evenings with Jane Austen

Earlier this summer, I was on a Jane Austen kick (we’d just got back from a busy vacation and were dealing with sickness–and all I wanted were cosy, comfort reads or films).

Persuasion

Persuasion

My first Jane Austen craving was a desire to re-watch the 1995 Persuasion adaptation, starring Amanda Root. I’ve also watched the 2007 adaptation, which is shorter and disappointed me greatly by leaving out my favorite line from the book. Really, how else are you going to persuade Sir Elliot to rent Kellynch Hall to the Crofts without pointing out that a married lady with no children is a great preserver of furniture? The later adaptation also had Anne running amok all over Bath (that is so not Austen), but the Captain Wentworth was more handsome and broody. Trade-offs, trade-offs.

But handsomeness of actors aside, I prefer the older Persuasion which remains truer to the book (save in their portrayal of Helen Smith and their completely changing Mr. Elliot’s motivations for courting Anne) and in spite of Amanda Root’s deer-in-the-headlights look for far too much of the movie.

Then I re-read the book, and was reminded again what a hard role Anne Elliot is to play. Anne is a quiet woman, with an understated manner. She’s past her bloom, yet has enough delicate prettiness to attract attention. She is not a type of heroine who’s found a lot in modern books and movies.  It’s a lot easier to play spunky Elizabeth Bennet than it is to play an Anne Eliot with her elegant mind and sweet characterwithout making her look like a doormat.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

In the case of Sense and Sensibility I confess to loving the 2008 adaptation more than the book itself (shocking, I know!). The rather bland leading men of the book are rounded out and made more heroic in the movie. Colonel Brandon is not the relic of the book, but honorable, mature, active and attractive. Edward Ferrars is played engagingly by twinkle-eyed Dan Stevens (Matthew from Downton Abbey). Marianne’s histrionics over the loss of Willoughby are downplayed in the movie without losing any of the emotion. Elinor Dashwood remains an admirable, common-sensical young woman. And the adaptation does a fine job of putting the Dashwoods’ new cottage right on the cliffs with the wild wonderful sea as the backdrop. The location is absolutely stunning.

(I also much prefer this adaptation to the more famous Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet movie.)

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

I watched Masterpiece Theater’s Northanger Abbey for the first time, and found movie kinder to the characters than the book itself. Austen does not seem to really like her characters very much, which is off-putting to me as the reader. The movie deals much more gently with the romantic-minded Catherine Morland and the love that Henry Tilney bears for her (in spite of his disinheritance by his formidably snobbish father).

*

Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Mansfield Park did not make it on to my reading and watching lists for various reasons. Right now, P&P suffers–in my mind–too much from over-exposure. I’ve never cared much for Emma and what I vaguely remember of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie seemed too contemporary (in attitude) for my tastes. I despised poor Fanny Price when I read Mansfield Park as a young teen–I suspect I’d be kinder to her today.

What is your favorite Austen book and/or adaptation?

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

On Saturday, friends of ours generously offered to babysit our three so David and I could go see Pacific Rim. The best time for us ended up being an afternoon showing in 3D–and we very nearly had a private viewing. My thoughts:

1. *squee* giant ROBOTS!

2. Wow. I have NO interest in ANY of the movies they’re showing previews for

3. I’m glad it’s dark–these 3D glasses aren’t really fashionable, are they?

4. EEEEEE! GIANT ROBOTS!

5. Hmm, this 3D thing isn’t half bad…

6. GLaDOS!

6. GIANT ROBOTS BEATING UP GIANT MONSTERS!

So, ahem, yes. I really enjoyed the movie, but then I imprinted on giant robots very early. When I was a wee Montessori-going tot (3 or 4), my absolutely favorite video was Mazinger Z, which I watched every single day after school–all four episodes we owned. Later on, I graduated to Voltron and Transformers. I love my robots.

And I loved the homage this movie paid to the genre. There was one scene where

**spoiler**

 

I almost jumped out of my seat, wanting to yell out, “Form blazing sword!”

But I’m a grownup, so I restrained my inner eight-year-old.

 

/spoiler

 

I almost always find character development lacking in movies (well, yes, I do write novels, after all), so the fact that it was on the light side in Pacific Rim didn’t bother me too much. There were characters I wish we’d spent more time with and premises that I couldn’t help extrapolating in my head (I’m a writer, I can’t help it). I liked that piloting a jaeger was an intense physical and emotional experience. I was fascinated by the two-pilot system and I felt that there was a LOT of interesting conflict in the Drift premise that didn’t get explored, but I appreciated they kept the movie focused on the “last man… er, robot… standing between humanity and extinction” plot.

Oh, and the movie also automatically got points for not being a reboot, a sequel, or an adaptation, all of which I’m rather sick of, even though I watched The Hobbit this year and will probably go see Ender’s Game (does that make me a hypocrite? But I’m also passing on Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Man of Steel, Star Trek, etc.).

But what made Pacific Rim for me?

Awesome giant robots fighting awesome giant monsters.

5 favorite fairy tale retellings

It’s no secret that I love fairy tales and am endlessly fascinated by how they inspire other people’s creative work. I enjoy many retellings, but these are my top 5 (I also include movies in this list):

Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty_Robin McKinley

Richly detailed, with a strong, scholarly protagonist, this upper MG/YA retelling of Beauty & the Beast is on my keeper shelf (and I’m waiting patiently for my daughter to grow into it).

Disney’s Tangled

Tangled

I was unimpressed after seeing the trailer, but I ended up LOVING the movie. I adore Rapunzel’s sunniness, determination, vulnerability, and innocence. Mother Gothel is a great (evil-great, that is) villain, and Flynn a very different kind of “prince”.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted_Gail Carson Levine

A clever and fun take on the Cinderella story.

Ever After

Ever After

In spite of a few cheesy moments, this Cinderella retelling gets a thumbs-up for grounding the story in a historical context.

“Stronger Than Time” by Patricia C. Wrede

Book of Enchantments_Patricia C. Wrede

 This beautiful, melancholy retelling of Sleeping Beauty never ceases to make my heart ache. You can read this short story in the anthology, Book of Enchantments.

 What are your favorite fairy tale retellings?

Also, check out my favorite fairy tale picture books here.