Sunday, June 28, 2015

The snail's on the thorn

"The lark's on the wing;
the snail's on the thorn:
God's in His heaven-
all's right with the world."
~Robert Browning~

I ran across this little poem (or part of a poem) the other day on another blog and thought it rather a timely thought.  It doesn't really matter how upside down or curious human society suddenly becomes, the sun still rises, the moon continues to tread the course of the heavens, and creation in all its ancient rhythm ticks ever on like a faithful old clock.  It is a very good thing to sit back and reflect for a moment on He who made the clock and keeps it wound, all our meddling with the definition of time can do nothing to affect the functioning of the gears or the passing of the hours.  We may call hours minutes and minutes hours and think them interchangeable but we cannot actually change the true reality thereof.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fast away the warm month passes...

Summer is fleeting, I hope you are working on your writing contest entries or reading something worthwhile!  Or just enjoying life (though such past times are most certainly doing just that).

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A timely review: having nothing whatsoever to do with writing

I like to be efficient, prompt, and on top of things, so I shall attempt to compare and contrast two film versions of arguably the world's most beloved romance: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  And no, I don't usually review books or films on this blog, but as it is summer, why not do something a little different?  Besides, as I love the book, it must have influenced my writing style, right?  Thus it is totally relevant…ah ha.  Version One, starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy came out in 1995.  Version Two, starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet came out in 2005, and as it is 2015, that makes this a very timely review.  I grew up with version One, which eventually led me to reading all of Miss Austen's works, of which this book is still my favorite.  Version Two came out while I was dating my husband and he boldly took me to the movie, one of only two guys in the entire audience, a feat worthy of Darcy himself!  So I have fond memories associated with both versions, so hopefully my critique is somewhat less unobjective than it otherwise might be.

We'll start with the general splendor, beauty, and enjoyment found in the costumes, settings, music, and general ambiance of the film.  I loved Two's depiction of rural english life of the period and it was probably far truer to the real thing than the more elegant and refined environs found in One, but both have wonderful music, beautiful cinematography, and great costuming, no complaints here!

Run time: we have just over two hours for Two and somewhere between five and six hours for One, so depending on your schedule and how desperately you need an Austen fix, both have their advantages.  If you want the entire book and have time to enjoy, One is by far the superior, but in this fast paced age,  sometimes there is only time for Two.

Faithfulness to the book: One is almost word for word the entire book, no contest here.  Two is Pride and Prejudice, but then again, it is not.  Much of the dialogue is either rushed or has characters speaking right on top of each other, making it hard to understand; even knowing the story inside out I had a hard time following it.  There is also a fair amount of invented dialogue and some of the original words/phrasing have been changed, which is rather awkward, especially when some of the archaic phrasing has been left intact while some straightforward lines have been changed, theoretically for clarity, but it makes for an odd mix.  At one point Darcy should say something about performing to strangers, but strangers has been changed to 'people I don't know,' which is just awkward and I would hope people know the definition of stranger.  Also, the characters seem to be modern people with modern manners stuffed into dresses and bonnets rather than actual characters of the period in Two, which impairs one's ability to really lose oneself in the film, whereas One has no such difficulty.  Also, with its time crunch, Two tends to minimize some of the main plot points, and there is probably some intent to gloss over something that isn't a major issue today and thus not comprehensible as a significant social crisis (the infamous elopement), whereas One takes the time to actually portray the issue, explain its significance, and the characters' response to it.

Acting/casting: I'll get into this more specifically with each major character, but in general, I was not impressed with the casting for Two while One was spot on.  One has a natural chemistry between the characters, which flows and draws you in.  Two leaves me feeling awkward the entire time, I felt like the new kid at school starting halfway through the first semester; I always felt like an outsider.  It is something like the difference between the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels.  The original characters have chemistry and draw you along on a fantastic adventure through the galaxy, whereas the prequels are just awkward, and I sadly must rank the love story therein as the worst film romance of all time, because it just isn't believable.  I have to say the same about Two, Mr. Collins' perceived attachment is about as deep as this Darcy's portrayed attachment to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: One's Elizabeth is a bit old in appearance for a 20 year old, but otherwise, she is a perfect Elizabeth.  Keira Knightley is the last person I would have chosen for Elizabeth in Two, she is just too snarky, and for all of her faults, Austen's character was never snarky.  The scene where she insults her mother to her face was not in character at all and I had to make sure I was watching an actually serious production of P&P and not a spoof!  Darcy is supposed to be afflicted with pride, but that seems to be Elizabeth's fault in Two's rendition rather than prejudice.

Darcy: I will say it outright, Colin Firth is the penultimate Mr. Darcy, I should probably recuse myself but then this review wouldn't be complete!  I don't like Two's Darcy at all, he's not attractive, he has no depth of character or personality, he's way too awkward (maybe that's intentional) to get any girl to fall for him, and overall I just found him irksome.  Firth does wonders portraying Darcy, especially when he says nothing at all, which is most of the movie, Two's Darcy just stands around looking awkward like some kid at his first school dance.

Mrs. Bennet: both portrayals, while very different, were excellently done.  I do like that there is a bit more affection amongst the Bennet clan displayed in Two than in One, they are actually a family, if a crazy one.

Mr. Bennet: again, I enjoyed both actor's interpretations of the character, especially in Two where Mr. Bennet actually shows some affection towards his wife and younger daughters, there is a warmth there that One is lacking.

Mr. Bingley: I do not like Two's Bingley in the least, he minds me of a golden retriever (and I'm not trying to slight the dog, but this is not a dog movie so a lead character should not mind me of one): not too bright, desperate to please, no will of his own.  While Bingley should display an easiness of temper and be malleable to his friends/sisters, this is too extreme.  One's Bingley does a wonderful job.

Mr. Collins: if you want odious, you can't do better than One's Mr. Collins, Two's is just creepy and Mr. Collins, while annoying, obnoxious, conceited, falsely humble, and none too bright, he is not creepy.

Lady Catherine: Two's Lady Catherine is probably my favorite, she just has a superiority about her that One's can't match, though One's is still a decent rendition.

Charlotte Lucas: Two's Charlotte is a more interesting character though One's does a fair job.

The Gardiners: they are almost non-characters in Two though some of my favorite characters in the book and One.

Lydia Bennet: I am not sure if the boisterous Lydia of One or the snide Lydia of Two is better, but both bring out different aspects of the insipid girl, a pity Two doesn't have more time to delve into her character.  Her situation has been reduced to a mere subplot.

 Bingley's Sister(s): there isn't time for the requisite social intercourse in Two, thus this role is almost as non-essential as the Gardiners, the little we see of Caroline though, she does a good job.  One's duo really brings out the snobbery and flesh out the characters well.  I do miss Mr. Hurst sleeping on the divan throughout the entire movie though.

Overall: if I need a quick Austen fix, I'll watch Two, but in all else, One is far superior in almost every aspect, at least if you are a devotee of the book, but if you prefer a more modern retelling (though set in the same period), Two just might be your movie.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A writing pox on you and your house!

Have you ever caught that flu that knocks you out for three weeks, making you completely useless for anything?  I think I have the writing ague, that silly little writing contest has infatuated me and I'm working on various incarnations of the same tale; I'm rather enjoying it!  You can to, have you started your story yet?  Only six months to go!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, sharpen your pens!

I missed it last year, but now's the time if you are interested in rewriting a classic fairy tale.  Check out the writing contest here.