The Little Grey Lists

I have just finished watching the last season of Agatha Christie’s “Poirot” mysteries starring the brilliant David Suchet.  I wanted this week’s list to be a tribute to this ending, but how to do it?  By the Poirot books?  I went through these many years ago and most have blurred together.  All Christie books?  Some of my favorites were not Poirot, although he was by far my favorite.  By the “Poirot” series?  All Poirot adaptations?  In the end, I couldn’t choose.

Top Agatha Christie Mysteries:

1. Five Little Pigs

-This one was by far my favorite.  With the crime in the past there was nothing to get in the way of the psychological study.

2. And Then There Were None

-This is the first Christie book I read and one of the few books ever that I kindof wish had been withheld from me til I was a few years older…it still plays vividly in my mind, compelling, brilliant, and incredibly creepy.

3. Crooked House

-The tone and ending of this book just stay with you.

4. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

-Seeing the crime through the villain’s notebook while still not knowing who it is….thrilling.  The adaptation of this was one of my only true letdowns-no cinema can do it properly.

5. The Man in the Brown Suit

-This is a novel where I actually remember the characters more fondly than the mystery-it’s great fun and my favorite of Christie’s matchmaking moves.

6. Dead Man’s Mirror

-Another Poirot mystery I found particularly clever and memorable.

Top Suchet “Poirot” adaptations:

1. Five Little Pigs

-I was surprised at how faithful they managed to keep it.  Love it!

2. Evil Under the Sun

-They managed to add humor and suspects with more depth without losing the tone of the original.

3. The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor

4. The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge

5. The Chocolate Box

-All of these are just delightful to watch….I’m sure this list will change often, but David Suchet’s Poirot just shines.

Top non-Suchet Cinema Adaptations:

1. Thirteen for Dinner

-This Peter Ustinov one just has more time to flesh out the characters and what I found to be a more believable Lady Edgeware.  Plus, Suchet does appear…as Japp!

2. Witness for the Prosecution

-This Hitchcock film feels like a real Agatha Christie, and is well acted!

3. Death on the Nile

-This one I include because, although I feel the Ustinov version and the Suchet version are both excellent shows, I prefer the Ustinov one simply because it has more time to develop various motives and has a memorable montage showing how practically everyone could have committed the crime…On the other hand, I prefer Suchet’s Poirot here, as usual, and find his portrayal much closer to the books.  Still, whichever way you go, I recommend it.

Poirot would hate these mini-lists for being uneven and a hodgepodge of preferences rather than one, orderly list…I know, shall blame it on my need for gastronomic nurturing and plead that I have not yet eaten.  What about you, mes amis, which novels, episodes, or crimes do your little grey cells prefer?

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Once Upon a Time 4×1 “A Tale of Two Sisters”

Well, I caught up on “Once Upon a Time” just before its new premiere and…I’m still not sure what I think about it. On the one hand…

The Good:
1. Elsa’s character remains intact. After her ominous arrival last season from Rumple’s “I’m-scared-of-this” vault and emergence over the last great evil-Zelena’s-dark magic symbol, I feared for the integrity of her flawed, but good heroine personality.
2. This is one of those episodes where everything looked just as it should. This is very important for a show dabbling in iconic images and moments, but from everything “Frozen” to dancing with Belle, this episode was charming to literally watch.
3. We don’t have to go back to the past again! Yay! Personally, I found that storyline in the last two episodes too much stalling for too little payoff, especially since it’s pushing at Regina in all-too-cliche ways.
4. The mention of Netflix was a funny meta touch.

However, the other hand is weighed down with…

The Bad:
1. Finding ‘The’ author of fairy tales??? That’s just not a good idea and my folklorist heart is already pained. I suppose the most acceptable solution would be to find Disney himself, but…then we’ve got a whole other kettle of meta fish happening that’s just too close to home for magic to keep off the fishy smell.
2. Can everyone just stop messing with Belle already? Just STOP IT. One of the things I liked about last season was how she got to call out her tormentors and remind everyone just how raw a deal this crazy optimist, of all people, got in previous seasons. STOP MESSING WITH HER, I DON’T CARE IF SHE DOESN’T KNOW.
3. Obviously Henry is the best option for Regina-company and deterrent right now and it’s plain stupidity and selfishness that keeps Emma hounding her personally to try and prove that she was right.
4. Look, I’ve been trying to reconcile myself to Hook/Emma for an entire season now and having a hard time of it, having Emma share my hesitation is not helping.
5. If an enchanter comes to claim that hat and dares to call himself Merlin without being the most awesome character ever I will hate this show.

Also, I’m not sure which category this goes in, but according to that timeline, the powers of True Love and pixie dust thought that Regina and Robin should get together before she became the full-fledged Evil Queen who messed with Marian, which has to mean that it thought they’d make a better match than Robin and Marian IN THE FIRST PLACE, EVEN! I’m not sure what to do with that. One voice is crying out-don’t mess with Robin and Marian, it has to at least be history!, while the other is saying hah-see, Marian never really should have gotten him to begin with, go Regina! It’s confusing. What do you think of that?

Of course, we still have those nitty-gritty questions to get into about predictions for this season…

The U(gly U)nknown:
1. Will Anna’s journey in the Enchanted Forest run her into more wolves in the form of Red? That is my greatest hope right now.
2. Will Belle get pregnant with a boy they’ll name Chip as a tribute to their love?
3. Perhaps instead of the author we can get Scheherazade who’s been telling these stories to her sultan? That would be cool. Correction, that could be cool. Could also be a big mess, but at least better than finding any kind of author.
4. Can we count Mickey Mouse as an author? o.O
5. It’s probably all going to have to do with Roland and him getting attached to a savior-Regina with her this time, isn’t it?
6. So are Hans and his brothers “waiting to pounce” ruling the roost back in Arendelle? Or did they follow Anna and trap her to try and get her to marry Hans/one of them a la Penelope in the Odyssey? I do like the image of Sven helping to break that up eventually. Or, could be both!
7. This also makes me think that Ariel and Eric and their island is reminiscent of Calypso, the sea’s daughter, and her lovers’ island, no?
8. Which brings me to Hercules and how on first hearing Regina had a second soulmate, I thought of him. He likes dark women, doesn’t he? (Plus, he could have wanted a tattoo of the lion he defeated.) It would be fun if they could have at least a fling.
9. Who wants to bet that “the truth” about Elsa and her powers is that she really has a different father than Anna does, or was adopted from her sister or something, which will make her actually related to Enchanted Forest folk? After all, this show is nothing if not incestuous! See: Hook, chasing after his stepson’s babymama, etc.

Well, those are my thoughts. What are yours? Any predictions-without spoilers!-or speculations to share?

Top Ten Literary Adaptations to Detest

The follow-up list is here! These cinematic incidents do not do justice to their books. Feel free to join in and grumble about those films that make you groan or shout, “That’s not how it goooes!”

Top Ten Worst Literary Adaptations:

1. “Ella Enchanted”
-I still remember staring at the screen in shocked horror as this Anne Hathaway monstrosity hacked away at Gail Carson Levine’s wonderful work.

That's not how it woooorks!

That’s not how it woooorks!

2. “The Dark is Rising”
-I still feel the whirl of anger and disbelief whirling whenever I think of this film that not only completely changed the whole point of the story, but randomly made the main character a twin! A TWIN! Will Stanton needs no twin! Arrrgh!

3. “The Other Boleyn Girl”
-This film took an intricate, sister-driven plot and boiled it down to….Henry VIII as an Eric Bana-shaped dick. Why bother?

4. “The Lightning Thief”
-This film simply pretended that a small tangent of the book’s plot was really the entire story. Not cool, although I did like Uma Thurman’s portrayal of Medusa.

5.”Eragon”
-Not even Jeremy Irons could save this movie from its massive stupidity.

6. The Masterpiece Theater version of “Mansfield Park” from 2007 with Billie Piper
-It was so boring.

7. The Masterpiece theater version of “Sense and Sensibility” from 2008
-Totally ruined Marianne’s character for me.

8. “The Little Prince” TV show from 2010
-“When the evil Snake passes through the galaxy and extinguishes the stars, the Little Prince leaves his asteroid to save the universe from doom.” The fox is always his pet and is there for comic relief and to reference the occasional French word! If they’d just made their own cartoon it wouldn’t be too bad, but whyyy drag Le Petite Prince into it, why??

9. The 1998 “Phantom of the Opera” or “Le Fantome de l’Opera” from Italy with Julian Sands
-This Phantom looks fine; his issue is that he was raised by opera rats and is telepathic with them and Christine. I know, it sounds so bad that you expect it to be hilarious, but it’s not even that! This level of craziness is still, somehow…boring. Really boring. I don’t even know.

See?  Rats!

See? Rats!

10, Sortof. This one breaks the rules as it is only an adaptation of a previous film instead of a book, but when talking about bad, flabbergastingly untrue works, I must mention “The Truth About Charlie,” 2002 remake of the Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant classic “Charade.” As those who will know me can attest I still can’t think of this film without hissing under my breath because it changes so many damn things. It’s absurd. I cannot properly explain without spoilers, but…NO! Nononononono. No.

Well, now that that’s off my chest, what about you guys?

Top Ten Literary Adaptations

This week’s Tuesday Top Ten by http://thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com/ is about favorite movies and TV shows. My rules are that they have to be literary adaptations of books that I have read, and they cannot be plays because that’s a different type of adaptation!

Top Ten Favorite Literary Adaptations:

Obviously,
1. is “The Princess Bride,” the first movie I could ever proclaim was truly as good as the book, as William Goldman wrote both.
Princess-Bride-movie_572

This is closely followed by the best miniseries adaptation,
2. “Pride and Prejudice” on BBC, with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. How ardently I admire and love it!
lydialooney_mooney

Third comes my favorite movie trilogy adaptation,
3. “Lord of the Rings”-It does not come in pints, but I would gladly find you a box!
lotr

Then the longer television show based on a book series,
4. “Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot” series with David Suchet and his little gray cells.
poirot

Next, my childhood favorite,
5. “Winnie the Pooh” the old show with the narrator who introduces himself, because what’s better than pouncing and chasing honey?

This movie I wish I’d had as a child, but it still took me right back to it because I’m pretty sure this was my 11-year-old self’s spirit animal:
6. “The Golden Compass”-I know it’s different than the book, but I don’t mind things being different animals so long as it’s good, and this was gorgeous!

In another nostalgic favorite, we visit what I maintain is still the best “Emma” adaptation I’ve seen in
7. “Clueless”-and if you disagree, Whatever!
220px-Clueless

Another film noted for its great snarkery is
8. “Stardust”-This film I enjoyed more than the book-who’s not won over by Captain Shakespeare?

In 1989, this version of
9. “Phantom of the Opera” just hits all of the intense, wild notes in the book that Andrew Lloyd Webber leaves out. It’s insane, there’s time travel, face-stitchery, and whips…I just really like it.

Lastly, for me this miniseries really brought to life
10. “Jane Eyre”
janeeyre

So, what are your favorite adaptations? If you can only think of scurrilous representations that you hate, there shall be a follow-up list shortly!

Reasons “Frozen” Rocks

I finally got to see Disney’s “Frozen” and I love it! This is the kind of empowering movie that “Brave” claimed to be and fell short of!

elsa-disney-frozen-hd-wallpaper

SAFE-TO-READ Reasons Why:

1. It’s gorgeous. Even with obviously disproportional heads, eyes, etc., Disney has mastered this newer style of animation. Paired with the spectacular visuals of Elsa’s ice creations, this is pure eye candy.
2. The characters not only are complex, but the entire movie owns those nuances, bringing out more and more reasons to invest in these protagonists as it goes along instead of trying to smooth everything neatly into a tidy ending box.
3. The music! The last few movies Disney made caused me to wonder if they’d forgotten how important their soundtracks are to making things compelling, but clearly they have remembered! I almost cried at the end of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”
4. They actually came up with a good reason to have a goofy, talking snowman running around. I’m impressed.
5. This is a fairy tale treatment that explores the real folklore material of “The Snow Queen” and comes up with a valid interpretation, rather than simply turning it on its head in one simple way like through modernization or completely reversing the blame.
6. Even the comic relief characters have wisdom and a level of emotional resonance.
7. Romance was important, but put nicely in its place.
8. There is a credit for “Caffeination” with only one name-“Carlos Buenavidos”, aka “Carlos Good Life.”

Long live the Queen!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I saw the midnight opening of this and…it was MARVELOUS! It’s shorter than its predecessor, the pacing is tighter and smoother, the humor feels more precise and balanced, and the self-references to Peter Jackson’s other works felt purposeful and like a good joke between old friends rather than spin-offy. Also, I cannot wait until Thranduil’s headpiece becomes a common look. Go forth and enjoy!

thranduil___the_elvenking_by_iary-d5itrwu

Other thoughts (SPOILERS for those who haven’t read the book):

-I’m definitely going to need the barrel-riding to become a theme park ride.
-Lee Pace’s Thranduil turned out every inch as glorious as I wanted him to be, and I desired Excessive Glory.
-Many in my midnight theater yelled “sshh!” at the dwarves’ exclamations when Bilbo released them from Thranduil’s prison.
-Gandalf’s entrance to the Necromancer’s domain can be perfectly timed to “I always think everything could be a trap, which is why I’m still alive.”
-Does anyone else think Thorin’s sword on reaching the Lonely Mountain is shaped suspiciously like that of Theoden, King?
-Bilbo’s face when Smaug fully rises from the gold and he kneels down to hide is utter perfection.
-Isn’t it marvelous gold that doesn’t melt in dragon flame even though it’s historically been shaped by forges that can be lit by dragon fire? Perhaps intention can somehow be read.
-Yet more evidence that “But no one withstands the machine!” can only keep criminals down for a short timespan.
-Can we all take a moment to bask in the beauty of Smaug, particularly when shaking off gold?
-Isn’t it interesting how Legolas’ character seems tougher in this timeframe than when he’s actually fighting for the fate of the world? Perhaps that’s maturity, for you. He goes from “Step off or I will kill you!” to “I’ll have to kill you anyway, so step wherever, enjoy your short life while you can.” Or perhaps that is exhaustion and he was showing signs of it more than we knew.
-Stephen Fry is working his wig.
-Gandalf’s visit to the tombs immediately made me think, “See, this is why we miss Erebor so much-it’s the only cavernous place that has real stairs!”
-Really, all these Tolkien films are a cautionary tale about what can happen to a society with no professional librarians or archivists. Archivists would keep up these tombs and let people know if spirits escaped, so wizards wouldn’t have to abandon other quests to do this research work. They would also curate the history books that explain Sauron’s One Ring reveals its secret through fire so they wouldn’t be so dusty and make a research guide so Gandalf wouldn’t have to spend time paging through the memoir to find the right information and maybe the hobbits could have got a head start on the ringwraiths. Just think how much smoother everything would have gone if all wizards had a librarian/archivist working for them, to do their research side-trips and settle questions about which evils are and aren’t abroad in the world in a timely and efficient manner. They would have staged outreaches reminding everyone to check all magic rings in fire, too, so Bilbo might have avoided some possession. I’m just saying.

Huzzah for “The Hobbit”!

Nikita 4×2 “Dead or Alive”

Okay, I just have some quick thoughts I need to jot down. They do include SPOILERS:

1. One, I totally cringed when Nikita and Michael started talking about their relationship issues during an operation, just like everyone else. However, the reason it’s okay and not just shoehorned in like so many other shows, is that it is totally in-character for Nikita to choose that time. Knowing she’s about to shoot Michael, even metaphorically, would bring all her guilt to the fore. When she’s not physically next to Michael and feels in control is totally when Nikita would be most willing to share her feelings. And knowing that physical separation, together with the fact that there was no real hurry or danger, made it not the utterly stupid thing that airing up those issues during missions usually is. (I’m looking at you, Ichabod Crane.)

2. I do not believe Birkhoff is cloned. Of all the characters on this show, Birkhoff has shown himself the most adept at hiding from the Division head honchos when hiding is what he wants, and as the tech guy instead of a field guy, he’s been constantly surrounded by people since back in last season. Reeallly don’t think that Nikita’s framing would lend itself to him so much as stepping outside for coffee, so no chance for him to be nabbed.

3. I love Amanda’s face when she believes Nikita is Finally actually turning into her.

4. Framing Alex seems more satisfying for Amanda than actually a good move for The Shop. She’s got a Cinderella Story and lots of documented charity behind her, that’s not a personage the public will be swayed against so easily.

In any case, I can’t wait for the end where Ryan will be set to run the new government, Owen will die having chosen who he wants to be, and shows she can actually be a partner, not a leader. These are my predictions-my main hope is that Birkhoff will get a happy ending, but I’m not holding my breath.

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