Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Anonymous, The Film- My Review

Well, "The Squire" and I went to see Anonymous tonight.  I was very skeptical going in as I don't buy into the premise of the film, namely that all the works of William Shakespeare were actually penned by a member of the aristocracy, one Earl of Oxford. So I decided to assess it on sheer entertainment value alone.

First of all, the acting is unquestionably wonderful. I think the acting and the costumes and the CGI flyovers of the streets of London are the reason to see this film. I especially adored the CGI version of the old London Bridge with all of the shops and houses perched along it, just as it would have been in Shakespeare's day. I did not like mistakes such as the use of the double ring marriage ceremony for the Earl of Oxford and his wife Anne Cecil. You don't have to be a historian to know that men didn't wear wedding rings regularly until the early 20th century.  Ah, well...I suppose historical accuracy is unimportant to the man who directed Independence Day and 2012 (especially since this is supposed to be a revisionist history flick)!

Now if you take this story as fiction, which is what it is, (and don't let it raise your blood pressure) then you will probably enjoy it. It is certainly not one that I would want to own. It won't make your heart sing like Shakespeare in Love, which is a particular favourite of mine.  However it is a political thriller at heart and not a romance, and it does the political thriller genre quite well I thought. The story revolves around who will succeed Queen Elizabeth for the throne upon her death. Will it be the Scottish King James, or will it be one of the apparently many bastard children to whom Queen Elizabeth gave birth over her lifetime (oops, spoiler!).

So you see how the fiction factor is particularly high in this film.  Good thing too because hopefully this won't be introduced into high school curricula thus confusing the poor little things more than they already are.

Perhaps one of the good things about this film is that it will lead some of us to actually read up on  documented Elizabethan history.  I could certainly use a few more "facts" in my memory bank.  Although as Jane Austen said:

“Real solemn history, I cannot be interested in....The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all -- it is very tiresome: and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention."
 Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey

So, I suppose if history is mostly invention, then we should be used to stories like this one by now. Winston Churchill said "History is written by the victors", and now it is written by the screenplay writers and directors too!

Seriously though, I liked it, but I wasn't lovin' it. A good rental perhaps?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Billy Elliot - The Film (2000)

Although I had seen Billy Elliot when it first came out and really enjoyed it, I enjoyed it MUCH more this time. Isn't it amazing how at a different time of your life, a film or a book will strike you in a very different way? I was absolutely bawling last night (and alternately laughing-something the Brits do particularly well) and this is now one of my favourite films.

Just to jog your memory, a young boy whose mother has recently died is living with his miner father and brother (who are in the midst of the Thatcher era coal strike of 1984) and his occasionally lucid Grandma and is trying to find his way as an artistic soul in an industrial town in County Durham (Northern England).

When his father's preferred after school activity of boxing doesn't work out, he finds a dance class which suits his interests and abilities much better. However, boys doing ballet in the North of England in 1984 are like aliens walking down the High Street.

Jamie Bell is absolutely transfixing as young Billy. Jamie also grew up in County Durham in a single parent home, learning to dance with his mother and sister but having to hide the fact so as to avoid being called a "poof". He obviously channels this angst as well as his love of dance into this meaty role (he prefers tap to ballet however).

Julie Walters is fab as the all too real, cigarette puffing dance instructor who has her own issues to deal with. She received an Oscar nomination for this wonderful role.

Mrs. Wilkinson: This'll sound strange, Billy, but for some time now I've been thinkin' of the Royal Ballet School.
Billy: Aren't you a bit old, miss?
Mrs. Wilkinson: No, not me... you! I'm the bloody teacher!

The girl who plays Debbie, the dance teacher's daughter is absolutely hysterical.

Debbie: Dad did it with this woman from work but they don't think I know. 
Billy: So what about your mother? Does she have sex?
Debbie: No, she's unfulfilled. That's why she dances.
Billy: She dances instead of sex? Your family's weird! 

Gary Lewis couldn't get any better as the crusty miner pining for his wife and trying to do what is best for his son.

Billy: So, what's it like, like?
Dad: What's what like?
Billy: London.
Dad: I don't know, son. I never made it past Durham.
Billy: Have you never been?
Dad: Why would I want to go to London?
Billy: It's the capital city!
Dad: Well, there are no mines in London.
Billy: Jesus Christ, is that all you think about?

Billy: Just because I like ballet doesn't mean I'm a poof, you know.

Anyway, if you haven't seen this for a while, it's a great "evening in" film. If you have never seen it, you are in for a treat. A few things to note:

1. The accent takes a few minutes to tune your ear to. Don't get discouraged in the first few minutes of the film (or just put the closed captioning on).

2. There is a bit of swearing in Billy Elliot. It is rated R for this reason, so if you are sensitive to this, beware.

3. The word "fanny" means a slightly different area of the nether region in England than it does in North America!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anonymous- Was Shakespeare a Fraud? Methinks not!

Anonymous: The Film
"Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, Anonymous speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Sigmund Freud, namely: who actually created the body of work credited to William Shakespeare? Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses one possible answer, focusing on a time when scandalous political intrigue, illicit romances in the Royal Court, and the schemes of greedy nobles lusting for the power of the throne were brought to light in the most unlikely of places: the London stage."

Rhys Ifans as the Earl of Oxford who in my opinion did NOT author any Shakespearean texts

As I was researching this post in anticipation of the release of "Anonymous" in a few weeks' time, I was actually sucked in just for a moment. Just a brief moment. And then I shook my head and did some more research and I am now quite convinced that although this might make a good story, it is a work of fiction. That is a polite way of saying that this film is a bunch of bunk. But that is OK, as long as it is made clear to viewers that this is truly fiction/bunk and we should watch it for entertainment and not information.

Sam Reid as the Earl of Essex in Anonymous

I do not claim to be an English scholar, but I have now read enough to believe that there are enough contemporary accounts referencing William Shakespeare of Stratford as the author of these plays and sonnets, to discount all of the so called evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, as an educated Canadian woman who is descended from English coal miners and cotton mill workers and shoemakers, some of whom were in the workhouse during the 19th century, I find the idea that only a highly educated member of the aristocracy could have written Shakespeare's prose and poetry offensive. Poppycock and twaddle I say!

Joely Richardson as young Queen Elizabeth and Jamie Campbell Bower as young Oxford

However, as someone who adores the film Shakespeare in Love, which never purports to be anything but fiction, I am open to seeing this film and hopefully enjoying it as an Elizabethan political thriller. There are certainly a fine collection of actors in this (Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Rafe Spall, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis et al).  There are also a lot of fab costumes. And I am a total sucker for a CGI flyover of the Thames in any century that isn't the 21st!

Vanessa Redgrave as the apparently not so virginal Queen Elizabeth

So bring on the intrigue, incest and incredible distortion of the facts. I just want the eye candy!

What do you think? Shakespeare or the Earl of Oxford? See the film or pass on it? Let me know what you think.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow- Actor of the week

Gwyneth as a perfectly coiffed Emma
I have mixed feelings about Gwyneth Paltrow. She has starred in two of my favourite films, Emma and Shakespeare in Love but she is also author of the beautiful and informative but truly smug blog GOOP. If you have never checked out her blog, you really need to see it to believe it. People magazine recently used the verb "gooped" as in: Gwyneth liked this lip gloss so much, she "gooped" about it.

I wonder if she knows how pretentious she sounds giving advice on buying contemporary art and showing off photos of all the Neil Lane jewels she had to choose from for her latest Emmy appearance? I think not...

Shakespeare in love...I adore this flick!

As well as the lovely Emma and Shakespeare in Love, she has starred in a few other period goodies...

Gwyneth as Sylvia Plath in Sylvia
She played the tortured poet Sylvia Plath in Sylvia...

Gwyneth as Patsy Jefferson early in her career
I never knew that she played Patsy Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's daughter in Jefferson in Paris from 1995. This is a Merchant/Ivory production and stars Nick Nolte as Thomas Jefferson, which may have something to do with it's low rating on IMDb. I'd still like to see it however. Have you seen this one? Did you like it?

Gwyneth in Possession with Aaron Eckhart
Gwyneth also played the contemporary role of Maud Bailey in the film Possession, which I classify as a period film as Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam appear in the Victorian flashback segments.

Gwyneth Paltrow and the adorable John Hannah from Sliding Doors
And although it is totally NOT a period drama, I really loved her in Sliding Doors, possibly because she seemed so real in it and because she had the good taste to fall in love with the adorable Scotsman John Hannah. Hmmmm....I might watch this one again soon!

Anyway, I think she is a great actress, but I will somehow enjoy watching her get older...ah, schadenfreude!

Monday, October 10, 2011

An Ideal Husband 1999 starring Rupert Everett

An Ideal Husband 1999

"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance." 

Rupert Everett was made for Oscar Wilde. And of course, he plays the Wilde type character of Lord Goring in An Ideal Husband with such relish that you almost think you are seeing Oscar Wilde himself on the screen. Bravo!!!

Cate Blanchett struts her stuff in An Ideal Husband

I won't give the plot away in case you haven't seen this film or the play on which it is based. Suffice it to say that Jeremy Northam and Cate Blanchett play the "ideal couple" Sir Robert and Lady Gertrude Chiltern in this story who of course find things a bit rocky for a while. Everett plays the confirmed bachelor Lord Goring and Minnie Driver plays the naughty but nice Miss Mabel who is interested in him. Julianne Moore plays the just plain nasty Mrs. Cheveley who stirs things up quite handily for all.

Rupert Everett and Cate Blanchett having a serious conversation
"All I know, Gertrude, is that it takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it. And even more courage to see it in the one you love. Gertrude, you have more courage than any woman I have ever known. Do not be afraid now to use it." 

You'll hate Julianne Moore and love Jeremy Northam as you should!
 "A rather charming little idea has come into my head, and now that I consider it, I find it to be a rather charming big idea."

Minnie Driver has a riot with this role as usual

"My dear father, if we men married the women we deserved... we should have a very bad time of it."

Well, I will leave you with Oscar Wilde's wise words and my hearty recommendation of this film. Oh, and the play is pretty darn good too if you are lucky enough to see it live!


P.S. If any of you have seen the lower budget but perhaps "closer to the play" version from 2000 with Jonathan Firth, James Wilbey and Sadie Frost, please let me know what you think. I love the above version very much, but I am always open, especially to a brother of Colin Firth!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pan Am- The Television Series

My new guilty pleasure is the retro television series Pan Am about stewardesses in the 1960s. Yes, they were actually called stewardesses in those days and yes, I wanted to be a stewardess when I was a little girl. This show brings back all the reasons why!

It's not high art but then what did I say about guilty pleasure? Light fluffy plot and lots of eye candy! Whether you like the hunky pilots (who do truly look a little young to be flying those planes) or the gorgeous women (1 runaway bride, 2 spies, a feminist who stabs an unruly passenger with a fork and a French coquette) there is lots to ogle. Even the planes are pretty to look at. And it makes you wonder which year airplane food ceased to exist as the meals on these plane look delectable. And full bottles of champagne????

Does the runaway bride stewardess who has her photo on life magazine look like she is having second thoughts about not settling down stateside? No, I didn't think so either.

PanAm Explorer Bag from

If the accessories have you drooling you can purchase this PanAm flight bag at  Lots of other goodies on that site too.

Anyway, this is where you will find me on Sunday nights until Downton Abbey begins again in January. And even after that, I might be able to squeeze them both in!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Room with a View- 1985

Helena Bonham-Carter as Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View

Do you know what the problem with movies on TV is? Other than the stupid commercial breaks of course. The problem is that you think you have seen a movie and you haven't really seen it at all!

Helena Bonham-Carter and Julian Sands in A Room with a View

I thought I had seen A Room with a View. How much of it I had actually seen I really don't know. I saw the parts with the pensione. I saw the part with the fight in the square and Lucy fainting. I saw the hilarious part where the two young men are joined in their naked bathing by the naked vicar. I had definitely seen that part, even though it was on TV (must have been on City TV, the notoriously liberal Toronto station). But I hadn't really SEEN it.

A Room with a View

Well, that was remedied this week. I have now truly seen A Room with a View and I think it is wonderful. So wonderful that I now absolutely have to read the novel. For me, I think that is the ultimate compliment for an adaptation of a classic novel. In this case 26 years have not aged this production at all. No one has eighties hair and it is not done on video, but shot on location in gorgeous film. The only thing that jars is how young the actors look. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are in their prime in this film. They are middle aged and they are gorgeous! Helena Bonham-Carter is nearing that stage now in real life, but in this film she is the fresh faced young Lucy Honeychurch who I couldn't bear to see engage herself to the poncy Cecil Vyse played by that chameleon Daniel Day-Lewis!

A Room with a View

Well I will leave it at that, other than to say that if you haven't truly SEEN this film either, or if it has been a while since you have seen it, I highly recommend it as an alternative to the trash on TV these days. As an aside, I watched the premier of Pan Am this week on television and I have to say, I adored it. Sunday nights are now looking brighter while I wait for Downton Abbey to return for season 2!

P.S. I watched this film in it's entirety here on YouTube this week. I have seen other productions on YouTube but they are broken into 10 minute segments. This was the whole thing! Uncut! Which is how it should be watched.

P.P.S. I saw the ITV television adaptation of the novel when it aired in 2007. Andrew Davies did a very nice job as usual and I really enjoyed it. However I LOVED the older film version. Anyone else seen both? What did you think?



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