Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

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The Dark Is All Around Us: The Film Classic, The Lion in Winter

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Christmas, and all the family is gathered together for the holidays. There’s a massive tree, lots of presents, spiced wine, feasting, and rancor galore. All the past year’s resentments and disappointments come bubbling to the surface because Daddy — a great, roaring lion of a man — is getting older and needs to think of which of his sons will follow him as the leader of the pride. He’s made no secret of his favorite, and his choice displeases everyone else. Mommy has her favorite, you see, and is determined to see that her special boy gets to succeed.

As if that weren’t enough tension and conflict, there’s yet another son who can’t understand why nobody in the family ever thinks of him when they think of the next head of the family business. To make everyone more edgy, let’s toss in the leader of a rival family, who has his own agenda, which mostly involves making sure the lion of this family goes down hard. To complicate things even further and make everything even more dangerous, lets throw in some tapestries for hiding behind, as well as some sharp, shiny knives — metaphorical and literal ones — for everyone to use against everybody else.

Welcome to the Christmas court of England’s Henry II in 1183. Adapted from James Goldman’s Broadway play of the same name, the witty, brutal, and passionate holiday gathering in the Oscar-winning classic The Lion in Winter (1968) makes crime dramas like The Godfather seem downright tame.

Peter O’Toole as Henry II (right) and Katharine Hepburn as his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (left), The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

Henry II (Peter O’Toole) is 50 this Christmas, and he lets his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn) out of prison for the holidays. It seems Eleanor has led quite a few civil wars against Henry, over the succession no doubt, and Henry has to keep her imprisoned in order to feel safe. He’s letting Eleanor out this holiday season so they can plan, i.e., plot, who will become the next king.

Anthony Hopkins as Richard, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

Their first son, Henry, died, and while you might think that their next son, Richard (Anthony Hopkins, in his first starring role), should be the designated king, and Eleanor heartily approves of Richard as England’s next ruler, and not just because he’s her favorite. Richard, known later as Richard the Lionheart, is a great miliary leader and a proven warrior, and Queen Eleanor thinks that a necessary qualification for Henry’s successor, if only because France and England are still fighting over land.

(L-R) Nigel Terry as John, Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor, Anthony Hopkins as Richard, and John Castle as Geoffrey, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

Henry is the King of England but also the Lord of Ireland, Count of Anjou (similar to the English Duke of York, which would make Henry second in line to the French throne), and Duke of both Normandy and Aquitaine (in France, through his marriage to Eleanor), and Henry II doesn’t want Richard as the future king of England. Henry has other ideas for his presumptive heir.

John Castle as Geoffrey (L), and Nigel Terry as John, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

Henry wants his youngest son John (Nigel Terry) to succeed, not because he’d make a better king but simply because Henry loves John best.

Timothy Dalton as King Philip II of France (L), John Castle as Geoffrey (center), and Nigel Terry as John, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

None of this squabbling over Richard vs. John sits too well with brother Geoffrey (John Castle), who can’t understand why both Henry and Eleanor think their middle son would make a wonderful chancellor to the next king but never seem to think of Geoff as King Geoffrey, so he begins to plot against his father with both Richard and John as well as with one of Henry’s allies.

Jane Merrow as Alais, and Peter O’Toole as Henry II, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

Young Princess Alais (Jane Merrow), who’s betrothed to marry the future King of England, doesn’t want any of Henry’s sons to be the future king. As Henry’s lover and long-time mistress, she want’s no one but Henry as king.

Timothy Dalton as King Philip II of France, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

Alais’ brother, King Philip II of France (Timothy Dalton, in his film debut) wants the lovely Alais to be wed to the heir to the English throne right away. If that doesn’t happen during this Christmas visit, Philip wants his sister’s dowry back. Since Alais’ dowry is land in France, which both England and France claim at the time, Henry certainly doesn’t want to give back the dowry. Philip already knows this, so he’s plotting with Richard, Geoffrey, and John, and Philip is planning war with Henry, no matter whom he chooses as his successor.

Peter O’Toole as Henry II (L), and Timothy Dalton as King Philip II of France, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

Henry’s fighting with his wife and all three of his sons, not only about who will be the next king, but who will get to marry Princess Alais. Henry doesn’t really want to give us Alais either: he’s madly in love with her.

Peter O’Toole as Henry II, and Jane Merrow as Alais (foreground), and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

And Eleanor, despite inciting rebellion against her husband and king, still madly loves Henry herself, and she’s well aware that Alais just happens to be young enough to give Henry more sons.

The first 15-20 minutes of the film are a bit slow, probably because everyone was trying a little too hard to say, “Look: we’re making a film, not jusstage playplay,” and while we get to see some outdoor shots where we meet the members of the family, none of these initial scenes really adds to the forward movement of the story. Once everyone is gathered together, however, it becomes obvious why this film is a classic.

from L to R: Timothy Dalton, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins, Katharine Hepburn, John Castle, and (sitting in foreground, L to R) Nigel Terry, and Jane Merrow, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

The script is magnificent, the characters brutally fascinating, and the acting superb: O’Toole most definitely should have won an Oscar for his role as the anxious, angry, roaring Lion who feels his own winter coming on far too quickly and who is willing to do almost anything to prevent the destruction of his kingdom.

Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Peter O’Toole as Henry II of England, The Lion in Winter (1968) ©

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Actor (O’Toole) and Best Costume Design (Margaret Furse), the film won three: Best Actress (Hepburn), Best Adapted Screenplay (James Goldman), and Best Music Score (John Barry). Lion in Winter also won BAFTAs for Hepburn and composer Barry, and won Golden Globes in Best Picture, and Best Actor for Peter O’Toole as the fiery Henry II.

Available for rent ($1.99-3.99) or purchase from Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, GooglePlay, and Vudu.

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Filed under Actors, Classic Films, Film Videos, Films, Films/Movies, Historical Drama, History, Official Film Trailers, Official Movie Trailers, Official Trailers, Review, Review/No Spoilers

M C Escher

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SadieDoggie’s Yummy Peanut Butter Bars, for the Whole Family

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As many of you know, we live on a mountain, literally, and the yard slopes seriously downward, from the porch onward, in fact, leaving the front edge of the porch about 5 feet off the ground, on stilts. Several years ago, our doggie Sadie dove off the porch to chase a rabbit and severely injured her left front leg. Periodically, she re-injures the same elbow joint and has to take some Doggie-anti-inflammatory medication till the swelling goes down and she stops limping.

A couple months ago, she began limping again, but this time, her elbow was also hugely swollen and red. She had hurt the joint again, and somehow it got infected. Though we’ve mastered getting the relatively innocuous pain medicine into her, hidden in cheese or deli meat, it’s dreadfully difficult to get her to take the antibiotics. For one thing, she had to take 4 large pills a day, and they must taste — and smell — awful. If she can smell them, she refuses to take them. Now, add the fact that the antibiotics make her so nauseous that she vomits, and… well, you can see why she doesn’t like those big red pills. Now she even hates the word “pills,” along with “medicine” and “doctor.”

Last week, SadieDoggie injured her elbow again, so we started the pain medication. By Friday, however, her elbow was swollen and red, so we had to get another round of antibiotics. This time, she’s not having anything to do with those nasty antibiotics, and not just because the pills are big enough for a horse. She’s just decided that nothing will induce her to take them, not cheese, deli meat, tuna salad, salmon patties, fried noodles, bread-and-butter, grilled cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. So Mommy had to try some new recipe to trick… I mean, “coax” her into taking her medicine.

Of course, Sadie is a clever doggie, being part border collie, terrier, and hound: she’s got an incredible vocabulary, knows how to spell, knows where we keep her pills, and is simply refusing anything that we’re not eating ourselves. Mommy and Daddy decided to sacrifice themselves for Sadie’s welfare, and try a new recipe: Peanut Butter Bars.

Suffice it to say that we’ve gone through half the pan already, to make sure they were the right kind of treat. They have to be soft enough to put hide a pill but tasty enough to hide the pill’s smell. It’s preferable for Sadie to just swallow any of her pills whole, and since the antibiotics are capsules, we can’t break them in half for her. Since she adores peanut butter more than practically anything, I was looking for a peanut butter cookie recipe.

I found, instead, a recipe for peanut butter bars, which I adjusted according to the ingredients I had at home, and voilà: a crispy on the edges but chewy in the center peanut butter bar that is absolutely delicious. She has gobbled down all of today’s pills in just a couple hours. Mommy and Daddy have eaten the rest already.

SadieDoggie’s Peanut Butter Bars

½ C butter, cubed
½ C smooth peanut butter
1.5 C dark brown sugar
1 C flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla

Stir together the flour and brown sugar in a bowl, breaking up any chunks of brown sugar, and set aside.

Break 2 eggs into blender, add vanilla, and blend well. Set aside.

Lightly butter a 9×13″ baking pan and preheat the oven to 350º F.

Put butter and peanut butter in a large bowl. Put in microwave for 1-1.5 minutes, until butter is melted and you can stir the two ingredients into a smooth mixture.

After the butter is melted into the peanut butter, stir until the two are well combined. Slowly add the sugar-flour mixture, about ½ C at a time, and stir well after each addition. Continue until you have blended all the dry ingredients into the peanut butter and butter mixture. You don’t need a mixer: this is quite manageable by hand.

Pour in the blended eggs and vanilla. Stir gently until the everything is combined well.

Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. The edges should be nicely browned and beginning to pull away from the pan. This is the crispy part. The center will be moist and chewy.

Cut into bars when warm.

If you’re trying to get pills into any of the pieces, I suggest breaking the bar into bite-sized pieces, slipping in the pill, and wrapping the chewy bar around it. Doggies who love peanut butter will no doubt have the same reaction as our Sadie and gobble the entire cookie-bar in a couple bites, pills notwithstanding.

I suppose you could store the peanut butter bars in an air-tight container, but I’m not sure how long they would last since ours didn’t make it to any container. Daddy and Mommy felt morally oblgated to ensure the bars were tasty enough for SadieDoggie, and she wolfed down quite a few taking her medicine.

The pain pills are already working, and she’s bouncing around the house in joy, asking for more “cookies,” which are baking in the oven as I write this.

SadieDoggie’s Peanut Butter Bars are Doggie-Tested, and MommyAndDaddy-Approved!


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