How exciting to be placed at Number 2 in Ezvid's wiki list:
10 Enthralling Fantasy Novels by Australian Authors!
Here's the verbiage they used for Delwyn of the Realms:
"In the #2 position is Kelly Proudfoot's "Delwyn of the Realms." Delwyn, who has the ability to astral travel, has always existed between two worlds. This mysterious power has taken its toll, and after her marriage breaks down, she goes to her aunt's house in the country to recuperate. While there, she discovers a magical mirror that allows her to enter the world of dreams. Now Delwyn must navigate her secret adventures in dreamland as well as an increasingly tempestuous waking life."
See the book trailer here
They also have info on Fantasy themed activities and a
Ted talk about why Fantasy matters.
Update re: The Storming Archives!
I have been working on the final book in the series: Soul Storm
for several years and hope to have it done by 2020 - so stay tuned and be prepared for an even wilder ride!
Planning for a crowdfunding campaign can be bigger than Ben Hur - and then some! As you can see, one of the things I've been busying myself with (other than my Freelance writing jobs and my own writing) is the design for my logo. I'm not satisfied with any of them and realize that I might have to bite
the bullet and get a professional to create one for me.
For this I will get my trusty Fiverr lady - Maratam - to do so. I'm sure she'll do a wonderful job, as she has done my illustrations for the Storming Archives
as well as a design for The Willow Lake Group.
My email list is growing at a snail's pace - but I am terribly grateful for the ones who have signed up so far! They have received free copies (Kindle Edition) of my novel - The Willow Lake Group (which is where the idea for
A Feast in the Forest came from) - as well as a printable recipe.
I'm researching more goodies for them as I go along!
To give you an idea about how I'm going in terms of planning,
I've taken some screenshots of my Excel spreadsheet - as follows:
I'm filling in the blanks as I go - but there's a lot of repetition,
follow up and changes.
I'm leaning towards an Olympus camera - as my father told me a long time ago that it's simply the best! I've also learned a lot about food photography - not only from the links and info I find on Pinterest (see my board for A Feast in the Forest) - but via a lovely lady called Trisha Hughes at http://www.eatyourbeets.com/
I invested in her ebook ($29) - and was not disappointed! After watching one of her Periscope videos, I realized that she knows a lot about food photography and loves to share her knowledge - without weighing it down with
over-complicated terms or over-priced suggestions.
She is terribly cute and excited to share what she knows - including hints
and tips for sourcing equipment, props and so on with limited funds.
I signed up for her newsletter which is informative and fun. (Not just about food and photography!) After reading her book I have a greater understanding of what I need to do - in terms of buying the right photography
equipment, props etc - as well as technique.
You can buy her fantastic book here:
This is another page from my spreadsheet - for researching props etc.
This is the page for perks and giveaways.
I have to be careful to not over-spend, as I initially calculated $5000 as an approximate budget (for the creation of A Feast in the Forest) - but it could end up being more like $7,000. Once the campaign goes live (looks like it might be the end of July 2016) I will restrict the more expensive perks - making fewer available for higher pledges and so on. For example: the lower the pledge - the cheaper the cost of the perks - including my own "donations", such as free books (ebooks, paperbacks and audible), printable recipes etc.
I still need to create my video (yikes!) and I'm not looking forward to it -
as I'm usually quite shy - especially in front of the camera!
I recently met a short film director and might ask him to help.
This is just to show the pages on my Campaign Planning spreadsheet.
Here's a few screen caps from my cookbook planning spreadsheet:
As you can see - I have to scale it back quite a bit. I tend to over-plan and
over-research - sometimes losing myself in the details. The idea is to
create a simple cookbook - as I will be including the art, poetry
and stories from the characters in The Willow Lake Group.
I've already chosen the "non-pagan" recipes and am still deciding which pagan recipes to include. I will be arranging the pagan recipes along the Sabbats
and Festivals, even though I originally planned to have recipes for spells/purposes. I finally decided to create legends with icons for
easy identification (for those pagans who want to
incorporate cooking in their ritual work.)
The most daunting task will be the actual cooking and photography - along with appropriate settings, props and design of the cookbook. I'll be
gathering a couple of friends to help - after I figure out what to
do and when. I also plan to raid their homes for any props
and knick-knacks they might like to donate or loan
- which will save money!
Along with the video - there's more outreach to food companies and restaurants needed - which I will be doing next week. So far - I haven't
had any response from the pagan restaurants and companies I've
contacted - so I will try to sweeten the deal with a new approach.
I already offered to advertise/feature their businesses in the cookbook -
so now I'll ask if they'd like to donate a recipe - in return for free
advertising as well as inclusion in the sequel to
The Willow Lake Group and other perks.
It's all very daunting but I am determined to get this cookbook off the ground.
Please help me by spreading the word!
Here is a link you can share:
Sign up here!
Until next time - take care and keep posted for my video!
This is one of those movies that reminds us how the combination of great story telling, brilliant acting and wonderful cinematography (along with a poignant and relevant music score) can make the difference between a mediocre yawn and an engrossing experience. Spider was directed by David Cronenberg (one of my all-time favorites) and adapted from Patrick McGrath's novel (who also wrote the screenplay).
Spider is a psychological thriller about a broken, schizophrenic man called Dennis Cleg (nicknamed Spider since childhood), who has been prematurely released from an asylum and is directed to move into a halfway house in London in the 1970's.
Played by the awesome Ralph Fiennes, Spider draws you into his story (which could be hard-going for those with a short attention span) where he vacillates between reality and fantasy as he unravels his past. This is a film that requires full attention, as a variety of different points of view are presented, along with the juxtaposition of characters - such as his mother being superimposed on Yvonne, the prostitute from the pub (who he assumed - as a child - had an affair with his father) and Mrs. Wilkinson, the woman who runs the halfway house.
Spider's mother, Yvonne and Mrs Wilkinson are played by the multi-talented Miranda Richardson. (The real Mrs Wilkinson is played by the brilliant Lynn Redgrave - who is gruff, stiff and frightening to Spider.) I've always adored Miranda Richardson - from her stint in Blackadder to her lovely performance in The Hours. She is simply mesmerizing - as all 3 characters - to the point of nearly disappearing in their personalities. I had to keep reminding myself that it was her juxtaposed - rather than different actresses - that's how awesome her performance is.
When Spider arrives at the halfway house, he is brought upstairs to take a bath, where a tub full of rusty water awaits him. We see how internalized and closed in Spider truly is - as he mutters to himself and barely registers when spoken to. The scene with Spider huddled in the tub like a frightened, lost child is devastating in portraying his level of mental isolation.
Spider keeps a tiny journal where he writes his indecipherable gibberish (although we assume he understands it all too well) with a tiny pencil. He stashes it under the carpet in order to hide his secrets - which are slowly but surely revealed in flashbacks (with the adult Spider shadowing his younger self - in the gloomy, industrial part of London in the 1950's).
Spider meets another resident at the halfway house (Terrence - played by the wonderful John Neville) who does his best to befriend the silent Spider, telling him a variety of stories indirectly related to their shared predicament. The scene where he defends Spider, who has been admonished by the ever-watchful Mrs Wilkinson for wearing multiple shirts, is beautifully done. He tells her that "clothes maketh the man...the less there is of the man, the more the need of the clothes.”
As Spider revisits the haunts of his childhood, we see him mesmerized by the gasworks across the street, sitting on park benches along the side of the canal, loitering in the alleyways and the lot where his father used to grow their veggies. As the story unfolds, we realize that Spider is reliving his childhood - in particular, a time where his love for his mother is distorted by his childish idealizing of her and his anger at his father and Yvonne for apparently killing her off.
His memories of what occurred are blurred and patched together with scenes from his time in the mental institution, where - in one scene - we see him staring at a pinup of a naked woman. As he focuses on the photo, we see his conflation of his mother and Yvonne - suggesting an Oedipal attachment.
There are some light moments - in particular a scene where his fellow patients share a laugh during a break in their work. These secondary characters have stories of their own - which are never revealed but subtly hinted at. (Cronenberg's superb direction and deep understanding of human nature make the movie a thought-provoking psychological study.)
As Spider's memories lead him into a downward spiral, we get the sense that his world will collapse at any moment - as truth weaves in and out of his fruitless attempts to keep his story hidden - from himself and we assume - the rest of the world. It's only when he is looming over Mrs Wilkinson - intending to kill her (believing that she is really Yvonne in disguise) when she snaps him out of it by asking, "What have you done Mr. Cleg?"
This scene is interspersed with the memory of him killing Yvonne - by gassing her via the intricate system he creates using his beloved string - which is also used to create the web in his room. It's only when we see his father (played by the awesome Gabriel Byrne) dragging his dead mother out of the house - where we see Spider coming full circle. He is finally facing the truth.
His web of lies and false memories are torn down - but there's no catharsis or revelation for Spider. It's back to the asylum where we assume he will spend the rest of his life.
The young Spider is played by Bradley Hall - who gives a sweet and intelligent performance for one so young. His restrained anger at his father, loathing for Yvonne and deep love for his mother are perfectly played.
Ralph Fiennes gives one of his greatest performances in this movie. Here we see his room at the halfway house - decorated with his web of string - which seems to be for protection as well as containment of his scattered memories. We also wonder if Spider will end up tangled in his own creation.
Lynn Redgrave as the no-nonsense landlady. Wonderfully cold and practical. She is not mean but she is strict and stoic. It's interesting to note that her room is quaint and very feminine - in contrast with the stark coldness of the rest of the house.
Spider's room at the halfway house is utilitarian and stark. It's indicative of the harsh world he finds himself in - echoing his isolation yet providing a blank canvas for his story to unfold.
Spider's father and Yvonne - in a scene where he explains he has come to fix her "pipes". Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne are wonderful together. I was particularly impressed with their ability to stay in character - as well as shift and change according to Spider's memory of them. Brilliantly acted!
Beautiful performances from both John Neville and Ralph Fiennes. Their flimsy solidarity is constantly tested by Mrs Wilkinson's interruptions and scolding.
Adult Spider relives his tender moments with his mother as a child. I loved the way the adult Spider lurks in the background, as he watches his memories come to life from a safe distance.
Spider is one of David Cronenberg's finest films - in my opinion. It's a story that forces us to ruminate over events and how we either gloss over or totally deconstruct them - then reconstruct them in order to satisfy our desire to make things right. Also - the emerging fear of sexuality, mixed in with his adoration for his mother, serves to create a story about a boy's arrested development and the inevitable descent into madness.
The movie was released in 2002 and has won several awards - including awards for the actors - all well deserved. With issues during production - such as lack of funding - it's amazing the movie was made at all. The director, the producer and the actors chose not to receive any payment in order to get the under-funded movie made - which is a sacrifice we should all be grateful for.
Even if you prefer action, romance, horror etc. - this movie will not disappoint - unless you don't have patience for the unfolding of a complex story or appreciation for fine film-making and acting. I give it Five Stars!
Here is the first post for my maiden voyage into crowdfunding: to raise money
for the creation of my magical cookbook. Those of you who have read The Willow Lake Group, know that Sondra is a wonderful cook. You also know that she's a photographer, a Hedgewitch and Gavin's soulmate.
I aim to produce the book she's always dreamed of creating - full of wonderful recipes (Pagan and otherwise), personal tips on the Craft, poetry and art from the other members in The Willow Lake Group.
I wrote the novel from the perspective of 42 year old Gavin (which was fun!) - who travels to the sleepy town of Willow Lake to complete a carpentry contract. Along the way he meets Liam - a 28 year old hipster who ends up falling in love with a woman's handwriting - which just happens to belong to Sondra!
They both meet all the colorful characters in the literary group - who become a family to Gavin. Lucky for Gavin - Sondra falls for him - even though he has a checkered past. Liam isn't so lucky - but his obsessive desire for Sondra proves to be more than they all bargained for!
To learn more, go to the website.
Sondra prepares all the food for the gatherings at the Willow Lake Bookstore, where the group hold their readings. She is helped by the other women: the shy and mysterious April; the middle aged, lesbian lovers - Beth and Delia, and the self-styled Manga obsessed space cadet - 20 year old Mena.
All who meet Sondra are bewitched by her beauty - and her food. (Sondra has her own blog at the website - written by your's truly, of course - but it's a fun exercise to write as one of the characters. You can read her blog here.)
I'm currently researching all I'll need to do for the campaign - which is daunting, to say the least! I'll start creating videos over the next two weeks - so you'll be able to see me blather away about what I hope to achieve, updates re: planning, researching etc - as well as news about perks, giveaways and other tidbits.
How this all came about...
When I was writing my fantasy series - the Storming Archives - I was immersed in bizarre worlds filled with even more bizarre characters. Even though I love writing in that genre, I wanted to flex my muscles and produce a contemporary novel about a writing/artistic group - much like my beloved Beat Generation or the Bloomsbury group. (I'm currently trying to start my own writing group - so we'll see how that pans out! Anyone living locally - Springfield, TN - is more than welcome to join.)
I also became fascinated with the idea of someone falling in love with handwriting - like they would a lover. I wondered if it was possible to become infatuated with another's handwriting - to the point of obsession - and if that infatuation would dissipate after meeting the person who wrote it.
All the different elements of the story - along with the experiences and characters - coalesced into a "charming" novel about a group of people who all ended up in the magical, faraway setting of Willow Lake. (This is a fictional place for the purpose of the story - somewhere in New England!)
With my love for cooking, my pagan background, adoration for writing and the Beat Generation - it became obvious that a cookbook needed to follow the novel. Food is one of the integral parts of the story - like a magic spell weaving throughout the narrative - so I incorporated the cookbook in the novel.
Sondra longs to produce her own magical cookbook, so why not bring it to life - as a nice accompaniment to the novel?
I also maintain a blog about healthy eating (called Shapeshifting on Wordpress) - where I post my recipes and photos. I realized that I had a lot to learn about food photography, so I've set out researching and trying the hints and tips I've discovered.
What do I hope to achieve?
This picture is a mock-up that I made for the cover of the cookbook. I want to create a book that includes other pleasurable aspects, aesthetics, and art-forms which exemplify the atmosphere in The Willow Lake Group. I'd like it to be an introduction to traditional and pagan cooking (using local, global, organic, non-gmo, free-range, whole-food where possible) - interspersed with poetry, artwork and spells from the characters in the novel.
I expect it to be a delightful addition to the novel - including my own recipes, spells, poetry and art - "channeled" through the various characters of The Willow Lake Group.
There will be intimate portraits of the characters, using backstories, letters and photos (hopefully I'll be able to get people to model for me!) I also plan to make it a stand-alone book - not necessarily needing readers to read the novel in order to appreciate it.
So - I will keep you all posted regularly - throughout the planning as well as the campaign, along with videos on Youtube and pins on my Pinterest board. I created it to inspire me and to prepare me for the HUGE job ahead of me!
I hope you'll come along for the ride - and please feedback if you have any ideas, suggestions or comments!
(Spoiler alert - I discuss the ending, etc.)
What is interesting about this movie (and others like it) is that it reclaims the reins of horror – at least in terms of supernatural horror. Some movie-goers have reported that it wasn’t scary enough – or even – that it was boring! It would be easy to respond snootily – to say that their obvious lack of intelligence is to blame – but your basic, garden-variety horror fan is probably more likely to prefer multiple thrills and spills, blood and gore.
True aficionados of horror have an appreciation for the psychological and supernatural elements of this movie. In early cinema (including the history of horror fiction, art etc.)
the idea of not knowing what was behind the door, under the bed and so on – was infinitely more terrifying and exciting than actually facing the demon, monster and such like. (H.P. Lovecraft - for example.) It’s true that we’ve evolved (and some would say devolved!) in terms of our taste for horror over the years – not to mention the desensitization that goes along with the desire for more and more action and mayhem.
Film makers relying heavily on special effects have gone to great lengths to depict every nuance of a villain/creature and their horrible deeds – to the point where we all know the tricks. Like an adult at a puppet-show – we can see the strings.
Some of us are tired of seeing the strings. Some of us enjoy being riveted to the edge of our seats and forced to think beyond what’s been shown to us. Some of us like a story that has been properly researched, with a plot and characters that are true to the period as well as a movie that builds tension without trying to hit all targets and tropes.
It cheapens the experience.
First-time director – Robert Eggers (who also wrote the screenplay) harkens back to the days where the supernatural (or at least – the belief in it) was all too real. The Puritan hysteria over witchcraft was peaking – after a long history of witch-hunting and folklore filled with stories that spooked adults and children alike. Apparently the director has always been fascinated with witchcraft and his production team worked with American and English museums – even consulting with 17th century agricultural experts – in order to create an authentic movie about a banished family trying to make a life in the harsh wilderness.
The movie is rich with symbolism: the silver cup (silver = moon, feminine energies, receptivity etc - so when it is stolen from Katherine - it's like her last vestiges of womanhood have been forsaken); the hare (fertility, shapeshifting etc); the goat (the Devil); the raven (death etc.) Also - blood in various forms: death, coming of age, energy and many others.
The story is about William and his family – banished from a 17th century Puritan plantation – after he challenges the religious authorities. William, Katherine (his pregnant wife) and their children leave the plantation, finally building a farmstead close to a large, dense forest – which (unbeknownst to them) just happens to be inhabited by witches.
After the baby (Samuel) disappears during an innocent game of peek-a-boo with his sister, the family is plunged into mourning - fearing (at first) that the child was taken by a wolf. Eldest child Thomasin – played wonderfully by Anya Taylor-Joy – is immediately thrust into the role of mother while Katherine grieves heavily.
Her grief and guilt are palpable. So is the barely restrained anguish and distrust displayed by her mother (Katherine) – brilliantly acted by Kate Dickie. Having to deal with the young twins (Mercy and Jonas) as well as her grief and chores, Thomasin is doing her best to keep everything kicking along. It doesn’t help that the twins blame Thomasin for the disappearance of their baby brother – taunting her by saying that she’s the witch who
stole the child. They tell her that Black Phillip (the family’s goat – awesome with its combination of playful pet and demonic ferocity) told them about Thomasin being a witch.
She loses it and tells them that she is indeed the witch of the woods – in order to scare them into keeping her secret – as she knows how she will be dealt with if her parents think she is responsible for Samuel’s disappearance.
In the meantime, her brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw – wise beyond his years) and her father William (Ralph Ineson – the scariest voice I’ve heard in a long time!) go hunting in the forest. Caleb questions his father about the fact that Samuel wasn’t baptized and wants to know if he’ll go to Hell. William does his best to deal with the questions and ends up revealing a secret: that he sold his wife’s beloved, silver cup in order to buy hunting equipment – as their farm is not yielding enough for the family to survive. He hasn’t told Katherine yet – as he is waiting for her grieving to pan out. (Katherine is
beside herself and continues to cry and pray. She also believes that Thomasin stole her silver cup)
The most horrifying scene (for me, anyway) was when we see what happened to Samuel. The witch in the woods (who turns out to be an old crone - typical and representative of witches in old woodcuts and art) has kidnapped him. When she creeps over to him in her hut (both naked) a chill came over me. Thankfully we don’t see her killing him, but when she’s mashing up the blood and flesh in her cauldron (for the flying ointment) then smearing it on herself and her broom – the fear is real and visceral.
I was thoroughly impressed (and creeped out) when I saw her taking flight late at night. The shot is from behind, as she rides through the thick forest towards a large, looming moon.
Back at the homestead, Thomasin’s parents whisper about sending her away to serve another family. The children overhear it, so the next day, Thomasin and Caleb go off on their own to try and find food for the family. They believe that it will prevent the need for Thomasin to go away. When their dog is freaked by the presence of a rabbit (assumed to be the witch in animal form), Thomasin is knocked off their horse and Caleb disappears.
It turns out that Caleb comes across the witch’s house – where a beautiful young woman comes out and kisses him. (He has been eyeing off his sister’s breasts – as puberty is setting in and he has no one else to look at!)
Later on – after Thomasin finds her way back home (and the family believe that she had something to do with Caleb’s disappearance) her brother returns – naked and bewitched. When the family pray over him, he comes out of his stupor – although momentarily and in an apparent state of ecstasy for Jesus. When he collapses back on the bed and dies, the family is thrown into another state of grief – along with the twins erupting in a feverish accusation towards Thomasin.
Thomasin blames them in turn and William decides to board up all three children in the goat pen – along with Black Phillip. In the night, the children are paid a visit by the witch in the pen – which is another frightening scene. At the same time, Katherine has a vision about her sons coming back to her – along with the silver cup. She breastfeeds Samuel – but is really having her breast pecked by a raven.
When William finds the goat pen destroyed and the goats (all but Black Phillip) killed, he is attacked by Black Phillip after pleading with God to protect his children – admitting his guilt over the silver cup and dragging his family into the wilderness in order to maintain his pride. Black Phillip gores William in a scene that reminds us of the demonic attributes given to goats through the course of Christian history.
Katherine is finally tipped over the edge when she sees that her husband has been killed and her twins have disappeared. She tries to strangle Thomasin, who is forced to defend herself. In a compelling scene, Katherine dies on top of Thomasin – after being stabbed several times with a gardening tool.
Later on, Thomasin finally speaks with Black Phillip, who has taken “human” form (although kept in the shadows, making him more mysterious.) After promising to show her the world, he gets her to sign his book. She then travels into the forest – at night (and naked) – followed by Black Phillip. She comes across a coven of witches performing a Sabbath in the woods. They all start levitating in a scene straight from the paintings of artists such as Goya – with Thomasin joining them – laughing along the way. (Not sure if it was a mixture of hysterical laughter and joy over finally being free.)
When the movie was over – I was (at first) a little disappointed – although I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. Maybe I’ve been affected like many other horror fans – wanting divine retribution or a Hallmark ending. After a few hours of ruminating and talking about it with my husband, I realized that the ending was perfect. Thomasin had no rights as an individual in her family. She had been blamed for everything that had happened and if she’d tried to go back to the plantation, she would have been at the very least – ostracized - or hung as a witch.
That doesn’t mean to say that it was a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them” – rather, Thomasin had been railroaded into the coven – by the very treatment of her religious parents and the community they hailed from.
This brings up an interesting point. Society usually reviles women who are strong and independent - especially if they are not the quintessential beauties we expect them to be. Fair enough – it was more so back then, but we still don’t like to admit that women can be just as murderous and “evil” as men can be – even though history and current events beg to differ. (I'm not saying that Thomasin was evil - as she was damned if she did or didn't!)
It’s perfectly fine to talk about "evil" men and male serial killers – even deifying them and their crimes. With violent movies, video games and crimes going on every minute of the day – we are still horrified when women exemplify the same actions and personalities as their male counterparts.
Women are supposed to be complacent, well-behaved and under control – whether it be by society or the people in their lives. If she chooses to be different – no matter how much she is loved or revered – there is still that stigma which dictates she’s not a “normal” woman. If a woman chooses debauchery or to exhibit dangerous behavior – she is automatically crazy or evil. To be under the influence of drugs or to have suffered a bad childhood or other trauma, is an acceptable reason for a woman to stray from the flock.
For a woman to choose a path that is seemingly unpleasant – or horrifying to most of us – is a terrifying anomaly we don’t usually wish to entertain. (On the other hand - it's sexist to assume that it's understandable when a male is evil, etc. - like men don't have the capacity to be good or that they are naturally bad. A lot of good men have been treated badly and killed by murderous women. But that's my point: it's horrifying when anyone commits a heinous crime - male or female.)
Everyone needs an excuse – if not a reason – for bad behavior. Thomasin was a pure, good girl – despite the accusations and treatment by her family. She was always at risk of being persecuted and killed – whether by the hands of her family or the community. Joining the witches became her salvation. She had joined a “family” that would protect her – unlike anyone else in her life.
Having said that – let me say this: it wasn’t as though William was a monster. Yes – he was proud about his religious differences – which led to the final destruction of his family, but he went into the wilderness with a pioneering spirit and a deep belief that God was guiding him to a greater life. At times, weak-willed (he defers to his wife a lot - which was refreshing for that period) and taking out his frustrations with the wood chopping, he does his best to provide for his family and to protect them as well as he knows how. He is essentially a good man who just happened to make bad decisions.
Then there’s sweet Caleb, who is going through puberty and is at the mercy of his hormones. His heart is in the right place but he falters when he allows himself to be taken in by temptation. The Puritan, religious ideals of the day dictated that he must not stray from the flock – lest he be bewitched and fall into the hands of the Devil. Harvey Scrimshaw was wonderful as Caleb – with his quietly contemplative acting and true immersion into the old language. As a matter of fact – all the actors did well with the language – to the point where I was straining and trying to sort through the “thou’s” etc.
This movie was unsettling but beautifully shot, with a great story and a “magical realism” not often properly portrayed in supernatural movies. Hopefully this will be a siren call for other “horror” movie directors, screenwriters and producers: scale back the “schlock” and produce more thought-provoking movies with artistic altruism. Remember that there are still some of us left who enjoy intrigue, mystery and provocation that does not require everything to be laid out for us. The imagination is infinitely more horrifying in terms of “filling in the blanks” – than a continuous blast of special effects, blood, gore and gratuitous violence and action.
Make us think. Educate us – because entertainment has become a “color by the numbers” routine which usually insults those of us with a certain level of intelligence.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an avid fan of horror – but it has become incredibly formulaic over the past 20 years. I am rarely truly shocked or entranced by horror. I don’t mind a splash of blood here and there or random gore – but we all know its ketchup, CGI, special effects and make up! I believe that horror has come full-circle – thanks to this awesome movie. Looking forward to more from Eggers and other horror film creators who might dare to step outside the circle!
I've always been a huge fan of Sarah Silverman. I have her tv show on DVD, as well as "Jesus is Magic" (stand up). I watch all her specials and pretty much anything she's been involved in. I have her memoir "The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee" in hardback and audio. I really believe that everything she does is magic - and if it's not - then it's someone else's fault.
I could easily say the same for this movie - although Sarah herself gives an awesome performance. (She has received many rave reviews for her stunning performance.) Before I go into my review, here's the skinny:
Laney Brooks (Silverman) is on a downwards spiral. Living a charmed life in upper middle class New York, with her loving husband Bruce (Josh Charles) and their two adorable children. On the surface - she appears to be happy doing the housewife routine but on closer inspection, she's miserable and depressed. She’s snorting cocaine, drinking and screwing around - in order to escape her issues with her father. (Or so we assume - as it's never fully explained as to why she's such a mess.)
Bruce tries (somewhat) to understand her predicament - but it's obvious that his concerns are mostly for appearances - as well as the children. As she unravels and finally crashes, he takes her to rehab - only to have her slip back into her destructive ways - on the fast track to losing everything.
The first thing I noticed was the style - which was more like a documentary or tv movie. I don't usually mind this style - if the material matches it or is in the same vein - but for a dramatic feature, I expect certain production standards - such as good lighting, cinematography etc. (This is usually not an issue for me if the story and acting is awesome.)
Lucky then, that Sarah was so mesmerizing I hardly noticed the faults (mostly minor - I'll admit.)
There are many poignant and brilliant moments. I could say "spoiler alert" but the cat's already out of the bag. Here are some:
* Laney's blank stare out of the bathroom window while she watches her husband and children playing in the yard. This is followed by her sitting down on the toilet to snort some coke - almost naked - then staring at her breasts in the mirror.
* Coming to her son at night after he's had a nightmare about her acting strange. He says he feels she is distant and won't be there for him - especially seeing as she was dead in the dream.
* After an argument with a school official (for dropping her kids off without a school I.D.) she rages in the car.
* She draws the children's names with crayons on her kids school lunch bags.
* After snorting coke, she masturbates on the floor using one of the kids teddy bears (face down) - then rolls onto her back and tries to stifle her tears, before her husband finds her freaking out.
* Her son develops a nervous tick (well acted!)
* After getting out of rehab, she has to sit and watch everyone drinking at a party. She slips (after her lover announces that his wife is pregnant) and insults an older man with a young trophy wife.
* She tracks down her father - who has married again and has a young daughter with a perfect bedroom - filled with wonderful dolls and toys. Laney takes one of the small dolls from the dollhouse - which is like a small triumph and payback for a father who remained absent during her life. (It so happens to be the father doll.)
* The children catch her in the bathroom snorting. Her nose bleeds and the husband has had enough.
Sarah Silverman has always been a brave performer - willing to go the extra mile and tread where most others wouldn't dare. I found her performance to be a revelation and my appreciation for her skyrocketed. It wasn't just the raw sex scenes and moments of rage, depression and guilt - it was the amazing level of the understanding of her character which floored me.
Usually a character like this is hard-pushed to be able to project an aura of helplessness and sympathy/empathy. As a mother - I was a little horrified with her antics - but I couldn't help taking her side. Whether it was due to the fact that she seemed trapped (even though she made the decision to become a wife and mother - living a life most would love to live) or the fact that her husband seemed to view her in a one dimensional - cardboard cutout kind of way.
It's true - he had to protect the children from her wild antics - but his love for her seemed shallow and his understanding of her and her problems were close to zero. I didn't find him to be a sympathetic character at all - in regards to his relationship with his wife. (He tells her that he'd marry her 100 times - but that seems to dissipate quickly. He also asks her if she'd rather be insane - in terms of stopping the substance abuse - and tells her that he just wants her to be happy, which is ironic as it's obvious he doesn't know what "happy" means for her. To him - it's behaving herself.)
Her lover was also a disappointment - as he too fails to see her as a full blown human being.
In the beginning, you get a sense that the tension is building (reminiscent of Michael Douglas' performance in "Falling Down") - but then it somehow loses it's way. The main story arc was blurred and the ending seemed rushed and not well thought out.
When Laney is in rehab, the progression is rushed and the sessions she has with her therapist are merely bumper-sticker, cornflake-packet revelations. I wanted to see her dig deep and devolve (then evolve back into a "normal" and happy person) - which is what good therapy should do. I wanted to see a Primal Scream moment - where all would be revealed.
It was not to be - and the moment where the family all dance together in the kitchen after she gets back home is schmaltzy at best.
The movie goes right for the Hallmark heart strings - sometimes formulaic and striving for grittiness without true grit. Actually - the only grit that I saw was from the wonderful acting done by Sarah Silverman. For her performance alone I recommend this movie.
I don't want to be cruel, though. So much more could've been achieved if they'd put more thought into it. (Not that I'm an expert!) One thing I did like about the ending was that - in life - things sometimes don't work out. I didn't want everything to be resolved in a perfect nutshell, but I did expect a story with true revelations and a "grittier" atmosphere - even though Sarah did an amazing job in that department.
I loved her conversation with her son after he took a bath. She tells him to dry his balls so he won't get a rash. (I understand some more puritanical minds might not appreciate this - but it was an honest moment that I'm sure most parents have with their kids.)
I also loved how she hugs the stray dog they took in at the end - like they were two lost souls who finally found each other. Sarah Silverman was brilliant - the movie not so much. She saved it with her awesome performance. Whether it was telling the teacher to go fuck themselves, losing it and speeding through the intersection or making the kids lunches after being bashed by another lover she picked up in a bar - Sarah shines in this role - illuminating the movie enough to be worth watching again, if only for her brilliant skills as an actress.
I would give the movie 3 stars (or less) if any other actress portrayed this role (depending on who?) - which means that I really would only give it two stars - as a movie in and of itself. I give Sarah's performance 5+ stars and hope that it's a vehicle for her getting more juicy roles!
Before I launch into this review, I'd like to share how I came across this movie and why it's my most watched film of all time. I was with my cousin (Georgia) one night - in 1990 - and we were wondering what to watch. I looked at the T.V. guide and saw a picture of Richard E. Grant as Withnail. When I read the blurb out to Georgia, she agreed that it was worth checking out.
On a whim, I called my friend Julie and asked her to tape it for me. I didn't have a VCR and had a hunch that the movie was going to be worth keeping. I wasn't wrong. We pissed ourselves laughing all the way through it - enjoying the deadpan British humor and hilarious antics. The three main actors - Richard E. Grant as Withnail, Paul McGann as "I" (Marwood) and Richard Griffiths as Uncle Monty were brilliant.
Georgia and I continued - throughout the years - quoting from the film. Everyone I showed the film to ended up loving it just as much as we did. I watched that video for years - over 100 times, at least. (I am not exaggerating.) When it came out on DVD I snatched it up - and bought another copy when it was released in the Criterion collection.
I also bought a copy of the screenplay and Richard E. Grant's film diaries - just to learn more about the film. It's also my favorite screenplay to read. Brilliant descriptions, characterizations and hilarious anecdotes. What's great about the film is that it's just a personal story, written by Director Bruce Robinson (who also wrote the screenplay for the award-winning "The Killing Fields.")
It doesn't rely on the usual practice of Americanized slapstick - where the actors usually pause after the punchline or pratfall - for applause or reaction. It's all done deadpan and serious - making the antics even more hilarious. There are no sex scenes, romances, car chases, intrigue or other trend-baiting factors. The story and dialogue carry the film without needing to resort to gratuity or schlock.
The acting is superb and the cinematography is breathtaking - whether depicting the gritty streets and life in London in the '60's or the northern countryside. The music is perfectly placed - including Jimi Hendrix and old time songs - making the film a pleasure to lose oneself in.
The film is also jam-packed with hilarious quotes - which I will share at the end of this review. Every line in this film is golden. Not a wasted scene or superfluous moment can be found. It's no wonder it garnered its cult status - with an international following and fanbase that is just as curious as its underground success. (See the extras on the Criterion collection edition.)
Withnail and I was made in England in 1986 (released in 1987). It's a black comedy based on the Director's life in the late '60's, where he was an actor sharing a crumbling home in Camden Town, with other out-of-work actors and people in the arts community. The plot involves two out of work actors - Withnail and Marwood (Marwood being Bruce Robinson's characterization of himself and Withnail representing his pompous "friend") - living in London, set in 1969.
They spend most of their money and time wasting themselves and their money on booze and drugs. Once they run out of wine, they decide to go to the country and "rejuvenate" in Withnail's Uncle's cottage. Once there - unprepared and starving - they meet the locals and continue to spiral downwards. The hilarity ensues - with Uncle Monty arriving suddenly one night - saving the day, as he brings food and wine to share.
It soon becomes obvious that gay old Uncle Monty has ulterior motives. He is attracted to Marwood and has decided to try and seduce him. Horrified - Marwood tries to escape - but Withnail has other ideas, seeing as he is only interested in gratifying the senses - at Uncle Monty's expense. While Marwood does his best to avoid Uncle Monty and Withnail continues to pursue his hedonistic imperatives, it all unravels - with a beautiful and necessary ending which teaches us that fools should only be suffered for a short period of time - or they'll drag us down with them.
Richard Griffiths' Uncle Monty is hilarious with his own version of pomposity - and terribly sad as the ageing queen who is only looking for love. Paul McGann's Marwood (I) is sympathetic, intelligent and sometimes like a lost puppy as he digs his way out of one calamity after another. Richard E. Grant's Withnail is my personal favorite. Bombastic, childish, selfish, pleasure-seeking, lying, conniving, manipulative, preening, snobbish, priggish - and that's only a glimpse into this hilarious character.
We all have stories about unsavory people we've been forced to spend time with - and this story is a wonderful rendition of lessons learned through adventures, failure and the chaos of life that happens while we're waiting for "the moment" - which sometimes never arrives. Apparently it never did for the real Withnail - who drank himself into a stupor - never having made it to the stage or silver screen.
Scenes and Pics
"There are things in there, there's a teabag growing!"
"You bloody fool, you should never mix your drinks!"
The awesome Richard E. Grant as Withnail
"Why can't I get on television? The only program I'm likely to get on is the fucking news!"
"I'm in a park and I'm practically dead."
"I have a heart condition. If you hit me, it's murder."
"Stick it in the soap tray and save it for later."
"I'm told you're a writer too."
"Beastly ungrateful little swine!"
Crow Crag - beautiful
"My boots are in the oven."
"Vegetables again? We'll sprout fucking feelers soon!"
Shooting for fish.
"We've gone on holiday by mistake."
"How can we make it die?"
"Don't threaten me with a dead fish."
"I'm gonna be a star!"
"I've come a long way to see you both."
"Bollocks to the Wellingtons!"
"Cakes and fine wines."
"To a delightful weekend in the country."
"You already said it - twice!"
"Look here, my cousin's a QC."
"What are you doing in my bed?"
The Camberwell Carrot
"I shall miss you, Withnail."
"Nor women neither."
First - a warning. I'm going to get "snarky" here - but at the same time I intend this to be a serious post - about ageism in the world of "literature." Also - watch out for swearing. I apologize in advance. Of course, ageism is rife everywhere and has been since the dawn of time - with a few blips on the radar according to fads and people's personal opinions, imperatives etc.
When I wrote The Willow Lake Group - I deliberately made the majority of the characters 40+ - for a good reason. Older people have a history - usually interesting. It's a no-brainer that young people have histories too - albeit short and maybe not so sweet.
As I stand on the precipice of the fifty year mark - begrudging and horrified that time has flown by so fast - I find myself continuously disgusted at the onslaught of youth-based storylines, book covers and audience targeting. It wasn't long ago that I was frequently attending heavy metal concerts - among others - and getting into and up to things that could easily make a younger person rear back in terror. (Well - certain younger people!)
The thing I loathe most about younger people and their world of selfies, crap music, shitty movies and TV shows (not to mention their stupid revelations about things they assume they invented, created, discovered - such as sex, drugs, the wonders of the world, philosophy etc.) - is that they are always portrayed as more relevant, important and worthy of the world's attention.
Now - I'll say the following to show that I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek - not all young people are blase, banal, precocious, annoying, stupid, vacuous and so on. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I've met some young sages and some old morons - but we can't always blame the younger generation for the overblown focus the media and society bestows upon young people.
Sometimes it's us oldies doing the focusing and pandering. We need to stop it - and start focusing on our own grandeur and what we have to offer. It's not that we don't try and maybe we're fighting a losing battle.
Here's the skinny (or at least - my two cents) on humans - in regards to the cult of youth:
Now - that's all I can think of - as it's early and blah blah blah.
When I started writing the Storming Archives (my fantasy series) - I deliberately chose thirty as the age of my protagonist - Delwyn. In previous incarnations she was a teenager and the first book - Delwyn of the Realms - was in the young adult vein. Then I discovered all the rules and regulations about writing for young people and was promptly turned off.
We have to remember that it's not the young people making the rules - it's us oldies - in terms of what we deem fit for those precious and supposedly unadulterated minds. Meanwhile - they continue (as they always have throughout the history of the world) to delve into sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll (or - sex and drugs and elevator music.) When depicted in art, literature, film etc - young people can't be seen smoking, doing drugs or having sex.
Mind you - they can blast the head off a zombie, slaughter innocent people, burn buildings down and cause general destruction of the world as we know it. Us oldies don't give a shit about that - as we too want to see the world burn. (At least - some of us!)
I decided in The Willow Lake Group, to depict a group of older people - 40+ - living full lives involving love, chaos and other wonderful things such as food, literature and good wine. There are three younger characters - who have their own stories - intermingled with the older characters. I did my best not to paint them with the stupid brush - showing the multiple sides of their personalities just as much as the older characters.
In particular - I talk about a young man (Liam) falling in love with a woman's handwriting. That woman is Sondra - a 40 year old witch who cooks for the Willow Lake Group. Yes she is beautiful and yes she falls in love with a man (Gavin - the narrator - who's 42.) There's also the owner of the Willow Lake Bookstore - William (68). He is a widower who mourns his beloved wife but is kept going by the colorful characters surrounding him.
Then there's the two lesbian lovers - Delia and Beth (in their 50's); Stanley - the deeply closeted 52 year old; Alan - the fisherman with a heart of gold (57); April - Stanley's shy, best friend (49) and Mick - a robust 54 year old fisherman who enjoys annoying people.
I had so much fun writing this story - which involves poetry, food, obsession and love - with full back stories for all the characters. I used some of my memories of the wonderful people I've met on my "journey" and made up the rest.
I deliberately chose a non-romantic cover - meaning no canoodling couples or women with their dresses "accidentally" falling away to reveal heaving bosoms. I wanted to be altruistic - which will probably shoot me in my foot (which is already full of bullet holes - due to my stubborn clinging to idealism!)
A pleasant surprise for me during the writing process, was the notion that I didn't have to spend too much time raving about the good looking characters or cooking up blase scenes and plot twists to serve as further pandering to reader's supposed lust for banality. I was able to focus on telling a good story - filled with mini-stories and background - fleshing it out with poetry and humor. I received a review which hasn't been posted yet:
"One of the best novels that I have read so far:D I couldn't put it down."
(I didn't pay for that review and she's not my friend, mother, sister, coworker!)
That's another thing - getting reviews! It's also another post. I plan to write about my trials and tribulations with being a self published author and navigating the world of marketing and promoting - at a later date.
I find it daunting when I see certain types of books getting so much attention - particularly romance. I write about romance, love and sex - sure - but there's so much more to write about. The thing is - there are great authors out there doing just that - and I aim to become one of them. With ten writing projects slated for 2016 - I'm already up to chapter eight in my gothic horror "City of Gargoyles" - I hope to be an established and well known author by the end of the year.
This means hard work, increasing my knowledge about who and how to market/promote to - as well as honing my skills. I just don't want to have to pander to a demographic that has no interest in me or my writing. (I suppose it's too late to post an alert about pissing and moaning?)
What I love about younger authors (and their audiences) is their enthusiasm and technological know-how. Like a thirsty vampire - I drink from their pool or at least - dip my tongue in every so often. The problem is - nowadays it's easy to be self published. I should know - I'm one of the millions of authors doing just that. I like the feeling of being my own boss and in charge of my projects.
What is daunting is not having the connections or distribution portals that conventional publishing has in spades. I can't blame youth for that - and nor would I want to. I just want a little more altruism and intelligence - rather than having to slash my way through a market that mostly caters to youth, romance and beauty.
Signed - Crotchety Old Bitch.
Such a sad loss - Such an awesome inspiration
8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016
It's always sad to see such a bright star pass, but David Bowie burned so brightly for so long - enthralling fans and critics alike - with a career that played out like a circus crossed with a kaleidoscope.
I'm not going to go on about his life story or his illness and subsequent death, because I wanted to share my personal story about the David Bowie who inspired and entranced me ever since I can remember.
This is how we add our two cents worth to the flood of grief and memories when someone leaves our lives. It's a way of shining a light on those who've passed - to remind ourselves and each other how the departed touched our lives and how life is so precious.
I'm going to keep it short and sweet.
When I was a child and growing up in the seventies, David Bowie was a big deal to everyone everywhere - or at least - that's how it appeared to me and the people I associated with. It wasn't just the razzle-dazzle of his incredible shape-shifting abilities - it was the awesome music.
Like other fans, I was always mystified by how he was such a chameleon - musically as well as physically. I loved him through the Ziggy Stardust era, then as the Thin White Duke, Berlin, New Wave and beyond.
Songs that stand out - for me - include:
The Jean Genie
Ashes to Ashes
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
China Girl (Co-written with Iggy Pop)
This is not America
and many more!
I remember many people with his Ziggy Stardust hairdo in the seventies and eighties. I thought it was so cool (and still do). What I loved about his music was that it had such an urban feel at times, making me think of city streets, after hours and strange people in strange circumstances.
Then there were threads of alien existence, subterranean worlds and characters, struggles with drugs, social commentary, alter egos and many intricate sub-plots and references to pop culture.
He was always pushing the envelope and paving the way for others to follow - although I don't believe that anyone ever came close to the breadth of vision and artistic excellence that seemed such a breeze for such an intriguing man. He did it all with finesse and dedication - harnessing the creative urge and producing exemplary works - even when down and dirty or "slumming" it.
His life was an inspiring onslaught of talent and creativity - tempered with savvy execution, style and wit. He made it all seem so easy - keeping his finger on the pulse - but at the same time, infusing his creations with originality and a fresh approach that made other's efforts pale in comparison.
David Bowie will live on in all the hearts and minds of those of us who dare to dream. May his light burn brightly and may his work continue to inspire us.
The strongest attachment I ever had with a group of writers (or genre) was the Beat writers. I had always been into poetry and had written poetry since I was around ten years of age (that I can remember), but one day in my late teens I decided to take a day off school and just laid about the house. I had the house to myself, which was a rare luxury, and I was flipping the channels on t.v. Tedious soap operas, a boring midday movie, variety shows, blah blah blah – until I came across a documentary about Jack Kerouac.
Straight away my ears pricked up, as I was hearing wonderful prose and seeing footage of Big Sur and American cityscapes. I was captivated and intrigued, listening intently, taking notes and making plans to take a trip to my local library that very day.
That’s when my love affair started with the Beat generation and in particular, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. I read everything I could, watched all the documentaries I could get my hands on and experimented with my writing over the years. I discovered music and movies that were made by people influenced by the Beats, such as Henry Rollins, Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits, Morphine and Directors such as David Cronenberg.
Following the philosophy of six degrees of separation, I was linked into Jazz, folk music, Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin and Henry Miller, Kafka, the music of Debussy, Schubert and on and on. That’s the wonderful thing about an enquiring mind and the love of reading and research – they can lead you down mysterious paths and laneways that you might never have been exposed to. All these things fleshed out the creative monster in me, and made me hungry for more.
When I was around twelve years old I was writing a lot of poetry, albeit a lot of childish poems with themes focusing on nature. I was staying at my Aunt’s holiday house on the beach at Seaspray for a couple of weeks and was inspired by the lovely surroundings. I wrote a poem with five stanzas and was quite proud of myself, so I showed it to her. She was a cranky old thing so I suppose it was my fault for giving it to her to critique – and critique she did! First she didn’t like the fact that it didn’t rhyme. I said it wasn’t supposed to. She said that poetry was supposed to rhyme. I was crushed and confused. Then she said that it didn’t have any rhythm. At that young age I didn’t know what she meant.
I was angry and hurt and felt for a long time that maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a poet, or a writer. Over the next few years I read a lot more poetry and realized that my stuff was ok and that I needed to develop a thicker skin. (Easier said than done, of course.) When I went through puberty I started writing the usual lovelorn, flowery crap, and tried to be deep and meaningful with stories about abortion, drugs, school, broken homes etc.
In my early twenties I went through a dark phase so my writing plummeted into a gothic whirlpool of angsty rants, with lines such as ‘Lost in the velvet vortex’ and ‘Stumbling with my arms outstretched’. After I gave birth to my son, my writing became more spiritual as my world had opened up. It was like the whole universe presented itself to me and I had stepped into the realm of adulthood for real this time, so my writing reflected this expanded view – like an all encompassing creative compulsion. At times I had to reign myself in!
The only thing was, with having a child and being a sole parent, there wasn’t much time for writing, due to having to trudge along to a day job to pay the bills and so on. Through snatches of time I wrote, in my journal (as I have since I was twelve) and started several novels, lots of poems, articles etc. When my son was in his teens I started researching philosophy and the history of religion.
I was going to write a non fiction piece about religion from a psychological perspective, or the psychological motivations behind the evolution of religion, and religion versus spirituality. After three hundred pages of written notes and months of research, it dawned on me that it couldn’t have hurt to have had some kind of education in that department. Even though I was ‘educating’ myself informally through the research, I felt overwhelmed and lost confidence in the project.
That wasn’t the kind of writing I had always imagined myself doing, anyway. Besides, it made me feel so far removed from my Beat heroes! I always wanted to slip into their collective skin and BE one of them. It’s only now, when I look back, that even though I wasn’t a part of their world, I did live a life akin to theirs, in a fashion.
I’ve spent countless hours in cafes, bars, parties, restaurants, parks etc talking with interesting people about a multitude of fascinating things. I’ve been to poetry jams and concerts, smoked joints with crazy strangers, shared my writing with other like minded people, been a barefoot hippy and marched for nuclear disarmament.
I’ve been down and out and broke, in the depths of despair and then illuminated with the joy of inspiration, love and complete bliss. I’ve wrestled with demons – mine and those who belonged to others and then fell to my knees in the presence of angels, slack jawed in complete wonder when unconditional kindness was bestowed upon me. The only thing I have to keep reminding myself is to keep writing, no matter what. No excuses, no wailing like a baby that the world is closing in on me and bitching that the time to kick against the pricks has come and gone.
No more sighing and bleating that I’m too old and worrying about what the world will think of me if I don’t conform and churn out love sick horse shit that is expected of middle aged women past their prime.
The fire in my belly is the nest of the Phoenix.
Time to Rise!