Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005)

Wow.  This movie is ten years old.  How is that possible?

Anyway, I think that, as far as adapting the source material, this is the best of the Harry Potter movies.  It trims out side plots that are fun but not essential and keeps everything very focused on the Triwizard Tournament and Voldemort's return.  It feels very streamlined to me, and I really like direct, focused story-telling, as I realized when watching Iron Man 2.  The screenplay is by the same guy who did almost all the other Harry Potter movies (Steve Kloves), but this one really pleases me the most.

And this is the only Harry Potter movie I've considered buying the soundtrack for.  It's by Patrick Doyle, who I'm growing fonder and fonder of.  I already own several of his soundtracks (Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Thor) and he's composed for lots of other movies I like (Henry VSense and Sensibility, Mrs. Winterbourne, Dead Again).  I listened to several tracks from it over and over and over when I was writing a Combat! fanfic story ("Finders, Keepers") because they're haunting, melancholy, achingly beautiful.  I'd forgotten that, though, and when I watched this with Cowboy, we got to the ending and I was like, "Dana Andrews!  Ioan Gruffudd!  Why are you in my head?"  Because they were who I had guest-starring in that story, and those songs evoke them strongly for me still.

This movie isn't as pretty or as atmospheric as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but it does have some really gorgeous shots here and there, like this one of Hermione and the portkey at the beginning.

One of the things I like best about this story, both in book and film, is how it starts to show us the wizarding world as a whole, and get us as an audience and Harry as a character to understand just how many lives are imperiled by Voldemort's return.  The Quidditch World Cup does a brilliant job of impressing on us that we can't care about only the kids and professors at Hogwarts.


And of course, the Triwizard Tournament does the same thing, on a more personal scale.  Through it, we and Harry and his friends learn that there are other young wizards and witches out there that they will have to think about, rely on, work against.

One of my favorite things about JK Rowling's writing is her incessant word-play.  I am always so amused by Durmstrang, the name of the Slavic all-boys wizarding school that comes to compete in the tournament.  It clearly refers to the Sturm und Drang art movement from Germany in the late 1700s.  The words literally mean "storm and drive" or "storm and push," but are often translated "storm and stress."  The Sturm und Drang movement sort of spawned the Romantics, and it was all about sweeping, powerful emotions, very anti-Rationalism.  And those Durmstrang boys certainly embody all of that, don't they?  Even their entrances, first their ship rising from the lake by Hogwarts and then the boys stomping and pounding their way up the aisle toward Dumbledore -- very dramatic and big, stormy and pushy.


Okay, so anyway, this story marks the beginning of the real growing up for our heroes, doesn't it.  Until now, they've been kids having fun, learning stuff, getting into a little trouble, solving some mysteries -- nothing very serious.  (Okay, all the stuff about Sirius Black is serious, cuz getting imprisoned for something you didn't do is no joke.)  But here, Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to do some actual growing up, moving into the adult world.  Which is not one of my favorite themes, ever, but somehow I don't mind it much in these books.  Huh.




There are a lot more adult characters in this story, too.  And they're not always keen on helping the kids or on the kids helping them.


Very serious things happen in this movie.  People are hurt, the Quidditch World Cup grounds are ruined.  People die.  This scene here makes me so, so sad:


One of my favorite visual choices for this film is how they costume the Death Eaters.  In the books, Rowling describes them as wearing black hooded robes and masks.  And I always envisioned just a robe with a hood, like a jacket with a hood.  But in the movie, they give them tall pointed hats that instantly make me think of the Klansmen, which obviously is what the Death Eaters behave like, with their fixation on blood purity and all.  But until I saw the movie, I never made that connection.  With one visual, the filmmakers instantly made me get it, which is really great work on their part.


Okay, I quick have to mention David Tennant just because he plays Hamlet in one of my favorite adaptations.  By the time I saw that, I completely couldn't remember him in this movie, other than knowing from imdb.com that he plays Barty Crouch, Jr.  He only gets a few scenes at the beginning and end, but he makes the most of them.  Also, in this moment here, he looks like a '50s hoodlum, with his leather coat's collar flipped up and his hair slicked down.  That made me grin even though he's a bad guy.  It was hard to screencap, though.


So in this movie, we finally get to see Voldemort for real.  Played so slimily by Ralph Fiennes -- oh my, he's just disgusting.  They did a superb job with his look, and of course Fiennes' acting is great.


The finale is filmed so well -- look at how full of interesting stuff this frame is!  We've got Cedric's dead body and the portkey in the foreground, that creepy statue that's been a pivotal focal point throughout the film, Harry and Voldemort locked in a wizarding duel, Death Eaters hanging out on the fringes kinda freaking out over what's happening here -- wow.


All in all, I really like this adaptation.  It's my favorite of the Harry Potter movies, with Prisoner of Azkaban running second and Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 third.  That may change as we continue to slowly watch our way through the series, though.

Friday, January 16, 2015

"I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil."

I got tagged with this over at A Free Mind, and I was only too happy to comply!  (To be truthful, I volunteered to be tagged, cuz I'm all about the Middle Earth love right now.)

R U L E S

1. You Must Be Tagged to take the Q&A quiz
2. You must tag (notify) at least three other bloggers (or whatever they are on) for this Q&A
3. You must answer the following questions to the best of your ability
4. You must have seen The Battle of the Five Armies to be tagged/take the quiz

WARNING!  There's going to be spoilage.  If you haven't seen the movie or read the book yet, go do so forthwith.

Q U E S T I O N S

1. Tell your story of how you came to see the movie(s) or got into Tolkien in the first place.

I read The Hobbit in high school and didn't care much for it, so I never read The Lord of the Rings, because why spend a thousand more pages reading stuff just like the book I already didn't like?  Then I went to college, and even though my best friend there and my boyfriend (aka Cowboy) were Tolkien fans, I still wasn't interested.  And then The Fellowship of the Ring came out just before Christmas of my senior year.  Because my friends and boyfriend wanted to go see it, I agreed to go with them (it's not hard to get me to go see a movie, honestly).  I loooooooooved the movie, and promptly bought a paperback copy of the trilogy on the way to my parents' house for Christmas.  I still have -- and read -- that same copy, which I posted about here.

2. Who are your three favorite characters in The Hobbit Trilogy?

#1 = Bard the Bowman
He gets two pictures cuz I loves him sooooooooooo muchly.
#2 = Gandalf
#3 = Bilbo Baggins

3. Did you cry during The Battle of the Five Armies, and if so, which scene(s) and what type (sniffling, sobbing, choke-crying)?

The first time I saw it, I got to Fili and Kili's deaths, and I was like, "Huh, I thought I would cry here. I'm just not as emotionally invested in this as I thought I'd be." And then Thorin died, and I was like, "I'm still not crying. Huh." And then Bilbo arrived at Thorin's side, and I teared up a little. And then Tauriel got to Kili, and I was a little moved. And then the camera panned around to Legolas, and... something about him seeing the woman he loved mourn the man she loved... that's what did it. And then I was okay again until it got to the very very very end, and when Gandalf outside of Bag End said, "And what about very old friends?" I was a goner.  Cried through the whole ending song and everything.

My second viewing, I was filled with sunny joy through the entire movie.  Only teared up a little during Bilbo's farewell to the dwarves.

4. Were the deaths compelling to you, and if so, whose?

Yes, they were.  Even Smaug's!  Kili's, Fili's, and Thorin's -- I found them very touching, much more so than in the book.  In the book, Fili and Kili's deaths are almost an afterthought, like "Oh, and by the way, these two guys died defending Thorin."  Much more emotionally engaging here.

5. Overall, were you satisfied with the movie itself?

Indeed!  In fact, it made me really enjoy the Hobbit trilogy as a whole, whereas before I'd just liked it okay.  I'm going to be rewatching the first two movies over the next couple of weeks, and I think that when I see how this final chapter pulled everything together, completed character arcs and so on, that I will probably love the trilogy as a whole like I now love The Battle of the Five Armies.

6. Describe the movie in one word.

Glorious.

And then there's this guy!

Okay, so now I'm supposed to tag 3 other bloggers.  I tag DKoren, Joanna, and Ruby Danderfluff.  If anyone else wants to be tagged, either comment here saying so, and I'll add your name, or you can consider yourself tagged and just do the meme :-)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Heidi's New Blog & Giveaway


Argh!  How did I forget to post about this?  My blogging friend, Heidi Peterson, has started a new blog where she'll discuss all kinds of interesting writerly things.  And to kick things off, she's giving away a copy of each of her books!  Go here to participate.  It only runs through the end of tomorrow, though, so don't delay!

I read and reviewed one of her books here on my other blog, if you want to check it out.  My son likes it so well, we gave a copy to his best friend for Christmas :-)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Is There an Author in the House?

Why yes, as a matter of fact, there is.  I don't blog much about my writing these days, but Naomi Bennet posted this fun questionnaire on her blog, Wonderland Creek, and I felt like filling it out myself.  So I did.


1. How many years have you been writing? When did you officially consider yourself a ‘writer’?

I've been writing for approximately 28 years.  I officially considered myself "a writer" somewhere around 1995, probably.

2. How/why did you start writing? 

I've been making up stories for as long as I can remember, and when I was about six, my mom gave me her old manual typewriter (as in, not even electric.  Manual.  Very vintage and pretty -- I still have it.  It looks a lot like the one above), and I started writing little paragraph-long stories.  I remember one of the earliest was basically me rewriting the Christmas chapter of The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew with different names for the characters.  I continued doing that all through my childhood, and even wrote a weekly family newspaper for a couple of years.

When I was fourteen, I started to focus more on writing, on trying to learn the craft of it and not just dabble around with the occasional story.  My mom then bequeathed me another typewriter, an electric one this time, and I set it up on the living room floor and started pounding out stories.  Many of them were fanfic for my favorite TV shows (Combat!, Star Trek, and The Big Valley), although I didn't know at the time that fanfic was an actual thing.  I just thought I was making up new adventures for my favorite characters because I had run out of ones to watch.

That's what drives my writing, and always has:  wanting to spend time with my imaginary friends.  I write fanfiction to spend time with my favorite fictional heroes, and I write original stories to spend time with the people I've dreamed up.

3. What’s your favorite part of writing? 

Reading over things I've written in the past :-)

I miss him
And if Sawyer wanted to read them too, I'd let him.

4. What’s your biggest writing struggle?

Finding plot holes and recognizing logic problems, inconsistencies, etc.  I tend to accept a story as going the way it goes and not figure out ways it makes no sense.

5. Do you write best at night or day?

I write best in the morning, before real world thoughts have crowded out the fictional ones.  But I've learned, by necessity, to write at night after my kids are in bed too.  It doesn't flow as freely, and I tend to peter out after only an hour instead of two or more, but it's better than nothing.

6. What does your writing space look like? (Feel free to show us pictures!) 

Depends on where I'm writing!  Sometimes it looks like this:

"That's my Mayor's Desk, where I do my mayorin' work."
(Joke for fans of Support Your Local Sheriff
That's our desktop computer, where I do most of my blogging.  I don't write much fiction here, simply because if I'm writing fiction at home, it's in the evenings when the kids are in bed, and then my husband is using this computer, so I take over the couch with my laptop.  The couch is just to the left of the computer desk, under that window thing that leads to the kitchen and shows off my dirty laundry so nicely.

Sometimes, I write here:


I'm sitting in that green chair right now, my foot up on the little wooden chair because I twisted my foot yesterday.  (I'm a klutz.)  I wrote some of my favorite scenes of my current WIP right here last winter, with a fire in the fireplace.

This green chair has a lot of sentimental value for me -- it belonged to my dearly departed Grandma, and passed to me when I got married because she had to move into a nursing home and didn't have room for it anymore.  I can remember when my grandparents bought this chair, probably about 25 years ago.  I've nursed all three of my babies in this chair, I rock them in it still when they're sick, I read books to them here -- I'm going to be very sad when this chair wears out.

But these days, much of my best writing happens here:


I cannot write fiction with my kids around.  I can blog around them, and even write my Femnista articles with them by me, but not fiction.  So a couple of Saturdays a month, I head to the closest coffee shop (this exact one!) to write for a couple of hours.  It's amazing what a change of scenery can do for the old creative juices and powers of concentration!  Not to mention a nice jolt of caffeine, that always helps me too.

I had a favorite table to write at here, but they moved it recently, and now it's too close to the windows to work for writing on my computer because there's too much sunshine glare.  Sigh.

7. How long does it typically take you to write a complete draft? 

Of what?  A Femnista article takes me between one and two hours for the first draft.  A short story can take days, weeks, months, who knows.  My first novel took me about two years, my second took six months, my third took a month (hurrah for NaNoWriMo!), my fourth would have taken two months except I never quite finished it because I had to pack up and move.  My fifth took a few months.  My sixth, which is my current WIP, took me about a year.

I do know I write roughly 500 words an hour when I'm composing new stuff.  And writing humor either happens quickly or it isn't funny.  Isn't that odd, now?

8. How many projects do you work on at once? 

It varies.  Right now, I'm revising a novel, I"m revising a co-authored fanfic story for a fandom I've never written for before, I have two more novels percolating in my brain, I should be writing an article for Femnista right now but I'm procrastinating, and I have an idea for a Combat! story that I just need to think about a bit more before I can start it.  I'm also in the midst of a long-term secret project with a co-conspirator.

So basically, I always have more than one writing project going.  Then if I get stuck, I can switch projects and not waste time banging my head on blank pages.

Agatha Christie at the typewriter surrounded by some of her 80 books. Photograph: CPL/Popperfoto #writers #workspaces #agathachristie
(Agatha Christie.  Not me.)
9. Do you prefer writing happy endings, sad ones, or somewhere in between? 

I prefer happy endings.  Like I said, my writing revolves around me spending time with characters I love, and I have a hard time making them sad.  I even have a hard time making my bad guys suffer -- I often pardon them by deciding not to kill off characters I meant to have die.  In my current novel, two characters I thought were going to die ended up not.  However, another character I didn't know would even get injured died very unexpectedly on me, and I was extremely sad.

I mostly write serious stories, though, so happy endings are not always a given.  I have only written a couple of truly sad endings, but I quite often write things that don't end with sunshine and roses.  This might be because, when I was first pounding out "real" stories as a teen, I wrote a string of things that ended sadly, and either my mom or my brother commented that it would be nice if I wrote a happy ending for once.

But mostly, I feel like fiction is obligated to restore moral balance to the universe, and so the bad guys can't win, the good guys can't lose, and order must be restored.  Which leads to a pretty happy ending, usually.

This makes the Lone Ranger happy too.

10. List a few authors who've influenced your writing journey.

Raymond Chandler, who dazzles me with his unexpected descriptions.  Any time I can compare something to another mostly-unrelated-but-somehow-fitting thing, I do, thanks to him.  And Laura Ingalls Wilder -- the way she could make the most mundane parts of life fascinating to me.  J. K. Rowling for showing me that yes, people will get all those little references to a million other things that you throw into your books.  Some of them, anyway.  Honestly, every author I read teaches me something, influences me somehow.  Those are the three that popped into my head at the moment.

11. Do you let people read your writing? Why or why not? 

I do.  Why keep the fun to myself?  I share most things with my best friend and writing mentor, DKoren.  Even while they're in progress -- we've been friends for almost 10 years, and so we've developed our own system for when what kind of feedback is needed, how to point out good stuff and flaws, everything.  I trust her implicitly.  She's also great at finding those plot holes and logic problems that I miss, which is helpful :-D

EDIT:  I meant to add that, once projects are finished, I absolutely share them with the universe!  Of course, my Femnista articles are in the magazine.  But you can read scads of my stories at the Combat! fansite I co-run, Fruit Salad.  Most of them are on the Hot Joe page, but the ones I've co-written with DKoren are on The Rendezvous Point, and my crossover stories that mix Combat! with Angel are at the Crossroads.  And you can read my quirky episode reviews on the Scuttlebutt page, though they won't make as much sense if you're not familiar with the series, I suppose.  I've also been published in various ezines, though most of those were about a decade ago and aren't online anymore.  I've had an article published in Guideposts magazine, and two in The Lutheran Educator.  I'm not shy about sharing my writing!

12. What’s your ultimate writing goal or dream? 

To publish novels and earn enough money with them to hire someone to clean my house once a month.

13. If you didn't write, what would you want to do? 

Make up stories in my head.  Which I do all the time.  I only write down maybe a tenth of the ones I make up.

.

14. Do you have a book you'd like to write one day but don’t feel you’re ready to attempt it yet? 

Sure.  I've got two novels waiting to get to the point where I can start them, I have ideas for another but haven't started getting acquainted with the characters yet, and I have a thought for a junior fiction series that I think I'll get to in like five years.  Can't write any of them yet cuz I don't have all the info I need, don't know the characters well enough, the plots haven't come together, etc.

15. Which story has your heart and won’t let go?

Fickle Creek, my WIP.  I am in love with those characters and that world, and I don't want to stop playing in it any time soon.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sherlock Holmes!


Today is commonly accepted as Sherlock Holmes' birthday -- you can read some of the reasons here.  As you know, I am throwing a birthday blog party for Holmes on my other blog, which you are cordially invited to join :-)  Here are my answers to the Good Old Index of Questions that comprise a big part of the party.  (There are also giveaways, so check it out if you're a Holmes fan!)

The Good Old Index of Questions

1. When and how did you first encounter Sherlock Holmes? 

I made his acquaintance in the junior fiction of the public library when I was somewhere between the ages of 12 and 14, when I found a coffee-table-book-sized copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles with a terrifying image of a slavering black dog on the cover.  The cover both scared and fascinated me, and I wound up taking it home and reading it.  Try as I might, I cannot find a picture of that edition, or any information about it, but I know it was from The Educator Classic Library Series because I have two other books of the same size and era from that series.  The cover was done in greens, and loosely based on this Sidney Paget drawing:


2. Please share a fact or two about yourself related to Holmes. (You've read the whole canon, you've been to Baker Street, you're an official BSI member, etc.) 

I hosted a read-along of The Hound of the Baskervilles last fall on my other blog.  And a couple of years ago, I re-read the whole canon in twelve months.

3. What are three of your favorite Holmes adventures? 

The Hound of the Baskervilles, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," and "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"

4. What draws you to the Sherlock Holmes stories? 

The characters, primarily.  At this point in my life, twenty years into our "acquaintance," they are dear friends.  Initially, though, I liked the smart mysteries and how omniscient Holmes seemed.  To a young teen, he had power and majesty and all the things I felt I lacked.

5. If you were going to give Sherlock Holmes a birthday present, what would it be?

Well, what he'd really like best would be a case to solve.  Lacking one of those, I'd probably get him tickets to a violin concert.  I wonder what he'd think of Lindsey Stirling?

6. If you could climb into a Holmes story and replace any one character for a day, who would you like to be?

I would love to be Mrs. Hudson in "The Empty House."  Okay, nearly getting a heart attack from a back-from-the-dead Holmes would not be the funnest, but she gets to be his sidekick in that one and move his wax dummy around, which would be exciting.  Also, it would be fun to be Mrs. Hudson most of the time, watching famous and exciting and scary people go up and down the stairs and wondering what your lodger is up to this time.  Cleaning up his infernal messes might be less fun, but I have 3 little kids... couldn't be worse than what I deal with on a daily basis already.

7. Please share some of your favorite Holmes-related quotes!

"The Lion's Mane"
"The Red Circle"
"The Red-Headed League"


Happy birthday, dear Sherlock!  Happy birthday to you.

Friday, January 02, 2015

My Ten Favorite New-To-Me Movies I Saw in 2014

After posting here about the ten books I read in 2014 and liked best, I thought maybe I should try something similar with movies.  Only trouble is, I don't review every single movie I watch.  But I do record them all in my journal, so relying on that, I've come up with a good list.  I've linked to my reviews if I wrote one.  Unlike what I did for books, I'm listing only movies I'd never seen before.



1.  X-Men:  Days of Future Past (2014)

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travels to the past to save the future.  My absolute favorite X-Men movie.  Words truly can't describe how deeply I love it.

2.  Hercules (2014)

Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) and a bunch of pals (Rufus Sewell, Ian McShane, etc) are heroes-for-hire and try to help free an oppressed city.  Absolutely fun.

3.  Monuments Men (2014)

A bunch of art experts (Matt Damon, George Clooney, etc) try to save art from the Nazis.  A throw-back to the great WWII classics of the '60s.

4.  Tangled (2010)

Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) climbs out of her tower and gets a passing thief (Zachary Levi) help her fulfill her dream of seeing what those floating lanterns are all about.  The first time I watched it, I was ho-hum through the first half, but when it got to the boat scene, I fell in love with it.  Every repeat viewing has confirmed this as a total favorite.

5.  The Holiday (2006)

An unhappy LA woman (Cameron Diaz) trades houses with an unhappy British woman (Kate Winslet) for Christmas, and they find happiness and love in their new surroundings.  Did I mention Jude Law?  And Rufus Sewell?  But my favorite part of the whole movie is everything that involves Eli Wallach's sweet, elderly Hollywood writer.

6.  The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Dwarves, Elves, Men, and hordes of Orcs duke it out in Middle Earth.  Can't wait to see this again!

7.  The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel) transforms himself from a simple sailor wrongly convicted of treason into a vengeance-seeking nobleman.  I didn't want to see this ever ever ever, but two friends convinced me I should, and whaddaya know?  I love it!

8.  Hour of the Gun (1967)

A gritty exploration of revenge, in which Wyatt Earp (James Garner) hunts down the men who killed his brothers, with Doc Holliday (Jason Robards) riding along.  Definitely the most serious portrayal I've seen of the OK Corral events and their aftermath.  I don't love it as much as Tombstone (1993), but it's by far a better movie.

9.  Frozen (2013)

You totally know what this is about already, right?  Elsa freezes everything, Anna helps her thaw everything, yadda yadda yadda.

10.  Little Women (1978)

A really nice, thorough TV miniseries starring the likes of Susan Dey and Dorothy McGuire, with William Shatner making a surprisingly effective Professor Bhaer.  It needs to be more widely known!

Monday, December 29, 2014

"Persuasion" and Sherlock Holmes

Just a couple of quick reminders, in case you haven't noticed the buttons in my sidebar.  Heidi's read-along of Jane Austen's Persuasion begins one week from today!  Go here to learn more :-)

Coming in January at a friend's blog 

And I'm throwing a birthday blog party for Sherlock Holmes on January 6th on my book blog, The Edge of the Precipice.  Go here for more info.  You can definitely join up even if you've never read any of the canon and are just a fan of some filmed version or other -- all Holmes fans are welcome!  It'll be like a shorter version of my Tolkien Blog Party that I throw every September -- a little questionnaire you can fill out on your own blog, a link-up for participants, a giveaway.  It begins the 6th, but you'll have a whole week to participate and enter the giveaway, so don't panic if you miss out on the 6th.

Coming Soon