2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Sense and Sensibility

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Getting back to the Jane Austen rewatch mini reviews! Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first commercial and critical success. Published anonymously (“by a lady”) in 1811, the novel focuses on two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and their very different approaches to life and love.

Jane Austen Rewatch SandS

JASNA provides a handy map for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Sense and Sensibility Locations map-ss-1200

Map of locations in Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

As befits a well-loved story, there are several adaptations. We had access to the 1995 movie and miniseries from 1981 and 2008. I might eventually want to check out Kandukondain Kandukondain (I Have Found It, 2000) and possibly Scents and Sensibility (2011); I think I’ll skip the 1971 miniseries.

The 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie written by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee is excellent; in fact, it used to be my go-to version. Unfortunately it’s tripped up by the same problem that pretty much every Austen movie adaptation suffers from: time constraints. Miniseries fit Austen’s nuanced storytelling so much better. Even with that in mind, Thompson’s screenplay is perhaps the most skilled movie-length adaptation I’ve ever seen. And Ang Lee’s direction is visually beautiful, at times breathtaking.

If there’s a problem with the movie, I’d say it’s the age of the actors: almost every main actor is older than their novel counterparts, from Emma Thompson’s Elinor to Hugh Grant’s Edward and Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon; only Kate Winslet’s Marianne and Greg Wise’s Willoughby are even close. All performances are fantastic, there’s no mistake about it. They’re just too old: Elinor and Marianne are supposed to be 19 and 17, respectively, Edward and Willoughby in their mid- to early 20s and Brandon in his mid-30s.

My favorite scene: As Marianne is singing and playing the pianoforte at Barton Park, Colonel Brandon walks in and is stopped breathless by her performance and beauty.

Sense & Sensibility – “Weep You No More Sad Fountains” via waningautumn

The 1981 Sense and Sensibility miniseries (adapted by Alenxander Baron and Denis Constanduros, directed by Rodney Bennett) has the same primary problem as the Thompson movie: the actors are too old for their roles. In addition, the plot is rushed through at quite a clip. The series theme music is rather nice, but parts of the dialogue are lost due to the poor sound quality (with no subtitling on disc). Finally, there are some odd directorial choices (angles and cut-offs); the version definitely shows its age there.

I understand the omission of Margaret, the youngest Dashwood sister, from the point of view of time constraints, but I think it’s a failing. Also, very unfortunately, Irene Richards doesn’t convince as Elinor Dashwood. Tracey Childs as Marianne is better, and Bosco Hogan’s Edward is very personable and friendly once his reserve is broken through. I could imagine someone falling for a considerate man like him.

Peter Woodward, who played Willoughby, is the only actor I knew beforehand from his role in the Babylon 5 spinoff series Crusade. Like Hogan, he does a great job. It’s so very nice that the actor sings, too – Willoughby and Marianne are able to sing together like in the book. Other adaptations don’t really do that, sadly.

My favorite dialogue:

Elinor: “[Colonel Brandon] is a sensible man, and sense will always have its attraction for me.”

Marianne [astonished]: “Elinor!”

Elinor: “Yes, Marianne, even in a man over thirty.”

LOL! 😀

My favorite of the three adaptations, though, is Andrew Davies’s 2008 miniseries (directed by John Alexander). It stars Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as Elinor and Marianne. Both were new to me, but I was familiar with the significant male actors: Dan Stevens (Mr. Edward Ferrars) is in the first few seasons of Downton Abbey, David Morrissey (Colonel Brandon) portrays the confused faux-Doctor in the Doctor Who Christmas special “The Next Doctor”, and Dominic Cooper (Mr. Willoughby) as young Howard Stark scratches science to see if it bleeds in Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Captain America: The First Avenger and Agent Carter (and rules as King Llane Wrynn in the Warcraft movie).

It was a gutsy choice of Davies to begin the series with Willoughby’s explicit seduction of a 15-year-old girl, an event which happens very much off-screen in the novel and most adaptations, but becomes the crux of the plot.

Another interesting scene that Davies lifted from between the lines is the duel between Willoughby and Colonel Brandon. It was nice to actually see how seriously the society took the former’s transgression. I also prefer Stevens’s livelier Edward to Grant’s monotonous interpretation.

The series does have some issues. For example, the Devonshire “cottage” that the financially strained Dashwood ladies had to accept was turned into a literal cottage instead of a good, solid house from the novel. The events are condensed, sure, but their pace doesn’t feel rushed like in the movie versions. Most of the writing, acting, propping and costuming are solid to excellent.

Acting-wise, Morrissey’s Colonel Brandon has one too many clunky “I’m not intruding?” moments, and his furrowed brows are a-plenty, but otherwise I like his performance. Mark Williams (father Weasley in the Harry Potter movies) is a simply fantastic Sir John Middleton! And I just adore Margaret (Lucy Boynton) in this version, although she is a much more outspoken character here than in the novel. I can’t wait for the new Murder on the Orient Express for more Boynton.

My favorite line:

Margaret [dryly observing her expected role in the society]: “Girls just sit and wait for things to happen.”

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Northanger Abbey

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Our grand Jane Austen rewatch continues. Northanger Abbey (c. 1798-1799, posthumously published in 1817) parodies the wildly popular gothic novels of the time.

Jane Austen Rewatch Northanger Abbey

The 2007 movie version (screenplay by Andrew Davies, directed by Jon Jones) is the only one I’ve ever seen, although apparently there’s a version from 1987 as well. (Note to self: find it! That one has Cornelius Fudge er, Robert Hardy!)

The story covers a young naive heroine’s adventures first in Bath and afterwards at a remote country estate with a dark secret. JASNA provides a handy map for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Northanger Abbey Locations map-na-1200

Map of locations in Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

Felicity Jones stars as Catherine Morland, and Mr. Tilney is portrayed by JJ Feild (elsewhere e.g. Captain America: The First Avenger). Felicity Jones has also appeared in the brilliant Agatha Christie Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp” and later in Rogue One.

Both leads are top-notch, especially Felicity Jones as the wide-eyed and innocent Catherine, but the supporting cast is thoroughly excellent, too. I have no qualms with the adaptation; it’s a solid job through and through.

My favorite scene:

In the beginning, Catherine is actually shown running outdoors playing with her siblings instead of replacing her active, unladylike childhood with a voiceover introduction.

Unfortunately no-one’s uploaded a clip of that online, so here’s the PBS trailer instead:

NORTHANGER ABBEY | Official Trailer | PBS

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Lady Susan

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Starting off the mini-reviews for our grand Jane Austen rewatch with Love and Friendship!

Lady Susan is one of Jane Austen’s earlier, less mature works. She started it circa 1794 and finished in 1805 when Austen was about 19; it was posthumously published in 1871. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been adapted to screen before Whit Stillman wrote and directed Love and Friendship, which was released in 2016. (I fansqueed about the production earlier.)

Jane Austen Rewatch Lady Susan

The original epistolary novel feels rather hastily wrapped up, as if Austen became less and less satisfied with letters as the sole plot-carrying devices. The adaptation naturally takes liberties, but the added dialogue and most of the scenes feel convincingly Austenian.

One successful change is the introduction of all major characters with almost still vignettes upon their first appearance. Kate Beckinsale’s Lady Susan Vernon is impeccably nuanced; a glorious performance of an odious character.

However, a new-to-me actor, Tom Bennett, completely steals the show as the rich, kind, thoroughly good-natured but unfortunately dim-witted Sir James Martin. Check out a glimpse of his cluelessness in the trailer – look for the “tiny green balls” and “Churchill” scenes:

Love & Friendship Official Trailer #1 (2016) – Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny Movie HD via Movieclips Trailers

Sir James Martin [at a dinner table]: “How jolly. Tiny green balls. What are they called?”

Reginald de Courcy: “Peas.”

**

Sir James Martin [while visiting a country estate by the name of Churchill]: “Churchill? That’s how you say it – all together like that. I’d heard ‘church’ and ‘hill’ but couldn’t find either. All I could see was this big house.”

There’s unfortunately some clumsiness in transitions (maybe due to cutting decisions?) and in a few scenes. The supposed appeal of Lord Manwaring also totally escapes me. I don’t think he was even given any lines at all in the screenplay (as opposed to a completely redundant country curate who did get to speak).

All in all, though, it’s great to see the story finally on screen.

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.

A Jane Austen Rewatch Project for the 200th Anniversary of Her Passing

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Exactly 200 years ago today, July 18, 1817, my favorite (deceased) author Jane Austen died. In honor of the bicentennial, Husband and I rewatched all of the screen adaptations that we could easily get our hands on.

JASNA Truth Universally Acknowledged Book Always Better

Screencap from the JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) web page.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that the book is always better than the movie, but what fun it can be to watch those movies!”

In addition to the versions we own, which are delightfully many…

Jane Austen Rewatch Owned Adaptations

…I hunted down three versions through the local library:

Jane Austen Rewatch Adaptations from Library

All in all, we saw 17 adaptations. In the weeks to come, I’ll post some mini-reviews. I’ll treat them in clusters based on the original Austen work; in other words, every adaptation of Emma we saw is discussed in one post, etc.

And here is the publication / written in order of Austen’s major finished works:

The links lead to my mini reviews.

We wanted to stick with versions of Austen’s novels instead of just anything Austen-related. That meant that the biopic-ish Miss Austen Regrets (2008, with the excellent Olivia Williams as Jane Austen), the fun Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) and Austenland (2013), for example, were out.

Unfortunately, I still missed a few. For example, there’s apparently a Welcome to Sanditon (a modern version of the unfinished novel Sanditon from 2013) that I haven’t seen at all. This time I also skipped a Pride and Prejudice version from 1980 that had some great moments, if memory serves. Ohwell – more to watch another time! 🙂

Please feel free to follow along and comment on your favorites!

Getting into Austen Frame of Mind

Movies & TV, Thumbs Down

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a lady about to face the opening night of a brand new Jane Austen film adaptation must be in want of even more things Austen.

I was getting in the mood for Love and Friendship by reading this Buzzfeed list of online dating ads for Austen’s characters when I found out that I won’t be able to go see it tomorrow. Because the opening is a limited one. And apparently the greater Boston area is provincial enough to not merit even one single location of L&F. Not one! Arrgh!

This calls for lots of tea, and probably a good book. What would Jane do?

Tea Library Rabbit Mug

It’s been a long wait already. A year ago when I first found out about L&F, filming had already ended. Then it was supposed to be released on April 27, but the date got pushed to May 13. Now we have to wait even longer for an indeterminate general opening date.

Fortunately, L&F sounds well worth the wait. Like I wrote on my geeky hobby blog, I haven’t had any real idea of what it’ll be like, as I’ve never even heard of the writer / director Whit Stillman before, but the movie looks absolutely hilarious on the basis of the trailer.

Now I just need to sit tight for only a few more weeks. We hope!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Sanditon: Another New Jane Austen Screen Adaptation

Books & Mags, Movies & TV, Thumbs Up

According to ScreenDaily.com, a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s last work Sanditon is underway. Austen finished only the first 11 chapters of Sanditon before she passed in July 1817.

Fluidity Films Sanditon 2016 Poster

Fluidity Films.

The movie is based on a completed version of Sanditon by Marie Dobbs; the screenplay was written by Simon Reade. It’s to be directed by Jim O’Hanlon, known for his 2009 Emma miniseries starring Romola Garai. At this writing, Charlotte Rampling is slated for the role of Lady Denham, with additional casting underway.

Simon Reade and Guy de Beaujeu of Fluidity Films state:

“This is a brand new, never before seen Jane Austen. Her legions of fans worldwide will be thrilled with Sanditon’s romance, comedy, sardonic wit and its clever take on the modern obsessions of health and wealth that is quintessentially Jane Austen.”

Visit the Fluidity Films Sanditon page for more, including a synopsis.

Thoughts: On one hand, yay, more Austen!

On the other, umm. There are polite hints (like this book review or this one) that while Marie Dobbs’s ending for Austen’s beginning starts well, it veers off into the decidedly non-Austenian. I haven’t read Dobbs’s version, but if the Fluidity Films synopsis follows it, I’m very dubious. (An on-screen abduction with attempted rape? For no better reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time?!?) I guess we’ll see.

In other related news: the release of Love and Friendship has been delayed a little. The current release day given by IMDB is May 13. Two months to go!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Bloody Lovely: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Movies & TV

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies opens tomorrow!

imdb-ppz-poster-lizzy-darcy

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Via IMDB.

Now, I don’t typically go for horror or zombies, but I’m actually looking forward to this one: the trailers and clips make PPZ look kick-ass. Check ’em out:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | official trailer #1 US (2016) Lily James Matt Smith via moviemaniacsDE

“My daughters were trained for battle, sir, not the kitchen.” – Mr. Bennet

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Official Trailer #1 (2016) – Lily James Horror Movie HD via Movieclips Trailers

(There seems to be a bit of perv cam action going on. I hope this is as much as there is.)

I know nothing of the 2009 novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, but I do love some of the movie adaptation’s stars: Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet (James is no stranger to elegance based on her work in Downton Abbey) and Matt Smith (of the 11th Doctor fame) as Mr. Collins, and, finally, Charles Dance and Lena Headey (most lately, in genre interest, of the Game of Thrones excellence) as Mr. Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Movie Clip – Admire via Sony Pictures Entertainment

“I do not know what I admire more, Elizabeth Bennet, your skill as a warrior or your resolve as a woman.” – Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Bloody Good Sneak Peek via Sony Pictures Entertainment

Ugh, pretty gruesome. Then again, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that to see and enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, one must be in a suitable frame of mind.

showbizjunkies-bennet-sisters-pride-prejudice-zombies

Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Via Showbiz Junkies.

There will be murder and mayhem, surely…

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Movie Clip – Enviable Talent via Sony Pictures Entertainment

…aaand apparently everything ends in a double wedding:

ew-ppz-pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies-2zz

Double wedding in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Via Entertainment Weekly.

Seems like a combination of very silly and very kick-ass – “hopefully magnificently so,” to quote Husband. 🙂

Images: Poster via IMDB. Bennet sisters by CTMG Inc. via Showbizjunkies. Double wedding by Jay Maidment via Entertainment Weekly.

Cross-posted from Co-Geeking.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Favorite Dance Scenes?

Geek out!, Movies & TV, Thumbs Up

Propelled by the discussion on Frock Flicks, I’ve been thinking about my favorite dance scenes in genre (including historical) productions. Here are the four most memorable ones for me:

4. ballroom scene from the Labyrinth

Henson puppets and the Carnival of Venice masquerading as fantasy. The scene unfolds in a very dreamworldly way, and David Bowie’s performance is amazing. Mostly because nostalgia.

3. underground dance party, The Matrix Reloaded

Even if I have issues with the movie, I find it believable that people in a miserable, dystopic world would relieve their angst with rave-type dances.

2. Ship’s Cook from 2009 Emma miniseries

(Can’t find a YouTube clip from the production to link to, so here’s a vid with melody and stills.)

I just love the tune – and of course, this is the scene where Mr. Elton thoroughly reveals his pettiness and Mr. Knightley his perception and kindheartedness. Mr. Knightley is my favorite of Jane Austen’s male leads, and Jonny Lee Miller’s is my favorite version of Mr. Knightley. It’s all win! 🙂

1. Meryton village ball, 2005 Pride & Prejudice

Dancing is so much FUN, but that’s rarely shown on screen, especially in period pieces. This scene is not stuffily elegant at all but joyful! And noisy and crowded and full of people of all stripes, as an unfashionable, confined and unvarying little village might well be.

Bonus entry: all the dance scenes from Bride and Prejudice

The colors, gorgeous interiors and exteriors, the rhythm, the good humor… How is that not awesome!

What are your favorites and why?

Love and Friendship Coming Out in April

Movies & TV

Love and Friendship, a new Jane Austen screen adaptation written and directed by Whit Stillman, hit the news last year but, sadly, didn’t end up coming out. Now Frock Flicks is reporting that it will premier at the Sundance Film Festival tomorrow, January 26.

Sundance Love and Friendship

Love and Friendship. Image via Sundance Film Festival.

From Sundance’s description for Love and Friendship:

“Set in the opulent drawing rooms of eighteenth-century English society, Love & Friendship focuses on the machinations of a beautiful widow, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), who, while waiting for social chatter about a personal indiscretion to pass, takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate. While there, the intelligent, flirtatious, and amusingly egotistical Lady Vernon is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica—and herself too, naturally. She enlists the assistance of her old friend Alicia (Chloë Sevigny), but two particularly handsome suitors (Xavier Samuel and Tom Bennett) complicate her orchestrations.

Adapting Jane Austen’s unpublished early novella Lady Susan, Whit Stillman returns to the Sundance Film Festival (where his Metropolitan premiered in 1990) in top form with his latest comedy of manners. Kate Beckinsale excels in her role as the deliciously devious Lady Vernon and delivers each line with relish. With exquisite period detail and a script teeming with bon mots and witty dialogue, Love & Friendship is a rare—and rarified—treat.”

At this writing, IMDB gives a release date of April 27. Fansquee! 🙂

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Tea and Cakes

Food & Drink

Here in the northern hemisphere, July may perhaps not be the perfect time for afternoon tea. That doesn’t stop me from browsing for ideas, though – nor mixing up my genres with abandon. 🙂

A round of afternoon sweets could include, for example, clever mini Moomin cheesecakes by Eimear…

Eimear Mini Moomin Cheesecakes

Eimear at Sparkle Side Up.

…to go with a robust cup of Miss Lucy Steele from the Jane Austen Tea Series by Bingley’s Teas Limited…

Bingleys Teas Miss Lucy Steele

Miss Lucy Steele. Bingley’s Teas Limited.

…and, for an after-treat treat, perhaps also The Catwoman drink:

BuzzFeed Lauren Zazer Catwoman Drink

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed Life.

Yum! I really love creme de cassis, but I’d skip the bitters. (The Catwoman comes from a list of Batman-themed drinks for a Gotham-inspired bro-dal shower thrown by BuzzFeed staff. The rest of them sound pretty good, too!)

Any fun, geeky foods or drinks like to share? Go ahead!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.