The superhero tradition gets a radical makeover in a new movie, with its filmmakers squaring off against homophobia and conservatism in Indonesia today.
Under a bright spotlight, a white-haired, black cat-suited superhero strikes a fierce pose, her beautifully painted face solemn and sultry. Her manicured talons are enough to make you think twice about crossing her, but it’s her spike-stiletto boots that are the real concern.
Unexpectedly, the Lady Gaga-like dominatrix struts over and flops down beside me on the couch, where I have been watching, entranced and intimidated.
“My feet are killing me! I’ve had to wear this outfit every day for a month!” Underneath all that pomp and pleather is the lovable Aming, down-to-earth even in sky-high heels.
Rebecca James never intended to be a writer. She spent her 20s experimenting, from teaching English overseas and waitressing to starting and stopping several university degrees. But she is being touted as the next big literary sensation. Sara Veal talks to her.
It’s the kind of story Hollywood would snap up the rights to and cast Cate Blanchett in. Last year Rebecca James, then 39-year-old Australian mother of four young sons, and her partner Hilary Hudson were facing dire financial straits when her second novel to be published, Beautiful Malice, spurred an international “million-dollar” bidding war.
Within a week the family’s lives were changed forever – although it actually was a lifetime in the making, with James’ two years in Jakarta and becoming a mother figuring significantly in her development as a writer.
“I’m a restless person, the path I wanted to take just wasn’t clear, and lots of things interested me, so I was easily led into other routes. Writing is just something I have stuck at and now that I will stick at – I love it,” she says by phone from her home in Armidale, a cathedral city north of Sydney.
If you watch a Robert Pattinson film at the cinema, you have to be willing to tolerate the helpless gasping that is guaranteed to afflict at least a handful of audience members.
So I was fully prepared as I settled down to watch Remember Me, a romantic drama that the Twilight hottie seemed to have made just for his swooning fans, a conclusion I came to based on posters and movie stills. Dishevelled hair? Check. Angsty glances? Check. A sullen co-star? Check.
What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the respectful silence that followed the film’s conclusion, the hushed murmuring as people filed out, and my own profound melancholy for hours afterwards.
It may have been five years in the making, but Imogen Heap, who dazzled the crowds at the Jakarta’s Kartika Expo Center, Balai Kartini, on Wednesday, March 31, proved she was worth waiting for.
The British multiple Grammy nominee took to the stage for two hours, with seemingly limitless energy, wit and stage presence, and an 18-song set that spanned her three solo albums.
“Until about two months ago, I didn’t know you were all into my music,” said Heap, who included Jakarta as the penultimate stop on the world tour for her latest album, Ellipse, following floods of Twitter messages from Indonesian fans.
Between the covers of countless books lurks a mystical creature with multiple masks. Submissive and beautiful. Cunning and domineering. Shy virgin. Adventurous lover. She is the Asian woman. Or rather what passes for her in fiction. Sara Veal lifts the veil on the inscrutable images.
For thousands of years, ever since the West encountered the East, an exotic vision of the Asian woman has inhabited Western literature, symbolizing the allure, danger and mystery of the unknown.
“In the Western mind, the fictional image of the ‘Asian woman’ is the most imagined, misunderstood and ‘fetishized’,” says Sheridan Prasso, author of The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient (2006), adding this ultra-feminine exoticism has been juxtaposed onto the Asian male, “effectively wiping out his masculinity in Western culture”.
The ongoing battle between 3D animation studios has two main contenders: Pixar and Dreamworks. Both can astound with cutting edge graphics and triumph at the box office, but so far, Pixar is ahead, emotionally and artistically.
You can rely on Pixar to turn ideas that are generous on whimsy and thin on plot into entertaining treatises on the human condition. Dreamworks tends to go the plot- and joke-heavy route, adding up to raucous laughs, without matching the former’s timeless magic or insight.
But with How to Train Your Dragon, loosely based on Cressida Cowell’s children’s series, Dreamworks has stepped up its game and delivered a winning family fantasy that, despite its many clichés, has that certain something. That something that elevates it above disposable entertainment and means you’ll be able to watch it again and again.
Chris Cleave has been a barman, a long-distance sailor, a teacher of marine navigation, an internet pioneer and a Guardian columnist. Now the 36-year-old is an acclaimed novelist, as well as a proud husband and father-of-three. Incendiary, his debut novel, won several prestigious awards and was adapted into a film starring Ewan McGregor and Michelle Williams. His second and most recent novel Little Bee is the current #1 The New York Times fiction bestseller for the third week running, as of the time of writing.
What led you to write Little Bee?
I wanted to put a human face to the world’s refugee crisis. There is so much conflict in the world now, and the media tends to focus on the noisy, violent episodes, rather than the quieter and more emotionally-challenging lives of the people who are displaced by those episodes. But I believe that those human stories are the real story of our world right now, so it was something I felt urgently drawn to write about. And I think that’s something one can do in fiction: to tell a story that is entertaining, enlightening and emotionally true, about events in our real world. On a personal level, I became involved with refugees for the first time in my early 20s, when I worked for a few days in the kitchen of an Immigration Detention Centre in the UK. It opened my eyes to a hidden world.