10 Things I Love About This Character: Ellie Linton, The Tomorrow Series


Last year I wrote an article about the “strong female character” which was very well received. (It was even featured by WordPress in their “Freshly Pressed” section.) Since then, I’ve been thinking about doing a series devoted to individual characters that I consider “strong.”

This series will not be limited to female characters–I will include male characters–and may even decide to write about a few that aren’t human.

As I said, I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, but really got excited about starting it a few weeks ago. Because I encountered a character that I believe is perfect to kick off this series.

I had heard many good things about Australian writer John Marsden’s young adult Tomorrow series. The first book, Tomorrow, When the War Began, first came out over 20 years ago, in 1993. There are seven books in the series, and a sequel series called “The Ellie Chronicles.” I finally downloaded the first book from Audible and was immediately blown away by the characters and the story.

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5 Things That Bug Me About Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Fiction


Dealing with some family issues so I have no time to write something new this week. I am reaching into the archives and reblogging this post. Hope you enjoy and that I’m able to post something brand new next week!

Originally posted on MOON IN GEMINI:

First, let’s define post-apocalyptic and dystopian:

Post-apocalyptic refers to a work of fiction that deals with a global disaster so profound there are few survivors. It may include a period of time leading up to the disaster, or it can take place years afterwards, but mostly it’s about the immediate after-effects of a disaster–war, environmental disaster, plague. The disaster can have a fantastical element, like zombies or vampires, or a sci-fi one, like an alien invasion.

Dystopian usually takes place far into the future. It may be post-apocalyptic or not. Society has in some way changed profoundly, most noticeably the system of government.

There is some disagreement over the definition of dystopian. Some believe it should only be defined as societies where people believe they are living in an ideal society, when in truth it has some oppressive or horrific element to it.

I think it’s O.K. to…

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The Conformist: Cinema’s Perfect Portrait of the Banality of Evil


This my contribution to The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy, Silver Screenings, and Shadows & Satin — see all the posts for this blogathon at any of these three blogs.

The first time I saw The Conformist, in a film history class, I was bowled over by its sumptuous cinematic style, but also utterly terrified by its protagonist.

There’s a popular saying among writers that villains are the heroes of their own stories. Marcello Clerici, the protagonist of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 film The Conformist, is no hero, even from a villain’s perspective. He’s a different class of villain: one who might never have become one in a different place and time.

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The Pre-Code Blogathon: Imitation of Life (1934)


This is my contribution to the Pre-Code Blogathon, hosted by Danny of Pre-Code.com and Karen of Shadows and Satin.

About twenty years ago, one of my co-workers offered to give me a videotape of the original version of Imitation of Life.

“You really should see it. It’s MUCH better than the Douglas Sirk version,” he said.

I almost passed out from shock. HOW COULD THAT BE? You see, I was a film studies major during the late 1970s/early 1980s, which was the height of the New German Cinema. Filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder was my god and Sirk was one of his biggest inspirations.

Besides, I had loved the 1959 version, starring Lana Turner and Juanita Moore, since I was a kid watching my “4:30 movies” with my mom. (I explained what I mean by “4:30 movie” in my recent post about Peyton Place.)

So I initially approached the 1934 version, starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers and directed by John M. Stahl, with a bit of skepticism.

Both films are based on the Fannie Hurst novel and feature the same basic story: a white woman raising a small daughter after being widowed hires as a maid an African-American woman who also has a young daughter. The daughter of the maid is very light skinned and from an early age tries to pass for white. As the years pass, the women’s financial circumstances change greatly. Tragedy strikes when the maid’s daughter rejects her mother for good and the other daughter falls in love with her mother’s beau.

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Fawlty Towers: Gourmet Night


This post is my contribution to the My Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon, hosted by Terry of A Shroud of Thoughts. Read the rest of the contributions HERE!

When I was in junior high school, Monty Python’s Flying Circus was very, very big with my classmates. I watched a few episodes but didn’t care for it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea–at least, at the time. (I love it now.)

So I wasn’t that interested in seeing Fawlty Towers, starring and co-written by Monty Python alum John Cleese, when it was first broadcast on my local public television station.

The only reason I checked it out at all is because the first Masterpiece Theater showing of Poldark, starring Robin Ellis, had just finished. After the credits rolled, an announcer bade the audience to stick around to see Ellis guest star in the first episode of Fawlty Towers.

I wasn’t ready to let go of Poldark quite yet (yes, I had a crush on Robin Ellis) so I watched the pilot episode of Fawlty Towers, A Touch of Class.

Need I say more? Of course, I was immediately hooked.

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Movie Review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent



I enjoyed the first movie in this series, Divergent. Based on the first novel in Veronica Roth’s dystopian YA series, it boasted good casting, energetic direction by Neil Burger, creative envisioning of Chicago after an apocalypse, and a tight screenplay. All these elements helped make it a decent, entertaining effort.

The second book in the series, Insurgent, is not as strong a novel as Divergent. In fact, it’s a bit of a mess, with a very convoluted plot and a lot of new and unmemorable characters introduced, some killed off before you got a chance to care about them (or even remember their names).

The third book is a complete miss. I wrote about why I disliked Allegiant in a detailed and spoiler-filled review here.

Still, I had hopes that when it came to the subsequent films, the filmmakers would expand on what worked in the other two books and fix what didn’t. A not-good book doesn’t automatically mean a not-good film. (Ever read the novel The Godfather? Jaws? The movie versions are much, much better.)

Unfortunately, now in the hands of director Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D.) the movie not only doesn’t fix the problems of the book, it actually highlights them–and adds even more.

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Peyton Place: Small Town Secrets and Lies, Presented in CinemaScope!


This post is part of the CinemaScope Blogathon, hosted by Classic Becky’s Brain Food and Wide Screen World. Check out more posts in the blogathon HERE!

Peyton Place is a movie my mom and I would call a “4:30 movie.” When I was growing up, one of our local television stations would show movies every weekday afternoon at 4:30. Most of them were from the 1950s and early 1960s, and, possibly so they could lure viewers coming off the afternoon soap opera block, most were the “women’s pictures” of the era.

Unfortunately, back then, any movie in a wide-screen format was shown in what was known as “pan and scan.” The ratio was changed to fit most TV screens of the day, cutting off part of the image on either side of the frame. If something important occurred in the cut out section, an editor would adjust the frame to include it, hence the term “panning and scanning.” The quality of the image was also rather grainy.

We didn’t know any better (until my mother started working for a film distribution company and I pursued a degree in film studies in college). We loved movies like Peyton Place. It wasn’t as if it was an epic like Ben-Hur or Spartacus, so it didn’t seem important that we were missing some of the image in the frame.

As showing films in letterbox format became more accepted, it was a revelation to see wide screen films in their original format. I remember feeling as if Spartacus and Ben-Hur were almost completely different movies in their correct format.

But our 4:30 movies? What difference did it make, really? The quality of the image and the format were irrelevant to our enjoyment of them, we thought.

We were totally wrong about that.

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Russia in Film Blogathon: Chess Fever (1925)


This post is part of the Russia in Film Blogathon hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and sponsored by Flicker Alley. See the rest of the great posts in this blogathon HERE!

When I was in junior high school, chess was a massively popular game because of Bobby Fischer’s win against Boris Spassky during the World Chess Championship. Many of my friends learned the game at the time and there was a chess club at my school.

One day I attended the chess club meeting and asked the best player to teach me the game. He was actually quite nice about it and took the time (and lots of patience) to teach me.

After I felt as though I had mastered it, I went home and taught my younger sister to play. She immediately started beating me.

That was the end of chess for me.

But I remember so clearly the excitement people had for the game at the time. Chess wasn’t just for rich and super-smart people! Everyone could enjoy it. For a brief time, it became quite a pop culture phenomenon.

Watching the 1925 Russian short film Chess Fever brought back all these memories.

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The Twelve Chairs: Mel Brooks’ Unique Spin on Russian Literature


This post is part of the Russia in Film Blogathon hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and sponsored by Flicker Alley. See the rest of the great posts in this blogathon HERE!

What is it about stories that feature rich people who lose their money?

For some reason, it often feels like a heart-rending tragedy, even if the rich people involved are bunch of snooty, obnoxious jackhammers.

You want so much for them to recover what they lost and return to their previous lifestyle, while the rest of us poor schnooks still have to struggle until death to make ends meet.

Scarlett O’Hara, anybody? Come on, even while you called her a bitch, you know you still wanted her to stop wearing a dress made from her mother’s drapes and get back into expensive couture, where she belonged.

It’s a weird phenomenon, and probably why it’s such a popular subject in fiction. This is especially true in film, because copious riches look so darn good on a big screen.

Add a mad chase to recover the lost fortune, and you have comedy gold. Comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin, and there’s something inherently hilarious about someone born to privilege subjected to the humiliations of the poor in an effort to get it back.

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Thoughts on Mythic Structure: The Ordeal


This is Part 7 of my series on the hero’s journey, or monomyth.

1. The ordeal is the first major confrontation with the main forces of antagonism.

After undergoing many tests, forming alliances, figuring out enmities, gaining some respect in the extraordinary world of the adventure, it is time for the hero to experience her first major battle against the antagonist(s).

2. This generally occurs at the mid-point of the story.

The ordeal is not interchangeable with the climax of a story. This is the major crisis, not the end of the journey. It doesn’t have to be at the mid-point. It’s fine if the ordeal occurs later, but it’s important to remember this is not where the story ends and that it’s not necessarily the last confrontation with the forces of antagonism.

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Award for Most Unfairly Maligned Best Picture Winner: Shakespeare in Love


This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of the other posts for Week 4: Pictures and Directors.

I knew my declaration in last week’s post, naming the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility the best adaptation of Jane Austen’s work, would be a tad controversial. (Though not nearly as much, it turns out, as I thought it would be. Nice to know I’m not alone in my regard for that film.)

THIS WEEK, however, I’m certain some people will want to sharpen their pitchforks.

I’m going to defend Shakespeare in Love’s 1998 Best Picture win.

(Get your torches lit!)

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Emma Thompson’s Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility: The Best Austen Adaptation?


This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of the other posts for Week 3: The Crafts.

I can already hear cries of “blasphemy!” just because the title of this post. (I did put a question mark at the end!)

I would venture to guess if you polled Jane Austen fans, the most popular adaptation of her work would far and away turn out to be the 1995 six-part BBC TV mini-series of Pride & Prejudice, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. It is certainly the adaptation that kicked off the now-20 year long resurgence of Austen’s work.

As lovely as that series is, and as perfectly cast as it is, it doesn’t quite do it for me as far as capturing the Jane Austen novels I love so dearly. I know when people hear Austen’s name, they think first and foremost that she wrote romances. I, on the other hand, would argue she did not write romances at all. She actually satirized the romances of her day. Her stories are survival stories, where marriage is the only respectable way for most of her heroines to escape poverty. Even in her novel Emma, that features a heroine who is wealthy and of the highest rank in her small sphere, there are two secondary characters–Harriet Smith and Jane Fairfax–for whom marriage is a vital matter of economic survival and respectability.

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Preston Sturges’ Missing Best Director Nomination


This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of the other posts for Week 2: The Oscar Snubs.

Screenwriter/director Preston Sturges was awarded an Academy Award, in 1940, for his screenplay, The Great McGinty.

So why did I choose him as my subject for the “Oscar Snubs” topic of this blogathon?

Preston Sturges was also a great, underrated director, who never received a Best Director nomination.

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