The Kindle dilemma

My friends and I had a discussion over Facebook earlier today. One of them just got a Kindle and found herself missing the feel of a holding an actual book while reading. And so we, along with another bookworm friend got into a discussion.

I love to read and, obviously, I love books. But not just the material in itself, but the actual physical thing. I love the weight of a book in my hands (not so much when I’m lugging it through an airport), the thrill you get when your bookmark’s nearer to the back of the book than the to front, the feel of really, really good book paper on your fingers. And the smell. Oh, the smell of new books. I’m a little ashamed to admit that one of my favorite things to do with a book is to riffle through the pages with the book right in front of my nose and just breathe in that lovely paper smell. And I’d like to think I’m not the only one who does that (or am I? Did I just make a slightly creepy admission?).

There’s also something about shelves and shelves of books that makes me feel at home. I don’t know what it is, maybe it was the hours I spent in our school library sitting on the cold linoleum tiles, taking my sweet, sweet time in choosing which Sweet Valley books to borrow, but I immediately feel a sense of calm and comfort when I walk into a bookstore. I get the same feeling when I look at my very modest collection of books, one I am slowly but surely adding to, in the hopes that someday I could call it even a mini library.

But my conscience is nagging me. Books mean paper. And paper means trees. If you think about the carbon footprint of getting that book into your hands (printing, binding, shipping, packing, etc.) then you’re really left with one option: the Kindle (although technically, there’s the Nook, too). Not only is it the infinitely greener alternative, it’s also the more convenient. No need to risk shoulder pain from carrying a hardbound book in your handbag, no need to put up shelves in your bedroom, no more hassle when moving homes.  All you need is that tiny, thin gadget and you’re set for half a lifetime of reading.

This just won't feel the same

All good sense and logic tells me that I should get the Kindle already. It’s probably just a matter of time anyway, before printed books become a thing of the past. But stubborn as I am, I don’t want to accept that. Because that means that my dream of a library, full of books that feel heavy in my hands, smooth under my fingers, is an even more distant reality than it already is.  It’s not like I can fill my shelves with hundreds of Kindles. I don’t think that would look this good.

Kindle photo from

The End is Near

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet the book (but really, you should) and don’t want to know about anything that will happen in the 2nd part of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, then don’t read on. I repeat, don’t read on.

In a little less than two weeks time, the moment millions of people have both been anticipating and dreading will come. The 2nd installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallowswill hit screens, capping off one of the (if not THE) biggest movie franchises off all time. I’ll save all the farewell drama for until after I’ve seen the movie. For now, the anticipation still trumps the sadness of the prospect that this movie virtually represents the end of EVERYTHING Harry Potter. So instead of focusing on how sad it will be to have nothing Harry Potter-related to look forward to anymore, here are my thoughts/questions about the upcoming movie:

The epic Empire Magazine Harry Potter commemorative issue

  • Do they even go through Dumbledore’s backstory in detail? In the first movie, they didn’t really touch on the former Hogwarts headmaster and the controversial revelations in his biography, The Life and Times of Albus Dumbledore as much as they did in the book. So I wonder how much they’ll discuss it in the second book. It would be quite a lengthy sidestory involving Dumbledore’s parents, borther and sister and friend Grindelwald. But it’s needed to explain Dumbledore’s obsession with the Deathly Hallows and how he came to possess the Elder Wand, so they can’t do away with it entirely.
  • King’s Cross Station – The part where Dumbledore and Harry meet again in a limbo-version of King’s Cross was my least favorite part of the book. I found it unnecessary and so random, so I wonder if they’ll even bother with it in the movie. If they do, though, I wonder what the scene will look like, since in my (admittedly unimaginative) head it’s just King’s Cross with a fog machine on overdrive.
  • Snape’s Story – Severus Snape’s secret love for Lily Potter is one of JK Rowling’s most brilliant bits story-telling, and that’s saying a lot. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking story, but is quite lengthy, as it goes as far back to when Lily, Snape and even Aunt Petunia Dursley  were children. But I daresay fans will be in an uproar if Snape’s story isn’t told in its full glory. So it will be interesting to see how much screenwriter Steve Kloves put in and took out. Also, I can’t wait to see what a young Petunia looks like.
  • The Epilogue – Will they even show this in the movie? After what surely will be an action-packed face-off between Harry and Voldermort, I think it would anti-climatic to fast-forward to the time when Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermione are sending their kids off to school on the Hogwarts Express. Besides, I don’t really need to see Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson artificially aged 19 years or, worse, replaced by completely different, more adult actors.

There are other things that I wonder about, in terms of what will be in the movie or not (the death of Lupin and Tonks, Grawp) but it’s the in/exclusion of the plot points above, I think, could make or break the movie. I don’t envy Steven Kloves and director David Yates in trying to figure out what will make it and what won’t and how long something will be in if it does make it in… But who am I kidding, even if they condensed Snape’s story into one sentence (which I’m pretty sure they won’t do anyway, if Kloves values his life at all), I’d still be there on opening day (yes, I’m a little pathetic) to watch this movie. It’s the end of an era for me and millions of other readers, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world, even if the whole thing was in 2D animation. Or worse, 3D.

Did I really need another book on Queen Elizabeth I?

You would think that after three books on Elizabeth I, I would have had my fill of Elizabethan history. It all started with Jane Dunn’s excellent book on QE I’s relationship with Mary Queen of Scots. Then that was followed by Alison Weir’s full-on biography. My third one was Sarah Gristwood’s book focusing on Elizabeth’s relationship with the man who was arguably the love of her life, the Earl of Leicester. I’m not even counting my book on her father’s, Henry VIII’s, wives, which of course, touches on some of her childhood. All three books discuss their fascinating subject from different perspectives, there really could be no need for me to buy another one on Elizabeth I’s life, right?


My collection by (From L to R): Sarah Gristwood, Alison Weir, and my top two favorites: Jane Dunn and Anne Somerset

I blame the blurbs, really. On the front, The New York Times Book Review called Anne Somerset’s Elizabeth I “The most comprehensive, the most reliable and the most readable biography of Elizabeth.” Surely high praise given the amount of material on QE I out there. Then on the back, Antonia Fraser, the writer of another favorite historical biography (Marie Antoinette: The Journey) called it her “favourite among the biographies of Queen Elizabeth I.” Man, the people who choose what blurbs to put on the cover of a book sure know their stuff. Like a moth to a flame, I bought the book. Any real Elizabeth I fan needs the book The Sunday Times (London) called the “most balanced and impartial” of them all, right?


Because in my opinion, Anne Somerset’s Elizabeth I is the definitive biography of one of the most fascinating women in our history. Now I am only comparing Somerset’s work to Weir’s as the other two books mentioned are not full biographies because they each focus on one particular relationship of the Queen’s. But I could say that, relative to Weir’s The Life of Elizabeth I, the NYT Book Review was right. Somerset’s work was more comprehensive than Weir’s and, amazingly enough, the more readable one. And Elizabeth I was almost a hundred pages longer! The book was extremely detailed, even after three previous books, I still learned a lot of new things about Elizabeth and her court. But despite all that detail about the protracted but ultimately doomed courtships with the princes of Europe, the naval expeditions against Spain and the frustrating negotiations with the Protestants of the Netherlands, the book never feels weighed down by all the information. Somerset manages to make even things like the suppression of the Puritan movement, or the political maneuvering of Robert Cecil, if not fascinating, then interesting at the least. She lays out the hard, historical facts against a background of emotions, virtues and faults: unwavering loyalty (Lord Burghley), ruthless self-interest (the Earl of Essex), never-ending frustration (the Earl of Leicester, Francis Walsingham, James VI, the whole of parliament, etc.) and genuine concern for the well-being of her people (Elizabeth herself, of course). On the other hand, Weir’s novel reads more like a history textbook, which is not necessarily bad, but it makes it less of a page turner for me.

So yes, obviously, I needed this book. I think any fan of Elizabeth I’s should not be without it. As for the Alison Weir, not so much.

Another reason to envy Kaiser Karl

Or Lola Karl, where I’m from.

Do you remember that scene from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast where the Beast shows Belle the library in his castle? That high-ceilinged library with the bookshelves covering every wall from floor to ceiling, and even balconies and ladders for you to reach the higher shelves? The first time I saw that as a little girl, I was in awe. I wanted a library like that for myself, too.

But I’m an adult now, so I can’t really have 2D cartoons from the nineties as a peg for me hopes and dreams. So, I’ve found my modern-day, floor-to-ceiling-with-balconies-too library in the Paris studio of Karl Lagerfeld, naturellement:

The only thing missing is a particularly hairy prince with an unhealthy obessession with a flower.

Did your jaw drop? I know mine did. But after the initial shock has worn off, my mind started to buzz with questions:

  • Has Karl actually read all of those books? If yes, where in the world does he find the time do that?
  • How are the books arranged? By topic? By author? How in the world do you find anything?
  • Does he have a personal librarian (if there’s anyone in the world who would have a librarian on his payroll, it would be Lola Karl)? If no, can I apply for the position?
  • What made him of think of storing the books horizontally?
  • Those couches look like heaven to veg out and read in, but does Karl even veg out? Can you imagine him lying in one of those couches in his sweats and just curled up and reading? Does he even own sweats? (no and probably no, by the way)
  • Is Karl in the market for a personal librarian/shelve arranger/book duster? Again, I’d like to apply volunteer for the position. I will gladly accept payment in the form of Chanel.

But seriously, it must be wonderful to be surrounded by all that. As if it wasn’t already wonderful enough to be Karl Lagerfeld.

My future employer.

Photos from The Selby is in Your Place via Jolanda Van Den Berg and HayanCafe

How the Queen of England changed my (reading) life

Not the current one, though, I meant the first Elizabeth. And along with her, Mary Queen of Scots.

For some strange reason, I still remember the moments leading up to my purchase of Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens. It was from the since-closed bookstore/café Libreria along Tomas Morato and I was choosing between that book and another on Henry VIII’s six wives. I had my father choose between the two, since he was paying for it (oh, those were the good old days) and I suppose he didn’t think that the marital tangles of Henry VIII was appropriate material for a teenage girl. Hence, I ended up going home with Jane Dunn’s book.

To borrow from Harry Potter: “Neither can live while the other survives”

And that decision would impact my reading list for years to come. The stories of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots are remarkable and fascinating enough on their own. However, told together, their stories take on a different dimension, as the fate of both Queens are irrevocably intertwined but their interests entirely conflicting.

As their stories unfolded, it was amazing to see how each Queen’s character and disposition was shaped by the circumstances of their early lives. Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and the infamously beheaded Anne Boleyn, was declared a bastard by her own father (a cloud that hung over her reign for most of her life), excluded from the succession to the throne, subsequently reinstated in the succession, then barred again by her own brother and detained and gruelingly questioned under the suspicion of treason and threat of her servants’ and her own beheading. All this before she turned fifteen. If that doesn’t toughen a girl up, I don’t know what will. Meanwhile, Mary was the undisputed Queen of Scotland at six DAYS old, arranged to be married to the dauphin and sent to France at the age of five, doted on and fussed over as an honorary Child of France and Queen of France and Scotland by fifteen.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There are a myriad of other contrasts between these two regnant Queens (in religion, in the company they kept, their views on marriage, etc.), but the fact remains that they could not escape each other, that, everyday, the other is reminded, often unpleasantly, by the existence of the other. With Mary having the strongest legitimate claim to Elizabeth’s throne, the two of them struggled to find a balance of appeasing each other and at the same time forwarding and protecting their conflicting interests. And as if that wasn’t enough tension, the nobles around them were busy jostling for favor, shifting their loyalties to where they stand to gain the most.

And it is this heady and fascinating recipe of intrigue, betrayal, treason and murder that has started me on a years-long journey of European historical royal biographies. Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens has opened up a world of larger-than-life characters: headstrong kings and queens, unruly heirs to the throne, mistresses both revered (Madame du Pompadour) and reviled (the Countess du Barry), countless dukes, earls, counts and their wives all falling all over themselves to court royal favor and advance their interests. If I had a dollar for every time my jaw dropped at every weird court ritual (Mary Antoinette having to give birth in full view of France’s highest ranking nobles), lavish palace (Versailles), betrayal (of Marie Antoinette’s son), genius plot (the Babington plot) and beheading (there were a LOT), I’d be able to buy that Hermès Jigé Elan.

Even without that the clutch, though, the opportunity to journey back through time, into the incredible lives and minds of the men and women who used to rule the world is reward enough. And I have Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots to thank for that. Long live the Queen, indeed.

Cover photo from

Sweet Valley: The one that started it all

I love to read. I can’t imagine my life without books. As horribly corny as it sounds, I don’t think I’d be the same person I am now if I didn’t read. I can’t say exactly how and why reading changed my life, but I’m sure it did. At the very least, I’d like to think it helped my writing and my vocabulary (feel free to contradict me, though. Hehe.).

And I still remember the first book I ever read. And by “first” I mean the first one I read at my own choosing, purely because I felt like it.  School books, fairy tale story books or book report assignments don’t count. This was the one that started it all:

I have them to blame for my bookworm-iness

I was in 2nd grade when I borrowed this book from my classmate and first ever best friend Frances.  Sweet Valley Kids #9: Elizabeth’s Super Selling Lemonade kickstarted my lifelong love of books, and I guess I have her and the Wakefield twins to thank for that. At 8 years old, I found the lives of the blond, blue eyed twins and their perfect parents (Alice and Ned), their typical older brother (Steven) and their friends (snooty Lila Fowler, tomboyish Amy Sutton) fascinating. I can’t be completely sure, but I think I read all the books in the Kids series.

You could say that I grew up with the Wakefield twins, because after the Kids series (where the twins are in 2nd grade like me), I moved on to the Twins series with the twins in middle school. There are more than 150 (!!!) of them and I think I read them all, including the special editions, the Unicorn Club series, and the two books where the twins compete in the California games. I think I owned the first 40 books, as well as a lot of the Unicorn books, but mostly I borrowed from my classmates or from the library. I even remember hiding the books behind other books in different shelves so that no one else could borrow them (bad, I know!), if I met the maximum number of books I could borrow at a time.

I also read the Sweet Valley Sagas, the ancestral stories of the Wakefields (both Ned’s and Alice’s sides), the Patmans and the Fowlers. I suppose the Bruce Patman’s and Lila’s families got Magna editions because they were the wealthiest in the town.

I stopped at Sweet Valley Twins though, as I dared not touch Sweet Valley High. With attempted date rape, manslaughter trials, parents having affairs and murderous dopplegangers, I figured the material was too mature for my 13 year old self. But the seed was planted and a book-hiding, lifelong bookworm was born. I didn’t just discover the Sweet Valley books, but through those frequent trips to the library, a whole previously undiscovered world opened up to me. I read similar, pre-teen fare like Nancy Drew and the Babysitters club, but also classics such as The Secret Garden, Little Women and A Little Princess. And I am still at it, almost twenty years later. The smell of the paper, the thrill of that first line, the feel of turning a page still enthralls me today as much as it did then.

And for that, I have a friend named Frances, a creator named Francine and twins named Jessica and Elizabeth to thank.

Which book started YOU on the journey of reading?

Photo of SVK #9 cover from Google images.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was great, but…

While I was excited as anybody about the showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 1, for me and perhaps the millions of others who grew up with the boy who lived, there was a little sadness as well. I finished the final book of the Harry Potter series years ago (in one night!) and there was sadness in reading those final pages, too. There’s always some grief when something wondrous and beautiful ends, and the biggest movie franchise in history is no exception.

Thank goodness the decided to split the last book of the J.K. Rowling series into two movies. Cramming the 759 pages into 3 hours would not only have been a mistake from a moneymaking storytelling point of view, it would also have been a disservice to the loyal readers who have been with Harry, Ron and Hermione every step and spell of the way. With two movies for the last book, fans get to prepare for themselves for the end and to say a long goodbye.

I don’t envy the writers of the screenplay for the last two movies. It must be nerve-wracking to decide which parts get to stay and which parts to cut out of the book, knowing full well that you won’t be able to please all the millions of fans, some of whom probably memorize the Sorting Hat’s song from The Sorcerer’s Stone. As if that wasn’t hard enough, there was also the question of adding scenes that weren’t in the book. All in all, I think the writers did a brilliant job in their choices and I totally understand why they made them (doesn’t really add to the story, run time limitations, etc.). But I still can’t help but wish for the inclusion of a few subplots/scenes from the book:

Dudley’s goodbye: We haven’t seen the Dursleys since The Order of the Phoenix and since their final book appearance should have been at the start of the first movie, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see them again. Although I know that that scene is of zero plot value, it still would’ve been nice to see Dudley’s apparent concern for Harry when he, Vernon and Petunia were leaving to go into hiding. Wouldn’t it have been worth the additional 2-3 minutes to hear Dudley say this line: “I don’t think you’re a waste of space”?

The story of RAB: In hindsight, this subplot is not really essential to the story of the Horcruxes. That doesn’t make it any less compelling. Regulus Arcturus Black was the one who took the real locket Horcrux from that secluded cave. Not without the help of Kreacher, of course. Their story, dispensable as it was, was incredibly sad, brave and touching and was also the twist no one saw coming. There was a brief mention of it in the movie, but not enough, in my opinion, to give Regulus and Kreacher the full credit they were due.

Harry and Ginny’s kiss: Yes, this was in the book and in the movie. But I didn’t quite like how it came about in the movie. Really, Ginny? In a house with your mother, Fleur and Hermione, not to mention your gaggle of brothers, you couldn’t find someone else to zip up your dress? And, she’s sixteen! If she were my daughter, I’d slap her silly. Then again, I don’t live in constant fear of Voldemort apparating on my doorstep (plus,she was planning a wedding!), so I guess Mrs. Weasley has more important things to think about than her daughter traipsing around the house un-fully dressed.

When Hermione says “Ron”: I don’t really NEED this in the movie, but I would’ve appreciated if they actually showed Hermione saying Ron’s name which he heard in Deluminator. It would’ve taken, what, five seconds? It would’ve saved me the head-scratching and the text messages sent to other Harry Potter fans, asking them in what scene Hermione actually did this. It just… stressed me out. Really.

Spoiler alert: if you have never read the book and don’t intend to find out what is going to happen in the second movie, then do not read past this warning.

Lupin vs. Harry: Again, in the grand scheme of things, this particular subplot wasn’t a critical loss to the Harry vs. Voldemort story. But I think it’s these little sub-plots that make the story more human and not just a sweeping one about the fight of good versus evil. Harry’s bitter grief over growing up without father that causes him to lash out at Lupin, when the latter suggests assisting the trio in their quest, at the expense of abandoning his pregnant wife Tonks. Their argument at Grimmauld Place was one of the more emotional and human (non-Voldemort-caused) conflicts in the entire series. And their subsequent reconciliation, when Lupin asks Harry to become godfather to little Teddy Lupin, was poignant and heartbreakingly sad and happy at the same time. This is made all the more so when, in the battle against the Dark Lord, both (SPOILER ALERT!) Lupin and Tonks die, leaving Harry as the Sirius Black (minus the accusations of murder, of course) to Teddy’s orphaned Harry (minus the lightning scar, too). *cue the tissues!*

On the other side of the coin, there was one non-book scene that the writers chose to include in the movie that I thought was brilliant. Harry and Hermione’s impromptu dancing scene was funny, cute, lonely, light and heavy at the same time. Some people think that it looked like Harry was trying to test the romantic waters with Hermione in this scene. I think that’s totally off the mark, though. If you watched the movies (you don’t even have to read the books), from The Sorcerer’s Stone to The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire, it is clear that these two are more of brother and (older and wiser) sister. I think they understand each other too well (Hermione can tell when Harry’s lying, Harry can tell when Hermione is hurting, etc.) to be able to have any sort of romantic feelings toward one another. Their brief dance scene, made appropriately hilarious by Daniel Radcliffe’s bad, white-boy dancing was just another one of these instances. And, really, after Ron’s walkout and the danger and the frustrations, I felt they needed a breather, a couple of minutes to just be silly and laugh at themselves a little bit, a break before they faced their daunting task again. I know I needed that.

Anyway, as I already said, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a great movie. And, I can’t really blame the writers for cutting out the subplots they chose to exclude, or else the movie would’ve lasted forever. But, this is the last book, and this is Harry Potter, and I’m all for anything that would prolong the wonderful, magical experience that were the books and the movies. Maybe the movie would’ve been three hours long (versus the actual 2 hrs, 27 mins) but I wouldn’t have minded one bit. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Movie poster from

The Battle for my Heart, Pt. 3

And so here we are. It all boils down to this. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Keira Knightley and Matthew McFadyan vs. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. It might as well be Pacquiao vs. Mayweather for boxing fans, the Backstreet Boys vs. *N Sync for, well, me (and for tons of other people who are ashamed to admit it, too, for sure). I’m awarding three points to the winner of for each character. The book is their story, after all and one of the greatest love stories in fiction, at that.

Jennifer Ehle vs Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet

There were some striking similarities between Jennifer Ehle and Keira Knightley in their portrayal of the second Bennet sister. There are times when they sound like each other when delivering their lines, they have similar laughs and sound the same when they were crying in that scene after receiving Jane’s letter regarding Lydia’s elopement. It was actually quite weird. But despite these parallels, I think one of them definitely outshines the other in her portrayal of one of literature’s most beloved heroines.

Keira Knightley, simply put, is a better actress than Jennifer Ehle, and, no, I’m not just saying that because she was nominated for her first Oscar for this role. Despite her having about half the screen time that her BBC counterpart has, you get more out of Knigtley than you do from Ehle. You got more “fire” from her in the scene where she interrogates Darcy while dancing at Netherfield. You actually felt and shared her embarrassment when talking to Mr. Darcy during that fateful meeting on the grounds of Pemberley. And you empathized with her during Jane’s engagement, where, although extremely delighted for her sister, Elizabeth was still wistful about what could have been her engagement, what could have been her own happy news.

I suppose this is where Knightley excelled. She took you along for the rollercoaster ride of Elizabeth Bennet’s feelings, whereas in miniseries, you just watched Ehle go through the motions. Ehle is by no means a terrible actress, far from that. It just so happened that she was up against a Keira Knightley who was giving what was so far the breakthrough performance of her career.

Winner: Keira Knightley

Colin Firth vs Matthew McFadyen as Mr. Darcy

Let’s face it, Mr. Darcy is the be all and the end all of anything related to Pride & Prejudice. If you screw up casting this role, you might as well throw in the towel and turn your movie/miniseries into Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey or some other Austen novel where the lead male could be easily played by some random, reasonably handsome, staid Englishman (please exclude Persuasion’s Captain Wentworth from this category). Thankfully, both the movie and the miniseries did fine jobs of casting Mr. Darcy.

Colin Firth, it must be said, is the more handsome Darcy. Firth, with this strong jaw line, high cheekbones and straight nose is handsome in a more traditional sense than McFadyen. It takes some time to buy into McFadyen as the dashing landlord of ten thousand a year but he more than makes up for this trivial disadvantage in other ways.

As with the other characters, Firth benefits from the additional screen time afforded by the mini-series. Through the flashbacks and expositional scenes (that weren’t even in the book), you get a better understanding of Darcy’s motivations and get a better appreciation of his efforts in finding the reviled Wickham and the doomed Lydia. So in that scene where all is revealed between Lizzie and Darcy, you really feel it when the latter says to the former, “Surely, you know, it was all for you.” (*sigh*)

But to be completely honest, as willing as I was to get kilig by Colin Firth, he doesn’t even come close to the swooning induced by Matthew McFadyen’s Darcy. While miniseries-diehards will insist that compared to Firth, McFadyen was stiff and flat, I vehemently beg to differ. McFadyen astutely conveys Darcy’s struggles in holding back his feelings for Elizabeth, feelings which overcome his pride and studied restraint. A perfect example of this is his initial proposal scene, perfectly played out in the rain in a stunning, secluded setting (who could forget “I love you. Most ardently.” ). McFadyen transitions from confident, nervous, confused, hurt, indignant and jealous in the space of a thrilling three minutes. Firth’s corresponding scene falls flat in comparison, though not entirely through his fault (I suppose he can’t help it if the scene was written that way).

Movie Darcy also wins the battle of Pemberley. In that embarrassing first meeting he catches Elizabeth running away from the house as fast as she could. The tension, the embarrassment and awkwardness between these two who so obviously have feelings for each other is so real, so relatable and so charmingly palpable in that scene (plus points for the flustered Keira Knightley, as well). In the book, Darcy’s manner towards Elizabeth takes a 180 degree turn, and the change is distinct in McFadyen yet seamless and natural. In Firth, not so much.

So who wins it for me? I finished watching the miniseries thinking it was going to be a draw, but on closer inspection, Matthew McFadyen trumps Colin Firth as the definitive Darcy. As with Keira Knightley above, I just got more out of McFadyen. As vague as it sounds, his Darcy is more layered and more complex than Firth’s. Although I knew exactly what was going to happen, movie Darcy still made me swoon and giddy and go “awwwww…” more times than I could count: when Lizzie first caught his attention at the public ball, when he unexpectedly handed her into the carriage, when he first blurted our “I love you”, when he was walking towards Lizzie at dawn (I can actually hear the music in my head), etc., etc. And isn’t that the point of Mr. Darcy: to make us swoon and kilig and believe in love?

The handsomer (hehe…) Colin Firth made me believe in love a little, too, though. So I score this two points to the movie, one point to the miniseries.

Final Tally: BBC: 3, Movie: 10

The ultimate Lizzie and Darcy

After careful and logical (I hope) inspection, the 2005 movie triumphs over the 1995 BBC miniseries. Better casting and acting wins it for director Joe Wright. A more dramatic, emotional script, no doubt dictated by the run time limitations of a movie, also outweighed the character development benefits of the longer miniseries.

So after hours and hours of watching and more hours of blogging, I ended up where I started anyway: with Pride & Prejudice, the movie, unchallenged in my heart as my favorite movie and the definitive screen adaptation of the Jane Austen masterpiece.

Do you agree or have I been blinded by MY prejudice for the movie? Let me know in the comments!

The Battle for my Heart Pt. 2

The movie had a strong showing in the previous round, thanks to Brenda Blethyn’s endearingly annoying portrayal of Mrs. Bennet, Rosamund Pike’s beauty as the eldest Bennet sister, Jane, and the unfortunate casting of the Lucy Briers as Mary in the miniseries.

In this round, let’s see if the BBC Mr. Bingley, Mr. Collins, Wickham and Lady Catherine could overturn the deficit.

Crispin Bonham-Carter vs Simon Woods as Charles Bingley

The BBC Bingley

This is another tough one. On one hand, I love the Simon Woods’s red-haired, completely charming and slightly geeky Mr. Bingley. His blundering proposal rehearsal with Mr. Darcy by the lake in front of Longbourn is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. And his actual proposal is just hilariously sweet (“First, I must tell you I’ve been the most unmitigated and comprehensive ass”).

The Movie Bingley

But on one hand, I wonder if the movie Bingley was too goofy, a little too clueless. Crispin Bonham-Carter’s portrayal is still true to character (easy to please, easy to persuade, etc.) without bordering on the geeky. He also benefits from the longer screen time Bingley gets. We get more insight into his feelings, such as when we see that he hasn’t forgotten the exact day he last saw Jane when he and Elizabeth meet again at Lambton, and in his indignance in finding out that Darcy manipulated him into leaving Hertfordshire. This was a very close fight, and I myself was surprised at the result. Crispin Bonham-Carter finally scores one for the miniseries.

David Bamber vs Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins

Mr. Collins is probably the silliest character in the story, what with his famously rehearsed manners, inflated sense of entitlement and his overall ridiculousness. It would be easy to overdo it, and turn Mr. Collins into a creepy, slimy caricature. And, unfortunately, that is exactly where David Bamber took his portrayal of the future master of Longbourn. The hand rubbing, the greasy hair and that simpering smile was just overall too creepy and slightly reminded me of the creature Gollum from LOTR. Mr. Collins is unlikeable enough, it’s unnecessary to make him so creepy that you’d have nightmares about him.  Tom Hollander, on the other hand, strikes the right balance and it is believable that the Bennets would let someone like him near their daughters.

Adrian Lukis vs Rupert Friend as George Wickham

I am so tempted to award this to Rupert Friend (a.k.a. Keira Knightley’s real-life boyfriend) because, well, look at him. He is absolutely gorgeous. But in the interests of objectivity, I refuse to be swayed by Friend’s hotness and will evaluate him and Lukis logically.

The Movie Mr. Wickham

The BBC Mr. Wickham

In my opinion, they played Wickham pretty much the same way. But I’m scoring this the miniseries’ way because Lukis’ Wickham offers more hope of a happy union with Lydia than Friend’s does. Despite the knowledge that they probably both deserve the most miserable existence possible, one can’t help but feel a little pity at their lowly situation in life. At the very least, for the other Bennet sisters’ sakes, you hope that they don’t divorce/kill each other and “ruin” the family. And this is why, despite his physical advantage, the movie Wickham loses out to his small-screen counterpart. Adrian Lukis shows more affection towards Lydia and the Bennet family than Rupert Friend, whose forceful pulling of Lydia in the carriage director Joe Wright labeled as “domestic violence”.

Barbara Leigh-Hunt vs Judy Dench as Lady Catherine De Bourgh

The BBC Lady Catherine

Like I need to even explain this one, no? It’s unfair to Barbara Leigh-Hunt, really, to be matched up against THE Dame Judi Dench. Leigh-Hunt has none of the presence (physical and otherwise), none of the imposing aura that Dench has, which the role of Lady Catherine requires. In the costumes alone, the BBC version of Mr. Darcy’s aunt loses out. As the pictures demonstrate, Barbara Leigh-Hunt looks nothing like the arrogant, iron-willed matriarch she’s supposed to be, whereas Dame Judi Dench (I feel like I always have to say “Dame”) emanates wealth and power. But it’s not just the clothes that are lacking. Whereas you paid attention to the BBC Lady Catherine because you had to, you paid attention to the movie version because you’re scared of what will happen to you if you don’t. Leigh-Hunt has to resort to yelling for you to notice her, Judi Dench just has to BE THERE.

The Movie Lady Catherine

Score Recap: BBC: 2; Movie: 5

So, despite the valiant efforts of the BBC Bingley and Wickham, the deficit still remains at three points for the movie. But that lead could easily be blown away in the next round, when I award two points for each win. For the last battle, I finally tackle the BBC and movie portrayals of one of the most beloved couples in literature: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

I can’t wait! Even I don’t know how it’s going to turn out yet.

The Battle for my Heart: Pride & Prejudice the movie vs the BBC miniseries, Pt. 1

Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of all time. Words cannot express how much I adore this book, and it’s hard to imagine this Jane Austen masterpiece being toppled from top spot in my heart. It’s almost a given, then, that the 2005 movie based on the book is my favorite movie of all time. And I loved it, not just because it was based on P&P, but because it was an excellent adaptation. The casting was inspired, the settings were absolutely breathtaking (Chatsworth! *sigh*) and the script successfully condensed everything essential to the beloved love story into two hours.

However, I did know that there was another adaptation that was more popular, more beloved by Jane Austen fans. The 1995 BBC miniseries has long been touted as the definitive Pride & Prejudice adaptation and the release of the movie didn’t change that perception significantly. My adoration for all things Darcy and Bennet dictates that I watch the BBC version eventually, but I held off. I wanted to be objective and didn’t want my love for the film to color my opinion of the miniseries. I wanted to be objective, so waited for the initial rapture over the film to subside. Five years and more than 50 viewings later, I finally purchased my BBC miniseries DVD (at 50% discount!).

So finally, I am able to evaluate both versions and determine which adaptation (and which Mr. Darcy) deserves the ultimate place in my heart. My goal is to come to that choice as objectively as possible and take into account certain advantages a 1995 miniseries would have over a 2005 movie (longer running time) and vice versa (better technology, bigger-named actors). It’s not just a matter of “oh, Keira Knightley is prettier”. No ,this’ll be logical and objective and serious and will have a points system.

First up, the Bennet Family (with the 1995 actors first). This is as much a commentary on their performances as it is on the way their characters were written for the screen:

L to R: Lydia, Mr. Bennet, Jane, Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, Elizabeth & Mary

Alison Steadman vs Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet

It’s tough to play Mrs. Bennet, the silly, overbearing, tactless but ultimately well-intentioned matriarch of the Bennet brood, without turning her into the typical annoying-mother caricature. And this is where Brenda Blethyn ultimately succeeds and Alsion Steadman categorically fails. Both their renditions of Mrs. Bennet are silly, annoying and tactless, to be sure. However, Blethyn wins it for me because despite all her faults (and there are many), she still manages to make me love Mrs. Bennet. She may nag and embarrass her children, but you could see that it’s done out of love, out of concern for their futures. Steadman, on the other hand, just comes off as irritating and downright rude, especially to Mr. Darcy. In the scene where they pick up Jane from Netherfield, she basically attacks and yells at Mr. Darcy (complete with eye-bulging intensity), which Mrs. Bennet will never do.

Benjamin Whitrow vs Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet

Benjamin Whitrow greatly benefits from the additional screen time afforded him by the length of a mini-series. Donald Sutherland, while more endearing, only has about five minutes on screen, which is barely enough time to appreciate the dilemmas faced by Mr. Bennet. In the miniseries, we get more insight into his regrets about not saving for his daughter’s futures and his warnings to his daughters about marrying a partner you don’t respect. If Whitrow only had more of Sutherland’s fatherly tenderness, especially towards Elizabeth (who could forget that final scene?), then this would have been a clear win for the miniseries. As it stands, it’s a draw.

From L to R: Lydia, Mr. & Mrs. B, Elizabeth, Jane, Mary and Kitty

Susannah Harker vs Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet

While it seems shallow to award points based onhow attractive the actors are, I think it’s appropriate in this case. Jane Bennet was described in the book as the beauty of the county, an “angel” in Mr. Bingley’s words.  And while Susannah Harker is by no means unattractive, Rosamund Pike’s ethereal, delicate beauty lives up to the lofty praise of the eldest Bennet. Pike and Harker are practically even in the acting stakes, with Pike maybe with a slight edge for her delivery of the line “Yes, a thousand times yes” (plus additional points for having to deliver that line to her ex-boyfriend Simon Woods).

Lucy Briers, Julia Sawalha and Polly Maberly vs Talulah Riley, Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan as Mary, Lydia and Kitty Bennet

This one was an easy decision for me. For the life of me, I cannot begin to understand the casting decisions for the BBC miniseries. I particularly object to Lucy Briers as Mary. The third Bennet sister can be no more than 19 years old, and Briers looks at least 30 (I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just being honest). The makeup and costume department didn’t do her any favors either with the glasses and dark circles under her eyes. The BBC producers make the same mistake in casting Lydia as well, but not to same extent as with Mary. Julia Sawalha looks much older than the 15 year old girl she plays.

On the acting and character development front, the BBC Mary disappoints as well. She was written as dreary, tiresome and like she thought she was better than everybody else. I swear, I needed to suppress the urge to throw the remote at the TV whenever Mary (and Mrs. Bennet) appeared on screen. Talulah Riley’s Mary was still dull and dreary (Mary is supposed to be like that), but more because she was awkward, a little clueless and had different interests from her sisters. You feel sorry for her, as you would for a sister who is overshadowed by the beauty of the elder ones and by the rambunctiousness of the younger set. Case in point: in the scene where Mary is asked to stop playing and singing, Riley touchingly bursts into tears. As for the Kittys and the Lydias, both sets of the two youngest Bennets are appropriately giggly, boisterous and boy-crazy. It’s just more acceptable behavior in girls who actually look like teenagers. But I won’t deduct points for that twice.

Score Recap: BBC: 0; Movie: 3 (I didn’t score for draws)

So, in this round, despite my valiant endeavors at objectivity, the movie Bennets pretty much hammered the BBC Bennets. Let’s see if the BBC can overturn the deficit in the next round where I evaluate the other minor characters.

What do YOU think? Have I been too harsh on the BBC Bennets? Has my love for the movie made the miniseries suffer in comparison?