I watched Mary Poppins at some point, but I really don’t remember much about it. The songs are stuck permanently in my head, because I had to learn them for a music program in grade school. It was actually pretty cool for a small rural school. We waved silk scarves during Let’s Go Fly a Kite and one poor girl got roped into dressing up like an old woman and scattering invisible crumbs as the lucky rest of us merely sang “…tuppence…tuppence…tuppence a bag…” Supercalifragilisticantspellit was a rousing success. So I couldn’t resist singing along with the poor songwriters trying to please Mrs. Travers.

Said Mrs. Travers was quite the character in Saving Mr. Banks. I found her difficult nature to be the only thing I didn’t like about the movie. Then again, that WAS the movie. And her rigid, obstinate reaction to a perfectly lovely adaptation in the making made her just as tragic as she was annoying. The counter story of her childhood in Australia, hazy bucolic scenes intercut with her shiny Hollywood misadventures, was my favorite part. Partly because it explained why she was the way she was, and partly because I loved the Australianness of it. It captured both the beauty and the harshness of the
outback, even as it captured the
beauty of her relationship with the failed drunken father she adored. Emma Thompson was excellent as a sad figure who eventually became a shining jewel of a person as Walt Disney slowly chipped away at the stone that she had become.

Tom Hanks was amazing. He totally disappeared into beloved Hollywood icon Walt Disney. As the movie portrayed
him (I say it like that because I don’t know anything about Walt Disney other than what I saw in Saving Mr. Banks), he was a shrewd businessman and someone who lived his life with an almost child-like joy. Who better than modern day beloved Hollywood icon Tom Hanks to portray such a character?

I watched this right after Winter’s Tale and again was struck by how talented Colin Farrell is. I was also impressed by the talent of the child actress playing the girl version of Mrs. Travers. It will be interesting to see what she’ll be doing a decade from now.

Saving Mr. Banks turned out to have much more depth than I’d anticipated. A dual period period movie, as well as a look into the adaptation process…with the book rights very much in limbo during that process. It’s also a strong lesson in how not to behave if you’re an author expected to make compromises in collaboration. The audio recordings of the real Mrs. Travers played during the end credits reinforce that lesson. Mrs.
Travers, as it turns out, needed saving every bit as much as her dear Mr. Banks. It just took Walt Disney’s intelligence and compassion to make her realize it.

Saving Mr. Banks Trailer # 1

The first thing I have to say about Winter’s Tale is that it is so visually stunning that it’s as if the movie inhales the viewer to a point somewhere between watching from outside and inside the screen. The colors that linger in my mind are blue and white and gray…and red of course. Even the white and gray are vivid still, with the bluey white of winter almost pulsating.

The whole thing pulsates. With life and death, good and evil, love and fear…and magic. Horse by himself is such a thing of beauty. And then magic transforms him into something even beyond mere beauty to mesmerizing glory.

I was looking around online and saw its setting called a mythic New York and that pegs it. It’s pretty much my favorite era…the line between the Victorian and Edwardian, but only almost. It’s a not quite as it was reality of its own. I like the leeway that gives filmmakers to transform what we think we know into something a bit other. Otherworldly and just unfamiliar enough to intrigue. Oddly, such a delicious little thrill of a mental gasp, when this “to the country” Beverly’s family is so excited to travel to turns out to be Queens.

Beverly was played so beautifully by Jessica Brown Findlay. I already liked her as the tragic Sybil from Downton Abbey, and Winter’s Tale really revealed more and different layers of her talent. I loved the scene where she’s running through the house to plunge into her cooling pool. Sometimes a simple seeming visual can be positively poetic as it unspools.

I’ve never been much of a Colin Farrell fan. Until now. He was pitch perfect as the con man who steals Beverly’s heart and weaves his thread of magic and battling good and evil throughout. Russell Crowd was excellent, though his character was so evil he wasn’t exactly likeable. A hallmark of fine talent.

I was looking online because it wasn’t until the end credits that I realized it was based on Mark Helprin’s novel of the same title. I read and loved it a long time ago, but literally don’t remember a thing except the title and author…and a little icy imagery. In hindsight so many details seemed vaguely familiar that it’s unreal that I didn’t put it together on my own. Information I found online talked about how it’s just one thread from the many in the 700+ page novel and not exactly like the book, so I guess I was so caught up in it that I didn’t go split brained to figure it out.

So beautifully acted. So dreamy, romantic, and time stopping. I already want to watch it again. That’s one of the highest compliments I can give a movie. I don’t usually give movies stars, and that’s just as well. Winter’s Tale lives under its own canopy of stars that look like ours, but are reachable with the magic that lies at its blue and white and gray pulsating heart.

Winter’s Tale Trailer

As I’m still enjoying being thrilled that Sean Bean has a weekly TV series, TNT’s Legends, I found this little Entertainment Weekly slideshow very entertaining indeed. It shows pics of his death scenes from a half dozen of his roles. The best part is that each one is accompanied by an anecdote from Bean himself. Since it was Boromir’s beautiful, arrowstruck demise that made me a Sean Bean fan, I’m rather fond of that one. Others, like the infamous Dead Ned’s Head of Game of Thrones and the gruesome torn apart by horses swan song in Black Death, not so much. He seems cautiously optimistic that his state of mortality is in on upswing now, so hopefully he’ll be around for seasons and seasons of Legends. I thought the premiere on Wednesday was excellent, and a wonderful showcase for his enormous talent. When it’s time for the series finale though, all bets are off. I wonder if it will be impossible for them to resist the longstanding tradition of finding a new way to kill Sean Bean? Until then I intend to enjoy watching him transform himself into his character’s legends every week.

I’ve been thinking about dreams a lot lately. I go through phases where I have one after another, often movielike in every way. Sometimes they’re…we’ll call it interactive, for lack of a better word. As if I watch a movie I also live in. Those are the best kind for fiction.

The fantasy novella I’m working on now sprang from a dream I had last year, but still remember vividly. Oddly, as I started writing the opening, expecting to plunge right into the dream part, it got away from me and a character who was supposed to already be dead took center stage and caused a short story to become a novelette, then a novella when I wasn’t looking. It’s some of the best writing I’ve done, though the way it’s shaping up to be as much literary fiction as dreamy fantasy is going to make it tough to market. Tougher. Long short fiction is its own roadblock, as markets for it are few. Some plan ahead corner of my mind is already considering the potential for screen adaptation. The writing part is way cool, though. And now that the one character who didn’t want to be dead (no, not a zombie or vampire, unless you consider that such autonomous characters, unwilling to be dead and sucking up story for themselves are the fiction writing versions) has now deigned to go gently into that good night, maybe I can get to the part where the dream comes in. Thousands of words in, in fact.

Is it the same story it would have been if the dead guy hadn’t inserted himself into the thick of things at the beginning? In a way. It’s still about the theme of the dream. It just doesn’t know it yet. It’s deeper and richer than it could possibly have been, if that one character had only been the memory that drove the plot. I’ve read time and again to trust your characters. It seems to apply double when you’re confronted with a living, breathing, page hogging character who was supposed to be dead.

We all have two kinds of dreams. The ones that are like wishing on a star, no star required, and the ones that tell us stories as we sleep, sometimes no sleep required. The ones that project futures on our very best days are the propellent that pushes creative people forward, uphill, over obstacles, and against the wind. They feed us and nurture us in times of doubt and pick us up and carry us forward, even when we think we’ve lost the ability to walk the path that chose us. The other kind, the ones that come to us in the still, soft dark of night inspire us with ideas and images and even fullblown stories we can share with others who seek the impetus of their own dreams. We all dream as we sleep and dream of our most elusive desires. Many people who never write or make music or art still devour it as if it’s essential to the wellbeing of their existence. And they dream too. Both kinds of dreaming feed us all on levels we may not even be aware of.

It’s pretty amazing, really. This miraculous ability we have that requires nothing more than going to sleep and waiting to see what will unfold on this night or the next. And the companion dream kind. The one that let’s us hope against all logic, because we know that sometimes dreams of night become stories and the dreams for the ages become truth.

I came across My Wild Affair: The Seal Who Came Home last night on PBS in progress and ended up captivated by it. It tells the true story of Andre the Seal who became part of a family’s life for decades. The closest relationship was with Harry, the father, who became a softer, wiser person through his decades long experience. The seal was adorable of course, but the story went much deeper than that. The thing I found absolutely astounding was the way Harry decided not to truck Andre to the aquarium where he wintered for safety’s sake, because the seal hated it. Instead he turned him loose at Marblehead, Massachusetts, relying on hope and faith in his aquatic friend’s desire and ability to return home on his own. That a seal could swim nearly 200 miles for years to a place he had to find by instinct seemed unlikely, but apparently Andre was very good at managing the unlikely. The PBS program was charming, sweet, and poignant. This little YouTube clip was all I could find of it there, but it gives a nice taste of the appealing quality.

This Entertainment Weekly article and several others are sending up internet smoke signals about a way cool new HBO series in the works. Anthony Hopkins is to star in a TV series based on the cool old movie, Westworld. From J. J. Abrams, no less! That talent combo alone is enough to have me excited by just the knowledge that there will be at least a pilot. The little plot tidbits emerging sound like it will be a new take on an already awesome science fiction concept. It’s still in such early stages, I guess, that all we can do is anticipate the first trailer…someday. I’m game, with a project like this bringing the prospect of the great Anthony Hopkins into our living rooms for an extended visit on the small screen.

Part of being a writer is hearing voices in your head. To be more accurate, it’s often a case of hearing dialogue in vague voices. I tend to “cast” my characters with actors I like, because it helps a lot with voice and characterization. And because it’s way fun. So I hear literal and familiar voices, as I plot and write. However it’s done, we all have a lot of extra people in there, jockeying for page time. That’s a good thing and how it should be. Productive and fun.

There’s another kind of voice we hear that’s not so good. That one is certainly not productive or fun. It’s what we call the little voice in our head. Sometimes it can seem good, while it’s actively insisting that we are better than we actually are. Or may be perceived to be. That version’s name is Overconfidence. The line between regular, much needed confidence and overconfidence is so fine and blurred that it’s difficult to recognize. Overconfidence may even lead us to take big risks and achieve great things. It’s more likely to make us risk too much at once. The funny thing about it is that it’s usually not recognizable until after an overreach causes a fall.

Other times the little voice in our head makes us question ourselves. It’s name is Self-Doubt. That one is pure evil in the sense that it replaces joy with fear. I heard on the news that the first thing Ebola does when it infects someone is turn off the immune system so the body can’t fight it. That’s what self-doubt does to writers. It infects us with the fear that we’re not good, not as good as someone else, not good enough. To the point that not being able to fight it becomes a real issue. That, still using the Ebola analogy, causes us to  hemorrhage joy, faith, hope. It can be crippling and leads a lot of talented people to abandon their gift.

Then there’s the little voice in our head we’ll call Goldilocks. That one hits the sweet spot of just right. It tells us we are good enough, but also acts as the voice of reason. It tempers overeagerness, with the calm steady work ethic that can lead to longterm success. Best of all it’s the one that reminds us that setbacks are learning experiences that build character and skill. Temporary roadblocks that no matter how painful are not failures.

Truth be told we actually have all those little voices in our heads. They are our internal system of checks and balances that help us move through life. Sometimes any one of them can cause a hitch in the grande scheme we call living. Too hot, too cold…even just right doesn’t always make us happy. Not for long, anyway. Happiness is a transient, ephemeral concept. A gift. When we add up all the things we achieve as well as all the things we don’t, the nails on the head vs the not quite there, there’s one little word that carries all the hope and dreams and potential in the world.

Yet.

Not yet.

Keep striving, dreaming, hoping, working toward it all.

We can change our thinking by not only allowing ourselves to be guided by our little voices, but also learning to live and listen in such a way that we guide those little voices too. The resulting big voice becomes who we are. Listening to our instincts, following our gut, being intuitive…whatever you call it that’s what defines us as writers and as human beings. Hearing all the little voices, whether encouraging or niggling, and choosing our own individual path from the cacophony is the only way to truly live. The results, good and bad, wind and weave themselves into our written characters and it all comes full circle. I think it’s part of the way the truly wonderful characters become three dimensional. We are them, they are us, and everyone who reads them becomes a part of that. One voice at a time.

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