Some Thoughts on the Sanditon Screen Adaptation

Books & Mags, Movies & TV, Stunt Double

As a Jane Austen fan, I’ve followed the birth of the screen adaptation of Sanditon in this blog. Having seen the series and allowed my brain to properly chew it for a couple of months, now it’s time to share some of my throughts.

Note: Spoiler warning is in effect!

According to IMDB, the main writing credits for this miniseries belong to Andrew Davies, with assists from Justin Young (episodes 3, 4, 6 and 7) and Andrea Gibb (episode 5). I haven’t seen any of Young’s writing, but I have seen Gibb’s Call the Midwife episodes and as far as I can remember, I liked them. In the past I’ve had mixed feelings of Davies’s work, but I’d assumed it was due to the material he was adapting (Dickens just doesn’t do it for me).

I may now have to adjust my opinion of Davis’s writing. Although I should like to know how big of a say the producers and/or financial backers had, for his earlier adaptations were much more internally consistent.

The best I can say about the writing in Sanditon is that it was very uneven throughout, which hurt both the characters, plot and pacing. Moreover, the ending was left open, clearly fishing for season 2, but since this first season didn’t give us much to recommend itself, the intended cliffhanger feels rather insulting instead.

Guest blogger Yosa Addiss critiqued the costuming at Frock Flicks. I don’t have much to add except to say that for a fantasy story set in the regency (or regency-like) period the choices would’ve been more acceptable.

The same goes for the sets. Indeed, some of the interior scenes, specifically at the masqued ball, remind me of the 1986 movie Labyrinth. Just compare these two photos below, the first from Sanditon and the second from Labyrinth:

Ethical Hedonist Magazine The Dance Sanditon

Sanditon (2019) via Ethical Hedonist Magazine

Basement Rejects Labyrinth Ball Scene

Labyrinth (1986) via Basement Rejects

There were other sets that looked more period-appropriate, but I don’t know enough of the details of period architecture and interior design to really say. For instance, the Parkers’ house had a room or two with multiple faux framed paintings that were literally painted directly onto the wall (or wallpaper?). That was a very interesting choice.

Frock Flicks Sanditon Ep1 Faux Paintings on Wall

Sanditon (2019) via Frock Flicks

Overall the sets and photography looked gorgeous, and the lighting was just lovely; I just don’t know how well the design choices represented regency in general.

All of the faults would be more tolerable, however, if the adaptation cast of characters equalled that of Austen’s writing. Sadly, it does not.

The best thing about Jane Austen’s characters is that even when they’re superficially the same, they’re all different. They remain their own people. Every single Bennet daughter, for instance, has their own individual personas, habits and characteristics. Poor Jane Fairfax is different from poor Fanny Price. Notable men in their thirties like Colonel Brandon and Mr. Knightley are very different indeed from each other.

In addition, even the most odious of Austen’s characters often have one or more redeeming qualities. The Sanditon adaptation lacks in this respect, too. Our supposed hero, Mr. Sidney Parker, is initially barely distinguishable from his two foppish drinking buddies he drags to Sanditon for a change of scenery, and it looks like we were supposed to fall for the forced, artificially drawn-out, unconvincing hate-love tug-of-war between him and Miss Heywood a la Pride & Prejudice.

(Incidentally, one of Mr. S. Parker’s London buddies surprisingly turns out one of the best invented characters of the series, but I’ll return to him later.)

Miss Brereton and Miss Denham both come across as bickering sour bitches, with the only difference that Clara is a sexually abused gold digger and Esther a lovelorn gold digger. Miss Lambe reminds me of Lydia Bennet, apart from having a fortune, and the young ladies she lodges with are completely bland. The rich Lady Denham is simply a copy of Lady Catherine, only with an ailment and sans a daughter. Mr. Denham’s a slimy git who resembles Mr. Wickham; of him I have very little to say and none of it good.

Young Mr. Stringer, a builder and aspiring architect, was an enjoyable addition, but sadly he wasn’t given much to do besides complain about not being paid, pine after Miss Heywood and eye moodily at his competition, Mr. S. Parker.

Mr. Parker is defined by his monomania over Sanditon and his irresponsibility, but at least he genuinely loves his wife. I liked the little we were given of Mrs. Parker, but, again, her character fell quite flat; apart from the role of supporting wife and devoted mother, she was good-natured and that was all.

The hypochondriac comic relief characters, Miss Parker and Mr. Arthur Parker, perhaps stay truest to the kind of characters Austen had a habit of writing, and they remain simply delightful throughout.

As I said, it was quite a surprise to find Lord Babbington rise to the level of an Austen hero. He accidentally meets with the pining Miss Denham, falls for and attempts to pay court to her. As we learn more about him, Lord Babbington starts to redeem himself in our eyes and to display quite a different set of characteristics than his drinking buddies (one of whom’s a drunk git and should never have been given as many lines as he was).

Babbington was looking better and better, and the we hit episode 7 where Mr. Denham bursts into a ball and makes a final plea for Miss Denham’s affections despite her obvious disinterest. Mr. Sidney Parker and Lord Babbington physically stop him from getting close to Esther. Later Babbington tells her: “Your brother is not going to make a victim out of you. I’ll not allow it.”

Seriously, crushing hard here! He’d become attractive before, but this kind of determination and caring? Romance novel stuff. Jane Austen romance stuff! This here, right here, is exactly how Austen heroes behave. So why the everloving fork is it that the whiny Mr. S. Parker is the protagonist of the adaptation and Lord Babbington is not?!?

In fact, Lord Babbington and Esther Denham’s story is more compelling to me than that of Miss Heywood and Mr. S. Parker. Babbington and Esther even get the gorgeous wedding at the end:

Ethical Hedonist Magazine Babbington Denham Wedding

Sanditon (2019) via Ethical Hedonist Magazine

I seriously suspect I have a headcanon coming…!

I still need to watch Sanditon again to be sure, but it seems I’m leaning into the direction of not considering it a Jane Austen work, but a more generic (fantasy) regency drama.

Have you seen Sanditon? What did you think of it?

Bright Idea: British Murder Mystery Where Stewart and McKellen Garden and Solve Crimes

Geek out!, Movies & TV

Connecticut-based author M.L. Brennan had a brilliant idea the other day and tweeted it out. Basically she posits a murder mystery show set in Britain where “Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are elderly widower neighbors who bicker a lot about their gardens, and also solve crimes”. Brennan also suggests plot points and gives her casting choices for the supporting characters as well.

 

I really encourage you to read as much of the long, rambling thread as possible. It brightened our evening a lot one night when positivity was needed.

Here’s the beginning:

 

Absolutely fabulous, right? Stewart and McKellen be amazing together.

Like I saw someone remark, I bet we could crowdfund this baby in a second. I sure would watch the hell out of this show! 😀

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

Blast from the Past: MacGyver Is Now on DVD

Geek out!, Movies & TV

Whoa – the 1980s tv series MacGyver is now available on DVD. I had no idea! Husband and I’ve been borrowing it through the local library.

MacGyver Season 2 DVD

Technically we’re both rewatching it, although neither of us remembers much, just details or perhaps a line from time to time. There’s quite a shocking amount of action – shooting, fisticuffs and various vehicle chases – that I apparently completely bypassed as a thing when I was a kid. Fortunately, that’s not the point of the series: MacGyver is all about problem solving and finding inventive uses for everyday items, and Mac himself famously hates guns.

The first season has some inconsistencies, but once they got the character and the rest of the cast figured out, MacGyver settled into a generally considerate and polite, sensitive male action hero model. (There are some glaring deviations which may be due to rotating writers; I don’t know.)

Although the marketing copy on the second season DVD cover really makes me crack up: “His mind is the ultimate weapon.” (Can you imagine a deep, sonorous male voice reading the line!) LOL! 😀

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

January 2019 Recap

Newsletters

One of the new things I started at the beginning of 2018 is a month-end recap, a sort of newsletter light. Now I’ve completed the cycle with the first recap for 2019. Yay! 🙂

Speaking of cycles, tax time is rolling around again. I’ve been bogged down with tax prep more than usual at this time of the year.

2018 Jan Tax Work

Unfortunately, Etsy changed the way they bill and pay their sellers at the end of last year. The new system has had some glitches which have increased my bookkeeping workload significantly. I can’t wait to be done with the 2018 number crunching and get onto the tax forms themselves because it’ll feel so much easier – something I never, ever, thought I’d say!

Just past mid-January there was a snowstorm, the first snowfall for the year. Then a front of warm weather with rain pushed through and melted almost all of the snow. It was very pretty for all of four days!

One night right after the snow, we had someone scamper across our yard.

Tracks on Snow from Above

There’s a funny gap in the tracks (in the middle of the photo), though, which makes me wonder whether it might be a sign of a fox jumping to try and catch a critter under the snow. Like in the gif below (but probably much less showy).

Giphy BBC Earth Fox Jump

BBC Earth, via Giphy.

I had a small but very satisfying reading pile this month:

Library Reading Pile Jan 2019

From left to right, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by my favorite living author Nora Jemisin, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming. I also read Ariah by R.B. Sanders and Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang. I’m looking forward to the last two Murderbot novellas, too, which I got as Christmas present. Yay, so many great reads!

On the screen, Husband and I were introduced to the tv series Modern Family by a friend. It’s a mocumentary of three generations of a Californian family. We’re bingeing through the seasons and have gotten up to seven, and are still enjoying it.

My goodness, I never would’ve thought that I’d find a mainstream (i.e., non-genre) family drama interesting, but I do. 🙂 Shows you what production values can do – specificially in this case, attention to quality character-writing and episode structure.

Now that I’ve written a full year’s worth of recap posts, it’s time to reassess. Even though it felt difficult at times, I certainly learned a lot and found that I do like an end-of-the-month look back.

I’m inclined to continue these newsletters, but I might dink around with the topics or proportions. Would you like to read more about something or maybe less about something else? Please let me know!

Awesome Mashup: Pantherpuff Girls

Design & Designers, Movies & TV, Stunt Double

PrimePremne designed an incredible mashup of Powerpuff Girls and women from Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther movie. See for yourself:

Ript Apparel PrimePremne Pantherpuff Girls

PrimePremne via Ript Apparel.

Available from Ript Apparel. Found via Graphic Policy on Twitter.

I’m in transit (hopefully without a hitch) much of today; hope this scheduled awesome cheered up your day.

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

Discoveries: Frock Flicks

Arts & Crafts, Design & Designers, Fabrics & Materials, Movies & TV

As a dabbler in historical wear and as a Jane Austen fan, I’m excited share with you a delightful, new-to-me resource: Frock Flicks. It’s a blog and podcast venue that critiques movies and tv shows with historical settings primarily from the costume point of view.

Frock Flicks Header

Frock Flicks.

From their About page:

“Tune in to our podcasts where we rip into Hollywood’s attempt at historical costuming and talk about exactly why they’re not accurate to the eras. But we’re not just dissers — we’ll also look at costume movies we love and tell you why they’re fabulous, beautiful, fascinating films.”

You can read blog style, from newest to oldest, but you can also browse the various thematic categories. Erawise, the Ancient and Medieval categories deal with earlier garb styles, and from the 15th they proceed to 20th by century; there’s also a category for scifi and fantasy.

So far I’ve only browsed a little, but I especially enjoyed their series of posts from this fall celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries (check out the posts: first, second, third, fourth and fifth).

This is so going to become a staple in my Internet diet!

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

Doctor Who Theme on Piano with Cosplay

Geek out!, Movies & TV, Stunt Double

Composer and pianist Sonya Belousova and director Tom Grey staged a version of the Doctor Who theme with cosplay:

Sonya not only steps out of the Tardis, we see her play a Tardis-blue grand piano in a multitide of Doctor outfits in just over two minutes. Neat!

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

Geeky Room Re-Do: Daenerys’s Reception Tent

Geek out!, Moodboards, Movies & TV, Stunt Double

Just about every set in Game of Thrones is meticulously designed and gorgeous. One of my favorite spaces is the tent that Daenerys uses as a reception room at the gates of the slaver city Yunkai. My description below is based on season 3, episode 7, The Bear and the Maiden Fair.

GoT Daenerys Tent Dais Seas3 Ep7

Game of Thrones, season 3, episode 7. HBO.

 

The tent is an elegant combination of simplicity and luxury. Basics like removable wall panels – it is a tent, after all – get elevated by fabulously rich accents and details. Woven surfaces of grasses, reeds or the like repeat throughout the space.

Plain panels reminiscent of bamboo shades screen the tent from both sun and stray looks, and turn the tent into a more room-like space. At the head of the room, there is a wood dais. On the floor, there is a large, undyed grass rug with a stripes-and-diamond pattern made with naturally darker materials.

The real show-stopper is the furniture: Daenerys’s upholstered sofa with lavish textiles and carved end tables on the dais, and a table and visitor’s chair off to one side. There is also a wooden chest of drawers on the opposite side, which can be seen briefly during the episode. An elaborate decorative element hangs behind Daenerys, leading the eye to her and framing her head almost like a halo.

Game of Thrones, season 3, episode 7. HBO.

Game of Thrones, season 3, episode 7. HBO.

I started my room re-do with imagining a sofa set against a window with bamboo shades to imitate the tent. The bottom edge of Daenerys’s sofa looks like leather that reaches all the way to the floor. Based on that, I went with an armless but chunky chestnut-colored leather sofa. Unlike Dany’s, the end tables in my re-do are not gilt and there’s and extra shelf on the bottom, but the general shape is similar enough. To disguide the oh-so-very-not-Westeros-or-Essos glass surface, I chose round 23” brass trays to top the end tables. An ornate mirror (sometimes called a peacock mirror) stands in for the decorative element behind Daenerys.

Other than the leather sofa and wooden end tables, it was quite difficult to match materials. I chose therefore to try and find the best pattern match I could. For instance, the rug I found is made of wool instead of reeds, and I selected a fleece blanket to drape over the sofa in my re-do.

GoT Dany Tent Re-Do Collage

  1. Arrow orange body pillow cover, 20” x 54”, Vintagechicdecor on Etsy, $50
  2. Orange sunset ikat diamond pattern fleece blanket, 50” x 60”, by JKLDesigns, Zazzle, $59. This print is missing the olive green on Dany’s sofa, but otherwise it’s close.
  3. Vintage Beni Ourain style rug, BoutiqueMaroc on Etsy, $1,211. Not a bad resemblance.
  4. Kasbah large brass trays, Jayson Home, $72 / ea.
  5. Vintage Turkish kilim body pillow, 35” x 16”, Sukan on Etsy, $290. Olive green and orange!
  6. Churchill end tables, Standard Furniture, $300 / ea. No gilding, but the concave leg shape and volute ornamentation are close.
  7. Gold velvet bolster, 13” x 36”, Monsoon Craft, $56
  8. Tuscan bamboo Roman shade, 74” long, Overstock, $29-$59
  9. Golden medallions mirror, Pier1, $100. Almost an exact match!
  10. Belgian Classic Shelter Arm armless sofa in chestnut leather, Restoration Hardware, $2,745-$4,495
  11. Large metal fruit bowl, RawRevivals on Etsy, $31
  12. Vintage copper pedestal compote bowl, Rebekahsretro on Etsy, $9
  13. Oversized pillow-bolster in veranda red, 6” x 48”, Swings ‘n Things, $60
  14. Nuno felted neck roll pillow, 6” x 13”, by AlfalfaHill on Etsy, $118

That was fun. 🙂 What would you change or replace?

Reading Numbers for 2014, with Musings

Books & Mags, My Spaces

Last year, spurred on by the hashtag #readwomen2014, I made an effort to read more books written by women. In the beginning of the year, I compared my previous years’ reading lists to get a rough idea how many male vs. female authors I tend to read.

Here are my complete reading statistics to date:

  • 2007: male 30, female 16 (out of 46 books total, 46 authors total)
  • 2008: male 25, female 18 (out of 43 books total, 43 authors total)
  • 2009: male 25, female 17 (out of 42 books total, 42 authors total)
  • 2010: male 24, female 22 (out of 42 books total, 46 authors total)
  • 2011: male 27, female 18 (out of 41 books total, 45 authors total)
  • 2012: male 35, female 17 (out of 43 books total, 52 authors total)
  • 2013: male 18, female 9 (out of 27 books total, 27 authors total)
  • 2014: male 24, female 45 (out of 60 books total, 70 authors total)

I’ve counted every author/editor once, so a book co-authored by two men and a woman gave two male authors and one female one for my tally; that’s why the number of books may be smaller than the number of authors totaled. Most of my reading is speculative fiction of some sort – fantasy and scifi – but not all of it. I include graphic novels, and count both authors and artists (if different) as authors for the purposes of this list. In addition, these numbers do include a few books without identifiable authors. They were omitted from the gender count but included in the book count.

In 2014, instead of hovering between a third to a half, the percentage of books by women in my reading menu went to two thirds, roughly speaking. This was a welcome find, since I didn’t count any totals during the year. It was also deeply satisfying to note that I recovered from the 2013 slump (of only 27 books the whole year) and read a whopping 60 books. At least, 60 is whopping for me. 🙂

Apart from the not exactly surprising find of “more attention works”, I noticed a definite change in my perspective. For years, stories with only white male protagonists (or with only one woman / black / Asian / your-variety-of-exotic-other character) have seemed imbalanced to me, but I didn’t think about it any further. The tokenization stuck out like a sore thumb, of course, but I basically chose to ignore it. It was what it was.

Now, however, I’ve gotten tired of living with less than a fully operational hand, to extend the metaphor. I want to see more people like me, or at the very least, someone I can relate to or empathize with in a story that speaks to me – in other words, I want writing I’m interested in with characters that I find fascinating by people whose perspective and skill I appreciate. As Michi Trota writes for the Uncanny Magazine:

“We’re often drawn to stories, characters, and people because we find something in common with them, but empathy and connection aren’t reliant on a single, narrow axis of sameness. … I love characters and stories not just because they involve someone like me, but because they take what seems familiar and expand it beyond mere reflection, revealing depths and complexities outside my own perceptions.”

Narratives revolving around white men are fine when they are a part of a wider selection, but having no other choice than narratives revolving around white men just does not cut it for me anymore, certainly not in the speculative genre.

Fortunately, it’s getting much easier to find a broader variety of not only protagonists / point-of-view characters, but of writers with different backgrounds. After reading (and watching, because this also applies to my movie / tv choices) a more heterogeneous range of POV characters, worlds without that variety simply feel lacking. You could even say that, having taken steps to mend the poor sore digit, it’s such a delight to have a fully-functioning hand, thumb and all.

Here’s a gratuitous photo of my first 2015 reading pile:

Reading Pile Jan 2015

A 50-50 split between male vs. female authors. Nice start for the year.

 

Discoveries: 8-bit Art by Adam Lister

Arts & Crafts, Design & Designers, Geek out!, Movies & TV

Artist Adam Lister creates geometric, pixelated versions of popular characters and paintings, geeky or mainstream. His approach has been described variously as urban, vintage and cubist. Whatever your preferred descriptor might be, Lister’s watercolors surely epitomize an inventive and inquisitive mind. Just some of his work that I like most include an 8-bit version of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night…

Adam_Lister_the_starry_night

Adam Lister.

… The Iron Man…

Adam_Lister_ironman

Adam Lister.

… and The Godfather

Adam_Lister_The_Godfather_sg

Adam Lister.

Simply brilliant! More at Adam Lister Gallery page.

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