Saturday, December 27, 2014

San Francisco

I created a short video featuring the footage I shot in San Francisco last summer. Lucas and I were renting a place close to the beach and would walk along the shore every day. I included a lightning storm that I shot from my front porch. It wasn't raining, just lightning flashes and wind.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Carol of the Bells - The Piano Guys

So I'm scrolling through Facebook and come across The Piano Guys post and a link to this beautiful performance video. Carol of the Bells and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen are two of my favorite carols. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

God bless us! Eveyone!

The Christmas season is here! What would Christmas be like without Charles Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol"? I read the book every year and I'm always blessed to read about Scrooge given a second chance in life. I'm all about second chances. The novella was published on December 19, 1843 and was met with "instant success and critical acclaim." Hear! Hear!

I also enjoy watching the different film versions of this classic story. I wonder what Charles Dickens would think if he knew that his tale of Ebenezer Scrooge would become a Christmas tradition for millions around the world and be adapted into plays, musicals and films. I think he might surprised and perhaps celebrate with a "Christmas bowl of smoking bishop."

So without further adieu, I would like to share my favorite "A Christmas Carol" films:

The Patrick Stewart version is my all-time favorite. The cinematography is superb and beautifully captures the time and place of the story. Stewart's "Scrooge" is perfectly gruff throughout, which makes his transformation so dramatic. Director: David Hugh Jones (1999).

Disney's version of the story is truly magical. The animation and computer effects take us to places that a live-action film could never do. Director: Robert Zemeckis (2009).

George C. Scott's Scrooge is a large, forbidding Scrooge. I can't seem to get the idea of "Patton" out of my head. I expect Scrooge to command a division of tanks to attack in his war against Christmas. Director: Clive Donner (1984).

I finally got around to seeing this version this year. It's delightful and is now one of my favorites. Alastair Sim's Scrooge transformation is joyous to watch. He skips and  dances for joy! My favorite scene. Director: Brian Desmond Hurst (1951).

I also saw this one this year for the first time. Reginald  Owen plays Scrooge in this 1931 black-and-white film. Sound had only been in films for a couple of years, so the acting was bit exaggerated in places. The characters come through, however, and I still cry when Scrooge awakes on Christmas Day with a new lease on life! Director: Edwin L. Marin (1938). 

Who doesn't love the Muppets? Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and the gang are wonderful! And Michael Caine is a perfect Scrooge for this musical version. Director: Brian Henson (1992).

What are your favorite Christmas films? 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Family Man

It's a little early to think about Christmas movies since it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but the Hallmark Channel has been having a Christmas movie marathon for the last two weeks with no end in sight. And, yes, I am beginning to thaw to the idea of Christmas in mid-November.

That said, I want to talk about one of my favorite Christmas movies: The Family Man (2000), starring Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni. 

Nicolas is Jack Campbell, a self-centered, money-hungry, Wall Street tycoon, who finds out what his life would have been like if he'd chosen "love." An angel (Don Cheadle) gives him a glimpse of his life in an alternate universe if he had married the love of his life (Tea Leoni). To Jack's dismay, he discovers that he would be a "family man," with a wife, two kids and a dog. Goodbye, Wall Street. He now works at his father-in-law's tire store in New Jersey. 

When all is said and done, Jack finds true love and gets his priorities in order. Merry Christmas!

Excellent performances by Nicolas and Tea, as well as the delightful Jeremy Piven as Jack's best friend and Don Cheadle as the angel who gets the ball rolling. The cuteness factor is evident with Makenzie Vega as Jack's daughter, Annie. She's the only one who knows that Jack is not her real dad. 

I love this scene:

ANNIE: Do you like kids?
JACK: On a case-by-case basis.
ANNIE: Do you know how to make chocolate milk?
JACK: I think I could figure it out.
ANNIE: Promise you won't kidnap me and my brother and plant stuff in our brains?
JACK: Sure.
ANNIE: Welcome to earth.

I enjoy magical stories like The Family Man. Something supernatural happens to get your attention and, ironically, brings you back to "reality." 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Walkin' the Line with my Johnny Cash Git-Tar!

Last week I trekked on down to Stroud, Oklahoma to visit my guitar-playin' dad. We like to play Johnny Cash tunes, so for inspiration, we watched Joaquin Phoenix in "Walk the Line."

As you may know by now, Joaquin actually sang the songs in the movie. Johnny plays the guitar high on his chest and makes these awkward movements. Joaquin had the moves!

I liked how Reese Witherspoon (as June Carter) described Johnny Cash's voice:

"Steady like a train, sharp like a razor." Yep, that about sums it up.

I have a brand new candy apple red Fender guitar I got for my birthday back in April and I brought it with me to Oklahoma to show it off to my dad. He grabbed his guitar and I grabbed mine and we proceeded to make music. He's good at picking melody and I'm good at playing chords.

We played and sang Folsom Prison Blues, Jackson, Ring of Fire, Walk the Line, Your Cheating Heart, Hey Good Lookin', Oh Lonesome Me, Tennessee Waltz, In the Jailhouse Now, King of the Road. We also rocked with Elvis and the Beatles.

Our next gig will be in May when Dad comes to Wyoming. In the meantime we will be practicing, getting ready for the next jam session.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

It's that time of year when the Great Pumpkin makes his appearance in the pumpkin patch that is most sincere to give out treats to all the good little boys and girls!

I grew up watching this delightful cartoon on TV back in the day. It first aired in 1966 when I was 9 years old. Yes, I was the target audience! Good Grief!

Every year after that, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" would be on our Halloween must-do list. I'm so happy that the tradition continues today. I grew up watching the show, my kids grew up watching it, and just last weekend I watched it with my 9-year-old granddaughter!

For those who have been not seen the show, here is brief synopsis:

Linus writes a letter to the Great Pumpkin, looking forward to his
arrival on Halloween night. Of course, his older sister, Lucy,
thinks he's crazy. She doesn't believe in the Great Pumpkin.
But Linus's faith is strong. Nothing will deter him.

The gang get their costumes ready for trick or treating.
Charlie Brown has trouble with the scissors. 

Lucy: A person should always choose a costume
which is in direct contrast to her own personality.

Lucy leads the gang trick or treating
 and has to ask for an extra piece of candy for her
"blockhead brother" who is waiting for Great Pumpkin.

Meanwhile, Linus has settled into the most sincere pumpkin patch
he can find and waits expectantly for the
Great Pumpkin to appear at midnight.

Snoopy has his own problems. As the World War I flying ace,
Snoopy is ready to battle Red Baron. 

The gang goes trick or treating and get all kinds of goodies.
Except for Charlie Brown. All he gets is a bag of rocks.

After trick or treating, the gang has a Halloween party.
Everyone is having a good time except Lucy.
She is too bossy for her own good.

Snoopy continues his mission to destroy the Red Barron.

Linus encourages Sally to join him in greeting the Great Pumpkin.
Her love for Linus wins out and she spends Halloween night
in the pumpkin patch. Linus and Sally see the
Great Pumpkin rise out of the pumpkin patch. Or maybe not.  

At the Halloween party, Lucy bobs for apples
 and accidentally touches DOG LIPS! 

The Great Pumpkin didn't show up and Sally is angry with Linus.
She missed out on tricks or treats, the Halloween party
and all the fun. She demands RESTITUTION!

In the end, Linus is not deterred. His faith is stronger than ever.
He believes that next year the Great Pumpkin will show up for sure! 

Monday, October 6, 2014


Me and Ernest Cline. Just so happens we wear the same glasses!
I'm a "Fangirl" of Ernest Cline!

I attended the Laramie County Community College Literary Connection this weekend here in Cheyenne and got my picture taken with Ernest Cline, screenwriter of the movie "Fanboys" (2009) and author of the New York Times Best-Selling book "Ready Player One."

Ernest told us about the amazing adventure of how his first screenplay, "Fanboys," came to be optioned by Hollywood and made into a film. And how Kevin Spacey wanted to Executive Produce the movie and got the ball rolling with George Lucas, giving permission to film at Skywalker Ranch. The rest is history.

Ernest learned that when Hollywood buys your script, the screenwriter has no say in the final product. He said in Hollywood the screenwriter is not the low man on the totem pole -- the screenwriter is the part of the totem pole that is stuck in the ground.

He decided that his next story would not be a screenplay, but a novel. This would ensure that if it were made into a film (with all the cooks in the kitchen messing with his masterpiece), the original story would remain intact.

Little did he know that this novel, "Ready Player One," would become a best seller and a bidding war for film rights would take place, with Ernest writing the screenplay. WOW!

I bought his book and he signed it for me! My first book signed by the author!

Ernest signed my book: "To Luana, Live long and prosper!"

Ernest's book: Ready Player One

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Most Memorable Film Score? "The Firm" by Dave Grusin

I will never forget the first time I saw The Firm and heard Dave Grusin's amazing score.

I saw the movie at a small cinema in Cushing, Oklahoma when it was released in 1993. All I knew about the film at the time was that it starred Tom Cruise and was a suspense thriller.

Jumpin' Catfish! The film grabbed me at the opening credits. Captivating blues and jazz solo piano against a backdrop of rowing crews at Harvard. The opening credits sequence featured scenes of Boston where Mitch McDeere, a recent grad from Harvard Law, interviews for jobs with the nation's most prestigious law firms.

I like movie openings that start the story and give background to what is about to happen.

This was John Grisham's first best-selling novel, and the first adapted for film. His first novel, A Time to Kill, did not become a best-seller until after The Firm made it big. Then the publishers decided Grisham might be a pretty good writer after all so they went back and published the first novel. I'd never heard of Grisham before this movie, and since then I've read all his novels. He remains one of my favorite authors.

The music in this movie becomes a character. Set in Memphis, the music is blues and jazz at it's finest. Best tunes for me include, The Firm theme, Memphis Stomp, Ray's Blues and Mud Island Chase.

The Firm Theme

Memphis Stomp

Ray's Blues

Mud Island Chase

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Smoke Signals

Several months ago, Smoke Signals (1998) popped up on my Netflix recommendations so I took the plunge. And I am so glad that I did! This movie has become one of my favorite films of all time. I supposed I'm at an age where ancestry has become more important in my life. I am of Cherokee descent, so the Native American flavor of this film definitely struck a chord in my spirit.

I was not prepared for the delightful blend of humor, tragedy and hope that this film presented to me. The poetry of the words, the strength of the characters, and the simple yet profound plot, captivated me from beginning to end.

Stunning cinematography and poetic use of flashback tell this amazing story.

The screenplay was written by Sherman Alexie (poet, writer, fimmaker) and was based on his short story "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," from his book "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven."

Film summary: It is 1998 and Victor learns that his estranged father has died. Victor travels from his home at the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation to Phoenix, Arizona to collect his father's remains with the help of his friend Thomas Builds-the-Fire.

Here is quote from the film's epilogue:

How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream. Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often, or forever, when we were too little? Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage, or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all? Do we forgive our fathers for marrying, or not marrying, our mothers? Or divorcing, or not divorcing, our mothers? And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness? Shall we forgive them for pushing, or leaning? For shutting doors or speaking through walls? For never speaking, or never being silent? Do we forgive our fathers in our age, or in theirs? Or in their deaths, saying it to them or not saying it? If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

Read more about this film at Unsung Cinema

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams Moments

I was saddened to hear the news of the passing of Robin Williams - a delightful comedian and entertainer, and a superb actor in both comedy and drama. Here are just a few of my favorites Robin Williams films.

"The Dead Poets Society" is my all time favorite film. The character of Professor John Keating is superbly played by Williams. He brings something truly special to the role.

In "Good Will Hunting," Williams captures the poignant character of psychologist Sean Maguire,who can't stop grieving his wife's death. But despite his personal pain, he helps and encourages Will.

As Armand Goldman in "The Birdcage," Williams plays a gay father and manager of a burlesque theatre. His comedic style is toned down quite a bit so that Nathan Lane can shine. The chemistry between the two actors is delightful to watch.

In "Mrs. Doubtfire," Williams plays a man who will do whatever it takes to see his children - even passing himself off as a woman.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Famous "Fugitive" Train Wreck

The train wreck sequence in "The Fugitive" (1993) is one of the best action sequences ever. Dr. Richard Kimble has been convicted of the murder of his wife. He is on a prisoner transport bus, ankles chained together, as are his fellow prisoners. The bus is hit by an oncoming train and Kimble escapes -- thus beginning his "fugitive" status. The director said that this sequence was a one-time deal. There were no retakes, so cameras and explosives had to be in place. Editing on this sequence is superb!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Feeling a bit "Psycho"

I've been familiar with Norman Bates since the early 80s. He's a creepy guy, but there's something about him that draws me in. Perhaps it's his extreme politeness. Or maybe it's the intensity of his eyes. One would never expect on first meeting him that he was . . . PSYCHO!

One of my favorite scenes from the film is when Norman and Marion are getting to know each other while she eats a sandwich in the "taxidermy" room. This is where we get our first glimpse of Norman's psyche.

The conversation reveals that Norman is "trapped" in his world, and also how Marion is trapped by her love affair with Sam and the desperate measure she took of stealing the money.

Because the scene is set in the back room with the stuffed birds, we get an ambiance of "death," as well as a foreshadowing of how Norman "preserved his mother."

Here's the scene:

NORMAN: The rain didn't last long, did it? So... where are you off too?
[Marion looks uncomfortable]

NORMAN: Sorry. I didn't mean to pry.

MARION: Oh, I don't know. I guess I'm looking for a private island someplace where I can be alone and no one can find me.

NORMAN: What are you running away from?

MARION: Why do you ask that?

NORMAN: No reason. No one really runs away from anything. It's like a private trap that holds us in like a prison. You know what I think? I think that we're all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.

MARION: Sometimes... we deliberately step into those traps.

NORMAN: I was born into mine. I don't mind it anymore.

MARION: Oh, but you should. You should mind it.

NORMAN: Oh, I do...(laughs)...But I say I don't.

MARION: You know... if anyone ever talked to me the way I heard... the way she spoke to you...

NORMAN: Sometimes... when she talks to me like that... I feel I'd like to go up there... and curse her... and-and-and leave her forever! Or at least defy her! But I know I can't. She's ill.

MARION: Wouldn't it be better if you put her... some place...?

[Marion does not finish the sentence as she thinks of the right thing to say. Norman leans forward with a concerned look on his face]

NORMAN: You mean an institution? A madhouse?

MARION: No, I didn't mean it like...

NORMAN: [suddenly angry] People always call a madhouse "someplace", don't they? "Put her in someplace!"

MARION: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound so uncaring.

NORMAN: What do you know about caring? Have you ever seen the inside of one of those places? The laughing, and the tears, and those cruel eyes studying you? My mother THERE?
[subdued tone] Oh, but she's harmless. She's as harmless as one of those stuffed birds.

MARION: I'm sorry. I felt that... well, from what you told me about your mother is that she might be hurting you. I meant well.

NORMAN: People always mean well. They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, oh, so very delicately!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Word Up!

As a writer, grammarian and bibliophile, I got a huge kick out of Weird Al's "Word Crimes" video. ENJOY!

Compare this with the classic "Conjunction Junction" from back in the day:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Take a Hike!

Watched an inspiring movie on Netflix last night called "Mile...Mile and a Half" - a documentary about five friends who hike California's historic John Muir Trail, a 211-mile stretch from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney. They hiked for 25 days and captured some amazing images! One member of the group dropped out after a few days, but they picked up some other hikers along the way.

The movie inspired me to go ahead and do the hikes that I had planned to do this summer and haven't done yet. So beginning next week, we are hiking at Vedauwoo, which is about half an hour away from Cheyenne.

Vedauwoo State Park in Wyoming

The following week, we are planning a hike at Sugar Loaf at Medicine Bow in the Snowy Range, where we've hiked several times. As you make your way up the trail, you eventually find a mountain lake nestled among the pines. There is snow there pretty much all year long. Especially this year since we had record-breaking snows in Wyoming this spring.

Sugar Loaf at Medicine Bow

Sugar Loaf at Medicine Bow
What are your favorite films featuring the Great Outdoors!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Kite Runner

So I finally got around to watching the famous "The Kite Runner" directed by Marc Forster and based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini.

This film blew me away and I am adding the novel to my reading list. There's something about watching a foreign film that makes you so much more attentive and involved in the experience. I am more aware of dialog, interesting camera work, lighting, setting, photography and story. With a foreign film, you need to stay focused to understand what is happening.

The first viewing was compelling and provocative as I had become enmeshed in the characters and their relationships. The molestation scene was shot in a respectful way that got the message across without crude images and dialog. It was sensitively portrayed, keeping the child actors in mind.

The second time I watched, I saw it with director's comments. Talk about enlightening. The film is a simple story, no distracting special effects. But the impact is powerful. I plan to watch it a third time and absorb everything that I can.

This is filmmaking at its best.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Shawshank Redemption

"The Shawshank Redemption" is one of my favorite films and was based on Stephen King's short story, "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" from his short story collection "Different Seasons."

Interesting fact: Stephen King sold the rights for one dollar!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Binge Watching on Netflix gives me Royal Pains

I never thought I'd be binge watching Royal Pains, but the premise of a doctor making house calls in the Hamptons intrigued me. The pilot show hooked me and the great writing keeps me watching. I'm currently on season five.

However it's a bit strange that Hank can diagnose everything from hemophilia to scurvy and perform emergency procedures with duct tape and fishing line. He's the MacGyver of the medical world.

Speaking of binge watching, within the last year, thanks to Netflix, I've binge watched:

I actually own the entire DVD set of season one through seven of The Office. If I want a laugh, this is my go-to show. Michael Scott is one of the funniest characters in the history of television. "Scranton is great, but New York is like Scranton on acid. No, on speed. Nah. On steroids" - Michael.

My history with Breaking Bad began a couple of years ago when my son (software engineer/devoted husband and father/musician/movie buff) said, "Ya gotta watch Breaking Bad!" So I was flipping through Netflix one day and there it was. The next three weeks of my life were spent catching up on Walter White's bizarre life. "Tread lightly." - Walter White

I binge watched this show before binge watching got its name. Season one had just come out on DVD and a friend of mine from work, a young whippersnapper copywriter said, "Ya gotta watch 24!" He loaned me his season one DVD and hubby and I sat up until two o'clock in the morning for a week watching Jack Bauer save the world. This is one of my favorite shows of all time. The concept of a show that takes in place in 24-hour, real time, is brilliant. "The only reason that you're conscious right now is because I don't want to carry you." - Jack Bauer

Sherlock was my latest binge watching experience. A young, modern Sherlock that uses computers and smart phones and solves modern murder mysteries, yet retains the distinctive qualities of that classic character blows my mind. Not to mention the amazing cinematography, sfx, and the "WOW" factor in spades.

SHERLOCK: (Upon meeting John Watson for the first time):  I know you're an army doctor and you've been invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you've got a brother who's worried about you, but you won't go to him for help because you don't approve of him—possibly because he's an alcoholic, more likely because he recently walked out on his wife. And I know that your therapist thinks your limp's psychosomatic, quite correctly I'm afraid. That's enough to be going on with, don't you think? The name's Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221b Baker Street.

Pros and Cons of Binge Watching:

Pros: Continuity of story, lack of commericals, thousands of great shows at your fingertips.

Cons: There is only one for me. GUILT from spending so many hours watching TV when I could be doing something more productive.

Have you binge watched TV shows? If so, what did you watch and how did you work it into your day to day life? Just wondering.