Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pride and Prejudice

As much as I love Jane Austen, and adaptations of her novels, I never saw the much-loved 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley (who is a favorite of mine).

It is really charming and perfect. It's been decades since I read Austen, but her novels made enough of an impression on me that everything in the movie seemed straight out of the book. I swear I remembered specific bits of dialogue. At the same time I think I forgot how many elements to the plot there are. I kind of just remembered it as Lizzie forms an initial negative impression of a gentleman that gets in the way of her seeing his good side and slows down her falling in love. Which is true, but that happens through a series of incidents and relationships and mistakes which are all very entertaining and at times quite moving.

I think that because of the charm of much of Austen's work, and Pride and Prejudice in particular, people don't totally see the grim underside of the issues. At few times Mrs. Bennet says something dramatic-seeming about her daughters ending up destitute. This is to comical effect, but in fact the Bennet girls situation was dire. None of them stood to inherit the estate and they would likely be destitute if they did not marry. It is lovely when Lizzie's father does not insist she marry the cousin who will get their home, but this sentimental moment obscures what the intense and real pressure there would be for her to marry him and secure the family's economic stability.

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game, about Alan Turing who cracked Nazi military code for the Allies, is okay. There is a lot of interesting elements, like the secret formation of the code cracking team, the undiagnosed but definitely present spectrum type disorder that Turing had, the criminalization of homosexuality... And in the movie each of these held my attention enough to keep watching.  But ultimately I didn't find the whole of The Imitation Game to be that compelling.


Over the past several weeks I watched I all 11 seasons of the 90s sitcom, Frasier.

I think I started it because I wanted something mindless and non addicting to watch now that school has started. But, because the episodes are only 22 minutes, it was quite easy to gobble up many episodes an evening.

At first I was incredibly put off by the laugh track, which seemed so jarring and disruptive. I eventually got used to it. So much so that by the end I really didn't notice it at all. I also remember that I used to find Kelsey Grammer's overacting in this show to be insufferable, but not only did I get used to it now, I began to see how it was effective.

I really like Frasier. I love how it mixes a bit of wry, verbal humor with very traditional broad physical humor, and classic wacky plot structures.  Niles and Frasier are great together. I was shocked to learn that they added Niles' character at the last minute, that he wasn't part of the original concept. I cannot see the show working without him. The PAIR of comically ostentatious snobs is somehow hilarious. And their similarities serve to enhance their individual characters by bringing their differences into focus.

There is also something sweet and endearing about the family dynamic -- The grouchy father and the two competitive grown boys. The other characters are good, and most of the episodes are pretty tight with many, many funny moments. The last three seasons are not as good, as Niles and Daphne get together, and some of the storylines wrap up. Oh well, it happens to the best of them.


Last month I watched Amadeus, a movie I have seen several times and always love (I realize I watched it last in 2010).

It tells the story of Mozart and Salieri, through the eyes of the latter who is deeply bitter and jealous of Mozart's talent. Although Salieri has worked assiduously his whole life to create great music, when the young musical genius arrives on the scene in Vienna, Salieri soon realizes that he himself is a mediocre talent. His bitterness is made of unfathomable depths, as he rails against God who cursed his with desire and love for music, but not enough talent. He cannot let go of his bitterness and devises a plan to ruin Mozart's reputation and regard in Vienna (and in so doing inspires Don Giovanni).

Amadeus is wonderfully lush, beautiful, and in Salieri kind of camp. Really good stuff.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Making of a Lady

The Making of a Lady is a HORRIBLE movie!

It is about a well-educated but poor secretary in a wealthy home who marries the one of the possible heirs. It's at first a marriage of convenience, and then they fall in love. This part of the movie is so-so.

Then the tone shifts in a weird way. The husband leaves for a military operation and his new bride is left alone in a creepy estate. She is soon visited by his odd and mentally ill brother and his wife from India. Somehow she doesn't notice how creepy and crazy he is, and she becomes friends with the wife and the wife's older mother (?). But the movie makes is super clear that there is something sinister about this crazy man and the Indian women. It is blatantly racist.

From here it becomes kind of a horror movie, as it slowly dawns on the new bride that these people are trying to kill her and her baby so that the crazy guy will be the heir.

It's just awful.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Big Short

The Big Short is about three different groups of hedge fund managers who realize that the housing market is going to crash several years before the big crisis. It follows them as they work on getting more and more money to bet against the mortgage interesting. It's fascinating and really sad the extent to which borrowers were scammed, and the indifference of the financial big shots involved.

The Big Short has a tense momentum. On one hand, you are kind of rooting for these guys who are going agains what seems the largest odds, and who weirdly seem to be heroes as they uncover the enormous flaw in the economy. On the other hand, they are going to benefit from the devastating 2008 collapse. This is mitigated by their growing cynicism and self doubt.

The movie is shot in a frenetic pumped up way that gives an otherwise pretty dry storyline more energy.

The Painted Veil (novel)

After watching the movie version of The Painted Veil I quickly bought the bought the Somerset Maugham novel and I gobbled it right up.

The books is so different! The first half is almost exactly the same, but the screenwriters took the characters time in the cholera town in a whole different direction. In the novel, their tense relations persist, but throughout them Kitty begins to transform and develop compassion for him. This is in part through her friendship with a English neighbor (who is important in the movie as well) and through her relationship with nuns. Unlike the movie, she never really understands the significance of her husband's work. Slowly she begin to hope for the ability to live a worthwhile life.

When tragedy strikes, she returns alone to Shanghai (Hong Kong?) and is not as changed as she hoped she was, the final ending brings her to a point where she makes a surprising loving and devoted choice. But so different, so much more grim than the movie!