It feels completely trite and trivial to talk about what puzzle I’m working on in the midst of what is happening in my country. I know we all need a respite from the news, the increasingly only terrible news; it might be nice to just not think about it and talk only of puzzles, which is what normally happens here.
But not thinking about the bad things that happen and acting as if they aren’t happening is what has gotten us to where we are – which is a frightening, horrible place.
This post has been guest written by my oldest son. He asked if he could write up a guest post about this puzzle that he and I (mostly him) assembled on mom’s birthday last month. I couldn’t say no; he took the day off work for her birthday to spend the day doing things she loved, to honor her. He’s a very special man, and I’m unbelievably proud to be his mom. 💗
He’s a movie buff/nerd/geek, and knows more about movies than most people will ever know, including his ol’ mom. This post has much more movie talk than my readers are used to, but it’s how his brain works, so I’m leaving his words exactly as written. They’re for his Meema, and movies are something they shared together and part of who he is.
Enjoy the musings of my baby boy…
Howdy, name’s Dj. I’m the eldest son of the lady what runs this blog. I have my own blog as well, though it’s about my collection of Blu-rays and DVDs (which needs to be updated, I have a lot of new stuff to add and it’s been sitting there for a while not getting added…), and you may know about it from a memorial I made for my late grandmother, who not only loved jigsaw puzzles, but played a major role in my appreciation of film and, as a person and film fan, a major part of who I am.
Her birthday was not too long ago, and I had requested the day off work so I could do things to honor my grandmother. I had three things in particular I wanted to do, in no particular order: watch “The Last of the Mohicans”, do a jigsaw puzzle, and go to a restaurant she liked to go to. The last one had to be scuttled on account of the current COVID-19 pandemic, but I can do the other two at home, so there is that.
I originally wanted to do a New Super Mario Bros. puzzle, but I couldn’t find it anywhere in the house, and I believe it may have fallen somewhere into the Twilight Zone, probably where that kid from that one episode sends people who tick him off. So instead, I did this puzzle, which I got for my grandmother as a Christmas gift in 2018. She and my mother and I actually worked together on it on Christmas Day and finished it; and it was a pain when three people were doing it together. Now I was doing it mostly alone.
I had all day to do this puzzle. It took nearly all day to do this puzzle. I got a tray out, puzzle out, and put “The Last of the Mohicans” in a Blu-ray player and had it on in the background while I worked on the puzzle; and when that movie finished, “Dances with Wolves”. There’s a reason for those two movies, as you will see. Sometimes I’d take a break to think about how the puzzle pieces I had would fit while watching the movie, or to just watch the movie itself.
The puzzle itself was just as much of a pain as I remember it being two years ago. My strategy was to start with the phoenix tails and work from there, since those are easily identifiable pieces due to their color and their patterns; and then building up the rest of its body while occasionally looking out for other pieces and patterns that matched up. That last one is not as fun because there are a LOT of birds in this puzzle and it can be tricky to figure out what goes where. Finding edge pieces isn’t easy on this one because it’s not a proper circular shape; it has little ridges and bumps all along the edges so that without careful study, you won’t know if it’s an edge or not, so you may look at a piece and think it’s not an edge, but nope, it is.
Most of my time on the puzzle was staring at pieces and going “…Alright, where the hell do YOU go?”, because even with a piece of paper showing the whole image of the puzzle (and on the back, where all the puzzle pieces fit together – but considering how the pieces are, it’s as useful as putting a screen door on a submarine), it’s still a pain to figure out what goes where. There’s so, SO much red, but also a lot of colors that are arranged in such a way that it can all blur together unless you really focus on distinct shapes and such. It’s still a fun challenge, although it’s probably better to do it with someone else rather than do it solo, unless you’re a god-tier jigsaw puzzle person, which I am not.
I guess I should talk about the movies then, because while the puzzle is and was fun (mostly), the movies were a part of this. As I mentioned before, I had “The Last of the Mohicans” on, then the extended special edition of “Dances with Wolves”. (Yes, there is a longer cut of the movie) I picked those two movies because, as I wrote in the memorial on my blog, I always associated two kinds of movies with my grandmother, and one of them was the big historical epics we got in the 1990s. “Dances with Wolves”, “The Last of the Mohicans”, “Braveheart”, that sort of thing.
(I listened to Braveheart’s soundtrack while writing that memorial, and I’m listening to it now as I write this. She loved that soundtrack and it’s easy to see why. It’s one of the finest movie soundtracks out there in my opinion, and probably the magnum opus of the late James Horner.)
I like “The Last of the Mohicans”, even if it’s a contrast to the rest of the director’s work. Michael Mann usually does urban crime dramas like “Thief”, “Manhunter”, “Heat”, Collateral”, that Miami Vice film we don’t talk about, etc., so seeing him doing a historical epic set before the Revolutionary War is weird. It’s like if Martin Scorsese did a Victorian-era romance. (And yes, I know that film does exist. “The Age of Innocence”, for the curious.) Mom doesn’t care much for the movie, but I like it. It has a good atmosphere to it, which is helped by the director’s attention to detail. There’s some beautiful cinematography and landscapes in the film, including a shot with a bridge over a river and its reflection is perfectly mirrored, probably one of the most beautiful and picturesque shots I’ve seen in anything. And the music’s your standard historical epic fare, little repetitive in the motifs but still quite good, though a little forgettable compared to “Dances with Wolves” and “Braveheart” and (although it’s not from the 1990s) “Gladiator”. It’s a solid film, maybe not the most memorable of the 90’s historical epics, but still enjoyable.
As for “Dances with Wolves” … well, it’s the movie that created the modern historical epic as we know it, and all the big epics that came out during the rest of the 1990s owe their existence to it in some fashion. I think even today, if you watch a historical epic, you can still see a little bit of this movie’s DNA in it. The film is a classic, with a lot of good that’s going for it. It has that classic epic feel to it, helped by the landscapes that really evoke the American frontier. It’s got an awesome soundtrack by John Barry (most famous for doing most of the James Bond scores from 1963 to 1985), as well as a much better depiction of Native Americans than what you saw in a lot of media at the time … even if everyone’s speaking female-gendered Lakota, according to the late Russell Means. And for the the most part, it holds up well and has earned its place in film history for reviving big epic films and the Western genre. Although it’s not without its hiccups. Kevin Costner’s narration in this film is weird to me and honestly, it’s less tolerable to me than Harrison Ford’s narration in the theatrical cut of Blade Runner, and someone’s gonna call me a heretic for that, I swear. It also bugs me how the soldiers near the end of the film are really just caricatures who seem more appropriate for a cartoon than a serious drama like this.
Oh, right, puzzle. This is a puzzle blog, right, I should talk puzzle. I did a good chunk of the puzzle on my own, but mom helped with some it, especially for the last hour or so. We actually finished the puzzle, with me putting the last piece in, right as the credits for “Dances with Wolves” ended. Overall, I enjoyed this puzzle, even if it was a pain to do on my own for most of the time. It was nice to take time out and do this as a way of honoring the memory of someone who meant more to me and my family than could ever be expressed in words.