Movies  Books


Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon—I love this film for how wonderfully 18th century it is. The story is very true to the book and Ryan O'Neil is perfect as Redmond Barry. Marissa Barrinson is wonderful as the beautiful and fragile Lady Lyndon, and the music is superb. This movie made me fall in love with Handel's Saraband, which I have already stipulated is to be played at my funeral.

Dangerous Liaisons—In the same way that Ryan O'Neil is so perfect as Redmond Barry, I think John Malkovich is unbeatable in his role as the Vicomte de Valmont. Glenn Close is also great as the vile Marquise de Merteuil, and Michelle Pfeiffer is angelic and pristine as the unfortunate Madam de Tourvel. I also loved the way this film captured the ennui of the period and hints at the revolution that was to come.

John Boorman's Excalibur—I think this film is more perfectly representative of Arthurian legend than any other. Almost every scene can be traced back to Mallory or even earlier Arthurian tales. Nicol Williamson is fantastic as Merlin, and Helen Mirren, Nigel Terry and Nicolas Clay are all wonderful, too. You also get early peaks at Liam Neeson (Gawain), Patrick Stewart (Leondegrance) and Gabriel Byrne (Uther Pendragon).

Braveheart—Because I love epic films with epic heroes. Happen to love this period in history as well (Edward I is one of my favorite Kings—though brutal, he was very successful, and he also built some of the most amazing castles ever). I also really like Catherine McCormack (Murron Mac Clannough) and Sophie Marceau (Princess Isabelle). I think they are both beautiful in entirely different ways.

Kenneth Branagh's Henry V—Well, just about the best “band of brothers” speech I've ever heard!!! And a battle scene that depicts the brilliance of the strategy used by the English against a much larger French force. Additionally, Robbie Coltrane is great as Falstaff and Ian Holm as Fluellen.

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet—I really think Franco Zeffirelli has a way with Shakespeare. This film is perfectly edited to support the youth of the characters. The subtle differences in the families of the Capulets and the Montegues are shown through the use of color and tone. The fiery Capulets are dressed in reds and yellows, while the quieter Montegues are costumed in blues and browns. The Capulets shout while the Montegues speak in more somber tones. The lovely Olivia Hussey and darling Leonard Whiting are incomparable as the young star-crossed lovers, Michael York is wonderful as Tybalt, and John McEnery is the best Mercutio I have ever seen.

Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth—I love this film. Unlike Mel Gibson's The Passion, it depicts more completely the whole of Jesus Christ's message, and works. The film is full of amazing actors: Laurence Olivier, Ian, Holm, James Mason, Ian McShane, Christopher Plummer, Donald Pleasence, Anne Bancroft, James Earl Jones, Anthony Quinn, Peter Ustinov, Michael York and Ralph Richardson just to name a few! Robert Powell plays Jesus, and while he is a rather Anglicized Jesus (beautiful blue eyes), he does bring a very spiritual/transcendent quality to his portrayal.

Pride and Prejudice—Need I say why? I love the BBC production and the new one, too. But I also love the one with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson—though the costumes are all wrong, I think Greer Garson had one of the loveliest voices ever, and I adore Mary Boland as Mrs. Bennet (I think Aunt Matty and she are related).

Sense and Sensibility—Okay, so Emma Thompson is Jane Austen reincarnated, right? She deserved her Oscar for this screenplay.

A Room With A View—I love this movie. It is subtle and sweet and full of the hidden/forbidden sensuality that E.M. Forrester did so well in his novels. The music and cinematography are beautiful, and the cast marvelous. Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench are simply wonderful. Simon Callow, Daniel Day Lewis and Julian Sands play their parts perfectly—and how cute is Rupert Graves?

The Last of the Mohicans—A man who will do anything to have you and protect you, even give up his own life. Well, need I say more? Besides, romance and tragedy is a combination I find irresistible. I put this movie right after A Room With A View because Daniel Day Lewis is in both. You won't find two more divergent roles, yet he plays both perfectly. He really is a great actor.

The Whole PBS Civil War Series—Absolutely captivating. My Great-grandfather was a veteran of this noble yet terrible war, so I really felt connected to the stories. My family also had the most sons fighting for the Union (my great-grandfather had eleven brothers). I wept at the simple eloquence of the many letters written to wives and parents by the young men who gave their lives for what they believed in. I think so few people today feel about this country the way so many did then—and I wept for this as well, because it was for the salvation of our great Union, and for the destruction of an amoral and ungodly institution, that so many thousands gave their lives.

Dangerous Beauty—A movie that didn't get a lot of attention, perhaps because of its title. But it is a true story based on the book The Honest Courtesan. Had to love this movie for its sheer beauty and, of course, for its unvanquishable (is that a word?) romance. And while I do not advocate prostitution, I must admit that I love Veronica Franco for loving herself and for refusing to renounce her profession. Her speech before her inquisitors is wonderful. And the fact that the men who loved her, stood up (literally) for her, speaks to the honor men are capable of for a woman they adore.

Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge—Another tragic romance, and with great music, too! This movie is visually stunning—truly a “spectacular Spectacular.” I happen to really like Baz Luhrmann—his Romeo and Juliet is the only one I've ever seen where Romeo, as he dies, actually sees Juliet waking up. So tragic and so wonderful! Why didn't anyone ever think of that before? It was brilliant.

Secretary—Because Maggie Gyllenhaal does an amazing job depicting the transformation of a character who can barely speak to a self-assured, liberated woman. James Spader, as Mr. Grey, is as sexy as always (what is it about him?). This movie is dark, yet funny and romantic. And though Gyllenhaal's character is not representative of the typical submissive (if there is such a thing), the film does a great job of showing how a dominant/submissive relationship can positively affect two people.

Pirates of the Caribbean—Because I love a good pirate movie and who could resist Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow? Making a note to write a pirate romance...

The Princess Bride—Oh, who doesn't love this movie? So cute!

Firelight—I love the relationship between Elisabeth (Sophie Marceau) and Louisa in this film. The period is very close to the one I placed Mark and Passion in, and the film has a haunting beauty that I really enjoy. And, as I said before, I think Sophie Marceau is exceptionally beautiful.

George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol—Because there is no better Scrooge! I do believe that if Charles Dickens could have cast the role himself, he would have chosen the incomparable George C. Scott for the part. Every year, my family watches this movie. It has become part of our Christmas tradition.



The Bible—The King James Version—for the word of the Lord and for the beauty of the language (though I recognize that King James made some translation errors, I'll still take it anyday over the "New" editions).

Boethius—The Consolation Of Philosophy—well, you just have to read it (but only at a time when you are ready to contemplate the meaning of life and happiness). Condemned to death by torture, Boethius writes his "consolation" as a dialogue between a prisoner and Philosophy (who is a woman). I read this book every few years—just as a reminder.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville—Truly the Great American Novel—with enough Biblical and Shakespearian references to please me no end!

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens—I adore Dickens, but if I had to choose just one of his novels, it would be this one.

McTeague by Frank Norris—Though this book was written in 1899, I love how well it touches so many of the themes and social concerns that seem to consume our modern society. Just wonderful...

The Count of Monte Cristo— by Alexandre Dumas — I do so love revenge, and how it both satisfies and ruins those who seek it.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy—another author whom I adore—but, again, if I had to choose just one of his books, it would be this one.


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