Saturday, December 11, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader: A Rambing And Sadly Incoherent Movie Review

I am facing a problem of epic proportions. That's a tad exaggerated I know, but considering I'm fresh from watching The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, expect my language to be all high-flown and airy and transcendent.

I kid, I kid.

Well, I only half- kid. In all seriousness though, how do I describe my sensations, explore my emotions and extricate my exclamations without... letting spoilers loose?

I shall have to clench my teeth, pray, and dive right in.

Technically, it's the other way around for Edmund and Lucy Pevensie and Eustace Clarence Scrubb, who almost deserves to be called that. Edmund and Lucy are stuck with their rotter of a cousin Eustace in boring old England during a war while Peter and Susan are jazzing in adventurous America. Oh, did I mention Eustace was a rotter? He is a rotter, and such a lovely rotter that he nearly split my sides. Eustace is one of my favourite characters in the book, and I am so thrilled and relieved that they cast Will Poulter to play him, because Will does an even more fantastic job than I’d hoped he’d do, and I’d hoped a lot ( have you seen The Son of Rambow trailer??). So in case any fan of the book is fluttering about in apprehension, rest easy, the wonderfully comic character of Eustace is in just as wonderful hands.

So where were we? Ah, yes. A horrified Eustace finds himself on a strange and beautiful ship in a strange and beautiful land his fairy-tale believing cousins refer to as Narnia, and wants nothing more than to get out of here. How dare they abduct him? HIM? Wait till he gets to tell his mother!

As an ardent admirer of the Narnia series, I was worried about how the dread producers would transfer Voyage of the Dawn Treader to the big screen. When reviewing the book earlier, I'd noted its similarities to Pilgrim’s Progress, and how in each of the episodic adventures sprinkled throughout the book, each of the characters are tested, learn and grow. Dawn Treader has always struck me as the most pastoral of the Narnia series, and while the gentle pace was perfectly fine in the book, it would not suit the format of a Hollywood blockbuster where there MUST be danger or else all is lost. So yes, dear ones, they did change the plot, but weep not, they preserve many of the central themes and spiritual imagery present in the book. In fact, compared with the dubious conundrum that was Prince Caspian, this film had much more of the actual book in it in spite of the myriad changes.

What I especially liked and related to was how each character had personal temptations that had lain simmering in their minds; and when these temptations were unleashed in their spectacular glory, how each of the characters had to struggle in near blood and tears to free themselves from them.  The popular jingle nowadays is to give in to your temptations because it’s much easier that way or some other such inane justification, but I don’t bother bothering with such ideology. As a follower of Christ I’d rather walk the hard, narrow, and terribly thorny way than squander my fading days in Vanity Fair, sickening myself on cotton-candied air and painting myself with tinsel sheen. And yes, those thorns pricked me hard as I sat in the movie theatre and I uncomfortably recalled all the temptations I was undergoing. Was I even trying to resist them? You know a movie’s good when it acts as a mirror resolutely standing in front of you and showing you those internal flaws.

Oh hello, what am I doing? This is supposed to be a movie review. Should I not be making seasoned comments about the acting, directing, writing, appreciating the costumes, evaluating the special effects, critiquing the soundtrack? I mean, that’s what I normally do.

But those last ten minutes of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader banished criticism from my brain. Those last ten minutes sent tears to my eyes and down my cheeks. I wanted to brand myself to the chair and rewind those last ten minutes so I could watch them again. And again. And again.

I told my friend that I didn’t care how much they messed up if they got Aslan right. And they did and I cried; tears of happiness and relief and longing. And I promised I wouldn’t spoil the end and I won’t (although it hurts). All I can say is that the ending cements an already deep-rooted truth: human beings will always be searching for something and Someone beyond them. We were created to love and to be loved, to share a relationship boundless and thrilling, a relationship of amaranthine enchantment and ever-soaring joy. We reach for that place of infinite beauty, of everlasting peace, every fibre of our being yearns for it.

To me, Heaven is encapsulated in two things. The first is that there will be absolutely no sorrow, no pain. What bliss, how sweetly musical those words ring in my ear! And not only the girl who has led such a charmed life such as myself yet has experienced sorrow and piercing griefs, but for the silent and the enslaved, for the quietly faithful and the toiling servants, how those words hold soul-strengthening hope!
In one of his books novelist Ted Dekker wrote of heaven echoing with the sound of children’s laughter. I love that, for that represents the lack of sorrow and pain: a child's carefree, jubilant laugh. I also believe that the music of heaven will sound so beautiful that the music in this world will seem like nothing but discordant noise, and that as we hear those violet paeans, we will realise that all the music ever produced merely strived to sound similar to this. And the ending of the Dawn Treader reminded me how much I long for Heaven, how much I wait for the beauty and sweetness of that world which turns the colours of this world to grey ash. Yet as I pen these words I am reminded of how Heaven is much nearer than I think; every minute spent in the presence of God is akin to spending a minute in Heaven. Heaven is only Heaven when God dwells there. He makes Heaven; he is Heaven.
And I pray that I remain rooted and established in Him until the day comes when I finally set sail for the most thrilling adventure of my life: the journey Home.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Prayers needed!

Every day Christians are being martyred for their faith. My father just told me of this story and I went to CNN to read up on it. It seems that a Christian woman in Pakistan has been sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam. Whether she made derogatory remarks about Islam or not, I don't know, as she says that she was framed, which is pretty possible. Pakistan's Christian population is tiny, and they are usually the poorer and more marginalised of the people. Please let's pray for this lady! They can kill the body but they cannot kill the soul.

Link to CNN news article:

Aslan's Country: VODT Extravaganza! Day 1

Yay, Day One! And I just realised that this whole Narnia Extravaganza is pushing my Narnia hysteria closer and closer to the edge. Can't wait for the fall!!!

*slaps self back to reality*

Okay, first let me get some housekeeping out of the way.

Schedule for the Voyage of the Dawn Treader Extravaganza:

24 November: Introduction
27 November: A Scene in the life of...
1 December: Favourite Scene/s in the VODT
4 December: Favourite Character in the VODT
8 December: Mad Movie Expectations
10 December: Wrap-up + possible surprise!

I'm so excited about this because it gives me an excuse to loudly and truly fangirl. But I think Narnia's worth fangirling (or boying) over, don't you?

And without further (or much ;) ado, let's get started!


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has always been one of my favourite Narnia books. Okay, who am I kidding? Every Narnia books is my favourite Narnia book. But that in no way degrades my ardour. Each book appeals to me on a different level. While I love LWW for the sense of wonder and adventure, and Caspian for its danger and urgency, I love VODT because it takes a step back from the frenetic atmosphere of Caspian, and indulges in a sweet, pure-hearted tone, with merry jokes and solemn life lessons making a satisfying repast.

I've always likened VODT to the Narnia version of Pilgrim's Progress, where we see characters encountering tough and tempting situations, and see how they extricate themselves from these situations with the help of God or God's own helpers. Reepicheep the mouse is perhaps the most obvious pilgrim, as he reaches that " world that is yet to come" or "Aslan's Country" or " The Celestial City" or "Heaven". Choose which name you like! Or choose all of them ;)
Yet every character faces tough situations that expose their faults and that make them realise that they need to correct these faults. Eustace is a glaring example, but even Lucy, everyone's sweetheart, faces a problem that girls all over will understand, how outward beauty in this world is almost everything, and how tempting it is to want that beauty.

I honestly don't know how the story in the upcoming movie has changed. But from what I watched of the trailers, I think they're going to keep the Pilgrim's Progress undertone intact. I recently read an interview with Douglas Gresham ( didn't know he was Christian!!!) and was so touched by what he said about the movie that I almost flowed into tears. Okay, what is wrong with me, it's just a movie, just a movie, just a movie...

Anyway, here's the link to the interview. I highly recommend reading it: it's inspiring to see that there are Christian people making popular movies.

And now... a few questions for you!

What struck you when you first read VODT?

Whose struggle did you identify with the most? Eustace's greed for material wealth? Lucy's wish for astonishing beauty? Caspian's attempt to have ultimate control, even to the point of defying Aslan?

Have you ever:

Written Narnia fanfic?
Thought of writing Narnia fanfic?
Wished Peter/Edmund/Caspian/Trinian, etc were real so you could marry them?
Wished Narnia were real? (ditto)
Hated your own wardrobe for not leading to an exciting magical land?
Wanted to see Aslan's country?
Worn a Narnia costume to a party/masquerade/ around the house?

Fun art from Deviantart:

Isn't this just lovely? I think it captures the beautiful pastoral feel of VODT just perfectly. Credit to forgedirony for such wonderful art!

I really like the mirror effect in this one; credit to picklelova for such a fantastic idea!

These artists on Polyvore have made some beautiful VODT sets. I suggest visiting their polyvore pages linked below and Polyvore in general for more Narnia stuff!

And that's it for the intro! Hope you had fun! Remember that the next event is on Saturday!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Aslan's Country: Voyage of the Dawn Treader Extravaganza!!!

Narnia makes me squeal. Narnia makes me do crazy things, like hosting a blog celebration in anticipation for the upcoming Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie.
"Wazzat?" You ask, rubbing your eyes sleepily. " Whas a Voyage thing-a-what?" I stand back and glance at the large, moss-speckled rock you've emerged out of.

" Let me enlighten you," I say kindly, holding out my hand.

Okay, okay, back to reality.

Well yes, I am hosting a VODT celebration party here on my blog. And even if no one participates, I'm dying to do one anyway. Something tells me I shall be having a lot of fun ;)

Particulars Regarding this Celebration:

Title: Alsan's Country: Voyage of the Dawn Treader Extravaganza!

Dates: 24 November- 10 December

* A note regarding the dates. As I am a busy university student with exams looming round the corner, Extravaganza events will take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, not every single day. I am only human after all.


A Scene in the Life of.... : On this day anyone who wants to can post a short piece taken from any scene in the book of VODT and write a first-person account from a principal character in that scene. For example, I can write the scene where Eustace gets turned into a dragon from Eustace's point of view. Have fun with it. My mind is already brimming with delicious ideas.

Fashion Aboard the Dawn Treader:

You know me... I love anything fashion-ie. After all, costumes are one of the principal reason as to why I watch period dramas. For this event, I am going to post pictures of outfits from my own wardrobe that could serve me well aboard the Dawn Treader if I was ever so lucky as to actually win a cruise with Caspian  action-laced adventure with captain and crew. You are all welcome to do the same.

Discussion about the Book I : Favourite Scenes

What's your favourite scene in VODT? Why? Now is the time to come out of the closet and confess that you just love the scene where Lucy waves at the mer-girl or where they almost get turned to gold or where Eustace swings Reepicheep round by his tail. Remember: no scene is safe!

Discussion about the Book II: Favourite Characters

Who's your favourite character, the one that made the book for you? Eustace? Grumpas? Lord Bern? Chief Monopod? Sea Serpent? Remember: no character is safe!

Mad Movie Anticipations:

What exactly are you anticipating from the soon-to-be released movie? Hysteria? (from yourself that is) Lots of water? Hot Caspian? Cheeky Eustace? Abnormal plot-twisting? Soul-stirring music? Feel free to wax lyrical or hysterical over all your fears, hopes, wishes and dreams concerning the movie.

I know I said that the start date is November 24, but the actual Events will begin on November 27, to give you time enough to prepare.

* There is NO word limit for any piece of writing that you want to submit. Say you want to do the rewrite of the scene, you can do it in as few or as many words as you wish. How to submit: publish the piece on a post in your blog and email the link to me. I will then publish the link on my blog. So if you are submitting something for the 27th, please send me the link on the 26rd, so it gets published in time. However, since I'm in a happily lenient mood, I shall be expecting and adding submissions until the next blog event.

* The same rules as above for photo submissions. I'm too lazy to reiterate them.

IMPORTANT: Could you please comment below and tell me whether you are participating? That would be so helpful to me! You don't have to tell me what exactly you are doing ( though if you did that would be nice too), but just a little comment to say you are interested would give me an idea as to how many participants I'll have. I'm not expecting too much, but I would be happy to have as many as possible. And if you think other people would love to have some Narnia fun, I am not barring you from mentioning this event on your blog!

Any questions? I'll be only too happy to answer them :)

For Narnia! And for Aslan!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Downton Abbey: Episode 2 Recap

Episode 2: The Intruders Enter Downton Abbey.

My love for this series rages on, and we're only on Episode 2. Wooyah, let's get to the good stuff!

Sweet-looking Matthew Crawley and his even sweeter-looking mother Mrs. Crawley, descend from the car into the house I presume they will be staying from now on. It's close to Downton Abbey, and Moseley, the butler welcomes them in. A bit of hilarity when Matthew tries to do everything for himself like he's used to, and Mrs. Crawley stops him, seeing the look on Moseley's face. Seriously, I don't know who the greater snobs are: the aristos or the servants. P'raps the aristos. But not by a terribly wide margin.

Matthew starts complaining to his mother about how now that he's the heir presumptive, the Granthams will probably push one of their daughters at him. At this precise moment, Lady Mary walks in.

Matthew's face is so priceless, I'll refrain from commenting, and merely let you enjoy the screencap below.

Unfortunately, Matthew seems smitten by Mary. HOW is this possible??? I really, really do not like Mary. I'm hoping she redeems herself later on in the series, because she's one of my least favourite characters now. And I was secretly desiring Matthew and Sybil to fall in love. They'd be so perfect for one another! Both of them are nice and sweet and genuine. Sighs... it doesn't look like Fellowes and I are thinking on the same page with this.

More servant snobbery. O'Brien is sniffing at the Crawleys, condemning them for not having a lady's maid, merely possessing a housemaid. Her not-so-hard-to-miss implication simmers in the air: Mrs. Crawley is no lady.

Mary meanwhile, informs her mother that she thinks Matthew's too full of himself. Lol, what? Another case of the pot calling the kettle black, I assume.  Cora tells her that she and the Dowager (Mary's grandmother) are working to reverse the entail, but for now Mary must be patient.

The Crawleys are invited to dinner, and the servants stand in a line and welcome them. Matthew's quite staggered, and remarks naively, " What a reception committee!" Mary looks outraged, Edith simpers, and Sybil glances away, grinning.

Mrs. Crawley, ever the sweetheart, goes right up to Lady Grantham and says with her winning smile, " What should we call each other?" holding out her hand.
Without even looking at the outstretched hand, Lady Grantham replies frostily, " Well we could start with Mrs. Crawley and Lady Grantham." Ouch. I would really hate to face her in a world war.

At the dinner table, the aristos are even more shocked to hear that Matthew's landed a post in a partnership that deals with industrial law. I love Robert's scandalised face when he repeats " A Job??"

Turns out, Robert wants Matthew to learn about the running of the estate. But Matthew replies that he'll have plenty of time: there are a lot  of hours in a day, and there's always the weekend.

Surprised, Lady Grantham inquires innocently, " What is a weekend?" HAHAHAHA. I love her.

Meanwhile, mysteries are abounding downstairs. Carson receives a letter and looks oddly disturbed. Care to enlighten us Carson?
Mrs. Crawley pays a visit to the local hospital ( of which Lady Grantham is the chairman!) and is distressed  when she sees a severely sick man, the only breadwinner of his family. She tells the resident doctor that she wants to help, as she needs to find something to occupy herself with.

Moseley is sick of being useless and he complains to Mr. Bates of how pathetic he feels, since it's quite clear that Matthew doesn't need his help.

Gwen, the other maid is reading a letter ( what's with the abundance of letters in this episode?) and Anna teases her saying it must be from an admirer. O'Brien grumbles at the servants' table about how Matthew isn't a gentleman and blah blah, and Lady Cora walks in at this statement. She is shocked and angry to hear her relatives being discussed by a lowly servant ( why? isn't that what servants are popularly supposed to do?) and sternly reproves O'Brien, treating her as a parent would treat a recalcitrant child. I don't like O'Brien, but I must confess I did squirm for her here. O'Brien is red-faced and sorely embarrassed, but she'll bounce back eventually. The evil ones always do.

Meanwhile Mary is carping about how Matthew isn't " one of us." Edith throws out some sour-faced remarks, and Sybil throws in some nice ones, but Mary is too preoccupied with herself and her ideas to care. Lady Cora walks in at the heels of these remarks ( she's getting better and better at it), and adroitly gets ride of Edith and Sybil to have a chat with Mary. She tells Mary there's nothing they can do about the entail, Lady Grantham's schemes notwithstanding), and Mary is furious that her mother is trying to get her to marry Matthew. What?! Marry someone who couldn't hold his fork like a proper gentleman? How does a gentleman hold his fork anyway? At dinner, she directs her sharp jabs at Matthew, who's more than a match for her (dubious) wit, and leaves her speechless.

The servants are having a much jollier time downstairs, and with William playing the piano, Daisy and Thomas start to dance. Daisy's fallen hard for Thomas, whose smooth ways and looks are turning her wee head. William does not look happy at this.

Meanwhile the doctor of the hospital informs Lady Grantham of Mrs. Crawley's generosity and suggestions in caring for the sick. Lady Grantham is annoyed at what she sees as Mrs. Crawley's interference and thinks it amazing that Mrs. Crawley dares instruct the doctor in his own practice.
Meanwhile, Matthew and Robert are having a bonding session. Here is where we get a glimpse of Robert's feelings: he tells Matthew that Downton is his life's work, and that it is in danger many times.

Carson and Mrs. Hughes are out, leaving Anna and Bates to enjoy a nice little moment together. But the front door bell rings ( blast!) and Bates decides to answer it, as Anna is afraid she'll get scolded for doing such a thing. A presumptuous little man bounces in and announces that he knows Carson very well. Sybil and Robert are amazed at the man's bad manners, and Bates tries to get him to leave. Anna runs off to fetch Carson, and when he arrives he is horrified to see the man. Robert demands an explanation, and Carson shamefacedly explains that before he became a butler, he was part of
a dance troupe called the Cheerful Charlies (hee). Carson is ashamed so such a past, and explains that he was sheltering his former friend who is wanted to petty crime. Said friend was also blackmailing him, threatening to expose his secret to Downton. Carson says resignedly that he will resign.
" Oh don't be so melodramatic Carson!" Robert exclaims. He quickly disposes of Little Blackmailer, giving him some money and telling him never to show his face there again. You are my aristocratic hero Robert.
And so, some aspect of Carson's former life is revealed. I love that he has such a quirky little backstory, and I love how he comes to realise that his pride isn't everything. When Robert asks him curiously whether he misses all that singing and dancing, he replies decidedly, " Not in the least, my lord." He has built a life for himself at Downton, and it is his home.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Crawley convinces the doctor to let her try her "dangerous" experiment on the dying man she has met at the hospital. After a few graphic shots of said sick man and fits of bloody coughing, the experiment works! Round 1: Mrs. Crawley.
Carson thanks Bates for not revealing his secret, and I feel the beginnings of a respect developing between the two men. Yippee. :)
Mrs. Crawley has been invested as Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Hospital, and it is decided that she will share the responsibilities of the President. Who is the President? Why Lady Grantham of course. Her sour face is a source of amusement to both us and all the members of Downton Abbey, and they hide secret smiles at her irritation at sharing the floor with her arch-nemesis. And the second episode of Downton Abbey ends in applause.

Character Study: Carson

When the series first started, Carson showed himself to be the best of butlers: impeccable timing, rigourous sense of duty, penchant for an odd glass of port, etc. He is almost revered and definitely feared by the servants, an even the Granthams defer to him in many cases. Yet this episode shows a crack in Carson's previously spotless armour, and the fact that he has a past he's rather ashamed of suddenly made me characterise him as "endearing." I especially loved the humility and respect on his face as he thanks Bates, because this shows his moral growth (always good for character ;) in this episode.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Morality sans God?

There is no morality without God.  There cannot be. How do I know? My professor showed us a TED talks video in class, where the speaker claimed that we need morality in order to serve our own self interests. In other words, we need to employ the use of an "intelligent" morality in order to prevent the lethality of hatred so that our own interests and safety can be preserved.
And that's not all. He claimed that this thinking can be found in the Bible, that the Israelites called to Yahweh because they wanted him to "save their nation" and that salvation is not of the soul, that it's primary function, even in the Bible, is to save the "nation." In other words, don't be so hasty to drop bombs on Japan because they're making your cars.
I am disgusted. Oh yes, this is morality without God. And Morality without God is nothing other than Self-Interest. You're not doing anything good out of love. Or rather you are, but out of self-love.
More and more I realise how idiotic and silly and vain the world's "wisdom" is. It's true that many times Israel pleaded with God to save them from their enemies in war. But God has always been more concerned with their spiritual condition than their military prowess. Why was he so insistent that they do not bow down to idols, that they practice generosity to widows and orphans, that they cancel all outstanding debts every seven years, that they cherish their children and their neighbors? He called them to do these things not because it was beneficial to them, but because He ordained it so. In other words, don't cancel the debts of your neighbor thinking he will repay the action some day. Rather, do it only for God. Do it without expecting anything back. Do it because of your overwhelming gratitude and love for God.
If God was so concerned that the society of Israel be preserved, why did He allow it to be near-destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians? Mr. TED Talks did not mention this. Oh no, Mr. TED Talks only takes half a phrase from the Bible without bothering to read the rest. That is not at all smart Mr. TED Talks. That is self-serving, but perhaps that proves your point anyway.
Horrible, just horrible. Hear ye, hear ye, this is the definition of morality without God, in case you were wondering.
So what is Morality with God? Morality with God involved means obeying Him because he says so, and not because of some presumed reward. God gives us  a choice, and if we choose to follow him, we will love Him by obeying Him. Claiming to love someone and not doing what pleases them, is utter laziness.
Oswald Chambers remarks that this is the greatest statement of faith in the Bible : "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."
Everything we do is for the glory of God. Believing in Him does not guarantee our safety. But it reveals the wonder and majesty and heart-breaking beauty of His glory. He might not be safe, but He is good.

Only with God in the picture can true love be demonstrated, for God is Love. Morality in any other condition, as Mr. TED Talks so clearly stated to us, is mere self-service.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Enchanted April: A Review of a Darling Movie

I watched a movie that made me want to go to Italy. Not that such a long was non-existent previously, but it was a vague, hopeless wish, too meek even to be worded into a prayer. Then I watched Enchanted April. And I wanted Italy. Now. A movie about four different women who, sick of life (I hear ya sisters), decide to cast elegant restraint to the winds and rent a castle in Italy complete with servants and sublime scenery. That sentence really sums up why I love this understated, gem of a movie so. A trip to sunny Italia? All it needs is two magic words.

Wisteria and Sunshine.

Sweet and timid Lottie Wilkins, afraid of her overbearing husband, and generally having the air of a mouse apologetic for eating its own cheese, is captivated by those words. In a sudden action that hints of an exuberant personality near crushed by fear, she seizes Rose Arbuthnot, an acquaintance from church, and begs her to agree to rent an Italian castle ( with wisteria and sunshine) for one whole month. Sensing Rose's unhappiness, she proposes the daring idea of leaving their husbands (gasp) for a month (phew) and just enjoy being in Italy by themselves to rest and relax. Rose at first is reluctant, but she is inwardly tortured by the reality of a husband who writes racy novels with appropriately lewd titles, and at last she agrees. Lottie's natural exuberance is overshadowed by her husband Mellersh Wilkins, who cares more about money than his wife's needs, and is at first furious when she tells him of the plan. Trembling, but resolute, she tells him she still means to go to Italy anyway. She needs a break.

Enter the other two ladies of the quartet. The first is stern, proud Mrs. Fisher, a widow who has had the fortune of knowing several literary personnages when growing up. Lottie, thrilled into bumbling admiration by her eagle eyes and famous (dead) connections blurts out, " Did you know Keats too? Haha.

The fourth and final woman of the quartet is Lady Caroline Dester, a cool and ultra-fashionable twenty-something, who says she wants to get away from the men pestering her. Wow, a reason I almost wish I had!

Before we can get any further, I must say...


This is a movie with no explosions, hot chicks or huge cars. A gun cannot be smelt anywhere near it. There are no histrionics, no cat fights.

If such things constitute entertainment for you, then reading this review will be a complete and utter waste of time. However,

If you enjoy scene after scene of lush Italian views, enjoy seeing characters grow and transform under the golden sunshine, then this movie is intended specially for you.

I don't want to give the story away, but suffice to say, it does what very few movies do: it gets it. I find many movies depressing because they are so dark and filled with "tormented" characters who never actually do anything to get themselves out of torment.

Enchanted April is wonderful because we see the characters change inwardly as they feel love and joy surround them, and they cannot keep this love to themselves, oh no! The love spreads and surrounds everyone, even the viewer.

This movie relaxes my body and my heart. I think it's going to go into my stash labelled " Movies I watch on a Periodical Basis" because it deserves to be there. It's a sweet shining gem of a movie that will make you wish that there were more of these in the bleak universe of films today.

The film is based on the eponymous book by Elizabeth Von Arnim which can be downloaded for free from Girlebooks. I've read the first few pages so far, and I must say the movie seems to stick to the story remarkable well. :) 

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Write Adventure

NaNoWriMo's a coming, and I feel like a Really Bad Writer because I've no intention of participating. I mean, c'mon. I'm the sort of writer who never know where s/he is going, what the characters are going to do next, or even if any of the cast is going to be alive at the end of it. Sometimes this writer wonders if she's  going to be alive at the end of it. But... I actually enjoy it!


Because not knowing where my story is going to take off next is exciting. Throat-twistingly scary, but enormously fun. It's like bungee-jumping into an everlasting valley without knowing if you're all buckled up. Actually, it's like bungee jumping with nothing but your clothes on your body. Sometimes I wish that I'd everything all planned out nicely and neatly arranged, colour-coded and carefully alphabetized, but that would be oh so very boring.

Instead, this style of writing lets me rely on God more. I ask God to help me out when characters have sent me to Coventry, when my plots scream insanity, and when the dialogues are more stilted than Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy at the beginning of P & P.

God is the Great Artist and Master Storyteller- who better to turn to? ;)

If you're a writer and you are reading this post, I'm interested in what your writing style is . Unbelievably unpredictable? Happy-go-lucky? Precisely penned? Beautifully measured?

In the end... let's not forget that all creativity comes from God. When I delight in my stories, in my characters, I am delighting in the marvelous adventure that is God's brilliance.

Whatever you do, do it for the Lord!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Downton Abbey Episode 1 : Recap and Review

I'm addicted. Within twenty minutes I was reeled in so fast that my life flashed before my eyes, and my hands are still shaking. Downton Abbey. It's beautiful, it's period drama gold, and I'm already squealing so hard internally that I feel I'm going to bust my intestines.

So I decided to do a recap of Episode 1 just for fun. And because I'm addicted. :)

The venerable Julian Fellowes has done it again; Downton Abbey promises to be a richly textured, multi-faceted story, not only with the deliciously alternate yet complementary views of life up and below stairs, but a depiction of English society at a time when modernity was charging in with electricity and trains and suffragettes.
Robert, Earl of Grantham ( AARGGH- It's Hugh Bonneville!!!!!!). Must pause while wiping tears of joy away from face. What's wrong with me? Oh all right, I am partial to Hugh Bonneville. WHY hasn't he been knighted yet???
Anyway, back to Robert, Earl of Grantham. Robert seems to be a gentle, deeply sympathetic man, quite removed from the dark, lordly types ( I'm looking at you, earls of Georgette Heyer novels), and he is married to the beautiful and elegant Cora, an American heiress whose money went to the then impoverished estate. Cora didn't mind this stipulation by Robert's father at the time because when she'd married, she thought she'd bear Robert a male heir to carry on the line. Too bad she had three girls. And now her millions are not going to be going to her blood children.

When Robert takes up his morning newspaper ( freshly ironed by Thomas the head footman so that the ink won't stain his lordly fingers), he is shocked and saddened by the news of the Titanic's sinking. He is even more shocked and saddened when a telegram ( the dreaded telegram!) is handed to him, and he learns that his cousin and heir John, and John's son Patrick perished in that fateful voyage. His beautiful eldest daughter Mary was engaged to Patrick, and she is none too happy that her chance at keeping the family money in the family has disappeared into the watery grave. Oh, well. At least she doesn't have to wear mourning. Her sister Edith is furious at her lack of feeling, having harboured secret passions for the luckless Patrick herself. Meanwhile Sybil, the sister I find the most interesting at the moment, has very little to say. She is genuinely not interested. So what if she and her sisters don't get their full inheritance?

So what?! Say what?! Violet, Robert's mother and Dowager Countess of Grantham is at once furious and conniving. She didn't mind the grand estate and title going to Patrick, as her granddaughter Mary was set to marry him. She pays a visited to her barely tolerated American daughter-in-law, and the two decide to unite as "allies", because allies, according to Violet, are more useful than friends. Their aim? Get Cora's money back and smash that entail!
Now for life below stairs. We have Carson, the rightly prim and proper butler, Mrs. Hughes, the efficient dragon of a housekeeper ( echoes of Helen Mirren's housekeeper character in Gosford Park?), and Mrs. Patmore the head cook. Then comes sympathetic head housemaid Anna, bumbling second footman William, and a rather pathetic kitchen maid called Daisy. Last and certainly least is O'Brien, Cora's personal maid, and the sneering Thomas, first footman. You will see why I abhor these two in a minute. The servants are in their usual state of hustle and bustle as the dreadful news of the deaths descends upon the house. While Robert and his family react to it in a variety of different ways, the servants are too busy to reflect on it much except at dinner. No histrionics downstairs all right. But the pax romana is upset at the appearance of his lordship's new valet, John Bates. AIIEEEE! John Bates is played by Brendan Coyle! I heart Brendan Coyle! He's such a fantastic actor; another who should be knighted alongside Hugh Bonneville. Expect your hearts to be twisted folks. Brendan's at the helm.
The servants are dismayed that Bates is a cripple (
yeah, my heart twisted already), and O'Brien and Thomas are coldly furious. The reason for their fury is that Thomas was a sort of interim valet for Lord Grantham, and had been hoping to take the job on as a full-time position. They are outrightly cruel to Bates, the other servants are hopelessly sympathetic, and only Anna treats him with the respect he deserves.
At the servants' dinner table however, sharp footsteps are heard, and the door bursts open to reveal Lord Grantham. Starting out of their seats in amazement, the servants watch as Lord Grantham grasps Bates by the hand and welcomes him far too warmly for a mere stranger. Turns out, though, that Bates isn't a mere stranger. He was Robert's batman during the Boer war, and fought alongside Robert. Now that he's unemployed, Robert invited him to be his valet.
Everyone except for Anna is embarrassed, while O'Brien and Thomas decide to rethink their strategies. O' Brien murmurs in Cora's ear about Bates' inefficacy as a valet, what with his infirmity and all, while Thomas does all he can to make Bates feel like dirt. And Thomas complains to Carson, who is also harbouring doubts as to Bates' talent for valeting. Meanwhile spite is being shelled out upstairs as well: Edith throws barbs at Mary for not weeping over Patrick. Sybil tells Mary she knows more than she lets on, but Mary informs her that she's not feeling sad because of Patrick; she feels sad that she can't feel sad. Wow, lady. Go and buy a heart from somewhere.
But a great excitement appears in the form of the Duke of Crowborough, who's invited himself to stay at Downton for a few days. This is Mary's chance! If she can snag a rich duke, her future will be made! She pretties herself up for the duke, who is, shall we say, a young man and rather strange? When the servants line up to greet the duke, O'Brien kicks Bates ( gasp), and he falls, sprawling in front of the aristocrats. Red-faced, he is helped up by Anna, but now everyone assumes he fell because of his infirmity. Way to go O'Brien. I despise you so much now.

The duke barely looks at the servants, but he pauses in front of Thomas, claiming he remembers him from a previous stay. Thomas' face looks rather green, and O'Brien throws him a suspicious look.
Mary tries to engage the duke's interest, but it doesn't work, and when he and Robert have a tete-a-tete after dinner, the duke informs him that he cannot marry Mary. Robert is rightly furious: the duke had given every indication that he came to declare himself to Mary. However the duke counters that he had merely come to sympathise with the family over their bereavement. It's a lame excuse and they both know it.

A hopeful Mary is lurking outside the room, but when the duke comes out, he tells Mary shortly that he will be leaving on the morrow. Then he asks her to send Thomas up to his room. Crushed, Mary sinks back, practically into Edith's spiteful smile.
And I skipped the next scene.  Why? Because the duke is gay, and interested in Thomas. Thankfully my friend warned me of the scene, so I was ready to hit the fast forward button.
Anyway, Robert, under pressure from Cora and Carson, tells Bates finally that it isn't working out. Bates is devasted, and tries to beg Robert to reconsider, but Robert isn't used to reconsidering with servants, and tells him no. The disappointment on Bates' face, coupled with his desire not to cry, makes my hand clutch my heart in sympathy.  I sincerely dislike you Robert.
Anna is the only servant who feels Bates' pain, and at dinner she volunteers to take his meal up to him, as he hasn't shown up at the table. As she comes up, she hears the sounds of sniffing, and peeking in at the door, sees tears rolling down Bates' eyes. Who will employ him? It is 1912, and crippled ex-soldiers don't exactly have people flooding them with job offers. Seriously, where is Robert's heart? Surely he has one?

Anna's own face crumples, but she musters her courage and calls out in a falsely cheerful voice that she has his supper. Bates quickly wipes his tears away and she stammers that she's brought up his dinner. He thanks her for her kindness and she blurts out that she's ever so sorry he's going. " I'll be all right then," he says quietly. " Yes, of course you will," she agrees hastily. " There's always a place for a man like you."
" Ah yes," he says with forced hopefulness. " Something will turn up." He's bluffing, and they both know it. Shaking inwardly with sympathy, Anna asks him to write to them ( i.e. her) and tell them/her when he gets a new job.
Morning dawns too soon for Bates. He surveys the grand pillars of Downtown Abbey, a majestic, merciless mansion, a place in which he can never be at home. He's to ride in the Duke's car, as Robert says the duke can lump it. Haha.
And Bates takes off. Noooooo! Don't let such a great actor slip your fingers Julian Fellowes! What kind of a writer are you? I want Bates back or I refuse to watch anymore! I-
" Wait!"
Huh? What the-
" Wait!" Robert runs after the conveniently slow-moving car. No Mercs in those days? The car stops, while Carson takes a few surprised steps forward.
" Get out Bates," Robert says, taking out Bates' luggage ( oh my!), " We'll say no more of this."
Thank you Lord! And Robert, I like you again.
Meanwhile at some ( as yet) unspecified part of England, a pleasant-looking young man ( Matthew Crawley) and his mother ( Mrs. Isobel Crawley) are having breakfast. The post comes, and Matthew slits open his letter. " It's from Lord Grantham," he tells his mother. Mrs. Crawley inquires as to what he wants. Matthew lifts his eyes from the letter, stunned.
" He wants to change our lives."


I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed a good, long-running period drama series. Now I barely have to watch period dramas, and have a backlog of films/ series I have yet to watch. Oh, would that I had more time! But I want to stick with Downton Abbey. Not that I have much choice ( addicts rarely do ;), but because I know I'm in for a deeply thoughtful, ironic, provocative and emotional story, with each character's long-concealed thoughts and feelings being revealed with each passing episode, and with machinations and intrigues galore. Coincidentally, I'd watched Gosford Park the week before, and while I am not a fan of the numerous racy scenes, I enjoyed the upstairs/downstairs scheme very much, and enjoyed the characters who were played with as much truth and feeling as one would imagine.
Anyway, I'm saving the rest of my comments for later. This has been a really long post, and hopefully the other recaps won't be as long, since the first episode was actually the longest in the series. I can't wait to watch the rest and find out what the characters get up to!

For more information on Downton Abbey, including character and plot summaries, please visit Enchanted Serenity of Period Films.

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I'm looking forward to recapping more of the episodes!