Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflections on New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve has almost always been a melancholy night for me.  Year's end makes me moody, and my moods tend to run dark this night.  I won't be watching my old New Year's Eve standard, Reilly: Ace of Spies, at least.  Though I suspect there will be some Sam Neill tonight.

What a year!  For movies, it started with the high of Rogue One, ended with the low of The Last Jedi.  It gave me Slow West and Salvation, two modern Westerns I've probably watched collectively on DVD more than any other movies this year.  I am completely remiss in writing a review on either.  I could not be more delighted that Ben Mendelsohn is in one and Mads Mikkelsen the other, and that both are great movies.

It was a lousy year for new soundtracks, though a good one for new releases of old soundtracks.  I still need to pick up Damnation Alley, which is one I've waited for a long time.  I think of new soundtracks... hm, did I even buy one?  It does not appear so ("It does appear so to Mr. Wallace"... random movie quote, name that movie, LOL!), and that is sad.  Maybe next year will bring some good music.

There was an incredible solar eclipse this year, the most beautiful I've personally seen (my third), and a trip to Idaho that changed my family's lives in so many ways, big and small.  I'm now living here and am very happy, looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings.

So, here we are.  End of a busy, tumultuous, stressful, crazy year. 

I'll leave you with this song.  It's one of my favorite discoveries this year (via a Mads Mikkelsen movie, naturally, though this is the happy version that doesn't break my heart.), and it is really is perfect for this winter night.

Here's to a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Snow Play

Movies seen this year in review

This has been an interesting year in movies.  I saw thirteen new movies this year in the theater, and eight older/classic movies.  Of the thirteen new movies, I only bought one on DVD.  One.  That one is The Great Wall, and I have watched the DVD quite a few times.  It's my favorite movie of 2017, and that's pretty sad.  The rest were okay (ie: Wonder Woman, Pirates, Spiderman, Beauty and the Beast), or quite fun (like Thor: Ragnarok and King Arthur), or I-Never-Need-To-See-These-Again (Dunkirk, The Last Jedi). 

However, the best new movie I saw in 2017 was Darkest Hour.  That one was sooooooooo very well done and very moving.  I will probably end up up picking it up on DVD next year when it comes out, though it's not the type of movie I normally tend to re-watch.  But Ben Mendelsohn, and the truly outstanding performance by Gary Oldman are worth it.  Lily James and Kirsten Scott Thomas are also great in it.  Highly recommended movie for any who enjoy history, WWII, or dramas.

Of the older films I saw in the theater, the highlights were Ben-Hur and Red RiverBen-Hur I've had the privilege of seeing many times on the big screen, and I will never tire of it.  I got to take my brother-in-law with me this time, and that was delightful.  He had never seen it before, and given the chance to introduce someone to that movie, the big screen is the only way to go.  He was blown away by it.  I got to see Red River at the TCM Film Festival, surrounded by my classic movie loving friends, and it was just an amazing experience all the way around.

I suspect next year will be a much better year for new movies for me.  I'm particularly looking forward to Ready Player One, Avengers Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Black Panther, Wreck-It Ralph 2, Tomb Raider, Robin Hood, Expendables 4, and the next Fantastic Beasts movie.  I'd add on the Han Solo movie, but I'm a bit scared of it. 

I am probably most really really REALLY looking forward to the first Chaos Walking movie, but it appears I have to wait until 2019 for that one.  Patience, patience.... I'll just have to read the books again to tide me over.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Winter joys

Ahhhh!  Snow again!  I have missed snow.  It is delightful to be able to walk Silver in the snow, and/or just let him outside to romp around the backyard.  Neither of us are remotely missing California right now, that's for sure. 

(My street)
(Snow just getting started.  Happy dog.)

(Silver and my dad... yes, my dog thinks he's a cat
 and sitting on people's shoulders is what he should do.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Marvel Heroes Movie Tag

Hamlette tagged me for this one.  Idea is to name a movie that meets the following Marvel Heroes criteria.  Here goes!

Captain America: Name a movie with a "fish out of water" theme. 
Overboard (1987)- I'm not particularly a romantic comedy person, but I dearly love this movie.  Goldie Hawn plays a snooty rich girl who loses her memory and gains a new and completely different life, and, for some reason I have yet to figure out, this movie just makes me happy.

Thor: Name a movie about learning to use power for the good of others. 
Doctor Strange (2016) - I suppose I shouldn't answer a Marvel tag with a Marvel movie, but I love this movie soooooooo much, and Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) certainly learns how to use his power for the good of others and not just himself.

Iron Man: Name a movie about an inventor. 
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) - Captain Nemo invents the beautiful, fantastic Nautilus.

Incredible Hulk: Name a movie with a main character who has two sides to them. 
No Way Out (1987) - Lt. Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner) certainly has two sides, and that's part of what makes this twisty movie fun.

Hawkeye: Name a movie that involves archery. 
For Your Eyes Only (1981)- Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) is one of my favorite Bond girls, and she favors a crossbow.

Black Widow: Name a movie about spies. 
Ronin (1998) - In fact, I'm way overdue to watch this one.  Wonderful twisty/turny spy movie with Stellan Skarsgard and Jean Reno and Sean Bean.  And, of course, Robert DeNiro in one of the few movies I really love him in.

Black Panther: Name a movie about royalty. 
A Royal Affair (2012)  - A movie about Danish royalty for a change, instead of English, with Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander.  I liked it enough to buy a copy, even if Mads and Alicia break my heart into tiny little pieces.

Vision: Name a movie involving androids or robots. 
Going with Forbidden Planet (1956) for this one, because Robby the Robot is the classic robot.

Spider-man: Name a movie about teens. 
Stand By Me (1986) - one of the few movies about young people I will happily watch at any time.  River Phoenix and that whole cast are wonderful.  My sister and I still quote it all the time.  "I dropped the comb..." 

Ant Man: Name a movie about thieves. 
To Catch a Thief (1955).  Because I'm not particularly fond of thieves, but retired thieves trying to clear their name... that I like.  This is probably my favorite Hitchcock movie.

Scarlet Witch: Name a movie with powerful female character. 
The Fifth Element (1997) - Leeloo!  'Nuff said.

Dr. Strange: Name a movie where a character learns to be a better person. 
The Book of Life (2014) - Joachin (voiced by Channing Tatum) has a nice, satisfying arc as he becomes a better person in this one.

Falcon: Name a movie with a great sidekick. 
The Great Race (1965) - Peter Falk as Max is the most faithful and funniest sidekick I know.  He is the best.  Very hard to stand your own when you're the sidekick to Jack Lemmon as the dastardly and hilarious Professor Fate, but Max does it handily.

(this is here because one cannot mention The Great Race without thinking of the pie fight, and the pie fight is too good not to share)

Loki: Name a movie with an antagonist/villain who steals the show. 
Rogue One (2016).  I think I have a few movies I could answer for this one, but I might as well cut to the chase.  Much as I love Every Single Character in this movie, it's still Krennic who steals every scene he's in for me.

Agent Coulson: Name a movie where an ordinary character faces an extraordinary situation. 
The Terminator (1984) - Sarah Connor is pretty much the epitome of ordinary woman thrown into a most extraordinary and dangerous situation.

Peter Quill: Name a movie with a character who is more than they appear to be. 
5 Card Stud (1968) - Robert Mitchum's Reverend character certainly is much more than he appears to be.  This is a nifty Western that doesn't get nearly enough attention.

Gamora: Name a movie with a character who changes allegiances. 
The Phantom (1996) - This is a superhero movie I think is great fun.  Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is the character who switches sides in this one.

Drax: Name a movie with a physically powerful character. 
Conan the Barbarian (1982) - Going with one of the obvious answers for this one... Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Groot: Name a movie with a character who doesn't talk much. 
Valhalla Rising (2009) - Mads Mikkelsen's warrior character never says a word.  Being Mads Mikkelsen, he doesn't have to ever speak to communicate.  This is a bizarre, violent, surreal movie that I could only sit through once, though I quite liked the first half.

Rocket: Name a movie with a talking animal. 
Babe (1995) - I didn't think I'd like this movie, and I resisted even seeing it for years, but was finally shown it, and it was very sweet.  Being an animal movie, it makes me cry repeatedly, and I have no need to see it again, even though it's very good.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RIP Dmitri Hvorostovsky (1962-2017)

It was great sadness I heard of Dmitri Hvorostovsky's passing.  It is not entirely unexpected, as he has been battling brain cancer, but it is devastating news.  We were still hoping he'd find a way to beat it.  He was a delightful baritone to watch in the Met broadcasts.  The last performance I saw him in was in Il Trovatore, and he was great in that.  My condolences to his family, colleagues, and opera fans around the world who will sorely miss him.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Beautiful Books 2017 || How’s The Writing Going?

This series of questions comes from Hamlette's blog, and since not much is going on here in the movie scene, I'll talk a little about writing instead.  I had been planning on doing NaNo this year, except the whole move-to-new-home messed that up. 

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
Frazzled from the move, which stalled out all writing.  But now that I'm mostly unpacked and decently situated, I itch to get writing again.  I am always more productive and inspired in Fall/Winter than any other season. Snow and darkness just bring stories with them, so the first week in my new house, I had a new story idea fall into my lap.  I can't wait to start writing it, but need to finish the novel I'm working on first.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
My first sentence is currently stupid and won't last through the first revision.  How about the last sentence of part one of this novel instead?

Four loud gunshots echoed in the lounge behind me, and, with a sob, I threw myself over the gallery’s railing.

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
Now that's a tricky question to answer.  I love them all, including my dangerous antagonist (or I wouldn't be writing it).  But a fellow named Devon probably has the keys to my heart right now. 

What do you love about your novel so far?
The setting, the characters, the machinations of the antagonist, the plot, the connections and surprises the characters keep springing on me.  Really, if there was something about the novel I didn't love, I would change it to something I did. 

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?
Plenty of typos, none hilarious.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
Is there any question on this one?  The end.  Because everything else in the novel is building up the tension and escalation to that ending.  The ending is the culmination of everything I worked to set up, and the ending is always the most fun to write.  Endings also write very quickly because I've been anticipating them the entire book.  Everything finally comes together.  If I did my job up to that point, the ending will be inevitable and it will just write itself.  And nothing beats typing those last two final words "the end" and leaning back in your chair with the draft completed.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
I write at night.  It's a long-ingrained habit from being a student.  First I did homework at night, then I wrote at night after I finished homework.  I focus best when there's no light outside, so no distractions.  I also have a dog, and he tends to go to sleep in the evening, which frees me up to write.  I'm not an eater, so no eating while writing. That would be totally distracting, not to mention I wouldn't want to mess up the keyboard with fingers that touched food.  I do drink a lot of tea, though.  A LOT of tea.  And I almost always listen to music.  Orchestral soundtracks 99% of the time, something that matches the mood or emotion of the scene I'm writing.  My writing space is currently the breakfast bar area of my new kitchen, so it is boring.  There is nothing around me but dog treats and the day's mail.

(I need this!)

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
I need a cheer squad.  Always have.  What's the point of writing a story down if it's not to share it?  Otherwise, I could save myself a lot of work and just daydream the story to completion, then move on to the next.  I want to share my stories and hopefully keep someone up until 1:00 am reading to find out what happens next, the way I was kept up by my favorite authors.  Without some kind of feedback as I work, my writing desire withers away.  The more feedback I get (positive or negative), the more I write.  I'm a writer who definitely needs to be fed.

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
This ties directly into the last question.  Knowing someone is waiting to find out what happens next in my story is The Single Best Motivator I know of.  (Well, besides deadlines from editors.)  I share my writing as I go with my best friend, Hamlette, and if she is bugging me to find out what happens after that last cliffhanger I left her on, then you can bet I will work to write the next scene that much faster (knowing it ends on an even more stressful cliffhanger... because I am also slightly evil.)

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

1. Write.

2. Read.  Read everything you can get your hands on.  Study why you like some stories and not others.  What makes a story work for one reader is not necessarily the same as another reader, so figure out what makes a story work for you, and then write from that understanding.

3. Write some more.

Friday, November 03, 2017

And so, this happened...

I moved to Idaho this week and am currently enjoying a light snow storm.  Silver thinks this is fantastic.  I think this is fantastic.  I can finally get the house cold enough to be comfortable.  I am however, wishing I'd labeled the moving boxes a leeetttttlllleeee more precisely.  I can't find several highly necessary things.  Sigh.

Also, I'm afraid I won't be able to review any movies for awhile, unless I watch them online.  It was either my cats or my television.  They both wouldn't fit in the car, so the television stayed behind.  Naturally, I want nothing more than to curl up on the couch with Silver and a cup of hot tea and watch one of my trusty movies, but that will just have to wait awhile.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Iron Mistress (1952)

It is nearly four years past when I intended to write a review for The Iron Mistress.  Thanks to Hamlette, I can now remedy my tardiness with this entry for her Alan Ladd blogathon!  Check out all the other posts for more reading on Ladd and his films.

The Iron Mistress was the first Alan Ladd movie I ever saw when I was a young thing, though I didn’t know who he was at the time.  No, what stuck in my head about this movie at that very tender age were two scenes:  Jim Bowie getting ambushed and left for dead, which allows the bad guy to get hold of his famous knife, and the scene where said bad guy starts learning how to throw it.  It was this second scene that stayed with me.  I wanted to learn how to throw knives simply because of that moment.  I spent countless gardening sessions not gardening and throwing trowels and fishtail weeders and garden knives into the ground until they’d stick in just so every time.  And I spent years simply trying to find out which movie that scene came from.  I’d ask my parents, “Remember that movie where the guy’s trying to learn how to throw the knife and it bounces off the wall and he barks at his servant to go bring it back to him...”  No, they didn’t.  I’d ask other people.  No.  No one remembered it.  I was pretty sure it was a movie about Jim Bowie, but that was it.  It wasn’t until the age of the internet that I was finally able to search for it and come up with a likely candidate:  The Iron Mistress.  Except at that point, it wasn’t available to buy or rent.  When it finally came out on DVD, I bought a copy, simply so I could satisfy my curiosity.  I settled in to watch, and lo and behold, an hour and a half into it, there was the scene I’d been waiting all my life to see again, with Anthony Caruso playing the character determined to learn how to throw Bowie's knife left-handed after Bowie injures him.  I grinned like a goon because it was pretty much exactly as my memory had held onto it.

(The first scene, however... the ambush... that one I didn’t remember correctly.  I remembered the hero climbing out of a river onto a grassy bank.  Hm.  That’s not in this movie at all, so I wonder which movie I mixed that up with?  Another movie memory mystery I'll have to solve someday...)

And then I promptly forgot about the movie again, curiosity finally satisfied.  It wasn’t until Hamlette started watching Alan Ladd films that I pulled it off the shelf again.

The Iron Mistress is an uneven film, but still entertaining.  It has some good parts, and some mediocre parts, but no bad parts.  One of my favorite scenes is one of Bowie’s early duels, knife against sword, in a darkened room that is lit occasionally by lightning.  It’s a striking scene.  There’s also the knife duel with Anthony Caruso's character that is really well-done.  I also like the scene where his knife is forged, even if their supposed meteorite isn’t a real iron meteorite at all and looks more like a piece of pumice. The knife itself turns out lovely.

I admit, thanks to The Alamo, Richard Widmark is still my go-to movie-version of Jim Bowie.  I have to consciously set him aside to watch The Iron Mistress or I spend my time doing unfavorable comparisons, and that’s unfair to both actors and both movies.  This is, fortunately, a very different movie, and a very different Bowie, so that gives Alan Ladd a chance to make it his character.

The meandering plot for this one follows Bowie as he goes to New Orleans to sell lumber, ends up meeting society belle Judalon and her brother, decides he likes the finer things life has to offer, embarks his family on land speculation ventures, and ends up in Texas marrying Ursula Veramendi, daughter of the vice governor.  There are duels, horse races, more duels and, of course, the forging of his famous knife. The thread that ties all the disparate pieces together is Bowie's dangerous attraction to the beautiful Judalon and the consequences of that attraction.  He is drawn back to her time and time again.  It's quite satisfying when he finally is able to tell her to get lost and can walk away from her for good.

Alan Ladd always seems too nice and too civilized to pull off the rough toughness of Bowie, but wearing fancy suits, gambling, dueling, and dealing with and being hurt by Judalon’s double-dealing, he does that part of this Bowie very very well.  He's also very good with the human level, with showing his emotions in his eyes and face.  The way he lights up every time he sees her, the disappointment when she betrays him.  I also love how protective he is of Audubon, the famous bird painter, and also of Judalon's brother.  He does best in this movie in the scenes where he's climbing the social ladder, but the fights and duels are engaging as well.

Virginia Mayo excelled at playing women who were beautiful on the outside, but shallow, vain, scheming, and deceitful on the inside.  These characters display just enough vulnerability and flashes of real emotion to hook the men and keep them hoping.  Judalon is prime example.  Bowie falls in love at first sight, but he can’t ultimately offer her the money and social position she wants, and she betrays him repeatedly.

I do find the end of this movie disappointing, in that Bowie and Sturdevant (Anthony Caruso's character) don't have a final reckoning.  Sturdevant has finally mastered throwing the Bowie knife, but we don't get to see him go up against Bowie.  Hmph.  All that work for naught...  Sad.

All in all, while not one of my favorites, this remains an entertaining film.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Television Series

So, I'm stealing this from Hamlette and Eva.  My favorite television series.  I have a whole bunch of television shows I love and love to watch, but not all of them make the favorites list.  It's really got to have characters/actors I love, well-written shows, emotions, humor (the right kind), action.  These make the grade.

1. Combat! (1962-1967)
Vic Morrow.  WWII.  Some of the best written shows ever. Only show I've written fanfic for as an adult and have another website, co-owned by White Queen, that is devoted just to this show.

2. Highlander: The Series (1992-1998)
I enjoyed the original movie, but didn't love it.  It was Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod in the series that sucked me into this world, not Connor, though I still love Connor too, and that premiere ep when Connor and Duncan are sparring... that never ever ever gets old.  And Joe and Methos are probably two of my favorite characters of all time.  I even love Amanda.  And Kronos, of course. He may only be in a few episodes, but this series would be among my favorite television shows based solely on the "Comes A Horseman"/"Revelations 6:8" two-part ep, though there were plenty of other really good solid episodes.  Only show that had enough awesome sword fights to satisfy me.  I watched this one from premiere to conclusion when it aired.

3. Star Trek (1966-1969)
This one goes back to early childhood.  We watched an episode a day for years and years and years as they aired in re-runs throughout the 70s and 80s.  It was the backbone of my youth.  Love that crew!  Love their adventures.  Love that ship.  (Although my favorite captain from all the ST series is still Captain Pike...).  I listed my top ten favorite episodes of this show here.

4. Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Another show I watched start to finish as it aired.  Didn't think I'd like it initially, but silly me. I had yet to realize the power of Joss Whedon's writing.  This show took over my life the entire run time.  Waiting for new episodes to air was almost painful some weeks.  The fifth season remains my favorite season, and "The Gift" remains my all-time favorite episode.  Buffy is my favorite character, followed by Spike, but there wasn't a single main character I didn't like.

5. Starsky & Hutch (1975-1979)
Was too young for this show when it aired, but started watching re-runs in the 90's and was instantly hooked.  I loved the two lead characters so much.  Loved all the regulars.  Loved the eps.

6. Have Gun: Will Travel (1957-1963)
Paladin is one of my favorite characters, and these little half-hour episodes are so well-written.  They pack a lot of punch into a very short time.  Some are funny, some deadly serious.  This is the only show on my favorites list that I haven't seen every episode of yet, as I'm savoring and spreading out the later seasons so I have something to look forward to. 

7. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968)
My earliest television memories are of Voyage and Star Trek.  There wasn't ever a time when they weren't part of my memory.  Both dominated life from early single digits well into my teens. These two shows were family shows, so they're also both tied up in family memories and a boatload of nostalgia. 

8. Rejseholdet (Unit One) (2000-2004)
Danish crime drama with Mads Mikkelsen that follows an elite police force around Denmark.  I really did not expect to fall in love with this show and in particular, all of the characters.  I'm not a fan of most American crime shows, as they... hm... well, they seem to play to the audience, to invite the audience to try to solve the mystery ahead of the characters.  I'm not interested in solving fictional mysteries, so I find those shows annoying to watch.  Red herrings and cleverness and crimes that have to outdo other crimes to keep the audience on their toes... Not my thing.  This show, on the other hand, is just very matter-of-fact, isn't designed to make you a participant.  I love how straight-forward it is.  And I LOVE those characters, every single one of them.  So much that I've started watching other Danish movies and tv shows that star those actors, and not just Mads.  And the show really helps my Danish language lessons too.

9. Xena: Warror Princess (1995-2001)
A spin off from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (which I happen to be re-watching right now! We're introducing my nephew to it, and he is absolutely loving it.), Xena was both darker, more emotional, and also funnier at the same time.  I watched both shows to completion when they aired, but Xena was the show I preferred.  I love Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor as the two leads, loved how they grew and changed, particularly Gabrielle.  I loved the crossover eps and the wacky meta eps set in the current day.  This show also introduced me to Marton Csokas, so, yeah...

10. The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (1993-1994)
I just can't leave Brisco off this list. I've talked before about it, and about my favorite episode here.  I still just love this show so much.  Western, comedy, drama, so much fun.  Bruce Campbell rocks.  I'm amused that he's in two of my favorite shows on this list (this one and Xena), and one of my runner up favorite shows is Burn Notice, in which he's also a lead.  I have much Bruce Campbell love, clearly.

So, there you have it!  My top ten favorite shows right now.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

And now for a minority opinion

Normally, I don't like to post much negative stuff.  I only do it when I feel very strongly about something.  But as I've just had one of the most unpleasant movie-going experiences of my life, I figure I'll blather on a bit about it.

That would be my viewing of Dunkirk.  My brother-in-law and I went to catch this on the IMAX this morning and we nearly walked out mid-movie.  I'm not sure if unpleasant is strong enough to describe what sitting through this movie was like.  I suppose, given my intense dislike of Interstellar, this should not really be a surprise.  Interstellar had the award for my least favorite movie until today.  Now it's a toss up between the two.  I guess it's fair to say that even though I loved Memento, I'm officially not a Christopher Nolan fan.  At all.

The good stuff:
  • Tom Hardy, Spitfires, unlimited ammo, and aerial dogfights on an IMAX screen.  Best part of the movie by leaps and bounds.
  • Mark Rylance.
That's it.

Not even Ken Branagh, who I adore, gets any marks here.  But he's given nothing to do other than be Exposition Man.  I suppose if someone has to tell us what's going on, it might as well be him.

I hated, loathed, and despised Hans Zimmer's score for Interstellar.  His score in Dunkirk (if one can even call the incredibly loud, monotonous, droning wall of noise in Dunkirk a score) made me nostalgic for the incredibly loud wall of monotonous organ noise from Interstellar.  Okay, not really.  All it did was upset my stomach, give me a migraine, make me want to take a shower to wash the awfulness away (no, I'm not joking), and confirmed my long-held need to run the other way screaming when I see Zimmer's name on a movie poster.  (If you think my reaction is strong, my brother-in-law's is even stronger.)

We assumed this incessant wall of oppressive noise that never ever lets up is supposed to increase the tension for movie viewers?  (Never mind that if your movie can't be tense without music something's wrong somewhere.)  All it did for us is irritate us.  It overrides everything.  Couldn't hear the dialogue, couldn't even hear the fricking gunfire.  It didn't help that our theater was so loud my normal earplugs were ineffective, and earplugs don't help anyway with the overwhelming bass and constant physical vibration from the sound.  But even if the volume had been turned down, it wouldn't have made the movie experience any better.  I respect the right for the director to make whatever stylistic choices he sees fit to help his vision come true, but these choices flat-out fail for me.  We were never tense, never worried for characters, never on the edge of our seat.  We were annoyed and looking for the exit. 


As to the story... there wasn't much of one.  It felt more like a slice-of-life look at Dunkirk rather than a story.  That will work really well for some viewers.  My brother-in-law is a history teacher, and he was not at all happy with the historical side of it.  I'm not a historian, nor am I that familiar with Dunkirk, other than basic WWII knowledge -- big military disaster/trouble getting everyone home -- so those aspects didn't bother me the way they did him.  Neither of us liked the script's choice of following those opportunist little twerps as they deceived and lied to get off the beach ahead of the other soldiers.  We both were hoping, quite uncharitably I do admit, that they'd get blown up before the movie ended.  Every time the movie cut back to them, I groaned, because not only did I not care what happened to them, I actively disliked them.  This isn't to say there weren't plenty of men willing to do anything to escape that beach, self-preservation is a strong motivation, and it's not that their story might not be worthy of telling, but this movie made no effort to make me like or care for them or their story.  Maybe I'm not supposed to care for them?  Maybe their self-serving attitudes are supposed to balance the heroism of the pilots?  I really don't have any idea what my take-away from this movie is supposed to be.  That might be part of my problem.  I came away with nothing but a profound feeling of annoyance.

If I wore a watch, I would have checked it multiple times to see how much more of the movie I had to endure. I know it's running time is supposedly short, but man, it felt endless.  Interminable.  Painful.  This is what happens when there's no emotional investment in the characters... it's boring.  And dude, what happened at Dunkirk should not be boring.  I didn't get any sense of amazingness or happiness when the few ships showed up at the end.  Maybe because there appeared to be only a handful of boats come to help? 

I did at least like the two pilots.  And Mark Rylance.  But I didn't care about them.  We aren't given enough to care about them. 

So, yeah.  This one's a huge ugly fail for me.  However, I recognize that the very things that don't work for me personally in this movie seem to work very well for the majority of other people out there, so I would probably still recommend this movie.  The subject is worthy, regardless, and people should decide for themselves if they like it, not listen to reviews, positive or negative.

Friday, July 07, 2017

The Fall (2006)

This has to be one of the most uniquely shot, beautiful, and intriguing movies I've ever seen.  This is a movie about making movies. It's also about storytelling and about the relationship between a storyteller and an active listener.  Whose story is it?  And it's about imagination, or perhaps shared imagination would be a better phrase.  How does one perceive story?

It's set in a hospital in Los Angeles of the 1920's, where a young girl with a broken arm meets a Hollywood stuntman who's been injured on the job.  They become friends as he tells her a story.  The movie juxtaposes life in the hospital with a fantastic tale of adventure, until slowly the two stories merge.  The young girl populates the story with various people from her life and whom she has met and seen at the hospital.  I'm going to avoid spoilers in this review, because this movie is too good to be ruined by a casually tossed-out spoiler.

I rented this movie for my sister, as she's a big Lee Pace fan, and I came away loving it as much as she did. We watched it twice in one day.  Then showed it to her husband.  Then showed it to my niece.  I've watched most of it again here with the subtitles turned on.  Then we bought our own copy of the DVD.  LOL!  It's one of those movies that just needs to be seen again, to help put all the pieces together, because there's far too much to catch on the first viewing.  A lot of important dialogue is spoken in the background, or said at the same time something else is going on, so on first viewing, we missed a lot.

Catinca Untaru is adorable and amazing as young Alexandria.  She instantly became my favorite child character in any movie.  I love her.  This movie works so well because of her.  Because of her relationship with Roy (Lee Pace's character).  They are wonderful together.

It's her imagination we see at work in this movie, bringing his story to life, sometimes in subtle but cool ways.  Such as when Roy tells her one of the story's characters is an Indian.  We've seen him working in a Western in the beginning of this movie, so when he says Indian, you know he's thinking Native American. He mentions the words squaw and wigwam.  Alexandria doesn't know any Native Americans, but she works with a man from India in the orange groves, so he's the one she envisions in the story anytime the Indian is mentioned.

This movie was filmed on location all around the world, and it makes for some absolutely exquisite locales.  It's colorful and striking, with amazing architecture and wide open landscapes. I ooohed and ahhhed all the way through it.  One of my favorite shots is in the very beginning of the movie, in black and white, of a rope being thrown off a bridge.  You can see the shadow of the rope coil on the water below, and then the rope snakes into the camera's view, while you're still watching the shadow below.  It unwinds as it falls, the shadow matching it, and it is lit and filmed so perfectly that that shot just boggles my mind every time. 

(and this isn't even a fraction of the amazing real places shown in this movie)

This movie is rated R, and for the longest time my sister and I were wondering why that was, as almost nothing in the first half was R.  But the movie does turn darker, more violent, and more emotional in the last half, and it does eventually earn its R rating.  Even still, it has a lot of humor in it and some of the funniest moments were in the middle of what seemed the darkest moments.  Ultimately, it was a satisfying, beautifully told story that just sucked us in and will definitely be one we re-watch on a regular basis.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

First of July

The apricots have come and gone, although I still have a bunch in the fridge that are slowly going bad because there are just still too many to consume.  My apples have mostly come and gone as well.  I dried tons of them this year, which will be nice to munch on later.  My tomatoes are currently ripening.  I got smart this year and planted them in a slightly different shadier area, and for once they have not died in the sun.  They are flourishing, yay!

The three wild parrots are back and enjoying apples.

It's turned hot, of course, and my walks with Silver are mostly restricted to very early morning before it heats up.  When it's still 90 at 9 pm, there's no chance of an evening walk.  He still loves water so he has a blast playing with the sprinkler and hose.  The more water to play in the better.

Today marks my 32nd straight day of studying the Danish language on duolingo.  It claims I am 47% proficient, but I don't remotely have the vocabulary built up yet for that to be true.  And I am never in a thousand years going to be able to pronounce some of their words correctly, but I don't care.  I am having an absolute blast learning it!

I have always loved studying languages.  Took three and a half years of French in high school, a year of Russian in college, and I've been learning Italian (via opera librettos) my whole life.  But Danish is the first language I'm studying for no reason whatsoever but because we live in a fabulous age where things like duolingo make this possible.  This means zero pressure.  No grades to worry about, no tests, no trip to Copenhagen (though I can dream), just nothing but learning for the sheer fun of it.  And it is so much fun that it's one of the first things I can't wait to start working on every single morning when I turn the computer on.  The grammar rules are pretty straight forward, much simpler than French.  The pronunciation of words is the only truly difficult (impossible!) part.  However, practice really does make a difference, and I can at least understand the spoken lessons far better than I thought would be possible when I first started.  And reading and writing Danish... that's the easy part.

My sister is studying Norwegian, which shares a lot of the grammar rules and many similar words.  I find I can follow her lessons along with her with relative ease and help her understand the sentence construction... and their pronunciation is sooooo much easier.  Their words are mostly pronounced the way they look, which cannot be said of Danish, where almost nothing is pronounced the way it looks like it should be said.  I find that amusing.

Yep.  Pretty much.

Current favorite Danish word:  badev√¶relset which is the epic word for "the bathroom."  Don't ask me to pronounce it though.  It's something along the lines of "bell-vay-ah-suh" but I haven't listened to it said enough to remember for sure.

I also find it amusing that the last two movies I watched were French-language movies.  Wrong language!!  I have watched four or five movies in Danish now, but I watched them back before I started studying the language.  I'm going to rewatch those in a another month or two, see how much I can actually understand at that point.

And now for something completely different.

I am a huge fan of the chocolate peanut butter Kind bars, and I recently found I could make my own.  These are spectacular.  Very easy to make (other than chopping up three kinds of nuts into bits is a pain), and they taste so much better than anything from the grocery store.  I've made two batches so far.  I like these for breakfast with my hot tea, but for those so inclined to eat between meals, they'd make a great snack.