Monday, January 18, 2010

Australian Centre for The Moving Image

~ The Australian Centre for The Moving Image (ACMI) is located at Federation Square in the heart of downtown Melbourne, and what an amazing place it is. If you are any sort of movie buff, ACMI will be high on your list of places to visit while you are in Melbourne. In fact, yesterday, was my second visit to the Centre, and I still haven’t seen the current major exhibition: Dennis Hopper & The New Hollywood. This is because there is simply too much to see and take in during one brief visit.

Across the three levels of ACMI, you can access Australia’s huge collection of moving images held by ACMI itself, and the National Film and Sound Archive (containing 1.4 million items). These archives include the earliest footage of the Melbourne Cup, and the landmark feature film The Story of The Kelly Gang (1906), as well as the latest award winning animations and so much more.

Then there is the ACMI studios which provides “Hands-on spaces for creative workshops, performances, talks and events”, while downstairs in the galleries you can visit major exhibitions, spend a good hour or two examining Screen Worlds which showcases the story of film, television and the new digital culture. You can also try your skills on a range of the latest computer games, or play a selection of old ‘retro’ games like Wolfenstein (remember that one) or many others.

Finally, as you would expect, the Australian Centre for The Moving Image would not be complete if it didn’t include several cinemas which screen full programs of the latest films as well as retrospective seasons of classic movies or films featuring specific actors – like Dennis Hopper.

Frankly, I’m jealous. I wish Adelaide had something similar, but I am delighted to have been able to spend some time visiting this incredible facility. Not to be missed.

What: Australian Centre for The Moving Image
Where: Federation Square
Hours: 8am-6pm (cinemas are open later)
Entry: Free for most areas (fees apply for major exhibitions)
Phone: 03 8663 2200

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What’s The Rush?

~ Why is it that no matter how fast you may be driving along the highway (or suburban road for that matter), someone always wants to get in front of you. Even when you are sitting on the speed limit, someone will still come up behind you and wait for an opportunity to race past.

Occasionally, I have found myself speeding along a major highway, inadvertently exceeding the speed limit by 10 or 15 kilometres and hour, only to look into the rear-view mirror to see another driver waiting impatiently to get ahead of me. Of course, once I adjust my speed back to the speed limit, the speedsters sweep past at the earliest – although not necessarily the safest – opportunity.

Surely getting there should be half the fun of travel, so why not relax and enjoy the ride?

I now try to cruise along at a comfortable speed rather than the fastest speed permissible. For me this means driving at around 90kms an hour rather than 100-110kph. At the slower speed I find I can relax a little and find too that I have time to look around at the landscape I am passing through, rather than race blindly down the highway.

Driving at slower speeds also increases a drivers ability to avoid hazards such as kangaroos (or deer or moose for that matter), which clearly have no road sense whatsoever. In fact, sometimes I think kangaroos deliberately wait until they see cars and trucks approaching before they attempt to bound across four lanes of interstate highway! Not only that, but they insist on crossing highways often just before dawn, or at dusk when the available light makes it even harder to see them.

The downside of driving a little slower than the speed limit is the grinding of teeth you can almost hear from fellow road users who are lined up behind you. Thankfully, most Australian interstate highways offer long straight stretches of road, which makes it reasonably easy and safe for other drivers to get around the slower travelers like me.

To get back on theme, I think there is lot to be said for taking the slow road; for taking time to smell the roses; for taking the road less travelled – and other well worn clich├ęs.

In the words of the great American folk singer Woody Guthrie: Take it easy – but take it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hanging Rock, Victoria

~ Until 1975, Hanging Rock was a volcanic rock formation unknown to most people outside of Victoria. All that changed when the Australian film director, Peter Weir, turned Joan Lindsay’s book, Picnic at Hanging Rock into one of the finest feature films in modern Australian cinema.

The book and the film, tell the story of the disappearance of several female students and a teacher from an exclusive girls boarding school who visit Hanging Rock for a school picnic on St. Valentine’s Day, in 1900.

In Australia, the film made stars of Helen Morse, Jacki Weaver, Anne-Louise Lambert, and Peter Weir in particular, although only Peter Weir went on to real international fame. Almost all the actors in the film have spent their subsequent careers acting in Australian television dramas. Few if any, went on to have an international movie career of any real substance.

All this is by way of an extended introduction to explain my second visit to Hanging Rock a couple of days ago. To say Picnic at Hanging Rock put the volcanic outcrop on the map, is an obvious understatement. Anyone who has seen the movie, should make a point of visiting Hanging Rock if they are passing through the Mt Macedon area, or if they have the opportunity during their stay in Melbourne.

Since Hanging Rock is about an hour’s drive from my Melbourne house sitting address, it was a no brainer for me to jump in my car and head out of town for the short drive to the Rock and to reacquaint myself with the mystery and majesty of this area.

There are essentially two main walking paths: one going around the base of the Hanging Rock (a distance of 1.8 kilometres), and the other much more strenuous (though shorter) walk leading up to the summit.

Both paths can be traversed over a couple of hours, depending on how fit and active you are feeling. For those visitors who enjoy a bit of solitude, I recommend the easy walk around the base of Hanging Rock. I encountered only two other people on my walk, and was lucky enough to spot a group of kangaroos resting quietly in the shade of some eucalypts at the base of the Rock. This, in addition to the Kookaburra’s and Cockatoo’s calling overhead, and the abundance of butterfly’s, made it a very pleasant walk.

Since I was there anyway, I also followed the path to the summit of Hanging Rock. There are two paths to select from. One built using steps, and the other following a smooth asphalt covered path. Both paths meet towards the top of the Rock, where you can continue to the summit. The summit climb showed me just how unfit I have become, and left me puffing and blowing and gasping for air at one point. Note to self: get out and exercise more, Jim!

Because Hanging Rock is a little off the beaten track, it is not exactly crawling with visitors – or at least it wasn’t when I visited in the middle of the week. Not that I’m complaining. However, if you are able to time your visit to coincide with some of the special events that take place at Hanging Rock, you might like to consider these. Annual events include The Age Harvest Picnic, car events, annual picnic horse races on New Years Day and Australia Day, and an annual outdoor screening of Picnic at Hanging Rock itself, among other events.

Hanging Rock Information
Open every day except Christmas Day
Hours: 9.00am – 5.00pm
Fees: $10.00 per car
Phone: Ranger 0418 373 032
Office Hours (03) 5421 1469

Image: Hanging Rock, Victoria
Camera: Apple iPhone 3G
Photographer: Jim Lesses

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