Les Misérables Review

Television broadcasters and movie reviewers recently commented on the length of movies released during the holiday season.

During the time of Old Hollywood, movies like Gone with the Wind and Sound of Music featured an intermission. The audience had a short break.

Beginning in the 1980s, movies lost something. They lost minutes. They lost audiences, and audiences lost patience for a story to get to the point.

In the age of iMedia, instant gratification destroys good story lines for a lesser plot.

But, all is not lost.

Movies like Les Misérables, Anna Karenina and The Hobbit  return to the tradition of epic storytelling.

I saw Les Misérables—the long running musical that originated in the 1980s and based on Victor Hugo’s book. I attended the play in London and twice in Columbia, South Carolina. I watched the tenth anniversary VHS, and 2012’s twenty-fifth anniversary.

I learned the lines to the songs, and cried with my grandmother through every rendition. I had high expectations when my husband took me to see the film.

Fireworks shot through the height of my expectations. I cried, I laughed and held on to every song and line. Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) did not stray far from the musical’s story line. The movie allowed me to see parts of the story that were difficult to picture when watching the play.

For example, I was impressed with the building of the barricade, and the tension when the students prepare for battle and then face the decision to fight without the backing of the people.

Hooper focuses in on the actor and actress’ faces to make you feel as if you are in France. The singing is softer than in the play, but the actors are not in front of a large audience. When the factory women corner Fantine (Anne Hathaway), they almost whisper sing. The way they sing the lines, you believe in their hate and gossip.

Hathaway’s performance will break your heart.

I also enjoyed Hugh Jackman and Samantha Barks, who also sang as Eponine in the twenty-fifth anniversary concert.

Eddie Redmayne‘s performance made Marius a man and believable. I have never seen a Marius with whom I was impressed, except for Michael Ball. Too often Marius is portrayed as too soft and weakened by instantly falling in love. It’s almost as if the Revolution is no longer important to him. While he questions his role in the Revolution in the lyrics, he is still—for lack of a better word—weaker.

Eddie Redmayne took the movie home. He picked up where Hathaway left off in the supporting cast. His rendition of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables makes you feel like you’ve lost your best friends in battle or another tragedy.

Why do we still read and watch epics?


The Son I Raised

Son, I loved you from the moment you were born

when they flew you on the helicopter to Charlotte.

I drove and rushed to your side

praying you’d be alright.

Two-and-a-half years ago, I broke your trust.

You and your brother will not speak to me.

You will not acknowledge me on the street.

Today was your birthday.

Yet, I remember you every day.

I brought you brownies, money and a card.

You sent a text.

You said, “Leave the store.

I don’t want to see you today.”

I took home the brownies, money and card

and tried to remember if there is anything left

of the boy I raised.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Dedicated to all parents who have lost connection to their children due to divorce and misunderstanding.


Write it Honest

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What are 5 Reasons Adults are Thankful Christmas Comes Once a Year?

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The holidays fill our hearts with ___.

You fill in the blank.

The holiday reality brings a variety of emotions to the forefront of our minds. For parents, they want to surprise their children and get extra sleep. For young adults, they’re trying to figure out where the childhood magic of Christmas went.

In the opinion of some senior citizens such as my grandmother, they do not want to put up more decorations than absolutely necessary.

These are the real reasons why adults are thankful Christmas comes once a year:

  1. Christmas Eve, Day and the days after erase our original New Year’s resolution.

    You might have planned to quit cigarettes or spend less money. Maybe your original resolution was more meaningful. You planned to restore faith in an old religion or a new one. You were going to make amends with someone.

    On December 26, the Weight Watchers commercials start, and you’re tempted to pick up the phone. It does not matter if you’re skinny, normal, healthy or large. You are tempted. I am tempted.

  1. It is nice to give and receive presents, but do we really need more stuff?

    Whether or not you’re a parent, aunt, uncle or you have a lot of stuff; Christmas and Hanukkah brings one thought to mind.

    Where will we put all this stuff?

    My son owns three lifetimes worth of Hot Wheels’ cars, three John Deere tractors, fire trucks and six different Elmos.

    We need a limit.

  1. Do we really need more family time?

    The movie Four Christmases has become one of my favorites.

    Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn have spent years putting off their families with the excuse they were doing volunteer work.

    They are caught by a news camera dressed in beach clothes. The reporter asks them where they’re going, and you know they’re caught.

    Anyone who has been in a serious relationship or married can relate to the movie.

    I love my family. John, my husband, loves his family. Each of us believes, sometimes, we have a better family than the other.

  1. More Arguments during the holidays.

    From Thanksgiving to Christmas, John and I argue more than anytime throughout the year. The reason is simple.

    What do we put up? When do we put decorations up? Do we have to put them up?

    Or …

    How do you expect me to control how much my mother buys Charles?

    Or…

    Him: I thought we were done talking about family.

    Me: You brought it up.

    Him: Promise me you won’t say anything else about my family.

    Me: You definitely don’t want to read my journal.

    Him: Why would I read your journal?

    Me: I’m just saying I wrote some stuff … about your family.

    Needless to say, too much stress builds within relationships during the holidays. John and I are not sad to see them go.

  2. We Forget what Christmas Means

    Christmas means something greater despite its massive commercialization. Too often, people forget there are others who might not have a Christmas. They cannot give their children gifts because they have to pay for food, the phone bill, the electricity bill or a broken car part.

    The season reminds us of why we are grateful.

Our Time: How We Celebrate Love

John and I on a short vacation to the Smokey Mountains in July 2012.

Love is one of the hardest subjects.

How do you approach love without composing corny clichés?

What can you write to make your story real?

Sometimes pieces and parts of your relationship(s) sneak into your writing.

When J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the back story of Arwen and Aragorn, he was inspired by the times when his wife would dance in the forest for him.

Moments or little things are what create good details. When I write, John—my husband—is not the character. He might not share anything in common with him or her, but he inspires small parts of my writing and poetry.

John and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this week, and our four-year anniversary, as a couple, this month. I would like to share snippets of work he has inspired.

  • Winter Poem, (written winter 2009)

How long the nights stretch over the days
like a ship attempts to span the sea.
They are as distant as you from me.

I crawl into my dreams
and across the dessert
where you take me.

I wake to a ceiling fan
and find my love is
still not where I am.

Each moment with you
is spun in gold threads.
Only I hide them
in darkened rooms
of my mind.

  • The Tale of Ambrose and Addy (from the Sons of the Edisto back stories)

“I have paid for every dress you’ve ever worn, all the food and drink you’ve consumed, everything … Now you will see this, this good-for-nothing farmer without my approval,” he (Rolland Collier) said, continuing his yelling.  

Addy (Collier) thanked Rolland for all he had done for her over the years, but said she    would marry a man of her own choice. She told him she wanted for all of her family to be a part of her happiness.

“If you thought anything of your family, you would not be going against my wishes,” Rolland said.

He gave her two choices: Addy would either listen and never see Ambrose (Wilkins) again, or she would have to leave his home, leaving behind everything he had ever bought for her save two dresses. She chose the later as she knew her Ambrose had every intention of proposing. Never had she been so bold to her uncle in her life. Even Rose (cousin) was taken aback.

“Get your things, and get out of my house,” Rolland said.

He stormed from his house. His wife wrapped her arms around Addy. Although she was never much for words – perhaps the perfect wife for Rolland— she had always proved understanding. After all, she had helped Addy plant her little garden. But those roses, as much as she adored them, didn’t seem to matter as much as her love. Her great love; the love people want to believe ends wars, but in reality it starts them.

I have written many parts, portions, phrases and a story inspired by John. Ambrose and Addy, which is not written in the same way as my other texts since it is a back story, was written for John.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

© 2006-2012 by Rebecca T. Dickinson/ R.T. Dickinson. All rights reserved. No part of this blog, Sons of the Edisto or material related to it may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of R.T. Dickinson.

Remembering Sandy Hook Elementary

The story is everywhere.

You flip from one channel to the other, and you see the broadcast reporters in the same place:

Newtown, Conn.

The questions are the same.

Why would someone shoot twenty children and six school staff? How could this happen?

As artists, we seek to discover a character’s motive for an action or crime. Mark Twain himself said reality is stranger than fiction.

Perhaps you thought about where you were Friday morning.

I was in a music classroom with twenty second graders singing Christmas songs. Twenty happy faces. Twenty singing voices.

Twenty children.

Words failed to come out of my mouth when I saw the news later Friday afternoon. A tear went down my face. I hugged my son when I picked him up from his morning school.

I felt his warm body and looked into his big blue eyes. He was mad because he had been sent to time out several times for throwing toys. On Friday, none of those actions mattered. My son was with me.

As a writer, many of my stories are written about children and families. Right now, I have no words.

Just the same questions as you.

What do we say?

What can we do?

How can we comfort?

Dedicated to all the families, victims and paramedics of the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

By the Drink Published

By the Drink was published Sunday by Blue Ridge Literary Prose. I was excited to discover the new online literary magazine.

It is my first contemporary story to be published, and my fifth creative publication.

I wrote the original draft of By the Drink in June 2011. It was the first contemporary story I considered to be of any worth. By the Drink was the first story in which I wrote about those who would suffer as a result of the economy.

I have edited the story multiple times.

Editing is a process I have learned to perfect in the last three years.

I call my editing style the turtle approach.

For example, I have worked on Sons of the Edisto—my book—for six and a half years.

By the Drink was an experimental piece as I originally incorporated play script writing. I did not see anything similar to  what I had written until I read F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s This Side of Paradise. By then, I had already stripped the style of writing out and replaced it with dialogue.

I had sent the story to a few journals, and received very encouraging rejections. It became the story I wanted to see published the most. I kept editing and making changes.

The story was, without planning, my first to feature satire. It captured sarcasm; a part of my personality not seen in my historical fiction. The second major editing I undertook last fall and winter was to eliminate the amount of sarcasm. As I improved the story, it evolved.

By the Drink finally made the next round.

I am thankful Blue Ridge Literary Prose’s editors had faith in my story. I hope you will click on the hyperlink above and check out other authors and poets’ wonderful work.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Let’s Go to the Movies

Orphan Annie thought going to the movies was beyond her wildest dreams.

During the Great Depression, the time in which Annie
takes place, movies offered escapism.


I can count on one finger how many times I’ve attended the movie theatre this year due to the economy. But, I have not missed a movie education.

In fact, I have gained an extended education in writing.

TCM—Turner Classic Movies—features crime author Lee Child as its December guest programmer. He will talk with host Robert Osborne about the movies that inspired his writing.


While I have not read Child’s books, I thought it was a great idea to interview an author about the movies he believed told the best stories.

What inspires writers is great storytelling. When a movie is constructed with a well-written script, delivered by strong acting and cameras, I am inspired.

Ladies of Leisure


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Ladies of Leisure, one of Frank Capra and Barbara Stanwyck’s earliest movies, made my remote control stop on TCM. For what reason did I stop?  Was it Barbara Stanwyck’s character rowing in a fancy dress away from a boat party? She did not care to tie off the row boat when she got off.

She stars as a party woman who lives off men’s money in the 1920’s. Aside from my strong interest in the decade, I was enraptured by the writing and lines. In the scene when she she stays the night at Ralph Graves‘ studio because they’ve worked late, the rain runs down the window as she takes off her shirt. You see the blur of her back.

You feel the romance and edge Capra wanted audiences to see. Keep in mind, this was pre-Hollywood code days.

Later, the turn of the door knob captivates your attention. It is slow and intense. Ralph Graves comes in and Barbara’s character pretends to sleep. He puts another blanket over her.

The emotion in her face the next morning when she realizes just how much in love she is with Ralph Graves cannot be repeated by another actress. It is intense and yet real. In such an early picture, fancy words weren’t thrown in. Love often comes without the right words.

People dig inside themselves for what they should say.

Marie Prevost’s performance as Stanwyck’s roommate stole the show. She made me laugh in every scene. Jo Swerling translated the original Broadway script from a complete melodrama to a movie with some humor.

I admit I stopped watching near the end because the melodrama between Ralph Grave’s mother, in the movie, and Barbara Stanwyck drove me crazy. Once Marie was out of the movie, I lost interest. There was too much crying for no reason.

Maybe writing from two boys’ point-of-view for 6-and-a-half years has caused me to turn my head away from tears and despair. But, it has taught me appreciate a good fight scene.

Stand Up and Fight    

Robert Taylor starred as a formerly wealthy man who comes into a Maryland town that looks like the Wild West. Stage coach is trying to compete with the railroad. The stage coach manager in town hides the fact men kidnap runaway slaves to take them back below Maryland. Robert Taylor stands up to the manager, played by Wallace Beery.

The fight scene in the snow between Taylor and Beery stands out. You could see an active fight. It was not like some modern films in which the bloody fight is done within the ten seconds. No, this was a brawl.

The formula was simple. Two tough men fought in pouring snow until they were worn out.  All the other men who had chased after Taylor were dead. Horses were shot or had run off.

Two men, weary of fists, must travel twenty miles back to the town in the snow during the night. The film does not rush the walk. Why? They have been shooting, fighting, and then Taylor and Beery must fight for their lives against the weather.

Beery collapses first. You think, “Get up.” Taylor gets him up.

A few minutes later, when Taylor collapses, he can’t get up. He won’t get up. Beery collapses. The snow begins to cover their bodies.

Do they survive?

Watch the movie.

It’s what makes a simple walk inspirational.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson                                        

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