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This cinematic remake of Jane Austen’s Emma is delightful, from the music to the shadows.  It is less comic than the version starring Gwyneth Paltrow, focused instead on watching characters develop.  I think that Emma is the most realistic of Jane Austen’s novels, the most relevant to an average person’s life.  Other renditions of the potrait of humanity in Emma do not leave this out.  However, Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller delve deeper.

Emma has never been challenged, never been exposed to new places or new ideas.  She honestly thinks she is always right.  And she wants to excel.  As the movie progresses, she discovers she is lonely.  Playing with one’s own creations ends up dissatisfying, however painful it is to relate to real, independent people.

Mr. Knightley has also been content with his life, set in a routine that keeps him happy enough.  Everything he’s known could change, though.  Disruption is not impossible.  And what if he is wasting his life?  On the other hand, should he want to change something, is it even possible?  He cannot control Emma, this he knows – Emma who is ever declaring that she shall never marry.  What will give Mr. Knightley the confidence – or desperation – to try to win the heroine’s heart?

Surrounding the main characters are all the other inhabitants of Highbury: Miss Bates, Mr. Woodhouse, Mr. and Mrs. Elton, Mr. and Mrs. Weston, Jane Fairfax, Harriet Smith, and Frank Churchill.  Each is shown with their own struggles with identity, love, and managing their friends.  Staying in Highbury or leaving it has shaped their lives.  They all fear change, while simultaneously fearing that change may never come again.  Can good friends help them endure whatever life sends their way?

Watch as Emma goes from playing with dolls under the table, to arranging flowers, to arranging matches, back to arranging parties and managing a house – and her own heart.  See Mr. Knightley through the window, gradually approaching Emma’s loneliness.  Experience the light and seasons shift.  Feel the restrained emotion at the ball.  Dream of what might be.  And fall humbly into the beauty of what really is.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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On January 24, January 31, and February 7, PBS’s Masterpiece Classic will be airing the new BBC Emma starring Romula Garai and Michael Gambon.  I’m looking forward to this one.  Emma is the independent and fickle heroine bent on matchmaking.  Watch with her as she learns what real love and charity are all about.  It should air at 9:00 PM on each night, but CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS!  The first episode is 2 hours, and episodes 2 and 3 are each 1 hour long.  In Denver, Masterpiece airs on KRMA Channel 6.  Beginning February 9, you can also purchase Emma from PBS at their shop for about $35 or on Amazon for about $25 (pre-order).
You might want to also tune in the following week, February 14, for the short and delightful Northanger Abbey.  Give an hour and a half to giggle and sigh over the silly but likeable Catherine Moreland and her hero, Henry Tilney.  See my full review here.
Also to update you on my Jane Austen movie preferences, I could not excuse myself for failing to point you to the good adaptation of Persuasion, BBC’s 1971 miniseries starring Ann Firbank.  It is old, but much closer to the book.  Live for the moment when Mr. Elliot’s notice of Anne reawakens Captain Wentworth’s attention, or that letter, the perfect letter, at the end of the story.
Update April, 2010 – see my review of Emma starring Romola Garai!
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I was watching a movie with my brothers last night, and the scene was one of those notorious “opportune moments.” The hero had a chance to confess his love – or tell the truth – or something useful, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. But he had planned ahead and brought with him a little gift, which he laid on the table between himself and the lady.

 

My brother summed their plight with the poetic description: He laid a gift on the moment’s grave.

 

Tonight I was reading the dictionary – not just to read it, but as one does when one is trying to get somewhere in those pages, and must journey through dangers and distractions like those of Odysseus. (I’m such a terrible speller of Greek; is that right? I am only newly acquainted even with the story of Odysseus, and most disappointed in his character.) My brother is reading The Federalist Papers, great essays on government and history and economics, which employed the word “temerity.” It happens to mean foolhardy or brash, but before I discovered this, I saw a picture.

 

To be honest, I almost always get caught by pictures, and carried away by root words. That is the way dictionaries have with me. This picture was of a little hog-like rodent, and the caption was like a Boggle-champion’s dream: tenrec. How simple. How very likely to occur in Boggle. How unheard of. Honestly. Have you ever heard of a tenrec?

 

No? Well, I suppose that is to be forgiven, since it, like so many interesting creatures, makes its home on Madagascar. The tenrec is a hedgehog-like mammal that eats insects (thus the nose looking like a pig’s, though it could have looked like an anteater and made itself more obvious). Our dictionary’s entry reported that this beast inhabits Madagascar and the adjacent islands.

 

Adjacent Islands!!! Who ever thought? Almost an oximoron! I mean, we’re not talking about islands connected at low tide but not at high. Maybe they were connected during the ice age. But then they weren’t islandS; they were AN island. So my meticulous brother commanded (he’s the one with leadership skills) that I look up “adjacent.” And it turns out that “adjacent” has as its first definition, “to lie near.” Still, I think that “Adjacent Islands” would be a great title for something. The image is so poetic.

 

Movies are almost always on in my house, maybe coming from so many of us enjoying long movies, or maybe because there are so many of us who think we need our own turn at choosing the program. Tonight there was yet another movie, and it was simply horrible, because the message of the movie was that when grown ups lie to children, the children owe it to them to sort of believe, because they want to believe, and miracles happen when you believe… The end of the movie had very little to do with this subject, as it consisted of the main little girl receiving three separate pairs of roller skates for Christmas. The last pair came from a blind man. And the little girl responded that she had a gift for him, her arms now full of metal and wheels. The most natural thing to expect her to give was a pair of roller skates. But then we pictured a blind man skating down the road… Don’t give such gifts to blind men!
 
Oh!  I signed up for all sorts of restaurant email updates, and have coupons and freebies rolling in!  Mostly they just want to give me something free with purchase, but I have plenty of choices!  There is something so pleasing about having a coupon in one’s purse.  Tonight I used a Kohl’s discount they sent in the mail, and saved a whole $1.50!  The best sign-up’s so far are Coldstone Creamery, Red Robins, and Lone Star Steakhouse.  Wendy’s gives a coupon for a dollar off.  But I’m still waiting to see what happens on my birthday.  I’ll let you know. 
 
The movie from last night (Wednesday) was Sense and Sensibility.  There are 4 versions I know anything about.  The earliest was made by BBC in the 70’s or 80’s, and according to my brother, who picked it up by mistake, is acted by robots who sit on teeter-totters sideways trying to converse with each other.  Next in importance/quality is a strange version made in India.  In fact, I believe the English is dubbed.  Not anywhere near as good as India’s Bride and Prejudice.  Now we come to the competitors.  In the 90’s, Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility.  She also starred as Elinor.  Alongside her were Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet, the latter reporting that she scarcely had to act; her personality was so much like Marianne Dashwood that Kate simply had to play the part.  That movie is beautiful.  Funny.  Sad.  Thoughtful.  With the exultantly happy ending highlighted by the perfect score.  I have my objections.  Hugh Grant – he’s not handsome, and his stuttering is annoying.  Colonel Brandon (I should know his name) isn’t very handsome, either, and Jane Austen movies aren’t known for their realism, so we should aim for attractive.  Finally, the version we were watching is the latest BBC adaptation, made in 2008.  It is about 3 hours long, with pretty scenery.  Other than that, the characters are poor imitators of the really good Sense and Sensibility.  Andrew Davies failed to convey emotion with his screenplay, and I don’t think most of the actors understood their characters.  The movie has its moments of interest.  Anyway, the actor who plays Colonel Brandon was recognized by all watching, but we couldn’t place him, so I looked him up.  IMDB is great!  I have been spending a lot of time there lately, for one reason or another.  The actor is David Morrissey, whom I recognized from The Water Horse.  Ah, the relief of answers! 
 
Have a good night.  Don’t waste your day. 
 
To God be all glory.

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PBS has slowly been airing the new series of Jane Austen movies. (They have made other movies in the past. Make sure you don’t get the old Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, or very old Pride and Prejudice).

The new movies of the “Jane Austen Season” are:

Persuasion (labeled 2007 or 2008 – since BBC England released some of these earlier than USA, starring Sally Hawkins; see my review) buy individually at PBS Shop Persuasion $20 (as of now it is backordered 2-4 weeks) or Amazon.com $17

Northanger Abbey (2007 or 2008; written by Andrew Davies, starring Felicity Jones; I liked it with one exception – see my review) buy at PBS Shop Northanger Abbey $25 (as of now it is backordered 2-4 weeks) or Amazon.com $17

Mansfield Park (2007 or 2008, starring Billie Piper; not extremely faithful to the book or the period, but not a bad movie – my biggest complaint is that they seemed to make Fanny give in on her morals, which the literary Fanny Price would never do) buy at PBS Shop Mansfield Park $25 or Amazon.com $20

Pride and Prejudice (Andrew Davies’ classic, the best, 1995 Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle) buy at ebay, your local bookstore, (you might try Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s, etc.) or Amazon.com $20 or the Collector’s Set for $33 or PBS Shop Pride and Prejudice $40

and still to come is:

Emma on March 23 (1997, Kate Beckinsale; I watched this movie once a long time ago, and since it was not the movie for which I was looking – the bright, witty Gwyneth Paltrow version – I hated it. But I’m ready to repent a little.) buy at Amazon.com $13 or PBS Shop Emma $20

NEW!! Masterpiece Emma (2009/2010) starring Romula Garai; I LOVE this movie – see my review.  $35 on the PBS Shop on February 9, 2009. Or on Amazon for about $25.

The 2008 Sense and Sensibility also done by Andrew Davies starting March 30. Starring Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield, for about $35 you can buy the movie with Miss Austen Regrets at PBS Shop Sense and Sensibility or spend $25 at Amazon.com

The Sense and Sensibility Collector’s Set is $50 on the PBS shop, and includes the new Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and what I understand was a remarkably entertaining dramatized bio, Miss Austen Regrets.

The Sense and Sensibility DVD’s are not available until April 8, 2008.

All prices are estimates, not including shipping or tax.

I prefer the Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root Persuasion, even though I don’t really like it.

(NEW December 2009: I discovered I like the old version of Persuasion, from the 70’s!) Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility (also starring Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant) is excellent, and I don’t expect it to be supplanted even by Andrew Davies. None of the Mansfield Park adaptations are worth seeing. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma is the best; even guys like this Jane Austen movie! See Amazon.com’s list to purchase these DVD’s.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This isn’t very well-written, but then I was very uninspired. However, I hope you can get a feel for the recent movie, and my opinion of it.

If BBC/Masterpiece wanted to just to photograph illustrations for each chapter of the book, they should have done that. A movie is supposed to present dialogue, motives, characters, emotion… I did spend some moments enjoying the visual manifestation of Jane Austen’s sentimental classic. I said, “Awwhh!”: appreciation for seeing the tender and uncertain love come alive. Anne Elliot was well-cast, and Captain Wentworth was sufficiently handsome to be a hero in this adaptation. Captain Wentworth’s early snubs were a great set-up for the rest of the story, but then, well…

At the beginning of this new version I was disappointed by the made-for-tv staleness quite unlike P&P. But I reconciled quickly, acknowledging they were setting a somber tone for the beginning.

They said everything only once except for how unmarriageable Anne was, and then inexplicably every man is after her. So we had to remember the Mrs. Russell relationship to everything, and that Anne was responsible (demonstrated by nursing and inventory skills).

What did I like? Anne. I think that except for the end, she was perfect. I liked Capt. Wentworth ok. Mr. Musgrove was nice (felt sorry for his old depiction of Edmund Bertram). Mr. Elliot was well-cast. And I really liked the widowed friend (despite her miraculous and unexplained recovery sufficient for running across Bath herself to warn her friend).

I so wish they’d had Andrew Davies do this one instead of Sense and Sensibility. We already had a really good version of Sense and Sensibility. That is to say, the writing for Persuasion was horrible.

Knowing the book was the only key to what was going on. They left out or destroyed all the conversations (isn’t that most of what makes Jane Austen so great – her wit?).

However, in the book I was made to believe Anne might settle for Capt. Benwick or Mr. Elliot. At least she cared about Capt. Benwick, and had scruples about how to deal with Mr. Elliot, which the movie entirely omits. In the movie I was never convinced that Capt. Wentworth loved Louisa, or that Anne was truly despairing and desperate expecting her beloved’s constancy to Louisa no matter what. Louisa got better too quickly. Capt. Wentworth’s reluctant “entanglement” with Louisa wasn’t even addressed. Everything happened too quickly, with no suspense. They seemed set on telling the end of everything from the beginning. At the end they told almost nothing.

The title represents the theme of the story, and the movie seems to have forgotten to bring it to resolution. The end was incredibly choppy and ridiculous. What was wrong with Anne? She’s supposed to be this quiet, thoughtful, patient woman, and she takes off running, alone, all over the city pursuing a man whom she has every reason to believe will effect an opportunity to see her soon anyway? She doesn’t even read the whole letter in the horrible revision of the letter scene. And then they don’t finish the story. In all fairness, Jane Austen did write an alternate ending, and they rather mixed the two and added parts of their own. I much prefer the standard, “letter” ending.

My family came in just as it was getting ridiculous, and made excessive fun of the kiss.

There was no depth in this movie, rarely was there subtlety, and yes, they rushed through an outline of a beautiful story. But I like some parts still better than the 1995 version. Mary was a little more believable, I think. The dowager was less disturbingly ugly.

The best thing about this movie? It inspired me to read the book again. And I did enjoy the book very much.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Some movies are so good, so close to the book, that I have to read the book again for enjoyment.  Northanger Abbey was like that.  But Persuasion was the opposite.  It was a pathetic excuse for a movie.  I liked Northanger Abbey, and enjoyed the dialogue being existent in this movie.  I prefer to forget the modern interpretation of Isabella’s flirtation with Captain Tilney, of course. 
 
The only other main plot change, I thought, was that Henry seemed to be after Miss Morland the whole time.  Didn’t she sort of grow on him, in the book, despite being virtually a child?  Her enthusiastic admiration won him over.  This change to the movie lessened the importance of Elinor’s friendship with Catherine. 
 
Ok.  Northanger Abbey is a comedy.  The book is, and the movie kept the tone and a lot of the original dialogue and situational comedy along with interesting, ridiculous people.  I’m not saying that Jane Austen practiced on Northanger Abbey what she would put into later novels, but we can see similar characters and story lines.  Isabella’s manipulative confiding in Catherine is like Lucy in Sense and Sensibility.  Catherine’s family is like that of Fanny Price.  Henry is in a similar economic situation to Edward Ferrars.  Elinor, Mr. Tilney’s sweet younger sister, is reminiscent of Georgiana.  Mrs. Jenkins and Mrs. Allen have a lot in common.  Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, was a lighter novel, with less-developed characters.  
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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In lieu of Jane Austen Season (PBS decided to interrupt it in order to raise funds), I watched an episode of Masterpiece’s Kidnapped last night.  Kidnapped is the classic by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the more popular Treasure Island.  Set in Scotland, the movie features some nice music and wonderful scenery.  Acting is touch and go, but the dialogue, which I assume is mostly taken straight from Stevenson, is excellent. 

 

I caught a touch of an exploration of pacifism in the story.  I don’t know about you, but if you’re like me (I should preface all of my opinions like that; I’m so constantly being told that not everyone is like me) you think better in the context of a story.  So if you are interested, see the DVD, or tune in for subsequent episodes in future weeks. 

 

By the way, the movie stars at least one recurring actors from other Masterpiece (BBC) movies, the actor who played Mr. Preston in Wives and Daughters, Iain Glen.  His role in Kidnapped as the bold Alan Beck sets him in a stronger, more favorable light than the “terrible flirt” Mr. Preston.  The beard helps too. 

 

My only other exposure to Kidnapped is the black and white 1960 version with James MacArthur.  I was delighted to hear the actor from Swiss Family Robinson and Hawaii 5-0 (Book ‘im, Danno) use a Scottish accent.  The book, however, is on my list of must-reads, being set in a romantic Scottish period.  With any luck Robert Louis Stevenson will have written in the Scottish pronunciation like JM Barrie did in The Little Minister. 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn 

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