Apr 30, 2009

Here's to all of the brave horses!

Champions
1984

The thing that most astonishes me about this movie is that Kirstie Alley is involved. Seriously, the second her name appeared on the screen I had to blink and reconsider what I was about to watch.

So, if you're English or into steeplechasing in general, you might know about Bob Champion and/or Aldaniti. Since I am not English or all that much into steeplechasing, I don't know either. But then this movie came out when I was three, so whatever. Anyway, Bob Champion was a big amazing steeplechase jockey and Aldaniti was a big amazing steeplechaser. Right at the high point of his career, Bob is struck down with cancer. About three quarters of this movie is about Bob and cancer, so if you're squeamish you can just skim right through that. There's lots of groaning and and sweating and needles and dry heaving...but do not worry! Bob gets over it and moves into the last quarter of the movie, which is the fun part.

While he's trying to get back into shape, Aldaniti suffers what is considered a career ending injury himself. Only he miraculously recovers just in time to act as Bob's personal motivation. Bob and Aldaniti get better, find themselves in the Grand National, and this is a true story so you can guess the ending.

  • At the beginning of the movie, Bob shows up in some Southern state in the U.S., where, as we've been shown previously, women are insatiable nymphomaniacs. He finds Kirstie Alley, a large animal vet who has one purpose: sleep with Bob so she can get a look at his testicles and inform him that he should probably get that swollen area checked out.
  • Bob and Kirstie's deep connection amounts to: 1) Kirstie is massaging this horse, 2) Bob would like to be massaged, 3) Kirstie rolls her eyes, 4) inexplicably, Kirstie and Bob have sex and Bob gets his massage, 5) Kirstie says she feels safe with Bob because he's leaving, 6) Kirstie: When did that horse kick you? Bob: Three months ago in Stratford. Kirstie: Shakespeare! 7) Kirstie: You need to get that checked, like, now. 8) Two years later, Kirstie has been pining for Bob and he rejects her for Jo. Sorry, Kirstie. Southern girls are only around for cheap sex, not lasting relationships.
  • Speaking of Jo, just who does she think she is? Bob needs help, you guys. He's not as strong as he used to be, and really needs love and support and a spotter when he works out. Jo, being the selfish girl she is, has elected to better herself while he's been away in America rejecting Kirstie, and decides to take business classes. Bob is suitably unimpressed. She should, like, totally not do that because it's a waste of time and money when she could be spotting him when he works out!
  • During his cancer, Bob is taking a break at his sister's and watching his niece jump her pony. Little niece asks him what he thinks and he tells her the pony is leaving her behind and she's all "That isn't polite, is it?! Tell me I'm good!" Bob sticks to his principles, but I think this girl is a Cindy character waiting to happen.
  • Aldaniti plays himself in this movie, which I find extremely impressive.
  • I watched this on an HD television that makes horse racing look like the most impressive sport that ever existed, so maybe it's just the television that made me sit in awe of the Grand National scene, but that race was intense. At one point, the whole scene goes into slow motion and these horses are literally flying across the screen. Everyone says Seabiscuit somehow revolutionized how horse racing is filmed, but I'm pretty sure this movie makes Seabiscuit look tame.
  • At the same time, if you'd rather not watch lots of horses and jockeys falling, this movie may not be for you. Also, if you don't like small children yelling "yay!" this movie might not be for you.

Well, I liked the end of it. The first half was easily not entertaining. For those interested in watching it, but not interested in putting forth effort to get it, it's on YouTube. Here's the Grand National scene (although not as awesome, because it's been reformatted).

Apr 26, 2009

Pretty Woman isn't that entertaining, okay?

Wildfire
2.11: Who Are You

I'm glad to see everyone is falling back into their former roles in this episode. Brad is wealthy, Mike is insecure yet somehow attractive to older women, Ashleigh will do anything for Wonder, Ian is cheap and far too dramatic, Dani is manipulative, Jean wears pants that are too tight, and Ashleigh makes poor relationship choices.

Brad and Dani are holding the annual Townsend charity event, because to not hold the charity event would appear weak. All of the most fabulous will be there, dancing the foxtrot and such things, and because the Breeders' Invitational is an invitational in the truest sense of the word, Chad decides that Ashleigh should go and sweet talk Samantha McLean into casting her super shiny vote for Wonder instead of, say, Her Majesty. But Ashleigh does not know how to foxtrot! Nor does she know how to eat dessert when in the presence of rich people! And she wears tank tops over long sleeved tops! Clearly this means we need to reenact Pretty Woman. And we do. Oh...we do. If I knew how to vid, I would take this scene...

Chad: Don't slouch. Good posture shows confidence.
Ashleigh: I'm not slouching.
Chad: Yes. You are.

... and loop it over and over, because it's hilarious. Anyway, Chad informs Ashleigh of the "outside in" rule, and Ashleigh does her very best Julia Roberts impression. And then he buys her a spiffy dress and teaches her how to dance. Seriously, this went on way too long, and I really hated Chad by the end of it.

Meanwhile, Dani is going through a similar situation with Brad, only it is more along the lines of: "distract Samantha with your charming ways and get her vote for Her Majesty." And Brad rolls his eyes.

At the party, everyone foxtrots to...maybe Swan Lake? (And is it weird that I only know Swan Lake from this cartoon that I cannot believe I have memorized for some reason?) Ashleigh gets there and everyone is staring at her because she looks awesome in red and she's there with Mike as a pity date because no one his age likes him. Brad stares longingly at her before being distracted by some blond girl I will call Melinda. (Also, is it weird that all of his brief flings are blond? Why does this show always fall perfectly in sync with Thoroughbred? Why?) Melinda is in a female band called The Victims, and she's a little torn about this, but not enough, and Brad doesn't care, just for the record.

Eventually Ashleigh runs into Samantha in the bathroom, but she doesn't realize it's Samantha and predictably blurts out that she's supposed to kiss Samantha's ass for the benefit of her horse. Samantha says nothing, just complains about her ex-boyfriend. *coughforeshadowingcough* And then Samantha, for reasons I cannot begin to explain, falls in love with Mike despite this fantastic line that he blurts out upon her asking him to dance:

"Me? Uh, I um, I'm broke, I live with my mother, and my dad's a con man."

Thank you, Mike. Thank you.

And Ian knows how to tango? And maybe how to swing dance? And he actually cracked a smile? And no one almost died as a result?

So, as it turns out Samantha was dating Chad, who broke up with her via voicemail. Samantha rejects Brad in favor of Mike (which means she also makes poor relationship decisions), but it means Brad and Ashleigh get to dance together and have fun and are oozing awesomeness all over the place, which Chad immediately picks up on because he sucks and can't allow that much awesomeness to exist on a fundamental level, so he cuts in and everything takes a nosedive shortly after.

Melinda rejects Brad because he is "land wealthy, money poor," the charity becomes a rush of creditors, Ashleigh doesn't get Samantha's vote because everyone walks in on Ashleigh making out with Chad, who is...an awful human being who breaks up with people on voicemail! How dare he!

So Samantha goes with Her Majesty and Ashleigh is left to rue the day she ever decided to pay attention to the .o1% of her that is attracted to Chad.

Apr 23, 2009

I am going to be so busy this year...

Lots of stuff to look forward to, guys! Take a look:

  • Fans of Alison Hart's Shadow Horse can rest easy -- a sequel, entitled Whirlwind, is in the works and scheduled for release next year.
  • Chris Platt also has a new book -- Storm Chaser -- set for release on October 1. No summary yet, but by the looks of the cover I wouldn't be surprised if this is somehow related to Moon Shadow.









  • Bug Boy by Eric Luper: It is the summer of 1934, and even at the height of the Great Depression, money is no object for the socialites at posh Saratoga Race Course. The trouble is times are tough for everyone else, especially penniless track workers like fifteenyear- old Jack Walsh. When Jack suddenly graduates from exercise rider to apprentice jockey, or bug boy, he is an overnight sensation. Success brings him all sorts of attention, including that of a brainy blond beauty who is more involved with the gritty underbelly of the track than she lets on and a vicious thug who presses Jack to break his code as a jockey for a payoff that could solve all his family’s problems. Set amid the rough backstretch of Thoroughbred racing, this edge-of-your-saddle read follows the course of a young athlete whose rise to glory in the most popular sport in America is accompanied by ever-increasing pressure to do something that could leave him trampled in the dirt. (July 21)
  • Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff: Lidie lives in Jales, Brazil, where she’s free to ride, to be a wild girl, and to dream of going to live with her father and older brother, Rafael, in New York City. Finally Lidie is 12—time to leave Brazil for New York. Meanwhile, a filly is born and begins her journey to a new home. As Lidie’s story unfolds, so does the filly’s. Lidie’s father runs a stable at a famous race track, and Rafael is training to be a jockey. As much as they want to make Lidie feel welcome, they still think of her as the little girl they left behind. They don’t even know what a strong rider she is, and that she’s determined to befriend and ride the wild filly her father has just bought: Wild Girl. (September 2009)
  • The Silver Brumby Series by Elyne Mitchell finally arrives as what looks like a giant omnibus in June. I have a feeling this will be an audio book.
  • Homestretch by Paul Volponi: A runaway boy with nothing finds everything he needs, including a family, in the most unlikely of places--at a racetrack. (September 22)
  • The Golden Filly by Lauraine Snelling is being republished as two collections. (Oct. 1)
  • The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley: Jane Smiley makes her debut for young readers in this stirring novel set on a California horse ranch in the 1960s. Seventh-grader Abby Lovitt has always been more at ease with horses than with people. Her father insists they call all the mares “Jewel” and all the geldings “George” and warns Abby not to get attached: the horses are there to be sold. But with all the stress at school (the Big Four have turned against Abby and her friends) and home (her brother Danny is gone—for good, it seems—and now Daddy won’t speak his name), Abby seeks refuge with the Georges and the Jewels. But there’s one gelding on her family’s farm that gives her no end of trouble: the horse who won’t meet her gaze, the horse who bucks her right off every chance he gets, the horse her father makes her ride and train, every day. She calls him the Ornery George. (September 8)

Apr 20, 2009

Wildfire: It's a question of moral relativism. Really!

Wildfire
2.10: 51/49

This is the famous airing of grievances while stuck in a barn episode. Well, they actually stay in the barn by choice, and mainly because Ashleigh refuses to leave Wonder's side despite what I believe is a healthy nonchalance on Wonder's part.

Everyone is having trouble sleeping lately since the accident, and Ashleigh is refusing to ride Wonder on pretenses that she believes the horse isn't ready to be ridden despite veterinary opinion to the contrary. Chad sticks up for Ashleigh, while Ian breaks out his dramatic "this is the rest of her life!" chat that no one really listens to. In order to get the horse some exercise, Ian makes Ashleigh and Mike jog on foot next to Wonder, and they jog all the way to Townsend Acres. Wonder tosses a shoe, so she's stall bound at Townsend Acres until Ian can get there with a trailer...which doesn't happen because a storm pops up and washes out every road in California.

So Ashleigh decides she can't leave Wonder's side, and everyone else decides they can't leave Ashleigh's side, and they sleep in the stable while the storm rages on. At one point, this episode could have degenerated into an ax murderer plotline, but it thankfully sticks to the airing of grievances instead. Dani buted Panther, really! No, she really didn't! Dani hides the fact that Clay was actually the one who buted Panther, allowing everyone to think that she's really that awful as a person before the collective freaking out exhausts everyone. In the early hours of morning, Chad shows up so he can be disturbed by the image of Brad and Ashleigh cuddling in their sleep. It appears that his minor romantic interest is easily threatened.

Meanwhile, Clay has scurried off due to some FBI investigation into his finances. The FedEx guy shows up, remarkably undetered by the "washed out" roads, in order to hand over an intimidating packet of papers from Clay's lawyers. The news is hilarious, at least for Brad: Clay has handed over complete interest in the house and the farm to his children. Only he has given Brad 51% and Dani a mere 49%, pitting them against each other in some spoiled rich kid death match. Only Brad is too busy being amused to care, and Dani is too busy spouting out all her dirty secrets on her father as revenge. Clay buted Panther! Ah, all that dirty laundry is aired. We can all move on, because Ashleigh is flying a plane, and I guess that was an important step in her relationship with Chad, for it taught her to get back on Wonder and stop complaining already.

Upon arriving at Townsend Acres, Ian is there and he has conveniently "forgotten" the trailer. Ashleigh will have to ride Wonder home bareback! Brilliant idea, Ian. I love your forethought.

Anyway, Brad is rich again, someone mentions an actual race that actually exists (the Clark Handicap!), and then Mike and Dani break up beacuse she speechifies how unimportant she thinks she is to Mike (not to mention he kind of always thought she buted her own horse...that's trust for you). Then Clay appears in handcuffs so he can explain that he is being arrested for "a bad real estate deal" and the kids should "take care of each other" despite that whole previous discussion about how he was pitting them against each other. Declarations of love and crying happens, and then Ashleigh gallops home on Wonder in slow motion, because who doesn't like horses galloping in slow motion?

Okay, I continue to really love this show. The Chad/Ashleigh relationship...not so much. As a couple, they're about as interesting as staring at a bowl of fruit for long periods of time.

Also? I'm back from England, sort of recovered from the cold I brought back with me from England, and am feeling a bit more inclined toward blogging. I've got some obscure horse books waiting in the wings, as well as the incredible urge to delve back into Thoroughbred and Pine Hollow. So, you can go ahead and anticipate some more activity around here.

Apr 4, 2009

mara's scheduled departure

I am headed off to London for the next week, and in that time I do not intend to read or watch anything that might have anything to do with horses. (I might ride a horse in London, but that's another story.) So the Whitebrook Farm blog might be a bit dark for the next several days. Do not fear! I'll be back mid-April, and the madness will resume at some fairly consistent basis.

Cheers!

Apr 2, 2009

Wildfire: I do not understand why I like this season so much.

Wildfire
2.9: Breakdown

So, how wrong do you think this episode can get? All sorts of potentially awful things could happen in an episode titled "Breakdown," but first let's focus on the best thing first: Gary Stevens getting advice from Ashleigh!

Yes, really. Because Ashleigh is riding Townsend Panther against Wonder in this upcoming race, Whitebrook has enlisted the super powers of jockey Gary Stevens, only he is called Augie and he is somehow not as great as suddenly hot jockey Ashleigh (I don't understand how she's considered "hot" but I guess this is probable because she's only raced in stakes, which in itself is implausible). Because Wonder is annoying, she is not going as well under Augie as she does under Ashleigh, but Ian thinks this is a good thing (Wonder should get used to the rigors of the real world!) while Jean acts surly about Ashleigh picking Dani's horse over Wonder. Ashleigh, naturally, has said nothing about why she's riding Panther in the first place.

Moving on to the Panther/Dani/Mike dynamic, Panther has a stone bruise! Mike is considering scratching, but Dani insists that she still wants to run, so Mike works up some horse healing magic and Panther is okay to race all of a sudden. Mike still looks sick about it, and naturally he doesn't tell Ashleigh about his doubts.

Now to Brad, who is now in serious financial distress. He's got bills and an eviction notice to handle, so how lucky it is for him to have Bobby show up out of nowhere, eager to right his past wrongs and be friends again. Brad immediately launches this bet on the race at Bobby, telling him he'll use his club as collateral. Brad will bet on Panther and Ashleigh, Bobby on Wonder and Gary Stevens (clearly the better bet, but then we the viewers have inside knowledge and LOGIC on our side). Bobby acts hurt and says he just wanted to go get a beer. Man, Brad, why did you have to hurt the bookie's feelings like that? Well, Bobby eventually takes the bet anyway, and now to the race!

New silks for everyone! Whitebrook is now in pale purple, and Townsend Acres is in yellow. So, I realize that they probably just scroll through race footage and snag what race they want to use, changing silks up accordingly, but this is annoying me. The race plays out as expected: Ashleigh and Panther eat dirt. Wonder tears a chunk out of her hoof, has to leap over Ashleigh, and maybe comes in second or something. In any event, the race footage they used shows both horses losing by a massive margin anyway. Wonder will be okay, but Panther has broken his canon bone.

Dani immediately blames Ashleigh, Ashleigh and Mike blame themselves, then everyone has an awkward moment with Bobby as he comes to claim his club and tries to be super nice, but sort of awesomely fails. ("I didn't want to shoot you, Mike! I was in a really bad place at the time!")

So there's an inquiry, and Ashleigh is called in to "testify" about the race. She is told that if she is held accountable for the breakdown, she will have her license "revoked" for maybe a year. I laughed out loud at this. I think the only way a jockey can get their license revoked is if they blatantly fix a race or decide they'd like to get smashed before the race and then cause a massive wreck. Amusingly, they actually go to what looks like a courtroom and Ashleigh has a fit in front of the panel of whoevers, indicating that she's a horse story main character! She and Wonder have gone through so much and she was worried something was wrong with her and why can't they understand her turmoil? Maybe it was totally her fault because she looked back! (Note: in the race, she's too busy falling to look back.) She is sure her license will be revoked, but it isn't. She still feels guilty, but she shouldn't. Mike tells her so, because he knows the truth! Panther was drugged!

I guess you can have slight levels of bute in a horse's system depending on what state you're racing in, and Panther had a legal amount of bute in his. Mike is shocked by this development and rushes to Dani so he can quit in an outrage. Dani becomes suitably angry about this, because like hell she gave Panther the bute. So she goes to Clay, accuses him, and he says, "Ha ha! You're right!" But he's too busy getting drunk, avoiding phone calls, and muttering about his potentially serious financial problems to care much about Panther. Dani will just have to care by herself!

Then Brad's car is impounded, he is also evicted, so he walks to Whitebrook and sleeps with Ashleigh in Wonder's stall. On separate cots, which totally disappointed me. They spend the night pretending to sleep and taking turns staring at each other through Wonder's legs.

So I liked this episode. I have liked mostly all of the season two episodes so far. Although I could really do without the Ashleigh/Chad romance, because it's not interesting and clearly a ploy to make Brad jealous and emo. It is not pleasing.