Saturday, February 27, 2016

Period Drama Challenge: Risen (2016)

Written for the Period Drama Challenge hosted by Laurie over at Old-Fashioned Charm. ❤ 

Risen (2016, PG13)
starring Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, and Peter Firth

I'd been anticipating Risen since I saw the trailer in a showing of Captive (a film well worth watching) last year. I honestly thought I'd missed Risen in theaters because they changed the 2016 release date from January to February, but I did uncover the new release date, and in the span of that first weekend release, saw Risen twice in the theater. No, that's not my usual habit, but I loved it so much when I saw it on the 18th that I went with my sister and a friend on the 20th and then sent my parents to the theater for their own viewing on the 21st.

The premise is this. It is the resurrection story as told from the perspective of a Roman Tribune, one of Pilate's most trusted officers, one Clavius by name. When the body of the Nazarene goes missing, Clavius is tasked by Pilate specifically to find it before it decays and put an end to the rumors that Yeshua (or Jesus) has risen from the dead. Clavius conducts interview after interview, his interest piqued by the unswerving loyalty of the followers of Yeshua. He is certain that the body was, in fact, stolen, that is until he encounters Yeshua himself, sees the wounds on his arms and the hold in his side. Where then can his loyalty lie? What decisions must he make based on what he has seen?

I talked with a gal at work on the Monday following opening weekend. She was a chaperone for her church's youth group at a showing on Sunday, the same showing my parents attended as it happens, but she also took unbelieving neighbors with her. Risen made them think. At the end of the film, Clavius must make a choice. Can he continue on with his life, on the same path as before, or must he make a decision to change based on what he's seen and experienced? You can't just go along in life without making a decision and proclamation of faith, be it one way or the other. You have to decide. I love that Risen has the capability to make people think.

As for Risen being a period film, it undeniably is one, and one of the better Biblical films I've ever seen. My sister, the historic clothing fiend, absolutely LOVED the historic garments. And I admit, there was a definite aura of authenticity surrounding them. Like these people lived in their clothes, which they would have. 

I think that's one of the things I liked so much. I bought that these men and women were from the era of Jesus. They're grimy and careworn, with ragged and dusty clothing just like you would have found back then. The disciples were the same, especially Simon Peter who's a rugged Jewish man with a ring of grizzled hair that sticks out under his cap. They owned the roles and made me believe I was in ancient Judea.

I'll get it out of the way right now. Yes, Draco Malfoy is in this movie. No, it doesn't bother me, and no, I didn't see Malfoy every time that I looked at Tom Felton's character, Lucius. Just like I wasn't thinking of Shakespeare in Love every time I looked at Joseph Fiennes. However, having these actors in this movie elevated it to a level that most Christian cinema never reaches. Throw Peter Firth into the mix and you cannot ask for a better cast of British actors.

I'm mildly frustrated that I couldn't find a picture of Cliff Curtis as Yeshua when he isn't hanging on the cross. Oh well, the internet isn't infallible after all. But I will say that he is the first Jewish Jesus I've ever seen. Most of them, if you'll be honest, feel like they're Catholic. With perfect hair hanging down their back and almost white skin. Cliff Curtis is of Maori descent in New Zealand, with olive skin, dark hair and rich, dark eyes. He plays a very sympathetic Yeshua, compassionate and good-natured and one of the many highlights of this film.

A clever stylistic tool was casting British actors as the Romans then more exotic actors as most of the Judeans. It created terrific continuity for the film that my sister noticed and praised and I agree with her.

Friday, February 26, 2016

POSTPONED UNTIL JUNE 1ST- 3RD . . . Announcing . . . the Frank Langella Blogathon!

Look at me, I'm actually planning a blogathon out more than just a month! Shocking, I know. It's hard to believe it's actually been more than a year since my Goldblum Fest. I was planning my blog parties in February for some reason, but decided to change it up a little bit and try a new month.

Why Langella, you ask? Why not, I say!

My bff introduced me to Langella via Zorro waaaaaaay back in 2002 and I've loved him ever since. The great thing about Langella, though, is that he's not limited to just a single era or even genre. Yes, he played Dracula, but he also delivered an astounding, Oscar nomination-worthy performance as Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon. He's done a little bit of everything and as such, deserves quite a bit of acclaim.

I know I'm announcing this almost 3 months early, but this gives everyone plenty of time to track down his films, plan their posts, and even share about the blogathon on your blogs if you'd like, which I would really appreciate!

I'll be hopping around on your blogs making invites within a couple of weeks! ❤

Claimed Topics

Hamlette's Soliloquy: Dave (1993)
Serendipitous Anachronisms: Frank and Robot (2012)
Defiant Success: Frost/Nixon (2008)
History!Chick: undecided

Topic Ideas (just to get you started)

The Twelve Chairs (1970)
The Mark of Zorro (1974)
Dracula (1979)
Those Lips, Those Eyes (1980)
Sphinx (1981)
Cutthroat Island (1995)
Eddie (1996)
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Superman Returns (2006)
Starting Out in the Evening (2007)
Frost/Nixon (2008)
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
Robot and Frank (2012)
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
Draft Day (2014)

His theater work (of which he did quite a bit)
Did you know he played Sherlock Holmes (you can find the filmed play)?
And also played Sir Thomas More in another filmed stage production of A Man for all Seasons?

For more film ideas, go to Frank's IMDB page.

Guidelines, such as they are:

1) If you care to join, please reply to this post with your name, your blog address, and the topics you intend to write (I don't mind double postings about the same film).

2) When the blogathon starts, make sure to share your blog post links to me here on this post!

3) Keep it PG rated, please (not the films but your post content).

4) Please upload one of the following photos linking back to this post in your blog widgets!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

1940s Week: The Human Condition in Casablanca (1942)

Written for 1940s Week hosted by An Old Fashioned Girl. ❤
For at least 15 years I held off on watching Casablanca. It's one of my parents' favorite movies, my dad's especially, but I never really appreciated or even liked Humphrey Bogart until just a couple of years ago and even then I limited myself to his films with Lauren Bacall. Casablanca just was not on my radar, at least, not until a few weeks ago when my folks talked me into watching it with them.

It utterly enthralled me.

Some movies you watch once and that's more than enough, or you may watch it again, but only because it's entertaining or fun for one reason or another. Casablanca is both of these and yet neither. It is . . . eternal, overflowing with dilemmas and heartaches that are relevant no matter the era. If a film could ever be called timeless, it is Casablanca.

I was hardly 1/2 an hour into watching it before ideas and thoughts started jumping around in my head regarding the ramifications of the moral choices made by these characters. Oh my goodness, it can be so HARD to do the right thing! I know that I've felt it and I'm sure all of you have felt that pull towards the "dark side," sometimes giving in and sometimes resisting poor moral choices. It's a part of the human condition brought on by sin.

So you have Humphrey Bogart's character, Rick Blaine. He's embittered by past disappointments and runs an Americana nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco in an attempt to what? Forget. Maybe, but it can be any one of a number of different reasons why he's gone so far away from what most Americans would consider a normal life. He’s running from his past, not because he was a criminal or anything like that, but because of memories.

Have you noticed how long our memories are? Especially when we’re been hurt. Rick is the perfect example of a man bound by his memories . . . memories that were once beautiful and precious to him but had turned sour because the situation surrounding them turned sour. Our reaction to our memories is the one thing that can truly bind us as people.

It’s so easy for us to so lock ourselves away because of something that happened or something that we, ourselves, did in our past. This is Rick Blaine’s curse.

So when the girl who wrought all those beautiful memories, Ilsa played by the stunning Ingrid Bergman, comes BACK into his life, with her fiancé who was once in a Nazi concentration camp and is on the run, well, what should Rick do?

They come into his nightclub one night and Rick’s world that he so carefully constructed of paper and glue collapses. The memories he’d attempted to lock away swirl back in and he realizes that he’s never been able to move on from the glorious months he spent being in love with Ilsa when they were in Paris together. But now she’s engaged to another man, not his to hold, and she’s asking for his help because he happens to have letters of safe passage that could get her and her fiancé, Victor (Paul Henreid) to safety in the states. Because the Nazis have taken control of Casablanca and escape is almost impossible.

Monday, February 15, 2016

1940s Week: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Written for 1940s Week hosted by An Old Fashioned Girl. ❤

Instead of focusing on fashion or strictly the era in this post for The Philadelphia Story I decided instead to focus on the characters and the plot. Yes, it's 1940s, and I admit that the guys are gorgeous in their suits, but the story itself is what needs to be discussed. Although I will say that Katharine Hepburn wears one of the most bizarre hats that I've ever seen in her scene in the library. It's just weird.

I am warning everyone ahead of time that this post is a bit of a harsh critique against The Philadelphia Story. So if this movie is one of your favorite classic films of all time, you may want to skip reading my post. I would hate to truly offend anyone, but I also am not going to hide the fact that this movie disturbs me on many levels and that, for me, it's not a comedy.

Fortunately, there are many other films from the 1940s and I've recently discovered that I LOVE Casablanca so I'll be writing on that film sometime this week, so stay tuned. ❤

Back to the post at hand, I've finally done something that I've been meaning to do for the last decade, but held off on doing because I didn't like it the first time I tried it. I've finally finished The Philadelphia Story.

Unfortunately, all I've managed to do is prove to myself that my dislike of a decade ago is justified.

BUT, I also discovered that my appreciation for James Stewart as a versatile and skilled actor is also justified.

Whereas Cary Grant always plays himself in every role I've ever seen him in, Jimmy Stewart proved himself, time and again, to be a character actor of the highest caliber. And, as it stands, he plays the only character in The Philadelphia Story that I genuinely liked, well, apart from Ruth Hussey in a secondary role as Liz Imbrie and little Virginia Weidler as Dinah, Hepburn's younger sister. This is, of course, nothing against Cary Grant as an actor. There is a certain comfort in knowing an actor will always be who you expect him to be, no matter the era or role, and I love Grant for that steadiness.

As for the film itself, are you familiar with it?

If not, the story goes something like this. Rich socialite (Hepburn) has a divorce under her belt (Grant) and is planning to marry a second husband (John Howard) only to have ex-husband show up two days before her wedding with a reporter (Stewart) and a photographer (Hussey) in tow from a local magazine to do a story on the proceedings, all because of blackmail, of course.

This movie is one of the most highly renowned in classic Hollywood history and I'll be hornswaggled if I know why. If you like it, my deepest and most profound apologies to you, but I can't understand it.

The majority of the film is spent with an extremely selfish young lady who has no moral compass whatsoever, and yet three men appear to be crazy in love with her. I suppose I could feel sorry for the poor little rich girl, but I don't, although I am happy to report that she and Grant's character do end up together again at the end of the film. Good because they deserve each other.

Yet even Stewart falls for Hepburn's high-brow attitude, drinks more champagne in a single evening than most people do in a year, and ends up nearly taking Hepburn to bed, a major part of the plot that becomes a big issue. The night before her wedding? I can't imagine why. This film is such a good example of an immoral lifestyle and makes no apologies for it.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!

The Meaning of Self-Worth in Sabrina (1954)

A friend of mine mentioned the other day how she's giving up self-criticism for Lent since the season just started. And it got me thinking about the importance of self-worth, which kind of goes hand-in-hand with the concept of self-criticism.

Oh my gosh, when I think of all the hours I've spent doubting my own self-worth, I'm tempted to cringe a little bit. But I don't think I really had a clear vision of what lacking self-worth looks like until I rewatched Sabrina from 1954. If you watch classic movies then you've probably seen it, especially if you love Audrey Hepburn like I do.

But I'll be honest, the film never sat really well with me. Apart from the total miscasting of Humphrey Bogart (who I also love) and William Holden (meh) as Sabrina's love interests, the story itself always gave me a resulting sense of melancholia.

Look at this girl. Just look at her. Isn't she the most lovely, enchanting, delightful woman you've ever seen? She's a literal pixie, whether she's the woman in the above photo or the "younger" Sabrina to the right. And yet, Sabrina struggles with her self-image and self-worth so much throughout the entirety of this film. Desperately in love with Bill Holden's character, she languishes over each and every tawdry love affair he undertakes. Jealousy, self-reproach, and self-hatred all play a role in how such a lovely girl can make herself feel so small and unlovely.

It never once occurred to Sabrina that maybe, just maybe, Bill Holden's character wasn't noticing her because of a flaw in his own character and had nothing whatsoever to do with her. Instead, she's sure that if she can just change, just make herself over in an image he'll find appealing, that everything in her life will be that idyllic dream come true she's always wanted.

No. No, no, no. I'd like to think the audience isn't actually fooled into thinking that the person Sabrina changes into is a reflection of true happiness. Yes, the "made-over" Sabrina is the ideal of the modern woman (well, modern in 1954). Yes, she catches Bill Holden's eye. Yes, everything seems to be going her way, finally, for the first time in her life.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Period Drama Challenge - January Tag Questions

Yes, I confess to being a good, ohhhh, 11 days late in responding to this, but better late than not at all with these types of things. Plus, I thought it would be fun, which it was rather!

January Tag Questions:

1. What period dramas did you view in January?

I watched Beyond the Mask and Oliver Twist. Both of which I liked very much.

2. What is your favorite Charles Dickens film adaptation?

Mmm, I'm extremely fond of Little Dorrit with Matthew MacFadyen, but I also love A Muppet Christmas Carol. It's hard to beat Kermit as Bob Cratchit!

3. Would you rather visit Pemberley (Mr. Darcy's residence) or Downton Abbey (Crawley family residence)? Why?

I'd rather visit Downton Abbey simply because Pemberley can be any one of numerous houses depending on the version of Pride & Prejudice that you're watching. But Downton is formidable and stays absolutely the same through the entire series. Plus, it's gorgeous.

4. If you could be any character in a Jane Austen novel for a whole day who would you be and why would you want to be that character?

Surprisingly, I would like to be Emma Woodhouse. I'm not all that fond of her, to be completely honest, but she at least speaks her mind and doesn't really let fear dissuade her from doing something. It would be interesting to be her for a day and just experience the fortitude that must come with knowing one's own mind so completely. It's weird disliking a character somewhat and yet admiring them too.

5. What period dramas are you looking forward to viewing in February 2016?

Mmmm, I haven't actually given it much thought. Probably Murder Rooms and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Although I am going to watch Risen on the big screen next Thursday, the ONLY night that it's playing in a theater near me. I've already blogged about Risen HERE, if you're curious. ❤

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Period Drama Challenge - Ladyhawke (1985)

Written for the Period Drama Challenge hosted by Laurie over at Old-Fashioned Charm. ❤

Ladyhawke (1985, PG13)
starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Alfred Molina

Just looking at the cover of this movie is making me melt and want to watch it again. And I've already watched it 3 times since the start of 2016! Which, I do admit, is in excess and more than I usually watch it. But I watched the DVD with my family in early January before discovering that it was released on BLU-RAY (can I get an AMEN?!). So I bought the blu-ray, watched it myself, then grabbed my mom and sister and demanded they watch it with me. So I'm halfway 2/3 of the way through it for my 3rd time in under 2 months.

You know those movies that people recommend and you end up either hating or loving? There is no in-between range of emotion? Ladyhawke is one of those. It is undeniably one of the most hauntingly filmed movies I've ever seen, but it's also blessed with one of the absolutely strangest soundtracks that I've ever heard. It makes or breaks the film. You'll see what I mean when I get to that section of this post, but first of all, the plot itself!

❤ The Plot ❤

Ladyhawke is set somewhere in 11th century France, definitely after the Crusades and most assuredly during the feudal system. 

Alarm bells in Aquila clang, announcing the escape of a prisoner from the vile dungeons that belong to the Bishop of Aquila (pretty much the spawn of Satan) who also happens to be an outcast from the established Church.

The aforementioned escapee is Phillipe Gaston, played by none other than the so-cute-it-hurts-to-look-at-him Matthew Broderick. It was 1985, OF COURSE HE WAS CUTE!

Running just so far that he feels safe, but definitely not far enough, Phillipe the Mouse pauses to refresh himself at an outdoor tavern (not that I knew they had those in feudal France).

But he can't just eat. Oh no, he must talk too, which leads to the unveiling of the Bishop's soldiers whose very lives are likely on the line if they don't catch the escaped prisoner.

After all, you can't have an escape-proof dungeon if someone has . . . well, escaped. DUH.

Just as a sword is swinging for Phillipe's jugular, an arrow pierces the hand of the sword-holding knight, having been shot by a mysterious man in black *cue dramatic music for Rutger Hauer's entrance*

Navarre, for that is the name of the dramatic man in black, rescues Phillipe, sort of, depending on your point of view.

I'm not sure you or I would consider it rescuing if you were being chased down by an intimidating man in black riding the world's biggest stallion who also happens to be named Goliath.

Phillipe has literally no choice at this point, but he's already noticed things are a bit on the odd side where Navarre is concerned. After all, who keeps a hawk for a pet and Navarre is decidedly attached to his hawk?

Stopping at a cozy stable run by psycho axe-wielding murderers (no, I'm not kidding), the two men, well boy and man, decide to stop for the night, with Navarre fiercely warning Phillipe to not disturb his slumber or he might take his head off without fully realizing it's him. Yeah, that's comforting.

Out collecting firewood, Phillipe determines to make his escape because, as he puts it, "He wants something from me. I can see it in his eyes. Well, whatever it is, I'm not going to do it. I'm still a young man, you know! I've got prospects!"

An enormous mangy wolf puts in an appearance, chasing Phillipe back to the stable where he can't find Navarre, but manages to grab Navarre's crossbow only to have the arrow snatched away before he can fire at the wolf.

And snatched away by none other than a stunning woman with porcelain skin and piercing blue eyes, cloaked all in black. Yes, it's Michelle Pfeiffer and at her most gorgeous.

As Phillipe watches, she joins the wolf outside, and as he's pondering aloud whether he's dreaming, she calls back calmly, "You are dreaming."

Phillipe panics as any practical person would, crawls up into the loft where he watches the woman and the wolf head into the forest together and proceeds to plead with God, who he talks to every single day, "I've not seen what I've just seen. I do not believe what I believe, Lord! If these are magical or unexplainable matters than I beg you not to make me a part of them."

Are you intrigued yet? If you aren't, you absolutely should be because I've only covered maybe 30 minutes of a 2 hour long movie. Trust me, it gets progressively better!

❤ What Makes Ladyhawke Awesome ❤

Many, many movies, too many to count, take themselves too seriously. They have an agenda, a message to be preached, and they forget that you can have fun at the same time that you're sharing the message.

Ladyhawke is NOT that movie.

Oh no.

You've probably already caught on by Phillipe's quotes that the dialogue for this movie is different. Humor abounds! The dialogue is snappy and just plain fun. Ladyhawke is not one of those looooooong, boring period drama. It is alive and breaths life into the audience with the charisma of its actors and the talent of its screenplay writers.

Now I will say there isn't anything wrong with serious period dramas. They certainly have their place and I love many of them. But I love Ladyhawke because it isn't one of those period dramas. I'm sure it helps that Richard Donner directed seeing as he's the man who brought the world the hilarious Lethal Weapon movies as well as Maverick starring Mel Gibson and James Garner. There's a man who doesn't take life too seriously which made him PERFECT to direct Ladyhawke.
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