12/31/2008

Let's talk about my year in movies

I try to keep track of all the movies I see in a year that are new to me. This year's list is extremely lacking in new releases--I haven't seen a new film in a full price movie theater for months. I might get around to it later this week. But anyway, I watched a ton of older movies, catching myself up with pop culture. Here are standouts that I haven't written about: some of them lived up to the hype, others were disappointing.

Let's start with the disappointing:

Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)--A film about three single women in Italy and their search for husbands. My soul died a little when I realized how pre-feminist movement the whole film was. Everything from the old maid given a basket of cats to changing all your interests to match the ones of the man you want to catch. There was a lot of yelling involved on my part.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)--Lead-lined fridge in an atom bomb.

Annie Hall (1977)--I thought I liked neurotic, but this got tedious. I feel terrible for not liking this film.

American Beauty (1999)--Why was this such a huge deal? I didn't connect to it. It seems to be a bunch of ill-formed thoughts and story lines slapped on-screen.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)--Beyond mediocre filmmaking. I honestly stopped caring about the characters a half hour in. To be fair, I already knew the suprise twist, but still, mediocre.

Once (2006)--Much like You Got Served's dancers, these musicians shouldn't have tried to act. Good music though.

Casino (1995)--I know I've already expressed my rage. But seriously, top 250 on IMDb?

Let's talk about the good:

Seven Samurai (1954)/The Magnificent Seven (1960)--I saw these two on consecutive days which was probably one of the best ideas ever. While the original gets a little slow in parts, it's gives time to develop all the characters for such a simple story. Definitely lives up to its hype. And how fun/manly is The Magnificent Seven? Such a work of love of the original and is just about the most awesome thing ever.

Mostly Martha
(2001)--I've never seen No Reservations, but I love this film. I have a thing for frigid/emotionally cut off female characters. I also have a thing for adorable quirky men (in this case Italian). It manages to both be dark and delightful and to incorporate a child without making me sick. Loved it.

Fearless (1993)--I didn't think I would like this film as much as I did, but put tragedy to slow motion and crescendoing strings and I'm yours. Also, I just love Isabella Rossellini.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)--Crime fighting chicks are awesome. And Anthony Hopkins is perfectly creepy/alluring/genius.

Days of Heaven
(1978)--This film is lovely. The cinematography in conjunction to the magic Ennio Morricone's use of Camille Saint-Saëns' "Le Carnaval des Animaux: Aquarium" is magical. While it's more of a series of vignettes than an actual narrative, it's transfixing and the one film I really like Richard Gere in.

All That Jazz
(1979)--I love dance a lot, and I love to peak into the dancing world like this musical does. And despite the ridiculously long ending song, SeaQuest guy is great.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)--A movie that I kept thinking about afterward. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet's relationship is so real and honest within such a gimmicky plot. Well done.

Persepolis (2007)--Animation that reminded me of Daria, but with an edge. I learned a lot about the Iranian revolution in the 70s and got to see an entertaining/heartbreaking female coming-of-age movie.

12/28/2008

Medley of the Day: Dream Sequence Edition

Whatever, this totally isn't musical, but I was looking up clips of Judging Amy* and happened upon a sweet dream sequence from episode 1x16, "The Wee Hours." Amy dreams of kissing her sexy/adorable CSO, Bruce:



Well, then I thought of other random dream sequences. Here's one from House 4x16, "House's Head" with crazy Amber:



And from Gilmore Girls, the delightful sequence that started season 3 from "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days":



And just because I love Judging Amy so much, more clips! Here are some classic Maxine moments. Oh, how I love Tyne Daly.





*One of my all-time favorite TV shows that needs to be on DVD.

12/22/2008

The Marathon is Over

I'm going to need to watch something happy and fluffy where there are no consequences except happiness. But the greatest thing about the marathon...

I knit a hugely long scarf.
And yes, those are sequined stockings above my not-working fireplace.

Hopefully the next time I post I will be home--if my flight doesn't get cancelled again. I don't want to have to go angry-Joe Pesci on the weather and stab it in the neck. That just gets messy.

Mobsters and Cops Marathon: The Godfather Part II

Other films in this marathon: Goodfellas, Casino, and Bullitt.

Building off the characters and pathos of The Godfather, Part II picks up after Michael becomes well established as the head of the Corleone family and shows his downfall. Suffice it to say, The Godfather Part II is brilliant.


The brilliance is a method that Lost also uses so well--using past events to inform the present story. The main story is about the fall of the Corleones, but the past vignettes interspersed throughout the film track the rise of the family with Vito, the Godfather, as the main character. The juxtaposition of the rise and of the fall makes the whole thing more tragic. The most apparent similarity drawn from the two story lines is the vicious cycle of violence and vengeance. Examples from both storylines are eerily similar, but an act in the early days draws benefits while an act in the current story line only shows desperation. By the time the past story line catches up to Michael as a young man, we immediately see what a huge change has taken place from who he was then to who is is now, and it's heartbreaking.

One of the things I appreciate most in TGP2 is that Michael's wife Kay disapproves, tells him, and actually takes action. After watching the victim and beaten wives in Goodfellas and Casino, it's a relief to see a woman with some backbone. Also, the fact that Kay is played by Diane Keaton blows my mind. I know her mostly from her fluffy recent movies, so to see her in such a serious film is a little jarring, but I love her in this.

But the best part about TGP2 is that it looks and sounds timeless. Nothing flashy goes on. It uses slow, methodical cinematography that doesn't distract from the characters on screen. And the score is heartbreaking and nostalgic with deep roots in Italian music. Again, in contrast to the frenetic and pop culturally aware
Goodfellas and Casino, it's a relief to watch a film that's relying mostly on its own, insular world.

I know I'm not even beginning to touch on all the reasons The Godfather Part II is a great film, but it's a solid piece of cinema. I clocks in at around 200 minutes, but it's not a slow 200 minutes. Suspense is built in from curiosity about how the Corleones became the Corleones and how they're going to stop being the Corleones. Every scene is in there for a reason, and the pace never slacked. Basically, this is a perfect film.

12/21/2008

Mobsters and Cops Marathon: Bullitt

Other films in this marathon: Goodfellas and Casino.

Finally a movie I completely enjoyed, Bullitt.

A 60s thriller with 60s style and music starring Steve McQueen. What's not to love? McQueen plays Bullitt, a cop asked to keep a star witness safe until a hearing. Pretty quickly, the simple task turns complex when the star witness and one of the cops watching him gets shot. Bullitt's put in charge of case and many chases on foot and car ensue. McQueen plays Bullitt as downtrodden and desensitized by his career. Most of this is conveyed subtly which I love. Also, the dialogue was sparse leaving room to admire the great editing and cinematography.

Because I'm sick of writing coherent paragraphs, let's check out some still shots with commentary:

That facial hair + those glasses + a double breasted suit = the greatest informant ever.


So much peeling out in one of the greatest car chases, hands down.


Gun holsters! They're like tough guy suspenders, both of which are hot.


Bullitt's grocery shopping consists of only frozen foods. So much implicit characterization!


Such a lovely use of focus to direct the audience's eye.


Upper angles...


...and lower angles create interesting frames for each shot.


Use of reflection is fantastic. Creepy attorney coming from behind!


Sexy British girlfriend who also happens to be an artist. Character foil anyone?


Crime fighting in a cardigan!


Bullitt drinks his milk with holsters on, like a man.


But the most adorable of all is just-woke-up Bullitt. He has 2 piece PJs that look like my grandmother's tacky couch. What a badass.

Wrap up: Watch this movie. It reminded me of one of my all time favorites, Charade. It's just as suspenseful, although maybe not as fun, but both have a music and filming style that is so definitively 60s that it's just a pleasure to watch. Soderbergh may come close, but nothing is like the straight from the source.

Mobsters and Cops Marathon: Casino

After already standing 2 hours with Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, I decided I'd just get the 3 more hours of him out of the way with Casino.

The first hour, kind of like Goodfellas, is a lot of fun to watch. We hear through narration and quick shots how everyone got into the casino buisness, how the money got to the men on top, how the Tangiers functioned. Unfortunately, there's about 2 more hours of stuff to get through. This movie is way too much of a biopic (it's based on a book that's based on real events) for it to really be a solid piece of cinema. The problem with a film trying to be epic is that it's a short story format. You can have a fun ride with a film, but you're never going to get the characterization or emotional ties that a novel or television show has because of the length.

Even at 3 hours, Casino can't decide what it is. The quick pace at the beginning makes it seem like it will be a fast paced overview of a man's journey in Vegas. Unfortunately, as the pacing slows, scenes are drawn out, and as the narration drops out more and more, the film becomes tedious. Pretty soon people aren't saying anything to each other but f-bombs. People are drunk, high, sleeping together, tying up children. I honestly just started doing other things. I knit about a third of a scarf. I knit a scarf while watching Casino.

I just find biopics boring. I don't care what anyone says, Ray, Walk the Line, My Left Food, Out of Africa, Goodfellas--they're just not that good. Sure the acting is good--a biopic is nothing if not an excuse for an actor to go all out and impersonate someone--but the problem with actually adapting someone's life to film is that you can't make a clean story arc or character arc. You're forced to adapt events to what really happens. And even when a film plays around with events to create an arc, it's still not a streamlined story because you have to cram in so much. I'd rather have somebody just tell me the highlights (like Casino does at the beginning) or dwell on certain events. Probably the most interesting biopic I've seen is Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. It's not a favorite, but at least it acknowldeges that the audience is just getting a mosaic of person's life whether or not it's shown in a linear fashion, and so we share in 32 events/habits that define the man.

Really, this is just to say that Casino started out fun and interesting, but got progressively more boring as the movie went on. I just wish the movie would have stayed as fun as it was in the beginning. But good old Marty Scorsese wins you over at the very end with an ending de Niro narration of what happened to Vegas after the fall out (story time again!) and a return to the epic choral music that began the whole film. I'll give Scorsese this: he sure knows how to pick good music and begin and end a movie.

12/20/2008

Mobsters and Cops Marathon: Goodfellas

I've got a lot of time the next few days before I go home for Christmas (thanks weather) so I rented some movies I've always heard about but never got around to. Turned out, they were all "manly" mobster movies. First up, Goodfellas.


Much like The Godfather, it tracks the rise and involvement of a young man into the mob. But unlike The Godfather, the young man wants to get into the mob. It begins with Henry Hill, the half Irish half Italian neighborhood kid who sees and admires the gangster lifestyle. Christopher Serrone plays young Henry and captures the characteristics and enthusiasm older Henry played by Ray Liotta (and attractiveness).

From the very beginning, we realize we're going to get the greatest hits version of Henry's story, complete with narration. The first hour of the film until we catch up to the initial scene chronologically, is a pure pleasure to watch. We speed through facts and events and it feels like someone telling a story. Group scenes pan by each person describing their name and their role. Dialogue and music blend between scenes blatently skipping over non-essential information. His courtship with Karen is told by narration on both sides kind of reminiscent of When Harry Met Sally cut-ins but broken up by some scenes. Then it starts to get real with unprovoked murders, affairs, cocaine, and more murders. And then it gets irritating because everyone is making terrible choices and it's just painful to watch.

One of the most interesting things about the film is it's vague dwelling in the past. Although styles change all around, the music and Liotta's wardrobe stay behind. The music, although most is contemporary with the the time period, always sound a little antiquated. For example, an early 80s scene features a song by George Harrison who--like the rest of the Beatles--never could escape sounding at least vaguely like his old band. And then Ray Liotta's clothing usually looks like it's based on 50s style. His button-up shirts have clean, flat hems that don't require to be tucking or clean cut suits in dark teals and blues. It's as if he's holding onto the fairytale dream of the mob from when he was a kid. However, an 80s punk version of the Sinatra classic "My Way" leads us out of the film. I guess things caught up with Henry Hill.

This film is a loving tribute to the mob. Through the enthusiastic perspective of Henry, we never see the mob judged, except that it sure is a fun ride. The horrible things he tells matter-of-factly, the benefits he praises. In the end, Goodfellas is not my favorite film. I prefer character driven stories, and while this film certainly is about the character Henry Hill, it's always a little detached. We never know how he feels about his relationship with his wife or that innocent guys are being killed. We get glimpses by how he reacts in scenes, but for the most part he seems emotionally ambivilant about it until the fun times roll around. We know this: Henry Hill sure loves the mob.

Lessons learned: Joe Pesci is obnoxious and don't bust a mobster's balls.

I'm stuck Provo until Tuesday

Thanks Portland, for not being able to cope with bad weather. I was on hold with the airline for a while, and "on hold" music is never good, but compared to the shuttle service I'm on hold with now, Delta's was great. Seriously, the shuttle company apparently can only afford one song, and it's this:



Just shoot me, okay?

Song of the Day: Biblical edition

This is a really random post, but as I was finishing my Old Testament reading for my final and came to 2 Samuel 18:33, I remembered an Eric Whitacre choral piece that uses this text. While the piece isn’t written for its biblical context, it still conveys the sadness that King David must have felt over losing his estranged son Absolam. It gave me a more emotional connection than the dry, KJV English text does alone.

But even if you don’t know the story of David, this song is one of the most accurate artistic expressions of mourning and grieving. The dynamics, speed, and use of voices comes in waves just like any emotional breakdown. The music starts out slow and quiet, hesitant, as if doubting the very words. It builds to a choral yell, questioning the event. Then it quiets again. A single voice sings the words, clear. The choir sings in syncopated, overlapping rhythms, muddling the meaning. The words repeat and repeat.

Listening to this song is draining because of its honesty—it’s 15 minutes of pure anguish. But it’s beautiful and entirely human.

I uploaded the song with an unfortunately ever-moving-Ken-Burn’s-effect picture of King David. The sound quality isn’t the best, but you get the idea. I would recommend Eric Whitacre: The Complete A Capella Works, 1991-2001 for better quality sound as well as many other gorgeous choral songs.


video

12/17/2008

Finals Week

Finals week always brings out the most ridiculous in me. Seriously, this is what I'm spending my time doing:
  • Eating chips and salsa in between...
  • Learning how to do a knit stitch continental style (oh, there are styles) while...
  • Listening to the Old Testament as an audiobook as read by a man who sounds very much like Peter O'Toole, or maybe I just want to imagine it that way--Please note, I'm taking an Old Testament class and I got ridiculously behind in the reading since, you know, it gets kind of dull having to hear about the borders of the tribes of Israel 230498 times. I've just got to make through 2nd Samuel, but occasionally I take breaks to...
  • Watch an episode of Bones. I've been a casual viewer of the show, but since I've been a fan of David Boreanaz since his Buffy days, I thought I should really get into it. It's basically Crossing Jordan without the Boston accents or Miguel Ferrer's amazingly resonant, deep voice. After that I...
  • Start cramming for another test. Right now, statistics. I realized that I hadn't really grasped the last few weeks of the class, so now I get to catch up by tomorrow so I can take the test and...
  • Cram for my speech anatomy class. Too bad my major is almost, like, real knowledge or something. The one plus--I totally know what they're talking about on Bones. But I'll be done with finals by Friday...
  • Which gives me a full day to be lazy and watch movies and pack and clean the apartment before...
  • I fly home for a couple weeks and be lazy some more.
Anyway, I will post something more awesome soon. In the mean time, I'm going to snack, watch some Bones, and then get some sleep before heading to my last shift at work until 2009. Night y'all.

12/12/2008

Why the hell am I watching this?

So instead of studying for finals, I am watching The Pirates of Penzance--the 1983 one starring Kevin Kline. Apparently this movie is less than 2 hours, but seriously, will it never end? I official declare today that I highly dislike Gilbert and Sullivan and find their material highly tedious and unfunny. Unequivocally, I can say the best part of this movie is Tony Azito as the Sergeant, despite the material.

Seriously, his body posture and movement is absolutely hilarious. Check out his eyes at :45. Also, the real awesome dancing begins 3:13--



The moment I saw and heard this character I felt he was a composite of Sacha Baron Cohen in Sweeney Todd and Richard Roxburgh in Moulin Rouge! Seriously, compare:





Anyway, I guess I'll review some power points or something.

12/11/2008

Linksies

I have a special place in my heart for Keanu Reeves, mostly stemming from A Walk in the Clouds, but he's pretty ridiculous: The Many Faces of Keanu Reeves (Pajiba)

I can totally relate to these notes since my apartment is still getting the newspaper from past residents and they just pile up in our doorway: what's black, white and totally over? (Passive-Agressive Notes)

I totally grew out of these books by the time I was 9 and moved onto Sweet Valley Twins and Friends: The BSC: Staple of my Childhood (Poems I wrote When I Was 12)

12/10/2008

A cry for sanity

You know, over the years I've realized how unfunny and absolutely ridiculous the comics page is. The Comics Curmudgeon has made it okay for me to analyze the horribleness of many of the comics, but one strip is so bad, it needs to just stop.

Frank & Ernest.

It's punny in the worst sense. It's puns with not context, rhyme, or reason. Just stuff that might be easily confused for something else. Take today's strip, for example:


Why is this even an option for a "pun"? I guess "google" and "gargle" have similar phonemic properties, but seriously. How do you make this a comic strip? It's not like google and gargle are similar actions, and since gargling has to do with the back your throat, wouldn't it make sense to do that? No, because this is Frank & Ernest where logic isn't necessary to make a "joke". And don't even get me started on whether or not that nurse is Frank or Ernest.

In conclusion, Frank & Ernest is a poor excuse of a comic strip with little basis for existing since its whole premise is on words that sound similar. Too bad I read it every day in the crappy campus newspaper only to get mad all over again.

12/09/2008

Goal: Become a legit Led Zeppelin Fan: Physical Graffiti

In case you missed it, here's my take on Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, and Houses of the Holy.

It's time for a little Physical Graffiti. A collection of songs from years of recording, this features some of the most diverse tracks from the band.


Disc 1:
1. "Custard Pie"--From the opening riff, we know we're dealing with a grittier, white trashier feeling album. Everything from the distorted guitars, to the harmonica, to the prominent drum beat contribute to this sex metaphor of a song. Not a favorite, but indicative of the rest of the album.

2. "The Rover"--This song reminds me of ZZ Top and the tacky sexuality that goes with it. Except Led Zeppelin isn't two creepy bearded guys*. The drum beat is insane and the guitar riff is slide-y (go with it). Again, not my favorite style, but kind of fun.

3. "In My Time of Dying"--Much like "When the Levee Breaks," this song blends old-school blues with modern rock. Page works the slide guitar and John Bonham shines on the drums yet again. I think I have a percussion-crush on this guy. The only downside to this song is that it's over 11 minutes long. I only have the patience for the whole song if I'm doing something active.

4. "Houses of the Holy"--Originally intended for the album of the same name, this song fits in better with the hard rock blues of this album. It almost sounds like they're performing live thanks to the simple and straightforward mix with the exception of Page's solos at the beginning and end.

5. "Trampled Under Foot"--John Paul Jones rocks the
clavinet with a funky rhythm he attributed to Stevie Wonder. Bonham also contributes to the crazy and infectious rhythm, making this a fun song to walk around to**.

6. "Kashmir"--Positively epic: a Jimmy Page guitar riff, simple and hard drums from John Bonham, keyboard from John Paul Jones, real strings and horns, middle eastern instruments, and soaring vocals from Robert Plant mix together for a gorgeous mix of musical genres. Just gorgeous.

Disc 2:
1. "In the Light"--John Paul Jones' mad synth skills are on deep display in the first section of the song. While I still prefer more "natural" instruments, the synthesizer works here. The second section features an orchestral riff from Page and loud drums from Bonham gives it a large sound. The third section features an almost harpsichord sounding synthesizer and simple guitar line that counters the synth. The three sections repeat again for a lengthy, but satisfying rock song. Did I mention there's some sweet guitar with a violin bow action?

2. "Bron-Yr-Aur"--By far, one of the mellowest Zeppelin songs, it's acoustically gorgeous.

3. "Down by the Seaside"--Obviously inspired by Neil Young, it's a fairly mellow, electric rock song. The tone of the song goes from driving in the car to accusatory rock (go with it). Also, Jones plays some lovely electric piano.

4. "Ten Years Gone"--This is song with lyrics dedicated to a girl Robert Plant once loved. It sounds nostalgic, layered with guitar harmonies. The switch from acoustic to electric guitar feels like the difference between simply remembering and reliving an experience. The song then goes into an "accusatory rock" section with Plant pointedly talking to the audience (that girl?). I instantly fell in love with this song: soft with an edge.

5. "Night Flight"--Also sounds a little nostalgic with an interlude that sounds similar to one in The Who's "Baba O'Reilly." But it's also simply a rocking tune. We have Jones at the organ, and Robert Plant owning the song with his performance.

6. "The Wanton Song"--Featuring an aggressive riff from Page reminiscent of "Immigrant Song" and strained Plant vocals in the verses, this sounds more like an earlier Zeppelin song, although recorded for this album. I absolutely love the smooth, funky, organlicious bridge.

7. "Boogie with Stu"--This song is jam inspired by Ritchie Valen's "Ooh, my Head" and you can tell. It's a fun throwback to 1950s rhythm and blues with fun clap-sounding precussion, rollicking (!?) piano, and simple guitar solos.

8. "Black Country Woman"--An acoustic but drum heavy song like "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp," it has just heavy to keep me interested. It's an interesting mix of folk sound and typical blues chord progression. And really, the lyrics are a laugh.

9. "Sick Again"--This feels like the beginning of the album again. With more slide guitar from page and ridiculous drum rhythm from Jones, it's a funny and kind of trashy sound.

Overall assessment: This is an album that grew on me. The more I listen, the more I hear how each member of the band contributed and the intricacies of the music. It's diverse, epic, and comfortable to listen to.


*This is an example of when beards fail.
**Might just be me.

12/08/2008

Medley of the Day: A Choral Christmas Edition

I love Christmas music. More specifically, classical Christmas music. Really, it's the only time of year I can get away with listening to choral music without being a total nerd. My preference is for minor key, kind of depressing, old fashioned melodies. Here are some of my favorites:

Choir of Winchester Cathedral "Gabriel's Message":




From the Handel's Messiah, "Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs." This is one of my favorite songs from The Messiah, featuring some of the most understandable and beautiful Isaiah verses. The minor key building up to lovely resolution is simply gorgeous. The Bow Valley Chorus took it at a pace I like:



And last, from the impeccable Cambridge Singers "Coventry Carol."

12/05/2008

Post 100!

In celebration for my 100th post (it only took a year), I'd like to link to some of my favorite posts I've written so far:

There are 3 kinds of romantic-comedies: shockingly referenced Pirates 2 and 3 Ask a Ninja just like my 99th post. Full circle!

Two for the Road: A review of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movie.

Film Criticism: a Criticism: I'm probably a total hypocrite.

Titanic: Greatest disaster flick ever?: A post as epic as the film itself.

Actor Appreciation: Shahrukh Khan: Seriously, check him out.

All the President's Men: Consistently Good: I use the word man-locks.

Fighting Evil by Moonlight: In remembrance of Sailor Moon: Should I be Embarrassed?

Movies about dancers: In which I'm totally cheesy about dancing.

Let's review 1st Shop of Coffee Prince: I talk about my favorite Korean drama.

Goal: Become a legit Led Zeppelin Fan:
Also, let me know what kind of posts you'd like more of (or less of). And no, I won't stop with the Led Zeppelin posts til I'm done.

12/04/2008

Jane Austen done easy!

First of all, I'd like to say that each of the 3 times I've seen the 2005 Pride & Prejudice, I really want to like it. And each time, with the first 10 minutes I'm fooled into enjoying it, and then it just lets me down. I rewatched it this Thanksgiving break followed up by a reviewing of Sense & Sensibility(1995) which only made the flaws of P&P more obvious. Admittedly, P&P is one of my favorite books of all time, so any big changes to it makes me a little antsy. Which is why I adore the 5 hour BBC version from 1995--it contains most every scene and develops every storyline. So chopping up this novel into a ~2 hour cinematic piece is like killing my own baby. Well, it's cringe worthy at least. S&S, on the other hand, manages to develop characters and create an accessible story despite it's length.

Anyway, I'd like to point out some of the contrast between these two films:

Tone
P&P: Artsy and maudlin. The cinematography is gorgeous, which isn't a bad thing. The long takes through complicated scenes are to be admired, but unfortunately, it takes precedence over acting and character development. Instead of having characters have scenes together that build emotion and character arcs, odd and overt film metaphors are made: at the Netherfield ball, Elizabeth and Darcy literally end up dancing as if they were the only couple in the room; when Elizabeth is pondering Darcy's first proposal, she stares into a mirror all day, reflecting on her life; when Elizabeth tours Pemberly for the first time, the camera dwells on nude statues, apparently showing her growing sexual attraction to Darcy. Literally.

Not to mention the completely out-of-nowhere and corny 2nd proposal where Mr. Darcy walks through the morning dew toward a sleepless Lizzie on a walk. And then stating that she has "bewitched [him] body and soul." WTF? And don't even get me started on the "Mrs. Darcy" crap at the end. Mostly, the film avoids showing true character development and spends all its time on monologues of drivel and trite film metaphor, apparently making it accessible to modern audiences.

S&S: Simple and humorous. Ang Lee's direction is seamless and unnoticable throughout the film which allows the characters to shine and develop, which I think is truer to Austen's story telling. Her novels aren't about being pretty, but pointing out peculiararities within society. To do so, she focuses on people's words and actions, not asinine metaphor. The humor is also intact in this adaptation. The adapted lines don't stick out like they do in P&P, and blend into Austen's brand of biting observation. And even changes like the youngest sister being a wannabe pirate and Mr. Ferrars actually having a personality makes the story more interesting to a modern audience instead of just dumbing down the discourse.

Lead roles
P&P: I don't hate Keira Knightly in this role. She's an adequate actress and only gets lost in the old-fashioned language on occasion. She's a spunkier Elizabeth, but does well for this adaptation. Matthew MacFadyen is about as milquetoast as they come. For a spunkier Lizzie, he is an impossible match, not because of his douchey behavior, but for his complete lack of personality. He spits out lines with little to no emotion. This description doesn't do the vapid performance justice, since being very emotionally controlled would be an accurate description of Mr. Darcy. But there's no spark of mild flirtation, only close up shots of his hand whenever he touches Elizabeth, that show his attraction to her. Instead of a fiery argument during the 1st proposal, they almost kiss instead of connecting through words. Maybe the director figured out MacFadyen is boring and had to add in visual indications of personality to replace such a lackluster performance. Call me crazy, but I like my romantic leads to have, you know, chemistry. This is just boring. I honestly don't care if they get together, and I mostly blame that on Darcy.

S&S: This being Emma Thompson's baby, she does a lovely job at forming emotion from Austen's words. Certainly her work doing shakespeare contributes to her ability to take complicated language and convey its meaning and nuances. I can't say enough about just listening to her talk. And her portrayal of a very responsible and, by necessity, closed-off sister/daughter is genuine and believable. Kate Winslet is young and her spunk contributes to the ridiculous character of Marianne who is overly sentimental and dramatic. Winslet always plays this type of role well (see: Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind .) Alan Rickman is always funny, but he does meloncholy well in this film. He even manages to be kind of sexy. Hugh Grant is always a shock to see as Mr. Ferrars, since he's so well known for his floppy-haired modern romcoms, but once the movie settles, so does his character. Grant does well with comedy and being neurotic, so the indecicive Mr. Ferrars suits him well. Overall, a cast well suited for their characters and who speak the language with eloquence and humor.

Costuming/sets/group settings/whatever
P&P: Greasy hair and dirty houses seem to match the artsy tone of the movie. Poverty films well, so I guess they decided to make the Bennet's even poorer than they already were. As far I know, the Bennet's just didn't have a fortune to give their daughters, but they weren't particularly bad off. Which makes dwelling on a pig walking right outside their house an odd choice. Also, Keira Knightly's way too thin for the time period with her dress draping over breastless body [ed. note: I'm not really sure how thin people were in this time period, but Knightly looks too frail to hold up an empire-waist style dress. More of an observation of preference I guess.] But the messier style looked great in ballroom scenes where many people are dancing and having fun. You could actually see why people would have fun with a ball in this film. And that's what it comes down to really: a less cordial, more casual, "modern" style that defines this film.

S&S: Neat, simple and lovely defines this film. Contrast in wealth is shown through an absense in color and fabrics in the homes, which is more subtle than dirt track through the house vs. fancy. But the clothing was well crafted and simple, like the story. Although the wigs are obvious in this film (so curly) and seemed to mismatch eyebrows/coloring a lot. But overall, settings are simple and quiet so when something does happen dramatically, we can focus on the lead characters without being overwhelmed by everything surrounding them.

Music
This is an area where both soundtracks are absolutely gorgeous. Both utilize 19th century musical themes to a film soundtrack, perfect for the time period.

Novel to Screenplay, overall reflection
P&P: Like I stated earlier, this is a brief version of the story. Adapting novels to film always requires cuts to be made, whether in characters or scenes. Unfortunately, P&P is a complex story with subtle, slowly building character development and change. This version just doesn't have the length to give the story a full and deserving treatment. I would submit that they should have cut and rewritten some moments entirely since the strength was in the purely original work. For example, Mr. Wickham, though handsome* has little charm to attract Elizabeth to him so the audience never thinks that he's a real contender for her heart. I would have been fine if they cut him out. In fact, I would have been fine to watch a newly written regency era film with the style. They tacked on enough new stuff at the end that it's practically a new story anyway. So in terms of an adaptation, it fails to capture the tone of the novel and drowns in so many plot points to cover.

S&S: This is a much simpler story. Many of the scenes cut out were those between Elinor and Colonel Brandon and would have only contributed confusion**. But major plot points are intact and changes in character are developed throughout the film. By simplifying an already simple story, the film is able to capture characters since it isn't drowning in plotlines***. Any changes to character, like stated before with Mr. Ferrars, serve to give the audience more of a reason to care about the characters. Added scenes assist in developing a relationship between the characters, which is where the genius of this adaptation lies: character development and observation that is both funny and genuine.

What you should take from this
Go watch Sense & Sensibility--it's humorous and good. And avoid Pride & Prejudice--unless you like trite love stories.


*Kind of like a more mannish version of Orlando Bloom...in other words, Keira Knightly.
**I still think they should end up together, at least in the novel, since they're the least ridiculous characters.
***Seriously.

12/02/2008

Update

So I'm trying to get my grad school applications done this week (I don't know, procrastinating homework with something that's productive?). I can't really think very well right now, but here are some things that have occurred to me this week:

  • I've never met an Al(l)i/yson I didn't like.
  • "Good Eats," starring the adorably nerdy and glassesed Alton Brown, is like the Billy Nye the Science Guy/MST3K of cooking shows.
  • America should probably look into nuclear fusion as an energy alternative.
  • Sequined stockings were probably the best choice.
  • Hugh Laurie is a fantastic comedic actor. Compare this to this to this.
  • I don't function well waking up before 8am.
  • I actually want it to snow.
  • My Sufjan Stevens (Holiday) Pandora station is the best.
Love love,
A very sleepy Kelsy

P.S. Here's my very favorite Hugh Laurie moment ever from "A Bit of Fry and Laurie":