Saturday, February 27, 2010

Emma (2009)

Emma (2009)
Starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller, etc.

What did I think of this "new" Emma? I loved it. I really, really loved it. But you should probably be aware of a few things: 1) I'm not the biggest fan of the novel, 2) I tend to like the movie adaptations of Emma more than the book 3) I haven't seen all the adaptations yet. I do remember seeing Emma (1996) when it was new-to-video (yes, video, back in the days). But I haven't seen it since. So it's been well over a decade. So I don't *remember* it well enough to compare to this new adaptation or to the book. I own another adaptation as well. Which according to IMDB was from 1996 as well. But I haven't watched that one even once. And of course I've seen Clueless. I wouldn't say countless times. I don't remember *having* to watch it every day, or every other day (cough, cough like Enchanted or Mamma Mia or Pirates of the Caribbean). But I did like it in high school.

What did I love best about this Emma? Mr. Knightley! Of course, he's also my favorite thing about the book too! So maybe it isn't that much of a surprise! (He did play Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park, the movie. I liked him in that role too. And not surprisingly enough I liked that Austen adaptation better than the book too!) (That's not to say that I always love the movies better than the books. That's not the case with all of Austen's works!!! Just one or two of them!)

I thought the characters were done well. And while the story wasn't always straight from the book, where it strayed, it strayed well. In my opinion. Remember that I found the book a bit dull. So as I said I really enjoyed this one.

The trailer:

They danced and danced and fell in love....

The Proposal...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Northanger Abbey (2007)

Northanger Abbey 2007
Starring Felicity Jones, JJ Feild, etc.

I love, love, love this movie! I think it is one of the best Austen adaptations. I think it completely captures the spirit of the book. And I think it's a lot of fun to watch.

Here's the opening to the movie:

The only other film adaptation I've seen is the 1986 one. What this newer adaptation gets right that the other so completely misses altogether is what attracts Catherine to Henry, and what attracts Henry to Catherine. The chemistry between these two. The flirting. Proper flirting, yes, even teasing, but nothing improper and un-Austen like. The conversations these two have. The way they are with each other. It's easy to believe these two are falling in love with each other.

Here's just one example:

Everything just makes sense with this one. In the older movie, readers don't know why characters are behaving as they are.

While the music was one of the weakest elements in the 1986 version. I'd argue that the music is one of the strongest elements in this new one!

Definitely recommended!

Persusasion 1995

Persuasion 1995
Starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds

I love this version of Persuasion. (The movie is based on a novel by Jane Austen.) It is shorter than the 1971 adaptation, which was almost four hours. But longer than the 2007 attempt adaptation, which was barely over 90 minutes.

The trailer:

While this one is not as strictly faithful to the book as it absolutely could be. It is faithful enough to be good, really good. I think this is the best adaptation of the three for introducing the story to new audiences. The production is modern enough that it doesn't look naked. Yet it's faithful enough to the book, to the spirit of Austen, that it doesn't feel too modern, too frantic. This last pathetic effort cut so much of the story, did so little with characterization, that it made little sense unless you were already familiar with the story OR unless you didn't care about the story anyway because you were too busy oogling Captain Wentworth. The camera work doesn't make you dizzy. And the romance--the chemistry--is there without being just a silly excuse for making out on a street corner.

I would be more forgiving of this new edition if they could have just gotten the letter right, the ending right. Oh well. This is supposed to be about HOW WONDERFUL the 1995 adaptation is and not how disappointing the 2007 one turned out to be. But there is some use in comparing and contrasting. The other adaptations just show how well this one was able to pull it all together. To balance everything just so.

This is how it should be:

More Steinbeck Mini-Challenge

I've joined The More Steinbeck Mini-Challenge.

By Books:

1. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck.
2. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
3. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Basics Challenge

I'll be reading 100 Children's Books. My list of titles will come from several sources. There's the 100 Books Your Child Should Hear Before Starting School list, Anita Silvey's 100 Best Books For Children list, Fuse #8's (aka Betsy Bird) Top 100 Picture Books, Fuse #8's Top 100 Children's Books (link coming soon), and Julia Eccleshare's 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. Since Elizabeth Bird's list is still counting down--today's post unveiled 60-56--I'll wait until she's done before I start writing up my list.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Persuasion (1971)

Persuasion 1971
Stars Ann Firbank, Bryan Marshall

I've now seen three film versions of Jane Austen's Persuasion. And I liked two of them. Can you guess which two? In other words, I think two of the three do justice to Austen's book. I *am* planning on watching the 1995 Persuasion again. So I can compare it with this earlier one. But I know without a doubt that I prefer this version, the 1971 one, to the newer one, the 2007 one.

The Script. If you want Austen, good, pure Austen. Then this is a great version. It isn't rushed. It isn't ridiculous. The characters--all the characters--act and react with motivation. There's a purpose to everything. There's the proper time devoted to everything. So that the story stands on its own. It isn't crazy. It isn't wild. Some might say it is a bit slow. Some might argue that not much happens. Some might say there's not enough action or movement. It's just men and women talking with one another. Be it sitting down and talking. Or taking a long walk and talking. Or talking in between dances. Or talking at concerts. Or whatnot. But because such attention is payed to talking, there is a story that actually develops and unfolds. This movie is for folks that actually like reading the book.

This movie is nice and long. Around four hours. So it's not for the impatient. But I would argue that it's better to be too long than too short. The biggest problem I had with the 2007 Persuasion was that it was too short, too rushed, too hectic, too out-of-control.

I loved the characterization in this one. I thought it did justice to the book. I loved seeing Charles and Mary. Loved seeing Mrs. Smith. There were characters in the book that I didn't really focus on all that much but who I noticed (and appreciated) in this adaptation. I don't think I realized how funny Charles is. How much of a character he is. And Mary! Well, I always knew Mary was something. But I thought she was very well portrayed here.

This version isn't perfect. I'm not saying that it is. While the letter scene is properly there (as is the wonderful scene between Captain Harville and Anne which leads to the letter to begin with), there isn't much passion shown between the two characters at the end. Everything is very restrained. Everything is very calm. Which is probably true to Austen. I think there are good reasons why Austen doesn't have couples making out here, there, and everywhere. I think in some ways that's what makes Austen movies more satisfying to modern audiences. The good kissing bits in the end.

But even though there isn't passion (at least as most would define it) shown, I think the movie does show the two to be in love.


Quite different from the 2007 ending! Here's the 1995 ending if you want to compare it as well.

I think this version is fairly faithful to the book. Not completely. I did notice that Mary and Charles' son didn't get sick or injured (or whatever). But for the most part, I think everything that happened in the movie happened in the book as well. And that's something at least. If there are a few parts in the book that didn't make it to the movie, well, it could always be worse.

Which Anne do you prefer?

Which Captain Wentworth?

War Through the Generations (Vietnam)

I'm signing up for the Vietnam Reading Challenge hosted by War Through the Generations. I'm committing to reading five books in 2010. I honestly don't know if I'll reach that number or not. I do know that there are three or four books in my tbr pile that fit this challenge. So we'll see if we can find a few extras along the way.

1. A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata
2. The Running Man by Michael Gerard Bauer
3. Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jen Bryant
4. Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata
5. MOVIE REVIEW: Across the Universe (2007)

The rules:

This year you have options when reading your fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, etc. with the Vietnam War as the primary or secondary theme.

Books can take place before, during, or after the war. Books from other challenges count so long as they meet the above criteria.

Dip: Read 5 books in any genre with the Vietnam War as a primary or secondary theme.

Additionally, we’ve decided that since there are so many great movies out there about The Vietnam War, that you can substitute or add a movie or two to your list this year and have it count toward your totals.

Suggested reading can be found here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Northanger Abbey (1986)

Northanger Abbey (1986)
Stars Katharine Schlesinger, Peter Firth, Robert Hardy, Cassie Stuart, Jonathan Coy, Greg Hicks, etc.

My thoughts on this one: I was expecting a *really* bad adaptation of Northanger Abbey. I went into it having scene the final scene on YouTube, you see. And this film didn't disappoint. It wasn't as bad as I was fearing though. Don't get me wrong, the music, the soundtrack, is really, really awful. Very cheeseful. Very dated. Very un-Austen. There were more than a few scenes that made me roll my eyes. One is when Henry is rowing with his sister and Miss Morland. I couldn't find that scene on least not in English. But here it is anyway. Watch for it...around 4:25.

Was it faithful to the book? No. Not exactly. It leaves a bit out. We don't really see John Thorpe trying to woo Catherine. You do get the sense that he's a creepy guy. The look he gives Catherine when meeting her in this one, has got a definite vibe to it. Repulsive comes to mind. (it's around the 30 second mark; and again at 1:12). So the plot has been condensed in a few places. And a few things have been added that give it a bit of an odd feel. (I'm thinking of cartwheel boy to be exact.) There isn't as much emphasis on the Thorpes in general. That isn't necessarily a horrible thing.

Catherine Meets Mr. Tilney (briefly)
Catherine in the Roman Bath Scene (*good* at highlighting the terrible music)
Catherine shocked by Isabella's dancing with the older Tilney brother (John Thorpe ticked for no reason)
Catherine Visiting Northanger Abbey; (aka Henry sings a song and Catherine looks scared before she's led away to watch a young boy do cartwheels?!)
The Final Scene of Northanger Abbey (*really, really* good at highlighting the terrible music)

An unofficial trailer...of sorts...