Thursday, November 27, 2014

Give Thanks, No Matter What

Greetings Pups,

Well, happy Thanksgiving and whatnot to you all!

I am going to be brief today, because as some of you may know, I am right in the middle of trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days in the confines of a single project. Yes, I am insane, but I can remember what is important. And whilst I believe in giving thanks every day, we do single out this one, so let me talk about that.

This year is nearly over and it has been quite a trying one for me. Yes, I have said that about may of my years. Still, if there is one thing I have tried to remember to do, it is to say Thank You. I may not have everything I want or everything I think I need yet, but I have more than most people. I have my words, the ones I've written and the ones I will one day write. I have my passion for that writing as well, which drives me every day. But most importantly, I have hope and I have faith.

I realize that having hope and faith may seem like a difficult thing to come by these days, but it's better to have them than to not have them. And if you end up with some surplus of either, may I suggest you share it with someone else. Because there is usually someone you know doing worse than you are. But you know what? Even if there isn't, it will make you feel better to make them feel better. For lack of a less cliche phrase, spread the love.

So, again, Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Be safe, especially if shopping is in your very near future and God bless!

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Every Little Step - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

I assume everyone has heard about that whole art imitating life imitating life or whatever order you want to put them in. Well, I found a pretty good example of that in the documentary Every Little Step.

Now I will not assume that everyone knows the plot to the Broadway musical, A Chorus Line. Basically, it tells the tale of a line (WHAT!) of people in an audition, where they tell stories from their own lives. To music, of course. And all of those stories that are in the play come from the real life stories of a group of dancers. In Every Little Step, we see the lives of people being documented as they audition for a revival of A Chorus Line on Broadway. Got all that? If not, we are watching real life performers auditioning for a play about auditioning based on the stories of real life performers. Take a moment and unswirl your mind.

As someone who likes musicals, as well as being a behind the scenes voyeur, I enjoy this documentary very much. Not only do we get to witness the stress and excitement and struggles and triumphs of the auditioning process, we also get to hear about how the show was originally put together. There are quite a few past interviews with the late Michael Bennett, as well as newer ones with original cast members like Donna McKechnie and Baayork Lee, the composer Marvin Hamlisch and Bob Avian, who did choreography for the original show and directed the revival. And we also got to hear some of the original recordings of those initial interviews, which was interesting to hear them telling the stories and have them bleed into the songs they inspired.

I have to say some of the most compelling things about this documentary came from the current dancers and singers who were auditioning. A lot of them are so open about their experiences in the theater, big time and small time, and they become so endearing to the audience watching this movie. We want to root for these people. You see the passion of people like Jessica Lee Goldyn, Chryssie Whitehead, J. Elaine Marcos, Natascia Diaz and so many others and you want them to succeed, if not here, then elsewhere. If not in this show, then another one. You just want them to make it.

One of the things I really love is that you get to see this whole process from people who are in so many different stages of it. We get to see the newer people, the people who have been doing it professionally for years, know the roller coaster ride of it and want to stay on, and the people who have moved on from that life but still know and feel the passion of it. One of the most beautiful moments in the film is when Charlotte d'Amboise, who is auditioning for Cassie, visits her father, Jacques, who was once a dancer himself. He talks so poignantly about what it's worth to anyone to do what they love, what they are willing to endure and sacrifice to be able to live a dream. Of course, he was talking about dancing for himself, but he was addressing anyone who has ever had a drive to do anything.

One of the auditionees, Rachelle Rak, also said something that everyone should take to heart. She talked about how you have to look at yourself everyday and like yourself, because they're not always going to like you. Like yourself, work hard and be passionate. And, at its heart, I think that this is exactly what this documentary is about is just that. Being passionate about something, anything, and working toward achieving a dream. I would definitely recommend this for anyone wanting to get into the theater, one way or another, but it's pretty good for everyone else, too. Even if you're not a hardcore fan of A Chorus Line, which I don't know if I would call myself even, you can still really enjoy this. Of course, if you hate A Chorus Line, you might have some issues, because there's a lot of it here. A LOT!

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nostalgia Critic Old Vs New Wishlist - Top Eleven

Greetings Pups,

I've said it before; I'll say it again. I don't like to tell anyone how to do their job, certainly not someone who I think is already doing a stellar job on their own. If you recall, a while back, I did a Top Eleven list of my favorite Nostalgia Critic episodes from his previous wave. Well, I'm visiting this subject again. You see, Nostalgia Critic does an occasional Old Vs New episode, wherein he compares older movies and their remakes. Some he covered were True Grit, King Kong and The Nutty Professor. He doesn't do these as nearly as I and probably other fans wish. Maybe it's because he can't think of any to do. I'm kidding. I'm sure he has his own list. But as I am always one to help, I thought I would share a list of suggestions that I hope will one day be covered by the Nostalgia Critic. And yes, I am doing a Top Eleven again, because that's what he does. And I will be calling him NC in the list to save me some typing. I'm not lazy. I just hate typing. Let's get started.

#11. 12 Angry Men (1957 & 1997) - This only makes Number 11 because I'm kind of cheating. Everyone knows the great 1957 film, 12 Angry Men, but I'm not sure if everyone knows about the TV movie from 1997. I have to say, I like both of them. Both had very strong casts, which is what the story relies heavily on. This also might be a challenge for the NC, because there is little to compare, other than those casts. Still, I wonder which one he would pick.

#10. Endless Love (1981 & 2014) - Yes, I know that the Cinema Snob already talked about the 1981 version of this film, and it was awful. The movie, not the review. And if anyone has seen the 2014 remake, you'll know that one was awful as well. But which was more awful? I guess instead of deciding which was the more superior film, NC will have to decide which is the more sucky film.

#9. Alfie (1966 & 2004) - Some people might say that this is an obvious choice. I mean, the original has Michael Caine. But you know what else had Michael Caine? Jaws the Revenge. And as penance, he must sit in anxious suspense as someone decides if maybe, just maybe, that remake is better than his original. Be careful what you say yes to, Mr. Caine.

#8. House on Haunted Hill (1959 & 1999) 1999 was not a good year for remakes of horror films. I refer you to NC's review of The Haunting remake. Yikes. But that wasn't the only one that was made that year. We also had a remake of the 1959 Vincent Price movie, House on Haunted Hill. I can't imagine NC thinking that it could be worse than that The Haunting remake, but we'll see. If I get my way.

#7. Ransom (1956 & 1996) - Raise your hand if you didn't know that Ransom of 1996 was a remake of a 1956 movie starring Glenn Ford, Donna Reed and Leslie Nielson. I'm raising my hand right now, by the way. Yes, despite the fact that Ransom is one of my favorite movies with my absolute favorite actor, Gary Sinise, I had no idea it was a remake. I've obviously never seen the 1956 one, so it should be interesting to see NC's take on both of them. And no fair giving the 1996 version more points because they were allowed to say the F word.

#6. The Poseidon Adventure (1972) & Poseidon (2006) - Believe it or not, I'm not sure which one I personally would choose as the better film. I mean, with one, you can make fun of Fergie's acting, but with the other, you have an excuse to use that South Park clip of the "A Morning After" song being sung by Cartman. It's anyone's game here.

#5. The Bishop's Wife (1947) & The Preacher's Wife (1996) - Well, Christmas is coming and NC always does something Christmas-y around that time. Why not pay tribute to Whitney Houston with this one? Unless he thinks The Bishop's Wife was better. Then, it's kind of a slap in the face to her. Okay, forget the Whitney angle. At least, we can also decide who is a better angel - Cary Grant or Denzel Washington. Might be a tie on that.

#4. Fame (1980 & 2009) - I want another Nostalgia Critic and Paw crossover. This might be a good contender for that. Plus, I'm hoping for some dancing. Aren't I always?

#3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947 & 1994) - Again, Christmas is coming, but I think we all know why this would be a good choice for an episode. That's right. More Mara Wilson. We really can't get enough of her, can we?

#2. The Fog (1980 & 2005) - This is another couple of films that I kind of like equally. By that, I mean I am not a huge fan of either of them. But if they happen to be on TV, I usually stop and start watching. It's that car wreck thing, I guess. And of course, the remake has Maggie Grace and Tom Welling. I want to see if NC can resist the urge to make any Lost or Smallville jokes. I know I wouldn't be able to do that.

#1. Clash of the Titans (1981 & 2010) - There is someone in my family who disagrees with me on which one of these films is better. What is even the heck? So, in order to prove how right I am, I will need some confirmation from an expert, like the Nostalgia Critic. Wow, I really hope he agrees with me. I think I'll keep my choice quiet just in case. Wouldn't want to embarrass myself...any more than I already have.

So, there you have it. Those are my choices for some great Old Vs New episodes for the Nostalgia Critic. Like I said, these are suggestions, certainly not demands, which means he does not have to do any of them. But, hopefully, if he gets the urge to do another Old Vs New, perhaps he will find this list somewhere deep in the internet, point to one of my selections and say, "Hey, that might be a good idea!"

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Friday, November 14, 2014

Begin Again - Music Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Have you ever seen a trailer for a movie that makes you really excited to see it? That's how I felt about a movie called Begin Again. Saw the trailer and, despite an obvious and glaring flaw in my opinion, which we'll get into later, I was still very psyched to see the film. Of course, I had to wait for DVD because it wasn't showing in my area. So, was it worth the wait? Well, let's see.

Okay, the plot. The basic story of Begin Again is about two people. One of them is a guy named Dan Mulligan. He's this washed up record executive, whose life is pretty much falling apart. His family is breaking up and he loses his job, which leads him to do some serious drinking. The other person is a girl named Greta James. She is a young singer-songwriter, who isn't exactly confident about her talent but she thrives on being an authentic artist. One night, in a bar, whilst he is drunk, Dan sees Greta performing and immediately wants to record an album with her. It's actually kind of a cool sequence. She's up on stage with just a guitar, but he starts to hear more instruments. We even see the instruments behind her come to life and start playing themselves. Yeah, did I mention he was drunk? Anyway, Greta is hesitant and suspicious, and she's dealing with own crap having been dumped by her cheating boyfriend, Dave, who has gone on to be a successful musician. Eventually, they come together to try and make music in some unusual but effective ways. All the while, we see the goings on in their personal lives and what path they will choose to follow.

Alright, THAT was the plot BASICALLY. Now I must warn you that the structure is not nearly as simple. I didn't know this when I first watched it, but this movie kind of jumps back and forth in time without really telling the audience blatantly. You just have to figure it out for yourselves. With my first viewing, I didn't even notice this. With my second viewing, I started to get confused. I was thinking "Wait, are they together or not?" or "Is the boyfriend famous yet or not?" or "What the heck is going on?" Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad, but I was wondering about things. Then, I found out about the jumping around, and I felt better. It's actually not that confusing, once you realize what's going on, so you're welcome.

I guess it's time to talk about the cast. I will be very nice, but not the entire time. The good news is that the ladies in this are fantastic. Greta is played by Keira Knightley, and I have to say, whilst I usually enjoy her in movies, this might be my favorite performance of hers. See, honey, you can totes act in present day stuff! We also got Catherine Keener and Hailee Steinfeld as Dan's wife, Miriam, and daughter, Violet, respectively. Good times. Of course, we've come to expect greatness from Catherine Keener, but it's nice to see Hailee Steinfeld still going strong after her epic turn in True Grit.

And now for the boys. James Corden played Steve, Greta's best friend. I don't know much about this guy, but he certainly did well in this role as the lovable and supportive sidekick of sorts. I mean, it's usually a woman playing the...not-so-skinny best friend, right? Another thing is that they cast a lot of musicians in this to act. CeeLo Green plays a rapper named Troublegum (totally his real name!) who was discovered by Dan, and Mos Def plays, Saul, Dan's business partner. They both did well, but the big surprise was Adam Levine as Dave. I'm not exactly what you would call a fan of Adam Levine or his music, but, holy smokes, he was really good in this. I was worried it might seem like he was trying too hard to keep up with hi co-stars. That didn't happen, thankfully. He came off as a natural with some real potential. Frankly, if he decided to do some more movies, I wouldn't object.

And now for the bad news. I'm not sure if a film can be totally ruined if it has an actor in it that you do not like, but it can certainly knock a few points off. For example, I would have given this movie something of an 8.7 rating. But thanks to one major defect, it's a 6.3 at best. And that defect is Mark Ruffalo. Look, I'm sorry if you like him, but I am just SO not a fan of his. I've never really gotten him as an actor. Then, I heard some things he said in the real world and, whilst I try not to let that affect how I feel about someone's work, I just have to keep him at arm's length. So, yeah, to me, and this is just my opinion, it would have been a much better movie had they cast someone else. Sorry, but I'm allowed to not like some stuff.

Anyway, let's move on to the music. It was actually pretty good. Of course, we got to hear Adam Levine sing, since he was playing a singer, but we also got to hear Keira Knightley sing. Much like how I was surprised by Adam's acting, I was just as surprised by Keira's singing. She was great. Okay, she's not Celine or Mariah as far as range goes, but I didn't expect that. And she flat out admits that she's not a singer. But she has this nice, sweet voice and it fit the music perfectly. The music, by the way, was mostly written by Gregg Alexander, who people remember for his 90's hit "You Only Get What You Give", as well as, Danielle Brisebois, former child actress and clearly, amazing adult musician. These two have been working together for awhile and have not lost their touch over the years. The music was great and also appropriate. It just fit so well with the story. Not surprising, considering who the director is.

The director is John Carney, the guy who gave us the charming beyond reason movie Once back in 2008. Admittedly, I do like Once better than this, but Begin Again is kind of like that movie with more money, bigger names and slightly less of that charm. Not to say it has none, but there was something so sweet and innocent about those non-actors trying to act while clearly appearing more comfortable when allowed to do the music thing. Begin Again is far more polished. They've got four Oscar nominees, for crying out loud, so there can only be so much simplicity. Still, you can feel what John Carney wants you to feel through his work.

So, in closing, I am actually going to recommend this movie. Yes, I have my issues with it, but the good things about it outweigh the bad ones. I especially recommend this if you are a music lover or someone who writes music or both. I am both and I enjoyed this.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My First Week of My First NaNoWriMo

Greetings Pups,

It's November, as you may know. And if you're a writer, you may also know that November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It's basically this thing where you try to write 50,000 words in a month. I have never officially participated in NaNoWriMo, but have I ever written 50,000 words in a month? Heck to the yeah, I have. I've just never done it like this before.

First of all, I've never had to update a word count and be expected to write a certain number of words in a day. Second, I am usually working on several different projects at once, which is probably why I hardly ever finish anything. But with this, I do have a daily word count goal and my words will be contained in one project. That's not to say that I'm not still working on other things outside of my NaNoWriMo project, because I am. I've actually got about three other books that need some sort of finishing to be done on them. So, if you factor all that in, I will definitely be writing enough words this month. But whether or not I do it within this particular novel that I am trying to write, we'll see.

To be honest, I've never written a book like this before. I mean, I have never EVER not written anything longhand first, but this time, it's all going straight to my laptop. Another thing is that I tend to have a pretty good idea of how the story will go, if not from beginning to end then from beginning to...somewhere after the beginning. In this case, I had the seed of an idea, and everyday I'm just watching it grow, letting it take me wherever it wants to go. It's actually kind of liberating, when you just move forward and not look back for a whole month. Yeah, that's a thing with NaNoWriMo, to just keep going but don't go back and delete. You deal with all that in the aftermath. I kind of like it this way, considering I tend to think way too much. How freeing this all is.

Anyway, who knows how much I'll be writing on this blog for the next few weeks, probably not much. But considering what I gave you all in October, I think I deserve a break. Not a break from writing in general, though. I never get a break from that.

So, if any of you out there are doing NaNoWriMo, I wish you the best. I hope you're all stocked up on coffee and candy and whatnot, and if you need some advice or pep talks, may I suggest you head on over to the YouTube and watch the videos of Katytastic. She is, quite frankly, the NaNoWriMo guru of myself and probably many others. I hope that you are all very successful this month, but even if you don't reach that 50,000 word goal, whatever you do write is something that would not have been there had you not even tried. And believe it or not, just trying is quite an accomplishment all on its own.

Again, I will try to throw some posts up here in the next month, and I will certainly report on my progress when this whole thing is over. Hopefully, I will be celebrating.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer