Sunday, October 15, 2017

I Am, I Am, I Am - Maggie O'Farrell

Fiction author Maggie O'Farrell writes a very different type of memoir.  This one is about her moments over her life, when she has felt the touch of death or violence come close to her.  Illness and incidents as a child, almost drowning as a teenager, to coming into close contact with a killer.  With a few descriptive sentences she is able to capture the essence of being a teenager, the smells and sounds of a group gathered together of a Friday night in a seaside town.

Being an adult she still has some encounters that are scary, her description of a difficult childbirth made me hold my breath as did the final story when she talks about her daughter, fragile and at risk of anaphylaxis to a multitude of allergies.

The book itself did feel a bit disjointed to me, maybe because it was not in chronological order.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Jane Austen Project - Kathleen A. Flynn

Two time travelers, Liam and Rachel are chosen to go back in time to 1815 to meet Jane Austen and secure an unfinished manuscript and letters before her known death in 1816.  How would you integrate yourself in her life in a society full with many social rules and what if every decision you made may have consequences for the future?

A very interesting premise and I loved the idea - who wouldn't feel a bit giddy at the chance to become involved in the world of Jane Austen and meet the author herself?  I did feel that the sense of wonderment was a bit lacking in the story, how even with all the training the main characters underwent how the sights and smells would have been quite astonishing even for us.  How hard it must have been to not talk or act in a modern way.  4/5

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Big Pig, Little Pig - Jacqueline Yallop

Big Pig, Little Pig is the non fiction  story about author Jacqueline Yallop and her husband.  Living in a small rural holding in France, they decide to get two pigs to be raised for meet.  This is the story of their year together,  where they get to know and love the two animals in their care.

I enjoyed reading about the relationship and could see how easy it would be to bond with these intelligent animals.  I would find it hard to think of killing and eating my own animals, and if I think about it too hard, it makes me want to turn vegetarian straight away.  So I understand the author being conflicted about thinking about killing their pigs. 4/5

Sunday, October 08, 2017


After an evening working, a visit to the supermarket it was time for me to collapse on the couch and not move for an hour or so.  Thanks to Apple TV this was the 99c movie of the week, so Passengers it is.  Thanks to dodgy wifi at home though, I only got to watch 20 minutes worth before giving up and going to bed.

Obviously the neighborhood youth do not arise before 10am, so I was able to get up this morning and watch the last of the movie over breakfast.  So Chris Pratt,  is Jim, an engineer who finds himself awaken aboard his spaceship.  The problem is that he is the only one awake, and they are 30 years from earth, and 90 years from their destination.  What to do?

This is one of those movies that felt like a little more style over substance.  While Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are hugely watchable, and the special effects were pretty amazing, I just wasn't touched by the story and wished that somehow the plot was a bit more developed.  3/5

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Cause of Death - Dr Cynric Temple-Camp

An entertaining read about a pathologist working in small town New Zealand.  Palmerston North may not be a hot bed of crime, but Dr Temple-Camp is able to keep us amused describing many of the cases that he has been involved with over the past few decades.

I guess these are his dinner party stories, which he probably couldn't tell over dinner as most would upset sensitive diners.  Me - well I like such tales and so I enjoyed it. 4/5

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Choice - Edith Eger

This is quite the amazing memoir.  Edith was 16 years old when the Nazis sent her and her family to Auschwitz.  There through a remarkable set of challenges her and her sister were able to survive when many others perished.

As an adult she has become a renowned psychologist and in this book she describes how many of the things she learned have been able to help her with her own healing.  Remarkable.  5/5

Monday, October 02, 2017

Victoria & Abdul

Today was a day off work, and after the chores were done it was a quick stroll into town to see Victoria & Abdul.  I had been looking forward to seeing this, and now my local cinema has dropped ticket prices to $10 it fits more into my budget.

I guess you know the story, Dame Judi Dench plays the elderly Queen Victoria who becomes enamoured with a young handsome servant Abdul, who had been sent from India to present a coin to the Queen. 

Depressed and lonely, the friendship develops and he helps to teach her about the Indian culture and language.  Family and staff though are suspicious especially as they spend so much time together.

Wonderful performances, sensational interiors, beautiful costumes and lots of actors of all ages without any botox in view all make it my type of favorite watch.  4.5/5

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Best of Us - Joyce Maynard

Wow, what a memoir.  Joyce Maynard is a fiction author, who bares herself in writing this story about her life.  Primarily is a book about her great love.  How when she was 58, she met the love of her life Jim, and how they both found a great joy in being together and enjoying life.  They enjoyed music, travelling, driving and just spending their time together.    Then a year after getting married, Jim is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The second part of the memoir is pretty daunting, as Joyce and Jim try to decide what treatments to pursue and whose advice they should follow.  They seek out other sufferers and survivors to find out what worked for them and meet people for advice and support, watching most eventually die of this horrid disease.

I could have carried on reading for so much longer, as Joyce opened up on her life, but the story did eventually have to end.  I didn't cry, but just felt in awe of reading this book, which felt like reading one big private love letter. 5/5

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Stars Are Fire - Anita Shreve

The author is a favorite of mine, and I looked forward to reading her new novel.  She has a good skill of being able to draw the reader into the world of late 1940s Maine.  Grace is a young mother of two, and pregnant with another when  huge fires surround their small seaside town.  As her husband has gone to help fight the fires she is left with her best friend  to try and save her young family.

Not the happiest if stories to read, Grace has a fairly tough life where she suffers a lot of sorrow and worries, it does give a snapshot of what life must have been like for a lot of women in that era. 4/5

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Finding Gobi - Dion Leonard

This is a story that I had seen on both the news and 60 minutes and also read about on several news sites.  In 2016, while on an endurance race through the Gobi Desert, runner Dion Leonard finds himself joined by a little stray dog that stays by his side through hours of running in the heat, over sand dunes and roads.

When the race ends, Dion realizes that he has a real connection with the wee pup he calls Gobi and sets about to see if he can get her taken back to his home in Scotland.  Things are not quite so simple though, and the story reinforces your faith in most people (of course there are a few crazy and dangerous ones too).

So all in all, a good little man and dog story.  5/5

Monday, September 25, 2017

Music Monday - The Whole of the Moon - The Waterboys

Gosh this one reminds me of living in London in the mid nineties, so long ago now.  Me walking around crowded streets and on the tube listening non stop on my walkman, and then when I had saved some pounds I got a discman.  I might have to get some more tunes to put on my ipod now.  I wonder what will come next?  How will the kids be listening to music in twenty years time?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Bright Hour - Nina Riggs

What a beautiful book.  The author Nina Riggs writes so smoothly about the challenges that are thrown at her.  First her most loved mother dies, then her son is diagnosed with diabetes and then her own journey with Breast cancer.  Only in her thirties and with two young sons, she is able to open up and bring us close into her world.  I have a soft spot for such memoirs, and this one reinforces my affection for such books. 5/5

Saturday, September 23, 2017


My niece and I had a big day out.  Shopping, eating and seeing IT at the movies.  We then got pricey hipster chips and came home to have a feast on the couch.  We thought  a comedy might stop us having nightmares about clowns.

The premise is pretty simple.  Amy Schumer plays the usual dizzy version of herself, while Goldie Hawn plays her more serious worry wart mother.  After a boyfriend break up, Amy is forced into taking her mother on a holiday to Ecuador.   After meeting a handsome young man, the ladies find themselves abducted.   Hilarious hijinks are meant to ensue, but we found ourselves bored and chit chatted throughout.

We didn't have nightmares about scary clowns or aging comedians with two much filler.  2/5

Friday, September 22, 2017


We went to the cinema this afternoon to see IT.  I couldn't remember if I had read the book when it came out.  I won't retell the story, except to say that primarily about a group of bullied youngsters in the small town of Derry.   As well as being abused by the local bullies, all of the kids are being tormented by the spooky clown that terrorizes the local children.

I didn't find it too scary, although there were quite a few jump off your seat scares for the folks seated around us.  I did enjoy the goonies/stand by me friendship theme running throughout the story.  4/5

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Little Theatre By The Sea - Rosanna Ley

Faye has finished her interior degree course and with no job to go to accepts her good friends offer of house sitting in the beautiful Sardinia.   Whilst there she is asked to help out with the little local theatre that has been deserted for decades, and is in need of a renovation.

This is a gentle slow novel and although it didn't offer any surprises it did keep me entertained.   3/5.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Need You Dead - Peter James

Reading the latest Roy Grace novel is always exciting.  You know someone will die, Roy will talk about his family, his dog and his late goldfish (gone but not forgotten), there will be a few suspects and the team will come together to solve the crime, usually after a chase and then at the end there will be a slight twist, something to keep you coming back for more.  Already I am looking forward to the next adventure. 4/5

Monday, September 18, 2017

Music Monday - Haim - Falling

I can't stop listening to Haim at the moment.   Lots of the songs our my soundtrack on the way to work.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Date For Mad Mary

It was a bit of a quiet weekend in the city with plenty of spring rain.  Good for the gardens, but we are all a bit over it.  I would have preferred to see Victoria and Abdul, but that wasn't going to work out.  So we went to see this one, a movie none of us knew about.

Mary is in her 20s and just out of prison for a violent attack.  She is to be a matron of honor at her best friends wedding, but needs to find a  date to be her plus one.  On line it is described as an Irish comedy but it is not roll around the floor funny and I would think it should be under the drama genre.

It was OK, and although we knew little about it we were entertained and a little surprised at how it ended.  3/5

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Disaster Movies

Tonight after a disrupted nights sleep due to on call work, I sat down to relax and rewatch a movie I must have seen at least 5 times in the past - The Day After Tomorrow.    I have a soft spot for the old disaster movies, and I was trying to think why they appealed so much.  I guess that as a child growing up in the 1970s, our Saturday nights were filled with The Posiedan Adventure and the Towering Inferno, all impossibly long and boring with only 10 minutes of action at the end.   Modern movies with computer generated effects can get into it pretty early on, and we can get scene after scene off big cities, sinking, burning and cracking apart.

The formula for most of these movies is common for most of these movies:

  • Some large landmark will be destroyed with sad music playing
  • The main characters generally will survive the disaster, after several close calls of planes crashing, hanging off cliffs, sinking etc
  • There will be a love interest, all quiet looks at the beginning and a lusty embrace at the end
  • The baddie will get their  comeuppance at the end, and usually die in some gruesome way
Now being a middle aged lady, I seldom venture to the cinema to see such movies and are content to stream them for a cheaper price or wait until they are on free tv.  After watching the news lately with the two large hurricanes in the US and flooding in Asia, it seems that real life is far more extreme than the fiction we normally watch.  With hundreds of thousands of people affected and left hungry and homeless, I can't help but think I am lucky that we have not had such disasters here.  So I am thinking that the universal appeal of such movies, is that for all of us, we are just trying to survive and get through, and we all think about what we would do in the same circumstances.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Lost Letter - Jillian Cantor

A good story that was easy to get lost in.  Told in two story lines, in 1989 when Kate's life is changing and she is dealing with her aging father who is losing his memory.   She is looking after his stamp collection and wonders about a fifty years old letter that was never sent.

In 1939 we meet Kristoff who is taken in by an Austrian stamp engraver and his young daughters.  With the Nazis approaching the Jewish family do not feel safe.

A unique spin  on a second world war novel.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Far From the Madding Crowd

A sunny spring day here turned a bit chilly by the late afternoon, so it was time to close the windows and doors and watch some of the movies and shows that have piled up unwatched.  Far From the Madding Crowd came out in 2015, but was one of those movies that I was too busy to go and watch at the cinema and with $17 ticket prices, it makes it a bargain to watch it home for $2.99 from the Apple store.

Based on the classic 1874 novel from Thomas Hardy that I had never read it was a glimpse into a genre that appeals to me.  The tale of a woman, in a world where it was difficult for her to have independence, status and choices, when being married usually meant losing her money and having to yield to her husband.  Bathsheba Everdene helps on her aunties farm, before she inherits her own estate (lucky girl).  She gets involved with three different men, who all fall in love with her instantly and who will she choose?

I always enjoy watching Carey Mulligan, and I loved the costumes, scenery and handsome men.  The story was a little flat for me - somehow the passion and love seemed a bit muted.  Still a 4/5.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Late Show - Michael Connelly

Detective Renee Ballard prefers to work the night shifts in her LA department, away from all the others and giving her time to paddleboard during the day and finish off her jobs.  This is a new main character for the author, and I think he has done a great job of creating her, she came across real with enough flaws to develop several storylines, with of course a couple of traumatic back stories.  She seemed to be able to hold her own with the male detectives and is able to solve a major crime case.

I look forward to see where her next stories go. 4/5

Monday, September 04, 2017

Music Monday - Fly Me To The Moon

I watched this at the weekend- she is pretty amazing.  Angelina Jordan is from Norway and is only 10 years old.  This is her singing Fly Me to the Moon from the US TV show Little Big Shots.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

What We Did On Our Holiday

Saturday night on the couch and I thought I would watch one of the $2.99 special movies on Apple TV.   What We Did On Our Holiday is a British movie with a simple premise.  Mum and Dad and three cute kids are driving to Scotland to visit their dad/grandad played by Billy Connelly who is celebrating a significant  birthday.

I won't give the whole plot away, Wikipedia can tell you the whole thing.   I really liked the middle portion, but felt beginning and end were a bit flat and boring.  Billy Connelly was especially good in his role and it never seemed like he was acting, more like just being a version of himself.  3/5

Saturday, September 02, 2017


I really liked the British drama Spooks when it originally aired about MI5, which had a great abundance of quality acting mixed with serious political storylines.  Sir Harry Pearce  (Peter Firth) returns to tie this story and adding Kitchen Harrington you think would be a winning formula.

A usual case of the old double cross and not knowing if our characters were working for the goodies or the baddies left me a little bored .  Like the Sex and the City movies, it felt like it was trying to recreate a period of time and place that had moved on.  2/5

Thursday, August 31, 2017

An Astronauts Guide to Life On Earth - Col Chris Hadfield

If you ever dreamed that you could be an astronaut then this is the book to read.  It might make you realise that you should have tried harder at school.  Col Chris Hadfield is a Canadian who has worked his whole life to make it into space and you have to admire his extraordinary work ethic to achieve his goal.

It was fascinating to read about his journey to both Nasa and then into space.  Although it looks cool to float around the space station the realities of flight made me think I would be space sick the whole time and would not tolerate the lack of showers well.  Hats off to the men and women who step up to do this job.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Personal Shopper

Well this seemed to me a bit drippy and pretentious.  Little Kristen Stewart is playing a grown up in this movie, but seems to not have any other expression than the mopey one she has in most movies.  She is living in Paris following the death of her brother, who she is waiting for him to contact her from the dead.  To earn her keep she is the personal shopper for a rich celebrity.  Oh the horrors of having to go and get Chanel and diamonds and be paid for it.

I don't know - I didn't really buy into it, it just all seemed a bit dreary to me.  2/5

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Orphan's Tale - Pam Jenoff

Pam Jenoff has written another story set in the second world war.  Noa is sixteen, and thrown out of her Dutch home by her parents.  She finds shelter and a job cleaning at a railway station, when circumstances change and she is on the run.  Taken in by a local circus, she meets Astrid, an aerial artist who has also lost her family, and helps to train the young girl and look after her.

This was a unique spin on a second world war friendship story, and I could see this easily being a movie, but although I could picture the world they lived in and the villages they visited, I somehow didn't get a clear picture of Noa and Astrid, they seemed a bit flat for me. 4/5

Friday, August 25, 2017

Driving Miss Norma - Tim Bauerschmidt

This is a sweet memoir.  Tim and his wife have retired early, and sell up their home to travel in an airstream chasing the warm weather.  On a visit to see his parents, he realizes that his dad has become unwell, and declines rapidly.  As he is dying, his mother Miss Norma is diagnosed with uterine cancer.  Rather than conventional treatment of surgery, chemo and radiation, they offer to buy a larger RV and  pack up and take her on the road and show her America.

Using social media to document their journey, she becomes a celebrity getting invited to dinner and shows around the country.  It is though, the quiet moments, the new sights that meant more to me.  The chance to bond with her son that she rarely saw, and a chance to look at new sights.  I liked that it wasn't a bucket list thing, that they tried to just go with the flow and enjoy the dinners at diners, and sitting and looking at the view were important.   5/5

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Two Nights - Kathy Reichs

This is a new character for the author Kathy Reichs.  Sunday Night is a tough ex military girl, who now is living the quiet life on a remote island, minding her own business and busy feeding her squirrel.  Called in to help find a missing girl, she finds herself being the target and being stalked, chased and shot at.

 I wasn't quite convinced by this story, maybe the cheesy name put me off, but it seemed all a bit unbelievable, shoot ups in a hotel leaving dead criminals, where she seems to be able to explain to the local police in a couple of minutes.   Somehow the trail of dead bodies would not seem that hard to track down to the hired gun.  Maybe I am cynical, but it felt a bit like it was an attempt at creating a Jack Reacher type character and didn't quite ring true for me.  3/5

Monday, August 21, 2017

Music Monday - Heart of Glass

Time for a classic today.  Me and my bestie scratched the he'll out of my brothers copies of Blondies Parallel Lines in 1978.  I still like to dance round the living room to it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Handmaids Tale

Ohhh I have just started this one and am enjoying it.  Ever since I read Margaret Atwoods stunning book in the 1980s it is one of those stories that stays with you.

 After a change in society, infertility has become the norm.   Young women who are fertile are forced into families of wealth and connection where they are used as vessels to breed.

  I am only on episode one, but this  version is dark and ominous.  Elizabeth Moss is mesmerizing in the lead role.  If I weren't soon tired I would have been tempted to stay up all night and binge watch.  Luckily there are a few rainy spring days forecast so I can stay inside and binge.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Secrets of My Life - Caitlyn Jenner

Most of us are aware of the story of how Bruce Jenner, Olympic gold winning athlete and celebrity transitioned recently and revealed herself as Caitlyn Jenner.  In this memoir, she tells us the story of how she knew from a very young age she wanted to dress as a girl and felt wrong as a boy, but it took decades before she was able to  change her body and admit to her family her true self.

You have to admire people who are able to step up and reveal themselves, faults and all.  I like her bravery in writing this book and and enjoyed learning her story.   I left with the feeling that because of her secrets that she hidden, her life has been lonely and largely unhappy.  I hope she finds happiness now - life is short and to be treasured. 4/5

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fragile Lives - Stephen Westaby

Professor Stephen Westaby is a prominent UK cardiac surgeon.  In this book he tells us about his own life and family and how the death of his grandparents led him to deciding to become a doctor.  He has lots of fascinating stories about his training years.

Most of the book though is devoted to the heart patients that he has looked after over the years - the successes and the failures.  He started his training when cardiac surgery was a young speciality and there have been many advances is surgery techniques and tools available.   I could have listened to his stories endlessly as the were all so inspirational. 5/5

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Juliet's Answer - Glenn Dixon

Glenn Dixon is a Canadian English teacher, who tells us about his classroom and their experience of learning about Romeo and Juliet.  On one of his holidays, he heads to the real Verona in Italy, to work in an office where unlucky in love men and women write letters to Juliet Capulet, and a team of writers reply back giving them hope.

He does a good job of switching between stories, and in the process reminding us all of the beauty of Romeo and Juliet and their star crossed love.  It even made me want to read it again, which I last read many decades ago in high school. 4/5

Monday, August 14, 2017

Goodbye Pet & See You In Heaven - Bel Mooney

Bel Mooney was the owner to a small Maltese dog Bonnie, who had lived with her through a marriage that broke down, living by herself and now was living with her and her second husband at a rural property.  When Bonnie gets older and sicker Bel thought that she was prepared for when she would die, but when it happens she is surprised by the grief that she feels losing her small companion and friend.

Not only does she tell her story, but she talks with other pet owners who understand the loss of a beloved companion.  You may need a tissue, it may have made my mascara run a little. 4/5

Sunday, August 13, 2017

House of Z

Sadly today was the last day of the Film Festival and it was the last movie I had booked to see with a friend.  House of Z is a documentary about American fashion designer Zac Posen.  Like other shows about other designers, this one is about a recent collection shown but I think he has opened up his life more than many of the rest.  He was obviously a very talented and charismatic teenager and he was able to establish himself by having amazing support from his family, with his mother and sister working with him for some time.

 Even though my friend and I do not know much about the current high fashion world, it is a compelling watch, from him being fashions darling to being irrelevant in a short time and then having to make a comeback .  It is interesting to realize how much an illusion it is, when they haven't made any money in years, and that the money comes from investors  and deals made with outside companies.  4/5

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Womans Life

This is one of the last Film festival shows I got to see, and I must admit to nodding off a bit.  A subtitled French film often has the ability in a warm theatre, to do that to me.  Also I think I was lulled to sleep by the incessant chewing of the older woman next to me, who took 45 minutes to eat her ice cream cone.

So we get to meet Jeanne frolicking in the sun at her French chateau with her Mama and Papa dreaming of a handsome Beau.  Things are good, then they go bad and then they get worse .

I would have liked it more if there were a higher ratio of happy scenes to ones that made you depressed, but maybe I slept through those.  Also it looked like my uncle had filmed it in 1982 on his video camera that weighed 20kg - then showed it on our 70s tv, I am sure it was some arty sort of cinematography that the hipsters would know.  2.5/5

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Farthest

If I  had to recommend one movie from this year's Film Festival this would be the one I would tell everyone to go and see.

The Farthest  the story about NASAs Voyager mission.  Launched in 1977, these two small space ships were sent into the solar system to send back photos and data from distant planets.  It is fascinating stuff, especially when you consider the computer power that was available in the 70s.

They also talk about the golden record, stuck you the outside it is 2hours of music and messages, just in case there is some alien life out there.  The musical choices seemed a bit odd, with only one pop hit and lots of odd cultural picks.  Can you imagine ET playing a record?

It gives a fascinating perspective on just how small Earth is in a huge, huge universe.  The Voyager has made it now to the end of our solar system and is now in Interstellar space - the only thing ever to be out there, and may continue on  long after we are gone, and even after the earth is here.

Amazing stuff that may have even made me tear up at timesome and the best space movie I have ever seen 5/5

Thursday, August 10, 2017

It Comes At Night

OK so going in you know this might not end well.  This is the one thriller I chose to see at the film festival.  It is the type of movie I prefer to see at the cinema, rather than watch at home and not being able to sleep afterwards.  It is also kind of funny to sit in the cheap seats, where when someone in the row jumps, the whole row rocks with them.

It is post apocalyptic world and Paul and his wife and son are locked up in a house in the woods.  I won't tell you anymore.  4/5.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Alice Network - Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is one of those authors that you can escape into her books and picture the story straight away.  From the first few pages I knew I was going to enjoy it, and looked forward to being able to head to bed to read my book each night.

Like most historical novels, this book has two story threads.  Charlie St Clair, a young American socialite who in 1947 comes to Europe to search for her young cousin Rose, who was last heard of in France several years earlier.  When her search begins she meets the rough and tough Eve Gardiner, who has her own story of being in France over the first world war.

Their story begins to weave together as both women begin to rely on each other as they travel between cities searching for clues.

At moments the characters came across a bit cliched and predictable but I did like that they were a little flawed and trying to overcome their demons,  that made the story still feel a little fresh and not the usual war story.  5/5

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Beguiled

The Beguiled is a remake of a 1971 movie of the same name.  It is a dreamy Gothic drama directed by the clever Sophia Coppola.   It is the end of the civil war and at a small girls school one of the pupils discovers an injured Union soldier (Colin Farrell) and assists him to the school where the ladies look after him.

Using his charms and flirting with all the ladies, he convinces them to not hand him in, and tries to stay on as a gardener.  Just as he is about to be forced to leave, there is an accident and things begin to change.

I enjoyed watching Nicole Kidman, Kristen Dunst and Elle Fanning fawn over the handsome Colin Farrell.  The costumes were beautiful although I doubted that in wartime , without help they would have had such glamorous outfits so white and pressed.  3/5

20th Century Women

This one played in the early morning at the Film Festival and was a good start to the day.  A coming of age film done in a unique way.  It is the story of Jamie who is 15, and his single mother Dorothea.  Living in an old run down house they share their house with mechanic/potter William and photographer Abbie, as well as Julie - Jamie's friend who spends most of her days and nights with them.

Dorothea asks the girls to help educate Jamie as she can sense that he is beginning to struggle with growing up and she is struggling to stay relevant.  An interesting peek into growing up at the end of the seventies, with the best boy fight.  Not a film for the kids, this more of an adult drama 3.5/5.

Monday, August 07, 2017

My Life As A Courgette

Hats off to the team who made this stop motion movie which I think took them seven years.  It is the story of a young boy, who after an accident at home is sent to live in care with others of his age group, all of whom have been damaged by the absence of the adults in their lives.

It is not all doom and gloom however, and made me secretly smile throughout as it tries to  show how everyone blossoms with live in their life, and this can take many forms and come from many people you encounter.   4/5

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Chalk Pit - Elle Griffiths

Ruth Galloway is one of my favorite thriller characters, although she may be a bit too involved in cases than her job would usually permit, the ordinary  parts of her life make her a believable character and more real to me.  I like that she is a single mother just trying to do her best, even when her patience with her five year old daughter and elderly parents is tried.

Harry Nelson too feels real to me, I get a sense of him and there is a good balance of his police work and private life.  Nothing like hating the boss, and having an affair to make detective feel conflicted.

In this book several homeless men are killed and two women are missing and everyone is wondering if there is a link.  I guessed who the bad guy was pretty early on, but still 4/5 from me.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Big Sick

So in a little break from the Film Festival - I went to the movies!!! The Big Sick has had a bit of hype lately and this was it's first week of release here.  If you don't know the story it is based on the real life relationship between Pakistani/American comedian Kumail Nanjiani (who plays himself in the movie) and his wife Emily Gordon.  They meet when she heckles him at a comedy club.

Their relationship is new when Emily gets sick, and Kumail has to introduce himself to her parents that he had never met before.

Not a huge laugh it is a sweet movie, and although I did see a poster declaring it the best rom-com ever, I felt that was a bit of an exaggeration.   3.5/5

Friday, August 04, 2017

A Ghost Story

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a young married couple C and M, who notice some strange occurrences in their new house.  As we come to find out, the house is haunted by what becomes the main character in the movie, a ghost in a sheet with two holes in it, who has no spoken dialogue for most of the movie.  At times it is sweet and dreamy, but at times it is a bit confusing although Wikipedia does a good job of explaining the plot.

I did struggle with a long scene of eating a pie, and thought it was maybe all a bit too much hipster for me.  3/5


You know I was going to love this one, as I like my kitty cats and I had read good things about this little documentary.  Filmed in Istanbul, it follows about 5 street cats as they go about their days and the people that feed and look after them.  It must be a tough life, trying to find food and shelter and with markets and homes being pulled down to make way for apartment blocks and motorways, their existence is threatened.

Not only is it the story of the sweet cats, but it lets us learn about people and how it adds to their lives to feed and pat the cats, something most of us know.  5/5

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Paris Opera

This was the next documentary I saw, a show about the famed Paris Opera.   Following a season, it starts in the managers office, but we get to see lots of backstage organizing, onstage bickering, rehearsals, auditions and snippets of performances.  I have never seen an Opera myself, and not a big fan of classical music, opera or ballet, but still enjoyed this movie.  It showed a human side to this huge organization and I liked that they at least briefly discussed the elitist nature of their entertainment while trying to justify seat prices (prices have increased 91% while cost of living increases have only been 23%).

A couple of the stories withing a story that made me smile, was the introduction of a large bull into a live stage performance and the young 21 year old Russian Opera Singer who at the beginning of the movie is shown at his audition, where he is barely able to speak French.

It was enjoyable, the music although not my think was still great and worthy of a 4/5.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

It was a lazy morning getting up this morning, as the first film I had booked didn't start until 10:30am.  This was another interesting documentry.  As urban populations increase by one million people a week, we are faced with changing our cities to fit everyone in.  How will we house and transport the increases in population.

This movie focuses on New York, that after WWII goes through immense change as urbanization takes hold.  Slum tenement buildings are pulled down and large scale housing projects go up in their place, and many historical districts are threatened to be pulled down to make space for motorways. On one hand this modernization is spear headed by power broker and developer Robert Moses, who with his posse of middle aged men seeks to change the face of the city.  With little opposition and not much discussion, his vision is not often challenged.

Jane Jacobs, a writer does offer up a different vision.  She questions the loss of eyes on the street that comes from having cafes and shops at street level, and with low windows and stoops there were places to talk and gather and spots for children to play safely.  She wonders why the people that live in the city aren't being asked what they want in new buildings and does the new developments actually serve the purpose they are made for or are they just hiding the poor people away on the city verges?

As well as being a compelling story that tells a story from the sixties, it still resonates today as our own cities swell and struggle to cope with everyone moving in.  I did enjoy looking at the historical images of New York - man that is one busy city. 4/5

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


A couple of years ago I saw the wonderful documentary Sherpa at the film festival. This year it was Mountain - a story about the lure of the mountains, to climb, ride, ski and snowboard on and to jump off.

Much of the movie is made up if beautiful natural scenery, scarily high Vistas and steep slopes.  I did feel a little like the middle part was a collection of youtube videos which was a bit distracting.  3/5

I Am Not Your Negro

This evening it was a documentary that I went to see, it was meant to be sold out, but some tickets were freed up while I was waiting.  It is based on a manuscript that the author James Baldwin was writing about race relations in the US.  In it he talks about his friendship with African American leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

At times it was immensely moving and relevant to look back at how much has changed and then realize that there is still much to be worked on.  As James Baldwin died in the 80s i wonder what he would think of what he would see around him now.  I did leave the cinema thinking though that I expected more and it underdelivered.   3/5.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


For the past couple of years at the film festival there has been a couple of documentaries that have outshone many of the other movies shown.   The ones that show us the world of high fashion are some of my favorites.   It may have been a dream of mine when I was 12 to be a fashion designer.  Now as an adult I have an admiration for their talent and the art of design.  I dislike the business side of it though and loathe the snobbery that looks down on people while trying to sell you a $900 tshirt.

Dries Van Noten is a Belgian designer who is shown looking at his past collections while trying to bring together his men's and women's new shows.  It is interesting seeing his processes, developing his own fabrics and what I like about his style is that so many if his beautiful clothes look like you would want to wear them, or at least a cheaper more diffused version that may filter down to the high street.

The shows were beautiful , in amazing sights around Paris.   When I see these fashion shows I am always surprised by the young gamine models on the runway, wondering why there is no diversity on stage.  When the designers spout off saying they love women, yet only seem to design for the one type of young tall and slim body type.

We get a small glimpse into the designers private life.  The lovely country home with beautiful gardens that he shares with his partner, and most touching if all was his lovely dog, who gets little bits of play time in between jobs.  4/5

Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer 1993

Summer 1993 is a Spanish film about a young girl Frida, who after the death of her mother moves to the rural home of her uncle, his wife and young daughter Anna.  Told from her point of view, it is a sweet film about trying to fit in in a new home, and dealing with grief, how life can swing from moments of sheer joy to tears super quickly.  The young actress did a great job of her role, it never seemed like she was acting with a very natural performance and she left me remembering what it was like to be a five year old girl.  3/5