Competition: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

Charming. Quirky. Nostalgic.

All words that have been used to describe Mary Ann Shaffer’s bestselling novel, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. The historical WWII novel that Shaffer (a former librarian) wrote when her plans for a biography of Robert Falcon Scott’s widow, Kathleen Scott fell through, “Guernsey” was extremely popular when it was published ten years ago. An epistolary novel (one that is told through letters or other documents), it tells the tale of Guernsey island-life during German occupation and is filled with engaging characters. It’s very much a book for booklovers, capturing, as it does, the transformative magic of reading.

And now it’s a movie. Opening in New Zealand on 25 April, “Guernsey” the movie will be a must-see for fans of the book but also for those wishing Downton Abbey was still a going concern, with no less than four former Abbey-ers in the cast, including lead, Lily James.

Lily James as writer Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie. Image supplied.

If you’d like to read (or re-read) the book as well as see the movie we’ve got the competition for you! For your chance to win one of five double passes to the film and a paperback copy of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society answer our question about epistolary novels and enter your details in the entry form. Entries close 29 April and are open to Christchurch City Libraries members and winners will be announced on Monday 30 April.

Many thanks to StudioCanal for supplying the prize for this competition.

The doctor (of horror) is in

Dr. Erin Harrington is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Canterbury. Her area of expertise? Monsters, murderers and all things sinister and unsettling – or more specifically, the horror genre.

Dr Erin Harrington, University of Canterbury. Image supplied.

Harrington is giving a free talk at the university next week on just this topic. Being something of a horror enthusiast myself I was keen to pick her brains (not literally), about why people are drawn to movies and stories that, superficially at least, should make us run a mile.

What is it about horror that appeals to you particularly, as opposed to other genres?

I ask myself this every day! I have always liked horror – I have fond memories of going to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland when I was 6 years old – so there’s something fundamental about the way that scary stories are able to communicate with us that really appeals to me, just as other people might respond to fantasy or westerns. I think I always liked how evocative and transgressive horror can be. It’s a place where boundaries can be pushed, and where we can think through big or challenging ideas, or explore frightening things in a secure space, much in the way that slumber party ghost stories can be both thrilling and safe. There’s a visceral pleasure to horror, as it can range from the horrifying or thrilling to the hilarious or gross. I also think I just like monsters a lot.

Does studying horror academically make it more difficult to enjoy as pure entertainment?

It can do. It’s harder to switch off, as you become really aware of the cinematic language that they are using, and a lot of films are quite derivative, but the best films will draw you in no matter what. Sometimes watching films can feel a bit like homework, which is frustrating. Weirdly, it has made me appreciate average or even quite bad films a bit more, as I can kinda see what they are trying to do, or how they connect to other films within the genre and subgenres, even if they fail spectacularly. Perhaps it’s like being an expert cheese taster – you eat enough of the stuff that you come away with an affection for even the stinkiest gloop.

I love horror but my partner does not. Which one of us is right? Or rather, why is it that some people love to be scared but others loathe it?

You are both right (sorry). We all have different tastes in terms of the sorts of stories we respond to, and this will include how those stories are told – their imagery, the way they sound, their pace and so on. Not all horror films are graphic, but people definitely have varying levels of tolerance for images of fictional violence. Additionally, all film plays with our emotions, but some make us have a more physical reaction than others – comedies make us laugh (hopefully), emotional films might make us feel sentimental or sad, and so on. The emotions and sensations that come up with horror can be quite complex, and some people are just more comfortable with uncertainty or ambiguous feelings. Fear, dread, terror and horror all play with a shift between tension and release that some people find more interesting and stimulating than others. For example, I get really frustrated with films that have a lot of jump scares, as I don’t like being startled, but I find films that are unsettling or disturbing, or that have provocative imagery, or that retell familiar stories in new ways both rewarding and challenging. Some of us just like stories about monsters.

What should horror-fans (or the horror-curious) expect from your free talk at University of Canterbury?

I’m going to talk about some of the reasons people get pleasure or satisfaction from horror, but I’ll also look at the unique ways that horror can tell stories. I hope this helps the horror-phobic better understand why they may not respond to these films well, and prompts horror lovers to think about their own reactions to films. Whether people are horror newbies or experts, I want them to come away with an appreciation for how broad and diverse the genre is, but also but also how entertaining it can be. A lot of horror is really funny, and I reckon there’s a horror film for everyone.

Which movies or books would you recommend for those wanting to indulge in some horror research of their own?

How to Survive a Horror Movie is a really fun guide to horror tropes, and it looks at a lot of the most notable horror films from the last few decades. It can be really helpful to understand how horror films have changed over time, how they’ve reflected their own era’s fears and anxieties, and how they have influenced later films. Horror Films of the 1990s and Shock Value both do a good job of exploring context while highlighting significant films and shifts in tastes and subgenres.

Oscar-nominated film Get Out is one of the best horror movies in years, and easily one of the best films of 2017 full stop. It’s a great gateway film for the horror-phobic. If you’re after some international horror, then moody Iranian supernatural horror Under the Shadow, Norwegian horror comedy Dead Snow and action-packed South Korean zombie film Train to Busan are all pretty nifty.

It’s not in the library catalogue, but Stephen King’s 1981 non-fiction book Danse Macabre is still one of the best books out on the history of literary horror, even though it’s close to 40 years old.

Anything else you want to say about anything horror-related?

Monsters can be your friends too!

Find out more (if you dare!)

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:

Madwomen and attics – WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

It was a dark, but not a stormy, night at the Arts Centre last Wednesday, when four mysterious black-clad ladies entered the room. With flickering candles held aloft, they took their places on the stage for an evening of great hair, literary tropes and another chapter in the ongoing battle between Team Rochester and Team Heathcliff (*).

There was no attempt at cool professionalism, as our panellists to a man woman unashamedly confessed their enduring love for that most passionate of genres, the Gothic novel. And the audience was right there with them – many of us had been present earlier in the evening for an outstanding performance of Jane Eyre by Rebecca Vaughan of Dyad Productions.

Rachael King, Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey, and Moata Tamaira

With chair Rachael King guiding the discussion, we heard from an actor, a novelist and a librarian as they each confessed to teenage years spent wafting about in nighties and imagining themselves in the arms of a dark and brooding hero of uncertain temperament. Rebecca Vaughan had of course literally just come from her performance as Jane Eyre, while Karen Healey and Rachael King have both written novels with a strong Gothic flavour themselves (if you have not read Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead, or Rachael King’s Magpie Hall, I beseech you most strongly to do so at once). And our very own Moata Tamaira has never been afraid to profess herself as a fan of all things Gothic.

Rachael King, Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey, and Moata Tamaira

The evening’s discussion ranged from the literary – Gothic tropes in literature and film; to the awesomely ridiculous – a slideshow quiz where every answer was Wuthering Heights. We contemplated the various forms of Heathcliff in multiple movie castings (Tom Hardy a clear winner here, although this possibly was rigged by chair Rachael); and slipped sideways into a robust conversation about whether Wide Sargasso Sea had altered anyone’s perceptions of Mr Rochester (is it a true prequel? an early form of fan-fic homage? a completely separate stand-alone story?). I was waiting for someone to mention my own personal fave Jane Eyre “character” Thursday Next, from the Eyre Affair series, but perhaps that’s making things a little too tangled even for this panel and audience.

Rachael King, Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey

Finishing with a glorious set of illustrations from pulp fiction novels of the ’60s and ’70s, featuring women with great hair running from Gothic houses (credit to this magnificent blog), we were then sent out into the moonlit surrounds of the oh-so-Gothic Arts Centre, I think each with a new commitment to go back and re-read ALL our favourite Gothic novels. Possibly while dressed in wafty white nighties and floating about on the nearest moor.

Christchurch Arts Centre

(* Of COURSE it’s Team Rochester, all the way)

 

New Zealand International Film Festival 2017

Today the Christchurch programme for the New Zealand International Film Festival was launched.

Every year the New Zealand International Film Festival screens a range of films. It’s Christchurch’s turn from 3 August to 20 August.

Literary films at the Festival

If you like movies based on books — or want to read the book before you see the movie — there are plenty of films for you at the 2017 Christchurch leg of the NZ International Film Festival. Thanks to the Film Festival organisers for providing us with some of the following information:

CoverA Monster Calls
A story-telling monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) helps a sleeping boy with his waking-life nightmares in this adaptation of Patrick Ness’ novel, spectacularly realised with lavish CGI and painterly animations.
Based on the novel A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

A Woman’s Life (Une Vie)
A literary adaptation of a story by Guy de Maupassant styled with striking immediacy, Stéphane Brizé relates the tragedy of an adventurous young 19th-century noblewoman harshly judged for an unfortunate marriage.

Bill Direen: A Memory of Others
A documentary about New Zealand musician Bill Direen.
Find books and music by Bill Direen in our collection.

Call Me By Your Name
This gorgeous and moving adaptation of André Aciman’s acclaimed novel, directed by Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love), stars Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet as lovers in sun-kissed northern Italy.
Based on the book Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

CoverCitizen Jane
A documentary capturing the showdown in the 1950s between the activist Jane Jacobs and the trumpian urban planner Robert Moses: as she fights preserve urban communities in the face of destructive development projects.
Based on The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

CoverEthel and Ernest
This animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ graphic memoir of his parents’ lives is both humble and profound, with gorgeous renderings of Briggs’ justly famous lines. Featuring the voices of Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn.
Based on the graphic novel memoir Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Heal the Living
A catastrophic accident leaves one family in ruins and bestows another with precious hope in a hospital drama immeasurably enhanced by the delicate sensitivity of Katell Quillévéré’s script and the poetic force of her direction.
Based on Mend the living by Maylis de Kerangal

I Am Not Your Negro
A documentary based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, exploring the history of racism in the United States through Baldwin’s reminiscences of civil rights leaders.

Lady MacBeth
Florence Pugh is mesmerising as she transmutes from nervous bride to femme fatale in this bracing British period drama based on the 19th-century Russian classic by Nikolai Leskov – Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.

CoverThe Lost City of Z
Charlie Hunnam makes a commanding flawed hero as British Amazon explorer Percy Fawcett in a sweeping giant screen epic, filmed with rare intelligence by writer/director James Gray. With Sienna Miller and Robert Pattinson.
Based on the novel by David Grann, The Lost City of Z

No Ordinary Sheila
A documentary exploring the life of New Zealand writer Sheila Natusch who has written over 30 books including Animals of New Zealand, The Cruise of Acheron, Hell and High Water and Wild Fare for Wilderness Forager. No Ordinary Sheila is a documentary about her life, times – and places.

CoverStalker
Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 masterpiece, like his earlier Solaris, is a free and allegorical adaptation of a sci-fi novel, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic.
See also the book about the movie Stalker – Zona: A book about a film about a journey to a room by Geoff Dyer.

Swallows and Amazons
Four children (the Swallows) on holiday in the Lake District (UK) sail on their own to an island and start a war with rival children (the Amazons).
Based on the book Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

To Stay Alive: A Method
This Dutch documentary film is based on Michel Houellebecq’s 1991 essay To Stay Alive, about struggling artists, the role of the poet, and mental health problems. It features marginal artists as well as Houellebecq and the rock singer Iggy Pop.
Read books in our collection by Michel Houellebecq

Una
A young woman arrives unexpectedly at an older man’s workplace looking for answers as to their shared past in an abusive sexual relationship.
Based on the play Blackbird by David Harrower

More information

40 years ago in a galaxy not far away…

On a Wednesday in 1977 a phenomenon began. That phenomenon was Star Wars.

Cover of The making of Star WarsReleased in only 32 cinemas in the US on 25 May of that year the sci-fi space opera broke all box-office records and changed the movie making business. Star Wars was one of the first films to generate “round the block queues” for screenings (the literal definition of a “blockbuster”).

George Lucas famously popped out for lunch with his wife on opening day, saw lines of people queuing outside Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, and only then realised he had a hit on his hands. He’d expected a flop. So much so that he had a bet with friend Steven Spielberg that Close Encounters of the Third Kind would beat Star Wars at the box office. And that’s why Spielberg still receives 2.5% of profits on the film.

At least some of Star Wars’ initial success was as a result of the canny work of marketing director Charles Lippincoat who, ahead of the film’s release, shopped the novelisation (ghost written by sci-fi author Alan Dean Foster) and Marvel tie-in comics at events like San Diego Comic-Con. This generated a buzz amongst sci-fi fans who were already primed by release date. This is now standard practice with genre films and franchises who put a lot of effort into creating hype ahead of release, but back in 1977 it was a “thinking outside the box” strategy.

Cover of The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures 1977-1985Star Wars also invented movie merchandising. As you walk the aisles of your local toy store, the proliferation of movie tie-in toys and action figures is down to the phenomenal success of Star Wars in this area.

Merchandising was such a small part of the movie industry prior to Star Wars that, in 1973, before the film was made George Lucas exchanged $350,000 worth of directing salary for the merchandising rights and the rights to the sequels. Conventional wisdom at the time was that this was a good deal for 20th Century Fox. It eventually cost them billions.

Star Wars display - X-wing fighter
Just some of the sweet merchandising $$$ that Fox never got. Star Wars display at South Library, 15 May 2017. File reference: 2017-05-15-IMG_5174

And of the movie itself? Well, I’m a fan and have been for as long as I can remember. I cannot recall the first time I saw the film. In the late 70s and early 80s you simply absorbed Star Wars from the atmosphere. You fenced with lightsabers of rolled up Christmas gift wrap, you hummed the theme music, you played with your cousin’s X-wing fighter toy.

I love the film, even despite its many flaws – a not exactly diverse cast, sometimes creaky acting, the occasional alien proboscis that looked like it was made out of cardboard, plot holes that you could fly a Corellian freighter through – but to me it’s still a vastly enjoyable tale.

Cover of Flash GordonGeorge Lucas was inspired by the Flash Gordon type serials of his youth, the films of Akira Kurosawa, the special effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the “heroes journey” mythology of Frazer’s The golden bough. Star Wars is a cinematic melting pot of references and homages that distills them down to a classic “good vs evil” story. The kind that’s timeless in its appeal. Or at least I hope it is… because I’m planning on watching it for another 40 years.

Further information

Boss Baby – based on a book

CoverBefore Boss Baby the movie there was … Boss Baby the book!

The film Boss Baby (2017) is loosely based on the 2010 book by author and illustrator Marla Frazee. Many a parent has thought that their little ones seem to rule the roost … sometimes they are downright tyrannical with a temper tantrum or two. Boss Baby is a delightful metaphor. Here, parents are the overworked staff of Boss Baby, put upon by his demands. Coincidentally topical, Boss Baby may remind you of a certain world leader making headlines for similar behaviour.

The Boss Baby (2010)
From the moment he arrives, it is obvious that the new baby is boss and he gets whatever he wants, from drinks made-to-order around the clock to his executive (play) gym. He makes demands. Many, many demands. And he was quite particular. If things weren’t to his immediate satisfaction, he had a fit. He didn’t say a single word that made any sense at all but that didn’t stop him. He was born leader.

CoverThe Bossier Baby (2016)
Boss Baby used to be in charge of his family, but that was before he got an even bossier baby sister. She demoted him and made herself CEO and set about restructuring the organisation (aka the family). She had a full-time social media team and a private limo (cue pram envy). Boss Baby was sidelined until they started working cooperatively to rule their workers (aka parents).

The voice of Boss Baby in the film is actor Alec Baldwin who has been doing impersonations of American president Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.

Find Alec Baldwin’s work in our collection.

Father’s Day

CoverBring it on – I am prepared!!

On Sunday 4 September I will be armed with both a card and a small gift to celebrate the fact that I have a long-suffering but wonderful father.

When considerably younger I possibly needed a ‘mental jog’ about the impending event from my ‘constantly on my case’ mum, but in more recent times (a few exceptions aside when I was in different hemispheres and the dates were different), I have managed a card at the very least.

CoverMy last-ditch attempts during my self-obsessed teenage years must have been very taxing, but it sharpened up Dad’s ‘acting skills’ as he managed to look delighted when yet another ‘Brut soap on a rope’ appeared.  I hit the jackpot one year when I recycled a mother’s day present (who I found out was not a fan of ‘crooners’), and Dad became the proud owner of Francis Albert Sinatra’s ‘Greatest Hits’. That was indeed ‘a very good year’.

Fascinated since childhood by all things nautical – past, present and future – he has, since retirement, done a lot of reading courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries, ploughing through C S Forester’s ‘Hornblower‘ novels; Patrick O’Brien’s Captain Jack Aubrey works and recently Dewey Lambdin’s main character Alan Lewrie.

If transported through the medium of print or film back to the Golden Age of  Sailing albeit in the form of Egyptian wooden sailing Feluccas, Spanish Armadas, Tea Clippers, early Ocean Liners and Thor Heyerdahl‘s balsa wood ‘Kon-Tiki’ expedition you witness a totally captivated audience of one!

Many a Sunday night we sat down to watch The Onedin Line ; the Pater to appreciate wooden vessels whilst I watched a ‘period drama’ unfold and desperately hoped the seas wouldn’t be too choppy, NEVER having been a good sailor!!

The Christchurch City Libraries holds a wealth of information that keep fathers occupied and out of trouble – what can all its resources offer your Dad? Investigate all the possibilities – books, ebooks, audiobooks, films and report back (especially if I’ve missed a little ‘gem’ in the nautical line).

Oh, and the gift definitely isn’t soap-on-a-rope this time Dad!!

Resistance is futile

Cover of Star Trek, The Green LanternHave you ever seen a book and known you just had to read it–not because you thought you would actually like it necessarily, but because not reading it was just–inconceivable? Well, that’s how I felt when I saw Star Trek, Green Lantern: The Spectrum War.

I’ve never really gotten into reading graphic novels, unless you count the Asterix and Tintin books I used to read when I was a kid. And I don’t know much about the Green Lantern, except that he’s, uh, green, and he, well, carries a lantern. But I am a Trekkie!* And even though I’ve never really felt the need to read much Trek fiction, I just had to read this! Resistance was futile!

And you know what? I loved it! The artwork beautifully captures the rebooted Star Trek characters, and as I read, I could literally hear Chekov, Spock, and Bones talking in my head. What’s not to love about a book that does that?

I mean, OK, the Superhero-Trek mash-up was a little goofy, but reading it put a smile on my face, and sometimes that’s just what you want a book to do.

And while we’re talking about Star Trek, last weekend Mr K had the brilliant idea of sending the kids to see Finding Dory while we went to see Star Trek Beyond, and I have to say I had a fantastic time! It was funny, exciting, and even touching. Bones and Spock were hilariously paired up, Kirk was his usual arrogant self, and new-girl Jaylah kicked butt, which was awesome. In the August issue of Empire, director Justin Lin said:

In making Star Trek Beyond, I wanted to embrace the essence of Trek

And that is exactly what he did. It’s Trek as it should be!

 

*Read about my fangirl experience when I met Marina Sirtis

The Dead Lands: Making a movie in te reo Māori

I’ve studied a few languages over the years including te reo Māori and one thing my teachers always encouraged was watching films in the language as it helped develop an ear for what native speakers sound like, as well as helping with vocabulary and grammar. In fact, this is how I first discovered Jackie Chan movies when I was learning Chinese.

Learners of te reo Māori are lucky enough to have Māori Television as a resource for hearing te reo Māori spoken, even if no one else in their household, school or place of work is fluent. But in terms of Saturday night movies on DVD, there’s very little to choose from.

t’s not difficult to find movies with a sprinkling of te reo Māori, here and there – films like Whale rider, BoyThe Piano and a few others. But a movie where the only English language you’ll find is in the subtitles? Now, that is a rarity – but that’s exactly what you get with 2014 action movie, The Dead Lands.

With impressively gory deaths and terrific fight choreography The Dead Lands is sort of a cross between Apocalypto, (Mel Gibson’s brutal Meso-American set action film), a Bruce Lee movie, and a mafia revenge drama. It’s closest cinematic equivalent in New Zealand terms might be the Geoff Murphy directed classic, Utu.

Director Toa Fraser, was good enough to answer a few questions for me about the te reo Māori aspect of the film.

Toa Fraser on set
Director Toa Fraser on set with actor James Rolleston. Photo credit: Matt Klitscher

Why was the decision made to have the dialogue in te reo, rather than in English? How do you think it added to the film?

Honestly, we just thought it would be much cooler to do it in te reo. Glenn Standring always wrote it to be translated. Te Manahau Morrison wrote a beautiful translation, very heightened and theatrical that the cast found thrilling and challenging. It suited the fact that we were making an indigenous martial arts movie that looked to Hollywood but also to Asia for inspiration. Kurosawa was a particular inspiration.

Did this require the actors, or you, to learn more te reo?

The cast had a very varied level of confidence in te reo. We did cast it in such a way that people like Te Kohe Tuhaka and Raukura Turei could lead within the group, and guide the others who were less confident. For me I don’t speak te reo so of course it was very challenging but I had great support from Tainui Stephens and Jamus Webster.

Are there specific challenges with making a movie completely in te reo Maori or is it pretty much the same as making one in English?

It was a joy to make a movie that embraced tikanga Māori as a paramount part of the process. We said karakia everyday, used Māori terms onset (e.g. tīmata/kōkiri for action, kāti for cut).

I still say “kāti” on set. I directed an episode of Penny Dreadful in Ireland last year with Eva Green and Rory Kinnear. Rory said, “We just keep going until you say kāti.”

What are your thoughts on the use of te reo Māori, generally?

I look forward to the day when we are all comfortable in New Zealand/Aotearoa speaking English and Māori as much as we can, and all schools are equally well-resourced for English and Māori language education. I think it is ridiculous that, for instance, a very well-resourced central Auckland school has some 15, 000 books in English, a few in Japanese, one French and erm, some in Māori. What’s that about?

Languages are cool. Let’s celebrate them.

Find out more