Friday, February 17, 2017

Movie Spotlight: Mansfield Park (1986)


'We have all been more or less to blame ...

every one of us, excepting Fanny'

Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords' influence and finds herself more isolated than ever.




I borrowed that description from Goodreads. Borrowing a book description for a movie review - one might ask - isn't that a little strange? I see your point. Most times I would say so myself, but of any novel I've seen blossoming on the screen this one is so much like the book that I can hardly think of them apart. In fact - particularly in the case of one Tom - I don't in the least try. :)


Moving with careful and serious step Mansfield Park, both in movie and book form can seem quite slow at times, but throughout it threads an important message of the dangers of compromise. Thinking of it in that way, perhaps it's slow pace is not such a riddle after all.


In the end, though they feel the effect of it, neither the heroine Fanny, nor the hero Edmund are either particularly involved in, or even on the scene of the disastrous climax, and that really brings us to who Fanny is as a person. The pageant of life swirls around her and she both feels like, and is very much, the quiet onlooker. The people around her are caught up in the thrill and excitement of new friends and romance, and she is sitting by much as she has always been until the very end, and she is brought into the blinding limelight; and then she not even half-likes it. It's quite odd actually, but until I wrote the above about Fanny I never really thought of it; however, I think that is one of the reasons I feel so very much akin to her. I'm not exactly like her, of course, and I don't have an Edmund to be concerned about, but I understand her all the same.


Finally, there is Tom... Tom the teasing and serious; Tom, the person with the most sparkling smile in movie history. Vivid and alive, every scene he is in has just that much more sparkle; how could one not love him?


Of any character in the story I think he changes the most. Edmund and Sir Thomas make blind mistakes, but the thread of Tom's redemption - even as it is somewhat behind the more intense action of the story - glows strong. And that I believe is why one can love him so; beginning with being heedless and passionate about the wrong things, to the end where he sees, and is utterly cast down by the error of his ways. You just know that that same energy with which he pursued the wrong things he will put into steady pursuits. In fact the book says so, and I firmly believe it.


There is of course so much more to the film, from its views of pastel countryside to gracious drawing rooms glimmering with candlelight; as a thoughtful sort of book/movie it is one that calls for revisiting over and over again. And isn't it the best stories that reveal their secrets over time?

(Due to the nature of the villain there are two "scenes", however, they are easily skipped over.)

Note: This review is posted as part of Hamlette's I Love Austen Week.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review: The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey


In a faraway kingdom a king has been betrayed. Deeply hurt and bitterly angry he vows never to be deceived again. Unfortunately the king's plan to protect himself will endanger all of the realm's young women unless one of them will volunteer to marry the king -- and surrender her life.

To everyone's relief and horror one young woman steps forward. The daughter of a legendary storyteller, Shahrazad believes it is her destiny to accept this risk and sacrifice herself.

On the night of her wedding to the king, Shahrazad begins to weave a tale. Fascinated, the king lets her live night after night. Just when Shahrazad dares to believe that she has found a way to keep her life -- and an unexpected love -- a treacherous plot may disrupt her plan. She can only hope that love is strong enough to save her.




There is nothing I relish quite as much as a romance in which the hero and heroine are married. Many variations have been done upon the theme with differing levels of emotion between the couple ranging from indifference, to dislike, to one of the parties not even knowing they are married (very awkward!) But truly, I think this story must take the prize in difficulty. Shahrazad marries the king believing he will execute her the next morning and he marries her firmly believing he will. If that does not put a damper on the relationship....


Surprisingly (or perhaps not so much. :)) this story also holds one of my favorite romantic scenes of any story I've read. I'm not going to outline it here because I might want to do a post about it on my other blog, but let me say it involves galloping about on fine horses, golden afternoon sun across the desert, and an oasis. It's just lover-ly.


Exotic and mysterious this story is brimming with the most golden clarity of any fairy-tale I have yet read, and the loveliness therein could not be more dream worthy.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Movie Spotlight: Rio Bravo (1959)


I almost didn’t do this review. I wanted it to be easy I guess... for every word to rush with the perfection of a mountain stream. Then it came - who said it was comfortable for a mountain stream? If water had feelings wouldn’t it be a bit painful for the water to be jounced around like that? Yet that is what makes it so madly beautiful. I’m not saying this review will be in rounded beauty of form, but it is here because I really want to share it with you!


And yet, with all that tangle of emotions Rio Bravo as a story, is in fact, almost glaringly simple.

The Big Bad Guy is trying to intimidate the Good Guy into releasing the other Bad Guy.

The End.

Really on paper that’s it and once you see that the Good Guy is John Wayne, farewell to any doubt that he will give in, but in truth that is just the beginning.


It doesn’t say anything about the tough love of Chance (John Wayne) in driving his friend to crack out of the well of self-pity. Not really throwing his weight around too obnoxiously he just does it and does it right and if that steps on a few people's toes so be it.


Next is Stumpy, the rather nutty old man who is loyal to the backbone.


Then there is Colorado Ryan who feels like a breath of cool air in all the dusty strain that goes on in the rest of the movie. Chill to his fingertips with an easy smile and quips that leave people thinking, he owns his classic role of cowboy. However, with his gleam of humor and the way he can hold himself passionless about the situation and yet totally be with it, he plays the role with a stunning, unique turn of hand.


And then… then, there is Dude. Words fail me people, they really do. His character and everything about him is superbly shown. Some girl broke his heart and he’s lonely and betrayed and it’s just so sad. So he sinks to the depths, only held from drowning completely by the loyal hand of Chance. There is his struggle against the weight pulling him down, which is powerful and inspiring and frankly really tough to watch sometimes as you hear all the misery he’s known. Finally he comes out and is able to look back across his pain. Then suddenly he becomes the balancer, the straight thinking one, his smile is back and his eyes aren’t quite so tragic. He can relax and it is all so beautiful. Yes, you could say I like him and his story just a bit. :)



The music - Dimitri Tiomkins wrote the theme song (anyone else hearing echoes of High Noon?) and Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson both sing, ‘nuf said.


Leaving me with a smile, a warm grand feeling inside, and maybe just a few tears, it ranks right up there with High Noon  (yes, it's that high!). This story definitely worked its way into my heart.

I could not post this without a shout-out to my terrific sister Arwen who introduced me to this, (and hundreds of other great stories), and is my general "Did-I-get-this-right?" person. Thanks old thing.

And…. This is my second post for The John Wayne Blogathon hosted by Hamlette of Hamlette's Soliloquy and Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In. Thank you SO MUCH for giving me the impetus to revel in some of my Favorite Sort of Things. :)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Movie Spotlight: The Big Trail (1930)


Google names this film as an "epic western", which is rather surprising perhaps as it was made in 1930, but is.... it... EVER! In fact so greatly laid on is the epicness that it is almost overwhelming. Imagine it as a history of the pioneers come alive. Floods, blizzards, the perils of the desert; each of the dangers the pioneers faced are shown in gritty frankness; not spoken of but shown, and as such it is a very impressive work indeed. And the people - ! They all look exactly like an old photo come to life. Yes, this film is worthy of being watched for the detail alone.


Now for my favorite parts - because though the above may be very educational there are other things to it as well...


Catching a glimpse of a young, rather lumberjack looking Ward Bond - he isn't even credited, but the few glimpses one can get of him made the film for me. :)


The heroine... and her siblings - You don't get to see any really close-ups of her brother and sister, but I absolutely love the interactions of the trio. Throw John Wayne in the mix, and you just wish you could see more of them all as a family.


Catch the name in the last sentence (and on the movie cover and all these screenshots)? Yes, my friend, this film stars the great and honorable John Wayne in one of his first big picture starring roles. This was before his image was really developed in the film we all know and love known as Stagecoach (1939) and he is still very much his twinkly boyish self and I love that a lot. From start to finish his character is just fun to watch... besides which his outfit is pretty neat. :)


Honestly, John Wayne as Breck Coleman, embodies this film with an energy that is as thrilling and marvelous as the rest of it is, and it is in that, I think, in which lives its epicness.

Posted as part of The John Wayne Blogathon hosted by Hamlette of Hamlette's Soliloquy and Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In. Thank you SO MUCH for giving me the impetus to revel in some of my Favorite Sort of Things. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: The Light of Western Stars by Zane Grey


Those stories. . . the ones you've seemingly always known, the ones always there for you - The Light of Western Stars is one of those for me. It's not the only one of course, but it is at the heart of the list. After A Speckled Bird it was the first really and truly grown-up book I ever read, and the tingling bedazzlement of it has never left.

The tale starts with the greatest thunder-clap of any story I've read. The rest of the story rolls out in charming views and moments of cozy repose varied with nail-biting suspense ending in a conclusion of breath-taking height. In the words of the story: Life changed for her in that instant of realization and became sweet, full, strange; the entire ending, as delicately done as those words, leaves you on tip-toe to see what happens next, yet even as you wonder you surely know it will be altogether quite lovely.

The characters - I haven't truly talked of them have I? Except that in a way I think I have because they are the story. Stillwell - the crusty old cattleman toughened by a hundred desert storms. Al and Florence as sweet and refreshingly honest as a western couple should be. Each of the cowboys: Nils, Link, Monty Price, and Ambrose who, with his little French maid wife, together are simply adorableness itself. Most of all there are Madeline aka Majesty and Gene Stewart. Majesty, having traveled the world, meets Stewart the man holding all the rough pulse of the desert within him and discovers, to her shock, that she really knows nothing at all about life. Their relationship is just as thrilling as one might expect from such a beginning.

Re-reading is something I love and am always doing. Discovering a different angle on a view you think you know as well as your own hand which, come to think of it, I'm always noticing new things about, too. This time it was the so-to-speak interlude in the mountains. A little bit tiresome I remember thinking, and on my past visits I liberally skipped over it to the more heart-pounding parts. And guess what? The “interlude” I discovered is far more exciting than I first supposed, its very quietude being wherein its vivid life begins. From that wonder, caught in words without conversation, the rest of the story spills out in powerful beauty of free-flowing waters and the dreaminess unfurling still holds me fast.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Book Review: Downright Dencey by Caroline Dale Snedeker


There are the stories you either love, or dislike, or the ones that hold so much of each. It is the gift of story that in each visit or time spent pondering over it can reveal a different secret, but perhaps it is in the last category that those revelations are most surprising, Downright Dencey is one of those for me.

I distinctly remember at the end of my last reading, scrunching my face and figuratively throwing it across the room (because throwing books, just isn't done!) and proclaiming my dislike for it. Yet strangely enough just a couple of days ago I found myself picking it up, and not just to peruse my favorite parts, but to read it once more from beginning to end. What is more I finished my reading of it. 

I love, I truly love the relationship between the heroine's Mother and Father. It's adorable. The flashbacks to their romance are quite my favorite part. The atmosphere of old New England - and on no such lesser place than Nantucket - is also told in perfect detail.

So you perhaps wonder about the mysterious feelings outlined at the beginnings of this review? It's ever so slightly bittersweet friends, which is ever so slightly silly for me to make a fuss over as I have a slight inclination to writing such stories myself (witness my first published story). Perhaps it is because of the youthfulness of the characters, but the story left me with a wistful feeling. I felt I could reach out and touch it like summer cobwebbed grasses, and like those cobwebs it is touched with a subtle charm that lingers with me.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Movie Spotlight: Little Women (1978)


Persuasion and Little Women - one British and elegant, the other as brimming with cozy American charm as they come. One similarity betwixt them? I used to think there was NO perfect film version for either, I would ramble at length upon the topic, it was really one of my most eloquent topics. Another thing they share? I found out I was wrong and not just a touch, but completely 100% so! Persuasionof course, was several years ago; however, Little Women was scarce a week past and what's more surprising is that, in the pleasantest of ways, the story and the way it was told have been a splendid picture of my Spring.


Accuracy to book -
There is a fair amount of mixing and stacking of events, but it doesn't feel rushed. At 3 hours and 20 minutes it really isn't, as it allows great freedom to immerse yourself in its world; which is one of the most beloved things about the book. Many little bits are tied in, such as Jo standing by an oak tree toward the end of the film hinting toward the whole "burr" conversation between Meg and Jo in the book. and even to Fred's cheating at croquet, except here he does it to Amy. 


Scenery/Sets - Films from the 70's and 80's are rarely known for their splendor, but honestly that very simplicity is one of the points about them which I so love, and this one is no different.  I feel as if I could walk into it, or even work the unique beauties that make its charm into my own life.


Costumes- Such a colorful and fresh range of style with full splendid skirts for the girls, and proper suits for the men. Meg's blue gingham looks light and refreshing, Jo has a sage scarf and minty dress which look especially pretty on her, and she has the most cozy looking plaid dress with elbow sleeves and ruffles... in addition to which their Christmas ensembles at the end are all the merriest things. 

Music - Bouncy, fun and very much in the family centered, period drama mood of the film.

Characters -


Other Ones - My favorite rendition of Marmee, Dorothy McGuire had lots of experiences with being a mother so that was little of a surprise, she is indeed a wonderful mother figure and the interactions between her and Mr. March are everything they should be. :) Greer Garson as Aunt March is her usual, brilliant, quick fire self. She is also an extremely active and good hearted Aunt March. As Marmee puts it: "Funny old lady, I should have known I could count on her." Also, Mr. Laurence is your perfect, gruff, grandfatherly Victorian gentleman.


Meg and Mr. Brook - She isn't my very favorite nor exactly what I picture in the book, but then she isn't exactly my favorite there either... Together though they're quite cute and fit in well with the rest of the family.


Beth - Beth is sweet, gentle perfection.


Amy - In many ways I think her portrayal, at the heart, is the closest to how the book paints her. Her and Laurie's relationship still isn't quite as expounded upon as in the book, but it is greater than that shown in the other films. Even when they are younger you can see how they fit together, and what scenes they do have are adorable.


Laurie - Absolutely jolly! He also reminds me, for some reason, of someone we've known for ages, which is rather fun. :)


Jo - I've always felt like Jo was somewhat of a kindred spirit, but this one... almost every conversation and happening in her story I chime with PERFECTLY, and the conversation she has with Marmee before Meg gets married... it's absolutely startling how every word, every sentiment fits with my life and emotions right now. And okay, it's dreadfully fun to at last have a blue eyed blond haired Jo. :)


Professor Bhaer - You get to see the Professor and Jo get to know each other, particularly in his attempts at teaching her German and their walks in the park with her and her girls, and he with his lads. He brings out the girlish, almost shy, side of Jo's nature in a way that is delightful to see. "Perhaps you will climb a tree for me... I challenge you miss, I race you to the top."  - to which her uncertain, but covertly delighted surprise at this statement is so sweet.

Professor Bhaer and Jo... I watched the "umbrella scene" thrice and teared up every single time.

The End.


Final Thoughts - I touched upon it in my description of Jo, but this entire film is comfortable and stirring, filled with not only inspiration, but motivation to move toward where it beckons.

 I  UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY LOVE IT! And yes, I used caps shamelessly to write that sentence, because nothing else would encapsulate my emotions upon it.

This review was first posted as part of Miss Laurie' 2016 Period Drama Challenge! 


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