Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Delighted

We moved into our house 19 months ago, and until yesterday, I had not decorated the library at all.  I know exactly what I want to do in there, but the time and means had been lacking for a while.  But encouraged by how well the border in my bathroom turned out, I decided to find an Etsy shop that makes decals and get a custom-made one for the library.  I settled on a shop called A Lasting Expression, and they worked with me to find just the right script and size.  

Last night, I put it up, and once again... don't do this sort of thing with small people around to distract you.  My first attempt was horribly crooked!  And that despite careful measuring and everything.  Just too many distractions.  But because I had only stuck it to the wall a little, not smoothed over the whole thing and pressed it down, I was able to peel it back off, and then Cowboy saved my bacon by being able to hold the whole giant, sticky sheet while I re-measured and re-marked where it should go.  And the second time, it worked perfectly!  

So here it is, the first decoration in the library:


I'm going to be doing this whole Shakespeare theme in there, and when I get more things put up, I'll probably post about that here too.  The wall opposite this one will have two framed Hamlet-related items, and the other bare spots will get other nifty Shakespeare things that I already have.  Just need to get them framed!  But this is a good start.

I paid for this with money I made from my own Etsy shop, Huggermugger.  Woo!

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Laura" (1944)

This is my favorite Dana Andrews movie.  But I haven't watched it for several years, and my husband had never really seen it, so we watched it together last night.

Homicide detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) finds himself falling in love with Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) while he investigates her murder.  And if that sounds a little creepy and disturbing, well, it isn't really.  Everyone from Laura's mentor (Clifton Webb), to her fiance (Vincent Price), to her maid (Dorothy Adams) describes Laura as being sweet, wonderful, kind, intelligent, charming, and beautiful.  The last is confirmed by Laura's portrait in her apartment, which McPherson gets a wee bit obsessed with.  But Andrews makes McPherson so sympathetic, so believable and upright and nice himself that you just feel really sorry for him because he can't ever meet this paragon of womanhood and have a chance of wooing her himself.

(One quick note, because I remember my s-i-l being confused by this the first time we watched this:  Dana Andrews is the guy and Gene Tierney is the girl.  Got it?)

McPherson studying Laura's portrait
Laura is often categorized as being film noir, but I don't really feel like it fits in that genre.  For one thing, Laura Hunt isn't really a femme fatale, luring men to their doom.  The visual style isn't quite off-kilter enough to make it noir either, though it does have some nice chiaroscuro lighting in a few shots.  It does have a murder and a detective, and I suppose you can say that McPherson is morally questionable since he falls in love with the memory of a dead woman.  But I think that, overall, Laura is just not pessimistic enough for me to feel like it's really noir.  It lacks the ambivalent or tragic ending.  I think if it had kept going the way it was, with Mark getting more and more obsessed with Laura, then it could have gotten really dark, and might have been a more fascinating movie.  But it doesn't, and know what?  I love it anyway.

Vincent Price, Clifton Webb, and Dana Andrews
Okay, so McPherson spends the first 40 minutes of the film interviewing Laura's mentor, fiance, and cousin.  He clearly suspects both the mentor and fiance of murdering Laura.  A lot of that time is spent in flashbacks while one person or another describes how they met Laura and how wonderful she was, why they couldn't possibly have killed her, etc.

One evening, McPherson goes to Laura's apartment.  He gets comfortable, clearly intending to spend a good bit of time investigating.  Or something.

A cigarette, a loose tie, a pretty girl... what more could you need?
This is my favorite scene in the whole movie.  Andrews is amazing here.  He wanders around, tapping a packet of letters against one hand, not saying a single word for minutes on end.  He peers into her closet, opens and closes doors, and tries to figure out just why he's there anyway.  Eventually, he pours himself a stiff drink.

Can't get away from her, can he?
Finally, he settles down in a chair and falls asleep.

So happy together?
I can't say any more here without totally spoiling things, and I really don't want to do that in case anyone reading this hasn't seen the movie and intends to.

This is the expression he makes when the Big Plot Twist arrives.  You will too.

Old-Fashioned Charm

The costumes in this are very nice, as you've seen above.  Nobody, but nobody wears a suit or a trench coat like Dana Andrews.  Or a fedora.

Dana Andrews interrogating Vincent Price
Look at that guy!  It's like they invented these clothes just for him.  Vincent doesn't look half bad here himself, but when he stands up, he looks like he bought his clothes at a second-hand store.  Dana looks like he was born in his.  Yum.

Okay, but enough about Dana.  Not that there could ever really be enough about him, but I do need to show you some of Laura's outfits.  Remember, we get to see a lot of her in all those flashbacks I mentioned earlier.  Here's my second-favorite of her dresses:

Gene Tierney as Laura Hunt
And I approve of this hat:


But this hat is dopey and makes her look like a wet bunny, IMHO:


Isn't her hair lovely?  I wish I could get mine to do that.  I'd have to lop off like 3 feet of it, but hey:


And finally, this is my favorite of her ensembles.  It's simple and soft and feminine, lacking those big shoulder pads and strict corsets you see in the '40s so much.


Finally, is this movie family-friendly?  Depends on the family.  We never see the corpse, but McPherson says she was shot in the face with a shotgun, which can conjure up a pretty icky image if you have a powerful imagination.  Also, the corpse was clad in a negligee, and it's implied that she had been engaging in illicit activities with a man prior to her death, but nothing is every directly said, so innocent young minds wouldn't suspect anything I don't think.  There is also one kiss, and there is another shooting at the end that is pretty suspenseful, but there's no blood shown.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"The Man with the Twisted Lip" (1986)

Another of the excellent Granada Television versions of a classic Sherlock Homes story.  This was never one of my favorite stories, though it's very memorable.  I like it okay, just doesn't make my top ten.  Anyway, in it, a friend of Watson's asks him to find her husband, an opium addict who's been gone for 48 hours.  Watson intrepidly walks straight into a very nasty neighborhood at night (one hopes he took his service revolver with him!) and finds the man in question in an opium den.  He also finds Holmes, who is in disguise and on a case, not adding opium to his addictions.

Holmes has been hired by Mrs. St. Clair (Eleanor David), a completely different wife, to find Neville St. Clair (Clive Francis), a completely different husband.  This one disappeared before his wife's eyes in that same sketchy part of town, and she suspects he was murdered.  The prime suspect in this murder is a well-known London beggar, the titular man with the twisted lip.

I thought his makeup was pretty cool, looking just amateurish enough to be believable for the period.

The Man with the Twisted Lip
And better than the obviously putty nose that Holmes was sporting in the opium den.

The Man with the Putty Nose And Ugly Facial Hair
I really loved Mrs. St. Clair.  She was strong and not given to hysterics, and I think Holmes himself was rather impressed by her.

Mrs. St. Clair handing a piece of evidence to Holmes.

Old-Fashioned Charm

Holmes and Watson are in their usual attire for most of the story.  Grey suits, white shirts, nothing special.

Holmes and Watson being welcomed by Mrs. St. Clair.
But at one point, they spend the night at the St. Clair house, and Watson wanders around in his night shirt and overcoat, with bare feet, and he is extremely cute.

Watson is all ready for bed when Holmes decides to fill the room with smog.

Also, Mrs. St. Clair had some lovely clothing, especially this cream ensemble.

"Goodbye, my darling, I'm off to a day of intrigue and mystery... I mean, shopping..."
The cream ensemble and her splendid hat.
What she wears at home of an evening when entertaining strangers.
Is this episode family-friendly?  I'd say yes.  There's implied and assumed violence, but you see nothing.  The man and his twisted lip are ugly and creepy, and there's the whole thing about opium addiction.  The visit to the opium den is fraught with tension and some creepy addicts, so it's not like this is a romp in the garden with the butterflies, but there's nothing particularly objectionable.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Jack the Giant Slayer" (2013)


I went to see Jack the Giant Slayer over the weekend, on Deborah Koren's recommendation.  I'm so glad I went!  It's a joyous romp, just the sort of adventure I needed.

You know the basic story:  Jack (Nicholas Hoult) trades a horse for some magic beans that grow an enormous beanstalk that leads to... giants!  This version throws in a princess named Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), a conniving courtier named Roderick (Stanley Tucci), and the leader of the royal guard or something, Elmont (ever-effervescent Ewan McGregor).  And there's not just one giant, there's a whole world of giants up in the clouds, just waiting to eat humans and take over the earth and generally behave like enormous fourteen-year-old boys.

Elmont, Isabella, and Jack
Princess Isabelle winds up in the giant world accidentally, so Roderick, Elmont, and Jack (and a few other guys) climb up the beanstalk to rescue her.  All manner of mayhem ensues.  Great fun!  Some of it does pander to the tweenage boy element, though (a couple of the giants are clearly related to the troll king from The Hobbit).

Jack was sweet and Isabelle was spunky, but it was Elmont that I rooted for through the whole movie.  First of all, there's something so irrepressible, so buoyant about Ewan McGregor that I have loved him from the first movie I saw him in (which was probably Emma).  Actually, no, my fascination with him dates back farther than that -- I read a review of Trainspotting (1996) in my dad's Time or Newsweek when it came out, and there was this picture of him drinking out of a bottle and laughing, and this one of him lying across a railroad track with his head on one track and his feet on the other, and I went, "Who IS this guy?  He looks so happy, and then he's got his head on a train track?  What?"  I didn't see Emma until it came to video, so probably a year or so later.  (Never have seen Trainspotting, and don't intend to.)

Anyway!  Elmont!  He spends the majority of the movie behaving as if he's actually the hero of the whole story.  Since he's head of the royal guard or something, he's in charge of the rescue mission, and goes about giving orders and engaging in manly acts of derring-do with a hilarious mixture of swagger and aplomb.

Helmet hair AND a dandy mustache.
But once more, insane hair for Ewan McGregor!  And a silly mustache with cute little twists on the ends.  He pulls the look off, just like he did the Padawan braid-and-buzz for A Phantom Menace and the pink cotton candy for Emma.  But it's very silly and made me giggle.  Especially since he very clearly doesn't care that it's silly.  I think it's supposed to be a really bad case of helmet hair, as he does get it all smooth and under control once in a while.

It can be tamed!
Random things I loved about this movie:
  • The princess doesn't do something dumb that causes all this trouble.  
  • The giants kind of had this Easter Island Head look, which was awesome.
  • The king chose to do his kingly duty when I was convinced he would take the easy route.  I cheered.
  • Every single actor was clearly having bushel-loads of fun.
  • Warwick Davis!  I was so surprised, and he was awesome as usual.
I really can't wait for my kids to be old enough to see this, as I think it will become a family favorite.

Old-Fashioned Charm


I say that this counts as a period drama because at the end, they posit that it was occurring in an early England.  Also, the costumes were very fun.  Obviously, this is a fantasy, so you get some unreal things like golden armor for the royalty.  And Elmont's armor is very natty, don't you think?  But commoners like Jack have grubby, work-ready clothes in plain colors that I found very effective.


Is this movie family-friendly?  Fairly.  There are a handful of bad words.  Several people get their heads literally bitten off, though that's usually at a distance.  There's very little blood or gore, though there's a lot of fantasy-style violence.  And, like I mentioned, some juvenile humor involving nasal mucous and such.  There are a couple of pretty chaste kisses too.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Liebster Award

"Liebster" is German for "beloved."  The Liebster Award, then, is something a beloved blog wins-- it started back in 2010, and has been rolling around the blogosphere ever since.  And Xenia of Collar City Brownstone has awarded the Liebster to this blog :-)  Thank you, Xenia!  I am honored!


As part of this award, I must needs answer 11 questions she set forth, and then pass this award along to five other blogs, and pose 11 questions for them to answer.

Here are Xenia's questions and my answers:

1). To date, what has been the best time of your life and why? 

Hmm.  I look back on my college years with great fondness, as I made some wonderful friends there, and we had a lot of fun.

2). Describe your dream life. 

Pretty much my life right now -- loving husband, three great kids, a house with a yard, and enough money that we don't have to worry.  If I could add one thing, it would be someone to come clean my house once a month, as I really don't like to clean.

3). What book do you treasure most and would never loan out to anyone? Why? 

Hmm.  That's tough!  Probably my signed copy of The Beekeeper's Apprentice.  Because Laurie R. King signed it for me when I got to hear her speak a few years ago.

4). When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A cowboy.  (But you're assuming I've grown up...)

5). Want country would you most want to relocate to? 

Probably Canada.  I'm a nice person, I like cold weather... I'd fit right in!  ;-)

6). Are you a city gal, country gal or must be near a beach? 

I'm a small town girl stuck living in a city.

7). What is special about you? 

Jesus loves me!

8). What is your all time favorite movie? 

The Man from Snowy River (1982).  I've loved it since I saw it in the theater when I was 2 or 3.

9). What is your favorite song? 

"Mack the Knife," any performance by Bobby Darin.  Here's an early one, where he's super young and super cute:



10). Do you prefer Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy?

I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me.

Actually, when I read the book, sometimes I envision one of them, and sometimes the other.  And sometimes a made-up person in my head!

11). Would a trip to see the ancient city of Petra interest you or do you find touring boring?

I love history and travel!  So it would definitely interest me.

Okay, I now award this to 5 other blogs who have fewer than 200 followers.  I've chosen 5 blogs that have also been around for only a year or so, and that I would like to encourage to keep blogging.  I really enjoy what they have to say, and I would like to see them reach a wider audience.  They are:

Clothes of the Past

Flowers of Quiet Happiness

How to Watch a Movie

A Lady in Time

Whimsey Keith

And here are the 11 questions I would like them to answer:

1.  If you got to be any fictional character for a day, who would you like to be?  And why?
2.  What was your favorite book as a child?
3.  What is your favorite book now?
4.  If you could change your name, what would you pick?
5.  If you could marry any fictional character, who would you like to spend your life with?
6.  What is your least-favorite color?
7.  What animal do you pick to ride on the merry-go-round?
8.  Do you have any recurring dreams?  Please share, if you're comfortable doing so.
9.  Do you prefer The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter?  Or both?  Or neither?
10.  Who is your favorite superhero?
11.  What song is running through your head today?

To those recipients, I say:  if you feel like participating, please answer those questions on your blog, link back to this blog in the post, and then pass the award along to five other blogs (that have fewer than 200 followers), and ask 11 questions of your own.

Friday, March 08, 2013

We Have a Winner!


And the winner of the giveaway for season one of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is...  Maddie Rose!!!

There were 8 qualifying entries, and I used random.org's number generator to pick the winner.
Congratulations, Maddie!  You have until Sunday to email your shipping address to me so I can send it to you.  If you haven't gotten back to me by then, I'll choose a new winner.

Thanks for playing, everyone!  I'm hoping to do another giveaway soon -- maybe clean out my movie collection a little and offer some titles up for grabs, for instance :-)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

"Pride & Prejudice" (2005)

It has come to my attention, over the last year or so, that there are a lot of people who hate this movie.  I am not one of them.  More on that at the end of this post.

I first saw this version in 2006 when it had come to DVD.  I liked it all right.  The second time I watched it was last year, when I was rereading the book for the first time in many years.  I liked it very well indeed.  And this, my third time through, I liked it immensely.  I'm not going to recap the story here, though if you don't know what it's about, I included a brief summary in my review of the book here.

There are a lot of little reasons why this movie resonates with me.  It feels very real, very grounded, and makes me feel as if I'm taking a trip into that time period, not just watching a movie.  This Longbourne estate has pigs, chickens, a kitchen, mud, dust motes, a childhood swing, sagging book shelves, and servants who speak and sing and hum and are not invisible.  Daily life is important here, in all its ordinariness.

And this movie is filled with life!  The dances are vibrant and enthusiastic -- I want to join in with the fun and get swept away by the sheer energy that almost bursts my TV set.  There are slower, more refined dances too, especially during the dance at Netherfield, but those are not the only sorts of dances depicted.  These people do not live in a stuffy, stodgy world where elegance and refinement are the end-all, be-all of existence -- they are enjoying life unabashedly.  Caroline Bingley can look down her nose at so much joy all she wants -- that's her loss.  (If you want a taste of the vitality of this movie, go here to watch the Meryton Assembly scene on YouTube.)

In fact, when Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) first arrives, he looks more than a little wistful at not feeling comfortable joining in the festivities.  I think what I especially like about this Mr. Darcy is that he doesn't come off as an unpleasant snob so much as a man accustomed to his own particular way of life.  He brings out the Darcy who, in the book says he only likes to dance with partners he is particularly acquainted with, and is not blessed with the knack of making easy conversation with strangers.  This Mr. Darcy, because of his wealth and family connections, is showered with the attention of strangers wherever he goes when he would probably rather just sit comfortably with a friend or two.  He quite engages my sympathy and interest from the first.

Mr. Darcy being proud, but not undeservedly so.
But I'm neglecting Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley), and that won't do!  This Lizzy is also fill of life, sparkling with youth and energy.  Whatever she does, she does wholeheartedly, whether it's walking to see her ailing sister, reading a book, swinging in circles, or cutting a verbal sparring partner down to size with her keen sarcasm.  It is no surprise that retiring Mr. Darcy would be captivated by her.

Lizzy loves life!
And captivated he clearly is, almost from the first.  In the book, of course, he begins by admiring her "fine eyes," and in this, his lingering glances speak eloquently of his interest.

Another pair of fine eyes!
Okay, time to talk about the rest of the cast just a bit.  I'm working on a comparison of the casts of this and the 1995 version, so I'll save most of my thoughts for that, lest this post be 19 pages long.  I'll just mention three that I particularly like.

First, Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet.  I love the way he's always dressed sort of sloppily, as if even when getting dressed he can't keep his mind from wandering to other things.  It really brings out his almost absent-minded ways, definitely the fact that he's careless of his surroundings, his station in life, and his family.  Not because he doesn't care, but because he's always thinking of other things.

Mr. Bennet at breakfast

I also really like Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet.  She is exactly the Jane I imagine in the book -- beautiful, but not in a showy way, and so sweet and kind.  There is no wonder that Mr. Bingley falls in love with her -- really, it's amazing there aren't more men chasing her.  Who wouldn't want to marry Jane?

Can't you tell how sweet and kind she is just by looking at her?

And then there's the incomparable Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  Is there anyone who can deliver caustic condescension like Dame Judi?  It's a mark of Lizzy's strong spirit that she doesn't quail before Lady Catherine, especially when she's angry.  I would probably cry, but Lizzy stands straight and firm, unabashed.  Good for you, Lizzy!

Lady Catherine in all her splendor
But what I like best about this movie is how accessible it is, how friendly and welcoming.  If you have never read a Jane Austen book in your life, you will still understand this movie perfectly well (unlike the 1995 Persuasion, ahem).  It draws viewers in, saying, "Come and meet some fascinating people, make friends, fall in love if you like."  It doesn't demand that its viewers be Austen enthusiasts already, and by so doing, it can give newcomers an appreciation of that world and those characters, as well as the brilliant writer who created them.

I have a friend who has never read a Jane Austen book.  She enjoyed this movie so much, she asked me to recommend an Austen novel for her to read, something I don't know that she would have seriously considered if not for this movie.  I can give it no higher recommendation than that.


Okay, now for the costumes.  Like much of the scenery and set dressing, these costumes feel very lived-in and realistic to me.

Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth, and Jane at the Meryton Assembly
Lizzy tends to wear plain dresses, which highlights her direct personality.  She also wears what appears to be one of her father's old coats, which I absolutely love -- it shows the connection between the two characters in such a simple, direct way.

Lizzy in her father's coat
She does wear one dress a couple times that I really don't like  -- it seems out of place, too modern.  I think it's the open-necked, button-down shirt that really throws it off, for me.

This looks more like something from The Sound of Music.
I don't really care for the long, straggly bangs that several of the female characters have, particularly Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas, but I don't know enough about hairstyles of the Regency era to judge whether they're un-period or just different from what I've seen in other movies. 

Kelly Reilly as Caroline Bingley
I said at the beginning that I would address a few of the things I've read in the blogosphere, some of them so spiteful and mean-spirited that they're worthy of Caroline Bingley.  I'm not going to name names or link to any of the other reviews, as I don't want to pick fights.  But a few things get criticized over and over, so I'll just talk about a couple of those more common complaints.

First, I'm kind of amused by how many people get riled up by the fact that this not only does not include every single scene from the book, but it also does not take every line of dialog straight from the page.  This is called an adaptation, right?  Merriam-Webster.com defines the word "adaptation" to mean "a composition rewritten into a new form."  Yeah, not going to be exactly the same as the book in every particular.  You want the book, read the book!  To me, this movie captures both the story and the characters, and that is what I look for in the movie version of any story.  Maybe I am just more accustomed to this idea than some people because I watch so many versions of Hamlet, and each one is cut a bit differently, yet most still manage to convey the story and portray the characters faithfully.

Okay, second, there seem to be a lot of people hating the "botched proposal scene."  It's true that they shift the action from the Collins' home to outside in a rain storm, and it's true that they changed some of the dialog (see the above definition of an "adaptation").  But this is actually the scene that made me sit up and start liking this version the first time I saw it.  This is partly because I have a thing for wet men, and partly because it's so brilliantly acted.  Both Macfadyen and Knightley step all over each other's lines, giving their heated words the feel of an actual argument.  In the book, Lizzy is infuriated by his proposal, and Darcy is angered by her refusal, so I don't see how this can be viewed as out of keeping with the spirit of the scene.  In fact, it shows how deeply both characters feel.

Can't you see he loves her most ardently?
People also seem to be incensed by the fact that Darcy and Lizzy nearly kiss at the end of the scene.  Why?  Darcy loves her, most ardently, as he here proclaims.  We know by his later actions that Lizzy's refusal does not cause him to stop loving her.  And in my admittedly limited experience (having been married a mere ten years to the first man I ever really dated), anger and attraction can be pretty closely linked.  The arousal of any strong emotion brings other emotions to the surface more readily, I've found.  I suppose people might find it improper that Darcy and Lizzy would be tempted to kiss when they are not only not married, but not even engaged, and I admit that in that era, such a kiss would likely be frowned on.  But they don't actually kiss, so I don't see the point of condemning them for impropriety.

Finally, I have read several blogs that say that anyone who likes this movie at all is clearly not a true Jane Austen fan.  Er... what?  Did Jane Austen set down rules saying what constitutes being a fan of her work?  Or does someone else have the right to make such rules?  Come on, that's ridiculous.  A "true" fan of Jane Austen is someone who enjoys and appreciates her work, for whatever reason.  I wouldn't even address this except that I think making proclamations like that is a good way to alienate people who might just be discovering the world of Jane Austen.  If someone likes this movie, and then reads that if they like it, they can't be "true" fans of her writing, mightn't that make them give up and never actually read her novels?  To me, that would be really sad, so shame on people who think they can determine which movie versions others should and should not like.  Everyone has the right to like or dislike whatever movie they want!

Anyway, this movie has nothing really objectionable in it, though of course Lydia running off with Wickham is quite scandalous, and some of the dresses do show off a good deal of their wearers' assets.


This is also my third entry for the Pride and Prejudice Biecentenary Challenge on Austenprose.com.  My previous entries are here and here on my book review blog.

I leave you with this shot of Mr. Darcy striding through the morning fog to declare that Elizabeth has bewitched him, body and soul.  Not quite how it goes in the book, but delicious nonetheless.

A long coat is nearly as good as a cape, to be honest.  Yowza.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Monday Movie Quote Link Up 1

Sunshine and Shadows has started a fun new series:  Monday Movie Quote Link-Ups!  And since I endlessly quote movies, how can I help but join in?

My quote for today comes from my favorite movie of all time, The Man from Snowy River (1982).



"What's the first thing you do when a horse bucks you off?"
"You don't let him beat you, you get straight back on."

That's an exchange from expert drover Clancy to young horseman Jim Craig.  Jim has been kicked off the Harrison homestead on suspicion of stealing a valuable horse, and this is Clancy's way of telling him he needs to stop avoiding the problem and go prove he's innocent.  This bit of advice has stood me well over the years -- my dad even quoted it to me when I broke my arm rollerskating at the age of 12 and said I would never skate again.

Join the link up here!