And the nominees are…

The nominees for the Academy awards have been announced for this year. For me the most notable inclusions are “genre” films in the Best Picture category. It’s unusual for genre films to get much love from the Academy in this category (Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King is so far the only fantasy film to ever win Best Picture) so it will be interesting to see if either Guillermo Del Toro‘s fairy tale fantasy (The shape of water) or Jordan Peele‘s modern gothic horror (Get out) will take the out the Oscar. They’re both up against more traditionally “Oscar-worthy” films in this category so it seems unlikely, in my opinion ( but if you’re interested in knowing more, may I direct you to this graph showing how the genre preferences of the Academy for Best Picture stack up)

Oscar nominated movies must have opened in the previous calendar year, which means that some (but not all) of these films are now available in New Zealand. Flicks has a useful list of where and how you can watch the 2018 Oscar-nominated movies locally.

As for the library collection, below are the 2018 Oscar-nominated films available for loan on DVD or with tie-in reading material. See how many you can watch/read ahead of the awards ceremony on Sunday, 4 March (Monday, 5 March here if you’re planning on watching live).

2018 Oscar nominated films available on DVD

Related books and soundtracks

A number of  this year’s nominated films are either based on books or have tie-in titles or soundtracks, so you might want also want to check out:

  Cover of The breadwinner by Deborah Ellis Cover of Call me by your name by Andre Aciman Cover of The disaster artist by Greg Sistero and Tom Bissell Cover of Dunkirk: The history behind the major motion picture by Josh Levine Cover of Molly's game by Molly Bloom Cover of Mudbound by Hillary Jordan Cover of Star Wars the last jedi, the visual dictionary Cover of Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani Basu Cover of Wonder by R. J. Palacio Cover of The world of Kong: A natural history of Skull Island

Find out more:

Christmas movies for everybody

Whether you’re a massive Christmas fan or something of a grinch, there should be something in the list below to keep you entertained for at least one and a half hours out of the festive season.

How you make it through the rest of the hours is up to you. Maybe a nice book?

Anyway, take your pick from the below and Meri Kirihimete!

For the Romantic

Two thirds of this list features Colin Firth and that can’t be an accident.

For the Traditionalist

Family friendly and comfortingly familiar.

For Kids

Watchable for kids (and not so terrible as to be unwatchable for everyone else)

For Fans of sex and violence

Movies for people who enjoy “adult themes”.

The Pony Movie Recipe

30e3435d-1e1c-4e83-837c-ea96cf447887Even though Miss Missy is nearly 15, she and I still enjoy our Mum and Daughter Movie Nights. Often we pick a theme, like movies based on books (we liked Stardust, National Velvet and The Princess Bride), robot movies (I, Robot was our favourite) or flicks starring Robin Williams (Jumanji is Miss Missy’s top pick; I like Mrs Doubtfire and Hook too).

Our favourite theme so far was our extended Pony Movie marathon, and we had plenty of options, sparked by my discovery of the Heroes and Heartthrobs Pony Club. While we gorged ourselves on equine adventures, we learned a couple of things.

First up, we learnt that Pony Movies are almost all made from the same basic recipe, which goes something like this:


  1. The Horse. It wouldn’t be a pony movie without a horse, of course.
  2. The Girl. Obviously the Girl loves horses. Sometimes she has never, ever ridden a horse, but she will instantly be a better rider than anyone else.
  3. The Father. The Father is generally either dead or the girl has never met him. Either way, he usually is (or was) a great rider. If there is no Father, there will be Horse-trainer-father-figure.
  4. The Tragic Accident (optional). Someone will often have had a terrible accident while riding. It could be the Father, the Trainer, or the Mother, and sometimes it’s fatal. This generally leads to the Girl being forbidden to ride. Or the brilliant Trainer refusing to train.
  5. The Villain. This is usually a rich neighbour, and possibly the neighbour’s bratty son. They will probably buy, steal, or have other treacherous dealings with the Horse. Or it could be a bratty girl who has been riding all her life and always wins every single competition.
  6. The Colic Episode (add for extra spice). Colic is a very common equine ailment in pony movies. Everything will be going along swimmingly, and then the Horse gets colic. Everyone will be in a complete and utter panic, the Horse will be on death’s door, but will be restored to full and perfect health after a night of being lead around the stable by the Girl. Or perhaps by some horse-whisperer who will have to be dragged from his bed in the middle of the night just so he can put a hand on the horse’s belly and magically cure the colic.
  7. The Competition. This could be show-jumping, rodeo, or a long distance race, or some such. Spoiler alert: the Girl will win. Even though she’s never ridden a horse before, remember?
  8. The Foreclosure (optional). The parents or step-parents of the Girl will be about to lose their house, farm, horse(s), or all of the above. Usually the villainous rich neighbour will offer to buy them out.


Choose your optional ingredients and extra spices and mix all together. Bam! You’ve got a pony movie.

Young woman and horse
Pony movie ingredients 1 & 2: Girl and horse

Sometimes, the result will be a fun and exciting family movie. And other times…

Which leads us to the other thing we learnt: sometimes watching bad movies can be just as much fun as watching good movies! Miss Missy and I have just loved picking the plots to bits, spotting the stunt and pony doubles, laughing at bad riding and total lack of horse sense, and “predicting” the ending (will she win?? will the farm be saved??).

The  best Pony Movie Marathon moment was when we were watching Amazing Racer, and Miss Missy struggling to hold her derision in, snarkily told the TV to “pick a plot-line!” The makers of that movie clearly thought that more would be more, and threw everything in the mix: not only a dead father, but also a long-lost-thought-to-be-dead-but-not mother, and mean foster-parents (or were they an aunt and uncle, we started to lose track…). There was also a tragic accident (just for variety, it was the Girl who had the accident!), a near fatal equine illness… the list goes on! If you’re curious, you could watch this movie yourself, or you could read this deliciously snarky review.

Pony Movie Marathon Awards

Miss Missy and I couldn’t resist bestowing some Pony Movie Marathon Awards, and decided to award Amazing Racer our Best of the Worst Award.

Honourable Mention goes to: Virginia’s Run. Yes, this was your typical pony movie, but it stood out a little from the crowd. The first thing it’s got going for it is that it stars Gabriel Byrne as the father, and there are some genuinely funny moments. Yes, (spoiler alert)  Virginia wins the race, but we cheered when plucky Melissa come in last on her little pony, long after the crowds had gone home.

The Worst of the Worst: No question about it, this award goes to… A Pony Tale! This movie took “bad” to a whole new level. To be frank, I’m not even sure you could really call it a movie. It’s all of 88 minutes long, but I am not kidding when I say that half of that time is scenery shots that are completely unrelated to the plot, or even the location. There are also the random scenes of the Girl riding the Horse round in circles for no apparent reason. And let me also add that this is a movie about a talking horse, but they didn’t even bother to put peanut butter in his mouth, so the scenes where he talks are literally just shots of a motionless horse! We actually decided that watching this movie is a form of torture, and that the worst punishment I could possibly inflict would be making Miss Missy watch it again!

And finally The Best of the Best Award goes to: Horse Crazy. We loved this movie! It was wonderful to watch a pony movie that didn’t stick to the recipe! Not a girl but a boy, no tragic accident, or dead parent, and no miraculous riding ability to win the big competition. I don’t want to give the story away, so let me just say that there is a horse (of course) and a villain, three cheeky kids, a couple of gormless adults–and a whole lot of fun!

Any favourite horse flicks of  your own you’d like to suggest?

‘Let the spirit of our ancestors remain with us forever’

We are following the footsteps of our ancestors….we remember

We, the film audience, packed into Christchurch Art Gallery’s Philip Carter Auditorium like sardines. With all 178 seats in the auditorium taken, a few stragglers were quietly seeking spare seats. I was silently congratulating myself for arriving fifteen minutes early. I’m not usually scrupulous regarding time, often throwing caution to the wind, but I had no intention of missing out on a seat. It was obvious the choice of this final film of the year by the Canterbury Film Society (CFS), in conjunction with the Parihaka Papakāinga Trust, was proving to be a crowd pleaser and I’d been waiting a long time to see it.

Before the movie screened we were warmly introduced to Parihaka kuia Maata Wharehoka who presented the film and informed us of the Q&A session she would conduct after the screening.

Tātarakihi – Children of Parihaka – is named after the tamariki of Parihaka. Known for the sound of their chattering, the tamariki have been given the name ‘tātarakihi’ (cicadas). They have a special place in the history of the village. In 1881 the children of Parihaka greeted the invading Armed Constabulary with white feathers of peace, in accord with the philosophy of passive resistance taught by their two leaders, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. Although the film is not a complete full story, it gives us some idea of what took place.

The lights dimmed down, a cloak of anticipation wrapped us. What followed was a 63 minute, deeply moving, cinematic experience. The film highlights an emotional, modern day pilgrimage taken by tamariki of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tamarongo. They, along with some of their elders, go on a road trip by bus from Parihaka to prisons around the South Island where hundreds of their ancestors were exiled and held captive. Parihaka men who were kept captive in often appalling conditions for nineteen years and forced to labour, constructing roads and buildings around Te Waka a Maui, the South Island. The tātarakihi also visit marae that took prisoners under their wing and urupā where tūpuna tāne are buried.

On their journey South prisoners were taken across Te-Moana-o-Raukawa/Cook Strait held captive in the hold of a ship. When the sea became rough, the ship was too heavy. Men were thrown overboard and warned they would be shot if they attempted to escape. Several drowned.

Back in Parihaka the Crown’s abuse continued. Within weeks crops were destroyed, stock killed, homes blazed to the ground. The colossal land grabbing ogre was alive and ravenous.

As much as this brilliant movie is a tribute to the tūpuna whose lives were sacrificed and the Parihaka Survivors of Peace, it is also very much the children’s stories. Narrated by the tātarakihi, footage of their hikoi is interwoven with their poetry, song, art and narration.This film is an inspiring and successful undertaking which educates the viewer and informs the unknowing about a deeply meaningful aspect of New Zealand’s cruel history – the Parihaka story and Taranaki land Confiscations of the 1860s.

When the movie ended, the crowd sat speechless for a moment or two. Before the resounding din of clapping filled the theatre. The next hour was spent asking questions and having them answered by Maata. In the end Māori were called to the front. She shared that many of us would have had our own tūpuna incarcerated from Parihaka. A hīmene was suggested. The whole audience stood and joined in.

Everyone joins in with the hīmene after the screening of the film

I left the theatre with red eyes. I suspect many others did also.

Since viewing ‘Tātarakihi – Children of Parihaka’ I’ve spoken to many people about the film. It’s astonishing how many folks know nothing about the Parihaka story. In fact, not a single one I’ve spoken with.

Christchurch City Libraries offers several fascinating books, for both young and old, that relate to this piece of our history. One can even listen to some music.

Repeat screening: Tātarakihi – The Children of Parihaka

Tātarakihi – The children of Parihaka is not available on DVD so can only be viewed at special cinema screenings. The next screening is at 2pm, Sunday, 5 November 2017 at Christchurch Art Gallery. No bookings, koha at the door.

Find out more about Parihaka

On our website

In our catalogue

Cover of Ask that Mountain Cover of Te Whiti o Rongomai and the resistance of Parihaka Cover of Remember that November / Maumahara ki tērā Nōema

The Changeover: Girls with big hair, saving people

The film adaptation of The Changeover premiered in Christchurch a few weeks ago, and is now screening in cinemas across the country. If you haven’t yet encountered this melting pot of red-zone Christchurch, subtle romance and sinister magic, I highly recommend watching the movie and reading the novel it was loosely based on.

It’s a measure of how well-loved the book is within the libraries that there have been several reviews written by different staff members over the last few years.

Most recently bibliobishi wrote about the new edition that came out this year; Mo-Mo explored the transition from book to film; and I both raved about the book and wrote down what Elizabeth Knox, Karen Healey and Stuart McKenzie had to say about The Changeover at the 2014 WORD festival.

If you’ve already read and watched The Changeover, try our list of read-alikes for more spooky books about girls with big hair saving people.


Win tickets to Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie – plus an activity pack

Hey kids! Win a prize to celebrate the release of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie on 28 September.

The author Dav Pilkey is passionate about promoting reading and writing and we have a Captain Underpants prize pack to give away to a lucky library member, including:

  • 2 movie passes to see ‘Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie’ at any Christchurch Hoyts cinema, and a Captain Underpants activity book pack.  Thanks to Hoyts Northlands for supplying the movie passes!
  • All you need to is make up your own creative title for a pretend Captain Underpants book and complete the entry form.
  • This competition is open to ages 5 to 18.

Want some book title inspiration?

Cover of Captain Underpants Cover of Dav Pilkey Cover of Captain Underpants Cover of Captain Underpants Cover of Ricky Ricotta

Terms and Conditions

  1. Competition is open until 5pm Monday 18 September 2017.
  2. All winners will be announced on the Christchurch City Libraries Facebook page, and website.
  3. Entries must have all correct contact details completed on the entry form.
  4. Maximum one entry per child.
  5. We will notify winners by telephone and/or email. Please ensure membership contact details are up-to-date.
  6. Employees of Christchurch City Council are not eligible to enter the prize draw. Their immediate families are allowed to enter.
  7. If you are a winner, you consent to your name, photograph, entry and/or interview being used for reasonable publicity purposes by Christchurch City Libraries.
  8. The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  9. Prize are as stated and are not transferable.

He’ll be back: The Terminator returns… again

Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

This is how Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese describes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in the 1984 film The Terminator. He didn’t know how right he was. The Terminator just keeps coming back. The perfect pop culture metaphor for a franchise that can’t be killed.

In 1991 a sequel followed. At that time the $100 milion budget of Terminator 2: Judgment Day made it the most expensive film ever produced and it was a cinematic juggernaut (I did my bit by spending my pocket money to go and see it two weekends in a row).

And from there the Terminator just kept rising from the ashes (or still burning wreckage of crashed truck/plane/HK). A trilogy of novels set after the events of T2 follows Sarah and John Connor who have fled to South America.

A television series followed. Before Lena Headey was the ruthless Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones she was the equally determined Sarah Connor in the The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

There were a further three movie sequels (with varying degrees of coherence), the most recent being an alternate timeline Terminator: Genisys which brought back a lot of the attitude of the first film (but positively tied itself in time-travel knots).

Cover of Total recall: My unbelievably true life storyJames Cameron announced earlier this that he will produce the sixth installment of the Terminator franchise, with shooting due to start next year. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the 90s action star who never really went away, will reprise his role.

Last year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of T2 a 3D version was released and this will hit New Zealand screens briefly next week. I’d say get your tickets booked lest you miss out but… he’ll be back.

Producer Christine Dann talks about No ordinary Sheila, a documentary about an inspiring woman and the power of wonder

“I’ve got books instead of babies” — these were the words of Sheila Natusch, whose cinematic portrayal is coming to the big screens in Christchurch today and tomorrow (Friday 11 and Saturday 12 August).

As the movie proves, it isn’t just books that inhabit Sheila’s world. It’s also wonder and passion for the natural world — plants, animals and rocks. This translates into writing and beautiful illustrations.  The documentary shows so much — her love for the sea and sailing, honeymoon spent in the hut under Mt. Aoraki, the fun of learning Icelandic and swimming with seals, her close and dear friendship with Janet Frame in their formative days as young writers. Got the feeling? Who needs a TV and a car if you can enjoy a night camping under the stars and a bicycle tour from Picton to Bluff?

Sheila Natusch. Image supplied.

Sheila Natusch greatly contributed to the understanding of nature by writing and illustrating Animals of New Zealand, the first comprehensive reference guide on this subject. She carried on writing all her life, on nature and history. Sheila has her artistic talent (inherited from her mother and grandmother) to accompany her words with convincing yet soft illustrations. In 2007 she was awarded New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to writing and illustration.

Watching the movie, it is not hard to see what compelled producer Christine Dann and filmmaker Hugh MacDonald (Sheila’s cousin) to capture Sheila on film. With premieres rolling out in cinemas from Auckland all the way to Gore, they are both fully occupied these days, but Christine still found some time to reveal the backstory of this inspiring project.

When did the idea to make a documentary about Sheila become obvious and where did it come from?

Director Hugh Macdonald has known Sheila all his life and always wanted to make a film about her, as she is such a fascinating character, as well as a woman of great achievements. I knew about her achievements before Hugh introduced me to Sheila, and as soon as I met her knew she’d be a great film subject.

Sheila is such a cinematic character, her enthusiasm and love for life in all its forms is beaming from the screen. Her story and persona are perfect for a form of a film storytelling. What was your intention in making this documentary, besides portraying Sheila and telling her story (because it also is a film about nature, New Zealand, wonder, curiosity and passion)?

Hugh and I share Sheila’s love of nature and the wild places of New Zealand. We agree with her that they are a source of much joy and inspiration. In making a film about her we wanted to share some of that joy and inspiration via someone who embodies it.

Love for the nature shines through the warmth of Sheila’s illustrations.

You produced the documentary but also contributed as a researcher and writer. How long did your research take, what were the main resources you used?

The research for the film took about nine months, but that was spread over 18 months in time as it involved going to Dunedin twice, down the West Coast, and to Southland  and Stewart Island. My written sources included Sheila’s letters to her parents in the 1940s, and to Professor Ramsey in the 1950s and 60s, plus all her published work, both books and articles. Of course I talked to Sheila a lot to check things out as needed.

Is there a funny story from behind the scenes, something that happened during filming that you could share with our readers?

There always seemed to be lots of surprises happening, mostly good ones – such as the completely unexpected delivery of a box of chilled mutton birds to Sheila’s place when we just happened to be there with the camera for other reasons  – and that enabled us to shoot the scene in the Bach Cafe where Sheila takes them to her friend Maraea to cook up for them all.

The visit of the Ecuadorian navy sailing ship the Guayas to Wellington in January 2016 was another such good surprise, even though we had to scramble hard to get the filming organised

Sheila made nature and science accessible to New Zealanders in a user-friendly and encouraging way, especially with the Animals of New Zealand. However, she was to an extent criticized by scientists due to a lack of scientific language in her works. Why do you think that happened?

She was writing at a time when the scientific community (especially the Royal Society) was trying to raise the status of science as a profession of experts who communicated largely with each other, rather than the general public. Sheila has always believed that knowledge about nature needs to be shared as widely as possible, and that means writing in non-technical, jargon-free and also lyrical ways.

Sheila is extraordinarily talented in so many different ways: she is an amazing self-taught illustrator as well as a writer, she has a great passion, understanding and an eye for the natural world, she is a researcher and an “outdoor pioneer-ess”. And she managed – it seems like all throughout her life – to nurture and develop all those talents, which must have been quite hard in those days.

Sheila is not only very intelligent, she’s also very determined, so although she was certainly knocked back and excluded from some things she wanted to do, or ways she wanted to do them, she just kept on pushing until she found a way around the obstacle.

The film focuses on creation of two integral works: Animals of New Zealand and The Cruise of the Acheron.

Which is your favourite motto or a thought from Sheila’s wise yet witty repertoire of thoughts?

Too hard to choose! But in the film you’ll hear her say several times that you have to ‘keep on keeping on’ when challenges arise, and that’s a good advice.

I was very delighted, when I realised that Sheila quotes Walt Whitman in her introduction to Animals of New Zealand (his poem The beasts, which talks about the animals). I wonder if she ever in your conversations revealed her fondness for any other authors and who were they?

She has a big library of books on ships and sailing, and likes novels and poems about the sea and life on it. She can remember a lot of songs and poems from her early years with a sea theme, such as John Masefield’s Cargoes. She’s pretty good on Shakespeare as well.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about Sheila and your movie?

It has been very rewarding for Hugh and me to share our enjoyment of Sheila, and her enjoyment of life, through this film, and find that is (as we hoped) resonating deeply with other people.

Sheila’s story told through the camera lens is full of curiosity and wonder for nature and great outdoors that surround us. It proves that those who observe and see, will be rewarded greatly – with life-long beauty and content. Make sure you see it!

Find out more

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Fiction news

Who isn’t writing crime and mystery novels these days? If Dickens, Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope were around now, they’d be making sure that murder and detection was the place to be.


Interesting authors in this field doing the murder route include Jessica Fellowes, (niece of the man who gave the world Downton Abbey), with The Mitford murders,  John Gordon Sinclair (the actor from the much loved comedy Gregory’s girl), has a mystery coming up called Walk in silence and Lottie Moggach, daughter of Deborah, has Under the sun.

Aside from promising crime there is a new novel by Salman Rushdie, The golden house, which deals with Obama and Trump America.

A former Booker winner Roddy Doyle has a new novel called Smile.

And don’t forget the Film Festival coming up. One of the most interesting films is an adaptation of the Thomas Cullinan novel The beguiled. Originally made as a vehicle for Clint Eastwood, the novel now gets a feminist makeover by Sofia Coppola with Nicole Kidman leading the cast. We have the reprint of the novel on order.

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

Laura Chant lives with her Mum and beloved little brother Jacko and she has ‘warnings’. Odd sensations overcome her. She’s had them before, when their Dad left the family home and when she met Sorry (Sorenson) a prefect at her high school. And now she’s had another one.

Cover of The Changeover

Warily she continues through her day at school, picks up Jacko and walks home, everything as normal. Except on the way they pass a shop that was never there before and the strange, rather sinister old bloke inside bothers her enormously…

Jacko’s health starts to deteriorate, his life hanging in the balance, and Laura is convinced it’s because of the man in the shop. Her Mum is struggling to make ends meet, keep her job and be a loving Mum, there for her children. It’s tough going and Laura’s mad ideas are just not going anywhere. Laura feels herself to be alone.

So she turns to Sorry for help, knowing, believing he is a witch.

The Changeover is classed as a teenage story with supernatural elements. I first heard it as an adult, as it was read on a children’s holiday programme. I missed the last few episodes and headed to the library. I had to know what happened. There appears to be more going on with Sorry and Laura than meets the eye and what happened to Jacko? Are Laura’s bizarre theories correct? I was so pleased I tracked the book down.

Whilst I have read sci-fi and Fantasy, The Changeover avoids both genres. It’s a darn good story with witches and a bit of magic thrown in and it works. I was caught up in a great story and characters. Jacko is a small boy I wanted to live, not die and I found myself driven to read on, to urge Laura to put some of her thoughts into action, to save him if she could.

As a young woman New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox met Margaret Mahy and got to know her well. In her introduction to the latest edition she writes of the her hero Margaret Mahy:

“I’m thinking of her laugh, her hats, her dogs and cats, her winter coughs, her knitted coats, her rainbow wig, and very imposing penguin suit. I’m thinking of her long sentences and pithy quips; of the rose window of the top bedroom of her flat in Cranmer Square; of her empty refrigerator, of her very model of a modern Major General and, in the same vein, her virtuoso “Bubble Trouble”, and the loving rapture in her grandson Harry’s eyes when he watched her perform it at the launch of Tessa Duder’s book”.

A recent reread of The Changeover as a middle aged adult and I still loved every minute of it AND there’s a movie coming in September AND its filmed in Christchurch, New Zealand, Margaret Mahy’s home town. Will watching a favoured book turned into a movie be iffy? Possibly (watch the trailer below and judge for yourself). But I will go and pay homage to a wonderful writer.

The Changeover
by Margaret Mahy
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781869713553