Jackie (2016)

2 Kernels

On November 22, 1963, I was thirteen years old. (Yes, I’m that old.) Some memories are burned into your brain that never fade away. One of those in my life was the date President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I was in school when the news was announced to the class. Instantly, many broke out in inconsolable tears, and I remember running off to the restroom to cry with other girls over the tragic announcement. The days that followed were somber in our nation.

Having lived through the time period, I thought that I would stream Jackie. The movie is an intimate look into Jackie’s life as First Lady and the hours and days that followed after the tragedy in Dallas. Natalie Portman definitely deserved the Oscar nomination for her performance of this iconic woman. And as highly rated as the movie itself has been on Rotten Tomatoes from critics, it is obvious that it’s difficult to separate her performance from the movie production itself. Unfortunately, I found the manner in which the story was told decidedly painful in many respects. I could easily give Portman a five-kernel accolade but leave the movie itself with a two-kernal review.

Rather than walking through those days in sequential order, Jackie narrates to a reporter her experience as First Lady, Jack’s assassination, and the days that followed. It’s a disjointed effort that removes the audience from the event itself. However, this movie is not about Jack Kennedy it’s about Jacqueline Kennedy, and her innermost emotions during this painful time. Perhaps the screenwriter chose to bring Jackie’s life and sorrows in this fashion to enhance the narration it provides. Who really knows, though, the intent and truth of what had gone through her mind and heart? Rather than keeping the audience engaged, it becomes a tedious one hour and thirty-five minutes of listening to Portman’s monotone vocal dissertation of the events. In doing so, it rarely allows the audience to experience the shock, sorrow, and depressing aftermath of assassination first hand. Once again, though, this is not about Jack – it’s about Jackie.

The days of President Kennedy’s time in office from January 20, 1961, to November 22, 1963, were often coined as being in Camelot. Jackie had performed her duty as First Lady with grace and dignity as a highly educated woman who loved her country. However, the instant the gunshot rang out and tore through her husband’s brain, leaving her covered in blood, her perfect life had shattered like his skull. The prestige and position had been ripped away and given to another. Though Jackie admits in the movie that every First Lady should be prepared to one day leave the White House, it is obvious by the end of the movie that her departure had been a cruel and unexpected turn of events.

This movie is not an engaging emotional retelling of the assassination, but a rather an attempt to the inner workings of Jackie Kennedy during that time period.  It’s not for those easily bored but if you’re fascinated about this woman, you may find it of interest. Afterward, you might agree with me that it would have been better served in a documentary format rather than a motion picture.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review – Delightful!

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After thinking that the 10 a.m. show wouldn’t be too crowded, I arrived early to find patrons standing in line for tickets. I was surprised to see tiny tots, two years old and up, wiggling to get in and demanding popcorn for breakfast. Naturally, my first thought was that the next two hours would turn into a screaming match of restless, bored kids.  Instead, they were glued to their seats. And it’s no wonder why.

The movie is a delightful live version of a familiar tale with human beings, a furry beast, and characters who have given life to the 1991 animated version. Disney magic is sprinkled throughout the film with such wonder, that most of that time I sat dumbfounded like a child. I haven’t felt such awe and wonder since my love and obsession with Sleeping Beauty when I was a little girl. The music, the sets, the costumes, and, of course, the candlestick, clock, armoire, teapot and cup, among others, are as alive as the flesh and blood in their cursed existence.

At the beginning, I did have some concern about Emma Watson playing Belle, but for the most part (except for a few scenes), she fit the part fine.  My only complaint was her rather lackluster reaction to “Be Our Guest” while she sat at the table, while I on, the other hand, had my mouth dropping open in utter amazement. And you must admit, too, that since this is a very French town, her English accent doesn’t quite fit in – of course, it’s a mishmash of French accents, American, and English thrown into one movie from all the stars.

Luke Evans does a fine job as the conceited, but crueler, Gaston, while Josh Gad is his admirer as LeFou, who comes across as predicted with his admiration of the opposite sex. Had it not been mentioned beforehand, you probably wouldn’t have picked up on it until the very last scene. LeFou is not the only character to display a different orientation, as an added cross-dressing moment enjoyed by one character is part of the townspeople battling with the furniture. Could the innuendos have been eliminated? Absolutely. For a children’s fairytale, it’s unneeded but Disney didn’t ask for the public’s opinion during the filming.

Kevin Kline plays a fairly convincing Maurice. Bravo to the wolves, horse, enchantress, townspeople, and everything else moving about in the doomed castle. The songs were delightful, and as far as voices, I frankly didn’t think a world-class soprano was needed among the scenery and choreographed scenes to make it any move lovely.

Belle’s dress and the lovely waltz while the iconic song is sung by Emma Thompsonbeauty11 (rather than Angela Lansbury who has owned the tune for years), is beautiful.  It’s touching and the perfect fairy tale moment of two people falling in love – even though one is really hairy.

Though you do not see much of Dan Stevens out of the beastly costume, he is quite convincing while in it, making you wonder if he was walking on stilts. The movement of his eyes and mouth looked natural, even though the beast definitely could use some dental work. The only time I thought it looked rather fake, is when he is lying in bed without a shirt recovering from his wounds. His fur looked more like a stuffed animal from a toy store and rather tacky.

The tale as old as time is true to the original but elaborates a bit more on the unspoken in the animated version, such as what happened to Belle’s mother and more background on the Prince. You also don’t have to scratch your head about how Belle gets the beast onto the horse after the fight with the wolves. It’s the little plot holes that are filled, which help to round out this version on a deeper level.

As much as I liked the remaking of Cinderella in live action, this one has its merits as well, keeping a tale as old as time relevant for future generations. The iconic message of learning to love and looking beyond appearances in others will endure because of this newer version that brings mere animation into brilliant life and colors.

And, yes, I shed a tear at the end.

Desperate Romantics (2009 BBC)

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Artistic license – to watch this six-part series, you absolutely need to know the meaning behind that term because at the beginning of each episode you will read:

In the mid-19th century, a group of young men challenged the art establishment of the day. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were inspired by the real world about them, yet took imaginative license in their art. This story, based on their lives and loves, follows in that inventive spirit.”

Desperate Romantics is an interesting look into the young lives of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais, who were a group of English painters (and poets).  To learn about their painting and inspiration, you might want to read the article on Wikipedia.

This particular series is a bit raunchy, to say the least, with explicit sex scenes and lots of nudity.  Definitely in the “R-Rated” category.  However, beyond the bare skin and sex, is a complex set of characters from painters, models, art critics, prostitutes, and admirers of these three talented men who go about London with their radical ideas of artwork.  If you’ve seen the movie and read my review of Effie Gray you’ll see a semi-repeat of the story of John Ruskin (played by Tom Hollander) and his wife who eventually has their marriage annulled because her husband would not consummate it.

The rakish of rakes is Rossetti, played by Aidan Turner, who is quite the character (and often copulating and nude).  He’s lazy, a womanizer, unrepentant liar, and disloyal to close friends, yet eventually becomes a brilliant artist in his own right. His love affair and subsequent marriage to his model, Lizzie Siddal, is heartbreaking.  Here is her true story on Wikipedia.  One of his art pieces is below.

Lady Lilth
“Lady Lilith” (1866) Dante Gabriel Rossetti

John Everett Millais’ story (played by Samuel Barnett), who painted Ophelia is quite interesting. Lizzie Siddal models for him while floating in a bathtub of water. Millais is so engrossed in his work that he doesn’t realize the water has gone cold and she nearly drowns and later becomes ill.  Millais is the youngest of the three, innocent, and endearing in nature.  His career is launched early but falls into ill favor with his former patron, Ruskin, because he marries Effie.  His famous painting of “Ohpelia” is below.

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“Ophelia” (1852) John Everett Millais

William Holman Hunt (played by Rafe Spall) is attracted to fallen women but wrestles with his spiritual beliefs and subsequent guilt. He’s an odd character to say the least, having attempted to reform a prostitute that he wants to marry. When she breaks his heart, he’s so pathetically sad that it’s quite funny.  One of his works is below.

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“His Rienzi” 1848 – William Holman Hunt

Then there is a fourth character, Fred Walters, who is excited to hang around these talented individuals. He finds Lizzie Siddal by accident and approaches the brotherhood to introduce a perfect model.  Throughout the story he struggles with his emotions and love for Lizzie, and is constantly at odds with Rossetti and for good reason.

The series is delightful, to say the least, and well acted.  Unfortunately, it didn’t fair very well in the eyes of the critics and dwindling audiences while it aired.  It’s a shame, frankly, because I think it could have gone on for a few more seasons with an entertaining story line. The last episode brought me to tears of sorrow but then led me to laugh at the final declaration from Fred Walters, who narrates the story as well.

I’m not quite sure why this series tickled my fancy.  It is rather scathingly risque in many scenes, but the characters are all so vastly interesting and intriguing with their nuances. I suppose as an author, I’m always fascinated with human behavior and this series is filled with characters and their oddities.

You may or may not like this BBC release, which is now streaming on Britbox.  It’s not for the sexually faint, but if you like complex characters with their many foibles with incredible talent, you may like it quite a bit.

Midsomer Murders Retires Sykes

Midsomer Murders waved farewell to a much loved veteran star of the show when Sykes, Barnaby’s beloved pet dog, hung up his lead and retired from the show at the end of the last series.

Source: Midsomer Murders says farewell as Sykes retires

I didn’t know that beloved Sykes had gone into retirement until I tuned into Season 18 of Midsomer Murders on Acorn TV. To my horror, the dog is now buried in Barnaby’s backyard! I wanted to weep and quickly Googled to make sure Sykes (that cutie) was still alive and hadn’t actually crossed the Rainbow Bridge into doggy heaven. The talented pooch has gone into retirement. I, on the other hand, will be working well into my old age even in doggy years.

The furry friend has been replaced by a new dog in town named Paddy. In addition, a new Sergeant has arrived at DCI Barnaby’s side. Oh, the joys of parting bushes in the dark of night where lurking killers wait for their victims! I’m back to devouring British crime.

Apparently, Season 19 has been in the works. It’s a never ending village of gruesome deaths where residents quickly repopulate the quaint villages, replacing the deceased. It’s a wonder anyone is left.

The Moonstone (2016 BBC TV)

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Ah, BritBox!  My second series to binge upon was The Moonstone, which is a five episode drama based on a  detective novel by Wilkie Collins written in 1868.  This tale is a classic who-done-it that will keep you guessing until you find out who-did-it.

The moonstone is actually a yellow diamond that has been stolen by a corrupt British officer while in India. The stone is revered, precious, and outrageously big.  When he dies, he bequeaths the stone to Rachel, his niece. Unfortunately, with that gift comes problems, greed, and danger.

Upon her eighteenth birthday party, Franklin Blake, Rachel’s cousin, has been entrusted to give her the stone now that she is of age. Once again we are faced with cousins romantically entangled with one another in the series as two vie for Rachel’s affections. She has a large birthday party celebration where everyone in attendance gets to see the fabulous diamond and handle it. Insistent that she merely keep it in a drawer in a cabinet in her room overnight, she discovers in the morning that it has been stolen.

The story is an interesting premises where the audience is brought along to remember the occurrences of that evening as reflected upon a year later. Franklin returns to England, hoping to win back Rachel’s heart, but he knows he must find the stone in order to do so. An interesting group of characters are all suspects, including Rachel, and the whereabouts of the stone and its current location remains a mystery. Even traveling Indian Hindu priests wanting to return the stone to India are suspects in the missing stone.

Of course, we are back in the Victorian era of cousins falling in love with cousins, and this time Rachel has two quite dashingly handsome men wanting her hand in marriage. If anything, the story kept me intrigued trying to figure out who stole the diamond, and the end has a few surprising twists and turns as the mystery is solved.

Apparently this is the second time this series has hit television, with Greg Wise being Edward Blake in an earlier BBC version in 1997. There is even another movie version in 1934, which is an American mystery film.  Who knew?  Apparently, not me because I’ve never heard of this gem (no pun intended) until I subscribed to BritBox.

Okay, I’m off my soap box.  It’s worth the watch.