Thursday, October 30, 2014

Famous People Tag

Naomi of Wonderland Creek has tagged me with Famous People Tag, which you know I could never resist.

~ The Rules ~ 

-Put up the 'famous people tag button' and link back to the person who tagged you
-Answer the questions
-Tag the ten last people who commented on your blog (excluding anonymytes or the person who tagged you)

 ~The official questions!~ 

#1 Who's your favourite singer/group? 

Bobby Darin.  Always and forever.  And by that I mean, since I was sixteen and bought a cassette tape of his music just to hear "Mack the Knife" and fell in love with his voice.  His music has accompanied me ever since, and I continue buying more.  Dude sang like 600 songs in his too-short life (he died at 37 following heart surgery), and there are a lot of live versions of them too, and... and he was a superb actor too!  So I also collect his movies.

#2 If your favourite male actor was in the same room as you right now, what would your reaction be? 

Well, I'd probably be really weirded out, because my favorite actor is John Wayne, who has been dead since ten months before I was born.

But seriously, if by some time-machine magic I could meet John Wayne, I would undoubtedly be tongue-tied and shy.  I wouldn't bother trying to say anything cool, because it would come out wrong anyway.  I'd just be like, "Um, hi."

#3 Is there a famous person you used to love but (due to something they have done in their life) you've suddenly changed your mind? 

I try really hard to separate celebrities' lives from their work in my mind.  With one exception (John Landis), I'm generally successful.  Sometimes I get disappointed by roles they take or a lifestyle choice they make, something like that.  But it really doesn't make me quit liking them as a writer or singer or actor.  I tend to go the other way -- look down my nose at an actor or actress and then suddenly discover they can act and then begin to like them immensely.  That's happened to me multiple times, for instance with Rudolph Valentino and Matt Damon and Robert Downey, Jr.  Also, sometimes I'll learn that some celebrity is really genuine and nice in real life, and that makes me like them more.

#4 Name a famous person you like who's name starts with a V. 

Valentino, of course.  Rudolph Valentino.  MMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmm...

#5 What's one of your favourite red-carpet dresses? 

I don't pay huge attention to the red carpet.  I do remember thinking Hailee Steinfeld looked really cute in this at the Oscars a few years ago.  Makes me think of Audrey Hepburn.

#6 Who's your favourite Royal person? 

Not sure I have one.  So guess I'll go with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret during WWII.

#7 Who's your favourite child actor/tress? 

Hayley Mills?  Or Margaret O'Brien?  Or Christian Bale?  Hmm.   Not sure.

#8 Is there an actor/actress you actually like their private lives of? (Not sure if that last question was properly phrased.) 

Oh yeah.  I love who Hugh Jackman is in real life:  a happily married husband and an adoptive dad.  He's endlessly kind to fans.  He also started a coffee company called Laughing Man that promotes helping poor farmers in underdeveloped countries with fair trade and such.

#9 Do you think that the actors/actresses have improved these last 100 years?

I think acting has changed and evolved, but I don't think actors today are any better at acting than those from days gone by.  Our tastes have changed, the style of acting we're used to now is different from acting in the '60s or the '40s or the '20s.  But improved?  No.

#10 What's the weirdest famous-people name? 

#11 Do you think you look like a famous person? Which one(s)? 

Not really.  I suppose I might look a wee little bit like Julia Stiles.  We both have round faces.  My hair's not blond, though.

#12 Share your favourite famous-person quote. 

"When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns." -- Raymond Chandler's writing advice

#13 Who's your favourite dancer?

Gene Kelly.  I love how he could convey so many emotions with his dancing, from joy and exuberance to sorrow and love.

#14 Why is your favourite actress your favourite one? When did you decide that she was your favourite? 

I love Maureen O'Hara because she plays so many gutsy characters.  They give as good as they get, and then some, yet still remain womanly and not mannish.  Also, she's stunningly beautiful.  Still!  She's been my favorite since I was a teen.  And she was real-life friends with my favorite actor, John Wayne, which is just groovy.

#15 Have you ever met/seen/been close to a famous person?

Does attending a play that a famous person is acting in count?  If so, then yes!  When I was a teen, I saw Hayley Mills perform in The King and I.  When I was in college, I saw Patrick Stewart perform in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  And about 5 years ago, I saw Jude Law in Hamlet.

EDIT:  I forgot!  I've also met two famous authors!  I got to hear Ray Bradbury do a reading when I was in college, and got my copy of Fahrenheit 451 signed by him.  And then a few years ago, I got to attend a reading and Q&A session with Laurie R. King, my favorite living author (whom I recently interviewed on my other blog), and she signed two books for me!  My copy of The Beekeeper's Apprentice and a copy of the book she was promoting at that time.  I actually managed to ask two intelligent questions during the Q&A (which I'd thought up beforehand), and have a tiny-but-coherent conversation with her while she signed the books.  I asked her to dedicate one of them to the college professor who introduced me to her work, so that gave me something to say :-)

And now, time to tag the last ten people who commented on my blog.  I think that's a unique and fun way to tag people, as otherwise I feel kind of weirdly pressured to find bloggers I think will like the tag, etc.  So I hereby tag:

Play only if you want to :-)  Here are the official questions, to make it easier for you to cut and paste:

#1 Who's your favourite singer/group?
#2 If your favourite male actor was in the same room as you right now, what would your reaction be?
#3 Is there a famous person you used to love but (due to something they have done in their life) you've suddenly changed your mind?
#4 Name a famous person you like who's name starts with a V.
#5 What's one of your favourite red-carpet dresses?
#6 Who's your favourite Royal person?
#7 Who's your favourite child actor/tress
#8 Is there an actor/actress you actually like their private lives of? (Not sure if that last question was properly phrased.)
#9 Do you think that the actors/actresses have improved these last 100 years?
#10 What's the weirdest famous-people name?
#11 Do you think you look like a famous person? Which one(s)?
#12 Share your favourite famous-person quote.
#13 Who's your favourite dancer?
#14 Why is your favourite actress your favourite one? When did you decide that she was your favourite?
#15 Have you ever met/seen/been close to a famous person?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Emma" (1996)

This movie was not my first Austenian experience -- that distinction belongs to Sense and Sensibility (1995).  However, this is the first Austen-related thing that I loved.  I can't remember the first time I saw it -- I think I probably watched it with my two teen-years best friends.  I do distinctly remember driving to town with my younger brother to rent it so we could watch it with my mom.  I loved it so much, I bought my own copy to take to college with me, where my new friends and I just about wore out that VHS tape.  I've seen this at least a dozen times -- maybe closer to twenty.  However, I think my last viewing was seven or eight years ago, and I'd never seen the widescreen version before.  I bought the DVD a year or so ago, when I found it for an enticingly low price, but never got around to watching it until now.  So when Heidi announced her Discovering Emma Week, I eagerly signed up to review this.  Finally!  A really good reason to sit down and rewatch it!

Oh my goodness.  I loooooooooove the widescreen version!  I kept thinking things like, "I never saw Mr. Knightley's reaction there!"  "I never saw that part of the dance!"  "I never saw Emma have that little moment of realization!"  Splendid, I tell you.

So anyway... you probably know this, but Emma is about a rich, headstrong girl named Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) who loves matchmaking.  Her rich, handsome neighbor, Mr. Knightley (Jeremy Northam) tries to help her grow and mature into a nicer and better person.  And then she realizes he loves her and she loves him and we all throw flower petals in the air at their wedding.

Right, so anyway, why do I love this movie?  Why is it, in fact, my favorite Austen adaptation?  Why do I like it better than the book?  So many questions, so little time.

I love this movie because it is beautiful.  I want to live inside it.  Hartfield entrances me.  I want to hang out in this room in the evening and read books:

I want to sit in this pavilion and do needlework:

I want to figure out what all these random thingamabobs are that are cluttering up this room:

I want to sit quietly in this rustic corner of the estate and write:

I even want to own chairs like these, though I think they belong to Mr. Knightley at Donwell Abbey, not to Emma at Hartfield:

I'm telling you, I would love to live inside this movie!  And I can't say that about very many movies, certainly not about any of the other Austen adaptations I've seen.  I usually only feel that way about westerns.  So this makes Emma something of a rarity.

And the cast could not be more perfect.  I have to admit that in my teens and early twenties, I would have loved to look like Gwyneth Paltrow in this movie.  She's still kind of my epitome of graceful, elegant womanhood.  I wish I could get my hair to do the pretty things her hair does.  Really, I'm almost a bit obsessed with her hair.

Also, Gwyneth Paltrow makes Emma Woodhouse much more sympathetic than in the book.  She's saucy and meddlesome and spoiled, but she's also sweet and kind and cheerful, and so devoted to her father (Denys Hawthorne), all of which makes me like her quite a bit.

Then there's Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley.  He's not nearly as combative as he is in the book.  Still bossy, still always chiding Emma for her faults, but he doesn't constantly pick on her.  And I feel like he knows himself so well in this, that already fairly early on in the movie he knows he loves Emma, and he's just waiting to be sure of himself and more sure of her before he takes any action.

But as handsome as Jeremy Northam is, the first time I saw this, I was really watching it for one person:  Ewan McGregor.  And he still delights me:  the smiley-est, most obliging Frank Churchill you'll ever see.  He actually manages to give the character some depth, which is saying a lot considering that Frank is a vain trickster.  But such a charming and happy trickster!

Even though he has the most appallingly bad wig:

Then there are Toni Collette as the sweet-but-shallow Harriet Smith and Alan Cumming as the unctuous-and-clueless Mr. Elton.  They never fail to make me laugh in almost their every scene.  Brilliant.

And Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates!  Oh, she makes me laugh and cry.  Poor, dear thing.

Also, I love the costumes.  I would love to wear some of these dresses.  And I'm not really all that interested in costumes or clothes or fashion!  But wow, I love these.

My #1 favorite (Emma's, not Harriet's)
My #2 favorite
My #3 favorite

But I think what really sets this apart from other Austen adaptations is how much it makes me laugh.  There are so many moments that I laugh aloud during, and even simple images that set me giggling.

I love how the filmmakers kind of gloried in the absurd in a gentle way instead of taking the story oh-so-seriously.  I can never decide if I should shelve this with the comedies or dramas.  But I generally shelve it with the dramas because when I think of this movie, the first scene that comes to mind is the scene where Mr. Knightley scolds Emma for being rude to Miss Bates at the strawberry-picking picnic.  The first time I saw this, that is the scene where I went from liking to loving it.  It adds such weight to the story, and shows that Emma is not merely a spoiled, heedless girl.  She can feel for other people, she can acknowledge she's been wrong.  She can change.

Okay, I think I've finally run out of things to say here.  Oh yes... is this movie family-friendly?  Nary a hint of sexual content to be found.  There's one scene where some gypsies chase Emma and Harriet and try to steal their purses, and there are a couple of mild curse words, though.

Don't forget to click here or on the button below to visit Along the Brandywine and join in the "Discovering Emma Week" fun!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Discovering Emma Week Tag!

It's "Discovering Emma Week" at Along the Brandywine!  I'll be participating in various ways on this blog and my book blog during the week, starting with answering these tag questions :-)

1. Have you ever read Emma?

Yes, I have!  I read it in high school, and again last year.  My review is here, if you're interested.

2. If so, is that how you first made her acquaintance? (If not, feel free to elaborate!)

I'm pretty sure I saw the 1996 adaptation that stars Gwyneth Paltrow first.  I may have seen Clueless first, too.

3. Do you have a favorite film adaptation?

Absolutely!  The aforementioned Gwyneth Paltrow version, which I will be reviewing later this week as a contribution to Discovering Emma Week.  I like that adaptation better than the book!

4. Favorite dress(es) from that film?

I'll share more in my review, but here is my absolute favorite dress:

I love those swoopy tucks at the bottom.  And the color is so bright and cheerful!

Here's a bit of a look at the front, which has a nice ribbon accent.  I would totally wear that dress.

5. Share a line you love from either the book or movie/s—several if you like!

These are all from the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation:

"I love... I absolutely love... celery root!  And what should they be serving but... celery root!"  (I say this rather often.  After many years of quoting it, I finally got to eat celery root for the first time last year, and it's quite tasty!)

"Oh dear."  "What?"  "Oh!  Something about the deer we need for the venison stew."  (I also quote this a lot.  It confuses people, but I don't care.)

"I'm afraid you'll just have to live here, then."  (I use this one to tease my little kids when they get stuck in a tree or something.)

"Try not to kill my dogs."  (Makes me laugh.)

6. Is Emma one of your favorite heroines? Why or why not?

She's actually one of my least-favorite Austen heroines.  She's bossy, meddlesome, vain, and spoiled.  Of course, the point of the story is that she comes to realize she's all those things and begins to change, but still, she spends most of the book being so unlikable.  I like her much better in the movie, as Gwyneth Paltrow makes her sweeter and kinder.

7. What is one of Emma’s strengths (good qualities)?

She's kind-hearted and wants to help other people be happy.

8. Describe in one (or two…or three) sentences, why Mr. Knightley is so wonderful.

He's exceedingly helpful and thoughtful, always giving things to Mrs. and Miss Bates, trying to get Emma to grow and mature, and even being willing to live with a tiresome father-in-law just to keep Emma happy.

9. Why do you think Mr. Knightley and Emma are so well suited to each other?

Because they're used to each other -- neither will be surprised by the other's quirks and foibles.

10. Would you rather spend a week in Highbury with the Westons—on Abbey-Mill Farm with the Martins—or in London with the John Knightleys?

Probably Abbey-Mill Farm with the Martins.  They're such sensible, kind, and forgiving people!  Plus I do like farms and dirt and animals.

Don't forget to visit the kick-off post at Along the Brandywine to join the fun!  Heidi's holding a giveaway and promises more fun to come all week!