November 22

5-question film review: Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt)

Why did you go see this film?

I first heard about the development of this film, and watched an early teaser, via Queer Screen so I pitched $ in via Pozible. In addition to being Australian-made, what attracted me was that there are so few young adult queer rom-coms where coming out is secondary to other themes and I wanted this to see the light of the silver screen. Also I love Rachel House (who plays ‘aunt’ Patty – not the dead aunt).

What was the best thing about it?

The two leads, Sophie Hawkshaw (Ellie) and Zoe Terakes (Abbie), have real chemistry and really nail the swings between awkward and bolshie, jocular and tender in their interactions with each other and other characters.

The story is also genuinely moving. It has nicely timed dramatic moments that make the comedy a fantastic release.

What was the worst thing about it?

For a rom-com it could’ve done with more comedy but in the swing of things I thought the comedy worked well because of where it was placed in the scenes so they did a lot with what they had.

Who would you recommend go see it?

People who are interested in the interplay between queer history and how queerness emerges in the current generation; people who want to see a queer YA rom-com without coming out as the major theme.

If this film was an item of stationery, what would it be?

Ooh, glitter pen.

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November 22

5-question film review: Flash Gordon

Why did you go see this film?

My local cinema hosted the British Film Festival and ‘Flash Gordon’ was offered as a 4K restoration nostalgia flick. I’ve never seen it before and am aware I’m missing a lot of pop culture references. My partner notes the best thing about it is Timothy Dalton who plays Prince Barin absolutely straight while everyone around him is hyperaware they are in a flamboyant pantomime.

What was the best thing about it?

Music by Queen, the outlandish costumes and Princess Aura can bring me back from the dead any time.

What was the worst thing about it?

The ‘romance’ between Flash and Dale. There’s nearly nothing to the relationship except shared trauma.

Who would you recommend go see it?

If you’re interested in cult classics, definitely have a look. If you want something hokey that you can turn your brain off to, likewise. Perhaps if you’re interested in costume design this could be an interesting reference?

If this film was a piece of clothing what would it be?

I think a sequinned pastie. Maybe even with a tassel. Maybe leave a cheeky one out.

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November 11

5-question film review: Coffee or Tea?

This film was presented in Mandarin with English subtitles. The Chinese title for the film is 一点就到家 (Get Home at One Point), which I think translates to A Homecoming.

Why did you go see this film?

As a tea fanatic I was interested in the setting of the film, Yunnan, which is the birthplace of tea. It has also been a long time since I’ve seen a Chinese film and the trailer for this one looked like fun.

What was the best thing about it?

The slightly zany energy that infuses this film really makes an otherwise predictable narrative arc quite fresh. The themes feel familiar but the delivery makes it by turns more funny or more dramatic than it would be.

What was the worst thing about it?

Wei Jinbei (the ‘entrepreneur’ of the three) attempts suicide near the opening of the film and there’s nearly nothing you can do to prepare for that without a content warning.

Who would you recommend go see it?

This feels like a film for young Millennials/older Gen Zs who are not just inspired by entrepreneurialism but really want to live their life with authenticity. It also speaks to an audience who sees the mass migration of youth to the cities as a problem and is keen to see revivification of more remote villages.

If this film was a car, what would it be?

A novelty delivery van.

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June 22

Yours racially

I have altogether too many thoughts on the current spotlight on race to be coherent and comprehensive at the moment, so I’m going to be adding a bunch of stuff here as a sort of ‘contents’ page as they’re published, including previously published articles on diversity and cultural appropriation.

Here are some articles and essays you can read by other people in the meantime:

Articles

9 tips teachers can use when talking about racism
By Leticia Anderson, Kathomi Gatwiri, Lynette Riley and Marcelle Townsend-Cross

A White Damsel Leveraged Racial Power and Failed
By Ruby Hamad

Deflecting from the real issues of Black Lives Matter
By Osman Faruqi

Diversity in Australian film and TV: ‘I am limited to being a token’
By Ahmed Yussuf

Ex-Cop Brandon Tatum’s Success Doesn’t Disprove White Privilege
By Alex Kasprak

‘I knew that Jonah was me’
By Garry Maddox

Our Media Had A Chance To Fix Its Race Problem. It Blew It.
By Osman Faruqi

‘There are no more excuses’: six industry insiders on Australian TV’s problem with race
By Steph Harmon

They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist
By Jenny Zhang

This is not a critique. This is a condemnation.
By Likhain

Today’s standards
By Luke Pearson

Why I can’t hold space for you anymore
By Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures

Why so many black deaths in custody and so little justice?
By Joshua Creamer

  

Essays

So White. So What.
By Alison Whittaker

Stewed Awakening
By Navneet Alang

The Great White Social Justice Novel
By Sujatha Fernandes

Image credit: The Martin Luther King mural in Newtown by Hpeterswald

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April 25

The paradox of this pandemic

I am one of the lucky ones, I know. I am a freelance writer by day and a freelance writer by night (those are just the hours). I have workaholic tendencies and so, to prevent myself from burnout, a few years ago I started volunteering a day or so a week at schools. It got me out of the house, it broke up my work week and I met and volunteered alongside some people I consider my colleagues and friends.

Then COVID-19 happened. It didn’t happen to me so much as happen around me. The volunteers were recalled and I found myself back home working seven days a week, pulling all-nighters to get commissions in by deadline.

It’s not that I work long days. I spend an unquantifiable amount of time on Twitter reading every take and link about COVID-19 and then another unquantifiable amount of time reading anything that’s not about COVID-19. I watch Tom Holland perform ‘Umbrella’ three times every time it comes on my feed. I estimate I have spent as much time on Facebook (which I loathe) in the last month than I have since I joined. I answer every email and WhatsApp message straight away. I spend way too long comparing delivery deals on fruit and vegetable boxes.

In between, I work. My three main clients are still active. One is a PR agency whose business has swung all different directions in the past few weeks. Some of its clients have pulled their PR whereas others seem to be in the right place at the right time. Another is a not-for-profit peak body in an essential sector that commissions me to interview and write about its affected members. A third is an institution which – bizarrely – still wants me to write website copy about its gym facilities even though it is closed for the foreseeable future. The marketing budget has already been allocated, it seems. I say ‘yes’ because I’m afraid of what I’ll lose if I say ‘no’.

Here I am with a steady income, watching all my freelance peers and colleagues in the arts sector lose their livelihoods in a matter of days and I’m scared? For the month of 17 March to 17 April, the top expenditure on my credit card is charities and causes. It is survivor guilt as much as it is solidarity.

While everyone is revelling in extra ‘reading time’, I’ve not picked up a book in a month because the main catalyst for my reading is commuting.

When we do our fortnightly grocery run I want the comfort of the familiar but our favourite items are all sold out. We try new products, different brands, with some chagrin.

I have never cooked so frequently. I have never resented it so much.

I have never listened to so much new music, tuning into FBi Radio more frequently just to hear something of the outside world. But I have never craved repeating an album over and over so much as now. On high rotation: Six the Musical, Hamilton the Musical, Fiona Apple’s ‘Fetch the Boltcutters’.

I have never needed my herb garden more than now. That patch has never been so bare.

And, as much as possible, I work. For sitting at my desk alone and quiet in the middle of the night is the only thing that makes me feel normal these days.

March 10

5-question film review: Bit

Bit (2019)

Why did you go see this film?

I’m a big fan of the Mardi Gras Film Festival and a schlocky queer B-grade vampire flick was a perfect start to the festival.

What was the best thing about it?

I loved lead vampire Duke but I must confess that as a massive, unironic fan of Boney M I gotta give this to the ‘Rasputin’ disco Vlad sequence which was so deliciously hilarious I am devastated I cannot find a clip of it anywhere.

What was the worst thing about it?

I have a feeling the final cut of the movie deviated from the original premise because there are a few unnecessary threads, e.g. the best friend character, and the synopsis says the main character is transgender, which may well be the case but is never explored.

Who would you recommend go see it?

If you like lesbian vampires, B-grade tropes and edible hearts, this one is for you.

If this film was a food, what would it be?

Hmm, maybe bloody heart of a male comedian.

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February 26

5-question film review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Why did you go see this film?

Whenever I booked tickets on the Palace Cinemas website I saw the poster for this film and it didn’t seem interesting. Then film reviewer Hayley Inch raved about it and I thought I’d at least find out what it was about.

What was the best thing about it?

The cinematography was exquisite, the ending was elegantly rendered, but I think the best thing was the camaraderie between the characters.

What was the worst thing about it?

The narrative framing device was uncharacteristically clumsy and I think the ending would’ve been fine as a time jump without it.

Who would you recommend go see it?

Patient people, as it’s a very slow film with lots of lingering shots. People who appreciate art, people who are interested in the manifestation of repressed female desire, filmmakers who want to learn about lighting.

If this film was an item of stationery, what would it be?

A very fine paintbrush for detailed, elaborate art.

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February 23

5-question film review: Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey

Why did you go see this film?

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was the absolute best thing about Suicide Squad and I thought this would be fun.

What was the best thing about it?

‘Awesome things about this film’ is a field with a lot of contenders but I’m going to say the fight choreography was so sharp and, more to the point, the way each character fought said a lot about their personality, which is rarely something I pick up in movies. (Only two I can think of in recent memory was Charlie’s Angels, 2019, and Ender’s Game, 2013.)

What was the worst thing about it?

Ewan McGregor. No, wait! I mean Ewan McGregor’s character, Black Mask. In a movie teeming with violence, the tabletop dance scene was probably the most horrific moment.

Who would you recommend go see it?

Do you like fantasy violence? Do you enjoy elaborate joke setups? Kickarse costumes? Jurnee Smollett-Bell in a denim top? Bad guys getting their butts smashed? This is the movie for you.

If this film was a car, what would it be?

It’s a stolen Batmobile but make it rainbow-coloured and driven expertly by a woman.

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January 29

5-question film review: Farmageddon

Shaun the Sheep Farmageddon

Why did you go see this film?

Love Aardman films and have a soft spot for claymation.

What was the best thing about it?

Proves that you can have comedy without cruelty and that a kids’ comedy with little dialogue can be more sophisticated than movies aimed at an older audience. Its gentle good humour is fun, often clever and occasionally hilarious.

What was the worst thing about it?

That kids in the audience didn’t get ‘The X-Files’ joke.

Who would you recommend go see it?

Anyone who wants to watch an unproblematic movie without having to grapple with ‘issues’. If you’re feeling a bit ‘meh’ I think it would be a good use of 90 minutes.

If this film was a piece of clothing, what would it be?

A tea cosy worn as a hat. It’s inherently funny, colourful, warm and English.

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January 24

Their Little Lives

Dora died on a Monday night. Her limp white body felt smaller, lighter, than the square of paper towel we used as a shroud. We buried her in a Leggo’s tomato paste box in the front yard just as it began to rain. My partner, a 50-year-old man, cried as I piled the earth back over the hole. “She’s just a mouse… why do I feel so sad?”

As a pet mouse, Isadorable ‘Dora’ Cu Chi Coo was not expected to live a long life. The average pet mouse lives 18-30 months in good health and Dora was not well in the closing days of hers. Triply named after her cuteness, willingness to explore (à la Dora the Explorer) and a love of tunnels (Cu Chi in Vietnam), Dora embodied everything that was endearing about pet mice. She was not as bolshie as her cagemate Marlene ‘Peaches’ Dietratte, whose entire purpose in life was to hide from humans forever and, if she did get caught, to bite the hand that fed her. She was not as demure as Wilde, whose pensive demeanour reminded us of an aphorism by her namesake Oscar: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” She was sweet, loved being handled, and performed her duties as a cagemate well. And at nine months, died too young.

Peaches (on house), Wilde (coming out of house) and Dora (coming out of tunnel)

The first death is the deepest

The other two passed under the care of a mouse-sitter a year later while we were on holiday. The day after we returned home, I picked up their bodies and shed some tears with the sitter. Later, I wrapped them in an old cloth and buried them together in the front yard near to Dora’s grave. For some reason their passing didn’t impact me as much as Dora’s. Was it because Dora was my favourite and her death had been the hardest blow? Or had the first death primed me for the following ones?

People often think of mice as pets for children. They are easy to look after, good for smaller homes and teach kids about pet responsibility. But inevitably, their little lives mean children will need to face their deaths.

Death of a pet is often used as a teachable moment. It is commonly the first death a child will experience, and the manner in which parents handle the process of communicating the death, treating the dead animal and managing grief becomes a model for how the child might handle later encounters with death. This will also reflect the family’s values: religious parents may talk about how the pet has gone to God; avoidant parents might talk about the animal going to ‘the farm’ or ‘the forest’. Very young children find it very hard to understand death’s permanence, so it is crucial for them to understand that their pet will never wake up, or that an absent pet will never return.

Relationships also matter. I cried more about Dora than I did when either of my grandmothers died (one grandfather had passed before I was born, the other when I was too young to know him). Maybe it was because she was my colleague as I spent late nights at the computer so I felt a bond that I did not share with my grandmothers, who lived in another country, to whom I barely spoke. Perhaps it is because both grandmothers had lived full lives, they were old and their times had come, whereas Dora was barely halfway through an already short lifespan. Or it could have been that, as Dora’s caregiver, I may have been able to do more to save her compared to my grandmothers, who died in a foreign land.

About a month after we buried Peaches and Wilde I bought two boys, fuzzy Rex mice we called Arthur and Gustav after our favourite kings, one fictional, the other Swedish. Parenting guides are split on this practice. On one hand, having a new pet – especially with a different personality to the former one – can help with the grieving process. It takes the focus off the sadness of loss and reminds kids of the joy of having a pet again. On the other, parents need to avoid sending the message that an individual pet is replaceable.

Arthur

As adults, we understood Arthur and Gustav would never be like Dora, Peaches and Wilde. While Arthur was timid and loved to be petted, Gustav spent the entirety of his time asserting his dominance over both his brother and his hapless human handlers. The military spirit of Gustavus Adolphus reigned within.

We had them a year before we holidayed again. An acquaintance who’d had mice as a boy offered to look after them. He lived closer than the mouse-sitter I’d used previously, and it was nice to know they’d be in friendly hands. I told him the story of my girls, priming him for the possibility that they might not make it through to my return and instructed him not to tell me if they passed while I was away.

Upon my return I learnt that Arthur had crossed over the rainbow bridge several days prior and had been buried in the park nearby. So it was recalcitrant Gustav I took home that day. He was in rude health considering the recent demise of his brother, but I’m guessing that if you only live for 18 months, ten days is a long time ago.

We formed an uneasy relationship. I couldn’t, of course, prove that Gustav had topped Arthur but suspected him of relentless bullying that probably contributed.

When he started hiccoughing, a sign of respiratory issues, he was 17 months old – one month shy of the line where I’d issue only palliative care. I took him to the vet.

One thing you don’t realise about vet waiting rooms until you walk in with a mouse is that it is full of animals much, much larger than yours, many of which are predators – not just watchful cats but adorable Yorkshire terriers and otherwise friendly rats. I was relieved when a vet called us in. I paid $200 for the privilege of her small pets expertise and a few millilitres of broad range antibiotics to be administered via mouth. I was also to buy a tin of Ensure, a nutritional supplement, and feed him manually because he would lose his appetite on the drugs.

Drugging and feeding a sick mouse who resents you is a thankless task. Because they are small, it’s difficult to hold them in a way that is both comfortable for them but allows you to force things they don’t want to consume down their throats. The only way to constrain them safely is to wrap them like a burrito in a hankie so they stop scrabbling. Eventually Gustav resigned himself to my ministrations and somehow, in my thrice daily care for him, I grew to love him.

Gustav

About three months after he recovered, he relapsed. He started wheezing and losing weight so I defrosted the remaining Ensure and made enquiries of my pet-owning friends about drugs I could siphon to give him another fighting chance, although he had officially entered the palliative-care-only period. It was because of this close attention that I saw he’d developed bumps on his paws. They were not advanced enough to cause him to limp, but I suspected bumblefoot, a bacterial infection. I decided to disinfect his feet, so placed him gently in a takeaway container with a shallow pool of warm saltwater. As I dried his paws with a cloth, he drew his last breath, eyes still bright in the diffuse sun reflecting off the bathroom tiles. Did I drown him by accident? Did his lungs finally give out? Or was it multiple conditions ganging up to issue the final blow?

Gustav was not my favourite mouse, but his death hit me unexpectedly hard. I had been so involved in the last months of his life – we had grown strangely close to one another – that I seemed to take it more personally than any of the others.

I buried him in the front yard wrapped like a burrito in the cloth I’d been using as a towel. Within earshot, a real estate agent was showing a neighbouring apartment to prospective tenants. I didn’t care if they saw me dig the grave. I’ve never known a funeral to stop for a flat inspection.

This essay was shortlisted for the New Philosopher Writers’ Award, themed ‘Death’.

*****

P.S: At the time of writing, I have two new Rex boys, Olaf (a Manx named after a former king from the Isle of Man)…

Olaf is ridiculously photogenic

…and Nero, who is quite a mild-mannered mouse considering he is named after the tyrannical Roman Emperor. Nero once cured himself of necrosis of the tail by chewing off the diseased bits.

Nero is much cuter in real life than he looks in photos

They are brothers and lived together for a while until Olaf insisted on picking fights, despite the fact that Nero is 15g bigger. They are now neighbours.

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January 23

5-question film review: Little Women

Why did you go see this film?

I enjoyed Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version and wanted to see how Greta Gerwig would update it. (I’ve never read the book…)

What was the best thing about it?

Saoirse Ronan makes a fantastic Jo but the cast as an ensemble is excellent.

What was the worst thing about it?

I cried for the last two-thirds of it and ran out of tissue.

Who would you recommend go see it?

Everyone, even if you don’t think it’s ‘for you’.

If this film was a piece of clothing, what would it be?

It’s a flower crown, handmade and beautiful, a gift given freely.

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January 3

Movies I watched in 2019

Here are the movies I watched at the cinema/on the big screen in 2019. All films in English except for those indicated.

  1. Holmes & Watson
  2. The Favourite
  3. Sorry to Bother You
  4. If Beale Street Could Talk
  5. My Queer Career (Mardi Gras Film Festival short film collection)
  6. When the Beat Drops
  7. Lez Bomb (Mardi Gras Film Festival short film collection)
  8. Captain Marvel
  9. What Men Want
  10. Girl (French/Flemish)
  11. Your Name (Japanese)
  12. Les Garçons Sauvage (French)
  13. Dilili in Paris (French)
  14. Genèse (French)
  15. Chedeng and Apple (Tagalog/Filipino)
  16. Fighting with my Family
  17. Shazam!
  18. Burning (Korean)
  19. Avengers: Endgame
  20. Hidden Pulse
  21. Rocketman
  22. Men in Black: International
  23. Dark Place (Sydney Film Festival Indigenous Australian short film collection)
  24. Detective Pikachu
  25. John Wick Parabellum
  26. Yesterday
  27. Parasite (Korean)
  28. Princess Mononoke (Japanese)
  29. Spider-man: Far From Home
  30. Booksmart
  31. The Farewell (Mandarin)
  32. The Cordillera of Dreams (Spanish)
  33. Push
  34. The Grand Bizarre
  35. Hi, AI
  36. The Bamboo Bridge (Khmer)
  37. Hustlers
  38. Last Christmas
  39. Charlie’s Angels
  40. Knives Out
  41. Terminator: Dark Fate
  42. Gorillaz: Reject False Icons
  43. Jojo Rabbit
  44. Frozen 2
  45. Marianne and Leonard

I didn’t get to as many film festivals as I usually do – notably I missed the Japanese Film Festival, which would’ve boosted the number up to a film a week.

Generally speaking, there were a lot of meh Hollywood mainstream films this year. Nothing was as terrible as the loudest smegheads made out (e.g. Captain Marvel was a solid three stars) but I didn’t find anything particularly scintillating. Knives Out and Jojo Rabbit came in late to save the year on that front, but I think I’ll tip my proverbial hat to the two films that surprised me in a good way: Sorry to Bother You and Detective Pikachu.

About a quarter of the films I saw were in languages other than English (go see Parasite!) and a tad fewer were documentaries (Push is fantastic).

Steven Universe

The small screen

I continue to not own a TV, so all the other screen content I consume is from streaming and some DVDs.

Series:

  1. Red Dwarf (Seasons 1-13)
  2. Steven Universe (Seasons 1-5 + the movie)
  3. Avatar: The Legend of Aang (Books 1-3)
  4. Avatar: The Legend of Korra (Books 1-4)
  5. Jane the Virgin (Season 4)
  6. The Good Place (Seasons 3-4)
  7. Archer (Seasons 4-9)
  8. Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!
  9. Queer Eye (Season 4)
  10. Derry Girls (Season 1)
  11. Cowboy Bebop (Volume 1)

I started Catch-22, which is one of my favourite books, but it didn’t grab me. I might re-read the novel and see if I can rustle up some time to finish it.

Still from Singin’ in the Rain (I love Reynolds’ dress in this number)

The smaller screen

The other place I consume a a large volume of audio-visual content is on aeroplanes. Took a return flight to Japan (ANA) and a trip to Ireland (Qatar Airways). I like flying on non-western airlines because it then exposes me to movies I don’t have access to in Australia.

En route to Japan I watched Hibiki, a film about a girl who wins a novel-writing contest but is socially problematic, plus Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura, a favourite I wanted to see again because I missed the first 10 minutes when it screened as part of the 2018 Japanese Film Festival. I can’t remember what else.

For my journey to Ireland (a 48-hour round trip), I flew Qatar Airways. It had every Marvel movie up to Captain Marvel plus a selection of classic Hollywood. I did a marathon of classics (The Philadelphia Story, National Velvet, Singin’ in the Rain) and then I watched every Spider-Man film on offer outside of Tom Holland: three Tobey Maguires, two Andrew Garfields and Into the Spider-verse. Also caught up on the new Hellboy and On the Basis of Sex.

What’s the one series or film from 2019 you’d recommend?

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November 19

In which I decide to get over myself

When I was 7, one of my favourite books was a tall joke book called, I think, 1000 Jokes for Kids. It had a bold blue cover with the title in large snazzy orange font and was roughly the dimensions of a foolscap sheet folded lengthwise.

One segment was a list of fictional books and fictional authors all with punny titles like ‘Songs for Children by Barbara Blacksheep’. I remember clearly one from the list because it was the first time I had ever seen my name in a book. The pun title was ‘The Unfinished Poem by Adeline Moore’.

Fast forward some decades and I’ve decided I’m not writing enough for myself. I know exactly why, too: I’m one of those writers who don’t like to show their work-in-progress. I hate admitting that I have half-baked ideas, I don’t like my foundation of knowledge to be too fresh. But what this does is stifle the natural learning process of working through an idea, an argument, a voice. I want to get over myself. I want to forgive all the mistakes I’m going to make before I make them, knowing I’m going to make them but also knowing that I need to make them to progress.

Bear with me. Prepare for changing perceptions as I uncover new information. Allow for paradigm shifts.

So here it is, my newly anointed blog: Unfinished writing by Adeline.

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