Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Fantastic Return of Nanny McPhee!!!

I loved this movie. I mean -- truly. I didn't expect tobut some surprises are so lovely. If you saw the first Nanny McPhee, you know that it is all about whimsey and magical mayhem. But the second is quieter, more grounded in reality which makes the magic so much lovelier.

The children cast in these roles are so real and reminiscent of the old English Empire that the story feels relevant, honest. There is less Nikelodian goo fests and more earnest longing. The result is perfection.

And the ambience in this film is just transporting. There is a scene in the beginning with Maggie Gyllenhaal (who I never really thought of as beautiful until this movie) when she hears the whispers that she needs Nanny McPhee and the wind is up and a storm is coming. It's exactly the kind of feel that puts Halloween in your toes.

It's WW2 and city kids are shipped to their poor farm relatives in the country. The shots of the English countryside and villages are breathtaking and the story is so rich, so surprisingly touching that I cried -- twice. Because I went to see it twice. In two days. I loved it that much. The scene in London is nostalgia straight out of Mary Poppins and I found myself desperately wishing Nanny McPhee would show up at my door.

More Nanny McPhee please!

My favorite character in the movie

The children in this film are absolutely believable portraying
a lost world of old world British charm and sensibility

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Anne Bronte and the scandalous Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Ever wonder what it would be like to be married to Lord Byron? Watch "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall". This fabulous BBC miniseries available on netflix absolutely blew my mind. It is so honest, so open. We always read about the rake who marries the virgin and is transformed. But what if he's not? What if she's partly to blame? What if she still loves him? What if he still loves her?

It's a conundrum.

And Anne Bronte is truly amazing in her ability to weave it all together. Unlike Heathcliff and unlike Rochester, there is no romance attached to the everyday trueness of love, of abandoning our vices, of giving in to them, of hurting, loving and even destroying each other. Throughout this entire story, I wasn't sure if I was rooting for them. I was certain I wanted her to run but I wanted her to lighten up too. I wanted them to be as good to each other as they could have been. I wanted them to divorce. I wanted it to end. I wanted it to have one last fighting chance. I hated him. I loved him. I hated her. I pitied her.

That's a great story.

So why haven't we heard of it?

Charlotte, Emily and Anne all discovered they were writing secretly. As a sisterly unit, they made a pact to get published together. Charlotte was the very last to be published but when she was, it was Jane Eyre. All of the sister's books sold. It is a fallacy to think they were in any way unsuccessful.

Anne in particular began to sell with "Tenant of Wildfell Hall". It was so scandalous and shocking that it sold out in 6 weeks. A second printing was in order but, tragically, Anne was already dead. At 29, she was the last of three Bronte siblings to die in 6 months. First their brother, then Emily and finally Anne. When she died, it was CHARLOTTE who denied the second printing. In her opinion, it wasn't morally worth reprinting and "Agnes Grey" should be the work her sister was remembered for. What a tragedy. What a pious, ridiculous, self-important judgement to make.

Of all the sisters' work, it is "Tenant of Wildfell Hall" that is the most sincere, the most grounded. She doesn't mince the realities of Victorian marriage but she doesn't have the hero digging up their lost love buried deep in the earth, or staggering all over the wilderness starving to death because she won't sleep with him either. Rochester is only a hero in comparison to someone like Heathcliff who is truly evil. But let's face it, he did lock his wife up in an attic and then seduce the 18 year old nanny. I'd set his house on fire too.

Anne's anti hero is the villain. He knows it. He owns it. But he's not supernatural in any way. He's not even unique. He is that breed of selfish young men who were ruined by their own gluttony for excess. Theirs is a marriage that should have worked but didn't.

She told the truth about the dark horse and it wasn't what the world wanted to hear. At least, not what her sister Charlotte wanted to hear.


Thank goodness we have the chance to view and read at leisure today. Anne Bronte -- genius.