. Again there were praiseworthy turns, this time from Christian Bale, Steve Carrell and Sam Rockwell. But, compared with director Adam McKay’s ‘The Big Short’, it comes up, well, short.

vice_(2018_film_poster)

This could have been a demolition job on Dick Cheney – the film presents enough reason, but such is the nature of Bale’s performance in the role the outcome is one of close to grudging admiration for the powerful man. Carrell’s Donald Rumsfeld is less so as he and Cheney take a green POTUS, George W (Sam Rockwell), under their wings, with the latter emerging as the supreme power behind the throne.

And they knew. They knew – although the narration makes clear, in the manner of ‘The Big Short’, that it’s not possible to be definitive for so much of the evidence has ‘disappeared’. For a time it’s difficult to discern how the character playing the narrator fits into the picture, but we should have known that dodgy decisions taken at the highest level have ramifications for those at the coalface – sometimes terrible ramifications.

Those with an interest in the political machinations of men, prepared to stretch the ethical envelope for their own ends, will get their money’s worth from ‘Vice’. And at least their White House was always functional. Could even Cheney and Rumsfeld have handled the Trumpster?

We were eager to see ‘The Favourite’, Leigh and I, although I did have some reservations, having unsuccessfully tried to watch several other of director Yorgos Lanthimos’ offerings. Certainly I lasted to the end of this new one and certainly there were again three thesps with winning portrayals front and centre of it, this time of the opposite gender to the previous. Olivia Coleman, as an addled Queen Anne, was brilliant, with Rachel Weisz playing her partner in governance and in in the royal bed chamber not far behind. Emma Stone played the latter’s wannabe usurper Abigail Hill. Abi’s family had fallen on hard times, so she’s forced to seek employment at the palace in a downstairs role. She has, however, a knowledge of herbal medicine that brings her close to the ailing Queen and gradually she works her way upstairs and to a position to challenge the Duchess of Marlborough as Anne’s favourite caressor of private parts. Occasionally, despite being a few sheep short, her majesty rises to the occasion to stamp her authority, including, at one stage, casting the Duchess out of the boudoir to the outer margins. Hubby, though, is the Duke in charge of the war against France, one of the few men in the movie to be other than a rouged-up dandified fop. Good to have him in her corner.

fav

So, as with ‘Vice’, we have three powerful figures at the pointy end of decision-making, but ‘The Favourite’ left both Leigh and I feeling underwhelmed, even if this period piece will no doubt pick up a few gongs in its journey through the awards season for director and actresses.

None of the trio of films should be dismissed from a looksee, but neither do they set the world on fire. ‘18 was a great year so hopefully it will improve. Maybe there are a few surprises like Lady Gaga and Rami Malek just around the corner.

Trailer for ‘Colette’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnTNgZz4Sm0

Trailer for  ‘Vice’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jO3GsRQO0dM

Trailer for ‘The Favourite’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOySDafIE74

Warwick and I Against the World

At last I’ve found someone who thinks like me – but is it now time to confess?

Before I really get into it, I must make clear that, unlike with Mr McFadyen, I am only half bad. For, you see, I love Freddie and I love Queen. Perhaps, too, my musical tastes have always been limited, but ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the song, not the movie I hasten to add, has driven me to distraction from 1975, on its release, till the present day – well, almost. It’s a song that seems as hard to escape today as it was back in those late seventies times into the eighties. It had another resurgence in the nineties, after the death of the man who can strut like no other. Yes, I hated the never seeming-to-end ditty – its changing of gears, unlike with my favourite of all times, ‘Layla’, seemed discordant, a sacrilege to my aural senses. And don’t get me started on the lyrics – those nonsensical combinations of words that must have been conjured under the influence of something or other. And when the film clip arrived on ‘Countdown’, I almost reached for the off button to that iconic show.

fred

Down through the years my dislike of ‘BR’ has served me well at dinner parties, though, I must admit. Whenever the conversation lags I have only to throw in, ‘I think ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ must have to be the worst song ever to assail the airwaves.’ Then I sit back and wait for the horrified response, with the next half hour or so being spent by the assembled guests trying to convince me of its grandeur and exalted place in the rock pantheon. I, of course, always refuse to be swayed. Love doing that.

Queen At Live Aid

But, don’t tell anyone in case they have a chair at some sit down with me in the future, that I’m slowly coming around to see it does have a smidgen of something. Thanks to the movie and a lovely gift from my beautiful Leigh to see a stage production of ‘We Will Rock You’ recently, I am less strident in my abhorrence of it. It’ll never rate for me up there with the other Queen classics, but now I find I can at least sit through a rendition. And I guess I’ve finally realised, unlike WMcF, that 1.6 billion streamers can’t be totally wrong. One does soften in old age and after all, it was/is Freddie’s signature.

freddie-mercury-1070359

For a while, with Rami Malek, we had Freddie back again. I have lived long enough to witness most of the great front men from Buddy to Bon to the Boss – but none come with a within a bull’s roar to Freddie for pure theatre. He was a one off.

Warwick McFadyen’s article = https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/is-there-something-i-m-missing-bohemian-rhapsody-leaves-me-cold-20190101-p50p2e.html

The Lost Man – Jane Harper

Whether it was the busyness of the festive season, when I was trying to read Harper’s ‘The Lost Man’, or the lack of charismatic lead Aaron Falk from her first two novels (‘The Dry’ is currently being made into a movie), it did take a while for this offering to truly engage me. It was not until about half way through that, yes, I had to up the ante because I needed to find out just what exactly was the solution to the mystery of Cam Bright’s inexplicable death in the wastelands. Why commit suicide the way he did it? There must be easier ways, surely.

xthe-lost-man

Eventually it dawns on brother Nathan that maybe it wasn’t self-inflicted. He figures out there’s more to this outback tragedy than meets the eye – there’s just so much that doesn’t add up. Nathan himself is damaged goods. The woman he took a shine to is now married to Cam – or was. His own missus has long fled the family property way, way back of beyond, taking their son with them. At least he still gets to see him. Nathan has also committed one of the desert’s major sins and thus has been sent to Coventry by all the neighbours and townsfolk in his sparsely populated community. He’s virtually living a life as a semi-hermit until his brother’s terrible passing. This rips him out of his negative mind-set and he begins to realise that maybe a change is possible.

But if it wasn’t by Cam’s own doing, who orchestrated it and why? As this is processed the deeper we delve into the novel, the more it is realised that Cam wasn’t exactly who his nearest and dearest thought he was. In fact, Nathan may not be the only black sheep. Younger brother Lee, or Bub as he is known, emerges as someone who may have reason to have perpetrated the foul deed, but then, it turns out, something also doesn’t make sense with the behaviour of ‘Uncle’ Harry. And was the departed one’s marriage to Ilse as strong a union as had been thought? There’s also those two Brit backpackers, always on the fringe of events. As well, a blast from the past presents herself in an unsettling manner. Liz, the matriarch, is grieving, for her son, the fracturing of the family and the gradual whittling away of what her late husband had built up. All this keeps Nathan and the reader guessing to the end.

janeharperauthorx2

Set where agriculture is a fragile activity, ‘The Lost Man’ has a whiff of Winton’s ‘The Shepherd’s Hut’ about it, containing, as it does too, a dominant and challenging landscape. Its harshness is as foreign to most of us littoral dwellers as the other side of the moon. This is not the equal of ‘The Dry’, but Harper’s reputation will not be diminished by this cracking (once we get going) Aussie whodunit.

The authors web-site = http://janeharper.com.au/

Polish Gem

Wonderful’ – Margaret Pomeranz

Winner of five European Film Awards, ‘Cold War’ certainly has the critics swooning.

A swooning, searing film.’ – the Observer

Whether or not it will gain director Paweł Pawlikowski his second Oscar remains to be seen, but it is a stunner.

cold

The movie is crafted in glorious, atmospheric black and white; every shot of figure or landscape a feast for the eye. It has a glow, an aura of radiance and as well, at times, sublime bleakness. It’s the height of the cinematic art.

It opens in a wintry rural Poland overrun by mud and communist operatives. Our hero, middle-aged Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), is searching the villages in the back blocks for authentic Polish folk music. He and his team assemble a bevy of hopefuls in a decrepit country house and proceed to audition them. He soon becomes smitten by a young performer, Zula (Joanna Kulig), who naturally makes the cut and goes on to perform glorious heritage music and dance for the masses in the big cities. But the authenticity is soon compromised when the powers-to-be decide to piggyback onto the troupe’s popularity for propaganda purposes. Feeling compromised, Wiktor resolves to flee to the West with Zula at his side, but at the last moment she demurs and goes on to find fame on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain.

cold w

Over the next decades their relationship splutters on as their lives take a wholly different course, his in the cafes of Paris, hers in the Russian dominated nations of Europe. Occasionally their schedules come together and they continue on where they left off – but these are entirely brief encounters. Then Wiktor decides he must have her, regardless of the cost – and what a cost it is.

The director packs so much into the 88 minute running length, with ‘Cold War’ featuring in many of the ‘best ofs’ for 2018. I am sure it’ll be in mine for this mint new year. Already it has stolen the show at Cannes. Almost as remarkable as the look of the piece is the soundtrack – from earthy folk to Wiktor’s jazz ensemble in Paris to the start of rock ‘n’ roll. To see Zula’s exuberant response to the latter – well, I almost swooned too. This alone is almost worth the entrance price. See it if you can.

cold-war1

Trailer for ‘Cold War’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvPkDdFeTk8

Meena

Each morning I read a few lines from ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North.’

It was ‘Prognosis’ I was touched by – battles with cancer have been present in my world of late; affecting family and friends; affecting people I care about. And now, as I scribe this, the end of the year is always the time for looking back, looking forward. I typed in ‘The Best Poetry of 2018’ and there it was on a NY Times site.

There have been significant deaths this past year – Aretha, an ex-President and a US statesman who stood up to Trump. The author of ‘Prognosis’ was born in the same year as I, but did not survive 2018. Food for thought, food for thought.

So I delved deeper to discover more about Meena. Hooked by that first poem I came across, I was scanning to see what else she had to offer – and then that line reeled me in. A further connection to me, my island and my father:-

Each morning I read a few lines from ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North.’

meena

Meena Alexander was Indian, bought up in Kerala and the Sudan, educated in Britain and finding her fame in the US. She wrote award winning books of verse, had publish two novels and numerous academic tomes. She finished her career being Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s Studies at City University, NYC. She helped keeping poetry from becoming a lost art.

The poem is an invention that exists in spite of history.’

Prognosis

You’ll be better tomorrow
And the next and the next.

Our window crammed with bees,
Geese cavorting on the hill

A green pond where we floated
Never dreaming such a fate

Might befall one of us
Mad dance of tumors

This serous thing, spelled differently
But pronounced like the cloud

Cirrus—papa made me see
Lifting me high in afternoon heat

A pallor stroking the inner sky
Ligaments striated

A high interiority picked with ice
Finicky music we dare not hear.

The men with Odysseus
Packed their ears with wax

One or two tore out their tongues
Right there on the Cretan coast.

Morning Ritual

I sit in a patch of shade cast by a pipal tree.
Each morning I read a few lines from The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Where did Basho go?
He entered a cloud, and came out the other side:

Everything is broken and numinous.
Tiled roofs, outcrops of stone, flesh torn from molluscs.

Far away, a flotilla of boats. A child sucking stones.
There is a forked path to this moment.

Trees have no elsewhere.
Leaves very green.

meen

More Poetry by Meena Alexander = https://meenaalexander.com/category/works-collaborations/poetry/

 

Laptoplessness

It’s actually been surprisingly liberating.’

Smart phone pride. That’s what I have – smart phone pride. Pride that, as a notorious forgetterer, I’ve never managed to lose, drop or flush my hand-held device down the toilet once – touch wood. Those that know me would say that’s because I rarely have the thing with me. That’s a little bit true, but I do know when to have it on my person. It’s just that I prefer not to. I am also prideful that I can master the basics associated with it, as well as Facebook, Google and Instagram. I realise I am not in the same league as Carolyn Webb or just about everyone else on the planet. Overall, it’s not particularly essential to my existence, nor does it enhance it to any degree – but it does have its uses.

mp

My laptop, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish – something I once figured was a necessity to my existence, something that enhanced my life immeasurably.

So, mid-’18, when my existing laptop slowed down to a clunky dawdle, I was indeed very keen to get it seen to, even replaced. Enter my son-in-law who, over the years, has used his immense IT knowledge, as well as a great deal of patience, to keep me up and running in the digital age. He suspected he could fix it, but I eventually felt that, as I had had it since I first retired, it was time for an upgrade. Leigh-lad duly ordered one that, as it has turned out, is a considerable improvement on my now also retired machine.

mp01

But now comes the rub. He is a very busy son-in-law, working five days a week, leaving only weekends for other activities, including the very important business of raising a beloved granddaughter with Katie. As it turned out, I had commitments taking me away from Hobs at regular intervals – so it transpired I was laptopless for around a couple of months. And with that, I agree with Ms Webb and her phone. It was not the end of the world. It was, well, somewhat liberating. Life was perfectly pleasant and functional without it. Granted, said phone took on a bit of extra responsibility, but overall it lead me, to an even greater degree, to enjoy life in the slow lane. Reading, as well as taking even more advantage of the golden age of television, came with the freedom of being away from the never-ending delights the richness that the ether provides me with. My Leigh’s device was always there, but I rarely made use of it, so much was I relishing time without it.

Capable son-in-law and I finally connected and I was up and away again. But, even so, just a tiny bit of me hankers to return to those days of laptoplessness. I suspect by now Carolyn W has her mobile back, or is toting around a replacement. But I wonder if she’s doing some hankering as well?

mp02

Carolyn Webb’s opinion piece for the Age = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/i-lost-my-iphone-and-i-m-ok-20181218-p50mwt.html

The Walkers and the Dauber

There is a resemblance to both, isn’t there? It’s not just me, is it? You can see it too, can’t you?

Every wall of each of three rooms was covered in paintings, many of them portraits. In the first I ventured into, they were from the colonial period and my eye was immediately drawn to her. I knew that face, or so I thought. I soon realised I couldn’t have, given her provenance and lack of fame; also given she died in 1889. And this was painted decades earlier than that. I thought she was beautiful; undeniably striking. There was no descriptive tag to her on the wall, so I had to resort to something I usually abhor for her details – a centrally placed computer device that the Library of New South Wales assured would provide all the viewer could wish to know about any given item in this particular exhibition, simply called ‘Paintings from the Collection’.

maurice felton mrs-anna-elizabeth-walke

Normally I hate anything to do with digital technology and art galleries. Try as I might to use those hand held devices at Mona, I always end up giving it away in disgust. To me they ruin the experience there, to the extent that I’d rather not be in the know. But I quickly mastered the ones in Sydney and at least made a start getting to know my lady from two centuries ago. In the gen it provided I was delighted that there was a Tasmanian connection with her. I scribbled down a few of the details concerning the art work in question and resolved, as is invariably the case, to delve deeper once on home soil, for Anna Elizabeth Walker was really beginning to intrigue. And a part of that was trying to rack my memory cells as to just whom she reminded me of. Eventually the penny dropped, two fold as it turns out, but I’ll save that for later.

Now at home I wasn’t illuminated much more about her than I discovered in Harbour City, but, as one might expect from those times, of the man she devoted her life to, we could ascertain a great deal. And he seems a prickly sort of go-getting customer.

He had arrived on New Holland shores in 1818 – so quite early on. He was a Yorkshireman by birth, having entered the world in 1791 to a relatively well-to-do family. He had served his country at Waterloo and other engagements in the war against Napoleon; later remaining in service as a master of stores. This led to attachment to the good ship ‘Friendship’ (oxymoron?) which took him and a cargo of convicts to New South Wales. He spent less than a year in Sydney. He was soon sent to take charge of the infant settlement of Port Dalrymple, across Bass Strait, on Van Diemen’s Land’s Tamar River. He immediately took a shine to that scenic part of our island and started to think it may be the place to build a future. To that end he constructed himself a stone house in George Town. But, by the time it was completed, he was finding it impossible to get along with his immediate superior, one Gilbert Cimitiere. Relationships had sunk so low in the small European community that all communication was conducted via their respective clerks. When the latter became so fed up with that and complained about him to Governor Sorell in Hobart, Thomas Walker felt it was in his best interests to hightail it back to Sydney Cove. Once there he was found a position being responsible for the growing burbs of Windsor and Parramatta. He built a home in the district, calling it Rhodes, after his mother’s family pile back in the Mother Country. And around this time he began successfully courting Anna, daughter of prominent citizen and Blue Mountains conqueror Gregory Blaxland. Was it a love match? Did one T Walker see it as improving his social standing? There are indications he was that kind of guy, but we’ll never know. They wedded in 1823.

By 1825 the new groom was crook, a factor he put down to the arduous, as he saw it, work expected of him in his Sydney roles. Five years later he uprooted his family to move back to VDL, still mightily peeved that the authorities in the northern colony had not recognised his true worth. He saw there were opportunities, for him and his burgeoning family, out on the Westmoreland Plains, around Longford, so that’s where he decided to settle, constructing another Rhodes. He worked assiduously at building up a real estate portfolio with properties in the two colonies, plus around the developing Port Phillip region. He was made a magistrate in 1837 – finally some recognition.

But let’s return to the eye-catching Anna. She remained by hubby’s side till his death, in the rebranded Tasmania, in 1861, after which she returned to be closer to her family in NSW. It was, though, during an earlier visit to Sydney that artist Maurice Felton was commissioned to paint the likeness that so attracted me that Harbour City morning. For it Anna dressed in black, clearly indicating she was in mourning. During the family’s 1840 visit her brother, John suddenly passed away, causing the Walkers to extend their stay. The red shawl featured, possibly an heirloom, is used to conceal yet another pregnancy, her fourteenth in fact. Alice was born back here early 1841, giving her and Thomas four sons and ten daughters – what a brood! What does that say about their marriage? They were a productive pair, no doubt, but that wasn’t unusual for those times.

As to whom actually outlaid the funds for a portrait is unknown. Thomas certainly commissioned it, but maybe her parents paid for it. A son just gone, a daughter about to travel back to a faraway place with some of their grandchildren, they had reason. Their portraits were also commissioned from the same painter, as well as one of their eldest boy and heir.

We also know something of the artist himself. Felton arrived on Australian soil in 1839, quickly staging his first exhibition in the following year to drum up business, coinciding with the Walkers time in Sydney. Painting was, for him, initially a sideline to his main work as a surgeon, but he obviously hoped to develop it into another source of income. He also opened a shop in George Street to further advertise his gifts.

Back to the present, there was another Felton portrait on display that morning that is also worthy of mention. The sitter was a fair amount younger than Anna and I would have thought little of it till I read the tale associated with it on the computer screen. 21 year old Sophia Stratham O’Brien never sat for her likeness from Felton. We suspect his first contact with her was in his other capacity.

sophia stratham o_brien

She was part of the artist’s 1841 showing in Sydney, but the young lady herself had already been dead some six months. Perhaps Felton was the officiating doctor at her death. He then would have taken a cast of her face and with the assistance of an engraving, said to closely resemble her, put together the image we see framed today. In part, it is similar in structure to a well known painting he’d done of another young woman, Queen Victoria, which was, for a while, the talk of the town. In the days before photography became widespread, his work was the family’s lasting memory of a daughter taken well before her time. Poignant.

Death, sadly, came early to Felton too. Only four years after his arrival he passed away in unknown circumstances.

Again, returning to Anna. What of the question that exercised my mind for some time after the viewing? Just who was it she reminded me of during my time spent at the State Library of New South Wales? I thought and thought and then I twigged – Lady Edith Crawley.

edith100"The Leftovers" New York Premiere - Arrivals

Many, including myself, miss Downton – although there is a movie version, I believe, on its way, primed for release later this year. The middle daughter was always my favourite. Not as beautiful, in the customary way, as the sisters on either side, she was, for a while, quite a shrinking violet. But when she came into her own, in later seasons, she underwent, for her times, a most unorthodox transition. To me the resemblance to the actress who played her, Laura Carmichael, seemed uncanny. Then, one morning in the bath, I dismissed her, replacing her with Janel Moloney, who, as Anna Moss, had to wait to the very final episode of all those seasons of ‘The West Wing’ to get her man. Janel or Laura? I’m none the wiser now, but something about that portrait did a déjà vu on me.

Am I slightly bonkers?

Paintings from the Collection, State

Hollywood Endings at Home?

In recent weeks I’ve entered hitherto foreign territory with the popular platform Netflix. Up until now we’ve been immersed in its vast array of small screen series, keeping Leigh and myself mightily entertained. But, some recent house/dog sits have freed up my time to venture elsewhere and spread my wings. As a result I’ve come away with a long list of movies from it, as well as, to a lesser extent, from Stan. The former, though, houses the first two viewed – very different, but both worth of the time spent with them.

Paul Giamatti’s Richard and Kathryn Hahn’s Rachel are in relationship hell. It’s not that they don’t love each other, but any sort of enjoyment from sex has disappeared long ago. For this forty-something couple its sole purpose is to produce a longed for offspring – but the usual means is not working. Finally, other solutions are sought and we are taken into a warts and all look at the world of IVF, adoption and surrogacy. Eventually there’s a giving young relative, Sadie (Kayli Carter), willing to lend a hand, or her body.

Private Life’ takes us to the nitty gritty of the often heartbreaking decisions that have to be made in the pursuit of the goal of mother/fatherhood. When all seems out of reach in this film that pulls no punches, suddenly a ray of hope emerges – but will that too be snuffed out? It’s all passion killing stuff treated with no airbrushing whatsoever. Paul G is superb in his demanding role, Kathryn Hahn simply brave, I would have thought, beyond the call.

private_life_poster

There’s a no doubt deliberate drabness to the tone of this film – one that does not detract from its quality, but seems wholly fitting. Director/writer Tamara Jenkins underwent fertility treatment herself and her first hand experience shows. It’s engrossing viewing as our ever-hopeful pair try so hard to be positive when all the signs point to failure.

private

Little drabness, though, in the offering from sunny Argentina that was huge in its homeland, largely for all the wrong reasons. The on-set affair between ‘The Red Thread’s’ two leading protagonists outraged a nation, but sure bought the punters, in their droves, to the megaplexes.

There is an ancient belief that there is an invisible scarlet thread (thus the English title) that people, who are meant to be together, in this case vinter Manuel (Benjamín Vicuña) and air-hostess Abril (María Eugenia Suárez) will eventually be. The duo make contact over Amy Winehouse and then a flight to Colombia. A customs mix-up see the pair separated, preventing any possible continuation of an obvious mutual attraction and they go their separate ways. She weds a rock star; he successfully raises a family and quality vines.

red-thread_80164141

Then the thread comes into play and a chance meeting at a resort location sees them reunited and how; lustily forgetting any consideration of the supposedly loved-ones back home. Perhaps it should have happened years before, but what now for our love struck pair?

red

Both leads are appealing to the eye, although the movie brings little new to the theme of attraction lost and regained in in awkward circumstances. There’s obvious chemistry between the pair which, as it turns out, resulted in an ugly confrontation during film making between Vicuña’s then wife and Suárez. The pair are now together. The film is not as testing to watch as ‘Private Life’ if some light relief is the order of the day.

Be aware that both movies display a fair amount of nudity and sexual activity and of the two, the first is the stand out. Also viewed, but of lesser quality were ‘The Devil’s Mistress’ (Goebbels takes a lover) and ‘A Spanish Affair2’ (definitely helps to be Spanish and know regional idiosyncrasies). Still, if my list is anything to go by, there would seem to be some fruitful movie watching from Netflix to last me quite a while.

Trailer for ‘Private Life’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1orjA9Z8g4

Trailer for ‘The Red Thread’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1pQeMaCV7E

Coffee and Me

It’s so rare for me to have anything to do with a takeaway brew I can remember my last time I sipped on one. Shouldn’t be so difficult, I hear you say – but it was way back in 2011. I was still teaching then, doing beach duty at a school end-of-year picnic when some lovely soul bought one down to me on the strand from the Boat Harbour shop. I must admit I was a bit perplexed how one drank the delicious stuff – by taking off the lid or through the raised hole in it. Logic eventually won out.

Takeaway coffee is, to me, akin to morning showers, bottled water and trolling on social media – why would you want to partake?

I do grant you I crave my first coffee after waking, but, apart from that, I could go a whole day without another, although that’d be a rarity. And I love cafe flat whites, be that at a relatively downmarket venue like Banjos or Hudsons, or somewhere with a bit more class, such as is the case with my regular meetings with affable mate Rob at Whisk and Co.

But the joy of it is the ‘to have here’ to indulge. It is then a truly relaxed experience, be it in solo mode with the morning papers or in the company of my beautiful lady when we’re out and about.

Send out for coffee from the workplace! How ridiculous. What a waste of money and (wo)man hours, although perhaps it keeps a barista or two in work. Buy a coffee machine, for heavens sake, if you’re too sophisticated for instant. Son Richard makes world’s best morning coffee with his little machine. Or there’s the new-fangled pod devices as mastered by my friend Chris of Coogee fame. Delicious.

Of course, the best reason of all not to be sucked in to the takeaway trap is the environment. What an abomination! Look at the stats. What will our children’s children one day think of our stupidity about coffee, let alone everything else we’ve done to wreck the planet gifted to us?

Takeaway coffee just adds to the rush of modern day living. Drop back a gear or two, sit down, chill.

cafe

Matt Holden’s view of takeaway coffee = https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/life-s-too-short-for-a-quick-takeaway-coffee-20181215-p50mgv.html