Popped my musical cherry with Nine

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Daniel Day-Lewis, NineI actually saw this movie over a week ago, but I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. I meant to talk about this though. It was the first musical I ever really sat through, so this is a momentous occasion! I did see some of Phantom of the Opera and it was great but I didn’t finish it. Therefore, it doesn’t count as the first. Well, I did see Moulin Rouge, but I don’t really count that as a musical for some reason.

Seeing Nine was part of my quest to catch up on the Daniel Day-Lewis movies I haven’t seen yet. I was supposed to see it opening weekend in the theater like I usually do with his movies since The Last of the Mohicans (let’s all pause and think fondly upon Hawkeye) but I was very, very sick during the holidays of 2009. My mother and uncles went without me. I still haven’t forgiven them. After that, I just never got around to seeing it until now. Nine was Daniel’s last movie before making Lincoln. So he went from Guido Contini to Abraham Lincoln in three years.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, Nine is a musical about an Italian film director (Guido) who is basically on a downward spiral into an emotional and mental breakdown. He used to be revolutionary, highly praised, and is something of a legend, but he is facing writers block and dealing with juggling a wife and as many mistresses as he can handle. As it turns out, he’s not the young man he used to be, and he is starting to witness the breakdown of his wife as well as the breakdown of his primary mistress. He’s completely incapable of taking responsibility for anything, including the fact that he is making a movie that isn’t even written yet. As the story progresses, he is slowly losing everything, including his mind, and finally it all comes to ahead, making him finally understand the responsibility in himself for everything that has gone wrong. By the time he realizes exactly how much everything is his fault, it’s too late. He’s lost everything and has to rebuild his entire life from the ground up.

The film, to me, is really just about the deconstruction and reconstruction of a man. Misery is largely of our own creation and when we get down far enough, we can’t see that it’s our own fault anymore, so we blame everyone and everything around us. Those are the times when we have to be completely deconstructed and rebuilt as if beginning life all over again, shedding all of the material acquisitions, greed, and immoral behavior to be better people. Some people, like Guido, are so resistant to self-accountability that they have to be deconstructed to the point of being nothing more than a shell of a human before they can begin to rebuild.

As I remember, Nine got mixed reviews. A lot of people didn’t like it and I suppose I’m in no position of authority to say whether it’s good or bad because I’m not educated in musicals, but I personally liked it. I saw a lot of press about it beforehand and all of the actors were clearly nervous about not being professional singers and dancers (except Fergie) so that changed the way I watched it. Daniel said no matter how things went, he would always remember the amazing experience of making such a movie. He prefers string women and so he enjoyed working with all of those strong women in it. So maybe it doesn’t really matter if it was received by critics as disappointing because the actors clearly worked hard in a genre not their own and they enjoyed the experience.

As I said, I didn’t find the movie disappointing at all. I enjoyed it. Daniel has a tendency of playing roles that involve infidelity and having women he shouldn’t have, so that part of it wasn’t new to me. What was new was seeing him in clearly choreographed situations. That was a little foreign to him and you can see that on screen. The way he was trained as an actor was to approach every take as a new experience, so being restricted by choreography made his movements a little awkward at times.

His singing was better than I expected though and he clearly worked hard to find his singing voice. The director said he was very insecure about having to sing and was trying to find ways to quit at different times. Once he walked into Fergie rehearsing Be Italian and his response was, “Can I go home now?” Obviously he didn’t quit but I daresay this night have been his most terrifying role yet. I would be terrified to sing and dance in a musical. He did find a way to sort of speak his lyrics instead of fully singing them but I also think he was too hard on himself because his voice is not terrible at all. People just seem to balk at him doing a musical because we always see him doing heavy drama like Hawkeye or Bill the Butcher. It is hard to imagine Hawkeye singing his way through 1757 or Bill singing his way through 1863. So I think even if Nine was the best musical ever made, Daniel would never have been received well in that type of role because it’s so far removed from the way we’ve come to know him.

The clip has Russian subtitles. Sorry.

Speaking of the women in the movie, I know there was a big deal about Nicole Kidman being in it but I found her to be entirely forgettable. I couldn’t even give you the tune of the song she performed. There was absolutely no chemistry between Nicole and Daniel, in my opinion, so it was a blessing that her part was so small. Of all the women, I would say the strongest voices were Fergie, Kate Hudson, and Penelope Cruz. My favorite number of the whole movie was A Call to the Vatican. I have no idea why other than it’s fun and it got stuck in my head for a long time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Marion Cotillard was absolutely stunning. She blew me away. But then again, she always does. I see her the way I see actresses of the golden age of Hollywood. I have never been disappointed by any of her movies so far. Marion played Guido’s suffering wife in Nine and she got me to hate him through her eyes. Even when Daniel plays villains, I’m still all, “Yay Daniel!” but Marion enduring Guido and slowly breaking down made me feel her exhaustion, exasperation, and hateful love toward him. She wasn’t the best singer in the cast either but without Daniel and Marion, I don’t think the story would have worked on film. There has to be more to a musical than singing to work.

See the movie if you get the chance. In order to see it though, you have to be able to forget all of Daniel’s big dramatic work and take Nine for what it is. Otherwise you’re not going to see what he was trying to do as Guido. I enjoyed it and I think most people would too.

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Farewell, Janine

Posted by Jessica Jewett 1 Comment »

JanineEarlier this week, I lost a friend, Janine. This picture was of her on her last birthday in May.

She fought like a warrior for about two years through cholangiocarcinoma, which is basically cancerous growth in one of the ducts that carries bile from the liver to the small intestine. That’s the cold medical definition. The painful reality was far more graphic and horrifying, and I couldn’t possibly recount her battle with any justice. You must read Janine’s blog to see what she went through in her own words. Her last post was January 5, and not long after that, she was placed in hospice care. The last time I heard from her directly was February 4, my birthday. She was in hospice care and entirely too unwell to think about other people, but she thought about me, and I’m so thankful that our last words to each other were exchanges of love and support. I was able to tell her that I loved her before she died. That has been a great comfort to me.

I first came to know Janine about eighteen years ago. At that time, I was living in St. Louis, going to school, and just learning to use the internet. Happenstance brought me to a chat room for my favorite television show at the time, Dr. Quinn. Remember those early days of the internet when chat rooms were about meeting like-minded people instead of nasty places where dirty old men troll for underage girls and boys now? It was more innocent back then. I met Janine there, as well as many others, and all of us got together every Saturday night to talk about the show. Three of them – Janine, Jennifer, and Mariann – became lifelong friends for me. We were all writers in one way or another. We were all interested in history. We were all relatively close in age.

Janine and I were a bit closer over time though. We had a bond that lacked real explanation, nor did we ever try to explain it. A great number of trials and tribulations befell both of us as we grew into womanhood, as well as sharing innumerable secrets between women that will never again be uttered aloud. Despite the physical distance, Janine became one of my best friends. She was the first person I confided in about my past life case as Fanny Chamberlain, and when I eventually wrote a book about it, I made sure I included her in it. She never judged me when I felt completely insane by the whole thing. That was her way in any situation. She could be loud and opinionated when the passion of a thing overtook her, but there was a gentleness in her that made a person feel secure in enjoying full confidences. Now that I’m looking back on it, I can’t think of a single incident in which my confidence was broken. Until you’ve enjoyed the rarity of someone so incapable of petty gossip, I don’t think you could fully understand the value of it.

Janine and I cut our teeth in literature by sharing our writing with each other. We were both avid readers and writers, which was probably the biggest source of our bond. I probably wouldn’t have worked on improving my writing so much if I hadn’t had people like Janine, and a bit later, Martina, who were willing to be honest about what was good, bad, and ugly. Janine was a wonderful writer as well, although she never thought herself as anything much, and never (to my knowledge) tried to get herself published. Late last year, she asked me for advice about self-publishing, as publishing a book was on her bucket list, and I offered to help her through the process. She got sicker and sicker though. It never materialized. I hope one day, after the loss isn’t so raw, her family will find her stories and have them published. It was one of her dreams that never came to fruition.

A little more than ten years ago, I became engaged. I was the first one of us to take that plunge. That relationship became abusive in various forms that I don’t want to discuss now, but I didn’t see it until it was too late. Janine came to visit not long after we moved in together and she knew right away that things weren’t right. As is the case with so many women in abusive relationships, the face of denial becomes such a heavy mask that it will destroy every other relationship in her life. She and I hit the roughest patch of our relationship and I went on to have to smack rock bottom face first with a miscarriage, alcoholism, and pill addiction before I found the courage to leave. Janine and I were not on good terms during the years that I was with my ex but she never completely disappeared. She was there observing and was still there when others disappeared completely.


And while she visited, she gave me a rosary that she’d had blessed by a priest specifically for me, pictured above. I often hid the rosary under broken parts of my old jewelry box and managed to save it from being stolen as I lived like a nomad in the years after leaving my ex. I used that rosary when I went on paranormal investigations and had it in hospitals with me. It has traveled almost as much as I have and I don’t feel right without it if I leave for any trip, whether paranormal related, history related, or just pleasure. The last trip I took it with me was when I went to San Francisco with PRS for paranormal work at the USS Hornet and Alcatraz. Janine was always supportive of my work in the paranormal. For many years, she was one of the only people on this planet who knew I was a child medium (and grew into an adult medium). She never judged or scolded me about it. She understood because she had been through some paranormal experiences of her own.

When I did my NoH8 picture about three years ago, I used Janine’s rosary as well, pictured below.

Jessica Jewett, NOH8

In repairing my life after going through abuse, a miscarriage, addiction, etc., Janine and I rebuilt our relationship too. This is one of the things I’m most grateful for in my life because it wasn’t too long after that when her symptoms appeared. Had either of us been too proud or too stubborn to forgive and reconcile, she would have died without us coming back together again as we were once.

There were times in the course of her illness when she expressed to me the fear and desire to know if I felt, on an intuitive level, if she was going to beat her cancer. She never fully asked. Part of her didn’t want the answer. I never gave an answer either, mainly because she never fully asked, and partially because I always had a foreboding that it was only a matter of time. Neither of us ever wanted to say it aloud but I think there was a silent understanding that we both knew. I made it a point to tell her I loved her as often as I could and that has given me a little peace over the terrible loss. Had I not conveyed my feelings to her and resolved our relationship, the unsettled feeling and the pain would be worse.

My grief is not so direct. Imagining what Milo, her husband, or her mother, or other family members must be going through is rather impossible. I’m so thankful that Janine finally found true love before she got sick. It was the greatest dream of her life to find a lifelong companion and a beautiful love, just as it has been for me as well. We spent many, many hours talking about such dreams. Janine nearly gave up on finding real love until Milo came along. She never spoke a harsh word against him, and he stood by her through every minute of her illness. I may never find a love that beautiful or a companion that devoted, but I was so glad Janine got to experience it in the last years of her life. She never took it for granted after all of the frogs she had to kiss and the years of solitude in between that it took to find her prince.

At the end of a life, the only thing that really matters is whether you gave love and received love. Janine was blessed on both accounts. She will be remembered for her loyalty, passion, creativity, opinionated nature, joy, courage, and for the beautiful love she built in her marriage. For me, she will be remembered as the friend who never gave up on me when I wanted to give up on myself.

Rest well, my friend.


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Charleston helped me write a trilogy

Posted by Jessica Jewett 1 Comment »

From the Darkness Risen Book IIThe second book in my Civil War trilogy is nearly done. Praise be to the muses. I know you readers have been waiting for it. Life gets in the way of literary pursuits sometimes, especially when I’m forced to rely on other work for income. I always find it hilarious when people assume being an author equates being rich. Hardly.

To read about the first novel in the trilogy, click here.
To read about the second novel in the trilogy, click here.

My established readers know that the Cavanaugh and Reed families in the trilogy are from Charleston, South Carolina. Although we see Isabelle and Eva venture to St. Louis in the first novel, I brought the Cavanaugh clan back to their Charleston roots in the second novel. I usually stick to locations in my writing that I’ve visited numerous times in my life and therefore can write convincingly. I rather enjoy it when a setting takes on a life of its own and almost becomes its own character throughout the storytelling process. In fact, I’m more selective about location scouting and making sure those locations existed in the time that I’m writing than I am about any other aspect of building a story. That may be my tendency toward being visual and hoping one day to make movies. Nobody could ever say I wasn’t ambitious!

Recently, I took a trip to Charleston for a few days. One of my goals on this trip was to walk around old Charleston experiencing the city as my characters experienced it — on foot, for the most part. I remembered where all my main locations were and we set out for a walk to see if all of my careful planning was worth it.

Location 1: the “Meyers-Cavanaugh” house.

By Charleston standards, this house is rather middle-class. It was built in 1760, has three bedrooms, and is 2,287 square feet. In my novel, I added a little space with two extra bedrooms since there are so many family members living there. The outbuilding on the property is no longer there and the size of the property is smaller than it was in the Civil War, but luckily, most of what I needed to see is still in tact. The fence that usually lines the front of the property wasn’t there for some reason. We think the current owners are making some improvements.

102 Tradd Street


102 Tradd Street


Location 2: the Reed mansion.

In reality, this mansion on the battery is the Edmondston-Alston House. It was built in 1825 and enhanced in 1838. This was one of the first mansions built on what is known as the high battery. In my version of Charleston, this is where Eva grew up before getting married and moving to St. Louis. This house has a lot of memories for Isabelle as well because they were constantly with each other, having no sisters of their own.

21 East Battery

21 East Battery


Location 3: Saint Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church and cemetery.

I forgot to get a picture of the actual church, so I stole one, but the cemetery pictures are mine. Saint Mary of the Annunciation is the oldest Catholic Church in Charleston and it’s the parish of the Cavanaugh and Reed families. Isabelle and Eva attended Mass here as little girls and many of their family members are buried in the graveyard surrounding the church. The graveyard is rather crowded and wraps around the back of the church from both sides. The Cavanaughs have a rather large plot here and a new grave is added in the second novel.

Saint Mary of the Annunciation

Saint Mary of the Annunciation

Saint Mary of the Annunciation

There you have a bit of a walking tour of Isabelle and Eva’s Charleston. I have more but I can’t show them now or I’ll give away plot spoilers. I will post them after the novel is published though!


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