Friday, August 23, 2013

Star Trek

My dad and I have a somewhat strained relationship. We do not agree on anything, and we both like to have the last word. Not a good combination. Religion, politics and Harry Potter (yes, I did say Harry Potter) are all hot button issues with the two of us. Just a minor mention of the boy wizard can send my father into an angry tirade about the evils of black magic. I’ve learned, over the years, there are topics you just avoid when my dad is in the room. You don’t even joke about certain things because the consequences could create a lot of tension, yelling and eventual tears. It isn’t always easy, but I’ve also learned to just keep my mouth shut and let go of my pride. I do not have to agree with him, but I do not need the last word, either. 

However, despite all of this, we have managed to find a little common ground over the years with television; particularly, Star Trek. We watched every series, growing up: re-runs of the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. We watched them all from start to finish. (The only series I did not watch with my dad was Enterprise, and it was only because it aired while I was away at college.) The fact was, and still is, if you wanted to spend time with my dad, you’d have to spend that time watching television. But Star Trek was something our whole family enjoyed watching, and that was rare. It was a weekly event in our home.

So, naturally, in 2009 when I found out J.J. Abrams had made a new Star Trek movie, I was really excited. I hadn’t really thought about Star Trek since the last episode of Voyager. And I really loved the new movie. I watched it over and over again. After it came out on DVD, I bought it for my dad for Christmas, and we watched it together. It made me feel nostalgic, and I experienced one of those rare moments of connection with him. People talk about television like it’s this terrible thing that’s rotting our brains, but I’ll gladly give up some brain cells to have those peaceful moments with my father that are so rare and so precious to me.

My Christmas present to my dad this year will be Star Trek: Into Darkness, and we will watch it while I’m home, and it will be wonderful.  (I was also thinking I might get him one of those "Trek Yourself Before Your Wreck Yourself" t-shirts.)

This blog’s intention was really to recommend the new Star Trek films because I've been meaning to write about them for a while now, but it looks as though I had something else whirling around in my brain. However, I will say they are fantastic films, and even if you’re not familiar with the entire Star Trek universe, they are still highly enjoyable. So I suppose my real recommendation is this: take home some Star Trek, put aside your differences and spend some time in front of the television with your family.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Anna Karenina

My battle with the book Anna Karenina is still waging. I read the first half of the book over the summer and absolutely loved it! Then, in the fall I moved to a new city. Between moving and searching for a new job, Anna Karenina was put on hold. The hold was only supposed to be temporary, but not so much. I lost my momentum. But I decided to steal an idea from a friend who runs this amazing book club.

In her book club, they pick an extraordinarily difficult book and break it up over an entire year. They meet each month to discuss the assigned section. I thought to myself, I can do that with the second half of Anna Karenina! I'll break it up into six sections and read a section each month for the next six months. And when I'm all finished, I'll reward myself with Joe Wright's new film version of Anna Karenina.

However, I do work at a public library, and I catalog all new materials for said public library. So when the new Anna Karenina DVD crossed over my desk, the temptation was too great to resist. I ended up taking it home the same day I cataloged it. Reward? Ha! Oh, well. I suppose it will be reward enough to know I've finished the book, whenever that may be.

But I do recommend reading the book, and I recommend Joe Wright's new film, as well. Being a fan of his for several years, I'm glad to say he's done it again! Much of the film is set on a stage which reminded me a lot of the 2003 movie Dogville, starring Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany, but Joe Wright took things a step further. The story weaves on and off stage, in and out of doors, and as in all Joe Wright films, the camera work is extraordinary!

Everything from the cinematography to the costumes to the music is just beautiful in this adaptation. I applaud Joe Wright for bringing this book to life in a very unique and surreal way. Whether you're a fan of the book or you've never heard of it, I'd still recommend this film. It's a magical experience. And it may inspire you to have a go at the book. (If you start now, you might even finish it before I do!)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

More and More Masterpiece

     One of my regular patrons came in the other day, carrying the first season of Call the Midwife and saying, "You were so right! This is amazing!"
     I smiled and told her I'm glad she liked it, then my coworker, Karen, chimed in, "Do you watch Downton, too?"
     The patron said, "Yes, of course!"
     My coworker pointed to me and said, "I have this one to blame for my Downton addiction."
     "Me, too," my coworker Olivia now joining the conversation.
     "Yeah, me too," said the patron.
     "I can blame her for my Doctor Who addiction, too," said Olivia.
     Hmmm.... so this is the effect I have on people. That's okay by me. I really love quality television, and I love being able to share it with other people.
     I recently got my friend Laura to watch Lark Rise to Candleford, and as she was nearing the end of the series she said to me, "I don't want it to end! I'm going to need something else to watch when it's over."
     So this post is for all the people I've turned on to Masterpiece and other BBC dramas who are looking for that next thing to watch. I've compiled a list of all my favorites. Some of these I've probably blogged about before. Some of them I haven't. But I thought I'd make it easy for people and make one list for future reference.

My Favorite Austen Adaptations:

  • Sense & Sensibility (2008)  - This film version is absolutely stunning! As much as I like the Emma Thompson version from the 90s, this one is by far my favorite!
  • Emma (2009) - Again, I like the 90s version, but the new adaptation is just so lovely!
  • Northanger Abbey (2007) - This is the only film version that's ever been made of this book, as far as I know, but it's a really wonderful film, so I'm okay with that!
  • Persuasion (1995) - This is one of the rare cases where I prefer the older version to the newest one. The Persuasion that came out in 2007 is really awful, as much as I hate to say it. Masterpiece really let me down with that one. But I love the 1995 version! It's a much better production!

My Favorite Charles Dickens Adaptations:

  • Great Expectations (2012) - This is hands down the best Dickens adaptation I've ever seen! I love it so much!
  • Little Dorritt (2008) - A really close second to the 2012 Great Expectations.
  • Bleak House (2005) - Seriously, they should just put Gillian Anderson in every Dickens adaptation. She's so awesome!
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012)

Elizabeth Gaskall:

  • Cranford (2007) - I love this mini-series, and I also love Return to Cranford, even though I'm pretty sure Elizabeth Gaskall never wrote a Return to Cranford book.
  • North and South (2004) - Not to be confused with the American North and South mini-series about the civil war.
  • Wives and Daughters (1999)

The Bronte Sisters:

  • Jane Eyre (2006) - Yes, the 2011 film version of Jane Eyre is beautiful and definitely worth watching, but the 2006 Masterpiece mini-series is still my favorite!
  • Wuthering Heights (2009) - The version with Tom Hardy is the only film version of this novel I've ever seen that's really worth your time. (At least in my opinion.)

  • Daniel Deronda (2002)
  • The Way We Live Now (2001)
  • Under the Greenwood Tree (2005)
  • He Knew He Was Right (2004)
  • Call the Midwife (2012)
  • Upstairs Downstairs (2010)

I hope this gives you Masterpiece junkies enough to hold you over in the meantime. As I was looking at the Masterpiece website to refresh my memory for this blog post, I jotted down some mini-series I haven't seen yet that I'm sure will be great! So there will be more recommendations to come, hopefully in the near future.