A Random Fandom Update

Thought I’d take a step away from my musical blogs (don’t worry, already got the next one planned) and mention the elephant in the room: staying at home because of coronavirus. I work retail, so I have not been to work in several weeks. For the most part, I’m handling it fine; I’ve managed to work on other writing projects, I’ve crocheted several afghans, I’ve gotten back to my books (huzzah!), and I’ve caught up on some movies and shows.

So let me go ahead and state: SPOILERS ALERT!

Finally watched Frozen II; I liked the story. I don’t think the music was quite as memorable as the first and I still can’t stand Olaf, but the sisterly bond was great and very interesting to delve into their family history. (Puts to rest the fan connection between Frozen and several other Disney movies, including Tangled).

Also finally watched Crimes of Grindlewald. Excellent. Though while watching, I had to remind myself that Leta Lestrange was not a direct relation of Bellatrix (same family, but distant cousins). And the Dumbledore angle was better than I feared it to be; I thought they would focus entirely on Dumbledore’s infatuation with Grindlewald, but SPOILER a blood pact is a more solid excuse. And I totally do not believe Grindlewald about Creedence’s real name; the only plausible way he is a Dumbledore is as a cousin.

Supernatural has put filming their final season on hold, but it’s ramping up to be a doozy. News was just released that the final seven episodes will air in the fall. Jack is back, yay I guess. I have loved seeing some old favorites again; Benny was seen briefly. Loved that Eileen was back (then dead, then back!) and I really wish that she could get together permanently with Sam. (Then we find Dean someone, unless they make Destiel canon, which would be cool). And it was hilarious to have both Daneel Ackles and Genevive Padalecki back and in the same episode! The alternative universe Sam and Dean were hilarious as well (though can’t beat their father coming back; love that episode and cried along [unless you watch the blooper where Jared hits Jeffrey somewhere with the pearl; everyone is on the floor in laughter]). I really want to punch Chuck in the face and I hope Amara may come back to help. The boys are shaping up to fight God; I believe they will win and save the world because that is what they and the show are all about; but it’ll cost them. I still figure there is a decent chance the show will end with both boys dead; unless they are serious about producing a film later. If not, the only way for the fans to accept that it is over, is for our beloved boys to die. Even then, we’ll still write fanfiction.

Speaking of fanfiction; I was reading something on Facebook the other night about how fanfiction started. I mean, I had an idea, but it was interesting and a little unnerving. I realized why disclaimers are always posted at the top because you don’t want some bigwig suing you, but to find out that fan writers were punished… Some of the more recent successes give me hope; but I still am not likely to post what I have written. I share with a few friends, but I use it for my own practice. And some of this may end up as an essay or article. In case you’re interested, Supernatural accepts its fan writers and the fandom that has sprung up around it, which makes me love the fandom and the stars even more.

MacGyver just finished its fourth season, which went in a different direction than I originally imagined, and has been renewed for a fifth season. Yay! Their season got cut short due to the virus, but they must have filmed enough ahead to finish things up. I personally miss Jack and wish they would at least mention him in the story. Mac’s spiraling a bit and the fans know that Jack would help him. Still not a hundred percent sure of Russ’s motivations, but he at least tries to keep Mac alive; and Matty is still there, yay! I adored the episode with the plane and Mac in Tesla’s house; the writing has been excellent this season. Personally, I have never been fond of pairing Mac with a woman because I feel it detracts from the story and female characters should exist in shows outside their connection to a man. I’ve warmed up to Desi, but still not wholly sure. I like Riley, and I’m liking the Riley – Mac dynamic, but this triangle is only going to end badly. I shed tears when SPOILER James died. And I’m even sad that Auntie Gwen died; because she had just decided to protect Mac and it would have been great for Mac to have a familial connection, particularly to his mother. Though, baby Angus MacGyver is the cutest baby in the world! (And I refuse to believe that he’s named Angus because of a sign for beef; that’s demeaning to the character). Fanfiction should keep me occupied until it’s back.

Also been re-watching Hallmark’s Good Witch, going through the most recent episodes and the movies and now starting at the beginning of the show. Some days I can handle Hallmark and some days I just get annoyed; real life does not give us the right guy and the right job to keep us happy. But I love the magical elements of Cassie and the story. She and Sam are adorable. I’d love to live in Middleton. And when things get rough, there is a comfort in knowing that things will turn out alright; it’s Hallmark.

My mother and I have also managed to catch up on Outlander; we got behind. I miss them in Scotland; that was a reason I loved the show. Not fond of the time they were in the Caribbean, but now that they’ve settled in the colonies, my interest is peaking again. I’m glad Brianna has joined her mother and is bonding with her father. And proud that Roger has followed (though at times he was a bit of an idiot). I’m glad Stephen Bonnet finally was stopped; though I wished it had happened sooner. Whenever I would see Billy Boyd, I kept commenting “bad Pippin!” though I had to explain to my mother what I meant. I like the family that is growing at Fraser’s Ridge, and Ian has returned. Brianna, Roger, and Jemmy have also ended up staying, yay. The final episode; they actually found Claire sooner in the episode I thought they might, but we did get to see Claire’s struggles with the aftermath. I’m sure the time-traveling Native American will return; we’ll have to see what sort of time jump there may be before the next season.

Also enjoying watching the original MacGyver series with my parents and catching episodes of Race to the Edge (still love the show!). We’ve put on a few other movies, like some older James Bond (which was a bit weird), and re-watching the Librarian films (I’ll be covering all of those and the show upcoming. And it also gave me a writing idea). We are also going back and re-watching the newest Star Wars movies in preparation for finally getting to Rise of Skywalker (never fear, they are on the list to cover…down the road; MCU stands between us and them).

As for books; since I am first and foremost a reader; I have made a tiny dent in my “to-read” pile (and bought a few to add). Finally finished Raging Heat, a Richard Castle book (based on the show Castle that I don’t think I’m going to be covering, due to length) and Ireland’s Pirate Queen about Grace O’Malley, which have been on the back burner for a while. Enjoyed Castle and Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Read Jeffersonian Key by Steve Berry. Few other books in there that weren’t great, but a relatively quick read; got around to Sense and Sensibility and that was a bit boring; the movie helped make sense. Just finished a Philippa Gregory book, The Lady of the Rivers which is a prequel in a way to White Queen (my mother and I have watched the first episode of the series). Parts are interesting and it is relatively well-written, but parts are now appearing a bit implausible (which happens with her books). Now I can move on to other books on my list. My Richard Castle, Nikki Heat series is up to date, but I want to get to some others first. I’ve got half a shelf of romances that I need to catch up on, so I can go looking for those newest books. Picked up another Librarians novel (based on the show) and some Peter Jackson/ Lord of the Rings books (like I need more of those). Some history series and the first book to a couple fantasy series I’d like to try. Some fun books I am holding off on as a reward, like behind the scenes of MacGyver, the last How to Train Your Dragon art book (I am that much of a nerd).

What are you guys doing to keep your minds occupied? Any good movies or books? Creative projects?

“We know that when good fortune favors two such men, it stands to reason we deserve it too!”

Fiddler on the Roof

One of those iconic musicals that most everyone has probably heard of. The soundtrack is fun (yes, that is the John Williams listed as the orchestrator; no, he did not compose the music). My high school did this musical the year before I entered. And the community theatre performed it fairly recently; my family went to see the performance because we knew the leading man. The story is set in the early twentieth century in Russia. We begin with a silhouetted fiddler playing on a roof. The story is narrated by Tevye, a Jewish peasant. He remarks that we are all like fiddlers on a roof, trying to scratch out a tune, without breaking our necks (when the high school did its production, they brought in a younger violinist; very good and easier to put on a set). The Jewish community in Anatevka is full of Traditions; each person in the family has a role to play; they know who they are and what God expects of them. The fathers are head of the house, mothers keep the house, sons learn a trade, and daughters learn from their mothers and will marry whomever their fathers decide. We also get a glimpse of their larger world; the Rabbi asks that God bless and keeps the Tsar far from them and the Jews don’t bother the Christians that live next to them and so far, the Christians don’t bother them.

tevyeAt Tevye’s home, Yente the matchmaker visits with a match for the eldest daughter, Tzeitel. Tzeitel’s next younger sisters Hodel and Chava are eager for Tzeitel to marry so they may marry next. But Tzeitel points out the consequences of Matchmaker. They are poor girls with no dowry, they’ll be lucky for any man, not necessarily the perfect match. Tevye arrives home, tired from working and ponders If I Were a Rich Man (and everyone knows the dance for that!)

Changes are coming to Anatevka; a student from Kiev has arrived, Perchik, on top of news of Jews being evicted from their village. Perchik arranges to teach Tevye’s children, in exchange for room and food and accompanies Tevye home for the Sabbath. The tailor, Motel, a childhood friend of Tzeitel’s, also joins in the Sabbath. As the family prepares, Tevye’s wife, Golde, urges her husband to speak to the butcher, Lazar Wolf, who is interested in marrying Tzeitel. Meanwhile, Tzeitel argues with Motel; he needs to ask her father for her hand now, before an arrangement is made with Lazar Wolf; the young couple are in love. Motel is frightened by Tevye and remains silent during the Sabbath prayer.

Tevye visits Lazar Wolf and there is brief confusion on the nature of their conversation; soon cleared up and Tevye eventually agrees to the match. The men celebrate, drinking To Life, “l’chaim!” (This is a fun song!) At the bar, the Jewish men encounter the Russians and there is a back-and-forth between them, melding the dances at the end. [I love this dancing. When I was young, I was part of a Ukrainian dance troupe, friends of my mother’s. At one point, my brother could do some of those moves. The leader from the dance troupe taught the dances to the high school performers and members of the troupe danced during the community’s production.]

On his way out, Tevye is stopped by his friend, the Russian Constable. He warns Tevye that there will be an “unofficial demonstration” made. Come morning, Tevye tells Tzeitel of the arrangement. She cries and begs her father; is his agreement more important than her? Tevye won’t make Tzeitel marry Lazar Wolf. Motel comes by and Tzeitel nudges him to talk to Tevye. The nervous man grows a backbone and stands up to Tevye; the young couple had made each other a pledge; they love each other. Tevye debates (“on the one hand…on the other hand”) and agrees. They are thrilled and rush off. Motel believes that this was a Miracle of Miracles, equal to Daniel walking through the lion’s den. Now, Tevye has to tell Golde. He concocts a dream (this is a weird scene) that Golde’s grandmother visits to congratulate the family on Tzeitel’s (her namesake) marriage to Motel. Golde insists it’s Lazar Wolf. But Lazar Wolf’s first wife appears and vows to kill Tzeitel shortly after the wedding if she marries Lazar Wolf. Golde accepts the dream as a sign.

Tzietel’s sisters are finding men as well. The radical student Perchik charms Hodel and opens her eyes to changes in the world. In cities, men and women dance together. A Russian Christian, Fyetka comes to the aid of Chava when other men bother her. He has noticed she likes to read and offers a book to her; they can discuss it later.

bottle dance

Motel and Tzeitel marry; her parents reminisce to Sunrise, Sunset (a musical theme that appears throughout the film). There is a dance (again, love the music) and the men even perform a bottle dance. An argument erupts from the gifts between Lazar Wolf and Tevye; Perchik breaks it up by dancing with Hodel. Tevye supports his actions and dances with Golde, as well as Motel with Tzeitel. The Rabbi even joins, though he puts a kerchief between his hand and the lady’s. The evening ends on a sour note when Russian soldiers appear and break things. The Constable puts a quick stop to things; sadly, they only turn their attention to the town and smash and burn.

The second act opens with a reprise of Tradition. Some time has passed; it is now autumn and Tevye remarks to God that Motel and Tzeitel have been married for a while. Perchik tells Hodel he must leave, to support the students in Kiev. He, in a roundabout way, asks Hodel to marry him. She agrees. They then ask Tevye for his blessing, not his permission, contrary to tradition. Tevye debates and ultimately blesses their engagement and gives his permission. Perchik gives Tevye the idea to tell Golde he is visiting a rich uncle. The couple have given Tevye a thought; they love each other, so he asks Golde, Do You Love Me? After twenty-five years, they have come to love each other.

In winter, Perchik is arrested at the rally in Kiev and writes to Hodel. She decides to join him in Siberia and bids farewell to her father; her family will always be with her, even if she is Far From the Home I Love. Some happy news comes; Motel and Tzeitel have a new arrival; a sewing machine. Oh yes, and a baby boy as well. Fyetka tries to speak to Tevye, but is dismissed. Tevye warns Chava not to speak to him anymore; some things do not change. She should be interested in marrying a young man of her faith. She resists and tells her father that she wants to marry Fyetka. Tevye refuses. We next see Golde enter the Christian church and ask for the priest. She finds Tevye afterwards and informs him Chava and Fyetka have been married. Tevye tells his wife to go home to their other children (two more daughters); Chava is dead to them. He reminisces on his Little Bird (superimposed with a ballet). Chava finds him and begs her father’s acceptance. “There is no other hand!” Tevye cannot turn his back on his people, on his faith. Chava cries “Papa!”

More bad news comes. The rumors are true; verified by the arrival of the Constable; Anatevka is to empty of Jews in three days. The same thing is happening all over Russia. Tevye argues; they have always lived in this corner of the world, why should they leave? The Constable shouts, there is trouble in the world. Orders are orders! Tevye orders him off his land. One of the villagers asks the Rabbi, would now be a good time for the Messiah? The Rabbi responds, they will have to wait for him somewhere else. The villagers sing of their Anatevka; it wasn’t great, but it was home. Tevye and his family will go to America to family in New York. They hope that Tzeitel, Motel, and their son will be able to join them. Hodel and Perchik are still in Siberia. Chava stops by with Fyetka; they will not remain while the Jews cannot. Tzeitel speaks to her sister and passes on Tevye’s wish, “God be with you.” Chava promises to write. The last scene we see is the fiddler following Tevye’s family.

The first half of the show is far happier than the second half.  When I watch the film, I focus on the first half; it holds more of the fun music.  As I already mentioned, I enjoy the dancing in the show, having a bit of experience in it.  And when you focus on the happy parts; Tevye being frustrated by his daughters choosing their own husbands, which to us is completely normal, it distracts from the historical significance of the story.  Because those bad things happened and they happened a lot (and yeah…in a few decades, get worse).  But hey, they have bottle dancing!  And Tevye makes funny sounds talking to his animals!  And three women daydream about their perfect husband!  (They kind of get what they want, learned and interesting men, but not in the way they imagined and they all have to give something up, like financial security and family).

[Historical note: the term “pogrom” appears early in the show and refers to the persecution or massacre of an ethnic or religious group, mainly Jewish. A bit of foreshadowing in the show. I learned the term during my Honors’ Holocaust class in college.]

Next Time: Another iconic musical; Annie

“I Used to Be a Rovin’ Lad”

Brigadoon

My senior musical, once again in the ensemble, though I had a four-word solo in a big chorus number. My mother made my costume, so I would actually look Scottish and not American colonial (seriously, the costumes came with mop caps). Overall, I was just happy we were doing a musical about Scotland, but part of me was also disappointed I didn’t actually have a part. I already knew this show going in. The film stars Gene Kelly (most famous for An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain, but a staple of musicals in the fifties and sixties) as Tommy Albright, a New Yorker, hunting in Scotland with his friend. They get lost and discover the mysterious village of Brigadoon. Gene Kelly was also the choreographer of the film and thus it features a lot of incredible dancing. The musical was written by Lerner and Loewe, just as prolific as Rodgers and Hammerstein.

As the mists clear around Brigadoon at the start of the show, a quiet chorus sings Brigadoon. The show really starts with MacConnachy Square as the town rises for the day, selling their wares. And today is a special day; the wedding of Charlie Dalrymple to Jeanie Campbell. At the Campbell home, the young women are preparing. They talk about Jeanie Packing Up (which was not included in the film) and Jeanie’s older sister, Fiona remarks that she is Waitin’ for My Dearie.

The hunters, Tommy and Jeff, enter the village square truly perplexed not only at people’s dress, but Fiona was the only friendly person. Charlie however is thrilled and invites the strangers to his wedding, for he will Go Home with Bonnie Jean (this is a fun song). Fiona stops by the square for items for the wedding and takes Tommy out to find Heather on the Hill. While she is gone, Charlie stops by the house to sign the family Bible and sings to his intended, Come to Me, Bend to Me (very romantic, and sadly not included in the film). Local flirt, Meg Brockie takes Jeff for a nap, then makes a fuss when he doesn’t want to sleep with her, for she was trying to find The Love of My Life (also cut from the film, apparently too risqué).

brigadoon dancing

Tommy is quite taken by Fiona and remarks to Jeff when they meet up, It’s Almost Like Being in Love. However, he begins to take note of people mentioning a miracle and a blessing and finds the dates in Fiona’s family Bible. She takes them to the schoolmaster, Mr. Lundie, who tells them about Mr. Forsythe, the minister, praying to God for a miracle to protect the village from witches in the eighteenth century. [Historical note: not sure the person who wrote this musical quite figured out their timelines; the Battle of Culloden (those who watch Outlander will understand the significance) happened in Scotland in April of 1746 and this miracle supposedly happened in May of 1746 and witches were not as prevalent…maybe the English trying to take over their land. Witches might be a more reasonable cause a hundred years prior]. Carrying on, God granted a miracle, that Brigadoon would disappear into the mists and appear once every hundred years; when the villagers go to bed, it’s one year, when they rise the next morning, it’s a hundred years later [don’t think about the math too much or you realize bad things]. If someone from the outside wants to stay, they must love someone enough to leave their old life. But a villager can’t leave, or the whole village will disappear forever.

And this is where Harry Beaton causes a problem. He’s in love with Jeanie Campbell, who is happily marrying Charlie Dalrymple. The clans gather for the wedding, all clad in tartan (though if you want to see true Highland garb, watch Outlander; yes, tartan breeches were a thing, a weird thing, but nonetheless, real. Oh yes, and further historical note: it was after the Battle of Culloden that wearing tartan was outlawed, thanks to the English). And it is true Scottish custom that there need not be a minister present at a wedding, as long as the two being married share mutual consent [this has popped up in Scottish romances; women cannot be married against their will]. There is a dance, including a lovely one by Jeanie. Then a sword dance (real thing, and also cut from the film, boo). Harry participates and runs off after seeing Jeanie happy, shouting he will leave Brigadoon and doom them all. Tommy joins the men in The Chase, hunting Harry Beaton down before he can ruin things. Jeff has wandered off to hunt and thinks he’s shooting at a bird. Harry is the one who falls down dead.

Meg Brockie entertains the wedding guests with the tale of My Mother’s Wedding Day, until the men return with Harry (this is all cut from the film; Fiona and Jeanie’s father tells everyone to keep quiet and not disturb the joyous occasion. Another cut song by Tommy is There But For You Go I). Tommy is ready to stay in Brigadoon, until Jeff tells him what happened. Tommy begins to doubt enough that he won’t stay. But once he returns to New York and his fiancée, he cannot concentrate. Little words will remind him of something and he ignores what is going on. Tommy breaks it off with his fiancée and drags Jeff back to Scotland. He gets a miracle of his own; the town was just starting to disappear and he can enter. As Mr. Lundie remarked, “if you love something enough, anything is possible.”

The music in this show is fun, especially the songs that were cut; upon re-watching of the film, I had never noticed that they weren’t in the film. It features, as many other musicals do, a couple falling in love at first sight; which I always argue is never a good way to start a lasting relationship, or least, not a believable one. Gene Kelly is of course, a remarkable dancer and his partner is skilled as well.

Up Next: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

“Rub Him Outta the Role Call, and Drum Him Outta Your Dreams”

South Pacific

My high school performed this Rodgers and Hammerstein show my junior year. My friend from church, Chelsea was the lead. I was once again simply in the ensemble as a nurse. The show is set on a South Pacific island during World War II (there was a remake in 2001 starring Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jr, and a special concert at Carnegie Hall starring Reba McEntire in 2005 [which was, ironically, the year my high school performed]). Marine lieutenant Joe Cable comes to go on a secret mission to spy on the nearby Japanese and wants local French planter Emile de Becque to help. Emile has also fallen in love with a Navy nurse on the island, Nellie Forbush. Local woman, known as Bloody Mary likes how handsome Cable is and decides he is right to marry her daughter, Liat.

The naval personnel stationed on the island, the “Seabees” start off singing about Bloody Mary, then remark There is Nothin’ Like a Dame (gotta say, love the deep, full tone the men’s chorus achieves.  Ironically, we sang this at a county choir performance the same year). Nellie and the other nurses run by and we find out that sailor Luther Billis runs several side jobs to help people out. This is when Bloody Mary spots Lt. Cable and tells him about Bali Ha’i. From there, we check on Emile and Nellie at Emile’s plantation. Nellie turns out to be a Cock-Eyed Optimist. Both worry that they are not right for the other, but in just a few weeks they have fallen in love. Emile is certain and remarks in Some Enchanted Evening (the most well known song from the show) “once you have found her, never let her go.” Nellie returns to base and Emile’s children come out to see their papa and sing a little French song, Dites Moi.

Lt. Cable has spoken to command and they call in Nellie to ask her questions about Emile, determining whether he is reliable to take Joe to the other island. It is on record that Emile killed a man back in France. This concerns Nellie and she remarks to her friends, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair. Unbeknownst to her, Emile has come by; she’s startled out of her dance and rinses her hair to speak to him. He has come to invite her back to his plantation for a party and to tell her more about himself. The man he killed in France was a bully, during a bar fight. Then he asks Nellie to marry him. Relieved and ecstatic, Nellie has changed her tune, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy. But when Emile meets with command, he declines the mission, not wanting to risk his future with Nellie.

gonna wash that man right outta my hair

Frustrated, Cable lets Billis take him to Bali Ha’i. Billis observes the famous boar’s tooth ceremony and Bloody Mary introduces Joe to Liat and he instantly falls in love with the girl who is Younger Than Springtime. He sadly has to leave (after they spend some time together). And after Emile’s party, Nellie finds out about his children and runs off when she realizes he had Polynesian wife before her (I don’t quite get that thinking, but I also wasn’t around during the forties and fifties).

The second half of the show returns to Bali Ha’i and Bloody Mary explains Happy Talk and how fine of a husband Joe Cable will make for Liat. But he won’t abandon his fiancée in Philadelphia. Now Liat will have to marry an older French plantation owner. We’re cheered up a bit by the Thanksgiving show that Nellie puts on. Honey Bun is a fun number, with Luther Billis. Emile has come to see the show and sent Nellie flowers, but when he talks to her, she can’t explain why she is so upset about his previous wife and she runs off. Joe remarks to the Frenchman You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught, about racism, which he is struggling with in regards to Liat. But he’s come to the decision that he won’t leave Liat, except it’s time to go on the mission and Emile has agreed, now that Nellie has broken his heart; This Nearly Was Mine.

They land safely and get word back to base about the Japanese’s movements. Nellie finds out that Emile went and her heart decides that she does love him. Sadly, Joe dies on the island (enemy fire) and Emile gets the last news out; the Japanese are pulling out and will be the perfect target. So all the Marines and seamen and nurses gather up to leave. Nellie is with Emile’s children and listen to their reprise of Dites-Moi when Emile walks in. At least one story ended happy.

I have fairly fond memories of performing; one of my classmates asked my brother (on break from a military college) for help. I was still put in horrible costumes, but I enjoyed the group performances. Watching the movie again, the filters are horrible. Some of the music is still good, but I’m not fond of the storyline between Joe and Liat; it’s too sudden. And they know nothing about each other. So, not a favorite.

Next Time: Brigadoon (which is a favorite)

“I Sent the Swarm, I Sent the Hoard, Thus Said the Lord”

Prince of Egypt

I probably should have included this around my Disney section since it’s an animated film; but I had forgotten. Besides, the soundtrack is phenomenal. One of the first full length films produced by DreamWorks (same company who would later create one of my favorites: How to Train Your Dragon, and did you know that Steven Spielberg is one of the founders?). Includes a stellar cast: Val Kilmer voices Moses, Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort) voices Rameses, Michelle Pfeiffer is Moses’ wife, Tzipporah, Sandra Bullock is Hebrew Miriam and her brother Aaron is voiced by Jeff Goldblum. Danny Glover is Tzipporah’s father, Jethro and Patrick Stewart is Rameses’ father, Seti, with his queen voiced by Helen Mirren. Steve Martin and Martin Short are the priests, Hotep and Huy. Hans Zimmer composed the score and Stephen Schwartz ( he also wrote for Disney’s Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ella Enchanted, and Wicked) wrote the lyrics.

It tells the story of Moses and the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. The film opens with Deliver Us, illustrating the plight of Hebrews as slaves in Egypt. Seti, the pharaoh, has just issued the order to slaughter newborn Hebrew boys. Moses’ mother and her older children sneak to the river, put baby Moses in a basket and set him adrift, praying her son will have a better life. Her young daughter follows the basket, making sure he arrives safely, to the pharaoh’s wife (biblically, his daughter instead).

The film jumps to two young men, Moses, and his older brother, Rameses, racing cartsprinces of egypt through their father’s buildings. They cause mayhem and are chastised by Seti afterwards. He expects a lot from Rameses, who will succeed him as Pharaoh. Moses pleads for his father to not blame Rameses and suggests that his older brother only needs an opportunity to prove himself. Rameses is granted that opportunity at a banquet that night; Rameses in turn elevates Moses’ position. Priests Hotep and Huy are told to give the princes a gift; they have captured a foreign young woman. Moses is not the kindest to her upon meeting, but that night, he distracts guards to let her escape. He follows her to the slave quarters where he encounters Miriam and Aaron. Miriam thinks her brother has knowingly come, but he is unaware of his true heritage. Aaron pleads for mercy, but it’s not until Miriam repeats their mother’s lullaby that Moses realizes the woman speaks truth when she declares “I know who you are, and you are not a prince of Egypt.” She suggests he asks the man he calls father.

Moses runs back to the palace, trying to take comfort in All I Ever Wanted. He knows his history, it’s etched on every wall. So he investigates. And finds proof of what Miriam said, playing out as animated drawings on the walls. Seti attempts to comfort his son; Moses begging his father, “tell me you didn’t do this.” Seti considers it a sacrifice for the greater good, his parting words “they were only slaves.” (That just sounds so wrong coming from Patrick Stewart).  The Queen does a bit better, but she counsels that Moses should simply ignore the truth; “when the gods send you a blessing, you don’t ask why it was sent.” It does show that his family have never looked down on him for being adopted; Rameses may have been young enough he doesn’t even remembering his mother finding his baby brother.

Yet Moses wanders confused the next day. He accidentally kills an overseer who was beating an elderly Hebrew. He flees; Rameses attempts to stop him, telling his brother he can absolve him of his crime; “you will be what I say you are.” If Rameses wants the truth, Moses instructs him to “ask the man I once called father.” Moses still leaves. Eventually, he removes all pieces of his old life, aside from the ring his brother gifted him. A camel comes across him and he is dragged to a watering hole. He saves three young girls, then promptly passes out into a well. Their older sister, the same woman Moses freed comes to help, though she remembers the prince and lets him drop back into the well. Their tribe takes Moses in; the priest happy to thank a strange young man for saving his daughters. Moses quietly tells the boisterous man he has done nothing worth honoring; which the woman, Tzipporah finds odd, but her father explains a better mindset to Moses. People on earth cannot see their true worth; they should look at their lives Through Heaven’s Eyes (I love this song).

Moses becomes a part of the tribe, becoming a shepherd and eventually marrying Tzipporah. One morning, while tending his flock, one sheep wanders off. He goes after it and comes across the Burning Bush. God speaks to him and tells Moses to go before Pharaoh and free the Hebrews. Moses is unsure, but God promises to be with him and instructs Moses to take his staff, with it, he will do God’s wonders. Tzipporah is initially unsure, but Moses wants the same freedom that her family has for his people. She tells her husband she will go with him back to Egypt.

Rameses is now Pharaoh, so the brothers share a joyful reunion, until Moses tells his brother why he has come. As much as Moses wishes in his heart, things cannot be as they were. Pharaoh must release the Hebrew slaves. To demonstrate God’s power, Moses has his staff turn into a snake. To prove that their gods are just as great, Hotep and Huy mock that Moses is Playing with the Big Boys and they too turn staves into snakes (with smoke, and in the background Moses’ snake devours theirs). After the demonstration, Rameses and Moses speak privately. They’re brothers for a brief moment, recalling that while Moses got Rameses into trouble, he also got him out. (Ralph Fiennes commented behind the scenes “when brothers are enemies, they don’t stop being brothers.”) But life has made them different people and Moses return’s his brother’s ring. Rameses doubles the Hebrew’s workload in retaliation. The Hebrews disparage Moses, but he continues with his mission, with some kind words from Miriam; God saved Moses, he should not give up on the Hebrews. Moses approaches the river and turns it to blood for Pharaoh. The priests imitate the phenomenon, but Moses warns Rameses that matters will only get worse.

The Plagues descend upon Egypt. Frogs, then bugs and flies infest Egypt. The livestock die. Locusts blot out the sun. Egyptians are covered in boils. Fire rains down, then darkness. While a choir chants in the background, Moses cries that it pains him to see what has happened to his home. But he blames Rameses for “all the innocent who suffer for your stubbornness and pride.” Rameses (this is Ralph Fiennes singing; several of the other characters’ singing voices were dubbed) will let his heart be hardened, “I will never let your people go.” The last plague is the death of the first born; Moses instructs the Hebrews to mark their doors with lamb’s blood, and the angel of death will pass over their house. Rameses young son is killed. Moses meets with Rameses; Pharaoh will let the Hebrews leave. But Moses mourns for his brother’s loss and his own.

when you believe

Miriam cheers the people, “there can be miracles, When You Believe.” The song becomes more joyful by the time the children beginning singing in Hebrew (I sang this song as a child in church choir, probably the first time I ever sang in another language…actually, I think the same director taught it to my junior high choir as well). Then they come to the Red Sea. And Pharaoh has decided he will not let the Hebrews go and chases after them. Moses parts the sea with his staff; God has sent down a pillar of fire to bar the Egyptians. Once they’re almost through, the fire dissipates and the Egyptians charge. But the parted sea returns to its home, destroying the army. Moses has succeeded in his mission. The ending of the film shows him descending from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments.

This film, which has since been adapted into a stage show,  came out when I was five or so and I still enjoy it to this day. Once again, the music is phenomenal (ooh, an adult church choir should really do The Plagues; that’d be cool) and the characters were well casted; though it wasn’t until I was older that I began recognizing the voices. The studio managed a good retelling of the Bible story (they consulted with many religious experts and even went to Egypt for research purposes) and made the royal Egyptian family sympathetic at times (it was banned in Egypt, however). I will say that the animation quality of DreamWorks has come a long way since this film (they have done a spectacular job with Dragons; their characters are so lifelike), but it is a different style than the classic Disney look. I highly recommend this film.

Up Next: A proper introduction to more traditional musicals

Dream-Song

Australia

As the title suggests, a movie about Australia. So much, that it starred Australians, was shot in Australia, and was directed by an Australian. Hugh Jackman, one of the stars, even joked when he opened the 2009 Oscars, where Kate Winslet and Robert Downey Jr were both nominated for their range in acting; “I’m an Australian, playing an Australian, in a movie called Australia, hosting.” [He then goes into an entire song and dance number, because that’s how he got his start, though he ended by stating “I am Wolverine!”] Hugh Jackman’s character is only known as the Drover. Nicole Kidman (her parents are Australian) plays Lady Sarah Ashley (she worked with director Baz Luhrmann on Moulin Rouge). David Wenham (Faramir in Lord of the Rings, shot in New Zealand; he was also in 300, and worked alongside Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing) is Neil Feltcher. The film spans a six-year time frame, starting in September of 1939 and concludes during Japan’s attack on Northern Australia after they hit Pearl Harbor December of 1945. There is a note at the beginning of the film to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island viewers in deference to their culture, and explaining that this was a time where Aboriginal children of mixed race were taken from their families and “trained for service in white society.” “These children became known as the Stolen Generations.”

To be honest, the main reason I wanted to watch this movie is the fact that Hugh Jackman is in it. Throw in a bit of history and I’m intrigued. After the opening notes, the movie begins with an Aboriginal boy witnessing the murder of a white man. The boy is fearful of coppers (police) taking him to Mission Island. But then, the boss lady arrives. The boss lady is Lady Sarah Ashley who flies from England to the Northern Territory of Australia to force her husband to sell the Faraway Downs property. She meets the Drover, while he’s in the middle of a bar fight. It’s a rocky start for them, difference in culture and all that. He shock her on their travels the first night by bathing [yep, like that scene], then commenting they all huddle up in the one tent for warmth. Truth is, the men are more used to sleeping under the stars. But the Drover takes Lady Ashley to Faraway Downs (which is what the boy sees before he hides), and they discover that the man who had been killed was her husband. Lord Ashley is the only one to stand up to the Carney cattle monopoly in the area, though his death is blamed on an Aboriginal leader, King George (the boy’s grandfather).

The boy, Nullah, appears to Lady Ashley and reveals that she cannot trust the manager, Mr. Fletcher. Partly because Neil Fletcher is his father. Which wouldn’t sit too well with his fiancée’s family, the Carneys. Nullah proves Fletcher a liar and when caught, Fletcher starts hitting the boy. Sarah steps in and fires Neil. Drover isn’t happy when he comes around; Lord Ashley had promised him a drove (driving cattle) and rights to breed an outback brumby with an English thoroughbred. Sarah insists that everyone left on the ranch can pull together and make the drove. Faraway Downs is competing against the Carneys for an Army contract. The accountant of the ranch, when he’s sober, reveals to Sarah that Fletcher had been siphoning off the best cattle to Carney land; that is what her husband had been investigating when he had been killed.

australia stars

The actual police arrive the next day, setting Nullah and his mother to hide in the water tower. Sadly, the mother drowns before the police leave. Drover sends Sarah to comfort Nullah; she admits she’s not great with children, but tries to cheer him up by recounting the recent film, The Wizard of Oz, and attempting to sing the main song Somewhere Over the Rainbow [I am odd and not fond of the film or the song (it’s overplayed)]. Nullah likes the idea of dreaming and wishing; songs are important to the Aboriginals. The drove is back on the next morning. But Fletcher isn’t finished; he and his men set a fire to spook the cattle and drive them off a cliff. Nullah stands firm at the edge and halts the cattle, after the accountant (Kipling Flynn) is trampled to death. There is a rather tender scene of both Drover and Sarah diving after Nullah before he passes out over the edge. Tender moments start cropping up between Sarah and the Drover, even a kiss after they get tipsy in memory of Kipling. Drover admits he was married previously, to an Aboriginal woman. She got sick and died because the hospital wouldn’t treat her.

Fletcher’s at it again; he poisons the drinking holes along their way. Their only option is the wasteland known as Never Never Land. But King George offers to lead them. News is reported that they all die. The Army is about to sign a contract with Carney for their cattle…until there is a disturbance in town. Sarah and her people survived and there is a race to load the cattle. Drover gets in front and blocks Carney’s cattle. Nullah sums up that everyone gets what they want; everyone happy. Except him, because he is half-caste and doesn’t belong anywhere. Well, his friends disguise him so he looks fully Aboriginal and sneak him in to see The Wizard of Oz.

Meanwhile, there is a ball for the upper class to donate money to Mission Island. Sarah tries to argue to keep Nullah; the priest insists that Aboriginal women forget their children, she retorts no mother forgets her child and points out that the fathers of the mixed race children are in the room. The high society women start looking down on her, though Kaitlin Carney is sympathetic (she is “King” Carney’s daughter, and engaged to Neil Fletcher). “King” Carney wins the auction to dance with Lady Ashley and they discuss the sale of Faraway Downs. Sarah informs him of Neil’s involvement in her husband’s death and she is almost ready to sell when a cleaned up Drover enters the ball. He had already turned down her offer to be the new manager of Faraway Downs, insisting he doesn’t mix with the upper class. But he has apparently changed his mind and Sarah is willing to give Northern Australian society something to talk about. They run off after a dance and the rain comes. Their relationship really takes off [yep, another one of those scenes I love and reminds me why I watch the movie]. With the rain, Faraway Downs is like an island; Drover, Sarah, and Nullah can be a little family. Drover leaves again to go droving once the wet is over, but he comes back.

Everything is idyllic for a few years, until Neil leads Carney into an alligator attack and takes over the business. He then returns to Faraway Downs, intent on buying; it was his family that worked it for generations for the Ashley family. And a big drove comes in for Drover, and Nullah wants to go on walkabout to become a man. Drover leaves, hurting Sarah. And then Nullah is taken. Katey Carney, now Fletcher, begs her husband to help. He strikes a deal, Sarah will work for the war effort, he’ll buy Faraway Downs, and then he’ll get Nullah back.

Then the Japanese attack. Drover, after being called out for being scared to get close to Sarah, returns to town, only to find it destroyed. Sarah is believed to be dead. Drover knows he has to get Nullah, Mission Island is where the radio tower is and is sure to have been hit. The boys on the island did survive. And so did Sarah; it was Katey Fletcher who died in her place. Just as Drover, Nullah, and Sarah are about to be happily reunited, Fletcher aims a gun at them. A shot goes off and Nullah drops, but so does Fletcher. King George escaped prison and saved his grandson. Nullah is fine and they return to Faraway Downs. Sarah lets him go on walkabout. The film ends with another note. The Australian government ended the assimilation program in 1973 (that’s another twenty-eight years after the events of the movie) and in 2008, the Prime Minister officially apologized to the Stolen Generations.

This film is long. It honestly could have been cut down into two movies for it tells almost two different stories. There is the action/adventure plot of the first half, driving the cattle to town. Then there’s the war part, which could have been expanded for it holds most of the character depth. I like the family group that Sarah, Drover, and Nullah become without meaning to. They all need family and end up blending well with each other. We see how far the Drover has come throughout the film, first being annoyed by Lady Ashley, to loving her, to leaving, then being heartbroken when he believes she’s dead. Nullah is a sweet child, and Sarah Ashley’s character softens throughout the film, though she is still strong and determined. Parts of the movie drag and I tend to just fast forward to the bits I like. It is interesting to see how other places in the world were affected by the Second World War.

I much prefer some other movies to this, especially for some of the actors; David Wenham is much nicer as Faramir. Hugh Jackman is a good leading man and he did well opposite Nicole Kidman, but I think we see a larger range for her in Moulin Rouge. Not the most romantic role for Hugh, we’ll get to some of those later.

Up Next: Kate and Leopold

“Near…Far…Wherever You Are”

Titanic

I would think most everyone has heard of this movie, as well as the historical disaster. This was the big blockbuster of the late-nineties; it was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards and won eleven, including Best Picture. And a fairly long movie; when it released on VHS, it had to be on two tapes; and as of 2019, the third highest-grossing movie of all time. Directed by James Cameron (Avatar), who did a lot of detailed research, and a full “hey, I know that guy!” Stars Leonardo DiCaprio (who finally won an Oscar) as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose Dewitt Bukater. Billy Zane (did not realize this until looking him up, but he was the voice of John Rolfe in Disney’s second Pocahontas movie, as well as appearing in a few episodes of Charmed) is fiancé Cal Hockley; historical character Molly Brown [there’s a movie about her from the sixties staring Debbie Reynolds] is played by Kathy Bates (who has shown up as Amy’s mother in Big Bang Theory, and was Miss Hannigan when Wonderful World of Disney re-did Annie in 1999). Rose’s mother is played by Frances Fisher (who has appeared in Hallmark movies, an episode of Castle, among other TV spots), Captain Smith is Bernard Hill (later to be King Theoden in Lord of the Rings), Victor Garber (lead in Alias, Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde, Oliver Warbucks in 1999’s Annie, and King Maximillian in 1997’s Cinderella with Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, Brandy, and Whitney Houston) is the architect Thomas Andrews. Jonathan Hyde (Prince John in Princess of Thieves) is Bruce Ismay, the managing director of the White Star Line (the company that built and maintained Titanic and its sister ships), and the one I always enjoy seeing for the few minutes in the film, Ioan Gruffudd (Amazing Grace, Fantastic Four) as Fifth Office Lowe.

titanic

The film opens with an underwater exploration of the wreck [Dr. Robert Ballard, retired U.S. Naval officer and professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, famously discovered the wreck in 1985, and later found the wreck of the Bismarck in 1989 and the Yorktown in 1998; he was also one of my brother’s heroes when we were growing up; he was very interested in the Titanic, so he was very interested in spying the White Star Line shipyards when we were in Belfast, Northern Ireland…I have a picture of that somewhere]. They find a safe and bring it to the surface, looking for a famous blue-diamond necklace from Louis XVI that would be worth more than the Hope Diamond. Instead, they find a drawing that includes the necklace. A news report brings it to the attention of an old woman, Rose Calvert, who then informs the crew she is the woman in the picture. There’s some speculation that she could be lying, but she knows details about the necklace and the ship that only someone there could have known. Most of the film is her flashback memories (totaling the amount of time it took the actual ship to sink).

Rose and her family were returning to America for her wedding to Cal Hockley, but she is unhappy. At the same time, Jack Dawson wins his tickets in a poker game. He and his friend excitedly race to the ship and explore a bit once its underway. They make it to the bow, where they climb up and Jack yells “I’m the king of the world!” He encounters Rose later that evening at the stern of the ship, when she flees dinner and is ready to jump overboard. He talks her down and when Cal arrives to collect his fiancée, Rose puts it straight that Jack saved her, though she was only looking at the propellers. As a reward, Cal invites Jack to dine with them the next evening. Hoping to cheer his fiancée up, Cal presents her with the “Heart of the Ocean,” a 56 carat blue diamond. Rose is impressed, but not with her intended. She seeks Jack out later, to thank him for his help and discretion, but they get stuck on the point whether she loves Cal or not. Rose is upset that no one notices she is not happy with the role she is made to play, but Jack gives her another outlook on life; one of adventure, never knowing what the day will bring or where you will end up.

Meanwhile, Captain Smith wants to ensure a smooth voyage to America, while Ismay wants headlines. Smith orders the ship to speed up (not wholly historically accurate). Molly Brown, part of the “new money” of the time, and thus frowned upon by the aristocracy, aids Jack in lending him a proper tux for the evening. He charms his way through the upper class, but later passes a note to Rose, inviting her to a real party, in third class. I adore this scene, and the accompanying music, which features Celtic band Gaelic Storm (a big breakthrough for them). Rose proves herself to be more than a pretty face, she drinks and to further prove herself, she goes en pointe (I took ballet for about ten years and never went on pointe, but I know what kind of strength someone needs to balance all their weight on the tip of their toes).

However, come morning, Cal confronts Rose about her below-deck antics; she was spotted. He throws the table, stating she is his wife, even if they’re not married yet (I have a feeling he has been pressuring her to sleep with him before their wedding; just my interpretation). Rose is startled and her mother speaking to her does not help matters. It spells out to the audience that Rose has been forced into this marriage to save face; they have the name, but Cal has the money. Ruth is a teeny bit sympathetic; she knows this is unfair for Rose, but it is a woman’s lot in life, their choices are never easy. Jack sneaks up to see Rose and she tries to send him away, but he’s worried about her. The fire he has seen in her will go out; but it is up to Rose to save herself. Later, Rose goes to Jack; she has changed her mind. He helps her up to the railing at the stern of the ship: “I’m flying!” Cue main theme. The couple shares a kiss. And we cut back to “present day.” That was the last time Titanic saw daylight. The scavenger comments that everything Captain Smith knows from his experience will not help him with Titanic.

jack and rose

Back to Rose’s memories: Jack returns to Rose’s room with her. She requests a drawing and shows him the Heart of the Ocean. “I want you to draw me like one of your French girls. Wearing this. Wearing only this.” She disrobes and lies on a couch, completely nude and Jack dutifully draws her (behind the scenes note: apparently, the hand that draws Rose is director’s James Cameron’s), and cue main theme. (This intrigues all of the present day crew). Rose leaves a note once they are finished for Cal and leaves again with Jack. They end up running from Cal’s valet, ending up in the cargo hold, in a car. It is there they sleep together, steaming up the window. [And it’s here that I always wonder how this movie is only rated PG-13; I distinctly remember not being thirteen and wondering how my classmates got in to see this movie.] Rose declares that when Titanic docks, she’s getting off with Jack. They are on deck when the iceberg is spotted by the lookouts (no wind makes them hard to spot). The crew try to maneuver the ship around the berg, but they’re too close. (Research has suggested that if Titanic had hit the iceberg head-on, it would not have suffered the same damage and would have remained afloat long enough to dock in New York; of course, that is hindsight). Captain Smith, Andrews, and Ismay are all wakened. Mr. Andrews declares that the ship will sink; five of the compartment are flooded, there was a chance with only four filled, but not five. The ship is iron, it will sink, despite Mr. Ismay’s insistence. Distress signals are started and passengers are told to dress warmly and put on their life vests.

Rose and Jack return to her room to warn her mother and Cal, where Jack is framed with stealing the blue diamond and arrested. Alone, Cal slaps Rose for her indiscretion. They receive word to report to the deck. Rose spies Mr. Andrews; she remembers from his tour that there are not enough lifeboats. Mr. Andrews confirms her thoughts. Women and children are ordered to the lifeboats first; but it is slow going. Most of the passengers do not know of the danger, or else do not believe it; Andrews has to order the crew to ensure lifeboats are filled to capacity. On captain’s orders, the band continues to play to calm the crowd. Ruth wonders blasé whether the lifeboats will be seated by class. Rose sternly tells her mother the truth, to which Cal remarks that the better half of the boat will not die. She then refuses to get on the lifeboat and runs to find Jack. Cal tries to stop her. She spits at him and proclaims she’d rather be Jack’s whore than Cal’s wife.

By now, the bow is underwater, the ship is starting to tilt and take on water in the halls. Rose does find Jack and has to use an axe to cut his handcuffs. They try to make their way back up, but the gates from third class are locked (historically inaccurate). There’s a riot and they break out. The ship is in utter chaos. We see Ismay get on a lifeboat when no one else comes forward. Cal goes back for Rose, putting his coat (which contains the blue diamond necklace) on her and he and Jack tag team to encourage Rose to get on a lifeboat. Partway down, she jumps off (a dumb move, yet terribly romantic). Jack asks when he finds her why she was so stupid; she couldn’t leave him: “you jump, I jump.” Well, this final defiance sets Cal off and he grabs a gun and starts shooting at the couple. He runs out of bullets as they go back into the ship and down several levels. And it’s then that he realizes the coat that has the diamond is on Rose. Cal finds a child lost and crying and takes her on a boat.

The final moments of the ship are approaching. Mr. Andrews and Captain Smith go down with the ship. The band continues playing, ending with the hymn Nearer My God to Thee. An old couple huddle together, not wanting to be parted. A mother in third class tucks her children in, telling them of the Irish land of Eternal Youth, Tír na NÓg. All remaining passengers on deck flee to the stern as the ship splits. The stern rises in the air, Rose ironically notes that she and Jack are back where they first met. As the stern gets sucked down, Jack and Rose and the others prepare to enter the water. It’s the North Atlantic; it’s freezing. Jack manages to find a door floating and pushes Rose on to it. Jack remains in the water. Only one life boat (helmed by Fifth Officer Lowe) returns to find survivors. Molly Brown speaks up, but those crew members overrule her. Contemplating their fate, Rose admits she loves Jack; he insists they will make it and makes Rose promise to survive. But the elements take their toll. Jack freezes in the water and Rose is forced to let him go in order to get a whistle to attract help. Old Rose summarizes that of the 2200 souls aboard the Titanic; 1500 went in the water. Only six were rescued. They and the 700 in the lifeboats had to wait for the Carpathia (of rival company Cunard) for rescue at dawn.

On board, Rose avoids Cal and when asked her name in New York, she gives Rose Dawson. That’s when she discovers the Heart of the Ocean in her pocket. She finishes her tale that Jack now only exists as her memory. But, she walks out to the edge of the ship that evening and drops the diamond into the ocean, to rest with Titanic. I view the final ending, as we pan over her pictures showcasing her adventures, proving she fulfilled her promise to Jack and lived her life, that Rose passes away and is greeted on the Titanic, returned to its glory by all her old friends, Jack waiting to kiss her.

As a result of the disaster, regulations were made enforcing enough lifeboats for all passengers and mandatory safety drills. When one takes the romantic storyline out of Titanic, one can get caught up in the sheer enormity of what happened. I think it was well done on Cameron’s part. There has been a lot of controversy however, on whether Jack and Rose could have shared the door and thus ensured Jack’s survival. The Mythbusters tested the theory that both could have fit on the board and they proved it plausible, though they had the idea to tie Rose’s life preserver to the bottom of the board to give it more buoyancy. Director James Cameron weighed in on the show; Jack was fated to die, so that is why he did not get on the door. The main theme, My Heart Will Go On, performed by Celine Dion, does not play until the ending credits, but it became a smash hit and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, though it became overplayed (just like Let It Go from Frozen). Personally, I prefer an instrumental arrangement of the piece; it’s still beautiful.

I am not as emotionally invested in this film as some others; probably because I am more invested in other films and just cannot bring myself to get too invovled. Again, it’s an extremely well done movie; the CG effects have withstood the test of time. Kate and Leo have excellent chemistry.

If so interested, there is a well done AU fanfiction story with the characters from Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast and Titanic; with Adam as the wealthy heir in a forced marriage and he meets poor Belle. My Heart Will Go On by DisnerdingAvenger can be found on AO3.

Up Next: Australia

She has a Friend, Every Time She Paints

Miss Potter

A romantic bopic of children’s author, Beatrix Potter. It stars Renee Zellweger as Beatrix, Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne, her publisher (the two appeared opposite each other in Down With Love, which is coming up soon in my posting schedule). Emily Watson (she was in Testament of Youth [that WWI movie I watched with Kit Harrington] and War Horse) plays his sister, Millie. Beatrix’s father, Rupert, is played by Bill Paterson; we’ve seen him in Amazing Grace and Outlander.

This film beautifully showcases the Lake District of England and is a huge reason why I want to personally visit the scenery at some point in my life. It opens with Beatrix’s voice-over telling us when writing the first words of a story, one never knows where one will end up. We see her struggle to publish a children’s book and be taken seriously as a single, unmarried woman in 1902 London. Her publishers fob her off onto their younger brother who is making a nuisance of himself; if it gets mucked up, it’s no real loss. However, she is determined to look upon this as an adventure and encourages her illustrated animal friends to do the same. There is a flashback to her childhood, showing that she was a talented artist and making up stories even then.

Luckily, Norman loves Beatrix’s book and quite enthusiastic to work with her on it; everything can be done to her specification. Another flashback shows us that when Beatrix was young, her family started vacationing in the Lake District, where Beatrix got a lot of her inspiration. There was even a young man in the area who liked her stories, Willie Heelis. But Beatrix’s mother despairs of her ever marrying, or at least, marrying properly. She has introduced a string of suitable suitors to her daughter, but Beatrix wants none of them. Meanwhile, she and Norman make a good team publishing her book, and Norman encourages her to produce more stories. The first book, Peter Rabbit, is a success. Norman takes Beatrix to meet his mother and sister and Millie is determined to be fierce friends with Beatrix, bonding over their unmarried states.

In turn, Beatrix invites Millie and Norman to her family’s annual Christmas party. Her father comes to her rescue when her mother disapproves of their “tradesman” status. Beatrix’s present for Norman is a new Christmas story, which the party insists she share. She is a bit scandalous, showing Norman her bedroom, but they are chaperoned and Norman leads her in a sweet dance [I saw this movie before Down With Love or Moulin Rouge and was unaware that Ewan could sing]. Norman proposes, but Beatrix’s answer is interrupted. Then she confers with Millie if she minds. Millie encourages her friend to take a chance on love. Beatrix tells Norman yes. The next day, he visits her father. Unfortunately, Beatrix’s parents disapprove, her father mainly on the point that it is too sudden. They compromise; Beatrix can accept in secret. Their family will vacation in the Lake District for the summer again. If the couple still wants to marry at the end after some time, they will give their blessing. Norman bids farewell to Beatrix at the train station in the rain and they send letters back and forth.

Then, Norman’s letters stop coming. Millie writes, informing Beatrix that Norman is ill. She returns to London, sadly to discover that Norman has died. Millie was the only one who knew Norman and Beatrix were engaged. Oh, I cry every time during this part of the movie. Beatrix returns home, utterly depressed. She tries to draw, but her friends run from something. Millie comes to her rescue. Beatrix must get out of the house. She ispotter cottage quite wealthy now with the royalties from her books; she buys Hill Top Farm in the Lake District, from her old friend, William Heelis. Slowly, Beatrix comes back to life. She draws again and has new stories buzzing about. She reconnects with William, and they share the notion that the landscape of the Lake District needs preserved, farms should be kept farming, not bought out by developers.

The film ends back at the beginning, with Beatrix sitting down to write. We are told that eight years after moving to the Lake District, Beatrix married William Heelis and she donated 4,000 acres of farmland to the British people through a land preservation trust.

Miss Potter is not a terribly dramatic movie, which makes it a good movie to put on when I don’t want to have to think too hard on something. The scenery is gorgeous and I love Millie Warne’s views on unmarried ladies. I want a home someday like Beatrix’s cottage; it’s so cute. I have always loved bunnies (though I am quite content to let the bunnies that live in our backyard be as close as I get to having a pet), so I’ve always liked Beatrix’s illustrations.

Up Next: Titanic

“Your Hands are Cold”

Pride and Prejudice

Again, this is the 2005 rendition of Jane Austen’s most famous work and is full of familiar faces. Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean) leads as Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Rosamund Pike (the femme fatale of Die Another Day) is her elder sister, Jane. Jena Malone (one of the contestants in The Hunger Games series) is one of the younger sisters, Lydia. Donald Sutherland (who also appears in The Hunger Games and the original MASH movie amongst his illustrious career) is their father, Mr. Bennett. Opposite Keira is Matthew Macfadyen (Athos in 2011’s The Three Musketeers, star of BBC’s Ripper Street [which I have only caught commercials of during Sherlock and The Musketeers, don’t really have a desire to watch], The Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood with Russell Crowe, and also starred opposite Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina in 2012 [my mother and I sat through that movie, neither of us ever having read the book and were thoroughly confused. That is the movie that led us to creating our twenty-minute rule with any movie; if we are not interested in the movie within the first twenty minutes, we shut if off; because that was three hours of our lives we will never get back]) as Mr. Darcy.

Kelly Reilly (Mary Morstan in Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes movies) is Caroline Bingley.  Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana is played by Tamzin Merchant (she was the young Catherine Howard fated to be beheaded as Henry VIII’s fifth wife in The Tudors series, and even shows up in our next film, Jane Eyre).  The Bennett’s cousin, Mr. Collins is played by Tom Hollander (he showed up in two of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies as Cutler Beckett).  The formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh is played by the as formidable Dame Judi Dench (M in several of the more recent James Bond films).  And another relative of the Bennett’s, Mrs. Gardiner, is played by Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones in Doctor Who and Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey).

The story opens with Mrs. Bennett informing her husband, and her daughters overhearing, that Netherfield Park, a grand estate, has been let at last to a very wealthy young aristocrat. He must see that one of their daughters should marry this Mr. Bingley, but first, Mr. Bennett must visit Mr. Bingley so the women may then visit. Mr. Bennett has already visited Mr. Bingley. There is a ball, where the Bennetts are enjoying themselves when Mr. Bingley arrives, with his sister Caroline, and dear friend, Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley is immediately taken by Jane. Elizabeth seems a little interested in Mr. Darcy; her sister has just warned her “one of these days Lizzie, someone will catch your eye, and then you’ll have to watch your tongue,” but Elizabeth then overhears Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy speaking and Darcy comments that Jane is the only pretty girl in the assembly, Elizabeth is passing enough. She lets on she overheard him when they speak later. Elizabeth also has to put up with her mother speaking rather crassly.

The next day, a letter arrives for Jane, from Caroline, inviting her over. Mrs. Bennett, hoping it was from Mr. Bingley, insists Jane ride instead of taking the carriage to Netherfield. It begins to rain and Jane falls ill. Elizabeth walks over herself to check on her sister. Mr. Bingley already seems taken by Jane. Caroline attempts to make friends with Elizabeth and is quite comfortable around Mr. Darcy. They discuss women’s accomplishments and Darcy reveals that one of his faults is “my good opinion, once lost, is lost forever,” but Elizabeth cannot fault him for that. Then her mother and younger sisters traipse in for a visit and all return home. Mrs. Bennett is quick to point out the expensive furnishings and young Lydia insists the Bingley’s hold a ball. Mr. Bingley helps Jane into the carriage and Darcy helps Elizabeth, though he quickly walks away after.

Mr. Collins, the cousin who will inherit, visits. He is a preacher and his rectory lies near the estate of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who acts as his patroness. He reveals to Mrs. Bennett he intends to marry one of her daughters. She informs him that Jane is expected to be engaged soon, so he settles for Elizabeth. Though it looks like Mary wouldn’t mind marrying Mr. Collins. Meanwhile, the young ladies meet the officers of the regiment that is lodging in town, a Mr. Wickham in particular. Elizabeth is charmed by the young officer, but it quickly becomes known that he and Mr. Darcy have a past. Wickham tells Elizabeth that Darcy’s father loved Wickham better and Darcy never got past that and threw him out.

The Bingleys do hold a ball at Netherfield. Elizabeth hopes to see Wickham, but gets stuck with Mr. Collins who stares at her and bluntly states he intends to remain close to her for the evening. Mr. Darcy surprises Elizabeth and asks her for a dance. She is trying to overcome the different accounts of Darcy she has heard in order to make out his character. He hopes he can provide more clarity in the future. There is an interesting part of the dance when the other dancers seem to disappear and it is just Darcy and Elizabeth together. Mr. Collins, who just interrupts Mr. Darcy, reveals that Darcy is Lady Catherine’s nephew (see the similarities with Becoming Jane? A nephew to a powerful patroness). We also witness the rest of Elizabeth’s family in a competition to make fools of themselves; Mary would rather play piano than socialize, Mrs. Bennett speaks loudly that she is sure Jane will be engaged shortly, Kitty and Lydia are rather too social, and Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte Lucas remarks that Jane needs to pluck Mr. Bingley up; being too shy will not let him know she is interested.

Mr. Collins asks for an audience with Elizabeth the following morning. She mouths to her father to stay, but they all abandon her. Mr. Collins proposes. Elizabeth heartily declines and firmly tells the man that she will not make him happy and she is certain he will not make her happy. This puts Mrs. Bennett in a kerfuffle, she enlists her husband’s help in making Elizabeth change her mind and accept, in order to keep the house, or else she will never speak to her daughter again. Mr. Bennett tells Elizabeth that she will have to be a stranger to one of her parents then, for he will not see her if she does marry Mr. Collins. Turns out, Charlotte Lucas accepts Mr. Collins, figuring she will get no other proposal (after Collins has already insinuated to Elizabeth that she will receive no better offer). Sadly, the Bingleys have left as well.

It seems some time has passed; Jane visits their aunt and uncle and Elizabeth accepts a visit to Charlotte. There, she meets and dines with the great Lady Catherine. Darcy is there, as well as a Colonel Fitzwilliam. Elizabeth is seated next to Mr. Darcy, and then Lady Catherine quizzes her on her accomplishments. After dinner, she is ordered to play the piano (she does so poorly, as she told the lady.) Darcy visits Elizabeth briefly, and awkwardly the next day. But Fitzwilliam informs Elizabeth that it was Darcy who split Mr. Bingley from Jane, due to objections to the family. Darcy finds Elizabeth in the rain and proposes, well, not the best proposal. Not wise to start it with saying you love someone against your better judgment. Elizabeth questions him on Jane and Bingley and informs Darcy that Jane is shy; she doesn’t even always reveal her heart to her sister, let alone a man. Darcy throws back that the rest of Elizabeth and Jane’s family are fools, but the two eldest daughters are excluded. Elizabeth also questions him about Wickham. They part angry, but Darcy leaves a letter. He (somewhat) apologizes for separating Bingely and Jane and tells Elizabeth what really happened with Wickham; he essentially gambled his inheritance away and when Darcy refused to give him more money, seemed to fall in love with Darcy’s very eligible younger sister and planned to elope. Darcy informed him he wouldn’t receive a penny of the dowry and so Wickham left, and Darcy’s sister was broken hearted. Elizabeth returns home very confused.

Lydia is invited to go to Brighton with family friends and Elizabeth’s aunt and unclepeak district invite her to accompany them to the Peak District (which seems absolutely stunning). Elizabeth attempts to persuade her father to not let Lydia go or else she will become the most determined flirt. Mr. Bennett simply wants peace and feels that Lydia is too poor and insignificant to get into too much trouble. Elizabeth and her relatives break down near Pemberly (where Mr. Darcy lives) and decide to visit. Elizabeth wanders and discovers Georgiana playing, and Mr. Darcy. She flees, but Darcy follows. He then calls at their lodgings and invites them over the following day. Georgiana is a cheerful young lady and is determined to be friends with Elizabeth; it is clear Darcy dearly loves his sister. Their lovely day ends in despair when news arrives that Lydia has run off with Mr. Wickham. Darcy feels it is his fault for not outing Wickham sooner; Elizabeth feels at fault for not sharing her knowledge with her family. The men of the family set out after Lydia. News returns home that Wickham will marry Lydia for a pittance.

She flounces in as a happy bride, showing off her ring to her family. Lydia inadvertently reveals to Elizabeth that it was Mr. Darcy who discovered her and Wickham and paid for everything; “he’s not half as high and mighty as you,” she remarks to her elder sister. Shortly after, Darcy and Bingley return to the Bennetts. After their brief visit, Elizabeth is on the verge of telling Jane she may like Darcy. We see Bingley rehearse, then he bursts back in and requests and audience with Jane: “first, I must tell you I have been the most unmitigated, incomprehensive ass…” Jane accepts his proposal: “yes, a thousand times yes” (which is what I imagine the most romantic proposals end with). Jane wants her sister to be as happy as her, but Elizabeth cannot bring herself to tell Jane of what almost was with Mr. Darcy. Their night is interrupted by a visit from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who speaks to Elizabeth, demanding she does not accept any proposal from her nephew, Mr. Darcy. He is intended to marry her daughter, a match planned since infancy. Elizabeth then orders Lady Catherine out and runs from her family, refusing to speak on the matter.

darcy mistShe takes another early morning walk and meets Mr. Darcy in the mist (an utterly breathtaking scene). She attempts to make amends, for judging him so harshly. Darcy tells her, she must know, it was all for her. His affections have not changed; she has bewitched him body and soul [another line I desire in my own proposal]…”I love, I love, I love you and never wished to be parted” (and this is why we love Jane Austen). Elizabeth gently kisses his hands and their foreheads meet as the sun rises. They return to the Bennett household to get permission from Mr. Bennett. He is confused; they all thought she didn’t like him. Elizabeth tells her father she was utterly wrong about him; they are so similar, and so stubborn. In short, she loves him. She also explains how Mr. Darcy has already helped their family, but he would not want Mr. Bennett to respond.

I adore the ending of this film, even though it is not how the book ended. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are enjoying an evening together and discuss what endearments Mr. Darcy may use. he inquires when he may call her Mrs. Darcy, when he is cross? No, “only when you are completely, perfectly, and incandescently happy.” He proceeds to kiss her, murmuring “Mrs. Darcy,” he time, until their mouths meet. …sigh, swoon!

In truth, I believe I fell asleep the first time I watched the movie; it is one that needs time and a few watching’s to grow fond of. Mr. Darcy improves with each viewing. I did manage to read the novel after watching the film in college. A quick skimming of the ending enforces why I prefer it in film format; it is much easier to digest, dispensing of some of the flowery language. But as Becoming Jane comments, both sisters ended up with good matches and lived happily. The visual artistry of the film is gorgeous. I do like the soundtrack to this film, much better than the last batch of movies; I actually own it. It is mainly piano pieces, which are played by various characters throughout the film. And the dance tracks are lively pieces.

Up Next: The Gothic romance Jane Eyre

 

jane austen dressAn added treat: this is me in a Jane Austen inspired gown that I wore for Halloween one year at college; made by my talented mother (I did not inherit that talent).  I still have the dress.

 

“Nobody Hurts My Horse”

Hidalgo

I know I said Master and Commander was next after the end of Sherlock, but sadly, I cannot find my copy. So I moved on to what turns out to be the last of what I’m calling the “historical” movies. Hidalgo stars Viggo Mortensen, fresh from his big role as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. Which is why I watched the movie, to be honest. Viggo impressed me in Middle Earth and this story had the added bonus of being about a horse. As many other girls, I went through a phase where I was really into horses. I read book series about riders; I wanted to ride a horse, and in the wake of Lord of the Rings, bonus features showed that Viggo had a connection to his horse on set…we can see what got me to go to the theatre. Which is probably what marketing people were banking on.

The film, which claims to be based [loosely] on the life of Frank T. Hopkins, opens in late December of 1890. Frank and his mustang horse, Hidalgo, have just won another long distance race. But Frank also works as a dispatch rider for the American military. He is sent with orders to Wounded Knee Creek…we can already tell where this might end. Frank seems sympathetic to the Natives, but rides before the first shot is fired. Hidalgo hears the commotion and turns back. Short time jump to eight months later, during one of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows, and Frank is drunk during a reenactment of the event, skewed towards making the American military look good and portraying the Natives as wild and bloodthirsty.

Buffalo Bill and Frank have a visitor, from the Middle East. Their land is famed for its pure horse breeding practices and hold the title for greatest endurance horse racer, which Bill has bestowed upon Hopkins and Hidalgo. If Hopkins will not allow the title to be removed, they challenge him to a 3,000 mile race in the Arabian desert, referred to as the “Ocean of Fire.” Hopkins is prodded into accepting and embarks on a ship to get there. He meets a Major Davenport and is (much younger) wife, Lady Anne, who has a thoroughbred mare entered in the race.

Once at the race, Hopkins meets the Sheikh, who sadly only has a daughter left, Jazira, who is intended to marry the prince that is riding the prized Al-Hattal if he wins. The Sheikh also has an interest in the Wild West. They almost strike up a friendship, but it is also clear that no one expects Hopkins and Hidalgo to survive the race, much less win. Several people offer him chances to drop out, but Frank is a bit stubborn. Against a competitor paying to deprive him and his horse of water and a sandstorm, Frank and Hidalgo make it to the half way point. The Sheikh’s nephew (cough-evil-cough) pops in and lo and behold, a raid happens later that evening; an attempt to steal Al-Hattal, though they do get away with the breeding book and the daughter. The Sheikh asks Hopkins to get Jazira back (and he’ll forget the little incident of Jazira visiting his tent [she’s fascinated by the foreigner and wishes to help so she doesn’t have to marry the prince]). A bit of a shoot-out later, and Hopkins returns with Jazira.

hidalgo race

The race continues (and Lady Anne and the nephew are in league with each other; she wants her mare to win so she has breeding rights to Al-Hattal; they intend to kill Hidalgo). One of the other competitor’s falls into a pit…quicksand or tar, not entirely sure. Race rules dictate that no one helps him, but Frank ignores that command. Which helps later when Hidalgo and Frank fall into a spear pit. You may want to look away when Hidalgo gets hurt and Frank has to get him out. Frank’s new friend comes back to help, but sadly is killed moments later. Frank gets some satisfaction for putting the evil nephew in another spear pit, his parting words, “nobody hurts my horse.”

Then Frank almost gives up. Hidalgo is badly hurt. They are far from anything familiar; they’re in a hostile land where people want to kill them. Then he hears a Native chant. He remembers his past, his mother (a Sioux woman; his father had been a cavalry man who had fallen in love with her). Frank joins the chant and gains strength from another people who held the horse sacred, just like the Bedouin. The last two competitors pass him. Frank gets back on Hidalgo, who has stood up from collapsing and it’s a race to the finish. At first, Lady Anne’s horse is in the lead, followed by Al-Hattal, then Hidalgo. Then Al-Hattal takes the lead. Hidalgo passes Lady Anne’s horse and makes a move on Al-Hattal. Our heroes win the race!

Frank returns to America just as the American military is rounding up all the Native’s mustangs, with the intention of shooting them. The Native chief from earlier in the movie who had motivated Frank has sadly passed, but had mentioned the plight to Frank and Buffalo Bill. Frank has one more dispatch; the price for the mustangs has been paid in full [the large prize money]. The mustangs are set free, and Frank lets Hidalgo go. The film finishes by stating that Frank Hopkins was “an outspoken activist for the wild mustang until his death in 1951 at 86 years old.”

I still enjoy the movie. It is very roughly based on some true events, but it is ultimately a story that we want to have happened. We love when an underdog triumphs; we want Hidalgo to beat all those pure bred horses and prove everyone wrong. Viggo was amazing. He learned Elvish for Lord of the Rings and he has a similar quality when speaking the Sioux language.

Next Time: Time to start some romantic movies. First, a few with a more historical base, starting with Shakespeare in Love.