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.

Third time is not the charm…

From birthstory.net

Sigh, I am calling it. My first book to defeat me in my 2011 reading challenge. I guess me and Virginia Woolf are just not meant to be.

I first tried to read To The Lighthouse back in high school one summer and was so confused about three pages in, I decided I have plenty of time to return to it. I tried it again one summer during college and made it a little further before deciding maybe I needed to know a little more before I could appreciate what Woolf was trying to do. Sadly, my third time over this past week has not gone any better. I gave it 50 pages, my self-imposed cut-off for books that just aren’t taking, and I still couldn’t tell you what is happening or what the characters are actually talking about. The English major in me is not taking the defeat well.

However, one thing I learned on my last reading challenge was there are too many books, too little time and I won’t like all of them…and that is OK. I am sad about Woolf though. I loved A Room of One’s Own. I first read that book the summer after I graduated from college and was upset I’d made it through my Women’s Studies minor without any of my professors making me read that essay. It was brilliant and simple; the idea of a woman’s independence and ability to make it in the world on her own. To a girl who was looking towards graduate school and really being on her own for the first time, the essay was an inspiration. But it was also an analytical voice, logical and comforting, that spoke throughout the essay. To The Lighthouse was a different creature entirely.

I realize, and can even appreciate, the technical aspects of the novel. The stream of consciousness narrative is unique and intriguing. However, not exactly approachable or even likable. I would lose the train of thought easily and often was confused over what character I was currently hearing from. They are unlikable, at least the first fifty pages, and unapproachable. With Gatsby and crew, you loathe them but you get them. You understand, no matter how the vague the story, the purpose of the story. Woolf gives you no such hint or clue as to where her story is leading, or if it is even leading anywhere.

This is one novel I missed having a class to structure my reading for it. Perhaps with a teacher’s guidance and helpful interpretation, I might have made it through. But,  as it is, I must accept that Woolf and I were just not meant to be and I am OK with that, I think. I can’t love every book that comes across my list after all. I am not sure what is next for this challenge. I am treating myself to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol next since that has also been on my list forever and if nothing else, Brown knows how to entertain. I believe I also am giving Georgette Heyer a second chance here soon. She left me underwhelmed on my first meeting with her so I am trying her most famous novel next to see if that goes any better.

From Cinematic Intelligence Agency

Also, I watched the movie Driving Lessons this evening. I recommend it if you are looking for a quirky British comedy/drama. Rupert Grint is delightful as the shy son of an overbearing mother (Laura Linney) and summer assistant to an eccentric retired actress (Julie Waters). It was just what I needed to make me feel cheerful again after the horrible news of today. The tragedy in Arizona sadly reminded me that I live in a country where things like that can still happen. I like to pretend we’ve evolved beyond using tactics like that to get our point across. Then something like this happens and I am forced to remember we’re not quite as enlightened as I like to imagine.  Perhaps it is a reality check we all sadly need from time to time. Here is hoping for a brighter tomorrow.

sigh, for the disney channel movies of my youth

I  watched Avalon High through Netflix last night and while it was enjoyable, it just didn’t have the fun creativity of the old Disney Channel original movies. Does anyone even remember those anymore? I don’t think the Disney Channel even shows them anymore. Which is sad because they were awesome though missing dance numbers (the one thing that I do kind of like about most of the newer movies)…

From I Was a ’90s Kid

Let us start at Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. Now the two sequels, they were just sad to see, but the original Zenon rocked. Kirsten Storms as Zenon Kar, a girl living on a space station in AD 2049 who gets grounded, literally when she is sent to Earth once she breaks one too many rules on the space station. Add in one neurotic aunt, the popular guy (who is a requirement for movies like this), his delusional “girlfriend,” and their favorite rocker who is supposed to give his first concert in space just as a major crisis hits the space day. Sigh, I watched it whenever it was on and still to this day dance around like an idiot to Supernova Girl (yes, back in the days of Napster, I downloaded it and have managed to hang onto it this long.)

From Wikipedia

Next is Stepsister from Planet Weird. To this day I quote from my favorite scene in this movie so if I ever turn to you with a scared look in my eyes and say “I fear the wind,” just go with it. Stepsister from Planet Weird tells the story of Megan Larson who is thinking this year will finally be her year until Ariel Cola shows up and the whole school suddenly thinks she is the coolest kid around. And to make matters worse, Megan’s mother just fell in love with Ariel’s dad (Bonus, Ariel’s Dad is The Last Starfighter which is awesome). Oh, and the Colas also happen to be aliens…I still think Tamara Hope’s portrayal of the ethereal and bizarre Ariel is delightful, this generation is missing out on a quirky original movie.

I got this from here, I’m not sure where it is…

Sigh, Erik von Detten, you broke my heart when you played the douchy spotlight seeker in The Princess Diaries. Because, you were first one of the twins in a delightful TV version of Escape to Witch Mountain and then you were Brink, a blader who dreams of the X-Games (or the non-trademarked version of them created for this movie) but almost lost sight of his friends and family in his pursuit of them in the Disney Channel original movie appropriately named Brink! I think I may have just enjoyed this movie because of von Detten because I don’t actually remember much of the movie other than bits and pieces….Also, I kind of love that Sam Horrigan pops up in Brink! too after being in Escape to Witch Mountain also. I love when actors keep popping up in the same movies together. I am weird like that.

From Wikipedia

Last one, and this movie made me want to promptly run off to Hawaii and learn how to surf. Rip Girls was about a girl who learns about her dead mother by learning about her life in Hawaii and how much she loved to surf. Seriously, this movie was like an advertisement for Hawaii. I wanted to move to a delightful bungalow near the beach and try to learn how to surf. Luckily for all of us, I realized that was more a fun daydream than a reality I could handle. Still Rip Girls was a lot of fun, always liked it better than Johnny Tsunami (about a surfer who gets moved to the north and learns how to snowboard).

Sigh, I feel the need for a marathon of classic Disney Channel original movies. I know I am forgetting some I enjoyed but these are my favorites; original, clever movies about kids facing challenges and coming out on top. But I always liked how these kids had a great hobby or were in a unique situation. They were always people I wanted to be friends with. I miss those movies. Or maybe I’ve just outgrown what kids like these days…wow, now I feel old for admitting to that…