Monday, January 1, 2018

Inspirational Heroes Blogathon | | What I find inspiring about "Secretariat" {2010}

Warning:  This post is long and rambling.


That is, it's most likely one of a large pool of what I call second favorite movies -- not quite close enough to my heart to make it into, say, a top-ten list, but definitely favorites.  

Now, for those of you who don't know the plot:  Basically, this movie is the story of Secretariat (*collective gasp from the audience*), a horse who was a contender for the 1973 Triple Crown (which, in case y'all didn't know, consists of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes).  It's also the story of Secretariat's owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy, and how she brought the horse into racing from the starting point of a failing Virginia horse farm.  It's about the team of people around this woman and her horse, and all the highs and lows of the journey.  (That sounds a little cheesy.  I'm not great at writing movie summaries. :-P)  

But why is it inspiring?

*SPOILERS FROM NOW ON*  (Although, really, you could easily just look up what happened at the 1973 Triple Crown, so I don't know how much "spoilers" apply.)

Well, you could say that it's inspiring that Penny Tweedy did what she did.  She risked a lot -- her parents' farm, her family, etc.  You could say it's inspiring that there existed on this earth a creature who could do what Secretariat did in the final race, the Belmont.  And all that's true.  As to why it's inspiring to me personally, since I know next to nothing about horses and have very little interest in horse racing -- well, that I'm not sure I could tell you.  You just have to see it.  

People could argue, "What's so inspiring about a woman taking a horse all the way through the Triple Crown?  What spiritual or practical value does that have?"

As I was thinking about this the other day in preparation for this post, I came to the conclusion that there are some things that are just magnificent to behold, and the reason they're so magnificent is that they're a reflection of the ultimately magnificent God who created them.

What Penny Tweedy did was give the world a chance to see what this animal could do.  God created a horse with unbelievable abilities, and Penny was able to make sure the horse used them.

Along the lines of what C.S. Lewis said about friendship, is there any survival value in a horse winning the 1.5 mile Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths in under three minutes?  No, but, in a way, it's one of the things that give value to survival.   (Totally paraphrasing Lewis here.) 

I'm not suggesting that the story this movie tells gives meaning to life -- only God can do that.  What I'm saying is that I think there is value in it.  Not because there's anything terribly spiritual about it, but because it's such an amazing thing to witness, and because it's a testament to the awesome power of our Creator God.

Is this making any sense?  Oh, dear.  I'm not trying to make this movie or this story out as anything bigger than it is -- I'm not trying to glorify it or deify it in any way.  I'm attempting to convey what's inspirational about it, and since I'm not entirely sure myself, I'm rambling a bit. :-P

Anyway, let's look at a few scenes that are particularly Moving.  (I think I'm about to wax sentimental.  Prepare yourself.)

At one point in the film, Penny's father has passed away after a relatively long battle with dementia (the father, by the way, who first told Penny to "Let him [Secretariat] run his race"), and the inheritance tax on his estate is causing significant financial difficulty to Penny's family.  Secretariat is fairly well-known by this time and is already worth enough money to fix the money problems if Penny were to sell him.  But Penny, firmly believing that he will go on to win the Triple Crown, refuses to sell him and instead has to look for other ways to raise the funds they need.  To do this, she begins a risky venture to syndicate Secretariat's breeding rights (whatever the heck that means) for a price that potential shareholders are not exactly jumping at the opportunity of paying, since the horse hasn't won the Crown yet, and if he were to lose one of the Triple Crown races, his value would plummet.  So, long story short, Penny has struck out with all of the shareholders to whom she's offered the deal so far, and things aren't looking great.  After being turned down by yet another contender, she steps outside and looks around the family farm.  Her eye catches Eddie, the groom, giving Secretariat (whose original name is Big Red) a bath while listening to the gospel song "Oh Happy Day" on a portable radio.

As always, Eddie seems to have an innate, unshakeable peace and happiness, even when things aren't going well, and he and Penny have had a special friendship the whole movie.  Penny slowly walks over, picks up a rag, and starts to help, massaging Secretariat's coat with soapy water and scratching his face.  The joyous lyrics of the song seep out of the radio with a sense of gladsome victory and just a touch of pleasant static.

Afterward, Penny walks into the stable where she saw Secretariat being born a few years before.  Miss Ham, the family's faithful secretary extraordinaire, and Seth Hancock, the son of one of Penny's father's friends, who's been helping her with the syndication venture, follow her, concerned for the enormous pressure and stress she's experiencing.  Eventually Penny turns to face them, defiant and determined.

"I don't care how many times they say no.  I don't care how many times they tell us we can't do it.  I am not giving up!  I will not live the rest of my life in regret.  We are gonna see that horse run, and win!  And we are gonna live rejoicing.  Every day."

"Amen," Miss Ham responds with a tearful, proud smile.

Another memorable part in the film comes on the dawn of the Kentucky Derby (the first race in the Triple Crown).  Just days before, Secretariat lost the last pre-Crown race (which was kind of a big deal for various reasons).  It was later revealed that this was because he had an abscess which no one had been able to see.  He hasn't been eating like he's supposed to, and the whole team has been anxiously waiting to see if he'll be able to race the Derby.  Then, the morning of race day (following a little eye-to-eye communication between Penny and the horse the evening before), Eddie brings Secretariat a fresh bucket of feed, and he begins to eat.  Eddie notices that his previous evening's feed bucket has also been emptied.  And Eddie -- dear, devoted Eddie -- gets so excited that he goes out and shouts to the empty racetrack.

"Hey, Kentucky! Big ol' Red done ate his breakfast this mornin', and you about to see somethin' that you ain't never even seen before! So get ready!"

And then there's the final race day, the Belmont Stakes day.  THIS SCENE IS ALL THE EVERYTHING, FAM.  I won't be able to do it justice, but I'll include the link to a video of it so you can see for yourself (even though it probably won't have quite the emotional impact if you haven't seen the rest of the movie).  The best I could find was this one, although it cuts out before you can see much of the celebration at the end.

But on to my take on it. ;-P

Everyone's giddy with excitement and nervousness.  Penny and her family have so much riding on this.

When the race starts, Secretariat bolts immediately to the lead, instead of hanging back and coming from behind like he usually does.  This is so surprising to everyone that Penny cries anxiously to Lucien, "Why is he going to the lead?"  (To which Lucien articulately replies, "Because, I don't know!")

Secretariat and his "rival," Sham, pull into the front instantly and set a lightening speed, causing considerable agitation in the crowd.  "This is unbelievable; no horse can take this pace!" one reporter exclaims.  Even we as an audience get pretty worried, especially when Secretariat surges ahead of Sham and leaves him (literally) in the dust.  We're scared that something has to give; something in Secretariat is going to burst and it'll be awful.

And then . . . it doesn't.  He just keeps going, lengthening his lead incredibly.  

Finally, Penny, terrified though she must be, yells out,

"Let him run, Ronnie, let him run!"

(Ronnie is Secretariat's jockey, by the way.  Oh, also, as an aside, the music in this scene is really well-done.  The tension keeps mounting and mounting and the melody keeps building, refusing to let up.  A+, music team.)

Sham's owner, Pancho -- who thought for sure that the pace Sham was setting would leave Secretariat behind, not the other way around -- slowly losing his jubilation and realizing what's happening, whispers, "That's impossible."

Because it was. But it happened. (Because, y'know, God.)

Eventually, the sound cuts out and Penny's voice comes over, a restatement of some verses in Job which opened the movie:  "He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing.  He does not shy away from the sword.  He cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds."

And then Secretariat rounds the final bend and "Oh Happy Day" soars out again.

It's amazing to see the impact this has on each of the characters, as the camera zeroes in on several key reactions. There's Seth, the young man who invested and risked a lot to help make this happen (and who is also, by the way, a Rather Nice young man).

There's Jack, Penny's husband, who's had to give his wife away, in a sense, to bring this dream of hers to fruition, and who didn't always deal with it well or support her fully, but who's since come around and has apologized and is now in it all the way.

That amazing gospel song keeps ringing out, and the horse keeps leading by an ever-increasing amount, and we're swept up in the splendor of it.

Secretariat ends up winning by a whopping 31 lengths, and everyone freaks the heck out.  (I do too, internally, just for the record.)

Penny, who's risked so much and sacrificed so much and learned so much, starts literally jumping up and down, as does just about everyone else in the crowd.

Two of the reporters who've been dogging Penny and Secretariat for awhile are so excited that they give each other a hug.

And Eddie?  The person who -- according to the credits -- spent more time with Big Red "than any other human being"?  The one who always believed quietly and steadfastly in him and his owner and his trainer and the whole team?  

Well, Eddie's just happy.  Deep-down happy. 


[This post was written for Hamlette and Quiggy's Inspirational Heroes Blogathon.  Click the link to see more entries!  (And also, Hamlette is participating in what looks to be an amazing giveaway.  Click here to check it out!)]

Happy New Year, everyone!!!  I think God has great things in store for us in 2018. :)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Favorite Onscreen Couples of 2017

I'm shamelessly copying the awesome Faith over at Just Way Too Boss.  She wrote a blog post about -- can you guess? -- her favorite onscreen romances of 2017, and I told her that I might steal her idea, and she told me to fire away, so here I be. :-P  

Like Faith, I'm not necessarily talking about couples who made their screen debut in 2017, but those that I first saw in 2017.  And I'm afraid I'll probably forget some, as I didn't keep track of all the new movies I watched this year, unfortunately. :-/  But thankfully I was reminded of a few important ones that I almost omitted. ;)

So here we go!  Let's review my favorite onscreen couples of 2017. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* Bella & Vernon *
This Beautiful Fantastic

As I mentioned in my review, these two charries were not only adorable and extremely shippable together, but they were fantastic (heh) individually as well.  Loves them lots. <3  (Also, who first came up with the abbreviation 'charries'?  I approve greatly. :-P)

* Nickie & Terry *
An Affair to Remember

This movie is definitely a new favorite -- I'm so glad my mom brought it home from the library!  The romance between Nickie and Terry is a classic, hands down.  As somebody observed in one of the special features that I watched, this film is unique in that it carries the couple through both the first thrill of falling in love on a cruise ship to then having to deal with reality and try to keep that love alive when the ship returns to New York.  And it does it really, really well, in my opinion. ;D

* Illya & Gaby *
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I don't think I've talked to someone yet who's seen this movie and not fallen for Gaby and Illya's relationship.  ('Course, I haven't talked to a TON of people who've watched it, but I think it's fair to say that it's crowd-pleasing.)  The thickly accented, macho spy and the whippersnapper car mechanic are adorable together. <333

* Frank & Sarah *

I wasn't sure about this at first:  the age difference seemed to be a bit much to me.  But, surprisingly, I ended up finding them really sweet. <3 

* Sky & Sarah / Nathan & Adelaide *
Guys and Dolls

An old musical with that cast and that storyline?  Count me in!  These two romances are quite cute and fun. :)

* Harry & Marie *
To Have and Have Not

Though this romance was perhaps sultrier than is strictly beneficial, there's no denying that Bogart and Bacall nailed their roles.  And at least it was fairly non-dramatic -- they worked together quietly and efficiently, knowing when to stow their snark and be serious.

* Danny & Tess *
Ocean's Eleven & Ocean's Twelve

I really liked Danny and Tess.  I think George Clooney and Julia Roberts managed to pull off a great chemistry -- the couple seemed real, not too fancy-free and not too dramatic.  Comfortable, you know?

* Jack & Katherine *
Newsies Live!

I almost forgot this one!  *appalled gasps*  Anyway, this couple was basically ALL THE YES.  Can you not look at that gif and see how adorable they are??  Jeremy Jordan and Kara Lindsay were perfect stage partners, I think.

* Jasmine & Aladdin *
Season 6 of Once Upon a Time

Arguably my favorite new-to-me screen romance this year, though, was Once Upon a Time's take on Jasmine and Aladdin.  I'm not sure entirely why, but this couple really grabbed me (and I'm not even a huge fan of the animated Aladdin).  I think it's because these two have a level of sweetness -- real, genuine sweetness and concern for the other person, not cloying sweetness (at least, not to me) -- that the other couples of Once didn't quite achieve or have lost somewhere along the way.

Don't misunderstand me: Captain Swan is prrrobably still my favorite couple in Once, and Aladdin and Jasmine definitely have their cheesy moments (*cough*), but there was something about them that really latched onto me, too.  And I think that in terms of pure, unadulterated sweetness, Jasmine and Aladdin probably have Emma and Killian beat.

But that's just my take on it. ;D

Honorable Mentions

Belle & the Beast (Beauty and the Beast)
Henry & Carina (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales)
Jim & Julie (The Big Country)
Gregory & Rose (The Mirror Has Two Faces)
Tom & Cinzia (Houseboat)
Billy & Julie (Carousel)
George & Holly (Breakfast at Tiffany's)
Charlie & Rose (The African Queen)
Bryce & Juli (Flipped)
John & Holly (Die Hard)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2017 has been a great movie discovery year for me!
How about you?  Who are some of your new favorite couples?

(And no, I haven't seen this yet. :-P)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Disney Princess Book Tag

Hamlette did this tag awhile back, and I decided to do it because it was simply too fun to pass by. :D  Hamlette apparently snatched it (and the picture below) from Rissi over at Finding Wonderland, who apparently got it from yet another blogger, so . . . Anyway, here are my answers. ;)  (I used Hamlette's idea of pairing the princess with my book answer for each picture.)

(I think credit for this image goes to Rissi?)

1. Snow White - Name your favorite classic

If I'm interpreting "classic" as the old classics, like pre-20th century, than Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. :)  (And it's also just one of my favorites, period. ;))

2. Cinderella - Name a book that kept you reading well past your bedtime

There have been several!  But more recently, Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane.  You can read my Goodreads review here!

3. Aurora - Name your favorite classic romance

*freezes up*  Yikes.  Classic romance book?  See, that's a toughie.  I love a lot of the romances in classics, and I love the way they're portrayed in the movie adaptations, but the books themselves are not often my favorites.  Such is the case with Persuasion by Jane Austen, which is the book I'll use for this question.  Persuasion is actually (probably) my favorite J.A. story . . . I have what I call a "Jane Austen hierarchy" about which I need to do a post soon.

4. Ariel - Name a book that's about making sacrifices and fighting for your dreams

Ummmm . . . *draws a blank*  Oh!  Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson.  (This is a great book, guys, and it really deserves more attention. <3)

5. Belle - Name a book with a smart and independent female character

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.  (I love this book.  I need to read it again. :))

6. Jasmine - Name a book with a character who challenged the social conventions of his or her world

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows has several unconventional characters (and very precious ones they are, at that).

7. Pocahontas - Name a book with an ending that was a roller-coaster of emotions

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak?  That's all that's coming to mind, even though I felt so sure that there were more . . .

8. Mulan - Name a book with a [totally boss]* female character   [I decided to change the adjective because of Reasons ;-P]

When the first "totally boss" female character who comes to mind is Rey but that's not a book . . . #sigh

Anywho, let's see here . . . I guess the girl in Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell is pretty boss.  

9. Tiana - Name a book featuring a hardworking, self-made character

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

10. Rapunzel - Name a book that features an artist

I really couldn't think of one, but Amy in Little Women is an artist, isn't she?

11. Merida - Name a book that features a mother-daughter relationship

Passing by Samaria by Sharon Ewell Foster has a good relationship between its protagonist and her mother.

12. Anna and Elsa - Name a book that features a great relationship between siblings

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

I tag anyone who wants to do this!  (I know, I know, I'm sorry, but I've got things to do and places to be and ain't nobody got time for specifics. :-P)

Have a great day, everyone!