i ain't afraid of no ghost by Philippa Moore

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Photo: Columbia Pictures

I have to confess, I came to the whole Ghostbusters franchise quite late in life – once I met my film buff husband, for whom both Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989) are the equivalent of childhood comfort food. He watches them and he is instantly a little boy again. While I grew up in the same era, I had three younger sisters and so most of the films I was exposed to as a child had to be suitable for all of us. I was also quite a sensitive kid and ghosts were considered too scary! So it was Muppet Babies, Care Bears and My Little Ponies for us, which I don’t think was a deliberate thing on my parents’ part – this was just what was assumed little girls wanted to watch. And we did enjoy them.

Nearly 30 years since the last Ghostbusters film, Paul Feig (director of Bridesmaids and Spy) has revamped the franchise. It is not a remake of the original story, nor merely a continuation of it, but takes the premise of the original, reimagines it and brings it into the modern world. It’s very funny and very clever.

Oh, and the Ghostbusters are all women this time! Something that has a few people up in arms, but I’ll go into that in a minute.

If you don’t know the story of the film, here’s a very brief recap – with many ghostly appearances and happenings in New York City, three physics/parapsychology professors (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon), linked by the past and by circumstance, find themselves out of their cushy research jobs, joining forces and setting up a ghost removal service. After being called to the Manhattan subway to investigate and attempt to capture a “Class 4 apparition”, metro worker Patty (Leslie Jones) is inspired to join them. The government are distressed and want the Ghostbusters to keep quiet. Meanwhile, Rowan (Neil Casey), a hotel worker with a grudge, is scheming to open the gateway to another dimension which will release untold evil upon the city. So, who you gonna call?

A unique update with high quality performances

Ghostbusters is a fabulous update of a much-loved story and manages to be quite unique at the same time. There are many respectful nods to the original but Feig and the new Ghostbusters manage to make this their own. I particularly enjoyed the fact that, with Manhattan rental prices being famously out of reach of most people, the women can’t afford to set up shop in a funky fire station and end up in dilapidated rooms above a Chinese restaurant that fails, to the chagrin of Melissa McCarthy’s character, to produce a decent wonton soup.

Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann. Photo: Hopper Stone/Columbia Pictures

Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann. Photo: Hopper Stone/Columbia Pictures

All four of the Ghostbusters give high quality performances – being Saturday Night Live alumni, their comic timing is never off and they work really well as an ensemble. The one who stood out the most for me, who stole every scene she was in, was Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann, a character in the same mould as Harold Ramis’s iconic character Egon Spengler in the original. McKinnon brings great depth, and also an element of great joy,  to the mad scientist stereotype by portraying Jillian as a woman with bags of personality, full of quirks, strength and real feelings. 

Another enjoyable aspect of the film is that all of the original Ghostbusters, plus other actors from the 1984 and 1989 films, make cameo appearances at some point. There’s even a sweet nod to the late Harold Ramis (see if you can spot it).

A political/feminist statement?

It’s a shame that this film has been criticised for being “feminist” and “political” – but the very fact that the revamp of a franchise where the lead characters are female instead of male is labelled as a political act rather than one of storytelling says so much about why a film like this is so important.

If you want to read the new Ghostbusters as a political/feminist statement, there is plenty here for you to chew on. The film does, bravely, address the inherent sexism that is still, despite the advances made since Suffragette times, at large and hangs around both in Hollywood and in our culture like chocolate stains on a white blouse. I found it interesting that in the original Ghostbusters, the four men are discredited, shunned and accused of being frauds at every turn – exactly the same thing happens in this version, but of course it feels more loaded, purely because they’re women. I suppose women being confident in themselves and their abilities, and who are competent in a traditionally male dominated field, are still considered radical things in some quarters - I’ve found that to be true in my own life, that’s for sure!

It’s also incredibly refreshing to go and see a Hollywood blockbuster where the focus is not on the attractiveness of the female leads. The Ghostbusters are intelligent and passionate women who are conflicted, quirky and downright loopy. Apart from a few mentions of Patty’s garish jewellery, the women’s physical appearance is secondary, quite rightly so for a film where they all get covered in the ghosts’ ecto-vomit at some point!

But what about the men?

Another common criticism of the film is that the men in it are one-dimensional and typecast, with cries of double standards that one couldn’t get away with portraying women in such a manner these days. Personally, I think it’s a nod to the fact that women have been and in some cases still are portrayed that way but also the fact that men find themselves on the receiving end of sexism too. The movie’s token stud-muffin, receptionist Kevin (played by Chris Hemsworth who, to my delight, keeps his Australian accent), is not immune to being objectified for his looks. Kristen Wiig’s character makes a beeline for him and insists on the Ghostbusters hiring him even though he is the most useless receptionist in the history of the world. Later on (spoiler alert!), Kevin has been possessed by the ghost of the film’s truly creepy villain Rowan and goes back to the hotel where he was a mocked and undervalued janitor to exact his revenge. Two security guards notice him, with his blond hair and muscular physique, and make a wise-crack about how they hadn’t ordered a stripper. Kevin is also the only character to be ‘rescued’ in the film – in the original, of course, it is Dana (played by Sigourney Weaver, who also shows up in this version!), the love interest, who needs rescuing. This time, it’s the other way around. Read into that what you will.

Because, despite what I’ve described above, the film, to its great credit, doesn’t spell any of this out. There are no attacks (apart from ghostly ones). It’s all just implied, in my opinion. Like most things in life, we tend to get what we focus on and if you pick hard enough at the locks of the basement door, a ghost will come out eventually!

Speaking of the ghosts in this film, they are quite creepy – as is the ecto-vomit that comes out of them! 

If your main objective in going to the cinema is to be entertained then you won’t be disappointed by Ghostbusters.  Is it a perfect film? No. But it's fun and there is much to enjoy about it. All the uproar from critics and trolls spewing forth that this film has “ruined” their childhoods and “women aren’t funny” rings truly hollow if you actually bother to see the film. The laughable thing is that it is exactly the ridiculous, misguided criticism of the film, not to mention the despicable attacks Leslie Jones was subjected to on Twitter, that proves how much this film was needed. And we need more of them.

So, if you care about equal representation in Hollywood, if you want to see more blockbusters and action comedies with real women front and centre, if you want your sons and daughters to grow up in a more equal world, or if you just want to forget about life for two hours, pretend you’re nine years old again and have no idea how much sugar is in a Choc-Top ice-cream, go and see this film. It’s sassy, smart and fun.

Ghostbusters is currently showing in cinemas in the UK, the US and Australia, release details for other countries are here.

that's where the donuts come in by Philippa Moore

Some rather spectacular donuts at Bread Ahead in Old Street, London. When it was a choice between cold pizza or one of these for breakfast on Saturday, I chose the custard donut.

Some rather spectacular donuts at Bread Ahead in Old Street, London. When it was a choice between cold pizza or one of these for breakfast on Saturday, I chose the custard donut.

I have gotten to know a lot of writers and I know now we’ve all been there. Not the same thing at the same time, but the truth is always there: sometimes it’s so hard, and you really don’t know how to make your work work, and it feels like months or years of may have been wasted and you continue to be, beyond all heroic efforts, right smack in the middle of the job, rather than at the end, as you had so brightly hoped.
People will tell you that you need a thick skin to be a writer, what with all that disappointment and rejection, but I think part of what makes a good writer is the ability to be porous, to be able to feel all the intricate and complicated notes, the particular music of each moment. No writer should turn the volume down on her own emotional register. That’s her instrument. We have to feel everything. Which also sucks. That’s where the donuts come in.

Excerpt from a brilliant article by Ramona Ausubel on LitHub, which I highly recommend reading in its entirety. 

words help me to be in the world by Philippa Moore

Photo of Laurie Anderson by Clifford Ross, via BOMB Magazine

Photo of Laurie Anderson by Clifford Ross, via BOMB Magazine

I listen to the radio most days. Today on BBC Radio 6, I listened to Laurie Anderson interviewed. Her voice had a lovely calm quality, listening to her was like hearing a bedtime story read to you when you were a child, but some things she said made me jolt to attention and reach for my notebook to scribble them down.

She said that life can be so intense and overwhelming, for many of us, and we often aren't sure of the right thing to do, so she and her late husband Lou Reed came up with three rules to live by. I loved them and thought I'd share them as you might love them too.

Don't be afraid of anybody.

"What would your life be like if you were afraid of no one?" Laurie asked the airwaves. It's quite a sobering thought.

There has only been one time in my life where I can honestly say that I steamrolled over fear and didn't let it stop me doing anything. It was a brief, golden time when I was 25 and 26, in the immediate aftermath of the end of my first marriage. That period certainly had its dark times, but the fear that had so defined my life up to that point was suddenly on mute because I no longer felt I had anything to lose. I no longer 'over thought' anything. I just did things and didn't really consider what anyone else might think. It was wonderful.  And so freeing. 

Get a really good bullshit detector. And learn how to use it.

This is something for me to work on. I need to trust my gut more and be less afraid of making it known that something doesn't sit right with me. I need to switch the discs on my cerebral mixing deck and stop overthinking everything. If I overthink, my bullshit detector's batteries get low. 

Be really tender.

I love this one. It's a nice antidote to the harshness of everyday life. I want to apply it to my art too. Hannah Kent told me that one of the best things you can have as a novelist (and as a human being) is empathy. I've been absorbing myself in research for what I hope will be my next book and the characters are slowly making themselves known to me as the notebook I started just as a place to scrawl the occasional line is nearly half full already. The challenge for me with this work is exploring the worlds and inhabiting the minds of women who are so different to me, who are going to make choices that I don't think I could. So I'm keeping 'tenderness' in mind as I read, scrawl and get to know these people.

I think I need tenderness for myself too. It's very tempting to keep pushing myself, make life centre around "the next Big Thing" but, again and again, being present and in the now is what frees me, unplugs me and helps me move forward. The minute I stop all the pushing, all the pressure, is always when all the good stuff happens. Patience, and tenderness. 

"Words helped us both, a lot, to be in the world," said Laurie towards the end of her lovely interview

Me too, Laurie. Me too. 

before, after and now by Philippa Moore

I could have written a post about "this time 10 years ago" but I think you all know that story by now. 

I could have written a post featuring some old pictures of me, and pictures of me now, but while I'm proud that I'm still a healthy size 10 years on, what I've tried so hard to do with my book, and with my mindset in general, is resist getting stuck in 'before and after' thinking. Reaching goal is never the end of the story, and the 'after' photo is actually just a moment in time. Holding on to it is rarely straightforward. Weight loss success stories are certainly very motivating to read, but I think it would be far more interesting to check in with them 10 years after their 'after' picture is taken and see how they're doing then.

And I'm also not going to write a post about 10 years of maintenance, because when I consider the stretch of time between 25 April 2006 as I stood on my set of scales in my bathroom in Melbourne and saw a number I longed to see staring back at me, and 25 April 2016 as I type this in my study in London, "maintenance" is the last word I'd use to describe this period in my life.

All the losses and gains in my life since that day in 2006 have had nothing to do with weight. Everything in my life has changed so how could I possibly expect to maintain anything? It was an effort to get out of bed some days (occasionally it still is!)

Merely a few weeks after that scale victory, my life as I knew it fell apart. But thanks to having reached that goal, I had the courage to walk away from the wreckage and I knew that I could survive. Thanks to the highs, lows and plateaus of the previous year of point counting and weigh-ins, I knew I had the strength to persevere when I hit rock bottom, crawled back up, and got smacked down again. It was almost as though that year had been preparing me for what came next.  

The greatest thing weight loss taught me was learning to believe in myself. I hadn't learned it when I was younger. Back then it was all about creating a life that looked good to the outside world rather than anything that felt true and aligned with who I really was. I designed my life with fear, anxiety and self-loathing as my architects.

Weight loss helped me kick those bastards off the job, and compassion, courage and self-respect took over the blueprints instead.

But while they're fabulous architects, they're not perfect employees either. Those three occasionally take leave when I least expect it - I wouldn't have you think for a minute that fear, anxiety and self-loathing have disappeared for good. They never did, and they never will. I've had to learn to deal with them when they show up in productive and conscious ways instead of going backwards, to the days when I let them run the show. I don't always succeed, but I can always turn the car around in time. If I've maintained anything over the past 10 years, I guess it's that. 

Weight loss happened to be a tool I used to wake myself up, to get off my arse (literally) and start taking control of my life. But I outgrew it long ago. I don't need to get on scales to see how in or out of control my life is. I just pay attention. Life being in balance is something I feel now, rather than measure. It's not a number. It's not a dress size. It's a feeling. If that feeling is off, I try to do something about it. If I'm feeling good, I keep doing what I'm doing, until that doesn't work anymore. What works right now might not work this time next year. That's cool. Despite being a bit of a control freak, I try to roll with things. I try to have high standards but low expectations.   

I have no idea whether 10 years later I am still at goal weight. But you know what? I don't care enough to find out. Because I'm healthy - physically and mentally - and I'm pretty happy with who I am. That's what matters to me.  That's what I'm proud of. I have fought for the life I have now, over and over, every step of the way. I've used every brick thrown at me to build the strongest foundation I possibly could.

So what I'm thinking about, and what I want to celebrate today, is that 10 years after reaching 'goal' not only am I still healthy, but I've kept moving forward. It was not weight loss I had to maintain, it was all the other changes. And naively I thought that would be easy. But everything keeps changing, all the time. Nothing ever stays the same. You can't hit the 'pause' button once you've reached a moment where you think you've got it all. You have to keep working hard, even though you already have.

10 years ago, I chose the road less travelled by. And I keep choosing it. No matter what. I could give practical weight loss tips about eating more greens and exercising more, but it's all ultimately useless if nothing changes inside of you, in your head and in your heart. You don't have to be motivated. You don't have to live by a set of rules. You just have to start caring about yourself and paying attention to your life.

Keep choosing to be your best self and live your best life, every day. That's the secret.  Stick to your path, even when the going gets tough. Don't retreat back to the smooth, safe highway. Stay the course. Keep choosing. Keep going. 

Here's to another 10 years of that.

****

To celebrate this little milestone of mine, I'm giving away a signed, personalised physical copy of The Latte Years which I will post to you, anywhere in the world. Just read the T&Cs and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below! 

T&Cs:

  • One winner, one prize
  • No cash alternative
  • Open internationally
  • You can enter once a day until 12:00am (UK time) on 1 May 2016
  • The winner will be chosen completely at random by Rafflecopter on 1 May 2016
  • Once the winner is announced and notified via email, you have 24 hours to claim your prize or another winner will be chosen
  • PM will retain proof of postage but can't be held responsible for the vagaries of the postal system or the customs regulations/duties in your country.

 

Good luck and THANK YOU for all your love and support, particularly if you've been following along for the whole of these past 10 years. I am so incredibly grateful xx

PS: The digital versions of The Latte Years are still discounted until midnight Australian time today! 

The Latte Years is on sale this weekend! by Philippa Moore

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It's April 25 on Monday and it will be TEN years since I reached my goal and began living a completely different life.  A sweet friend from my blogging days in Melbourne dubbed it "Phil's Revolution Day" and I thought was a most apt description!

To celebrate, The Latte Years e-book is discounted on Kindle, iBooks and Kobo all weekend

And make sure you pop back on Monday because there will be an extra surprise for you!

Happy Phil's Revolution weekend to you all xx