Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How'd I Do with My Autumn To-Do List 2016?

November is basically over and my Christmas Fever is in full swing, so I am just going to go ahead and say that autumn is over for me, which means it's time to see how I did with the tasks I appointed myself back in September, just two months ago.

~ Re-read Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery Check!  My review is here.

~ Read Letters on an Elk Hunt by Elinore Pruitt Stewart Check!  My review is here.

~ Read Song of the Ean by Emily Nordberg Semi-Check.  I am about 150 pages into it, but nowhere near finished.

I agree.

~ Read 3 other books from my TBR shelves Semi-Check.  I read Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart and The Blythes are Quoted by Lucy Maud Montgomery, but I never managed a third.

~ Read 3 books from the library Check!  I read The Enemy by Lee Child, The Affair by Lee Child, and A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (instant favorite!!!)

~ Watch Two Years Before the Mast (1946) Check!  It was not as good as I hoped, but better than I expected.

~ Finish season one of Leverage Fail.  In fact, I am forced to admit that I didn't watch a single episode.  Sigh.

I am seriously tempted to jump ahead to season 3 so I can watch this ep.

~ Watch the Ioan Gruffudd version of Great Expectations Fail.  Why do I keep not watching this?  Sigh again.

~ Watch 3 more movies from my TBW shelves Check!  I watched Jack Reacher (2012), The Virginian (1946), and The Martian (2015)(YES, I know I saw The Martian in the theater and so it shouldn't count, but it's been on my TBW shelves for like 6 months waiting for me to find time to watch it with Cowboy.  We finally watched it together last week, so now it's off my TBW shelves and on my regular movie shelves, and so it counts.)

~ Make tomato basil soup. Check!  I tried out this recipe.

~ Try making my own pumpkin spice latte Check! Actually, I experimented with making some pumpkin spice creamers, but same basic thing, right?

This is what it feels like inside my head right now.

~ Finish a rough draft of my western Little Red Riding Hood Fail.  I'm like 10,000 words in and nowhere near finished.  Eep!

~ While I'm at it, find a good title for that story Check!  I call it "Cloaked."  And I made up cover art for it for Nanowrimo, which I feel like sharing even though, should I ever publish it, this will not be the cover, but still, it pleases me:

~ Print, frame, and hang family photos in our foyer Semi-Check.  I got the photos I initially wanted to work with printed and framed, but then decided I needed a few more, so I'm still working on this.

Well, more checks than fails and semi-checks combined, so I guess I did pretty well this fall.  Time to formulate some winter goals!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" -- Initial Thoughts

I've decided that instead of always waiting to blog about a movie until I've seen it at least twice and can review it properly, I will sometimes write up an "initial thoughts" post that is not a review, but more of a reaction.  Then later, when I've seen it again and can write up a more orderly and thought-out review, I will.  I started thinking of doing this when I saw Dr. Strange (2016) a couple weeks ago, but didn't quite decide to do it until today.

Today, I HAVE to post my thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016).  I can't not.  And these are scattered, unfocused thoughts, fairly spoilage-free.  Just me sharing my exuberance :-)

First, I don't know about you, but I am now firmly convinced that J. K. Rowling is going to go down in history as one of the most creative minds of all time.  Her imagination is like Newt Scamander's suitcase -- it is far bigger inside than you would ever expect, and much cooler than you could dream.  I stand in awe.

Second, wow.  Yeah, just... wow.  That's basically what I was thinking through vast sections of this movie:  wow wow wow.

Third, Newt Scamander is my hero.  I'm serious.  The guy is shy and awkward and uncomfortable around people, wizardly and no-maj/muggle alike, but that doesn't stop him from standing up to people around him in defense of any creature or person he believes needs his help.  He sees the world with kind and gentle eyes, and I want to hug him.

Fourth, I want to be friends with three of the other characters in this too.  Which means, yeah, I pretty much loved it.  Cannot wait to go see it again; hoping to find a 3D showing this time.  I went right to the bookstore from the theater and bought the screenplay AND the soundtrack,  Have already listened to the latter, and will dig into the former this evening.

Right.  So, that's about all I have to say at the moment.  I laughed, I cried.  It moved me, Bob.  I'm so excited they are making LOTS MORE!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Like This? Try These! #6

Today, I'm spotlighting three retellings of the classic Snow White fairy tale.  One of them is an obvious retelling, but the others, not so much, so here goes!

If you love a good story of a beautiful young woman helping a bunch of quirky guys and getting swept of her feet by a handsome love interest, then you might get a kick out of any of these:

+ Ball of Fire (1941) -- A nightclub singer (Barbara Stanwyck) hides from her mob-affiliated boyfriend (Dana Andrews) by helping a group of eccentric professors (including Gary Cooper) compose a new lexicon by teaching them how "real" people talk in the "real" world.  It's not quite a screwball comedy, but does have a sassy flair.  (This one has some kissing, Stanwyck in a revealing outfit singing a somewhat suggestive song, a bit of fisticuffs.  Quite mild overall.  No bad language.)

+ Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) -- A young woman (Jane Powell) marries an exuberant backwoodsman (Howard Keel) almost on a whim, then discovers he has six brothers at home that he expects her to cook and clean for.  Lots of dancing and singing ensues, because why not?  (This one has a little mild innuendo about a newlywed couple, girls claiming to have a baby out of wedlock so their fathers will let them get married, and some kissing.  Also involves kidnapping, but it's not scary.)

+ Mirror Mirror (2012) -- Snow White (Lily Collins) escapes her evil stepmother (Julia Roberts), falls in with a band of thieving dwarves, falls in love with Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer), and tries to get rid of her stepmother.  Sean Bean fans will love the way this movie is the exact opposite of most Sean Bean movies -- if you're a fan of his, you know what I mean.  This is a vivid, quirky fairy tale that I think more people should see.  (This one has some low-cut dresses, Armie Hammer shirtless several times, characters wearing only long underwear, love potions, some violence and scary bits... no bad language except I think one instance of taking God's name in vain.  I would show this to my 9-year-old, but not my younger kids yet.)

That's it for today!  Next time, I'll get back to some of the requests you've given me, but if you've got any new requests for movies you'd like me to make comparison suggestions for, let me know!

Also, Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Americans :-)

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Period Drama Tag

Rachel at A Girl's Place tagged me with this recently.  Thanks, Rachel!  (You have a great name, by the way.  Just sayin'.)

1. What's your favorite Period Drama movie? 

It's also my favorite movie of all time:  The Man from Snowy River (1982), which is set in the Australian Outback sometime in the Victorian era, I'm guessing 1890s.  I've reviewed the film here, and also wrote about it here.

2. What's your favorite Period Drama series? 

The Granada Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, and first David Burke and then Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson.  It is beautifully done -- such attention to detail, such love for the original stories!  And Brett is by far the most Holmes-like Holmes I have ever seen.

3. Which Period Drama do you dislike the most? 

I don't know?  I don't keep track of movies and shows I dislike, really.  Hmmm.  Thinking.  Okay, I really don't like The Wild Bunch (1969) at all, so let's go with that.

4. Anne of Green Gables or Little Dorrit? 

Anne!  Always Anne.

5. Your favorite Period Drama dresses? 

I love just about every dress in White Christmas (1954), especially these:

6. Who's your favorite Period Drama character? (Okay, pick at least five) 

Sherlock Holmes, as portrayed by Jeremy Brett in the aforementioned Granada series, Nicholas Rowe in The Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), and Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC's Sherlock (2010-) (Yes, I know the latter is not a period drama, but it IS one of my favorite portrayals, and I must include him).

Jane Eyre, as portrayed both by Zelah Clarke (1983) and Ruth Wilson (2006).

Robin Hood, as portrayed by Errol Flynn (1938), Richard Todd (1952), and the animated version voiced by Brian Bedford (1973).

Zorro/Diego, as portrayed by Tyrone Power (1940), Guy Williams (1957-59), and Duncan Regehr (1990-93).

The Lone Ranger/John Reid, as portrayed by Clayton Moore in the TV series (1949-57) and Armie Hammer in the new film (2013).

7. If you could join a royal ball, which dress would you wear? (Pick a Period Drama dress) 

Since it is my life's ambition to be a fairy godmother, I choose this dress from Cinderella (2015):

8. What's your favorite Jane Austen movie? 

Emma (1996), with Gwyneth Paltrow.  It's one of my less-favorite Austen novels, but man alive, do I love that movie.

9. Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife

I've seen like 5 eps of Downton Abbey and none of Call the Midwife, so... neither.

10. Sybil Crawley, Jenny Lee, Emma Woodhouse or Marian of Knighton? 

Even though she's probably my least-favorite Austen heroine, I'm gonna have to go with Emma Woodhouse on this one.  What I've seen of DA hasn't impressed me with Sybil (though I liked her better than Mary), and if we're talking the Marian from the BBC Robin Hood, I'm honestly not a fan of her either.  Haven't seen Jenny Lee, so yup, going with Emma.

11. Which couples of a Period Drama do you like the most? (Pick at least four) 

Jane Eyre (Zelah Clarke) and Edward Rochester (Timothy Dalton) of Jane Eyre (1983).

Anne Shirley (Megan Follows) and Gilbert Blythe (Jonathon Crombie) of Anne of Green Gables (1985).

John Thornton (Richard Armitage) and Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) of North & South (2004).

Ringo (John Wayne) and Dallas (Claire Trevor) of Stagecoach (1939).

12. And last, which Period Drama villain do you like the most?

So here's the thing... I almost never *like* villains.  I mean, I can count on one hand the villains I actually like.  Happily, some of them are actually from period dramas!  Including my favorite, namely Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) from 3:10 to Yuma (1957), which I reviewed here.

Okay, this doesn't say you need to tag anyone, but I'm going to tag a few people because I'm curious to see their answers:

Annie of The Western Desk
Birdie of Lady of the Manor
Cordy of Write on, Cordy!
DKoren of Sidewalk Crossings
Eva of Coffee, Classics, and Craziness
Heidi of Along the Brandywine
Kara of Flowers of Quiet Happiness
Miss March of Sunshiny Corner
Rose of An Old-Fashioned Girl
Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In (but you don't have to choose a ball gown -- maybe men's formalwear instead?)

Play if you want to!  (And if I didn't tag you and you want to play, go ahead!)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"The Lord of the Rings" 1960s-style

It's here!  The return of the Great Imaginary Film Blogathon, hosted all weekend long by Connie and Diana at Silver Scenes.  You may remember this event from a couple of years ago, when I dreamed up a film noir version of Hamlet and a '50s cast for The Avengers.  This year, I had intended to do a double-feature of Alan Ladd playing two of my favorite detectives, but then I had an even more fun idea.  What if Hollywood had made a movie of The Lord of the Rings shortly after it had been published?  All three volumes were out by the end of 1955, so why not have a movie made around 1960?

Remember, this was the age of the great spectacle movies.  Ben-Hur (1959), The Ten Commandments (1956), Spartacus (1960), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) -- you could tell a grand story on a grand scale with a big budget and a three- or four-hour running time.  Of course, this is also before multi-part storytelling was a thing in movies, so I'm afraid the whole epic story is getting squashed into 4 hours, and a lot of trimming is necessary.  But, in the end, it's still an amazing story.


Yeah, me either, but let's do this anyway.

(PLEASE NOTE:  There WILL be SPOILERS in this!  I mean, I'm condensing the story a lot to make it work with the idea of a 4-hours-or-less running time, but I'm adhering mostly to the book's plot.  I'm not marking the spoilers.  If you don't know the LOTR story, you've been warned.)

It all begins when young Frodo (James MacArthur) inherits a magic Ring from his Uncle Bilbo (Thomas Mitchell), who promptly goes off on an adventure alone, leaving his nephew to wonder what this is all about.

The wizard Gandalf (Christopher Lee, who was basically the greatest LOTR fan ever, right from the first publication, and always wanted to play Gandalf) arrives and informs Frodo that this is a magical Ring, the most powerful on earth, and that the dark lord, Sauron, is actively seeking it.  He enlists Frodo's gardener Sam (Richard Long) to help Frodo take the Ring to Rivendell and seek the wisdom of the elves to decide what to do with this powerful Ring.

Frodo and Sam set off at once.  Along the way, they pick up two of Frodo's friends, Merry (Bobby Darin) and Pippin (Tim Conway).

On the way to Rivendell, the four young Hobbits meet up with a mysterious man called Strider (Charlton Heston), who protects them from the creepy Ringwraiths that are following them.  He and an elf named Glorfindel (Kirk Douglas) help them evade capture and reach Rivendell safely.

There they meet the  wise elvish leader, Lord Elrond (Gregory Peck) and his beautiful daughter, Arwen (Audrey Hepburn).

The Hobbits learn that Strider is actually Aragorn, heir to the throne of all Middle Earth.  And he's also in love with Arwen.  Elrond calls a meeting of elves and dwarves, and it's there that we meet a handsome elf named Legolas (Paul Newman) and a stalwart dwarf named Gimli (Red Buttons).

They also meet that grey-eyed man of Gondor, Boromir (Burt Lancaster), of whom I am so endlessly fond.

They decide that the Ring must be destroyed in Mount Doom, and Frodo volunteers to do the deed.  Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Sam, Merry, and Pippin come along to help him, and we have our Fellowship of the Ring:

The nine set out for Mount Doom.  Various adventures befall them.  They lose Gandalf.  They arrive at Lothlorien, where they meet more elves, especially the lady Galadriel (Barbara Stanwyck) and her husband Celeborn (Laurence Olivier), who give them encouragement, advice, and helpful gifts.

Off the eight remaining members of the fellowship go, only to get splintered up when a bunch of Uruk-hai attack them, kill Boromir, and kidnap Merry and Pippin.  Frodo and Sam head for Mount Doom while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli set out to rescue Merry and Pippin.  The three of them soon meet up with a knightly sort of fellow named Eomer (Hardy Kruger) and a resurrected Gandalf, and the next thing you know, they're hanging out with Eomer and his sister Eowyn (Julie Andrews).

Together, they help free Eomer and Eowyn's uncle, King Theoden (Alan Ladd), from the power of the evil wizard Saruman (Vincent Price).

Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin get away from their captors and meet a tree-person-thing called an Ent named Treebeard (Richard Kiel, who, being more than 7 feet tall, wouldn't need much help looking like a tree).

(Richard Kiel with Dick van Dyke.  I'm not putting
Dick van Dyke in the movie, I just like this photo.)

Treebeard and his fellow Ents go attack Saruman and defeat him because he's been ordering Hobbits kidnapped and cutting down trees and being generally naughty.  There, they are reunited with Aragorn and Gandalf and everyone else.  Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are wandering around in Mordor, trying to find Mount Doom.  While there, they meet up with one of the Ring's former owners, a creature called Gollum (Peter Lorre).  Gollum agrees to help them find Mount Doom, but he secretly plans to take the Ring away from Frodo along the way.

Aragorn and Gandalf agree that if the dark lord, Sauron, figures out that Frodo and Sam are taking the Ring to Mount Doom to destroy it, he's going to kill them, claim the Ring, and conquer the world.  So they decide to distract him by attacking his realm, Mordor, with all the forces they can muster.  To do this, they all head over to the city of Minas Tirith, which stands right at the border.  There, they meet Boromir's brother Faramir (Tony Curtis) and father Denethor (Christopher Plummer).

Faramir is a kind, noble youth who pledges to do anything in his power to help.  Denethor, though, wants to take the Ring himself, destroy Sauron, and rule the world.  There's a big battle.  Sauron and his forces of hideous monsters called Orcs are well and thoroughly distracted.  Frodo and Sam successfully reach Mount Doom, where Frodo succumbs to temptation and decides to keep the Ring.  Gollum tries to seize it, they struggle, and Gollum and the Ring fall into lava and are consumed forever.

Gandalf and some eagles rescue Frodo and Sam from the collapse of everything within Mordor.  He takes them back to Minas Tirith, where various and sundry characters are recovering from wounds sustained during the great battle.  During this convalescence, Faramir and Eowyn fall in love.

Aragorn gets crowned king and takes Arwen for his bride.

Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return home, where they free their fellow Hobbits from the tyranny of Saruman, who is a pesky person and hard to eradicate.  But he dies at last, and that means everything everywhere is as it should be.  Sam marries his sweetheart, Rosie (Emily Banks), and everyone should be happy.

But Frodo has been changed by his journey and the burden of the Ring, so he leaves to seek the Undying Lands with a bunch of their elf friends.  Sam, Rosie, Merry, and Pippin vow never to forget him.