Tag Archives: movies

…happily ever after

One of my esteemed colleagues popped up on Instant Messenger last night and said, “Give me some romance novels that were made into movies”. Google queen that I am, I googled. Ask and you shall receive. After pawing through the many lists of romance novels turned into movies, and disagreeing with quite of few of them because they were not romances in my mind, I started thinking about movies, and their endings.

Some of the most successful movies, both recently and historically, by no means had happy ever after (HEA) endings. Maybe I’ve been trained to see things differently. Working with independent romance publishers, an HEA, or at least an HFN (happy for now) is a requirement for many small press romance publishers and for many readers. In fact, it’s a deal breaker for many pubs.

So why does Hollywood and the movie-going public flock to movies that leave the characters and the viewers without a happy ending? I wish I knew. What I do know is that while watching “I am Legend” with Will Smith, I kept waiting for his HEA. I even IMd my friend mid-movie and said “Please tell me this has a happy ending.” Of course, he couldn’t. Recently I watched “Knowing” with Nicolas Cage. They set us up for a romance between him and the female lead. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it… things do not end well, for anyone.

My coworker and I joked last night that we have to write a book where our characters are miserable, or even better dead at the end, then we can sell it to Hollywood and maybe even win an Oscar. Honestly, if we look at the stories that defy time (Romeo and Juliet, King Arthur and Marian) things again, don’t end well. So why do they touch us so? Why do we seek out and share the characters’ pain?

Perhaps because real life happy ever afters are few and far between. Maybe misery simply wants company.

mastering the master

The Art of French Cooking

So I got Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child for Christmas. It’s 684 pages, not counting all the index pages in the back which are numbered with Roman numerals that I can’t decipher because I went to public school. This tome weighs a good ten pounds and though I far outweigh it, it is intimidating the hell out of me.

It’s my own fault, really. When my mother called from the bookstore weeks ago and asked if I would like it for Christmas I said yes. Why? Because I love a good story and the story that surrounds this book of late is a great one.

Julie Powell back in August of 2002 decided to not only cook her way through this book, all 536 recipes in 365 days while holding down a real job, but also to blog about it in what she named ‘The Julie/Julia Project”. But that isn’t the story that gets me, it’s what happens next. She turned that year-long blog into a book, and that book became the Meryl Streep, Amy Adams movie “Julie & Julia” that everyone is talking about. Being a writer, publication stories like that fascinate me. So much so I have googled my tushy off and found the original 2002 blog, and I am reading my way through it, day by day, and totally enjoying it.

Julie is normal. She screws up the recipes, and then tells us about how when that happens, she just adds more butter and cream to try and fix it. She drops the f-word liberally, as anyone would while taking on such a monumental challenge. She calls it like she sees it, wondering at the craziness around her, such as the raw food movement that hits during her cooking experiment, or that she couldn’t find swiss cheese in her regular food store in Brooklyn but she could buy imported Fontina.

I anticipate I will enjoy her real-life blog musings far more than what I am sure is a sanitized for mainstream publishing, edited version that hit the bookshelves. She already hinted at that in the comment that the book title (Julie & Julia) is boring, the result of an editorial battle lost. And don’t we authors know all about that–choose your battles.

No, I have no plans what so ever in this lifetime to repeat Julie’s project, but I do hope to challenge myself with a few of these recipes. Looking through the book, the first thing to cross my mind was how outdated it seemed to my modern cook’s eye. I learned to cook during the dawn of olive oil, and microwaves. Julia Child wrote this book in 1961, and it is more than obvious her two favorite ingredients are butter and heavy cream.

Yet a lot of what Julia Child writes makes sense, such as when she warns against the temptation to use the food processor to blend your potato leek soup. She’s right, that one appliance means the difference between what ends up being more like runny mashed potatoes rather than a hearty soup where the potatoes and leeks are still recognizable.

I suppose if I take away a few techniques and basics, it will only help me in everything I cook. If nothing else, it will be a lesson in humility. Let’s just hope I am strong enough to withstand such a lesson. I have to wonder about that as I ignore daily the container full of cookies that I screwed up but still refuse to throw away. Who I think is going to eat them is beyond me, they taste bad and look worse, but there they sit, waiting on the counter. Perhaps humility is what both Julie and Julia are meant to teach me.

I will keep you informed of both the failures and the successes.



when love and life was black and white

Sometimes the simpler things seem better.

For instance, to me it seems that times were simpler back in the old days. Like back in the day when problems on TV were solved in 22 minutes (ala the “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” episode from the Brady Bunch). Before today’s teen shows where 15 year olds are pregnant or in rehab.

Or even further back when movies, and life, were truly black and white. It’s extra prophetic perhaps that on this, Pearl Harbor Day, I’m in particular thinking about one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time, Christmas in Connecticut. It starred a young and lovely Barbara Stanwick and a storyline that is just as relatable today as it was back in 1945 when it was first released to a nation of movie goers embroiled in World War II and looking for comfort.

The premise was this, Stanwick portrays Elizabeth Lane, a famous magazine writer, the Martha Stewart of that day. She is expert in all things regarding homemaking, setting the impossibly high standard all housewives of the time strive to live up to. So of course when her publisher, seeking publicity, seeks the perfect home for a hero returning from the war to spend Christmas, he thinks of Lane’s farm in Connecticut, where she writes of cooking incredible meals for her husband and baby. The only problem is, Lane is a fraud. She lives in an apartment in Manhattan, has no husband, no baby, no farm and worst of all, she can’t cook. All of her recipes are fed to her from her restauranteur uncle. So what does she do when faced with being exposed and losing her job? She fakes it all and gets herself a farm, and a husband, and a baby (or two) and attempts to throw the perfect Christmas for both her boss and the incredibly sexy and charming war hero who is bound to capture her heart at first sight.

Of course it all works out all right in the end. The heroine falls in love with and gets the hero sailor, but not without a series of misunderstandings that lead to hilarious situations.

Watching Stanwick/Lane sweeping through her bucolic, bedecked, borrowed farmhouse in her long gown playing holiday hostess, I had to sigh and think life looks so lovely back then. None of the glaring harshness of today’s problems. War in Afghanistan. The struggling economy. Tiger Woods’ marriage. What to order online for my long Christmas list and will it get here in time. Will the needles stay on my tree until Christmas or will I have a bare stalk with a pile underneath it? How much longer before they invent a pill to cure gray hair? Whatever, you get the picture…

Of course, this movie was a product of Hollywood in its hay day, and I have to remember it was made as an escape for a country still reeling from their losses and a wartime economy. But it still makes a person grateful that just for a little while we too can escape back into a time when things, on the surface at least, were simply black and white.