The Phantom of the Opera and my kitchen floor.

After gallivanting interstate last week it has been wonderful to lose this weekend confined indoors because of wet weather. Not enough rain to fill water tanks, but enough to wash the dust off the leaves and have blades of grass upstanding with little smiles on their faces.

So plenty of binge movie viewing with the Hunger Games series featuring one of those Hemsworth lads. I tell ya’ – those boys are just everywhere……..

To even out all this blood and viciousness there has also been a lot of music emanating from the She-Shack which I’m sure the neighbours have also been enjoying. It’s been a while since I got lost in one of my Phantom Of The Opera frenzies which culminated in lots of twirls, sliding and faux pirouettes across the tiled floor this morning. (If this imagery isn’t enough to frighten you, think of the elephants in tutus in Disney’s Fantasia.)

I’ve seen POTO live four times. The first time I flew to Sydney to see the show with my sister in law who had just separated from her husband, and only he showed up at the theatre with a new partner. Talk about more drama off stage than on.

Next time was a family outing when the daughters were little girls. New frocks and shoes all round. Big mistake; my kids took to the theatre like ducks to water and it became an expensive interest over the years. They also figured they needed a new outfit each and every time.

When I travelled to London to visit the daughter studying Law she shouted tickets to the West End production. POTO had been playing in this very same theatre for thirty odd years and can I tell you, the sets were magnificent. I think I lost focus because the underground canals were so very fascinating. Ice cream hawkers wandering through the theatre at Intermission also threw me and I didn’t get the value out of this performance that I should have. The set and Streets Drumsticks were just too mesmerising.

Back in Brisbane Australia’s own Anthony Warlow played the Phantom some years later. Now Warlow could really sing – a true entertainer. After seeing his performance as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls I vowed to call any son Obadiah. (No boys, probably just as well.Can you imagine the school yard bullying!)

This production was brilliant, and will forever remain a wonderful memory. Warlow brought new energy to the Phantom. The lawyer daughter said,” Mo, I think he’s on speed” and the eldest one, the one who is all heart, left the theatre sobbing with “ Mo, he’s just misunderstood”.

Naturally, when the movie was released in 2004, starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, it just had to be another outing with the girls. I didn’t have to buy new outfits this time, though I was still up for lunch. The reviews were pretty harsh, especially about Butler and his singing prowess, though we all really enjoyed and I absolutely adored Butler as the Phantom.
1 ) His voice was raw, showing both emotion and vulnerability.
2 ) The unmasked side of the Phantom’s face was smokin’.
3 ) As above.

Now, that comment is not sexist. You need to know this to understand Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel, Love Never Dies. Set ten years after the Phantom escaped the fire in the French Opera House he now lives in Manhattan amongst the joy rides on Coney Island. Still writing music he continues to miss Christine and manoeuvres a concert for her to perform in Manhattan. She is accompanied by her husband, Raoul, and her young son, Gustave.

And guess what? Gustave is not really Raoul’s son. I wonder who is the real father? (Think smokin’ which makes Butler’s portrayal every bit conceivable.)

Off course we saw this live on stage back in 2012. It debuted in the UK but required a massive rewrite which was completed here in Oz. It was darker, more dramatic than POTO, and two out of three of us preferred it to the original. *putting hand up.

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A great DVD and sound track, filmed and produced in Oz, has been providing much pleasure and entertainment this weekend. I’m just extremely grateful that the neighbours can’t see in.

Wouldn’t you too glide across the floor with this?

Bagger Vance and the Hunter Valley.

My youngest daughter, the one that collects Bing Crosby dolls, has always enjoyed golf, both as a participant and spectator. Indeed, the downside to living in Australia is that watching any of the truely great sporting events of the world, such as golf at St Andrews or Augusta, means having to set an alarm to set yourself up in front of the box in the wee hours of the morning. In winter. I’ve generally crawled out from under the covers to keep the daughter company and fed.

The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life is a 1995 American novel by Steven Pressfield that was adapted into the 2000 film The Legend of Bagger Vance. It is one of our favourite movies, and one where the movie is an improved version of the novel.

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I watched this again last night after a relaxed day in the Hunter Valley enjoying the sunshine and local Seafood Festival. The Hunter, despite suffering from both drought and bushfires, is a prime wine producing area and so a local chardy joined us on the mystical journey with Bagger Vance.

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Mystical? Think Field Of Dreams without the ghostly baseball players. Without corn fields. Sadly, without the delish Ray Liotta.

According to Dr Google , “ Steven Pressfield (author) has acknowledged, Bagger Vance, and the story of his legend, are based on the Hindu epic and scriptural poem, the Bhagavad-Gita. In the epic, Bhagavan is the “Supreme Personality” who helps his follower, Arjuna, understand much about war and about life.

Don’t let that put you off!

The story of Bagger Vance, under played for the first time in his life by a personable Will Smith, is told through Harley, whilst dying of a heart attack as an elderly gent whilst playing golf.

He recounts his childhood memories of a golf exhibition between golfing legends, Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones during the Great Depression, devised to stop the local Golf Club from bankruptcy. To heighten interest, a local golf hero, Rannulph Junuh, is enticed by his ex girlfriend and beneficiary of the Golf Club, to compete in the tournament.

A couple of issues here :

• What’s with this Rannulph? Is there no D in the American alphabet?
• Rannulph is a shell of his former self, following his experiences in World War 1, having been awarded the Medal of Honour. The horrors he has endured made Rannulph give up his girl, give up on life, lose his swing, and develop an inclination to over indulge in whiskey

Bagger Vance, philosopher extraordinaire, arrives on the scene to caddy for Rannulph, played by a young Matt Damon.

I always felt a mans grip on his club is just like a mans grip on his world

I like Damon. Unlike some of his contemporaries he hasn’t hardened with age. It’s not just the regular moisturising routine; he seems a genuinely nice fella. Recently in my neck of the woods with one of those Hemsworth lads Damon was spotted on several occassions with the fam on the beach. Anyone who throws chips to the seagulls has to be a good bloke, hey…

Back to the game of golf…..

it’s a game that can’t be won, only played, so i play on, i play for the moments yet to come, looking for my place in the field.

With Bagger’s encouragement Rannulph finds his “authentic swing” and an odd game where you hit a ball with a stick becomes surprisingly exciting. And Rannulph even gets the girl in Charlize Theron.

The movie ends years later when Harley, after sharing his memories, walks over to the corn fields to be met by Bagger Vance.

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Good little movie, great company, a lovely weekend, and wonderful memories. Always only too happy to support our local (Grape) farmers.

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Calamity Jane and High Fives.

My eldest daughter works with children. Not as a childcare worker or educator, but rather as one of those courageous folk who save kiddies in harms way; those born in crack dens, who don’t get a decent meal for a month, and those who suffer all sorts of unthinkable atrocities. She is so busy rescuing that she does not have her own little ones, unless you include Bentley, my beautiful Grand Furbaby.

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Little People love my daughter and she is Godmother and “Aunty” to several. This child of mine, deemed an old soul at birth, and one who reversed our mother-daughter roles when still in her late teens, has recently validated my worth as a parent.

How, you may ask?

When asked for sage parenting advice by friends, such as a good DVD to keep the young ones interested and content, does my daughter recommend Transformers, The Wiggles, or anything slightly superhero related?

No. Josie is slowly introducing the 1953 movie, Calamity Jane, a light hearted western musical starring Doris Day and Howard Keel, to a whole new generation. One lounge room at a time.

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Way to go, girl !

From IMDB:
In the lonely Deadwood, Dakota, territory, sharpshooter Calamity Jane (Doris Day) falls for cavalry Lt. Danny Gilmartin (Philip Carey) when she is forced to rescue him from the Indians. Recognizing that the women-starved townsmen long for a “real” woman, Calamity journeys to Chicago to bring back famous singer Adelaid Adams, but mistakenly brings her maid Katie instead. Heartbroken when Danny falls for Katie, Calamity all but ignores her jovial friend Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel).

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Doris Day is just beautiful, whether dressed in animal skins or in flouncy petticoats, and this is a joyful little flick full of fun. It requires no intellectual dissection – hanging the brain at the door along with the hat is compulsory.

Imagine, a movie that can hold the attention of our most vulnerable and impressionable, without a Hemsworth in sight.

Now that’s a win for Mother, I would say. High Fives all around please.

UPDATE : My other daughter tells me that Calamity Jane, the stage production, is coming to theatres in the ACT.
Now that’s worth some thought.We won’t tell Jo as she is inclined to break into song with “The Black Hills Dakota”.Aq

Louis de Bernieres and Nicholas Cage.

My youngest daughter and I share an interest in the author, Louis de Bernières. Born in 1954 he is a British novelist most famous for his fourth novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book in 1994 and in the same year was shortlisted for the Sunday Express Book of the Year.

In 2001 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was turned into a film in which Nicholas Cage played an Italian soldier who is part of the occupying force on the Greek island of Cephalonia during the Second World War. He falls in love with Greek lass, portrayed by Penelope Cruz, and blah, blah, blah.

I enjoyed the book. The movie would have been better 1) without Cage, 2) without Cage hamming it up with his woeful Italian accent and 3) Repeat 1.

( I’ve just spent twenty minutes on hands and knees searching for both the DVD and the book in the She-Shack. It appears, once again, those little birdies who flew the coop did not leave empty handed. Cait : I still have Windtalkers. Please come and get Cage out of my house, and be quick about it please.)

De Bernieres’ other fun book, Red Dog, was inspired by a statue of a dog he saw during a visit to the Pilbara region of Western Australia and was adapted as a film of the same name in Australia in 2011. This is a great little movie with an even better soundtrack, full of top rock tunes. Highly recommended if you are looking for motivation to mop floors.

So, where am I going with this?

Well, I lashed out today. Stumbled across a DVD I’ve been keeping an eye out for twelve months having read In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton
Here– about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

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With a full belly and satisfactorily hydrated I don’t think I have the intestinal fortitude to watch Nicholas Cage tonight. Maybe even ever again. He is just so hard going, and reminds me of my first child, Bonnie, the Bassett Hound.

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Sorry, Nick. Some other time. Just not strong enough for Men Of Courage tonight…..

Holy Guacamole and Other Things.

Flags Of Our Fathers by James Bradley, the son of John “Doc”Bradley, one of the six flagraisers at Iwo Jima, was co-authored with Ron Powers. The photo of U.S. servicemen raising the flag on Mount Suribachi became an iconic symbol of victory to a war-weary nation, and the image was used as propaganda to sell war bonds.

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I saw the Clint Eastwood directed movie of the same name before reading the book, and loved it. Having finally read the book I can advise you that the book is so very much better.

Doc Bradley never talked about the war and it wasn’t until he was in his mid 60s that information about the part he played became known to his family. “The real heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn’t come back”, he said.

The dissemination of this information is what makes this book such an interesting and heartfelt read.

So, of course, I’m about to read Letters from Iwo Jima by Kumiko Kakehashi, telling the story of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view. This too was made into a movie, again directed by Eastwood, and I remember being dumbstruck after watching it, having never previously considered the opposing view.

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Talking propaganda, my youngest foisted a DVD onto me which I had been ignoring for weeks. You have to understand that this child of mine collects singing Bing Crosby dolls.

Their Finest, starring Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, and Bill Nighy takes us back to the 1940’s in London. It tells the story of a British Ministry of Information film team making a morale-boosting film about the Dunkirk evacuation during the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz using the input of the female voice.

What a surprising little flick which alternatively had me smiling and crying. I even enjoyed Bill Nighy’s performance( I apologise for doubting you, my gorgeous one. No, I still don’t want to watch your Police Academy collection).

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You’ll be pleased that for a change of pace a girlfriend has lent me her dog eared copy of Open Your Mind To Prosperity by Catherine Ponder.

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Holy Guacamole. I may just have to make that a Gin and Tonic evening to give myself any chance of surviving this one…..

Sunday, Too Far Away with Jack Thompson

The first movie I saw at the Drive In, which I believe was later demolished to build a hotel, shopping complex and units (as all goods things are), was in Sydney’s Caringbah. It was January 1976 and it was hot, both in and out of the car, yet a wonderful way to finish a day having spent ten hours sunning oneself on the sand and skipping the waves at Eloura Beach. If you’ve ever read Kathy Lette’s Puberty Blues the imagery is not wasted……

A young Jack Thompson headlined in this movie which made it interesting as everyone over the age of 40 seemed to be mortified by this gentleman’s antics. He was the first nude male centrefold for Australia’s women’s magazine, Cleo, long since defunct, and the matrons tut tutted at his cohabitation with two sisters. Yep, you read that right: two sisters.

Jack Thompson played the knock-about, Foley, a heavy drinking gun shearer around whom the movie is based. It’s very much a bloke orientated film which quietly covers much of the male culture of rural Australia in the 1950s.- hard work and hard play, heavy drinking, mateship, and not having two bob to rub together from one stint in the sheds to the next. The film’s title “Sunday Too Far Away” is reportedly the lament of a shearer’s wife: “Friday night [he’s] too tired; Saturday night too drunk; Sunday, too far away”.

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Filmed on the edge of the Flinders Rangers in South Australia the scenery is at once beautiful with its red dust and towering gums, and bleak in its heat and isolation. If you have visited this part of the world at all you would appreciate the authentic depiction. The movie should have perhaps been called “Flys, Never Too Far Away”.

Poor Jack copped more flack from the Matrons with a naked bum dance scene in the washroom, before movement of this kind became on trend with Big Brother. Forty years later I am just grateful that John Ewart kept his towel on.

Viewing this movie again recently after such a long time was very interesting on a more personal level. My father, who spoke Latin and French, came home from Bomber Command requiring peace and quiet. He went bush for twelve months shearing sheep. I now understand why at barbecues he would boil a tin Billy on the fire and twirl the pot around his head to mix the tea leaves. Really, who does that, right? He would have also enjoyed that the only women around were barmaids and Cocky’s wives.

Back in the days of tea trolley ladies I worked with a woman in her ‘70’s who was a magnificent cook- cakes, sausage rolls, and other crowd pleases. Her secret was that she had once been a shearer’s cook, and if the shearer’s didn’t like the tucker the cook was sent packing. I was forever encouraging her to write a book – she could always turn nothing into something delicious.

It’s these little moments in Sunday, Too Far Away, that make this movie memorable.The cook gets the boot, with the aid of Lemon Essence, because the shearers don’t like what he dishes up. Old Garth, a gun shearer back in the day who was given the boot by his wife because of his absences from home, is now an alcoholic and his dead body is loaded onto the tray of a Ute. The sheep station owner (or Cocky) is banned from the shearing sheds, and the testosterone levels rise to coincide with the number of sheep shorn in a day.

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The last ten minutes deals with a Shearer’s strike back in the 50’s. To be honest this was wasted on me. Australian public school education: what, you thought we learnt Australian history? Hilarious. It does allow for a decent pub brawl, however.

A young Jack Thompson in a Jackie Howe never really worked for me, though on this occasion he was pleasing to the eye. A tad churlish perhaps, but I did cheer when he got squashed in a cow stampede in Australia thirty years later.

Lastly, if you’ve never been into a working shearing shed let me tell you that they stink. Putrid things. Watch the movie instead – shearing sheds are not the stuff of bucket lists.

Sunday Too Far Away won three 1975 Australian Film Institute awards: Best Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

It’s On Sale.

Two news headlines grabbed my attention this week:-

Australian man arrested for having sex with horse claims it ‘winked’ in consent.”

and

“The three little words women want to hear is not I Love You, rather It’s On Sale.

My shopping mantra is let’s get it over and done with. I do not window shop. I detest shopping centres. I have never in my life eaten a meal from an eatery in the middle of a food hall in a shopping mall. One of my proudest achievements really, right up there with never having watched a Star Wars movie nor ever owning any Tupperware.

When I visited the city markets last weekend my favourite DVD retailer, who has a personal collection of over 4000 movies, advised that he was hanging up his boots and doing the Grey Nomad thing, travelling around the country in his mobile home. He is selling off his movie collection and recommended that I write a list of my requirements.

It was at that moment that my eyes glazed over and I could hear nothing but the pumping of blood creeping around my own arteries.

Arghhhh, so this is how the sisterhood must feel when they hear the words “it’s on sale”……….

The Lifeline Bookfest affects me in much the same way. Four kilometres of preloved books piled up on trestle tables. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Full Moon, Do You Think?

It’s mid winter Down Under which makes for great reading weather. These two news items grabbed my attention during the week, providing such big belly laughs that I thought I would share.

Australia does not exist.

https://theculturetrip.com/pacific/australia/articles/some-people-think-australia-doesnt-exist-heres-why/

It’s official : Sean Connery was the best Robin Hood.

https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/local-news/its-official-sean-connery-best-1635532

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Putting it down to a full moon.

The Bulldog Track by Peter Phelps plus some

Another book launch at the local though I’m not attending this one. That’s a definate – no if’s nor buts. On a work day and I’m reluctant to take any days off until my final curtain call in coming weeks, plus I overdid it at the charity Bookfest last weekend. Take a peek….

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Peter Phelps is an Australian actor who made his name in some truely dreadful Australian soapies back in the late 70’s. You know, the kind that gets lapped up. He has recently written a book about his grandfather, Tom Phelps, who seventy five years ago survived the other Kokoda Track, the Bulldog Track, in PNG.

Never heard of The Bulldog Track? Neither had I! Back in the 1940’s work was scarce in Australia and many of those men who were too old to go to war, found work in the goldfields of New Guinea. Of course, no one was expecting the war to come to the Pacific, but it did, and the Japanese took the northern cities of New Guinea.

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As word of the invasion and the atrocities being committed spread, Tom and his fellow workers, men of differing nationalities, trades and professions, were caught in the middle of it all. After the airfield was bombed, the Australian military told them to get out via the ‘other’ Kokoda Track. They set off through the jungle into the unknown.

The Bulldog Track is some one hundred kilometres due west of the famous Kokoda Track and crosses some of the most rugged and isolated terrain in the world, combining hot humid days with intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and endemic tropical diseases such as malaria. Bulldog Track was longer, higher, steeper, wetter, colder and rougher than Kokoda Track.

Peter Phelps shares the story of Tom’s escape via foot, canoe, raft, schooner and rat cunning which were documented on Tom’s pith helmet in indelible ink that he wore during the duration.

Phelps Junior as a young man was in an Australian movie which made a huge impression – and yes, partly because of his poor acting. The Lighthorsemen is a 1987 film about the men of a World War I light horse unit involved in Sinai and Palestine Campaign’s 1917 Battle of Beersheeba. The film is based on a true story in which 800 young Aussie horsemen obey the order to gallop their horses across three miles ( that’s longer than the Melbourne Cup!) of open desert into shell fire and machine gun fire. Of course they succeed. There wouldn’t be a movie otherwise. They break through Turkish defences to win the wells of Beersheba.

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In all this blood, guts and way too much mangled equine flesh to mention Phelps has a romance with an Aussie nurse, who was played by Our Sigrid, who was the belle of the ball before Our Nic. Talk about stuffing up a good yarn.

So, no, I won’t attend the lunch, though I’ll probably order a copy of the book.