Any Human Heart (2010 Masterpiece Classic)

3 Kernels

Cast:  Sam Claflin, Matthew Macfadyen, Jim Broadbent

Another night surfing for something to watch brought me to this Masterpiece Classic on Netflix consisting of four episodes.  Any Human Heart is based on a novel written by William Boyd, which I have not read.  As far as how close the Masterpiece adaptation is to the written work, I have no idea.

It’s frankly an emotional journey about one man – Logan Mountstuart from his coming of age to his death.  The movie starts on his pursuit to lose his virginity, along with his college friends that he remains fairly close to throughout life.  Of course, like all young men, virginity is lost, and the boy grows into a man.  Warning: There are some very graphic sexual scenes that may offend.  They are boys in rut.

The story follows his pursuit to become a novelist, for which he accomplishes the writing of one book and never seems to come to a place of finishing another.  Life takes him through a loveless marriage, an affair with his one true love, his stint as a British naval intelligence officer during WWII, his rubbing elbows with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Edward VIII and his wife Wallis Simpson, and finally ending up a recruited, but clueless revolutionary.  Portions of his life are lived in opulent wealth, while toward the end of life he’s eating dog food to survive.

There are three actors who play Logan from young man to old – Sam Claflin, Matthew Macfadyen, Jim Broadbent.  I enjoyed Matthew fairly well, but I cannot say it was his best performance.  Logan, as a character, is interesting enough. He lives with the philosophy of his father, that life is merely about luck.  It’s either good luck or back luck.  There isn’t a God.  There’s only luck, and you hear that phrase until you’re tired of hearing that phrase.  The greatest heartache of his life revolves around his wife, daughter, and unborn child he loses during the war.  It’s a loss he never truly recovers from the remainder of his days.

Any Human Heart isn’t the best of series that I’ve watched.  It’s mildly engaging and a thoughtful look at the meaning of life from birth to death.  By the end you’re beginning to weigh the good and bad luck in your own life.  One part of the movie I did enjoy was the multiple times Logan sat down, rolled a piece of paper into the typewriter, and sat there waiting for his next book to come out of him.  He had writer’s block that lasted for a lifetime and a blank page that never got filled.

Hysteria (Movie 2011)

3 Kernels

Stars:  Hugh Dancy and  Maggie Gyllenhaal

Hysteria is a movie that was released in 2011 with limited distribution.  I believe it played downtown Portland for a short time, so I waited until it hit the DVD circuit.  For a while, I put off seeing it until a friend at work reminded me about it.

Let me begin this review by saying that if you’re on the prudish side of life and don’t like movies about our evolution when it comes to human sexuality, you probably won’t like this movie.  You need an open mind to watch it, but you also need to understand that the content is historically accurate.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching the Victorian era because of my work as an author.  Physicians of that day had eschewed thoughts about women when it came to their pleasure in bed.  Though we write tons of romance books about handsome men of that era sweeping weak-willed women off their feet to give them hot sex, it’s really overplay.  Women were not looked upon as creatures who had orgasms of pleasures.  They were merely there to bear children as a result of men having sex with them.

Hysteria is about that time in medical history when doctors thought that women who were over emotional, a condition they termed as hysteria, needed sexual stimulation in the doctor’s office — not in the marriage bed. Women suffering from hysteria would undergo “pelvic massage” – manual stimulation of the genitals by the doctor until the patient experienced “hysterical paroxysm” (orgasm).

The main character is a young doctor who comes to practice with another physician.  Hysteria in the female population is out of control and pelvic massage is needed. Shocker, I know.   Of course, the new doctor on staff is extremely handsome, so the office is crowded and lined down the street with waiting women to be relieved of their hysteria.  As a result of overtaxing himself, he develops carpal tunnel and comes up with the device, which was the first vibrator.

What I find most amusing is that the Victorians were so proper and prudish about so many things. Yet their ignorance in the field of medicine led them to practice a behavior that in today’s society would be criminal. Moral behavior for a woman was expected. However, your doctor could bring you to a pleasurable experience and nothing would be thought wrong of it. Honestly, you have to see the humor in it all. Do women today visit their doctors to be stimulated for pleasure? He’d lose his license and probably end up behind bars. But here we are in the Victorian age, and doctors are actually bringing scores of women to a blissful experience, all in the name of medical treatment. Finally, the vibrator is invented as a device to aid treatment at home and spare the young doctor’s sore hand.

I see nothing morally wrong in the movie or disgusting. It was a day when removal of ovaries was a common practice to calm the female psyche; and unfortunately, many women died because of poor and unsanitary surgical conditions.  Men wanted docile females, but over half the population was filled with sexually starved females instead. Kudos to the makers of this movie for addressing such a historically delicate and vibrating subject with much humor.

Monarch of the Glen (2000 – 2005)

monarch-of-the-glen-dvd4 Kernels

 The Bankrupt Estate

Stars:  Alastair Mackenzie, Richard Briers, Susan Hampshire
Type:  TV Series – BBC Scotland

I’ve been streaming Monarch of the Glen for a few weeks now and have made my way through Season 4. There are a few more ahead of me, but I’ve peeked online and read what is to come. No surprises await me.

When Season 1 began, I was quickly drawn into the story and the lives of all the players with great interest. Archie, the reluctant Laird, played by cutie Alastair Mackenzie, is a keen personality drawn home to Glenbogle and a position he doesn’t care to hold. The family estate is bankrupt, his father is in denial of the problems, and his mother schemes to keep Archie there. Archie, however, is determined to make it a short visit and hopes to return to his overbearing girlfriend and entrepreneurship as a restaurant owner in London. The family estate contain painful memories of a brother who drowned in the loch.

As the story ensues, he is sucked back into the world of his childhood. His dead ancestors, along with his parents, are determined to make him face up to his responsibilities as the Laird of Glenbogle. Events lead to just that – he abandons his life in London and roots himself back into his heritage. His family and the staff are an eclectic mixture of personalities, as well as family friends and potential loves. Of some interest, one friend of the family and neighbor is played by Julian Fellowes, who later went on to write Downton Abbey.  The first three seasons I thoroughly enjoyed, but as the seasons continued on, I found myself losing interest.

Archie’s first love interest, Katrina, made a great angst-filled love story of two personalities clashing together, who were both too proud to admit their feelings. When they finally do, the actress who plays the part leaves the show, and we are left with Archie once again seeking to adjust.

Lexie, the cook and housemaid, has her eyes on Archie; but, of course, the class separation looms before her as an obstacle. Golly and Duncan are great side characters and employees of the estate.  Hector, Archie’s father, and Molly his mother, are wonderful characters in their own right. The story focuses upon their intent to get the estate out of debt before the bank forecloses and forces them to sell. As they struggle to get out of debt, life goes on with its ups and down, along with humorous and lighthearted episodes that continue to entertain. There are a few characters I grew to dislike, however, especially from the bank!

Unfortunately, I found the series losing steam toward the end. Huge changes in casting and story line occurred, and the blending of the characters you’ve come to love, suddenly unravel. People leave the show, replacements come in, and things change. I think, too, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed over Archie’s choice of a love interest in Lexie at first. For so long there was no spark between the two, and then suddenly he confesses he’s loved her all along. The emotionless expression on his face gave me the impression he was settling rather than being head-over-heels in love, which is the story I would have preferred to see. I see in the episodes ahead, a little more emotion between the two, though.

In any event, it’s a good and entertaining watch. The Scottish history and heritage is fascinating. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and makes me want to visit Scotland the next time I cross the pond. It was filmed on location in Scotland around Badenoch and Strathspey and at the Ardverikie House, on the far shore of Loch Laggan.

One other comment, if you’re not used to heavy Scottish brogue, the dialogue is sometimes difficult to understand.

The Forsyte Saga (2002-03)

4 Kernels

(2002-03) – Television Series – ITV
 Damian Lewis Actor

Since I’m in the midst of writing my own English saga of sorts, I usually get sucked into these DVD sets for hours on end drowning myself in period English dramas. The Forsyte Saga makes it to the top of my list as an enjoyable treat of English life.

I’m often fascinated over how the rich lived in the Victorian age. My English family made bricks, while families like these lived lives of luxury filled with all sorts of soap opera antics.

The Forsyte Saga is a television adaptation of John Galsworthy three novels, which apparently has been filmed in other adaptations throughout the years. This particular version was done by Granada Television for the ITV network, however, some complained it took too many liberties from the original work.  It was later shown on Masterpiece Theater.

Nevertheless, stories like these are up my alley, even if I haven’t read the original. I will confess at the ending of the entire saga, I felt upset and left hanging, so I downloaded the original work on Kindle to see if it really did end that way.  And yes, to my chagrin, it did.  Frankly, it would be a hell of a story to pick up and write a sequel . . . hum.

Soames, played by Damien Lewis (who by the way just won an Emmy for his portrayal in Homeland in 2012) is the central character of the story and family.  My heart went out to the proper, stout Englishman who adored a woman, wanted to be loved in return, and desired children. His passion, of course, borders on obsession, but you can’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy, who never found a woman to love him in life. Yes, he was a rich snob, but even snobs need love once in a while.

As far as Irene, Soames first wife and obsession, I felt absolutely no sympathy for that woman whatsoever. Perhaps my heart was a cold as the one she portrayed with little remorse over the hurt she caused others in her life. She was an interesting character who grated upon me throughout the series, which good characters are supposed to do!

As far as the remaining hours, they were an interesting treat of English life and the gorgeous dresses and costumes, dysfunctional family members, scandals, and the rest of the lot that makes up a soap opera atmosphere. No matter what English movie I watch, the birds are always chirping in the background as if life just goes merrily along.

The only problem I did have with the saga itself, were the abrupt jumps in time period, i.e. from five years, six years, and twelve, with not one gray hair eventually making it to anyone’s head! They all seemed to be ageless. A little more realism in that arena would have been better. Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable series for you English loving blokes.

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