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I love visiting historic locations where famous (or infamous) events took place. I recently watched The Conspirator which is based on Dr. Kate Clifford Larson’s book The Assassin’s Accomplice. The movie follows the trial of Mary Surratt, the owner of the boarding house in Washington, DC where Booth and other conspirators plotted to kidnap President Lincoln, but then Booth changed the plan to murder.

Mary Surratt was arrested two days after President Lincoln died. She and her co-defendants were tried by military tribunal rather than in civil court. She was the first woman executed by the Federal government and the facts surrounding her trial and execution remain controversial. She and three others were hanged on July 7, 1865.

Robert Redford did a fabulous job as the director of this movie and it was produced by The American Film Company  which uses historians to assure their films depict the events accurately. I’m usually so disappointed with movies and TV shows that play fast and loose with historical facts.

The main actors, James McAvoy (from X-Men) and Robin Wright (House of Cards) are fantastic. I didn’t recognize Robin Wright at first ~ she played the role of Mary Surratt so well. It’s a courtroom drama and the movie drags on a bit at times but for the historical accuracy, I highly recommend it.

I’ve already been to Ford’s Theater where President Lincoln was shot but I learned through the film that the conspirators were hanged at Fort McNair DC. Before I headed over to take a look, I looked up the photos taken by Alexander Gardner (a famous Scottish photographer who covered a lot of the US Civil War and the aftermath). Here are his photos (caution: graphic):

Alexander Gardner HangingA. Gardner
(c) Alexander Gardner.  Photos from the Library of Congress collection

…and here’s what the location looks like now:

Fort McNair Tennis courts
The site of the execution is now tennis courts at Fort McNair. John asked if I wanted to play some tennis there but the thought of that was too macabre for me.

 

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Living in a Snow Globe

As I looked out of our bedroom window this afternoon, I felt like I was in a snow globe. The big puffy snowflakes were coming down sideways and, sometimes, the wind would shift and it looked like the snow was floating upward. It was a gorgeous sight to see. I was so mesmerized and sat watching for more than a few minutes.  We seem to be in the direct path of the Lake Effect and it’s been pounding us. Favorite Man finally got me out there to learn how to use the snow blower just in case he’s not here when a big snow storm comes through.

Ever since they released us early from work on Friday, I’ve been hunkered down in our cozy home. Grandma Betty, who is visiting for the holidays, and I watched “Inside Man” which I was surprised to find was a good movie. It had enough twists and turns to keep it interesting as well as having actors I like to watch: Clive Owen, Denzel Washington and Jodi Foster.

I’m also reading  Me Talk Pretty One Day written by David Sedaris. It’s a funny book but I’ve been so tired every night when I get into bed and start reading, I fall asleep within a few chapters. That’s not a commentary on the book, just that I’m still getting used to my new work schedule. I want to finish it up so I can start the book I won from Books on the Brain titled Gods Behaving Badly. It’s such an interesting premise for a book and I’m anxious to start it.

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Afternoon at the Movies

With the cold, dreary November days upon us and Favorite Man out of town, Favorite Girl (FG) and I decided to catch the afternoon movie, Beverly Hills Chihuahua,which was playing at the post theater. FG invited a friend to join us and ended up running into another one at the theater. Sitting in front of us were more of the neighborhood kids and their moms. Turns out, the theater was having “projection” trouble and there were several breaks during the movie. It was a choppy way to watch the movie but it also gave me a chance to chat with the other moms.

As an animal shelter volunteer, I was thrilled how the movie handled the subject of homeless pets and the disclaimer at the end for people not to run out and purchase a chihuahua. In fact, the dog playing the “Papi” in the movie was rescued from a shelter.  When 101 Dalmatians came out, there was a rush on Dalmatians which DON’T make good pets for families with young children.

The movie had a lot of laugh out loud parts as well as a couple of tense (teary) moments. Do you need to be a dog lover to enjoy it? Well, I honestly can’t answer that because I can’t even imagine a non-dog lover perspective ~ it just doesn’t compute for me. As I was leaving the theater, the movie was summed up by a girl I overheard saying “That’s a movie I’m going to buy” ~ what better recommendation could there be?

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Favorite Bond?

At a Bunco game the other night, someone mentioned the new Bond movie coming out, Quantum of Solace, which led to a lively discussion of which actor playing James Bond is the best. Usually, it turns out to be who ever was 007 in the first Bond movie you saw but, for me, it’s the latest one: Daniel Craig. He’s not particularly handsome but he’s a bit gritty and a lot sexy. I may not wait for it to come out on Netflix ~ I’d rather see him on the big screen 😉

Who is your favorite 007?

In case you can’t remember all of them: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig.  Or are you not a fan of the franchise?

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The Lives of Others

or officially titled: Das Leben der Anderen.  

This is the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time. Definitely the best I’ve seen all year. The Lives of Others is a political thriller which takes place in the German Democratic Republic (G.D.R.), better known to most Americans as East Germany. The movie starts in 1984 (how appropriate for all the Orwellian fans) and has some of the best understated performances I’ve ever seen. The central characters include a handsome and affable writer named Georg Dreyman and his live-in lover, Christa-Maria who is an actress.

The movie starts with Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler conducting Big Brother business as usual, but as the plot unfolds, it becomes clear things are about to take an unexpected turn. I don’t want to write too much about the plot because the great thing about the movie is the way it slowly unfolds to reveal an unexpected hero.

Since I’m a cynic when it comes to movies, I researched a little about how the Stasi conducted surveillance and this movie seems to be very authentic in its recreation. In fact, the props master on the movie crew spent two years in a Stasi prison and insisted on complete authenticity in the movie. The props, for listening and recording, were borrowed from museums and collectors ~ all the props were actual Stasi equipment.

I was reluctant to add this to my Netflix queue because I thought it would be too depressing ~ really, the gray, cold slab buildings of the former East Germany are enough to make me sad BUT this movie was so worth the watch. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for an intelligent and different movie which will leave you enlightened and feeling good about humankind.

Let me know what you think of it.

PS The movie is in German but has English subtitles. Don’t let it dissuade you from watching the movie. The movie was so engrossing it didn’t bother me to read the subtitles and it gave me a chance to practice my extremely limited knowledge of the German language.

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Spring Tease

For the two previous weeks, we had glorious weather.  Not too cold, not too hot ~ I felt like Goldilocks. Unfortunately, it was just a big tease because this week has been wet and cold. I’m talking frost in the mornings. Thankfully, I spent as much time as possible outside during our brief but wonderful spring interlude.

The most fun was playing tennis with my work-out partner, K. We’re at the same tennis level and got a great workout four days in a row. We were beyond thrilled to be out of the gym and off the treadmill.  I’m looking forward to playing tennis all summer long since I feel so good after running around and bashing that little yellow ball.  

Since the weather precludes outdoor fun, I’ve been catching up on my Netflix DVDs and thought I’d share some of my thought on movies I’ve watched so far this year:

Here are the ones I enjoyed: 27 Dresses ~ light and fluffy; American Gangster ~ I so enjoy Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington’s acting; Indiscreet ~ a classic which was socially ahead of itself. I imagine it was considered quite a provocative movie back in 1958; The Brave One ~ Jodie Foster is one of my favorite actors and she does a great job in this film; The Jane Austen Book Club ~ made me think how much I would love to have all my best friends living close by. I found this movie charming and wished I had a group of friends like that here; 3:10 to Yuma ~ although I’m not a big fan of the Western, this one was very well done (redone), and, then again, there’s Russell Crowe.  Be warned ~ a lot of violence;

These are the ones I disliked:

Once ~ was touted as charming but it’s awful and so boring I turned it off after 30 minutes; Munich ~ boring and so long!; Death at a Funeral ~ talk about trying too hard. Everything that could have been funny was mishandled; Across the Universe ~ I wanted to like this movie and watched the whole thing because I love the Beatles music but the movie could have been so much better then it turned out. Parts were OK.

So what have you been watching lately?

 

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History Lessons

I have to admit it scares me when someone states a historical fact and then says “I saw it in the movie …”  And I’m not talking about a documentary.  Makes me wonder what else they believe hook, line & sinker. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love some of these supposedly historical movies  ~ I mean really, Mel Gibson as William Wallace was not tough to watch but I really wish there was a disclaimer at the beginning which read “This movie is not factual ~ listen to your history teacher”

What made me think of all of this is Yahoo’s list of the Top 10 Historically Inaccurate Movies. Click here to check it out. It gave me a chuckle.

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