Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gillian Armstrong

Gillian Armstrong is a filmmaker.

She made Little Women. I know that.

She made some Australian movies too. I think she's responsible for My Brilliant Career.  Right?

Maybe.

That's about all I know.

I shall go and learn more.

Okay.

Lord Wiki says she was born on 18 December 1950. That would make her a Sagittarius, I believe.

Let's check the birthday website.

Yes. She is a Sagittarius. In numerology she's a 9. That's the humanitarian one.

Armstrong has the same birthday as Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt, and Katie Holmes.

Baby Gillian was born in Melbourne.

I feel like I keep writing about people from Melbourne. Maybe this is because the last three people I wrote about were names that Andrew had given me. Andrew is from Melbourne, so maybe he wanted me to write about his neighbors.

Gillian grew up in an eastern suburb called Mitcham. Lord Wiki says the world's first feature film was made there in 1906....The Story of the Kelly Gang. I didn't know that was the first feature-length film. I did think the first movie was made in Australia though, and that it showed Aboriginal dancing. Maybe it was an academic film?

Did I dream that?

I'm not finding anything on Google about it. I probably did dream it. Weird.

Back to Armstrong.

She attended school at Swinburne University of Technology. It's a school in Melbourne. It has a strong vocational emphasis. This is the type of school I believe in. I feel if you're going to go to college, it should be for vocational training. I don't believe in paying tons of money to broaden your mind. You don't need university for that. Just go to the library and read some books. Play with Google. Travel the world.

Armstrong studied theatrical costume design and film-making at Swinburne. Then she moved onto AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School) I don't think I've heard of this place before.

It's a government school.

It looks really great. They have programs in animation, cinematography, directing, editing, screen music, screenwriting, etc. It doesn't seem like they have acting, so it's probably more for people who want to work behind the scenes.

It seems you have be either Australian or from New Zealand to attend the school. You have to at least be a permanent resident. So no international students, I suppose.

The school is at the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park. We've been there, but I didn't see the school.

Armstrong graduated from AFTRS in 1972...the year I was born.

Soon after she had some short films under her belt.

The first was Smokes and Lollies which came out in 1975. IMDb says it was a documentary film in the spirit of Britian's Seven Up Series. This is the movie where they make a movie about the same kids every few years.

Next there was The Singer and the Dancer. That came out in 1977. IMDb says it's about a woman who is no longer speaking to her daughter. I have a really hard time understanding parents who break ties with their children. It doesn't make sense to me. It's bad enough rejecting ANYONE because of their lifestyle choices or mistakes they made. But your own children? Maybe one day I'll understand. Maybe it's something that a parent of a seven-year-old can't relate to.

In 1979, Armstrong made her first feature length film. And that was My Brilliant Career. I didn't realize the movie was that old. For some reason, I thought it was more recent...late 1980's maybe.

Okay. That's the movie that Judy Davis was in. Is it the one she didn't like, but Germaine Greer loved it? I think it might be.

The movie does sound like something a feminist might like. It's about a woman who can marry into wealth. But she prefers to stay unmarried and independent; working as a governess. Are you any more free with that choice? Either way you're likely to end up feeling like a servant and/or a nonperson.

I guess I'm influenced by the stories I've read and seen lately. I keep seeing The Nanny Diaries on TV. Poor Scarlett Johansson is treated like crap. Her employers don't even seem to know her name! And then there's the grandmother in Sally Morgan's My Place. She worked as a nanny, and her employers definitely treated her as an inferior.

I think I'd rather marry the rich guy I don't love. No, wait. I wouldn't...not if my parents were forcing me to do it. I'd be incredibly resentful.

AND I would never want to use someone for their money.

Marrying for wealth wouldn't work for me.

The nanny thing wouldn't work for me.

I'm not sure what choice I'd make.

Maybe I'd attempt suicide....act like I'm going to jump off a ship. A hot sexy stranger would save my life. We'd fall in love, and then the boat would sink a few days later.

Oh wait. I just read the synopsis again. The woman in the movie LOVES the rich guy. What the hell is she thinking? I love you. You're rich. But I don't want to get married because I want independence? Now I have high respect for her if this is temporary....I want to get on my own feet before we get married. That's awesome. But to work as a nanny to avoid marrying the man she loves? No, that doesn't work for me.

I would be okay with her getting independence in another way. Maybe some other career? But not the nanny thing.

Ah! Lord Wiki says she wants to be a writer. Well, that's cool. Why can't she be married, and be a writer? Did those things not work in those days?

I feel bad. I don't want people to think I'm knocking the whole nanny profession. I think it's great for people to work with children. I guess I just feel if there's a choice between marrying, and having my own children, or raising someone else's children; I'd much rather do the former.

Sadly, some people DO have their own children and have to spend most of their time caring for someone else's child.

Wait. Maybe I'm getting this wrong. Judy Davis's character's family owns money to the family that she works for. Maybe she didn't CHOOSE to be the nanny. Maybe her parents pushed her to do it.

Maybe she rejected the proposal from the man she loved because she wanted independence. But instead of independence she got the nanny job. This makes more sense to me than someone rejecting a proposal from a man she loves in order to take a nanny job.

I should probably just watch the movie or read the book. Then I could hopefully understand it all better.

I put the book on my Powell's wish list. I'll probably order it in a few weeks. In the meantime, I'm going to watch a scene from the movie.

Why is she wearing a wedding dress? Or is it not a wedding dress? Is she just wearing white for the hell of it?

I think Sam Neil is one of those men who looks better with age. He's less handsome in his youth. His character is a bit too serious and intense for my taste. If it was him in the picture, maybe I WOULD go for the nanny job. And you know what I forgot? Sound of Music. Sometimes the nanny gig DOES work out! It worked well for Fran Drescer too. If I had to choose between Christopher Plummer and young Sam Neil, it is TOTALLY Plummer. But now if it was Sam Neil in Jurassic Park, that might be a harder choice. Actually, I'd go for Jeff Goldblum. He has that sexy Jewish thing going on.

Better yet....I'd turn lesbian and go for Laura Dern.

Even though Judy Davis might not have been fond of the movie, the critics and the award people liked it. It won six awards from the Australian Film Institute including best film. Gillian Armstrong won best director.

The current winning movie is The Black Balloon. That's the one about autism....right? I'd like to see that one day.

A few years after Armstrong made My Brilliant Career, she did a movie called Starstruck.

Here's a trailer for the movie. That didn't really appeal to me.

Let me watch a scene from the movie. Maybe I'll like it.

There's a woman with lots of cats.

There's a guy walking around with a plastic bag on his head. That freaks me out a bit.

I think I'm done with Lord Wiki. I'm going to move onto IMDb.

They say she made her first movie in 1970...Old Man and Dog. I think that would be between her time at Swinburne and AFTRS.

In 1973, she did a short called Satdee Night. It was about a drunk guy going to clubs.

Jump back to the 1980's. Between My Brilliant Career and Starstruck, she did one of the sequels to Smokes and Lollies. This was called Fourteen's Good. Eighteen's better. Yeah. My eighteen was better than my fourteen. But I prefer my thirty-six even more.

Mrs. Soffel came out in 1984. I recognize that name. Hey! Terry O'Quinn from Lost is in it!

The head vampire is in it too...the one who taught us to never invite a vampire into our house.

It seems Mrs. Soffel takes place in America. A guy works for a prison. His wife falls in love with one of the criminals. How scandalous! I'm guessing this movie was Armstrong's entrance into American film.

The movie didn't earn any nominations or awards for Armstrong, but Diane Keaton received a Golden Globe nomination. No wait. Armstrong did receive a nomination from the Berlin International Film Festival.

Here's a scene from the movie; Diane Keaton being all coy and romantic with Mel Gibson.

In 1986, Armstrong made documentaries involving Bob Dylan.

Maybe this work helped her with her 1987 movie about a backup singer. She worked with Judy Davis again. Did I write about this movie when I researched Judy Davis? I can't remember. It's called High Tide. Oh! I remember it. It's about the mom reuniting with her daughter.

The movie earned Judy Davis an AFI award. Armstrong was nominated for best director, but didn't win. I'm wondering about her relationship with Davis. Davis later came out saying she didn't like My Brilliant Career. Was Armstrong not offended by this? Why did she decide to work with Davis again?

In 1988, Gillian made the third sequel to Smokes and Lollies. This one has the cute title of Bingo, Bridesmaids, and Braces.

In 1991, she did a movie called Fires Within. It's an American movie with Jimmy Smitts. I'm surprised I don't recognize it. I was really into movies in those days. I was usually pretty aware of what movies were out there. It's a drama about Cubans in Miami. It's pretty short for a movie; 86 minutes. Movies are rarely that short these days. They all seem to be of epic length. I don't think that's my imagination. I think movies HAVE gotten longer.

In 1992, Armstrong made an Australian movie called The Last Days of Chez Nous. Ah. It was written by Helen Garner. I need to add her to my list. It would be neat to compare her feminist beliefs with Germaine Greer's.

The movie is about two sisters...one has a love affair and the other is in a marriage. I'm guessing the movie shows the contrast between their two lives.

In 1994 we have Little Women. I actually saw that one. I can't remember if I liked it or not. Maybe. I don't think I loved it. It was fun seeing little Claudia the vampire in a new role. I I think that's what had intrigued me most about the movie. Speaking of Kirsten Dunst....They're making a Spiderman 4. I didn't know that. I have to admit it. I like the Spiderman franchise. I think I even like it better than The Dark Knight. I don't know. Christian Bale annoys me as Batman. I prefer Michael Keaton.

I'm looking at the rest of the cast. Winona Ryder is in Star Trek? Really? I had no idea.

Samantha Mathis is still alive and kicking. I mean I didn't think she was dead...just her career. But she's doing well. She's been in Grey's Anatomy. She was also on Lost. She played a teacher in the Ben flashback episode.

Claire Danes is still working as well.

I'm reading the trivia for the movie now. The director was originally supposed to be John Duigan...another Australian director. He backed out, and Armstrong got the job.

Here's a scene from the movie. It features my unfavorite Batman. Hey, I did like the guy in American Psycho. And he was cute in that Steven Spielberg movie. What's the name of it? I love the song from that movie. Ah! Empire of the Sun. Here's the song from that movie. I wonder if that's really Christian Bale singing. I don't think I've actually seen the film. I think I've just seen parts, and I've seen the trailer.

Going back to the Little Women clip. Gillian Armstrong seems to have a thing for scenes involving women rejecting men's marriage proposals.

In 1997 we have Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda. It's about a man and woman who meet on a ship heading to Australia. They're both outcasts. They bond together. It sounds fairly interesting. I'll watch the trailer.

It looks lovely. Cate Blanchett is in the movie. Armstrong must have liked working with her because they worked together again in Charlotte Gray. It's a World War II type thing. Here's the trailer.

Cate Blanchett is good at looking like she's absolutely stunned.

In 2006, Armstrong did a documentary about Florence Broadhurst. Who is that?

Ah! She's an Australian designer who was murdered.

Armstrong's most recent film is Death Defying Acts. That came out in 2007. It's about Houdini having a romance with a psychic. Guy Pearce plays Houdini. Here's the trailer. Ah. That just confused me. I'm reading Lord Wiki's description of the movie. I think it's about fake psychics...con artists.

Houdini died of appendicitis. I didn't know that. I always thought he got caught in one of his contraptions. I also always thought Houdini believed in spiritual stuff and promised to come back to prove it was all real. I'm totally wrong about that. It was the opposite. He DIDN'T believe. One of his big hobbies was debunking famous mediums. Seances have been held since his death so he can tell us if there's an after life or not. Of course he's not going to appear! Why would he show up and prove himself wrong?

I'm wondering....Is there a middle ground with the debunking hobby? Are there people out there who BELIEVE in psychics and mediums, but go around finding the fakes? That would be awesome.

That's actually kind of what I wanted to do before I started this blog. I wanted to do a website where people reviewed the services psychics, healers, etc. The problem is though you need a standard to work with. You need people who are not gullible, and good at spotting fakes. But they also need to be open-minded and accepting of the possibility that there really might be spiritual world and spiritual abilities.

I guess maybe parapsychologists do that kind of stuff.

Here we go. There's the Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research. That looks pretty cool.

You know I saw a brilliant quote about the skeptic's idea that we should believe in only what has been proven. I forgot the exact quote or where I saw it (Maybe YouTube comments?). It talked about how, at one time, the existence of the continent Australia was in question. Some people believed it was out there. But no white man had stepped foot on it. Did that mean it didn't exist? Nope. There were black people living there for thousands of years.

I think we need proof to KNOW something exists.
We don't need proof to BELIEVE something exists.

And I think it's horrible that anyone would label someone as being foolish because that someone has faith in something in which there is no proof.

Anyway, I'm done with IMDb. What other treasures can I find out there?

Here's a website called Senses of Cinema. They have a whole thing about Gillian Armstrong. The writer of the article, Helen Carter, is a student at AFTRS...Armstrong's old school.

Carter says As with many women who make films, much is made of the values portrayed in Armstrong's work and their relevance to current feminist theories. This narrow focus ignores her working practice and aesthetic choices and limits the opportunity for critical analysis.

Yeah, well then maybe Armstrong shouldn't make films with feminist themes. In my eyes, that's what she has done. She seems to do a lot of movies about women and their desire for independence. If she was making movies about scientists breeding sharks with tigers, or robots taking over grocery stores, people wouldn't be talking so much about her feminism.

Armstrong was the first woman to direct a feature length film in Australia in forty-six years. I read that on Lord Wiki too, but I ignored him. I wonder what woman made a movie forty-six years before? That would be in 1933. I think. Am I doing the math right?

Carter says that some critics were upset with the rejected marriage proposals of My Brilliant Career.Armstrong made High Tide after the birth of her first child. The movie itself dealt with the issues of motherhood. Meanwhile Armstrong struggled with the balancing of career and motherhood.

Armstrong is a middle child like me.

Carter lists some of Armstrong's film motifs: children playing the piano together, oranges, kittens, manuscripts, a desire for a better life, and unrequited love. Those are all great things to work with. I wonder if she has scenes where kids eat oranges WHILE playing piano with kittens meowing nearby.

Here's an ABC interview with Armstrong from 2003.

She talks about how things aren't going so well for Australian films. Her suggested plan? Tax the tickets on American movies. I understand the sentiment behind that, but it probably wouldn't work. People would just watch American movies for free on YouTube.

She complains about how much entertainment and media Australia comes from America. It's really shocking. I know I've said this before, but I had no idea this was happening until we got to Australia. It's CRAZY the amount of American TV Australians get. I can understand, that without intervention, there can be some serious cultural identity confusion. I know this because I watch and read so much Australian stuff. My identity has become totally warped.

Here's a New York Times feature from way back in 1995. That's the year I met Tim.

When asked her age, Armstrong wouldn't give a definite answer. I don't understand that; embarrassment over age. I think people should be proud of their age. It shows how our society worships youth. I think I've always been the opposite...embarrassed about being young. I feel sometimes I'm not taking seriously by people who are older than me. It's the same way I feel I'm not taken seriously by other mothers since I have only one child. Oh, you're so young. Oh you have only one child. You have no idea.....

I think there's something so awesome about women who are fifty and above. I mean as long as they're in fairly good health and are not doing the dementia thing. The dementia thing ruins it for me a bit.

During the interview, Armstrong wants to move to a different table. She doesn't like sitting near the kitchen. Picky little bitch! No, I'm joking. The restaurant was empty. I'd probably want to move too. Or maybe not. I'd probably be the one wanting to stay...not because I don't want to make a scene, but because I'm too lazy to move my ass.

Armstrong drank orange pekoe tea with milk. Lovely. I wonder if I've that tea before. Is it a real tea, or an herbal thing?

Lord Wiki says it's a black tea.

I'm not a big fan of black tea. I'm a wimp. I like the herbal stuff. Green Tea is okay.

Yeah. And I don't drink coffee either. I'm one of those adults who usually prefers hot chocolate. Maybe that's why I feel other adults aren't taking me seriously. Maybe it's not my age. Maybe it's my choice of hot drinks.

She prefers scones over sweets and sandwiches. Really?

Are they doing this interview in America or Australia....because I've heard American scones really suck. Did Armstrong not know this?

They're at the Stanhope hotel. Where is that? It's in NYC. Oh well. Maybe they have good scones there.

I would have gone for the sweets.

At one time, Armstrong told an interviewer she thought directing and baby producing were incompatible. But she later disagreed with herself. At the time of this interview, she had a six-year-old and nine-year-old daughter. Now those girls are in their twenties. Wow. I wonder how they feel about Armstrong's mothering.

Jack gave me RAVE reviews last night. I brought him and myself up some ice-cream. Jack asked if he could have the bigger bowl.

Of course, I said. I gave him the bigger bowl which may or may not have had more ice-cream then the cute small glass bowl.

He told me I was the best mother in the world.

I told him yes, I know.

He then asked if that's why I let him have the bigger serving of ice-cream...so I'd get the compliments.

My child is wise...TOTALLY onto me.

Armstrong eats a cucumber sandwich. It seems she's a bit concerned with her weight. I'm not saying that just because she ate a cucumber sandwich. There's other indications in the interview.

Here's a sweet story. Armstrong was doing Little Women. Her daughter was back home starting school soon. The producer pushed her to leave...to go and be with her daughter. She said Armstrong would regret not being there.

Armstrong says there's a shortage of films featuring girls. That's true. It's the reason why I agreed to watching The Exorcist with my dad when I was six. I was so excited to see a story featuring a little girl.

Now there's more girl movies though. I love the pro-homeschooling one....Nim's Island. It's like The Exorcist minus green vomit, head spinning, and demon voices.

The article has the word unmitigated. That's the word used in the infamous antisemitic line of The Magic Pudding. I read that yesterday and was surprised to find the line still there. I thought it was taken out. I'm glad they kept it in though. I think it's better to keep books the way they were written, and then have discussions with children. Personally I wasn't offended because I have no idea what unmitigated means. This dictionary says it means not lessoned. Well, that's not really offensive. Is it? I guess Lindsay was saying that the certain character was very Jewish. I can understand how it might be taken as offensive, but at least he didn't say something like you dirty Jew or you damn kike.

There's also a line in the book targeting Arabs. I was a bit appalled at first because it came before the Jewish line. I assumed they had taken the Jewish line out and was disturbed that they would keep the Arab line.

What offended me most about the book though was neither the Arab nor the Jewish line. I was bothered by the nature of the pudding. I had always assumed it would be a dessert pudding. Plum perhaps. But steak and kidney? GROSS. And I'm not even talking as a vegetarian here. Even in my meat-eating days, I'd be disgusted.

Armstrong puts jam and whip cream on her scone. I'm not sure I've actually had a proper scone before. There was a little place under the Irish shop in the rocks...on Argyle Street. I kind of wanted to eat there, but we were all planning to go to the Hyde Park food festival to pig out. Oh and we had also just totally pigged out at the Rocks Market.

Starbucks has scones, but they're not too good.

That was a fun interview to read.

I think I'm going to stop now. All this talk of food has made me hungry. I'm going to get a snack.

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