Friday, July 21, 2006

Four Movies and a Visit From Misty and Larry

Bed and Breakfast, Autumn in New York, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Oscar and Lucinda. Four movies viewed this week, and all fascinating in their own way.
Let me first state that I'm not a huge Roger Moore fan, nor am I a fan of Richard Gere. Both men seem to be slightly effeminate womanizers, the kind of smooth, cultured snobs who age gracefully and look gorgeous well into their 70s, despite dissipating habits. However, I couldn't have liked Moore better in the charming and surprisingly deep Bed and Breakfast. Talia Shire plays a Bed and Breakfast owner in Maine, who lives with her mother, the incomparable Colleen Dewhurst, and her troubled teenage daughter, an actress I've never heard of who looks to be a fine violinist. Moore is a rapscallion on the lamb from his latest bout of trouble, who washes up on the beach in front of Shires B&B. Of course, the three lonely women all fall for him in a different way, and he wisely counsels them to follow their dreams. Mayhem ensues in various forms, from the jealous townsfolk to the arrival of thugs looking for Moore, but it all works out in the end, and there are some very tender, lovely scenes delineating the relationship that builds between Moore and the widow Shire, who is very guarded. Interesting moments develop in the mother-daughter relationships as well, and the viewer gets to see the inner workings of the family.
Autumn in New York is a tragic love story, filled with moments in which the luminous, young Winona Ryder teaches the jaded, aged p-hound Gere about what it means to love someone, to commit to that love, and respect it though you know it will end soon. Gere even has a couple of moments of actual acting, where his grief is so naked and his pain so real, I felt it wash over me as well. Because there are such great moments, you can ignore much of the other bits that don't read so realistically. The fact that Gere is supposed to be a restauranteur who believes that "food is the only beauty that nourishes the body" didn't bother me as much as his attempts to appear like he could really cook, long greasy gray hair falling in the food and all. Still, the movie ends with Gere taking responsibility for a daughter he'd ignored, and that left us with the clear message of life moving forward, despite beloved people leaving us behind.
Oscar and Lucinda is also a somewhat tragic love story, of an Anglican priest (the amazing Ralph Fiennes) whose gambling compulsion leads him to team up with a gambling-obessed glass-factory owner, (the camelion-like Cate Blanchett) to create a glass church for another Anglican priest in the wilds of New South Wales. Blanchett and Fiennes are magical when on the screen together, as riveting and vulnerably beautiful as the glass church they seek to create and move across the country. I have to say that I have never seen Fiennes in a role in which he didn't terrify me, on some level, with his intensity. But there's a lure, an attraction to that fear that is like walking outside in a lightening storm in Florida. You know you might get hit with a bolt of ligtening and fry, but you can't help yourself from watching the flashes play across the sky. He was an innocent, shy, brave and skinny man in this movie, not really all that attractive, yet you couldn't take your eyes off the man when he was on the screen. My heart was pounding when he merely brushed his lips across Blanchetts. The fervent way he prayed, the way in which he killed a man with a look on his face like a little boy about to squish some fearful bug, THAT was acting in the true sense, acting as an art form.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starred my 13-year-old crush, Donny Osmond, who, along with David Cassidy and, to a lesser extent (because he was older) Bobby Sherman, occupied the minds and hearts of 3/4 of the preteens and young teens of the 1970s. I wore purple socks because Donny did. I hated Marie with a passion, because she was always upstaging Donny and making fun of him on their show. I played his records until my brother was forced to hide the album because he was deathly sick of hearing Donnys voice singing treacly pop tunes. Now, Donny is probably 50 years old, and yet he's one buff and handsome Joseph, singing in full voice all the wonderful Andrew Lloyd Weber tunes penned for this light and zippy take on the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, from the Bible. The woman playing the narrator, though very mobile of face and robust of voice, got on my nerves by the end of the musical. She was a distraction from the characters, a kind of deus ex machina, that I felt didn't need to be in every single song and scene. To be frank, I wanted to see more of Donny. I found myself wondering what was up with Marie, and his older brothers who are deaf. What about little pudge-ball Jimmy, who was also very annoying, but whom I could understand, as I had an annoying younger brother, too. Anyway, the story is basically the age-old one of jealous brothers who sell Joseph, the favored son of 12, into slavery and eventually have to ask him for help when Joseph becomes the Pharoh's right hand. Having the Pharoh be an Elvis impersonator was a stroke of genius, by the way. If you can get past the cheezy 70s disco song and the bizarre props and carefully-placed loincloth Donny wears, you'll find a charming and fun musical under it all. The ending was silly, but then, Weber isn't known for his great endings. Why they chose to place the story initially in a British school assembly is still not clear to me, but I chose to just ignore the incongruity and enjoy the funky set design.
Speaking of design, I was fortunate enough to attend the annual visitation by the talented Mercedes Lackey and her handsome, charming husband Larry Dixon. These two are amazing authors, and Dixon's illustrations are top-notch. He passed around a computer tablet with a slide show of his latest work, illustrations of Lackeys books and of Star Trek ships. They were breathtaking, each one so detailed and dimensional that you could almost swear some were photos. Mercedes, or Misty as she prefers, was in full voice, telling about her latest book projects and her predilection for role-playing games and creating stories around characters in those games. The audience all found it as ironic as she does that her way of relaxing from writing all day is to write some more in a gaming setting. Larry Dixon, meanwhile, does not age. The man must have a painting in an attic somewhere aging for him. And I was thoroughly charmed by his mature and generous attitude toward his fans and friends, even after an apparently horrendous difficulty with a stalker and an accident that broke his arm.
Most people wouldn't have the guts to tour the country and talk to fans after an incident like that, but Misty and Larry are made of sterner, and kinder, stuff. They related anecdotes about their time on the set of the Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, their work helping rescue birds of prey, and of the new books they have coming out this year and next. I was particularly pleased to hear that the Elementals series continues on, though I wish I would have gotten the chance to ask Misty why fire mages get such short shrift in her novels. Does she have something agin us fabulous fire signs, perhaps? At any rate, I bought a copy of a moon-themed book in which Misty has the lead story, and I got all my other books signed. I also managed to give Larry and Misty some decent pens for signing, so they didn't have to use the cheap ones the library set out for them. I sincerely hope they return next year, so I can have the opportunity to chat with them for a longer period, and hear of their latest adventures.

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