Monday, May 07, 2018

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The Kitties are joining Instagram!

Hi everyone,

Yes, I'm still here!

My blog schedule has not gone as I planned in 2018! I was having some unexpected technical difficulties for a while with Photoshop Elements, which magically fixed itself. Also, I'm adjusting to yet another new (temporary) job while looking for a new (permanent) job. This situation has been consuming most of my thoughts, but I am still drawing and will have more to post here soon.

The Mother Kitty
I'm going to develop a website for the kitties, too! (Right now, I need to decide on a template. I like them all for different reasons.). The new website will be called The Mother Kitty, after the cat who started it all. I'll get there slowly but surely.

In the meantime, you can join the kitties @themotherkitty on Instagram! There, in addition to some of my personal images, I'll post artwork that span this blog's existence – more than 10 years worth of kitties. This will help me sift through hundreds of illustrations and pick the favorites to feature on the website.

This transition will be a process, so bear with me. I may need to your help along the way to pick designs, drawings, and website features, so stay tuned to the blog for updates on my progress.

Also on the blog, I'll get back to posting more regularly drawings inspired by topics; another Johnny Kitties tribute, celebrating Murder on the Orient Express; some reviews of recent shows that I attended; and more.

The Kitties join Instragram!

Thanks for sticking with me. Happy spring!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #53. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details. Visit the Johnny Kitties page for a full list of Johnny Depp's filmography and links to all previous Johnny Kitties blog posts.]

"When you watch these films, you get this feeling, this sensation that anything can happen." Brendan Thwaites, "Henry" in this latest installment of the Pirates franchise

"Not only is it huge in scope, but we're dealing with iconic characters and iconic ships and elements. I felt there was some sense of magic, walking on to that set." Co-Director Joachim Ronning, on getting started on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Captain Jack's past does more than haunt him. 
Down on luck, Captain Jack Sparrow realizes that he made a mistake as soon as he traded in his magic compass for a bottle of rum at a local bar. This compass, which has been Jack's prized possession in all of the Pirates films, points him in the direction of what he wants most. A fellow crew member gave it to him years ago while on the ship of Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who was ruling the Spanish seas and killing all the pirates in his path. To stop him, young Jack trapped the evil captain and his crew in Devil's Triangle, where they were all killed. Jack got away with their ship.

Now, what Jack didn't realize is that giving the compass away triggers the release of these angry ghosts. Free to seek revenge, Captain Salazar sets out to kill Jack and find the mythical Trident of Poseidon so that he can break his curse and control the seas. A few other people are looking for the Trident for their own reasons too, so it's a race to see who finds it first in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, this adventure revisits old friends and introduces new ones, who represent the next generation of Pirates of the Caribbean.

It's not just the same old same old.
It's hard to believe that five Pirates of the Caribbean movies are out. The first three, which I consider the originals, told one continuous story. The last two were independent stories, and I really enjoyed them too. What I love about this installment of Pirates of the Caribbean is its mix of both old an new. "I think what we've done here is come up with new angles, new surprises," Johnny says. "I think it will have the surprise, the element of surprise that the first one had."

The film opens with a young boy on a mission. It's Henry Turner, son of Elizabeth (Kiera Knightly) and Will (Orlando Bloom), and he's determined to break his father's curse. Will and Elizabeth drove the story of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films. When we last saw them, they were forced to part ways because Will had to captain The Flying Dutchman under a curse that only gave him a single day every 10 years to set foot on land. Henry doesn't want to wait that long, so he meets his father at sea and tells him his plan to find the Trident of Poseidon, which has the power to break his and all other curses of the sea. Of course, to do this, he'll need the help of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Although Will tells Henry to give up and stay away from Jack, he spends the next 9 years looking for Jack and working toward his goal. Henry (Brendan Thwaites) also meets a young woman, Carina (Kaya Scodelario), who is arrested for witchcraft just because she's a girl who happens to be smart about astronomy and horology. I like her! She agrees to help Henry because she also wants the Trident of Poseidon to reveal mysteries from her past. Javier Bardem makes a great scary ghost pirate. "He's full of rage and the need for revenge," Javier Bardem explains. My favorite thing is how his hair is always floating as if he's under water.

That brings me to the great special effects, make-up, and costumes. The Pirates of the Caribbean movies always show me something I've never seen before, and this one didn't disappoint. All of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have great stunts, special effects, and ghosts in them, and I appreciate that they are all so detailed and different every time. In this one, I love how the decaying ghosts (including the sea creatures) look and move. I have no idea how they achieved some of the underwater sequences. It's all movie magic! "It's in the craftsmanship and the detail," Kaya Scodelario says. "It's very easy to lose yourself and feel like you're in another world."

What about Johnny?
I know, I didn't talk about Johnny here at all. I'll admit that I didn't enjoy finding Captain Jack overtly drunk in the first few scenes. I used to completely forget Johnny was Johnny when I watch his movies because I get lost in his character. These days, though, with all of Johnny's personal drama in the last couple years, I'm always watching his new movies irrationally wondering if he's seems okay and thinking I'll be able to tell either way. Seeing him act drunk so well isn't helping my sanity, though I realize this drunkenness is necessary for moving the story along. You know Captain Jack has hit rock bottom when he trades his compass for a bottle of rum!

But this has nothing to do with why I didn't mention Johnny sooner. It just didn't occur to me, and that's a good thing! As always, Johnny is fantastic as Captain Jack. They were very welcoming in that creative way, and they were very happy to be there in that creative world," Johnny says of his directors. "They really let me do some very strange stuff, and they'd just laugh. An actor's responsibility is to give a director some options. They got some options." I soon got wrapped up in his latest adventure. (He also gets one of his most famous friends to make a musical cameo.) I must be so used to the captain by now that I focused on the other ingredients that make this movie fun.

I really like the fulfilling story, which dips into Captain Barbossa's past. It reminds me of the original saga, and I was just as happy to find out more about Will, Elizabeth, and Hector. New characters showed up in a similar mold to those we know so well. Henry will grow up to be just like his dad, and Corina is a strong woman who handle things herself, just like Elizabeth. I like that this film brought some closure to the original story but also left room for new ones. Like Star Wars, this could go on forever – and you know Captain Jack will always be there too, looking for a bottle of rum and maybe saving the day.

The Kitties try out the pirate's life. 
The Kitties aren't big fans of water, but they couldn't resist riding The Black Pearl's anchor. Here, with Mr. Smith (Tyrone) at the helm, Captain Jack (Gordon) leads the way to the safety of the ship as the parted sea is slowly closing in. Not far behind are Henry (Comet) and Captain Barbossa (B.J.). Captain Barbossa grabs Carina (Lily) just in time to save her from falling into the hands of Captain Salazar (Norman), who is hot on her heels. (These are some of the how'd-they-do-that special effects I'm talking about!)

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film 52. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) [March 2018]

What's next?
Johnny joins an all-star cast on a train in Murder on the Orient Express. I hope he's careful because someone dies.

 All images © Walt Disney Pictures, except for the illustration © Melissa Connolly

Monday, February 26, 2018

Theatre Trips: An American in Paris and Meteor Shower

Hi everyone,

For Melissa's Kitties, I always intended to incorporate more posts about the plays, concerts, and other fun things I do throughout the year. I meant to start doing this in January after I saw An American in Paris, here in D.C., and Meteor Shower in New York City. But the day after I returned from New York, I came down with a cold that made me lose track of the time. I'm still catching up, so here's some old, interesting news from the theatre world.

An American in Paris
This new An American in Paris musical, which I attended at the Kennedy Center on January 6, is inspired by the 1951 classic film, starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. It tells the story of an ex-GI who stays in Paris after World War II to follow his dream of being a painter. He falls in love with a French girl, but their relationship has complications.

If you've seen the movie as often as I have, you'd notice that this stage version is different. For example, some of the characters have different personalities than they do in the movie. (What bothered me most, of course, was that Jerry Mulligan isn't as friendly as Gene Kelly's version.) The French girl, Lise, is not a sales girl in a local shop but a ballet dancer, working toward her big break. (I consider this an improvement.) All the guys fight over her in this story. Also, some of the songs, all written by George and Ira Gershwin, are missing or different from those in the film.

These changes are okay because this stage musical is based on its own new book by Craig Lucas. This story has a more realistic tone that matches the post-war era. It stands on its own, but it pays homage to the film with nice choreography by Christopher Wheeldon and impressive moving sets that seem to dance across the stage to the music. (It reminded me of how things moved in the historic 17-minute ballet at the end of the film.) In its own way, this version of An American in Paris still captures the art, excitement, and romance of the city and the promise of new beginnings. Find An American in Paris on tour for a nostalgic journey through the City of Lights. 

Meteor Shower
I heard about Meteor Shower when it was first announced that 1) Steve Martin wrote this new play, and 2) the cast includes Amy Schumer (making her Broadway debut), Keegan-Michael Key (from Comedy Central's Key & Peele), and Laura Benanti (a Broadway star most recently made famous for her great impression of Melania Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert). I had to see it! My theatre buddy and I planned an emergency road trip to New York for the show at Booth Theatre on January 13, a week before it closed.

The story, which takes place in 1993, is about a California couple, Corky (Amy Schumer) and Norm (Jeremy Shamos), who are expecting another, more sophisticated couple over for dinner. Before they arrive, the other couple, Laura (Laura Benanti) and Gerald (Keegan Michael Key) decide to play tricks on their friends by telling them lies about their own past, like how Laura was a really fat child and Gerald had bad parents. The witty conversations that follow throughout the evening spark plenty of laughter because of the wonderful writing and performances. Also, a meteor shower happens and someone gets hit, but don't worry, it's hilarious.

Jokes and sprinkled throughout Meteor Shower in gestures, looks, reactions, and quips – all of which I could tell came from the mind of Steve Martin. Here are just a few examples:

  • While they are preparing for their guests to arrive, Corky and Norm catch themselves saying snide remarks to each other during their conversations. Each time, they stop and run to face one another and hold hands. As if fresh from relationship therapy, they calmly tell each things like, "I understand that you probably didn't know you hurt me. I'm asking you to be more careful with my feelings." and "I love you and I know you love me." Once satisfied with their exchange, they nod to confirm forgiveness, scramble back to whatever they were doing, and resume their conversation. 
  • Keegan-Michael Key made me laugh the most: When he first shows up, he yells his responses to any questions and dominates everyone's personal space. 
  • Between scenes, Laura Benanti and Amy Schumer take turns doing a short dance, like a shuffle or tap routine, while classical music plays and the set rotates from the interior side of the home to the backyard side. It's unexpected silliness. (I imagined Steve Martin thinking this up: How are we going to fill the break? Let's just have Laura Benanti do the Charleston on the side for 30 seconds.)

At first, what's happening in this play is unclear. It becomes clearer when you realize that some scenes are repeated from different perspectives while other scenes share earlier conversations. But nothing is completely clear until the end when it's revealed that Laura and Gerald are the subconscious selves of Corky and Norm. Now, if only I could remember everything that was said and done in the last 80 minutes, I'd be set. Since none of us can see it right now, armed with this new context, here's hoping we can all find it in writing somewhere. Look for Meteor Shower if it tours. Steve Martin has given us a funny thinker.

Posters: An American in Paris © Allied Touring; Meteor Shower © DKC/O&M

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Welcome, Mew!

Hi everyone,

Dan found Mew on the side of a road. She was on her way to Japan, but he convinced her to stick around.

Mew was meant to be named after the Japanese anime character Nyu, from Elfin Lied, but everyone kept mistaking it for Mew, assuming she was named after the Mythical Pokemon character. She's a little bitter about this error because she thinks Mew is too cute to fit her strong-willed personality. I tell her that, while Nyu is resilient and tough, she is a sad and dark character. Mew, on the other hand, is bright and sometimes mischievous. I remind her that Mew is the single ancestor of all other Pokemon characters, and she has mad skills: she can learn any new Pokemon moves and morph into other Pokemon characters. She's also a shapeshifter with psychic abilities, who is capable of flight, teleportation, and invisibility. She's more than cute.

Convinced by this argument, Mew follows in her namesake's footsteps. She is a daily practitioner of extreme martial arts and Samurai moves. She spends her days with her mentor Ryo-oh-ki to reap the benefits of his wisdom, learn the art of shapeshifting, and share their mutual love for everything Japanese. While she hasn't perfected flying, teleportation, or invisibility (yet), she is stealthy and likes to spy on new visitors before making her presence known. Mew is a certified psychic. She's happy to tell anyone's fortune anytime, and she can read everyone's mind, so watch what you think around her.

Mew doesn't have a lot of spare time because she's always training in her latest martial arts level, studying Japanese, meditating, or making travel plans (though she hasn't yet followed through on them). When relaxing, she listens to music and reads Marvel Comics (X-Men are her favorite.) She loves James Bond movies and, of course, Lost in Translation. Some of her favorite people include Aretha Franklin, Liam Neeson, Amy Schumer, Kazuo Ishiguru, and Bruce Lee.

Mew (January 12, 2018)
This is Mew's favorite way to say hello. 

Monday, February 05, 2018

Welcome Ryo-oh-ki!

Hi everyone,

Two kitties, Ryo-oh-ki and Mew, have been a part of our family for the last several years. Technically, they are my sister's boyfriend Dan's cats, but everyone has been living under the same roof in Columbus for quite some time. I have been slow to introduce these kitties here because they are usually busy studying Japanese and practicing it on me whenever I visit – even though I don't know the language. It took all this time for us to understand each other.

Today, I'll tell you about Ryo-oh-ki, our old, wise Maine Coon. While public records say that Ryo-oh-ki was born in 1999 behind Dan's bed in Cleveland, legend has it that he's lived various lives for hundreds of years. Some say that his mythological lore rivals The Mother Kitty's.  (While The Mother Kitty considers him a peer, she shrugs off any comparison.)

Ryo-oh-ki sees you...

Ryo-oh-ki is named after the Japanese anime character, Ryo-ohki – a shape-shifter that's a cross between a cat and rabbit. (Someone added the extra hyphen to Ryo-oh-ki's name to help with pronunciation after hearing him sound it out slowly to everyone he met.) Like his namesake, Ryo-oh-ki spent years studying shape-shifting techniques (mainly by trying different Edward Scissorhands inspired haircuts) and developing his own taste for carrots and talent for hopping.

While he is inexplicably worldly and knowledgeable beyond his years, Ryo-oh-ki spends his days modestly, studying the stars, meditating, and amusing his kitty-pupil, Mew. Together, they love everything Japanese and practice Taikiken (martial arts) and Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangements) daily. He's an avid fan of anime (of course) and Akira Kurosawa films.

Ryo-oh-ki loves making new friends and having deep, lengthy conversations with them. Among his role models are Mark Twain, Michelle Obama, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life. (He's friends with them too, but he doesn't like to drop names.)

Ryo-oh-ki (11-15-2017)
Hello, Ryo-oh-ki!