Monday, 18 November 2013

My favourite rereads

When I have read a book, it will almost always fit into one of 3 categories:
1. The book was good/bad, and now I can say I have read it, but I will never open it again.
2. I enjoyed reading this, and I'll probably read it again eventually.
3. Those books that can be reread an indefinite amount of times and never lose their charm - even though I know every detail of the plot.

As you might guess, not many books makes it into category 3 - but the few that does......need I say more?

This is some of the books that I have read so many times, that I won't even try to count it.

The Mysterious Island
This one is actually the first classic I ever read, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It's a story about 5 men who strand on a desolate island, and start up a new life. I have a weakness for cast away stories, where the characters must start from scratch, so this one is an obvious favourite. And then later on mysterious things starts to happen on the island (hence the title), so there's excitement and tension. And for the hardcore Jules Verne fan, there is the unexpected but welcome references to some of his other books. So there's nothing bad to say about this book, and I'll admit I have sometimes started reading it, even though I had only just finished it. You can't do that with many books.

Settlers in Canada
Another great book from the time when the only classics I read, was the ones I could find in my parents collection. This is a story about a family from England, who loses their fortune, and then emigrate to Canada to start a new life. Again, I love stories about people who have to start over. The story is exciting and full of drama, and there is a wide range of different characters and personalities. Nothing more to say - it's just a great book.

Anne of Green Gables
Ever since I read this the first time, I was hooked. One book wasn't enough - I had to read all 8 of them. The story about orphan Anne Shirley with the vivid imagination, who makes friends everywhere, and gets in all kinds of mischief, is just a masterpiece. I love the way L.M. Montgomery turns an ordinary life, in an ordinary village into an adventure. How she portrays all the little vignettes and anecdotes, that makes a life. I simply can't express how much I love these books. I always end up reading it at least once a year - sometimes the entire series, and sometimes only the first few books. But if it's possible I enjoy it even more every time I read it anew. Lovely...just lovely.

Little Women
This is another book that I truly, truly love. The touching story about the 4 sisters who struggle to be good and selfless. It is quite obvious that the book was meant to educate young women - it is full of lessons on how to be good, but luckily not in a patronizing way. The characterizations are beautifully done, and the story is heartfelt and true. And this book is unique in another way to me - it's the only book to date, that makes me cry every single time I read it (which is quite a feat, for I don't do crying). 

Pride and Prejudice
That this one is at the bottom of the list, doesn't mean it's my least favourite. It's just the newest addition to my list, and the only one I actually still remember how many times I've read (5 or 6 times I think - it's a little blurry). But it's a classic, that can't be read to many times. I admit my approach to this one is a bit different. I don't normally read it from start to end, rather I reread my favourite passages, which ends up in me reading almost the entire book - though a little backwards. I love how every time I read it, I notice new details in the story, new nuances to the characters, and understand the story better.

This is a few of those books I can always read, if anything else fails. And I often find that I miss the stories if I haven't read them in a while - as I'm starting to do now as I write of them. It's such a hard choice now: should I start reading one of my new projects, or just reread an old beloved favourite?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Classical music in period dramas

Do you know that moment in a period drama where someone starts to play the piano, and you think:
WOW, this is the most amazing piece ever, what is it called, I wanna find it and listen to it forever, find the sheet music and play it myself over and over and over?'s happened to me a few times...or maybe a lot of times.

Some of my favourite classical music I had never heard of before, and then it was in a movie, and I was thinking: Where have this been all my life?

My absolute favourite right now is this one from The Young Victoria

It's called the Swan Song (or Serenade) and is written by Schubert. The theme is used in the movie, when Albert is thinking of Victoria, from afar. It fits perfectly in the mood of those scenes, and then it is just altogether beautiful. I'm trying to play it myself, but it is a bit harder than you would think - but the struggle will definitely be worth it.

Another piece I love, is one i discovered the last time, I watched Pride & Prejudice (1995). It's the piece Georgiana plays at Pemberley, where Darcy and Elizabeth share a tender moment. Again the music is perfect for underlining the scene, but it is also a very nice piece in itself.

 It's called Andante Favori (or Andante in F major) and is written by Beethoven, if anyone is interested.

The country dances in P&P are wonderful too. There are links to all of them at The Republic of Pemberley, but my favourite to play myself is this one:

Some times I am a bit surprised to find which pieces are originally written for the movie, and which ones are actual period music. In Pride & Prejudice (2005) I was certain, that the music Elizabeth and Darcy danced to was specifically written for that scene. And I was very disappointed not to find the sheet music in the soundtrack. But after some research and a brief visit to Imdb, I discovered it was actually a variation of the Abdelazer Rondo. Who would have guessed it? Now I can finally play that one too.

So, can be a bit trying sometimes to track down all the music I hear in period dramas, and even harder to find sheet music to it. But I guess that's what you get, when you just have to play the pieces yourself.

So, this was a few of my classical favourites in period dramas.
I'll probably do a post some other time completely dedicated to some of the best original music made for period dramas.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

5 classic musicals

Recently I have been watching a lot of the classic Hollywood musicals, and it has opened a whole new world full of singing and dancing.
I have seen some of the big classics that everybody know, some of my all time favourites, and then some I had never heard of before. 
So I decided to rate them, so you'll know which ones you can miss, and which ones you can't live without seeing. I'm taking both the plot and the songs into consideration, before rating it on a scale from 1 to 10.

West Side Story

The plot: Tony and Maria fall in love with each other, but find it is hard to be together, when they have connections to rivaling gangs.

At first the plot goes very slowly, as in many musicals, but it soon picks up the pace, and the tension rises right until the end.
At the opening scenes, however, I almost had second thoughts about watching the movie at all - and then again, I have never laughed so much as at these first minutes, and it wasn't even intentional. But you gotta admit, having a hardcore street gang dancing ballet through the streets is worth quite a laugh.
But that was the only time the dancing worked against the plot - all the other dance numbers fitted beautifully into the scenes.

The songs: The songs are great. The first songs is, I admit, nothing special, but then all the big hits come in line. I think they underline the plot quite well, without stalling it unnecessarily. And the songs are very expressive. Some of them make you really happy and some of them make you really sad - according to the purpose of the song.
Favourite songs: My original favourite song was "Maria", but the songs "Tonight" and "Somewhere" are so beautiful. And "America" is really funny. So it's safe to say I just love most of the songs.


Annie get your gun

The plot: Annie, who is a great shooter, falls in love with fellow shooter Frank Butler, and therefore joins the wild west show he is touring with, and tries to become the sort of girl he could love.

I gotta say I wasn't impressed with this movie. The plot didn't make much sense,
and I didn't feel the characters. I actually didn't like Annie that much, but I think that was because the actress overacted - especially during the songs. It would have been fine on a stage, but in a movie it was just too much. And don't get me started on the relationship: at first she likes him and he doesn't know, then suddenly he likes her too (and you are never explained why), then they fight, then they make up, then they fight again - you get the pattern right?

The songs: The songs weren't bad, but they weren't fantastic either. Most of them were rather forgettable, with a few exceptions of cause. And most of them were just too long, doing nothing or very little for the plot.

Favourite songs: Definitely "They say it's wonderful", that song is just so beautiful and touching, and makes the entire movie worth seeing.



The plot: The cowboy Curly, loves Laurey, who lives at a farm. She likes him too, but have a hard time admitting it.

When I had to summarise the plot, I realised the movie doesn't have much of a plot. But that doesn't mean I was bored at all watching it. It's true the main plot isn't anything special - but the subplot, with the love story between the cowboy who needs 50 $ to marry his girlfriend, but keeps spending them buying her presents, and the girl who just can't make up her mind, which of her admirers she likes the best. That's just priceless.
All in all it's a very nice movie, where you quite forget the lack of plot because of all the good songs. And although it really tries to build up some dramatic tension, it is released so quickly that the dramatic climax is a bit anticlimactic. (But who am I to complain about that - I hate it when there's too much drama in a movie)
And then there's the is all very well done, but there is this 10-minute dancing sequence that could have been cut without any loss to the film.   

The songs: What to say about the songs? They tie the the film very nicely together, and blend into the plot just fine. And they are great!! Most of them have gotten a permanent place on my play list of favourite musical songs. There are the light and funny songs, beautiful love ballads, and the big numbers sung by the entire cast.
I think there was one song, that i didn't understand was there, because it did nothing for the plot, but 1 out of 12 is quite good odds.

Favourite songs: Hard to decide, but "The surrey with the fringe on top" was a definite favourite from the first time I heard it. And "I can't say no" is a light and funny song, sung by one of the secondary characters. And never forget "Many a new day".

Rating: 8,0

My fair Lady

The plot: Phonetics expert Professor Higgins bets that he can pass a poor flower
girl, Eliza, off as a duchess if she learns to speak proper English.

This is an old favourite of mine. The story is original and funny, the actors portray the characters really well - especially Rex Harrison as the rude professor Higgins. And furthermore the costumes are gorgeous, and there are plenty of them. The only thing that can possibly pull down, is the length.

The songs: Don't get me started on the songs, they are just great. Some of them sweet and some of them really funny. They style fits the movie nicely, and they melt completely into the plot. Some may say that Professor Higgins' songs cant' exactly be categorised as songs, and are a bit long - and I see their points, but I gotta admit, I laugh so hard through these songs, that I don't notice the length, and never would cut even a line out.

Favourite songs: I love them all!!! But I especially love "I could have danced all night", "Wouldn't it be loverly?" and "The street where you live".

Rating: 9,5

State fair

The plot: A couple and their grown up children, Wayne and Margy, goes to the annual state fair. Romance of course ensues.

This is a really feel-good film. It's not so much a musical, as some of the other on this list. More a movie with some great songs. The plot moves at a slow pace, but in this movie, that is half the charm. It takes place in the 30's or 40's, and to me it tells a story of another time/era where things just did go slower.
It has everything that characterises a classic movie: a fair, a girl longing for adventure, an unforgettable first meeting, an ensuing romance, a little drama and not to forget the unlikely love story between two pigs. Everything you need to make a classic.
Another great thing, is the costumes - I would see the movie again and again just to look at the dresses.

The songs: As I said it is not so much "musical songs", sung as part of the plot, as it is songs sung by a singer in the background. But that doesn't mean the songs aren't good. They fit the movie beautifully in style, and listening to them just makes you happy.

Favourite songs: Definitely "It's a grand night for singing", it's just such a feel-good song.

Rating: 7,5 you agree with the ratings?
I know I am only scratching the surface of the musical world with this post,so I am planning to make it into a series, as I watch more musicals.

If you have any suggestions to a musical that is a must-see, let me know in a comment.

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