Clarion weekend, Phantom & Sean Williams.Listening to: Age of Wonders game music off the comp. For anyone who's never heard of it, AoW is a strategy game that was published by Triumph Studios in 1999 or so. It still plays well today, and has a very good story, one that captured the imagination. Triumph followed with AOW2 in 2002-ish and AOW: Shadow Magic last year but neither game ever lived up to the first one; they fell victim to the 3D graphics engine curse (sacrificing playability for "looks") and the storytelling was abysmal. So was the music. I don't have a lot of time for gaming, but I still pull out the original AoW and play on the odd occasion. It's a classic.
Well, so much to say and not a lot of midnight to say it in.
The weekend. Well. What can I say?
Let's start with Saturday. Saturday night is the night we Clarion convenors take the previous week's tutor out for dinner, their choice. Sean Williams loves Indian food, so we hopped over to Sitar on Sandgate Road in Albion and had... Indian food. It's never been a favourite of mine, but after last night's offering, I've come to the conclusion that this is because there weren't any good Indian restaurants in Canberra. At least when I was living there. There may be now. Anyhooo, 'twas yummy. Thanks for the choice, Sean!
A little about Sean Williams. Sean is a genuinely nice guy with a wicked sense of humour. And prolific, wot! He was a speaker at last year's EnVision and he spoke on "The Writer's Career Path", and I couldn't believe how prolific. People think I'm busy? Nothing compared to this guy's output. Sheesh. Jealous. :-) He had us watch a Bill Bailey DVD last night and it was so funny most of the Clarionites who were present were in stitches. I haven't laughed so hard in ages. Trouble is, it's hard to put my finger on exactly what was so funny.... but funny it was.
The students, from what they told me, are genuinely sad to see Sean go (as are we). We're all hoping he'll be back for the Aurealis Awards on the 22nd. He's nominated.
Anyway, he'll be back in Adelaide by now. Hope you had a good flight, Sean. :-)
One of the Clarionites, Nathan, had a birthday on Friday. Happens to also be a 1971 baby (3 days older than me). I'm thinking with Zara, last year, and Nathan, this year, being January 1971 bubs, along with a convenor (me), that this will need to be an established Clarion tradition. "No Clarion will be complete without a 1971 Capricorn in residence, please." Yeah, I can see that catching on. Hehe.
Nathan is another Genuinely Nice Guy, with a knack for fixing doors. This is always a Good Thing.
I was fortunate enough to have read all of the application stories for this bunch before they were farmed off to the readers for assessment. What a talented lot they are, too. I wish I could say more on this, but I can't, because it would involve giving away scores and whatnot.
Our second week Instrument of Torture (aka tutor) is Michael Swanwick, from the US. I don't know a lot about him, apart from his stories, of course, but first impressions are favourable, and his wife Marianne (apologies, Marianne, if I've chosen the wrong spelling version of your name) is just lovely. They told us today of a day-long festival they have back home, where they have "mummers" (interesting choice of terminology I thought, because mummers to me are very mediaeval, and they used to travel from town to town doing religious plays)... have "mummers" who spend an entire day in a parade... from dawn to dusk (in a northern hemisphere January, mind you!), involving all audience etc. Sounds fascinating: singing, plays, parade, copiuous amounts of beer. Love it. Except I don't drink beer, but still... sounds like much fun.
I am thoroughly impressed by Michael's work ethic. He's there for the students, all in. He's already read all of their application stories, plus their first weeks stories, and marked the first week's as he's gone. Amazing.
We had dinner tonight with Michael and the students, provided by first floor (I think). Someone made a really yummy capsicum salad with a dressing that was to die for. If someone can let me know who made that and pass the recipe on, I'd appreciate!
I also went to see the movie version of Andrew LW's The Phantom of the Opera today, birthday treat. Oh. Yesterday, look at the time. Happy Birthday to me, hehe.
I love stage musicals, even been in a few, own records & film versions (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, btw, when a man can dance with an axe, booyeah!), adored Moulin Rouge, but in all honesty, I didn't expect to like it that much. I loved the original ALW record (yes, record, on LP) when it came out, went to see it on stage with my mum for Mother's Day 1995. No, 1996. I enjoyed that, but I think I knew it too well by the time I saw it, and while I know it off by heart it's a bit faded now for me, not so "great" as I used to think it was.
This movie was just stunning, and I don't think it's because I like the story or the musical or what-have-you. There were some diversions from the stage version for the film, that I think strengthened the story (made it shorter, clearer than the stage version), and I also think this version is probably closer to the original Leroux book than previous movies (although Damon would know about that better than I). They didn't make the mistake of trying to "de-musicalise" the film, either. The cast did a good job: not the "best" singers in the world but I still enjoyed them, and for the very first time, I found a version that made me "feel" for the Phantom character, to almost want Christine to end up with him. I fell for him a bit in this version, something I've never done in previous versions. At no time did I ever feel "oh, stop the bloody singing already" (something I do feel even in some movie versions of R&H!), because it seemed so natural.
There were a couple of bits that disappointed me a wee bit (mostly where they cut out some of the Raoul counterpoints, especially in the cemetery scene where Christine goes to visit her father's gravesite... "once again she is his... once again she returns..." but they make up for that by giving us a spekky swordfight scene instead. Woohoo! :-) ), but apart from that, well... I got to the end of the film and realised I hadn't even finished my drink. Hardly touched my M&Ms. Unheard of. I was too distracted. Will see again, I hope (also unheard of).
I wasn't even tempted to sing along. Didn't even consider it. Was too "there" in the film. And this from someone who had to bite her lips until they bled to stop humming along when I saw "De-lovely"... another musical film that made me want to say "stop the singing, already, and tell actual story please."
Beautiful, beautiful costuming & scenery, perhaps somewhat over-stylised in places. I'd heard from a friend that he'd heard it wasn't that good, but whoever the reviewer was, he/she either a) forgot to suspend disbelief, b)was in a really crappy mood when they walked into the cinema, or c) left his/her heart at the door, if they have one, that is. Phantom isn't a movie for cynics. It's not supposed to be a "realistic" movie, you need your heart in place and open to watch it and enjoy. Difficult for me, usually, but the endscene, that used to leave me completely cold, in this version, just... oh man, the guy who played Raoul can act, but Phantom, well. Terrific performance all round. The girl who played Christine, beautiful kid. When her voice finishes maturing, she's going to be amazing.
Feel free to disagree, of course.
You know one thing that is really sad about that character, that it took seeing the film for me to realise, even though it's been implicit in the stage version? I can't remember re the book (I read it a long time ago), but in this version, we never learn the Phantom's name. I don't think he had one.
Can you imagine living a life in which your mother gave you a mask but no name?