Friday, July 29, 2016

Music Love: "Emmylou" by First Aid Kit

If memory serves correct, First Aid Kit was one of my "end of year" list finds. The very first song I heard of theirs was "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song." I went on to purchase several of their songs after that, but have been disappointed in their more recent efforts. One of the things I liked about them was how simple their music was, because it allowed the songs to showcase their beautiful voices. I find their more current stuff overproduced. It detracts from the overall appeal.

First Aid Kit is a duo of sisters that hails from Sweden. As I stated above, what I like most about them is their voices. I can probably count on one hand (maybe two) the number of female singers I like. I include Johanna and Klara Soderberg in that count.

"Emmylou" is a bit more country than I typically go for. I've picked up a few country songs here and there over the years, but by and large, it's just not my genre. However, I do enjoy folk, and often, folk straddles the line with country, although it fortunately tends to straddle the line with "old" country rather than "new" country. Definitely, if I had to choose, I'd go with "old" country.

At any rate, the country tune fits with the song, which is tangentially related to Emmylou Harris. Less tangentially, it's about searching for love. It's also about recognizing one's own faults, and learning what you want in a partner. The melody is lovely, the mood appropriately broody, and the lyrics moving. My favorite lines:

"Oh the bitter winds are coming in and I'm already missing the summer. Stockholm's cold but I've been told I was born to endure this kind of weather."

"Now so much I know that things just don't grow if you don't bless them with your patience."

If you're digging this song, I highly recommend you check out their album The Lion's Roar, where the majority of the songs I've downloaded came from. This is good rainy day music, not that there are many rainy days around here.

P.S. This video is kind of ridiculous and I feel a bit sorry for them that someone told them it looked cool. However, what I presume to be Joshua Tree National Park is pretty.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #98: "2010: The Year We Make Contact" (1984)

Movie Stats:
Released 1984 (USA)
American, in English (some non-translated Russian)
Director - Peter Hyams
Stars - Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban

Plot Summary:
Nine years after the loss of the Discovery & her crew (i.e. the events of “2001: A Space Odyssey”), a joint Soviet-U.S. mission heads to Jupiter to find out what happened. Scheider stars as Dr. Heywood Floyd, the former NASA Chief who was in charge of the Discovery mission; Lithgow as engineer Dr. Walter Curnow; Mirren as Tanya Kirbuk, commander of the Soviet portion of the mission; and Balaban as Dr. R. Chandra, the computer scientist tasked with restarting Discovery’s computer, HAL.

Minor blue language; implied sexy times

Bad Stuff:
Dull, dull, dull.

I hated the Cold War 80s-ness of it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that, at the time the novel was written (1982), the author couldn’t conceive that the Soviet Union would be gone in less than 10 years. I was alive then. I don’t think many people were predicting that. Even so, decades later, this film feels ridiculously dated. Also, given that “2001” lacked a political element, it was very jarring to have it crop up in “2010.”

My ears are very sensitive to high-pitched noises. There are several in this film, and some of the scenes with them are rather extended. I was cringing a lot. At one point, I even had my fingers plugging my ears. Very off-putting.

It definitely lacks the visual beauty of “2001.”

Good Stuff:
It could have easily descended into schlocky horror territory but refrained.

I liked the dialogue. It felt like the way people actually talk to one another. Also, the way most people behaved felt natural & human.

There were some cool special effects.

The Verdict:
Not a fan. “2001” was pretty dull too, but it was elevated by the stunning cinematography and interesting ideas about the future. “2010” lacks both of those things. It feels like a standard 1980s Cold War movie, minus a little action to spice it up. Consider this exchange, which I'm pretty sure I saw in multiple 80s movies:

Max Brajlovsky (Elya Baskin): “Piece of pie!”
Dr. Walter Curnow: “It’s, ‘piece of cake!’”
Five minutes later …
Max: “Easy as cake!”
Walter: “It’s, ‘easy as pie!’”

The acting is okay. Nothing to write home about, but nothing bad either (except for Helen Mirren’s hair, truly a multi-national tragedy). There are some interesting ideas. I’m still not sure if I like the ending or if I think it’s absurd. Maybe a bit of both. At least it gave me something to think about. Overall, though, this isn’t one I’d recommend.

I give it 2.5 stars.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Woodland Enchantress Cross Stitch, Progress Report 1

When I mentioned to regular commentor Patricia that I was working on a new cross stitch, she asked me if I was going to post pictures of it when it was done. "That's a great idea," I thought to myself. "Why wait until the end? Why not post quarterly updates on how it's going?"

So here is the first post in a new series about my cross stitch. Unfortunately, the suggestion came after I'd already started, so there aren't any very early pics. My plan for this stitch is to frame it once it's done and hang it in the library we're planning for the house we haven't bought yet (nor can we buy at this time). However, it will take a year to finish, if not longer (almost definitely longer), so there's plenty of time for us to purchase a house!

Here are some pics to set the stage:

What it's supposed to look like when I'm done.

The very involved pattern. It's two separate

Here are the mounds of floss it came with. Fortunately, modern kits come with the floss separated out and labeled. The very large cross stitch I did about 20 years ago didn't. I fashioned a "floss organizer" out of a piece of cardboard, where I attached a clipping of each floss with its name written above it. It was a pain. So many floss colors are very similar. Currently, I'm working with: light green, green, dark green, light aqua green, and aqua green. Oh, the eye strain. 

Spread long for your viewing pleasure.

Miri was very interested in what I was doing with the floss. Sorry for the litter box in the background, but at least you can't see anything!

Here's what I've done so far. Bear in mind that this represents HOURS of work. How many hours? I haven't kept track, but I would guess somewhere between 10 - 15. That's right, I haven't gotten very far. Cross stitch is pretty labor intensive.

Traditionally, cross stitchers use a hoop. I happen to dislike the way they feel in my hands, so I go with out. That's why my cloth is so wrinkled in the below picture. Once I've finished, I'll wash and iron it and it should be fine. However, this can lead to looser fabric, so if you're feeling inspired, do some research and see what works best for you.

The portion I've done is of her dress's overlay, near her hip.

Wide shot.

Close up.

Mostly, I've only been working on it during my needlework group, which I attend sporadically, but I try to get in some time here and there when I'm at home. I really love this pattern. I'm excited to see how it comes together, and how quickly I finish! My next update will likely come in October.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #99: "Three Colors: Red" (1994)

Movie Stats:
Released 1994 (France)
French, Swiss & Polish, in French (subtitles available)
Director - Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars - Irene Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jean-Pierre Lorit

Plot Summary:
When young model Valentine (Jacob) meets a retired judge (Trintignant) after accidentally running over his dog (don’t worry, the dog survives), they form an unlikely friendship. Lorit co-stars as Auguste, Valentine’s neighbor whose life intertwines with hers, even though they don’t know one another.

Very brief male nudity (butt only); very brief sexy times.

Bad Stuff:
The pace is quite slow, with little action.

I didn’t care much for the dialogue. I didn’t find it believable that people, especially strangers, talk to one another that way. Also, it occasionally bordered on the ridiculous. For example (and this happened more than once) -
Valentine: /rattles off some personal detail of the judge’s life that she couldn’t possibly know
Judge: “How did you know that?”
Valentine: “It’s obvious.”
Me: “No, no it’s not!”

You definitely won’t forget the name of this movie. The use of the color red throughout is practically oppressive.

Good Stuff:
Great cinematography.

I loved how sparse and simple it felt at times. I particularly enjoyed the long shots with Valentine when she was completely silent, whether in a room with another person or not. It gave such a strong sense of how introverted she was.

Really nice character development, particularly for the judge.

The Verdict:
Red is the final movie in a trilogy (Blue, White, Red; the colors of the French flag), although the movies are only connected by the last scene of Red. I saw the whole trilogy 20 years ago, not long after it came out. While I like this film, I was perplexed to find it on a list of sci fi movies. Having watched it again, I’m still perplexed. There’s certainly a strong element of magic realism to it, but I still can’t stretch my imagination far enough to think of it as sci fi. I wouldn’t dissuade you from watching it. In fact, I recommend watching the trilogy, in order. However, don’t go into it expecting science fiction out of it.

I give this film 3.5 stars.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #100: "Independence Day" (1996)

Movie Stats:
Released 1996 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Roland Emmerich
Stars - Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, and many others

Plot Summary:
When aggressive aliens try to take over the Earth, it’s up to the Americans to save the day, led by fighter pilot Captain Steve Hiller (Smith), President Thomas J. Whitmore (Pullman), and computer genius David Levinson (Goldblum).

Major violence; minor gore; minor blue language.

Bad Stuff:
The rah-rah Americanism is pretty over-the-top ridiculous. The worst of it is when they start sending out the plan to take down the aliens and the British are like, “it’s about bloody time,” like they were just sitting around, waiting for the Americans to come save them.

It does that thing I hate in action movies, where if a person has one skill, that means they have another, tangentially related skill. [SPOILER] For example, Steve can fly a jet, therefore he can fly an alien aircraft. David writes code (I think?) and went to MIT, therefore he can write a virus to take down an alien computer system, etc. [SPOILER]

There’s some pretty hokey stuff. When I saw this in the theater 20 years ago (on opening day, I’m pretty sure), the whole entire audience burst into disbelieving laughter at the scene with the dog (if you’ve seen it, you know the one).

Good Stuff:
This is a formulaic, summer blockbuster done right. The bad guys, largely unseen, are pure evil. The good guys, though nearly beaten, prevail in the end. It’s got humor, it’s got explosions, and it’s got romance. Does it make sense? Who cares! This movie hit the big time because the formula works, especially when it’s done well.

The supporting cast is great. My particular favorites are: Judd Hirsch, as David’s father, Julius; Randy Quaid as alcoholic Vietnam vet fighter pilot Russell Casse; and Brent Spiner as scientist Dr. Brakish Okun.

The special effects have held up really well.

The Verdict:
I really liked this the first time I saw it. In the ensuing years, I convinced myself that it probably wasn’t very good (I think I saw parts of it, but not the whole thing, until watching it again for this project). Let’s be honest: this isn’t the kind of film that’s going to be winning any of the big awards at the Oscars. It was never meant to be. It’s fun summer fluff, and it’s very enjoyable. I wouldn’t want to watch it once a year (as my husband and I do “Groundhog Day,” in honor of the day in question), but I could see myself watching it again 5 years from now and being entertained anew.

I give it 4 stars.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Up with Geography: Central African Republic

Central African Republic




African continent. Central African
Republic outlined in dark ink & shaded.

A close-up of Central African Republic & its neighbors.

Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon

Water Borders:

Total Area:
240,534 square miles

Five Largest Cities:
Bangui, Bimbo, Berberati, Carnot, Bambari

Famous Geographical Point:
Karre Mountains

Famous Person:
Mouhamadou Habib Habibou, soccer player

Book Set In/About:
Making Sense of the Central African Republic, edited by Tatiana Carayannis & Louisa Lombard

A collection of non-fiction pieces, written by scholars of the Central African Republic.

Movie Set In/About:
"Echoes from a Somber Empire (Echos aus einem düsteren Reich)" (1990), directed by Werner Herzog

A documentary about Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Central African Republic's long-term, controversial president.

Headline of the Day:
"Hollande: French Troops Will Leave Central African Republic in October" in Voice of America.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100: Overview

I had a difficult time coming up with my next movie project. I considered ideas of my own and kicked around ideas solicited from friends. My top idea was to watch all of Alan Rickman’s major motion pictures. I loved him as an actor and took his death hard. However, so many of his movies aren’t available on DVD that I abandoned the project. A clever friend suggested doing a “six degrees of separation” project, so I thought that might be a nice way to honor Mr. Rickman. But then I tried to do it a few times and kept accidentally getting back to Mr. Rickman in less than 6 movies. So I moved on to an idea I’ve been considering for a while, where I watch an original movie and its remake, then compare the two. Ultimately I decided that I didn’t have the mental energy to pursue it at this time (it’s hard to find a good, comprehensive list of movie remakes).

I added and took off so many movies from my Netflix DVD queue that if anyone but me is paying attention to it, they must be very confused!

In the end, I decided I wanted a pre-made list to work off of, like AFI or Best Picture. I wanted something with more modern stuff than AFI, preferably something that had a lot of movies I’d never seen before. I thought a  genre that I don’t typically watch would be nice.

And that’s how I came to the Sci Fi Top 100 list.

Given my natural tastes (I love sci fi and fantasy, write it for a living), it’s amazing how few sci fi films I’ve seen. I looked at several different lists before settling on THIS ONE put together by Timeout London. My husband, a huge lover of sci fi, thinks it’s pretty much the worst list in the history of ever. Do I think it’s the best list of sci fi movies ever? Not really, but I like that it includes a lot of movies I’ve never seen, including many I’ve never even heard of.

As with AFI, I’ll start the list at #100 and work my way up. Movies will be rated on a scale of .25 to 5 stars. Any movie that was previously reviewed for another project will receive a brief write-up, along with a link to the original review.

So come along with me, and let’s have some fun watching aliens, outer space, futuristic stuff, and probably lots of explosions! We’ll get started with an American classic next week.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

AFI Top 100: Master List of Reviews and Scores

Here it is, my full list of scores and reviews. The list goes from my favorite to my least favorite. In cases where films share the same score, I’ve listed them based on personal preference. For example, the first 4 star review you see listed will be my favorite of all the films I’ve given 4 stars to.

Note: For every movie that was originally reviewed for another project, I have linked that original review, rather than the abbreviated AFI review. "Casablanca," for example, is linked to its Best Picture review.

1. Casablanca - 5.0
2. Taxi Driver - 4.75
3. On the Waterfront - 4.75
4. Platoon - 4.5
5. Singin' in the Rain - 4.5
6. Jaws - 4.5
7. Pulp Fiction - 4.5
8. The Godfather - 4.5
9. Schindler's List - 4.5
10. Modern Times - 4.25
11. The Manchurian Candidate - 4.25
12. Stagecoach - 4.25
13. Fargo - 4.25
14. Raiders of the Lost Ark - 4.25
15. Rear Window - 4.25
16. Lawrence of Arabia - 4.25
17. The Sound of Music - 4.25
18. Gone with the Wind - 4.25
19. Psycho - 4.25
20. A Place in the Sun - 4.0
21. A Streetcar Named Desire - 4.0
22. All About Eve - 4.0
23. Chinatown - 4.0
24. Sunset Blvd. - 4.0
25. The Best Years of Our Lives - 4.0
26. The Silence of the Lambs - 4.0
27. The Bridge on the River Kwai - 4.0
28. Apocalypse Now - 4.0
29. The Wizard of Oz - 4.0
30. Double Indemnity - 4.0
31. Dances with Wolves - 4.0
32. Goodfellas - 4.0
33. Patton - 4.0
34. It Happened One Night - 4.0
35. West Side Story - 4.0
36. The Third Man - 4.0
37. Easy Rider - 4.0
38. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - 4.0
39. Wuthering Heights - 4.0
40. Star Wars - 3.75
41. The African Queen - 3.75
42. The Gold Rush - 3.75
43. The Godfather, Part II - 3.75
44. Rebel Without a Cause - 3.75
45. Fantasia - 3.75
46. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre - 3.75
47. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  - 3.75
48. Tootsie - 3.75
49. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - 3.75
50. To Kill a Mockingbird - 3.75
51. The Jazz Singer - 3.75
52. Frankenstein - 3.75
53. Network - 3.75
54. City Lights - 3.5
55. Ben-Hur - 3.5
56. The Grapes of Wrath - 3.5
57. The Graduate - 3.5
58. A Clockwork Orange - 3.5
59. Yankee Doodle Dandy - 3.5
60. It's a Wonderful Life - 3.5
61. High Noon - 3.5
62. 2001: A Space Odyssey - 3.5
63. Dr. Strangelove - 3.5
64. The Apartment - 3.5
65. Vertigo - 3.5
66. Raging Bull - 3.5
67. Rocky - 3.25
68. King Kong - 3.25
69. Unforgiven - 3.25
70. All Quiet on the Western Front - 3.0
71. From Here to Eternity - 3.0
72. Some Like It Hot - 3.0
73. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial - 3.0
74. My Fair Lady - 3.0
75. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - 3.0
76. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - 3.0
77. Doctor Zhivago - 3.0
78. Annie Hall - 3.0
79. Forrest Gump - 3.0
80. Duck Soup - 3.0
81. The French Connection - 2.75
82. Giant - 2.75
83. Citizen Kane - 2.75
84. North by Northwest - 2.75
85. The Searchers - 2.75
86. Amadeus - 2.75
87. Midnight Cowboy - 2.75
88. The Wild Bunch - 2.5
89. Close Encounters of the Third Kind - 2.5
90. American Graffiti - 2.5
91. The Maltese Falcon - 2.25
92. Shane - 2.0
93. Mutiny on the Bounty - 2.0
94. An American in Paris - 2.0
95. The Deer Hunter - 2.0
96. Bonnie and Clyde - 2.0
97. MASH - 2.0
98. Bringing Up Baby - 1.5
99. The Philadelphia Story - 1.0
100. The Birth of a Nation - .25

Monday, July 11, 2016

Up with U.S. Geography: New Hampshire

State Name:
New Hampshire


Date of Entry:
June 21, 1788


Map of the USA. New Hampshire outlined in dark ink,
shaded, and with an arrow pointing to it.

A close-up of New Hampshire & its neighbors.

Vermont, Canada, Maine, Massachusetts

Water Borders:
Connecticut River, Atlantic Ocean

Total Area:
9,349 square miles

Five Largest Cities:
Manchester, Nashua, Concord, Derry, Dover**

Famous Geographical Point:
Merrimack River

State Nickname:
The Granite State. New Hampshire has extensive granite quarries. It's also the state rock.

Famous Person:
Sarah Silverman, comedian & actress

Book Set In/About:
A Separate Peace by John Knowles

A coming-of-age tale about boys at a boarding school during the beginning of WWII.

Movie Set In/About:
"Our Town" (1940), directed by Sam Wood

Life, love, and death in small town New Hampshire.

Headline of the Day:
"Air Quality Alert Issued for Parts of New Hampshire" on WMUR Manchester.

**After looking at several sources, I couldn't find a consensus on what two cities round out the "five largest" list. Some list Dover over Derry. Some don't list Derry at all. Some don't list Dover. Very confusing, and not an issue I've come across before. I went with Wikipedia's numbers.

Friday, July 8, 2016

AFI Top 100, #1: "Citizen Kane" (1941)

Movie Stats:
Released 1941 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Orson Welles
Stars - Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Everett Sloane, Dorothy Comingore

Plot Summary:
Upon the death of famous publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Welles), a journalist tries to discover the meaning of Kane’s last word, “Rosebud.” Cotton co-stars as Kane’s friend/business partner, Jedediah Leland; Sloane as his employee, Mr. Bernstein; and Comingore as his second wife, Susan Alexander.

Minor violence.

Bad Stuff:
I was bored to tears.

One of the final exchanges of the film sums it up rather nicely for me (paraphrased because I can’t find the actual quote): “So what did you learn about him [Kane]?” “Nothing much.” For a guy who had boatloads of money, his life was pretty ordinary. Rich guy has everything, loses everything. It’s a story that’s been told since the dawn of time.

I did not like the loud, confusing, extensive newsreel scene toward the beginning of the film. It really put me off and made it difficult for me to get into the rest of it.

Good Stuff:
Welles, Cotton, and Sloane were all great, especially Welles. He’s dynamic to watch.

The make-up work to age the actors was very good.

The Verdict:
If you can believe it, I’d never seen this before. However, since it’s 75 years old, I knew pretty much the whole plot (including who/what “Rosebud” is) beforehand. Would I have liked it better if I hadn’t known that? Perhaps. If I had spent the whole movie trying to figure it out along with the journalist (Thompson, played by William Alland), I could see where the mystery would be engaging. But that’s not how things went, and as it was, I can’t say that I was particularly impressed. As a slowly unfolding story about a deeply flawed man, it was decently done, but I didn’t find the man that it revealed either interesting or compelling.

I give it 2.75 stars.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

AFI Top 100, #s 5-2

I previously reviewed all of these movies for my Best Picture Project. Below is the pertinent information about each: the movie stats, plot summary, and the rating I gave it.

Movie Stats:
Released 1962 (UK)
American & British, in English
Director – David Lean
Stars – Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Claude Rains

Plot Summary:
Follows the exploits of British military man (later author) T.E. Lawrence (O’Toole), who helped unite Arab tribes in an uprising against the ruling Ottoman Turks during WWI. Sharif co-stars as Sherif Ali, an Arab leader who becomes Lawrence’s friend; Quinn as Auda Abu Tayi, another Arab leader who Lawrence convinces to join the revolt; Guinness as Prince Feisal, the man tapped to rule the united Arabs; Hawkins as General Allenby, Lawrence’s superior; and Rains as Mr. Dryden, a politician (I think).

4.25 stars

Full review HERE.

Movie Stats:
Released 1940 (USA)
American, in English
Director – Victor Fleming
Stars – Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, & Hattie McDaniel

Plot Summary:
I feel a little silly summarizing a movie that everyone already knows the plot of, but here goes. Spoiled, self-absorbed rich girl Scarlett O’Hara (Leigh) spends years and years pining after Ashley Wilkes (Howard). Although Ashley returns Scarlett’s feelings to some extent, he marries his own cousin, Melanie (de Havilland), instead. At the same time, Scarlett is pursued by known cad Rhett Butler (Gable). This is all set against the backdrop of the Civil War & subsequent Reconstruction. Hattie McDaniel plays Mammy, Scarlett’s loyal servant.

4.25 stars

Full review HERE.

Movie Stats:
Released 1972 (USA)
American, in English (some translated Italian & some non-translated Italian)
Director – Francis Ford Coppola
Stars – Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton

Plot Summary:
It’s the story of mafia boss Vito Corleone (Brando), his sons Sonny (Caan) and Michael (Pacino), and his adopted son Tom Hagan (Duvall). Keaton co-stars as Michael’s girlfriend, Kay Adams.

4.5 stars

Full review HERE.

Movie Stats:
Released 1943 (USA)
American, in English (small amounts of non-translated French & German)
Director – Michael Curtiz
Stars – Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, & Claude Rains

Plot Summary:
It’s December 1941. Casablanca, Morocco, under the control of Vichy France, is overrun by people desperately seeking a way to escape Nazi-controlled Europe. In the midst of it all is American Rick Blaine (Bogart), a bar owner who’s just trying to survive it all. He’s getting by all right until the arrival of Victor Lazlo (Henreid), a symbol of the resistance whom the Nazis are determined to capture, and his female companion, Ilsa Lund (Bergman). Rick and Ilsa share a mysterious past. Now that she is involved, will Rick be able to remain neutral, or will he decide to stick his neck out for her? Claude Rains stars as the local French leader, Captain Renault.

5 stars

Full review HERE.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Out and About: San Diego Botanic Garden

Located at 230 Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas, San Diego Botanic Garden covers 35 acres that boast 30 different gardens for an impressive array of beauty. When my husband and I visited on a lovely Saturday morning, it was surprisingly uncrowded. I can't decide whether I'm happy or sad that this gem is a bit hidden. Cost is $14/adult, $8/child (3-12), plus $2 for parking (electric cars can park for free at a charger if you request it but since our charge was high we parked in a normal spot).

Below are some pictures from our adventure there, posted mostly without commentary:

I loved the color of these figs.

The Mexican Garden was full of these amazing topiaries.

Boardwalk to the overlook, as viewed
from the overlook.

They were setting up for (presumably) a wedding
here. Great spot to have one!

The Botanic Garden is full of artwork. Frankly, most of it wasn't to my taste, or my husband's. Below are my three favorite pieces. Only now do I realize that they all represent women.

"She is Shotokan" by Julia S. Rasor

"Joy" by Laurenn Prater Barker

"El Capitana" by Yuriy Akopov

I leave it to your imagination why I took (and kept) this photo:

We had a great time, and discovered only after we left that we missed a whole section of the park! This came about because I didn't feel like carrying the map around in my hand (my purse was too small). I assumed that there would be maps posted throughout the park. There are not. That is my only (minor) complaint. I will be back, and hopefully often! They do concerts there - I'm intrigued.

Friday, July 1, 2016

AFI Top 100, #6: "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)

Movie Stats:
Released 1939 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Victor Fleming
Stars - Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton

Plot Summary:
After Dorothy (Garland), a young girl from Kansas, gets caught up in a tornado, she finds herself in the magical world of Oz. While there, she befriends a Scarecrow (Bolger), a Cowardly Lion (Lahr), and a Tin Man (Haley) but also makes an enemy out of the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton).


Bad Stuff:
I’ve always felt that Dorothy acts much younger than Judy Garland’s age, and I find it incredibly distracting. I suspect she’s supposed to be around 14 in the movie (Garland was 16 when it was filmed and she looks it), but I’m guessing in the book Dorothy was younger, probably around 11. So weird to see a teenager acting and talking like a preteen.

For a kids movie, I think it’s rather dark. I mean [SPOILER] Dorothy kills two people! Accidentally, sure, but still. And the witch sets a main character on fire! Also, those creepy ass flying monkeys [SPOILER].

There are a couple of songs I could do without. Specifically, the munchkins’ song. I think my ears are still bleeding from that high-pitched nonsense.

Good Stuff:
A lot of the special effects have held up surprisingly well. Not all of them, but more than not. I was particularly impressed with the approach of the tornado.

The central message (“there’s no place like home”) isn’t my favorite (not everyone has a great home life) but I love the secondary message, that we all have brains, courage, and heart inside of us, whether we think we do or not.

It’s funny. I chuckled quite a few times.

Apart from the munchkins, there are some great singing voices and fun songs.

The Verdict:
I hadn’t seen this since I was a young child. I hated it back then. Seeing it now with adult eyes, I think it frightened me when I was a kid and that’s why I didn’t like it (the witch and the flying monkeys are pretty scary). I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this viewing, but I liked it much better this time around. I like that it’s funny, and that it has a great imagination. The acting is solid. Most of the singing is great. Cinematography is also good. I don’t know that I’d want to watch it over and over again, but once every few years would be entertaining.

I give it 4 stars.