Kimberly C's blog

My Favorite Things

When the dog bites, when the bee stingschristmas at Disney
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad
- 'My Favorite Things', Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II

I don’t honestly remember when the song 'My Favorite Things' from the musical The Sound of Music first made it onto the Christmas music playlist. I suppose it does talk about “sleigh bells” and “snowflakes” and “silver white winters”, but it has never struck me as overly Christmassy in nature. In the context of this blog, however, it fits perfectly.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always one of the busiest for many people, myself included. End of year deadlines approach, relatives and friends visit, holiday preparations plow steadily forward, and there are too many parties and get-togethers to number. But even in the midst of everything associated with the holiday season, I still make time to watch some of my favorite Christmas movies.

I enjoy Christmas movies of all kinds – animated, black & white, made for TV, etc. – but there are a handful that I love the most. These are the movies I have to watch each holiday season or I feel like something is missing. For instance, my Mom and I always watch White Christmas while decorating the family Christmas tree. It’s been our tradition for years, and one I would be sad to miss.

For this last blog of the holiday season, Donna (my wonderful movie blogging partner) and I have put together a list of our must-watch holiday movies. What movies do you consider essential holiday viewing?

A Christmas Carol

scrooge's turkeyOf all the traditional Christmas tales, there is one that has been explored in movies and television more than any other: A Christmas Carol. Originally a novella written by Charles Dickens in 1843, A Christmas Carol is an enduring classic of the holiday season. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who detests Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by three spirits who help him transform into a kinder and gentler man who embodies the spirit of the season.

It’s not hard to see why filmmakers have continually found themselves drawn to retell Dickens’ classic tale. It includes many of the elements audiences find most compelling: a holiday setting; a transformation for the better; a variety of ghosts; and an endearing family who are down on their luck, yet still happy. It is also a story that lends itself easily to adaptation. Dickens’ story has been retold as a comedy (Scrooged), a parody (Blackadder’s Christmas Carol), a musical (A Christmas Carol: The Musical), with Muppets (The Muppet Christmas Carol) and mice (Mickey’s Christmas Carol), a science fiction tale (Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol), and more. Some of the elements might change from version to version, but the general story of transformation and rebirth is always present.

If you’re in the mood to watch a version of the Charles Dickens classic this holiday season, check out the list below. Some of the titles listed below are available through Hoopla, HCPL’s streaming media catalog. If you have questions about how to use Hoopla, please call any of the HCPL locations and ask a librarian for help getting started.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town…

Babbo NataleYou'd better watch out, you'd better not cry
You'd better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
- 'Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town', John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie

I’ve said this year after year, but it bears repeating: I love Christmas! Christmas was always a big celebration in my house as a child, so the holiday has always been my favorite. I love putting up decorations (in fact, I’ve already helped decorate 3 different trees!), singing Christmas carols, watching Christmas movies, making Christmas cookies, and picking out the perfect gifts for family and friends.

As a child, one of my favorite things about Christmas was, of course, Santa Claus. I loved picturing him in his workshop at the North Pole, preparing all year long with the elves for Christmas. There was nothing I wanted more than to take The Polar Express to the North Pole and hear the reindeer bells. I even wrote a letter to Santa every year and, once or twice, received a reply! And there was nothing more fun than waking up Christmas morning to find that Santa had eaten the cookies we set out and left presents under the tree.

Although Christmas movies take all forms and genres, Santa continues to be a popular theme. In some, like The Santa Clause, he is the main character, while in others, like Frosty the Snowman, he plays only a minor role. A few of these movies, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, even feature a character posing as Santa for some nefarious purpose. But no matter the role, Santa is always crucial to the climax of the story.

It’s early in December yet, but it’s certainly time to start watching favorite Christmas movies! If you’re in the mood for a movie featuring Santa Claus, check out one of the titles below. Many of the movies on the list are meant for children, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t still watch them and remember the magic and wonder of Christmases past.

The Year of the Spy

spiesIn just a few weeks, Spectre, one of the movies I’ve been looking forward to all year finally opens in theaters. The latest in the Daniel Craig-helmed Bond films, Spectre is the highly anticipated follow-up to Skyfall, which opened to critical and audience praise in 2012.

In an odd turn of events, however, Spectre is just one of many spy movies released in theaters this year. These spy movies run the gamut from comic book-inspired (Kingsman: The Secret Service) or funny (Spy), to big-budget sequels (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) or TV spin-offs (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). This weekend also sees the release of another addition to the genre, Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer negotiating a prisoner exchange during the Cold War.

Spies have long been an object of fascination for movie producers. James Bond alone has been the star of many movies over more than 50 years. There is something oddly compelling about their confidence and poise, their ability to read every situation and succeed in their mission. Looking at the diverse array of spy movies coming out this year alone, it is clear that Hollywood’s fascination with that occupation is still holding strong.

If you’re in the mood for a spy movie this weekend, browse the HCPL catalog and request a copy today!

The Master of Suspense

hitchcockIt’s finally October, which means Halloween is just around the corner! If I’m being completely honest, Halloween isn’t my favorite of the fall holidays. I much prefer the food and family togetherness of Thanksgiving and, well, everything about Christmas. One of my favorite things about Halloween, though, is the movies.

As a kid I loved classic horror movies like Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolfman. They weren’t really that frightening, but they still gave me a scare! Now I tend to gravitate towards a different sort of movie at Halloween: psychological thrillers. These are the movies where every character has a secret, no one knows who to trust, and the tension is palpable. In my opinion, no one in Hollywood understood psychological thrillers better than the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

In a career spanning almost six decades, Hitchcock saw the transition from silent films to talking pictures, and black and white to color. He directed movies in both England and the United States, and successfully captured television audiences with his long-running show Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His movies were famous for their psychological twists and turns, unusual camera angles, use of music (or the lack thereof) to underscore tension, director cameos, and blonde heroines. Not only was Hitchcock a master of creating and sustaining suspense (the playground scene in The Birds is a classic example), but he also found ways to push what was acceptable in movies. The shower scene in Psycho, for example, was more violent than American audiences were used to at the time and ushered in a new wave of horror films. Although Hitchcock never won an Academy Award for his direction (he was nominated five times), he remains one of the most influential filmmakers of all time.

If you’re in the mood for a Hitchcock classic this cool weekend, browse the list below and request your favorite!

It’s TV Time, Again

tvEvery year I look forward to fall and all it brings with it: cooler temperatures (scarf weather!), pumpkin-flavored everything, my favorite holidays (Thanksgiving & Christmas), and new episodes of favorite TV shows. I love TV, but I admit that last season I somehow fell drastically behind with many of my favorite shows. In fact, I didn’t clear several shows from the DVR until just a couple of weeks ago. And, I still have 2 shows that are only half watched! It wasn’t that I didn’t want to watch the shows as they aired. I just, for one reason or another, didn’t have time. Now I’m enjoying binge-watching episodes each weekend in preparation for the upcoming seasons.

If, like me, you fell behind last season, or you’re simply curious about a new (or older!) show currently airing, check out the list below and see what HCPL has to offer! Most of these shows premiere on TV in the next two or three weeks. But with cliffhanger endings the norm for many shows nowadays, new episodes can’t come fast enough!

  • Fall TV Picks:

Have Fun Storming the Castle!

princess bride mapIn general, I’m not much of a nonfiction reader. I tend to be a plot-driven reader, and plot just isn’t what drives a nonfiction book. But over the past year and a half, I have broadened my horizons, listening to several celebrity memoirs and essay collections during my commute to and from work. The first three of these (Tina Fey’s Bossypants; Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? (and Other Concerns); and Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please) were all in theme: life lessons from smart, funny women working in comedic television and movies. I’m not that well-versed in sitcoms and sketch comedy, but I enjoyed listening to these women reflect on their lives, the lessons they have learned through their work in television and comedy, and the people who helped them along the way.

This past week, I have been listening to yet another nonfiction audiobook, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. Written by Cary Elwes, who played Westley, the dashing hero in The Princess Bride, this book is full of behind-the-scenes stories and fond reminiscences. The Princess Bride has long been one of my favorite movies, so listening to Cary Elwes (with guest appearances by various other members of the cast) recount stories about the experience of making it has made for an enjoyable commute.

Here are some of my favorite stories shared by Elwes:

Touchdown!

yard linesWe’re now partway through the NFL preseason and football fever is well and truly in the air. If I’m being honest, I’m a pretty terrible example of a football fan. My football knowledge is pretty basic, watching games live gives me anxiety (Will my team win? Why are we losing at the half?! That was a terrible call!), and I am really only invested in one or two teams at a time (the Houston Texans and, in college football, my beloved Texas Aggies). Despite all that, each year I find myself more and more caught up by the football fervor that sweeps over the country.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a super fan to enjoy a football movie. I say fortunately because, as you’ve no doubt noticed, there are an awful lot of football movies coming out of Hollywood. It would be a shame to miss them when most feature actors popular with both critics and audiences (i.e., Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side and Mark Wahlberg in Invincible), and many are based on inspiring true stories. Some football movies add humor to the game, while others, like We are Marshall inspire viewers to rise above and persevere.

Whether you’re playing football, fantasy football or armchair football this season, check out one of these movies for a little bit of inspiration!

The Western

west texas stormLast weekend, I went on a road trip to West Texas to visit family. If you have ever made that trip yourself, you know that driving across Texas is always a crazy experience. First, it takes a really long time to get anywhere by car because Texas is just that big. Not even the 80 mph speed limits make that much of a dent. Second, the scenery outside the car window is always changing as you travel across the state. From cityscapes and flatlands to the green trees of hill country and the brown expanse of West Texas, it is hard to believe it all belongs in one state.

67th Primetime Emmy Nominations

emmyLast week, the nominations for the Primetime Emmys were announced. Honoring excellence in primetime television, the Emmys are highly anticipated by those in the field and those of us who simply love television. As a self-professed lover of all things TV, the Emmys align perfectly with my interests.

Like most years at the Emmys, there are many familiar titles and faces nominated in the comedy and drama categories. Because of the multi-season nature of most television shows, this makes sense. This sort of repetitive nomination pattern is less likely to happen at, for example, the Oscars, where new movies are released in theaters each year, starring different actors and actresses, and written, directed and produced by different people. In television, a show might be nominated every year it runs, like Modern Family, or it might receive a nomination its first season, only to be replaced in future years by the next big show.

This year, however, there are a number of new names amongst the nominations. The Lead Actress in a Drama category is a prime example of this, with three new faces including Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson, both strong, talented actresses who made the switch from movies to television, and Tatiana Maslany, who is finally nominated for her third season of incredible work on Orphan Black. This year also sees an increase in television produced by streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon. It will be interesting to see how this new format of television continues to impact the field in years to come.

With such an eclectic group of nominees, I, for one, am curious how the votes might fall this year. Will the Emmys go to the familiar faces in television, or will the new shows and faces be recognized for their addition to Primetime television?

Below, I have listed the nominees in the drama and comedy categories for Outstanding Series, Lead Actor and Actress, and Supporting Actor and Actress. Who would you like to see win an Emmy this year?

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