“Whatever You Desire” [R] – 1/5

 

“WHATEVER YOU DESIRE”
SERIES: CHA
RATING: [R]
SUMMARY: A special punch cause havoc at a witch’s party.
FEEDBACK: Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, Leo Wyatt and the Charmed Ones and other characters are related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. The McNeills, Nathalie Gleason and a few other characters are my own creation. 

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PART 1

“The human psyche is a fascinating subject,” Ostera’s latest customer declared to her audience. “Or maybe I should say the psyches of all sentient beings.”

Paige noticed that she was not the only one who seemed fascinated by the tall woman who spoke. The moment Nathalie Gleason had entered the herbal shop, all eyes seemed drawn to her. She looked like a character from a Charles Addams cartoon, with her 5’11” inch frame, short black hair, alabaster skin and large brown eyes. Eyes that seemed to mesmerize others.

“Uh, when you mean all sentient beings,” Piper said, “do you mean non-humans, as well?”

Nathalie responded with a nod. “Yeah. That’s right. All beings. Humans, other animals, plants, and even other magical beings.”

“Including demons?” Paige asked.

The tall woman glanced at Barbara Bowen, owner of Ostera’s. The latter shrugged. “When you say daemon, are you referring to those with whom you’ve had experience with? Or are you referring to true daemons that happened to be outer planers?”

Confusion marked Piper’s expression. “What’s the difference?” she demanded. “A demon is a demon. And they all reside in the Underworld.”

A slight laugh escaped Nathalie’s mouth. “Oh! I see what you mean! The so-called ‘demons’ you’re referring to are actually low-level daemons or . . . angels. Like the Source. A good number of them reside in different demonic worlds, but not all of them. As you know, their life span is longer than the typical mortal. And they sometimes serve as in-betweens mortals and deities. Like the whitelighters. Now, the true daemons are those who are outer planners. They have no interest in the human world, whatsoever. Unless some idiot decides to bother them, first.”

Both Paige and Piper first stared at each other, and then at the dark-haired customer. “But,” the latter began uneasily, “how can that be? Everyone knows that demons . . .”

“What about them?” Dark eyes gazed directly at Piper. “Oh, I see. You’re not Wiccan, but a Christian. You believe in what you call“demons” . . . and that they’re all inherently evil. But we Wiccans believe otherwise. Well, there are some whom we believe are beyond help . . .”

Piper stated firmly, “I’m a Wiccan.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Nathalie shrugged. “Oh. Okay. Whatever. Now as I was saying, the psyche of a sentient being is very fascinating. It’s like a complex mixture of darkness and light. Like the Egyptian myth of ‘the Secret of Two Partners’. In that myth, the god Horus is ‘good’, and Set is ‘evil’. Now society tends to polarize the two as opposites. But actually, good and evil is a solitary nature that each individual possesses to a degree. Unfortunately, society – especially here in the West – do not view good and evil as two sides of one.”

“Wait a minute,” Piper protested, “are you saying that I have evil within me, as well as good? I mean, I know I have a little dark side in me . . .”

Nathalie nodded. “Chances are that you have a lot more than that. All of us, as a matter of fact. Look, I realize that Western society teaches its young to suppress one half of our nature, and acknowledge the other half.” She glanced at Piper. “Like your ‘demons’. They also have dual natures, only their societies – at least the ones in the Source’s Realm – teach them to suppress their lighter nature and indulge in their darker sides.”

“Are you saying that demons have a good side to their nature?” an incredulous Paige asked.

Replying with great enthusiasm, Nathalie said, “That’s right! Have you ever read Robert Bly? He’s a poet who wrote something called, “The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us”. Bly contends that we are taught that certain kinds of behavior are unacceptable in certain societies. For example, we are taught to suppress our darker desires and nature. Our Shadow sides. For those who are raised to practice magic for darker reasons – like ‘demons’ and certain mortals – they are taught to suppress any goodness within them in order to be considered acceptable within their societies. However, if all of us continue to suppress our Shadow feelings, they will probably re-emerge in the most shocking way possible.”

“Uh huh.” Judging form Piper’s reaction, Paige suspected that her older sister found Nathalie’s words hard to believe. “That’s a nice theory,” Piper continued, “but whatever ‘dark nature’ I may have suppressed, had disappeared a long time ago. Especially since I happen to be a witch who fights for the side of good. I protect innocents, not kill them.”

Nathalie seared the oldest Halliwell with an intense stare. “If you think you no longer have a Shadow self or never had one, you’re only fooling yourself. From the day we are born, until we die, we all possess good and evil within ourselves. We all have the potential to give in to either path in life. But we can overcome this by not suppressing one side of our natures or the other. What we can do is learn how to attain control of both sides, and choose which path we want to take.”

“Yeah. Right.” Piper turned her attention to Barbara. “About that Balm of Gillead, do you have any?”

Barbara signaled Ostera’s other shop assistant. “Maddy, why don’t you help Ms. Halliwell find that Gillead balm?” Madeline nodded and led Piper to the other side of the shop.

Nathalie heaved a sigh at Piper’s retreating back. “What an interesting woman. She seems very . . . sure of herself.” Her dark eyes focused on Paige. “What about you? Do you feel the same? That you don’t have a Shadow self?”

Aware of those penetrating eyes upon her, Paige could not help but stammer. “Uh, I don’t . . . well, I do. I mean . . . I did. Once.” One of Nathalie’s brows formed an arch. “Actually, I don’t know. Ever since I met Olivia and Barbara . . .”

“Oh! Of course! I should have known! Olivia McNeill. How is the Queen of Moral Ambiguity?” Nathalie asked with a smile.

Barbara responded with a shrug. “Being her usual ambiguous self. You know Livy.”

“Hmmm. Is she still friends with that tall, dark and handsome neighbor of hers? You know, Cole?”

Paige gawked at the dark-haired woman. “You’ve met Cole?”

“Of course. Livy had introduced us, last November. Just before I had left for Europe,” Nathalie replied. A dreamy expression appeared on her face. “Goddess, what a delicious looking man!”

Paige added, “You do know that he’s also a half-demon, right?”

Nodding, Nathalie answered, “Of course I know. Olivia made that perfectly clear when she introduced us. Besides, Cole wasn’t the first daemon I have met. I learned a lot about various demonic dimensions from him and others. I’m thinking of writing a book on the subject, but at the moment I have another book in planning.”

“Which is?” Barbara asked.

Nathalie continued, “It’s about the conflict between mythology and the modern-day Western psyche. Should be very interesting. However,” she heaved a sigh, “that’s not why I’m here. I’m giving a party on Friday night. In celebration of my return to San Francisco. You’re all invited.” She added to Paige, “Including your family.”

Paige glanced at her older sister, who was examining one of the shelves on the other side of the store. “Oh. Well . . . that’s great. Uh, but I’m not sure if Piper will show up. She’s . . .”

“. . . not particular enamored of my views, is she?” Nathalie’s gaze followed Paige’s. “I guess I must have shaken her up a bit.”

Paige shook her head. “No, no! That’s not it. It’s just . . . well, Piper has a baby. And she might have trouble finding a babysitter on Friday night. But I’m sure that Phoebe and I can make it.”

“Phoebe?” Nathalie frowned. “Who’s that?”

Barbara answered, “Paige’s other sister. The middle one. She’s a columnist for the BAY-MIRROR. You know, ‘Ask Phoebe’. She used to be married to Cole.”

“Really?” The dark-haired witch’s eyes gleamed with interest. “And now, he’s with Olivia. How interesting.”

Both Paige and Barbara exchanged uneasy glances. “Well, not quite,” the former said. “Olivia . . . she’s seeing someone else. Another witch.”

The disappointment reflected in Nathalie’s dark eyes, reflected Paige’s own feelings. “Oh. Too bad,” the former said. “I thought they made a nice . . . Do you think it would okay if I invite Cole, anyway?”

“Go ahead,” Barbara declared. “It’s your party, not Livy’s. Besides, Cole is still close with Bruce and Harry.” And neither could stand Paul Margolin. But Paige decided not to expose that little tidbit.

Nathalie clapped her hands with delight. “Perfect! Anyway, I need to get home. Make a few calls, and then do some shopping.” She gathered her purse and other bags. “I’ll see you two, Friday night.” On way toward the shop’s door, Nathalie waved at the oldest Halliwell. “Nice meeting you Piper! See you on Friday!” And out the door, she went.

Piper stared at the departing woman’s back, wearing a stunned expression. “Huh?”

* * * *

Five hours later, Piper shook her head, while Paige informed the family about the party invitation. “No! No way in hell am I going to subject myself to that woman’s company! I’ve already had a bad experience with someone else named Natalie. So, there’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise, Paige.”

The youngest Charmed One rolled her eyes and heaved a frustrated sigh. “Her name is Nathalie,” she retorted. “With an ‘H’. But if you don’t wanna go – fine!” She turned to the middle Halliwell. “How about you, Phoebe? Wanna go with me? You’re invited.”

Phoebe shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, Paige. Jason and I were thinking of dinner and a movie, this Friday night.”

“Well, you’ll get to go to a party, instead.”

A sigh left Phoebe’s mouth. “Paige, you know I can’t . . . can’t take Jason to this party. There’s bound to be plenty of witches there and a lot of loose talk about magic. I can’t take the chance.”

Disappointment filled Paige. “Great! That means I’ll have to go alone.”

“I’m sorry, honey,” a sympathetic Phoebe cooed. “Maybe I’ll get to meet this Natalie . . .”

“Nathalie.”

Phoebe nodded. “Whatever. Maybe I’ll get to meet her at the wedding, next week.”

Piper added snidely, “When you do, you’ll end up wishing you were somewhere else.”

Before Paige could defend her new acquaintance, the telephone rang. A few minutes later, Leo entered the Solarium, holding a cordless phone. “Phoebe, it’s for you. Jason.”

Phoebe took the phone from Leo. “Hello? Jason?” The expression on her face told Paige that she had just received bad news. “Oh. Okay, baby. I’ll see you on Sunday. Bye.” Phoebe disconnected the phone.

“Bad news?” Piper asked.

Looking woebegone, Phoebe nodded. “Yeah. Jason will be out of town, this weekend. He has a business conference in San Diego and he’s leaving tonight. He won’t be back, until Sunday.”

Brightened by the news, Paige said, “Well, at least you’ll be available for Miss Gleason’s party, Friday night.” The two older women stared at her. “What? Is there a problem?”

Again, Phoebe sighed. “No, there isn’t. And I’ll go with you,” she said in a weary voice. “I guess I have nothing else better to do.”

* * * *

“Homicide. Inspector McNeill speaking. How may I help you?”

The voice on the other end of the telephone line cried cheerfully, “Olivia? Is that you? It’s me! Nathalie!” A joyful surprise surged within Olivia.

“How long have you been back?” Olivia demanded.

Surprise tinged Nathalie’s voice. “How did you know I was back in San Francisco?”

“Honey, this is me . . . Livy.” Olivia continued, “Besides, my telphone has Caller ID. Now, how long have you been back?”

A small chuckle filled Olivia’s ear. “You haven’t changed,” Nathalie commented with amusement. “Not even after five months. Anyway, I just got back from London, yesterday evening. I already saw Barbara, this morning. And met her new shop assistants.”

“Yeah, she had hired them, last January. They’re doing great.” Olivia paused. “Is there another reason why you called?”

Nathalie hesitated. “As a matter of fact, there is. I’m giving a ‘Welcome Home’ party for myself. It’s tomorrow night. And you’re invited. You and your family.”

“Great! We’ll be there. At least I will.” Olivia paused, as a certain person popped into her thoughts. “Um, do you mind if bring someone with me?”

Nathalie expressed surprise. “Like who? I heard that you and that delicious Cole were no longer a twosome.”

“The ‘delicious’ Cole and I were never a twosome,” Olivia corrected with a touch of asperity. “Just friends. And besides, I plan to bring someone else. Another witch. Trust me, he’s just as delicious.”

“Hmmm,” Nathalie commented. “Sounds interesting. Can’t wait to meet this new friend of yours.”

Olivia allowed herself a small smile. “And I can’t wait to introduce him to you. See you tomorrow night.”

“Tomorrow night,” Nathalie repeated. And she hung up.

* * * *

“Hello? Is this Cole Turner?” a female’s voice asked.

Cole sighed. “Yes, this is he. How may I help you?”

The voice cheerfully continued, “This is Nathalie Gleason. Remember me? I’m a friend of the McNeill family. We met last fall, at one of their Sunday brunches.”

Memories of a tall, angular woman with pale skin, intense brown eyes and short black hair captured Cole’s thoughts. He recalled that she had reminded him of Morticia Addams. And he also remembered her garish outfits – including the peasant blouses and skirts she usually favored. Nathalie Gleason was the author of several books on mysticism, magic and mythology. The three ‘M’s. “Oh yeah,” he said. “You had a book tour in England or something. And Ireland.”

“Also Wales, Scotland, Italy and Rumania,” Nathalie added. “Well, I’m back in town and I’ll be holding a party at my house, tomorrow night. You’re more than welcome to come.”

Cole hesitated. “Uh, will Olivia be there?”

A pause followed before the witch answered, “Maybe.”

In other words . . . yes. The last thing Cole wanted to deal with was an encounter with Olivia. Especially since she had begun dating Leo’s pet witch, Paul Margolin. Cole felt willing to face Olivia at Bruce and Barbara’s upcoming wedding . . . and only the wedding. So, he rejected Nathalie Gleason’s offer. “Thanks, but no thanks. I might be busy that night.”

“Doing what? Watching TV and eating cold pizza? Or hitting the bars for a little nocturnal activity??

Nathalie’s words and sarcastic tone took Cole by surprise. “What the he . . .? How did you . . . ? I mean . . . never mind.”

The witch continued, “I heard about Olivia’s new boyfriend. From Barbara and one her new assistants. Someone named Paige. Is Olivia’s new friend the reason why you’re turning down my invitation?”

“No!” Cole immediately regretted the desperate tone of his answer. Nathalie Gleason seemed to have a knack of detecting the anxieties of others. Including his. “No, I mean . . .” He sighed. “I’ll be there. Same address?”

Nathalie cheerfully replied, “Same address. 1372 McAllister. Semi-casual. The party will start around seven-thirty.”

“Seven-thirty. Right. I’ll be there.”

“And I’ll be looking forward to seeing you again,” Nathalie added. “Bye.” The telephone went dead.

* * * *

Early Friday evening saw Nathalie inside her kitchen, preparing one final touch for the party. With the food and servers delivered by a catering firm she had hired, she only had to prepare a drink for the guests. A special punch called Raspberry Sunset.

The Raspberry Sunset recipe had been created by her maternal grandmother, nearly fifty years ago. It consisted of orange juice, pineapple juice, ginger ale, sugar and the piece de resistance – a cordial made from crushed raspberries. Nathalie had just poured one quarter of a carton of orange juice into a large crystal bowl, when the telephone rang. She placed the carton on the kitchen counter and answered. “Hello?”

“Nathalie? It’s me, Rosario! I’m calling from Sausalito. I’m stuck in traffic! How in the hell do I get to your place from here?” One half of her mind on the punch and the other half on the telephone conversation, Nathalie gave her friend directions to her house. At the same time, she reached for what looked like a bottle of raspberry cordial and began to pour some of the contents into the punch.

A sigh left Nathalie’s mouth. “No, no Rosario, you make a left on McAllister.” The odor from the bottle hit Nathalie’s nostrils, causing her to frown. She sniffed the bottle’s contents and realized that she smelled boysenberries, not raspberries. Nathalie returned the bottle to one of the cabinets’ shelves and snatched another. “Wait a minute,” she said to her friend. She opened the second bottle and sniffed. Yes. Raspberry cordial. And she poured the contents into the punch.

“Yeah, that’s right. My house is the third one on the left. Yes.” Nathalie stirred the contents of the punch bowl. “Okay Rosie. I’ll see you in about an hour. Bye.” She disconnected the phone and placed it on the counter. “Hmm,” she murmured, glancing at the punch, “all I need now are the raspberries and the ice. Then everything should be finished.” Nathalie heaved a satisfied sigh and added the finishing touches to her Raspberry Sunset Punch.

END OF PART 1

“THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” (2001) Review

suchetasmelmotte

 

“THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” (2001) Review

Over ten years ago, the BBC aired “”, a four-part television adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s 1875 novel. Adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by David Yates, the miniseries starred David Suchet, Shirley Henderson and Matthew Macfadyen. 

“THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” told the story of a Central European financier’s impact upon upper-crust British society during the Victorian era. Augustus Melmotte arrives in London with his second wife and his daughter, Marie in the 1870s. Not long after his arrival, Melmotte announces a new scheme to finance a railroad project from Salt Lake City in Utah to the Gulf of Mexico. And he promises instant fortune to those who would invest in his scheme. The Melmotte family is also surrounded by a circle of decadent aristocrats and nouveau riche businessmen, all trying to get a piece of the financial pie. One of the investors is Sir Felix Carbury, a young and dissolute baronet who is quickly running through his widowed mother’s savings. In an attempt to restore their fortunes, his mother, Lady Matilda Carbury writes historical potboilers – a 19th century predecessor to 20th century romance novels. She also plans to have Felix marry Marie, who is an heiress in her own right; and marry daughter Henrietta (Hetta) to their wealthy cousin, Roger Carbury. Although Marie falls in love with Felix, Melmotte has no intention of allowing his daughter to marry a penniless aristocrat. And Hetta shows no interest in Roger, since she has fallen in love with his young ward, an engineer named . However, Montague also proves to be a thorn in Melmotte’s side, due to his suspicions about the legitimacy over the railroad scheme.

As one can see, the story lines that stream from Trollope’s novel seemed to be plenty. In a way, the plot reminds me of the numerous story arcs that permeated 2004’s “HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT”. Although some of the story arcs have nothing to do with Augustus Melmotte, nearly everyone seemed to have some connection to the financier. The exceptions to this rule proved to be the characters of American-born Mrs. Winifred Hurtle, Roger Carbury and Ruby Ruggles, a young farm girl who lives on Roger’s estate. Mrs. Hurtle’s story was strictly limited to her efforts to regain the affections of former lover and help Ruby deal with the licentious Sir Felix. Roger’s story arc was limited to his unsuccessful efforts to win Henrietta’s heart and deal with his knowledge of Paul and Mrs. Hurtle’s relationship. Fortunately, “THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” seemed to possess a tighter story than “HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT”. To a certain degree.

But I cannot deny that “THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” was one of the most entertaining adaptations of a Trollope novel I have ever seen. If I must be honest, I enjoyed it more than I did “HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” or 1982’s “THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES”. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was due to its portrayal of society’s greed and opportunism. I have heard that Trollope had written the novel in protest against the greed and corruption of the 1870s, which resulted in the Long Depression that lasted between 1873 and 1879. The ironic thing is that the economic situation that Trollope believed had permeated British society during the 1870s had been around for a long time and would continue to permeate the world’s economic markets time again – including the recent downturn that has cast a shadow on today’s economies. Trollope’s Augustus Melmotte is today’s Bernie Madoff or Robert Maxwell.

Another aspect of “THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” is that it revealed the darker aspects of Victorian society on a more personal level. I did not know whether to be amused or disgusted by the manner in which young British scions such as Sir Felix Carbury scrambled to win the affections of Marie Melmotte and get their hands on her money; or desperate debutantes like Georgiana Longestaffe willing to marry Jewish banker Mr. Brehgert, despite her contempt for his religious beliefs and social position. I doubt that the likes of Georgiana would never contemplate becoming an author of cheesy novels, like Lady Carbury or marrying a man with no funds – like .

Thanks to Davies’ screenplay and David Yates’ direction, “THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” permeated with a richly dark and comic style that beautifully suited Trollope’s tale. Hardly anyone – aside from a few such as Paul Montague, Hetta Carbury and Mr. Brehgert – was spared from the pair’s biting portrayal of Trollope’s characters. Two of my favorite scenes featured a ball held by the Melmottes in Episode One and a banquet in honor of the Chinese Emperor in Episode Three. The banquet scene especially had me on the floor laughing at the sight of British high society members gorging themselves on the dishes prepared by Melmotte’s cook.

Although “THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” is my favorite Trollope adaptation – so far – I must admit that I had a few problems with it. One, Andrew Davies’ portrayal of the Paul Montague character struck me as slightly boring. Like his literary counterpart, Paul found himself torn between his love for Hetta and his sexual past with Mrs. Hurtle. But Davies’ Paul seemed so . . . noble and stalwart that I found it hard to believe this is the same gutless wonder from Trollope’s novel. And if I must be brutally honest, I found his relationship with Hetta Carbury to be another example of a boring romance between two boring young lovers that seemed to permeate Victorian literature. A part of me longed for Paul to end up with Winifred Hurtle. At least he would have found himself in a more interesting romance. I have one more quibble. In a scene featuring a major quarrel between Melmotte and his daughter Marie, there was a point where both were in each other’s faces . . . growling like animals. Growling? Really? Was that necessary? Because I do not think it was.

One would think I have a problem with Cillian Murphy and Paloma Baeza’s performances as Paul Montague and Hetta Carbury. Trust me, I did not. I thought both gave solid and competent performances. I feel they were sabotaged by Trollope’s portrayal of their characters as “the young lovers” and Davies’ unwillingness to put some zing into their romance. Miranda Otto made a very interesting Mrs. Hurtle, despite her bad attempt at a Southern accent. And Allan Corduner and Fenella Woolgar both gave solid performances that I did not find particularly memorable. On the other hand, I felt more than impressed by Cheryl Campbell as the charming and somewhat manipulative Lady Carbury; Douglas Hodge as the love-sick Roger Carbury; Oliver Ford-Davies as the grasping, yet bigoted Mr. Longestaffe; Helen Schlesinger’s funny performance as the clueless Madame Melmotte; a poignant performance from Jim Carter, who portrayed Mr. Brehgert; and Anne-Marie Duff, who managed to create a balance between Georgiana Longstaffe’s strong-willed willingness to marry a man of another faith and her self-absorption and bigotry.

However, the three performances that stood head above the others came from David Suchet, Shirley Henderson and Matthew Macfadyen. Suchet could have easily portrayed the scheming and gregarious Augustus Melmotte as a cartoonish character. And there were times when it seemed he was in danger of doing so. But Suchet balanced Melmotte’s over-the-top personality with a shrewdness and cynicism that I found appealing – especially when those traits mocked the pretentiousness and hypocrisy of British high society. Shirley Henderson proved to be the perfect person to portray Melmotte’s only daughter, Marie. Superficially, she seemed like a chip off the old block. But Henderson injected a great deal of compassion and poignancy into Marie’s character, making it very easy for me to sympathize toward her unrequited love for Sir Felix Carbury and the heartache she felt upon discovering his lack of love for her. Matthew Macfadyen must have finally made a name for himself in his memorable portrayal of the dissolute Sir Felix Carbury. I cannot deny that Macfadyen revealed a good deal of Sir Felix’s charm. But the actor made it pretty obvious that his character’s charm was at best, superficial. Considering some of the roles he has portrayed over the decade that followed “THE WAY WE LIVE NOW”, I believe Macfadyen’s Sir Felix must have been one of the most self-absorbed characters in his repertoire. And he did a superb job with the role. It is a pity that he never received an acting nomination or award for his performance.

One cannot talk about “THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” without pointing out the sumptuous production designs created by Gerry Scott. They were superb. With contributions from Diane Dancklefsen and Mark Kebby’s art direction, Caroline Smith’s set decorations, Chris Seager’s photography and Andrea Galer’s costume designs; Scott and his team did a wonderful job in re-creating Victorian society in the 1870s. I was especially impressed at how Galer’s costumes captured the early years of that decade. I would never call Nicholas Hooper’s score particularly memorable. But I cannot deny that it suited both the story’s theme and setting.

Although I found a few aspects of “THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” to complain about – notably the Paul Montague and Hetta Carbury characters. I cannot deny that it is a first-rate production, thanks to Andrew Davies’ adaptation, David Yates’ direction and a fine cast led by David Suchet. More importantly, the story’s theme of greed and corruption leading to economic chaos was not only relevant to the mid-to-late Victorian era, but also for today’s society. “THE WAY WE LIVE NOW” strike me as a story for all times.

Top Five Favorite “THE GOOD WIFE” Season One Episodes

Here is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One (2009-2010) of CBS’s “THE GOOD WIFE”, which stars Julianna Margulies:

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “THE GOOD WIFE” SEASON ONE EPISODES

1. (1.09) “Threesome” – Kevin Conway first appears as the firm’s senior partner, Jonas Stern, who is defended by Alicia after he is arrested. Alicia also has to deal with Amber Madison, the prostitute who had slept with Peter, after the latter appears on a talk show.

 

2. (1.22) “Hybristophilia” – Dylan Baker makes his second appearance as Colin Sweeney, Alicia’s wealthy client who is discovered by her, handcuffed to a dead woman.

 

3. (1.04) “Fixed” – Alicia suspects jury tampering has occurred in a class action suit against a drug company. In a second story line, Peter prepares for his appeal and Alicia is asked to testify on his behalf.­

 

4. (1.13) “Bad” – Dylan Baker made his first appearance as Colin Sweeney, a wealthy, immoral client of Alicia’s; whose innocence she questions in the death of his wife.

 

5. (1.02) “Stripped” – Alicia and Will represent a stripper who had been raped at a bachelor party by the groom, a man from a wealthy Chicago family. Also, Alicia confronts Peter about his indiscretions and the kids find doctored photos of Peter’s indiscretions, but hide them from her.­

“TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY” (2011) Review

“TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY” (2011) Review

Between the late 1970s and early 1980s, author John le Carré wrote a series of popular novels called The Karla Trilogy that featured MI-6 officer George Smiley as the leading character. At least two versions of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” had been made The most recent is the 2011 movie in which Gary Oldman starred as Smiley. 

Set in 1973, “TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY” has George Smiley, who was recently forced to retire, recalled to hunt down a Soviet mole named “Gerald” in MI-6 (a.k.a. the “Circus”), the highest echelon of the Secret Intelligence Service. The movie began with “Control” – the head of MI-6 – sending agent Jim Prideaux to Hungary to meet a Hungarian general who wishes to sell information. The operation is blown and the fleeing Prideaux is shot in the back by Hungarian intelligence. After the international incident that followed, Control and his right-hand man, Smiley were forced into retirement. Control, already ill, died soon afterwards. When field agent Rikki Tarr learned through his affair with the wife of a Moscow Centre intelligence officer in Turkey that the Soviets have a mole within the higher echelon of MI-6, Civil Service officer Oliver Lacon recalled Smiley from retirement to find the mole known as “Gerald”. Smiley discovered that Control suspected five senior intelligence officers:

*Smiley
*Percy Alleline (new MI-6 chief)
*Bill Haydon (one of Alleline’s deputies)
*Roy Bland (another Alleline deputy and the only one from a working-class
background)
*Toby Esterhase (Alleline’s Hungarian-born deputy, recruited by Smiley)

I have never seen the 1979 television version of le Carré’s 1974 novel, which starred Alec Guinness. In fact, I have never been inclined to watch it. Until now. My interest in seeing the television adaptation has a lot to do with my appreciation of this new film version. I enjoyed it very much. I did not love it. After all, it did not make my Ten Favorite Movies of 2011 list. It nearly did, but . . . not quite.

Why did “TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY” fail to make my favorite 2011 movies list? Overall, Tomas Alfredson did an excellentjob in translating le Carré’s story to the screen. However . . . the pacing was slow. In fact, it crawled at the speed of a snail. It was so slow that in the end, I fell asleep some fifteen to twenty minutes before the movie ending, missing the very moment when Smiley exposed “Gerald” at the safe. However, I did wake up in time to learn the identity of “Gerald” and the tragic consequences of that revelation. I have one more problem with the film. Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed Peter Guillam, a former division head recruited to assist Smiley in the latter’s mole hunt. There was a brief scene featuring “DOWNTON ABBEY” regular, Laura Carmichael, in which Guillam revealed his homosexuality. Cumberbatch did an excellent job in conveying this revelation with very little dialogue and a great deal of facial expressions. And yet . . . this revelation seemed to have very little or no bearing, whatsoever, in the movie’s main plot. Even Smiley’s marital problems ended up being relevant to the main narrative. End in the end, I found the revelation of Guillam’s sexuality a wasted opportunity.

But there is a great deal to admire about “TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY”. One, it is a fascinating tale about one of the time-honored plot lines used in more espionage – namely the mole hunt. I suppose one could credit le Carré for creating such a first-rate story. But I have seen too many mediocre or bad adaptations of excellent novels to solely credit le Carré for this movie. It would not have worked without great direction from Alfredson; or Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan’s superb script. I found Maria Djurkovic’s production designs for the film rather interesting. She injected an austere and slightly cold aura into her designs for 1973 London that suited the movie perfectly. And she was ably assisted by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, and art designers Tom Brown and Zsuzsa Kismarty-Lechner.

The heart and soul of “TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY” was its cast led by Gary Oldman, as George Smiley. The cast almost seemed to be a who’s who of British actors living in the United Kingdom. Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Ciarán Hinds and David Dencik portrayed the four men suspects being investigated by Smiley. All four did an excellent and kept the audience on their toes on who might be “Gerald”. However, I do have one minor complaint. Hinds’ character, Roy Bland, seemed to have received less screen time than the other three. Very little screen time, as a matter of fact. Mark Strong gave one of the movie’s better performances as the MI-6 agent, Jim Prideaux, who was betrayed by “Gerald” and eventually forced to leave “the Circus” following his return to Britain.

Both Simon McBurney and Kathy Burke gave solid performances as Civil Service officer Oliver Lecon and former MI-6 analyst Connie Sachs. However, Roger Lloyd-Pack seemed to be a bit wasted as another of Smiley’s assistants, Mendel. I have already commented on Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Peter Guillam. However, I must admit that I found his 1970s hairstyle to look a bit artificial. I can also say the same about the blond “locks” Tom Hardy used for his role as MI-6 agent Rikki Tarr. Fortunately, there was a good deal to admire about the actor’s emotional, yet controlled performance as Tarr. I really enjoyed John Hurt’s portrayal of Smiley’s former superior, the gregarious Control. I thought it was one of his more colorful roles in recent years.

However, the man of the hour is Gary Oldman and his portrayal of MI-6 officer, George Smiley. Many found the selection of Oldman to portray Smiley a rather curious one. The actor has built a reputation for portraying characters a lot more extroverted than the mild-mannered Smiley. His minimalist performance in “TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY” took a great deal of people by surprise. So much so that Oldman ended up earning an Academy Award nomination for his performance. And he deserved it, as far as I am concerned. I consider George Smiley to be one of Oldman’s best screen performances during his 30 odd years in movies. In fact, I suspect that the actor has made George Smiley his own, just as much as Alec Guinness did over thirty years ago.

As I had stated earlier, “TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY” is not perfect. Its pacing is as slow as molasses. I thought actor Ciarán Hinds and the plot revelation regarding Peter Gulliam’s homosexuality was vastly underused. But thanks to Tomas Alfredson’s direction, Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan’s Oscar nominated screenplay, and an excellent cast led by the superb Gary Oldman; the movie turned out to be a surprising treat and has ignited my interst in the world of George Smiley.

Controversial Finale: “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” (2.12) “To the Lost”

CONTROVERSIAL FINALE: “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” (2.12) “To the Lost”

The Season Two finale of “BOARDWALK EMPIRE”(2.12) “To the Lost” has been viewed as an end of an era for a good number of the series’ viewers and television critics. It marked an event that left some fans satisfied and others in a state of anger and resentment. But one cannot deny that this event – along with a few others – allowed the series to enter a new phase for its third season, which premiered last Sunday. 

One of the changes that materialized in “To the Lost” turned out to be the marriage between Atlantic City’s re-installed political boss, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson and his Irish-born mistress, the widowed Margaret Schroeder. Although both harbored feelings for each other, their marriage obviously seemed like one of convenience. Margaret had received a summons from Federal prosecutor Esther Randolph as a possible witness against Nucky for her husband’s murder back in Season One. By “To the Lost”, Margaret had embraced religion as a reaction to her daughter becoming a victim of the polio outbreak. When Nucky learned about her summons, he asked her to marry him in order to prevent her from testifying against him and to avoid serving time inprison. Margaret agreed. But she had also hoped to convince Nucky to do the same – before and after the charges against him were dropped. To her disappointment, Nucky revealed no interest in embracing religion. Worse, he had signed over a piece of valuable property to Margaret, when he feared that the Federal government might confiscate his possessions.

When Margaret learned about the murder of Alderman James Neary – an enemy of Nucky’s – she immediately assumed he was behind the crime. As it turned out, she was wrong. Nucky’s former protégée, Jimmy Darmody, committed the deed with friend Richard Harrow’s help, in an effort to win the political boss’ forgiveness for his betrayal. However, Margaret went ahead and signed over Nucky’s land to the Catholic Church. The ironic aspect of Margaret’s reasoning behind her actions was that she harbored a secret of her own. In the season’s seventh episode, (2.07) “Peg of Old”, she had sex with Owen Sleater, Nucky’s new bodyguard. This happened at a time when Nucky was facing an assassination attempt arranged by Jimmy. Margaret eventually found the nerve to confess her infidelity to the local priest and to God. Margaret seemed willing to judge Nucky for his lies – real and imagined. Yet, she failed to find the courage to confess her sin of infidelity to Nucky.

Albert “Chalky” White, the unofficial leader of Atlantic City’s African-American community, had to endure numerous difficulties during Season Two. The Ku Klux Klan attacked his bootleg operation in the season’s premiere episode, (2.01) “21”, resulting in the deaths of several of his men. Chalky managed to kill one of the Klansmen during the attack. He ended up being charged with murder. Nucky’s attorney managed to get him out of jail on bail, but Chalky still faced a trial. This ended when Jimmy managed to get the State Attorney’s office to drop the murder charges. Jimmy, along with Richard’s help, attacked a Klan gathering at gunpoint, shot two men and demanded the men who had attacked Chalky’s warehouse in “21”. After delivering the men to Chalky and the latter’s new right-hand man, former jail cell nemesis Dunn Purnsley, Jimmy asked the former to contact Nucky on his behalf. This arrest would lead to the first of two meetings between Jimmy and Nucky and the former’s controversial death that ended Season Two.

Like many other fans of “BOARDWALK EMPIRE”, I had made the mistake of assuming that Nucky would eventually forgive Jimmy for his Season Two transgressions. After all, the Jimmy Darmody character was the second lead in the series. After watching “To the Lost”, I realize that I had been living in a fantasy. So had Jimmy. The deaths of his wife Angela and father, the Commodore, in(2.11) “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” had left him shaken to his core. I suspect this also led him to realize it would be in his best interest to seek forgiveness from Nucky. Jimmy engaged in a campaign to make up for his past transgressions – which included a murder attempt on Nucky. With Richard’s help, he nabbed the Klansmen who was responsible for the attack on Chalky’s bootlegging operation; set up both Alderman Jim Neary and Eli Thompson for election fraud, before faking Neary’s death as a suicide; and claimed that Eli was responsible for introducing the idea of a hit on Nucky. But all of this did not work. It was Richard who pointed out that no matter what Jimmy did, Nucky would never forgive him.

Now that I think about it, I found myself wondering why Jimmy never considered the possibility that Nucky was not the forgiving type . . . until it was too late. Surely he must have remembered Nucky’s reaction when he and Al Capone had stolen Arnold Rothstein’s whiskey shipment in the series’ premiere, (1.01) “Boardwalk Empire”. Nucky had been so angry that he fired Jimmy as his driver and demanded that the World War I veteran pay $3,000 as compensation for committing the robbery in his town and without his consent. Jimmy was forced to flee from Atlantic City to Chicago, when a witness to the heist reappeared. And even though Nucky asked Jimmy to return to help him deal with his war against Rothstein, he remained angry over the heist. Now if Nucky was unable to completely forgive Jimmy for the whiskey heist in Season One; his chances of forgiving the younger man for an attempted murder seemed pretty moot. And no one – including myself – seemed to realize this.

I am not condoning Nucky’s murder of Jimmy. I believe that what he had done was wrong. But I must admit that I found some of the outraged reactions against the crime rather puzzling. Although some had expressed disappointment over Jimmy’s sanction of the murder attempt on Nucky in “Peg of Old”, the level of anger toward Jimmy seemed particularly mute in comparison to their anger toward Nucky for his actions in “To the Lost”. This same television season also saw the death of lead actor Sean Bean in another HBO series, “GAME OF THRONE”. Some had expressed surprise at the turn of events, but not anger.

Some fans might point out that it was Nucky’s younger brother and Atlantic City’s sheriff, the resentful Eli Thompson, who had initiated the idea of killing Nucky. Jimmy even told Nucky of Eli’s participation in the hit. I suspect that Nucky suspected that Jimmy had told the truth. But he had considered two things. One, Eli was his brother. And two, it was Jimmy who gave the final decision to have Nucky killed. In the end, even Eli failed to completely escape Nucky’s wrath. Although his life was spared, the political boss forced him to plead guilty to the corruption charges and face at least two years in prison (or less with parole). Something tells me that Eli’s career as Sheriff of Atlantic County had ended permanently.

Jimmy had also been wrong to order the hit on Nucky. Yet, the level of anger toward his act was barely minimal. Were these fans upset that Nucky had succeeded, where Jimmy had failed? Or was their anger due to the loss of the younger and good-looking Michael Pitt, who had NOT been the series’ lead? Because no one had expressed similar sentiments over the older Bean’s departure from “GAME OF THRONES”. Was this major outrage over Jimmy’s death had more to do with superficial preference than moral outrage? It is beginning to seem so to me.

I had enjoyed Michael Pitt’s portrayal of the troubled Jimmy Darmody, during his two-year stint on “BOARDWALK EMPIRE”. But unlike many other fans, I cannot accept the views of some that the series had jumped the shark with his character’s death. I refuse to claim that the series’ quality will remain the same, or get better or worse. I can only make that judgment after Series Three has aired. But the very talented Steve Buscemi remains at the lead as Enoch “Lucky” Thompson. And creator Terence Winter continues to guide the series. Considering the number of changes that marked “To the Lost”, I am curious to see how the story will continue.

“Blinded By the Heart” [PG] – 1/1

Here is a VOYAGER story set around early Season 2:

“BLINDED BY THE HEART”

CODE: Paris, Torres, Kim, J/C (implied)
RATING: PG
E-MAIL: deerush76@yahoo.com
FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Tom Paris harbors plans to play Cupid for his two best friends on Valentine’s Day. Set in early Season 2.
DISCLAIMER: Sigh! All characters and etc. pertaining to Star Trek Voyager belongs to Paramount, Viacom and . . . well, you know who.

————

St. Valentine’s Day. Tonight, Voyager’s crew celebrated that particular holiday for the first time, since their arrival in the Delta Quadrant, nearly a year ago. Despite its Terran origins, Valentine’s Day had become popular throughout the Alpha Quadrant. Not only did the Human crewmembers gather inside Sandrine’s to celebrate, so did many of the ship’s small percentage of non-Terran occupants. In celebration of the holiday, red streamers and pictures of hearts and Cupid decorated the tavern. A buffet table set against the far wall, groaned under the weight of delectable dishes and drinks.

Since many of the celebrants had arrived as couples, it came as a surprise to many when three members of the Senior Staff arrived at the same time. Dubbed the ‘Three Musketeers’ because of their close friendship; Tom Paris, Harry Kim and B’Elanna Torres were usually seen together during their off-duty hours. Voyager’s journey through the Delta Quadrant had begun with a friendship between Paris and Kim, and another friendship between Kim and Torres. Ever since Paris and Torres’ incarceration by the Vidiians four months ago, Kim had finally succeeded in forging his friendships with the pair into one shared by all three. They did everything together – eat their meals inside the Mess Hall, relax inside the holodecks or simply enjoy each other’s company inside private quarters. However, tonight was Valentine’s Day, a holiday for romance. It seemed incongruous for a get together between three friends.

“God, we must really look out of place, tonight,” Tom Paris commented. After B’Elanna eased into one of the booths, he sat in the seat opposite her. By sitting near the edge, he forced Harry to occupy the seat next to the half-Klingon engineer. “I bet we must be the only ones without a date.” He glanced at the pair opposite him. “I stand corrected. I must be the only one.”

Tom’s last words drew a glare from B’Elanna. Harry’s face turned red with embarrassment. “B’Elanna and I aren’t . . .” the latter began. His flush deepened. “I meant . . .”

“What Harry is trying to say, Hotshot, is that we’re not on a date,” B’Elanna retorted. “We’re only here . . . as friends.”

“Right.” Tom nodded.

B’Elanna continued, “Besides, weren’t you suppose to have a date, tonight?”

Tom shrugged his shoulders. “Megan couldn’t make it. She learned that she had duty during Beta shift, and I couldn’t find anyone else to replace her.” He referred to Ensign Megan Delaney, one half of a pair of twin sisters assigned to Stellar Cartography. Tom and Megan had been dating on and off for over six months. Neither really considered the other as a serious love interest. Merely convenient companionship for a lonely night.

“Too bad,” B’Elanna replied with an insincere expression stamped on her face. “I was really looking forward to her company.”

Tom bit back a sigh. For some unexplainable reason, B’Elanna seemed to regard Megan and Jenny Delaney as a pair of nymphomaniacs, cutting a wide swath throughout the ship’s male occupants. “B’Elanna, Megan is not the type of person you seem to think she is. She’s a very nice person.” B’Elanna snorted. “And rather quiet, I may add. Right Harry?”

The Operations Chief nodded. “Tom’s right, B’Elanna. You’ve got Megan all wrong. She is nice. And sweet.” A soft expression crept into his face. Tom stared.

“And the other sister?” B’Elanna added sarcastically. “Is she also . . . nice?”

Tom quickly came to Jenny Delaney’s defense. “Hey! Jenny’s all right. Maybe a bit too outgoing for your tastes, Torres. But she’s certainly is no slut, if that’s what you think.”

“I never said she was a . . .” B’Elanna paused under Tom’s hard stare. “Okay, maybe I had misjudged Jenny. And Megan.”

Harry smiled and nodded at Tom. “It wouldn’t be the first time.” B’Elanna scowled, much to Tom’s delight.

An attractive, middle-aged blond woman appeared before the trio. It was Sandrine, the holographic proprietress of the tavern. She jovially greeted the friends. “Ah! Mes amies! Bonsoir and welcome to our St. Valentine’s celebration!” Her blue eyes swept over the three friends and her smile transformed into a frown. “What’s this? Only three of you? Today is Valentine’s Day! A day of romance and passion! You’re supposed to be with a loved one. A mate. Not with friends!”

B’Elanna rolled her eyes. Tom explained about his aborted date with Megan Delaney. Sandrine’s eyes focused on the two engineers. “And you two? Are you here as a couple?”

Before Tom could answer, B’Elanna sharply replied, “No!” And in a softer tone, continued, “No, Harry and I are here simply as friends. I don’t have a . . . loved one here on the ship.”

“Neither do I,” Harry said.

Tom gave Sandrine one of those “See what I’m up against?” looks. Then he ordered the drinks. “Saurian brandy for all three of us.” B’Elanna opened her mouth to protest and he added, “It’s Valentine’s Day. I don’t think Scotch whiskey neat is an appropriate drink for this holiday.”

“Ah Thomas! Good taste as usual,” the Frenchwoman said with a smile. “Pardon. I’ll be back.” And she walked away to fetch their drinks.

B’Elanna leaned forward, a slight scowl fixed on her face. “I happen to like Scotch whiskey neat, Paris. A lot. And I don’t like others selecting my drinks without my permission.”

Tom dismissed her protests with a wave of his hand. “C’mon B’Elanna! It’s Valentine’s Day. There’s just something unromantic about drinking Scotch whiskey on an evening like this.”

“Romantic?” B’Elanna turned to Harry. “Can you believe this guy, Starfleet?”

Harry shook his head. “Don’t look at me, Maquis. After nearly a year, I still don’t understand how the man’s mind works.”

Sandrine returned with their drinks. After she served them, she spotted a couple entering the tavern and excused herself. Tom glanced at the newcomers. “I can’t believe it!” he exclaimed. “Isn’t that Jenkins and Hamilton together?”

Both Harry and B’Elanna looked, while the couple was being escorted by Sandrine to an empty booth. “What about them?” the latter asked.

“Look at them! They’re together! On Valentine’s Day! I can’t believe they’ve been seeing each other all this time and I never even noticed. After all, they’re both in my division. And I can usually tell when two people are interested in one another.”

Again, B’Elanna rolled her eyes. “Tom, has it ever occurred to you that Jenkins and Hamilton are together for one date? And since when did you develop empathic powers when it came to romance?”

Slowly, Tom returned his gaze to the engineer. A cynical expression masked her exotic looks. “And since when did you become such a cynic, Torres? What’s the matter? Don’t you believe in romance?”

The doors to the tavern swung open, heralding the arrival of Voyager’s command team. All eyes fell upon the ship’s auburn-haired captain and her swarthy First Officer. Tom noticed how B’Elanna’s eyes lit up at the sight of Chakotay. And how her olive skin flushed with a tinge of pink.

Good God! Tom thought with a slight shake of his head. Is that infatuation still going on? He had never known B’Elanna during his brief stint with the Maquis. Either she had joined Chakotay’s cell sometime after his capture by Starfleet. Or Chakotay simply kept the pair apart. Yet, the moment he saw the former Maquis captain and the Klingon/Human hybrid together, Tom quickly became aware of the latter’s feelings toward the former. Surprisingly, Tom had disapproved. He never considered unrequited love and hero-worship a healthy mix. Something he now knew from personally experience. Tom believed that B’Elanna could do a lot better for herself. Someone who would suit her – like a certain Operations chief.

“Not the romantic type, huh Torres?” The knowing tone in Tom’s voice drew a glare from B’Elanna. He turned to his other friend. “What about you, Harry? Is there a true love in your life?” The moment the question left his lips, Tom knew the younger man’s answer. “Wait! Let me guess. Libby.”

A deep flush colored Harry’s cheeks. “What’s wrong with Libby?” he demanded.

“Nothing,” Tom answered, his blue eyes wide with innocence. “Except that she is 70,000 light years away.”

Harry protested. “There’s still a chance we might return home in less than 70 years! Right B’Elanna?”

“Huh?” The half-Klingon tore her eyes away from Janeway and Chakotay. Tom rolled his eyes in exasperation. “What did you say, Harry?”

Tom spoke up. “He thinks we might get back to the Alpha Quadrant in less than seven decades. Tell me Harry, how long are you willing to count on that?” A retort seemed to hover on the Ops chief’s lips, but not a sound came out. “Thought so.”

Her attention no longer focused on the First Officer, B’Elanna returned her gaze to Tom. “What about you, Paris? Do you have a true love?”

Years of emotional turmoil had taught the pilot to keep his feelings and secrets to himself. The Paris mask usually came to the fore whenever asked a too personal question. Or got too close. But this was Harry and B’Elanna. The first two people Tom could truly call his friends. And they did not deserve the Paris mask. “Susie Crabtree.”

Both B’Elanna and Harry cried, “Who?”

Tom continued, “You asked about my true love. Her name was Susie Crabtree.”

Confusion appeared on Harry’s face. “That’s funny. I thought you were in love with . . .” A swift kick in the shin by Tom closed his mouth. The pilot knew exactly whom Harry was about to mention. He did not want anyone else to know about his current feelings for the ship’s assistant nurse.

The half-Klingon’s brows formed a frown. “Who are you two talking about? Certainly not this Susie Crabtree. Sounds like a name for a Starfleet admiral’s daughter. Or one of those social butterflies in the diplomatic circles. Which one was she?”

“Neither,” Tom replied, annoyed by B’Elanna’s condescension. “Susie was . . .” Memories of a beautiful young woman from his youth popped into his head. “Well, actually, she was a fellow cadet I had dated during my first year at the Academy.” He sighed from sheer pleasure, producing a smile from Harry and a grimace from B’Elanna.

Harry asked, “What happened?”

“Huh? Oh, uh we broke up.” Tom paused. The not-so-happy memories replaced the happy ones. “Actually, she dumped me.”

“Why?”

A smirk appeared on B’Elanna’s lips. “She got to know the real you, huh Paris?”

Tom did not bother to acknowledge the engineer’s smirk. Or the slightly insulting tone in her voice. “Nope. Just the opposite,” he said quietly. “Susie claimed I wouldn’t let her.”

Silence fell between the trio. Harry took a swallow of brandy. B’Elanna’s gaze slowly shifted back to Chakotay. And Tom quietly observed his two friends. Starfleet and Maquis.

“God, what a pathetic bunch we make when it comes to romance!” he said with a slight laugh. “Here I am reminiscing over a failed romance. Harry is still pining for a girl he probably won’t see in a long time. And you, B’Elanna . . . apparently you don’t have a romantic bone in your body.”

B’Elanna shrugged her slight shoulders. “So sue me. What can I say? It’s the Klingon in me.”

“Don’t shit me, Torres. I may not know much about Klingons, but I do know they happen to be among the most passionate species in the Alpha Quadrant. Maybe they’re not the types to express themselves in poems or romance novels,” Tom failed to notice the slight quirk of B’Elanna’s lips, “but I do know they are very romantic. So give me another excuse.”

B’Elanna heaved an exasperated sigh. “How about this one? I haven’t found the right man and I probably . . . never . . . will.”

Tom detected the longing in her words, but decided not to comment upon it. Instead, he gave the engineer an understanding smile. “You never know, Torres. The right man may be closer than you think.”

Someone at the piano began to play, “La Vie En Rose”. Several couples headed for the dance floor, including Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay. Aware of the intense scrutiny toward the pair, Tom commented, “I must say. Those two really look good together. Don’t you agree?”

B’Elanna’s sharp gaze fell upon the pilot. Harry’s eyes remained glued to the dance floor. “I don’t know,” he said in a wary tone. “I guess. I mean they do make a pretty good command team.”

Tom chuckled. “I wasn’t talking about work, Harry.” His words produced a startled glance from the young ensign. B’Elanna looked away. Tom decided it was time to make a suggestion. “That sounds like a nice tune,” he continued. “Say Harry, why don’t you give B’Elanna a spin on the dance floor?”

Two pairs of dark eyes stared at the pilot as if he had made a far out suggestion. Then they stared at each other. A red flush crept up Harry’s cheeks. To Tom’s satisfaction, he proved to be a brave soul and stood up. “Uh, would you . . . um, would you like to dance, B’Elanna?”

The engineer hesitated momentarily. After sparing another glance at Janeway and Chakotay, she nodded. “Sure Harry. Why not?” She stood up and allowed Harry to lead her to the dance floor. Soon, they were in each other’s arms, gliding around the room. Tom sat back into his chair and smiled.

“What are you smiling about, cherie?” Sandrine slid into the booth, opposite Tom.

Tom nodded at his two friends. “Them. Don’t they look great together?”

“Hmm.” The proprietress barely acknowledged the pair with a glance. “I suppose so.”

“You suppose?” Tom almost felt outraged. “Of course they do! Look at them. Starfleet and Maquis. They’ve practically been joined at the hip since we first entered the Delta Quadrant. Now if Harry can only put Whatshername behind him and B’Elanna end her crush over Chakotay, they can take their relationship to the next level.” Tom smiled. “With a little help from me, of course.”

Sandrine glanced at the two friends once more and responded with another lackluster, “Hmmm.” She surreptiously studied the table’s wooden surface.

“What?” Tom demanded.

“Nothing cherie, except . . .”

“Yeah?”

A sigh left Sandrine’s mouth. “I’m sorry, Thomas, but I suspect you might be making a big mistake. I just don’t . . . I really cannot see your two friends as lovers. Friends perhaps, or siblings. Definitately not lovers.”

“Wha . . .” Tom glanced at Harry and B’Elanna. Despite the prudent amount of space between them and B’Elanna’s occasional glances at the First Officer, he saw a couple with a great potential for romance. All they need to do is overcome a few roadblocks. Tom had always prided himself on being able to spot a potential romance. A trait that made him a matchmaker at heart. “Are you trying to say that you don’t feel any chemistry between B’Elanna and Harry?”

The Frenchwoman shrugged. “Well . . . perhaps there is some chemistry between them.”

“Aha!”

“But not of the romantic kind,” Sandrine continued. Tom’s face fell. “I’m sorry, cherie, but I think you’re wasting your time. I cannot see your friends as lovers. Besides, I believe your B’Elanna may have just a little too much bite for young Harry.”

Tom struggled to hide his disappointment. He was sure that Sandrine, a matchmaker herself, would agree with him about Harry and B’Elanna. Apparently not.

The music stopped. Harry, B’Elanna and other couples disengaged. B’Elanna headed back to the booth, while Harry surged toward the buffet table. “Cherie!” Sandrine greeted the half-Klingon. “Did you enjoy yourself?”

B’Elanna gave the holographic woman a polite smile. Although she had grown used to the tavern’s odd characters, she still regarded them with little enthusiasm. The pianist began playing another song. “La Mer.” It was one of Tom’s favorite 20th century songs.

“Thomas, why don’t you dance with B’Elanna?” Sandrine said to the pilot. “That sounds like a lovely song.”

A doubtful B’Elanna opened her mouth to protest. “I don’t know. I just finished dan . . .”

Realization hit Tom Paris like a wet glove. Sandrine did not know it, but she had just given him the opportunity for a private talk with B’Elanna. Without any interruptions from her or Harry. “That sounds like a great idea,” he replied, gently grabbing the Chief Engineer’s hand. “C’mon B’Elanna. A little dance won’t hurt.”

“But . . .” Before the half-Klingon could further protest, Tom steered her toward the dance floor. He glanced past B’Elanna’s shoulder toward Sandrine and winked. The ‘Great Kim/Torres Matchmaking Scheme’ was about to commence.

* * * *

Sandrine caught Tom’s wink and smiled. Ah Thomas, she thought to herself. Such a big heart behind that cynical mask. The dear boy possessed a heart so big that it blinded him from the obvious – that his matchmaking scheme for his friends will fail. Or end in some kind of disaster. Young Harry Kim and that B’Elanna were not made for each other – at least not romantically.

On the other hand, Sandrine already had a candidate in mind for Lieutenant Torres’ heart. And she was dancing in his arms at the moment. Sandrine admired the way Thomas lead the engineer across the floor. Such a graceful dancer. And unlike young Harry, he held B’Elanna close in his arms with an intimate and easy manner that expressed his personality. Not only that, the half-Klingon had failed to spare Commander Chakotay one glance since joining Thomas on the dance floor.

Sandrine looked at the young couple once more. Then Thomas made a comment that produced a mixture of amusement, exasperation and fascination on Lieutenant Torres’ face that the hologram found beguiling. Ah yes! Sandrine nodded. They certainly do look well together.

THE END

“Thomas likes his women with a little bite.” – Sandrine to Ricki (“The Cloud”)

“THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO” (2011) Review

 

“THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO” (2011) Review

My awareness of Stieg Larsson’s posthumous 2005 novel, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” began when it first hit the bookstores, years ago. And it has not abated. And yet . . . I have never developed an interest to read it. Silly me. Even when a movie adaptation of the novel was first released in Sweden back in 2009, I noticed . . . and continued to resist buying the novel. That all changed when I saw this new English-speaking adaptation, directed by David Fincher. 

If I must be honest, it was the trailer for Fincher’s movie that finally made me interested in Larsson’s novel. One, it featured two favorite actors of mine – Daniel Craig and Stellan Skarsgård. Two, I have developed a growing interest in David Fincher’s work, ever since I saw his 2007 movie, “ZODIAC”. And three, I must admit that the trailer looked damn interesting. So, I went to the theaters to watch “THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO”. And I do not regret my decision. I loved it. And now I have plans to read the novel.

“THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO” is about a Swedish investigative journalist named Mikael Blomkvist hired by a wealthy industrialist named Henrik Vanger to investigate the 40-year disappearance of the latter’s 16 year-old niece, Harriet. Blomkvist is assisted by young computer hacker and researcher for Milton Security named Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth had been originally hired by Vanger’s attorney to do a background check on Blomkvist. Both Lisbeth and Blomkvist find themselves residing inside a small house on the Vangers’ island estate. During their investigation, they meet other members of the Vanger family – including two brothers who were members of the Swedish Nazi Party, Henrik’s nieces Cecilia and Anita, and his nephew, Martin, now CEO of the family business.

While Lisbeth and Blomkvist investigate the Vanger family, each deal with a personal dilemma. Lisbeth became a legal ward of the state, after she was diagnosed with mental incompetency years ago, has to deal with new guardian Nils Bjurman, who turned out to be a sexual predator and rapist. Blomkvist found himself working for Henrik Vanger, after he lost a libel case brought against him by a crooked businessman named Hans-Erik Wennerström. Blomkvist and the magazine he co-owns with his lover/editor Erika Berger, owe Wennerstrom a huge court-ordered monetary damages. Despite their problems, Lisbeth and Blomkvist continue their investigation into the Vanger family. Eventually, they discover that a member of the family is serial rapist and killer, who has assaulted a number of Jewish women over a twenty years period since the 1940s. The last victim was killed a year after Harriet’s disappearance.

There is so much about this movie that I really enjoyed. One, Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian did a superb job of adapting Larsson’s tale with great detail, while maintaining a steady pace. This is not an easy thing for a filmmaker to accomplish – especially for a movie with a running time of 158 minutes. And the ironic thing is that Zaillian’s script was not completely faithful to Larsson’s novel. Not that I really care. I doubt that the 2009 adaptation, which I have also seen, was completely faithful. I thought that Fincher and Zaillian did a marvelous job of re-creating the details (as much as possible) of Larsson’s tale, along with the novel’s intriguing characters and atmosphere. There were changes that Larsson and Zaillian made to some of the characters – especially Mikael Blomkvist, Martin Vanger and Anita Vanger. And do I care? Again, no. These changes did not mar my enjoyment of the film, whatsoever.

The moment the movie began with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ dazzling score and Blur Studio’s title designs, a feeling overcame me that I was about to watch a very interesting film. Reznor and Ross’ score managed to earn Golden Globe nomination. Unfortunately, they did not earn an Academy Award. Too bad. It was one of the most interesting movie scores I have seen in years. Jeff Cronenweth, on the other hand, managed to earn an Academy Award for his cinematography. And it was well deserved, as far as I am concerned. I really enjoyed Cronenweth’s sharp and atmospheric photography of Sweden’s countryside and Stockholm. I also enjoyed Trish Summerville’s costume designs for the movie – especially her Goth-style costumes for Rooney Mara and the stylish wardrobe that both Daniel Craig and Stellan Skarsgård wore.

I might as well focus on the cast. “THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO” made Rooney Mara a star. There is no doubt about it. The actress, who made a memorable appearance in Fincher’s last movie, “THE SOCIAL NETWORK”, gave a star turning performance as the anti-social hacker, Lisbeth Salander. She was quiet, intense, intelligent, tough . . . hell, she did a superb job of re-creating every nuance of the Lisbeth character with a subtlety and intensity that I found very appealing. It is not surprising that she eventually earned both a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Daniel Craig did not earn any acting award for his portrayal of journalist Mikael Blomkvist. This is not surprising. His character was not as showy as Mara’s. And as a blogger named Brent Lang pointed out, Craig’s character was more or less the “damsel in distress”. He was not exaggerating. But Craig not only gave an engaging and slightly sexy performance as Blomkvist, he also did an excellent job of serving as the movie’s emotional center or anchor.

Christopher Plummer’s peformance as Henrik Vanger resonated with sly humor and deep emotion. Stellan Skarsgård gave one of the most interesting performances in the movie as the missing Harriet’s brother, Martin. I found myself wondering if Skarsgård’s Martin was a trickster character used to keep the audience wondering about him. Both Geraldine James and Joely Richardson appeared as Harriet’s cousins, Cecilia and Anita, respectively. Richardson’s performance was solid and a little understated. But I really enjoyed James’ brief stint as the sharp tongue Cecilia. And Robin Wright was solid, if not that memorable as Blomkvist’s lover and editor, Erika Berger. Yorick van Wageningen’s performance as Lisbeth’s guardian Nils Bjurman struck me as both understated and downright scary. At first glance, his performance did not hint the disturbed sexism that led his character to rape Lisbeth. Come to think of it, I do not recall any hint of Bjurman’s sick and sordid personality in van Wageningen’s portrayal of the character at all . . . even when his character was forcing himself on Lisbeth. It was a very disturbing performance. The movie also featured solid performances from the likes of Steven Berkoff, Goran Visnjic and Donald Sumpter.

I have at least one complaint about “THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO”. There was a sequence in the movie’s last twenty minutes that featured Lisbeth’s theft of businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström’s assets via hacking. The sequence seemed to drag an otherwise well-paced movie. Yet, at the same time, I glad that Fincher revealed Lisbeth’s theft, instead of vaguely pointing it out, as Niels Arden Oplev did in the 2009 adaptation. I guess I have mixed feelings about this particular sequence.

“THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO” received five Academy Award nominations – one for actress Rooney Mara and four technical nominations. After typing that last sentence, I shook my head in disgust. What in the hell was the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences thinking? That was it? No Best Picture, Best Director or Best Adapted Screenplay nomination? No nomination for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score? Movies like Woody Allen’s dull-ass“MIDNIGHT IN PARIS” and Steven Spielberg’s overrated “WAR HORSE” received Best Picture nominations. But not“THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO”. And Fincher’s movie was one of the best I have ever seen in 2011. This is just damn pitiful.