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Friday, January 31, 2014

30 Songs {#29}

Laura Osnes as Cinderella and Santino Fontana as the Prince in “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” -- Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
My blog isn't letting me embed videos at all, so here's the link to the song.
Sooooo...I just finished watching the last episode of Laura Osnes' vlogs of her experiences backstage playing Cinderella (I haven't watched all the others, but I'm going to do so as soon as possible), so I'm pretty emotional right now.  It was so sweet and happy, but sad at the same time.  I really did love it (except for Herman the fish dying - totally wasn't expecting that).  And that really doesn't have anything to do with this post, but I felt I had to tell someone and post document, or whatever you call it, was already open for this post, so... (and I think I just over-explained that).  Anyway...

A lot of people view 'Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?' as Cinderella and Prince Topher's ultimate love song (some even rank it above 'Ten Minutes Ago'), but it some ways, I just can't see why.  In my opinion, their songs are ranked as follows - 'Ten Minutes Ago', 'The Loneliness of Evening' (these two are actually tied) and then 'Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?'.  That's not to say I don't like 'DILYBYB?', but it's such a short song (and, in my opinion, doesn't really have that pretty of a tune) that it isn't all that memorable.  But I do love it, for the simple reason that it deepens their relationship, by showing that it wasn't just physical attraction that drew them to each other (that's one of the biggest things I like about the Broadway production - it fleshes out everything so well).

Do I love you
Because you’re beautiful,
Or are you beautiful
Because I love you?
 Am I making believe I see in you
A girl too lovely to
Be really true?
 Are you the sweet invention of a lover’s dream?

Or are you really as beautiful as you seem?

I think most of these songs will have the disclaimer that I've only heard one rendition, so I'll just say it now and be done with it.  I'm sure I'll be able to listen to other versions, but I think Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana (picture above, of course) are the best Cinderella and Prince Topher and will always be the best.  Forever and always, the end.

What are your thoughts on this song as being the ultimate Cinderella love song?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Movie Review: Frozen {2013}

Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio behind “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” presents “Frozen,” a stunning big-screen comedy adventure. Fearless optimist Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) sets off on an epic journey-teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven-to find her sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

I wasn't planning on watching this movie, simply because it was Disney, and except for a few older movies and a couple of Pixar films, my family doesn't really 'do' Disney (mostly because of the whole 'rebellious princess syndrome' that seems to permeate ninety-nine percent of their films).  I'd known about Frozen for quite a while (because, really, how could I be on-line and not know about it?) but the trailer didn't really impress me - it played the comic part of the movie up a lot, I must say.  I did think that the songs were amazing, but I listen to songs from stuff I haven't watched (mostly musicals), so that didn't really mean anything.  So, anyway, Frozen came out in theatres...and everyone was raving about it.  Still, that didn't mean anything, because most of the time, 'the public' goes crazy over all the wrong things (Twilight, anyone?).  My Pinterest feed exploded with Frozen pins, and my friends kept talking about how much they wanted to see it, or, if they had seen it, how amazing it was.  And it started to rub off on me.  One day, I was randomly searching for stuff on Youtube, when I decided to see if the full movie was on there (not too likely, but still...).  And it was (note: I'm not sure how long it will stay up, just so you know).

so adorable!
So, I watched it.

And here is my review.  It will include a bunch of spoilers, since I think it's finicky to always be putting SPOILER alerts in front of things.  I'm sure most of you know the plot or have seen the movie, so we're good :)

My favorite thing about Frozen, even more so than the songs, characters, humour, and beautiful animation, is that it turns the usual Disney movie formula on it's head and breaks the mold completely (okay, maybe not completely, but you've got to admit that there are big differences).  For one, there's two princesses (I know that's not really a big thing, but it is unique).  One of the biggest things is that the 'rebellious princess syndrome' that I mentioned earlier is inverted.  Sure, Elsa sings a 'take charge of my life because I don't need anyone's help ever again' song but like I'll explain a bit later when I talk about the characters, 'letting it go and testing the limits' isn't shown to be the best choice.  Frozen also gave a new twist to the 'love at first sight' thingy (please tell me I wasn't the only one shocked by the proposal at the end of 'Love Is An Open Door') which I think is awesome.

I can't get over how gorgeous that cloak is.
Next up...the characters.

:)Anna (pronounced 'AW-na' for some reason) is the main character (in some ways, I view Elsa as a slightly lesser main character, if that makes any sense) and she makes for a delightful one.  She's very quirky and clumsy and just a little bit silly ("We finish each other's-" "-sandwiches!") and I loved her.  She's probably the first Disney princess to actually have a really good relationship with her family (Elsa, particularly) and the amount of effort and sacrifice and love she puts into keeping her sister safe is one of the best points of the entire film.  Now, I know she falls in love with a guy and agrees to marry him all in one day, but, hey, we all make mistakes, right? (and I've got to admit that Hans was the biggest mistake she ever made)  She was just hungry for the affection that her sister never gave her, so she fell for the first person who came along (literally...).  One thing that really spoke to me about her character was how right after Elsa froze over Arrendale, she immediately took full responsibility for her sister's actions (since they were, in part, Anna's fault) and set off to find her.  Gotta love a girl like that.

Elsa.  Now there's a complex character.  The trailers all make her out to be this evil sorceress who purposely locked Arrendale in an eternal winter for...what?  Revenge, or something?  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  From the time she was little, Elsa had the ability to create ice (the whole thing reminds me of a Shannon Hale book, even though her characters' powers aren't as physical - like in Princess Academy) which, though fun, was also extremely dangerous.  So her parents locked her up in a separate room, away from Anna (which is how the two sisters got to be estranged).  Anyway, the parents died, Elsa is crowned as queen and then in an argument with Anna over 'you can't marry a man you just met', she accidentally unleashes winter over Arrendale (strong emotions cause her to, well, emote, but in different ways than other people) and consequently runs away.  Now comes the rebel song - 'Let It Go'.  In the song, Elsa basically throws away her old life ("I'm never going back - the past is in the past!") and the rules of right and wrong.  But.  She is still very much governed by the sense of right and wrong/her conscience.  I think the reason she ran off like that was because she didn't want to hurt Anna anymore, so, might as well do it dramatically ;)  But in the end, she still needs her sister's support, because relying on her own power just causes trouble to escalate, in more ways than one.  So, the lesson we can learn from that is - letting everything go is just as bad as concealing every single teeny emotion.  And I think she reached a more than happy balance by the end of the film.

Wow.  I spent a long time talking about that.  I'd better move along to the other three side characters quickly...

team Kristoff, but I liked Hans as well.
Kristoff was the character who I was expecting to absolutely love but...well, it didn't quite happen for me.  I mean, I liked him and all (better than Flynn Ryder, which is saying something), but I don't think he was quite as amazing as everyone else says he is (*cough*Petie*cough*).  He was a lot more realistic than most of the other Disney princes have been (actually, I wouldn't say he's a prince, except he marries a princess in the end).  Think, Prince Charming in Cinderella (what sort of a name is 'Charming', anyway?).  Nope, Kristoff is nothing like that.  He a rough and tough ice-harvester who was raised by trolls (yes, trolls) and he practically has no social graces when he meets Anna (and for quite a while afterwards).  Buuuuut, his actions near the ending were incredibly sweet, so he's still on my list of favorite heroes (just not near the top).

I don't know why, but I always loved the idea of summer, and SUN, and all things HOT...
no, that's not Hans.  it's Olaf.
As for Hans...what can I say?  I soooo wish he hadn't turned out to be the villain because he was pretty much a perfect prince (lyrics from the Cinderella musical come to mind..."He's our hero.  Such perfection.  He's the kind of guy that we'd all like to be." which is kinda ironic since he's voiced by Santino Fontana who plays Prince Topher in Cinderella) and he was really kind and helpful when Anna left him in charge of the kingdom.  But I'm not condoning his actions later on, because there really is no way to.  I like him up until he reveals his true plans to Anna ('cause that's when you find out he's bad, of course).  Other than that, I really, really liked him.  {Small note on Olaf, since I don't have much time left: he was the character I thought I wouldn't like, because he seemed really stupid in the trailers, but he turned out to be one of my favorites.  He brought a good dose of humour to what would have otherwise been a pretty deep, if not depressing, film}

The songs were all great and since this is going on Broadway, I can't wait to see what others will be added (I guess we shouldn't have been surprised when we saw this was going on Broadway, since there's about four Broadway stars voice-acting).  Now, I've always skipped 'In Summer' 'cause it's boring, and I also always skip (on the soundtrack and that) 'Fixer Upper' because, as Kristoff says, his troll friends are somewhat inappropriate.  I mean, there was technically nothing wrong with this song, but it's definitely my least favorite.  The soundtrack score is also good, although I find it a bit bland compared to my other favorite soundtracks (the first few instrumental tracks are good, and the rest just sort of sound the same as everything else).

Frozen Disney
Elsa's ice palace.
The animation is gorgeous.  Seriously, I would watch the film over and over just for the aesthetics.  The most beautiful sequence, in my opinion, is 'Let It Go'.  The creation of the ice palace is amazing (I know I'm using way too many superlatives...I can't help it :P) and Elsa's dress transformation...just wow (although I would have preferred no slit in the skirt - it was a bit much).  Since most of the film takes place in 'winter', the animators went to an ice hotel in Quebec (to see how light reflected off ice) and they also went somewhere-else-that-I-can't-remember to study how snow 'works with' people and objects.  It worked.  Everything looks incredibly authentic (for an animated movie, that is).  Also, the entire 'Let It Go' sequence took weeks to make.  Even a single frame took upwards of thirty hours.  Talk about dedication to your work :)

So, anyway...this post is extremely long and I don't want to make it any longer, so I'll sign off now.  Let me know your thoughts on this review and the film itself.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

30 Songs {#30}

Silly Youtube won't let me embed the video of the song, so here it is.
Yay!  I'm so happy to be doing 30 Songs again, especially as I have some amazing new songs in my repertoire that I can't wait to tell you all about.  Most of them are from Cinderella and Jane Eyre, and to kick off the festivities, I have one from Jane Eyre (I think I have over seventy-five percent of both musicals on my list, truth be told).  I discovered this gorgeous musical just a few weeks ago.  I'd heard quite a bit about it from Amy and Melody (mostly through their dream cast), but I didn't really decide to listen to it until one afternoon when I had some free time.  After all, what did I have to lose?  (and James Barbour is Mr Rochester so, yeah).  I was completely blown away by the entire thing and quickly downloaded the soundtrack through a program my library has.  I'm on a fair way to memorizing all my favorite songs (through dint of listening to them about a million times), and the one I'm focusing on today - 'Painting Her Portrait' - is one of my top favorites.

One thing I like about it is how accurate it is to the book (in fact, the whole musical is).  I'm a huge fan of the book, so it's always nice when an adaption ties in nicely with it.  Basically, in this song, Jane paints a self-portrait, and then a portrait of Blanche Ingram, to 'convince' herself that Mr Rochester would never chose her, because she's just a lowly governess (especially next to the 'perfect Miss Ingram').  The emotion in this song is beautifully done (really, how could it not be?) and it always makes everything so much better when the acting's good.  My favorite part is near the beginning when she's laughing at herself for daring to think Mr Rochester might care for her (I don't know why, it just is).

What a fool I have been to wonder
If he might have a care for me
How insane the thought that you
Could be to him dear in any way
That a more absurd young girl has lived
I doubt that you could say!

You, a favorite of Mr. Rochester?
Gifted with the power?
Your logic's fading by the hour
And to no avail, Jane!
Poor, blind puppy!
Had to go on dreaming
Had to try to give your life some meaning
Still you fail, Jane!

I've listened to two cast recordings (I believe there is only two) - the Original Broadway Cast, and the Toronto Recording and in both of them, Jane has been played (sung?) by Marla Schaffel and she does an equally good job in both.  I honestly couldn't imagine anyone else's voice for the part.

Have you ever heard of Jane Eyre: The Musical?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Attention, Please

Music Quote

I am extremely excited to announce the return of the 30 Songs post series.

Yep.  There's go to be a whole new series of posts all about some (and just some) of my favorite songs.

I still have to work out the details pertaining to the order in which they will all go, but I have all the songs listed out already ('twasn't hard, to tell the truth).  You should be seeing the first post of the new series go up sometime next week, but I'm not exactly promising, since between sickness and planning for a Certain Special Bloggy Occasion in the nearish future, I've not had much free time (although I did waste quite a bit on Pinterest today...ahem).

Oh, and I watched The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) yesterday (EPICNESS), so I'll probably have a review written soon.  At least when I can get my thoughts in gear and not write the whole post in all-caps.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Very Special Anniversary

The Scarlet Pimpernel flower.

A year ago today, at three-thirty in the morning, I set down my Kindle, sniffled a little, and then tried to think about what I'd just read (it was three-thirty, so I didn't have much brain capacity right then).  All I could think  See, I'd just finished reading The Scarlet Pimpernel and El Dorado.  I'd known about TSP for quite a while, but had put off reading it because a) I'd heard there was some swearing (funnily enough, the edition I got on Kindle 'bleeped' it out using the 'd-------' format) and b) everyone seemed to be crazy for Sir Percy, and I didn't like following fads like that (honestly, I was sick of everyone fangirling over him, for some odd reason).  But one night I was searching around for new reading material (I have to read something every night, or else I can't get to sleep), so I decided to take the plunge and download the book from the Amazon store.  El Dorado was also there, so I got that too (I'd heard from Ally that it was even better than the first book, so...).

As most of you probably know, the opening of TSP is a bit slow, but I was determined to stick it out, and by the time I got to the ball scene with all its tight nerves and intrigue I was entranced.  I read the whole thing in a breathless hurry and when I finished it was around twelve-thirty in the dead of night (or is that in the morning?).  I was obsessed already, and I didn't want to go from the world of Sir Percy and the French Revolution (and, anyway, Percy and Margurite had just reconciled and I wanted to see how their romance would go from there) so I said to myself "Ally says that El Dorado is really good, so I'll just read a couple of chapters and then go to sleep".  That was a joke.  I got completely caught up in the story (again!) and read it all in two hours flat.  And maybe it was the tiredness, but I spent about half the book in tears.  It was epic (*wink*).

I will always cry for Thorin, Fili and Kili. And Arthur. And John. And everyone else I love.

I finally went to sleep, but when I woke up later that morning, I went online and searched until I had ebooks of every single TSP book (even the very rare ones).  I read them all in less than a week, I believe.  Then I completely understood what everyone's obsession was - because I shared it - and I've never looked back (same with every other obsession I've ever had).  I've watched the old B&W version of the first book (I'm going to have to wait till I'm older to watch the 80's adaption - can't wait!).  I'm listening to the musical right now, for the first time, actually, and I'm re-reading El Dorado for the occasion :)  Now I'd better go off and read some more...


Sunday, January 05, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America {The First Avenger}

Captain America

"Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing.  That you will stay who you are, not a perfect soldier, but a good man." ~Abraham Erskine, Captain America: The First Avenger

I debated about whether or not to write this review, since my book is a period drama blog and Captain America doesn't really seem to be the period drama type.  But almost all the film takes place in WWII, and I really love it, so here's my review.  I knew about Cap before I watched the film, and was even interested in watching it (mostly due to the enthusiastic reviews of a few of my friends) but it wasn't on the top of my to-watch list.  Then, my parents watched it one night and said the older children could watch it sometime soon.  So we did, and I really liked it.  But then I watched it again (just a few days ago) and I loved it.

Let's start with the story, the plot, if you will...

Steve Rogers is a skinny asthmatic weakling with the heart of a patriotic lion. Steve wants more than anything to serve his country in the war against Hitler, but the enormity of his spirit simply isn’t enough to overcome the limitations of his frail body. Steve’s big heart catches the eye of Dr. Abraham Erskine, a scientist working to create a new breed of genetically-enhanced super-soldiers, who will turn the tide of the war in The Allies’ favor.

Along with his collaborator Howard Stark, Erskine successfully transforms Steve into a specimen of human perfection. At first used as a propaganda symbol, Steve yearns to put his newfound power to actual good use, as the hero Captain America. He partners with a pretty Allied Forces agent named Peggy Carter and gathers an international team of special-op soldiers – including his best friend Bucky Barnes – to help combat evil.

 The characters are awesome.  It took a second viewing for me to really fall in love with the whole movie, but the characters were something I never thought twice about.  Firstly, there's Steve (also known as Cap, but I prefer to call him Steve).  He was my brother's favorite super-hero even before we watched the film, and he's become mine as well.  One of the biggest reasons is that he actually isn't a super-hero.  Sure, he's incredibly strong, he can run pretty fast, and he has regenerative powers (to some extent) but he doesn't have any supernatural powers.  He's not a mutant like The Hulk or a 'god' like Thor or...whatever Iron Man is. Actually, his shield is his most superhuman quality, and it's not even really part of him.  He's 'just a kid from Brooklyn' with a hugely caring heart and a passion for doing the right thing.  And the other thing that puts him on my list of favorite heroes ever, is the self-sacrificial side of his character.  One of my favorite scenes in the entire movie is when he throws himself on the dummy grenade (only he didn't know it was fake).  That was the 'sit up and take notice' moment, for me.  I think Marvel did an excellent job of making us really like Steve even before his augmentation.  For me, at least, it worked well.  Very well.

:*(Let's see...other characters: Peggy.  I wasn't expecting to like her.  I thought she was going to be one of those women who's so independent and 'I don't need a man in my life' (especially since it was WWII and modern movies tend to do that with women in historical settings) but I was pleasantly surprised.  She's probably my second favorite character (after Steve, of course).  I loved how she enlisted Howard to help ferry Steve behind enemy lines to get the captured men.  She was just the right mixture of firm and sweet, and her relationship with Steve was adorkable (and, no, that isn't a typo) and heartbreaking (the plane crash scene, anyone?).  There were two moments that I didn't like her, though.  The first was when she shot at Steve's shield when he asked her what she thought of it - even though it was a comic moment, it seemed a stupid thing to do.  What if the shield hadn't held?  The other was when she kissed Steve just as he was about to jump onto the HYDRA plane.  Come on.  I'm all for romantic moments between my OTPs, but, he had a job to do and it needed to be timed perfectly.  Anyway...

Bucky Barnes (Captain America: The First Avenger).

Another favorite character was Bucky.  I'm rather sad that he's turned bad in 'The Winter Soldier', but that's how the comic books happen and I'm always one for sticking to the original, so it can't be helped.  Someone on Pinterest said that the way he survived the fall off the train was that he had already been injected with serum (you know, when Steve finds him strapped to that table or bench, or whatever it was).  Interesting theory.  But you don't know he survives the fall, so it was good for some AWD with Steve, and a sweet moment between him and Peggy in the bombed-out ruins of whatever that city was.  I also liked Steve's squad of men.  They were cool (and the British guy was J.J. Fields, who played Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey - what's cooler than Jane Austen???).  Oh, and Richard Armitage gets a cameo - that was epic.  Small note on Red Skull:  He was creepy (and he was also the reason only the older children in our family can watch it).  The End.

Honestly, I hated the ending (the very ending, not the plane crash scene.  That was sad and sweet and other words, one of my favorite kinds of tragic scenes).  "I had a date."  And that's it?  How depressing.  And I understand there's a little scene (little as in five seconds long) after the credits, but that was weird, and I didn't really understand it, so...yeah.  I didn't enjoy the ending.  But the rest of it was great.  Really awesome.  If you haven't watched this film yet, by all means do so.  


Friday, January 03, 2014

Soundtrack Spotlight {Pride & Prejudice 2005}

Meryton Assembly ball, Pride and Prejudice 2005

The soundtrack for P&P 2005 is arguably the most beautiful period drama soundtrack ever.  I know the film gets a lot of hate, but one thing everyone agrees on is the gloriousness of the music.  It's stunning, haunting, and gorgeous.  One of the nice things about the soundtrack is that almost every track is primarily piano (or has at least some piano in it) so the piano-book actually sounds a lot like the original thing.  The soundtrack is relatively short - only forty minutes - and I wish it could've been longer.  However, the beauty of the pieces that are there makes up for it.

My favorite tracks are 'Dawn' (one of the most beautiful), 'Georgiana' (so pretty!), 'Liz On Top Of The World' (lovely sweeping feel to this - it gives me chills every time), 'Arrival At Netherfield' (I like the piano bit at the end), 'A Postcard To Henry Purcell' (Darcy and Lizzy's dance, in case the name in unfamiliar - haunting and melancholy), 'The Secret Life Of Daydreams' (my very favorite track), and 'Mrs Darcy' (does this even need explaining?).  What's your favorite track?

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