New Zealand International Film Festival 2015

Every year the New Zealand International Film Festival screens a range of films over a two week period. The 2015 Christchurch festival runs from 7 August to 23 August.

Literary films at the Festival

Several of the films at the Festival are based on books, or are on the subject of writers. Portions of the following list have been kindly supplied by the Festival organisers. Continue reading

A few of my favourite things

“Mum,” said Miss Missy, “I’ve never eaten a croissant. They look delicious, I’d like to try one.”

The Sweet Life in ParisI was shocked because, 1: she never asks to try new food, and 2: I love sharing my favourite things with my kids, so how could it be that in all her 12 years of existence, I had never suggested she try a croissant??

Sharing my favourite is one of the best things about being a parent. I love making pancakes for them on Saturday mornings (no lemon juice for Miss Missy, the gastronomic neophobe). The Young Lad and I love building Lego together.  I loved listening to him when, at age 3, he recited The Very Hungry Caterpillar as he turned the pages of my very own book.

I love watching Project Runway and Star Trek with Miss Missy. Together, she and I have read our way through The Ordinary PrincessMilly Molly Mandy, and the Little House books. Now that she is too grown up to want to be read to by Mum, I’ve started suggesting old favourites, like the Jinny at Finmory series (which she loved) and Anne of Green Gables (which she didn’t!!*).

Cover of Children's Book of CinemaWhen I saw that the library has Bugsy Malone on DVD, I just had to bring it home to watch with her. I was in a production of Bugsy when I was at high school, and loved the movie (perhaps partly because it stars Scott Baio). Miss Missy wasn’t too keen at first, but once I finally persuaded her to give it a try, she loved it. The same thing happened with My Fair Lady (I had a bit part in that too). In fact, she enjoyed that so much that she didn’t want to have to go to bed, and couldn’t wait to watch the other half the next night.

And so began our Mum and Daughter Movie Nights, complete with a yummy treat — and yes, croissants have featured on the treat menu! We very quickly (ok, instantly) ran out of high-school-productions-Mum-was-in-that-are-also-movies, and so we branched out to old favourites of mine like Back to the Future, and classics like The Sound of Music and National Velvet.

But now I’m starting to run out of ideas .  So, I’d love to know what your favourite (pre-teen appropriate) movies are? Or if you’d like some ideas of great movies to watch with the young’uns, you could check out my Movie Night List.

*I know!  I couldn’t believe it either!

The Northern Frights

It’s wintertime and darkness is falling
Crime is thriving and the body count’s high.
Your neighbour’s dead
and your boss is in prison
So hush your mouth or you might die.

Cover of Last RitualsThis pretty much covers it if you read or watch Scandi Noir (Dark Scandinavian fiction) which, unlike those early raiders from Northern Europe, has quietly snuck into our consciousness. The translators have been busy and we’ve got Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish books and DVDs on our shelves for those keen to part company with their wits. Up to now my fave mystery writers have been British for a bit of the dastardly, but I love a bit of scarily dark and god knows these people seem to spend a lot of their time in deep blackness, so no wonder they’re good at maliciously murderous moments mostly occurring in the long, long nights. These days it’s Håkan Nesser, Jo Nesbø, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Karin Fossum, Åke Edwardson that have me peeking through the curtains, locking the doors…

Cover of Frozen TracksStieg Larsson‘s Millennium series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc) were the books that initially took me over to the dark side. In Swedish unsurprisingly the original title was Men Who Hate Women. Undoubtedly nasty, but utterly readable and unputdownable. There is a good reason they shot to number one in the bestseller lists. The main character, Lisbeth, a survivor, does her damnedest to balance out the injustices done to women in this series. I was rooting for her the whole way through. They’re violent but I still fully recommend them if you haven’t already been tempted. This despite being a complete wimp who would normally hide under the bed from such fiction.

Cover of The Girl with the Dragon TattooIf you don’t mind subtitles (and the brain adapts remarkably quickly to reading the screen and watching at the same time), The Killing could keep you awake for a while. But for me The Bridge is the best. Only two series so far. A body is discovered on the exact half way mark on the bridge between Sweden and Denmark, which brings in a police team from each country. Good characterisation of the cops and the villain, and the storyline moves well with twists enough for me to have accused all and sundry of being the murderer. I’m hoping like mad there will be a third. Excellent entertainment.

Not scary, but equally entertaining is a Danish TV political series, Borgen. Never dry, it’s a behind the scenes machination of several political parties and their leaders jostling for the best position and attempting to form a government after an election too close to call. Birgitte Nyborg, leader of one of the small parties, becomes the first woman Prime Minister of Denmark. A tough job and hard on the family life and relationships. She is dealing with crises, making policy, pondering who to trust, and handling the media. It certainly rang bells as we watched our various small parties jockeying to be the party that joins the big guys in Government. Compulsive viewing once you get who’s who, and what they want, sorted out.

Do you like your books and viewing slightly chilling and grisly? Is your current reading and watching becoming a bit tame? Fancy seeing something of Scandinavia (mostly in the dark)? Check out these titles and let me know what you think. Any other books / authors in the Scandi Noir genre that you’d recommend?

Locked and loaded for the Zombie Apocalypse

Cover of Zombie SurvivalIt’s Zombie Awareness Month. Do you know where your cricket bat/lawnmower/blunt object of choice is?

No, but seriously, it IS zombie awareness month. What’s more, it’s nearly over and I haven’t even revised my evacuation plan or topped up the first aid kit in case of the Zombie Apocalypse. I deserve to get my brains munched, frankly.

But fear not! For your library is practically overflowing with zombie-related reading and viewing. So here are my picks of the best of the shambling undead.

Watch

Better check out some fight sequences and bone up on your best zombie combat moves –

  • The Walking Dead – We’re between seasons with everyone’s favourite zombie horror TV series, but why not got back and rewatch the first season before Rick went feral and facial hair took over his face? You know, back when the post-apocalyptic world was a kinder, gentler, better groomed place.
  • Warm BodiesCover of Warm bodies – A zombie as a romantic lead? Seems a bit unlikely but that’s the premise of this film starring Nicholas Hoult of TV show Skins.
  • World War Z – Where the zombies are fast and really good at climbing, the little monkeys. But are they a match for Brad Pitt in “action” mode? Well, they give it a good try at least…
  • I am Legend – Not technically zombies because they’re not dead (much like the ones in World War Z) but if you spend time quibbling about such distinctions during the apocalypse you’ll likely become someone’s afternoon tea, so just enjoy the ride (and make note of Will Smith’s survival skills and strategies).
  • Shaun of the dead (we’ve got this as a double-DVD combo with Hot Fuzz). Just the rom-zom-com to lighten the mood a touch.

Read

Board up the windows and hunker down with some reading material –

Make

No actual zombies around just at the moment? Make your own with the following crafty titles –

I think you’ll agree that’s plenty to be getting on with, but if you’ve got an hot tips for zombie reading or preparedness please do make suggestions.

The role of the critic – Wystan Curnow and Peter Holland at the Auckland Writers Festival

Cover of The Critic's partShakepeare critic – and doppelganger – Peter Holland, and New Zealand art critic Wystan Curnow were on stage with Rosabel Tan, editor of the awesome must-read Pantograph Punch. This was a meaty and intellectual session to kick off my Auckland Writers Festival.

There was much to ponder on and unpack – the idea of critic as a mediator, the differences between criticism and reviewing, understanding, judgement, objectivity.

Peter Holland talked about “reviewing for history”:

I want to know that moment.

He had an appropriately Shakespearean reference on hand  to explain the role of the critic “to help other people see best”:

See better, Lear.

Wystan Curnow’s sense is that:

The really dedicated critic is full of desire for the work.

Both have difficulties with the word “critic” and people’s perception of it. “The word is a slippery one” said Peter.

It’s so easy to be rude …sneering puns and jokes, that’s the reviewer showing off.

Neither felt it necessary to be a “put the boot in” kind of critic. Both prefer the critic’s role to be one of explanation, elucidation, focus, and mediation.

Wystan said:

What you don’t write about is in itself a judgement.

In Auckland Writers Festival sessions, not only do you come away wanting to read – or re-read – the books by the presenters, you get some topnotch reading tips. Peter’s suggestions:

Other comments

Auckland Writers Festival

How Marvel-lous

Cover of Avengers the ultimate guideThe Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU as it’s known in the geeksphere, continues to grow with the recent release of blockbuster action movie The Avengers: Age of Ultron. And it won’t stop there. We’re currently in Phase Two, with further films and spin-offs due for release from next year.

What makes the MCU so interesting is that rather than simply being a disparate series of films (and television shows) featuring different super heroes who happen to originate from the same comic book company, there are multiple character crossovers between the films (both starring and supporting), and tantalising hints in post-credit sequences of future instalments. There is a master plan at work and it’s increasingly hard to keep a track of.

For those of you feeling a little overwhelmed by all the superheroes (and who wouldn’t?), I’ve prepared a crib sheet so you can navigate your way around the MCU with confidence.

Phase One

Phase One of the MCU officially began back in 2008 with the first Iron Man movie.

Cover of Iron Man the ultimate guide to the armoured super heroCover of The invincible Iron ManCover of Ultimate Iron Man II

Cover of The Incredible Hulk, Planet HulkThe Incredible Hulk film followed (the one with Ed Norton). Norton was supposed to continue playing the Hulk through The Avengers movies but “talks broke down” and he was replaced in later outings by Mark Ruffalo. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those of you who like your Hulk more “bodybuilder in green paint” than “CGI motion capture”, we have four seasons of the TV series on DVD.

The next films in the series were Iron Man 2 in 2010 and Thor in 2011.
Thor introduced fan-favourite, Loki.

Cover of Thor God of ThunderCover of Thor the mighty avengerCover of New ultimates Thor rebornCover of Thor the trials of Loki

2011 also brought us the first Captain America film (curious “Cap” fans may want to check out the 1970s TV series).

Cover of Captain America the tomorrow soldierCover of Captain America volume 4Cover of  Marvel masterworks presents Captain America volume 2Cover of Captain America volume 3

Phase One ended in 2012 with the first Avengers film which brought Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America together and added Black Widow and Hawkeye in for good measure. We also got our first look at villian, Thanos.

Cover of The Avengers 1Cover of Avengers 1 Avengers worldCover of The Avengers time runs out volume 2

Phase Two

Cover of Thor: the dark world preludePhase Two kicked off in 2013 with Iron Man 3 and was quickly followed by Thor sequel, Thor: The Dark World.

Also in 2013, the first series of Marvel’s Agents of Shield aired which followed on from events in The Avengers movie and features recurring film character, Agent Coulson.

In 2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released as was box office smash Guardians of the Galaxy (which included more screentime for Thanos). The retro vibe of the movie soundtrack album meant it was just as popular as the film.

Cover of Guardians of the galaxy volume 1Cover of Guardians of the galaxy cosmic avengers volume 1Cover of Guardians of the galaxy volume 3 guardians disassembledCover of Guardians of the galaxy

On television Marvel’s Agents of Shield returned in 2014 and events that took place during The Winter Soldier continued to have repercussions in the show’s second season. Though it stands on its own the series contains ideas and story arcs that are likely to make an appearance in the Marvel films. Recent episodes of the show (as yet unscreened in New Zealand) have been coordinated to set up the opening of The Avengers sequel.

A further television series, Marvel’s Agent Carter, features Peggy Carter from the first Captain America movie who has also appeared in Marvel’s Agents of Shield episodes in flashback. There’s a lot of “interweaving” in the MCU.

Meanwhile, Netflix series Marvel’s Daredevil has also recently been released.

Cover of Daredevil volume 2Cover of Daredevil the man without fear volume 9 King of hell's kitchenCover of Daredevil volume 6Cover of Daredevil end of days

Cover of Avengers Rage of UltronCover of Avengers battle against UltronSo far this year on the movie front we’ve had The Avengers: Age of Ultron but Ant-man is expected in a few months’ time.

Phase Three

Looking forward to Phase Three which roughly spans 2016-2019, there is a third Captain America instalment planned, a second Guardians of the Galaxy, and a third Thor film.

A Marvel’s Agents of Shield spin-off TV series has just been announced, and there will be an Avengers “Infinity War” two-parter which may or may not involve The Avengers and Guardians gangs crossing paths.

Cover of Thanso the infinity revelationCover of Avengers Infinity 4Cover of Avengers assemble

Cover of Captain Marvel volume 2 downOn the schedule are also a highly anticipated female super hero film, Captain Marvel, as well as Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Inhumans.

Phew.

And if you’re all “Marvel-ed out” now, I don’t blame you. Though if you’re keen for more hot comic action, it’s Free Comic Book Day tomorrow so get amongst, either at your local comic book store or at our Papanui Library event.
Otherwise, why not just sit back and enjoy Jeremy Clint Barton/Hawkeye Renner singing about being the least super of the super heroes?

What do Hollywood and libraries have in common?

You may not think there is a lot in common between a library and Hollywood.  We may not be as glamorous as the likes of Angelina Jolie or Jamie Dornan, but where would they be without Unbroken and 50 shades of grey?

However it isn’t just books that we have in common, it is our need to keep up with The Next Big Thing, and nothing typifies this more than and diet and exercise industry. You may have just come to grips with the low-fat ideology which has spawned the likes of low-fat bacon for goodness sake, only to now be told now that butter is good!

Paleo is still huge and cavemen everywhere must be beating their clubs with glee as there seems to be a never-ending plethora of books published in this area. Fasting is also popular although having holidayed with someone when they were on their fasting days was a pretty unpleasant experience, and one I don’t wish to repeat. Of course you can also use this time to detox using juices and smoothies, or you could munch your way a plate of raw food. It would seem that actually cooking food is akin to devil worship in some circles!

ECover of Embrace the suckxercise has also gone through a variety of Metamorphoses over the years. Jane Fonda feeling the burn has now been replaced by so-called gyms or  “boxes” where you push around tires and lift heavy chains. Perhaps all that paleo has indeed turned us into cavemen/women?

HIIT is  also big, High Intensity Interval training … gone are the days of slogging it out on the treadmill for hours on end. It’s all fast and intense now, perhaps better for the time hungry?

Craft is another area that is trend focused.  Fancy a bit of scrapbooking/mosaic/ beading? Well actually no, now it is all about quilting, knitting and a side of crochet, and if you branch out into the vintage aspect of things all the better.

Cover of Yarn, yarn, yarnYou may have thought hacking involved some sort of illegal action with computers, however now we have life hacks: Any Procedure or Action That Solves a Problem, Simplifies a Task, Reduces Frustration, Etc. in One’s Everyday Life.

This has been big on social media so we should expect more books on this subject in the next while.

It’s Oscar Time!

Cover of American SniperOscar nominations have been announced, you can catch up on lots of them from the Library before the February 22 ceremony (Monday 23 in NZ), as well as the books they are based on:

Best Picture nominees

American Sniper (based on this book by Chris Kyle) is up for six awards including Best Picture & Actor.

In Birdman (up for nine awards) an ex-superhero actor tries to mount a play based on the Raymond Carver story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

Boyhood is on its way to the Library, get on the reserve list and watch this landmark Richard Linklater movie that was filmed over 12 years!

Haven’t seen The Grand Budapest Hotel yet? It’s been nominated for nine awards (tied for the most nominations with Birdman) and is beautiful.

Book cover of 85 years of the OscarThe Imitation Game may not be historically accurate, but hopefully the play it is based on (Breaking the Code) is, or the book that the play that the movie was based on (Alan Turing: The Enigma) is.

Selma is based on voting marches led by Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. Read Marching for Freedom for an introduction to this topic, or listen to the music of the marchers online.

The Stephen Hawking bio-pic The Theory of Everything (also nominated for Best Actor and Actress) is based on Travelling to Infinity, a memoir by his first wife.

Whiplash is an original story based in the world of jazz. You can listen to thousands of jazz tracks on Freegal and our other Music eResources.

Best Actress

Book cover of Still AliceJulianne Moore has been nominated in the Best Actress category for Still Alice, based on the novel by Lisa Genova, about a professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Rosamund Pike is nominated for Gone Girl. We have the fantastic novel as well as the movie in our collection.

Reese Witherspoon has been nominated for her turn as a women who embarks on a huge solo hike after some personal tragedy. The movie was based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir – Wild.

Best Actor

Steve Carrell has been nominated for Foxcatcher, which is a bit of a feat for someone whose only other entry in the Library database is for Anchorman 2. We have the recently released book in now.

Best Animated Feature Film

We have The Boxtrolls, How to Train your Dragon 2, and the not nominated but phenomenally popular The LEGO Movie, although I was always more of a Torro girl myself.

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Books into film

American SniperMany of the bigger recent movies have either been original scripts or based on novels, so 2015 may be a bit different in that there are some big numbers coming up based on non-fiction work.

The reviews have been best with American sniper, based on the Chris Kyle bestseller about the man who holds the record as the deadliest sniper in American military history for his confirmed 150 killings. Clint Eastwood has directed the film version which has Bradley Cooper as Kyle and Sienna Miller as his wife.

Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, In the heart of the sea, is a gripping read about the sinking of the Essex and its fatal encounter with a whale.  Ron Howard has directed the film version with Chris Hemsworth, Brendan Gleeson, Cillian Murphy  – and Ben Whishaw as the author of Moby Dick, Herman Melville.

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is an interesting account of the author’s 1100 mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Advance reviews have been enthusiastic for the film version with Reese Witherspoon.

Reviews have been less enthusiastic for Angelina Jolie’s directorial account of another bestseller, Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, about Olympic runner Louis Zamperini and some critics felt it was a gruelling slog that didn’t justify its “if you can take it, you can make it” tagline.

If you have extra Sky channels you may have seen the adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy (Rob Lowe as Kennedy) and coming up is Killing Jesus with Kelsey Grammar as King Herod.

Zinio for Libraries – prepare for your eMagazine conversion!

Over 1,000 copies of eMagazines are downloaded from Zinio For Libraries each week from our library. Zinio is a digital library of eMagazines. The over 300 eMagazine titles contain the same content as the print and are released at the same time. The most popular eMagazine in October was Hello Magazine and in November it was The Economist.

It is hardly surprising our attentions shift to the economy now that we are close to Christmas and having our purses sucked dry by promises of eternal happiness if we would keep buying, drinking and eating. With costs high and wages low I have become a bit more of an economist myself and subscriptions can cost a lot of money.

What will these eMagazines cost you on Zinio for the same content? ZERO, $0.00, Nadir, Zip, Naught, Blank, Nix, Zilch. In other words nothing. The five minutes it takes you to sign up could save you hundreds. You can even sign up for email reminders when a favourite title comes in.
Zinio Cover of Hello Cover of The Economist Cover of New Zealand marketing Cover of Pets   Cover of In style

All you need is your library card number and password/PIN and an internet connection to download the eMagazine to your portable device from home or in libraries. You can read it offline after that and it it yours to keep until you decide to delete it.

Search the catalogue for titles on Zinio for Libraries.