Best Picture Winners #7 – It Happened One Night (1934)

Best Picture Winners #7 – It Happened One Night (1934)
Best Picture Winners #7 – It Happened One Night (1934)

And so it happened one night this week that….. I saw this movie!

Hey, I had to get that in somewhere, right?

So don’t ask me how, but I had heard of this movie long before we started doing this project. And all I’d heard of it was that it was a classic movie, you must see it, and etc etc etc. And thought I don’t like to admit I’ve seen it (UGH), there was a scene in the second Sex and the City movie of one of the characters lifting up her skirt to get someone’s attention. A review I’d read of that movie mentioned that scene was a nod to It Happened One Night.

So what happens in this movie then, to make it such a classic?

You have a wealthy heiress, Ellen a.k.a. Ellie Andrews who’s eloped against her family’s wishes. She escapes from her father’s yacht in Florida so that she can reunited with her new spouse in New York. While on a bus headed to New York, she encounters a bus passenger named Peter Warne, a now out-of-work newspaper reporter. Warne recognizes her and makes her a deal: if she gives him an exclusive on her story, he’ll help her get to her new spouse. If not, he’ll tell her father, Alexander, where she is.

Though they hate each other at first, Peter and Ellen fall in love over time as they go through several adventures together. Including impersonating a married couple at a KOA/motel lodging one morning when some men, hired by her father, come looking for Ellen. Their impersonation of a bickering, married couple was by far the funniest part of the movie.

And since this is supposed to be a comedy, so you can probably tell what happens at the end. But of course they end up in the end together, Ellen and Peter! :)

So did I find it to be the classic everyone says it is?

Well….. If you had asked me that question before the first half of the movie was done, I would’ve said no, to be honest. The script fell flat in a BIG way. Was this supposed to be a comedy or a satire? I wasn’t so sure. The acting wasn’t that great either. But I kept on with it, because I figured there had to be a reason people still talk about this movie on a regular basis.

And I didn’t want to give up on it. But all told, even though the movie wasn’t holding my attention at first, it wasn’t another turkey like Cimarron.

Somewhere around the halfway mark, I felt like the script was finally finding its footing plainly in the role of a comedy. Then came the funniest part of the movie, that aforementioned impersonation scene. I only wished the rest of the movie could’ve gone as well as that second half. When I read that several major actors turned down roles in the movie, I could understand why. The script felt like it needed another pass-through to make the characters more likable.

I will say it was nice to watch a comedy that won Best Picture. So far, we’ve seen only dramas. And to be honest, when I think of Best Picture winners, I usually think of sweeping dramas!

I can see the beginnings of a lot of romantic comedies in this movie. Come on, the “they hate each other at first and then grow to like each other” plot element (too many comedies to count)? A road trip (Bandits)? Oh and that famous scene where Ellen uses her feminine wiles (in this case, lifting her skirt while she and Peter are hitchhiking) to get someone’s attention? Yeah, I’ve seen that before in countless modern movies (perhaps showing off something more explicit than just a little bit of leg?)! So it was cool to see where they all came from. I can even see this movie being remade nowadays and it would totally work.

Overall, ended up being more enjoyable than I thought it would be!

Three stars out of five

Next time: One of MANY adaptations of the famous Bounty story, Mutiny on the Bounty.

Best Picture Winners #6 – Cavalcade (1933)

Best Picture Winners #6 – Cavalcade (1933)
Best Picture Winners #6 – Cavalcade (1933)

When Andrew and I put together our list of Best Picture winners for this movie project, I realized that I’d heard of more past Best Picture Winners than I thought, though of course, I hadn’t seen many of them. There were still a few on the list that I have already seen (which means we’ll have to watch a nominee instead of a winner for the years when movies like  Titanic, Out of Africa, and Gone with the Wind won Best Picture).

But once in a while, we came across a name that didn’t register with either of us.

Cavalcade was one of them.

Based on the title (horses! A procession of them!), I imagined that it was another Western à la Cimarron (but hopefully way better!). Hey, horses, so probably cowboys or ghost towns or…..

Oh wait…..

*looking at brief plot summary*

Oh wow, nothing like I thought.

Ohhhhhh, so not a literal cavalcade…..

OK. Well, considering how much I like metaphors in my lyric writing, I can get behind that. As long as it’s not too out there (so says the Tori Amos fan).

So if this isn’t a Western, then what is this little-known Oscar winner about?

Well, it’s based on a play (woohoo for more adaptations of other media!), a Noel Coward play, that is. Noel Coward. A British playwright whose name has come up on Pointless a few times, but not a name that I’m sure registers with most Americans (certainly didn’t with me). And it tells the story of two families, the upper-class Marryot (pronounced like the hotel chain Marriott) and the slightly lower-class Bridges, as they make their way through the first thirty-three years of the twentieth century. They live through the Boer Wars in southern Africa, the Titanic sinking, World War I, and then the hopeful beginning of the 30s (oh just you wait a few years……. :-/ ), and the movie shows how these families are affected by these major world events.

And as we pass on to each world event, we get a title card with the year and about a minute of an actual cavalcade going by before we go in to the action.

So that’s the plot in a nutshell. Nice representations of major world events from the early 20th century.

An early nostalgia movie (the play premiered in 1931, this won in 1933).

What was most interesting to me about this movie were seeing these major world events played out. It’s even made me want to read more about the Boer War, a time period (late 1890s – early 1900s) that I know nothing about in British/world history. America wasn’t involved in it, so I never learned about it in history class in school, though I saw references to it in old British novels I used to read. In fact, my only knowledge of African colonization is through my college French classes (woohoo for being a French major!), and that was all in northern and western Africa, not southern Africa. So this movie has made me more curious about that time period.

And the montage of World War I was chilling.

Other than those big world events….. All in all, I really didn’t find myself caring much about the characters, to be honest. I certainly loved their clothes (I could totally see one of my favorite singers Eliza Rickman dressed in some of the lacy Edwardian dresses those women wore in the party scenes!), and I imagined what it must be like to wear something so fancy (hey, I love sewing and designing clothes so I notice these things!). But I didn’t find myself caring much about what was happening to them. The acting was just okay (it still felt very stagey and melodramatic) and the story draaaaagggeeeeddddd.

I also wondered how one family could possibly be involved in all those major events.

There was a TV show I liked for a while called American Dreams, an NBC drama about a white Catholic family in Philadelphia living through the 60s. Throughout the three seasons this show was on the air, every possible major event of the 60s just happened to this family. The older brother JJ wanted to be a soldier in Vietnam then he switched to being an astronaut. The younger daughter gets involved with a hippie toward the end of the series. Philadelphia riots just happen outside their door. It all just felt a bit much and “really? this is a lot to take in for one family. Even my parents, who lived through the 60s, didn’t have all of that happening to them……”

And the ending of Cavalcade is just chilling watching in 2016, when we all know that the optimism everyone had for the new year in 1933 was going to be shattered in a few years with the coming of World War II. It made me teary, actually.

At least I felt something.

3 stars out of 5.

Note: This movie is NOT available on Netflix or on a separate DVD. Apparently, it’s on a Blu-ray box set but is not available by itself on DVD. So in order to watch this movie, I had to rent this from Amazon. This is one of several movies for this project that we will have to watch on Amazon Rentals because it isn’t available otherwise (and Netflix usually carries most things, even things you think they won’t have.) And if it’s not readily on DVD, probably our local independent video store the Naro won’t have it. So if you are interested in watching Cavalcade, Amazon Rentals is the way to go.

Next time: A classic movie, one that I had heard a lot of good things about prior to this project, called It Happened One Night

Best Picture Winners #5 – Grand Hotel (1932)

Best Picture Winners #5 – Grand Hotel (1932)
Best Picture Winners #5 – Grand Hotel (1932)

Grand Hotel.

It’s grand. And it’s a hotel.

It’s also a movie! 😀

But of course it’s a movie. And more than that, the only Academy Award winning movie to not have any of its participants nominated in any of the other categories.

Pretty cool, huh? I think so!

Now on to the movie itself.

After the disaster that was Cimarron, I was really hoping for something much better. Something with engaging characters, a moving plot, and most of all, something not too long (unlike the next movie in this series, Cavalcade, which I’ll talk about next time). I have no problem with long movies, but make sure it’s something that will keep my interest. Or I’ll be spending more time on Twitter and Google Plus than watching the screen.

And fortunately, more engaging and overall better movie I did get with this 1932 drama Grand Hotel! In this story (based on a play, which was based on a book), we get to know the inhabitants of the Grand Hotel in Berlin at the turn of the 30s, and see how their lives intersect. We meet a baron (played by Drew Barrymore’s grandfather John Barrymore) who has to get by with card games and occasionally stealing jewels, and a disgruntled factory worker named Otto Kringelein (played by John Barrymore’s brother Lionel) who is dying (we never find out what his ailment is) and wants to live in the lap of luxury for once in his life.

Then there’s General Director Preysing, who was Kringelein’s former boss and who is at the hotel to close a major deal and hires a stenographer Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) to help him.

And let’s not forget Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo), a high-strung Russian ballerina whose popularity has faded and who seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Throughout the movie, we get to see these very different characters intersecting with one another, often in very interesting ways. Such as the Baron and Grusinskaya. He enters her room while she’s at the theater one evening so that he can steal her jewels, but instead, they fall in love when he comes out of hiding to console her, since he overhears her talking about ending it all. Then later in the hotel bar, Kreigelein, his former boss, Flaemmchen, and the Baron all interact when Flaemmchen wants Kreigelein to dance with her, but instead, he gets into a fight with his former boss.

It’s all really intriguing to see these stories play out. There is always something going on, unlike the sarcastic comment made by another character at the beginning and end of the movie. And I for one, thoroughly enjoyed this movie. You could totally remake this movie in 2016 and the story would still hold up!

4 stars out of 5

Next time: What I thought would be another Western, turns out to be anything but. The harder-to-find epic Cavalcade, another Best Picture winner based on a play.

Writer Research – Contacting Real People Instead of the Internet

Writer Research – Contacting Real People Instead of the Internet

I haven’t even edited the second book yet, but I’m already looking ahead to the third book (yes, the THIRD booK!) in my Traveling Society series!

Because you know me, I like planning ahead of time so that my stories are realistic. That everything is perfect to the last detail so there are no major plot holes. I may not have tons of readers yet, but hey, I like making sure everything is well thought-out!

So in this third Traveling Society book, I am taking the girls on the biggest adventure of their young adult lives: college.

And without giving much away, I can tell you that the nature of the stories is going to be changing. They’re all going to be in very different places (one of them won’t even be in North America), and then the question will be whether they all stay together or not. (Ah the eternal question of twenty-something friendships, isn’t it?)

But I’m getting ahead of myself!

Since each of the girls are going to very different colleges, I knew I had some research ahead of me because they are all attending schools that are out of my area. Some of them aren’t even in this region. One girl is getting experience as a vet tech so she can go to a competitive vet program at Virginia Tech. So she’s staying in Virginia.

But the others are going to places as far flung as New York City, England, and California.

Since I know nothing about college life in any of those places, I knew the Internet was going to be a HUGE help for me. And it was! The Internet helped me with, I’d say, 90% of my research. And when I say “research,” I’m talking about course descriptions, campus life, where are they going to live while in college (I learned a LOT about looking for off-campus apartments in Europe for one of the girls!), and the general area around the college. Is there a lot of nightlife? Crime? You know, the usual things.

I didn’t have to write to anyone to ask any of this info, it was all easy to find.

However, one of my characters required a little bit more research than what I could find with the click of a button. 

She wants to be a photographer, so I did some Internet sleuthing for art schools with photography programs. Many of those kinds of schools are outside this region (as I thought they’d be), and I found a school that looked really interesting!

But finding a course catalog or even a clear explanation of what was in their photography program proved to be elusive. There were lots of things about how awesome their program was, that’s for sure!

So I took it upon myself to fill out a contact form with my e-mail address and phone number on that college’s website. I had hoped there would be a field in the form to explain that I was an author doing research and not a prospective student, but there wasn’t. So I kept in mind that if they were to contact me, I would explain that to them up front. I didn’t want to lead them on. I just wanted to talk to a real person about that college and what life is like there, etc, for my book.

The very next day, they called me! I was unable to answer the phone and was too busy to call back, so I made a mental note to return their call the next day. They even e-mailed me to say they tried calling but there was no answer.

Day 3, about an hour or so before I was going to call them, they called me back! So I began mentally preparing my spiel about being an author and how I contacted them to ask for course descriptions, etc for my book. I thought that I was nice and enthusiastic (which I was! I was excited to have my character going to such a cool school!) and, more than that, honest about my reason for calling them. I didn’t want to lead them on that I was planning to actually go to that college, I just wanted more information for my book to make my story more realistic.

I could practically hear the balloon deflating on the other end as I talked.

As soon as I made it clear that I wasn’t planning to go to that college but that I was an author doing research, I was persona non grata. Rather than returning my enthusiasm, the person I talked to was evasive. I was told that there were more prospective students to talk to that day so there’d be no way I could find out what I needed at that moment, but there was a course catalog on their website (really? I didn’t see one, that’s why I called you in the first place) and I’d receive a copy in a little while in my e-mail inbox.

And indeed, I did receive a PDF in my inbox. The e-mail body, however was empty. Just an attachment and a fancy e-mail signature. That enthusiastic “I look forward to talking with you about our school” attitude from the first e-mail was nowhere in that second e-mail with the course catalog.

It was very unfortunate to be treated like that. Especially when my past experiences in talking with people for real-world research has been far better.

A few years ago, when I started writing my Wash Woods series, my husband took me to Knotts Island, one of the places mentioned in my books, so that I could visit the church and even talk to some of the people there about life on the island and Wash Woods.

It was just my luck that someone happened to be there cleaning the church. When I introduced myself as a local author doing research on Wash Woods and Knotts Island for a book, she was more than happy to talk to me about life on the island. I’d say she was absolutely thrilled! I came away with so many details to put in my book. We must’ve stayed there for about two hours as she talked to us. I listened to how she called a Christmas tree a Christman tree, the history of the Knotts Island Methodist Church, and even took copious pictures of articles she had cut out of the local newspapers with interesting stories over the years.

When I contacted that college, I was hoping for an enthusiastic response like the one I got from that woman at the Knotts Island church. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t. The lesson to glean from that unfortunate experience in calling that college is that I should still continue to be up front and polite about what I’m looking for. And if someone takes it the wrong way, that’s not my problem.

At least I was honest.

Best Picture Winners #4 – Cimarron (1931)

Best Picture Winners #4 – Cimarron (1931)
Best Picture Winners #4 – Cimarron (1931)

From a war movie to a Western.

Talk about a genre whiplash!

The fourth entry in our project brings us to a notable movie called Cimarron. For one thing, this movie was one of the only Westerns to ever win the top prize (Unforgiven and Dances With Wolves are the others that won, though others were certainly nominated). This movie was one of only two Oscars ever won by the now-defunct RKO Pictures. Oh and let’s not also forget it was the most expensive production for RKO up to that date.

Other than those notable aspects, there isn’t much else to recommend it.

Oh, wait, there was a really well-done scene in the beginning with a land rush.

Other than that……

Let’s just say that I had checked out with an hour left. Of a two hour movie.

Yes I made it halfway through before losing interest.

Don’t believe me? Check the Twitter feed.

So what was so bad about this movie then? Was it the plot? The setting? The acting?

The acting was fine and the setting was too. The setting is Oklahoma Territory circa 1880s. Here, we get to see a town called Osage springing up out of nowhere seemingly overnight when the president opens the Oklahoma Territory for white settlers in the late 1880s. For someone like me who finds weirdly abandoned ghost towns, especially ones in the Old West, to be endlessly fascinating, I loved seeing an Old West town bursting with life rather than sitting neglected in the desert sun like so many (Bodie, California; Aurora, Nevada). So I enjoyed that aspect of the movie.

The plot itself and the characters?

Not so much.

You see, within Osage, we get to know Yancey Cravat and his family, his wife Sabra, and young son Cim. He’s come all the way from Wichita to stake a claim on some land and open a newspaper like the one he had in Wichita. Fair enough, we have a decent pioneer story so far.

Except that Yancey annoyed me to no end. He came across as a pompous person to me, and I can’t even explain why. And I never felt drawn in to any of the other characters, not his long-suffering wife or even their son as he grew up.

And the story.

Drrrrrraaaaagggggeeeeedddddd. I think the problem is that there wasn’t much dramatic fire to really keep it going. It felt more episodic than anything else. One part of the movie, Yancey’s trying to establish a newspaper. Then he gets to be the pastor for their church. Then he gets bored and leaves his family to settle the Cherokee Strip. There wasn’t one overarching plot, at least in my mind, to really hold my interest.

I checked out most of the way through the movie, so I can’t even tell you exact plot details. Except there was a trial for one of the other prostitutes in the town Dixie Lee and….. Something about Sabra becoming a congresswoman in the 20s?

*Shrugs*

That’s how I felt about this movie. One big shrug.

Was it better than The Broadway Melody? Yes. But I still wouldn’t watch this again. I just found it too plodding and unfocused.

Note: I read some modern reviews of this movie that discussed the racist attitudes of the characters toward the other African-American characters. Isaiah is the Cravats’ servant boy and the way they treat him (telling him not to go to church with them, making him sit above the chandelier fanning everyone in the summer heat) is admittedly not right by our modern standards. But this movie takes place in the 1800s, when that kind of behavior was okay to do. It is a reflection of the time period. And we would do well to look at that and say, “Wow, we’ve come a long way,” and leave it at that. The racist attitudes of the characters were the least of my worries in this movie.

2 stars out of 5

Next time: the 1932 movie Grand Hotel, the only Best Picture winner so far to have not had it or its participants nominated in any other category.

Best Picture Winners #3 – All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Best Picture Winners #3 – All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Best Picture Winners #3 – All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Two movies down, many more to go!

The third ever Best Picture winner takes us now into the 1930s, but back to World War I. All Quiet on the Western Front takes us into that war with a story that details the horrors experienced by a group of young German men fighting in the trenches.

I can now say that I’ve seen three total movies that took place during World War I!

This is also the first movie in our series to be adapted from a book. I’ll admit, I thought the title sounded like Hemingway. How wrong I was! Erich Maria Remarque was the author, and the original title in German literally means in English In The West Nothing New.

You learn something new everyday!

This movie tells the story of Paul Baumer and his male classmates who enlist in the German army right after the start of the war. They are inspired to join in the fight by an impassioned speech from their teacher about the importance of fighting for the fatherland. They quickly realize that being a part of the war is not as great as they thought it would be. Lulls between battles, finding food, enduring rigorous training, the threat of artillery fire, and the mental stress all of the men are put under, are just some of the many aspects of war that the boys endure. I read that the book was detailed in its explanations of the day-to-day life of the soldiers.  All of that is on display in this movie. Many of his compatriots go insane from the constant bombardment, even more, including Paul, lose limbs, some die tragically, and others are unable to adjust to civilian life before being called back to the front.

All of the scenes, whether they were of the men in the trenches trying to play card games but being driven mad by the constant bombs outside or the lulls between battles, were so evocative and well-done. Only a few times did I notice that the action was clearly sped up such that it looked strange. The parts where the men were sitting around between battles discussing war and its causes were some of the most modern scenes in the movie. I even chuckled when one of the men suggested that the leaders of their countries strip to their underwear and fight it out with clubs instead of fighting in a long, drawn-out war. Some of their speculations on war and its causes could hold up even today.

I was also struck by a war movie where the Germans were the heroes instead. It’s not often that I see that in a war movie. At least, in the few I’ve ever seen.

In all, this was a well-done movie, though not something I would watch everyday. I’ve never been an especially big fan of war movies. Even in my thirties, I’m still sensitive to horrifying deaths on screen and more than that, I come away feeling so angry when I watch a war movie. Call me naïve but to me, war is a waste of human lives. Toward the end of the movie, when Paul is returning home, one of the other boys in his village mentions that they are sending hundreds more fresh men to the front every day. It made me so sad and angry. Those young men were all being sent to their deaths. I thought of their families and the lives they would never get to lead. And it made me sadder than anything else in that movie.

All that said, I will rate this 4 out of 5, since it is such a well-done, horrifying and evocative movie, though I will certainly never watch it again.

Tune in next time for the fourth movie in our Best Picture Winners project, a turkey of a western called Cimarron.

Doing Online Concerts

Doing Online Concerts
Doing Online Concerts

“Let me give you a kiss before you go upstairs and be a rock star.”

Those are usually the words that my husband says to me right before I take the stage for another concert. Except that the stage I usually perform on is not a tangible stage like in an auditorium or even a little area of a coffee shop set up with musical instruments and seats for patrons.

The stage where I perform is all virtual.

And it’s all right from a room in my house.

I can’t even keep track anymore of how many online concerts I have performed. It’s because of the Internet that I can even perform for people other than my husband, my cats, and the occasional real-life friend who’s interested in what this “music” thing is that I talk about. People from as far away as Tennessee, Texas, or California can watch me sing and play.

And I don’t have to leave my house to do it!

I remember the first online concert I ever watched. It was an indie singer/songwriter named Jordan Reyne, whose music I’d heard on Reverbnation, one of many sites where people can upload music and connect with other like-minded folks. The year: 2010. Already six years since then. (EEK!)

I noticed on her ReverbNation page that she’d written about doing a live online concert using a Facebook app called StreamJam. I wasn’t able to attend that one because it was during the work day. But some weeks later, she posted about doing another StreamJam show. I happened to be home sick that day. So, curious, I logged in to StreamJam watch and see what this StreamJam thing was all about.

There in the app, you created an avatar and entered what looked like a coffeehouse with a stage and chairs set up, and ahead, on the “stage,” was a live video feed of the performer. On the side was a chat box where you could talk to the other audience members and even ask the performer a private question. It was a cute little setup that was all virtual, but made you feel like you were really there in a small venue.

I was immediately intrigued by this idea of performing for virtual audiences. There she was, Jordan Reyne herself, playing live on my computer from her kitchen in Germany. And people from all over the world were there. People in the chat box were saying things like “Hello from Australia!” “New Zealand here!” Some people from England were on too.

And then there was little me, watching from my house in southeastern Virginia.

And it was all because of the Internet that we were brought together to listen to someone playing a live music show.

I knew that I had to give it a try. At that time, I’d begun writing my own music and I found it difficult to find a venue in my area where I could perform my songs. I disliked karaoke (at the time, I love it now!), I didn’t rap, I wasn’t a covers-only artist, and I didn’t scream incoherently into a microphone over bad music. I was doing electronic music.

So I was left out.

But with a virtual venue like StreamJam, I could perform anytime I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about whether my music was a fit for that venue or not. There was no booking a show with a venue, packing up the gear, and trying to make it through traffic to get there. I could perform when I wanted to perform!

I set about doing a show as soon as I could. And while those first few shows weren’t the best, since I still had major confidence issues, I realized that it was more fun than I ever thought possible. I was still getting to perform for people, so my confidence did build, but it was all for a virtual audience.

Little did I know that six years later, I would still be doing those live internet shows, but in different venues than StreamJam, which no longer exists.

When StreamJam went out, I stopped doing online concerts. I didn’t stop making music, however. I just didn’t perform it live for people.

Then when I joined Google Plus, I joined a musicians community for sharing music. I didn’t think too much of G+ at first, but then, the performer bug bit me again when the Musicians on G+ mods put together a live “open mic” Hangout on Air. Essentially, a video chat with rotating performers doing a few songs each and talking about their music.

I thought, hey, why not join in? By then, I’d been learning to play piano, so I could play an instrument and sing, making it more interactive than “hey I’m gonna press a button on this backing track and sing to it.”

That was in October 2012. And it was the first of what would become many music-related Hangouts on Air on G+. Once I performed that first time on G+, I knew I wasn’t going back!

You can even watch that first appearance below (hurray for it still being on YouTube). I started off the show, at about 1:11:

As you can see, I was a bit nervous (well, at least think I was :P) but hey, it was my first online appearance in more than a year! (I also have a MUCH better sound setup now, but hey, again, it was my first time ever doing something with the piano, so there you go! :P)

Point is, that was just the beginning. It hasn’t even been four years since that first G+ Hangout but it feels like so much longer! Playing virtual concerts has just been a thing for me, so it’s hard to believe it hasn’t even been that long.

Goodness knows that ever since then, I haven’t looked back.

I’ve been to Numubu (eh, interface was a bit clunky and sound wasn’t that great, at least, as of almost two years ago). G+ Hangouts on Air, of course. I still pop on there for hangouts with my musician friends! I was on StreetJelly for a while, but haven’t been on there in over a year. I even did Ustream for a bit. And then there’s my current favorite, Concert Window. People can tip you, you earn money for your subscribers tuning in to your show, and the sound is impeccable. One of the best online venues I’ve found so far.

More than that, each time I go upstairs to sing and play for people, I come downstairs feeling so happy to be able to do what I love. I may not be making millions (oh I wish!) but I’m in music for the sheer love and fun of it! Yes I do have my serious songs, but I had a blast playing my mash-up of Alejandro and Fernando last night. ‘Cause if you don’t love what you’re doing, then what are you doing then? :)

So as long as there’s the Internet, you better believe I’ll keep doing what I love: playing online concerts. Whether I have three or twelve viewers, I’m always having fun! 😀

Best Picture Winners #2 – The Broadway Melody (1929)

Best Picture Winners #2 – The Broadway Melody (1929)
Best Picture Winners #2 – The Broadway Melody (1929)

And now we have entered a new era: the era of talking movies.

Our project started off well with a silent movie. So I hoped that our second movie in this project, The Broadway Melody, also the first talking movie to win the top Oscar prize, would be just as good as the previous year’s movie.

I’m here to tell you that, eh….. not so much.

Here we have what could be an interesting story. Two sisters with a vaudeville act who want to make it big in New York, and the various things that happen to them along the way, especially in the realm of romance. And that’s about all I can tell you of the plot.

Oh and it’s what could be called a backstage musical, that is, a musical whose plot revolves around the making of a musical and what goes on behind the scenes. That part I found interesting.

The rest?

Meh…..

That’s really all I can say about this movie. One big meh.

I do have to give that for the time period, when talking movies were still really revolutionary, that it’s a good movie. But on its own, it really didn’t hold my interest. When I found my interest wandering to various happenings on Twitter and Facebook instead of the movie, I knew this wouldn’t become a favorite. It was only an hour and forty minutes but it dragged and I didn’t really care much about the characters.

As a side note: it was interesting to see a movie that inspired a scene toward the end of Singin’ in the Rain, also called The Broadway Melody.

1 star out of 5

Next time: It’s back to World War I for an English-language adaptation of a German novel, All Quiet on the Western Front.

Best Picture Winners #1 – Wings (1927)

Best Picture Winners #1 – Wings (1927)
Best Picture Winners #1 – Wings (1927)

It started as a diversion for my husband and I as we stood in line at Christmas Town at Busch Gardens. The line was incredible long at Le Catapult, a scrambler-type ride that was one of the few rides open to the public that day. We are both cinephiles, so we were bouncing ideas off each other about movie projects we could do for the future.

That was when it came to my mind. Why not watch all of the movies that have ever won Best Picture?

It would certainly take up a lot of our time and most of all, it would be fun! Not only would we get to see classic movies we’ve never seen (All Quiet on the Western FrontCasablancaAn American in Paris), but it would be intriguing to see how films have evolved over the last seventy-plus years.

So it was that we began this project with the very first Best Picture winner. All the way from 1927 came this movie Wings, a World War I drama that holds the distinction of being the first silent movie to ever win the top prize. And until The Artist a few years ago, it was the only silent movie to win.

Pretty cool, huh? 😀

I think so!

Fortunate for us, Wings was available on Netflix streaming, so we started immediately. Well, OK, after we watched Singin’ in the Rain, since that movie is about the time period, the transition between silent and talking movies, when Wings was made. (That and SITR is just an awesome movie, no matter what!)

I had never seen a silent movie before. Sure I’d seen clips of Charlie Chaplin films but I’d never sat down and watched a silent movie all the way through. I wasn’t sure what I’d expect. In fact, I thought I was going to be bored, if I’m being perfectly honest.

However, I was anything but.

I was immediately drawn into the story. It’s a simple one, a love triangle between two men, Jack Powell and David Armstrong, who are both in love with the same woman, Sylvia Lewis. However, another girl in their town, Mary, is in love with Jack, but she never gets to show her feelings. While the boys go off to become pilots in WWI, Mary joins the army as an ambulance nurse. Then a chance meeting in Paris brings her back to Jack’s attention. Will she capture his attention after all? What about the other girl back home?

The only WWI movie I’ve ever seen was A Very Long Engagement. Since I haven’t seen many WWI movies, I was intrigued by the story and the background. It’s a time period that doesn’t get a lot of attention in American cinema, so it stood out for me. I also got such a kick out of seeing Paris in the 20s, with all the old cars driving around the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs-Elysées, since I’ve been there! Something else I loved about this movie were the combat scenes. The scenes of the boys flying in the air and engaging in combat were hands down some of the best aerial combat scenes I’ve ever seen. And this was all done before Steadicam! Perhaps part of what was so engaging about those scenes were that there were real air pilots who’d been in WWI in those planes.

The one downside to this movie is that….. WOW is it LOOOOOOONG. I have no problem with long movies (the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies? :) ). It’s that at almost 2 and a half hours, I felt like a half hour or more could’ve been cut and it still would’ve told a coherent story. When the boys were flying in the air fighting the Germans, scenes dragged that could’ve been made shorter. Of course, when you find out that the lead actress Clara Bow insisted on having more scenes with her in them, then it’s no wonder that the movie was elongated as it was, especially those scenes of her in Paris looking for Jack.

In the end, though, it turned out better than expected, despite the length. And thus a great start to our big movie project! 😀

3.5 stars out of 5

Next time: The first talking movie to win Best Picture, The Broadway Melody, from 1928.

It’s Almost Here!

It’s Almost Here!
It’s Almost Here!

My new album of songs, that is!

I’ve said it to my husband after listening to it in the car on the way to and from work on day, and now I’m saying it online for the world to read: I have never been prouder of any music album I’ve ever made.

At last, everything works together as a whole and, most of all, I sound confident.

To think that this all started as a fun little diversion when I was about nineteen years old. Not feeling like my voice fit in with the classical stuff my teacher was giving me every week or with the pop music I heard all over the radio, I decided to try writing my own songs. I could better connect with the songs and they would be written for my kind of voice. I thought, “Surely it won’t take long to become good at this, right?”

Try eleven years! Oh and countless songs later.

But it’s all been worth it! I have never had more fun recording and singing these songs! Writing them was just as much fun too! I’ve become a much happier person since I last released an album and it shows in the music. I’ve got a lot more ups and downs in my melodies and it all works together as a whole more than any of my songs ever have before!

I’m also trying something new for this album: doing pre-orders on Bandcamp.

With three different editions: a standard edition, one with acoustic versions of each song, another with instrumentals.

EEEEEE!

As I was recording, I thought it would be fun to release acoustic versions of these songs so that people can hear how I wrote the song. And with minimal takes. I wanted to give them a live feel, like you’re sitting there in my music room listening to me sing and play. So that’s where that idea came from.

As for the instrumentals, well, this way you can also hear what else is going on in the song behind me. And also that these instrumentals sounded great by themselves, so why not put those out too?

And it just went from there!

I’ll be putting this out on December 1st, and if you’d like to get it right on the release date, you can pre-order whichever edition you want here. It all depends on what you’d like! 😀 It’s $5 for the standard edition, $10 for the standard + acoustic, and $15 for standard + acoustic + instrumentals. Some pretty great deals, I think! 😀

I’m ALSO going to be doing a set of concerts on my new favorite online venue: Concert Window! Up til Christmas, you’ll see me playing and singing on CW on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Except for the last one, which will be on Saturday. I’ve got plans on the Friday before Christmas. 😉 😀

So lots of awesome stuff going on! 😀

Can you tell I’m excited?? 😀

WOOHOO! 😀

Due to tons of spam, I’ve turned off comments. But you can still find me on Google Plus, Tsu, and Twitter if you’d like to comment! The conversation doesn’t have to stop there! 😀