Saturday, March 30, 2024

The Sunshine Award, March-style

Gill at Reelweegiemidget Reviews nominated me for the Sunshine Award several months ago, and I am finally finishing off my post for it!  Thank you, Gill -- I'm sorry it took so long to finish this.

The 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.

Gill's Questions for Me:

Who would be your dream interview subject and why? 

I'm going to limit this to people who are currently alive and say Harrison Ford.  He doesn't like to talk much.  I don't like to talk much.  It would be a really short interview in terms of words, but I'd love to just... meet him and tell him how much I enjoy his movies, and maybe ask him if there are any questions nobody ever asks in interviews, but that he's always wanted to answer.

What’s your favourite blogathon that you have either run or taken part in? 

I have REALLY loved co-hosting Legends of Western Cinema Week for the past five years!  Speaking of which, I need to get in touch with my usual co-hosts and see if they're ready to start planning this year's event :-D

You have the choice of a film festival to attend in 2024 in an all-expenses paid trip, which do you choose…? 

I would love to attend the Lone Pine Film Festival someday!  So many amazing westerns were made in that area.  I had the pleasure of visiting their museum years and years ago, and would love to go back one day.

What film-inspired present would you buy for me if you had 50 dollars (or your own currency) to spend…? 

I really enjoy reading scripts, so I would try to find you a script for a movie or show that you love :-)

Imagine that you are moving house, which actor or actress would you choose as your next door neighbour? 

Hugh Jackman.  He's reportedly extremely nice and non-intimidating.  He bakes bread.  He likes to do jigsaw puzzles.  I bake bread and like to do jigsaw puzzles.  He reads books.  I read books.  I'm pretty sure we could start a book club together, where we do jigsaw puzzles, eat bread, and talk about books.  Fun times!

What’s your favourite film franchise? 

The Peter Jackson/New Line Cinema Lord of the Rings films.

Which year is your favourite in film, and support your answer with your top 3 movies from this time…

So, this question stumped me for a long time.  Every time I would pull up this post to work on it, I would get to this question and give up.  I just couldn't figure out a good way to answer it, because I love so many movies from so many eras!  My list of 100 favorite movies has movies ranging from 1921 to 2023!  How to choose one year?

I finally decided to go through that list of 100 favorites and tally up what year each movie is from.  And that gave me an answer for this question at last, which is: 1995.  There are six films from 1995 on my list of 100 favorites.  And that makes total sense, because I was 15 in 1995 and really starting to take notice of movies and study them, and that was about when I made friends with some other avid moviegoers. My top three favorite movies from 1995 are While You Were Sleeping, Sabrina, and Toy Story.  The first two are in my top 20, so I think that's a really good answer, even if it took me forever to figure out!

Recommend a film to me that you think would easily fit in my blog. 

Gill, you enjoy quirky and underrated movies.  Have you seen Ishtar (1987) yet?  My college bestie and I watched that over and over and over together, and it is a really fun ride.  I can still sing snippets of some of the songs.

Without saying who the murderer is, which Agatha Christie inspired movie would you change the murderer in… 

I've never seen a movie version of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but I'm sure there is one, and I figured out who the murderer was about halfway through the book, which annoyed me a lot.  So changing it up for a movie version might be a jolt of surprise awesomeness!

What’s your favourite film related biopic? 

I love Beyond the Sea (2004), a charming, not-meant-to-be-strictly-realistic biopic of my beloved Bobby Darin.

Who was the first celebrity who responded to you on social media and who was the last…?

I don't really interact with any celebrities on social media, aside from authors.  I suppose the first would be Laurie R. King, who graciously let me interview her when I was doing a read-along of The Hound of the Baskervilles a few years ago on my book blog.  Most recently, Katherine Reay replied to a comment of mine on Instagram.

Well, there we have it!  My answers to Gill's questions at long last.

My life has been very, very full right now, and I have not done much blog reading for the last couple of months.  But I'm going to go ahead and nominate people for this anyway, and make myself catch up on reading some blogs by reading their latest posts and commenting on them with a link to this!  

So, my nominees are:

And here are MY 11 questions for my nominees:

1. What's the first movie you have a memory of watching?
2. Have you ever written a fan letter to a celebrity?  (If so, did you get a reply?)
3. What are the three funniest movies you have ever seen?
4. What movie do you really want to change the ending of?
5. What movie do you wish had a sequel, but it doesn't?
6. Who were were favorite actor and actress when you were a teen?
7. Who are your favorite actor and actress now?
8. Does anyone else in your family love movies?
9. If you could pick an actor/actress to play you in a movie, who would you choose?
10. Do you ever watch a movie in the theater more than once?
11. Are there any movies coming out in 2024 that you are looking forward to?

Have fun!  Play if you want to ;-)

Saturday, March 23, 2024

"White Warrior" (Cheyenne, Season 3, Ep 13)(1958)

"White Warrior" is the second episode of Cheyenne (1955-63) I ever saw.  I mentioned recently how, when we moved to North Carolina when I was 12, my whole world expanded thanks to a local video rental store with a fantastic collection of classic movies, particularly westerns.  That video store also had a lot of episodes of classic TV shows on VHS, including two each of Cheyenne, Bronco, Maverick, and Wanted: Dead or Alive.  One of those episodes of Cheyenne was this one, and it's the ep that made me fall in love with this show.  

In "White Warrior," Cheyenne Bodie (Clint Walker) is leading a wagon train.  I really love wagon train stories (so much so that I wrote one), so that alone would probably make this episode a favorite.  There's something so compelling for me about a group of people who have decided to leave home and family and familiarity behind them and are setting off into what they hope will be a better world.  But they're also stepping out into the unknown, with uncertainty and hard work and a lot of possible dangers around them.  Also, one of my great-grandmothers was born in a wagon train while her family headed to their new home in the Dakota Territory, so that might be part of why they fascinate me.

Anyway, the wagon train Cheyenne is leading has a couple of total creeps in it, Eli Henderson (Peter Whitney) and Matt Benedict (Morris Ankrum) in particular.  Eli Henderson is a trader who wants to bilk settlers and American Indians out of whatever he can by selling them subpar and sometimes illegal goods.  Matt Benedict is a harsh, hateful man who pushes his son Neal (Chuck Courtney) to bully others in order to prove what big and powerful people they both are.  Cheyenne has plenty of trouble keeping the two of them from creating havoc even before the titular character arrives.

A handful of Apache warriors meet up with the wagon train and want to trade with Henderson.  While Henderson is wheeling and dealing with them, Cheyenne notices that one young man riding with them (Michael Landon) is a Comanche captive, not an Apache.  He trades a horse for the captive because he knows the Apache warriors will most likely brutally torture and then murder him when they get back to their own people.

Cheyenne frees the Comanche and learns that he speaks English.  He also notices a distinctive scar on the young man's wrist.  Some of the people on the wagon train, egged on by Henderson and Benedict, demand that Cheyenne get rid of the Comanche because they are sure he will kill them all in their sleep.  Why?  Because he's an Indian, and they don't trust Indian.  When Benedict snarls, "He's an Indian.  There's too many of them, anyway," Cheyenne retorts, "That's exactly how they feel about us. Only, they got better reason."

Then Cheyenne drops a little bomb on their let's-hate-the-Comanche party:  the captive he freed isn't Comanche by birth, but by adoption.  The captive confirms this reluctantly -- he is a young white man named Alan Horn who was captured by the Comanche when he was a child and adopted into their tribe through a blood ceremony that left the scar on his wrist.

The settlers still aren't cool with this, even after Cheyenne explains he knew Alan had been adopted by the Comanche because the same thing happened to him as a boy, only he was adopted by the Cheyenne instead.  This is a big part of why I love this episode: we get to hear more about Cheyenne's backstory here than we do in any other episode I have seen.  He was rescued by the Cheyenne after his family was killed by raiders, and they adopted him into the tribe.  But, when he was in his teens, about the same age as Alan, he had to decide for himself where he belonged.  And Cheyenne Bodie decided he wanted to rejoin the white world, even though he never would quite feel at home there or find total acceptance because of his Indian upbringing.

Cheyenne gives Alan Horn the same choice.  If he wants to rejoin the Comanche, Cheyenne will send him on his way with a horse, water, food, and a knife.  If he wants to try living with the white people, Cheyenne will help him find a place in that world instead.  And that is another big reason why I love this episode -- Cheyenne never pushes Alan to decide one way or another.  He lets him make his own choice.  He never even tries to persuade him that one society would be better than the other.

The way this show as a whole treats American Indian characters was pretty revolutionary when it first aired in 1955.  That was the height of the popularity for western shows and movies, and the vast majority of those portrayed the American Indians as nameless, faceless, remorseless enemies.  Of course, there were exceptions.  And, of course, Cheyenne's being raised by a native tribe is often used as a way to make him seem exotic and special.  But the show insists on treating Indian characters with dignity, as intelligent individuals.

Anyway, Alan Horn does find some acceptance in the wagon train, particularly being befriended by Clara Bolton (Randy Stuart) and Lyle Gordon (Richard Garland).  But others are determined to drive him out, especially when he reveals that he overheard Eli Henderson making a deal with those Apache warriors to sell them rifles and ammunition, which is against the law.  Matt Benedict even tries to convince his son Neal to kill Alan Horn just because he was talking to a white girl.

Cheyenne believes and trusts Alan, and of course, the bad guys are stopped, the good guys are rewarded, and the wagon train is able to safely continue on the way to their new homes.  This is a fifties show with a lot of kids in the audience, after all.  But that doesn't keep it from taking a deeper, harder look at issues like trust, kindness, and belonging.  The show as a whole doesn't shy away from difficult subjects, and that's another reason that I love it.

In fact, Cheyenne is one of my top favorite western shows of all time, despite my only having seen two episodes of it as a teen, and then all of season one when I was in my twenties.  I now have all seven seasons on DVD and have been having a jolly time making my way through the show.  I'm only halfway through season two, but I jumped ahead to rewatch this episode so I could review it this weekend.

Michael Landon's star was on the rise when he guest-starred in this episode.  In a matter of months, he would be starring on Bonanza and become a household name.  His performance here is understated and lovely, showing his inner conflict mainly through his haunted eyes and hesitant words.

This review is my contribution to the 10th Annual Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts all weekend long.

I've been crushing on Clint Walker for more than thirty years, so here is one last shot of him looking particularly good in this episode.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Upcoming Book Releases

Yes, that title is plural for a reason!  I have several new releases and rereleases in the works for 2024, and it is long past time for me to be talking about them here.  Life has been kinda... extra... the last couple of months, and things like blogging have gotten shoved to the back burner a bit.  Part of that mayhem has been that I have a LOT of book projects I'm working on all at once, so let me give you a quick run-down on what is on the horizon for my books!

First off, I'm releasing my Sleeping Beauty retelling, The Man on the Buckskin Horse as an illustrated paperback on April 30!  It will also be available (with the illustrations!) for ebook -- you can pre-order the Kindle edition here already.  The illustrations are all by Skye Hoffert, whom I commissioned to do character art for My Rock and My Refuge.  It was such a joy to work with her again!

This is the novella that won the Rooglewood Press retelling contest and was included in their 2016 anthology Five Magic Spindles.  The publication rights have reverted back to me, and I am excited to be able to finally make this book an official part of my Once Upon a Western series!

Info about book launch goodies and so on will be coming after Easter, so be on the lookout for that.

Okay, that's announcement number one.  Here's the next one:

I will be releasing a collection of ten short stories this summer!  There will be two stories related to each book in my Once Upon a Western series, all either prequels or sequels to those books.  You've been able to read some of those stories before, but three will be brand-new, and several others have only been available to my author newsletter subscribers previously.

Speaking of which, if you haven't signed up for my author newsletter yet, you can do that right here.  It's a much faster way to find out about my book news than waiting for me to have time to post things on my blog ;-)

Okay, piece of news number three:

I have signed a deal with ONE Audiobooks to produce audiobook versions of my entire Once Upon a Western series, including the short stories that I'll be releasing this summer!  This is a dream come true, and I am really excited about this additional way for people to access my books.

(This is the same company that I wrote A Christian Reader's Guide to Jane Eyre for last year, which should be released sometime this spring.)

And now, my fourth and final announcement:

Last fall, I was invited to be part of a multi-author series called the Cornerstone Series which will be a set of sixteen novellas, each retelling a fairy tale, but focusing on a side character from the fairy tale.  So, imagine a Cinderella retelling that's about the fairy godmother, or a Snow White retelling that focuses on the huntsman, that kind of thing.  (Those are examples ONLY -- I don't know if any of the authors are writing anything like that.)  The series will be all non-magical fantasy novellas, which means there may be fairy tale creatures like unicorns or mermaids, or other fantasy elements, but there will be no magicians, witches, wizards, or sorcerers.  

My book, A Noble Companion, is an Ugly Duckling Retelling that focuses not on the ugly duckling himself, but on a childhood friend.  It is set in a fantasy version of Spanish California in the early 1800s where there are talking animals and a dragon.

I'll be revealing more about A Noble Companion in the coming months, and it will be released November 12.  You can already pre-order the ebook on Amazon if you want to.

Okay!  That's all my news!  Are you breathless?  I kind of am. That's a LOT to be working on in one year!!!  Drop a comment below and tell me which of these projects you're the most excited about :-D

Saturday, March 02, 2024

Movie Music: Rachel Portman's "Chocolat" (2000)

Here I am again, ready to discuss more movie music with you. I really enjoy Rachel Portman's movie scores.  Her music for both Chocolat (2000) and Emma (1996) make me happy and are particularly great for listening to when I feel like listening to something sprightly, but with a pang of melancholy here and there.  I reviewed the Emma soundtrack a while ago, so today, I'm going to share my other favorite Portman soundtrack.

Considering the movie's subject matter, I'm sure it's no surprise that I really like to listen to the Chocolat soundtrack while I bake.  It's also great for doing housework or powering through a writing session that needs some upbeat vibes.

I'll start you off with a feel-good song, lots of energy and spring to it. It really conveys the idea of vigorously setting to work, doesn't it? 

Here's a completely different mood. "Caravan" is soft and sensuous, a slow and beautiful simmer. It was first performed by Duke Ellington in the 1930s, but here, the guitar track is laid down by none other than Johnny Depp, who co-stars in the film. 

My favorite track on the whole soundtrack is "Minor Swing," another '30s jazz song which Johnny Depp also plays guitar on. It's joyful and energetic and just plain fun -- it gets my toes tapping and my fingers snapping. 

If you like those selections, you can listen to the whole soundtrack on YouTube right here :-)

(This review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on September 15, 2015.)