What’s in a Name?

My son and I have started a “new” series on Netflix. We’ve caught up on all the seasons of our shows that are available for free, so we decided to start another series—Arrow, which is based on the DC comic-book series.

Click to see and purchase!We’re enjoying the show so far, especially the names. Oliver Queen is the main character. His best friend, Tommy Merlyn, his ex girlfriend, Laurel Lance, his bodyguard, Dig, co-worker, Felicity Smoak, mother, Moira, and his sister, Thea, all round out the cast. Where else but a comics-based show can you have a billionaire Queen family sporting names representing motherhood, deity, and poor little orphan boy?

We’ve barely delved into the plot of the first season, but we have taken cues from the names that Merlyn is going to work a little magic, lawyer Laurel Lance (along with her police detective dad) is going to skewer a few people, Dig is going to – well, dig, and Felicity Smoak is going to bring a little joy into Oliver’s life.

That’s what names do. They reveal who a person is. In stories, certainly in television and movies, they carry part of the burden of exposition, so that there doesn’t have to be whole episodes devoted to explaining how we arrived at scene one.

I love stories that use the characters’ names to tell a small portion of their tale, whether it’s through actual definition, tradition, or popular culture. It elevates the audience. Those who already know the meaning (or message) of a name connect almost instantly to the character. Those who discover that layer later enjoy the depth and find new appreciation as they grow with the characters.

Maybe the names just sound cool. Maybe they have no real “message” at all. Hmmm. Perhaps, but it wasn’t lost on me that when Oliver Queen is ship-wrecked on an island, he had to kill a bird and eat it to survive. When he is rescued, he returns home to Starling City, (A starling is a bird.) where he immediately decides to put right the wrongs of the evil individuals that run the city. His alter-ego super-hero is a green-hooded archer who steals from the corrupt rich to give back to the down-trodden poor.

Yeah, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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

Spoil Sport

I love connecting with others through a variety of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, tumblr, Goodreads, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest. Each site has its own personality as well as its own efficient method of communicating. My trouble comes when my often-over-booked life prevents me from keeping up with my favorite TV shows or the latest movies. Then all these fun networking sites become an endless source of spoilers.

I hate spoilers. My loathing first began when I was standing in a lunch buffet line on a Sunday afternoon and a friend turns excitedly and says, “I saw Empire Strikes Back on Friday, and guess what? Luke gets his hand cut off and Darth Vader is his dad!” Ugghh!

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Yes, I know that Vader translates into Father, and it was pretty obvious that something like that had to happen for the good of the story, but I want to learn these things as the tale unfolds, not while picking out a side of green beans and a slice of Boston cream pie at the Sirloin Stockade.

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What does any of this have to do with social media? This week I watched Frozen for the first time. I know I’m a bit late to the ball, but I have mostly-grown sons, and no grandchildren—not a lot of people begging me to take them to a Disney princess movie. But what really slowed me down was that Pinterest and Facebook posts had pretty much given away all of the plot twists of the show. I still held out hope that maybe I wouldn’t already know every single thing that was going to happen. But alas, it had all been revealed in cute little posts from well-meaning friends.

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Yesterday I heard about a teacher in Europe who threatened his noisy class with spoilers from Game of Thrones if they didn’t behave. He’s a genius! And that’s proof that nobody likes to have their story spoiled.

All I ask—and what I do my very best to do in turn—is try not to spoil a great twist or ending for others. While we all sometimes complain that the suspense is killing us, and we hate to wait for the next episode or the sequel, we all really crave that moment of surprise when that thing that cannot happen… does. It’s what makes the story special. To be told beforehand—well, spoils it.

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

This World is Not Enough

What are your favorite kinds of stories? Do you enjoy science fiction, adventure, mystery and suspense, drama, westerns, romantic comedies, or history/ documentaries? While my moods may swing from one genre to another, one thing is constant. I like tales which take me out of my everyday life and thrust me into a new and exciting world.

Whether I’m reading a story about a feisty Texas lawyer dealing with a haunted house in the Caribbean, such as the Katie and Annalise series by Pamela Fagan Hutchins;

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watching Alias, which carries me to every corner of the globe;Click to see and purchase!

or blasting through Star Wars for the hundredth time, I want a story to take me somewhere new. I want to go someplace beyond my little plot in the country.

Click to see and purchase!I want to sail through space, drift on a sparkling blue sea, or jet from one clandestine meeting to another. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little piece of Texas. I love baking bread and taking care of my sweet family. I love singing at church and working on my projects. But sometimes I need a bit more adventure in my life. The safe kind—the type you find in books and film.

I don’t really want to come face-to-face with a ghost in my living room. I don’t want to be chased down dark alleys in Bangladesh by men with machine guns, and I certainly don’t want to be frozen in carbonite or chained to a Hutt. I prefer that my real-life adventures stay more on the level of a summer mission trip and planning a family reunion. I like daily adventures like painting my nails blue.

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My exciting blue nails.

Why do I yearn for more than that? Because my imagination is bigger than the limits of my daily routine. Because right and wrong lives in every realm, and good must conquer evil no matter where corruption resides. Because this world in which I live is not big and bright enough to hold all the hope I have for the future. Maybe it sounds a bit grandiose, but it’s true.

Storybooks, novels, movies and television series give us all the opportunity to stretch our imaginations. They give us windows to peek into the world of what-if. And by providing these glimpses – by allowing me to stretch my wings as well as my views – these stories help me to appreciate the world I have. They remind me that what I have is more than enough.

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

One Season, One Weekend

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and others such services have really changed the way I watch TV and movies, for better or worse. Instead of just renting a video of a movie I missed at the theatre, I can now just stream one. If I missed an episode of my favorite sitcom or drama – never fear, just stream it.

But the real revolution in my life has been the way these services have provided me with a treasure trove of “found” series. Yes, there are lots of series that I have missed over the years because they aired on inconvenient nights. Before the days of digital recordings, setting a VCR to catch a whole TV series was time-consuming, and if you missed an episode or two, the whole experience could be spoiled.

DVR’s are convenient, but even then, if your receiver has technical problems caused by weather or power-outages, you could miss a crucial piece of the puzzle. But with a video streaming service, all you miss are the commercials, and I think I can get over that.

I love hearing about friends watching a whole season of their favorite show in one weekend. My weekends are usually so packed with stuff I didn’t get done during the week, that marathons are not often an option. Nevertheless, I do look forward to snuggling with my hubby and sneaking in a few episodes of Alias whenever possible.

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Alias is my new obsession. I’m not sure how I didn’t see it first-run. Spies, romance, tech-geeks, shoes, world-travel, things exploding—it has all my favorite ingredients.

I just read a Facebook or twitter post by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, wondering about how she missed Magnum PI in the ‘80’s. I loved it! With streaming video she now has the opportunity to see the young and handsome Tom Selleck in short-shorts and tube socks. Click for more information!

With streaming services, I’ve been able to introduce my kids to Quantum Leap, which has allowed them to appreciate a whole bunch of “inside” jokes on shows like Chuck and movies like Source Code. (Thank you, Scott Bakula.) Click for more information!

It’s also a terrific way to enjoy movie serials when marathon opportunities do come up. Not only can I cram all of the Star Wars or Lord of the Rings films into a weekend, but I can also re-watch movies like The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games to prepare for the new Jack Ryan flick. In the fall I can string all the classic creature-features together, and if I want to fill a day with martinis and witty banter, I can indulge in back-to-back Thin Man films. 

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Do you have a movie or TV series that you have “discovered” via your favorite streaming service? Let me know what it is. After all, every series comes to an end at some point, and we all need something to fill that little hole.

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

Ziva’s Farewell

I’m a little distraught today. I know it’s just a TV show, but I’m having a hard time dealing with the news that NCIS will return this September without my favorite character, Ziva David.

Actress Cote De Pablo will return to the series only long enough to finish her story line, and then will be leaving the cast of CBS’s popular drama.

I know I’m not the only one grieving the show’s loss. My Facebook and twitter feeds are filled with posts and links about the news. My friends are all speculating how Ziva’s tale will end.

Known for taking names and kicking butt, the fierce Israeli-born character faces just a few options. I’ve heard speculation that she might return to Israel and head up Mossad, but since Agent David became an American citizen, I think that option is highly unlikely.

Perhaps she will receive an assignment elsewhere. Could be, but her story-line has certainly not been moving that way. No, her character has been definitely moving toward DiNozzo, the oft-jealous bachelor and Very Special Agent in her life. How will he carry on without her?

Thus my distress. You see, NCIS is famous (or infamous) for killing off characters—even main characters. I still feel ill when I think about Kate’s last scene. I twinge whenever I think about Mike Franks, Jenny Shepard, and Agent Pacci. I was over-wrought when Jackie Vance was killed alongside Eli David.

Why do I get like this? It’s just TV. In a few months the NCIS team will have a new member, and I’ll watch. I love this show for its beautiful way with story-telling. The strength of the characters is uplifting. The determination and strong sense of justice is unusual these days. After a decade, the series hasn’t lost its steam or direction. Just another wonderful character. We will miss you, Ziva.

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