North and South

The scene above takes place in the first half of North and South. This couple just seems like oil and water, right. Considering how they first met when Margaret sees Mr. Thornton yelling and about to thrash one of his workers, this is something of an improvement.

The genre requires that halfway through the story the main characters oppose each other, yet these two do seem like they’ll never get together. And if they did, poor Margaret would be tethered to that virago, his mother, who would make a good subject for a Grant Wood painting.

North and South lacks the romance of great architecture or lovely gardens one expects in a British series. No one seems allowed to wear a cheerful color in Milton. That actually works in this story; it’s the point of difference that hooked me. Margaret wasn’t the most beautiful woman. She couldn’t be a model, but that also works in the favor of the story as you believe that she’d be down to earth and would befriend factory workers.

I expected a “two star” pretty good experience, but the more I think of it, the more I like North and South and the more I’d like to read the novel.

I love this

A great photo alluding to Seurat’s Sunday on the Grande Jatte, which is in part a commentary on work. (Sunday was the day off for factory workers and the weekend as we know it was a product of the Industrial Revolution.)

North & South

I’m half way through the four episodes of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South produced by the BBC. Darker than Downton Abbey or an Austen adaptation, North and South is set in a mill town in northern England during the Industrial Revolution. Margaret Hale moves with her parents from the countryside in the south because her father, a vicar, won’t sign a paper stating he believes in the Common Prayer. So they’re uprooted to the sooty, depressing North.

They encounter Mr. Thornton, a strict factory owner, takes lessons from Mr. Hale. Margeret befriends a working class family, headed by a union organizer, preferring them to the snooty Thorntons. The series provides great visuals of work in the factories with cotton floating through the air like snow that chokes and sickens the workers. Though philosophic and ethical adversaries Mr. Thornton admires Margaret and proposes to her. He’s flat refused. It’s not hard to guess how that relationship will fare, but I am intrigued and wonder about the workers.

It’s a fascinating drama capturing life in the Industrial Revolution.

Gaskell wrote the lighter Cranston, which I read and reviewed last fall.

Kabei: Our Mother

Set in the 1930s and 40s, Kabei: Our Mother chronicles a family in Japan whose father gets arrested for thought crimes during the lead up to WWII. The Nagomas and their young daughters live in Tokyo. They seem a genuinely loving, humble, happy family made human by some small money trouble. Then the father, a scholar, is arrested for writings that questions Japan’s invasion of China.

The story continues showing the strength of each character and those who come to offer help. The film manages to convey the best of Japanese mores without painting a halo around each character, which would make them honorable and untouchable. Here everyone’s feet touch the ground.

So many scenes stand out. For example, a rough and tumble annoying uncle comes to visit. He walks into town where some matrons are exhorting people to give up luxury goods. They get personal and chastise two young girls who’re dressed nicely. The uncle gets in the middle of this defending the girls and saying in his boisterous way that there’s nothing wrong with a girl looking pretty. The women turn on him since he’s wearing a gold ring, which they think he should donate to the army. Fat chance, this guy’s not going to do that. He manages to give them the slip as they call the police.

Though she’s the title character and a strong presence, the mother doesn’t take center stage. (Westerner works need a star, Japanese works need quiet relationships, the harmony of wa.) I see this as an ensemble film and each character is memorable and important.

Like an Ozu film, Kabei is full of scenes that are funny and touching. It’s full of what Barbara Nicolosi calls Haunting Moments, scenes and images that stay with you well after the credits roll.

I learned quite a bit about one facet of the effect of WWII on Japan.

Debriefing this week’s Glee Project

Spoiler alert for June 24th episode.

Rather a surprise that Marisa, who’s never had to face Ryan to sing her way to safety on the show got booted, n’est pas?

Yet I did call it, though I have no witnesses. I just think the show doesn’t need another pretty girl. That’s rather covered between Quinn, Rachel, Santana and Brittney so a guest star needs to bring a missing element. Cameron and Alex both can. Though I’m not an Alex fan. He is a diva and lacks depth or perhaps the ability to convey depth.

The show is getting quite tense. These kids are getting better and better.

Just let them all have a role. Would that be so bad?

The Comeback

Lisa Kudrow has done such good work since Friends. The current Web Therapy and the one season gem The Comeback prove my point. As I was going through withdrawal as I don’t have Show Time and there are no new Web Therapy episodes on YouTube, I got Kudrow’s The Comeback.

I’d seen an episode or two before, but now have seen the first four episodes of this comedy that shows the raw footage of a reality series about sitcom star Valerie Cherish as she stages a comeback on a new series, Room and Bored. Valerie tries to hide the disappointments, indignities and problems that come her way like the chocolates Lucile Ball had to handle careening towards her in this famed scene:

But one of the best parts of the show is that we can see Valerie’s trying. Her poker face isn’t that good.

Yes, Valerie is vain and not the brightest bulb, but you do admire her for putting on a brave front when surrounded by frat boy co-stars and rude, clueless writers. That’s what makes this work – everyone’s terribly flawed and the show has such wit. Add it to your Netflix queue.

husbands and wives

Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives, is witty and fresh, though it was made in 1992. It’s fresher than his recent films that I’ve seen (N.B. I haven’t yet seen Midnight in Paris,¬†and many have said that’s good.) With a great cast including Judy Davis, Sydney Pollack, Mia Farrow, Liam Nielsen, Juliette Lewis and Allen, Husbands and Wives begins with Allen’s two friends announcing they’re divorcing after 15 years. As the plot develops, all the characters question marriage, their wants and needs, their partner’s personalities and ticks, with various degrees of accuracy as the bungle along searching for authentic relationships. Allen plays a writing teacher who, surprise, surprise, falls for the most promising student in his college writing class.

The film was absorbing so it wasn’t till the end, where thoughts of Allen’s own choices in his marriage with Farrow, diverted my attention. Guess that’s bound to happen. Still it’s a well acted film with a natural plot rhythm (i.e. not glaringly influenced by Syd Field et al’s formula). This film stands the sands of time.

Long Day’s Journey into Night

Well, the film’s certainly long, I’ll give you that. It’s almost 3 hours long. I really thought the cast with Kathryn Hepburn and Jason Robards and director Sidney Lumet the film would be good. Yet, I also expected it would last 2 hours.

We read the play last year for my book club and I’m finally getting the film on Netflix. So I popped it in hoping for the best.

Reading a play and watching it is very different, obviously. This film seemed dated to me in many ways. This dysfunctional family unravels during the course of a day. The father is a cheapskate, has-been actor, the mother we learn slowly is a “dope-fiend,” the oldest son is a slacker/alcoholic and the youngest son gets diagnosed with consumption. Throughout the play, the characters rant, fight and ramble on about their dreams and fantastic memories of the past. If it weren’t so repetitive, I’d have been more engaged.

Another problem I had with enjoying this drama, was how attitudes towards mental illness and addiction have changed. I felt I knew what they should do and that since such methods weren’t practiced in the era, it just wasn’t gonna happen.

Glee Project: My Two Cents for the Week

Spoiler Alert – for July 17th episode


Matheus standing on right

While I’ve been ambivalent about Matheus staying on, I am sorry to see him go. I do think he’d have made a good guest on Glee. But someone had to go, and while I wouldn’t have minded losing Alex, who has been a diva. I don’t see a seven episode storyline for him. I’m glad Cameron’s on. His personality gets more interesting as time goes by.

Now for the others. I really hope I don’t see Damien and Cameron in the bottom three next week. Though Lindsay’s a good performer, storywise, I have no idea what she brings to the show. She could be a Rachel-clone, but that’s rather too campy and it adds no dimension or conflict to the program. Good singers are going to have to be eliminated soon.

I can see Sam or Hannah on Glee.

P.S. What’s interesting about The Glee Project is that I find I’m more attached to some of these performers than I am to some of the characters on Glee. I do hope this project is repeated in 2012. I love seeing the new talent that’s out there.