Monday, June 04, 2007

Books and Movies

I finished two books over the weekend. The first was The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein. It's sort of a biography of Mary Shelley, her husband, Percy Shelley, Lord Bryon and John Polidori -- especially revolving around that infamous night in 1816 when they challenged each other to write ghost stories. Shelley's Frankenstein is the most popular, but I've read Polidori's Lord Ruthven and it's quite good. It's supposedly the first fictional appearance of a vampire in the form we recognize today -- and the model for all vampire characters since. Poor Lord Bryon -- Lord Ruthven is supposedly based on him and it doesn't paint a very nice portrait.

Mary Shelley's life was unbelievably sad; her mother died in childbirth, her father never paid her any attention and she lost her first three children at very young ages. But I learned a lot about her and I'm very tempted to pick up Frankenstein to read it again.

After The Monsters and Mao, I needed something a little lighter and I cruised through The Nanny Diaries in just a couple of sittings. It was exactly what I needed -- something light and fluffy with just enough of a character to root for. It's structured almost exactly like The Devil Wears Prada, but I liked The Nanny Diaries much better.

I've also seen a bunch of good movies lately. Notes on a Scandal was kind of like watching a train wreck; you didn't really want to see it but you couldn't pull away. Judi Dench is unbelievable. I don't watch many foreign films but Zhang Yimou is fascinating to me. I watched Curse of the Golden Flower and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Seriously, watch one of his films sometime. I'm sure I'll get comments about this, but I can't think of an American film director who shoots movies like that. It's almost like color is another character in the movie. Curse of the Golden Flower is Hamlet-like with lots of family intrigue and violence. And definitely worth seeing.

Finally, last night I watched The Queen. I'd had the movie in the house for more than a week and a half, yet I kept putting it off. I think I really didn't want to relive that terrible time when Diane died. I was a very impressionable 15 years old when I got up at 4 am to watch her get married; and she was only four years older than I was. It was hard to have to sit through her death again. And let's just say the members of the Royal Family do NOT come off very well in this film. It is, of course, difficult to judge some of the conversations. You know the Royal Family isn't talking about that and I doubt Tony Blair is either -- so how accurate they are is anybody's guess. Still, given what the public saw, the conversations seem realistic. And Helen Mirren is, of course, fantastic as Queen Elizabeth.

Posts will continue to remain spotty as graduate school takes up more time than I imagined. But my refuge is still reading for my own pleasure, and I'm going to try to do as much as I can.


AngryMan said...

Pay careful attention to how Wes Anderson uses color and sets next time you get a chance to watch one of his flicks. Especially in the Royal Tannebaums, but very much evident in Rushmore, and very, very much used in The Life Aqautic.

Siew Cooper said...

What? Did Traffic not move you in the same way? :)

Angryman, I didn't really notice the colours in any of those films, to be honest; perhaps I'd better watch them again.

I actually didn't like Curse of the Golden Flower much; I blogged about it when it first came out here, a couple of months ago. For colour impact, I prefer Kurosawa's Ran. I just felt that Yimou was overdoing the colour and visual aspect of things, and after Hero and Flying Dagger, he needed to move on to something else, rather than stagnate in the same visual preoccupation. In my opinion, these latter 2 films were done better, in any case, re. the use of visuals/colour as an allegorical and symbolic extension of the narrative.

Reel Fanatic said...

Dame Mirren was indeed a wonder to behold, but I thought Dame Dench might have been even better in Notes on a Scandal .. certainly the scariest performance I've seen in many years

danielle said...

I read Monsters at the same time I was reading Frankenstein (last fall). It was great reading them together--filling in the back story so to speak. I want to read more about Mary Shelley--that whole period is interesting to me! I also recently saw The Queen--it was different than I expected--but well done!

Tara said...

I thought The Queen was amazing - I finally watched it recently as well. I was also up at 4am to watch that wedding, surprising to think that I was only 10 yrs old. I was always enamoured with her, pouring over books about her. I agree, it was hard to relieve her death in that way and I did shed a tear watching the funeral procession and service.