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

Lumber on an epic scale

cover of BarkskinsI discovered at the weekend with a rapidly beating heart, that one of my all time favourite writers,  Annie Proulx, has released a new novel.

Thirteen years since her last novel, Barkskins is, by all accounts, a rip snorter. According to what I can glean from good old Mr Google, it is 736 pages long, spanning 3 centuries, and tells the story of two French immigrants in the new land of America. They are bound to a feudal lord for three years and are sent to work in the dense and remote forests of the New World in exchange for a promise of land. The book follows them and their descendants from 1693 through to the 21st century and various family members travel all over the world, including to little old New Zealand.

Annie Proulx first caught my eye when I read The Shipping News, another great story of families, set in Newfoundland. I have never forgotten the ways she described snow and ice and barren landscapes and the families and eccentrics who lived amongst it.

Cover of The shipping news

Accordion Crimes was also a favourite, charting the lives of immigrants settling in America through the life of an accordion that is handed down through families; Jewish, Irish, Italian and many others.

Both The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain (a short story originally), were also made into movies, both well worth watching.

Ms Proulx, now in her eighties, was a bit of a late bloomer, with her first short stories published in her 50s and her first novel in 1992. She has gone onto to publish 13 works and win over twenty literary prizes, including a Pulitzer prize for The Shipping News.

Her novels and short storys are filled with hard bitten complex characters and landscapes that are wonderful described, I find I get immersed in her stories and I think this is because she herself has led a full and intense life, always on her own terms. She has been married and divorced three times and has raised three sons alone. She worked as postal worker and a waitress, and early on a writer of magazine articles on everything from chilli growers to canoeing.

She has two history degrees, drifted the countryside in her pickup truck, can fly fish, fiddle, and hunt game birds. But for all her life experience, she has said that she likes to write about what she doesn’t know, rather than draw on what she has already experienced. If you haven’t read her books, I strongly recommend them.

So, I’m on the library waiting list, hoping the book arrives quickly so I can again revel in her wondrous prose!

Give your family Goosebumps

Cover of Classic Goosebumps CollectionI was a big fan of the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine when I was a kid. There weren’t a lot of scary, horror stories for kids around at that stage so Goosebumps were the go-to books if you wanted to scare yourself a little. There were always plenty to choose from and they were pretty quick reads. A search of the library catalogue tells me that we have 97 Goosebumps items in our libraries, which includes paper books, eBooks, and DVDs. That’s enough Goosebumps to keep you going for quite some time!

Earlier this year there was a Goosebumps movie released in cinemas which looked really good. My family and I didn’t get a chance to see it then but I hoped that we might get it in the library eventually. While perusing the catalogue last week I discovered we did have it on order and promptly reserved it. In our house, every Saturday night is Family Movie Night, where we choose a movie that we can all enjoy. Last week it was the Goosebumps movie and it was excellent!

Cover of Revenge of the Lawn GnomesThe movie follows a kid called Zach who moves to a small town and moves in next door to R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps books, and his daughter Hannah. When Zach hears screaming coming from next door one night he thinks that something horrible has happened to Hannah. He breaks in to try and rescue her but unwittingly unleashes the creatures from the Goosebumps books. The monsters that R.L. Stine made famous are real, and he protects his readers by keeping them locked in their manuscripts. One of R.L. Stine’s most evil creations, Slappy, releases the monsters one by one, and now it’s up to Zach and his friends to trap them back in their books where they belong. Jack Black plays R.L. Stine which is a perfect role for him as he’s a mix of manic and slightly crazy. The movie is the perfect mixture of funny and creepy so it’s ideal for both young and old Goosebumps fans.

Reserve the Goosebumps movie at the library now for your own family movie night. You can also check out all the other Goosebumps books and the Goosebumps TV series too.

Conspicuous consumption

For me holidays are always an opportunity to consume, not merely Christmas dinner leftovers and far too many Ferrero Rochers, but also culture. The books, movies and TV shows I haven’t had time for during the year get their chance over the festive break. It’s always a struggle, of course. There’s simply too much to get through.

So how did I do this year? Not too badly actually. Here’s what I managed to cram into a week and a half of public holidays and annual leave.

Movies

I made a real effort this year to grab a bunch of movies I was curious about but never got around to watching. Results were patchy.

  • Housebound – I’d heard good things about this Kiwi horror-comedy and they weren’t wrong. High on the creepy factor but plenty of laughs too. Haunted house meets awkward mother-daughter dynamic. Highly recommended.
  • Spirited Away – Critically acclaimed Japanese animation from Studio Ghibli. I’ve never really been into anime and this movie didn’t change my mind. Just a bit too weird and fantastical for me.
  • Never Let Me Go – I really like Carey Mulligan but when the other two points of a love triangle are Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley, I’m going to struggle. A beautiful film to look at (if you like the colour brown) but quite slow paced. Do not watch if you’re in a bad mood already, as it’s a bit of a downer (based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro).

A selection of DVDs

  • They Came Together – I really, really wanted to like this. I’m a massive Amy Poehler fan and I adore Paul Rudd but this attempt to subvert the cliches and tropes of the rom-com failed to hit the mark. I couldn’t help thinking this would have worked brilliantly as an SNL sketch, but just couldn’t stretch to a whole film. Some fun moments but not enough of them, unfortunately.
  • Turbo Kid – Canadian/NZ co-production that had a lot of buzz at last year’s New Zealand International Film Festival. A retro-futuristic post-apocalyptic wasteland, BMXs, extreme cheesiness, that guy off McLeod’s Daughters, and what must have been an absolutely massive fake blood budget. What’s not to love? With knowing nods to everything from Soylent Green, to Mad Max and Cherry 2000, this pastiche/homage to sci-fi was a lot of fun to watch (though sometimes through your fingers because INTESTINES).

Television

  • cover of The White Queen The White Queen – On a whim, for a bit of escapism I started watching this series based on Philipa Gregory’s historical novels The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter and ended binge-watching the whole thing. It covers the turbulent period during which the houses of York and Lancaster were battling for the throne of England, the War of the Roses. It begins with King Edward IV falling for a fetching Lancastrian widow and portrays the power grabs, manipulations and betrayals of his reign and beyond. It was this period of history that inspired George R. R. Martin’s Song of ice and fire novels and this series is similar, in bloodiness, intrigue, and, er, nudity. Not a bad substitute until the next season of Game of Thrones turns up (if you’re into that kind of thing).

Books

  • Cover of Truths, half truths & little white lies: A memoirTruths, half truths & little white lies: A memoir by Nick Frost – Often memoirs of famous people give you the impression that from a young age they were destined for stardom and great things. Nick Frost’s book has you marvelling that he managed to leave the house, let alone have a successful career, what with all the drugs and not being very confident and having a traumatic upbringing. It’s the story of an ordinary man who has struggles and demons just like everybody else and not in a “oh, I’ll just book into The Priory for a bit of rehab, dahling”, showing off kind of way, but the unglamorous “everything’s gone a bit terrible” way. This made me want to read Simon Pegg’s Nerd do well again and compare flatting anecdotes.
  • Concrete Park vol 2 – More violence, betrayal and sci-fi adventures on a prison planet. Waiting not very patiently for volume 3.

So how did you do over the break? Get a few titles ticked off your To Read (or To Watch) list?