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I started this blog as I entered my 40th year, and now firmly in my 40s, I continue to learn so much about life. I'm learning that life rarely goes according to plan and that there's something new to learn every single day, be it a subtle nudge or a smack in the face.... This is my blog about muddling through my 40s-working hard, writing a book, being an ammateur photographer, trying to exercise and eat well, endeavouring to be the world's best aunt, as well as having fun and laughing out loud every single day.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

#50 Dear Rocky, My 2014 Oscar Predictions

See Rocky's predictions here!
Dear Rocky, 

My earliest Academy Awards/Oscar memories also involve my parents, well, my mum at least.  I recall sitting in my pyjamas from an early age, perhaps even from age 6, watching the Red Carpet entries – the glitz and the glamour of the actresses’ gowns, jewells, hair and make-up.

As my sister and I grew older, we were allowed to stay up progressively later to watch more and more of the show until we outlasted mum who’d go to bed before the final award was given. 

We’d try to copy the hair styles of the actresses and I used to fantasise about my acceptance speeches if I ever stood on that stage.  Even the award ceremony cast the magic of the movies over my young mind.

When I recall my favourite Oscar moments over the years, they mainly involve fashion.  Here are some of my favourite stars:


Old Hollywood Royalty - Audrey Hepburn & Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly.  I was lucky enough to see this dress on exhibition in Bendigo, Victoria.
Sarah Jessica Parker is Hollywood Royalty in my eyes and can never go wrong in style and glamour!
Julia Roberts is the queen of the classic look.
Gwyneth just keeps getting better with age, doesn't she?  Another classic, timeless look.
I couldn't miss including Cate here.  Simply stunning no matter where she is.
For me, one of the most beautiful women in the world, star of You're The One, Lydia Bosch

When I think about Oscar moments that stay etched in my memory, for better or for worse, the first that spring to mind include:

  • Angelina Jolie kissing her brother for a little too long when she won for Girl, Interrupted in 2000
  • Gwyneth Paltrow’s speech about her father when she won for Shakespeare in Love in 1998
  • Ben Affleck and Matt Damon winning for Best Writing for Good Will Hunting in 1998
  • Anna Paquin as a young New Zealand lass winning Best Supporting Actress for The Piano in 1994.

And now Rocky, the moment you’ve been waiting for, my preferences for the 2014 Oscars.  You’ll notice I’ve left out predictions because I don’t really know what I’m talking about hahaha.


Best Actor:

Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

In this category, I can only really comment on Christian, Leo and Matthew who I thought all gave riveting performances.  I know Matthew went to great lengths to prepare for this role-the weight loss, keeping his shirt on, and greatly limiting relying on his flawless smile… but there’s something about the Matthew McConaughey familiar Southern drawl that didn’t allow me to see the character.  I still saw Matthew Mc and so that for me, puts him out of contention.  I LOVED American Hustle and that will bias my opinions here, definitely.  Christian gave a brilliant performance that I totally bought, but yet somewhere in the back of my mind was the question “I wonder if he abused anyone on set?” and so, he’s out of contention for me.  That leaves Leo.  His character was so deplorable and the performance so intense that there were so many times in that film that I didn’t even recognize Leonardo as himself.  That, for me, is a brilliant performance.  Oddly, he played the character so well that I have largely assumed that Leo’s own life would be very similar to that of Jordan’s and so was surprised to read in an interview with Margot Robbie how seriously he takes his charity work and saving the environment and endangered species.

My preference  – Leo.

Best Actress:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

My countryman Cate Blanchett should be my sentimental favourite and there is no argument that she delved headfirst into mental illness and pull it off in a brilliant and authentic manner.  Flawless.  Meryl… sorry Meryl… while you made me hate you, I felt like you over-did it just a touch and you really didn’t need to.  Amy brought another diverse performance to her resume and the sexual tension she brought to the role (with Bradley) was palpable!  I haven’t felt that about a movie for a really long time.

My preference  – Amy.

Best Picture:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

I usually pride myself on having seen all the Oscar movies before the awards, but unfortunately I live in a small town where the movies some slowly, if at all.  Here I’m missing Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena and 12 Years a Slave.

I thought that Captain Philips was a great film, I went with Mum and Dad and they agreed.  You can’t go wrong with a true story about the strength and generosity of human spirit, can you.  Although, I did Tweet Tom Hanks to tell him this and he didn’t reply….(thanks Ron Howard!). 

You already know my thoughts on Wolf of Wall Street.

American Hustle was billed as the Movie of the Year and I went in with expectations accordingly that were pleasantly surpassed!  I adored this film – from the casting, to the costuming, to the performances and all the attention to hair – LOVED IT!

Dallas Buyers Club was of course interesting and showed a pivotal time in our history, culture and belief systems.  But it was a dark film and it stayed with me afterward, which is of course the mark of a good movie, but I’m not sure I liked it.  I could appreciate it for the message it sent and the story it told, but I haven’t found myself telling everyone about it or recommending it, so it doesn’t get my vote.

My preference – American Hustle

Best Director:
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

I know nothing of what it means to direct a film so this comment will be brief.  The movie with the largest number of awesome characters who moved, repulsed, repelled me was The Wolf of Wall Street.  Well done Marty.

Best Supporting Actress:
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

See, I don’t get the greatness of Jennifer Lawrence.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s pretty cool and does a great job, but does she do anything I couldn’t do?  That’s how I judge whether or not a role is challenging.  Would I be able to tap into the emotions and portray them in the same way as the actress portraying them?  I know what you’ll be thinking, and I’m sitting here smiling at myself as I sit here as a non-actor comparing my acting ability to an Oscar winning actress, but so far, I don’t see Jennifer stretching herself too much.  When I was little, I thought a good actress was one who could cry when it was called for.  Now it takes a bit more to impress me.

Same with the sister in Blue Jasmine.  Not a stretch I wouldn’t think….

But Julia Roberts in August…. She just keeps getting better in my opinion.  The subtleties in her facial expressions and body language, her lack of makeup and lines of wisdom…. She blew me away.  I laughed out loud and was equally as horrified, along with her as she realized the harsh truths about the impact her childhood still had on her as an adult.  It hit me hard from a psychological perspective. 

My preference – Jules.

Best Supporting Actor:
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

As per my comments above, Bradley didn’t seem to have to remove himself too much to portray this character, except for perhaps with his hair (hysterical!).  Having said that, he was a part of the heatupthescreenwithsexualtension duo, so there’s something to be said about that.

Jonah – brilliant!  Loved the teeth, loved it all.  He really fit the “wanna-be” guy and sort of proved it by taking a pay cut just to have the role.  I have to say, since seeing him in This is the End, I have really warmed to Jonah Hill.  I love that he wants to show he is a serious actor – and he is.

Jared – beautiful in every sense of the word.

But I’m going with Barkhad Abdi.  This dude scared the life out of me and as far as I was concerned, they plucked him off the African coast while he was pirate-ing for real, and put him in a movie.  Fantastic.

These are my thoughts.  Would love to hear your rebuttal because I’m sure to have ruffled a few feathers here.

Can’t wait to see how we go with our predictions.  How about you can feedback on the actual winners and losers and I’ll do a fashion report?

Happy viewing Rock,


Sunday, February 23, 2014

#49 Dear Rocky - Dallas Buyers Club

Read Rocky's review here!

Dear Rocky,

When critiquing the Dallas Buyers Club I was reminded of a comment that someone once made to me about critiquing memoir – that it’s difficult because you feel as though you are critiquing the person instead of the work.  This is how I felt watching Matthew McConaughey’s Ron in the beginning of the film, critical, and I found it difficult to shake no matter how much he redeemed himself through his actions later on.

I also struggle with Matthew McConaughey’s accent.  For me, it is the same in every movie which reminds me I’m watching Matthew McConaughey, no matter how much weight he’s lost.  I have never gotten lost in a character of his and that’s a shame.

Jared Leto on the other hand – BRILLIANT.  And beautiful.  I agree that the scene between Rayon and his father is pivotal.  I found his father repugnant which I guess means, that actor was doing his job well.  Maybe he should be up for an Oscar! 

Rocky, the story of your uncle and your cousin is a wonderful one that highlights again for me, your absolute unconditional regard for the human condition.  You have so many stories to tell that teach lesson after lesson.  Thank you for sharing it.

I believe that the character of Ron’s anti-gay stance initially also added to my list of things to dislike about him – I found him such a difficult character to identify with, until…

I liked and appreciated your take on the film, about it being about “accepting things outside of our normal range to accept.”  In addition to that, I found it to be a movie about the little guy.  The one they expect to just sit down and take no for an answer.  The one the hope will swallow their explanations and choices and decisions without question.  The story behind Dallas Buyers Club for me, is about critically evaluating what we are told, especially when our instincts tell us something is not right.

I agree with you that this is a story about survival and that instinct is very strong in each of these characters – it is what bonds them, you are right.

It is an interesting thing, what happens when you face your mortality.  Almost as if in a movie, your focus narrows in on your very inner self – imagine a wide angle lens panning some far off land and then zooming and zooming until it moves through a community of people, and then a few people, and then one person…. That’s sort of what it was like for me when I was diagnosed with cancer.  And the focus – my focus – stayed on me, in the present day, pretty much the entire time I was having treatment.

Ron’s and Rayon’s and all of the other patients in the film, were the same.  Do what you have to do to stay alive….

You liked Jennifer Garner, I agree she was lost in this film, but I also think she was mis-cast.  I didn’t buy her attraction to Ron’s character.  Not one bit.  I would have bought it more if she formed the stronger friendship/relationship with Rayon.  See how much I didn’t like the character of Ron!!  Sorry to the real Ron, I’m sure he had many redeemable characteristics.

I give this movie a 6 out of 10.  I didn’t like it.  And this is where I feel like I’m critiquing the person/people and not the film – it’s hard!  I will never want to watch this film again and I haven’t thought much about it since – except now, when reading your review.  What can I say?

I have to tell you, I’m having a phase of not enjoying movies!  I saw Railway Man the other day…. Didn’t enjoy that either….maybe we’ll have to review that one next?


Thursday, February 20, 2014

#48 Fillies, Frocks & Frothies For The McGrath Foundation

As I count down over the next twelve months to my fifth cancerversary, this coming Breast Cancer Awareness Month I have talked some friends into helping me 'give back' by organising a fundraising event.

It never ceases to amaze me the generosity and community spirit that is alive and well.

No sooner had I uttered the words "I'd like to have a fundraiser" and we had entertainment in the form of duet Trevor & Mel; a venue thanks to Lucas at The Last Coach; free food thanks again to Lucas.... and we were on our way.

I casually mentioned to my friend Rik what we were doing and the next day he delivered a $1,000.00 voucher from his business Qualified Painters & Decorators, along with a promise of a $500 paint donation from Pontings' Paint Place.

So we're having an Auction and a raffle and as the day will fall during the Spring Race Carnival, we'll be having horse racing sweeps throughout the day, not to mention Fashions on the Field.

It started with an idea and now it has a life of its own......

I'll keep you posted on its evolution, but for now, check out our charity the McGrath Foundation.

Jane McGrath was an inspiration to all Australians not only for her fight against cancer, but how much she gave to all people with breast cancer.

My McGrath Breast Care Nurse was one of the most important people on my 'team' through treatment.  Of course my doctors were invaluable, but Bec sat with me at every chemo and answered every question I had.  She was my confidante and my counsellor and my nurse.  She saved my sanity and I will never, ever forget what she did for me.

For that reason, I chose the McGrath Foundation to give back to.  Every dollar funds the valuable roles of Breast Care Nurses around the country. 

If you wanted to contribute to this incredible charity too, you can do so here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

#47 Under the Red Dress - A Controversy

Over the last couple of days you may have seen, read or heard about a story presented here in this article.

A friend just emailed me about it to ask what I think.  Here is my response to her:

Ok, I have seen this stuff on Facebook. I think I have a balanced view of it (if you can believe that).

Some background - I belong to a young women's facebook page where they always post photos of surgical scars, implants, nipples, swelling, rashes, burns etc. Some of the time I wish I wasn't confronted with unpleasant images, sometimes I don't mind. Maybe I'd like the option of whether I looked or not.....

I like the idea behind this woman's plight. It makes sense, and she is driving home the prevention message which is so important (and strikes home for me about the dilemma with some of my own family members' refusal to consider prevention/avoidance that I still don't understand.

Are the images pornographic? Of course they're not. Are they difficult to look at? Yes, for some people they would be.  They are confronting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the types of surgery required to treat and prevent breast cancer.

This is something I'm very cautious of, as seeing me naked would be like seeing her naked ..... it may make some people uncomfortable and it plays a part in why I am not out there dating for dating's sake, you know?

Was she brave putting them out there - hell yeah. I'd never do that in a million years, yet I bare my emotional soul to a degree.... is there a difference, I don't know.

Did people reject her because she did the wrong thing? Or did they reject her because their fear was too much?  Who knows. 
That's the thing with social media and in life. You can't please all the people all the time.

This is my friend's response.  Thanks N. x

"Regarding the article (and I’m being completely honest), it does seem to be the trendy and “brave” thing to do these days, so I was a bit “ho hum” to start with.  Having said that, I do think about you every time I see something like this so it does affect me more than anyone who hasn’t been exposed to a friend or relative having had cancer.  It did make me think about how “attractive” women are when they are all kitted out and yet you don’t know what is going on underneath.  It also made me feel stupid for focusing on my body so much.  I think most people would find it too confronting and be offended simply because they don’t want to see anything that is not the ideal.  Why do we reject anything that is not the standard beauty and get offended by normalcy??  Even though she had cancer and that is why her body looks the way it does, most women out there have similar stuff going on naturally!  They must get offended looking at themselves every day!!  Poor us….. we are all so screwed up.  Unfortunately (and I think I inadvertently came to this conclusion by reading back what I just wrote) – it might be that her message about prevention has been lost to the topic of body image and today’s ideal of what beauty is."

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

#46 Dear Rocky - Saving Mr Banks

Rocky's Saving Mr Banks' Review

Dear Rocky,

Wow, what a story. 

My relationship with Mary has been a little different to yours.  My first memories of her were of the record version talking book.  The album cover had an inbuilt picture book that we could read along to as we listened to the story and sang A Spoonful of Sugar.

This was the cover

Born in 1972, I inherited the 1964 version of the movie, like you, just not at the picture theatre.  I didn't know who P. L. Travers was, much less that she was born in Australia.  To me, Mary had no connections to my country whatsoever.  What a pleasant surprise to find out that she very much did, through Saving Mr Banks.

As an adult, my next connection to Mary was seeing the Australian musical production in Melbourne in 2012.  This production had the most amazing choreography for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ever, and this photo is from one of the Queensland performances - taking Mary home.

I, unlike you Rocky, had no knowledge of the backstory until I went to the musical.  Even then, all I knew was that an Australian had written the story.

Saving Mr Banks was an education for me. 

Instead of focussing on the performances, all of which were brilliant, I would like to take a different view.

Little Helen Goff grew up with great love from a creative father, who, when present, took it upon himself to grow and nurture her imagination.  Thanks to him, in more ways than one, we have Mary Poppins.   But what must it be like for a young child, growing up with such instability, moving, an absent and unpredictable father, and a depressed and suicidal mother?

What the movie showed, was a child who internalised all of the distress and in an attempt to adapt, took all of it into adulthood - her rigidity, her need for control, her inability to connect or relate to others. 

For little Helen, the world was an unsafe place, yet this is an impossible realisation for a child in the world.  Biologically, our world needs to appear safe for us to be able to step out into it and develop ourselves. 

So, what happens when it's not?  We tend to blame ourselves.  There must be something wrong/unlovable/faulty with me.  Yes.  That's why my needs are not met.  It can't be that my world is unsafe because that would be unbearable.  No.  It must be all my fault.

I think that is what happened for P. L. Travers which is really quite sad.  And because her world wasn't safe, she created one.  Mary made it safe.  Just like the real life nanny did.

Your friend Rocky, didn't like the flashbacks?  I almost would have been happier if it was all back story.  Not that I didn't like the Walt Disney parts - I truly did.  I agree with you, Tom Hanks did an amazing job and I too was moved by the scene in London.

I agree with you also about Emma Thompson's performance.  She was downright annoying in the beginning, but by the end I was crying with her in the movie theatre.  The scene where she sits alone at the bar is also particularly heartbreaking for me.

It's cool that Mary Poppins still nurtures and soothes you, even as an adult.  Things from our childhood often do.  I too, understand Travers' bond to her creation.
I give Saving Mr Banks an 8 out of 10. 
Would love to see a photo of that autograph of yours!
What will we review next?

Friday, February 7, 2014

#45 A Sense of Belonging

Community spirit is alive and well where I live. 

Last weekend we entered a team in the Spin 4Bryn fundraiser to raise money for a local young man who was injured in a road accident while travelling overseas.  Because the accident didn't happen in Australia, he didn't benefit from the usual assistance that would've been available to him.

I'm happy to report that our team raised $570 and road a whopping 673km to contribute to a total of over $11,000.00 for Bryn.

The atmosphere at the event was nothing short of inspirational.  To read a local newspaper article about Bryn and one of the event co-ordinators, Barrie Warran, click here.

Tonight, I head out to volunteer at our local Relay for Life run by the Cancer Council Australia, to raise money for cancer research, treatment, and support services in general.  This is an annual event that bonds a community in the shared experiencing of wanting a cure for cancer.

My second Relay after my own treatment had finished, I was honoured to be invited to speak to the Carers and Survivors at the event, as well as represent them and cut the ribbon to start the 24 hour relay walk.

Generosity appears to be in the DNA of all Australians and I feel so blessed to be a part of such a giving local community, and to call myself Australian.

The times I've witnessed this spirit in action is innumerable, and I haven't even told you about Peter's Project yet.  That deserves a whole post of its own!

Monday, February 3, 2014

#44 Dear Rocky - A Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman

Dear Rocky,

Philip Seymour Hoffman always made me smile.  He had this realness and authenticity that I don’t think I have experienced from any other actor.  Just as if he might be anyone I’d have sitting in my backyard having a BBQ.  I’m not exactly sure why that was.  I’m sure in part it was because of how he looked.  Not Hollywood.  Maybe that’s what made him feel so accessible.  His characters were all so varied.  I wonder if that’s why it seemed he’d be able to fit in, no matter where he was or who he was with.

I wonder if Phil felt like he fitted in...

Reviewing his credits on IMDB today, I realised I had no idea just how many television shows and movies I have actually seen him in.  Quite a resume.

My favourite, and one of his most striking performances was opposite Meryl Streep in Doubt, 2008.  Skin-crawlingly great. 

Today I heard a radio interview with Brendan Cowell, an Australian actor who Phil directed in the Sydney Theatre Company’s True West in 2010.  Brendan, clearly shocked, described a sensational man.  He said, “All truly gifted actors are all really beautiful people.” I bought it. 

Phil attended Brendan’s book launch in Australia and posed for photos with his mother and grandmother with no hint of ego to be observed.  A gentleman.

So what was missing Phil?  So talented.  So gifted.  So admired.  What were you looking for?

Perhaps Jim Carey understood, a little:
"Dear Philip, a beautiful beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much. Bless your heart.''

“Acting is so difficult for me that, unless the work is of a certain stature in my mind, unless I reach the expectations I have of myself, I’m unhappy.  Then it’s a miserable existence.  I’m putting a piece of myself out there.  If it doesn’t do anything, I feel so ashamed.  I’m afraid I’ll be the kind of actor who thought he would make a difference and didn’t.  Right now, though, I feel like I made a little bit of difference.”  Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Yes Philip Seymour Hoffman.  You made a difference. 
But more than a little bit.

Thank you.


Rocky's Tribute

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dear Rocky - The Wolf of Wall Street

Here is my movie review of the Wolf of Wall Street in reply to Rocky's review found here.

Dear Rocky,

Well, like you, I’d eagerly anticipated the arrival of The Wolf of Wall Street at our local cinema, for two reasons really.  One:  I love Scorcese films, although if I’m completely honest, I’m not sure if that’s because I love them, or because I should love them.  Two:  I couldn’t wait to see our gorgeous Aussie girl, Margot Robbie, in action. 

I have to admit, I get excited when I hear a movie is 3 hours long, assuming that means the content is so good they couldn’t leave a thing out.

So, I was ready.  A little Leo never hurts anyone either.

My reaction fluctuated throughout.  I like the comparisons you draw with Caligula (which I have never seen, but get the gist!) and the Lord of the Flies.  Very apt.   

Let’s talk excess.  I don’t know if, in reality, I’ve ever heard about anyone complain about excess good stuff.  Even though we know that alcohol and drugs are no good for us in the long term, no one seems to complain in the heat of the moment-when it’s fun.

I don’t know how the hell these guys functioned with the amount of stuff they were drinking/snorting/swallowing though.  They clearly should’ve been pharmacists with their knowledge of achieving the right balance.

Clearly Jordan had an addictive personality and we got to watch that develop throughout the movie as he continued to move onto bigger and better things, more, more, more.  How his penis did not fall off I’ll never know.  Addiction is dangerous territory.  It is virtually never possible to fill the ‘gap’ or in the case of these guys, ‘gaping hole’ in their lives.  That was sad to watch.  Too often glamour, wealth, material possessions can mask what’s missing extremely well, but only when looking from the outside in.  The person wearing the mask always knows, or is running from, the truth.

You’re funny talking about the two sympathetic characters.  I felt sorry for Naomi too.  Mainly because I have a massive girl crush on Margot Robbie, but also because I think at the end of the day she wanted what we all want.  Love and stability.

The acting was phenomenal though wasn’t it.  There were times when I thought Leo was going to have a stroke with all the crazy that he possessed.  And Jonah was fabulous.  I hope he got a bonus in his pay packet.

With the scene with Leo and Margot fighting before he takes the child to the car, how do actors work themselves up into such a rage and what is that like on the receiving end?  How would that have been for Margot when he pushed her because she seemed literally stunned when it happened.  Do they kiss and hug once the director calls cut or do they stay in character?  I’m fascinated.

And what about all the sex scenes?  Awkward?  One question I’ve always wanted to ask, do they actually have sex???

If Jordan Belfort wanted his story to be a cautionary tale he freakin’ failed in my book.  And how about the end?  Now he gets public speaking gigs.....and he’s a published author.  Living the dream....

I did enjoy the movie, even if most of it was wide eyed, OMG, and head shaking.  I was stunned by the acting.  Just brilliant.  And I was happy for Margot that she did so well.  She is simply stunning.

Scorcese is great at examining the human condition and this time he focussed his lens on greed and addiction.  What wasn’t so clear was what sat under the surface.  I’m curious about Jordan’s back story.  What happened in his life, to his attachment with his parents that left such an abyss in his soul.

The swearing didn’t bother me.  I swear like a truck driver.  In fact, I think it added something to the cut throat nature of their business.
My score:  7/10.
I liked it and I’m glad I’ve seen it, but I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again.  I love films that I can’t get enough of.
Can’t wait to review our next film Saving Mr Banks.
Warm wishes,

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