Friday, August 21, 2020

Legends of Western Cinema Week 2020 Tag

It's Legends of Western Cinema Week, hosted by Hamlette's Soliloquy and Along the Brandywine.

Here are their questions for this year's event.  I found some of these quite hard to answer, so it took me all week to figure out responses.

1. What's the last western you watched?
Custer of the West, (1967).  Still in the middle of it actually.  It's an interesting movie, but it's taking me awhile to work through cuz it's not that interesting.  Last completed western would be The Lone Ranger (2013).

2. A western of any stripe (happy or tragic) where you were highly satisfied by the ending?
I'm not quite sure what this question is looking for, cuz every single one of my favorite Westerns obviously meet this criteria.  A highly satisfactory ending is critical to me loving a Western (or any movie).  Let's go with For a Few Dollars More, because it's one I haven't really talked about, and the ending, both the finale and the wrap up are awesome.

3. The funniest western you've seen?
Cat Ballou or Rango, I guess?  Depends on my humor mood.  Both make me laugh throughout.

4. What similar elements/themes show up in your favorite westerns?
Ack, this question is too much like school work.  Okay, fine.  I like a lot of end-of-the-West movies, where the old-fashioned cowboy heroes/lawmen are outdated/no longer needed/wanted. Or just Westerns set in the early 1900s, like Big Jake, Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, The Professionals...  Lonely Are the Brave fits that theme too, even if it's set in more modern times. 

5. Favorite actress who made 1 or more westerns?
Barbara Stanwyck

6. Favorite western hero/sidekick pairing?
Sam Boone and Whit (Robert Pernell and James Coburn) in Ride Lonesome.(1959)Their relationship is my favorite part of this movie and I adore how Whit follows Boone around, always deferring to him. Their partnership conversation at the end is one of my favorite moments and never fails to make me grin in sheer delight.

7. Scariest villain/antagonist in a Western?
Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance or Grimes (Richard Boone) in Hombre.

8. Favorite romance in a western?
None?  Romance isn't my thing.  None stand out to me.  Okay, one does:  Matthew Quigley and Cora in Quigley Down Under

9. Three of your favorite westerns?
Big Jake, Hour of the Gun, The Lone Ranger (2013)

10. Share one (or several!) of your favorite quotes from a western.
Since this was asked last year, I'm going to try to avoid repeating all my favorites already listed and try to find new ones, which is rather hard.  So, I'm going to cheat and go with my nephew's two favorite quotes from Westerns that the two of us say to each other constantly.

"What's that? NOTHING!" - John Reid, The Lone Ranger (2013)
"You son of a---*timely hawk screech interrupts* - Toad in Rango.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Twenty-Five Favorite Movies - 2020

It's time to rewrite my favorite movie list.  The biggest problem for me has always been defining "favorite."  What is a favorite?  There are a hundred movies I love... but which ones are favorites?  How does one define favorite?

I think everyone has different personal criteria for their answer to that question.  I've used various criteria in the past and always found my lists unsatisfactory.  So, I've finally settled on what I believe makes a movie a favorite for me.  It's rather simple, really.  A favorite movie is one that I can watch at any time.  One that, if someone suggested it, I would never say no to.  One I will never say, "Nah, I'm not in the mood for that one right now." And one that always leaves me in a better mood when it ends than when I started.

This actually rules out a lot of movies for me.  I mean, I love the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies -- but I can't just put one on any old time.  I've got to be in the mood for it.  I can (and have) walked away when the family put one of them on.  Same with most franchise movies.  I love James Bond movies... but I'm not always in the mood for them.  Even some of my most beloved films, like The Hunt for Red October and The Dirty Dozen and Galaxy Quest and The Lone Ranger... I have to be in the mood for them. I can say no and walk out on them. 

So, with that criteria in mind, I went through my DVD collection and asked myself if I could say no to each movie.  Here is the list of movies that met this new way of determining my favorites.  It's probably a quite different list than what most people have seen me post previously, or that they expect from me.  What I like best about this criteria is that it works on classic and modern movies.  Before, I never quite knew how to rank "old" favorite movies vs. "newer" ones, but now, that doesn't matter.  Either I can say no to watching it, or I can't.  Piece of cake!

So, here are my top 20 favorite live action movies, and 5 top animated movies.

Live Action:

1.  Aliens (1986)
2.  Rogue One (2016)
3.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
4.  Ready Player One (2018)
5.  Avengers: Endgame (2019)
6.  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
7.  The Fifth Element  (1997)
8.  The Great Wall (2016)
9.  Big Jake (1971)
10. Time After Time (1979)
11. The Seven-Percent Solution (1976)
12. The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
13. Doctor Strange (2016)
14. The Full Monty (1997)
15. Hour of the Gun (1967)
16. 1917 (2019)
17. The Jungle Book (1994)
18. The Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
19. The Rocketeer (1991)
20. The Postman (1997)


1. The Adventures of Tin-Tin (2011)
2. Epic (2007)
3. Onward (2020)
4. Kung-Fu Panda (2008)
5. Penguins of Madagascar (2014)



This adventure in rethinking-my-favorite-movie-list was brought to you by dint of the fact I realized recently that my first go-to comfort movie has always been Aliens, above everything else.  When I understood it was number one, then I realized why, and then everything else fell in place.  I'm very happy with this new list and can honestly say these are definitely all favorites movies of mine.  Are there other movies I love individually more than some of these?  Yes.  But, I have to be in the right mood for them, which means they're not preferred over all others.  The ones here are, as Vasquez says, my "anytime, anywhere" go-to films, and that's how I'm going to define my favorites for now.  If I reach a point where I can say no to one of these, it will drop off the list and something new might replace it.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

I apologize for not posting anything in months.  I appear to have nothing to say lately.  No words at all, nothing to offer, nothing to share.  I should look for some tags or something.  I'm safe, my family is safe.  In fact, very little changed for me, as I already worked from home.  My daily routine stayed basically the same.  A grocery store trip once a month instead of once or twice a week, but that's about the only difference.  I don't live in a big city, so I never had to stop walking my dog daily or anything like that.  I hope everyone stays safe and sane while the world continues to go bonkers.

I have not been watching many movies.  A few here and there.  Mostly I've been watching South Korean dramas on Netflix.  As most of these shows run a minimum of 12 eps, and usually 18... that's a lot of hours per show, which keeps me nicely occupied.  I suppose I could review the ones I've seen... but I can't seem to muster the energy, and I'm not sure anyone cares.  I will say my two favorites so far have been Memories of the Alhambra (2018) and Tunnel (2017).  I burned through both of those shows in ridiculously short times. The first is about an augmented reality game that bleeds over into real life.  I always liked the song "Memories of the Alhambra," but now, if it ever starts playing during a thunderstorm, I'm liable to freak out. It's such a lovely song, and I LOVE the frightening context it took on.  Good stuff.  The second show is about a cop who accidentally travels through time while pursuing a serial killer.  I love time travel stuff, and this was a great show.  I loved the characters, loved seeing how the police in a different country work on a case, loved watching the lead try to adjust to the current year after jumping forward from the 80s.

Other than that, daylight hours are mostly spent outside doing yardwork.  Pulling weeds daily, mowing and edging twice a week. I put a small garden in this year, with more than just my normal tomatoes.  If stuff grows well, I will expand the area next year.

My aspen grove with lupines and Silver
No sunlight, so these look washed out, but they're pink, with a yellow lupine in the background.  I had a deep maroon one, which was my favorite, but Silver dug it up when it was just coming back, and it didn't survive.  Sigh.
The purple lupine

Saturday, February 01, 2020

The Never have I ever Writing Tag

1.  Link to and thank the blogger who tagged you. (Thanks, Hamlette!)
2.  Include the graphic somewhere in your post (or make your own!)
3.  Answer the questions truthfully and honestly.
4.  Tag 3 bloggers.

Never Have I Ever…

…started a novel that I did not finish.

hahaha.  Of course I have!  I've started many a novel that I didn't finish for all kinds of reasons.

…written a story completely by hand.

Many. Oh so blooming many stories.  Also a whole novel, and several half-finished novels.  Mostly, all this question does is date me.  There were no computers when I started writing.  I grew up writing everything by hand.  And then editing, and then re-writing it neatly by hand.  And it takes a very long time to copy an entire novel neatly and cleanly in cursive by hand, let me tell you.  And then, if it was important enough, possibly typing it up on an old typewriter.  Which also takes a long time because when you messed up, you'd have to type that page over.  So yeah, basically every story and novel I wrote through college (including all stories and essays for coursework) was handwritten first.

…changed tenses midway through a story.

…changed my protagonist’s name halfway through a draft.
No. (or if I ever did, I don't remember it now.)

…written a story in a month or less.
A story?  Sure, many many stories were written in way less than a month.  A complete novel in less than month?  No.  Three months is the fastest I ever completed an entire novel.

…fallen asleep while writing.
No.  This is a very strange question.  Do people actually fall asleep while actively doing things?

…corrected someone’s grammar irl/online.
Rarely, but sometimes I can't stand it anymore.  Like people who use in regards to instead of regarding.  And misusing nauseous when they mean nauseated.  But only in real life, not online.  I tend to say very little online.

…yelled in all caps at myself in the middle of a novel.
Of course.  Usually of the "FIX THIS LATER" variety.

…killed a character who was based off someone I know in real life.
No.  I don't base characters off anyone I know.  Fiction and real life are two very separate things.  I write fiction to escape real life.  I'm sure as little fishes not going to put anything or anyone remotely reminiscent of my own real life in there.  That would defeat the purpose!

…used pop culture references in a story.
No.  I tend to write scifi/fantasy and that doesn't lend itself to pop culture references.  I would feel weird referencing other things anyway.

…not researched anything before starting a story.
Like nothing at all?  Not character background or world or anything?  No.  I have to know something, even a minimal something.

…used “I’m writing” as an excuse.

…written between the hours of 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Very rarely and really only during college when something was due the next morning.  I am not that kind of a night owl.  Them's sleeping hours!

…drank an entire pot of coffee while writing.
No.  I don't drink coffee.  But I have been known to drink multiple pots of tea while writing. 

…laughed like an evil villain while writing a scene.
Occasionally, though not as often as you might think.  I tend not to write as a writer, so if I'm laughing like an evil villain while writing a scene, it's because my evil villain is actually laughing in that scene. 

…written down dreams to use in potential novels.
I used to.  Had one completed novel's premise come entirely from a dream.

…published an unedited story on the internet/Wattpad/blog.

…procrastinated homework because I wanted to write.
Thank goodness homework is so far behind me, but yeah, back in the day, of course.  Constantly.  I did just about anything to procrastinate doing homework until the last possible moment, but writing was the most fun excuse.

…typed so long that my wrists hurt.
Only back before I had an ergonomic keyboard.

…spilled a drink on my laptop while writing.

…forgotten to save my work/draft.
Only really back in the early days when computers didn't autosave stuff.  It was one of my primary complaints against computers when I first started using one... if you didn't save or something happened your work was gone for good. Handwriting was clearly the superior choice because your words couldn't be swallowed by the ether.  Yeah.  Nowadays, I hit ctrl-s every other minute, it seems.

…finished a novel.
Yes, several.

…cried while writing a scene.
Yes, though not as often as you might think, given how many beloved characters I've killed off over the years. Usually, I get gutwrenched, but not teary.  But I did bawl when I wrote the ending of one of my novels, "While Gods Lie Dreaming."  And I cried all through writing the ending of my novella, "A Frost of Bones."

…created maps of my fictional worlds.
(one of my novel's maps)

…researched something shady for a novel.
I don't know about shady, but stuff about murders and weapons, sure.

And there you have it.  I'm afraid I'm not going to tag anyone, cuz they people I would tag are already tagged.  But, snag if you want to!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

1917 (2019)

I'm so glad I got to see this film on the big screen.  It was really good, though not for the faint of heart.  The camera movement is silky smooth as it does its astoundingly edited one continuous shot throughout.  The editing is flawless.  Don't know how they did it, but the result is magical.  I got teary twice, not from anything sad, but just from the power of the visuals coupled with the score by Thomas Newman.

The scene that goes with "The Night Window" cue... holy smokes.  I would go see this movie again, just to experience that moment again alone.  The soaring music is one of best cues I've heard in years.  It's got some Ralph Vaughn Williams influence, but even more, it's got some exquisite Alan Hovhaness-ish going on, but given that those are two of my favorite classical composers, I was in heaven.  I purchased the score within 5 minutes of getting home from the movie.  I have not needed a score so badly in years.  How I've missed real powerfully emotional music that makes me want to listen to it in headphones and disappear into the notes, but "The Night Window" does that and then some.

I loved the simplicity of this movie.  Our heroes must deliver a message within twenty-four hours to the front line to stop the troops from walking into an ambush.  That's it.  The journey to achieve that goal is at turns violent and beautiful, brutal and gentle.  There are friends; there are enemy.  The way the movie is filmed, you become a third soldier, accompanying them on their mission.

This movie is a fantastic follow-up to Peter Jackson's documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old, which I saw twice in the theater (once when it came out, and once last December when it was re-released in 3D).  Everything the documentary showed and the soldiers talked about is here in 1917.  The documentary added a sense of depth and knowledge to the fictional film that just made it even more moving. 

I saw this film with my mom and brother-in-law, and we all felt wrung out, but... rewarded. 

I'm avoiding spoilers and the like, but I just have to say, the opening few minutes where we simply watch the characters walk from a field into the trench, but looking back at them, not actually seeing where we're going, but watching backwards, seeing the walls grow higher and higher on either side as we descend -- wow.  It was one of my favorite moments.  The choices made of where to put the camera, when to look ahead, when to look behind... it's masterful.  This is a powerful and extremely well done movie.  Kudos to everyone involved.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year - year in review - movies

Happy New Year to everyone!  Hard to believe it's 2020.

This last year has not been a stellar blogging year for me.  I really made no attempt to maintain this.  I had no energy at the end of the day to blog, and nothing I felt compelled to share.  We'll see what 2020 brings!

Let's take a look back at 2019.  I actually went to the movie theater 36 times.  That's quite a lot!  This was a mix of new movies, Classic TCM big screen movies, operas, documentaries, and repeat viewings.

Let's take a look at my entertainment takeaways from 2019.

There were three movies in 2019 that I went and saw multiple times in the theater, and all three of them are favorites:

1.  Avengers: Endgame
2.  Midway
3.  Captain Marvel

All three were fantastic.  Endgame wrapped things up in just the right way, showing how powerful an ending can be when it's earned. I loved it.  I also loved Captain Marvel. Midway I managed to review a couple weeks ago, but I failed to review the other two at all.  Sigh.  Captain Marvel had a fantastic cast, a fun story, and a great ending.  It's everything I want out of a superhero movie, and it led so nicely into Endgame. It jumped right into my top five Marvel movies.

I have two other favorite movies from 2019, ones seen on Amazon Prime and Netflix, respectively that make my top five favorite movies of 2019.

4.  April 9

5.  The Highwaymen

April 9 was discovered almost by accident.  After Midway came out, after I watched a couple of the WWII documentaries on Netflix, I was looking for more WWII movies, and, in scanning what Amazon Prime had to offer, I found a movie I'd never heard of, a Danish film about Germany's invasion of Denmark, on April 9, 1940.  As I'm still studying the Danish language daily on duolingo, I decided to see what this movie was all about.  And I discovered a fantastic little gem of a movie.  This movie is so well done it instantly jumped into my favorites of the year, and it is also jumped into my top ten favorite movies about WWII.

It follows a bicycle squad (!) through the day of invasion. I love this movie for many reasons, but one of them is that you only see things from their perspective, never the German side.  This is one of the first movies that really gave me a sense of what it would be like on the ground, fighting for your country, not knowing what you're up against, just following orders the best you can.  I love the cast and cared about the soldiers we followed.  The movie ends with some short interviews with Danish veterans who lived through it.

This movie was so good, I promptly showed it to my family, and they loved it as well.  My nephew still talks about it.

I also found my grasp of the Danish language is decent... except that despite all the vocabulary I've learned, there are still so many words I don't know.  If I hear something I've studied, I can translate, but in a war movie, there were simply so many words duolingo hasn't taught me.  But that's what the subtitles are for.  If you're not put off by foreign films and subtitles, I highly recommend this movie for a slightly different look at WWII.

The other movie I loved was Netflix's The Highwaymen, with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson.  This one's about the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde and was really well done.  I love Costner, of course, but what surprised me was just how much I loved Harrelson in this movie.  He was fantastic, and my favorite scene was when a couple of hoods tried to jump his character.  Hah!  The dynamic between Costner and Harrelson was great, and this movie was one I immediately wanted to watch a second time.

Friday, December 06, 2019

The 12 Days of Christmas Movie Tag

This tag comes from Hamlette, just in time for the holidays!


#1 Use a different movie for each prompt
#2 Add photos and/or explanations of how your choices fit the prompts
#3 Tag a few friends to play along

1. A Partridge in a Pear Tree -- movie that involves agriculture
Mutiny on the Bounty -- Agriculture is key to this story, as their whole mission to Tahiti is all about those danged breadfruit trees.  I recently re-watched the sumptuously filmed, but very odd, Marlon Brando 1962 version, so it was on my mind.  The plants get all the water they need, while the crew goes thirsty.  Who wouldn't mutiny?  (But some day, I'd like to taste a breadfruit!)

2.  Turtledoves -- movie about a long-lasting relationship
El Cid and Ximena from El Cid (1961).  Okay, this is kind of an odd entry, cuz I've only seen this movie once and it was so long ago that I can't recall the details other than it was not one I ever had a need to see again.  But what sticks in my head is an article I read once where Charlton Heston complained how his character aged, but Sophia Loren did not want to appear old, so her aging make up was kept minimal and almost non-existent. Which means their characters clearly have a long-lasting relationship, so they're my choice here, LOL.  Mostly, my knowledge of El Cid is from a fictional account I read over and over as a kid, and my love of Miklos Rozsa's score from the film.

3.  French Hens -- movie that takes place in France
The Great Race -- because my family just re-watched this, and the titular race ends at the Eiffel Tower.  Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk are awesome in this, and the pie fight, of course... We had to watch the pie fight twice in a row, because, well, the pie fight is epic and it never ever, ever, gets old.

4.  Calling Birds -- movie where people talk on the phone
Cellular (2004) - Chris Evans, Kim Basinger, and Jason Statham.  One of those movies that I watched on Netflix one night while bored, but it ended up being a decent thriller.  Chris Evans gets a random desperate phone call from Kim Basinger, who's been kidnapped, and he proceeds to figure out how to help her while trying to maintain their spotty cell phone connection.

5.  Golden Rings -- movie with multiple romances
Best Years of our Lives (1946).  This outstanding movie has romances on every side.  Al and Millie are my favorite.  They're so real, working daily at their marriage through ups and down, "falling in love all over again."  But there's also Homer and Wilma, and Fred and Marie, then Fred and Peggy. 

6.  Geese A-laying -- movie with a birth or that features babies
How about City Slickers and the oh-so-important birth of Norman, the adorable calf that changes Billy Crystal's character's life? 

7.  Swans A-swimming -- movie where someone goes swimming
The Frogmen (1951)Lots and lots of swimming.  Dana Andrews and Richard Widmark and WWII.  I'm way overdue to rewatch this one!

8.  Maids A-milking -- movie with cows
Well, how can I not go with Twister (1996)?  "We got cows" is just one of those quotes that pops up all over the place.  Ridiculous movie, but Bill Paxton looks mighty fine, and I admit to watching it every now and then just because I love him. (And Cary Elwes is amusing.)

9.  Ladies Dancing -- movie with a dance scene
A Royal Affair (2012), cuz Mads Mikkelsen dancing so smoothly with Alicia Vikander is sheer joy to watch (even if the movie itself breaks my heart).

10.  Lords A-leaping -- movie about athletes
McFarland, USA (2015) - I was surprised how much I liked this movie.  I ended up with it by accident, but was happy I did after I watched it.  It's hard for a movie to go wrong when Kevin Costner is around, and I really liked him in this.  I love the students and how they come together as a team.

11.  Pipers Piping -- movie with someone playing a musical instrument
Night Song (1947) - Dana Andrews and a piano and I'm happy.  Kind of a far-fetched movie, but Dana Andrews and Hoagie Carmichael are a delightful combo.  And Merle Oberon is beautiful.

12.  Drummers Drumming -- movie with characters in the military
Dear me, what movie to pick???  Let's go with Battle Cry (1955), cuz I've chosen a lot of Dana Andrews pictures, and it's time to go with an Aldo Ray movie.  I'm way overdue for a re-watch on this one too, which follows some marine recruits from training to the war.  Love Aldo Ray and Van Heflin and the rest of the cast, but can kinda do without Tab Hunter and his subplot.

Feel free to answer use this tag on your own blog!  I'd love to read your answers.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Midway (2019)

This is a is late review, considering I first saw the movie back in the middle of November.  And then saw it three more times.  With the whole family each time.  My brother-in-law hates going to the movie theater nowadays.  It's always too loud, too full of rude people... he's seen this one three times in the theater already.  My dad, too, almost never goes to see modern movies in the theater.  Not only did he go to see it, but he wanted to go see it a second time.  My mom's already seen it three times and is anxiously awaiting her next viewing.  My sister doesn't usually like war movies, and she's seen it four times.  My nephew, well he declared it his favorite movie, and he's been playing a couple different WWII flying games ever since.

It's just one of those movies.  It works for my entire family, on so many levels.

Modern movies about WWII can be problematic.  If there's one thing I cannot stand, it's filmmakers putting modern attitudes/messages/whatever into historical movies.  They play wrong when that happens.  This movie is amazingly free of modern BS.  In hindsight, this is actually obvious from the movie poster.  It's such a lovely throwback to old school movie poster styles.

What do I love?

The characters (and the actors who brought them alive).  This movie has a fine cast, and everyone works exceedingly well in their roles.  The straight-forward storytelling.  No added romances, no cooked up conflicts between characters simply for the sake of it. The beautiful crisp cinematography that lets you feel like you're in the cockpit of a dive bomber without ever confusing the viewer as to what we're seeing.  The middle of a pitched battle, and everything is still crystal clear and easy to follow.  The accurate history, for once.  The pacing.  The short summary info at the end of the movie on what happened to the characters.

Favorite parts:  Best and Dickinson's friendship throughout.  Best sitting on his daughter's bed.  All the dive bombing runs.  Every scene with Bruno.  Every scene with Doolittle.  The downed Hornet pilot cheering everybody on.  The fact that they show the crew policing the flight deck.  Layton and Rochefort's silent exchanges when Nimitz visits Hypo.  John Ford on Midway.  All the rest of the movie.  LOL

Okay, really, there isn't anything I dislike about this movie except the movie previews we've had to sit through in front of it, and that's nothing to do with the movie.

Midway has put me back in a WWII mood, and I had to re-watch A Wing and a Prayer and The Purple Heart, both Dana Andrews movies, both released in 1944.  The former is about the Battle of Midway, the second is a fictional account loosely based on the trial of some of the men captured from Doolittle's raid.  I also watched two WWII documentaries on Netflix, WWII in Colour and Five Came Back.  The latter is a documentary on five of the big name Hollywood directors of that time, (Frank Capra, William Wyler, John Ford, George Stevens, and John Houston) and their contributions to the war effort.  It's quite sobering and inspiring at the same time.  I learned a lot about these famous directors.  The neat thing is Netflix also has the documentaries they made during the war available to watch too.  I watched John Ford's Battle of Midway first, but I'm working through all the others as well.

I will probably see Midway a couple more times before it finally leaves the theater, because this is one that really needs to be seen big screen.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

2019 Tolkien Blog Party Tag

Tag answers for Hamlette's Tolkien Blog Party!  Thanks for hosting!   Lots of fun posts from people to read, go check it out!

1.  ...join Thorin's Company or the Fellowship?
Thorin's Company.  I adore the Fellowship... but they don't need me.  Thorin's company... they could use a scout.  It also not an end-of-the-world adventure, so that makes it more appealing as well.

2.  ...ride Shadowfax or an eagle?
An eagle, of course.  I would love to fly.

3. through Moria or Mirkwood?
Mirkwood, any day.  I'm much more comfortable in the forest -- any forest -- than underground.  Now Erebor or Mirkwood?  Erebor, baby, but I don't have any love for Moria.

4.  ...learn to make elvish rope or mithril chainmail?
Both?  I think I would enjoy making chainmail much more, though.

5.  ...try to outwit Smaug or Saruman?
Saruman, definitely.  Smaug likes his riddles and word play and toying with you, and I suck at those.  Saruman is more direct and at least I could actually fight him if it came to that, whereas you can't really fight a dragon.  I would lose to either, but Smaug would roast me and that is not a way I want to go.  I would much rather be defeated by Saruman.

6.  ...spend an hour with Grima Wormtongue or Denethor?
Denethor.  Grima is just plain icky, but I'm fine with Denethor.  I don't have the issues with him most people seem to have.

7.  ...attend Faramir's wedding or Samwise's wedding?
 Faramir's, I believe.  It would be more formal and have more people, and I could disappear into a corner and just watch things.  Hobbits would try to talk to me and engage me at Sam's wedding, cuz they're all so hobbity and way too much for me.

8.  ...have to care for the One Ring or the Arkenstone for a day?
Arkenstone.  The One Ring, even for a day, would be detrimental to one's well being.

9.  ...have tea with Bilbo or Frodo?
Bilbo.  I like Frodo, but Bilbo is awesome.  He would be a much more enjoyable tea companion.

10.  ...fight alongside Boromir or Eomer?
Boromir.   I have no love of Eomer.  

Friday, July 26, 2019

Rancho Notorious (1952)

I watched this Western with Arthur Kennedy, Marlene Dietrich, and Mel Ferrer, and directed by Fritz Lang, on Amazon prime... and um... wow.  That's not necessarily a good wow.  More like, what did I just watch?  Ranch Notorious is a very strange viewing experience.

This is movie that doesn't quite know what it wants to be.  It has a good cast saddled with a standard revenge plot, but with some other character arcs and settings that should have elevated it.  This should have been a good movie... and it is just a head-shaker instead.

Let's start with the opening title song. I'm afraid it doesn't stand up to time's passage.  It is cheesy and silly.  It would be okay if it were just a theme song, but it turns out that this song continues throughout... it's not just a theme song, the singer ends up being a narrator who moves the plot along.  Silence would have been better.  It's just jarring.

But then the movie gets serious, and we meet Arthur Kennedy's character Vern and his fiancee. They share a nice happy moment.  But he heads out and two robbers arrive in town.  One fancies the fiancee... and yeah, that ends in the worse way possible.  Vern swears revenge and takes off to find the men.  Annnnd, the narrating singer is back.  And then, as Vern keeps searching for the murderer of the love of his life, he keeps meeting people who tell him stories about Marlene Dietrich's character, Altar Keane (!).  Now there's a name for you!  It is very clunky storytelling.  Worse because some of the flashbacks show stuff the teller isn't there to see.

Finally, Vern meets up with Frenchy (Mel Ferrer).  Vern's desperate enough to break the law to get to meet Frenchy, so Frenchy can lead him to Altar Keane, where he hopes to find info about the murderer.  We finally meet Marlene Dietrich in real time.  She runs a safe house for outlaws.  They give her ten percent of whatever illicit gains they've made, and she provides sanctuary.  Now, this is quite a fascinating setup.  This is cool.  Particularly as the murderer is indeed there, taking advantage of the safe house.  All these characters thrown together... this part should shine.  It doesn't.  It falls weirdly flat.  I think we just don't know enough about the characters to care about them, so all this promising stuff goes nowhere.

So, this was a movie full of potential that just sort of comes apart at the seams.  I watched this mostly because Arthur Kennedy was in it, but sadly, not even he can save this one.

This has been an entry for the Legends of Western Cinema Week, hosted by Heidi at Along the Brandywine, Hamlette at Hamlette's Solioquy, and Olivia at Meanwhile in Rivendell.  Check here for the master post.  Lots of good posts listed here if you love Westerns!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Legends of Western Cinema Week Tag

Here are my answers to the Legends of Western Cinema Week tag

1) Do you tolerate, like, or love westerns?
I love Westerns.  Probably my favorite genre of movies.

2) What do you enjoy about them and, more broadly, the west itself (e.g. the history, accompanying paraphernalia, etc)?
Everything.  I need wide open spaces in my life, I need land untouched by mankind.  I need unpopulated vistas full of beauty and danger.  I need horses and skies full of stars.  Movie Westerns are also full of characters I relate to, most have a code of honor, there's a lot of protection of something or other going on.  I love the themes of Westerns.  Love the settings.  Westerns are just a whole package deal.

3) What's the first western you can remember watching?
I've been watching Westerns since I was a child, so no memory of a first.  There have always been Western movies in my memory.  Though I do have a strong memory of a calvary/Indian fight from an unknown movie as one of my early cinematic memories.  Lots of gunfire, arrows, falling horses...

4) Who are your favorite western stars, the ones whose presence in a western will make you pick it up off the shelf?
Kevin Costner.  William Holden.  Richard Boone.  Richard Widmark.  Arthur Kennedy.  Barbara Stanwyck.

5) What's your favorite performance by an actress in a western?
Not sure what my absolute favorite is, but I do love Felicia Farr in 3:10 to Yuma and Anne Baxter in Yellow Sky and Claire Trevor in Texas.  For a more modern performance, Annette Bening in Open Range is fabulous.

6) What is your "go-to" western, the one you'll typically reach for?
I have many go-to Westerns, depending on my mood. There isn't just one.  How can there be one?  Or even two?  There are so many flavors of Westerns!  But for a movie it would probably be one of the following:  Big Jake, Slow West, The Lone Ranger, Hour of the Gun, Cowboys & Aliens, The Frisco Kid, Salvation, Open Range, Quigley Down Under, or Cat Ballou.  Otherwise, I'm going to grab any "Have Gun Will Travel" episode or "Big Valley" episode for something short.

7) Do your family/friends share your interest in westerns, or are you a lone ranger (pun completely intended)?
My family and friends all share my interest, except for my sister.

8) Pick one western to live inside for a week, and explain why you chose it.
The Ox-Bow Incident.  I'd join Dana Andrews, make sure he gets a receipt for those darned cattle, and I'd be there armed and awake when the lynch mob shows up to make sure they don't try anything, and if they do, I will shoot first and ask questions later.

(Not on MY watch!!)
9) Share one (or several!) of your favorite quotes from a western.
"I thought you was dead."  "Not hardly." (Multiple people, Jacob McCandles (John Wayne) - Big Jake)
"Let's drift." (Silas (Michael Fassbender) - Slow West)
"I smell a water hole!" (Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin) - Cat Ballou)
"I'm drunk as a skunk." (Jed (Dwayne Hickman) - Cat Ballou)
"Don't talk about snow." (Chief Gray Cloud (Val Bisoglio) - The Frisco Kid)
"I don't want to hurt you; I just want to eat you." (or "I just want to make you kosher.") (Avram (Gene Wilder) chasing a chicken - The Frisco Kid)
"You bring horses?" (Tonto (Johnny Depp) - The Lone Ranger)
"All right, let's do this." (John Reid (Armie Hammer) - The Lone Ranger)
"The horse can fly?" "Don't be stupid." (John Reid/Tonto - The Lone Ranger)
"I said I didn't have much use for one. Didn't say I didn't know how to use it." (Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) - Quigley Down Under)

And a zillion other quotes.  If I'm with the family, there are a ton from Cat Ballou and Frisco Kid that we use regularly.  If I'm with Hamlette, then Lone Ranger and Slow West take over... :-D

Sunday, April 07, 2019

King Creole (1958)

This was the first Elvis Presley movie I saw, and it remains my favorite of his films that I’ve seen.  Part of that is because it is not a colorful cheesy musical.  It is black and white, and serious, and shows that Elvis can do more than just sing.  He really can act when given a good script and a good director (Michael Curtiz, in this instance).  Elvis’s character is a singer, so the songs performed in this movie are performed as part of the plot, which works really well.

Danny Fisher (Elvis) lives in New Orleans with his sister and widowed father (Dean Jagger).  His dad can’t hold down a job, so Danny and his sister both work to pay the rent, etc.  Danny’s hoping to graduate high school after already being held back a year, but his school teacher flunks him for attitude, and he decides school is not for him.  Danny’s jobs include bussing tables at a joint owned by Maxie Fields, the local crime boss who runs just about everything around.  Maxie’s played by Walter Matthau, and he is delightfully slimy and vicious and powerful.  If he can’t get what he wants by intimidation, he uses blackmail, or any other tool at his disposal to bring everyone and everything to heel.

Playing against type, Paul Stewart is Charlie, the owner of a rival nightclub, the King Creole.  I’m used to Paul Stewart playing gangsters and hoods, and I love that here, he’s a good guy.  Honest and fair.  He hires Danny to sing in his club, and the act is a sensation as, of course, Elvis does his magic whenever he performs.  Maxie can’t handle this, and tries to steal Danny away.  When Danny won’t play ball, Maxie uses vile and violent tactics to implicate Danny in a crime, and then blackmails him with it.

Things boil to an inevitable showdown between Danny and Maxie.

Along the way, there are two women who play big roles in Danny’s life throughout the movie: Ronnie (a fantastic Carolyn Jones), and Nellie (Dolores Hart).  The women could not be more opposite.

Ronnie is Maxie’s “girlfriend,” held to him by some unknown blackmail from the past that keeps her obedient to him.  She spends most of her time drunk to numb her life.  Danny brings a spark of freedom and rebellion to her life, and when he stands up to Maxie, she’s finally able to find the strength to do the same thing and break free of his control over her.  She is a sort of femme fatale, except that she’s too much a victim herself.

Nellie is a young woman working at a Five and Dime store who falls for Danny the first moment she sees him and she actively pursues him with dreams of a happily ever after with him.

One of the things I like about this movie is that the relationships in this movie are slightly unusual.
Danny and Ronnie are attracted to each other, but a lot of that is because they’re both victims of Maxie’s schemes, they both have hard lives behind them, and both dream of futures that aren’t sordid and full of crime.  Both are singers.  Ronnie’s singing is in her past, Danny’s is in the future.  Danny rescues Ronnie, and Ronnie rescues Danny.  They share a bond.  They are kindred spirits.  One of my favorite moments of the movie is seeing Ronnie at the end of the movie wearing casual comfortable clothes instead of the tight gowns Maxie has her wear, relaxed and natural and happy for the first time since we've met her. 

Nellie is the good girl, yet she pursues Danny almost desperately, pushing for a relationship that will lead to marriage.  She’s young and Danny’s young, and one of the things I like is that Danny realizes at the end that he’s not ready for any kind of commitment, that he needs to find himself first.  Nellie tells him she’ll wait, so hopefully she’s learned something along the way too.

There’s a third romantic relationship in the film, between Paul Stewart’s Charlie, and Danny’s sister, Mimi.  This one is also interesting because Charlie is twenty years older than Mimi, and says so outright.  They have the most normal and supportive relationship in the film.

So, what about Vic Morrow?  He has a small but pivotal role as Shark, a local hoodlum with aspirations of being a big hoodlum someday.  He’s got his own little gang, and he continually pushes Maxie to let him work for him.  He gets his wish and becomes Maxie’s errand boy and muscle, which delights him no end.  He takes great pride in obtaining this position.  He’s also a smart cookie.  He’s the one who figures out the best way to blackmail Danny, and Maxie lets him run with the plan, pleased with his initiative.

He’s never less than polite, soft-spoken, his words phrased almost gently even when he’s threatening someone.  He’s deferential to Maxie, almost to a fault.  He thinks he’s a sharp dresser.  He’s clearly trying to stay a classy hoodlum.  And I find it interesting how he quickly he reacts to people's actions.  Early on, Danny gets the drop on him and wins his respect by being faster and stronger than he is.  Shark invites him to join his gang on the spot.  When Danny doesn’t allow Shark to cheat one of the other members of the gang out of their earnings, Shark promptly drops him from the group.  There’s a hundred ways this character could have been played.  Vic’s played some very nasty characters in his career, and while Shark is a bad guy, he’s got such a pleasant, smiling fa├žade, it amuses me no end. 

He and Danny finally come to a physical confrontation, a tense knife fight. It's quite something to watch Vic squaring off with Elvis.

The black and white cinematography lends itself well to this movie, giving it that edge of noir feeling, and really, this is a noir movie.  There is some great shots filmed on-location in New Orleans.  It's moody and atmospheric, which suits the story.  Elvis nails the character of Danny, and he's supported by a fabulous cast.

My favorite musical numbers are "Trouble" and the last song of the movie "As Long as I Have You."  Both work great within the plot.  "Trouble" is the song Danny performs when ordered to sing by Maxie, who is trying to prove Ronnie and Danny are liars, that Danny can't sing.  Danny's hopping mad and not only accepts the challenge, but directs the song straight at Maxie without backing down at all.  Ronnie's little smile of triumph is one of her first steps to breaking free of Maxie's control.  It's one of my favorite scenes.  And the latter song closes the movie.  It ties everything up so nicely.  It's the song Ronnie says was her theme song, so Danny singing it as a tribute to her is lovely, but it also represents his return to honest life, with his whole family there to reconcile and move on with their lives, out of Maxie's sleazy shadow.

This has been my contribution to the A Tribute to Vic Morrow Blogathon.