I’m Trying not to be Disordered

I’m trying not to be disordered
I’m trying to make sense of the borders—
The barriers, the cages I’ve built around myself
I know you are too.
Some people think me selfish
They think what I am is what I’m not
Untouchable, unreachable
But my identity is not my faults.

I’m trying not to be disordered
To escape the purpose I’ve been writ
Rejecting fate that bleeds out
Like rotten wine from my wrists.
They feel I’m telling lies
Feel me pulling away
But those eyes only know what they see
So close them and see what crave.

I’m trying not to be disordered
To unlock the cages within
To undo the barbed-wire thoughts
Claw out the nails rusting under my skin.
They know I’m sorry for it all
Know I pour my soul into every opportunity I find
But try to look away now
You won’t see me fail this time.

I’m hungry for disorder
Yet desperate for change
A fire that’s been lit to burn out
An inextinguishable stubborn flame.
Look away now, as the rain comes down
Look away, now.

Written by Anna-Rose Kirchner.

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The Breaker Upperers

I’m going to start this review by confessing that my views towards this film may appear to be a little bit biased. I went and saw The Breaker Upperers early as part of a Q and A screening. This meant that I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami, who wrote, directed and starred in the film. I got to watch them introduce the film and then act in the film and then come out and answer questions about the film. I then got to ask them my own question and later met them and took photos with them. I remember going home filled with energy and excitement. Filled with the creative jolt I needed. Some of that was due to meeting these two incredibly talented women who wrote, directed and starred in one of the most successful New Zealand films of the past decade, receiving international acclaim and being the highest grossing New Zealand film of the year. Most of my energy came from how wonderful the film The Breaker Upperers is.

The story follows Jen and Mel, two heartbroken heroines that have started a business that offers the service of breaking up relationships that aren’t working. They provide a range of services, ranging from singing and giving chocolates to pretending that the other party has gone missing. It’s a credit to Beek and Sami’s excellent writing and the whole cast’s impressive improvisation that a film with such a bizarre and frankly messed up premise feels grounded and real.

The best thing about this film is that it is straight up a comedy. It knows what it wants to do and that is to make you laugh. And you will. You’ll laugh a lot. My audience cackled practically from start to finish. Not every joke is going to hit you in the funny bone and make you cry but there will be some that will make you explode with uncontrollable laughter. For instance, Sami and Beek know how to creatively use pauses to comedic effect. They’ll construct a scene where everything is a little awkward and quiet and then a character will blurt out something absolutely inane that will shatter the tension and surprise you into laughter. Beek and Sami talked about letting their actors just roll with things while they were making the film. They would let them each have moments of improv where they were allowed to go off script and come up with their own jokes, that would then surprise the two directors, and this nature of surprise is woven into the comedic sensibilities of the film. The Breaker Upperers has a perfect blend of clever comedy and also shock humour. Much of this comes down to the cast, all of whom are comfortable improvisors. This gives the film a sense of excitement because our expectations are constantly being subverted and surprised, because the actors themselves are surprising the cast and crew with their improv. It’s exciting to be able to watch the film and feel that energy in it, giving it a buzz that not many comedies have these days.

Underneath all the humour, though, is a truly touching story about female friendship and, to a greater extent, all friendships. How friendships come about, how they’re built and how they fall apart when challenged is at the centre of the film. How relationships with people we love and are intimate with affect our character and position in life is also an emotional key to the film. And without these affecting and emotional cores the film would feel superficial. We wouldn’t be excited by the comedy if we didn’t care about anyone. And thankfully they make us care; they make us care a lot.

I feel it important to mention that this film is absolutely a New Zealand film. It doesn’t sell out its setting but instead embraces everything associated with New Zealand. It has New Zealand’s trademark quietness and almost meekness. New Zealand is a country defined by its smallness and there are many jokes about this in The Breaker Upperers. As well as this, New Zealand comedy is defined by them making fun of themselves, New Zealanders never take anything too seriously. Using all of this to their advantage Sami and Beek create a film that is able to show the world what the tiny country at the bottom of the world can do in terms of art.

The real strengths of the film were Jackie and Madeleine: they are the coat hanger off which the rest of the film hangs. They wrote it, directed it and starred in it. They had such a full vision for their film and it comes through in every frame. It is above all a confident film. It knows what it wants to do. It knows the story it wants to tell. It gets in and tells it, there’s no aimless bumbling around. You’re in and out in 90 minutes with a smile on your face and a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. See this film not just because it is hilarious, exceptionally well written and performed but see it to celebrate our neighbours across the water. Celebrate New Zealand. It sure as hell deserves it.

Written by Gaden Sousa.

 

MMCXLIII

Crawling across the sky

Dense Citrine clouds

Everywhere. Are we there yet?

Forced into the desert

Glowing with a bright emptiness

Hinged on us not knowing—

(Isn’t believing knowing?)

Just like outside, the dead are

Killing time while they’re breathing

Lighting cigarettes

Making sure it comes soon

Nothingness. Emptiness. Are we there yet?

 

Oceans of

Parched souls, un-

Quenchable, full of

Remorse and something else,

Something like their surroundings—

Terrifying. Are we there yet?

Unbeknownst to us

Vacancy fills our bodies, our minds

We’re too far

Xanthic skin and

Yellow eyes

Zeus lives here, or somewhere else

Are we there yet?

Begin again,

Crawling—

 

Written by Elisabeth Gail.

Poem for Chopin

His conversations are a thousand letters fashioned,

Each their own message, each a deep well of passion

And feeling, only waiting to be opened and read.

Meaning exchanged both ways, unspoken and said

His overtures penned, and his responses pre-recorded

But entirely sincere, when by my touch they’re ordered.

Though another may revel in his storytelling tones,

This account, in this place, is to me and me alone.

A dance between us, him taking the lead,

My hands following in trust, delicate as to heed

His plaintive message in the spirit it was commanded

A trance, brief but all-consuming, sung two-handed

An impression of his heart, so eloquently expressed

Through unassuming dashes on canvas that does attest

To the tone of his voice, and the story told so sure

And definite in its beauty, then sorrowful and raw

That ‘poet of the piano’ is a title befitting,

Daring cadences unresolved, at odd ends sitting,

Intimate in texture, free from strict rhythmic mould,

Firm but graceful, like a waltzing couple’s hold

Of each other as they sway and trill across

The ivory ballroom, in a hall of dark wood gloss

Tinkling lights on high, of a lover’s chandelier

By the reverence of his pen, expressed so dear,

Not an orchestra for the masterpiece he pens,

But one heart, two limbs, and five artists at each end,

That was ripped from his body on its cadence plagal,

Implanted in me but briefly, to tell a private fable

Of such fervour that unbridled in stave puts prose

Or verse to shame. Indeed, no attempt goes

Unashamed in its inadequacy to inscribe by hand,

The expressions of Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin.

 

Written by Stephen Lay.

On Pasolini

‘Poor as the poor I cling,

like them, to humiliating hopes;

like them, each day I nearly kill myself

just to live.’

Not long ago, I was in Rome, in the slums of Pignetto; a destitute but oddly charming suburb about an hours walk from the bustling and ancient city centre. The buildings seemed coarse and ill-maintained, the people kept their heads down with cigarettes dangling from their lips, heading down to the local butcher or grocery store, exchanging fond smiles and local gossip. Across the streets you see some of the most intricate and striking graffiti that makes Cocker Alley in Melbourne look like mere child’s play with dabbling’s of anti-capitalist, pro-anarchist markings placed in the local schoolyards.

When you walk down the busy streets lined with small, busted up Italian cars into the narrow alleys that define this area of Rome, you will notice a face that commonly rises in this area. His face is painted along the streets and on the small, dilapidated buildings usually paired with the infamous sayings of this leftist rebel. This man’s face is hardened, his cheeks are hollow and his brows are almost constantly furrowed as if in deep concentration, perhaps as if he were staring down a mortal enemy. This face is the intellectual Guevara of Rome’s leftists and it has become so attached to the country’s sense of political fervour as to literally become the face of its poor and disenfranchised.

Born into fascism yet raised by revolution; infamous auteur-provocateur Pier Paolo Pasolini was more than just a filmmaker: he was an artist, a polemicist, a novelist, a poet, a painter and a warrior of his times. Most know him for his scandalous and revolting masterpiece: Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salò or the Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom) (1975) or even perhaps his filmic adaptations of Boccaccio’s The Decameron and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, but few outside of Italy know him as the great rebel of post-war Italy who turned his own personal battles into his art which would become the spiritual, political and sexual battleground for the new Italy.

Publishing his first volume of poetry at 19 in the Friluli dialect of northern Italy, Pasolini wrote numerous essays, novels and poems. Soon he became a well-respected film director, directing feature films and documentaries with wild acclaim, becoming one of Italy’s foremost intellectuals and writers before being brutally murdered in 1974.

The anger of Pasolini and his politics would no doubt fit well into the political climate of the Trump years, as it is as volatile now as it was during the man’s life time. After the years of fascism, Italy’s Left and Right were deeply entangled within fighting, conspiracy and treachery. The last great figure of the left: Antonio Gramsci, who was imprisoned in the late 30s, was the last great martyr of political speech in Italy at the time. Pasolini was a vehement supporter of the Marxist left, yet also one of its most extreme critics, attacking its pro-Stalinist sympathies and its reliance on the middle class to maintain its social hierarchy. He would fight tooth and nail to keep it away from the dangers of its extremism.

While both a Marxist and prominent atheist, as well as an openly gay man, Pasolini threatened all of the foundations of his country despite maintaining a quiet respect for the imagery of the church and of classical literature. His documentary Comizi d’amore was an attempt to explore and dissect the ‘regular’ Italy, one unburdened by populist politics or defined by strict social classes. He would go around the country asking people on the streets questions on God, family, homosexuality, sex etc. to find what mattered, truly, to the Italian people. In these questions you hear the desperation of Pasolini as he asks these questions, not only asking for the purposes of mere documentation, but to sincerely understand why the country was as divided as it was. His inquisitiveness and his inability to stay silent as an artist and as a public intellectual however, almost always landed him in trouble.

When he was expelled for ‘homosexual behaviours’ from the communist party, Pasolini felt attacked and excluded from people and an institution which, while it was one that he vehemently believed in, he felt had let him down and was still polluted by a dangerous sense of polluted ideology. He spent the next few years writing poetry (his famous Ashes Of Gramsci being one of the high points of his writing career) and publishing two brutally honest novels about the Roman slums which he frequented. His fascination and even love for the Italian lower class led him to write and direct his own films starting with the tantalising Accattone (1961)as a neo-realist nightmare of lower class pimps and low lives to reconcile themselves with their own faith and sense of belonging in the ‘new Italy’.

His most ambitious projects were of course the most controversial and politically charged. His rendition of the life of Jesus Christ in il Vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to Matthew) (1964) stripped down the overly fetishised catholic portrayals of the last days of Christ. It works with non-professional actors, a basic camera setup and bare minimal sets. Pasolini created a version of the Christ mythology that even unbelievers like myself can understand the literary beauty of such a dense work. Despite this however, its subversive nature is in its lack of general beauty, it made the shit-stained streets of Bethlehem outrageous to believers across the world.

Pasolini’s film making career started with simplistic camera work to portray the politically disenfranchised of the Italian suburbs, then, as he grew more confident with the camera, he became fascinated by ancient mythology and classical literature. Each film of his became in itself a political statement; either about himself, his country, or his own religious beliefs. Watching his films, you can see the evolution of his craft and an evolution of ideology that kept his work so impassioned.

If one target was his country’s obsession for catholic sensibilities and the destruction of it through stripped-down visuals, the other was the control of the bourgeoisie and its strongholds. In Teorama (1968) we have a typical family of the class who invite a young, dashing stranger into their household only for each family member to be slowly seduced and fucked by the beautiful stranger in a wonderful satire of societal sexual norms and assumptions. This includes the mother, the father, the daughter, the son, and yes, even the maid.

Pasolini’s films look and feel unlike any other type of film from the 60s/70s. His camera is mostly stationary or handheld, relaying a certain distinction of reality within each frame. Pasolini had an intense passion for reality, even placing it in mythology such as his stunning adaptations of Oedipus Rex or Medea. His passion with the world and its people was retained through the stark simplicity of his poetry, the polemic prose of his essays and the simple yet beautiful nature of his films.

Yet at Ostia beach, about a 45-minute drive from Rome, there is a memorial to him. A simple yet striking statue over where his body was found: his body broken, his head smashed brutally and his car stolen. The circumstances as to how he was murdered remain a mystery till this very day; whether it be the fact that he had made too many enemies both on the left and the right side of politics, no one can say for sure. Pasolini was a man who lived for scandal, his films are well known in the English speaking world but few know of his extraordinary polemical works, or his incredible life. Rarely has an individual held such an artistic impact on a country. When I was in Florence I found a collection of his poetry in English, which maintains a special place on my all too messy bookshelf. I have read and reread it again and again, and my hope in the power of language and intellectual sincerity becomes renewed. My wish nowadays is to read his work in Italian and fall in love with the work all over again.

 

Written by W.D. Farnsworth.

TV’s Taboo: Appropriately Disgusting

If 2017 saw the continued dominance of heavy hitters of TV drama, it also saw the emergence of new players on the scene. HBO’s Westworld, my personal favourite of 2017, proved a hit and Netflix continued to go from strength to strength with shows like 13 Reasons Why. But one compelling series that emerged was the Ridley Scott-produced, Tom Hardy-created Taboo.

The story takes place in 1814 London where Horace Delaney has suddenly died. He leaves nothing of noteworthy value for his children except a piece of land called Nootka Sound, currently contested by the Americans and the British after the War of 1812. At Horace’s funeral, who should turn up but the long-lost son James (Tom Hardy) to complicate matters for his sister, played by Oona Chaplin. Yes, granddaughter to that other famous Chaplin!

Due to his decade-long absence, under the presumption of death, his sudden appearance is a surprise and the McGuffin that sets the plot in motion. When James claims what is bequeathed to him in his father’s will, he is then called upon by the chairman of the East India Company, Sir Stuart Strange (the always watchable Jonathan Pryce), who offers him a high price for the disputed land.

When James turns down the offer, and in a much less than polite way tells them to go forth and multiply, he sets in motion a private war between himself, the Crown and the United States.

Throughout the eight-episode series there are a host of memorable characters including an American spy, a brothel madam and a scribe for Sir Stuart who at night becomes a transvestite, masquerading as what can only be described as a Georgian drag queen. But why exactly is the show called Taboo? Doesn’t it sound an awful lot like other series and films?

I would counter this by asking, have you seen that plotlines include influences of African tribal magic, unhealthy amounts of incest and a gunpowder plot? These elements aren’t brushed aside either; they form essential elements of the plot. Sure, Game of Thrones has incest, but Taboo has incest in a church (and incest by telepathy, don’t ask). Taboo by title, even more so taboo by nature.

Where Taboo succeeds triumphantly is in rendering early 19th century England in all its disgusting reality. The dirt and grime of the period is perfectly captured, with settings like open sewers, muddy roads, and corpses (both in morgues and on the banks of the Thames) viscerally depicting the putrid conditions of the times. The plot consistently moves forward at a healthy pace, with new characters, subplots and revelations in each episode being introduced in a way that feels organic. The plot of the series grows naturally, without the addition of cheap gimmicks. The characters and story are the main drawcards here, succeeding on their own merit. With that said, the production values are stellar, with only minor criticisms being directed at the rare use of CGI. Unfortunately, because CGI is used so rarely, it sticks out very clearly when poor CGI is used. Many large budget films have this same issue, so for Taboo to avoid it as often as it does is impressive.

Delaney himself lives a comfortable lifestyle, with a house, a loyal butler, David Hayman in a marvellously subtle performance, and an unending stream of money at his disposal. Despite all this, Delaney also mingles with the worst of London’s characters, getting dirty, bloody and bruised himself in his efforts to keep his land and profits. No night in the slums of London would be complete without many corpses with multiple stab wounds. Not even Tom Hardy himself is invincible, as his character bears the brunt of London’s worst characters on more than one occasion. It is this intermingling between the classes that prevents him from being a completely detestable villain. He has people important to him in his life, people he genuinely cares about, people he mourns for as the series progresses.

But don’t be mistaken into thinking that the show is called Taboo because of some film of grime smeared across the lens of the camera. No, this is a very dark series. There are scenes of outrageous violence, where characters use their bare hands to brutally and shockingly choke the life out of their enemies. Scenes of marital abuse are not uncommon, as well as other horrific acts like rape and torture. But what makes this series gripping to watch is Tom Hardy, who continues to demonstrate that he is an exceptionally gifted performer, who will take on projects others would call ‘taboo’. He brings a certain gravitas to this series which makes him compelling to watch: be it the tiny inflections in his expressions, his eyes which say more than words, or, his towering dominance over almost every character. A well-deserved mention goes to cinematographer Mark Patten who, it must be said, knows how to truly bring tension and suspense through lighting alone. Additionally, it would be criminal not to send Mark Gatiss some praise for his turn as George IV. Watching King George gorge himself on a chicken drumstick with all its juices and strips hanging can only be described as a despicable pleasure.

Taboo is a slow burn of a series, but much like the gunpowder plot, it starts with a spark and ends with a bang.

 

Written by Cameron Wilson.

In the Grey

‘Jøss! This is it. Amaya!’

The sharp-eyed Amaya, arms folded against the cold, approached Fridtjof, the local guide. She towered over the wild-eyed Norwegian youth. ‘A book?’

‘A tidsskrift, er … Journal.’

Amaya’s brow arched. ‘Is there a body?’

‘No skeletons, no supplies … Nothing.’

‘Hurry up, then. I couldn’t care less about how some old tot wiled his days away.’ At worst, she thought, you found some poor soul who broke a leg or got separated from the expedition. ‘I need to know what happened to the crew.’

The look that flitted across Amaya’s eyes gave Fridtjof pause. She nodded for him to get reading, leaving him in the murky grey-blue alcove to exchange a few words with the lieutenant. Fridtjof studied the journal with a hawk’s eye gaze, picking out any note of interest. The journal was only a handful of pages long. He found what he needed quick enough. There was a distinct dip in quality as the handwriting became abruptly more frantic. Fridtjof lost his smile, calling her back with a slight tremor in his throat.

‘Listen. “Edward has yet to return—’

A clatter of equipment silenced him, and they waited and watched as the lieutenant led the remaining men into one of the offshoot tunnels. Fridtjof nodded again, licked his lips and muttered a prayer. For the first time he wished he hadn’t left Father to chase danger in the icy unknown. In the tightness of this void, he felt small, the fire inside all but withered out. It was just a stupid diary. Common sense told him whatever terror he would find was long buried. He hoped.

 

‘27th May, 1891.

‘Edward has yet to return. Lloyd is insistent that like the others, he too will show up one way or the other. God does not reach us this far down in the grey ice. Grey, for all colour has been drained from the world. Our lanterns do little to fight back the encroaching darkness, I fear. Our oil reserves … Pitiful. But we may not return. Not until the Queen’s ship is found. Whatever it should be doing this far below the earth I shall never know, but I follow Milton, and he has never let me down. What little comfort comes in sharing our measly rations of stale biscuits and jam. Not so terrible, but my stomach growls to no end. I write to keep my hands busy, and my mind off the cold. Milton has lost a toe to the frost, yet that has not seemed to dampen his spirits. I envy the bugger.

 

‘3rd June, 1891.

‘I find returning pen to paper to be calming. Keeping record of the interesting developments, but also my state of mind. It plummets to dreadful depths. The pain of a feisty stomach; the uncertainty that our missing four men shall return—these caves are a labyrinth that not even fair Theseus and a thousand yards of string would ever escape from. Yet, Lloyd keeps the steady countenance of a Queen’s solider. If nothing else, that gives me hope. Milton, ever so jovial, has grown distant and irritable. Keeps rambling of strange whispers. Hunger and exhaustion does curious things to the mind. Lewis and Edmund venture further into the dead ends, impossible fissures, and looping pathways, the rankness that stifles the air always drawing them back in the end. I keep stock of our equipment and supplies, and that is what I am good for. My own journeys into the grey tunnels instil in me a paranoia and ache that has me turning tail, dragging poor Milton back with me. He only seems happy to oblige. I do not know what it is, but there is a feeling, a dread so powerful I cannot place. We are alone, and that should be dread enough. But it is not the crushing weight of a mountain of ice trapping us in, where we could be forever forgotten to time. No, this is not that fear. It is worse.

 

‘8th June, 1891.

‘I came back to visit those last few pages during my idler moments of clarity, few as they were. What absurdity, I thought. The spell was gone. To fear what is not there, cannot be there. Logic tells me … God tells us that this fear can be conquered. We are still shaken at the loss of half our expedition. Lloyd has begrudgingly admitted that, at least. It did no good for morale, would you believe? I find it hard to smile these days. We are no closer to the ship, and our food reserves will barely carry us from these caves. I have urged we return to the HMS Minos post-haste on more than one occasion, but Lloyd has shifted from mere grunts and snipes, to the rage of a bulldog, barking any who disobey will face Her Majesty’s wrath. I shall not push the matter. Now. Tomorrow. Two days from now …? This was a doomed mission from the start. I only pray Lloyd sees sense, that his moaning belly speaks louder than his ambition. We shall not last another week. I face the prospect that I shall never see my family again, a pain I cannot put to words. I will keep my mind on work, on restoring Milton’s sanity. He raves in his sleep, and I fear for him. God have mercy on him. On us all.’

 

The glow of the lantern pulsed and flickered, a distant arctic wind howling through the ravine. Endless shadow stretched out, the light of a pristine blue sky a distant memory. Here they were utterly alone. The horror of it crawled along his spine.

 

‘2nd June? 1891.

‘Dammit all! Milton ran. I gave pursuit. Lloyd is lost to reason, a harrowing in his eyes, mumbling heresies. No time. I had to save my friend. I still can … There is nothing here. And yet … I feel it. It is pure folly. The sad symptoms of a starving mind, lost in grey. But I hear them. The whispers. An unclean smog scratches at my skin, and a dark shadow beckons me into the void. I tell it … myself to leave. And there, an awful rasping breath, howling hate, and I know this is not … should not … something lives beneath the ice. Through the grey, something ancient. All my life I conquered such fears, believed in the sanctity of God, of reason and … it is coming. I know it.

‘I see it now. Milton’s corpse floats suspended behind the grey ice, and something darker, impossibly vast swarms towards me. It should not be real. I am dying, a broken mind conjuring phantoms. I tell myself that even now. But there is a monster in the ice, mouth wide to devour me whole. Every fear that has plagued my mind comes hurtling from the blackness at terrible speed. I run. Now I am alone, my last thoughts too momentous to describe. But I feel it here. This time it will swallow me whole. No illusions, just death. God have’

 

‘Why have you stopped?’ Amaya snapped.

‘I … That’s it.’ Fridtjof furrowed his brow, flicking through the following pages, all blank. There were no signs of tearing either. A cold silence settled in him, a resignation. ‘We have to go.’

Amaya scowled, but despite baring her teeth, even an ironclad will shatters under enough pressure. They could feel it, could see a drifting blackness behind the grey, drawing ever closer. Something was with them in the ice. Something ancient.

 

Written by Aaron Purton.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

After the emotional rollercoaster and unarguable cruelty of Avengers: Infinity War there was one question sitting atop the others in the great pile: what on earth is going to happen in Ant-Man and the Wasp? Now, finally, we have the answer to this puzzling question.

What is Ant-Man and the Wasp like? So much fun.

I liked the first Ant-Man fine. It was entertaining enough, the action was smart enough, the characters were likeable enough, the film was overall just fine but Ant-Man and the Wasp delighted me. This film just exudes fun. This is because everyone is given more to do this time around and the story feels so personal and small scale compared to the grandiose epic we’d just experienced from Infinity War. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a breath of fresh air.

Paul Rudd’s character Scott Lang is under house arrest following the events of Civil War, which is really clever. The MCU once again goes to show us that it is worth watching all the other movies, or at least most of them, due to the relationship of cause and effect between each film. The choices characters make in other marvel films create real consequences for their own film.

The villain of the film, Ghost, is a little bit deeper and more interesting than your average Marvel villain. She has a personal vendetta against Hank Pym, in her own twisted mind he is the cause of her pain. She sees the only way to end her pain as through violence and destruction—coming from violence she sees it as her only resort. But she doesn’t want to destroy the world, or kill a city. She wants to save herself.

She lives in constant pain as she phases in and out of existence, a ‘power’ caused by her exposure to the quantum realm. The visual look of Ghost is something I’ve never seen before. She will phase in and out of vision, her arm will appear in three different places as she moves it or her face will arc in a mirage as she talks. If her motivation for self-preservation due to being a victim of mankind’s thirst for knowledge isn’t interesting enough for you then the design of her suit and the after-image flicker of her powers will still glue your eyes to her.

Personally, I’d say the biggest strength of the film is Michael Pena playing Paul Rudd’s non-superhero best friend Luis. He is unbelievably funny. There is a sequence involving truth serum that made me and my mum explode with laughter. One of his jokes still makes me chuckle when thinking about it. And that’s because he’s given so much more to do in this film and that is such a good thing—more Pena means oodles of more entertainment.

Pena actually gets to do some heroing. He’s given agency within the world, finally having a purpose. He’s a reason much of the plot happens: offering information to various parties, serving as a bridge from one antagonist to our protagonists. And he always finds room for humour. He’s always given the best lines, at the most unexpected times. Pena is clearly a natural improviser and has a manic energy, Peyton Reed (the director) knows how to utilise this energy to his advantage and draws it into the forefront to keep the film moving with comedic momentum.

The action is far more interesting than the first film and you can feel the creators saying, ‘Well they can shrink and grow big so why don’t they do it way way more.’ The powers feel cooler and are used in a much more creative and entertaining way than in the first. The one negative I would have for the action is that it does feel like it’s cut a little too quickly, meaning that location and geography is lost to the viewer and we end up just assuming they’re hitting each other. But thankfully this isn’t nearly on the scale of fast cuts of previous entries in the MCU.

And now here feels like the perfect time to mention the Wasp. Wasp is probably the most exciting thing about this film. Evangeline Lily’s performance and the way she’s handled even had one of my friends say that she’s their new favourite hero. Because, in Ant-Man and the Wasp she isn’t just some uptight businesswoman here to ruin everyone’s film. This time around she’s a source of fun. She doesn’t stop people’s fun but has her own. She’s a far more experienced fighter, as established in the original Ant-Man, and so she’s given these intelligent fight scenes where she gets to flaunt her stuff and show off. In this film the Wasp has far more agency to be her own character, she’s half of the title and you better believe she’s making her name well known.

At the core this film is about family and most of those themes hang off the Wasp trying to get her mother back. That’s the main goal for the film, for her to save her mother from the quantum realm where she has been for the last 40 years. It’s an emotional beat that pulls us through the entire film, thus making the Wasp not just a badass but someone for whom we care and want to see succeed.

I know at this point it sounds like the film is perfect, but it isn’t (like all films). I think there are too many antagonists in this film. We have Ghost as a really nice foil for the Pyms and Scott, but the writers couldn’t just hang the film on one antagonist so we get a second human antagonist in the form of Walton Goggins’ Sonny (an arms dealer). Goggins does a good job, it just doesn’t feel like we really need him between Ghost antagonising the Pyms and Scott on the run from the FBI. It muddies the waters of the plot.

Following on from that, the only part where the film feels a little too ridiculous is the pseudo-science used throughout. It really feels that they just yadda yadda over any of the actual ‘how is this working’ with the quantum this and quantum that. I would have liked a tad more explanation or at least a little more thought into how all this is possible. But, this is a film about saving someone from the quantum realm so we forgive a lot.

It stays just this side of ridiculous and several times threatens to cross it’s own line. But the performances of the whole cast make it such a delight that you rarely find yourself thinking ‘Hang on a second. That is impossible.’

Ultimately, Ant-Man and the Wasp is such a breath of fresh air and levity after the seriousness of Infinity War. It’s filled with love and joy and happiness and up until the last moment leaves a good taste in your mouth and a better feeling in your heart. In a world where we are surrounded by hate and malice, and on our screens this is being played out to us in increasingly darker and sombre storylines, it feels so good to have a film that is about love and family and kinship. It’s a film that will just make you laugh and smile. It even made me cry not ten minutes into the film (I’m a big, big softy).

Watch it to remind yourself that every story we tell doesn’t have to be a sad or serious story, it’s okay to laugh and feel good sometimes.

 

Written by Gaden Sousa.

Too Many Roars – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is like watching a film with two parts of my brain. One half is thinking, this is kind of fun. And the other half is thinking is it though? That’s what this film was like for me. It was a constant battle between the critical filmmaker’s mind and the normal movie enjoyer. I saw the film with my auntie, mum, and sister. It was a family excursion and celebration. After the film finished, the general consensus was that it was fun. That it was a good time. That it had some good moments and was entertaining. My initial feeling was the complete opposite.

The film is directed by J.A Bayona, with a script from Colin Trevorrow who directed the previous film in the franchise. To me, it’s like we traded a better director for an even sillier and more lacking script than the last. Bayona is talented. He knows what he is doing. There’s a moment in the film, a chase you could say, where it feels like the tension could be ratchetted up by having us stay in the shots for a little longer. Immediately, Bayona knows we are thinking that and gives us a huge long shot that lasts an unbearably long time, making my skin crawl and knuckles grow white. It’s exactly the kind of shot we needed at exactly the right time and goes to show that Bayona knows how to create a tense action scene.

The film is filled with many tense, well-directed scenes that feel better than the movie they’re placed in. And here-in lies the problem with the story of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The plot of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is ludicrous. It is absolutely insane. I don’t mind ludicrous plots, plenty of films I like, or love, have insane plots, (take any Marvel film for instance) but the problem is the film doesn’t feel real or believable at any point.

The characters feel so paper thin, as though they’re going to be knocked over by a gentle wind. Chris Pratt’s hero character is a hero, Bryce Dallas Howard’s female hero, is a female hero (very pointedly not wearing heels this time around). They’re all just very average and entirely expected. They don’t do anything. Instead of them being active characters involved in the story, they’re just pulled from one plot point to another. They feel like they don’t belong in this story, as though they were thrown into it without much purpose for being there. By all means the acting is good, all the performances feel authentic and genuine, they’re just not given much to do.

I don’t really know what else to say about this film. I feel like my critical mind is being mean to a film that is just for fun. But the original Jurassic Park wasn’t just for fun. It was a great piece of filmmaking and art, that captured the amazing awe of seeing a dinosaur for the first time.

This film struggles to try and recapture the majesty of dinosaurs that was established and, frankly, perfected in previous films. Occasionally, in rare well-made moments, it succeeds. Occasionally, some moments actually pulled at my heartstrings and made me tear up a little bit. There are even sequences of unbridled joy and terror, like getting blood from a sleeping T-Rex.

So how should I end this? I know I sound like a little bit of a pompous film-nut, but I just want films to hold themselves to a higher standard than ‘just a bit of entertaining fun’. But by all means, go see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. If not to see a perfectly made film, then to see a film with genuinely, intelligently-made moments buried under several layers of nonsense.

 

Written by Gaden Sousa.

Running a Marathon: An Interview with Bel Ellison

BONNEE CRAWFORD: On Sunday 15 October 2017, you were one of 32,000 people who participated in the Medibank Melbourne Marathon Festival. I know you had been training for that day for a long time, what first made you decide you were going to participate? 

BEL: I decided to do the marathon in January of 2017. I had been at the point where I was wondering what I was going to do with my running. A lot of people had suggested that I should do a marathon, but you go through the usual thoughts of ‘No, that’s too much work. Forty-two kilometres—that’s a really long distance’. But the more it was brought up, the more I thought about it, and I went, you know what? I have my health, I don’t have any significant injuries, and I have the time to train properly for this. I might as well do this while I have the chance, because I don’t know if I’ll have another chance to do it in the future. That’s what really made me decide to do it. I spent ten months training all up for it, which was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I’m really glad I did it because I can say now that I’ve run a marathon. I can tick that off the bucket list.

 

BONNEE: Can I just ask, why does this marathon happen? Can you share about the purpose behind the Medibank Melbourne Marathon Festival?

BEL: You’ll find with organised runs there will be two purposes to them. The first purpose is giving people an opportunity to run the distance. With the Melbourne Marathon, a lot of people do it because they want to run a marathon. But you’ll also find with organised runs there’s a second purpose, and that is to raise money for a certain cause. For example, in the Run for the Kids, their designated charity is the Good Friday Appeal, which raises money for the Royal Children’s Hospital. With the Melbourne Marathon you could also pick the charity that you wanted to raise money for, say Beyond Blue or a charity that you’re personally involved with. That’s mostly how I’ve noticed organised runs work. So, two things: it gives people the opportunity to do the run, and it’s raising money for a good cause.

 

BONNEE: How far could you run when you first started training for this marathon?

BEL: When I first started training, I think the longest distance I had done was eight-kilometres. I was an avid runner, but very much short distance. I was probably doing about four or five five-kilometre runs during the week. It takes about 20 minutes for me to do that. I went from 8 to 42[km] in about 10 months, which got difficult because you need to do it over a long period of time so you don’t really fatigue your body. What I would do was I would do short runs during the week, 5, 7, 9[km], whatever I could fit in. And then on Sundays, I would try and do a longer run, but every two weeks I’d try and increase the distance. The first distance I did was 10[km], then two weeks later I’d try and do 12[km], two weeks after that I’d try and do 14[km], then 16, 18, 20[km]. It starts adding up. 

 

BONNEE: So you were setting goals along the way to help train yourself up for the big day. Training for something like a marathon takes a lot of discipline and can have a huge impact on your body and your day-to-day life. What measures did you put in place to ensure you achieved your goals?

BEL: One of the big things I had to do was modify my diet. I noticed that I wasn’t actually eating enough to do long distance running. I noticed because I started losing a lot of weight. I was like, ‘Ah, I am a stick with boobs. Oh dear’. I was a skeleton with boobs, actually. I needed to start eating more because I noticed I just didn’t have enough energy in my day-to-day life and training.

I found that I’d start scheduling my runs into my phone. So, as I’d put in my social engagements and my due dates for assignments, I’d also put in every fortnight ‘doing 18 kilometres’ or ‘doing 21 kilometres’. Actually book it in because you know sometimes life just happens. A friend says, ‘Do you want to get lunch on Sunday?’ And you go ‘I’ll just check my phone. Oh, I have to do my training. Can we do it in the afternoon or can we get dinner instead?’. You have to be very disciplined about it and it does get frustrating.

 

BONNEE: Can you tell us a bit about what kind of diet modifications you made?

BEL: Eat a lot more. Eat a lot more protein. One thing I did was I started using protein powder, and I found that it made a huge difference to my energy levels. I was already on iron tablets, so that helped. […] I also started eating a lot more cashews, started focusing on trying to eat more good food and a lot of it, because otherwise I’ve never eaten much. Carb loading is important, particularly the night before a big run. That always works for me because I love pasta, so it’s just like ‘Aw yeah, it’s pasta night!’. And you really do feel the difference if you don’t do stuff like that. Your runs are that much harder. Particularly when you’re trying to do 20-plus kilometres. You’ll get to the point where you have to stop every kilometre because you either don’t have the energy, or you’re getting stitches, or you’re mentally falling apart. You don’t realise how important diet is until you really physically push yourself like that.

 

BONNEE: It couldn’t have been an easy goal to achieve. What were the biggest setbacks you faced leading up to the marathon? Did you ever consider giving up?

BEL: My biggest hurdle was the mental battle, because I found with the marathon the first half of it is purely a physical battle. The second half of it, it’s a physical and a mental battle. I found when I got up to a half marathon I was feeling good—I was feeling great. But training beyond that got very difficult very quickly and you have to find ways of getting through the mental fatigue. I remember training and feeling like I wanted to cry at times like, ‘Oh god, I’ve still got two kilometres to go’. Little things I did were—say in the second half—I’d get out my iPod and start listening to some really upbeat tunes like ‘Lift’ by Shannon Noll and really happy music like ‘Timber’ by Ke$ha—really upbeat, pop-y tunes to get your adrenaline going again. A lot of it is digging deep and telling yourself that you can make the distance.

[…] My best friend gave me some really good advice. A couple of days before the marathon, I was really starting to doubt myself and whether I could actually go the distance. And I was telling him, ‘Look, it’s really bizarre, but I’m scared of the distance itself’. He told me this: ‘In cricket, batsmen call it the nervous nineties—top class batsmen who freeze up when they’ve scored 90-99 runs because all they can think about is “will they make it to 100?” So it’s very common for sports stars to feel daunted by a task. But in cricket 100 runs is just a collection of 100 balls they’ve faced, and it’s the same with running. There’s no difference in the kilometres you run, it’s just when you look at them all together you get daunted by the task. Don’t think of it as one big job, think of it as the first kilometre, and how you’ve run a kilometre many times before. A marathon is just a collection of one kilometre runs. A bunch of steps are easy when you break it up. Just take it one step at a time’. You know when you just received the perfect piece of advice? I felt so much better afterwards. I’ve got a great best friend, I have to say.

 

BONNEE: It sounds like you’ve had a lot of support on your way to the marathon and you really pushed through with your training. How did you go on the day?

BEL: On the day, I felt pretty good because I was able to get through that anxiety of ‘Oh god, can I actually do this?’ thanks to my best friend and a lot of people who I reached out to and who reached out to me in the lead up to it, which I’m very grateful for. I have a lot of awesome people in my life. So when the day came around, I felt pretty confident in myself that I could do it, and I just kept reminding myself the last training run was 40 kilometres. Today I’ve got to run 42[km]—I know I can do it.

I felt good on the day and it still was hard. I still remember that 30 to 40 kilometres were just [groan]. Like, okay, I’m going to walk for 500 meters and then I’m going to start running again. It actually gets to the point where it’s less painful to keep running than it is to walk. I really enjoyed the day though. I really enjoyed running with all these different people from all walks of life. I really enjoyed seeing just different people run. Like, I saw grandmas doing the run, I saw a bloke doing the marathon while pushing his disabled son in a wheelchair, I saw families doing it, I saw a Muslim woman in a headscarf, covered, doing the marathon. It was really inspiring, and the vibe was so positive and everyone is so supportive of one another. It was a really awesome day.

 

BONNEE: Would you participate again in future? What are your plans now that the marathon is over?

BEL: I would love to participate again if I had the chance. As I’ve said, I don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity and that’s one of my big motivations in doing it. I’d love to do it again because it was such a positive experience. I think for me personally, it’s really important that I do things that challenge myself because it keeps you balanced, I find. And it keeps you focused on, what can I actually do with my life? Am I making the most of what I have now? So yeah, I would do it again if I had another chance. And I think it’s really important to challenge yourself.

 

BONNEE: Has the marathon had any other impact on your life and on you? What did you gain from the experience?

BEL: I gained from the experience that … to me, it really was a reminder that I really can do something if I set my mind to it. I think in my case in particular, I doubt myself a lot. I think to myself, what am I doing? I can’t write an essay. Am I even a good friend? What am I doing? I’m just a terrible person … not to that extent, but I doubt myself. And I think being able to do that really reminded me that, yes, I can actually do a task if I set my mind to it. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, I’m going to have trials and tribulations along the way, but if I set my mind to something I can do it, and for me, I really need that reminder. I’m sitting here now nearly four months later and I’m like, ‘I ran a marathon. I actually did that, go me. I’d like to thank me, and I’d also like to thank myself.’

 

BONNEE: The last thing I’d like to ask is, what would you say to someone else who was thinking about participating in a marathon? Is there any advice you would give your past self?

BEL: I would tell my past self … it’s going to be hard, but if you have the opportunity, you have your health, and you’ve basically got the chance, I’d recommend it. Some people just aren’t going to be able to because of injury or time. Having enough time is essential to train for it properly. But if you’ve got the opportunity to do something like it, I would recommend it because it’s one of those things where you can look back and say ‘Yeah, I ran a marathon’. I’m going to be an eighty-year-old lady one day, but I’m going to be able to say ‘I ran a marathon’.

What advice would I give? Don’t give up, and don’t be afraid to talk to people about how you’re feeling about it. It’s okay to say, ‘I struggled with training today’ or ‘I don’t know about this marathon thing, am I silly for wanting to do a marathon?’. It’s okay to doubt yourself, and you will doubt yourself. That’s all part of the process, but you will get through it. If you’ve got really great people in your life, they will support you, and they will give you advice, and they will push you to achieve your goal.

 

Bel Ellison is currently studying a Masters of Communication at Deakin University. She has previously completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Secondary Education.