Friday, April 2, 2010

The Best of the Best

By Kirsten Scott

I admit it. I'm a simple girl. I like a good musical, a love story and a happy ever after. As I settled in this evening to watch the Sound of Music with my girl (her first time!), I couldn't help but smile. That movie does it to me every time. It makes me smile and it makes me sing. I fall in love with the Captain every time I see him.

"Were you this much trouble in the abby, Fraulein?"

"Oh much more, Captain!"

I could see from my daughter's shining eyes that she was falling in love too. It's the perfect movie, really. A love story, great music, a spunky heroine, a hunky alpha male, and cute kids.

Do they make them this good anymore? I mean honestly, I know I'm old and nostalgic, but I don't think they do. It seems to me that movies today are all about special effects, 3-D action and fancy animation. Where's the STORY? The heart of the thing?

Another best of the best -- Star Wars. It had it's share of special effects, I suppose, but the heart was the story. Boy on a quest. Spunky princess in distress. Alpha male starship pilot. And a cool wookie. What would this movie be like if they made it today? I haven't watched all of the more recent Star Wars, but I did watch the most recent Star Trek. It was good. Interesting story, cool effects. But it was one action scene after another, lots of things blowing up, and not much time spent on the story or the characters. I liked it, but I didn't stop, transfixed, eyes shining, when it came on.

That's what I want from my movies -- and my books. I want a "drop anything this guy is too hot and this girl is too spunky to put the book down" sort of experience. Like this guy. And this book:

Remember Anthony Malory? Oh man. I'd drop everything for that guy. He was old school. Rampantly seductive. Didn't really care about anything but getting the girl into bed. Loved women. All of them, really. You knew if Anthony had you in his clutches, you'd have a good time. Guaranteed. It wasn't realistic. It didn't make sense. He was between the legs of the heroine (if I recall correctly) within hours of meeting her. Yet somehow it worked.

So I'm wondering, as I'm feeling nostalgic tonight -- is it true? Has the best come and gone? Do they still make movies that take your breath away and you'll watch for the next forty years, eyes shining, heart in your throat? Name names, please!

As for books, we've got incredible writers in the Lair, and of course we're all writing keepers. :-) But I want to know what's on your best of the best list. What's been on your keeper shelf for the past twenty years, and what's going to be there twenty years from now? Please share so I can get an old, tattered copy of it and squirrel it away for my daughter when she's old enough to read it!


limecello said...


limecello said...

Ok, well, no. But... yes to the Sound of Music being the best of the best, Kirsten! I sooo love that movie. However I read in an interview (and that'll teach me to go looking) - that Christopher Plummer called it the "Sound of Mucus" - I think the critics also didn't like it when it came out? Which... yeah. Critics, sometimes right on, sometimes, not. Anyway Christopher's comment made me so so sad.
I'd like to think, no, the best has not come and gone. But what with the way movies etc are being remade - it seems that very little is new.
However, I'm holding out hope. Um... things on my keeper shelf from 20 years ago :X HAHAHA I was just learning how to read I think - but generally. Cynthia Voigt's On Fortune's Wheel. Laura Ingall's Wilder's books. LM Montgomery - especially her Emily trilogy. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Bet Me, by Jennifer Crusie. Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Lost in Your Arms by Christina Dodd. Duchess in Love by Eloisa James. Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas. I like to think for sure those I listed will still be on my keeper shelf 20 years from now. And a number of others a well. (Right now, I don't have a keeper shelf, I have a keeper bookshelf, which is double stacked etc and might have something like 500+ books?)

Helen said...

Congrats lime have fun with him

Kirsten loved the post and I tend to lean your way as well that they don't make movies like they used too but as for books I think are as good now as back then but in a different way.

Sound Of Music and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers are both fantastic Musicals and I love Dirty Dancing as well. I too love Star Wars.

As for books yes give me one of those Mallory brothers anytime and all of the Bandit books would stay on my keeper shelf forever and I would add Victoria Alexanders as well she writes such witty heroines great books Loretta Chase's books and for a bit of paranormal how about Nalini Singh and Pamela Palmer.

I had better stop otherwise this list could go on forever LOL. I look forward to reading everyone elses favourites.

Have Fun

Jane said...

I love the watching old movies on TCM and sometimes I do think the current movies don't compare to the classics. I do think I'll be watching the LOTR trilogy and Avatar for the next 40 years. There are too many books on my keeper shelf including Agatha Christie, Julie Garwood's historicals, Julia Ross, Linda Howard and my Calvin and Hobbes books.

Gillian Layne said...

Some wonderful movies have already been added--we are huge fans of seven brides for seven brothers--so may I add a classic romantic western, McLintock? It stars John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara (also in the Quiet Man, be still my heart). It's funny and sweet.

A few of Catherine Coulter's early historical romances are keepers on my shelf, such as Moonspun Magic, and Nightfire. They aren't politically correct at all. They are deeply romantic and sensual, and often heartbreaking. They are romantic fantasy, and I love them!

Kirsten said...

Hey Lime, I'm glad to know you and the chook will be singing together today. Will you start with do-a-deer? Or perhaps jump right into "these are a few of my favorite things"?

Kirsten said...

Lime, thanks for your optimism -- that the best has not come and gone (though I find it suspicious that you can't think of any recent movies that fall into the best of the best category)!

The sound of mucus? Really. Aww. That breaks my heart.

Though I must say, I think his disdain shows through in the film and it works, KWIM? :-)

Kirsten said...

Hi Helen! I should definitely get a copy of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I am a huge Howard Keel fan. I haven't seen it since I was a kid but I remember loving it.

Oh, and Dirty Dancing is definitely on the best of the best list. Hmm...let's see: spunky heroine? check. alpha male? check? good music/dancing? check.

Yep. Fits my formula perfect! :-)

Kirsten said...

Helen, your keepers are definitely long-term keepers. I just love Loretta Chase. I haven't read Victoria Alexander, but I clearly should!

Kirsten said...

Hi Jane! As you can tell, I'm definitely an old movie fan. LOL. My favorites are Fred and Ginger movies and Gene Kelly movies. So fabulous!! All that singing and dancing...ah, I could watch forever.

Oh, but Julie Garwood is definitely on the all-time-keeper list. Twenty years from now I expect those books to still be on my keeper shelf.

Kirsten said...

Hi Gillian! How is life as a Golden Heart finalist? Have you come off the ceiling yet? Man, I remember that time. Just wait until the conference -- people really do make a huge deal of you and it's just a blast. I hope you enjoy (and sell that book QUICK!). :-)

Actually, it's funny you mention Catherine Coulter. It was reading a Catherine Coulter historical (and then diving back into her backlist) that got me to write my first book (and, coincidentally, my GH finalist!). It was an old-school Regency with a tomboy heroine, pirates, and Anthony Malory wanna be hero. Too bad I couldn't quite do it like Johanna! I've always had trouble making my alpha men alpha enough. LOL.

Kirsten said...

Totally OT: but I just happened to see there's a great review of Christie's new book up on The Romance Dish! I don't know how to do links in my comment, but here's the URL:

Yeah Christie! And thanks PJ for a great review of a great book! :-)

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Kirsten -

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander is on my keeper shelf. I just took the hardcover book jacket in to get it framed because it's the book that propelled me into romance and writing. I figure it deserves a place on my office wall.

I'd add Gone With the Wind to your list of movie keepers - but it's not exactly new.

I think it's easier really to have a great book as opposed to a great movie. Our imaginations are powerful things and provide a bigger, better canvas than a movie screen which is limited by...actors and technology...and budgets. I think more greats will find their way to the screen providing they get the casting and setting and special effects right.

Deb said...

Hi, Kirsten. I love THE SOUND OF MUSIC! I also like a lot of the older musicals from the 50's like SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS and OKLAHOMA! (Love the part when Laurie tells Curly he's sitting on a stove and he jumps up, but realizes it's not lit.)

Keeper shelf books for the last 20 years: Betty Neels and Essie Summers. I've got every single one except a title or two of ES, but will NOT pay $145 on ebay or elsewhere for it. I'm not sure why I like BN because her books are very placid and sometimes---not boring, but what? Essie always used humor and I liked her wit.

I also have Gilbert Morris' HOUSE OF WINSLOW and WAKEFIELD DYNASTY series on my shelf along with Linda Chaikin's LIONS OF THE DESERT trilogy.

limecello said...

Kirsten - heh, I think a duet with the chook would be oodles of fun :D

Um... yeah... best of the best movies... let me think - well, Lord of the Rings - the trilogy was amazing, really. That still counts, right? Though I wonder what people will think of the special effects in 20-30 years. I tried watching the original Clash of the Titans a few days ago for the first time and... no. Just no.

And... actually, agreed on Christopher Plummer. I think he's a fantastic actor, and didn't act "above" the film, but did channel his disdain into being cold and aloof, if anything. <3 I'm still always sad he disliked the film though.

Kirsten said...

Hi Donna -- I would definitely add Gone with the Wind the book to my best of the best list! I can't say that I know the movie well but I do love Clark Gable. I should make a point of watching the movie again. I don't know when I saw it last.

Its interesting you say that about books being easier to make classics. In many ways, I completely agree. I always hate seeing real photographs on the cover of books because they cut off my ability to imagine the characters in my mind. I love the sweep of imagination and the way it makes a book timeless.

On the other hand, particularly in YA, I've noticed that some authors make a point of dating their books. They compare their heros to movie stars, note what stores their characters shop at, mntion the labels on the clothes, or the songs they listen to. It's an interesting trade off. You get an immediacy with the reader by doing that -- they really know what you're comparing to and appreciate that you know them well enough to know their clothes and heartthrobs and such -- but within a year or two, the book is dated. Clothes go out of style, stores close, movie stars get fat and boring. I don't know how a book like that can survive the test of time.

So I guess we authors have to ask ourselves what we're trying to do -- capture the audience today, or the long term space on the keeper shelf?

Kirsten said...

Hey Deb! I love your musicals -- and I can't help but note that you look like a western girl who would appreciate Oklahoma. Any chance you're a rancher? :-)

I must admit I don't know the authors or books you've got on your keeper shelves. Which is awesome, because now I can request them from the library! Thanks!

Kirsten said...

Hey Lime -- I tend to agree about the LOTR trilogy. It's a bit violent for me (I'm such a wimp!) but I thought they did a great job of retelling the books in a way that was unique and perfect for the big screen.

The Harry Potter movies, on the other hand, didn't do it for me. I know some people loved them, but to me, they didn't begin to do justice to the book.

PJ said...

Hi Kirsten! Happy Saturday!

I'm a long-time fan of The Sound of Music. I saw it in a huge old theater in downtown Chicago when it was first released (long before the invention of DVDs...or VHS...come to think of it, before cable too.) lol! It was magnificent then and it's magnificent now. I've lost count of the number of times I've sung along with the children, laughed at their antics, ached for Maria when her heart breaks and wept with joy when she enters that amazing cathedral on her wedding day but it's been well over 40 times, I'm sure.

Dirty Dancing is another film that's stood the test of time for me, along with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singin' in the Rain, Mary Poppins and West Side Story. A non-musical movie that I absolutely adore and watch at least once a year is Father Goose with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron.

Julie Garwood's Saving Grace has stood the test of time for me. I read it so often that I'm now on my third copy!

PJ said...

Forgot to say that I adore the Malory men too, Kirsten. I have all of those old Johanna Lindsey books with the old-school, alpha heroes that I wouldn't put up with for one minute in real life but fall all over in fiction. *g* Tony and James are pretty spectacular but my favorite Malory book is The Magic of You, Amy and Warren's story. I'll never tire of reading that book!

Anna Campbell said...

Happy Easter everyone! It's Easter in Oz! I'm expecting everyone in the lair is expecting to fall into a chocolate coma any moment now.

Congratulations, Lime! The chook is disguised as a bunny today because he doesn't like the attention anywhere but on his feathery self!

Kristen, what a lovely post. I ADORE the Sound of Music. I still smile when it starts too. Love the line about her giving away all her clothes when she joined the abbey. Captain: What about this one? Maria: Oh, the poor didn't want this one! Snork!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, on my best of the best list? The Dorothy Dunnett Lymond Chronicles (definitely one for when she's older!), A Countess Below Stairs (which is really sweet and can count as YA), Lord of Scoundrels, Flowers from the Storm, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice. Think that's probably the ABSOLUTE faves. If I extend it any further, I'll be here for a month!

Joan said...

Hey Kirsten!

Taking a break from mulch spreading (I hate mulch) to say great post!

Movie wise, I can..take or leave Sound of Music. I do love classics though including Operation Petticoat, Yours, Mine and Ours, the original Parent Trap and Steel Magnolias...

Book wise keepers for me would be ALL of Nora's trilogies.

Now, where did I put my rake???

Deb said...

Hey, Kirsten just FYI: Gilbert Morris and Linda Chaikin are Christian authors, but they are great writers. LC's LIONS book 1 is the best and you have to really concentrate the first 50-75 pages, but then you're hooked.

Tawny said...

Oooooh, I love The Sound of Music. So wonderful :-)

My keeper shelf has more older books than newer books, to be honest. I have all of Nora's. Jenny Crusie's. Jude Devaraux, Jill Barnett, Julie Garwood. sigh... I love those stories!! I think my oldest are the original Nora's when she started writing for Silhouette and my David Eddings Belgariad set, which I got when I was in high school.

Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

Taking a break from snorting some chocolate marshmallow Easter eggs.

Mary Balogh is on my keeper shelf. Also have paperbacks from Taylor Caldwell that must be 25 years old. They are still there.

Boy I am hearing a lot about this Outlander series, I must check it out!

And I agree, they don't make movies like they used to. I mean, a new movie coming out called 'Kick-Ass?' I must be getting old...*grumble*

Christine Wells said...

Lovely post, Kirsten! I totally agree with you that movies just don't seem 'big' any more. And I don't mean in the blockbuster sense, but in the sense of having a really big heart. Most is the lack of really great romantic comedies and plain old-fashioned romances in movies. The last good one I remember seeing was Romancing the Stone--happy to hear of any that others think are great! Most movies of any substance are too gritty or end tragically or are based on books anyway. Books...I think there are a lot more books that fit the category. I'd like to see more romcom in books, too, but not too light. There has to be a core of emotion that resonates, as in SEP's books. All of hers are on my keeper shelf, as are Loretta Chase's, Laura Kinsale's, Liz Carlyle's, Mary Jo Putney...and all the banditas' books of course!

Louisa Cornell said...

Lime, I think you are DEFINITELY on the GR's keeper shelf!

What a great post, Kirsten! I'm afraid I have to agree that they just don't make movies like they used to and it breaks my heart.

The first song I ever sang in public was Edelweis and I learned it watching The Sound of Music which was and is a staple in my family's house. I have had the added blessing of seeing many of the places where the film was shot on a daily basis when I studied in Salzburg. We got in trouble for playing baseball in the bishop's formal gardens where part of the Do Re Mi song was filmed. (Those steps were third base, if I remember.)

I too love Seven Brides for Seven Brothers! And what about My Fair Lady - gorgeous film even if some of the singing was dubbed.

I'm with Gillian on McClintock and The Quiet Man. My Dad was the biggest John Wayne fan ever and when I watch those old films I feel so close to my Dad I can almost hear him laugh in all the same old places.

And I happen to like the huge epic films of days gone by - Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, Cleopatra, Spartacus. The Greatest Story Ever Told. Those are some great rainy day with a bowl of popcorn type films.

My keeper shelf is extensive, but I can list some of the highlights.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh

Simply Love by Mary Balogh

A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh

The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Venetia by Georgette Heyer (just about anything by her actually!)

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

Anything by the Banditas - Great writing made all the more important to me because I know how hard you have all worked to give me the laughter, joy, passion and adventure your books provide me.


Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Berendt

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The Grass Harp by Truman Capote

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Mysteries of Udolfo by Ann Radcliffe

The Complete works of Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters

Kirsten said...

PJ, what a lovely list of movies and hurray for Julie Garwood! I also adore Amy and Warren's story. that I think about it...grim, stern guy? Adorable spunky girl? Yep. Sounds familiar! :-) And as I said earlier, I adore Cary Grant. Could watch any of his movies over and over.

I hope you're having a fabulous Saturday. We've been relaxing and spent some time at a bookstore. Oh, and I found time to read a little bit of Elizabeth Hoyt's To Seduce a Sinner (which is just wonderful!) What could be better?

Kirsten said...

Hi Anna, and happy Easter! I WISH I could be falling into a chocolate coma right about now. Sigh. This is one of those holidays (along with Halloween) when I really resent not being able to eat all that glorious chocolate. I have to content myself with Peeps. Now don't get me wrong, I love a good, gooey Peep. But they just don't compare. KWIM?

Nancy said...

Limecello, congrats on the rooster!

Kirsten, what a great list. I assume you're figuring Star Wars for my keeper list, and you'd be right.

Also on the list are To Kill A Mockingbird, Robin Hood (Flynn version), Superman: The Movie, Excalibur, X-Men, Disney's Sleeping Beauty, and 101 Dalmations. Belle of Beauty and the Beast was a more assertive, capable heroine, but I remember loving Sleeping Beauty as a child, and there's something about it that makes me sigh. Maybe it's Tchaikovsky's music.

Books--too many to list. Here's a partial sampling:

Heyer's Frederica, The Unknown Ajax and Regency Buck;

LOTR and The Hobbit;

To Kill A Mockingbird;

Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles;

Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey, especially Murder Must Advertise, Gaudy Night, and Busman's Honeymoon;

Fahrenheit 451;


The Once and Future King.

The list could be waaay longer. However, all of these books have been on my shelves for more than 20 years, and several of them have endured multiple moves.

Kirsten said...

Hmm, and great list, Anna of best of the best. Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice must be up there on the all time best lists. Spunky girls and stiff, dour guys, who happen to be pretty hot at the same time. Happy sigh. :-)

Kirsten said...

Oh Joanie, my back aches in sympathy. I hate spreading mulch. Way too much shoveling, wheelbarrowing, and labor for my purposes. (shudder)

At least you aren't doing it in 42 degrees and rainy, like my neighbors across the street. They are die-hard gardeners and they are actually out in the cold rain either composting or mulching (I can't tell which). I am in awe.

Kirsten said...

Wait -- Joanie -- did you say the original PARENT TRAP? SQUEE! That movie rocks! So awesome. And even though I usually hate remakes, the recent version (with poor Lindsey Lohan before she became a total trainwreck) wasn't half bad!

Kirsten said...

Deb, I will definitely check them out! :-)

Nancy said...

Happy Easter to our Australian banditas and friends!

Nancy said...

Kirsten, you and Joan can have the peeps. I'll take chocolate anything pretty much anytime.

The dh made trifle for dessert in honor of the boy's girlfriend, who's visiting for the weekend, and I have to say it was seriously yummy.

Kirsten said...

Hi Tawny! You and I have a shared passion for David Eddings...he and Anne McCaffrey are both on the keeper shelf (in the original version I got in high school!). And I adore Jenny Crusie's books -- as Lime said, Bet Me is one of the best ever. I am not as much of a fan of Jenny's duos with Bob Mayer, but her early books are definite love-fests for me. :-)

Hope you're having a relaxing Saturday!

Kirsten said...

Hey Drew -- LOL -- love your grumble. That's a horrible name for a movie! Makes me feel old and grumpy just to hear it. :-p

As for your top picks -- I don't know Taylor, but I sure do adore Mary Balogh. She's one of the best ever, in my opinion.

You may now return to your chocolate egg snarfing. *VBG* I plan to scarf some peeps in a few hours. Trying to hold out until after dinner.

Kirsten said...

Hi Christine -- you put it perfectly. There's just heart missing from the big movies today. They are so focused on making money and special effects, they forget to take the time for you to fall in love with the characters.

I also have SEPs books on my keeper shelf. I re-read one recently just to try to unpack it and figure out why they're so amazing. You're right -- it's light hearted but not entirely light.

Of course the Banditas are all on the keeper shelf! I also want a framed copy of your covers on my wall, dear. They're DEFINITELY keepers.

Kirsten said...

Oh Louisa, your posts are an education in themselves! I can imagine how beautiful it was to hear Edelweis sung in your gorgeous voice in Saltzberg. My husband lived there for a time and when we were watching yesterday he kept pointing out all of the places he'd seen and been. It was marvelous. When I watched the movie as a child I didn't appreciate how beautiful the setting was. Now I do.

I love your list. I think I'll print it out and make sure I've read them all! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you're singing tonight.

Kirsten said...

Hi Nancy! I'm glad you stopped by -- I thought you'd love Star Wars. I did wonder if perhaps you'd disagree with my assessment of the latest Star Trek? I don't really have the history of watching the show to be able to fully appreciate the movie.

I'm also a big fan of Dune - great great novel. Don't you teach it in some of your classes?

Kirsten said...

Oh Nancy, trifle? Really? I'm impressed. I don't think I've ever seen it made at home before! Tell dh he's a champ. :-)

Cassondra said...

Wow, what a GREAT BLOG!

And alas, I think the answer * SAD*

I think movie watchers nowadays don't have the attention spans to appreciate character. NO WAIT. . Let me amend that. I think movie MAKERS, perhaps, aren't making films which will hold the attentions of said watchers. If it's good enough, ala Harry Potter books, even the children will stop texting and video gaming to read. That's been proven.

So no. I don't think there are any. Or not many.

I feel that way about Practical Magic, While You Were Sleeping and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. I am rapt. Taken. Irretrievable when I am watching. I am theirs.

Like with The Wizard of Oz or Oklahomaor Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

So maybe there are a few, but as a rule? No. They don't make them any more. They've forgotten how to hold us. Interesting, isn't it, that in a very chauvinistic age (the first half of the 20th century) they knew precisely what it took to hold the attentions of an audience....and that was character. And perhaps some sexual tension and romance alongside it. Now in a much more "enlightened" age....a much more politically correct age, when women have far more rights (thank you God) and freedoms, we have a harder time finding good stories.

Hmmmm. I'll have to think about that.

Awesome, Kirsten, that you could be with your little one when she fell in love with one of your favorite heroes for the first time....that's a really great thing to have happen.

Cassondra said...

OH, and Happy Easter eveyone, and have a great weekend with family and hunting colored eggs.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Kirsten, I'm at work and trying to rememeber what's on my shelf from memory.

I have my first copy of Anne of Green Gables. Loved the book and the movies! My girls did, too.

Another keeper shelf book is SAVING GRACE by Julie Garwood.(of course all of her books are on my keeper shelf).

Sherrilyn Kenyon's DH series is complete and on my shelf.

JR Ward's complete Black Dagger series.

Linda Howard's Mr. Perfect, White Out and To Die For. (My 3 favorite of her books.)

I have all of Jo Davis' firefighter series, as well as Sandy Blair's "Kilt" Series. Lorraine Heath's newest Soundrel's Of St. James series.

Oh, and I have all of Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz books...

Suzanne Brockmann's Trouble Shooter series.

And I'm sure somewhere buried in my large tub in the back of my closet hidden from my husband's knowing eyes are many, many, Johanna Lindseys!!

Oh and Robert Ludlums entire works in paperback.