Sunday, November 30, 2008

Under the Greenwood Tree

I paid a quick visit to my library today and while browsing through the DVD rack came across a BBC title I had never heard of before. Since it was a historical piece and was actually close-captioned (not all BBC productions are) I decided to give it a try. I'm quite glad I did because I spent a good deal of the 90 minute film chuckling over the humorous incidents that pervade the film.

Under the Greenwood Tree is the story of Miss Fancy Day, a school teacher who comes to a small town and finds herself wooed by a wealthy farmer, the parson, and a humble carrier boy. She is forced to choose between what is proper- and what she knows will bring her happiness.

But lest this sound cliche- there are some other elements that make this film more than your usual "follow your heart" film. For one, all three suitors are given depth and character. The wealthy farmer, though physically the least attractive, is a kind and gentle man despite his gruff exterior.

Also the film has a genuine sense of "community"- the whole town is allowed to participate in the story, giving it a background and texture that many such stories lack. There is an amusing musical subplot to add further humor to the mix.

Though filmed on a low budget the film is decently crafted, with attention paid to the beauty of the place and not merely the story. It is tied neatly together though my guess is that the book holds more in it's pages than there was time to portray on screen. Or perhaps not- since BBC is known for its accurate adaptations.

Whatever the matter, it is a clean, fun story that fans of Jane Austen and the like will enjoy. With a bit more grit, grim and music than the typical Austen tale!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Temperment in Jane Austen

This past year I've been extremely intrigued by the Four Temperments. At some point here I'll do a more detailed post on how it's affected my writing, but for now, I'd like some aid in determining the temperment of the main Jane Austen characters.

As a quick review, the four temperments are Choleric, Melancholic, Sanguine and Phlegmatic. In the very briefest overview, Cholerics like to do things their way, Melancholics the right way, Sanguines the fun way and Phlegmatics the people's way. But it's more complicated than that so please do a bit more research before offering opinions on the theories below.

Froggy/Ella and I decided that:

Elizabeth Bennet is Choleric (with Sanguine undertones) and Mr. Darcy is Melancholic

But Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley gave us more trouble. I'm pretty sure that Emma is mostly Choleric because of the way she likes to control people and situations. But I'm not sure whether her secondary temperment is Sanguine or Phlegmatic. And I believe Mr. Knightley is some combination of Melancholic/Phlegmatic but I'm not sure which is the dominent one.

Now Catherine Moreland and Henry Tilney...I'm pretty sure that for them we decided that Catherine was Sanguine and Henry was Phlegmatic. Any contests on that?

Sense and Sensibility was our last attempt. I believe we designated Marianne as Sanguine and Elinor as Melancholic. And then I voiced the idea that Edward is also a Melancholic, which is why he and Elinor are such a boring couple. People of the same temperments almost never marry, and are not very interesting to read about. But Edward may also be a Phlegmatic, so I'm not sure. And I think that Willoughby is Choleric.

One final couple I was thinking about last night were Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley. I think it goes almost without saying that Jane is Phlegmatic and Bingley is Sanguine.

Now...any disagreements? Or do you think we figured right?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twilight (Unofficial Movie Review)

Right, knew this was coming, right?

I'm sorry that this couldn't be the *official* review, but apparently the small production budget left no room for captioning. Therefore I can comment on just about everything but the script itself. ;)

I will say, however, that from what I could see, the film did seem to tighten up some of the plot problems of the book and therefore as far as plot goes, is stronger than the original. It did a better job of setting things up, adding suspense, and trimming unecessary fat.

Stylistically...well, I'm not a huge fan of director Catherine Hardwicke's choices. I'd been worried since the first trailers about her use of a hand-held camera and my fears were not unfounded. The shakiness isn't so much to create nausea, but it does detract some from the moments that should have been slow and beautiful, rather than constantly moving. I think Hardwicke could probably watch the 2005 Pride and Prejudice- or even Harry Potter (to which Twilight is so often compared) a few more times. However I will say that it wasn't quite as shaky/bad as I expected, so that was a relief.

The characters were much better handled. I felt they cast the perfect Bella- any place where she didn't fit the "book Bella" seemed clearly to be script or direction- not the actress. She is great at the subtlety, but still retaining Bella's clumsiness.

Edward? Not quite as sold on him. No offense to Robert Pattinson, but he simply looks too old to pass as a 17-year-old. I mean, even the oldest-looking 17-year-old that I know doesn't look quite as mature as Pattinson does.

That was sort of a recurring theme among the rest of Edward's brothers and sisters- only Jasper seemed to pass as a high school student.

However, that said, I loved the rest of the Cullen family. Carlisle was the perfect patriarch, Rosalie distainful and resentful, Emmett playful and teasing, and Alice charming and sharp. A loved how each of them really took on their characters, even with limited screen time, and even more limited dialogue. Jasper is perhaps my favorite example of this, with his stiff, military posture, and the way he followed Alice around like a devoted puppy.

Esme is perhaps the shakiest, but the book never gave her a huge role so there was very little for her to go off on.

I felt the three evil vampires were extremely well done. I know some people have been upset by the fact that Laurent is black, but...honestly...if a black person gets bitten by a vampire, I don't think they're going to turn white!

Jacob seemed perfect to me- I can't wait to see more of him in the next three films (which I think we can be pretty sure are coming.)

I think the only character that felt miscast/misdirected was Angela. She's an okay character in the film, but really did not seem to fit the book Angela at all. I don't know what effect this could have on the future films- whether they'll adapt her a bit to be more of a friend to Bella.

While I felt that overall the Cullens visually fit my mental images of the characters, I missed the dark circles under their eyes that were so often described in the books. And I was not at all happy with the Cullen's house...could they have changed it any more from Meyer's original description? It felt far, far too modern for vampires with such roots in the past.

Hmmm. I think I'm going to skip the clothing all-together. I can't be too depressing in one post, can I?

Although I do have to say that the music was a mixed back. There were some really nice pieces- but there were also some modern vocal tracks that just...are really going to date the piece in about ten or fifteen years. That's one reason why I think Harry Potter is, once again, going to outlive and outrank Twilight. The HP crew have been careful to stay away from vocals that could date or detract from the film. Even LOTR, though using some vocals, worked extremely hard to keep them stylistically in tune with the feel of the film. I wouldn't say that Twilight's choices are...jarring...necessarily...I just don't think they were...necessary.

As far as age apprioprieteness? If you want details, head on over to Pluggedinonline and they'll give you the rundown. I felt that it was tastefully done- a wee bit more graphic on violence than the book, but they kept the sensuality in check. Thankfully.

And the final verdict? Well, I can't give that until I see the movie with close-captioning and can actually understand the dialogue. But I can pretty much guarentee that I'll be buying it the week it comes out and enjoying it for years to come. Because, when it's all said and done. I just can't get enough of those Cullens!!!

Oh...and one final detail...did anyone else notice the wolf picture hanging on Bella's wall when her father first shows her to her room? I did a silent squeal...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

X-Men Quiz

You Scored as Jean Grey

Jean Grey is likely the most powerful X-Man. She loves Cyclops very much but she has a soft spot for Wolverine. She's psychic so she can sense how others are feeling and tries to help them. She also has to control her amazing powers or the malevolent Phoenix entity could take control of her and wreak havok. Powers: Telekinetic, Telepathic

Jean Grey












Emma Frost










Monday, November 17, 2008

In Search of Good Fiction

I, alas, am in the tragic position of having little or no fiction to read. I have plenty of non-fiction, but living completely on that is like living on...tofu. Nutritous, but not always very tasty. (Although I do find it helpful for my writing- more on that in another post.)

So I'd like to ask for good book recomendations. From my book list at the bottom of this blog you can see what I've already read and what sort of books I prefer. I'm generally pretty open to differant genres- only I don't do horror. At all.

I like historical fiction, although I'm open to good present day or anything with a fantasy element. (Maybe not outright fantasy though- unless it's REALLY good. So often fantasy is poorly concieved and written). In particular, giving the time of the year, I'd be interested in any young adult/adult historical fiction dealing with the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. All the books on the subject in my house are for preteens or teens and at this point in my life, not really satisfying anymore. ;)

So...anyone want to come to my rescue?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why do the English write the best Fantasy?

I was thinking about this before taking off on my Virginia trip.

There are three series acknowledged the world over as being the peak of Fantasy. Indeed, at this point in time, they are some of the best known literature in the world. In fact, they're so well known, that I think I hardly need to name them.

First, of course, is J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," second is C.S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia" and third is J.K. Rowlings "Harry Potter."

All right. Even if you don't approve of Harry Potter you still have to admit that it's a publishing phenomenon. And even if you've never read any of them, chances are (unless you've been stranded in the wilderness with no communication with the outside world) you have at some point at least heard of all of them.

So why- why oh why oh why- are all three of them written by British authors? What is it about Britain- which is tiny compared to the U.S. that enabled it to produce these masterpieces?

I mean, Americans can hold their own in other literary genres. But in Fantasy we're pretty lacking. "Eragon" has been popular, but I think most of us can agree that it lacks the literary merit and sophestication of the three Giants, and will not have nearly the popularity in future genrations that they will. The closest thing we've got is "Star Wars," which is perhaps not surprising since Americans have sort of cornered the film market. And "Star Wars" is in the murky area between Sci-Fic and Fantasy. And hey, C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy had a lot more depth than "Star Wars" if not the same entertainment value.

So what is it that Britain has that the U.S. does not?

I'm guessing it goes back to mindset and upbringing. The British have a far longer history and tradition of legand than we Americans do. Though we may appreciate the myths and stories of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, I don't think we can ever quite understand them.

Obviously there is more that should be said on this subject, but I think I'm going to have to do some more thinking before putting anything else out there. Thoughts would be welcome...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How time flies.

What is time? Is it a thing? Is it a dimension? A place?

Many, many authors come to grapple with this question in their writing. Any time travel novel must treat time travel as something either magical or scientific. Magical would include books like "A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court" in which the hero is transported to the past by a blow to the head. Scientific would, of course, include a machine (in fact, they nearly always do) or a theory that had some reasoning behind it- something like "Timeline."

In fact, I'd make the argument that pure science-fiction always uses a machine. Anything else would require something bordering on magic. Which is why Madelaine L'Engle's books "A Wrinkle in Time" and "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" sit squarely between Sci-Fic and Fantasy. "Wrinkle" is more science fiction, but the means by which they travel is still more magical in form than scientific, no matter how much she says otherwise. "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" moves to more spiritual terms and lets time travel be a power that a creature can have. "Many Waters" on the other hand, actually uses a machine for the outward journey, although the journey home is more miraculous than otherwise.

And then, of course, there is God, who is outside of time. Which leads us to wonder, is heaven itself outside of time? Are the saints and the angels outside of time as well?

Monday, November 3, 2008

The final day

Because my dear friend and forum daughter, Rachel, has already written a perfect description of this day on the forum, I am simply going to copy and paste it in here. All credit goes to her.

So I am finally home and I am very sad. I miss everyone so is hard to believe how much we really bonded over that short period of time.

*sighs*So to tell you what happened yesterday. It was very busy but an incredibly great day.

1) We had our writers workshop with Regina. It was very good and I learned a lot about writing and how you put a story together. You all can look on that thread for more info. Elena took lots of notes which I am going to steal since I was not there for every workshop.

2)Next we got ready for the tea party. Basically putting on skirts and just making ourselves pretty. As we girls tend to do. Marie - - - - (I am so sorry I forgot her last name ) who did the voice for Mrs. Brier and Mrs. Foster came over and gave us a quick but informative etiquette class. Then while we all drank tea Mr. Andrew came and told us his and Regina's love story. It was so sweet!! He promised to type it up and put it here on the forum for the rest of you to read.

3) Then we got ready again this time for the dance. We did hair, make-up, and clothes. Everyone had such beautiful dresses!! The forum girls had more medieval/fairy taleish dresses while the girls from Long Island had gorgeous prom dresses! (I'll post pics later)Marie Miller came with her sisters Tess and Carolyn (sp?) and played music. We also had an open floor and all the forum people got up and sang "Into the West". This included Bowman. We also danced the Virginia Reel again and had just a grand time. Everyone met the guy who did voice of Fish from the Radio Drama and Ben, the man Regina based Paul on. Very cool.

4) Bowman and his roommate gave us a sword demonstration. It was very cool and we all had a great time. They had a choreographed fight that was very funny. (pics to come)

So all in all it was an absolutely amazing time! I am so glad to have been blessed to be able to attend! I thank Regina and Mr. Andrew for being so generous and putting this on for us. God bless you two! Rachel~