Posted in Reading Books, The Awesome 13

The Awesome 13 – The Baby-Sitter’s Club

The Awesome 13 – The Baby-Sitter’s Club

For some reason I’ve totally been in Baby-Sitter’s Club mood lately.  It’s probably because the short-lived television series from 1990 is now on Netflix and I’ve been secretly watching it in the mornings as I get ready for work, but I’ve totally had BSC on my mind.

I’ve written about how important this series is to me before in this wonderful post, but now it’s time to pick my favorites.  I thought it was going to be easy, but it totally wasn’t.  The fact is I love every single one of these books.  But since I know the first 20 or so books of this 200+ book series backwards and forwards, I pretty much narrowed it down to those, which made things a little easier.

So here it is…my top 13 BSC books!

13.  Stacey’s Mistake (#18)


In this book, Stacey is back living in New York City and invites Claudia to visit her for the weekend.  But she doesn’t expect her best friend from NYC Laine (total B, by the way) and best friend from Stoneybrook to totally hate each other!  There’s so much middle school nastiness in this book that I just can’t help but love it.

12.  The Baby-Sitters’ Winter Vacation (Super Special #3)


I love stories that take place during the winter, and because this one was a Super Special, it makes it extra awesome.  Their class takes a ski trip to Vermont, and as you’d expect, all sorts of crazy stuff happens, like the Winter War, busses over-turning, and Mary Anne missing Logan (as always).

11.  The Truth About Stacey (#3)


In this book we find out all about Stacey’s diabetes, which was pretty groundbreaking at the time because it showed us that anyone can get diabetes, but that it’s something that could be managed on a day-to-day basis.  The fact that Stacey could deal with it made the whole thing less scary, at least for me, and taught me a lot.  Great book.

10.  Mary Anne Saves the Day (#4)


This is the first time we really get to know Mary Anne, the person with whom I identified the most – shy, quiet, timid, etc.  But even though she’s all those things, and even though the book starts off with a horrible fight between the four girls and none of them are speaking to each other, Mary Anne is able to overcome all of that when put in a crisis situation.  I loved this book because it made me believe that I could overcome scary situations, too.  Oh, and Mary Anne gets to take her braids out for the first time.  Pretty sweet.

9.  Little Miss Stoneybrook and Dawn (#15)


I always found myself re-reading this book again and again because it was so much fun reading about the kids getting ready for the Little Miss Stoneybrook pageant.  I usually only loved the stories that focused on the baby-sitters, but this one focused on the kids and made them sound like so much fun.  You could tell Ann M. Martin had a good time writing this one and trying to think of all sorts of different talents for those kids.  So much fun.  Also, pageants!

8.  The Baby-Sitters’ Summer Vacation (Super Special #2)


If there’s one thing I love more than winter stories, it’s summer camp stories.  And that’s what happens in this super special.  The BSC girls are CITs (Counselor-in-Training) at Camp Mohawk and, as usual, hijinks ensue.  Dawn gets lost in the wilderness overnight (!), Kristy learns how to use mascara (!!), and Mary Anne gets caught sneaking over to the boys’ side of the camp (!!!).  Also Stacey spends the two weeks in the infirmary with poison ivy…and Claudia develops a crush on a boy CIT.  Good times.

7.  Mary Anne’s Bad-Luck Mystery (#17)


I always loved the books about “scary” topics, and this one never disappointed.  Mary Anne thinks she’s cursed because all this bad stuff starts happening to her after she starts getting mysterious letters saying that she’ll have bad luck – a letter that she IGNORED.  Of course it turns out that mega-B Cokie Mason was behind the whole thing because she wanted to get her claws on Mary Anne’s boyfriend, Logan.  Still, the whole thing was always spooky to me.

6.  Baby-Sitters on Board! (Super Special #1)


This was the first super special of the series, and at the time it was a pretty big deal because a) it had more pages than the normal books, b) it was from all the girls’ points of view, rather than just one, and c) it was awesome.  The girls go on a cruise to the Bahamas and Disney World and lots of fun stuff happens, like Claudia getting a secret admirer and Kristy playing matchmaker.  Oh, and the Pike triplets find buried treasure.  I’m pretty sure I had a crush on the Pike triplets.

5.  Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls (#2)


If Mary Anne was the only with whom I identified, then Claudia was the one I wanted to BE.  Because, admit it, she was the coolest one.  This was Claudia’s first book, and I loved that it was a spooky one.  Claudia starts getting weird phone calls where the person just breathes and then hangs up.  There’s also a burglar hanging around Stoneybrook, which makes this whole situation even scarier.  Turns out it’s just a boy who likes Claudia who’s just afraid to talk to her (duh).  Still.  Spooky.

4.  Kristy’s Big Day (#6)


For as long as I can remember, this was always my very favorite BSC book.  Why?  Well, let’s see.  Kristy is not too thrilled with her mom deciding to remarry, and a pissed-off Kristy is always kind of fun.  But it’s probably because the whole book is about planning a wedding, and what girl doesn’t love that?  Also, trying to coordinate all those kids into the wedding spelled chaos, which spelled fun for me.  And Kristy ends up all happy in the end.  Yay.

3.  Boy-Crazy Stacey (#8)


Um, a summer spent on the Jersey Shore with a bunch of cute boys running around?  Yes, please!  But seriously, what made this book so great was that Ann M. Martin put Stacey and Mary Anne together to take the trip to Sea City, NJ – two totally different people that didn’t really know much about each other – and made them get over the whole awkwardness to because actual close friends at the end.  This book wouldn’t have been the same had Stacey gone to Sea City with Claudia, or Mary Anne with Kristy.  It was the dynamic that made it great.  And cute boys.

2.  The Ghost at Dawn’s House (#9)


This book had the ultimate creep factor going for it when Dawn discovers a secret passage in her ancient house.  Combine creepy storms outside and creepy noises coming from the passageway at night and you have the perfect summer read.  Also, I’m pretty sure I also had a crush on Dawn’s brother, Jeff.  But whatever.  I love this book.

1.  Kristy’s Great Idea(#1)


Well I couldn’t exactly make any other book my number one pick, right?  This was the one that started it all!  We get to meet all four original members at the club’s inception and how they were on the brink of going their separate ways, as people do in middle school, only to be brought back together by The Baby-Sitter’s Club.  It was a great foundation for a great series, and holds up to this day even though it was written 27 years ago.  Some things never get old!

Posted in Reading Books, The Awesome 13

The Awesome 13 – Summer Reading!

Today is May 31, which in my world is the unofficial start of the Summer Reading Season.  The season lasts exactly three months and ends on August 31…because if you’ve read my past blog posts you should know that September 1 is the unofficial start of the Harry Potter Reading Season! (duh…because that’s when the Hogwarts Express takes off!)


All aboard!

Since I like to make goals (whether I reach them or not is still debatable), I set a goal of 13 books to read this summer.  Why 13?  Well, it’s my favorite number.  I obviously like to make lists of 13.  And also…three months equal exactly 13 weeks, and I figure I’ll be nice and give myself one week per book.  Of course if I happen to read more than one book per week, that’s totally okay.  I’m still way behind on my Goodreads goal, so anyway to catch up is awesome.  But for the purpose of this post, let’s just leave it at 13 books for the summer so I can have something to shoot for.

I’ve also made a pretty bold decision regarding what books I’m going to read.  Since I have about three shelves of books that I own that haven’t been read, I’ve decided to forego anything I see at the library and just read the Unread Books I Own (UBIO).  Otherwise, if I keep checking out books from the library, those UBIOs are just going to keep sitting there looking totally sad and unwanted, and I just can’t have that (unless it’s Anna Karenina which, unfortunately, will continue to sit there looking totally sad and unwanted until ALL OTHER BOOKS ARE READ).


Never gonna happen.

So now is the time to pick out what I’ll be reading this summer.  Of course a lot of the time I’m motivated by my mood, but for now I’ll make out a rough draft, if you will, of my reading schedule starting with today.

103459271.  A Million Suns by Beth Revis (May 31-June 8)

2.  Bunheads by Sophie Flack (June 9-June 15)

3.  Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (June 16-June 22)

102618124.  The Space Between by Breanna Yovanoff (June 23-29)

5.  Hourglass by Myra McIntyre (June 30-July 6)

6.  The Eternal Ones by Kristen Miller (July 7-July 13)

93009607.  All You Desire by Kirsten Miller (July 14-July 20)*

8.  These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer (July 21-July 27)

9.  Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan (July 28-August 3)

797703710.  Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan (August 4-August 10)

11.  Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher (August 11-August 17)

12.  A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (August 18-August 24)

13.  Ruined by Paula Morris (August 24-August 31)

There’s probably a 99% chance that this list will change, but at least it gives me something to go by.  Also, I will make an exception for FOUR books that I have been looking for if I find them at the library, and those are Lauren DeStefano’s Sever, Lauren Oliver’s Requiem, Kiera Cass’s The Elite, and Cynthia Hand’s Bounded.  I’ve been looking for these books for quite a long time, and if I do see them at the library, you can bet that I’ll snatch them up right away.


I will find you!

So that’s pretty much my summer in a bookshell (hehe).  Have you made any summer reading goals?

*The week I’ll be at Comic-Con!

Posted in Reading Books, The Awesome 13

The Awesome 13 – Astrid Lindgren

If Swedish author Astrid Lindgren were still around today, she would be celebrating her 105th birthday today.  She did, however, make it to 94, which is pretty damn impressive in itself.  But being impressive is nothing new to Astrid.  She was somewhat of a rock star during her 50-year writing career, yet there’s still a lot that people don’t know about her besides the fact that she created Pippi Longstongstocking.*

*Also a rock star.

So to celebrate her 105th birthday today, here are 13 awesome things about Astrid Lindgren, part-time rock star, part-time Swedish royalty, FULL-TIME AWESOME.

13.  Astrid became preggars by the chief editor of the paper for which she worked.  But instead of marrying him when he proposed, she said NO and moved to Stockholm where she learned to be a typist and stenographer.*

*A stenographer is someone who writes in shorthand, a language that’s almost impossible to understand in these modern times.

12.  When her second child Karin was sick, Karin suddenly said to her mom, “Tell me a story about Pippi Longstocking.”  Thus Pippi Longstocking from Villavillakula was born.*

*This actually proves that her daughter was awesome, too.

11.   In 1945 Astrid won first prize in a writing competition for Pippi Longstocking AFTER it had been rejected by Bonniers Publishing House.*

*I’m pretty sure whoever rejected it was fired the next day.

10.  A common characteristic with all of Astrid’s characters is their attitude of adult authority (as in, “I don’t need your adult authority”), which pisses off conservatives.*

*ha ha

9.  After a trip to the United States in 1948, Astrid was upset at how Black Americans were discriminated, which inspired her to write the essay book Kati in America.*

8.  Astrid has two literary prizes in Sweden named after her:  the first one is called the Astrid Lindgren Prize, in which 40,000 SEK (I think that’s kronas?) is awarded to a Swedish language children’s author.  The second one is called the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which was established after her death in 2002, and awards the author 5 million SEK.*

*It also remains the highest monetary award for children’s and youth literature.  IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

7.  Astrid’s portrait will be on the 20 kronor banknote beginning in 2014.*

*She’s money, baby.

6.  A minor planet discovered in 1978 was named after her, 3204 Lindgren, as well as the Swedish microsatellite Astrid 1.  Not only that, but all the instruments on the satellite are named for some of her popular characters:  PIPPI (Prelude in Planetary Particle Imaging), EMIL (Electron Measurements – In-situ and Lightweight), and MIO (Miniature Imaging Optics).*

*”Asteriod Lindgren”, as she liked to call herself.

5.  She’s got her own theme park called “Astrid Lindgren’s World” where you can hang out at Pippi’s house and maybe even sit on the roof with Karlsson.*

*Read Karlsson-on-the-Roof and you’ll get it.

4.  She wrote Mio, My Son, which became a VERY low budget movie called The Land of Faraway and starred a VERY young Christian Bale in one of the first things he ever did.*

*It’s so bad, it’s good.

3.  A collection of her original manuscripts was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2005.*

*Though they’re probably written in shorthand, so you probably can’t read them.  And if they aren’t, then they’re written in Swedish, in which case you still probably can’t read them.

2.  Astrid has superhuman strength and can lift a horse over her head.*

*Well, that’s actually not officially documented.  Pippi Longstocking, however, can totally do that.

1.  No other Swedish author has had their books translated into as many languages as Astrid Lindgren.  As of 2010, her books have been translated into 95 different languages.*

*Take that, Dragon Tattoo.

Happy birthday, Ms. Lindgren.  You’re awesome.

Posted in The Awesome 13, Watching Movies

The Awesome 13 – Star Wars

It suddenly came to me today that after over a year of blogging about things that I love, I’ve never really talked much about Star Wars except for the times I’ve written about film scores.  So in honor of the second greatest movie trilogy of all time, I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s Awesome 13 list to Star Wars and its 13 awesome moments.

13.  Escape From the Sarlaac (Return of the Jedi)

After Jabba the Hut’s little party gets crashed by Luke Skywalker and company in attempts to rescue the carbonite-frozen Han Solo, Luke and Han are sentenced to execution by way of Sarlaac, which is a horrible way to die because basically you’re dropped into a hole deep in the hot desert of Tatooine only to be eaten and digested by a huge mouth lined with several rows of sharp teeth.  As a kid I was terrified of the Sarlaac, which probably had more to do with my fear of falling than the actual monster itself.  But it’s a fun scene to watch now – hearing Lando’s hilarious scream as he falls towards the mouth before he’s rescued, watching Boba Fett’s unfortunate demise, and the exciting conclusion of Luke and Han breaking free and destroying Jabba’s sail barge right before Leia makes her own escape after strangling Jabba with the chain from which she was captured.  Good times.

Luke:  “I was born here, you know.”
Han Solo:  “You’re gonna die here, you know.  Convenient.”

12.  The Real Anakin Skywalker (Return of the Jedi)

All this time we’ve grown to hate Darth Vader.  He may be Luke’s father, but he’s Pure Evil.  We’ll never root for him, right?  Well, that all sort of changes in Return of the Jedi when Vader sees his son almost die at the hands of The Emperor, who’s far more evil than Vader will ever be.  He saves his son, giving his own life in the process, and as he lay dying on the ground in his son’s arms, we see the real face of not Darth Vader, but Anakin Skywalker.  We get a small glimpse into who Anakin really was before he became more machine than man, and even though 16 years later we get to see the evolution of Anakin Skywalker, we cherish this moment between Luke and his father, the father he never knew, the man he could finally forgive.

Anakin:  “Tell your sister…you were right.”

11.  Leia Meets Wicket (Return of the Jedi)

Hate on the Ewoks all you want, but I like ‘em.  They’re cute, they’re fuzzy, and they will attack you if you piss them off.  The cutest of all, of course, is our Ewok hero Wicket, who Princess Leia meets after her disastrous speeder bike ride.  She’s curious about him, and he’s definitely weary of her, even when she tries to offer him food.  I admit, I’m a sucker for this scene because it’s just plain cute and silly.  We know he’s not dangerous, even though he’s holding some sort of spear, and we just want him and Leia to be friends so we can continue to watch him be cute.

Princess Leia:  “You’re a jittery little thing, aren’t you?”

10.  Ewok Celebration (Return of the Jedi)

Speaking of Ewoks, they throw the best parties.  Again, people like to hate on the furry guys, but admit it…you love the end scene of Return of the Jedi.  In the original release of the movie, we get an awesome song called “Ewok Celebration”, originally titled “Yub Nub”, which means “Freedom” in Ewokese (betcha didn’t know that!).  The song is utter nonsense, but it’s hilariously fun.  We also get to see Luke’s vision of the spirits of Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Yoda watching over him.  In the original, the actor playing Anakin is the same guy we see in the aforementioned scene when Vader dies.  In the re-release of the movie post-prequels, the spirit of Anakin is suddenly played by Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin in the prequels.  Now I know some people (husband and brother) who are completely offended by this change.  Me?  Not so much.  I honestly don’t mind it at all.  But whatever.  It’s a fun way to end the trilogy, crazy Ewok song and all.

9.  Introducing Han Solo (A New Hope)

Since Han Solo seems to be everyone’s favorite character, we can’t deny that his intro in the first movie is pretty memorable.  I’m not sure if it was memorable when the movie first came out, but we love it now despite the fact that we’ve seen his intro about 500 times now.  We meet Han when Luke and Obi-Wan are looking to hitch a ride out of Tatooine.  Han’s got the rep and the ship to do it (even though Luke thinks the Millennium Falcon looks like a piece of junk).  But the price has to be right, and the three of them manage to strike a deal that pleases all.  Right away we know that Han isn’t a good guy (he did, of course, SHOOT FIRST), but we love him anyway.

Han Solo:  “Han Solo. I’m captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells me you’re lookin’ for passage to the Alderaan system?” 
Obi-Wan:  “Yes indeed, if it’s a fast ship.” 
Han Solo:  “Fast ship? You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?”

8.  Rescuing the Princess (A New Hope)

As a kid, and like all other nerdy girls from the mid-80s, I loved Princess Leia.  She remains to this day one of my favorite female characters of all time.  Strong, feisty, and not clumsy at all (take note, young adult fiction writers), she’s everything a Princess should be.  After being taken prisoner by Governer Tarkin, she’s rescued by Luke, who’s disguised as a Stormtrooper.  And then comes one of my favorite dialogue exchanges in the movie…

Leia:  “Aren’t you a little short to be a Stormtrooper?”
Luke:  “What?  Oh…”  (takes off helmet)  “I’m Luke Skywalker.  I’m here to rescue you.”

And, okay.  I know that I love Leia because she’s strong and independent woman who doesn’t need the help of some farm boy from Tatooine.  But I can’t help but swoon every time.  Even though he’s really her brother.  *shudder*

7.  A Moment With Han and Leia (The Empire Strikes Back)

At the beginning of the second movie (and hands-down the best of the bunch), we see what it’s like when Han and Leia spend quality time with each other on the ice planet Hoth.  We know from the first movie that even though they don’t get along, these two peeps have got it bad for each other.  They’re just too proud to stubborn to admit it.  So what do we get instead?  Banter.  Lovely, lovely banter between the Nerf Herder and the Princess.

Princess Leia:  “Let go.”  
Han Solo:  “Shh.” 
Princess Leia:  “Let go, please.” 
Han Solo:  “Don’t get excited.” 
Princess Leia:  “Captain, being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited.” 
Han Solo:  “Sorry sweetheart. I haven’t got time for anything else.”

For some reason we all love a good love/hate relationship between two characters, and this one is one of the best.  It’s a realistic scene that humanizes two people amidst a sci-fi/fantasy story, in a galaxy far, far away, and we can’t get enough.

6.  Time on Dagobah (The Empire Strikes Back)

One of the reasons why I love The Empire Strikes Back so much is because of Yoda.  Some of my favorite scenes take place during Luke’s time on the planet Dagobah where he meets Yoda and trains to become a Jedi.  First off, I love the look of the planet.  Wet, swampy, humid…nothing like the dry desert of Tatooine.  And Yoda is, for lack of a better word, awesome.  He’s come to Dagobah to live in exile after failing to defeat Darth Sidious, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any mojo left in him.  He teaches Luke the way of the Jedi, and also rides on his back and steals Luke’s weird hot-dog-looking food when he’s not looking.  Yoda’s a feisty, grumpy old man who’s determined to turn Luke into a Jedi, and I love him for it.

Luke:  “I want my lamp back.  I’m gonna need it to get out of this slimy mudhole.”
Yoda:  “Slimy?  Mudhole?  My home this is!”

5.  Destruction of the Death Star (A New Hope)

In what is probably the most exciting and anticipated scenes in the first movie, we get to see Luke transform from innocent, whiny farm boy to a X-Wing flying prodigy.  I’m sure no one thought that Luke was going to be the one to save the galaxy by shooting a ball of fire into an exhaust port two meters wide, but with the help of The Force, he does it.  The whole scene is a blast (no pun?) to watch, from the roll call (“Red Five standing by.”) to the trench run to the final explosion, which looks cool whether you’re watching the originals or re-releases.  It’s one of those can’t-help-but-cheer moments…especially when Han Solo and his Millennium Falcon come and save the day (re: save Luke’s ass).

Han:  “You’re all clear, kid!  Now let’s blow this thing and go home.”

4.  Vader’s Confession (The Empire Strikes Back)

This is the most famous scene in all three movies, and it’s the most important and pivotal as well.  Up to this point – if we’re watching it for the first time, that is – we don’t know much about Darth Vader except that he’s a pretty evil guy.  But when it comes out that he’s actually Luke’s father (spoilers?) – the one person whom Luke hates most in the galaxy – well, let’s just say that everyone’s jaw hit the floor.  DARTH VADER IS LUKE’S FATHER!!!!  Yep, it’s pretty huge.  And even though Luke makes some pretty weird-looking faces during the scene, it’s powerful and intense and never holds back.

Darth Vader:  “Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.” 
Luke:  “He told me enough! He told me you killed him!” 
Darth Vader:  “No.  I am your father.” 
Luke:  “No. No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

3.  “I Know.” (The Empire Strikes Back)

Two words.  Two words are all it took for us to realize how Leia and Han felt about each other.  No need for any grand declaration of love, no balcony speech, no sappy love song.  Just a simple “I know.”  And really, can you imagine any other response from Han?  Granted he didn’t have much time, what with the whole being lowered into molten-hot carbonite, but still.  Simplicity is best.

Leia:  “I love you.”
Han:  “I know.”

2.  The Throne Room (A New Hope)

Star Wars is filled with memorable images, but the one that stands out in my mind as my favorite is the final scene in the first movie.  The Death Star has been destroyed, and now Luke and Han are being rewarded for it (but not Chewie, poor wookie).  The scene itself is awesome.  The actual Throne Room is a long, rectangular hall with a long walkway that Luke and Han walk up to receive their reward from Princess Leia.  Luke is wearing a sweet-looking mustard-colored 70s jacket.  Han has a permanent smirk on his face.  And Leia is looking at the two of them like they’re silly, little boys.  There’s no dialogue, only music – a majestic march that only John Williams could think up, which provides the perfect ending for an awesome movie.

1.  The Opening Crawl (All Three)

Okay, admit it.  You get all giddy like a little kid when you see the opening crawl at the beginning of each movie.  Your heart jumps when “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” appears on the screen, and then…WORDS!!!!!!  A bunch of words slowly moving up the screen.  It’s a odd way to begin a movie, that’s for sure.  But it just makes sense. If a Star Wars movie didn’t have that opening crawl, then it just wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie.  Who knew that reading background info about rebel alliances and empires could be so exciting?

Posted in Listening to Music, The Awesome 13, Watching Movies

The Awesome 13 – Film Scores

About a year ago I wrote a post about some of my favorite film scores and why I’m such a film score geek.  I talked about some great ones from such composers as John Williams and Howard Shore, but I didn’t have the guts to actually rate them and narrow them down to a #1 winner.

Well, I think it’s about time I do just that.

This was a difficult list to make.  Not the rating, but the leaving out of so many awesome scores that didn’t make the cut.  For example, John Williams has scored about fifty-thousand movies (give or take a few thousand), but I couldn’t have a list with just John Williams scores.  He appears on this list twice (Patrick Doyle, however, appears on the list three times).

So here it is…The Awesome 13…Film Scores.

13.  How to Train Your Dragon (2010) – John Powell

This is the most recent film score to appear on this list, and also the most surprising.  I didn’t know much about this movie when it came out two years ago, except for the fact that it was based on a children’s book of the same title.  It looked cute, but I just thought it was just another animated kid’s movie that I probably wouldn’t see.  But I began to hear some positive buzz about it.  And then amongst all that buzz, it got itself an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.  Well, this definitely got my attention, since that’s my favorite category at the Oscars.  So I went on Amazon and bought the soundtrack to see what was so great about it.  And you know what?  It’s awesome!  If you like powerful orchestral works that soar with a touch of Celtic, this is a great score to listen to.  Never slow, always beautiful and exciting.

Try These Three:   

  1. “See You Tomorrow”
  2. “Test Drive”
  3. “Romantic Flight”

12.  Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Hans Zimmer

The score for Guy Ritchie’s film Sherlock Holmes remains to be one of the most inventive and original musical scores I have ever heard.  Using a banjo, cimbalom, squeaky violins, a broken pub piano, this mish-mash of odd instruments matches perfectly with the quirkiness of the movie.  It’s such a fun score to listen to because you never know what’s going to come next, and you can’t help but feel a little mischievous as you listen, like you’re about to do something crazy and unpredictable, too.

Try These Three:

  1. “Discombobulate”
  2. “I Never Woke Up in Handcuffs Before”
  3. “Marital Sabotage”

11.  The Secret Garden (1993) – Zbigniew Preisner

Most people have heard of the classic children’s book, but not too many people I know have seen the 1993 movie starring virtually all unknown actors (except for Maggie Smith, though in 1993 I didn’t know who she was, either).  But I highly recommend seeing this movie if you love beautiful sets and atmosphere and storytelling, and especially if you love beautiful and melodic, yet haunting music.  Mostly using piano and violin, composer Zbigniew Preisner brings the moors of Yorkshire to life and makes you feel like you’re part of the magic.

Try These Three:

  1. “Awakening of Spring”
  2. “Taking Colin to the Garden”
  3. “Colin Loves Mary”

10.  Little Women (1994) – Thomas Newman

While Thomas Newman is more known for his work with Pixar (Finding Nemo, Wall-E), he first got my attention in 1994 when he scored Little Women starring Winona Ryder.  He has an interesting style, using what almost sounds like tubular bells in his work, paired with a more traditional orchestral sound.  It’s light and fluttery most of the time, and as with most good composers, makes you feel like you’re living in 1860s New England with the March sisters.  And it’s his music that creates much of the emotion captured in the movie.

Try These Three:

  1. “Orchard House”
  2. “Spring”
  3. “Beth’s Secret”

9.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – Tan Dun / Yo-Yo Ma

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is probably the most international-sounding of all the scores on this list, as it mostly consists of traditional Chinese-style instruments, especially the drums.  Yo-Yo Ma contributes to the score with his beautiful cello solos, which flow so serenely that you forget this is considered to be an action movie.  There are moments of excitement when the Chinese pounding of the percussion puts you right in the middle of the action, but it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the score and the artistry of the whole movie.

Try These Three:

  1. “The Eternal Vow”
  2. “Night Fight”
  3. “Farewell”

8.  Much Ado About Nothing (1993) – Patrick Doyle

Excluding John Williams, Patrick Doyle is one of my favorite composers, although he remains to be unknown to most people.  The main reason why he’s so awesome is because he has a way of creating the most beautiful, memorable melodies of any other composer out there.  And Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing is no exception.  As one of Shakespeare’s comedies, it makes sense that this score is light and bubbly and fun.  The opening overture of the movie is soaring and majestic and gets you pumped for the rest of the movie.  And though it’s a light-hearted comedy, it has its dark moments.  But the score never loses its beauty and instead creates a melody that stays with you for a long time.

Try These Three:

  1. “Overture”
  2. “The Masked Ball”
  3. “It Must Be Requited”

7.  Henry V (1989) – Patrick Doyle

This was the first time I was introduced to Patrick Doyle, and I was blown away.  This is a lot different from the happy-fest you hear in his Much Ado score, and instead he focuses on dark, instense melodies while also capturing a powerful and almost patriotic feel moments during Henry V’s famous speech before the Battle of Agincourt.  It’s music that makes you feel like standing up and cheering although you know the bloodbath that will follow.  Don’t get me wrong – the movie is fantastic.  But this is one of those scores that can stand on its own and make you feel as if you’re part of the story without seeing a single scene from the movie.

Try These Three:

  1. “The Death of Falstaff”
  2. “The Day is Yours”
  3. “The Wooing of Katherine”

6.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2004) – Patrick Doyle

While I love all of the scores for the Harry Potter movies, this one still stands out as my favorite, probably because it’s Patrick Doyle and contains some of the more memorable themes than the rest of them.  While he obviously kept in John Williams’s original theme from the first movie (as did all the composers from the other movies), he added in his own blend of magicalness by giving Harry, Hogwarts, Neville, and Winter their own themes.  They’re all beautiful and feel like full orchestra pieces, making them stand out amongst all other music you hear in any Harry Potter movie.

Try These Three:

  1. “Harry in Winter”
  2. “Potter Waltz”
  3. “Hogwarts’ Hymn”

5.  The Indiana Jones Trilogy (1980 / 1984 / 1989) – John Williams

This is the first of FOUR trilogies that appear on this list, and the reason why I didn’t pick individual movies from the trilogies to highlight is because I just can’t split them up.  Using a chorus of trumpets and trombones, “The Raiders March” is one of the most memorable themes of any movie, and the rest of the three soundtracks are just as fun, action-packed, and triumphant.  There’s not much more I can say about them other than they’re classic John Williams that you can listen to over and over again and never get sick of.

Try These Three:

  1. “Raiders March” (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  2. “Nocturnal Activities” (Temple of Doom)
  3. “Keeping Up With the Joneses” (Last Crusade)

4.  The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (2003 / 2006 / 2007) – Klaus Badelt / Hans Zimmer

The scores to these three movies are so much fun.  Just like the movies, the music doesn’t take itself seriously: it just makes you smile and have a good time.  There’s never a dull moment in the score; the action is constant until the very last note in the final film, At World’s End, which probably has the most variety of music of the three.  Badelt and Zimmer focused on using lots of horn for the main themes, plus furiously fast strings combined with the clashing of cymbals to accompany the background, which not a lot of people had heard before this.  But it’s what keeps people’s attention – always moving, always flowing, and always entertaining.

Try These Three:

  1. “He’s a Pirate” (Curse of the Black Pearl)
  2. “Dinner is Served”  (Dead Man’s Chest)
  3. “One Day” (At World’s End)

3.  Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Javier Navarrete

I hate to use the words “hauntingly beautiful” again, but they definitely describe the score to Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film perfectly.  The entire score was based on a lullaby – a creepy lullaby that will stay in your head for days – and from that lullaby came a magical and lyrical melody that makes you feel like something isn’t right, despite how pretty-sounding it may be.  But that’s what the whole movie is: a fairytale that takes place against the background of a violent war.  Something beautiful paired with something ugly.  It’s amazing how a single violin can manage to make you feel all of that in just a few simple notes.

Try These Three:

  1. “Long, Long Time Ago”
  2. “The Moribund Tree and the Toad”
  3. “A Princess”

2.  The Star Wars Trilogy (1977 / 1980 / 1983) – John Williams

Oh, geez.  Where do I begin?  Everyone knows Star Wars.  It was voted as AFI’s Number One Film Score of All-Time.  Why?  Is it because everyone is familiar with it?  Well, no.  It’s because IT’S AWESOMENESS AT ITS BEST.  John Williams pretty much changed film scores all together with the release of Star Wars in 1977.  Inspired by Richard Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra”, Williams created fanfare in his work for this movie, something that was lacking from a lot of the movies from the same decade.  And suddenly the blockbuster movie and score were born.  All three movie scores have the same themes and tones running through them, yet still contain memorable themes in each of them.  This is a score that will live on as long as Star Wars – which will, of course, be FOREVER.

Try These Three:

  1. “The Throne Room” (A New Hope)
  2. “The Imperial March” (The Empire Strikes Back)
  3. “Parade of the Ewoks” (Return of the Jedi)

1.  The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 / 2002 / 2003) – Howard Shore

Well, this should be no surprise to anyone who knows how I feel about The Lord of the Rings.  Prior to seeing The Fellowship of the Ring, I had always loved film scores.  But this one sort of changed everything for me.  Suddenly I realized that a film score could be just as moving and wonderful and spectacular and thoughtful as the movie itself, and become a completely separate entity on its own.  Howard Shore created a masterpiece within these three movies that run together so seamlessly that one can sit and listen to all ten hours of score and feel like it’s just one piece.  And even though the three vary in tone, you can hear recurring themes in each movie – themes for the different races, different lands, etc – that seem to pop up at just the right time.  And the fact that books have been written about the score alone, as well as a live concert of Lord of the Rings makes you realize that this is definitely something special that may not happen again for a long time.

Try These Three:

  1. “The Breaking of the Fellowship” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
  2. “Evenstar” (The Two Towers)
  3. “Minas Tirith” (The Return of the King)

Oh, who am I kidding?  TRY ALL OF THEM.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, The Awesome 13

The Awesome 13 – The Songs of Glee – Season Three

The third season of Glee was an interesting one.  After a Top-40-heavy season two, the creators of the show wanted to concentrate more on showtunes again as a way of bringing the show back to its roots.  Unfortunately that didn’t go over too well with viewers, so after the first half of the show they began to add in more Top-40 hits.  That being said, season three has probably the most variety of songs than any other season.  But is it a coincidence that the majority of my picks for the best songs from Season Three come from the second half?

Probably not.

Look, I love Broadway, and I love showtunes.  But none of the ones they did this past season – which included pretty much the entire West Side Story songbook – stood out to me.  I’m more of a pop music fan, especially pop music from decades past, and we got a handful of some great ones in season three.

13.  “What Makes You Beautiful” – Joe Hart, Rory Flanagan, Artie Abrams, Sam Evans and Mike Chang

The episode “Prom-A-Saurus” had a spattering of good songs, but it was the remake of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” that was the most fun.  Now I’m not a fan of One Direction – this is the only song of theirs that I know – but for some reason when a group of guys sing together and sound good, I can’t help but love it.  And what made this song so fun was that the Glee’s usual male stars – Finn, Blaine, and Kurt – weren’t in it, so we got to see the background players have a shot at the spotlight.  And ya’ll know I’m a little biased towards Sam.  I’ll like pretty much anything he does.

12.  “Summer Nights” – Sam Evans and Mercedes Jones (with whole cast)

Speaking of Sam Evans, I was thrilled when the writers decided to delve more into his storyline with Mercedes and giving them the perfect song to sing in one of my favorite episodes of the season, “Yes/No”.  Since the two of them had a summer fling, it only made sense for them to break out into “Summer Nights” from the movie Grease, and the filmmakers brilliantly staged it shot-for-shot with the original scene from the 1978 movie.  It’s so much fun to watch, and Sam and Mercedes fit those Danny and Sandy roles perfectly.  It’s too bad they couldn’t have remade the whole movie, too.

11.  “Red Solo Cup” – Sam Evans

Okay, I promise this is the last time I’ll being up Sam in this post.  I, like others, was really sad to find out that Sam wasn’t coming back for season three.  So you can imagine how happy I was when the creators decided that was a crappy idea and brought him back, starting with the episode “Hold on to Sixteen”, which aired right before Christmas.  The song he sings is ridiculous, but for season it fits his character – mainly because Chord Overstreet has a strong country voice that we rarely get to hear.  I’m not a country fan, but it was a nice change from him and an awesome welcome-back to the show that took way too long to happen.

10. “First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” – Rachel Berry, Tina Cohen-Chang, Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones

Despite the fact that every American Idol hopeful tries to sing this song as Dionne Warwick, it rarely happens.  But the Glee girls definitely came close to it in “Yes/No” when they chose this song as their assignment for Mr. Schuster in his attempt to find the perfect love song for Emma.  The words to this song already make me weepy.  Every time I hear it.  So when I saw these girls sing those words with every drop of emotion they have their bodies like they truly meant it, I was blown away.  Anyone who gets through that song without at least a lip quiver is not human.

9.  “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” – Rachel Berry

If we’re talking about difficult songs to sing, no one should attempt this particular song unless your name is Celine Dion.  Or, in this case, Lea Michele.  In the episode “Nationals”, after Rachel completely screwed up her NYADA audition, she figures she has nowhere else to go but up.  So when she sees the NYADA admissions judge (played wonderfully by Whoopi Goldberg), she sings one of the hardest songs out there – not as if her life depended on it, but completely free, with nothing in her way.  She’s not singing for anyone during those four minutes but her herself.  And it pays off in the end.

8.  “Cough Syrup” – Blaine Anderson

Come on, you didn’t think I was going to make it through the list without a Blaine song, did you?  Of course not (this is his first of three songs on my list).  The episode “On My Way” was a tough episode to watch.  Not because it was bad, but because my heart ached the entire time.  We find out what’s been going on with bully-turned-tortured-closet-gay Dave Karofsky, only to see him attempt to kill himself.  It’s a difficult scene to watch, and when paired up with Blaine singing Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup” it makes it even more haunting.  I hadn’t heard the song before this, but I quickly loved it – not just because of the painful lyrics, but because Darren Criss sounds freaking amazing on the vocals.  But that’s no surprise.

7.  “Survivor / I Will Survive” – The Troubletones

This is my first of three mash-ups on the list.  I love when Glee does mash-ups because they seem to find two seemingly different songs and making them sound like they were meant to go together.  In season three we’re introduced to the newly formed, all-girl group The Troubletones, headed by Santana and Mercedes.  And in the episode “Hold on to Sixteen” during their first competition together they perform a mash-up of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” – two already amazing songs by themselves but made even better as one.  How do they do it???

6.  “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” – Rachel Berry and Finn Hudson (with the Whole Cast)

Sometimes all it takes is one song to remind why I love the show so much.  Even when the plot tends to drift off into oblivion, I’m dragged back by one awesome performance.  And this season one of those performances was “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” which New Directions performed at Nationals.  It’s such a fun song that makes you want to get up and dance, and you’re just reminded why Rachel and Finn are the stars of the show.  It also makes you wonder what’s going to happen in season four when they’re not around anymore…

5.  “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” – Blaine Anderson

The Glee kids performed a lot of Michael Jackson songs this season (there was a whole episode devoted to the King of Pop), but my favorite one of the bunch came from Blaine, of course, when he opened the episode with “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”.  We all know that the man can sing his butt off and sound better than everyone else on the show, but it’s during this performance where we get to see the man dance his butt off.  Seriously, that guy is far too talented for nature.

4.  “Hungry Like the Wolf” – Blaine and Cooper Anderson

Glee took a six-week hiatus this season between Christmas and February, so by the time it finally came back on the air, we were ready for something amazing.  That came in the form of the episode “Big Brother”, in which we get to meet Blaine’s older brother Cooper.  Glee has seen a lot of amazing guest stars in the past, but Matt Bomer as Cooper is one of my favorite.  He plays the vain, wanna-be actor so well that you actually believe that he’s that stupid.  But it’s when he and Blaine do their duet mash-up of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio” that makes the episode really worth watching.  For one thing, it’s hilarious.  And both sound great.  I seriously think the two of them should record a Duran Duran tribute album.

3.  “Without You” – Rachel Berry

This really has more to do with the song itself than the actual performance on the show, though Lea Michele’s performance of David Guetta and Usher’s hit song made me actually like it better.  2011 saw a lot of great music released, but this song is one of my favorites of the year.  And I didn’t realize that until Rachel performs it for Finn in the episode “Yes/No”.  She usually shines while singing showtunes, but she sounds great here, and we really understand exactly how she feels about Finn no matter how self-centered and crazy she may be.  It’s one of the few dance songs that’s actually filled with heart and meaning, and I absolutely love it.

2.  “Rumour Has It / Someone Like You” – The Troubletones

Well, you can’t go wrong with Adele, and certainly not when Naya Rivera and Amber Riley are involved.  Santana, Mercedes, and the rest of The Troubletones perform this song in the episode “Mash-Off”, proving to be one of the best mash-ups the show has ever done.  The girls sound great, and the two Adele songs blend so seamlessly into each other that when I hear the individual songs now I think something is missing.  And because we so rarely get to see Santana show actual emotion, it’s a treat to witness her break down in front of everyone because of her love for Brittany.  Apparently only Adele has the power to do that to someone.

1.  “We Are Young” – The Whole Cast

Halfway through the season, a lot of us thought that Glee had lost its way.  The songs they had been performing hadn’t been that memorable save a few.  The plot was all over the place.  And we wondered whether we would ever get back that feeling we got when the group first opened their mouths to sing “Don’t Stop Believin’” way back in the pilot episode.  Well, I got that feeling  back at the end of the episode “Hold on to Sixteen” when the group performed a fairly unknown song at the time but soon became an anthem for a generation, Fun’s “We Are Young”.  Yes, the song was probably a little overplayed on the radio (but that’s why we don’t listen to the radio, people!).  But that doesn’t take away how great of a song it really is.  In the course of four minutes the show seems to suddenly come back together, like all the scattered pieces of a puzzle are now one complete picture.  It was the first step in the show getting back on track to a more cohesive second half, and the first step in winning back the hearts of us all.

Posted in Listening to Music, The Awesome 13, Watching Movies

The Awesome 13 – Musical Movies

I consider myself one of the lucky people who loves so many different types of movies.  You know those people who seem to only like one kind of movie?  I feel bad for them.  To be a true fan of movies, you have to have a wide range of tastes.  And one of my many tastes?


Ever since I was a kid and first saw Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, I have loved the movie musical.  I love music, I love movies…it only makes sense, right?  Now, for some silly reason I thought this post would be easy to write.  Top 13 movie musicals?  SIMPLE.

Um, yeah.  Not so much.

Every time I thought I had my 13, I would think of another one.  And another one.  And another one.  So many more that I had to scratch my original list and start a new one.  Seriously, people.  This is stressful stuff.

But I think I have my list.  Unfortunately a lot of good musicals had to be left off – West Side Story, Singin’ in the Rain, Chicago, for example – but of course that doesn’t mean they’re not amazing.  They just haven’t had as much impact on me as these other 13.  If I was doing top 20?  Yeah, they’d definitely be in there.  I left out all Disney animated movies, since I already covered that in a previous Awesome 13 post.

So let’s get started, shall we?

13.  Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

It’s funny that this movie made this list, actually, because it’s not the songs that make me love the movie so much.  The songs, to be honest, are actually kind of forgettable to me (except for that one where the kid is trying to sell that magic hair cream…”May I have your attention, PLEASE??”  Love it.).  What I love so much about this movie is Tim Burton and Johnny Depp at their best.  The look of the film is 100% Tim Burton (complete with black and white stripes!!) and 100% Johnny Depp (complete with fake accent!!).  Oh, and did I mention that Severus Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange sing in it as well?  Okay, fine, they don’t.  But Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter do!

Yes, it’s rather gory in some parts – I mean, the guy chops people up and puts them in PIES – but it’s so much fun to watch that you don’t even realize you’re watching a gory, somewhat violent movie.  Because, you know, there’s singing in it.  Which makes it all okay.

12.  High School Musical 3 – Senior Year (2008)

Okay, first of all, shut up.  I know what you’re thinking.  And I don’t care.

Yes, I realize that this movie is cheesy and made for pre-pubescent girls who think Zac Efron is their future husband.  Whatever.  I enjoy this movie.

The first two movies in the trilogy are okay.  I mean, they’re fun and all, and I’ll still occasionally watch them as background noise, but the third one is a substantial improvement.  It had to be since it was the first one they were actually putting into theaters, unlike the first two which only aired on The Disney Channel.

And while the plot was predictable (come on, it’s Disney…it’s not like it’s a frickin’ David Fincher movie), the songs, dancing, and whole production was tons better than the first two.  And, um, Zac Efron looks way hotter in this one.  But that’s totally not a contributing factor, I swear.

11.  The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Who would have thought that Tim Burton would show up twice in a list about musicals?  But he does, at least in mine!

First off, the movie looks amazing in stop-motion animation.  Second of all, it’s a movie about Halloween and Christmas, two of the greatest holidays of ALL-TIME.  And, of course, it has Danny Elfman – OINGO BOINGO – singing as Jack Skellington, the greatest Pumpkin King of ALL-TIME.  The songs are memorable and surprisingly emotional (“Sally’s Song” actually gives me tears if I’m in the right emo mood), and the sequence where Jack discovers Christmas Town is probably the best Christmas scene of any movie next to the entire 26 minutes of How the Grinch Stole Christmas animated special.

This movie has gained quite the cult following over the past 19 years (WHAT?? 19 years???), and it’s no surprise that they’ve even made a cover album called Nightmare Revisited, which covered every single song – even the score – in the movie.  Amazeballs.

10.  Grease (1978)

If you look up any list of best movie musicals, Grease will most likely be on it.  Why?  Because it is a great movie with great songs, and it will always be a great movie with great songs.  Even though a movie made in the 70s to look like the 50s will still look like a movie from the 70s.

John Travolta is in his PRIME in this movie as Danny Zuko (seriously, way better than the depressing Saturday Night Fever), and Olivia Newton-John is perfectly casted as adorable Sandy.  The songs are super fun – Summer Lovin’ is still one of my favorite scenes in any musical, and Stockard Channing gets me EVERY TIME when she sings “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”.

Oh, and the ending?  Big ol’ celebration at the school carnival?  SO MUCH FUN.  I want to go to school with these people.  Even though they look like they’re in their 30s.


9.  Across the Universe (2007)

So this movie is a perfect example of the songs totally overshadowing the movie itself.  And the reason for that is simple:  the movie isn’t very good, and the songs are AMAZING.

Why are the songs amazing?  Well, it’s The Beatles.  And, well, that simply needs no further explanation.  It’s The Beatles.  And even though it’s not John, Paul, George, and Ringo singing, they’re still amazing.  That’s the beauty of The Beatles’ songs.  They’re awesome no matter who sings them.

And I absolutely love these renditions.  Jim Sturgess has a great, Northern England voice that sounds like it was made to sing Beatles songs.  He turned my favorite Beatles song, “All My Loving”, into even more of a favorite Beatles song, though he sounds the best during “I’ve Just Seen a Face”.  Even Evan Rachel Wood, who doesn’t have a particularly strong singing voice, songs sweet and innocent and great.

Like I said, the movie is somewhat pompous and overdone.  But the music definitely makes up for that, making it the only reason to sit down and watch it.

8.  Phantom of the Opera (2004)

To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to like this movie when it first came out.  I knew Joel Schumacher was directing it, and he’s the man responsible for bringing down the Batman franchise (though if if weren’t for him, we may not have gotten Christopher Nolan, so…yeah).  What the hell was he doing directing a very much loved Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical???

Well, I found myself rather surprised.  Surprised at how much I really liked the movie.  I had never seen the Broadway show on stage (I know, blasphemy), but I was familiar with the songs.  And the one thing I never liked about the songs before this was the fact that it sounded like old people singing were singing them.  I know that sounds weird, but I never felt like I could sing along to them.  But when Emmy Rossum plays Christine, I suddenly find myself loving the songs.  Because she really does have an amazing voice.

And Mr. Batman-Ruiner actually made the movie look rather beautiful.  The cemetery scene when Christine sings “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is pretty drool-worthy as far as set and costume design.

So if you’re totally against this movie but haven’t seen it, I suggest giving it a try.  Just don’t think of Batman’s nipples while you’re watching it.

7.  Mary Poppins (1964)

This list just wouldn’t be a list without at least one Julie Andrews movie (she appears on the list twice).  Mary Poppins is just one of those movies that people will love FOREVER.  It was made almost 50 years ago, but it truly feels timeless.  For one thing, it has Julie Andrews, who is kind of like a goddess in terms of musicals.  She made the character of Mary Poppins entirely hers, and no one will be able to come close to her perfection.  She is, of course, practically perfect in every way.

And those two adorable kids?  The dancing animated penguins?  The carousal?  Cleaning your messy room simply by snapping your fingers?  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?  (by the way, I totally just spelled that phonetically and the computer recognized it as a real – and correctly spelled – word).  Everything in this movie is absolutely delicious.

Except for “Feed the Birds”, which makes me cry like a little girl.

6.  Annie (1982)

Besides the fact that this movie is my childhood, it’s just one of those movies that every girl in the 80s wanted to be a part of.  Why is this movie so awesome?  Well, let’s see.

  • Singing and dancing orphan girls
  • Alcoholic Carol Burnett
  • Molly and Pepper
  • Dumb Dog
  • Come on, Annie.  Let’s go to the movies!
  • Ann Reinking
  • Punjab
  • The sun will come out (tears tears tears) tomorrow

There’s just so much about this movie that I love love love love love.  I heard that Will Smith is currently developing a remake, which of course gives me a stomach ache, but at least I know that this one will love on forever despite the remakes and copycats.

And seriously, who can copy Carol Burnett?  NO ONE, I say.

5.  The Wizard of Oz (1939)

For a lot of people, this is the first musical they ever saw.  And they probably didn’t even realize that they were watching a musical!  That’s because The Wizard of Oz pretty much covers every kind of genre out there (musical, drama, comedy, fantasy, sci-fi, horror – you know why) and is loved by mostly (I say “mostly” because, well, I’m sure there’s some who don’t like flying monkeys) everyone who sees it.

We all know what happened with Judy Garland and how towards the end of her life she, you know, went off the end, but watching her in her first starring role reminds us all of how much of a pure talent she really was.  That voice.  That face.  Those big eyes.  And even though there have been other makings of the World of Oz, nothing will ever be like that first one, the one that made us fall in love with a girl from Kansas who traveled to the magical world of Oz, only to find her way home again.

And I’d like to meet the person who doesn’t feel at least a tiny bit emotional when she says,” There’s no place like home” at the end of the movie.  Seriously, have you no heart?

4.  Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Without a doubt, The Wizard of Oz was the movie that made Judy Garland a star.  But Meet Me in St. Louis was the one that reminded everyone why.  She’s amazing in it.

I watched this movie to death when I was a kid.  This was back in the day when no one really owned any movies, and the only way you could watch them was to rent them at the video store or record them from the TV (on your giant VHS machines, of course).  Well, my dad had recorded this movie from the TV, and along with The Wizard of Oz, Unconquered, and Back to the Future, I watched this one the most.  At first I didn’t even make the connection that this was the girl who played Dorothy, because that’s how different she looked in MMISTL (plus I was only like seven years old, and I didn’t make connections like that at that age).

I love this movie, I really do.  It’s a great story about a family in St. Louis in 1903 leading up to the World’s Fair of 1904.  And even though it takes place over 100 years ago – and was made almost 70 years ago – it feels like it could all happen in today’s society.  Family relations.  Crushes on boys who live next door.  Dancing at parties.  Trick-or-treating (except I don’t think people throw flour at people’s faces anymore).  Riding on trollies.  Switching out mean girls’ dance cards so they get stuck with crappy guys to dance with.

Okay, well, most of it is still relative today.  And the music?  Some of the best songs from movies are in this one.  “The Boy Next Door”, “The Trolley Song”, and I bet you didn’t know that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was written for this movie!  Of course it’s sung during such a depressing scene that it’s hard for me to listen to today.  But still.  Great songs, great cast, and just a flat-out great movie.

3.  The Sound of Music (1965)

Unlike some of the above movies, The Sound of Music was not a part of my childhood.  My parents didn’t own it, and they never watched it on TV.  In fact, like West Side Story, I don’t think it was a movie my parents even liked.  So when I got older, sometime around 15 years old, it was on TV.  I knew the songs from it and had seen certain scenes, but I had never watched it all the way through until then.

And I fell in love.  For many reasons.

Number one:  Julie Andrews.  I didn’t think I would like a character more than Mary Poppins, but I sure as hell loved her as Maria, the nun-turned-von Trapp.  With her pixie haircut and her abundant energy and quick tongue, I had never seen a heroine in a musical like that before.  To this day when I hear “I Have Confidence” I instantly get in a positive mood.  Seriously, if you’re ever in a crappy mood and need a pick-me-up, put on that song.  Suddenly you’re smiling and feeling on top again.

And I love every single one of those Von Trapp kids.  From Gretl to Leisl (especially Leisl…what girl didn’t want to be her????), I thought they were all awesome in their own way.  Shy, bold, sweet, incorrigible…they all have their own identities, which is hard to come by in movies with large casts these days.

And the songs.  Oh, the songs.  They’re – for lack of a better word – wonderful.  It doesn’t matter that I’m 33 years old – I still get a kick out of singing “Do-Re-Mi” and “Lonely Goatherd”, and I cry whenever I hear Christopher Plummer sing about Edelweiss flowers.

And I hate Rolfe for totally dissing Leisl like that, especially after dancing around in the gazebo with her.  Worst villain in the movie, that one.

2.  Newsies (1992)

Not much more can be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said.  Put together a bunch of cute teenage boys who sing about selling newspapers and dance like it’s NOT 1899, and you’ve got the best movie musical of the decade.  Some highlights include:

1.  Christian Bale

2.  Christian Bale

3.  Christian Bale

4.  Christian Bale

Whatever.  Just watch it.

1.  Moulin Rouge (2001)

I’ve wanted to write about this movie in many of my blog posts over the past year, but I’ve never had the perfect opportunity to do so, unless I write a post about “Movies That Have Changed My Life”.  Because that’s what Moulin Rouge did.  Changed my life.

I have a personal attachment to this movie because it was the first movie I saw in the theater when I moved out to CA, and the first movie I went to see with my future husband.  It was one of those moments when timing was everything.

More specifically, though, Moulin Rouge changed the way I watched movies.  Upon first viewing, you can’t but think, “THIS MOVIE IS TOTALLY INSANE.”  And it is.  It’s controlled chaos.  Some people hate it, some people love it.  And man oh man, I LOVE IT.

The whole movie is gorgeous to look at.  The colors, the excitement, the sets, the costumes…it’s just amazing.  And the music?  You wouldn’t think that Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman would be able to pull it off, but they actually exceed expectations.  They’re perfect in the roles of Christian and Satine, you believe their story, and you root for them the entire time.

Baz Luhrmann picked excellent songs to tell his story, and my favorite scenes tend to star those songs.  I knew I would love this movie from the moment Ewan McGregor opened his mouth to sing one line from “The Sound of Music”, but it was when he sang Elton John’s “Your Song” that I fell hard.  I smile during the entire “Elephant Love Medley”, and I get all weepy when they sing the SHOULD-HAVE-BEEN-NOMINATED-FOR-AN-ACADEMY-AWARD song “Come What May”.

Oh, and the best five minutes of the entire movie – nay, the best five minutes of ANY movie – comes during the “El Tango de Roxanne”, with Ewan McGregor singing during one of the most intensely choreographed scenes I’ve ever seen.  I can’t even find words to explain it; you just gotta see it.

And yes, Satine dies at the end, but we know that from the beginning.  It’s sad, but the movie as a whole made us so happy that it doesn’t even bother us.  Why?

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Remember that, folks.  It’s important stuff.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, The Awesome 13

The Awesome 13 – The Songs of “Glee” – Season Two

A few weeks ago I posted my list of 13 awesome songs from the first season of Glee, which was pretty easy to do.  I’ve been dreading season two, though – not because there weren’t any good songs, but because there were so many.  In season one you pretty much had the same few people singing the songs so it was easy to pick out your favorites.  But in season two you suddenly have the addition of Blaine and the Dalton Academy Warblers, Sam Evans, plus solos from secondary characters like Kurt Hummel, Santana Lopez, and Brittany S. Pearce.  Suddenly the field is just that much wider.

But I think I’ve been able to narrow down the list of 100+ songs to 13…an awesome 13.

13.  “Raise Your Glass” – Dalton Academy Warblers

I pretty much loved every song Blaine and his Warblers sang during the season, which is why they show up more than once on this list.  From the episode “Original Song”, this particular performance takes place at Sectionals about halfway through the season, and it’s just one of those songs that makes you feel so happy.  Darren Criss, of course, nails it like he does every time he sings, and makes you feel like this song was written for everyone in that audience.

12.  “Don’t You Want Me” – Rachel Berry and Blaine Anderson

In the episode “Blame It On the Alcohol”, we get to see Rachel and Blaine sing together for the first time.  During a party at Rachel’s house, everyone gets drunk and we’re not surprised when the karaoke machine gets pulled out.  Rachel and Blaine sing an awesome rendition of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”, making me like this version more than the original, and – surprise – Darren Criss kills it.

11.  “What I Did For Love” – Rachel Berry

I like that Glee tries to keep a good balance between popular songs and showtunes, and in an episode filled with current pop songs (“Audition”), it ends with Rachel singing one of my favorite showtunes of all time from the musical A Chorus Line.  Lea Michele sounds best when she’s singing Broadway, and she’s able to channel her character’s pain and reasoning as she sings, which makes for a surprisingly emotional way to end the first episode of the season.

10.  “Le Jazz Hot” – Kurt Hummel

We knew from Kurt Hummel’s (Chris Colfer) performance of “Defying Gravity” from season one that he could sing, but we really didn’t see how well he could command a performance until the episode “Duets”.  In an almost protest of having to find a duet partner, Kurt decides to sing with the only person he sees best – himself.  He performs a song from Victor/Victoria dressed as half man, half woman, and sings both of those asses off.  How he hits that note at the very end is beyond me.

9.  “P.Y.T.” (“Pretty Young Thing”) – Artie Abrams

Although Glee has an entire episode devoted to Michael Jackson, one of the first MJ songs they performed was this one in the Valentine’s Day episode “Silly Love Songs”.  Kevin McHale does an awesome job of any R&B song he tackles, but this one was really amazing.  He seems to have channeled MJ in his performance – not just him, but Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr) as well as he shows us why he’s the best dancer in the entire world.  The entire performance from the two of them – singer and dancer – is awesome enough to give you chills.

8.  “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again” – Rachel Berry and Kurt Hummel

Another song from the “Duets” episode, this one happens at the very end of the episode after Rachel and Kurt are given a second chance to do the duet assignment after Rachel and Finn purposely tried to lose and Kurt sang with himself).  Lea Michele once again brings out her inner Babs while Kurt just sounds like a frickin’ angel, and magic ensues.  Plus the two songs together sound like they were meant to be mashed up, reminding us all to just be happy.  And that’s how that performance makes you feel.

7.  “Never Going Back Again” – Artie Abrams

I was really excited for the Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” episode, and the Glee cast definitely did not disappoint.   The one performance that stood out for me, however, was when Artie sang “Never Going Back Again”, a song with one of the best guitar riffs I’ve heard.  Artie sings it to express his love/hate feelings for Brittany, and yet it’s a song we can all relate to because we’ve all been in a situation like that one time or another.  But the best part of that performance was the choral of guitars in the background playing so beautifully that the song sounds absolutely perfect.

6.  “Valerie” – Santana Lopez

Naya Rivera has one of my favorite singing voices on the show, and she showed everyone why in the episode “Special Education” during Regionals.  It was a competition in which the usual background performers came out to the front, giving them a rare opportunity to shine.  And in this case, Santana singing Amy Winehouse blew everyone away.  She sounds so good that you can’t help but wonder, “Why doesn’t she just sing every song?”  Yeah.  She’s that good.

5.  “Billionaire” – Sam Evans

I immediately liked the character Sam Evans from his very first performance from the season two opener “Audition”.  I wasn’t sure what to think of this guy with his guitar – typical cute, blond type – but the second he opened his trouty mouth to sing, I – along with millions of other people – fell immediately in love.  His voice is sweet and boy-bandish, but that doesn’t take away from his talent.  Give this guy more songs, please.

4.  “Somewhere Only We Know” – Dalton Academy Warblers

The original version of this song by Keane is one of my favorite songs of all time, so I was a little nervous when I heard they were going to perform it.  But I also knew I could pretty much trust anything Darren Criss does, and when he and his Warblers started singing, I knew they had done the song justice.  In fact – given it’s a cappella tone – the song actually sounded better.  It’s beautiful and haunting and, well, kind of depressing because it’s intended to be a song of farewell.  But I listen to it on repeat anyway.

3.  “Forget You” – Holly Holliday

Glee has had on some memorable guest stars, but none quite so awesome as Gwyneth Paltrow as substitute teacher extraordinaire Holly Holliday.  As an audience we’re so used to seeing Gwynnie in period dramas or serious movies, so when she suddenly breaks out with Cee-Lo’s “F*** You” (“Forget You”, edited for content), we’re all shocked.  Suddenly this new version of Gwynnie emerges in front of us, and we can’t stop laughing.  I wish she could always be this fun! (re: Goop).

2.  “Thriller/Heads Will Roll” – Glee Cast

Some mash-ups are good, and some are amazing.  And some mash-ups are just plain awesome like this one.  The mash-up between Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” is one that makes total sense.  They sound great together, and the performance just heightens the whole thing.  With the cast dressed as zombies during halftime of a football game, the whole shebang just reminds you how much fun this show is.

1.  “Teenage Dream” – Dalton Academy Warblers

I think we can all agree that when we first heard Darren Criss sing, we knew he was going to be someone awesome.  Usually when a show introduces a new character, they’re received with generally good reception.  But I don’t think anyone expected people to love Blaine as much as they did when he appeared in the episode “Never Been Kissed”.  And who didn’t swoon along with Kurt while watching him perform with the Warblers?  Not only did most people like this version better than the original Katy Perry version (seriously, I can’t even listen to her version anymore), but this was the first Glee became the first Glee single to top the Billboard Digital Songs chart.  Because it’s awesome.

Posted in Catching TV, Geeking Out, The Awesome 13, Watching Movies

The Awesome 13 – Comic-Con 2012

Well, another Comic-Con International has come and gone.  And as usual, it was full of fun, craziness, and no sleep.  And what better way of recapping my experience than with an Awesome 13 list?

So here it is:  13 awesome moments from Comic-Con 2012!

13. Fringe Tears

I’ve never seen the show Fringe (it’s one of those shows that I really wanted to watch but never had the time), so there’s no reason to be emotionally invested in it.  However, that all changed after sitting through the Fringe panel on Sunday.  During the audience Q & A, the cast was asked to name their favorite scene from the first four seasons of the show that they weren’t in.  One of the actors Jasika Nicole began to describe a scene with fellow actor Anna Torv, and she starts crying.  Then Anna Torv starts crying.  Then actor Lance Reddick starts crying.  You can hear people from the audience of 6500 people sniffling.  I’m crying, and I don’t even know why.  But it’s just a testament to how much this show means to them, how hard they’ve worked to stay on the air for four years, and how this final season will make everyone cry even more.

12.  A Korra Read-Through

We all know how much I love the show The Legend of Korra, so you can imagine how excited I was to finally put faces to the voices we hear on the show.  At this panel on Friday, the voice actors came out and did a read-through from various scenes throughout the season with the help of voice instructor Andrea Romano.  It’s so bizarre hearing these voices you know so well coming from actual human beings, but you start to realize why these actors were hired, why their voices match their character so well, and it doesn’t take anything away from the magic of the show.  And after a rough-cut of scenes from Book 2 of The Legend of Korra, I’m more excited than ever for it to start again.

11.  Superman Superfan

The Q & A portion of any panel is always interesting, but every now and then you get a fan that truly encapsulates everything a fan should be.  On Saturday during the Man of Steel panel, a fan came to the microphone in tears.  Cloaked in a Superman sweatshirt, it was obvious this man is a huge Superman fan, and after seeing the very first footage of this upcoming movie directed by Zach Snyder, he became overwhelmed to the point where he could barely get his words out.  The moderator of the panel Chris Hardwick (more about him later) then jumped down from the stage and ran up to the man to give him a huge hug, telling him that he represented everything that true fans are, and that it was totally cool to cry about it.  It was just one of those things that show you how passionate we are at Comic-Con and how much this stuff really means to us, and for two minutes this guy was the star of the whole panel.

10.  The Train and Felicia Day

This year at Comic-Con was definitely a year of firsts for us, one of those firsts being taking the train from Los Angeles to San Diego.  After four years of driving to SDCC, I highly recommend taking the train instead.  It’s much more relaxing, you have free wifi, and if you sit in business class like we did, you get unlimited snacks.  You also might run into a celebrity or two like we did on Sunday on our way back to LA.  Now Felicia Day might not seem like a celebrity to most people (most people don’t know who she is), but to the people of Comic-Con she’s a goddess.  She also happened to be at the train station on Sunday afternoon.  She was waiting in line like the rest of us, and since I knew I probably wouldn’t have this opportunity again, I went up to her and told her how much I enjoyed her web series The Flog.  She smiled and said thank you, and again after I told her that my daughter is now obsessed with unicorn poop (you have to watch The Flog to understand that).  I didn’t want to seem like a scary creeper, so that’s all I said, even when she sat two seats behind us on the train.  I had my moment, and it was kind of awesome.

9.  Robert Downey, Jr.’s Entrance

It just wouldn’t be Comic-Con without Robert Downey, Jr.  He loves Comic-Con, and Comic-Con loves him.  Every time he’s there he makes some kind of awesome entrance, and this year was no exception.  Right before the Marvel panel on Saturday night, the lights suddenly went out and the song “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross began playing over the speakers.  And before we knew it, Robert Downey, Jr. was dancing down the aisle of Hall H while 6500 people were cheering.  He obviously had security all around him, but it didn’t take away from the awesomeness of it all.  Because when it comes to RDJr at Comic-Con, it’s “never too much”.

8.  The Lines

Most people hate lines.  And for 51 weeks out of the year, I hate lines, too.  But lines are a huge part of Comic-Con.  No matter what you do, you’re waiting in a line for something.  In the past we’ve always gotten up early to get into lines for Hall H and Ballroom 20 where the big panels are going to be.  But this year was the year of camping out.  The panels this year were so big that people camped out overnight to secure there spot in the hall.  For example, on Friday we got in line for Ballroom 20 at 1:30am (mainly because of the Firefly reunion panel, which wasn’t until 12:30pm).  On Saturday my husband got in line at 10:00pm (I joined him at 2:00am) for Hall H (mainly because of the Warner Brothers panel, which wouldn’t start until 2:30 pm).  And on Sunday we got in line for Hall H at 2:30am, which actually proved to be late due to the 1000 people ahead of us in line (mainly because of the Doctor Who panel at 12:30pm), but we still got a decent seat in the middle of the auditorium.  It takes experience and planning to get a good spot in line.  I saw so many people come to the line after 7:00, thinking they were there early, only to discover that they probably weren’t going to get into the panel.  As the saying goes, “One hour early at SDCC means 12 hours too late.”

You just become accustomed to waiting ten hours in line at Comic-Con.  You find stuff to do.  You make friends with the people around you.  And you make those lines part of your overall awesome experience.

7.  Warner Brothers Surprises

Everyone knew going into the Warner Brothers panel that it was going to be a big one, especially with movies like Pacific Rim, Man of Steel, and The Hobbit on the schedule.  But what we weren’t expecting were the little surprises they had in store for us.  The first one was the expanded screens.  Instead of the usual one screen in front of us, the screen extended to both side walls, giving us three screens of awesomeness.  Then in between Pacific Rim and Man of Steel, they surprised us by showing a teaser for the movie Godzilla and then bringing out the director (looks awesome, by the way).  And then in between Man of Steel and The Hobbit, they once again surprised us by bringing out Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis to talk about their upcoming movie The Campaign, which was hilarious.  And who doesn’t love surprises, especially at Comic-Con?

6.  Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

This refers to an upcoming episode of Doctor Who, and is just a sliver of how much fun the entire Doctor Who panel was on Sunday.  Writers Stephen Moffat and Caroline Skinner were there, along with actors Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill to talk about the show, as well as show footage from the upcoming season, like dinosaurs on a spaceship.  This is Karen’s and Arthur’s last season on the show, leaving about halfway through, though we don’t know how they’re going to go out, so this was a little bittersweet for everyone, as their characters Amy and Rory are hugely popular.  Chris Hardwick, who knows more about Doctor Who than I ever will, moderated the panel, and it was just fun to watch everyone interact with each other, especially when Karen and Arthur did impressions of each other (hilarious).  Season seven can’t start soon enough!!!

5.  Chris Hardwick, Comic-Con Extraordinaire

Chris Hardwick is the host of the podcast “The Nerdist”, which my husband and I are avid listeners.  During Comic-Con, he’s one of the busiest guys there.  He moderated five panels at the convention, as well as attending his own panel and hosting a live podcast of “The Nerdist”, which we attended on Friday night.  Why do I like Chris Hardwick?  Well, for one thing, he’s hilarious.  He’s a great host and moderator, and always knows exactly what to say at the right time.  He’s also worked his ass off to get to where he is today.  You may remember him from the 90s as the co-host of MTV’s Singled Out with Jenny McCarthy and, if you listen to his podcast, you’ll know that he didn’t exactly enjoy it.  He became an alcoholic, drinking up to 14 beers a day, and gained a bunch of weight until he finally got his life together.  He stopped drinking, he got in shape, and he created this podcast with friends Matt Mira and Jonah Ray.  Like Felicia Day, he’s become hugely popular in the nerd world, getting just as much applause at the panels he moderated as the stars themselves.  He’s truly an example of proving that you can be successful by working hard and doing exactly what you’ve wanted to do your whole life.

4.  John Barrowman Reveals All

If you were to watch John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and his spin-off series Torchwood, you would never know how hilariously crude and awesome he really is.  John Barrowman was the guest at the live “Nerdist” Comic-Con show on Friday night that we attended, and I honestly don’t think I’ve laughed that much or that hard during any two hours of my life.  I won’t go into everything that happened (edited for content and all), but John Barrowman has absolutely no shame when it comes to his love life (gay and proud), and his bathroom habits (poop), and he will kiss and fondle total strangers without any kind of consequences.  The live show is now up on their podcast to listen to, but it was definitely one of those “you had to be there” moments that I will never forget.

3.  A Visit from Joss Whedon

It was early Friday morning (early as in 3:00am) and we’d been waiting outside in the Ballroom 20 line since 1:30am.  Mostly everyone in line was asleep – that is, until word got out that Joss Whedon was at the front of the line signing autographs.  That was pretty exciting, but we figured that he probably wouldn’t make it down to our part of the line.  We were in front of a lot of people, but we definitely weren’t in the front.  But a half hour later, we spotted him making his way down towards us.  He was signing autographs, people were getting their picture with him, and Joss himself was actually waking people up who are sleeping.  My husband was determined to get Joss to sign his SDCC badge and a picture, and guess what:  he did!  And I got to take the picture!  It was such an exciting moment – this man who had created some of our favorite TV shows and directed the third most successful movie of all time, taking the time to come out at three in the morning to greet his fans without any security, showing how much he appreciates us, and proving why we appreciate him.

2.  Thirteen Minutes of The Hobbit

Excluding the Firefly reunion panel, the thing I was most excited to see was the panel for The Hobbit.  They had promised it was going to be big, and they did not disappoint.  Peter Jackson was there, along with writer/producer Philippa Boyens and actors Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Ian McKellan, and Elijah Wood.  They started off showing a video diary of the end of filming, and that was all exciting, of course, but nothing compared to the 13 minutes of actual movie footage that was shown.  I don’t think I breathed the entire time.  We saw new faces, plus old faces like Galadriel, Legolas, and Elrond.  It all looked seriously…amazing.  And we only have to wait five months to see the entire thing!  Hell, we’ve already waited nine years to see it, so what’s another five months?

1.  Firefly’s Shiny Moment

By far, the most anticipated panel of the entire con was the Firefly reunion panel on Friday.  There’s a reason why so many people were camped out to see it.  Even though the show wasn’t even on for an entire season, it has achieved true cult status, its fans some of the most loyal and passionate of any.  The minutes leading up to the panel were tense – you could practically feel the anticipation in the air.  It was the first time I’ve witnessed an audience begin to clap in rhythm before a panel has even started.  Not all the actors could be there, but when the ones who were walked on stage, the place exploded.  Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, Sean Maher, and Adam Baldwin were all there, plus producer TIm Minear and writer Jose Molina, and, of course, Joss Whedon.  The panel was awesome, of course, but the moment that we’ll all remember was the final question of the audience Q & A when Joss was asked what the show’s fans meant to him.  He couldn’t answer – not because he didn’t know, but because no words could describe.  He got choked up, then Nathan got choked up (seriously, there were tears), and the entire crowd of 4000 stood up and gave Joss the biggest standing ovation I have ever witnessed in my life.  I don’t think a dry eye was in the house – audience or on stage.  It’ll definitely be the moment I will always remember from Comic-Con 2012.

Posted in Reading Books, The Awesome 13, Watching Movies

The Awesome 13 – Harry Potter

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the last Harry Potter movie was released in theaters.  Not only that, but it’s been five years since the last book came out.  And one more thing…it’s been fifteen years since the very first book was published.

So even though Harry has been out of our lives for a year (or five years if you’re one who only cares about the books), he’s been a part of our lives for fifteen years.  There have been amazing moments in the books and movies (and unlike some people, I am a true fan of both), and I’m here today to bring the top 13 things about Harry Potter.

13.  Harry Gets His Wand (Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone)

When Harry finds out that he’s a wizard, he’s a bit confused and overwhelmed, and the whole idea of being a wizard after enduring 11 years of torture from his extended family still seems so farfetched to him, even as he walks through Diagon Alley with friend / mentor / half-giant Hadrid.  But then he goes into Ollivander’s Wand Shop and everything falls into place.

There’s the moment where after a few unsuccessful tries at different wands when Ollivander suddenly knows…he knows exactly which wand is meant for Harry, and when Harry holds that 11” wand made of holly with the core of a Phoenix feather, we ALL know.

“I think we must expect great things from you, Mr. Potter…. After all, He-Who-Must- Not-Be-Named did great things — terrible, yes, but great.”

12.  The Unexpected Ally (Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix / Deathly Hallows)

I’m lumping three different moments into this one because they’re all sort of related.  In Order of the Phoenix there’s a moment where Harry’s aunt and uncle – Vernon and Petunia – are about to throw Harry out of the house because he’s being an annoying magical teenager until Petunia receives a howler (a very loud letter) from Dumbledore. And suddenly Petunia won’t let Harry leave.

“Remember my last, Petunia.” 

We’re pretty sure the letter was meant to remind Petunia about the last letter that Dumbledore sent her, which was attached to baby Harry when he was left on her doorstep, telling her that she must raise him as her own.  We also get the feeling that maybe evil Aunt Petunia cares for Harry a little more than we’re meant to think.

And then there’s the moment (also, like above, not in the movies) in Deathly Hallows where Harry is leaving his home for the last time before going off and looking for horcruxes and evil dark lords.  Vernon and Petunia get in the car without really saying goodbye (though in the movie we do get a shot of Petunia sitting in the car looking rather torn), but suddenly Dudley – the boy who’s harassed Harry his whole life – walks over and shakes his hand, thanking him for saving his life from the Dementors two years ago.  It’s a touching moment when you realize that Dudley really sees Harry as a brother, not just a punching bag.

“I don’t think you’re a waste of space.”


Finally there’s a small moment towards the end of Deathly Hallows after Voldemort’s and Harry’s duel when everyone thinks that Harry has died.  He’s lying on the ground, and when Draco’s mom Narcissa walks over to him, Voldemort asks her if he’s dead.  Narcissa bends down, sees that Harry is in fact alive, and instead of calling him out, she quietly asks him if Draco is all right.  While this doesn’t fully prove that Narcissa cares for Harry, it proves that she’s a mom and that her son is the most important thing in the world to her and that she’d rather have the peace of mind that her son is alive than Harry dead.

“Is Draco alive? Is he in the castle?” The whisper was barely audible, her lips were an inch from his car, her head bent so low that her long hair shielded his face.

11.  Harry and Lupin (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban)

Harry meets Remus Lupin at the start of his third year when Lupin becomes the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.  He soon finds out that Lupin was a close friend of his dad’s, and because of that Harry suddenly sees Professor Lupin as someone he can trust and confide in even more so than Dumbledore, as the first adult he’s been able to truly trust outside of Hagrid.

He develops a bond with Lupin that seems to connect him to his deceased father, a bond we don’t see again until he meets Sirius.  And the scenes that reflect this both in the book and the movie show us just how much Harry needs a father figure in his life.  Plus Lupin is the one who taught him “Expelliarmus!”, which proves to be one of the most useful spells Harry will use.

“The very first time I saw you Harry, I recognized you immediately. Not by your scar, by your eyes. They’re your mother; Lily’s. Yes, I knew her. You mother was there for me at a time when no one else was. Not only was she a singularly gifted witch, she was also an uncommonly kind woman. She had a way of seeing the beauty in others, even, and perhaps most especially, when that person couldn’t see it in themselves. Your father, James, however, had a certain, shall we say, talent for trouble.  A talent, rumor has it, he passed onto you. You’re more like them then you know, Harry. In time you’ll come to see just how much.”

10.  Harry and Hermione Dance (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows)

This small scene doesn’t appear in the books, and was simply added into the first Deathly Hallow movie as a tension breaker.  But’s so much more than a way to break the tension.  Harry and Hermione are on the run, hiding, and Ron has left them after a rather large argument between him and Harry.  Hermione is depressed because she loves Ron, and Harry is frustrated – not only because his best friend is gone, but because he doesn’t know where to look next for those damn horcruxes.

The radio is playing music, and suddenly Harry, seeing how miserable Hermione is, gets up and makes Hermione dance with him.  She’s reluctant, but she joins in and they end up laughing, and yes, for a moment you think that maybe there’s someone else between the two of them, but you quickly realize that there’s not.  Harry and Hermione are best friends, they’ve been through a lot of crappy stuff together, and they’re going to stick together even though this.  But the absence of Ron is so overwhelming in this scene, and you can see it on both their faces.  It’s a scene that’s both uplifting and heartbreaking (as is everything about Harry Potter, but whatever).

9.  The Yule Ball (Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire)

What I love so much about this movie isn’t the fact that there’s a huge tournament going on at the school, or that Voldemort is back.  It’s that this movie captures what it’s like to start growing up, what it’s like to suddenly be teenagers and have complicated feelings about other people.  And what better way to experience all of that than at a dance!  The Yule Ball showcases teenagers at their best – the dancing, the swooning, the crying – and makes you realize that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a witch or wizard or muggle.  You still all go through the same ups and downs as any other 14-year-old.

“The Yule Ball is of course a chance for us all to – er – let our hair down.”

8.  Harry Rides Buckbeak (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban)

Things start to change in Harry’s world once he starts his third year.  He’s used to his magic ability now – the wizarding world isn’t a novelty anymore.  He’s becoming a little more confident in himself.  But he’s still a 13-year-old boy, and things are still confusing.  He hates his aunt and uncle enough to walk out on them and catch a ride on the Knight Bus.  He hates the fact that he passes out every time a Dementor comes around.  He hates that he doesn’t have an adult figure to confide in.  And he hates Draco Malfoy more than ever.

When Harry has the opportunity to ride the new hippogriff at school Buckbeak, he’s a little apprehensive.  But as soon as he lifts off he suddenly feels absolute freedom.  For those few minutes, all of his problems disappear and he’s able to just enjoy life the way he knows he’ll never really be able to do.  It’s a liberating moment for him and for us as well, because all we want is for him to feel truly free.

7.  Cedric Dies (Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire)

If Prisoner of Azkaban is considered the one where things began to change, then Goblet of Fire is the one where shiz gets real.  The Triwizard Tournament is a huge event.  Students coming to visit from other wizarding schools is a huge deal.  And the fact that freaking He Who Must Not Be Named has come back is pretty much the end of the world.

And then we meet Cedric.  Sweet, honest, loyal Cedric Diggory, the boy from Hufflepuff who only want to play fair in a tournament rife with danger.  And when he and Harry decide to call it a tie and grab the Triwizard Cup at the end of The Maze together, we think, “Oh, what a great boy, that Cedric Diggory.  I’m really glad they’re both going to win.”

And then they’re swept off to a cemetery by means of a portkey where they run into Wormtail and a fetus-looking Voldemort, who orders Wormtail to do his worst.

“Kill the spare.”

And Cedric dies.

This is the first death that occurs in J.K. Rowling’s books (outside of Harry’s parents, of course, which we only see through memories), and it was a huge deal at the time.  Someone gets murdered in a kids book???  But you know what?  It had to happen.  It’s Voldemort, for Pete’s sake.  This is what he does.  As depressing as it was, Cedric had to die, if only to prove that Voldemort must be defeated at all costs.

“Remember Cedric Diggory”

6.  A Young Tom Riddle (Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince)

We first meet Tom Riddle in Chamber of Secrets as a 16-year-old memory from an old diary who reveals himself to Harry and Ginny as a way of trying to defeat Harry again.  It’s a great introduction to Tom Riddle, who will later become Voldemort, but it doesn’t come close to the young Tom Riddle we meet in Half-Blood Prince.

In a memory collected from Dumbledore’s pensieve, we see Dumbledore meet Tom Riddle for the first time at the orphanage in which he grew up.  He’s 11 years old and – just like Harry – is unaware that he’s a wizard, though he knows there is something different about him.  He’s done some bad things at school, but he’s still innocent.  We know he grows up to be The Dark Lord, but for those fleeting moments at the orphanage you want to believe that he’ll turn out differently.

“I can make animals do what I want without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who are mean to me.  I can make them hurt.”

5.  Snape’s Memory (Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix)

Because they’ve discovered a connection between Harry’s and Voldemort’s minds, Professor Snape has been asked to give Harry lessons in Occlumency, which will protect Harry from Voldemort reading his mind.  Harry fails miserably at first, and Snape keeps on harassing him and belittling him until suddenly Harry gets angry and fights back and finds a way to get into Snape’s mind.

We’re suddenly watching Snape’s memories of Harry’s father James, along with his friends Sirius and Lupin, and how they made fun of Snape as a teenager at Hogwarts, and how they would play tricks on him, including the trick that almost killed Snape.  We get a tiny piece of backstory on Snape that we never imagined, as well as insight to James and how Harry feels about him.  Snape is suddenly fleshed out, and Harry becomes more confused and angry than ever.

“Suddenly Harry’s mind was teeming with memories that were not his — a hook-nosed man was shouting at a cowering woman, while a small dark-haired boy cried in a corner…. A greasy-haired teenager sat alone in a dark bedroom, pointing his wand at the ceiling, shooting down flies…. A girl was laughing as a scrawny boy tried to mount a bucking broomstick.”

4. The Epilogue (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows)

A lot of people are split on how they feel about the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, about whether they felt it was necessary or not.  Well, I can’t imagine NOT wanting to know how things end up for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and while we won’t know everything, the epilogue gives us a tiny snippet at the future lives of our beloved threesome.

We see Harry and Ginny, happily married with their children on the first day of Hogwarts for their son Albus Severus, we see Ron and Hermione with their children, and we even see Draco acknowledge Harry at the train station, as they have an understanding now.  Albus is scared to leave, and it’s not until Harry explains to him why he was named after Severus Snape (aka SNAPE), you really get to see how far Harry has come in his life.

“What if I’m in Slytherin?”  The whisper was for his father alone, and Harry knew that only the moment of departure could have forced Albus to reveal how great and sincere that fear was.  Harry crouched down so that Albus’s face was slightly above his own. Alone of Harry’s three children, Albus had inherited Lily’s eyes.  “Albus Severus,” Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was now on the train, “you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”

3.  Harry and Ron’s Argument (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows)

After finding the cursed necklace – a horcrux which they must destroy – Ron holds on to it for safe keeping.  But because this necklace is cursed, it drives its owner slowly mad.  Suddenly it takes over Ron, who becomes angry at Harry for leading them on this pointless journey to find the other horcruxes.  All Ron cares about is making sure that his family is dead, and he accuses Harry of not understanding that because his family is already dead.

The dialogue and the emotion between the two best friends is so strong and powerful that it’s almost hard to watch (or read).  Here are two boys who have been together at Hogwarts from the beginning.  They’ve been through deadly wizard’s chess games, a chamber of secrets, a Whomping Willow, and a werewolf attack together, and suddenly you feel this hate coming from Ron, when all you want them to do is hug and make up.  Of course Ron gets angry enough to leave, which makes you realize how evil the power of the dark side can be.  And we’re just left feeling empty inside.

“Well then, I’m sorry, but I don’t quite understand. What part of this isn’t living up to your expectations? Did you think we were gonna be staying in a five-star hotel? Finding a Horcrux every other day? You thought you’d be back with your mum by Christmas?”

I just thought after all this time we would have actually achieved something! I thought you knew what you were doing! I thought Dumbledore would’ve told you something worthwhile! I thought you had a plan!”

“I told you everything Dumbledore told me! And in case you haven’t noticed, we have found a Horcrux already.”

Yeah and we’re about as close to getting rid of it as we are to finding the rest of them, aren’t we?  You know why I listen to that radio every night? To make sure I don’t hear Ginny’s name. Or Fred, or George, or Mum—“

What, you think I’m not listening too? You think I don’t know how this feels?!”

“No, you don’t know how it feels! Your parents are dead! You have no family!”

2.  Dumbledore Dies (Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince)

Obviously this is a huge moment in the books and movies.  Dumbledore is the most important person in Harry’s life, and when he sees Dumbledore dies by Snape’s wand, his world comes crashing down.  It’s a majorly depressing scene in the book, and made even more depressing on film as everyone at Hogwarts holds their lit wands up to light up the sky for their fallen Headmaster.

It’s not fair – everyone he has loved – his parents, Sirius, and Dumbledore – has left him, and now he’s out for blood.  He’s determined to do what he can to finish what Dumbledore started and to finally defeat The Dark Lord.  It was another one those “OMG HE DIES???”” moments that began with Cedric and continued on with Sirius and then multiple others in Deathly Hallows, but it’ll always be Dumbledore’s death that gets us the most.

Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.


Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore. “Avada Kedavra!”

1.  Snape and Lily (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows)

Omigosh, this scene.  This scene nearly killed me in the book, and drove me to tears in the movie.  Voldemort has just attacked Snape, and when Harry finds him he’s close to death.  Snape montions for Harry to collect a tear from him, aka a memory, to put into the pensieve.

And then Snape dies.

But that’s not the sad part.  When Harry drops the memory into Dumbledore’s pensieve, we see how Snape became friends with a young Lily Evans before she met James Potter.  We see the two of them start Hogwarts together as best friends, we see them get sorted into different houses (Lily to Gryffindor, Snape to Slytherin), and we see them start to grow apart.  Snape delves deeper into learning about dark arts, Lily meets James.  But Snape never stops loving Lily, even when she marries James and has a baby boy named Harry.

Because of his love for Lily even after her death, Snape has promised to keep Harry safe even though he represents all that he hates.  Everything that Snape has done over the past six years since Harry entered Hogwarts has been for him, all from his love for Lily.  It’s the best scene in all seven books and eight movies, and it shows that Severus Snape is one of the best characters ever written.

Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?”
“For him?” shouted Snape.
Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.”

The Harry Potter series is one the biggest series of all time, and there’s a reason for that.  For J.K. Rowling, the timing was perfect, and something about the books struck a chord with audiences everywhere.  There are hundreds of books out there about witches and wizards, but none of them can come close to the characters, the stories, and the world that Rowling has created, and to her I owe so much.  I will love these books forever.

And trying to pick out only 13 awesome moments of them was REALLY hard to do.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, The Awesome 13

The Awesome 13 – The Songs of “Glee” – Season One

The Awesome 13 – The Songs of Glee (Season One)

I really hate the term “Gleek”.  Yes, I am a big Glee fan.  Ever since I saw a commercial for the first episode back in the spring of 2009, I knew this was going to be a show that I liked.

But don’t call me a “Gleek”.  I hate the word.  Also isn’t that what you call it when you spit through your tongue?

Like many other fans of the show, I’m in it for the music.  Yes, the characters are fun and the stories are interesting (even the plots that suddenly disappear from the storyline), but I probably wouldn’t watch the show if it wasn’t for the music.

The kids on Glee have performed over 300 songs over three seasons, and to have to pick 13 of those that I like the best would be like the worst Sophie’s Choice ever.  Well, probably not the worst.  I think the choice Sophie had to make was probably the worst Sophie’s Choice ever.

Anyway, I’ve decided to break it down by season.  Still not the easiest thing to do, but at least this way gives some songs a little more of a chance.  This week we begin with Season One.

13.  “Maybe This Time” (April Rhodes and Rachel Berry)

Kristin Chenoweth is hilarious as the always drunk character April Rhodes, and we get a taste of what she’s like when she performs this song from the musical Cabaret in the episode titled “The Rhodes Less Taken”.  She sings the song concurrently with Lea Michele’s character Rachel Berry, and the song reveals a lot about the goals and regrets of each character.  It’s a powerful moment for both – we’re left to wonder what April could have been and what Rachel will be.

12.  “Hello” (Jessie St. James and Rachel Berry)

In the episode “Hell-O” we’re introduced to one of my favorite characters of season one, Jessie St. James (played by Jonathon Groff), the leader of rival school Carmel High’s Vocal Adrenaline glee club.  We know he shouldn’t be trusted, and we know he’s absolutely ridiculous.  But when he sits down at that piano and starts singing Lionel Richie’s classic love song, we fall in love with him just like Rachel does.

11.”Don’t Stand So Close to Me / Young Girl” (Will Schuster)

When glee club director Will Schuster did a mash-up of The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Young Girl” by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap in the episode “Ballad”, I was in awe. Not only does Matthew Morrison’s voice sound amazing, but the magical people behind the songs of Glee put two songs that shouldn’t go well together and made it work.  Oh, and the scene is hilarious.

10.  “Jessie’s Girl” (Finn Hudson)

Finn Hudson, played by Frankenteen Cory Monteith, is the unofficial boy leader of the glee club, and by 18th episode of the season, “Laryngitis”, we’ve seen him do lots of solos.  But with the addition of character Jessie St. James and new threat to Finn, I think everyone was just waiting for him to perform this song.  Normally I’m not the biggest fan of Cory Monteith’s voice, but I became a fan after this song.  This type of music – as opposed to pop/r&b – definitely suits him, and the performance finally started to flesh out his character.

9.  “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (Rachel Berry)

I’ve always been a fan of this song, so I wasn’t surprised how much I enjoyed the Glee version.  It appears in the episode “Bad Reputation”, which features songs that people love to hate.  Songs that are so bad they’re good.  Set against an impromptu ballet rehearsal, Rachel sings this song to the three guys in her life – Jessie, Finn, and Puck – and powers through it like a true ballad diva.

8.  “Don’t Rain On My Parade” (Rachel Berry)

When the glee club sectionals arrive and the New Directions perform for the first time in the episode “Sectionals”, we know it’s a big moment for the glee club.  So when disaster strikes and they realize they can’t perform their songs because the other schools stole their set list, we know they need something huge to get them through it.  That something huge is Rachel Berry singing her ass off while performing “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl, in what was probably one of the biggest moments of her life, and her biggest moment in season one.

7.  “My Life Would Suck Without You” (Whole Cast)

Even though I will always like the Kelly Clarkson version better, this is a pretty awesome moment of season one.  It comes at the end of the first half of the season after sectionals in the episode “Sectionals”, and to show Mr. Schuster how much they appreciate all his help, they dedicate this song to him.  Of course what’s even better about this performance is that we get to see Will finally realize how he feels about Emma Pillsbury after going through a horrible separation from his wife.  The combination of the students performing the song and Will’s realization is perfect, and leads up to the cliffhanger we were all waiting for.

6.  “To Sir, With Love” (Whole Cast)

The season finale of Glee’s first season “Journey to Regionals”, is still one of my favorite finales of any TV show I’ve seen.  Lots of amazing things happen during this episode, including Quinn Fabray going into labor during regionals.  But the part that caused me to well up and get all emotional was when the group sings “To Sir, With Love” to Mr. Schuster.  At this point the group thinks it’s the last time they can sing together, since the deal was that if they don’t come in first at regionals, glee club is finished.  This makes for a pretty emotional performance of an already emotional song.

5.  “Dream On” (Will Schuster and Bryan Ryan)

Glee has had its share of guest stars, but the appearance by Neil Patrick Harris is hands-down my favorite, as is this episode “Dream On” directed by Joss Whedon.  NPH stars as a glee club has-been who believes dreams are just another thing that will bring you down.  But Will tries to get him to believe again by telling him to audition for Les Miserables, so he does – and so does Will.  They end auditioning with the same song and performing it together, Aerosmith’s classic “Dream On”, and it’s one of my favorite moments in all three seasons of the show.  Matthew Morrison proves he can sing more than showtunes and adult contemporary, and NHP continues to show us how ridiculously talented he is.

4.  “The Safety Dance” (Artie Abrams)

In another song from the episode “Dream On”, we get to see what paraplegic character Artie dreams about, and that is to get up and dance.  This is the first time we get to see Artie get out of his wheelchair and perform, and we also get to see what actor Kevin McHale can really do.  The performance, which is Artie’s fantasy of a flash-mob at the local mall to “The Safety Dance”, is both awesome and heartbreaking, because we – and Artie – know that it will never happen, and is something that can only be dreamed of.

3.  “I Dreamed a Dream” (Rachel Berry and Shelby Corcoran)

There’s a reason why the episode “Dream On” is so awesome.  It was just filled with awesome songs.  My third one from that episode comes from Rachel and her newly-found mother, Shelby Corcoran, also the director of the Vocal Adrenaline glee club of which boyfriend Jessis is a member.  She hasn’t wanted to meet her mom, but when she hears a tape that Shelby makes for her, singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables (and one of the best songs ever written period), it’s one of the most touching moments of the season.  It turns into a fantasy duet in Rachel’s head, the two of them – looking very much like mother and daughter, I might add – singing the song and sounding they were born to sing it together.

2.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Jessie St. James and Vocal Adrenaline)

I’m usually underwhelmed by performances of other glee clubs on the show.  I love the members of New Directions, and I watch the show because I want to see them perform.  But that’s not the case during the season finale “Journey to Regionals” when Vocal Adrenaline comes out and knocks my favorite Queen song out of the auditorium.  This is mainly due to the power of Jonathon Groff’s voice – a close second to Freddie Mercury himself – and the simultaneous scene of Quinn going into labor.  For some reason that song fits as the perfect soundtrack for that moment, and for six minutes we can’t look away.

1.  “Don’t Stop Believin’” (Whole Cast)

I kind of have to put this song at number one since this is the one that started it all.  It’s not until the end of the first episode where we see New Directions really singing together for the first time, and it happens at a time when Will is about to give up on everything – quit teaching, quit glee club – until he sees the potential his glee club has, and he hears the words they have to say.  It’s one of those moments where you want to think it’s cheesy, but you can’t.  Not when you don’t want to stop believing, either.

Posted in The Awesome 13, Watching Movies

The Awesome 13 – Disney Animation

In honor of my daughter’s first day of preschool, I decided to make a list of my favorite Disney animated movies.  I’m a huge fan of Disney animation, much to the joy of my daughter, who obviously benefits from my animated movie collection that was started long before she was born.  So let’s take a look back at the 13 movies that have stayed with me all these years that I can now share with my daughter – and you.

13.  Pocahontas (1995)

Say all you want about this movie being historically inaccurate.  I don’t care.  All I want is a good story paired with great animation and great songs, and I can get that when I watch Pocahontas.  First off, Pocahontas was drawn by animator Glen Keane, who’s like the greatest Disney animator of all-time.  You have that on top of the beautiful scenery  – seriously, the colors are amazing in this movie – and two awesome songs sung by Judy Kuhn, Christian Bale as the voice of Thomas, and a raccoon named Meeko, and we all know how cute raccoons are.  Oh, and Mel Gibson?  Yeah, he might be kind of crazy as a person, but he does a great job at voicing John Smith.  I can totally see why a 12-year-old would be in love with him.*

*I don’t think Pocahontas was really 12 years old in the movie.  But in “real life”, that’s how old she would have been when she met John Smith.**


12.  Mulan (1998)

When this movie came out, Disney was nearing the end of the decade that saw some of their greatest movies released.  And although it didn’t receive as much recognition as its predecessors, Mulan is a kick-ass movie.  A girl chopping off all her pretty hair to disguise herself as a boy just so she can fight in the war so her dad doesn’t have to?  Awesome.  How many of you would do that?  Not I.  But deep down Mulan is still a total girl and develops this crush on hunky Shang, and it’s kind of funny to see Shang struggling with his feelings because it’s totally obvious that he feels something for Mulan, but he thinks she’s a boy named Ping (awkward).  Anyway, Shang is pissed (but probably totally relieved) when he finds out that “Ping” is really a girl, but decides after Mulan totally saves his butt that he can’t be mad at her because he’s in love with her.  I guess he’s okay with Mulan wearing the pants in the family.

11.  Peter Pan (1953)

Peter Pan is another one of those stories that I’ve always loved, and this movie is no exception.  This movie was made during the time when Mary Blair worked for Disney, where she designed some of Disney’s best-looking movies.  Sexual tension is all over the place, what with Wendy and Tinker Bell both wanting The Boy Who Won’t Grow Up, and all those mermaids who obviously have history with Peter (hello, they’re naked and they try to kill Wendy).  Tinker Bell is really the only interesting character in this movie, a tiny fairy (or pixie?  What is she?) suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder with a tendency to have temper tantrums.  No wonder little girls love her so much!

10.  Hercules (1997)

Sometimes a Disney movie doesn’t have to be about a princess to be good.  Hercules is a good example of that.  I was going into college when this movie came out, which apparently made me “too old to see animated Disney movies in theaters” (whatever), but when I saw this movie on video (seriously, it was a VHS), I thought it was hilarious.  The funniest one I had seen since Aladdin.  And the heroine, Megara (her friends call her Meg – that is they would if she had any friends) is a total bitch, which is so refreshing amongst a sea of polite and proper princesses.  The animation is totally stylized, which is an artistic way of saying that the human characters look nothing like actual humans, but since this movie is about Greek (well, Roman if you want to get super technical) mythology, the style works.  The songs are also super catchy and will stay in your head all day after just one listen.

9.  The Lion King (1994)

It took me a year after its release to finally see this movie because thanks to movies like Benji and Old Yeller, I hate animal movies.  Something bad always happens in animal movies.  And The Lion King is no exception.  SPOILERS:  Mufasa dies.  His own brother Scar kills him and blames it on Simba.  Hey…that sounds a little like…Shakespeare!  Hamlet, to be exact.  Cue total appreciation for said animal movie.  Seriously, though, The Lion King made a billion trillion dollars at the box office because it is a fantastic movie, despite the fact that something bad happens.  And the music is awesome – don’t listen to Sarah Palin when she tells you to keep your kids away from the movie because “a gay man wrote the music”.*

*Actually, don’t listen to Sarah Palin at all.

8.  Tangled (2010)

Can I just start out by saying that I love this movie?  When I found out that Glen Keane, animator extraordinaire, was going to direct the movie, I had no doubt it was going to be fantastic.  Mandy Moore as the speaking and singing voice of Rapunzel?  Love her.  Zachary Levi as the speaking and singing voice of Flynn Rider?  Swoon.  And a tiny green chameleon named Pascal?  Adorbs.  And you know what?  The movie looks amazing.  Rapunzel’s unnecessarily long hair looks like real hair.  And yes, while the songs might not be iconic like other princess songs, they’re not what’s driving the movie forward.  It’s the relationships – Rapunzel and her creepy kidnapping psycho mother, Rapunzel and swoony Flynn, and Rapunzel and her miserable parents who make me cry every time I see them release those depressing lanterns.

7.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

I think it’s safe to say that none of us were alive when this movie came out.  Seriously, this movie is 75 years old!  And it still stands on its own today.  It doesn’t matter that the Prince has absolutely no purpose in this movie other than scaring the crap out of Snow while she’s singing into the well and then kidnapping her from the dwarfs at the end of the movie.  It doesn’t matter that becoming the housemaid of seven dirty little men is somewhat disturbing.  What matters is that this movie is wonderful and timeless and horribly frightening, namely any scene involving the Evil Queen.  I’m serious, have you actually paid attention during those Queen scenes?  How a kid can watch this and not have horrible nightmares involving skulls and blood and ravens and apples is beyond me.

6.  The Little Mermaid (1989)

The fact that I saw this movie in the theater when I was ten years old makes me feel really old.  Since Snow White sort of owns the title of “The One that Started It All”, I guess we can say that The Little Mermaid is “The One that Restarted It All”.  It was the first movie of Disney’s “Power Decade”, as I like to call it, and when you compare it to the Disney movies that were coming out in the 70s and 80s, you can see why.  The animation is fresh, the songs are powerful (I still tear up when I hear “Part of Your World”), and Ariel is a ginger!  And yeah, she can kind of get whiny every now and then, but cut her some slack – she’s only 16, she can’t walk, let alone get her driver’s license, her sisters are stupid, her only friend is a guppy, and she has to wear actual seashells over her boobs every day.  I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty whiny, too.  But you know what?  It all works out for her.  She gets the guy based on her looks and the fact that she combs her hair with a fork.  Awesome.

5.  Aladdin (1992)

If you think about it, Aladdin was a pretty ballsy movie to make.  You mean we just fought in a war in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Iraq and Iran, and you want to make a movie that takes place in a fictional Arabian place called Agrabah?  Whatever, let’s do it!  And thank God they did, because Aladdin is awesome.  Some of my favorite Disney songs are from this movie, including one of my favorite Disney scenes ever (MAGIC CARPET RIDE!!!!), Genie makes me laugh out loud every time he opens his blue mouth, and yes, I admit, I kind of still have a crush on Aladdin.  Come on, he’s the boy from the wrong side of the tracks!  He’s got a pet monkey, for Pete’s sake!  What’s not to love?  Oh, yeah, and he can totally make wishes for you on his “magic lamp”.  Which is code for…“magic lamp”.

4.  Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of my favorite books, it only makes sense that I love the Disney movie as well.  And I do.  A lot.  The story itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but then again, it’s not supposed to (unless you’re on drugs, in which case it all seems perfectly normal to you).  But that’s why the movie is so much fun.  Anything can happen in Wonderland.  Girls can shrink when they drink some unknown, most likely poisonous substance.  They can grow taller when they eat a mysterious piece of cake.  They can talk to a hooka-smoking caterpillar who can make freaking letters with his smoke, man!  And she can totally crash a tea party being hosted by a Mad Hatter, even though to this day no one really knows what a “hatter” is.  But I love all the songs, I love the animation (again, Mary Blair), and most of all I love Alice.  Because even though she’s a little screwy and says things like “contrarywise”, she’s a girl like all the rest of us and just wants to go home and listen to her sister read her really boring books with no pictures in them.

3.  Cinderella (1950)

Cinderella is probably the most famous princess of all time (excluding Diana), and that’s probably due to the whole underdog story she’s got going on.  Poor and abused by her horrible witch stepmother and her ugly witch stepsisters, all we want for the little cinder girl is to find the happiness and true love she deserves.  With the help of her “where-the-hell-did-you-come-from” Fairy Godmother, she ends up with a new ride and a new getup which takes her to the ball where she, of course, meets Prince Charming (no relation to Snow White’s Prince Charming…at least I don’t think so…maybe once removed?).  She seems to like the guy, even though she’s only with him for a couple of hours, but apparently that’s enough time to want to marry him.  And luckily Cinderella is the only one in the land to wear a size 5, or else she would have had some competition during that whole “if the shoe fits” fiasco.  Anyway, the movie is wonderful and one of the most realistic-looking Disney animated movies, and the songs are some of the most memorable.  Because who doesn’t love songs about dreams and wishes and hearts and nightingales and bibbity bobbity boos?

2.  Beauty and the Beast (1991)

The one thing that Beauty and the Beast can say that no other animated movie can is that it has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  And you want to know why it was nominated for Best Picture?  Because it’s flipping awesome, that’s why.  In Belle, millions of brown-haired, book-reading girls found their heroine, an offbeat girl who’s devoted to her father and simply wanting more than her provincial life.  She gives up her life to save her father from imprisonment and in turn has to be a prisoner herself at the castle of The Beast.  And if you don’t think that Beast is even the tiniest bit of sexy, then you must be watching the wrong movie.  He’s grouchy and kind of mean and, well, really hairy, but deep down he’s loving and caring and a blond-haired, blue-eyed Prince.  This movie has some of the best characters – main and supporting (they’re dishes!) – and the best songs of any other animated movie.  And the final scene?  Ah-maze-ing.  Seriously.  Beautiful, magical, and tearful.



1.  Sleeping Beauty (1959)

After all the Disney animated movies I’ve seen in my 33 years, Sleeping Beauty is HANDS DOWN my favorite.  Why?  Well, let’s see.  It’s gorgeous to look at.  Each frame – frames that were hand-painted in letterbox (which was waaay ahead of it’s time) – is like a master work of art that should be hanging in a gallery.  The music is beautiful, thanks to Tchaikovsky, who wrote the music for the ballet years before the movie was a blink in Disney’s beady eye.  The three fairies are hilarious.  Seriously, they’re like The Golden Girls minus the slutty one (Blanche?)  The villain, Maleficent, is the most evil person in the history of the world (well, probably not as bad as Hitler).  And Prince Phillip – yes, he actually has a name – is the best Disney prince that was ever created.  He actually had a personality, which was a first as far as princes went, he rode a horse like a stud, he was funny, and he was uber romantic.  Look at all the crap he had to go through just to get to the girl he loved!  And then he kisses her even though she’s been sleeping for a hundred years and probably has the worse morning breath ever.  So yeah, Prince Phillip – and Sleeping Beauty – are tops in my book.

Any thoughts?  Am I cruelly leaving out any movies that are near and dear to your heart?  I wanna hear it!

Posted in The Awesome 13

Introducing…The Awesome 13.

Since Tuesdays seem to be the most annoying day of the week (really, like, what’s their purpose?), I’ve decided that every Tuesday I will bring to you The Awesome 13.

The Awesome 13 will be a countdown of the top 13 of some kind of random subject.  Why Awesome?  Well, it’s a word I use way too much, so it only seems fitting.  Why 13?  Well, besides the fact that it’s my favorite number (not superstitious at all), it’s just a nice number to count down from.  More than 13 seems like too many, and 10 and under seems way too restrictive.

So every week I will give you the tops in movies, TV, music, books, tea (yes, TEA), and other general crap that tends to be on my mind that no one else in this world really cares about but may read anyway.  And feel free to agree or disagree with any of my choices.  I love to be exposed to different points of view, even if I don’t feel the same way.

And to those of you who who suffer from Triskaidekaphobia, I apologize.  Just skip one of them and make it a dozen.

Happy Listing!