Monday, January 24, 2011

Film Review - Black Swan

Black Swan is the difference between a movie and a film.

A movie will entertain you, keep you interested and give you some great discussion points. A film however, will draw you in, entice you, impress you, take you on a journey…

Black Swan will be remembered in the upper echelon of great films. Not just because of Natalie Portman’s engaging and enthralling performance but also for Darren Aronofsky’s direction and his ability to take you on to the stage and make you fall in love with Ballet. As in The Wrestler, Aronofsky manages to squeeze every ounce of substance of his lead actor - Natalie Portman shines.

Portman plays the talented but troubled Nina who wins the lead as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. The already fragile Nina slowly looses her mind as paranoia, a possessive mother, and the mounting pressure leading to opening night take their toll. Add to this the beautiful Mila Kunis (Lilly) as the threat to her role and Black Swan takes you on a scintillating, mysterious and often terrifying journey and look into the world of professional ballet.

Portman rightly deserves her Golden Globe. Not just for her acting ability but her dancing scenes are incredible. Hollywood is riddled with stories of actors going through painstaking training to learn skills for a certain role, and there is none more impressive than Portman. Actors that immerse themselves in their role – Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs”, De Niro in “Raging Bull” and Natalie Portman in “Black Swan.” She is incredibly convincing as a world-class ballet dancer, with seemingly minimal body doubles and direction that contains extended wide angled frames showing the full extend of her dancing ability for this role.

There are a few surprises such as the great performance by Barbara Hershey as the domineering, possessive mother, a brief appearance from Wynona Ryder as the ballet star nearing the end of her career. The uncredited star of this film is Ballet itself as it seamlessly joins with the wonderful direction to make you feel like you on the stage itself.

This film is like watching live Opera but without the Italian singing and with a lot less vibrato - dramatic, ethereal and beautiful.

This is more than a movie – it’s a classic film.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hitting the dance floor - tips for young players...

Let’s Dance.

“Nobody cares if you can't dance well.
Just get up and dance.”
~Dave Barry

Whatever the reason is you’re there. You’ve paid your money, told a few friends and maybe - depending on your initial level of enthusiasm – you’ve watched a few videos online. You have a story, you’re at a particular stage of life, and you’re on the dance floor staring at a room filled with other dubious faces ready to start your first Salsa class. You’re in a room filled with people who have all arrived at the same destination but have come from vastly different origins. Maybe you saw Salsa on TV and thought it was something you had to try; or you stumbled across an online video; you’ve come out of a terrible life experience or relationship and are looking for some confidence; you could be looking for that special someone you feel you’ve never found or simply looking to increase your networks. Or maybe none of this applies to you, you just like dancing.

Whatever the reason you find yourself holding hands with a complete stranger as you both count one, two, three – five, six, seven under your breath in an attempt to get your feet and hands to do what your brain is demanding. Believe me I can relate, learning to dance can be no easy feat. Those of you reading this article that are obsessed with dancing and are out most nights doing your thang may have forgotten how intimidating it can be. My story on how I stumbled across Salsa is really no different to most people. One night a good friend invited me to some Salsa party where I was assured there would be “a lot of honeys and some great music.” Well both were in attendance. As I stood on the side of the dance floor looking at smiling hands and feet flying all over the place I suddenly felt as though I was missing out on some genuine fun. Not to mention the impressive live band that were simply hypnotising. A few months later I was watching YouTube videos and signing up to my first beginner’s class. When I first started taking lessons the thought of trying to take what I was learning in class to the social dance floor was accompanied by my own self confidence pointing its finger and laughing at me as though it was an insurmountable task. It wasn’t just the dance that was intimidating. My headspace was not well, I was not well, my confidence was at an all time low and I was reeling from a significant negative life experience. I was looking for a life raft and I found it in quick, quick slow. Fast forward 18 months, countless classes, the occasional workshop, new friends, various pairs of dance shoes and there is rarely an event I don’t try and get to filled with people I know and ladies who I love to dance with. Not to mention some genuinely good people.

Now let me be clear right from the beginning; I am no expert when it comes to the dance floor - far from it. But in the time that I’ve been learning to shake my thang, I have learned some rather invaluable lessons – all of them the hard way – and being a narcissistic, out of work freelance writer who often feels the need to sit for hours at a keyboard to keep my brain from exploding, I felt the need to share with those of you who are mustering the courage to hit the social floor. So in this brief collection of words take heed that what you are reading is a collection of hints and tips taken directly from a dance nerd who learned the hard way. Oh and all the lads out there, some of the things you will read are taken directly from some of the many conversations I have had with some of Adelaide’s most beautiful dancers (looks to the sky and day dreams a little). Oh and ladies anything directed to you will be an attempt to introduce you to the male psyche when it comes to dancing – hard I know but it does exist. Ok lads lets go, (ladies still read):

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When grammar comes between love...

A friend sent me this article this week, and I am still giggling like a school girl. I'm sure this was a Seinfield spisode.

For all intensive purposes
To what extent does our grasp of grammar affect our chance of romance?
Comedian Mark Butler investigates.

I recently broke up with a girlfriend because she misused an apostrophe. Yes, I know it’s not a capital offence to write “two bottle’s of wine” in an email, but this minor grammatical blunder irked me just enough to pull out of that night’s barbecue. Some relationships break down because one partner is too possessive; ours ended because the two bottles were not.

Obviously this was not the only slip-up this girl (let’s call her Je’s’sica) made during our brief relationship, but the “bottles incident”, as I now call it, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was a your/you’re episode in a love letter that left me loveless, there were double negatives crammed into conversations that turned me right off, and there were countless text messages strewn with errors which, in hindsight, were probably written deliberately to wind me up. Basically, the relationship was destined to fail because I care about grammar and she, apparently, CUDNT CARELESS.

I didn’t care so much when I was a teenager. Growing up in a coal-mining community in the north of England, it was difficult enough to find a girl who could speak in full sentences, let alone in grammatically correct ones. I took what I could get, and this often meant me putting up with clauses enclosed by “like” and “intit” in the hope of copping a feel behind the bus shelter. In those days, the most desirable quality in a girl was not her grasp of grammar; it was her willingness to go behind bus shelters.

But then came university in the south of England where I was surrounded by young women who could construct sentences without fillers. They all spoke properly, like BBC newsreaders, and they all mocked my Northern knack of truncating the “to” and omitting the definite article in sentences about me “going t’ pub”. Suddenly it was my grammar that was under the spotlight, and I knew I would have to pick up my game if I hoped to attract such sophisticates.

So I went t’ library and buried myself in a big book of grammar with a penguin on it, studying all the things that my middle school English teacher would probably have taught me had she not always been popping out for fags during lessons. I learnt about subjunctives, superlatives, conditionals and participles. I studied predicates, prepositions, pronouns and proper nouns. I learnt so much about language that I was able to crawl confidently from my study cocoon and proudly unfold my grammatical wings. I even learnt how to create butterfly-related metaphors, albeit clich├ęd ones.

But this newfound knowledge didn’t get me laid. In fact, it probably had the opposite effect. I became convinced everyone could benefit from my wisdom and I thought nothing of pointing out where pretty girls had wrongly used adjectives instead of adverbs. I honestly thought I was helping; they genuinely thought I was a dickhead. We were both right. But my chance of romance was slipping faster than Australian school standards, and I had to learn to keep my mouth more shut, more often. My crusade had come to an end.

It seems it is not possible to point out grammatical gaffes and still expect to sleep with the person who made them. Having good grammar is sexy, but the highlighting of others’ mistakes is a passion-killer, a cold shower on any conversation. People like to be told how smart they are, not that “for all intensive purposes” is a malapropism. No one likes to be told that “fastly” is not a word; if they really cared, they would have figured it out by now.

So what do language pedants like you and me do if we want to be loved? (I am assuming that you are a pedant since you have read this far into the article; everyone else stopped reading after missing the clever word play at the end of the first paragraph.) Do we just let our partners get away with syntactical murder? No, we do not. We explain to them that our grammatical nitpicking is a symptom of an obscure mental illness. We tell them that grammatical mistakes bring on anxiety attacks in us. We tell them that if they truly loved us, they would stop using “could of” in third conditional sentences. We do not drop our standards; we help them to raise theirs.

Je’s’sica, however, had more problems raising her standards than she did the hem of her skirt, and it was with great regret that I had to end it. Yes, she had great legs, an angelic face, and at least two bottles of wine, but these things were only going to take her so far; a grammar geek like me needs all the boxes ticked. She sent me a text message after we broke up, after I told her that it was me and not her, after I lied about me not being ready for another serious relationship. ITS SHAME COZ WE CUD OF BIN GUD 2GTHR. X. We all know that I did the right thing.

Mark Butler will be performing his new comedy show, Grammar Don’t Matter on a First Date, at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

So good, I might have to check it out.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ain't love grand...

This was emailed to me by a good mate. Funny and ironical...



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Beauty queens, world peace, rising flood waters and the prevailing Aussie spirit...

Watch any beauty queen pageant contest and not only will you see a bevy of beauties with fake tans, and manicured eye brows, but you will hear that every contestant seems to want the same thing.

"World peace."

The vain persuit of victory whilst tacking on somekind of conscientiousness. I find it quite hilarious. I'm sure they all really want to see world peace, but do we even know what world peace looks like? If it sprung up one day would we see it?

Just like all of us I have been incredibly moved by the images and footage coming out of Qld surrounding the floods. It's quite difficult to know how to respond when you see such devestation and there is no-one to blame or no finger to point.

It is refreshing to see however, the post disaster news stories come out as people band together to help each other out. After watching an ACA report on the volunteers (I NEVER watch ACA as it barely passes as journalism) I couldn't help but feel that little bit more Australian seeing thousands of people coming together to clean-up and repair Brisbane.

What also impresses me is how we approach such things with humor as is the larrikin Aussie spirit. I saw this image below and felt that little bit more Australian.

Wally Lewis statue outside the flooded Suncorp stadium.

I also saw this facebook status in the last few weeks as well:

"Come on Australia grab your shamwows...we've got a city to clean."

I don't know if we will ever see peace in the middle east. I don't know if we will ever eradicate racism from our communties. I don't know if the poor in Africa will ever see respite from famine and Aids. I don't know if children will ever be safe from slave labor or sexual exploitation. I don't know if we will ever see the end to human trafficing or the injustice of poverty around the world, and I certainly don't know if we will ever be safe from religious extremsim - but i keep hoping.

But one thing I do know, is that in Brisbane right now we are getting a glimpse of what world peace could be; a community of people coming together, helping each other out with good humor and hard work.

Check it out - there's world peace in Brisbane right now.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Exit Through The Gift Shop - Hybrid Street Art that is amazing...

Wow this is where it's at. This guy manages to fuse political message, art, graffiti, love, romance, humor and everything in between. Check out some of his artwork below and enjoy the 5 minute video that I promise will be the best part of your day.

Check out Banksy HERE.

Trust me and enjoy...


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

My drops of blood on paper - The Invincible Summer

"Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." Gene Fowler

My manuscript is done, or should I say, my drops of blood on paper is done. It's not perfect and I don't think it ever will be. I could spend the rest of my life trying to make what I write sound like what I read, but great authors, past and present, all struggle with the same achilles heel: the search for the right words.

I don't care if no one reads this book, or if no one wants to spend their hard earned money on it. My only hope with this book is that at least one person will find a home for it on their book shelf. And if you like it enough, buy a copy for a friend.

The reality is, I can't live without writing and and I can't write without living.

I think these are the right words for me right now. So hopefully this manuscript will be off to the printers soon, and in your hands soon after that. Getting the words finished is one thing...getting into a book, launching it, publicising it and getting it as an ebook is an entirely different matter all together.

But hey life is either a daring adventure or it's nothing.

I'll keep writing if you keep reading.



Thursday, January 6, 2011

Romance: The characteristic of love or a ridiculous tool of seduction?

WARNING: Romantic notions below…

In writing my previous post “Romance, love and literature to last a lifetime…” I did some research, namely re-reading passages of “Love in the times of Cholera.” After being re-acquainted with some of my favorite passages it occurred to me how blatantly and overtly romantic the story and themes are.

“He repeated until his dying day that there was no one with more common sense, no stonecutter more obstinate, no manager more lucid or dangerous, than a poet.” Love in the Time of Cholera

Then I came across this quote on my various net surfing.

“Romance is, I must admit, one of life’s thrills. But I often find it to be a heightened, rather exaggerated or dare I even say it; a completely deceptive reflection of the man responsible for its mirage. Like most women, I have dreamt of its lasting existence but sadly understand it to be little more than a rather crafty and short-lived tool of seduction.” Anon

This quote almost knocked me off my chair. What is romance and how, if at all, does it have its place in modern day relationships? Is it merely a tool for game players to increase attraction in the opposite sex or is it, as I think it should be, a reflection of a man or woman’s love and gratitude for another. Whilst thinking about this post these following songs came on my ipod.

Michael Buble, I just haven’t met you yet.

“And I know that we can be so amazing
And, baby, your love is gonna change me
And now I can see every possibility
And somehow I know that it'll all turn out
You'll make me work, so we can work to work it out”

John Mayer, Split screen sadness.

“So maybe I will sleep inside my coat and
Wait on your porch till you come back home alright
So I’ll check the weather wherever you are
Cause I wanna know if you can see the stars tonight
It might be my only right.”

Jeff Buckley, Everybody here wants you.

"Twenty-nine pearls in your kiss, a singing smile,
Coffee smell and lilac skin, your flame in me.

Such a thing of wonder in this crowd,
I'm a stranger in this town, you're free with me.
And our eyes locked in downcast love, I sit here proud,
Even now you're undressed in your dreams with me.
I'm only here for this moment."

In a culture saturated in instant gratification, quick seduction, thirty second commercials, internet dating, instant messaging, consumerism as a religion, and changing relationship status updates; love, romance and fidelity seem to take a back seat to the instance of affection.

The self gratification of having ones needs met first seems to be the norm; rather than the meeting of another’s before your own with the trust that the other will do the same. There is however, no surprise that Vampire novels with themes of eternity, chivalry and love are so popular in current culture. Is this because these themes seem to be so foreign to us?

Some might say that romance is an essential part in falling in love and, overtime, sustaining a relationship. Honestly I have no idea. I seem to have more questions than answers. I just hope I’m asking all the right questions.

This might not be a debate about romance but rather a debate about integrity. Is romance without sustaining action nothing more than a tool of torture for every unlucky in love single person who hides on Valentine’s Day?

I don’t know, in fact I have no idea, but I will say that as a writer themes of romance, love and relationships are easy to write and easy to sell. Arguably the most romantic movie of all time “The Notebook” grossed $81m in the US alone.

There’s no doubting it, whether we believe in it or not, romance seems to be an essential component of life. It seems to exist as a double edged sword that can both cut us free from the bonds of loneliness or give us wounds that cut deep.

One thing I do know is this…if you are going to live, live with passion. Live with purpose. If you are going to love, love with passion. Everything else is useless.

To the person who wrote that quote I found, if you ever make your way to my blog and see this post I am going to leave my final word to Shakespeare from Romeo and Juliet.

"When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun."

Take that Ryan Gosling and your “I wrote you every day for a year” hairy face, skinny, blue eyed boy kissing an engaged women.

Shame on you….!!!!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dance Salsa - then breathe...

I've been dancing Salsa for a couple of years now, and each time I walk off the dance-floor I think I learn something new about what it means to actually live life rather than let it unravel without me having any say.

The first time I was exposed to Salsa dancing was at an event in Adelaide, where I watched one of Australia's premier Latin Band, Salcedo. I got home and searched some online videos and this is the one I found. After watching this video my mind made was made up. I had to learn to dance like this. I'm still getting there but this guy, Anthony Persauld is my dancing idol, not sure why I just really like his style. Maybe one day i'll dance like him.

And look at the way this girl moves and the expression on her face...I watch this video every couple of days.



The art of seduction in the art of music...

I only came accross these guys recently. Have you ever heard more beautiful, sexy seductive music in your life. If this is the first time you have heard of 'xx' then I am glad to be the one to introduce you. Dim the lights, get some red wine....



Love, romance and literature to last a lifetime...

BOOK REVIEW: Love in the time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Rarely is there a book that evokes such romanticism as Gabriel Garcia’s exquisite “Love in the time of Cholera.” I am a firm believer that books come across your way and choose you. All the books I have read that have had a significant influence on me have come out of some unpredictable place, where I never intended on reading them in the first place.

I never go to a bookstore looking for a certain book; I wait for one to choose me. Before I briefly review this masterpiece let me share the story with you. Many years ago I saw a film “Serendipity” starring John Cusak and (holds breath) Kate Beckinsdale (sigh).

This movie tells the story of Johnathon Trager who on a wintery New York evening meets the beautiful, Sara Thomas, where they discover instant chemistry. Despite Johnathon’s insistence to meet again, Sara decides to leave it up to fate, and as they walk down a crowded New York street, Sara takes a book from her bag and writes her name and phone number in the front jacket of the book. She will then sell it at a used book store, with the idea that if they are meant to meet again Jonathon will find the book in years to come.

The book that she writes in is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's “Love in the time of Cholera.”

Not satisfied in going to an Angus and Robertson and picking up a new copy I decided that I would visit the occasional second hand book shop to see what I could find. After visiting one in Brighton with a friend I asked at the counter for a copy and was told that they didn’t have one. A few weeks later I was given a copy as a gift by that same friend. This began quite a journey as I laboured through Garcia’s beautiful prose.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, my hero...

Love in the Time of Cholera was published three years after Marquez won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. This stunning piece of fiction tells the story of how, as teenagers, a young idealistic poet Florentino Ariza and the beautiful Fermina Daza fall in love. Their love however is forbidden by Fermina’s father and he does all that he can to separate them until finally he succeeds. Many years later Fermina then marries successful wealthy doctor, Dr Juvenal Urbino but Florentino is convinced that he and Fermina will one day be together again. After fifty one years, nine months and four days, Florentino gets his chance to win back the love of his life after the unexpected death of Dr Juvenal Urbino. In a breathtaking scene Florentino declares his love in the expert below:

After the funeral, when everyone else has left, Florentino steps forward with his hat over his heart. ''Fermina,'' he declares, ''I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.'' Shocked and furious, Fermina orders him out of the house. ''And don't show your face again for the years of life that are left to you. . . . I hope there are very few of them.''

Set in a young Caribbean town in the 1800’s this book originally written in Spanish, is not for the faint hearted. This is literature at its best, like reading a romance love story version of Lord of the Rings. I recommend that you take some time to read this beautiful love story. Whether you think romance is ridiculous or required reading, Marquez delivers what every author lies in bed dreaming of – revolutionary well written prose.

Please see below this excerpt, which for the record, is my favourite passage of fiction.

“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else's heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”

Despite your thoughts on love, romance, its varying levels of intensity, and its place in modern day relationships, this book will at least get you believing that love just might last a lifetime.

If this is your next book, find a copy that has that old book smell.



Trailer for the movie apperas at 0:90 .