Tag Archives: Happy Nation

Movie Review – Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

Last July I saw Cate Blanchett at the movies. That day she was in the audience with her kids and I was there with mine. We approached the cinema at the same time and had to wait a few minutes – just inches from each other – until the doors were opened. And though I tried to be cool, I just couldn’t stop staring – and I wasn’t the only one.  You see even on a day off as she tried to blend in with her kids, star struck patrons approached to remind her ‘Wow! You’re Cate Blanchett!’ Just in case she had forgotten. Because even dressed down in a suburban shopping centre Cate Blanchett was not like all the other parents. She had a natural elegance and striking stature that made her stand out from the crowd. Call it a presence, star quality or X factor, from what I could see Cate Blanchett has plenty of it.

Today I saw Cate Blanchett at the movies, but this time she was onscreen starring in Woody Allen’s latest release Blue Jasmine.  Blanchett plays Jasmine Francis, a stylish New York socialite who is forced to move in with her sister in San Francisco when her life of wealth and privilege suddenly comes crashing down.

We piece together Jasmine’s story, gaining insight into who she has become and why through flashbacks of her former life. Seemly and unseemly behaviour are intertwined with a series of events that are very believable in a post-GFC world. Jasmine is a very practised persona, who really does herself no favours as a selectively naïve wife choosing not to acknowledge all the evidence of deceit as it piles up around her. Yet, even when she is broken and everything seems lost including her sanity, Jasmine maintains a certain grace and mystique that whether genetic or hard-earned, are certainly palpable and compelling both to the audience and many of the characters.

Blue Jasmine is confronting and captivating. It is less whimsical than many of Woody Allen’s films. There is still a good dose of neuroses, but in this story the reasons for their existence are more clearly defined.

Blanchett’s performance and Allen’s screenplay are perfectly matched. I have no doubt that Cate Blanchett did Woody Allen very proud in Blue Jasmine and that she should enjoy all the accolades that I’m sure will come her way for this exceptional performance. There is also little doubt that Allen knew exactly what he was doing in casting Blanchett for this role. Because even in a role that is not always beautiful to watch, Cate Blanchett is not like all the other actresses. She is reliably strong, intelligent and refined which makes her stand out from the rest.

Even though my real life interaction with Cate Blanchett was very short and distant, I suspect she may empathise with her character Jasmine Francis. Because just like enormous wealth, enormous fame must sometimes come at a cost and some days things are just too good to be true.

Have you seen Blue Jasmine? What was your reaction? What is your favourite Woody Allen film?


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Ten Reasons Why These Floating Camellias Make Me Smile

Floating camellias

Floating camellias

1. When I was a little girl, my grandmother had a gorgeous, big camellia tree near her back door. Each year it was laden with bright, layered flowers – so many that at full flourish there was more pink than green to be seen.

2. I vividly remember how Grandma would pick a handful of blooms and float them in a bowl as a centerpiece for the dining table at family mealtimes.

3. Once I was grown up and had my own garden, camellias were a must have item. Over the years my small camellia trees have survived extreme heat and bracing cold as Melbourne’s radical seasons pass.

4. The fact that one bush has just bloomed is a welcome sign that this long, cold winter is about to break. Warmth is well overdue.

5. The irresistible colour and life of the flowers have tempted me out to eat my lunch in the sunshine for the first time in months.

6. My daughter shares my love of camellias.

7. On the weekend, as we were preparing for guests, we carefully cleaned the delicate fish bowl vase – a wedding gift that after a dozen years is still intact and put to regular use.

8. She skipped out to choose and pick the blooms. She treated them with such love as she gently dropped them into the water.

9. Now, she sits at the bench and possessively and protectively wraps her little arms around the globe and stares at the rosy treasures enclosed. She’s left lots of little fingerprints on the glass.

10. So now my daughter will have lovely and lasting childhood memories about camellias too.

What about you? Do you have childhood memories of flowers?

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Making Dreams Come True

What's your dream?

What’s your dream?

I posted a video today on www.straightshooter.com.au. It’s a presentation by Darren Rowse from ProBlogger. Click through to check it out, but careful…it might make your dreams come true.

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Pause and Reset

pauseToday is Monday – the start of another work week. Today is also the day I start my new weekly schedule. I’m half way through Day 1 and everything is on track. Wish me luck as I try to keep up this momentum.

As a Mum and a wife and a business owner and a writer and a friend and a daughter and all the other things I am, it’s very easy for me to get swallowed up with everything that is going on for everyone around me and to forget what I really need to be and to achieve.

So last Friday as I lamented that yet another week had rushed by with little time left for me to progress my plans, I knew I needed to pause and reset.

I used one of my favourite methods of organisation – the blank page technique (click through to read more about this).  Within minutes I could see space on the page. I could visualise how I could fit everything in. I felt relieved that everything was actually possible. I had taken back control of my time.

So this morning it seemed OK to sleep in for 15 minutes more. I completed my morning tasks calmly – you know, with actual time to breathe. I had a healthy, leisurely lunch and a lovely coffee. And now I sit at my computer – right on schedule – writing this post for you all.

Sometimes I just need to pause and reset to find peace and recharge so I can manage my busy life.

What about you? Do you need to pause and reset?

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Movie Review – Before Midnight

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight

Do you love it or loathe it when art imitates life? I love, love, love it and can’t get enough of it. Which is perhaps why I have been so drawn to the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) on their great adventure of coupledom in the three Before movies, directed by Richard Linklater. I’m not going to call them a trilogy, because I hope there will be more.

When Jesse and Celine met for the first time on the train in Before Sunrise in 1995, I was at an age when I was eagerly welcoming chance into my own life. I was 21, had dutifully finished school and university and was old enough to have discovered the hard way that you can only control so much of life and it doesn’t always go to plan. The upside being that I was also learning to recognise and appreciate that it is the random, unplanned events that can have the most lasting impact on life’s path. Every meeting or new person or unfamiliar occurrence was ripe and dripping with possibility. Every fresh day felt like my real life as a grown up was almost about to start. Every week was an intoxicating mix of adventure and misadventure. I had the luxury of saying yes to everything, trying choices on for size, racking up consequences and rationalising mistakes.

I had travelled and loved and dreamed massive dreams. I was unknowingly about to meet my own love of my life. At this time, Jesse and Celine’s rambling musings about life and promise reflected my own thoughts and conversations. We were old enough to sense that life could be enormous, but still too young to make giant decisions that might start narrowing the funnel of ‘what ifs?’. It was definitely still too soon to start answering life’s big questions.

I watched Before Sunset (2004) almost a decade later once huge long term decisions had been made and – like Jesse – I was married with a son. For Jesse, Celine and I, enough time had passed that real grown up experience had either lived up to its promise or not. The scourge of maturity is a growing sense of dissatisfaction – cognitive dissonance of choices made and a sense of confusion that this life you are left with might be as good as it is going to get. Jesse and Celine chose to change course – to re-open a door they once thought was closed. They left their lives behind and chose to be together. This is where our stories differed – but I understood their doubt and admired their willingness to risk it all just when society expected us to be settling down.

And now in 2013 as I watched Before Midnight I was reminded of our shared experiences to date and eager to use their most recent chapter as a barometer for my own life at this time. Jesse and Celine, now parents to twins as well as to Jesse’s son from his previous marriage, take a precious moment to stop and reflect while on a holiday in Greece. But as many of us know, reflection can be dangerous as inevitably both the good and the bad of life are considered. We watch this couple debate their choices and question their sense of satisfaction. How did they get where they are and is it enough?

I now also have three kids and a burgeoning bank of experience about relationships and life. My husband and I have survived and thrived against a series of unstoppable, joyous, challenging and weird instances and incidents each day, week and year that we never could have imagined happening – not even in the movies.

In Before Midnight I felt relieved to see Jesse and Celine having discussions just like I have had with my husband over the past decade. These are the honest and very real discussions between two characters in the midst of very real life situations.

When they are given a kid-free evening, Celine struggles with leaving her children even just for one night, perhaps intuitively sensing that when there is space to challenge the status quo, there are no guarantees of a happy ending for anyone involved.

They wrestle with balancing what is right for their kids without losing a sense of themselves – even with full knowledge that they have frequently made choices that put themselves and their needs ahead of their offspring’s. I have found it is often very easy to rationalise a case either way to justify such decisions and assuage any surrounding guilt. ‘If I am happy my children will also be happy’, sounds very similar to ‘If my children are happy then I am also happy’ but the two ideals are very different indeed, particularly once you try to put them into practice.

Had I been in Greece with Jesse and Celine and joined their lengthy discussion of our place in life at this age and stage, I would hope to have articulated my view that the biggest issue for the middle class masses is having too many choices rather than too few. Should I work full time or stay home to raise the children? Should we stay living where we are or move across the world to be closer to family? Red wine or white? Eat in or out? Such first world problems seem so important in the course of our day to day lives – and worse – each option sounds so tempting that when you choose one over the other, it feels like you are making such a huge sacrifice in forgoing the unchosen one.  It is so easy to focus on that thing you could have had but didn’t, instead of being grateful for the thing you did have that became part of your story.

You see we are really so lucky to have such wonderful options in the first place. The world is smaller and more connected so the avenues for getting what you want are endless. But just don’t hope for enough – because nothing will ever be enough. Just as you are reaching a point of satisfaction, another better option will fill the void and your longing for enough will continue and compound. Enough money, enough time, enough kids, enough things – we need to be comfortable with the fact that maybe there will never be enough. Or perhaps we already have it?

In the end, despite all the emotion and doubt circling the responsibilities of life, sometimes you just need to stop and to forget all the  drama and choices and to live for a moment. To take respite and breathe for a little while to steady yourself before you dive back into your everyday world and continue the next chapter of your story. There are no right answers to legitimise your life. You’ve just got to get in and live it.

In Greece, just before midnight, Jesse and Celine have the chance to do just this and – just like in real life – their story will continue.

I hope Linklater, Hawke and Delpy get busy soon on the next instalment from Jesse and Celine as I look forward to seeing how our paths converge and take the chance to hold a mirror up to my own experience – to remind myself of the power of chance, that it is never too late to change course and that enough needs to be enough. All of this adds up to a memorable and meaningful life story.

Have you seen any of these films? What did you think? Did they help you reflect on your own life?

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This Great Gatsby

“Anyhow he gives large parties…and I like large parties. They’re so intimate.” As said by Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby

This is just how I felt watching Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. You can always rely on Baz to give us something large, to make us feel like we are actually at his big party and to dare us to have a very personal, intimate response to the story and its characters. And I like it.

I have read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel a handful of times and seen Mia Farrow’s Daisy captivate Robert Redford’s Gatsby on screen many times.

Compared to the 1974 film, Luhrmann’s version fills in more of the blanks in the story, perhaps making it more accessible to a global audience and to those who may not have read the book. For example the use of sweeping panoramic shots travelling across bays and landscapes helps us to locate and understand the distances between Long Island and New York City, while dramatic historical flashback scenes flesh out this Gatsby’s story.

The acting wasn’t without fault, but I haven’t been a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio since his last film with Baz, Romeo + Juliet. Leo’s baby face has always made it hard for me to take him seriously in adult roles, yet in this film he looks much older that the character’s 32 years.

For the most part Carey Mulligan is appropriately vapid as Daisy, a Venus and a vixen who manipulates and is manipulated at every turn. Poor Daisy can’t win, but she is hardly an innocent and certainly not a ‘beautiful little fool’.

I loved Tobey Maguire and thought he had just enough quirk to suit what is a Nick Carraway with a greater sense of depth and mirth than I ever imagined was present in the text. Some of his scenes – such as the afternoon tea where Jay and Daisy meet – have the comedy amped up so high that they verge on slapstick.

A movie for the hat lovers amongst us.

A movie for the hat lovers amongst us.

The design and costumes were impeccable as expected. I know I take Catherine Martin’s skill for granted, so I want to recognise her epic effort and attention to detail. I’ve always been obsessed with cloche hats. Yes, I am aware this is strange addiction, but a girl can’t control what tickles her fancy. I certainly got my fill of fabulous headwear in this film.

Gorgeous Tiffany & Co. gems were gratuitously flaunted as a key element of the glamorous depiction of flapper fashion, but this was also indicative of the huge marketing machine shadowing this production. I mean we have been talking about this film for a couple of years now, ogling over leaked photos from the Sydney set during filming, being disappointed by a delayed release date and now-at last-it is here for our amusement. As a case study on how to promote a movie, this one has certainly set a lofty benchmark.

I loved the use of modern music magically blended to suit the 1920s styling and I highly recommend the soundtrack – which I am playing as I write this. There are some great surprises (like Beyoncé singing Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black) and memorable melodies (Lana Del Ray’s Young and Beautiful) from some of the greatest contemporary artists. Special mention to Gotye’s Heart’s a Mess which perfectly suits the subject matter and is inventive in its sound.

Watching this new Gatsby made me wish I could experience the story for the first time all over again through Baz’s eyes. Yet this is a film I’m sure I will view over and over again, always seeing something new in this tale filled with glitz and grit, where the going is good and life is grand – until the rot sets in.

Loved your party, Baz. Thanks for the invitation.

Have you seen The Great Gatsby? What did you think?

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Glamourflage – i.e. to style yourself in a way that distracts from or covers something; or to dress as the person you need to be in that moment.

What?...Too much?

What?…Too much?

I came across this term recently on an episode of Rachel Zoe and loved it. In researching it more I found it has been used in some fashion circles for a couple of years – but isn’t it great? It’s similar to one of my other favourite words Glamping – i.e. glamorous camping where a decent coffee is never too far away!

When feeling less than perfect about themselves – and they actually have to leave the house – I think girls fall into one of two groups. They either head straight for the Trackies or they Glamourflage it up. Of course both options are entirely legitimate ways to feel more comfortable.

When I am in the midst of a clusterf**k of emotion, I’m more likely to head towards Glamourflage – a colourful scarf or a bright lippy usually feels like enough trickery to get me through the day.

Of course the moment I get home I relax into my trackies – but these days I prefer them to be stylish trackies that make me feel good even when public artifice is no longer required.

Back when I was working in an office, my grown up Glamourflage work wear seemed to transform me into the Marketing Manager I needed to be for those few hours, until I reverted back into Mummy mode with its matching sartorial selection.

Glamourflage is certainly one of the tools in my survival kit to make it through each day and week.

What about you? Are you in the Trackies camp or do you go for Glamourflage?

Talking about Trackies, have you seen this short film from Bonds? Lost in Translation

Also, Glamourflage is the name of a Melbourne-based skincare brand. Have you ever used their products? Looks pretty great.

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Vue To Make You Smile

Novelty hot chocolate - unexpected, but it made me happy!

Novelty hot chocolate – unexpected, but it made me happy!

The Heide Museum of Modern Art in Templestowe, Victoria is one of my favourite places. At any time of year, it is juncture where art, history, nature and food combine in a space that displays the best of modern culture, yet is an intriguing throw back to a Melbourne of times past.

Heide sits on 15 acres in the midst of what is now a residential-heavy Melbourne suburb. Back in the 1930s and 40s the property was owned by John and Sunday Reed and became a hub for Australian artists including Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester and John Perceval. As you wander around the property it is easy to imagine how the Reeds and their guests lived back then and appreciate the legacy they left. It is truly amazing in this era of mass development that this unique destination has been able to survive and flourish throughout the decades (recently with lots of corporate philanthropic support).

I’ve been to Heide half a dozen times in recent years, most often with my three kids in tow. The experience is a juxtaposition – open, green hills and garden-rich outside areas perfect for running, rolling and exploring, against the white and tight gallery spaces inside where Don’t Touch is de rigueur. So it can be a bit confusing for kids, but we try to balance lots of outside time with short bursts of the art within.

Our visits are always memorable, such as the time about five years ago when our then three year old son wanted his photo taken in front of every outdoor sculpture, but he insisted on squishing his eyes closed in every shot. Very funny photos.

A recent visit was sans kids. Instead I joined girlfriends for lunch at Cafe Vue at Heide.

The Friday afternoon crowd was less frenetic than the weekend crush, when a wait for a table can prove longer than any preschooler can bear.

I was keen to try the kitchen garden menu where the chefs use fresh produce straight from the extensive herb and vege plots on site.

A crispy duck salad with garden greens was followed by snapper fillets with broth served on a mound steamed chard and topped with a fragrant fish foam. It was simple, seasonal, light and flavorsome – all washed down with a generous glass of bubbles (there’s nothing worse than a skimpy pour). My friends chose a mushroom broth with a light garlic custard which looked, smelled and tasted superb. The waitress mentioned that we might catch the waitstaff sipping mugs filled with the rich mushroom broth, instead of coffee.

Small sweet things were shared to finish, including my semi-sweet hot chocolate presented in a way that made me smile and remember the delight that Heide brings to people of all ages.

Have you been to Heide?

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The Pursuit of Happiness – Change Your Career and Change Your Life

Are you looking for a change in your career? This article might be just what you need to read.

So many of the points made resonated with me. I am certainly happier since I gave up my corporate career to have more family time and to start my own business Straight Shooter Marketing.

Enjoy The Pursuit of Happiness – Change your career and change your life.

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