Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Although it's summer now, Tyrone is still talking about the Winter Olympics. After watching hours of the events on television, he'd run outside to practice his favorite sport in the backyard. I think he's almost ready to qualify.

Olympics (May 6, 2018)
Illustration Friday: February 9, 2018

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Happy first day of summer, everyone!

This isn't a very summery illustration, but I just finished watching "Genius: Picasso" on National Geographic Channel, so maybe this is a tribute to his Blue Period.

Blue (March 30, 2018)
(Illustration Friday: January 26, 2018)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


In Mew's studies of Japanese legends, she came across the bakeneko, or changed cat. This supernatural creature has shapeshifting abilities and is often depicted dancing with a napkin on its head. 

"The Bakeneko of the Saskibara Family" from the Buso Yokai Emaki by Yosa Buson
Here, Mew tries to evoke the spirit of the mythical bakeneko. I think it's working.

Mythical (March 31, 2018)
Illustration Friday: February 2, 2018

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #54. Murder on the Orient Express (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.]

Happy birthday, Johnny!
Johnny Depp, Murder on the Orient Express premiere, 2017

"This is a group that really got on. The rapport and chemical connection between all of these people was significant – unusual in my experience – and they worked together very well as a team, handing everybody their moment." Director Kenneth Branagh

Everybody, watch your back. 
This remake of Agatha Christie's classic murder mystery, Murder on the Orient Express, boast an all-star cast and beautiful scenery. Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) boards the glamorous train with an eye on a vacation, but he ends up leading an investigation on board after a passenger is brutally murdered overnight. When an avalanche blocks the train on the tracks in the snowy mountains, everyone is trapped with the murderer on board. Don't worry, the world's greatest detective is on the case.  

I had a plan. 
When this movie came out, I had a lot of unexpected things going on in my life. I just finished a rushed job search to avoid an expected layoff situation. I got a new job before that happened but struggled to adjust to everything about it. All of my daily routines were thwarted for months, and I was still struggling to create new ones. Johnny couldn't have shown up at a better time to cheer me up over Veteran's Day weekend!

"I do remember reading Agatha Christie books as a kid and loving them," Johnny Depp says. "The detail with which she approaches her books and these characters and her observations is astonishing."

I've never read any Agatha Christie books, but I know Detective Hercule Poirot is a beloved recurring character in many of them. When I saw the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express years ago, I didn't understand the appeal of this goofy detective with his ridiculous mustache, over-the-top quirks and accent, and odd behavior. He doesn't fit in with any of the people around him, but maybe that's the point: he views the world differently, and that makes him the world's greatest detective. I think he's starting to grow on me. I rewatched the 1974 version recently and liked it better, but I also fell asleep. In any case, in this updated version, I was more interested in Johnny's character, Edward Ratchett. 

Per my usual weekend routine, I stayed up too late Friday night and got up too early Saturday morning to walk over to yoga class. I walked home to drop off my yoga mat, change my clothes, and eat a quick breakfast.  Then, I walked quickly to get to the theater. I had 5 minutes to spare until the next showing, and only one seat was available – in the front row. I considered this fate, took it, and got popcorn. 

About 30 seconds into the movie, an alarm went off in the theater, telling everyone to evacuate the building. We stood outside in the cold November sunshine, eating our warm popcorn until we were let back in without any explanation. When we got back in our seats, the movie resumed where it had left off – but with only the sound working and not the picture. By then, I reacted with a huff that made the person sitting next to me laugh. (I was thinking that this whole experience represented the highs and lows of my employment adventure.) A staff member came in to tell us that the movie would start over in a few minutes. By then, my popcorn was half gone.

The last time I saw Johnny at the movies was in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. In that movie, Captain Jack first appears more drunk than usual, and it made me sad because I immediately and irrationally thought of all the gossip I'd been reading about Johnny's real-life personal problems, and I wondered how he was really doing. This time, when Johnny showed up as Edward Rachett, a mobster arriving to board the Orient Express, hearts were shooting out of my eyeballs. He looked like a movie star! The look made me think of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca! This role reminded me of Johnny's fantastic turn in Public Enemies. I loved the scars on his face. I loved the accent. I loved the clothes. I loved everything!!!

But I fell asleep – right at the end when they reveal the murderer!

Let's see this movie again. 
Netflix sent me Murder on the Orient Express as soon as it was released on DVD. This time, I had no trouble staying awake, and I loved it for many reasons. 
  • I was thrilled when I heard Johnny was involved with this project because it was to be directed by and star Kenneth Branagh. I couldn't wait to see them act together. They only have one scene, but I'll take it. Shooting the scene resulted in several versions full of improvised moments. "I wanted him in awe," Kenneth Branagh says. "For me, it was a master class to be had as an actor and director – watching actors of tremendous technical accomplishment, clear charisma, and fine talent. To have somebody of Johnny's stature come in and so generously play this darker character, and see him enjoying playing it. And, across a day and a half of improvisation, to really feel his freedom in front of the camera was quite intoxicating to watch and to play with. There was nothing you could do improvising that would throw him." 
  • My favorite part of this movie isn't even fully in it. On the DVD, however, you can find the extended scene, during which all of the characters are introduced and board the train. It's one continuous shot that follows Hercule Poirot from the bazaar across the street, to the train station, to the ticket agent, onto the train, and down its slim corridor, where he meets various passengers on the way to his bunk. I loved how it was choreographed. Well done, director!
  • I was excited to hear about all the other great people who signed on for this movie: Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, and Willem Dafoe had all worked with Johnny before, and I liked the idea of this reunion. Also, hearing that Derek Jacobi was in the cast made me nearly as excited as Kenneth Branagh. Everyone is fantastic, and all of these interesting characters have full backstories. The film feels like a play with this ensemble cast confined to the space of the train. Everyone seemed to work well together, and no one stole the spotlight. By all accounts, this was a happy set and it shows – except during the murder scene.
The kitties did it. 
I couldn't decide on one scene to highlight from this film, so this illustration is a compilation. I loved when Edward Rachett (Johnny Depp/Gordon) opened some mirrored cabinets and stared at himself for a few seconds. I imagined he was reflecting on whatever he'd done, and I liked seeing all the angles. The threatening letter is revealed in a different scene. Also, I wanted to include a few of my other favorite people, so here Edward Masterman (Derek Jacobi/Comet) brings Mr. Rachett his coffee while Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh/B.J.) and Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer/The Mother Kitty) lurk outside his doorway.

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film 54. Murder on the Orient Express (2017) [May 6, 2018]

Johnny's also busy rocking! 
These days, you can catch Johnny on tour with his band, Hollywood Vampires. I saw online that – obviously for me – he's singing David Bowie's "Heroes" during the shows! (You heard me right: he's singing it, up front!) Check out the tour schedule for a venue near you. 

What's next? 
In March, Johnny was in theaters lending his voice to Sherlock Gnomes, a cute sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet. The DVD will be out soon, so the kitties and I will get to work. 

Image credits: Johnny Depp photo ©  John Phillips/Getty Images; all film images © 20th Century Fox; illustration © Melissa Connolly

Tuesday, June 05, 2018


The Kitties are good with numbers.

Five (February2018)
(Illustration Friday: January 19, 2018)