May 19th, 1536: A Tribute to Anne Boleyn

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I know I’m not supposed to be blogging during my official leave of absence, but as many of you know, today is May 19th, the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution. And I couldn’t pass up this occasion to pay tribute to someone I deeply admire and respect.

All the ladies had stunning hair thanks to Andrea and Jenna!

All the ladies had stunning hair thanks to Andrea and Jenna!

In November 2012, several of my friends and I got together and shot a short film regarding the extraordinary life of Anne Boleyn. The final result was approximately 20 minutes, depicting her life from her time with Margaret of Austria to her execution in 1536. Our budget was literally nothing. My camera is nothing special, and neither is the editing program I used. Everything we used in the film we previously owned or made. The costumes, the set, the weapons (we had swords, axes, arrows, bows…ninja stars…they didn’t make it into the film). Everyone chipped in and contributed (we had some amazing hair stylists and seamstresses), and I think it’s safe to say we all had a blast, and everyone, especially the star of our film, learned a great deal about Anne and what it was like during her final days.

The following clip is short and just a peek at what we accomplished that day.

The beautiful Anne Boleyn, played by the equally beautiful and talented Kenzie.

The beautiful Anne Boleyn, played by the equally beautiful and talented Kenzie.

There are so many things I didn’t include in this 90 seconds — George Boleyn’s execution, Anne’s time with Mary, Queen of France, the birth of Elizabeth. Each person involved in this project is so talented and ridiculously cooperative, enthusiastic, and helpful. I was such a bossy cow of a director it’s a wonder they didn’t kill me before the day was out — and most of them want to make another film this year!

I’ve been pestering Kenzie for years, saying that she shares a startling resemblance to Anne. When I asked her if she would like to play Anne in a film, she sort of laughed and sighed and said, “Do I really have a choice?” She was remarkable; she did everything I threw at her and then some. She brought Anne Boleyn to life, and I personally think she did a marvelous job.

So here it is. In memory of Anne Boleyn, Queen of England. May 19th, 1536.

Thanks to Kenzie, Greg, Maggie, Andrea, Sam, Devin, Zozie, Jenna, Emily, Melinda, Tim, and Joan for their cooperation, assistance, talent, and patience. I love you all!

For last year’s tribute to Anne Boleyn, click here.

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All Hail Wes Bentley’s Beard!

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**MEDIUM-DEGREE SPOILERS**

It’s been nearly three years since I first laid my paws on Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games — I haven’t let go since. I devoured the first two books (THG and Catching Fire) in the trilogy and had to wait EIGHT MONTHS for the release of Mockingjay. I’d told my friends about this series that was now tied first place with Harry Potter in my heart/bookshelf, and they expressed polite disinterest. “Maybe I’ll read them if I get the chance.”

If only they knew then that by now they’d be just as sucked in as I am.

Last night we all headed out in our best Capitol/tribute attire to participate in the 74th annual Hunger Games. And we clenched hands as the theatre darkened and we waited.

It was good. Obviously not nearly as detailed or intricate as the book, but the screenwriters (one of which was Collins herself) managed to take Katniss’ thoughts and plaster them on the screen without narration — which I was glad for.

District 12 was amazing, nearly everything I imagined. The camera shook and shivered at shots of coal miners, old men, etc…adding an aura of instability and weakness to the poor district. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) was his handsome and irritating/teasing/attractive self, but I personally thought they played up the love triangle too soon in the series. Couldn’t you wait until the second movie, Gary? I really can’t say that much else — other than they needlessly deleted an entire character! Poor Madge; just **poof!**

Josh Hutcherson is a cutie as Peeta, surprisingly convincing as a blond considering his natural hair is black! And, originally I was upset about Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, but I love it. Fabulous, sweetheart. He had the drunk, ironic, crappy mentor down to perfection, in all the little details as he covered his glass from being refilled by an Avox. Oh, and Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci)! He’s exactly who I pictured as the blue-haired master of ceremonies. Excellent job, Debra Zane.

One last little casting comment. Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane. While Seneca doesn’t make a direct or noted appearance in the novels, the film makers took every excuse to have that amazing beard in the shot. I enjoyed that he played a relatively large role, calling the shots from the Game Centre and making decisions. (“Give me a tree.” And a tree falls in front of a fleeing Katniss.) He was as much of a character as Cato, and more so than Clove or Glimmer.

The bloodbath at the Cornicopia was heartbreaking and pleasingly disturbing. I was afraid they would coddle the audience with grunts and tousled hair, but there was blood, there was combat, there was snapping of bones. Good. This is not a kid’s book, and it’s not a kid’s movie.  

Despite the movie’s length (2 hours, 22 minutes) it felt short and unfinished, mostly because they had to shorten and merge multiple scenes into a couple of minutes. I have been hearing some less-than-sunny reviews, and in some cases I agree. It made 100% more sense if you read the book. While the movie on its own was good, the movie with the book was better.

Music: yes. Capitol costumes: goodness yes. Peeta’s blue eyes: non existent. Knocking Peeta out to save him: non existent. Cave scene: nearly non existent.

I know it’s not a very thorough review, but I had to say something about it before I forgot, and really don’t have the time. Read Kristin Cashore’s thoughts on the books. 

May the odds be ever in your favour!

The Woman in Black and the Hogwarts Express

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Dan Radcliffe trades in his wand and broomstick for a briefcase and a hatchet in his new film “The Woman in Black.” Taking up the role of young lawyer Arthur Kipps, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect… Previews looked classically terrifying and Dan looked wonderful in his Victorian get-up, so what did I, as a movie goer, have to lose?

One my greatest fears going into this film was Dan. I want him to succeed in the movie business, but he’s been Harry Potter for so long that I wasn’t sure if I could see him playing anyone else. And, as I settled down in my back row seat hugging my coat tight, I crossed my fingers, for his sake. There were little more than a dozen other people in the theatre, and it was only the first full day playing — was it that awful?

The short answer? No, it certainly wasn’t awful. The beginning was typical for a ghost story, but it was catching and disturbing, and I heartily approve. Then we meet Arthur Kipps, widowed four years ago and still grief-stricken, with a young son (Misha Handley) he can barely look after. Dan as a father… it wasn’t convincing so early in the film, but little Misha, who is Dan’s real-life godson, was adorably tragic.

For the first ten or fifteen minutes he was still Harry Potter, especially as he left London via a scarlet train, headed for the remote countryside. Luckily, as we meet the one other non-dead prominent character, Mr. Daily (Ciaran Hinds), Dan begins to sink into Arthur’s skin. Arthur’s job is to go through paperwork left behind in a dead widow’s mansion, and when he begins seeing a woman dressed in black the village children begin dying in mysterious ways.

I am disappointed at the depth of the supporting characters. Mrs. Fisher, whose daughters we meet just as the curtain rises, is brimming with plot potential! She’s caring and frightened and there’s just a smidgen of romance between the married innkeeper’s wife and the lonely single father. Mrs. Fisher easily could have added more dialogue, which was as scarce as Hippogriffs! The rest of the villagers, each with their own tragic stories and fears of the mansion, could have easily added a more human and less nightmare-like quality to the film. I almost feel like this would be a better TV mini-series than an hour-and-a-half film.

Ah, and now we reach the star of the film: that creepy, stone, vine-covered, menacingly beautiful mansion, set apart from the rest of the village by a causeway that made it only accessible certain hours of the day. Although if Alice, the deceased owner, had only died a month ago, why was the interior of the house such a mess? Was being haunted by her sister, Jennet AKA The Woman in Black (Liz White), driving her mad and hindering her house-keeping skills?

The nursery was my second-favourite room in the house. Full of creepy wind-up toys like cymbal-clanging monkeys, dolls with glass eyes, and freaky dancing clowns, it’s creep factor pretty much rocketed off the creep-o-scale. Along with the fact that Alice hadn’t bothered touching anything since the death of her adopted son/biological nephew and it’s where Jennet hung herself, the nursery is both haunting and sad.

First favourite part of the house is the staircase, chalk-full of ancient portraits covered with artfully placed cobwebs. I love old paintings, so enough said there.

And, because I’m picky and appreciate details, I’ll whizz through some other things: Music — alright. Underused around the middle of the film. Use of mirrors — awesome, but you have to pay attention. Costumes — amazing. Everyone should dress like that. Font for credits — too modern for my liking. Could have used the same calligraphy used for Jennet’s letters. Ending — I didn’t like it. It felt somewhat rushed and unfinished, and it made me a little angry actually.

There was a 1989 version of The Woman in Black, where an Arthur Kidd was played by Adrian Rawlins, who played Dan’s father in the Harry Potter series. If ever I get my hands on the novel by Susan Hill, I’ll gobble it up to see if the plot and supporting characters are any stronger, and I’ll let you know what I think.

I’ll give The Woman in Black a solid three out of five stars.

And beware of cymbal-clanging monkeys!

PS: It’s not allowing me to post a pic, but you can see some movie stills here.