Friday, January 26, 2007

Five experiences on Australia Day

1. On the way to our big day out, we have a profound lesson in national symbolism as children fight in the car over who will get to wave the Australian flag, and I say to the children (though I think it went over their heads) that the Australian flag should unite, not divide us, so please stop fighting. No need for argument to begin with as Aussie flags aplenty available in the CBD.

2. Trying to find a parking spot in the CBD. Being a public holiday, shouldn't the parking meters be set to Sat/Sun settings? i.e. shouldn't the various spots no longer be deemed loading zones (which they are on weekdays) but 4 hour parking zones (which they are on weekends)? Didn't risk it. Figured $20 flat fee for parking under the Westin Hotel was better than the slight chance of a hefty parking fine.

3. We attempt to score a family photo on Google Maps (see here). This took some effort with 3 kids waiting for about an hour in the glaring sun on the Opera House forecourt for numerous flyovers till the plane finally did a lap directly overhead. By the 9th time of telling the kids “look up at the plane and wave”, I think they were a bit over it! So be prepared for not the best happy family shot!

4. Wowed by the piercing, booming thunder of a fighter jet as it breaks the speed of sound flying over Sydney Harbour.

5. Back to the Australian flag (of course, the flag is very topical at the moment). Towards the end of the day, youngest daughter accidentally rips her Australian flag down the middle. In perhaps an early indication of republican sentiment, she completely removes the Union Jack in a nice, clean break.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Five surprises from the Oscar nominations

OK, I did warn you I was an Oscars junkie. Expect a few Oscars-themed posts in the coming weeks.

The nominations were announced this morning and, as usual, while there were lots of obvious choices (Helen Mirren might as well write her acceptance speech now!), the Academy still likes to surprise us. Here's five surprises for this year.

1. The BIG surprise - Dreamgirls misses the boat! Considered the frontrunner for best picture, it didn't even get nominated in that category, nor for best director. This morning's headlines still put the movie forward as the most successful with 8 nominations, but 3 of those were in the same category - best original song (and you would hope a musical would have some decent songs!). This leaves the race for best picture wide open - it's probably between The Departed and Babel, although I reckon the surprise inclusion Letters from Iwo Jima (which no doubt grabbed Dreamgirls' spot) could have a shot at it. The Academy loves Clint Eastwood after all, and what a daring move to make a picture in Japanese, an American director telling the "other side" of a World War II story.

2. Leonardo nominated for Blood Diamond. Leonardo Di Caprio seemed sure to get a nomination, and there was a bit of debate over which movie it would be for, but the consensus seemed to be he would get a nod for once again teaming up with Martin Scorcese in The Departed (Leo is Marty's new Robert Di Niro). But the Academy chose his other role in Blood Diamond instead.

3. Volver misses out on best foreign language film. This film has had rave reviews and seemed to have been considered a sure thing for a nomination in this category. It still managed, as expected, to help Penelope Cruz to a nomination for best actress.

4. Technical categories filled by "other" films. By that I mean that the technical categories are dominated by films other than those nominated for best picture. This is unusual - usually a best picture contender has many elements in its production working towards it's status as an Academy favoured film - good acting, direction, cinematography, art direction, editing, sound etc. For example, in the cinematography, art direction, make up, sound mixing and visual effects categories, none of the nominees are best picture nominees. In other categories, there is only one or two best picture nominees. The Academy seems to like spreading the love around these days. No one epic picture is dominating all categories in the way films in the past have (like Titanic, Lord of the Rings).

5. Paul Greengrass gets a nod for best director for United 93. I just saw this recently on DVD, and this is a great decision by the Academy in my humble opinion. A great film, and brilliantly directed. He was not completely off the radar, but I don't think this nomination was really expected by most Oscar watchers.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Five things to do when stuck on the F3 freeway ...

... due to bushfire (see here).

1. Hop out of car and obtain packet of pizza shapes from friends in the car in front of you.

2. Stand in the middle of the road taking video footage of the crawling traffic (and then run to catch up with your car after the traffic has moved on somewhat).

3. Pull over and stop completely and hop out for a break by the side of the road, thus letting more and more traffic pass you and delaying even further what is turning out to be at least a 4.5 hour Sunday afternoon (/evening/late night) trip from the Central Coast to Sydney.

4. Sing Christmas carols (which are sounding sooo last month) to try to send your screaming kids to sleep.

5. Stick a handwritten sign out your car window stating "Honk if you're ....." (actually, I might leave that phrase unfinished - use your imagination).

(Please note: the author of this blog was only personally involved in one of the above activities, but did witness the others).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Five things I've learnt about HTML

In redesigning this blog starting from one of the standard blogger templates, I, a complete web design novice, have learnt a number of things about html coding. Here's 5 of them:

1. how to adjust the "padding" for blocks of text;

2. how to customise the colour scheme by selecting a colour and converting the RGB (red green blue) colour code into hex html code;

3. how to insert my own jpeg file as a header;

4. how to remove the annoying and not-very-funky rounded corners from the main text box, sidebars and footer;

5. how to remove the post title icons.

Still a lot to learn. Expect to see occasional changes to the layout as I continue to fiddle ...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Five sure fire ways to win an Oscar

OK, I have a confession to make. I'm a bit of an Oscars junkie. So, as it's heading up to Oscar time, I thought I'd offer this post on five sure-fire ways to win an Oscar. Most of my examples are from the last decade or so as my knowledge past then is much more patchy. Here goes:

1. Play a real life character. Avoid simple mimicry or imitation, and try to "channel" the essence of the person. It worked for winners Jamie Foxx (Ray Charles), Reese Witherspoon (June Carter), Nicole Kidman (Virgina Woolf), Cate Blanchett (Katherine Hepburn), Ben Kingsley (Ghandi), Judi Dench (Queen Elizabeth I) ... the list is too long ...

This year's tip: both Helen Mirren for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen and Forest Whitaker for playing Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotlad, are tipped to take out the top acting honours.

2. Alter your appearance. Go a step further and become unrecognisable. Perhaps even change your sex. It worked for winners Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry (a girl as a trans-gender man), Hilary Swank again in Million Dollar Baby (extra muscle bulk), Nicole Kidman in The Hours (that prosthetic nose and just the way she walked!), Charlize Theron in Monster (beautiful-turns-ugly). It almost worked for nominees Felicity Huffman in Trasamerica (woman-plays-man-playing-woman) and, conversely, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie (man-playing-woman).

This year's tip: those tight grey curls and huge glasses on Helen Mirren make her virtually unrecognisable, and it's difficult not to think of her as the Queen herself.

3. Sing. Musicals are coming back into fashion, and think how many Oscar winners in recent years have belted out some cool tunes. It worked for winners Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line), Jamie Foxx (Ray), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago). It almost worked for nominees Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), Renee Zellweger (Chicago), John C Reilly (Chicago), Queen Latifah (Chicago).

This year's tip: the big musical offering this year is Dreamgirls and both Jennifer Hudson (a former American Idol contestant) and Eddie Murphy are tipped as strong possibilities in the supporting categories for that movie.

4. Play someone with a mental illness or condition, serious disability or low IQ. It worked for winners Geoffrey Rush (Shine), Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interupted), Tom Hanks (Forest Gump) Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot), Dustin Hoffman (Rainman), Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). It almost worked for nominees Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind) and Leonardo Di Caprio (The Aviator).

This year's tip: Idi Amin's irrational fits of rage in The Last King of Scotland - mental illness perhaps? Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi should pick up a nomination this year for playing a deaf-mute girl in Babel.

5. Be an Australian (or an Australasian). Hollywood loves Aussie actors at the moment. Considering our population and relative world cultural importance, we have been over-represented at the Academy Awards in recent years. Think of winners Geoffrey, Russell, Nicole and Cate and nominees Naomi, Toni and Heath. And lets not forget our cousins on the other side of the Tasman. The big success story of course is Peter Jackson and his hordes of Kiwi technical and artistic gurus who swept the field 3 years ago for Lord of the Rings. It also helps if you're a young teenage Kiwi girl - it worked for winner Anna Paquin (The Piano) and almost worked for nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider).

This year's tip: probably not our year this year in the acting categories, although Cate is almost certain to get a nomination for Notes on a Scandal. Our biggest hope is in the animation category with Happy Feet (a quasi-Australian movie - it's made with Hollywood studio money, but was animated in Sydney, directed by Aussie George Miller and includes the voices of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and, would you believe, Steve Irwin).


Of course, if you can combine the above factors, you've got added chances of success. Arguably Nicole Kidman's win in The Hours fits into all of categories 1, 2, 4 and 5 (and some say also 3 because the Academy was equally rewarding her for her near miss the year before where she was nominated for singing her heart out in Moulin Rouge).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Five new things for the new year

1. This blog

2. Facial hair

3. Couple of extra kilos on the dumbells

4. Drinking water, water, water, lots of water

5. Avoiding the "January Genesis rut" (i.e. start reading the bible half way through rather than yet again turning back to page 1 only to not make it past page 20)

A new year ...

... a new blog. Out with the old and in with this, the new.

This will be a blog based around the theme of five. Lists of five things, five bits and pieces, five snap shots, five thoughts on different subject matter (a book of the bible, a film, an issue etc.), five questions. It's intended to give some structure and focus to my blogging.

Why five? Here's five reasons:

  1. it was going to be seven, but I'm not sure I'd always have seven things to say about any given topic;

  2. three is not quite enough to say anything of significance, and would sound too much like the old three-point sermon formula;

  3. five fits nicely between seven and three;

  4. it's a neat, round number that goes well with our decimal/metric system of life;

  5. I have five fingers on my hand.

So, let's see how it goes.

Oh, and happy new year!

(P.S. Would you believe someone had already taken the blog address for "andysfive" forcing me to use the number "5" rather than the word? And they haven't touched it for two years!)