Saturday, 28 March 2015

Cinderella - The Mad Mammy's Review

Sooooooo, here we are in 2015 and Hollywood have only gone and seen fit to grace us with yet another re-incarnation of that old nugget Cinderella.  Interestingly, in a wee bit of research for this post I discovered the tale of Cinderella is a lot older than I thought.  The original story, Cendrillon, complete with pumpkin, glass slipper and godmother by French author Charles Perrault appeared in 1697.  It was then given a revamp by the brothers Grimm in 1812, their version being called Aschenputtel, which is where we get the English translation of Cinderella from and of course the story was disneyfied in 1950 with the original film.

image of original book cover of cendrillon by charles perrault
The Original Cinderella Tale by
Charles Perrault

I can clearly recall reading the hapless heroine's tale, in my Disney fairytale compendium, as a young girl and wishing I had a fairy godmother!  How handy that would have been.  Other than that there wasn't much to envy about Cinderella's life and I often wondered how her marriage to the Prince worked out. It was much later in life through my combined studies of sociology, psychology and English that I realised the power of our childhood fairytales and how much they set us up with crazy expectations of life and form the basis of so many of our beliefs.  Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White - all rescued from their various dilemmas by a handsome prince and incidentally all victims of a wicked older female.  Even in 2015 how many women out there are still waiting for "their prince to come?"

Meme of girl telling boy she can't talk to him because he is not a fairytale prince
All Too Often We Don't See The "Princes"
Under Our Noses Because They Are A Lot
Like Us!
It is for this reason I was happy enough for my daughter to have these stories as part of her collection but they were very much balanced out by more modern tales where girls are equal to boys and have a can-do attitude - thank you J.K. for Hermione Granger.

Image of Hermione Granger from Harry Potter
Hermione - Waits For No Prince!

It was interesting then that La-La expressed an interest in going to see the latest version of Cinderella. The Dude, on the other hand, was quite clear that hell could freeze over first before anyone was dragging him along to see it.  So, being presented with the opportunity to attend the cinema with just La-la, I took it and the two girls headed off in the Brisbane heat to the nearest cinema.

As I settled into my seat and mopped the sweat from my brow, I couldn't help wondering if the 2015 version had at least had some modern tweaks.  I had already seen the controversy over the size of Cinderella's waist with Kenneth Brannagh having to deny digital trickery in order to make Lily James look like the human equivalent of a cartoon drawing.  The omens weren't good.

Image of Lily James as Cinderella in Blue Ballgown
And Breathe - Or Maybe Not......

The film opens with Cinderella in happier times, basking in the love and adoration of her parents and we get to see the influence of her mother, who, on her deathbed, tells Cinderella to face life with courage and kindness.  By the time the first thirty minutes have elapsed, Cinders is an orphan left in the servitude of her step-mother and step-sisters.  She would have been better served if her mother had added the words "and kick ass when you have to and don't be anybody's fool."

Meme of cinderella from original animated film saying she is close to losing her shit
Cinders Would Have Been Better Off
With This Attitude

As the film progressed it became clear the 2015 version was simply a faithful remake of Disney's animated classic except with human actors.  There was to be no modern tweaking of the tale, no re-interpretation of the various roles (as with the excellent Maleficent), no depth of character past the cartoonish inspirations of the animated version.  There was to be nothing except a human re-hash of an animated film from the nineteen fifties!  And to be honest you'd wonder why.

Original Movie Poster for Cinderella 1950
The Poster For The Original 1950 Movie

Why would you spend millions making a movie and pass up on the opportunity to give it something more than the original version that was basically a cartoon?  One of the biggest disappointments for me was the script or lack of it.  Poor Richard Madden, who played the prince, was the biggest victim of this aspect of the film.  At times I was waiting for him to finish his line, only to then realise he had. Of course in the absence of a cracking script it is very difficult to achieve depth of character and this is where the film really fell down.  It is a testament to the talent and skill of Cate Blanchett that she delivers a superb performance as the malicious and manipulative stepmother.  Lily James is perfect as the wide-eyed innocent overcoming hardship through courage and kindness i.e. being a sap.

Visually the film is a treat, making full use of modern technology to create a fairytale land.  There are one or two excellent scenes, with Cinderella and the pumpkin's transformation being my favourite. The first dance /  ballroom scene is also beautiful and it must be said the dress almost deserved character status in itself, considering it had more life to it than some of the actual characters!

Image of ballroom scene from cinderella 2015
The Dress - Doing Its Thing

However, my most favourite scene of the film and I feel the only point in the film that had any relevance to modern day values, was the deathbed scene of the king.  In response to his father's death the prince doesn't stand there trying to be stoic but curls up on the bed in the foetal position, such is his grief.  This was a redeeming feature of the film for me as I feel should any boy actually watch the film, at least he will pick up the message that as a boy or man it is okay to express your feelings, especially an emotion as powerful as grief, and not keep it bottled up.

Of course, as we all know, the prince goes on to find Cinderella and make her his princess and it was the closing scene of the film that really sucked for me.  We see Cinders in her wedding dress and in all her doe-eyed "courage and kindness" glory as an unseen female narrator comes in to tell us just how Cinderella managed to overcome, by facing her challenges (abuse!) with courage and kindness and also with the help of a little magic.  Huh?

Bridal scene from Cinderella 2015
And They All Lived Happily Ever After

It's bad enough to condemn another generation of girls to believing if they are thin enough (yes, I'm afraid Cinders is so thin, particularly in the ballgown, you do suspect her appearance was digitally altered), beautiful enough and sappy enough then they too shall snare their prince and all their life problems will be sorted but to add in the magic nonsense is truly a step too far!  I know, I know - it's a freaking fairytale but the sad truth of the matter is the female characters featured in the original stories were actually more empowered than the one in the modern day version.

On a final note, I asked La-La what she thought of it.  "Sad," was the reply.  Enough said.

Friday, 20 March 2015

I'm Alive!

The Mad Mammy lives!  Cancel the obituary and  call off the remembrance services - I am still breathing.  My recent move was a close call and definitely caused me to lose whatever small amount of sanity I had left but I am still, in fact, alive.

picture of woman in pink top with question marks over her head looking stressed
The Mad Mammy Has Been Looking A
Lot Like This Lately

I can't believe I haven't posted anything since 9th January.  But then again, I can't believe it's now 20th March.  The lack of seasons here in Queensland means it is very difficult to gauge the passing of time, especially over a twelve month period.  Add in to the equation that the year here is completely topsy-turvy to a northern Hemispherean (that's a new word - like it?) and you can see why I don't know one end of my seasonal arse from my elbow.

The seasons in Queensland go something like this: sizzling, extremely hot, hot, warm and for about two days of the year, cool.  The vegetation stays pretty much the same and kangaroos don't migrate so there's no other hint that time is moving on.  My Australian friends all seem to have their markers but I'm just flapping about in the very warm wind but hey that's nothing new.

Picture of the devil pointing at Australia asking, "hot enough for ya?"
It Gets Kinda Warm Around Here

So here we are in Autumn.  I know, Northern Hemisphereans, it's spring where you are but as I just explained it's all the other way around down here.  The kids are back at  school for the past seven weeks, Easter Eggs are already on the shelves and mentally I'm just gearing up for Christmas.  I could ask what your New Year's resolutions are but you've all probably forgotten them by now.

Upside down photo of a sky and road with a caution sign for Australia
It's All Topsy-Turvy Down Here

On the good news front, we are ensconced in our new accommodations.  On the bad news front, I'm still surrounded by boxes and I'm not sure when there will be a change in that particular situation. You see here's the thing, being a mammy and doing all the mammy stuff is enough to be doing on any given day and if you're like me, you never get it all done anyway - there's always another piece of crap to pick up off the floor, another thing to put in the washing machine, another thing to take out of the washing machine, another bill to pay, more homework to do, another form to fill out, blah, blah freaking blah. So throw in a house move and it all goes completely astray.  Throw in a house move over Christmas and school holidays and you are looking at a complete disaster!

Then there's the fact that moving house in Australia is a more complicated affair than in most other countries, thereby taking up way more of your precious time and well, you can see why I haven't put a post together in months!

Looking for a place to live in Australia starts where most things do these days, on the internet.  The big website over here is  Oh I spent hours trawling through its pages back in December and January.  How thrilled the children were when they found me, yet again, desperately scrolling through page after page.  They were even more thrilled at being dragged off to viewings in the heat of a Brisbane summer!  They were  super thrilled the day it was thirty-eight degrees (over a hundred degrees fahrenheit for my American friends) and we had to wait an hour for the real estate agent to show.  Ah yes, the real estate agents, sometimes they showed, sometimes they didn't  - what a fun guessing game that turned out to be over our holidays.

Photo of Lease sign
To Lease Or Not To Lease - That Was The Question

Some of them didn't even show for the open houses they themselves had organised!  These open houses are where a house is open for a period of typically ten minutes, maybe fifteen if your lucky, whereby interested renters get to dash around the property and jostle each other out of the way in an effort to try and decide if the property is suitable for them.  If you're lucky, you might even get a chance to ask the agent pertinent questions regarding the property, that's if she or he isn't legging it out the door to the next viewing!

Should you be lucky enough to find a suitable property, well that's when the real fun begins. You need to fill out forms and make an application.  This involves providing references (from previous landlords) and payslips.  For the more popular properties you need to have this with you at the inspection and submit it straight away.  Should your application be successful you will be asked to provide a week's rent as a deposit and to secure the property.  NOTE: You have twenty-four hours to change your mind and back out of renting the property.  However, if you change your mind after the twenty-four hours then the deposit is forfeit.

Meme of cute looking kid with fist about writing the correct date on forms at the beginning of the year
There Was A Little Bit Of This

I should point out here that rents in Australia are exceptionally high!  So this means you could be forfeiting anything between $500 - $1000.

Anyhoo, let's say you are happy with your decision to take the aforementioned property, based on all of the ten minutes you had available to you.  You then will be required to sign a lease.  This is typically of 12 months duration.  On signing the lease you will be required to pay a rental bond, which is usually four times the weekly rent, plus two weeks rent in advance.  So on a seven hundred dollar a week property you will be expected to pay $4,200 on signing of the lease.  So don't come to Australia without plenty of cash in them there pockets!

Meme of Tom Cruise with words, "Show Me The Money!!!!"
Be Prepared To Flash The Cash

Possibly the most important issue to be aware of when renting property in Australia is the terms of your lease.  The most pertinent one being that if you "break lease" you are required to pay the rent on the property until such a time as the landlord has acquired a new tenant.  It is not like in other countries where you give a reasonable amount of notice (usually two months) and then you can move on without any negative comeback - oh no, here if you leave before the end of the lease then you pay until another tenant is found.

The second most important thing to be aware of during this whole process is something called the "entry condition report".

So there you are in your shiny (hopefully!) new abode and the lovely real estate agent hands you over the keys, various remotes and other bits and pieces to do with the house and an entry condition report. This is basically a detailed list pertaining to the house and the condition it is in at the time you sign the lease.  Like me, you might think to yourself, "oh aren't these Aussies a quirky little lot giving me a list of things such as 'picture hooks on wall' or 'crack under window.'"  And, like me, you might be told that this entry condition report isn't all that important, you basically just sign it if you're happy with the house.  WRONG!  After the lease itself, the entry condition report is the singular most important document in relation to the rental of the property as this document will be wielded as a weapon against you when it is time to leave the property - that's when you meet the nasty cousin - the exit condition report!  So basically if the entry condition report and the exit condition report don't match when you are leaving the property then you will be hit with the cost of bringing the property in line with what the entry condition report states it was in when you rented the property.  That is, if there are picture hooks on the wall that aren't mentioned in the entry condition report and you fail to note them, then you will be charged the cost of removing the picture hooks, repair to the wall and painting the wall, on exit.  So, when you rent a property in Australia, you need to see what's noted on the entry condition report and then FORENSICALLY go through the property to see what you need to add.  Starting to see how it all gets a tad time consuming?  Getting a feel for the nitty-gritties?

Photo of Horation Cane from CSI with the words, "this is going to get interesting"
You May Want To Get This Guy To Do
Your Entry Condition Report

The real fun starts when you are leaving a property and are handed the exit condition report and have to start haggling regarding items listed on this where the agent feels you need to carry out repairs or "return to original state".  If you don't do it or they are not satisfied with the manner in which you carried it out they charge the cost against your rental bond.  And they always seem to be employing the most expensive handymen and painter decorators in  town!  It took me ten days of relentless email ping-pong to get our rental bond returned.  Thankfully I had kept every email in relation to any issues to do with the property over the two and a half years we rented it.

The other painful aspect of leaving a property in Australia is what's referred to as the "Bond Clean". This is where the property has to be left in complete, utter and totally pristine condition, basically like you never lived there.  It is a condition of most rental agreements that you must employ a professional cleaning company to do this - receipt will be required.  In many cases the real estate company will insist you use a company nominated by them.  I know too many people who decided to either do the clean themselves or used a much cheaper company who then found the cost of the clean deducted from their bond because the real estate company "were not satisfied with the standard of the clean."  Bond cleans typically cost anything between $600 - $1000.  Yes, you read that right.

Photo of Man cleaning wall
Brett (aka Super-Cleaner!) from Brett's Total Home Care
doing the "Bond Clean"

If you have had a pet at the property you must also pay for the carpets to be cleaned throughout the property and a pest control treatment for the inside and exterior of the property.  Again, you hiring a rug-doctor and doing this yourself is unacceptable, you must employ a professional company to do this.

So, between searching for properties, viewing properties, dealing with exit condition reports, entry condition reports, packing and also organising services such as telecoms and electricity (more expense!) to be transferred and then ACTUALLY MOVING you can see how it all becomes a little overwhelming and time consuming.

Photo of items from a girl's bedroom
Just SOME of the stuff from
La-La's bedroom

Thankfully we are through it now and I have managed to retain a few scraps of sanity.  All I have to do now is catch up on all the things that were put on the back-burner over the past few months and figure out how those boxes are going to unpack themselves.....