Friday, May 31, 2019

Spring To-Do List Wrap-Up

How is it the end of May already?  Oh my.  Oh.  My.  It's actually been in the upper 80s and lower 90s here for a week or so already, so definitely feeling like summer, but I'm so not ready for spring to be over :-(

Anyway!  Time to check in on my ever-present to-do list series and see how I did with my spring goals!

~ Finish the first draft of my western Snow White retelling, tentatively titled Seven Orphans FAIL :-(  I don't know what it is about this book, but it is NOT writing quickly.  It's demanding a lot of unexpected research as I go along, for one thing.  And writing it feels like a chess game, whereas Dancing and Doughnuts felt like a poker game.  Writing one is wholly unlike writing the other.  Anyway, I'm still planning to release it this winter.  I'm hoping that this longer first-draft process means my rewrites will go faster.


(These are some of the books I've been using for research
and/or inspiration.)

~ Read 3 titles from my Classics Club list  Check!  In fact, I doubled that and read SIX!  It was a good spring for reading.  My CC titles were: The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Homer Price by Robert McCloskey, Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and A Room with a View by E. M. Forster.  (All titles linked to my reviews, as usual.)

(All the pretty pics in this post are mine from Instagram.)

~ Read 6 books off my TBR shelves  Check!  I'm trying really hard to reduce the books on my poor, groaning TBR shelves AND not add to them much -- my goal is to read two books off them per month and only buy one new book per month.  I've been more successful with the former than the latter, alas, so it's not making a big difference yet, but... every little bit helps.  Anyway, the seven books I read this spring that I own but hadn't read yet were: The Annotated Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering, The Proud Rebel adaptation by Bart Willard, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes by Loren D. Estleman, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick, and The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay.


~ Read 3 books from the library  Check!  I got Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh, and Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink from the library.  (We actually own a copy of Caddie Woodlawn, but it's a book I was teaching to my middle-grade class at our homeschool co-op, so two of my kids were reading our copy for the class and I got one from the library to read myself.)

~ Watch 3 movies off my TBW shelves  Check!  I watched EIGHT!!!!  Well, one is a TV series and one is a documentary, but I finished them and they're off my TBW shelves, so they count.  Anyway, the titles are:  The Thin Man Goes Home (1944), Captain Carey, USA (1949), Brazil with Michael Palin (2012), Forty Guns (1957), The Magnificent Seven (1998-2000), Macbeth (2015), Run, Stranger, Run (1973), and A Lady Takes a Chance (1943).  Whew!

~ Co-host a blogathon dedicated to Vic Morrow  Check!  You can read all the posts here, if you haven't had the chance yet.

(From "The Key to the Killer," which I reviewed for the blogathon.)

~ Go see Captain Marvel  Check!  I ended up seeing it four times.  I loved it.

~ Go see Ben-Hur (1959) on the big screen  Check!  It was amazing.  Everything I'd hoped it would be.  I've loved that movie since childhood, and to see it in its full glory, larger than life in many moments, was magnificent.  I wasn't expecting the colors to pop so much more than on my TV!  The reds and blues especially just dazzled.

~ Survive seeing Avengers: Endgame  Check!  I've seen it three times and blogged about it once, though I have more thoughts I want to share yet.  I also went a bit mad and bought 2 t-shirts, a mug, and a poster, so yeah, definitely loved it.  So thoroughly relieved and happy.


~ Go see Aladdin  Fail.  I'm hoping to see it tomorrow, though.

~ Design a new author website  Check!  You can check it out at rachelkovaciny.com


~ Clean up the horrible mess in my crafting corner  FAIL :-(  I really haven't touched it.  Instead, I went through everything stored in the basement, which was also a mess.  I got rid of 1/3 of the things I'd been hanging onto since childhood, either by giving them to my kids to play with, donating them to the thrift store, or simply accepting that they were basically trash and throwing them away.  It was very liberating.

Only three fails on this list!  Wahoo!  Granted, two of them were kind of massive failures, but I'll take what I can get.

Onward and upward!  I hope to have my summer to-do list ready to share in a day or two :-)

Meanwhile, I leave you with this fantabulous video starring basically everybody important in the MCU.  It makes me laugh and it makes me get tears in my eyes.  Love it.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Fantastical and Felicitous Fictional Character Blog Tag


Eva Schon of Coffee, Classics, and Craziness tagged me for this, and I love nattering about pretend people, so here goes!  Because this is my movie blog, I'm going to stick with movie and TV characters, mmkay?  Just to make it easier on myself, as I adore far too many fictional characters across all platforms (books, movies, TV shows, radio shows...) for this to work otherwise.

RULES:
  • Answer every question honestly. (duh.) 
  • Use as many gifs and images as possible. 
  • Incorporate at least one YouTube video with a favorite scene of a character. 
  • NO VAGUE ANSWERS ALLOWED. Explain why you chose that favorite character to fit that description. I love details, my friends. 
  • If you can’t choose just one, that’s okay – give us a few answers and geek out if that’s what it takes. 
  • Tag at least 3 people. 
  • Use fictional characters from any fictional story. 
  • If you get nominated and/or decide to participate in this tag, please put a link back to this original post in your post and credit yours truly as the creator. 
  • Have fun and obsess over fictional characters!
This says use as many gifs as possible.  Challenge accepted.
I'm going to use Alan Ladd gifs everywhere.
Chew on that for a bit, why dontcha?

Goody-two-shoes: A character who was just so morally good 

Mwahaha!  I know exactly the perfect character for this.  She even gets called "Goody-Two-Shoes" several times in the film.


(Alan Ladd's cracking up over the idea too!)

I'm talking about Catherine Freno (Leslie Caron) in Father Goose (1964).  She's an unmarried woman trying to get a bunch of scared schoolgirls to safety through enemy-occupied territory during WWII.  Hooch-swilling Walter Eckland (Cary Grant) pegs her as the stereotypical uptight, repressed spinster and calls her Goody-Two-Shoes repeatedly because she insists on politeness, disapproves of his drinking, and adheres to her own strict moral code.


But she's no shrinking violet, as he learns eventually.  Together, they learn that you can be upright without being uptight.


Heartbreaker: A character who made you cry 


(Oh my goodness, Alan Ladd.  Those eyes.  HOW did you convey so much sadness with them?  You amazing actor, you.)

One character who makes me cry.  Really.  You think I can pick just one?  I cry WAY more over fictional characters than I do over real life.

But this is going to be a massive post, what with all the Alan Ladd gifs and such.  I'd better stick to one answer per question.

Okay, so I always, always, ALWAYS cry over characters getting wishes granted.  Having things they believed were impossible suddenly become possible.  Finding out dreams can come true.  So when the fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) says, "You SHALL go to the ball" in Cinderella (2015), I bawl.  Every time.


I'm crying because she's so wonderful, does that count?

Parrot: A character who won’t stop talking 


(Look, Alan Ladd got so thirsty from just thinking about talking as much as this character, he has to keep drinking from magically refilling glasses of water!)


"If you put a dime in him, you've gotta let the song play out."

Luis (Michael Peña) never stops talking.  He's like me when I drink too many Cokes in a row.  Or when I sometimes succumb to the need to tell people ALL the details when they ask me a question -- it's generally because I think they deserve to have all the information so they can fully understand something.  But I know it's probably irritating to some people.  Fortunately/unfortunately, I only do that with people I truly care about and feel comfortable with, so it's not like I bore total strangers with what appears to be meaningless drivel, but is actually me making a very full and complete explanation.

Um, except on my blogs.  I natter away here all the time.

But even though he takes foreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever to get to his point, Luis is one of my favorite things about the Ant-Man movies from Marvel.  He's so genuinely sweet and kind and helpful, and he has this little-boy glee that makes me laugh a lot.

Moving right along...

Devilish: Your favorite villain 


(And just when you thought Alan Ladd was all sweet face and soulful eyes, he shocks you.)

Know what?  I'm actually going to answer with the character who goes with this gif.  Cuz I can.

I LOVE RAVEN.  Okay?  There.  I said it.  I do.  I love Raven, Alan Ladd's star-making role in This Gun for Hire (1942).  Sure, he gets paid to kill people.  Unarmed, unsuspecting people.  He hits a woman.  He goes all still and creepy and menacing from time to time.  He intends to kill a woman who's been super nice to him.

But he's really kind to cats and kittens.


He looks like this when he's sleepy:


He snuggles.


He rescues kidnapped damsels.


And when someone surprises him by kissing his cheek like this:


He goes all sweet and startled like this:


So, um, yeah.  I love Raven.  I just do.  Even though he's technically one of the antagonists and a bad guy.  And I basically never love bad guys, though sometimes I do love antagonists.  But he has a beautiful character arc toward redemption that I just adore.

Love interest: A character who, if alive in reality, you would want to marry 



(I love how Alan's all "Ooooooookay, then, I'll just go back to my paper...")

HOW TO PICK JUST ONE?

Fine.  If I must, I must.  I would marry Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) in a heartbeat.  If you want a full explanation of why I love him, read this.  Basically, he is upright, honorable, family-oriented, hard-working, brave, and utterly magnificent.  Mine, mine, mine!


Plus, Luke Evans got to use his natural Welsh accent for the role, and I LOVE Welsh accents.  They're so... rich and charming and quirky.

Sidekick: A character who was always loyal no matter what 


(Don't worry, I'm not going to write about the kid from Shane here.  Even though he IS always loyal, no matter what.)

So, there's this movie called China (1943) that stars, you guessed it, Alan Ladd.  But I'm not going to talk about his character, David Jones.  (Totally an inspiration for Indiana Jones, btw.  I'm not even kidding.)  I'm going to talk about his sidekick, Johnny Sparrow (William Bendix).


Johnny is an absolute sweetheart.  He rescues orphaned babies.  He comforts and defends sad young women.  And he will follow his friend David Jones anywhere.  Into a war zone.  Into enemy-occupied territory.  Into morally grey areas.  He's like having a faithful dog for a bodyguard, basically.  And even when he disagrees with David Jones, he still sticks with him.  Only death would be strong enough to separate them.



Complicated: A character you love and hate 


(That's the very first gif I ever made, btw!)

Um, yeah, so... that would be Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from the Marvel movies.


Until Thor: Ragnarok (2017), I basically had this range of emotions toward Loki that went from annoyance to hatred to wrathful disgust.  And then around again.  This is all because I love Thor (Chris Hemsworth) so dearly, and Thor loves his adopted brother Loki with a fierce loyalty that just makes me love Thor all the more.  Because that love is so unconditional and undeserved.  Loki is an unlovable jerk to his brother for three movies straight, but Thor sees past that and loves him anyway.  Thor learns not to trust him, to anticipate that Loki will repeatedly betray him, but he doesn't stop loving him.  And Loki treats Thor with contempt and disdain and cruelty for three movies straight, and so... I couldn't stand him.  Cuz I get all protective of people I love, even when they're fictional, and Loki kept hurting Thor, so... nope.  No love there at all from me.

But that all changed with Ragnarok.  Because Thor finally was done with Loki's nonsense.  And once Thor's friendship and support were gone, Loki realized what he had lost.  And so, by the end, Loki made some good choices and became worthy of his brother's... hesitant trust.  Spoiler:  And then he died a glorious death in Infinity War and I did something I never imagined I'd do.  I cried over Loki.  So, yeah... I now kinda like Loki.  And am still annoyed by him.  But I don't actually totally hate him anymore, so there's that.

The rules say I have to share at least one YouTube video, so although I've shared this before, I'm sharing it again because it continues to delight  me :-)


Oddity: A character who was strange, but you loved them that way 


(Hahaha!  I love this gif.  It's so subtle.)

Right!  A strange, odd character that I love.  Easypeasylemonsqueezy.


Who but a character played by Johnny Depp, Grand Master of Playing Strange Characters?  I dearly love his Tonto from The Lone Ranger (2013).  He's a lone wolf who teams up with another lone wolf to hunt down the men who wiped out his whole tribe when he was a boy.  He's wracked with guilt, he wears a dead bird on his head, he trades with dead men, and he talks to horses.  He's also cunning, fearless, and resourceful.  I would change absolutely nothing about him.  He's wonderful just as he is.


King: A male character whom you admire and aspire to emulate 


(I love this question!)

Easiest answer ever.  Sgt. Saunders (Vic Morrow) on Combat! (1962-67).


In fact, I wrote a big, long post about all the reasons why I love, admire, and look up to Saunders.  So you can read that if you want to know more about why he's my favorite fictional character of all time.  Actually, I could have just answered "Saunders" for all these questions.  Except the villain one and the complicated one.  He's never villainous, and I never hate him.  But the rest?  Yup.  He's totally made me cry; there are times when he won't stop talking; I want to marry him; he's always loyal; he can be a little odd; and he definitely has the savior thing going on.


But back to this question.  I literally will think, "How would Saunders handle this?" when I'm in difficult situations, especially interpersonal ones.  Saunders is The Best Ever at dealing with people.  All people.  Good people, bad people, happy people, sad people, whiny people, calm people, scared people, angry people, mean people, vicious people, cowardly people, ... he can handle them all.  And he does.  Over the course of the show's five seasons, he encounters basically every single kind of person you'll ever meet, and they all are better for the encounter.

Savior: A character who oddly reminds you of Christ 


(Alan Ladd really did shoot the rock in that scene.  He didn't want to because he wasn't actually a great shot, just an actor playing a gunfighter.  Director George Stevens insisted he do it himself.  So he did... but it took more than a hundred tries.  Cracks me up.)

Okay, fine, I'll go with the Alan Ladd character that goes with the gif One Last Time.  Because the title character of Shane (1953) absolutely reminds me of Christ.  He saves a whole community from evil, then leaves.  He takes his friend's place in a gunfight, sacrificing himself (in the book, he's probably mortally wounded, but in the movie, maybe not) for others.  Many of the people he saves shun and reject him.  Just... so many Christ-like aspects to him and his story.

I Tag:

DKoren at Sidewalk Crossings
MovieCritic at Movies Meet Their Match
Cordy at Any Merry Little Thought
And if YOU want to play too, consider yourself tagged!

Play if you want to!

For your ease of participation, here are the categories again, just so you don't have to hunt them down and copy them.

Heartbreaker: A character who made you cry
Parrot: A character who won’t stop talking
Devilish: Your favorite villain
Love interest: A character who, if alive in reality, you would want to marry
Sidekick: A character who was always loyal no matter what
Complicated: A character you love and hate
Oddity: A character who was strange, but you loved them that way
King: A male character whom you admire and aspire to emulate
Savior: A character who oddly reminds you of Christ

Friday, May 24, 2019

A Femnista Article About a Hero of Mine


My article for the May/June issue of Femnista is up now!  You can read it here.  It's all about a hero of mine, General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and just why I look up to him.  Hint:  it's NOT because he was super smart, super brave, or had a super mustache.  Though all of those are true too.


Monday, May 20, 2019

"Harvey" (1950)


Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) has an unusual friend:  a six-foot-tall, invisible rabbit named Harvey.  Only Elwood can see or hear Harvey, though Harvey can see and hear everyone else in the world just fine.


Elwood is a gentle, kindly fellow who is always ready to make a new friend.  And he always introduces his new friends to Harvey very properly.  Whether or not the new friends stick around much longer than that is up to them, not Elwood.


Now, Elwood lives with his widowed sister, Veta Louise (Josephine Hull), and her daughter, Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne).  Veta Louise is desperately trying to marry her daughter off well, but Elwood's eccentricities scare away many people, including potential suitors for Myrtle Mae.  Elwood's insistence on Harvey's existence is the bane of Veta Louise's life -- they can't even keep maids for long because of it.


Elwood spends much of his days down at a local bar.  Is this because he enjoys alcohol?  Certainly.  Is this also because the bartender and the other tipplers there talk nicely about Harvey, while everyone else keeps insisting Elwood is being ridiculous?  Probably.


Elwood's odd behavior has convinced Veta Louise that he is insane, and she decides that the only way Myrtle Mae will ever find a good husband -- or any husband -- will be for Elwood to be taken to a sanitarium and "cured."


Several comical mix-ups occur at the sanitarium, but eventually they're straightened out, whereupon the movie goes from somewhat silly and whimsical to tender and bittersweet.  Elwood decides that, if him going to the sanitarium will make his sister and niece happy, then he will go, even though he is certain he's perfectly sane, and Harvey is perfectly real.  To please and help them, he even agrees to have an injection that will make him just like everyone else in the world.  He understands that this means he won't see and hear Harvey anymore, but he always wants to make Veta Louise happy and take good care of her, so he agrees.

But then... something very unexpected and lovely and wonderful happens.  I won't spoil exactly what it is, just in case you haven't seen this or the stage play and would like to.  But I absolutely love the ending of this movie.


James Stewart sells Elwood's belief in Harvey in a beautiful way.  He's never ridiculous, never winking at the audience saying isn't this character nutty?  His Elwood P. Dowd is very real, very grounded, very sweet, and he makes this movie poignant in so many ways.


Harvey was originally a stage play, written by Mary Chase.  It won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and deservedly so.  It ran for more than four years on Broadway, and James Stewart played Elwood P. Dowd on stage for part of that run.  He later reprised the role in a West End production in the 1970s.

Is this movie family friendly?  ABSOLUTELY.  It's also a great way to introduce children to the idea of psychiatric disorders and show that people who may behave a little strangely do not need to be scary.  And it teaches that people who view the world a little differently from you should be treated with kindness and understanding.


This has been my contribution to the Jimmy Stewart Blogathon hosted by Movies Meet Their Match.  Today would have been James Stewart's 111th birthday!  Happy birthday to an actor who has been dear to my heart for decades :-)

Find out what blogathons I'll be hosting or participating in on my Upcoming Blog Events page!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"Avengers: Endgame" (2019)

I've been writing this review in my head for days.  Weeks, actually.

First of all, let's be very clear:  I love this movie.  Love it with a deep, satisfied sort of love that I didn't dare hope for after Infinity War left me so, well, angry.

Maybe you remember how I said in my review of it that my sadness over Infinity War was not the same kind of sadness I feel by the end of Hamlet.  I love Hamlet, obviously, and it's tragic, but it's a tragic that leaves me feeling cleansed, washed clean, and at peace somehow.  Infinity War was not that.

You wanna know something crazy?  Endgame is not sad.  I mean, it has sadness, but it ends on an upbeat note.  But Endgame leaves me feeling a lot like I feel after watching or reading Hamlet.  Calm.  Washed clean.  Peaceful.  Serene, even.  And that's a huge part of why I love it.

I've seen it twice now, and I yearn to see it again -- maybe I can make that happen this weekend somehow.  I need Cowboy to see it, if only so I can talk about it around him.

SPOILERS from here on out.  I'm serious.  Lots of spoilers.


You know what else I love?  How much closure we get.  Totaly, true closure for so many character arcs, so many threads.  I'm a stickler for closure, and that's a lot of why middle movies in trilogies don't often please me -- no closure.  But this?  So much of it.  Thanos is for real gone.  Cap is for real married to Peggy.  Hawkeye is for real reunited with his family.  Thor is for real going off on new adventures and leaving the throne of Asgard to someone who is, if not more worthy, at least more interested.

Okay, so, speaking of Thor, let me just say that maybe now people will FINALLY believe me when I say that I love him not for the fact that Chris Hemsworth is hot but because of who Thor is as a person.  And man, do I love him in this movie.  He's despairing and depressed and hiding from himself, and I love him.  Nothing I love more than a character who genuinely needs help.  My poor darling.  I love that he works through his problems with his mom's help and is back on an upward trajectory by the end.

And I love that Captain American can wield Mjolnir.  Opening day, the crowd cheered there.  I had such a great crowd that first viewing -- so much clapping, cheering, gasping, laughing.  Wonderful.  I went to see it again a week later, and nada.  Boring people.  But anyway, I love that Mjolnir got to be in this again (Thor's "I'm still worthy!" moment is one of my fave Thor moments ever), and that he got to use both it and Stormbreaker together, and that Cap got to use it, and and and and... so cool.

Cap really just... was spectacular in this.  He's been my second-fave Avenger for years now, and I may have mentioned a time or twenty that he and I share an MBTI type, ISFJ.  While I actually identify more with Thor than Cap, I really understand him a lot, and I love that he stepped up and was just... exactly who he needed to be, who he could be.  In fact, the only character arc I was more impressed by was Tony Stark's.

And now here come the tears.  Man.  Maaaaaaaaaaan.  I never would have imagined that I'd love Tony this much.  That I'd be this affected by his loss.  Because I never expected that this is how much he'd grow.  Still the weisenheimer, still the genius, but gentler now.  Matured.  At peace with himself.  Ready to rest.  Wow.

Okay, but back to Cap.  Of all the things that happen in this movie, the absolute biggest surprise for me was that Cap found a way to be with Peggy at last.  I did NOT see that coming.  I could NOT be happier about it.  It was something I never thought they'd try to do, much less make work, and I'll never be able to listen to the song "It's Been a Long, Long Time" without tearing up again.  I mean, that song always made me kind of misty as it is, but now?  Find me a mop.

So many things I love in this movie.  That Sam gets to be Captain America now.  That Bruce found a way to make peace with the Other Guy.  That Black Widow wiped all that red out of her ledger.  That we get Gamorra back, but only sorta.  That Loki is now maybe not dead or something?  That Thor and Tony got to interact with their lost parents one last time.  That Happy is there for Morgan.  That we got that random cool shot of all the Marvel Superheroines together.  Just... so much perfection in this movie.  So much of it.

Okay, okay.  I think I'm done.  For now.  If I manage to see it again this weekend, I might have more thoughts, but basically... yay.  Yay, yay, yay.

And also whew.

(Look how severely sad he is!  Want to hug!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Happy Birthday, Bobby Darin: A Photo Tribute

To celebrate Bobby Darin's birthday today, I'm going to share a few photos of some of the Bobby Darin stuff that I've collected up over the years.  I've been a fan of his since 1997, so that's quite a nice chunk of time to spend finding things :-)

I haven't started looking for his vinyl records online or anything, but I've picked up quite a few in thrift stores and record stores over the years.  Yes, I do own a working turntable, so I can actually listen to these!  There's something really special about listening to vinyl records that makes me feel like I'm a little kid again.


I have 41 CDs of his music.  Now, there are some songs that I have on multiple CDs just because a lot of these are compilations -- you know, "best of" collections and so on.  And I have quite a few that are live recordings from his wonderful concerts, so then it's often just a different rendition of a song I have the studio recording of on another album.  But still, I have hundreds and hundreds of songs of his to enjoy any time :-)  I listen to him a lot in the morning while making breakfast, to kick my day off on a cheerful note, but also when I'm writing books.  Or basically any time at all.  He recorded in so many different styles and genres that I can always find something that fits my mood.


And he was also a talented actor!  I haven't seen all of his movies and TV show eps yet, but I'm working on it ;-)  Of the ones below, the only one I haven't watched yet is Run, Stranger, Run (1973 -- also known as Happy Mother's Day, Love George).  I'm hoping to watch it this week in his honor.

Beyond the Sea (2004) doesn't actually have him in it, but I included it here anyway because it's a musical fantasy biopic about his life.


Of his films, the only ones I've reviewed here so far are Captain Newman, MD (1963), Hell is for Heroes (1962), and Gunfight in Abilene (1967).  So far!  I've been really busy this year and not able to do as many movie reviews as I'd like, but I'm planning to get back to doing more of them soon.

Anyway, happy birthday, dear Bobby Darin!  Thanks for all the inspiration and enjoyment you've given me.