Saturday, January 11, 2020

Movie Review // Little Women (1978)

Ahhhh..... so here we are at long last.

I grew up with the classic 1949 version, but, as they’re different lengths etc. and I like them for different reasons, I won’t be comparing the two. Also note: I have my own DVD copy but not the means of getting screenshots at the moment so relying on the internet. :P

First off, as is to be expected with any adaptation, this mini-series rendition combines and condenses some plot points. The costumes are all pretty well done; quite basic, and I think a few modern fabric choices here and there, but all in all seemingly pretty authentic. The musical score is fun, sprightly, whimsical, and sometimes reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables (though of course it actually and very obviously predates AoGG, ha!).

I’ve come to realize that, as a story, Little Women isn’t one of my top five, or even ten, favorite stories of all time, or that I wholeheartedly agree with all of it. For one thing and especially, there're the parenting methods. (For instance, if discipline had been properly meted out at as a regular thing round the house for lack of self-control for everyone, Jo’s book wouldn’t have been lost in the first place and Amy would’ve got her just deserts when it did; as well as the overarchingly somewhat hyper-matriarchal tone & some of Alcott’s philosophy etc.... So phooey about all that.) But you do sometimes have to have imperfect authority figures to have story conflict. So there is that.

All that being said, it still just IS, and definitely looms large among its classic friends on my shelf. So let us have no misapprehensions on that score. ;)

But back to the task at hand.

The sisters all seem very realistic, which I love. And with Dorothy McGuire as Marmee and Greer Garson as Aunt March, it provides a really interesting cross section of multiple film generations and different acting styles -- from the silver screen to Technicolor classics to tv shows -- so that’s pretty fascinating.

As for specifics...

Meg’s pretty okay. Not quite as I picture her, but she still does a fine job and melds with everyone else. I don’t like John Brooke terribly much, which is too bad, as generally he’s one of my favorite characters, but there tis. :/

Beth is very sweet. She has a few little imperfections, she’s not quite angelic, and I like how that adds a nice bit of depth and development to her character. Plus I like how they made her very age appropriate.

Now, try hard as I can -- and being thoroughly, rigorously open-minded – I’m still disappointed with almost every rendition of Amy I've seen. Not one’s quite right. (She’s supposed to be a highly intelligent, thoroughly well bred young lady with grace and poise. Elegant and stately, peoples!! Not spunky and bouncy. :/) Still, somehow here I like her quite all right by the end, maybe because she really makes Laurie so very happy. (Speaking of which, I think Laurie is actually done rather well. His speaking style takes a little to get used to, but by the end... yes, quite well done.)

Because of the length, it also follows Meg and Amy more than usual -- rather a lovely lot in Europe, even including Frank's whole proposal etc, so that's nice.

Susan Dey as Jo: passionate, sympathetic, expressive and intuitive -- she OWNS the part. She really does an excellent, excellent job, giving a nice, wonderfully fresh take on the role. I think what makes Jo work as a heroine for me is her brutal honesty. And that comes through here quite well and brilliantly. Yes, I like this Jo very well indeed.

And the current star of the piece, Captain Kirk as Professor Bhaer. William Shatner plays a very direct, hard-hitting, slightly twinkly eyed professor.

There’re never enough scenes with the Professor and Jo (am I right?), but still quite a good few in here.

Their chemistry clicks and, come the ending, all is very sweet. I specifically love the little highlights of how he comes into her life just when she’s ready to listen, then knows how perfectly to speak to her mind and emotions, wooing, taming, and helping her truly blossom into a strong woman capable of great things.

All in all, thinking over the whole film, somehow it all works and everything comes alive. There are some cute, also burning and achingly sad, sweet, and even very romantic moments. By the end you’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions. For instance, the scene where Amy and Laurie arrive back always leaves me near bawling. In other versions it always seems bittersweet (as in thinking of all the happy bygone times), but here it’s hopeful… and ultimately forward looking… and so SO sweet. It just catches you at the throat every time. *sobbing happily*

If you're looking for a sparkly, thrillingly epic, larger-than-life rendition, this isn't quite it. But it's also not that kinda story, and if you go into it with an open mind -- or with ulterior motivating factors (like seeing Captain Kirk as Professor Bhaer) -- then you might be very delightfully surprised. ;) Altogether, by and large, by the time the credits roll round, I end up loving it.

If you’ve seen it and love it too, be sure and let me know in the comments! :)

(This was written as a contribution for the Beyond Star Trek blogathon. Thank you for hosting Hamlette!)

P.S. Also, if you’re here via the Star Trek event, you might be interested in my older review for the 1975 North & South starring Patrick Stewart as Thornton. You can check it out here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks again for reading and see y’all later!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Tolkien Blog Party 2019 // Tag Answers

These are frightfully difficult, terribly fun, and I couldn't be more pleased with how everything turned out. Can't wait to hear what y'all think! ;)

Would You Rather...

1. ...join Thorin's Company or the Fellowship?

The Fellowship because of... well, just every last bit of it. The Hobbit is a fun adventure, peopled with dear characters, but LotR is just epic. The point springing to mind is all the brothers-in-arms stuff -- likely and unlikely, like Gimli and Legolas. (And, depending who you were with when the fellowship breaks up, you might get to go through either Ithilien or Anorien. <3 And there's Aragorn. And all the other people you'd get to meet, like Faramir. Still, that's not all necessarily key to the question.)

Short answer: for personality variety in the band of adventurers, character development, and adventure-wise, I'd choose the Fellowship.

Except I do hate the Nazgul. Rrrrrr. 

2. ...ride Shadowfax or an eagle?

First off, the eagles always make me Very Happy. But still, gripping the feathers of a huge, fierce, lordly bird -- desperately trying not to pinch as the earth drops away -- v. a mighty, glistening horse, powerful and smooth running as the wind? Shadowfax all the way. <333

(Also must mention lately I'm sliiiiightly peeved at no one in particular, wondering why the eagles couldn't just've dropped Sam and Frodo off at Mount Doom in the first place and spared all the pain and suffering for poor dear everyone. But no story. I understand. Unless there's something I'm forgetting, it's probably just a little loophole Tolkien hoped we wouldn't think about. So let's forget I mentioned it. ;-))

3. through Moria or Mirkwood?

I dislike them pretty equally, both seem so dark and claustrophobic and endless. If I was a hobbit though I'd pick Moria, cause of all the Big Folk along. Even with all the heartbreak in the loss of Gandalf, Aragorn and Boromir heading and bringing up the rear of the band in the face of that terror, then carrying Frodo and Sam later makes me warm and teary.

4. ...learn to make elvish rope or mithril chainmail?

Both would be interesting, but mithril sounds like ripply silver beauty. Wikipedia says the name mithril comes from two words in Tolkien's Sindarin language -- mith meaning 'grey' and ril meaning 'glitter'. So yes please.

5. ...try to outwit Smaug or Saruman?

Tough one. Ok, bear with me here, but all in all I think I'd actually pick Saruman. Smaug would just be downright terrifying. Saruman would too, but I think of him as kinda the embodiment of modern philosophy -- with smooth beckoning words, twisting, subtly bending meaning and arguing in circles till you're more than half persuaded/feel a fool for holding out any longer. But yet, it's all wound through with pride, i.e. that was his downfall and (not that I've got everything pat in that department) but a humble man who approaches the debate with a little trembling quiver, but still sticks to his guns and keeps repeating what he knows is right -- I think he could make it through.

6. ...spend an hour with Grima Wormtongue or Denethor?

Denethor. Hands down. If he was going on about Faramir I'd be pretty inevitably tempted to give him a gargantuan piece of my mind, but he's still a gentleman and man of honor (albeit ultimately a fallen one). Grima is just... ick. And yuck.

7. ...attend Faramir's wedding or Samwise's wedding?

***First, how can you do this to me, Hamlette?!?!?!?!?***

Well... it depends. If I was in the mood for something epic, the happiness beyond tears, end of a fairy tale sort of occasion, I'd pick the former. If I'm in the mood for hearty food and hilarity and maybe riotous dancing, I'd pick the latter. (Ha, see how neatly I avoided choosing there?)

But I'll play fair and say Eowyn and Faramir. Especially as I intend to be in their retinue and go back to Ithilien and make everything loved and altogether lovely again.

8. ...have to care for the One Ring or the Arkenstone for a day?

The Arkenstone. Gold fever is a very real thing, but I'm not going near the Ring with a ten foot pole. Nuh uh.

9. ...have tea with Bilbo or Frodo?

Ummm... Usually I'd always pick Frodo, but I'm not sure how good of a cook he is, so maybe Bilbo? I do always want to try his seed cakes. For some reason I always picture them as poppy seed.

10. ...fight alongside Boromir or Eomer?

Ok, this one's near impossible. I've literally been thinking about it for a couple days. My initial immediate response was Boromir, but sometimes I feel like Eomer doesn't get as much credit or talking-about as he should and he really is splendid and valiant and loves his sister, and his manly desire to protect is just as strong as the others. So, though I'm not sure how much use I'd be fighting on horseback, at the moment I'm picking Eomer and the Rohirrim.

Thank you for the wonderful party and all the fantastic questions, Hamlette! Again, make sure to check out all the other entries HERE.

And be sure and let me know if you agree/disagree with any of the above! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Frodo // A Character Sketch

(I wrote this as a guest post for the great LOTR read-along a few years ago. Thanks for letting me repost, Hamlette! :))

When first we hear of Frodo son of Drogo, he is an orphan. Brought up among the ‘queer Bucklanders’ and considered by many to be more than half a Brandybuck, he is being adopted by Bilbo as his future heir. Observant and clear-sighted, he is a lover of beauty, and also of maps and of elves, a ‘perky chap with a bright eye’ whom both Bilbo and Gandalf think the ‘best hobbit in the Shire.’

(Note, I still haven’t watched the movies, so I’ll be discussing all this as it appears in the books.)

With his rich inheritance comes the great and dreadful Ring. Gandalf had said of the Ring, in his first long discussion with Frodo near the beginning, ‘It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it. It would possess him.’ Of hobbits he said, ‘Among the Wise I am the only one that goes in for hobbit-lore: an obscure branch of knowledge, but full of surprises. Soft as butter they can be, and yet sometimes as tough as old tree-roots. I think it likely that some would resist the Rings far longer than most of the wise would believe.’

A bit farther on, Gollum’s name enters the conversation. At this point, if we’re picturing the Frodo we know from later, his first reaction may be a bit startling. ‘Gollum!’ cried Frodo. ‘Gollum? Do you mean that this is the very Gollum-creature that Bilbo met? How loathsome!’ ‘I think it is a sad story,’ said the wizard, ‘and it might have happened to others, even to some hobbits that I have known.’ ‘I can’t believe that Gollum was connected with hobbits, however distantly,’ said Frodo with some heat. ‘What an abominable notion!’ And farther still, ‘What am I to do? What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!’ ‘Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need.’ …‘I am sorry,’ said Frodo, ‘But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.’ ‘You have not seen him,’ Gandalf broke in. ‘No, and I don’t want to,’ said Frodo, ‘I can’t understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.’

When he realizes what must be done about the Ring he says, ‘I do really wish to destroy it! …Or, well, to have it destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?’ Nevertheless, he sets out -- going through hard adventure and dread fear and frightful pain to Rivendell, and once there, voluntarily takes on the further horrific task.

He is called to a mission, a mission stressing with horrible intensity the very places where he most needs change, and -- shaped by grief and pain and the weight of his burden -- he does change. The Frodo who meets Gollum above the Dead Marshes is a very different Frodo from the Frodo at the beginning. Grown in wisdom, he has learned the place of mercy, and knows also that the dealing out of final judgment -- final doom -- is not his.

He has grown in wisdom and mercy, but at the same time, he is desperately fighting the growing power of the Ring. We see a lot of this through the eyes of dear, faithful Sam. As, in torment and travail, they near Mount Doom, Sam ‘guessed that among all their pains he (Frodo) bore the worst, the growing weight of the Ring, a burden on the body and a torment to his mind.’ Twice, he tries to fight Sam off. The second time, ‘A wild light came into Frodo’s eyes. ‘Stand away! Don’t touch me!’ he cried. ‘It is mine, I say. Be off!’ His hand strayed to his sword-hilt. But then quickly his voice changed. ‘No, no, Sam,’ he said sadly. ‘But you must understand. It is my burden, and no one else can bear it. It is too late now, Sam dear. You can’t help me in that way again. I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.’

So we come to Mount Doom -- and to his claiming of the Ring and the final reappearance of Gollum. Frankly, this part always bothered me until recently. But lately, I’ve begun to see just how exciting it is. First off, if Frodo had somehow managed to drop the Ring into the fire himself (as well as trivializing the danger) we would have much more of a straight-forward allegorical tale with him as the central Christological figure. Instead, we have (at least) two other major Christ-type figures, with all of them together contributing to a much fuller, richer glimpse and a tale of marvelous depth and complexity.

Second: initially, Frodo was sent on an almost hopeless errand, not knowing (if he even reached the mountain) how he would ever gain the strength and will-power to destroy the Ring. Yet the conflict isn’t resolved by deux ex machina, either. Gollum was shown mercy over and over again -- by Bilbo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, and even Faramir -- all with the idea that he had yet a purpose to fulfill and offering further opportunity for repentance. He was under oath to both Frodo and Faramir against treachery. ‘Then I say to you,’ said Faramir, turning to Gollum, ‘you are under doom of death; but while you walk with Frodo you are safe for our part. Yet if ever you be found by any man of Gondor astray without him, the doom shall fall. And may death find you swiftly, within Gondor or without, if you do not well serve him.’ Frodo had earlier warned him that a similar oath on the Ring would twist him to destruction.

So the mission incredibly succeeds -- succeeds as themes of wisdom and mercy flash brilliantly into focus, and a divine, overarching doom falls. From Sam again, ‘Well, this is the end, Sam Gamgee,’ said a voice by his side. And there was Frodo, pale and worn, and yet himself again, and in his eyes there was a peace now, neither strain of will, nor madness, nor any fear. His burden was taken away. There was the dear master of the sweet days in the Shire. ‘Master!’ cried Sam, and fell upon his knees. In all that ruin of the world for the moment he felt only joy, great joy. The burden was gone. His master had been saved; he was himself again, he was free.’

Here we come to a really interesting point. Frodo had to be saved. Now again in some ways (his burden-bearing for others, the royal temptations he faces, the pain and the anguish, the knife-wound, and the chilling, torturing, death-like experiences, etc.), Frodo can definitely be seen as a Christ-type figure. But -- while all that is absolutely true -- I think it equally true that he could just as well be a picture of us. I’ve also come to the conclusion that, of any of the characters within the story, he might actually best be compared to Boromir. Both are strong and honorable yet stumble at the same temptation, both are saved by grace and repentance (also seeing their actions clearly), and both are treated afterwards as being no less worthy of all honor and respect. And both see something through all the way to the end of their road, though death (in metaphor or reality) lies at the end of it.

Finally, on the slopes of Orodruin, surrounded by spewing flames and shattering earth, Frodo (and Sam) lie prostrate, starving and thirsting. And against all hope they are saved. The eagles come, bearing Gandalf, and they are brought out of fire and death and the tumult of destruction. Awaking in a place of dappled sunlight and cool green shade, they find themselves in the garden of Gondor and in the keeping of the King -- of the King who has tended and saved them -- of the King whose crown Frodo later bears.

Frodo, a richly adopted heir is, in the fullness of time, given and called to a task. A humble being, fighting and winning and losing against temptation (and yet succeeding because of the wisdom and mercy he has learned), he is led by his calling on a path of sufferings and death and darkness. And he is brought out again to glory -- to light and to joy, to a place of fresh raiment and song. Brought with a multitude of others to a place of piercing joy, to ‘regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.’ And to a place where -- crowned with circlets of silver -- he and Sam are led with high praise to seats of honor at the King’s table.

~     ~     ~

Thanks for reading -- I'd love to hear your thoughts. :) And again, be sure to check out all the other lovely posts at The Edge of the Precipice!

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