I always worry when American actors take on roles in English period dramas. It just gives them free rein to use received pronunciation in that stereotype that they seem so keen on. The stuff of Downton Abbey. The kind of accent that doesn’t have a hint of geography or personal context. Add Gwyneth Paltrow to the mix and it makes everything even more uncomfortable. I’m still haunted by Sliding Doors where she tried to convince us she was British by saying the word “shagging” on repeat. It just didn’t do it for me, so the idea of her getting her Austen on did kind of fill me with dread. But I also felt like I should watch it. After all, I’d already reviewed Clueless back in 2015. As much as I wanted to rewatch that absolute gem of an adaptation, it felt like I was cheating a bit.
A few months back, I did Google search and was presented with a warning reminding me that child pornography is illegal. You might be asking what the hell I was searching for that brought me face-to-face with this. It was simple “Lolita as a love story”. I’d seen an article on Twitter a few days before but couldn’t find it when I went back to read it. I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it, who wrote it, or what the title was. So I used a vague search term in the hope of finding it. Clearly, Google thought I was up to no good. After all, Lolita isn’t a love story. It’s the story of a predator who uses romantic language to justify grooming of his stepdaughter. It’s part of the genius of the novel and the genius of Vladimir Nabokov. It’s also one of the main reasons that Lolita is one of my all-time favourite books. But I understand that saying this to certain people can bring about the same warning signs as my earlier search did with Google. Even after all this time, there is still such a mystique about the novel because it deals with such a distasteful subject. But I find all the arguments citing the story as immature. What is the point of literature if not to tackle some of the worst aspects of humanity? And anyway, I bet the majority of the people who whine about Lolita are the same people who buy countless psychological thrillers about serial killers.
What happens when you take a book written by Ian Fleming, add a script co-written by Roald Dahl, and finish it off with Dick van Dyke? One of the greatest children’s films of all time that’s what. The film version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an absolute classic that everyone will remember from their youth. The very concept is an exciting one. A flying car will always be an exciting creation but add the ghoulish child catcher into the mix and you have a great story. I do enjoy the film but I’ve never read the book before. I can’t say I’m the biggest Ian Fleming fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bond films but I’ve never got on with the books. I’ve got a bit of a fascination with them but it’s hard to forget how inherently sexist and troubling they are. Still, I was sure that his children’s book wouldn’t suffer from quite the same issues as his spy novels.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a bookish girl in possession of a good library, should be in awe of Jane Austen. Not just girls, obviously, but I had to make it work for the quotation. Anyway, as a bookish person who has never really been enamoured with her work, I’ve occasionally come across some criticism. I mean, I did make the mistake of studying the era in which she was writing so that didn’t help much. I’ve also got plenty of friends who enjoy her books. I don’t judge them for it, as I don’t judge anyone for reading anything they want. I just don’t appreciate people giving her so much credit for the shaping of English literature. Especially feminist literature. As I discussed in my Friday Favourites last week, there were plenty of women who were as, if not more, inspiring than Jane was. They’ve just gone out of fashion. After all, outspoken and overtly political women aren’t the kind of people who are celebrated in most societies back then. Jane Auten survived because she wasn’t pushing as much of an agenda. Yes, she was putting strong women in her books but there was nothing anyone could really disagree with. Her writing isn’t the most beautiful but she was never trying to be. To me, she’s not literary fiction but romantic fiction and it’s just not my genre. I’ve been known to describe her as chick-lit before and it’s got me in trouble. I don’t think there’s anything negative about chick-lit but it’s formulaic and doesn’t push boundaries. And I love my boundaries to be pushed.
There are a lot of reasons why the Oscar nominations this year were disappointing. The lack of diversity is ridiculous. And to anyone out there claiming “it’s about talent not diversity” I say you’re missing the fucking point. In an ideal world, yes, the people who deserved to win prizes would be nominated for those prizes. But this isn’t an ideal world. The Oscar voting system is flawed. Each member of the Academy, over 8,000 voters, can nominate any 5 names in their given category. The votes are then tallied until you get a top 5. Now we know that films by female directors and films starring diverse casts aren’t given the stage they need. They are buried by the bigger studios who have decided that it is male directors and white actors who bring in the big bucks. With such a wide ocean of voters, the system does nothing to work around the bias. It’s a stupid system and, before we can have an awards season that truly celebrates quality, it needs to be looked at. Until then, it’s just become something we expect. The lack of female directors is shocking and the fact that people reply to it with “but there are more male directors” just proves my point. We don’t get to see films made by women. So, when they are released, nobody goes to see them. Of course, the thousands of members of the Academy aren’t going to give a shit about Céline Sciamma, Lulu Wang, or Lorene Scafaria. But Greta? She was to be our saviour. All these women deserved better but Greta was done wrong.
What is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Treasure Island? It’s pretty obvious that it’s the Muppets, right? When I think of Long John Silver it’s Tim Curry who comes to mind first. And why wouldn’t he? He’s perfect in the role. That whole film is perfect and it just goes to prove my theory that every book adaptation is better with the Muppets. I’d love to see loads of books get the Muppet treatment. Something super dark too. Like The Picture of Dorian Gray. Imagine that. Kermit can be Dorian meaning Miss Piggy can be Sibyl. Then Fozzie would be the perfect Basil. You’d have to have a human playing Lord Henry cause none of the Muppets is mean enough. But I think this will work. It could be amazing. But I feel like I’m getting majorly off-topic.
These days I have such a focus on reading the ever-increasing number of unread books on my shelf that I so very rarely indulge in rereading old favourites. And, as Oscar Wide put it so wonderfully, “if one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” As book lovers, we should all take time out every so often to read books that have already given us joy. I know people who will never reread books and I get it. If the thrill you take from reading is to find out the end of the story then reading something again is futile. But, I always think that rereading gives you a chance to really appreciate a book. To really take in the intricacies of the writing style. Although, I do tend to struggle when reviewing books I’ve already read. Even if I’ve never reviewed them before. I don’t know why. I guess already knowing that you like a book means it’s difficult not just to gush about it. Plus, I’ve never been that good at it anyway I suppose.
So it had taken me a month between posting my first review to posting the next. Apparently, in order to make up for the deficit, I posted two film reviews on one day. I don’t know what it was about the 25th October 2011 but clearly I was feeling quite motivated that day. Right after I uploaded my review of Fantastic Mr Fox, I also posted a review of that year’s The Three Musketeers remake. I vividly remember going to see that film with some friends because I almost got into an argument with one of them on the way home. I had criticised the film for being bad whilst she tried to give it a positive spin. I had no time for her suggestion that it didn’t matter how good it was if it was fun. Especially as, years later, she took the opposite stance by proclaiming Now You See Me was utterly terrible because it was too stupid. But, we know how bitter and petty I am so let’s leave that for another time. Back to the film in hand. I can’t say I was desperate to see this film but went along to try it out. It turned out to be such a mistake that I couldn’t wait to rant about it online. I would have been happy to never watch this film again but, at the same time, was interested to see if I’d mellowed over the years. After all, I’ve watched some absolutely shocking films last year. Surely, my bar has moved a little lower?
This may seem like history repeating itself because I’ve already reviewed Die Hard on this blog. But, considering it was the inspiration for the title of my blog, there was no real alternative to end my Throwback Thirty series. Not only is it one of the best films of 1988 but it is one of the most loved films of all time. Seriously, you mention Die Hard to pretty much everyone and they’ll respond positively. Plus, it’s kind of timely considering this year the whole “is Die Hard a Christmas film?” debate started raging again. “And is it?” I hear you cry? I don’t really care. Officially, I did put it on my list of ‘Essential Christmas films’ but I’d watch this film at any time of year and be happy. That’s not something I could say about the majority of other films on that list. In my heart, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas until I’ve watched Bruce Willis run around in a dirty tank top but it’s only real link to Christmas is the setting. But, I say again, who gives a shit?
Let’s look back to the end of 2017 when I foolishly decided that I would reread Murder on the Orient Express before I watched Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation. Unfortunately, I started reading Autumn by Ali Smith and it took me all fucking month to get through it. So, I decided that this was the year when I would finally do it. And, today, nearly a whole month later, I closed the final page. I should just realise that December isn’t my reading month but, if I start doing that, I’d then have to admit that no month is my reading month. It’s why I can’t ever set myself a reading challenge unless it’s read 1 book. But, let’s not get too bogged down with 2019. We’re still in 2018 and, unless I miraculously gain the ability to read super quickly, this will be the last book I finish this year. So, let’s make this review a good ‘un.