Monday, July 2, 2018

The Relative Merits of Pride and Prejudice films

There seems to be a continuing debate on the superiority of one Pride and Prejudice film (1995 or 2005) over the other. Despite the vocal majority being on the side of Colin Firth P&P '95, it is a not a truth universally acknowledged. Additionally, the debate sets up a false dichotomy, since of course these are not the only films to attempt to portray Jane Austen's classic.
Because I had way too much time on my hands am not entirely satisfied with either movie, I recently watched the 1940 Pride and Prejudice also presented here for your interest. It will henceforth be referred to as "Southern Belle P&P."

*Note: This is not a "review." I'll be dropping spoilers like... well, frequently, and I provide no synopsis. It is intended to be a guide to Janeites who have read the book but have yet to see any (or some) of the adaptations.*


CHARACTERS

1940 // 1995 // 2005
ELIZABETH BENNET

Southern Belle P&P: As an actress, I actually think Greer Garson may be the best Lizzy. Her character is written a little more teary-eyed than Elizabeth Bennet of the books; at times the Old Hollywood style of acting (tending to the melodramatic) is a little too much. However, she plays Lizzy's overall outlook of "choosing to be amused at the world" well, so I think if she had been directed by the 1995 or 2005 director she could have been the ideal Lizzy.

Colin-Firth-in-a-wet-shirt P&P: I do like Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy, but she isn't the ideal Lizzy for me. She is a good actress, and has a good handle on the character, as well as being the most Lizzy-looking of the three. I think it might be her voice (sorry, I know she can't help it) which just doesn't shout "Elizabeth Bennet" to me.

Emo P&P: It's hard to put my finger on what drives me crazy about Kiera Knightley's portrayal. Perhaps she's a little too emotional? Brooding? Yes, she says funny things and laughs, but instead of an overall amused outlook on life it seems to be an overall brooding outlook, which she forces herself to break by making a joke. Also, she doesn't behave with dignity. Perhaps that is the main flaw with her acting. Or perhaps it's just hard to get past all the eyeliner and sloppy hair (complete with pixie cut sticking out in the back).

1940 // 1995 // 2005
MR. DARCY
 1940: It is difficult to say how much is due to Laurence Olivier's acting and how much is due to the writer/director of his character, but Darcy is much too likeable in this movie. His first line "Tolerable, but not enough to tempt me" was his first and last moment of rudeness. From then on, he and Lizzy have amicable conversations and he is all kindness. Except for the first proposal. They kept the lines pretty much straight from the film, but it felt all wrong, because this Mr. Darcy is so nice. It rather came out of nowhere. He even says, halfway through the film, "I rather admired what you did this afternoon, Miss Elizabeth. Your resentment of what you believed to be an injustice showed courage and loyalty. I could wish that I might possess a friend who would defend me as ably as Mr. Wickham was defended today." ??
They spent so much time making Darcy seem like a great hero, the writers forgot that Darcy is NOT a friendly, perfect guy in the opening scene. He is proud (see the title) and because of that, rude at times. There isn't a secret romantic passion between him and Elizabeth from page one. She only takes interest in him some time after his first proposal, and for a reason.

1995: Not my ideal Darcy (sorry!), but it's hard to say why not. He's the best I've yet seen. I'm only now just getting past the the Darcy hype and learning why, 10 years ago, I fell in love with this romance and this hero. I haven't much to say about Mr. Firth because he plays Mr. Darcy pretty well.

2005: Matthew MacFadyen's Darcy does a much better job showing his pride than Laurence Olivier, but it also tends to the "he's just socially awkward and shy, it's all a misunderstanding" view of Darcy. My dear readers, Darcy's change is central to the story. Also, his hair wants cutting.
1940 // 1995 // 2005
JANE
1940: Jane is totally ditzy in this film. I mean, ridiculously. I'm unable to find any youtube clips of her  illness at Netherfield, but the way she nods and smiles in a nothing-going-on-upstairs kind of way in that bit kills me. She says a few sweet things, is definitely pretty, but appears to be an idiot. Clattering by Lizzy and Darcy talking: "Mr. Bingley is going to have dancing!"

1995: Susanna Harker is a lovely person, but the hair styles in this movie are just not becoming to her. I also feel that she comes across as not particularly intelligent. Of course, this depends on how you like your Jane. Mr. Bennet says that all of his daughters are "silly and ignorant like other girls." He is deliberately antagonizing Mrs. Bennet at this part, but I think his comment is valid. Kitty and Lydia are obviously officer-silly. Mary's moralizing speeches show a lack of true understanding. Jane's insistence on thinking well of people becomes almost willful ignorance. Even Lizzy, who has "something more of quickness than her sisters," is totally mistaken in the true character of our leading gentleman and his enemy. So, if you take the position that Jane ought to be a little dim witted, you would certainly have a case to argue, and I will not complain against Susanna Harker.

2005: Rosamund Pike does such an excellent job of showing Jane's sweet, gentle personality. Her smiles at Mr. Bingley seem genuine, yet Charlotte's advice that Jane had better show more affection than she feels does not seem unwarranted (contrastingly, the 1940 Jane is so vivacious that Mr. Darcy's plea of being unsure of Jane's feelings seems ridiculous). Her tears and "Yes, a thousand times yes!" in response to Mr. Bingley's proposal (oops, did you know they end up together?) is perfectly Jane. I personally prefer Jane kind but not dumb — not that she is ignorant of people's evil intentions, but chooses to hope for the best in them.

Mary, 1940 // Kitty and Lydia, 1995 // Mary and Lydia, 2005
THE SILLY SISTERS
1940: All the girls act TOO silly: Jane, Lizzy, and Mary included. Mary wears glasses and visits a book shop, but isn't otherwise bookish or solemn. Not one moralizing speech makes an appearance. Kitty and Lydia (of whom good pictures are few) are not memorable. Lydia's big scene, when she returns a married woman, is so hastily done that the irony and shamelessness of the moment is entirely lost.

1995: Mary is great. Her serious reflections are just what they ought. She does look a little old for the part, though. Lydia sounds perpetually hoarse but Julia Sawalha is a great actress. Her flirtations and improprieties drive me horribly crazy, as I'm rather a stuffed shirt than otherwise. I'm not a huge fan of Kitty.

2005: Kitty and Lydia are decent, but the girls are simply not that funny. The film tones them all down. Mary's only memorable speech is a line stolen from Miss Bingley about having conversation instead of dancing at balls, delivered half heartedly.

1940 // 1995 // 2005
MR. AND MRS. BENNET

1940: Over the top funny. They, too, suffer from the melodramatic vein of Southern Belle P&P, but they're not bad.

1995: Mrs. Bennet is perfectly awful. Her scheming and gossiping and fancying herself ill drives one absolutely batty (as it ought). Her voice sounds like Miss Piggy (I'm sorry, you'll never be able to un-hear that). Mr. Bennet is delightfully sarcastic. "Well, my dear, if Jane should die of this fever, it will be comfort to feel that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders."

2005: Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet are decent. I've heard it said that Mrs. Bennet is a little too sympathetic as a character. And yes, there are moments, when she and Mr. Bennet are quietly talking over their daughters, that you don't hate her. But Alison Steadman is an excellent actress and her "Such flutterings and spasms all over me!" quickly replaced by "A daughter, married!" is absolutely hilarious.
Mr. Bennet slouches horribly and I have always found it annoying.


MR. COLLINS

1940: He's not bad, but comes across as just totally ditzy, like he's wandering around in a cloud world (come to think of it, everyone in this film seems a bit farther on the ditzy-scale than normal). He isn't as pompous and self-important as one expects.

1995: Every bit of this Mr. Collins is oily, including his hair. He is perhaps a little too much a times, but he is very funny. I will say that the book describes Mr. Collins as tall, and David Bamber is short. This does add to the humour, however.

2005: Mr. Collins is once again, humoursly short. He is very funny, but quite different from the 1995 actor. It really depends on how you like your Collins; Tom Hollander is less oily and seems more sincerely full of his self-importance (David Bamber's pomposity [is that a word?] seems more put on). It is extremely difficult for me to pick between the two, as they are both represent the character well but in different ways.

1940 // 1995 // 2005
WICKHAM
Wickham is a tricky character. He can't seem too good, because of course he is wicked at heart. But if he is obviously a creeper to a person watching the movie with no knowledge of the book, it makes Lizzy seem stupid to have believed in him.

1940: This Wickham is, in a way, the best of the Wickhams, because he doesn't seem like a slimeball at all. He is quite dashing (with his totally-Regency moustache) and seems like a nice enough fellow. He keeps seeming like a nice fellow all the way to the end, in fact, by which time we ought to remember he's not.

1995: Wickham is good, very friendly and gallant, but I will say that he seems like a faker to me from the beginning.

2005: Mr. Wickham suffers from the 2005 hair problems and his modesty is a bit overdone. But I will say he is my pick of the Wickhams, because he manages to be not creepy in the first bit, while still being believably evil in the second half.

1940 // 1995 // 2005
LADY CATHERINE

1940: Edna May Oliver acts Lady Catherine fairly well. She has a I confess this Lady Catherine leaves something to be desired, but it is more the character than the actress I quarrel with. The writers added a plot twist that Lady Catherine is actually a sweet old lady who just has an attitude. ?

1995: Ah, Lady Catherine. Swelled with dignity, yet not polite. She says out loud what everyone else is thinking. Barbara Leigh-Hunt is an excellent actress, but at times seems a little languid, as if she is ill.

2005: It is impossible to complain about Judi Dench. She plays the Imperious Grand Woman to perfection. She is even less apologetic about herself and her opinions than the 1995 Lady Catherine. "How very strange!" "Fitzwilliam, I need you!"



Clockwise from top left: Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, 1995 // Bingley, 1995 // Miss Bingley, 2005 // Bingley, 2005
THE BINGLEYS

1940 (Of which there are no great pictures): Miss Bingley is very imperious and haughty. Nothing to complain about. Honestly, Mr. Bingley is just boring.

1995: Miss Bingley is a very good actress. She gives the Bennets a charming welcome which would certainly deceive Jane, while glancing behind her with a "when will this be over" look that isn't lost on watchers. "Mr. Bennet! Mrs. Bennet! Quite delighted. Ah, and all your daughters..."This is the only film where we get a Mrs. Hurst. Charles Bingley is charming.

2005: Some people think this Mr. Bingley seems dumb. I do not think he is any dumber than Jane Austen intended him to be (see reflections on Jane Bennet, above). She says only that he is "by no means deficient" and that Darcy is "the superior" in understanding. I think this Mr. Bingley is adorable. It's hard to get past the fact that Miss Bingley is almost always in a state of undress, but her cutting lines are well delivered. She is, if anything, a little too nasty. We don't really see her being charming.



*Of course, I haven't dealt with Georgianna, Col. Fitzwilliam, the Gardiners or Charlotte Lucas... Since brevity is the soul of wit, however, suffice it to say that Georgianna is omitted from the 1940 version and seems to be all of twelve years old in the 2005 version. Col. Fitzwilliam is strange in Emo P&P, and wears a kilt in Southern Belle P&P. In Southern Belle P&P, the Gardners are omitted and Charlotte Lucas is barely a character. They are decently portrayed in both the 1995 and 2005 versions.

STORYLINE:

1940: Though I've read the book at least half a dozen times, seen the 1995 version thrice and the 2005 version twice that, I didn't know what was going on in Southern Belle P&P. It is right at two hours long, and they manage those 120 minutes very ill. The events of the book are very compressed, in order to fit in some random scenes which seemed peculiarly unnecessary. For instance, at the first ball, Lizzy meets Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley meets Jane, Lizzy is snubbed by Darcy, barely five minutes later is asked to dance by him, AND Wickham and Darcy encounter each other.

Instead of the Netherfield ball, there is a garden party, at which Lizzy hides in a clump of bushes from Mr. Collins (waving conspiratorially at Darcy so he won't give her away and then thanking him for complying), Darcy demonstrates how to hold a bow very closely to Lizzy (who then demonstrates to him that she is an excellent archer), and all of Lizzy's family embarrasses themselves. Miss Bingley then compliments Lizzy on her interesting family, after which she cries in the garden and Mr. Darcy comforts her. And we get this beautiful exchange:
"At this moment, it's difficult to believe that you're so... proud."
Quoth he: "At this moment, it's difficult to believe that you're so... prejudiced. Shall we not call it quits and start again?"
They don't of course, because he still hasn't explained about Mr. Wickham, injured Jane, or proposed, and if they got engaged now we would have no story.

Both proposals are strange. Because she seems to have a secret passion for Mr. Darcy from day one, Lizzy almost accepts the first proposal (which wouldn't have been too unnatural, as it is hardly rude at all), and is almost laughing afterwards, rather than needing many days for composure. Then the Wickham event, which Lizzy hears of after returning home. Rather than going immediately to help Wickham, he asks if he can help and then does nothing, since she says no. Instead we have an unnecessary scene where Miss Bingley tells Darcy and Bingley that Wickham and Lydia are still missing. This has caused the Bennet family to be completely ostracized in their community and she even reports that Lizzy and Jane have been seen fleeing through the streets. It is only THEN that Darcy decides to go look for the pair, after which he sets them up with a yearly salary, enough for Lydia and Wickham to arrive at Longbourne in a four-horse carriage and trumpeters before them (!).
Upon their visit, the viewers learn that the Bennet's are actually moving to a seaside town to escape the shame. Everything is in an uproar, with tea cups on the floor and a parrot in a chair, when Lady Catherine arrives. Her visit is actually a stunt to test Lizzy's loyalty, as Darcy is waiting outside. When Lizzy refuses to not marry Darcy, Lady C. sails out and tells Darcy that Lizzy is "perfect" for him, since he's been spoiled all his life (not evident in this film, for he is kind and considerate and not at all proud or selfish). "What you need is a woman who can stand up to you."
The ending sequence shows Lizzy in the garden with Darcy, Jane and Bingley reconciling in another nook, Lydia together with Wickham, and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet surveying two young men paying attentions to Mary and Kitty in their parlor. (They know it's love because the young rector is playing the flute to Mary's terrible singing with great complaisance.)

So yes, we have five sisters in need of marriage, two proposals, a visit to Rosings Park, and a scheming Miss Bingley, but otherwise the story is quite different. There is no visit to Pemberley, nor is one necessary, since Mr. Darcy is already quite endearing and Elizabeth quite endeared.


1995: It's hard to complain about this movie. It's pretty accurate to the book; though it's hardly fair to compare this to the other two, because it's 5 hours long, and has a lot more time to include all the details of the story (for instance, including Mrs. Hurst as a character. I like it when movies get all the details right, but I don't quarrel with this kind of omission because I realize time constraints make it necessary to do so.)
My one grievance with Andrew Davies is the notorious wet-shirt scene. You know what I'm talking about. Colin Firth strips down to his [albeit modest] underclothes, and it is in this wet shirt (no waistcoat or frock coat, which would have been quite inappropriate to be without) that he greets Elizabeth. Is it unreasonable that a guy would swim in his own pond after a hot ride, and that visitors should arrive concurrently? No. Is it something Jane Austen would write? A resounding no.

Various small bits differ from the book, but unlike certain other adaptions, the additions are things that Jane Austen might have written herself (except for Lydia running into Mr. Collins in the hallway half clothed. That is Lydia behaviour though, so I let it slide).


2005: Though not as deviant as Southern Belle P&P, Emo P&P takes some liberties.
Though I like Bingley, I dislike the fact that he chats with Jane in the bedroom when she's sick at Netherfield (this actually happens in the 1940 version as well, though he has the decency to peer over a screen, I guess). *I* wouldn't let a non-relative male into my bedroom while I'm lying there in my pjs. You think they were less concerned with propriety two hundred years ago?
The first proposal takes place in the rain (so Kiera can have extra runny eyeliner) and almost becomes romantic. ?! It's not supposed to be romantic. They aren't supposed to almost kiss at the end. He is RUDE, readers, and she is offended. (But um, still maintains dignity, Lizzy. You don't run about yelling "For once in your life, leave me alone!" at people).
Instead of meeting her on a walk, Mr. Darcy comes into Elizabeth's bedroom (where's she been sitting in her pjs, staring into a mirror all day), without even knocking, to drop off his letter.
The director must have a thing with filming people in their pajamas, because Lady Catherine's visit to intimidate/interrogate Elizabeth takes place in the middle of the night. I really have no clue why this decision was made.
We shouldn't be surprised then, when a fourth scene, namely the second proposal, also takes place in pjs. Heaven and earth, are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted? Serendipitously, Mr. Darcy and Lizzy both wander out about 5 am or so to take a walk in an adjoining field. With the inspiring words "Well.. your hands are cold" their romance is finally on happy footing.
A brief consultation in pjs with Mr. Bennet (probably agrees to the marriage because her reputation has been compromised) seals the deal, and then the scene switches to the married pair, wearing... you guessed it, pjs once again. A lot of kissing, and then the end.


One incorrect aspect of the film in general is that the Bennets are portrayed as very poor. The director expressed a desire to show how life was "pretty dirty" back in the day. He said that "messy is beautiful. I think tidiness is ugly and so that's just my aesthetic." This certainly comes across. Mrs. Bennet is slovenly, nobody's hair is tidy, and a pig wanders through the house. Although, yes, Mr. Bennet owned a farm, and yes, in their context the Bennets were "poor," they were not barely surviving peasants. Longbourne is not the name of the Bennets house, but a small village that Mr. Bennet owns. They have servants. The animals would have been some distance from the house. Perhaps the nineteenth century wasn't pristine, but neither are the Bennet ladies farm girls.
Overall, they do a fine job of compressing the plot into just over two hours. However, the expression of the film seems modernized, and, unfortunately, sensationalized. Readers, Jane Austen's original has enough emotional highs and lows without needing everyone in their pjs. (Note: Jane and Bingley's romance is handled much nicer than the main protagonists'. I dote upon them and their proposal scene is adorable.)

COSTUMES
1940: Sleeves as big as your head, eyelashes as long as your little finger, ridiculous bonnets, huge hoop skirts. I think the filmmakers envisioned the time period as the 1830s, while channeling Gone with the Wind.  Lady Catherine's outfits (see above) were reminiscent of an 1890s ensemble.
There were a few pretty frocks, such as Lizzy's First Proposal Dress.

Lovely Greer Garson almost always has large back curls and roses in her hair.

This one is simply strange.


But mostly it is just too much.

It's a balloon! It's a basketball! It's a... sleeve.

1995: I would not claim to be a fashion expert, as I base most of my knowledge off of google searches and being observant, rather than primary research or even reading books on the subject. However, to my limited knowledge and according to the statements of those who do know, this movie has the most period accurate (c. 1815) costumes. One of the only exceptions I know of is that the ladies frequently display d├ęcolletage in morning gowns, which would only have been appropriate for evening wear (odd, I know, but our society allows bikinis at the beach and not at the grocery store, so...) Also, the fashion of wearing white at a wedding only arose after Queen Victoria's marriage (1840). I don't blame the film makers too much for this, since people expect white at a wedding now.

As the film is five hours long, the costumes are far too numerous to be adequately covered in an already full post. I shall simply share the highlights.
Lizzy's gowns are probably my favourite. She and other Bennet girls frequently wear white, as would have been common.


She has some lovely spencer jackets (As compared to Kitty and Lydia's, which seem ill fitting and not that pretty. See above.)


Notice the lovely orange spencer and her hem detail. Ignore the fact that Mr. Darcy is in dishabille.
I also love Charlotte's lavender blue ball gown.

Lizzy's hair!

I quite adore Mr. Darcy's green frock coat with his pinstriped waistcoat.



2005: The number one goal of this film was to be pretty, not accurate. I have read that the costume designers found the empire waist ugly, so they decided to set the movie in the 1790s (when the first draft of Pride and Prejudice was written), rather than 1813 (when it was rewritten and published). However, they still weren't going for accuracy, so we have a clash of Regency, Georgian, and just plain modern things in this film.
Most characters, including Elizabeth, have a good deal of natural-waist dresses. She has some particularly strange pieces, like this weird, 1990s-looking jumper.


This is also one of the many examples of her hair hanging loose. This would have been considered quite inappropriate in either 1795 or 1813... (Also notice the eyeliner, which will make many more appearances on Miss Lizzy.)


Even when the waist line is higher, the silhouette is still wrong, as featured on Lizzy and Charlotte here. I do like Lizzy's green dress, as the color suits her very well. 


If you will notice, the waist line in a true Regency dress is very high and defined. It is possible that the designer was trying to make the dress more flattering to Kiera in particular, for Jane's clothing seems to be a little more accurate (this could also be a reflection that Mrs. Bennet gives her favored daughter nicer clothing?).


Lizzy also wears this horrible coat, which looks like it should belong to a man (not a man from the Regency era, though...)


This one is better. The brown and blue look nice together.


What is up with this weird little jacket? At least her hair is up, the hussy.

Jane has some very pretty pieces, all more Regency-looking, my favourite of which is this coat:



Both Jane and Lizzy look quite nice at the ball, I will say. I love the pearls in Lizzy's hair.

Miss Bingley's clothing is generally more Regency (except her hair). Perhaps the film makers intended for her to be more fashionable?


Except when she wears a slip to a ball... twice.



Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mrs. Bennet, and the three young Bennet girls are squarely Georgian the whole movie. I think the idea here was that Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine, as older women, are still wearing the older fashions, and the girls are too young to have fashionable clothing? This may make sense for Mrs. Bennet, but I quarrel with it in Lady Catherine, as Austen actually goes to the trouble to remark (via Mr. Collins) on her "elegance of dress."

Very pretty, as are many of Mrs. Bennet's ensembles, but not Regency.
The men's clothing is decent (but doesn't compare to Colin Firth's waistcoats), and their hair is awful!

Mary, Kitty and Lizzy in Georgian peasant costume, Jane pretty in a blue Regency gown.

Mr. Bennet looks like he should be playing one of the Founding Fathers.

The tuft in the back spared her the concern she might have felt in refusing him, had his hair been trimmed in a more gentlemanlike manner.

"Why do only men with mullets take an interest in me?"

BONUS: THE DREAM TEAM

So, the question that I've dodged around this whole post: Which is the ideal P&P? The answer is: none of them. Not one of them completely satisfies my notion of the perfect movie. It's hard to do it really well in only 2 hours, but I'd also like a P&P adaption which I don't have to devote an entire weekend to. And I'll be honest, the cinematography of the 2005 is more visually appealing to me than the 1995 (partly because of the simple fact that it was made 10 years later with newer equipment &c.). So if I, in an ideal universe, could produce a Pride and Predjudice adaption...
I would have Andrew Davies adapt his script (1995) to three hours. Roman Osin (2005) would direct the photography.
Dario Marianelli would adapt his soundtrack to the new film. (The 2005 soundtrack is almost my favourite thing about the whole movie. I've nothing against the others but they're nothing to write home about, in my opinion.)
Green Garson and Colin Firth would star as Elizabeth and Darcy. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (just barely beating the 2005 couple), Lydia and Mary, Georgianna, and the Bingley sisters would be played by their 1995 actors. Jane, Mr. Bingley, Lady Catherine, Wickham (with a haircut, a smidge better than his 1995 counterpart), Kitty, and Mr. Collins would be from the 2005 film.

Agree? Disagree? Colin Firth or your money back? McFadyen for life? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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P.S. Read this far and still want the simple answer? My favourite adaption, and the most faithful, is the 1995 film. 2005 is a great romantic movie that I still enjoy, but if you're a die-hard purist, it will drive you bonkers. Then again, if you don't have 5 hours and period accurate costumes aren't important to you, go for the Kiera Knightley version. Only watch Southern Belle P&P if you have two hours to kill and nothing better to do with your life.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Time and Tide

Reminiscence on the passing of time and thoughts on the future

Well, yesterday I had the last class of my freshman year. A few finals next week, and I'm officially 1/4 of the way through college. (For some reason people laugh when I say, "Only six semesters left!" Is that funny to you, readers?)

I'm really looking forward to the summer. I'm mildly stressed about my physical geography exam and finishing the essays for my Medieval Russian History final. My mind is all scrambled up with different styles of footnoting and types of sand dunes. However, I've enjoyed parts of college and, I think, learned some stuff. I'll miss some of my professors (classmates? hahahaha) Since I've posted exactly three times during my first two semesters, it seems like I ought to do some kind of wrap-up here about the things I've learned, experienced, and thought.

Looking Behind: Random thoughts about college

Actual spot on my campus
I've learned that you never look forward to holidays and breaks so much until the in-between isn't your favorite thing.

Some professors care and some professors think they care. Students don't pretend to care.

I've also learned a thousand times over how great homeschooling is. Really, guys, American public education isn't worth the price of running the school buses (no offense if you went to public school... I'm just shocked that they don't teach handwriting, physical science, cursive, math, grammar or geography. And they obviously aren't teaching character or manners, so I'm at a loss to say how thirteen years of six hour days were spent.).

Yes, I know it's ironic that I'm getting a teaching degree. (But if I'm honest, which I usually am, I have the greatest hope that I shall never use the degree, as I'll have my hands full with my own little ones within two years of graduation).

I've learned that I can write an essay, and enjoy it... but that I stress about it anyway.

Riding the bus is fun and the best bus drivers can make your day. I miss the people I see on the bus (but don't talk to) more than the people I sit next to in class.

It matters which side of the street you board the bus.

I've also learned that I'm a really arrogant and judgmental person. I don't want to write this, but I will be honest with you, reader. It's impossible for me to love the students who are basically my age but grew up in a cultural atmosphere so different than mine and have such different standards, lifestyles, etc. It's much easier for me to build up those barriers than bridge them. With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. This is reality, even if I don't always tap into it.

I learned I like getting up early. Just kidding. I already knew that.

Looking Ahead: The joys of summer break

This month, three of my cousins are graduating. How life changes!

I am more excited for summer than I've been in the last ten years. I'm excited for:
I don't actually take cream or sugar in my tea, but I always put them out because I have an adorable pair of claw-shaped sugar tongs and a very pretty pitcher.

Summer tea parties. You're never too old for a tea party.

The Jane Austen Society of North America's AGM, which is taking place in a city nearish to me. (Technically September, but being who I am, I'm already planning for and getting excited about it.) There will be kindred spirits and dancing. That's all I need to know.

Going to an annual outdoor Shakespeare performance.

Picnics!

Lying under a tree, reading a book.

The garden I planted. (I already see some little shoots coming up. It is only six days after I planted. They look very similar, green and healthy. Yes, I'm pretty sure I'm benefiting some baby weeds.)

Spending time enjoying the aforementioned tides.

Writing.

The feeling of enchantment that always comes with summer. (Midsummer Night's Dream and flower fairies and whatnot.) I once hosted a fairy-themed ball in the middle of June. You're also never too old for fairies.


Okay, yeah, I should probably be studying for my geography exam right now. Fare-thee-well.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cake Flavoured Book Tag

There's been freezing rain today and all university classes are cancelled. I happen to have no homework, I've already baked and exercised, and basically I'm over the moon. And you know me, stealer of tags...

This one is from Books, Cameras and Succulents. I tag all readers to answer the questions in the comments. (Yes, you three, do it.)


Chocolate cake:  A dark book you absolutely love
I wouldn't say I love "dark" books, according to my definition of "dark." However, I've heard Charles Dickens' writing called dark, and it deals with very serious topics. So, I'll say A Tale of Two Cities.

Vanilla cake: A light read
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth. It's not "light" as in poor quality (I have to qualify all my answers, haha), but a very easy read and great for a sick day.

Red Velvet: A book that gave you mixed emotions
The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery. I really couldn't decide if I liked it or not. (Any one read it? Thoughts?)


Cheesecake: A book you would recommend to anyone
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. (My mind is rather fixated on kids these-a-days since I have an 8-week-old NEPHEW and 3-year old NIECE and a desperate desire to be a mom.)
Also Pride and Prejudice. It doesn't have to be your favourite book but you should at least appreciate it.

Coffee cake: A book you started but did not finish
Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James. I have a great dislike of not finishing books once one starts, but I really couldn't get into this one.


Carrot cake: A book with great writing
What can I say? Lord of the Rings takes the cake. (I promise I didn't do that on purpose.)


Cup cake: A series with 4+ books
Harry Potter was the first thing that popped into my mind, but upon further thought I do like a fair amount of series. Little House, Anne of Green Gables (but really just the first four), Grandma's Attic, the Narnia Chronicles, etc.


Fruit cake: A book that wasn't what you anticipated
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. It looked very strange but I remember quite liking it.

New Recipe: A current read you didn't know much about
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I know it has to do with the criminal justice system in the U.S. and racial injustice, but I'm not sure what the "plot" or thesis of the book is.

Bon app├ętit!
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Friday, January 19, 2018

My six year old baby

As some of you know, and some of you do not, in January 2012 I started a King Arthur story. Since then, he has been largely ignored, with intermittent half-hearted promises to do otherwise. I have finished other stories in the interval, but until today, this unfinished story has weighed upon my conscience.
Until today, readers.
Though I definitely rushed the ending, and those few thousand words may be some of the worst I've ever written, it is done. I had to finish before I could edit (and, boy, does this story need editing). The 107, 102 words that The Arthurian Chronicles wound up to be are inconsistent, filled with plot holes and poor plot choices. It is repetitive and probably contradictory at the same time.

But I do feel some satisfaction that, even if I never edit it and no one besides my grandkids ever read it, Arthur's story has reached an ending at last.
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Monday, January 15, 2018

Chewbacca is the real hero of Star Wars


To all readers who enjoyed the latest Star Wars movie — you may want to take a step back and pretend you didn't see this post. Those of you who thought it was "meh," prepare to change your mind. And if there are any readers who were seriously disturbed by this attempt at a movie, I hope you will enjoy yourself. Don't read it at all if you don't want to see dozens of spoilers for the original trilogy and the newest two movies.
This is not really a movie review, it is a relentless attack on the latest installment in the Star Wars series. I have divided it into different types of reasons why I didn't like the movie: personal reasons (as in, I feel this way but you're welcome to disagree), Star Wars world reasons (rules this film breaks), and movie reasons (simply, things any movie writer/director Should Not Do if they want to make a good movie).


I guess I'll start with things I liked about this movie.
1. I liked the scrolling yellow type at the beginning. It just isn't a Star Wars movie if you don't jump when the music starts.
2. I liked the ice fox creatures. They looked like they came from Star Wars. (Ahem, unlike the animated birds.)
3. I liked... there was something else, but I can't remember it now.

Personal reasons:
I disliked The Force Awakens for personal reasons. TFW was almost a carbon copy of A New Hope, but... not as good. The jokes weren't as funny. The characters weren't as likable. Rey and Finn aren't bad sorts, but they were both very bland. I think in both of the new movies they tried to bridge the gap between the original trilogy by copying the storylines, but make things original by changing the rules. (I.e., everyone is way more powerful, the force is now a religion, men are useless, etc.).
Sidetrack.
One of the big reasons I didn't like the new movies is that they undo the previous ones. Perhaps it is more realistic that the empire wasn't actually destroyed at the end of #6, but I don't like it. I don't want the old story to be dredged up. "Nope, actually, Luke, Leia and Han did nothing. Everyone is still oppressed. Actually, it's worse than before. The First Order is thoroughly horrible and way more powerful. A Sith came out of nowhere. Also, although Darth Vader destroyed Darth Sidius, forget that, he was evil."
I would have liked the movies much better if they had come up with a new storyline and new villains,  and just bridged the gap by using some of the same characters and (hint, hint) the same story rules.
In addition, in the original stories there is very little grey. There is Total Evil (Sidius/Empire) and Unquestioned Good (The Rebellion). That doesn't mean the characters don't struggle sometimes (e.g. Luke in #6 struggles to not be driven by hate, which would take him to the Dark Side).  But there is unquestionably a good side and a bad side, and the good characters fight for good. Once again, perhaps this new grayness is more realistic, but I hold that stories are not necessarily supposed to be 100% realistic to earth-life. In the true story of Life, there is Absolute Evil and Absolute Good, and Good always wins in the end. I believe all stories should remind us of the Story, and if that means Good wins a little more than we see on Earth, fine and good.
I also don't like seeing Luke as a depressed person and Han Solo and Leia separated. It's Not Right and I refuse to believe that this story is what happened.

And then they went and killed Han Solo, and I will never forgive them.


Star Wars Reasons:

As mentioned above, the new series seems to attempt to be like the old ones by copying plots, but changing everything else. The Force gives people surprising new abilities — I don't know, I would think the most powerful Jedi of all time (Anakin/Darth Vader, or maybe Yoda) would be more powerful than a completely untrained girl, another girl who's basically never used the Force, or a random guy who's easily deceived and killed by a teenager.
Also, droids are also more powerful. I'm willing to forgive this, because one could say technology developed further. (Just not autopilot??). However, BB-8 is used as a deus ex machina way too many times. Every time Rose and Finn get in some situation that they can't get out of — oh, how convenient! BB-8 knocked down and gagged five guards, then knocks out another one by spitting coins at him. (???) Or, he drives one of those walker things and starts shooting at people. Droids have never taken so much initiative.
Another thing that goes agains the Star Wars rules: they make a big deal about how no one has been able to track trough hyper space before... Well, except, for twice in the very first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. Hm.

Here are the top four new ways of using the Force, which go against all the other movies:

1. Apparently Leia is related to Mary Poppins. Midway through the movie, her ship gets bashed and she is sucked out to space. Then, her body miraculously still intact, she opens her eyes and uses the Force to will herself back into the ship. Amazing.
Imagine this, but with less motion and even more fake looking

2. Rey and Kylo-Ren have this really weird mental connection, where at random moments they can see each other (but not each other's surroundings). We learn later that his is because Snoke "bridged their minds," whatever that means. In previous Star Wars movies, relatives can sense each other's presence or death, and Obi-Wan senses the deaths of millions of people when a planet is destroyed. They do not, however, communicate mentally, and certainly can't sit down and talk to people as if they're skyping.

3. Yoda appears as a ghost and then calls down lightning to light a tree on fire. This is a fantastic example of how the newest movie make the old ones make less sense. If ghost-jedis can start fires, wouldn't that have been useful in Episode V? Obi-wan should have started a fire to keep Luke warm in the snow. Unless this is something that is actually impossible to do with the Force...

4. Towards the end of the movie Luke does a weird thing. He is on his little island, but he projects an image of himself onto the planet where the Rebellion (or whatever they're calling it now) is fighting the Empire (First Order, blah blah). His hologram gives Leia a physical hug, hands her some gold dice looking thing he found on the Millennium Falcon, and then goes and fights Kylo-Ren. Some time during the fight he becomes insubstantial and lightsabers go in and out of him without harm. Because it isn't really him. Except that he gave Leia real dice. Except later they disappear. Does this make sense to anyone else?

5. Powerful people can override the Skype-thing. At the beginning of the movie, Snoke rings up General Hux. General Hux says "I'll take it in my chambers" and starts to walk across the room. Before he can get there, Snoke's massive head appears in front of him. "Good!" Hux says hurriedly. So now, apparently, one can use the Force to control the communication device, even from lightyears away.


I didn't like Snoke. I would like to know where he came from, but I can overlook that.  What I can't overlook is the fact that they make him out to be so powerful, connecting minds and whatnot, to a level that is stepping outside the bounds of the Star Wars universe, and yet he is so easily deceived into completely misunderstanding the greasy teenager Kylo Ren?
(Also, the way he walked look so fake and silly; this film really must have been low budget if they couldn't make him look any better.)
I'm sorry, but I didn't really like Rey either. Or, to be more specific, I didn't like the abilities the film gave her. She's had a half hour of meditation training and yet she can fight very well with a lightsaber, conceal her thoughts better than Luke Skywalker, and lift hundreds of tons of rocks seemingly with no effort.
Remember when it was a big deal that Yoda could lift this, and the son of Darth Vader couldn't
 Actually, there's a general trend in this movie of untrained women being able to do whatever. Because I've been to two Air and Space museums, and I'm a female, I could definitely pilot a spacecraft without any trouble. (According to the new Star Wars laws.)
I have nothing against female heroines, but I think it's a problem when females can save men but not the other way around, and untrained women (ROSE) know everything, while the men are bumbling (FINN).
Apparently if you're female all this is completely unnecessary.
 I also thought that Rey's parents being "no one" was a cop-out. Excuse me, maybe I could have allowed her to be more powerful than Yoda, Darth Vader, Luke, etc. if she had had some familial connection to one of them. Nope, she's just got lots of magic for... no reason.
It wouldn't have bothered me if her parents were nobody if they hadn't built up to it so much (for instance, no one cares who Han Solo's parents were). But they drag it out soooo much in this movie. "I know who your parents are! I know, I know!" *Thirty minutes later* "I still know who your parents are! Maybe I'll tell you at the end of the movie!"

Movie Reasons:

TLJ wasn't just the worst Star Wars movie yet, it was also a very bad film. The top eight plot holes/poor decisions:

 1. These birds were dumb. They looked completely animated and fake.

2. The whole Admiral Holdo subplot was pointless and made no sense. A) Why did she refuse to tell everyone her plan? There's an unpredictable guy hankering for action. To let him believe that you are doing nothing, in an attempt to be modest, is a very bad idea. He is likely to do something rash. 2) We have droids that can pretty much pilot ships, but no autopilot? She had to stay there? D) After planning to sacrifice herself and let the ship be destroyed, why didn't it occur to her immediately to ram the First Order's ship? How about doing that as soon as everyone is off, instead of letting half the little ships get blown up first?
 (Side note: Since when is the Rebellion's technology better than the First Order, so that the big First Order ship can't catch the little tiny Rebel ship? Or why didn't the First Order jump into hyper space right next to the ship, or in front, instead of waiting for it to run out of fuel?)

3. What was up with the strange cave mirror scene? On the island with Luke, Rey more or less falls into an underground cave, sees her reflection on an ice wall, and thinks somehow she'll learn about her parents if she gets close to it. She sees a long line of reflective selves, and is sort of mentally moving along the line of persons, until she gets to the end and sees.... herself. The next scene, she's in a hut on the island, and the episode is never referred to again.

4. The movie was filled with comedy, but all of it happened to be unfunny comedy. I laughed a few times the second time I watched it, but most of those were at parts that weren't supposed to be funny.
Example: Leia sees her brother after years of absence, which she feared might be forever. The first thing she says is, "I know what you're going to say. Yeah, I changed my hair."

5. Why did Luke make a map to find him if he never wanted to be found and wanted to die on the island?

6. Why didn't Finn get to die? Towards the end of the movie, he is piloting a speeder towards a battering ram thing in order to destroy it, though he will die in the attempt. Suddenly, Rose rams her speeder into his, and they both crash on one side of the ram. She babbles something about love, making it appear that she is the hero in this scene. This really bothered me. Finn is always the bumbling guy, and it would have done so much for his character if the movie makers had let him be the hero in this scene. Either they once again wanted the girl to save the guy, or perhaps they didn't want to kill a beloved character. (Which is poor writing; I personally don't care about Finn that much, but if you do care about him, that's exactly the sort of character who ought to die!) It would have been so much better if he could have sacrificed himself and gotten to save the day and actually make a difference for the Rebellion.
(Side note: Things are blowing up all around them, but somehow Finn and Rose manage to make it back a mile or so to the cave. How very lucky they are.)

7. Poe drove me crazy in this movie. "This is our chance to take down a dreadnought!" Yeah, and this is The First Order. You don't think they have ten others?
So he was demoted for destroying the fleet. But after committing mutiny he was... stunned. And then put in top command. Seemingly with no punishment or hard feelings. I guess you don't have to have strict rules when you have a very small force and absolutely need the loyalty and dependability of everyone.


8. Have to say, the ending wasn't very hopeful. You have like, fifteen people left, but yay, some eight year olds care (who, incidentally, can use the Force without training)! Maybe in ten years you can try again!
Well, I didn't get to include all the flaws in this movie, but college begins again tomorrow and if I don't post this now, I might never do it.
All in all, I think the writers were just really bad. The budget must have been small, because it was bad.

 Finn is a bumbling guy without any development. Poe is a rebellious rebel who can't take orders and cares more about his droid than his friends. Rey and Rose are flat, unrealistic girls without much draw. Luke and Leia are gone, so we all know who the real hero is.
Chewbacca is the real hero of Star Wars. He is dependable, strong, caring, and soft. He may have ripped arms off at times, but he is in more movies than any other living being. (Obi-wan and Yoda are in the same amount, but only if counting their ghost times; R2-D2 and C-3PO are in more but aren't beings.) If I go to see the last Star Wars installment in theaters, it'll be to see Chewbacca.

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