Tag Archives: Hugo

Winding up, winding down

How do you capture the flavour of 366 days in a few words? Issued the challenge, I’d have to go with: Work intense. Writing irregular. Friendships strong. Cycling legs good. A curveball (or wake-up call) to end the year…

But that doesn’t really cut the mustard, does it? If it means anything, it’s probably only to yours truly. The rest of you deserve better.

So, at the risk of boring any regular readers, let’s recap a tad. The tiny company I’ve worked with for over a decade, the same mob that’s given me the flexibility to be an author when the Muse sings and a public speaker when schools, libraries and festivals come calling, was taken over twice in 18 months. From my POV that involved adapting to approximately three successive sets of managers and a morass of policies, procedures and paperwork easily the equivalent of this. Or this.

There are definite upsides to working for a juggernaut entity but survival in a large organisation means striving harder to be seen. In the past two years I’ve taken on two massive and rewarding projects – but have had to wind back on being an author and speaker. I’m hoping to adjust the balance soon.

Work aside, this year has served up some considerable challenges. There was the phone call that let me know my parents had been hit head-on by a recidivist careless(!) driver, health scares for friends, the text message in the middle of the night that suggested other friends may be splitting up and the test result that delivered a personal wake-up call.

Daunting in far more positive ways have been the commitment to raise over $2500 and ride 200km plus for cancer research (mission accomplished – thank you all), finding the right secondary school for the Little Dragon (fingers crossed) and working on proposals for two new novels (in progress). I loved touring regional Victoria for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. Working with students studying Five Parts Dead was good fun, too. On the bike I’ve clocked up 4825 km in 2012 so far, which has to be a PB.

A particular 2012 highlight was the night I spent acting as a prompt for Impro Melbourne creativity. Over the course of the night I read three passages from my work and left the impro experts to run with whatever ideas occurred to them, based on my readings. The third passage I chose was from a speculative fiction manuscript I’m working on and, not only did the actors enjoy it, I had audience members approach me and ask where they could buy the book. That’s what you want to hear about an unfinished work. Confidence can be a fleeting thing and any boost is a bonus.

And so to my traditional end of year lists. Because work has dominated the year, I haven’t read, watched or listened as much as usual. I’ve probably forgotten favourites but here are those that sprang to mind as I prepared this post:

TV: It’s been a big year for Glee at my place, courtesy of the Little Dragon singing lead in his school rockband. Once the kids slide into sleep, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ABC productions such as Rake and back seasons of Deadwood and Friday Night Lights.

Movies: Apart from Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, which was great fun if a tad long, I haven’t had many magical cinema moments this year. The Dark Knight Rises was solid but didn’t quite deliver to the expectations of this Frank Miller fan. Take This Waltz lodged in my head for quite a while but my favourite films for 2012 were Paul Kelly: Stories of Me and the utterly wonderful Hugo (based on the prize-winning book).

Reading: I’m immersed in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) to the detriment of all other titles. Other reading highlights include: David Almond’s Skellig; the marvellously consistent Bob Graham’s A Bus Called Heaven; Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones; The Rider by Tim Krabbe; and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. There’s a few tears in that list.

Music: Apart from the aforementioned Glee, there’s been limited time for music this year, sadly. Albums that did strike a chord include: Metals by Feist; All the Little Lights by Passenger; Spring & Fall by Paul Kelly; and Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen. (Late arrivals I’m currently enjoying are Of Monsters & Men’s My Head is an Animal (very Arcade Fire) and Chet Faker’s Thinking in Textures).

Thank you to everyone who has visited this blog, read my books and supported me in 2012. Your faith and friendship is appreciated.

New Year’s Eve update: Having managed some downtime in the past few weeks and in the wake of a visit by the jolly bearded gent I am belatedly entering the universe of Chris Ware. This is storytelling on a whole new level, best tackled by emotionally resilient and visually adventurous readers. It’s jaw-droppingly good.

Finally, thank you to everyone who supported the National Year of Reading. From where I’m sitting it’s been such a success we should do it all again. Starting tomorrow.

Movie magic

I love the movies. Even a stint as a movie reviewer, where I sometimes watched three films a day, couldn’t dull my appetite for the big screen.

Thinking back, this filmic fascination probably has its roots in my childhood in small rural Victorian towns. My memory of Yarram, where my family lived for eight years, is that there was a theatre in the main street that rarely screened movies – with one exception.

I can remember seeing a film called Lost in The Bush with my school. As the title suggests, it was about three children who wander off and get lost. The make-up artist must have been skilful as I can still see the children’s faces as they became sunburnt, starving and dehydrated. I suspect it didn’t have a happy ending as it gave me nightmares. If it was intended to educate us about not straying too far from responsible adults it worked. For a few years, anyway.

I also have vivid memories of long, carsickness-inducing drives to the Leongatha drive-in to see films such as Bedknobs & Broomsticks, The Sound of Music and Storm Boy. The latter, based on the book by Colin Thiele, probably rendered me a blubbering mess, sobbing all the way home.

Years later, Dad took my brother and I to a city drive-in to see Star Wars. It rained and we had to put the windscreen wipers on but we still loved every second.

The first film I saw without a parent present was sword and sorcery flick The Beastmaster – memorable to an adolescent mainly because of the minimalist costumes worn by former Charlie’s Angel Tanya Roberts. That was followed by titles such as Monty Python’s Meaning of Life and, after winning tickets from radio station 3BO, Flashdance.

I was still a teenager when I made my first attempt at writing Game as Ned. My approach then was to mentally cast Aussie actors as the characters, trying to picture how they might speak and act in the scenes playing out before an audience of one. Needless to say, I cast Bill Hunter and Bruce Spence, because they seemed to be a prerequisite of every Australian film. Colin Friels was the original Mick (in my mind). I even flirted with Kylie Minogue as Erin, for a while.

The idea of my stories finding their way onto cinema screens was and remains a massive incentive to keep writing.

In recent years I’ve had enquiries from filmmakers about both Game as Ned and Five Parts Dead but nothing has eventuated so far. I’m not entirely surprised. A title character that doesn’t speak, and a tangled mystery with dual timelines, would present any director with significant creative challenges.

Maybe the next yarn will be the right one for translating to a screenplay.

I began this post thinking about book-to-film adaptations I watched over the Christmas period. I was VERY excited by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson collaborating on Tintin and dragged the kids to see the movie at the first possible opportunity.

I appreciated the opening homage to Tintin author Herge and the titbits left for Tintin buffs throughout the film. The action scenes were good fun and the 3D was decent. I walked away slightly saddened, though. I can’t say if that’s down to my favourite part of the Unicorn story being left for a sequel – or the magic not measuring up to the moment when my eyes first feasted on a Tintin graphic novel in a public library. To this Tintin fan, the books are still better.

I hadn’t read The Invention of Hugo Cabret prior to seeing the film, so there was no chance of disappointment in the Scorsese adaptation. The book is now on my bedside table because Hugo, the film, was magnificent. (The Little Dragon, who says the book is, “the best I’ve read that isn’t part of a series”, tells me the film tied for honours.)

As a 3D spectacle Hugo is the only thing I’ve seen to rival or equal Avatar. As a story, it spoke to me on too many levels to mention. I adored it.

Coming out of the cinema, I heard a fellow patron say, “It clearly wasn’t a movie for children and the opening was oh so dull.” Part of me wanted to interject and explain that Hugo is based on an award-winning children’s book and my kids loved it and the opening scene was one of the most beautiful sequences you’ll ever see and… Why bother?

I held my tongue. The movie’s magic was and is still alive in me. I wasn’t going to let anyone spoil it.