The Iron Lady – A review of the movie

Biopics are the darlings of the Oscars.  Never is it more a sure thing when an actor plays a real life character, because everybody knows what they were really like and if the actor can get even close, they are up for an Oscar.  I think Meryl Streep has this in the bag!

The best thing about this movie is the acting and the make-up.  Don’t get me wrong, it was certainly an interesting movie and depicted an interesting woman, but Meryl got that accent perfect, she embodied the Baroness Margaret Thatcher both in her prime and as a doddering old lady reflecting back on her life, missing her deceased husband.

The movie starts off with a withered old lady buying a pint of milk and complaining about the price.  Just like we all do.  Then when she gets back to her home we realise she has snuck out and escaped her detail and that she has become quite the frail old lady.  I think that was the saddest part about this movie is that, we all remember Margaret Thatcher as the, well, Iron Lady, love her or hate her, who changed the face of English politics with her no nonsense policies of getting rid of all the things dragging the government down, whether that was good for England or not was a matter of debate but she certainly made her mark.  What she is now though is a completely different thing and I think the start of this movie demonstrated that in a very poignant way.

Nobody recognised her, nobody cared.  Aside from the occasional mixer with dignitaries, Margaret Thatcher is more in the news when she goes to the doctors for a checkup than for any other reason.  I liked the flashback style of the movie.  It was fitting with the overall feel of an old woman looking back on her life.  She certainly had a lot to look back on, although with the way she was talking to dead Dennis at the start I thought they might even make it a love story but they didn’t.  It was an extrememely personal view of the Thatcher years obviously and it did indeed gloss over several things, I think the IRA bombings certainly didn’t get much of a look in except for where they affected Margaret personally.

This mostly hit home for me because when I was living in England I was looking after a little old lady with dementia.  She had been a prominent member for her local parliament and had been a strong proponent of women in the workforce in her time.  She had been reduded to babbling about the old times and it was extremely sad to see her like this, and I wasn’t even her family.  I think that seeing Margaret Thatcher reduced to someone so impotent after all her power was very sad, I can see why tyrants grip on until their last breath.

All in all it was a good movie, not too political, more about the personal journey of a very strong minded woman, making it in the world of men.  A lot of the visual images were showing that very strongly.  There were a couple that stuck out.  One was of all the members filing into parliament, there was a sea of black suits and one colourful blue suit which was Margaret, and then there was the shot of all the mens shoes sitting in the commons and one single pair of heels.

Whatever you say or think about Thatcher, she was a game changer for women’s rights, she was a proponent of doing it for yourself and she had no patience for slackers and whingers.  It would be interesting to see how long she would stay in government in today’s society.  Certainly not 10 years I don’t think.

The Almighty Johnsons – why can’t Australia produce TV like this?

Earlier this year at a panel at Continuum, there was a discussion about why Australia doesn’t produce much, if any, SF or fantasy television that isn’t for children.  The consensus was that we have very shortsighted tv execs as both the children’s shows and others have done very well overseas.

So we who love all things speculative must turn to other countries for the type of television we like to watch.  It is usually the United States we turn to, but I recently watched a series produced by our next door neighbours, NZ, called ‘The Almighty Johnsons’.

The premise of the show is the Johnson family, four brothers Mike, Anders, Ty and Axl, are descended from the Norse Gods, who emigrated to NZ a couple of hundred years ago to escape persecution.  Their powers, which appear to them on their 21st birthday, are diluted and only the return of Odin will herald the return of their Glory.

The series begins with Axl’s 21st, where he discovers his god identity as Odin and his quest to find Frig, his goddess, and that when they ‘join together’ all the god’s powers will return and they will ascend to rule again in Asgard.

It sounds really heavy but this is actually a light hearted comedy with very typical Antipodean humour.  I noticed it is currently screening on Australian free to air so I urge everybody to check it out.

There are a couple of really great scenes and the scene where Mike convinces Axl of his godhood by playing paper rock scissors is a classic

The titles are a no nonsense listing of the boy’s names and who plays each character but it is kind of cool.  There is also a bittersweet love story there as well.  Everything a nerdy girl could want, cool Norse god powers, cute guys (did they hire every cute actor in NZ?) and a love story, as well as Nemesis goddesses.  I absolutely loved it and cannot wait for season 2.

The Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading Challenge

Well, I am going to do two challenges this year.  Challenge my apathy and the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading Challenge.  For those of you unaware of the Challenge please click on this link http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/p/australian-women-writers-book-challenge_25.html or copy and paste it into your browser.

I think the challenge is something everyone can easily accomplish.  We are readers anyway aren’t we?  What is the difference between reading a book in the genre you love if it just happens to be by an Australian female author?  I have a list of a few different books I would like to read, and my friend Lucy Sussex (another fine Australian author) has given me a couple of books to start off my list.

I am going to try the Franklin Fantastic Challenge (why not aim high?) which is to read at least 10 books and review at least 4 of them.  I am also going to try to mix it up with a couple of different genres.  I already have several books on my shelves waiting to be read so there won’t be any trouble in fulfilling that promise I think.  The books I am going to read are the ones below (not necessarily exclusively these but these are the ones I have at hand at the moment)

The Reformed Vampire Support Group – By Catherine Jinks – YA Fantasy

Ruby Blues by Jessica Rudd – Chicklit comedy

The Siren’s Song by Miranda Darling – Crime Thriller

The King’s Bastard by Rowena Cory Daniells – Fantasy

Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies by Lucy Sussex – Short Story Collection Fantasy

Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres – YA Science Fiction

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood – Crime Historical ( I especially want to read this one before the series starts on the ABC next year)

The Undivided by Jennifer Fallon – Fantasy (I actually think Jennifer is a NZ author but she stays on the list anyway 🙂 )

The Dark Griffin by KJ Taylor – YA Fantasy

Witches Incorporated by KE Mills – Fantasy

Well, the challenge is set and the games begin January 1st, let the reading begin 🙂

A night of Gaiman and Stoppard

When my friend posted about Neil Gaiman coming to town, I was instantly taken back to the first time I met him.  It was 2005 and I was newly skinny and looking for luurve.  I was assured that a convention with Neil Gaiman as a guest was guaranteed a large turnout so there would be more opportunity of meeting new people.  I didn’t know much about Gaiman then, I had only read one of his books, a collaboration with Terry Pratchett.

Good Omens was one of those books you chortle your way through from start to finish and it is one of those I have kept on my shelf since I bought it in the early nineties.  Therefore, armed with only the knowledge that Gaiman knew Pratchett, and I knew that I wanted to meet people, I scurried off to the convention.

When I met and chatted with Gaiman he made me an instant convert.  He was witty, handsome and charming.  He participated happily in all the geeky things you do at conventions, he was like a rock star amongst back yard guitarists.  I joined the hypnotised masses.  I now follow him on both facebook and twitter and I sigh at the little love notes he and Amanda pass between themselves on twitter.

When my friend mentioned he was coming to town I had a little squee moment.  I immediately went to the Wheeler Centre Homepage http://wheelercentre.com and signed up for both the Neil Gaiman talk and the Tom Stoppard talk.  (For those of you who don’t know about the Wheeler Centre – if you are at all interested in writing or reading you should definitely check them out.  I have been to four events this year put on by them and they were all superlative)

Where was I?  Oh yes.  Tom Stoppard.  I hadn’t ever heard of him.  I knew that if the Wheeler Centre were featuring him I would be guaranteed something special but I had to look him up.  Imagine my surprise when I saw all the films that I loved had been written or adapted by him!  He was a gracious guest, coping with, quite frankly, boring questions and steering them around to something interesting we might like to hear.  I think Allison Croggan was a little starstruck personally and she is very into the theatre so most of her questions were fairly limited to the understanding of someone also with those interests.  I thought Mr Stoppard did a very good job of redirecting his answers to suit the varied tastes of the audience.  It didn’t hurt when he throws in the occasional reference to Lucas and Spielberg as well 🙂

Tom was a gracious guest and I found him very interesting to listen to.

During the intermission between Tom and Neil we repaired to the foyer to wait in anticipation for Neil.  Because we had had such good seats for Tom, we wanted something better for Neil so we hung around the door for around 45 minutes.  Mostly the time flew with conversing and drinking, and then something special happened.

Amanda Palmer had tweeted that she was crashing the party and sure enough there she was.  Extremely entertaining and just the way to amuse a crowd that was waiting impatiently for the man to arrive.

We hurried in once the doors were open, I barely escaped with my life people behind me were pushing forward so hard.  We ended up in the second row so it was worth it.  My faith in Neil was justified with what followed being an hour of terribly humourous repartee and lots of fun stories.  Neil mentioned he would be starting a sequel to American Gods which sent the audience into raptures.  He finished off the evening with a poem he wrote for Australia Day and it was something special to hear.  I didn’t get a recording of him reading it but did take a photo.  He has confirmed my faith as a Neil groupie, and I can’t wait for him to write that book so I can read it.