A story within a story set of films

Every once in a while, I remember I own DVDs. Between Sling and Netflix, I rarely actually watch the movies I own anymore. I am trying to work on that. So, Saturday nights if I have nothing else going on (most of the time) or a book I want to dive into (more likely to be my conflict), I try to re-watch some of my own movies and always ask myself, “do you still want to keep this?”

This weekend I re-visited one old movie that inspired the new movie. Paris When It Sizzles is not the best Audrey Hepburn movie but it’s so ridiculous, I pretty much forgive it for being not the best. It also has a randomly appearing Tony Curtis which makes it that much better in my mind. It’s the story of a playboy screenwriter who needs to deliver his next script in the next three days. His patron sends him a typist to type up the final draft of the script. However, she arrives to discover said screenwriter has not actually written the script yet at all. So, the two of them work together over three days to write a script. The movie is both the screenwriter and typist working on the script as well as the script itself being played out with them in the lead roles. It’s rather overacted, suffering from its time period, and doesn’t actually make much sense in the end but it’s so ridiculous and funny to me that I don’t mind. It’s also like a perfect time capsule of Paris in the 1950s on film; the cinematography is lovely. I can get over the dodginess of the main character and how he treats his typist enough to enjoy the film though it’s definitely tough at times.

So, we’ll move along to the modern version of the same story, Alex & Emma. A down on his luck writer Alex, who gambled away his advance and is suffering from a major case of writer’s block, must deliver his new manuscript to his publisher in three days to get the rest of his money and pay off the loan sharks on his case. However, his computer gets destroyed so his answer is to hire a stenographer, Emma, to dictate his novel too. During dictating the novel, the writer and stenographer also act out the parts of the 1920s love story in predictably ridiculous fashion. In comparison with its inspiration, Alex & Emma fix a lot of the plot holes and actually come up with an interesting story for the novel. It also depicts healthier, more normal romantic relationships so I appreciated that a lot after watching the shudder-inducing swarminess of Paris When It Sizzles. Also, Kate Hudson is really delightful as Emma and all the other characters she gets to play in the book scenes (Ylva, Ilsa, Eldora to Anna) as Alex falls in love with her, both on and off the page. Luke Wilson as Alex is sort of lukewarm in general but that’s sort of his schtick so I didn’t mind it too much. This is a fun romantic comedy that is a little different than the usual formula.

Both are still keepers for the collection though Paris When It Sizzles is one that really shouldn’t be re-watched very often. I’ll stick with Hepburn’s better Paris comedy, Charade. Oh, there’s the next paired re-watch with Charade and the lackluster remake, The Truth About Charlie (though Mark Walberg is adorable per usual)! I own both of those too which surpised me too LOL

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Having a Sense of Humor about my Work

the-librarians-s3-large

LOL, if only and not one wearing a cardigan (Cassie maybe is – it’s hard to tell) [Originally from The Sci Fi TV Site]

I just finished the second season of The Librarians. I’ve been making my local library buy the seasons on DVD. Sadly, season 3 isn’t out yet on DVD and I am currently avoiding the temptation to just buy that season on iTunes and call it a day so I am caught up when Season 4 debuts later this year. We’ll see how long I last.

I have always adored these types of movies and shows. The original movies that inspired the series, the National Treasure movies, Warehouse 13. Even the Dresden Files (tv show, not the books. It was one of the few times where the books disappointed after the show) had a touch of the artifact/library/book to it. They are ridiculous and nowhere near close to the actual work of librarians, curators, and archivists. And I like to think most people understand that considering all of them include elements of magic. And to some extent, it is fun to think someone out there thinks I’m more Flynn Carson than Marian the Librarian.

However, at a recent conference for archivists, there was an entire panel about the Archive and how that word is being appropriated more and more and seems to mean less and less. They even pulled out the best Princess Bride quote that shows up in my library’s Slack feed every time someone uses the word “archive” – “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” So, as much as I would love to tell you all I work in a super secret magical library and hunt down lost artifacts all day long while saving the world…I sadly do not. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate why everyone thinks that idea of the “archive” is cool.

Out vault at work is not as impressive as the word “vault” would have you believe but I do get a tiny little thrill every time I get to go in it. And don’t tell me what’s in there isn’t magic. I don’t get to work with the classes or tours much but when I do, the look on people’s faces when you say to them “this is a signed first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species” or “this is a rare copy of Napoleon’s Death Mask” or “this is a book which still has its chain on it” never gets old. The fact I get to work in a place where anyone can come and interact with those types of things? Never gets old. Bonus? I get to be the one to put those out on the web where anyone with an internet connection can see them. Let’s call that my super power. I guess those are my magical artifacts after all. Now…where’s my Excaliber?

Happy (belated) 65th Anniversary to a Personal Fave

On Sunday of last weekend, I headed to the movie theater. Not for a new release (though have you all seen Hidden Figures yet? If you haven’t, what it wrong with you!? Get you to the movie theater!) but for an old classic.

It was the 65th anniversary of the release of one of my all time favorite films. I can remember my dad calling me out to watch it many years ago, saying with a casual, “I think you’ll like this.” I was already taking ballet lessons but I am pretty sure Singin’ in the Rain ensured that tap would get added to my lineup really fast. In fact, tap would remain my favorite and I think in no small part because I wanted to be Debbie Reynolds in this film.

This movie makes me grin like an idiot from start to finish. I know all the words, I know all the tap sounds (to the point that while listening to the soundtrack, I can tap out the dancing correctly – just the sounds mind you. My aspirations to be a tapping great did not go well). While people will wax poetic, correctly, over the title number or the Broadway Melody segment, for me, it’s always got to be “Moses Supposes” segment. It remains to this day my all time favorite dance number in any film or stage show I’ve ever seen. And I like to think I’ve seen a lot by this time. So, toast a belated happy anniversary to Singin’ in the Rain and enjoy the following:

Well, that’s summer then…

I will admit, the fact that it is September literally shocked me. Summer went so fast! It helped that I was very busy for most of it and had lots of fun times but that also meant I apparently didn’t have time to blog. I have reasons.

Up a tree. Photo credit to my awesome cousin Jodi
One, summer was, as I said, busy! I got to go home when the temperature was above 40 degrees which means dinner at the Loop, races in Oswego, ice cream at Byrne Dairy and especially an awesome, no holds barred feast up at Grandma and Grandpa’s camp. It was awesome! And then I went to Orlando to hang with a super awesome family which meant actually having children with me at the Disney parks. This was novel and so much fun and slightly nerve wracking because at times, in case you’ve never visited a theme park of any kind in the summer months, it was CROWDED. The amount of people required capital letters. But, we had a blast and rode lots of rides and ate lots of food and just had a fantastic time at Disney. I then turned right around and left for New Orleans for a conference but I did get to see some of the city but it’s on my “really need to go back and spend days exploring” list because I really only had a day to see the highlights and that wasn’t doing it justice. I did get beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde though and it is as tasty as they say. I always like when things live up to their praise.
Two, work. I love my job, I really do but we were very busy this summer. Hopefully, sometime this fall people will start to see the fruit of all our work when our new digital library site goes live but until then, I don’t have much to show for everything we’ve done but know that we worked hard this summer on lots of stuff and hopefully this fall we’ll get some awesome things to show for it. One of the downsides of my job though is a lot of hours in front of the computer screen meaning the last thing I often want to touch when I get home at night is my laptop.
Three, I think I am officially in a bit of a reading slump. I haven’t been reading very fast or very much. Nor have I been that interested in what I’ve been reading. I am hoping to get back on track this fall and into a reading routine again. That always helps me stay on track with books even if they aren’t holding my attention very well.
Four, something about summer just means I go out for an hour and then spend four in front of the TV. Not good. I was hoping to get rid of cable (and temptation) but a frustrating couple of phone calls meant it would cost me more to pay for just internet instead of my current bundle (how twisted is that?!) so cable stays. However, a reading routine and books I actually want to finish will help me kick the cable habit I have developed! Also, the start of the fall TV schedule will help as when I know there is a show I want to watch at 10, I make the effort to read from 8 until 10.

Sigh, so good. Beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde
I also am debating a movie re-watch of all my movies and blogging about it. This is both an effort to do some cleaning of my DVD collection (would I want to watch this ever again?) and also an effort to blog more about movies AND books again. We’ll see if this fall works out for that or if that becomes a winter project (or at least as wintry as it gets in the South – autumn is just depressing because I really miss all the colors)
And recipes too should be making a reappearance here! I actually think I have a recipe to share that I just never did this summer so I will try to dig that up and share ASAP. I did just try a new dish last week but it was kind of blah so not sharing that one. Again, I am hoping to get back into a routine this fall and cooking is on the list to make a priority!
Happy Fall everyone!

84, Charing Cross Road

There is something delicious with books about books. Forget the metaness of it for the moment. It’s like reading a book by the one person in the world who gets you. A person who understands the mystery and romance and adventure that can be held between covers and 300 pages. I have always loved books that explore the reader, that gives the reader the sense that they are enjoying a story written by someone who should be their new best friend. I love all books of course; however a book that loves books as much as I do gets its own category. Literally. I have an entire shelf on Goodreads entitled books-about-books. It ranges from the scholarly explorations of reader response and histories of books and readers to fiction that lives and breathes book culture. There is nothing more disappointing than finding a book in that category that mislead you. That was supposed to revel in books and then just doesn’t (I am looking at you Time Traveler’s Wife. I tossed you against a wall and hurried to donate you for lots of reasons but your lack of book love when one of your main characters is a librarian was nothing sort of despicable to my mind). If you can find a book that stars a bookstore on top of readers and their books, you have hit the jackpot and that book must be savored. 84, Charing Cross Road is one of these gems.

From Goodreads

Helene Hanff is a struggling writer in 1950 New York City and laments the lack of easy to get English Literature. She finds her way to writing to a bookstore at 84, Charing Cross Road in London and so begins this epistolary novel in which Helene and Frank Doehl, the worker at the bookstore who responds to her orders, develop a close relationship over several decades. The novel is a quick read; I believe I read it in one evening but not because I was not savoring it. Helene and I might not share the love of the same kinds of literature but our love of books as a thing, of reading as an activity and of London as a place made me feel like I’d found a soul mate. This is a book that celebrates so many “endangered” communication methods – mail by post, packages literally tied with string, and books of the leather bound, beautiful paper variety. While I think books as objects aren’t quite as close to obsolescence as some people lament, they are a form of communication at a moment of crisis and I can’t help but wonder what Helene or Frank would think of where we are in the ebook debate.

After I had enjoyed the book one rainy evening, I discovered there had been a movie made starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. While the fact an epistolary novel was turned into a movie gave me pause, I was curious enough about how they did it to check the film out through Netflix. I am glad I did. Bancroft and Hopkins perfectly portray how I imagined the rather abrupt and ornery Helene and the very proper and upright, yet with that sneaking British sense of humor, Frank would be. I especially loved that the script very much used the letters in the book for the dialogue. Bancroft is especially strong when addressing her letters directly to the camera, as if she was speaking directly to Frank. Post-war London was depicted as both resilient and yet still recovering form the long years of war and deprivation which post war New York is both quaint and yet bustling – showing the major metropolis it would become so quickly in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a New York I think I would like better than the modern version.

I would recommend the book, it’s such an approachable read, but if you must, at least watch the film. It is a charming romance between people and books an ocean apart.

Neverland Calls

From IMDB

This may sound odd but I had to grown into liking Peter Pan. Like Alice in Wonderland for me, it was just not one I understood when I was a kid. Why wouldn’t you want to grow up? Of course, it’s only once you’re grown up that you understand how utterly awful it is to be grown up. Peter Pan knows what’s up. So, it’s only over the last few years that I’ve really come to appreciate the Peter Pan myth. I finally read the original story, got hooked on the Peter and the Starcatchers series (which is now a play coming to Broadway that I’ll miss…bother) and re-watched Hook after all these years and understood that as a kid, I didn’t get half the jokes! So, how I made it until now without seeing Finding Neverland, especially when it has some of my favorite actors and actresses, is puzzling.

The film tells the story of how J.M. Barrie, on the heels of a giant flop of a play, is inspired to write one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time. Barrie, played quite endearing by Johnny Depp, meets a widow and her four children in the park one day, a family which is badly in need of some imagination since the loss of their husband and father. Barrie, in an unhappy marriage, brings laughter and fun into their lives forever changing them and him. It’s an unconventional relationship that society predictably condemned them for but results in a play about the possibilities of childhood and the power of the imagination.

I really enjoyed this film. The acting was wonderful from both Depp and Kate Winslet who plays the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and I had forgotten how talented Freddie Highmore is. His portrayal of Peter Pan’s namesake steals the film in my opinion. The kid even brought tears to my eyes and there were no animals in peril anywhere – impressive indeed! I can usually care less about humans dying in films (animals though? I am a blubbering mess).

Of course with a film like this I spend a lot of time rolling my eyes and thinking, “Sure, I bet that’s exactly how that happened. Yeah right.” And I did do that a little at first with this film until the first, what I suppose would be best called, magical realist scene where Barrie dances with his dog in the park which he is pretending is a bear at the time. The scene then alternates between the real scene and a magical scene where Barrie is dressed as a ringmaster of a circus who actually is dancing with a bear. These surreal scenes, sprinkled throughout the film, broke the pretend/real barrier and convinced me that keeping to the facts which inspired the film was not the primary goal of the story. Once the filmmakers got that across to me, I was willing to not wonder so much about the facts.

It is those scenes of pretend, scenes that exist only in the minds of the characters themselves, that are the most fun in the film. However, my favorite scenes of the film were those of Peter Pan‘s opening night. Between the audience, the actors, and the set design, it was really a wonderful sequence of the story. Watch the film for these scenes at least – the illustration of what kids know that grown-ups have forgotten was quite brilliantly presented and reminds you that Peter Pan is not simply a story for children – it has something fundamentally important to teach adults as well.

Curiouser and Curiouser

From Children’s Book Wiki

I grew up on the 1951 Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. I never much cared for it to be honest. It was confusing, lost its own train of thought often and seemed to have no real point. Sadly, it took my wise old self to realize that was sort of the point. I am afraid as a child, I didn’t much care for nonsense. I only learned to appreciate it with age. I also think I never quite forgave it for not being the same Alice in Wonderland I watched on the Disney Channel each morning which was just…friendlier. My sister and I even used to pretend that one was the Queen and one the Duchess from that version (I liked being the Duchess -Teri Garr rules).

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass though have been on my to-read list for a long time and I thought perhaps I was in the mood for some nonsense. Which is exactly what Lewis Carroll wrote. Lots and lots of confusing, non-linear nonsense about the adventures of a small child in a world called Wonderland where nothing was as it was supposed to be. All the characters one loves is there: Alice herself, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, the Red Queen, the White Rabbit and the hookah-smoking caterpillar. There are even more ridiculous poems (hmmm, might be why I’ve never rushed to read it) and changes in scene that one can shake a stick at and yet I liked reading it once I embraced the fact that it would never make sense, no matter how many times I read a sentence.

From trailershut.com

After finishing the book, I took another look at Tim Burton’s re-imaging of the story with Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter (along with a killer supporting cast) and found it to be even more clever than I had originally thought. Where Carroll gives a reader loose vignettes in chapter form, in order to create a sequel, Linda Woolverton (let’s face it, I was going to love it if she wrote it), had to use Carroll’s snippets to create a past for the now 19 year old Alice who has returned to Underland to save her old friends, even if she can’t quite remember them anymore. Alice, who in the original story is sort of annoying at times, becomes a kick-ass heroine who slays the Jobberwocky and then sails off into the sunset on her own, off to see the world after turning down a rather unfortunate marriage prospect (you go girl!). The movie is full of references to the original story but also builds on what happened between the time Alice was first in Wonderland to the moment she returns. The Red and White Queens have fallen out and Underland is torn apart by their argument so now Alice must save the day. I definitely appreciate the story more now than before.

However, I fear the Walrus and the Carpenter scene in the 1951 version will still creep me out.