film

Pop-up in Melbourne: free twilight cinema by the bay

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Listen up Melbourne friends, there is a pop-up open-air cinema in town for February, and it is FREE. Head down to Docklands on a Friday night this month (every Friday EXCEPT this Friday) to watch some classic 80s movies from the comfort of your own picnic rug.

Have you been to Docklands recently? We wandered down to catch a movie last Friday, and prior to that I had been to Docklands exactly NEVER. It's like a completely different Melbourne down there! Reflections, reflections: all glittering high-rise and glimmering water and shining lights. And so quiet! And so clean!

The park for our movie was fully booked, but there was still loads of space, and we found a parking spot right away. Let me just tell you, you wouldn't get that where I live in the Inner North.

Anyway if you want to catch an old movie at the twilight cinema this month, go here to reserve your space. I think they're playing The Dish, and Back to the Future next. We watched The Wedding Singer, which was even funnier than any past times I'd seen it, mainly because my friend Tonia roared with laughter the whole way through, usually about five seconds before the actual funny bit was due to happen.

Pack a picnic if you think you'll be feeling peckish, but I recommend picking up a box of salumi and formaggio and a coffee granita to wash it down from the super-friendly folks at Saluministi, the Italian street-food spot next door. I will dream about that coffee granita.

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Top tips for enjoying the pop-up twilight cinema:

* Bring a picnic rug and some cushions or bean-bags to lean on * There's a lovely, gentle breeze coming off the water, but that can make it a bit chilly. Bring some warm clothes or better still a rug to snuggle down * This is a family-friendly event so you can bring the kids (there's even a playground for the little ones) * There's no alcohol in the park, but there are plenty of bars along the wharf so you can go for a beverage before or after the movie (or both) * And speaking of alcoholic beverages, the park is on the 48 and 11 tram lines, so you can leave the car at home

Full disclosure: this isn't a sponsored post and all opinions are (obviously) my own, but I was invited by the kind people at Victoria Harbour to come along to this movie, and they generously supplied our picnic rug, bean-bags, and the delicious Saluministi fare. We are super grateful, it was all fantastic. Thank you!

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Eccentric escape

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You can move away, you can run away even, but, 90 percent of the time, your quirks and fears and troubles stow away with you. I know this because I have moved a lot, and sometimes a long way.

This is the underlying theme of a new TV show called The Durrells. Thankfully, the quirks, fears and troubles that follow the Durrell family from Bournemouth in the UK to the Greek island of Corfu are also frequently adorable, affectionate, and genuinely funny.

Oh my gosh, I am so in love with this eccentric family of misfits and, in particular, with their mother Louisa, who is most often at her wits' end but is also my hero.

The series is inspired by the trilogy of books by Gerald Durrell. Remember My Family and Other Animals? My father gave me this book when I was a child, telling me how much he had loved it when he was a child. So now I can't think about the book without thinking about my father, which makes it doubly joyful to revisit the hapless Durrells in their warm and sunlit world.

In fact I never want to leave that world. A fruitless wish, since there are only six episodes to a season, but thankfully I hear a second season is already in the making.

And in the meantime, since summer is only just around the corner here in Australia, I am going to take a leaf out of the Durrells' book and eat lunch in the ocean, to keep cool. Tablecloth included. It looks kind of perfect, don't you think?

ps. more of my favourite TV shows here and here

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The Postman's Knock

This made me laugh this morning. I think I need to watch this movie!

Also, a question: does anyone know the origins of the "Postman's Knock" game? I know it started in England at least 100 years ago, but I'm trying to find a rough date and not having any luck...

UPDATE: Apparently the trailer above can't be seen on some browsers. Sorry! If you're having trouble, here is a direct link to watch it (it's Spike Milligan in The Postman's Knock, 1962).

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Why wait?

old First, this memory.

I am seven or eight years old, and my parents' friends Sue and Ian have come to stay. After dinner, we all sit cross-legged on the carpet in the lounge room and sing. Folk music, mostly, from the 60s and 70s, as well as some of their originals. Ian pulls out his guitar, Mum pulls out her flute, everyone sings. Ian is super-cool to me, a bit like Bob Dylan, but Sue’s voice is more like a soprano version of Karen Carpenter: all strong and smooth, with a gently undulating vibrato. As she sings, she bends her head forward and her long blonde hair falls over her shoulder like a single sheet of water. Like an angel.

This is what I think about as I sit on the carpet with them all, listening and admiring and sometimes joining in, and I feel like I have been allowed into something special and mysterious and grown-up. I also think, "I want to be Sue when I grow up.”

They were playing Cat Stevens in my local cafe yesterday morning while I waited for my bagel and coffee. “Too emo” muttered the barista, and switched to something else, but the damage was done. Like osmosis, I had already absorbed the song under my skin and, once there, it made its way into my blood-stream and within a nanosecond had tickled a long-neglected corner of my prefrontal cortex, awakening the memory of this late-night singalong from its decades-long hibernation.

Holding my coffee, I walked back along the footpath in the bitter cold and spitting rain, thinking about friends and music and, because Cat Stevens was still on my mind, I also thought about the Harold & Maude soundtrack. Especially the two songs that Cat Stevens had written just for that movie (this one and this one), which are both about stepping up and being proud of who you are, and embracing your life. Scout loves these songs, and asks to hear them often.

I thought about that scene in which Maude sang “If you want to sing out, sing out” and it made me smile. I started humming to myself as I walked through the rain, which was sweeping sideways by now. My hands were so cold I couldn't feel my fingers around the coffee cup.

I thought, “I want to be Maude when I grow up.”

And just at that moment, in the wind and rain, a woman drove past me on a beat-up old Vespa motor scooter. The woman would have been at least 80 years old, maybe more. She was wearing an ancient helmet that looked like one of those WWII aviator helmets, and was squinting against the icy rain that must surely have been piercing her cheeks like needles. Across her face was spread an enormous smile of pure joy.

And I thought, "Why wait?"

Image credit: Ismael Nieto, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

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Dreams + links

ab70b250 I spent last night dreaming about a tree change. I don't know what's gotten into me because I really love where I live. I mean, I really love it. And I know that I would get bored in the country. I've lived it before so it's not like I have rose-coloured glasses on.

And yet, I spent the entire night browsing real estate websites instead of working, looking for country homes in the high country. Somewhere where the seasons are REAL seasons, where it snows in winter. Somewhere with space for the children to run and play and grow. Room for a piano. An office for me. A downsized, slowed-down life in which we could see Mr B every day, and each of us would have the financial and emotional freedom to pursue the things we love, not just the bills we need to pay!

I sent a link to one of the homes to Mr B, who was at a work function, telling him "I want to move here." He wrote back "Are you on drugs?" because, well, he knows me. "Let's give it a go," I said.

But then I thought about the schools we wanted the children to attend, and there was nothing like those schools in the escape destinations I was exploring on my computer. And I started to think of all the other things we wanted to do for them and the opportunities we wanted them to have, and I began weighing the pros and cons of life for City Mouse Bulgers and Country Mouse Bulgers up against each other, and it all became dizzyingly confusing.

So instead I closed the computer and opened a bottle of cheap plonk and watched TV while I waited for Mr B to come home from yet another work function, and decided life here wasn't all that bad, really.

In the meantime, revisiting something I used to do every Friday, here are five of my favourite things of late, for your hump-day viewing and reading pleasure.

* Tiny tree-houses in pot-plants

* "Instead of sharing another selfie, I shared all my books with the world."

* Shakespearean quotes on stamps

* The day the plants took over New York

* Build your own street library!

 

Image credits: photo by Thomas Verbruggen, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

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Trilogy

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I'm a little late to this party so forgive me if I'm sharing old news here and, if that's the case, feel free to skip right on past this post... but I finally just watched the Sia/Maddie Ziegler music-video trilogy back-to-back, in order, and it broke my brain.

In a good way.

To call these videos controversial is somewhat of an understatement, considering the kinds of criticism heaped upon them from some quarters, especially once the second video (the one in which Maddie plays some kind of inside-the-mind wolf opposite Shia LaBeouf) was released. (And then I came across a website that was going on and on about something called monarch mind control. What even?).

On the other hand I read this piece about what Sia has created on Noisey and I have to say, I agree:

"Sia’s album campaign—the videos, the performances, the responses and the counter-responses—has in itself been one of the most spectacular pieces of contemporary populist art, personally revealing, visually sensational, and entirely functional, as it served, at least in the first place, as a way for Sia to disguise her own face."

I found the videos disturbing, too, but entirely in the way that (I believe) they were intended to be. Each video features pre-teen dancing prodigy Maddie Ziegler portraying... I guess... an inner Sia? An inner Sia battling - often physically - with her inner demons, the thoughts and voices that twist and torture her. Their musical collaboration is profoundly moving, pared back, confronting, and truly beautiful.

And oh my goodness, the video for the third and final track (Big Girls Cry) is something beyond. That torturous battle: the voices within, her gradual descent, all played out on the outside and exposed for us to see... it is astonishing.

Honestly I'm a bit breathless.

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Grey Gardens

GreyGardens First of all, thank you thank you thank you for all the lovely, kind, encouraging, wise comments and emails you guys left me after my rather self-indulgent complaint about work and life and motherhood the other day. You got me through AND I made all three deadlines. I promise not to be such a wet blanket again. (At least, not in the near future). (I hope).

I just watched the documentary Grey Gardens. Have you seen it? You probably have, I'm a little behind the times since it was actually released in 1975...

It goes inside the lives of mother and daughter "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" - both of their names are Edith Bouvier Beale - in their once-magnificent but now derelict East Hamptons home, Grey Gardens.

Their bigger story, of which the documentary is only a moment, is that they are "fallen from grace" socialites (and also the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis).

I say "fallen from grace" because once upon a time they were both very rich and very beautiful, but Big Edie was an amateur singer and wanted to be an artist, of the kind that was pronounced artiste. Socialites cannot also be artistes, apparently, and that was part of what led to her husband eventually leaving her (so I've read).

Little Edie was her only daughter and was encouraged and schooled by her mother in artistic pursuits. Growing up, she wanted to be an author, a poet, a singer, a dancer. She went to New York and pursued a possibly promising career as a model and as an actor on Broadway, before her parents put paid to that. First, her Father smashed a window in which a picture of Little Edie was displayed, because he refused to see her in the public eye (I think it was gauche, or something like that I imagine, for a socialite to do modelling).

Then her parents' marriage ended. Her mother had Grey Gardens but little else, and could no longer afford to send Edie food parcels to support her life in New York. She called her back home.

Little Edie gave up her New York dreams in 1952 to live with and care for her mother in Grey Gardens. In 1974, when the documentary was filmed, they were both still there, living with about a bazillion cats and apparently some raccoons.

I watched the whole thing with a sense of unease. From the little I'd read before I saw it, I was prepared for the squalor (it's awful) and the mother-daughter arguments (frequent), but I was also ready to celebrate the joyful way the women embraced their eccentricities, and the underlying love between the two.

Those elements were there but, honestly, I couldn't get past the sense that I was intruding. It was as though both Edies were desperate to be seen in a certain way, and didn't realise that the broader context of their life in that house created a very different impression. They performed for the camera: both sang, and Little Edie danced. They pulled out old photographs of themselves to show the documentary-makers. Both women were indeed once breathtaking, but it was as though they were locked in the past. I think Little Edie said something along those lines near the start of the film, that past and present were blurred, and hard to define. I got the sense that inside her 56-year-old body, Little Edie was still 19.

Watching these ladies in their crumbling prison, I couldn't shake the feeling that Little Edie, in all her optimism and confidence and faded-but-still-evident beauty, was being exploited without knowing it.

I mean, I can watch something like Real Housewives or The Bachelor and feel kind of ick sometimes about the way these women are portrayed, and think "Why would anyone put themselves in that position?" - on TV I mean - but I don't feel too bad because, you know, they chose to do this. And these shows have been going for a pretty long time, so you can be fairly sure they knew roughly what they were getting into.

But Little Edie, locked away with her controlling/loving/controlling mother, among all those put-downs and all those cats? No, that just didn't feel right.

But then again, perhaps I need to watch it again. Because maybe Little Edie WAS being exploited but, on the other hand, maybe she was finally getting exactly what she wanted, which was to perform, at last, for an audience. I am very tangled up in my thoughts about this film!

Have you seen Grey Gardens? I'd love to know your thoughts if you have. Here it is in its entirety on YouTube, if you want to take a look:

 

ps. And now... The Gilmore Girls watching Grey Gardens (scary parallel alert!)

pps. And apparently Grey Gardens was also made into a film starring Drew Barrymore in 2009, and also a Broadway show, but STILL I hadn't heard of it until this week

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Mysterious mail

typewriter You might remember that a little while ago I wrote about a cute little snail-mail themed film that was being crowd funded about a woman who suddenly started receiving hundreds of letters addressed to a total stranger (Mr Eduardo Munez).

I'm thrilled to share that the film has been funded and will go ahead, and now the production team have invited you and me to be part of it!

Will you write a letter to Eduardo for the team to use as props in the film? Make it as creative and fun-looking as you like, and imagine Eduardo to be any kind of person you like! Here's how they explain the challenge:

We are looking for mail artists and snail mail lovers to get involved in our project by sending us letters which we can feature in our film. We are looking for letters, particularly drawn envelopes, mail art and plain envelopes - not postcards.

We will have to change the real addresses on the front to the 'fake' address of the character in the film so please leave the address section fairly clear of decoration.

In our film the letters to Mr Eduardo Munez do not get opened - so inside you can write whatever you like. You can use your imagination - who do you think Eduardo Munez is? What kind of mail would he receive?

Once shooting on the film is completed we will video the team opening all the letters we have received! We'll provide everyone who contributes with a password protected video link to watch them all being opened. All letter writers will also receive special thanks in the credits too... Please, be sure to write your sender details on the back of the envelope as the letters will not be opened until after the film is completed! With each letter's writer's permission - we will also publish them on our film Facebook page and our website.

The address to send your mysterious mail to is:

Mr Eduardo Munez 272 Waterloo Street Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4DJ UNITED KINGDOM

I'm definitely up for this. Are you? There's more info here if you'd like it, and here is a blog displaying all the letters that have come in so far.

Image credit: photo by Gabriele Forcina, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons 

UPDATE: The deadline has been extended so you have until 21 March to write to Eduardo

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The wrong mail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Earlier this year, UK writer Ruth Tapp suffered from a collapsed lung, requiring major chest surgery. While she was recovering at home she began to receive mail for a mysterious stranger, Mr Eduardo Munez. During the weeks that followed, Ruth received letters addressed to Mr Eduardo Munez almost every day. The letters were all different shapes and sizes and did not seem to be coming from the same sender. This sparked Ruth’s imagination: who was Mr Eduardo Munez? Why did he get so much mail? She stopped feeling sorry for herself and got to work.

She put pen to paper and wrote "Eduardo Munez," a short film inspired by the wrong mail.

I really want to learn about Eduardo Munez and why he receives so much mail, and who is sending them, and why his mail suddenly started going to the wrong person. Do you, too? Ruth has put together a team of producers and directors, who are funding the film via Indiegogo, and there are six days to go on the campaign, if you're keen to make it happen. You can find out more here.

Thanks to the lovely Micu from Mail a Smile for letting me know about this project!

Image is of mail sent to me. Definitely NOT the wrong mail! 

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A movie about people making mail

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Last year I came across a documentary (that you can watch online for free) called Making Mail. It is about a group of artists who use the postal service to share their art with each other and with strangers, all over the world.

It’s quite fascinating because it seems as though every time a new generation discovers mail-art, they think they are the first and they think they are alone.

I mean here was I (and I’m no artist but go with me because I’ll get to my point) painting the mail I send to you guys just because it was fun and I wanted it to look nice, and not knowing that anyone else was doing this, let alone that there was a whole movement around decorated mail, called “mail art.”

And then you watch this documentary and you first see a group of university students who stumbled upon the same realisations. They would write to each other, and try to find ways to make the mail as creative and interesting and interactive for the recipients as possible, just because.

And just when you think “Ok! They are doing this too, and they stumbled upon it in the same unexpected way as me!” the documentary interviews an artist couple who discovered mail-art in the 1970s. Again, by accident, without realising anyone else was doing it.

“I thought I had discovered the wheel,” one artist said, but then he was put in touch with Ray Johnson, a man who is now, with the benefit of history and academic hindsight, considered the father of “mail art” as a movement.

The nature of mail-art is that it’s personal. Art, sent just from one person, to another person. There’s not a lot of exposure in that! So it makes sense that it remains a fairly underground movement, and it’s entirely possible that in this shrinking world, there could be pockets of people still “discovering” this fun way of using the post, without realising that it has been done elsewhere and before.

Of course there were exhibitions - still are - for mail-art. Submissions invited and sent from all over the world and, most often, there are no rules. That’s one of the beautiful things about “mail-art” as a form of creative expression: once you discover there is a community out there, you also discover that the community fiercely protects its anti-art dedication to “no rules and no refusals.” Do what you like. No-one can tell you it’s not art.

Maybe the relatively-secret, underground existence of mail-art is about to change. After all, there’s only so many people who can avoid seeing the Internet, as time goes by.

But in the meantime, try watching Making Mail. It’s entertaining, interesting, and above all inspiring. Once you finish watching this little film, you will be itching to bust out the paints and gel pens and craft supplies, and send somebody a surprise letter.

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