Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Project 360: Week 52

{357} I love this little polar bear peeking out of my tree.

{358} How ridiculously adorable is she? Stella obviously did not ask for baby powder for Christmas. :)

{359} The books I got as Christmas gifts!

{360} Sunset through the trees.

{361} Started a new pair of socks.

{362} I received this book to review, and I'm exciting about reading it.

{363} Didn't take a photo on Sunday...

{364} Newly finished project!

{365} I really like the crazy way these socks are knitting up. :)

This yearly photography project is done! Thank goodness. But now I feel really dumb, because somehow I've been calling this thing "Project 360" all year, when it's really "Project 365." Obviously. I find it a little hilarious that I just now noticed this after fifty-two weeks. :)

I got a little tired of this project, so I won't be doing it in 2014. But it was a nice little challenge! I don't feel like my photography got any better, but I know I definitely took more pictures.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Best of 2013: Music

2013 was a really good year for music! Most of my favorite modern artists released new CDs this year. Plus I discovered some new favorites!

In no particular order:

-She and Him: Volume 3. I don't do a lot of "pop," but wow. I love She & Him and their cheerful 60s-inspired pop. :)

-Michael Buble: To Be Loved. I used to think, why listen to some new guy singing the classics when you can just listen to the classics? And I honestly still don't listen to Michael Buble too much, but sometimes it's nice to hear some modern energy in an old song. :) Plus, usually his "original" songs are pretty good.

-Handsome and Gretyl. My favorite new discovery of the year! I love their album Miles and Miles.

-Lauren Shera: Gold and Rust. This album is so good. (She was another NoiseTrade discovery, like Handsome and Gretyl.)

-The Civil Wars. I hope this duo will overcome their differences and keep making new music, because they are amazing.

-Jars of Clay: Inland. I've loved Jars of Clay for years, but they had sort of dropped off my radar until their new release this year. It's different from their past music, but so, so good.

-The Avett Brothers: Magpie and the Dandelion. My favorite group did it again! With an album out last year, I definitely wasn't expecting another new release this year, but it was a pleasant surprise. They're just as awesome as ever. :)

What was your favorite music of the year, whether new releases or just new discoveries?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of 2013: Films and TV

{No Project 360 post today, as I'm going to include the last few days of the year in with this past week's post. It will be up sometime after the 31st!}

Disclaimer: There are three other films that would have very likely made this list, but unfortunately I haven't seen them yet! The Book Thief hasn't come to my local theater, and it looks as if it might not, so I might be waiting on the DVD for that one. I have every intention of seeing the new Hobbit film and Saving Mr. Banks in January, but that means they can't be on the list yet. :)

Out of curiosity, I kept a Pinterest board of all of the films I watched this year. A total of 117 so far! I knew I watched a lot of episodes of shows on DVD and such, but I had no idea that I watched that many actual films. Some of those were multiple viewings, though...like While You Were Sleeping, which I watched four or five times this year. :)

Anyway, here are my favorite films of 2013 that I did actually see:

Monsters University

I was a little worried about this one, since Monsters, Inc. is my favorite Pixar film. They did an amazing job, though, and I loved it! You can read my review here.

Catching Fire
Just like the first one, an incredible book-to-movie adaptation. I may have even loved it better than the first! See my review here.


Though I saw Frozen in theaters before Christmas, I still haven't gotten around to writing my review yet, other than some basic thoughts. Hopefully I'll finish it over the next few days! Spoiler: I loved this movie. :)

And my favorite TV for the year:

Doctor Who
I fell in love with Doctor Who last year, but this year I finally caught up on all the episodes. And got to watch the 50th anniversary! I still haven't seen the Christmas special yet, but hopefully I will soon. I've also started rewatching the series again since I collected all the DVDs, and I'm loving it even more this time around. :)

I love this show so much. (I also love it when those two laugh together.) I watched it twice through this year and I am so ready for January 19th! I loved John Watson from the beginning, but Sherlock himself has grown on me quite a bit. :) Love their friendship. I wrote a bit about it here.
Call the Midwife

This show is alternatively hilarious and heartbreaking. I am so smitten with it and enjoyed it so much more than I expected to. (I got the first book that it's based on for Christmas and can't wait to read it!) I'm very much looking forward to season three! I also wrote about it here.

Why on earth did it take me so long to find this show? It's now one of my favorites. I wrote about it here. Since writing that post, I've finished the series. And the series finale? Oh my goodness. I totally thought that what it seemed like was going to happen was going to happen and I was pretty devastated. But it ended up being the most perfect ending imaginable...honestly, probably the best series finale I've yet seen. If you love detective stories and quirky characters with OCD and hilariousness, watch Monk.
What were your favorite films and TV shows of the year?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best of 2013: Books

As I mentioned in my last post, I didn't reach my goal of reading 80 books this year. I've read 65, and I think I'll reach 66 by the end of the year.
Still, I read some really good books! Surprisingly, all but two of my favorite books of the year are actually Christian fiction. I'll usually really enjoy a couple of books from that genre each year, but apparently 2013 was an exceptionally good year for Christian fiction. :)

By the way, I haven't actually finished Rules of Murder yet, and that's why there's no link to my review. I'm about halfway through, but I'm sure I'll finish it soon and I'm enjoying it enough already for it to make my favorites list! But please: no spoilers.

I usually say that these are my favorite books that I read this year, though they weren't necessarily released in 2013. This time, though, all of my favorites were actually released this year!

Of the 65 books I've read, I had eleven rereads, which is a pretty good amount. I reread some of my favorites this year, including Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Ella Enchanted. I read three completed series: the Across the Universe trilogy, The Giver quartet, and the Sarah, Plain and Tall books. I also read one uncompleted series: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (the fourth book just came out, and there's at least one more after that).

If you've been reading the blog for a while, you know that I usually only post about books I've been sent for review. In 2014 I want to start writing about books more! I want to do more reviews and just more bookish posts in general. But if you want to follow everything that I read, check out my obsessively maintained Goodreads. (Seriously, sites like Goodreads and Ravelry were made for obsessive people like me.)

It was a good year for books! I just wish I had read more. :) But don't worry, I have grand plans for next year (of course. I always do). There are so many lovely books coming out! More on that soon...
What are your favorite books of 2013?

Friday, December 27, 2013

In 2013, or the year in review.

2013 has been a pretty good year for me and my family. I think that overall it has been filled with more joy and good things than last year. So now that the new year is quickly approaching, it's time for end-of-the-year posts! :) I personally love reading and writing posts like this, so bear with me if you don't share that sentiment.

This particular post will be about 2013 in general, the bigger projects that I worked on, and how I did on my resolutions. I'll post about my favorite books, movies, TV, and music of the year in later posts.

So, in 2013...

-I unexpectedly acquired my very first spinning wheel! I had no plans whatsoever to get a wheel, but one sort of dropped into my lap. The best part was that, because it was a trade, it didn't cost me any money...only some farm labor. :)

-I knit my first sweater. It was quite an ordeal and the finished product is still a bit too big, but that oversized sweater has given me a lot of confidence to try new things in knitting.

-I started experimenting with dyeing yarn. I did some natural dyeing and some playing around with Kool-Aid and food coloring.

And the biggest, most wonderful thing this year:

-I became an aunt! My brother and sister-in-law had their first baby in October. Stella is the sweetest baby girl and I love being her auntie. :)

As you can tell by three of the above highlights, I spent most of 2013 completely obsessed with yarn. Knitting it, spinning it, dyeing it, etc. So unfortunately, my sewing fell by the wayside a bit. I did end up sewing six items of clothing this year, though that would sound a lot more impressive if five of those six weren't knit t-shirts. :) Oh, well. I wear those Renfrews all the time, so I'm glad I made them. It's interesting how the six items worked out: two stripes, two polka dots, and two solid colors. Oh, and I just remembered that I made myself some pajama pants! So that brings my total to seven. :)

I did make two baby quilts for my niece, so I felt like they should be mentioned, too...

But knitting...I did a lot of knitting. To be exact: six pairs of socks, two baby sweaters, one adult sweater, one Dalek, one pair of gloves, two pairs of fingerless mitts, one pair of baby mitts, two hats (one baby and one child-sized), a pair of baby booties, five cowls, one child-sized scarf, and one shawlette. Whew. I'm not going to link all of those, but you can see them in my Ravelry projects.

I'm not really going to get into my spinning or embroidery, but you can click on either one to see my blog posts about those topics for the year.

Now that I've talked about the things I did accomplish this year, let's discuss the things I didn't accomplish....my resolutions! :) As usual, I started off doing really well, but then things went downhill.

I didn't meet my goal of reading 80 books. That's because from about August or September on, a lot of reading time was spent knitting. At the time that I'm writing this, I've read 65 books, and I might finish another one or two by the end of the year. That's nearly 30 books less than last year, but I'm trying not to worry about it too much. Reading 65 books in a year is still really good, right?

I also didn't read all of the unread books that I own. And because I bought so many books, that number jumped from 68 to 97. Oops. I didn't reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I started rereading Jane Austen's novels but stalled when I got to Mansfield Park (my least favorite of hers). I did read her unfinished novels, though! My spending limit on books got broken a few months, too. I didn't watch all of the unseen movies I own. I was getting ready to say that I did pretty well with my DVD purchasing limit, and I did with actual movies. But not with TV shows. Because I completed my Doctor Who DVD collection this year (which was quite expensive) and bought the first four seasons of Monk (which was pretty cheap).

Sewing resolutions: I didn't use up all of my apparel stash. But I did use several pieces! And I accomplished the "use three new clothing patterns" goal: I used the Renfrew pattern, the Hawthorn dress pattern, and a new Simplicity pattern for my pajama pants. As for making myself a bag that I really love, I bought the pattern and the fabric, but I haven't actually made the bag yet. :)

My yarn/knitting goals, not surprisingly, were nearly all completed. The only one I didn't do is learn how to crochet. I made myself a pair of socks (two, actually), knit myself a sweater, spun enough yarn for a small project (the third cowl here, and I've spun enough for a couple more small projects...they just haven't been knitted yet), and experimented with natural dyeing. Yay! I don't feel like such a failure now! :)

And my other random goals: I kept a purchase notebook until about October, and then I got so far behind that I just gave up. I didn't walk outside (aka exercise) regularly after about June or July, when it started being miserably hot and I had to start worrying about ticks and snakes. I was terribly inconsistent with memorizing one Bible verse a week, and for some reason with journaling as well. I didn't really learn how to cook, though I did have a bit more luck with planting some things in the garden. I started off doing really well with the saving $10 a week and giving some money to a charity/good cause each month, but then I had to pay for a computer repair and a $300 car repair and after that I was really bad about saving or donating extra money.

This one didn't make my actual list, but I was making a conscious effort to not buy new clothes this year. And I think I did really well...the only items of clothing I purchased all year were three Doctor Who shirts when Threadless was having a sale. (I do seriously need a new pair of jeans now, though.)

What were some of the highlights of 2013 for you? If you make yearly resolutions, how did you do with yours?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

12 Days of Christmas Films: Christmas in Connecticut {12}

{I'll be taking a blogging break for a few days, but I'm sure I'll be back towards the end of the week with some end of the year wrap-up posts. :) I want to wish all of you lovely readers a very Merry Christmas! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday spent with family and friends.}

Well, it's Christmas Eve and we've reached the end of the 12 Days of Christmas Films. :) I saved the best for last, you guys. Christmas in Connecticut is not only one of my favorite classic movies, but it's my absolute favorite Christmas movie.

It's basically a Christmas romantic comedy. Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) writes one of the country's most popular food columns in a magazine. She portrays herself as a happy housewife with a baby, living on a farm in the country. In reality, she's single, lives in a small apartment in the city, and her friend and chef, Felix, provides all of her meals (and the recipes) because she can't cook at all. When the owner of her magazine (Sydney Greenstreet) decides that he and a sailor hero (Dennis Morgan) will spend a real, old-fashioned Christmas with Elizabeth and her family on the farm, she's forced to act her part, all the while falling in love with the sailor boy who thinks she's a married woman.

I. Love. This. Movie. That's all there is to it. :) It's charming and hilarious and just generally amazing. I have a hard time explaining just why I love it so much, but that's often the way with our favorite films, right? Sometimes you just click with a story, even if you can't say why.

The romance is just so swoon-worthy. Of course, there's the little fact that the girl is pretending to be married, and that the sailor boy thinks she's married (though it's easy to imagine he could be doubtful about that). But of course we know that she isn't married, and her pretend husband is such a bore that you can't help but want her to end up with someone else! Especially when that someone else is Jefferson Jones.

Oh, Jefferson Jones...I think I loved him from the moment he's sitting at the piano singing The Wish That I Wish Tonight. Who am I kidding? How about when he turns up at the front door, tall, dark, and handsome, in his coat and hat in front of that horse-drawn sleigh? Or, more likely, I was smitten from his very first scenes, in the hospital. I think it's all of that thick, wavy hair that did me in. :) I have a major crush on Jefferson Jones. Dennis Morgan plays him as such a charming, good-natured guy.

I've only seen a handful of Barbara Stanwyck films, but this is probably my favorite of hers so far. She does comedy so well! There are a few funny lines that she delivers with perfect comedic timing.

Christmas in Connecticut has some of the best supporting cast ever. Everyone is great, even down to the Irish housekeeper Nora. Sydney Greenstreet plays the owner/publisher of the magazine that Elizabeth Lane writes for, and he has such a strong, overwhelming, blustery personality. He never lets anyone get a word in edgewise. But the best person in the entire film (apart from Jefferson Jones, of course *ahem*) is Felix.

Felix (played by S.Z. Sakall) is Elizabeth Lane's friend, sort of a father figure, and the source of all of her recipes. She apparently helped him get his restaurant started years ago, and now he's always doing nice things for her. Felix is ridiculously hilarious! I paid close attention while rewatching it this time, and almost every single line of Felix's is funny. He honestly only has three or four serious lines in the entire film. I love it when everyone's in his restaurant and he's responding to the conversation between Elizabeth and her soon-to-be-pretend husband with food names: "Baloney. Horseradish. Nuts!" And he has so many memorable quotes, spoken in his thick Hungarian accent. "It's catastroph!" "Everything is hunky dunky." And my personal favorite: "Cook your own kidneys!" Which makes no sense at all unless you've seen the film and know the context. :) I love Felix so much.

I also love the setting for this movie. It's, of course, set in Connecticut, in this gorgeous country house. Apparently it's the same set they used for Bringing Up Baby. But it's the perfect 40s/50s New England country house, long and rambling with big windows and a huge fireplace. It's even prettier in the snow, with the characters getting around in horse-drawn sleighs.

The movie isn't perfect. The whole baby part of the plot is a little ridiculous, and it requires you to suspend your disbelief quite a bit. It also drives me crazy how nearly everyone refers to the baby as "it." Also, this has always bothered me...in the scene where Elizabeth and her pretend husband say goodnight to their guests, they sneak downstairs to meet the judge and actually get married. At first, they're tiptoeing and being very quiet. But then they have this loud conversation with the housekeeper on the staircase, and then Elizabeth is picking away at the piano! Seriously, how did their two guests not hear all of that? It's like they're begging to be found out. But obviously these things don't hinder my enjoyment of the film. :)

Christmas in Connecticut doesn't seem to be a particularly well-known film, which is surprising. It really is a lovely movie. As if my opinion wasn't obvious from the above ramblings. :) I'm the kind of person who loves Christmas movies, so it took me a couple of years to declare this as my favorite one. But now I can say it without any doubt. :) Be sure to check it out this week if you get the chance!
Have you seen Christmas in Connecticut? What's your favorite Felix quote?

Monday, December 23, 2013

12 Days of Christmas Films: It's a Wonderful Life {11}

I don't really know where to begin when it comes to writing about one of the most beloved Christmas movies ever. Of course, I'm talking about It's a Wonderful Life. :)

For most people, this is the Christmas film, whether you're a classic movie fan or not. And I get that. (It's not my number one favorite, but more on that tomorrow...) It's a Wonderful Life is timeless and touching and funny and so nostalgic. I guess I'll just dive into my rambling thoughts.

When I saw this movie for the first time, I was really surprised at how it was set up. I knew that it was about a man who got the chance to see what the world would have been like if he had never been born. But I didn't realize that his backstory would take up so much of the actual film. I don't mind that at all, though. The story of his life, though it had some sad moments, is a lot more uplifting and positive than the story of his non-existence!

I love the actor who plays young George Bailey...he's just so awesome. And I love the scene where young Mary leans over to his bad ear and says, "George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die." That is so stinking adorable, and it's even better that she means it. :)

Speaking of George Bailey, he's not always the most likable character! Jimmy Stewart is brilliant, as usual. But George drives me crazy when he's all "I want to travel the world and do something important" and talking about how he wants to "shake the dust of this crummy little town off my feet." I'm definitely a homebody and small-town girl. I get the whole wanting to travel and see new places thing, but I don't find George very likable when he's bashing Bedford Falls. He's also downright unlikable when he goes to Mary's house after his brother's wedding. It's like she comes back from college feeling hopeful about him and their relationship, and it's bad timing because that's when George is at his most cynical.

I don't mean to criticize George so much, though. He learns his lesson, after all. And I do feel bad for him always having to give his money and opportunities to other people.

Mary is so sweet, though. I love how she always seems to make the best out of everything and every situation. And it's so cute how she's obviously smitten with George long before he realizes he loves her, too. (By the way, I had never noticed before how grumpy and frowned-up her mom is at the wedding. Ha. :)

The supporting cast is great, though it's full of so many familiar faces that I won't really get into that. I always like seeing Sheldon Leonard as Nick the bartender. He pops up in the most random small roles! (Don't get me started on how underrated he is. Not only did he have supporting roles in lots of films, but he was also a producer and sometimes director for two of my favorite TV shows: The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. He was also married to the same lady for over 60 years, which doesn't really have anything to do with his talent, but it's so rare in Hollywood that it makes me respect him that much more.) Also, another random bit part: Adriana Caselotti, famously known as the voice for Disney's Snow White, is the singer in the Martini's Bar scene.

My favorite scene? I love the entire part from the Charleston dance contest to when George has to leave Mary because his father had a stroke. First of all, I love to watch people dance the Charleston because it looks like they're having so much fun (and I adore the music). Then there's the fact that Alfalfa is the guy who makes the floor open into the pool. And how George and Mary obliviously dance backwards into the pool. And the whole "lasso the moon" speech. *swoon*

But of course I love the end. Because (spoiler) I do love happy endings, when all is well with the world and certain stubborn people have learned their lessons. No matter how cheesy or sentimental. :) And just like with White Christmas, the last scene always makes me a bit teary-eyed.

I feel like this is the most inadequate review of It's a Wonderful Life ever...oh, well. :)

Do you love It's a Wonderful Life, too?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Project 360: Week 51

{350} Forgot to take a picture on Monday!

{351} I'm smitten with these gorgeous illustrations in the picture book I bought my niece for Christmas...I might have to go back and get one of these for myself. :)

{352} Once again, I forgot to take a photo. To be honest, I'm getting burnt out with this Project 360 challenge and I'm rather relieved that there's only one week left!

{353} I dyed the yarn I was spinning last week...

{354} Enjoying my Christmas tree.

{355} I've been watching lots of Christmas movies while I work on finishing gifts!

{356} And I'm officially down to my last handmade gift. :) Here's hoping I finish before Wednesday! Though to be honest, I don't think my two month old niece will mind too much if one of her gifts is a few days late. (I want to finish in time to prove it to myself more than anything.)

12 Days of Christmas Films: Elf {10}

I didn't plan it this way, but it seems that I saved the best for last...the last three films I'm going to review also happen to be my absolute favorite Christmas movies. :) Up next is my favorite modern Christmas movie: Elf.

I honestly don't know how anyone could not love this movie. It's just so silly and hilarious! Buddy the elf is one of the sweetest, friendliest, most na├»ve characters ever. And I love how spoofy this movie is and all of the references to classic Christmas films.

The color scheme of the North Pole at the beginning is gorgeous! The gray backgrounds and the brightly colored elf uniforms. Apparently the elf costumes from Elf were modeled after the ones in the 1964 Rudolph Christmas special. And there are the arctic animals (my favorite is the narwhal :) that are made to look like the stop motion animation creatures from the Rudolph special. Other references to classic Christmas films: Gimbels. Macy's and Gimbels were big competitors (as seen in Miracle on 34th Street), but Gimbels closed during the 80s. So the fact that Buddy works and plays (and sleeps) in that store in impossible, but a neat little reference anyway. :) I was shocked when I found out that Gimbels wasn't actually open anymore...Also, towards the end there's a scene where Buddy is standing on a bridge, while it's snowing, which is of course a nod to It's a Wonderful Life.

Another perfect thing about Elf is the soundtrack. It's so awesome. Louis Prima's Pennies from Heaven, a jazzy version of The Nutcracker Suite, Ella Fitzgerald's Sleigh Ride, Lena Horne's Let It Snow, and some other lovely songs. But most importantly, in one of the sweetest (and funniest) first date scenes ever, Frank Sinatra! And of course it's one of my favorite Sinatra songs: You Make Me Feel So Young.

Two other little random things that I love about the movie: the fact that it's set in New York and the way that the cartoon snowflakes are falling when Buddy is talking to the animated characters at the North Pole. I don't even like small cities, so I know I wouldn't like huge cities like New York. But for some reason, most of my favorite films are set in big cities. I think it makes a wonderful setting for a movie, but I surely wouldn't want to live there. :) And I don't know what it is about those cartoon snowflakes, but they're just so magical.

Elf probably wins the "Funniest Christmas Film Ever" award. No matter how many times I watch it, it still makes me laugh. And the best thing is that there's all sorts of humor, instead of just one kind: slapstick, witty lines, funny misunderstandings, quirkiness, etc. And Buddy has so many hilarious lines. Elf is one of the most quotable movies, too! "I like to smile, smiling's my favorite." "We elves like to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup." And sometimes I just randomly say "Francisco" repeatedly because it's fun to say and because of the scene where Buddy is saying it. Probably shouldn't have told you guys that, but oh well. :)

I can't pick a favorite scene from the film...I just love too many of them! One that stands out, though, is the montage when Buddy first arrives in the city and starts exploring. :) I also love it when he's eating the cotton balls. And all of the scenes in the department store. ("There's no singing at the North Pole!" "Yes, there is!" "No, there's not!" "Yes, there is!" "No, there's not!" "Yes there is! We sing all the time.")

I guess I haven't really talked about the rest of the cast or the plot. :) I like Zooey Deschanel a lot (love She & Him's music!), so I like her in Elf. It's weird seeing her with blond hair, but I love watching her gradually get sucked into Elf's bizarre world. :) The rest of the cast is good, too. The plot is fine...not anything particularly brilliant, but it works for this movie. And it's pretty good considering it's so focused on the Santa/elves/North Pole aspect of Christmas (which is generally not my favorite).

So yeah...I don't really know what else to say. I just love this movie so much, and except for some scattered language, it's nearly perfect. If you haven't watched Elf, what are you waiting for??

What's your favorite Buddy the elf quote?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

12 Days of Christmas Films: White Christmas {9}

I feel a little guilty about writing so definitely that I prefer Holiday Inn over White Christmas last week...because after I watched White Christmas again the other night, I remembered just how much I love it. :) I think I still like Holiday Inn better, but only by the tiniest bit. Dear White Christmas, I'm sorry that going a year between viewings made me forget your awesomeness.

{I also feel bad for thinking of it and referring to it as "tacky." It definitely is tacky, but that's okay! That's one of the things I love about musicals.}

One of the reasons why is probably because of the musical numbers. Those are pretty important in musicals. :) I love every single song and musical number in Holiday Inn, but in White Christmas, I'm divided. I love about half of the songs, but there are a few dance numbers that are just...eh.

I love the song "Sisters" when the two girls are singing (or ironically, the one girl. Because Rosemary Clooney was singing both parts in that song). I possibly love it even more when the guys are singing it. :) It's hilarious and I love that they're cracking up, too. One of my favorite things about comedy is when it's so funny that the comedians themselves can't help but laugh. {That happens sometimes on the Colgate Comedy Hour with Dean Martina and Jerry Lewis, and I love it.}

I also really enjoy "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing." Honestly, I'm not a big Danny Kaye fan, though he's alright in this film. And I like Vera-Ellen well enough, but her impossible thinness here is so distracting (she was supposedly anorexic at the time). Despite that, this is a really charming dance number and song. One thing, though...this is completely random, but it drives me crazy that Danny Kaye's gray suede-looking shoes match his suit exactly. I can't even explain why, but I think it looks so silly. Whew...glad I got that off my chest. :)

Since I mentioned Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen, I guess I should talk about the other two stars. Bing Crosby is awesome, as usual. I love the little bits of humor with his character. I'm not sure if it's scripted or ad-libbed, but he has some hilarious, off-handed comments that you might miss if you're not really paying attention (or if you're not rewatching this movie for the 20th time). Like when he's reading the letter to the general, who can't read it without his glasses. And Bing moves the letter back and forth to get it at the right distance where he can see it clearly, and he says, "I'm starting to play the trombone a little, too." I just love stuff like that. And I like Rosemary Clooney...she's so pretty and has the loveliest voice.

One of my least favorite parts of White Christmas is the Choreography number. Ugh! It's so awful and bizarre and awkward. I'm also not a huge fan of the random Vera-Ellen dance number stuck right in the middle. The music is catchy (it's Abraham, which was also in Holiday Inn), but it just feels unnecessary.

By the way, I noticed something for the first time while watching the film again this year. I recognized Dick Stabile, the band leader in Rosemary Clooney's song Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me. He's the band leader in the Martin and Lewis episodes of the Colgate Comedy Hour! I only started watching CCH during this past year, so I was really surprised to see him in this movie. :)

I love the military aspect of the plot. Maybe the ending is a bit sappy and over-the-top, but oh my goodness, I love it so. It always makes me teary-eyed, no matter how many times I see it. :) I love how the very beginning sets up the rest of the story, and of course the fact that they're singing I'll Be Home for Christmas (my favorite Christmas song) while at war, away from their families, is so incredibly sad. But I love how the two guys are reunited with the general, and it's awesome how they show their appreciation at the end. So yes, I feel like I've been saying this with most of the Christmas movies I've reviewed, but the ending is my favorite part of the movie! :)

Do you like White Christmas? What are your favorite and least favorite songs/dance numbers in the film?

12 Days of Christmas Films: A Charlie Brown Christmas {8}

This is not going to be a very long review, but I think that's okay since A Charlie Brown Christmas itself is only about 25 minutes long. :)

While most of my other favorite Christmas movies have only been favorites for several years, or at the most six or seven years, I've been watching this TV special every year for as long as I can remember. I've always been a Peanuts fan.

Even though the animation isn't perfect, especially by today's glossy standards, it's just so charming. Some of the backgrounds are really quite beautiful, like the starry night one, and I love how the snow looks. Another thing that I love are the voices of the different characters...they're so perfect! A few of the voices changed in later Peanuts TV specials, but these are always my favorites.

One of my favorite things about Peanuts is how it can go from being so child-like to adult in just a second. A character will say something that is exactly like a child would say, and then the next minute they'll say something profound. Or maybe not always profound, but something that's so grown-up that it sounds hilarious coming from a child's voice ("What is it that you really want?" "Real estate.").

Also, the soundtrack is one of the most perfect soundtracks ever, right?

One of my favorite scenes is the one with Schroeder and Lucy, when she's leaning against the piano and they're talking about "Beethoven Christmas music." And then Snoopy comes and dances on the piano with reckless abandon. :) Snoopy is so hilarious. Lucy asks if Schroeder can play Jingle Bells, and he plays it in a fancy piano way, then like an organ, until finally he plays a clunky version that sounds like a toy piano. And Lucy shouts, "That's it!!" For some reason, I've always liked that scene and found it funny.

But I guess my favorite scene in the whole special is, of course, Linus reciting part of the Christmas story. After all, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Is A Charlie Brown Christmas required holiday viewing for you, too?

Friday, December 20, 2013

12 Days of Christmas Films: The Bishop's Wife {7}

Next up on my list is The Bishop's Wife, a 1947 film starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. This is a film that always ends up being better than I remember it being. Does that make sense? I don't exactly get super-excited about watching The Bishop's Wife every year, but I still watch it, and I enjoy it more than I expect to. :)

Seriously...it's Cary Grant playing an angel in a Christmas movie! What more could you want?

Here's the story: David Niven's character, a bishop, is struggling to get funding for a fancy new cathedral. He prays for guidance, and that's when an angel (Cary Grant) appears. But the bishop soon realizes that the angel isn't there specifically to help him get the cathedral built. Instead, he's spending time with the bishop's family and friends, who have been neglected during the cathedral campaign. Especially his wife (Loretta Young). There's a bit more to the story, but I don't want to spoil things. :)

This really is a sweet movie. It's supposedly a romantic comedy, but I don't really know if it that's the case. It does have funny moments, in a quiet sort of way, but it's not particularly hilarious. Anyway, I have to say that this is probably the most religious Christmas movie I've seen. I know I shouldn't be surprised that a Christmas movie is "religious," but most of them aren't. It reminds me of It's a Wonderful Life in little ways...maybe because they both include angels (angels with very un-elegant names: Dudley and Clarence) and mysterious miracles.

The cast is fine. There are some familiar faces among the supporting characters: the cab driver, the bishop's secretary, and the maid. But for me, none of the cast really stands out except Cary Grant (he usually does :). David Niven is fine, but his character isn't exactly the most likable for most of the story. And to be honest, I can never watch Loretta Young in anything without constantly thinking about the whole scandal about the child she had with Clark Gable (it's all so ridiculous and deceiving- though apparently most people weren't deceived when it happened- that it seems more like something out of a book than real life).

By the way, probably another reason why this film sometimes reminds me of It's a Wonderful Life is because there are two child actors who are have roles in both of them. Young George Bailey and Zuzu are both in The Bishop's Wife.

I don't really have favorite scenes in this movie. But I do love how charismatic Dudley the angel is and how everyone loves him. It makes me smile how all of the ladies in the house are drawn to him and how a couple of them start wearing flowers in their hair. :)

But if I had to pick a favorite scene, it would probably be the ice skating scene. The Bishop's Wife is worth watching solely for the ice skating scene, and not because it's wonderful or magical or sweet or sad or because the acting is great. It's because it is so hilariously awful. Supposedly Cary Grant and Loretta Young's characters are skating together, and then he breaks loose and does all of these crazy ice skating stunts and such. But the best part is that the stunt double (who was apparently a champion ice skater) looks nothing at all like Cary Grant. He's practically a foot or two shorter, and he has these exceptionally thick, dark eyebrows that you can see even from a distance (the camera doesn't get very close, but it's still obvious that it's a stunt double). They've tried to make his hair look like Cary Grant's, but he so clearly not Cary Grant that it's hilarious.

As with Miracle on 34th Street, The Bishop's Wife is not my favorite Christmas movie by any means. But it's cute and I still like it enough to watch it every year. :) To be honest, my favorite thing about this movie is Cary Grant. Of course.

Have you seen The Bishop's Wife? Did you also find the ice skating scene hilarious and distracting?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yarn Along

Reading: Rules of Murder, by Julianna Deering. I'm only a couple of chapters into this one, but I'm enjoying it so far. 1930s mystery set in England? That is so me. And anything compared to Agatha Christie is sure to grab my attention. (Not to mention that so many fellow bloggers have raved about this one!)

Knitting: The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief. Honestly, I'm still working away on Christmas gifts, so this is really just car knitting at the moment, if then. I'm probably less than 5 or 6 rows from the end now. The yarn is KnitPicks Gloss DK in Winter Night. I picked this color because I'm constantly searching for the perfect TARDIS-colored yarn. This particular yarn is closer than it seems to be in the picture (it's not quite TARDIS blue, but it is shiny and gorgeous).
{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

12 Days of Christmas Films: In the Good Old Summertime {6}

No, I'm not joking. This movie really is called In the Good Old Summertime, and it is a Christmas movie! :) The title doesn't make much sense, because only the first few scenes and the very end are actually set during the summer...the rest of the story happens at Christmas time.

In the Good Old Summertime is a musical remake of The Shop Around the Corner, but it feels like a completely original and different film. The basic plot is similar, and some lines are word-for-word the same, but there are quite a few differences. This film takes place in a music shop, of course (it is a musical, after all!). It's also quite a bit lighter and less dramatic. And there are several musical numbers. Ha. :)

This movie is so ridiculously fun and adorable. It doesn't seem to be a particularly popular musical (it was really hard to find pictures of it on Google), which is unfortunate. If you haven't seen it, you're really missing out! I first watched it years ago when I discovered how much I love Judy Garland musicals and set out to see as many of them as possible. I loved it right from the beginning.

The cast is amazing. First of all, I just mentioned that there's Judy Garland! She's my favorite musical actress. I know that she famously had quite a tragic life, but she brings so much life and joy in her films! I love her voice and I think she does comedy really well, too. (By the way, this was her second to last film at MGM. Her final film with them is another one of my favorites that also seems under appreciated: Summer Stock.) Van Johnson is the male character, and he's great, too. Don't get me wrong...I adore Jimmy Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner (and basically everything else he's in), but Van Johnson is really special in this role. He's not quite as harsh as Jimmy Stewart, and you can see him falling for the girl a bit more quickly.

And the supporting cast...first there's S.Z. Sakall, who also plays a memorable part in my favorite Christmas movie (which will be reviewed soon :) as the hilarious and blustery owner of the music shop. Also, Judy Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli, who was three at the time, made her film debut at the very end.

But most importantly, there's Buster Keaton! I'm starting to become a big Buster Keaton fan, you guys. I've watched several of his silent films this year, but last week I watched The Cameraman and I absolutely loved it. It was random and a little bizarre, but hilarious and brilliant. Buster Keaton is so incredibly graceful, even when he's being clumsy. It's so neat to see some of his physical comedy in this film, over twenty years after the height of his silent film career. Here he plays an employee at the shop...he's actually the shop owner's nephew. It's not a very big part, but he steals every scene he's in. Apparently, Keaton created the whole violin scene early on, and he was given the role when they realized that no one would be able to do the sequence like he could. And he orchestrated the scene where Judy Garland and Van Johnson's characters run into each other towards the beginning.

I love the setting of turn-of-the-century Chicago. For some reason, I really love it when musicals made in the 40s or 50s are set in the early 1900s. It's interesting, and strange to me somehow, that period films were made back then just like they are today (except possibly a little less historically accurate?).

This film also has some lovely songs. I think I actually love all of the songs, which is unusual for me. There's even a Christmas song, which is enough for me to consider it a Christmas film. :) One of my favorite musical numbers is Put You Arms Around Me, Honey. The way that Garland and Johnson play off each other in that scene is hilarious! I love the looks they give each other and how they try to sabotage the song...it cracks me up when Judy Garland casually reaches down and slams the cover on his hands.

Can I just admit that I really don't like the violin girl? She's nice enough and a rather important part of the plot, I guess, but it drives me crazy how she distracts the two of them from each other. :) Also, what's with that silly ribbon tied around her neck?

As with The Shop Around the Corner, I love, love, love the ending. It's my favorite scene. Van Johnson has me laughing one minute (Mr. Newspickle?) and swooning the next. I just really love how the story comes full circle and everything is revealed. Of course, we've known what's going on from the beginning, and then the guy finds out, but it just doesn't feel complete until the girl realizes, too. :) So lovely.

Have you seen In the Good Old Summertime?