Friday, July 23, 2021

My LOWCW Tag Answers

It's high time for me to fill out this year's tag, isn't it?  You can easily copy the questions here in my kick-off post, if you haven't done this tag on your own blog yet, and want to.

The Legends of Western Cinema Week Tag 

1) Western movies or western TV shows?  I love both.  I love how different every movie can be from the rest, bringing me new characters to love.  But I love how TV shows give me the same characters in episode after episode, letting me get to know them so deeply and richly. 

2) Funny westerns or dramatic westerns? 

Dramatic.  I do love some funny westerns, but most of the time, I want allllllll the meaty drama.  I want serious trouble I can chew on, dripping with strong and juicy feelings -- something that will stick with me after the words The End come up.  (Did I just compare dramatic westerns to steak?  Yes, I think I did.)

3) Westerns that focus on loners or westerns that focus on families? 

Oh, that's tough.  I love both so much.  

I love loners who ride into a town and fix things and then ride on.  I love loners who get sucked into a found family.  I love loners who make one friend they will be loyal to forever, unquestioningly, even when they despise the rest of the world.

But I also love westerns that explore the meaning of family.  That turn a family inside out to see what makes it tick.  And families are always such a great source for drama and conflict and love and hatred and reconciliation... 

So what I REALLY love are movies like Hour of the Gun (1967) and The Lone Ranger (2013) and 3:10 to Yuma (1957) that give me both!!!

4) Male-centric westerns or female-centric westerns? 

Male-centric.  I tend to prefer male-focused stories, on a whole.  This is not generally a conscious thing -- I don't stand in front of my movie shelves (or bookshelves) and say, "Where's something with lots of guys in it?  That's all I'm in the mood for.  If it's about a girl, I'm not interested."  Those are just the stories I gravitate to, across all genres.  

I do read and watch things that are centered around female characters -- but if you look at my list of 100 favorite movies, more than 70% of them focus on a male character.  And more than 25% of them do not have women in what I would consider to be main or secondary characters.

5) 1930s to 1960s westerns or 1970s to 2020s westerns? 

My instinct is to say I prefer 1930s to 1960s westerns, especially since most 1970s westerns are just unwatchable junk.  But if you look at my lists of favorite western movies and tv shows, you'll see they're both 60% classic and 40% modern.  So I do like a lot of newer westerns... but in my film and TV collections, the classics far outweigh the modern.

6) Westerns that take place in America or westerns that take place internationally? 

I don't mind westerns that take place other places, and you can see from the graphics above that I love The Man from Snowy River (1982) and Five Mile Creek (1983-85), both of which take place in and are filmed in Australia.  However, my heart belongs in the American West, and I am more drawn to it as a setting than anywhere else.

7) Family-friendly Westerns or edgier Westerns? 

I mainly love family-friendly westerns, due to my predilection for classic westerns, but I do have some edgier westerns that I love too, like Tombstone (1993) and Slow West (2015).  It really depends on how they're being edgy -- if they're being gritty by anteing up the violence, or mixing the western with fantasy, or turning tropes and expectations on their heads, I'm cool with that.  If they're just adding sex scenes and calling that edgy, then I'm probably not going to be a fan.  (This is a big part of why I don't like '70s westerns -- I just don't need all the nakedness, thanks.)

8) Straightforward good guy or conflicted hero? 

I embrace both, but conflicted heroes tend to be my favorites.  I'm particularly fond of reluctant heroes, antiheroes, and uncertain heroes in general.  And my favorites are characters who start out convinced they're hard-hearted loners, only to discover they really are capable of genuinely caring about other people.  (Those are kind of a trademark for Alan Ladd, so it's no wonder watching two of his westerns back-to-back made me fall for him!)

9) Historically accurate Westerns or Westerns that aren't afraid to take some creative liberties? 

This will sound funny coming from a person who writes a column on real Old West history for a newspaper, but I am not even remotely a stickler for accuracy when it comes to the historicity of my westerns.  Are the costumes not entirely period-correct?  Don't care.  Are the hairstyles overtly modern?  Don't care.  Is everyone dirtier or cleaner or healthier or sicklier than they realistically would have been?  Don't care.  Is it clearly filmed in New Zealand, but supposed to be taking place in America?  Don't care.  At all.  Nope, nope, nope, no caring here.  

I'm in it for the characters and the story.  Everything else is just exterior frippery that I will blithely accept as is and go my merry way.

10) Bittersweet or happily-ever-after endings?

I infinitely prefer happily-ever-after endings for pretty much all stories in all genres... except when I find a story that I love dearly even though the ending is bittersweet, even sad.  (See my obsession for Hamlet, my love of Shane, and the fact that I own four different movies that involve the gunfight at the OK Corral and its aftermath.)  

What I absolutely abhor, however, are stories that end without moral balance being restored, like The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), and stories where everyone dies at the end to make a point about futility or the end of an era or whatever, like The Wild Bunch (1969).  Ugh.

Now that I've finally filled this tag out myself, I can start reading everyone else's tag posts without worrying that they'll influence my answers somehow!  Yay!

Don't forget that tomorrow (Saturday) is the last day to enter my giveaway!  And I believe that Heidi's giveaway ends Sunday night.  

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Build Your Own Western Adventure Game

Good morning, pals of the saddle!  How'd you like to play another game today?  Step right up and design your very own wild west adventure by choosing from the following options!  Add your answers together and share them in the comments so we can all enjoy seeing what hi-jinks everyone gets up to.

Your Nickname

Your Official Cowboy Nickname is formed by adding your first name/user name + the state/province you were born in + a nickname determined by your favorite color:

  • Red = Cayuse
  • Pink = Kid
  • Orange = Coyote
  • Peach = Bronco
  • Yellow = Sidewinder
  • Green = Sureshot
  • Blue = Tumbleweed
  • Teal = Wildcat
  • Purple = Whirlwind
  • Anything else = Terror

(That makes me Rachel, the Iowa Whirlwind, for example.)

Your Role

What you had for breakfast today determines what role you'll play in the adventure:

  • Pancakes or waffles = the hero/heroine
  • Cereal = the sidekick
  • Doughnuts = the love interest
  • Muffins = the school teacher
  • Eggs = the bartender
  • Toast = a cowhand
  • Fancy pastry = a ranch owner
  • Anything else = a drifting gunslinger
  • Nothing = the villain's sidekick

Your Story's Setting

What you're wearing on your feet determines where your adventure takes place:

  • Socks only = a cavalry fort
  • Sneakers/tennis shoes = a successful ranch
  • Sandals = the desert
  • Boots = the open range
  • High heels = a gold rush boomtown
  • Bare feet = a struggling farm
  • Slippers = a small frontier town
  • Anything else = a saloon

Your Enemy

Who is squaring off with you at high noon in the middle of... wherever it is you are?  The second letter of your middle name determines your foe:

  • A-E = your long-lost cousin
  • F-J = your grandma's new boyfriend
  • K-O = your mom's old sweetheart
  • P-T = your childhood best friend
  • U-Z = your dad's boss

The Reason for the Duel

Why are you facing them down, ready to shoot them as soon as they twitch a hand toward their own sidearm?  Well, because they did something terrible to you, obviously.  What was it?  Your favorite cowboy movie star determines their crime:

  • John Wayne = refused to help you capture your father's killer
  • Alan Ladd = pretended to be your long-lost brother
  • James Stewart = rustled your family's cattle
  • Gary Cooper = sent your brother to prison
  • Roy Rogers = punched your horse in the face
  • Randolph Scott = jumped your gold mine claim
  • Henry Fonda = shot your dog
  • Steve McQueen = spat in your whiskey
  • James Garner = lied to you about whether or not your gun was loaded
  • Clint Eastwood = stole your family Bible
  • Sam Elliott = poisoned your watering hole
  • Tom Selleck = got you drunk and then tickled you

(If your favorite cowboy movie star is not there, just pick the one you like best out of those twelve.)

Now, tell us in the comments what your adventure is all about!  Here's mine:

I'm Rachel, the Iowa Whirlwind, a drifting gunslinger who wandered onto a struggling farm where I'm now facing down my dad's boss because he refused to help me capture my father's killer!  (Seems like a good reason for a shoot-out to me!)

Please note that comments are still on moderation because of the first game, so your comment will not show up immediately.  It will as soon as I see and approve it, okay?

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

My Ten Favorite Western TV Shows -- 2021 Update

Back in 2016, I posted my list of My Ten Favorite Western TV Shows for that year's Legends of Western Cinema Week.  Well, five years have passed, and I've found some new favorites, so it's time to revise that list!  And what better occasion than this year's edition of LOWCW, right?  Especially since I'm giving away several of these shows in this year's giveaway!  (Enter it here!)

1. The Big Valley (1965-69)

The adventures of the rich, influential Barkley family:  wise matriarch Victoria (Miss Barbara Stanwyck); sensible lawyer Jarrod (Richard Long); hot-tempered charmer Nick (Peter Breck); sensitive tough guy Heath (Lee Majors); and bold little sister Audra (Linda Evans).  Together or apart, they're always encountering excitement of one sort or another in and around the big California valley they own.  I've reviewed my two favorite episodes: "A Time to Kill" and "Showdown in Limbo."

2. The Magnificent Seven (1998-2000) 

A "found family" formed from seven archetypical loners:  a volatile gunslinger, Chris (Michael Biehn); wistful bounty hunter, Vin (Eric Close); a cheerful ladies' man, Buck (Dale Midkiff); a snarky card sharp, Ezra (Anthony Starke); a former slave learning to be a doctor, Nathan (Rick Worthy); a doubtful religious man, Josiah (Ron Perlman); and an annoying tenderfoot, J.D. (Andrew Kavovit).  They're hired by a circuit judge (Robert Vaughn) to clean up and protect a lawless town.  You can read the list of my 10 favorite episodes here.

3. Cheyenne (1955-63) 

Nomadic loner Cheyenne Bodie (Clint Walker) travels the west helping people, taking odd jobs, and doing the right thing wherever he can.  Kind of like the Lone Ranger, but generally without a sidekick, and always without a mask.

4. The Rifleman (1958-63) 

Widowed rancher Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) and his son Mark (Johnny Crawford) contend with all the bad guys who seem irresistably drawn to the tiny Texas town of North Fork, where Marshal Micah Torrence (Paul Fix) is forever needing Lucas and his famous, specially modified Winchester to help stave them off.

5. Five Mile Creek (1983-85) 

The daily lives of a band of strangers working together to run a small stage coach line and its way station in the Australia frontier.  Through a variety of adversities and problems, they forge a "found family" that I have wanted to belong to for as long as I can remember.  You can read my overview of the series here.

6. The Mandalorian (2019-) 

A bounty hunter seeks to reunite an orphan with its family.  Although this is part of the Star Wars universe, I consider it to be a western with sci-fi trappings, not the other way around.  I reviewed the first eight episodes individually, and you can find links to those reviews here.

7. Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958-61) 

Bounty hunter Josh Randall (Steve McQueen) is on a quest to earn money by capturing bad guys and delivering them to the authorities, with many moral dilemmas mixed in.  This may actually be the strongest western show of all -- it has very few "so-so" episodes and manymanymany magnificent ones.

8. The Lone Ranger (1949-57) 

John Reid (Clayton Moore) is the only survivor of an ambushed party of Texas Rangers.  After the lonesome Indian Tonto (Jay Silverheels) nurses him back to health, the two embark on a crusade to bring justice, law, and order to the West.

9. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-98) 

Intrepid woman doctor Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour) moves to Colorado Springs, adopts three kids, romances handsome and sometimes mysterious Sully (Joe Lando), and generally works to eradicate disease, prejudice, and ignorance.

10. Zorro (1957-59) 

The merry adventures of wealthy Spanish scion Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams) as he battles injustice, oppression, and greed in old California.  It's superduper fun, appropriate for just about any age... and currently unavailable on DVD because of a distribution rights dispute :-(  BUT you can watch the first few episodes in the form of the movie The Sign of Zorro on Disney+ now!  Disney edited eight episodes together and released them to the big screen as a movie in 1958, and it is absolutely delightful.

Have you watched any of these?  Do you have other favorites that I didn't list here?  Let's discuss over a cup of coffee by the campfire, shall we?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Western Movie Casting Trivia Game

For my first Legends of Western Cinema Week game, I'm testing your knowledge of movie stars and the westerns they made together.  I'll give you lists of three actors for each movie, and you have to tell me what movie they all starred in together.  Does that make sense?  I'll use all famous western films to make it a little easier on you.

1. John Wayne, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson

2. Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Katy Jurado

3. Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott

4. Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin

5. Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones

6. John Wayne, James Stewart, Lee Marvin

7. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson

8. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld 

9. Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross 

10. Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, Alan Rickman

11. Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef

12. John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine

I've put my comments on moderation so you can't copy each others' answers.  I'll post the answers and your scores at the end of the week!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Legends of Western Cinema Week 2021

Welcome, friends!  Welcome to this year's edition of Legends of Western Cinema Week, hosted by myself, Heidi at Along the Brandywine, and Olivia at Meanwhile, in Rivendell...

For this whole week, whenever you post something for this event, please visit one of our kick-off posts and add your post to our handy list widget!  It should show up on all three posts, giving everyone easy access to all the contributions.

I can't wait to visit all your fun posts!  Whether they're movie reviews, tag answers, lists, giveaways, whatever.  This event is a highlight of my summer!

As for the tag, here it is!  We decided to go with a "this or that" format this year, and I hope you'll have fun with it.

The Legends of Western Cinema Week Tag

1) Western movies or western TV shows?
2) Funny westerns or dramatic westerns?
3) Westerns that focus on loners or westerns that focus on families?
4) Male-centric westerns or female-centric westerns?
5) 1930s to 1960s westerns or 1970s to 2020s westerns?
6) Westerns that take place in America or westerns that take place internationally?
7) Family-friendly Westerns or edgier Westerns?
8) Straightforward good guy or conflicted hero?
9) Historically accurate Westerns or Westerns that aren't afraid to take some creative liberties?
10) Bittersweet or happily-ever-after endings?

Just copy those questions to your own blog and answer them there!  Then come back to this kick-off post to add the link for your post to the widget above.  Don't forget to add one of our official buttons to your post, and link to one of our kick-off posts so people can find the fun from your blog!

Serendipitously, the last day of this event (July 24) is this year's National Day of the Cowboy!  Just in case you needed an extra reason to celebrate.

Come back here to Hamlette's Soliloquy all week long for two fun western-themed games, a fresh edition of one of my Ten Favorites lists, and a movie review.  To kick things off today, I'm starting my giveaway, which you don't want to miss!  Learn more and enter it here.

Happy trails to you!

Giveaway for Legends of Western Cinema Week 2021

I have been looking forward to this giveaway so much!  I found some of my favorite western TV shows on DVD at the used bookstore this spring and knew I needed to share them with fellow western fans!  Plus, I found the cutest notecards that I know some of you will get a big kick out of, like I do :-)  So I'm giving three sets of those away too!

There are SIX prizes for this year's giveaway, as shown above and detailed below:

Prize 1: the first season of The Big Valley (aired 1965-66) used on DVD (5 discs)

Prize 2: the first season of Wanted: Dead or Alive (aired 1958-59) used on DVD (4 discs)

Prize 3: both seasons of The Magnificent Seven (aired 1998-2000) used on DVD (5 discs)

Prizes 4, 5, and 6: a set of six cowboy-themed greeting cards with envelopes.  These cards are blank inside and measure 4"x6".  THREE winners will EACH win ONE set of six cards and envelopes.

To enter this giveaway, simply use this handy widget: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You'll notice that one way to get extra entries is by leaving a comment on this post giving my your prize preferences.  You are welcome to tell me which prizes you DO want to win, as well as any you DO NOT want to win (for instance, if you already own a show or never use notecards).  I can't guarantee that winners will receive their first choice of a prize!  But I do try to match them whenever I can.

Another way to get extra entries is by participating in this blog party with a post of your own.  That can be anything from filling out the official tag to writing a review, or whatever you dream up.  My official kick-off post provides more information on ways to participate.

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE.  If the USPS ships to your country, you are eligible.  However, you must be 18 or older in order to enter, or have a parent's permission to provide your mailing address.  PLEASE make sure you sign into the widget with an email address you check REGULARLY.  

This giveaway runs through 11:59pm EST on Saturday, July 24, 2021.  I will choose six winners on Sunday, July 25, and announce their names/handles here on my blog, and I will also use the email address provided to contact each winner and ask for their mailing address.  Winners have one week to reply.  If I do not receive a mailing address from a winner by Saturday, July 31, I will disqualify that winner and choose a new winner for that specific prize.  

This giveaway is not affiliated with Blogger, Google, the USPS, Rafflecopter, or anyone else.  I purchased all prizes myself and will pay to ship them myself.  All DVDs are USED and I cannot guarantee they will work in your player.  They are all REGION 1 discs and will not play in most DVD players on other continents.  Please check the region specifications of your DVD player before you enter if you do not live in North America.

All these DVDs are used.  I did not have time to try them all in my DVD player, but the shop I bought them from has always sold me good, playable discs.  I don't guarantee that they will work for you.

Any questions?  Good luck!!!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

"Black Widow" (2021) -- Initial Thoughts

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is at its best when it brings all its shiny machinery to bear on something very, very human: a relationship.  Think of the greatest MCU movies out there, and then notice how they entirely revolve around what happens when two people become friends, become enemies, discover they're related, discover they're not related, and so on.  That's what the MCU understands that the DC franchise seems to miss.  It's not about the explosions or the fight scenes or the mind-blowing CGI effects.  It's about people dealing with other people.  Loving them or hating them or being annoyed by them or wanting to thrash them or wanting to save them.  Relationships are the key.

And that's what made me love Black Widow.  The entire story revolves around the fake family Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) briefly had as a child, then lost.  Her little sister Yelena (Florence Pugh), her pseudo mom Melina (Rachel Weisz), and her pseudo dad Alexei (David Harbour) are all ripped from her one by one, but she never lets go of the love she had for them.  Not through all her torture and reprograming in the Red Room that turned her into a superspy.  Not through finding a new family in the Avengers and then losing them too (this takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War).  Not even though she's convinced herself that the love she felt for them was as fake as the family they were pretending to be.

Is it cool that she gets to take down Dreykoff and atone for a few of those red items in her ledger?  Yup.  Were there abundant cool fight scenes?  Yup.  Did stuff blow up about ever five minutes?  Yup.  Did any of that come even close to mattering as much as the deep, rich emotional journey that Natasha goes on here?  Nope.  Not at all.

And I think that's pretty genius, really.  Pull the audience in by promising them a summer blockbuster with lots of bang-bang-shoot-em-up thrills and laughs, and then give them so much more.  

Anyway, I've tried not to be spoilery in this.  I know a lot of people have decided this is the movie that will pull them back into the theater for the first time in how ever many months.  I applaud that decision, just like the audience in the theater with me this afternoon applauded at the end of this movie.  It's a great experience (and it is NOT as dorky as the trailer made it appear, though there is a lot of humor, and some of it is dorky or kinda stupid -- but intentionally so).

Is this movie family friendly?  Um, there's quite a bit of cussing, some juvenile humor, and a LOT of non-gory violence.  I wouldn't recommend it for people under like 15.

Monday, July 05, 2021

I've Done It Again

Every couple of summers, I get the urge to dye my hair red.  So, I do.  Well, Cowboy usually helps because my hair is about 4 feet long and takes quite a lot of time and effort to dye.  He had today off, so this happened:

I need to touch it up a little, but yeah... I completely love it :-D  And I just happened to have time to dye it in time to go see Black Widow this weekend with red hair!

Thursday, June 24, 2021

My Ten Favorite Hugh Jackman Movies

I've been wanting to do lists of my favorite movies starring more of my favorite actors and favorite actresses for a while now, but I kind of kept forgetting about it, too.  Well, Eva posted her top 10 favorite Hugh Jackman movies at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness a couple days ago, and that reminded me that I've been wanting to do more "ten favorites" posts revolving around my favorites, so I'm starting that with Hugh Jackman.

Yes, yes, fully half of these are X-Men movies where he's playing Wolverine.  This should not surprise anyone, considering that Wolvie is my favorite superhero, and also one of my 5 favorite fictional characters ever, the end, full stop.

1. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travels to the past to save the future. My absolute favorite X-Men movie. Words truly can't describe how deeply I love it.

2. X2: X-Men United (2003)

Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), and their followers join forces to keep William Stryker (Brian Cox) from destroying all mutants. Practically perfect in every way.

3. The Greatest Showman (2017)

P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) dreams and schemes his way through life, searching for a way to be important and successful. Also, there's lots of singing and dancing and fun circus stuff.

4. X-Men (2000)

The X-men help wandering mutant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) rescue Rogue (Anna Paquin) from Impending Doom. And to think that I refused to see this at first because I thought Hugh Jackman was all wrong for Wolverine! What kind of fool am I?

5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Wolverine squares off against his half-brother Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) and a younger Stryker (Danny Huston this time), and gains his adamantium skeleton in the process. This is the origin story I've always wanted for him, blending my favorite elements of several backstories for him from the comic books.

6. Australia (2008)

A determined Englishwoman (Nicole Kidman) and a drifting Drover (Hugh Jackman) struggle to save each other and an orphaned Aboriginal child (Brandon Walters) in Australia's Outback during World War Two.  This is the only movie that has ever given me cowboys and WWII soldiers in the same story.

7. Someone Like You (2001)

A jilted woman (Ashley Judd) writes an opinion piece that brings her national fame but jeopardizes her almost-relationship with a crass-yet-cuddlesome coworker (Hugh Jackman).

8. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

It's the X-Men versus Magneto's bunch again, with a back-from-the-dead friend turned into a foe. Actually a better movie than X-Men, but I don't love it as much.

9. Les Miserables (2012)

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) raises his adopted daughter (Amanda Seyfried) while hiding from an obsessed policeman (Russell Crowe) during yet another French revolution.  To be honest, I still wish that Crowe had played Valjean and Jackman had played Javert... but I like it this way pretty well too.

10. Oklahoma! (1999)

A cowboy (Hugh Jackman) tries to win the heart of a girl (Josefina Gabrielle) who claims she hates him. Yes, you read that correctly: Hugh Jackman. This is the London stage version, not the famous Hollywood one, but I prefer it because, well, Hugh Jackman!  He lends a really interesting edge of danger to Curly that I quite dig.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Vines, Leaves, and Fruit -- Article at Blest the House

I've written a new article for the Lutheran homeschooling blog Blest the House!  In it, I talk about how trimming our grape vines gave me some insight into curriculum choices.  You can read the article here.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Femnista Article About "The Mandalorian"

I'm confident that no one here is surprised that I wrote about The Mandalorian (2019-) for this summer's space-themed Femnista issue.  Probably, you're just surprised I waited this long.  Click here to read my article, "The Mandalorian: Cowboys in Outer Space," which is all about how surprised I was by this show I now love, and why I classify it as a western show with a sci-fi flavor, not a sci-fi show with a western flavor.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

My Summer 2021 To-Do List

Okay!  I've had a few minutes to put together my list of things I'd like to this summer.  Projects I want to tackle, reading and watching goals, and other fun accomplishments I'm pursuing.  Here we go!

~ Finish the first draft of my Beauty and the Beast retelling (I mean, it has to be done sometime, right?)

~ Watch 6 movies off my TBW shelves 

~ Reread The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

(All book photos are mine from my Instagram account.)

~ Read 2 other books about/by someone who is not white

~ Read 2 other books for my latest Classics Club list

~ Read 9 books off my TBR shelves 

~ Make the rainbow popsicles my kids found a recipe for

~ Have friends over for the 4th of July

~ Co-host Legends of Western Cinema Week

~ Drive up into the Shenandoah Valley and breathe the free air 

~ Go camping somewhere new

~ Meet my friend Vanessa for the first time in real life

That out to keep me well occupied!  How about you?  Do you have any goals or aspirations for this summer?

Monday, June 07, 2021

Time to End My Spring To-Do List

It is definitely summer now where I live.  It's been in the 90s for days, we've taken the kids to the pool repeatedly, and we've even had some lovely thunderstorms.  And, of course, Memorial Day has come and gone.  So it's high time I wrap up my spring to-do list and get busy on a summer one!

(All photos are my own.)

~ Finish re-reading The Lord of the Rings  Fail.  I did finish The Two Towers, though, and now I'm into Return of the King, so I'm confident I'll finish it soon.

~ Finish the first draft of my Beauty and the Beast retelling  Fail.  Oh my goodness, friends!  This first draft is 60,000 words and still growing.  That's half again as long as the final draft of Cloaked.  Whaaaaat?  I did not realize this was going to be so much bigger.  But I am absolutely loving the ride.  It has been a genuine pleasure to get to know these characters.  I can't wait to share them with you!  

Meanwhile, I do have this little teaser graphic I whipped up recently, if you'd like a little peek into the terrain where it takes place and the actors I would cast if I was making this as a movie instead of writing it as a book:

~ Finish leading the Sense and Sensibility read-along on my book blog  Check!  I had the loveliest time, and I hope participants did too :-)

~ Read 3 books about/by someone who is not white  Check!  I read six:

  • Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev
  • Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
  • Hard-Boiled by Peggy Thompson and Saeko Usukawa
  • Tall in the Saddle by Peggy Thompson and Saeko Usukawa
  • The Poker Bride by Christopher Corbett
  • Asian Americans in the Old West by Gail Sakurai

~ Read 3 books for my latest Classics Club list  Check!  I read five:

~ Read 9 books off my TBR shelves Check!  I read (are you ready for this?) SIXTEEN!  They were:

~ Watch 6 movies off my TBW shelves  Check!  I watched:

  • The Buccaneer (1958)
  • The Moonstone (1996)
  • Little Women (1949)
  • Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
  • Man in the Middle (1964)
  • The West (1996)

~ Watch WandaVision  Fail.  I will probably watch this with my best friend in the future.  Right now, I'm more excited about Loki's show, though.

~ Go see Black Widow (I HOPE!!!)  FAIL.  But this is not my fault -- they shoved the release date back again.  Sigh.

~ Take an afternoon river cruise on a tall ship Fail.  Again, not my fault -- they didn't start up their cruises as soon as they said they would.  We're hoping to try this over the summer, though.

~ Visit Colonial Williamsburg  Check!  We went there for my birthday :-)  My mom was visiting at the time, so she got to go along too!  It was the perfect time to visit, as allll the flowers were in full bloom.

~ Finish the baby blanket I'm crocheting for a relative who's expecting  Check!  I don't think I ever got a picture of it, but I sent it to them a couple weeks before the baby arrived, so yay!

~ Bake a pie for Pi Day (3/14)  Check!  I made this Keto Snickers pie and it was magnificent :-9

~ Hang a hammock in the backyard  Check!  I'm not a big fan of hammocks (they mess with my back), but my kids love it :-D  They've been asking for a hammock for a couple years now, so we gave them one for Easter and rigged it up when it got warm enough.  They use it pretty much daily.

Well, there you have it.  Five fails this spring, but nine checks, so all in all, I'm satisfied :-)  How about you?  Did you accomplish this spring that you were hoping to do?

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Announcing Legends of Western Cinema Week 2021

That's right!  Heidi (of Along the Brandywine), Olivia (of Meanwhile, in Rivendell...), and I are co-hosting Legends of Western Cinema Week again this year!  We're holding it July 19-24, and you are hereby invited to ride on over and join the fun.

Like the last few years, this event will be kind of like a blogathon and kind of like a hootenanny.  For five straight days, we'll be celebrating western movies and shows in every way we can think up -- reviews, games, lists, tributes, giveaways, and so on!

You can contribute as many posts as you like, and it doesn't matter if more than one person reviews the same movie or show.  The more celebration of western cinema legends, the better!  (Just remember to keep things family friendly, okay?)

Even if you can't figure out something to write about, you can still participate by filling out this year's tag, which we'll post at the beginning of the party.  Or you can just enjoy everyone else's posts and comment on them -- that's participating too!

There's no official sign-up or roster for this event, though if you want to comment on my post (or Heidi's post, or Olivia's post) saying you're excited for it, and maybe leaving an idea or two for things you want to contribute, we totally welcome that.

If you're excited about this event and want to spread the word, kindly use one of these awesome graphics that Olivia made -- you can tack it up outside your local sheriff's office with the wanted posters, plaster it all over the mirror in the saloon, or just share it on your blog with a link back here so folks can find info about the party.

Happy trails!

Monday, May 31, 2021

My Ten Favorite Movies Featuring Fallen Heroes

Today is Memorial Day here in the USA, which means I'm taking some time to thank God for all the brave people who have laid down their lives in defense of our country and our freedom.  It's the sort of day when I'd like to pull a movie off my shelves that honors and memorializes such sacrifices.  I've put together a list of my ten favorite movies that feature an American soldier paying the ultimate price, just in case you're looking for ideas of something to watch today.

None of these films glorify war.  Instead, they show the terrible price paid by so many men and women to ensure that our freedom is kept safe, and to help free others around the world.

1.  Midway (2019)  

Historically accurate, dazzling, elegant presentation of the early Pacific Theater of Operations during WWII, from the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, through the Battle of Midway June 4-7, 1942.   One of the best movies I have ever seen.

2.  Hell is for Heroes (1962)

One small American squad (Bobby Darin, Steve McQueen, Fess Parker, James Coburn, Bob Newhart...) holds off a Nazi attack thanks to lots of clever ruses and some spectacular sacrifices. This was written by Robert Pirosh, who also created my beloved Combat!, and this whole movie almost feels like a long episode of the show.

3.  Operation Pacific (1951)

Commander Duke Gifford (John Wayne) leads a submarine crew on a bunch of adventures (most of them based on actual WWII events) and tries to win back his ex-wife (Patricia Neal).  This was my son's favorite movie when he was six.

4.  Captain Newman, MD (1963) 

Darkly tragicomic story of Captain Newman (Gregory Peck), an Army psychiatrist trying to help American soldiers deal with and overcome mental and emotional trauma they've sustained during the war.  Some, he helps.  Some, he can't reach.  Angie Dickinson and Tony Curtis play a nurse and an aid, while the troubled soldiers are played by people like Bobby Darin, Robert Duvall, and Eddie Albert.  Although there are no actual battle scenes, at least one soldier who is healed enough to return to combat is later killed, which lends a lot of gravitas to the story.  Important note: Bobby Darin received an Oscar nod for his role in this.

5.  The Longest Day (1962) 

The story of the D-Day invasion, told from many viewpoints, with one of the most impressive casts ever assembled: John Wayne, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Sal Mineo, Richard Todd, and a very young Sean Connery, to name a very few. Until we had kids and lost our big chunks of movie-watching time, Cowboy and I used to watch this together every D-Day.

6.  Gettysburg (1993)

The story of the battle that tipped the balance of the American Civil War in favor of the Union Army.  It's loaded with wonderful actors like Martin Sheen, Sam Elliott, C. Thomas Howell, and Tom Berenger.  This movie introduced me to one of my personal heroes, Colonel (at the time) Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels).

7.  The Patriot (2000)

A widower (Mel Gibson) refuses to take up arms in the American Revolution for a long time, but his son (Heath ledger) fights valiantly for the Patriot cause, and his father eventually realizes he must take his own stand for freedom.  I haven't been able to watch this since we lost Heath Ledger in 2008, but I'm hoping I'll be able to again one day.

8.  Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

We get to know a squad of Marine recruits, led by Sgt. Stryker (John Wayne), as they prepare for the assault on Iwo Jima.  The recruits view Stryker as a cold-blooded bully, but when they actually hit the beach, they understand at last what he was trying to teach them.

9.  Mister Roberts (1955)

Mister Roberts (Henry Fonda) wants to get off the Navy cargo ship where he's assigned and onto a battleship so he can take part in WWII before it's over.  But his cruel captain (James Cagney) refuses to sign his transfer papers.  Other sailors, including Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemmon) and Doc (William Powell), have their own agendas.  This is kind of a dark comedy.  Lemmon won an Oscar for his supporting role.

10.  We Were Soldiers (2002)

The story of American forces preparing for and enduring their first major battle in Vietnam.  Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott, Greg Kinnear, and Barry Pepper all turn in unforgettable performances.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Happy 114th, John Wayne!

John Wayne has been my favorite actor since my early teens.  I had the great joy of actually visiting his birthplace in Winterset, Iowa, when I was like fifteen.  I'd love to go back one day.  It's always been a source of great satisfaction to me that I was born in the same state he was.  Nowadays, I'm also really pleased that we probably shared the same Meyers-Briggs personality type too: ISFJ.  

I've reviewed a few of John Wayne's movies here over the years, so today I've collected those up here for you to peruse if you haven't had the chance to read them yet:

Stagecoach (1939)

Angel and the Badman (1947)

Operation Pacific (1951)

The Quiet Man (1952)

The High and the Mighty (1954)

The Searchers (1956)

Rio Bravo (1959)

I hope you've enjoyed this little stroll down blogging-memory lane :-)  I'm hoping/planning to watch Rio Bravo with my kids on Friday for our new little summertime tradition of Friday Movie Lunches.  They haven't seen it before, and since it's one of my absolute favorites, I'm really looking forward to sharing it with them!

What's your favorite John Wayne movie?  Mine's actually The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), which I've never properly reviewed here, so maybe I'll get around to that later this summer, especially if I decide to show it to my kids in a few weeks!

Monday, May 24, 2021

"The Light of Western Stars" (1940)

The Light of Western Stars (1940) tells the sad tale of a handsome young cowhand named Danny (Alan Ladd) and his short-lived marriage to the lovely girl Bonita (Esther Estrella).

Danny has a good, steady job on a ranch, and his favorite way to spend an evening is by going to town and dancing with Bonita.  

I've long maintained that it's a crime we don't get to see Alan Ladd dance in more movies because he's got such athletic grace that he must have been a fine dancer.  The Light of Western Stars does give us several nice, longish moments of Danny and Bonita dancing together, and his easy smoothness totally matches my expectations.

Unfortunately, the crooked lawman Tom Hawes (Tom Tyler) takes a shine to Bonita himself.  He orders one of his deputies to go "take care of" Danny so Bonita will be free to dance with Sheriff Hawes.

Because this is a fairly early Ladd role, the filmmakers actually accentuate his shorter height, making him appear young and small, an easy target for the older and heftier baddies who slap Danny around and threaten him.

Luckily for Danny, his fellow ranch hand Gene Stewart (Victor Jory) stops the sheriff and deputy before anything truly awful can happen. 

Stewart tells them to pick on someone their own size next time, meaning himself, I suppose.  

This is the only really clear shot I was able to capture of Alan Ladd -- my DVD copy of this refuses to play in either of my computers even though it plays in my DVD player okay, so I had to grab shots from this online copy, which is even less clear than my none-too-spiffy DVD.  Which is why there are only a handful of screencaps here, and why they're so grainy and blurry.

Next thing we know, there's all kinds of shooting going on in the saloon, and Danny and Bonita come flying out, Danny still firing at unseen-by-us enemies.  Bonita urges him to get on his horse and ride across the border, where he'll be safe in Mexico.

Danny agrees that's the best plan, kisses Bonita, and rides away, shooting at his still-unseen-by-us enemies as he goes.  Bonita borrows a horse from Gene Stewart and rides after Danny, and they both make it safely to Mexico.  There, they get married and live in relative safety until that crooked sheriff and his crooked friends find them.

Alas, the last we actually see of Danny is his panicked flight from that gunfight because this movie isn't actually about Danny, it's about Gene Stewart and his secret marriage to Eastern gal Madeline "Majesty" Hammond (Jo Ann Sayers), plus some gun-runners selling defective rifles to insurgents in Mexico, and Stewart's own personal battle with alcohol.  All of which gets crammed into 64 minutes, so I guess it's not surprising that Danny and Bonita are sidelined so swiftly.  

Still, Danny plays an important role in the plot because (SPOILER ALERT) he gets killed by the gun-runners, which spurs Stewart into fighting them once and for all.  Or something. (END SPOILER)  The plot is so fast-paced that I've watched this twice and still don't really know what happens at the end, except a lot of shooting and riding around on very fast horses.  

This is loosely based on Zane Grey's novel by the same name, which I read a few years ago and reviewed here on my book blog.  It has a rather different plot.  This was actually the fourth movie adaptation of that novel!  There were also film versions made in 1918, 1925, and 1930.  

Interestingly, Noah Beery Jr. plays Stewart's dim-witted sidekick Poco in this film, and his father Noah Beery had a role in the 1925 version.

Is this movie family friendly?  Totally.  Do I recommend it?  Only if you love someone in it enough to sit through 64 minutes of very murky plot.  Also, it basically has no conclusion, it just ends.