Have shots for experiences and shots like these!
You've booked your dream safari in Africa, or will be off in the wilds of malaria and denghi fever infested jungles.
Amidst the excitement comes the visit to the travel doctors for the necessary vaccinations for the countries you will be travelling through. Yes, often, for gain, there is sometimes a little pain, especially if you are heading to countries where yellow fever vaccinations are virtually mandatory for re-entry to your country of origin.
Now your travel vaccinations may feel like a whole lot of physical and financial pain, but, believe me, to contract any of the diseases your vaccinations should cover you for is worth the inconvenience. Typhoid, Cholera and Yellow Fever are debilitating diseases, that often result in organ damage at best and at worst, death, but talk to your travel doctor about what, if any course of jabs will be either mandatory or recommended in relation to your destination(s)!
Make sure you plan plenty of time for your shots, if you have a number of them to undergo, as only a couple can be given on any one day and some, like Hepatitus A and B or Rabies require a course of shots, with a specified interval between shots.
For Kenya and Tanzania, I was required to have Yellow Fever and Typhoid. It was recommended I have Hepatitus A and B and I chose to have rabies and adult polio vaccinations, as well as a flu shot.
When I checked on my last tetanus immunisation, it was actually overdue. As I am a regualr gardener I was rather ashamed that my tetanus shot was out of date.
In all, I had a series of 11 injections, mainly over a course of six weeks, with a final Hepatitis A and B vaccination some eight months later.
My course of injections cost over $600, so make sure you factor these vaccinations into your budget and also allow for anti malarial drugs, which too, can be very costly, with Malarone costing about Australian $100 a box. There are alternatives to Malarone, but I am allergic to them, so don't have a lot of choice.
It saddens me that some people are so afraid of injections, that they sacrifice going to destinations of their dreams because of this phobia.
The best way to minimise pain during a vaccination is to relax your arm as far as possible. distractions can help, as do yoga relaxation techniques. The minute you tense muscles in anticipation of pain, the pain will be magnified. Relax and you barely feel a thing.
The yellow "International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis" will be given to you on your first appointment to begin your travel jabs. Keep it up to date and with your passport. Always keep a photocopy both at home and with your travel documents in case the original gets lost. You will not be admitted to some countries , or readmitted to your own, in some instances, unless relevant vaccinations are up to date!
I was lucky. My reactions to my shots were minimal, getting a bit dizzy for an hour or two after my typhoid shot. My yellow fever vaccination has left me with an occasionally tingly tip of my nose, but could have been way worse. This tingling can last for anything up to 10 years. It is most pronounced if I am really tired, mostly it is barely noticable and certainly not painful. It's a bit like a souvenir of my travels; a kind of initiation into destinations that herald real adventure and wilderness experiences with wild animals!
I would much rather suffer from the occasional tingling in the tip of my nose, than not having been to Kenya or Tanzania, destinations and experiences I had dreamed of for my entire life. Close encounters with animals in their natural habitat and wonderful local people, scenery and ecosystems!
Soon, I am heading to South America, so it's back to the travel doctor for maybe another shot or two. Luckily most of my vaccinations are up to date!
I bought the worst home in the best street. It's orientation was excellent.
It was clad with aluminium weatherboards and mission brown aluminium windows had replaced its original sash casement ones, but it had a lovely north facing lounge-dining room and the fair sized garden was an empty canvas.
I had it inspected, so thought there were to be no nasty surprises. How wrong I was!
I went in with my eyes open, aware that my new house was in urgent need of restumping. It needed to be undertaken as soon as I could afford it.
Within a week I discovered the showerhead needed to be replaced as it squirted more water onto the floor than it did into the shower. Worse still the bathroom door had long been removed and the previous owner had removed all but the most basic venetian blinds and curtains. I hung an old sheet to serve as a temporary bathroom door, whilst I did the rounds of wreckers to find one the right size and pattern to match the existing doors. Thankfully my mum recued me with terrylene curtains, removed from her house when they first moved in, to afford me some privacy when it came to the windows!
There were no powerpoints at benchtop level in the kitchen. Thus began the money-draining scenario that is home-ownership!
The laundry window was a case of put your hand on it and the whole thing wobbled. A burgular's delight. The toilet window was rotten. My dad found me a fantastic secondhand window for the toilet, but I had to have one made for the laundry and both needed fitting. More money; more urgent repairs!
Now buying this house had already cost me my entire life-savings. I was living on sausages and baked beans. The mortgage claimed a huge chunk of my salary. The only way I was going to be able to save up the kind of funds needed for the work on my house was to take in a boarder, which I did, as well as taking on the extra work this involved.
Finally I had the cash to get the restumping done. However, there was a problem, no reblocking company would do the work until the problem of the water lying underneath the house had been solved.
My new home had down pipes that drained straight onto the ground and under the house. There was no storm water drainage. This was a big job. It was the second call to my plumber and would cost almost as much as the restumping.
I kept saving.
Within a year, the house had stormwater connection and was reblocked. Finally it stood on solid foundations.
However more follow up work was needed. During the restumping process I had this wierd, burgular's delight back porch that only just covered the backdoor and served no real purpose, removed. This had wrecked the finish of the aluminium cladding at the back, as well as exposing a concrete floor that had been hidden with tiles, straight over the top of the original baltic pine floors.
I needed to get this concrete removed in order to get a new backdoor to fit.
In the process of removing the concrete flooring that disguised how unlevel the house had been when I bought it, the previous owners had cut a hole in the middle of the kitchen floor to install the new drains in their very bad and cheap kitchen renovation. The new kitchen had not been a selling point for me when I purchased the home.
I was now up for floor repairs, new floor covering, repairs to very old aluminium cladding, a new backdoor and security door, as well as paving the area immediately outside my backdoor.
I began saving again.
The neighbours donated an old rug to put down over what remained of my kitchen floor and a family friend repaired the hole that had been cut to plumb the kitchen.
I attended to the new back door and security door immediately, then lived without kitchen flooring for a further two years.
Meanwhile I paved a back entertaining area with second hand bricks and got to work on my garden, using sleepers and lots of cuttings and bulbs my dad supplied me with. At least the garden was making a difference to the look of the place and I could afford to purchase a few plants every couple of weeks.
The previous garden was non-existent. or almost so. It consisted of two federation daisies, some bergenia, mexican daisies and several poorly placed "landscaper's specials" pittosporums, which I hated. My dad and a neighbour cut them out before they got too big!
The garden was billed as "low maintenance". Given the garden was almost entirely made up of invasive kikuyu grass, nothing could have been further from the truth. I tried various strategies to get rid of it. It survived round up, solarising with black plastic at the height of summer, but eventually succumbed to create some garden beds by using round up followed by huge layers of newspaper, straw, blood and bone and manure. Lots of weight. But the kikuyu still kept invading the edges of beds and was an ongoing bane of my existence.
Eventually, I saved enough for new vinyl for the kitchen, laundry and toilet. What a joy and how easy it was to clean. Furthermore, the previous tiles when either wet or with even a trace of cooking oil on the floor had caused two falls of my mother, several of friends and one for me. The vinyl was way more practical and safe in my galley kitchen!
New fascia boards were needed at the base of the kitchen cabinets to conceal the gaps as the kitchen had been fitted whilst the house was anything but level.
Then the existing gas space heater died.
By now you are probably getting the impression that my Melbourne house was a bottomless money-swallowing pit. Luckily close relatives lent me their skills and expertise with building my carport and shed and doing my bathroom.
Finally I found someone who could supply and repair my ancient aluminium cladding.
The house was finally beginning to look more like the home I had dreamed of....
Then I did the cheapest and easiest home improvement I had ever done. The one that gave my front entrance a little of its wow factor back. I bought a sander and sanded the front verandah floor, which had been painted a minimal maintenence mission brown. Under that paint were beautiful mirboo boards, that oiled up a treat. They gleamed a natural welcome to all who entered.
Finally, thanks to a govenment incentive I was financially aided to install the solar hot water and electricity I had long dreamed of.
But the "renovators dream" had not finished keeping me poor.
Victoria was in the midst of a thirteen year drought. The walls were cracking, needing repair.
Then the drought broke and the existing flashing, could not cope with the deluge. The kitchen and laundry ceilings were now in need of painting. Luckily insurance covered that.
Another deluge and I was too embarassed to contact the insurance company. I called my plumber, who, by this stage, some fifteen years later, had almost completely replumbed the entire house. Wider flashings were installed where the old part of the house met with its newer extension.
I had planned a kitchen, or should I say back of house renovation, to make the layout more practical and appealing, but life circumstances changed and found me selling up and moving to Ballarat.
I sold my house, knowing I had done much towards righting many wrongs done to the house by its previous owners. I had taken it as far as I was going to. The new kichen and back of house work would be left for its next owner to undertake.
My new house is structurally sound and work I have done has been simple maintenence and cosmetic.
While most home owners begin with a renovator's dream, many a time I wondered if I would have been better off simply renting. My renovator's dream was a constant source of stress and over-stretched finances. I was unable to afford local holidays, let alone adventures further afield. Not only was I enslaved to my mortgage, but to a home restoration. I did enjoy designing and establishing my garden and my neighbours were fabulous. I still miss them, but I have never once regretted selling my renovators dream. Even though I sold it at a substantial profit, the experience of its partial restoration and refurbishment was difficult and ongoing and my quality of life was sacrificed to costly, personally and financially stressful renovations!
If you are considering purchasing a renovator's dream to get into the housing market, look for something that is at least structurally sound and has standard storm water drains. Watch out for tricks done to disguise the poor condition of floors and shoddy work. The longer I lived in my renovators dream, the more I fell out of love with it. I wanted a house to live in; not a house to live for!
Remember, when it comes to home renovations, nothing seems to cost less than two thousand dollars, it is not difficult to find yourself spending, what I regard as obscene amounts of money on a mere house. Then there are costs that, as a renter the landlord bears, like council rates, water service charges and of course maintenence. I still maintain that I was more financially secure when I was renting a property. Certainly, I did pay off my home in thirteen years, on only my income, as well as maintaining and doing quite minimal renovations and some major structural work. As a renter I could afford regular overseas and interstate travel. I was never in debt and found the concept of being in debt, difficult to live with for as long as I had a mortgage!
I am currently having most of my house painted, indoors and out.
Anyone who has ever had any sort of work done on their home will probably be familiar with the fact that work you estimated would be over quickly, takes way longer than you expected.
What I anticipated to be a couple of weeks inconvenience has now stretched to a month. Much of that time has been taken up with careful prepping of surfaces and some has been taken up with the actual task of painting.
My painters are actually doing an excellent job. They are polite decent young men, but the reality is my house is a mess with so much displaced stuff and the painters are in my home for much of the day.
We enjoy tea breaks and sometimes lunch together and they have done me more than a few non-painting favours, but I am counting down the days to have my house back to normal and my space to myself.
Having been through previous kitchen and bathroom renovations, the saga was similar.
I anticipated only the wonderful outcome, not the chaotic and prolonged weeks of inconvenience. Things like accessing my garage, eating way more take-away food than normal and having to put my toilet seat down are all things that can't help but become trying.
My worst ever experience of home renovations was with having my previous home in Melbourne restumped. The foreman was constantly persuing me around the house, to the point I was very glad my mother had come to stay for moral support. His advances were not overtly sexual, but his persistence with ridiculous questions and "advances" were somewhat out of line.
Now I am pretty lucky here in Ballarat. A large number of my extended family work in one area or another of the building industry. This has meant I have been able to access relaible, trustworthy individuals who have completed the projects I have undertaken with care and real craftsmanship. My renovations have gone pretty smoothly.
However, inevitably, some things have arisen that have been unforseen and demanded extra time and money to rectify. The dual stress of staying on budget and surviving the chaos of the work, is always there.
Then there is the extra cleaning. Renovations and painting always involve extra dust and way more than my usual cleaning routine. I am not a fan of cleaning at the best of times. Such occasions usually precipitate a good sort out and spring clean, but the journey is always tedious and time-consuming.
My home is looking fresh and spotless, but I will be so glad to simply come home to my own company and my dog, to have time for my garden and prepare food and eat in my workman free kitchen once more.
In whinging about having workmen onsite, I should also say I have "done it myself", at least when it comes to painting, twice over at my previous house. I took even longer than my workmen. I fell off a ladder and lived without a functioning living area for weeks. I have struggled to "snap" too long screws for new knobs for the kitchen cabinets. I have donned masks to remove the remains of old, probably asbestos laden linoleum and served as a lackie for my solo bathroom renovator, carrying loads of stuff to the skip. I lacked the confidence to undertake tiling, but did manage to prepare and paint some very tacky and extensive tiles a fresh "disguise" white, in my Californian bungalow.The wall to wall tiles stretched from the kitchen, right through to the laundry and into the toilet. Attempting to remove them from the walls left holes and the likelihood of a full replaster. Yes, WhiteKnight tile paint was, indeed, my friend!
I have become a deft hand with an electric sander and take great pride in my ability to work with enamel paint in perfecting a long lasting finish on heritage skirtings and doors.
I find painting boring, labourious work despite these achievements. It is way easier to stick to my own trade, working with words and ideas as well as teaching young people. It is way better to have spare time to get my hands dirty in the garden and leave painting and other trades to the professionals!
I guess I can put up with good workmen doing their job, even if it means some short term inconvenience and a bit of budget juggling and restraint!
Most of all I know I will be glad when it is all over!
As a child I always loved animals. I was aware of the work the RSPCA did in relation to animal rescues and welfare. I also watched documentaries about animals on television at every opportunity. I was an avid reader of fiction and non fiction about animals, as well as several newspapers and a number of magazines.
I reached my teens right as the campaign to save the whales was beginning to work towards ending whaling. My dad took every opportunity he could, to end factory farming of chickens. He often wrote letters to the editor that were published in newspapers. Already I had animal activist role models in my life, both publicly and privately.
The Vietnam war waged throughout my childhood, politicised our generation early. I was well aware of the act of public protest and that conscientious objectors were people that followed their conscious in relation to refusing to be conscripted into something that violated their belief system.
In Year 7, I volunteered to look after our science lab rats and was responsible for their feed, water and cage cleaning, along with an animal loving friend. We enjoyed our interactions with these small, intelligent animals.
By the time we were in Year 9 we were expected to participate in disections, beginning with kidneys, livers and hearts from a butcher and working towards disecting preserved rats.
I drew the line at disecting a rat and informed the science teacher I was a conscientious objector and was refusing to participate in that activity, the day before the big event. I don't think she took me seriously. Meanwhile, two more students also followed my example and joined my direct action protest.
The following morning was "D Day" the day of the rat disection. Again we informed the science teacher we were not prepared to disect the dead rats. Red-faced and screaming at us, the teacher threw us out of the room. We were to sit out the entire double class in the corridor and told we would be having an appointment with the principal. Clearly, the teacher merely thought we were being rebellious and did not realise how deep our anti-animal cruelty passions flowed.
The appointment with the principal also included our parents being called in to discuss our actions and supposedly make us repent our ways, or so the teacher thought. Instead of being punished, the principal and my parents, realised the motives behind our rat disection boycott were genuine. My parents pointed out we did not buy products tested on animals and that I also had long raised money for thr RSPCA. The other parents follwed suite, supporting our action and convictions.
Our science teacher believed we would be punished with detentions, or maybe even suspensions for disobedience. We were all normally good students. Our act of defience clearly was an act of protest against something we passionately were apalled by and could not, in good conscience participate in.
Instead of punishment, we were given the task of participating in a school debate presenting a case against animal cruelty and exploitation, which could include our stance against animal disection. The opposition would come from students who were less concerned with animal rights and more concerned about human knowledge and safety. Our side won and set me on a path of relishing formal debate and public speaking.
The debate gave us an opportunity to educate the student body about issues of animal rights and welfare. Our act of defiance against that Year 9 rat disection set me up as an activist, willing to take a stance on issues I was passionate about. I had begun my life-long work as an agent of change.
Thesedays, excellent resources are available for students who wish to take a stance boycotting animal disection, at school or university. Animals Australia has materials available on its website.
For my own part, I have continued my work on raising awareness about and promoting animal welfare and rights, using relevant materials as stimulus for both English and Drama classes within my own teaching career and of course through my blogs and involvement in campaigns, such as those to end jumps racing, the live animal export trade and for cage free eggs!
See 'Four Corners Exposes Animal Cruelty in Greyhound Racing' at petsandplants.com.au
My parents were born into the age of silent films. Both of them cut their movie going teeth at Saturday matinees and remembered a pianist accompanying the entire length of a film with music to enhance the action and romantic scenes.
Frames of narrative detail would set the scene for the black and white reels.Chase scenes and slapstcik made for good visuals and my parents, like thousands of others laughed and cried at the antics and scenarios of Charlie Chaplin and the 'Keystone Cops'.
By the time they had hit their teens "talkies" had hit the screens. My mum had her share of screen idols, the romantic leads of the day, including Clarke Gable, Gregory Peck and Cary Grant, whilst my dad loved Humphrey Bogart and David Niven for their action and comedy roles.
No doubt film going was a huge part of their childhood, with my mother spending at least every Saturday at the Palais in St Kilda, or the Astor in Prahran, with her best friend Jean, throughout her teens, or accompanying her mother, sister and brothers into the city during the evenings to see movies.
Their own romance blossomed to the tune of Fred and Ginger dance soundtracks and many a musical.
Evening film going was a serious business, with audiences dressing up and reserving seats. Up until the late 1950s, my parents along with my sibling, had permanenet regular seats booked at the local cinema every Saturday night. More movie going family friendsand their children, always sat in the adjoining seats, drinking in the latest Hollywood offerings.
My great aunt and uncle Alma and Les Dennis, caught the film bug sufficiently early and heavily enough to build a chain of movie palaces across Melbourne's city and suburbs, that operated successfully from the 1920s until the advent of television in Australia in 1956. Whilst some of them have sadly been bulldozed or recycled into other businesses or incarnations, Northcote's Westgarth cinema remains the only one still operating as a venue for film screenings today.
By the time I was born, the world had largely entered the television era. Despite this, films were included as part of my cultural initiation and education. Films moved from black and white to technicolour. This was the height of the drive in era and I saw many a film, with speakers hooked onto the drivers window in my dad's old Zephyr. Amongst these I clearly remember the animated version of 'Lady and the Tramp', with Creulla frightening me out of my wits. There was a lovely documentary about a bear. My teenage brothers too, were to be found frequenting the drive in with their girlfriends on Friday nights, though how many of the films they attended they actually saw is questionable!
Sometimes I would hit the local cinema, with both my parents. I remember seeing 'Fantasia'; that was scary too!
'Mary Poppins' and 'The Sound of Music' came along and I fell in love with Julie Andrews. Later I saw her in films like 'Thoroughly Modern Millie; and a film about Gertrude Lawrence and still later films like 'Victor, Victoria' and the 'Princess Dairies'. Julie Andrews remains an idol for me, to this day.
'My Fair Lady' was another film that had me learning every song off by heart and waltzing around the house a la 'I Could Have Danced. By then television was beginning to get me up to speed with other musicals that had been produced well before I was born. Those musicals provided the soundtrack to my early life and 'South Pacific', 'The King and I', 'Carousel' and 'Showboat' remain favourites to this day.
ometimes my auntie Norma and Gran would take me to a film in the city. It was in Melbourne, with them I saw 'Born Free'. I wanted to be Joy Adamson in Kenya, with her beloved Elsa. I loved 'Born Free' so much that I simply had to see 'Living Free', documenting the lives of Elsa's cubs, when it came out. There was 'Elephant Walk' with Liz Taylor...
So was anything with Elizabeth Taylor, my mum loved her and so did I. We read about her in magazines like 'The Woman's Weekly' and 'Woman's Day'. I loved horses and spent the best part of my life when not at the movies, or watching movies with my own horses, so 'National Velvet' was a good start. When ' Sex in the City' came along in the 1980s I could instantly relate to Charlotte's idolizing Liz Taylor.
By the time I was in my teens, school holidays would find myself and my friends attending every film that was released in the matinee timeslot in Ballarat. Whilst evening viewings found me falling in love with Robert Redford, Ryan O'Niell and Paul Newman. I wished I was Barbra Streisand in ' The Way We Were', or Mia Farrow, in the version of 'The Great Gatsby' she starred alongside him in.
Reruns on television meant I was catching the films my parents had revered, like 'Cassablanca', 'The African Queen', 'Joan of Arc' and more.
In my mid teens, the rebirth of Australian films began, with 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', ' My Beautiful Career' and 'Stormboy' , all of which I saw with my mother, who was also relishing the new Australian films. With my friends I was attending the more risque film events, like 'Alvin Purple' and 'The Adventures of Barry Macknezie'.
It was the time of "sexual liberation' so I was also accompanied to all the latest 'M' "movies with my mum" films, like 'Ryans Daughter' and 'Caberet', which saw me seeing sex scenes and nudity for the first time.
My dad loved human rightsand animal movies, so I sat at his side seeing triumphs like 'Ghandi', 'Cry Freedom' and 'City of Joy' and 'Gorillas in the Mist'. Meanwhile reruns of the early Australian films like 'Dad and Dave' and 'Squatters Daughter' viewed with him, were giving me a sense of Australia's proud history of film.
In 1978 I was to see a film that would transform my perception of Australian history. Fred Schepsi's extraordinary 'The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith' confronted the racism our country was founded on. It was the most powerful film I had ever seen at the time and remains on my list of films that have moved this country to a new era and vision of itself. It was a brutal film, born of brutal values. It was a film we needed. Australian cinema had come of age.
Thesedays I am a regular movie goer at Cinema Nova in Melbourne, as well as Ballarat's Rgent Multiplex.I have been known to see up to three movies in one day.
I relish opportunities to view foreign language films and documentaries. I get frustrated with inane Hollywood blockbusters and violent films. I have been known to laugh my way through romances and I am a whimp when it comes to horror films.
All in all I continue to love film. It is a powerful medium and art form. It has the capacity to entertain and transform. Life without film is unthinkable!
In recent months I have seen some very good films, including 'The Theory of Everything', 'Mr Turner', 'Gone Girl', 'Boyhood' and 'Winter Sleep'. All were good films, however, all could have been exhalted to some of cinemas all time masterpieces, up there with the likes of 'Psycho' and 'Cassablanca' had the directors and editors combined to see a little more of their work end up on the cutting room floor.
The 'Theory of Everything' is a case in point, an otherwise masterful film could have spared us the repetitive flashbacks towards its end. Audiences are not stupid and laboured points about the history of a relationship or illness, had already been well and truly made, in earlier scenes.
When a film approaches or exceeds the three hour mark, as in the case of 'Mr Turner' and 'Boyhood' directors and editors should remember they are beginning to test the bladders of their audiences as well as their patience and level of interest with the film's content.
If a film gets too long I tend to doze off, as I did, quite aptly, in 'Winter Sleep'. It was not that the story wasn't fascinating. It dealt with dark aspects of small town life, caught by dark cinematographic techniques and this otherwise masterpiece of plot and characterisation was being screened in a darkened space. Personally, I begin to doze off, when I begin to feel I am watching more of the same kinds of interactions between characters. These "lost souls' end up losing me as an audience member, not because the acting is bad; most often the performances are compelling, but truly great film-makers understand cutting some of even the very best performances out of a movie may do more to strengthen the film as a whole and are redundant in conveying unnecessary information to an audience.
Even 'Gone Girl' had me thinking "oh great it's about to end", but it didn't, several times over. Had half an hour been cut from it, I believe ' Gone Girl' could have ranked up there with Psycho as a modern masterpiece!
As a child I sat through and loved some very long films, such as 'Ben Hurr', 'Giant', 'Gone with the Wind' and even the 'Sound Of Music' 'My Fair Lady' and 'Mary Poppins', but back then such long films were deliberately punctuated midway by an interval, a point where the action was left hanging, whilst the audience exited the cinema to stretch their legs, empty their bladders and go and buy more jaffas or an ice cream, to enjoy during the subsequent half of the film.
To me it's a no-brainer, that if film-makers want to make epic films of over three hours duration, then they should be beholden to include and interval for exactly the same reasons as film-makers did in the past. Sadly the tradition of interval with either a feature length film, or double feature, of two shorter films may well be something good movie-houses look at reinstating thesedays. We are getting many wonderful films which can easily be paired by genre, but where a film goes beyond the three hour comfort zone, is it so difficult to cut in an interval to heighten the film's tension?
Intervals were phased out as the television era overtook cinema for cheap entertainment. Budgets got lower as the age of the big movie houses declined. The film going public got thin on the ground and thousands of cinemas closed their doors for the final time, as the public switched over to the small screen.
Thankfully some cinema diehards remained, as they do still, relishing the experience of communal movie watching on the big screen. Single screen cinemas morphed into today's multiplexes and more amazingly specialist art-house movie lovers paradises, such as the Nova, opened their doors catering to today's film-going and adoring public.
In about the mid 1980s, 'Titanic' heralded in a new kind of movie marathon. One where a single movie laboured a point, scene after scene that should have been cut to create a consise, informative and moving work of film, remained within the final content of the film and audiences loved it!
I found 'Titanic' an endurance test; never has a boat taken so long to sink. However, the original film about the sinking of the Titanic, 'A Night To Remember' remains concise, moving and compelling. Much is left to the audiences emotional memory and imagination, to excellent effect. It is not swamped with sentimental romance and expensive special effects.
Thus began the new era of epic bum numbing films, where length seems to be equated with merit.
Directors and film editors need to take on board the defining addage of print and television journalists; "when in doubt leave out". Journalists are all trained to expect to lose readers with every paragraph they write and keep stories direct and to the point,. Today's film-makers would do well to take a leaf out of their books.
I applauded when 'Boyhood' finally ended, not because I loved the film, but because I was over-joyed it was finally over. I saw at least three points that could have provided endings; missed opportunities. I didn't care for a single scene after the protagonist had made it to college, but we got them anyway. That is not a good sign. It is not the mark of a great movie. If even one audience member is hanging out for a film to end, it is not a directorial success, but failure. I left raving about the film's length but little more. A good movie is never an endurance test!
Full credit should go to directors that are sufficiently discriminating and able to recognise the art of editing for what it shoulld be; "refinement"!
2014/15 has yielded an exceptional line up of films, with extraordinary achievement in the biographical genre, heading the list of potential oscar winners.These include 'The Theory of Everything', 'Selma', 'Wild', 'Still Alice' 'Boyhood' and 'The Imitation Game'.
A highlight for me, has been ' The Theory of Everything' with an exceptional ensemble cast, directed by James Marsh and featuring compelling performances by Eddie Redmayne as Steven Hawkings and Felicity Jones as his wife of twenty years. The film is based upon Hawkings former wife, Jane Wild's 'Travelling to Infinity; my life with Stephen and was adapted for the big screen by Anthony MacArten.The film is an absolute gem, taking the audience on a journey through Hawkings scientific and human achievements, as well as his struggle with motor neurone disease. It is an inspiring, masterful work, my only criticism, is that too many flashbacks in the final scenes of the film, tend to labour the point for the audience. Despite this,' The Theory of Everything' has to be a top contender in all categories in which it has been nominated, including the soundtrack, which subtly emphasised the emotional journey of the characters and heightened the impact of the story,with flair.
At least two extraordinary performances by women are up there amongst the potential winners in the best actress category. Julieann Moore, takes on the challenge of 'Still Alice' with poignant flair, moving the audience gently through an understated exploration of the journey deep into altzheimers. On the otherhand, Reese Witherspoon is very much "out there" in her feisty portrayal of Cheryl Strayed's memoir of her walk of self-rediscovery in 'Wild'. Here, Witherspoon, like Moore, thoroughly demostrates depth and insighfulness in developing and conveying extraordinary female characters and the circumstances they find themselves in, via their respective performances and skills.
Rosamund Pike's performance in the multi twist, psycho-thriller 'Gone Girl' was also impressive, but personally my pick is Julieann Moore.
'Boyhood' too was in many ways a masterful work, unique, in that it employed one actor's journey through every stage of the film's journey from young boy to young man.Though this method of character portrayal is exceptional, the film was not. It needed considerably more editing. I found myself looking at my watch and hoping it would end at certain points, but it did not. I went through one too may abusive alcoholic step-fathers, who could have been rolled into one. As such I found the film to be somewhat self indulgent on the director and writer Richard Drinklater's part. Here too though, the performances of the cast were solid and enduring in all senses of the word!
I am yet to see 'Selma', 'Birdman' or 'The Imitation Game'. All are on my list of must see films of the season though.
As for documentaries, 'Finding Vivian Meyer' was moving, compelling and unique, tracking the journey of discovering this unassuming, but mysterious multi faceted nannny and street photographer on the part of film-makers John Maloof and Charlie Siskel.
I was however, disappointed that 'Advanced Style' an uplifting documentary about aging fashionistas of New York, was not amongst nominations. This documentary has been a huge hit, running for weeks on end at the Nova, in Carlton, by public demand. Whilst the compelling, intenseTurkish, 'Wintersleep' and wonderful French romantic comedy Les Follies Bergerre missed out on nominations in the Foreign Film categories.
As for Cinematography and Costume Design Awards, 'Mr Turner' with its intensely Dickensian feel and look of Victorian times in England should be hard to beat, unless costumes are tipped at the post by 'Into the Woods' which may well also see Meryl Streep achieve a fourth Oscar and indeed the achievement of twenty nominations as a result of her epic performance as the Witch.
The traveller who expects every place they visit, to be "just like home" sets themselves up for disappointment.
This kind of traveller, invariably complains on TripAdvisor, that hotel rooms and lifts in Europe are too small, that lights go out when the generator stops in safari and eco lodges, or that prices at restaurants around the Duormo in Florence, or Sydney Harbour on Circular Quay with wonderful views of World Heritage Listed architectural treasures are too expensive!
They get bored watching wildlife because, once you have seen one lion, they all look the same!
The inappropriate expectations traveller needs a reality check, or possibly, to consider not leaving their home town, or country of origin!
At home they will of course, never be concerned an hotel room was too small, the lift too tiny, or the prices too expensive at iconic locations; then again, maybe they will, because nothing ever quite lives up to their expectations. They do, after all need something to complain about.
These kind of travellers can be a real killjoy as travel companions, or amongst a tour group. Everything will always be too expensive, too small, or not as good as what they left behind in their own country.
The inappropriate expectations traveller will always have their enjoyment of a place or attraction, or even dining experience marred by the need to compare it to standards that apply to their home country and usually limited experience.
Saddest of all, these kinds of travellers usually lack the insight to thoroughly research their accomodation and trip in advance. They should always check to ensure internet access is free and uninterrupted, not, God forbid, non-existent. They should book into hotels that are just like the ones they are familiar with at home, the kind that are indistinguishable from one country to another. They should ensure power will run 24/7 and that hot water will run, even in the remotest places on earth for their shower. They should only ever travel places colonised by fast food outlets, so they can eat at Macdonald's, where they can pretty much be gauranteed cheap and predictable menu items, just like they could have eaten at home.
The inappropriate expectations travellers seem to miss the whole point of travelling in the first place; to meet, experience and learn from people unlike yourself. To discover more about humanity, human achievement, diverse places, species and eco systems. Part of every genuine traveller's experience involves a willingness and desire, to step outside of one's comfort zone and be open to new and sometimes testing experiences!
I am currently planning a trip to South America, another of what I call my bucket list adventure travel expeditions.
Maybe I have spent too many hours watching documentaries and drinking in David Attenborough's animal encounters set within remote and testing locations.
In Africa, I met with at least one of the prides of lions that starred in the wilds of Kenya in the BBC'S 'Big Cat Diaries'.
I have walked upon the same ground as Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in the making of 'Out of Africa' at Olonana in the Masai Mara, Kenya, where the burial scene and hair-washing scenes were shot.
None of these adjuncts to my own adventures were planned. They just materialized as things do when one travels.
Planned adventures included visiting Karen Blixen's homes in both Nairobi and Denmark and exploring as many places as possible associated with Charles Darwin
However, these days, with the help of TripAdvisor, I like to do even more pre travel research, especially when I am travelling alone. I investigate food options available "on location".
Along with animals, history and archeology, I also love food. I especially adore good seafood.
This led me to discover rave reviews about a Japanese Restaurant, Izakana, on Easter Island.
Now Easter Island is not a big place. It is one of the world's most remote travel destinations. It boasts only one major town, one post office and pretty unreliable internet access by today's standards. You can apparently cover all of its major archeological sites in four days. However, one thing Easter Island has, along with those famous and mysterious stone heads, is some of the most pristine waters in the world for seafood. Where there is exceptional seafood, there often follows Japanese restaurants, even somewhere as remote as Easter Island.
Of course I have already made a booking..... and yes, a friend did say, "its a very long way to go for Japanese"!
Fiona Ludbrook was born in Ballarat but spent much of her adult life as an educator in Melbourne.