Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Morning Mix -- Part 3

Time for the final installment of shiny, happy music on my go-to morning CD.  (Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.)  It's morning right now, and the last couple songs are left on it while one of my children dawdles over breakfast.  Perfect time to finish this series!

Today we get to start with one of my absolute favorite western themes, another by Elmer Bernstein.  It's the main theme from The Sons of Katie Elder, which also happens to be my favorite John Wayne movie ever and my favorite western set in the American west.  Oh, how I love this song!

And then, more Bobby Darin :-)  My seven-year-old really loves this song right now too, which I'm very pleased about.  This is Bobby's rendition of "Don't Rain on My Parade," which is originally from the musical Funny Girl.

Next up is "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers.  This song brings back two sets of memories for me.  First, of watching my very first Johnny Depp movie ever, Benny and Joon, which opens with this song.  I watched that at a slumber party in high school, and by the end was a firm Johnny Depp fan.  The second memory is of college and this brilliant band called The Divers.  Two of the band's members are professors at the college.  Because my school was beyond cool.  Anyway, sometimes they performed this song during their concerts, along with all their own original music, so I have a wonderful memory of standing in the college theater with all my dear friends, singing along with The Divers to this song.

And then the theme song from the old western-meets-sci-fi show The Wild, Wild West.  Carissa recently did an article in Femnista about how TWWW is basically steampunk, and she's right, it totally is.  Anyway, the opening credits are super fun, and so is the song.

Next comes another classic TV show theme, this time from The Monkees.  My mom used to sing this to us for no apparent reason.  Now I do the same to my kids :-D

And then one last Bobby Darin song.  This is the title song from a really wacky, quirky movie called Goodbye, Charlie.  Bobby doesn't sing it for the movie, alas, but I love his version the mostest.  Very snappy and snarky.

One last Elmer Bernstein theme for a western!  This time for The Magnificent Seven, which I consider to be the best western ever.  Happy dance!

(I wanted to link to this vid instead, but it basically gives away the entire movie, so I decided that was not a great idea.)

This is one song that I've decided I should have left off.  It's "One Day More," my favorite song from Les Miserables, but it's not quite cheerful enough to match the others.  However, I'm including it in the post for the sake of completeness :-)  And besides, Hugh Jackman.

The last song on the CD is the finale cue from The Lone Ranger (2013).  This song makes me happy No Matter What.  I simply cannot listen to it and not be cheered up!  (Well, okay, if something truly tragic happens, it probably wouldn't work, but for ordinary blues and annoyances and even PMS, totally works.)  It takes the familiar "William Tell" theme that the old TV show and radio show used for their theme song and then just elaborates on them.  Kind of a "Variations on a Theme by Rossini," if you will.  Ten minutes of ecstasy, really.  My absolute favorite part kicks in at 7:03 when the theme returns off-cadence and minor, and then these trumpets come in with a love song to the Old West.  That part makes me ache with joy.

And that's all, folks!  All 22 songs I listen to just about every day right now :-)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Morning Mix -- Part 2

Here they are!  More of the songs on the upbeat, rousing, happy-making CD I start most days with.  (Part 1 is here.)

First up is a song that probably makes a lot of people's "kickstart your day" lists:  "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor.  I grew up watching the Rocky movies with my dad and still love them, so this song makes me both sentimental and juiced up.

Next is another western movie theme.  My best friend introduced me to this song because she says it makes her think of me :-)  I really love Elmer Bernstein's scores, and this one is no exception.  I've never seen The Scalphunters, but I definitely dig this song!

Continuing the whole western thing, we have Bobby Darin singing the title song from the ultra-amusing western Cat Ballou.  This song never fails to crack me up :-D

And here's a song that makes me think of my mom, to balance out the one that makes me think of my dad.  My mom used to sing this while washing dishes.  During my freshman year of college, this was also my theme song :-)

Here's a song that makes me think of high school:  "Tuxedo Junction" by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  I used to listen to a great compilation of big band classics while doing my schoolwork -- ahh, the joys of being homeschooled!

After that comes another song from Branches Band, and this time I can share it with you!  It's a sweet rendition of one of my favorite hymns, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty."

And I'll end out this post with another tune I can't help but dance to.  I listened to a LOT of Oldies in high school, college, and the early years of our marriage, before we moved to Connecticut and couldn't find a good Oldies radio station.  This one is catchy and bouncy and makes me feel completely groovy.

One more post on this coming in a day or two!

Friday, November 14, 2014

"Dracula" 1979

I've wanted to see this particular version of Dracula for quite a few years now.  In the Angel season one episode "Eternity," Angel mentioned that Frank Langella was the only movie portrayal of a vampire he found believable.

Frank Langella as Dracula.  In case you weren't paying attention.

So of course I then wanted to see Langella's Dracula, to see why Angel found him so realistic.  Except back in 2000 when that ep aired, DVDs weren't really a big thing yet, Amazon.com barely existed, and the local video store didn't have this movie, so I was out of luck.  Filed it away in my "see it someday if I get the opportunity" list and moved on.

And then Charity blogged about it here this fall.  I promptly put the DVD on my Amazon wish list.  I'd been doing a bunch of Christmas shopping right then and couldn't quite justify to myself buying a movie I'd never seen just because Angel thought it was believable.  (I'm so sorry, Angel.  It doesn't mean I don't still love you.)

And then... I had gallbladder surgery.  And Charity, living up to her name in all ways, sent me her spare copy of this movie as a get-well gift!  DO NOT ever let people tell you that "internet friends" are not "real friends."

Sadly, by the time it arrived, I was back on my feet and swamped with catching up with all sorts of things I'd fallen behind on while I was recuperating.  So I saved this to be a special Halloween treat.  And a treat it was indeed!

(Side note:  don't write up a long review the day after you watch a movie and then take two weeks to get the two measly screencaps you want to illustrate the very last paragraph.  It's not very sensible.)

It's been a while since I saw any version of Dracula, as my fascination with vampires has waned over the last few years.  (It doesn't mean I don't still love you, Angel!  My fascination with you has not waned, I promise.)  It's been even longer since I read the book, which I remember being deep and thoughtful and also a bit dry.  But all that just meant I was ready to look at the story afresh, which turned out to be good, since this is not exactly a faithful adaptation.  For one thing, they switched Mina and Lucy around.

Lucy Seward
Lucy (Kate Nelligan, who was Mercedes in my favorite version of The Count of Monte Cristo) is now the fiancee of Jonathon Harker (Trevor Eve), while Mina (Jan Francis) is her best friend who is visiting her because she's been unwell.  Lucy's father, Dr. Seward (Donald Pleasance!) runs an asylum, where a lot of the story takes place.  I thought that setting worked really well to accentuate the fact that anyone who harbors romantic feelings for a vampire must be a little bit crazy.  (This includes me, obviously.)  

Jonathon and Dr. Seward are Thoroughly Modern Men, one driving around in a motorcar and wearing ridiculous goggles, while the other puts his faith in modern medicine to help his patients and anyone else who might mysteriously fall ill while under his roof.  Ahem.

Okay, if you don't know the basic story of Dracula, be warned that this is going to be spoily not just for this movie, but for the book as well. 

So anyway, yeah, motorcars.  This is set more in the Edwardian era than the Victorian, obviously.  Still people driving carriages and farm carts, but the times, they are a-changin'.  Into this world of change, this asylum of noise and chaos, steps the mysterious Count Dracula (Frank Langella), the only survivor of a ship wrecked on the rocks outside town.  He'd previously acquired a deserted old castle on the edge of town, where he moves with his crates of Translvanian dirt (he's interested in botany, nudge nudge, wink wink, know what I mean?  Say no more!) and his decidedly Old World, old-fashioned ways.

Lucy meets Dracula

Dr. Seward invites him to dinner, and Dracula's impeccable manners and innate elegance attract both Lucy and Mina.  And who can blame them?  Compared to Jonathon Harker's earnest, floppy-haired blandness, Dracula is like a dashing hero swooshing cavalierly into their lives.

Jonathon Harker

Of course, he has the strange ability to hypnotize people, his eyes do this crazy darting-back-and-forth thing when he sees or smells blood, and he dances much better than mortal men ought to.  But everybody blithely ignores all that and accepts him into their circle of people to hang out with on a dark and stormy night.

About that thing where his eyes flicker back and forth -- I've been trying to do that since Halloween, and it's really hard.  Makes my eyes hurt.  I mentioned this to Charity, and she says it's a thing Langella just does when he's concentrating, and the director thought it was brilliant for the character and kept it.  I'm going to take a wild guess and say that he does not suffer from astigmatism like I do, because when I try it, my eyes get confused and stop working together like they should.  Anyway, it was a fantastic nuance and I loved it.

This version of Dracula can totally do the shape-shifting thing.  Sometimes he's a wolf, sometimes he's a bat, sometimes he's mist.  So that was pretty faithful to the book.  Also, he can climb up and down walls like a bat, which was completely creepy.  Scariest part of the whole movie was when he climbed down the walls to get to the bedroom Mina and Lucy share, head downward, and appears at the balcony's glass doors that way.  Totally freaky.  Also, they somehow found a wolf that actually moved like Langella, or Langella studied that wolf a lot and learned to move like it, because yeah, the resemblance was splendid.

So anyway, people start dying with puncture marks on their necks, the usual.  No one suggests they fell on a barbecue fork, they just assume that huh, something bit them in their room at night.  Makes me wonder a bit about the security at this asylum, and also what kinds of weird things they're used to finding in their rooms.  Nobody searches for a cause for Mina's death, it's just, "Oh, she lost a lot of blood, isn't that odd now?"  

Until her father, Professor Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier!!!), arrives.  He's got no faith in modern medicine, modern science, modern anything.  He's old-school, he's Dutch (huzzah!), and he's a Christian.  How quaint, right?  Poor old fool, guess he'll just have to say his farewells to Mina's grave, nothing for such an out-of-touch old fogey to do here.


Professor Van Helsing

Van Helsing totally recognizes Dracula for what he is, from the moment he first sees him.  His eyes aren't clouded by modernity.  With the clear sight of faith, he can tell right from wrong, good from evil.  Alive from undead.  Nobody else wants to believe his claims that their new buddy the Count is a monster, not even Jonathon, who's practically being cuckolded before his own eyes and surely has no reason to defend his rival.  But nooooooo, these modern fellows require proof.

So Van Helsing gives them proof.  And then they all go merrily crusading off to kill Dracula and stop him from turning Lucy into his latest Eternal Bride.  

The ending is a bit ambiguous, actually.  They seem to have killed Dracula, but then his cape goes flapping away across the ocean, and Lucy clearly thinks that means he's not dead.  Is this just wishful thinking on her part?  Is she even imagining it?  I don't know -- I could spend a whole blog post theorizing about that ending, but this is already quite long, so I won't do that here.

Overall, I'm really, really happy I got to see this at long last.  Langella and Olivier are absolutely brilliant, and everyone else fills their roles well.  The sets are terrific, and if some of the effects are dated, well... this movie was made 35 years ago.  It's to be expected.

There's also one set that I think they must have consciously echoed in season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Dracula takes Lucy for a moonlit walk in a lush, over-grown garden by his mansion:

The mansion Angelus shares with Spike and Drusilla has a very similar garden.  You can see it well in "I Only Have Eyes for You," one of my absolute favorite BtVS eps:

James Marsters as Spike

Juliet Landau as Drusilla

Joss being such a filmophile, I'm pretty sure this was a deliberate nod :-)

David Boreanaz as Angel (NOT from that same ep or set, but he seemed lonely because I'd talked about him through this whole post and not included any pictures of him, so, there we go.  Picture of Angel.)
So.  Last of all, I should mention whether or not this is family-friendly.  It's definitely not.  It's rated R, though I think nowadays it would be PG-13, but that rating didn't exist back in 1979.  It's got one scene that psychedelically implies Dracula having his way with Lucy, but it's relatively tasteful and easy to skip.  There's also a good bit of creepiness, especially with Mina.  Not a movie for children.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Morning Mix -- Part 1

Last month, I made myself a new CD to listen to in the mornings while I make breakfast.  I love to listen to music while I cook (and pretty much any time at all, but especially while I cook), and I'd been cycling through a bunch of CDs that had bouncy, upbeat tracks, but I'd spend time every morning walking over to the CD player to skip to a cheerful song.  And then I decided that was ridiculous, and I should just put all those songs on one CD!

Sometimes it takes me an insanely long time to realize obvious things.

So anyway, I have been loving my new "morning mix," and I decided today I would try to share it with you!  Only not all 22 songs at once.  I thought I'd break this up into 3 or 4 posts, and find all the songs on YouTube when possible, and then you could bounce around to cheerful music too :-)

Or raise your eyebrows and look askance at my musical taste.  It happens.  I'm used to it.

The very first song is called "How Great" and performed by this Christian group called Branches Band, which sang at our church a few months ago.  I bought four of their albums, I liked them so much!  Alas, this song isn't available on YouTube, but you can check out their website here and their YouTube channel here.  It's a bouncy, praise-ful song that involves a ukelele, and I really wish I could share it with you.

The second song is the theme from a movie called Bandolero! written by Jerry Goldsmith.  I love whistling, I love westerns, so yeah, makin' me happy.

Next is Bobby Darin's classic rendition of "Mack the Knife."  You knew Bobby would be here, right?  This is my absolute favorite song he sang, so here it has to be.

Then we have this peppy remix of a little-known Elvis song, "A Little Less Conversation."  I love songs with complicated, difficult lyrics, which this has in spades.  Also, this song makes me dance.  Perfect for draggy mornings, as long as I remember to put my coffee cup down before I start to dance.

Up next is one of my favorite Piano Guys songs:  "What Makes You Beautiful."  I have come up with secret lyrics to this, known only to me, and so trite and silly that if I told them to you, you would probably stop following my blog.  But anyway, it's a bouncy, happy song.

Last one for today is "Good to Go" by John Corbett.  I don't remember anymore how I found this song, but it was back in Wisconsin.  I think I stumbled on his album at the library or something.  Anyway, although it's got a few Roman Catholic overtones I mildly object to, I love the message of being thankful for your life.

Friday, November 07, 2014

What Bliss! What Joy!

They've released season one of The Rifleman to DVD!

This is one of my top three favorite western shows, folks.  The others are The Big Valley and Cheyenne, neither of which I think of as being as popular and well-known as The Rifleman, and yet they're out on DVD and this hasn't been.  But today at Walmart, I found the first half of season 1.  An official release, not some grey-market or unauthorized collection of random episodes.  I could cry. 

Not only that, but according to the official website, season two will come out later this month.  

I tell you, I am giddy!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Have a Particularly Happy Halloween with Femnista!

The special Halloween issue of Femnista is out!  Click here or on the cover image to access it.  This issue, it was my supreme pleasure to write about Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer... and why, as a Christian, I am a fan of those shows.  My article is on page 22, just FYI ;-)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Famous People Tag

Naomi of Wonderland Creek has tagged me with Famous People Tag, which you know I could never resist.

~ The Rules ~ 

-Put up the 'famous people tag button' and link back to the person who tagged you
-Answer the questions
-Tag the ten last people who commented on your blog (excluding anonymytes or the person who tagged you)

 ~The official questions!~ 

#1 Who's your favourite singer/group? 

Bobby Darin.  Always and forever.  And by that I mean, since I was sixteen and bought a cassette tape of his music just to hear "Mack the Knife" and fell in love with his voice.  His music has accompanied me ever since, and I continue buying more.  Dude sang like 600 songs in his too-short life (he died at 37 following heart surgery), and there are a lot of live versions of them too, and... and he was a superb actor too!  So I also collect his movies.

#2 If your favourite male actor was in the same room as you right now, what would your reaction be? 

Well, I'd probably be really weirded out, because my favorite actor is John Wayne, who has been dead since ten months before I was born.

But seriously, if by some time-machine magic I could meet John Wayne, I would undoubtedly be tongue-tied and shy.  I wouldn't bother trying to say anything cool, because it would come out wrong anyway.  I'd just be like, "Um, hi."

#3 Is there a famous person you used to love but (due to something they have done in their life) you've suddenly changed your mind? 

I try really hard to separate celebrities' lives from their work in my mind.  With one exception (John Landis), I'm generally successful.  Sometimes I get disappointed by roles they take or a lifestyle choice they make, something like that.  But it really doesn't make me quit liking them as a writer or singer or actor.  I tend to go the other way -- look down my nose at an actor or actress and then suddenly discover they can act and then begin to like them immensely.  That's happened to me multiple times, for instance with Rudolph Valentino and Matt Damon and Robert Downey, Jr.  Also, sometimes I'll learn that some celebrity is really genuine and nice in real life, and that makes me like them more.

#4 Name a famous person you like who's name starts with a V. 

Valentino, of course.  Rudolph Valentino.  MMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmm...

#5 What's one of your favourite red-carpet dresses? 

I don't pay huge attention to the red carpet.  I do remember thinking Hailee Steinfeld looked really cute in this at the Oscars a few years ago.  Makes me think of Audrey Hepburn.

#6 Who's your favourite Royal person? 

Not sure I have one.  So guess I'll go with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret during WWII.

#7 Who's your favourite child actor/tress? 

Hayley Mills?  Or Margaret O'Brien?  Or Christian Bale?  Hmm.   Not sure.

#8 Is there an actor/actress you actually like their private lives of? (Not sure if that last question was properly phrased.) 

Oh yeah.  I love who Hugh Jackman is in real life:  a happily married husband and an adoptive dad.  He's endlessly kind to fans.  He also started a coffee company called Laughing Man that promotes helping poor farmers in underdeveloped countries with fair trade and such.

#9 Do you think that the actors/actresses have improved these last 100 years?

I think acting has changed and evolved, but I don't think actors today are any better at acting than those from days gone by.  Our tastes have changed, the style of acting we're used to now is different from acting in the '60s or the '40s or the '20s.  But improved?  No.

#10 What's the weirdest famous-people name? 

#11 Do you think you look like a famous person? Which one(s)? 

Not really.  I suppose I might look a wee little bit like Julia Stiles.  We both have round faces.  My hair's not blond, though.

#12 Share your favourite famous-person quote. 

"When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns." -- Raymond Chandler's writing advice

#13 Who's your favourite dancer?

Gene Kelly.  I love how he could convey so many emotions with his dancing, from joy and exuberance to sorrow and love.

#14 Why is your favourite actress your favourite one? When did you decide that she was your favourite? 

I love Maureen O'Hara because she plays so many gutsy characters.  They give as good as they get, and then some, yet still remain womanly and not mannish.  Also, she's stunningly beautiful.  Still!  She's been my favorite since I was a teen.  And she was real-life friends with my favorite actor, John Wayne, which is just groovy.

#15 Have you ever met/seen/been close to a famous person?

Does attending a play that a famous person is acting in count?  If so, then yes!  When I was a teen, I saw Hayley Mills perform in The King and I.  When I was in college, I saw Patrick Stewart perform in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  And about 5 years ago, I saw Jude Law in Hamlet.

EDIT:  I forgot!  I've also met two famous authors!  I got to hear Ray Bradbury do a reading when I was in college, and got my copy of Fahrenheit 451 signed by him.  And then a few years ago, I got to attend a reading and Q&A session with Laurie R. King, my favorite living author (whom I recently interviewed on my other blog), and she signed two books for me!  My copy of The Beekeeper's Apprentice and a copy of the book she was promoting at that time.  I actually managed to ask two intelligent questions during the Q&A (which I'd thought up beforehand), and have a tiny-but-coherent conversation with her while she signed the books.  I asked her to dedicate one of them to the college professor who introduced me to her work, so that gave me something to say :-)

And now, time to tag the last ten people who commented on my blog.  I think that's a unique and fun way to tag people, as otherwise I feel kind of weirdly pressured to find bloggers I think will like the tag, etc.  So I hereby tag:

Play only if you want to :-)  Here are the official questions, to make it easier for you to cut and paste:

#1 Who's your favourite singer/group?
#2 If your favourite male actor was in the same room as you right now, what would your reaction be?
#3 Is there a famous person you used to love but (due to something they have done in their life) you've suddenly changed your mind?
#4 Name a famous person you like who's name starts with a V.
#5 What's one of your favourite red-carpet dresses?
#6 Who's your favourite Royal person?
#7 Who's your favourite child actor/tress
#8 Is there an actor/actress you actually like their private lives of? (Not sure if that last question was properly phrased.)
#9 Do you think that the actors/actresses have improved these last 100 years?
#10 What's the weirdest famous-people name?
#11 Do you think you look like a famous person? Which one(s)?
#12 Share your favourite famous-person quote.
#13 Who's your favourite dancer?
#14 Why is your favourite actress your favourite one? When did you decide that she was your favourite?
#15 Have you ever met/seen/been close to a famous person?