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).

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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.

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Movie Trailer for Ender’s Game

Anyone else looking forward to this in November?

you can keep your Mr. Darcy

I have nothing against Mr. Darcy, really. Like almost every woman out there, I enjoy the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle Pride and Prejudice  but Mr. Darcy does not set my heart aflutter. I’m sure he and Elizabeth Bennet will deal very well together, but I don’t envy her good fortune. Sure, he’s rich and handsome and responsible and devoted–but perhaps a tad too boring?

No, I’d rather take a man of action, such as a dashing naval hero, like another one of Austen’s leading men: Persuasion’s Captain Wentworth.

I prefer the other adaptation of Persuasion, but this Captain Wentworth is handsomer. Yes, I'm shallow that way.

I prefer the other adaptation of Persuasion, but this Captain Wentworth is handsomer. Yes, I’m shallow that way.

Darcy inherited his wealth, but Wentworth, born with fewer prospects, earned it. And there’s just something adventurous about a man in uniform.

But a ship’s captain is bound to be away at sea for long periods of time, so perhaps one should look at self-made men in other professions. Such as North & South’s mill owner, Mr. Thornton.

Especially if he is played by Richard Armitage.

"North & South" is my favorite period drama. You should watch it. Even Richard Armitage thinks you should.

“North & South” is my favorite period drama. You should watch it. Even Richard Armitage thinks you should.

However, Mr. Thornton needs to be financially bailed out by heroine Margaret Hale at the end. Perhaps one should look at independently wealthy men again–and while we’re aiming high, how about a Duke?

Like, maybe the Duke of Salford, the titular character of Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester. Like Darcy, he is rich, well-born and insufferably proud, but he does have a great sense of humor. And the adventures he and heroine Phoebe Marlow have are laugh-out-loud funny.

Some handsome actor really needs to play Sylvester in a movie version.

Some handsome actor really needs to play Sylvester in a movie version.

However, one really doesn’t know about these literary heroes. They might have drinking problems or bad dental hygiene or rather outdated notions of what women should or should not do.

No, no. They may look good in paper and on screen, but what about the parts that were edited out? I’d rather choose a real good guy, one I can trust. Like this one:

REAL Handsome Guy with Adorable Kids

REAL Handsome Guy with Adorable Kids

Oh, wait! I already did!

To my White Knight, Chief Cheerleader, Tech Support Guy, Co-parent of three gorgeous, smart, and crazy kids, Fixer of Pipes and Broken Toys, Reacher of Objects on High Shelves, and Companion for Life–you’re the only romantic hero and leading man I want.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

movie notes: The Hobbit and Captain America

The Hobbit

I was predisposed to like The Hobbit.

First, it was the movie part of the dinner-and-a-movie date that David and I had to celebrate our ten-year anniversary. To put this in perspective, David and I have gone to the movie theaters only thrice since we became parents eight years ago (the other two times for the first Transformers movie and Disney’s Tangled). And nobody wants the movie they see for their tenth wedding anniversary to be a dud.

Second, Thorin is played by Richard Armitage, who also plays Mr. Thornton in my favorite period drama, North & South.

And third, the song. This song. *shivers up my spine*

Er, now on to the movie itself.

Peter Jackson is obviously trying to solidify The Hobbit as a prequel to The Lord of the Rings. Not only did he bring back familiar sets and familiar music, but he added a lot of material foreshadowing the re-emergence of Sauron. A lot of moments–like Gandalf hitting his head on Bilbo’s chandelier, and the flight and fight on the bridges in the mountain–mirrored parts of LoTR.

I liked that dwarves get to be heroes, especially after Gimli was nothing more than comic relief in LoTR. I enjoyed Martin Freeman’s Bilbo much better than I did Elijah Woods’ Frodo. He has more range of expression, at any rate.

For the first time, I saw Elrond happy. I guess I can’t call him the Bitter Elf any longer…

Captain America

I saw this recently, after having watched The Avengers. I liked Captain America. I liked his unashamed patriotism. I liked his character arc from ninety-pound weakling to lab experiment to chorus girl and finally to super hero. The romance was handled with a light touch, very nice.

I was amused to see Hugo Weaving playing Agent Smith again. ;)

I wish that there had been more time to develop the characters in Captain America’s elite team of Hydra-butt-kickers. As it is, aside from Captain America’s BFF, I didn’t even know–much less remember–the names of anyone on his team.

AND I am annoyed that the ending of the movie–emotionally wrenching as it was–is based on such utter terrible PLOT FAIL. If the writers had spent more than five minutes thinking about it, they could’ve come up with a better reason for WHY Captain America HAD to crash the plane into the ice (besides, yanno, as a convenient reason to get him from WW2 to the 21st century).

As it is, I heartily agree with this “How it Should Have Ended” video:

Have you seen either or both of these movies? What did you think?

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The Hobbit

I finally get to see The Hobbit this weekend!

In the meantime, here is Peter Hollens singing Misty Mountains (this sends tingles down my spine):

 

Brave: not your average coming-of-age story

I sat down to watch Brave with few expectations. All I knew about the storyline was that there was a red-headed girl… and archery… and Scotland… mysterious standing stones… and a bear?

Ten minutes into the movie, I thought I had its number. It was obviously going to be a girl runs off to have adventures denied to her because she’s female, and saves the day movie. Maybe with a dose of …then she meets a handsome dude who’ll love her for who she is thrown in for good measure.

I was wrong (oh, you tricksy, tricksy movie!).

Brave

Merida does have adventures–and you can say she saves the day–but only after she messes up. The emotional core of the story is not a romance, but the relationship between mother and daughter. Merida’s growth as a character is not becoming the Warrior Woman Who Saves the Clans, but about recognizing her own part in her conflict with her mother.

I was delighted by this movie, which came at just the right time to dissipate some of my YA fiction fatigue. I’d gotten to the point where I’d drop a book like a hot potato when the dreaded words “but the hot new guy knows more than he’s telling” (and their variations) appeared in the blurb. I was tired of books with female protagonists surrounded by guys, with nary a meaningful relationship with another woman in sight. I didn’t like how parents disappeared off the face of the earth in most young adult fiction. And I was so over seeing martial prowess as the only type of strength worth aspiring to.

Brave tackles all of these in the best way possible. I almost cheered at the lack of hot dudes (really, most people do not meet Mr. Right in high school, or at the equivalent age). I was moved by the relationship between Merida and her mother–the clash of their strong wills, their inability to reach one other, the strength of their love underneath the hurt and guilt. I love how Merida’s mother shows her strength as queen, not with a sword in her hands, but with her words. I love how she can stop a brawl in her hall just by walking down the length of it. She shows Merida another kind of weapon to add to her arsenal (along with her archery prowess), just as Merida shows her mother that it’s okay to be a different kind of princess.

This was a refreshing addition to the coming-of-age genre. If you watched Brave, what did you think of it?

 

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Friday Fun: Pacific Rim Trailer

Guys, guys! Have you seen this?

Alien invaders! Giant robots! *swoooon*

Now, story-wise this might be a pretty pathetic movie (*cough*Transformers*cough*), but I’d go just for the special effects. And the robots. Must not forget the robots.

via SF Signal

a list for wednesday

1. I have a guest post on atypical fantasy protagonists up at the Turtleduck Press blog. Come check it out!

2. Also,  you might’ve noticed I’m doing interviews and guest posts recently. This is my Low-Key Sorta Blog Tour for Rainbird’s release. I’m happy to do more of these, so if you have an open spot on your blog that you want to give me, feel free to ask. I’d appreciate it. :)

3. Remember that last week I shared the Peter Hollens and Lindsey Stirling version of the Game of Thrones theme music? Well, their Skyrim rendition is even better! I am hooked on this.

 

How’s your week going?