Tag Archives: film review

Countdown to the Oscars: Beasts of the Southern Wild

I take back everything I said about this film.  Now that I’ve actually seen the film!

I had previously passed aside this film as this year’s artsy nominee that would be visually stunning, but not make much sense.  Very similar to last year’s The Tree of Life.

I was wrong.

Available to rent on DVD already, this summer 2012 release is visually stunning but it’s also a very touching tale of survival, strength, and the many different groups we call family.

Introducing:  Beasts of the Southern Wild

I owe Quvenzhane’ Wallis an apology.  As the star of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and at only 9 years old, I think she is well deserving of her Oscar nomination.  And remember, she’s the youngest ever to be nominated!  Wallis plays Hushpuppy, a little girl growing up in the bayou whose way of life is threatened both by an increasing ill father and melting snow caps that will flood her swampland home, nicknamed  ‘The Bathtub.’

I wasn’t totally wrong about this film.  It is artsy.  But artsy is an understatement.  It’s not facetious in the way where it’s a beautiful film, but no one understands it.  It’s just a pure, breathtaking capture of someone’s different world.

I have never lived in the deep south of Louisiana.  Though my city is on the Mississippi, I’ve never lost my home due to flooding, or been forced to live in a shelter.  I am grateful for this film because it’s been the first picture I could see why the resiliency of these people is something to be proud of.  As outsiders, we watch the news and we think, “Oh good, they’ve opened up a shelter for these people to go to.  They are being helped!”

What if that’s not what they wanted?  I’d never even thought of that!  Far away, from my safe midwest homebase, I thought a shelter was a place of comfort.  I hadn’t considered that you’re thrown in there with people you don’t know, possibly separated from your family, wearing clothes you’re not used to, eating food you’re not used to, and that you’re not allowed to go home if you choose.

Don’t misunderstand me, this film is by no means a lecture for the privileged, that’s not its intent.  I’m only speaking for myself, this film taught me a reality I’d not considered and I’m grateful for that education.

And when something opens your mind, how can it be anything but beautiful? 

Having won Movie of the Year at the AFI Awards, it’s up for four Oscars!  Wallis, again, the youngest nominee for a Lead Actress role, the film itself is up for Best Picture, Benh Zeitlin is up for Best Directing, and it’s also up for Best Writing, adapted from previously published material.

Zeitlan and Wallis

I was curious about Zeitlin and where he came from as a new name to the Oscar realm.  A New York man, born and raised, he was making films from the age of 6!  He’s a film school graduate from Weslayan University, whose previous work had been shorts up until this point.  Another tremendous accomplishment for one so young!

He had some great quotes out there about the making of this film so I’ll share a few of my faves with you!

There are funny stories about [the making of “Beasts”] how I went knocking on someone’s door and he came out with a shotgun. Even then, that guy showed up at our gas station two days later, and was like, “I’m sorry. I thought you guys were trying to kill me or you’re from Witness Protection or something like that. I didn’t mean to scare you. You want any red fish?” He’d just caught a bunch. You get real hospitality in Louisiana. I think it’d be much harder in another place because the state is extremely open and a more accepting, hospitable place.

I’m even impressed with the liberty he granted Wallis to define her own character!

She was so focused and poised and just was fierce. She wouldn’t do just what I told her to do, she questioned what I was saying. She’d say, ‘I don’t like this word’ and she’d delete it. I allowed her to own the words and understand what they meant.

One fun fact for you is that both of Zeitlan’s parents are urban folklorists and the founders of City Lore in New York.  They work with and support all cultures in order to document, preserve, and celebrate traditions and all forms of artistry.  Their site is pretty impressive actually.  And it’s no wonder that their son has an element of folklore in his film, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The people in Hushpuppy’s world believe in the legend of aurochs.  Now an extinct form of cattle, aurochs are the much larger versions of today’s cattle species:  oxen, buffalo, cows.  The last known auroch died in 1627.  They had immense protruding horns.  None of the research I found even notes their discovery in North America, this creature came from Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa.  Early attempts at domestication started with the auroch, and where Beasts of the Southern Wild comes into play is the auroch’s anger toward humans.

What do you think?  Are you interested in seeing this movie?  Check out the trailer to learn more!

Are you on your way to the movie rental?  What do you think about Wallis’ and Zeitlan’s nominations so new in the business?  What have you heard about this film?

Countdown to the Oscars: Will Les Mis Stand Les Chance?


With eight Oscar nominations, Les Miserables stands just behind Lincoln as the popular choice candidate for 2013’s Academy Award winners.  Having already done quite well at the Golden Globes, earning Best Picture in the Musical/Comedy genre as well as honoring both Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway with new statues of their own, I’m torn!

Usually, when an actor or film is nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar, this skeptical fan always watches for “The Curse of the Golden Globe!”  Sometimes, winning a Golden Globe can just about guarantee that you will NOT win an Oscar.

However, Les Miserables won Film of the Year at the AFI Awards!  And, it’s also a well known assumption that musical nominees do very well at the Oscars…

What’s a girl to go by?!

Les Mis, if you haven’t heard about it, is the tumultuous story of Jean Valjean, a paroled prisoner who tries to start over in life with a new identity, righting his wrongs by caring for an orphaned child.  Constantly in the crossroads, a military officer by the name of Javert suspects Valjean as the prisoner who got away.

Meanwhile, around the corner, the French Revolution is brewing in the city streets.  Les Miserables is a love story, between a parent and child, between a man and a woman; it is an inspiration for a better life, better world, and new beginning.

So where will it win? 


Seriously.  As phenomenal as the music is, I can’t honestly give this film my vote for winner in any of the key categories.

I know. I know.  Don’t hate me!

You know what I’m going to root for?  I do hope that Les Miserables takes the win for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing.  Gracious, aren’t I?  But it is a very, very well done musical and the performers are talented singers.  I think the team that worked on assembling the sound to be spot on deserves beau coup credit!

But as I stated before, I don’t think Les Mis will take home an Oscar for Best Original Song.  Added in to the already phenomenal set list, theater and composing royalty joined forces to create the nominated, “Suddenly” – a song written to describe the paternal love Valjean feels after rescuing Cosette the orphan from the shifty innkeepers she’d been living with.  Take a sneak peak!

Beautiful song!  But will it hold up against Adele’s nominated “Skyfall”?  I’m betting on her.  But the Academy could go old school on me and prove me wrong.

Now I’d like you to take a little trip to Logic Land with me. 

Earlier, I stated how I wasn’t so amped about 9 year old Quvenzhane’ Wallis‘ nomination for Best Actress being that it seemed an affront to say the BEST acting job of any female in the last year was a child, and not perhaps an actress who had trained, researched, and practiced her craft for years.  And I guess I’m getting picky again, but Anne Hathaway’s Best Supporting Nomination is tough for me to root for when she dies so early in the film!  *Sorry, minor spoiler!*

One can’t deny her rendition of the critically acclaimed “I Dreamed a Dream” is powerful!  I read that Hathaway lived on two squares of oatmeal paste before filming in order to lose 25 pounds for her impoverished character, Fantine.  That is impressive.  And probably very bland. 

Despite my frustration for a “worthy” candidate, I fully admit I could end up eating my words come award day.  Hathaway and her co-star Hugh Jackman have both been Oscar hosts in the past!  This could put them in a very good light by the Academy, especially since they even performed together on the Oscar stage in 2009!

Hugh Jackman

Anne Hathaway and co-host James Franco – Who could forget the Academy’s attempt to Youth-inize the Oscars?

Note:  Anne doesn’t come in to the dance number til about 4:00 minutes, so zoom ahead as desired!


What do you think?  Are you rooting for Les Miserables?  Am I being too picky over the nominees?






Sweet Jesus, What Did We Just Watch?!

I wanna rock!!!

I wanna rock!!!

Welcome to my 80’s party dudes and dudettes!  I know we’ve all been anxiously catching Oscar flicks and madly discussing who the big winners will be come awards day, but all that cinematic mumbo-jumbo needed a rest!

It was time for something fearless!

Something with some flair!

Something along the lines of a…

Guilty Pleasure, Baby!

Oooh yah, yours truly had an impromptu 80’s party at her place last night and the film to be seen was none other than the Hollywood montage Rock legend mash up hysteria that is:

Rock of Ages

Sweet baby Jesus, have you guys seen this film?!

I can’t decide whether this homage to Rock Gods and their classic jams is brilliantly epic or a tragic wasteland of sticky floors caused by the tears of naive women who wear denim corsets to rock concerts.

While the film is studded, often literally – note* even the microphones! – with several stars:  Alec Baldwin, Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Russell Brand, Malin Ackerman, Mary J. Blige, one really gets the impression that shooting this film was a marriage between awkward escapist journalism done out of the back of your mother’s minivan with Saturday Night Live practice sketches gone horribly awry.

There’s a sick, twisted underbelly to the characters in this movie that makes me think they all enjoyed making this film.  And for that reason, it’s really hard to say I didn’t like it.  It may have won me over.

Could you say no to this?!

Yah.  Pretty amazing, right?  It’s like curled bangs and colored glasses amazing!


The fact that this movie is sooo over the top makes me forgive its complete and utter cheese factor and just enjoy the ride.  Tom Cruise is a greased up, tattoed Rock God who embodies every cliche’ known to rock musicians.  He has the girls, the band who’s not as cool as he is, the fans who will love him no matter what, the creeper manager, a broken heart, and best of all, a baboon who responds to the name “Hey Man.”

For reals.

Julianne Hough plays Sherri, a girl who dreams of becoming a singer.  Oddly enough, she doesn’t achieve this, her boyfriend does, only she’s the one who helps him get there…  But I suppose if this movie were a rock concert, her stolen dreams are nothing a shot glass and some sweaty leather won’t fix!  Tubular!

Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand come in to play as the owner/staff of The Bourbon Room, a once star making venue but soon to be shut down and sold if they can’t make some money soon.  Dang, that’s like grody to the max, man!

Each character faces their own antagonist, be it a slimy, double-crossing manager with no business on top but too much party in the back (Paul Giamatti), a Fairy Godmother/Female Hustler who dresses like a genie and has more ‘do changes than Sean Combs’ had names, you know P. Diddy, I mean Puff Daddy (Mary J. Blige).  Or it could be the vengeful ex-girlfriend on a mission for all conservatives out there, and that is to shut down your bar (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

But I dare you to watch this film and NOT sing along! 

I don’t think it can be done.

So for that reason, even though I fully admit it’s a bit of a dud.  You may even ask, Where’s the beef?  But this 80’s rock musical is totally rad.  And take a chill pill anyway, we’re not talking Oscar noms here!

What’s a totally terrible movie you love?  Go ahead, indulge!  I won’t judge you.

Wait…you like what?!  Gag me with a spoon!

Countdown to the Oscars: Most Nominated Film Goes to Lincoln

Some movies are fortunate enough to have their whole ensemble be absolutely stellar.  And that is why Lincoln wins with the most Oscar nominations this year.


Check out the full nomination list from IMDB:

Academy Awards, USA
Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s)
2013 Nominated Oscar Best Achievement in Cinematography
Janusz Kaminski
Best Achievement in Costume Design
Joanna Johnston
Best Achievement in Directing
Steven Spielberg
Best Achievement in Editing
Michael Kahn
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
John Williams
Best Achievement in Production Design
Rick Carter
Jim Erickson
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Andy Nelson
Gary Rydstrom
Ron Judkins
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Steven Spielberg
Kathleen Kennedy
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Tommy Lee Jones
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Field
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Tony Kushner

I mean, look at it!  It’s nominated for all aspects of film-making!  It’s no secret that Lincoln is going to be a tough contender to beat at the Academy Awards.  Daniel Day-Lewis has already won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama and the film won Movie of the Year at the AFI (American Film Institute) Awards.  And let’s face it, Day-Lewis has won half the times he’s been nominated!  If this were the Kentucky Derby, I’d put my money on the horse named Lincoln!

The prize players are of course, Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role, Sally Field, playing his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, up for Best Supporting Actor!

But there are quite a few in this cast I would call out!  For starters, who would have ever thought James Spader had it in him?!  Spader plays W.N. Bilbo, a lawyer and lobbyist who fought for the 13th amendment.  The last time I saw a movie and was like, “Yah, James Spader!” was Stargate!  Kudos to him on his acting in this film!

John Hawkes – CC Wikipedia Commons

Standing beside him is John Hawkes, a particular favorite of my boyfriend and I, who some of you may recognize from the indie flick Me and You and Everyone We Know.  Not to mention his performance as Sol Star on HBO’s Deadwood series, and then as Teardrop in the 2011 Oscar nominated Winter’s Bone.  If you ask me, he’s one to watch!  A second film Hawkes played the lead in is up for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for costar Helen Hunt, called The Sessions.  But in Lincoln, Hawkes plays Robert Latham, quite the dignified historical figure.  Latham was a lawyer who became well known for winning a land case for the Eastern Cherokee Nation, and then became a U.S. Senator who fought against child labor and also gave us the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 which amounted to our current banking system and tender, the U.S. dollar.

Rounding out the trio of behind-the-scenes vote capturers, was Tim Blake Nelson as Richard Schell.  Schell was another Senator, and later served in the House of Representatives.  I’ve been a fan of Tim Blake Nelson since he did his own singing in O Brother, Where Art Thou.

And lastly, I had to smile when I saw Hal Holbrook on the screen portraying Preston Blair.  He’s an Emmy and Tony Award winning actor, but he captured my heart portraying the older Jacob in 2011’s film version of Water for Elephants, a movie and book I enjoyed so much I smashed my face into a circus wagon to prove it!

The film Lincoln, I’ve heard, does shed the famous president in a very sunny light.  I still think it’s incredibly well done and will always be prevalent to us as a society.  It depicts the time right before Lincoln passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.  147 years ago, the country was torn with the civil war.  Death counts rose everyday.  A possible peace treaty was in the works, and yet the amendment may not have passed had that treaty come to be first.  Everything was about to change.


Interestingly enough, you can get a different perspective about the president with the release of Jennifer Chiaverini’s historical fiction, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker.  It just published January 15th, and it’s on my To Read Shelf.

I caught the title in the newest issue of BookPage.  Chiaverini used the memoir written by Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, Behind the Scenes:  Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, to write her new work.  Keckley was a former slave turned dressmaker for society’s elite, eventually becoming the First Lady’s seamstress.  While employed by the Lincolns, she witnessed her share of private moments between the tumultuous couple, and apparently the release of her memoir caused quite the scandal resulting in Mrs. Lincoln severing all ties with her after its publication!

I’m intrigued, are you?!!

Your take!  Have you seen Lincoln?  What did you think?  Do you think a film about this period in history is still relevant?  

What about Chiaverini’s new book?  Don’t you want to know what Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley really thought about the Lincolns? 

Countdown to the Oscars: Just how many nominations will The Hobbit get?

Hello fellow movie lovers!  The holidays are come and gone, and many of our favorite shows are starting to return to television (Downton Abbey anyone???).  But it also marks the countdown to one of my favorite things of the whole year!

The Oscars!

As the Golden Globe nominations have already been made, the internet is abuzz with Oscar  predictions too.  Many people say that The Oscars is an old schoolers game, and that the Academy will follow suit and stick with their “Hollywood darlings” to win.  But I think in the last few years more and more wild cards have made an impact.  Just think Melissa McCarthy nominated for Best Supporting Actress last year in Bridesmaids!  Or the surprising inclusion of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, where he was nominated for Best Director, and Christoph Waltz took home an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Most of you know that I am an Oscar freak fanatic!  I love trying to guess who will be nominated and who’s going to win.  I even host an annual Oscar Party at my house!  It’s themed each year, full of wine and appetizers to die for!  All guests receive a ballot of all the nominees and must mark their winning selection before the ceremonies begin.  And then it’s pencil’s down!  I collect all writing utensils and replace them with a colored marker.  Guests check off and count how many correct selections they made and the top 3 people with the most right all win fabulous Hollywood worthy schwag bag prizes!

So with the slew of big films all releasing now, I thought I’d better get my butt to the movies!

Hollywood Darling and Tolkien Geek Nominee:  The Hobbit, 3D

Over the course of its three films, The Lord of the Rings trilogy won 17 Oscars, and was nominated for a total of 30.  I’d say that’s pretty good odds.  They made almost all the big categories, with director Peter Jackson earning his award for Best Director.  So what do we think will happen for this returning director and crew with their recent release of Part 1, The Hobbit?


Sadly for Martin Freeman, I don’t think he’ll be nominated for a Lead Actor.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved him as Bilbo!  He did fabulously!  But, I think he’s up against too many Hollywood Heavyhitters like Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, and Hugh Jackman.

I’m actually not so sure there will be any acting nominations, but let’s not rule out Ian McKellen as Gandalf for a Best Supporting Actor just yet!  He’s been previously nominated for the role, so it could happen.

Where I think The Hobbit is going to shine is in the special effects categories.  Let’s face it, they’re all well deserved!  The credits for this movie were intense when you see how many people were involved in the making of the film.  They had their own medical staff on hand!  And model makers for those Tolkien landscapes.  I’m expecting heavy nominations for The Hobbit in all Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Art Direction categories.  I think it’s going to also see nominations in the Costume and Make-up Categories.


Who knew Tolkien dwarves could be so sexy?

Another thing Jackson does well is the musical scores and credit song.  Annie Lennox took home an Oscar for LOTR: Return of the King’s “Into the West” and Enya was nominated for The Fellowship of the Ring’s “May It Be.”  I would be quite happy for Neil Flinn to be nominated for “Song of the Lonely Mountain”.

With that said, I don’t think The Hobbit will take the win for Best Original song, assuming Adele is nominated for Skyfall, but it’s still a strong contender.  Good luck, Neil Flinn!

And lastly, Peter Jackson and his film, The Hobbit, will both receive Oscar Nominations.  I think Jackson stands a chance for Best Director again, but I don’t think the Academy is going to vote The Hobbit as best film.  There’s not many science fiction/fantasy films that have earned that title.  If you ask me, it’s going to go to a more acceptable indie flick like Silver Linings Playbook, or something more historic for the times like Argo or Zero Dark Thirty.  We shall see…

For more Oscar fun, check out this movie byte for more Academy Award Predictions!

And stay tuned for more of my Countdown to the Oscars!  Who do you think will be nominated this year?

The Scarlet Letter: Not Just About the Bath Tub and Embroidery

Recently, I read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and was really excited to watch some of its adaptations.  Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for awhile know I’m a huge advocate of watching the movie first!  Normally that is the route I go because when you read the book first, like it, and expect the same great feeling to emerge from watching the film, you are usually let down.  Thus, I see the film first, then read the book – so I can be delighted and surprised by differences in character or plot.

The Scarlet Letter is a classic though.  I already knew the basic plot of the story.  Hester Prynne is convicted of adultery and forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her dress at all times, thereby displaying to the world her sin for the remainder of her days.  After reading the book, I rented the Demi Moore version of the very freely adapted Scarlet Letter.


Um…where did the rest of the book go???  Have any of you seen this movie?!  The only thing in this adaptation that comes from the book is Hester’s affair with Reverend Dimmesdale, their subsequent child, and Hester having to wear the scarlet ‘A’ upon her dress.

The rest of the seedy plot points…

  • Like Hester’s husband returning from war, apparently captured by natives and turned into one of them
  • Leading to Hester’s husband taking on an assumed identity whereby he can terrorize Dimmesdale
  • And ultimately stage Dimmesdale’s murder by “natives” then burn his deerskin clothes
  • Meanwhile Hester barely shows any remorse or internal quarrel with her life actions
  • And her daughter plays no role in the storyline other than a rare scene of a child running through the room
  • Yet the movie watcher must sit through strange symbolic flash scenes of a scarlet colored bird flying into the house as Hester bathes seductively by candlelight
  • And that scarlet letter is small and unobtrusive and looks like she pinned it on, no big deal!

And I repeat:  Where did the book go???

Was the original content not racy enough for the film crew?  I sincerely hope no students are renting this film version thinking they can write a school paper on the story from it.  Yikes!

Nothing of Hester’s virility, her longevity, the creepy undoing of Reverend Dimmesdale through his mind, the increasing accusations and questions from her child as she grows up

So then I tried a modern day version: 

Easy A


You know what, I thought this film was really funny!  Olive is your average High School Invisible Girl, until she agrees to help a guy, who was getting bullied, by convincing the school that they slept together.   You know the saying “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?”  Well, it spirals for Olive!  Suddenly all the guys who are picked on, considered losers, etc. are asking Olive for help and she is left with the tragic repercussions on her character.

In defiance, Olive marches through the school with a scarlet letter ‘A’ on her new sexy wardrobe, and tries to make the best of things.

With humor like Mean Girls and a storyline like Saved!, this is a film I can handle!  A fabulously modern twist on Hawthorne’s timeless classic.  At least here, you’re rooting for the main character!  And…no freaky imagery scenes!

What do you think?  Ever been really disappointed by a film version of a book you like?  How about really impressed?  Name your best and worst adaptations.  

Scents and Sensibility: Not all Austen Remakes are Made Alike


We interrupt our Featured Writer Series for this post about Jane Austen!  Tune in next week to join me and Kait Nolan hamming it up on The Happiness Project!  I’m convinced we’re the funniest two women in the blogosphere.  You should see our google chats!

I pride myself on my Jane Austen pop culture.  A Jane Junkie since birth, I’ve made it my business to investigate any remakes and spin offs of her tales.  This year, I included Sense and Sensibility in my To Be Read Pile Challenge.

It’s the story of the Dashwood girls, recently fatherless and without income.  The family uproots from high society to the country life in a cottage.  Elinor, the eldest, is responsible, reliable, and always keeps her emotions in check.  Marianne, the middle child, is free-spirited, dramatic, and quick to angst.  Margaret, when she can be found, is the youngest, and usually hiding with a good book somewhere or eavesdropping on others’ conversations.

Like any good Austen novel, she discusses issues of class and gender, but she also discusses love.  For Elinor, it is the doting Edward Ferrars, favored son of the Ferrars, intended for great things.  And for Miss Marianne, it is all Willoughby, romantic and forthcoming.  But Willoughby is not all he seems, and waiting patiently and ever ardently in the shadows is Colonel Brandon.

Ang Lee directed the most popular film version of the book with Academy Award winning screenwriter, Emma Thompson, who also played Elinor.


Then BBC TV launched a Jane Austen series on Masterpiece Theater where a new version of Sense and Sensibility was shown, a bit more scandalous version if you ask me.  Oh Mr. Willoughby, you tease! 


And oh, Austen fans, it gets better!  With the success of the Bollywood Bride and Prejudice spinoff of Pride and Prejudice, Indian film star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan also starred in the Bollywood version of Sense and Sensibility called I Have Found It.


If you’ve never seen a Bollywood film, I recommend it.  Their cinema is known for its music, dance, and colorful costumes.  Here’s an example from I Have Found It.

Bollywood isn’t the only one taking liberties with Austen’s work.  I also included the sci-fi adaptation, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters on my TBR book list this year.


In this kitschy version, Elinor and Marianne are well adept swimmers and expert harpooners.  Willoughby rides up on a dolphin instead of a horse, and wears a very becoming wetsuit.  Colonel Brandon was cursed by an evil Sea Witch and is now half aquatic with tentacles and gills.  More sci-fi than Austen, but still mostly true to plot, and very entertaining.

Now Onto the Bad Remake!


My sister, another Jane Junkie, called me the other evening to tell me that Lifetime was showing a film call Scents and Sensibility.  The premise?

Elinor (Ashley Williams) and Marianne (Marla Sokoloff) Dashwood live a charmed life. They get everything their hearts desire, plus they never have to work. But all of that changes when their father is indicted by the FBI for swindling millions. Now that their family fortune is gone and the Dashwood name and reputation are ruined from the recent scandal, the Dashwood girls must try to make it on their own in life, in work, and in love. From the start, the girls find it virtually impossible to find good, well-paying jobs with employers willing to hire them. Love also becomes a big challenge for Elinor and Marianne, since they keep falling for the wrong men at the office. In Elinor’s case, that man is Edward Farris (Brad Johnson), whom Elinor comes to believe steals. Marianne falls for John Willoughby (Jason Celaya), who is a liar, and Brandon (Nick Zano), who brushes her off. When the Dashwood girls decide to try to market Marianne’s homemade lotion, they find that they just may have found a way to turn their lives around. Can they find their happy ending in work and in love?

I normally share positive reviews.  I love to rave about things I find I think you guys might like too!  But in this case, I just want you to save 2 hours (89 minutes if you take out commercials) of your life.  And to convince you I’ve done my research, I’ve made a play by play review of the things I hated in this movie.

1.  Marianne graduates from college.  In the opening scene, the Dashwood family has assembled to honor Marianne’s apparently long education process.  While I never heard a year amount named, it was noted as more than 4.  And for some reason, this was joke worthy and appalling.  This may seem pointless now, but I will refer to it in a later scene.  Marianne is accompanied by John Willoughby at the party.  Sitting blatantly next to him on the couch, the camera cuts him from the shot and has Elinor give Marianne the third degree about taking things slow with Willoughby.  Um, I think he can hear you…

2.  Henry Dashwood is arrested, family meets with lawyer.  The lawyer tells the distraught family that their father is being arrested for fraud, “more commonly known as a ponzi scheme” he says, to which Marianne cries, “What does that mean?”  Stupid dialogue encounter #1.  Who uses a basic term like “fraud” and then explains its definition through an obscure historical reference?  No wonder Marianne didn’t have a clue what he meant, although her dialogue was just as stupid as his!  For reference, you can learn about the “common Ponzi Scheme” here.

3.  Mom and Daughters Make a Budget.  Dad gets thrown in jail, and we have to watch a heartwrenching scene where Elinor stands in the street while their SUV gets taken away.  I’m supposed to feel bad because…  Mom’s plan is to move in with her sister, but the girls are on their own.  Suddenly Elinor and Marianne have to find jobs, and these jobs have to pay for up-until-now-unmentioned-and-unnamed-diseased suffering sister, Margaret’s medicine.

4.  The job hunt joke.  Montages of Marianne on the phone looking forlorn as she makes calls and Elinor having her resume’ actually crumpled up in front of her face flash before our eyes!  Cut to a Help Wanted sign and there’s Elinor, employed in a gorilla suit waving a giant banana sign advertising smoothies!  All hell breaks loose when the sprinklers turn on and she runs off camera screaming.  Yah, um, how can she feel the water inside giant monkey suit?  Poor Elinor is fired after day one.

Please hire me! (rlslog.net)

5.  Marianne gives work a try.  Marianne lands a job by lying about her name!  Congratulations, Marianne, the newest copy assistant in town! Kudos!

6.  To the Batmobile!  Uh-oh, Marianne needs a car to get to work, because “the bus is stinky.”  So Elinor hocks their giant flat screen for apparently enough money to buy a truck.  Sure wish I didn’t have to cash in my savings bonds from a middle school essay contest just to pay my parents back for my car!

7.  Marianne puts her skillz to use.  Remember when I said I’d come back to Marianne’s college education?  Here’s the thing, she majored in English and was there for sooo many years.  Her first 5 minutes on the job show her aimlessly walking around the copy room doing God knows what!  Looking for Rumplestilzkin?  I don’t know!  She can’t use the copier, and when another employee hands her his flash drive to print copies from, she has to talk out loud to herself just to muster the courage to find out what’s on it!  In all her extensive years working towards an English Degree, did she never write a paper?  Use a copy machine?  A flash drive?  So, you want me to believe she came from a wealthy family with all the latest trends in flat screens and vehicles, but she needs the voices in her head to pump her up to just to plug in some plastic?

8.  Marianne = Copy Room Conondrums, But Chemistry Whiz?  After a hard day’s work in the copy room, Marianne settles in for the night making organic flowered lotions.  She gives a bottle to Elinor.  Do you know how to whip up homemade floral lotions with scratch products?  Oh you do, but now can you use a copy machine?

9.  Elinor pimps product at her new job:  Janitor of the Spa!  While collecting towels from the pedicure room, Elinor overhears a client talk about the increasing arthritis in her feet.  Elinor offers the use of her sister’s lotion for the foot massage.  Sugary sweet comments are exchanged about the heavenly scent, “What is that?  Ambrosia?”

10.  Ambrosia Cures Arthritis?  Someone should have told my mother!  Within seconds of putting some on, the woman raves about how much better her feet feel and that her friend with back problems needs it and she’ll pay whatever it costs to get some!  Since when did aromatherapy cure all forms of joint pain?  

11.  Marianne suffers from boy problems.  John Willoughby is the love of Marianne’s life, but he’s led her to believe he’s in Switzerland, working abroad with a great business opportunity.  In fact, John is playing video games right here in the same town, but he’s covering up his tracks on those overseas phone calls, discussing how the “holey cheese” tastes better there than here, I mean here than there!  I mean, look a squirrel!!!

Willoughby, I miss you! How’s Switzerland? (google images)

12.  Marianne Catches Uber-Obvious Typo.  Marianne is given an assignment from the company boss.  Uh-oh!  There’s a typo:  IT’S is spelled ITS.  She circles it with red marker, she talks to her advisor, and yet she’s told to run it.  Then, surprise, surprise, the boss comes and chews her out for making him look like a fool.  Since when did the copy assistant become responsible for final edits?

13.  Doomed Spa Side-plot.  The owner of the spa Elinor works at is Fran.  Fran’s brother is Edward.  Edward likes Elinor.  Suddenly strange side-plot of Fran’s spa business owing lots of money unfolds and Elinor’s sister’s freaky magic lotion could be the answer.  I love it when there’s blatant foreshadowing!

14.  World’s Shortest Bowling Game Ensues.  Elinor gets asked out on a date by Edward.  He takes her bowling.  We watch Edward bring 2 giant florescent bowling pin shaped soda cups out, he teaches Elinor how to roll in a “romantic” scene, and then she’s called away by a catastrophe message from Marianne.  What a lame date!


15.  Big Surprise, Truck Dies.  The catastrophe Elinor must help with is the dieing vehicle Marianne rolls home in.  Whine, whine, whine.  Poor Marianne has to walk.  In the Austen book, Marianne loved to walk!  While walking in the park, Elinor and Marianne see Willoughby holding hands with another woman!  And yet, there’s no raucous fight scene.  The girls just leave!  Wha????

16.  Worst Conspirator Award Goes To…  Lucy!  Lucy works at the spa and is a minion of Fran.  Fran asks Lucy to break into Elinor’s locker and steal some of the lotion out so she can test it and sell the product to save the salon.  Here’s how Lucy goes about her sneakery:  Jiggle the lock, grab a fire extinguisher, and smash the sh*t out of the locker creating a huge scratch mark across the front and leave the broken lock dangling from the latch. Touche’ Lucy Steele!

Introducing Lucy Steele: Knows How to Use a Fire Extinguisher (jaclynhales.com)

17.  Surprise Date Followed by Liar, Liar Pants on Fire Terrible Dialogue Scene:  Marianne goes on an impromptu date with boss and everything Willoughby is forgotten.  However, Elinor surprises Marianne for dinner and learns through a large print sign on the office door that there are jobs available in the office where Marianne works.  Meaning:  If Marianne had come clean about this, Elinor wouldn’t be stressing out working as the maid in the spa!  Elinor also finds out Marianne lied about her last name so people wouldn’t connect her to her family.  Ooooh!  Double whammy!

Elinor:  “I had no idea how selfish you are.”

Marianne:  “I’ve been doing pretty well considering we have no TV!”

18.  Brandon Makes a House Call.  After the sisterly blow out on the sidewalk, Marianne’s boss, Brandon, makes a house call to check on her.  Wait, how’d he get her address if she used a fake name?  Apparently all was revealed during the missing scene between him on the doorstep and nodding at the kitchen table.  To make it that much better, he asks to learn how to make lotion!  My guy is always asking me questions about how to do a nice mani-pedi at home too!  While using a mortar and pestle to grind flower petals, Brandon injures his hand, and once again the miracle of ambrosia lotion saves the day!

19.  Lotion Gets Stolen – Oh my!  Elinor finally sees her broken locker and clearly tampered with lock.  Lucy does the smart move and blames Edward.  Elinor leaves feeling crushed in confidence and in love.

“I’m just tired of having to work so hard only to be disappointed.”

Really, Elinor?  I’m so sorry your dad got arrested for a crime and took away all your toys and free time!

20.  Edward Shows Telepathic Abilities.  In the race to the end of the movie, Edward pops into the spa looking for Elinor.  After learning she didn’t show up to work that day, he immediately races to the exact location she is sulking.  Did I mention Edward is a patent lawyer in this movie?  Very convenient, no?  So it’s Edward to the rescue, protecting our Dashwood girls from the patent-stealing sister of his, Fran.

21.  All is Well, Cut to the Wedding Scene!  Everything left hanging gets wrapped up in a matter of seconds.  We see Willoughby called out for the slime that he is in a split second duel where he, Brandon, and Marianne all happen to be.  ????  The sale of the ambrosia lotion is prevented just in the nick of time and Elinor and Marianne are able to quit their jobs and work on lotions full time!  They’ve magically sold enough bottles to get diseased sister, Margaret her medicine!  How fabulous that Brandon owns a PR company and Edward oversees their patent.  And of course, Marianne proofreads all the labels! 

22.  As If The End Scene Wasn’t Enough of an End Scene. To really clue its watchers in that the movie was over, we have to sit through a good 2 minutes of photo montages describing for us the future of every character.  Fran had nothing but terrible things happen to her, Willoughby marries an overweight foreign woman, Lucy becomes manager of the spa?, the girls have their magic lotion, and oh yah, sister Margaret – she gets to live on a horse therapy ranch!

Gosh it’s like they copied Jane Austen or something!  I can’t believe you missed this!  What horror shows have you watched recently hoping they’d get better?  And tell me about your favorite Jane Austen original and remake!

Hatfields & McCoys: America’s Most Well Known Family Feud


The History Channel recently aired a special miniseries on the biggest family feud in history.  The Hatfields and McCoys.  Spanning roughly 23 years (1865 – 1888), these two families couldn’t seem to stay on their own side of the Tug River!

William Anderson Hatfield (played by Kevin Costner in the miniseries) was known as “Devil Anse” and was the leader of the Hatfield family living in West Virginia.  Randall McCoy (played by Bill Paxton) was the leader of the the McCoys, across the river in Kentucky.  These two men started out as friends, fighting in the Confederate Army.  But life after the war was different for these men.  Devil Anse deserted the war effort, along with some of his family, and started up his own renegade militia known as the Logan Wildcats.

Some people believe that the feud started when Randall McCoy’s brother, Asa Harmon McCoy, was murdered.  Devil Anse’s Wildcats were said to have been involved.  But no one could prove anything and no charges were filed.

Hatfield and McCoy (gilmerfreepress.net)

In 1870, a land dispute arose between Randall McCoy’s cousin, Perry Cline, and Devil Anse.  Now, Devil Anse had investments in the railroad business and was using timber from the land for a profit.  You can imagine how a land dispute would be a big deal.  In the end, Devil Anse kept the land, but the McCoy family believed he used his political advancements to impact the ruling.

A few months later, Randall McCoy accused Devil Anse’s cousin, Floyd Hatfield, of stealing his hog!  The case was brought to jury whereby 6 Hatfields and 6 McCoys sat.  One of the McCoy boys voted with the Hatfields, and that case too was lost.  It is rumored the boy who voted with the Hatfields was employed by Anse in the timber crew and didn’t want to lose his job.

The Hatfield Clan (herald-dispatch.com)

From here on out, the tension grew.  Several instances of armed standoffs occurred.  Then in 1880, the battle of the Hatfields and McCoys turns into something out of a Shakespeare play.

Devil Anse’s son, Johnse, happened to meet and fall in love with Randall McCoy’s daughter, Roseanna.  After one day together, the two decide to get married, and for awhile, Roseanna lived with the Hatfield family.

But neither family was keen on this union, and eventually Roseanna went back home.  By that time, however, she was pregnant with child, and still unmarried.  Randall threw her out from his home and she moved in with her Aunt Betty.  Roseanna would give birth to a baby shortly after, but the infant died at only 8 months of age.  And Johnse, well, he went and married Roseanna’s cousin, Nancy McCoy.

Johnse Hatfield (civilwaralbum.com)


One of the most brutal occurrences between the two families happened when Devil Anse’s brother, Ellison, was stabbed 27 times and then shot in the back by some of the McCoy brothers after a heated election day.  Devil Anse said the boys could live if Ellison lived, but he died the next day.  Anse and his men gathered the McCoy brothers, tying them to several pawpaw trees and shot them to death.

The body count grew higher when after receiving some political allegiance with the new Kentucky Governor, Randall got a $500 reward placed for Devil Anse’s capture.  The Hatfields retaliated by setting the McCoy house on fire, where two more children were killed and his wife badly injured.

The fire is said to have ended the feud in 1888.  Several Hatfields were captured after the raid and sent to Kentucky for trial.  All were sentenced to life in prison, and Devil Anse made no move to get revenge on the conviction of his family members.

The History Channel’s miniseries on this family has been wonderful.  A short interview with Kevin Costner said, “You think you know the story, but you don’t.”  He also went on to comment that for an actor, it’s all about the details.  You can see for yourself how in depth the special effects and costume teams went.  The show is fabulous!

The Hatfields (history.com)

The McCoys (kentucky.com)

Oddly enough, my roommates and I were watching The History Channel’s Pawn Stars before the first episode aired, and a gentleman brought in an 1892 rifle said to have belonged to Devil Anse Hatfield!  Passed down from his grandfather, he had a framed collage of the Hatfield family photo, the rifle, and a note signed by his great-something grandfather.  They did bring in an expert to look over the rifle, and it was from the time period, however it’s not possible to authenticate now.  I wish the man the best of luck as he researches more and hope he can get the rifle authenticated; what a unique find!

Did you tune in to watch this History Channel special?  What do you think of the story of the Hatfields and McCoys?  Have you ever visited the area surrounding the Tug River?  

For more information on the Hatfield and McCoy family feud, I referenced the Hatfield McCoy County Historical site.

For more info on the tragic love story of Roseanna McCoy, check out the Blue Ridge County Archives.

Happy #HungerGames, and May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor!

(source: dguides.com)

First up!  The winners of two recent blog giveaways!  Winning the copy of Jody Hedlund’s new book The Doctor’s Lady is Justine!  And the winner from the Life List Club Milestone Party and receiver of an iTunes Gift Card and blog swap is Bethany WigginsCongratulations Ladies!!


I did it.  I saw The Hunger Games movie.  My weekend was a little more fulfilling knowing I had the inside scoop on all things Katniss Everdeen!

Katniss played by 2010 Oscar nominee (for her role in Winter’s Bone) Jennifer Lawrence, was amazing as the renegade heroine.  I really thought Lawrence did an awesome job embodying Katniss’ struggles throughout the competition.  Her leading men, Gale, played by Aussie actor Liam Hemsworth and Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson were also good pics for their role.

Now for the Guts:

The fact is I am an adamant proponent of seeing the film first!  I know, I know, many of you are gasping for air right now.  But that’s the way I do it.  I see the film, and then if I really like it, it makes me want to read the book.

Here’s why:  When you see the film and then read the book, you like the changes, it’s exciting, you learn more, the characters are developed.  But do it in reverse, and you come out disappointed, because the book is always better!

So what did I think of the film version of The Hunger Games?  I liked it a lot!  I really did. However, it’s incredibly difficult to fit as much backstory and symbolism and characters as are in the book into a 2+ hour movie.  They did a great job!  But I came out thinking the book is so much better.

The Pros of the Games:

1.  Effie Trinket’s Make Up – I will make this look happen, just you wait!

(source: hungergamestrilogy.net)

(source: ifc.com)

(source: hggirlonfire.com)

2.  The Arena – Great set work using the woods and intense shots during the fire scene and battles.  *Note:  try to avoid sitting too close to the screen, the theater was packed when we went and we got a little motion sickness.

3.  The Romance – For those of you speculating that this is just another Twilight, stop!  The love triangle may be there, but it isn’t presented in a puppy love, mopey teenager kind of way.  It’s life or death with the cameras watching!

Who will she choose?

Katniss and Gale? (source: google images)

Katniss and Peeta? (source: the hungergames2012.files.wordpress.com)

The Cons of the Games:

1.  Where’s the Mockingjay? – For people who haven’t read the book, it won’t be a big deal.  But I was saddened by how little explanation or meaning went into the story of the mockingjay.  My guess is we’re in for some serious flashbacks/backstory come time for the sequels.

(source: wikia images)

2.  President Snow – I adore Donald Sutherland, who plays the evil dictator Snow.  However, he’s almost too laid back as Snow and while he’s creepy, he’s just not as creepy as he is in the book.

(source: images.hollywood.com)

If I had my dream casting, I’d pick Kevin McCarthy from the 1987 film Innerspace, which is hilariously awesome if you’ve never seen it.

Kevin McCarthy (source: wearysloth.com)

Overall, given the time limits I’m sure they had, they put together a good movie with some great actors, Jennifer Lawrence in particular.  I’d watch it again!  I recommend you see it!  But know, you’re gonna like the book more!

Can’t Get Enough Hunger Games?

Holley Maher was Freshly Pressed for her post The Embarrassing Side Effects of Having Just Read “The Hunger Games”

My review of the book  and author research can be found at The Hunger Games: Best Lack of Sleep You Ever Had.

Sara Grambusch and I did some blogging editorials on Katniss’ Journey as Heroine and Team Peeta vs. Team Gale!

Ellie Ann Soderstrom offers us a critical look at the writing of The Hunger Games.

AND, you know what else?  There’s a little heated battle going on about the question of plagiarism because Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games bares striking similarities to Japanese novel Battle Royale.  Maggie’s Bookshelf shares more information about the similarities here.  Check it out!  It’s an interesting discussion.  I’m leaning towards the “not plagiarism” viewpoint, because if you’re going to point out Battle Royale, we may as well also toss Lord of the Flies and A Most Dangerous Game in there as well.  Or any dystopian novel where the theme is about corruption of power.

But that’s just my opinion.  Tell me what YOU think!

And, it wouldn’t be a movie post without a trailer!  This video has all 4 trailers of the Games on it!

Making Sense of the Unknown

(source: imdb.com)

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this film.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  I knew it was a film about September 11th, indirectly.  I knew it was about a boy with Asperger’s, indirectly.  The combination of those qualities both compelled and deterred me from wanting to see this film.

The film is directed by Stephen Daldry and adapted from the same-titled book by Jonathan Safran Foer.  Foer also wrote the book Everything is Illuminated, which was too made into a film, starring Elijah Wood, and I really liked that movie.  So why didn’t I run to theaters to see this one?

Do any of us really face the things we know are going to be difficult with running feet and waving cash in hand?!  Not in my world.  But Tuesday morning announced the 84th Academy Award Nominees, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was among the nine films nominated for Best Picture.  It’s getting a fair amount buzz early on from the critics as the surprise nomination.  Sure, they’re banking on the films with homage to the film industry, such as lead nominee, Hugo, and the black and white flick The Artist, but there’s something about this film.

What could an audience learn about a situation that makes no sense at all, from a boy who has to have a practical and scientific explanation for everything?  After seeing the film, I think quite a lot.

(source: post-gazette.com)

I’m not giving anything away to tell you that the film begins with the events of 9/11.  It is still difficult to see and unable to understand.  For Oskar Schell, the protagonist, it is a life changing day that will set him on a new course.  Oskar loses his father, played by Tom Hanks, in the destruction of the World Trade Center.  Oskar’s father was the closest person to him and had a way of explaining things and teaching things in a way that was perfect for Oskar.  This boy, is only my second encounter with a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism.  I hadn’t even heard of Asperger’s until last year, when my local library led a book discussion with all the local schools and community using Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, the story of another child with Asperger’s who tries to make sense of her brother’s death caused by a school shooting.

When his father is taken from him by “people he didn’t even know,” Oskar can’t make sense of why his father left.  A year after his father’s death, Oskar finds a key and decides if he can find what the key unlocks it will make him closer to his father and make sense of the unknown.  What follows is a series of encounters with individuals who will inspire you, irritate you, and make you laugh, told from the perspective of a boy with unwavering determination and courage.  By putting himself out there, again and again, in social situations that are difficult for him, Oskar will change the lives of everyone he meets, including that of his own family.

There’s something to say for the way our Nation comes together in times of need.  We’ve shared a history of despicable and unthinkable hatred toward one another.  But in times of great loss, in times of disaster, in the times when life does not make sense, we have a way of reaching out to one another.  And what better reminder of how important that is than a story of one little boy who overcame fear to get extremely loud and incredibly close.

Here’s hoping I’ll see you all at the movies!  Have you had an experience where life challenged you to make sense of the unknown?  What helps you overcome that fear?  What change do you wish our nation would make in order for us to be extremely loud and incredibly close?  Do you yourself live out that change? Why or why not?   

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