Movies/Television

Feud: Bette & Joan.

I love old movies, especially those around the time of what’s known to be the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’. Call me old fashioned, but stories really mattered back then. It may sound strange, but thanks to such films, it was these that made me a writer in the first place. Because of such an upbringing, I recently watched the television show Feud: Bette & Joan.

I was fortunate enough to have seen the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane before the show began. It was one of those films that I had always heard about, but never actually took the time to watch. I was glad I did because not only was it a good movie, but it played an important part in Bette & Joan.

I had known of an existing feud between these two actresses, but never understood the reasoning behind it all. Naturally, this show went into that, as well as the personal lives behind the two of them, and what goes on behind the screens within the movie studios. The show also acted as part documentary, where other actresses were questioned regarding the Bette & Joan relationship. One actress questioned included Olivia de Havilland (played by Catherine Zeta Jones), which also hinted at the feud between her and her sister Joan Fontaine. I became interested in that relationship and began to wonder if a show would be made regarding their own feud.

This is a great production; the sets, the fashion, the makeup. I can’t fault the detail that went into it. And above all, of–course was the acting. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon were brilliant in their roles as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. It was certainly creepy watching Susan Sarandon play Bette Davis in her role in Baby Jane – between her performance and the talents of the makeup artists it was truly frightening (and I mean that in good way). Despite their tough exteriors, Bette & Joan explored the vulnerabilities of both actresses, thus putting a more human face on both of these icons.

Throughout the show, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Mamacita, Joan Crawford’s housekeeper (played by Jackie Hoffman), who is a great character and very loyal. I was also surprised to see Judy Davis and I had to look twice (sorry, but I still picture her as Sybylla in My Brilliant Career), but it just goes to show how versatile an actress she truly is.

With shows like Feud: Bette & Joan, I’d like to think that we are now facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television.

Did you watch Feud: Bette & Joan? Were you impressed with it as much as I was? Do you think we are currently facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television? What show/s have you watched recently that impressed you? Did you grow up watching old movies?

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Books, Crime & Mystery, Movies/Television

Discovering Agatha Christie.

For months now I have been watching a lot of Agatha Christie – mainly Poirot and Miss Marple. I admit I’ve been pretty late on jumping onto the Agatha Christie bandwagon. The main reason, and perhaps foolishly, is because I was never interested in the time period her novels are set. Since watching Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, my opinions about that time period have changed; so too my interest in Agatha Christie.

Until her death a few years back, my mother-in-law was a great reader. Her bookshelves are filled with crime novels, so I have a ready-made library close at hand. Part of her collection includes the entire set of Agatha Christie novels. It was not until Poirot and Miss Marple appeared on television almost simultaneously some months back that I decided to take a look. As a result, I ended up watching every single one and I’d get quite narky if I missed an episode! I love both these characters with their little idiosyncrasies – something I applaud the actors portraying them doing so vividly. I cannot imagine anyone other than David Suchet as Hercule Poirot (and yes, I did shed a tear at the final Poirot episode, it was very sad 😦 ).

I have watched all the Miss Marple, but my favourite actress in the role is Geraldine McEwan (may she rest in peace). She played the role of a sweet and ‘innocent’ older woman so well. She would sit and knit and every now and again, when she was excited she would make little squeals of delight. My Agatha Christie binge wasn’t just centred upon these two characters. I also watched And Then There Were None. The plot was very intriguing and I enjoyed the various twists and turns throughout, especially the ending.

After all these years, Agatha Christie is regarded as the best-selling novelist of all time and named the ‘Queen of Crime’. Now that I’ve seen the shows, I definitely think it’s long past time I began reading the books. I believe this could take me a few years!

When did you discover Agatha Christie? Have you read all her books? Who is your favourite actor as Poirot and/or Miss Marple? Have you yet to discover Agatha Christie?

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Back to the 80s, Horror, Movies/Television

Child’s Play: When Horror’s Not So Scary.

Back in the 1980s, I had never seen the movie Child’s Play and recently when it aired on television, I thought I’d have a look. Sure I knew of Chucky, but the film itself I had no interest in.

I watched the movie with my teenage son. Years earlier, he had been at a friend’s place and they had a Chucky doll in their bedroom. When my son pointed it out to me I shuddered.

‘Eww, Chucky’, I said.

‘Told you’, he said to his friend.

I guess creepy looking dolls rate high up on the list with clowns for me. Hate clowns, hate creepy looking dolls. My mum has a creepy looking puppet in her house and one day I told her what I thought of it. Of-course she thought I was mad. Maybe, but I can’t stand looking at it. So when I began to watch Chucky, it met my expectations.

Just looking at the doll even before it was taken over by the guy gave me the horrors. How that kid desperately wanted one was beyond me. It’s horrible! That kid looked like he had a struggle walking around with it too; they were pretty much the same size. Then there was the horror element. Hardly scary; in fact I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the end, I did laugh. What made me laugh more than anything was watching Chucky run. I loved that!

‘This is supposed to be a horror movie?’ my son said at one point, but I was too busy laughing. Well, it was the 80s!

I know there have been other Chucky movies since then, but one was enough for me. I don’t think I could tolerate anymore. After watching it at long last, I think it’s hardly scary. When I look at Chucky now, I just think of those little legs running and his arms swinging by his side (even if he does have a knife in his hand).

Chucky just might have made creepy looking dolls appear somehow less creepy. Well, almost. 😉

Have you watched Child’s Play? Did it scare you or make you laugh? Have you watched all the Chucky movies? Do you hate creepy looking dolls too? What’s a horror movie you’ve seen that actually made you laugh instead?

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Movies/Television

Goodbye Penny Dreadful.

PennyDreadfulCastRarely does a television show come along and capture my imagination, but Penny Dreadful has proved to be one of them. Beautifully written and acted, with delightful imagery, the season finale had me both shocked and upset; doubly so when I discovered that Season 3 was the end of the show altogether.

From the very beginning, part of the appeal for me had been the characters drawn from English literature, including Dorian Gray, various characters from Dracula, Frankenstein and in Season 3, the introduction of Dr Jekyll. Other characters, such as Vanessa Ives, Ethan Chandler and Sir Malcolm had their own demons to contend with, making the show an interesting mix. In Season 3, new characters such as Dr Seward and Catriona Hartdegen were introduced and I would have liked to have seen more of them; two strong women whose characters had the potential for further development.

With the various main characters in Season 3 scattered all over the globe, I began to wonder how and when they would all come together for the resulting climax. In the end, however, I felt the ending was a bit rushed and one scene in particular jarred with me. In the final episode, when Sir Malcolm and Dr Frankenstein meet up for the first time in the entire season, Sir Malcom says something along the lines of:- ‘Dr Frankenstein, fancy meeting you here; long time, no see! Vanessa’s in trouble, do you want to help us? Good. Let’s go’.

I felt the highlight of Season 3 was the episode ‘Blade of Grass’. The episode explained a particular time in Vanessa’s past, and it was a brilliant performance by Eva Green. With the two main characters of Vanessa and John Clare (Frankenstein’s creature), as the main performers, it was very emotional. Viewers finally understood the connection between these two; showing their strong bond and eventual love for one another. It was after this episode that I had hoped John Clare would come to Vanessa’s aid. As much as I liked to see Vanessa and Ethan together, her relationship with John Clare was special, which helped make the show’s ending so moving. (And yes, I’ve always had a soft spot for Frankenstein’s creature). It was only natural, that my reaction to the ending went something like this:- ‘What? No! That can’t be right. This isn’t really happening. You’ve got to be kidding me. Arrr!’ *sob*

Penny Dreadful is testament to the high quality of television that has been produced in recent years. Although some questions remained unanswered, there is very little about this show that I can find fault with – it really has been that good, and in case you missed it, I recommend you take a look. As sad as I am to see its final curtain, I can understand why writer/creator John Logan ended the show the way he did (who can forget the ending of Dexter?).

Goodbye Penny Dreadful. It has been a real pleasure knowing you.

Have you been watching Penny Dreadful? What are your thoughts on the end of the show? Did you have a favourite character?

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Horror, Movies/Television, Writing

What Writers Can Learn from ‘Misery’.

anniewilkesinspirationRecently, I watched the movie Misery, starring Kathy Bates in her award winning role as Annie Wilkes. It’s a film I have not seen in quite some time and it has been even longer since I read the book, yet it is undoubtedly a story that stays with you. Stephen King not only demonstrates his skills as a writer by building up the suspense while focusing on two main characters in a confined space, but he also plays upon the fears of writers.

By the end of the film, I couldn’t help but think of what writers can learn from Misery.

1. Routine

Author Paul Sheldon had the luxury of staying in a hotel whenever he needed to finish writing a novel. He would also celebrate typing ‘the end’ with a cigarette and a glass of champagne. Writers need to have some kind of routine in order to produce the words on a regular basis, however, a change every once in a while can also be beneficial. Write in a different location (like a coffee shop or find your own writer’s retreat) and treat yourself to something different with each milestone you make, like some chocolate, a new book or a night out. Routines are necessary, but they can make us stale. Add some spice to your writing life.

2. Keep a Backup

Annie Wilkes insisted that Paul set fire to his latest manuscript. He tried to make out it was no big deal, as he had other copies, but Annie Wilkes being the obsessed fan that she was, knew better. Keep backup copies of all your writing projects. Hard copies, hard drives, external drives and flash drives; it all might sound excessive, but it pays to be cautious. There is nothing worse than losing your documents to a virus or computer problem and having to write everything again; a great waste of your most precious asset – time.

3. Keep Your Readers Happy

Killing off the main character in a series? That’s where it all went downhill for Paul – he did not keep one particular fan happy. If we don’t keep our readers happy, then quite simply, they will stop reading our stories and look to other writers to help fill that void. Readers bring a level of expectation they want from us, with regards to both our stories and ourselves as writers. Don’t disappoint them.

4. Motivation

With an obsessive fan like Annie Wilkes who has control over you, as well as threatening you with a hammer, you would learn to type pretty quickly. No time to worry about writer’s doubt, writer’s block or procrastination. You would make sure you got the words down in order to try and save your own life. Thankfully, we’re not in Paul Sheldon’s shoes, so for the rest of us we have such things as deadlines, a timer and a great deal of persistence, hard work and determination.

One final piece of advice when it comes to writing:- if you ever become successful in this field, just be careful of anyone who tells you that they’re your No.1 fan. 😉

Have you read the book and/or watched the movie Misery? What do you remember most about the story? What did you think of Kathy Bates’ performance? What motivates you to write?

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and never miss a post. You can also follow me on Twitter and Google+. You can also find me on Goodreads, Pinterest and now on Instagram.

Movies/Television, Writing

3 Reasons Writers Should Watch Television.

woman watching tvI’ve read advice in the past that writers should either cut down on watching television or don’t watch television at all. In order to get more writing done, we need to prioritise and make the most of our time. That’s a very valid point as the key is to live by the old rule ‘everything in moderation’. However, it would appear that this is the ‘golden age of television’, so there are still valid reasons in which to make the most of our television viewing as writers.

1. Research

One of the more enjoyable ways in which to start your research is by watching television. Things like documentaries and real life stories can not only provide you with interesting facts, but can also help fire your imagination and allows you to dig deeper. I have a tendency to watch television shows that explore the darker side of life, and therefore, there are some situations where I need to catch a glimpse of first-hand accounts. Through watching such shows, I can envisage certain situations for my characters and assist with certain elements within my stories.

2. Characters

Like some of the books you read, one of the first things you may think of when it comes to television shows is the characters. Some can be larger than life, like Gene Hunt on Life on Mars or maybe a group of characters that work so well together they almost feel like family (Firefly and Criminal Minds for example). There are also times when a character leaves the show, that the show may never be the same again – think Mulder in The X-Files. My husband said at the time ‘Mulder IS The X-Files’ (and yes, happy dance that it’s staging a comeback 🙂 ), which demonstrates the importance of characters within a show; sometimes you can’t have one without the other. When it comes to writing our own characters, we really have to work hard on making them as unique and realistic as possible. We need to ask ourselves what makes ours different? Watching television can help.

3. Genre

Watching television can give us a good insight into particular genres, including our own and allows us to ask questions about our own stories. What shows in particular genres have become popular and why? What has been done differently within this particular genre and how can I apply something similar within my own writing? Sometimes you can take an idea from a show and ask yourself ‘what if?’ and apply it to a different genre with a completely different outcome. We can learn from watching television, not only for our own writing, but it can also give us an idea of what the public wants.

Since getting pay television installed in our house last winter, I’m the first to admit I have been watching more television that I used to. I am, however, watching shows that not only interest me, but I know they will help me with my writing projects. Next time you watch television, remember to put your writer’s cap on – you just might learn something. 😉

Has watching certain television shows helped you with your writing? Do you find watching television a distraction from your writing and not watch it at all? Were you disappointed to see the end of Firefly? Are you happy to see the return of The X-Files? What shows/characters do you like best?

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and never miss a post. You can also follow me on Twitter and Google+. You can also find me on Goodreads and Pinterest.

Movies/Television

Back to the 70s: Life on Mars.

life on marsHave you ever watched something on television that really gets your cogs working; and by those cogs, I mean way back in your memory banks? Although Life on Mars combined elements of science fiction with police procedural, it was set during the 1970s – a decade in which I grew up.

Sam Tyler, a police officer, is hit by a car in 2006, only to find himself waking up in 1973. Back at his station, he learns that he now works under the command of Gene Hunt. It is unclear to both Sam and the audience if he has gone mad, in a comma, died or has travelled back in time.

Two things in particular stand out for me about this show. The first is the job that went into making the time period as realistic as possible. Although I didn’t grow up in the UK and there have been known to be some discrepancies, there were still many things that got my memory working. Seeing the image of the girl with the clown appear on Sam’s television screen made me wince. We used to see that same image here on Australian television (and yes, as I have a dislike for clowns, this could be where that all started). Hearing songs from the era probably stood out the most – some songs that I had completely forgotten and had probably hoped never to hear again (although the more I hear the theme song from David Bowie, the more I like it). The same could be said for the clothes and décor – after having lived it, I can honestly say that I think the 70s were the worst decade when it comes to fashion.

The second thing about the show is the characters and that’s where the writing comes in. Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt may have differences in opinion when it comes to policing due to the eras in which they are used to working, however, they do eventually earn each other’s respect. They play the old ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine, but they get results. They each have flaws and are able to make light of them, which introduces the humour into the show. Above all, it is the characters that stand out and help make the show so memorable; a combination of good writing and acting. Once you’ve watched the show, you can’t forget the ‘Gene Genie’. 😉

I think this video is really well done and sums the show up nicely.

Have you ever watched a television show that reminded you of a time in your life? Have you watched Life on Mars and which version – UK or US? Which era do you think was the worst when it comes to fashion?

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and never miss a post. You can also follow me on Twitter and Google+. You can also find me on Goodreads and Pinterest.

Authors, Horror, Movies/Television, Writers

At the Movies with Stephen King.

Monsters are real

Some time back, I had written a post regarding the influence of film when I was younger. It was watching movies that made me want to become a writer. Recently, I watched A Night at the Movies – Stephen King. As I had read some of his books when I was a teenager (and of-course had seen a number of those film adaptations), I found it interesting to hear what he had to say regarding the horror genre within the movie industry.

  • The first movie that ever scared him was ‘Bambi’ as he was terrified of the forest fire.
  • The terrifying thing about zombies is they won’t stop – death is not the end.
  • The ghost story that scared him the most was ‘The Changeling’.
  •  He believes the big films of the horror genre are ‘Psycho’, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.
  •  The ending of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ has no real explanation, which is where the real horror lies.
  • Favourite movie versions of his books include ‘The Dead Zone’,’ Misery’ and ‘Cujo’. He describes the movie version of his book ‘The Shining’ as ‘a beautiful car that has no engine’.
  • He still has a big affection for the monster movies – the B grade movies from the 50s and 60s.
  • If anyone gives us a run for our money in the horror genre, it’s the Japanese.
  • The reason he goes to see horror movies are to lay down his fears for a while and indulge some of his darker emotions. If the movies have supernatural elements to it, it’s a chance to exercise his imagination, to give it wings and let it fly.

These are just a few items that stood out to me – especially that one about poor innocent, Bambi. Who knew? That’s my favourite Disney movie! There are a couple of movies on his list that I still have yet to see, but I find it a fascinating insight into the mind of one of the greatest writers of our time.

Do you have a favourite Stephen King movie? What horror movie scared you the most? Do you enjoy watching movies that make you think? Do certain movies ‘exercise your imagination’?

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Movies/Television, Writing

Lessons in Writing from Alfred Hitchcock.

Im-a-writer-and-therefore

As a child, it was watching the film Picnic at Hanging Rock that fired my imagination, but it was Alfred Hitchcock that made me want to become a writer. This may sound strange, but I grew up heavily influenced by film. Watching images on the screen helped me to see the images within my own mind. As Alfred Hitchcock played such a huge influence on my life, here are some lessons I have learnt from him regarding both writing and suspense.

‘The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them’.

Replace the word ‘films’ with ‘books’ and this statement can be pretty well spot on. Our fears may not just be of monsters or murderers, but of the fears we may face in our everyday lives; betrayal, abuse, infidelity, bullying. We’ve all experienced fear at one time or another; it’s a basic human emotion. We’re writers because this is how we express ourselves best and what better way to reach our audience than through emotion.

‘The length of the film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder’.

As readers, it’s exciting to read a book that you can’t put down. We may even stay up late into the night to find out what’s going to happen next all the way to the very end. Readers have become hooked and can be eager to read more of that author’s work, and as writers, this is exactly what we want to happen – for our readers to keep reading.

‘Drama is life with the dull bits taken out’.

No-one wants to watch everything that goes on in a person’s life in order to get to the best parts – even reality television doesn’t do that. It’s the same for our stories. The reader is more interested in the plot; the action. Sure we need scenes with less action, but they need to help move the plot forward. This is when we need good editing and beta readers to help us out. An extra pair of eyes can help us weed out the dull bits to help keep our story on track.

‘Always make the audience suffer as much as possible’.

Due to the nature of traditional publishing, authors are well known to have long spells between books, especially in a series. This is one of the reasons why authors have taken to self-publishing. Yes, authors want their readers to be eager for their next book, but if they are expected to wait too long, readers may well lose interest altogether. Readers will move on to another author willing to fill that gap. This is why authors having a backlist, as well as writing short stories and novellas, has proved popular. Fulfilling this need for readers helps ensure a loyal customer base.

Have you learnt any lessons through film? What influenced you to become a writer?

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Books, Crime & Mystery, Movies/Television

A Visit to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Exhibition.

Miss-Phryne-Fisher-miss-fishers-murder-mysteriesDuring a recent visit to Parramatta, a suburb of inner western Sydney, I visited Old Government House; Australia’s oldest surviving public building. It was here that the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Costume Exhibition was being held. This series, based on Kerry Greenwood’s novels and produced by the ABC, have run for two seasons, and there is currently debate on whether there will be a third season*. Fans, like myself, are hoping it will be given a green light, as it has proved popular both here and overseas. This particular period in history had never really held much interest for me, but since watching this show, it has changed my mind.

Set in Melbourne during the 1920s, the creators of the show have done a terrific job of displaying the time period. The costumes on the show, as demonstrated in the exhibition were amazing and I was captivated by the level of detail that went into each piece. Unfortunately, given the delicacy of the walls within Old Government House, flash photography could not be used. I tried to take a photo, but my camera insisted using the flash. It was around the time I also noticed that the battery in my camera was also out of charge, so I guess taking any photos were not meant to be. However, that didn’t stop me from inwardly doing my best Homer Simpson impersonation and cursing myself – ‘Not happy Jan!’Phryne Fisher

The exhibition mainly displayed the costumes worn by Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher, but also on display were some costumes worn by Jack, Dot and Aunt Prudence. As well as clothing, the exhibition featured accessories, including hats, shoes and handbags. There were some costumes that I fell in love with just by seeing them up so close.

If you enjoy the show or are interested in the 1920s or vintage fashion, I highly recommend seeing this exhibition. It has certainly made me appreciate the dedication that goes into making high quality television.

Are you a fan of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and would like to see a third season? Have you visited the exhibition – what are your thoughts? Have you watched or read something that changed your mind regarding a certain period in history? Do you have an appreciation for vintage fashion?

* A month after writing this post, it was announced that a third season of Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries will go into production. Filming is due to begin mid October, 2014. 🙂

Images via the ABC and Fanpop