Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Northanger Abbey


Having just re-read the novel I was eagerly awaiting this 2007 film. This movie is presented with a narrator following the way Austen wrote the book. This also helps to follow the story in the case of omissions from the original work.

Catherine is played charmingly by Felicity Jones. She is young, fresh and innocent although perhaps slightly overplays the latter on occasion. Henry Tilney is played by JJ Field – he embodies the character very well – lightly humorous, kind and gentle, attractive but not too good looking.

Carey Mulligan plays the coquettish Isabella Thorpe – she relishes her part and does a good job of flirting with everything in pants! William Beck is a perfectly odious John Thorpe, although so much so that you wonder HOW Catherine can even entertain the idea that he might be a friend!

Eleanor is played serenely by Catherine Walker – although she appears a little too quiet to be a close friend to the young Catherine who gets so excited at a novel’s intrigues and is so innocent of human behaviour. General Tilney looks a little more frightening than the initial description of him in the book, although Liam Cunningham embodies the true spirit of the General on show at the Abbey.

The vague Mrs Allen is played perfectly by Sylvestra Le Touzel and I believe she even improves slightly on the novel’s character by having just a touch of reality about the empty-headed character. Mrs Morland is sensibly played by Julia Dearden.

Overall the film kept to the true nature of the book, although as an adaptation of course, there were a few things changed. The film skipped over a few of the scenes in Bath and Northanger Abbey and notably the visit to Henry’s home. Also the laquered cabinet was absent and instead Catherine finds the old papers in the chest, but given that these were not 100% necessary to the development of the story, the other scenes conveyed the ideas adequately and most people would find nothing to offend them in this adaptation.

Lighthearted and humorous, this was an enjoyable little film at just over 90min in length.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Northanger Abbey


Author: Jane Austen

I recall reading this book repeatedly from the age of about 12 and have very fond remembrances of it. Given the current Jane Austen ‘festival’ screening at the moment on the ABC I decided to re-read the novel.

It is a quick read – written in a lighthearted and easy style and with the Austen stamp of the heroine undergoing some trials before gaining the happiness she so richly deserves.

Catherine Morland – age 15, from a loving family of 10 children, not poor but not rich, is taken to Bath by wealthy neighbours the Allen’s where she meets with predominately two families – the Thorpe’s and the Tilney’s.

Catherine meets Henry Tilney at a dance in Bath and he is humorous and attentive - she is quite taken with him. Unfortunately he disappears after the dance although she keeps her eye out for him.

Mrs Allen recognizes Mrs Thorpe as an old school friend and introduces her daughter Isabella. Isabella is pretty and vain and is constantly seeking attention from the opposite sex. Isabella and Catherine become fast friends given that Isabella sees Catherine’s brother James (who has been at Oxford with her brother, John, and visited the family the past Christmas) as a prospective husband. She pursues James and gains a proposal of marriage.

Meanwhile John Thorpe decides Catherine is pretty enough to make her his bride - but Catherine is completely unaware of his intentions.

Henry Tilney makes a reappearance, this time with his sister Eleanor. Eleanor is sedate and friendly and Catherine feels instantly comfortable in her presence as well as being glad to extend her acquaintance with Henry.

After some misadventures with John Thorpe, Catherine sees him in a more true light which makes her affection for Henry even stronger. Henry’s father, General Tilney encourages the relationship between Catherine and his children and invites Catherine to Northanger Abbey.

Isabella in the meantime meets Captain Tilney – Henry’s older brother (and heir to the family fortune and estate) and flirts unashamedly, to the detriment of her engagement which is soon called off in distress by the heartbroken James.

Full of a love of mystery novels, Catherine soon imagines all sorts of terrible things about the Abbey and gives herself a scare or two quite quickly. The General turns out to be quite a tyrant and she starts to imagine that he may have had something to do with the untimely death of Mrs Tilney some years before.

Shortly after this, the General removes to town whereupon the young people have an enjoyable time without the strictness that the General imposed upon their lives. This eden is interrupted however with Catherine’s speedy ejection and return to her family. Eleanor is deeply troubled and embarrassed by the leaving and Catherine despairs that it has happened whilst Henry is absent so she cannot see him before her departure.

She returns home to her home in Fullerton, none the worse for the experience, but melancholy at the loss of her friend Eleanor and of Henry, whom she supposes she will never see again.

Unexpectedly Henry returns, explains and apologises for her departure, advises he has split from his father and of course proproses. Catherine’s parents agree to the marriage but gently demand that the General’s consent should be sought. Of course he declines, but given an excellent marriage by his daughter Eleanor and the good humour that ensued, as well as a clarification of Catherine’s position - permission is given within six months of the proposal.

A highly recommended read for everyone after a light Austen novel.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass)


My son (age 10) read this book – it took him a couple of months but he did get through it, understood it and enjoyed it. He recently started the second book so I took the plunge and read The Northern Lights – part 1 of the trilogy. It was actually a terrific read, fast paced and straight forward. The book introduces you to some wonderful characters that are very easy to like - or dislike, as the case may be!

The story is set in a parallel world – similar to our own but slightly different. The main character of the book is Lyra, a pre-teen who is apparently orphaned. She lives with scholars at Oxford where as the only child (apart from servant’s children) she runs wild and her education is rather hotch-potch. All humans in Lyra’s world have a demon, a companion that takes the form of an animal (but can speak) and when the human dies, so does the demon – the demon is compared to a soul in the book.

WARNING: STORYLINE SPOILERS!

Lyra’s uncle Lord Asriel is an explorer and scientist (and a powerful personality) who visits the college where Lyra is early in the book, but soon returns North to his mysterious research into “Dust”. Shortly after he leaves, children start to go missing from their families and the story of the “Gobblers” arises. Soon, children go missing in Oxford and one of Lyra’s friends is taken. At the same time, the Master of the college sends Lyra to live with Mrs Coulter, an educated and beautiful woman who has apparently had some contact with Lyra’s uncle. Before Lyra leaves, the Master entrusts to her care an aleithometer which he instructs to keep secret and tells her she must learn to use it herself. So begins an amazing journey for Lyra.

Initially she is well looked after and even pampered, but Mrs Coulter shows her dark edge and Lyra runs away. She is captured/saved by the Gyptians and in their endeavours to retrieve their missing children accompanies them North. There she has more adventures befriending an armoured bear, witches and finding the stolen children. The reader learns of Lyra’s importance and a prophecy concerning her.

Hearing Lord Asriel is imprisioned, Lyra sets off to free him and in the process becomes known as Lyra Silvertongue. She finds Asriel, who in his research, has discovered another world through the Northern Lights – he makes a bridge to this world and crosses over, unaware that Lyra has followed him.

I would highly recommend this book to any youngster capable of reading a novel and it’s a quick and entertaining read for the adults too!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Becoming Jane


Chick-flick alert!!!

Yes, this is a true movie for girls. It has a dashing man, a believable (flawed) leading lady, some heaving-breast moments and a bittersweet ending. Of course we could wish for a happy ending as Jane Austen bestowed on her characters, but in this case we can't fight history.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I know there was a bit of an outcry at an American playing an Englishwoman, but Anne Hathaway carries it off very well and if you didn't know it, you wouldn't guess she wasn't English. The very magnetic James McAvoy plays Jane's love interest, Tom Lefroy. Although I had heard rave reviews about James McAvoy this is the first film I have seen with him and it is more than enough to make me want to see more. James is Scottish by the way, with a pretty heavy accent when 'himself', but as Tom LeFroy you wouldn't know he was anything other than English either.

The very talented Julie Walters (of Billy Elliott fame) plays Mrs Austen and James Cromwell (the Babe movies) plays Mr. Austen. The wonderful Dame Maggie Smith plays Lady Gresham and Lawrence Fox plays her nephew, Mr. Wisley.

The story begins with a Jane in her early 20s - talented and accomplished but knowing little of the ways of the wider world, including matters of the heart, which she expressly wishes to write about. Mr Lefroy is a student of the law, totally dependant on his wealthy and harsh uncle, a High Court judge. Tom lives in London where, as a sophisticate, he indulges in boxing, drinking and women. His uncle decides to teach him a lesson and sends him to his other uncle who lives in the Hampshire countryside. His first meeting with Jane is when she is performing a reading of one of her more juvenille works - dedicated to her newly engaged sister. Tom is mortified by the entertainment and he just knows this 'country' life is going to be dreadful. Jane is equally mortified at Tom's poor judgement of her work.

Shortly thereafter they meet in the forest where all angst is veiled in politeness and then at a dance when Jane begins to be interested, purely because she perceives Tom to be rude, arrogant and self-absorbed. Tom introduces her to the book "Tom Jones" - not recommended reading for young ladies - and they actually begin to enjoy each other's company as verbal sparring partners and slowly feelings of a romantic nature begin.

In the meantime, Jane is made an offer of marriage by the rather boring Mr. Wisley and at a dance is called for an interview by his Aunt, where Jane is strongly compelled to accept Mr Wisley's offer. Disappointed at this thought, Jane escapes outside where she is followed by a concerned Tom. Jane and Tom finally admit their feelings much to each other's delight, but overshadowed by needing the approval Tom's benefactor.

Tom manages to bring Jane to his uncle's attention with the presence of Jane's brother and a cousin - a beautiful, wealthy and widowed Comtesse. A letter, author unknown, arrives however and the uncle dashes the hope of approval. Tom and Jane part, believing they can never be together.

Shortly after Jane hears that Tom is engaged and she is sadly disappointed, so finally accepts Mr Wisley's offer. Tom is visiting his Hampshire uncle and he and Jane meet by chance in the woods. Tom realises he can't live a lie and offers Jane an elopement. She agrees and they escape shortly after. On their journey their coach gets stuck in the mud and while Jane is holding Tom's coat a letter falls out. Being a typical woman, she reads it and finds out that Tom is supporting his family back in Ireland. The knowledge that their marriage will cause his Uncle's allowance to cease which would badly affect his family, leads Jane to rejecting Tom's offer and returning home alone. She doesn't marry Mr. Wisley either but hopes to rely on her pen for her income.

The whole experience was a huge learning experience for Jane and her writing benefits greatly. After this you see her embark fully on the story of Pride & Prejudice.

Skip 20 odd years and a middle aged Jane is listening to a singer and sees Tom in the distance. They meet again, Tom accompanied by his young daughter, named Jane.

Throughout the film you see little bits of many of Jane's future characters which is tantalising and enjoyable. There is sufficient sexual tension between Jane and Tom to make it believable too. All in all a film to enjoy once (or more)!

Note: The film encouraged me to do a little research on Jane Austen's life and there was indeed a Tom Lefroy in her life although the extent of their relationship is unknown. Jane never married although she did reject one offer. She died in her early 40s. Tom became Chief Justice of Ireland and lived to 90 years of age.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sense & Sensibility


Almost vintage these days (especially knowing that the BBC recently released their 'new' version!) but this film featuring the stellar cast of Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman, in my humble opinion, will be difficult to beat!

I haven't read the novel for years so won't comment on the film's adherance, but it is a very enjoyable movie, in a quiet, gentle way. Wonderful humour, amplified by the comic talents of both Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant, had me smiling in appreciation more than once. Interesting dialogue that was easy to understand. The odd character that makes you cringe (well, there always has to be a couple!). A character with a mean streak (of course) and a mother that likes to remember what she wishes to remember and of course lavish grand houses and picturesque scenery. It all adds up to a great recipe for a good story.

The film starts with the death of Mr Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson), telling his son John (James Fleet)- from his first marriage - that according to the law, he must inherit his estate and requesting he look after his step-mother Mrs Dashwood(Gemma Jones) and his half sisters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret. Not counting on his greedy wife, Fanny (Harriet Walter), however, the father's ghost must be disappointed to see that John withdraws his promised support. The grieving women of the late Mr Dashwood must find an alternate home that they can afford for their 500pound stipend a year and intend to leave their old home to John and Fanny, as soon as they can. Fanny has a visit from her brother Edward (Hugh Grant), who unlike is sister, is kind, gentle and unassuming. He finds immediate contentment in the presence of Elinor (Emma Thompson) but never quite gets around to proposing before Elinor and her sisters and mother move to their new cottage, provided by a cousin of their mother's, Sir John Middleton (Robert Hardy), on his estate. Thus Elinor is left hopeful, but in limbo, until a visiting young lady, Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs) professes to being secretly engaged to Edward.

Marianne (Kate Winslet) is vibrant and full of emotion - for her love is worth professing to the world, is heady and consuming. She finds favour in her new home with a local gentleman, Col. Brandon (Alan Rickman), but as he is quiet rather than overtly handsome and retiring rather than rash and bold, she pays him little attention. Going for a reckless walk on the hills, she falls and sprains her ankle and is rescued by a very dashing Mr Willoughby (Greg Wise). He courts Marianne and seems on the verge of proposing but he ends up making a hasty exit with no hope of return.

Invited to London by Sir John's mother in law, Mrs Jennings (Elizabeth Sprigs), Elinor, Marianne and the visiting Lucy Steele, start to experience London life. Marianne repeatedly attempts to contact Willoughby without success. Eventually they see each other at a ball where Willoughby is with his fiancee, a young woman of great wealth. Marianne, her romantic hopes dashed, falls into a state of despair and Elinor arranges for them to return home as soon as they are able, with the help of Col. Brandon.

In the meantime Edward finally visits ... to be confronted by Elinor AND Lucy! Austen being Austen, nothing is actually said about the confusion and what everyone is thinking but the actors easily translate the stress of the situation! Lucy has made aquaintance with both Edward's sister Fanny, and his younger brother Robert, and is in fact staying with Fanny, so Edward escorts her home. Standing by his vow of marrying her against all opposition, Edward declares his intention and is immediately disinherited.

Elinor and Marianne leave London in the care of Mrs Jenning's daughter Charlotte (Imelda Staunton) and her long-suffering husband (Hugh Laurie). Their estate, unfortunately, is adjacent to Willoughby's estate and Marianne predictably heads in that direction before she can be stopped. Caught in the weather, she is rescued by Col. Brandon and falls seriously ill. She eventually recovers and they all return home where Marianne continues her recuperation and in her new, quietened state, values the attentions of Col. Brandon.

Edward finally visits and clears up the mistaken thought that Lucy did indeed marry him, as she really married his brother Robert. Upon hearing he is single and thus available, poor Elinor finally breaks down and their feelings for each other are made clear, much to the delight of her family.

The film ends, at the wedding of Col. Brandon to Marianne and Edward to Elinor. A fitting end for a lovely story.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Pursuit of Happyness


This is a inspiring movie that gives you hope that no matter what the barriers, you can succeed if you choose to succeed.

The true story of Chris Gardner, who came from a small town, did some time in the Navy and as a hopeful husband and provider for his family became a salesman of mobile bone density machines which were incredibly hard to sell. The mid 1980s and the Rubik's Cube craze find him with a young son, a wife who appears constantly disappointed, the apartment drastically behind in rent, parking tickets galore and his car impounded.

A happy chap by nature, when walking past a large office block Chris sees a man park a flashy sports car and hop out to feed the meter. When he asks him what he does for a living, the man says he is a stock broker. Chris goes onto suggest you need a college degree for that, the man informs him, no, just a good head for numbers. Chris decides to see if he can get a job to become a stock broker too, but is very disappointed in his application for an internship that leaves his 'further education' as rather empty. He then manages to meet the head of recruiting for the internship repeatedly, finally making an impression on him by completing the supposedly unsolvable Rubik's Cube during a joint taxi ride across San Francisco.

He returns home late and finds his wife has left with their son and in the midst of this catastrophe gets a call from the head of recruitment to call a certain number to make an appointment for an interview. Unable to find a pen, he repeats the very lengthy number until he goes down the street and can write it down. He manages to retrieve his son, but is evicted due to non payment of his rent and gets a week's extension on the proviso that he paints the apartment. Mid-wall, covered in paint and wearing a pair of trousers, singlet and old jacket, he is visited by the police and taken to the station to pay his fines and is required to stay in overnight, only being let out half an hour prior to his interview. He runs all the way to the interview, begrimed and paint splattered and STILL manages to get one of the 20 internships available.

Disappointed to find that the internships require 6 months of work, without salary, after which only 1 will be selected and the skills are non- transferable to another company, no money in the bank, about to be evicted and with his son to raise, his resolve wavers. However he steels himself, does his sums to work out how they can live for the next six months and takes the job.

Then begins six months of turmoil and hard work. Dropping his son off to day care early, working at the brokerage firm without breaks, without drinking (so no toilet stops) to maximise his shorter working day, since he needs to leave early to collect his son. The weekends are consumed with trying to sell the remaining bone density scanners to doctors and the odd small highlight of entertainment or playing with his son. The bad luck doesn't cease with a tax bill wiping out his savings again, and being evicted again for getting behind in their rent, they are reduced to sleeping it rough and staying at a mission home until Chris can fix and sell the final scanner.

Luckily it ends well in success and happiness and leaves you full of admiration for the true grit the real Chris had in achieving his goals.

Brilliant acting by Will Smith as Chris, Jaden Smith (Will's son) plays the son Christopher, which must have added a realistic quality. Thandie Newton plays the dissatisfied wife, Linda. Brian Howe plays Jay Twistle, the head of recruitment and veteran actor James Karen plays the head of the interview panel (and previous internee) Martin Frohm.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mr Darcy’s Diary


I was interested to read this – women are always interested to hear what men REALLY thought, and I believe I had a desire to believe that men feel with the same depth of passion, to the detriment of everything else, when they fall in love. The author, Maya Slater (a woman), obviously wanted the same thing and she served this up in a nicely bound little package!

So, perhaps reality has to take a few leaps…. but it was nice to think that it could be so, that Mr Darcy did indeed feel the torment of unrequited love (at least for a little while). There is a little explanation at the end of the book that the diary was found in a little bureau that was being auctioned and it was found to bear a striking similarity to the story described in Pride and Prejudice. A nice touch.

This is pure fan-fic, a spin off from an established novel that meets the needs of the fans in wanting to know more – what happened before, after or behind the scenes. As such it does a credible job, but would have been better to have been written by a man. My husband immediately said when he saw me reading it, “well Mr Darcy wouldn’t have called it a diary… he would have called it a journal”. Hmmmm, it was an unsettling thought, but a realistic one. So as this thought sat and grew, I became a little more skeptical of Mr Dacry’s purported side of things as I read.

However, all said and done, it was a pleasant, easy read, that lovers of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will no doubt enjoy!

Friday, March 7, 2008

101 favourite books - Australia


The Australia bookseller Dymocks recently released results of a survey of more than 15,000 members of their booklovers program. It is an eclectic mix – classic literature, comtemporary novels, fantasy epics and children’s favourites. Here are the 101 favourite books voted on:

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings Series - J.R.R. Tolkien
3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
4. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
5. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
6. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
7. Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling
8. The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay
9. Magician - Raymond E. Feist
10. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
11. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
12. Cloudstreet - Tim Winton
13. Cross Stitch - Diana Gabaldon
14. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
15. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
16. Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom
17. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
18. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
19. Mao's Last Dancer - Li Cunxin
20. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
21. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
22. The Bronze Horseman - Paullina Simons
23. The Bible
24. Eragon - Christopher Paolini
25. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series - Douglas Adams
27. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
28. Tomorrow, When the War Began - John Marsden
29. Ice Station - Matthew Reilly
30. Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
31. The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
32. The Life of Pi - Yann Martel
33. Perfume - Patrick Suskind
34. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
35. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
36. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
37. Twilight - Stephanie Meyer
38. Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
39. The Pact - Jodi Picoult
40. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
41. Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
42. April Fools Day - Bryce Courtenay
43. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Dernieres
44. Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
45. Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts
46. The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
47. Tully - Paullina Simons
48. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
49. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
50. A Fortunate Life - A. B. Facey
51. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
52. River God - Wilbur Smith
53. Wild Swans - Jung Chang
54. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
55. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
56. The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley
57. Persuasion - Jane Austen
58. The Shipping News - Annie Proulx
59. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
60. Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
61. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
62. Possession - A.S. Byatt
63. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
64. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
65. My Family and Other Animals - Gerald Durrell
66. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
67. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
68. Dune - Frank Herbert
69. Emma - Jane Austen
70. Marley and Me - John Grogan
71. Middlemarch - George Eliot
72. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
73. The Count of Monte Christo - Alexandre Dumas
74. The Secret history - Donna Tartt
75. Chocolat - Joanne Harris
76. Dirt Music - Tim Winton
77. Looking for Alibrandi - Melina Marchetta
78. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin
79. The Ancient Future - Traci Harding
80. Belgariad Series - David Eddings
81. The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
82. The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
83. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
84. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
85. The Stand - Stephen King
86. It - Stephen King
87. Northern Lights - Nora Roberts
88. The Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank
89. The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
90. The Outsider - Albert Camus
91. The Riders - Tim Winton
92. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
93. Across the Nightingale Floor - Lian Hearn
94. Atonement - Ian McEwan
95. Circle of Friends - Maeve Binchy
96. Seven Ancient Wonders - Matthew Reilly
97. Tess of the D'Ubervilles - Thomas Hardy
98. The Godfather - Mario Puzo
99. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
100. The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
101. The Red Tent - Anita Diamant

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Miss Marple : At Bertram’s Hotel (2007)

I enjoyed this rather energetic episode of the recent Miss Marple series. There was the usual assemblage of good British actors and a storyline that didn’t give it all away until the end (although suspicions ran high!)

In this episode Miss Marple (Geraldine McEwan) spends a couple of days at the Bertram’s Hotel, which she recalls staying at as a child in the late 1890s. (I found the setting refreshing as at least there wasn’t just a few people in a lonely place getting popped off one by one!) She is there to meet an old friend Lady Selina Hazy (Francesca Annis) who is visiting for the reading of a will of her millionaire second cousin, who owned Bertram’s and has just been declared legally dead after being missing for seven years.

Also there for the reading are this relation’s daughter, Elvira Blake (Emily Beecham) with her good friend Bridget (Mary Nighy), and Elvira’s mother Bess Sedgewick (Polly Walker). Elvira and Bess are hardly on speaking terms and everyone seems to hate Bess. Other visitors at the hotel are twins Jack and Joel (Nicholas Burns), hat designer Mutti (Danny Webb), foreigner Malinowski (Ed Stoppard), Canon Pennyfather (Charles Kay), and jazz singer Amelia Walker (Mica Paris). Staff at the hotel include maids Tilly (Hannah Spearritt) and Jane (Martine McCutcheon), doorman Micky Gorman (Vincent Regan).

At the beginning all is hustle and bustle as guests arrive and an impromptu performance by jazz singer Amelia Walker along with a purported Louis Armstrong causes a small crowd to gather. Into this walks Bess Sedgewick at which everything stops for a moment before resuming. Guests are still arriving and to add to the chaos, the visiting hat designer Mutti, faints at something or someone he sees in the foyer of the hotel. The maid Tilly is sought out by her friend Jane, who notes a new bracelet that Tilly has bought for herself with money gained in some, not quite “straight” way. Bess gets a shock to see doorman Micky and it is obvious they have some connection. She also begins to get death-threat letters.

The next morning Tilly is found dead on the roof and Inspector Bird (Stephen Mangan) arrives on the scene to start investigations. During the day the will reading takes place in the office of a solicitor who seems to have close connections to the manager of Bertram’s, and Elvira notes a painting (Rembrandt copy) that is in the office is the same as one she saw in the foyer of the hotel. Bess believes there is something sly going on with the accounts of her ex-husband’s business interests and demands to see the books the following day.

That night there is a shooting aimed at Bess (or Elvira) and when doorman Micky goes to get her out of the firing line, he is killed by the sniper. The same night Lady Selina’s jewels are stolen from out of her safe.

More investigations by the now slightly bumbling Inspector who is starting to listen avidly to Miss Marple’s suggestions and the deductions made by the amateur sleuth, the maid Jane.

Of course there are plots, sub plots and everything else you want to throw at it. I have read that it wasn’t a sincere or even remotely faithful adaptation of the book, but not having read the book, I just enjoyed the show for what it appeared to be.

Geraldine McEwan took a bit of a back seat in this episode, although she still gives directions from her vantage point. Martine McCutcheon (the Prime Minister’s assistant and love interest from Love Actually) plays her part as the amateur sleuth nicely and I enjoyed watching her. Francesca Annis (I last saw her as Lady Ingram in BBC’s Jane Eyre 2006) could not be expected to play any part poorly and so I was far from disappointed at her inclusion. Stephen Mangan played the increasingly confused Inspector very believably (I think I like bumbling police!!)

A good one to watch if, like me, you have no expectations!

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Bitterbynde Trilogy: The Battle for Evernight



Close on the heels of The Lady of the Sorrows, I have now read the last in this trilogy.

In this closing book of Imrhein/Rohain/Ashalind she has recalled her previous life and is suffering once again under the Langothe (yearning for the land of Faeran) which may eventually kill her unless she can seek relief from the High King of Faeran himself. She realizes that the unseelie forces have been marshalled under the guidance of the Crown Prince of Faeran, Morragan, and from stories knows that the High King of Faeran, Angavar, is sleeping somewhere on Erith awaiting to be called forth in a time of need.

In her confusion, she decides it is best to seek the gateway to Faeran herself so that she can advise the gatekeeper of the secret word to open the box containing the keys that have locked the doors between the worlds of Faeran and Erith. The gatekeeper can then retrieve the High King and deal with Morragan. Her maids, Viviana and Caitri accompany her on the journey from Huntingtowers, through the Khazathdur forest, watery Irallillir and partway through the orchards of Cinnarine. On their journey they are accompanied by a swan maiden, a urisk and a waterhorse who are all seelie.

The unseelie forces are on the hunt again and The Hunt itself kidnaps Viviana with her dyed golden tresses and Caitri. Rohain/Ashalind abandons her further journey north to the Faeran gateway to try and rescue her friends and so travels east to the country of Namarre and the stronghold of Morragan himself. Here she is quickly discovered and is imprisoned whilst Morragan tries to both fight the armies of the King-Emperor and find out the location of the gateway Ashalind came through. Here she finds out the true identity of Thorn.

Her mind still blocked to the gateway’s location, Morragan eventually fights Angavar and is mortally wounded although he retains some semblance of life as a Raven who is allowed to go free. Thorn and Ashalind are reunited and betrothed and plan to seek the gateway after the coronation of the new King-Emperor.

(I shall refrain from the final ending however!)

It was pleasing to see a decent map included with this book making the journeys of Ashalind easier to follow. I admit to finding myself becoming a tad frustrated with the main character’s undertaking her journey/quests almost on a whim and basically unprepared and had to continually remind myself that this character was only supposed to be a girl of 17, however given her maturity in other aspects, this really annoyed me! Given the complete concentration on Ashalind in this third book, I would have liked to have known something about what was going on in the rest of the land – perhaps the story needed to be written from two perspectives?

I must admit that I was pretty disappointed in the ending. It felt as though it was cut dramatically short, missing the detail evident in the rest of the books. Also the possibility of two alternate (and brief) endings felt rather unsatisfactory. Given the fairy tale quality of the books, I truly wanted to be ensured of a fairy tale ending. Naïve of me perhaps but it still doesn’t change such a desire!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And the 2008 Oscar goes to...

Performance by an actor in a leading role

George Clooney in "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" (winner)
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah"
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises"

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" (winner)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War"
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild"
Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton"

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie in "Away from Her"
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose" (winner)
Laura Linney in "The Savages"
Ellen Page in "Juno"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There"
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster"
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement"
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" (winner)

Best animated feature film of the year

"Persepolis" : Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
"Ratatouille" : Brad Bird (winner)
"Surf's Up" : Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Achievement in art direction

"American Gangster"
"Atonement"
"The Golden Compass"
"Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (winner)
"There Will Be Blood"


Achievement in cinematography

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford": Roger Deakins
"Atonement": Seamus McGarvey
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly": Janusz Kaminski
"No Country for Old Men" : Roger Deakins
"There Will Be Blood" : Robert Elswit (winner)

Achievement in costume design

"Across the Universe" Albert Wolsky
"Atonement" Jacqueline Durran
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" Alexandra Byrne (winner)
"La Vie en Rose" Marit Allen
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" Colleen Atwood

Achievement in directing

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" Julian Schnabel
"Juno" Jason Reitman
"Michael Clayton" Tony Gilroy
"No Country for Old Men" Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (winner)
"There Will Be Blood" Paul Thomas Anderson

Best documentary feature

"No End in Sight"
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience"
"Sicko"
"Taxi to the Dark Side" (winner)
"War/Dance"

Best documentary short subject

"Freeheld" (winner)
"La Corona (The Crown)"
"Salim Baba"
"Sari's Mother"

Achievement in film editing

"The Bourne Ultimatum": Christopher Rouse (winner)
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" : Juliette Welfling
"Into the Wild" : Jay Cassidy
"No Country for Old Men" : Roderick Jaynes
"There Will Be Blood" : Dylan Tichenor


Best foreign language film of the year

"Beaufort" Israel
"The Counterfeiters" Austria (winner)
"Katyn" Poland
"Mongol" Kazakhstan
"12" Russia

Achievement in makeup

"La Vie en Rose" : Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald (winner)
"Norbit" : Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" : Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

"Atonement" :Dario Marianelli (winner)
"The Kite Runner" : Alberto Iglesias
"Michael Clayton" : James Newton Howard
"Ratatouille" :Michael Giacchino
"3:10 to Yuma" : Marco Beltrami


Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

"Falling Slowly" from "Once" : Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova (winner)
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted" : Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush" : Music and Lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas
"So Close" from "Enchanted" : Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted" : Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Best motion picture of the year

"Atonement"
"Juno"
"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men" (Winner)
"There Will Be Blood"

Best animated short film

"I Met the Walrus"
"Madame Tutli-Putli"
"Même les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)"
"My Love (Moya Lyubov)"
"Peter & the Wolf"(winner)

Best live action short film

"At Night"
"Il Supplente (The Substitute)"
"Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)" (winner)
"Tanghi Argentini"
"The Tonto Woman"

Achievement in sound editing

"The Bourne Ultimatum" (winner)
"No Country for Old Men"
"Ratatouille"
"There Will Be Blood"
"Transformers"

Achievement in sound mixing

"The Bourne Ultimatum" (winner)
No country for Old Men"
"Ratatouille"
"3:10 to Yuma"
"Transformers"

Achievement in visual effects

"The Golden Compass" (winner)
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"
"Transformers"

Adapted screenplay

"Atonement" , Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
"Away from Her" , Written by Sarah Polley
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" , Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
"No Country for Old Men" , Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (winner)
"There Will Be Blood" , Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Original screenplay

"Juno", Written by Diablo Cody (winner)
"Lars and the Real Girl" , Written by Nancy Oliver
"Michael Clayton" , Written by Tony Gilroy
"Ratatouille" , Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
"The Savages" , Written by Tamara Jenkins

The Bitterbynde Trilogy: The Lady of Sorrows




After reading The Ill Made Mute I just couldn’t wait to read the subsequent novels and so I read The Lady of Sorrows as soon as I got it!

In this book, Imrhein continues on her quest to find the King and inform him of the treasure under Waterstair. Fully recovered after the healing by the Carlin Maeve One Eye, and in disguise as Lady Rohain of the Sorrow Isles, with her golden tresses dyed black, she proceeds to Caermelor Palace. She is admitted and speaks with the King’s trusted Dainnan leader, Tamlain Conmor and tells her tale of the Waterstair treasure. She helps to retrieve it with the Royal Bard, Thomas Rhymer and is rewarded handsomely for her assistance.

Having to wait upon the King’s availability to bestow her newly gained title, she learns the nuances of court life however her naivety and youth leads her to believe the best of people when they certainly don’t deserve it. Her maid, Viviana, however is true and loyal. She is thrilled when she discovers that Siandah, the Ert with whom she discovered the Waterstair treasure is still alive although imprisoned in the Palace’s dungeons. She intends to plead for his life with the King but in the meantime Siandah encourages her to visit Isse Tower where her earliest memories lie to see if more of her life can be remembered. A few fleeting memories have already started to return but she doesn’t understand them.

A fellow courtier, who has befriended Rohain (but whose motives are suspect), sees Rohain’s golden roots when she is assisting with her hair one day and shortly after discovers her identity, telling her to leave Court immediately or she will tell everyone that she is not who she says she is. She departs for Isse Tower where as Lady Rohain she learns a little – that the deformed mute was found near Huntingtowers, a few hours ride from Isse Tower. She decides to journey there however her journey is not completed before she needs to return to the tower where she finds her quarters have been attacked by unseelie forces. She is reunited with Thorn who she finds is not just a Dainnan warrior. Returning to Caermelor with Thorn she is incredibly happy but still has little knowledge of her life before Isse Tower. Thorn departs to the wars and she is left on the enchanted Isle of Tamhania till his return.

She spend time on Tamhania but eventually it is attacked and she flees along with the other inhabitants. Finding herself shipwrecked on the shore near Huntingtowers, she proceeds there along with Viviana and Caitri and regains her memory.

Once again the story is magical and very poetic. You feel wonder as her story is revealed and once again I can’t wait for the next book.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Madame Bovary (2000)


A rather lavish production with regards to costumes, scenery and details, but I do wonder at the popularity of such a story (at least as portrayed here).

The story begins with a young Emma in a convent school being visited by her father with the news that her mother has died. Overcome with grief, the nuns believe she is turning to God, however she is too full of life and her rather earthly enjoyments soon direct her back home. Her father is a gentleman farmer and shortly after her return home, he has a fall from a tree. She calls the local doctor - Charles Bovary who finds himself quite taken by the spirited young Emma. In short order she finds herself married. Charles is quiet and amiable and thrilled with his lovely new wife, but Emma finds married life not as exciting or as thrilling as she was hoping.

Although she makes attempts at enlivening her marriage with some passion, she doesn’t succeed very well and feeling rather sorry for herself and suffocated by the small town in which they live, she becomes depressed. In an effort to brighten her up, Charles manages to illicit an invitation to a nearby noble’s ball where Emma dances with a Vicomte and believes that that particular moment was the highlight of her life.

After the ball, the boring reality of her life returns and all she longs for is the glitter and excitement of big towns, bright lights and lots of glamorous people. In an effort to appease his wife’s desires, Dr. Bovary moves them to a larger (but still regional) town where he has to rebuild his business. Emma is in the early stages of pregnancy, which it seems she doesn’t really want.

Of course, the town isn’t big enough, or exciting enough for her and she finds solace in Leon, a young man studying to be a lawyer. He wants to be a poet and live in Paris and so they are relatively kindred souls. A small respite to her discontent is found with the birth of her daughter but she quickly realises she is not the maternal type. Leon and Emma meet and talk regularly but eventually he leaves as he cannot bear to be so close (and yet not close) to her.

In the meantime Emma is showing her spendthrift temperament and spends more than she has on lavish furnishings for their home. She feels an exciting glow when a handsome and rich man, Rodolphe, arrives in the neighbourhood and pays her attention. In short order she and Rodolphe are having a torrid affair. Once again her need for passion and excitement is underlined and even though Rodolphe is quite enamoured of his new mistress, he becomes wary of her unwavering devotion. Emma plans for them to run away together but he stops this foolhardy plan at the last moment.

Once again, her passion thwarted, she goes into depression. In his concern Charles seeks additional medical help for his wife and borrows money from the local moneylender who advises him of Madame Bovary’s already large bill.

Not wanting to think badly of his pretty young wife he doesn’t reprimand her spending, but arranges a night at the theatre in Rouen and there she sees her first ‘fling’, Leon, looking dapper on his way to the theatre. She is mesmerized by him and soon she manages to arrange piano lessons in Rouen where she and Leon can have their clandestine meetings. Rodolphe returns after some time to the village but neither he or she go out of their way to meet.

In the process of her affair with Leon, she manages to further inflict debt upon her unsuspecting and trusting husband and the debt becomes so large that the moneylender on-sells the debt to even larger sharks who charge a fortune in interest and threaten to repossess their house and all their belongings.

In an awakening of her situation, desperation sets in and she visits Leon attempting (by using her womanly wiles) to get him to steal money for her. He refuses. Then she sees a lawyer who is rather disgusting and wants, of course, HER, in return for paying off her debt. This time she refuses. Then onto Rodolphe who announces that he can’t help her – he is penniless himself. In shock that she can’t coerce someone to rescue her from the hole she has dug for herself, sees childishly sees that death is her only escape.

After managing to eat a handful of arsenic, she returns home but her illness is soon apparent, confirmed by the pharmacist. Nothing can be done and she dies a quite painful death. Her husband continues to see only her fragility and the good side of her nature and is crushed by her death.

Having not read the novel, I can’t say whether the characters were truly portrayed and if there was further depth to Emma, for example, than was visible from this production. Therefore my reaction to this was that I wanted to give Emma a good shaking! Her character was portrayed as one who consistently went overboard in her desires. Was the book written as a moral “beware” or was it a story of a girl who never really grew up and only wanted what she couldn’t have?

I saw the leads play the parts thus: Frances O’Conner played Emma’s character as a spoiled and rebellious child with her unquenched desire for ‘more’. Hugh Bonneville played Charles quietly, lovingly and with dignity. Hugh Dancy as Leon had a restless fire in the first part of the film, but looked a bit blank in the second half. Greg Wise played Rodolphe roguishly although sometimes flatly. Charles Bovary’s mother is played by Eileen Atkins and I think that she secretly relished her part – it is played with much gusto.

Given the frustration I felt with Emma’s character, I don’t think I could bear to watch this again!

2008 Theatregoers Choice Awards




I stumbled across the Whatsonstage Awards, announced yesterday, as voted on by the public (25,000 of them)! Obviously this is British but it is interesting to note how many of their respected actors appear in stage productions and films (and of course TV). A versatile group indeed.

The FRANCO’S Best Actress in a Play

Anne-Marie Duff – Saint Joan at the NT Olivier
Janie Dee – Shadowlands at Wyndham’s
Kate Fleetwood – Macbeth at the Gielgud
Kristin Scott Thomas – The Seagull at the Royal Court
Maggie Smith – The Lady from Dubuque at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (winner)

Tamsin Greig – Much Ado About Nothing, RSC at the Novello


Best Actor in a Play

Charles Dance – Shadowlands at Wyndham’s
Ian McKellen – King Lear, RSC at the New London (winner)

John Simm – Elling at the Bush & Trafalgar Studios
Paterson Joseph – The Emperor Jones at the NT Olivier
Patrick Stewart – Macbeth at the Gielgud, The Tempest & Antony & Cleopatra, RSC at the Novello
Robert Lindsay – The Entertainer at the Old Vic


Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Amanda Hale – The Glass Menagerie at the Apollo
Andrea Riseborough – The Pain & the Itch at the Royal Court
Diana Rigg – All About My Mother at the Old Vic (winner)
Frances de la Tour – Boeing-Boeing at the Comedy
Pam Ferris – The Entertainer at the Old Vic
Ruth Wilson – Philistines at the NT Lyttelton


Best Supporting Actor in a Play

David Haig – The Country Wife at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
Lee Evans – The Dumb Waiter at Trafalgar Studios (winner)
Mark Gatiss – All About My Mother at the Old Vic
Nigel Lindsay – Awake & Sing at the Almeida
Paul Ritter – The Hothouse at the NT Lyttelton
Rory Kinnear – The Man of Mode at the NT Olivier


Best Actress in a Musical

Denise Van Outen – Rent at the Duke of York’s
Lara Pulver – Parade at the Donmar Warehouse
Leanne Jones – Hairspray at the Shaftesbury (winner)
Sheridan Smith – Little Shop of Horrors at the Duke of York’s & Ambassadors
Summer Strallen – The Drowsy Chaperone at the Novello
Susan McFadden – Grease at the Piccadilly


The SEE TICKETS Best Actor in a Musical

Bertie Carvel – Parade at the Donmar Warehouse
Henry Goodman – Fiddler on the Roof at the Savoy
James Loye – The Lord of the Rings at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Lee Mead – Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Adelphi
Michael Ball – Hairspray at the Shaftesbury (winner)
Paul Keating – Little Shop of Horrors at the Duke of York’s & Ambassadors


Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Beverley Klein – Fiddler on the Roof at the Savoy
Elaine Paige – The Drowsy Chaperone at the Novello
Laura Michelle Kelly – The Lord of the Rings at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Nicole Faraday – Bad Girls at the Garrick
Preeya Kalidas – Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Adelphi
Tracie Bennett – Hairspray at the Shaftesbury (winner)


Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Ben James-Ellis – Hairspray at the Shaftesbury (winner)
Dean Collinson – Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Adelphi
Mel Smith – Hairspray at the Shaftesbury
Michael Jibson – Take Flight at the Menier Chocolate Factory
Michael Therriault – The Lord of the Rings at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Shaun Escoffery – Parade at the Donmar Warehouse


Best Solo Performance

Fiona Shaw – Happy Days at the NT Lyttelton (winner)
Lucy Briers – Some Kind of Bliss at Trafalgar Studios
Patrick Kielty – A Night in November at Trafalgar Studios
Ralf Little – Stacy at Trafalgar Studios
Richard Schiff – Underneath the Lintel at the Duchess
Robert Bathurst – Alex at the Arts


Best Ensemble Performance

Betrayal – at the Donmar Warehouse
Dealer’s Choice – at the Menier Chocolate Factory
Glengarry Glen Ross – at the Apollo
Philistines – at the NT Lyttelton
The Taming of the Shrew & Twelfth Night – Propeller at the Old Vic (winner)
War Horse – at the NT Olivier


Best Takeover in a Role

Dianne Pilkington – Wicked at the Apollo Victoria
Kelly Osbourne – Chicago at the Cambridge
Kerry Ellis – Wicked at the Apollo Victoria (winner)
Leila Benn Harris & Robyn North – The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s
Peter Davison – Spamalot at the Palace
Ramin Karimloo – The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s


The NICK HERN BOOKS Best New Play

A Disappearing Number by Complicite – at the Barbican
All About My Mother by Samuel Adamson – at the Old Vic (winner)
Joe Guy by Roy Williams – at Soho Theatre
Landscape with Weapon by Joe Penhall – at the NT Cottesloe
That Face by Polly Stenham – at the Royal Court Upstairs
War Horse by Nick Stafford – at the NT Olivier


Best New Comedy

Elling by Simon Bent – at the Bush & Trafalgar Studios (winner)
Moonlight & Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson – at the Tricycle
Rafta Rafta by Ayub Khan-Din – at the NT Lyttelton
The Pain & the Itch by Bruce Norris – at the Royal Court
Vernon God Little by Tanya Ronder – at the Young Vic
Whipping It Up by Steve Thompson – at the Bush & Ambassadors


The SUPERBREAK Best New Musical

Bad Girls The Musical by Kath Gotts, Maureen Chadwick & Ann McManus – at the Garrick
Hairspray by Marc Shaiman, Scott Whitman, Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan – at the Shaftesbury (winner)
Parade by Jason Robert Brown & Alfred Uhry – at the Donmar Warehouse
Take Flight by Richard Maltby Jr, David Shire & John Weidman – at the Menier Chocolate Factory
The Drowsy Chaperone by Greg Morrison, Lisa Lambert, Don McKellar & Bob Martin – at the Novello
The Lord of the Rings by AR Rahman, Varttina, Christopher Nightingale, Shaun McKenna & Matthew Warchus – at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane


Best Play Revival

Boeing-Boeing – at the Comedy
Equus – at the Gielgud (winner)
Saint Joan – at the NT Olivier
The Country Wife – at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
The Dumb Waiter – at Trafalgar Studios
In Celebration – at the Duke of York’s


The TICKETMASTER Best Musical Revival

Buddy – at the Duchess
Fiddler on the Roof – at the Savoy
Grease – at the Piccadilly
Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – at the Adelphi (winner)
Little Shop of Horrors – at the Duke of York’s & Ambassadors
Rent – at the Duke of York’s


Best Shakespearean Production

Antony & Cleopatra – RSC at the Novello
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – at the Roundhouse
King Lear – RSC at the New London
Macbeth – at the Gielgud (winner)
Much Ado About Nothing – RSC at the Novello
The Merchant of Venice – at Shakespeare’s Globe


Best Director

Jack O’Brien – Hairspray at the Shaftesbury (winner)
Marianne Elliott – Much Ado About Nothing, RSC at the Novello, Saint Joan & War Horse at the NT Olivier
Matthew Warchus – Boeing-Boeing at the Comedy & The Lord of the Rings at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Roger Michell – Landscape with Weapon at the NT Cottesloe & Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse
Rupert Goold – The Glass Menagerie at the Apollo, The Tempest, RSC at the Novello, Rough Crossings at the Lyric Hammersmith & Macbeth at the Gielgud
Thea Sharrock – Equus at the Gielgud, The Emperor Jones at the NT Olivier & Cloud Nine at the Almeida


Best Set Designer

Anthony Ward – Glengarry Glen Ross at the Apollo, Macbeth at the Gielgud, The Arsonists & Rhinoceros at the Royal Court
Bunny Christie – Philistines & Women of Troy at the NT Lyttelton
David Rockwell – Hairspray at the Shaftesbury
Hildegard Bechtler – All About My Mother at the Old Vic & The Hothouse at the NT Lyttelton
Rae Smith & the Handspring Puppet Company – War Horse at the NT Olivier
Rob Howell – The Lord of the Rings at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (winner)


Best Choreographer

Bill Deamer – Lady Be Good at the Open Air Theatre
Casey Nicholaw – The Drowsy Chaperone at the Novello
Jerry Mitchell – Hairspray at the Shaftesbury (winner)
Kate Flatt – Fiddler on the Roof at the Savoy
Peter Darling – The Lord of the Rings at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Rob Ashford – Parade at the Donmar Warehouse


The DEWYNTERS London Newcomer of the Year

Arthur Darvill – Terre Haute at Trafalgar Studios & Swimming with Sharks at the Vaudeville
Billie Piper – Treats at the Garrick
Colin Morgan – Vernon God Little at the Young Vic & All About My Mother at the Old Vic
Daniel Radcliffe – Equus at the Gielgud (winner)

Leanne Jones – Hairspray at the Shaftesbury
Orlando Bloom – In Celebration at the Duke of York’s


Best Off-West End Production

A Christmas Carol & The Magic Flute – at the Young Vic (winner)
Dealer’s Choice – at the Menier Chocolate Factory
I Love You Because – at the Landor (winner)
tHe dYsFUnCKshOnalZ! – at the Bush
The Masque of the Red Death – at Battersea Arts Centre
Vernon God Little – at the Young Vic


Best Regional Production

Angels in America – on tour
Henry V – at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
Never Forget – on tour
Pygmalion – at the Theatre Royal Bath & on tour (winner)
Sunshine on Leith – at Dundee Rep
The Big Secret Live: I Am Shakespeare – at Chichester Festival & on tour


The AKA Theatre Event of the Year

Daniel Radcliffe’s steamy publicity shots for Equus (winner)
Launch of the Theatre Royal Haymarket Company & its first season under Jonathan Kent
Nicholas Hytner’s “dead white males” comment about critics
Punchdrunk’s takeover of BAC for The Masque of the Red Death
Reopening of the Royal Festival Hall
Reality TV head-to-head between Any Dream Will Do & Grease Is the Word


Honourable mentions:

The success of the Royal Court’s Young Writers’ Programme
Will Keen’s extraordinary performances in two roles for which he was not originally cast – Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Donmar Warehouse and The Arsonists at the Royal Court
Michael Ball’s transformation as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Marie Antoinette


The intensely lush scenery, costumes and details is a definite drawcard for this movie. The story was rather slight however, touching upon Marie Antoinette’s life from her marriage through to the start of French Revolution in between magnificent scenery vistas. Whilst this portrayal is light it at least gives her the benefit of being an able noble should she turn her mind to it, the French court manages to turn her into a vain, fashion and party loving woman.

It starts briefly in Austria with a childlike young woman of 15, continues to her exchange with the French representatives where she is affectionate and caring and therefore seen as unsophisticated. From there she goes to meet her bridegroom, who is shy and retiring from all but his hunting companions. Her introduction into the French court is hostile and thence off to her marriage bed, watched by all. Her bridegroom is innocent to the ways of women and their marriage is unconsummated for an embarrassingly long time. The highly critical French court is impossible to win over, apart from a brief moment or two, and always see her as an unwelcome foreigner.

The old ruler dies and Louis becomes king and Marie Antoinette queen at the tender age of 19. During this time she copes by becoming rather frivolous and eager to only have a good time (oh, and totally addicted to shoes!). Eventually the couple manage to cement their marriage and seem content with each other and their new daughter. Marie Antoinette is gifted by Louis with a country estate where she relaxes and softens and has a brief affair with a Swedish Count.

Eventually her return to Versailles is necessary but she finds she is no longer even briefly esteemed by any but her close companions. She has two sons, one of which survives before there is obvious rebellion by the population and comments are attributed to her that she doesn’t actually make (eg. ‘Let them eat cake’). She and Louis show surprising backbone by wishing to stay with their children in the palace after all the other nobility has sought refuge elsewhere. The movie concludes with their eventual carriage ride away from Versailles to probable imprisonment.

Dialogue is short and there is the odd moment of dizzying photography when the camera is supposed to be from a person’s view, bobbing up and down, making it hard to focus or enjoy. The music varies from classical to rock but it works well.

Kirsten Dunst makes a radiant Marie Antoinette and one with much joie de vivre, albeit with an American accent. Highlights include Judy Davis brilliantly playing a Countess whose job it is to ensure Marie Antoinette does all the correct things. She manages to look outraged, frantic and sublimely in control according to the role’s requirements. She is one of the rare actors that can portray a multitude of words and gestures with just her look. Steve Coogan entertainingly plays Ambassador Mercy who struggles to keep Marie Antoinette on the straight and narrow path. Rose Byrne plays a lighthearted Duchesse who although frowned upon, is immediately likeable.

A magnificent visual feast and a nice, lighter take on the ill-fated queen. You can't help but be a bit annoyed by her, whilst still feeling sorry for her!

The Bitterbynde Trilogy: The Ill-Made Mute


A sweeping fantasy novel by Cecilia Dart-Thornton. From the first page Cecilia draws you in with vivid descriptions in a well constructed world. You can tell it is going to be an interesting journey as you have immediate empathy for the poor damaged creature who has the lead role in the novel. You feel elated in its eventual escape, but worry for its safety and relief at its seeming rescue. You feel worry and thrill in accordance with the story and the end literally left me with tears streaming down my face.

It has more flesh than some of the more ‘standard’ fantasy novels that have an aim and try and get there (with as much done as possible) in a straight line. This story however, meanders along and asks you to enjoy the journey. The prose is rich and poetic and incredibly detailed, so if you like action style fantasy novels this won’t be one for you.

The lore and bestiary of the world is well thought out and draws heavily on little known Celtic lore, but the high number of unusual words make it a slight trial if you let yourself get bogged down on them. A more comprehensive phrase and word reference would have been helpful in this respect.

The basic story is that of a severely disfigured and mute foundling, reared in a remote castle by a lowly servant, where it is abhorred by all who see it. Lonely and longing for something more, the youth escapes on a Windship that is attacked by pirates and culminates in a sudden escape/rescue by a red-haired Ertish adventurer. Truths are revealed and a name bestowed upon the nameless fugitive. A magical journey ensues with the Ertishman. Learning that the disfigurement may be healed, a journey to far Caermelor to seek a famed healer is undertaken with disastrous results and a wilderness must then be crossed with two companions – a young Ertishman who feels bound to assist the mute, and a Dainnan ranger who is courteous but distant.

I am looking forward to reading the next instalment in the trilogy!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Stand By Me


A time when memories were made and where reality impinges into the lives of some twelve year old boys.

The story is about 4 friends who live in a small town c. 1950s and amuse themselves intermittently with card games, big talk, dares and cartoon characters. They are from differing backgrounds - Teddy has a father who is mentally unstable, Vern has a brother that is a local lout, Chris has an alcoholic father and Gordie has a family who is still grieving for the loss of their older son.

Vern overhears his brother talking about a dead boy they found, but they are unwilling to tell the authorities because they saw it in the process of stealing of a car. Vern sees the chance of an adventure and tells his friends who shortly set off on a mini camping trip to find the dead boy, after misleading their parents as to their whereabouts and forgetting to pack essential supplies (like food!). On their journey they have mini-adventures, some scares and some discussions about things that are important to twelve year olds. During some quieter moments they reveal some of their internal sorrows and worries. They grow up a little during the journey and some of their friendships are cemented.

Quality acting by the two leads - Wil Wheaton (Gordie) and River Pheonix (Chris) - the latter especially turns in an brilliant performance. Cory Feldman is a familiar face and enjoys the role of a slightly crazy Teddy and Gerry O'Connell plays a convincing Vern, although is hardly recognisable from the adult actor! Head of the local louts is played by Kiefer Sutherland who plays "baddie" roles so convincingly.

Even though this is an old movie, from 1986, it is well worth a watch. Showing the value of friendship it would be suitable for younger teen boys, however there is quite a bit of language so beware for younger viewers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Luther


Having no preconceptions about this movie, I was very pleasantly surprised. It was informative, the pace was steady and the acting good.

This film is based on the life of Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church in the 16th century. Initially a law student, he become a Catholic monk after surviving a particularly terrible storm. The Father of his monastry sent him to study and he became a Professor of Theology who was bright, entertaining and had the common touch. He eventually became disillusioned with the Catholic church and held a belief that God was loving and through the Bible should be accessible to all.

Obviously written from the perspective of the Lutheran church rather than the Catholic, there are some scenarios that may not be tasteful to some. However, with an open mind, accepting of the past as past, it is a film that can be enjoyed and considered.

Joseph Fiennes (who I recognized from Shakespeare in Love) plays Martin Luther. He strongly portrays a haunted Martin and the character as written (such as having a talent for the written word but only occasional flashes or oratory brilliance) is realistic. Sir Peter Ustinov is perfect as the amiable Prince Frederick the Wise and the supporting cast overall played their parts credibly and with feeling.

Monday, February 11, 2008

BAFTAs 2008


London 10 February 2008

Best Film:
Atonement (winner)
American Gangster
Das Leben der Anderen
No Country for Old Men
There will be Blood

Outstanding British Film of the Year:
This is England (winner)
Atonement
The Bourne Ultimatum
Control
Eastern Promises

Best Actor:
Daniel Day Lewis in There will be Blood (winner)
George Clooney in Michael Clayton
James McAvoy in Atonement
Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises
Ulrich Muhe in Das Leben der Anderen

Best Actress:
Marion Cotillard in Le Mome/ La Vie En Rose (winner)
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie in Away From Her
Keira Knightly in Atonement
Ellen Page in Juno

Best Supporting Actor:
Javier Barden in No Country for Old Men (winner)
Paul Dano in There Will be Blood
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilsons's War
Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men
Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton

Best Supporting Actress:
Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton (winner)
Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There
Kelly Macdonald for No Country for Old Men
Samantha Morton for Control
Saoirse Ronan for Atonement

Achievement in Direction:
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men (winner)
Paul Thomas Anderson for There will be Blood
Paul Greengrass for The Bourne Ultimatum
Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck for Das Leben der Anderen
Joe Wright for Atonement


Best Screenplay (Original):

Juno (winner)
American Gangster
Das Leben der Anderen
Michael Clayton
This is England

Best Screenplay (Adapted):
Le Scaphandre et le papillon (winner)

Atonement
The Kite Runner
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Best Cinematography:
No Country for Old Men (winner)
American Gangster
Atonement
The Bourne Ultimatum
There Will Be Blood

Best Editing:
The Bourne Ultimatum (winner)
American Gangster
Atonement
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men


Best Production Design:

Atonement (winner)
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
There will be Blood
La Mome/ La Vie En Rose

Best Costume Design:
La Mome / La Vie En Rose (winner)
Atonement
Elizabeth:The Golden Age
Se,jie
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Award for Film Music:
La Mome / La Vie En Rose (winner)
American Gangster
Atonement
The Kite Runner
There Will Be Blood

Best Make Up/Hair
La Mome / La Vie En Rose(winner)
Atonement
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Hairspray
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best Sound:
The Bourne Ultimatum (winner)
Atonement
No Country for Old Men
There will be Blood
La Mome / La Vie En Rose

Special Visual Effects:
The Golden Compass (winner)
The Bourne Ultimatum
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Spiderman 3

Film not in the English Language:
Das Leben der Anderen (winner)
Le Scaphandre et le papillon
The Kite Runner
Se, jie
La Mome / La Vie En Rose

Animated Feature Film:
Ratatouille (winner)
Shrek the Third
The Simpsons Movie

Rising Star Award:
Shia LeBeouf (winner)
Sienna Miller
Ellen Page
Sam Riley
Wei Tang

Most Promising Newcomer:
Matt Greenhalgh (winner)
Chris Atkins
Mia Bays
Sarah Gavron
Andrew Piddington

Best Short Animation:
The Pearce Sisters (winner)
Head Over Heels
The Crumblegiant

Best Short Film:
Dog Altogether (winner)
Hesitation
The One and Only Herb McGwyer Plays Wallis Island
Soft
The Stronger

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Writers Screen Guild Awards 2008

Announced Saturday 9 February 2008 at an informal reception at the Hudson Theatre.

Original Screenplay
Juno, Diablo Cody (winner)
Knocked Up, Judd Apatow
Lars and the Real Girl, Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton, Tony Gilroy
The Savages, Tamara Jenkins

Adapted Screenplay
Into the Wild, Sean Penn
No Country for Old Men, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (winner)
Le Scaphandre et le Papillion, Ronald Harwood
There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson
Zodiac, James Vanderbilt

Documentary Screenplay
The Camden 28, Anthony Giacchino
Nanking, Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman, Elizabeth Bentley
No End in Sight, Charles Ferguson
The Rape of Europa, Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen, Nicole Newnham
Sicko, Michael Moore
Taxi to the Dark Side, Alex Gibney (winner)

Dramatic Series
Dexter
Friday Night Lights
Mad Men
The Sopranos
The Wire (winner)


Comedy Series

30 Rock (winner)
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Entourage
The Flight of the Conchords
The Office

New Series
Damages
The Flight of the Conchords
Mad Men (winner)
Pushing Daisies
The Sarah Silverman Program

Episodic Drama
The Closer, Michale Alaimo ‘The Round File’
Dexter, Timothy Schlattmann ‘The Dark Defender’
Lost, Damon Lidelof & Drew Goddard ‘Flashes Before Your Eyes’
Mad Men, Chris Provenzano ‘The Hobo Code’
The Sopranos, Terrence Winter ‘The Second Coming’ (winner)
The Wire, David Simon & Ed Burns ‘Final Grades’

Episodic Comedy
30 Rock, Matt Hubbard ‘Negotiations’
The Flight of the Conchords, James Bobin, Jemaine Clement & Bret McKenzie ‘Sally Returns’
The Office, Paul Lieberstein & Michael Schur ‘The Job’ (winner)
The Office, B J Novak ‘Local Ad’
The Office, Caroline Williams ‘Phyllis’ Wedding’
Pushing Daisies, Bryan Fuller ‘Pie-Lette’

Long Form – Original
Pandemic, Bryce Zabel, Jackie Zabel (winner)
The Lost Room, Laura Harkcom, Christopher Leone, Paul Workman

Long Form – Adaptation
The Company, Ken Nolan (winner)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Daniel Giat
The Starter Wife, Josann McGibbon, Sara Parriott

Animation
The Haw-Hawed Couple (The Simpsons), Matt Selman
The Homer of Seville (The Simpsons), Carolyn Omine
Kill Gil Volumes 1&2 (The Simpsons), Jeff Westbrook (winner)
Stop or My Dog Will Shoot! (The Simpsons), John Frink
The Passion of the Dauterive (King of the Hill), Tony Gama-Lobo & Rebecca May
Lucky's Wedding Suit (King of the Hill), Jim Dauterive

Comedy/Variety
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
The Colbert Report (winner)
Late Night with Conan O’Brien
Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
Real Time with Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live

Daytime Serials
All My Children
As the World Turns
General Hospital
The Young & The Restless (winner)

Children’s Episodic & Specials
Look Whose Not Talking (Flight 29 Down), D. J. MacHale (winner)
Nat is a Stand Up Guy (The Naked Brothers Band), Polly Draper

Children’s Script – Long Form or Special
R.L Stine's The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It, Billy Brown and Dan Angel
Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board, Ann Austen, Douglas Sloan, Max Enscoe & Annie deYoung (winner)

Documentary – Current Events
The Enemy Within (Frontline), Lowell Bergman & Oriana Zill De Granados
News War Part 1: Secrets Sources and Spin (Frontline), Raney Aronson-Rath, Lowell Bergman & Seth Bomse
News War Part 3: What's Happening to the News? (Frontline), Stephen Talbot & Lowell Bergman
Return of the Taliban (Frontline), Martin Smith (winner)
Security vs. Liberty: The Other War (America at a Crossroads), Edward Gray
Spying on the Home Front (Frontline), Hendrick Smith & Rick Young

Documentary – Other than Current Events
Alexander Hamilton (American Experience), Ronald Blumer
Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life (Independent Lens), Robert Levi and Robert Seidman (winner)
Forgotten Genius (Nova), Stephen Lyons & Llewellyn M. Smith
The War, Episode Four: Pride of Our Nation, Geoffrey C. Ward

Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince

Filming began this week in Gloucester on the 6th Harry Potter film – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Stars were seen filming in the 11th century Gloucester Cathedral which has been used in two previous Harry Potter films. www.thisigloucestershire.co.uk reported that Alan Rickman, Daniel Radcliffe, Dame Maggie Smith, Rupert Grint and Tom Falcon were all seen.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Lorna Doone


Lots of muskets, swords, treachery and villains. A visually opulent movie based on the original novel by R D Blackmore. Gorgeous scenery, realistic settings and a decent pace throughout, make this very easy to watch. Although rated an M in Australia, pre-teens will enjoy most of it (except the kissing!)

Please don't read the following if you want this movie to unfold and be a surprise!

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The story is based around a group of rebellious family of outlaws, the Doone’s, and a farming family the Ridd’s. The patriarch of the Ridd family is killed when a motley collection of Doones ride into a town. His son John, only a boy, witnesses it and is bent on revenge. His mother prevents this course of action but the family always harbours a passionate hate against the Doone’s.

Whilst still a boy, John slips in the river, is carried through the rapids, over a waterfall and found by a young girl in a secluded vale. They make quick friends, as children do, introducing each other only by first names and he teaches her how to catch fish with her hands. On hearing someone calling for her, she urges him to go and indicates a secret way out.

John grows to be a man and after his uncle is attacked by the Doone’s, John visits the glade again and sees Lorna catching fish as he taught her many years before. She doesn’t indicate her recognition immediately, but is obviously pleased to see him as a man as he is seeing her as a young woman. Their love blossoms until she tells him she is a Doone. He leaves but returns again and their commitment to each other grows.

In the meantime the Doone heir is determined to marry Lorna as marriage to her will restore the Doone’s hereditary lands – although how this will be achieved is not immediately revealed.

Eventually Lorna’s protector and head of the Doone clan dies and Lorna is destined to be married to Carver Doone. John comes to save her and takes her to his home, where she is grudgingly accepted by most of the family. Carver and a small band pursue Lorna to the Ridd farm and a skirmish proceeds, however Carver escapes unharmed.

Lorna lives with the Ridd’s and reveals a valuable necklace that was apparently her mother’s. Tom Faggus, a highwayman turned farmer and fiancé of John’s sister, Annie, is aware of its value and takes a drawing of it to London whereupon Lorna is identified as the kidnapped daughter of the Lorne family and indeed is now the Lady Lorne with wealth and title. She is taken to London as her guardian is the King, and John and Lorna promise to write faithfully to each other.

John’s letters are returned and he loses faith that Lorna maintains her love for him. A rebel contender for the throne, the Lord of Monmouth is roaming the land and searching for supporters and the Doone’s join his army. In a moment of hot-headedness Tom Faggus joins the army and leaves Annie at home pregnant and fearful for his life. She appeals to John who rides after the army with the intention of bringing Tom home. He is captured near the battlefield though and taken to London where he faces hanging.

Promising to rid the King of the Doone’s forever with some well trained men, John is temporarily relieved of his sentence and returns home (after briefly seeing Lorna and renewing their commitment to each other) and attacks and defeats the Doone’s soundly, however Carver escapes again.

John is rewarded for his service to the King and is reunited with Lorna, but Carver makes one last fateful appearance….

John Ridd is played by Richard Coyle and he plays a solid farmer with a deep love believably. Lorna is played by Amelia Warner (of Narnia fame), she is attractive and fits the part very well. Carver Doone is played with suitable nastiness by Aiden Gillen and his rather slimy father Counsellor is played by Anton Lesser. Peter Vaughan is Lord Ensor Doone, a baddie but with a glimmer of soul left. Martin Clunes plays Jeremy Stickle and manages to bring a touch of humour. The grim Lord Chief Justice Jeffries is played wonderfully by Michael Kitchen. Highwayman Tom Faggus is played in a suitably swaggering manner by Anthony Calf. A surprise casting is that of an Australian - Jesse Spencer, playing the son of Baron Whichehalse.

I’d watch it again :)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Persuasion (1995)


This is a relatively faithful rendition of Jane Austen’s book although I found on first viewing that I really didn’t understand what was going on. I enjoyed it, but felt I would have enjoyed it more if I knew the story. So, I went off and read Persuasion again (my last read of it was well over 20 years ago so my memory had dimmed substantially on the finer points of the story!) and then rewatched this movie. I found it much better second time around – whether it was the second viewing, or because I had the details of the whole story so knew its structure and what nuances the actors were trying to make.

The story, if you haven’t read it – and I would recommend you do, it is only a slim volume and easily digested! – is thus: Anne Elliot, second daughter of widower Sir Elliot, is 28 and single (not good in the 19th century). She had a short but intense entanglement at the tender age of 19 to a naval man, Frederick Wentworth, with a hoped for marriage in the offing, however was particularly persuaded by her friend, Lady Russell, that the match wasn’t suitable. She has thus had a “disappointment” which she has never really fully recovered from.

Her eldest sister, Elizabeth has always been the favourite of their father, but is still not married. Her younger sister, Mary is married to Charles Musgrove from a wealthy country family, and she lives in nearby Uppercross. Sir Elliot is vain and has not been frugal with his family’s wealth since his wife’s death and now finds himself in a somewhat restricted state with regard to money.

The recent war is over and many naval men have returned to shore. One Admiral Croft rents the Elliot home and Anne is somewhat mortified to recall that Mrs Croft is the sister of her past love, Frederick Wentworth. Frederick in the intervening 8 ½ years is now a Captain of some fortune.

Circumstances have come together for Anne and Frederick to meet again although there are obstacles, such as younger women, an accident and amorous attentions. When the action moves to Bath things start to happen rapidly and as you expect with an Austen story a reunion is eventually arrived at in true romantic fashion.

Ciaran Hinds is the masculine Frederick Wentworth. Amanda Roots is Anne but I found she continually looked either worried or startled for the first half of the movie. Some animation appeared in her character in the last half, although she still played the character in a very timid fashion and her face was difficult to read as far as what emotion she is supposed to be feeling. Sophie Thompson as Mary (Anne’s sister) played it delightfully, obviously enjoying the almost obnoxious role!

Other players include: Susan Fleetwood as Lady Russell; Corin Redgrave as Sir Elliot, Fiona Shaw as Mrs Croft, John Woodvine as Admiral Croft, Phoebe Nicholls as Elizabeth Elliot, Samuel West at Mr. Elliot, Simon Beale as Charles Musgrove, Victoria Hamilton as Henrietta Musgrove, Emma Roberts as Louisa Musgrove and Richard McCabe as Capt. Benwick.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Box Office - Top Dozen Movies


David Dale in The Sydney Morning Herald recently listed the top grossing movies of all time in Australia, the US and the rest of the world (excluding US).

Australia:
1. Titanic
2. Shrek 2
3. Return of the King
4. Crocodile Dundee
5. Fellowship of the Ring
6. Two Towers
7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
8. Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace
9. Pirates of the Caribbean 2
10. Finding Nemo
11. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
12. Babe

US:
1. Titanic
2. The original Star Wars
3. Shrek 2
4. ET
5. Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace
6. Pirates of the Caribbean 2
7. Spiderman
8. Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith
9. Return of the King
10. Spiderman 2
11. Passion of the Christ
12. Jurassic Park

World (excluding US):
1. Titanic
2. Return of the King
3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
4. Pirates of the Caribbean 3
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix
6. Pirates of the Caribbean 2
7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
9. The Two Towers
10. Jurassic Park
11. Spiderman 3
12. Fellowship of the Ring

My conclusions: We all like our escapism and the fantasy realm. The US doesn't agree with the rest of the world's addiction to Harry Potter and they only came to the party on the Lord of the Rings with the final instalment.

I have seen all the top 12 movies in Australia, but haven't seen Passion of the Christ, Spiderman 3 or Pirates of the Caribbean 3.... but there's still plenty of time. No doubt these favourites will be around for a long time yet! How has your viewing compared?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

2008 Producers Guild Awards



Pic: Ali Larter in hair-swinging mode at the Producers Guild Awards.

Wooopsie. This one passed without me realising it. Announced on 2 February:

The Danny Thomas Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Television - Comedy
30 Rock (winner)
The Office
Entourage
Ugly Betty
Extras

The Norman Felton Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Television - Drama THE Sopranos (winner)
Heroes
Lost
House
Grey's Anatomy
Dexter

The Producer of the Year Award in Non Fiction Television
Planet Earth (winner)
60 Minutes
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Deadliest Catch

The Producer of the Year Award in Live Entertainment/Competition Television
The Colbert Report (winner)
The Amazing Race
Project Runway
American Idol
Real Time with Bill Maher

The Darryl F Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Juno
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men (winner)
There Will Be Blood

The Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
Bee Movie
Ratatouille (winner)
The Simpsons Movie

The Producer of the Year Award in Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
Body Of War
Hear And Now
Pete Seeger: The Power Of Song
Sicko (winner)
White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction Of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The David L Wolper Producer of the Year Award in Long-Form Television
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (winner)
The Bronx Is Burning
High School Musical 2
Jane Eyre
The Starter Wife


2008 PGA honorary awards and recipients:

Milestone Award
Alan Horn

David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures
Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall

Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television
Dick Wolf

Visionary Award
Simon Fuller

Vanguard Award
YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen

The Stanley Kramer Award
The Great Debaters