Film

Isolation Station week two… let’s talk Lord of the Rings

I have been waiting for the perfect time to wax lyrical about this and finally I have an excuse in the guise of a suggestion, if like everyone else you’re losing your mind in isolation. If you have never seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy before, aka the best films ever made, firstly where have you been? secondly this is the perfect time to discover their beauty. And if you have already seen them, then you’ll obviously be as in love as I am, and therefore it’s the perfect to revisit!

Let’s start with the basic reason number one, that if you watch the extended editions, you’re going to fill a good twelve hours of isolation. (And you could go even further and follow it up with the three hobbit films, looks like we’ll probably have enough time. Personally I’m not a fan, whilst I do love Legolas and a nice little love story I wasn’t particularly happy with them being shoehorned into the Hobbit, a perfectly good adventure story without any additions needed. If you ask me Peter Jackson should have just made one very good Hobbit film instead of three ok but not great padded out movies. But that is a whole other thing I’m not going to get into now.) Aside from their length there’s a whole lot to love about this trilogy of films. I fully believe they had a good hand in making me who I am today, and even though Harry Potter will always have a special place in my heart it is Tolkien’s magical fantasy world that draws me in time and time again. They are quite simply, my favourite films of all time and let me tell you why…

Part of my love for these films is a nostalgia factor. Whilst my Grandad gave me the first Harry Potter book and my mum gave me Enid Blyton and the Bronte sisters and Austen, my Dad gave me Lord of the Rings. It started on one of those blurry days between Christmas and New Year, with my Dad announcing at dinner, that the two of us were going to go watch The Fellowship of the Ring the next day. I had read the Hobbit over the summer whilst we were on holiday in the Italian mountains, and such a big impact it had on me that when I think of that holiday I always think of hobbits wandering around rural Tuscany. So my Dad was convinced I would love this film.

We drove to an old fashioned cinema, as the closest was fully booked, my dad bought wine gums as snacks and there was an interval when they sold ice cream. I was eleven and going to the cinema was a rare treat at that time, we really only had been on birthdays or when we were staying at my grandparents, and only so far to see Disney films or, just a few weeks previously the much anticipated Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. This film was something else though, it was dark and it was fantastic and even though the dark riders scared me shitless I fell in love with the mythical land and beings. The next year we went to the art house cinema to watch the Two Towers and then the following year the multiplex cinema by my grandparent’s to watch the epic conclusion, The Return of the King. And I for the first time ever (although there has been hundreds of times since) found myself crying in a cinema. So invested was I in these characters and their journey and so overwhelming was it when finally the darkness of Mordor was defeated that I couldn’t stop my tears. Turns out my Dad was completely right I did love these films.

These were the films I grew up on. Orlando Bloom, as beautiful blonde Legolas became my first celebrity crush. I even asked my parents for a poster of Legolas for Christmas, and it wasn’t taken down from the back of my bedroom door until we sold the house when I was 24. They founded my overwhelming desire to go to New Zealand and explore the stunning settings, as well as my complete and utter love of adventure. The hours I spent watching the behind the scenes footage on the DVD fuelled my day dreams of becoming an actress and my desire to create something special and lasting. And these were the films I would turn to whenever I was upset and wanted an escape. Which let’s be honest we could all use right about now.

Tolkien created such a magical fantastical world and Peter Jackson so wonderfully brings this alive on the screen. It is such a visual delight with epic battle scenes and sweeping scenery shots. Jackson captured every minute detail of Middle Earth, and I wanted to fall right into it, still do actually.

There is everything here that you could possibly want from an adventure movie, of course awesome battle scenes but also quieter more emotional moments as the characters struggle with themselves and the tasks facing them. There is humour, time for dancing hobbits, drunk dwarves and talking trees and there is romance and bravery, and above all there is friendship. Elves, dwarves and men overcoming their differences to fight together and becoming the best of friends along the way. And hobbits being there for each other, following their friends into the most dangerous of adventures because they need each other, and most importantly because they love each other.

I defy you to not adore hobbits. The purest of all creatures, these little people whose idyllic lives revolve around eating and partying and drinking at the Green Dragon, occupy a special place in my heart. Being on the short side, I’ve always felt an affinity with the hobbits and their love of a good beer at a good pub. And whilst I might complain about being nicknamed variations of Frodo or Baggins by my friends, as nicknames go it’s pretty damn good. Because Frodo was a hero, the most unlikely of heroes but a hero none the less. Who would have thought that a little hobbit could save the world? I learnt so much from these characters their love and bravery and loyalty, and the way they go on fighting even when they think all hope is lost, because as Sam so wonderfully says “there’s some good in this world Mr Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

This is storytelling at its finest, the quintessential tale of good versus evil. And isn’t that just what we need right now, a reminder that good will win out and the darkness will end. We may not be in the midst of a war fighting Sauron but times are a little scary right now, and we are all struggling with the overwhelming changes in everyday life. Frodo’s wishing “it need not have happened in my time” has never been more relatable, but as Gandalf replies (with my favourite of all quotes) “so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for us to decide. All we have to do is to decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”

And that is really all we can do,whether we use the time to learn something new, to make something, to reconnect with people or just to chill out. All we can do is decide how to use this time to be as happy as we can be in the circumstances. And my suggestion of what to do with this time… get acquainted (or reacquainted) with Middle Earth! Pull up a seat (a comfy one) and get lost in this most magic of all fantasy lands. If we can’t go outside for an adventure we might as well get our fix on the screen. And I hope for a little while it’ll help you forget that the world is a different darker place at the moment, and that in escaping to Middle Earth for a short while will give you as much comfort and joy as it gives me.

books · Film · travel

Welcome to Isolation Station… A list of ways to occupy yourself whilst the whole world has stopped…

Yes I’m doing it I’m going to talk about coronavirus aka covid 19 aka that bloody disease! When I left Melbourne 3 weeks ago coronavirus was something we were joking about in a bar over beers, then all of a sudden it went from zero to sixty in a matter of days and forget about being in a bar, forget about hanging out with friends and definitely forget about it being a joke.

It’s almost unbelievable what is happening, the kind of thing you read in about in a book or see in a movie, definitely not what happens in real life. As a travel addict I’ve always taken the freedom of open borders and welcoming countries for granted, and watching country after country shut down its borders and major airlines grounded is terrifying, the kind of stuff my nightmares are made of. I’ll be honest seeing the constant news updates got me a little stressed out and I felt very, very stranded a heck of a long way from home. But despite the overwhelming feeling of being trapped, and the fear I have for my family and friends health, I have to keep telling myself I’m actually one of the lucky ones. I am probably in the best possible place I could be right now. I’m working in the outback, away from society with just a small handful of people. I have a job and income, and I’m due to be here for the next 11 weeks. So although I have no idea what I’ll be facing three months down the line when it’s time to leave, and my future travel and work plans are going to have to change a little, I at least have security and a safe place to stay for a while, unlike so many others around the world who are struggling with the consequences of this prolonged lockdown.

Shitty and surreal as the isolation situation is, it is a little comforting to know that whilst I’m going slowly mad in the outback, the rest of the world is also going slowly mad in their own homes. And we are, as they iconically say (or sing as it is) in High School Musical “all in this together!”

So yes everything sucks right now and we are all losing our minds. But one day it is going to get better. And in the meantime we’ve just got to do our best to not dwell on the shittiness of it all, and try to find ways to get some joy out of life still. So in doing what I do best, a list, here are my recommendations for how to entertain yourselves whilst in isolation.

Read..

‘How to fall in Love’ by Cecelia Ahern. Her writing is quite simply magical and the characters raw and flawed and oh so relatable. At a time in my life when everything was a bit shit I honestly believe this book saved me. It is a beautiful reminder to take joy from all of life’s little moments.

‘One Summer America 1927’ by Bill Bryson. The best travel writer hands down, he writes in such a way that he can make anything interesting, and this one is a particular favourite. Covering one summer in America it’s a delightful portrait of 1920’s America (my favourite decade because umm Gatsby) and shows how America became the country that it is today.

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. Hands down one of my favourite books, it is about a woman taking on an impossible challenge. It will definitely make you cry, but it will also make you feel like you can achieve anything.

‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks. I read this book years ago for my A-levels and it was only the second book that I full on sobbed over, the first being the Harry Potter series when Rowling kept cruelly killing characters off. An epic story of war and love. It paints a visceral image of the First World War and it will draw you in then break your heart.

 

Watch…

Derry Girls. The perfect comic relief featuring amazing nineties fashion and some epic tunes from my childhood.

Lovesick. A brilliant British show about Dylan who finds out he has chlamydia and consequently has to contact all of the previous women he has slept with. Funny and sweet and so very British in all of the best ways.

The Crown. With three series already out that’s a good thirty hours of time filled right there and what a way to fill time. It is beautifully shot, well-paced and not only offers an insight into the history of the world’s most famous family but it also gives a fascinating glimpse into British life over the past sixty odd years.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Oof it is good TV. It is visually stunning and completely gripping and Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan is So Damn Good! He is so unnerving as Versace’s killer as you watch the story rewind backwards from the shooting through his life. Trust me you won’t be able to stop watching. Also a good watch American Crime Story’s other series The People v. O.J. Simpson.

 

Listen to…

Potterless. My current favourite podcast that I am powering my way through. Basically, as the blurb goes it’s a 25 year old man reading Harry Potter for the first time. With each episode he covers a few chapters giving a detailed run down of what happens and giving a running commentary of his opinions, best guesses and sometimes terrible jokes along the way. It is fantastic, like re-reading the books with friends and yes whilst sometimes his hating on it and his lack of knowledge of England drives me mad , it’s so good seeing (or rather hearing) someone getting the thrill out of reading these books for the very first time.

All Killa No Filla. I am obsessed with this podcast about serial killers, from two very funny women. The research and detail they give you of these killer’s lives and crimes is horrifically gripping. And despite the title there is a whole lot of filler which is what really makes it so great.

To do…

Skype, skype, skype! We are so lucky that this has happened now rather than when I was in school, because thanks to technology we have so many ways we can stay connected, and absolutely the best thing about this situation is having the time to catch up with so many friends I haven’t spoken to for a while because we’re all normally living such busy lives.

Dance, turn the music up, get up off the couch and dance your little heart out, a great way to stay active (one of my limited forms of exercise really) and it gets those positive endorphins flowing!

Play the coronavirus news drinking game. If I have to hear the phrases “social distancing” “self-isolation” and “flatten the curve” one more time I feel like I’ll scream. I know, I know it is necessary we need to hammer it in to people that this is what has to be done. But if I have to hear these words every time I turn on the tv then I can damn well turn it into an excuse to drink.

And most importantly… Don’t lose your head, don’t hoard art other people’s expense, stay at home. Be kind and be safe. And I’ll see you on the other side when one day we’ll laugh at this and tell our kids about the 2020 apocalypse, when toilet paper became the most valuable of all items and we went weeks without hearing the word Brexit! xxx

P.S. please please please let me know any and all suggestions you may have I could use a few more distractions, mostly just so I don’t spend my time getting irrationally angry over jigsaw puzzles!

Film

I love ‘Love, Simon’

This weekend I went to see ‘Love, Simon’ and I’m still on a giddy euphoric high. It absolutely is one of the best films I have ever seen and you should all go see it.

For those of you who don’t know it, it’s based on the book ‘Simon vs the Homosapian agenda’ (which I have now of course purchased) about a teenage boy in his final year of high school who is gay. The only problem no one knows. He starts emailing an anonymous boy from his school ‘Blue’ who has the same secret. Although neither know who the other one is they form a connection and fall in love. It is one of those wholesome, feel good, all American, teenage coming of age films.  A romance that, to use one of my favourite phrases, gives you all the feels. How incredible that it is the first mainstream Hollywood romance where the male protagonist is gay. This is of course a big deal, as recently as when I was a tween this premise would have been unthinkable, yet at the same time it isn’t, because when you watch it, it just makes sense, why shouldn’t this be the norm?

This is such a smart film, hold your sides funny, I think I spent 90% off the film crying with laughter and the other 10% crying from pure emotions sometimes I was crying from both simultaneously. It perfectly portrays all the jumbled emotions of a teenager coming to terms with himself. Simon jumps from crush to crush as he tries to determine Blues identity in the way that wild teenage daydreams do, falls out and makes up with friends, and struggles with his relationship with his family. Nick Robinson and the rest of the cast are sublime, and I think I’m not the only one to now have just a little bit of a crush. Also I really want Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel to adopt me, they play the most wonderful of parents.

This is a modern day rom com with a nostalgic feel, which reminds you of all the great romantic comedies we grew up with, and leaves you with the same warm and fuzzy feeling. Oh yes and it has a kickass soundtrack that has been playing on loop ever since I left the cinema.

Go give this movie a watch people, I promise you won’t regret it!

Film

A whole lot of (very delayed) post Oscars Thoughts…

Ok firstly I know this is a couple of weeks late but as I had a few days off over the Oscars weekend I have spent the last ten days working flat out plus fighting off a horribly persistent cold, so I’ve not had much spare time or brain power.

Secondly I realise I didn’t do my final review of the Best Picture nominees, the truth is I am a complete scaredy cat, I have a total hatred of horror films, I scare far too easily and I really take no pleasure in getting freaked out. I know part of the point of watching all the nominees is to find films I never knew I’d love but I really need a tight hand to hold on to to sit through ‘Get Out’ and as none of my friends could be persuaded to watch it with me I have yet to see it. I promise at some point I will get up the nerve or find a friend to babysit me through it and I will write my review. But for now with all the glitz and the hype over for another year lets dissect this years Oscars, in true Kate style with a list of the defining moments of the 2018 Academy Awards.

1)  Jimmy Kimmel did a stellar job of hosting. His opening speech perfectly addressed the sexual harassment scandal that has plagued Hollywood, the equal pay discussion as well as the gun control protests taking place after the Florida shooting. He balanced it all with comedy and giggles and he got Armie Hammer to shoot a hot dog gun at a movie theatre full of people I mean what more can you want from a host?

2) In a stroke of genius Faye Dunaway and Warren Beaty returned to present Best Picture. The Oscars could not have played this better with Jimmy Kimmel returning to host and the same presenters returning it made sure that they absolved all of any blame. As well as openly acknowledging the complete cock up of last year it added a fair amount of humour to the situation.

3) Mexico had a moment. I have a strange obsession with Mexico, perhaps it’s the food, perhaps the music, probably the men! And boy did they have a good night. Coco won both best and animated picture and (slightly surprisingly) best original song. And Guillermo Del Toro winning best director makes it the 4th Mexican to win the category in 5 years. Screw Trump and his walls in Hollywood Mexico is on the up!

4) The Shape of Water won Best Picture. On one hand I love this, a fantasy film winning best picture. The actors were more than deserving and Guillermo Del Toro’s finally got a long overdue moment, he truly is one of the great film makers. BUT…

5) Three Billboards was the stand out film of the season for me. It was so perfectly of the moment. It was so raw and funny and real and it is the nominee which will so easily be added to my favourite films list. I have recommended it to pretty much every person I know and I’m probably going to be raving about it for a good few more months maybe even years, yes it’s that good!

6) In the absolute highlight of the evening Francis McDormand gave the best goddamn speech of all time. I genuinely cried. Granted it was 4am I was still hungover from Saturday nights shenanigans and I was a little overwrought but I full on sobbed. Getting all the female nominees to stand up with her. Demanding everyone to pay attention to them. It was so freaking empowering and I have never been prouder to be a woman.

 

 

Film

Oscars Countdown #2 ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri’

I love love loved Three Billboards. I was sceptical going in as there’s obviously a whole lot of hype but boy did it live up to it!

This film is so perfectly of the moment what could be more apt for the year of #metoo, of women standing up for themselves than a film about a woman standing up for herself and her daughter who was raped and killed. She wants justice and she will stop at nothing to get it.

This is no fairytale, no neatly tied up loose ends and certainly no happy ending. This is about broken people in a dead end town trying to find some joy and purpose in life and trying to fix their hurt. It is deeply emotional and raw and will have you sobbing within minutes. Yet amongst all this heart ache and rage and anger there is comedy, it is darkly funny and so entertaining. And so real. I laughed and I cried and I came out wanting to kick some ass!

I was sure Sally Hawkins was a shoe in for best actress until I saw Frances Mcdormand. Terrifying and unswerving in her determination to find her daughters killer. She is resolutely unsmiling and tough yet at the same time so vulnerable, McDormand shows us it all. I seriously hope she wins the Best Actress award because quite honestly this is one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long long time.

Every performance given in this film is so great, Woody Harrelson is wonderful as per usual and Sam Rockwell blew me away. He plays the racist and idiotic deputy who goes on to show surprising depth.

I never expected the story to go where it goes, I thought I went in knowing what this film would be but I was so so wrong. I want this to win Best Picture so badly, it is a fantastic film and far and away my favourite of the nominees. Plus it has a truly awesome soundtrack! Fingers crossed for the win!

Film

Oscars Countdown #3 ‘The Shape of Water’

The Shape of Water is a beautiful, ethereal love story. It is as we are so told at the beginning “A tale of love and loss and the monster who tried to destroy it all.”

The premise is a little weird, a young girl falls in love with a half fish half man dragged back from the amazon by the incredibly terrifying Michael Shannon. But if anyone could make it work it’s Guillermo Del Toro and boy did he make it work.

A twisted beauty and the beast fairytale for the grown ups. It’s a tale of the lonely people of the world. Elisa, the mute, her closest friend the older gay man fired from his job, her work ally the black woman whose husband never talks to her. These people who are rejected by the 1960’s American society are all looking for acceptance, for happiness, for love.

Sally Hawkins is incredible. She does not speak once but you never once feel as though she needs to. She conveys everything, every emotion, every thought, every feeling so superbly. It is a true testament to her skills as an actress and she is well deserving of her best actress nomination.

This film entranced me it is so beautiful all green and blue tones conjuring up a dreamy world where Elisa lives above a stunning and sadly empty movie theatre. This is juxtaposed by the dirty gritty underground world of the Cold War laboratories where the fish man is kept and tortured until Elisa breaks him free.

This is an emotional fairytale, it has darkness and anger and hate but also lightness and hope and friendship and love. What a truly wonderful film and a huge contender for the Best Picture award!

Film

Oscars Countdown #4 ‘The Phantom Thread’

This is going to be short because I’ve just done a double shift on my eighth working day in a row and I am to put it politely pooped.

I did not get The Phantom Thread. I feel like it was trying to tell me a story but I’m not entirely sure what it was. I suppose this is a love story a particular, short tempered older dress designer falls in love with a (I’m assuming) German waitress. A younger girl falling for an older man is nothing new in a film, but this is just a little weird.

There is nothing here that endears me to either character, honestly I spent most of the film wanting to punch Daniel Day Lewis in the face, which just goes to show how great his acting is, most of the time I really quite like Daniel Day Lewis. Alma just constantly irritated me yes she displayed a little backbone but really a better ending would have been her going off and living her life without him. I guess it shows just how insane and twisted love is.

It cannot be denied that the dresses and design are exquisite, it is a beautiful sight watching all the ladies twirl in these elegant creations. The filming is crisp, all smooth clean lines. I guess you can see the great filmmaking here but there is no heart, nothing to connect to, nothing that made me feel anything other than “well this is bizarre!” By far my least favourite of all the nominees, it’s not a film I’ll be watching again.