cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Movies”

The Star Trek Cold Cure


Have you experienced that annoying out-of-nowhere cold? The one that follows you home one night after work and stays the weekend? Yes, I recognize those nods of acknowledgement.

Thursday:sore throat tickles prompted me to get into “stave off cold mode” by sipping my immune  tea and eating good old homemade chicken soup (thoughtfully prepared by the hubs–what a keeper). Nasal wash (a dreaded relief). Go to bed early after a healthy dose of OTC cold medicine. You know the kind–bizarre color of blue or orange that gets poured in a tiny plastic cup and when downed the after taste makes your toenails curl in aftershock. 

Friday: Failure of tried and true preventative results in waking up with a full out head cold. Surpringsly enough, since I work in a germ factory called a public high school, I rarely get sick. Fortunately, it’s an in-service day and after the required staff activity my benevolent principal allows me to go and work from home. What teacher doesn’t anyway every night? I go home and sleep the rest of the day.

Cold Cure Crew?


image: comingsoon.net

Saturday: The cold, having flirted with going into my chest decides to totally clog my sinuses. Breathing like a trout caught out, napping with my mouth open causes coughing and no rest. My brain can’t focus on my book. The solution? A movie festival. Trotting over to the public library I decide on the original Star Trek series I-VI. I spent all day Saturday camped on the recliner, entering grades while traveling where no man has gone before. By 11 o’clock that night I was so dazed from my Special Edition spree that sleep came easily.

Sunday: Waking up with breathing in tact and somewhat rested, I made it out the door for early service and returned an hour later and slept until 5:30 pm after taking a decongestant for my clogged up ears.

Monday: After going to bed at 10 pm, I’m up at 2 am. Not so great. I plump up the pillows, and plug in ocean waves white noise–hope for the best until the alarm at 6 am.

I really think sitting through four Star Trek movies, (I had watched #1 earlier that week, and skipped #4) complete with special feature documentaries, sped the course of this unwelcome cold. Maybe it was the overexposure to cheesy acting and low budget special effects that wore down or even annihilated  the remaining cold forces. Maybe my brain and body became so anesthetized from  watching so much space drama it was immune to the cold settling in for a longer stay.

I can’t recommend the Star Trek is a guarantee cold reducer for everyone, and I still can’t believe I sat through four plus movies. I do know that I will reconsider my choice of series should I decide upon this cure again. Maybe watch Lost in its enthralling entirety? Hmmm…

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(W)Hoopla


Sundays I look forward to my afternoon nappish time with a good book. During the week if I try to read I inevitably fall asleep due to the somnolent virtues of relaxing after a long day infusing enthusiasm for English with 75+ teens. Saturday is usually catch up on errands, laundry, bills, etc. So Sunday is my “aah” day.

The problem is that sometimes it becomes an “aww” day because I haven’t tried out my new book and if it doesn’t work out, I’m without a book. And yes, I usually do have a back up. Both pootered out. I did give them a decent trial, though. Honest.

This is when I haul out my iPad, plug in my headphones and Hoopla.A movie is not the best replacement for a good solid afternoon with a book. Not even. However, it’s fairly delicious when the selected movie is a quirky indie with a creative plot. Bonus when the acting is decent.

Let’s pause first. Hoopla? It’s a vendor through our local library. Free streaming movies. Granted, the movies are not first run features. They are a mix of fun oldies (a huge batch of 1950 era Disney family flicks) and some notables, The Giver, for instance. Some awful B- movies, lots of kid flicks, and a few films, make that lots of films, never even heard of. They’re free. I’m not complaining.

Dimensions Poster

IMdB image

Skimming through titles I noticed Dimensions: an indie film–time traveling theme set in the 1920’s. I’m prone towards indie films. A throwback to my university days when we visited all the small cinemas watching foreign films and artsy cinematic experiments. I was well pleased with my choice. The movie resonated with me after the end titles rolled up and away. That’s always a good sign. It won several film festival awards. Never made the box theatres, that I know of–yet, it’s still a good little film. Not great. Definitely worthwhile.  Hope I’ve interested you. If not, try the trailer.

I did manage to restock my reading selections. I look forward to next Sunday. At least I have a back up to my back up plan. Books first. Always.

Anyone else Hoopla and find a treasure?

 

Bond vs Solo: challenge post


Eli over at Coach Daddy asked me to write a comparison of two well-known heroes: James Bond and Han Solo.

Hmm, is what I said at first and thought it would make for a good post. He said he would match my post. Okay, challenge on.

First of all, I have grown up watching James Bond. As a kid I remember waiting for the clean version on television because there wasn’t any way my parents would have taken me to the theatre to see Sean Connery in all his bomb and bombshell glory. For me, Sean Connery remains the definitive Bond: suave, swagger, skilled, gentleman, although a bit chauvinistic, but hey, it was the 60s. Two years ago I had more to say on the Bond Birthday post, when Bond turned 50. Check it out.

Switch over to my college years and we have Star Wars on the screen. That I did get to see on my own. And I did so several times. Stars Wars was amazing! My dad loved westerns, especially John Wayne, and I immediately recognized that Han Solo was a bit of John Wayne in space. He played the rogue hero, the one who knew everyone, had a bit of reputation, knew how to get in trouble and get out of it. And he gets the girl. It was no surprise that Harrison Ford became the BIG star after his gig as Han Solo.

But to compare them, Eli? Seriously? Bond to Solo? That’s apples and oranges. I think they are best left to stand on their own merits. Spy Wars and Star Wars are two different categories. Although it is interesting that Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford became allies in that mash-up genre movie Cowboys and Aliens. Bond and Han made a pretty good team, come to think of it. I couldn’t see Connery slugging aliens, but he did play the Green Knight early in his career, and that’s pretty close to being an alien.

The real problem with this comparison is that there have been so many Bonds, and only one Han Solo. Each Bond played the role differently (again note past post). Han is Han: braggart, lovable rogue, a bit of a McGyver (Harrison even rocked a mullet in the 80s trilogy), a mercenary with a golden heart. Even with his mullet gone gray in the latest Star Wars movie, Harrison is still Han.

So–I’m not seeing much to compare. An apple is an apple next to an orange. I like both, but when it came to choosing which movie to watch in the theatre, I instinctively plunked my ticket down for Bond. Why? Craig has honed his Bond down to perfection, at least Skyfall impressed me. I’m not all that eager to see an aged Han Solo. Dude, who wants to see a hero age?
update: I did see the new Star Wars and was not impressed. I remain a purist. And it’s funny that Daniel Craig managed to get a cameo role. 

Okay, Eli. Your turn. Are Bond and Hans comparable, or are they stand alones?

Bond in space? image: 8bitnerds.com

The Book Is Better (maybe)


I’m in the “Book First, Book Better” camp when it comes to film adaptations. Of course, whenever we are adamant about something our paradigm gets firmly nudged to reevaluate our ideas. This happened not only once, but twice this month.

The first book was North and South by Gaskell. She’s been compared to Austen, but I would say she is a bit more outspoken and verbose in her approach to the romantic historical. Having watched the BBC miniseries when it first came out in 2004, I decided I had to read the book. I finally got around to doing so this year. Then I watched the series again. Yup, the film adap is better.

Actors: Richard Armitage is John Thornton, just as Colin Firth defined Darcy. The balance of brooding strength and vulnerability made each scene with Armitage riveting. This wasn’t as apparent in the book simply because Armitage made Thornton so vibrant.

Setting: the grime, noise, and poverty of a mill town is evident and doesn’t need pages of constant reminder of the deplorable conditions. A scene can speak pages of description.

Dross: all that extra writing emphasizing beliefs is neatly trimmed into edited significant scenes. More meat, less gravy.

Ending: much more satisfying than the book and much more telling than that would rate a spoiler alert.

The second book is a more recent connection. As a Sherlock fan, Doyle and Jeremy Brett (BBC series), I was curious of the chatter about Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind, especially when I learned Sir Ian would play an aging Sherlock. I can imagine him channeling his Gandalf into the role. Devoured the book, mesmerized by the movie. The book is excellent, yes, you should read it. Yet, the adap, which is not 100% faithful to the text, is actually a stand   alone. It’s Cullin’s outline, his premise, of an aging Sherlock, but the story on screen is so poignant, the interpersonal interactions so much deeper, I’m going to reread the book and see if I missed it all the first time.

Characters: all the actors are steller and they play off one another in such a way that awards are surely going to be handed out. Sir Ian proves once again his depth and versatility. The young actor who is Roger holds his own–I’m hoping great acting parts for him.

Setting: England after two wars–Holmes would have been old enough to see both at 93. There is still the sense of loss, yet a rekindling of hope as life goes on. Brits are a tough lot. Never give up, never surrender. This Sherlock captures his country’s motto in his fight against dementia.

Ending: a radical change from the book, but it was so perfect, that even an absolutist like myself, who dislikes mucking about with the text when it comes to transferring the text to screen, left the theatre oh so satisfied.

I am thinking I should ease up on my penchant for purity of transfer and sit back and enjoy the show. The  book doesn’t have to be the movie–pardon me, that noise was my paradigm shifting.

A Trio of Shakespeare 


Considering I had no exposure or any real knowledge of Shakespeare until I began teaching his works in high school, I’ve certainly made up for lost time.

In the twelve years of morphing from a displaced school librarian to an AP teacher I’ve developed an appreciation for Wm. Sh. to the point of labeling myself a Bardinator. *

“Yo, thou intensely doeth Bard if thy be a Bardinator.” image: flickr.com

Bardinator /n./ a person who goes beyond face value knowledge of Shakespearean works and dives in to study, appreciate, and revel in the works of William Shakespeare to the point of total commitment. Simply put–a dedication to the Bard’s works beyond what is considered sufficiently normal. 

This summer I have reveled in more Bard than usual. It began, appropriately enough on July 4th* when I landed in Washington DC to study Hamlet for a week at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Later that month I finally got around to Anonymous, which is actually anti-Bard, as it is a ridiculous conjecture that William Shakespeare was not a brilliant playwright but actually a drunken sot of an actor fronting for some earl who was a closet playwright. The only takeaway was how stunningly the time period and the theater was portrayed. I squirmed through this insulting and terrible premise to absorb the glory of the Elizabethean stage snippets. One star of note was Mark Rylance. This observation led me to–

Twelfth Night starring Mark Rylance in the role of Olivia. Yes, finally. A Shakespearen production as it might have been presented because of the all male cast. The play was filmed at The Globe with a live audience (groundlings included) in sharp, glorious HD. Mark Rylance and his troupe superceded expectations. It was unprecedented theater. I will have problems readjusting to women playing women now in Bard dramas because Shakespeare wrote the parts knowing men/boys would be playing women. Or in the case of Viola/Caesario-, a youth playing a woman disguised as a youth. The lines and meaning take on a whole new dimension with the knowledge it’s two men playing they are attracted to each other but the manly man doesn’t want to admit to it . But thr audience knows the fair youth is really supposed to be a woman since it’s a boy playing a woman dressed as a boy. The confusion is intentional, as is the jovial mistaken engendered double meanings.

“Yonder sun doth the moon, y’all.” Image: YouTube.com

To round out the summer I watched my first ever Shakespeare in the Park or more precisely, on the grass at the local fairgrounds.  A group of thespians out of Montana traversing five states presenting either Cyrano or Taming of the Shrew graced our fare (or fair) town. And what a turn out. Beginning at three o’clock people arrived to claim their patch of grass and browsed the various booths ranging from spun wool goods to sword play. A lively Renaissance trio added appropriate musical ambiance. At six o’clock the western-themed show begun and the audience whistled and hooted out their appreciation at all the puns and ribaldry. The best bit was unplanned when a wee little lass wandered onto the stage at just the moment when Petruchio instructs Kate to speak to the “maiden” (Vincentio).

“Speak to yonder maiden, Kate. Not that one–the other one.”

Not missing a beat, Vincentio grabs up the sweet interloper and announces: “This is my granddaughter” and managed to return her to an embarrassed audience mother.

A truly fun community event to commemorate the closing of summer. Soon I will be bringing Shakespeare to the classroom, but perhaps we’ll Bard out on the lawn. BOOC–bring our own chairs.

Did anyone else have a bit of Bard along with their beach and BBQ days this summer?

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*yes, there is a connection of studying Shakespeare during America’s independence week–Wm. Sh. became our nation’s first playwright when his plays sailed over from England. In fact, the Folger has the first Elizabethean stage. A regular Tudor de force (upon which I played a hammy Horatio).

*I just spent an hour hopscotching about the Net trying to find that nifty definition I stumbled across years ago. No luck. I did find a new blog concerning Shakespeare. I have created my own definition. This will be a work in progress and I am quite open to other interpretations.

Getting a Handle on Hamlet


Now that there is a little distance between my journey to DC for Hamlet Academy, I am in a very good place to reflect upon just how I will present the play to my students.

I have discovered exploring scenes through various reading techniques, paired with a cinematic clip, helps with clarity. But which film version to use? There is such a range.

For instance, when we study Hamlet’s quintessential  “To Be” speech, I can show the minimal setting of the stage with either Richard Burton or Kevin Kline. Then again, I might show it as the singular contemporary soliloquy of Ethan Hawke as he internalizes his inaction while walking through the action movie aisles of Blockbuster. There is also Branagh’s stylized mirrored reflection which contrasts with David Tennant’s sedate approach. I primarily feature Mel Gibson’s version because of its Renaissance setting. I am patiently waiting for Jude Law’s Broadway version to come out as a DVD. And then there is Benedict C’s London stage version, which I anticipate to be more than marvelous and hope it makes it onto DVD in the future. Because taking my students to London to see it, well–that would be an involved field trip request. For fun, I show Ahnold delivering the lines with swagger and CGI.

Yet with all these versions to select from, each has its own set of considerations when it comes which one to showcase in its entirety. Sir Larry’s is BW and my students aren’t keen on arcane classic. Tennant is clever, yet the juxtaposition of modern setting and classic Bard doesn’t always find favor. Ethan Hawk’s has a couple of awkward-in-the-classroom scenes. Branagh’s is way too long, and that leaves Mel, the popular choice, but with that problematic mother and son chat in her closet.

Every year I wrestle with the “which one” question. This year there is one more option. I recently discovered an amazing version I had no idea existed. A big thanks to LoMo, super Hamlet Academy mentor teacher, for the heads up on this new-to-me Hamlet.

Campbell Scott, son of George C. Scott, of Patton fame, might not be on everyone’s radar of well-known actors, but he definitely should be. I am looking into his other films, as I was quite impressed with his performance. In his version of Hamlet, which he co-directed, he sets the play in an Edwardian era that could either be east coast upper crust or Reconstruction South. This Hamlet family is one of tradition, power, wealth, and of course, one that has definite family issues.

There are many pluses to this version. For one, Scott’s Hamlet is of the appropriate age, many Hamlets are often pushing the 40 mark, which about 10 years older than the play age. The setting also lends credibility with the historical grandeur complementing the eloquence of the Bard’s language. Scott plays his Hamlet with intelligence without having to be eccentric, although there are moments that oddities pop up, such as wearing his mourning band as head band. His introspective interpretation helps the audience to feel the pain of indecision, as he flirts with madness, as he works out the conundrum of his avenge task: how crazy should crazy go?

Here’s a clip. What are your thoughts on Scott’s version? And while we are at it, which Hamlet version is your favorite?

A Murdered Austin


As a confessed Jane Austin fan, I find myself searching for more of her books. Yes, I know that isn’t happening. I doubt Cassandra had a “lost” manuscript squirreled away in the family bank vault like sister Alice did for Nelle.

But one does hope for finding at least a satisfying pastiche.

I have tried a few, and quite frankly, I find them annoying. There are liberties taken with the characters that simply aren’t at all Janish, in either style or intent. If one doesn’t live in the time period, trying to write it and pull it off successfully is about as satisfying as a diet Dove bar. Exactly. They don’t exist because what would be the point?

Sigh. I do keep trying though.

I’d heard PD James had tried her hand at Austin with the Death Comes to Pemberley. Not having read any of her mysteries, I still decided to add the title to my TBR list, because James is a respected author and who can resist a mystery attached to the P&P gang?

I should have resisted.

But it looked so promising… image: BBC

 

Spying the DVD adaptation on the new release shelf I snagged it quickly. I don’t know why I sequestered it away under my arm. Perhaps I envisioned some maddened JA fan descending upon me screeching “I saw it first!” Decorum before drama. This became the byword as I settled down for an evening of what I hoped to be a lost in Austen evening, for drama versus decorum permeated Pemberley. Yes, death indeed came to Pemberley, but it wasn’t the murder in the woods that was so terrible. So much more damage had been rendered.

I had a prepared list of all that I found oh so wrong with this BBC rendering. Taking the a Thumper path of reviewing practice instead, I will say this one nice thing: At least they used the Pemberley estate from the Kiera Knightley version.

I now need to read James’ novel and see how badly they adapted it, because surely a respected author couldn’t have committed so many travesties to Elizabeth and crew, especially if she is the devotee she is supposed to be. The Amazon reviews aren’t promising. Any thoughts on James and her pastiche of Pemberley? Are there any decent Austin homages out there at all?

Why We Say: #15


Watercooler chatter: “That new CEO doesn’t do much, does he?”
“Yeah, bit of figurehead, I figure.”

Today’s lesson involves some sailing knowledge. First, it’s important to know the front, the bow, from the back, the stern. The bow would be decorated with some sort of figure which actually is fairly interesting (go on–have a peek). They didn’t serve any real purpose, but they sure made the ships look imposing, important, regal, at times intimidating. There is also the thought that a figurehead, as in politics and business, can be controlled by other forces, much like the figurehead on the ship is controlled by the sails or other power. Hmm, is there a connection between these two figures in terms of being figureheads?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  Elizabeth II greets NASA GSFC employees, May 8, 2007 edit.jpg (I think highly of the Queen, BtW)

Any Laurel and Hardy fans out there? You might recognize this saying, “This is a fine kettle of fish you’ve gotten us into.” If you recall, this was flustered out by Oliver Hardy to Stan Laurel after some frustrating incident. But why a kettle of fish? Maybe Ollie had some Scottishishness about him and was recalling how fishermen thought they could coax the best flavor out of the fish by cooking them right on the spot in a large kettle. They must have known the secret of cooking up a fine kettle of fish, since no one else could replicate it. Hence, from then on “a fine kettle of fish” is actually referring to a mess instead of success.

 

Singing in the Rain is a personal favorite, especially all those great song and dance numbers by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. How about this one:

Why “fit as a fiddle?” Kelly and O’Connor might not have realized they were referring to boxers, the fighters (not the dogs) in their ditty. Apparently the original expression was “fit as a fiddler” because boxers had to be in top condition in order to go a few rounds in the ring. Wait, a minute, Gene and Donald must have known that to be “fit as a fiddle and ready for love” they would have to be ready to fight for their love. Makes sense…

 

(images from Morguefiles and Wikipedia)

 

Author Snapshot: Daphne du Mariuer


Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

 

One of the more famous opening lines for a novel is Daphne Du Mariuer’s first sentence of the eponymous character recalling her days at Manderley. Rebecca, a gothic romance, if there ever was one. No wonder Hitchcock snapped it up. I’m not sure which is the bigger hit: the novel or the film. They are both memorable, eerie, and suspenseful. Whenever I reread the book, I immediately want to view the film again. The novel leaves a legacy found in a variety of mediums:

Literature

  • Stephen King alludes to Mrs. Danvers, the troubled housekeeper, several times in Bag of Bones, and again refers to her in “Father’s Day.”
  • Jasper Fforde creates an army of Mrs. Danvers clones in his  Thursday Next series.
  • Danielle Steel nods to the novel in her Vanished, since the plot is similar to Rebecca.

Film

  • The Man with Two Brains, a Steve Martin comedy, acknowledges the novel as his character consults the portrait of his deceased wife, Rebecca.

Television

  • Dark Shadows, the original 70s Gothic soap opera (not the Johnny Depp film) relied on Rebecca’s sinister setting to create its creepy plotline.
  • Carol Burnett lampooned the novel with her “Rebecky” skit.

And if Rebecca‘s Gothic romance plot line isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps you remember The Birds? It was a short story before Hitchcock got ahold of it and produced a movie that still freaks me out. I found her short story in an anthology of animal uprising stories including Animal Farm. Watch out for pigs and birds–they pack a punch when they take over the world.

While Daphne Du Mariuer might not be in vogue as much as she once was, she definitely left on impact on the literary world with her contributions of novels, plays, and non-fiction. She often wrote ahead of her time, as evidenced in her House on the Strand, which alluded to the mind-altering drugs used in the sixties. There is some controversy about plagiarism, which I choose not to dwell upon. And some aspersions about her personal life, which I won’t delve into either. What fascinates me is her diversity as a writer. Though labeled as a romantic novelist (a label she disliked), she proved she could write beyond what critics’ and the publics’ labels. She wrote historical biographies, chilling mysteries, science fantasy, and wrote them well.

Some trivia which isn’t trivial:

  • awarded the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
  • daughter of actor parents: Sir Gerald du Maurier and Muriel Beaumont; granddaughter of George du Maurier, Punch cartoonist.
  • cousin to the Llewelyn Davies boys, who were the inspiration for J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan.

    Daphne du Maurier in her later years image: BBC news

Button, Button


My usual adage of “The original source is always better” went out the window after watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
When the movie came out in 2008, I promptly avoided it. I thought the premise strange, that a baby would experience life backwards–going from old and decrepit to incapacitated infant. It especially seemed odd, even a bit creepy, since a romance was part of the plot.

Aging backwards. Not a new concept, apparently backwards aging is not a truly new trope. After all, Shakespeare hinted at our returning to our infancy state in his “Seven Ages” poem.

I also was a bit leery of Brad Pitt at the time. Fight Club isn’t exactly my type of genre. The male progeny tried to interest me (who can resist bonding with their sons via a movie?) but after a few minutes of gruesome artsy cinema, I deferred. However, since Fight Club Pitt has appeared in movies I do like, such as the Oceans triple, and Mr and Mrs Smith. Into the library basket went Benjamin Button as I gathered movies for the week. I didn’t realize I was committing to two and a half hours.

A sick day, and no energy for reading and in popped the movie. I sat spellbound. I even cried at the end. And was a bit indignant that Brad Pitt got passed over for an Academy Award. This trailer captures the heart of the movie well:

The most interesting part for me is that the movie is based on a F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. The fantasy genre intrigued me because I didn’t peg FSF for writing anything but brooding rebellious characters from the Roaring Twenties. The story’s biting satirical tone is very much Twain, and I learned that Fitz was indeed influenced by MT, who had made a comment about what a shame we don’t experience the best years, our older years, first. Interestingly enough, the only thing the movie and short story have in common is the title and premise. Here is the story link:

 

Any of you been surprised by the film being actually better than the written work?

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