Harriet

New and a bit alarming: Disney's 'live action' Beauty and the Beast

I have said elsewhere how much I like the 1991 Disney animated Beauty and the Beast. It is engaging, inventive, full of charm, with an excellent score, and in Belle, the Beast, and the villainous Gaston, excellent characters.*

So when the 'live action' version was on over Christmas I recorded it, and yesterday and today I watched it.

It was actually a lot better than I expected. It looks lovely** and a reasonable amount of visual energy, though there are places where it sags in comparison to the cartoon, which is not burdened by having to look 'real'. It develops Belle's father from a a pantomime figure to a more rounded one, and La Fou becomes if not three-dimensional, then at least two. The horror of the servants' situation, knowing they face being like this forever, is effectively enhanced. Emma Watson is fine, and frankly I was expecting the Auto-Tune to be much more of an issue than it was. Luke Evans as Gaston is very good.

Unfortunately, the good bits can't disguise that it has two big problems.

The first is Dan Stevens. He is really good in the first and last 5 minutes of the film as the human prince. You can see clearly why they cast him. He is handsome, charismatic, and at the end is instantly engaging and the final ballroom scene works because of it. Unfortunately, he spends the other 1 hour and 50 minutes in a fursuit, and his charisma in human form extends neither to his CGIed hairy face, nor to his singing voice. Nor does Watson have the kind of presence that can lend itself to her co-stars by proximity. It is hardly Stevens' fault that the CGI can't decide quite whether it wants to make him monstrous or human and appears scared to be too dramatic about it. But without a powerful voice to create the character, the Beast never seems well, sufficiently animated. The Beast's major solo from the musical, If I can't love her (here sung by Josh Groban) is replaced by a new one Evermore, and I assume that was at least partly that they couldn't audio process the former sufficiently to make it work. All the extra reverb in the world can only help up to a certain point. TL:DR They should have cast a singer, and if necessary had someone else be the human prince with his voice dubbed.

The other problem is that fairy tale, animation, and musical theatre all have that certain layer of artifice that allows us watch Belle fall in love with the Beast and not think "but, bestiality". Film that is trying to be realistic does not allow that distance. So there end up being moments in which it's just weird.

I ended up thinking that there really needs to be a modern romcom version in which everything ends up happily ever after because the young woman is really into what she assumes to be the Beast's commitment to his surprisingly realistic fursona.


*I really regret that I didn't see the musical in Oxford a few years ago - while I wasn't sure I could take someone in a teapot costume seriously, I should have got over myself and said I would shut my eyes if necessary!

**Except for Belle's ball dress, which was rightly condemned as naff by the internet.

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Harriet

Stand up sit down keep moving

It is 11pm. I am supposed to be in bed. Instead I am pyjama-clad and in my bedroom but experimenting in how to get up off the floor without using knees or hands. To be precise I'm wondering why almost all the examples imply that the only way to do this is crosslegged, rather than via a squat. It turns out I can do it crosslegged, but only easily by rolling myself backwards first to gain momentum and leap up in a cartoon ninja move. I can't help feeling that there may be a teensy bit fo different body shapes and proportions, centre of gravity differences going on in this even before flexibility and strength come in to play.

ETA. Oh wait, I've worked out how to do it. The people in the videos have their feet far back towards the hips and the sides of the feet on the floor. You go up on those.

ETA 2: Got it. It's about finding the starting position that allows use of the thigh muscles as well as the core. If my legs are too flat, their muscles aren't in the right plce to provide the necessary force, if they are more upright, my centre of gravity is in the wrong place (overcome by the ninja move). Whereas the squat technique lets me use all relevant muscles easily and move my weight forward.

ETA 3: No, that's not really what I'm doing. Well, I have worked it out, anyway!

ETA 4: This is ridiculous. I locked myself in the stationery cupboard at work to try again (successfully). Now I cannot. Though possibly this is because I've just had dinner.

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Harriet

Not a post about the new year: various film (and ballet) reviews

Back to work tomorrow after a fortnight off, most of which has been spent at my parents'. @antisoppist had been going to come up for a few days, but fell victim to a cold and so couldn't. I was luckier, managing to spend the first Christmas holiday for a long time with almost no germs - though inevitably, not quite. It was a very nice break and I just need to remember that no, I won't get loads of reading done like I used to, and no writing whatsoever, because we're busy doing other things and that is fine, though sometimes slightly less busy would be nice!

Thoughts on out-of-the-house entertainment, in order of viewing.

Star Wars: The Return of Skywalker. Saw this the Saturday before Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it, partly because I had calibrated my expectations to the fact that (a) this was a Star Wars film, and (b) it wasn't made for me personally (although I have always been pro Rey/Kylo, so it kind of was, and I really liked all of that plotline). Yes, the script is a bit of a mess* and it really needed an extra 20 minutes (not something I usually say), but unlike The Last Jedi (which I did like), the pointless side quests were much shorter, and the ridiculous furry animals brief. One thing that the sequel trilogy really does deserve credit for is its casting: in brief, every actor is more than capable of their part. I think Daisy Ridley deserves far more recognition that she has got for ability to carry the trilogy as a relatively inexperienced actor. Yes, Adam Driver is terrific and casting him rather than someone who looked Hollywood standard was a great idea, but he also had the sort of scenery-chewing part that lets a good actor get their teeth into it. Rey was a very different part, and Ridley is convincing and engaging in a way that the films would have utterly failed without. I shall be going again before it leaves cinemas.

The Snow Queen, Scottish Ballet. In my teens and early twenties, going to the theatre at Christmas was very much a family thing. We've managed it less often in recent years, partly because what is available is not always attractive (we are united in our total lack of interest in The Wind in the Willows and The Nutcracker), but Mum, Youngest Sister and I thought that this was worth a matinee ticket, and so it proved. "Inspired by" (loosely) Andersen, music neatly filleted from Rimsky-Korsakov, I tend not to find ballet very moving, but it was pretty, well danced, and an enjoyable couple of hours. It's on iPlayer.

Frozen 2. I went with this expecting the best part of the afternoon to be the pleasure of my youngest sister's company, but it was actually very good. The music is not as strong as the original - 'Into the Unknown' is no 'Let It Go' and highlights the (to me) most annoying aspects of Menzel's voice - but it has a script that perforce was cemented before 'filming', a coherent plot, and looks absolutely gorgeous. I found myself gripped, and left thinking that I really should read something about Hollywood's interest in Jungian archetypes. I'm still not over the revelation that Anna is voiced by Kristen Bell of The Good Place, though! Honourable mention to the unexpected I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue reference.

Little Women. Undoubtedly the best film of the three, although to my mind not quite as original than some of the reviews gave it credit for. The structuring of the narrative through flashbacks allowed a different focus on events than the chronological order, even if the internal narrative of single events was very familiar, and the greater focus on adult!Amy than in adaptations I've previously seen was very welcome for her character, though the flashback structure necessitated the use of a single actress in a part that I think really demands double-casting. A terrific performance from Saoirse Ronan held everything together, although she is far too pretty for Jo, and the decision to highlight a strong physical resemblance to Marmee was an excellent one.** It was very Jo-centric despite the attention to Amy, and Meg and Beth's stories were under-served, though that's hardly something unique to this adaptation, and it certainly got across the feeling of the family life and also how the Marches might be perceived by other people at times as Rather Too Much. It made me think that I really must read some of Alcott's work that wasn't aimed at children, and more about her life.

*It is painfully obvious that the whole trilogy wasn't plotted out in detail in advance. Yes, Carrie Fisher's death meant that they had to rewrite, but there is a lot running through the trilogy that is nothing to do with her and really shows that they didn't have a clear plan. They should definitely have killed Poe off as originally planned.

**I really want an adaptation of Little Women in which Marmee's role in fucking up her daughter's lives through parental teachings that make them all feel complete failures is given full focus.

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Harriet

Cinema: Knives Out

In need of something low effort to give me a lift on Saturday, and not having been to the pictures on ages, I took myself off to Knives Out, which was excellent. It started well with the sort of horrendous New England gothic mansion that signals I am going to get something cosily foreign and quaint that is probably signaled by unrealistic red phone boxes in British romcoms. Plus a dash of the late winter griminess that tells you you're watching a murder mystery, of course.

I thoroughly recommend it. Like a lot of films, it would be better for losing 10 minutes, but over all it is well-scripted, well-acted, with a cast of (mostly) appalling people whom it is fun to dislike and a general air of over the topness that works well in the genre. In terms of depth, it is probably one of Harriet Vane's pre-Wilfred novels, and plotwise though it hangs together well it is fair to say that it may be a Christie homage, but inevitably nothing is quite as twisty as Christie.*

This coming Saturday, to make my packing to go away for Christmas even worse, I am going to see Star Wars. The previous SW film was directed by Rian Johnson, as was Knives Out. I am imagining the crossover now.**


*Agatha Christie
Wrote plots that were twisty.
The dame was sublime
At OTT crime.

**There's even an in with the teenage boy being sucked into alt-right YouTube!

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Harriet

Well, here we are.

So that's the end of the UK, then. Scottish referendum at least now inevitable, even if it takes a while. What an absolutely fucking stupid idea having a Brexit referendum by proxy on FPTP was. We now face the most brutal of Tory Brexits on a minority vote. Every single opposition party and every ex-Tory MP who couldn't stomach Johnson, and yet voted for an election rather than working together in parliament, is as responsible for this as him, letting party and the fantasy of a ride to power in a Brexit election win out over the need to actually behave in the interests of the country. Every person who couldn't bring themselves to vote tactically is also responsible. Every person who stayed at home "because they're all the same." Corbyn, Swinson, Sturgeon, all should hang their heads in shame at what they have done. People are going to die because of their vanity, and collusion in the destruction of the NHS will be their epitaph.

Corbyn, I have always considered unelectable as a Labour leader for a number of reasons, and maintained my party membership solely to vote him out. Not sure who is left to vote in. This is the ultimate revenge of the voter for the party's not instituting proportional representation when they had the chance. It would have meant short term losses, but enormous long term gains on so many fronts.

I suppose the SNP got their election before Alex Salmon's trial for sexual assault and thus gained a few seats, but they have lost all hope of a referendum for 5 years and I expect attempts to muzzle Holyrood. Bit of a Pyrrhic victory, that one.

On the plus side, Jo Swinson lost her seat. That's what happens when your UK election strategy is a Borgen fanfic.

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Harriet

Today I feel that cute animals are needed

I am not normally into dachschunds, remembering a really vile yippy one that used to scare me as a child. But it has to be said that these nine dachshund puppies could almost make me want to have one as a pet.

Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen in canine form


Also, if you're going to have to rescue a lot of puppies from illegal breeding facilities, it really helps the headlines where there are 101 of them.

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Harriet

Adventures in linocut printing

I spent yesterday at a hugely enjoyable linocut printing workshop a little south of Oxford. Eight people, having a go at making a linoprint. It was a really lovely day, with an excellent teacher who was good at explaining the basics and then working with the attendees to support us all in producing something we were proud of. As the young woman I gave a lift back to Oxford said in the car, it's a long time since I sat down and spent that long really focused on producing a piece of art. It was extremely satisfying, and I have duly sent my family a list of equipment I would like for Christmas.

So firstly, if you fancy a go yourself or are looking for a present for someone in the area who might, then I highly recommend Oxford Linocut Workshops.

And secondly and under the cut, my picture. Collapse )

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Harriet

Stage 5: acceptance

Reached this morning concerning that pair of shoes/boots that you bought because the other pair of them you had were so comfortable and useful, so you got a new pair in a different colour, are nonetheless subtly different so that although they look and ought to be identical, they take the skin off your feet.

I have tried, but the fact is clear, they are never going to be a pair I feel I can wear with confidence when I am walking further than the bus stop. I am fortunate in that I am in a financial place that I can replace them, but it is still galling. Nonetheless, I have accepted that this is what I need to do.

Those of you thinking "FFS, it's just a pair of boots" also have a point.

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