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Now, the vast majority of the people here are NOT ugly AT ALL. They are just not pretty or beautiful to me.
I have left OFF people whom "Dr_Horst'" listed as being thought of as attractive but who really aren't and NEVER HAVE BEEN. I don't know why he included people like Jack Nicholson or Anjelica Huston or Penny Marshall or Zach Galifianakis. Nobody has ever considered them attractive or sexy, so they really DON'T BELONG on his list OR this one.
I really liked this new take on an old, but much-beloved story. I liked the livelier and more robust presentation, and though it was less refined than the other "Emma" productions have been, I find I didn't really miss the refinement. I think the spirit of "Emma" was well-served here. I was also glad to see a little bit of the story through the eyes of others: Frank Churchill alone at the window, holding the most recent note from his aunt that he knows will summon back to her much too soon for his liking. That doesn't appear in the book, but I really liked it here. Also, a few scenes taken from the day-room of the London-based Knightly family to give a fresh perspective of the events happening in Highbury. Emma actually worries that maybe she has been too much sheltered and is really not as well-traveled as a truly sophisticated person would be expected to be. The book's Emma never even considers this. It's simply never brought up, but it doesn't make it any less viable in this telling of the story.
Harriet's story, which takes up the first 3rd of the book and a good part of most of the film adaptations is given a secondary treatment here, and we are at last gifted with a Mr. Elton who looks nothing like the clown he is made out to be in other adaptations, but is more true to Miss Austen's words; a pretty decent-looking young fellow. And an interesting twist on his marriage: rather than going along with his horrid, snobbish wife, he actually appears several times to be embarrassed by her behavior. Christina Cole is fabulous as Mrs. Elton and is not given enough screen time, but they would have needed another hour at least to devote to her all the time she deserved.
At last we have a Jane Fairfax who is worthy of Jane Austen's description! She is played here by Laura Pyper as delicate and as refined as she is written, but she is not the fragile, stiff and emotionless mannequin she is made out to be in every other "Emma" film I've seen. She has feelings and shows them, both positive and negative. This is the first adaptation I've seen where I actually LIKED Jane. And for once, Mr. Knightly is played by an actor who is actually the age Mr. Knightly is supposed to be: and attractive, still-young man in only his mid-30's. In all the other adaptations, he's portrayed by actors much older than the 16 years that are supposed to separate Emma and Mr. Knightly. Once again, I feel that Emma's father is played too harshly. He is, of course, a hypochondriac and worrywart of the worst sort, but Miss Austen writes him so much more kindly and warm-hearted than he is ever portrayed on the screen. Miss Bates is toned down a bit here, which an avid reader of the book might not really notice, but she is not given enough time to really show the incessant chatterbox the character is in the book.
In the end, it would be safe to say that Marianne Dashwood would have approved of most everyone in this story. They were all played with full feeling and emotion around an old story that is made new again.
I've always wondered, though, about a couple of crucial scenes in the book and of course portrayed in all the film/TV adaptations that deal with characters complaining of the heat. They are all dressed from the toes to the gills in multiple layers, and as a person living in a part of the USA that regularly sees 100+ temps in the summertime, it does make me wonder just how "hot" the weather was supposed to be.
Didn't improve with age
I first saw this in a theater when it came out, when I was too young to be seeing it. Thus, it went a bit over my head, I thought. I couldn't really put it together and it made almost no impression on me at all. So when I thought about it again recently I figured I'd try watching it now that I'm grown. It was evidently supposed to be an excellent film; the 7.4 rating here indicated it couldn't be horrible.
It's not horrible, but it does suffer from really bad and stilted writing leading to campy over-acting from actors I know for a fact are excellent actors. I still love Patrick Stewart and Helen Mirren in anything I see them in, this film included. But I got the impression the director wanted the actors to all channel Shakespeare and though they tried courageously, the script failed them miserably. It didn't make any impression on me back then because, well, there was no good impression to make.
Its music is not even its own, which for a film of this size and scale would be unthinkable today. If there is any original music in it, it's barely noticeable. I thought this would have been a perfect vehicle for John Williams, but he was busy on Raiders of the Lost Ark at the time. I wonder how much better this film would have been if he'd scored it.
It sounds as if the entire movie was looped in-studio, and very badly.
It is wonderful to look at. The scenery is lush. The darkness and gore are glamorous and the light and beauty are sparkling and lovely. It was fun spotting the younger bit-players, some of whom are now huge, international stars. I loved a young Liam Neeson as a drunk Sir Gawain in the accusation scene at the round table. I appreciate Nicol Williamson's attempt to insert humor into a character who was not written particularly humorously. Charley Boorman was an appropriately creepy-looking little dude at that age. Helen Mirren is, of course, gorgeous as always, but spends a good part of the film with her right hand resting high on her left shoulder for some odd reason. Some of the knights sport some truly bizarre hairstyles. I actually liked Nigel Terry's and Paul Geoffrey's performances. But in the end I found myself both wondering how much better Peter Jackson could have made this film, and feeling very relieved that John Boorman's plans to film The LOTR failed.
Sense and Sensibility (1981)
I really tried
Initially, I found myself wishing I hadn't seen Emma Thompson's version before seeing this one. But about the time I started the 4th half-hour installment I realized that it didn't matter. Even without the 1995 film version to compare it to, this version just falls flat. I've been able to watch and enjoy the smaller, TV-mini-series versions of Austen's novels as much (or even more) than their big, film-versions, but this just didn't work. They were slightly more faithful to the novel, but only slightly, and it didn't work in their favor. The acting is just bad. The actors all seemed as if they were reciting from a teleprompter. I liked very much the production of "Mansfield Park" that came out just a couple of years after this, so I know they were capable of doing so much better. At the very least, the actress playing Marianne should have at least pretended to have as much passion as Marianne was supposed to have, but she didn't even try. I couldn't tell one difference between Marianne's character and Elinor's character. But maybe it was the script. The script didn't seem to give her all that much passion to act out. There are other versions out there that I haven't seen, and I hope they do better.
Mansfield Park (1999)
If you plan to watch this film (or have already watched it and are dissatisfied with it,) try to step back a bit from the Jane Austen novel as it was written (and additionally, the faithful-to-the-novel adaptation in the 1983 6-part mini-series) and try to look at it the way you would a well-written piece of fan fiction. The characters and their basic story lines remain somewhat the same: they have the same beginnings, same names and backgrounds and the same final, end-of-story resolutions, but their personalities and attitudes as well as many of the significant incidents are given a somewhat different treatment. Fanny is the most altered; she has more spunk (waaaaaaaay more spunk, possibly more than is easy to forgive for die-hard Austen fans) and Frances O'Conner is more attractive than Fanny seems to be described in the novel (or as portrayed by the actress in the mini-series.) She is also fashioned a bit as a reflection of Jane Austen herself as a writer of love stories, and even a very subjective POV of a "History of England" novel much like that actually written by Miss Austen as a teenager. Sir Thomas' character is written a little darker and of course the slavery issue becomes one of the centerpieces of the story, something that was glossed over so lightly in the novel and the mini-series that it was barely noticeable. Indeed, it may be brought too much forward to forgive for die-hard Austen fans. I will leave it to others who are better informed and educated than I am to decide whether the 1990's politically-correct ideologies of the young people in this early 19th century story seem unrealistically anachronistic.
However, as a movie by itself, viewed as "inspired by" rather than "based upon" the novel, it works very well. It is interesting and the characters and "enhanced" story lines are mostly well-thought out. Tom Bertram, Jr. is a tortured "artiste," and is not just an idle playboy, but one who is desperately trying to distract himself from the great burden of guilt he carries regarding how his family's fortune is made on the sweat, tears and broken backs of forced, slave labor. The only characters who really do remain truthful to the novel are Lady Bertram and Aunt Norris. I like that it is brought right out in the open that Lady B is a borderline alcoholic (if she hasn't actually crossed over that line.) While Edmund is portrayed still very closely to how he was originally written, he, too, is given a little more of an edge. A little side observation: Embeth Davidtz, who plays Mary Crawford, so much resembles Jackie Smith-Wood, who played the same character in the '83 mini-series that she could be Smith-Wood's daughter (or at least her much-younger sister.)
The ladies' costumes are gorgeous, the prettiest I've ever seen in any Jane Austen film/TV adaptation. If you want a real treat of the history of the ladies' costumes in nearly every, single Regency Period film/TV adaptation made in the last 40 years, check out the "Trivia" section of this title page, as well as the Trivia sections of all the title pages of all the Regency Period TV/films since about 1970. Someone went to a great deal of effort to catalog all of them in minute detail.
House M.D.: Unplanned Parenthood (2010)
Bad sitcom storyline
I'm giving the show a 5 because the medical case was interesting. Not being a physician, I have no idea how plausible it was, but to a person who knows next to nothing about real medicine, it was very original and interesting.
The "B" storyline, however, was the worst of the worst of old, tired sitcom variety. In fact, only Bill Cosby can really make comic story lines with young children work. As fabulous an actor and comedian as Hugh Laurie is, he was unable to make the "babysitting" storyline work. It was just bad and embarrassing as House and Wilson, the 2 non-fathers acting goofy and silly but not at all funny, try to hide the slightly damaged child from the unsuspecting Mom along with all the ancient and over-used poopy diaper gags. Just really stupid stuff straight out of old, '70's sitcoms. If this is the way the rest if the season is going to play out, we may be seeing the last one.
I rather liked this. Given that the film makers were not limited to two hours, they were able to be faithful and true to the book. The few alterations were negligible and in many cases improvements. For a taped, studio-bound TV production, the sets and props were attractive and varied. The costumes were lovely and I liked the variation from the blatant cleavage-bearing dresses of more recent productions. I really appreciated Emma's expressing out loud to various characters the thoughts and feelings that in the book she keeps to herself. Her ranting about Mrs. Elton to Knightly and his endearing amusement in her irritation was a wonderful touch.
I'm not sure I cared for several of the characterizations here as compared to how they're described in the book or played in other adaptations. Mr. Woodhouse and Jane Fairfax are both much too harsh and sharp. Though I loved the actor playing him, Mr. Woodhouse should be much more sweet-tempered and warm-hearted. Jane Fairfax should be more gracious. Her shouting at Miss Bates in her first scene is completely out-of-character, however her emotional stress and discomfort comes through much better here than is described in the book and really seems more authentic. For some bizarre reason, good-looking, 23-year-old Frank Churchill was cast with an unattractive, 40-year-old actor and his performance does not excuse the poor casting choice. He was the only real disappointment.
It was hard not to be reminded in some ways of the 1996 theatrical production. I really wondered if Gwyneth Paltrow saw this and decided to base her portrayal of Emma on Doran Godwin's. I saw many similarities, though I prefer Paltrow's depth of feeling. I prefer Debbie Bowen's Harriet to Toni Collette's. Miss Bates and the Eltons can each be played only one way and they are well-served here. All in all, if you're a fan of the book, this is a very satisfactory interpretation.
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
This is my favorite adaptation of any of Austen's novels. Initially, I had to get used to nearly all the characters being cast by actors who are much as 15 to 20 years too old for their parts. Winslet and Francois are nearly the only 2 that are the correct age for their characters. But everyone is so good that within 45 minutes I had more than forgiven the casting oddity and just enjoyed it immensely.
Emma Thompson rightly deserved the Oscar for this screenplay (I even remember her accepting the Oscar - she was genuinely stunned!) It "sparkles." The dialog is endearing and quick without being too "contemporary," the performances are likewise easy and elegant without being either stilted or, again, too modern. Margaret's character particularly is given a wonderful treatment here seen in no other adaptation. (Where is Emilie Francois now!?!? She is just wonderful in this!) The cinematography is breathtaking and the music heartbreaking. It's silly to dwell on the little parts that "don't match" with the book because Thompson so perfectly captured spirit of the novel. I've wished often that she had been commissioned to write the Harry Potter screenplays. I've seen this a dozen times and will certainly watch it again and again.
It's unfortunate that the title of the book is "Half-Blood Prince," because, really, given what the story is really about, that part was sort of a "B" story-line. The ancient textbook was important for the first potion-making scene (Harry HAD to win that Felix Felicis) but after that, it could have very easily been dropped from the storyline. Snape's original ownership of the book, his half-blood parentage, even the Sectusempra spell could all easily have been dropped to make room for more important details, since none of these figure prominently in Deathly Hallows. From the film makers' standpoint, that must have been annoying.
Like all the films, important details were disastrously dropped from this one and I could hear each one shattering as it was brushed carelessly off the table. The teenybopper romance theme took soooo much more time than it should have. It needed to be there a LITTLE bit, but instead it dominated the whole picture. I liked the Quidditch, always my favorite scenes in any of the films, but it just didn't need to be there this time. YES, I know things have to be cut. I understand that it would have to be a six hour film to put it all in. But the Horcruxes were CRUCIAL and they were little more than an after-thought here. I've read the reasons why the film makers decided to cut the battle scene between the DE's and the DA at the end, but I completely disagree with those reasons. The fact that the battle is missing at the end was sad enough, but the fact that Harry was NOT immobilized at the end yet did nothing to help Dumbledore is an appalling oversight.
This is not the worst adaptation. As JUST a film, it's good. If you think of it as only "inspired by" the book instead of "based upon" it then it's much easier to forgive what's missing. If you've never read the book at all (or only read it once in '06 and don't remember most of it like my husband who I know will read this) you'll really like it a lot. I LOVE the introduction to Harry; it's completely made-up for the film but it was an inspired idea. The SFX are, of course, fantastic. The score is the very best yet; I downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes just as soon as I'd seen the film. The dialog is very good and very funny in places. Dan and Rupert Have really grown as actors and Gambon has finally aged enough to look as old as Dumbledore is supposed to be. All in all, I'm not sorry I bought the DVD.
One last thing. I can't imagine why Snape would have ever let that book out of his sight in the first place.
Autumn in New York (2000)
I decided to at least try it...
...even after reading all the bad reviews, even though I intensely dislike both the main actors, even though I dislike the entire "May/December romance" genre....
I simply couldn't resist the title: Aumumn in New York. Manymanymany movies that take place in New York City use the city itself as a character. And occasionally, when New York is made a character in its own right, it becomes the Best Actor (or Actress, if you're so inclined.) And that's what happened here.
It makes for a wonderful song, beautiful scenery and a romantic idea, but aside from how wonderfully New York played its leading role, the story placed in it sucks.
There was a lovely scene in Central Park among all those gorgeous, brilliant-yellow leaves, some poignant landscape scenes of The City In The Fog and Snow, and the tune listed as "Elegy for Charlotte" on the soundtrack is worth the entire CD.
Surely, in the future, a reasonably talented movie-maker will take this wonderful title and leading character and give them both a good movie. I can't believe somebody hasn't already. I hope they do, soon; the faster I can forget this one, the better.