Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Childhood Memories July 5, 2011

Filed under: 1980s,Books,Memories — Emily @ 6:01 pm

My three year old son has recently become very interested in books – not the super short board books or picture books, but real storybooks. I love that I can sit and read to him, and he’ll actually sit still and listen, fully engrossed, until the story is over. And then, he will ask me to read it again, or to read another one. His new found love for stories made me nostalgic about my favorite books growing up. On a recent visit to my parents’ house, I rummaged around in the closets and dug out some treasures from my childhood. Since I couldn’t take them with me on the move to California (the suitcases were already going to be packed full), I took pictures of them instead. Here are a few of my favorite books, plus a few other things, from my early years:

Do you remember loving any of these books and toys? What were some of your favorites?

 

2010: Year in Review January 1, 2011

Filed under: Books,Fringe,Glee,Lost,Memories,Movies,Music,Television — Emily @ 5:24 pm

2010 was a year that marked the birth of my second son, which has made it decidedly more difficult for me to maintain this blog. Perhaps one of my new year’s resolutions will be to post more frequently. We shall see. Blame it on pregnancy ditziness, blame it on newborn phase sleep deprivation, but whatever the cause, much of 2010 is a blur, especially the entertainment world. I do remember saying goodbye to, and shedding some tears for, one of my all-time favorite shows. I also remember the wrong person winning American Idol, the soap opera I grew up on coming to an end, and Christopher Nolan continuing his movie-making magic. Here’s a bullet point list of the best of times, worst of times of 2010.

  • Good Reads
    • Stieg Larsson’s Girl trilogy – I read all three of these books in 2010 and found them completely riveting. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a satisfying blend of suspense and mystery revolving around the enigmatic Vanger family. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was a conspiracy-filled investigation to clear the name of the wrongfully accused, and The Girl Who Played with Fire was a satisfying ending to the trilogy with its expose of a secret organization and Lisbeth Salander finally finding some peace. I have watched the Swedish movie adaptations of the first two novels, and they were surprisingly good (meaning the transition from page to screen was pretty accurate). I hear there are American versions in the works, but since the trilogy is set in Sweden, and so much of the plot revolves around Swedish politics and culture, I don’t think they will be as good.
    • Eric Larson’s The Devil in the White City – I don’t usually read historical non-fiction, but I was fascinated by this book, which blends the story of an infamous serial killer with the city of Chicago’s efforts to prepare for and host the 1893 World’s Fair. Larson knew when to elaborate and when to summarize, to make this a quick and interesting read. Word on the street is that there is a movie in the works, with Leonardo DiCaprio set to play serial killer H.H. Holmes. Should be a good one!
  • Good Movies
    • Shutter Island – Speaking of Leonardo DiCaprio, he has completely redeemed himself for Titanic. Yeah, I guess I should have gotten over that about ten years ago, but I lost over three hours of my life to that movie!! It took me a long time to forgive him for shouting “I’m the king of the world” and such. This year, he only impressed me, starring in two of my favorite movies. One was Shutter Island, adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel. I knew it would be good when I saw that it starred DiCaprio, along with Mark Ruffalo (one of my favorite character actors) and Ben Kingsley. This one was terrific in the theater: the scenery, the music, the everything. The ending surprised (and disappointed) some people, but Martin Scorsese did a great job with every single detail, from beginning to end, and I was impressed.
    • Inception – The only person who outdid Scorsese this year was Christopher Nolan, who continues to amaze me with his ability to intrigue and entertain. Inception is the last movie I saw in the theater before my son was born, and I haven’t been back to the movies yet! What a terrific experience that movie was: the sights, the sounds, the story… the whole package. I look forward to giving it a second look soon.
  • Good Music
    • Mumford and Sons – Their Sigh No More is the only complete album I purchased in 2010, and I love it. From the mainstream hit “Little Lion Man,” to the solidarity of “Timshel,” to the poetry of “The Cave,” everything is worth listening to and enjoying.
    • Glee – Nothing is more fun to listen to than songs from Glee. They are fun to sing and dance along to, in the car, the kitchen, or anywhere else. The second season has been a little lackluster, but I’m still enjoying last season’s hits – most notably “Somebody to Love,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Borderline/Open Your Heart,” and “Alone.”
  • Good TV
    • Breaking Bad – After three seasons of it receiving awards and accolades, we finally jumped on the Breaking Bad bandwagon, zooming through the first two seasons on DVD. Now we are anxiously awaiting season three, and hope it will reair on AMC before the dvd release. Bryan Cranston is truly amazing in this role, one that is about as far removed from the dad on Malcolm in the Middle as you can be. I’ve had several people tell me they don’t want to watch the show because it sounds depressing (actually, I think I was one of those people before I watched it!), but the show balances out the heavy themes (cancer, drug addiction, deception, etc.) with lighter moments. We so enjoyed this show that we decided to try out AMC’s other original series. We quickly lost interest in Mad Men (well made, yes, but no likable characters!), but immediately took to the new zombie drama The Walking Dead (too bad there were only six episodes in season one…). I was also interested in Rubicon, but since it was canceled after one season, I’m not sure I’ll ever watch it.
    • Fringe – I continue to love this sci-fi investigative show. The story arcs are imaginative, the characters well drawn, and the details thorough. This season has been all about this universe vs. the alternate universe, and I appreciate all the little details that the writers throw in about alt-universe (JFK was’t assassinated, they no longer use writing pens, avocado are a rare fruit, etc.). This show even inspired the name that I eventually chose for my son (Peter).
    • Lost – I couldn’t do a year end post without mentioning what is probably my all-time favorite show. I throughly enjoyed the final season, although it took me awhile to come to terms with the way it ended. The show had a great run, though, so I don’t miss it now. Too much other tv to watch anyway.
  • Good Sports
    • The Saints won the Super Bowl! – After years of embarrassment, followed by some years of “almost, but not quite,” the Saints finally had their moment of glory as Super Bowl champs, by winning a handful of crazy games. It was oh so sweet to celebrate with them after all those depressing Sunday afternoons growing up in Louisiana, watching the ‘Aints.
    • Duke wins the NCAA championship! – What a rare thing, for two of my teams to win championships during the same year! I have been a Duke fan since 1991, the year they won their first championship. I’ve followed their ups and downs ever since then, and was pleasantly surprised when they were the only #1 seed left standing for the Final Four last season, and added another championship to their collection. Go Blue Devils!
  • Disappointments
    • Velva Jean Learns to Drive – This book was okay, but I was really unhappy with how it ended.
    • The Event – I guess I shouldn’t have expected much from NBC, since their action/suspense shows usually fail, but this show was just one, big convoluted and implausible mess. I tried to watch it, but gave up on about episode 5 or 6. I suppose it will last for awhile, but I won’t be tuning in to this failed hybrid of 24 and Lost.
    • So You Think You Can Dance: Season 7 – When I first heard that the show was mixing things up by pairing new contestants with all-stars, I was super excited. And as much as I loved seeing Pasha, Mark, Kathryn, etc., their presence made it nearly impossible to pick favorites among the newbies. We couldn’t enjoy power couples, and I was usually too busy watching one of the all-stars do their thing to notice how the actual contestants were doing. Throw the ridiculous number of injuries in, and the uneven number of guys and girls during the second half of the season, and it was an epic failure. There were still a few memorable performances, but none that I can think of right now.
    • Lee beating Crystal on American Idol – Every year I only half watch the spectacle that is American Idol, and last season, my one eye open quickly pegged Crystal the only one with the total package amonst the weak top ten. As much as I liked Lee (he was a nice guy, after all), he wasn’t nearly as talented or comfortable on stage as Crystal. Like all previous contestants, their post-Idol successes or failures will determine the real winner (a shout out here to the one and only Jennifer Hudson, who was voted off way too soon on her season of Idol).

So what were the best and worst moments in 2010 entertainment for you?

 

Into the Wild: A Closer Look December 14, 2009

Into the Wild is a movie based on a book based on a true story. Sean Penn directed and wrote the screenplay for the movie, and Jon Krakauer wrote the book based on Christopher McCandless’s experiences. While the movie is well executed (I assume the book is as well), McCandless’s life choices left me feeling disturbed and disappointed, and with a lot of questions to ponder.

A Well-Made Film

  • Cinematography – From the opening shots of McCandless trudging through the snowy terrain of the Alaskan wildnerness and his mother waking up from another nightmare about her missing son, it was clear that this would be a beautiful and emotional movie. The cinematography certainly highlighted the amazing wonders of the natural world, all right here in the United States of America. I was watching the blu ray version, and I enjoyed the breathtaking views of everything from snowy mountains to waving wheat fields to winding river canyons. This aspect of McCandless’s journey – the ultimate, no limits tour of America – was inspiring, but everything he sacrificed to pursue this adventure gave the story a darker tone.
  • Soundtrack – The music enhances the viewer’s experience of the landscapes and McCandless’s rollercoaster of emotions. At Sean Penn’s request, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder took on the soundtrack as a solo project, and the results are fantastic. The songs have a consistently “grunge folk” sound that works very well for this particular story. I may have to add this album to my collection of movie soundtracks.
  • Screenplay/Directing – Sean Penn weaves the tale of this recent college graduate by jumping around in the story, rather than going chronologically. We begin and end in Alaska, which throughout the movie is McCandless’s ultimate destination, and in between we see how his journey began, how his family dealt with his disappearance, and where he went before settling into his “magic” bus in the Alaskan wildnerness. Sean Penn is no stranger to tragic stories – two of the most difficult to watch movies I’ve ever seen were Mystic River and 21 Grams – and he brought a similar tone to this movie. Even though the mood shifts among inspiring, suspenseful, humorous, and dramatic, there is always an underlying tone of loneliness and loss. So, no, this isn’t necessarily an inspiring, feel-good movie, but it is certainly well worth watching.

Before she was Bella, Kristen Stewart played along side Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild.

  • The Acting – The movie features an all-star cast, and all of them did a great job portraying their characters. Emile Hirsch played the idealistic, adventureous Chris McCandless, and he also provided narration, along with Jena Malone, who played his sister. Their parents were played by Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt. Harden was disturbing with her artificial cheerfulness, and Hurt was her abusive husband, who was usually quiet but had a simmering anger and bitterness just beneath the surface. McCandless meets many people on his trek across America, some quirky, some lonely, but all well-meaning. Catherine Keener is great as McCallum’s surrogate mother, Kristen Stewart (before she achieved international fame as Edward’s beloved Bella) plays a teenager who falls in love with him, Vince Vaughn is impressively understated (as opposed to his typical comedic role) as a man who hires McCandless to work on his farm, and Hal Holbrook is memorable as a reclusive old man who develops an unlikely friendship with him. These actors bring the characters to life so well that it was heartbreaking to see McCandless eventually leave all of them behind on his stubborn quest to achieve fulfillment in solitude.

Trudging alone through snowy terrain in the Alaskan wilderness

Christopher McCandless

So now we come to the boy himself, Christopher McCandless – or, as he liked to call himself, Alexander Supertramp. Chris wasn’t the first person to find solace in the wild. Timothy Treadwell, the ill-fated subject of the documentary Grizzly Man also comes to mind, but I am sure there are countless others. What makes McCandless’s story so memorable? For starters, it is the way he started his journey. He wasn’t just taking a summer road trip, one last hurrah before finding a job with the college degree he had just earned. Instead, he was in it for the long haul. He wanted to make a complete break from society, so he gave away his life savings ($24,000!!) to charity, cut up his credit cards and drivers license, abandoned his car, and changed his name. By doing all these things, he made himself virtually invisible. Christopher McCandless no longer existed, and so it would be impossible for his family to find him unless he wanted to be found. In my opinion, McCandless’s decision to erase his identity and go off the map was a selfish and irresponsible one. In trying to understand what he did, I’ve divided his actions into four categories below:

  • Rejecting Family – Shortly after graduating from college, Chris followed through with his plans to leave life as he had known it behind. According to the movie, his main reason for doing this was that he wanted to distance himself from his parents, who had been a negative presence in his life, from their dishonesty with him, to his father’s domestic abuse, to their desire to control his future. Perhaps he wanted nothing to do with the traditional path of an upstanding American citizen, since career and marriage had brought his family so much pain.
    • During the years of his unhappy home life, Chris took comfort in the words of writers like Emerson, Thoreau, and London, and their portraits of nature and solitude seemed like his perfect escape from his family. Maybe he had a right to disappear and do his own thing – after all, he was over 18. But just because it was his right doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do, at least not the way he did it. Why couldn’t he pick up a phone and call his sister? Write them a letter? Send them a postcard? He left with no warning, and thus he, his sister, and his parents were never able to resolve their issues.
    • I’ve heard of people disowning their families and never speaking to them again, which is really sad. But in most cases, these people have other friends who become their family. Everyone needs at least one person to share life’s ups and downs with. Chris had the chance to be “adopted” into new families several times along his journey – the hippie couple, the farmer, the old war veteran… But each time they tried to get close to him, he rejected them in the name of his quest for individual freedom. Just think how his life may have played differently if he had fostered any one of these relationships. Perhaps someone would have joined him on his Alaskan adventure, or at least checked in with him from time to time. Instead, he found himself truly alone, at the time when he most needed someone’s help.
  • Rejecting Society – This is the part of Chris’s plan that I can understand the most. Sometimes it’s nice to feel invisible. He achieved that by changing his name to Alexander Supertramp, giving away all his money, and cutting up his identification. He was basically saying that he had no interest in the American dream of pursuing a successful career, making a lot of money, driving a nice car, getting married, having children, sending his children to college, etc. He had only seen the hardships that come with those choices, and so he rejected them. Even though I can understand him wanting to choose another path, his methods were still selfish. Wasn’t that his parents’ money, set aside for his education? And hadn’t they already paid his way through school? Since he bothered to graduate, he should have either tried out a job, or if nothing else given his parents an explanation for why he didn’t want to. Up until the point he became trapped in the wilderness of Alaska, his journey across America did seem exciting and fulfilling. He had no responsibility except to himself, no schedule to keep, and no limits to what he could do or see. Most people have to save up money and take time off of work to even take a small road trip, but he was able to meet new people, take on river rapids, hike mountains, swim in the ocean, etc.
  • Embracing a Life of Solitude – If Chris had been content to “establish” himself as a nomad, traveling from one place to another, one adventure to another, with some of his new friends, then I would have felt like he had a good thing going on, at least for awhile. He could have traveled with Rainey and Jan, or helped an old man live the last years of his life to the fullest by taking on Ron as his travel buddy. Instead, he left them all behind to live life alone. I can understand wanting to get away from the world for awhile, but he seemed to be in it for the long haul. He spent over 100 days completely alone, with no one to talk to, no physical contact. These are things that keep us healthy and sane! I got stir crazy just watching him go through his days of solitude. I don’t believe that anyone could find true happiness or fulfillment just by experiencing nature and not being attached to society. My guess is he eventually realized that his ideal was just that, an unreachable goal.
  • Experiencing Nature – I love nature. I always notice the full moon or a beautiful sunset, I’ve stood in awe beneath the huge, majestic trees of Muir Woods, and I would love to visit some of the places featured in the documentary Planet Earth. However, I don’t understand why he wanted to experience all these things alone. Chris came to this realization in the movie as he sat alone in his magic bus in Alaska. He had been marveling at the beauty of the mountains and the animals, but he didn’t have anyone to share his joy with. He wrote this simple, sad statement in his journal: “Happiness isn’t real unless it’s shared.” That statement was at odds with what he had believed throughout his journey – that relationships don’t bring satisfaction the way that true freedom does. It seems that Chris forgot to respect the darker side of nature. It’s not all big sky, clear water, and surmountable mountainsides. There’s a reason that humans have built homes, grocery stores, hospitals, and other comforts. You don’t always know what you’re going to get from nature, but you can always count on a warm place to sleep if you have a house, a hot meal to eat if you have a few dollars, and some medical attention when you need it if a doctor is in the area. In the end, Chris needed warmth, food, and medical assistance, but because he had cut himself off from society, he instead faced a grim outlook.

The saddest part of Chris’s story to me is how he was missing some vital information that may have saved him from his fate (I read about this part of his story elsewhere, since it wasn’t included in the movie). After about 90 days in the Alaskan wilderness, he prepared to return to civilization, but when he arrived at a river crossing, he discovered that the river was much wider and stronger than it had been in the spring. Rather than attempt to cross, or to walk along the bank and look for another way over, he simply returned to his bus. If he had had a decent map with him, or if he had walked 1/4 mile up the river, he would have discovered a hand-operated tram that would have easily transported him across the river.

I think that if he had really wanted to return to society and deal with some of the relationships he had formed and broken, he would have found a way across. Since he quickly gave up and turned around, I wonder if he was willing to accept the consequences of what could happen if he stayed in the wilderness alone. Maybe for him, it was all worth it, but to me, it looks like a life wasted. Christopher McCandless’s story is a grim reminder about the importance of maintaining relationships and respecting the power of nature.

 

Twilight: The Dance Musical? October 30, 2009

No, Twilight is not being made into a Broadway extravaganza – at least not yet. But, if you will humor me for a few minutes, I’d like to propose the all-star So You Think You Can Dance lineup that would fill out the cast of a dance-infused musical version of the Twilight series. The reason I started thinking about this topic is that, as I mentioned in a previous post, season six contestant Nathan Trasoras rivals Edward Cullen’s striking good looks (translation: he’s a pretty boy). However, Nathan is actually a better fit for the role of Jacob. Let’s take a closer look at which Dance contestants would bring the Twilight characters to twirling, leaping, poppin’ and lockin’ life:

Danny, beautiful person and dancer that he is, would play the important role of Edward Cullen.

  • Edward Cullen – Danny Tidwell (season three runner-up) – As one might expect, Edward was the most difficult character for me to cast, since strangely enough, there haven’t been very many staggeringly beautiful guys on SYTYCD. In fact, I ended up going against type and casting non-white dancer Danny. He may not be pale, but he certainly qualifies as beautiful! His quiet, mysterious demeanor and rare smile make him a natural to play introspective, withdrawn Edward. Edward’s habit of running at top speed through the woods and glittering in the sun will translate well into Danny pirouetting around the stage and shining in the spotlight. Glitter away, Danny, glitter away!

Jeanine would be my pick for a dancing Bella.

  • Bella Swan – Jeanine Mason (season five winner) – The first time I saw Jeanine, I saw a resemblance to Kristen Stewart, so it seems perfectly fitting that the season five champion would portray dark-haired, fair-skinned Bella in the Twilight Dance Spectacular. She and Danny would make a fine pair as epic couple Bella and Edward.

Nathan Trasoras would make a terrific Jacob Black.

  • Jacob Black – Nathan Trasoras (season six) Nathan has the darker complexion, intense stare, and youthful charm to portray Jacob Black. He would just need to bulk up some to play werewolf Jacob. I can just see the special costume now, with the wolf represented by a furry jumpsuit and elaborate head dress. Of course, when dancing as Jacob all he would wear is a pair of khaki shorts, since he would want to stay true to the book, in which Jacob wore as little clothing as possible since changing into his wolf form always resulted in the destruction of his clothes and shoes.

Small-statured Sabra would make a great Alice Cullen.

  • Alice Cullen – Sabra Johnson (season three winner) In the books, Alice is described as “pixie like, with short spiky black hair.” Sabra is definitely petite and adorable, and has a positive, contagiously upbeat personality. Since she and Danny worked together during season three, they would have good chemistry as close foster siblings Alice and Edward.
Anya and Pasha

Our favorite ballroom partners, Pasha and Anya, would be perfect in the roles of Carlisle and Esme.

  • Carlisle Cullen – Pasha Kovalev (season three) – I was quite displeased with Carlisle’s clownish appearance in the Twilight movie, so I am thrilled to have this hypothetical chance to redeem that casting (or at least makeup department) error. Pasha is perhaps my favorite SYTYCD contestant ever, and so I had to find a place for him somewhere! Since he is now teaching other contestants choreography, thus in a sense acting as a mentor, what better role for him than that of foster father Carlilse? He brings a kind spirit and maturity to the role.
  • Esme Cullen – Anya Garnis (season three) – Esme is described in the book as having “caramel-colored hair; she also has a heart-shaped face with dimples, and her figure is slender, but rounded and soft.” I think Anya resembles that description enough, plus what better person to play Carlilse’s wife than Pasha’s ballroom dance partner? We know they already have great chemistry, so they are the perfect couple for this role.

Kayla would be convincing as undead beauty Rosalie.

  • Rosalie Hale – Kayla Radomski (season five) – This was another difficult spot to fill, since Rosalie is described as “being the most beautiful person in the world; she is tall, statuesque, and has long, wavy blonde hair.” I decided Kayla was best for the role – she is beautiful, and a bit haughty (just as Rosalie often comes across), and she also has the pale skin that makes it easy to believe her as a vampire.

I'd split up this ballroom couple, making Ryan good-guy Emmett, and Ashleigh vampire villainess Victoria.

  • Emmett Cullen – Ryan Di Lello (season six) – Emmett is described as “being tall, burly, extremely muscular, and, to most humans, the most intimidating of his adoptive siblings. He has slightly curly dark hair and dimpled cheeks.” I couldn’t think of a more fitting contestant for this role than the strongest man to ever join the SYTYCD competition, Ryan. He actually seems more like a lumberjack than a dancer, and so he would bring the necessary strength and stage presence to the role of Emmett.

Travis would win people over as Jasper.

  • Jasper Hale – Travis Wall (season two) – Jasper is described as “tall with honey blond hair, and is muscular but lean” and has the ability to manipulate others’ emotions. Travis sort of fits the physical description, and as a choreographer, he certainly seems to have put the judges and viewers under his spell. His contemporary piece that Jeanine and Jason performed last season even inspired them to kiss at the end! He was a participant in one of the most famous dances in SYTYCD history: Mia Michaels’ bench piece, which was very sweet and heartfelt. Based on his experience on the show, and now as an impressive, emotionally affecting choreographer, he would create a new group of Twilight fans: Team Jasper.

If Mollee danced as Renesmee, she'd have to dye her hair black, but otherwise she'd be set.

  • Renesmee Cullen – Mollee Gray (season six) – Okay, so Mollee doesn’t have “brown curly hair,” like the Renesmee in the book. However, you can’t get much closer to childlike than Mollee when picking from SYTYCD contestants. The judges have repeatedly called Mollee out for dancing like a child. It would definitely be interesting to see her dancing on stage with Jeanine and Danny playing her parents. Strange, indeed.

Kupono dances "evil" very well, and so he would be very suitable for the role of James.

  • James – Kupono Aweau (season five) – James, the merciless tracker who stalked and nearly killed Bella in Twilight, was too campy for my taste in the movie. Kupono can be overdramatic and theatrical, but I think he has the intensity and dedication to make this a memorable role. I immediately thought of him for this part when I remembered his deeply affecting contemporary performance with Kayla from last season, in which he personified addiction, and in the process ruthlessly held her down, preventing her from escaping his grip. That was the most powerful performance of the entire season, and so I know he can be a great villain.
  • Victoria – Ashleigh Di Lello (season six) – Victoria is the “red-haired, cat like” vampire who plots to kill Bella in revenge for Edward killing her lover, James. Ashleigh may not have red hair, but that can easily be solved with a little hair color. She already has the sultry disposition, and quite a bit of attitude (in her performances). The wardrobe department could have fun with her elaborate clothing.

Russell is my pick for vampire Laurent

  • Laurent – Russell Ferguson (season six) – The only good-intentioned member of James’ coven, Laurent is friendly with the Cullens but still has the occasional lapse into drinking human blood.  Russell would bring a serious tone and quiet power to Laurent’s character.

Picture this: Adam in a police uniform, Mary as a minor league baseball player's wife, and Nigel as a tribal elder? Say what?

  • Charlie Swan – Adam Shankman – Ok, I realize that I’m reaching with this one. I’m envisioning the role of Charlie as one of comic relief, and what would be funnier than Adam Shankman dressed in law enforcement duds, playing a clueless, “trying to be cool” dad?
  • Renee Dwyer – Mary Murphy – Again, there was a shortage of bubbly, talkative, middle-aged women to choose from, and so Mary would end up playing Charlie’s ex wife, Bella’s mom.
  • Billy Black – Nigel Lythgoe – In the biggest stretch of all, I chose Nigel to portray Jacob’s Quileute father. It’s almost as bad as John Travolta playing an overweight woman in Hairspray, but if it worked in that movie, then surely Nigel can dye his hair black, wear a fat suit, and mask his British accent.

Say hello to a dancing Mike Newton

  • Mike Newton – Neil Haskell (season three) – As those of you who read my blog during season three already know, I was never a Neil fan, so I am relegating him to this rather thankless role of the “cute, baby-faced boy with carefully spiked pale blond hair.” He can pine away for Jeanine while Danny and Nathan fight over her.

Perhaps Katee and Courtney could recycle these season three costumes while playing Twilight's Angela and Jessica.

  • Jessica Stanley – Courtney Galiano (season four) – I have nothing against Courtney, but her exuberant personality and appearance make her a good fit for the role of a “chatterbox with curly dark hair.”
  • Angela Weber – Katee Shean (season four) – Katee was likely one of the nicest contestants to ever be on the show, or at least she seemed that way, so she is a good fit to play the “tall, shy, quiet, and very kind girl” that Angela is.

So there you have it. I didn’t do a comprehensive list of characters, so feel free to make suggestions about other SYTYCD contestants who would make a good member of the Volturi, one of Jacob’s Quileute friends, etc. Also feel free to challenge my casting decisions. There are so many factors at play, that there is surely more than one dancer who would work well for most of these characters.

As for what the Twilight dance extravaganza would look like, I’m sure there would be a lot of costume changes, elaborate lighting, and variety of dance styles. The early scenes when Edward and Bella are falling for each other would have to rely on contemporary, and the showdown between James and Bella might work well as a paso doble, whereas the baseball scene might translate into a goofy broadway bit. It’s fun to imagine Twilight as a musical, and I am sure that will become a reality one day. Until then, I will have fun imagining my favorite SYTYCD contestants turning this epic vampire tale into a dance sensation…

 

Announcing Eclaire Fare’s New Weekly Lineup June 19, 2009

Filed under: 1980s,1990s,Books,Memories,Movies,Music,Television,Tivo — Emily @ 11:56 am
Tags: , , ,

Greetings, longtime readers of Eclaire Fare, and newcomers who are just stopping by. Take a look at my posts over the past few months, and you’ll see that I tend to have a one-track mind. For awhile, all I wrote about was Lost, and now it’s So You Think You Can Dance. To cure myself of this television tunnel vision, I am putting myself on a new blogging regimen. Read on to find out what to expect, and then check back in frequently to see how my new lineup is shaping up!

  • Music Mondays – In the two years I’ve been blogging, I haven’t written much about music. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say about artists, albums, and songs. So in an effort to branch out into this area of pop culture, I will be devoting Mondays to music-related topics. Some times I will recommend a favorite artist, others I will review an album, and others I will compile top ten lists.

  • Two-For-One Television Thursdays – Anyone who has been reading Eclaire Fare lately knows that it has been almost exclusively devoted to So You Think You Can Dance. So at least for the summer and fall, while SYTYCD is airing, you can look for two posts on Thursday – my take on the performance show (which I’ll sometimes post on Wednesday night), and my reaction to the results show.

  • Retro Weekends – I love to reminisce about days gone by, specifically the days of the ’80s and ’90s. I was raised on Saturday morning cartoons like Ghostbusters, and sitcoms like The Cosby Show and Growing Pains. I also had a respectable collection of Barbies, and a couple of Cabbage Patch Kids. In the ’90s I was watching MTV when it still showed videos, and listening to Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots (while wearing my colored jeans and multi-colored shirts, of course). Every weekend, I’ll be rummaging through my memory bank to find some of my favorite ’80s and ’90s topics to talk about.

Occasional Topics:

  • Eclaire’s Book Fare – From time to time, I’ll review books that I’ve read, or highlight some of my favorite authors.
  • Movie Reviews – I don’t watch as many movies as tv shows, but when I come across one that’s really good (or really bad), I’ll be sure to let you know about it. Last summer I got in the habit of watching two very different movies in one weekend (for example, Only You and Cloverfield, Chances Are and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, etc.). You may see more of these “Double Feature” posts this summer, while the tv landscape is looking barren.
  • Now Playing on My Tivo – I do watch other stuff on tv besides SYTYCD and Lost, so occasionally I’ll let you know what else I’m tuning in to.
  • Miscellaneous – Once in a blue moon, I’ll have something to say about food, travel, poetry, or other random topics that don’t fit any of the above categories.

I apologize that my posting has been so sporadic. I know how frustrating that can be, as I am a blog lurker myself. Hopefully, you will find much to enjoy in my new line-up. If you have a suggestion for a top ten list, a movie or book I should check out and review, or any other topic you’d like to see covered on Eclaire Fare, please let me know!

 

Breaking Dawn: A Tidy Little Package to End the Twilight Series December 15, 2008

Yes, I finally finished reading the Twilight series. I am the only person on the planet who it took longer than two weeks to read the four books in this vampire/teenager saga. It took me nearly five months! That says less about the entertainment value of the books, and more about my lack of time to read. Overall, I was satisfied by this final installment. I’ll try to collect my thoughts in an organized fashion, which may be hard to do since I have to think back over the 6 weeks that it took me to read Breaking Dawn. And read on at your own risk: discussion of spoilerish plot points ahead!

Summary:

Part One of the story begins as Bella and Edward are preparing for their wedding, and Jacob is running endlessly through the woods of Canada in his wolf form – his coping technique for losing Bella to Edward for good. There is a good amount of hoopla surrounding the wedding, and Jacob even makes an appearance to make peace with the new Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. Then things get a little odd, as Bella and Edward go on their honeymoon to a remote island beach house, where they destroy a feather bed and a few other items in the process of making their union complete. In the tradition of books about sexually active teens, it isn’t long before Bella is ravenously hungry, tired, and a little nauseous, the result of being impregnated by a vampire. Bella is more excited about bringing this child into the world than Edward, and Part One of Breaking Dawn ends with her secretly calling Rosalie for help when she realizes Edward intends to take her home and have Carlisle “get rid of” the baby.

Part Two is narrated by Jacob. It takes us through the splitting of the wolf pack, Jacob’s new status as Alpha, Bella’s difficult pregnancy, and Renesmee’s gory birth.

Part Three is once again narrated by Bella and begins with a detailed account of her transformation into a vampire, followed by her process of adjusting to her newfound abilities and heightened senses. The whole family also gets to know and love Renesmee more. Things take a downturn when Alice has a troubling vision of the Volturi coming to Forks with the intent to destroy the Cullen clan. Suddenly Alice and Jasper leave town, and the others are left there to build an army of witnesses, in hopes that they can convince the Volturi of their innocence. The remainder of the book plays out like a League of Supervamps, as the Cullens and their friends and acquaintances prepare for the impending battle. In the end, everything works out in their favor and they live happily ever after.

As a series targeted at young adults/teens, I’m not too surprised that it ended so nice and neat. I would much rather there have been some serious consequences for the gang to deal with after all the buildup to their confrontation with the Volturi. Instead, we got a “Um, we changed our mind. See ya” from the creepy, cloaked ancient ones, and a group hug and sigh of relief from Bella and her “always on the verge of, but never really in danger” family of werewolves, vampires, and half breeds.

My Analysis

  • The Structure – I always enjoy a book that is split into parts, since it lends a greater air of closure and significance to events along the way. In this case, Bella’s pregnancy, and then Renesmee’s birth, were the pivotal plot points at the end of Book 1 and Book 2. In each case, we didn’t know where in the world things were headed. I must say, I enjoyed Jacob as narrator, especially because it gave me a break from Bella’s constant worrying about her life and future as a vampire, and incessant gushing about Edward’s beautiful face and perfect body. It was nice to have a different perspective on things. In looking at my summary of the book, it seems like not much happened in Book Two. I suppose its purpose was to create tension leading up to Bella’s transformation and the birth of the half human/half vampire child. It succeeded on both of those purposes, and it also showed the evolving relationship between the Cullens and the Pack. I enjoyed seeing Jacob and Edward’s relationship go from hostile to friendly to familial over the course of the book.
  • The Big Ticket – Bella becoming a vampire was the moment we had all been waiting for and wondering about since the first time she and Edward discussed it in Twilight. I think Stephenie Meyer did an admirable job of conveying the excruciating pain of the transformation, as Bella slipped in and out of consciousness and had to use mental control to deal with the unbearable sensations. Meyer did stretch a bit, though, when it came to the metaphors and analogies for the pain (there are only so many ways to say “the fire blazed hotter”). But I must say, I was fascinated by Bella’s recounting of the experience.
  • Bella as a Vampire – The book was a bit of a letdown in this department. Where was the period of adjustment? The uncontrollable blood lust? The time in solitary confinement so she wouldn’t kill Charlie or someone else she cared about? I guess Meyer decided that the book would be too long if she had to deal with all those pesky little things. So instead, we had Bella becoming a skilled hunter after one training session with Edward, and with only one little slip up when she smelled a human in the forest. Otherwise, she had a breezy adjustment to her eternal life as a vampire. In fact, other than her vampire abilities, her living conditions weren’t too different from when she was human. Her acquired vampire traits included heightened senses, a greater love and passion for Edward, a beautiful child, the ability to protect herself and others from harm, and super self control. Quite a convenient set of characteristics for a newborn, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. It’s a good thing that vampires aren’t real, though, because this book would have teenage girls lining up to get bitten so they, too, could have a perfect, blissful ever after of endless lovemaking and general merriment.
  • Jacob’s Happy Ending – I grew to like Jacob more and more as the series advanced, so I was happy that he wasn’t left wandering the forest, dejected by Bella. Instead, he imprinted on Renesmee, the child of his former supposed true love. That gets a little icky, but since the child ages so quickly and will stop aging when she reaches Jacob’s age, I suppose it’s all good. I missed the hints about Jacob imprinting on Nessie. I didn’t figure it out until way after I would have expected myself to. I was too hung up on the (incorrect) idea that Nessie had evil mind control powers like Jasmine on the tv show Angel. Thankfully I was wrong, since it would have been unsettling to see a child manipulate her family and set out on a path of destruction. I would have been happy with an ending that had Jacob and Renesmee being some of the only survivors of the confrontation with the Volturi. They could have left Forks and had a happy life in a new place. Strangely enough, I think Jacob would have been one of the most difficult characters to see die in the book. I’m glad he survived. He was a likable guy – surprising, after his annoying presence in Twilight and the first half of New Moon.
  • The Return of Alice and Jasper – I figured Alice and Jasper had left for some reason other than to save themselves, especially when we found out they had gone to South America, where Bella had planned to go to do research about Renesmee. So, it was a satisfying moment when they made their triumphant appearance in the field, with proof that Nessie wasn’t a threat to the vampire way of life. How interesting, that there were others like her. Alice and Jasper were two of the most interesting Cullens, along with Carlilse and Edward, of course, so it was nice to welcome them back.
  • The Anti-climatic Climax – I found the build up to the show down with the Volturi pretty riveting, but then there was a lot of talking, and the Volturi basically said “never mind” and headed back to Italy. When the book just ended all nice and neat, I just closed it and went, “huh.” There would have been a stronger, more lasting impression if there had been some madness and mayhem. There is more power in a story in which people have to lose something to gain something else. What if one of the Cullens, perhaps Carlilse, had sacrificed himself, to protect the rest of the family and their way of life. It would have been really sad, but the others’ survival would have meant more then. Some scenarios would have been taking it too far. For example, having Nessie die would have been too tragic. There would have been nothing for Bella, Edward, and Jacob to look forward to, and it would have meant total defeat at the hands of the Volturi. What if a battle had ensued, and the Cullens had won? That would still have been a happy ending, with vampires worldwide looking forward to a new existence free from the tyranny of this ancient group, but there would have been losses along the way. This would also have given Bella a true chance to shine as a warrior, truly showing her transformation from the clumsy, unconfident girl in Twilight, to the beautiful, coordinated, powerful woman in Breaking Dawn. She was still able to prove her worth as a defensive hero, using her shield to prevent the Volturi from gaining a pre-battle upper hand, but it lacked the punch that a full-fledged battle situation would have provided.
  • Overall Assessment – So, yes, I had a few complaints about Breaking Dawn. Overall, though, I would say that I liked the book. It felt more “grown up” than the other three, so I found less juvenile stuff to be annoyed by. Instead of dealing with themes like high school crushes, gossip, college and career choices, etc., Breaking Dawn delved into issues like a mother’s love for her child, a family’s unwavering loyalty to each other, standing up for what is right, etc. As for the issue of the uber-happy ending, what more should we have expected from a series for young adults? Can you imagine the universal uproar if one of the beloved Cullens had been killed, or the last page had left things on a somber note? No wonder Meyer chose the easy path, the nicely packaged “happily ever after” ending for Edward, Bella, and everyone else. Well, except for poor, unintentionally traitorous Irina, who was obliterated by the Volturi.
  • Ranking the Books – Thinking back on the entire series, here are the books in order from my favorite to least favorite: Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, Twilight, New Moon. So I guess the series ended on a high note for me. My main complaint about New Moon was that nothing happened. It, too, had an anticlimactic ending, with Bella’s trip to rescue Edward from the Volturi ending with another “nevermind” from that supposedly to be feared group. The difference in that book, though, was that nothing else really happened in the hundreds of pages before that, whereas in Breaking Dawn, there was plenty of action, excitement, intrigue, and suspense. Thanks for this interesting journey, Stephenie Meyer!

Related Posts:

 

Reading Michael Crichton: A Look Back November 8, 2008

Filed under: 1980s,1990s,Books,Memories,Travel — Emily @ 12:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

I was saddened by the news that Michael Crichton died this week, after “a courageous and private battle with cancer.” Those of us who enjoyed his writing will miss his contributions to the genres of techno thriller and science fiction. It seems appropriate to celebrate his life as an author by looking back at some of my favorite experiences of reading his work.

But first, some general observations:

  • His books have always been much better than the movies based on them. The all time worst film adaptation was Timeline.
  • My favorite aspect of his writing is the way he incorporates sometimes complex technology into adventurous and thrilling plots, in a way that makes sense and is interesting to the average reader.
  • My least favorite characteristic of his writing is that there seems to often be a know-it-all main character who must interject his grand knowledge of various subjects into the conversation, which becomes very annoying and distracting after awhile. (The worst offender of this technique was Rising Sun.) But usually I was able to tolerate this since the stories were always so fascinating.

The Books

  • Congo and Sphere – These were the first two Crichton novels that I read, and I don’t so much remember the particulars of them as I do my circumstances while I was reading them. My introduction to the world of Michael Crichton took place while I was spending a summer in Rome, as part of a semester overseas program offered by my university. I remember hearing mopeds from the street and the clinking of dishes from the hotel kitchen through the open window of my room as I read about the underwater adventures of scientists exploring a spacecraft, and about the jungle expedition of some Americans trying to locate diamonds while surviving in the midst a group of killer gorillas. Reading these books was escapism in the middle of my European escapades.
  • Timeline – This is my favorite Crichton novel. It is a satisfying blend of adventure, science fiction, medieval history, and archaeology. I literally couldn’t put the book down. I loved main character Andre Marek, and I found the idea of modern day people learning to survive in a medieval world very fascinating.
  • The Great Train Robbery – I believe this is the only audio book that I have ever listened to from start to finish. My husband and I decided we needed more than our familiar music collection for entertainment when we drove from Birmingham, AL to the Poconos in 2003 (I think it was a 14 hour trip), so we checked out The Great Train Robbery on CD from our local public library. We had a great time listening to this fascinating historical novel, which relates the true story of a group of thieves in Victorian London who, led by mastermind Edward Pierce, create and execute an elaborate plan to rob a huge amount of gold from a moving train. Crichton did a fantastic job of recreating the cultural and social atmosphere of Victorian England, gave plenty of historical context, and turned a true crime into a thrilling caper. I will always remember how we were transported into the world of the novel while we were driving through the cities of eastern Tennessee, the rolling hills of West Virginia, the drizzly rain of Virginia, etc.
  • Travels – Lesser known than most of his novels, this was Crichton’s travel memoir, and I count it among my favorite of his works. I should really read more travel memoirs, because I always enjoy the armchair tourist aspect of the experience. There was a bit of that element that made me enjoy Travels, but this book is about more than just Crichton’s physical travels – it’s also about his inner “travels,” as he ponders everything from medical school to spoon bending. The main reason I enjoyed it is because it gives insight into his inspiration for many of his novels. He traveled to some amazing places and had some unique experiences, from hiking through jungles to climbing mountains to exploring Mayan pyramids.
  • State of Fear – Published in 2004, this was the last Crichton novel that I read, and I enjoyed it. Its predecessor, Prey, was hard to get into, and was shorter than most of his novels, but State of Fear combined issues of global warming and eco-terrorism into an entertaining and interesting story. Some readers resented his blatant challenges to the assumed threat of global warming, but I thought he presented relevant data to support his claims (albeit while mostly ignoring valid evidence that others use to support the validity of global warming’s dangers). But I wasn’t too concerned with the facts. I read his novels for entertainment, not to confirm or develop my positions on social and political issues, and I thought this novel did its job of entertaining.
  • Other Crichton Books I’ve Read: A Case of Need, The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Binary, Five Patients, Airframe (didn’t finish), Rising Sun, Prey
  • Crichton Books I Haven’t Read But May Eventually: Jurassic Park (the movie kind of ruined it for me, but I’m sure the book would be much better), The Lost World, Airframe (maybe I will finally finish it), Next, and his untitled final novel that will be published next year.

Michael Crichton was certainly a prolific writer, from the novels he wrote to pay his way through medical school, to the more well-known stories that made their way to the movie theater over the past decade. He will be missed in the world of books, but with his large collection of works he has left behind an impressive legacy.

What are your favorite Michael Crichton books? Which ones on my list of unread should I make sure to read?