Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Phantom of the Opera

I'm a bit behind the times sometimes and it's taken me all these years to be blown away by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.

I've enjoyed his other musicals and I saw Cats live when it toured a few years back, but for some reason I'd never seen the stage version of Phantom (I saw the Gerard Butler movie, but it didn't really impress me much).

For Christmas my mum bought me the 25th Anniversary edition filmed at The Royal Albert Hall, starring Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess. Sierra has an amazing voice and plays the part of Christine Daaé very well; but, it's Karimloo's performance that I have found incredible.  He shows so much emotion and his voice is fantastic.  I youtubed a couple of clips of Michael Crawford as The Phantom as I'd read that he played it quite creepily, but I don't like his voice.  I like the 'rock edge' of Karimloo's voice, and he also makes for a very sexy phantom too, though I know The Phantom himself should not be so attractive (but I didn't cast him!).

So, of course I needed to see how close the musical is to the Gaston Leroux novel which was published in 1911.  I'm 3/4 of the way through it and I can see that the major elements are there in the musical.  The novel is written under the premise that it is based on investigations by Leroux into the strange happenings at the Opera and the disappearance of Christine.  Leroux claimed that Erik (The Phantom) was real, but in fact non of this was true.  The book did not sell well, although the Lon Chaney movie was quite successful.  It was out of print when Webber started writing the musical so he certainly gave it a new lease of life.

I'm watching it again as I write this post and I'm getting the CD from my daughter for my birthday next month, and then I can listen to it in the car, and at work, and ................. I'm totally addicted!

I'm off to the GCAC now to satisfy another addiction - Spanish horror movies.  I"m going to see The Skin I Live In by Pedro Almaldovar.

Happy Australia Day.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Pan's Labyrinth

I must be getting softer as I get older!  I watched Pan's Labyrinth on Saturday night, a movie that has always been amongst my favourites, but I found that this time it was very hard to watch.  I had forgotten just how brutal some of the scenes were, I had only really remembered the fantasy sequences.

Pan's Labyrinth is directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and it is beautifully shot, superbly acted and the special effects are excellent.  The Spanish certainly know how to make good movies - Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) being another of my favourites.  Though, I believe Del Toro himself is Mexican.

Pan's Labyrinth is a fairy tale for adults, with both dark fantasy and the brutality of war to contend with.  The story centres around Ofelia, a young girl who travels with her pregnant mother to a mill where her fascist step father is stationed during the war in 1944.  A day dreamer, Ofelia believes that a stick insect she finds is in fact a fairy, and it leads her to a nearby Labyrinth where she meets Pan. Pan informs her that she is a princess whose real father is awaiting her return, but she must pass several tests in order to return 'home'.   The test where she must walk past a table laden with food and not be tempted whilst a diabolical monster sits at the head of the table motionless is quite horrible!  But, it was the sequences that were set in reality that, for me, were the hardest to deal with.  

I have always been a fan of the sad ending in a movie (I loved the ending to The Mist) and Pan's Labyrinth's bitter sweet ending is perfect even though this time around it had me in tears!

Guillermo Del Toro has also co-authored a vampire trilogy, The Strain being the first of the these.  I quite enjoyed this book, as far as vampire novels go, though I think the genre has been done to death; but I have bought The Fall (the second one) to read at some stage.

It's been a bit difficult getting back into the 'groove' as far as reading is concerned as I'm still in holiday mode (even though I've been back to work for a week).  I've just finished an audio recording of The Day of The Triffids, which I enjoyed and I'm halfway through The Phantom of the Opera.  I've been reading Cold Hand in Mine by Robert Aickman on and off, it's a collection of short unsettling stories and so far they've been reaching the spot.

So, until next time, all the best and happy reading!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm Back!

 Well, I am back from my travels and ready to get back into routine once again.

Lake Wakatipu
Lake Pukaki

New Zealand was fabulous as always.  I had a more sedate trip compared to my previous visits but I still had time to enjoy the Victorian architecture in Oamaru and Invercargill.  I had a wonderful view of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu from my apartment in Queenstown and I gained a few grey hairs in Christchurch after experiencing some aftershock tremors due to the earthquakes off Akaroa.  I was ‘over it’ after just two days, yet the poor Cantabrians have been living with this for the past year.

Steam Punk HQ, Oamaru
Steam Punk, Oamaru

Seeing Christchurch as it is now is heartbreaking.  Both of the hotels that I have stayed in during past visits are in the red zone.  I had fond memories of canoeing on the River Avon, catching the tram, and climbing the Cathedral Tower, but now Christchurch looks like London after the blitz.  The whole city is still in lock down and cordoned off.  It was so quiet, with just the sound of banners flapping in the breeze and in places nature had already taken over with pavements being invaded by weeds.  You look at the city now and wonder if it can recover from this, expecially with the ongoing seismic activity.  It was a very sobering visit.  Such a contrast to the beauty that I had seen during the rest of my holiday.

A City in lockdown, one year on
Tasmania was a different sort of holiday to what I expected.  I had read that the roads were quiet and it was easy to drive around.  WRONG!  I was in Hobart and the roads were very windy and the drivers very aggressive.

Port Arthur
Hobart as seen from 
Mt Wellington
I did the obvious things - Huon Valley, Richmond, Port Arthur, Mt Wellington, MONA and the Cascades Brewery.  The highlight for me was dinner at the Point Revolving Restaurant on Wrest Point Casino’s 17th floor.  I can honestly say it was the best dining experience that I have ever had. The portions were reasonable and cooked to perfection.  The dessert I chose was Dark Chocolate Delice and for someone who does not eat dessert often I was blown away.  It was a taste sensation that I shall be dreaming of forever more!!  The only downside to my experience was that I was not expecting the restaurant to be ‘fine dining’ and so I did not have anything suitable to wear in my suitcase – jeans and sneakers were a bit out of place.

I did take a book with me – Billy Bathgate, and I read about 10 pages on the plane, but with long twilight hours in NZ and Tasmania you tend to maximise your days sightseeing with no time left for anything else.  I'll start on my 2012 reading list next week, and expect my next read will be either Billy Bathgate or Stephen King’s 22/11/63, I’m still deciding.

I’m on leave until Monday and have been commissioned by my daughter to make 15 capes for my Grandson’s Super Hero 4th birthday party in February, so I will sign off for now as the sewing machine beckons.......

Super Hero Capes (5 down, 10 to go!)
Until next time.