Sunday, August 14, 2016

That awkward moment when...

…People tag you, you procrastinate for about a month, and then decide to whip up the answers despite the fact that you haven't even formally wrapped up your latest Western-themed week.  Yeah.  That.  (I SHALL wrap up Western Week and draw/notify the giveaway winners before too much longer.  I SHALL.)  Anyway, Ivy and Anna have both tagged me (hence the spiel about tagging and procrastination)!  Thanks, ladies!  I do so love a good tag :)  Let's dive in.

(Also, there'll be a lot of random movie collages that have nothing to do with the answers.  I found a bunch of really pretty collages over the past few months and wanted to share several of them with y'all, being the kind soul that I am :))

~ Ivy's First Tag (Simple Questions) ~

Pass along the questions

1. What nationality are you?
For privacy's sake, I'll just say Caucasian.

2. What's your favourite animal?
Hmm…to be around, probably dogs.  Hypothetically, though, I like horses, dolphins, jellyfish (yes), kittens, songbirds, squirrels, and the entire population of Redwall Abbey :)

3. What's your favourite food?
I like salads, fruits, chips, and pizza.  Most likely one of those.

4. What's your favourite author?
C.S. Lewis, baby.  

5. Do you have pets? So yes, what kind of pet? And no, which one would you like to have?
I have (currently) one dog, Sasha.  She's a white husky mix of some sort.  She's rather pretty, if I do say so myself :P

6. How old are you?(you don't have to answer if you don't want to, or you can just be very vague)
I am somewhere between birth and death.  How's that? ;)

7. Do you have a big family? (cousins, uncles, and aunts included)
Yep, pretty big.  I'm one of six children.  My mother is the only one of her siblings who married, but I have a lot of first and second cousins on my dad's side.  Plus several aunts and uncles from both of my parents.

8. What is/are your favourite soundtrack(s)?
Romeo and Juliet (2013), The Prince of Egypt, Cinderella (2015), Brave, Spirit:  Stallion of the Cimarron…a lot of animated ones…hmm...

9. What's your favourite Disney movie? (only animated or drawn)
That's a tie between Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and no, I do not care to narrow it down any further, nor do I know if I can.  THEY'RE BOTH SO GOOD.

10. When is your birthday?
June 15 :)

~  Ivy's Second Tag (Five Favorite Couples) ~

1.)  Pick one couple from each category
2.)  Tagging is optional
3.)  Link back to my site

1.) Period Drama Couple
2.) Sci-Fi/Fantasy Couple
3.) Superhero Couple
4.) Preferred Couple (from a love triangle)
5.) Couple Ended Too Soon

There may be spoilers!!!  (Actually, there will be spoilers for at least the last category.  Obviously.)  

~ Period Drama Couple ~

Margaret Hale & John Thornton
North and South (2004)

I couldn't possibly choose a favorite period drama couple without it taking outlandish amounts of time, so I picked one of my favorites at random.  These two are lovely <3

The dynamics of their relationship--the tension, the misunderstandings, the pride, the passion, all that jazz--are just so. well. done.  I mean, seriously.  HOW.  I've loved this story, especially the romance between John and Margaret, ever since I first watched it some number of years ago.  It's just GOOD.  It's dramatic, but not melodramatic--in my opinion.  Some people do consider the movie rather melodramatic, I'm sure, and they are completely entitled to their wrong opinion :P  I love how Mr. Thornton keeps protecting Margaret even after she hurts him and he has persuaded himself (silly boy) that he no longer cares for her.  I love how Margaret grows to see the good in him, does her share of protecting him (riot scene, anyone?), and involuntarily begins to take an interest in him, even to the point of defending him from others' quips.  #hearts

~ Sci-Fi/Fantasy Couple ~

Han Solo & Leia Organa
the Star Wars movies

*clears throat*  WELL.  You asked me to pick a favorite sci-fi/fantasy couple, which encompasses several of my favorite couples (FARAWYN), but in the end I decided to go with Han and Leia, both because I love them to bits, and because the other day I flipped through this SW omnibus I bought at a thrift store recently, and reading all the swoon-worthy and laugh-worthy moments between these stubborn darlings warmed my blood-pumping organ.  

….. *ribbit* …..

That is to say, my heart.  This is what happens when Olivia attempts to be clever ;-P  

ANYWHO.  Han and Leia are doll-babies and they're excitable and ever-so-slightly arrogant (*snort*) and stiff-necked and they really care about each other and they're willing to sacrifice for each other and I HATE KYLO REN AND THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK IS MY FAVORITE SW MOVIE EVER, OKAY?!  (Though I also really love The Return of the Jedi.  You know.)  

~ Superhero Couple ~

Natasha (Black Widow) & Steve Rogers (Captain America)
Captain America:  The Winter Soldier

It was a thing for one of the movies, okay?!  And I, for one, liked it.  *glares icily at makers*  Seriously.  JUST MAKE A DECISION AND STICK WITH IT.  First Natasha seems to be with Hawkeye, and then she's with Cap, and then she's with Bruce?  "Do we detect a pattern here?"  As much as I care about any of the Marvel movies/characters (and that ain't much, to be blunt), I cared about Steve and Natasha.  I think they could've worked together as a couple :P  Ah, well, I'll get over it in time.  

~ Preferred Couple (from a love triangle) ~

Aragorn & Arwen
The Lord of the Rings

It took me forever to think of one for this, but technically there's a sort of love triangle between Aragorn/Arwen/Éowyn, isn't there?  And I'm definitely glad Aragorn ended up with Arwen (DUH).  Faramir is too perfect for Éowyn and Arwen is too perfect for Aragorn for there to be any thought of an Aragorn/Éowyn thing, I think :P 

~ Couple Ended Too Soon ~ 
(Oh, dear.  Natalie, I apologize in advance.)

Marian & Robin
BBC Robin Hood

I THINK MY POINT IS MADE. *goes off and cries forever*

~ Anna's Tag (Liebster) ~

1.) Link back to the person who tagged you.
2.) Answer the eleven questions.
3.) Tag 11 bloggers, and let them know you tagged them.
4.) Ask your tagged bloggers eleven questions.

1.) Tell us four names (if you don't know the answer to any, just tell the ones you do know): one that your parents would have given you if you were the opposite gender, one they considered once they knew your gender, one you would choose if you got to choose your own name, and one you would NOT like to have.

Well, apparently, my two older brothers were each going to have been Olivia if they had been girls, so I was always going to be Olivia, it appears :)  One name I would choose for myself?  I'd have to really think about that…I like the names Charis, Rhiannon, and Arwen, and any of those might work for me, but I'm not sure.  One name I wouldn't be so very thrilled about is…Sue, I suppose, if I have to choose a non-favorite.

2.) If you were to adapt one of your favorite stories, what story would it be and how would you tell it? (movie, musical, webseries, play, book, etc?)

Oh, OH!  If I could adapt any story in any form, my choice would be--at least, right now--a book called In My Father's House.  It's by Ann Rinaldi, and if you and I are friends on Goodreads (WE SHOULD BE), you may remember my rather impassioned review of it a while back.  Guys, I can envision bits and pieces of the perrrrrrrfect trailer and the ENDING and the music and just I need it to happen!  Here's a glimpse of my dream cast for it:

3.) Tell us four of your favorite words.

Off (mainly) the top of my head:  gossamer, crystalline, twilight, shimmer.  (You think I'm a daydreamer?  Whatever gave you that impression?)

4.) What is a life lesson you have learned in the past year?

"Jesus loves me, this I know."

5.) Who is your favorite secondary character in a book you've read recently?

Hmm…well, I think the book I read the most recently was the original One Hundred and One Dalmatians (so charming!), so I'll go with Tommy Tompkins.  He's the Major's pet, and he's so adorable.  I like reading about Tommy :)

6.) What are five of the books on your TBR list right now?

Yikes!  *consults mental list and Goodreads*  Let's see here:  Lorna Doone (R.D. Blackmore), Behold the Dawn (K.M. Weiland), Surprised by Joy (C.S. Lewis), The Robe (Lloyd C. Douglas), and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Jamie Ford).

7.) Tell us one talent/skill you have, and one you'd like to develop.
One talent/skill that I've been told I have AND that I'd like to develop is singing, actually.  I've been in a choir for coming up on seven years, and I've just recently begun voice lessons.  I think it might be fun to try "dabbling" in musical theatre if possible, so we'll see where that goes.

8.) What's the best joke you've heard recently? (Awful puns are highly acceptable!)

Heh.  Hehe.  Puns…  One I heard recently at work was this:  "A neutron walks into a bar and asks, 'How much for a drink?'  The bartender says, 'For you, no charge.'"  (That was kind of a funny story, actually--there was originally some confusion as to the specific chemical entity that walked into the bar, but eventually all was straightened out and the joke was restored to its former glory.)

9.) Share a quote from the book you're currently reading.
"'Is not my house right before God?  Has He not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part?  Will He not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?'" ~ 2 Samuel 23:5

10.) What song is stuck in your head right now? (Or just share one that's been bouncing around recently if you don't have one right now.)

My brother has been getting Hamilton into my head all week :P

11.) What do you want your life to be like when you're a little old lady?

Awww…that's such a sweet question!  Hmm.  Lemme study on that.  Well, obviously, I'd like to know that I've walked with Jesus all my life and fulfilled His plans for me; I'd like to have really followed Him and trusted Him--even if I feel like I'm not doing that enough now.  I'd like to be that Sage Old Lady who's still just as spry as she used to be, at least mentally, and is Full of Sound Advice for the younger generations, and all that.

~ The Tag-ees ~

For Simple Questions, I tag whoever can name the movie of the last collage I used for that tag.  (If you want to do it, that is.  Tagging is always a non-compulsory activity :D)

For Five Favorite Couples, I tag DKorenHamletteMeredithAbby, and Anna.  

For Liebster, I tag LauraErudessaKayla MarieIvyMaryMonicaFaithCatherineChloeMorgBekah and anyone else who wants to answer these questions!  I might as well just say all of you are tagged if you are so inclined (as per usual), but I specifically tag these peeps, I guess?  I tried not to tag people if I knew they had very recently completed a tag/don't often do tags :P

(Oh, and Liebster people, I am now almost too brain-dead to think up eleven new questions--sorry--so I'll just pass on the same questions to you all.  Here they are, for your copying ease, as I think I heard another blogger put it one time:

1.) Tell us four names (if you don't know the answer to any, just tell the ones you do know): one that your parents would have given you if you were the opposite gender, one they considered once they knew your gender, one you would choose if you got to choose your own name, and one you would NOT like to have.
2.) If you were to adapt one of your favorite stories, what story would it be and how would you tell it? (movie, musical, webseries, play, book, etc?)
3.) Tell us four of your favorite words.
4.) What is a life lesson you have learned in the past year?
5.) Who is your favorite secondary character in a book you've read recently?
6.) What are five of the books on your TBR list right now?
7.) Tell us one talent/skill you have, and one you'd like to develop.
8.) What's the best joke you've heard recently? (Awful puns are highly acceptable!)
9.) Share a quote from the book you're currently reading.
10.) What song is stuck in your head right now? (Or just share one that's been bouncing around recently if you don't have one right now.)
11.) What do you want your life to be like when you're a little old lady?  

Whew!  Why are my tag posts always so unearthly long?!  (Because you wait until you've accumulated like fifty thousand questions to answer, Olivia.  Duh.)  Anyway, for those of you who took the time to read this mammoth all the way or most of the way through, kudos and 'umble thanks.  To those of you who skimmed, I do that a lot, myself.  Talk to you all soon, lovelies!  *blows kiss*

Friday, August 5, 2016

Legends of Western Cinema Week / / The War Wagon {1967}

"Mine hit the ground first."
"Mine was taller."
-- Lomax and Taw --

Once upon a time, a lovely blogger called DKoren reviewed a movie.  (Well.  That is to say.  She's done that lots, but this was a special instance I'm talking about here.)  She sparked my interest right off the bat by observing that it starred John Wayne (in case you didn't know, I have A Rather High Regard for the Duke).  She ensured that I would specifically plan on watching it when she mentioned that Howard Keel makes an appearance as…an Indian?  What?  This I had to see.  (In case you didn't know this, either, I have An Equally High Regard for Mr. Keel.  His voice, what.  It demands respect, dontcha know.)  

Time passed, and lo, the film showed up in my library's DVD collection.  You will be happy to know that I secured said DVD, carried it home, and watched it before any great amount of time had elapsed ;)  And I liked it just as much as I expected to--more, probably.  (Except for Lomax, that is.  We'll get to him.)

This movie is all kinds of fun, people.  I really, really like it.  From the very beginning, with the typical panoramic shots, I was on board.  I love the opening sequence, actually:  you know how everyone talks about the beginnings of iconic Westerns and how they have the same general framework?  Well, this is one that actually gave me tingles of delight--the War Wagon cavalcade rolling over the terrain with the rollicking title song playing, and the fun opening credits…I knew this was gonna be good ;)  (Speaking of the title song, IT'S SO MUCH FUN.  Although, I have to say, what on earth is the point of having Howard Keel in your Western movie if you aren't going to have him sing the song?  Still, the dude who sang it had a pleasantly old-timey voice, so no real complaints.)  

Hark!  I've forgotten myself and a summary.  Basically, there's this thing called the War Wagon.  It's like the ultimate stagecoach, if you will--complete with safe-like security elements and a rotating machine gun, of all things--aw, to heck with it, here's a summary hand-stolen from Google:  Rancher Taw Jackson (John Wayne) is out for revenge. He was shot by a gunslinger, Lomax (Kirk Douglas), on the orders of mining tycoon Frank Pierce (Bruce Cabot) and framed for a crime he did not commit. Now out of prison, he teams up with former enemy Lomax for an elaborate heist targeted at one of Pierce's gold shipments. Robbing the heavily fortified stagecoach, known as a "war wagon," won't be easy. But the payoff -- $500,000 in gold -- will be sweet payback indeed.  Sure.  That'll do ;)

So, yes, in order to pay back Pierce and try to reclaim his ranch, Taw recruits a motley crew of rivals and acquaintances to hijack the WW on its next journey.  And I like every single one of them, except for that Fletcher dude.  Eww with a capital E and No with a capital N.  I don't like to say it, but the end sort of serves him right.  (Plus it frees things up for Kate and Billy, and KATE AND BILLY THOUGH <3)  

I like Taw pretty well--it's not like he has "a moral center" the depth of the Mariana Trench, but he's not a villain, either.  He's great fun to watch.  His frenemy Lomax is…an interesting sort, shall we say.  I liked him better the second time I watched it--after all, he is rather funny and he does have some exemplary dimples--but I Strongly Disapprove of his whole deal with saloon girls.  Seriously.  Be a (real) man already, would you?  I also didn't like how his fling with Nora was treated flippantly, as though it wasn't a problem, which, y'know, I think it was.  Nonetheless, Lomax is undoubtedly amusing and the ripostes he and Taw exchange are priceless:  "I can't afford to let you get killed unless I do it!" ~ "You'd leave me here without a horse?  Penniless?" 

My favorite is probably Billy Hyatt--he's about eighteen, prone to imbibing, gifted in the fine arts of nitroglycerin, and basically adorable :)  And when he meets Kate, who was "bartered" by her impoverished parents to Fletcher...LET THE CUTENESS BEGIN.  In case I haven't stated it enough (I have, I know), I'll state it again:  I love Billy and Kate.  (This may be partially because they are the only real romance in the movie, but only partially.)  

Theeeeeere's Howie!

Though the story could have been told in less time than it was, the film on the whole moves at a pleasant pace, finding a happy medium between ambling and brisk.  I found myself keenly enjoying the various preparations, stealthy attacks, chases, quips, and relationships involved in this story which could easily have bored me.  I mean, it's about a bunch of guys setting up booby-traps to take down a stagecoach with almost comically before-its-time defense mechanisms, to get a bunch of gold, to pay back somebody who wronged somebody else.  Not exactly the stuff of legend…except that it totally is, too.  

The resolution of the conflict is immensely satisfactory and humorous--all in all, I sorta love this show, silly though it is.  It's just a raise-some-dust-and-revenge Western, and it's really fun.  The acting is great, the leads are witty and rivalrous, KATE AND BILLY ARE SO SWEET, THEY BRING JOY TO MY SOUL there's just enough romance to keep it from being too male-centric and random, there's a killer opening sequence, there's Howard Keel as an Indian, there's a satisfying, exciting but not gory chase-and-attack scene at the end, and a humorous, whimsical little conclusion.  So, yeah.  Go watch it :)

The more I look at Lomax's expression, the more irresistible my urge to crack up laughing.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Legends of Western Cinema Week / / On the Role of Friendship in Westerns

There are many standby sights you'll usually, if not always, find in a Western of any sort:  Dust.  Rifles.  Stetsons.  Horses.  Boots.  Sweeping plains.  Manipulative villains.  A small number of women.  A (slightly bigger) number of men.  And, ofttimes, a marked emphasis on friendship.

Think about it--have you ever seen a Western that didn't feature a strong bromance?  (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, for once in the history of the universe, doesn't count.)  In these stories about hardened heroes grappling with adverse elements, sinister bad guys, and unruly quadrupeds, companionship is important, and filmmakers seem to recognize that.  

Cowboys have it rough, man.  They spend long days in the saddle, short nights on the ground, and a heck of a lot of mental and emotional energy just trying to be decent human beings in a country that's still in the process of becoming civilized.  Justice, in a Western movie, is often determined by whoever has the faster draw.  There aren't that many second chances--and yet there are, at the same time.  Sort of like Cap'n Jack Sparrow put it, Western movie heroes never quite know which moment could be their last (not that any of us do, but you know what I meant, stop quibbling), so over time they have to develop razor-sharp instincts and reflexes in order to be able to stop by a bar and have a drink with a reasonable amount of confidence that should they be threatened or insulted, they can defend themselves.  

Needless to say, these pressures can tend to make a person ever so slightly Stand-offish and/or Edgy…which is why (drumroll, please) friendship is important in a Western!  (I can hardly avoid being cheesy and sentimental in such a post as this xD) These guys really need a pal to stand by them, y'know? Since cowboys have to be pretty wary, it's not often that you'll find multiple friendships of a "true-blue, stick-to-you-like-glue" nature within the same Western--there are usually only one or two. And when you do find them, boy oh boy, are they ever deep. The men have a connection and an understanding that is well-nigh unshakeable. They irritate each other now and then, but underlying that is a love that doesn't need explaining. True Western buddies rarely require words to communicate with each other on a deeper level--they have known each other so long (or connected immediately within a short amount of time, as the case may be) that they know what makes each other tick, they know how to carry out a plan in crisis-mode without discussing it first, and they know when to let each other vent frustration, anger, grief; or excitement and quiet joy.  

These aren't always man-to-man friendships, either--sometimes they exist between a hardened, one-eyed, imbibing marshal and an inexperienced but tough-as-nails teenage girl, or a mixed-blood mustang and a mixed-race cowboy.  Regardless, I find it extremely interesting to mull over the numerous specimens of friendship portrayed in nearly every Western I've ever seen.  

(Psst!  Don't forget to check out the GIVEAWAYS happening this week!!!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Legends of Western Cinema Week / / High Noon {1952}

*takes deep breath*  Oh, boy.  This.  Well, folks, I finally watched the classic Western High Noon about a month or two ago.  And…I don't know what I think of it, precisely.

Being well aware that this news may not exactly enhance my popularity in the blogosphere, I give you full permission to not read this review :P  But it's not going to be a negative review, understand--it'll just be a mixed and undecided review, that's all.  I just don't want to be that person who "bashes" someone's favorite movie (even though I have no intention of bashing it).  So…yeah.  Read at your own risk and please don't hate me, what ;)

I enjoyed High Noon--really, I did.  It's just that it had certain, shall we say, quirks.  The cinematography itself was nearly flawless--the camera angles and use of chiaroscuro combined to create a dramatic, edge-of-your-seat sort of effect--and the acting was wonderful, as you'd expect from such a cast.  The problems for me arose within the story itself.

The plot posed several interesting moral conondrums, but only one or two were ever resolved, which left the film with a sort of unfinished, angsty feel.  (In my opinion, that is.)  High Noon is very centered around Gary Cooper's and Grace Kelly's characters.  Grace Kelly's Amy is slightly conflicted, while Gary Cooper's Will is basically perfect, the ultimate self-sacrificing hero who's willing to face his own fear for the greater good--which I respect, truly I do.  It's just that this heroism is achieved by the utter vilification of the entire rest of the townspeople...and it's just no FUN when there is literally only one morally correct, courageous character surrounded by a sea of lily-livered cowards--at least, not to me, not in this story.  On the other hand, though, the starkness of the contrast between Will and the town's men sort of reminded me--in a very, very minimized way--of Jesus, staying true to His merciful purpose  to save those who refused to stand by Him, even when they all deserted Him.  

I keep thinking of this movie in contradictory possibilities.  For instance, the pacing.  There were what seemed like hours of actual screen time leading up to the climactic moment when the gang arrived in town "at high noon," and then when it actually came, it was all over in no more than five minutes.  (Speaking of the gang, what in tarnation was the ever-lovin' deal with Frank Miller?  For the gigantic fuss the man kicked up, he sure went down pretty easy; I'm just sayin'.  Was everyone scared of him because he was mentally unstable?  Or was he usually unstoppable in a fight?  I MUST KNOW.)  So, terribly disproportionate pacing or subtly brilliant depiction of how agonizingly long the build-up to a climax can be in real life, as opposed to how, when the event anticipated happens, it happens seemingly within the blink of an eye?  Irksome spotlight on one flawless character exalted above the common-folk, or powerful and realistic allegory?  I just can't decide.  And I'm really very sorry to have to own that, since I went into this movie  expecting to love it.  Even when watching it--with a quite decidedly unimpressed father and brother--I kept longing to be wowed by it.  I just…wasn't.  But I can still certainly see why it's such a favorite…it's just that for some reason the film didn't jibe all that well with me, which I think is a crying shame, since I really wanted to love it.

For all that, though, there really were moments in this movie that I did enjoy.  I loved that Amy and Mrs. Ramirez became friends despite their initial distaste.  I loved the relationship between Will and Amy, especially the part pictured above--after all that they'd been through together, that wordless hug was just SO DARN SWEET, as was their wedding at the very beginning.  Also, though my aforementioned partners in crime got very tired of how many times the theme song, "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'," played throughout the film, I rather liked it…though I do have to agree that it did play perhaps a bit too often.  

This movie is good…it just didn't floor me like I expected it to, and there were a few things I would have preferred to have been done differently.  But I'd still recommend it--it's definitely an enjoyable experience, and the acting is superb.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Legends of Western Cinema Week / / The Searchers {by Alan Le May}

"It never occurred to them that their search was stretching out into a great extraordinary feat of endurance; an epic of hope without faith, of fortitude without reward, of stubbornness past all limits of reason.  They simply kept on, doing the next thing, because they always had one more place to go, following out one more forlorn-hope try."

You'll be so proud of me, guys.  I finally finished an actual Western book.  I've seen several, but I don't think I'd ever read a Western novel all the way through.  I just haven't picked up that many, and the content I've run into has sort of put a damper on our relationship, as a very wise man in black once put it.  (Well, maybe that Dear America book about the wagon train counts…and then there's A Lantern in Her Hand and Love Comes Softly and the like...)  Anyway, a week or two ago, I did it--I read a no-doubt-about-it, true Western:  The Searchers by Alan Le May. I'm accordingly here to review it.

The plot follows Amos Edwards and Mart Pauley as they embark on a relentless search for two girls abducted after a Comanche raid--Amos' nieces and Mart's adopted sisters.  And it sure doesn't waste any time: by the fourth chapter, the horrific attack has happened, and the journey is about to begin.

I don't really know what to say.  On the one hand, the writing was just so. darn. good. …but confound it, was there ever a bright moment in this book??  If there was, I think I missed it.  The heart-wrenching efforts of the men to recover Lucy and Debbie, *SPOILERS* especially when they discover that it was too late in Lucy's case, *END OF SPOILERS* stretch on…and on…and on…not in a boring, oh-my-goodness-will-you-just-write-something-else sort of way, but in an extremely tragic and compelling exploration of human endurance and all that jazz.

"'This is rough country…it's a country knows how to scour a human man right off the face of itself.  A Texan is nothing but a human man way out on a limb.  This year, and next year, and maybe for a hundred more.  But I don't think it'll be forever.  Someday this country will be a fine good place to be.  Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come.'"

Since Amos and Mart are the two that we really get to know, they're the only characters I'll specifically
touch on.  Amos is a bit of a puzzle to me--it's not hard to figure out that he's an iconically hardened man of the West, but it IS hard to figure out what lies underneath that hardness.  He has a heart, one that's very much alive and kicking, that's for sure.  But what exactly resides in that heart, I can't fully make out--which I sort of like.  Eventually, it becomes clear that he's continuing this quest that pushes the limits of sanity not solely--or even primarily--to recover Debbie.  His goal is to claim revenge on every Comanche he can corner.  The darkness of this hatred, thoroughly understandable though it is, is rather disturbing, but in the end I think good triumphed over evil in the person of Amos Edwards.  (ALSO.  CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE WILL AMOS SHOWS MART AFTER MART DELIVERS HIS ULTIMATUM.  FEELS.)

Le May delves more deeply into Mart's psyche, so it's easier to get a firm grip on his personality:  what makes him tick, what he's looking for, the pain and the strength in him, etc.  You really feel for Mart in his search for Debbie, because ultimately it's a search for belonging.  Debbie is all that's left of the only family Mart ever knew; she represents home.  Perhaps, in a way, Mart feels that if he can rescue Debbie, he'll make amends for how he couldn't save his blood family when he was a frightened toddler abandoned--for his own safe-keeping--in the brush of the prairie.

Though I could have used a tiny bit more levity somewhere in the whole entire book *ahem*, it really was an outstandingly well-crafted story.  Mr. Le May's writing was sparse where need be and vivid where need be.  I really loved his style.  As Emma said in regards to Larry McCurtry, "he knows how to drive a story, and doesn't waste time with the unimportant stuff."  There was the perfect blend of ornamentation and just plain telling the story--taut enough to keep the story moving without throwing in superfluous soliloquizing or description of the landscape, yet also philosophical enough to keep away from Ernest Hemingway extremes.  I approve ;)  And despite the extremely weighty subject matter, he included injections of that classic Western humor--sardonic, tongue-in-cheek, and delightfully wry.

The content is not actually too bad in this one, considering the storyline, but it's certainly still there.  I wouldn't recommend this to younger readers, on the most basic level, because of the thematic material--we're dealing with two young girls who have been kidnapped by Comanche braves, plus their family was slaughtered by their captors.  So, you know, there is a good deal of discussion about rape, scalping, and various other forms of mutilations enacted in the hostilities between the Indians and the settlers.  I think that aspect of the book is handled quite tastefully, actually, because it never gets too graphic, but it never sugarcoats the trauma either.  The content that bugged me can be found in the language and in the brief sexual coarseness.  G-----n was used a bit too often for my comfort:  I can get past it once, twice, or even thrice in a story, but beyond that I begin to get pretty uncomfortable.  There's no real excuse for it, and there is only rarely an understandable reason for using it.  Also, I could have done without the vulgar innuendo when Mart "buys" a wife--even though nothing ever actually happens--and I definitely could have done without the tequila-and-dancing-girl incident.  (Basically, Mart gets drunk at a bar and spends the night with one of the "entertaining girls," though he most likely would not have if it weren't for the fact that he was intoxicated.  Still, alcohol or no alcohol, not okay.)  Ordinarily I wouldn't keep reading after that, I don't think, but I was so far into the book that I was bound and determined to see it through.

*I'm now going to talk briefly about the end, and I'll close with a quote therefrom, so beware of the ensuing SPOILERS!*

I really wasn't sure how the story was going to end, because the book has such an attitude of--I don't want to say 'pessimism,' but more of an unrelenting realism to it, that I just couldn't be sure one way or the other.  The conclusion was different than I was imagining, however it ended, but it was GOOD.  It was realistic but still hopeful.  All in all, I'm glad I read this book.  It left me with a not-altogether-unpleasant sense of slight melancholy--or, shall we say, solemnity--but also of hope, as I said.  And now, the promised concluding quote:

"He thought she was asleep, until she spoke, a whisper against his chest.  'I remember,' she said in a strangely mixed tongue of Indian-English.  'I remember it all.  But you the most.  I remember how hard I loved you.'"

Legends of Western Cinema Week / / Giveaways Galore! (Hush, I know it'sa cheesy title.)

I have good news!  Hamlette (a masterful authority on the Western genre) and I are both hosting giveaways for this grand and glorious week of fun :)

Rosemary is proud of us fairy godmothers.  

Hamlette is giving away not one, not two, but FIVE Western television prizes.  Get thee over there posthaste--it's a veritable smorgasbord!  Her giveaway post is HERE.

And now, my turn:  I will be giving away 4 Western movie picture prints 8x10 inches each, 4 "postcards" (they seem a bit big to be postcards, to me, but they have the regular postcard formatting, so…I guess I'll take them at their word) featuring various pictures of John Wayne, and 1 Western novel.  (I apologize in advance for the poor picture quality.)

Giveaway #1

Top row:  Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, and Paul Newman hanging out on the set of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Gary Cooper in Man of the West.

Bottom row:  Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in High Noon.  

Giveaway #2

Top row:  John Wayne testifies in court during in alimony battle with soon-to-be-ex-wife; John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara on the set of McClintock!.

Bottom row:  John Wayne greeting fans at the Oscars (I think that's what it was); Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope.

Giveaway #3

Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake.  I bought this at a thrift store a while back, so it has a bit of wear and tear, though I haven't read the whole thing.  As you can see in the picture, there is some "scribbling" on the upper righthand corner, as well as an inscription on the inside front cover (somebody giving the book to somebody else as a gift).  Other than that, I don't think there's too much evidence of it having been used, but I could be wrong.  This is the novel upon which the Kevin Costner movie was based (in case his face on the cover and the red circle announcing it didn't fill you in).  

To enter:  Please leave a comment telling me your first, second, and third preferences if you win (feel free to mix and match from the three separate "bundles").  I think I'll pick anywhere from two to five winners depending on how many entries I get, but we'll have to see how it all plays out.  My giveaway will be open August 2 - 8.

Have fun, and, as Print would say:  "Never use money to measure wealth, son." ;)  (Also, don't forget to visit Hamlette's giveaway HERE.)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Legends of Western Cinema Week KICK-OFF / / My Top Ten Western Leading Ladies

Legends of Western Cinema Week has arrived!  The day has dawned!  The quest has begun!  The joy overflows--okay, I'll stop.  Anywho, I'm ever so excited, and I know Emma is as well!

Before I begin, I'd like to take a moment to celebrate the fact that today is Rosie McCann's birthday!  I've had the privilege of getting to know Rosie over the past year or so, and it's an absolute joy to be friends with her!  She's more or less sort of awesome.  I'm sure a lot of you know her--though she doesn't have a blog (sad face), she's an active and vibrant participant in the blogosphere's happenings :)  Happy Birthday, Rosie!!!  Have a swell day, and don't forget what a gift you are to the world <3

Now, on to the post!  This year, Emma and I are each doing something different for the start of LoWCW, and I decided to make another top ten list, because I think top ten lists are fun ;)  I will be sharing with you all my top ten favorites of the women who make appearances in Westerns I've seen.  This list doesn't necessarily rank them as they might have been ranked if it were an all-inclusive list of favorite heroines, though.  And, honestly, I'm hardly ever absolutely sure about where exactly to place people in these lists…but I've thought through this one a lot and changed it around quite a bit, so I think it's a fairly accurate ranking of my top ten Western leading ladies :)

(Fair warning, I will be unashamedly raving about the romances of most of these women, and the picture quality is not the greatest on some of them, since apparently most of these are rather obscure, and Pinterest isn't all that obliging when it comes to obscure movies *scowls at ridiculous website*.  And yes--apart from the fact that they really are awesome women in their own right--two of these get high rankings because they're in Broken Trail.  One must stay true to one's commitment to such a movie.)

Mild spoilers may be included and will be unmarked!!!

~ 10 ~
Millie Pontipee
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

I mean.  Millie is goals, as the saying is ;)  (Minus her lapse of judgment in marrying a guy the same day she meets him.  Ahem.)  You can read more of my thoughts on Millie here.

~ 9 ~ 
Lilith Prescott
How the West Was Won

I quite enjoyed Lilith (especially her renditions of "A Home in the Meadow").  She was spunky without being annoying, and she was even-tempered and pleasant enough to charm me.  Plus, she and Cleve, though.  I mean, it IS Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck together in a Western, so it's not exactly a surprise that they're so adorable, BUT STILL.  All the happy warm-fuzzies.  

~ 8 ~
Michaela "Mike" Quinn
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

So Mike is pretty cool.  A female doctor brave enough to be a female doctor, in that day and time, and not only that, but to travel West and set up her own practice all by herself…one can respect the woman, shall we say.  Also, she takes in Matthew and Colleen and Brian after a relatively short acquaintance, "which, considering the event, shows some greatness of mind, I think."  She's kind and courageous and innovative; strong but not afraid to be vulnerable, so I like her :)

~ 7 ~
Kate Fletcher
The War Wagon

Though she only gets a few words' worth of lines in the movie, this girl conveys a strong presence simply by the use of her eyes and her body language--not to mention that what little she does say carries a heck of a lot of emotional force and aptly depicts her background and personality without ever explicitly touching on either.  (Or maybe I just felt like that since she was one of only three female characters, and undoubtedly the one with the most screen time.)  Seriously, though, I really liked Kate.  And DO NOT EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE ROMANCE BETWEEN HER AND BILLY. The gushing would be without end.  They made me so incandescently happy.  (Yeah, that's probably a slight exaggeration…but only a slight one.)

~ 6 ~
Shannon Christie
Far and Away

"You're a corker, Shannon.  What a corker you are." ;D  Now, I'm not usually a fan of the "spitfire redhead" in movies--I find them overdone and irritating.  However, Shannon has proven one of the exceptions of the rule.  While her personality is a good bit more confrontational and outgoing than mine, I admire her grit in venturing to America and determinedly staying there even when the world she was trying to build kept crumbling time after time.  And, since I warned you that 50% of this would be gushing about the love stories…Shannon + Joseph <3 <3 <3

~ 5 ~
Clara Allen
Lonesome Dove

Of course, I've only seen this movie once, so I can't remember it too clearly, but I do really like Clara, from what little I recall.  She handles her complicated relationship with Gus admirably.  She's a devoted mother, even to a baby who isn't her own.  She's a loyal wife, even when it would be so easy to slip into infidelity, especially given the circumstances which almost blur the lines of moral duty in her case.  And she's so kind and caring to Lorie, comforting her, sheltering and providing for her, and trying to help her see how to move on after tragedy.  The fact that she's played by Anjelica Houston doesn't hurt ;-P

~ 4 ~
Magnolia "Dusty" Clydesdale
The Apple Dumpling Gang

Don't laugh!  Dusty is seriously epic.  Can we all just take a moment to respect the sheer boss-ness that is Magnolia Clydesdale?  Honestly.  She's competent and confident, but she's also friendly enough and assumes a maternal affection and concern for the children from the get-go.  I like Dusty :)  (Plus, y'know, she's a significant part of my cinematic childhood, so yeah…)

  ~ 3 ~
Nola Johns
Broken Trail

I love the kindness of Mrs. Johns' soul, not to be cheesy.  Regardless of how contemptibly life and other people have treated her, Nola is still amicable and compassionate.  Her attempts at mentoring Ye Fung are so sweet--because she knows; she understands.  She's been through what Ye Fung has been through; she's seen her life falling apart and has chosen to keep on living in spite of it, and she tries to pass that same hope on to this broken, violated young girl.  She falls in love with Print and longs for a new life with him, but in the end she respects his decisions, even if she doesn't understand or agree with them.  Nola is a very strong woman, and I admire her.  

~ 2 ~
Sun Fu
Broken Trail

Yep, this is literally the only horizontal picture of just her that I could find.
I too think this is shameful.  


And number one is…*drumroll*  

~ 1 ~

Dallas is such a morally courageous character.  (The more I thought about her while putting this post together, the more I realized how admirable she really is, and that kept bumping her up through the rankings until she was #1.  She deserves it.)  With how she was treated by almost everyone around her, it would have been understandable for her to refuse to lift a finger to help them.  She didn't have to step up and assist Mrs. Mallory when she went into labor.  For the neglect and rudeness she'd suffered at her hands, the hands of the only other female passenger aboard the stagecoach, many wouldn't blame Dallas for writing her off and letting her figure out childbirth by herself…but she doesn't.  Despite all she's been through, Dallas keeps her heart tender and open and caring.  She serves selflessly and efficiently, and though she loves Ringo (BE STILL MY HEART), she is unwilling to let him "sully" himself by being with "someone like her," not realizing until later that there is a kind of love that can look past, well, one's past, and provide a future.  So, yeah.  I really like Dallas--she's a very selfless and sweet character.  And can we talk about her and Ringo?!?!?!  Can we gush about them forever and ever?!?!?!  (Also, by the by, if you're looking for a FABULOUS narrative review of Stagecoach--and you should be--read Heidi's HERE.)