March 2011


The Mets don’t start their season until tomorrow, but it’s still MLB’s official Opening Day.  The Marauders open next Thursday on the road, and next Friday at home.  After spending 15 of the past 20 home openers with the Mets, I’ll miss seeing them once again, but I’ll be at McKechnie Field for the Marauders 2nd ever home opener.  I can hardly wait.

I had planned to wax lyrical about how much I love baseball and how important Opening Day is to me.  But someone else did it before I did and he did it better than I ever could have.

So, instead of my ramblings, I offer you “Ahead of the Game,” by Paul Greenberg:

Anyone who says baseball is a slow game isn’t watching it with a proper appreciation of the possibilities at every moment, of what can happen with every pitch. And between them. Just as it is the silences before the words that make great dialogue.

…It is in the minor leagues where the spirit of baseball still lives, not fresh but gritty. But tonight all is washed clean as the fresh uniforms. The creases are yet unformed on the young faces, the malice of time still to come.

Baseball really is life.  And the rest really is just details.  Happy Opening Day, everyone!

Today this humble blog had its 10,000th hit.  It’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but it means the world to me.

When I first started writing this blog, back in January of 2010, I had very low expectations.  I was pretty much just writing for myself, and if the only people who visited were my friends, that was OK.  But other people came, and more than a few have become regular visitors.  I am very honored and very grateful to all of you, and hope that you continue to visit. I know I haven’t written very much lately, but my day job has been insane (which is, I believe, very good for job security) and I just haven’t had the energy to work at being either interesting or entertaining.  This upcoming weekend has the potential to be good blog fodder, so let’s cross our fingers that there really will be something to write [home] about.

So, on to the next 10,000!

The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles train about 10-15 miles apart in the Manatee-Sarasota area (with the Rays, the Yankees and the Phillies each about 40-50 miles away), so there is plenty of spring baseball around here.  But, of the 2 local teams (Pirates and Orioles), only the Pirates have a Florida State League team that plays here.  The Bradenton Marauders made the playoffs in 2010, which was their inaugural season, and they attracted a small but loyal fan base.  Granted, they attracted more people than the Sarasota Reds did in any of the games I attended there, but there is definitely room for improvement.  Based just on the 9 years I’ve been here for spring baseball (which includes the 2 1/2 years I’ve lived here), all I can say is that the Pirates seem to have made a bigger effort to be a part of the community than the Reds did.  The Orioles are still new, so time will tell, but the Pirates really seem to care about Bradenton and its people.

One such effort on the part of the Pirates was their “Baseball Basics for Women” that was held at McKechnie Field last night.  Unlike real Fantasy Camp, this was for local women, most of whom are originally from somewhere else and not  necessarily Pirates fans.  I learned about it during the Blue Jays/Pirates game I went to a couple of weeks ago and, since tuition was only $30, I decided I simply had to go.

I had an amazing time.  There were about 50 or 60 women in attendance, some of whom had won “scholarships” from WCTQ, a local radio station, and others who learned about it from the newspaper.  There were some attendees who had played softball on the college level, and others who’d never held a bat in their hands.  I’m decidedly unathletic, but I do pride myself on knowing a lot about the game itself.  There were actually real Pirates in attendance, as well as players from the various minor league affiliates.  We got to meet Ross Ohlendorf,  James McDonald, Craig Hansen, Matthew Skirving, Quincy Latimore, Daniel McCutcheon, Chris Leroux, and more guys whose names escape me right now.  The Marauders will post items about the clinic on their Facebook page, and I’ll link to that later.  I’m not on Facebook (one of my goals in life is to be the last person in the world not on Facebook), but I imagine it’s a public page so I’ll be able to get the link and post it here.

We were given instruction on how to warm up by the Pirates’ conditioning coaches, and we all gathered in the outfield to run, skip, hop, etc.  It was tiring!  The attendees were then divided into 7 groups, and there were 7 stations scattered around McKechnie Field.  #1 was an opportunity to sit in the Pirates’ dugout and talk to major league players about pretty much anything.  #2 was the hitting station; #3 was baserunning; #4 was bunting; #5 was the outfield; #6 was the infield and #7 was pitching off the Pirates’ bullpen mound.  I saw that one woman pulled up lame at the baserunning station, so she missed the rest of the clinic, poor thing.

One of the perqs of attendance was a ticket to today’s Spring Training finale: the Pirates vs. the Rays.  I already had tickets to that game, so I gave my comp ticket to one of the other women at the clinic.  We were escorted onto the field before the game, and got our picture taken with Marty the Marauder, the Marauders’ mascot (the Pirate Parrot was nowhere to be seen).  Unfortunately, out of 60 attendees, only about 10 of us were on the field.  Another perq was a special t-shirt designed for the clinic, but they were made for flat-chested tweens (the so-called “ladies’ cut”), so the majority of us couldn’t fit into them.  I’ll keep the shirt as a souvenir, but even if I lose those last extra pounds, there is no way I could ever fit into it.  Just for the heck of it, I tried on the size XL in the privacy of my own home, and it was scary.  I can afford to lose a few pounds, but I wasn’t even close to being the largest person there.  Whoever convinced the staff to order “ladies’ cut” shirts was obviously a stick-figure or one of the afore-mentioned flat-chested tweens.

Today’s game was a lot of fun.  Dad and I sat in the shade (thank goodness!) and saw the Pirates beat the Rays 5-4 on an error in the bottom of the 9th.  Only 1 of the guys I met last night played in the game (pitcher Chris Leroux), and he gave up the game-tying home run in the top of the 9th, but he got the win anyway.  There were 2 errors, but there were also a lot of really good plays by both teams.  It was one of the better-played games I’ve seen during Spring Training. I rooted for the Pirates, but as a resident of Tampa Bay, I have to say I was very pleased to see the number of Rays’ fans who showed up.  The team might not draw well at the Trop, but they do very well on radio and TV, and it felt like a Rays’ home game.

So, in the final analysis, it was yet another terrific Baseball Weekend (and I don’t even ache from the exertion!).  There’s more to come because the Marauders’ season starts on the 7th, with the first home game on the 8th, which is also one of 3 Fireworks Nights.  And Dad and I already plan to see the St. Lucie Mets when they come to town.

As it is written: Baseball is life.  The rest is just details.

As some of you may remember, I’ve been re-reading all of the Harry Potter books in anticipation of the final installment in the movie series.  I own every one of the books, but they’re in storage, so I’ve been taking them out of the library.  In the UK, Bloomsbury published a couple of different editions of the books, including an “adult” version.  The only thing “adult” about the book is the cover:

I own the Bloomsbury children’s editions of the books:

Including Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis, which is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Latin.  This book was also published in Welsh (Harri Potter a maen yr Athronydd), Ancient Greek and Irish.  Here is a link to all of the different editions of the Potter books.  I’m not a snob, but I really do prefer the British covers.  The other reason I only own the British books is that I was so furious that Scholastic (the American publisher) thought American kids were so stupid that they wouldn’t read anything with the word “philosophy” in it that they made up something called a “Sorcerer’s Stone” just for the US market.  I learned about the Philosopher’s Stone and its role in alchemy in elementary school (back when the dinosaurs roamed), but there is no such thing as a Sorcerer’s Stone, and to change the book (and the movie) just for Americans is just stupid.  No other country did this.  None.  So I refuse to own any US copies of the book or the movie.  Call me crazy, but there’s a principle at stake.  Luckily, my public library stocks the Bloomsbury adult versions, so my delicate sensibilities are not offended. 😉

Anyway, I’m up to book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  It’s only the 2nd time I’ve read it, and I am liking it so much better than I did the first time I read it.  I even preferred the movie to the book, and that’s just not normal for me.  What I disliked the most last time is that Harry was always so angry that I thought the plot got lost in it.  I thought there was too much filler and not enough story.

But this time is different.  I’m reading it much more slowly and am appreciating the story more.  I don’t think it’ll ever be my favorite (that’s Prisoner of Azkaban), but I still like it better than I did before.

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I try to read every day at lunch, and am about halfway through No One Would Listen, by Harry Markopolos.  Yes, I’m late to that party too (even though I’ve owned the book since last year), but all of the Madoff-related troubles the Mets’ owners are having made me put it on top of the TBR pile.  It’s a great read, and a terrific reminder of the old axiom: “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Words to live by.

I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  When I put my name on the reserve list at the library back in December, I was #95.  It took 3 months, but I was finally able to pick up the book on March 5.

The Help is a novel about early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi.  The story is told through the eyes of three women, Aibilene, Minny and Skeeter. Aibilene and Minny are black and work as maids for white families in town.  Skeeter is a white woman who was raised by a black maid.  None of these women is happy with their lot in life, but given the time and the place, they’re all aware that there’s not much they can do to change things.  In the background, we hear of the murder of Medgar Evers and the rise of Martin Luther King and we, the readers, know that things will start to change.

Due to a variety of circumstances, Skeeter (who wants to be a writer) decides to tell the stories of these black women who spend their lives raising white babies. Everything has to be done in secret and they all know how much of a risk they’re taking. I thought Stockett did a good job of getting inside the heads of all three characters, and I was scared for them.

I liked the book very much, but there were, unfortunately, a lot of stereotypes and caricatures.  For the most part, the rich white women were evil and the poor black women were noble.  There is the requisite white trash woman trying to better herself, and the rich white women won’t let her do it.  The Junior League takes a lot of abuse also (in the interest of full disclosure, I was an active member of the New York League for almost 20 years), and not all of it is warranted.  The League does a lot of good in this world.  This “all rich people are awful and all poor people are wonderful,” “no-gray-area” mindset could have made me put the book down if it hadn’t been so compelling.  I really cared about these characters.  I really wanted to know if their book would get published and, if so, what the town’s reaction would be.

Apparently, not everyone in the real Jackson is happy about the book, and the woman who works for Ms. Stockett’s brother and sister-in-law is suing her.  The way I look at it, Ms. Stockett should be pleased — it means her book is resonating with the public.

Saturday was the 4th annual Bradenton Beer Festival.  It was fun.  Unfortunately, the Shock Top Volkswagen was not in attendance, so I have no new pictures of it to share with you all.  This year, they had free food along with the free beer, so we didn’t get to see the folks at T&L BBQ. That was disappointing, but some of the food they did have was tasty enough that we felt satisfied.  One vendor I will definitely visit is Casa di Pizza, which has 2 locations in the area.  The owner is from Buffalo and is a die-hard Mets fan, so I absolutely have to go. I didn’t love the pizza he had at the Festival, but that’s because it was stone cold, and I never developed a taste for cold pizza.  The friends I went with love cold pizza, and they liked it, so I’ll trust them and will visit Casa di Pizza. The owner said they have the MLB package, and sometimes it’s nice to watch a game with other people.  After the Fest, we all went to Gecko’s for a dessert beverage.  A good time was had by all.

Sunday included a trip to the new-and-improved Ed Smith Stadium to see Dad’s beloved Tigers play the Orioles. Of course, I was a dutiful daughter and I rooted for Dad’s Tigers.  The Tigers destroyed the O’s, 9-1 on an absolutely gorgeous day in Sarasota.  During every Spring Training game, the announcers make sure to tell the crowd what the temperature is back home.  Well, yesterday it was 37 in Detroit and 55 in Baltimore. But it was 70 in Sarasota, and that was, of course, only in the shade.  Where we sat, in the sun, it was considerably hotter.  I had SPF60 on, and still got some color and a new crop of freckles.

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures of the new Ed Smith.  The field looks pretty much the same, but the outside is just beautiful.  Here is the entry way:

And here is a recycling bin:

And here is a long-distance view of the new scoreboard/TV:

And, way off in the distance, is a sort of pavilion right over the O’s bullpen:

And, while I’m posting pictures, I’ll post a couple I took at McKechnie last week.  Here is a pirate ship at the Fan Fest:

And here is the Parrot pretending to be a cameraman.  He was actually pretty funny:

There must be something in the water at Ed Smith, because both this year and last year, there were people behind us who were beyond clueless about baseball.  It’s one thing to be a newbie, and yet another to be a newbie and pretend you aren’t.  One of this year’s crop of clueless ones asked why there were players hanging out in a fenced-in area down the right-field line.  One of her companions seemed to think that they weren’t allowed in the dugout.  I restrained myself from telling them that this was the bullpen and that those were the relief pitchers.  When Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers’ DH came up to bat, his name was announced, as was the fact that he was the DH.  And one of the women behind us asked what a DH was.  Her companion didn’t know, but stated rather emphatically that of course he had to play the field. We didn’t say a word.  Then, when the scoreboard showed that a player had previously hit into a DP, all 4 of them spent a couple of minute speculating as to what a DP could be. The only man in the group said something about it having to be the dugout.  KC couldn’t take it anymore.  She told them it stood for “double play.”  They thanked her, but ended up leaving a few minutes later.  Dad doesn’t hear well, and he didn’t hear a word of this, but he did get a kick out of it when I filled him in later.

Another beautiful weekend in Paradise!

Part VI: Persuasion, cont’d

P07 stars Sally Hawkins as Anne, Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth, Alice Krige as Lady Russell, Anthony Head as Sir Walter, Nicholas Farrell as Mr. Musgrove, Peter Wight as Admiral Croft and Tobias Menzies as Mr. Elliot.  It was produced by ITV and was aired along with MP07 and NA07 as part of their Jane Austen “festival” in the spring of 2007.  I love the book so dearly and the cast sounded so wonderful that I couldn’t wait to see it, and scoured YouTube for clips.  I saw it three times between the spring of 2007 and the early winter of 2008 and I haven’t seen it since.  I saw the US version once and the UK version twice.  I own the UK version and that is the one I watched for this post.  Here, for what they are worth, are my thoughts.

First impressions – Anne is a mouth-breather with bad hair.  It is so tight and slicked-back that I have to wonder if it hurts.  We first see her scurrying around the house with a pad and pen, taking inventory of Kellynch.  So we’ve missed the first couple of chapters of the book, you know, the ones where we learn just how broke Sir Walter is and that he must retrench.  “My” Anne Elliot does not scurry.  She is a very dignified, elegant woman who does not scurry.  Oh my – there’s a servant holding an inkwell, just in time for Anne to use it.  Whiskey.  Tango.  Foxtrot.  She’s scurrying so quickly that I’m surprised she has the time to write anything down.  She certainly doesn’t look like she’s writing.  She just looks like she’s looking.

The music is lovely, almost haunting.  The score is by Martin Phipps.

Lady Russell appears and is completely ignorant of Sir Walter’s financial situation.  Obviously, she missed the first couple of chapters, too.  In this version, Mr. Shepherd doesn’t seem to exist because here, it’s Anne herself who convinces her father to let the house.  Austen’s Sir Walter  and Elizabeth didn’t think highly enough of Anne to listen to her on matters such as these.

It turns out that the family haven’t left yet.  While Anne’s been scurrying, Elizabeth and Sir Walter are strolling around the garden. Elizabeth’s wig is just awful.  She also looks much, much older than 29 (She is.  The actress was 41 in 2007.).  The screenwriter obviously took a page from Nick Dear’s script and has her eating sweets.

Ah, so Mr. Shepherd does exist.  He comes upon the Elliots and Lady Russell in the garden, along with Mrs. Clay.  Mrs. Clay is way too pretty.  What happened to the protruding tooth and the clumsy wrist?  She even has dimples and looks positively winsome.

Anne learns about the Crofts and scurries up to her bedroom.  Lady Russell follows her, and they have a conversation that is almost from the book about how Anne marrying Wentworth would not have been prudent.

Anne keeps a diary and reads it out loud while she’s writing.  She wonders if Wentworth is married.  I’m not sure I like this diary technique.  It seems almost like a crutch.  And then she looks at the camera while asking her diary if he has children.  I’m not a fan of “breaking the 4th wall” either.

I’m guessing that it’s in the interest of time that they show Admiral and Mrs. Croft arriving at Kellynch the very instant Anne departs.  (I am not exaggerating – the Crofts can see Anne leave.) I can think of no other explanation.  The Admiral is wearing civilian clothes, which is appropriate.  P95 has the officers wearing their uniforms, which is not period correct, regardless of how amazing they look in those uniforms.  Mrs. Croft looks very old.  Sophy and Frederick are only supposed to be 7 or 8 years apart – Marion Bailey is 11 or so years older than Rupert Penry-Jones.  He has a baby face, and she does not, so the age difference is quite pronounced.

I do like them keeping the Admiral’s comments about all the looking glasses.  I missed that in P95.  But what I don’t like is what Sophy says next – she has heard “talk” that Frederick was engaged the last time he was in Somerset.  “His heart was quite broken, I believe.”  I am stunned.  There is never, ever a hint in the book that Sophy knows about the engagement.

We meet Mary.  The dialogue does come straight from the book, but I do miss Anne seeing her at the window.  Meeting her this way, lying there on the couch with her eyes closed, could mean that she actually is ill rather than just faking it.  Mrs. Musgrove is not large so, just as in P71, we will get no “fat sighs” here (not that it matters, just as in P95, Richard Musgrove never existed).  Henrietta and Louisa are very young, but they do give a good first impression.  There is no manic giggling, and that’s a very good start.  Charles comes in with his father and the boys, but he does not give me a very good first impression.  He seems rather a twit.  Amanda Hale seems to be channeling Sophie Thompson, but is not succeeding.  She seems as if she’s got either Tourette’s or St. Vitus Dance because she just won’t stop twitching.  It’s unbelievably annoying.  But I am prejudiced towards Nicholas Farrell.  I’ve never not liked him in anything he’s been in, so I do have high hopes for him.

Little Charles falls from the tree and is brought back to the house. His mother gets hysterical and ANNE RE-SETS HIS COLLARBONE.  WHILE IN HER DRESSING GOWN.  AND IT’S UNBUTTONED.  Whiskey.  Tango.  Foxtrot.  We all know how capable Anne is, but this is ridiculous.

After Anne and Frederick meet again, Anne looks at the camera, writes passages from the novel in her diary and cries.  I don’t feel for her the way I do in the book or in P95.  I just don’t. I think that they are almost forcing the issue by breaking the 4th wall.  Well, the technique does not work for me at all.  I don’t have the empathy for the character that I am accustomed to having.

Frederick barely says a word.  He just stands around and stares.  Except when he tells the whole gang that he’s ready to get married.  I like having him say the words he’s supposed to say, but he didn’t say them in public.  It works better when he says them to his sister in private; it’s just rude to say them in front of everyone.  And Frederick, despite everything, is still polite.

The dance is at Kellynch instead of Uppercross, and I missed Frederick asking why Anne doesn’t dance.

The more I see Amanda Hale, the less impressed I am with her.  Sophie Thompson was comic relief.  This woman is just annoying.   She’s constantly twitching and contorting her face and body.  I am not sure why she’s doing this.  I’ve never seen her in anything else, and so cannot say if she does this in all of her roles (she was, apparently, in episode 9.3 of Spooks, but I cannot remember her and cannot comment on her acting in that part).

Henrietta and Louisa take the Long Walk with the express intention of going to visit Winthrop and Mary goes along voluntarily.  That makes no sense whatsoever.  Anne spends the entire walk looking as if she’s about to cry.  Here, even Charles forgets about Anne and lets her fall into the water. It’s so obvious that you just know it’s going to happen. This reminds me that we never got the scene at Uppercross where the entire Musgrove family confides in Anne.  I miss that scene – it shows just how much they care about her and trust her judgment.  This Anne, despite her expertise with collarbones, does not seem to be a source of advice and consolation from the Musgrove family.  Anyway, when she falls into the water and lies on the ground, flat on her back, all of a sudden Frederick is there to help her up.  That’s very odd and not even close to anything that happened in the book.  The way it happens almost made me think it was a dream sequence.

OK, this made me laugh.  When Frederick and Louisa are talking about how the family wished that Charles had married Anne instead, Frederick asks her when this happened. “I do not exactly know, but before he married Mary.”  Are you kidding me?????  Did anyone proofread the script???  I can’t believe that RPJ doesn’t start laughing out loud at this one.  All he does is look perturbed.  RPJ is a fine actor but he’s totally wasted here.  He’s barely strung 10 sentences together since the movie started more than 30 minutes ago. And this is all besides the fact that he doesn’t look as if he’s spent 8 minutes out of doors, much less 8 years.

I’m very glad that Charles Hayter gets to keep his name.  The “Henry Hayter” business in P95 was just silly.

But I am NOT glad at what happens next.  The scene where the party meets up with the Crofts, the scene where Anne first starts to see that maybe Frederick still has some feelings for her, is totally ruined.  He plops her down on the back of the gig, like a sack of potatoes.  She doesn’t sit with the Crofts, she’s sitting on the back of the gig, facing the other way.  Anne is almost a bystander, not a part of the conversation.  It’s ludicrous and not even remotely swoon-worthy.  This is just Not Good.

Voiceovers worked to a certain extent in P&P80, but they don’t work here.  Not after seeing P95, where so much happened with no words being spoken because they simply weren’t needed.

Harry Harville?  Oh please.  That’s even worse than Henry Hayter.  And, it appears that Capt. Harville knows who Anne is. He gives Frederick a knowing look when introduced to Anne.  That’s definitely not in the book. Frederick didn’t tell anyone except his brother Edward.  Not Sophy, not Harville, not Benwick.  No one.  I will say that Harville is a good-looking man.  But where is Mrs. Harville?  I’ve always liked her.  This Capt. Harville appears to be a bachelor.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Anne and Benwick have the constancy conversation at Lyme.  And Frederick doesn’t hear it.  And it’s cut short to boot.  Badly, badly, BADLY done.   The writers certainly didn’t understand the importance of this conversation.  And it really ticks me off.  How can he write his letter without hearing what Anne has to say?  

Ah, here comes the stranger on the beach.  He’s tall, dark and handsome.  He’s Tobias Menzies, who appears to be a very appropriate Mr. Elliot. We see him look approvingly at Anne, but I’m not sure why.  Sally Hawkins’ Anne does not seem to have become, shall we say, refreshed by the sea air.  And, with that slicked-back, greasy-looking hair, she does not look even remotely as pretty as I’ve seen her in other things.

Louisa’s dive doesn’t have much build-up.  Anne takes charge, and everyone does what she tells them to.  And there’s blood here, unlike in the book, where there is no visible wound at all.  Harville is at the scene of the accident and, when we are back at the house, we see no Mrs. Harville at all.

The movie is half over, at around the same place the book is (Louisa’s accident), but everything just feels rushed.  I keep thinking that we’re missing something.

They seem to be using the Royal Crescent as Camden Place. What’s up with that?

There’s a scene in Lyme where Harville tells Frederick that it is expected that he will marry Louisa.  We never hear or see this in either of the other adaptations, and it is only referred to in the book.  This is an example of what I mean when I say that this adaptation gives us almost too much information.  P95 didn’t need to show us everything.  It treated us as if we were smart enough to figure it out on our own.  Here, however, everything has to be spelled out to us.  I don’t really like it.

I’m not sure why all of the characters spend their time going around the Pump Room in circles.  I keep thinking of a skating rink.  I don’t know how historically accurate this is, but it’s rather silly looking.

Anne’s letter from Uppercross is from Charles, not Mary.  And he doesn’t say that Louisa is going to marry Benwick; it just hints at a marriage, and of course, Anne thinks it’s Frederick and Louisa.  I’m not sure what the point is then, except to have Anne cry again.  I guess Sally Hawkins has a talent for crying and they didn’t want it to go to waste.

Sir Walter is not as vain as he could be, but he’s nastier than any Sir Walter I’ve ever come across.  When he tells Anne that she should go with them to the Dalrymples’, he shouts rather than whines.

We’re back at Lyme, and Frederick is telling Harville about how he still loves Anne.  Harville does indeed know all about her.  And then Harville tells him about Louisa and Benwick.  I dislike this scene a lot. It’s just so wrong on so many levels.

The writer seems to believe that every other word in Regency times was “exceedingly.”  The characters use it exceedingly often.

Anne finds out that her “cousin” (huh???) Louisa Musgrove is marrying Benwick through a personal visit from the Crofts.  Where did that come from?  Mrs. Croft says things that were supposed to come out of the Admiral’s mouth, and they don’t really work.  I’m not sure why this was a good idea.  And, once again, Anne looks like she’s going to cry.  She reminds me of Emily from Udolpho, who cried so often that I wanted to reach into the novel and smack her.  It’s bad enough that the Crofts notice something’s wrong with Anne, and that’s definitely not a good thing.

Next up, we get the scene where Anne and Frederick meet at Mollands.  I’m sorry to offend any of the P07 fans out there, but I see zero chemistry between these two.  Sally Hawkins hasn’t gotten any of Anne’s “bloom” back, and RPJ continues to look uncomfortable. This is such a waste of good actors.  Bad script and bad casting don’t bode well for a good adaptation.   And they have their Louisa/Benwick conversation at Mollands.  Isn’t the shop supposed to be crowded?  Mr. Elliot shows up and calls Anne by her first name.  That’s just wrong.  Then she tells Frederick about a concert at the Pump Room.  It almost sounds like she’s asking him for a date.  This is just wrong.

Anne really needs to do something about the mouth-breathing.  It makes her look considerably less than attractive.

Seeing Anne run after Frederick at the concert in this film is even worse than seeing her run after Frederick in P95 (which I definitely thought was out of character for Anne Elliot). This time, she gets up just as the orchestra starts playing a Mozart symphony and runs out to find him.  What happened to Anne being an Italian scholar?  I miss hearing Mr. Elliot fawning all over her.  And then he asks her to marry him at the concert.  Where did that come from?

All of a sudden, it’s the next day, and Anne sees a letter intended for herself on the table in the entry way.  It is from Frederick, who tells her he has a “commission from my admiral” and that he must speak with her at 11 that morning.  While I like the idea of a tribute to the cancelled chapters in P95, it seems way more cumbersome to do it this way.

Wentworth shows up at the house just as Mary and Charles do (I did say this felt rushed, didn’t I?) and Anne looks like she’s about to vomit.  There is no more delicate way to put it.  So then she takes Frederick into another room and shuts the door – all while her father, brother-in-law and 2 sisters are watching.  Whenever I think I’ve seen the last weird thing, another one happens.

So now is the “commission from my admiral” speech.  It’s just meh.

But now begins the stupidest part of this entire stupid movie. Frederick has just left the room in which he and Anne were talking, and Anne is less than a minute behind him.  So what does she do?  She runs after him.  And I am not kidding when I say she runs.  And, for a few seconds, so does Mrs. Smith (that Nurse Rooke is obviously even more capable than Anne herself – an invalid is now running through the streets of Bath!) and telling Anne the truth about Mr. Elliot.  She tells her more than we heard about in the book.  Since when does Mrs. Smith know that William Walter Weasel wants to install Mrs. Clay as his mistress even while he’s married to Anne?

Anyway, Frederick is gone.  Poof!  Vanished into thin air.  Good Lord, this running is stupid.  Anne is a woman who can’t walk a couple of miles without tiring, and now she’s running all around Bath like a chicken with her head cut off.  It’s stupid, stupid, stupid.  Some people have tried to justify it by saying that it’s because all of her emotions are swirling around.  Well, the book’s Anne had some of those same emotions, but she didn’t run through Bath like an idiot in an attempt to vent them.

Here’s a tip — instead of watching the running scene from the movie, check this out instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwZsyVm01Dw&feature=player_embedded Don’t click on it.  Copy and paste it into a browser window and enjoy.  Seeing this clip again reminds me of the time I saw this film on a big screen at Cooper Union in New York City.  The entire audience started laughing when Anne started running, and they didn’t stop until the credits rolled.  There’s something seriously wrong with that.  You’re not supposed to laugh at the ending of Persuasion.

But I digress.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, things get even worse.  Anne runs into Capt. Harville (literally) and HE GIVES HER FREDERICK’S LETTER. Is this another example of the space/time continuum being fiddled with?  How in the world has Frederick had the time to go to a place with a desk, a pen, some ink and some paper and write a letter?  He’s only just left Anne!  And, even more to the point. how can he write this particular letter since he never heard the constancy conversation?  I’ll tell you how.  It’s because the Letter, Austen’s magnificent Letter, has been butchered almost beyond recognition.  This alone is enough to make me hate this movie.  Once again: 

And, after all the running, she accepts his proposal and they kiss.  And it’s got to be the ugliest kiss in Austen adaptation history.  She’s been running around town doing the Bath Marathon, and she can hardly catch her breath.  The result is just a gross, un-sexy, guppy-like kiss.  And I hate it with a passion.  It’s so awful that I couldn’t even watch it.  Bleagh.

Next thing we know, she’s writing in that stupid diary again, and he takes her, blindfolded, to see her wedding gift.  It’s Kellynch Hall!  It doesn’t matter that the place is entailed to Mr. Elliot in the first place, or that Frederick doesn’t have enough money to buy it in the second place.  This kiss is nicer (and her hair is better) but it does not make up for the utter stupidity of the rest of the film.

I watched it so you don’t have to.  I was once asked what my favorite part of this film is.  My answer?  The closing credits.

It’s a real shame that the Odyssey has to end on such a disappointing note.  This movie had so much potential – a terrific cast and a decent budget – but it was just awful.  Not as bad as MP99 of course, but bad enough that, if I hadn’t had to watch it for this project, I would have happily let it sit in its box forever.

Luckily for us all, I do, however, have something else up my sleeve – it’s Aisha, the Bollywood adaptation of Emma that came out last summer.  Netflix sent me one of their copies, so I plan to watch that in the next couple of days and post my column shortly afterwards. And, in order to get the rotten taste of P07 out of my mouth, I just may watch P95 again (now that I’m allowed to) and revel in its beauty.

My own parish church is 13 miles from home in the opposite direction from the office, so I went to a church that is much closer to work for their 7 a.m. Ash Wednesday Mass.  We got a late start because a statue in the church garden of Jesus and 2 little children was vandalized overnight.  When I arrived at 6:45, the priest was talking to the police.  Fox 13 covered the story, as did several other local outlets. Personally, it’s not my taste in art, but that doesn’t mean I would ever consider hopping a fence in the middle of the night and whacking it with a blunt object.

Ash Wednesday is a sad day to begin with, and this made it even worse.  The priest referred to the vandalism several times during the service and tried to come up with reasons why anyone in his right mind would do something like that.  I know it’s Lent and we’re supposed to think even more carefully about “forgiv[ing] those who trespass against us,” and my heart goes out to the clergy and the parishioners because forgiving the person or people who destroyed their statue is not going to be easy.

I hope they have the strength to do the right thing.

Updated 3.10.11: This story made the front page of the Bradenton Herald.  There’s another picture of the damage at the link.

Part VI: Persuasion, cont’d.

It was extremely difficult for me to be objective while watching P95 because it is not only my favorite Austen adaptation, it is one of my favorite films of any kind.  But, in order to be as fair as possible, I would not let myself not to watch it this year (I can watch this movie several times a year and not get bored), and instead waited until the proper time. So finally, I sat in front of the television with a pad and paper last night to take notes and try to forget why I love this movie so much.  I’ve worked very hard at being objective, but it’s really not easy.  I’ll probably end up rambling.  You’ve been warned.

This film was produced by the BBC (with some financial help from PBS) and was released in several theaters around the US before being shown on PBS as part of Masterpiece Theater.  Seeing it on the big screen at the theater at the Plaza Hotel (sadly, it’s long gone) with my friend N (the one who now lives in Tampa) was quite an experience.  I had never read the book, but was inspired to immediately.  I loved the book even more than the movie, and that’s saying a lot.

The film has an outstanding cast that anyone who is a fan of British television will recognize:  Amanda Root, Ciarán Hinds, Fiona Shaw, John Woodvine, Corin Redgrave, Sophie Thompson, Simon Russell-Beale, Victoria Hamilton, Phoebe Nicholls, Susan Fleetwood, Philip Glenister, Judy Cornwell and Samuel West.  The cast are just wonderful, even though they are all somewhat too old for their roles.  Since they’re all too old together, I guess you could say that everything is relative.  The screenplay is by Nick Dear, and Roger Michell directed it.

The opening credits are interesting – I like how they switch back-and-forth between the Navy and Kellynch Hall.  We know that Austen loved and respected the Navy, and I thought this was a nice way of introducing us to both sets of characters.  I also like how we see just how loved and respected the Admiral is by his subordinates.  But when we get to Kellynch, it’s just as obvious that Sir Walter doesn’t engender the same sentiments from his servants.  We don’t have to listen to a verbatim reading of the Baronetage, but it’s immediately apparent that Sir Walter is an unrepentant snob. Elizabeth is possibly the single worst thing about this adaptation – she is not the elegant ice queen of the book (or P71).  She lounges around, gobbling bonbons while occasionally snorting or shouting.  I understand that they had very little time to show us how awful she is, but there must other ways to do it.  Having Elizabeth be a fishwife doesn’t need to be one of them.

Elizabeth reminds her father about Anne and Wentworth.  This is not in the book.  I can try to excuse this, but it’s not easy.

While Anne is going through the household items, she pulls a paper hat out of the Navy List and, if you look very closely, it seems to be the same paper that Frederick’s Letter is from.  I guess the filmmakers didn’t foresee just how obsessed some people would be and just how carefully they (we?) would scrutinize every little detail, but some of us did notice this.  I know this is a low-budget production, but still…

I really love the lighting in this production.  It’s not artificial – when the characters eat dinner, it’s by candlelight, and that’s it.  Seeing Sir Walter preening in the semi-darkness with a butter knife is laugh-out-loud funny.

I also love the scene at Uppercross where the entire Musgrove family confides in Anne.  Anne does not say a single word during this entire scene.  But it shows just how much everyone trusts her.  Even Mary, who spends most of her time thinking and talking about herself, trusts Anne.

One of my favorite scenes in the entire film is the first time that Anne and Frederick see each other for the first time since the year ’06. Frederick walks into the room, and we get a close-up of Anne’s hand grasping the chair as if for dear life.  This is an incredibly powerful scene.  We feel the tension, even though no one has said anything of substance.  Later on, after Mary tells Anne that Frederick says she is so altered that he wouldn’t recognize her, we see Anne before her mirror, looking at her reflection and seeing just how worn-0ut she looks.  This is just about the most heart-breaking 5 minutes of film I have ever seen.  Once again, there is very little dialogue, but Root is such a good actress that none is really necessary.

I like the way the Long Walk is treated.  We see Anne bringing up the rear, with Frederick looking back at her periodically.  It’s a good build-up to the close-up of him helping her get into the Crofts’ carriage.  It is so much more powerful than it was in P71. It’s truly as gripping a scene as it is in the book. I’m not thrilled that Nick Dear gave away Frederick’s speech about how compliments to the Navy would encourage him to get married.  When I read the book after seeing the movie I was surprised that these words were actually Frederick’s, meaning that they do work coming from Sophy, but I’m not sure why Nick Dear had Sophy say them in the first place.

Louisa’s accident is done very well.  She’s higher up on the stairs than she was in P71 so we can have a better perspective on just how dangerous her actions are.  In real life, a lot of accidents appear to be in slow motion for the victims, and it is here too.  You can see it happening, but you know that there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  Unfortunately, this scene reminds me of a problem that I have with this production, and that is the use of first names.  First names are used so often here that, when Frederick refers to Anne by hers in the aftermath of Louisa’s accident, it doesn’t have nearly the same impact as it does in the novel.  But Hinds is a good enough actor that we can see the panic in his face when Louisa falls and also relief when Anne says she will stay.  But Mary serves as comic relief when she whines and cries that she should stay instead of Anne – trust Mary to find a way to take someone else’s accident and make it all about her.

The segue from the rain and windows at Uppercross to the rain and windows at Bath is very, very well done.  Once again, no words are needed to show that Anne’s life truly is quiet and confined.  It’s all there on the screen.

I love the scenes in Bath.  The sterile whiteness of Elizabeth’s drawing room is so appropriate.  She is a cold woman, and she lives in a cold house.  Perfect.

I’m not sure why we don’t get to see Anne learn about Louisa and Benwick via Mary’s letter.  Perhaps it’s because there wasn’t enough time?  Who knows.

Having an “homage” to the “cancelled chapters” was, I think, a nice addition to the film and it was done well.  It shows me that Dear and Michell did their homework and know the book and its backstory well.  I was impressed.  It doesn’t feel like a tacked-on section because, when I went home and read the book, I was surprised to see that this scene does not appear in the final version of the book. (I hope everyone who reads the book gets a chance to read these cancelled chapters.  They will make you appreciate the published ending of the book that much more)

The Mr. Elliot/Mrs. Smith subplot is lacking here.  Mr. Elliot’s motivations have been changed because his financial situation has been changed.  In the book, he is rich and he is greedy for more.  In the film, he’s poor and needs the money rather than just wanting it. That’s a big difference, and not one that really works for me.

The ending of this movie is, in my not-so-humble opinion, almost perfection.  The constancy conversation is well done, and we can see Frederick struggling to hear what Anne and Harville are saying.  When Frederick comes back into the room to give Anne his Letter, his really does look at her witheyes of glowing entreaty,” just the way he does in the book. I really love how they read the letter together — yes, it’s a little confusing, but so are everyone’s emotions at this point, so I find no fault with this tactic whatsoever.  Besides, I know the Letter by heart now, so I just recite it along with them.  I know the circus isn’t universally popular, but I really like it.  I like the way we can see that, after all the years of separation, Anne and Frederick are finally together, even surrounded by all that chaos. Seeing them together, on board their own ship, is just beautiful.  Unfortunately, what keeps the ending from being absolutely perfect is having Sir Walter say “You want to marry Anne?  Whatever for?” in response to Frederick asking for her hand at the card party.  That really does not work for me.

I mentioned before that I don’t like the way Elizabeth is portrayed, but that’s not necessarily Phoebe Nicholls’ fault.  I am not a fan of Sam West as Mr. Elliot – he’s an excellent actor, but I just don’t think he’s attractive enough to be Mr. Elliot.  Other than Mr. Elliot, I adore the cast.  Yes, they’re pretty much all too old, but they’re all so good in their roles that I can’t hold their ages against them.  Amanda Root is just outstanding as Anne.  She goes from worn-out to glowing very well.  Obviously, a lot of the credit has to go to the hair and make-up department, but Root’s acting cannot be dismissed. Ciarán Hinds is not conventionally handsome, but he has a je ne sais quoi that makes him a perfect Captain Wentworth in my eyes.  The secondary characters are terrific too – Corin Redgrave is just perfect as Sir Walter, and I also love Susan Fleetwood’s Lady Russell.  Sophie Thompson is hilarious as Mary, and Simon Russell-Beale is very, very good as her long-suffering husband. The Crofts are divine, as are the elder Musgroves. The Musgrove girls are also good; I am a big fan of Victoria Hamilton, and she is quite good as Henrietta.  As for Emma Roberts’ Louisa, I don’t know her at all, but she’s quite good here.  They were both young and flighty, and managed to do it without any of the incessant giggling we had in P71.

Unfortunately, this adaptation isn’t very well-known outside of Fans of Jane.  It’s not as famous as P&P95 or S&S95 or even the Paltrow Emma.  There are some copies of the DVD that spell Austen’s name with an “I”, and there is one in particular that has actors who aren’t even in the movie on the cover.  Here are the four most common covers for the DVD.  The second-from-the-left is referred to as “the Nibbler.”  Open the link and you’ll see why.  The music is just wonderful, even though Chopin’s compositions are too late for the period in question. Unfortunately, nobody ever thought to release a soundtrack CD, but you can recreate it by buying a CD of Chopin’s preludes.

All in all, I can say without hesitation that P95 is an almost-perfect adaptation. I own two copies (neither one is the Nibbler); one of them has Ciarán Hinds’ autograph and I keep it in a separate place from my other DVDs.  Hinds was in a play on Broadway back in 2008 (The Seafarer) and I did a very touristy thing by hanging outside the stage door to get his autograph.  I also got a picture of the two of us that is my cell phone’s wallpaper.  The other people waiting outside that theater were there for David Morse, so I had Ciarán all to myself. It was wonderful.

As an aside, several years ago, some fans of Persuasion and this film came together to create a “Rocky Horror”-type script for P95.  It’s a lot of fun, especially if you do it with a group of similarly warped individuals.

Yesterday, KC and I drove up to Disney to watch her Braves play my Mets.  The place was positively crawling with Mets fans, so I felt at home.  David Wright, Jose Reyes and Ike Davis all made the trip, and Big Pelf started.  Derek Lowe and his colleagues held the Blue-and-Orange hitless for the first 5 innings, but the Mets scored 3 runs in the 6th so the loss wasn’t quite so humiliating.  The game summary is here.

Today, Dad and I stayed closer to home and went to McKechnie Field in Bradenton to see the Pirates host the Blue Jays.  The Pirates lost 5-0, and the fans were paying more attention to the Parrot than to the game after a certain point.  The Parrot was in top form, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss.

Watching games when you don’t have a vested interest in the outcome is such a different experience than watching games you really care about.  If I watch the Mets, there is only 1 acceptable outcome.  If I watch the Yankees, there is only 1 acceptable outcome.  But if I watch the Pirates play the Blue Jays, all I really care about is whether or not it’s a good game.  Today was a good game.  The Jays made some outstanding plays in the field, and they pitched well enough to get the shut out.  The game was less than 3 hours long which is a Good Thing because, after the 4th or 5th inning, only die-hard fans of the teams in question have ever heard of most of the guys on the field.  Large numbers of fans leave once the regulars do, so for those of us who stay, it’s much easier to get home.  Works for me.

On tap for next week a is an Orioles game at the newly refurbished Ed Smith Stadium.  I am really looking forward to seeing it.  From the outside, it looks just beautiful. I hope it is just as nice inside.