Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Movie Spotlight: Daddy - Long - Legs (1919)

Judy Abbott has spent all her life in an orphan asylum, taking care of the other orphans and getting herself in trouble (mainly in the interests of the other children). That is, until a trustee decides to send her to college. He wishes to be known only as Mr. Smith and the only other thing she knows about him is that he has long legs. Hence, she addresses all her letters to him as Daddy-Long-Legs. Away at college she makes new friends–most importantly, handsome and wealthy Jarvis Pendleton–and suffers from the snobbery inflicted upon her by the high society people with whom she comes into contact. Feeling herself forced to refuse the offer of marriage of the man she loves, Judy is desperate for good advice. In the seeking of said good advice she receives the greatest shock of her life.

It is done. I have seen my first silent movie. I had read the book several years ago and thought it a romantic and hilarious story, but was disappointed with her manner of talking about religious matters. However, I still liked the story and having seen a bit of this picture–and having four half-hour drives (please note, I was not driving :)) to and from a dance and conference and not wishing to spend it in idleness–I sought it out on You-Tube and watched the 1:24 minute film. At first I had my doubts. No music or talking or anything…how tiresome is that? But I loved it! I really did! And wish to watch it again. The movie makers had taken out the provoking ideology and had left (or added) the funny parts. Mary Pickford who plays Judy is known as the greatest silent film actress and I think she deserves the title. She is pretty, feminine, clever, and fun, without being flirty or flighty, and she manages to make that all clear without you hearing her voice and yet without overdoing her acting. In addition, she has some beautiful “Titanic”-era dresses. Jarvis's acting was well done too. I thought he looked a little strange at times, though as my sister said, if there was music at those points they would be very sad, so it is simply my immature mind which dislikes it. However, for the most part I liked him very much.

As for the scenery, I thought it was actually better than many newer films I have seen (the ‘95 Persuasion comes to mind). From what I could tell the outdoor scenes were really shot outdoors and the interior ones were good too.

Yes or no on silent films? Judging off this one a definite yes! I was surprised at how alive the story became without any sound and only text on the screen every once in a while to show the most important lines. So, I recommend the (1919) Daddy-Long-Legs to those who enjoy old films, sweet romance, and humor.

Stars: 4.5/5

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: The Horn of Roland by Jay Williams

Roland is the nephew of the mighty Charlemagne. When but a boy he–with his eleven fellow squires–turns the tide of a great battle and is knighted. Afterward all twelve become known as The Peers of France. Roland leads his companions to many victories against the Saracens and wins fame and glory among the Christian nations, but treachery and enemies from within are harder to guard against and Roland has gained the hatred of Count Ganelon. And Ganelon has no qualms about doing away with Roland, even if it comes to consorting with the very enemies of Christendom...
Even before I had read much about Roland I had thought of him as one of the most wonderful and heroic men in history (possibly because of a splendid painting we have in a book). Either way, to me the story of Roland is in the same class as Robin Hood and William Wallace. (I know, I know–Robin Hood is technically not a historical figure, whereas W. Wallace and Roland are, but he practically is.) But what I mean by saying he is in the same class is that a.) they are  great and honorable heroes and b.) their stories all end tragically. Oops, I hope I did not spoil the story, but everyone knows that those heroes die… don't they? Legendary heroes always have to die, because it is a sad but proven fact that to have a story really “stick” the hero must die. The story is written in a surprisingly simple style, but I assure you the author tells you enough–or at least he tells you all the right things. I hardly ever cry in books, but at the end of “The Horn Of Roland” tears were literally dripping off my face. The only other book that I remember crying that much about was “The Scottish Chiefs” which is–surprise–about William Wallace. (If I can help it, I do not read the ends of books about Robin Hood.)

Should one read “The Horn of Roland”? Yes. Possibly the story could have been written in a more overtly gripping style yet on further thought it really was. Many times it is the simple things that have the most power and this book is certainly in that class. And I certainly enjoyed it.

Stars: 4 out of 5
Content: Fighting, but not any especially gory descriptions

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Movie Spotlight: Pride and Prejudice (BBC/A&E 1995)

As of a month or so ago, if you had asked me if I had ever seen the 1995 P&P the conversation would have gone something like this:

“No, certainly not, and I never wish to.”

“Why not?”

“Just look at the screen shots of Mr. Darcy. Oh, and that terrible and foolish scene where he has been swimming? Ha, Ha! That is so silly. You see, I am just too smart to watch that silly of a period drama.” At this point I would laugh and walk away with my nose in the air thinking, “Goodness, I don't know why everyone is so batty over that silly movie.”

But the important thing to note is that I wrote that clever little conversation in the past tense for you. See, I am one of the truly enlightened people now. I have watched it and, indeed, my feelings have undergone so material a change since the time alluded to as to make me view the film with pleasure; and I am terribly afraid I am absolutely head over heels in love with every single bit of it (well, possibly not Lydia and Mrs Bennett and one or two lesser things, but that is of absolutely no importance whatsoever). But I will now attempt to compose myself into a more genteel mode of conduct and write this review in a more ordered manner.

Elizabeth Bennett – Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy brings out the sweet and gentle side of her character. She is caring, observant, ladylike, and possesses a wonderful sense of humor. This version of the P&P story takes out many of her sharper lines from the book and so she comes clearly across as a kind young lady. I also like that, though she is smart, she does not always have a clever answer on the tip of her tongue. She is beautiful and has a wholesome and subdued sparkle radiating from her eyes, her face, and even her curls. The way she deals with her family is very neat. She is perfectly aware of their faults yet is never short or ill-tempered with them. And to add to all this...she loves to read and even manages to run around the countryside without being in the least bit hoydenish. Altogether I found it impossible not to admire and love this Lizzy.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy – We have all heard Mr. Darcy referred to as the ultimate romantic hero, yet until recently I have never been able to understand why. Once I had seen Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy, though, I knew. I generally do not like the out and out romantic heroes that spend their days riding around their large estates and their evenings in sitting rooms drinking wine with their sophisticated friends, generally preferring the “working” gentleman...a doctor, persay. Ahem, pardon me, doctors are rather a habit for me, but I digress... So to return, I had never been very attracted to Mr. Darcy, but that was only until I became acquainted with the real Mr. Darcy. And I do not think I exaggerate. Yet even as I was thinking that, I could enter into Elizabeth's feelings of dislike for him as I have been able to in no other form of the story, including *whisper* the book. Quite a shocking lack of imagination to be sure, but so it 'tis. In this adaptation the “other side” of Mr. Darcy's character is often shown, especially his connection and loving older brother care for Georgiana (which, by the bye, was perfect for the part). Seeing Mr. Darcy fencing was also a treat. And now I will address the “infamous” swimming scene. 1.) I don't think it was shocking at all. The impression I had always received from the rumors I had heard was that he had been swimming his morning laps and appeared before Elizabeth with (as my sister commented) an exercise towel around his shoulders! But that was not at all the case. He had been journeying home from London and being hot and bothered in mind, decided to jump (for all practical purposes, fully clothed) into the pond. What do you think you would do in his place? To be frank, that little episode at Pemberly was one of my favorites in the film. To finish with, I can summarize this Mr. Darcy as one who is very deeply caring and also the one who has finally made me see Mr. Darcy for what he is: a gentleman who, when he is rebuked for his faults takes the rebuke to heart and so shows himself to be a true man, and is the best landlord and best master. And yes, since he is far more than a pure hero of romance, he is the “ultimate” romantic hero.

Mr. Bingley and Jane – Mr. Bingley was fun and always smiling. He was at all times the perfect gentleman and host–though, poor fellow, between his sisters and Mr. Darcy, he did at times have a hard time being so. It took some time for me to become connected to Jane. However, I did come to like her very much. Particularly in the second part when she talked more so I came to understand her better.

The Others – Mr. Bennet was a little nicer than in the book, but I actually liked him much better that way–I could see why Lizzy liked him so much! Mrs. Bennet and Lydia were very irritating, but since that is the way they are in the book that is quite fine. I think Mr. Collins was more slimy and not so funny as he ought to of been, but again, that is all right. It was nice to see Maria Lucas so you knew that not all girls of fifteen were as giddy as Lydia, and Georgiana was very sweet.

Scenery/Sets – Excellent! You very much felt as if you were in an English village. The countryside was good and the houses were elegant and airy. Much to the consternation of my elder sister, I keep on calling Pemberly “Mr. Darcy’s Hospital” since it looks to my mind like an old hospital from the days of Cherry Ames because of its great brick front, but I mean it as a compliment to the building.

Costumes – Somewhat simple, as most of Lizzy's dresses were either white or shades akin to it, but all very pretty and fresh, especially compared to the Bingley sisters. I cannot remember the specifics of the other ladies' costumes. I do know, however, they went well with the story. My favorite of the outfits was a coral gown that Lizzy wore at Lady Catherine's and a yellow, girlish looking dress that Maria Lucas wears at the same time. Those are my favorites, but there were many others that I very much liked. The men's costumes were also well done. Why don't men wear those shirts with “the shoulders off the shoulders” and the wide sleeves any more? And what about cravats? Ties are nothing in comparison. :)

Parts I did not enjoy so much – I do not wish to give the least bit of a bad taint to the movie, but I also appreciate when people tell all the nitty, gritty, disgusting details of a movie: so here you have them. There is one scene with Mr. Darcy in his bath, but you can only see his shoulders (far less than you see of people on the beach), and one scene with Wickham at Cambridge. There are also one or two scenes with Wickham and Lydia, but they show nothing. They are just in a room together and Wickham is writing and Lydia–fully clothed–is dancing around the place. All of the above scenes are very easy to skip. It may sound like a lot of “scenes”, but there did not seem that many when you were watching and, though I would have liked it if they had been left out, the sister committee do not feel that they tainted the movie in any way. I assure you, they sound far worse in print than they are in the movie. We just looked away and ta-DA, it was great!

Favorite Scenes – This is not at all fair, because I loved nearly every scene and since I have only seen it all the way through once I don't remember every little part. However, if forced to say, the entire Pemberly episode–from when Elizabeth first views the house to her meeting Miss Darcy to the scene where she reads Jane's letter and tells Mr. Darcy of Lydia's elopement–is a section that very much stands out to me. Also all the little scenes betwixt Elizabeth and Jane were beautiful as you saw their wonderful sibling understanding for each other though their temperaments are different.

Final Thoughts – This film has often been called the definitive Jane Austen adaptation and I passionately concur. Indeed, it vies very closely with the '95 S&S as my favorite Austen adaptation and that means I love, love, loved it! If you have not seen this film you are seriously missing out and I eagerly encourage you to do so! Run to the nearest library, collect your sisters, and settle down for five entire hours of pure drama, costume, humor, and romantic bliss. What are you waiting for?
Stars: 5+/5

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