Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Artist.

I just finished watching The Artist for the second time since the DVD released on Tuesday....

I love this movie.

In all honesty, I think I loved the movie before I even saw it. How could I not? A modern silent, black-and-white film that takes place in the late 20s during the transition from silent films to talkies? It was pretty much guaranteed to be one of my favorites.

I don't even know where to begin. Maybe with George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin), as the movie is mostly about him. He is an awesome mixture of the coolest early Hollywood actors you can imagine, with a heavy dose of Gene Kelly. George reminds me so much of him at the beginning {and I adore Gene Kelly. I never wrote that Kelly vs. Astaire post I was planning once. Hm}.

I'm not a dog person, but the dog? The cutest and most talented movie dog since Asta of the Thin Man series. :) But in the scene when he/she plays Lassie, all I could think was, Go faster, little dog! Burning film = deadly fumes! Speed it up!

And then there's Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). She's pretty and charming- a ridiculously likable character who made me smile in every scene she's in.

The film is gorgeous. The sets and locations (including Mary Pickford's mansion) are perfect and authentic. The costumes and everything...I think this movie made me fall in love with the 1920s again. It's had me listening to jazzy 20s music and wishing that I could pull off a cute dropped-waist flapper style dress (unfortunately impossible with my shape). I'll admit I even tried to picture myself with one of those short, curly bobs that looks so lovely with a cloche hat (don't worry- I could never bring myself to do it. :).

I loved the use of sound in two scenes and the lack of it in the rest of the film. I haven't seen many silent films, and it always surprises me how the experience of watching one is so unlike and yet similar to watching a talkie. And the music in this movie? Oh my goodness...I've never heard anything like it before. It varies from so catchy and upbeat (this makes me smile every time) to moody and dark, as does the film itself. Some parts of the movie are unapologetically fun and happy, and other parts are intense and sad. But there's unexpected humor right amongst the darker parts. Usually I'm not too crazy about that kind of thing and find it jarring and distracting, but somehow it works here.

{You might have heard the big fuss about a piece of music from Hitchcock's film Vertigo being used in The Artist. It was completely legal and given proper credit, but some people freaked out about it (including Kim Novak, who was in Vertigo). When I watched the film for the first time, I had honestly forgotten about it and didn't notice it at all. Afterward I remembered, but I had to look it up to even find out what scene the song was used in. :) I thought it fit in well with the scene. P.S. Vertigo is one of my least favorite Hitchcock films. Jimmy Stewart couldn't even save it for me.}

I've always been interested in this transitional time for films- I even did a speech about it for my public speaking class last year. But I don't think it's ever hit me how it might have felt for the silent film actors and actresses who couldn't make it in talkies. To be at the top in your career and then, all of a sudden, the whole industry changes and you're not wanted or needed anymore. That had to be tough. And The Artist shows that by making it personal and following George Valentin's downward spiral.

Finally, I love that this movie is such a love letter to classic film: to silent films and talkies and the golden age of Hollywood. There were so many little tributes to classic movies (Citizen Kane, Singin' in the Rain, etc.). Nowadays, I don't think many people realize the genius of old movies { younger brother} or know anything about the history of film. So I'm glad classic Hollywood is finally getting some of the attention it deserves.

{P.S. The film is rated PG-13, for three little things. I've seen PG movies with much more offensive issues, so the rating baffles me a bit (but then, our ratings system always does). Thing #1: an obscene hand gesture (that is quickly covered up). Thing #2: one mild profanity written out in a dialogue card thing (what are they really called?). Thing #3: a moment of despair for one of the characters that isn't violent but is disturbing. One other tiny little issue I had: I felt like the role of George's wife was unnecessary. Mostly because movies should not introduce two characters early on who you are obviously going to root for when one of them is married. Even if the marriage is falling apart and the wife will conveniently exit soon. :) That's all.}

So. I love this movie. Did I mention that already? Did I also mention that Jean Dujardin has perfected the Gene Kelly smile (proof: this vs. this)? If you're a classic movie fan, I think you'll love it, too.

If you're not a classic movie fan, I can't promise that you'll get into it. But then, I can't even comprehend that. :)

Have you seen The Artist? What did you think?
Until next time,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lions and tigers and bears...oh my!

{Sorry, but I couldn't resist the cheesiness. And technically we didn't see any tigers.}

My parents and I took a day trip to the Asheboro Zoo yesterday. The children (younger cousins) that me and my mom keep are all away on vacation, so we've had the week off. It's been nice to have extra time to sew...I made some wallets for the Etsy shop (for the first time in forever) and have been attempting a knit shirt. We're also going to see Brave over the next day or two- very excited about that! :)

Anyway, we had a great time at the zoo. I feel like a kid because I get so excited about going places like that. :) It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm without being miserably hot (it's supposed to be 100 degrees on Friday!).

A huge snapping turtle we saw outside of the zoo...

The NC Zoo is an awesome place, if you ever get the chance to go. I've been five or six times so far, beginning with elementary school field trips and then later with my family. There are two main areas: Africa and North America, and there are about five miles of paths and trails throughout the zoo. I wore comfy flats but my feet were aching by the time we got home. :) All of the paths are shaded, though, so it's pretty and you're not in direct sunlight very much.

I took lots of elephant pictures but this is my favorite. I think it looks like she (he?) is smiling.

The new camera (that I had to get two months ago after my old one died) has a much better zoom than my previous one. So this was a good opportunity to try it out on the animals who were far away, towards the edges of their habitats.

I may have mentioned this before, but I'm not very fond of birds. And this one was creepy. It was called some sort of eagle, and my dad said, "They call it an eagle, but it looks more like a buzzard to me." As soon as he said that, the bird let out an awful sound and then did this.

Apparently it didn't appreciate being insulted. By that point I was more than ready to move away on to the next exhibit. :)

This one reminds me of the famous Patterson Bigfoot photo. :)

I think lions are so gorgeous. I'll admit it might have something to do with Aslan. But I love that cats are cats, no matter the size. I think it's incredible that house cats have the exact same mannerisms as huge wild cats. 

My dad is a beekeeper (has been for about a year now), and I think his favorite part of the whole zoo was the honeybee area and exhibit. :)

Do you like going to the zoo? What are your favorite animals to see (mine are the cats, bears, and gorillas)?

Until next time,

Monday, June 25, 2012

Through Rushing Water.

First of all, I just have to say: gorgeous cover. I know what they say about judging a book by its cover and all that, but I confess that pretty book covers can draw me in. Much like I'm drawn to the clearance fabric at craft stores or the Sinatra song crooning from the Christmas music station that magically appears in Target in October.

{Yes, I just somehow brought fabric and Sinatra into a book review.}

Thankfully, Through Rushing Water, by Catherine Richmond, lives up to its lovely cover. :) The story focuses on Sophia Makinoff, a Russian-born young woman who is teaching at a women's college in America in 1876. She expects her next position to be the wife of a young Congressman, but her plans fall apart when he unexpectedly proposes to her roommate and fellow teacher instead. Sophia impulsively signs up with the Board of Foreign Missions, but this escape doesn't go as planned, either. Instead of being sent to China or somewhere else in the east, she is assigned to be a teacher to the Ponca Indians in the Dakota territory. Once there, she quickly falls in love with the peaceful people and their fight to remain on their land. Oh, and there might be a kind, selfless carpenter named Will mixed in there somewhere, too. :)

I really enjoyed this book. It's the first historical novel that I've read in years that includes the plight of the Native Americans as an important part of the plot. I couldn't get over the average citizen's apathy towards the people, based solely on stereotypes. I loved reading about Sophia and Will standing up for the Poncas and trying to inform people about their poor living conditions. I also loved that Will had learned their language and culture and tried to teach them his trade.

The characters were well-written and likable (except the ones that aren't meant to be likable, of course :). I did have a problem keeping Henry and James straight at first, for some reason. It should have been fairly simple, considering one was a pastor (though a pessimistic, misguided one) and the other was the slightly alcoholic agent.

I liked the pace and the writing style. Sophia and Will's romance is part of the story, but there's much more to the book than that. There were a few spots of unexpected humor. I had to laugh at the part where the Ponca schoolchildren are reenacting scenes they've experienced with the shopkeepers. I was a little surprised by the turn the story took when the Poncas were forced to leave their land. I guess I expected Sophia and Will and the others to go with them or something? It threw me off a bit at first but I ended up liking how the rest of the book turned out.

Anyway, I can't think of anything I didn't like about this book. Through Rushing Water was a very enjoyable piece of historical fiction, filled with memorable characters and set during an interesting, though disturbing, time in our country's history.

Until next time,

{I received this book free from Booksneeze, in exchange for a review. My review is only required to be honest and expressing my true opinions, not necessarily positive.}

Friday, June 22, 2012

Paradise Falls.

I watched Up again a couple of weeks ago. I love that movie so much. It's hilarious {South America! It's like America....but south!} and heartbreaking (the Ellie and Carl montage, anyone?) and just lovely. I had sort of forgotten about Ellie's painting of Paradise Falls. When I saw it in the film again, I decided that I wanted to try to recreate it.

Please know that I am not an artist. I sew and do other crafty things. But besides some sketches, my last experience with "art" was winning a prize in kindergarten for an awful color pencil drawing of a dalmatian with a perfectly round head, surrounded by flowers (the dog, not its head).

But when I found a picture of the painting online, it seemed fairly simple. This was the painting project I mentioned recently, by the way. And now it's finished. :)

I'm showing these close-ups to prove that it is so far from perfect. But looking at it from a distance makes a big improvement. :) I actually spent almost as much time on the house as I did the whole rest of the picture, because it was so detailed. And yes, I know the roof detail on the left side got a little weird. My cheapo paintbrush was losing its fine tip and I was getting a bit panicky. :)

For the swirls, I used an old, dried-out sewing marking pen dipped in paint.

The canvas is something like 16 x 20, so it just barely fit on top of my dresser (no mantle piece in my room :). P.S. Wasn't my grandpa handsome in his 40s Navy portrait?

I promise that I'm not adding painting as a new hobby. I spend enough money in Hobby Lobby as it is, thank you very much. {Though the canvas was in a two-pack, so I have another one to fill sometime.} But I did learn a couple of things from this little adventure:

1. When paintbrushes are labeled "Value Brushes," this pretty much translates to "Cheap Brushes." Maybe it was because of me and my lack of painting experience, but bristles were coming out after just a few minutes of use.

2. Cardstock is not an ideal surface for mixing paints. Because it absorbs the paint. {I knew that. But we didn't have any paper plates and I don't have a fancy artist's palette or whatever it's called. I did use some old plastic containers sometimes.} But it looks cool when you're done.

3. It's impossible to get the colors exactly like they are in the original painting. No need to stress out over that. Also, cheap paints are fine but don't exactly mix well sometimes (I used Americana, the cheapest brand at Hobby Lobby). And I mixed colors like crazy. Sometimes I think I used every shade of blue I had for one little section of cliff. :) And I repainted the light blue background about four times to get it just right. It kept turning out too dark and greyish.

This project took about four(ish) evenings (maybe an hour or so each evening?) to finish. Not nearly as long as I expected, honestly. And it cost about $12 or less. The canvas was a special two-pack that, with a 40% off coupon, cost about $4. The brushes cost a couple of dollars a pack, and the paints were 99 cents each (I already had a couple of the colors and some of them I got for 30% off). Not bad at all.

Here are some in progress shots I remembered to take.

I love how the cliffs are so geometric, with a lot of triangles and such. I sketched out the main areas from the original painting, though some of the lines got changed or disregarded when I actually painted the sections.

It looked like this before I added the house.

I really love it. It reminds me of a sweet story and gave me a chance to try out something completely new. I'm also hoping to do an Up embroidery piece sometime in the next month or two.

Do you love the movie Up, too? Have you tried something new and adventurous lately? {I do realize that I must be a boring person if painting this picture felt adventurous.} Adventure is out there, you guys! {And I can't tell you how many times I laughed while rewatching that clip. Ellie is the best and I think Pixar should give her a movie of her Up prequel featuring her and Carl?}

Until next time,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


My aunt passed away last Thursday. She had been fighting a brain tumor since November of last year. A couple of times, after surgery and treatments, it seemed like things were looking up, but she ended up with an eternal healing rather than just a temporary one.

That explains my absence over the past week. There have been much more important things to to spend time with and memories to think about. The rest of this week promises to be busy, too, for different reasons, so I likely won't post anymore until the weekend.

Any prayers for my uncle, and his and my aunt's children and grandchildren, would be much appreciated.

Until next time,

Monday, June 11, 2012

What I really think about Wuthering Heights.

{Contains spoilers.}

I had a copy of Wuthering Heights sitting unread on my bookshelf for a couple of years. {It came in a three-book pack I bought for Jane Eyre.} Then about two years ago I decided to read it for my final book essay in English class.

I can't think of a single book in my twenty-one years of life {edited: not my twenty-one years of reading! Ha. :) Contrary to what my family might imagine, I have *not* been reading since birth} that I wish I hadn't read. Even with the worst books I've read, I'm usually glad I read them for some reason or another (even if it's to know never to pick them up again :).

I'm glad I read Wuthering Heights. It's written by the sister of the mind behind Jane Eyre, which is probably one of my favorite books. It's considered a literary classic.

But good grief. Hate is too strong a word, but I strongly dislike Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff and Catherine are two of the most unlikable characters I have ever read. I'm sorry, but it's hard to spend a whole book with people you don't even like. And this is no "love story," whatever anyone says. It might have started out as love between them, but pretty soon it's nothing but a kind of hateful obsession. Wuthering Heights is a really depressing and just unpleasant story full of violence and revenge. Plus there are two families that are so intertwined that things get a little complicated (and creepy).

{It sort of, in a way, reminded me of Gone With the Wind. I can't tell you how disappointed I was when I saw what is supposed to be one of the best classic movies of all time. It was full of selfish and mean characters, just like WH, and I couldn't find any love story in the midst of all that.}

In Jane Eyre, bad things happen and characters make bad decisions. But there's hope and redemption and faith and so many good things. I have a hard time believing these two incredibly different books were written by sisters. :)

Knowing how much I disliked the book, I can't tell you why I still have a desire to see film adaptations of the story. :) I watched the 1998 one last week.

Ugh. The film did nothing to make me like any of the people any more. Plus the acting was pretty cheesy and overly dramatic. And seeing it played out instead of just reading it made the story seem even more awful to me. Seriously...Heathcliff digging up Catherine's grave? That's a bit overboard. I was never sure whether that really happened in the book, or if he was just imagining it. Because with the way the book is written, it's kind of hard to tell what is happening in reality, you know? :)

I have to admit that one thing that convinced me to see the film was Matthew Macfadyen (!). And he was great, despite the fact that with his gorgeous voice he really couldn't speak haltering, bad English like Hareton is supposed to. But Matthew Macfadyen with a puppy? Oh adorable.

 How do you feel about Wuthering Heights? Love it or hate it?

Until next time,

Saturday, June 9, 2012

In progress.

I've been feeling really inspired lately. I make list after list of things I want to sew, embroider, knit, etc. and constantly jot down new ideas. But for some reason it's been so hard for me to follow actually get the motivation to take the ideas and create something. :) I don't know why. For example, I've had this idea for a new series of embroidery pieces (and possibly, someday, patterns?) for my Etsy shop for months now. I have fabric for wallets cut out, waiting on my ironing board. But it feels like my shop has been on the back burner for a couple of months now. I need to make it more of a priority.

Having said that, I have started on a few new projects lately.

Like a sweet little cross stitch from this book.

And I've been bitten by the knitting bug again. All of a sudden, I am wanting to improve my knitting skills. Someday (in the not-so-distant future) I'd love to be able to knit {wearable} socks and hats and sweaters! I don't want to be stuck making scarves and dishrags forever. :) So I'm trying to be more active on Ravelry, because I find it to be a really inspiring place. And I started on this shawl. I came across it a couple of months ago, and I was so excited! I had seen the village women in Lark Rise to Candleford wearing them and thought they looked so awesome and cozy.

By the way, I don't understand knitting. It confuses me. I mean, I look at the stitches and patterns and try to understand how things work, but I never do. I can't wrap my mind around it. But then when I follow instructions and what is supposed to happen happens, and things come together, it's incredible.

I'm only a little ways in, but so far, so good. I got a little panicky at the very beginning, like I do with all of my knitting projects because things always look awful for a couple of rows. This is my first time using circular needles and it's...interesting? Tell me, does the plastic cord ever stop springing back into its folded position? Because sometimes I feel like I'm going to take an eye out when I let go of one of the needles and it bounces around.

{Yarn is expensive. So I'm using this wool blend I bought on clearance months ago for another project that didn't work out.}

Speaking of Lark Rise, I totally splurged and spontaneously bought the entire series last week. It was still a bit expensive, but I've been doing pretty good with my DVD purchases this year (only four so far) and I got it on Ebay for less than half of what is is on Amazon right now.

{My period drama DVD collection is a bit out of control.}

I'm also going to attempt a painting project pretty soon. Painting, as in on a canvas, not on a wall. I won't say what it's going to be yet, because it might not turn out. :) I am not an artist. All I know is that thanks to this amazing, inspiring book, lately I've been buying cheap art supplies...

And experimenting with watercolors and things like this.

Above: Using a cotton ball, ink pads, and masking tape.
Below: Attempting to make grids with acrylic paint and plastic needlepoint canvas.

Both of these ideas came from that book. It has ideas inside that I never would have come up with.

The blog got a bit of a facelift, as well. Just some yellow chevron in the background, a bit of updating with the header, and a pretty new navigation bar on the side I made with GIMP (and am unreasonably proud of :). I also cleaned up some stuff in the sidebar, deleted some old pages, and made some new ones. I was also seriously considering changing the URL of my blog, but decided it wasn't worth the hassle. So for now it stays. But I do have a new series coming up that I am excited about, even if no one else is. :) More on that soon.

Until next time,