Monday, August 30, 2021

A Sunshine Blogger Award :-)

The Classic Movie Muse has awarded me the Sunshine Blogger Award :-)  This is always such a fun one, and I'm excited to answer her questions.  But first, the rules:

  • List the award’s official rules
  • Display the award’s official logo somewhere on your blog
  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Provide a link to your nominator’s blog
  • Answer your nominator’s questions
  • Nominate up to 11 bloggers
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on at least one of their blog posts

Now, time for the fun stuff.  Thanks for these intriguing questions, CMM!

1. You are able to travel back in time and are starring in a film from Hollywood’s Golden Age -- which decade would you prefer and why? 

I would obviously choose the 1950s because I could make a classic western with John Wayne and Alan Ladd and Maureen O'Hara.  Clearly, if I had the power to travel back in time, I would also have the power to make some kind of deal with their studios so they could work together.  While I'm at it, I'll just go ahead and write the screenplay too so I can make sure that we all get wonderful lines and heroic roles, and I get good dramatic scenes with all three of them.  But we'll also have some funny scenes because they were so good at comedy, but John Wayne and Alan Ladd almost never got to do any.  

(I mean, we would have such fun!)

Maureen and I would play best friends, and Duke and Alan would play best friends, and we would all fall in love at the same time (well, I mean, me with Alan, and Maureen with Duke), while also battling some kind of sinister bad guy (probably played by Lee Marvin, with Vic Morrow as a sidekick) who is trying to con Maureen and I into investing our family fortunes in a non-existent gold mine.  With at least one shoot-out that we ladies get to participate in too.  Make it so!

2. What is your favorite film related book? 

Um, just one?  Argh.  How can I choose just one?  I can't.  So I'll talk about three.

(Hours and hours of my life, right here.)

I love and adore The Complete Films of John Wayne by Mark Ricci, Steven Zmijewsky, and Boris Zmijewsky -- I bought a copy when we visited John Wayne's birthplace when I was a teen, and it was one of the select books I took to college with me.  Just paging through it would calm me down when I would get all stressed out about papers and projects and tests.  Now I have two copies because my friend Olivia found me a newer edition that's not falling to pieces :-)  So that's the one I consult now.  But I have to keep the old one too, because it is full of memories.

Then there's The Films of Alan Ladd by Marilyn Henry and Ron DeSourdis, a much more recent acquisition.  I have this rule that I do my best not to read or learn anything about one of Alan's movies before I watch it so I can go in with no preconceived ideas.  But as soon as I do watch one I hadn't seen before, I look it up in this book and read their analysis of it, which I generally agree with.

And I owe much of my movie-related knowledge to The Film Lover's Companion, edited by David Quinlan.  When I was a movie-obsessed teen in the '90s, I didn't have the internet, and even if I did, I'm not sure if existed yet.  So I had this book.  When I saw a movie and liked an actor in it, I looked them up in this book to get a brief bio and a list of their other movies.  And if I saw an actor in a movie and thought, "Hey, I think I saw them in such-and-such movie too!" I could look and see if it was true.  It was incredibly helpful, and although I don't consult it that way anymore, I do still like paging back through it.

3. Do you own any pieces of memorabilia from classic Hollywood (autographs, magazines, etc.)? 

Of course I do!  I have quite a few random magazines and advertisements featuring my favorite actors and actresses.  I have production stills and a couple of lobby cards.  Phyl sent me Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake paper dolls to color and cut out for Christmas a couple years ago.  I have a few autographed pictures -- none are terribly valuable, but they're important to me personally.  I have some vintage sheet music for movie themes, too, like "Mona Lisa" from Captain Carey, USA (1949).

(No idea why I would have this sheet music.)

4. What was the last classic movie you watched and would you recommend it? 

I just watched The Saint Strikes Back (1939), the first Simon Templar movie starring George Sanders, and it was great fun!  I mean, it's only a B-movie detective story, and it's only like 65 minutes long, but it was just the sort of popcorn flick I needed.  I love the Saint books by Leslie Charteris, and I've wanted to see the George Sanders movies for the longest time, so I was excited to get a set of all five.

(Peppy, snarky fun to be had here.)

5. What is the post that you’re most proud of on your blog? Leave a link to share it with us! 

I have never gotten tired of my fake review for a 1943 noir version of Hamlet I called Murder Most Foul.  I'm especially proud of the fact that some people actually thought it was real, until they got to the end where I confessed it wasn't.  It was incredibly fun to write, and I actually want to expand it into a novel some day because I think it worked quite well.

(The person who designed this now makes my book covers for me!)

Wanna know something crazy?  I cast Alan Ladd as Hamlet in that three years BEFORE I fell in love with him.  I'd seen him in This Gun for Hire (1942) a few years earlier, and really thought he would make an effective Hamlet, so I just went with it.  I still think he would.

6. Is there a movie that has made an impact on your life? Whether it be through the viewing experience, the film’s message, etc. 

Uh, yeah?  Like... dozens?  Hundreds?  I'm always learning things from movies, just like I do from books.  Ben-Hur (1959) taught me to choose my friends carefully, because who you hang out with will influence who you become, even when you're an adult.  Captain Newman, MD (1963) taught me that sometimes, all a person needs is someone who will listen to them.  Dead Again (1991) taught me to be very careful how I hand people a pair of scissors.   And I could go on and on and on.

7. Which film do you think should have won for Best Picture but didn’t? 

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).  The Quiet Man (1952).  Shane (1953) (::cries::).  The Ten Commandments (1956).  The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming (1966).  Hello, Dolly! (1969).  Star Wars (1977).  Witness (1985) (::cries again::).  I'll stop there.  But there have been a lot of nominees that I liked better than the actual winners, as you can see...

Excellent spot to tuck another Alan Ladd picture into this post, eh?

8. Do you have a favorite film composer? 

Absolutely!  Elmer Bernstein.  I'm particularly fond of his scores for The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) (listen here), The Magnificent Seven (1960) (listen here), and The Great Escape (1963) (listen here).  Since I'm reviving my blog series on movie soundtracks here, I'm sure I'll be talking about them in full eventually!  So for now I'll just say that I love how Bernstein writes actiony pieces that also manage to have a beautiful lyricism to them.  His scores underline what's going on in a scene, they don't try to hint at what's to come or tell the story themselves.  And yet, listening to them, you can hear the story happening.  Amazing.

(I could listen to each of these for hours.  And have.)

9. What classic film would you recommend to someone who says they hate old movies? 

That entirely depends on the person and their tastes in stories.  There's not a one-size-fits-all answer to that question.  Nobody enjoys every movie.  So if someone tells me they just can't get into old movies, but they'd like to try, I will ask about their favorite modern movies and suggest some classics that have similar themes, feels, storylines, characters, etc.

10. How do you approach movie watching? Do you have a method (i.e. going through filmographies) or watch whatever you’re in the mood for? 

I am a mood watcher.  Unless I need to watch a specific movie to review for a blogging event, I will just go for whatever I'm in the mood for.  This is why I have an extensive DVD collection.

11. If you could give one piece of advice to new bloggers what would it be?

Get active in the blogging community!  Find blogs you enjoy, follow them, comment on them.  Make friends.  And do fun tags like this that help people get to know you, too.

Ahhh, those were such awesome questions :-)

Okay, now it's my turn to tag 11 bloggers.  So I hereby tag:

Along the Brandywine
Any Merry Little Thought
Caftan Woman
Coffee, Classics, and Craziness
Horseback to Byzantium
I'm Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read)
Ink Castles
Meanwhile, in Rivendell...
Movies Meet Their Match
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies
The Maidens of Green Gables

And here are my questions for them:

1. What was your favorite movie when you were 10 years old?
2. What's your favorite movie now?
3. What would be your dream cast for an adaptation of your favorite book?
4. What's your favorite movie soundtrack?
5. Do you have a favorite movie-watching snack?
6. Who is your favorite person to watch movies with?
7. Is there a hairstyle in a movie that you've always wished you could pull off?
8. What movie animal would you like as a pet?
9. What movie house would you like to stay in on vacation?
10. What's the oldest movie you've watched?
11. What's the newest movie you've watched?

Play if you want to!  (And if I didn't tag you, but you like these questions, tag yourself and answer them anyway!)

(There is no reason for this picture of Bobby Darin to be here except that I like it.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Movie Music: Ennio Morricone's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" (1966)

A few years ago, I wrote a series of guest posts for a friend's blog in which I reviewed a couple dozen of my favorite soundtracks.  I really enjoyed writing those, and since that blog is now dormant, I've decided to move that series over here.  I'm going to copy over the posts I did there, plus add new reviews here and there, since my soundtrack collection keeps growing :-)

So... let's begin with the first soundtrack review I shared, way back when, shall we?

Today, I'm going to focus on the ever-iconic soundtrack for the The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966). It's scored by the astoundingly prolific Ennio Morricone, like the previous two Clint Eastwood "Man with No Name" spaghetti westerns. If you're at all interested in classic movies or their scores, you're undoubtedly familiar with the "Main Title," with its insouciant whistle laid over thudding hoofbeats. In fact, it's so famous, I'm not going to talk about it more here, because there's not much I could say that you probably haven't thought of already. 

Instead, I'll highlight my two favorite songs on the soundtrack, which is readily available on CD. First is "Ecstasy of Gold," which comes from the film's climax, and which does everything I love in a song. It starts quietly, with a hint of mystery and melancholy, then builds and builds to an almost manic, fist-pumping finish. You can feel such a wide range of emotions in this piece: longing, hope, desperation, frustration, expectation, and a giddy triumph. Is there any wonder Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony chose it to open their 1999 concert?  Here's the soundtrack version:

My other favorite is "The Trio." It begins all pensive and reflective, building to a brash, swaggering statement of confidence, then subsiding back into the quieter mode before bursting forth with a breathtaking blend of machismo and yearning. 

I have a great love of trumpets, and Morricone could use them more gloriously than just about anyone. No wonder this soundtrack delights me!

I've added a new page to link to all these soundtrack reviews as I post more, just to make them easier to find.

(The bulk of this review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on May 10, 2015.)

Saturday, August 21, 2021

My Ten Favorite Superhero Movies -- 2021 Update

It's been seven years since I shared my original list of favorite superhero movies.  A lot of water, most of it flowing from the MCU, has washed under the bridge since then, and it is high time I updated this list.

As always, this is a list of my favorites, not necessarily what I consider to be the best movies in this genre.  These are the ones I pull off my shelves to watch again and again.  You'll notice that none of the heavy films are on here, because while I appreciate really serious superhero stories too, they tend not to become my favorites.

1.  The Avengers (2012)

Six super-talented people assemble to save the world from Loki's (Tom Hiddleston) desire to show Thor (Chris Hemsworth) he can be cool too.  This is everything I want a superhero movie to be.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travels to the past to save the future. It's got all my beloved X-men in it, sometimes two versions of them, which is unbelievably awesome. Words truly can't describe how deeply I love it.

3.  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.  Until I saw The Avengers, I thought this was what a perfect superhero movie looked like.  It's still magnificent.

4.  Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and new pal Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) work together to get off a wacky planet ruled by Jeff Goldblum (Jeff Goldblum) so they can stop Hela (Cate Blanchett) from taking over the Nine Realms and unleashing murder and mayhem, etc.

5.  X-Men (2000)

The X-Men help wandering mutant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) rescue Rogue (Anna Paquin) from Impending Doom.  The kick-off for modern superhero movies -- we owe so much to this one!

6.  Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Everything sad comes untrue, and then other sad things do happen, but the Avengers find peace for the universe and themselves, and I am so, so, so happy with how this movie wraps everything up that I am considering not moving forward in the MCU timeline.  I'm happy where I am, right here.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) 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 for Wolverine I always wanted and finally got.

8.  Captain Marvel (2019)

A woman (Brie Larson) learns the truth about her identity and sets about undoing all manner of injustices she was an unwitting part of.  It's remarkably fun and upbeat for having such deep themes.

9. Thor (2011)

Spoiled young god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is banished to earth, where he meets and falls in love with a lovely scientist (Natalie Portman) and battles to protect earth from his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  

10. Iron Man (2008)

Genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) escapes from kidnaptivity and hunts down the people who kidnapped him. And builds a really cool flying suit that shoots stuff.

I love SO MANY other superhero movies too, and it feels wrong to leave some of them off here, but my series is Ten Favorites, not Fourteen favorites or Twenty Favorites, so... I'll just have to stop here.

Saturday, August 07, 2021



I finished the first draft of my Beauty and the Beast retelling this morning!


I started writing this book at the end of October.  Sometime around February, I started to worry that I was being a big slacker, because the previous three books all took me about three months to finish the first draft, and this one had been going for longer than that and wasn't anywhere close to done!  

Was I getting lazy?  Was I getting slower?  I didn't think I was getting slower -- I'd been tossing out 1,500 to 2,000 words in most writing sessions.  And I was writing several evenings a week, and at least once a weekend, just like usual.  Surely I wasn't getting lazy.

I gradually realized that laziness and writing speed weren't a problem.  This book is just bigger.  At least, this first draft is.  My first drafts for Cloaked, Dancing and Doughnuts, and One Bad Apple averaged under 30,000 words.  This first draft?  Is over 100,000 words.  No wonder it took me three times as long to write -- it's three times as long!!!

Now, does this mean the finished book will be three times as long as the others?  Probably not.  My word count changes a LOT during revision.  Usually, it goes up.  But I think it might go way down this time because I suspect there's a lot of trimming and tightening to be done.  I don't know yet.  I won't know until I get revision suggestions and notes back from my editor.  And I'm not ready to even send it to her yet.  First, I'll let the whole thing simmer for a week or two while I recover from the last couple of weeks, where I pushed hard to get it finished.

Once I can read it with fresh and rested eyes, I'll change and fix a lot of things I've made notes on as I go.  Then I'll send it to my editor when it's ready, and when she's ready for it.  She'll spend a week or two on it.  She'll send back her notes.  I'll spend a week or so sulking because I hate getting revision notes and always sulk about them.  Which I've just learned to expect.

Then, I can start revising.  I'm guessing I'll send it to my editor in early September, and start actually revising it in early October.  Sometimes my rewrites go quickly.  Sometimes, I spend more time rewriting than I did writing.  Because I suspect this book will get a lot cut instead of a lot added, I'm hoping this will be on the shorter end of revision times, but... I won't have a good idea of what needs to be done until I get my editor's notes.

All of which means... yay, the first big chunk of work is done!!!  But I don't have any idea of when my release date will be.  I've been hoping for winter, and that could still happen.  Or it might not.  We'll see!

Meanwhile, I still need a title.  Sigh.  That'll happen too, I know.  It will, not matter how patient or impatient I am.  But I hate not having a title.  Sigh.

Anyway!  In this post, as you may have noticed, I'm sharing a few images that are related to my book.  I shared these all on Instagram last month, as part of a challenge to talk about your work-in-progress, or WIP.  You can read those specific posts (and see more pictures) herehere, here, and here.  You can also check out my Pinterest board for this book to see lots of things that I've either found inspiring or saved to refer back to.  Many of the pictures are the same, to be honest.

I'll just leave you with this Bible verse that has been in my mind a lot while writing this book.  Waiting and hoping and being of good courage are pretty big themes in it.  At least in this first draft!