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me with Captain Marvel poster#smileaday A good girl-power movie with my girls. Went to see #captainmarvel today with my daughters. A very solid and satisfying superhero flick. Much better than the trailer led me to believe. Brie Larson overcame my doubts quickly.

It didn't quite get the leap-out-my-seat clapping feeling that Wonder Woman gave me, but I still pumped my fist in the air more than once. Favorite moments: the "getting back up" montage of Carol Danvers at different ages and the line "I've got nothing to prove to you."

Jude Law was a great antagonist, and Annette Bening was clearly having a blast in both her roles. Lashana Lynch and Akira Akbar brought such warmth and love to their roles, really selling the found-family dynamic with Carol. I'm looking forward to seeing this character come back in Endgame.
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lifeforce posterYesterday's Retro date was to see Lifeforce, an 80s horror/scifi movie that I had never even heard of, but which Sweetman remembered fondly from his boyhood. If you've seen it, you probably remember it as "that one with the naked vampire lady from outer space."

It was, of course, a bit cheesy and dated in some ways, but overall I really enjoyed it. That naked vampire lady was Mathilde May and she was really rather amazing. That eerily smooth walk and quick changes in position definitely made you feel that she was not human; the physical/body acting was effective in a similar way to Elsa Lanchester's Bride of Frankenstein. The nudity actual made some scenes creepier and more frightening, like when the "space girl" (the character was never named) blew out a bunch of windows than just walked across the broken glass like it was a flower filled meadow.

I also really liked the puppet and special effects work with the desicated victims who came back to life. The eyes were better done than the production date would have led me to expect.

Very creative and interesting take on vampires. I may have to check out the source material, a novel called The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson.
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#smileaday Retro night. Sweetman and I are fans of the Retro Film Series at the Carolina Theatre. If we had but world enough and time (and money), we'd probably hit nearly every show. Tonight, after nearly a month of sickness at our house that meant we missed a great film festival here, among other things, we made it! #datenight #retrofilm

retro film series logo

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#smileaday I don't have a headache. Reasonably sure this is the first day in February in which I went through the whole day without having a headache of one sort or another. Between illness, allergies, noise, and stress, it was a helluva month. Not having a headache made such a difference in my demeanor that I was walking around singing this song all day. "Human Again."
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 #smileaday Being a musical nerd with my daughter. 
 
I was in chorus AND band in middle and high school, so you can imagine what a musical nerd I must be. Apparently, I've passed that on to my youngest, because after homework tonight, she wanted to watch Into the Woods, which has been a favorite of mine since college and now has a pretty good movie edition (though I'm loyal to Bernadette Peters' witch and don't like Meryl Streep's as much). 
 
Anyway, we enjoyed sitting together tonight and re-watching this one (we've already watched it together at least a couple of times). Still so good, and even better with her. 


into the woods dvd

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mrs. maisel Yesterday, I watched the first season The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. My daughter suggested it for me, and she's usually pretty good at spotting something I would like. She was right :-)
 
Mrs. Midge Maisel is a paragon of privilege in upper west side New York City in the 1950s. She's well, if impractically, educated, with a degree in Russian literature from Bryn Mawr. She's married to a seemingly successful businessman and has two kids and a great life. So, of course, it all falls apart in the first episode. 
 
There are hints right away that these young people aren't entirely conventional, the biggest being that they are regulars at a seedy comedy club, where Midge bribes the manager with brisket to get stage time for her husband. In fact, Midge thinks everything is golden until her husband blindsides her by leaving. 
 
Now, generally, Midge isn't my kind of a character. There's the distinct aroma of "Manic Pixie Dreamgirl" wafting about her and I hate that. I've never been able to watch the Gilmore Girls, for example, because I don't understand why no one has killed Lorelei yet. 
 
But, while Midge fits that character type, she also doesn't. She has it together in a lot of ways. She's not a black hole of selfish need that destroys everyone around her; she's self-sufficient, at least in terms of self-esteem. In fact, she helps other people along her journey. She has a wild streak for certain, but it's a secret release, not her daily life M.O. I'm not yelling at the screen telling the other characters to "Run! It's a trap!" 
 
Once she starts doing stand-up comedy, beginning with a late night, drunken rant in her nightgown that ends with an arrest for indecency (alongside Lenny Bruce), she's brilliant. It's an amazing moment, where a woman who has never needed a vocation just found hers. 
 
Overall the show is a great period piece that feels spot-on about gender and other politics of the era (admittedly, I'm too young to remember the 50s firsthand), sharp-witted, and heart-felt. I'll definitely watch Season 2 (more slowly, though; I'm finally well enough to go back to work tomorrow!). 
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 crimson peak posterToday's sickbed viewing was Crimson Peak. I barely heard of it when it went through cinema. By the time I'd registered I might like to see it, it was gone. So, it's been on my TBW (to be watched) list for quite a while. All I'd gathered about it was that it was a gothic story and, of course, that Tom Hiddleston was in it. 
 
For someone like me, raised on Dark Shadows soap opera reruns, Edgar Allan Poe, and gothic novels, this was a delight! It has it all: a gorgeous, charming foreign man with a secret; a wonderfully falling apart, ruined, and isolated house of incredible opulence; a naive bookish young ingenue with more backbone than is suspected; horrific apparitions; subtext galore; beautiful gowns and nightgowns with the long romantic hair to match; and dangerous experimental mining equipment, mysterious vats, and a rickety elevator. 
 
The performances were magnificently overwrought. They had to be, just to be seen in the incredible setting!  In typical Del Toro fashion, the film is darkly gorgeous, all rich textures and moody lighting. Del Toro clearly knows the tropes of this genre well and used them to great effect. Horrible in the best possible way!
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Anne with an E My sickbed marathon continues. Because I am trying to push myself enough to get things moving without pushing myself too far and getting sicker again, it was a good day for episodic TV, each piece long enough to recoup before I tried moving around and doing things again. 
 
Today I finished Anne with an E, which I had already watched most of. It's an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. People either love it or hate it. Which seems to depend on whether you loved the books as a child, or the earlier TV adaptation. 
 
I read the books as a child, and liked them, but they aren't among my heart's books. They're too nice for me, I think. Decorous. I saw at least some of the older TV series and it was a very faithful adaptation. Neither the books nor the old TV series is so bad as to be called saccharine, but both definitely gloss over any real ugliness. 
 
This series doesn't do that. In the three seasons I've watched on Netflix, we've seen how Anne's life before her arrival at the Cuthbert's might have gone. It wasn't pretty. It ranged from actively abusive to neglectful at best. In that light, Anne's relentless optimism and joy in life definitely come across as a choice, a coping mechanism even. That changes things considerably. 
 
Critics say that this show goes too far the other way, making everything too grim and dark. But for a series with a young adolescent girl at its center, I think it's spot on to how those troubles feel. It really is the end of the word when you blurt out the wrong thing at school and everyone remembers, or when you accidentally dye your hair green, or when you are the one who figures out what's going on, but no one will believe you because you're just a little girl. 
 
One of the great things about the series is how nuanced nearly everyone is. Everyone behaves badly in one way or another, and a lot of the show is about making amends and learning to move on when you've hurt someone. Many times characters are their own worst enemies, and this is exacerbated by the small town politics where everyone knows and remembers everything about each other, and wants to keep each other pigeonholed. 
 
This isn't Green Gables as I remember it from childhood. And from me, that's a compliment. 
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 snicket posterSickDay Marathon, day 2, included my last few episodes of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the series on Netflix. 
 
I've enjoyed the entire series. It captured what I enjoyed about the books when I read them with my eldest daughter (now 19). The costumes are a level of humor all their own. The musical elements are fun. "Look Away" the theme song gets stuck in my head from time to time. 
 
It's obvious the cast is having a great time. A lot of favorite actors star or make appearances in the show and seeing them is a delight like special guest stars on an old TV show used to be. Neil Patrick Harris and Lucy Punch are fabulous as you might expect, and Patrick Warburton is a perfect narrator. But my favorite is probably Usman Ally whose hook-handed man finally got a name this third season: Fernald. The child actors are universally good as well. 
 
And for a show that promises "nothing but dismay" it had a pretty satisfying ending. 
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 Sick day movie marathon day 2. Dune, Redux the fan edit by SpiceDiver. I don't remember exactly how I learned that this existed, but as soon as I did, I was intrigued. There was much I liked in the 1984 movie of Dune and it was also such a hot mess! I wanted to see what someone else was able to make of it. 
 
This edit was quite good. I mean, some flaws were not really fixable, like the unintentional comedy of Baron Harkonnen and some of the wooden acting. But dumping all the unnecessary voiceover and puts things in a semblance of chronological order made the whole thing make a lot more sense. 
 
It still felt choppy here and there, but not nearly as much so as the theatrical cut I first saw all those years ago. The costuming and sets are still brilliant and gorgeous. The intrigue and politics were smoothed out into something almost comprehensible. 
dune fanedit
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 #smileaday Digital content when you're sick. 
 
When I was a kid and I was sick, we didn't even have a VCR or Cable television. Those didn't enter my household until I was a young teen. I remember that every time I'm stuck in bed feeling too sicky to want to read. Lucky me, here in the 21st century, I can choose from any number of services to feed me entertainment of variable quality and content without lifting my head off the pillow. 


netflix and ill

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pan's labyrinth poster Last of my sickbed film festival for tonight. Pan's Labyrinth. My comments are spoilery, so don't read if you want to view it unspoiled and haven't yet. 
 
You know, I've only seen two movies about war in Spain, this one and Carol's Journey. Both of them (spoiler alert) end with dead girls. War in Spain is definitely not good for prepubescent girls. I jest about heavy things, but I did find it funny that in such a small sample there was that similarity. 
 
I'd heard a lot about Pan's Labyrinth, and most of the things I'd heard panned out (ha!). The puppetry was beautiful and creepy as heck. If all the labyrinth stuff was in this little girl's imagination, as the story certainly leaves room for, she was a child of darkness for sure. 
 
But then again, what other kind of child could she have been given all the tragedy and sadness she'd experienced already? The story doesn't give her age, but I'd guess her at about 11 years old, and she'd already lost her father, seen her mother hook up with a dangerous guy, seen her mother suffer through a life-threatening pregnancy, lived in the scary household of said dangerous guy, connected with members of the resistance, and then seen her mother die. 
 
The other Del Toro movie I remember well is Shape of Water, and there are some similarities in feel between the two films, including the fantasy happy ending representation of what came for our tragic heroine after death. 
 
Definitely on the darker side of fairy tale, bringing to mind other movies like Legend and Labyrinth. So much ambiguity all the time. I couldn't tell whether I should be hoping she'd do what the labyrinthian creatures told her or that she'd discover their lies in time, because it definitely seemed like they were dodgy and playing right into what she wanted to hear. (Which makes sense if they only exist in her imagination). That deep ambiguity was woven through every scene in the real world and the fantasy one and is the main emotion the story evoked in me. 
 
Quite good. I'll watch it again sometime when I don't have a fever. 
 
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red 2 movie poster I continue my sickbed movie marathon with Red 2. I enjoyed the first movie some years ago, and considered this one worth seeing if only for Helen Mirren. I can take or leave Bruce Willis doing another Bruce Willis type guy, and John Malcovich's character doesn't seem to know if he's the philosophical backbone, or the comic relief. Sometimes he felt more like Doc Brown from the Back to the Future movies than anything else.
 
But Helen Mirren's Victoria is one of my favorite characters ever. So the movie did not disappoint in that regard. Helen killed in evening wear and army fatigues with equal efficiency and panache, and even as dressed as a lunatic who believed she was the queen. In fact, I'd argue it's worth the whole thing just to see her shooting out both windows of a careening car and then sitting smugly while it all blows up behind them. When I daydream about having movies made of my books, I always cast Helen Mirren. 
 
The movie overall wasn't quite as much fun as the first one, but I guess we'd already done the "coming out of retirement" gig, so this wasn't a bad way to go, and Anthony Hopkins was a delight. I think I'd probably be more critical of it if I felt better, but I'm looking for popcorn, and popcorn is what I got. :-)
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john wick poster The only upside to being sick is when you're still well enough to enjoy movies. The hubby got me hooked into all the services on the seldom used bedroom TV, so I've started my sickbed movie marathon with John Wick. Great fun and perfect for my mood (I hate being sick and would really like to blow some things up instead of blowing my nose). 
 
John Wick was a very satisfying flick and more fuel for my theory that Keanu Reeves does his best work when he doesn't talk too much. He's so good at the physical: body and face work. Though, he did pleasantly surprise me with one great angry explosive speech.
 
The fight scenes were creative and fun to watch. The whole secret society angle of hit-people and other dangerous folk was intriguing, with all the layers of loyalties and betrayal. Adrianne Palicki was a nice surprise for me, as she's not an actress I've been aware before The Orville, and this role as Ms. Perkins is nothing like her Kelly on that show. 
 
I always love the reluctant hero (or antihero) story line, where a person had turned their back on a life and gets pulled back in. It's not a story with a lot of surprises, but it hits every expected beat well. 
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 #smileaday Movie night with Sweetman. 
 
We're regulars at the Retro series at the Carolina Theatre in Durham and tonight was so much fun! Schwarzenegger and Stallone, The Running Man and The Demolition Man. Retro movie series has confirmed again and again that I married the right man. He always springs for popcorn and candy, too. 

movie posters
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On the Basis of Sex movie poster #smileaday Female empowerment with my favorite females. I had a movie date with my daughters today. We saw On the Basis of Sex, the biopic of the early part of Ruth Bader Ginsberg's career (admission to Harvard Law school through the Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue case). 
 
Strong performances throughout and an excellent portrayal of handling both subtle and blunt sexism on a personal, professional, and institutional level with aplomb. Given that we already knew how the court case was going to come out, it was incredibly tense watching it get there. 
 
Left me feeling high and hopeful while I sat between two women of the next generation. Seemed like a good way to spend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 
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 Double Indemnity (1944). 
 
double indemnity movie posterBarbara Stanwyck is one of my very favorite actresses. I've loved her work in comedy, melodrama, and romance. She's brilliant in this film noir as the manipulative Phyllis Dietrichson. 
 
I got to watch it today at my library with a new film club that's just started in the area. I've seen it before, but didn't remember it in full detail. It's even better than I remembered.
 
The movie is beautifully executed and may even have benefitted from some of the limits the Hays Code put on the production. We never see Phyllis and Walter make love, but it's still entirely clear that there's a physical charge between them and that she's not above using all the methods of persuasion at her disposal. We don't the murder, but watched Phyllis's face while it happens next to her gave me the chills. That little smile, so much like Anthony Perkins's in Psycho for cold delight. 
 
The unfolding of the levels of manipulation and the way Phyllis and Walter fed into each other and fed the flames that eventually consumed them was gorgeous. It's definitely keeping its position in "must see movies" on my personal list. 
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 #smileaday Revisiting old movies with my munchkin. 
 
I've been on a little bit of a kick here lately, "making" my youngest daughter watch old movies with me. I'm usually nice about it and pick things I think will please her, like Beetlejuice and Lost Boys (though there was that time I made her watch Big Trouble in Little China she has not forgiven me for). 
 
Earlier this week, we watched Armageddon, which was even cheesier than I remembered, and I remembered it as inducing fits in lactose-intolerant moviegoers. It's arguably the worst performance by Ben Affleck I've ever seen. Cringe-inducing even. But we laughed so much!
 
Tonight we watched Big Hero 6, which I know isn't that old, but when you're only 11 like she is, 2014 was half a lifetime ago. It still charmed the heck out of me, even when it made me cry, and making me cry didn't make me feel as manipulated as Pixar machinations usually do. 

big hero 6 characters
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ahora entiendo meme #smileaday When a kid realizes how much they have learned. 
 
I'm showing a movie to my eighth graders right now: Bajo la Misma Luna. (If you haven't seen it, you should. It's brilliant). The characters in the movie speak a mixture of English and Spanish, just whichever they would naturally be speaking in the scene. I show it with the English subtitles on because it takes time to be able to listen to Spanish spoken at normal conversational speed and understand it, and very few of my students are ready for that yet. 
 
Kids are impatient and expect to be able to understand everything immediately. One of my big jobs is just keeping them hopeful that someday they will understand it better than they do now, and help them keep plugging away. 
 
Today, a kid who hasn't been all that strong a student came running up to me at the end of our class to tell me that he had understood enough to "get the gist" during one of the scenes. He's now newly enthused about his studies and I'm so pleased to have been there when we had that "maybe I *can* do this" moment of joy. 
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 #smileaday Good cheesy, pulpy fun. I wasn't sure if I was going to go see Aquaman or not, but Sweetman wanted to see it, so I went with him. And I'm glad I did. Such fun! Definitely not a story to examine too closely in any aspect. Nearly note for note predictable (though still satisfying enough in execution) and the criticisms about bad CGI are warranted, but if you go in expecting a romp through a pulpy ocean floor, you'll have a good time. 
 
I've got a special place in my heart for crazy mashup mixtures, and where else am I gonna get some kind of fish vampire monster thing, saddled sharks, kaiju, dinosaurs, and sappy romance themes all in one place? 

aquaman toy

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Samantha J Bryant

March 2019

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