Remake Review: The Philadelphia Story and High Society

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“The time to make up your mind about people is never.”

There may be no type of adaptation more tricky to pull off than a remake. Unlike a more subtle retelling, a remake matches its subject–sometimes line for line and scene for scene. In many ways, remakes have more riding on them than an original film. An original film has to stand on its own, but a remake must do that and also contain within it some sparkling effervescent quality that contains the reason for its existence.

There’s a lot that can bring down a remake–nostalgia for one thing. Take a film that’s good, but not necessarily a shining example of movie brilliance like The Ghostbusters or The Karate Kid. These films are fan favorites and redoing them, however well, means that you’re putting a beloved film into competition with a film that simply doesn’t have the rosy glow time adds. Its imperfections are not the ones we remember fondly, its strengths are different and sometimes jarring.

Some remakes are done to take advantage of advances in special effects or new perspectives and social attitudes. Some are done to capitalize on successful stories (hello SpiderMan and Robin Hood adventures), and some–well some you don’t even know what people were thinking.

No story is safe from the remake bug, and I honestly think that’s okay. Remakes are part of a process of self invention and adaptation that keeps Hollywood films interesting and engaging not just with current trends but also with its own history. It’s an art form that is constantly engaging with itself and with other disciplines like theater, music, and fine arts.

 

Now let’s look at one:

I rented The Philadelphia Story from the library. I didn’t realize that it was the original and I had already seen the remake (it does say it on the back of the DVD case that I own–but who reads the back of the DVD case? I mean, except me out of curiosity or to find out the run time). This I quickly ascertained from the first few minutes of the film.

Before we get into the pros and cons of each film, let’s take a look at some of the pertinent stats:

The Philadelphia Story:

  • release year: 1941
  • director: George Cukor (also well known for My Fair Lady and Les Girls)
  • stars: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, & Jimmy Stewart
  • reception: won 2 Oscars (best screenplay, best lead actor-Jimmy Stewart), nominated for an additional 4), 5th most popular box film of the year
  • genre: screwball comedy (or remarriage comedy)

High Society:

  • release year: 1956
  • director: Charles Walters (also known for The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies)
  • stars: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra
  • reception: nominated for 2 Oscars, both for music–it almost received a third nomination for best story, which was one of the academy’s more famous gaffes considering that 15 years earlier they gave an Oscar to the original screenplay. It was the 10th highest grossing film that year.
  • genre: musical
  • fun fact: This was Grace Kelly’s final screen performance before marrying the Prince of Monaco.

 

Here’s the basic plot of both films: The divorced Tracy Lord is getting married again. To save her father’s reputation, she is allowing two reporters from Spy magazine to report on her nuptials. What follows is a comedy with plenty of love triangles and emotion before Tracy ultimately decides what’s important and who she’s going to spend the rest of her life with.

While High Society is definitely the more comical of the two, the original black and white film will always be the greater of the two for me.

Here’s why:

  • Both films have a great cast, but no one can steal Katharine Hepburn‘s show. The root of both characters is a seemingly goddess or queen-like disposition, but Hepburn shows much greater range of emotion than Kelly, who often comes off as a little more immature rather than complex.
  • The original film also plays up all the relationships more, so that you can really feel the tension as Tracy Lord flits between Dexter, George, and Mike.
  • Both films are well cast, but I feel that as a musical it would have done even better if they’d picked an actress who could sing. Too much of the romancing is left to the gentlemen.
  • I also think that Miss Imbrie is played better in the original film–instead of being light and comic she is observant, serious, and engaging. Her dilemmas hold more depth and her relationship with Mike becomes more nuanced. We actually see more of the background of both characters–even though they work for a gossip magazine they’re both artists–Mike is a writer with a full-length, published book, and Elizabeth is a painter. Their talent and work becomes another, deeper way of looking at the class struggles that are bared in the film.

However, I really love the relationship between Tracy and her sister as portrayed in the newer film. They have more of a good-natured rivalry going on that’s fun to watch.

Favorite moments:

My favorite stand alone scene (i.e. one that isn’t repeated in the remake) in the original is where Mike goes to the library to do research and finds Tracy there reading his book. This scene goes a long way to challenging both character’s perceptions of each other.

My favorite part of the remake is without a doubt the flashback scene to Dexter and Tracy’s honeymoon aboard the yacht, the True Love. In the original film, you don’t see any of the once-loving relationship between Tracy and Dexter, so it’s nice to have Bing crooning to Kelly.

One of my favorite sequences in both films is when the reporters come to the mansion and see the room full of silver presents and meet Tracy’s sister who has made a pact with her sister to give the reporters a show.

****

All in all, while both films have something to offer, the first is more nuanced–even the cinematography (full of close ups) signals that. The characters tend to be more dynamic and display a greater range of emotion. While Cole Porter’s songs make a lovely addition to the remake, they don’t do all that much to spur the plot along or bring much insight (aside from the ‘True Love’ song).

 

But now I’ll turn it over to you: have you seen either or both of these films? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments.

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A 2017 Retrospective (plus some reading goals)

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Happy 2018, everyone.

I hope that you had a good New Year. I spent New Year’s eve with my family, celebrating my Nana’s birthday, and then my husband and I spent New Year’s day driving back home from Portland.

The New Year is always a great time to look back on the year behind you and think about what you’ve accomplished and what your new goals are. I did something a little different this year and thought about it on the Winter Solstice too, which I really enjoyed. It was almost like I was more prepared to make goals on New Years because I’d thought about my accomplishments and what I needed to work on for the next year already. I did something unheard of for me, which is set only one Resolution–to do yoga every day. We’re only 5 days in of course, but so far I’ve met that goal, which is pretty much a first for me.

2017 was an interesting year–in blogging terms it doesn’t even feel over yet because I still have a lot to say about different things that happened throughout the year, but it was full of ups and downs and lots of work. Not to mention, I sort of dropped the ball on blogging.

I didn’t quite meet my book goal–I ended up being five books short of finishing the Popsugar reading challenge–but I did meet my Goodreads goal of 75 books and even exceeded it by a couple of books.

This year I’m not participating in any sort of formal reading challenge (besides the Goodreads one). I have a couple challenges that I’ve entered into with friends, and I will be posting about those. I’d like to do 12 of these, one for each month, so if there’s a particular book (or two) you think I should read, or a challenge you’d like me to write about, please let me know in the comments!

The first challenge is sort of a book club challenge of sorts–my friend and I are reading Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott first and then Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe by the end of January. These classics have been sitting on our shelves for a while, and we figure if we don’t read them together we’ll never be motivated enough to read them at all.

The other challenge was given to me by a different friend. She thought it would be interesting to read about the same event or period of history from two different, opposing perspectives. If anyone has a suggestion for this, please let me know. I’m thinking that the US Civil War might be the easiest historical period for me to find (though it is certainly not my favorite…).

My blogging plan for the year is to do a lot more movie/book posts. I have a lot of fun writing those. I’m also going to share some travel/DIY/recipes–whatever comes to mind.

Is there something you’d like to see on the blog? Have a reading challenge for me? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: 11 Books I Need to Read By the End of Year

IMG_2962Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

The period between Thanksgiving and the end of the year is typically a good time to wind down, but if you’ve got a big reading challenge to finish up it doesn’t alway feel that way.

My grandma and I are going on a cruise next week, and, not unusually, my suitcase is packed with more books than bathing suits.

For most of the challenge, I just sort of picked books up and looked to see if they fit any category on the list, but as the year draws to a close, I decided to pick out all the books so that I knew what I was going to get myself into.

This is the list of books I’m trying to finish by the end of the year to complete the advanced Popsugar reading challenge:

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

For the category of “book with a season in the title.” I haven’t read this late Shakespeare play, and it’s one of the few digital books I’m bringing on my trip.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I’ve been saving this book for the “book about food” category all year, and now it’s finally time to read it.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Everyone in my book club loved this book that they read the year before I joined. Since it was made into a movie this year, it seemed like the perfect choice for that particular category.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe 

The category of “books mentioned in other books” was a really interesting category, but it was kind of difficult to pick a book for it. Shakespeare would have been a no-brainer, but I really wanted to choose a novel. Jane Austen’s heroine in Northanger Abbey is a self-proclaimed connoisseur of gothic literature and mentions this book.

Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman

I don’t have a lot of books with cats on the cover, so I chose to interpret this cat as any animal in the cat family. My edition of this book has a lion on the cover.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood 

It’s probably no secret that I love Margaret Atwood and really admire her ability to write well in a number of different ways—across genres. This book will be fulfilling the category of “a book written by someone you admire.”

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

This classic is “a book recommended by an author I love.” I wanted to finish this book I started reading aloud with Paul, and pretty much every fantasy writer was influenced by Tolkien. I picked George RR Martin as the particular author I love, in case anyone is interested.

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

I try to fit in the books in this Naomi Novik series wherever I can, but “a book involving a mythical creature” seemed too perfect to pass up.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

I buy books on pretty much all of my trips, so that category was a no brainer, but I wanted to save it for a book purchased on the ultimate trip—our honeymoon. This is one of the (probably too many) books I bought. I couldn’t help it—I didn’t find anything much in the used bookstores, but the new ones were filled with beautiful covers. Books are probably the cheapest souvenir you can bring back from London.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while, and reading the back made me think it might work for a book about an immigrant/refugee, which was one of the categories I hadn’t filled yet.

Catherine the Great by Robert K Massie

For a book that follows a character’s life span, I decided to pick a biography instead of a novel. I haven’t read a lot of nonfiction this year, so I wanted to read at least one more before December comes to a close.

 

Over to you—is there a book you’re dying to read by the end of the year? Do you pick out your reading list in advance or do you prefer to play it by ear? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Fictional Characters who Would Make Great Leaders

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic was characters that would make excellent leaders. This proved to be very interesting, and in picking characters I also thought about 10 traits that are important for leaders.

I tried to pick characters that weren’t filling traditional leadership roles (i.e. no monarchs, and that were fictional and not real-life people).

Here are 10 attributes of great leadership, and 10 characters who fit them:

 

Intelligence—Professor Higgins from Pygmalion

It’s great to be able to command a room, but strategy and thoughtful leadership requires intelligence. Professor Higgins might be a little obtuse at times, but he’s nevertheless a successful teacher who is quite accomplished at research.

Practicality –Ruby from Cold Mountain

In desperate times,  you need someone who is sure and level-headed, who has vision for day to day necessities and can get things done. I can’t think of anyone who does this better than Ruby. She works hard and doesn’t get bogged down in niceties.

Inventiveness—Hugo from The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Inventiveness or resourcefulness are essential to leadership–how else can you make a bad situation better? Hugo may be young, but his ability to fix intricate clock workings and to find ways to better his solution would make him a great leader under the right circumstances.

Sacrifice—Cyrano from Cyrano de Bergerac

A great leader must make sacrifices, and Cyrano knows this all too well. As his friend dies on the battlefield, Cyrano knows he can’t tell Roxanne the truth and he sacrifices his own happiness to help her stay true to a great man’s memory.

Charisma—Emma from Emma

It definitely helps get your point of view across if you’re likable, engaging, and charismatic. Emma is a great example of this, and she sways many people to her causes with less logic than affability and persuasion.

Risk Taker—Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

A true leader does not sit idly by; she takes risks. Alice is a natural risk taker. There are few others who would follow a rabbit down to a magical kingdom–most people would convince themselves they hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary and wouldn’t give the rabbit a second glance.

Bravery—Wesley from The Princess Bride

Being a leader means standing up for your cause, often in the face of others who would like nothing better than to pull you down. So being brave in the face of skilled swordsmen, giants, and Sicilians when death is on the line, like Wesley, is imperative.

Eloquence—Temeraire from His Majesty’s Dragon

Temeraire is a dragon, and he actually fulfills many of these qualities, but when push comes to shove, it’s his ability to speak well that persuades other dragons to take up his cause.

Idealistic—Princess Mia from The Princess Diaries

If you have no vision for the future, how can you lead anyone into it? Princess Mia sort of breaks my rule about rulers, but since she’s not really a ruler in any of the YA novels, and since she doesn’t even know she’s royal until she’s in high school, I put her on the list. Really, there’s no one who fits this virtue better. Though she may not always go about things the right way, she’s always interested in a better version of her country–one that’s more environmentally and economically sound.

Persistence—Bee from Where’d You Go, Bernadette

You’re not likely to realize all your goals on day one, so leadership is all about trying and trying and trying again. Bee will stop at nothing to find her mother, traveling to the very ends of the earth to bring her home again.

 

Now over to you. What quality do you think is most important in a leader?

My Top 5 Favorite Places in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho

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I’m taking quite a few trips with my Nana this coming year, but even with a trip to Paris looming on the horizon, this little jaunt to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho was absolutely lovely. We went in early October, so it was definitely not tourist season anymore, and the air was brisk and the leaves were starting to change. It looks more like my old stomping grounds in Oregon than it does the parts of Idaho that I am familiar with. Everything was so green, and the lake, which is much larger than I’d imagined is gorgeous and impressive.

Since it’s only a thirty minute drive from Spokane, WA (a much longer drive from Boise), we flew into Spokane and made our way east. It was a very relaxed trip, but we definitely made the most of it and found some really cute places.

If you’re ever in Coeur d’Alene, these are the places I suggest hitting:

 

Gaiwan Tea House

This little tea house was so lovely. It’s in a remodeled Craftsman style house and is modern and Asian inspired inside. They make lovely tea lattes and they also sell loose leaf tea. But the real surprise was their curry, which was flavorful and full of vegetables.

Natural Grocers

You wouldn’t think a grocery store would make it on a best-of anywhere list, but my Nana and I had a blast shopping here. They had an amazing assortment of natural foods with decent pricing. Their baked goods were lovely (we bought a sourdough pumpkin loaf that we tore in chunks) and they had a great selection of giftable goodies like local soaps and items that had been produced in sustainable ways.

Culinary Stone Cooking Class

This giant kitchen store is really fun if you like kitchen stuff (which I do–I always love looking around these places), and this one is cooler than most since it has a tempting looking gourmet foods section with a small deli and a charming cafe attached.

A lot of big kitchen stores do classes, and this one was no exception. We thought taking a class might be a lot of fun, and we went in to see if there were any openings, but unfortunately they were all marked full on the calendar.

Luckily though, I spoke to the cashier, and she said there was so much interest in one of the classes that another had opened up and there were two spots left, which seemed pretty meant-to-be.

We came early to get a good seat (I highly advise this, since it’s much easier to hear and see and smell in the front), and bought a glass of wine while we were waiting. Patricia Hébert-Jenks, the chef, was French and lovely. She was very charismatic and her description of things tended towards the poetic, like the sound of butter singing in the pan. She urged us to make our own chicken stock and to take our time cooking–food is a pleasure that shouldn’t be rushed.

She made: Velouté de Pois Cassés aux Lardons et Aux Oignons (a velvety pea and potato soup topped with caramelized onions and tiny strips of bacon), Filet Mignon Farci à la Poire et au Romarin (baked stuffed pork tenderloin with shallots, pears, blue cheese, and rosemary), and Poached Pears with caramel sauce, the bottoms of which she filled with rum spiked whipped cream.

The food was so good, the more so for getting to watch her prepare it. And at the end you got to eat it all as well as the little chocolate they gave you to take home. It was the first cooking class I’d ever attended, and I loved it.

I would definitely recommend her class to anyone in the area–but note that they fill up quickly.

Paris Flea Market

The nice thing about antique stores in less busy cities is that they tend to have better prices. It’s also a great way to kill an afternoon, and an activity I love doing while traveling.

This particular antique store had two locations in the city. The original has a giant metal cow out front. Both are a lot of fun to poke around in.

Museum of North Idaho

I’m not usually in love with tiny local museums. I think it’s great to support them (usually the money you spend there goes to support local history work and other worthy causes), but they’re usually really boring and lackluster.

However, this museum, located right on the river, was actually pretty good. They had a number of interesting displays on homesteading, mining, logging, and fire watching, as well as Native American, geological, and military history. It was less expensive to get into than a lot of small museums, and you could spend a good hour there, especially if you watch the film (which we didn’t).

 

 

Have you ever been to Coeur d’Alene? Did I miss your favorite spot? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Freebie

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

Happy Halloween!

It’s so strange–as a kid you’re excited about Halloween no matter what day of the week it falls on, but as an adult I feel like I’m usually more excited about the weekend closest to it. This year, our friends threw a party and everyone dressed up as their childhood dream job. I dressed up as an archaeologist a la Indiana Jones, and Paul dressed up like a fighter pilot.

The atmosphere of disguise and pretending to be someone else is my favorite part of Halloween, so in honor of that, here are 10 memorable costumes from my childhood and 10 books to go with them.

Archaeologist—Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones

This book is probably the best (as well as only) book that I’ve read recently that features archaeology as its subject. The protagonist acts as a translator for the dig, helping them secure permission from the government. Also a great love story

 

Esmerelda—Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies

Oh I loved this costume. My mom didn’t make it, but it was homemade by someone. The cotton fabric had this rich, watery quality to it.

Anyway, I think of Esmerelda as a character who stands up for those in need, even at great personal cost. I can’t think of anyone who exemplifies that more than Miep Gies, who helped hide the Franks with her partner at great personal risk.

 

Belly Dancer—Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher

My family did make this costume. It felt like everyone had a hand in it. Unfortunately we lived in Oregon, which meant I had to basically ruin the costume with layers or I’d get wet from the rain.

This YA book was one of my favorites around this time in my life (5th grade or so). I loved the emphasis it placed on storytelling and the intrigue. The life it depicted was as enchanting as it was disturbing.

 

Cleopatra—Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff or watch the movie with Elizabeth Taylor

This was probably one of my more memorable costumes. My hair was the right length and the right color to fit all the images you probably have in your mind of the Queen. My makeup was a bit sloppy, but that didn’t matter because I felt incredibly regal.

I like this biography of Cleopatra because it tries to rescue the woman from behind the legend created for her. I also love the movie with Liz Taylor because it does exactly the opposite.

 

Delores Umbridge—Matilda by Roald Dahl

It would be too easy to choose a Harry Potter book for this character. Instead I chose one with another despicable school administrator.

 

Bumblebee—Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

I don’t really have any memories of this costume, but it’s featured in lots of toddler pictures, so it definitely existed. I chose a book that’s sweet but also stings.

 

Pink Power Ranger—Bossypants by Tina Fey

Not that Tina Fey would have ever dressed up as a Power Ranger, but the message behind the costume is I will clearly kick your butt while defying all of your expectations–hence Tina Fey’s book.

Did the Power Ranger costume not say that to you? Maybe it’s just me.

Alice—Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

This book seems like the perfect counterpart to Alice in Wonderland. Not only does it have a quintessentially English feel (complete with footnotes), there’s also some traveling via mirrors going on. I will rave about this book more later. But it and the show are perfect Halloween reading.

 

50s housewife—Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

This book is a really interesting look into the mind of a woman who seems to be a perfect 50’s housewife, but is really a person with her own complications, flaws, and concerns.

 

Snow White—The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I didn’t actually consider this costume to be a costume for Snow White. My mom and I found a bunch of these pretty German-style costumes at the thrift store, and the three of us (Mom, me and my best friend) went around dressed up as Bavarian beauties or something–we never quite settled on that. But I went dressed up that way to the preschool where my aunt worked, and all the kids called me Snow White, which was flattering.

Anyway, Angela Carter’s not-so-fairy tales are perfect for Halloween or really any time of year.

 

What was your most memorable costume? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Unique Book Titles

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

Today’s topic is unique book titles. And what sets a book apart more than a crazy title?

Here are 5 books from my TBR list that have intrigued me on the basis of name alone:

  • Stalking the Wild Asparagus–Euell Gibbons
  • The Mouse-Proof Kitchen–Saira Shah
  • The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj–Anne de Courcy
  • The Blind Assassin–Margaret Atwood
  • The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing–Mira Jacob

 

Have you read any of these? What’s your favorite book with a weird title?