Where Do You Want to Go?

The sun is high and warm. The car windows are coming down and the shorts are begging to come out to play. It’s time to think about vacation.

My only obstacle is cash. Face it: vacations are expensive. Whether you fly or drive, or even cruise, you must have a substantial stash of dough to go.

That’s another thing that I love about movies—world travel from the comfort of your own home or local theatre.

I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame Cathedral inParis. I’ve been to the Moulin Rouge and the Louvre.

In Italy, I’ve visited the Trevi Roman fountains, the Venetian canals, the Coliseum, and the leaning tower of Pisa.

Click to see and purchase!
I saw the great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza. I’ve seen the Egyptian temples of Ramses and Abu Sembel. I’ve floated down the Nile on a luxury cruise and ridden camels through the Sahara.

In Australia, I’ve snorkeled around the Great Barrier Reef, hiked Ayres Rock, and gone walkabout in the Outback. I’ve enjoyed the man-made marvels of the Sydney Opera House framed by the Harbour Bridge. I’ve been whale watching off the coast of Perth.

I’ve climbed the steps of Indian temples and lain on the beaches of Thailand. I witnessed the Equinox at the pyramid at Chichen Itza. I’ve experienced Shangri La and Utopia.

I’ve enjoyed all of these wonders and seen places my grandparents never imagined through the magic of movies. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m satisfied with never traveling the globe. I long to visit far off destinations. The movies I see often help me to refine my “list.”

My point is that while I save up for that once-in-a-lifetime European tour, I can enjoy the rolling green hills of Irelandin films like Leap Year (2010) and The Quiet Man (1952). As my “Aussie Break” jar fills up with spare change, I can organize my packing while watching Crocodile Dundee (1986), Australia (2008), and Mad Max (1979).

Though the hotels and cars that I might rent on my real-life travels might not be as glamorous or luxurious as those in film, the trade off is that I probably won’t be attacked by post-apocalyptic savages. I hope.

Yes, it’s true that Cary Grant won’t be strolling at my side down the Seine river walk in Paris, but I also won’t be chased through the colonnade by Walter Matthau, like in Charade (1963).Click to see and purchase!

My trips might not be as adventurous as in the movies, but they’re almost never as dangerous, either. I’ve never been kidnapped by centuries-old mummies or attacked by werewolves on foggy moors. The worst thing I’ve ever really had to deal with is a nasty sunburn on my nose. Maybe next time…

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Body in the Bathtub

Or, How My Favorite Stories Have Ruined My Life

I recently took a trip to Dallas for a team training event. One afternoon our team was meeting in our hotel room for a quick chat, when it was discovered that our bathroom ceiling was leaking—a lot. We called down to the front desk and reported the situation, and the manager assured us that they were moving us to the room next door right away.


As my roommates and I began to gather our things, I quietly mentioned to one of the other women that I hoped someone was going to check on the guests upstairs. I told her that as a suspense writer, my brain immediately jumped to the possibility of a body in the bathtub above us. My friend agreed—her husband is a police officer, and she knew exactly what I meant.

Unfortunately, the very young hotel steward that arrived to move us next door overheard our concerns, and started to panic about the suggestion. My roommate volunteered to accompany her on the upstairs visit, and it was discovered that the guest above had over-filled his tub and the pipe at the over-flow drain had a crack in it. Everyone was fine. No dead body. That was last month.

This week I was watching an episode of one of my favorite TV shows, and as the story began to resolve, I kept my hands clutched together and held my breath. You see, they had solved the decades-cold crime, caught the bad guy they’d been chasing for several seasons, and all that was left was for the leads to kiss. So I waited for the sniper to strike, or the tables to turn, or the other shoe to drop, or whatever was about to happen to ruin everything.

My darling husband just looked at me and shook his head. “You can’t even enjoy this happy ending, because NCIS and all those other shows you watch have conditioned you to expect something bad at the end.”

He’s right. I never expect happy endings anymore.After all, how can the story go on if there is nobody in peril. My favorite books are Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Francine Rivers, Pamela Fagan Hutchins, and Terry Blackstock. My favorite TV shows are NCIS, Castle, Person of Interest, and the like. My favorite movie is Charade. I like cliff-hangers. I like twists and turns. I love the thing you don’t see coming.

I saw a quote the other day: The suspense is terrible; I hope it lasts.

Yes. This is my life’s motto now. It’s wonderful for a story, but terrible for day-to-day digestion.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Who Do You Think You Are?

The casting of movies always intrigues me. Brilliant casting makes a story come alive. Poor casting often goes unnoticed, but leaves the audience with a sense of unease. We know something isn’t right, but we can’t quite figure out what the problem is.

Casting is even more important when the film is an adaptation from a popular book like The Hunger Games. Finding actors that completely embody the characters is a tough job, but when it’s right, the players breathe magic onto the screen.

When I think of well-cast movies, I immediately recall 1974’s The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern and Sam Waterston. I know there are several versions of this tale, but for me, this is the cast that really tells the story. I can imagine Redford as the rags-to-riches hero, ever hopeful that if he keeps to his plan, things will work out. Mia Farrow is the flighty Daisy, with skin-deep beauty masking a shallow soul. Sam Waterston is the on-screen audience that sees the tragedy unfolding and feels helpless to affect it. He is the rest of us and he speaks to our consciences perfectly.

My favorite film of all time is 1963’s Charade starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Besides the two leads, this film features a well-constructed ensemble that includes Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and George Kennedy. Grant’s bad boy/ good guy persona keeps Hepburn’s damsel-in-distress in suspense every bit as much as the murderous villains that are chasing her through the streets of Paris.

Casting agents have a huge task. They must find the biggest stars available that fit the assigned roles, balancing a film budget that requires unknowns and extras to round out the story.

Yesterday in my twitter feed, Larry Blamire, writer, director and star of 2001’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, tweeted a spoof article announcing a remake of his cult-classic, starring Richard Gere, Nicole Kidman and Liam Neeson. I laughed at his quotes and at all the tweets that followed. His idea of a “darker vision” of his own homage to B-Movies was hysterical. (follow him on twitter: @larryblamire)

Who would star in your favorite story? If they remade your best-loved movie or adapted your most beloved book, who would you want to see in the lead role?

In my high school days (when I weighed 100 pounds and sported a perpetual perm), people constantly told me that I looked like Mary Steenburgen. Honestly, I wish I still did. It was much better than when Doug, the boy who sat in front of me in the third grade, told me that I looked like Barbra Streisand because I had a big nose. Doug, if you’re out there, I finally grew into my nose.

If Hollywood made your life into a movie, who would portray you? Has anyone ever told you that you resembled a movie star? Would they be perfect for the part of you?

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

PS: For a link to Blamire’s “article”– https://twitter.com/#!/larryblamire/status/184329865535815681/photo/1