Film Friday: The Trip (2010)


Poster: The Trip, 2011. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, and based on BBC series of the same name.

Confession: I have a really loud laugh.

And yes, I know that can be very annoying in the cinema. I really can’t help it (or the sometimes-accompanying snort), but (thankfully?) I don’t often see films that really, really make me laugh.

The Trip is an exception. Fortunately, the people around me in the cinema thought so to, and I was largely drowned out.

The Trip is a foodie comedy road movie shot through with a sort of wistfulness that perhaps comes from the two lead actors playing versions of themselves. The film is constructed from edited-together footage from a BBC TV series in which the two — Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden — visit a series of restaurants in the north of England which Coogan has (for the purposes of the story) been commissioned to review for a national newspaper.

Despite this premise, and some lovingly shot scenes of restaurant kitchens, food very much takes a backseat in the film (assume you’re travelling in a bus — that sort of back seat).

Instead, the momentum and humour come from the interplay between the leads. Part friendship, part rivalry, their conversations and banter travel along a shifting boundary between their fictional and real selves. Both men are known as comic actors and gifted mimics, and it’s their mimicry that really brings the laughs.

Since The Trip, three more series and three more films have been made, with the pair travelling to different destinations in each. I have seen the second — The Trip, Italy — and found it funny although not significantly different to the original. I wonder if the third and fourth trips — to Spain and Greece — have found new territory to explore?

As actors playing actors in films that rely on naturalistic, possibly unscripted dialogue, most of the conversations are about the media. With that comes a sense that the audience is expected to be “in the know” — to be familiar with the people and films they talk about — indeed to be students of Coogan and Bryden’s own work. Without that knowledge, I doubt The Trip and it’s sequels would be nearly as funny.

So not a Top 100 movie, but one that has the power to make people laugh out loud. Right now, that’s no bad thing.

About Film Friday

Sarah at Art Expedition, and Darren, The Arty Plantsman have initiated this great new blogging project. You can find out more and see their chosen films for the week by visiting the latest post by Darren and Sarah.


Wordless Wednesday


Close-up. Michael Jones statue (artist Natalie Stamilla), Eden Park, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie 2020


Michael Jones statue (artist Natalie Stamilla), Eden Park, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Film Friday: Only Lovers Left Alive

CP58948 OnlyLovers.pdf.pdf

Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch, 2012. Advertising poster.

I was in my twenties when I fell in love with Jim Jarmusch. In the beginning it was Stranger Than Paradise (1984), but we traveled Down By Law (1986), and on to Mystery Train (1989) until that final Night on Earth (1991).

Like many youthful romances, it didn’t last; I grew tired of the road (1), we drifted apart and before long completely lost touch.

I tried to reconnect over Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), but it just didn’t work. I was resigned to reliving my memories of that early magic on borrowed DVDs.

Then in 2013, I saw a glimmer of hope. Another chance. This time the attraction wasn’t really my former auteur-crush, but his new film’s stars; Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and John Hurt. Based on past experience, I’d pay to watch them watching paint dry.

And that is how Only Lovers Left Alive comes to be on my list of great, watch-again-and-again-and-never-get-bored movies.

Have I mentioned that it’s a vampire movie? No? Well that surprised me too. According to my usual “will I enjoy this film” checklist, if any of the actors are sporting overly long canines, the answer is probably “no.” If the aforementioned canines are bloodied, it’s a resounding “thanks, but no thanks.”

Let’s just say, I’m rewriting the checklist.

Only Lovers Left Alive IS a vampire movie, but it’s also so much more. It’s a really tender love story, a (very dark) comedy, a celebration of art and creativity, and a cautionary tale for our sickening world. It’s packed full of musical and literary references (spoiler alert: Christopher Marlowe DID write the works of Shakespeare — and he was a vampire), haunting cinematography, and a luscious soundtrack.

I hadn’t really expected there to be much chemistry between Swinton and Hiddleston (playing a couple married for over 500 years), but somehow it works. I’d probably have suggested he get a haircut, but that’s quibbling.

Here’s the trailer, and if you haven’t seen this quirky gem — add it to your lockdown list.

Oh, and as for me and Jim. I wasn’t crazy about his next film Paterson. I haven’t seen his  latest, The Dead Don’t Die, but it’s a “zombie comedy.” Not really my favourite genre, but I loved Shaun of the Dead, so who knows.



About Film Friday

Sarah at Art Expedition, and Darren, The Arty Plantsman have initiated this great new blogging project. You can find out more and see their chosen films for the week by visiting the latest post by Darren and Sarah.









Film Friday: The Lady Vanishes


Promotional still from the 1938 film The Lady Vanishes, published in National Board of Review Magazine. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

I think it’s often the case when a film moves us and becomes a favourite, that we feel the pull, the magic, in our first viewing. The event becomes as memorable as the film.

But there are exceptions.

I can’t remember when or where I first saw The Lady Vanishes, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 masterpiece. It must have been on TV, but I have no recollection of it.

What I do know is that sometime in the late 1990s when I read a short story by Paul Magrs called The Lion Vanishes, (1) I understood the references: I got the joke.

I know then that I went back to the movie — even buying it on video — and the love affair began.

The Lady Vanishes (tLV)was Hitchcock’s last truly British film: indeed its success was what prompted the invitation to Hollywood.

If the name “Hitchcock” brings to mind Psycho, The Birds, or even Strangers on a Train; stop there. tLV is an altogether kinder, more gentle film shot through with wonderful British humour.

Even better — and unlike many of Hitchcock’s later films — the female characters are allowed to do more than swoon, fawn and endure violence. In many ways, the story is female-driven.

Wikipedia describes the film’s plot thus:

… based on the 1936 novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, the film is about a beautiful English tourist travelling by train in continental Europe who discovers that her elderly travelling companion seems to have disappeared from the train. After her fellow passengers deny ever having seen the elderly lady, the young woman is helped by a young musicologist, the two proceeding to search the train for clues to the old lady’s disappearance.

Released in 1938, the film’s fictional countries and political turmoils were thinly veiled references to the world war that was looming. The triumph of the British characters over the alternately evil and bumbling foreigners was inevitable, but executed with great skill and wit.

Health warning

The Lady Vanishes  had a truly execrable Hollywood remake in 1979. I can’t even bring myself to talk about it. Avoid it at all costs!

About Film Friday

Sarah at Art Expedition, and Darren, The Arty Plantsman have initiated this great new blogging project. You can find out more and see their chosen films for the week by visiting Sarah’s or Darren’s latest posts.


  1. The Lion Vanishes can be found in the short story collection Playing Out by Paul Magrs, 1997.

The Changing Seasons, February 2020


Detail, ‘Contained and Protected’, sculpture in bronze, Marte Szirmay. Sculpture in the Gardens, 2019-2020; winner McConnell Family Supreme Award. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Humans are incredibly skilled at both making, and understanding symbols. Indeed, our cultures rely on it.

The symbols I respond to most are generally visual; paintings, sculptures, photographs — but especially sculptures.


‘Contained and Protected’, sculpture in bronze, Marte Szirmay. Sculpture in the Gardens, 2019-2020; winner McConnell Family Supreme Award. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I saw this piece a couple of weeks ago in an exhibition at the Auckland Botanic Gardens. I find its simplicity both beautiful and powerful. The judges who awarded it the exhibition’s supreme prize had this to say:

“This beautiful disk, fastened to its base by a bronze cord, acts as a talisman of guardianship in the garden bed of critically endangered native plants. It is a superb and accomplished linking of form to site, evoking both the preciousness of our botanical heritage and the idea of keeping it safe forever. The work is placed near the entrance to the Threatened Native Plants garden … ” News, Auckland Botanic Gardens.

I won’t pretend my response to the work was analytical or erudite. I just felt — and continue to feel — uplifted by it.

I had a similar experience with a painting I saw on Instagram. So much so, I bought it.


‘Little Cottage in a Summer Field’, Natalie Towler. Image; Su Leslie 2020

The artist is local (New Zealand) and also makes wonderful small sculptures of houses (you can see them here).

I didn’t fully realise it until I was sorting photos for The Changing Seasons, but the colour palate of the landscape around me right now, is the same as in Natalie’s painting.

I’ve mentioned a few times this month that parts of New Zealand, including Auckland, are in drought at the moment. It’s particularly noticeable where land has been cleared for animal grazing. On a recent trip to Raglan, we drove through mile after mile of fragile, brown grass; broken only by occasional stands of trees and irrigated fields of maize — presumably being grown as animal feed.

At home, I’ve been incredibly grateful for our rainwater tank which has allowed me to keep my plants alive without resorting to “city water.”

I’ve managed to sustain “proactive hopefulness” largely by not engaging with mainstream news media and spending as much time as possible in my little garden.

As always, I end the month with a list of projects that excite me, but in which I’ve barely made a dent. I can partly blame a cold which hit me harder than expected and has clung on far too long. But I suspect that I perhaps need to take stock of my life and prioritize my time better.

And of course, in that spirit (NOT), I bought some lovely writing paper and envelopes so that I can send real, actual letters to people.

I could explain why, but I think it deserves a separate post … to come.


Got the pen, got the stationery, found my glasses and made a cuppa. Dear …. Image: Su Leslie 2020

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.


Darren at  The Arty Plantsman

Little Pieces of Me

Joanne at My Life Lived Full

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking intelligent life on Earth

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Tracy at Reflections of An Untidy Mind

Sarah at Art Expedition

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

A Shared Space

Pauline at Living in Paradise

A Wonderful Sheep

Brian at Bushboys World

Gill at Talking Thailand


Finding red


Lang Ea, Pop! Boom! Bang! Sculpture in the Gardens, 2018. Image: Su Leslie

Red is a benevolent dictatorship.
— James Jannard, founder Oakley Inc.

Patti’s challenge was to ‘find something red.’ My personal challenge is not to go overboard with this. I love red; red clothes, red lipstick, red food, red cars and (I’m not sure I realised this, red art).

su at london road

Long ago (and far away). Red as armor in the days of office politics and shoulder pads. Image: The Big T, 1991.


Seeing double. Image: Su Leslie 2019


Work in progress: The Big T’s cafe racer. Image: Su Leslie 2018


Chen Wenling, Harbour. Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, 2015. Image: Su Leslie

And I know I’ve posted the Anish Kapoor sculpture before, but surely this fits Patti’s brief very well. Red art on a monumental scale: it is 85 metres long, and each end is 25m x 8m.

Red, of course, is the colour of the interior of our bodies. In a way it’s inside out, red.
— Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1, 2009. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, NZ. Image: Su Leslie


Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1, 2009. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | find something red

A short wander

It’s too hot to move much at the moment, but I was happy to take a short wander up the stairs to this Japanese tea house.

Shame there wasn’t a cup of tea waiting for me.

The tea house is a new addition to the Sculpture Park at Waitakaruru Arboretum, near Morrinsville, NZ. The park is privately owned, but open to the public to enjoy art in the beautiful setting of an old quarry that has been transformed into an arboretum.

Ragtag Daily Prompt | wander