An Incomplete Guide To Terrible Netflix Christmas Romances Pt 3

Look, if Netflix is going to persist with this, I’m going to keep hate-watching. Like, hate-watching while low-key loving. You can find the 2017 editions with gems like the o.g A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance here and here. I’ve watched a few of the newbies over the last few weeks, and there might still be time for another edition before Christmas. Spoilers embraced this time.

Hope you like single Dads because Netflix is betting on them this year.

The Holiday Calendar
I watched this one right when it came out – at the start of November. Early November is too early for Christmas movies y’all. Particularly really bad ones. Let’s lay this one out – Kat Graham can sell you a lot of highly unlikely shit. Although her character Bonnie on The Vampire Diaries wasn’t wildly…joyful, she is super charming and all those years of basically shrugging off vampire/witch/werewolf shenanigans really did a lot for her ability to sell some wild concepts.

And you know what? She sold me on an Advent calendar that can somehow predict two versions of reality with one toy item a day. But she couldn’t sell me on a girl not choosing Ethan Peck. It’s pretty easy to see he’s The Wrong Man, given how late in the game he’s introduced (a full 20 minutes in to the movie) compared to all the time we’ve invested in loving stares from her male bestie who quite clearly wants to join her family to ensure continued access to her Mum’s cookies (not a euphemism).

But. Come on. That voice. I thought maybe it was just me but even my many friends who have not had the pleasure of watched Ethan play sexy broody fuckboy with a heart of gold Patrick Verona in the 10 Things I Hate About You show were convinced she’d made the wrong choice.

Never mind that the reason they break up was that he didn’t put a lot of faith in the rather out-there idea of a sentient Advent calendar, meanwhile the guy she ends up with not only loses her job for her, he also reacted to her Advent calendar theory by accusing her of being an alcoholic. So.

One last point of Sorry, I Can’t Buy This: as if any millennial who had a shot at it with absolutely no fucking training wouldn’t take a creatively unfulfilling office job where she had absolutely no chance of being fired, as opposed to a creatively unfulfilling casual job taking Christmas photos of pukey kids, while wearing an elf costume. SPARE ME KAT GRAHAM, go somewhere that’ll give you insurance.

Rating: 3/10, The ending was kinda cute but I can’t get over the terrible life choices.

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The Princess Switch

Ethan Peck given you a taste for hot single Dads? Well do I have the hot single baker Dad for you:

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Shockingly, Olivia is not played by Vanessa Hudgens.

Welcome, also, if you’re a Nashville viewer, to the uncanny valley of Sam Palladio speaking in his natural accent, which somehow sounds super fake?

What a great mash-up of genres this one is. A Parent Trap-style life swap and a royal romance? What more could you ask for, really? Oh yeah. CHRISTMAS. It’s got it all. Super-organised Chicago baker discovers the only person in the world with a bigger stick up their arse is the Prince of a small, probably European country (important question from Twitter: do you think Princess Switch‘s Belgravia and A Christmas Prince’s Aldovia have a voting bloc in Eurovision? I bet they both hate Montsaurai of Once Upon A Holiday, with its Dirtbag Princess Katie). He must learn the spiritual fulfilment of carriage rides and visiting orphanages which hang up mistletoe, a very normal thing to do in a workplace based on childcare. Meanwhile, a Duchess learns the pleasure of making out with a really hot single Dad who knows how to make cakes, and who only has one annoying family member (his cloying daughter) rather than an entire small country paying attention to him.

Anyway, my main problem with this movie is that it’s G-rated, and therefore when Kevin turns up in Margaret’s bedroom looking like THIS:

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She does not play any form of hide and seek with him.

A big ups to Netflix for refusing to buy any jewellery for these royal movies that doesn’t look like it comes from Lovisa (Americans: think Claire’s). This movie includes a corker:

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How many hot glue guns died in the making of that thing?

All in all, this movie is extremely silly and manages to pack in every cliche you could want, plus a baking competition. I can only imagine the environment in which it was written. I’m picturing a lot of eggnog and six seasons of GBBO on in the background.

Rating 9/10, deducting one point for not getting Kevin’s pyjamas pants off.

Christmas Wedding Planner

I’ve got two words for you: Charisma. Void.

That’s the only way I can describe the romantic hero in this movie, an extremely low-budget version of Michael Weatherly from NCIS. And he just kinda comes off like an arsehat? I read plenty of romance novel heroes with his personality type, but to translate it to the screen you really need to cast for charisma and chemistry with the heroine, because we have a lot of gaps to fill without the written word. And while the heroine does a bit of narration, she mostly uses it to yell “I am a fierce warrior”, a quirk disturbingly reminiscent of Anastasia Steele’s inner goddess. I’m not particularly surprised to find out this one is based on a Harlequin novel.

So, what’s Kelsey’s job? You may think it’s to plan Christmas Weddings, an extremely niche market if I ever saw one. Bloody millennials. In fact, she’s never planned a damn wedding before her cousin’s, and yikes. She needs to….make some interventions.

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Girl if you don’t think that’s gonna date your wedding, think about how it’s already dated this movie.

This is an extremely dumb movie with a heroine who on first appearance seems kinda charming but eventually just becomes so quirky it’s annoying. You know. The Zooey Deschanel effect. I’ve got a theory though. She’s so odd because she’s dealing with the fact that a ribbon is keeping her head on.

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Aesthetically, it’s a fascinating movie. Kelly Rutherford (what are you doing here? There’s actually good soaps out there to pay your bills!) is a sort of generically-rich aunt, and it’s just close enough to Lily Van Der Woodsen that it really shows that this movie….does not know how wealthy people dress. For example, not a lot of grown-ass women sitting around their homes in tiny lid fascinators and diamanté headbands, Lovisa strikes again.

The worst accessorising choice of all happens when Emily rips the ribbon from her cousin Kelsey’s neck for her wedding bouquet. A truly tragic end.

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Jk the biggest tragedy of this movie is (SPOILER ALERT), Kelsey decides to marry a Charisma Void she’s known for about a week on the spot.

Rating: 4/10, added one point for the heroine’s fabulous lipstick game.

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

I, known A Christmas Prince hater, am back on my bullshit.

Because I hated this one too. It’s the only one of this bunch I abandoned so frequently that I was able to plan a trip to Sri Lanka and become obsessed with Ariana Grande in the three hours it took to watch it (I’m not joking, my screencaps have timestamps). If you can’t even sustain me on sheer bonkers trash, then that’s a sad indictment of your trash movie. There were some highlights, however.

Amber continues to be a truly atrocious note-taker and also journalist:

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Her Undercover Outfit? Literally Sunglasses At Night and the outfit she was heavily photographed entering the country in like, a week ago.

I really didn’t expect this movie to have a prominent plotline about The Power of Unions. I was truly disappointed that it turned out to be some good old-fashioned corruption and the end of the movie didn’t end with Aldovia turning in to a Socialist Republic. Maybe next time?

The plotline about press freedom didn’t hold a lot of water either. Did Amber end up keeping her blog that should have absolutely been killed about twelve months before the events of this movie?

We learned that the royal family attached Go Pros to the end of their toboggans:

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And that Amber, one of the most awkward people on the whole planet, was raised by one of Life’s Huggers:

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Amber cannot be trusted with a Hot Glue Gun:

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Great question, I thought I’d managed to travel in to this fictional universe to burn it.

Wisely, someone ripped off the Gryffindor ribbons before Emily made it to stage. Everyone on this stage is a scab btw, as the concert had been cancelled due to worker’s strikes.

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The workers! United! Will never be defeated!

We learned Richard can’t decorate for shit and Amber is a ginormous liar.

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Richard has also taken to referring to himself in the third person, so it’s kinda hard to be Team Richard in this movie. Read some Karl Marx, dickhead.

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This kid….has a boner. I’m sorry but he does. Blame Netflix.

50 Shades of School Play

Clearly, the greatest job on this production was to create the outlandish initial sketch for Amber’s wedding dress. I was very disappointed not to see the Cone of Shame at her first fitting.

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Everyone involved in this movie should have to wear one tbh.

And finally, Lovisa have got their claws in to another one:

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Golly, Aldovia’s budget really is in crisis.

Rating: 3/10, same as the first one.

‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’: The Victorian Values Review

It’s a mouthful. I’ve been shortening it to Guernsey – because a lot of this film is about Guernsey, and its experiences during WWII – but I was delighted when the girl at the box office told me that some people have been asking for tickets to ‘The Potato Movie’. Come on guys, Peter Dutton’s a long way off getting a biopic.

First up, as always, a trailer:

This particular film is a difficult one to talk about without spoilers, but golly there’s a few of them in the trailer, anyway. Part of the issue, of course, on basing your movie on a bestselling book (in this case, the 2008 novel of the same name) is that you want book fans to know that the key scenes and lines they love are in there. Nonetheless, the trailer could have dropped a little of the content and still been effective.

The movie starts thusly: Juliet Ashton (Lily James) is a successful writer in London, shortly after the end of WWII. She’s starting to become slightly disillusioned with the explosion of partying that has taken over London society, but is having a damn good time with her American diplomat beau, Mark. Her publisher Sidney (my boyfriend Matthew Goode) would be pretty darn happy if she’d just start her next book. Unexpectedly she received a letter from a pig farmer from the island of Guernsey named Dawsey Adams, asking for a book hookup for a group he’s part of – the titular Society. The story of the group’s origin (and let me reassure you – the name’s a gag) draws Juliet in to a correspondence, with her eventual decision to travel to Guernsey to meet this infamous group. Once she arrives, she becomes drawn in to their lives and the tales of what happened when Guernsey was under German occupation during the war.

I was lucky enough to be recommended the book by a friend many years ago, and was very excited when rumours broke in 2013 (yes, five years ago) that Michelle Dockery had been offered the lead, as I thought she would be perfect. To make it clear how long this movie has been in development hell – it was apparently initially intended to be a vehicle for Kate Winslet, and in 2013, Simon Curtis was attached to direct. Although Mike Newell ended up tapped to direct, the movie ended up maintaining the Downton Abbey connection from Dockery and Curtis (who is married to Elizabeth McGovern who played Cora), with a star turn for James (Rose), and support from Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley), Jessica-Brown Findlay (Sybil) and Goode (Henry Talbot). Taken together you’ve got a whole lotta people who are incredibly comfortable in period costume. Part of me can’t help but mourn for the idea of Dockery in the lead role, however – in the book, Juliet is 32 years old, and James, who has just turned 29, reads a bit young for a successful writer. She is bloody lovely to look at, though, and is less ‘mannered’ than I’ve seen her in other roles, allowing Juliet a bit of goofiness. The cast is mostly rounded out by people you’ve seen on the telly – like Katherine Parkinson from The IT crowd – and a man I shall henceforth know as The Extremely Handsome Michiel Huisman. Look, I’ve seen The Age of Adaline, I’ve seen Game of Thrones, and he has NEVER done it for me more than in his pig farmer get-up. I don’t understand it and I don’t particularly care to. He is extremely swoon-worthy – noble and caring and just a smidge sarcastic – in this movie.

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Sexy men aside, there are so many factors at play that will determine whether you like this movie. I enjoy it, as I did the book, because I’m intrigued by the lives of ordinary people during WWII. I gobble up books and movies set in the period, even though I know they make me cry every fucking time (this one wasn’t too bad). However, if that bores you….this movie will probably bore you too. I will say that the period details are absolutely stunning, from Juliet’s fancy London get-ups, the phones, the recycled and repaired clothes from the folks on Guernsey, to the old-school ships and planes. There is a lot of attention to detail at work here, and I always want to give props to the people behind the scenes that hunt these pieces down and create props. While the story itself could easily be told in a TV movie, the budget that comes along with a studio feature has allowed some gorgeous work to be given a starring role. Also, a word of warning for the ladies: you will want to buy hats after this. Juliet wears an abundance of wonderful 1940s hats, and it’s no bloody coincidence that I saw this movie yesterday and went and bought a knit beret today.

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Not as nice as this one though.

It’s also a love letter to Guernsey, with lush scenery (although it was predominantly filmed in Devon, unfortunately, due to the logistical issues of filming on the island). And what an extraordinary tale the locals had – the book was well-researched, but the movie also does an excellent job of showing just the kind of difficult position they were put in, forced to live alongside their enemy in such a small space for five years. Whilst the Blitz was a horrifying experience for any Londoner, Juliet quickly learns how different the Guernsey experience was to her own. The Society itself grew from an act of resistance, and she learns the complex interrelation between this small group and the occupying forces, and the legacy it has left behind.

The cast bring a lot of warmth, wit, and heart, to what is at its essence a drama. This is a movie that is hugely at risk of being being trod on by genre pics, coming out right in between A Quiet Place (which I also saw yesterday, and really should have seen first to give my heart an opportunity to recover) and Avengers: Infinity War, and as always, I try to review movies that are at risk of being ignored. However, I think just from the trailer, most people know if they want to see this movie or not. If you’re not interested because you don’t like romance…I’m not sure why you’re reading a Victorian Values review, but sure, skip it. If you’re interested but on the fence, I can assure you that the movie is unlikely to disappoint. It’s not a thrill-ride, but it’s stunning to look at, the leads are charming, and the ending is happy.  And Michiel Huisman is very, very handsome.

In Defense of Baroness Schraeder

Every year, probably not-coincidentally around Mardi Gras time, the State Theatre in Sydney comes alive with people singing along to the Sound of Music. There’s a costume parade, and props, and audience callbacks. One of the callbacks is to hiss when The Baroness comes onscreen, and in my fourth attendance last week I decided I would no longer boo. I would cheer.

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This was only in part because I’d decided to finally dress up as the Baroness on this occasion (having previously worn a sailor-esque outfit to emulate a von Trapp child, and a rather wild interpretation of ‘silver white Winters that melt in to Spring’). I’d hoped to go for the baller gold gown:
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But I left that costume for a friend when I struggled to find an appropriately fab dress at short notice, and instead went for the outfit where the Baroness attempts to bond with her future stepchildren and they all act like total fuckos because they miss the lady who dressed them with curtains:
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So here’s my defence of The Baroness: she doesn’t deserve the hisses, because her only crime is not being an enthusiastically vocal 21-year-old failed nun. It’s probably not going to shock you that a movie made in 1965 has some Madonna/whore complex bullshit going on, but let’s look at it in detail.

The Baroness is a grown-ass woman. She’s sophisticated and worldly. She has fucked (don’t argue with me on this). She has the goddamn finest couturier in Vienna. But she’s clearly just looking for a good man. She doesn’t need someone to look after her, she’s got her own money and a dope life partying it up in the city. She clearly thinks the world of Captain von Trapp, because honestly? Seven kids. Seven kids. This guy returned a hero from WWI and clearly thought that he and his wife needed to single-handedly repopulate Austria. And his wife got so sick of bearing his children that it was obviously easier to just die. This should really be a dealbreaker.
(The real Captain von Trapp was even less familiar with the concept of contraception or even just pulling out occasionally – he had TEN kids. Unacceptable).

Apparently the Baroness is a bit evil for thinking they might send these kids away to boarding school. Yeah well, guess what your girl Molly Weasley does. She sends her excessive brats to boarding school, to get mostly almost and sometimes fully killed under someone else’s roof. Chill with the judgement. Anyway the von Trapp kids have been getting shit-all education at home. Apparently there’s been a cavalcade of governesses, the disruption hardly serving their education, and then suddenly Maria turns up to ruin the one thing these kids had going for them: a shred of discipline.

Let’s be fucking clear here: at this point, it is evident that war is on its way. The Nazis are not being at all chill in Austria. Rolf doesn’t dress up in uniform because he’s just really fond of the colour brown. So some good things to teach the kids would be, say, rope skills or basic first aid. Maybe some survival shit like starting a fire. Tell you what doesn’t help? Deciding that this is a great time to discover fun, ignore the fact that probably none of them can write a letter or know basic maths, but make sure they know their scales and can sing nonsense lyrics. Oh, and those essential puppetry skills.
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Dammit Marta you even fucked that one up

I think we can all agree that the von Trapp children could have been served well by some dark ages boarding school discipline.

Another of the Baroness’ crimes is convincing Maria to run away back to the convent. At the ball where she is literally the most stunning bitch in the room, Elsa sees the Captain and Maria doing a cheeky folk dance in the courtyard and knows Georg is bone city for this young ingenue. Taking Maria aside, Elsa tells her pretty straight that the Captain is in love with her. She makes no suggestion that she flee back to the abbey, and if Maria is too scared of the Captain’s overly-virile peen to stay in the same building, then that’s her own damn problem.

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“Also, can you get pregnant from dancing the Ländler?”

This is not to say that the Baroness doesn’t indulge in a little light manipulation, but how many young pretenders has this boss had to take down to remain the social queen of Vienna? I suspect a few. Maintaining control of the situation is part of her nature. She has seven kids who mostly hate her and have taken to hanging out of trees to deal with (uh, what happened to that whistle system that Georg boasted about when he was five sherries deep at the Count’s soiree?). She doesn’t have time to deal this young upstart when she’s trying to cope with the overwhelming reality of seven brats (including Kurt, the most extra human being on the face of the planet), and striving to get a hottie to make up his damn mind and propose. Distractions are to be disposed of.

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“Jesus Christ kid, I’m BFFs with Max, the gayest man in Austria and even I think you should tone in down”

Eventually, of course, Elsa faces defeat. The Captain has shitty taste and would prefer a doe-eyed virtual child rather than the kind of woman who could probably take down Hitler over the course of a single dinner party. So be it. Men are garbage, including sexy, incredibly camp war heroes. So what does she do? She exits with goddamn dignity.
She starts by putting on her hottest outfit, to remind him that this is all woman he is giving up here:

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And then she takes the fall. This dude would have dragged this shit out for months until the SS was actually on his godforsaken doorstep. But he can’t do that if she just goes ahead and dumps him. Self-deprecating but not self-pitying, she tells him she’s off to find some dude who at least needs her for her money. And in doing this, she gives this spineless talking sperm the opportunity to finally go deflower a woman who had promised herself to Jesus. What a gift. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t cheer for the Captain and Maria – or as we do at Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music, let off party poppers when they finally kiss – I’m just saying it never would have happened if she hadn’t said ‘Yo, you fuckers are in love, and I’m out of here’.
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I wonder what happened to Elsa? I like to think she became a Resistance spy. Or a flagrant bisexual with many lovers, emboldened by the ‘we-could-die-at-any-moment’ atmosphere of the war. Either way, I think we can all agree that the Baroness is actually the hero of the story, and hissing her is a crime.

 

 

 

Lady Bird: The Victorian Values Review

In 2002, when Lady Bird begins, I was 16. As of yesterday, I’m precisely double that. An apt day to travel back in time, to when Nelly held positions three and four in the Billboard Top 100.

(the real tune of this movie is Justin Timberlake’s Britney revenge track Cry Me A River and you should definitely check out director Greta Gerwig’s letter to Timberlake to convince him to allow her permission to use the song solely for the term ‘full on make out‘, underlined for emphasis. This is extremely accurate btw, this is underlined make outs).

There were two pieces of feedback I took on when processing this movie. One was the review from a friend who’d already seen it – she didn’t like it, because she didn’t like the main character. The second was the couple chatting as we exited the cinema. She ‘didn’t get it’.

Let’s address the former first. I kinda knew from the trailer that the main character was going to be a bit infuriating. And I very much get the difficulty connecting with a story when you don’t like the main character – I get that feeling all the time. I cannot get in to Breaking Bad for the life of me. However. Lady Bird is a coming-of-age tale. The character needs to have somewhere to start from to grow.

And I’ve got a secret for you: the titular Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) is a lot of us as teenagers. She looks almost exactly like my older sister at 17, with shittily-dyed red hair, chokers and caked-on eyeliner, still insultingly beautiful in the way of some 17-year-olds. And almost all of us were raging assholes. I suspect the problem is we’ve become used to coming-of-age movies being about teenage boys. You probably didn’t hate William in Almost Famous, even though he was also a selfish shit who damn near tortured his mother. So I suspect we’re not trained think of girls in coming-of-age movies to be anything other than objects for teenage boys to fall in love with (Hello, Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower). They have complicated inner lives too, and are battling their hormones just as much as teenage boys (that whole ‘girls mature faster’ thing? Yeah, we actually have to).

Now Lady Bird isn’t me as a teenager. For one thing, she is seriously extroverted (extroversion + hormones is a great recipe for a teenage asshole, by the way). She has what the nuns at her Catholic school call ‘a performative streak’ and god does she show it. So much yelling. But none of us can pretend that we didn’t know this person. We may all wish it gets channeled in to on-stage drama, but sometimes it just gets channeled  in to making a spectacle of yourself. It’s a damn good thing for Lady Bird that YouTube wasn’t around in 2002.  And extroversion isn’t necessarily something you grow out of. The character does mature over the course of the film, but she’s still drunkenly yelling out of windows at the end of the movie.

It’s a movie about relationships, but not really the ones you might think. Male-focused coming-of-age movies tend to be about falling in love, or lust, or whatever you want to call it. They’re not usually strictly romances, so it’s not necessarily about finding The One, just The One Who’ll Teach You Something About Yourself. Lady Bird has some excellent rite-of-passage relationships in the film – the closeted drama kid who just respects you so damn much he doesn’t really wanna touch you, the wanker in a band – but mostly, this is a movie about female relationships. The best friend. The mother. When it does touch on sex and relationships, it doesn’t punish Lady Bird for it. She can masturbate, she can lose her virginity and not fall pregnant her very first time (hello Saved! and Juno). Sure, her sexual experiences aren’t amazing pleasure-fests, but if you’re going to tell me yours were at that age, I’m gonna accuse you of boasting at best.

Cut to Lady Bird sharing a bathroom with her mother in their cramped abode, asking her when the right time to ‘do it’ is. Carefully weighing up how loaded this question is, Marion (Laurie Metcalfe) answers ‘College’. College is about right. She probably knows it’s all a little too late, but Lady Bird turns the conversation to her father, out of work and not coping well. This movie’s not just about being a teen, but about being lower-middle-class, and it’s for that reason, not her extroversion or her strong emotions or her ability to acquire more than one boyfriend, that I connected with Lady Bird. And it informs so much of her relationship with her mother. Neither her mother nor her father can give her a lot – they can give her love and good advice and try to set her up well for the future. You have to be an (early-series) Rory Gilmore angel-type to actually appreciate the sacrifices your parents make to give you a half-decent life, when you’re a teenager surrounded by kids with the shit you don’t have. This is perfectly encapsulated by Lady Bird and her best friend Julie, standing outside a fancy two-storey house, imagining their life inside it. A separate TV room. And snacks. Actually entertaining friends. Lady Bird’s shame about her neighbourhood, and her home, become a point of tension in her relationship with her Mum. And it’s not until you get a little bit older and wiser that you realise that even though all you want to do is give your kid more opportunities than you had, it still hurts like heck that the insecurity that’s part and parcel of being a teenager leads them to reject all the things you work hard to give them. That all they want to do is be somewhere else. Somewhere with the shine of glamour and intellectualism and maybe where they won’t have to shop in thrift stores. The heart of this tension is so incredibly real, and Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe bring so much to it that it made me want to call up my Mum.

If you’ve managed to catch I, Tonya, you know the flipside of this story. My forever crush Allison Janney plays Tonya Harding’s mother LaVona, tough-as-nails, and if she has a heart under there, it only shows in flashes. Whilst fighting for her opportunities, she essentially tries to scare Tonya (Margot Robbie, a revelation) in to achieving. It scars her and sets her up to see her entire life as a fight. Not a struggle. A fistfight. Marion gives Lady Bird some tough talk, but it’s done with a love that she can always recognise, will defend even in the middle of a fit of pique. She might be not believe it at the time, but it’s perfectly possible to be ‘scary and warm’, the perfect description for so many friend’s Mums that I want to go hug them all.

Part of coming-of-age is finding your people. Lady Bird handles the struggle of moving from childhood to adulthood and deciding what you want to keep perfectly. And it wasn’t really Lady Bird I connected with in this circumstance, but her childhood best friend Julie, neglected for the glamour of wealthier and cooler friends. Friends who wouldn’t touch the school play with a ten-foot pole. Because sometimes you end up being the friend who’s left behind. When our small-town grade of maybe 50 kids moved from primary school to a much bigger high school (although still very small in the grand scheme of high schools), my tall, beautiful, blonde, much more extroverted best friend of several years was swept off to the popular group, who liked me about as much as I liked them, which is to say not at all. She and I were never unfriendly, but drifting apart and being the friend who’s left behind sucks (although this is not a tale of woe…the group I eventually settled in, my people, the nerds, handed me the best friend I still have now). And this is such a real experience of being a teenage girl – shifting allegiances, shifting interests, while still feeling the strong bonds that no-one who’s never been a teenage girl can understand. No matter which position you’re in, you eventually have to decide what you fight to keep as you move in to being an adult.

I hope I’ve given Greta Gerwig enough credit for her script and directorial debut. A fitting love letter to her home town, the perfect encapsulation of a time (with a perfect soundtrack, hey there Dave Matthews), and a girl who’s allowed to be a bit of an asshole. This should win a whole bunch of Oscars, but I’m worried. That ‘I don’t get it’ reaction. Was it just the reaction of someone who needs their movies wrapped in a neat bow, lessons learned, no room for growth left in an 18-year-old character? Or do you have to have lived through it, to have your heart crash in to this film?

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‘Hello, Academy? I’m nailing it over here. Pay attention’

Katie’s Favourite (Melbourne) Things 2017 – Part 1

I’m sure my mother would refer to this as ‘A Guide To Gently Stalking Katie’. To which I would say ‘Mum, my entire life is online, they can just DM me if they want to know what movie I’m seeing when’.

I’ve just ticked over my first full year of living in Melbourne. I’m not going to claim I know it like an old-timer, and I will honestly admit there are swathes of the city and surrounds that I’ve only looked at with mild curiosity on the public transport map. I also live in the northern suburbs, so this will be somewhat north-focused, but you should probably also know that I fully subscribe to the northside/southside war and think of the entire south-east as Rich People Trashville with the occasional nice historical home (hello Como House, you have a very nice garden). Toorak makes me feel poor and St Kilda makes me uncomfortable with its fake ocean.

This is a bit city guide, a bit Year That Was, and hopefully interesting to someone. It’s time for….Katie’s Favourite Things (Part One).
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Cultural Things

The Wheeler Centre
A friend put me on to this one, and let’s be real, I am entirely trying to be your friend who puts you on to things with this post.
For a decent chunk of this year I was job-searching, and therefore incredibly keen to find free things to do that got me out of the house. Going for walks is fun and all, but it doesn’t particularly engage the brain. That’s where The Wheeler Centre, located in a wing of the beautiful State Library, comes in. They do some paid events, but the majority of their talks are free. For at least two ‘seasons’, I hopped on the site when the calendar was launched and booked a whole bunch of sessions, giving me regular things to look forward to. These included talks about women on social media, the changing nature of family, the real lives of Arab women, talks on podcasts, criticism, and the wellness industry. The Wheeler Centre is a forum to talk about ideas, with every session tending to have a carefully-chosen panel and opportunities for audience Q&A.
I know why I find the events so appealing. A former Arts student, I still enjoy the feeling of being engaged with the world of ideas and debate. I’ve also found a healthy selection of talks with a feminist slant, particularly Jane Gilmore’s round up of 2017’s representation of women in media. But you’ll find a pretty mixed crowd at the events. I’ve found that there’s a lot of people of retirement age who will come along not knowing much about the subject, I suspect because it comes with the best price tag of all for an interesting night out.
One of my favourite series at The Wheeler Centre this year was The Longform Society, a sort of book club for longreads. I was absolutely fascinated by our readings on robots, with a particular focus on ethics, and could have discussed them all night. Humanities nerds are for life, y’all.
If this all sounds pretty appealing to you but you’re not from Melbourne, they do quite a bit of live-streaming, as well as uploading audio and visual recording afterwards.

Honourable mention: The University of Melbourne hosts a huge amount of free public lectures on a dizzying amount of topics. I joined their mailing list after attending a Melbourne Knowledge Week event with Katherine Maher from Wikipedia, however I’ve found that the majority of evening talks start at 6pm, which is when I finish work.

Bump and Grindercise
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This is the only fitness class or endeavour I have ever been able to stick to. I did terribly at Zumba. I was okay at home workouts, but as soon as I took a break I struggled to get back in to it. But for Bump and Grindercise, I will drag myself out of bed every Sunday, because it’s fun. I will even go when I’m sick, mostly because there’s no-one at home to tell me I shouldn’t (note to self, extremely bad for recovery).
One of the greatest challenges is describing what Bump and Grindercise actually is. L’amour, the genius behind Bump, posted this clip from one of the routines, which probably helps a bit. Meg Crawford wrote about the classes for Time Out. But it mostly comes down to wiggling, jiggling, and giggling. While also getting the cardio workout from hell, and thighs so sore you can barely sit for days. L’amour calls it a dance exercise class, which pretty much sums up the vintage-inspired burlesque moves you’ll be doing between the twerking, squats and lunges. There’s a hefty bit of 90s to the soundtrack (think Spice Girls, Shaggy and Ginuwine) as well as tunes from the 50s and 60s. It’s a serious workout in a warm and silly environment. If you can’t make fun of yourself, you’re gonna have a seriously weird time grinding in a circle like in the clip I linked to. But everyone brings their best self to class, and everyone feels like their best self in class too. It’s a body-positive environment, something L’Amour embodies, and that’s what makes girls feel comfortable to dance around in lingerie. We don’t all know each other, there’s drop-ins every week, but it is an established safe space, where bullshittery will not be tolerated and everyone tries to uplift each other. Also celebrations are had with titty cupcakes.
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I’d long followed Bump and Grindercise through social media, and was so excited to start these classes when I moved down. I’m happy to say they completely surpassed my expectations.
Bonus fact: In addition to Bump and Grindercise, L’amour will be launching barre classes called Bump and Barrecise next year. If that’s more your style, I cannot give high enough marks for L’amour as a kind, patient, and supportive teacher, even if she is way bendy-er than any of us will ever be.

Palace Cinemas
This chain is not Melbourne-only, but every venue is unique. My local is Palace Westgarth, which is housed in a historical building and has five cinemas, as well as an outdoor screen in the courtyard, a new addition I haven’t had an opportunity to enjoy yet. I love when I go to see blockbuster films and wind up in the largest auditorium, the beautiful art deco style Cinema One.
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Palace plays the latest releases and indies, and their distribution arm allows them to hold numerous international film festivals during the year. It tends to make for an interesting lineup.
Whilst I’m incredibly fortunate to receive discount Palace tickets through my workplace’s employee rewards program, I’d also made the decision to join the Palace Movie Club long before I started there. Club membership is $19.50 a year here in Melbourne, and given members save over $5 on standard ticket prices, you only need to go to the movies 4 times in a year to make back your membership costs (I don’t know about you, but I go to the movies a lot more than that). Plus you get discounts here and there, access to advance screenings and some deals as part of the festivals. Even though I get cheaper-than-membership tickets now, I have maintained my membership for the perks. Also, I can’t pre-book my cheap tickets, so the membership comes in handy if you want to say, buy tickets with the best seats for opening day of The Last Jedi.
They turned out to be not so great tickets when the man and his son next to me talked the whole way through the movie, but that’s not Palace’s fault. In general, I find that there’s less teenagers than at a cinema in a shopping centre e.g the homeland of the Hoyts and Greater Union, which means I don’t feel like such a sore thumb when I indulge my number one love of going to the movies on my own.
Their snacks are also delicious, although I don’t believe that olive oil popcorn is that much better for you, and they will do a ‘feature-length’ pour of wine without the Gold Class prices. Bonus fact: The Palace Kino, which is in the CBD, has an amazing Tightarse Monday deal of $8.50 tickets.

Honourable mention: The Lido in Hawthorn. Similar variety of  blockbusters, indies and art-house. A modern venue, with a rooftop screen and no oddly-shaped cinemas, and as a bonus it isn’t part of a chain. They also do jazz and comedy nights. Delicious, substantial snacks and really decent variety of boozy drinks. I had a membership this year and at a members’ preview screening for Battle of the Sexes they were handing out Pimms Cup cocktails. However, I generally had a hard time booking member tickets on the site (usually resorting to the phone – eww, people) and it’s just a bit far from my house when there’s a great cinema down High St.  But overall a fantastic option for any Easterly types.

Event Things

Girls on Film Festival
Just a really chill celebration of all things lady in cinema, held at Brunswick Town Hall. This year was their third year, and I made it to a couple of events – a Spice World screening, and Girl Germs, an event with bands, video games, nail painting and collage making. The whole event has a welcoming vibe and a DIY spirit, and the movie lineup was absolutely killer, including Persepolis, The Sapphires, and The Craft as well as local and international indies. I had plenty of regrets about not being able to make it to more movies, and I think next year I need to get in earlier and support their crowdfunding efforts!
Also: Spice World does not currently have the camp classic status it deserves. If you haven’t revisited it, can I highly recommend it? You may not be able to recreate the experience of a room full of women who were probably Spice Girls ride-or-dies first time around, but I’m fairly certain it’ll still be magical.
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Series Mania at ACMI
I tend to wonder if people think of ACMI as somewhere to actually go and watch features, rather than just poking their nose in the exhibitions downstairs (although that’s a perfectly worthy journey, particularly when they had CodeBreakers: Women in Games on this year). ACMI actually plays hosts to a lot of interesting events – including the rather epic journey I went on this year watching all eight hours of ESPN’s amazing OJ: Made in America documentary in the big cinema there as part of the Australian International Documentary Conference.
Like the OJ event, Series Mania was free, and in this case was a four-day extravaganza of all things telly. This is an international concept that was started in Paris, so it was awesome to see a varied program brought Melbourne, with hefty local flavour. Although I didn’t attend, understandably the event in conversation with Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, was incredibly popular. I followed my interests and attended two events. The first was a screening of the first episode of The White Princess, which from memory was premiering on Stan the following weekend, followed by a Q&A with the divine Essie Davis, who also stars in one of my favourite Australian series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. In addition, several weeks before the premiere on ABC, I attended a screening of the first two episodes of Get Krackin’, the new comedy show from the Kates of The Katering Show. It’s unusual to get to watch comedy television in a large audience unless you’re at a recording, so it was fun to have that experience. If you want to recreate the experience at home, invite a bunch of mates over and fire up Get Krackin’ on iView. Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan were there for a Q&A afterwards, and proved just as relatable af as I always imagined them. Be my friend, Kates.
I’m really pleased to read that Series Mania will be back next year, and I can’t wait to see what’s on the program!
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PAXAus/Melbourne International Games Week
Yeah, yeah. Stay in your lane, Katie. You don’t know shit about MIGW. You only went to PAXAus. But golly, do I follow a lot of attendees on Twitter. I see the tweets from GCAP panels, people celebrating and receiving recognition at the Australian Game Development Awards, and the same troopers immediately following it up with that hustle life exhibiting at PAX Australia. It’s not the only event focused on games and tech in Melbourne during the year, but it brings together a bunch of local, national and international talent to straight up fuck themselves up on loving games. We’re incredibly lucky that the Victorian Government, through Creative Victoria, supports the industry and enables games to be a key part of the amazing cultural scene in Melbourne that we love to boast about.

And we do love boasting about it. I’ve just written a 2,000 word post just about culture and events. Which means the very best part of living in Melbourne – the food, duh – will have to wait til part 2.