Sunday, December 16, 2012

Son of Saturday at the Movies #2: The Libertine

Three movies this weekend, and I still have my Dr. Zhivago rant to transcribe (it's in longhand and it's long, and I want to see if the library can find me the 2004 UK TV remake) but the movie strongest in my mind right now is The Libertine, with Johnny Depp.

The English Restoration is one of the eras in which I feel the most at home as reader and writer both, and the visuals of this era are gorgeous - both sexes lavishly dressed, the glorious excess of the restored monarchy in a huge pendulum swing from the stern repression of the Lord Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell, the sense that life, in many aspects, could begin again. I especially liked that this film wasn't about only the excesses of the era, but the consequences as well. We also get to spend time in the world of Restoration theater (I will seriously look at anything having anything to do with Restoration theater) with a young actress who goes from getting booed off the stage, to being Wilmot's protege and mistress, to royal spy, to ultimately her own woman.

This is a dark movie. Literally, and figuratively. I'm going to have to watch it again on a smaller screen that is closer to my face and with better lighting because I have no idea what the white script on black says, but such screens take up a good part of the first few minutes of the film. I'm going to guess some historical information on the real John Wilmot, who would have been a rock star in today's parlance. As a poet, he was a favorite as well as a bane of Charles II, definitely not the kind of guy you'd want to bring home to mommy, because he'd charm her into a compromising position in the laundry room before she'd had so much as a chance to take his coat. That kind of guy, which actually makes the ultimate resolution believable on several different levels.

Johnny Depp, of course, was brilliant, as Wilmot in his prime, Wilmot on the downhill slide, Wilmot arguing passionately before the House of Lords regarding laws of succession (and dang, can that man make even a prosthetic metal nose look good.) The scenes that stuck with me the most are two: his appearance before Lords, loud, brash, painted and costumed to hide the disease that consumed his body and mind; and the quieter, more intimate confessional style frame of the film, that of a young Wilmot, without paint or artifice, first assuring the viewer they will not like him, and then at the end, asking with ever more vulnerable repetition, if they like him now. That's the kind of acting, and the kind of story, that I like to marinate in for a while; not think of anything else, or anything in particular, but let it sift into my brain and emotions as it will.

I've already written one book set at the tail end of the English Civil War and I can feel some Restoration stories making noise in the back of my brain, so this was a good time to see The Libertine. One of my favorite authors, Judith James, drew inspiration from Wilmot for her Libertine's Kiss, whose hero has a happier ending than the real Wilmot or Depp's portrayal. I'm thinking it's time for a reread.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #111: You're The Best Thing About Christmas

Celebrating the return of Happy Dance Friday with something that's been on my wish list for some time now - a Christmas single from Right Said Fred. In collaboration with Mr Weebl (who is new to me) this is fun, upbeat and full of holiday spirit.

Happy holidays to all, and if you're holiday-free, then Happy Friday.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Son of Saturday At the Movies: Colin Firth x2; A Single Man and Dorian Gray

All right, so it's been a while since we've had one of these entries, so no number for now. It's been a big few months, some of the big stuff good, some not, but one of the good things is finding the library system in Albany is amazing when it comes to movies, and I am once again gorging myself. This week, it's period dramas, no surprise there. This week, I borrowed two Colin Firth films and one Firth-less classic I've been meaning to see for literally decades, but more on that later.

Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, A Single Man doesn't dwell much on that world event, keeping the tight focus instead on the title character, George Falconer, a British college professor living and working in the US. George, when we meet him, is in deep grief over the death of his lover, Jim, some months past. Time has moved on, but George has not, the loss of Jim still as sharp and keen as when he first got word of the accident. George gets through his days but everything is empty, and the day that we meet George is in fact the day that he plans to make his last.

George methodically gets his affairs in order, says things he's always meant to say, everything so that he can be done with the never ending grief. The matter of fact tasks George performs are interspersed with vivid memories of life with Jim, which makes George's state all the keener. Life continues to pull at him; an inquisitive student, adult and child neighbors he's kept at arms' length, a chance encounter with a stranger, dinner with a female friend who deals with her own torment by different means. Colin Firth is amazing, and this is one film where every shot counts. The use of color, the incidental music, the blocking, set design, everything has a role in telling us George's story, and when the resolution comes, we can understand how it got there. Definitely have to buy this one for multiple viewings.

You know the story; Dorian doesn't age, but his picture does, and appearance is hugely important in this story, but it's not about looks. Oh sure, we have Ben Barnes and Colin Firth, and a gorgeous set with the right feel of opulent claustrophobia at all the right moments, but as the not-yet-corrupted Dorian says early on in the film, what about a man's soul? Colin Firth's Lord Henry scoffs at the very notion and commits his own soul to hell, later asking Dorian if he'll do the same. Wrong choice, Dorian. Wrong choice, but amazing story, courtesy of Oscar Wilde.

This is another one I have to own, so I can see it by myself and catch the multiple layers. Both lead actors do a marvelous job, and where Dorian throws himself into sybaritic excess, it's Henry who finds growth. Though he takes fatherhood lightly at first, the daughter born soon after Dorian makes his fateful choice, gives Henry the heart he'd always denied. Seasoned readers/viewers know where this is going. Dissolute Dorian, who has already had blood and everything else on his hands, falls for Henry's daughter, Emily. This is not a romance, and Dorian reaps what he sowed, big time. The climax is horrifying, both in what's shown and what's not, and even as we know this is how things have to end, there's still a smidge of sympathy for Dorian, who can't find a way to turn back from what he's become. The final scene with Henry, alone, haunts. I loved the way this movie handled the passage of time; motor cars, telephones, Henry ages, Dorian does not, the hissing breaths from the shaded portrait. There's tragic loves, grief, despair, gorgeous sets and costumes, friendships that go through hell, tasteful and yet visceral historical gore, all combining to leave me one very, very satisified viewer.

Neither of these are for the faint of heart, but for those who want to dive in deep into emotional viscera, two thumbs up. Next up for me: Dr. Zhivago.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


I did not win NaNo this year, and I am okay with that. I didn't think I would be. I like to win. If I keep on at the same pace, I will hit 50k on December 7th. Not too bad in that respect, and since I was a rebel this year and worked on a project that was already in progress, I may be there already but I'm not doing that math at this point.

What I did win was A) the new writing schedule fitting itself into place, B) finding out what pace is good for me right now, C) 40,255 more words written than I had on November 1st. Also D) I write big, and trying to ignore that and go for anything else is not going to work.

I learned that the laundromat is an amazingly good place for writing longhand, and that it is possible to get pounced by heartbroken pirates in such a place. He followed me home and I'm keeping him. Since said pirate is fictional, DH is fine with this. I have even volunteered to babysit Housemate's laundry in order to get more writing time.

Bring on December.