All about Yves – a passion for fashion

I love fashion, and am glad to see the New Zealand International Film Festival has a trio of fashiony movies:

Saint Laurent

The latest French biopic of the iconic fashion designer is a heady experience, stunningly realised without official YSL approval, and concentrating on the decade that culminated with a triumphant collection in 1976

The library has the other recent YSL biopic Yves Saint Laurent. I watched in the weekend – the actor who played Yves nailed his fragility and fierce glamour.  Find more YSL stuff at the library.

Cover of Yves Saint Laurent Cover of Rare bird of fashion Cover of Women I've undressed

Iris

Colourful fashionista Iris is one of my style heroines. Big glasses, accessories piled on.  Check out the book Rare bird of fashion for a closeup look at her fabbo gear, and Advanced Style (book or movie) if you want to see some more older style goddesses.

Iris talked to Noelle last weekend on Radio New Zealand Saturday morning.

Women he’s undressed

Gillian Armstrong’s doco celebrates the colourful Orry-Kelly, the Australian-born designer who dressed Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca, Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot and Bette Davis in many of her greatest roles.

We have the splendid looking book on order.

Fashion docos and movies in our collection you might like to watch include:

And just to tantalise your fashionbuds – here’s some new books to swoon over:

Cover of Girl in Dior Cover of Alexander McQueen Cover of Charles James Cover of Fashion Visionaries Cover of Japanese fashion cultures Cover of London Society Fashion Cover of Marcel Rochas Cover of Vivienne Westwood

The power of forgiveness

A few years ago in another job I had the task of cataloguing a collection of about 100 Far East Prisoner of War memoirs. These stories of the terrible hardship suffered by military and civilian prisoners at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Forces during the Second World War were difficult – and humbling – to read, but truly showed how strong the human survival instinct is.

One book that wasn’t part of this collection was Eric Lomax’s The Railway Man. I always wanted to read it, but was hesitant. I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to read another FEPOW story. The other week I watched the recent film adaptation starring Colin Firth. It was a perfectly okay film, yet I knew there must be more in the book.

I requested the book, and am glad I did. Many aspects were familiar to me – capture at Singapore, time in Changi, being moved into the jungle to work on the Burma-Siam railway – but this book was different and not just because of the torture that Lomax endured. The story does not end at the end of the war; it goes on into great detail about the effects of his wartime experiences on his life and ultimately ends with forgiveness and friendship.

It is these aspects that set this book apart and make it a classic. If you’ve only seen the film, do read the book. If you haven’t seen the film, do read the book. But whatever you do be prepared to be appalled, astonished and deeply moved.

Belle

Cover of BelleBased on a real incident in the eighteenth-century, this beautifully crafted story is also a visual treat for those that love elaborate costumes, majestic sets and wondrous landscapes. I have yet to read the book by Paula Byrne, but the DVD was a joy to watch.

Dido Elizabeth Belle was the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of Royal Navy Admiral John Lindsay. Slavery had been operating for many years at the time of Dido’s birth and her life could have been one of life-long servitude and misery but for the fact that John Lindsay – for whatever reasons – publicly acknowledged her to his titled family.

Dido was left in the care of her father’s Uncle, Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice, and was subsequently brought up in his household as his great-niece. Whilst her lineage and, later, the inheritance of her late father’s estate, gave her more freedom than most women in that period of time, the colour of her skin was a barrier to acquiring social standing. Ironically, Dido shared her childhood with a legitimate white female cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, whose own father made no financial provision for her so that Lord and Lady Mansfield were obliged to make a ‘good’ match for her.

When Dido formed a romantic attachment with the idealistic son of a local Vicar, they both embarked on a mission to abolish slavery in England through the initially reluctant auspices of Lord Mansfield.

Cover of Representing SlaveryNormally I read a book and then see the film, or just watch a film, but on this occasion the film has inspired me to find out more about both the Family and the origins of the Slave Trade in eighteenth-century Great Britain.  Fortunately there are plenty of resources available to assist me in this task at the Christchurch City Libraries.  (You can access the following resources in libraries or from home using your library card number and password/PIN.)

Anyone else out there ever been so impressed by a film that they have then wanted to delve more deeply into the history of the era?

Best picks: The Christchurch NZIFF programme

NZIFF 2015 programme cover artLast night the Christchurch programme for the New Zealand International Film Festival was released and boy, are there some goodies in the mix. Not to mention that some films will be shown in the rebuilt Isaac Theatre Royal, just in case you needed any additional enticement to get along to the festival.

Film enthusiasts from The Press are already making their picks for must-sees on Twitter. Senior Reporter, Philip Matthews’ (@secondzeit) top ten is –

  1. Inherent Vice
  2. 45 years
  3. The Women of Pike River
  4. The WolfpackCover of Going clear - Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief
  5. The Lobster
  6. The Look of Silence
  7. Cemetery of Splendour
  8. Out of the Mist
  9. Clouds of Sils Maria
  10. Going Clear

Whereas Charlie Gates (@nzcharliegates), Arts and Data reporter, in all his enthusiasm, can’t limit himself to a top ten, preferring an unorthodox “top 12″ instead.

  1. cover of Inherent viceInherent Vice
  2. Amy
  3. The Kid
  4. Out of the Mist
  5. Kiss me Kate 3D
  6. The Misfits
  7. ’71
  8. Turbo Kid
  9. Ex Machina
  10. The Wolfpack
  11. The End of the Tour
  12. Banksy Does New York

And of course, my top ten is different again.

  1. Turbo Kid – There is significant buzz online about this film and the trailer is gloriously over the top, both in gore and tone, which is right up my alley, thanks.
  2. Going Clear – As Matthew’s said yesterday “See it before the Church of Scientology stop you”.
  3. Cover of The diary of a teenage girlThe Diary of a Teenage Girl – Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skaarsgard are people I would watch in anything. In a movie together? It’s a no-brainer.
  4. The Art of Recovery – Very much a documentary about us (Christchurch) in a particular time and place but this time it’s not about destructive forces but creative ones.
  5. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Because I’m a sucker for vampires (geddit?). And interesting takes on gender politics.
  6. Women he’s undressed – Documentary about camp Australian costume designer, Orry-Kelly who makes it big in Hollywood, dressing the biggest stars of the day. Am I mostly in it for the clothes and an insight into Cary Grant’s secret love life? Yes.
  7. Tale of Tales – Sumptuous fairy tales, dark and twisted, portrayed by an amazing cast.
  8. The Price of Peace – Documentary from Kiwi journo Kim Webby explores the greater social issues at work with the Urewera Four and Tame Iti. A story that New Zealand needs to be told.
  9. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry – Yay for feminism and the campaigners of the 60s and 70s.
  10. The Misfits – Because I’ve never seen Marilyn Monroe on the big screen.

The Christchurch leg of the festival runs 7 – 23 August but tickets to popular sessions do have a tendency to sell out so get booking ASAP.

Read more

Have you had a chance to peruse the film schedule yet? What are your top picks for this year’s festival?

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?