Book Vs. Film: Jane Eyre

I hate the term “classic.” It’s insane for one group of people to declare that certain films and novels will forever be masterpieces. Why shove clunky books down poor schoolchildren’s throats and proclaim certain films are “must-sees” to any film buff? If a piece of art is so special and great, shouldn’t it be able to stand and thrive on its own without people constantly shoving it forward? Though critics, professors, and misguided viewers and readers like to toss around the word “classic” too, why is one major entity – schools – stating what should be classic for the entire world? You HAD to read To Kill a Mockingbird in 9th grade; any serious movie buff HAS to see Psycho or Taxi Driver or Citizen Kane, etc. Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice,The Great Gatsby, even children’s books are stamped as classics. Where the Wild Things Are is probably one of the worst kid’s books I’ve read – but since a bunch of people said, “CLASSIC!”, people go out in droves and buy the book or film or any piece of art declared as a beloved classic.

Perhaps these novels and movies were magnificent for a different era – the current generation is to produce new “classics”, not artistry that has died (or should have died) a long time ago. Because someone does something first does not make it wonderful, especially if a host of other people did it entirely better.

So why in the world did I read Jane Eyre?

Other than it was free on my Nook and, (listen here) REQUIRED reading for school, I didn’t want to.

“But Alley, was it good, overrated, masterful? Does it deserve to be called a “classic”?”

In short: Yes. And no.

But let’s take it slow: what does Jane Eyre do right? For one, the strong willed heroine Charlotte Bronte presents is a breath of fresh air – even for the 21st century. Jane does not  take any stuff – blunt honesty and strong spirits is the name of her game. It might be more normal to see the ‘strong woman’ type in entertainment today, but this well-rounded female character is essential for women for any era. The writing is absolutely enthralling – Bronte chooses words that zooms the reader right into the scene. The characterization and diction is wonderful, a symphony of gorgeous words.

Wow, that was quick. Now for the bad…

Honest to God, though the writing is pretty, at least half of this novel could have been chopped off, two-hundred pages at minimum. SO MUCH of it is unnecessary purple prose – grandiose descriptions already detailed in the before paragraph. This is not setting up a scene – this is overindulgence to the max. Bronte also gives a typical, ‘happily-ever after’ story in Jane Eyre. It’s not deserving of a detailed synopsis, so here’s the rundown: poor girl an orphan in a rich family; poor girl a governess to a rich master; poor girl wife to rich master; poor girl just poor and homeless; poor girl suddenly made rich girl; rich girl marries rich master.

Isn’t it wonderful?!

The relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester is sweet, touching, then BAM!, almost verging on a saccharine mess. Throw in some contrived plot devices and you have a “classic.”

But perhaps we’ve learned a lesson here. What may be good for you, may be horrible for another. Only the person can decide what’s “classic” for themselves.

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My, oh my. Does this movie have it all… Rushed pace, unneeded scenes, important scenes given the ax, and since we’re in England…Judi Dench!

Pretty cinematography cannot save this movie. Is it a dark thriller, a romance, a character study, etc.? Because this film doesn’t balance the three elements well like it’s source novel does.

Just, no.

☆☆

Argo

I could try to devise a witty opening sentence, but why be coy? Argo is one of the best films of the year and another gold star in Ben Affleck’s directorial career. After a lackluster summer and a dry spell during early fall, moviegoers were starving for a good film. No, cross that. An excellent film. Argo is that film.

Since most of the suspense is brimming in the last thirty minutes of the movie, some may feel Argo is fine for the first hour, but it starts getting good until the last scenes. Which is wrong, of course. Argo is one of those movies that every time you watch it, the better it gets. Small clues left in the beginning of the movie and quick-witted dialogue not only pumps up the pace in the first half of the movie, but serve to reinforce the dramatic and riveting thrill in the other half.

So let’s see: suspenseful, intelligent, fun…how much more can this film pack in? Well, Argo is greedy – in a good way. Smartly adapting Iranian drama is not enough; Argo attempts to give insightful observations- not overly analyze – the ethics of the movie business (or lack of, that is). But it’s so well hidden in hilarious lines, we’re so busy having fun that we forget actually learned something.

Everyone does an excellent job here, from the smallest (but most powerful) roles to Affleck’s calm and suave performance. What else can I say? Argo is an excellently crafted film, one that shouldn’t be missed.

Film Fight! Fall Releases Edition

I know we are all excited about the slew of great fall releases coming out soon. But which one’s will stand the battle of Film Fight?

Round #1: Movies About Recent History

Is it Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama-Drama?

or

Ben Affleck’s Take on Iranian History in the 70’s?

Round #2: Big Epics Based On Novels

The Wachowski’s Film That Has Halle Berry as a White Chick?

or

Ang Lee’s Tiger Romance?

Round #3: POTUS’

Spielberg’s Lincoln?

or

Bill Murray as a President No One Cares About?

Round #4: French Films

The Film We’re Supposed To Cry At?

or

Starring the Girl Who’s Practically in Everything Now?

Round #5: Random Choice

Well…Both of Them Star Famous Black Guys.

Flight

or

Django Unchained?

 

Leave your picks in the comments below!

Looper and Donnie Darko: A Mini Review and a Mini-Mini Review

What an apt name for a film. It’s complicated, but not confusing. Involving, but not exactly thrilling. It definitely sends your brain in loops, but not because the it’s hard to understand, but by the end of the movie, one has to ask: how does a film that began so wonderful end so horribly?

To not waste my time or yours, I’ll diverge from detailing every little aspect of the plot. (If you want to meet a time-travel expert who know how to dissect Looper’s twisty storyline, see here.) Basically, Young Joe (JGL) is trying to kill Old Joe (Bruce Willis), and Old Joe is running away and trying to murder a kid who eventually grows up and becomes a terrorist who murders his wife of the future. This kid happens to live on a farm with Sara (Emily Blunt), a farm Young Joe happens to stumble upon.

Yeah. It’s not what I expected either.

By the first-half of the movie, everything is fresh. Fascinating concept, fast pacing, and fun dialogue, especially between Old Joe and Young Joe. But after this stage conversation is finished (oddly the only one of the two times they even see each other), the films slows down dramatically. It doesn’t even seem like the same movie anymore. Sub-plots of telekinesis and tired inclusions of inherently bad kids who use their superpowers for evil makes the film seem forced. Old Joe avenging for his wife? Contrived. Even Bruce Willis is criminally under-used in this movie.

Once the ending comes, with Levitt in voice-over every tying every loose string in one nice little package, one just wants to roll their eyes.

☆☆☆

Donnie Darko
Funnily, this film reminded me of many movies I’ve seen recently: Magnolia, American
Beauty, even Looper. Yet, even though I didn’t understand this movie fully, I absolutely loved it. Forget the witty dialogue and the excellent acting – the storyline juggles a number of diverging storylines and handles them beautifully. Time travel? Schizophrenia?  Religion? School politics? This film has it all – and does it all wonderfully.

☆☆☆☆ and 1/2 Stars

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For October’s Book Vs. Film selection, I’ll review the short story and film, Minority Report. Look for the reviews this week! (Thank you to Stephanie for the suggestion!)