Showing posts with label real life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label real life. Show all posts

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kit 2003-2014

I had to say goodbye to another beloved pet today, my cat, Kit.  He was named after Kit Walker, the Phantom, because of the ghostly white markings on his legs.  He was a shoulder cat, would ride everywhere around the house on my shoulders.  And he had the tiniest, breathiest meow I've ever heard on a cat.  He would come running and squawk at me whenever I put dishes away, it was the funniest thing. He loved food in general and always had to have his canned food every morning, but marshmallows were the one thing he went completely nuts for.  He would do anything to get one.

(Max and Kit, Max wondering why the cat was trying to sleep against him and hoping he would go away.)

Monday, April 28, 2014


Maximus (2002-2014)

I lost my beloved dog unexpectedly today, although I knew he was not well.  I just didn't realize how unwell he was.  But I didn't expect it to be advanced cancer and at that point where there was nothing left but to tell him how much I loved him and let him go. No matter how long you have them, you're never ready for that final goodbye.  Or the giant hole that's left when you get home, and he's not there.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to the movies I go

2013 was a banner year for theater-going for me.  I've been keeping my ticket stubs in a book, and it appears I went to the movie theater 38 times in 2013!  I think that's more than the previous 5 years' theater outings combined!  Four of those were to see operas.  Seven were older movies, fourteen were new movies released in 2013.  And if those don't add up to 38, that's because a few of those movies were seen multiple times.  LOL. 

My favorite viewing in 2013 of a classic film was It's a Wonderful Life, which I saw just last weekend.  I had never seen it before on the big screen, and it was perfect, with a great appreciative audience.  It was also I think the only movie of the entire year that had the volume set at a level that didn't require me to wear my earplugs.  That was soooooo nice, I can't even tell you.  (As opposed to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which required two trips to the lobby just to get them to lower the volume to a point where I didn't have to have my hands over my ears WITH earplugs already in.)

I find it interesting that in both 2012 and 2013, I saw both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen.  Wouldn't mind if that became a tradition each year!  Although, I might end up with two Lawrence viewings this year, as it's playing this coming weekend... and in a film print, not a digital.  It's also playing in January, though, so I may just wait for the new year and not try to deal with holiday traffic.

So, what were my favorite new films of 2013?

1. The Lone Ranger (by a long shot)
2. Epic
3. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
4. Jack the Giant Slayer
5. ??

I can't actually pick a fifth favorite movie of the year.  The first four are the ones I bought immediately on DVD when they came out.  I'm not sure I'm going to be buying any of the other movies I saw in 2013, though I will happily watch them whenever they come on.  I liked several movies with about the same level of affection.  They were all very entertaining, but they didn't quite hit my personal sweet spots to push them up into favorites.  Those would include Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Frozen, Planes, The Great Gatsby.  But I can't really pick one above another.  Probably the Hobbit out of those, but I need to see it a second time first.

Least favorite movie of 2013, of course, was Star Trek: Into Darkness

And there is so much to look forward in the next year.  The Phoenix Big Cinemas will be showing The Adventures of Robin Hood in January, and I cannot wait to see that on the big screen.  I'm looking forward to finding out what other classic movies they'll select the rest of the year.

As for new movies coming out next year that I'm aware of, I'm looking forward to the new Captain America movie, Transcendence, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, The Monument's Men, Maleficent, the third Expendables movie, and, of course, the final Hobbit.  I'm sure there will be other films as well.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wrapping up September

My apologies, I am so behind!  I have all kinds of movies to review that I just haven't yet.  Midnight Club with George Raft, The Iron Mistress with Alan Ladd, The Liquidator with Rod Taylor, a bunch of newer movies as well.  And I made the mistake of checking my drafts... wow, do I have quite a few abandoned movie review posts in there.

But it's officially autumn, my favorite season of the year.  It's finally cooling off in the evenings.  The last few days have been the first days since May that it was cool enough outside for me to leave my front door open all day long.  It's cool enough that I can finally walk my dog again in the evening without his paws burning up on the asphalt.  Yay!

It's also the official start of opera season, and I'm too revved up about that to write movie reviews.  The Met kicked off its season a few nights ago with Eugene Onegin, which will be broadcast in the movie theaters on October 5th, and I can't wait.  Handsome baritone Mariusz Kwieicen in the title role, Piotr Beczala as Lensky, and Anna Netrebko as Tatiana.  I saw Eugene Onegin for the first time earlier this year with my favorite baritone, Simon Keenlyside in it, and loved it.  It was neat to discover a new-to-me opera that was that enjoyable.  I'm very curious to see this version.  That's the cool thing about operas.  It's always fascinating to see the different staging and what singers do differently.  Simon plays cold very well, and Mariusz tends to be warmer, so I wonder how that will change Onegin's character?

And here at home, the LA Opera season just got underway with Carmen.  I'll be seeing that live soon and am very much looking forward to seeing Ildebrando D'Arcangelo again.  And bass-baritone Bryn Terfel is coming to Santa Monica for a concert!  Woo!  I would love to hear him sing the catalog song from Don Giovanni live, but unless he does it as an encore, it's not on his program.  Sigh.  Something to look forward to in the future.

So, movie reviews are coming, but as my love for opera trumps my love for movies, it might be another few days.

Monday, September 02, 2013

With the click of a button

Recently, I was having a conversation with a good friend about watching movies.  It came up that she likes to put on a DVD of a favorite movie she’s seen a lot and jump to the end, or the "good" parts, (or however you want to refer to those favorite scenes we all have).

I usually cannot do that.  What makes the end or finale or the “good parts” of a movie good, for me, is the build up to get there.  The anticipation.  The emotional journey.  To just jump straight to the end, with no lead in... well, then I have nothing invested, even if I know very well what happens to reach that point.  The scene won’t have any impact if I just jump there with the press of a button on my DVD player.  My friend said she jumps to the end because that is the best part, the part she's most invested in, and it is the part she most wants to repeat.

I’ve tried skipping to the end of various movies... and it just doesn’t work for me.  I guess I’m one of those long-term viewers.  When I watch something, I commit to it.  Which is why I’d always much rather see movies in the theater.  Why I often go alone so I don’t have to deal with someone else’s comments or movements (gigantic pet peeve:  people who put their feet up on the chairs in front of them.  I HATE THAT!!!!) or other such rubbish.  I usually sit fairly close to the screen, for two reasons – 1) I don’t want to see see heads or people getting up and moving around – all that takes me out of the movie, and 2) I want to be in the movie, and sitting closer lets the screen dominate my sight.

When I watch a movie, I am not here any longer.  I’m there, in the movie with the characters.  That’s why I go to the movies in the first place.

I think jumping to a favorite scene on a DVD makes me feel like a viewer not a participant in the film.  And that is not something I enjoy.  It breaks films into bits.  Films are not bits.  They’re one two-hour journey.  They're an arc from start to finish.  The rainbow without the storm that came before it is a pretty enough sight, but it is not earned.

There are exceptions, of course.  If I have no emotional investment in a film, then I'm okay with jumping anywhere in it... but if I have no emotional investment, it's not a favorite anyway.  But I can't think of one movie I truly love where I'd want to jump to the end without watching the entire thing, or where I've tried it and the end worked for me stand-alone.

I'll add that individual movie scenes can be the same way for me.  I was looking for one specific scene on youtube from a movie I recently watched.  (The idea being that if it were there, I wouldn't have to buy the DVD just so I can watch that one scene again.)  I found the last 16 seconds of it.  And gee, it doesn't work for me, not without the two minutes leading up to that last 16 seconds.  Same principle.  I guess I'm just not an end result person.

I figure I must be in the minority on this.  But then, given how many times I will go back to see a movie I love in the theater, this is not a surprise.  LOL!

Monday, July 15, 2013

10 things you might not know about me

Millie at ClassicForever tagged me on this one.  Here's 10 random facts about me you might not know.

1.  If my hair isn't long enough to braid at least sections of, I tend to be unhappy.  I blame this on Lee Marvin and his character of Tully Crow in The Comancheros, whose single random braid was the first I imitated.  I'm thinking of this because I'm wearing one like that right now...

2.  I'd much rather do yardwork than housework.
3.  I love catching snakes.
4.  I am attracted to Men in Scarves.  Seriously.  Show me a bunch of pictures and I am immediately drawn to the ones with a scarf around their neck.  So much so that I have started collecting pictures of my favorite actors in scarves.  Just because.
5.  I am not a very forgiving person.  I'm working on that.
6.  I am a good baseball player.
7.  I am allergic to wheat.
8.  I own and know how to use a bullwhip.
9.  I will run immediately to the grocery store if the cats or dog are out of food, but if I am out of human food, I usually opt to skip dinner instead. 
10. I bought a new sewing machine from Amazon seven years ago.   I have never opened the box it was shipped in.

I'm going to tag Patti, Tom of Motion Picture Gems, Rabia, and Laura, but please feel free to ignore if not inclined to participate.  I know I'm personally terrible about memes and being tagged myself, so just disregard.  And if anyone else wants to join in, by all means, do so!  It's always fun to learn more about the people I "hang out" with the most.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Catching up

One of my cats is quite ill right now, and so everything else has fallen to the side.  I have a couple more James Bond movies to review, but just haven't been able to find the desire to write them up right now.  So, in the meantime, I thought I'd do a quick catch-up post on everything else I've been unduly ignoring.

Publishing news!  My third Bat Masterson/Wyatt Earp short story, entitled "The Wager," is now out in the Dreamers in Hell anthology, available in Kindle, Nook, or print versions at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   Always exciting when a book comes out, and I'm sorry the bad timing in my personnel life has prevented me from enjoying and promoting the book release as I normally would.

Over the last couple months, I caught Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Epic, and Monsters University in the theater.

Iron Man 3 - loved it, found it satisfying and quite humorous, loved Ben Kingsley, can't wait to pick it up on DVD when it comes out.  However, I never had that desire/need to see it multiple times, like Avengers, so only saw it twice.  Iron Man 2 remains my favorite film of the three Iron Man movies, followed by this one, then the first Iron Man movie.

The Great Gatsby - went through lots of mixed emotions watching this one, but by the time it completed, it had won me over, and I quite enjoyed it.  I did not like the use of modern music at the party scenes, but at the same time, it actually worked somehow, which is very strange.  Visually, it was amazing, and everything looked exactly as I pictured it from the book.  I loved the actors.  I'd seen the Robert Redford 1970's version, which fell completely flat for me.  This movie actually helped me understand the book, which I greatly appreciated.  I walked away with a much deeper appreciation of the story.

Epic - old-fashioned good vs. evil story.  Quite fun and very pretty.  I liked the characters, and I was fascinated how the story had at least four single parent/child relationships, each one quite different, but each complementary.  Intriguing.  Loved the character of Ronin and really related to him.  This is one I'll buy for my nephew as soon as it comes out on DVD.  He will love it.

Monsters University - the best part about seeing this one was listening to the three twenty-something young men sitting in the same row react to events in the movie with all their hearts.  You'd have thought they were ten-year-olds, not adults, they were sooooooooo into it.  It was pretty awesome.  Alas, for me, this movie did nothing, and when I was ready for it to be over, there was still another twenty minutes and another adventure left.  If I wore a watch (which I don't) this would have been a clock-watcher.  That doesn't mean it wasn't a good movie, particularly for kids, it's just it hit none of my buttons.  I really didn't want to be the characters, I could not relate to anyone in it, and I am really not a fan of most underdog stories or origin stories.  I do adore Monsters Inc., and it is my fourth favorite of the Pixar film, but all the heart and emotion and charm and suspense in Monsters Inc. was missing in this one.  My nephew enjoyed it (but didn't love it), and the audience clapped heartily at the end, so I suspect I am in the minority on this one.

Other than that, we've truly hit summer and the temp is well over 100 degrees.  I'm longing for fall/winter to get here.  But my tomato plants are gigantic and producing tons of tomatoes.  My apple trees, which gave me fabulous apples last year, are giving me much larger, but not as tasty, apples this year, and my apricot tree gave me at least 300 fabulously wonderful apricots.  I love this apricot tree.  I had to hunt and hunt to find the right variety when I bought it, but it paid off.  All apricots are not equal.  It has been a good year in the garden, at least!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

I attended the Lawrence of Arabia screening last night.  This is the first time I've seen Lawrence since I was a kid.  My family went to see it on the big screen back in the '70's.  I was probably 9 or 10 years old, maybe younger.  I remember being blown away, but over the years, I retained only three vivid memories of the film.

Warning, spoilers follow!!

Those three memories were the opening scene (Lawrence crashing on his motorcycle), the death of the first kid in quicksand, and the death of the second kid when the detonator exploded.  I know, pretty depressing that my brain hung onto all the death scenes.  But they affected me greatly, particularly the last one, which haunted me ever after.  Not quite as scarring for me as the death at the end of The Green Berets, but close.  The rest of the film was a hazy memory of desert, camels, war, trains, and Maurice Jarre's music.

Thirty-some-odd years passed.  I never saw Lawrence in all that time.  I caught snippets every now and then, but that was it.  I owned the score on LP, of course, and played my tape of it over and over.  (Quick edit to add that hearing the music during the movie on the big screen, in context, was a completely different and awesome experience from simply listening to the music on record.)  But that record and those memories were my only real contact with Lawrence until last night, when I had my second viewing, also on the big screen.

May I say, wow.  I mean that multiple ways.  It's a big screen movie, meant to be seen like that, it looked great (though between the viewing last week of The Birds and this one, I'm getting annoyed with how dim the projection actually is.  Thank goodness there's a lot of sunlight/bright desert shots in this one.  But all of the night shows and even the darker indoors shots, were dim, faded, and difficult to make out the details.  There's an inherent brightness and clarity to real film, even in night scenes, that seems to be lacking in these versions).  But more than that, I realized how personal this movie was for me.  I may not have seen it for thirty years, I may not have remembered ninety-five percent of it, but I realized last night exactly how much of that first viewing imprinted on me when I was young.  It was extremely formative.  It influenced me in so many ways I can't even begin to explain it.  And I didn't even know it had been such a strong influence on my youthful self until I saw it again and recognized myriad things that shaped me.

It was quite eye-opening, and so very... I have no other word for it but "personal."  I'm quite glad I went to the screening by myself, as I needed to watch and experience the movie alone, and I needed to dwell on it afterwards alone.  I still can't entirely sum up my feelings.  Some movies aren't just movies, they're a lot more than that.  Lawrence, to my great surprise, is one of those.

As for the evening, I got there about twenty minutes before the film, and there was already a "making of" type film playing.  I don't know how much of it I missed, but I was quite bummed that I hadn't gotten there early enough.  We only had about 15 people in the audience, not nearly as many who attended The Birds, but I overheard some people saying that it had been sold out at the theater closer to them and they'd driven out here to see it because it was not sold out.  I guess attendance depends on which theater you are at?

I was quite amused to compare this movie to The Bridge On the River Kwai, which I do not enjoy and find dreadfully boring, where I absolutely loved Lawrence.  There are just as many long, loving (boring) shots of the desert in the first half of Lawrence as there are of the jungle in Bridge.  The difference for me is simply that I love the desert, I ache to go there, I find it beautiful.  I do not love the jungle.  I couldn't care less about the jungle, and I most certainly do not want to go there.  So what works for me in one movie and not in the other is due solely to my own taste in landscapes, nothing more.

As an adult viewer, I loved the story of Lawrence, and I really really loved Peter O'Toole's portrayal of him.  He's brilliant, and there's so many facets to the character as he plays him.  I'm extremely fond of non-verbal moments, and this movie gave me plenty of that.  Lawrence doesn't actually talk that much, and I love his silences more than anything else.  He conveys so much throughout -- pain, vulnerability, pride, stubbornness, fear, accomplishment. His Lawrence is so human.  And those blue eyes!! Yowza.

All the other actors are equally great.  Omar Sharif is amazing, so is Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guiness, and Arthur Kennedy.  I love the two actors playing the two doomed teenagers, who stuck in my memory over everything else.  Everyone works so well in this movie.  The scenery is beyond gorgeous.

It was an evening well spent, and I'll be thinking about things for quite awhile.  I can't wait to see it again, but I really have no desire to break my big-screen streak on this one.  So, I will wait until it plays in the theater again.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Indiana Jones Marathon

Yesterday, select AMC theaters were hosting a marathon of all four Indiana Jones movies.  I couldn't wait to go, mostly because after seeing Raiders last weekend, I was dying to see Temple of Doom.

I should explain up front that I am one of like 5 people in the world who actually love Temple of Doom.  I realize I am deeply in the minority on this.  For most, that film is too dark, or pushes their suspension of disbelief too far.  Most people I know (including my family) vastly prefer Last Crusade to Temple of Doom, but I'm the opposite.  Last Crusade is so full of stupid and deliberate attempts at cute/humor that it drives me insane.  Temple of Doom has the advantage of being one of the few sequels out there that did not try to follow in the first movie's footsteps.  I love that about it.  I think that is one of its great strengths.  Same lead character, totally different setting, characters, plot.  Last Crusade goes back to typical "let's recreate the wheel" realm.  Another strike against Last Crusade in my book.

Seeing all three movies in a row (which I've never done with these) really highlighted the differences.  Raiders is, of course, damned near perfect.  This viewing was far superior to last week's IMAX screening.  There were no glitches with the projection, the volume was only loud, not outrageously loud, and those two hours flew by.  I mean flew.  Fastest two hours ever.  And I loved every second of it.  I sat there grinning the whole time like I'd never seen Raiders before.  The mark of a great movie:  it truly does not get old no matter how many times you see it.  I love Indy.  I love Marion, I adore Belloq.  I love Katanga.  I love the ark.  I love that beautiful, awesome truck chase.  I love the score.  The only thing I don't like is that massive, epic Egyptian Grand Canyon that comes out of nowhere.  That is the only part that makes me roll my eyes.  Other than that.  Sheer love.

But while I saw Raiders a jillion times in the theater when it came out, my family only saw Temple of Doom about 8-10 times in the  theater.  And I've only seen it a couple times on television since, and not for a few years now, so, for yesterday's marathon, it was the one film of the three I was really looking forward to seeing again.  REALLY looking forward to seeing.  I love the musical opening credits, love Willie standing in front of the movie title.  Sure, Willie is annoying and shrill and screechy for about half the movie, but I'm okay with that.  I've known some people who would behave no differently thrust into her situation.  And she actually grows and changes as the movie goes on, something I appreciate.  Oh sure, I can do without the gross feast scene at the palace, but it's short, and it happens to be coupled with some of coolest and most pointed dialogue in any Indiana Jones movie, where Indy's finally called out on his archeological methods.  That's a great moment.

But this movie really gets going for me when Indy discovers the secret passage in Willie's room.  From that point on, I love this movie.  Short Round is one of the few movie kid characters I love.  He isn't an idiot, for one thing.  Plane in trouble?  Shortie checks for parachutes on his own, no one needs to tell him to do that.  He saves Indy's bacon more than once in this movie, and his acting never seems forced.  And I love that Indy never talks down to Shortie, lets him take on adult responsibility ahead of Willie, even.  Their relationship is one of things that makes this movie work so well for me.

Now, yesterday was a near perfect day, except for one mishap.  The theater had a fire alarm go off .  In the middle of Temple of Doom.  Everyone in all of the AMC's theaters had to evacuate to the lobby.  They did not pause the movie immediately, and so when it was finally determined the alarm was false, mass crowds filed back to their respective theaters, and the movie finally started again, the movie started about eight minutes after we'd left.  Dude.  If this had happened early in the movie, I might not have minded.  But when did it happen?  Right when Willie was about to be lowered into the pit.  When did it pick up?  In the middle of Indy's fight with Pat Roach's guard.  What did we miss in those eight minutes?  ONLY MY FAVORITE PART OF THE ENTIRE MOVIE!!!!!!

Yes, I missed The Moment.  The reason I drove forty miles yesterday to see this in the theater again.  The moment I always sit through this entire movie waiting for.  This moment:

The moment when John William's "Slave Children Crusade" theme kicks in all its full glory, and Indy is done with taking crap from the bad guys.  He is going to free those kids and no one is going to stop him.  The camera zooms in, music soars, the audience cheers... 

But no.  I didn't get to see Shortie rescue Indy, didn't get to see Indy rescue Willie, didn't get to see that famous close up, didn't get to see them rescue the kids...  It also threw the rest of Temple of Doom a bit out of kilter, so the whole movie seemed to rush after that point.  But I love the showdown on the bridge second best, so at least I got that.

Of all the eight minutes of film in the entire day to miss, it had to be that eight minutes?  Dude!!  Yeah, I'm still sore over it. Very sore.

Then came Last Crusade.  I did not like Last Crusade at all the very first time I saw it in the theater.  Then, of course, we went back to see it multiple times, and I got used to it.  I accepted the stuff I didn't like, and embraced the few moments I really did like.  Seeing it directly after Raiders and Temple of Doom, I felt like I was back at that first viewing again, where all the flaws just bugged me.  I should say that I love the plot of this movie, I just don't like the stupid dialogue that plagues this movie.  This is the only Indiana Jones movie that makes me aware of the script, which pulls me out of the movie.  I think I can count the moments/scenes I genuinely like in this movie on two hands.  In the order they happen:

1.  Indy pretending to be a Scottish lord
2. "She talks in her sleep."  Followed by Sean Connery's little smile.  Now THAT is a brilliant moment.
3.  "The floor's on fire.  And the chair."  Love that whole scene.
4.  "There is more in the diary than just a map" scene
5.  "I'm sorry, son, but they got us."
6.  The entire tank chase/capture/rescue, from "goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them" through the tank crash.
7.  Donovan shooting Dr. Henry Jones.
8.  "Indiana.  Indiana.  Let it go."

Okay, that last is my favorite moment in the entire movie, when Sean Connery's character, who has been calling Indy "Junior" the entire film, finally calls him Indiana.  I actually seem to have this big thing for that, as my favorite moment in Raiders is when Belloq also finally calls him Indiana.  It just so happens both moments are when Dr. Jones/Belloq have to reason with Indy, and his name seems to help reach him, but still.  Love it. 

And I should also say that I LOVE Michael Byrne as the German Colonel.  He is the only character who is not an idiot in this movie, who doesn't have any stupid dialogue or stupid moments.  He is awesome.  I loved him the first time I saw the movie, and I loved him yesterday.  He's the anodyne to the pain of watching the filmmakers turn Marcus Brody from smart and cool and capable in Raiders to an idiot and a fool simply for comic relief purposes.  I cannot forgive them for that.

I would actually liked to have stayed for the fourth movie, just to see how it played after the first three, but I was just kind of done with sitting at that point, and my ears were aching from wearing earplugs all day long.  The theater's fire alarm was two bright white flashing strobe lights, and that had given me a giant migraine too.  I really didn't think I could make it through another two hours.  And so, I cut out. 

So, how's that for a giant rambling post on my experience at the Indiana Jones Marathon? 

Sunday, September 02, 2012

John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl

My family and I were able to attend the concert last night at the Bowl.  It was quite an enjoyable evening, marred only by the head cold I currently have, which damped my enthusiasm quite a bit, and the obnoxious drunk couple sitting in front of us who felt being loud and rude was appropriate public behavior.

But the music was great, and that's what we were there for.  I particularly enjoyed the clips of movie swordfight scenes set to a cue from Williams' score to Adventures of Tin-Tin.  How could I not love seeing clips from Black Swan, Scaramouche, Prisoner of Zenda (both versions), Mark of Zorro, Robin Hood, Three Musketeers, and too many other films to name.  But I do admit, Tyrone Power and Stewart Granger on the big screen, for no matter how short a time, sure had my attention.  Really in the mood for some good old fashioned swashbuckling right now!

They also played the last reel from E.T, with live music.  Something about that live music really made seeing that special.

They also played the theme from Laura, with clips from various romantic films over the years. I appreciated that.

And, of course, there were the standard Star Wars favorites, which are always fun.  The addition of a chorus allowed them to do "Duel of the Fates," one I hadn't heard live in quite a few years now.  Really enjoyed that.

We took my nephew, who wore his Captain America costume... with a Jedi robe and lightsaber.  I can't tell you how fun that was, observing reactions to this little boy dressed as a superhero and a Jedi.  Very funny.  He really enjoyed the concert, the Star Wars music the most, of course.  Though he kept asking us when they were going to play the love theme from Attack of the Clones, and, sadly, that wasn't on the program.  The end of ET had him spellbound (he's not yet seen that one), and he was asking for a flying bicycle afterwards.

Thanks to John Williams and the LA Philharmonic for a lovely concert.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The strange phenomenon of multiple theatrical viewings

It is a rather unique joy, seeing the same movie multiple times in the theater.  Not on television or on DVD, but on the big screen, during a movie's initial run, where there are no interruptions (hopefully), everything is bigger (and louder) than life, you can't pause it, you can't leave without missing something, and you have to pick and choose what to focus your gaze on, up there on that big screen.

My family did this so much growing up, we had a name for it, and two thresholds.  We call it borching (from a book we had growing up on Boontling, a little local Northern California language, where "to borch" meant to take in an entertainment repeatedly.  Perfect, no?).  Reaching six viewings gave you a "Borch."  Reaching and passing eight gave you a "True Borch."  Why?  Because after eight times, the movie viewing experience changes a bit.

After eight viewings, you're in a whole 'nother ballpark.  Oddly enough, you can start to have "bad" viewings after eight.  "Bad" is a relative term, of course, because no viewing of a movie you've chosen to see this many times is ever bad.  But because you're no longer just watching the movie at this point -- you're catching new things all the time, you're watching what actors are doing off to the side, you're watching what the extras are doing, you're paying attention to set decoration, you're memorizing the music, you're reading stuff on computer monitors and signs, you're counting how many bad guys Iron Man flattens when he bulldozes through them.  You end up going into the movie saying, "I want to make sure I catch X, Y, and Z."  Then you look at something else at that moment and miss it.  Oddly, the more times you see a movie, the more likely it is to miss stuff you're actually watching for.  Until you get to about twelve viewings, in which case you've finally caught just about everything you wanted to see and you relax again.  Now you've finally learned just about every note of music, including which parts are in the movie that aren't on the album (always frustrating, because invariably, one of those non-album moments is one of your favorite bits).  You have large swathes of dialogue memorized without even trying.  After eight viewings, I usually spend each new viewing focused solely on a different character.  It's great fun to watch what the actors are doing things when they're not the main center of attention in a scene with multiple people, but you really can't start seeing that kind of stuff until you've seen it a bunch of times because initially, you don't want to miss something by looking off to the sidelines. 

And the most amazing thing to me is that my family doesn't tire of movies seeing them multiple times.  In fact, the more times we see it, the more we want to see it again on top of that.  It builds on itself and you can't wait to see it again, even if you just saw it.  Especially if you just saw it.

Once the movie leaves the theater, then the mad, delightful urgency to see it as many times as you can slowly fades.  Life becomes normal, boring, ordinary again.  Life shrinks.  You have to be content with memories and dreams (and acquired merchandise).  And you despair of ever finding another film worthy of that much of your thoughts, money, and time.

I'm looking forward to the DVD coming out, and I'll buy it right away, but I doubt I'll watch it for awhile.  I won't be able to bear to see it on the small screen.  It will be too depressing for words.  But at least, for now, I've memorized what it looks like BIG, so I can close my eyes and expand it back to its real size in my mind. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Ernest Borgnine

It was with great sadness that I pulled up my blog reading list this morning and saw in the first subject line, Ernest Borgnine (January 24, 1917 - July 8, 2012). Took a half second for that to sink in. Then I burst into tears.  I haven't really stopped crying.

Sometimes it's not the actors we name our favorites who affect us the most.  Sometimes it's the other guys, the ones who star with our favorite actors, the ones without whom, the entire movie would fall apart.  They're so good, you almost take them for granted.  They make any movie they're in better.  Ernest Borgnine is one of those guys.  I've been watching him as long as William Holden, longer perhaps.  And it's not William Holden who has three movies in my top ten films of all time list -- two in my top five.  It's Ernest Borgnine.  Add in his appearances in so many of my other beloved movies, and I'm pretty sure his name would come out on top if you added up how many appearances he makes in movies I love.

I had the privilege of meeting him last year, and I'm sure that memory only adds to be heartbreak now.  He was so full of life, so full of laughter.

RIP, Mr. Borgnine, and thank you for so many years of amazing, wonderful, awesome performances.  You will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


So, what's up with the inability to have post comments emailed to you on blogger anymore?? The radio button to select the email option is gone on everyone's comment forms, and and I get zero email notifications except on my own blog. This vexes me greatly, as now, the only way to see if there's a response to my comment is to go remember where I commented the next day, and go back and manually check. I don't have time for that! I barely have time to post/read around here anyway. Email notifications were lovely and necessary and kept everything neat and tidy and timely.

This is annoying me greatly. Anyone have a suggestion or solution? Thanks!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why do you like the movies you like?

And now, time for a digression. A discussion of one of those pesky, perennial questions: why do you like what you like? Why does one movie appeal to you, and another does not? Is it a certain type of plot or themes or characters? Is it a certain emotion you like evoked? Do you know what drives your cinematic likes and dislikes?

A year ago, I would have had a convoluted and ultimately ambiguous answer. I would have said something along the lines of "I like action movies because they're exciting, they thrill me, I love to escape and they let me do so. I like the values of the heroes in action/adventure movies. I like sci fi/fantasy because I grew up with it and my dad's an astronomer." All of which is true... but tells you nothing. It beats around the bush. I've never had a satisfactory answer to why I like what I like. I just knew I liked it. No matter how hard I thought about it, I'd end up going into detail on what themes pushed my buttons, etc. But I never could get to the common denominator.

Well, I finally figured it out, and the answer is so simple it's almost scary.

The answer came after analyzing a couple things with a friend. We were talking about the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she had mentioned she didn't particularly like the title character of Buffy herself. I got hung up on that... how could you love a show as much as we both did and not love the title character? It puzzled me immensely, because, obviously, I saw things differently. We looked at a few other examples, and a pattern started becoming clear to me on my personal likes/dislikes.

Add to that, I did a 30-day book meme recently, and one of the questions was about characters you relate to. Once again, I got hung up on the fact that I absolutely adore Alistair MacLean as an author, his books are my top favorites -- and yet I don't actually relate to his characters. How was that possible? I asked myself. Why did I love those books so much? The same answer applied.

Which is?

I love a book/movie/tv show/story when I want to be the main character(s).

It's that simple.

Once I understood this, I realized it applies to just about all my likes/dislikes for me. It's like this beautiful, magical equation. There are other variables that do come into play, of course -- plot and theme are very important too -- but I can like some really dumb movies, and I will forgive the dumbness because I still want to be the main character in them. And as you can probably guess from the types of movies I love, the characters I want to be are the action heroes. (It should be no surprise that in real life I nearly went into the Navy, and I nearly became a LAPD officer.) Of course, what appeals to me in the main characters will be quite different from what other people want in their main characters. And the more characters in a story I want to be, the higher up my personal favorite list that film goes. Their gender is irrelevant. It's all about their personality, their strengths/weaknesses, their resourcefulness and intelligence, their honor and integrity.

This little revelation also explains all the books I love. I may not relate to Alistair MacLean's characters, but I sure want to be them. And my favorite book of all times, The Secret Ways, I want to be at least five of the main characters. No wonder it's my favorite book.

Television shows, movies... my goodness, it explains everything. I recently wrote about how King Solomon's Mines didn't do it for me. Everything I wrote in that review was true, but ultimately, above and beyond all that, it comes down to the fact that I really don't want to be any of those characters. I don't like most comedies... sure enough, I hardly ever want to be one of the characters in a comedy film. Westerns are my favorite movie genre... well, no duh! It's rare that I don't want to be the main character(s) in a Western!

Every day, I find myself looking at various things with this revelation in mind, and it just continues to astonish me how much it explains. And I wonder why it took me this long to figure it out!

So what about you? Do you know what draws you to your favorites?

Saturday, December 31, 2011


Or... your day's plans might be thrown off when you get attacked by the outdoor stray cat. I ran outside to break up a fight between him and my cat. Normally when they start to get into it, I just throw a few small rocks between them, they break it up, and go their separate ways. This time, the stray turned, charged 10 feet, and threw himself on my leg. Literally. Clawed and bit me up pretty good. I can't even remember how I got him off, but he actually tried to come after me a second time. I danced back and threw another rock, this time not aiming to miss. He finally ran.

Darn near ruined the pair of jeans I was wearing. Have to see if I can mend the holes. I have a couple of fairly deep punctures in my thigh... will be keeping a close eye on those. The scratches, though deep, are nothing.

Soooooo. Interesting. Never been deliberately attacked by a cat before. Not quite the way I wanted to go into the new year, but what's a few more scars?

Last Day of the Year

And so 2011 wraps up! I'm currently making a batch of spaghetti sauce and just started some homemade Italian bread. I'm listening to Carlo Buti, "the Italian Bing Crosby," singing popular Italian songs from the 1940s. Perfect background music for preparing an Italian feast! The sauce is the family recipe, takes 5-6 hours to cook. Finding good Italian sausages has been a near impossibility (must have fennel!!), but I finally found a little hole-in-the-wall Italian deli in Rancho Cucamonga where the owner makes his own! I bought ten, and we'll see tonight if I have a new source for the real thing.

I'm in the middle of watching two movies, one of which I don't think I'll finish. That's Black Horse Canyon with Joel McCrea. It's on instant viewing at Netflix and will go away tomorrow. I've watched the first 45 minutes or so, and I'm just not sure I can finish it. It's not a bad movie, I just can't deal with horse movies. I cry constantly. It's stupid, but they are so beautiful and amazing creatures that just watching a shot of them galloping and I'll get tears in my eyes. I can't watch horse racing either. This movie's about a gorgeous, dangerous black stallion that's escaped its owner, and about the attempt to catch and break him. The owner of the horse was a really annoying woman. I should like her because she's very strong-willed and do-it-yourself, which is always refreshing, but she still needs the men to help her. There's a lot of attitude from everyone and it gets old. I know it's just a sign of the times the film was made, but... just no desire to finish the film.

The other one is Scaramouche, with Stewart Granger. It might even make me like him and stop thinking of him as a double-crossing ratfink! (Those first impressions made by certain movies are just hard to lose sometimes.) Anyway, enjoying it immensely, particularly the sword fights. It's also filmed on one of the MGM back lots that was used in Combat! and I just love seeing the same buildings/bridge/etc. Makes me grin. When I finish this one, I'll post a review, but it's not going to be today.

I need to write today. When I'm not cooking and baking bread.

Last night I saw Vertigo with Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, and it was a great evening. It's always fun when the audience applauds for the composer (Bernard Herrmann, of course!) when his name goes by in the credits. Fills my heart with joy. Vertigo probably has my favorite Herrmann score for a Hitchcock film. Seeing the movie in 70mm just reminded me of all the reasons movies were made for the big screen. And not just because the details are lost on a small screen (Kim Novak is wearing the coolest hummingbird pin with her grey suit that I've never seen before), but because scenes have so much more power on the big screen. The nightmare scene in particular was twice as creepy and affecting as usual. And I got chills at the end.

I used to watch Vertigo quite often when I was younger. Anytime it came on tv, we'd usually watch it. But I haven't seen it in at least 10 years, probably a lot more. What a little age and maturity will do to your impressions! Things I once semi-mocked, I now understood why they were so. Things that bothered me when I was young made perfect sense now. It was a very different experience, and probably the long gap between viewings helped. Even if I knew every scene and image, I came to it a different person, and it was a different movie.

And now, off to go knead the bread dough...

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Blowing off the cobwebs

My apologies for the neglect. A combo of vacation, illness, and impending story deadlines has left me with little time for blogging in the last month. I've watched only a couple movies in the past month, and those were re-watches. Weird to go such a long stretch without watching a movie, but I read a lot in there. No fiction, though, oddly. Only biographies on Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. I loved reading about both men. Up next is another biography, this one on Travis, Crockett, and Bowie. Really looking forward to it, but man, it's a fat book!

I've also had a birthday, and I find that while I don't need quite glasses yet, I'm distinctly getting more and more farsighted nowadays. Pretty soon my arms won't be long enough, and then I'll need glasses. LOL! No problems with driving or seeing anything far off. Just the up close stuff. I also cannot read for hours and hours like I used to in my youth. My eyes take longer adjust quickly from up close to distant and back again, and reading nowadays tends to leave me with a fair bit of nausea if I try to read for too long. It's unsettling. I just try to make sure I read in bright light and for shorter periods of time. Ahhhh, how the body slowly changes with age.

Most free time lately has been spent racing a deadline for my next anthology submission. Once it's off my plate, there's another one to write... but I should be able to get back to watching old movies. I hope. I'm craving some Dana Andrews and William Holden about now!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl!

Wow, went to the Bowl last night to see John Williams conduct the LA Phil in a concert of various movie music. The concert was sold out! The attendance sign said 16,792 people were there last night!!! It was packed to the gills, and it was AMAZING. Hundreds of people had brought lightsabers. Williams opened the concert with a medley of famous movie themes (accompanied by clips from the movies played on a giant screen), and when Star Wars came on, those lightsabers all came on and the theater glowed around us, as everyone cheered. And that was for just a very short clip of the music. It was just a taste of what was to come. We knew when the full theme would be played later that night, the Bowl would go bonkers mad.

Sure enough, at the end of the second half of the concert, Williams started with "The Asteroid Field," from Empire, and a few lightsabers clicked on. Then Princess Leia's theme. More lightsabers. And then... the main Star Wars theme accompanied by film clips... and the place went MAD in the best possible way. All those lightsabers went on. Everyone was laughing and cheering and if you could have bottled the love and enthusiasm in that audience, you could have made a fortune. It was amazing. I've been to a lot of John Williams concerts, but holy smoke, I've never quite seen anything like this.

That was technically the end of the concert, but the deafening round of applause brought Williams back out, who launched the orchestra immediately into the Imperial March. You thought the audience went mad for just the Star Wars theme? This was even bigger! And all those lightsabers? Started keeping the beat. Sheer. Awesomeness. Hundreds of lightsabers stroking the downbeat. Wow. Just wow.

After that cue, John Williams was peering out in the audience, and he realized the whole place was glowing with waving lightsabers, and he pointed, and his mouth dropped open in surprise and awe at the tribute.

We got two more encores, ET and Indiana Jones, and then, even though the audience had not quieted in the slightest, and was still clapping madly, alas, the lights came up and that was that. What a fabulous evening. Here we are thirty-four years after Star Wars came out, and John Williams and his music are still moving people that much.

And then nearly 17,000 people headed for the exits en masse...

One of the other highlights for me was when they played the How the West Was Won theme and showed clips from all kinds of Westerns. Loved loved loved that. Lots of other good stuff, more medleys, a suite from The Reivers, Harry Potter, etc. They showed the opening from Last Crusade without music, and then with music, and that was pretty cool.

I'm embarrassed to say I had no real idea who James Taylor was, but for those who do -- he was a guest narrator during The Reivers suite, and he also brought his guitar and played a piece. At the very end of the concert, John Williams brought him back on stage to show him the audience with all their waving lightsabers, and they were both boggling.

Coincidentally, Dear Old Hollywood has a great post on the Hollywood Bowl and it's history today too. Check it out!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hollywood Collectors Show July 2011

I really wanted to meet Ernest Borgnine, so I attended the Hollywood Collectors Show last Saturday. He's in so many of my favorite movies: The Dirty Dozen, Flight of the Phoenix, The Vikings, The Wild Bunch, among many others. He popped up in my favorite movies more often than my "favorite" actors did! And I can't think of a time when he wasn't part of my movie-watching experiences. So, I got to meet him and thank him in person for all the wonderful years of performances he has given us. He was very nice, gracious, and funny. He laughs a lot! I know he's 94 now, but he sure doesn't act it! I got his autograph on his biography, which I'm really looking forward to reading. It was an honor to meet him in person.

I also chatted with Ed Asner, who was also very nice, gracious, and very funny. He cracked me up. I think I laughed more waiting in his line than any other time that day! He was eating lunch when I stopped by, and he would growl, "Whaddaya want?" to people in line -- but he couldn't keep a straight face, and he would break into a smile. I told him the first thing I ever saw him in was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and that he made such an impression on me that I never forgot his character's name (Alexi Brynov). Probably because his bad guy character died nastily by drinking sea water, and a gruesome, unusual death was guaranteed to make someone memorable in my young mind. I got a pic from Up signed for my nephew. Mr. Asner was a very cool guy.

It was a fun day.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

It's the simple things

Yesterday, my three-and-a-half-year-old nephew couldn't wait to show me his new DVD. "It's baseball! With Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra!" I can't tell you how cool it is to hear this little boy enthuse about Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra movies. He started with Anchors Aweigh, then he moved on to On the Town. His new movie addition is, of course, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which he is already in love with. It may end up being his favorite of the three, given how much he loves baseball.

It's never too early to start the next generation on classic films!