Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Announcing My New Street Team: The Outlaws!

It's true!  I am organizing a street team at last! 

What's a street team, you ask?  In a nutshell, it's a way for fans of my Once Upon a Western (OUAW) series to interact with me, help promote the series, and get some fun goodies.

Outlaws will get first dibs on advance reader copies (ARCs) of my books.  They'll see my book and short story covers before anyone else.  They'll get to chat with me and the rest of the team in a private Google Hangouts group.  AND they'll get a small welcome package with a couple goodies and a handwritten note from me.

Outlaws will be expected to share news about OUAW books and short stories via their social media. This may include, but not necessarily be limited to, book cover reveals, release date announcements, online book tours, and any related shindigs. Outlaws will be expected to participate in these on whatever platforms they already use, such a blogs, Instagram, Facebook, MeWe, Twitter, etc.  It's not necessary to have accounts on every social media platform ever, but it IS required to have at least one such way to spread news.

In other words, this street team will be a dedicated core group of people who know they want to share news about OUAW books and short stories with their friends, starting now and proceeding on into the future. 

People will still have the opportunity to participate in reveals and online tours, and request ARCs, without being a part of this group, if they would rather not sign on for all of those. But ONLY Outlaw members will receive the perks such as Outlaw goodies, group chats, and early dibs on ARC copies.

This street team is open to anyone in the world who loves the Once Upon a Western book series! Be aware that if you live outside the US, your welcome package and any other goodies I send your way from time to time may take quite a while to get to you. Shipping internationally gets that way, you know.

If all this sounds like fun to you, and you're able to fulfill the aforementioned responsibilities, then follow this link or click on the button below to apply to join the team!

Monday, April 18, 2022

My Ten Favorite Movies Filmed in Europe

Phyl of Phyllis Loves Classic Movies tagged me with the Pick My Movie Tag 2, and she challenged me to post about a favorite movie that was filmed in Europe.  I decided to do a list of ten instead ;-)  So here are my ten favorite movies that take place in Europe that are actually filmed entirely in Europe! (As far as I can tell from their pages, anyway.)

All titles are linked to my reviews if I've reviewed that particular movie.

1. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) -- filmed in Italy and the UK.  An American (Henry Cavill), a Russian (Armie Hammer), and a German (Alicia Vikander) team up during the Cold War to stop neo-Nazis from creating a nuclear bomb. This is an unabashedly fun movie, and I love it ever so dearly.

2. The Princess Bride (1987) -- filmed in Ireland and the UK.  After Buttercup's (Robin Wright) true love Westley (Cary Elwes) is murdered by pirates, she agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), but gets kidnapped before the wedding. I'll never forget the first time I saw this movie -- it changed my ideas about humor and fantasy forever.

3. The Great Escape (1963) -- filmed in Germany.  The Nazis brilliantly put all their worst eggs (Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, James Garner...) in one prison camp, and naturally all those escape artists work together to escape. I love this on so many levels, from the whole band-of-misfits-working-together angle to the clever planning to the actual escape itself. And it's based on a true story!

4. Chocolat (2000) -- filmed in France and the UK.  A mysterious woman (Juliette Binoche) opens a chocolate shop in a sedate French village and teaches its inhabitants to reexamine their attitudes and customs. The yummiest Johnny Depp movie ever -- do not watch this without a good supply of chocolate on hand!

5. A Knight's Tale (2001) -- filmed in the Czech Republic.  Penniless commoner William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) pretends to be a knight so he can win jousting tournaments and feed himself and his friends (Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk, and Mark Addy). Rollicking good fun, with a crazy soundtrack and some awesome jousting scenes.

6. Emma (1996) -- filmed in the UK.  Meddlesome young Emma (Gwenyth Paltrow) tries her best to make matches for all her friends and acquaintances, then falls in love herself.

7. North and South (2004) -- filmed in the UK.  A woman (Daniela Denby-Ashe) from the pastoral south of England moves to the industrial north and spends months ignoring the fact that a wealthy manufacturer (Richard Armitage) is in love with her.

8. Pride and Prejudice (2005) -- filmed in the UK.  Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) can't fall in love with each other until they both come to understand themselves first.

9. The Three Musketeers (1993) -- filmed in Austria and the UK.  Young d'Artagnan (Chris O'Donnell) just wants to be a Musketeer, but he ends up embroiled in unmasking a plot against the king. His three Musketeer friends (Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, and Oliver Platt) are hilarious and awesome too. I actually like this better than Alexandre Dumas' book!

10. Jane Eyre (1983) -- filmed in the UK.  A young governess (Zelah Clarke) teaches her employer (Timothy Dalton) about love and honor. My favorite adaptation of my favorite novel.

Since this is a tag, here are the rules for it:
  • Nominate one or more people to review the film or films of your choice. Or you can request they review something from a certain year, genre, or star. Everyone can review the same thing, or you can request each person cover something different. As long as it’s something they haven’t written about yet, you’re good. 
  • Nominees are allowed to request a different pick for whatever reason no more than five times. Stuff happens. We all know it. 
  • Nominees must thank the person who nominated them and provide a link their blog. 
  • Nominees may nominate others to keep the tag going. Picking the person who nominated them is allowed, or they can nominate someone else. Or both. 
  • All participants need to include these rules in their post, whether they’re nominees or picking nominees. 
  • All participants should use the “Pick My Movie” banner or something similar in their posts. 
  • Have fun!
I hereby tag Caffeinated Fangirl, I'm Charles Baker Harris (and I Can Read), and Meanwhile, in Rivendell... to write about one or more movies that they have changed their mind about somehow.  Reviews, musings, lists, whatever!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Movie Music: Davies, Gordon, and Tognetti's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" (2003)

Today I'm going to share one of my absolute favorite soundtracks with you, that for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), which is one of the most beautiful scores I've ever heard. It contains both original music composed by Iva Davies, Christopher Gordon, and Richard Tognetti and classical pieces by Mozart, J.S. Bach, Boccherini, and others. Why the mix? Because the two main characters, Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), play the violin and the cello.

(In the books the movie is adapted from, they first met at a concert, where Aubrey annoyed Maturin by tapping his toe and waving his hand to the beat -- Maturin dismissed him as a gauche musical naif, only to discover that Aubrey was actually a gifted violinist. Not only that, but Aubrey was in command of a ship about to sail that needed a surgeon, and Dr. Maturin was in need of a job, and so an unlikely friendship was formed.)

Here's a scene from the movie where they play a song that's on the soundtrack, part of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3:

(Both actors took music lessons so that they would at least look reasonably proficient at playing their instruments, though their performances do not appear on the soundtrack.)

And here's one of my favorite written-for-the-score tracks, "Into the Fog." A lot of the music for this movie is very militaresque, as befits a movie about a British warship that involves a healthy number of naval battles. Lots of drums, some strings, some fifes and other wind instruments. I love listening to it in the morning, when I need to get myself motivated to make breakfast, etc.

And here's one final song, which also happens to be from the end of the film, a snippet of Boccherini's "La Musica Notturna Delle Strade di Madrid No. 6." Or, as I call it, "the song where Aubrey and Maturin pretend they have guitars."

I consider this movie to be one of the finest book-to-film adaptations ever, and I've always been so happy that it has a splendid soundtrack to match.

You can read my review of this movie here, and a Femnista article I wrote about Aubrey and Maturin's friendship is here.

(The bulk of this review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on June 9, 2015.)

Monday, April 04, 2022

My Ten Favorite Elmer Bernstein Scores

Elmer Bernstein would have been 100 years old today!  To celebrate the centenary of my favorite movie composer, I have put together a list of my ten favorite movie scores that he wrote.  Yes, most of them are westerns.  And, yes, almost half of them are for movies that starred John Wayne.  Any wonder that Bernstein is my favorite?

All titles are linked to my review of the movie, if I've reviewed it.  I've also provided a link to the main theme from each score on YouTube so you can sample them! 

1. The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)  This soundtrack has such depth to it.  Yes, there are a lot of similarities to some of Bernstein's other scores, but I think this score has a much fuller, richer sound than most western scores of the '60s.  Listen to the main theme here.  It never fails to make me smile!

2.  The Magnificent Seven (1960)  Sweeping, driving, boisterous music.  I know the main theme is probably the most famous western movie theme of all time, but I'm linking to it anyway -- listen to it here!

3.  The Great Escape (1963)  Jaunty and energetic, then poignant and bittersweet -- there's a lot of range of emotions conveyed by this soundtrack, which is apt since the movie is so epic.  Listen to the main theme here.  Random fun thing?  If I have an "earworm" stuck in my head, whistling or humming this song usually cures me.

4.  The Tin Star (1957)  Understated and hopeful music that so perfectly matched the general mood of my book One Bad Apple that I listened to almost nothing else while writing and revising it!  Listen to the main theme here.  It always makes me think of people moving to a new place where they hope to build a new life.

5.  The Commancheros (1961)  Bouncy and upbeat and exciting music!  I often pull this one out when I need to write an action scene because it gives me lots of energy.  Listen to the main title theme here.

6. The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)  WAY different sound than all the others I've listed here!  This is bold and sassy jazz, brassy and fierce.  My goodness, I love the main theme so much!  Listen to it here.  Over and over and over, if you're like me ;-)

7.  Big Jake (1971)  This is not one of my favorite John Wayne movies, but I like the soundtrack a lot.  It has a winsomeness and a sort of yearning that really draws me.  You can hear a lot of that in the main theme -- listen to it here.  Lots of forward drive too, which I always like.

8.  The Ten Commandments (1956)  Sweeping Biblical epics require grand and glorious music, and Bernstein delivered in style!  You can hear the main theme here.

9.  True Grit (1969)  Lots of good action and drive here too.  I love Bernstein's way with music that makes me want to get on a horse and ride off on an adventure!  Listen to the main theme here.

10.  Oscar (1991)  This is quirky and funny score, which totally suits the quirky and funny movie it was written for!  You can listen to one of my favorite tracks, "Grifting," right here.  Also quite a different sound from the others listed here!

Friday, April 01, 2022

"Calamity Jane" (1953) -- Initial Thoughts

Doris Day is one of my favorite actresses.  Westerns are my favorite movie genre.  I also love musicals.  So WHY haven't I seen Calamity Jane before this?!?!?

Actually, it feels like I have seen part of it before.  I suspect it was shown on AMC when I was in college, and I caught a little of it, but didn't like it enough to write it down on my list of movies to seek out and watch all of.  And I can understand why, as the parts I felt like I'd seen before were all in the first third of the movie, and that first third was not my favorite thing ever, to be honest.  I might like it better on rewatching, now that I know where the story is heading, but that's because this movie surprised me.  Twice.

I watched this over two nights, making it through the first two thirds the first night and finishing the rest the next.  Honestly, I was not very engaged the first night, and if I hadn't been watching for the Doris Day Blogathon, I probably wouldn't have finished it.  That was the first surprise, that a Doris Day musical western was just not interesting me very much!

The second surprise came the next night, when I finished the movie.  Because the final act did NOT go where I was expecting it to go, but went to some deeper and better places, and I absolutely loved the way it all wrapped up.  In fact, I went from "well, this is nice, but I'll sell my copy to the used book store" to "this deserves a place on my movie shelves."

Calamity Jane (Doris Day) is a buckskin-wearing, whip-cracking, gun-toting, enemy-shooting, tough-talking, swaggering kind of gal.  Her best friend, Wild Bill Hickock (Howard Keel), is just about the only person in Deadwood who's willing to stand up to her hot temper or stand beside her in a fight.  But Calamity Jane doesn't see Bill as anything but a chum -- she has her sights trained on a handsome cavalry lieutenant (Philip Carey) she's rescued from some marauding Sioux.

The local saloon owner thinks he's hired a woman named Frances Fryer, and he advertises that she'll be singing and dancing at his saloon.  When a man named Francis Fryer (Dick Wesson) arrives instead, the cowboy audience is none too happy about the attempt to pass off Francis as Frances.  Calamity Jane stops them from ripping the whole building down by vowing to go to Chicago and bring back the prettiest singer and dancer ever:  Adelaid Adams (Gale Robbins).

Only, she doesn't.  Once again, we have a case of mistaken identity, for it's actually Adelaid Adams's maid Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie) who comes back to Deadwood, pretending she's the famous entertainer.  The crowd at the saloon is a little more forgiving of this mistake, since Katie is pretty and spunky and plenty entertaining in her own right.  But Calamity Jane is humiliated because Katie lied to her, which made her lie to the townsfolk.  And Bill Hickock is humiliated because of a bet he made with Calamity and thought he'd lost -- he thinks she tricked everyone just to make him look foolish.  

To make matters worse, that handsome lieutenant takes a shine to Katie Brown, and then Bill does too, and for a while, Calamity Jane appears to be losing everyone and everything she cared about in her whole life, all at once.  But, she doesn't, and everything turns out just fine in the end.

I really expected the story to go the route of "once Calamity Jane learns to conform to societal expectations, she'll find her happiness."  Because there was this message all through the beginning of "because Calamity Jane does not look or dress or act like Adelaid Adams, she is not womanly enough to interest a man."  And... it did not.  Yes, Calamity Jane wears a beautiful dress to a ball, where the people who had always half thought of her as a scrappy little man suddenly discover she is a scrappy little woman instead.  Yes, she finds her happiness.  But she doesn't quit wearing buckskins most of the time (though she does get some clean ones).  She doesn't quit riding horses and wearing a sidearm and racing off to do whatever she thinks needs doing.  She still keeps sliding through the window of a stagecoach from above instead of opening the door, too.

In short, Calamity Jane does not need to change to find her happiness.  Instead, she needs to understand herself fully instead of bullheadedly refusing to do anything anyone else tells her to do, whether she wants to do it or not.  She learns to accept herself for herself, and only then does she find she's in love with someone who, as Mr. Rogers always said when I was a kid, likes her just the way she is.

I think, if I had seen this movie as a teen, it may have saved me some angsty grinding of the teeth.  Because Calamity's journey is very similar to my own journey, and I'm thankful to the Lord that he sent me my own Cowboy to appreciate me and love me and understand me just the way I am, rather than trying to convince me to fit into a pre-approved box or pigeonhole.  Maybe seeing this would have given me hope that such guys exist.

Or maybe I would have been so disturbed by Howard Keel's lack of mustache that I would have only watched it once, back then.  Because, to someone who is very used to seeing him gloriously mustachioed in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and Showboat (1951), it WAS a little disturbing to hear his voice come out of this seeming-stranger's face!

I mean, I do accept that he's the same guy... but it was pretty weird at first!!!

Is this movie family friendly?  Pretty much.  There's the Frances/Francis mix-up, in which Francis does wear a dress and try to convince the audience he's a girl, but he is very obviously NOT, and very obviously doing this only under duress.  There are some attitudes and dialog concerning Native Americans that you might need to let kids know are not acceptable today.  There is some mild Wild West violence, and I do mean very mild.  No cussing.

Now, both Adelaide and Katie sing and dance in what looks like a strapless swimsuit, which Calamity says she would never wear because she has different ideas about modesty than that.  But their musical numbers are just cute and flirty, not overtly sensual.  I would let my kids watch this, and we just might do that this summer when I re-institute our weekly lunchtime movie schedule.

This post is my contribution to the Sixth Annual Doris Day Blogathon hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood.  I'm so glad this event gave me an excuse to watch this movie at last!  It was a great way to celebrate what would have been Doris Day's 100th birthday, which is April 3.