Hear me out. There is a subplot in this movie, the first movie I ever remember watching, that is completely unnecessary to the rest of the film. I noticed this when I was rewatching it, in anticipation for Jurassic World, which hit theaters yesterday. I’m not saying she’s the cause of the events of the first film, but the dinosaurs didn’t escape until she showed up… so…
I don’t “do” snow. Let’s establish that up front. Being a vertically-challenged person, it means that the bottoms of my pants get all wet, and end up drying with a salt line ring around it. Sooo not attractive. Also, I guess, compared to some people, I fall just short of being a Scrooge. Christmas is not my favorite holiday, although it is lovely to spend time with family and enjoy all that Christmas means for you. For the record, New Year’s Eve is my favorite. You get to dress up and drink champagne, but the whole idea of a fresh new start is always appealing to me. However, if dressing up and drinking champagne is all it takes to get that “fresh start” feeling, I’m entirely in favor of doing it more often.
Right around the week before Thanksgiving, it seems like stores (and some people, too, don’t deny it) start to lose their minds for Christmas. Radio stations start playing Christmas music as soon as possible (sorry Mom), all the Christmas displays go up, and I end up walking around stores while muttering under my breath about premature and unnecessary tinsel. It creeps up earlier and earlier each year, and I think it takes away from how special the season is supposed to be.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas movies, either. Ralphie and A Christmas Story? A-no, thank you. It’s A Wonderful Life? It’s a terrible movie. (I don’t know why George felt like he was the one responsible for the whole thing… it was Uncle Billy who lost the money, so wasn’t this whole mess actually his fault?) The only ones I kind of like are the stop-animation Rankin/Bass specials (think “Rudolph” and Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town), and sometimes, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But, there is one movie that always puts me in a holiday mood, even if it is just for a little bit.
White Christmas (1954) stars Bing Crosby (Bob Wallace) and Danny Kaye (Phil Davis) as performer/producers who go to audition sister act Rosemary Clooney (Betty Haynes) and Vera-Ellen (Judy Haynes) for their show, and end up following them to Vermont. The foursome arrive at a snowless ski lodge, owned by Wallace and Davis’s former general from the war. No snow means no guests at the lodge, so Wallace and Davis devise a plan to fill it with their former army buddies.
I remember my dad teaching me the song, “White Christmas,” when I was a kiddo, and I learned to appreciate Bing Crosby, as well as some of the other big names in jazz and swing, from one of my uncles. Those 1950’s big-production musicals have always been favorites for me, too. White Christmas is a big-production musical inside a big-production musical — what’s not to love? (There are at least 4 numbers in this movie that are completely superfluous to the rest of the story. See if you can figure out which ones they are here.) Even if it isn’t essential to the story, I absolutely love The Haynes Sisters’ performance from their floor show:
There are some things to learn from White Christmas, and most of the lessons seem to come from Phil Davis.
- “Let’s say we’re doing it for an old friend in the army:” Phil uses this on Wallace to get him to do the right thing, even though his stubborn friend is reluctant to do it.
- Giving their train tickets to the Haynes Sisters so they could escape from a shady landlord: If you’re in the position to help someone, do it. They did this again when Wallace used his TV appearance to appeal to the other soldiers from their unit to come to Vermont for Christmas to surprise the General.
- Count your blessings instead of sheep.
I know that this is one of the classics, and AMC has probably already run a marathon of this movie in one of the days leading up to Christmas. But, if you haven’t seen White Christmas, I encourage you to settle in with a cup of hot chocolate and watch it. Looking outside, I can see that Jack Frost paid us a visit last night, so unfortunately for me, this movie isn’t the only white Christmas I’ll have this year.
Wash my hands, my face and hair with snow? SNOWPE.
Want to read more? Check out Buzzfeed’s “15 Questions ‘White Christmas’ Left Unanswered” and “15 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘White Christmas.'” Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, dear readers!
2012 was a rough year for reading for me. My last semester of graduate school was tough. Finishing my classes, writing my thesis, and thinking about what to do with the rest of my life took up most of my time and most of my ability to think. Summer turned out to not be too good for reading either. I was busy for the first part of the summer, my grandfather became ill, and then I was applying for jobs. The Fall continued on with the job search and I felt guilty about reading when I could have been filling out applications.
But, then in early December, my grandfather died. While he was ill, his death was surprising because it came rapidly and with little warning. Pain gives you new perspective. It teaches you.
Books do the same thing. The stories of others help make the events in your own story make sense. They bring catharsis. So, I resolved to not feel guilty about devoting some of my time to reading. I’ve read 2 books so far this week, 4 since the 1st of the month. So, expect me to talk about books a little more on here in the future. 🙂
But, back to Beautiful Creatures.
Published in 2009, Beautiful Creatures is technically a Young Adult novel for readers ages 12 and up. It is a Southern, Gothic Romance with a storyline deeply rooted in the supernatural. The novel draws heavily on themes of magic and fate. It is 563 pages.
Authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl wrote the novel after being dared to by some of the teenagers in their lives. Garcia and Stohl came up with the idea for Beautiful Creatures over lunch and wrote initial passages on napkins. They wrote the book in serial form at first, feeding pages at a time to these same teens who became increasingly impatient to read more of the story. Three months later, the first draft was complete and after some editing Beautiful Creatures is an international bestseller, the first book in a four-part series (The Caster Chronicles), and soon to be a major motion picture.
A General, Spoiler-free Summary:
Beautiful Creatures is told from the perspective of Ethan Lawson Wate, a 16-year old high school sophomore living in fictional Gatlin, South Carolina in the present day. At the beginning of the book, Ethan is still reeling from the death of his mother Lila several months before in a car accident and is unsure how to react from his father Mitchell’s depressed behavior. Virtually ignored by his devastated father, who sleeps all day and locks himself in his study all night, Ethan relies on the love, support, and care of housekeeper Amma who is like his grandmother.
Raised to be open minded by his liberal professor/writer parents, Ethan feels out of place in Gatlin, a small Southern town deeply rooted in its history and in its conservative values, and he cannot wait until he can leave after high school graduation. A member of the Jackson High School basketball team and a relatively popular kid in his class, Ethan spends most days with his best friend Wesley “Link” Lincoln. However, as summer ends and his sophomore year begins, something is different. Since his mother’s death, Ethan has been plagued by strange dreams, and now he begins to experience strange occurrences and hear strange music. The dreams, which feature a girl Ethan does not know but who seems to know him, seem real — virtually are real — as Ethan wakes up with dirt under his fingernails and mud in his bed.
When Ethan passes a strange car on the road on the first day of school, he feels inexplicably drawn to it, but doesn’t know why. The car’s occupant is Lena Duchannes, niece of Gatlin’s shut-in, Macon Ravenwood. Like her uncle, Lena is “different” than everyone else in Gatlin and she is ridiculed for it by her new classmates. Ethan, however, is drawn to Lena in a way he can’t explain. She is the girl in his dreams, her scent of lemon and rosemary is what he smells as he sleeps, and the music she plays on her viola is the song that mysteriously appears on his iPod.
Ethan becomes Lena’s friend as the rest of Gatlin’s students and residents shun her for her “otherness” and for odd occurrences that begin to happen at Jackson High. Ethan and Lena’s friendship continues to deepen even as her Uncle Macon and his Amma protest the acquaintance. As Ethan seeks to understand his connection to Lena and their relationship develops, Ethan learns that Lena is a Caster. Along with the rest of her family and others like them, she has magical powers. But unlike the others like her family, the Duchannes are cursed — destined to be Claimed on their 16th birthday for either good or evil, for Light or Dark. In a race against time and in a struggle against disapproval, Ethan and Lena rush to learn the meaning of their supernatural connection and to prevent Lena from Turning Dark on her birthday.
In the process, Ethan and Lena learn that all in their lives are not as they seem. That the connection they share goes back over a century to the roots of Gatlin. That Lena’s life has been dominated by secrets. That they may be powerless to do anything.
I really enjoyed Beautiful Creatures. Out of 5 stars, I’d give it a 4. For me it was a fast read — I read it on my Nook over the course of about 2 days. At times, the novel was a little slow and lumbering — not because the story was bad, but because there is a lot of description. With this in mind though, I couldn’t wait to keep reading — the plot kept me thoroughly entertained and thoroughly interested. I desperately wanted to know what happened next, to discover the answers to the story’s mysteries.
I also really liked Beautiful Creatures because I found it to be smart, nuanced, and funny. While some may not agree, I found its commentary on small town life and on the narrow mindedness that sometimes infects those towns (or communities or big cities too) funny and true. You’ll have to read to understand, but for someone like myself who is a more liberal persuasion, authors Garcia and Stohl point out important and blind prejudices that many of us have towards who and what may be different in our worlds.
I also enjoyed the story because of its supernatural themes. While I don’t out rightly believe that magic exists (but, who wouldn’t want Harry Potter to be real??), I appreciate the novel’s perception of supernatural connections and fate. I also found the fact that the novel is told from Ethan’s perspective and not from Lena’s to be refreshing.
Some have placed Beautiful Creatures and the three subsequent books in The Caster Chronicles series in the same category as Harry Potter and Twilight. For someone who reveres the ground that the Harry Potter series sits on, I can honestly say that Beautiful Creatures is not as good as Harry Potter. However, I feel that it is, without question, better than the Twilight series.
A Note About the Movie:
Beautiful Creatures has been made into a motion picture and premieres on February 13, 2013. It is being marketed as a Romeo and Juliet type story and some changes have been made to the plot and to the characters. This being said, however, authors Garcia and Stohl were heavily involved in the project and I think the film’s trailer looks great!
The entire Caster Chronicles — Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption — series has been published. The fourth and final book, Beautiful Redemption, was published in October 2012.
Happy Reading! Let me know what you think of Beautiful Creatures.
I have a small Jane Austen obsession. I trace it back to high school…where I may have been part-organizer of several Jane Austen movie marathons amongst friends. During which we repeatedly rewinded an re-watched the scene where Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy jumped into Pemberley’s lake.
But, I am unapologetic about my love for all things Jane Austen. I mean, really, can’t I be a feminist and love Mr. Darcy too?
I can’t be too crazy though because Jane Austen is all the rage (and has been for quite some time) in popular culture, even 200 years after Pride and Prejudice’s publication. There are countless adaptations of her works for the big and small screen, novels that imagine alternate interpretations of Austen’s characters and plots, Jane Austen jewelry, cookbooks, handbooks, clothing, crochet patterns, and the list goes on and on.
I mean, all you have to do is search Pinterest for “Jane Austen” or “Mr. Darcy.” For example, look at this little gem I found:
And now there is something amazing and awesome called “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.”
Last Spring, while my brain was focused on finishing my Master’s thesis, Hank Green and Bernie Su had the ridiculously brilliant idea of bringing Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice into the 21st century. I don’t know how I missed out on the beginning of this really cool series of web-videos, but I did. Luckily, though, I came across it a few months ago by accident and was quickly all caught up on the 81 episodes that have been produced so far.
So, what is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries?
It is one of an increasingly prolific number of web-based series that are dominating the internet, and being made available on YouTube and other web video streaming sites.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries takes Jane Austen’s character Elizabeth Bennet out of 19th century England and transforms her into a 24 year old communications graduate student who video blogs about her life. Just like in Jane Austen’s novel, Lizzie interacts (on and off camera) with Pride and Prejudice’s other characters and the storyline of the videos follow (with some mostly minor differences) the plot of the novel.
What makes the series even better though is the interactive nature that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has taken on as the series has progressed. Now, most characters have Twitter accounts that they regularly update and whose posts flesh out more of the story. There’s also a Facebook page and a Tumblr account. Fan interaction is also appreciated.
There are some differences (as can be expected) in characters and the set up of locations and premises. But, these changes only serve to enhance the series.
Here’s a guide to some of the changes:
Characters (What’s the Same and What’s Different):
- Elizabeth Bennet — Elizabeth is Lizzie Bennet. As stated above, she’s a 24 year old grad student studying communications and living at home with her parents. In this adaptation, she only has 2 sisters: Jane and Lydia.
- Fitzwilliam Darcy — For all intents and purposes, Mr. Darcy is still Mr. Darcy. Except now, he’s just William Darcy. He’s wealthy, he’s powerful, he’s proud, he’s shy, and he’s still in love with Elizabeth.
- Charles Bingley — Mr. Bingley is now Bing Lee. Still an adorable lovey dovey guy, Bing is still easily led by Caroline and Darcy. Just like in the novel, he loves Jane but leaves her.
- Jane Bennet — Still Jane Bennet. Still the oldest Bennet sister, very sweet and kind, very close to Lizzie. Still in love with Bingley (Bing Lee). Loves fashion.
- Lydia Bennet — Lydia is Lydia, what can I say? Immature and boy crazy.
- Charlotte Lucas — Lizzie’s best friend is now Charlotte Lu who not only is Lizzie’s partner in crime, but also her partner in filming her video blog posts. She is closer in age to Lizzie than in the novel where she’s 7 years older.
- Caroline Bingley — Miss Bingley is now Caroline Lee. Somewhat nicer than in the novel, Caroline is great comic relief. But she’s still up to no good when it comes to her brother and Jane and Lizzie and Darcy.
- Mr. Collins — Mr. Collins is now Ricky Collins, a childhood acquaintance of Lizzie and Charlotte, who ironically refers to himself as “Mr. Collins.” Though not a minister like in the novel, he still is under the spell of Ms. de Bourgh who runs the venture capital firm he works for.
- George Wickham — Wickham is still Wickham. I think that pretty much sums it up.
- Colonel Fitzwilliam — No longer Darcy’s cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam is now Fitz Williams, Darcy’s nice and fun friend who gets to know Lizzie.
- Georgiana Darcy — Mr. Darcy’s little sister Georgiana is now Gigi Darcy. Gigi is very similar to the character in the novel, very kind and very accomplished. She is a fan of Lizzie’s videos.
**There are several characters that are mentioned throughout the series, but not seen onscreen. Some are later seen, most notably William Darcy, but others are not. Lizzie and Charlotte (or Lizzie and others) frequently act out impressions of these characters with the help of props.
- Mrs. Bennet — Still Mrs. Bennet, still looking for husbands for her single daughters. Lizzie portrays her in the videos, with a Southern accent and large blue hat.
- Mr. Bennet — Still Mr. Bennet, he is the long suffering husband of Mrs. Bennet and father of the Bennet girls. Charlotte usually portrays him in the videos.
- Lady Catherine de Bourgh — Lady Catherine is now Ms. de Bourgh, the venture capitalist that Mr. Collins worships and works for. Lizzie impersonates her in some videos.
Here’s the first episode to get you started:
I’m not entirely sure how it’s December already. Summer doesn’t seem like it was so very long ago, and I can’t remember having a distinct “fall” season this year. I’m sure no one needs to tell you that all of this means that the holiday season is well under way. Christmas trees were on sale before Halloween, and radio stations started playing every version of “The Christmas Song” the week before Thanksgiving. To the Targets, Macy’s, Wal-Marts, and other retail stores of the world, I simply say,
Stop it. Just staaahp, please.
One of the songs I’ve noticed on the radio is “My Favorite Things,” which I had never actually considered to be a Christmas song. I just thought it was the song Maria sang when the Von Trapp kids were afraid of the rain. My cousin’s daughter is in love with The Sound of Music, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it. I recently read that Carrie Underwood will be playing the part of the rebellious nun-turned governess in NBC’s remake of The Sound of Music, which is scheduled to air sometime during the holiday season in 2013. (I think I’ll pass on that version.) The song made me think about a few of my favorite things, whether they’re cool products I’ve seen in stores, shows, holiday traditions, or other items… that rhyme with “things.” 😉
Bath & Body Work’s French Baguette Candle
This candle is nothing short of amazing. It *literally* smells just like fresh-baked bread. Brian and my sister, Carmen, both make fun of me for my need to smell all the candles I see. I think it’s a tactile+smell thing; the act of picking up the candle and smelling it are soothing for me during a trip to a crowded mall. I’m sure you’ve smelled at least one candle in your life and thought to yourself, “You know, I wouldn’t mind living in between that space between the wax and the lid…” No? That’s just me? Ok, nevermind. Anyway, search for this one next time you’re in Bath & Body Works. You won’t be disappointed.
Is it weirdly animated? Yes. Is it aimed at young boys? Probably. But, over the past summer, I’ve become hooked on this cartoon. It’s about a boy named Finn and his magical dog, Jake, who encounter many strange adventures with plenty of odd characters in the Land of Ooo. Finn and Jake serve as the doers of good in Ooo, performing various knight-like tasks and protecting the citizens of Candy Kingdom, which is ruled by Princess Bubblegum. If my sister was a cartoon character, she would be Lumpy Space Princess.
Watching White Christmas
White Christmas is one of the only holiday movies I actually enjoy watching. I remember my dad teaching me the song when I was little. Later on, one of my uncles introduced me to Bing Crosby, and I grew to appreciate the jazz standards. There’s something about the “Hey kids! Lets put on a show!” mentality that always seemed fun to me. When we were growing up, my sister and I would participate in “productions” with our cousins whenever they’d visit. They grew up on the other side of the world, so it was always a big event whenever they were here. One year, we performed our version of “The Nutcracker,” and I starred as Clara. White Christmas is a classic (and hello! Rosemary Clooney!), with so many great songs, including this one…
History Channel Series
I’m fascinated by History Channel’s original programming, and this year, they really stepped up the game with Hatfields & McCoys, The Men Who Built America, and Mankind: The Story of All of Us. Hatfields & McCoys spurred my search this past summer into my family’s genealogy, since my mother’s family came from the same area in southern West Virginia where several events of this story unfolded. I really like how politicians, entrepreneurs and businessmen, news figures (like my manfriend, Brian Williams), and other public figures are used throughout the other series to help tell the story of the birth of America, the great wars, and the innovations that would change the world. Reruns of these shows are still better than new episodes of a lot of other shows.
Yep, I’m engaged! The night before Thanksgiving, Brian made me a very happy gal and asked me to marry him. Two days before he asked me, I had interviewed for a part-time bridal consultant position, and after the interview, I met him for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. His fortune cookie wasn’t that great, but mine read “A good message is on it’s way to you.” Not twenty minutes later, I received a call from the store manager, offering me the position. I think my fortune cookie was extra-strength, since it held out for another few days. I’m beyond excited to spend the rest of my life with Brian, and I can’t wait to start planning, but first, I want to spend some time getting settled into my new job. Until then, I plan to start putting together my own wedding blog since I don’t want to overwhelm this blog with all of my wedding-related posts. (It’s a good thing I’ll be working at a place where I’ll be talking about weddings all the time.) Whenever that’s ready, I’ll share the link. I’m so happy that I’ll have my Dames by my side, too, along with my sister and best friend since pre-school, who is also in the process of planning her wedding. (All this wedding business makes that separate blog really necessary.) But anyway, yay!
What are some of your favorite things of the season?