I've moved bookishwhimsy.com to tumblr! This blog is now an archive of my past posts.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year in Review - 2015

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

My blogging and reading for this year did slow down a bit.  I read 58 books this year (last year it was 81), and I also changed up my blogging schedule from four posts a week to three near the end of the year.  Although next year, I might bring it back up to four.  There were multiple things I think that led to this - new projects that I got into - like being in the Truthwitch Street Team.  It was totally worth it though.  I got to know some truly wonderful bloggers, and it was fun competing for the prizes, and just being a part of the Truthwitch-y community.  I'm really going to miss my Water Clan shenanigans, but I know I'll keep in touch with the Waterwitch Babes for a long time.

For my 2015 year in review, I'm highlighting two top reads for me:
Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: Wrap-Up

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In January, I started this challenge to watch all 25 of AFI's Greatest Musicals, and I'm so happy to say that I finished!  Just barely though - I watched the number one musical on December 20th.  As part of the challenge though, I wanted to take another look at AFI's list and put them in my own order of what I think was the best, now that I've seen them all.  


The AFI Top 25 List Bookish Whimsy's Top 25
1. Singin' in the Rain (1952) 1. The Sound of Music (1965)
2. West Side Story (1961) 2. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
3. The Wizard of Oz (1939) 3. Mary Poppins (1964)
4. The Sound of Music (1965) 4. Chicago (2002)
5. Cabaret (1972) 5. An American in Paris (1951)
6. Mary Poppins (1964) 6. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
7. A Star Is Born (1954) 7. Show Boat (1936)
8. My Fair Lady (1964) 8. Top Hat (1935)
9. An American in Paris (1951) 9. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
10. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) 10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
11. The King and I (1956) 11. On the Town (1949)
12. Chicago (2002) 12. Funny Girl (1968)
13. 42nd Street (1933) 13. A Star Is Born (1954)
14. All That Jazz (1979) 14. My Fair Lady (1964)
15. Top Hat (1935) 15. West Side Story (1961)
16. Funny Girl (1968) 16. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
17. The Band Wagon (1953) 17. The King and I (1956)
18. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) 18. Grease (1978)
19. On the Town (1949) 19. Guys and Dolls (1955)
20. Grease (1978) 20. The Band Wagon (1953)
21. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) 21. 42nd Street (1933)
22. Beauty and the Beast (1991) 22. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
23. Guys and Dolls (1955) 23. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
24. Show Boat (1936) 24. Cabaret (1972)
25. Moulin Rouge! (2001) 25. All That Jazz (1979)

The first five and the last five were the easiest to order for me - but my choices are really going off on personal preferences.  Although I really think The Sound of Music is just the best musical - it has so much going for it!

I feel like I have a better appreciation for movie musicals after this project too.  Before this, I mostly just stuck with the films that I felt like I would love, so this challenge has made me branch out with the benefit that I appreciate more some musicals that I didn't think was that great before, like "West Side Story" and "Grease".  However I've also found out "Cabaret" is still disappointing, and I don't even want to remember "All That Jazz".  I'm most grateful though that this challenge has given me one new musical song that is just an absolute favorite of mine now - "Can't Help Lovin Dat Man" from Show Boat.  I still have it on my favorites playlist!

Next year I plan to do another version of this challenge - with films that I'm picking mostly because I haven't seen them yet, or because they deserve recognition.  I'll be posting about it sometime next month, so watch out for that!
Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: Singin' in the Rain

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 1 is the 1952 film Singin' in the Rain starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor.

I made it to through the list! And I had this delightful film to reward me.  I am very happy that Singin' in the Rain made the top of the AFI list, because it is such a wonderful musical movie.  The numbers are catchy, the dancing is excellent, and the story is full of humor and romance.  And it has Gene Kelly. :D  I love this film, so let's explore why it made the top spot.

It's interesting that a film with quite a simple story is just so good.  It's a look at the move from silent film to talking pictures, it's a romance between a movie star and a budding actress, and it's a light-hearted romp with three very likable characters.  The story may be simple, but the script is clever and entertaining from the first scenes.  The montage of Don Lockwood and his friend Cosmo's childhood which paints a very different story to how Don is telling it, is so humorous and wonderfully done.  And it exudes character.  You understand them completely from just the first few minutes.  Even with Lina Lamont, who doesn't do too much right away nor does she speak, but you know what kind of person she is from just one scene.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: West Side Story

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 2 is the 1961 film West Side Story starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer.

I tried to watch West Side Story once upon a time, and it did not go well.  I gave up when it got to the school dance scene.  For some reason, I was just so bored.  But now, with watching it for Movie Musical Challenge, I don't know if it's because I had to watch it, or because I have more of an appreciation for movie musicals having watched the previous 23 films on the list - but I watched the whole thing, and found it engrossing!  It's a complete turnaround for me.

As I'm sure most people know, the story is a take on Romeo and Juliet, and with that, I was interested in seeing the parallels, and in how they would adapt certain things.  Especially Juliet's "death".  I mean Maria's.  For such a different setting and character background, the story was very true to Shakespeare's and I really appreciated how well written this musical is.  It's very wordy, and the lyrics are beautiful.

The film is remarkable in other ways too.  The style is very unique to the story - with the choreography being so integral to the look and feel, and the aesthetic of the set is sometimes true to the setting of New York City, but sometimes feels very stagey and unrealistic.  And there's this flashing of red at times that is a little disconcerting.  There is also an interesting blend of dance styles and music genres to makes this film especially striking.

I do have to say that I don't love this film.  It's very well done, it has an excellent score, and a dynamic plot - but I just can't get over how sad it all is, and how pointless.  But the sadder thing perhaps, is just how much I can understand why the characters acted the way they did, and how hard it was for them to change things, and change their lives.  The ending was so tragic, and I feel like I can never love this film because it is so utterly heartbreaking.  However, for my favorite scene in the movie, it is probably the "America" song scene, but my favorite song is "Somewhere."

The actors are amazing, and everything just works with this musical.  There is also a very timely, and still relatable theme of cultural prejudice and racism, that was kind of surprising to see, but only because it felt so contemporary, and it's chilling to see how much hasn't changed about that.  The way the police officers favored the white gang was particularly disturbing.  Perhaps there are some numbers that I wouldn't mind if the story dropped, but other than that I really can't fault this movie.  I can definitely understand why it's so close to the top.
Sunday, December 27, 2015

Suspense Sundays (179) The Night Before Christmas

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"The Night Before Christmas"
Air date: December 21, 1953
Starring Greer Garson
>>Episodes here<<

Young Cathy is eager for her parents to come home from their trip abroad.  On the day they are supposed to return, the housekeeper, who is caring for Cathy, tries to distract her with other things.  It seems her parents aren't home yet. Time goes by, but Cathy is still waiting for her parents.  The plane that her parents were on, went missing in a storm.

This is a Christmas Suspense story, so the question of whether or not the parents are dead, is not even an issue, since of course Suspense wouldn't put out such a depressing episode on Christmas! It was just a matter of time til the parents showed up.  So while this is a sweet story, I feel like there is very little substance to it - it's just a little sad for the girl waiting.  There is a nice reading of the "The Night Before Christmas" in the story though, to get one properly in the holiday mood!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Songs Book Tag

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you are having a lovely day with family and friends.  And I wish everyone a very Happy New Year!  Thank you for being wonderful and brilliant blogger friends.

When I saw this book tag on Quinn's Book Nook, I knew it would be perfect for my Christmas day post.  This tag was created by Jana at The Artsy Reader Girl.


1. "All I Want for Christmas Is You" - Name your favorite bookish couple.


Jane & Rochester of course! (Hee, your post made me want to find a cute kissy gif too, Quinn!)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Making Waves (15)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Making Waves is a weekly question feature created by the Waterwitch Babes (part of Susan Dennard's Truthwitch Street Team). Every Thursday, we’ll have a fun question that all are welcome to answer on their blog. The questions will be random and/or relate to the upcoming book Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. A linky is provided so that everyone can link up their post and participate in the fun! 

To participate we do ask that you use the Making Waves banner in your post and link back to the Waterwitch Babes blog.


Question 15: #TruthwitchParty!

In a little over a week Truthwitch is released to the world!  It's kind of crazy for me to think that after all this time I've spent thinking and talking about this book, it's finally going to be out there!  And I so want everyone to love it - please love it! :D  Since it's nearing the end of our street team shenanigans, our final team project is to create some things for a Truthwitch Release Party.  I have a few ideas so let's start with the first - some temporary tattoos representing the elemental clans:

Get the high-res, downloadable file here!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: Fairest

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Fairest (Lunar Chronicles #3.5)
by Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Review:

As much as I wanted to read Winter right after I finished Cress, reading about Levana's backstory was very interesting, and did help flesh out the world of the Lunar Chronicles much more.  It's hard to think that Levana from what we have come to know about her in the previous three books, could be in any way sympathetic, but the author does give that to her in Fairest.  But, it's still true to the character we have seen now, because Levana is not a complete innocent, and her skewed morality becomes increasingly off-kilter as the story proceeds.  It's a fascinating character study, and a completely believable origin story for a villain.

Fairest also introduces a character I absolutely loved - Evret Hayle.  Of course Levana also loved him, and that love was not conducive to his health at all.  I thought that slow downward spiral into which Levana's obsession takes her life as well as his, was just so well written, and ultimately tragic because it did seem that Levana and Evret had good intentions.  It just went so wrong.  Evret was a wonderful character though - so honorable, noble and kind.  Despite what Levana puts him through.

This is a short story, but so much detail was packed into it - finding out more about Levana's family, about what happened that led to Cinder's story in the first book, and about how Winter must have grown up, just made this series richer, and I'm sure will make the last book an even better reading experience.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: Valour and Vanity

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories #4)
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Historical Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Acclaimed fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal has enchanted many fans with her beloved novels featuring a Regency setting in which magic--known here as glamour--is real. In Valour and Vanity, master glamourists Jane and Vincent find themselves in the sort of a magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote Ocean's Eleven.

After Melody's wedding, the Ellsworths and Vincents accompany the young couple on their tour of the continent. Jane and Vincent plan to separate from the party and travel to Murano to study with glassblowers there, but their ship is set upon by Barbary corsairs while en route. It is their good fortune that they are not enslaved, but they lose everything to the pirates and arrive in Murano destitute.

Jane and Vincent are helped by a kind local they meet en route, but Vincent is determined to become self-reliant and get their money back, and hatches a plan to do so. But when so many things are not what they seem, even the best laid plans conceal a few pitfalls. The ensuing adventure is a combination of the best parts of magical fantasy and heist novels, set against a glorious Regency backdrop.

Review:

Jane and Vincent have to be one of my favorite fictional couples EVER.  There's something about the two of them together that makes me all melty inside.  They are just perfect.  And in this book, their relationship takes a strain but that only makes them stronger.  It's wonderful!

The story has the premise of Jane Austen meets Ocean's Eleven.  The Regency romance aspect recedes into the background when the Vincents are taken advantage of by some unscrupulous thieves and they have to find a way to get back their money.  The story takes an unexpected darker turn when the Vincents are faced with poverty and hardship, and I have to say it was difficult to read through that section.  I thought it was also painful to see Vincent's pride take such a blow and how difficult it was for him to bear it.  But with Jane's help he was able to overcome his depression.  It was truly glorious to see how their hardship made them a closer and more loving couple.

With the darker turn the story took, it just made the 'heist' near the end even more satisfying.  It had all the ups and downs and suspenseful moments to make it a perfectly unputodownable read.  I really can not get enough of how varied this series is - and this installment was full of excitement and drama.  It's a fantastic continuation of Jane and Vincent's relationship, a thrilling adventure read, and completely satisfying.  So far, this is my favorite book in the series!
Monday, December 21, 2015

The Sound of Music Live - U.K. Edition

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

I literally found out that the U.K. TV station called ITV was doing a live TV special of The Sound of Music the day before it aired!  So yesterday, I set up my tunnelbear and watched through the ITV player and absolutely loved it!  How is it that England does things better?

Sooo... my initial impression when watching it was of the set design. Obviously that promo image I have illustrating this post, does not do it justice.  It was actually hard sometimes to believe that this was a live production.  The set design and the lighting were beautiful.  It looked very natural at times.  With the economy of sets too, it still seemed believable that we were in different buildings or outside.  They didn't really have a good hillside set-piece though, but then again that would have been very difficult.  It was miles and miles above what the NBC live version of The Sound of Music achieved.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Suspense Sundays (178) The Leading Citizen of Pratt County

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"The Leading Citizen of Pratt County"
Air date: May 30, 1946
Starring Alan Hale
>>Episodes here<<

A man is kicked out of his friend's car because he gambled away their money, and he winds up in the middle of nowhere - aka Pratt County.  He's mostly intent just on getting out, but when he hears that the city of Prattsville once raised $50,000 to divert water to their town, but had to cancel the plan because it would have dried up the valley, he gets and idea.  He becomes Professor Witherspoon, a geology surveyor, and ready to see if the river is ready to be diverted so many years later.  His con job becomes difficult though, when the son of one of the families comes home from college.


The title of this episode just screams interesting, right?  /sarcasm.  This is more of a light-hearted Suspense story, with a good old twist thrown in at the end.  It is interesting that it is given away so early that Witherspoon makes his con successful since he's the 'leading citizen', so the real interest in the story is twist.  And I think it's a satisfying one.  Satisfying because everything works out for the best, and because it was completely unexpected.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Making Waves (14) with a Giveaway!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Making Waves is a weekly question feature created by the Waterwitch Babes (part of Susan Dennard's Truthwitch Street Team). Every Thursday, we’ll have a fun question that all are welcome to answer on their blog. The questions will be random and/or relate to the upcoming book Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. A linky is provided so that everyone can link up their post and participate in the fun! 

To participate we do ask that you use the Making Waves banner in your post and link back to the Waterwitch Babes blog.


Question 14: Happy Holidays! Feature something holiday and Truthwitch themed!

The street team currently had a challenge to recreate the Truthwitch cover using any medium, and I decided to tie that in with this week's Making Waves post.  I'm sorry I have to subject you to my drawing skills, but I hope you will enjoy my rendition of the Truthwitch cover with Santa Safi! :D

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review: The Brontë Plot

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Brontë Plot
by Katherine Reay
Contemporary
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious measures to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy's secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt, and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.

In a sudden turn of events, James's wealthy grandmother Helen hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy's predicament better than anyone else.

As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen's wisdom, as Helen confronts the ghosts of her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters' beloved heroines, who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of change.

Now Lucy must go back into her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that's been waiting for her all along.

Review:

My thoughts on this novel are lukewarm, even though it has a good message, and some strong, likable characters.  The wise, regretful Helen was delightful as a character and I could definitely see the parallels between her and Helen Burns from Jane Eyre,  as Lucy's guide to self-discovery.  The shop owner Sid, is also a great secondary character - quirky, talented and nurturing, and I think his own story and perspective would make a great novel.

The main character Lucy is interesting.  She is most definitely a flawed character, with something to learn during the course of the narrative, but I found it hard to really empathize with her.  She does something that she knows is wrong, and I found it difficult to understand why she didn't feel the need to make things right immediately, especially when she loses someone close to her because of it.  It's her main journey in the story, and it goes back to family and understanding her past, but I thought it was all a bit convoluted for her to find it in herself to do the right thing.  The pace of the story felt slow to me as well (perhaps because I thought Lucy moved too slowly to make some of her realizations) and that affected my enjoyment of the novel considerably.  I often wanted to hurry things along.

Although the title of the book references the Brontës, there are many literary references in the story, of different authors, and while I can see that the Brontë spirit is what ultimately inspires Lucy, I think the fact that the novel incorporates such love of literature is what makes it more memorable to a reader who delights in those kinds of references.  Lucy obviously loves books, and that is also very appealing to me.

The setting of the novel moves from Chicago to London and Haworth, and the armchair travel aspect of the story enlivens it a little, especially since I've been to London and Haworth and love those places.  The story is a quiet drama of self-discovery, repentance and redemption, and I was happy with the way the story ended even if it took awhile for Lucy to truly understand her mistakes.
Sunday, December 13, 2015

Suspense Sundays (177) Post Mortem

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"Post Mortem"
Air date: April 4, 1946
Starring Agnes Moorehead
>>Episodes here<<

Mrs. Josie Archer is happily married to her new husband Steven.  Josie is recently widowed - her husband died suddenly, and not long after Josie married his best friend - Steven.  One morning, reporters descend on Mrs. Archer née Mead because she has just won a major sweepstakes.  She was unaware that a ticket was bought, so it must have been by her husband in her name.  But she has no idea where the ticket is because she hasn't come across it and she went through all his things.  Oh hold on, she has an idea - it must have been in his new blue suit.  Which he was buried in.

The story is an interesting blend of dark humor and suspense - since Josie's first husband is dug up, and Josie is not as upset about it as she should have been.  There's a lot of rationalization that her dead husband would have wanted her to have that money.  But the suspense comes in when he is dug up and there is a surprise she didn't expect.  This was a great episode - Agnes Moorehead in particular is very memorable as Josie.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Making Waves (13)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Making Waves is a weekly question feature created by the Waterwitch Babes (part of Susan Dennard's Truthwitch Street Team). Every Thursday, we’ll have a fun question that all are welcome to answer on their blog. The questions will be random and/or relate to the upcoming book Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. A linky is provided so that everyone can link up their post and participate in the fun! 

To participate we do ask that you use the Making Waves banner in your post and link back to the Waterwitch Babes blog.


Question 13: Cover love!  What do you love about any or all the Truthwitch covers so far?


There have been three Truthwitch covers revealed so far.  The first one in the image above is the U.S. one, the second image is the U.K. version, and the last one is sadly only for the U.K. ARC.

The U.S. version: I think for marketing purposes, this is the best cover for the book (also probably my favorite).  I love the way the girl is perched on the rock, with two swords, just waiting for someone to make their move.  It's a powerful stance, made even more so, by the arcing water around her that hints at magic.  There is also the ship in the background, and the foreboding sky that gives so much atmosphere to the cover.

The U.K. version: The one thing I love about this cover is the font - it is so pretty for the U.K. version.  I think the gold and the blue is striking too, although silver and blue look more harmonious.

The U.K. ARC: I'm a waterwitch on the Truthwitch street team, and this cover features the symbol that represents water, so I very much love that.  The cover is simple but striking and the font works even better in that blue color in my opinion.  Also with the flourishes because it looks like waves of water.  I really wish the U.K. book had this cover actually!

Which cover do you prefer?

Next week's question:
Happy Holidays! Feature something holiday and Truthwitch themed!


Link up!
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review: Without a Summer

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories #3)
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Historical Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane Ellsworth and Vincent. In Without a Summer the master glamourists return home, but in a world where magic is real, nothing—even the domestic sphere—is quite what it seems.

Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane’s family, but quickly turn restless. The year is unseasonably cold. No one wants to be outside and Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a bad one may imperil Melody’s dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given the inadequate selection of eligible bachelors. When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent family in London, they decide to take it, and take Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects—and mood—will be brighter in London.

Once there, talk is of nothing but the crop failures caused by the cold and increased unemployment of the coldmongers, which have provoked riots in several cities to the north. With each passing day, it’s more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, none of which really helps Melody’s chances for romance. It’s not long before Jane and Vincent realize that in addition to getting Melody to the church on time, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of international proportions.

Review:

In the first book of this series, I was initially drawn to Jane because she was such a logical, practical thinker, and not afraid to do what needed to be done.  In this book, that aspect of her personality gets lost a little.  I suppose it does make sense if you think of how she is now in London which is a more progressive place than her home village, but I feel like Jane makes way too many mistakes in this story that had me a little disappointed in her.  But the plot of this book made up for a lot of that.

Unexpectedly, a truly despicable villain is introduced, there is a court room drama, and the story gets darker when things take a turn for the worse for Jane and Vincent.  This series really is leaving behind the Austen atmosphere, as revolution, imprisonment, prejudice and racism become important parts of the story.  And that addition of realism and social justice just makes the world and the character-building stronger.  Jane and Vincent are growing as characters and as a married couple, and to see how they deal with the issues that come up made me more invested in their dynamic (as if I didn't love them enough as a couple!) and in their plight as they both face some serious consequences to their actions.  The story does take awhile to really get going, but the ending is fast-paced, exciting and suspenseful.

Because of the initial slow pacing and my disappointment at times with Jane, I feel like this is not as strong of a novel as the previous two, but there are some great elements, some truly wonderful interactions between Jane and Vincent, and the opportunity to learn more about Vincent and his family.  It's interesting how gradually the reader is getting to know and understand Vincent more with each book.  This series is the best!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Thoughts on The Wiz Live!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Last week, NBC presented it's third live musical with The Wiz, starring Shanice Williams, David Alan Grier, Elijah Kelley, and Ne-Yo.  Compared to last year's presentation of Peter Pan, there was quite a few differences in the way this musical was made.  And the biggest difference for me, was the fact that everyone in the show was talented enough to hold their own in the acting and singing departments.  Wow, it can be done!  Because of that, there was no tongue-in-cheek aspect with the production, where they were self-aware that it was not very good.  And while it is fun to sort of laugh along with how bad it can be, I am much happier with admiring the performances of the actors, and of how they managed to bring these characters to life.  Another difference was in the set, which felt more like a stage - giant screens in the back showed the Kansas landscape, the tornado, and the fantastical landscapes of Oz and there was other stylized staging.  In a way it seems like they might have given the show a smaller budget this year, but also it works because building such fantastical settings might have been too overwhelming.  But the show definitely felt more like a live stage musical.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Suspense Sundays (176) Your Devoted Wife

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"Your Devoted Wife"
Air date: June 20, 1946
Starring June Duprez
>>Episodes here<<

A husband and wife board a train for an overnight trip to Chicago.  Mrs. Thornton privately warns the porter that if her husband does anything out of the ordinary to let her know because he is ... insane.  But the listener of the show can see that there is something else going on between the Thorntons, and perhaps Mr. Thornton's wife is not so devoted to him.

This episode is pretty unpredictable in the way it progresses.  Mrs. Thornton is very suspicious of course, but there is something odd about Mr. Thornton as well.  This episode was also interesting for how it portrayed the bickering Thorntons - they were outwardly overly polite with each other, but there's always this undercurrent of threat in the way they talk to each other.  It's very well done.  As is the twist in the end!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Making Waves (12)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Making Waves is a weekly question feature created by the Waterwitch Babes (part of Susan Dennard's Truthwitch Street Team). Every Thursday, we’ll have a fun question that all are welcome to answer on their blog. The questions will be random and/or relate to the upcoming book Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. A linky is provided so that everyone can link up their post and participate in the fun! 

To participate we do ask that you use the Making Waves banner in your post and link back to the Waterwitch Babes blog.


Question 12: Share your song playlist or Pinterest board/ tumblr aesthetic for Truthwitch

One of the activities we were asked to do for the Truthwitch street team was to make something about Truthwitch, and I decided to go with creating a Truthwitch-related Pinterest board, because Pinterest is always fun.  Well except when every other pin in my feed is one of their 'related pins', and I keep deleting and saying I don't want them, but it does no good because they keep showing up.... Anyways.

Actually Pinterest is great, and I had fun putting together these images that I feel represent Iseult - one of the main characters from Truthwitch.  And a character I really identified with for her practical, logical nature and her wanting to feel like she belongs.  Some of my pins also represents the novel's settings, which are very vivid in my mind, and I'm glad to have found some great pictures to represent them.




Next week's question:
Cover love!  What do you love about any or all the Truthwitch covers so far?


Link up!
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Star Trek VOY Season 6 - Top 5 Favorite Episodes

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Voyager! I'm still watching Star Trek, even if I haven't done an update on the season for awhile.  I did finish the sixth season of Voyager awhile ago, and am just now getting around to writing my recap for it.  Which I really shouldn't do since my memory is a little hazy on overall thoughts on the season.  Looking at my list of episodes though, I'm reminded of one thing that I absolutely loved about this season - Michael Sullivan.  But I'll gush more about him when I get to talking about his episode.

5. Pathfinder


Lieutenant Barclay is working hard to find a way to bring Voyager home, and with the help of his trusty Voyager holodeck program and the counsel of Troi, he's working through a solution.  There's so many things to love about this episode - the appearance of Barclay (who's just so lovable!) and Troi, the altered view of the Voyager crew as seen through Barclay's holodeck program, and the fact that we get more of a glimpse into what it's like being a part of Starfleet, outside of the missions into space.  I really like that they included Tom Paris's father as well - so the audience can understand more about Tom.  Although it does seem like they are softening the antagonism between Tom and his father - I really can't see why Tom found him so insufferable.
Sunday, November 29, 2015

Suspense (175) Out of Control

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"Out of Control"
Air date: March 28, 1946
Starring Brian Donlevy
>>Episodes here<<

A detective, who is blind, overhears a conversation between a woman and a man who is trying to blackmail her.  He hears her offer to pay him off, but to stay at her cabin in the woods so that her husband won't run into him.  The next day the detective hears from the woman that the man got into an accident and was killed.  The woman might be under suspicion except the man was killed minutes before she got the phone call, and the woman was with the detective the whole time.  The detective puts his uncanny reasoning and hearing ability to work.

When I was in high school I particularly remember reading one of those five minute mystery books where you can try to solve it at the end, and the solution to the mystery presented in this Suspense episode takes off from one of those stories.  I don't know why I always remembered the solution (which concerns ice).  I think it's really clever, so I suppose this episode has that going for it, even if I thought the whole "blind" detective a little heavy handed.  The detective kept mentioning how because he was blind, he did not succumb to the apparently extraordinary beauty of this cunning woman.  You'd think not all seeing men would be so dumb?


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Making Waves (11)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Making Waves is a weekly question feature created by the Waterwitch Babes (part of Susan Dennard's Truthwitch Street Team). Every Thursday, we’ll have a fun question that all are welcome to answer on their blog. The questions will be random and/or relate to the upcoming book Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. A linky is provided so that everyone can link up their post and participate in the fun! 

To participate we do ask that you use the Making Waves banner in your post and link back to the Waterwitch Babes blog.


Question 11: Susan Dennard Gratitude Post - Why do you appreciate Susan as an author or her work?

I think I first became aware of Susan Dennard through her close friendship with Sarah J. Maas.  I remember the first time I saw Sarah at a book signing for Crown of Midnight, someone gave her a photo with Sooz and Sarah's faces imposed over jaeger pilots from the film Pacific Rim, and Sarah could not have been more delighted.  It was so cute.  And then I heard more and more about their silly, fun, and loving friendship and as so many people have said on social media - friendship goals.  So when I heard that Susan was looking for Truthwitch street team members, I read about the book, thought it sounded AMAZING, and decided to sign up.

Since doing that, I've gotten to know so much more about Susan Dennard.  I finally read Something Strange and Deadly (the rest of the series will be read soon!), I've pored over her website which is chock full of goodies for readers and writers, and of course I've seen her on social media.  And for her work, I just love how dedicated an author she is - how she imparts that to other aspiring authors with her advice and her encouragement.  And having read both Something Strange and Deadly and Truthwitch (the review of Truthwitch will go up around the end of December - I'm still tweaking it!) I think she's an amazingly talented writer with such a knack for creating complex, fun characters who act very dynamically together.  And her stories are full of suspense and adventure.  I think she's awesome through and through!

Next week's question:
Share your song playlist or pinterest board/ tumblr aesthetic for Truthwitch


Link up!
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Glamour in Glass

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories #2)
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Historical Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey , a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel.

Glamour in Glass continues following the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue.In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent’s concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon...to escaping it. Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison...and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country's war.

Review:

After reading Shades of Milk and Honey, and being so enamored of the world and the romance the author created, I was eager to dive into this second book.  And it continues the story from the first, but in tone and plot, it's a very different kind of story and series.  Where Shades of Milk and Honey is a wonderfully told romance and character piece, Glamour in Glass is more of an adventure, with intrigue and a war looming.  I loved the change in tone, and seeing the protagonists - Jane and Vincent - as heroes who can use magic to defeat their enemies.  It's such an interesting change to the dynamic of the series, but it totally works for me because Jane and Vincent are still these wonderful people I enjoy getting to know.

I will say though, that with the first book, I just adored Jane's good sense and practical nature, but in this, there were times when Jane veered a little from that side of her.  It's a little disappointing, but it did seem necessary to move the story along.  However, Jane is still a strong character, and I love that she feels like a realistic feminist character for the time.  She embraces the role society places on her, but she always does what needs to be done, no matter her restraints.

When it comes to characters though, Vincent was the subtle stand out.  The reader only sees him through Jane's eyes, and in the second book we get to know him better, just as Jane has gotten to know him.  He really didn't figure prominently in the first book, but here we delve more into his character.  And I absolutely love him.  He's reticent, socially awkward, but he has manners when he needs to use them, an enthusiasm for his work which is catching, and for me, a compelling brooding quality which I love to see in all my favorite male characters.  And the way Jane and Vincent act together as a married couple is sooo romantic.  It makes my sappy romantic heart soar.

This book encompasses a little revised history, intrigue, danger, and a very suspenseful conclusion, along with these wonderful characters. This is now becoming a favorite series of mine.  I still haven't finished the series, but with the romance and suspense, and the setting of Regency Europe, I'm utterly bewitched by this series!
Monday, November 23, 2015

Gene Kelly: The Legacy

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

You may have seen from posts in the past, that I'm a huge fan of Gene Kelly.  His musicals uplifted me during a time when I was feeling very fed up and stressed with work and to come home to watch one of his musicals was such a relief.   At the time, I needed to escape into something happy, light-hearted and beautiful, and Gene Kelly's films were that for me.  So yesterday, when I want to see the one woman show Gene Kelly: The Legacy which was presented by Patricia Ward Kelly,  Gene's widow, it was such a momentous and moving experience.  Her show is a brilliant encapsulation of all that Gene has done in his career, and the intimate setting of Patricia Kelly presenting clips and talking about Gene's behind the scenes experiences made her portrait of him so very poignant and touching.  Gene Kelly's legacy is undeniably incredible.
Sunday, November 22, 2015

Suspense Sundays (174) Crime Without Passion

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"Crime Without Passion"
Air date: May 2, 1946
Starring Joseph Cotten
>>Episodes here<<

Lou Hendrix is having an argument with his "girl" who is angry at him for giving her the brushoff.  Lou is no longer interested in her, and is amused at how furious she is.  Until she starts throwing things at him and Lou gets angry too.  So angry that he hits her with a candlestick.  He's appalled at murdering her, but because he's a well-to-do criminal lawyer he immediately works on creating an alibi.  He sets up that he was in a movie theater - he talks to people to let them know how he was unavailable during the time the murder happened because he was in a theater.  And he makes it seem like the girl was seeing someone else besides him.  All that is undone in a moment when someone says they saw Lou enter the movie theater just before the movie finished.

Well Lou is quite the nasty character.  He seems very urbane, but underneath that he is just so calculating and cruel.  This episode was intriguing just to know how Lou's work would be undone (because of course, he can't get away with his dastardly plan!) but it was really a surprise when another twist turned up in the end, with the ironic justice that was due.  I really enjoyed this episode!
Thursday, November 19, 2015

Making Waves (10)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Making Waves is a weekly question feature created by the Waterwitch Babes (part of Susan Dennard's Truthwitch Street Team). Every Thursday, we’ll have a fun question that all are welcome to answer on their blog. The questions will be random and/or relate to the upcoming book Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. A linky is provided so that everyone can link up their post and participate in the fun! 

To participate we do ask that you use the Making Waves banner in your post and link back to the Waterwitch Babes blog.


Question 10: Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?  How has your experience been so far?

I'm not participating, because I find writing very painful LOL.  Although there is a book that I've been lightly toying with writing - only because it's the kind of book I would like to read, and I haven't really found it yet.  I would love to do a modern update on Jane Eyre (surprise surprise, it would be an update on that book).  I want it to be pretty faithful to the original, but also believable which is so hard to do.  I think that's why there are so many misses for me in some of the modern JE retellings.  It's Mr. Rochester's secret that is so hard to get down.  I'm still trying to think of a believable way that keeps him from divorce.  Oh well.

I hope everyone who is participating with Nano is doing great - there's still so much time left in the month, so I wish everyone luck in reaching their writing goals!  As everyone should know, Making Waves is a feature that came about because of being a part of Susan Dennard's street team, and I think it's perfect here to mention just how helpful her blog and newsletter is for writing advice.  You can find a lot of her advice by visiting her website here.


Next week's question: 
Susan Dennard Gratitude Post - Why do you appreciate Susan as an author or her work?

Link up!
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: The Wizard of Oz

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 3 is the classic film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland and three lovable character actors.  Oh and a dog!

It's been a very long time since I watched The Wizard of Oz.  And you know what I realized watching it again now?  It's really good.  I forgot!  Not like 'better-than-The-Sound-of-Music-good, let's not get crazy, but totally deserving of the number 3 spot.

I want to take a moment to talk about Judy Garland.  When I started my Gene Kelly obsession a few years ago, I also started seeing more of Judy Garland since he did three films with her.  (Summer Stock is my fave of the three he did with her btw).  And also with this challenge, I've seen Judy in two more films, so I felt like I was pretty familiar with her as an actress, but I never really fell in love with her in a way that made me want to see more of her films.  But now watching The Wizard of Oz again after so many years, I get the obsession with her.  It's first of all startling to see her so young and innocent, but then again she's also so perfect in the role.  So effervescent and yet quintessentially Judy.  And her voice is amazing.  I got chills when "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" started.  It's perhaps most intriguing now to watch this and look back on her other films to see how she developed as an actress.  Of course there's a lot of tragedy there too, but with The Wizard of Oz at least, you know that she is what she seems on screen.  And all of that innocence and sense of wonder is glorious in the film.  Judy is just captivating as Dorothy.

I remembered that the three farm hands in the beginning would make an appearance in Dorothy's "dream" as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, but I forgot how much it's foreshadowed by their dialogue and actions in Kansas.  I thought that was fun - and it reminded me of how they do a similar thing in the musical Wicked.  Great tie-in to the film, Wicked!  The three actors (despite all the agonies that apparently went on with the costumes and the filming) are exceedingly likable and really provide so much heart to the story.  It's been even longer since I read the Baum book, but from what I gather, they really simplified the story of the film to make it about Dorothy's self-discovery about the importance of home, and the three characters as her companions and friends were just so sweet.

Probably if I had to pick a favorite scene it would be the Somewhere Over the Rainbow sequence, although I have a very soft spot for the Tin Man's "If I Only Had a Heart" song.  I've always liked his version of the song the best.  It's the romantic in me I guess.

This film is lyrical in it's construction, wonderful in all it's technicolor glory, with some truly inspiring performances from the entire cast.  I can't believe it's taken me so long to rediscover my appreciation for this lovely film, despite how deeply embedded it is in pop culture.

Now it will be even more interesting to watch the live musical of The Wiz that NBC is putting on next month.  (I've never really liked The Wiz though)
Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1)
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Fantasy/Historical Romance
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

This debut novel from an award-winning talent scratches a literary itch you never knew you had. Like wandering onto a secret picnic attended by Pride and Prejudice and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Shades of Milk and Honey is precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen…if only she had been a fantasy writer.

Review:

I have been meaning to read this book for so long, and now that I have finally gotten to it, I can't believe I didn't pick it up sooner, because it is wonderful.  It is so much like a Jane Austen novel with the time period, and the intimate way the reader looks into the life and emotions of the main character Jane Ellsworth.  And what a character Jane Ellsworth is.  I so identified with her hopes and dreams and her down to earth, practical nature.  She's caring and devoted to her family, and to make up for her 'plainness' she has a talent for glamour that makes her stand out.  But she is always proper and honest and humble.  She is my favorite kind of heroine.

There are times when I read stories with heroines who have to make a decision and they make the wrong one, for reasons that are somewhat supported, but it's one of those moments when you want to shake the heroine for doing something stupid.  Things like not telling someone something important for instance.  And in every case where Jane could make that kind of a silly decision in this book - where she's afraid to say something because she's scared of the reaction or the consequences, she did not make the stupid decision.  Even if it was difficult for her to do what was right, she did it.  And it made me love her even more, because she felt so logical and real.  And that kind of a character very much appeals to me.

The romance aspect was the strongest part of this book, and it was glorious for me because it was a slow burn.  And it was unclear who exactly was interested in who.  When a romance starts with obvious attraction and hints as to who is going to get together from page one, it does get a bit predictable for me, I like a little more plot to be introduced beforehand.  But thankfully this was not the case with this book.  There was the character growth we needed to see from Jane to start, and then lots of romantic entanglements so that it was difficult to know how it would all end.  But it was resolved perfectly, with so much sighing and smiling on my part.  Jane Ellsworth deserved someone special and she got him.

This book is very light and entertaining.  The beauty of it is in the characterization and in the emotion.  While I think the rest of the series gets more exciting and adventurous, this first book is quietly sincere and a touching, lovely tribute to the magic of an Austen story.  With actual magic!
Sunday, November 15, 2015

Suspense Sundays (173) The Name of the Beast

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"The Name of the Beast"
Air date: April 11, 1946
Starring Vincent Price
>>Episodes here<<

James Dorrance is an artist who is keen to further his art.  He goes to a seedy bar and gets a model for his latest work.  The man sits for Dorrance, and then goes back home, with a promise to return again the next day to continue.  When he doesn't show up, Dorrance hunts him down and discovers that Elmer has committed a murder and is holed up in his apartment.  Dorrance is happy to help him get away with it, if he continues to sit for him.  Because Dorrance sees this as a great opportunity to paint something he's always wanted to capture on canvas - evil.

What I synopsized in the first paragraph is just a small tidbit of where this episode goes.  I already know I've come across a good Suspense episode when Vincent Price is starring (love him!), but this story takes some really weird and unexpected turns.  The artist is already off his rocker for wanting to paint a murderer - to the extent that he is willing to help him get away with it, and then Elmer is a piece of work himself.  But the big twist in the story revolves around someone else!  This was a very twisted story, with an ironic, and tragic twist.  It seems that Dorrance doesn't recognize evil when he sees it.
Friday, November 13, 2015

Move Musical Challenge: The Sound of Music

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 4 is the bestest, most glorious and awe-inspiring movie musical ever - The Sound of Music, released in 1965.  (Who me, biased?)

If you have not seen this movie before, there is nothing more important in your life than to go immediately to Amazon, or your local Target or wherever and pick up a copy.  You should buy it because you are going to love it.  It's 100% my favorite movie musical, and an amazing achievement in the genre.  Here's why:

--- Julie Andrews = BOSS ---
The character of Maria is the most important aspect of this movie.  Maria is the catalyst who every character falls in love with (well maybe except for the Baroness).  She has to carry the whole film on her sunshine-y shoulders and Julie Andrews is captivating.  She's full of determination, compassion and grace.  And loveliness - it's such a perfectly pitched performance - not too saccharine, because she knows when to fight back against the Captain, and yet she is the sweetest most understanding governess.  And what an amazing voice!  Her diction is so crystal clear, and her high notes are effortless.  It's enough to make me cry.   Julie Andrews is perfection in this film.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Making Waves (9)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Making Waves is a weekly question feature created by the Waterwitch Babes (part of Susan Dennard's Truthwitch Street Team). Every Thursday, we’ll have a fun question that all are welcome to answer on their blog. The questions will be random and/or relate to the upcoming book Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. A linky is provided so that everyone can link up their post and participate in the fun! 

To participate we do ask that you use the Making Waves banner in your post and link back to the Waterwitch Babes blog.


Question 9: Have you visited the new website TheWitchlands.com?  What are your impressions of it?

I've been a part of the Truthwitch Street Team for about... three months now, and it's been glorious to be a part of the launch of this book.  Just a couple of weeks ago, the official website for the series was revealed and it is my pleasure to gush about it to everyone.  ("Lots of gushing" is something I do on a daily basis, so it's not really a hardship.)

The layout of the site is wonderfully simple, but there are lots of fun things to explore.  I especially love the map, which has pop-ups of information about the different provinces (cities?) and there is also a quiz to see from which part of the Witchlands you hail from.  (I'm a proud Nubrevnan.)  There's a very special list of inventive curse words that Safi (the main character) uses, so obviously that is useful.  And the website design takes off from the gorgeous U.S. cover of the book, so of course it looks beautiful

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: Cabaret

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 5 is the 1972 musical Cabaret starring Liza Minelli and Joel Grey.

Confession - when I was in college, I was obsessed with the Broadway revival of Cabaret which starred Alan Cumming as the emcee.  I listened to the soundtrack lots, I may have acquired some footage of the production, I just loved it.  The tone, the approach, the update on the music, all worked for me, in a way that made, and still makes unfortunately, this movie musical a disappointment to me.  It's just too "seventies", I guess, to appeal to me as a realistically, gut-wrenching portrayal of these people who cling to their craft and their lifestyle in the face of such horrors.  And ultimately pay the price for it.  So everything in my review most likely reflects my inner comparison between the revival and this version.  But it was interesting for me to watch this movie, knowing I love the story and the music, but I just don't really like how they brought it to life in the movie.

The casting of this movie was great generally though.  Liza Minelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey bring the characters to life wonderfully.  I do kind of wish there was more for Joel Grey to do too - he's really a wonderful actor.  The part where I'm a little iffy on this movie though, is in the editing.  It's very abrupt, there's lots of weird close-ups, and an artsy way of shooting people who are completely, unnaturally still.  I think a more realistic take on the story, would have been much more effective.  The songs that are sung in the cabaret sometimes reflect what's happening in the plot, and the rising tension with the Nazis, so that is very clever, but again, I wasn't thrilled by how the scenes would move back and forth between the stage performance, and some shots of what was happening outside.  The story takes a nightclub and makes it a microcosm to reflect what is happening in the real world, but it all felt too choppy and artificial.  It was hard to really sympathize with the characters because of this.

In my mind, I'm also comparing this to Chicago, which I think also takes that sort of vague premise of looking at the world through the eyes of a performer/performance.  And Chicago is just so much slicker and full of more emotional impact for me.  I think this Cabaret is very much a product of it's time.

So in summary... meh.  I would really like to see a new version of this musical as a movie.  Preferably with Alan Cumming as the Emcee - I think it would come off as so much more devastating and darker if it was done now.  And it would be brilliant.  This is a great musical, but I really don't have a lot of love for the film.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: Mary Poppins

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 6 is the 1964 magical musical Mary Poppins starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

So many reasons to love this film.  For me, there are lots of sentimental ones of course, but objectively how can anyone not like this magical movie?  It's full of joy and heart and whimsical, clever songs.  Julie Andrews is utterly bewitching (and practically perfect) and even if people have a few disparaging words for Dick Van Dyke's accent, he's perfect as Bert - so charming, funny, relatable and kind.

Rewatching this film, I have a new appreciation for the children too - how wonderful are they in this film?  They are too cute, and mischievous and self-interested and so believable.

The reason that Mary Poppins is a film that resonates is that beneath the fantasy trappings, and the whimsical humor, the story is driven by the need for Mary Poppins to fix this family.  And there's such utter satisfaction and heart-warming joy in seeing how it all unfolds, even with the melancholic tinge of Mary leaving when her work is done.  I'm also a little obsessed with the dynamic between Mary and Bert which is so full of understanding as to be romantic, but they seem just the best of friends.  I'm glad there is ambiguity to it, because it makes their interactions all the more interesting.

As for my favorite scene - I really do love everything about this movie, but the scene that fills me with joy every single time is Jolly Holiday.  You guys, I love it so much!!  The song is just glorious, and the romp through an idyllic English countryside is everything I want my life to be!  Hmm, I wonder if this film had an bigger influence on me than I thought, as I am now always happy to go visit England...  I need to say though, that Feed the Birds is also a huge scene for me - the fact that it is about being kind, is so touching.  I love how it is worked into the film too - just to realize that Mary Poppins planted that song in the children's head to start a chain reaction of change in their father's life - oh my goodness.  This story is brilliant.

This film is absolutely deserving of a high position in the top 25 list, and everyone needs to have watched it.  Preferably when they were young, but it's never too late to let this magical film into your life.
Monday, November 9, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: A Star is Born

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 7 is the 1954 film A Star is Born starring Judy Garland and James Mason.

I initially had not heard of this film when I started this challenge, and knew nothing about the plot, so a quick google later, I found out that it is about a girl's rise to stardom, and her famous husband's decline.  So from that I knew that the story takes a darker turn in the end.  Which was important I think, because when I first started watching this, I couldn't see why this film was in the top 25, but by the end it is much clearer why.

I'll start at the beginning though.  Judy Garland and James Mason were so perfect in these roles.  Of course Judy would be - she has all the talent to portray a hard-working singer looking for (and deserving) a big break, but James Mason was such a stand out as well.  He's so charming and rakish, and unfortunately beset by alcoholism and issues of pride.  I wish there was a little more about why he was the way he was, but I suppose there are too many instances of men with these kinds of weaknesses, that the audience can fill in the gaps.

The story begins in a very heartwarmingly, romantic way, with Mason's character-  Norman Maine - captivated by Judy's character's (Esther) singing, and determined to give her a chance at the big time.  His belief in her, and his charm, makes it easy to see why she would fall in love with him.  And as for Esther, she is so kind and open-hearted and talented, that it was great to see Norman fall in love with her.