new short story collection. Out now!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Of tennis balls and music videos

Everyone loves Serena Williams. She's a popular figure in the sporting world and an adopted daughter of ours here in Australia courtesy of her success at the Australian Open. The fashion displayed by her and sister, Venus, has both amused and amazed tennis fans for years. How the hell do they play tennis with these gargantuan baubles dangling from their ears? The media, tournament directors, her opponents and tennis fans: we all like Serena Williams except for the lineswoman at this year's U.S Open semi final. She is now a little wary of the larger than life American tennis superstar.

Serena swore at and threatened this woman who was simply doing her job. It was a high pressure moment. There was a lot at stake. She lost her head. Wow, she's human. Her brain explosion happened on television but most of us have ours in relative obscurity.

I once verbally wrestled with a bus driver on a taxi rank. As I wasn't having a profitable day, and his tone of voice was antagonistic, I decided to return serve. Never mind that I was in the wrong, having parked too close to the corner and made it difficult, not impossible but difficult for him to turn the corner. He yelled at me so I lost it. The audience for my tantrum was a little smaller than Serena's but I still embarrassed myself, as did Serena.

Even the great man, Roger Federer, was caught chucking an oral wobbly on television. Four letter words flew from the mouth of Mr. Nice Guy. It's true, I saw it! In the heat of the moment, he lost control.

Kanye West apparently lost control of his senses at the VMAs. He made more enemies than Hitler when he humiliated Taylor Swift on stage by interrupting her acceptance speech. So he thought Beyonce's music video was better than Taylor's. We all have opinions Kanye, but there is a right time and place to express them. He apologised later but the damage had been done.

Serena apologised to the lineswoman but the damage has been done. She said she didn't threaten to kill her but the proposed trajectory of a certain tennis ball would almost certainly have fatally interfered with the breathing of the lineswoman.

The big question now is whether the reputations of these stars will recover following their "errors of judgement". Of course they will. Everyone gets emotionally disturbed by these childish peformances but we've all done the same thing, so of course we'll get over it. We'll still watch Serena play and we'll still listen to Kanye's music. Life goes on.

How many verbal tantrums have you thrown in your adulthood?
One
Half a dozen or so
I've lost count
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What makes a movie good?

There are some people who will swear on a stack of bibles or bet their house, or whatever, on the fact that someone's opinion is the truth. If that person says something is so, then it is so. This is an issue of credibility and authority and what the believer really means is that they agree with the other person. They share an opinion but their agreement does not make the thing on which they concur, fact.

I want to focus my attention, and I could have picked anything, on movies. Recently I had the opportunity to watch a number of movies over a relatively short period of time. Ordinarily I can squeeze in one movie a week, maybe two if I can survive the sleepys which hit me around 10pm each night. Over the past seven weeks I've probably watched around 30 films. There were a few good ones, four out of five on my ratings scale, but most were pretty average and some were just bad. According to me.

A question arose in my thinking: what makes a good movie? Are there any objective criteria by which you can measure the value of a film? Surely, it's all a matter of opinion. Whichever way you look at it, whatever measure you use, in the end it's still entirely subjective.

Is the acting convincing? Is the script realistic? Is it clever? Is the plot interesting?Is it believable? Is the cinematography of a high standard? The sound? The music? The special effects? The idea, the concept? Does it work at different levels? Does it have both style and substance? Opinions. That's all.

What makes a film good? It's a personal thing. If you like it, it's good. If you don't, it sucks. If you like a movie you can talk about any of those things in the previous paragraph as reasons why you think the film is good but in reality it is some enigmatic combination of components which strikes a chord with you. It makes you feel something. There has to be some sort of emotional connection to the film, especially with the characters.

If you feel something as a result of watching the film, then it doesn't really matter what other people think. Not alleged movie experts nor your friends. You like it because it moved you in some way; scared you, inspired you, disturbed you, saddened you or made you laugh. Empathy with the characters is the ultimate criteria. Not the Academy awards, not the IMDB rankings, not the mega bucks it made, or didn't make, at the box office, nor how many of your friends like it.

You like it because you like it. You have an opinion. It's not fact. Ben Hur is my favourite movie. It won a cabinet full of Oscars including best picture but that doesn't mean it's a good film. Millions of people have seen it but they doesn't make it good. Even if ninety percent of them liked it, it's still only their opinion. The saying 'it's bigger than Ben Hur' entered our collective lexicon to say how awesome and amazing something is but that doesn't mean Ben Hur is a good film.

Apart from the scale of Ben Hur, the history and the terrific saga of the lead character played by Charlton Heston, I love this film because of the way it portrays Jesus Christ. Now if you're not into Jesus like I am, then that probably means nothing to you and that is my point.

Discussing movies is fun, and so is reading reviews and lists but let's remember that we aren't dealing with facts, no matter how many people may otherwise assert.

What's your favourite kind of movie?
Drama
Horror
Action/Thriller
Comedy
Sci-Fi
Romantic Comedy
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bad Medicine

New South Wales Health Minister, John Della Bosca, has, in his words taken his medicine for some poor choices. What he actually said was that he had taken his medcine (sic) so perhaps he should take some more medicine. Maybe a dose for his poor pronunciation of the word medicine and another dose for his poor choice of words. Health Minister takes his medicine? I'm sure he wasn't trying to be funny.

This story strikes again at the very core of our society's value system. In a world which is drowning in the quicksand of relative morality, one man's sin is a beacon of light which shines on him and away from us. Exposing his misdeeds while leaving ours in the shadows of our private lives. Rare indeed is the person who does not misbehave, or make poor choices or sin - whatever word or phrase you choose to describe it. Less rare is the person with a high public profile who falls and has to suffer the embarrassment of everyone knowing about it.

What bothers us most about this story? The woman involved in the affair with Della Bosca which ended only weeks ago, shared her thoughts on the issue with the Daily Telegraph.

"It is about the character of a man who is supposed to represent the values of the community and who is constantly talking about wanting to be the premier. If he is capable of lying to his wife and children - and John really does love his sons - and of manipulating a woman into believing he actually loves her, then why wouldn't he do that in other aspects of his life and career?"

The woman accepts responsibilty for her part in the affair but in order to avoid being called a hypocrite has not criticised the Minister for his role. She seems to not think the affair was wrong. It's the deception that bothers her. Being lied to and manipulated is what troubles her more than the fact that she willingly participated in a sexual liason with a married man.

If the affair had continued, or if it had turned out the way she wanted it to, would she have gone public? Probably not. Nobody confesses until they get sprung. We all think we can get away with doing the wrong thing, deluding ourselves, and justifying our actions until we get found out and then we admit that we made poor choices.

Although it sounds terribly lame to accompany an admission of guilt with the the words, "I made a mistake", it is actually a valid argument. Very few people deliberately set out to do wrong, to break the law either in a legal or a moral sense. However, most of us have been guilty of making poor decisions and choices have consequences. Choices always have consequences.

The consequences of John Della Bosca's actions are painfully obvious so maybe taking some medicine is exactly what he needs. How about a dose of grace and forgiveness?

Which is worse?
Committing adultery
Lying
Manipulating
Free polls from Pollhost.com