Tag Archives: movies

Dreaming of sushi

I’m back to writing. Not as often as I’d like but at least keys are being pounded and ideas recorded.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’d been considering writing my next story as a graphic novel, partly because I love stories told this way (everything from Tintin to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. I took a masterclass in writing comics and graphic novels last year and came away inspired but somewhat intimidated by the concept of writing in such an unfamiliar form. As a result, I procrastinated way too much.

So, while I can see the next book as a graphic novel, I’m going to write it in novel form first. Having made that decision, I’ve started sketching characters, scenes and more. I love these early stages of assembling a story.

The idea I have in mind is essentially a love story, but one concerned with fathers, sons and the links between generations. Which brings me to the title of this post.

A friend invited me to this documentary today and I really enjoyed it. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi has an 85-year-old sushi chef as its central character – a man whose alcoholic father died when he was seven. Jiro has worked for 75 years and is considered the best sushi chef in the world. He has no plans to retire, which feeds into the stories of his two sushi chef sons. It’s slow-burning, exquisite stuff.

And mouthwatering if you enjoy sushi. You can get a taste of the tale here:

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.

Avatar immersion

I was an Avatar sceptic. I’d read the pre-publicity and seen the trailers. It wasn’t doing it for me.

I’ve seen it twice now.

I probably need to think more about what swayed me to review my stance. The word of mouth feedback was great. The “changes cinema forever” reviews were powerful too. Ultimately curiosity got the better of me.

As a 3D cinema experience it’s unsurpassed. Viewers really are immersed in a lush new world. Other films will look flat in comparison.

The story borders on blunt and predictable and the dialogue is dodgy at times but so what? Any film that has you actively barracking against the human race must be doing OK with characterisation and plot.

I do wonder if the script-writers were given a list of things they had to cover as the story is clearly anti-discrimination (race, intellect, education, disability, religion or gender) and pro-conservation. Indeed, I can see clever librarians and teachers adding it to school curriculums as a trigger for discussing issues such as conquest and colonisation, indigenous rights and religions, disability, inter-faith/race relationships, Mother Earth and much more.

Subtle, no. But engaging, absolutely.

Up and away

Caught Pixar’s Up with the kids on Fathers’ Day. Liked it better than Wall-E and Cars but nowhere near as much as The Incredibles or Monsters Inc.

The kids liked it but didn’t love it. I wonder if that’s because they didn’t really see themselves in any of the main characters – a grieving curmudgeon, a lonely boy scout and a misfit talking dog. I know, I’ve blogged previously that my daughter sometimes plays at being a Grandma so she should connect with the movie. Looks like I was wrong.

I know the Pixar crew are graduates of the Robert McKee screenwriting courses. It felt to me that they’d gone with some real McKee angles in Up – writing stories/scripts that address universal truths such as loneliness, shattered dreams, grief and old age. Indeed, the first five minutes of the film told a story that almost moved me to tears. After that bit of magic, it was sound the trumpets and bring in the action and gags.

Some of the best gags involved a) old age and b) dogs chasing squirrels. The kids obviously didn’t get the former. As for the latter, we don’t have squirrels Down Under so the joke lost a little impact (though we still laughed). I was also surprised by how Pixar handled some of the later fights scenes (no spoilers from me) and how scary some of the hunting dogs were. The Little Monkey (5yo) found it all a bit tough once the villain arrived on the scene. Interestingly, her cousin the Little Engineer (4yo), had no such qualms.

So, it lacked the wow factor we’d hoped for. And I’m a tad worried that I identified somewhat with the old guy Carl…

I’m now hoping Ponyo might be a better fit for the Little Dragon and I.

Update: I just spent a night making Up mobiles to hang in the kids’ rooms so they must be at least slightly under the Pixar spell.