Friday, December 29, 2017

Once Upon a December

The day remains sunny and bitterly cold. It was a good morning for some baking after breakfast. I decided to put the last of the coconut to good use and turn Alton Brown's Old School Muffins into very moist Pineapple-Coconut Muffins. Yum, did they turn out well. The only thing I kind of wish I'd done was maybe adding a little vanilla for slightly additional flavor, Otherwise, this was very sweet, moist, and tropical.

Watched the 1997 Anastasia while I baked. Orphan Anya (Meg Ryan) has come to St. Petersburg (Lenningrad) to catch a train to Paris and find her family. Con-men Dimintri (John Cusak) and Vladmir (Kelsey Grammer) have been auditioning young women to play the part of Anastasia, the lost princess of the Romanovs. Feisty Anya fits the bill perfectly. They travel to Paris to show her off to the Grand Dowager Duchess (Angela Landsbury) and her companion Sophie (Bernadette Peters). The Romanovs, however, were cursed by the wicked monk Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd), before he died during their escape. He's so determined to see his curse through, he comes back from the grave to make sure Anya and her gentlemen friends never get to Paris...and then take care of them after they arrive.

Ok, so yeah, the history is is about as realistic as your average Disney movie, and the constantly-falling-apart Rasputin is just gross. This is still my second-favorite Don Bluth film after The Secret of Nimh. Anya is one of my favorite heroines from any non-Disney animated film, spirited, funny, and intelligent. The music by Lynn Aherns and Stephan Flahtery is so fabulous, I begged for the soundtrack for Christmas 1997 and have had the CD ever since. "At the Beginning" was the radio hit and "Journey to the Past" got the Oscar nomination, but I've always loved the haunting "Once Upon a December." The animation is downright amazing, especially the train wreck and the finale with the flying statues.

For older grade-school princesses on up who can handle the violence and the wonky history, this remains a really enjoyable Russian fairy tale.

Headed out shortly after Anastasia ended. Work wasn't too bad when I got in, to the point where I was able to finish what little needed to be cleaned in the bathrooms. After that...bedlam again. We're supposed to get less than one inch of snow tomorrow, but people still panicked. Not to mention, we're getting closer to the beginning of the month and New Year's Eve. I mostly bagged...until the manager sent me outside to do carts about 10 minutes before my break. It ended up being 40 minutes late. After that, things slowed down considerably. I spent the rest of the time inside, bagging and doing the indoor trash.

Jessa came up to my line while I was bagging. She occasionally shops at the Acme when she visits Dad and Jodie. Did I want to get together with her tomorrow? Sure! I was going to hit up one of the malls anyway. We opted to repeat last year's post-Christmas trip to the big Deptford Target and Deptford Mall.

My schedule next week is a little frustrating, but it could have been worse. In good news, I continue to have more hours. In bad news, I work New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, and I'll miss most of the Eagles game again. I should get off early enough to spend at least a little time at Dad and Jodie's house New Year's Eve. Only one day off, but at least it's a nice, normal Thursday when I can get some things done. (And no 8 hour days this time!)

Most of my groceries were for my New Year's Eve treats and New Year's Day dinner. Picked up a small sliced ham, red potatoes, and onions for Crock Pot Ham and Potatoes, sparkling grape juice in a glass bottle and heavy cream for Whipped Syllabub, brownie cookies from the bakery clearance shelves, and the Acme's generic sparkling lemonade to use in Lemon Cake. Two grapefruit were cheaper than oranges. Restocked skim milk, apples, herbal tea (had an online coupon for Celestial Seasonings - got their peppermint), peanut butter, crushed pineapple, mushrooms, and floss (the Acme's brand was buy one, get one).

Ran a few episodes of She-Ra while I got organized and had leftovers for dinner. Anastasia and last night's Willow put me in the mood for fantasy. Adora and Bow find themselves in an "Enchanted Castle" after helping an old lady on the road. The castle is ruled by an evil sorceress who derives her powers from a blue fire. They have to figure out how to put the fire out, and who that old woman really is. Even head bad guys can go on vacation in "Horde Prime Takes a Holiday." The head of the Horde leaves his prized flagship in the skeletal hands of Hordak, who promptly uses it to attack She-Ra and the Rebels...and then loses it to Skeletor. Good thing He-Man is visiting and can help his sister out.

Worked on writing for a little while afterwards. BB is delighted to discover Officer Solo's big dog Chewbacca is also in Toyland. Here, he was once owned by Han Shaftoe, but now stays with Maz and the gypsies. Maz also throws out some cryptic hints that Han may not be as dead as everyone believes...

Finished out the night with Footlight Parade, my favorite of the early 30's Busby Berkley musicals. James Cagney headlines this unique spin on put-on-a-show. Here, it's "put on a prologue" - that is, the short musical numbers that often played in larger movie theaters during the Depression to draw in crowds. Cagney is Chester Kent, a producer of prologues who has been working himself into exhaustion creating new and exciting ideas for musical routines, only to see them stolen by a rival company. His secretary Nan (Joan Blondell) does her best to keep things moving, despite threats from his ex-wife (Renee Whitney) and a gold-digging friend (Claire Dodd). The producer's wife (Ruth Donnelly) insists on him hiring her latest protege...which actually works out pretty well, since he's a fine singer and dancer (Dick Powell). A former secretary returning to dancing (Ruby Keeler) works even better. But when his ideas continue to turn up at the other company, Chester insists on everyone, including his whiny choreographer (Frank McHugh) working in secrecy on three of the biggest numbers ever seen in prologues (or film).

Cagney (in his first musical role) and the relatively unusual setting elevate this typical Berkley at Warners outing. While the music isn't quite as good as some of the other Warners 30's movies, the cast, a fast-paced and funny script, and the numbers more than make up for it. "By a Waterfall" has  Keeler and the chorus girls put through a staggering water ballet that makes some of the later Esther Williams romps look like kiddie games. "Shanghai Lil" is rescued by Cagney as a dancing sailor and some interesting camera work in the finale. (Keeler's a bigger problem here - she's no one's idea of an Asian temptress.)

Definately worth looking around for if you're a fan of the cast or the Busby Berkley 30's musicals.

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