Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Dolls at Home

I was jolted out of bed by buzzing noises outside. Seems that Charlie and his boys were continuing to cut down trees...and block my way out. Today, that wasn't as much of a problem. I was off anyway. I just ended up spending the day at home, which I haven't done in a while.

Put on one of the Winnie the Pooh Valentine's Day specials to drown them out during breakfast. Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You has a great deal in common with the later Pooh films Pooh's Grand Adventure and Winnie the Pooh. Pooh and the others see Christopher Robin making a valentine for a girl and come to the conclusion that they like her better than them. After Owl tells them that the boy has been bitten by the "smitten" bug, they go out to search for it and return Christopher Robin to normal.

Changed the dolls into more formal outfits for the February holidays after breakfast. Samantha wears her pink Talent Show Dress. Josefina is in a pink and red floral regency-style dress and lace wrap I picked up for her on eBay a few years ago. Molly is in her plaid school jumper, Felicity her Laced Jacket and Petticoat. Whitney is also in an outfit I picked up from eBay, a pink poodle skirt with a white blouse and lace-trimmed slip. Managed to squeeze Jessa into (Ivy's) Chinese New Year dress in honor of that holiday taking place in a few weeks.

Next on the agenda was baking ginger snaps (from the last "limited edition" gingerbread cookie mix I had) and giving the bathroom a good scrub. Continued with the Winnie the Pooh Valentine's Day DVD while I worked. "Un-Valentine's Day" is an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Rabbit is so upset over the volume of valentines sent the year before, he cancels the holiday all together. That works about as well as it did at Thanksgiving and Halloween...which is to say, it doesn't work. When Pooh gets a pot of honey with a valentine note, he decides that he has to give something. Rabbit ultimately decides to organize their various attempts at valentines into a romantic play that goes comically wrong. But who did send that original pot of honey?

Finished off the disc with a New Adventures short. The gang tells the story of "Three Little Piglets"...or at least, they try to. Tigger keeps adding his own elements, Pooh keeps adding honey, and Rabbit isn't crazy about playing the Big Bad Wolf.

Worked on writing for a couple of hours after I finished in the bathroom. Started my next fairy tale, Brave Rey. Rey and her adopted sisters Rose and Kaydel live in the D'Qur Woods quite happily together. After the giant Snoke taxes their land and orders the people to give him their valuables, they decide they can no longer remain her and leave their cottage in search of a new home.

Cold and hungry, they stop at an old dark castle in the hope of getting warm and finding something to eat. They're let in by a kind old man named Luke, who turns out to be the slave of the castle's owner...none other than the Giant Snoke himself! Luke tries to shoo the girls out the door, but he's too late. The Giant finds them in the kitchen and threatens to eat them. Luke tries to defend them, but Snoke beats him for his impudence. Rey defends him. All they were doing was finding a place to eat and get warm.

Broke around 5:30 for a quick dinner. Cleaned the kitchen next, then vacuumed. Tomorrow is my extra-long 8 hour day, and I wanted to get as much of the cleaning done as I could today.

Spent most of the day running Cleopatra. Cleo (Elizabeth Taylor) is tired of ruling Egypt with her brother Ptolemy (Richard O'Sullivan). She forges an alliance with the equally ambitious Julius Caeser (Rex Harrison), who shares her desire to take over the world. He helps her oust her sibling and become the sole ruler of Egypt. She, in turn, produces an heir for him and watches him become Dictator of Rome for life. As it turns out, "for life" doesn't last long. He's assassinated, and his lands are split by his former men, including Marc Antony (Richard Burton). Cleopatra is incensed when Caeser's will names his adopted son Octavian (Roddy McDowell) instead of her son as the king of Rome and leaves for Egypt. Antony goes to her to get money for his wars...and ends up falling for her himself. Antony is so in love with her, he follows her back to Egypt in the middle of battle, which costs him the battle and most of his remaining troops. He's a shell of a man back in Egypt; when Cleo talks him into another war, he loses his last remaining man Rufio (Martin Landau). He and Cleo are lead to believe that each other are dead...and as you may have already guessed, this star-crossed sword-and-sandal Romeo and Juliet definitely will not have a happy ending.

I saw bits and pieces of this on AMC as a kid, but I never got to see the whole thing until today. Few of my movie history books had anything good to say about it, beyond the sheer size and spectacle of the thing. Maybe they were just too awed by those crazy-huge sets to listen to the surprisingly incisive dialogue. This was much better than I'd been lead to believe, with an excellent screenplay and intense performances by Harrison (who was Oscar-nominated), Burton, Taylor, and McDowell.

The afore-mentioned "spectacle" is hard to ignore, though. This movie is just plain BIG, a riot of color and action, with gigantic sets recreating the Roman and Egyptian empires, tons of extras, and fanciful costume changes for Taylor in every scene. (And some of those costumes were quite risque for the time, including an outfit for one of the dancers when Cleo arrived in Rome that was basically two nipple covers and a brief g-string.)  No wonder it won Oscars for set direction, costumes, cinematography, and special effects. I liked the majestic score by Alex North, too.

It's a good example of a movie that ran into tons of production problems but still came out well. The original director, Rouben Mamoullien, couldn't handle it and left; Joseph L. Mankielwitz not only took over the direction, but the screenplay as well. Burton and Taylor began their infamous love affair during the filming of this movie. Taylor was sick several times, delaying production, and they had to move those massive sets from Rome to England after the Summer Olympics made filming in Italy difficult. The movie wound up being so huge, it bankrupted 20th Century Fox. Even it being the top film of 1963 couldn't make it turn a profit.

Critics were apparently rough on this at the time. They probably just weren't up to something this big, or they'd heard too many of the production horror stories. It reminds me a lot of current blockbusters that critics tend to deride as terrible, even when they're well-made. The sets, score, and performance alone make this well-worth seeing for those with a spare four hours on their hands and a fondness for tragic historical romance.

Finished out the night online with Mel Brooks' historical anthology spoof History of the World Part I. I did this one for the segment set in ancient Rome, with Brooks as a stand-up philosopher and Gregory Hines as a slave trying to outrun a far less gentlemanly Caesar (Dom DelLouise). Brooks also shows up as Torquemada in the Spanish Inquisition musical number and as King Louie and his less-than-royal decoy in the final segment set around the French Revolution. One of the funnier Brooks spoofs if you're a fan of his work, satire, or the cast.

No comments: