Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 Posts of 2011

Helena Bonham Carter with Tim Burton and kids Billy and Nell
1. Helena Bonham Carter-Actor of the Week. This photo specifically of HBC with her family seemed to interest a lot of readers.

Clueless with Alicia Silverstone
2. Clueless 1995...A Modern Emma Turns 16! Appropriately for this blog, the modern version of Jane Austen's Emma was one of my most popular posts.

Victoria & Albert
3.Victoria and Albert 2001 starring Victoria Hamilton, Jonathan Firth and Penelope Wilton  I love this miniseries about the real life romance between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. My readers loved it too. It stars Jonathan Firth, Colin's brother as Prince Albert and he does a fabulous job along with Victoria Hamilton.

William and Catherine-The Official Photo
4. Royal Weddings, Gowns and Hats, Oh My!  Didn't we all have fun at the end of April watching the royal wedding? Well I sure did. Glad my readers agreed!

Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent in Black Adder
5. Hugh Laurie- Actor of the Week  This goofy photo of Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent in Black Adder drove a lot of folks to my blog. Thanks Hugh!

David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman and Donny Osmond-My Tiger Beat past!
6. David Cassidy to Richard Armitage, My ever changing taste in men!  This is one of my favourite posts ever, so I am glad my readers agreed!

Jennifer Ehle
7. Jennifer Ehle- Actor of the Week  I have loved Jennifer Ehle since she was snogging Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice 1995. She now has a great role as a dead doctor (I kid you not) in an American TV show called A Gifted Man. She is also addicted to twitter and can be found here.

Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette
8. Gorgeous but disappointing films- Marie Antoinette and Girl With a Pearl Earring  This post celebrated a couple of beautiful films that didn't quite satisfy me in the plot and acting departments. Both still worth seeing for the eye candy however (and a bit of historical enlightenment).

The Tudors with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a skinny sexy King Henry VIII
9.  The Tudors Marathon I watched this series while laid up with a bad throat infection last January. Absolutely heavenly but of course Henry VIII is skinny and sexy and the women all have perfect teeth and blow dried hair. Again, good eye candy and entertaining to boot!

Billy Elliot 2000
10. Billy Elliot- The Film (2000) This one was a stretch to call a Period Drama but it was set in 1984, so there! I just love this film and so, apparently, do my readers.

Happy New Year and may we all enjoy lots of good Period Drama throughout 2012. I am really looking forward to the new Downton Abbey season 2 (and Christmas Special, whenever we get that!) and also Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy if it ever goes into wide release. It is stuck in the big cities right now, but it will soon come to my little independent cinema in Waterloo Ontario!


Monday, December 26, 2011

A Child's Christmas In Wales 1987

A Child's Christmas in Wales

"I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."

I watched this on television the first Christmas I spent with my husband in 1987, before we were even married.  I knew he was the guy for me, because he appreciated the sweetness and beauty of this holiday classic.  Not many people even know this DVD exists, which is a shame.  Our family had the pleasure of traveling to Wales five years ago (although in the summer) and parts of Wales are still almost as rustic as in this film.  In fact, this was filmed on location in Montgomery Wales, which is probably little changed from when Dylan Thomas was a boy in Swansea.
Old Geraint telling his grandson Thomas about Christmas past...

This sweet film is based on the poem by Dylan Thomas which was first published in 1954 after his death.  It is really more like a lyrical piece of prose as only Thomas could write.  In 1987, a collaborative effort between Global TV in Canada and HTV in Britain (now known as  ITV Wales & West Ltd) brought this to television, and it was shown on PBS in the USA as well.  It is rare to see this on television anymore, so you'll have to invest in the DVD if you want to see this (a wise investment for years to come...)

"One Christmas was so much like another, in those years..."

"December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats."

"It's loovely Grandad."

The Welsh scenery is gorgeous and lets you feel as if you are truly traveling back in time.  The film is a combination of present day (well, 23 years ago) and flashbacks to what looks like the time period just before WWI.  The children all have authentic Welsh accents, although I believe the adults are all Canadian actors except of course the wonderful Denholm Elliott (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Trading Places, Room with a View) who was English, but does a wonderful Welsh accent.

"...once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us."

The music will also stay with you after watching this, particularly from the cozy scene at the end, where the family are all singing by the fire, quaint Welsh carols like "On To Bethlehem Town" and "All Through the Night".

"Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground..."

As I was watching this tonight (research, you know) both my 16 year old son and my husband made their way into the room where I was and watched the last half with me.  Well, this has really gotten me into the Christmas spirit.  I will try to hold onto this feeling as I finish my Christmas shopping this weekend (fingers crossed) and not get caught up in the things that don't matter.  Happy Holidays!

N.B.  The screen captures above were borrowed from a beautiful blog

Click for the full text of the Dylan Thomas Poem A Child's Christmas in Wales.

The above post is a rerun again from last year (sorry, but I thought it was worth another run, and I have not quite finished with the feasting, visiting and general excesses of the season. I'll be back to the blogging again soon, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the above).

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jane Austen Birthday Soiree Giveaway Winner!

Thank-you to all who participated in my Jane Austen Birthday Soiree Giveaway.  Reading your comments about your favourite film adaptations of Jane Austen's wonderful novels was fun.  It seemed the hard part was in just choosing one!

And now...drumroll please...the winner of the Northanger Abbey DVD...(chosen using is...


Her faves were P&P 1995 and Persuasion 1995.

Congratulations Danae and I'll get that out to you as soon as possible!

Thanks again to Maria Grazia of My Jane Austen Book Club and Katherine from November's Autumn for organizing this wonderful event. Lots of great posts and lots of great giveaways!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Story- My Father's Favourite

A Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time

This heartwarming Christmas story, set in the 1940's was my father's absolute favourite movie of all time (not just his favourite Christmas film), so this post is in memory of my Dad, big kid that he was. The fact that this is about childhood and Christmas in the 1940's took my father right back to his own roots, growing up in a small house in the "East End" of Hamilton, Ontario, the son of a steel worker in a very working class neighbourhood. His childhood home resembled the one in this holiday classic (even I still remember the push button lights and the wringer washer in what was still my Grandma's house).

Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap.

In A Christmas Story (based on the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Midwestern humorist Jean Sheperd), Ralphie is a typical American kid in the 1940's who wants a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. He tries to convince his parents, his teacher and even Santa himself that this is the perfect gift for Christmas, but keeps hearing the same response..."You'll shoot your eye out!"

Fra-gee-lay, must be Italian...

Not a huge success on it's release in 1983, it has grown to be a classic.  A taste of the innocence of childhood and an awful lot of humour evoked by looking back on it through adult eyes makes this a must see film for the holidays.  Ralphie's inner monologue, the adult voice of Jean Sheperd's musings, is a wonderful story telling technique and keeps the viewer transfixed and hugely entertained.

A Christmas Story- the house
Ralphie: Oooh fuuudge!
Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] Only I didn't say "Fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!
Mr. Parker: [stunned] *What* did you say?
Ralphie: Uh, um...
Mr. Parker: That's... what I thought you said. Get in the car. Go on!
Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] It was all over - I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited me.

He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny!
Mr. Parker: It's a clinker! That blasted stupid furnace dadgummit!
[he walks down a few stairs and falls the rest of the way down]
Mr. Parker: Damn skates!
Mr. Parker: Oh, for cripes sake, open up the damper will ya? Who the hell turned it all the way down? AGAIN! Oh, blast it!
Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.

NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare!

So enjoy this one with all of your family this holiday.  And this one is for you Dad...

N.B. This is a repeat of a post from last year. I hope you don't mind, but I loved this one so much, I had to give it another run. That, and the fact that I haven't got my wrapping done yet!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kate Winslet- Actor of the Week

Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet has done so many period pieces she has been nicknamed Corset Kate! And thank goodness she has. Here are a few of the wonderful films she has done in the period genre (and perhaps one modern era film).

Kate Winslet, Sense and Sensibility 1995
Was there ever an actress who inhabited a role like Kate did with Marianne Dashwood?

Marianne: Can he love her? Can the soul be really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn - to be on fire, like Juliet or Guinevere or Eloise...

Kate Winslet as Ophelia in Hamlet 1996
As the tragic, vulnerable, mad Ophelia in Kenneth Branaugh's Hamlet. Remarkable!

Kate Winslet as Rose in Titanic 1997
As the young Rose Dewitt Bukater in Titanic, she had her true breakout role, for which she will be forever known. I love that outfit by the way!

Rose: You know, my dream has always been to run away and become an artist, Living in a garret poor but free!
Jack: You wouldn't last 2 days. There's no hot water and hardly any caviar.

Kate Winslet as Maddy LeClerc in Quills 2000
I really hated Quills, for the subject matter not for the acting. I don't think I will ever watch this again. But there she is, gorgeously corseted as usual.

Kate Winslet as Young Iris Murdoch in Iris 2001
As the young novelist Iris Murdoch, played opposite Hugh Bonneville as her husband John Bayley, she had a really meaty role and was a little less glamorous than some of her other roles.

Kate Winslet as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in Finding Neverland 2004
Finding Neverland is a gem of a film. We tend to forget just how wonderful, so if you haven't seen this one in a while, you may want to revisit it. Just bring a big box of Kleenex!

Michael Llewelyn Davies: [about J.M. Barrie] Can we have him for supper?
Sylvia Llewelyn Davies: Have him to stay for supper, Michael. We're not cannibals.

Kate Winslet as Iris Simkins in The Holiday 2006
Alright, I know The Holiday isn't a period piece, but this is my blog and this is one of my favourite films, so there! I just love it, especially this time of year.

Iris: [to Jasper] I don't know, but I think what I've got is something slightly resembling... GUMPTION!

Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz in The Reader 2008
Kate won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as the intense Hanna Schmitz in The Reader.  Again, the film is fantastic, but I am not in a great hurry to see it again. I just like my films a little happier, I suppose.

Kate Winslet as April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road 2008
I never saw Revolutionary Road. The trailers didn't look appealing, much as I adore Kate and Leo. Anyone want to give me their take on whether or not it's worth seeing?
N.B. Jule left a comment below saying that Revolutionary Road is fabulous, so now I can't wait to see Kate and Leo in this one. Thanks Jule!

Kate Winslet as Mildred Pierce 2011
Showing again how talented she is, Kate totally rocked as Mildred Pierce. A little more severe looking here, she demonstrates her amazing versatility.

Kate Winslet as a young girl
And I couldn't resist this adorable shot of Kate as a youngster. Who knew then how much the world would come to adore this ballsy actress. I for one, can't wait to see what she does in the future.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Jane Austen's Birthday Soiree- The Gift of Film and A Giveaway

Today, December 16th, is Jane Austen's Birthday. In her 41 short years she was able to make such a mark in the literary world that here we are celebrating her birthday 236 years later. I think I speak for many of us when I say that she has enriched our lives immeasurably and for that we are truly grateful. In this spirit of gratitude, 30 other bloggers and I will be offering some gifts in the first ever Jane Austen's Birthday Soiree.

In order to honour our esteemed author, I would like to give her The Gift of Film to demonstrate how her beloved books have been dramatized over the past 20 years or so. She liked going to the theatre and had put on amateur productions with her siblings as a child, so I will show her what the world has done with her novels 200 years later.

Pride and Prejudice 1995
I would love to show her Andrew Davies's adaptation of her favourite heroine Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice from 1995. Although she might think that Mrs. Bennet is a bit shrill, I think she would approve of the rest. I would hope that she would swoon over Mr. Darcy come to life on the screen. I would try to explain the wet shirt scene and the thrill that this gave to women worldwide. I think she would understand, don't you?

Mansfield Park 1999

I would show her Mansfield Park 1999 but with qualifications and apologies. I would try to explain that the filmmakers thought that if they injected a little of Miss Austen herself into Fanny Price, that the character would appeal more to a modern audience. I would also explain that her true fans are still waiting for a really faithful and satisfactory film or miniseries to be made of Mansfield Park. I would not show her the bottle blonde abomination of Mansfield Park from 2007. I know some people liked it but not me.

Northanger Abbey 2007
I think she would get some enjoyment out of Andrew Davies's adaptation of Northanger Abbey from 2007. The mischievous Mr. Tilney would appeal I think, as would the wide eyed portrayal of Catherine Morland by Felicity Jones.

Emma 2009
Although she may find Romola Garai's Emma  from 2009 a little too likeable, I think this is the best screen version of Emma and I love all the characters in this miniseries. OK, I especially love Jonny Lee Miller and I hope that the author would approve of his Mr. Knightley. Actually, I should probably show her the Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow from 1996 and the Emma with Kate Beckinsale from 1996. It would be a lively discussion afterwards, as to which version is truer to her original vision and which version she liked best (and they may not be one and the same).

Persuasion 1995
I think she would love Persuasion 1995  with it's nautical music and filming locations of Bath and Lyme Regis. It might amaze her how little has changed in 200 years. I would love to watch her taking in the magical scene of the letter...“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope...I have loved none but you.”

Sense and Sensibility 1995
Lastly, I would love her to see the masterpiece of Sense and Sensibility 1995 adapted by Emma Thompson and Directed by Ang Lee. I think she would be impressed by how well her novel springs to life on the big screen. I would point out how the music in this production stays with you long after the film is over. I might even show her Emma Thompson's Golden Globe acceptance speech afterward, although it might require some explanation!

None of us know what Jane Austen would think of what modern society has done with her "darling children". But I hope that she could appreciate the way her novels so easily adapt to the screen, and the fact that we love to see them acted out as much as we enjoying reading them after all these years.

Happy Birthday Miss Austen! We only wish you were around longer so that we might have more of your "darling children" to enjoy.


Please post a comment below about your favourite Jane Austen film adaptation to be entered into my giveaway draw for a DVD copy of Northanger Abbey 2007. I am opening the giveaway worldwide (draw closes December 23) and I will announce the winner here. The winner can choose a region 1 or region 2 DVD. Don't forget to add your email address!

Please also visit the rest of the participants in the Jane Austen Birthday Soiree. The list is so extensive, it may take you a week to enter all of the giveaway draws. But please do. There are so many wonderful websites on this list and lots of great gifts!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hugo is magical!

Hugo in 3D
Apparently there are two types of people in this world. Ones who love this film and ones who hate it. I adored this film. Magical is a good word to describe the story and the gorgeous journey it takes you on. My dear readers will likely love this film. If you need lots of action, things flying at screen and constant plot twists, you should skip it. The fact that it was directed by Martin Scorsese and produced by Johnny Depp says a lot about it.

Hugo Isabelle and the automaton
I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but Hugo lives in a Paris train station in the 1930s. His watchmaker father has passed away (poor Jude Law) and the orphan is now living in the walls of the Gare Montparnasse train station and winding all the clocks there. His quest to repair the automaton his father was restoring takes him on a very different journey where he meets Isabelle and her unusual godfather Georges Méliès.

Hugo hanging from clock face a la Harold Lloyd
This film is a love letter to the movies and a love letter to Paris all wrapped up in a "family film". It is really a film for thoughtful bookish adults and older children. Don't take young kids to this one, or any older children who didn't truly enjoy the Harry Potter films. Do take anyone who enjoys a deeper more thoughtful film than Hollywood usually produces these days.

Hugo learning magic tricks from Méliès
The film is full of brilliant English actors (yes all of the French people in this have English accents) such as Ben Kingsley as Méliès, Asa Butterfield as the luminous Hugo, Sacha Baron Cohen as the hilarious Station Inspector and a plethora of Potterites such as Frances de la Tour (Mme Maxime), Richard Griffiths (Mr. Dursley), Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy) and so on. Emily Mortimer is adorable as the flower seller and Jude Law does a lovely job of Hugo's father. American actress Chloe Grace Moretz is quite enchanting as Hugo's new friend and assistant in mischief. 

Gare Montparnasse Train Accident of 1895

Harold Lloyd "Safety Last!" 1923

"A Trip to the Moon"  1902
So I hope all my dear readers get a chance to see this over the holidays, and if you love it as I did, try to spread the word to others who you think would enjoy it. Keep the wrong folks away from this one however, as it needs the right audience. We will keep it as our little secret!

P.S. It is adapted from the beautifully illustrated book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by American writer Brian Selznick  who, incidentally, is distantly related to the legendary film producer David O. Selznick.

P.P.S. The automaton in this film (self-operating machine) is a realistic depiction of what these machine/toys were like in the late Victorian period. "The period 1860 to 1910 is known as "The Golden Age of Automata". During this period many small family based companies of Automata makers thrived in Paris. From their workshops they exported thousands of clockwork automata and mechanical singing birds around the world." -from Wikipedia
The Franklin Institute's Henri Maillardet Automaton was a principal inspiration for Selznick's book



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