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I’m drumming away at my Life List objective to watch 1,000 films and I’d say, like many other people, I’m doing pretty well. Last I checked, the count was around 700 or so.

No, I don’t remember every movie I’ve seen since I was a wee lass renting Rainbow Bright movies on VHS every weekend. I have found a tracking system that works for me.

When I set this goal (born of a desire to be film-savvy and perhaps expose my brain to something new by watching things I wouldn’t normally watch–read: sci-fi) I signed up for Netflix and proceeded to rate every film I could remember watching.

As I recalled others over time, I rated those. I was careful to rate one version of each film and if I messed up and rated two (e.g. “Fellowship of the Rings” regular and extended editions), I counted one out.

Thus, I have one running total of every film I can actually remember watching. The best part of watching movies I wouldn’t normally be attracted to is not, like I may have hoped, spouting random film trivia at cocktail parties and being hailed as a very cultured, smarty-McSmarty-pants.

The best thing is watching myself react to something new–it’s the joy of discovery for discovery’s sake. A worthwhile hobby, no?

Here’s are a few films I’ve seen in the last several months that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Being Elmo – This was a fascinating look into the life of Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash. The film illustrates how he got his start in puppeteering, including video and photos of him with his first puppets, which he made, and a peek backstage at one of my childhood haunts, Sesame Street. I loved that show growing up, so to look behind the scenes as an adult was a marvelous experience. For more fun, here’s a good interview with Terri Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air with Kevin Clash and yes, Elmo. “Kiss kiss.”

A Letter to Three Wives – This 1949 film starring Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, and Ann Sothern, was surprisingly sophisticated I thought. I was waiting for the sort of glamorous sentimentality so often present in 40s films but none really hit until Deborah’s crying fits. But she’s kind of like that so I didn’t mind. Also, there is a really trippy, psychedelic musical intro for the flashbacks–I laughed out loud. Otherwise, the emotional intrigue was fascinating. I thought the long, long day of picnicking was tense and it led up to an ending that gratified my suspense. The movie is based on a novel, A Letter to Five Wives by John Klempner, which I did not know before I watched, and I can’t actually find a copy.

Vertigo – A Hitchcock classic of course. Hitchcock and his team built a replica of the Mission San Juan Bautista for the film. And the Big Guy has actually visited that mission out in Cali. How cool is that?

North By Northwest – Another Hitchcock masterpiece. I recommend the anniversary edition as there’s a great “making of” documentary included, with a great interview with the glamorous Eva Marie Saint.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – I looove this movie. The witty repartee, the 70s styling, the pronouncement of a simple bicycle as the wave of “the future.” The bike ride during “Raingdrops are Falling on My Head” is awesomely dated and the end is brilliantly done and tugs at the heartstrings. Loyalty, friendship, love, handsome outlaws–it’s all here.

The Duchess – Oh, the costumes! If you know me at all, you know I adore a well-done period drama. The Amazon review describes the atmosphere of this film best: “The Duchess serves up lavish portions of Brit-movie staples: costumes (which, in [Keira] Knightley’s case, are nothing short of spectacular), landscapes, and gorgeous music (by Rachel Portman).”

Inception – This is the second time I’m going to use the word “trippy” in this post. But when describing Inception, I mean it in an edge-of-your-seat, teched-out, psychological drama kind of way. It’s an action-filled examination of the dream world and how it affects us in waking life. Love the cogitation and the go-go-go pace.

Stagecoach – We watched this with the Little Guy, who then became enamored of John Wayne. And I don’t blame him. It’s a quintessential Western wherein Wayne plays outlaw Ringo Kid and travels under threat of Indian attack from Arizona to New Mexico. His companions are fun to watch. They include a bad girl looking for a new life, a prissy soldier’s wife, a drunk doctor, a sneaky gambler, and an annoying businessman.

Mansfield Park – Frances O’Conner is brilliant as Fanny Price. I’d watch the film just for her facial expressions. Sir Thomas is evil; Mary Crawford annoyingly condescending (perfect);  and I found Edmund tiring-ly melodramatic at times, but loved him as Fanny did.

There you have it. A long post with my thoughts on several very good films. Thanks so much for stopping by!

xoxo, Shannon

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