At the end of the week I’m ready to kick back with a bowl of popcorn with a remote in hand.
As much as I need to read, there are times when settling back to watch a movie is the ticket to totally unwinding from the week’s stress.
I have discovered I have lost my interest in films that are steeped in human dramas—maybe it’s because I’m living my own. Big, raucous CGI flicks, like the Marvel world offers, are okay for mindless escapism. What I discovered that engages my interest most are nature documentaries. I subscribe to PBS mainly for their Nature program.
Our library carries an impressive array of DVD and Blu-Ray offerings, especially in nature shows. Browsing the stacks one day I discovered an amazing series:
From the library catalog description:
Narrated by David Tennant, this exhilarating adventure was filmed over four years and forty countries with help from camera-carrying birds, drones, paragliders and remote-countrol microflight planes. This wondrous aerial spectacle will make your spirits soar!
It is indeed exhilarating to be so up close to birds in flight and to witness behaviors not easily accessible by humans. The dedication and ingenuity of the film crew is certainly impressive.
As a Whovian, it was an added bonus listening to David Tennant’s Scottish-infused narration. I half expected the Tardis to be spied among the migrating flocks of geese.
Extras: the behind the scenes of how the series was filmed
the gathering of the flamingos, acres and acres of the delicate pink birds was visually stunning
murmurations—how starlings swarm and cavort in the sky
penguins-it’s hard to go wrong with penguins
I suppose there is some therapeutic aspect to watching the life and times of animals, especially birds. There is wonder and appreciation for the natural world. The joy and satisfaction of knowing there is so much beauty and marvel in the world that is available with a click of the remote is indeed a welcome balm after a long, long week.
As much as I appreciate Shakespeare, I’m not keen on his historical plays. Maybe one has to be British to embrace the life and times of former sovereigns. Then again I’m not favored towards American leaders foregoing productions about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the crew. Lincoln, I would probably watch.
And so, hearing there is a contemporary production of the Richards and the Henrys featuring favorite actors ranging from David Suchet to Jeremy Irons to Tom Huddleston to Ben Whishaw, I am intrigued and ready to binge some Bard.
Richard II features Ben Whishaw and he cavorts with the style and aplomb of a rock star. Production notes indicate Michael Jackson was suggested inspiration. Whishaw deservedly earned his accolades for his performance as he drifts between petulance and dedicated sovereignty. The cinematography rivals that of big screen artistry, bringing a dimension to the play that a stage production never could. An absolutely riveting introduction to the series.
Next up is Prince Hal played by Tom Hiddleston, around the time he began his Avengers role as Loki. Hiddleston brings the winsome bad boy pluck that he channels in Loki to the role of heir apparent. He cavorts in taverns with thieves and prostitutes instead of winning fame and glory on the battlefield. Hal gives his dad King Henry IV, played exceedingly well by Jeremy Irons, ulcers of shame.
Part One focuses on how Prince Hal is slumming around with Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s more endearing anti-heroes played with vamp and veer by Simon Russell Beal. A notoriously likable scoundrel, Falstaff nearly ruins Prince Hal, who fortunately realizes he needs to shed the scalawag before he becomes king.
Part Two witnesses the coming of age of a wayward son into prince realizing his duties to crown and country. Stellar performances from all. Tom Hiddleston’s rejection of Falstaff is especially noteworthy as he coldly belays the sly knight’s claim upon him, breaking the old man’s heart, while stepping up to the role of honor required of him.
Henry V fortunately continues with Tom Hiddleston as king. Viewers see his growth as an impetuous swaggering tavern trawler to a victorious warrior whose Crispin Day speech incites tears as it is lovingly and personally delivered to individual soldiers under his command. This king can shout when he has to but can also project tenderness and caring to a peasant conscripted to fighting a war he does not comprehend. His death as a ruler came much too soon.
Each segment features a different director which brings a freshness and varying perspective to each play. The only hindrance is the lack of continuity of actors from part one to part two since Rory Kinnear is very different from Jeremy Irons in looks and acting style, as king, as are the other characters. It was indeed a bonus to have Hiddleston continue as Henry V.
Once again it is proven that Shakespeare is not of an age but for all time as this production proves the Bard is far from boring.
Binging is becoming a bit of a habit in my determination to stay home and be safe mode. And I am not sure if it’s a problem or simply a by product of the current situation.
It would be too easy to fall into binging on comfort food like chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, yet even thinking about such caloric delights becomes a weighty problem requires exercising discretion.
Instead, I am trying more constructive avenues of occupying myself in my downtime.
Puzzles are a bit of mainstay in our household. Hours are spent putting chaos in order, except I quickly lose interest if the remaining section is all sky or water.
Books. So easy to get lost reading a batch of novels. I’ve read six novels so far this year. It’s finding a stack to keep on the ready being the problem. I’m finding the fifty page rule is invoked more often than not these days—it has to pass muster by fifty pages or back in the bag. This is vexing when it takes ever so long to select to scout out book bag candidates at the library.
Oh, and now it’s at the true moment of binging confession: PBS series. I gave myself a Christmas present of PBS Passport which allows me to unlock episodes prior to their actual release. I have already zipped through the first season of All Creatures Great and Small and Miss Scarlett and the Duke and picked through Nature seasons. I rewatched Wolf Hall.It’s akin to a viewing buffet. Hours swish by.
And I will quickly move past that I had an Angry Bird Bubble Pop phase replaced by Wordscapes. No worries, by apps deleted. I’m back to the infrequent checkers game as a boredom buster.
So—is binging good, bad, or indifferent? Is it avoidance, escape, therapeutic? Has it increased during our increased home time?
To binge or not to binge?
Now there is an interesting binge—a Hamlet fest.
Maybe instead of binging I can call it researching and do away with any guilt feelings of excessiveness.
Next to Pride and Prejudice,Jane Austen’s Emma seems to be the novel most cinematized. Case in point, another Emma opened to theatres as the covoid shut them down. Just as we got our hopes up for an Austen on screen they were dashed—much like the promise of Frank Churchill arriving for a visit and then not showing up.
The basics of Emma are Austen pointing out the class differences in Regency society along with following the exploits of a rich girl’s ennui as we wait for her character arc of improvement. In the mean time, the reader is entertained by a couple of intrigues by way of mistaken romances. The foundation of oh so many stories we see today.
What is problematic for the reader is deciding if Emma is likable as a character. There is no doubt Lizzie Bennet wins the Favored Austen Girl Award, but are we supposed to appreciate Emma as well? It’s doubtful. Even Jane Austen admitted to have created a character that only she would probably like.
The novel starts out leaning towards the idea Emma is a privileged girl with the possibility of becoming or could possibility be a (ready for it?) snob:
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
With that introduction, Emma could go either way: beloved of all or too good to believe. Austen indicates that Emma Woodhouse being pleasant, pretty, privileged has one obvious fault:
The real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself…
And that’s where it gets interesting when it comes to interpreting Emma for the silver screen.
Gwyneth Paltrow leads out with her elegant, polished Emma in the 1996 version. This version applies a favored eye towards Emma who is presented as a charming young woman who struggles to emerge on the other side of being accomplished in the art of having “grown up.” The story fairly follows Austen’s novel. Emma is quite likable and the audience appreciates her struggles as she blunders her way through the office of being a beautiful rich daughter of a gentlemen.
Also in 1996 is the lesser known version starring Kate Beckinsdale whose Emma is just tad snobbier than Gwenth’s version and her character arc is much less visible. This version seems to focus more on the class differences, with wide shots of servants and the poor which populate Highbury.
Then there is the leap to 2009 with Romali Garai appearing in a decidedly contemporary version. Although the four part series is quite lush and pretty with its costumes and setting, it lacks Regency decorum. The director’s intent was to create a hybrid Emma by dressing everyone up Regency style, yet acting as if they are in a modern rom-com. This Emma acts more like a teen debutante with her expressive eyes and outward manner, she is all dressed up but forgetting how to behave. She even allows Frank Churchill to rest his head on her lap during the Box Hill picnic. *Shocking*
There is the Clueless version—a sort of the ‘90’s offering of taking a classic and setting it in high school as in Ten Things I Hate About You or She’s the Man. This is not a Regency Emma and kind of pays tribute to Austen’s Emma, but it’s not the book. Maybe not even the Sparknotes version.
Then there is the 2020 version. This was supposed to be the senior lit class outing as we had just wrapped up our Austen unit. Good thing I didn’t reserve the bus since school went into soft closure while the theatres went into shutter mode. I have been waiting to view this newest entry for ever so long. My anticipation turned into disappointment as the entire movie became too, too much. The colors, clothing, setting is that of Easter candy cloyingly overdone. The tone of the movie is snarky, with Emma coming off as a mean girl. And just when we think she isn’t quite human, she bleeds, quite literally, when faced with being really, truly in love.
With all these Emmas to chose from it’s difficult to decide which best represents Austen’s ideal. Paltrow’s poised Regency princess?Beckinsdale’s aloof elite gentlemen’s daughter? Garai’s winsome, youthful rich girl? Taylor-Joy’s prickly fashion plate?
If Austen’s intent was to showcase the time period while gently mocking the societal hierarchy by inserting some well-placed humor, as we watch Emma’s character arc emerge I would say place Paltrow’s Emma with its range of characters, infuse with the gorgeous palette of Garai’s version and insert Beckinsdale’s pointed shots of the struggling lower classes. Not sure about Taylor-Joy’s contribution and I am Clueless about adaptions and where they fit in Austen remakes.
If you are an Austen Emma fan, what are your thoughts towards the Emma dilemma? What is she all about—favored princess, snob, airhead, snark—or somewhere in between?
During my weekly library stop I loaded up book titles and found some possibilities on the free rack. Now to find the time for them all. Stocking up on movies for the weekend I focused on the “G” section at our library pulling old favorites such as The Giver and found Genius next to it. Realizing it was about the friendship between an author and an editor I added to my fare. Good choice.
I know nothing about Thomas Wolfe beyond him being a well-known writer who couldn’t go home again. Oh yes, he was also tall enough (6’6″) to use the top of his refrigerator as his writing desk. I also recall something about wearing a white suit. I later discovered there are two writers by name of Thomas Wolfe. This Thomas Wolfe is the writer from the Jazz Age, not the writer of The Right Stuff. This Wolfe did not wear white, but he proved fairly distinctive in his own way.
The 2016 film Genius added much more to that knowledge. Yet, the film isn’t so much about Tom Wolfe (played by Jude Law) as it is about Max Perkins (Colin Firth), his editor at Scribner’s. Apparently Maxwell Perkins was a legend amongst the publishing community having discovered Hemingway and Fitzgerald, among other writers.
As the movie unfolds we understand that Max and Tom form a bond that goes much deeper than a working relationship. Max loved his five daughters, yet wanted a son. Tom, losing his father earlier in his life, needed another father figure. For a time these two men met each other’s needs and also produced some brilliant books that are still referred to today.
Often books are sourced to become movies and less often a movie inspires a book. In the case of Genius, I am intrigued enough to find the books of Thomas Wolfe and read about the man who encouraged an undisciplined writer to produce laudatory prose. It makes one wonder who the true genius is in this film.
As this tribute to Shakespeare winds up, I’m wondering how Shakespeare best fits in your life. Yes, your life. You are either reading this post because you are interested in Shakespeare or because you are a Cricket Muse follower and are tolerating these incessant Bard posts because they automatically pop up in your feed. Or perhaps it’s what Star Lord said:
How do you like your Shakespeare?
Plays? These come in the variety of Globe traditional, high school productions, professional troupes, creative adventuresome adaptations:
Film adaptations? These appear in Branagh style with polish and high production value, or campy or modernized or foreign or really, really so bad, or really, really so good.
No comments on what I consider to be the good, bad, or ugly. Everyone has their own tastes in film.
How about reading the play? Shakespeare didn’t publish his plays to be read. He didn’t even have scripts for his players,* for fear of having his plays stolen and presented elsewhere (no copyright laws then). Today we have the opportunity to study Shakespeare through a vast choice of quick online summaries that make Shakespeare almost painless to understand (though the music of his language is definitely stilled by transposing it to modern comprehensibility). There are scholarly publications, first hand discovery accounts, guided tours for students. Even graphic novels.
Do you perhaps browse the internet looking for enlightening approaches to Shakespeare?
If you are still thinking Shakespeare is “meh” then maybe David Tennant can convince you otherwise:
*Historical interjection: they were called “players” because they were “playing” the part, usually a young boy playing the part of a girl, which stems from Greek theatre when men played females. This also go with the line from As You Like It when Jacques says in his speech “all the world’s a stage and the men and women are merely players.” It would have been different if he had said “actors” wouldn’t it?
I hope this month of dedicated Shakespeare has enlightened you to his amazingness, that it has at least entertained you, or has swayed you to joining the ranks of becoming a Bardinator. Adieu, adieu, for now until next month…
I learned to appreciate birds from my parents, mainly my father. I have his set of adequate binoculars, purchased from J.C. Penney, which obviously indicates their vintage status.
I learned to appreciate quirky indie films from my days of attending the University of Washington in Seattle and frequenting the variety of theaters in the fair city of the Space Needle.
As for Sir Ben Kingsley, ever since his performance of Ghandi I have been a fan.
So–an indie movie about watching birds with Ben Kingsley? That was a quick grab off the shelf for movie night.
The trailer pretty much sums up the whole movie: boy loves birds, because his mom shared her love of birds with him, mother dies, father moves on, boy is passively resentful, boy goes on a Bildungsroman road trip.
There is more than that formula plot, of course. There is the humor of watching the provided stereotypes, knowing they know they are set up as stereotypes. There is the quirky enjoyment of watching people watching birds. And there is the brief appearance of Sir Ben, adding in the perfect blend of pathos. There is also a swear word about every two minutes.
We watched most of the movie muted due owning a DVD player installed with Angel Guard, a device that catches profanity before it’s uttered and mutes it. This is a leftover from our days of raising children with a conscious effort of protecting them from harmful influences in the world. Right. Somewhere there must be a study out there correlating whether this measure of parental watchfulness truly has any significant impact on protecting children.
The children are long flown from the nest–oh, an unintended birder metaphor, but the Angel Guard lives on and the Hubs and I haven’t a clue how to reprogram it. Then again, we’re not fans of profanity and muted potty mouth works. With no subtitles, in this PG-13 film, we filled in the blanks. There were a lot of blanks. What was available, though, was a thoughtful, sensitive, often humorous coming-of-age movie of living with loss and discovering that the pain of losing someone cherished doesn’t ever truly go away, but one can learn to cope with the pain.
One of the best features of the film, beyond the commendable performance of Kodi Smit-McPhee, witty script, and Sir Ben, was the bonus feature of a Cornell bird identification insert. A winsome plug for their site: All About Birds .
This film helped me to better understand the culture of birdwatching, although I haven’t decided where I am in categories. I am beyond the casual bird feeder crowd, not quite the dedicated birder, and definitely not a lister, checking off spottings of avian treasures. An appreciative fan? I know just enough about birds to sound like I know something about birds.
This film falls in the category of adapted John Green novels showcasing awkward adolescence pain mixed with humor populated by quirky people and moments:
I confess: I’m a binger (interestingly spellcheck kept turning that into “bungee”–flexible strength in reading? hmm, maybe…).
Once interested in something I latch on and absorb as much as possible. Sample binges include: Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, the educational geography game, the reboot of Dr Who, and of latest interest, Brian Selznick’s works.
I can’t remember which I read or watched first concerning The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Both the film and the book andthe audio book are stand alones, yet complement each other emphatically.
The bonus DVD disc in the audio book is an engaging interview of Selznick explaining his creative process. He is quite personable and his enthusiasm for his craft is inspiring.
The next book I read is his first published title: Houdini’s Box. His understated humor in both his drawings and story are evident and it’s hoped he writes more of these shorter humorous stories.
Selznick’s trademark seems to be a unique approach to storytelling in which it’s a bit of graphic novel, somewhat of a fable in text, that leans toward a wordless flip book. His talent for story and illustration is equally balanced–quite the gift.
Speaking of illustration, Selznick has illustrated for numerous authors besides his own writing, including Ann Martin Pam Muniz Ryan.
Having recently finished Wonderstruck, I, of course, needed to watch the film adaptation. Turns out he wrote the screenplay. This man’s talent and energy is astounding.
I rounded out my reading-fest with The Marvels, which I had mixed feelings about due to the graphic story being far more interesting than the accompanying text. I look forward to his next title.
I came across an enlightening New York Times interview with Selznick that revealed some interesting facts:
Yes, that Selznick. He is related to the legendary David O. Selznick of Hollywood fame.
Ray Bradbury sent him a fan letter.
He researches extensively.
Splitting his time between three homes in three different parts of the country is a norm.
If you are not familiar with his works, I suggest starting out with Houdini’s Box, moving onto Hugo (do listen to it while you read it–such a double treat), then watch the Scorsese film of Hugo (the book is the book, the movie is the movie). From there? Explore, enjoy, maybe even binge a little.
Someone finally got it right: they created a movie that showed how librarians are more than capable of saving the world from evil doers. I discovered these movies long after they had first been released, but enjoyed them nonetheless.
Noah Wyle from ER fame, established himself in that long running role (11seasons!) as the likable character who was a bit different from others due to background and interests, and sets the tone by choosing what is beneficial for others. This appeal transferred well into the Librarian series.
In the initial movie, Quest for the Spear (2004), Flynn Carsten is a poster boy for failure to launch. He has 22 degrees, lives with his mother, doesn’t have a job or any relationships going (never has, and doubtfully ever will), and would rather spend time with his books because they “speak to him.” His professor signs him off, telling him to go live in the real world. Flynn looks for a job, but then a job finds him. Sent a personal invitation to apply as The Librarian (notice the emphasis), Flynn joins the que of perhaps a hundred applicants.
Thumbnail: he gets the job, he discovers his penchant for all the knowledge that he amassed comes in handy, and that the most important knowledge is not what is in the head, but is found in the heart (great mom advice).
While the movie’s initial production quality is a bit thin, it does have a campiness that is fun. There is a combination of all those jungle adventure movies, mixed in with some Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, and James Bond. Sometimes there is a hint of Doctor Who, as Flynn gains experience and status as the “fixer” of what is strange and how it affects the world. Fairly clean family entertainment, except for hinted love scenes, and tame fighting sequences.
A total of three movies plus a TV series meant The Librarian has a fan base of reckoning. Noah Wyle’s character grew in each movie and TV episode until he became a legend in his own time.
His Librarian skills transferred well to Falling Skies, a Steven Spielberg TV series about life after aliens have invaded the planet.
If you haven’t seen The Librarian and are looking for some easy going entertainment, check out the movies. If wanting a more developed, continuing sequenced plot look into the series.
Quest for the Spear” (2004), “Return to King Solomon’s Mine“ (2006), and “Curse of the Judas Chalice“ (2008).Nov 12, 2009