Category Archives: New Zealand

Kate Sheppard 3.10.13 Thought of the Day

“All that separates, whether of race, class, creed, or sex, is inhuman, and must be overcome.” –Kate Sheppard

Social reformer, suffragist, writer, and first...

Catherine Wilson Malcolm was born on this day in Liverpool, England in 1847. Today is the 166th anniversary of her birth.
Although christened Catherine she preferred Kate. She lived in London, Nairn (Scotland) and Dublin. She was well-educated and excelled in science, the arts and law.  She shared her father’s love of music and her mother’s faith in the Free church of Scotland (her uncle was a minister in the church.) She lived in the UK until 1869. After her father passed away her mother, brother and sister moved to Christchurch, New Zealand.  At 24 she married Walter Allen Sheppard, and they had a son, Douglas.
In New Zealand she got involved in the temperance movement.
Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which advocated women’s suffrage as a means to fight for liquor prohibition. For Kate, suffrage quickly became an end in itself. Speaking for a new generation, she argued, ‘We are tired of having a “sphere” doled out to us, and of being told that anything outside that sphere is “unwomanly”.’ [New Zealand History Time Line]
She quickly became the leading voice for the movement and deployed her organizational, writing and speech making skills to rally other women to the cause.  The women refused to follow the advice of critics such as ” Wellington resident Henry Wright” who wrote…
…women were ‘recommended to go home, look after their children, cook their husbands’ dinners, empty the slops, and generally attend to the domestic affairs for which Nature designed them’; they should give up ‘meddling in masculine concerns of which they are profoundly ignorant’. [Ibid]
New Zealand became the first country to pass a Woman’s suffrage bill, granting woman the right to vote, in 1893. A a 766-foot-long petition containing 32,000 signature was unrolled in front of the country’s Parliament to get the job done.
National Council of Women at the inaugural mee...

National Council of Women at the inaugural meeting in Christchurch in 1896 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sheppard  continued to work for women’s rights  and freedoms. She traveled the world to promote the women’s right to vote, and  became president of the National Council of Women of New Zealand as well as the editor of The White Ribbon, a New Zealand newspaper owned, managed and published by women.
She died on 13 July 1934, a year after the first woman MP, Labour’s Elizabeth McCombs, entered Parliament. In recent years Sheppard’s contribution to New Zealand’s identity has been acknowledged on the $10 note and a commemorative stamp. [Ibid]

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Thought of the Day 10.20.12 Viggo Mortensen

“There’s no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there’s no excuse for boredom, ever.”
Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA  in 1958. He is 54 years old.

His family lived in Venezuela, Denmark and Argentina where his father managed farms and ranches.   He learned to speak fluent Danish, Spanish and English growing up. His parents divorced when he was 11 and he moved with his mother back to New York. After graduating St. Lawrence University he moved to Europe and lived in Spain, England and Denmark making his way as a truck driver and flower seller. Eventually he returned to the US ready to try his hand at acting.

Viggo Mortensen in a still from Witness [Image courtesy: Brego.net]

He did some theatre then expanded to film. His footage in 1984’s Swing Shift and  Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo ended up on the cutting room floor, but he had more luck in Peter Weir’s Witness. Mortensen played Moses Hochleitner, the younger brother to Alexander Godunov’s Daniel Hochleitner. He didn’t have a lot of lines in the Harrison Ford flick, but some how he stood out from the sea of blond-haired Amish men in blue shirts.

His next step was to Television where he was cast as Bragg on Search for Tomorrow [BRAGG, what a great soap opera name, right?]

In 1987 he played a crooked cop on Miami Vice. There was more theatre too, this time in LA’s Coast Playhouse’s production of Bent, for which he earned a Dramalogue Critics’ Award.

Movie still from G.I. Jane [Brego.net]

A splay of supporting roles in the 1990s saw him acting in some good movies (The Portrait of a Lady directed by Jane Campion) and some not so good movies (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III)  Critics started to take notice when he starred opposite Demi Moore as brutal Master Chief John Urgayle in G.I. Jane (some critics said he stole the movie from Moore) and as the other man in A Walk on the Moon with Diane Lane. He played another ‘other’ man in A Perfect Murder, a reboot of Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow. He was Eddie Boone, a major league baseball player with a trifecta of additions in rehab with Sandra Bullock in 28 Days. And rounded out the decade by playing the devil in The Prophecy.

Movie poster from Lord of the Rings [Image courtesy: Beyond Hollywood.com]

2001 saw the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, the first in Peter Jackson’s epic Tolkien cycle. With his role as the heroic Aragorn “Mortensen was established as a major leading man among Hollywood’s A-list ranks.” [Viggo Mortensen — Biography, Movies. yahoo.com The Two Towers followed in 2002 and The Return of the King premiered in 2003. He brought quiet strength, “commanding good looks”[ibid] and a rye sense of humor to Aragorn. He embraced the role whole heartedly. He did all his own stunts in the movies (and took quiet a few knocks in the process). He wore his sword and costume for days on end so they would have an authentic lived in look. And he became so attached to his equine co-stars, Uraeus and Kenny, that he purchased the horses after the film wrapped and took them home.

After his success in the Lord of the Rings Mortensen managed to keep himself centered…

Exceedingly humble about success and uncharacteristically un-Hollywood, Mortensen managed to stay somewhat reclusive and focused on other interests outside of acting, namely painting and writing poetry, despite becoming one of the most recognizable stars in the world. [Viggo Mortensen — Biography, Movies. yahoo.com ]

He used some of his earnings from playing Aragorn to start Perceval Press publishing house in Santa Monica, California.

Perceval Press is a small, independent publisher specializing in art, critical writing, and poetry. The intention of the press is to publish texts, images, and recordings that otherwise might not be presented. [Percival Press]

Mortensen’s own artistic, musical and written works are available through Perceval Press. He writes poetry, essays, and companion pieces for his paintings and photographic work in English, Spanish and Danish. Musically he has completed 16 albums, working almost exclusively with the guitarist Buckethead.

Back on the silver screen was Hidalgo in 2007.  It is the true story of American Frank T. Hopkins who participation in a 3,000-mile race across the Najd desert called the “Ocean of Fire”.

He gave “his most compelling and carefully drawn performance to date” [ibid] as an everyday man who’s violent past catches up to him in A History of Violence a film directed by David Cronenberg. He worked with Cronenberg again in 2007 for Eastern Promises, where he played a Russian gangster. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film.

In 2008 he was Ed Harris’ sidekick in the Western Appaloosa. He also starred in Good which takes place in the 1930s. Mortensen is a professor struggling to decide if he should join the Nazi party.

Movie still from The Road. [Image courtesy: Wired.com]

The grim Cormac McCarthy novel was the basis for Mortensen’s next movie, The Road. It is a post-apocalyptic story of a father and son trying to survive in a bleak wasteland.

Once again teaming up with Cronenberg, Mortensen plays Dr. Sigmund Freud in his the 2011 film,  A Dangerous Method.

Coming up Mortensen has several film ready for release including: On The Road and Everybody Has a Plan; and in 2013 The Faces of January and The Last Voyage of Demeter.

Publicity shot. [Image courtesy: TheReelist]

Found this on Facebook and had to share.

 


Thought of the Day 9.14.12 Sam Neill

 

 

“As much as possible, I try to encourage people to use stunt men because that is really their job.”

 

-Sam Neill

 

Nigel John Dermot “Sam”  Neill was born on this day in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1947. He is 65 years old today.

His father, a New Zealander, was stationed in Northern Ireland when Sam was born. The family lived there until Sam was six when they returned to Christ Church.

Sam stuttered badly as a child, and shied away from talking to people. He would refrain from raising his hand because he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to say anything if he was call on.

“My fear was nothing would come out at all … and I would just be left with a face that was going redder and redder and more purple. The upside of that was I probably learned to listen better than most of my contemporaries… I’m still fairly economic with words and I think that’s a good thing.” [ The British Stammering Association]

He says his stammer gradually became less pronounced. As he  became involved in debate and acting, at University of Canterbury, he gained  self-confidence. The more self-confidence he had, the less he stuttered. Occasionally you can still hear a snippet of it. Neill actively supports several stammering support associations like the British Stammering Association and the Australian Speak Easy Association.

After graduating from university he worked with the New Zealand National Film Unit directing, editing and writing documentaries. He also worked on stage with the New Zealand Players at that time.

His first real film role was in 1977’s Sleeping Dogs, a N.Z. based drama. He got a much wider audience as Harry, the romantic lead in the period drama My Brilliant Career opposite Judy Davis.

Neill in My Brilliant Career [Image Courtesy: HD-Sensei]

After a few television roles he landed quite a different kind of leading role in Omen III: The Final Conflict. Sure, Neill always had a bit of a devilish grin, but …. On a scale of 1 to 10, with My Brilliant Career as a strong 10… I’d give Omen III a weak 6.66.  The Omen brought Neill to the London film making scene under the mentorship of James Mason.

DVD cover for Omen III. Cute little devil, isn’t he? [Image Courtesy: IMBD Movie Database]

For a New Zealander, he played a lot of Soviets. Some were good Russians, like Vassili in Hunt for Red October. Other times he played “A strict Eastern European autocrat” [TalkTalk] as he did in Enigma and Amerika.

While in England he took on the title role in the BBC mini-series Reilly: Ace of Spies, ” The epic adventures of Britain’s greatest spy” [IMDB: Movie Database — Reilly: Ace of Spies]

He teamed up with Academy Award winner Merle Streep for the drama A Cry in the Dark (it was released originally as Evil Angels in Australia and New Zealand.)

Next he starred in the taunt (essentially) three person horror film Dead Calm with newcomer Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane…

“Here Neill played her distressed husband, desperately trying to save the day when nut-job Billy Zane kidnaps both Kidman AND Neill’s boat. It was a superb thriller, boosting its stars big-time…” [TalkTalk]

I don’t know that I’d go so far as to call it “superb”, but…the scene where Neill is stuck inside the quickly sinking second boat (the one Billy Zane was on)  is more than worth the price of a Netflix rental.

Still from Dead Calm. [Image Courtesy: Turner Classic Movies]

In 1993 he was the, angry, odd-man-out in a love triangle between mute Holly Hunter and Harvey Keitel the beautiful made The Piano.

So… if you’ve never heard of any of the movies I’ve written about so far in this blog, I’m betting your heard of this one…Neill played Dr. Alan Grant the Jurassic Park franchise. I thought J.P. the book was wonderful, the movie? Not so much. The dinosaurs were cool, REALLY cool, but the acting, script, and direction was flat — except for my boy Sam. I thought he pulled off the requisite wonder and reluctance needed for the role.

Still from Jurassic Park [Image Courtesy: Cineplex.com]

Back on the small screen he’s played  Merlin, Komarovski in Doctor Zhivago, and Cardinal Wolsey in The Tudors.

One of my favorite Sam Neill movies is The Dish. In it “A remote Australian antenna, populated by quirky characters, plays a key role in the first Apollo moon landing.” [IMDB: Movie Data Base]

DVD Cover for The Dish. [Image Courtesy: Amazon.com]

Neill currently  he enjoys relaxing by making wine at his Two Paddocks Winery on New Zealand’s South Island. Here he shows a bit of his trademark deadpan humor in a promotional video for the vineyard.


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