Friday, April 28, 2017

Writer Movie Recommendations

Greetings Pups,

We are nearing the end of National Poetry Month, and I've been sharing a lot of what I write with others in order to celebrate it. But I wondered what else I could do as we honor those who embrace the written word, so I thought I would tell you all about some things that have always been a big inspiration to me - movies about writers. There are a lot of good ones out there, and maybe you haven't heard of some of them. So, I'll be sharing a few with you all today. And I'm not just talking about films that have writers in them. I mean ones that are really about writers. You know the difference. Now I could have done a Top Ten list or something, but I don't think I could even rate all these movies that way. Therefore, I'm just going to randomly talk about some of them in a bit of a rapid fire way. I'll save the details for if I review them. Or if I've reviewed them already. However, if I was going to do a list, let's start with what I would put at Number One.

That's right. It's The Whole Wide World. I think this was the first review I ever did on this blog, which is good because it's one of my favorite movies of all time. It's D'Onofrio and Zelwegger at their best. And while on the subject of films about real life writers, I suggest Infamous, the Capote biopic that I personally think was better than Capote. Sorry. Though the latter may be a good one to watch as well. Sylvia was pretty good, albeit a bit depressing, and Saving Mr. Banks is a winner, if you don't mind disliking the protagonist. Yes, I consider P.L. Travers to be the protagonist. For something more fantastical, may I suggest an oldie but a goodie, Hans Christian Andersen. It's got music! And dancing! And Danny Kaye!

For some more modern takes on, not only writers and their process, but how it affects and can be affected by their relationships, may I suggest the Edward Burns penned, Purple Violets, a great family film starring Morgan Freeman called The Magic of Belle Isle or Starting Out in the Evening, which, I think, contains Frank Langella's best performance. Each of them shows how those who come in and out of our lives can have an incredible impact on our work as writers.

If you want a scare along with your inspiration, I suppose the best place to look is the movies that have spawned from Stephen King books. This is where Misery and The Dark Half come into the picture. I've said it before; I'll say it again. I can't believe he wrote a book giving people writing advice when his fiction seems to want to keep people far away from the profession.

Some critically acclaimed writer films that I like include Wonder Boys, which was shot near where I live, and I still like it despite a few of its flaws (Cough, cough...Robert Downey, Jr...cough, cough), The Squid and The Whale, which I like despite a few problems I have with the younger son character. Just no. I also like Stranger Than Fiction, as it has a unique concept to which many writers can relate - the concept that our characters aren't just characters.

Unfortunately, not all the writer movies I like have been received so well by critics and audiences. Paper Man, Authors Anonymous, Stuck in Love, to name a few. Not everyone was crazy about these, but I like them. And that's all that matters. Because I am awesome.

I could go on and on when it comes to this subject, but that's all I'm going to tell you about today. Whilst I believe these movies can inspire writers, I don't want reading my blog to distract said writers from writing. But as I said, I did full-on reviews of quite a number of these before, as well as of ones I didn't mention here. You can search for them, or I put links below that lead you to where I did two Cinematic Writers theme weeks, as well as a few reviews I did outside of that. Hopefully, you'll find some films you can enjoy, and if you are a writer, I hope these stories will inspire you.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Here are the links to my reviews of some of the films I mentioned. For the Cinematic Writers links, just click on them and when you get to the page, more reviews can be found on the right hand side under "Blog Archives".


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nancy Drew - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

So, I'm pretty smart, right? And I've always been that way. Even when I was a youngster. Also, I love mysteries. Whether it's Sherlock Holmes stories or the cases on my favorite show, Law & Order, I like figuring things out with clues. Good times, indeed. So, all things considered, I love Nancy Drew. Now I must admit, I've only read a handful of the books, but that was all it took for me to become a fan. And as it turns out there have been quite a few adaptations of the books, mostly on TV and by way of the PC games, which I love. (Side Note: Check out the YouTube channel of Arglefumph: The Nancy Drew Dude!) But when it comes to film, there were about four of them back in the 30's and then, many decades later came the adaptation I will be discussing today, 2007's Nancy Drew.

Nancy Drew stars Emma Roberts as the titular character, and I happen to think that she was a good choice. She had a certain charm and precociousness about her that fit the character well. The plot of the film follows Nancy, as she and her father, Carson, played by very well cast Tate Donovan, leave their hometown of River Heights and head for L.A. where he has a temporary job. Okay, Problem #1. I have no idea why they took her out of River Heights for this, her first film in about 70 years. I mean, we barely get to see Bess and George, or Hannah. What's up with that? We do get quite a bit of Ned, though, who is played by Max Thieriot. Problem #2. I wasn't necessarily a fan of this choice in casting of such an important character. Believe it or not, I think he looked too young, and I don't think he ever clicked properly. Just my opinion. Oh, and Problem #3, it's set in modern times. At least, it is when they get to L.A., even though everyone in River Heights is acting like it's 1953.

Anyway, when they get out to California, Nancy and her father settle into a house that is the center of a mystery, and she chose it specifically for that reason. Problem #4. I don't recall Nancy ever deliberately going after mysteries. I thought she always just fell into them whilst living her life. Though I could be wrong. The mystery is actually about the disappearance and subsequent death of a famous actress from years earlier. To be fair, that aspect of the film isn't bad at all. It is a decent story which moves the plot along nicely.

But in between trying to solve the mystery, Nancy has to go to school, where she's not at all liked and is picked on by the "cool girls". Although, she does find herself a little sidekick...for the entire duration of the film. Problem # ... whatever. These side characters are kind of annoying. Not knocking the kid actors here. I'm sure they're very nice and talented in real life, but I just don't know about the people they were portraying. They just seem to get in the way. I feel like Nancy would have done much better on her own. Or with Bess and George!! Okay, I have to move on from that.

Look, I know I've been listing my issues with this film, to and fro, but I do think it has some very redeeming qualities, besides the ones I already mentioned. Rachel Leigh Cook, Marshall Bell and Barry Bostwick show up in this and I think they all did a fantastic job. And from a clearly aesthetic perspective, I thought the set design was wonderful, particularly the mystery house. And I loved the wardrobe that they gave Nancy. It was very throwback to a nostalgic time. Like maybe the time in which this film should have been set. No, stop it. We're concentrating on the good things. Of which they are quite a few.

Bottom line is this. I may have some problems with Nancy Drew, but overall, it's not that bad. It's not the best movie I've ever seen, but it sure as heck is not the worst. It is what it is, and what it is, in fact, is a pretty cute film. And sometimes, that's all we need. So, if it seems like something you might enjoy, give it a watch.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, April 17, 2017

Thoughts on Stayin' Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Music of the Bee Gees

Greetings Pups,

So, last night, CBS aired a big old tribute to my beloved Bee Gees. Good timing, I'd say, since 50 years ago, they hit it big in the U.S., 40 years ago, they recorded the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and most importantly, 20 years ago, they released Still Waters, my favorite of their albums. Yes, that last one is most important.

Now, anytime a tribute...anything is done, I think that those who admire whomever is being tributed are a bit wary of how it all might turn out. I certainly was when I saw the line up for this. Some of the artists I trust to give a good performance, some of them I never heard of and some of them...yeah, no. But I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. So, let me do some rapid fire reviews of all the singin'.

The whole thing started with a medley, led by Demi Lovato, for some reason. Yeah, I am SO not a fan of hers. She sang "Stayin' Alive" as part of said medley, but then they let her sing again! "If I Can't Have You", the second time. WHY! Anywho, someone named Andra Day, who I've never heard of sang "Night Fever", and later she sang "Love So Right". Tori Kelly sang "Tragedy", and then they had her sing again, but the same song. Okay, then. And Little Big Town sang "How Deep Is Your Love?" Again, once as part of the medley and then once more later. What? Why are there repeats? The Bee Gees' catalog is huge. Anyway, I didn't mind those last three singing again, because I actually like how they sing. Moving on.

Ed Sheeran sang "Massachusetts", and whilst it started a little strange for me, he ended up doing a good job. Two Jonas brothers sang, Joe and his band DNCE performed "Night Fever" (again with the repeats!) and Nick did a tribute to Andy Gibb by singing "I Just Want To Be Your Everything". I will say, they hit the high notes extraordinarily well.

As I mentioned, I was not crazy about Demi Lovato, nor was I about the appearances of John Legend and Jason Derulo. Again, not a fan of either, but lucky for them, they were paired up with much better artists, Stevie Wonder and Tavares, respectively. Sorry, I don't mean to be mean, but I have to be honest. Now back to the good news.

Pentatonix did great with "Too Much Heaven" and Panic At the Disco, a band I had heard of but never really listened to, were amazing with "Lonely Days". Might have to look into them. They gave the country hit "Islands In the Stream" to Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini, more singers I've never listened to. But again, I was impressed.

The highlights for me, personally, were Katherine McPhee singing "Emotion" (better than Destiny's Child, FYI) and Keith Urban covering "To Love Somebody". And of course, Celine Dion had to make me cry whilst performing "Immortality", the song she recorded with the Bee Gees about 20 years ago. It was a bit of an 'In Memorium' moment for Robin, Maurice and Andy, as well as her brother and husband. Yes, a lot of tears with that one.

As far as non-singing appearances go, John Travolta participated a lot, telling some great stories about the Saturday Night Fever experience. And Olivia Newton-John spoke some lovely words about Andy, who she was great friends with. I'm so glad that he was talked about so much during this special. He deserves it.

But, of course, the best part was getting to hear Barry sing and talk about all the people who were a part of the success of the Bee Gees. And he acknowledged that some of their offspring were in attendance, though none of them performed. Why, I don't know, because I do know, for a fact, that some of their kids are insanely talented musicians. Oh, well. But we did get to hear him sing "Jive Talkin'" and "You Should Be Dancing" as well as "Stayin' Alive" with all the performers. Yeah, he's still pretty dynamic, even at the age of 70. Amazing.

All in all, the whole thing was pretty entertaining. It had some stumbles, like not performing anything from my favorite album and no mention of the sequel to Saturday Night Fever, Staying Alive. What's up with that? But most of the artists did a decent job. Honestly, considering how many songs the Bee Gees recorded, we might need to do this on a monthly basis. It could be a good tradition. I sure do a lot of wishful thinking, don't I?

Point is, I love the music that those three incredible men created. They have been one of the biggest inspirations to me as a writer and as a person. They gave us all so many gifts through those songs and how they achieved so much. I am eternally grateful to them.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Friday, April 14, 2017

Detachment - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

I'm not certain, but I'd probably place bets on the idea that "Teacher Films" is an official genre. I have seen quite a few movies that deal with teachers and students and schools, some funny, some uplifting, some depressing, some...all of those things. And that might make you venture to think that we have enough of them. Well, I've seen some that make me think we do, but then, I find a really good one that makes me want even more. Such is the case with the film, Detachment.

Detachment is a 2011 movie directed by Tony Kaye and starring Adrien Brody as Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher at a very flawed school. Oh, which ones aren't these days? Anyway, can I say that I love Adrien Brody. He is just a delight, and frankly, I think this is his best performance ever. Yes, even more than that other one that got him some award. You know to what I am referring? But, I don't know, I guess I just have a thing for teachers who try to reach their students, no matter how difficult it is. And in this film, it very much is. Still, that is not the only thing with which he is struggling to do. During the time frame of the film, which I believe is about a month, there is so much happening to him and around him that it is practically overwhelming.

In regards to Henry's life, he has a connection of sorts at school with a fellow teacher, played by Christina Hendricks, as well as with a student, played by Betty Kaye, who happens to be the director's daughter. Relax, though. Whether or not nepotism had anything to do with that casting, she did a great job, so who cares? In the meantime, he's coping with his ailing grandfather, his memories of a tragic childhood and a young prostitute, played by Sami Gayle, who he tries to take care of by way of becoming a kind of surrogate father figure. So, to say that he's dealing with quite a few things would be a understatement, but watching his journey through all of it is fascinating and heartbreaking.

Actually, though Brody's Henry is the central character, there are many others with many other stories, and thankfully, they've got a pretty decent cast to carry it all out. We've got the likes of William Peterson, Blythe Danner, James Caan...Oh, speaking of him, there is one scene where he shows a young girl a picture of something and it's a, to say the least. So, heads up on that one. And for me to be giving that kind of warning in a movie that deals with some seriously harsh issues, you know I'm being serious. Moving on. We also have Marcia Gay Harden portraying the principal, who is realizing that things are beginning to fall apart for her, and Lucy Liu, as the school counselor, who is struggling with trying to get through to the students, which is inching her closer to her personal edge. Both of these women are phenomenal in these highly emotional, yet believable roles.

So, yes, there is quite a lot going on here, but that's the thing about this film. Technically, it is about teachers and students and school, but if you look deeper, it's about so many of these people being lost in their own individual way and trying to figure out what is happening within themselves and in the world in which they are made to live. They're either looking for a way out or looking for a way to fix things or even both. Frankly, I think if you look passed this being "just another high school movie", which it is not, you can see the stories that are truly being told. And how difficult it is to hear them.

In the end, I would recommend Detachment. Obviously, I think it's worth a watch just for the performances, especially Adrien Brody. And while it is hard to watch at times, as I mentioned, it is certainly a film that can affect you in a very profound way. I'd say that, in this time where movies rarely do that anymore, or even try to do that, what you can get out of this movie is extremely welcome.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, April 10, 2017

All In Good Time

Greetings Pups,

Sorry about today's post. I know I got personal last time, and I have to do that again, very quickly, today. I promise, though, I will eventually stop being so boring and go back to talking about crappy movies or something. Oh, and I will be talking about some God stuff today, so if you're not into that, heads up.

Anyway, due to some things going on in my personal life recently, I've been reminded of something I was taught long ago, but it's also something that I can tend to forget sometimes, as we all do. It's that our timeline of what we want does not always match up with God's timeline of what we need. And I think He may know better than us, just a little.

We all make these grand plans for our life, we make grand lists of all the things to get from it, and I do think we should work hard to try and achieve them. But sometimes, we aren't meant to do so, because there is a better plan for us. Like God's plan. Or perhaps, we will achieve those things, but the road we had mapped out is not the road we are supposed to take. It can be even worse when we become blinded by what we think we want rather than being open to what He knows we need.

As I said, this is something I've been struggling with recently. I work hard to get things that I want and need, but sometimes I want to push things according to my timetable, even when I know that might not be the best thing. I have to remember that, when God doesn't give me what I want, it's for my own good. This was proven when I found out that something I had my heart set on for quite a while would have been a disaster had I obtained it. Now I am very grateful that He put the brakes on it. It was hard to deal with not getting something when I thought I wanted it, but God knew that it was far from what I needed. He's great like that. Now I've got my eyes on something new. Hopefully, it's the right new something, but even if it isn't, that means something greater waits for me.

So, keep in mind, if you are waiting and/or praying for something, always remember that God knows how your life should go. And sometimes it's not in line with how we think it should go. Ask Him for the wisdom to understand that. Ask Him to lead you even when you don't want to follow. Things will work out better that way.

Okay, I'm done with the life advice giving for awhile. Next time, I'll be back to criticizing the cinema or the music industry or something like that. Good times, indeed.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Look Before You Leap

Greetings Pups,

Before you ask, the answer is yes. Yes, I did come up with that title all by myself. I am a legit genius.

Okay, fine. Not true, but I thought I'd start off with a bit of a joke. Especially since I have a bit of a serious topic to discuss today. Sorry. I know these posts tend to be more boring, but they can also be important. I hope. And sorry, again, but what I have to talk about today is something that has affected me personally and recently. Though, I don't doubt others have had to deal with this as well.

Now, I am certainly not one to give out too much advice about things. I am not exactly living the high life over here based on my decisions. However, when I make mistakes, I'm happy to share the story, so that, hopefully, others can learn from my missteps and not do the same. So, today, I want to discuss the dangers of jumping into things before really thinking about the consequences. Things like associating yourself with people who turn out to be...less than stellar as human beings.

For the past few years, I've been involved with something near where I live. It had always been an exciting thing to take part in, and I actually liked the people who were involved. But that is because I had no idea who and what they really were. And what they continue to be. I suppose that makes it worse, on my part, because, considering how much I've had to deal with trust issues and people misrepresenting themselves to me throughout my whole life, you'd think I would have learned by now to not just trust everyone without doing a little research. Had I done that, I would have saved myself a lot of regret by not getting involved with them in the first place. But, alas, we all make mistakes. I'm no different. And in the past couple of months, my eyes have been opened to what lies beneath some very deceptive masks.

I don't want to go into detail, because, really, the details aren't that important. But if I must share one thing...Look, I've probably mentioned this, but I am a huge supporter of our veterans. I don't know how anyone couldn't be, considering everything they give up to keep us safe. And honestly, when I hear about the fact that there are about 50,000 homeless vets in this country, it breaks my heart, because we should be taking care of them, like they took care of us. But not only does it make me sad, it also makes me extremely angry. It's just not right. However, when I mentioned this on one of my social media platforms, I got passive aggressively attacked by these aforementioned people who I thought weren't that bad. But, yeah, if you can't see the dire necessity to help those people, I'm sorry, you're just not good in my eyes. I really never could have predicted that attack coming at me, though it did reveal to me exactly what kind of people with whom I was having to deal.

And now, after doing some proper digging, I've also found out that these people are, not only insincere, but possibly downright dangerous to their own community. A community they claim to love. Sorry, yet again, but I just don't buy it anymore. And I certainly do not want to associate myself with them from this point on.

Thankfully, I have chosen to cut ties with these people, and I believe it is the best possible decision that I can make. I only wish I would have made it sooner, but, as always, hindsight is 20/20. That's another saying I've come up with all by myself!

Here's my point in writing this and sharing my story. I know we all have regrets for the not so great choices we make, and that's fine. We learn by falling and making mistakes. But I also don't think there is any shame in trying to avoid some of those mistakes. That is my goal today. Like I said before, I want people learn from how I've messed up and not repeat my actions. Just be careful who you trust, be careful to whom you attach your name. Because that is so much of who you are and it can be difficult to wash away stains from it. So, never jump into anything without having you eyes wide open. In all directions. In the end, you'll be better off.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, April 1, 2017

National Poetry Month 2017!

Greetings Pups,

Once again, we have come to the month wherein we celebrate the wonderful thing that is poetry. Ya know, I bet this meant a lot more when not everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, had a month or a day or an hour dedicated to it. Also, it probably meant more when people actually cared about poetry. Okay, obviously, some of us still do care about, even without musical accompaniment. Also, I think British people like it. I know Hiddleston does, and that's certainly enough for me. Moving on. Seriously, I think the best part about this whole thing is that people who don't normally bother to even look into poetry might have it brought to their attention.

That is a very good thing, and I'm not just saying that because I write it and (attempt to) make a living at it. Just like anything that lies undiscovered, there could be something wonderful hidden along with it. What people who never give it a chance may not realize is that some great stories can be found in those stanzas. Even stories beyond "The Raven" or "The Road Not Taken" or any other poems that everyone knows just because everyone knows them. And they are far more plentiful. I mean, usually when you read a novel, you get one story. But if you read a book of poems, you get tons of them. And they're usually short, so they won't take up a lot of your time. See, somethin' for everyone.

I, myself, will be sharing my own tales via rhyming verse on my Twitter and Facebook page, whilst I'm still on those sites. So, you may follow me there, by way of my website, if you're interested. And everything I'm posting has already been published, so no stealing. Yes, my writing is just so awesome that I feel it may be worthy of attracting thieves. Good times, indeed.

Anyway, I won't go on too long about this, because there's not much I can say other than this. Don't be afraid to look to the poets when you want something in which to get lost, when you want something to take your mind away from the world and all the ways that it may be troubling you. We may not be the best-selling or the most well-known or, certainly, not the wealthiest kind of writers, but we have much to say and much to share. I'm not saying you have to love it, but I am saying that it wouldn't hurt to give it a glance. Especially this month.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

My website: BeckyLStout