The Week: 16th – 22nd July

What a week for the world! Everyone is insane. Huge pride for Pussy Riot, for being almost the only people at the entire World Cup willing to protest instead of pretending everything was wonderful. We need more people like them.

R.I.P. Denis Ten

My review of Then Comes Seduction (Huxtable Quintet #2) by Mary Balogh

Then Comes Seduction (Huxtable Quintet #2) by Mary Balogh

Am I the only one who thinks this might not be a good idea?

WelcomebacktoDownton!We_rethrilledtoannouncethat_DowntonAbbeyiscomingtothebigscreen_Filmproductionbeginsthissummer_The folks

Four Years

298-mh17-candles

Twenty Years

Couple ready to cope with dreaded Y2K bug

You’ve got to love the timing of Dictionary.com!

Quisling Dictionary.com 17th July 2018 Trymp Putin russia Treason

Marvel’s Black Widow finally lands a director – and she’s a Canberran

Canberra woman Cate Shortland is set to smash records and become Marvel's first solo female director.

 

Am I the only one who thinks this might not be a good idea?

The folks over at Downton Abbey have announced production on a film version of the hit historical drama has begun. I know lots of people are excited, but I’m over here thinking: maybe they should have left a successful show alone instead of milking it for all it’s worth…?

I was never particularly invested in Downton Abbey’s characters. There were too many to really come to care about any of them. I was, however, in love with the costumes (particularly the early seasons, because 1910s fashion will ALWAYS win over the drab years that came afterwards!). I’d watch the show if I was home and it was on.

However, I get the sneaking suspicion that people who WERE more invested than I was are setting themselves up for disappointment. I think sometimes people have to know when to let things go, and – apart from the brilliant Serenity, a spinoff of the Firefly television show – movie versions of favourite shows never seem to be any good.

Oh, well. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

WelcomebacktoDownton!We_rethrilledtoannouncethat_DowntonAbbeyiscomingtothebigscreen_Filmproductionbeginsthissummer_The folks

Little Women 2017 – Cast

little-women-2017

I do not know what possessed the BBC to send a cast and crew to Ireland to film a miniseries of classic American Civil War-era novel Little Women, but that’s precisely what they did in 2017. The series aired in some countries around Boxing Day last year, and now it’s America’s turn.

I first watched it in January, and – as a huge fan of the 1994 movie – have thoughts about it.

Because these thoughts turned into something of an essay, I’ll be discussing the casting on one day, and the production on another.

I’ll not be talking about the earlier adaptations.

These posts will also be on my history blog. There will be spoilers.

In case you’re not familiar with the story:

Little Women is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Alcott wrote the books over several months at the request of her publisher. Following the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy—the novel details their passage from childhood to womanhood and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters.

Little Women was an immediate commercial and critical success with readers demanding to know more about the characters. Alcott quickly completed a second volume (entitled Good Wives in the United Kingdom, although this name originated from the publisher and not from Alcott). It was also successful. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single novel entitled Little Women.”

 

Of course, the most important casting choices for Little Women will be the sisters. Other major roles are Marmee, the girls’ mother, Laurie, the young man who moves in next door, and the elderly Aunt March. There are other roles, but those are the three people tend to care about.

Firstly: I have NO idea why people have complained about the actresses’ accents. Three of the four actresses ARE American, including Jo, so I think people are simply looking for faults where they don’t exist.

Jo is the star of the book, and the series, and here she is played by Maya Thurman-Hawke. She is Uma Thurman’s (and Ethan Hawke’s) daughter, whom she resembles – but to me she is a lankier, younger version of Lynette Wills.

maya-hawke-in-little-women1-a

This is a very different Jo to Winona Ryder’s 1994 Oscar-nominated version. She is awkward, scruffy, and passionate. It is a great performance and even though she’s a newcomer you can see how much work she put into the role, but I’m still a Winona fan!

The problem with her casting is that she looks like the youngest of the March sisters, when two of the girls are supposed to be significantly younger than her. (Also, I nearly broke through the screen to try to do something about her unbrushed, unstyled hippie hair!)

Little Women

This leads me to Amy – the baby of the family. She is played by a twenty-year-old Kathryn Newton here, though she is meant to not have even reached her teens at the start. She fares much better as the grown version of the character.

People love to hate Amy for three reasons:

  1. She is the youngest, and therefore does some immature things at the start that people refuse to forgive her for as she matures.
  2. She is supposed to be the pretty blue-eyed blonde of the family (and people love to hate pretty blondes!) – which leads to:
  3. She marries Laurie, and everyone wanted Jo to marry him, so they won’t forgive her for it.

I have always found the hatred directed at Amy abhorrent and enormously misogynistic. Amy is my favourite March sister because she grows and changes the most, and has a wealth of interests and ambitions.

Amy March Little Women 1994 Kirsten Dunst Samantha Mathis

In the 1994 version she was played by two actresses: Kirsten Dunst as the younger version, and Samantha Mathis as the grown version. While I always found it odd how different the two were from each other, they were both so brilliant in the role I forgave it.

The problem with Newton in the role in this new adaptation? There are a few.

Little Women 2017 Kathryn Newton Amy March Sonya Heaney Screencap Skating Scene

Firstly: she is older than the actress playing Jo, and it’s obvious. She is a poised young woman to a Jo who is still mastering her teen awkwardness, and no amount of Amy skipping around the house and sitting on the floor with her legs splayed makes her seem any younger.

Secondly: this obvious maturity makes her childhood mistakes seem calculated and evil, and the writer and director lingered on them so long it painted a completely wrong picture of the character.

Thirdly: no time actually seems to pass. In 1994, we saw Mathis’ Amy had grown because she was in 1870s gowns and had 1870s hairstyles:

Samantha Mathis as Amy March in Little Women (1994)

Little Women film- Samantha Mathis as Amy March)

2017’s Amy is still in the voluminous Civil War-era skirts, with ear-hugging 1860s hair as an adult – the same fashions that were around when she was a child:

Little Women 2017 Kathryn Newton Amy March Laurie Sonya Heaney Episode 3 screencap Europe

It results in an Amy who looks too old to be a child, and too young to be an adult.

Superficially: nobody in a period drama should have dark eyebrows and bleached blonde hair.

Now… there are two more March sisters, but I need to mention Laurie.

Jonah Hauer-King actually physically resembles the book character better than 1994’s Christian Bale, but: 1994’s Laurie was Christian Bale!

Little-Women

He was simply brilliant in the movie, unsurpassable.

2017 Laurie and Amy are below. I think they suit much better than Laurie and Jo.

Amy-March-1174517

On the other hand, Hauer-King does an excellent job. He’s likeable, loveable, and IS a good match for Amy when he finally realises Jo is his best friend, not the love of his life.

The other two March sisters are the two people tend to overlook more.

In this version, tragic Beth has been given a whole new level of “homebody”. She has a full-on anxiety disorder in this incarnation, which is not something I have ever seen before, and I’m not sure was necessary.

Little Women 2017 Episode 1 Beth March Sonya Heaney Annes Elwy Screencap Winter

Welsh actress Annes Elwy (as in, the only sister not played by an American) does a great job with what material she has, but she is written to fade into the background at so many points. I still find her highly likeable, however.

Beth’s death in the movie was a hugely emotional scene with only Jo present; in this miniseries everyone’s crowded around and I really don’t think it had much of an impact, despite Emily Watson’s good acting…

The eldest March sister, the sensible, motherly one, was played well by Willa Fitzgerald, even if she does come across as a bit of a bore! I actually think that overall this was the March sister who was the best cast. She is everything Meg should be, but the actress simply does not have enough to work with to make her as interesting as Jo or Amy.

Emily Watson’s Marmee is a much more harried, rough-around-the-edges mother than Susan Sarandon’s version in 1994. I think it suited this scruffier production of the book, and she is always a great actress, but I still prefer a warmer interpretation.

Watson also gets extra points, because Susan Sarandon – the real woman – has emerged as highly unlikeable since the 2016 US election.

Angela Lansbury (of recent “women need to take some blame for getting raped” infamy) plays Aunt March, the elderly aunt who takes Amy to Europe. She is a different aunt to the 1994 version, but she is really good in the role.

This is VERY different casting to the ’94 movie, but that is a good thing. I do prefer the movie cast overall, but there are some interesting changes in the 2017 version.

50th Anniversary of Romeo and Juliet

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet 1968

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the release of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet.

The movie premiered in London on the 4th of March, 1968.

When I was in Verona in February 2017 the old house that is now marketed as “Juliet’s House” had some of the costumes from the film on display, as well as Juliet’s bed. If you are ever in Verona, go *into* the house – don’t just hang out in the overpopulated, heavily touristy courtyard. It’s an incredible building in its own right.

Verona is an amazing city, and totally overlooked. The daytrippers really miss out by just glancing at Juliet’s and Romeo’s houses and then moving on to Venice.

DSC00697Juliet_s House Verona Veneto Italy Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet 1968 Costumes Bed Sonya Heaney Oksana February 2017

DSC00694Juliet_s House Verona Veneto Italy Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet 1968 Costumes Bed Sonya Heaney Oksana February 2017

DSC00696Juliet_s House Verona Veneto Italy Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet 1968 Costumes Bed Sonya Heaney Oksana February 2017

 

Twenty Years!

Titanic was given a number of different “premieres” in a number of countries, but the 19th of December is the “official” twentieth birthday of this crazy-successful movie.

The film won eleven Academy Awards and turned a bunch of people into superstars. It also had some amazing costumes (the one below has always been my favourite).

Love Titanic or hate it (but I think we can all agree James Cameron’s minute’s silence at the Oscars was overkill!), this is an anniversary I felt needed to be mentioned.

Titanic Jump Dress

Watching: The Age of Innocence

Winona Ryder as May Welland in The Age of Innocence (1993)

No, I haven’t (yet – but I plan to!) read the book (it won a Pulitzer Prize), but I recently went back and watched 1993’s The Age of Innocence for the first time in years, and I’m wondering why it took me so long.

An Oscar-winner for the gorgeous costumes, and an Oscar nominee for a bunch of other things (including Winona Ryder’s portrayal of the innocent but manipulative May Welland), I enjoyed revisiting this one.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer Winona Ryder as May Welland in The Age of Innocence (1993)

I was eleven when the movie first came out, so I definitely think I appreciate it more now.

Set in New York’s Gilded Age – which also happens to be the setting of a favourite book series of mine – this is the story of a man who is engaged to a perfect society girl but falls in love with her older, more sophisticated cousin.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Ellen Olenska in The Age of Innocence (1993)

Also starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer, this is one for people who come to this blog for the historical fiction and romance reviews. Just don’t expect rainbows and bows at the end!

You can watch a hi-res version of the trailer here, but it looks a little dated, as many 1990s trailers now do. Don’t let that put you off.

More screenshots here.

The Week: 18th – 24th September

Spring Flowers Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 21st September 2017 Garden Nature Red

Spring in Canberra

Mostly gorgeous week here. We had temperatures up to 30 degrees, which makes it nearly ten degrees warmer than Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. The difference? In Barcelona everyone dresses for summer. In Canberra a lot of people dress like it’s mid-winter. People are weird.

We booked a group family trip to Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains this week. We’ll be going over New Year. It will be summer here, so hopefully the mountains won’t be too snowy at that time of year!

Yesterday the highway between Canberra (as in Australia’s capital city) and Sydney (as in Australia’s biggest city) was closed because of a bushfire. We knew people who had to turn around and come back to Canberra.

In September.

Just after winter.

We also had the hottest September day in history, and they are predicting a catastrophic bushfire season (yes, here “bushfire season” is actually a thing) for us. But – hey – climate change doesn’t exist…?!

Floriade is in full swing, but I haven’t been this year (so far). I really need to go earlier one year before half the flowers have died!

New (AWFUL!) cover for Lisa Kleypas

My review of Amish Christmas Twins by Patricia Davids

Hunger Games and Twilight are getting theme park lands in South Korea

Truth?

Pride and Prejudice Anniversary

Pride and Prejudice Anniversary

Tomorrow is the twenty-second anniversary of the premiere of the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice (otherwise known as “the one people love because Mr Darcy jumps in a murky pond”).

This is the Jane Austen adaptation that changed everything.

It’s not my favourite, but it’s a gazillion times better than Pride and Prejudice and Pigs – I still enjoy it a lot. And it is definitely the favourite version of most true Jane Austen fans.

Revisiting Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley Mr Darcy Elizabeth Chatsworth House SOnya Heaney

The ABC has been showing the adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley again, and I’ve been watching late at night.

Essentially a fancy fanfiction of Pride and Prejudice, it is more a murder mystery than anything resembling Jane Austen.

I wrote about the show in 2014.

Since I last watched it I’ve changed my mind about a few things, and think I enjoyed it more this time round. It’s FAR from perfect, but still worth watching.

Set a few years after Pride and Prejudice ends, the Darcys are now happily married with a son (the scene of him running through the property at the start is like a tourism advertisement for Chatsworth House!).

deathcomestopemberley Sonya Heaney Chatsworth House

And then someone is murdered.

As before, I have issues with the producers making Chatsworth – one of the greatest estates in all of the British Isles – the home of plain old “Mister” Darcy, but it makes for gorgeous scenery from start to finish.

uktv-death-comes-to-pemberley-8 Mr Darcy Elizabeth Matthew Rhys Anna Maxwell Martin Chatsworth House

There was a lot of outrage of the (many think) bad miscasting of Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Bennet. Apart from being too old for the role, her posture bothers me throughout. She slouches, walks around with her wrists propped on her hips, never wears gloves or anything on her head. I loved her in North & South, and she is a great actress, but mistress of Chatsworth House/Pemberley she certainly is not.

uktv-death-comes-to-pemberley-9 Matthew Rhys Mr Darcy

I still love Matthew Rhys as Mr Darcy, even though he was an unlikely candidate for the role. It says everything about his talent as an actor that he can pull off Darcy as well as he does his other roles, such as a Russian agent.

Eleanor Tomlinson Death Comes to Pemberley Georgiana Darcy.

Eleanor Tomlinson Death Comes to Pemberley Georgiana Darcy

Eleanor Tomlinson is a wonderful Georgiana Darcy. Since then she has gone on to find considerable fame as Demelza in Poldark – another role I love her in (but then I’ve thought she was great since she played Young Sophie in The Illusionist).

death-comes-to-pemberley-mrs-bennet-lydia-pride-and-prejudice-sonya-heaney

And I still think current British actress-of-the-moment Jenna Coleman as Lydia Wickham overacts to the point she’d over-the-top in a pantomime! She is much a caricature as the shrieking Mrs Bennet of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.

Those are the actors who – for better or for worse – stand out for me.

This is an imperfect but GORGEOUS production that is worth a watch if it’s on repeat where you are.