I had never heard of Stoker when I flew to Singapore last week. When I saw they were playing it on the plane, I was curious to find out what the story was about. The film features Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, and Matthew Goode. Director is Park Chan-Wook and scriptwriter is Wentworth Miller. The movie has just come out in 2013. The story revolves around teen-ager India Stoker, who has just lost her father in a car accident. An uncle (brother of her late father) turns up, whom she has never heard of before. She is intrigued of course, and whilst grieving for her dad, is attracted by her uncle – she has to compete with her mother though (Nicole Kidman) a somewhat unstable and distant woman (one of Kidman’s classic roles). The truth behind the uncle’s story is very unsettling, to say the least. We learn quickly that he is dangerous, but his past is only revealed at the end, and it is chilling. A good story and for those of you who like slow movies, it’s perfect. It was little slow for my liking, but I realise this is how it was meant to be (It’s a psychological thriller after all). It does accelerate mid-way through. A good movie to watch on a plane, except that the way it is filmed, and some of the frames and pictures are stunning. I love the way India focusses on small things and insects, and how this is brought to life by the camera. The way the last frame of the movie links back to the first is perfect. Not the best movie I have seen, but a good one to watch (beware, there will be a number of dead bodies). Oh and Stoker is a family name, and it says it all…
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I don’t know if you get annoyed as I do sometimes with people going to the movies and buying a 2kg bag of popcorn, a few drinks and several bags of sweets during the film? It’s not the eating or drinking that I mind, but rather the noise that goes with it. It was particularly bad in Hong Kong when I was living there, but it’s not much better here in Australia – okay, at least we don’t get the smell of McDonalds food in the theatre. I wish candy companies had found a way to produce plastic bags that make no noise when opening them. Popcorn can be particularly noisy too, and when you’re engrossed in a movie, it can be quite irritating. Well, I have found the movie you can go and see without having to worry about the noise people make when eating and drinking! It’s The Impossible, by director Juan Antonio Bayona and featuring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts (I love her). The film relates the story of a family with three kids holidaying in Thailand when the 2004 Tsunami hit on Boxing Day. It’s based on the true story of a Spanish family, although they are English in the film. This is a compelling and heart-breaking story. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, because the term is not quite right considering the topic, but it’s a very good movie. Anyway, back to my ranting about eating noises. The movie session started as usual with stacks of eaters and drinkers surrounding us, but fifteen minutes into the story, silence! You could have heard a pin drop! No one was either moving or opening their mouths to swallow anything or speak. The story is quite graphic and watching Watts’ torn calf bleeding profusely, the deaths that surround her and her son, the injuries, what she throws up at one stage, and other niceties, all this reduced the audience to silence – and later to tears. Popcorn was wasted, candies kept for later. Goodie!
A few weeks ago I picked up a book in one of those shops that sell unsold items at very low prices. The book was only worth a few dollars, but the title attracted my attention and it had been published by Harper Collins, so I thought it couldn’t be that bad. The title of the book was created and written in a way to deceive people and make them believe they were buying a book from Sidney Sheldon, the well-known writer. If you went below the title however (Sidney Sheldon’s Angel of the Dark) you could see another name, Tilly Bagshawe, the real author. Everything about that method is cheap. Never mind, I started reading the book, supposed to be based on notes left by Sheldon when he died in 2007. The plot is good and the story starts well enough. In a nutshell, this is about a series of weird murders in which en elderly man is savagely murdered while his young wife is raped and left alive by his side. The murders take place around the world, and a number of individuals, one from Interpol and a useless comedy writer, set on a search for the killer. As I said, the plot is okay, until the end that is. The last part of the book is boring – a trial – and the ending so preposterous it made me cringe. You very quickly can’t stand the main character, the comedy writer. As for the writing, it’s all right most of the time, but sometimes you come across repetitions and gems such as (p. 222) “He was as Indian as the Taj Mahal.” Such trite similes should simply be banned from literature.
The worst, for me, started with Chapter Thirteen, which takes place in Hong Kong. This is a fine example of how easily you can lose credibility with your readers, something all writers learn very early on in their careers. If what you write is false or simply wrong, your credibility is gone – and it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or not. With me having lived in Hong Kong, Bagshawe didn’t stand a chance, but had she done basic research, she would have been fine. The underground system in Hong Kong (probably the best in the world in terms of efficiency, network and cleanliness) is called the MTR (Mass Transit Railway)… and it becomes the DLR in the novel. But the worst is to come. I will only give two examples. The first one reads, “Lan Kwai Fong, the nightlife quarter and red-light district, glittered and screamed and stank, its narrow streets packed with some of the weirdest specimens humankind has to offer: juggling midgets, armless dancers, blind transvestite hookers and the ubiquitous, wide-eyed U.S. servicemen on shore leave, drinking it all.” Anyone who knows Hong Kong would scream with laughter when reading these words. Lan Kwai Fong is vile, I agree, but it is a modern street with bars like those you can find anywhere in the world – like Los Angeles or London where the author lives – and, on Saturday nights when it becomes rowdy and full of drunk people, mostly expats. None of the weird specimens described here. It is as normal as it gets. One paragraph further down and you find, “In New York and London, shopping streets were crowded. Here they were overrun, infested, alive with humanity like a rotting corpse riddled with maggots.” I had to read this several times to make sure I had read well. Is Bagshawe really comparing Hong Kongese with maggots? This has to be the most racist, wrong and offensive thing I have read in a long time. She should be banned from writing and Harper Collins should change editors. Honestly!
Tania’s deceased husband has left her with bills to pay, no job and no idea where he stashed the money. Will consulting a Psychic provide her with the answer she seeks?
Published by Smith & Kraus, 2011 (THE BEST TEN-MINUTE PLAYS 2011)
Produced for Ten in 10, Shepparton, Australia, July 20112008
Produced for Short & Sweet Malaysia 2008, Judges’ choice, best runner-up actor (male and female)
Produced for Short & Sweet Melbourne 2008
Produced for “Eight-in-a-Box”, Drama Centre Black Box, Singapore 2009
Produced for Favourite Shorts 2009, Armidale, NSW (WINNER)
Produced for Short and Sweet Sydney 2009
Produced for SHOWOFF!, San Juan Capistrano, California, 2009
Produced for 10 Min Madness Festival, San Diego, 2009
Produced for Pint-Sized Plays 2009 (UK)
Produced for PLAYTIME @ World Bar 2010 (Sydney)
Produced at the Otterbein University in Columbus (Westerville), Ohio, May 2010
Broadcast on audiobookradio.net, May 2010
I’m back after a year off blogging! Too many things happening at home: a house move, a new job requiring all my energy, constant travelling for work, it was all a bit much, so I decided to let my blog rest. I have been busy though, and have read many books and continued to watch movies and discover new places. I’ll tell you more in posts to come.
My first post for 2013 is a review of The Sinner, by Tess Gerritsen. I discovered Gerritsen two years ago and have since read many of her novels, in particular those featuring Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli. Isles is Boston’s Medical Examiner and Rizzoli is a detective. They form an interesting duo, one of them a cold-headed woman, the other as strong-headed as the other one is cold. The Sinner is one of the earlier novels in the series. Each book stands alone and you don’t have to know the personal lives of the main characters to enjoy the fast-paced, sometimes gruesome crime stories that have made Gerritsen famous. In the Sinner, two nuns are brutally murdered – when it turns up that one of them recently gave birth, things turn ugly. Good plot, arresting characters, good pace. What I found interesting in reading The Sinner after having read many of Gerritsen later instalments is the difference in the author’s writing and in how she treats her subject. The first thing I quickly noticed is that her writing wasn’t then quite as slick as it is now. Not the style or choice of words (Gerritsen is good at triggering images in your mind) but the way she described her characters’ personal lives was a little heavy-handed in this novel. Instead of underpinning the story, I found it was sometimes in your face – we were either in the story or in the character’s personal dilemmas, not in both at the same time. To me, her recent novels show better skills in mixing the plot with the characters’ lives. She’s also more subtle, and it works well. Don’t get me wrong, Gerritsen’s early Isles and Rizzoli’s books are excellent, always exhibiting an arresting plot and fast pace. I have another one of hers to read in my pile and I look forward to reading it.
I said in my previous post that you wouldn’t hear from me in a while, but I was obviously wrong! The combination of a typhoon in Hong Kong on the day our removalists were supposed to turn up and masses of people wanting to leave Hong Kong at the occasion of the Chinese National Day holiday has left me stranded at the airport. I have finally managed to get a seat on a plane to Sydney tonight, but this means I will get there a good 48 hours after heading to the airport the first time…. As a consequence, I have stacks of time for reading (and of course, writing this banter). I finished We need to talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver. This book won the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction. It is a psychological, harrowing, disturbing exploration of several important topics which include responsibility and accountability, guilt, the “nature or nurture” question, innate evil, and – let’s not forget the heart of the story – what it means to be a parent (or a child), as well as the why of mass shootings. Phew! Do you think that’s enough? My sister-in-law gave me the book after reading it and warned me about the “difficult” ending chosen by Shriver. So of course, I was looking for that ending from the very start, but apart from one element, I missed it until it finally dawned on me about fifty pages from the word “End”. The book is written in the form of letters addressed by Eva to her estranged husband Franklin; I thought it would annoy me, but it didn’t, on the contrary. It provides a wonderful insight into what goes through Eva’s mind as she initially refuses to have a child, then gives in, much to her husband’s surprise and utmost joy. But things turn a little sour, as their son Kevin is nothing what they expect – and not someone they are able to understand. At all. The letters explore the relationship between Kevin and her mother, between Kevin and her father, but also between Eva and Franklin themselves. At times I found myself angry at one or the other, sad, happy or simply sympathetic, but never neutral. Having children is often not an easy (Read: natural) decision for women, unlike what many would like to believe, and this book is quite courageous in many ways. I am already thinking of quite a few friends to recommend it to. It’s well written and clever. But what I loved about it is that even after finishing it, I keep thinking about what it means. It’s not quite philosophical, but almost. It’s definitely a great book, and I wish I had read it earlier. It’s also a nice change from the crime novels I have been reading lately. Since reading We need to talk about Kevin, I have discovered that it was made into an eponymous movie this year. I think I’ll go and see it if I can. It was directed by Lynne Ramsey, and stars Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller. We need to talk about Kevin, the book: five stars!
That’s it, the time has come! Tomorrow we will be moving back from Hong Kong to Australia, not to Sydney where I normally live, but to Melbourne. It’s an exciting time for us, and we’re happy to settle in a new city. Of course, I have been to Melbourne many times for work, but never actually lived there. It was recently voted the most liveable city in the world, so it can’t be a bad choice, can it? :-) Having said that, I have no idea when my next post will go up. With having to find somewhere to live, organising all the paperwork, meeting with friends, and last but not least starting a new job, I think my blog may suffer a bit. Bear with me!
I’m currently reading “We need to talk about Kevin“, by Lionel Shriver. It’s a difficult topic (a school shooting in the US) but so far I’m loving it, as it is well written. It actually won the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction. I have been told the ending is both unexpected and striking, so I can’t wait. Of course I will write about it as soon as I can. The next three books on my list are “The Tiger” by John Vaillant, “The Colour of Death” by Michael Cordy, and – yes, I have never read it! – “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte.