This is not, in fact, a picture of Preacher Beege-- as far as I know, she is not a pale wooden pew, and if she is, she's the most fun pale wooden pew I've ever posted a picture of. If there is a picture of herself somewhere amongst the many posts on her very personal, entertaining and occasionally moving blog, I am unaware of it. So the pew, from her blogger profile, will have to do...
I cannot remember with certainty how I stumbled across the eponymous blog Preacher Beege-- probably some random search, the blogging equivalent of channel surfing, in a moment of late night exhaustion or boredom. Beege, 30-ish, if I remember correcty, is a Lutheran minister who lived in Kansas when I started reading her blog, and who has since moved with her husband to Minnesota, where she is currently looking for a new church and at the same time enjoying not having one, all the better to dote on her no-longer newborn daughter, Linnea, fast approaching two years old.
After a short time, I began reading her often funny, and just as often cheerfully (and unexpectedly) profane, observations on life, motherhood, God and other obsessions with increasing interest-- this was the first personal diary-oriented blog I'd ever attempted to follow with regularity, and the experience was strangely like getting to know a character in a book or a sharply written screenplay. Only this character was a living, breathing human being. It was a public blog I was reading, but even so I was still peeking into someone's personal thoughts, and after a while it all started to feel, well, a little weird.
Then one day I checked in on Beege and found out she and her husband and daughter had just returned from a vacation in the Pacific Northwest. She even posted pictures from her time there, including a gorgeous shot of Cape Foulweather on the Oregon Coast, which served to make me wish intensely that I could be there and also gave me a good excuse to finally drop a comment and go from lurker to emerging cyber-friend.
It's hard to say how much Beege and I would have in common as friends in the three-dimensional world, but she's a terrific blog-pal-- full of spunk, unexpected perspectives, willingness to participate in the crazy questionnaires and other flotsam and jetsam (including Professor Wagstaff's little quiz) that are so much a part of the blogging universe, and most of all the refreshing enthusiasm of a young wife and mother who can't trumpet the loves of her life loudly enough-- I really like her generally exuberant attitude, as well as her willingness to let her readers in on darker emotions that a young woman, not to mention a young minister, might often try to disguise from public view.
She and I have traded comments on each other's blogs for several months now, but recently she gave me props in a recent post and used the occasion to ruminate on her three favorite films "in the spirit of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule." Well, in my eye, she did pretty well expressing her enthusiasm for three movies that probably aren't on too many cinephiles' top 100 lists, and in the process she honored my blog site and showed that its spirit is indeed a pretty easily accessible one. She had a much easier time, I'm sure, writing in the spirit of my site than I would have writing in the spirit of hers, even though some of my entries are fairly personal in the mode most familiar to her.
Since Beege's blog is better left daily appreciated than emulated, I thought I'd return the compliment in a more routine way-- throwing the spotlight on what she does so engagingly, tipping my hat to her as a way of saying thanks for being a friendly member of the small community of readers on this blog, and swapping top three movie titles with her. It seems to me Beege's choice of titles-- Happy, Texas, Beautiful Girls and Mystery, Alaska-- reveal a tendency to gravitate toward movies featuring depictions of extreme weather and a very specific sense of community. I have seen Beautiful Girls and found it intermittently entertaining, with a terrific performance by a young Natalie Portman, but ultimately a little too tidy and a touch creepy. I have not seen the other two-- I like Steve Zahn and Jeremy Northam, so Happy, Texas has a leg up, but I will say I'm fonder of Alaskan weather than the whole Northern Exposure sensibility that radiates from the trailer for Mystery, Alaska, which I have seen.
So, here's my proposal, Beege. I'll rent Happy, Texas and Mystery, Alaska and watch 'em both, if you'll do the same with any or all of the three titles which have made recent surges into my personal top 10 that you haven't already seen. Assuming that you're at least considering the swap, here are the three titles:
1) Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) Sergio Leone's gorgeous, mournful and iconic masterpiece is a thrilling summing-up of an entire genre-- the American Western. In addition to the cast-against-type (and therefore most effectively cast) Henry Fonda as the movie's blue-eyed homicidal villain, Claudia Cardinale (never more beautiful or strong, and an anomaly in Leone's filmography--a central female character) and Charles Bronson as the harmonica-playing man with a secret, the movie boasts one brilliant set piece after another and, arguably, Ennio Morricone's finest work as a film composer. What can't be argued, it seems to me, is the status of the first ten minutes of Once Upon a Time in the West, including the presentation of the main titles, as the greatest opening sequence in a movie ever. When I get around to revisiting my top films of all time list, it seems likely that this movie has a good shot at displacing Nashville, which has been my number-one for about 20 years, at the top of the heap.
2) The Lady Eve (1941) One of those truly great movies that makes you realize that not only do they not make them like this anymore, "they" couldn't make another movie like this one even "they" wanted to. Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck star in Preston Sturges' virtually perfect screwball comedy-- Stanwyck's con artist sets upon bookish snake specialist Fonda as an easy mark and ends up literally falling for him, and he does a few hilarious pratfalls as well in the process of inadvertently upending her preconceptions about the boundaries of sexual attraction. Riotously funny, flawlessly scripted and executed, this is exhibit "A" in the case for Sturges as the premier writer and director of American film comedy.
3) Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) Dennis Price is Duke Louis Mazzini, denied official membership in the family D'Ascoyne when his mother dares to marry outside of their societal circles for love, not money or position. The duke retaliates by deciding to off all eight D'Ascoynes (each man, and woman, played by Sir Alec Guinness) that stand in the way of his ascension to the head of the family. So begins the pinnacle achievement of the British comedies produced by the Ealing Studios, perhaps the pitch-blackest black comedy that has yet been made. By the time you get to the conclusion of this pitilessly hilarious film, you'll have been exposed to the black heart of evil resting, perversely enough, in the chest of the film's protagonist, the character with whose moral outrage and sense of entitlement you'd be intended, in a more conventional film, to empathize, or at the very least understand. This is a movie that has the courage of its convictions as it pulls the carpet out from underneath your sympathies and never takes the easy way out, right up to its bracing, bitter and startling conclusion. And Guinness' distinctly oddball characterizations add up to much more than a casting stunt-- funny and compelling in and of themselves, they also pave the way for Peter Sellers' more celebrated multi-character work in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove...
There you have 'em. I'll go to Netflix right now and pony up for the two titles on your list, if you'll do the same with the three directly above. But movies or no, here's to you, Beege. Whatever it is you're feeding that little girl of yours, keep it up-- looks like she's turning out just fine! And good luck too on the job search, life in Minnesota, and finding out just what God has in store for you. If it's anything like the person I read regularly about on your blog, I suspect it's gonna be pretty good.