Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #47 Royal Wedding

Picture of Prince William andCatherine sharing a kiss on the ... on Twitpic
thanks, Twitpic, and thanks, William and Catherine for this iconic image.

Royal wedding watching while tending to own wardrobe regarding the Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference this afternoon. Both worthy of happy dances on their own, so abstaining from clips for this entry. Beautiful bride, beautiful groom, beautiful wedding. Lovely to see all that love between the royal couple and from the crowd. A long and happy life to William and Catherine.

Also worthy of happy dancing is the fact that A) there is definitely less of me than the last time I wore a certain article of clothing and B) quick fix makes item wearable. Conference excitement has set in.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #46 Good Friday

For Christians, like me, today is Good Friday, when we remember the sacrificial death of Jesus. When I was little, I had trouble understanding why the day was called "good" when it was all about betrayal, conspiracy, sorrow and death. Still, as with storytelling, we know that the black moment has to come before the happily ever after, and for those who believe like I do, this really is the Ultimate Black Moment...but hang in there, because it gets better. A LOT better. This takes going to hell and back literally, and Easter, also called Resurrection Day, is a day for celebration, so I'm going to celebrate here.

"Desert Lands" by Trading Yesterday fits this day beautifully for those of us who observe. Happy Good Friday.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #39 - Dueling Alfies (long)

Normally, I'm not in favor of remakes, especially of standout films, but once in a while, things do work that way. Case in point, this week's entry; dueling Alfies. The original, based on a play by Bill Naughton, starred Michael Caine, and made its debut in 1966, followed the exploits of one Alfie Elkins, working class playboy with a taste for the ladies. Not any one in particular, but the fairer sex at large; at least the services only that gender can provide. The Jude Law version, which came out in 2004, transplants Alfie to present day New York City, and makes other adjustments, such as Alfie's medical condition and reproductive track record, so one could argue the 2004 version is a reimagining rather than straight remake.

The essentials, though, are still in place with both - Alfie's opening encounter with a married woman who wants more from him, a later pickup with a lovely young thing, and both Alfies have to deal with an unexpected pregnancy from a one-time fling, where the mother is in another longterm relationship. Also a constant is Alfie's affair with a wealthy older woman (Shelley Winters in 1966, Susan Sarandon in 2004, and it's a draw here, as both women give wonderful performances)that plays a role in Alfie's willingness to examine the path of his life.

1966 trailer:

2004 trailer:

Both versions have a unique look that could be considered a character in itself; working class London versus glamorous Manhatten. Both have Alfie breaking the fourth wall to address the viewer directly and let us in on what's going on in his head, which isn't always what he lets on to the rest of the world. Both are beautifully acted, with memorable performances by both Caine and Law, but that's where the differences lie. While both performances struck me as very believable and in character, we have two varied interpretations of the character of Alfie. Though both actors were nearly the same age when they filmed (Caine was 33, Law, 32) the Caine version of Alfie struck me as being in his midthirties and the Law version, midtwenties. This added an extra punch for me in the final Alfie/older woman scene.

I went into this venture expecting to see the Alfie character as a charming rogue, shallow but not malicious, which may be why I have to declare the 2004 version as the winner for me. While I would watch both versions again, it's the Law version I would purchase, because I feel more convinced that his Alfie has learned from his experiences and may decide to make different choices from here on in, those lessons hard learned. The two scenes that stick with me the most from this version are echoes of scenes from the original; one, where Alfie sees the child born from his one night stand with his best friend's fiancee (variation on a scene from the original) and his final scene with his older lover, for whom he admits genuine feelings (consistent with original.)

My impression of Michael Caine's Alfie is that he's a sociopath. His character refers to women as "it," and exhibits controlling behavior that set off abuse flags for me. While he does exhibit some tender feelings for the toddler he shares with a former flame, it comes off as more of a playmate-playmate relationship than father-son. the most effective moment of the Caine version takes place when Alfie can't run from the consequences of one of his affairs, but I'm still not convinced at the end that he's going to do things differently in the future. Maybe, maybe not, and maybe that's what the intent is for the takeaway.

The final scenes/final speeches are quiet, intimate, Alfie addressing the viewer with some philosophical soul searching, and I could imagine either as an effective monologue on their own. The Caine version fades out with Alfie playing with a stray dog, while the Law version leaves Alfie on his own, each after a failed attempt to pick up where he left off with the married woman from the opening scene. Alfie can't go back to his old life, but the question is, where will he go from here? It's entirely up to the viewer, and for my money, that's exactly where we should be leaving Alfie.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #45 -earworms

Clear some space and put on something floaty, because this week's post is music only. Feel free to do your own interpretive dance...or stay seated and listen. Not the most exhuberant music, but these are the earworms I've had all week, and I'm happy to find them.

How did I never find Trading Yesterday aka The Age of Information until I got involved in HIMYM fandom?

"May I" - gorgeously romantic:

"Change My Name" -romantic or spiritual, your pick. Maybe both.

"Tell Her Something" - bittersweet melodic regret

"My Last Goodbye" - surprisingly bright for a sad song, but still with that ray of hope. The heart will go on.

"One Day" - there is so totally a story in this somewhere.

Now all I need are some floaty silk scarves and Mia Michaels choreography, hm?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #38 -movie planning

Alas, too late to catch Beastly in the local cinemas, so now will have to wait and snag a DVD when available. Ditto with Red Riding Hood. According to the offerings, unless I want to see The King's Speech again, I am out of luck.

This means two things. One, that I can happily muck about in my TBR bookcases. (Currently having a fine time with Kristi Astor's Upon a Midnight Clear, among others.)and two, it's time to go prowl the libraries for some DVDs. A few movies, a season or two of tv series either already beloved or those I've always been meaning to try.

Despite the fact that I live within walking distance of a theater with multiple offerings every single day, I only go maybe once or twice a year. I have good intentions, but actually getting there, eh, not so much. I do miss seeing certain things on the big screen, especially movies with interesting visuals, but on the whole, I like the DVD experience. I get to watch the movie at my own speed, hopping around scenes if I want to, rewatching especially memorable or complex ones, and if the movie doesn't seem to be a good match for me, all it takes is the eject button. Plus I get the popcorn all to myself, and DH purchased two boxes of microwave popcorn, so I consider this an omen.

If all goes as planned, I can scout the libraries sometime this weekend. Seasons of current favorites Bones and How I Met Your Mother are high on the list of beloved classics, and if I can find Law and Order UK, I will be quite content.

Other than that, I'm looking for period dramas, hopefully with romance, adventure a plus. It's been a while since I've hit the libraries, so there should be a few undiscovered gems -or old friends- waiting for me. Suggestions welcome.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #44 - classical metal grunge

I love finding stuff that shouldn't go together, so I literally squealed when I stumbled upon violinist David Garrett's work. Classical violin versions of grunge, rock and metal classics along with the expected Bach et al are right up my alley, so major happy dancing there, and instant addition of his Rock Symphonies CD to my mp3 player.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit"


"He's a Pirate" (PotC theme)

I tend to like stuff like this played reallyreallyreally loud. Which is not always in the cat's best interest, but it does enhance the whole happy dance experience, and I may have to start considering a musician hero in a future novel.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

One of those days

Sundays are hard, and this time of year gets an extra edge. I'm an extrovert in a family of introverts and I must confess one of my dire secrets...I don't like spring. Too bright, and the temperature fluctuates, not to mention it's higher asthma risk season, so a part of me is always in watch mode. Slap one of those on an extrovert surrounded by introverts...or really, not, as I have to hunt them down, and take away any sort of structure to the day, and yeah, somebody wake me at five. Because our church meets at night, the normal source of being-surrounded-by-like-minded-people one might think of is not available until late in the day. When I am about ready to cash in my chips for that twenty four hour period anyway.

Checked email, checked Twitter, checked Facebook, grumbled "where is everybody" a time or dozen and ended up browsing YouTube for long ago favorite songs. No embedding on this one, but it fits my mood, and hey, might spark a story somewhere. Michael Martin Murphey, you sure know how to do a song right.

So I'm grumbly. I do not do downtime well at all. Reading more historical romance is high on my priority list, but I'm not with my books at the moment and I'm coming off reading a much anticipated book (nope, not saying which one) that bellyflopped for me in a big way. Sure, I have a huge TBR mountain range, but once I get into the right book, I get grumbly when yanked out of it and that's not the right attitude to bring to church, even though it's an understanding bunch.

I'm having one of those where-do-I-fit moments. I have writer buddies I love dearly, and wouldn't trade for the world, but all have slightly different specialities. Historical and time travel (which when I do it, I consider historical because I know me and I know where/when the HEA will happen) romance are my passion, and that's where I need to put most of my focus. Going further, I like my romances darker rather than lighter, and the deeper I can get into the characters' emotions, the better I like it. This is a skill I'm admittedly relearning, along with refining my writer voice. Which is probably a good way to channel these floundery afternoons. Methinks I sniff a story in this classic from Dan Seals, for example:

What's your go-to resource when feeling creatively adrift?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #37 - Caught between the moon and New York City

I was too young to see Arthur when the Dudley Moore version came out in 1981, though I found the premise intriguing. Spoiled rich ne'er do well has an ultimatum; marry the woman chosen by his family or he's cut off to live a life he's never been prepared to lead, and let's not forget the iconic theme song, written by Burt Bacharach, Carol Bayer Sager, Peter Allen (a former Mr. Liza Minelli) and Christopher Cross, who performs it.

Though I've seen snatches of the original, notably Dudley Moore riding in a limousine, I think through Central Park, and some extremely brief bits with Liza Minelli, (Liza Minnelli isn't my favorite, but she does have a certain charm) I still haven't seen the whole thing. Since 1981 is close enough to the 70s to count, we're in NYC, there's a romance, and from the bits I've seen, Mr. Moore is in fine fettle, this is really a no-brainer and I must search for the DVD. While there is a sequel, Arthur 2: On The Rocks, I have a hunch that pretending it doesn't exist will make me happier than seeing it if I like the original.

The no-brainer gets a bit more complicated with the advent of -gasp- a remake. Normally, I'm not in favor of remakes, and Russell Brand isn't normally my thing, but my very first thought when my brain registered the combination of actor and role in this one was "of course!" The Arthur we see in this trailer strikes me as more childlike than alcoholic, which may put a different spin on things, and his unsuitable love interest is a tour guide instead of a waitress. Plus we get Helen Mirren as Hobson, this time Arthur's nanny instead of valet (as played by John Gielgud in the Moore version.)

Both look like different flavors of silliness with some deeper undercurrents, exactly the kind of comedies I like. Plus UK people in NYC always get my attention. No idea if the song will appear in the remake, but even if it isn't, I'll put it on my mp3 player when I go to the theater.

Which Arthur tempts you more?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #43- Still Standing, dark romances and blond heroes

April first and there is snow outside my window. I'd originally plopped the snowflake dance from the Nutcracker ballet in here, but then I reminded myself that this really is a writing blog and since two topics of interest came up in the blogosphere over the last 24 hours, you get a lesson on perseverance from Sir Elton John before I blather.

Warning: video contains interesting 80s costumes and makeup effects

Which fits in with the romance related ramblings. Smart Bitches and All About Romance both have had posts up about dark romance, and Heroes and Heartbreakers posted about blond heroes. As it happens, I love both. Give me a dark romance with a blond hero, and after I have been revived from my state of shock, I will be very happy.

Dark romances are my favorite. Give me some heavy hitting emotions, loads of angst and the hard road to the HEA every time, because the harder climb, the higher the mountaintop. Those are my favorites to read and to write as well. I started out with a hermit who gave himself a third degree burn on his dominant hand on purpose (about the only way to conceal that he was branded) and went on to a pair of lovers separated for decades before they could find their HEA far from home, another story starting with the heroine considering suicide and then another one with a hero who has night terrors, and the villain gets...well, that would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say light and fluffy isn't me.

Since then, I've written a post apocalyptic medieval novella still in search of a home, outlined another that starts with the hero being purchased from an orphanage to be raised by the villain for a twisted purpose, and am still putting together the pieces of the Regency era historical dealing with prolonged grief disorder, opium addiction and the hero's sister who loves big brother a little too much and not in the right way. All of which, I can guarantee, have HEAs for hero and heroine, alive, happy and together. For me, the darker romances actually feel more hopeful - if hero and heroine can get through all the crap they've been through up to this point, they can get through anything. Rock on.

Blond heroes...I do not get why blond heroes (or redheads, but that may be a different post) do not get the love, or why dark brown/black seems to be the default hair color for heroes. I have heard of readers who will not read a blond hero, period, or if they must (said with long suffering sigh) they will edit the hair color in their head back to dark brown/black. Maybe I'm guilty of the same thing in reverse, because my very first objection to the movie adaptation of Brideshead Revisited was "brunet Sebastian? Never!"

I like the appearance of any character to actually do something, tell me something special about them, rather than go to default. Yes, darker hair is genetically predominant, so it does make sense that there are more heroes with darker than lighter hair, but still, I like the variety, and seeing something different on a cover will make me stop in the bookstore aisle and pick the book up for a second look. Case in point, I very very very rarely read contemporaries (as in almost never) but the cover for Nicole Green's The Davis Years stopped me in my tracks. Click the link for some impact right there, and yeah, blond hero. The book may or may not make it into my basket eventually, but even if it doesn't, that picture did its job - it got my attention.

Blond heroes have always been able to catch my attention. Lighter colors reflect light, and since blonds are less common (though more so in countries I like for settings in historicals; UK, Netherlands, Vikings, etc) I'll zoom right in for a closer look. I will admit to a mad Bo Duke crush in my early teen years and as a more mature individual, am a squealing Barney/Robin shipper where How I Met Your Mother is concerned. DH was blond when we met, and he certainly caught and kept my attention, though blonds are not exactly an endangered species in California and he now keeps a smooth dome I like quite well. (Bald heroes are another thing we don't see often, though a shaved head would fit Georgian or modern times equally. Hm, time travel idea?)

What about you? I'd love to hear other opinions on dark romances and fair heroes (and if you can suggest any with both, bring them on.)