Friday, September 12, 2014

Guest Post on A Lantern In Her Hand

Emma Jane kindly asked me to do a guest post for her Legends of Western Cinema Week.  You can read it here.  In it, I compare three different movies about Wyatt Earp and the legendary OK corral shoot-out:  Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Hour of the Gun (1967), and Tombstone (1993).

Reminder for Blogathon Participants

Ahoy!  This be a reminder for all ye scurvy bloggers who've sign on for me Piratical Blogathon.  The blogathon be one week from today.  Ye be warned.

Anyone else out there who be wishing to join in the merriment, ye can still sign on in the comments for the original post.

Also, please be rememberin' that yer post needs to include a link back to me blog so yer readers can find all the other entries as well.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

(Actually, I hate rum.  A bottle of Coke fer me.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004)

This is the movie that drew me into the world of Harry Potter.  I had read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in college and found it clever but not engrossing, so never read any more of them.  But then the trailer for this came out, and I saw it over and over and over at the theater -- it seemed like every movie I went to for several months had that trailer before it.

And I loved the chorale rendition of "Double, double, toil and trouble."  It fascinated me, it stuck in my head, and I decided I wanted to see the movie just so I could hear more of it.  So before the movie came out, I read the first three books.  And I discovered the second book was better than the first, and the third book was really quite good.  When I got to the last few chapters, I fell irrevocably in love with a character and was completely hooked on the series.  I went to see this in the theater, and saw each subsequent movie in the theater too.

So anyway, Cowboy and I are still on our quest to watch all of the Harry Potter movies together, and so we got this from the library.  I was curious to see how it held up now that I've seen all of them, as I don't think I've watched it since it was in theaters.  And I have to say, I do think it's probably in my top 3 for this series.  For one thing, the wacky "this is for kids" tone of the first two movies is gone.  For another, the three leads have all matured and learned some real acting, which means their performances have some actual depth.

Spoilage from here on out.

I know I've talked a lot on my blogs about how much I love characters who have been wrongly imprisoned.  And how much I love prison-escape stories.  So you probably have figured out why Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite Harry Potter book:  Sirius Black.

In fact, Sirius is my favorite character in the whole Potterverse.  And while Gary Oldman doesn't physically match my mental image of Sirius from the books, he's such a strong actor that I don't mind.  He infuses Sirius with dignity and strength, with kindness and playfulness, with desperation and triumph.  In later movies, we'll also get to see his selfishness and cruelty, but here we don't get to those here yet.

One of my favorite moments from both movie and book is when Sirius hesitantly explains that because he's Harry's godfather, he's his legal guardian, and asks if Harry would like to come live with him.  Sirius is ragged and filthy.  He's still a wanted criminal.  He realizes he has nothing to offer right now that a thirteen-year-old boy might find comfortable or attractive.  And when Harry excitedly accepts, Gary Oldman's Sirius makes me cry with the joy in his eyes.

And then there's this scene, with Sirius telling Harry how much he's like his parents.  Right in the feels, folks.  But this screencap brings me to something else I love about this movie:  the cinematography.  This movie is beautiful.  I rather wish that Alfonso Cuaron had directed the rest of these movies, because this one is stunning.  Here are a few gorgeous moments:

Hogwarts is a much less twinkly place in this than the first two movies.  It has grit and grime.  There's a sense that the danger in this movie is real, not just CGI three-headed dogs and giant snakes.  It's a great transition into the increasingly grim stories ahead.

And I love how interesting Cuaron makes so many shots.  There are a few of your standard over-over-two shots, but there are also scenes like this one between Lupin and Harry, their physical distance emphasizing their differences and the fact that pretty soon, Harry's going to think he's being betrayed by Lupin.

Or how about this first look at the Shrieking shack?  That aged barbed wire is an amazing touch -- it almost has a prison camp feel to it.  Is it to keep people out?  Or something in?

And look at the great framing of this shot, the camera siding us with Harry and making Lupin and Sirius look all conspiratorial.  I love the depth.

Kind of random note, but I love the moving staircases inside Hogwarts, and they have never looked lovelier or more fun than in this movie.  They're not seen much in later movies, which always makes me sad.

Back to the main trio.  (I may have gone a little nuts with my screencapping.  You don't mind, right?)  I love how often Cuaron gets them into a shot together.  This shot from Divination Class cracks me up, because they're all so exactly Harry, Hermione, and Ron in it.  Harry is curious, Hermione is skeptical, Ron is confused.

Look!  Happy moment!

Ron has learned to roll his sleeves up just to the elbows, making himself suddenly quite attractive.

And we've got just a hint of romance to come.  Hermione grabs Ron's hand when they're watching Harry interact with Buckbeak.  It's sweet and tentative and very early-teens feeling.

Just a few more words about casting.  I've liked Michael Gambon in any number of things, from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to Amazing Grace to what little I've seen of the 2009 Emma.  But he's not an ideal Dumbledore.  Even if you don't compare him to Richard Harris, he's still too stern, not kind enough to suit me.

Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney makes me laugh a LOT.  Mostly because usually Thompson plays sensible, proper characters, and here she's all vague and wafty and... the hair!  She's obviously filled with glee at getting to do this wacky role.

David Thewlis is okay as Lupin, but I don't love him.  He's a little too wispy or something.  But he doesn't bug me much.  Maybe I'm just used to him.

And then there are the Dementors.  They are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO creepy in this movie!  Their look changes in later movies, which annoys me, because they were freaky and horrible in this.  Why mess with them?

Okay, probably time for me to shut up now.  Basically, I like this movie and I think it's a splendid adaptation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Ten Favorite John Wayne Westerns

It's Legends of Western Cinema Week over at A Lantern in Her Hand, and I'm joining the fun with a somewhat different version of my Ten Favorites series.  I've already posted about my ten favorite westerns, so today I'm listing my ten favorite westerns that star John Wayne.  You probably know this already, but John Wayne is my absolute favorite actor, and has been since I was a preteen.  Three of these also appear on the list of my favorite westerns, I might add.

1.  The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

Four brothers (including John Wayne and Dean Martin) reunite at their mother's funeral and work together to find out how their parents lost their ranch.  I've probably seen this more often than all the other movies on this list put together.

2.  Rio Bravo (1959)

A sheriff (John Wayne), his recovering alcoholic deputy (Dean Martin), a crippled old man (Walter Brennan), and a young gunfighter (Ricky Nelson) hold off a host of bad guys bent on springing a murderer from jail.  About as perfect as a western gets.

3.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

A greenhorn lawyer (James Stewart) stands up a vicious outlaw (Lee Marvin), and what everyone believes happened during that shoot-out launches his stellar political career.  Also, he marries John Wayne's girl, which is really most unfair.  This has one of my favorite plot twists ever.   And both Wayne and Stewart turn in strong performances.

4.  North to Alaska (1960)

Gold-mining partners (John Wayne and Stewart Granger) vie for the attention of a former dance hall girl (Capucine) and fight off claim jumpers led by her slick-talking ex-boyfriend (Ernie Kovacs).  Much more comedic than the other movies on this list.  This is the first John Wayne movie I can remember seeing.

5.  Hondo (1953)

Hondo Laine (John Wayne) encounters a woman (Geraldine Page) and her young son living alone on their remote ranch right as an Indian uprising is about to start.  It's got a very sweet and unexpected love story, and also lots of action.

6.  The Searchers (1956)

Bitter, angry Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) spends years and years searching for his niece (Natalie Wood), who was kidnapped by Indians as a child.  He intends to kill her to end her shame and misery from being forced to marry an Indian.  Probably John Wayne's finest performance.  Even if you don't like westerns, you should see this once because it's a masterpiece.

7.  The War Wagon (1967)

Taw Jackson (John Wayne) gets released from an undeserved prison sentence and enlists some friends (Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel, Keenan Wynn, Robert Walker, Jr.) to help him steal a wagon full of gold from the man who sent him to prison in the first place.  Not actually a great movie, I'm sure, but I'm exceedingly fond of it.  You know me and wrongful imprisonments!

8.  Chisum (1970)

A retelling of the Lincoln County War, which pitted John Chisum (John Wayne), Pat Garrett (Glenn Corbett), and Billy "The Kid" Bonney (Geoffrey Deuel) against the owner of a rival ranch.  The second John Wayne movie I can ever remember seeing.

9.  El Dorado (1966)

Basically the same story as Rio Bravo, only this time Robert Mitchum is the recovering alcoholic, John Wayne is a gunfighter, James Caan is the youngster, and Arthur Hunnicutt is the old coot.  Both movies were directed by Henry Hathaway, and Leigh Brackett wrote/co-wrote both screenplays.

10.  Tall in the Saddle (1944)

A newcomer in town (John Wayne) discovers his prospective boss has been murdered and the town is full of all kinds of trouble for him to sort out.  I've only seen this one twice, but Ella Raines impressed me so much I consider it a favorite.  Also, John Wayne is at his prime here, handsome as can be.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

20 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Kara from Flowers of Quiet Happiness has tagged me in this list thingie that's been going around the blogosphere lately.  Here are my answers!

Question 1: How tall are you?  5'7"

Question 2: Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what?  I'm very, very good at keeping secrets.

Question 3: What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?  I actually refuse to follow any blog that does not provide a way for me to navigate their old posts.  If there's no "labels" or "archive" section anywhere, I can't see if you've ever written about anything else that might interest me.  And I don't have time to hit "previous post" over and over and over.

Question 4: What’s your biggest non-blog related pet peeve?  Cereal bags that are hard to open.

Question 5: What’s your favorite song?  "Mack the Knife," any version sung by Bobby Darin.

Question 6: What’s your favorite Etsy shop that isn’t yours?  I've bought more things from The Ring and the Lion than any other store.  The owner has made me a lot of custom LOTR-related items, and I've also randomly bought things she's made that have struck my fancy.

Question 7: What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?  Not being interrupted.  It's a rare privilege.

Question 8: What’s your favorite junk food?  Cheetos and Oreos.  Not at the same time, though.

Question 9: Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?  We currently have a purple Betta fish named Winter.

Question 10: What are your number one favorite nonfiction and fiction books?  Nonfiction would be the Bible.  Fiction would be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Question 11: What’s your favorite beauty product?  Pantene conditioner.

Question 12: When were you last embarrassed? What happened?  I felt mildly embarrassed on Sunday when I started explaining the craft to all the moms and little kids in Sunday school, and no one paid any attention because I was talking too quietly.

Question 13: If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?  Coca-cola.

Question 14: What’s your favorite movie?  The Man from Snowy River.

Question 15: What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?  I was homeschooled K-12, but in college, I was in the writerly group, on the fringe of the theatre group, and friends with lots of the artists.  Nerdly, vehemently non-preppy, unarguably non-jock.

Question 16: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?  I love my house, so here is good.

Question 17: PC or Mac?  PC.

Question 18: Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?  My husband kissed me on the nose when I said good night to him.  He has a cold, so he went to bed early, and also kissed my nose instead of my lips so he wouldn't spread germs.  Even though I had the cold already.

Question 19: Favorite celebrity?  Hugh Jackman.  He reminds me a lot of myself, actually.

Question 20: What blogger do you secretly want be best friends with?  If by that you mean, "What blogger(s) would you like to meet in real life because you think you could be real life friends too," then Kara and Heidi :-)  EDIT:  And Joanna!  How did I forget Joanna?  Oops!  Let's blame it on Hugh Jackman distracting me with his kind smile.

I'm not tagging anyone because it's late and I'm tired, and I have miles to go before I sleep.  Well, miles of things to do, anyway.  If you want to play, here's the rules and regulations:

1. Copy and paste the questions below and then answer and turn them into a blog post. Or, record a video answering these questions and upload it to your blog post.

 2. At the bottom of your post, tag anywhere from 2-10 bloggers you want to see answer these questions. (I also suggest hitting up your tagged people via social media just to let them know you tagged them to do this tag challenge.)

3. Use the title: 20 Things You Might Not Know About Me Blog Tag. Once you’ve hit publish, leave a comment below with the link to your post.

 4. Use the hashtag #20ThingsBlogTag when sharing on social media so we can all find your awesome posts!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Would You Like to Own the Hornblower Movies?

PLEASE NOTE:  Someone has spoken for these now, so my offer to give them away has been fulfilled. 

I've loved A&E's movies about Horatio Hornblower for fifteen years.  I saw the first four in 1999, shortly after they first came out, and promptly bought the box set of them on VHS.  I bought the next two when they came out, and then the final set of two shortly before we got our first DVD player.  I've watched the first four many, many times, and the other four several times each.  I dearly love these movies -- they're dashing adventures, beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted by Ioan Gruffudd, Jamie Bamber, Robert Lindsay, and their compatriots.

And I recently found them all on DVD for a price I couldn't pass up.  Which means that now, I don't need my VHS copies.  I tried selling them at my yard sale on Saturday, but had no takers.  I would really like to pass these along to someone who either loves them already but doesn't have their own copies, or who has wanted to see these for a long time, but hasn't been able to find them for whatever reason.  Like I said, they're VHS copies, but they all play fine.

I thought about holding a drawing for these, but instead, I'm just going to give them to the first person who asks for them in the comments here.  And if no one asks for them, I'll donate them to the library for their next fundraising sale.

I'll send them for free to any US address.  If you live elsewhere in the world, I ask that you'd pay shipping for them via PayPal.

I think these were rated TV-14 for violence and some salty language.

Monday, September 01, 2014

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014) (An actual review this time) (Honest)

My friends, I have had the unparalleled delight of seeing this on the big screen for the third time.  My local theater brought it back for the long weekend, and thanks to my generous and understanding Cowboy, I just got home from spending two more hours in the company of Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men.  It's one of my happiest places.

(This moment isn't actually in the movie, but yummy!)
After my second viewing, back in June, I tried to write up a coherent review, but real life intervened, as it so often does.  This time, I'm going to write this while I take a few minutes to unwind so I'll actually fall asleep when I crawl into bed.  Absolutely everyone else is asleep, so for a few minutes, it's just me perched on the edge of the bathtub with the laptop, trying to put into coherent words what I love about this movie.  Because love it I do -- it might not be quite as jewel-perfect as X2, but for deeply personal reasons, I think I love it a little more.

This is a movie about friendship and love, loyalty and betrayal, hope and despair.  All the explosions and mutations and special effects are just window dressing.  At its heart, it's about two friends who are constantly pulled apart by their different ideologies, yet convinced they could work together if only things were different.  It's also the story of a handful of people desperate to save not just themselves, but also strangers they'll never meet, people they'll never know.  The trouble, of course, is that they don't all want to save the same group of people.

(Here be spoilage.)

(How priceless and adorable is this picture???)

Those two friends, of course, are Charles Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr.  Over the past 14 years and four movies, we've watched them battle, unite, divide, unite again, hurt each other, help each other.  In some ways, they're like a star-crossed couple, always searching for a way to thwart their own selves in order to be together.  And I mean that in the non-slashiest way possible.

Of course, generally Eric wants to promote mutant welfare above human welfare, and Charles wants mutants to protect humans, and so they tend to butt heads and part ways a lot.  And in this movie, you've also got Mystique trying to take down the guy who's going to create the machines that will wipe mutants off the earth.  And that guy's just trying to protect humans from the mutants.

(Why are there so many pictures of Fassbender in this post?  But look at his beautiful hat!)

And poor Wolverine is trying to sort out this mess, get everyone to shut up and work together for a few minutes so he can save his "found family."  Because he's the best he is at what he does (even if what he does isn't always very nice), he succeeds.  As a reward, he gets to live in a new future where people he loves are safe, sometimes even no longer dead.  The final scene, as he walks through the halls of the School for Gifted Youngsters, never fails to bring me to tears.  The wonderment on his face, the dawning hope, and finally the joy when he sees Jean Grey -- they make me achingly happy.

(It's hard to find a picture of Wolvie smiling.  Best I could do.)

The rest of the movie's lots of fun too :-)  Quicksilver's "Time in a Bottle" scene is hilarious and brilliant, and every single scene that takes place on Professor X's plane could be six times as long and I would still be entranced.

(Also hard to find pics of the inside of that plane.  The internet is so silly sometimes.)

Okay, that's as coherent as I'm going to get at 1:34am.  A bit more lucid than last time, I hope!

I'm not sure why, but all summer long, this Beatles song has been reminding me of this movie.  So I'll end with it: