Grace in Small Things (continued)

Tillie Close Up Smaller

Princess Tillie Posing for a Picture

 

“As you wish . . .” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride 

“You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” ~ Miracle Max from The Princess Bride

Miracle Max and Valerie The Princess Bride
Miracle Max & Valeria in The Princess Bride

I haven’t done a Grace in Small Things post in quite a while, so I thought that I might do one tonight. I’m slightly regretting something that I said in my post about emotions: I said that I do not get elated easily. That part is true, but when I began to consider elation in my life, I realized that even though it is not an emotion that comes to me easily, I still find happiness in even the smallest of things—hence, the subject of tonight’s post.

After some pondering, I’ve decided to highlight the following five things that bring me joy:

Vizzini: Jump in after her! 
Inigo Montoya: I can’t swim 
Fezzik: I only dog paddle. 
Vizzini: AGGHH  ~ from The Princess Bride

Shakes Fast Asleep
Shakes Fast Asleep

Number 1:  My dogs’ personalities. Anyone who doesn’t believe that animals can have distinct personalities has never paid much attention to a dog. My Jack Russells have always been full of themselves, but ever since we adopted Tillie the Lab, I’ve noticed even more how much all three dogs differ. For example, Shakes, the mama’s boy, is easily lulled. He insinuates himself as close to my torso as he can get and then turns over on his back. This is a signal that the stomach rubbing should begin. I can put Shakes to sleep in under three minutes if I rub his tummy steadily. Once he falls asleep, his mouth gapes ever so slightly, showing his bottom teeth as he has a distinct underbite. Shakes would be a good candidate for dog braces if there were such a thing. Regardless, once Shakes has fallen asleep, I can stop rubbing his belly, but if he is disturbed, I have to begin the process again. If I do not, I get a head butt to my elbow, which is what happened this morning as I was drinking my first cup of coffee, which I always have while I am still in bed. Needless to say, the butt to my elbow caused coffee to spill on my nightshirt and on the sheets. I was not amused.

King Alfie
King Alfie Atop the Pillows

Alfie is much harder to read. He likes to sleep atop the pillows, more often than not, above Corey’s head. Alfie can be very, very sweet and loving, and then he can turn on a dime and begin to growl. He doesn’ t like to be dried when he comes in from the rain, so I have to coax him by speaking very quietly while simultaneously drying him very quickly. Another of Alfie’s quirks is that if given a treat such as a chewie, he will immediately try to bury it, even if he is in the house. We have found chewies between the couch cushions, under the piano pedals, even in a storage tub. If Alfie buries his treats outside, Shakes will watch him, and then at the first chance, he will unbury Alfie’s treat and claim it as his own.

Tillie is a prima donna. She is quite vocal about many things, and if she is not being paid the attention she feels she deserves, we’ll get a good telling off until someone, usually Corey, stops whatever he is doing and gives her a big hug. Tillie is also very jealous. If Corey comes into the room and begins a conversation with me, Tillie will interrupt. If we happen to be embracing one another, Tillie will bark. However, Tillie is not the least bit aggressive. She is all talk. Tillie also likes to make the bed. If the bed covers are flat, she will stand in the middle of the bed and rake the covers with her paws until they are in the desired shape, and then she will promptly flop down on them. This is why we have removed the hand-stitched quilt that my mother gave us and replaced it with a cheaper, machine-sewn quilt.

I know, we spoil our dogs as much as we do our children, but it’s hard not to as they have such human characteristics.

“I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?” ~ Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride

Inigo Montoya The Princess Bride
Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

Number 2:  Nail polish. Granted, nail polish is not a terribly important thing in the grand scheme of things; however, I love all of the different shades of nail polish. Did you know that there are probably 50 different shades of red, if not more? Some of my favorite reds include Cherry Crush, Woman in Love, I Am Not a Waitress, To Eros is Human, and Bogata Blackberry. Aren’t those names wild?

I wonder who has the job of naming colors . . . That’s something that I think I could do: create catchy names for red nail polish. How about Molten Lava? Or Chili Pepper Passion? Or maybe Devilicious? Scarlet Woman? Okay, so maybe I need to work on it.

“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride

Westley and Buttercup TPB
Westley & Buttercup in The Princess Bride

Number 3: The poetry of Pablo Neruda. I have to admit that I discovered Neruda later in the game, but I am so glad that I found him. Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born in Chile in 1904 and had his first poem published when he was only 13. Neruda was a prolific writer, and almost all of his work is political in nature.  Neruda, an avowed communist, was almost denied the Nobel Prize because of his political beliefs. However, he also wrote some incredibly moving love poems, and it is those of which I am most fond. Regardless of his subject matter, Neruda’s poems are filled with strong images and fine craftsmanship.

From “Lost in the Forest”—

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva  . . . ” ~ The Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride

Cicada
Cicada on Tree Branch

Number 4: Night Sounds. As I have mentioned, I have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, which means that I am awake at very odd hours. But one of the better things about my odd sleeping habits is that I am often awake to hear all of the sounds in the night. We live fairly close to a marsh, so the sounds of the various inhabitants of the marsh are easy to hear in the nighttime stillness. 

I enjoy hearing the tree frogs chirruping in the evening and early morning, and the toads with their lower pitched chirps are often interspersed, creating an harmonious din. The crickets’ songs are not annoying to me; instead, their sounds right outside my bedroom window are full of life. Occasionally, the sound of cicadas with their incremental buzzing and clicking resonates among the trees. And by 3 a.m., all of the birds begin to awaken: First, the mourning doves with their coos, and then the mocking birds with their various melodies, and sometimes there is even the knocking of a wood pecker, which echoes into the coming dawn.

“Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles . . . ” ~ Grandpa from The Princess Bride 

Number 5: Fairy Tales and Fantasies. It probably comes as no surprise that I love fairy tales, especially since I frequently take my own flights of fancy. But it’s the uncommon fairy tales that enchant me. Disney’s tales of fair maidens being rescued by handsome princes always bothered me. It’s that whole helpless female thing, you know? It wasn’t until Beauty and the Beast that the people at Disney finally came up with a female who was determined and headstrong.

But for me, the best fairy tales are the ones that involve magic and battles and odd creatures, with a pinch of tongue in cheek humor. For example, my favorite fairy tale in movie form is The Princess Bride, hands down. The stable boy turned pirate, André the Giant as Fezzik, Inigo Montoya on his single-minded quest to avenge his father, and Miracle Max (Billy Crystal), whose inclusion among the characters makes a wonderful story into a truly memorable story. Yes, Buttercup needs rescuing, but her captors turned rescuers are anything but stock characters.

Robert DeNiro in Stardust
Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare

And then recently, Corey and I watched Stardust, which I also found immensely enjoyable. Not as good as The Princess Bride, but a good fairy tale nonetheless. Robert DeNiro plays Captain Shakespeare, an in-the-closet pirate who dances the Cancan. Ricky Gervais is a trader in lightning and other dodgy goods; Michelle Pfeiffer plays an ugly old witch (if you can believe that), and Rupert Everett does a turn as one of the dead king’s sons, Secundus. The two lovers are played by Claire Danes and Charlie Cox. The story is based on a Neil Gaiman book (really must read this).

Among the movie’s enticements are magic, treachery, true love, two goats, a glass flower, and a fallen star. And this time, it’s the prince who doesn’t know that he’s a prince who is the clueless one. And bonus points for having Ian McKellan’s sonorous voice as the narrator:

“A philosopher once asked, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really… ‘Do the stars gaze back?’ Now that’s a question.”

And now, I will leave you with the most hilarious scene from Stardust: Captain Shakespeare as a whoopsie:

 

More later. Peace.

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A Little Romance, If You Please

Romance Can Be Subjective, Collective, and Wholly Impulsive

english-patient-poster

Most romantic scenes in movies (just my opinion, of course)

tristan-isolde
Tristan + Isolde

The English Patient: When Katherine and Almaszy are caught in the sandstorm in the desert, and he begins to tell her of the different kinds of sandstorms. It is an incredibly intimate moment, one that you know will lead to others to come.

Legends of the Fall: When Tristan (Brad Pitt) and Susanna (Julia Ormond) are making love for the first time.

Tristan+Isolde:  The scenes between the two young lovers in the hut on the beach in Ireland before they know each other’s true identity.

The Red Violin: Although this scene may not seem romantic in the traditional sense, the maker of the violin takes the blood of his newly dead wife and child and mixes it with varnish to finish his perfect violin, thereby forever sealing them into a thing of outstanding beauty.

walk-in-the-clouds
A Walk in the Clouds

Philadelphia: The scene in which Tom Hanks’s character, Andrew Becket, and his lover, Miguel, played by Antonio Banderas, are dancing together, in fact, any scene in which the two men are together is touching for its realistic depiction of a relationship in which one person is dying and the other person doesn’t know how to deal with it.

A Walk in the Clouds: The scene in which everyone is battling the vineyard fire, and Paul, played by Keanu Reeves, and Victoria, played by Aitana Sánchez-Gijón are wearing the wings. The scene is made surreal because of the smoke and the backdrop of the fire, but it is lovely.

Age of Innocence: Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) cannot consumate his affair with the Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), so he unbottons her glove and kisses her wrist, one of the most passionate kisses in film history.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: The scene in which Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is moving away from Robin across the lake into the mist.

city-of-angels
City of Angels

City of Angels: Toss up between the pear scene between Maggie and Seth, and the scene in which Maggie is riding her bike with her arms flung out and her eyes closed in pure bliss. I know that what happens next is horrible, but for that one monent you know that she is filled with complete happiness.

A Room With A View:  The kiss in the field between Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter) and George Emerson (Julian Sands) is set beautifully.

Brokeback Mountain: The tenderness between the two men is laid bare after Jack dies and Ennis goes to visit his parents. In Jack’s room, Ennis find their two old shirts from Brokeback mountain hanging together. Ennis breathes in deeply and then silently begins to weep the loss of his one true love.

Atonement:  The scene in which Cecelia strips down to go into the fountain to find the pieces of the vase. Her complete lack of discomfort in doing so in front of Robbie shows that there is already something very deep between them, something that will only take a slight movement on the part of either one to make the relationship move to its logical next level. Briony’s interference ruins so many lives that night, something for which she will never be able to truly atone.

Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (1996):  When the two young lovers (Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) spend their wedding night together and awaken full of joy. Shakespeare’s lines have never sounded so alive as when they were uttered in this film version.

the-notebook
The Notebook

Braveheart: The whole film post Murron MacClannough’s murder is William Wallace’s  search for vengeance and atonement for his beloved’s death.

The Notebook: The scene in the rowboat when it begins to rain and Allie and Noah realize that they have been apart for no reason. This only scene in the movie that is more painful and heart-wrenching to wach is the final scene in which the nurse finds the elderly Noah and Allie in bed together for their last, final embrace.

If you haven’t already seen all fifteen movies on this list, and you like a good, cathartic cry every once in a while, then I recommend any of them for an afternoon at the movies. I’m not a romantic comedy kind of person. I either like intense romance or spy/action thrillers. I did not include on my list some of my older favorites, such as The Way We Were, Casablanca, Dr. ZhivagoWuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Out of Africa, Sense and Sensibility, Witness, and The Princess Bride.

I did not include The Princess Bride on my main list because it’s also a comedy, and that sort of negates the romance, but it’s a movie that my daughter and I have watched together a million times, and from which we can recite lines (“wuv, twoo wuv”).

wuthering-heights
Wuthering Heights

I’ll admit that I have to be in the mood for one of my crying movies. The English Patient is still my all-time favorite movie for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the movie  is almost as beautiful as the book by Michael Ondaatje, which is rare indeed. A Room With a View by Merchant Ivory always makes me want to go to Italy because the background scenery is incredible. The scene in Legends of the Fall when Tristan crests the ridge with the wild horses and the music soars still gives me goosebumps.

Ralph Fiennes in Wuthering Heights is so dark and brooding, the antithesis of his character Almaszy in The English Patient, in which he is intese, but golden. And for once, Nicholas Cage’s hounddog eyes are perfect for the sad angel in City of Angels. His eyes look like an angel in despair, which is what he is.

Perhaps the one movie that always tears me up beyond belief is Philadelphia. Watching Tom Hanks virtually waste away on screen is so realistic, but the musical score is amazing. When I’m working on the computer and I need heartfelt music (one of my bosses called it music to slit your wrists to, but I think that’s carrying it a bit too far), I play the soundtrack; it’s very cathartic. If you’ve never heard the soundtrack, it contains Bruce Springsteen’s academy-award song, Neil Young, Peter Gabrial, Sade, Indigo Girls, and Maria Callas performing “La Mamma Morta.”

Call me a hopeless romantic, but “in love, there are no boundaries.” I still believe in one true love. I still believe in great love stories. I still cry when love is doomed to fail. I still yearn for the underdog to win. I still want love to conquer anything and everything and to vanquish the cold-hearted and those who would try to come between a love that is destined to be.

So yes, I am a hopeless romantic, and I am a hopeful romantic. And because I know that it’s possible and that it’s out there, I don’t want my children to settle for anything less than their true heart’s desire. I’ve seen too many bad marriages that have started out for seemingly the right reasons, but there was always something not quite right. The smiles were a little too forced. The arguments a little too often and a little too petty. One person definitely dominated the other. Things begin to show through the cracks very soon after the wedding, and the cracks only grew larger.

So I don’t want them to settle. I want them to search until they feel that little flip in their stomachs, the one that doesn’t go away after a few weeks or months and has nothing to do with sex. I want them to feel real romance.

And so ends this compilation of my favorite romantic movies. More later. Peace.