Monday, November 28, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - the movie

Well, a miracle occurred last week. I made it to two movies at the theatre. For a person who goes about once every 3 or 4 months, it was some kind of week.

Most of you know I am an avid HP fan. I have anxiously been awaiting the movie, and have perused each and every Entertainment Weekly in recent months in hopes of a tidbit about the movie. So, family and I went to a full house showing Friday afternoon. I was hesitant to take 8 year old Princess due to the PG-13 rating and the fact that I knew exactly what would happen. But - like most other parents, I figured, "Oh, well." It did scare her a little, but she seems fairly unscathed.
As for the movie, I was not disappointed. They took a well over 700 page book and turned it into a 120 page script. I assumed Hermione's fight on behalf of house-elf rights would be left out, as well as a number of little special touches that JK always adds. I was correct. I also expected the compression of some parts of the story. I must say that they did a great job turning such a sprawling and full story into this very enjoyable movie. The only part I wish they had left in - Mrs. Weasley. Molly was not to be found in the movie. In the book, she truly becomes a surrogate mother for Harry - supporting him in his challenges, letting him know that he is not alone, and comforting him upon the awful death at the end of the Tri-Wizards Challenge. It reminded us that Harry was still a 14 year old boy, and how much he needed a family - something Molly and her brood were always more than willing to provide for him.

However, with that one exception, I found no fault in the movie. They represented the characters and the magical events quite close to my own imagination. Even Voldemort was close to the description in the novel (not an easy task, but of course Ralph Feinnes was up to the job). The casting was great - from Cedric the Golden Boy (what girl wouldn't swoon?) to flamboyant, devious Rita Skeeter.

For those of us who have read the novel, we know that it begins and ends with tragic killings by Voldemort, particularly the end of the novel. I remember reading the book the day after Thanksgiving a few years ago, reaching the death scene at the end of the Challenge, and sobbing for quite some time. The world is up against great evil, and JK does not shy away from that in the story-telling. I was afraid I would come away from the movie depressed after dealing with such subject matter. Yes, I did tear up once again towards the end of the movie - but the screenplay was done in such a wonderful way - the movie was very balanced. The majority of the middle part of the movie was filled with great humor, adventure, action, and even romance. I laughed for much of the movie. For some great laughs, I particularly loved Harry's bathtub scene with Moaning Myrtle (poor kid!), the study session with Snape (no - I do not call him Professor either), and Mad-Eye Moody's various antics (especially his "teaching" of Draco Malfoy).

The part I most anxiously awaited was the night of the Yule Ball. Who wouldn't love the night when the brainy egg-head, ignored by boys, is instead beautiful and envied by all? The movie perfectly captured the euphoria, angst, and complete despair that a teen dance always brings. I felt like I had gone back in time 20 years (and was yet thankful those days are over for me!).

And being the parent of a beautiful girl of Chinese descent, I anxiously awaited the first appearance of Cho Chang. One look at Cho and everyone knew why Harry was so smitten and barely articulate in her presence. I look forward to seeing more of that wonderful delight.

The movie has driven me back to the book once again - I am currently on the fifth chapter. That's what a really great movie will do. My grade - A-

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Guess what I read in Parade today? It is a fact that chocolate chip cookie dough actually does have less calories than dough that has been baked into a cookie. Who knew that baking added calories? There is a God!!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Pride and Prejudice - the movie

I first read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice when I was in junior high. I have since read all of her works numerous times - P & P probably around 15 times. Austen is my favorite author. Each word, each line, is turned so perfectly and conveys so much - it is simply genius. She understands human nature, and can convey her sharp observations like no one else.

About 10 years ago, the BBC and A & E first aired their 5 hour miniseries of P & P, staring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Yes, this was when my great love for CF first began. I was so excited to see the miniseries and hoped it would live up to the book. Amazingly, it did. 5 hours gave it the time to cover the subject matter and the scope of the story as it should. I was thrilled. And I have lost count of how many times I have watched that miniseries.

So when I first heard last spring that a new movie version (only 2 hours no less!) was coming to the big screen, I was doubtful. I had no doubts about Keira Knightly - she and Scarlett Johannson are without a doubt the two best young actresses to have come along in many years. Yet, could a 2 hour movie accurately convey the heart of the story; could it portray much beloved characters? And would any man ever supplant Colin Firth as the ultimate Mr. Darcy?

So on Wednesday I dragged my husband and two kids to see Pride and Prejudice. (The kids had already seen Harry Potter with my parents last weekend, so this was the first order of business at a movie theatre for me.) The theatre was filled was estrogen. I did see a couple other men and made sure to point them out to Hubby.

I expected some fairly large changes in the plot - characters and scenes which must necessarily be written out or compressed due to the time frame. This was true. Even though the story was compressed, it remained true to the spirit and the essence of Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The main characters were portrayed faithfully. I especially appreciated that Knightly was able to play Elizabeth Bennett as the 20/21 year old girl she was. We tend to think of her as a more refined woman, who would occasionally go walking through the mud or laugh a lot. Knightly brought out the youthfulness and impulsivity (which can lead to prejudicial judgments) of Elizabeth.

One thing I particularly appreciated about the movie was its portrayal of the Bennett household and the society. Many of us have idealized this time period in a very sanitized, orderly manner. (And yes, I will keep that vision in my heart and brain as well.) Yet, I truly enjoyed the messiness and chaos the movie represents. In the midst of such chaos, one could see how a reserved Mr. Darcy is seen as proud and arrogant.

And Matthew McFayden as Mr. Darcy? McFayden is a hottie British actor who portrayed the central character in the BBC spy drama, MI-5. He was great in that role. He combined steel with gentleness, much as he combined reserve with supressed passion as Mr. Darcy. I still hold my love for Colin Firth, but McFayden gave an arresting portrayal of a very difficult man to play. Kudos.

My one casting difficulty - Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennett. He did fine - but why on earth could they not have found a stalwart British actor who would have added a bit more pizzaz, mischief and resignation to the role? (not to mention a British accent)

The movie also made an important shift in one other area. It is without a doubt the most sensual portayal of an Austen work I have seen. The sensuality begins with the fecundity of the surroundings, from feeding the pigs and ducks to giggling in bed with one's beloved sister. The great houses which are shown boast of incredible paintings filled with nudes. When Elizabeth arrives at Pemberly, she is shown a room with life-sized marble nudes, and then the bust of Mr. Darcy - proper but still sensual. The movie ends at Pemberly with Elizabeth and Darcy, not quite properly dressed to receive others - another nod to the passion bursting throughout the movie.

I know some Austen purists will scoff at the sensuality of the film - but I believe Austen herself would have understood and appreciated such an interpretation. If one reads Claire Tomalin's definitive biography on Austen, one realizes Austen was no stranger to meeting a young man and falling head over heels. She also remembered such a feeling so strongly that she could not bear to marry someone with less feeling, even if she would sink further into poverty. All her works are filled with supressed passion - the proper English restraint being the accepted mode of moving in society. One entire book was dedicated to it - Sense and Sensibility. I applaud this movie's interpretation.

I really liked the movie. It was not perfect (but pretty close). I will love to own it one day - and there will be times when I will pull out my BBC production, and other times I will pull out this one. Different, but both faithful to the heart of Austen's great masterpiece. My grade - A.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

continuing humiliation

Well, I already recounted how embarrassing it was to ride around Sam's Club in my motorized buggy. The saga continues...

For the first time in my life, I will not share Thanksgiving with my Mom and Granny (a fact I am trying to ignore). Since we were just in Asheville this past weekend, I can't really get back up there again - and my brother and his wife invited Mom, Dad and Granny over for TDay - so my nuclear family and I will be in Gboro. Normally, I only fix pumpkin pies and cranberry relish for TDay - but I'll do the whole shebang (is that how you spell that?) this time. It's not real easy standing on my foot and cooking, but Princess and Hubby will help.

I couldn't really depend on Hubby to get everything I needed at the grocery store. He would try - but there were a number of things I needed to see and compare before deciding what I would buy. So, Hubby and I decided we would go together and I could ride in some kind of cart.

We arrived at the TajMa Teeter (real fancy Harris Teeter grocery store that I knew had a variety of carts). They only had one motorized buggy and I hated to take that if someone else came along who needed it (read: really old person who needed it). They also had a variety of carts for people with kids. One had the regular grocery cart with a bench in front of it, where two kids or one adult could sit. Hubby thought it would be really fun to push me around in that, and I thought, "Well, okay - it's probably the best we could do."

Now, Hubby is an extreme extrovert. He has to talk to everyone he sees, no matter if he knows them or not. Being so friendly is one of the things that originally attracted me to him (but as I always tell couples in marriage counseling - it's what attracts you that makes you want to kill them later on). So we stroll into HT and he starts nodding and saying hello to people, and also explaining, "She's had foot surgery. Worn this boot since July...Not easy getting around, etc., etc." I'm just trying to keep my head down, looking at the grocery list and coupons, while ignoring people staring at me and asking questions.

I don't really like to draw attention to myself. I like to think I have some sort of dignity or sophistication. Hubby doesn't really think about these things. The icing on the cake was when we saw a Mom with two kiddies in a kiddie cart, and Hubby says, "Bet my cart weighs more than yours!" He apparently had not caught the evil eye I had kept giving him, so I turned around and whispered, "Shut the h#@! up!" Poor confused man had no idea why I didn't just think the whole thing was very funny.

Then the Mom asked Hubby if he wanted a balloon for the person riding in his cart.

Please, please - I want to get this boot off my foot!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

a breath of snow and ashes by diana gabaldon

I am a sucker for a good series when it comes to fiction. And even if the series starts to falter in its quality, once I become attached to characters or enthralled by a storyline - I just can't seem to let go.

Thus, when I was at Costco last month and saw Diana Gabaldon's latest installment in the Outlander series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, I had to pick it up. If you haven't read this book, and intend to do so, don't worry - I won't give anything important away.

Outlander had been recommended to me by a number of people a couple years ago. Yet, the description kept sounding different - was it a romance, was it fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, a mystery? Part of Gabaldon's genius is that it was all those things. It centered on the time traveling Claire and the 18th century Scottish Highlander, Jamie Fraser. I can honestly say that Jamie Fraser is the most incredible man I have seen in fiction (and yes, I am including Mr. Darcy - whom I love very dearly, just about as much as Elizabeth Bennett - but Jamie would still be #1). Outlander was an incredible book - one of the best I have ever read.

I enjoyed the next two installments, but by the fourth the story was dragging. By the time the fifth came around - I was wishing she would just get on with it and get the story told.

This sixth book is worth the read if you are a lover of the series, yet I kept hearing Edgy Mama's voice - being the writer that she is - saying, "She is just such a popular writer that she doesn't really get edited anymore." How true. Diana - I love you and think you are beyond talented - but the book needs a good editor! I give the book a B-, but it could easily move to a B+ or maybe higher if we shaved off about 250-300 pages. Now, I like long books. Reading hundreds of pages is not a problem for me. But - this was extraneous material. No, I did not need a detailed play-by-play of an 18th century hemorrhoid operation. The book was also heavier in tone than the earlier ones - more depressing, and less mix of the levity Gabaldon can display.

That being said, overall the story was interesting. I realize part of my interest is being a North Carolinian, where the story is placed. Gabaldon proposes an interesting interpretation of what happened to the Lost Colony - I liked that. She continues to craft interesting characters, who interact well with each other. Yet, the story itself would drag - due to the lack of being edited! It needed to move at a faster pace. Even if some of the more minor characters were minimimalized - that would be for the better. In the next one, please don't give me one more young woman with a sordid sex story. I had enough in this book.

Another interesting part of the book is a character who deals with a calling from God to the ministry. God and faith have always been part of Gabaldon's writing, but this was a new take that I felt she explored in a respectful, truthful way. I didn't expect it, and due to my own profession and pulls in my own life, I found this struggle quite interesting.

I think it will have to be a B-, but it could be more. Gabaldon is still an excellent story teller who combines various genres (did I even mention mystery?) in wonderful ways. Next time - let's cut down on the extraneous storylines, characters, and descriptions - and get things rolling and moving to where I am up all night reading and in tears (like I was once with Outlander).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

a true hippie town

Today I am missing Asheville more than I have in recent months. I wish I were there to celebrate and glory in the results of the election. Not only was my buddy Holly Jones the lead vote getter for city council (to enter her second term), but the town has elected its first black mayor, Terry Bellamy. Not only is Terry the first black mayor, she is also the first black woman mayor. The progressive vote is definitely out to make good changes in the Paris of the South.

I am still in disbelief over the characterization of Gboro as a granola town (please see my entry below)! For those who hold this greatly misinformed view, they need to look no further than Asheville - a true hippie town.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Greensboro - Hippie Town?

As a responsible citizen, I have spent today frantically trying to prepare myself for the Greensboro elections tomorrow. If I were still in Asheville, I would easily be able to vote on matters of conscience, integrity, and for the betterment of all my neighbors in town. Yet, I am in a new town - and thus I have little history of this city council and who are the best candidates.

I have been homebound, due to my foot surgery, so I have been reliant on the internet and some newsrags that Hubby brought home. He left one on the couch for me today, saying, "I heard some people call this an informed newspaper - kinda like Mountain Express (in Asheville)." Well, I would like to know who on earth thought Rhinoceros Times was a paper with any left-leaning sensibilities. I have been so disturbed by the racial and class disconnect and divide in this town - even trying to find a diverse neighborhood in which to live was a real challenge. I have been so pleased with the Truth and Racial Reconciliation Committee and their work - it has been great to see a town grapple with its history and the repurcussions and try to find a way to better life for all people in its environs. Yet, the RT completely negated this work - essentially calling it trivial and a waste of time. Those were certainly not the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he was in Greensboro last week and commented on this committee (and I happen to think he knows more about those kinds of issues that the average North Carolinian). If the RT had offered any real substantial reasons and viewpoints for its "picks" in the election, I might be willing to read it again - but that is not to be.

And so I turn to the Yes! Weekly. I have read this on occasion since living in Gboro. I need to reiterate that I left what is commonly known as Hippie City USA (aka Asheville) just this past summer. I know what a hippie, granola town looks like. Moving to a much more "white-bread" area was an issue with which I had to grapple. So thus imagine my surprise when I read these words from Y!W, while endorsing a candidate - (Joel Landau)" nothing if not a hippie and Greensboro is a granola town if ever there was one."

What?! Who on earth are they kidding? Yes, I will probably go out now and vote for the "hippie candidate," but Gboro a hippie town? Is that why I have still yet to find a really good locally owned bookstore? Is that why the one food co-op in town is so small it could fit inside my house? (and don't get me wrong - I am really glad it's here) Is that why I live in what is commonly known as the most diverse neighborhood, but my daughter is one of the few people of color I see? Is that why I only see a handful of people who even look like hippies, who have one block in the city in which they hang out - as opposed to miles in Asheville?

I'm going out and buying the new Bob Marley compilation tomorrow, put some One Love bumper stickers on my car, and some more peace stickers, blast my music and start wearing dreads. (okay - I will probably forgo the dreads - I embarrass my son enough and he will be a teenager soon)

I do believe Greensboro has come a long way in recent years in regards to being more inclusive, diverse, and less white-bread. But, baby, we've come a long way, and there are still many miles to go before we sleep. Let's get real.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

all saints day

November 1 - All Saints Day. In the Christian tradition, today is the day where we specifically remember the saints who have gone before us. They may be people we have known and loved personally, figures from the Bible, or people throughout history. As the great lady Rosa Parks was laid to rest yesterday, I thought it would be fitting to remember her on this special day.

It's hard to imagine a time living under Jim Crow in 1955. I was born in 1967, and even though I have heard from my Mom and Granny how segregated things were (and even though I still see so many other symptoms of segregation and racism in today's world) - it's so hard to imagine a woman being forced to give up a seat on the bus to a man. Especially a woman who has worked hard at the service of others throughout the day. I have wondered what kind of man that man was who insisted that Rosa Parks give up her seat on the bus, simply because she was black.

I also have a hard time imagining the courage it must have taken for Rosa Parks to refuse that white man. She full well knew the consequences. She had seen how black people were treated. She knew what she was about. And her faith gave her the courage to refuse to abide by unjust laws.

She arose as one of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Her courage, her peaceful and engaging presence, her vision are all things that I admire in this wonderful saint. I know there is still a long way to go towards racial reconciliation and equality. I pray that Rosa Park's spirit will live on in all of us as we seek to live in a more just world.