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Kiwi gal-pals explore love outside the norm in new Netflix comedy



Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, and Ana Scotney in “The Breaker Upperers” (Image courtesy Piki Films, Miss Conception Films, and Netflix).

Jackie van Beek got the idea for “The Breaker Upperers” as she was standing in her kitchen making a cup of coffee.

The New Zealand comedian was reflecting on conversations she’d had with friends about the difficulties of ending a relationship that’s not working anymore.

“I mean we’ve all been in relationships that we know need to end,” she says, “but it’s often hard to muster the energy or courage to call it quits.  Breaking up with people isn’t fun.”

The thought occurred to her that there should be a service where people could pay someone else to break up their relationships, and the concept intrigued her so much that she took it to friend and fellow comedian, Madeleine Sami; the pair was soon working on creating a script for a film comedy about two women who offer just such a service.

On Friday, February 15 – the day after Valentine’s Day, appropriately (or is it ironically?) enough – the resulting movie dropped on Netflix.

In it, Van Beek and Sami portray Jen and Mel, respectively, two women who became fast friends after being two-timed by the same man.  Now, fifteen years later, they are in their thirties and have developed a dysfunctional, codependent relationship together while operating a booming business breaking up other couples for cash.  They keep their cynicism alive by not getting emotionally involved with anybody else — but when an old victim comes back into their lives, Mel finds herself developing a conscience, and their friendship is put to the test.

Although they wanted their movie to be funny, the two creators weren’t just going for laughs.  In the film’s press release, they explain, “In many ways, we feel this film gives us a voice in the ongoing conversation about ‘what is love?’ and ‘what do women want?’.”

“Although we are both die-hard fans of the rom-com genre,” the statement continues, “we have grown tired of being constantly told that a reproductive heterosexual relationship is the answer to happiness. We look around our community and see so much love flying about in so many different forms that we want to celebrate love that defies this old-fashioned concept.”

To this end, they’ve made a film acknowledging that love can be found in the strangest places.  “The Breaker Upperers” paints a realistic world where people are hunting out special connections and navigating their way through relationships as best they can.  The friendship between Mel and Jen is platonic – though Mel is bisexual – but even so, it’s really the biggest love story in the film.

“I just loved the idea that two women whose strongest relationship is their friendship with each other,” says Sami. “Society puts on the expectation that we must all take a certain path, but I hope that people come to the film and see that there are other paths to happiness, and that doesn’t have to be with a man and kids.”

Despite their desire to promote non-traditional relationships, Van Beek and Sami say they made “The Breaker Upperers” to be pure escapism and silliness.

Both women have the qualifications for that.  Sami created, co-wrote, and starred in two seasons of the critically acclaimed New Zealand TV comedy “Super City,” and directed the second season of the hit sketch comedy series, “Funny Girls.”  Van Beek is an award-winning short filmmaker and also an actress best known for her role in the Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s breakout hit, “What We Do in the Shadows” – a “mockumentary” about modern-day vampire roommates in which Sami also appeared.

Waititi, of course, has gone on to bigger success with Marvel Studios as the director of “Thor: Ragnorak,” largely due to the quirky comedic sensibilities he displayed in earlier films like “Shadows” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”  He’s a friend to the two ladies behind “The Breaker Upperers” (he’s one of the film’s Executive Producers, along with Kiwi arts patron Sir James Wallace), but he’s also an inspiration.

“We were halfway through the writing process,” says Sami, “and we were stuck with the question, who do we get to direct this?  We’d seen Jermaine and Taika direct and star in ‘Shadows’ and thought ‘we can do that too.’”

The script was developed through a series of workshops with Waititi and Carthew Neal’s company Piki Films; their film shares a similar tone to Waititi’s signature works – wacky, astute, oddball, and as hilarious as it is full of heart.

Besides the two stars, “The Breaker Upperers” features actor James Rolleston (who gained fame as the star of “Boy,” another Waititi film), Australian actress Celia Pacquola, and actress Ana Scotney – a recent graduate of the prestigious Toi Whakaari Drama School who Van Beek and Sami call “a real find.”

The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, followed by a domestic release in New Zealand in May 2018.  Now, Netflix is offering it to wider audiences in the U.S., in hopes it will be embraced by American viewers who can relate to its two offbeat heroines.

Van Beek thinks the chances are good that they will.  As she puts it, “There is a bit of Jen and Mel in all of us.”

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Celebrity News

British Olympian Tom Daley knits his way to success with a new enterprise

A journey for me that started when I first picked up my knitting needles- fast forward 18 months & I’m so proud to introduce these kits



Photo courtesy of madewithlovebytomdaley Instagram

LONDON – During the entire course of the Olympic games in Tokyo 2020 this past summer, audiences following the diving competitions were certain to see British Olympian Tom Daley quietly and intently focused in-between matches- on his knitting.

The Gold medalist diving champion only picked up his first set of knitting needles in March of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic first spread across the globe, strangling normal daily routines in its deadly grip.

Now, the 27-year-old British athlete has launched a company to encourage others to take up the hobby.

Photo courtesy of madewithlovebytomdaley Instagram

“It’s been a journey for me that started when I first picked up my knitting needles in March 2020. Fast forward 18 months and I’m so proud to introduce these kits to you all so that you can experience the joy I found learning to knit,” Daley said on his newly launched website.

“I designed these knit kits to help encourage you to pick up those needles, learn the basics, and fall in love with knitting at the same time – all whilst creating something to show off or pass on.

Ready? Pick up your needles, learn the basics and let’s have some fun!”


The website offers various kits for beginners, intermediate and experienced knitting and crocheting enthusiasts. One of the kits, a winter warmer hat already sold out but the collection ncludes a vest, scarves, cardigans, jumpers, stockings, and a blanket.

Kits include needles, biodegradable yarn made of Merino wool, and knitting patterns. 

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Online Culture

Critics call gay Santa ad ‘creepy’ accusing it of ‘sexualizing’ Christmas

The ad was posted to Youtube on November 22 to pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Norway’s decision to decriminalize homosexuality 



Courtesy of Norway’s postal service, Posten Norge

OSLO – A Norwegian Christmas ad for Norway’s postal service, Posten Norge, that depicts a gay Santa struggling to balance his Christmas day duties and a male love interest has sparked an online debate with critics saying it “sexualizes” the holiday figure. 

The ad, titled “When Harry met Santa,” shows a burgeoning romance between Santa and Harry that starts when the two meet one Christmas Eve. As leaves the house through the chimney that night, fireworks fill the night sky. 

Over the years, the two continue to see each other on Christmas Eve and fall in love. Frustrated with only getting to see his lover once a year, Harry pens a letter to Santa that says, “Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is you.”

At the end of the nearly 4-minute ad, Santa and his lover engage in a seconds-long kiss. During their embrace, the camera pans out and a message that reads, “In 2022, Norway marks 50 years of being able to love who we want,” appears. 

The ad, posted to Youtube on November 22 to pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Norway’s decision to decriminalize homosexuality, has garnered over 1 million views. 

“In addition to showing the flexibility of our services, we want to put it in a socially relevant setting,” Posten Norge said in a statement, according to Reuters

“Everyone should feel welcome, seen, heard, and included. This year’s Christmas ad embraces this,” it said.

Many have responded positively to the ad. 

Canadian Member of Parliament Randall Garrison called it “strong and moving,” saying the ad caused him to break his “no Xmas before December rule.”

Former U.S. ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford tweeted: “Oh man I love Scandinavia. Imagine if the US Post Office put out an ad like this.”

Others have voiced issues with the ad, calling it “creepy” and arguing that it “sexualizes” Santa.

English journalist Dawn Neesom, a columnist for the Daily Star, said as much on TalkRadio with James Max. 

“This is an advert for the Norwegian postal service celebrating 50 years of being able to love who you want. However, they have sexualized Santa,” Neesom said.

Max interrupted her, saying, “No they haven’t sexualized Santa, this is a nonsense and you are jumping on a tabloid bandwagon. If Santa came in and kissed Mrs. Claus, you wouldn’t say a word.”

Neesom pushed back and maintained her point, adding that it was different because Santa married Mrs. Claus. She also argued that Harry was cheating on his spouse, but there is no indication in the ad that he has one. 

Commentator Melanie Blake made a similar argument, tweeting: “If #Santa is gay these days then good for him but should we be seeing him getting off with anyone in Christmas adverts?! Seems a bit of an odd concept to me – if he was snogging a woman, it’s still sexualising a figure that’s mainly around for children which looks creepy to me.”

In response to such comments, the Independent published an article that said, “Really? I mean … really?! Now, I know that woke-bashing has become de rigueur, and that, after the backlashes against the #MeToo and BLM campaigns, we’re supposed to protect our precious and delicate cultural icons from the clutches of the baying woke mob – but are we really saying that the heartwarming romance between Harry and Santa is a woke step too far? Has Posten sexualised Santa? Oh, go and stuff your face with a selection box and give it a rest!”

It continued: “The truth is that Christmas and Santa have been sexualised for years already, and few people have batted an eye.”

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Broadway gathers to honor Sondheim in Times Square

They were gathered to pay homage to legendary Tony, Academy Award, and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim



Broadway gathers to honor Stephen Sondheim (Screenshot via YouTube)

NEW YORK – Light snow flurries swirled around the stars of theatre and stage of New York City’s ‘Great White Way’ as they gathered Sunday in Times Square- members of every Broadway company assembled singing in a powerful chorus “Sunday,” the powerfully emotional act one finale to “Sunday in the Park with George.”

They were gathered to pay homage to legendary Tony, Academy Award, and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. That piece being performed had garnered Sondheim a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985.

Broadway’s best were joined by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban, Kathryn Gallagher and Lauren Patton at ‘Sunday’ Performance in Times Square.

The man who was heralded as Broadway and theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century died at 91 Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

“This felt like church,” Bareilles told Variety after the performance on Sunday. “In his remembrance, we did what theater does best. We sang and raised our voices and came together in community.” 

Variety also noted that during the celebration, Miranda offered a sermon of sorts. Foregoing a speech, he opened Sondheim’s “Look I Made A Hat,” an annotated anthology of the composer’s lyrics, and read from a few passages before the crowd.

“Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George memorial for Stephen Sondheim

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