Sunday, February 2, 2020

Some Thoughts On Little Women (2019)

I finally got to see the 2019 version of Little Women the other day, and I have a few things to say.

Roughly 800 years ago (which is to say, back in 2013) I sat down and read the novel Little Women, both volumes. I then wrote this post, in which I talked about the book as well as some of its many film adaptations.

Since 2013, the world has been granted three (3!) new versions of Little Women. 

The first, a 2017 TV-movie starring Maya Hawke as Jo, had all the makings of a masterpiece -- Angela Lansbury as Aunt March, Emily Watson as Marmee, Michael Gambon as Laurie's grandfather. Unfortunately, the acting from everyone else was so stilted and ridiculous that I couldn't even make it past episode one.

The second, a 2018 "modern retelling," featured Lea Thompson as Marmee. I never saw it, and the ratings don't look particularly promising, so I likely never will.

And finally, there's the 2019 version, which boasts the likes of Meryl Streep, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Chris Cooper, and Laura Dern. It currently has a 95% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it received several Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actress (Ronan), Supporting Actress (Florence Pugh as Amy), Music (Alexandre Desplat) and Costume Design. (As a quick note -- if nothing else, I hope it wins for screenplay and music. The music was beautiful. More on the adaptation in a moment.)

Okay, so spoiler alert, if you haven't seen this version and plan to do so, maybe wait and see it and then come back and read this afterward.

* * *

For the most part, I really enjoyed the 2019 version.

But I can't help wondering... how many people were able to actually follow it?

Because the whole thing begins with the four girls as adults -- Jo in New York, Amy in Paris, Meg with kids, and Beth loitering about.

Then it jumps back in time to when the four sisters are teenagers. Or, in other words, to where the novel begins.

Then it jumps to the future again.

And back. And forth. And back. And forth.

And it's never super obvious WHICH time period they're in whenever a jump is made. If you're incredibly familiar with the story, you can figure it out for the most part. But the clues are so subtle. I'm thinking about other movies that jump back & forth -- Forrest Gump makes the transitions with narration, and Now & Then's two time periods feature completely different actresses. Those are just two films that come to mind.)

Here, the clues are basically: The girls' hair. Pay attention to their hair. Of course, even then, it's not always clear. Does Jo's hair look short  because we're in the time period right after she lobbed it off, or does it just appear to be short because she's got it pulled back? Speaking of hair, would it have killed them to give Laurie a mustache when he got older? They gave Christian Bale one in the 1994 version once he got older and more worldly.

Okay, yes, in some cases you can tell it's the future or the past by paying close attention to the surroundings.  (Is someone in New York? Okay, it's the future.) Other times -- like during two separate visits to the seashore and two instances of Beth being gravely ill -- the two events happening in different time periods are presented as parallels, with quick cuts in between, and it's like... wait!? Stop!? When ARE we?

For a viewer who isn't familiar with the work, were they just left utterly confused?

Well, if you, like me, ARE familiar with the work, and you can get past the constant hopping through time, what you are left with is a version of Little Women that is unlike any that has come before it. (I am considering the films of 1933, 1949, and 1994, as well as the TV versions from 1970 and 1978.) And if I may say so, that's a GOOD thing. Whenever there's a "new" version of a classic work, it BETTER be different and interesting -- otherwise, what's the point?

When I first began to see trailers for this version, my immediate impression was that yes, it was going to be different -- and not particularly true to the book. But honestly, I didn't care. NONE of the films have been 100% true to the book. Several of the older versions had subplots involving Laurie and his Grandfather having a dysfunctional relationship, for example. Even the 1994 version chose to focus on Jo rather than focus on all the sisters in their later years, the way the book does. (This was fine, though, because A) Jo's plots are the best, and B) Nobody cares about your toddlers, Meg. No one!)

So, I have to say, after seeing the full film, I'm surprised how closely it DID stick to the book. If you were to rearrange all the scenes into chronological order, you'd get something very similar to the book.

Oh sure, there are a few differences. One, in this film, Friedrich is played as a little bit younger (mid-30s as opposed to the usual mid-to-late 40s), which I don't mind. Two, in this film, Jo opens a co-ed school, whereas in the book it was an all-boys school. (Again, I like this change.)

But then there was the whole thing about Jo's letter to Laurie towards the end. Jumpin' Jehoshaphat, Josephine March! That was -- I mean, it's not really fair to tease us like that! Make the audience think, Hmm, yeah, this is a NEW version of Little Women, where they might finally make things "right" and get those two crazy kids together! And then it's like, "Nope! Fooled you!" MEAN.

My biggest surprise was that they included several post-marriage scenes between Meg and John, which I don't recall seeing much of before in any of the films. (In the 1994 version, Meg gives birth and that's about it.) Well, no, my surprise was more with the fact that the scenes were tolerable -- good, even!

But perhaps the biggest difference between the book and this film (and the 1994 one, too, if we're being fair) is the overall message.

The book: Morality wins the day! Be good wives, and thou shalt prosper!

This movie's message: Feminism! Bucking traditional roles and going one's own way! You'll never reign in Jo March, oh no!

The 1994 version went in that direction, too, but the 2019 version pushes the message even further. And that's great. We're 150+ years removed from the novel. A movie about four girls growing into "good little wives," and basically dumbing down as they do so, would be insulting, even outrageous, to most Americans today. (Yeah, I'm sure you'd still find a few people who'd be into it, but I'm not sure those people even go to movie theaters in the first place.)

Anyway, first impressions:

*Chronological time-and-space jumping is a little confusing (at least upon a first viewing).

*Acting is great.

*Music is wonderful.

*Story is familiar, and yet presented in a way that's not stale.

*Someone PLEASE teach Eliza Scanlen how to actually look like she's playing a piano. (ETA: Okay, apparently she knows how to play. Hey, let's blame a sound editor instead!)

*I hope it wins an Oscar or two.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Goldilocks & The Clickbait Article

This family was only gone a few minutes! You won’t BELIEVE what they saw when they came home!

You’ve probably had moments in your life where you thought, “Something doesn’t feel quite right,” but you couldn't quite put your finger on why. 

All you knew was that something was off. Maybe one of your co-workers had been using your desk? Perhaps someone moved your flower pot half an inch? Maybe your boss put something in your coffee?

Paranoid? That’s what your friends and co-workers may have laughingly called you. But YOU knew better. You just KNEW that someone had been messing with you. 

But who? And why?

The Bear Family of Everdale, North Dakota, may know a thing or two about this phenomenon. 

The Bears had lived quiet, carefree lives... until recently... when their serene lives unraveled into CHAOS! Scroll down to read more.



Just Your Typical, All-American Family

The Bears are your typical small, middle-class family unit. Mama and Papa Bear have one child, who they affectionately refer to as “Baby," as he is very small. The Bears live in a modest cottage, surrounded by trees, grass, bushes, flowers, ferns, rocks, and even a small stream. Their homestead is cozy in winter, comfortable in summer, and just an all-around great place to raise a child.

“We’d been lucky... so far,” says Papa Bear.

But unbeknownst to Papa, that sense of security was all about to change.



Serene environment? That's how it seemed. Many would give their right arms to live in a woods as lovely as the Bears'. 

Yes, life for the Bears had always been peaceful and quiet. They have few nearby neighbors. No one ever bothered them… at least, no one ever USED to.

But all that was about to change.



A Waking Nightmare

Isn’t it funny how, in the blink of an eye, life can change? One minute, everything is blissful and wonderful, and the next, it’s the stuff of nightmares?

What was about to happen was DEFINITELY a nightmare for the Bear family!


The Day Everything Changed

Everything changed one morning in May, 2018.

A morning the Bears will never forget.

The morning started out normally enough – probably not unlike a morning you might experience. The family woke, climbed out of bed, washed, and went downstairs for breakfast.


The breakfast meal was a simple one: Porridge. Porridge is made by crushing oats or other grains and boiling them in water or milk. This creates a warm cereal that can be enjoyed with embellishments such as honey, berries, or syrup. This was a typical breakfast for the Bears, as it was one meal they could all agree upon as tasting great.

Another thing the family agreed on that morning: Their porridge was way too hot.

“I take the blame for that,” says Papa. “It was my turn to make the porridge. I shouldn’t have left it on the burner so long. Mama’s much better at preparing food than I am. But I do like to help out when I can.”


The Calm Before The Storm

All of us make mistakes sometimes. Especially those of us with aspirations in the art of cooking. Sometimes our culinary concoctions will look beautiful and taste delicious. Other times, all our dreams will fall, much like a grandmother’s carefully-made cake.

So it was with great humility (on that fateful morning) that Papa Bear suggested the family take a short turn about the woods to enjoy the morning air while waiting for their porridge to cool. The other family members agreed to this plan, and they set off together.

If only they could have predicted what would happen next!!!


The Fateful Walk

It is so easy to be carefree when one has never had a reason not to be. And so, on this fateful morning, without a care on their minds (other than timing their walk perfectly so as not to return when the porridge was too cold), the Bears headed out on their walk.

 The sun was out, the birds were chirping... everything seemed perfect. If only the Bears could have predicted what they would return home to!


As they walked along the path near their home, Mama Bear recalls having one of those nagging feelings. “Something just didn’t feel right,” she admits. “I thought I was just being paranoid, so I didn’t say anything. Also, I didn’t want to worry Baby. So I just pretended everything was fine.”


The air was glorious that morning. The weather was a dream. Chipmunks chattered in trees. The nearby stream gurgled happily.

As the Bears approached their humble abode after their short walk, however, their tranquility quickly transitioned into ever-rising alarm.


A Parents' Worst Nightmare

“The door was ajar,” Mama remembers. “And I knew that I had closed it.”

An ajar door can mean a lot of things: The wind has blown it open… the latch is 
faulty… or (even more alarming)… someone or something has entered the house!

“I remember saying, ‘That’s strange!’ as we approached the door,” says Mama. “But I tried to keep my voice cheery so as not to worry my family.”


Mama, like many mothers, had often, in the past, taken great pains to let no harm -- or even any hint of harm -- befall her family. She felt it was her duty. But now... would harm indeed befall them?

The Bears cautiously stepped inside their house and looked around. They didn’t see or hear anything unusual, so they initially relaxed.

“Let’s eat,” said Papa, heading toward the kitchen.

As they entered the kitchen, however, the Bears saw that something was... off. Wrong. Not okay.

Papa Bear’s spoon, which had been lying on the table next to his porridge bowl, was now IN his bowl. 

“Someone’s been eating my porridge!” Papa Bear decided, as he leaned in for a closer look. There, he saw an indentation in the porridge, a sure sign that someone – or something – had taken a bite.


Meanwhile, Mama had noticed the same ominous signs surrounding her own bowl. “Yes,” said Mama. “It appears someone has been eating my Porridge as well.”

This was nothing, however, compared to the damage done to Baby Bear’s porridge. 

Tears Of A Child

It was terrible. Awful. Horrific!!!

The porridge was completely gone!!! Nothing. Not one speck left.

“Someone DID eat my porridge!” cried Baby Bear. “And they ate it all up!”



Now, of course Mama and Papa would have gladly shared their own porridge with their child. This was not a case of letting a poor baby go hungry. However, at that moment, it seemed that the more pressing matter was to find out who or what had entered their home. Who was it... and, more importantly, were they still in the house!?!

“Who's been here?” wondered Mama aloud as the bears moved into the living room. There, the parents saw that something was deadly wrong with their favorite chairs….


A Living Room... Of Destruction

Now, none of us likes it when people touch our beloved belongings. The Bear family is no different. That’s why Papa Bear got an angry look on his face when he saw that his large, comfortable, green-and-white striped recliner had a small indentation in the seat.
“Someone’s been sitting in my chair!” said Papa.

Mama Bear’s medium-sized, blue-and-grey polyester-blend armchair also appeared indented. “Someone’s been sitting in my chair, too!” cried Mama.

Once again, the truest of tragedies, however, had befallen the youngest member of the family. Baby Bear’s beloved rocking chair, made from scratch by Papa from the branches of a nearby fallen oak, was in ruins on the living room floor.

“Someone’s been sitting in my chair, TOO!” wailed Baby Bear. “And they BROKE IT!”


Now, perhaps you can sympathize with the parental Bears. Their beloved child had just witnessed the leftover remains of a dear possession. If you've ever been a parent, you know the pain of watching your child being sad over something. Mama and Papa felt the same.

“I can fix it,” Papa assured Baby. And he could. He was always good with wood and tools. He had studied carpentry at Kodiak University. It was in those years that he had begun corresponding with Mama. Their courtship lasted five years before they were married in a memorable woodland ceremony surrounded by family and friends.

“I think I hear something upstairs,” Mama said suddenly. A feeling of uncertainty and dread had begun to spread from her head to her toes. Was something upstairs? Was it a predator? A prowler? A force of darkness too horrible to even look upon?


"I think I hear something upstairs."

We’ve all been in situations in which we’ve been faced with an unknown fear. What’s lurking behind that corner? Is there someone hiding behind the shower curtain? That’s the fear Mama Bear felt at that moment. But Mama was and is a strong woman, deep down. And she knew she could not let her fears overwhelm her. Not now. Not ever.

The Bears proceeded up the stairs. When they reached the landing at the top, their hearts dropped. There, they saw the unthinkable...


Papa’s king-sized four-poster with its red bedspread was ill-made.

“Someone’s been sleeping in my bed,” declared Papa Bear.

But that wasn't all...


Mama’s ornate canopy bed with its lace pillows was also in disarray. “Someone’s been sleeping in MY bed!” agreed Mama.

It only got worse from there.

“Someone’s been sleeping in MY BED, too!” howled Baby Bear. “AND SHE’S STILL THERE!”


Still there? Yes, it was true. Horrorstruck -- as you probably would be, too -- the elder Bears turned to look at the small, crib-like bed belonging to Baby. To their great surprise, they saw a small creature with blond curls lying in the bed.


The bears had never seen this creature before. Questions blazed through their minds. Who was she? Was she lost? Where had she come from? And why had she seen it fit to enter their house, eat their porridge, break their furniture, and make use of their beds?


To be fair, a small girl is not generally a threat. But her suddenly appearance was so surprising; the circumstances of her arrival so unsettling; the whole incident so befuddling, that at that moment, the Bear Family was properly terrified.


But they were not the only ones.


Terror For Everyone

The young girl’s eyes had suddenly opened. And when she saw the three Bears looking down at her, she shrieked, jumped out of the bed, and took off running. A minute later, the bears heard the front door slam.

The family looked at one another, astonished. What had just happened? Who was that girl? Why had she come into their house? And, more importantly, would she be back?

These questions remained on the family’s minds and lips for many weeks afterward. They recalled how vulnerable they’d felt when they’d realized their house had had an unwanted visitor. It had been awful. They knew that their priority was to make sure it never happened again.

“Papa suggested we not take any more morning walks,” recalls Mama. “But that seemed a bit much. We live for those walks. They calm our spirits and our minds. I told him, ‘We can still take walks. Let’s just start remembering to lock our doors.’”

They could do that... but would it be enough?


In the months since the incident, the Bears have not seen the young girl who made herself at home in their house. “It’s almost like it was a dream,” says Baby. “But Mama and Papa saw her, too. And my bed still kinda smells like her. So I KNOW it really happened.”

The stress of the incident, Mama fears, may weigh on Baby Bear for a long time to come. “We’ve been taking him to a therapist once a week,” she says. “He has a long way to go, but we’ll get there. I know we’ll get there. We must.”


One thing that CAN be fixed? Baby Bear’s rocking chair. The very day after the “incident,” Papa gathered the pieces of his beloved child’s chair, took them to his woodshop, and put the chair back together.

“I made some improvements to it,” he says. “It’s stronger than ever now.”


Strong. Like the Bear Family. Like any family who has faced adversity and come out victorious.

The Bear Family: Strong. Strong, like a rocking chair. Strong like Baby Bear’s improved rocking chair. A rocking chair bonded with wood glue, like the bonds that hold families tight all over this world. Yours. Mine. And presumably the little girl’s… wherever she is.

* * *

So... about this.

A while back, after being conned into reading my 4,111th "clickbait" article (and being sorely sorry I'd clicked in the first place), I began to wonder... are clickbait article writers... shall we say... talented? Does it take actual writing prowess to be able to come up with 3,000-word drivel that'll compel people to click "next" 67 times in order to make it to the friggin' point? Really, how difficult IS it to turn what SHOULD be a 500-word piece into something that reads like a dime store novella? 

Well, I decided to try and  find out. I began with a simple story that I'd heard so many times in childhood that I'd memorized: Goldilocks & The Three Bears. I typed out my version of the story. Then I went forth and began embellishing the heck out of it.

Result: A version of Goldilocks & The Three Bears that contains nearly four times as many words as the original.

And how was the writing process? At times, it was kind of fun. But mostly it was awful. Adding words when none were necessary went against everything that I know, everything that I've been taught, everything that is good and right and pure. (And yet, this is what we did a lot of on college essays... trying to stretch out our point in order to meet a page count quota. So in a way, it felt... familiar?)

In the end, I think this long version of The Three Bears is super ridiculous. But I hope it provided you with some amusement.

May clickbait die a slow and painful death.


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Movies I Enjoyed This Past Decade (2010-2019)

Has it really been ten years since I last did this? Yes. Yes, it has. (Proof: My Favorite Movies Of The 2000s.)

I still don't seem to watch that many movies. I'm one of those weird people who likes to rewatch things she already knows she'll like. Which means that I didn't get around to seeing even 10% of what came out between 2010 and 2019.

So I'm going to split this post into two parts. The first part is movies (from 2010-2019) that I have seen & enjoyed as of 12/31/19.

As I watch more movies from the decade down the line, I will come back to add more to this list. Those will appear below the line break.

One other thing: I've put an * by the films I saw more than once. The ones that I haven't rewatched, perhaps I would not enjoy as much the second time, but who knows? They still make the list.

Movies I Enjoyed This Past Decade (2010-2019)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010 & 2011)*

Tiger Eyes (2013)*

The Giver (2014)*

How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (2010)*

Ramona and Beezus (2010)*

Inside Out (2015)*

The LEGO Movie (2014)*

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)*

The King's Speech (2010)*

56 Up (2012)*

Austenland (2013)*

Brave (2012)

The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

The Hunger Games (2012)

The Social Network (2010)

Stories We Tell (2013)*

Hugo (2011)

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Life Of Pi (2012)

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Glossy Time Capsules #17: Seventeen - September, 1998

Glossy Time Capsules #17

September, 1998
Price: $3.99

When I started this project, my intent was to look at magazines that came out before I was able to, well, read magazines. So nothing "modern." But then I remembered Quantum Leap. I used to love that show. However, Sam Beckett could potentially travel (well, be sent to) any date between 1953 and 1995, and yet it seemed like he was always hanging out in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. (He did visit the 80s in a handful of episodes. It just seemed rare.) This made me sad because I could not relate to the 50s-70s. I could, however, relate to the 80s, and I wanted to see that era depicted. And yet it seemed like the creators/writers were so stuck in their nostalgia of the earlier decades that they couldn't easily escape them.

I don't want to be like that.

Which is why today we're looking at a magazine from 1998. This isn't something I found at a garage sale or in a pile at GoodWill. Nope, this was a magazine I had back in 1998 and kept. A mag that I read cover to cover.

When looking at those older magazines, I get to think, "Wow, they used to do that back then!?" 😆

With this one it's like, "Yeah... we used to do that back then." 😥

But let's face it. 1998 was almost 22 years ago. As much as I hate to admit it, this issue is vintage. And it, too, deserves a place in this series.

So... let's take a look at Seventeen magazine, from September, 1998.

This is Brandy. As of 1998, she had some hit songs and was on a TV show. Her photo on Wikipedia indicates that she looks roughly the same in 2019 as she did back then, so good for her.


 I'm gonna be honest with you. I fully admit that the fashions you'll see below were, in fact, the trends in 1998. I also admit that, even now, looking back, I don't hate them... most of them, anyway.

Trend #1: Clunky shoes

The theory was that if you wore giant clownish shoes, your legs would look skinny by comparison. At least, that was my theory.

Trend #2: Soft, wide-legged jeans

I miss these jeans. Wearing them was like wearing PJs.

Trend #3: Midriffs

Why, oh why, midriffs? Well, we were trying to get away from the Mom Jeans look (pants that rode halfway up our torsos), but low-rise pants weren't a thing yet, so to compensate we wore short-cropped shirts. Aloha, belly buttons!

This led to some very awkward and painful sunburns.

Trend #4: Hair Like This

There wasn't any one definitive hairstyle that screams "1998," except, perhaps, the one above (which did carry over into the following year or two.) Whether you used butterfly clips or rubber bands, pulling your hair back in tiny strands was a time-consuming and yet fairly attractive look.

The other hairstyles of '98 were pretty similar to the hairstyles of 2019.

Trend #5: Tiny tank tops and cardigans

Whispy, mid-length skirts and cargo pants were also acceptable.

And as winter was coming, I suppose some of us thought about jackets...

Alexis Bledel? What are you doing in here?

MesmerEyes? Is that kind of like the precursor to Smize?


It's really her! The smize queen!

Ah, yes, the "mortification" pages. These were in all the girls' magazines... YM, Teen, uh... whatever other magazines there were. Girls' most embarrassing moments often involved accidental nudity, having stuff stuck in one's teeth, and accidentally letting others know you were on your period. Oopsiedoodles!

Ah, trends. I remember watching that TV special! I might even still have it on tape somewhere.

"Keep his beeper number close to your heart with these totally totable notebooks-on-a-string." Yes, before any teenager beyond Cher from Clueless regularly carried a phone, the cool kids of the land all had BEEPERS. (Well, I didn't. Okay, nobody I knew did. Moving on.)

Movies coming out: One True Thing, Rounders, and The Waterboy. I saw exactly one of those. Guess which.

The ads that didn't feature models were often cartoonish...

Of course, Seventeen had articles, too. Some were better than others...

And yes, there we contests. And no, Felicity wasn't friends with a rectangular cutout of a knit cap. That's from the page behind. I cut out Scott Foley's face at some point. I probably put him in my Dawson's Creek scrapbook, since he was in a few episodes. Now that Felicity's choices are more limited, she shouldn't have such a rough freshman year!

This magazine often did profiles of real girls' bedrooms. This time they chose actresses Heather Matarazzo's.

Speaking of Heather Matarazzo, I wonder if, when they make The Princess Diaries 3: A Sovereign Sojourn Through Time & Space, she'll reprise her role as Lilly?

I certainly hope so.

Oh hey, more Alexis!

Happily, this magazine does have a NEAT STUFF YOU SHOULD BUY section, although it might more accurately be titled NEAT STUFF YOU SHOULD SEND FOR AND/OR DO...

Buuuut we'll take it.

Well, I may never know what was in those GIANT MYSTERY SURPRISE PACKAGES, since I never sent away for one, but it's probably for the best.

* * *

For more glossy time capsule fun, click here!