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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bmag Dec 17th 2013 - Love Actually

Breaking news. Donna Weeks has finally seen Love Actually! Who is Donna Weeks and why is this such a big deal? Donna is a political scientist. Last year, I was interviewing her about the Japanese election and stumbled on the fact she had never seen Love Actually. Was Donna the last person on earth not to have seen the classic Richard Curtis romantic comedy? I ribbed her about it on air and this led to someone buying her a copy on DVD, yet still Donna held out. Until last weekend when it was shown on the big screen at GOMA.

Donna’s verdict shortly. But first I’m going to put my (Christmas) cards on the table. Love Actually may well be the most divisive Christmas film ever made but I adore it. I could enchant/bore you for as long as the movie itself (and at 135 minutes, it is reasonably long) with all my favourite moments. And it all starts with that opening scene at an airport arrivals hall. Who hasn’t sat waiting for a family member to clear customs, happily observing all the kisses and hugs going on around them? Then there’s the romantic fumbling between the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) and new staffer Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). Who wouldn’t have sent her to work elsewhere to avoid the awkwardness, only to chase her down and get her back? And how touching is Mark (Andrew Lincoln) and his undying love for the recently-married Juliet (Kiera Knightly)? First she discovers all the close-ups of her after Mark shoots the wedding video. Then, in a real tissue-grabber, Mark stands at her front door silently confessing his feelings (and letting her go) with a series of hand-written signs.

 There is so much in the film we can all relate to. And yet there are those who despise it. Among my friends and colleagues, captain of the negatives is radio producer Amanda Dell: “I just don't get it. I get none of the `awww’ factor that seems to drive the passionate love of this film. It leaves me cold and quite bored. Maybe it's just too twee for me.”

Jose Ferrara agrees: “Appalling. Makes me squirm if I ever see as much as an ad. Hugh Grant is a ham. He and Martine McCutcheon have zero chemistry. Clunky script supposed to be romcom but just nauseatingly saccharine and not very funny to boot.” And there’s no doubting how Stephanie Beames feels: “Bleugh!!! One of the all-time most gag-worthy, formulaic, predictable movies.”

Captain of the supporters is ABC family affairs reporter Susan Hetherington, who watches it every year without fail: “The 24 December is the day of viewing in our house. Others call it Christmas Eve. I call it Love Actually Day!” Siding with Susan is Sally Piracha: “It has Colin Firth. Aside from that, one of my favourite movies of all time. I can watch it anywhere, anytime, with anyone. One of the best casts ever assembled, top soundtrack, and it has Colin Firth in another lake.” Jo Stone says it’s a great film: “So many different interpretations of love in the world! And Hugh Grant dancing…gold!”

And from Adam Hay, who tied the knot just last week: “It’s my wife's favourite film. It has been watched every Christmas at both families’ houses since it was released. It is a beautiful film and shows how love actually is. Sometimes easy but most of the time unpredictable. Love it. Destined to watch it forever now!”

So, what did Donna Weeks think? After watching the film for the first time ever, Donna tweeted: “I’m with Amanda Dell…sorry.” She later emailed me: “Good ensemble, cute kid role, OK movie, glad I’ve seen it, pressure off. But really, as if the British Prime Minister would ever speak to the President of the United States like that! If only things happened in real life like they do in the movies, the world would be pretty cool, actually!” “OK movie”? Just OK?! Donna, I think you need to unwrap that DVD and watch it again straight away! From the Howsons to you and yours, have a safe and joyous Christmas. May your holidays be filled with love (and hopefully Love Actually)!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bmag Dec 3rd 2013 - I'm not the only non-citizen in the village!

I’ll be honest. I was a bit nervous about the reaction I would get to the revelation in my last column that I had lived here for over thirty years without becoming a citizen. I thought some might have judged me harshly for remaining a pom all this time. Instead, I’ve been overwhelmed by readers and listeners ‘fessing up’ that they too have been tardy. I tell you – this country is full of immigrants who have lived here for decades without taking the plunge!

Valerie Kerr writes: “We arrived in 1976 and none of us kids has done it yet.” Valerie goes on to say she’s never really felt the need. And that’s where I was until recently. You can’t pressure people into becoming citizens. It’s a deeply personal and individual decision. Barbara Richards tells me her mum came from England as a two year old in 1911 and never became naturalised. Her younger sister eventually signed up when she turned eighty!

Others, like Ron Martin, have shared with me their epiphany moments: “I woke up some years back and realised there was no need to hold on to the past. So proud to own an Aussie passport and be in the best state and the best country in the world”.  I may have inspired Chris Williams, who says: “I came from the UK in 1964 and I must do the same! I should have done it years ago!”

Then there are stories like Phil Eldridge’s tale. Phil moved here from England, aged two in 1950. He was conscripted to fight for Australia, married an Aussie, then in 1983 they moved to New Zealand. When Phil’s wife died, he tried to move back to Australia. After all, he’d lived here over thirty years. He was told he would have to live here four years before he could even apply! Phil writes: “Spencer, this is an excellent decision”.

Aside from emails and social media comments, wherever I’ve gone in these past couple of weeks, people have wanted to talk to me about becoming true blue. I was in Regents Park the other night, recording a fabulous radio piece about a bloke’s love affair with his LED lighting. Gary Jones has multi-coloured flashing strips behind his wall-mounted plasma screen and is in the process of installing the same in his kitchen, at ceiling and floor height. He even has a device on the bottom of his kitchen tap that flashes rainbow colours when the water’s turned on!

Anyway, to get back to the story, when I rocked up to Gary’s place, his brother and sisterin- law, from Wales and Scotland, were having a cuppa. All three of them have lived here twentyplus years and immediately launched into this conversation about how they know they should, and will soon, apply to become Aussies! For those who are wondering, assuming you’re eligible, the process is incredibly swift and simple. You can do it all at From applying online, which took around an hour by the time I’d located and scanned all the documents you need, to sitting in the Immigration Department office on Adelaide Street completing the twenty question multiple choice citizenship test, took just four weeks. That said, there is a delay in being allocated a citizenship ceremony. At the moment, you’re looking at July of next year.

As for the test, it’s relatively straight forward, if you’ve lived here a while and have a good grasp of English. I felt for the woman who was in the booth next to me – I’m guessing she’s a more recent arrival – who had just failed for the fourth time.

Finally to Bill of Rosalie, thank you for your poem. Too long to print in its entirety, it starts: “Here’s to Spencer Howson, who’s finally seen the light. He’s going to become an Aussie. Now that’s a bit of alright.” Bill ends with the footnote: “Congratulations old mate, you’re a true blue, fair dinkum sport and your blood’s worth bottlin’. We’ll have to sink a few tinnies of the amber fluid at the Aussie Day barbie. All the best as you adopt the land of Oz.” Thank you Bill and everyone else who has extended the welcome mat. It seems I had nothing to fear in coming out as an unconverted pom!