Tag Archives: Star Wars

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.

1977 redux

Last night the little dragon, the little monkey, a visiting cousin-in-law and I visited the Star Wars exhibition at Scienceworks in Spotswood.

Wow.

My Dad took my brother and I to a drive-in to see Star Wars when it was first released in 1977. It rained and we had to put the windscreen wipers on to watch. That didn’t matter. We were transfixed. We’d never seen anything like it and I doubt a movie has ever had such an impact on me ever since. I’ll never forget that night.

My brother and I soon scored toy light-sabres and battled for countless hours with each other and all manner of imaginary bad guys. Being country kids, we never got to see The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi but we read the books and were immersed in the George Lucas universe for many years.

OK, so the three prequel movies were fairly average. Great costumes, sets and special effects but wince-worthy scripting and join-the-dots storytelling. I still enjoyed them all. And I watched them with the little dragon who is as intoxicated by the Star Wars mythology as I was/am.

Which brings us to last night. After entering the exhibition we were greeted by some unrecognisable masked dude, looking a little like Boba Fett in a black cape. The little monkey freaked out and started wailing. The little dragon drew his light sabre.

With sobbing monkey in arms, I was drawn straight to Luke’s landspeeder from the first film. Man, I so wanted one of those when I was a kid.

From there it was a ripple of wow moments spreading from the size and gothic splendour of Darth Vader’s costume up close, to the Tuskan raiders, wookiees, battle droids, light sabres, medical droids, detailed model of the Millenium Falcon and various other interactive exhibits.

It took me right back to 1977. I think the little dragon and I will be heading back to Spotswood for another session soon.

Books for boys 2

Of all my posts so far, Books for boys has attracted the most eyeballs. Getting boys to pick up a book, open it, begin reading (often slowly and grudgingly) and then persevere right through to the finish, can be a real challenge. As a result, there are countless parents and teachers out there on a Holy Grail-style quest for titles that can engage and entertain.

I’m no literacy expert. But I was a compulsive reader when young. Still am, really. I read to my son every night, select books for him from the local library, chat to him and his mates about what they’re reading (if they read at all), visit schools to talk about being an author and journalist, and consume a lot of books myself – many in the Young Adult category. I reckon that gives me a pretty good spider sense for what will snare male readers and what won’t.

While I reckon almost all the titles in my earlier Books for boys post are winners, those listed below are also well worth a look. And if you want to delve even deeper, here are some themes I reckon you should watch for:

Competition: This doesn’t have to mean sport. It could mean who farts the loudest. But boys are inherently competitive and once they get sucked into a competition, they’re more likely to stick around for the medal presentation.

Action: This doesn’t have to mean guns and blood. It does require interesting developments every few pages. Boys are impatient. They don’t want to wait for stuff to happen. I recently read a really well written junior fiction book about two girls whose friendship was on the wane. They talked about it a lot and eventually made up BUT NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED. I guess that’s why the cover was pink.

Short chapters: Yes, I know, this rule is broken by Tolkien and many others. But if you have a seven-year-old who is only beginning to read, they want to feel like they’re getting somewhere, not bogged in a chapter that never ends. Short chapters let them pause, take a break, absorb what they have read and, cue parent voice, turn the light out before midnight.

Humour: Hard to write, great fun to read. Lots of boys like reading gross-out material about bums, snot and slime generally. I actually think the key to this stuff isn’t how sticky or stinky it is. I reckon it’s the story and the slapstick. Boys want to laugh at weird and wonderful things happening – mainly to adults.

Interests: If your boy has an interest or obsession, play to it. Buy books that detail the boots worn by Beckham or the sword swung by Sir Lancelot. If you can’t find a bookstore carrying Japanese manga card game characters, look for them online. Where there’s a market, there’s a publisher.

Comics: Don’t shy away from graphic novels – but do check the suitability for your boy’s age group. There are some fantastic graphic novel series available and, reading is reading, whether there are pictures or not.

I’ve gone on too long and haven’t listed any books yet. I’m not great at pumping my own tyres but I’d note that my own debut novel, Game as Ned has been popular with male (and female) readers aged 13 and up. Judging by the letters I’ve received, the boys like that there’s lots of action (after a slow start), occasional humour, short chapters and a tense finish. When a 15-year-old writes to say “I don’t like reading but your book is the best book I’ve read”, it’s a mighty compliment.

Anyway, here are some more Books for boys that are well worth a look, with suggested reader ages in brackets:

Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy (a bit trippy and obtuse in places but funny and sassy and most boys look at the cover illustration and go “whooooa – I want to read that.”) (10+)

Contest – Matthew Reilly (Most Reilly titles are great for boys but, of those I’ve read, this is my favourite.) (12+)

Kill the Possum – James Moloney (Covers some heavy terrain but teen males will identify with the narrator’s emotions) (15+)

Looking for Alaska – John Green (15+)

Somebody’s Crying – Maureen McCarthy (14+)

For younger readers, check out:

The Tangshan Tigers series – Dan Lee (my son found these by himself, read them and loved them) (7+)

The Captain Underpants series and The Dumb Bunnies – Dave Pilkey (6+)

The OK Team – Nick Place (7+)

Just about anything with Andy Griffiths’ name on the cover (6+)

Ditto for Paul Jennings (7+)

Star Wars graphic novels (7+)

I’ll keep adding to this list as I keep on reading. To check out my personal library, click here. I have added a Books for Boys tag so you can search titles I believe boys will enjoy.