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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

French movie review extravaganza

After positive reviews from dawei and this girl from work who actually said “I liked it better than Amelie!” I decided to buy, yes BUY a dvd copy of 8 Femmes.

You’d think a French movie featuring the likes of Emmanuelle Béart, Ludivine Sagnier, Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant and Virgine Ledoyen would be pretty good - especially with the complete absence of Gerard Depardieu (yeah, a French movie without ol’ penis-nez c’est incroyable, n’est-ce pas?). Well it’s not!!!

You’d think from looking at the cover that you’d get a sexy, stylised but entertaining comedy with hot chicks.

What you get is: a murder mystery MUSICAL. You get Ludivine and Virginie doing a synchronised I’m-a little-teapot song and dance. You get songs sung off-key; songs no doubt penned by Jerry Lewis for all their whackiness and high comedy.

Fucking. Unbearable. Worse than a repeat viewing of the Sweetest Thing. For any movie makers tempted to resurrect the genre following the success of Chicago – don’t. Unless you’ve got Julie Andrews signed up or Ann Margaret – just...don’t.

The only marginally positive thing about this movie is that Ludivine Sagnier is really convincing as a bratty, naïve adolescent shit. It was very far-removed from her nympho French chick role in the Swimming Pool which is one of the best films I’ve seen in the last year. I’ve heard that for writers it’s a great illustration of the processes of writing…for lay people it’s one of those “whuh?” movies that leave you thinking for a week afterwards about its various possibilities and realities; where one story or character ends and another starts. Not the right sort of movie if you’re in the mood for concrete endings and easy resolutions but highly recommended. Ludivine is so hot in it, my mouth actually started watering.

In a rather clunky segue, the movie “French Men” also has a pool. But it doesn’t have anything to do with plot advancement or character development. It was just sort of there, in the back yard of this old guy’s country house and yet was the best thing about the whole movie which, in its opening few minutes played I’ll Stand by You in its entirety while showing various Frenchmen (all amis) walking along random streets. Lactose intolerant? Stay away.

French Men featured a favourite gallic theme – adultery - which was also a premise in Nathalie. Emmanuelle Béart (looking slightly gaunt and very much like a simian cousin to the Olsen Twins) is a hooker. She is hired by Fanny Ardant to test her husband (Gerard Depardieu)’s fidelity. Like she had to. If you want a movie where Emmanuelle is a sexy hooker and recites clunky dialogue ripped off Jackie Collins, this one’s for you.

But if you want to cry like a dag and wish you were 5 again (your only worry being the need to finish your stencil before little lunch) try Etre et Avoir. This a documentary following Mr Lopez’s last year teaching a country school with kids from kindy to near-high school age. The range of peoples’ temperaments and personalities just amaze me, as does Mr Lopez’s patience. There are times where it's a bit uncomfortable to watch the extent to which he questioned his students on their at-home lives, personal development and behavioural issues. Still, he had a calm and reasonable approach to talking with his pupils that seemed to encourage them to speak and air their grievances rather than judge or antagonise them. Awesome.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Paging Jeff Gillooly...

Jana Pittman and her peppy can-do attitude. Blech.

I want to kick her crutches out from under her. Is that cruel?


Sunday, August 15, 2004

A quiet weekend. I've spent tonight culling down possible Paris digs for October:

Contender #1 - it has exposed beams and is near the Pont Neuf. I plan to cross it many times. Am somewhat concerned that they didn't include a photo of a toilet. It also promises a gym (nearby).

Contender #2 - seems a bit more cosy, is also close to the bridge and has a picture of the loo. Beside which seems to lie the sad, sad remnants of someone's thwarted art career.

Both are centrally located and surpisingly cheap. In terms of footage - 377ft is about 35m sq, which is reasonably comfortable.

We'll probably spend all our time in and around Paris; certainly the north and north-East of France. I'm feeling well-buggered from work etc, so am not looking for a high-energy holiday this time.

All in all we'll be there for 17 days. Because it will be such a dog flight to get there and back, we have about three days worth of stop overs in Bangkok. I've been recommended the Atlanta Hotel. It's pretty cheap - AUD43 for a "large suite". It looks lovely.

And who can resist a hotel that champions "wholesome and culturally sensitive tourism" ?


Saturday, August 14, 2004

Excuse me Woolworths, Don Johnson called. He wants his clothes from Miami Vice back, stat.


Damn Olympics. Hurry up and be over so that Channel 7 will stop subjecting me to "comedian" and "actor" Nick Giannopoulos.

Even Surprise Chef Aristos is back in employment. Limber up everyone, and watch him prepare a surprise meal for you from the contents of your own kitchen: a sandwich!...from mouldy bread and slimey packet ham slices. Wowee, someone call Tetsuya.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Herald's spate of education articles on public and private schools has made me nostalgic for my own alma mater (public schooled plebs, that’s Latin for “fostering mother”).

A triangle wedged into the Anzac Parade and Cleveland Street intersection, its proximity to the former (some say current) slum area of the Surry Hills and Moore Park ensured the young maidens of High had early and regular exposure to flashers and drive-by masturbators. We quickly learned the best way to react to such exhibitions was to point and laugh loudly.

Despite being academically selective, Sydney Girls’ could hold their on the sporting field too. Except in cricket, where their arses were regularly pummelled. Scores tended to vary between all-out for 11 and all-out for 14. (Although once we did win by 30 runs however, the other side only had six players).

In the classrooms, a larger crowd of more intelligent, obnoxious, outgoing, arrogant and insecure women you’ll not find elsewhere because, one of the best things about the school is also its worst: the competition. Ruthless. Destructive. It's the Battle for Half a Mark. Some students would enlist the assistance of parents to argue their case for that all important half a mark (because half marks get rounded up, hence the possibility of gaining an extra, entire percentage point). Others would just harangue the teacher until s/he lost his/her spirit and general will to live. Once, in year 9 I saw, let’s call her DC - for those are her initials - berate a student teacher over a topic test score until he cried. (She was amazing by the way, incredibly bright and with the ability to issue a relentless torrent of vitriolic abuse that knew no equal). Poor, hapless Mr Waish; listening to her have a go at you must have been like getting swallowed by a python, feet first. Anyway, those are the sort of kids that tend to thrive in a competitive environment. You had to be strong if you wanted academic success, dammit. If you weren’t, well, you could still go to UTS.

On entering year seven, about 90% of the students quickly realised that even though they came top of their year six classes (matriculating in a shower of praise, merit certificates and speech day book vouchers) at Sydney Girls they were at best, average.

For the weak this starts an inevitable tailspin into feelings of inadequacy which leads to underachievement which reinforces the feelings of inadequacy, stupidity and failure. Some others react to the fear of failure (really a fear of not coming first) by giving up and not putting in any effort at all – because if you’re not really trying, you aren’t really dumb, right? The other girls are getting better marks only because you’re not trying. About 3 or 4 years of intellectual sloth follows.

I really think that a lot of the girls who began to chronically underachieve at school could have really flourished at regular government schools because there would have been less pressure to over-achieve and to constantly compare your abilities to other people. That sort of environment just doesn’t suit a lot of kids.

I guess the point of this is that, parents need to choose schools that are right for their childrens' individual temperaments and abilities, rather than ones that allow the parents to project their frustrated ambitions or to attain some misguided sense of prestige. The selective schools exam preparation has become a lucrative market and it means that primary aged kids are getting shunted by parents into after school and weekend tutoring schools where they are mechanically taught how to solve particular maths/science/IQ test questions by rote to maximise their test scores. Beyond getting their feet in the door of selective schools are they being taught how think abstractly? To use their imaginations? I don’t know. But I do remember that when my friends and I took the tests we never had to do any of that, thankfully.

Now part of the problem is the ‘end-game’ ,as it were, for parents of such children is a university placement in a prestigious course (usually medicine or law). As long as university entrance placements are determined solely on academic performance (which parents think is ensured if they can first get their kid into a school like Sydney Girls), the situation perpetuates. I wonder if we continue along this line that we’ll get a similar situation as the Japanese education system ?

(I’m not overly familiar with the private school system, but as a public education supporting leftist, I’m instinctively suspicious of them (for right or wrong). I do realise that not all parents who send their kids to private schools can easily afford the fees – I understand that many middle-income parents have to work really hard to afford tuition. But I have to ask why? Is it the school’s brand name? Or the prospect that they’ll meet and make friends with children from a higher social caste and maybe benefit from the old boys network? Is it because private schools can afford to offer a wider category of arts education and activities like the school band, overseas band and sports tours and more languages classes that you might not have access to at government schools? If the latter, what if your kid just doesn’t enjoy that sort of thing? What if he or she finds that sort environment utterly stifling and cloistered – would you still make them go? Because it doesn’t seem like they’d benefit much from it.

I guess some parents would bandy around Howard’s line that private schools teach children “values” and by logical deduction public schools are values-vacuums that will cause your daughters to become prostitutes and your sons to become gang-rapists. And that’s bullshit as far as I’m concerned because what sort of parents are you if you can’t teach or re-enforce values to your own children that you’d delegate that to someone else? Values, including religious instruction should be taught in the home and questioned during the socially interactive environment of the school-yard.

I’m really amazed at the crop of parents who treat school as some 9-3 babysitter, moral and religious instructor as if they themselves didn’t have any personal responsibility for it all. I mean really, what the fuck?).


Saturday, August 07, 2004

My little brother is growing up. Our mother found a Playboy amongst his pile of school books and said that it was up to me to "talk to him" about it. I told him he had to hide them better.


Monday, August 02, 2004

Whoah August already. Only eight weeks 'til gay Paree! and crepes! and pastries! (and shopping!) Oh my!

Speaking of all things francaises, I went to a Bastille Day dinner. A potential client invited me along with some other people I didn't really know. One of them spent the evening speaking in appalling french and regaled us with his story of how a six week trip to France in year 11 saw him shoot from second last to first in HSC french. In a class of 5. In 1990.

In other news:

I finally met my boyfriend’s friends. Yeah, not an issue for some, but I haven’t really been in a relationship since 1997 so it is a very scary big-deal-type thing, okay? I’d been putting it off for months largely because I am a chickenshit and was scared that a) they wouldn’t like me b) I wouldn’t be able to think of anything intelligent/amusing/interesting to say c) I would hate them on account of them being eastern suburbs yuppies.

So having built it up in my head and worked my self up into a state of insecure social retard hell I thought the best way to ease myself into to his social circle would be by going to a work/social party where just about everyone he’s ever met would be. Dicky agreed to be my wingman and default conversation partner; if no one wanted to talk to me he would (and then laugh uproariously and often at my every witty observation). Dicky didn’t come. I hate Dicky.

I’m introduced to his brother; his brother’s girlfriend; his friends from high school, uni, work. Despite preparing a mental list of exciting current affairs topics beforehand I completely shut down and can’t manage anything but “Hi, pleased to meet you”, and “I’m well thanks, how are you?”. And every two minutes it’s like Ground Hog Day because I can’t break out of my excruciating cycle of “Hi-I’m-fine-how-are you-that’s-good”. I have nothing to say to them; they have nothing to say to me and prefer to talk to him anyway. Just how do you ingratiate yourself to a group of people who have known each forever; who would understandably prefer to spend time chatting and catching up with their own friends rather than making small talk with a stranger?

At this point I wish I could say that I told my self to “buck up lil’ camper”, put on a sunshine happy face and sucked it up like a big girl – rather than sneaking out while my boyfriend had to do a presentation, to stand under the MLC mushroom and cry self-pityingly. (Actually, I only stood there blinking back bitter tears of self-ridicule while my lower lip trembled stoically, but whatever, it was still lame). I almost went home. I suck. Thankfully, my lovely boyfriend is level-headed, socially well-adjusted and knows me well enough to make me not feel like a loser - and also confident enough to go back inside and try again...

Oh yeah, our trial finally started. There’s about a week or so to go and our witnesses are now being cross-examined. A motley peanut gallery of observers has formed; I would bet money that the plaintiffs’ solicitor organised them to intimidate our witnesses. In an act of complete lunacy, this woman was stalking the halls outside the court room at one lunchtime adjournment chanting “Liar! Liar! Where is she?! I’m going to confront her! I want her to see my EYES!!! God will give her her Judgment Day!!!” Suffice it to say, bitch is krazy. She’s also one of those long-haired hair-swingers. (Really, one’s level of menace is inversely proportional to one’s level of maniacal stomping and hair-swinging).

The next afternoon she was at it again – after the witness gave an answer – to a question about something which the krazy lady could not probably have known or witnessed - she said in a loud whisper “She’s lying! She’s a lying BIIIITCH!!”. I wish we’d had her booted from the court room, but my boss says you shouldn’t fight fire with fire. Yeah I don’t know why either. I think it’s got to do with being dignified in the face of insanity or some shit. I’ve heard about a District court case where one woman, who had been obviously trying to coach the witness from the gallery was made to go to the back of the court and stand with her face to the wall. Hee! The Supreme Court doesn’t seem to go in for those sort of hijinks though.

But come what may, the issues in this matter mean that it will be appealed until someone runs out of money. And after that, there are about 16 other claims against the same set of defendants. It will keep us all employed for about ten years I reckon…

…which is why I am so fucking happy to have a new job, because I'm sick of litigation to be honest. After angling for a spot in my firm for the past 18 months in non-contentious IP, I heard on the grape vine that one of the IP solicitors was leaving and the position was being offered to some dude who’d only been working there for six months (!!). My response: Over my dead fucking body. So I spoke with the partners and convinced them of my general wonderfulness and competency, and now the job is mine. Wheeeeee!


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