Wednesday, February 28, 2007

5 reasons I'm disappointed with Google Maps Australia Day flyover

I posted here about our Australia Day experiences and our attempt to score a family photo at the Opera House forecourt courtesy of the Google Maps Australia Day flyover.

Well, the maps have now been updated (see story here).

Here's 5 reasons I'm disappointed:

1. My baby son sleeping in his pram is nowhere to be seen.

2. My little daughter with her Australian flag is nowhere to be seen.

3. My eldest daughter waving madly is nowhere to be seen.

4. My beautiful wife is nowhere to be seen.

5. I am nowhere to be seen.

i.e. no family portrait!!!! Not happy Jan!!

What is most infuriating is that, looking at the screen shot above, to the right and close to the water the resolution is quite good and you can make out people - they must be the new, high resolution photos taken on the day. However, to the left of the shot, near the steps (i.e. precisely where we were camped) the resolution is crap, and the fact there are hardly any people suggests they are still using the old maps without the Australia Day crowds. There were heaps of people in that vicinity on the day.

Not sure if they haven't finished updating the maps, or perhaps they didn't get good shots on the day, or perhaps they just didn't like our cheesy grins as we squinted our eyes in the hot sun looking up and waving at the plane!

If only we'd moved about 10 metres further east ...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

And the winner is ...

OK, so my prediction in my last post was wrong. I did say I was going out on a limb. And am I allowed to say that, when writing that post, I very nearly (I was *that* close) said that I thought The Departed would win, particularly because of the Scorcese factor? So, that's not what I wrote in the end, but I did think it ...

Monday, February 26, 2007

5 nominees, only 1 winner: Best Picture

OK, so the Oscars are now underway as we speak. This year's race for Best Picture is one of the most interesting in years as, for the first time in a while, there is no clear frontrunner. Nearly every year there is either a clear frontrunner (e.g. Brokeback Mountain last year ... oh, except it didn't end up winning!) or a race to the finish line between two films that are neck and neck (e.g. Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator the year before). Neither situation applies this year.

Here's the five Best Picture nominees and some brief thoughts on each and their chances:

1. Babel - I reviewed this film in my last post. Great film, though possibly not quite as good as I was expecting. Very similar in many ways to last year's Best Picture winner Crash. It has won a few pre-Oscars awards, such as the Golden Globe for Best Drama, and is definitely in with a chance. Deals with all those "serious" issues that the Academy likes.

2. The Departed - I haven't seen this but want to. It's a gritty crime story and one of the main things going for it is that it's directed by Martin Scorcese who has never won an Oscar despite being nominated 459 times, and the feeling is that this is finally his year (they were saying that 2 years ago with The Aviator but apparently this is a better film). Regardless of which picture wins, Scorcese will almost certainly get Best Director, but the film is definitely in with a chance too.

3. Letters from Iwo Jima - this is meant to be brilliant - has only just been released in Australia (got 4.5 stars from Paul Byrne in the Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend). It's Clint Eastwood's Japanese language WWII story. It tells the Japanese side of the same battle recounted in Eastwood's other recent film, Flags of our Fathers, which told the American side of the story. Eastwood is a brilliant director and seems to be just getting better with age. This is unlikely to win though. Doesn't have a very high profile, and Eastwood and his Million Dollar Baby won only 2 years ago.

4. Little Miss Sunshine - went to get this out on DVD the other night but it hadn't been released yet. Quirky disfunctional family comedy. This is also in with a real shot. It won the Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble cast and the Producers Guild Award for best picture, which are often good signs for the Oscars. However, it didn't get nominated for direction or editing - not good signs. It is rare for a movie to win Best Picture if its director doesn't get nominated. But it still could be the little film that steals the show tonight.

5. The Queen - I've seen this, and everything they say about Helen Mirren and her portrayal of QEII is true - she is brilliant. She is completely believable, right down to simple mannerisms like the way she turns her head. Some other good acting in it too (how on earth did they find an actor like Michael Sheen who, without any use of make up or wigs, looks exactly like Tony Blair??), and a good script and story. While Dame Mirren is guaranteed success tonight, the film won't win.

It's pretty much a race between 3 horses here - Babel, The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine, with the first two more likely. It really could go any way but I'm going to go out on a limb and say Babel will take it, though don't be surprised if Little Miss comes from behind.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Have managed to see a few movies over summer and have been meaning to post some thoughts on them. Here's 5 thoughts on Babel:

1. This is a movie about the fractured nature of a world in sin and under God's judgment, people with their different languages and cultures, but the film also highlights the sin we show towards those of our own colour and race. Brad Pitt's character desparately seeks help in a small Moroccan village for his wife (Cate Blanchett) who has just been shot by a stray bullet. The locals oblige, even if inadequately, but he meets the most resistance from his fellow English speaking tourists travelling on the same bus, those from whom you thought might offer the most help and empathy, but who do not want to wait around to assist, instead hopping back on the bus and continue their trip. Their selfishness made me sick and was one of the film's more disturbing moments. Our sin is all pervasive - we can treat those of a different nationality with disdain, but we can do it to those closer to home too.

2. The film consists of different, though interwoven, stories set in different countries - Morocco, the US (California), Mexico and Japan. It's a reminder that God's judgment on humanity's attempt to usurp God is to scatter humanity to all corners of the earth, unable to communicate because of different tongues. But I was struck by the fact these different settings in the film were linked via technology - the scenes set in Tokyo include TVs in the background playing instantenous news reports of the unfolding events in Morocco involving the American couple in strife. At Babel, God frustrated our attempts to join forces together with one language and build a tower to heaven, but we keep trying to buck against that, building our technology towers and bridging the communication gap between different languages with our modern 24/7 telecommunication networks.

3. And yet, we are incapable of completely bridging our communication gaps and overcoming God's judgment on the world. Some of the most moving scenes in the movie come from those set in Tokyo. The character in the film who faces the most isolation is the character least able to communicate and communicate with - the Japanese school girl who is deaf. She lives in one of the most technologically "it" cities in the world, yet nothing can overcome the loneliness brought on by her disability. But it is more than just her disability. It is the experiences of her life, and especially having gone through her mother's suicide, that create the deepest loneliness, and causes her to retreat into herself, unable to truly communicate with her own father. The effects of sin and judgment on the world run much to deep for our technology to overcome.

4. All of this is conveyed to great effect in the movie because the director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, has a real way of building a scene - some of the scenes are amazing sensory experiences - from the throbbing music and strobe lights of a night club in Tokyo that made me dance in my seat, to the simmering and dizzying heat of the South Californian desert that made me want a glass of water (make that a keg of water), to the joyous celebration of an exuberant, yet impoverished, wedding in Mexico.

5. Inarritu also has a real way of creating gripping tension, making you want to cry out to the characters not to go down the paths they are choosing - I wanted to scream at Santiego's desire to hop in the car after the wedding and drive back over the border taking the children and their nanny back home, his protestations of sobriety after hours of drinking obviously being untrue. I felt for these kids, I wanted to protect them from drunken driving, from the folly of cross-border trips, from the parched heat of the desert.

Verdit: 4/5