Grantchester 💛 Love!

One of my absolutely favorite PBS shows is back on the air for its third season and, in celebration, I simply had to write a little something about my love for Grantchester.

Grantchester | Photo via Masterpiece

Photo via Masterpiece

Commissioned by ITV in the UK and broadcast on PBS here in the states, Grantchester is a Masterpiece Mystery show based on James Runcie’s The Grantchester Mysteries, a collection of short stories about a vicar with a knack for solving crimes in a sleepy, English village just outside Cambridge in the 1950s. The vicar is Sidney Chambers (played by the ever-adorable James Norton) – a handsome, young, sweet, though sometimes brooding guy, who loves jazz, nice whiskey and one particular young lady named Amanda who, through unfortunate circumstances, he can NEVER marry. Their star-crossed lovers’ romance is by far one of my favorite elements of the show!

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Film Friday – Sunday in New York

When a recently dumped young Jane Fonda comes to New York to visit her pilot brother on a Sunday, all kinds of virtue-shaking shenanigans ensue.

When Eileen (Fonda) has been dumped by her longtime boyfriend because she won’t sleep with him, she retreats to her older brother’s bachelor pad in the middle of New York to get some perspective. Sunday in New York is a 1963 comedy, based on a play by Norman Krasna, directed by Peter Tewksbury and starring Jane Fonda, Rod Taylor and Cliff Robertson. The soundtrack score, which has a pretty good deal of relevance within the story, was composed and performed by Peter Nero.

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The Dance Academy Movie

I don’t really know how to express my feelings about the new Dance Academy movie, based on the Australian television show of the same name. First things first, let’s start with the trailer…

Ok. Cheesy, dance movie? Yeah you bet. Dancing that could be better? Always. Storyline and characters that so closely resemble the people who I met throughout my ballet career? Scarily, and rather embarrassingly accurate.

Dance Academy feature film

I first watched Dance Academy on Netflix one weekend when I was stuck at home with nothing to do. I was immediately hooked because, beyond the typical teenage drama (which is enticing enough on its own) I saw my own adolescence in this show. I saw a handful of summers of ballet intensives at ballet companies around the nation – I saw the pas de deux romances, the crazy teachers, and the dorm-life antics. I saw myself in Tara Webster – a wide-eyed girl who just wants to fly and believes in magic, and sees it come true when she dances. In later seasons, I saw myself in Abigail Armstrong… Like big time.

Dance Academy feature film

Dance Academy feature film

I fell in love with this show because, despite the teeny-bopper storylines, I saw in it something relatable. Something I longed for in my youth. A barometer to tell me that the sacrifices I was making for this art form were valid, justified, and something young people like me struggle with all over the world. And a gauge to see how it was normal to struggle with that commitment.

Dance Academy feature film

Dance Academy has its flaws. But regardless, I think it is an awesome show for young dancers, and I’ll just admit, it’s an awesome show for us old dancers who maybe have forgotten just how sweetly naive, hopeful and dedicated we all were – we all had to be. I can’t wait to the see the feature film when it hits the states… Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long!

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Can it be, I Like Myself? Nope, I just like Gene Kelly.

Musical Magic…

The Comden and Green, MGM film It’s Always Fair Weather, bombed at the box office, and marked the end of the brilliant film partnership between Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, but the film has some truly endearing qualities and even earned Comden and Green an Oscar nom for original screenplay. Top of the film’s endearing list is, hands-down, this number in which Kelly’s character does a complete tap number on roller skates. It gives the “traveling time step” a whole new context, and allowed Kelly to choreograph to the new wide pan of Cinemascope with a gliding ease.

I recently found out that my mother has never seen this number and I simply can’t have that. So Mom, this is for you…

The only other Kelly number I love more than this (Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris are not included, because those films are in a whole different category of life,) is this number from Summer Stock…

In my humble opinion, both of these brilliant dance-on-film moments are ones to be studied, again and again, for their technique, their originality, but mostly for their exuberance, which is nothing less than inspiring.

Happy Dancing!

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Last Call Holiday Films: It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s the last few hours of 2016, so I saved the best holiday film for last – It’s a Wonderful Life.

It's a Wonderful Life

I always tell people that It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t really a holiday film – It’s good all year round, but the final scene does take place on Christmas Eve so I get that it get’s lumped into the holiday movie category. But in my opinion, this film is much more than that.

It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite Frank Capra film, it’s my favorite Jimmy Stewart film, and it’s my favorite classic film second only to Singin’ in the Rain. It tells the story of George Bailey (Stewart) who, despite having big dreams of travel and business, ends up staying in the same small town he grew up in. Viewing his life through the eyes of his guardian angel, we see all the key moments in his life that led to George’s current state of being. Time and time again, he puts his own desires aside in the name of helping his friends and family. Through his small business efforts, he keeps the tiny town of Bedford Falls from being monopolized by money-grubbing Mr. Potter, “the richest, and meanest man in town,” played to devilish perfection by the brilliant Lionel Barrymore. He makes sacrifices for everyone, and in the end, he feels like a failure, and completely worthless.

It's a Wonderful Life

Perhaps my favorite element of the film is George’s sweet relationship with his wife Mary, played by Donna Reed. She is the epitome of the perfect match for him, and in many ways, becomes his salvation.

It's a Wonderful Life

George is told by Mr. Potter that, with his life insurance policy, he’d be worth more dead than alive, and George is sent into a deep despair. He’s considering ending it all, when salvation comes in the form of his guardian angel – Clarence Oddbody, AS2 (angel second class.) In an effort to “earn his wings,” the humorously sweet Clarence (played by Henry Travers) shows George a world in which he had never been born so that he might see what a difference his life has made on so many others.

It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life

There are few films that get at the heart of the human experience so elegantly and honestly. Few films portray the struggle, the romance, and the disappointment of the average American. And few that so poignantly affirm the meaning of life and the true definition of success.

It's a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life was released in 1946, but amazingly, I think it especially relevant now. In our corrupt, consumer-driven society obsessed with wealth as the only earmark of success, I think the film’s message is vital. And if you want to watch one last “holiday film” before ringing in 2017, it doesn’t get any better than this one (they even finish the film singing Auld Lang Syne, so bonus!)

Watch It’s a Wonderful Life

Last Call Holiday Films: Holiday Affair

I’m halfway through my Last Call Holiday Film list, so I figured I’d throw in a wild card film – Holiday Affair.

Holiday Affair

I just watched this film for the first time this year and I cannot believe I never stumbled across it before. It’s really cute, and fits right in there with Miracle on 34th Street minus the Santa bit. It stars a charming Janet Leigh (I only have ever seen her in psycho, so seeing her play a smiling, delightful ingenue was a surprise) as a widow who finds herself torn between two men – a steadfast secure lawyer (Wendell Corey) and a funny, but dashing store clerk (Robert Mitchum.) 

What evolves is a fun, but complicated drama as Leigh works through her faithfulness to her late husband, her commitment to Corey, and her unexpected passion for Mitchum. Throw in her precocious six year old son, a toy train, and New York’s Central Park Zoo and you’ve got yourself a Holiday Affair.

Holiday Affair

Holiday Affair

Watch Holiday Affair