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?

Her Royal Spyness

Her Royal Spyness
By: Rhys Bowen
(http://rhysbowen.com/)
Berkley Prime Crime 2008
A Historical Mystery Comedy Review

Her Royal Spyness

Being thirty-fourth in line for the British throne proves utterly unhelpful to Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch. Nothing but royal expectations for Georgie’s future, but she is without the money, tolerable husband candidates, or conventional disposition to meet them. In this stifling situation, striking out on her own to London seems a great idea…except for the fact that she has no servants, cooking knowledge, or the ability to light a fire. Georgie’s quest to correct these oversights finds her mixing with new circles, learning scandalous secrets, and struggling with a murder investigation. Letting a dead Frenchman bring down her family name would never do, but can Georgie straighten it out while still managing to avoid deadly accidents and marriage machinations?

Lady Georgie proves a marvelous combination of Elizabeth Bennet’s good sense and sense of humor, and Anne of Green Gable’s penchant for new experiences and getting into trouble. The novel’s quick pace reflects Georgie’s quick wit and bright spirits. The supporting cast balance strong personalities with expected English types. The world of 1930s London appears with enough scope to draw everyone in, but never drags down the tone or pace. The mysteries bob and weave gracefully through the plot, buoying the reader’s enjoyment and fascination with Georgie’s world even more without proving overly suspenseful.

In short, this is a quick, delightful read with a heroine you’ll love to cheer on and a way of making one want high tea. Recommended for the society of travelers, beach-goers, and at-home readers, Her Royal Spyness introduces a world I’ll be glad to read more of.

Happy Bastille Day!

“Bastille”

Bastille-day-lady-e1310481946351

It might just be holding seven,
but it feels like ninety-two;
It may just be pieces,
but it overshadows you;
Been living as It pleases-
Tyrannical, it’s true.

Big and heavy and always there,
oppressive through and through.
Always there and never fair,
the discontent grew and grew-
The day has come to overthrow,
with red, with white, with blue!

Doesn’t matter what we liberate,
or how motley runs the crew,
the time has come when I can fight,
cut out the upper-crust few,
For see, the Bastille now will fall;
Now Victory’s for me and you!

White Queen 1×7 “Poison and Malmsey Wine”

FINALLY, this show has joined the ranks of a proper history soap opera! The costumes are looking up, they took a moment for simply a beautiful nature shot, they left room for some mystery…it has arrived. This is definitely my favorite episode so far.

SPOILERS:

-Margaret Beaufort, turns out you just needed things to Do other than mope around about your son and Lancaster in order to enliven the screen. The baby thing in itself and as your way in was dumb, but you went for it and by golly, anything that makes you stop bellyaching and start spying and speaking with dignity is excellent. However, it would have been that much better if you’d been seen subtly scaring off the other maid before she asked the queen to leave court, so it would be clear you’re still backstabbing and scheming away.

-David Oakes, your Juan pt. 2, the English One ends as outrageously as I had hoped. From the moment I saw you stroking your dog while watching brother-sex I was worried about the relationship. I was relieved to see it ended in a superstitious death. Also, I shall go ahead and give you credit for brainwashing Isabel for that year we didn’t see-getting her so afraid of Lizzie she could have died of voodoo-inspired fear was quite the accomplishment. Still a big fan of your hissyfits, but seeing one start with you in a bull mask was a special treat. Also, choosing a colorful way to go literally gains my approval.

-Edward…I love your lion outfit. Why do you keep whoring around and pretending to go to war so much when you’re obviously way too tired to make any kind of decent decisions ever and merely bend to wife, brothers, or the letter of the law without much foresight or zest? The year has not been kind to you, has it? Perhaps you’ve already got STDs and that accounts for it.

-Anne, why does everyone else get new clothes but you remain stuck in the one plain silhouette ALWAYS? I feel like this episode had you wanting to jump ship to Revenge, wanting to destroy someone for your fallen family member, clearly not knowing everything, needing Victoria’s advice about controlling powers that be instead of just having to choose a side…yeah, you’d fit RIGHT in. And they’d liven up your wardrobe, too.

-Elizabeth, I feel for you. One snarky comment about your womb being able to beat up everyone else’s womb and suddenly court is exploding in your face. What I’d like to know is how everyone somehow realized you were responsible for the storm that killed Izzy’s firstborn-don’t think that’s ever been comprehended before and it had no realization moment. However, storming after George in front of everyone served no useful purpose except to show off your sparkly gold dress. This is a schemey political show and you’ve got witchcraft-why bother to go after him yourself? It’s the least interesting choice. Your problem here seems, in fact, to be that you are too direct and honest. You let everyone know how you feel, you’re consistent, and you try to come at problems head-on. These are not the most useful problems from a TV perspective, but you’re doing them with flair.

-Richard, I am glad they let you speak up for George. On the other hand, your dealings with Anne are becoming too focused on dark looks. Your best moment really was when you got to blow up at your mom over her favoritism. Also, you at least have been paying attention to the foreshadowing. Please, let that not be played out as a self-fulfilling prophecy instead of actually your decision.

-Dear show, see how that works out for everyone when there’s not absolute clarity about a suspicious death? That’s what we’re looking for. That and more present complexities instead of filling in with repetitive foreshadowing. And more masquerades/intriguing scenery. Take note!

Vlad the Impaler’s Just Desserts

Lately, in honor of a birthday wish, my friends and I decided to celebrate Vlad the Impaler: inspiration for Dracula, terrible warlord, motto: “To the PAIN!AND DEATH!”  

Vladportrait

Now, most people take these images and honor him by creating things along the lines of:

Vladart

My friends and I chose a different direction:

Vladcake

Note the peaked red cap!  The bloodied face!  The bodies on spikes!  The battlefield dirt and decomposing flesh!

This is our design.

…And it was delicious.

The Borgia Bulletin 3×10 (The Prince)

The finale is here and…I feel satisfied.  This show always excelled at season endings and this one is no exception.  It covered everything immediate and brought the characters to a place where I am alright leaving them, although I’d rather not.

 

SPOILERS:

Dear Machiavelli: The man is an oracle.  I dearly want a Machiavellian tarot deck now.  Think about what it would be-THINK OF IT.  All the Borgias would be present, of course.  The ordinarily peaceful cards would involve orgies.  The cups suit would be vials of poison.  Pretty much anything you do with it would bring the answer, “I shouldn’t have asked that, should I?”  It’d be a thing.

Dear Rodrigo: This-this-is why I love you.  Yes, Cesare needs to do the actual carving and fulfill his ambitions, but once you accept that he’s there, your planning and confidence blow even him out of the water.  This is the way I believe that it worked, with your twin ambitions and different abilities complementing, building, and scaring the hell out of everyone including each other.  This is it.

Dear Cesare: Ah, to be young and devious.  Francois Arnaud got to showcase the range of his talent here, from vulnerable and wishing his mother could fill in for his best friend to creepy tormenter to possessive lover.  There was everything in that.  You showed everyone just exactly how in charge and fearsome you could be, even though we don’t get to see you filling out that position, you let us already see and enjoy it.  Thank you for that.

Dear Michiletto: I understand.  Your affair not only ended in killing your lover, but in proving that you were not, in fact, the most trustworthy companion ever.  You let down your master, yourself, and your lover.  No matter what, your hometown will fall and your family have a good chance of dying.  You came back to ensure that your work was finished, because “loyalty was his only code.”  You are not dead, though-you are a ghost wiling away in the shadows.  You can go wherever you want, take whatever you want, and disappear whenever you want, and you deserve that.  In my head you wander until you meet up with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, tossing coins that turn up heads and arguing about everything.  You’ll take one as a lover, convince them it’s okay to be unsure of their names, and kill off the cast of Hamlet all by yourself.  It’ll be epic and haunting.

Dear Lucrezia: Your arc has differed the most from what I expected and wished for your character.  I expected to see you growing in triumph, killing for the good of the family, and using your tie to your brother as leverage.  In spite of that…you have completely won me over.  This version walks a fine line between different tropes, but weaves them together seamlessly.  And Holliday Grainger sells the hell out of it.  I cannot not buy her emotions, her disillusions, her determination.  There is a part of me that really wants to be upset at how defeated she winds up here, how dependent, and yet….it was just too good not to love.

Dear Alfonso: I was so afraid they wouldn’t get around to killing you!  Thank you for being such a wonderful foil for everyone else.

Dear Vitelli: Well done, you!  You’ve got craft, foresight, initiative, and commonsense.  I foresee you going far.  I’m sorry I won’t get to see you setting yourself farther up from the pack by slyly setting them up and taking their castles until Cesare finally poisons you.  It’d have been fun.

Dear Caterina Sforza: You really ought to know all the weaknesses of your chosen fortress, milady.  That being said, in all fairness, you had only Rufio instead of Michiletto and one cannot badass everything themselves.  Although, the fact that someone was touching your wardrobe seemed an odd thing to show your claws at.  The defeat was exquisite.

Dear show: The camouflage cloaks rocked!  The music throughout the whole thing was just the right amount of suspenseful-enough buildup I was literally on edge, but not so much that it wore out over time.  The camerawork, particularly in the confessional scene with Pope Alexander VI and Lucrezia was just beautiful.  The bloody smudges on her at the end were perfect.  I know you had more to give.  You will be sorely missed.

 

The Borgia Bulletin 3×8 (Tears of SPOILERS)

Well, it is high time we got back to celebrations and heartbreak, isn’t it?

 

Dear Caterina: I must say, I’m a little disappointed in you.  I’d have expected you to realize the Pope would make money off all the Jubilee Year pilgrims at the same time he was figuring out how and have had your relic plan ready by the time it started.  Also, I think it would have gone over better if you’d let them come in to see and then you all were equally shocked and blessed by the “miracle.”  (Plus, of COURSE you add a miracle to it-always miracles!  Why did someone else have to say that???)

Dear Lucrezia: Cannot wait to see what you’ll do next.  I assume you and Cesare have some sort of code you concocted as kids you can use?

Dear Michiletto: Goddammit!  He just had to twist that knife, didn’t he?  I think what you need is some time away thinking about how many people you can kill before Lucrezia poisons them all.

Dear Cesare: I thought you rode in with a group of your army guys, yes?  Why did only you and Michiletto go in the cave?  Where the hell were any of them when you came out??  That part felt a little off to me, but hey-if that’s what it takes to feel the love of God, sure.  Great calls on all the coding things.  I do love to see your Cesare-needs-to-cut-a-bitch face, but just let Lucrezia kill this one, okay?  You boys already got the last king for her.

Dear Frederigo: Great pitch, creepy presence, and dastardly plots=excellent villainy.  I give you an A.  If you want to keep it though, I’m gonna need to know what you’re getting out of Caterina Sforza.  I had assumed you’d want a hostage and inside knowledge of the Borgias on your own account, but since you’re in a league, I’d like to know why.

Dear Herb Lady: How does everyone know about you??  You’re like, the go-to royal get-out-of-jail-free card, only by “free” they mean someone else dies or gets otherwise eliminated.  How did that happen?

Dear Mattai: Ya know, if Jews could just sabotage anything they want…I can’t even finish that.  Whatever, this episode needed some fire and I’m in favor of Jews living equally anyhow.

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