Monday, July 24, 2017
Basically, it's a movement started by a couple of bloggers. A couple of US, in other words. A writer called Gray Marie started the ball rolling in this post by calling for others to join her in praising and supporting clean books, especially those aimed toward teens and young adults.
I first learned about #RebelliousWriting from this post of MovieCritic's, which led me to this post from Farm Lassie, then to Gray Marie's original post, and that very day, I added the badge to my sidebars. But, having been so busy with my Gatsby read-along and so on, I haven't had time to talk about all this until now.
I have three kids. My oldest is nine, and he loves books. His reading level is somewhere around 5th or 6th grade, but I have a hard time finding him books that he likes that I'm okay with him reading. Happily, he loves the Chronicles of Narnia and the Boxcar Children and Beverly Cleary's books, and he loves to re-read, so most of the time he just re-reads a book he loves or reads another one by an author I know we can trust.
But other times he wants to try a new book, and I'll have to flip through it first because... even in junior fiction and middle-grade fiction, I sometimes run up against things he's not ready for! Or things I object to! I mean, I picked up Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor in the junior fiction section of our library a couple of weeks ago because I wanted to read it myself, it just looked so cute. And in my review, I discussed how I loved that book a TON... but I won't let him read it yet. Partly because it has a girl dealing with the onset of puberty, and I'm okay with that being in a book, but I think it would gross him out -- he's NINE, after all. But mostly, I won't let him read it because there's an adult male character who has a boyfriend.
In a book aimed at grade school kids.
And I think back to books I loved in my tweens, like The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks -- I adore that book, it's still one of my faves. But it has several bad words in it. Several!
Then when you get to YA books, it's like hey, let's just open the floodgates and let all the sewage in, shall we? Just this week, I quit reading the book The Espressologist by Kristina Springer, which is about high school students and presumably written for them to read, because it had too much bad language in it. And folks, I read grown-up books. I can handle bad language in them. I very much enjoy Lee Child's books about Jack Reacher, which are full of adult stuff. Very adult stuff. (But not graphic sex, I don't go there. Keep that door closed, thanks.) But in a YA book, if it's got adult stuff in it of any sort, I will probably quit reading it because... it's almost like I'm retroactively undermining my own innocence. Which probably doesn't make sense, but there it is. Also, the language in The Espressologist was primarily taking God's name in vain, and I am NOT okay with that. In fact, I will put up with all manner of obscenities far more tolerantly than I will a "mild" case of taking God's name in vain.
I always think of myself as a clean writer. No cussing. No sex scenes, though I do imply sometimes that consenting adults go to bed together -- that's in some of my Combat! fanfiction, which can also get violent, though I try not to write anything they wouldn't have shown on the original show in the mid-1960s.
But I now also write YA fiction. I mean, I hope adults enjoy it too, but I do write with teens in mind. "The Man on the Buckskin Horse," my story in Five Magic Spindles, was basically YA-level. And clean. My new book Cloaked has a sixteen-year-old girl as a protagonist (because "Little Red Riding Hood" ought to be Not An Adult, don't you think?), and I rather expect that most of the people reading it will be in their teens and early twenties, just because that's probably who will be most interested in a book about a sixteen-year-old. And I'm keeping this book clean, too.
So this whole #RebelliousWriting movement is important to me as a reader, as a mom, and as a writer. And if clean books are important to you too, get involved! #RebelliousWriting is getting its own website in a couple of weeks. You can find details here for now, and you'll also find lots of links to cool blog posts and so on from the official Pinterest account.
Friday, July 21, 2017
So, when I was a kid, my dad would get the old James Bond movies out of the library if he was taking a sick day. He didn't get sick often, but everyone gets a cold or the flu once in a while, him included. And he loved the old Sean Connery and Roger Moore 007 movies. Once he was feeling better, and no longer contagious, a lot of times he'd show my brother and I the stupendous opening sequence to whichever 007 movie he'd gotten this time. I must confess I don't even know which movies some of them go with, but I have great memories of Bond ski-surfing, jumping off cliffs, etc.
Now, my dad never liked Timothy Dalton as 007. But when the new guy named Pierce Brosnan took over the role, Dad rented GoldenEye when it came to the video store. If you remember life with video stores, then you know this was about six months after the movie was in theaters. We had it rough back in the '90s, kids. It was another three months or so before we could buy our own copy on VHS.
Happily, my dad really liked this movie and this 007. And before he took the tape back to the video store, he showed my brother and I the opening sequence. I still love it so much. James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) bungee jumps off a dam.
He and 006 (Sean Bean) infiltrate a Russian chemical weapons facility and set a bunch of bombs. They engage in witty repartee and buddy jokes.
I fell in love with Pierce Brosnan right here:
And I fell in love with Sean Bean right here:
That first viewing, I almost liked 006 better than 007. I mean, his name was Alec (James and Alec are basically my two favorite guy names -- I loved them being the names of these two cool buddies!). He had a lot of sarcasm, and I reeeeeeally liked his voice. But if you're at all aware of who Sean Bean is, and what generally happens to him in movies, you know what comes next.
Yeah, they shot him in the head, and he's very, very dead, and it matters very little whether stone or lump of lead -- it is very, very certain that he's very, very dead. (I may have loved that line from Gilbert and Sullivan's musical The Yoeman of the Guard a little too much. I use it whenever I can.) And so 007 blows the whole place up and escapes.
Oh, the feeeeeeeels! I've cried so much over 006 dying. More than once. This was the first thing I ever saw Sean Bean in, and it was before he had died in quite so many movies, so I totally wasn't expecting it, I was expecting that this would be a snarky buddy-comedy James Bond movie, and then nope, death to 006.
In fact, my dad let us watch just that opening sequence many times over the course of several months before he ever showed us the whole movie. So I got really attached to 006 and 007, and that whole opener remains my favorite part of the film.
But the movie does continue after that part, and eventually my dad had watched it often enough to know where to skip things and mute bad words. So I finally got to watch the whole movie. After my beloved opening sequence, nine years pass for Bond, and then off we merrily go to London, where we meet the new M (Judi Dench), who is... (drumroll please)... a woman. Edgy stuff. A woman ordering James Bond around! Sounds really lame now, but this was kind of a big deal twenty years ago. Like, I was sixteen at the time, and I found the new M very scary. I didn't like her. She yelled at James Bond too much. Nowadays, I absolutely love her, and Judi Dench is one of my favorite actresses, but at the time... she scared me. Kind of a lot.
Anyway, James Bond gets sent out on a new mission. All about hackers in Russia and a missing electromagnetic pulse device and a nuclear space weapon, the usual exciting, high-tech, implausible, delightful stuff James Bond movies are made of.
Plus, we meet up with a Russian computer programmer named Natalya (Izabella Scorupco). She's smart, she's sassy, and she's the Bond Girl of the day. I like her much more than most Bond Girls because she doesn't just fall into Bond's arms immediately, and she's got a lot of guts. She generally doesn't need rescuing, and is one of the first strong female characters I genuinely admired.
We also meet up with freaky-deaky hit-woman Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), so named because we have to have some kind of weird double-entendre-laden name in here somewhere, it's kind of a rule. She kills people a lot. In strange ways. Hers are the scenes we had to skip when I was a kid.
And then there's Boris (Alan Cumming), who steals every single scene he's in, even away from Pierce Brosnan. Even away from Sean Bean. He is one of the funniest characters I've ever seen, and my family still quotes him to this day. "I am inVEEEEEEENcible!" Yeah. Get the biggest kick out of him.
SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!! Lots of spoilers. Spoilers and more spoilers and still more spoilers. Okay, maybe not that many, but I'm going to spoil a big plot twist, so skip to below the picture of James Bond and Natalya if you don't want to be spoiled.
I think GoldenEye holds the distinction of being the only movie in which Sean Bean gets two death scenes. First he got shot in the head in the beginning, but he didn't actually, he was just staging his own death. Now he's the bad guy orchestrating everything, and man, when I found that out the first time, I was sooooooo angry. And so happy. Happy that I got more Sean Bean to watch! Angry because he was the bad guy now! All the mixed-up feelings a teen could feel. Because I'd gotten so very, very fond of him from watching the opening sequence over and over and over before I saw the whole movie, and now I felt very betrayed. Much like James Bond feels!
Of course, Sean Bean has to die at the end. He's the Bond baddie AND he's Sean Bean, so it's required. Sniffle.
Is this movie family friendly? Not really. Xenia Onatopp kills people by squeezing them to death between her thighs, sometimes during sex. There's some bad language, there's a good bit of violence. Like I said, my family always censored parts of this -- in fact, we permanently censored our VHS copy by recording over several scenes. We recorded bits of a documentary about building castles over them, and from then on, my brother and I referred to the process of censoring scenes in any of our family's movies as "castle building." I miss being able to do that -- you can't "fix" movies on DVD like you could on VHS. In fact, I own three or four movies on VHS I refuse to replace with DVDs because I want the edited versions, not the originals. Sigh.
This has been my entry for the 007 Blogathon hosted by MaddyLovesHerClassicFilms. Be sure to drop by her blog to find links to the other entries.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Jane Austen died 200 years ago today.
I'm trying to think up interesting things to say about that, but I'm pretty much failing.
I love Jane Austen's writing. She makes me laugh AND she makes me think, and that's a rare combination.
Rest in peace, Jane Austen. Your stories have brought me many, many hours of enjoyment.
I'm trying to think up interesting things to say about that, but I'm pretty much failing.
I love Jane Austen's writing. She makes me laugh AND she makes me think, and that's a rare combination.
Rest in peace, Jane Austen. Your stories have brought me many, many hours of enjoyment.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
I can remember when The Three Musketeers came out, not because I got to see it in the theater, but because of my friend Jesse. Her aunt took her to see it, IIRC, and as Jesse was a couple years older than me and significantly more boy-crazy, she fell head-over-heels for Charlie Sheen in this movie. She told me alllllll about it, and I remember seeing the display for it at the video store when it finally came to video and knowing Jesse must be very excited that she'd get to see it again.
I myself finally got to watch it when it aired on network TV some years later, probably around 1996. We recorded it, but unfortunately, it played on one of the stations we didn't get very clearly, so our copy was fuzzy, with wavery music.
My brother and I did not care. We were so enthusiastically enchanted with this movie, he dressed as a Musketeer for Halloween that year. By then, I was old enough to develop a crush on my own Musketeer, namely Chris O'Donnell. In fact, I named my new cat d'Artagnan soon after seeing this.
Truth be told, I prefer this movie to the actual book by Alexandre Dumas. It's sweeter, for one thing, and even though the main characters are roguish, none of them are downright bad. In the book... well, let's just say I disapprove of things they do in the book.
Anyway, time for the movie! Get cozy with a snack, maybe a cold beverage... this is going to be a lot of fun.
The movie opens with Cardinal Richelieu (Tim Curry) visiting dungeons with his sidekick Rochefort (Michael Wincott). They plot some evil plottyness about overthrowing the king because, of course, that's their job.
Meanwhile, somewhere out in the French countryside (which is played in this movie by Austria and England, I believe), two guys are having a duel! This movie does not take long to start the swashing and buckling.
One of the duelers is a comely lad named d'Artagnan (Chris O'Donnell) in a really nice shirt.
He's clearly the better swordsman.
And he has a pretty sword, too. (Reportedly, Chris O'Donnell got to keep this sword after filming ended. Envvvvyyyyyyyy.)
This is his opponent. They're dueling because this guy, Girard (Paul McGann), says d'Artagnan has compromised his sister's honor, basically.
Yup, you read that correctly! This is Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor, and also Mr. Bush in the Horatio Hornblower movies from A&E. Albeit with a bad wig and some very goofy facial expressions.
Girard has brothers, and they all arrive to avenge their sister too, so d'Artagnan decides that he who fights and runs away will live to fight another day, and he takes off for Paris.
For a piece of Disney popcorn, this movie has some really beautiful filming. I love this shot of a burning Musketeer flag -- it's almost like a classical painting, with the drapey fabric and juxtaposition of the cheerful blue with the sinister orange.
Anyway, back to the plot. Here's this guy again. Michael Wincott definitely rocks that eye patch.
Look at all the Musketeers! So many jolly Musketeers. They're the king's personal guard, by the way, not just a bunch of guys who like blue tunics and swords and occasionally use a musket. They do have an actual raison d'être aside from looking cool.
Since they're the king's guard, and Richelieu and Rochefort are plotting to overthrow the king, the Musketeers must be disposed of, so Richelieu disbands them, claiming it's the king's orders. Rochefort is not sad about this. Also, his hat is amazing, and he knows it.
Look, another really nice shot! The Musketeer sword abandoned in defeat, the burning uniforms behind it -- love the composition here.
Speaking of pretty filming, what a nice windmill.
Speaking of pretty, d'Artagnan has his own very wonderful hat.
I mean, wow. That hat. I want it.
Anyway, while on his way to Paris, d'Artagnan sees two women on horseback, racing away from two men. He leaps to the rescue and takes out the two guys, assuming they're bandits or white slavers or whatever. Turns out that the women he rescued were Queen Anne (Gabrielle Anwar) and her lady-in-waiting, Constance (Julie Delpy). They weren't actually in Deadly Peril -- the dudes he knocked out were the Queen's guards, not her attackers. Oops.
Constance finds this hilarious. So here's one thing they changed from the book that I LOVE: in this movie, Constance is single. In the book, she's not a lady-in-waiting, she's d'Artagnan's Paris landlord's wife. And they have this long, torrid affair. Blech. So much nicer here, where she's single, he's single, and they flirt cutely with each other.
Another shot I love! Director Stephen Herek (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Mr. Holland's Opus) uses a LOT of high-angle and low-angle shots. This one showing d'Artagnan in Paris, searching for Musketeer Headquarters, is just so cool -- you totally get the feeling there's someone watching him. Maybe lying in wait. Love it.
Then this low-angle shot of him with the doors towering over him. Still loving it. Also, that riding cape/cloak thing? I want one of those too. Basically, if I was a guy, I would dress like d'Artagnan every day if I could.
Our hero makes his way inside, where he finds a mysterious and sinister stranger named Athos (Kiefer Sutherland) crouching in front of the fire where the Musketeer flag was recently burned.
Harsh words ensue. D'Artagnan takes offense at the stranger's rude replies to his polite questions and challenges him to a duel. Gotta admit, d'Artie is kind of duel-happy.
Back outside, who should show up but Girard and his brothers, still trying to avenge their sister's honor (even though d'Artagnan insists that "nothing happened" between him and the sister). A chase ensues, and while fleeing, d'Artagnan knocks against a table and spills wine all over Porthos (Oliver Platt).
Porthos jumps up and yells at d'Artie for his clumsiness. He says, "This sash was a gift to me from the Queen of America." D'Artagnan is all, "There's no Queen of America." Porthos gets mad and insists there is, and he's on "very intimate terms" with her, and challenges our hero to a duel.
D'Artie (this is totally my pet name for him, not one used in the movie) is like, "I love duels! Great idea!" (That's also me paraphrasing, not what he says.)
Now, if you're thinking that Oliver Platt looks an awful lot here like a certain pirate who roams the Caribbean in a bunch of Disney movies made about ten years after this, well... I think so too. In fact, when I first saw the trailers for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl back in 2003, I was so excited because Captain Jack Sparrow's outfit reminded me so much of this one, and there were several shots that made me think of stuff that happens later in this movie.
Okay, so then we cut to this scene of a woman who can't afford to buy enough clothes (I'm afraid this is a big problem for several female characters in the film) being taught theology by Aramis (Charlie Sheen), who gives up teaching in favor of kissing, only to learn that his pupil is married. At least he has the decency to be shocked about this.
He jumps out of her window to escape her wrathful husband and lands on d'Artagnan. And do you think d'Artagnan is happy to have helped a stranger not kill himself jumping out of some woman's window?
Maaaaaaaaaaaaan, I love that hat.
Yeah, you're right, d'Artie's not cool with this. So guess what he and Aramis challenge each other to?
"Three duels in one day." ::Insert casual eyebrow quirk here::
Meanwhile... isn't the palace pretty?
Cardinal Plotty McPlotterpants is up to no good, as usual. He's a lecherous and nasty guy who loves insert broad innuendo into every scene he has with a female character. In other words, your basic Tim Curry character.
Queen Anne doesn't like him, doesn't trust him, and doesn't care if he knows it.
Queen Anne and King Louis are very young and very awkward and very cute together, and I wish they had a lot more scenes.
But we can't waste time with royalty being cute when we have Musketeer business to attend to! Rochefort learns there are three Musketeers (guess who?) who have refused to turn in their swords and uniforms with the rest. He goes to the tavern where they're hanging out, intending to arrest them. Which goes as well as you might expect.
After spewing insults at Rochefort (my favorite is, "Rochefort... isn't that a smelly kind of cheese?"), the three miscreants escape. Which reminds me -- don't expect period-correct dialog from this movie. They talk in a mix of modern and archaic that I find enchanting, but some might be annoyed by.
Okay, so d'Artagnan discovers that his three dueling opponents not only know each other, they're the famous Musketeers he's been searching for! His father was a Musketeer, but died mysteriously, leaving his son only his fancy sword and a vague sense of destiny.
Before d'Artagnan and Athos can finish their duel, a bunch of the Cardinal's guards come to arrest them. I have no idea why, but this dude in the middle is also played by Paul McGann. Because why not?
Now I have a confession to make. I just love every time these three guys are all in the same frame, so you can expect a lot of shots from here on out where they're all together. Also... they have great hats too.
D'Artagnan wants to help them fend off the Cardinal's guards. They think he's an idiot, but finally agree. Especially when they learn what his name is -- they all exchange Meaningful Glances at that, and say vague things about having known his father.
And now they're prepared to resist arrest.
Much swashbuckling swordplay ensues.
Back in the creepy part of town, more pretty scenery!
Oh yeah, the three Musketeers totally did not invite d'Artie to join their merry band, and he ended up getting captured by Rochefort, who recognizes his sword and taunts him about his father.
Cardinal is far too happy to see her.
Not that she has any trouble fending him off. It's time for more plotting, so they make plans for getting the Duke of Buckingham to form an alliance with Richelieu to help overthrow the king.
Off goes Milady, and in comes d'Artagnan. He overheard what she was talking about with Richelieu, and he refuses to be in any way cooperative about promising to keep things a secret and so on. Off with his head!
Gotta hand it to d'Artagnan -- he approaches the chopping block very bravely. I'm proud of him.
Now, you may remember that this is a Disney movie. They're not going to chop off the main character's head. Aramis pops up to assure us, and d'Artagnan, that all will be well.
Girard is back again, rejoicing that his sister's would-be seducer is about to have his head removed. If you ask me, the dude needs to calm down, but hey.
There are some awesome exteriors in this movie. According to imdb.com, they did a lot of filming in Austria and England, so I'm guessing this is part of that.
Naturally, the Three Musketeers rescue d'Artagnan. A joyous chase scene ensues.
There's a coach, there's a bunch of the Cardinal's guards on horses, and it's simply grand.
Unfortunately, chase scenes are really hard to screencap. So you'll just have to watch it for yourself to get the full effect. Eventually, the four good guys ride off through the beautiful countryside, having vanquished all their foes by being so doggone cool.
I know this is the bad guy, but isn't that pretty?
Okay, so the four heroes celebrate their triumphant escape by hanging out at a tavern, where Porthos and Aramis try to teach d'Artagnan the fine art of wenching. Which involves kissing girls, nothing more. Disney movie, folks. Disney movie.
Athos doesn't join in the revelry. He sits in the dark alone, drinking and brooding.
D'Artagnan, being an extrovert, thinks this is terrible. Athos allows d'Artagnan to come join him, even though he would rather be alone, and he's drunk enough wine that he decides to confide his sad, tragic backstory in his young protege.
More pretty exteriors.
And more pretty interiors.
Okay, so this is the most not-family-friendly scene in the whole movie. Queen Anne is taking a bath, and she and Constance are chatting about boys. Like, Constance thinks d'Artagnan is super cute, and Anne confides that she wishes she and Louis knew each other better. Sweet girl talk -- that part's fine. But then when Constance goes to fetch Queen Anne's robe, Anne stands up out of the tub and we only see her bare back from about her elbows up, and someone puts her robe around her shoulders. But it's not Constance. It's Icky von Ickface. I tend to fast-forward through that bit just because, ugh, he's such a creeper. I have to mention this part, though, because I don't want you to be like, "Whoa, this movie sounds awesome! I'm going to get it and watch it with my little kids/siblings!" and then get to this part and be like, "WHAT WAS HAMLETTE THINKING? This is so grosssssssssss!" Now you've been warned.
Meanwhile, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d'Artagnan have split up so they have a better chance of stopping Richelieu's spy who's supposed to be sailing over to England with a treaty for the Duke of Buckingham, etc. D'Artagnan is overcome with weariness and falls off his horse onto the road. Poor thing.
He leaps out of bed, at which point we happily learn that he's wearing... capris, basically. His underdrawers, I guess. I'm sorry if you were hoping for some beefcake screencaps, but I kind of just didn't take any except this one of him shirtless because um... I didn't.
And a sword fight aboard a ship! Buckle, buckle, swash swash.
Athos discovers, to his great shock, that the spy is none other than Somebody That He Used To Know. (Oh, come on, I don't want to spoil EVERYTHING.)
Look! I got all of them in the same frame again :-)
So then they summon all their Musketeer friends in the coolest way possible. Notes on arrows -- I want to send messages this way!
There is absolutely no reason for the camera to be tilted this way, except that it looks kinda cool.
Queen Anne and King Louis have come to a New Understanding, and are ready to move past Smiling Awkwardly At Each Other into the new land of Looking Deeply Into Each Others' Eyes.
More swashbuckling ahead!
Lots of it, considering the Three Musketeers are facing about thirty of the Cardinal's Guards.
D'Artagnan is busy having a fight on the roof, you see, and can't help them out this time.
So then Cardinal Richelieu decides the best plan is to kidnap the king and queen.
D'Artagnan also disagrees. He has a glorious fight with Rochefort. Athos, Porthos, and Aramis rescue the king and queen. There's a lot of sword fighting and chasing, and this whole nasty dungeon scene, and a really cool underground lake, but honestly, this review is soooooooooooo long already that I'm just going to say "Get this movie and watch it, it's cool!" and leave it at that.
So pretty. Look at our heroes all together again! I love this shot. Look how everything's all matchy-matchy with the blue and gold everywhere -- just awesome.
I promise d'Artagnan's not getting his head chopped off here either.
He gets to be a Musketeer! And below is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PART OF THE MOVIE. The four of them striding around in their boots and their hats and their capey tunic things, with their swords -- they are on top of the world, and I want to be one of them sooooooo stinking badly it's not even funny.
One for all, and all for one! (This might be the best shot in the whole movie.)
And then Girard shows up again, and we have to chase him off, because that loose plot thread just refuses to get tied up. The end!
Is this movie family friendly? Um, not for little kids. I haven't shown it to mine yet. It's rated PG, but I would have rated it PG-13, to be honest. Of course it has a lot of swordfighting, chase scenes, and some guns, which are really exciting to me, but my kids would find them too tense. And I didn't really mention this a lot, but there's this icky dungeon with people getting beaten and whipped, and torture is implied. Parts of that are quite scary. Also, there's a lot of cleavage on display, and the Cardinal in particular has a lot of innuendo in his dialog. There's very little profanity, but there are a couple instances of God's name getting taken in vain, and there's kind of a flippant attitude toward religion in general, though not to the point where I'm offended.
This has been my contribution to the Swashathon, an epic blogathon celebrating all things swashbuckler, hosted by Movies Silently. Now that I've finally finished this review, I'm going to start reading the other entries -- they all look so much fun! I hope you find time to read them too.
P.S. If you love blogathons, I'm hosting one in honor of Alan Ladd in September. Click here for details.