Far From Home is the Perfect Live-Action Spider-Man

Twenty-three entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe later, and we finally have a Spider-Man film that best targets it’s teen audience.

Spider-Man Far From Home is the second Sony/Marvel crossover and Tom Holland Spider-Man film, this time taking place five years since the Snap (colloquially known in-film as “The Blip”). As Tony Stark’s prodigy, Peter Parker (Holland) is the logical choice for Head Avenger, but conflicted by teenage priorities and grief for his mentor, Parker questions his ability to lead the super-team. When a new powerful character arrives, Peter does his best to pass on the mantle to him – to catastrophic consequences.

When Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse was released last year, I distinctly remember thinking we could never replicate that energy in a live-action Spider-Man movie. But I was wrong. With a combination of campy teen humour and, dare I say it, Spiderverse’s visual influence, Tom Holland’s second Spider-Man outing might be my favourite* yet.

Far From Home begins with the most original opener we’ve seen in ten years, setting the humour for the film immediately. It also gives a quick run-down, conversationally recapping the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame succinctly and cheerfully. If you wondered whether there’d be spoilers in FFH – you’d be correct. If anything, this film is inextricably linked to Endgame addressing not only the events, but the implications of certain… departures.

And regarding those departures, it’s a more solemn Holland!Peter than we’re used to, and while I’d have liked a closer examination of the anxiety (no spoilers, but in particular an elaboration on a scene where Peter almost seems agoraphobic and overwhelmed), especially as with a recent Thor development, Marvel seems to skate over what could be considerable, relevant discussions, Holland’s portrayal of grief was deeper than I expected. 

But this is essentially a comedy film as much as a superhero one. Less on the nose than Ragnarok and not quite Guardians of the Galaxy, a lot of the humour stems from Peter’s classmates, a much better ensemble than any other** Spider-Man outing we’ve seen, and having grown up with exposure to the comics, it was refreshing to see a light-hearted teen comedy Peter. The supporting cast’s performances were wonderful too – while I’ve been partial to an Angourie Rice performance since Jasper Jones in 2017, it’s really Jacob Batalon and Tony Revolori who stole the show. While Zendaya also brought a layer of sardonic humour to the film, I’m still not totally on-board, however that’s more likely Marvel’s thinly spread “strong-female-character” attempts.

Visually, as I mentioned, it almost seems like Far From Home was influenced by Spider-Verse’s creativity. While they avoided the onomatopoeia present in the animated film, this was the most comic-book-y aesthetic Marvel film I think we’ve ever seen and it’s obvious that Marvel/Sony are attempting to up their game. This was also the least fight-heavy scene we’ve seen in recent years (or perhaps the scenes were seamless enough that even I could deal with them), allowing for more exposition and less gratuitous violence throughout the movie. 

Finally, this was one of a few movies this year where I actually noticed the score. You all know I’m not a music person, but I actually felt the swell and ebb of the underlying sounds here and I’m not surprised to find out that we have Michael Giacchino to thank (i.e. the composer behind Inside Out, Bad Times at the El Royale and just about every blockbuster from Jurassic World to Rogue One). Far From Home was an incredibly solemn movie in parts and the music did a good job at pointing that out (can you tell I’m not a sound girl).

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Spider-Man far from home. It doesn’t take much to invest me in a Marvel movie, I’m totally a basic bitch that way, but this one seemed special. It was fun, it was light, but it didn’t betray the significance of Endgame and Phase 4’s parting. I actively went out of my way to check in with friends who had decided they were done with the MCU after Avengers and even a few of them begrudgingly said this was a good one. Definitely worth checking out if you’re still on the fence.

Spider-Man Far From Home is in UK, US & Australian cinemas now.


* Excluding
Spider-verse obviously.
** AGAIN, excluding Spider-verse. In fact, you can just assume I mean live-action Spidey at any point here.

IMAGINE THE CREDITS ROLLING HERE

Ooh, a bonus.
If you’d like to see a spoiler filled chat about Spider-Man Far From Home, you can check it out on my channel here.

 

Ari Aster’s Midsommar Hates Bad Boyfriends

Following trailers and snippets from A24, and knowing what we know about Ari Aster from his 2018 debut Hereditary, Midsommar as a film is still what you’d least expect. In his sophomore effort, Aster trades his darkness for pastel sunshine and the jump scares for slow builds, but still manages to nail a second horror film about the frailty of human emotion. While I seem to be in the minority about referring to this film as “perfection”, it still gets a lot of things right, and in a less shocking way than you’d expect. Let’s discuss it.

mid2.jpg

Midsommar, directed by Ari Aster and starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, WilliamJackson Harper, Will Poulter, and Vilhelm Blomgren, follows Dani (Pugh) a young woman in a failing relationship with Christian (Reynor). When her codependency issues are heightened after she experiences significant trauma, Christian, on the fence about their relationship to begin with, but determined to be a jerk by not being a jerk, invites Dani to a Swedish summer festival in his friend Pelle’s (Blomgren) rural hometown. Once they reach the midnight sun of Hårga, the slow burn begins, creating a film that’s folk-lore, fairy-tale and dark comedy in one.

My personal experiences with Aster’s 2018 Hereditary involved seeing the film during a solo-travel trip in an empty cinema aside from the creepy “I write horror stories in my free-time” man who decided to sit between me and the aisle. Compound that with the film’s darkness and disturbing imagery, and you’re gonna have a bad time. I still have flashbacks of elevator tears, and yet, much like the slow build to a crescendo in his films themselves, my excitement for Midsommar grew exponentially throughout the day before my screening.

And from that perspective, I was disappointed. While there is shocking imagery and I would recommend against seeing this film if you suffer from physical harm, self-abuse or trauma triggers, Midsommar isn’t as direct about its scares as Hereditary was. The feelings of unease and anxiety are more personal and insidious here, protected by cover of daylight. Unease appears to be the target here as each scene in the second act is one surreal dream-like sequence after the next. 

Speaking visually for a moment, the cinematic duo of Aster and Pawel Pogorzelski once again favours the unconventional angles, perspective shots (you know the one from Hereditary and if you’ve seen the Midsommar trailer you’ll have seen the airplane toilet shot) and unsettlingly long takes of their past work, drawing the anxiety out to the exact right moment, but this time also utilise a hazy dream-like ambiance (reinforced by the illicit drug-taking of the characters) adding to the uneasiness and acid-trip-like state of the film, a tactic which underlines the panic perfectly for Pugh’s performance.

Of all the performances in this film, from arrogant American tourist Mark (Poulter), Chidi-from-the-Good-Place carbon-copy, Jason (Harper) and “is it too mean to call him pathetic” boyfriend Christian, Pugh’s performance rises above the rest. Without spoiling too much about the depths the film goes into, the story is essentially Dani’s own journey with grief and trauma, something that Florence Pugh spoke briefly about on Twitter recently:

pugh

Pugh’s visceral, animalistic reactions to on-screen events are traumatic to watch, let alone to perform and begs the question: what does Ari Aster tell his female stars to elicit such strong, emotional reactions?

Contrarily, Jack Reynor’s portrayal of Christian is extraordinarily frustrating, because I can’t work out if it’s horribly bad, or perfectly awkward. Aster has been quoted as saying he wrote this film following a break-up while remaining coy as to whether he was Dani or Christian, and while both perspectives are conveyed relatably, Reynor is working with an almost trademarked Seth Rogan awkwardness in addition to being a bit of a turd. This detachment and over-acting left me questioning his performance a little bit.

Overall, this film is a wild ride, and if you have the choice and can stomach the horror (again, noting the aforementioned trigger warnings), I would recommend heading into it with little to no knowledge. Compared to Hereditary you’re not in for an overly traumatic experience and the film is self-indulgent in terms of its creativity, but purely for the spectacle, the goosebumps and Pugh’s performance alone, Midsommar is an interesting cinema experience – if you dare.


Midsommar is out in cinemas in the US and UK now, but won’t be arriving in Australia until August at the earliest.

 

Rocketman lands among the stars

“Shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – early 00’s MSN Status Update Proverb

If there’s an overarching theme for film releases in the late ‘10s, it has to be: Nostalgia. Whether it’s remakes and re-boots like Dumbo, The Lion King or Toy Story 4, or biopics with familiar faces (Bohemian Rhapsody, Straight Outta Compton or even First Man), Hollywood has discovered the winning formula – simple, sometimes just simply recalibrated or modernised stories which prey on the audience’s sentimentality and make bank. And they’ve done the same with Rocketman – catchy, familiar lyrics, a larger than life persona and a peek behind the curtain to add substance and inspire empathy. And it works. Fundamentally, technically, in all the ways that Bohemian Rhapsody “didn’t”* work (and with none of the controversy). However, when it comes to nostalgia I’m not quite your fundamental nineties kid, so did it work for me?

When I say I didn’t grow up with music, I’m really not exaggerating. Sure, I had some So Fresh albums, and my stepsister bought Offspring’s Americana as an act of rebellion, but music wasn’t a feature in our house growing up. We lived  in a very small Australian bush town in the 90s before the internet, so there wasn’t a lot of outside influence – even my mum only introduced me to Jimmy Barnes and Van Morrison, so when I say I didn’t grow up with music… I didn’t grow up with music, and – as an extension of music – I have no connection to Elton John. Whatsoever. I *kind* of remember flashy outfits and ACTUALLY, who hasn’t sung Don’t Go Breaking My Heart on Singstar? But with 2019’s slate of music-related cinema approaching – Blinded by the Light, Amazing Grace, Wild Rose, Yesterday and Renee Zellweger’s Garland biopic, Judy, I can’t justify avoiding the genre anymore. So, I went and saw Rocketman.

rocketman9

Rocketman is Dexter Fletcher’s 2019 Elton John biopic, ranging his entire life but in true underdog fashion, focusing on the more difficult parts. The cast includes Taron Egerton as Elton John, Richard Madden as abusive lover turned manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard and Gemma Jones as Elton’s mother and grandmother respectively.

This musical film, featuring an Elton John soundtrack performed by Taron Egerton, while covering Elton’s rise to fame, also deals with his extensive experience with abuse – substance abuse, parental abuse, manipulation by an abusive partner, as well as self-abuse through projecting those people’s abusive words onto himself. While Elton has paraded a glamour of brightness and bangers for decades, his fundamental tale is a lot darker… and in this case perhaps a slightly out of its writer’s reach.

rocketman10

A common complication with biopics is the pacing, due to the limit on artistic liberties with the subject’s story and one of my few complaints with Rocketman was the inconsistent pacing, barely disguised by interspersing musical numbers representing the transitions in Elton’s life.

Speaking of musical numbers, twenty-four songs are featured in the film, so if you expected a dry biopic, no. Musical numbers range from subtle to surreal, and personal to ensemble with varying degrees of success. Taron Egerton is, surprisingly, very talented. His innocent appearance often portrays the feeling of a child in their parent’s outfits, and since Elton John is such a presence, a performer whose spirit fuels his costume and his concerts – a feeling I didn’t get from Egerton, until he started singing. I have to admit – and 70% of this reaction is based on the Taupin/Elton music – I have to admit that I was affected several times by his performance.

There’s a particular musical number in Rocketman following a particularly dramatic turn where costumed paramedics pump Elton’s stomach while pushing him into costume and onto stage while Rocketman plays. The implication that as an audience we expect our favourites to push through and perform was particularly resonant, and one of several times the film hit a strong emotional note. Other examples include the specific inclusion of Bernie Taupin and the considerable acknowledgment of his contributions to Elton’s career.

Overall, Rocketman hit its target well, with nostalgia points off the charts. While none of the performances were particularly noteworthy (outside of Egerton’s voice) and the film struggled with pacing issues, I actually had a good time with this film, despite being decidedly Not A Music Person. As for a recommendation though, the more you know about Elton John’s discography, the more enjoyment you’ll get from this film.

Rocketman is in cinemas now (from May 31st)

*I haven’t seen BoRhap and have very little intention to, so I’m working off the critical consensus here. Which is a disgusting phrase that I hate, but what you gonna do?

 

All The Books I Read In May

“Do you remember when Despereaux was in the dungeon, cupped in Gregory the jailer’s hand, whispering a story in the old man’s ear? I would like it very much if you thought of me as a mouse telling you a story, this story, with the whole of my heart, whispering it in your ear in order to save myself from the darkness and to save you from the darkness too. “Stories are light,” Gregory the jailer told Despereaux. Reader, I hope you have found some light here.” The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo.


I haven’t been doing the greatest job at keeping you all advised of my London adventures lately, and in truth that’s because the last month has consisted of me finding work, a place to live and finally an Odeon Limitless card which means I can watch movies again, so I’ve been a little distracted. That said, a new job meant a new commute, giving me roughly twelve hours of reading a week and the following is the result of that.

-x-

There but for the, by Ali Smith

⭐⭐⭐⭐

“And they all lived happily ever after, until they died.”

Serendipity hits when you least expect. A few weeks ago I was exhausted by #filmtwitter, over movies and decided to head to the Greenwich Waterstones to buy something from the 1001 Books list instead. Since I’ve decided to read backward chronologically (because Ovid is exhausting), Ali Smith was next, and coincidentally, had set There But For The in Greenwich, London.

therebutforthe

Among mentions of the Greenwich foot tunnel (feature of my midday commutes to Waitrose for lemon icy poles), the observatory – where I spent my very first day in London after realising it was minutes walk from my cousin’s house, and the DLR, a form of public transport niche to only East Londoners – Ali Smith’s There But For The is a satirical examination of the impact we have in those moments where our lives Venn Diagram with another person’s.

A tale told in four parts, the novel centres around a dinner party where attendee Miles decides to close himself in the upstairs bedroom of his hosts for several months. Each section then tells the story of someone who intersects and overlaps with Miles somehow – a reminder that we leave a little of ourselves in each of our acquaintances’ stories.

At first, I worried that Smith would fall into a trap I’ve noticed among 00’s authors, that the text would be too introspective, too critical and too pessimistic, but the stories – especially “for” and “the” were surprisingly uplifting. The font is relatively large, and this in addition to the absorbing and well-connected stories made for a quick and entertaining read, very likely the reason for my following binge-reader status this month.

-x-

A Visit From The Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I’m always happy,” Sasha said. “Sometimes I just forget.”

goonsquad Another novel about the cross-sections between people’s lives and relationships, Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad is darker and messier than There but for the. Goon Squad is about time and history and reminds us that each of us is the sum of our experiences and relationships. For better or for worse.

Centering on Bennie Salazar, an ageing former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs, A Visit From The Goon Squad never allows it’s main characters to share their histories with each other while baring all to the reader. Each chapter follows a peripheral character’s story. With no formal introduction to the character, the reader is left to piece together their position in the constellation of Bennie and Sasha.

I adored this novel. While There but for the seemed to drag in places, Egan’s tiny snippet style chapters were more welcome for my distracted brain. A master of imbibing strong personality in limited text, a skill only possible from an authentically empathic writer. While many of the stories dealt with unhappy themes, fear was never a central theme, instead, every character felt hopeful and ambitious about their future – preventing this novel from falling into the aforementioned critically pessimistic introspection trap.

-x-

The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes

⭐⭐⭐⭐

“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature.”

For the life of me, I cannot get the name of this book to stick in my brain, despite really enjoying it. I’m not sure if I’ve reached my threshold for book titles – if so I’ll be very sad – but regardless of why, since this book is entirely about the bias of memory and its inadequacies, it seems almost ironic that this is the first book in a long time that I just cannot recall the title of.

ending


How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but – mainly – to ourselves.”


Barnes’ The Sense of An Ending is not about a variety of characters, instead, it’s mostly about Tony and is very introspective and indulgent, but I didn’t hate it. I love a good twist, and this book has several, including a good ending that punches you in the gut and reminds you how biased your own memory can be in order to protect you.

There’s also a film adaptation of The Sense of An Ending starring Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling.

-x-

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.”

despereaux

Have we acknowledged the problematic basis of mice being good but rats being bad? The racial implications of that distinction? That thought was relatively distracting while reading this kid’s book. That and the parallels between this novel and Jordan Peele’s Us from earlier this year (if you know, you know).

Despereaux is one of those children’s books that seems much more profound through its quotes taken out of context but isn’t a bad book generally. Concessions, as always, have to be taken for my “not actually a child anymore” status, but I also read at least one of these books a month, so if any adult were close enough (and let’s face it, immature enough) to make a fair assessment, it’s probably me, and The Tale of Despereaux is sweet. Even if it does encourage what is potentially racial stereotyping to nine-year-olds.

-x-

What did you read this month? This is a big reading month for me and I have plans to continue, but since I just moved and my commute has been halved, we’ll have to see about that…

xoxo,
Casey

 

Booksmart breaks the rules its characters won’t… in the best ways.

“Every time I hear ‘I’m not book smart, but I’m street smart’, all I hear is ‘I’m not real smart, I’m imaginary smart’” – something nineteen-year-old Casey saw on the internet once and used as her Facebook status four times

Nineteen-year-old Casey was a lot like Booksmart’s Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein). Ambitious high school seniors who, on their final day of classes realise that despite their condescension towards their peers for “having fun” for four years, those peers have also achieved their dream futures. This leads to the girls seeking one wild night to prove they can be “smart and fun” to match their classmates “fun and smart”.

booksmart

Following in the footsteps of recent releases in the “[female] coming of age films” category (Kelly Fremon Craig’s Edge of Seventeen, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird & Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade), but particularly calling to mind Superbad, directed by Greg Mottola (in which Feldstein’s older brother Jonah Hill also plays a pre-college best friend to Michael Cera), Booksmart hits many of the familiar notes about friendship, adolescence, and the end of an era, all the while leaning towards its real point: gen Z’s defiance of the status quo and prescribed categorisation.

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut works like a buddy comedy meets “teen party” movie, just one that happens to be about two smart and self-assured teenage girls, something very rarely portrayed in film, and even less often portrayed realistically. Managing to navigate the balance between prominent feminism and representation, and alienating people (read: men) is difficult. Despite a tendency to balk at poorly formatted, forced feminism, for example in the climax of Avengers: Endgame or the final seasons of New Girl, Booksmart didn’t give me those moments. The film is about teenagers being unapologetically themselves, forgiving differences, both perceived and realistic (gender, sexuality, race) and evening the playing field, into something the entire audience can relate to.

Both Feldstein and Dever are relatively unknown names, neither having played a comedic lead (Feldstein most notable for Lady Bird in 2017, Dever having played mostly dramatic roles in television), and despite Molly doing the comedic heavy-lifting while Amy deals with more emotional scenes, the pair’s comedic chemistry (strengthened by the two living together during filming to “make up for lost time”) is palpable. The unconditional support in love, life and accoutrements, paints a positive picture of female friendship – in itself enough ammunition to defy patronising stereotypes about females in films. But most relatable to someone who consistently negotiated high school with singular close female friends, were the personal jokes that endeared the characters to each other and to the audience.

And there isn’t a single unfunny performance in this film, from adult cameos including Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte, to the extended high school cast including Billie Lourd, and Noah Galvin, but Skyler Gisondo brings it home. He’s the McLovin to the straight-laced ladies, rich to the point of ridiculousness but with a heart of gold. His relationship with Gigi (Billie Lourd) and the pair’s physical comedy is scene-stealing in every instance. Kudrow and Forte as overly-present, Christian parents coming to terms with their shy daughter’s queerness is also sensational.

Speaking of queer representation, something covered well by Booksmart, the current basis for the film’s criticism is the lack of racial diversity in main characters, an issue compounded by its aforementioned predecessors, all films which feature straight, white, upper-middle class female leads. While this criticism is undeniable, and thus acknowledged here to say simply, “duh”, the extended cast’s diversity and the film’s visibility for queer and feminine stories is still appreciated.

-x-

While I can’t personally relate to the ambition to party, to experience life even for one night as Molly did, because high school was long ago for me and I was REPRESSED, there are many relatable moments in a film about realising that every person is a full human, that one choice or one aspect of their personality doesn’t make them whole, a lesson I learnt several years after high school.

Despite being hilarious and awkward and high-school, this film is also a very sweet look at two headstrong young girls, their very female friendship and future plans. Going through a sea-change myself made me vulnerable to the feelings in this film, but I genuinely think fans of comedy will love this film as much as “slightly out of high school or older” women will. Unless you don’t like the idea of young girls being themselves, crass comments, emergent sexuality and all.

-x-

Unfortunately Booksmart won’t be screening at home any time soon, the Australian release date is the 27th of June, but it’s out in America and the UK and it is definitely good content.

 

Jasper J-owns the Big Screen

Directed by Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue DaeRedfern Now) and based on the 2009 novel by Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones is a movie about fleeting innocence, first love … and institutionalised racism in small Australian country towns.

jasperjones1

The movie opens on two main characters, schoolboys Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) and Jeffrey Lu (Kevin Long) engaged in what is becoming an increasingly prominent debate in popular culture: is Superman the best comic book hero, or is it Batman. While Jeffrey defends Superman based on his inherent supernatural powers, Charlie maintains that it is Batman’s courage in the face of his own fallibility which makes him the superior character. It is this theme, of courage in the face of adversity, shared in a light-hearted and juvenile tone, which permeates the movie and inspires the events that follow.

When Jasper Jones knocks on Charlie Bucktin’s window that night, shows him the dead body of his girlfriend Laura Wishart and begs for help to clear his name, Charlie has a choice to make: who does he trust, and can he summon the courage to find the truth about the death of his first love’s sister.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.” – Mark Twain

Throughout the movie, Charlie encounters several examples of racism in Corrigan – some of which is explained by Australia’s concurrent involvement in the Vietnam War as the movie is set in 1969. Tension between his best friend’s family, the Vietnamese-born Lu’s, and members of the community are conveyed through hesitation to accept a gifted Jeffrey to their cricket team as well as several violent xenophobic outbursts during the film. However these issues act as accessory to the main plot to the movie: the titular character, the half-caste Jasper Jones’ struggle with prejudice when Laura Wishart goes missing and he is the leading suspect simply because “he always is”. It is Aaron McGrath‘s genuinely emotional portrayal of the tormented Jasper Jones, in addition to the commentary on institutionalised racism that makes this a particularly strong message film, but despite this, the A-story of sleuthing teens solving a mystery still stands strong.

When Charlie first encounters Jasper Jones, our main character is simply an introverted adolescent, dealing simultaneously with feelings of exclusion and suffocation, the trademark symptoms of being a big fish in a small-town pond. After his interaction with Jasper however, Charlie not only gains a confidante, but also a task, and his purpose is brought into proper focus. Levi Miller‘s performance as the awkward yet determined Charlie was the stand-out for me in this film. The ability to combine juvenile confusion with emotion and confidence was a large feat for such a young actor.

Hugo Weaving is almost physically unrecognisable as Charlie and Jasper’s main suspect, the reclusive Mad Jack Lionel, but provides an emotionally charged performance that I’d really like to spoil by comparing it, right down to dialogue, to another fictional character, but I won’t. The cast also includes the consistently flexible Toni Collette as the stifled and frustrated mother, and Dan Wyllie who gave yet another performing confirming my belief that he is currently topping my favourite Australian actors list – Puberty Blues, anyone – played the socially cognizant and calm father. Kevin Long provided the much needed comic relief and goofy fun throughout an increasingly dark movie, and Angourie Rice brings stunning maturity mixed with girlish charm, and is a choice which actually has me interested in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is a phrase I never thought I’d type.

jasperjones2

For me, this period film is an aesthetically nostalgic call-back to country life. The imagery and colouration switches with tone, where bright blues and yellows reflect happy, jovial scenes between friends, while all the mystery, tension and most overt injustices happen under cover of darkness.

If I had one complaint about Jasper Jones as a film, it would be several poorly executed plot devices throughout the film, coupled with a particularly abrupt ending. Presumably this is to suggest the impossibility of a completely satisfying outcome for certain characters, but combined these inconclusive scenes resulted in a confusing conclusion to the film.

Technically brilliant and emotionally charged, the talented cast and dedicated production team of Rachel PerkinsCraig Silvey and Mark Wereham with sound/editing by Antony Partos and Veronika Jenet have brought this best-selling novel to the screen in spectacular fashion. An Australian masterpiece, this film is both haunting and sweet, a coming of age story with both courage and charm.

Jasper Jones is out in cinemas today, March 2, 2017.

x Casey

Anna Kendrick is a “Scrappy Little Nobody”

Are you looking for audiobooks? Check out Audible.com for your first month free!

scrappylittlenobody


Scrappy Little Nobody
Anna Kendrick
Published: November 15, 2016 by Touchstone & Simon and Schuster Audio
Audiobook available at Audible.com

For fans of: Humour, Autobiography, Female Authors

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

“[I had resolved to] keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy. It. Wants. Out.”


Firstly I have to straight up apologise to Anna. I used this audiobook as a distraction during my long training runs in the last two weeks. This basically blasphemes the integrity of any and most themes in this memoir, but I have no regrets. To recompense I’ll eat pop-tarts in my sweatpants while I compile this review.

@bestcascenario – Jan 20
I have just torn through @AnnaKendrick47’s Scrappy Little Nobody in two days and like, I think I have all the symptoms of “actor”…

Anna Kendrick first appeared on widespread screen as snarky, brutally honest Jessica, the “best friend” of Kristen Stewart’s Bella in the Twilight series, and since then she has remarkably retained that persona as her career has developed, which has of course only cemented her reputation as loveable and relatable in the media. From stories of a homely apartment in LA to being praised by George Clooney during filming for Up in the Air, in her first memoir she shares stories of Hollywood awkwardness and her fear of being discovered as an impostor, basically proving she’s the same as the rest of us – just, wildly talented and popular and lucky of course.

Scrappy Little Nobody is part of a new genre of memoir where the author, who is most often a comedian or actor, provides humorous essays as opposed to autobiographical reflective texts. The most common arguments against these compilations are confusion about whether the book is premature or the implication that they are marketing tools to capitalise on a performer’s recent success. However, I only outline these arguments in the spirit of fairness, as I’ve found this genre profoundly inspirational over the past few months. I recommend this style of memoir to anyone beginning an adult life of their own, artistic or not and Scrappy Little Nobody is no different to my other favourites such as Yes Please by Amy Poehler, or Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling.

Anna Kendrick’s voice only enhances the personal stories, and as with past memoirs I’ve enjoyed, the audiobook version is how I would recommend consuming this content. Kendrick is honest with herself, the reader and more often than not honest with characters from her life she has disagreed with, presenting arguments against misogyny, condescension and just plain bad manners, but as with most arguments about difficult topics, they are human and more forceful when heard in the writer’s voice. In addition, recalling her struggles as an actress who has to wear heels when she’d rather be eating tacos in sweatpants, makes this audiobook like listening to a very famous friend outline the largest of first-world problems in a way that is humanising while still convincing you its a dream you’d like to accomplish. It’s an inspirational tale of hardwork, but it’s also FUNNY, and silly and snarky and I’m ready for Anna Kendrick to be my best friend now. I really apologise for the listening while running thing, I promise it’s just a New Years Resolution, Anna!

If you have someone in your life who is currently making a jump, or following their dreams, particularly young female listeners or readers, I’d recommend this as a gift, but I would also recommend this for anyone who’s a little lost or scared and needs the motivation to jump, as this warming and human recollection of hardwork and life shows that if one normal, if attention-seeking, human being can do it, anyone can.

Also did I mention it’s fucking funny? Because it’s fucking funny.

“The crazy. It wants out!”

x Casey

#the1001project – On Anxiety & Falling for Sydney on Day 1

The 1001 Project is my ongoing venture to finish items from various 1001 Before You Die lists. For other blog posts you can click here, or for a better description you can click here.

img_8193-2

First: A Prelude to Adventure

I used to love airports. There’s a great sense of anticipation, waiting in an airport, either knowing where you’re going, or not having a plan but considering your options, knowing there’s somewhere new or exciting just hours away, and you can go anywhere you want to if you set your mind to it. I was always someone who arrived at airports hours early to soak up the anticipation of a holiday or the buzz of adventure. I’ve travelled solo enough times to be completely comfortable waiting for a journey alone in a room packed with people coming and going, and never had I found anything to be anxious about with travel.

Until three years ago.

Four years ago I was experiencing anxiety in its most desperate and nervous state. It’s not the time to explain why, although it’s never really the time to explain why, but all roads lead somewhere and mine resulted in abandoning my sister on a flight to my grandmother’s funeral in 2013 because I was overwhelmed and claustrophobic. Until May 2016, I hadn’t flown in three years.

I wasn’t anxious about the funeral, I had never been claustrophobic before and with parents who lived on opposite sides of the country to each other, I was a perfectly seasoned traveller – I’d been flying alone with my sister since the age of six. But anxiety is anxiety and it manifested itself as a panic attack during boarding where I left my – granted, she is as well, or perhaps more well travelled – teenage sister to go on alone.

The process of overcoming these problems has taken years, but step by step and slowly but surely, the unconscious side-effects of this situation have been dealt with in time, until the final and most difficult was set for last – flying for fun. But as of December 2016, I can finally say that, with the aid of one or more anti-anxiety tools for backup, I can fly again.


Therefore: Sydney

img_7940

I had a blast.

Have you ever been to a new city before and straight away just “yep, this is my vibe” and all of a sudden things fall into place and you know you’re somewhere that’s for you. That was Sydney. Now, I will always love Perth and as I’ve said countless times before, I will always return to the SWAFR, it’s my home. But Sydney was just perfect. Maybe only needing to survive two days was the key, but I have a sneaking suspicion that that’s not it.

Sydney is also the second best Australian locality for #the1001project so here’s a run-down of my 56 hours of constant adventure.

Day One: ANZACs, Heights & So Much Walking

The first key to travel is understanding timezones, and though I crossed state lines five times in ten days during my holiday, I’m happy to report that I avoided jet lag completely. That first day though, waking up at 4:30am “my” time was not easy.

cef2f789-923a-41bb-a491-ee3d4fdadb3f

Day One started with an early train to Hyde Park. Now I had travelled to Sydney once before, as a beret-wearing, book-loving thirteen year old – there are no photos of this phase, thankfully – and I have specific memories of grumpily heading to Hyde Park with my parents and my copy of the Goblet Of Fire in tow. In some ways my travel habits have not changed – if where we’re going is of no concern to the 1001 Project and does not have a museum of natural history or a petting zoo, then please leave me in my hotel room so I can read and watch Gilmore Girls. More importantly though, in many ways it has changed, and Hyde Park was the first tangible proof that I was no longer that inside kid.

While the Park itself is not on any of the relevant lists, there are two nearby attractions which are: The ANZAC War Memorial & The Hyde Park Barracks. Side note, there is also a museum of natural history, but unfortunately I didn’t have the time.

The photo above is a relatively terrible representation of the War Memorial, but a cute photo of me, and though the fellow I asked to be my Instagram husband for the moment had “just returned from an overseas trip where he became adept at portrait  photography” he did a remarkably poor job with a real photo – it’s in portrait orientation and anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that isn’t how I roll so this’ll do for now.

The ANZAC Memorial however, is fantastic. I’ll soon post a YouTube video of the days I spent in Sydney and if you haven’t been to the ANZAC Memorial in Sydney, please consider watching it because the artistic symbolism throughout the monument is wonderful, and it’s too difficult to portray in either text or photography. One item of particular note however, is the incorporation of nurses into the list of commemorated casualties of the collective war effort. They are memorialised among the important groups which also include the army, air force and navy leaders. To me this gesture to the underrepresented women, over 2000 of whom served overseas during the Great War is significant and in my experience, one of a kind.

As an Australian, the ANZACs are kinda like our gladiators. Not in a glorified or overall sense, but we each have connections to a family member who was involved in World War I, and though far from exalting war in its many forms, the commemoration of the ANZACs is fuelled by a certain sense of pride and respect. Seeing this memorial for all of the soldiers and nurses who lost their lives was a sobering and pensive experience, which I’m glad I was able to experience in the relative silence and contemplation of the memorial.

img_7904

As of December 2016, the ANZAC War Memorial is actually receiving an upgrade. Though the initial building commemorates all 120,000 casualties from New South Wales, these men and women are represented by stars on the roof of the building. The upgrade will instead present soil samples from each suburb as a token of memory. In addition it will also expand the memorial and incorporate rooms with an emphasis on education and support.

Please click here for more information or donations!

Stop number two for the day was the Hyde Park Barracks, and where the Memorial made me pensive and reflective of our past, the memory of Australia being formed by convicts has always been humorous to me. I think there’s something telling in the fact that our entire society was based on a group of people who stole bread or killed people, and I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it’s definitely great that we are all related to people who were the scum of England.

img_7914

It’s really hard to take something seriously when you know there were probably people who were stuck there because they stole an apple, and your mum always taught you that eating grapes while you’re in Coles is fine.

To be honest, after the ANZAC War Memorial, the Hyde Park Barracks was a little less special. I’ve grown up with Fremantle Prison, so the Barracks seemed too similar to be particularly interesting, and it’s difficult to discuss properly an experience that isn’t new or educational. The stand-out parts of the exhibition were comedic ones, which I vlogged about and you can see in the video part of this blog post.

img_7921


As for the rest of this blog post, I have suddenly discovered that while exhaustive and detailed, 1300 words is entirely ridiculous, so I am going to split the rest of the information in further blog posts – including the much more interesting topics of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and of course the Hunger Games exhibit, but honestly, that’s just good writing, making you come back a second time…

x Casey

Uncle Tom’s Rabbit Proof Fence

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is on the list of 1001 Books to Read before You Die, and The Rabbit Proof Fence is one of the 1001 Movies. This blog has never been about reviewing a text, but more about a discussion into the emotion they inspire. That’s what this is.


uncle-tom

In the past few years of blogging, in particular the more recent 2015/2016 effort towards completing the 1001 lists, I’ve accepted few reasons to write seriously about what I’ve been experiencing. As my natural preference is towards positive or comedic creations, I tend to figure that life gives you enough lemons as it is, why delve further into the things that make you upset? No one wants to read a post on a lifestyle blog about racism, segregation or the Stolen Generation – they want to see photos of beaches and pancakes, while reading about the time I watched Fantasia with the audio out of sync.

I’m also not often a social warrior – if you want to make me cry about human failures, show me the photo of a koala sitting in a logged field, or remind me that I may get to see the Great Barrier Reef, but I will never see the Great Barrier Reef as it was in its prime. Human struggles don’t often rate on my emotional scale, and it isn’t because I’m not a genuinely kind or feeling person, and it’s not because I don’t feel for, or cry for human misfortune, it’s just because if I’m completely honest, I like to imagine Earth as it would be without us. We’re kind of the worst.

There’s only one memory I have of a serious post in relation to #the1001project, and it’s from last year when I watched Within Our Gates, the 1920s Oscar Micheaux film about slavery and racism in America. I remember at the time thinking “wow, the context of my watching this is so poignant! There are so many horrible things happening lately”, with tasering and shooting of innocent people, and several mass murders, I was upset and I’ll always remember ending that post with:

“It’s not change that we need to be afraid of, though I know there’s a lot of that going around at the moment – we need to be terrified of the ways in which we are still the same.”

I want to write poetically, or eloquently, about how I feel when I see films like Rabbit Proof Fence and read novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin but more often than not, the reactions are more emotional and forceful. Admittedly I’m not reading as many tales as I was last year, but the aftershocks still exist, and there are still videos of police stopping noticeably shaken African American ladies, convincing them they’ve broken a law and then saying “nahhh it’s a joke! I wanna give you an ice-cream”.  I can’t decide which I hate more, that this lady had the fear of law enforcement ingrained in her, or that the police played on that insecurity to pull a blatant stunt. As ever, the phrase “Check Your Privilege” really needs to be reiterated, and yet again:

Change isn’t the enemy – be concerned about the ways we’re still the same.

Kimmy Schmidt is “Strong as Hell”

unbreakable kimmy.png

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Season 1
Available on DVD or Netflix online library.

A while ago at a party I was playing “Who Would Play Me in a TV Series: The I Just Met You Edition” with some new acquaintances as a sort of get to know you exercise. Now I have always fancied myself a less caricatured, less Hollywood Jessica Day [Zooey Deschanel in New Girl] with my bangs and my limitless optimistic enthusiasm so when “John Krasinski” – it was that kind of crowd – made the call that I was “clearly an Ellie Kemper”, “I was like, ‘really’?”.

I mean sure, as “The Other Kelly” in The Office, she flies her adorkable flag with Andy, but while I had always seen myself as more of the Nice Girl with a bit of weird, not to mention being exceeeedingly brunette in all understandings of the word, Ellie Kemper always struck me as playing the slightly unstable, definitely fiery-in-the-good-way, but crazy, ginger lady characters.

That was until I caught up and fell in love with The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

kimmy titus

From creators who between them have credits on 30 Rock, Friends, Mean Girls and of course, Saturday Night Live – Tina Fey and Robert Carlock – comes a show whose basis is so dark, we’ve burst right through the other side where everything is technicolour and we have to laugh because if we think too much about what happened, it’s really super creepy.

Kimmy Schmidt is one of the “Indiana Mole Women”, a group of ladies kidnapped by the leader of a doomsday cult and held in an underground bunker for fifteen years where, yes, “weird sex stuff happened”. Determined to escape the stigma of victimisation, and equipped with only her unbreakable enthusiasm, a ninth grade education, her Baby-Sitters Club Murder Mystery  and her $13,000 Mole Woman Fund, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt follows her adjustment to adventures in the real world.

hispanic womanAnd it’s Fey/Carlock exactly as we know and love. From a theme song created by Songify the News‘ Gregory Brothers, a tribute to songified viral videos, to challenging the media on their manipulation of “victims” for ratings and press, S01E01 Kimmy Goes Outside! sets Kimmy up as a hard-hitting reference-comedy piece exactly as we would expect from the alumni of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.

Enter Ellie Kemper as Kimmy

After a history of cameos as the naive, quirky girl (The Office, Bridesmaids), the psycho redhead (The Mindy Project) and comedy roles in internet shorts and late night television, Ellie Kemper has finally landed a lead role and it’s great to see that it’s one with a little bit of depth: an underlying horror story.

What doesn’t kill us, can only make us stronger, and in the case of Kimmy, her experiences in an apocalypse cult, sex dungeon has only worked to make her Unbreakable. Through the use of positive reinforcement techniques and pure willpower, Kimmy remains upbeat and positive despite dealing with her demons realistically and in a not entirely sane, way. We still don’t know why Kimmy is afraid of velcro.

Protect me? From what? The worst thing that will ever happen to me happened in my own front yard. Life beats you up, Titus. You can either curl up in a ball and die, like we thought Cyndee did that time, or you can stand up and say “we’re different. We’re the strong ones and you can’t break us!”

In the end, Jess Day is a lot like Kimmy Schmidt, in an albeit more realistic and relatable way, both are optimistic, enthusiastic and a little bit naive, but while New Girl is a show about friends and quirky adventures, Kimmy Schmidt is a show about accepting the worst and being your best anyway. And friends and quirky adventures.