Bright B(old) Things: 9 Book and Movie Suggestions for an Inspired Year Ahead

 

best of vintage 2016 list

“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears and new eyes.” So said British author G. K. Chesterton.

Even though he spoke these words of wisdom in the first part of the 20th century, don’t you think they are still absolutely appropriate reminders for today? This new year is bursting at the seams with potential and possibility. And it is up to us to make the most of it – to get our dreams and aspirations from the inside to the outside.   In the land of Ms. Jeannie we are starting the year off with a list of fascinating books and movies that will give you those new ears and new eyes, that new backbone and new soul that Chesterton so smartly referred to. Today we are looking at the magical rewards of life from different perspectives as told by people who muddled their way through the long, wayward process of dream-building and came out the other side with wisdom and wonder to share.

Offering equal amounts of inspiration and entertainment, these books and movies were discovered in 2016 but cover a wide time period. On the older side there is a new documentary about a still-living fashion icon born in the 1920’s and an incredibly romantic 2015  movie based on a classic novel written in 1847. On the newer side, we tackle old thoughts on homekeeping in our modern 21st century environment with a book about interior decorating and we spend a year in the life of modern day archaeologist/historians as they recreate authentic farm life in rural Edwardian England.

It’s a fun, eclectic collection but you’ll notice a common thread running between them all – commitment, dedication, confidence. By drawing inspiration from this cast of characters, we can draw parallels to our own lives that will help motivate the dreams that swirl around our heads and hearts and hopefully get us thinking about what steps we can take today that will affect our desires tomorrow.  Let’s look…

In the reading department…

1.No Place Like Home – Brooke Berman (2010)

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Budding playwright Brooke Berman had a simple goal. To find a home that she could call her own. Not one that she purchased. A rental was just fine. Not a house. An apartment would suit. And not even necessarily one that excluded roommates. She just wanted to find a place where she could store her stuff and her self for a permanent amount of time. Longer than thirty days. In 1990’s New York City.

You’d think this would be an easy feat, but for Brooke it took 39 apartments and many years to finally figure out where and how she belonged. For anyone who has ever moved more than a few times in their lives you’ll understand the importance of Brooke’s desire to feel settled. But as much as this memoir is about finding a place of one’s own it is also a step-by-step account of one woman’s journey towards self-realization. Like Janice and her Paris Letters, Brooke tells the real story of what it is like to pursue lofty creative work while fighting through the muck-ridden minutiae of basic daily life. Friendships bloom and wither, romances come and go, jobs begin and end, family members die and tragedy strikes. Despite it all Brooke keeps moving (literally!) towards her dream of a permanent address and a professional career.

Her level of determination is inspiring. Her stay-the-course focus impressive. And if you ever wanted to know what it’s really like to live in New York City, on an artist’s salary, then this is the no-holes barred book for you:)

2. Rethink – Amanda Talbot (2015)

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This book had Ms. Jeannie thinking for weeks and weeks about home design after she finished it. Part history book, part design journal, part holistic living primer, Rethink tackles a lot of issues between it’s pretty covers.  Illustrating how we have become a society of store-ers (owners of so much stuff that storage units are called into action to house the overflow) and accept-ers (of cheaply made, cheaply massed produced short-term furniture), Australian decorator and home style maven Amanda Talbot challenges us to rethink how we use our homes in today’s 21st century world.

Drawing on the nostalgic ideas of home from centuries past when big family, large-scale houses dominated  our landscape, Amanda explains how the history of interior design has affected our mental and physical state for hundreds of years.  Needless to say, times have changed significantly. Big houses are being traded in for micro ones. Traditional function rooms designed for single purposes (dining room, kitchen, bedroom, etc) have now morphed into convertible spaces where we eat, sleep, work and entertain all in the same area. But strangely our thought processes in how we approach these new room layouts has been slow to catch-up.

We require more out of our personal space than ever before in history, yet we fail more often than not to make our rooms fit our lifestyle. Amanda encourages us to break free of the nostalgic past. Beds are now workspaces, mediation zones and offices.   Kitchens are now shipping centers and compost bins and charging stations. Balconies are now vegetable patches, reading rooms and communication hubs. You get the idea!

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In touch with both the practical and spiritual sense of home, Amanda illustrates how certain textures, light sources, and furniture arrangement appeal to our modern minds and moods. She hails the use of soft warm wood and vintage furniture for its steadfast constitution and inherent ability to withstand time – something that is assuring to our psyche in the constantly changing and emotionally abrasive world of the 2010 years.  She proposes new more efficient and intuitive ways to decorate now that we are a world of citizens constantly on the go. She tackles harmony and peacefulness, blended family relationships and plugged in environments, lighting, trash disposal and greenspace with a thoughtfulness that is provoking. By the time you finish the last page, you’ll look at your home environment and understand more about it and yourself. Rethink will make you want to question and refine your style to the infinite degree so that you are paired down and using only what is necessary, what is essential and what is meaningful in order to balance your being.

3. The Year of Reading Dangerously – Andy Miller (2014)

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In The Year of Reading Dangerously, Andy Miller had one goal: to read the books on his bookshelf that he thought were important. The ones that he eluded to loving at cocktail parties (Jane Austen? Yes of course! I love all her books!)  or at dinner tables (Tolstoy”s work is amazing!) but secretly had never actually read before.

Andy’s book collection was quite diverse and spanned a multitude of genres and time periods.  Some were classic literature, some popular fiction, some the mark of an intellectual mind and some just complete whimsies of a fun-time book lover. He narrowed his list down to 50 books to be read in 365 days. And he stuck to it, whether he liked or not.

Throughout his year, he juggles his reading list and his job, alongside his enthusiasm, his family, his friends and his small son. He battles his pre-conceived notions, and his fortitude, his sanity and his propensity to weasel out of the ones he doesn’t like (which are a few!). He evens battles the point of the whole project. Who would care what a middle-aged British man read or not read? The truth is, you will. You’ll fall in love with Andy and his funny, honest, highly relate-able book-loving life. As Andy steamrolls his way through the shelf, you’ll begin to think about your own bookshelf, your own sheepish list of good reads you claim to love but have never cracked open. And he’ll inspire you to get started.

4. Love In The Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1988)

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Like Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast which was set in 1930’s Paris, Love in the Time of Cholera transports you to another era. This time, you are in exotic 19th century Columbia – a landscape filled with colorful birds, fragrant flowers and one of the biggest romantics in all of literature.  The goal of the novel’s flawed hero,  Florentino Ariza is to win the heart of  Fermina Daza, a girl he is instantly drawn to in an unexpected moment.

The story winds through 53 years of these two characters lives despite other lovers, other passions and other pursuits, while also dealing with conflicting temperaments and grim possibilities.  Readers fly high on a captivating whirlwind of passion as Florentino boldly and consistently declares his love for Fermina with no assured possibility that it will ever be equally reciprocated. He can’t help himself. Once he sets eyes on the love of his life (literally!) there is no going back. So he marches forward day after day, year after year, on a road that wraps in circles around Fermina’s landscape. It’s a delirious concept. Delicious in its intensity and honorable in its day after day dedication.  “There is no greater glory than to die for love,” pronounces Florentino early on. With that mindset firmly established, nothing can stop Florentino from fighting for his heart’s desire.

5. Stories I Only Tell My Friends – Rob Lowe (2011)

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If you ever wanted to learn the inside story on how an actor makes it in Hollywood, this is the book. From his childhood in Ohio to his first movie (The Outsiders, 1983) to the established and extensive career he enjoys now in California, Rob Lowe like Brook Berman is the ultimate soldier in the battle field of staying true to your chosen calling. Sure he’s handsome, and he’s talented, and he’s a major A-List actor but it wasn’t always that way and Rob had to learn about his strengths and weaknesses, one micro-experience at a time, just like everybody else.

In Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob candidly talks about the long-road to fulfillment: how he struggled to find friends, find self-worth and find balance in an industry that doesn’t authentically nurture any of these. He talks about his 20+ year marriage, the raising of his two sons and the hopes and dreams he still aspires to in this middle section of his life. And he talks about Hollywood. The interesting stories of celebrity friends, behind-the-scenes movie making and project collaborations on super successful pop-culture productions like The West Wing, Parks and Rec and St. Elmo’s Fire. Alongside all that achievement are stories about embarrassing missteps, awkward associations and risky gambles.  There are setbacks and uncertainties, self-doubt and insecurity, but through it all there is Rob.  For over 40 years holding tight to his acting profession and  thoughtfully digesting all the successes and failures that a creative life consumes. He never gives up on acting. He never gives up on himself.

In the watching department…

6. Edwardian Farm (2010)

Edwardian Farm was a BBC television series which first aired in 2010 in the U.K. It is a fascinating look at the modern viability of living a handmade, handspun life void of 21st century technology as experienced by three history loving professionals – one historian and two archaeologists. For one complete calendar year, this trio set up farm in England’s beautiful Devon countryside and experienced what rural life would have been like in the early 1900’s. Their mission was to answer questions about the efficiencies and possibilities and practicalities of our modern mindsets. Knowing what we know now in 2017, could we successfully return to 1900 and survive?

The trio was tasked with not only daily living activities but also business ventures as well. So moneymaking crops had to be planted, chickens had to be raised and cows had to be milked in order to keep the farm and themselves afloat physically and financially through four seasons.  What was really interesting about this reality experience is that it was thankfully short on relationship drama and heavy on information. You don’t watch people complaining, bickering or tearing each other down. You watch instead about people utilizing their strengths and their ideas to propel the farm and each other forward.

In the 365 days of the project a lot of interesting endeavors were tackled including making their own cheese, chicken houses and lime ash. They plow fields with horses and attempt to spawn fish in a nearby creek. They smoke meat, make their own ice cream and bake traditional food all without the use of electricity. They wash and mend and reuse and recycle and re-purpose so much so that you’ll be inspired by how little equipment one really needs in order to get a good job done. And you’ll be inspired to try out some of their projects like smoking your own meat or planting your own market flower garden. It is fun entertainment that also happens to be highly informative. And like Amanda Talbot’s book, it will make you rethink the purpose of all that stuff in your life. Is it necessary? Is it needed? Is it functional?

7. Iris (2015)

Color, confidence and a little dose of charisma (okay a big dose) are what make 96 year old design maven and style icon, Iris Apfel one of the most shining examples of how to live life on your own terms.  By courageously and unapologetically letting her natural instincts and interests guide her throughout nine decades of her artistic life Iris has followed her heart all around the creative industry.  From fashion publishing to textile design, antique collecting, to clothing scout, interior designer to museum exhibit stylist Iris circumnavigated the globe while exploring everything and anything that appealed to her.

Inspiration came calling in all forms from tiny details like the quality of a certain type of thread, or the line of an unusual sculpture or the buoyancy of a puffed sleeve. Wherever she went, Iris found the unusual, and then packed it up, and shipped it home only for it to trigger a new opportunity later down the road.  An antique turns into an accessories line, a satin fabric spawns a textile company, a thrift store outfit propels a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is how Iris’s life has gone. By sticking to her gut instincts on everything and always saying yes to opportunities that presented themselves Iris was able to enjoy a diverse and fulfilling life that consistently kept her engaged and excited. It is hard to argue with reason when it comes to things you inherently love. Iris never argued in that department. She just listened. And if this documentary teaches you anything, if Iris teaches you anything,  it is just to travel through life as yourself. Just be yourself. Listen to your gut. And above all else, cherish your individuality.

8. Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)

Thomas Hardy wrote this book in 1847 which seems incredible now because his main heroine Bathsheba Everdene is as thoroughly modern as any woman today. In the 1960’s Hardy’s book was made into a movie starring Julie Christie but this recent version starring Carey Mulligan is by far better.  If you are unfamiliar with the story-line, Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba –  a headstrong, independent woman who inherits a farm of her own in rural England. Determined to run the farm and her life, in her own way, Bathsheba struggles with the balance between independence and vulnerability.  She doesn’t want to be governed by anyone yet she doesn’t want to be alone either. Love in Bathsheba’s eyes is balanced yet also wild, mutual yet individualistic, and supportive without being smothering.  Three very different  men converge on her life and a relationship with each unfolds. Without giving away the ending if you have not yet seen it, Ms. Jeannie will just say that Bathsheba’s choices throughout her life are as bohemian as any 1920’s flapper or any 1980’s career woman or any 2017 independent spirit. Which makes this 150 year old character quite remarkable. She’ll inspire you to forge your own way, to mold a life dependent on personal viewpoint and to reject the notions of other people’s ideas for your happiness.

9. The Age of Adaline (2015)

Ms.Jeannie was so in love with this movie she watched it twice back to back. Stunning in its cinematography, wardrobe and set design it is also posses interesting questions about mortality, relationships and familiar connections. Adaline has a secret and because of her elusiveness few people know how to understand her which leads to a loneliness that seems inescapable. Again, without giving away too much of the story for those of you who have not yet seen it, you follow Adaline’s life through decades of history and important milestones. Like Iris and Bathsheba she forges her own life, and in doing so discovers later on the impact she had on other people.  It is an interesting viewpoint on how one person can affect many without ever knowing it.

On a technical side, this movie is flawless. The acting is marvelous and the attention to detail incredible.  The camera follows Adaline through all the changing style trends of 20th century America which makes the visual appearance of this film fascinating in a time capsule sort of way. Years of pre-production added an authenticity to the layers of storytelling that added multiple layers of depth to every scene and set.  An added bonus not to be missed is a fascinating step-by-step behind the scenes documentary on how the cast and crew accomplished such visually impactful storytelling.  So this selection is two fold when it comes to inspiration. The script is one magical piece of writing and the mesmerizing production value is another. No bit of scene or set was thrown together, no character half-realized, no string of dialogue awkwardly phrased. All aspects of this movie-making process were thoughtfully executed making the end result seamless in regards to complete storytelling.

As you can see from this list a little inspiration goes a long, long way. In the land of Ms. Jeannie we are challenging ourselves  to find a moment of new inspiration in each and every day. Some days this a tricky feat. Looking for small pockets of wonder requires an open mindset and eyes that are constantly aware of the environment around us.  The fun is in the search for the small details like a falling leaf or a patch of graffiti or an almond crusted cookie.  And it’s in the big obvious things too like fireworks or flower beds or snow fields.  It’s in music we hear, food we eat and conversation we start. Sometimes it is in an interesting article, or a pesky problem and sometimes it is even in the frustrations that fog up up our brains. The trick in this tricky project is to be able to take the time to notice and then process what it is that we are seeing, hearing and thinking.  Life moves fast. In an instant a moment of magic is upon us. Our imaginations quickly carry us away. If it captures our attention long enough a dream or a desire begins to form. Then we have to make choices. Do we sit on that dream or do we we do something with that dream? Ms. Jeannie hopes this batch of books and movies will help you get going, get noticing and ultimately get started down that road to realization.

Cheers and good luck to a new year and to new eyes.  And to new ears and to new feet and to new souls and backbones and all those wonderful new (old) words by G.K. Chesterton!

For more book and movie suggestions see 2015’s best of list here.

 

 

 

20 Vintage Books That Became Contemporary Movies

Photo via pintrest.

Photo via pintrest.

Boring. Irrelevant. Out of touch. Those are three of the most common misconceptions Ms. Jeannie encounters when discussing vintage books. How could something written 50, 100 or even 200 years ago still be compelling in today’s modern world? Thanks to the lovely marriage between film and books Ms. Jeannie is going to show you how with these 20 examples of old books that made fabulous modern films. Movie trailers are linked to each picture, so click on any and all to get a feel for story lines. Chances are if you like the movie (or in this case, the trailer) than you’ll love the book even more!

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a short story written by James Thurber in 1942 in this collection of his work. The movie starring Ben Stiller was released in 2013.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a short story written by James Thurber in 1942 and published in a collection of his short works, My World and Welcome To It that same year. The movie, starring Ben Stiller was released in 2013.

 

There Will Be Blood was based on the book, Oil by Upton Sinclair which was published in 1927. The Academy Award-winning movie, starring Daniel Day Lewis was released in 2007.

There Will Be Blood was based on the book, Oil by Upton Sinclair which was published in 1927. The Academy Award-winning movie, starring Daniel Day-Lewis was released in 2007.

 

The Nutcracker ballet was based on a novella written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816. The movie version of the ballet starring Macaulay Culkin was released in 1993.

The Nutcracker ballet was based on a novella written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816. The movie version of the ballet starring Macaulay Culkin was released in 1993.

Miss Julie was a play written by Swedish author August Strindberg in 1888. It was made into a beautifully filmed movie starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell in 2014.

Miss Julie was a play written by Swedish author August Strindberg in 1888. It was made into a beautifully filmed movie starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell in 2014.

The Last of the Mohicans was a book written by James Fenimore Cooper in 1826. Daniel Day Lewis starred in the film version in 1992.

The Last of the Mohicans was a book written by James Fenimore Cooper in 1826. Daniel Day-Lewis starred in the film version in 1992.

 

Jerzy Kosinski published Being There in 1971. Peter Sellers starred in the film adaptation in 1979.

Jerzy Kosinski published Being There in 1971. Peter Sellers starred in the film adaptation in 1979.

In 1782 French author Pierre Choderlos de Laclos wrote Les Liaisons Danger. Just under 200 years later, the movie Dangerous Liasiasons premiered starring Glenn Close

In 1782 French author Pierre Choderlos de Laclos wrote Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Two hundred years later, in 1988, Glenn, John and Michelle starred in the film version.

Truman Capote created flawed heroine Holly Golightly in 1958. Audrey Hepburn made her iconic in the film adaptation in 1961.

Truman Capote created flawed heroine Holly Golightly in 1958. Audrey Hepburn made her famous in the film adaptation in 1961.

In 1899, Joseph Conrad wrote the book Heart of Darkness which became the inspiration for the 1979 Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now.

Joseph Conrad wrote the book Heart of Darkness which was first serialized in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1899. The story became the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s legendary film Apocalypse Now in 1979.

Karen Blixen published her memoirs of life on an African coffee plantation under the name Isak Dinensen in 1937. Meryl Streep brought her to life on the big screen in 1985.

Karen Blixen published her memoirs, Out of Africa, about life on an African coffee plantation under the name Isak Dinesen in 1937. Meryl Streep brought her to life on the big screen in 1985.

The king of science fiction writing, Philip K. Dick wrote the magically titled novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in 1968. The story was adapted for film in 1982 titled Blade Runner.

The king of science fiction writing, Philip K. Dick wrote the magically titled novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in 1968. The story was adapted for film in 1982 and re-titled Blade Runner.

Vanity Fair was written in 1848 by William Makepeace Thackeray. Mira Nair adapted it beautifully to film in 2004 starring Reese Witherspoon.

in the late 1940's Thor Hyerdahl defied logic by following the path of KonTiki across the ocean on a primative sailing vessal. He published his account of the experience in 1953. In 2012 a group of Scandinavian filmmakers brought the nail-biting, edge of your seat experience and infectious spirit of adventure to the big screen.

In the late 1940’s Thor Heyerdahl defied all logic by following the path of KonTiki across the ocean on a primitive sailing vessel. He published his account of the experience in 1953. In 2012 a group of Scandinavian filmmakers brought the nail-biting, edge of your seat adventure to the big screen.

Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon in 1930. It became a popular film-noir in 1941 thanks to Humphrey Bogart.

Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon in 1930. It became a popular film-noir in 1941 thanks to Humphrey Bogart.

Before Gene Wilder (1971) and Johnny Depp (2005) entertained us as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, author Roald Dahl created a candy-coated world for kids in his 1964 confectionary.

Before Gene Wilder (1971) and Johnny Depp (2005) entertained us as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, author Roald Dahl created a candy-coated world for kids in his 1964 confectionary.

Evelyn Waugh wowed the world with his literary wonder Brideshead Revisited in 1945. In 2008 Matthew Goode turned out a handsome performance in the beautifully captured film adaptation.

Evelyn Waugh wowed the world with his literary wonder Brideshead Revisited in 1945. In 2008 Matthew Goode turned out a handsome performance in the beautifully captured film adaptation.

Doctor Zhivago swept the histrical romance world thanks to writer Boris Pasternak in 1958. Seven years later it became a Hollywood giant starring Omar Sherif and Julie Christie.

Doctor Zhivago swept the histrical romance world thanks to writer Boris Pasternak in 1958. Seven years later it became a Hollywood giant starring Omar Sherif and Julie Christie.

In 1969, English author John Fowles published The French Lieutenant's Woman. Twelve years later, in 1981 Meryl Streep portrayed her on film.

In 1969, English author John Fowles published The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Twelve years later, in 1981 Meryl Streep portrayed her on film.

Henry Fielding created the adventures of Tom Jones in 1749, two centuries later Albert Finney charmed the world with his charismatic portrayal of the title character when the film premiered in 1963.

Henry Fielding created the adventures of Tom Jones in 1749, two centuries later Albert Finney charmed the world with his charismatic portrayal of the title character when the film premiered in 1963.

Before My Fair Lady was the darling of stag and screen it was a play called Pygmalion written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913.

Before My Fair Lady was the darling of stage and screen it was a play called Pygmalion written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913.

These are of course just a few examples of the themes timeless books lend to our lives. More examples will come in a future blog post, but for now Ms. Jeannie will leave you in the good hands of these good characters. Go right ahead and fall in love with Tom Jones, even though he’s 200 years old.  Feel the confident energy of Thor Heyerdahl even though his adventure occurred six decades ago. Relate to Holly’s vulnerability and Karen’s isolation. Get revved up by Chance’s take-life-as-it-comes attitude and Walter’s grab-life-by-the-horns manifesto. Fun things never age and fun books are no exception!

Need help finding a good book? Ms. Jeannie’s your gal. Post a message in the comments section and she’ll be in touch!

9 Book & Movie Suggestions to Rest, Relax and Recover With

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Here we are dear readers rounding the corner to the finish line of Holiday Season 2015. You made it! You conquered all that hustle bustle, you cooked and cleaned and partied and pulled yourself through the merriest of months like a champion.

And by now, Ms. Jeannie bets you are ready for a little rest, a little relaxation or perhaps just some good old fashioned recovery time spent laying low. Ms. Jeannie has just the right thing for you… a suggestion list of the most entertaining books and movies she’s encountered throughout 2015.

Not all these suggestions came out, brand new, this year, some are a few years old and some are fifty years old but each of them carries the theme of history in a most interesting way, and each one will keep you entertained from start to finish.

Let’s take a look….

In the watching department, Ms. Jeannie fell in love with the following mini-series, movies and documentaries…

1. Dickens in America with Miriam Margoyles

Dickens in America: Travels with Miriam Margoyles

Dickens on the left, Miriam on the right:)

The retracing of Charles Dickens’ 1842 travels to the United States, this documentary series sent famed British actress Miriam Margoyles (perhaps the biggest fan of Charles Dickens ever!) to a variety of cities located throughout the Eastern US.  Visiting all the places Dickens traveled to… Boston, NYC, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Canada, Miriam also attempts to eat the same sorts of foods, stay in the same hotels and travel the cities in the same way he did.  The fun thing about this series is Miriam herself – a plug of energy, enthusiasm and quirky personality, she mirrors her contemporary viewpoints and attitudes alongside Dickens in all that was seen and experienced. She laughs, she cries, she compares and contrasts, she’s the ultimate fan and because of her devotion you can’t help but get caught up in her love affair as well.   Here’s a clip from one segment…

2. Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries

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How Ms. Jeannie escaped hearing about this Australian tv show that has been airing since 2013 is a wonder. Set in 1920s/1930’s Melbourne, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries centers around thoroughly modern lady detective Phryne Fisher and the bevy of strange and unusual cases she solves.  Beautifully filmed, along the same glamorous lines as Downtown Abbey, Miss Phryne Fisher is  progressive in all things thought and action. The writing is smart, the wardrobes incredible and the cases always intriguing. Currently, in its third season now with new episodes beginning in January,  Ms. Jeannie recommends watching it from the very beginning because story lines do carry over from season to season.

This is the trailer for season one…

3. Mona Lisa is Missing

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The inspiration for this documentary came from one line in a book (aha!) discovered during the 1970s:

In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre by an Italian immigrant named Vincenzo Perugia.

Filmmmaker Joe Medieros became so obsessed with this one line and the story behind it that it took him the next 30 years to properly figure out what exactly happened to the world’s most famous painting. The result of his research is this fast-paced, funny and touching documentary stretching from New York all the way to Italy where he meets modern-day relatives of the thief who stole the painting, scours international archives, pursues all possible theories and does a re-enactment of how the whole situation went down at the Louvre step-by-step.  The winner of practically a gazillion film festivals around the world, Mona Lisa is Missing is so creatively put together using a mixture of paper cut outs, film footage and moving pictures it is as whimsical in presentation as it is in story.

4. Finding Vivian Maier

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Another equally fascinating real-life story, Finding Vivian Maier is a documentary about a thrifty collector who purchased a few boxes of old photographs at an auction. When he realizes upon returning home that the collection is quite extraordinary, he embarks on a vintage sleuthing escapade to uncover who exactly this photographer is, the influence of her art upon mid-century America and the unusual life she led in pursuit of  her passion. So incredible,  Ms. Jeannie will not say anything more about what happens because the pacing of this documentary and all that it reveals is fantastic. By the end of it – you’ll be a fan. Ms. Jeannie promises!

In the book department…

5. West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan (published 2015)

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When Ms. Jeannie traveled to Florida to take care of her sick dad in November, she spent the entire eleven hour drive each way listening to one audio book – West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan. As you know by now, (if you happen to be a regular reader of the blog) like Miriam Margoyles and  her Dickens, Ms. Jeannie has a slight obsession with anything F. Scott Fitzgerald, so she was super excited to discover this newly released novel which centers around the last three years of F. Scott’s life.

F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald

F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald

This was the point in his story (the late 1930’s) when his wife,  Zelda was receiving care in a mental hospital in North Carolina and he was on the opposite coast, in Hollywood writing scripts to try to drum up enough money to live. Throughout Stewart O’Nan’s novel, F. Scott travels between life in the  make-believe city of Los Angeles where he spends time with Bogart and Hemingway, Deitrich and Cukor and real-life in North Carolina where Zelda is loosing teeth and losing touch. F. Scott tries to maintain a sense of marital stability, loyalty and companionship to Zelda but this hospitalized woman is someone he no longer recognizes, a child-like version of the dynamic and vivacious woman she once was.   By this time, The Great Gatsby has already been published but it is not nearly the revered literary work that is today so  F. Scott in Stewart’s world is old and tired and struggling, plodding day by day at his typewriter, driven by his love of words and his desire to string a noteworthy line.

F. Scott & Zelda around the time of the book's setting.

F. Scott & Zelda around the time of the book’s setting.

Thanks to Stewart O’Nan’s humanistic approach to the end of F. Scott’s life we understand how difficult it must have been to  keep up with costs to support Zelda’s mental health care, to keep his teenage daughter Scottie’s school tuition afloat and to also just be able to maintain his day to day living expenses in California while also dealing with the mental ups and downs of an unreliable creative enterprise like movie-making  in California.  You might know F. Scott as an alcoholic, a child of Jazz age decadence and of day to day living without future thought but Stewart O’Nan paints a highly researched depiction of this great writer in his final flawed years when he was trying – really trying- excruciatingly trying – to not drink so much, to keep his career current and to take care of his family. This is what makes this book fantastic. In our modern way of seeing success so easily promoted via social media it is easy to forget about struggle, about building, about putting in the time in so that success can happen. Stewart O’ Nan deals with all that – the unglamorous, every day side to F. Scott which made him real and likable and ultimately relateable. And there are also some very cool scenes filled with glamorous Hollywood parties and celebrity encounters that make your imagination fly:)

6. So We Read On – Maureen Corrigan (published 2014)

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NPR book critic Maureen Corrigan shared her love of all things Gatsby in So We Read On, determining why and how F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Great Gatsby is still so relevant and so important in today’s world. Covering all aspects of the book, from its writer to its subject to its themes and its reception both then and now, Maureen examines Gatsby from all sides (literally and figuratively). She even travels all the way back to her high school where she first read Gatsby and where kids now in the 2000’s  are still required to read it in order to see what the modern day perception of the nearly 100 year old novel is today. How could a book written in 1925 still be so universally relevant 90 years later? You don’t have to be a superfan to understand Maureen’s book,  it is wonderfully written as a quasi-memoir and interpretation of one woman’s love of reading and the impact that one particular book made upon her life.

7. A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway (published 1964)

Ms. Jeannie most highly recommends reading this book aloud, because there is a little magic that happens when you both speak and hear the lines of someone else’s memoir. The subject becomes much more intimate and much more consuming.

The true story of Ernest Hemingway’s experience of living and writing in Paris at the very start of his career, A Moveable Feast will transport you immediately out of your current situation and deposit you in the cafe scene that is Paris of the 1930’s. You’ll hear first-hand, in his own voice, how Ernest struggled to build the sentences that would build his career and how he would struggle to understand the people that moved in and out of his life, including his own wife who was a marvel of odd and exotic understanding.

Ernest amid the 1920's Parisian cafe scene.

Ernest amid the 1920’s Parisian cafe scene.

You’ll learn how he plodded every day though the mud that is the creative writing field, while also experiencing the commonplace genius and artistic camaraderie that would make this time in Paris legendary. And most importantly you’ll see probably the most vulnerable side of Ernest, in his own words, before he was confident and comfortable in his own writing skin, while he was struggling to make enough money to buy dinner for his wife and baby, to buy a book from Shakespeare & Company or to buy a hot coffee to keep warm while he wrote on a cold day. This is Ernest at the very beginning, a keen observer of the situation before him.

8. Empty Mansions – Bill Dedman (published 2015)

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Changing gears completely from Jazz Age Paris to contemporary New York high society, Empty Mansions is the true story of Huguette Clark of New York City and the story of her family’s fortune which spans the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries as it spreads from Colorado to Arizona to New York City’s Fifth Avenue.

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Huguette Clark (1906-2011)

Now rumored to be in consideration for film adaptation, Ms. Jeannie can completely understand because the book opens with the reclusive story of Huguette, a once beautiful debutante, now aged and afraid to show her face in public due to a cancer causing facial disfigurement. From the opening pages you try to decide if Hugettte is an eccentric reclusive like the Edie Beales of Grey Gardens or if she is just extremely shy and private trying to live a life away from the press.

As the book continues and the story unfolds you wonder if she is prey to the strange health care system that plagues our country and to the managers of her welfare or if she is an indomitable force that controls her own destiny living life on her terms and her terms only.

New York's famed 5th Avenue where the Clark famil lived among other tycoon neighbors like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers

New York’s famed 5th Avenue where the Clark family lived alongside other tycoon neighbors like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers

Providing back story to Huguette’s unusual lifestyle, you learn about her family’s genealogy and the American dream fantasy of hard work, risky decisions and big rewards that built their fortune and made them a formidable impression on the New York business scene of Victorian metropolitan life. You learn about the tragedies that befell the family as well as the triumphs, how they rose to fame and slowly withdrew from it, and how all those moments one by one compiled themselves onto the outlook and attitude of Huguette and shaped a century of life.

9. Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning – Elizabeth Partridge (published 2013)

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Both a book and a PBS documentary, Grab A Hunk of Lightning tells the whole story of famed photographer Dorothea Lange from how she started as an awkward teenager first learning how to use a camera through experimentation and expression to how she turned into a trained eye that would make her one of the most famous photographers of the 20th century.

Dorthea Lange's most well-known photograph, The Migrant Mother, taken in 1936

Dorothea Lange’s most well-known photograph, The Migrant Mother, taken in 1936

Beautifully laid out in folio style, Grab A Hunk of Lightening, written by Dorothea’s god-daughter, gives insight into the production and story behind her personal life and her professional photographs. And it also tells the story, again like Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast and  F. Scott Fitzgerald in West of Sunset how one thing led to another in terms of career and creativity. Dorothea was a working artist trying to pay bills all the while attempting to build a style, a career and a vision that was uniquely hers. Despite difficult circumstances, marriage, children, house moves, illness and lack of confidence, Dorothea humbly went about pursuing her craft every day of her life, putting one foot in front of another.

Hope you find some new and exiting material here dear readers! If you had any extra special favorites in the book and movie department this year please share your thoughts in the comments section!

May the rest of your 2015 be lazy and lovely. Cheers and happy Happy New Year’s dear readers!!!

 

 

Joe, Frank, Bruce & the Summer Blockbuster

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Summer has always been synonymous with big blockbuster movies. You know the kind dear readers… big-scale, action-packed, testosterone fueled. If there is a building to be blown up or a car to be flipped or some sort of post-apocalyptic disaster to be explored you can bet you’ll experience it first-hand in a crowded movie theater on a steamy summer day.

One of the biggest summer blockbuster movies of all times premiered in July 1988, making Bruce Willis an international icon…

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Die Hard and the four sequels that followed…

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Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

spanned a total of twenty plus years of blockbuster magic. That’s one incredible feat! But the film series actually spanned even more years than that. Did you know dear readers, that Willis’ character, NYPD officer John McClane, really stems back another twenty years?

In late May of 1968, just as summer was getting underway, Frank Sinatra starred in this crime thriller…

as professionally capable yet personally troubled police detective Joe Leland determined to solve a grisly murder mystery. His character was adapted from the runaway bestselling novel of 1966, The Detective

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by American author Roderick Thorp. Containing just under 600 pages the book was lauded for its gritty yet sensitive themes and layered characters not often portrayed in the typical detective novels of the time.

Scene from The Detective. The movie also starred Lee Remick,  Jacqueline Bisset and Robert Duvall. Photo via pinterest.

Scene from The Detective. The movie also starred Lee Remick, Jacqueline Bisset and Robert Duvall. Photo via pinterest.

Frank Sinatra brought the character to life on the big screen making the movie just as sensational as the book. Due to the popularity of Roderick Thorp’s novel, the success of the Frank Sinatra film, and the enigmatic character of Joe Leland, Thorp wrote a sequel to The Detective which was published in 1979 titled Nothing Lasts Forever. In this new novel Thorp continued on with Joe’s adventures fighting crime while battling with his own inner demons.

Again, history repeated itself and Nothing Lasts Forever became a bestseller and was green-lighted for film adaptation. Only this time there was one hitch. When Frank Sinatra originally starred as Joe LeLand in 1968, his contract stated that he would be offered the title role to any and all sequels. But unlike his character, Sinatra aged at the normal speed of a human being, which means that by the time the film version of Nothing Lasts Forever was ready to be made in the 1980’s Frank Sinatra was in his early 70’s – too old to play Joe.

Frank Sinatra on set of The Detective, NYC 1967, photo via pinterest

Frank Sinatra on set of The Detective, NYC 1967, photo via pinterest

So legend has it – that in order to get around this clause in Sinatra’s contract, the title character’s name would have to be changed so that another actor could fill his spot. Joe Leland became John McClane and Bruce Willis replaced Frank Sinatra. Nothing Lasts Forever usually gets all the notoriety of being the inspiration for Die Hard, but really it all started with the roots of the main character in The Detective.

Roderick Thorp

Roderick Thorp

Thorp went on to write 10 other published works with some pieces being adapted for television, but none had the intensity nor the popularity of character quite like Joe. The Die Hard movies went on to become film industry gold earning over one billion dollars world-wide. Thorp died in 1999, which afforded him the ability to see at least the first three Die Hard movies made and experience the big-budget frenzy and marketing empire that they created. It must have been pretty exciting for him! To know that he created a character three decades before that was still storming the minds and hearts of crime readers and movie-goers around the world. A blockbuster indeed – write (pun inteded!) from the beginning!

You can find The Detective in Ms. Jeannie’s shop here and the trailer for Sintara’s 1968 film portrayal here.

What is your favorite summer blockbuster dear readers? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Viva La Vintage: 1960’s Dinner and a Movie {Italian Style}

Vintage Italian Travel Poster by Island Art Store via Etsy

Vintage Italian Travel Poster by Island Art Store via Etsy

Dear readers, in this week’s post we are all heading on a European adventure to the country best known for two things: food and romance.  On this trip you will be transported through food and film back to 1960’s Florence, Italy for an authentically magical night of escapism that will make you feel like the fanciest of weekend jet-setters! .

On the menu: Tuna Viareggio with Sauteed Wild Arugula Greens (from the vintage 1960’s cookbook The Art of Regional Italian Cooking by Maria Lo Pinto).

The Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Lo Pinto c. 1963 First Edition

The Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Lo Pinto c. 1963 First Edition

In your glass: 1967 Grifone Tosacana wine (slightly chilled)

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On the big screen: The 1962 romantic drama, The Light in the Piazza, starring Olivia de Havilland, Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton which was shot entirely on location in Florence.

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Ms. Jeannie fell in love with this movie not only for its gorgeous location and costumes but also for its unexpected story and wonderful acting. Olivia deHavilland (who most famously played Melanie in Gone With the Wind) plays Meg, a modern American mid-century mother in a coming of age story centered around her daughter Clara’s budding romance with handsome Italian Fabrizio (played by George Hamilton).

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Its not your typical love story, Clara is not your typical young woman and Meg is not your typical mother. With a plot that takes all sorts of twists and turns in unexpected ways, each character reveals several layers of depth, facing situations that are complex and timeless.  It’s also very funny and Yvette as Meg’s daughter, Clara, does a delicate job of creating a woman who is both fresh and feisty. Ms. Jeannie will not say anything else so she doesn’t spoil the surprises in the movie but here is the original trailer so you can get a sense of the adventure…

Florence, located in central Italy is known for its gardens, beaches and simple delicate cuisine. So in keeping with the movie Ms. Jeannie chose a recipe from the vintage cookbook, The Art of Regional Italian Cooking by Maria Lo Pinto which organizes the foods of Italy by section within the country.

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Combining the best of the beaches and the gardens – the dinner menu represented both attributes with wild fish and garden greens. Adding in a glass (or more!) of the Tuscan blend Grifone Toscana 1967-  a 2009 vintage made in the same central region as Florence and a rustic baguette on the side made this authentic Italian dinner complete.

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Both dishes were fresh, fast and easy to prepare – perfect summer cooking! Ms. Jeannie purchased both her fish and the wine from Trader Joe’s.  Just a little preparation note – tuna cooks best when its is semi-frozen. So if you buy frozen filets like Ms. Jeannie did, you want to just thaw them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before slicing and cooking.

Tuna Viareggio Style (serves 4)

1.5lbs fresh tuna, sliced 1″ inch thick

1/2 cup flour

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, sliced

1 small clove garlic

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2 anchovy filets, chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup warm water

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon oregano

salt to taste

Dust tuna slices with flour. Fry in skillet in two tablespoons of oil, over moderate flame, until lightly brown on both sides. Remove from pan and keep hot (on a plate covered with a lid works great!). In same pan saute onion, garlic and parsley in balance of oil. Remove garlic and add anchovies and wine: cook slowly until wine almost evaporates. Dilute tomato paste in warm water, and add with rest of ingredients. Cook covered over moderate flame for 15 minutes. Add fish carefully and cook 6-10 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

The Sauteed Arugula Greens were a modification from Maria Lo Pinto’s Sauteed Dandelion Greens recipe. Since Ms. Jeannie couldn’t find dandelion greens anywhere, the arugula was the next best substitute. You could also use spinach but cooking times will vary a little bit.

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Sauteed Arugula Greens (serves 4)

2 lbs. fresh arugula

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large garlic clove, cut in half

3 anchovy filets

Clean and wash greens. Roughly cut them in 2″ inch pieces. Heat oil in saucepan, add garlic and brown. Remove garlic and add greens, cover saucepan, and cook 5 minutes or until tender. Cut anchovies into small pieces and add. Mix well and cook 2 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

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And there you have it dear readers! A mini-mental vacation to the land of good living! If you were feeling especially festive, you could also plan an outdoor movie night and set this one up under the stars. It would be very romantic. Or as they’d say in Italian… questo e molto romantico!

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The Light in the Piazza is available for download or dvd purchase on Amazon here. The cookbook is available for purchase in Ms. Jeannie’s shop here. Catch up on past blog posts featuring other Italian recipes here. A special thanks to Mr. Jeannie Ology for the handsome hand modeling!

The State of Mad Men: A Discussion of Where It’s Been and Where It’s Going

If you haven’t yet had the chance to watch the season finale of Mad Men, which aired this past Sunday – you may want to skip this post and catch up on some previous Mad Men posts, here and here.  Ms. Jeannie would hate to spoil anything for you.

Since you are still reading, we’ll assume you’ve watched and no doubt have some opinions about the last show of the season as well as general thoughts and speculations of what could happen next year on the show. Ms. Jeannie has her theories also. She thought it would be fun to ask a few Mad Men fans about their thoughts and reactions to the most talked about episode of the season.

The Power of Persuasion, Don Draper Mad Men  Art Print by GalleryArtLife

The Power of Persuasion, Don Draper Mad Men Art Print by GalleryArtLife (click for more info)

To get started, Victor from GalleryArtLife in British Columbia recaps the character of Don Draper …

“I did enjoy this season…started slowly but had a tumultuous ending.
A question was posed with regards to Don’s life and what is the truth about it. Don was raised from childhood on the farm, went through the Depression and WW2 on the farm, had photos of Adam and himself on the farm. When the Korean war arrived Don left his life on the farm and went to war, he even accompanied the coffin back to the town where his family received it. In the last episode of this season we are shown an early teen Don living in a brothel. Later in the episode he returns to the run-down brothel and proclaims to his children that THIS was his home. It will be very interesting next season to find out how all the loose ends are tied up. Never a dull moment.”

Final Scene of Mad Men Season 6. Photo via pinterest.

Final Scene of Mad Men Season 6. Photo via pinterest.

Ms. Jeannie agrees with Victor – this final scene of Don introducing his children to his past life was powerful and telling.  Building viewers up for next season, Ms. Jeannie hopes that Don will, perhaps, finally be able to confront his past so that he can actually leave it in the past and move on to a more authentic life. The trick here will be if Don will be able to figure out his own “real” self since he has been touting another identity for years. In this season, we heard Don say a lot of  “this is not what I want” or “this is not how it should go” which could be signs that the genuine hairs of his own philosophies are just starting to tickle underneath his skin.

Mad Men Illustration Print by TuttiConfetti (click for more info)

Mad Men Illustration Print by TuttiConfetti (click for more info)

Maruta from TuttiConfetti in Spain tackles the complex issues Don had to face in this season…

I have been requested to write about Mad Men season 6 not even 24 hours after I watched the last episode and believe me, it’s not easy. Every time a Mad Men season ends, I need some time to process everything I have seen during the 13 episodes and I must learn to live without all those characters in my life. Today my mind goes over and over to the last scene. That look between Sally and Don, so many things were said without any word…

If I had to define this season I would choose the word INTENSE. Probably it has not been as nice as others, but in my opinion it is one of the best. This time Don and his internal fights are the absolute center of the series  Everything turns around him. Maybe there are other stories, but they are all minor if you compare to his. I have never seen a Don so tortured, so unhappy, so down as in this season. He cannot reach happiness and it seems he is not willing others to reach it. He is obsessed with his neighbor,  unable to love his children as he should, unable to love Megan as she deserves. Completely alcoholic he takes decisions that affect the company and people around him in a bad way.And what to say about Sally? His father suddenly becomes a villain after all that time being a hero.

And then it comes the last episode and you don’t know what to expect. You have started to hate Don and suddenly, there is some light, there is a blue sky and the Don we all knew from other seasons comes out. He rejects going to California in favor of Ted, he picks up his daughter on the edge and he is able to confront himself with his own story and show his children where he really comes from. I could never imagine a better end for this season than this one.

And now? What to expect on last season? Honestly, I have no idea. If I have learnt something during the previous six ones is not to have any expectations because something different it will happen for sure, so I assume it will be the same the last time. I wish he could find peace as Sylvia said, but probably this will not happen and the story, again, will be much better and surprising that what my mind can ever imagine. In the mean time, I will have to learn again to live without all of them and specially without Don.”

From Season 6, Don Draper & Bob Benson. Photo via pinterest.

From Season 6, Don Draper & Bob Benson. Photo via pinterest.

Ms. Jeannie likes Maruta’s description of Don not being able to enjoy other people’s happiness, which might explain his conflicted relationship with Megan and her burgeoning career. And why he is  attracted to the downstairs neighbor, Sylvia who is unhappy in her marriage. Misery does love company, as they say. Perhaps we could extend this further, into the office and Don not understanding or participating in the thrill of the game as he used to. Instead, he sees that Peggy and Ted are happy working together, that Bob Benson is eager to please everyone, and that Harry is ecstatic about all the possibilities of the West Coast clients. Everyone but Don seems to be engaged in their profession, while he looks at it all from the outside in and wonders what all the effort is for.

One of the most controversial character’s this season, was the introduction of Bob Benson. Ms. Jeannie thinks that all the build-up with this  mysterious character is a play on the “history always repeats itself” theme. She thinks that Bob is the new Don.

Bob, like Don comes from a different past than he admits and he has the ability to charm his way into people’s lives, proving useful at the most opportune times.  Ms. Jeannie thinks Bob will actually be a point of solace for Don in Season 7, proving that Don is not the only person in the world with the desire to reinvent themselves, nor the last.  By the end of Season 7, Ms. Jeannie predicts that Roger Sterling will have retired, Bert Cooper will have died (sorry Burt!) and Don will have removed himself from the industry completely (more on that in a minute). Bob will be at the helm of the agency, just underneath Peggy and Joan, who will be the new partners of the first female-run ad agency in New York City.

Vintage 1960's Red Dress from Catbooks1940s. (Click for more info)

Vintage 1960’s Red Dress from Catbooks1940s. (Click for more info)

Joan from Catbooks1940’s in the U.S. discusses Peggy’s character and where she could be headed…

“Much to my surprise, I noted it was actually Paul Kinsey who first put the idea of becoming a copywriter into Peggy’s bright and eager head, not Don or Freddy Rumsen.

Peggy who, towards the end of the finale, ended up in Don’s office, wearing a (fabulous) period pantsuit, sitting in his chair, in half-silhouette, head tilted slightly to the right, echoing Don in the opening graphic we’ve now seen for years. But back to Peggy and Kinsey of Season 1 for a moment.

Kinsey hands the Right Guard account folder to Peggy, sitting at her desk, and asks her to make sure Don takes a look at it. He hesitates, turns back to her and says, “You can look too.” She does.

Later he gives Peggy a grand tour of the office, explaining how the agency works. Over wax paper-wrapped sandwiches from the lunch cart he says, “You know, there are women copywriters.”

“Good ones?” she responds.

“Sure.”

Now she’s Copy Chief, and we’re to suppose she just might be doing more than temporarily filling in her former mentor’s chair in the near future. (I don’t think that’s going to happen. For one, Mad Men is chock full of redirects.)”

According to Ms. Jeannie, Peggy is the spine of the show. Don is the flesh of the story but Peggy is the moral balance. She has the most integrity of all the characters and even though, of course, she is flawed, she’s always trying , at least, to do the right thing, by clients, by co-workers, by love interests.  As far as a love life for Peggy, Ms. Jeannie always liked her with Stan, so she hopes they end up together. Even though she referred to him last season as “being like a brother” Ms. Jeannie thinks that given the opportunity to think of him in a romantic way, Peggy could really have a great relationship with him.

Peggy has a bad habit of picking guys that are wrong for her, out of in-experience mostly and her need for challenge, so Stan would never enter her radar because their friendship is so easy-going. But Ms. Jeannie thinks in Season 7, Peggy will come to appreciate that  and then seek it out on her own terms. They’ve been friends all these years, Stan respects her work ethic and intuitively they both work well together on creative projects. Stan is just different enough from Peggy for her to keep interested and Stan understands Peggy’s drives and motivations enough to give her the professional space that she requires. Technically, it’s a match made in heaven!

Peggy & Stan. Photo via pinterest.

Peggy & Stan. Photo via pinterest.

Joan from Catbook1940s brings up the timeliness of Duck’s character towards the end of the episode…

Meanwhile back at the finale, Don has left the building, for all appearances effectively fired from SC&P. On his way down, he runs into Duck, with Don’s prospective replacement, coming out of the elevator before his metaphorical professional body is even cold. Who tipped off headhunter Duck? Pete seems like the most likely suspect, having most recently — as far as we know — been the last in contact with him. But, for all we know, it was Bob, skulking about, eavesdropping, and then giving Duck the call.”

Ms. Jeannie’s not sure about this one. Part of her says, yes, perhaps it was Pete to tell Duck, because who else would have done it. But I think Duck keeps close tabs on what goes on at SC&P and might have heard industry gossip about what occurred at the Hershey presentation, and therefore asserted himself with a meeting at the office.

“As ever, Matt Weiner & Co. were deliciously, infuriatingly vague, leaving it up to us to think it over, connect the dots, read between the lines. Which is one of the reasons I think Mad Men is the best TV show in the history of TV to date: Matt Weiner & Co. do not condescend to us, the audience. They expect us to observe closely and think — there are no throwaway lines

— and, think we do.

Occasionally there are too few clues, or none. How were we to know, for instance, that Joan got the Avon account, were it not for Mr. Weiner’s post-finale interview? Only slightly less confusing, because at least we had a hope of figuring it out on our own, was Pete’s sudden move out to California with Ted, as head of accounts of what would appear to be the beginnings of the West Coast office of SC&P.What about Bob? The most mysterious and controversial character of the season, and Joan’s new BMF. Is he gay, bi, neither but an opportunist ready and willing to do every and anything he thinks is to his advantage, a conspirator in Pete’s mother’s apparent murder? Is he fluent in Spanish because Manny/Manolo is his lover, or for some other reason? Hmm..

Blog reader, Christine from Philadelphia thinks that Bob Benson is up to no good…

“I think that Bob and Manolo are con-men.  Bob is working on the inside of SC&P to eventually steal money from the company. Remember, that he worked in accounting to begin with and then, as of late, has been cozying up with Joan, possibly in hopes to learn more about the inner workings of the office. Manolo went the circuitous route by inserting himself in Pete Campbell’s personal life, so that ultimately, with the help of Manolo, Bob could  find Pete’s weak spot and bring him down on a fundamental level. Bob could advance in the company and continue to plot about stealing company money before he and Manolo run off together as lovers with a fortune.”

Hmmmm…so much to think about! It seems that could go on for months about Don and Bob. There was a theory flying around the internet all season that Bob was a spy for the government who was after Don. While technically, Ms. Jeannie supposes this could still be a possibility,  she is glad that Don is dredging up his past on his own instead of being forced to by police or the government.

With Don no longer trying to stay tight-lipped about his past, he can now begin to let others into his thoughts. What was once a lonely place for him, the internal struggles  of his mind can now come to the surface and be shared with others.  Sally, in Ms. Jeannie’s opinion,  will the one to most appreciate this effort. We know from past seasons that she has yet to develop any hobbies or personal interests, yet she is incredibly observant and outspoken, so Ms. Jeannie thinks that Sally will close the series with the determination of becoming a journalist. She’ll realize that there is value, both financially and emotionally, in watching people’s stories unfold and she;ll become afresh voice of her generation. This will be her way to ultimately figure out her parents, herself and her changing society.

Sally Draper  - budding journalist perhaps? Photo via pinterest.

Sally Draper – budding journalist, perhaps? Photo via pinterest.

As for what will become of Don in the final season, Ms. Jeannie thinks that he could stay with Megan, that they could move to Montreal, that they could have a baby and that Megan could continue to work as an actor. Ms. Jeannie really liked Megan’s character, so she is hoping that she is not off the show. She liked that Megan gave her whole heart to Don and tried her best to make it work during both the easy times and the hard times, trying to be both understanding and clever. Being married to Don might have been her best playground for dramatic practice.

Betty is a bit more old-fashioned in defining her own role as a wife and mother, albeit not seeming  exactly excited about either option. Don understands Betty more though because they come from the same generation of expectations, where as Megan is thoroughly modern in her thinking. Having said that, Ms. Jeannie thinks Betty will divorce Henry because, with him, her life seems dull. Ms. Jeannie thinks she’ll encourage a reconciliation with Don and a move to a more exotic locale like Mexico or Hawaii, where they can start over as a family with the boys and Sally in tow.

The third possibility is that Don could remain in New York, single, and for the first time, sure of himself, as he watches the city spin around him. He could get out of the advertising industry all together and start a different career path – maybe opening up a cinema, which was the only thing we ever knew that he loved (besides, women, work and drinking of course!). It’s unclear if Don needs to work, or if he has enough in reserve, to just take some time off  and sort through his life for awhile.

Ms. Jeannie was disappointed that Roger didn’t pull Don aside before-hand to let him know about the company’s plans of forcing a prolonged absence.  Roger and Don were such friends, but in the end, that’s just business, and when it comes down to it, life and work march on whether you are having a meltdown or not. Don had the ability to bring down the whole ship of SC&P, so Roger was possibly looking at it from that perspective.  One that his livelihood was tied up in just as much as Don’s.

Joan from Catbooks1940’s thinks the office is going to shake down as foillows…

Predictions for the final season next year? With Mad Men, this is much like trying to predict the flight of a bumblebee, but here goes.

We will know more about Bob Benson. I suspect he’s angling for Pete’s job as head of accounts, and so far, he’s doing well. SC&P isn’t all that picky about the backgrounds of their employees, as long as they can bring in the accounts. Pete’s off to California, anyway. The way he manipulated the nurse at Joan’s visit to the emergency hospital and Pete’s humiliation in Detroit was downright masterful. He’s come a long way from his ham-handed grinning and lurking with two cups of coffee. A quick learner, that boy. So we’ll see if he can use his formidable newly acquired skills on clients as effectively.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Don at SC&P, nor do I think all that’s happened will end up being the wake-up call that finally wakes him up. He’ll shape up professionally, Don-talk his way back, and then leave. Probably for California, either to take over the new office out there, or start out on his own. He’s already proved himself many times over to be either incapable or unwilling to change in any meaningful way on a personal level.

Maybe he’ll even talk Peggy and Ted into coming with him. Which would fit nicely with my thought that things between Peggy and Ted aren’t over. Not to say I think it’ll be a happily ever after ending with them, and maybe not even develop into a romantic relationship, but there’s something else in store for those two.

Bert Cooper, one of my favorite characters, may buy the farm next season, leaving SC&P rudderless. For all of his delightfully quixotic quirks, he is the anchor. When push comes to shove, it’s always Bert who sees what needs to be done and does it without hesitation.

Which would leave Roger and Jim Cutler in charge. Except, there’d still be Joan. Roger is no match for Cutler, but Roger *and* Joan just might be. I like the idea of Joan and Roger together, not romantically, but teaming up professionally. I confess I want some sort of happiness and success for Joan, and even Roger, so take this prediction with a grain of salt.

I find Megan too uninteresting and two-dimensional a character to bother thinking about much, but she’ll be out in California, pursuing her acting career, probably solo.

Just to tie back into Season 1, I think Paul Kinsey is in California, pontificating and blowing his mind on acid, in the Haight. But I doubt we’ll ever see him again.”

Women of Mad Men Print

Women of Mad Men Print by Fishmerman’s Porch (click for more info)

Brandi from Fisherman’s Porch in Michigan was so satisfied with this season’s character development, she couldn’t even begin to decide where the storylines will go next year…

“What I love about the finale is that it’s practically impossible to not talk about but there is so little to say that it doesn’t say itself. I’ve read that Matthew Weiner ends every season as if it’s the last and I really think part of his genius is that he almost always manages to end a season with all the characters in a place that feels complete, while still giving you a reason to keep watching. The finale was wonderful, a great end to kind of a winding season; everyone is right where they need to be. Sigh… I miss it already.”

Well said, Brandi! Matthew Weiner has such a wonderful knack for giving just the right amount of information, without giving all the information. He said recently, in an interview, that he will not be unveiling a big “aha” moment for the series finale, so it is doubtful that Don Draper and the rest of the cast will be wrapped up in a tidy little package like we all would hope.  But nonetheless, it is still fun to imagine what could happen while we wait for what will happen.

Thank you to everyone who contributed their comments. If you, dear blog readers, would like to chime in with your thought’s on the show’s direction, please comment below and we’ll continue all of our speculating!

One last thought: One thing that was never addressed were the cops in the season six poster. Do you think that was meant to represent the tumultuous time in history or was it a metaphorical symbol of Don confronting his past? Or maybe they represent his night spent in jail? What do you think?

Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com

Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com

From New York City to Rockport, Massachusetts: A Love Story

Mid-February marks two special events for Ms. Jeannie and her valentine. First, the holiday of love of course, and then two days later, February 16th, marks Ms. Jeannie’s wedding anniversary.  Each year, her and Mr. Jeannie Ology alternate planning something special between the two events.

It’s fun to keep each another guessing as to what’s in store for a special treat. Some years, there are elaborate plans like a weekend getaway or an expensive gift, but mostly they are simple celebrations – a special dinner, a movie, a bottle of champagne. Time spent together is all that matters. Really they could sit at home and do nothing and still have a grand time together.

It was like that right off the bat for them. They struck up this wonderful conversation when they first met here…

nyhilton

in the lobby of the New York Hilton Hotel. Both were there on work purposes involved with running a tradeshow. Ms. Jeannie on the corporate side, Mr. Jeannie on the entertainment side.  Ms. Jeannie had just been promoted to a new position with a ton of responsibility and Mr. Jeannie was there to keep the show moving along at an interesting clip. For three days, they worked side by side. For three days, they talked, they laughed, they got to know one another. For three days, they kept discovering small things they had in common…

A profound love of Ireland. Photograph by TootsFair.

…a profound love of Ireland. Photograph by TootsFair.

The same taste in movies.  Vintage movie real canisters from PassedBy.

…the same favorite movies. Vintage movie real canisters from PassedBy.

The exotic appeal of white cherries. Photograph by AmeliaKay Photography

… a newly discovered fondness for white cherries. Photograph by AmeliaKay Photography

The art of spontaneous travel. Vintage suitcase from epochco.

…the thrill of spontaneous travel. Vintage suitcase from epochco.

and a shared respect for each other's dreams. Inspirational art from typoem.

…and a shared respect for each other’s dreams. Inspirational art from typoem.

As you can see they covered a lot of topics! By day three, it felt like they had known each other for years.

On the afternoon of the third day, the show ended. Ms. Jeannie packed up. Mr. Jeannie packed up. Ms. Jeannie felt ill at ease. In just a short while Mr. Jeannie would walk out those hotel doors and disappear from her life.  Ms. Jeannie’s heart ached at the very thought of never seeing him again. So what did she do?

She gave him her phone number. This is a re-enactment for story purposes and not Ms. Jeannie's actual number, so please don't call it expecting to find her there.

She gave him her phone number. Please note: this is a re-enactment for story purposes only and not Ms. Jeannie’s actual number.

By the weekend they went on their first official date here…

The Central Park Zoo

The Central Park Zoo

As it turned out there was a special celebration going on for the sea lions that day, which involved free cake for all zoo-goers. There was also a  film crew, party balloons and a giant fish cake for the sea lions.  It all felt very festive! Ms. Jeannie took this as a good sign:)

On a quick side note: If you have never been before to the Central Park Zoo, you must visit. It is  a fabulous little hideaway tucked into Central Park and is often overlooked for the much bigger, much more well known Bronx Zoo.  A lot of people don’t even know it exists, because it is laid out in Central Park in such a way, that every time you visit you feel like you have unexpectedly discovered it.  Ms. Jeannie’s favorite exhibit is the penguins where you can watch them both on land and in the water in the same exhibit.

You can view them both above the waterline and below. Photo courtesy of penguinnewstoday.blogspot.com

It’s like one massive fish tank. Photo courtesy of penguinnewstoday.blogspot.com

Penguin exhibit.

Ms. Jeannie just loves these penguins. They have zippy little personalities and always seem to be having a ton of fun. If you are lucky enough to find yourself  alone in the exhibit – it can be very peaceful –  just you and the penguins.  Ms. Jeannie could watch them for hours!

Here’s a video of the exhibit Ms. Jeannie found on youtube. It gives you a feel for these active little guys…

So back to the date… the zoo, turned into an all day outing. And by the end of it, they still didn’t want to part. So they went for pizza. Then they went for cappucinnos.  Then they walked to the subway – the long way – 25 blocks in total.  They just kept walking and talking without realizing!  It turned out to be a record breaking 13 hour first date, from 10:00am in the morning until 11:00pm at night. It was grand.  Ms. Jeannie felt lucky to know such a great new friend.

Marvelous dates kept occurring.  Ms. Jeannie knew she had met her romantic match when Mr. Jeannie  took her up on the roof of an old hotel on the Upper West Side.  “So they could look at the city at night,” he’d said.

Few things are more romantic then looking down on Manhattan from that perspective.  The city almost looked fake. And all the lights seemed to twinkle. It was quite magical. New York provided quite the backdrop for falling in love.

manhattannight1

Fast forward a few years, and Mr. Jeannie proposed in Florida on a tiny little boat during a Christmastime vacation. Ms. Jeannie was surprised, she had no idea Mr. Jeannie had such big plans prepared! Ms. Jeannie said “of course” without hesitation.  Mr. Jeannie cried the whole boat ride back to shore:)

A few years later they were knee deep in wedding plans. Since it was so expensive to get married in the city, and because they were such big fans of road trips, they decided to get married somewhere else. They looked into Vermont, into Maine, into Connecticut, but couldn’t find just the right place.  A friend of Ms. Jeannie’s tol;d her about a fabulous movie she had just watched, noting in particular, the gorgeous coastal New England town setting.  Here’s the trailer…

The next weekend, Ms. Jeannie,  Mr. Jeannie and their newly adopted border collie, were on the road to Rockport, Massachusetts where the movie was filmed.  If you are unfamiliar, Rockport is located on the very tip of Cape Ann, just north of Gloucester (which, incidently, was the setting for the movie, A Perfect Storm). It’s a 5 hour drive from NYC and only a 45 minute train ride from Boston.

When Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie drove into town, this is what they saw…

Bradley Wharf in Rockport Massachusetts. Photograph courtesy of fineartamerica.com

Bradley Wharf. Photograph courtesy of fineartamerica.com

Bradley Wharf sits in the center of the scenic inlet that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. The town of Rockport surrounds it on three sides.  The red barn, known as Motiff No. 1, is the most painted barn in America and Rockport, itself, is an actual artist community.  With views like this how could it not be?!

Rockport Harbor

Rockport Harbor

The town sits nestled against the hillside, facing the water and is filled with gorgeous, historic seafaring captain-type homes.

View from the harbor

View from the harbor

House built in 1711

House built in 1711

House built in 1900

House built in 1900

House built in 1771

House built in 1771

House built in 1840

House built in 1840

Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie stayed at Carlson’s Bed & Breakfast, the only b&b in town, at the time, that would accept pets.  Sven Carlson was a painter himself along with his wife (who dabbled!).  They were extraordinarily interesting hosts.

Carlson's Bed & Breakfast

Carlson’s Bed & Breakfast (on the left) . Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie stayed on the top floor in a yellow wall papered room that was bright and sunny.

Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie did all sorts of exploring up and down the coast. They went lobstering with a boat captain as he picked up his pods for the day, they went shopping on Bearskin Neck (see photo below) and they ordered take-out lobster from Roy Moore Lobster Company which they took down to the beach to enjoy. True picnic decadence:)

All the storefronts here are old fishing shacks and are wonderfully weathered. Some even have apartments on top too.

The shops of Bear Skin Neck.

You might also recognize Rockport from the movie, The Proposal, with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. The movie is supposed to take place in Sitka, Alaska – but it was actually filmed in Rockport  and the neighboring town of Manchester-By-The-Sea.

Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie returned to Cape Ann several more times for vacations. Each time having more fun then the last.  They decided on the Emerson Inn  as their wedding venue, because it was located on a bluff right above the ocean. Also Ms. Jeannie loved that it had literary connections in it’s namesake, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson Inn by the Sea, Rockport, MA

It had been lodging house, always, since the very beginning in the 1850’s.  Ralph Waldo who spent summers at the hotel with his family, was said to have gathered poetic inspiration from the landscape.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) Boston born poet and philospher credited with leading the transcendentalist movement in America.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) Boston born poet and philospher credited with leading the transcendentalist movement in America.

Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie were married at 8:00pm in a small candlelight ceremony, by the town clerk. They wrote their own vows. They held each other’s hand.  Mr. Jeannie cried:)  They danced to Ella Fitzgerald’s At Last.  They had two cakes, a traditional lemon creme pound cake with rolled fondant and fresh flowers and then a red velvet  groom’s cake in the shape of a lobster.  Both of them agreed they were the best cakes they had ever eaten.

The Emerson Inn at night.

The Emerson Inn at night.

For their honeymoon, they traveled with their pup, up and down the Massachusetts coastline for a week, exploring each small town.  They visited parks  and cafes and antique shops. They ate lobster and drank wine and walked to the beach every day. On their last night, they stayed near the water’s edge until late in the night looking for their dreams in the depths of the stars.

Fast forward all these years now, and Ms. Jeannie and her valentine are still adventuring together and still dreaming. Their pup has come and gone, their lives have twisted and turned, and their love has lasted. And for all that, Ms. Jeannie feels incredibly lucky. To know such experience and to know such a man.

Thank you New York Hilton, thank you Central Park Zoo, thank you New York City, thank you best dog ever, and above all, thank you Mr.Jeannie for starring in the best love story of Ms. Jeannie’s life.

The Connection between the Olympics, The Chordettes and Synchronized Swimming!

The synchronized swimming coverage starts this Sunday for all you Olympiad fans:) Ms. Jeannie of course will be tuned in to see how our U.S.  ladies fare.  Did you know that synchronized swimmers slick their hair back with Knox gelatin? The gelatin holds every hair in place during the competition and takes about an hour (and lots of hot hot water) to wash out at the end of their performance.  Ms. Jeannie just loves little fun facts like that!

Synchronized swimming coverage runs August 5th – August 10th

Ever since Ms. Jeannie watched the Aqualilies promotional video, she has been humming that catchy little tune they featured.  Finally after driving Mr. Jeannie Ology nuts, she took to the internet to find out about the song.  If you missed the Aqualillies video from her previous post here it is…

Searching with just the few lyrics she could identify “whichever one you choose” and “kiss me kiss me kiss me” on elyrics.net, Ms. Jeannie discovered it was the song called Never on Sunday by the Chordettes, which came out in the early 1960’s.

Here’s the song in full…

It was written for the foreign film of the same title, Never on Sunday, and won an Oscar for Best Song at the 1961 Academy Awards.  This was the first song from a foreign film  ever to win Best Song, so it was a big deal for both the music industry and the film industry.  Here’s the movie trailer…

The movie starred Melina Mercouri as a free-spirited Greek prostitute (naturally!)  that is the object of an American philospher’s  (played by Jules Dassin) fascination. He’s studying abroad trying to figure out how and why Greece has fallen from ancient greatness and she represents the symbolic cause behind his research. Some critics say this is the 1960’s version of Pretty Woman.

Greek actress Melina Mercouri (1920-1994)

Jules Dassin (1911-2008) wrote, directed and starred in Never on Sunday

The movie was also nominated for Best Actress, Best Costume Design, Best Director and Best Writing/Story/Screenplay. Ms. Jeannie can’t wait to watch the whole thing – it sounds like it was a good one.

By the time the Chordettes had won their Oscar, they were at the peak of their career. Catapulted to popularity with their mid- 50’s chart topping hits Mr. Sandman and Lollipop,  a performance on American Bandstand in 1957 (the first televised episode actually!)  ensconced them in the American popular music front.

By December 1961 the group had broken up, but, 40 years later,  were brought back into the spotlight when they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.

Looking for your own vintage Chordette records? Try these Etsy shops…

Set of Three Vintage Record Albums by midsummerdaydream

Vinyl 45 – The Chordettes: Soft Sands by dragonflychase

Happy listening!

Happy 4th!

Goodness gracious! Is it scorching hot here in the South!

Everything is either wilting or dripping. The garden has been wind-whipped by hot dry dust storms almost everyday, and that is after we went through an almost tornado storm on Sunday with 60 mph wind gusts, thunder and lightening. The garden is starting to show some wear and tear.  Pictures will come later this week.

In the meantime… the heat of the summer always signals the start of Ms. Jeannie’s movie marathons. There is nothing more decadent then curling up by a fan and losing yourself in the lengthy plot lines of seasonal tv shows, mini series and movie epics.  That’s how she was first introduced to Mad Men, the Tudors, Empire Falls, Castle, The Godfather, Good Neighbors…

So it is with that in mind, if you are experiencing a horrendous heat wave in your neck of the woods as well, that Ms. Jeannie recommends a most patriotic mini-seies for this holiday week… the HBO mini-series John Adams.

This came out a few years ago(2008), but the more Ms. Jeannie talks about this movie, the more she realizes a lot of people never saw it. If you fall in that boat, here’s the trailer…

Delightfully, it starts out in the winter with John Adams (played fantastically by Paul Giamatti) riding his horse through a blizzard in 1770 Boston.  Just watching that scene alone instantly cools you off and makes you forget about the temperature outside.

John Adams – Opening Scene

The mini-series is based on the thoroughly researched book John Adams by David McCullough.

A New York Times Bestseller! John Adams by David McCullough

Like the book, the mini-series painstakingly brought every single detail of colonial life alive in the production. Tom Hanks, a huge history buff, was one of the executive producers. It stars in addition to Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney (Abigail Adams), Tom Wilkinson (Ben Franklin) and David Morse (George Washington). The production team was dedicated to making the film look and feel exactly like life would have been in 1770’s America.

Official Poster. Such a smart tagline…He united the states of America.

They even aged the teeth of John and Abigail so by the end, they were pretty decayed. Exactly what people’s teeth would have looked like at the time! The whole production is a visual feast for not only the eyes but the imagination as well.

The opening theme delighted Ms. Jeannie.  Simple yet so dramatic and full of emotion. You can’t help but feel inspired by just watching that!

Since Ms. Jeannie used to live in Philadelphia it was equally fascinating to look at the sets and then remember the city as she knew it. Of course she has the done the history tour of Philadelphia many times, but now after watching the movie and reading the book she feels like she understands that time period, the city and our early government so much better now.

So if you want to fall in love with America all over again, Ms. Jeannie highly recommends losing yourself in this eight hour marathon. She guarentees you will walk away with a different perspective on our forefathers struggle to create our nation of independence.

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” – John Adams

Have 4th of July dear blog readers!

Coming Soon: The Great Gatsby!

The new trailer for the upcoming remake of the Great Gatsby was just released.  Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby. Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan are playing Nick and Daisy.

The movie doesn’t come out until late December, so we have a long way to go yet, but it will be fun to follow the progress of the film from now ’til then.  This version was directed by Baz Luhrman, which means it comes with a lot of pomp and circumstance and big stage dramatics. Ms. Jeannie can’t wait!

Movie Still from the Great Gatsby Featuring Leonardo Dicaprio as Jay Gatsby and Carey mulligan as Daisy Buchanan.