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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Little Things {101-125}

don't forget to smile

~rain when it's sunny
~my glow-in-the-dark watch
~Spot Conlon
~chocolate cake
~silly pictures
~people watching
~the mall
~high heels
~a mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows!)
~song-and-dance musical numbers
~old movies
~new movies
~Johanna Mason
~fresh bread
~classic books
~reading till midnight
~my new blog design


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Series Review: The Hunger Games

The best series, behind Harry Potter.    Suzanne Collins, I thank you.

How do you go about reviewing something this big?

I thought and thought over how I would begin this review, but everything seemed wrong.  So I guess I should just jump in and hope for the best?  A month ago, I wouldn't have imagined that I'd have read all three THG books (twice!), formed a conclusive opinion about Peeta vs. Gale, watched the first film (and I'm going to be watching the second this afternoon!), worn my hair in a Katniss braid, purchased all three books, and have been given a Mockingjay pin (by my dad).  My disbelief would have stemmed from the fact that my mom didn't like THG (after she read Divergent, though, she agreed to read THG to see what it was like....and the rest is history).  I'm so, so glad I was able to read this series.  I spoke about the deep stuff, problems I have with the series, etc., in this post, but I'm going to do a little fangirling today.  I think how I'll do this is a mini-review about each book, and then my overall opinion of the series.  Let's get started...{and, as always, SPOILERS AHEAD}

Katniss at the Reaping
Book 1: The Hunger Games
Winning will make you famous. 
Losing means certain death.

The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

So.  The first book.  The one that started it all.  It's really hard to pick a favorite book (out of the trilogy), because they're all so insanely good and heart pounding and emotionally gripping, but this first one is my favorite by a small fraction.  It's sliiightly less intense than Catching Fire (CF) and sliiightly less emotional than Mockingjay (MJ).  I think, with all the drama and feels and media that surrounds the series, we forget about what started it all - Katniss volunteering for Prim.  In my opinion, that act is one of the best moments in the series (and, believe me, there are many vying for top place), because, c'mon, going to the Games is basically a suicide mission.  Katniss is small and other words, she doesn't have a lot going for her.  But she still volunteers.  Speaking about epic moments, how about Peeta's now-famous rooftop speech?

“It doesn’t matter, Katniss,” he says. “I’ve never been a contender in these Games anyway.”
“That’s no way to be thinking,” I say.
“Why not? It’s true. My best hope is to not disgrace myself and…” He hesitates.
“And what?” I say.
“I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only… I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?” he asks. I shake my head. How could he die as anyone but himself? “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not…. I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games…” ~The Hunger Games

SEE WHAT I MEAN?  That scene is amazing.  Now, the action, adventure, surprises, and suspense in this book are not to be taken lightly, but if you've read it once, the effect is somewhat ruined.  Oh, you can still be bite-your-nails scared, because the characters stick so deep in your heart, but it's not quite the same as when you first read it.  I read really quickly, so I tore through all three books in a matter of days, and I had the biggest book hangover ever once I was done.  I didn't want to leave the plot twists, and adrenaline, and characters, and feels behind even after I'd read it all.  But that's getting ahead of myself...right now, I should be talking about book one, not the whole series.  The machinations of the Gamemakers are never so evident in the series, as they are in the first book.  Fireballs!  Day turning into night!  Muttations!  And a bunch of other nefarious thingies (I'm so eloquent...).  One thing I really liked was the last few chapters, after the Games are over.  The story is still about survival, but of a different kind.  Katniss (and Peeta) have to convince the world (but mostly President Snow) that they had no plans for rebellion.  It leaves a great opening for CF, and instantly makes the book even more serious, since political power plays and spy games are always nervewracking.

Steal Katniss's Wedding Dress from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Book 2: Catching Fire
Sparks are igniting.
Flames are spreading.
And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Um.  I have no idea why the above plot summary (taken from Goodreads) is so messed up.  Gale does not hold Katniss and an icy distance, and Peeta never turned his back on her.  I think it would be literally impossible (until he returns to her in MJ...).  Sure, there might be a little more distance between them, since Peeta discovered that Katniss just loved him for the cameras, but, if anything, Katniss is the one turning her back on Peeta.  Anyway.  CF is a lot more intense than THG.  For one, President Snow comes to visit Katniss right at the beginning of the book, and, yeah...his presence is much stronger in book two, and it adds a whole new dimension.  Plus, the Victory Tour is both depressing and exciting, since it gives a glimpse of Things To Come (aka, the revolution).  AND THEN.  They're back to the Games. (well, there is a pretty big chunk of time between the end of the Victory Tour and the Quarter Quell, but it's a tad boring, and the Games are more interesting, so....)  I knew that Katniss and Peeta would be going back into the arena, but my mom didn't, so when she read was a major shocker.

"I am going back into the arena." ~Catching Fire

So.  They're back at the Capitol for a round of makeovers, interviews, and planning-out-strategies.  The tributes in CF are different from the 74th's (mainly age difference) but many of them are still awesome.  Chaff, Haymitch's friend.  Finnick.  Mags.  Beetee.  Johanna (yeah, except for the elevator scene, Johanna was a pretty good character...I actually found myself liking her by the end).  I loved how all the tributes held hands, and the wedding-dress-turned-Mockingjay (CINNNNA), and how the Cornucopia Bloodbath wasn't really a bloodbath this time.  I know the tributes were banding together just to save Katniss, but it was pretty amazing the way things turned around when they actually worked together.  I must say that the arena was devilishly clever.  Really, really clever.  Pretty much pure genius.  I can't fault Plutarch and the other Gamemakers on that one.  Poison fog, blood rain, monkey mutts, jabberjays, tidal waves....and a violently spinning Cornucopia whenever the mood strikes.  Oh, and the ending of CF is the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, so make sure you have book three right there, ready to be read.

Book 3: Mockingjay
My name is Katniss Everdeen.
Why am I not dead?
I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.  The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

Oh, Mockingjay.  The darkest, most depressing, most serious book in the trilogy.  Instead of the Games and some unrest among the districts, there's all out war, fought with both propaganda and weapons (Fulvia's idea of doing propo clips about the fallen tributes was amazing, btw).  For over half the book, the story takes place in the all-elusive District 13, but, then, Katniss charges off into war with several others and MJ becomes all that more dangerous and intense.  But to back up a little...hijacked Peeta is one of the worst things in the trilogy, if not the worst thing.  He's not Peeta anymore, and even by the end of the book, he's not the same.  Neither is Katniss, but Peeta's un-transformation is worse.  And, then, there's accounts of torture, Finnick's story, and The Hanging Tree.  Seriously, that song is creepy.

“Are you, are you coming to the tree? 
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me. 
Strange things did happen here. 
No stranger would let it be if we met up 
At midnight in the hanging tree.” ~Mockingjay

The other verses are freaky too.  So, basically, everything from Boggs' death to the end had me in tears.  One thing I really, really hated was Finnick's death.  He married Annie (one of the sweetest weddings ever), was more than happy, got back at Snow, and fathered a son (I'm not sure if, when he went on the mission, he knew Annie was pregnant, though).  AND THEN HE GETS A POINTLESS DEATH.  Seriously.  A lizard mutt decapitates him, and that's it.  No-one ever thinks about or mentions him again.  There was honestly no reason for him to die.  It didn't move the plot along, or even really send a message.  It was just...there, and I really hated the stupidity of it.  The same with Prim's death, although I don't feel quite as strongly about that (maybe because I like Finnick better, and I feel like I didn't really get to know Prim).  When Katniss screamed at Buttercup about Prim never coming back...that made me cry more than her actual death.  But at least the end is, if not happy, hopeful.  Bittersweet, yes, but not entirely without joy.  Even with the book hangover, I was content with how the trilogy ended.

My overall opinion?  READ IT.  There's no swearing, no romance beyond a few kisses that aren't described in great detail (one of my issues with Divergent), and the violence is done tastefully (and it's definitely not gratuitous).  Some tales of torture in MJ are pretty heavy, but it's just told, not described or experienced first hand.  The series is definitely for older teenagers (fifteen or fourteen and up), but totally worth the read.  The Hunger Games sends a thought-provoking message about our culture, without being heavy-handed, as well as some amazing literary moments and a solid reading experience.  I highly, highly recommend it.

“The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol's plans. The symbol of the rebellion.” ~Catching Fire


Monday, June 16, 2014

Soundtrack Spotlight {Divergent}

I'm dying for this movie to come out I LIVE the book it's tied with the hunger games trilogy and I'm waiting for the third book to come out this year:)

The soundtrack for the Divergent film is one of the best film soundtracks I've ever listened to, and even though I don't care for the book that much, from what I've seen, the movie is really good.  The soundtrack is one of the reasons for this, I'm certain.  Like any good soundtrack, there's a couple of easily recognizable themes that are carried through the soundtrack - Tris' theme, and the Dauntless theme.  Both are them awesome, with Tris' being quite, beautiful, and a wee bit melancholy.  The Dauntless theme is fast-paced, exciting, and generally adrenaline inducing.  And, there's one track ('Capture The Flag') that combines both themes.  It's one of my favorite tracks.  In a moment, I'll share my other favorites but, really, all of the tracks are really, really good.  I think the entire soundtrack perfectly captures the mood of the story, and I love music that does that.

Some of my favorite tracks are 'Tris' (it's seven minutes long, but worth a full listen), 'Choosing Dauntless' (this track is SO EPIC), 'Erudite Plan' (nice and creepy) 'A Friend' (gorgeous key change about halfway through), 'The March' (heart pounding and scary), and 'Everywhere And Now' (sad and beautiful).

Have you ever listened to the Divergent soundtrack?


Monday, June 09, 2014

"I didn't choose the musical life. The musical life chose me."

I adore musical theatre.  It's one of my biggest obsessions.  I love the way the song lyrics fit together so perfectly.  It's as if the words could never belong anywhere else.  The music, the sets, the lighting, the's so beautiful and powerful and awe-inspiring.  That's why I try to watch all the clips from each year's Tony Awards (which were yesterday, btw!), not because I'm interested in all of those different musicals, but because the atmosphere is amazing.  Musical theatre is like one big family (of performers) and it's indescribable.  You might find it surprising that out of the hundreds upon hundreds of plays/musicals out there (I kid you not), there are only six that I really like.  That's mostly because most of those said plays/musicals are inappropriate (language, themes, whatever...).  Or, others that I could feasibly be obsessed with don't capture me: Little Women, Mary Poppins, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess (although I might revisit that, since Sierra Bogress plays/sings Sara).
I have listened to songs from several different musicals (mainly under the recommendation of friends): The Little Mermaid, Next To Normal, Wicked, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Matilda are the only ones I can think of right now, but I'm sure there's been a couple more (at least).  However, as I mentioned above, there are six musicals that I love: Les Miserables (of course), A Tale Of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, Cinderella...and, my two latest additions (believe me, when these added themselves, I heaved a sigh of relief, because calling myself a theatre buff and only like four musicals...well...) Daddy Long Legs and Newsies.  And those two musicals are really what this post is about.  Daddy Long Legs was recommended to me by Eowyn.  Newsies was recommended to me by one of my 'real life' friends (GASP).  They are both completely, totally amazing, and today I'm going to talk about why.

Introduce yourself to the GORGEOUS music of this show. This soundtrack, a rainy day, a cup of coffee (or tea if you're a serious singer) and a comfy chair. Your life will be complete. I LOVE Daddy Long Legs.

Daddy Long Legs (DLL) was mentioned to me months ago, but I only started listening to it a couple of weeks ago.  I have no idea why it took me so long to listen to it, especially now that I have, because it's such a pretty musical.  That's right - pretty.  I have a habit of sensing a word that fits each book, movie, or musical, and 'pretty' perfectly fits DLL.  All the songs are the same, in the sense that there are no incredibly epic stand out songs (unlike Les Mis, which has 'I Dreamed A Dream' and 'One Day More').  Each song is on an equal footing with all the others, and the whole musical flows together so well.  One thing I find incredibly cool about this musical is that there are only two characters, which are on stage almost constantly through the whole thing.  I wonder how they managed the costume changes (if there were any, that is).  All of the songs are my favorites, but a few of them did manage to creep their way up to the very top of my list.  'Like Other Girls' (+ reprise), 'Mr Girl Hater', 'She Thinks I'm Old', 'The Colour Of Your Eyes' (+ reprise), 'The Secret Of Happiness' (+ reprise), and 'I Have Torn You From Heart'.  But, really, they're all amazing.  Plus, a lot of the lyrics are taken straight from the book, which is a huge bonus, right?

just listened to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of this today...I think I'm in love with this musical, @Roberto Naomi Armendariz Bruhn :)

I listened to 'Seize The Day' a long time ago, but I never really was interested in listening to the rest of Newsies.  What. A. Mistake.  Less than a week ago, I was bored, I was pinning stuff on my musical theatre board, and my aforementioned friend recommended the musical to me.  I listened to it straight through and, yeah, I kind of fell in love (I'm listening to it right now...for about the sixth time).  One reason I like the whole thing so much is because it was based off a real historical event that happened in 1899 - The Newsboys ('Newsies') Strike.  I'm a huge history geek, so that was pretty awesome to discover.  And the songs are amazing.  I've had them on repeat for the longest time - it'll probably end in a little while, since I tend to play favorite songs till I'm sick of them for a while, but for right now I'm loving it.  It's just...wonderful.  If Amy does another Celebrate Musicals Week, I'm totally going to feature this musical.  And it's easier for me to pick which songs I don't like ('That's Rich' and 'The Bottom Line + Reprise', if you're interested) than the ones I do like.  'The World Will Know' is amazing, along with 'Seize The Day', or course.  'Watch What Happens' (+ reprise) and 'Something To Believe In' are really good too...but just go listen to the whole thing.  All the songs are awesome.

What are some of your favorite musicals?


P.S. Since I'm constantly discovering new songs that I love, 30 Songs has become somewhat invalid, so I won't be continuing it anymore.  I do want to do some more Soundtrack Spotlights though, so stay tuned for those.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Comparing The Hunger Games And Divergent

I know this has been done a million times before (and that fans of both stories are getting sick of their preferred favorite being compared to 'the other book'), but everyone has a different opinion, and I'm sure that I'm no different.  I love reading comparisons of things that are similar, but certainly not the same, and The Hunger Games/Divergent certainly falls under that category.  Both are dystopic, both are narrated in first person, present tense by sixteen year old girls, and both contain great characters and world building.  Since I've only read the first book in the Divergent series, I'll be drawing on the first Hunger Games book only to make my comparisons, since I think it's the fair thing to do (I have read the entire HG series now - anyone interested in a series review?).  And now onto the comparisons!

The Heroines
  • The Hunger Games - Katniss Everdeen (how cool is that name?) has provided for her family since her father died when she was eleven.  It was difficult through the years, but eventually she settled into a good routine, even a good life.  Hunting with Gale, caring for Prim, hating Buttercup, and co-existing peacefully (if not affectionately) with her mother.  And then came the Reaping.  Where she volunteered to take Prim's place in the Games.  That was one of the moments I liked her the most.  How could you not like her at that moment???  She goes to the Capitol, has a fake romance with Peeta, cares for Rue, wins the Games and defies the Capitol all in the same breath, and goes back home (that all sounds so quick and emotionless, but I'm trying to keep this post short).  She's not always a likable character, but for the most part, she's an awesome character.  Plus, she has a super-cool weapon.
  • Divergent - Beatrice/Tris Prior is hiding a secret.  She's a Divergent, a dangerous condition that poses a threat to the government (for reasons I never fully understood) and because of that, she lives under the shadow of fear that they will discover who she truly is.  The first time I read Divergent, I had to give my neck a massage, because I was so tense most of the time.  She was worried, I was worried, and it showed.  Now, I never fully connected to Tris.  She's a good character, and I didn't mind her being the narrator, but I never really felt her emotions, except for the tension and fear that goes with every page.  One minute she was angry, then sad, then fearful, get the picture.  She has more mood swings than a roller-coaster has turns.
My Verdict:  This is tough.  I know I said some rather disparaging things about Tris, but Katniss isn't without her faults either.  But whereas Tris is selfish (at least some of the time), Katniss is selfless (although she isn't all the time).  She takes Prim's place, she protects Rue, she risks her life going to the Cornucopia 'feast' to get Peeta his medicine...but still.  I honestly can't decide.  I probably like Katniss a teensy bit better, but, really, neither girl is one of my favorite characters.  So, fine, I'll say Katniss.

The Heroes
  • The Hunger Games - I think Suzanne Collins was the one who really started out the love triangle, dystopian thing, and as is so usually the case, the first person to do it, does it the best.  I like Gale, I really do, even though he hardly got any 'screen time' in the first book (the movie was a bit better, showing his reaction to Katniss kissing Peeta and so on), but when he took Prim and steadied Katniss at the Reaping, I loved him right there.  It was one of his best moments.  I love watching his and Katniss friendship when they're hunting and talking in the woods, as well.  And as for Peeta...well.  He really confused me for a while, even though I knew how THG would end.  I didn't know he joined up with the Careers, so that threw me off.  I think, in a little way, I was like Katniss.  It took me a while to fall for Peeta but when I did, well...he's a pretty awesome.  I can't decide between him and Gale.
  • Divergent - Four/Tobias is one of my favorite modern literary heroes EVER, if not my favorite.  For all the faults that Divergent has, in my mind, Tobias more than makes up for them.  I'd read the book again just for his story, which is why I want to buy the collection of short stories that are all about him.  He's strong and gentle and has a no-nonsense air about him, and he'd protect Tris with his life.  There are so many little things about him that I love, and it would take forever to list them all.  And his casting in the movie is one of the best book-to-movie character casting choices I've ever seen.  Theo James is perfection for Tobias, and I'm not saying that lightly.
My Verdict:  Was there any question?  Tobias wins, hands down.  Even though I really like both Gale and Peeta, there's something about Tobias that I like even more.  Oh, and that question about whether I'm Team Peeta or Team Gale?  I can't decide, so you know what?  I'm going over to Team Finnick.  He deserves more recognition than he currently has.

The Villains
  • The Hunger Games - President Snow isn't in the first book much, but his presence is everywhere, from the Games themselves, to the Capitol's frivolity.  He's a force to be reckoned with, and in the movie, he has a slightly bigger role on screen since there are a few scenes with him talking strategy with Seneca Crane.  Either way, he's a menacing presence.
  • Divergent - Jeanine Matthews.  Her main problem is that people are still alive.  I kid you not.  She goes on and on about human nature being the problem, while she herself is creating the problem by crushing anyone who tries to stand up for themselves.  She's just begging for a revolution (not literally). 
My Verdict:  Both villains are cruel, manipulative, scary, and selfish.  Jeanine and Snow (does anyone know what Snow's first name is?  I know I read it somewhere, but I've forgotten).  And they're both calm and quiet and elegant whilst going about their villainous deeds, which makes them even more scary.  In terms of fear, I'd go with Jeanine.  In terms of powerfulness, I'd go with Snow.  So, they tie.

The Supporting Characters
  • The Hunger Games - Prim. Rue. Thresh. Cato. Clove. Cinna. Effie. Haymitch.  I love all these characters (well, maybe not Cato and Clove, but I do ship those two together and not just because they're both nasty - if you've watched the movie, Cato is actually kind of heartbreaking during the final Cornucopia scene), especially Cinna.  In fact, Cinna might be my favorite character in the whole thing, which is a big thing to say, since there are dozens upon dozens of different characters.  Since many secondary characters are tributes, you instantly feel sympathy for them, because they've been thrust into the arena and, you's pretty bad.  And, yes, I did like Effie.  She can't help who she is. And neither can Haymitch.
  • Divergent - Christina. Will. Al. Caleb. Eric. Peter. Uriah.  I like these secondary characters, especially Al, for some reason.  Of course, Eric and Peter are the exception, but all the others are great.  Some of them are more deep than Tris (though not Tobias), and I would've liked to see Christina's view on certain scenes (like when Eric pushed her over the edge...I might write a fan-fic about that some day) and Uriah was just plain awesome.
My Verdict: THG wins because I felt a deeper, more emotional connection to all the secondary characters.  Even if that emotion was hate.  No character in THG is portrayed in a weak way, all of them are well-rounded individuals, and I love that.  Divergent has some great minor characters, but not in the same way.

The Dystopian World
  • The Hunger Games - 12 districts.  1 Capitol.  24 tributes sent out once a year to fight to the death in the infamous televised Hunger Games.  Only one returns.  The districts are kept poor (with the exception of 1, 2, and 4), while the Capitol acts with revolting luxuriousness.  There are many clever world building techniques used in THG, little things that form together to make a cohesive whole.  The grain/oil in exchange for extra entries in the Reaping.  The ridiculous Capitol fashions.  The hovercrafts.  The Cornucopia.  The anthem.  In my opinion, THG is dystopic world building at its best, and it was incredibly interesting to read about the world of Panem (if a little disturbing).
  • Divergent - 5 factions.  1 Choosing Ceremony.  Countless factionless.  Divergent has a great 'world' as well, though I find the premise a little more far-fetched than THG.  I mean, would people really allow themselves to be slotted neatly into one personality type?  At the beginning, maybe (anything to bring about peace, right?) but after all, wouldn't there be more people with Divergent tendencies?  I could easily fit into more than one faction.  That aside (there needs to be a little suspension of disbelief reading almost any book, right?), Divergent is intriguing.  Like THG, there are many specific details that make the at once familiar and unfamiliar city of Chicago interestingly dystopian.  Zip lines, the Choosing Ceremony, the Dauntless' home, different faction customs...the list could go on.  Divergent has strong, good world building.
My Verdict:  The Hunger Games wins, by a slight margin.  The premise is more believable, and more truly terrifying (in a dystopian way), not only because of the horror of the Hunger Games themselves, but the signs that our world could be wrong, just like Panem.  Perhaps not to the same extremes, but terrible nonetheless.  Divergent is milder, and it's only confined to Chicago.  Still interesting, but not as chilling.


The Hunger Games.
But, really, didn't you already know that?
And do you agree or disagree with my 'verdicts'?


P.S. Today is both the anniversary of D-Day and Barricade Day (for Les Mis fans).  For the first, let me direct you to this amazing picture gallery of 'then & now' D-Day pictures, and for the second, I wrote a post on Feelsy Feels.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

My Favorite Black & White Movies

There's something special about old movies, especially black and white ones (henceforth referred to as 'b&w').  Even though they're usually kind of cheesy, with some bad camera angles, meh music, and occasional bad acting, movies made in the 'olden days' have a special charm of their own.  Perhaps because they were made in a day when manners weren't a thing of the past, where even a d-word in a film would cause a huge furor (Gone With The Wind, anyone?), and the dresses were swishy and gorgeous and modest (for the most part).  Those movies remind us of a time not so very long ago that more than one of us would love to return to.  I've watched dozens of old movies over the years, and although I haven't enjoyed every single one of them (far from it, at times), there have been a few - four, in particular - that stick out in mind as being amazing.  They're some of my favorite movies, and I can't wait to share them with you.

{in no particular order}

Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?- Clarence Oddbody, Its a Wonderful Life
"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives.
When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
'It's A Wonderful Life' is the quintessential Christmas film, and even though I don't celebrate Christmas (along with the rest of my family), it still touches me in a special way.  I watched it a few months ago (actually, it must have been quite a while back, since I watched it in December), and I'm so glad I did, since I was finally old enough to appreciate it.  The whole story is heartwarming, entertaining and, in some parts, tear-jerking.  Plus, it provides a different outlook on life - if you'd never been born, how would the world be different?  And would it be a good different, or a bad different?  Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors (if not the favorite), and he did an amazing job with the role of George Bailey.  Honestly, the part when it's like he was never born always gets me, and it's mainly because of his incredible acting.  I'm actually tearing up a little just thinking about it, because, y'know, it's  There are no adjectives to describe it.  There's also no words to describe the final scene where everyone pours in and gives George all their money.  That's definitely one of my favorite scenes from any movie, and it was the perfect ending to a perfect film.

Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities, 1935).
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
I reviewed this film not so very long ago, so I'll leave you with the link.  And if you don't have time to read the review, I'll just say that you need to go watch this movie as soon as possible.  If you're a period drama fan, or a Charles Dickens fan, or a fan of good b&w movies, this is the movie to go to.  It's not very well known, but it fully deserves any recognition it gets, and more.

Jimmy Stewart: Fighting against corruption in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."
"Either I'm dead right, or I'm crazy!"
This movie.  THIS. MOVIE.  Words cannot express my admiration for it.  I watched it when I was pretty young, and I thought it was boring (talking, plotting, speeches, more plotting, more speeches...), as I thought so many movies were.  And then about a year ago I watched it again and I realized my mistake.  While it's true that littler children will probably be bored out of their minds by it, those of us who are Older can certainly appreciate it (and should).  It's politics and loyalty (and betrayal) and one man standing up against as entire Senate, just because he knows that what he's standing for is right.  That takes courage, and Jefferson Smith has plenty of that.  Just go read some of these quotes...if you haven't seen the movie, I guarantee they will make you want to.  'Mr Smith Goes To Washington' is a classic film, and for all the right reasons.  It's funny, patriotic, intense, dramatic, and a tiny bit romantic.  So, basically, it has something for everyone above the age of ten (or so).

Stalag 17, 1954
"Just because the Germans are dumb doesn't mean they're stupid."
I've probably since this film about five times (the most recent viewing being a couple weeks ago), and it's one of my favorite war movies ever, even though the whole thing takes place in a prisoner of war camp ('Stalag' is roughly the German equivalent of 'prison camp').  Since I don't believe many people have heard of it, here's the basic basic basic plot - the POWs in one barrack figure out that there's a spy hidden among them that's tipping off the Germans about escape plans, radios, etc.  The entire movie is the prisoners trying to figure out who the guy is.  And I really, really can't say anymore, because reading spoilers for this film would be a tragedy.  Just pull it up on your computer (it's all on Youtube), and get it playing.  Don't look up anything about it.  Just start watching it.  One thing I like about 'Stalag 17' is that even though it's very tense/intense, each serious scene is offset by a funny one (or at least a funny moment).  It keeps everything light, while not detracting from the seriousness of the situation (three guys die by the end of the film, and one gets beat up really badly).  Also, this film was the inspiration (or, should I say, plagarismation - honestly, the first episode of 'HH' is basically a rip-off of S17) for the iconic TV show 'Hogan's Heroes' (which is also available on Youtube).  I prefer the film to the show, but the show's really good as well.

So, there you have it.  Some of my favorite old movies.  Have you seen any of them?  What are your thoughts?

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