Monday, January 18, 2016

A new favorite

I have a new favorite painter!

The woman who painted this (above) famous painting of Marie Antoinette: Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun.
Early in my blogging days I blogged about Frank Dicksee and John William Waterhouse (the painter of my profile picture). I have a painting by each of them in the process of being hung in my bedroom. I think I'm going to have to add another, though, because I love this woman's art.
From the lesser known portraits of Marie Antoinette:

To her lovely self-portraits:

With her daughter, Julie

To her elegant ladies...

and very realistic children:

Look at her face: haven't you seen that very expression on real children before?

Fun fact about these girls: granddaughters (or friend's children or something) of the Empress Elizabeth of Russia,  they were originally in short-sleeved dresses but the empress felt it showed too much skin to have their arms bare! So Madame Vigée Le Brun added sleeves.
From what I've briefly read, her life sounds interesting too: a great favorite of Marie Antionette's, she fled France during the Revolution and spent some time in Russia (hence the portrait above). She painted aristocracy from all over Europe, in fact. She married an art seller and had one daughter, who fled with her (I'm not sure what happened to her husband, though). 
As we are studying the French Revolution era in history and I must write a report on someone from the period, I am considering writing it on her!

Not by Madame Vigée Le Brun, I just like it, too. I love 18th and 19th century portraits in general, actually.

Au revoir,
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Saturday, January 9, 2016

12 Month Classics Challenge

Well, I've been posting quite a lot these days. It's rather odd.
I think it's always good idea to read more good books, and any excuse will do. That is why, when I saw the 12 Month Classics Challenge, I decided to join.
The idea is to read once classic book a month, according to the theme of that month (see more information here). I may or may not write a review of these books, and I may or may not finish them in the month they're supposed to be read in. ;) If they're reviewed, I'll link to them here.

January: A classic you've always wanted to read — Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
February: A classic you've always dreaded reading — Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
March: A classic you've been recommended — The Blue Castle (I've not been personally recommended this but I've heard much praise of it) by L. M. Montgomery
April: A classic you've seen the movie of — Lord of the Rings (I have read the book, but only once all the way through, and I've seen the movie far more) by J. R. R. Tolkien, of course
May: An American classic — Either The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper or The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
June: A British classic — Either The Tale of Two Cities or Bleak House, both by Charles Dickens
July: A non-British European classic — The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan
August: A modern classic — Reread A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
September: A children's classic — Reread The Narnian Chronicles (or as much of it as I can), by C. S. Lewis
October: A classic by a female author — Reread Anne of Green Gables series (or as much of it as I can), by L. M. Montgomery
November: A classic by a male author — Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
December: A classic written under a pseudonym— Silas Marner by George Elliot

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Cinderella: A Movie Review

I've been wanting to review this since I saw it (in September...) but haven't had anything to force me into action until now.
It's Cinderella Week, as I may have mentioned once or twice before, and I don't care if tons of other people are reviewing it, I'm doing it anyway. It's my blog. So there, Polly Pepper.

Thoughts on Cinderella (2015)

Many other pens (or keyboards) have reviewed this lovely movie, and I really have to go get ready for work, so I'll not waste all of our time by giving a plot summary and an opinion on each change and character and costume. I'll just highlight some things that made me love this movie.

A) Ella's character.

I love the quote "Have courage and be kind". Not "Be sassy and show women can do anything!" Ella isn't trying to prove anything, or beat anyone, or assert herself. She is simply a girl in an awful situation who is trying to make the best of things. I love that Disney went with a message like that. Now I don't believe that anyone can actually have courage and be truly kind without the Lord, but with the Lord, isn't that an admirable admonition for a Christian, too? Not to be nice to people, or polite, but to be truly kind... One doesn't encounter that often.

*SEMI-SPOILER ALERT* I also love Ella's line, when she is leaving the house with the prince, when she looks back at her stepmother, and simply says, "I forgive you". That, is again a truly Christ-like attitude. Who else could forgive a woman who'd tried again and again to sabotage her happiness, even when it could no longer gain her anything to do so?

B) The feeling of the film.

There are so, so many movies today that are filled with nastiness. Curse words everywhere, sexual innuendo and awkward scenes, brutal violence. Just as bad is the poisonous attitudes of most movies. Kids sass and disobey their parents and it's the parents who apologize at the end of the film. Disrespect for the elder generation as being "outdated", snide comments about people who are decent, bitter rebellion. Even films that seem "better" on the whole still have the female leads who have this need to show that they are better than men, that they can do everything and say witty, biting remarks while they're at it. 

This movie has none of that. No cursing, innuendo, or rebellion. Ella is actually sweet and kind. The relationship between the prince and his father is mutually respectful and loving, despite things on which they don't agree. This is a film that I could wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.

C) The set and costumes are a feast for the eyes.

I love how sunny and beautiful this film is.

Add to that a well-written script, humorous lines, clever references to the originals (for those of us who grew up with the animated version) and superb acting (plus a cast filled with recognizable actors), and you have a film I quite like.

Not many times do I finish a movie and immediately decide afterward that I want to own it... but I did after this one.
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A Review of Cinderella (1965)// My childhood heroine

As I mentioned in this post, where I almost picked this movie for Celebrate Musicals Week, I got this movie for my fifth birthday. I think I must have seen it before, or I just loved Cinderella naturally, because I remember being excited to get it. And throughout my childhood, the picture I got in my head when I thought of Cinderella was Leslie Ann Warren, singing Ten Minutes Ago with the prince (Stuart Damon, whoever he is).
Well, now that I've explained my bias, let's be more organized in stating the reasons why I love this movie:

Cinderella (1965): A Review

The story:
The story is basically the same. Cinderella lives with her stepsisters and stepmother. Her stepsisters, in this one, are not "ugly" or even evil. Her stepmother is cruel, but the stepsisters are willing enough to converse with Cinderella (I love the part where they're all gushing about the prince together in When You're Driving Through the Moonlight). Then the stepmother will just ignore her and they all follow suit. And they're quite amusing — Prunella (Pat Caroll) has a knee that creaks and Esmerelda is always batting her eyelashes, and the stepmother tries to get them to "better themselves". Prunella is hilarious the way she's always kind of laughing like she's so confident. Esmerelda practically falls over during a curtsy, so Prunella laughs and curtsies and her knee creaks. Just watch it. It's funny.

The characters:
I love how sweet Leslie Ann Warren is. She has the childlike innocence and delight at everything– which, to someone who's never seen anything grander than a market square, makes sense. Her character is not what I'd call clever or exactly bright but she's very sweet and a perfect Cinderella.
These three (below) are very good. I like the additions/changes Rodger & Hammerstein did with them.

The stepsister's names, for instance, are Esmerelda and Prunella, which I've not heard in any other adaption. 
The stepmother is hilarious. The way she carries herself and walks is so affected, somewhat like a donkey walking, where they sort of stalk/waddle forward. 

And does she not have the best expressions?

The prince, as usual, has no name. I'm going to be honest, that he looks a little stupid sometimes. I don't mean his outfit is stupid, I mean he'll say something with great feeling but the expression on his face looks so unintelligent and blank.

I really like the king and queen too (Ginger Rodgers and Walter Pidgeon). They both fit the part very well — the queen is kind of sweet and perceptive and the king is very.... kingly. (great description, right?) I like when they dance together (I appreciate movies that show the romance between older characters as well as younger) and the orchestra reprises Ten Minutes Ago.

The songs:
Let's just give an example.

This song makes me... melt. It's one of the sweetest romantic duo songs I've heard. And it shows a lot that I like it, because I often don't like romantic songs. Any hint of mushiness, sappiness, sadness, and I'm outa there. ("So This Is Love" from the animated Cinderella is an excellent example of how NOT to do a romance song).

A fun one is The Prince is Giving A Ball.

I honestly always think of this when I read/watch any Cinderella retelling and someone mentions that the prince is giving a ball (when I wrote my own Cinderella retelling a few years ago I could barely restrain myself from writing in quotes from this song ;-P).

And of course, A Lovely Night.

Apparently when I was small I knew all the words and sang this quite a lot. And I have been known to sing it when coming home from Regency dances (it's rather perfect for that)... or whenever I go outside at night at all... Okay, I still know the words and sing this rather a lot. ;-P
Other good songs from this musical include In My Own Little Corner, Impossible, The Stepsister's Lament, and I Could Have Danced All Night  When You're Driving Through the Moonlight. I must say I was never much for The Loneliness of Evening or Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful (not because it was sappy, but because they were both too slow). I've always loved the Gavotte piece at the ball as well.

For me, the costumes of a film can make or break it. Seriously, I spend about half the time watching people's faces and the other half watching their clothes, so it better be something worth looking at. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of Cinderella's clothes.
I think she looks prettier in her "rags" but I don't like the orange and browny-green together, naturally (she kind of looks like a pumpkin). I like the white ball dress (below), but the fur along the neck looks a little wrong to me. And I prefer her hair down, too (her hair is so pretty!) Both of her dresses, though, have super full pretty skirts.

The queen wears the fur better:

It looks more natural on a surcoat than a sleeveless evening gown. The queen's other outfit is a weird lime-green thing (this was made in the 1960s, guys, so the costumes are half 1960s and half 1460s...)

I do like the fairy godmother's attire (for a fairy godmother, of course). Celeste Holm makes a good fairy.

The not fun part where I criticize this movie:
Okay, so you've got to understand this was made in 1965. The filming is sometimes rather fuzzy. Everyone has only two outfits or less. The outdoor sets are sooooo fake.

A really blurry picture to show the fakeness of the background.

I think the tree is made of styrofoam covered in construction paper, but I'm not quite sure.
At times the acting and the costumes are a little odd.

But on the whole, I really like this movie, and not just because I grew up with it. In my opinion, it's OK for Cinderella stories to be simple, as this one is. I love the sweet ending, where she offers the prince a drink of water, even though she believes he will ride off and she'll never see him again. Of course you know what happens next — the shoe fits. And they all live happily ever after.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Moving blog (and moving back...) because of problems

As you may have noticed, this blog is having various problems: the comment form doesn't load properly, clicking on individual posts and pages brings up a white page, and other less noticeable things. To fix this, I've decided to export my blog and move it to a new url: If all goes well, I'll then delete this blog and restore the URL to the new blog. In that case, you shouldn't notice any differences. All except the followers: if you follow this blog currently, you'll have to refollow after the switch (which will likely take place in the next 24 hours).
I'm a little nervous, so here's hoping it all works!
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Along the Brandywine: Cinderella Party: Persuasion by Jane Austen // Gue...

As I mentioned before, I'm participating in the Cinderella Party at Along the Brandywine. I thought this post, about seeing Jane Austen's Persuasion as a Cinderella story, was fascinating.
Along the Brandywine: Cinderella Party: Persuasion by Jane Austen // Guest...

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Cinderella Tag

I'm super excited to be participating in Cinderella Week over at Along the Brandywine. I'm going to be reviewing the Leslie Anne (yes, I added an "e") Warren version of Cinderella later this week, and hopefully the 2015 Cinderella as well. But for now, the tag!

1. In the vast array of fairytale heroines, what particular character qualities most define Cinderella? 
I think Cinderella, whatever else she is, is kind-hearted and undervalued. Even if she isn't perfect (depending on the version...) she tries to be kind.

2. What are some of the deeper, big picture differences you see between retellings where both stepsisters are nasty and others where one is nasty and one is kind? How do you think the two takes differently develop/illuminate/affect Cinderella’s character and also the overarching story itself?
Well, having both sisters nasty I think turns them more into 2-D characters, where they're both just "nasty" and that's it. Having one sister kind turns them more into actual people. For Cinderella's character I think having one sister kind gives her an opportunity for a friend. This friend, however, probably is a difficult one, since Cinderella may still be ignored or mistreated by her at times, and whom she still has to serve. Particularly for non-fairy godmother stories, the kind stepsister could be quite important in resolving Cinderella's fate.

3. Are you an animal lover? Would you eagerly count mice, lizards, cows, and geese as friends? Dogs and cats? 
I would not consider myself an animal lover per se, but in her situation I think I would consider those creatures friends (um, except the lizards!), as she had no human companions. And I would already consider my dogs and cats friends.

4. After asking question #3, I realized how remarkably many of the adaptations I’ve seen have Cinderella either horseback riding or involved with horses. Have you ever ridden? If so, have you ever ridden sidesaddle or bareback? 
Yes, I've ridden. I've gone bareback once (or maybe twice), but sadly I have not yet ridden sidesaddle.

5. Your favorite Cinderella dress/s? 
Well, as a child I always liked this one:

But I'm really not sure why (presumably I just preferred it to her weird white one) and honestly I find it rather ugly now. Though I LOVED the 1965 Cinderella, I didn't like her clothes (except I kind of liked the orange and brown dress, even though it was ORANGE and BROWN together).
I adore Cinderella's blue dress from the new film:

However, my favorite Cinderella dress is Danielle's ball gown from Ever After:

I love the beaded detail and the high-waisted-ness and the sleeves. It's quite different from the other Cinderella dresses I've seen, and I really like it.

Really, I love all of Danielle's wardrobe, particularly her red dress:

I couldn't find a good screen capture of the whole dress, however.

6. Do you ever think of Cinderella while doing your household chores? :)
Yes, I do! Particularly when I'm doing dishes or mopping the floor on my hands and knees. :)

7. What major character traits do you think are essential in a faithful prince? 
Honesty,  humility, being a good listener, being sensible without being heartless — and of course, a healthy sense of humor.

8. Your top THREE favorite fairy tales (as in the original folk tales, not adaptations). 
The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella (or maybe The Princess and the Pea).

9. Your top FIVE current favorite fairy tale/legend type films (BESIDES any Cinderella adaptations). 
That's hard, because most of the current ones I like are Cinderella types. :P Umm, well, I do like the animated Beauty and the Beast from the 90s, and Tangled of course. My sister Mathilda and I also used to enjoy watching Fairy Tale Theatre episodes together, and I remember particularly liking The Princess and the Pea and The Twelve Dancing Princesses. And for a fifth, I have to admit, that I have a special affection for Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, because when I was eight or so we got free World Premiere  (ooh-la-la) tickets to the movie and we dressed up and won giveaways and took a picture with Barbie and I loved it. So. 

10. If you could play Cinderella and the story could be set in any region of the world and any time period, what would you pick? And what would your dream ‘ball gown’ for it be like? 
Definitely medieval time, in some European country... I'm going to be unoriginal, and say quite honestly I'd love a dress like the 2015 Cinderella's – full skirt, blue in color,  but with a higher neckline and probably elbow-length flowing sleeves.

11. And (purely for fun :))… what color/s do you immediately associate with Cinderella?
Blue, definitely!

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Saturday, January 2, 2016


This is a very brief post to simply announce that I have FINALLY gotten back to writing. The last I wrote was October 24, and only the briefest of paragraphs. Yesterday I wrote a thousand words and today I wrote another thousand. These two thousand words make up the first two thousand (well, 2,183) words of The Arthurian Chronicles: Part Three.
Part three. I've never gotten this far in anything. I just hope I can get to the end and still have the gumption to forge my way through second drafts of this monster.
But! this is a celebratory post, not a forboding one. I bring you the first paragraph of Part Three of the Arthurian Chronicles:

They arrived in Áth Cliath at about teatime, but it seemed much later. Arthur and his eight companions stood with their cloaks pulled up tightly to keep out the fiercely driving rain that poured from the moody sky. Yet the city was still bustling with people, despite the hour and the chill weather. The companions huddled under the eve of a shop, none too eager to step into the rain or the foreign crowd. Even though most of the Irish spoke English, there were those among them who only knew a garbled sort of Welsh. It made Arthur feel very isolated.

77,104 / 90,000 words. 86% done!

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