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Archive for the category “movies”

Stephenie McMillan Passed Away

I didn’t know her by name but when I read what she did I realized just how important she has been to the lives of all of us who love the Harry Potter movies.  She was the set decorator on all eight movies.  She is the one that made Harry’s world magical.  Ms. McMillan described what she did as a set decorator:

In an interview with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts last year, McMillan detailed her work flow — she’d read the script, make a list of all the different buildings and special props, guesstimate a budget and start her scavenger hunt.

(Click on the quote to take you to the LATimes obituary article.

Here is another quote from an article describing how she perceives what she does:

Set decorators are in charge of what is in the set from curtains, colouring and furniture to props used by actors and every detail within. Stephenie says that it doesn’t matter to her if you don’t see every detail or if it’s too dark to notice one of her intractably designed pieces in a set. The practise of designing and creating an atmosphere that is real and comfortable for all is more important than if it is seen by anybody. Stephenie’s main concern is the feeling of space and even if something isn’t seen it still adds feeling to the set.

Click on the above quote to take you to a very interesting article with photos of her work.

Her work on the films was and is inspirational.  Her work captured the spirit of the world that JK Rowling wrote about in concrete form – from the teacups used in Divination class to the wonderful chaos of the Weasley’s home to Dumbledore’s office and Snape’s Potions Class … all the details were put in place by Ms. McMillen and we thank you.


Netflix, meh…

So far I’m not impressed. I signed up for it last night and so far have only watched one show – a British documentary on the making of the animated film of Graham Chapman’s autobiography. I went on an mini-Elementary binge via the CBS App and watched the 4 full episodes they had over there. I did a prelim google search and thought that Netflix carried the rest of the shows (I wasn’t thinking straight – why would CBS release the shows season for streaming when they want to sell The DVDs that are about to hit the stores). Obviously they didn’t. I started searching for other things I would like to watch. Here is a partial list of movies and shows NOT available for streaming (some were available thru the mail on DVDs for another $8 fee!):

Big Bang Theory (will I ever see season 5?????)
Despicable Me
Iron Man
Avengers (the 2012 movie)
West Side Story
Anna and the King of Siam
Truly, Madly, Deeply
The King and I
Oklahoma Crude
Singing in the Rain
Sense and Sensibility
Chinese Take-away
Man Facing Southeast

No Downey Sherlock Holmes (altho they did have Scott’s They Might Be Giants), no Downey films worth watching except for Heart and Souls), five Viggo Mortensen films I had ever heard of and I am a fan, and really all in all kind of a let down. They did have a few Alan Rickman titles but uh not his best work by a long shot. I was hoping for Perfume and will have to settle for Bottle Shock… Perhaps my tastes are different than most, perhaps I was expecting too much. I may keep the service to watch the old Brit series and the Xfiles. Guess I’ll try Hulu next. I’ve read that ones best bet is to use both services. We will see …
I guess I’ll have to buy the Elementary DVDs to catch up on what I missed.

I am shallow…

…. and because I am shallow I read “Beautiful Creatures.” Shall I explain? I saw Jeremy Irons present a Golden Globe award. He looked mighty fine in his long coat. I have come to realize that I seem to have a weakness for slightly older British gentlemen. Anyway, because he looked good, I IMDB’d him to see what he was up to. I have long thought that Mr. Irons would be absolutely perfect to play Boris Karloff should anyone care to make a film about Boris Karloff. Karloff was a nice quiet gent, probably not enough drama in his life to entice anyone to do a bio. …. But I digress …. When I checked out the IMDB page for Jeremy Irons, I saw he was portraying Macon Ravenwood in the film version of Beautiful Creatures. And again, because I am shallow, the character poster for Mr. Ravenwood convinced me that perhaps I should check out the book. And so I did. And I can honestly say I loved the character of Macon Ravenwood and Amma and Marian the Librarian … I guess there is also some kind of story there about teenage angst and love and secrets and magic and such but I lost interest in the teen love story and was more interested in the world the writers created to set the story. The background story and flashbacks reminded me of Dark Shadows (the tv series not Tim Burton’s movie) and I plodded through the kids’ story to learn more about the casters. I know, the book is not written for my age group but unlike the Potter series and also to a lesser extent the Percy Jackson series, it did not leave me wanting to run out and pick up the next book in the series.

As for the movie, ehhh…. it looks like they made changes that in my opinion weaken the story. The movie gets rid of the librarian character, makes the Amma character younger and incorporates the librarians character into Amma. Now, I understand Viola Davis’ liking the changes to the character but I’m not sure it serves the story. Amma was the chrone of the story – the old one with the ancient knowledge that took care of the boy. Funny enough, I never read her as a maid in the book. I saw her more of the caretaker of Ethan’s spirit while the librarian was the caretaker of his intellect. Both women, friends of Ethan’s mom, took on aspects of his deceased mom and served as guides for him. I did like the importance that books, history and family played throughout the book – I’m hoping those sentiments are kept in the film. I haven’t seen the film so I’ll have to reserve judgment on whether the changes works.
What I don’t like is the look of the film – the trailer makes it look like a segment of “Pretty Little Liars” (I’ve only seen the trailers for that show as well – again I’m not their target audience). I envisioned more of a shabby chic rather than a glammy goth look to the settings and costuming. And they’ve altered the appearances of the characters… And, well, you know what … It doesn’t matter … The books apparently don’t have a very active fan base ’cause I haven’t seen much protesting about the changes…. Bottom line, Jeremy Irons looks good and Macon Ravenwood’s character for me was the best thing in the book … We’ll have to see how the movie fares ….

Guess who…

Guess who is portraying Ronald Reagan … slightly disturbing  … never was a big fan of RR – click on the photo to get the story and for more photos.

Shadows of the night

I’m surprised by my reaction to this:

I’ve been looking forward to Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows. Yes, I was a teenage nerd – still am a teenage nerd although my outward appearance might lead you to believe I’m someone’s grandma (I’m not BTW).

While watching the trailer for the first time I was surprised and somewhat dismayed at the irreverent tone – the comedic veneer that Mr. Burton set on top of my teenage vampire story. The makeup on Barnabas is unreal, his hair absurd, the dialogue over the top …. and, and ……. and then it hit me, and I became dismayed at my own dismay. I started remembering my Dark Shadows as it truly was. It was loveable shlock. It was never great art in any sense. The effects were cheesy (the burning of Trask’s Worthington Hall consisted of a cardboard cutout and a couple of matches from what I remember). The writing, while engaging as a soap opera for teenagers at that time, was uhm, oh lets find a nice word for it … haphazard … sometimes it was inventive and even poetic but most of the time it was redundant and slow. The acting could be over the top melodramatic a la Lithgow’s Master Thespian one day and the next day you were watching actors stumble through their lines or try to ignore pieces of makeup latex that had come unglued and fluttered as they emoted.

BUT with all that said, I loved Dark Shadows. I ran home after school to watch it. I loved Quentin Collins and creepy old Barnabas. Burton must have loved it also ’cause from the above trailer you see detail that only someone who watched the show as a kid would pick up on. I can only imagine that all the little Twilight ‘tweeners in about 30 or 40 years (omg sob I am old) will be going through an experience similar to mine when Edward and Jacob are reincarnated in all their glittery and shirtless glory.

I remember running around trying to find the 45 to this – Quentin’s Theme:
Click here

Mr. Rochester broods …

As I wrote about in a previous post, I’ve been reading Jane Eyre as of late and for better or worse, George C. Scott is my image of Mr. Rochester. I created the image below for myself I was playing with screen caps from the video available on YouTube and started manipulating the images with Photoshop. I had all sorts of enhancements on the image at certain points in its development – red strings from ribs, written quotes about tears dropping from the lash, etc. But the embellishments didn’t really seem to add much to the feeling of the image and looked a tad art school gimmicky. So here it is. I know it is an acquired taste to have George C. as Edward and the image has limited appeal. If you like it, take it, give credit if you can and if you want a small card of the image just click on it and go to the store and purchase it.


Jane, George and me

It has been over a month since the last post, so I thought perhaps I would start the year out doing something productive – if blogging can be considered productive. I swore the first thing I’d do when I got back from the trip to back to NYC to see Alan Rickman in Seminar would be to chronicle the experience. But a whirlwind of Christmas and family and work and business came at me as I stepped off the plane and rather took the oomph out of my sails. And since I am at heart undisciplined (sounds so much nicer than “lazy” which is what I truly am), I have yet to tackle the Seminar/Rickman/New York at Christmas post, but I will … soon … really … but first …. I feel compelled to write about something else. Please don’t feel obligated to read the rest of this post, particularly if you have never read Jane Eyre and/or were not a dorky teenager in the early ‘70s with a crush on George C. Scott. That’s right, you read it right, George C. Scott – save the mockery for later please…

I first read Jane Eyre at about 14 years of age, maybe 13. I was obsessed with the book and the story. I came to it in a roundabout way – I saw the made for television version starring George C. Scott and Susannah York and was enthralled. I’ve always tended towards the gothy side (yes, I too, like Messrs. Depp and Burton, ran home to catch Dark Shadows on the telly). And my lord, Mr. Rochester, as portrayed by George C. sent my proto-goth head spinning. Off I staggered to the library upon seeing this to get the “whole” story. The book proved to be much more beautifully angsty than the television movie (obviously) and Bronte’s prose style was completely new to my 1970’s teenage sensibilities. Dear reader, I was hooked. I didn’t come up for air until I finished it (altho’ I will admit to a tiny bit of skimming on the “SintJin” parts).

[Flashforward] On the airplane coming back from NY, surprisingly not really interested in watching “Our Idiot Brother,” I started reading passages from Jane Eyre that I had downloaded to the iPad. The attic door was cracked opened but as I said, when I stepped off the plane, life came at me and I had little time for reading – until Christmas night when I picked up the book once more and then it all swooped in on me from out of the past. I found myself right back to the darkened hall, lit by my spluttering candle, listening to the screams and waiting for Mr. Rochester. I will spare you my analysis of the book (for now), but I did come to realize, under all the emotion and turmoil that drew me to the book, Jane Eyre was a great role model for a young girl. She stuck to her beliefs, she didn’t back down and she made her own way in the world. There is one exchange in the book and I’m paraphrasing ’cause I’m too lazy to go find the passage or uh, undisciplined that’s the word I meant to use, … anyway, Rochester is trying to basically convince Jane to live with him in sin or as near an approximation of sin as they had at the time, that no one would care or know, and she states, “But I would.” Good girl Jane – frankly then and now, I would be throwing my few belongings in a bag and following him out the door. Along with being lazy, I have no moral fortitude.

Still with me? Wow – I thought you would have given up reading this way up there at the “SintJin” part. Okay, continuing then….

The book also took me back to the burly arms of Mr. Scott. I had not seen the movie in many, many years. Since I was already on the iPad I googled the movie and found it to be available in I believe 9 easy segments on YouTube. Well, while I still love George C. as Edward Rochester – he was the first so therefore my definitive Rochester – I couldn’t say the same about the production. Susannah York was way, way way too old to be playing Jane and had a little too much worldly confidence. The ending was so anticlimactic I’m sure something must be missing from this version. So, obsessive/compulsive as I am, off I started to view (insert fanfare) – every Jane Eyre/Mr. Rochester combination available on YouTube to see which was truly the best version of this book. Do you have any idea how many versions of this book have been staged cinematically? I skipped Orson Welles’ version – I’d seen that long ago and while a good movie it was not Jane Eyre. I went through several BBC mini series versions, one with Toby Stephens, another with Tim Dalton and the new movie with Fassbender that just came out. I know, I know, a little obsessive. While I liked all the different Rochester’s for different reasons, I still liked Mr. Scott’s portrayal the best. But as to the best rendition of the book, I’d have to say it was the Timothy Dalton 1983 version that seemed the most accurate (altho’ I really didn’t care for Jane in that one). The most romantic was the 2006 version – zowie, but not faithful to the book. And one does want Jane Eyre to be faithful does one not?

Okay – I’m rambling at this point because I seriously doubt you followed me to the depths of this post so the rest is for me. Should you read this, don’t repeat it – I still love George C. Scott; his smile makes me happy. Watching him in Jane Eyre made me remember him in Beauty and the Beast, another movie that does not stand up to memory but his performance was exceptional and then that took me to “They Might Be Giants” (the movie, not the band). (All conveniently available on YouTube.) They Might Be Giants is a flawed movie but George C. Scott’s and Joanne Woodward’s abilities shine through to make you care about their Holmes and Watson. Scott was no pretty boy, but he had a manly charisma and the ability that all actors should have, that of embodying their character wholeheartedly. What I have referenced is admittedly not Scott’s best work – Dr. Strangelove, Patton, The Hospital, etc. are his best work. But his work in these films inspired me and took me into hallways where I never expected to find myself.

Thats it for now, but be warned, this blog may be visited soon by more analysis of Jane Eyre, the book, and Jane Eyre on film and perhaps a smidge more on George just cause I don’t think I’ve gotten all this out of my system yet.

And now for something completely different

A little light entertainment – click on the link to go to Colbert’s interview of Elijah Wood – especially do so if you are as big of a LOTR geek as Colbert and I are (altho’ truly I have to bow to his Geekness, Colbert  is a Master Geek in this regard)  I couldn’t embed the video so you’ll have to go to Comedy Central to watch – stay through the Happy Feet to get to the Hobbit:

Elijah Wood on Colbert


Apparently there is no way to transfer video taken by anything other than an iPad or iPhoto on to the iPad for editing by iMovie. Well, there might be ways but they are convoluted, time consuming and/or more equipment needs to be purchased. Wasted a whole lot of time but I learned a few things. (I refer you to yesterday’s post)

Onward and upward I guess.

On an upward note, I just saw a David Lean film I’d not seen before — Hobson’s Choice. Wonderful film, very british, good story, strong lead female character, beautiful cinematography. The seen with a drunk Charles Laughton chasing the moon’s reflection in the puddles of a cobblestone street was like watching ballet and the framing was gorgeous. And the score used a theremin in that scene – bonus!

Okay, I’m no David Lean but I suppose I can work around my iPad limitations.

I’ve got spurs that Ringo Django Rango

I went to see Rango this weekend.  I really enjoyed the movie but as a “tia” of a seven soon to be eight year old and a just turned four year old, I can say with complete authority that this is not a movie for kids.  Not because of the violence and innuendo and language (although there is some of each) but because this is not a movie made for kids.  I can’t see kids sitting through it without squirming, potty breaks and lots of popcorn and candy.  The images, themes and references are aimed at cinema-philes over the age of forty and the humor is a little more sophisticated than the usual flatulence, slime and booger-fests that you get in a lot of kids movies these days (believe me I’ve seen a lot of kids movies e.g. “G-Force” – blech).

Okay, so let’s get to specifics:  

The animation is extremely well-done although a little too graphic in some regards for my tastes. I don’t really need to see all the broken capillaries and pimply bits on noses and other extremities. A little glossing over would have suited me just fine but that’s just me – I tend to be a bit sensitive.   

The storyline was well constructed and drew upon more complex themes than the usual “be good and fly straight” themes of Disney and Pixar films. I’m not knocking Disney or Pixar, love the Mouse and Lasseter, but they can be a little moralistically heavy-handed, stereotypical  and judgemental at times (but then so can I).   

What I really truly loved about this film were the references – visual, musical, cinematic references!  I’m a sucker for in-jokes and allusions and images that draw from other works.  They become like a giant puzzle layered over the piece enriching its meaning.  I think that’s what I loved about those old Dennis Miller rants — the references (that’s Dennis Miller before he got all paranoid and right-wing militant on us).

Now, I’m not a big Western movie fan but having grown up n the 60’s I’ve seen my share – from True Grit to Fistful of Dollars to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and back again.  I picked up on some of the references and homages that were layered into Rango, but not all – I missed all the Peckinpah references. Peckinpah was always a little too violent for me. Except for the two Julian Lennon videos that Peckinpah did shortly before his death, I’ve never seen a Peckinpah film in its entirety (not proud of it but its the truth).    Sorry, I digress…. back to Rango …. Rango calling Priscilla “little sister” a la Rooster Cogburn (True Grit), the spiral of Rango’s tail that just screamed Tim Burton to me (but that could be just my Tim Burton fixation), the very beginning of the film when Depp is staging performances for himself and he’s playing “the world’s greatest lover” (a la his own Don Juan character), the Carlos Castaneda-like armadillo, Roadkill (that’s more of literary reference I guess), the Apocalypse Now sequence with the bats battling overhead while we hear Wagner on the soundtrack – these all added to my enjoyment of the film. I completely missed the Fear & Loathing reference until my friend R. pointed it out to me.  Oh and not to forget Chinatown and Star Wars and Don Knotts and well, here take a look at this article for the information straight from the lizard’s mouth so to speak.

I also must mention the music in this film – Dick Dale-esque guitars and music that pays homage to the western themes of years gone by (Django by Bacalov, Ringo by Lorne Greene, Ghostriders in the Sky, Ramrods version) and I’m sure many, many more that escape me right now … oh The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance too.  And one more shout out to the ending title sequence – excellent, straight out of the late sixties – the cut out block-printing animation was a parting treat as was Los Lobos rendition of the Rango theme song.  It has brought back to mind all these old songs that I’ve been singing to myself as I work (fortunately I work alone) – nothing better that walking down an empty office hallway, squinting and doing the theme song from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (oooeeeooo eee oooooo bwah bwah bwah). This morning I rustled the kids ready for school with the theme to Bonanza – they didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I enjoyed riding up Hoss-style on my invisible horse … I guess I really do like Westerns more than I thought ….

I’m hesitantly including this video – I’m not sure quite how it was acquired ….

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