“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” (1995) Review

“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” (1995) Review

There have been numerous adaptations of Jane Austen’s celebrated 1813 novel, ”Pride and Prejudice” over the past decades. Two of these versions happened to be BBC miniseries that aired in 1980 and 1995. It has been a long time since I have viewed the 1980 miniseries. However, I recently saw the 1995 miniseries for the umpteenth time and decided to finally write a review of it. Adapted by screenwriter Andrew Davies, the miniseries was produced by Sue Birtwistle and directed by Simon Langton.

Austen’s story centered around one Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters of a country gentleman living in Regency England and the efforts of her parents (or should I say of her mother) to find eligible husbands for her and her four other sisters. Two of these men happened to be the wealthy Charles Bingley, who has moved into the Bennets’ Hertfordshire neighborhood; and his wealthier friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy. The cheerful Mr. Bingley has managed to easily win the favor of the Bennets and their neighbors. He has also fallen in love with Elizabeth’s older sister, the even-tempered Jane. On the other hand, the more reticent Mr. Darcy not only managed to alienate Elizabeth, the other Bennets and the entire neighborhood with his aloof manner, but also fall in love with Elizabeth. ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, more than anything, focused upon the volatile love story between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

Like nearly every other work of art in existence, ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” has its share of flaws. Years after I first saw this miniseries, I still find myself wincing at actress Alison Steadman’s portrayal of the boorish Mrs. Bennet. I realize that the character possessed a wince-inducing personality. But there seemed to be a shrill note in Steadman’s performance during the miniseries’ first episode that made her portrayal of Mrs. Bennet seemed over-the-top. Another complaint I have about the miniseries is the lack of complexity in supporting characters like Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle – Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner – and Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. I found all three very likeable, but also slightly boring. They were the only characters that seemed to indulge in banal conversation that complimented everyone and everything.

I have two problems regarding the crisis over Lydia Bennet’s elopement with George Wickham, Darcy’s boyhood companion. One, I never understood why a calculating scoundrel like Wickham would bother to leave Brighton with Lydia in tow, on the promise of elopement. He knew that her family did not have the funds to buy him off. And I have read excuses, which explained that Wickham left Brighton because he had accumulated a good deal of debt during his regiment’s stay. I have also read that he took Lydia with him as an excuse to get out of town. With the promise of elopement? That does not sound right. Wickham was not a fool. It was bad enough that he had accumulated debts and had to get out of Brighton. But to drag Lydia in this mess did not strike me as logical. All he had to do was leave town in the middle of the night. Whether he was with Lydia or by himself, he ended up being absent without leave. I cannot help but wonder if Austen ever thought this through when she wrote her novel. The elopement crisis also forced Elizabeth to end her summer tour of Derbyshire with the Gardiners and return to her family at Longbourn. For the next twenty minutes or so, ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” grounded to a halt, while the Bennets received a series of correspondence and visitors. This sequence featured two scenes of a bored Lydia and an anxious, yet frustrated Lydia sharing a rented room in London, and two featuring Darcy’s search for the pair. This sequence also featured a meaningless visit from Mr. Collins in which he smirked over the family’s possible ruination for less than five minutes. These little scenes failed to help the sequence move at a faster pace.

Before one starts to assume that I do not like ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, let me make it clear that I enjoyed it very much. In fact, I absolutely adore it. Not only is it one of my favorite Jane Austen adaptations of all time, it is one of my top ten favorite miniseries of all time. Yes, it has its flaws. Even some of the best movies and television productions have flaws. And as I have pointed out, I do believe that the 1995 miniseries is no exception. But its virtues definitely outweighed the flaws. The miniseries’ five-and-a-half hours running time proved to be more of a virtue than a hindrance. But the miniseries format allowed viewers to enjoy this adaptation at a more leisurely pace than is allowed in a movie adaptation and the rich details of the story. I have seen at least five versions of Austen’s ”Pride and Prejudice”. I have noticed that the plots for two of the movie versions went into great detail of the novel’s first half – from the Bingleys and Darcy’s arrival in Hertfordshire to Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth in Kent. But after that first proposal, the movie versions seemed to zoom ahead to Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s visit to Longbourn. I cannot say the same for the two television versions I have seen – especially the 1995 version. Aside from the tedious “search for Lydia” sequence, the story’s second half proved to be quite entertaining – especially Elizabeth’s visit to Derbyshire, Lydia and Wickham’s visit to Longbourn as a married couple, along with Darcy and Bingley’s efforts to renew their pursuits of the two elder Bennet sisters.

It could be understandable that the movie adaptations seemed to focus more on the novel’s first half. After all, many consider it to be the best part. The Bennets’ encounters with Darcy and the Bingleys crackled with energy and great humor. The series of fascinating verbal duels between the two lead characters possessed that same energy, along with a great deal of sexual tension. And when one throws the obsequious and ridiculous Mr. Collins into the mix, one has the feeling of watching a comedy-romantic masterpiece. All of this humor, energy and romance, mixed in with an elegant setting seemed to be at an apex in the Netherfield ball sequence. Personally, I consider the dance shared warily between Elizabeth and Darcy to be one of the best written and filmed scenes in the entire miniseries. Another scene that many consider to be one of the best, featured Darcy’s first marriage proposal to Elizabeth, during her visit to Charlotte and Mr. Collins at Hunsford Lodge, in Kent. That particular scene has to be one of the most wince-inducing moments in the entire story. Why? Because I found it hard to watch Elizabeth receive that extra-ordinary marriage proposal laced with passion . . . and slightly insulting remarks about her family background on her mother’s side. And because I found it difficult to watch Darcy endure Elizabeth’s heart stomping rejection. Both Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth performed the hell out of that scene.

Speaking of performances, one of the miniseries’ greatest assets was its cast. Jane Austen wrote a novel filled with some rich supporting characters. Director Simon Langton and screenwriter Andrew Davies utilized them very well. And so did the cast. Now, I cannot take back my complaints regarding Alison Steadman’s performance as Mrs. Bennet in the first hour. Yet shrill or not, she managed to capture her character’s personality perfectly. And so did Benjamin Whitrow, who portrayed the sardonic and long suffering Mr. Bennet. Some fans of Austen’s novel have complained about David Bamber’s buffoonish take on Mr. Collins, the Bennet’s obsequious cousin fated to inherit Longbourn upon Mr. Bennet’s death. But my memories of the literary Mr. Collins were that of a buffoonish man. However, Bamber gave his Mr. Collins a brief, poignant moment when Elizabeth took pity on his efforts to hide his slightly damaged pride with a tour of Hunsford. Julia Sawalha did a superb job in her portrayal of the youngest Bennet sibling – the thoughtless and self-centered Lydia. In fact, Sawalha managed to give one of the funniest performances in the entire miniseries.

One of the memorable performances in the miniseries came from actress Anna Chancellor, who portrayed one of Charles Bingley’s annoying and snobbish sister, Caroline. Chancellor managed to convey not only Caroline’s pretentious and spiteful sense of humor very well, but also the character’s desperate attempts to woo an uninterested Mr. Darcy. I believe that Crispin Bonham-Carter did a good job in infusing his character, Charles Bingley, with a good deal of bohemian warmth and cheerfulness. Yet, he had a tendency to read his lines in a broad manner that struck me as a bit too theatrical at times. I must admit that he could be very subtle in conveying Bingley’s attempts to suppress negative reactions to certain members of the Bennet family and his two sisters. Superficially, Susannah Harker’s performance as Jane Bennet seemed solid . . . almost dull. But a closer look at the actress’s performance made me realize that her she did a much better job in the role than most people were willing to give her credit for. She was excellent in conveying Jane’s heartbreak over the separation from Mr. Bingley. And she had one truly hilarious moment during the Netherfield Ball, when her character anxiously pointed out Mr. Collins’ intentions to speak to Mr. Darcy. But more importantly, Harker’s Jane seemed more like an older sister than the performances of the other actresses who had portrayed the role.

If I have to cite what I consider to be the three best performances in ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, they would be Adrian Lukis as George Wickham, Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet. In my opinion, Lukis’ portrayal of the charming and devious wastrel, George Wickham, is the best I have seen by any actor who has portrayed the role. I would not claim that he was the best looking Wickham. But Lukis conveyed a seamless charm that hinted a heady mixture of warmth, false honesty, and intimacy that could make anyone forget that his Wickham was a man one could not trust. And the actor achieved this with a subtle skill that made the other Wickhams look like amateurs.

Many fans and critics have labeled Colin Firth’s portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy as “smoldering” or “sexy” . . . worthy of a sex symbol. I do not know if I would agree with that assessment. What many saw as “smoldering”, I saw a performance in which the actor utilized his eyes to convey his character’s emotional responses. Whether Firth’s Darcy expressed contempt toward others, growing love and desire for Elizabeth Bennet, anxiety, wariness or any other emotion; Firth uses his eyes and facial expressions with great skill. Some fans have complained that his Darcy appeared in too many scenes in the last third of the series. I consider this nothing more than an exaggeration. Personally, I enjoyed those little sequences in which Firth revealed Darcy’s struggles to deal with Elizabeth’s rejection. While several others drooled over Firth in a wet shirt and breeches, I enjoyed the awkwardness in the reunion between his Darcy and Elizabeth. Firth earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of the complex and reserved Mr. Darcy. And as far as I am concerned, he certainly deserved it . . . and a lot more.

Jennifer Ehle won a BAFTA award for her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet, the vivacious leading lady of ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”. And it was a well deserved award, as far as I am concerned. Ehle not only formed a sizzling screen chemistry with Colin Firth, but with Adrian Lukis, as well. And like the two actors, she put her own stamp on her role. Ehle perfectly captured the aspects of Elizabeth’s character that many fans have admired – her liveliness, intelligence, warmth and sharp wit. Elizabeth’s habit of forming and maintain first opinions of others have been well-documented, which Ehle managed to capture. She also conveyed another disturbing aspect of Elizabeth’s personality – namely her arrogance. In some ways, Ehle’s Elizabeth could be just as arrogant as Mr. Darcy. She seemed to harbor a lack of tolerance toward those she viewed as flawed individuals. And thanks to Ehle’s skillful performance, this arrogance is conveyed in Elizabeth’s wit, barely suppressed rudeness and unwillingness to listen to good advice about making fast judgment about others from two people she highly admired – her sister Jane and her good friend, Charlotte Lucas.

The most important thing I can say about both Ehle and Firth is that the pair managed to form a sizzling screen chemistry. In other words, their Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy crackled with a great deal of energy, subtle sexuality and sharp wit. Their screen chemistry seemed stronger than any of the other screen couples who have portrayed the two characters. Surprisingly, I do have one problem with the two leads in the miniseries. And I have to place all of the blame on Andrew Davies, when he decided to faithfully adapt one scene in which the newly engaged Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy discussed the development of their relationship. Unfortunately, they came off sounding cold and clinical – like two psychoanalysts examining the genesis of their romance.

There is no doubt that producer Sue Birtwistle, director Simon Langton and the production team did a superb job with the miniseries’ overall production design. Mind you, I feel that the overall credit belonged to production designer Gerry Scott and art designers John Collins and Mark Kebby. They did a top notch job in capturing Austen’s tone from the novel by giving the miniseries a light and natural look to its setting. I could say the same for cinematographer John Kenway’s photography. I am not claiming to be an expert on the fashions of Regency Britain. Yet, from what I have read in other articles, many believed that Dinah Collin’s costumes closely recaptured the fashion and styles of the period when the novel was first published. I could not make final statement about that. But I must admit that the fashions perfectly captured the tone of the story and the production designs. If there is one other aspect of the miniseries that reflected its look and tone, I believe it would have to be Carl Davis’ score. Either he or Birtwistle made the right choice in hiring pianist Melvyn Tan to perform the score for the series’ opening credit.

In the end, ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” became one of the most acclaimed miniseries on both sides of the Atlantic. Even after fifteen years, it is still highly regarded. And rightly so. Despite a few flaws, I believe it deserves its accolades. As far as I am concerned, the 1995 miniseries remains to be the best adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel. I also believe it is one of the best adaptations of any Austen novel, period.

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“Lover Man” [R] – 3/3

“LOVER MAN”

PART THREE

The Bridge’s turbolift doors slid open. Tom Paris emerged from the lift and strode toward the Conn Station to relieve Mariah Henley. 

From the Engineering Station, B’Elanna watched the entire exchange from the corners of her eyes. She noticed that Mariah’s shoulders stiffened under contact from Paris’s hand. And the smirk that appeared on the Chief Helmsman’s lips. A red flush tinged Mariah’s face, as she walked toward the turbolift.

B’Elanna’s console beeped. She glanced down and found a message flashed across her screen. “Keep your eyes on the job, Maquis. Tuvok is watching.” B’Elanna’s eyes widened at Harry’s message. Then she looked up and found a pair of dark eyes that belonged to the Vulcan Tactical Chief. Observing her. The engineer coughed slightly and returned her attention to her work. However, not before she returned Harry’s message. “Thanks Starfleet.”

Since the day Harry had convinced her not to report Tom’s indiscretions to Chakotay, B’Elanna has found herself growing increasingly obsessed with the pilot. She tried to curb this obsession and convince herself that she was wasting her time. After all, she has failed to come across any signs of sexual activity in Cabin Nine-I since that second time. Unfortunately, B’Elanna also continued to be plagued with dreams of her and Paris. Much to her mortification.

There seemed to be one bright light in the horizon. Ever since Paris’s troubles on Banea, his circle of female admirers seem to have shrunken to almost non-existent. Like B’Elanna and other crewmen, they had heard about his affair with the wife of a murdered Banean scientist. And his conviction for murder by the Banean government. Paris ended up reliving the entire killing from the victim’s viewpoint, thanks to some implanted memory engrams. However, his punishment ended up short-lived. Lieutenant Tuvok managed to exonerate Paris after discovering a murder-and-espionage conspiracy that had allegedly framed the pilot.

Many believed that Tuvok had conjured up evidence to exonerate Paris at Captain Janeway’s behest. B’Elanna found that particular theory ludicrous. Tuvok may have been a traitorous spy, but not even he would go that far. She had to admit – most reluctantly – that Paris was innocent.

There still remained another matter regarding the blond helmsman. The identity of his secret lover from Cabin Nine-I. It was a mystery that B’Elanna felt determined to uncover. Who else, besides Paris, had kept her awake with sounds of passion on two separate occasions, during the past several weeks?

While B’Elanna contemplated the question, Paris’s combadge chirped, breaking the silence on the Bridge. “Janeway to Paris,” the Captain’s voice announced. “Have you forgotten about our appointment in my Ready Room?”

This time, B’Elanna openly stared at the pilot. Like everyone else on the Bridge. A crewman in Command Red relieved Paris at the Helm. And the latter made his way to the Captain’s Ready Room. The moment he disappeared inside, B’Elanna sent a second message to Harry’s station. “What was that about?”

Seconds later, Harry’s response flashed across her console. “Have no idea, Maquis. Will ask Tom later.”

B’Elanna eventually found herself forced to contemplate upon the meeting inside the Ready Room, between the pilot and the starship captain. She admitted to herself that the meeting could be innocent. But when Paris failed to reappear on the Bridge after ten minutes, B’Elanna became suspicious. Another five minutes passed and yet, Janeway and Paris remained inside the Ready Room. B’Elanna glanced at Harry, who shrugged. Then her eyes rested upon the First Officer. Who casted uneasy glances at the Ready Room’s door.

After twenty more minutes passed, those doors finally opened. Tom Paris strode onto the Bridge, wearing a satisfied smile. He tugged at his jacket and relieved the pilot at the Helm. The Captain emerged two minutes later, looking quite happy and unusually bright. One look at the pair and B’Elanna immediately rejected any idea of an innocent meeting. Something had just occurred between Paris and Janeway. Something that had nothing to do with the ship’s business or Starfleet protocols.

* * * *

“What?” Harry stared at B’Elanna with disbelief. So did Seska, Henley and Ensign Lang. The five crewman had gathered at a table inside the Mess Hall for dinner, that evening.

The Chief Engineer repeated her speculations about Janeway and Paris. That the two might be involved in an affair. “C’mon Harry! You saw what happened on the Bridge, today! Why would Paris remain in the Captain’s Ready Room together for over a half hour? Thirty-five minutes, Harry! And don’t tell me that it had something to do with what happened on Banea. That was nearly two weeks ago!”

“The real question should be,” Seska added, “why would you care?”

B’Elanna stared at the Bajoran. “What?”

Seska continued, “I can understand why Henley would be upset.” The pilot responded with a glare. “But why are you upset, B’Elanna? You don’t like Paris. You’ve barely given him a thought since we arrived in the Delta Quadrant. Why do you care whether or not he’s having an affair with Janeway?”

All eyes focused on the half-Klingon. B’Elanna squirmed under their scrutiny. What could she say? That the lovemaking in Cabin Nine-I was keeping her awake? Or that she was having erotic dreams about her and the chief pilot? “I don’t like the idea of us suffering, due to some illicit affair between those two,” she finally answered.

A brittle laugh escaped the Bajoran’s mouth. “Oh B’Elanna! You are so naïve!” The Chief Engineer winced under the latter’s derision. “I doubt that 150 crewmen are going to suffer over some tawdry affair Janeway might be having with Paris! Unless she becomes pregnant or something. I may not like the woman very much, but I can’t blame her for wanting a little comfort to ease her loneliness.”

“Seska’s right,” Henley added. “After all, Chakotay’s romance with her didn’t hurt us.” She remained stoic under the Bajoran’s dark glare. “Of course in the Captain’s case, I cannot see why she would even have . . .” Her voice dimmed to a whisper. B’Elanna noticed the slight jealousy in her voice. Obviously, Mariah also became aware of it.

Seska smiled. “What were you about to say, Mariah?”

Fortunately for the ex-Maquis pilot, Harry and Deborah Lang seemed more interested in defending Janeway’s honor than in any jealousy on Henley’s part. Lang stoutly declared that Captain Janeway would never break Starfleet protocols by fraternizing with someone under her command. “It’s against regulations,” she added.

“Actually, it’s not,” Harry corrected. “But it’s not encouraged. An intimate relationship between a starship commander and a subordinate might lead to . . . well, certain problems. Problems that might have a bearing on the conduct of any starship.”

Seska snorted. “And knowing Janeway, she’d rather die with her ideals intact than enjoy a little pleasure. So much for your theory, B’Elanna.”

“Oh yeah?” the Chief Engineer shot back. “Then can someone explain why the Captain and Paris were in the Ready Room for at least a half hour? And why they were smiling, when they left?”

* * * *

“We had tea,” Tom explained to his lover, the following afternoon. They laid stretched on the bed, inside Cabin Nine-I, with their naked bodies pressed against each other’s. “The Captain had invited me for tea.” He leaned toward her and nipped the side of her long neck.

She managed to scoff and moan at the same time, while Tom continued to nuzzle her neck. “You’ve got to be kidding! Why would . . . ah!” He bit into that sensitive junction where the shoulder and neck met.

“I think the Captain considers me her little reclamation project. We were suppose to have tea after the shift, but the Captain had another matter to deal with. So,” Tom’s hot tongue flickered across the hollow of her neck, “she rescheduled it for a little earlier.” He sat up and lavisciously eyed the stunning body beside him. “If you think something is going on between us, you’re mistaken. Captain Janeway is not the type to make out with a subordinate, just several feet away from the Bridge. That’s just plain idiocy.”

Slender hands trailed up Tom’s chest. Her fingers slide through the chest hair. “You seem very defensive about her.”

A malicious smile touched Tom’s lips. “What’s the matter? Jealous?”

Her hands grabbed a handful of chest hair and pulled, causing Tom to wince. “Don’t insult me, Paris. I don’t take kindly to any disrespect.”

Tom jerked her hand away and gave it a hard squeeze. This time, it was her turn to wince. “Let’s get something straight,” he murmured. “Unless I’m on duty, I am not in the habit of jumping through hoops for anyone. At least of all, for you. I’ve had enough of that in my life.”

“Then why are you here?”

“For a good, fuck. What did you think? Because I’m madly in love with you?” Tom retorted.

She threw back her head and laughed. Out loud. Her laugh immediately died as Tom covered the mound between her legs. He inserted two fingers into her hot flesh. She let out a gasp, as her body jerked automatically. “Gods! I hope you’re not in love,” she said breathlessly. “What would be the fun in that?”

Smiling, Tom removed his fingers and gently forced her legs apart. Then he took her by surprise by ramming his member into her. She let out a cry and her body arched upward. Tom’s thrusts became deeper. Harder. He leaned forward and covered one tantalizing breast with his mouth and began to suckle. And her cries grew louder.

* * * *

Unbeknownst to the occupants inside Cabin Nine-I, a certain chief engineer had slowly made her way to her quarters, two hours earlier than usual. She would have remained in Engineering a bit longer, but a shortage in one of the EPS relay circuits led to a slight electrocution and minor burns.

One of B’Elanna’s engineers had beamed her into Sick Bay. There, the Doctor treated her injuries and gave her an anaglesiac for the pain. He also ordered her to return to her quarters for a long rest. B’Elanna’s first instinct was to ignore the EMH’s order. Unfortunately, he threatened to inform both the Captain and Chakotay if she did not obey.

Feeling slightly dazed from the medication in her bloodstream, B’Elanna eventually stumbled into her quarters. She peeled off her uniform and headed for the bedroom. Just as she was about to sink onto her bed, voices drifted from next door.

“Oh! Oh yes! Oh spirits! Don’t . . . don’t stop! Don’t . . . oooh! Oh yes! Aaa . . . aaah! Yes! Don’t . . . oh! Oh To-ooo-omm!” The orgasmic cry snapped B’Elanna out of her fog. She had not heard such a cry in over two weeks. Before Paris’s murder conviction on the Banean homeworld. Her eyes closed and she sighed.

Muted laughter reached B’Elanna’s ears. Apparently, Paris and his . . . “mate” had finished. She had hoped that news of Paris’s affair with that Banean woman would end the illicit trysts in Cabin Nine-I. Harry must have informed Paris about her knowledge of the affair, leading the pilot to use the cabin a few hours earlier. No matter. B’Elanna had finally figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone – learn the identity of Paris’s lover and get even with both for keeping her up at nights. Just before Paris and Harry’s mission to Banea, she had installed a holovideo monitor in Cabin 9-I.

B’Elanna had forgotten about the monitor – until now. She planned to upload a recording of this afternoon’s activity into the ship’s computer. Or better yet, transform it into a holoprogram. And finally allow the crew an intimate look of Lover Boy Paris in action. It should be the talk of the ship for months to come.

* * * *

Like many of her plans in life, the one to expose Tom Paris and his lover did not proceed as B’Elanna had expected. The following morning saw more problems in Engineering. More malfunctions with the EPS conduits led to repairs that lasted nearly an entire day. By the time B’Elanna and her staff finished the repairs, she was too exhausted to even think about the video recording.

The following day, Voyager came across an M-class planet that provided the crew an opportunity to stock up on foodstuffs and other supplies. Also, both Chakotay and Seska had a near-fatal encounter with a group of Kazons. The latter continued to weigh on the crew’s mind, when Voyager responded to a distress signal from one of their ships. B’Elanna made up part of the Away team that discovered not only a ship filled with dead Kazons, but also Federation technology that was not properly integrated into their system. Someone aboard Voyager had given Federation technology to the Kazon without Janeway’s knowledge.

No one had been more surprised than B’Elanna when Tuvok and Chakotay revealed the culprit, the following day. Like many of the other former Maquis, B’Elanna assumed Joe Carey to be guilty. They believed he wanted revenge for being passed over for the position of Chief Engineer. Instead, Seska – one of her closest friends – turned out to be guilty. Even worse, the latter was revealed to be a Cardassian, surgically altered as a Bajoran, in order to infiltrate Chakotay’s Maquis cell.

B’Elanna felt humiliated and betrayed. Chakotay might feel even worse, but that knowledge did not lessen her feelings. She tried to alleviate her mood with an evening trip to Sandrine’s. But the idea of listening to smug ‘Fleeters berate the Maquis for allowing a Cardassian spy in their midst did not appeal to her. She needed something else to relieve her anger.

Then she remembered. Tom and Cabin 9-I. At first, B’Elanna wondered if she wanted to watch a vid of Paris having sex with a crewmember. Witnessing his little bout with Mallory Aiwa had been bad enough. But, dammit! She had to do something! Brooding over Seska’s betrayal did not help her mood. So, B’Elanna switched on her computer console, entered a few codes and uploaded the recorded images from the monitor next door. Satisfied that she had completed her task, she played back the images. What she saw nearly sent her into a state of shock. How could Tom Paris end up in an affair with her?

The plans to reveal the recording to the crew became null and void. B’Elanna did not kill her plans out of any feelings toward the lovers on the screen. She simply did not want to embarrass or hurt a friend. And revealing this to the crew would do just that.

* * * *

Tom bent over the pool table and sunk his last ball into a pocket with ease. His opponent groaned. “Your game is really improving, Tommy,” Gaunt Gary commented with a sigh. “Maybe just a little too much. When did you learn that maneuver?”

“From watching you,” Tom replied. “I only learn from the best.” The hologram grimaced.

With the exception of a handful, only holographic characters like Gaunt Gary and Sandrine filled the Marsaille tavern that evening. Although Tom had left the program opened to the entire crew, three crewmen other than himself, had bothered to show up. Ensigns Lang and Ashmore only hung around for an hour, before leaving. Crewman Henley sat in a corner table with a few of the program’s characters. It seemed the ex-Maquis preferred their company to his.

Henley and the other Maquis must still be in a state of shock over the revelations about Seska. Tom did not blame them. He felt the same. That she would hand over Federation technology behind Janeway’s back did not really surprise him. The shock came from news that Seska had been a Cardassian in disguise. A Cardassian with the Obsidian Order. That meant . . .

The tavern doors opened. B’Elanna Torres strode inside, causing Tom to groan inwardly. She waved at Henley, glanced at Tom and headed toward the pool table. Much to the pilot’s dismay.

“We-ell!” Gary proclaimed. “Look who’s here! Wanna game with me, honey?” He oogled at the Chief Engineer, who fixed him with a deadly stare. If looks could kill, B’Elanna’s glare would have destabilized Gary’s matrix by now. “On second thought,” the pool player added in a shaky voice, “maybe I had enough for this evening. See you, Tommy.” He gave a quick wave and headed for Henley’s table.

Torres stared coolly at Tom. “Up for another game, Paris?”

Tom frowned. “You want to play? Against me?” he asked.

“Why not? It’s not like you’ve been beaten before.”

A tart smile curled Tom’s lips. “Yeah, but I don’t see the Captain around, anywhere. And you’re not exactly in her league.”

“Rack ’em, Flyboy!” Torres snapped back. “And be prepared to have your ass kicked!”

Again, Tom smiled as he set up the balls for another game. Granted, he was not particularly fond of the half-Klingon. However, he had to admit that he found her to be a fascinating personality. And a very beautiful woman. His eyes roamed appreciatively over her slim body. But even better, she was, at best, a mediocre pool player.

Sure enough, the pilot proved to be more than a match for the engineer. The latter managed to sink in a ball or two during the game. But in the end, Tom emerged victorious. “Another game,” Torres imperiously demanded.

“Look Torres, why don’t we end this evening on a good note? If we play another game, it will only end embarrassingly for you. Trust me.”

Dark eyes challenged Tom. “Don’t count on it, Paris. I plan to make this next game unpleasant for you. C’mon, rack ’em up!”

Tom gave the engineer a long, cool look. “What’s going on, Torres? You usually try to avoid my company. And now you want to shoot pool with me?” He paused, as an idea came to him. An unpleasant one, at that. “Has this something to do with Cabin 9-I?” he asked.

Anger replaced the challenging look in Torres’s eyes. “Cabin 9-I?”

“Come off it, Torres! You know what I’m talking about!” Tom retorted. “Harry told me everything. Look, I had no idea that your cabin was next door. Nor did I realize you would hear everything . . .” Neither Tom nor Torres heard the tavern doors creak open. Or see the tall figure that entered, since they were facing the opposite direction.

“Believe me, Paris,” Torres shot back, “I heard everything. Just tell me this. When you fucked Seska, did you ever realize that she was a Cardassian?”

A gust of breath left Tom’s mouth. He stared at the half-Klingon in total shock. “Gods! How did . . .?” Tom finally recovered his voice. “How did you find out about Seska and me?” He tried his best to sound calm. “What did I do? Scream her name out loud?”

“No, she screamed your name,” Torres responded. Tom almost blushed. “However, I didn’t find out about Seska until I saw this.” She removed a data chip from her pocket. “I had placed a video monitor in the cabin, nearly two weeks ago. And captured both of you in action.”

Tom stared at the data chip. He wondered if the Chief Engineer planned to use it for some blackmail scheme. “By the way, I’m not in the business of blackmail,” she added, as if reading his mind. “I don’t stoop that low.”

“Really? And what do you call placing that monitor in the cabin?” Tom shot back. “Why did you do it?”

Torres’s stare became accusing. “Why did you sleep with Seska? Why her, Paris? It’s bad enough she turned out to be a Cardassian. But you fucked her, even though she was suppose . . .”

“Suppose to what? Be Chakotay’s lady love? As I recall, they broke up not long after he became First Officer. Something tells me that Seska didn’t take the change in their relationship very well.”

Disgust tinged Torres’s voice. “And you just decided to screw her, so you could add one more notch on your belt. Is that it? Or was this your way of getting back at Chakotay?”

Tom smiled. He might as tell her everything. It would be interesting to see how she would react. “Actually, Seska caught me off guard, one night. When I was on Deck Nine. After that, she wanted to meet there, because it was convenient and she didn’t have to worry about someone spotting me enter her quarters. Can’t have a former Maquis be seen with Tom Paris. Granted, both of us could barely stand each other, but . . . I must say, she was great in bed. Something I had recalled from our time together in the Maquis.”

A gasp left Torres’s mouth, much to Tom’s amusement. Bullseye. Her dark eyes grew wide with disbelief. “You mean to say that you and Seska were . . .?”

“That’s right, Lieutenant. Lovers. Only, I wasn’t the only one. Both here on Voyager and back in the Maquis,” Tom added softly. “Seska had her little circle of lovers available, whenever she and Chakotay . . .” Suddenly aware of a third figure standing nearby, Tom glanced to his left and the words died on his lips. Trembling in rage, stood Voyager’s First Officer. Torres’s eyes followed Tom’s and she gasped for the second time.

Chakotay stepped forward, rage reflecting his his black eyes. For a few seconds, Tom experienced genuine fear. Would he find himself in Sick Bay, covered in bruises and blood? He hoped not. Then again, he had endured beatings before.

“What others?” the older man demanded softly. “Who were the others, Paris?”

Torres stepped forward. “Chakotay . . .”

Tom took a deep breath. Squelched the fear within him. “I don’t know,” he curtly replied. “Why do you care anyway, Chakotay? You were never in love with Seska. Hell, you proved that when you dumped . . .” A bronze fist cut him off and sank into his gut. Another clipped him on the jaw and Tom fell back onto the floor.

Blood trickled from the corner of the pilot’s mouth, as he remained sprawled on the floor. He could see the other figures, including Henley, drifting toward the pool table. Tom struggled to his feet and wiped the blood from his mouth.

“Thomas, are you hurt?” a concerned Sandrine asked.

Laughter, soft and bitter, rose from Tom’s throat. “I’m fine, Sandrine. Just caught off guard, that’s all.” He faced the First Officer. “Good punch, Chakotay. I see that you haven’t lost your touch.”

“That was nothing, Paris,” Chakotay growled. “I’m not through with you, yet.”

Tom smirked, despite the pain from his bruised jaw. “If I were you, Commander, I’d drop the whole matter. Or else the Captain is going to start wondering why I have extra duty assignments. Or why I have to show up at Sick Bay for unexplained bruises. I am curious as to how you’re going to explain this.”

Chakotay retorted, “Explain all you want, Paris. It will be your word against mine. And I don’t think B’Elanna or Mariah will be willing to testify on your behalf.”

“Oh, I don’t I’ll need them. Don’t forget the video monitors inside the holodeck. I’m sure they’ve recorded the whole thing. Unless you plan to tamper with them. Then again,” another painful smirk touched Tom’s lips, “knowing your penchant for truth and justice, you just might march up to the Captain’s quarters and tell her everything.” Tom paused. “Do you really want to do that?”

A long silence followed. Tom met Chakotay’s stare with his own cool one. Finally, the First Officer let out something like a cross between a grunt and a snort. “You’re not worth the effort,” he said with disgust. Then he turned on his heels and stalked out of the holodeck.

* * * *

B’Elanna cried after the older man. “Chakotay!” But he did not hear. She whirled upon Paris and found him staring at her, coldly. “What? What is it?”

“Congratulations, Torres,” he said softly. “Looks like you got what you wanted, after all. My humiliation. Only you got a friend humiliated as well. Tell me, why did you put that monitor in that cabin? Because we interrupted your sleep for a few nights? Why in the hell didn’t you just let it go?” He walked out of Sandrine’s, rubbing his jaw.

Henley walked up to B’Elanna. Her gray-blue eyes expressed concern. Curiosity. B’Elanna, are you okay?”

“Yeah,” the other woman murmured.

“What was that about?”

Revenge gone wrong, B’Elanna silently replied. She kept the response to herself. Along with the memory of Chakotay’s humiliation . . . and Paris’s contempt. Then she took a deep breath. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

THE END

“MANSFIELD PARK” (1983) Review

 

“MANSFIELD PARK” (1983) Review

Long before Patricia Rozema wrote and directed her 1999 adaptation of “Mansfield Park”, Jane Austen’s 1814 novel, the BBC aired its own adaptation some sixteen years earlier. This one came in the form of a six-part miniseries and is regarded by many Austen fans as the definitive screen version of the novel. 

“MANSFIELD PARK” told the story of Fanny Price, the oldest daughter of a former Royal Navy officer, who is sent by her parents to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle-in-law, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at their estate called Mansfield Park, during the early 19th century. Viewed as socially inferior by her new family, Fanny is treated as half-relative/half-servant by the Bertrams. Only Edmund, the family’s second son, treats her with great kindness and love. Because of Edmund’s behavior, Fanny finds herself in love with him by the age of eighteen. But her life and the Bertrams’ lives soon encounter a force of nature in the arrival of Henry and Mary Crawford, a pair of vivacious siblings that are related to the local vicar’s wife. Henry ends up stirring excitement and romantic interest within the breasts of the two Bertram sisters – Maria and Julia. And much to Fanny’s dismay, Edmund forms a romantic attachment to the alluring Mary.

In compare to the 1999 Patricia Rozema version and the ITV 2007 movies, this 1983 miniseries is a more faithful adaptation of Austen’s novel. Considering its six episodes, I do not find this surprising. Literary fans tend to be more impressed by cinematic adaptations that are very faithful to its source. However, “MANSFIELD PARK” is not a completely faithful adaptation. Screenwriter Ken Taylor completely ignored Fanny’s questions regarding Sir Thomas’ role as a slaveowner with an estate in Antigua. Whereas Austen’s novel and the 2007 movie briefly touched upon the subject, writer/director Patricia Rozema literally confronted it. Only the miniseries ignored the topic, altogether. Judging from the fans’ reaction to this deviation from Austen’s novel, I suspect that many of them are willing to pretend that the subject of slavery was never broached in the miniseries.

Did I enjoy “MANSFIELD PARK”? Well . . . the miniseries had its moments. It allowed me to become more aware of the plot details in Austen’s 1814 novel than the other adaptations did. I enjoyed the scene featuring the Bertrams’ introduction to the Crawford siblings. I enjoyed the ball held in Fanny’s honor in Episode Four. It struck me as very elegant and entertaining. I also enjoyed the constant flirtation and verbal duels between Edmund and Mary, despite my dislike of the former character. And much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the sequence featuring Fanny’s visit to her family in Portsmouth. For once, the miniseries’ pacing seemed well paced and I enjoyed the details and production designs in the setting for this sequence. One of the actors portraying Fanny’s younger brothers turned out to be a young Jonny Lee Miller, who later portrayed Edmund in the 1999 production.

But the best aspect of “MANSFIELD PARK” turned out to be a handful of first-rate performances and Ian Adley’s costume designs. I usually do not harbor much of a high opinion of the costumes designs seen in other Jane Austen’s adaptations from the 1970s and 80s. But I cannot deny that I found Adley’s costumes not only colorful, but very elegant. I am not surprised that he earned a BAFTA TV Award nomination for Best Costume Design.

As I had stated earlier, I was also impressed by a handful of performances featured in the miniseries. One came from veteran actress Anna Massey, who superbly portrayed one of Fanny Price’s aunts, the noxious Mrs. Norris. Depended upon her sister and brother-in-law for their support, Massey’s Mrs. Norris walked a fine line between toadying behavior toward Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram and her malicious tyranny over Fanny. Samantha Bond gave a subtle and complex portrayal of the oldest Bertram daughter, Maria. Bond conveyed not only the shallow and selfish aspects of Maria’s personality, but also the dilemma that her willingness to become the wife of the disappointing Mr. Rushworth put her in. I also found myself impressed by Bernard Hepton’s performance as Sir Thomas Bertarm, owner of Mansfield Park and patriarch of the Bertram family. Hepton’s Sir Thomas came off as superficially generous, intelligent and morally absolute. He seemed every inch of the ideal English landowner and gentleman. Yet, Hepton also conveyed the corruption that lurked underneath Sir Thomas’ façade – namely the man who seemed more concern with the financial suitability of his children’s spouses than any emotional regard. Hepton also revealed with great subtlety, the baronet’s egomania and tyranny in scenes that featured the character’s efforts to coerce Fanny into accepting Henry Crawford’s marriage proposal.

I will be brutally honest. I have never been a fan of the Edmund Bertram character. Despite his kindness to Fanny and occasional wit, he strikes me as a self-righteous and very hypocritical man. Whenever I think of that scene in which Edmund rejected Mary Crawford, it still makes my blood boil. But his characterization still worked, due to Nicholas Farrell’s performance. He really did an excellent job in conveying all aspects of Edmund’s personality, both the good and the bad. Despite my negative feelings regarding Edmund’s personality, Farrell made him seem very interesting. But “MANSFIELD PARK” would have never been bearable to me without Jackie Smith-Wood’s sparkling portrayal of one of Jane Austen’s most memorable characters, Mary Crawford. Like Fanny Price, many fans have either loved or disliked this character. Count me as among the former. I absolutely adored Mary – especially in the hands of the talented Ms. Smith-Wood. With great skill, the actress conveyed all aspects of Mary’s personality – her barbed sense of humor, dislike of the clergy, her talent for manipulation, her moral ambiguity, her charm, her wit, her great warmth and generosity. I suspect that the main reason I like Mary so much is that as an early 21st century woman, I find it easy to relate to her way of thinking. Smith-Wood managed to convey the modern sensibilities of Mary’s personality, while still portraying the character as a woman of the early 19th century.

Unfortunately, the bad tends to go hand-in-hand with the good in many movie and television productions. And there are aspects of“MANSFIELD PARK” that left a bad taste in my mouth – including a few performances. One performance I did not particularly care for was Angela Pleasence’s portrayal of Fanny’s other aunt, the languid Lady Bertram. I am aware that Ms. Pleasence possesses a rather high voice. But I noticed that she had exaggerated it for her portrayal of the childish and self-involved Lady Bertram. I wish she had not done this, for I found this exaggeration very annoying. And now that I think about it, I realized that Pleasence’s Lady Bertram hardly did a thing in the miniseries that allowed the plot to move forward, except use her selfishness to protect Fanny from Mrs. Norris’ spite . . . sometimes. But I cannot blame the actress. Lady Bertram is a role that has never impressed me. I have yet to find an actress who has ever done anything with the role. I truly believe that producer Betty Billingale and director David Giles selected the wrong actor to portray the charming Lothario, Henry Crawford. Robert Burbage seemed like an affable presence and he wore the costumes designed by Ian Adley very well. But his portrayal of Henry seemed wanting. I will go further and state that I found his performance by-the numbers and his acting skills rather mechanical. Burbage’s Henry did not strike me as the attractive and sexy man who managed to flutter the hearts of the Bertram sisters. Instead, I felt as if I had been watching an earnest schoolboy trying . . . and failing to behave like a rakish seducer.

Finally, I come to Sylvestra Le Touzel’s performance as the miniseries’ leading character, Fanny Price. I am not a fan of the Fanny Price character. Yes, I admire her willingness to stick to her conviction in rejecting Henry Crawford’s marriage proposal in the face of Sir Thomas’ attempts to coerce her. But Fanny also strikes me as being priggish, passive-aggressive, illusional (to a certain extent) and worst of all, hypocritical. I also dislike Edmund Bertram, but at least I was impressed by Nicholas Farrell’s portrayal of the character. On the other hand, I WAS NOT impressed by Le Touzel’s performance. I realize that she had portrayed a socially awkward and introverted character. But I have seen other actors and actresses portray similar characters with a lot more skill. Le Touzel’s performance struck me as wooden, mannered and at times, slightly hammy. Hell, she made Burbage’s performance seem positively fluid. Le Touzel eventually became a first-rate actress. I saw her very funny performance in 2007’s “NORTHANGER ABBEY”. But I wish that Billingale and Giles had cast someone with a lot more skill to portray Fanny, twenty-eight years ago.

I find it odd that screenwriter Kenneth Taylor took it upon himself to be as faithful as possible to Austen’s novel, with his deletion of Sir Thomas’ role as a slaveowner being the only exception. However, he had failed to change some aspects of the novel that I consider to be very flawed. Taylor never allowed Fanny and Edmund to become self-aware of their personal failings. Edmund managed to self-flagellate himself for becoming emotionally involved with Mary. But I do not consider that much of a failing. Because of the pair’s failure to become self-aware of their failings, I believe they lacked any real character development. Taylor’s script could have assumed a third voice and criticized or mocked Fanny and Edmund’s lack of development. But it did not. The sequence featuring the “Lover’s Vows” play dragged most of Episode Three. By the time Sir Thomas had returned to Mansfield Park, I nearly fell asleep, thanks to the episode’s slow pacing. In fact, Giles and Taylor’s efforts to make “MANSFIELD PARK”faithful to the novel nearly grounded the miniseries to a halt on several occasions, almost making the entire miniseries rather dull.

More than anything, I had a problem with the miniseries’ finale. One, I never understood Edmund’s decision to reject Mary Crawford as his fiancée. Although Mary had condemned her brother and Maria Bertram Rushworth’s affair and elopement as folly, she had a plan to save the honors of both the Bertram and Crawford families. She suggested that they convince Henry and Maria to marry following the latter’s divorce from Mr. Rushworth; and have both families stand behind the couple to save face. This plan struck me as very similar to Fitzwilliam Darcy’s plan regarding Lydia Bennet and George Wickham in “Pride and Prejudice”. Why did Austen condone Mr. Darcy’s actions regarding Lydia and Wickham in one novel and condemn Mary Crawford for harboring similar plans in this story? Did Taylor, Giles or Willingale even notice the similarities between Mr. Darcy’s actions and Mary’s plans and see the hypocrisy? Apparently not. My last problem centered on Fanny and Edmund’s wedding in the final episode. How on earth did this happen? The miniseries made Fanny’s romantic feelings for Edmund perfectly clear. Yet, Edmund never displayed any romantic regard for Fanny, merely familial love. Even when revealing the end of his relationship with Mary to Fanny, he still expressed love for his former fiancée. But the next scene jumped to Fanny and Edmund’s wedding, without any explanation or revelation of their courtship. At least Patricia Rozema’s 1999 movie conveyed Edmund’s burgeoning romantic feelings for Fanny, before his final rejection of Mary. Giles and Taylor failed to the same in this miniseries.

I might as well say it. I will never harbor a high regard for “MANSFIELD PARK” . . . at least this version. Although its faithfulness to Jane Austen’s 1814 novel revealed the story in greater detail than the 1999 and 2007 movies, I believe there were scenes in which it should have been less faithful in order to overcome some of the novel’s shortcomings. The miniseries can boast a few outstanding performances from the likes of Anna Massey, Nicholas Farrell and Jackie Smith-Wood. But it was hampered by other performances, especially the wooden acting by lead actress, Sylvestra Le Touzel. In the end, “MANSFIELD PARK” proved to be a mixed bag for me.

Notes on “STAR WARS: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”

The following is a list of minor notes and observations that came to me, during my recent viewing of “Episode II: Attack of the Clones”. I hope that you enjoy them: 

Notes on “STAR WARS: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”

*It is interesting that the story starts out with Coruscant – the seat of the Republic’s power – covered in a shroud of fog. Was this an allegory of the Republic’s impending doom? Or a sign of hidden secrets within the seats of power?

*Why did the Jedi believe they would have to protect the Republic in a military action, if the Separatists broke away? It seems as if the Republic and the Jedi were prepared to consider using military force to draw the Separatists back into the Republic, against their will.

*I noticed that both Mace and Ki-Adi had the same condescending attitude that the entire Council had in TPM, when explaining to Padme that Dooku could never be behind her assassination attempt.

*Why was it so important to Obi-Wan that he and Anakin follow the Council’s instructions regarding Padme, to the letter?

*I wonder if Jango would have killed Zam if she had succeeded in killing Padme.

*Are dreams usually dismissed by the Jedi in such a cavalier fashion?

*No wonder the Jedi and senators like Bail Organa had never formed a strong bond by ROTS, if Obi-Wan’s general attitude toward all politicians (which the Order shares, I suspect) is anything to go by.

*The more I look at Anakin and Obi-Wan’s interactions in AOTC, the more I realize how unsuited they were for a master/padawan relationship. Anakin would have been better off being trained by someone more suited to deal with his emotional and non-conformist personality. However, I see nothing wrong with Anakin and Obi-Wan forming a strong friendship, once Anakin becomes a Jedi Knight.

*I wonder if Anakin’s feelings about Palpatine would have remained the same if Obi-Wan had been less strident in his teaching.

*How interesting. Obi-Wan ended up following Anakin’s suggested mandate regarding Padme’s would-be assassin, after all.

*The Coruscant chase sequence is another major favorite with me. Note the slightly chubby woman with Ahmed Best and a silver-blond woman with too much eye make-up, both giving Anakin lust-filled glances in the nightclub scene. Come to think of it, I believe I had spotted two other women doing the same.

*”Until caught this killer is, our judgement she must respect.” – Why did Yoda believe that Padme MUST accept the Jedi’s decision that she return to Naboo? I realize that he is concerned for her safety. But why would he assume that she had no choice but to accept the Council’s decision on where she should be? At least Mace seemed to realize that Padme would obey if Palpatine, as the Supreme Chancellor, had given the order.

*When discussing his abilities with Palpatine, Anakin is polite and practically modest. Yet, whenever he is around Obi-Wan or discussing the latter, he becomes arrogant about his abilities and bitter at what he perceives as Obi-Wan’s inability to recognize them.

*”Anakin . . . don’t try to grow up too fast.” – It is ironic that Padme would say this to Anakin, considering that she has been trying to do this very thing for most of her life.

*Although Captain Typho’s assumption on the safety of Padme’s arrival on Coruscant proved to be false, his fear that she might do something foolish or rash proved to be very accurate.

*”If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.” – ah, another prime example of the Jedi’s arrogant belief in themselves. Who would have thought it would come from the Archives’ librarian?

*Anakin might be pretty close to the truth in the definition of love he had given to Padme.

*Despite the sweet and charming overtones of the younglings scene, it still has a sinister sense of the foreboding.

*It is interesting how ALL of the Separatists are tainted with the same brush as the Trade Federation and the Banking Union, because they had sought the latter for help. Guilt by association.

*When Sio Biddle had asked Anakin a question about Padme’s safety, Padme rudely interrupts and brushes off Anakin. Now, why did she do that? And in such a rude manner?

*It’s interesting how the imagery and symbolism on Kamino seemed to be of the fertile kind.

*I just realized that if Palpatine had eventually accused the Jedi of creating the Clone Army, he would have been correct. Especially since Master Sifo-Dyas really did order the creation of the clones for the Republic.

*For someone with hardly any experience in romance, Anakin managed to do a good job in winning over Padme without resorting to smooth lines and a cocky manner.

*Of course . . . Padme seemed to be a bit of a flirt, herself. She certainly knows how to use her voice effectively.

*In an article on Anakin and Padme’s relationship, I read a segment from a poem or story written hundreds of years ago that was compared to Anakin’s fireside speech. What amazed me was how similar Anakin’s speech was to what is considered courtly love.

*I noticed that once Padme had rejected Anakin’s offer of love, he turned away from her. And she, in turn, began to pursue him in a very subtle manner.

*It is ironic that Anakin believes that he did not have a choice in leaving Naboo to help his mother. In reality, he did have a choice . . . and he exercised it. Like the other characters around him, Anakin has become adept at deluding himself.

*I see that Obi-Wan had made the first move in his fight with Jango Fett on Kamino. Not only did it result in him nearly falling over a ledge, it was the movie’s first sign of the “good guys” acting as the aggressors.

*”Those Tusken Raiders. They may walk like men, but they’re nothing more than vicious, mindless monsters.” – Judging from Cliegg Lars’ words, I cannot help but wonder if Anakin’s murder of the Tusken Raiders was something rare on Tatooine. Would Anakin’s actions have been condoned by Tatooine’s moisture farmers? Cliegg’s words seemed to have a xenophobic ring to them.

*When Padme told Anakin that it was okay to be angry, she was right. It was okay. It would have been a lot unhealthier for Anakin to pretend otherwise. But where Anakin went wrong was that he had allowed his anger to overwhelm him . . . which led to his murder of the Tuskens.

*Anakin’s claim that he would even learn to stop people from dying seemed to foreshadow his opera conversation with Palpatine in ROTS.

*If Jar-Jar had not proposed that Palpatine should be given emergency powers, I wonder who would have made the proposition? Bail Organa had been certain that the Senate would never grant such powers to the Chancellor or authorize a clone army. Boy, was he wrong!

*Did Obi-Wan’s own prejudices and beliefs in the Jedi’s infallibility led him to easily dismiss Dooku’s claim that a Sith Lord had control over the Senate?

*I think that Padme’s arrogant belief in her diplomatic skills were in overdrive, when she and Anakin learned about Obi-Wan’s predicament. I can see why Typho had been worried that she would do something rash.

*It seems interesting that Anakin was the only one who had managed to control the attacking him in the Geonosis area, without resorting to brute force. Was this a metaphor of his potential to control (but not suppress) the animus within himself? A potential that he had failed to attain until the end of his life?

*Obi-Wan, on the other hand, succeeded in dealing with his animal attacker with brute force . . . just as he had succeeded with Maul and Anakin. Was this a foreshadow of his advocacy of Luke using violence to deal with Vader/Anakin in the Original Trilogy?

*I suspect that Jango’s success in killing Jedi Master Coleman Trebor had gone to his head, when he had decided to attack Mace. Just as many of the Jedi have discovered in this movie and will discover in ROTS, Jango will learn that it does not pay to be the aggressor.

*I did not realize that the Republic and the Jedi had acquired both troops and weapons from the Kaminoans.

*It is interesting that Obi-Wan’s threat of expulsion from the Jedi Order did not faze Anakin one bit, in his concern for the fallen Padme. Either the Jedi Order was never that important enough to Anakin . . . or it was too important to Obi-Wan. Or perhaps it was both.

*Both Anakin and Obi-Wan made the mistake of aggressively moving against Dooku, first. And both had failed. Again, this seemed to be another example of the Jedi’s acceptance of using aggression in this movie.

*Anakin vs. Dooku – it’s ironic that this was the first duel between Palpatine’s present and future apprentices.

*Dooku, who had wisely allowed both Obi-Wan and Anakin to be the aggressors, became the aggressor, himself, in his duel against Yoda. He had barely managed to escape with his life.

*The failure of aggression committed by our heroes and by villains like Dooku and Jango seemed to be the theme for this movie . . . and perhaps the Prequel Trilogy overall. This theme seems especially true for the Jedi, who had agreed to use the clone troopers against the Separatists. The same clone troopers that will become the tools of their destruction. Irony at its most tragic.

*Looking back on AOTC, it strikes me as being a very nourish story, despite the some of the usual STAR WARS elements. Perhaps that is why so many people have difficulty in accepting it. Film noir can be highly regarded – or not. But people rarely understand it, or bother to watch it in the movie theaters.

“THE BLUE DAHLIA” (1946) Review

“THE BLUE DAHLIA” (1946) Review

Sometime during World War II, novelist Raymond Chandler was hired by Paramount Pictures to co-write the 1944 film classic,“DOUBLE INDEMNITY”, with writer-director Billy Wilder. Another two years passed before the studio assigned him to write a post-war film noir movie, 1946’s “THE BLUE DAHLIA”

Directed by George Marshall, ”THE BLUE DAHLIA” was about a U.S. Navy pilot, Lieutenant-Commander Johnny Morrison, who returns home to Los Angeles with his buddies and medically discharged crewmates, Buzz Wanchek and George Copeland. Buzz is prone to memory lapses and headaches, and is often short tempered, all likely due to his head wound. Johnny finds his wife Helen living and partying in a hotel bungalow. He also spots her kissing her boyfriend, owner of the Blue Dahlia nightclub, Eddie Harwood. After punching Eddie, Johnny lets Helen know that he is willing to try to salvage their marriage. However, Helen is not willing and she informs him that their son did not die of dipththeria as she had written, but from a car accident caused by her when she was drunk. Johnny momentarily threatens her with a gun, but decides she is not worth the trouble. He leaves her, taking a framed photograph of their son. Helen meets both Buzz (who has been searching for Johnny) and Eddie before she is mysteriously shot to death in the stomach.

”THE BLUE DAHLIA” is a pretty solid murder mystery that featured the second of three movies with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Chandler created some very interesting characters, including the smarmy Eddie Harwood, who seemed very adept at seducing married wives like Helen Morrison and hiring others to do his dirty work; Helen Morrison, who seemed like a curious mixture of a bitchy wife and a grieving mother; the solid Johnny Morrison, who manages to radiate an aura of menace when crossed; and the nosy and sharp-tongued hotel detective, “Dad” Newell. But Chandler’s best creation turned out to be Buzz Wanchek, a loyal, Navy veteran with a short temper, dislike of jazz music and a metal plate in his head.

As I had stated earlier, Chandler’s story proved to be pretty solid. His skillful setup of Helen Morrison’s murder made it easy for many of the characters to become suspects. Johnny’s discovery of her affair with Eddie Harwood and their subsequent violent quarrel made him an easy suspect. The script eventually revealed that Helen had discovered that Eddie Harwood was a wanted fugitive sought by the New Jersey cops for the death of a man during a robbery, fifteen years earlier. Johnny also met one Joyce Harwood, Eddie’s estranged wife, who had become weary of her husband’s infidelity. And finally there was Buzz, who had been seen meeting Helen at her hotel’s bar and following her to her bungalow. All of this had been witnessed by “Dad” Newell. I understand that Chandler had intended the mystery to evolve into a message about the difficulties – medical and otherwise – faced by veterans returning home from the war. This message would have been utilized with the revelation of Buzz as Helen’s killer. The movie also featured some brutal fight scenes between Ladd and the actors portraying Eddie Harwood’s thugs. In fact, I have noticed that a good number of brutal fights always seemed to pop up in many of Ladd’s movies. Director George Marshall certainly did justice to the fight scene in ”THE BLUE DAHLIA” that rivaled those found in other Ladd crime dramas.

Unfortunately, ”THE BLUE DAHLIA” had some flaws that prevented it from being better than it could. One, I found Sam Comer and James M. Walters Senior’s set decorations to be pedestrian . . . almost cheap looking. And Lionel Lindon’s uninspiring cinematography did not help. And the movie could have benefitted with a better score than the one provided by Victor Young, the same composer who won a posthumous Oscar for 1956’s ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”. And thanks to the U.S. military and the Production Code Administration under Joseph Breen, Chandler was forced to neuter his script by tossing aside the resolution that made Buzz the murderer. Both Chandler and Marshall were forced to dump the crime on another character, in what seemed like a contrived plot twist.

If there is one thing that ”THE BLUE DAHLIA” benefitted was from its cast. Chandler had compared Alan Ladd to Warners star, Humphrey Bogart, to the former’s detriment. One, I have no idea why Chandler even bothered to compare the two actors. Both had their own styles as leading men in a crime drama. Ladd certainly gave a top-notch performance as returning veteran Johnny Morrison. His best scenes included one he shared with Doris Dowling that featured the bitter argument and marital breakup of the Morrisons; another with Howard Da Silva, in which Morrison revealed his knowledge of Harwood’s past as a wanted fugitive; and finally the fight scene between Johnny and Harwood’s thugs. Not only did he handle the fight scenes very well, he also proved that he could be a first-rate dramatic performer, who knew how to act in front of a camera.

Ladd received solid support from Veronica Lake, who gave a charming performance as the compassionate and perhaps, slightly manipulative Joyce Harwood, the nightclub owner’s estranged wife. I was very impressed by Doris Dowling’s portrayal of the morally conflicted Helen Morrison. Not only did she convey the woman’s bitchy personality with great effect, but also her lingering grief over her son’s death. Howard Da Silva was superb as nightclub owner Eddie Harwood. The actor did justice to Chandler’s portrayal of a man ruthless enough to deal with any threat to his livelihood, yet compassionate enough to feel remorse over his killing of an innocent man during a bank robbery. And character actor Will Wright gave a humorous and complex portrayal of the nosy and slimy house detective, “Dad” Newell. Hugh Beaumont gave a solid performance as one of Johnny’s friends, the level-headed and dependable George Copeland; but his portrayal did not exactly set me on fire. William Bendix’s portrayal of a slightly disturbed Buzz Wanchek. His performance struck me as funny, caustic and a bit frightening at times. He was very effective in conveying the aftereffects of a man who had not only been trained to kill, but whose war wound (which resulted in a metal plate in the head) led him to suffer from a great deal of mental stress.

Do not get me wrong. I enjoyed ”THE BLUE DAHLIA”. Chandler’s mystery struck me as solid and well written. And the movie benefitted from a strong cast led by Alan Ladd. But it lacked any production values – set decorations, photography and score – that struck me as impressive. And in the end, the movie’s finale was undermined by censorship from the U.S. military and the local censor board. But I can honestly say that it is worth viewing.

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Six “Bastogne” Commentary

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Six “Bastogne” Commentary

This sixth episode of ”BAND OF BROTHERS” featured the experiences of Easy Company during the Battle of the Bulge and their participation in the Allies’ efforts to hold the ground near Bastogne, Belgium; while low on ammunition and supplies. The episode focused on Easy Company medic, Eugene “Doc” Roe, as he tended his fellow soldiers where he can, while also scrounging for medical supplies. 

”Bastogne” turned out to be the first of two episodes centered on Easy Company’s experiences in Belgium. Shown from Eugene Roe’s point-of-view; the audience saw Easy Company deal with many difficulties and traumas during this campaign. Aside from ammunition and supplies, Roe and the company had to deal with freezing temperatures, low morale, the encircling German Army and worst of all, an ineffectual company commander by the name of Norman Dike. The episode featured a good deal of combat sequences. But since they were shown through “Doc” Roe’s eyes, the audience’s views of these sequences were at best minimal.

One sequence had First Platoon on a reconnaissance patrol in order to probe for the German line. The patrol led to several wounded troopers and the death of a replacement trooper named Private Julian. Supporting characters like Lieutenant Harry Welsh and Wayne “Skinny” Sisk suffered serious leg wounds from occasional German artillery shelling. And Walter “Smokey” Gordon was wounded and paralyzed during a German tank assault. During this time, Roe struck up a fictionalized friendship and potential romance with a Belgian nurse named Renée LeMaire. Their relationship ended in tragedy, when Renée was killed during the German bombing of Bastogne on Christmas Eve. Replacement trooper Edward “Babe” Heffron also figured heavily in”Bastogne”. Although the episode was mainly told from Roe’s point-of-view, it allowed one sequence told from Babe’s point-of-view. In it, Babe and another medic named Ralph Spina had a humorous encounter with German troops in a foxhole, while searching for medical supplies for Easy Company.

There are three episodes of ”BAND OF BROTHERS” that I consider to be personal favorites of mine. And one of them is”Bastogne”. In my reviews of episodes like “Day of Days” and “Replacements”, I had complained of the lack of epic scope in episodes that featured important and historic battles. In ”Bastogne”, director David Leland and screenwriter Bruce C. McKenna gave the episode that epic scope needed for an episode about the famous siege of Bastogne. And the fact that they told the episode through the eyes of medic Eugene Roe made their efforts all the more amazing. Was this particular episode filmed inside a soundstage? It is possible. If it was, I am impressed. I wish I knew the name of the production designer for this particular episode, because he or she did a magnificent job in re-creating the Ardennes Forest during the winter. I also found the photography very impressive, especially in the scene that featured the Army Air Corps’ attempt to re-supply the division by air and the German bombing of Bastogne near the end of the episode. Once again, ”BAND OF BROTHERS” allowed viewers to get a peek into the personal interactions between the troopers of Easy Company. Most of these interactions occurred during Christmas Eve . . . right before Harry Welsh was wounded by German artillery. However, I also enjoyed the two major interactions between Roe and Heffron – especially one scene in which both Roe and Spina tried to comfort Heffron, who was distraught over Private Julian’s death.

”Bastogne” featured some excellent performances from certain members of the cast. Neal McDonough gave a subtle and convincing performance as platoon leader Lieutenant Lynn “Buck” Compton , whose emotional stability seemed to be in danger of spiraling out of control after getting shot in Holland. Another memorable performance came from actress Lucie Jeanne, who portrayed Renée Lemaire, the Belgian nurse in Bastogne that Roe befriended. Robin Laing got a chance to shine as Edward “Babe” Heffron, the replacement trooper that hailed from Bill Guarnere’s Philadelphia neighborhood. He was especially effectively poignant in a scene in which Heffron grieved over Private Julian’s death. But the star of this particular episode was Irish-born actor Shane Taylor. Recalling my complaint about the questionable American accents of some of the British cast members, I can happily say that Taylor was not one of them. He did an excellent job in recapturing the Louisiana-born Roe’s native accent. More importantly, he gave a subtle, yet superb performance as the quiet and efficient medic, struggling to perform his duty and prevent himself from getting affected by the suffering around him. In the end, Taylor not only gave one of the miniseries’ best performances, but also managed to carry a very important episode on his shoulders.

”Bastogne” is not completely perfect. Despite the strong chemistry between Taylor and Jeanne, there were moments when I found the nuance of their relationship – especially the silent exchange of glances – a bit heavy-handed. And I am somewhat confused about the fate of the wounded men that Roe escorted to one of the hospitals in Bastogne. Earlier in the episode, he had escorted Sisk and Gordon to the hospital where Renée worked. He was about to deliver Welsh to the same hospital, when he witnessed its destruction from German bombers. The episode made it clear that Bastogne had remained encircled by German forces, until the arrival of elements from General George C. Patton’s Third Army on December 26, 1944. So . . . what happened to Sisk and Gordon? They did not meet Renée’s fate. Both men survived the war. How did they get out of that hospital and Bastogne before the December 24 bombing?

Perfect or not, ”Bastogne” is one of my personal favorite episodes in ”BAND OF BROTHERS”. And thanks to director David Leland, screenwriter Bruce C. McKenna and actor Shane Taylor, the episode conveyed an epic point-of-view of the siege of Bastogne that made it one of the best (at least in my opinion) episodes in the entire miniseries.

“SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” (2008) Review

“SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” (2008) Review

The year 2008 marked the fourth adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1811 novel, “Sense and Sensibility”. First aired on the BBC, this three-part miniseries had been adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by John Alexander. 

“SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” told the story of the two older of three sisters and their financial and romantic travails in early 19th century England. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, along with their mother and young sister, Margaret; found themselves homeless and in financial straits following the death of their father. Their elder half-brother, John Dashwood, had promised their father he would financially compensate them, since the Norland Park estate was entailed to the male heir. Unfortunately, John possessed the backbone of jelly and allowed his venal wife Fanny to convince him into withholding any financial assistance from the Dashwood women. Fanny received a shock when her younger brother, Edward Ferrars, paid a visit and ended up becoming romantically involved with Elinor. Before their romance could flourish; Elinor, her sisters and her mother were forced to leave Norland Park. They settled at a cottage in Devon, owned by Mrs. Dashwood’s cousin, Sir John Middleton.

Upon settling in Devon, the Dashwoods became acquainted with the gregarious Sir John, his chilly wife and his equally extroverted mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings. Marianne attracted the attention of two potential suitors – Sir John’s neighbor and former Army comrade, Colonel Christopher Brandon; and a handsome young blade named John Willoughby. Being seventeen and emotionally volatile, Marianne preferred the handsome Willoughby over the more stoic Colonel Brandon. And Elinor began to wonder if she would ever lay eyes upon Edward Ferrars again.

Unlike Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s 1995 adaptation of Austen’s novel, John Alexander and Andrew Davies had decided to be a little more faithful to Austen’s novel. They included Lady Middleton, the autocratic Mrs. Ferrars and both Steele sisters – Lucy and Anne – to the story. They also included Edward Ferrars’ brief visit to the Dashwoods’ cottage, the dinner party at Mrs. Ferrars’ London house and a contrite Willoughby’s conversation with Elinor. But for me, being faithful to a literary source does not guarantee a superior production. If Alexander and Davies called themselves creating a production more faithful and superior to the 1995 movie, I do not believe they had succeeded. I am not saying that this ”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” was a terrible production. On the contrary, I believe it was first-rate. I simply believe that the 1995 movie was a better adaptation.

This three-part miniseries had a lot going for it. Both Davies and Alexander beautifully captured most of the heart of soul of Austen’s tale. And aside from a few scenes, it was wonderfully paced. ”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” captured the financial and social dilemma faced by the Dashwood females, upon the family patriarch’s death. The miniseries’ style permeated with warmth, solidity and color. The production designs created by James Merifield did an excellent job in sending viewers back to early 19th century England. But I must give kudos to cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, who received a well deserved Emmy nomination for his beautiful photography. The Devon, Hertfordshire and Surrey countryside looked rich and lush in color. I also enjoyed Michele Clapton’s colorful costumes, which earned a BAFTA nomination. Were they historically accurate? I do not know. I am not an expert in early 19th century fashion. However, I do have a question. Was ”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” set during the decade of 1800-1809? Or was it set between 1810 and 1819? According to the family tree briefly shown in the following photo, the movie was set around 1800-1801:

There were some aspects of ”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” that did not appeal to me. As much as I had enjoyed Merifield’s production designs, I found it disappointing that the majority of the London sequences featured interior shots. Which meant that viewers failed to get a truly rich view of early 19th century London. But most of my quibbles were about a few scenes that struck me as unnecessary. The miniseries opened with a young couple making love in the candlelight. Viewers easily surmised the identities of the pair – John Willoughby and Colonel Brandon’s young ward, Eliza. Perhaps this was Davies’ way of foreshadowing Willoughby’s character and his near seduction of Marianne. This was the first scene I found unnecessary and heavy-handed. There are some stories in which the use of foreshadowing as a literary device work very well. This particular scene failed to work for me. Another scene that struck me as unnecessary was Edward Ferrars’ brief visit to Barton Cottage. This scene was lifted from the novel and was used to foreshadow Elinor’s discovery of his engagement to Lucy Steele. Again, the use of foreshadow failed to work for me. I would have preferred that the audience’s knowledge of the Edward-Lucy engagement had been revealed as a complete surprise to them, as well as to Elinor.

Two more scenes also failed to impress me. Austen’s novel had hinted a duel between Willoughby and Brandon over the former’s seduction of young Eliza. Davies’ screenplay included the duel, after Willoughby’s rejection of Marianne and the birth of his and Eliza’s child. This duel would have served better following Willoughby’s seduction. In fact, I wish that Davies had not included it at all. For a brief moment, I found myself confused on whether the duel was fought over Eliza or Marianne. The scene also seemed to be an indication of Davies and Alexander’s attempt to inject some overt masculinity into Austen’s tale. The last scene that Davies carried over from the novel featured Willoughby’s expression of remorse to Elinor, over his treatment of Marianne. I must admit that I found that scene a little contrived and unnecessary. Willoughby’s reasons behind his abandonment of Marianne and his embarrassment at the assembly ball seemed pretty obvious to me. And in the 1995 version, the expression on Greg Wise’s face fully expressed Willoughby’s remorse more effectively than any of Austen’s (or Davies’) words.

Despite my misgivings, I must admit that ”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” possessed a first-rate cast. Both Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield gave solid performances as the story’s two heroines – Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Morahan nicely portrayed the sober and level-headed aspects of Elinor’s personality. Yet at the same time, she conveyed subtle hints of the character’s emotions behind the mask. I found it difficult to believe that Morahan’s Elinor was 19 to 20 years-old in this story. She looked and behaved like a person who was at least 5 to 10 years older. Morahan had a tendency to utilize this ”deer-in-the-headlights” expression, whenever Elinor was surprised. Wakefield gave a decent performance as the volatile Marianne. She portrayed the character as written by Austen – an emotional and thoughtless adolescent with a kind heart. Were young females in their late teens really expected to behave in a mature manner, consistently? My only problem with Wakefield was there were a few moments when her performance seemed mechanical with hardly any style or true skill.

The miniseries received fine support from the likes of Janet Teer as the emotional Mrs. Dashwood, Mark Williams as the jovial Sir John Middleton, Jean Marsh as Mrs. Ferrars, Mark Gatiss as the vacuous John Dashwood and young Lucy Boynton as Margaret Dashwood. In his first scene, Dan Stevens seemed to hint that his interpretation of Edward Ferrars might prove to be a little livelier than past interpretations. It was a hint that failed to flourish. His Edward proved to be just as mild. At least his performance was adequate. When the miniseries first aired in Britain nearly three years ago, the media had declared Dominic Cooper as the new sex symbol of British costume drama. After seeing his performance as John Willoughby, I find this hard to swallow. But he did give a decent performance. There were performances that failed to impress me. One, I had a problem with the Steele sisters. Anna Madeley’s performance as the subtle, yet catty Lucy Steele seemed perfectly fine with me. But I found Daisy Haggard’s broadly comic take on Anne Steele ridiculously overdone. And I never could understand why one Steele sister spoke with a well-bred accent (Lucy) and the other with a regional accent that strongly hinted of the lower classes. Very inconsistent. I also had a problem with Rosanna Lavelle as Sir John’s cold wife, Lady Middleton. She barely seemed to exist. In fact, I never understood why Davies did not follow Emma Thompson’s example by deleting the character altogether. Linda Bassett gave a friendly performance as Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton’s mother. But her portrayal lacked that deliciously meddlesome trait that prevailed in Austen’s novel and the 1995 movie. And I also found Bassett’s accent questionable. I could not tell whether her character was from amongst the upper or middle class.

At least two performances in ”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” managed to impress me. One of those performances belonged to Claire Skinner, who portrayed the Dashwood sisters’ bitchy sister-in-law, Fanny Ferrars Dashwood. Skinner was truly superb as the venal and manipulative Fanny, who seemed more than determined to not only rule her husband, but also make her sisters-in-law miserable for the sake of her ego. My favorite Fanny scene featured that delicious montage in which she wore down John’s determination to help his sisters and stepmother financially. The other outstanding performance came from David Morrissey’s portrayal of the stoic Colonel Brandon. As much as I admire Morrissey’s skills as an actor, I have found some of his performances a little too theatrical at times. I certainly cannot say the same about his performance in ”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY”. He perfectly captured the quiet nuance of his character; and at the same time, expressed Brandon’s passion for Marianne through facial expressions and body language.

”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” may have been marred by scenes that I found unnecessary, and lacked a witty sense of humor and something of an edge; but it still turned out to be an intelligent and solid adaptation of Austen’s novel. And fans of Austen’s novel can thank Andrew Davies’ script, John Alexander’s direction, Sean Bobbitt’s photography and a solid cast lead by Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield.