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?

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?

Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)

Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2011
A steampunk historical mystery review

Heartlessthumb

Alexia Tarabotti faces continued assassination attempts on her person with hilarious resignation. Not so when a deranged ghost reports a plot against the queen. Alexia’s investigations lead her headlong into the Kingair plot of the past, the secrets of other women, and oh, yes-her final month of pregnancy.

Firmly back in London, and in control of husband, home, and helping, Alexia’s indomitable spunk and efficiency return this series to the light-hearted antics of Soulless. Heartless allows Alexia to upend supernatural society, even while it delves more deeply into her supporting cast. Biffy, Lyle, and Lord Maccon all hold together and even out the tone of this work so that the deep undertones begun in Blameless continue to support the world and characters of this creamier, more refreshing novel, like a tart on firm, chocolate crust. With plenty of fun and significant revelations, Heartless is an enjoyable rush to a climactic, parasol-dropping crescendo that will have you searching for the last book in Gail Carriger’s series.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2278388/)
Directed by: Wes Anderson 2014

the-grand-budapest-hotel-tv-spot-invasion

This film works like a kind of wedding cake. The aesthetics are the frosting, absolutely gorgeous to look at and it makes you crave sugar. The plot is this delightful thin line of raspberry filling: not really the point of the film, but bright, sharp, and with a proper pop of flair, much like master concierge and star of this story, Gustave H. I believe the reason this film is harder to connect to for some is because in most cases the plot provides the cake itself and drives the viewing. So, to have the plot provide only a line of filling may seem like it was made disproportionately or without enough sponge. Yet, this movie does have a very solid cake base to hold up the filling and the frosting. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is driven by tone. What holds together this pastry of marvelous images and whacky doings together is that feeling that happens by looking at the world as it is while remembering how it once seemed to be. It’s a nostalgia cake baked with the whimsy to imagine and the resignation to live on. When paired with the visuals of eccentric people thrusting themselves zealously into outrageous positions, it’s extremely humorous.

Like wedding cake, it may not be to everyone’s taste, but it has real symbolic depth that’s worth trying out. Besides, the cinematic frosting is fantastic!

Top Ten Literary Characters I’d Want with Me on a Deserted Island

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday (and a Day) by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. I have chosen the following characters from a consideration of my own sanity, survival/escape on an island that may be deserted of people, but not necessarily other threats including varied environments, and because I feel we could work well together, or at least in small groups. And away!

Top Ten Literary Characters I’d Want with me on a Deserted Island

1. Will Parry from “The Subtle Knife” by Phillip Pullman
-This was the first name that jumped to mind as I found him an eminently worthy character who I’d love to work with and who possesses courage, improvisational skills, and the ability to work with anyone, I think.

2. Katsa from “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore
-How more obvious or perfect can you get than this kickass heroine graced with the power of survival?

3. Tiffany Aching from “Wee Free Men” by Terry Pratchett
-She not only comes with her own brand of magic and getting-things-done, but with the Nac Mac Feegle, who can travel worlds to fetch food, fight off most things, and provide hilarity all at the same time!

4. Legolas from “Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien
-Fighting, hunting, impervious to most weather if that’s an issue, and good eye-candy. I think he and Katsa would go from stand-offishness to becoming friends and it would be fun to see.

5. Fezzik from “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
-Talk about a bodyguard! Not to mention, gentleness, rhyming games to pass the time, and warmth if things get chilly. On the set of the movie based on this book Andre the Giant would place his giant hand atop Robin Wright’s head to keep her warm when it got chilly, and I believe Fezzik would totally do that, as well. He would rhyme with the Wee Free Men, become close with Tiffany right away when she defends him from their initial charge in the belief he was a threat, and generally manage to provide a level of relaxation to everyone.

6. Benet from “The Magic Thief” by Sarah Prineas
-He would be Fezzik’s best friend though, as he is also an official bodyguard, but is also a master of his loved arts of knitting and baking. Warmth if we need it, more protection, and moreover, we really need a decent cook in this situation and his biscuits make my mouth drool. I imagine him trying to teach Fezzik how to make them and the picture is adorable as a cat and a rabbit cuddling!

7. Prince Lucian Kiggs from “Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman
-This character can keep everyone in line during the initial phase where no one knows each other, is highly reasonable for this situation, good fighter, and can solve any mysteries that may start happening if this island has any ideas of starring in another “Lost”-style thing. Plus, I suspect he’d be best friends with Will and he’ll be excellent company for

8. Seraphina of “Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman
-Not only do I totally relate to this heroine, but she is a wonderful escape plan. Telepathy with helpful folk for rescuing us and keeping us up on current affairs, an affinity with dragons who could come get us away, and a wonderfully diplomatic liar in case the deserted island, like so many literary ones, turns out to be not-so-deserted, after all.

9. Ella of “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine
-Another one I’ve always wanted to hang out with, I suspect she, Tiffany, and I will become quite the gang and eventually, once Legolas and Fezzik thaw her out, Katsa will join, and it will be glorious! Besides, she’s smart, resourceful, an equally wonderful liar who can also pick up languages and with practice possibly hypnotize folk with her impressions, funny, and owns a magic book with constantly changing stories (who doesn’t need that book on an island???) and the ability to give us insight into the lives of our loved ones while we’re away. Perfect!

10. Howl of “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones
-This wizard is my backup escape plan, in case Seraphina’s allies don’t have enough to go on to track us down. He comes with a moving house and Calcifer, who I adore, and who will manage to track him down with that house and provides basically electricity. Plus, Howl’s such a dandy that he’ll magic up something decent for people to stay in when he doesn’t want them all piling into the house right away, as well as other useful magical aids. Not to mention that this vain fellow would prove hysterical, in both senses of the word, if stuck on a desert island and I want to be there to see it. I suspect he’ll gravitate towards Legolas, but then become close with Benet for his biscuits and Will for strategic thinking. Tiffany will stare at him in disdain and then come hang out in my corner with Ella and her jokes or book, which she will enjoy wrangling with the Nac Mac Feegle about, and that is how our gang will begin.

I must say, now I’m really quite looking forward to this island vacation! When does it start???

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?

February Thoughts

1. This morning I went out into the world and found it a winter wonderland of white, where every twig stood out beautifully coated with snow….all just waiting to plop down on you, except for the places where the snow was already showering down in spots. Beware those who think just because the sun is out means their heads don’t need to be covered! It was quite a thing.

2. My work computer continually informed me that I was creating records at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, 1969. Clearly, I have become a time-traveler and the computer’s slowness is simply a sign it’s compiling energy for our next adventure!

3. I know I’m late to the game on this, but I need people to stop citing the way Plushenko’s coach got cameramen to emphasize Evgeni’s distress and back scars as a reason to think it was all a scheme. Your top and only skater pulls out-in a homeland Olympics-in Russia-of COURSE you immediately do everything in your power to emphasize the reasons why he couldn’t go on and how it’s a real injury. That’s not premeditation, that’s just good sense. Evgeni Plushenko is the Tsar on Ice-you don’t just expect people to watch him retire and not try to explain why as much as you possibly can, even if it’s just for fans, and Evgeni’s got the government to deal with, too.

4. This February seems to be lasting a long time. *eyebrow raise*

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