Midweek Music Moment: Perfect word

Grammy and Juno award winner, k.d.lang, is as much known for her soaring vocal range (she has the same range as an operatic mezzo-soprano) as she is for her passionate left-wing politics.

Canadian-born, k.d.lang came to international recognition in the late 1980s with a series of performances, including a duet with the late Roy Orbison – who chose her to record a duet of his standard ‘Crying’.

On a personal note, her 1990s performance on the Concert Hall stage at the Sydney Opera House was one of the best live performances I have ever seen. She exuded charisma and talent as she worked the audience with an energetic, 3 hour performance.

When your hardened technical crew are melting in the wings (as we all did), you know you’ve got a powerhouse talent.

Her 2011 song, ‘Perfect word’, is one of my current high-rotation faves, and this pared down acoustic version is today’s Midweek Music Moment:

 

 

And here’s k.d.’s original 1987 duet with Roy Orbison that was rerecorded for the movie soundtrack ‘Hiding out’ and won that year’s Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

 

 

Movie Review: ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’

‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ is a 2004 adventure comedy film from the Lemony Snicket series (authored by Daniel Handler).

The story follows the journey of the Baudelaire children: 3 newly-orphaned siblings, and their quest to find a new home and loving family.

Warning the viewer right from the start that it’s ‘an extremely unpleasant story and best to stop watching now’, only adds to the fascination and sets the stage for a wonderfully dark, foreboding movie with a subdued humour.

 

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The orphaned Baudelaire children are Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken) and the ever-chomping infant Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), who rise to each looming disaster with tenacity and resourcefulness and steely wits.

 

Featuring a strong ensemble cast that includes Meryl Streep, Jude Law, Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall, it’s Jim Carey’s performance as evil Uncle Olaf that really steals the movie.

 

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Carey is in his element with plenty of larger-than-life characters and physical comedy.

 

Beautifully shot, the movie looks great. With the talented team of Production Designer Rick Heinrichs (‘Sleepy Hollow’) and Art Director John Dexter (‘Planet of the Apes’), the locations are superbly creepy.

 

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If you enjoy comedies with a dark tinge, I highly recommend this movie but warn parents that ‘An Unfortunate Series of Events’ could be a bit too scary for younger children.

Available on Netflix and here’s the official trailer for you to check out:

 

Mammalian Caregiving and how it helps us

I was reminded this week of how unpleasant it is when my reptile brain flips into the Stress Response of fight-or-flight.

It happens when we feel threatened, unsafe or even criticized.

In my case – depending on the severity, my heart races, my throat gets dry, sometimes I can’t see properly or my voice gets loud, and I will often get the shakes.

 

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It’s not just an external trigger: did you know that you can trigger your own stress response from self-criticism?

 

It’s the effect of cortisol and adrenaline that’s being released in an effort to help protect ourselves. And the true underlying problem of this stress, is the multitude of health and mental conditions triggered by these kind of hormones.

So lately I’ve been taking comfort in the fact that we are actually mammals. Not reptiles.

 

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Mammals include the largest animals on the planet, as well as some of the most intelligent. We also nurse our young and (most of us) carry our young in a placenta until born.

 

I’m pleased to report that one of the many great things about being a mammal is the Mammalian Caregiving Response.

 

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It evolved from our young being born so early in their development – and babies having to rely on the nurturing of their parents to reach maturity.

 

Over the centuries, this has left us with a biological part of us that is wired to respond positively to caregiving: soft touch, soothing voice, kindness and calm nurturing energy.

Kindness feels so good because it releases the relaxing hormones of oxytocin and opiates – which are the opposites of fight-or-flight. It puts us in a relaxed state, which means that we feel safe and comfortable enough to grow and thrive.

And the truly great news about the Mammalian Caregiving Response?

We don’t have to wait for someone else to be loving towards us, we can trigger it ourselves.

By changing the way we nurture ourselves; through gentle self-talk, soft touch and self-kindness, we become our own caregiver and feel safe and supported enough to live our best life.

 

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Midweek Music Moment: The Partisan

Leonard Cohen’s prolific volume of work spans over 40 years and fuses music, poetry and full-length novels.

Love him or hate him, Mr Cohen always knew that he didn’t have the best vocal chops in the business: but took up a singing career in the mid-60s after finding that he could convey his poetical and political ideas to much greater audiences, if he sang them.

Today’s Midweek Music Moment is Leonard Cohen’s cover of the 1943 French song ‘La Complainte du Partisan’ – also known as ‘The Partisan’.

Covered by a diverse range of artists, I’ve chosen three wildly different versions for your Midweek Music Moment!

This initial version is where I heard it first: with Mr Cohen’s gritty vocals setting the tone for the incredible talents of the National Ballet of Canada’s Principal dancer, Heather Ogden (if you just watch one, watch this one):

 

 

The second version is a gentle, folksy ballad that’s very much a sign of it’s times, from Joan Baez in 1973, Paris.

 

 

And the third version is this heavily orchestrated, almost-metal version from Aussie’s Mick Gordon and Tex Perkins.

 

 

It’s a great song: which style do you prefer?

Movie Review: A Noble Intention

‘A Noble Intention’ is a riveting 2015 Dutch film that forms part of a four movie package of Dutch films recently purchased at Cannes by Netflix.

The four films are Ivona Juka’s ‘You Carry Me’, Benny Fredman’s Jerusalem-set action thriller ‘Suicide’, and two Dutch box office hits ‘Bon Bini Holland’ and this film (also known as ‘Public Works’).

The movie is based on the 1999 hit novel ‘Publieke Werken’ by Thomas Rosenboom.

 

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Rosenboom is a Dutch author who features well-researched characters and circumstances that fit precisely within the historical context of a story.

 

And in this case, the building of the grand Victoria Hotel in 1888 Amsterdam, and the stubborn violin maker who refuses to sell his house.

 

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Expertly directed by Joram Lursen, the film manages to walk a fine line between pathos, determination and arrogance.

 

A Dutch box office success and an award winner on multiple counts, this film had me glued to my seat with it’s plot twists, superb performances and beautiful cinematography.

 

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Gijs Scholten van Aschat plays Vedder, the somewhat smug violin maker who holds out on selling his house.

 

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Jacon Derwig plays Vedder’s painfully uncomfortable cousin, Anise. His was the emotional journey I really followed.

 

Moving from dark to light throughout the film, ‘A Noble Intention’ was satisfying on a number of levels. I highly recommend this film but I will give a violence warning for the opening scene.

Spoken in Dutch and subtitled in English, I was unable to post the official trailer for you to check out, but it can be found on Vimeo.

*** Spoiler alert *** stop here if you plan to watch this film.

 

 

Although the film was shot in Hungary on a reconstructed set of the hotel and Vedder’s house,  the originals have stood all these years – and are still there today. Simply astounding.

 

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Midweek Music Moment: A World of our Own

‘The Seekers’ are one of Australia’s great folk groups – and a lifelong favourite for my Mum.

The first Australian pop music group to achieve major chart and sales success in the United Kingdom and the United States, they were known for singer Judith Durham’s soaring, distinctive vocals.

 

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The group disbanded in 1968 when Durham pursued a solo career. However the split was amicable, and they have since come back together throughout the years for one-off concerts.

 

They had a number of smash hits in the 1960s, including ‘Georgy Girl’, ‘Morningtown Ride’, ‘The Carnival is over’ and ‘I’ll never find another you’.

Today’s Midweek Music Moment is their 1965 hit, ‘A World of our Own’ – it’s a catchy tune but also gives you a great sense of their upbeat sound.

 

 

And if you can forgive my little patriotic heart, here’s a more recent song from them ‘I am Australian’.

It gives a better representation of Australia than the current national anthem – with some even suggesting it is our unofficial national anthem.

 

Movie Review: Bride & Prejudice

‘Bride & Prejudice’ is a 2004 Bollywood remake of the Jane Austen ‘Pride & Prejudice’ story.

 

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Directed by Gurinder Chadha (‘Bend it like Beckham’, ‘Mistress of Spices’, ‘Bhaji on the Beach’), the movie is playful and light with big Bollywood dance numbers.  
 

Set in Amritsar, India, the movie was coasting along as expected (i.e. lady of the house trying to marry off her four unmarried daughters) when the plot broke suddenly to jump into a big colourful dance number.

It was my first Bollywood movie and although I knew it was coming, it still caught me unexpectedly!
 

 
Although it was Indian-style dancing, the feel of it reminded me of Grease for some reason. I think it was the strutting and chin-up attitude of some of the numbers.

 

There are a number of musical interludes in the movie, with each one featuring a colourful, boisterous dance number full of large choreographed circles, and a couple of key voices.

 

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Aishwarya Rai (Elizabeth Bennet) easily gives the best performance for both acting and singing. There’s also no escaping her beautiful eyes in the movie: she’s a famed Bollywood actress and former Miss World.

 

Kiwi actor, Martin Henderson (Darcy) was quite deadpan and disappointing, and although there was a little character development, I generally found the male characters very thinly drawn and 2-dimensional.

 

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I would have liked a lot more from the other male lead, Naveen Andrews, but he was designated a token role.

 

It wasn’t a great movie, but I will certainly give Bollywood another chance – and will try a more recent movie for my next attempt!

Here’s the official trailer for you, and available on Netflix:

 

Thinspiration: what’s all that dieting really about?

‘Thinspiration’ is a term which refers to the use of a celebrity photograph as a method of inspiration for weight-loss.

Chances are good that you’ve already seen the pages of starved women with thigh gaps and bones sticking out – with quotes written on them like ‘skip dinner, get thinner’… ‘, ‘what’s more important, that pizza or your hip bones?’…

So we already know we have an epidemic of women starving themselves, but have you ever wondered what started it?

 

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In the 1930s – 50s, curves were in and so advertising was all about selling weight gain to women. From dieting products to makeup to clothes to magazines to ‘beauty’ products, today skinny sells.

 

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Marilyn Monroe, the most beautiful woman of her times, would be considered fat by today’s standards.

 

Today’s emaciated, fashionable ‘waif’ look started back in the 90s with ‘heroin chic’ models like Kate Moss and Jaime King (who was literally a teenage heroin addict) who featured dark circles under the eyes and angular bones sticking out.

 

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Kate Moss famously said that ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.’

 

It was a backlash to the curvier supermodels such as Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford.

 

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This is what was referred to as a ‘buxom’ Claudia Schiffer in 1994.

 

I’m sorry folks, but that is hardly what I think of as buxom; here’s the killer curves I’m talking about:

 

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This is Aussie model Laura Wells, a famous and successful ‘plus-size’ model.

 

And really perhaps Naomi Klein says it best in her book ‘The Beauty Myth’. She states that “A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one?”

Yes! Because it’s not just the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual problem of millions of women believing they’re not good enough the shape they are, it’s the political problem of silenced, self-loathing women not being able to step up and shine.

I am pleased to say that government’s have finally begun to recognize the epidemic of anorexia and demand responsibility from the fashion houses. France & Israel have both implemented laws that state that any re-touched photo that alters the bodily appearance of a model for commercial purposes must carry a message stating it had been manipulated. They also require a medical certificate for models to show that they have a BMI of at least 18 (about 55 kg : 1.75 m (121 lb: 5.7 feet)) before being hired for a job and for a few weeks afterwards.

 

I look forward to more Marilyn Monroes in our advertising soon.

 

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Midweek Music Moment: Thank you for Nothing

Singer-songwriter Elizabeth Ziman of ‘Elizabeth & The Catapult’ is one of those enormously talented musicians who’s been playing her whole life.

Based out of Brooklyn, Elizabeth & The Catapult first caught my ear with their bittersweet ballad ‘Thank you for Nothing’. She does have an ‘official video’ for this song, but I prefer her live studio recordings for the pleasure of watching her play.

 

 

They’re currently best known for their 2009 album ‘Taller Children’, though their most recent offering, ‘Like it Never Happened’ has received critical praise for it’s more developed sound.

‘Happy Pop’ is from the newest album and I actually prefer this acoustic version to the produced album version: if you want to skip the interview, the song starts at 2’30” (how Vince Guaraldi is this song?!)

 

 

And here’s the very sweet animated official video for ‘Happy Pop’ – you can hear the sophistication the production adds: which version do you prefer?

 

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a sparky 2014 scifi with a lot of personality.

Based on the Marvel Comics strip of the same name, the movie follows the adventures of a group of misfits who are flung together to save the universe.

 

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The original comic strip was published in 1969, with a new line of modern stories published in 2008 (and still being produced).

 

There’s a satisfying range of distinctive, quirky characters that includes a walking tree (Vin Diesel), a racoon with an anger problem (Bradley Cooper) a human or two (Chris Pratt), and various aliens (Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Benecio del Toro).

 

There is a decent script and even a little backstory for each of the characters. 

 

Easily one of the highlights is the ‘vintage earth’ soundtrack with some 70s & 80s classics such as ‘Hooked on a feeling’ and ‘I’m not in love’.

However, on the downside, I never really took the bad guys particularly seriously – and found the ‘saving the universe’ plot to be almost secondary to the misfit gang’s dynamics.

 

The movie is written and directed by James Gunn, who’s better known as a writer (‘Dawn of the Dead’, ‘Slither’).

 

I highly recommend this movie if you enjoy off-beat, light-hearted scifi. The sequel is already in post-production, with an expected release date of Spring 2017.

Available on Netflix and you can check out the official trailer here: