Would you have liked to be the Last Emperor of China?

Thanks to Carol, we viewed our film this week in her lovely suite. She could accommodate nine of us comfortably. This was just as well, as it turned out.

The Last Emperor (1987) is an epic film. In Cineplexes, it ran for 160 minutes = 2 hours 40 minutes. The version my Film Group saw ran for 218 minutes = 3 hours 7 minutes. Apparently this version was specially created for TV to run over two nights. We sat through it without anyone stirring, or even suggesting it might be too long. Afterwards, it was suggested that an intermission would have been nice. Obviously, everyone loved it and were fascinated enough to not realize that so much time had passed. It certainly was an epic!

A British-Italian biographical drama, the film is about the life of Puyi (1906-1967), the last Emperor of China. The screenplay was written by Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci, and the film was directed by Bertolucci, the well-known Italian director. John Lone was excellent as Puyi, the last Emperor, as were the rest of the cast in their roles.

I was particularly interested in Peter O’Toole and his character as the Scottish diplomat who became the Emperor’s tutor and advisor, Sir Reginal Fleming Johnson, KSMG, CBE (1874-1938). Johnson was also the last British Administrator of Weihaiwei. Peter O’Toole played the part well. I liked the scene in which he wore the Highland Regalia. The Johnson clan doesn’t seem to have a red dress tartan, and O’Toole wore one of the green versions. The green hunting tartans are usually for day wear, and the red dress tartan is for formal occasions. I think it best if I don’t carry that train of thought any further.

This is a magnificent film. The historical background to the life of the last Emperor is, of course, the turbulent history of China over that period. It’s amazing that so much was condensed into a film only just under three hours long. What a life Puyi experienced! Born in 1906, as a child, being ruined utterly and allowed to have anything he wanted, including having his eunuchs flogged at his whim. On to being used as a pawn by the Japanese when they invaded China. In 1934, the Japanese crowned him puppet Emperor of Manchukuo, until the Red Army captured him at the end of the Second World War. During the Communist re-education program he finally admitted that he had committed war crimes by collaborating with the Japanese. Considered rehabillitated by the government of the People’s Republic of China, he spent the rest of his life as a gardener, dying in 1967. It certainly made for a fascinating film.

At the 60th Academy Awards, the film won all nine Oscars for which it was nominated, including Best Picture and Best Director.

On a budget of $23.8 million USD, the film brought in a box office of $44 million USD,


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Would Malcolm appeal to an American Audience?

Malcolm (1986) is an Australian cult film comedy, written by the husband-and-wife team, David Parker and Nadia Tass. Nadia Tass also directed the film. Parker and Tass are a team who have won many awards in Australia. Malcolm is a film in a class of its own, and very different. It won the Australian Film Institute Award (AFI) for Best Film, and seven other AFI awards, including Best Script and Best Director. This  film shows that the Australian film industry is developing, with it’s own, unique flavour.

Colin Friels is outstanding as Malcolm, the tram (street car) enthusiast who becomes involved with a pair of would-be bank robbers. Lindy Davies and John Hargreaves are excellent as that pair.

All the gadgets in Malcolm’s house, and the ingenious inventions used in the robbery sequences, were devised by David Parker. They really were a delight, especially the back of a tram used in a get-away. It can be seen at the Tramway Museum Society of Victoria, Australia. Model railway enthusiasts would love the little, model train delivering the mail from the mailbox.

Our Group of ten enjoyed the unusual film, and found the humour amusing, aoart from one of our American members, who didn’t really enjoy the film too much, as she didn’t find it funny. She is used to American humour, which is different. It’s intriguing that humour differs subtly between cultures.

On a raised-with-difficulty budget of A$1 million, at the box office Malcolm raised A$3,842,129.


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Do you like short stories?

Canadian writer, Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, for her short-story writing. This is the first time ever it has been given for anything other than literature: never for short stories. This month Kalpna Deepak chose to have our Group read as many of Alice Munro’s short stories as we liked. Kalpna is enthusiastic in her appreciation of Munro’s work, and gave us a highly educational presentation for our session this month.

Kalpna began by discussing Alice Ann Munro’s life. She was born in 1931, in Wingham, Ontario, little more than a village at that time. Her stories are built around life in such a small community, although she does mention Toronto from time to time, as being the “big city” in a different world. Kalpna, who is from Delhi, India, said that she related to the stories because they remind her of the small Indian village of her grandparents, which she visited from time to time when she was a child. What struck Kalpna is that human nature is the same in those two small places; so far apart, so different, yet so alike on the level of human interaction.

When Kalpna spoke of Munro’s work she mentioned the different aspects that appealed to her. The humour displayed by Munro in her writings, amused her. Munro also shows a great empathy for the subjects of her stories. A deep understanding of human nature is necessary to write with such courage and honesty about life as it truly is, not romanticized or fantasized. This gives the stories a universality that appealed to Kalpna greatly. This is what makes Munro’s writing great.

In the discussion that followed, many of us said they like the work of Alice Munro, but others of us mentioned that they had found the stories a little dull. Kalpna did admit that she has had 10 years of education in literature, so she is approaching the stories from a particular viewpoint. Alice Munro says herself that her stories are the way things happen, not why they happen. This means that they are not action pieces, but written to provoke thought as to what life is about.

Kalpna certainly increased our understanding of the work of Alice Munro. Now, when we read her short stories, we will do so from a different, much deeper perspective. She also showed that to appreciate a work of literature, it is necessary to know about the writer and from where the author is coming. There are many facets to the writing, such as those Kalpna pointed out, that can be noted. This background knowledge helps put the work into perspective, and increases our enjoyment.

When I rose to thank Kalpna, I only got as far as doing just that, then was stopped by the standing ovation from our Group. We had all enjoyed a delightful afternoon!


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Down Memory Lane: Finding Neverland (2004)

Finding Neverland  (2004) is a historical fantasy drama, based on the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan (1998). The film is about Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie and his relationship with a friendly family which inspired him to create Peter Pan.

Directed masterfully by Marc Forster, the screenplay is well-adapted by David Magee from the play. The music score is delightful, and the cinematography is lovely, evoking the Edwardian era into which the story is set. Johnny Depp well deserved the Best Actor Award he won for his portrayal of J.M. Barrie. I particularly appreciated his educated Scottish accent, which was not overdone as it so easily can be. As a fan of Johnny Depp, my admiration of his work increased with his sensitive treatment of J.M. Barrie. He captured the gentle personality, and imaginative mind of Barrie perfectly, and appreciated that Barrie was a unique character. All this he showed with a master’s delicate touch. Kate Winslet played Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, the mother of the boys of the friendly family, well. I enjoyed Dustin Hoffman as Charles Frohman and Julie Christie as Mrs. Emma du Maurier, Sylvia’s mother.

The story of Peter Pan, and the Lost Boys is delightful, and although seemingly written for children, carries so many truths that adults can appreciate, it strikes a chord with older people. Like most people, I had read the story as a child, and loved it. It was such a pleasure to understand how it had been created, and to learn more of James Matthew Barrie, who had written it.

The film earned several nominations at the 77th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for Johnny Depp. It won for Best Original Score.

It did well at the box office, making $116.8 million USD for a budget of $25 million USD.


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What did you think of The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby (1974) is based on the book by the same name (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The book is set in Long Island, in 1922, and is considered a masterpiece: beautiful use of the English language; strong characterizations; evocative creation of the place and times of the Roaring Twenties; strong messages full of symbolism. The story is around obsession with an image of the “good life”, the “American Dream”, and how that image is so flawed, and in the end so destructive. Gatsby is obsessed by his image of Daisy, who tells him that rich girls don’t marry poor boys. His obsession drives him to become materially rich, although emotionally so poor, and in the end his obsession leads to his death.

This film recreation of the book can be said to look beautiful. The direction by Jack Clayton is professional ; the screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola is true to the voice of Fitzgerald; the cinematography conveys the mood of those times; the costumes are perfect; the music is lovely: altogether a gripping experience. My Film Group and I sat through the almost two and a half hours enthralled.

Robert Redford plays Jay Gatsby adequately, as does Mia Farrow the part of Daisy Buchanan. Beyond that it is difficult to go. The director could surely have used their talents better. We don’t feel any chemistry between them, and it is difficult to know why Gatsby is so obsessed by such a shallow, self-absorbed person as Daisy. Sam Waterston gives a good performance as Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story, but seems objective in his telling. Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan is the only character who seems to have some life about him. In the book, we felt for the characters; in the film we didn’t feel anything for them at all. They seemed like cardboard mannequins going through the motions. The audience is left feeling let down. The film is such a visual and musical feast, yet we are emotionally so untouched. What a pity!

The film did well at the box office. It took in $26.5 million USD for a budget of $7 million USD.


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Gosnell

The film Gosnell:The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer was released about a week ago. It was produced by documentarians Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney, and Magdalena Segieda, though this film is not a documentary. This is not a film I would normally see but made an exception in this case because I (slightly) know the filmmakers. They had invited me to the L.A. premier last week but I could not attend. Surprisingly, the film is being shown in several theaters in my area, which is where I finally saw it – surprising because it was independently released and the producers faced a lot of hostility from Hollywood.

The film is about Kermit Gosnell, a physician who operated an abortion clinic in Philadelphia for several decades. He was convicted on murder in the first degree of three infants, manslaughter of an adult patient, and numerous other felonies. Aside from these major offenses, he operated his clinic in a grossly unsanitary manner and used unqualified individuals as medical personnel. The story was given national prominence through the persistent efforts of our own Mollie Hemingway. The film takes the artistic license of replacing nationally known and serious journalist Mollie with a local and unknown (presumably fictional) blogger Molly Mullaney.

In a recent interview on the Ricochet flagship podcast, Mollie said she cried though much of the film. I had a somewhat different response: disgust, anger, and a frequent desire to avert my eyes. It’s not that many graphic images are shown; the film is rated PG-13. The writers were so adept at enhancing the images with words that one’s imagination did the rest. This film is well made, with excellent actors and high production values: a significant step up from their previous work. Andrew Klavan also has a writing credit.

I hesitate to recommend the film because of the nature of the subject matter. It’s not for everyone. If you’re into this sort of thing, it is a compelling movie that you will think about long after leaving the theater.


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Did you think Like Water for Chocolate (1992) is Art

Like Water for Chocolate (1992) is a Mexican film directed by Alfonso Arau. The screenplay was written by Laura Esquivel, the author of the book on which the film is based (1989).

The style of the film is termed magic realism. This is often used to convey ideas about changes that should be made to traditions and social structures within a society. It contains magical happenings that are treated as if they are a normal part of real life. Even without knowing this, the film is beautiful in its own right. Magic Realism is often considered an art form, and this film is Art.

The changes being made in society around the place of women in society is the main theme of this film. Tita, the main character in the story, throws off family tradition and creates her own life, as does her sister, Gertrudis. Her oldest sister, Rosaura, follows the traditions of her family and society, and in the end this destroys her.

I found it interesting that when Tita and Pedro, her lover, come together, the consummation is too much for Pedro, and he dies of a heart attack. Tita poisons herself by eating matches. The house catches fire, and all is consumed, except Tita’s cook book, which is passed down to her grand-daughter. This could be symbolic of how great is the disruption to the old way of life the new ideas bring. It deeply affects Tita and Pedro, who are part of the change, but the new way becomes accepted and brings happiness to the younger women affected by it. The film is full of symbolism, and is certainly thought-provoking.

My film group enjoyed the film, and we had an interesting discussion around the main theme. The thought was expressed that it would be good to watch it for a second time, as there is so much in the story it was difficult to understand it all with just one viewing.

The film became the higest-grossing Spanish-language film ever released in the United States at that time. It grossed $21.6 million USD.


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Did you see Tea With Mussolini?

Tea with Mussolini (1999) is a semi-autobiographical film directed by Franco Zeffirelli, telling the story of a young Italian boy’s upbringing by a group of British women before and during the Second World War. Zeffirelli’s own story began in a similar manner. He created the story for the film, and the screenplay was written by John Mortimer.

A young boy, Luca, is adopted by a group of British ladies in Florence. The atmosphere in Florence in 1935 is recreated. We experience the fear felt by the expatriate community when the Fascists attack the restaurant where they are having afternoon tea. Lady Hester Random, the snobbish widow of the former British ambassador to Italy, believes she has the favour of Benito Mussolini, and visits him. She receives his assurances that the ladies are in no danger. Naively, she believes him, and talks proudly of her “tea with Mussolini.” In spite of her confidence, when Italy declares war on Britain, the ladies are rounded up and taken off to Gimignano, Tuscany, as enemies.

An American lady, Elsa Morganthal Strauss-Armistan, a rich American socialite, funds the move of the ladies to a high-class hotel. Lady Hestor thinks it is Mussolini who is looking after them. She has always been horrible to Elsa, looking down on all Americans. Luca helps Elsa achieve her plans for the ladies.

When the United States enters the war in 1941, the American ladies are interned with the British. Lady Hestor discovers that it is Elsa who has helped them. She and Luca help Elsa, who is Jewish, flee Italy, and escape to America.

When the Scottish soldiers relieve Gimignsno, Luca appears as the Italian interpreter for their commander. Mary Wallace, who was most instrumental in his upbringing, is delighted to see that he has become what his father wanted, an “English gentleman.”

We are told at the end of the film that Luca is an artist who is involved in the making of this film. In other words, the writer and director, Zeffirelli.

The film has a highly distinguished cast: Dame Joan Plowright is Mary Wallace; Dame Maggie Smith is Lady Hestor Random; Dame Judi Dench is Arabella; Cher is Elsa; and Lily Tomlin is Georgina, another American expatriate. No more needs to be said about the quality of the acting.

The film won British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards for best makeup and hairstying. Never have I seen such a beautiful marcel wave as that displayed by Lady Hestor. It really was incredible. Marcel waving is done with a hot marcel wave curling iron, and is difficult to do.

My film group settled down with our wine and chips, and thoroughly enjoyed this film. There is little more that needs to be said.

Audiences agreed with us, and with a budget of $12 million USD, the box office was $45,566,200 in the United States alone.


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Do you remember Goodbye Girl?

The Goodbye Girl (1977) is an American romantic comedy, written by Neil Simon. It’s a fun movie, with witty dialogue. My Film Group enjoyed the film.

Directed by Herbert Ross, the film is highly professional in every way. Richard Dreyfuss is delightful as Elliot Garfield, Marsha Mason is fairly attractive as Paula McFadden, the Goodbye Girl whom her husband divorced and her latest man friend has just abandoned. She seems such a shrew at the beginning of the movie, it hardly seemed surprising that men were saying goodbye to her. She was allowed to improve as the plot developed. Quinn Cummings deserves a mention as Lucy McFadden, Paula’s daughter.

After an inauspicious beginning to their relationship, Paula falls for Elliot. Lucy also become attached to him. He has to leave for four weeks to go to Seattle on a job he can’t possibly refuse. He makes it quite clear to Paula that he will definitely be coming back, so the film ends happily and the audience is left feeling good. 

Neil Simon’s script is almost too wordy, and with too many one-liners. It almost felt a strain trying to keep up with the dialogue. On the other hand, Dreyfuss playing Richard III as a homosexual, is one of the funniest renditions I have ever seen.


At the 50th Academy Awards, Richard Dreyfuss won the Oscar for Best Actor for his work. Nominations: Best Picture, Ray Stark; Best Actress, Marsha Mason; Best Supporting Actress, Quinn Cummings; Best Screenplay, Neil Simon.

At the Golden Globes, the film won: Best Picture; Best Actor; Best Actress; Best Screenplay.


Audiences voted with their money, and the Box Office was $102 million USD.


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Do you remember BenHur?

Ben Hur (1959) is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. It was adapted from the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880), by General Lew Wallace. The film won eleven Academy Awards: including Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor; Best Supporting Actor; Best Cinematography. It also won three Golden Globes: Best Picture; Best Director; and Best Supporting Actor.

Produced by Sam Zimbalist, the film was directed by William Wyler. He is a brilliant director, winning three Oscars for Best Director, including the one for Ben Hur, the only director to have done so as of 2018. The rather stilted screenplay by Karl Tunberg, with contributions by Maxwell Anderson, S.N. Behrman, Gore Vidal, and Christopher Fry, did not win even a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. It did win an Oscar for the music by Miklos Rozsa. Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur, Jack Hawkins as Quintus Arrius, Haya Haraheet as Esther, and Stephen Boyd as Messala, all did their best with the script.

Ben-Hur is an epic film, and certainly is magnificent in so many levels. It was in the style of its times. These extra-long films, with Overtures and Intermissions, were popular in their time, but my Film Group found it too long, too slow, and even boring. Admittedly, we gave up at the Intermission, and so missed the chariot race, the crucifixion, and the miracle healing of Martha and Tirzah by the blood of the Christ. We could have decided to see the rest of the film at our next meeting, but decided against doing that.

Most of us had seen the film when it came out originally, so we found it interesting to examine our reaction to it today. We had enjoyed it on our first viewing, but now we would have preferred to see heavy editing to speed up the action, and cut the length. We would also have liked a better screenplay. It would appear we have been influenced by later films with more natural acting and tighter editing.

Ben-Hur was extremely popular with audiences. On a budget of $15.2 million USD, its Box Office was $146.9 million USD.


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When Harry Met Sally: A fun movie!

When Harry Met Sally(1989) is an American romantic comedy. Directed by Rob Reiner, who was Meathead in All in the Family, it is written by Nora Ephron, who is a close friend. Reiner had recently gone through a divorce, which is what inspired him to produce and direct this film. Ephron produced and wrote the screenplay. I’ve noticed that films made by a man and a woman working together, as in this one, have a better balance than purely male or female ones. Ephron received a British Academy Film Award, an Oscar nomination, and a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for her screenplay.

Sally Albright (56) is played beautifully by Meg Ryan. Apparently Billy Crystal (70) added to his character, Harry Burns, to make him even funnier. Listening to the rapid and articulate conversations Harry had with Sally, I would believe that. Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the Star War films, was very good as Marie Fisher.

The story begins in 1977 when Sally and Harry graduate from the University of Chicago and share a drive to New York. The question is raised, “Can men and women ever be just friends?” Sally thinks they can, but Harry thinks they can’t. Harry is attracted to Sally, but she is annoyed by his pursuit of her, and they part. After ten years, they bump into each other and decide that they can’t be friends. Another ten years, after another accidental meeting, they do become friends. In the end, a year later, they recognize that they are more than friends after all, and get married, and live happily ever after. That is not actually said, but implied, and leaves the audience feeling very good. My Film Group loved it. We were all seeing it for the second time, at least, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The part I had never forgotten is when Sally demonstrates to Harry, what he doesn’t want to believe, that women can fake having good sex and an orgasm. Evidently, all women find this scene very amusing, but men don’t. It had stayed with me for the almost thirty years since the film first was screened. Rob Reiner’s mother, Estelle Reiner, plays the lady in the restaurant who witnesses this scene, and places her order, saying, “I’ll have what she’s having.” This became known as one of the funniest lines in any movie. It certainly made me laugh out loud.

Audiences loved the film. On a budget of $16 million USD, it made a Box Office of $92.8 million.


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Wasn’t Doctor Zhivago a lovely, romantic film?

Doctor Zhivago (1965) is a British-Italian epic romantic drama, over three hours long. My Film Group loved it, but we stopped our first viewing at the Intermission. It was going to be so late if we continued to watch until the end, we decided to carry it over for another week.

The film is set in Russia during the years prior to the First World War (1914-18) and the Russian Civil War of 1917-1922. Produced by Carlo Ponti and directed by David Lean shortly after he had directed Lawrence of Arabia, it is based on the novel (1957) of the same name, by Boris Pasternak. Filmed mainly in Spain, the winter scenes of the family travelling to Yuriatin by rail were filmed in Canada. It did look familiar, but I thought that was because Russia lies in the same latitude as Canada, and the scenery in parts of Russia would look similar.

Omar Sharif was unforgettable as Doctor Yuri Zhivago. Yuri as a child, was played by Tarek Sharif, Omar Sharif’s son. This explains the good casting, as the child looked so like the man. Julie Christie was absolutely beautiful as Lara Antipova, as was Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya Gromenko. Rod Steiger was perfect as Victor Ippolitovich Komarovsky, as was Alex Guinness as Lieutenant General Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago, Yuri’s brother. Tom Courtney as Paval “Pasha” Antipov / Strelnikov was excellent, as were the rest of the distinguished cast. From 2018, they all look look so young. 

The 38th Academy Awards gave Doctor Zhivago five Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Original Score; Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction; and Best Costume Design. The film was nominated for five others: Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor; Best Editing; and Best Sound, but lost out to The Sound of Music. At the Golden Globes, it won Best Actor for Sharif; Best Motion Picture – Drama; Best Director; Best Screenplay; and Best Original Score. The American Film Institute recognized it as No. 39 in its list of 100 Best Movies.

The budget for Dr. Zhivago was $11 million USD, and the world showed its appreciation of the film at the box office to the total of $111.7 million USD.


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Did you see Good Will Hunting?

Good Will Hunting (1997) an American drama directed by Gus Van Sant, is a delightful film. It was first written by Matt Damon as an assignment for a playwriting class at Harvard University. Then Damon approached Ben Affleck to collaborate with him in writing the screenplay. The final edition was what my Film Group viewed on Monday. Most of us had seen it when it came out, and enjoyed it then. We appreciated it even more this time.

Matt Damon was perfect as Will Hunting, the abused foster kid, who had a superior intelligence. Ben Affleck was perfect as his buddy, who was supportive of him gaining a life of his own. Stellan Skarsgard was excellent as Professor Gerald Lambeau, who was the first to discover Will Hunting’s gift for mathematics. Minnie Driver was Will’s girlfriend, Skylar. She played the part well, and some of us shared that we were surprised she hasn’t had a more prominant career. The acting was superb, underlined by the good screenplay.

Robin Williams took the part of Sean Maguire, the clinical psychologist who reaches Will Hunting emotionally, and assures him that the abuse he suffered wasn’t his fault. This releases a torrent of emotion in Will that helps him heal from his psychological wounds. This scene was directed and played with such delicacy, and full of so much emotion, I found it deeply moving.

Good Will Hunting was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won two: Best Supporting Actor for Williams, and Best Original Screenplay for Affleck and Damon.

The public made its opinion quite clear. The film grossed over $225 million USD, for a budget of $10 millions USD. This was film making at its best. Highly professional in all aspects, with characters we could feel for, and like, and a seccess story that touched our hearts.


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What Do You Miss About the 1800’s?

~Cross-posted from wherever~

Especially when my mom comes to town, I enjoy a rich diet of period films. In a week in July, My mom and I consumed the BBC miniseries Little Dorrit.  Our Mutual Friend was next for me, after which I feasted on Oliver Twist. A long tale from ’90’s television called The Aristocrats was sumptuous, visually speaking. These on-screen confections and others, including any Jane Austen fare, get me thinking: despite horrible, bizarre realities of the past, life before the 1900’s wasn’t all bad.

Yes, for the longest time it was probably better to stay home and suffer rather than consult a doctor. And suffer you did. Electricity, hot showers, well-insulated homes, widespread literacy, and other comforts of the body and mind were all luxuries of the future. Travel was slow and exhausting. Big cities were centers for disease, misery, and terrible odors. Improvement of your station was elusive. Job hours were long, rich folk snobby.

Yet as blessed as I am to have been born in 1974, I can’t help feeling as if I’ve missed out on a few attractive features of life from the early 1800’s and before.

1.) Fireplaces and easy chairs. Wouldn’t that be lovely, of an evening, to sit in front of a warm fire (hopefully chimneys have been invented) and chat with friends or family from the depths of a cushioned chair (if you were wealthy enough to afford one, in pre-manufacturing days)? Or even read a book with the aid of firelight and candles?

2.) Passing time with family and friends. Connected to #1, it would have been delightful to spend more of life sitting together after dinner–with no interference from TV or radio–reading aloud, playing music, talking or singing.

3.) Cups of hot tea. These steaming drinks being brought out in pretty serving sets look inviting. They would be comforting aids to friendly conversation. Pair it with items 1 and 2 for an ideal experience.

4.) Dances. The dancing looks wonderful. I wish contra and other dancing were more popular activities today. I keep threatening to take a dance class, but sadly, my husband doesn’t want to go.

5.) Lovely gowns. The gowns would be great fun to wear for a few hours at a time, for special occasions. Probably without the whalebone and other confining accessories. These days, fewer and fewer events call for dressing up. We could produce these elaborate pieces relatively inexpensively in our time.

6.) Beautiful countryside. Most period films give the impression that people in the old days enjoyed swathes of unspoiled green countryside, which is why I eat them up. Courting couples would get acquainted with pastoral scenes as backdrops. Peaceful mornings dawned with lilting bird song. Walking in the country or in one’s garden was a pastime. Even seeing it on screen brightens the mood.

7.) Letters and Journals. I love typing, and I think the Internet will be a tremendous resource to our progeny and to historians–if we back it up properly, not assuming that it will be around forever. However, when I see a movie character sit at a picturesque desk, get out a fresh sheet of paper, and start scratching away with an ink pen, I’m reminded that in the last twenty years, we have lost the practice of exchanging long, meaty letters and of saving our correspondence. This practice sharpened our thinking, our writing, and our connections to faraway people that we loved. Also, the majority of us, if we’re not typing up our daily adventures on a public online forum, are rotten at keeping journals. We don’t even know what to record. True, a lot of these personal journals were transformed into best-selling books of the time, so there was ulterior motivation for taking daily notes. Yet it seems like disciplined journal-keeping was common practice in those days.

8.) Sense of Wonder. Speaking of adventure journals, the world was young leading up to the 1900’s because there was so much to be discovered. English audiences of the late 1700’s were startled to read of experiences with isolated ethnic groups–the world map still had blank spots in it, and there were limited means of reaching faraway places. With pleasure they read of the hazardous explorations of Africa by Mungo Park and David Livingstone. News of India would be captivating. And the scientific and technological discoveries kept building. After hot air balloons, who knew what to expect next? There were always exciting books to read and discussions to be had.

9.) Servants. This one is a bonus, because I just thought of it. Back then, if you were the right station in life, you could get away with having–no, you were expected to have–a few servants around. They would cook the meals, do laundry, take care of the yard, and clean the house. And even though I’m content at the balance of work and play in the 21st century, wouldn’t it be pleasant, occasionally, to have a small staff that took over repetitious tasks and saw to your neglected house projects while you took some air in the garden?

Is there anything you miss about the 1800’s?


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Another old movie, “The Lovely Bones”

Thanks to Susan, ten members of our Film Group settled ourselves with wine and chips, to watch The Lovely Bones (2009), a supernatural drama, based on the best-selling book of the same name by Alice Sebold (2002). The film is directed by Peter Jackson (56), who also directed The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03), and The Hobbits trilogy (2012-14).

Saoirse Ronan (24) plays 14-year-old plays Susie Salmon, who is killed by a neighbour. The fanciful story has her lingering between this life and the next, torn between wanting to have revenge on her killer, and allowing her family to heal. Stanley Tucci (57) plays her killer; Mark Wahlberg (47) is her father and Rachel Weisz (48) is her mother. Susan Sarandon (71) plays Grandma Lynn.

The strong touch of the director was evident in the special effects around the surreal world between this one and the next. Also his previous experience with horror movies showed, as parts felt like a horror movie. Unfortunately, Peter Jackson seems to have missed the emotional side of the story. Some of the family scenes didn’t ring quite true, and there was little emotional connection between the members of the family.Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci were both excellent in their parts, but the director didn’t make me feel much for either of them. The other actors almost seemed like cardboard figures, walking through their parts, and Grandma Lynn was not an attractive person; she revolted me with her behaviour as an alcoholic.

Two of our members had read the book, and admitted it had made them cry. Apparently Peter Jackson had missed the point in this film. I’m glad I saw the movie, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone else as a “must see”. Jackson is an excellent director, as the film was gripping, and held our attention throughout, but it didn’t leave me with any feeling of satifaction. One thing I did like was that the killer comes to a bad end at the hands of nature. An icicle falls on him, and he falls down a slope to his death. Justice was done, and seen to be done. But where did it come from, is left an unanswered question. Did Susie have anything to do with, even if from the other side? 

On a budget of $65 million dollars, it made $93,621,340 dollars. It didn’t receive very good reviews, in fact some were rather scathing. This in spite of Stanley Tucci and Saoirse Ronan being nominated for Oscars. Good in parts.


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