Monday, January 30, 2012

Do You Hear the People Sing?

(Slightly more informative title: My Review of Les Miserables, The Musical)

One day to a new beginning
Raise the flag of freedom high
Every man will be a king, every man will be a king!
There's a new world for the winning
There's a new world to be won!
Do you hear the people sing? 

(In actual fact, nothing in particular is happening tomorrow [for me at least] other than school, chores, more school, blog-hopping, and did I mention school?  Also exercising while listening to the Les Miserables cast album.  Er-hrm.  But I adore these lyrics and so even though I'm not waiting "one day more" for anything special, I decided to post those anyway.)

I'm studying World Literature this year in school, and the sixth unit in my textbook (I use Excellence in Literature, FYI) is a study on Victor Hugo's classic, mammoth novel Les Miserables.  I read the book (well, the 642-page Borders edition, heehee), studied the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars and wrote two essays about the book... and then I watched the musical's 10th Anniversary DVD with my sister.  One of my assignments was to "watch a live production of the musical, if possible, or at least get a copy of the DVD" and naturally I was happy to comply.  (Last year, in British Literature, I had no problem fulfilling the assignment to watch Pride and Prejudice 1995, either. :))

I recently promised a friend that I would write her a less-than-300-word summary of Les Miz--so she would have at least a basic understanding of what I've been nattering on about lately--and I thought I'd post it here so those of you who are unfamiliar with the story will also have a basic understanding. :)  I shall try my best to stay within 300 words--but song lyrics don't count, right?  Right? Right??? Good.  Song lyrics will be enclosed in quotation marks.  (There are some young readers on this blog, so I'm going to be very discreet about some aspects of the story... just so ya know...)  Also, I absolutely cannot resist sharing some of the amazing songs with you, so there will be links to videos here and there that I really recommend you watch. :) Unfortunately, I can't embed them here because YouTube restricts playback blah blah blah.   Oh! And spoilers will abound because I'm summarizing the entire story.  Be aware of this.

Colm Wilkinson as Valjean and Philip Quast as Javert in the 10th Anniversary Dream Cast in Concert
The story revolves around Jean Valjean (Colm Wilkinson, "prisoner 24601"), a galley slave convicted and sentenced to 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread.  When he is put on parole by police officer Inspector Javert (Philip Quast), he takes refuge in the house of kind Bishop Myriel (some actor whose name I'm not bothering to look up) and then steals the Bishop's candlesticks.  The Bishop, however, does not press charges and instead encourages Valjean to "use this precious silver to become a better man."

Valjean breaks his parole, moves to a small town, gets a job in the factory and eventually rises to the position of mayor.  Ten years later, a woman named Fantine (Ruthie Henshall) comes to his attention: she is working as a woman of the town to provide for her daughter, whom she cannot care for.  Dying of tuberculosis, Fantine begs Valjean to rescue her daughter from the cruel people who have her now.  "I swear this on my life... [your Cosette] shall live within my protection.  Your child shall want for nothing! And none shall ever harm Cosette as long as I am living."
Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean
Inspector Javert, who suspected that Valjean (now "Monsieur Madeleine") might be an escaped convict, changes his mind when a man matching Valjean's description is arrested and sentenced to death in another town.  Distraught that another man is going to die because of his crime, Valjean reveals his true identity to Javert ("And so, Javert, you see it's true; that man bears no more guilt than you! Who am I? 24601!") and then escapes to rescue Cosette from the disgusting Thenardiers (Jeremiah Flintwinch--I mean Inspector Bucket--I mean Alun Armstrong--and Jenny Galloway), innkeepers who treat Cosette as a slave.

Philip Quast as Inspector Javert
Valjean takes Cosette (Judy Kuhn) to Paris and brings her up as his own daughter, telling her nothing of his past, though Javert is still on his trail and "never shall yield till [they] come face to face... this [he] swears by the stars!" ("Stars" by Philip Quast at the 10th Anniversary Concert)

Meanwhile, the lives of Marius Pontmercy (Michael Ball), a law student, and Gavroche (Adam Searles), a street urchin (squee! favorite character!), are about to become intertwined.  (And meanwhile, Miss Dashwood realizes that there's no way she's going to stay under 300 words and says "forget it, Melody!") Marius is part of the Friends of the ABC, a revolutionary group who dream of someday bringing freedom to the people of France, because "the color of the world is changing day by day! Red, the blood of angry men... black, the dark of ages past! Red, a world about to dawn... black, the night that ends at last!" 

Lea Salonga as Eponine Thenardier
Marius sees Cosette from a distance and falls in love with her (and vice versa).  Eponine Thenardier (Lea Salonga), daughter of the people who once abused Cosette, is also in love with Marius, but he is absolutely blind as a bat about this (and Miss Dashwood realllllly hates Marius at this point in the story.  Temporarily, that is.)  Eponine brings Marius to meet Cosette, but Eponine's father's gang of thieves hear about Valjean's presence in Paris and plan to rob and murder Valjean.

Eponine stops them in time, but Valjean hears the commotion and decides to get Cosette out of Paris.  "We must get away from shadows that will never let us be... tomorrow to Calais and then a ship across the sea!" (okay, was I the only one who thought, "A ship at Calais? THE DAY DREAM!!" Once more Sir Percy saving the day!) Act One ends with everyone waiting just one day more until their world will change.

Enjolras (Michael Maguire), the leader of the ABC students, is planning an attack (this is all happening during the Paris Rebellion of 1832, in case you're wondering) and Marius decides to stay with his friends and fight in their barricade. The first attack begins, and Javert comes to spy on the students.  Thanks to the sharp Gavroche (yesss! "We may be easy pickings, but we've got SOME FIGHT!") he is unmasked and sentenced to die. Marius sends Eponine with a letter to Cosette, saying he'll always love her, and Eponine--deserted by her father and now completely "on her own"--takes it, but is fatally wounded by a stray gunshot.  Then ensues the saddest scene in the entire musical, the one that had me sobbing my eyes out... "A Little Fall of Rain."  Okay, so maybe it's not the saddest scene in the whole entire musical (there are several competing for THAT place) but it's making me tear up just writing about it... ugh.  And now I like Marius again.
Michael Ball as Marius and Lea Salonga as Eponine
And after Eponine's death, the sad scenes just. keep. coming.  Fiddler on the Roof is a barrel of laughs compared to Les Miserables, believe me.  Valjean reads the letter Marius sent to Cosette and goes to the barricade to try and protect Marius, praying that God will "bring him home".  "He's like the son I might have known, if God had granted me a son... if I die, let me die--let him live--bring him home!" You have to listen to both versions of this song: Colm Wilkinson sings it in the musical, but you are really missing out if you don't hear Michael Crawford's version too.

The next morning, Valjean asks permission to deal with the spy, and Enjolras tells him to execute Javert and get it over with... but Valjean lets Javert go.  ("Vengeance was his, but he gave [Javert] back his life.") The second attack on the barricade begins and everybody is killed except Marius and Valjean.  Even Gavroche.  (WHY???)  "The Second Attack" on the barricade (also known as "Death of Gavroche") is mercifully not included on the DVD, because if it were I would have run out of tissues.  I think I sobbed through the entire second act.  But then I saw it later on YouTube.  If you really want to... here. (And do not ask me why people in the audience laughed at the first shot. o.O)

Marius is not killed, but he is shot and knocked out, so Valjean takes him through the streets (and the sewers!) of Paris to find a doctor (despite running into the evil Thenardier, who thinks Valjean has murdered Marius and is trying to hide the body).  He meets Javert, begs him to let Marius go home before he deals with Valjean, and Javert lets him go.  His whole world shaken and crumbling with this new idea of forgiveness, Javert drowns himself.

Marius recovers and is reunited with Cosette, but he is still mourning the death of Eponine, Enjolras and the other Friends of the ABC.  "There's a grief that can't be spoken; there's a pain goes on and on... empty chairs at empty tables, now my friends are dead and gone."  Cosette and Marius are married, but Valjean feels obligated to reveal his past to Marius. He promises to go away and never see Cosette again, and Marius doesn't try to stop him.  (Then Miss Dashwood punches out Marius.  Ooh, wait, was that not in the script? Sorry.) The Thenardiers crash the wedding and tell Marius that Valjean is a murderer (and Marius realizes that it was Valjean who saved his life--Marius himself was the "murdered man!") and Marius punches out Thenardier (and Miss Dashwood apologizes to Marius and gets him a Band-Aid).  Stricken with remorse, Marius and Cosette go to Valjean and stay with him as he dies... and the entire cast reassembles for the Epilogue, a reprise of "Do You Hear the People Sing?".

Well.  That was my summary.  It was long, I know.  But it was shorter than Wikipedia's summary, so I'm satisfied. :)

Now on to my thoughts about this bee-yoo-tee-full musical.  Like I said, it's sad.  Really sad.  Very, very sad.  But there is also an underlying current of hope, love and redemption.  If I had to pick just one theme to describe Les Miz, it would be forgiveness.

There is, as yet, no movie version of Les Miserables (the musical).  This DVD is Les Miserables in concert, which means that it's just the actors in costume singing the songs from the musical.  Since there are thirty-some songs (depending on the version you see) it takes over two hours to do the whole thing.  Les Miserables is sung-through, which means that almost the entire story is sung.  The (very little) dialogue is spoken over music.  So in watching the concert, you can get almost the entire story (and they provide subtitles on the screen between songs to summarize what's going on).

These are just a few of the things I loved about Les Miz:

  • Colm Wilkinson's gorgeous voice.  He IS Valjean.  Alfie Boe is good... but...
  • Philip Quast's epicness in the role of Javert.  Role... nonsense.  He IS Javert.
  • Lea Salonga.  Nobody else can do Eponine. Period.
  • Michael Ball as the perfect Marius (even if he was a little too old).  Nick Jonas? Forget it.
  • Adam Searles' adorableness as Gavroche. ("Listen to ME! Listen, everybody!") Okay, so he's, like, 30 now and probably not adorable anymore.  Hush.  
  • The gorgeous lighting, costumes, and overall awesomeness.
  • The "Do You Hear the People Sing?" encore reprise with 17 Valjeans from productions around the world.  Amazing.

Here's what I didn't like about the 10th Anniversary concert DVD:

  • ......

Okay, so there were a couple of things I didn't like. :)  Since this was the 10th anniversary, several members of the original cast were a little too old for their parts.  Judy Kuhn (Cosette) was 37, and Cosette is supposed to be 18.  But she has an amazing voice, so it's all good. :)  There are a couple of songs that I did not appreciate (one of which, "Lovely Ladies", we skipped entirely). The song "Master of the House" sung by the Thenardiers, is funny in some parts ("charge 'em for the mice, extra for the lice, two percent for lookin' in the mirror twice") but it contains some rather foul language and I'd recommend just skipping it entirely.

But other than those few little bitty things, this DVD is awesomely, absolutely amazing and thou needst to get thee to the library (or Netflix or Blockbuster) to order it right now.

Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes! Tomorrow we'll discover what our God in heaven has in store... one more dawn, one more day, one day more!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Entries for Stephanie's Contest

Stephanie over at Eccentricitee is hosting a Disney blog button contest! I am quite excited about it, and have created four entries, as you may observe below. 

Picture: Cinderella (1950)
Quote: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pictures from Finding Nemo (2006) and Up (2009)
Quotes from both movies as well. :P

Picture: Cinderella (1950)
Quote: Up (2009)

Picture: Peter Pan (1953)
Quote: A twist on something from Toy Story (1995)

Button Contest Winner

I would like to congratulate Alexandra on winning the blog button contest! I'm afraid that the prize for the contest is... well, bragging rights. And this.

(Alexandra can take this. Nobody else can. I'm saying that, but there isn't really any way for me to stop you from taking it if you really want it, heehee.)

Oh--and a couple of people raised a question about whether Alexandra's button was okay because it used a Disney quote, et cetera and so forth.  I apologize for not making the rules clearer! It was perfectly okay for a picture's caption to be any of the following: a) a popular witticism b) a song lyric c) a quote from another movie.  I had written in the post "a quote from another period drama" but any movie would have been fine.  I should have clarified that, and I apologize.

Also! Some of you might not have seen the winning picture, so here it is in case you missed it:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quote of the Week 16 and Final Poll

(I realize that this picture is from the lesser 25th Anniversary concert...
but I couldn't find a good picture from The Best One)

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free!

Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!

~Courfeyrac and Enjolras, Les Miserables: The Musical That Swept The World, In Concert (1995)

And yes, I'm still just the least tiniest bit obsessed... cough, cough.  A long and rapturous post will be forthcoming next week.  It is not at all cheating to post song lyrics for Quote of the Week--besides, it's my Quote of the Week.  Might I just say that if you have not heard this amazing song, let me beg you to take two minutes of your life and watch this.

Also, the two finalists have been determined! Congratulations to Hayden and Alexandra, and to everyone else who participated.  Please vote in the poll at the top of my sidebar---it closes at noon EST on Saturday the 28th, and then I shall announce the winner (though you'll all be able to see for yourselves by then).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Random Ramblings and a Reminder

I'm not going to waste your time with a million bazillion apologies for the lack of actual intelligent content on this blog, but I am going to tell you that the lack of actual intelligent content seems slated to continue, because I have a research paper due on FEBRUARY FIRST and I. Must. Finish. It.  

So this post shall be random and rambling and rather ridiculous.  Except for the parts where I inform you about various blog events, because as we all know blog events are Full of Fun.  First of all, I direct your attention to the Inkpen Authoress' "Heigh-Ho For A Husband" blog party.   Go to Rachel's blog and  check it out! I'm entering a frivolous little short story... what will you enter ?

Next on the list of events is Miss Laurie's birthday party for Mr. Charles Dickens.  Please pop over to Old-Fashioned Charm the week of February 7th to celebrate the birthday of the man who wrote the famous, fantastic, Little Dorrit... oh, and some other novels too. 

Old-Fashioned Charm

Also, Stephanie over at Eccentricitee is hosting a lovely Disney blog button contest, and I encourage you all to enter! (I have some rather fanciful ideas brewing for my entry...)

And now for some major randomness... Jemimah over at Beautiful Blank Pages has sweetly awarded me the...

And now for zee Rules of ziss Award... (ooh! more R's! And an F, because I'm being French, or at least attempting to sound French.  Has anyone else caught my alliterative R's and F's throughout this post? No? Never mind then.)

1. Share 7 things about yourself
2. Pass the award to 10 other bloggers

My seven foolish little things...

1) I am currently frighteningly obsessed with the musical Les Miserables.  I am also currently listening to "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" as I write this post and trying.... not... to... cry....
2) My sister and I are currently watching the amazing, the stupendous, the fantabulous, the shivers-down-your-spine Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert DVD.  I want Colm Wilkinson to sing at my wedding.  I also want Susan Boyle, Jackie Evancho, Julie Andrews, Michael Crawford and Finbar Wright to sing at my wedding, though, so I may have to narrow down the choices a little before I get married.
3) I am currently obsessed with the following songs: Do You Hear the People Sing?, Stars, Bring Him Home, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, I Dreamed a Dream, A Little Fall of Rain, On My Own, One Day More and Who Am I?.
4) I am going to do something drastic if  Hollywood doesn't do a good job with the upcoming Les Miserables movie.  Well, I'll refuse to watch it, at least.
5) *desperately tries to think of something that's not Les-Miz-related* I adore cake decorating and enjoy making movie-themed cakes for my siblings' birthdays (my brother loves Herbie the Love Bug, so I made this for his seventh birthday a couple of weeks ago.)
6) If I were stranded on a desert island and could take only one thing with me, I would take Jeeves because he would know how to get me off the island.
7) I love orange food: cantaloupe, clementines, sweet potatoes and carrots are at the top of my favorite foods list.  I'm not sure why.

The ten blogs I award: (I tried to pick people who, to the best of my knowledge, haven't yet received the award)

1) Rachel at The Inkpen Authoress
2) Gracie at It's A Beautiful Life
3) Melody at Regency Delight: Jane Austen, &c.
4) Anne-girl at Scribblings and Tappings
5) Anna at Maiden Voyage
6) Stephanie at Eccentricitee
7) Miss Laurie at Old-Fashioned Charm
8) Ella at The Door in the Air
9) Maria Elisabeth at Miss Georgiana Darcy
10) Lauren at Books, Fashion and Tea

And to fill out this ridiculously random post, I give you something that is guaranteed to make you Roar with laughter (if you're in the League, that is.)  And of course you should know that I do not endorse the Broadway musical Wicked, et cetera et cetera et cetera (did you or did you not just read that in King Mongkut's voice? Yes, you did) but this song is funny and it fits the video purrfectly.

Finally, in the words of Mr. Clennam Sr., DO NOT FORGET to vote in the Period Drama Button Polls if you have not done so already.  The poll closes at 11:59 EST tonight!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Contest Entries and the Top Twelve Finalists

Well, I must say that the Period Drama Button contest turned out to be quite a success (even though I was worried no one would enter)! Thirteen lovely contestants participated, with a whopping 71 entries! You must imagine my consternation at the idea of trying to choose only five from these laugh-out-loud pictures, so in the end, I didn't.  Instead, I chose twelve (because I have, like, no willpower).  

You may observe on my sidebar two polls, each with six entries.  The polls will be up until Wednesday night, and then on Thursday morning a new poll will arise.  The winning entry from each of the first two polls will then compete against each other in the third poll (the Thursday one).  I shall not be voting in the polls, except in case of a tie, in which case I shall be prevailed upon to break the tie.  I beseech each and every one of you to vote in BOTH polls, if you please, and then again in the third one when it is revealed on Thursday!  In this way, I pass the buck to YOU to decide who wins. :)

And now, so as not to prolong the suspense, I shall firstly thank each and every one of you who participated, because you made this thing awesome! Here are links to everyone's entries (in no order whatsoever).

Hayden at Story Girl

And now, here are the twelve finalist entries.  Congratulations to all!

1) "Sparkler, Be Quiet!" by Emily of Forget-Me-Nots

Picture: My Fair Lady (1964)
Quote: Little Dorrit (2008)

2) "I Feel Charming" by Alexandra of Of Trims and Frills and Furbelows

Picture: The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
Quote: West Side Story (1963)

3) "With Wonderful Expression" by the Anne-girl of Scribblings Of My Pen

Picture: Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Quote: The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

4) "Why Do You Keep Winking?" by Melody of Regency Delight

Picture: Emma (1996 Miramax)
Quote: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

5) "One Of Us Was Silly" by Hayden of Story Girl

Picture: Emma (1996 Miramax)
Quote: Wives and Daughters (1999)

6) "Heigh-Ho For A Husband" by Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm

Picture: Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Quote: Much Ado About Nothing (1992)

7) "Badly Done, Indeed" by Maria Elisabeth of Miss Georgiana Darcy

Picture: The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
Quote: Emma (any of the adaptations)

8) "Suddenly Have A Headache" by Rachel of A Butcher, A Baker, A Candlestick Maker

Picture: North and South (2004)
Quote: Cranford (2007)

9) "One Smirk" by Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Elegance of Fashion

Picture: Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Quote: Northanger Abbey (2007)

10) "Horror Of Finery" by Julia of Julia's Journal

Picture: Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Quote: Emma (2009)

11) "Here Comes The Smolder" by Alexandra of Of Trims and Frills and Furbelows

Picture: Robin Hood (2006)
Quote: Tangled (2011)

12) "Poor Mr. Darcy" by Anne-girl of Scribblings of my Pen

Picture: The Princess Bride (1982)
Quote: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

And to close this post, I give you a picture and quote that are just beautiful.  This one is not one of the finalist buttons (in fact I don't believe it was even entered in the contest), but I got permission from Elizabeth to post it here... and it's SO lovely...

So what are y'all waiting for? Go vote!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Contest Closed

The Period Drama Button Contest is now officially closed! A great big thank you to all the participants... your entries were amazing! I will be announcing the five finalists on Monday, and then you will all have one week to vote for best one.

Meanwhile, I made this one and it made me giggle, so I thought I'd share it with you.  I can't enter it in the contest (obviously) but I thought I would post it here anyway.  If you are at all acquainted with Peter Pan and The Scarlet Pimpernel, I hope you'll find it funny.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quote of the Week 15

Lady Cumnor: Weally Hawwiet, I cannot understand why you take such an intewest in these petty Hollingford affairs.
Lady Harriet Cumnor: Oh mama, it's only tit for tat. They take the keenest interest in ours.
~Wives and Daughters (1999)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Contest

Annoucing... Miss Dashwood's newest contest!  I had such fun with that Jane Austen Birthday Card contest (as I hope you did, too) that I decided to hold another one.  This time, it will be a Period Drama Button contest.

Allow me to elaborate.

Participants will submit a picture from a period drama with a humorous caption on it, such as the one at the top of this post.  The caption must be either a common saying (such as "If I had a British accent..." or "Keep calm and ____") or a quote from another period drama ("sink me!", for instance) or possibly even a song lyric ("the simple bare necessities", perhaps).   A quote or song lyric or saying that goes with the picture, that is.  See below for another example.

I hope you are laughing at my amazing wit.  (Miss Dashwood, stop being so shamelessly vain and get on with what you have to say.)

Oh, very well.  As I said, if you'd like to participate, please make your own funny button (or two or three) and then post it (or them) on your blog.  Leave a comment on this post with the link to your button.  The contest will close on Saturday, January 21st at 11:59 PM.  After that time, no more entries will be accepted.  You are free to enter as many buttons as you wish.

If there are more than five entries, I will select five top entries and allow y'all to vote for a winner.  If there are five or less entries, I will select a winner from those five.  Makes some semblance of sense?  Good.

You may use whatever image source you like to get pictures for the contest (Google Images, Fanpop, Photobucket, whatever) but I thought I might provide you with links to a few screencap albums.  If you do use photos from these albums (which aren't mine, by the way) please be courteous and cite the albums in your blog post.

Emma 2009:
Sense and Sensibility 1995:
Pride and Prejudice 2005:
Pride and Prejudice 1995:
Bleak House 2005:

To edit your pictures and add text, I suggest using either Picnik ( or FotoFlexer (, two free photo editing websites.

Happy editing... I'm looking forward to your submissions!

A couple of things I forgot to add... if you do not have a blog, please upload your entries to a photo hosting site such as Photobucket or Picasa Web Albums and leave the photos' URLs in a comment.  If you need help with this, just let me know.
Also, I forgot to mention that Yet Another Period Drama Blog hereby reserves the right to reproduce the winning entry (and possibly the runners-up) in a post announcing the winners.  Entrants that do not agree to these terms will be disqualified.
Heehee, that sounded so technical and official.  :P  All I'm trying to say is that if you win, I want to be able to put your button on my blog (with full credit of course) to announce that you've won, so be prepared for that.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Period Drama Heroines #4: Amy Dorrit

"I would never hurt you, Father."
~Amy Dorrit, Little Dorrit (2008)

(In case you're wondering where #5 went, I wrote about her during Sense and Sensibility Week back in November.)

In one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells of how her father comforted her when the man she loved married another woman.
"Corrie," he says in chapter three, "do you know what hurts so very much? It's love.  Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain.  There are two things we can do when this happens.  We can kill the love so that it stops hurting.  But then of course a part of us dies, too.  Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.  God loves Karel--even more than you do--and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy.  Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way."

At this point you are probably raising your eyebrows and saying, "That's a perfectly lovely quote, Miss Dashwood, but what on earth does it have to do with Amy Dorrit?"


Claire Foy as Amy Dorrit
Amy Dorrit, also known as Little Dorrit because of her diminutive stature, was born in the Marshalsea debtors' prison and raised as a pauper.  Looked down upon by her snobby, selfish family and forced to work as a seamstress to put bread on her father's table, Amy has a hard life, but she never complains.  When she meets the kind, caring and compassionate Arthur Clennam--a man who is facing problems of his own, yet takes the time to try and help the Dorrit family--Amy falls in love with him.  The only problem is, Arthur (15 years Amy's senior) sees her as a child... and fancies himself in love with someone else.

Matthew Macfadyen as Arthur Clennam with Amy Dorrit
(Are you starting to see parallels?)

Meanwhile, John Chivery (assistant turnkey at the Marshalsea and longtime family friend of the Dorrits) is desperately in love with Amy, and proposes to her in complete confidence that she'll accept him.  But she doesn't.  She turns him down, because she knows she's in love with Arthur and could never love John in the way that a wife should.

This might look like selfishness, since she effectively broke John's heart in refusing him (and the hearts of all the movie viewers... sigh...).  But it's not.  It took courage for Amy to say no to John.

"I'm sorry, John, but I could never feel about you that way.  The way you'd like me to."
"But... you might come to."
"No.  I'm sorry, John.  I know I never shall."

Then he asks her if there is someone else, and.... why am I transcribing this whole thing if I could just show it to you?   Here you go.  Amy's Best Scene.  The part I refer to is from 2:29 to 5:12, but if I were you I'd just watch the whole thing. :)

You notice that when John asks if there is anyone else, she evades the question with, "I don't believe I shall ever marry."  It wasn't necessary to hurt him further by saying that there was someone else.  Little Dorrit firmly believed she didn't have any hope of Arthur's love, so she didn't make matters worse by mentioning him.  

And then, after all this had ended, she went on with her life.  She was still in love with Arthur and that never changed, but she didn't let herself mope about it.  To die for love? Not Amy Dorrit. (Marianne would not have approved, heehee.) 

Amy Dorrit's character is one that is best seen through her love of people.  She's stuck with probably one of the worst families in period drama  history (okay, maybe Anne Elliot could rival her for that title) but she is always patient with her demanding father, brother and sister.  No matter what they say or do to her, she responds with gentleness and humility. She loves them in the perfect way that Caspar ten Boom spoke of.  "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud..."

I've heard it said that Amy Dorrit is too good, too perfect, that she has no backbone and can't even stand up for herself.  I disagree.  Amy is not a doormat.  She may not speak up for herself, but when someone else is wronged, she springs to the defense.   Her rascally brother, Edward "Tip" Dorrit, writes a rather rude letter to Arthur Clennam asking for a loan, and Arthur politely refuses to comply (knowing that Tip will just waste the money).  Upon receiving Arthur's reply, Tip goes into a tirade against Arthur, and when Amy gently remonstrates, he lashes out at her.  Then comes Amy's applause-inducing speech. :)

"How dare you speak like that to me?! And how dare you insult a man who is worth ten of you? Have you any idea who got your debts paid? --I love you Tip; but sometimes I'm ashamed to have you as my brother!"

(It's during this scene that my favorite music, dubbed the Tragedy Theme, plays. FYI.)


Sarah Pickering as Amy Dorrit
Things only get worse for poor Amy when the Dorrits inherit a fortune and Mr. Dorrit hires a gentlewoman by the name of Mrs. General to teach Amy and Fanny how to be Ladies Of Society (properly pronounced as Sow-Sigh-Uh-Tee).   Under Mrs. General's scrutiny, everything Amy does--even calling her father "Father"--is wrong.  Yet Amy bears it all without complaint.

Emma Pierson as Fanny Dorrit and Claire Foy as Amy
Then tragedy strikes again... and again.  Amy is left alone in the world and, simultaneously, Arthur is thrown into the Marshalsea prison.  Amy goes to the Marshalsea to nurse Arthur back to health after he falls ill, and that is when she learns that he loves her, too.  

But the story isn't over, because Amy begs Arthur to allow her to pay his debts... but he says no.  He will not be beholden to her, but that doesn't stop her from coming to see him.  Then the Evil French Guy (alias whatever alias he's using at the time) gives Amy a mysterious letter, and old Mrs. Clennam (who employed Amy as a seamstress in the dear dead days gone by never to be spoken of) reveals a dark secret to Amy, begging for her forgiveness.
Irrelevant, but doesn't she have the most beautiful blue eyes?
And this is what Amy says to her (from the book, not the movie, haha).  
"O, Mrs Clennam, Mrs Clennam," said Little Dorrit, "angry feelings and unforgiving deeds are no comfort and no guide to you and me. My life has been passed in this poor prison, and my teaching has been very defective; but let me implore you to remember later and better days. Be guided only by the Healer of the sick, the Raiser of the dead, the Friend of all who were afflicted and forlorn, the patient Master who shed tears of compassion for our infirmities. We cannot but be right if we put all the rest away, and do everything in remembrance of Him. There is no vengeance and no infliction of suffering in His life, I am sure. There can be no confusion in following Him, and seeking for no other footsteps, I am certain."

Yeah, you won't find that on a 2008 TV miniseries.  

Here's another part where the book and movie differ-- in the book *SPOILER ALERT!!* Little Dorrit never tells Arthur the truth about his mother.  She burns the paper that Mrs. Clennam gave her and never mentions it to anyone, even though it means she loses the legacy, because she doesn't want to hurt Arthur.  I'm glad that in the movie Tattycoram gave Arthur the box and he learned the truth, because I think he deserved to know, but I admire Amy-of-the-book for giving up the inheritance to spare Arthur pain. *END OF SPOILER*
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things... love never fails.

But then the question of money is swept aside in the tumultuous final chapters (and episode) and Arthur and Amy come to an understanding.  :) And Arthur's business comes booming back again.  And then they get married.  

And Miss Dashwood is made happy (albeit in need of a box of Kleenex or two), because who deserves a perfectly perfect ending more than Miss Amy Dorrit?

Button made by Miss Dashwood :P

Please Break the Tie

...because my poll currently has THREE films tied for the top spot.  I put up that poll because I hate making decisions and thought perhaps you could do it for me.  But now it looks like I shall have to be the tiebreaker.  Please, if you love me (and haven't voted yet) do so immediately and break the tie.

(Or if you don't like the phrase "break the tie", consider "snapping the chain once forged, and very proper...")

Ahem.  Anyway.
Thank you.

Friday, January 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Victor Hugo

*Disclaimer: HERE BE SPOILERS*

My dear Mr. Hugo,

We need to talk.

In the mid-nineteenth century, you wrote an incredible, jaw-dropping, inspiring, classic, amazing, massive, ridiculously wonderful tome by the name of Les Miserables.  I have just now finished reading it, and I have a bone to pick with you (disgusting idiom, when you think about it).

You created an amazing array of characters.  You crafted an intricate plot to rival the Dickens himself.  You swept me away into the world of post-Napoleon France, a place I'd never been before, and you made me never want to leave.  You made me fall in love with a convicted criminal... more than once throughout the long, long story.  You made me cry over a book I'd been assigned to read for school.  (yep, you read that right.)
You made me laugh and sigh and sob, you inspired me to rush to my library website and order the Les Miserables In Concert DVD right away.  (going to the library tomorrow... I can wait, I CAN WAIT.)

And you killed both my favorite characters.

That's what I can't forgive.  I knew Jean Valjean was going to die.  That was all right.  I cried over his death, but it was all right.  He was old and tired.  He had lived his life, forgiven people who'd wronged him, made life better for so many people.  He died happy.  I can, sort of, forgive your heartless murder of Jean Valjean (because, hey, his whole life was about forgiveness).

But you also slew Gavroche Thenardier, and I can never reconcile myself to that.  YOU KILLED GAVROCHE, VICTOR HUGO.  I still can't believe you did that.  Have you no soul, no heart, no sense of humor?  I realize there was a battle going on.  I realize that several other characters died too.  I liked Eponine and felt quite sorry for her, but her death didn't really faze me.  Then you killed Enjolras.  I was horrified, but I had somehow known it would happen, so it was okay.  (Though I still think he should have lived.  I liked him. And from what little I've heard of the musical... wowwwww.)

But then you sent Gavroche out of the relative safety barricade to pick up ammunition.  Wait, that's not true--Gavroche decided to go out to pick up ammunition.  Nobody could have stopped him.  You don't stop Gavroche.  Gavroche does as he pleases and thumbs his nose at the rest of the world.  But you could have stopped the soldier that shot Gavroche, Victor Hugo, and... you didn't.

Gavroche was, like, twelve.  He still had his whole life before him.  He could have become something great.  He didn't have to die for a cause he hardly understood.  (Jean Valjean had a habit of picking up stray children who weren't loved--he did well enough with Cosette, couldn't he have adopted a son too?)  Were you trying to make some sort of point, Mr. Hugo?  Something about the futility of war and how it crushes even plucky little kids like Gavroche?  Well, it was a nice point, but you didn't have to sacrifice the second-best character in 800 pages to do it.

And you know, the real reason I'm mad is because I can't help loving Les Miz anyway.  You did things to this story that I can't forgive, and yet I know that this book has soared to the top ten on my list of favorites.  You created some amazing characters, killed half of them, and yet I know I'll be reading this book again and again.  I don't know how you did it, and I don't think I want to know.

Don't take that as a compliment, because I'm still pretty mad.

Miss Dashwood

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quote of the Week 14

"This ugly little pinafore has a very big hem. It will last you for years. You can wear it to college, you can get married in it and then you can get buried in it."
~Sara Stanley, Road to Avonlea (episode: But When She Was Bad, She Was Horrid)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Little Dorrit Review (Part Two)

So in my last post, I went over some of the main characters, but in this one I will briefly describe a few of the secondary ones and then get to the good stuff. :P

And boy, are there a lot of secondary characters.  (This really amazes me, because as we all know it was very difficult for Charles Dickens to come up with characters for his novels and his trademark was to have only one or two people in each story. *cough*)  There's old Mrs. Clennam, a cold and domineering who treated Arthur harshly as a child and will never confess that she might have been wrong. There's Flintwinch, the ugly and mysterious butler at the House of Clennam, and his won't-say-boo-to-a-goose wife Affery. There's Mr. and Mrs. Merdle, Edmund's mother and stepfather, at the top of London society... but not quite what they seem.
Amanda Redman and Tom Courtenay as Mrs. Merdle and Mr. Dorrit
Frederick Dorrit (doormat brother of William Dorrit), Tip Dorrit (ne'er-do-well brother of Fanny and Amy), Daniel Doyce (inventor and business partner with Arthur), Tattycoram (put-upon charity child, brought up by Arthur's friends the Meagles), Miss Wade (bitter and mysterious woman who holds the secret of Arthur's past) Maggy (sweet, mentally handicapped friend of Little Dorrit), Cavaletto (friendly but frightened former cellmate of Blandois, adopted by the Plornish family of Bleeding Heart Yard), Mrs. General (gentlewoman hired to be a companion and teacher for Fanny and Amy when they become rich) and Flora Finching (once Arthur's sweetheart, now determined to woo him back) all play a role in the captivating story.

Ruth Jones as Flora Finching
Oh, and Mr. F's Aunt. We must not forget her. She really has no bearing on the story except as comic relief. Flora's first husband, Mr. Finching, left his aunt as a legacy to Flora. Flora, fluttery but loyal, takes Mr. F's eccentric Aunt under her wing--and with a grain of salt.

Annette Crosbie as Mr. F's Aunt,
Matthew Macfadyen asArthur Clennam
The scene pictured above is nothing short of EPIC.  "'E's got a proud stomach, this chap. Give 'im a meal of chaff."

I love how familial relationships are portrayed in this movie.  Poor Little Dorrit has just about the most awful family in the world (at least, it seems so at first).  Her father, brother and sister all consider her to be not quite as good as they, and consequently frequently berate her for "disgracing" the family because she is not ashamed of being poor.  "Good gracious, Amy! You're always showing us up!" 

Amy and Mr. Dorrit
And yet Amy is never resentful towards her family.  Her father, who has dubbed himself the Father of the Marshalsea, will never cease to consider himself a gentleman (though he's not above subtly asking visitors to leave a "small testimonial"). Yet once he is liberated from prison and allowed to live as a gentleman, he exists in constant fear that someone will discover his past... and all this fear is wrapped up in his increasing dementia.

The Dorrits leave the Marshalsea prison
Fanny Dorrit and Tip Dorrit are more harsh in their treatment of their sister, though as the movie progresses Fanny's attitude toward Amy becomes more gentle.  "Here's a little gift from your wicked sister.  There. That'll brighten you up a bit, you little mouse."  (One of my friends calls me "little mouse" too. :))

Now, I'm really going to be random and just bombard you with a lot of pictures and general, unconnected remarks about Stuff I Like.

We call this hat "Arthur's ugly hat". No, no, really, we like it. That's just a germ of endearment, as Peter of The Railway Children would say.

I think I may have forgotten to mention how much I like John's father, Mr. Chivery, the head turnkey at the Marshalsea.  He is one of the real heroes of the story.  When Amy rejects John's proposal, Mr. Chivery is almost as crushed as his son, yet he doesn't, well, mope about it.  (Oops, the Anne-girl just threw her copy of the book at me... I'm sorry! I didn't mean to say anything bad about John, I promise!)  *SPOILER ALERT* When Arthur is sent to the Marshalsea near the end of the movie and becomes ill, it's Mr. Chivery who writes to Amy and asks her to come and nurse Arthur.  He knows perfectly well that Arthur is the man who, in essence, ruined his son's chance at happiness (because Little Dorrit was in love with Arthur--pray excuse me, Doyce and Clennam--, you know, and therefore wouldn't marry John), but, like his son, "he don't bear no malice."

Ron Cook and Russell Tovey as Mr. Chivery and John Chivery
Once the Dorrits become rich and bounce off to Venice to spend their newly acquired cash, Mr. Dorrit is adamant that his daughters be made presentable to Society (with a capital S).  In order to do this he hires a Most Respectable Gentlewoman by the name of Hortensia General.   Mrs. General bulldozes her way into the Dorrit family and causes Fanny and Amy a great deal of distress.  Amy tries to cope with it, but Fanny will not be pushed around, and the result is quite hilarious.

"I think that if I see another painting I might very well have to scream, Mrs. General!"
"I'm quite sure you'd do nothing so un-ladylike."
"Don't count on it."

Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, prisms and Pam Ferris as Mrs. G.
And then there are all the other little bits I love... the little bits that I can't really talk about for fear of spoiling the end.  The heartwrenching deaths of a couple of characters (no, not Uncle Ned, he's already dead remember?), a highly amusing wedding, Structural Difficulties in a Very Old Building, financial upheaval, secrets, lost wills, Crime Does Not Pay, very bad wine, sacrifices and at long last a highly satisfactory wedding at the end.

I don't mind saying that because, hey, y'all know they get married in the end, right? RIGHT??

The wedding scene, the last in the movie, contains some of the best lines in the movie:
"Ah, don't cry at a wedding, Mama Meagles!" (easy for you to say)... "Sparkler, BE quiet".... "She is very beautiful.  Si.  That's what I said".... and then finally the closing music and the rolling credits.

I love this movie.

(I also love this trailer.  I didn't make it, but I thought you might like to see it.)

So! If you haven't yet seen LD, do you plan to?  If you have seen it, what did I leave out of this review?  What quotes deserve to be in Quote of the Week?  Did I forget any of the characters?  Leave a comment!
(and if you haven't seen LD and don't want spoilers... read the comments with discretion. :D