10 favourite movie moments

Usually when I think of a movie, there’s always a scene that comes to mind and brings back how I felt; even if I don’t remember the rest of the movie, that scene is enough to bring it all rushing back. A joke, an action scene, a kiss… there are so many great moments, but here’s a quick list of my favourites. I wonder how many would be on yours? ๐Ÿ˜‰

10) Steve McQueen’s vault for the Swiss border
The Great Escape
One of the best WWII dramas, the whole motorcycle chase, the final jump and Elmer Bernstein’s score always stand out for me. It’s probably Steve McQueen’s greatest performance and the image of McQueen on the motorcycle is indelible.

9) The chariot race
Ben-Hur
When you think of epics you can’t go past Ben-Hur. I always found it a little too long, but the chariot race is one of the most spectacular and thrilling sequences ever filmed. And Miklos Rozsa’s score is stunning.

8) The construction site
Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting
is one of my favourite movies; it’s such a realistic portrayal of friendship between two young men, and this scene (where Chuckie says he hopes one day he’ll knock on Will’s door and he won’t be there) sums up the whole film for me.

7) The farewell scene
Casablanca
One of the great love stories mainly because of the chemistry between Bogart and Bergman, this is the scene most people remember best. The foggy atmosphere, the plane in the background, “We’ll always have Paris”… even if you think the film’s slightly overrated, this scene is a classic.

6) Indy shoots the swordsman
Raiders of the Lost Ark
I still think Raiders is the best adventure film that’s been made, mainly because of the balance of action, character and humour. This scene has all three and it’s one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen – all the more so because it wasn’t scripted.

5) Somewhere Over The Rainbow
The Wizard of Oz
Still one of the best children’s films of all time, I love the song and Judy Garland’s voice. It’s just a quintessential scene, and all the more amazing that it is when you think the song was almost cut because it slowed the pace of the film.

4) The Bridge of Khazad-dรปm
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
In my view LOTR is the greatest trilogy ever filmed and Gandalf’s fall into the abyss looks like it’s come straight out of the books. It’s a beautiful scene, particularly in the moments after when we see the loss on the faces of the other characters.

3) Darth Vader reveals he is Luke’s father
The Empire Strikes Back
The best of the Star Wars films, the first time you hear Vader’s revelation it just overpowers the rest of the film. Of course it’s actually quite obvious, but I was stunned at the time and watched Return of the Jedi the next day to see if it was true; I can’t imagine having to wait three years to find out.

2) The shower scene
Psycho
If the shower scene in Psycho isn’t the most iconic scene in cinema history, I’m not sure what is. Bates’ murder of Marion Crane is masterfully done by Hitchcock; with little gore, it’s the build-up that’s so scary, set to Bernard Herrmann’s violin-screeches.

1) The Normandy landings
Saving Private Ryan
The D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan is wrenching and incredibly difficult to watch; it’s brutal and hellish, but it’s one of the most emotional, affecting scenes I’ve ever seen and it’s the scene that, more than any other, brings back the whole film for me. To say it’s my favourite scene is probably wrong (it would be the shower scene in Psycho), but it’s the scene that stays with me more than any other, so it has to be #1.

Where does your country rank?

Australia Press Freedom IndexI’ve just been looking over Reporters Without Borders annual survey and it has some interesting results. The Worldwide Press Freedom Index ranked Iceland at the top of the rankings, while Eritrea replaced North Korea as the worst offender. RWB also found that bloggers are coming under as much threat as traditional journalists, with more countries impeding the flow of online news and information.

Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Egypt (146th) and Vietnam (162nd) were all singled out as offenders where “bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible”. Egypt in particular is notable for sentencing blogger Kareem Amer to four years jail for criticising the Egyptian president and Islamist control of universities. Turkey, which blocked access to WordPress.com in August this year, ranked 101st. Pakistan ranked 154th.

Australia came 28th which isn’t too bad (okay but not great). Our anti-terror laws have caused a few problems, and then there was everything with APEC. New Zealand is still way above us at 15th and the United Kingdom is 24th. The United States is 48th.

The survey caught my eye after our electoral debate on Sunday night. The National Press Club twice tried to cut Channel 9’s coverage of the debate because 9 was using its “worm” to measure audience reaction. The Liberals had placed strict rules (basically a ban) on use of the worm which 9 disregarded and apparently that was enough for the National Press Club to try to take 9 off the air. They failed; 9 just switched to another feed.

I’m fed up with this election already. The coverage is everywhere and the election isn’t for another 5 weeks! But it’s a reminder that we can’t take our freedoms for granted, not even when there’s so much attention focused on the system. And a reminder that as bloggers everywhere, we have a responsibility to speak up against abuses – because there are many more people in other countries who don’t have that opportunity. I wonder where your country ranks?

Rowling Outs Dumbledore

I’ve just been looking at the news at the SMH website and this story caught my eye. Apparently JK Rowling has been on an “Open Book Tour” of the United States (first I’ve heard of it; does she come to Aus for these as well?) and during one of her appearances at Carnegie Hall, she was asked by a fan if Dumbledore finds “true love”. According to SMH, Rowling’s response was “Dumbledore is gay”.

So the criticism began; right-wing groups criticising Rowling for making homosexuality seem “normal” to young readers; some gay groups criticising her for not making Dumbledore’s sexuality more obvious. Even John Cloud writing in Time seemed a bit perplexed: “Shouldn’t I be happy to learn he’s gay? Yes, except: Why couldn’t he tell us himself?

Now I’m perplexed. Some religious people being upset I can understand; I can see how they might find the HP series uncomfortable with its magic and sorcery, and this just adds to it. But I don’t understand this idea that Dumbledore’s sexuality should have been more obvious. The reason I like the books is that Rowling uses them as an allegory for many issues – war, racism, bigotry, hatred, tolerance – but doesn’t hit us over the head with them. She’s more subtle than that; she makes her characters human and works it into the story. Much as I love Narnia, Rowling is not Lewis with Aslan/Christ; her plot doesn’t just stop to interject a belief. Instead she works it up over time, and I think that way has reached many more people.

It’s not really anything new anyway. Dumbledore’s sexuality is one of the worst kept secrets in the HP mythos. Dumbledore has always been something of a mystery and he rarely seems to have any important relationships with women, except with his mother and sister. And his relationship with Grindelwald seemed like more than a friendship, given the impact it had on Dumbledore’s life. To say that there’s never been any indication of this in the books is just wrong.

I think the way Rowling chose to use it is clever as well. She used it to show Dumbledore’s weakness. “Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was… he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him.” John Cloud took it to mean that because Dumbledore (allegedly) never had another affair, that he saw his homosexuality as shameful and inappropriate. “As far as we know, Dumbledore had not a single fully realized romance in 115 years of life. That’s pathetic, and a little creepy. It’s also a throwback to an era of pop culture when the only gay characters were those who committed suicide or were murdered (as Dumbledore was).” I disagree. I think Rowling meant it to show the trappings of power. Dumbledore was blinded to Grindelwald’s evil by love, and was attracted to power himself. He felt responsible (that feeling is palpable in Deathly Hallows) and didn’t trust himself to feel for another person; that makes his story more tragic.

I think it’s a very courageous thing Rowling has done. She knew she’d get flack, but she’s confirmed rumours that most fans expected were true anyway. And it also highlights the themes in her books and makes it a lot harder to dismiss them as juvenile fiction; as the series moved forward, the themes became darker, and this just adds another layer. This isn’t C-3PO and R2-D2 or Tolkien’s undercurrent of homoeroticism in The Lord of the Rings; Dumbledore is a full, rich character, and I think that’s a step forward for gay characters and literature.

It’s funny, though, that such a big deal is being made over one character. But that just shows how much Harry Potter has become part of the culture and how beloved the characters are. Now I just wonder what she’ll write next? Could she even write it with her own name? Perhaps she might need a pseudonym; otherwise how can anything stand on it’s own? It’ll be interesting to see. ๐Ÿ™‚

Does Your English Cut the Mustard?

Your English Skills:
P

Punctuation: 100%
Grammar: 80%
Spelling: 80%
Vocabulary: 80%

Does Your English Cut the Mustard?

Just a quick quiz today as I’ve been planning a couple of posts for later in the week, and my writing is starting to come along at last (the writer’s block is banished!). I thought after my post on Timbaland’s The Way I Are that it might be fun to take some kind of English quiz; put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

Well, I have to say this is one of the hardest quizzes I have ever done; don’t try it unless you’re prepared to be challenged. My results were quite good but only because I was able to take my time and think about the answers; if I’m just talking (or blogging) quickly then I make a lot more mistakes than that. If you have time, take a look and see how you go; I’d be interested to know if you found it as tricky as I did. Maybe I’m just going rusty. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now this is how to accept an award

Here’s a question for you. You’ve just been told that you’ve won one of the most prestigious awards in the world. How do you react? Are you overwhelmed? Are you gracious? Is it one of the most amazing moments in your life? Or is your first thought, “Oh Christ…”?

That was Doris Lessing’s reaction when she was told she’d just won the Nobel Prize for literature. It’s one of those classic moments. The media are waiting for her and can’t even let the poor woman get out of the taxi before they start asking her questions. As it turns out, the Nobel committee hadn’t told Lessing she’d won; in this day and age you’d expect an email or a text to get through first – hell, even FedEx or a pigeon – but no, Doris Lessing is left to hear about it from the media.

And I love her reaction. It’s not just that she doesn’t want a fuss, or her obvious contempt for literary prizes; it’s the audacity of the media to show up uninvited on her doorstep. She’s been out with her son and all she wants is to get back home and they can’t even wait to let her get out of the taxi properly? And just when you think it couldn’t get any stranger, what on Earth is going on with her son? Is he wearing a vegetable as a sling?

But isn’t this the way we all wish we could act sometimes? To have that old-fashioned arrogance and contempt for what your peers think of you? Sure, there’s a lot to be said for accepting an award with grace… but it’s not as much fun. I remember when I was 1st in English and was given a few other awards in school, my first thought was “Oh wow”; my second was “Fuck, I’ve got to climb all those stairs”. I didn’t say it and I smiled and said my thank yous… but believe me, there were a lot of stairs. ๐Ÿ˜‰

What’s really interesting is how the media have used her comments and made them sound completely different. This from news.com.au: “I’ve won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one,โ€ she said as she stepped out of a taxi carrying groceries. โ€œI’m delighted to win them all, the whole lot. It’s a royal flush.โ€ Wait – is this the same Doris Lessing? Is this even the same interview? At least the beginning of it is, but you wouldn’t know it.

I like Doris Lessing’s works but I must admit I was a little surprised she won. She was awarded it for her life’s work; as the Nobel committee put it, Lessing is “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”. My problem isn’t that she doesn’t deserve the prize, she does; it’s that strictly speaking the prize isn’t meant to be awarded for a life’s work. It’s stipulated in Alfred Nobel’s will that the prizes are meant to be awarded to โ€œthose who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankindโ€. The preceding year. Nothing there about a life’s work.

To me the best novel of the last year is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Nothing else comes close to it; it’s one of the most harrowing, painful and beautiful novels I’ve ever read. It would get my vote for the best novel of the last thirty years, not just the last year. And McCarthy’s life work is impressive as well; his work always speaks to the depths of humanity and darkness, life and death, and The Orchard Keeper, Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses and The Road make a very powerful reading list.

But Lessing has achieved so much in her career that she definitely deserves the recognition; it would be a shame to think she’d be another to never win the prize like Graham Greene. But there’s one thing that isn’t being talked about much regarding Doris Lessing. It’s the risks she’s always taken with her work, none more so than with Shikasta. For one of the most notable literary talents to go from writing classics like The Grass is Singing and The Golden Notebook to a space opera like Shikasta and the whole Canopus in Argus series was incredibly gutsy; in the 1970s mainstream fiction deplored science fiction (still does) and SF itself was a heavily male-dominated field. But Lessing didn’t care; she told the story she wanted to tell and along with Octavia Butler, Alice B. Sheldon (aka James Tiptree Jr.) and Ursula K. le Guin, transformed science fiction.

Now thirty years later Shikasta is considered every bit the classic it is. And Lessing still doesn’t seem to care. And that’s how she accepted her prize; on the street, with every bit the contempt she’s always exhibited. I can’t help but laugh. Isn’t it fabulous? ๐Ÿ™‚