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Over the years, RM and I have been to Moonlight Cinema many times together – as friends, as friends-dating-other-people, as kinda-a-bit-more-than-friends and as boyfriend-girlfriend. It holds a special place in both of our memories of Melbourne, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d proposed on a picnic rug at Breakfast At Tiffany’s (a sure bet to screen every year).

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Moonlight Cinema has certainly grown up from our initial experiences – now you get all of your food and drinks at the venue, rent bean beds and blankets or go for the luxury experience of Gold Grass with wine and a bean bag reserved in a prime location. However, we still like to keep it simple – we bring a picnic rug, pillows, a sleeping bag (no matter how hot it is during the day, it will be guaranteed to freeze at the cinema), a picnic of breads, dips, antipasto and sweets and an absolute essential – bug spray! Bathed in the sunset, listening to the twittering birds and watching the screen light up on the gentle slope of the Royal Botanic Gardens is a pretty special movie-going experience.

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Our first Moonlight Cinema screening this year was Ponyo, the latest animation from Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. Sosuke is a five year old boy who lives with his mother Lisa by the ocean. One day, he finds a beautiful goldfish trapped in a glass jar and names her Ponyo and they fall in love. However, Ponyo is the daughter of a wizard of the ocean and a giant sea goddess, so when she wants to use her magical powers to become human and be with Sosuke on land, the world becomes imbalanced, leading to a disastrous tsunami that tries to draw Ponyo back into the sea. After an important test of Sosuke’s love, Ponyo and Sosuke are reunited as a little boy and little girl.

Ponyo is an all together cuter, sweeter and better version of The Little Mermaid.The dubbed English dialogue is a bit stilted at times (I think the original Japanese version would have been better) but the characters are drawn with such adorable round eyes and delightful human characteristics that you could hear the crowd go ‘awwww’ at regular intervals. Just don’t show this film to your kids – they might never want to eat fish again.