Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pride and Prejudice '95 stands the test of time

This film is approaching 20 years old people! And it is still amazing, the standard to which all other Pride and Prejudices and Austens are held. You know why? Because of reasons!

OF course! How the characters look is one of the most ready giveaways for a film's period, the story's and the production's. Think of other period films and how they've stood the test of time, Amadeus, Gone With The Wind, Sound of Music, any old Western with pointy busts. They are beautiful yes, but scream "I was made in such a year!". Designer Dinah Collin avoids this through meticulous research and what we can only assume was a very healthy budget. If you have any eye for costume history you can tell each woman is wearing the right undergarments (you can even see Lydia's busk in one shot), the shoes and stockings are right, the cut of the clothes is accurate, and never to be overlooked, the textiles are correct. The prints of the gowns, if there are any, are very demure and period, the weight of the Bennet sisters' gowns are right on track, and the accessories down to all the laces and detailed cuffs and collars are spot on. And please, let's take a moment to recognize the milliner. Amen.

Tailoring, millinery, silhouette, and textiles.
Two guesses as to a sign men's pants fit properly...(source)
Having great research and designs is not the only thing that makes good costumes. These costumes fit. Ah, it really makes me breath easy to see a show so universally well fit. Again, this goes back to the budget, as almost all the main characters' costumes were built for them. We can see this when we look at other films that we know were rented. The spencers fit immaculately over all the bust of the women and there are no gaps from the empire waists to the bottom of the jackets. The men's tailoring is superb and the pants fit! I'm honestly hard pressed to know what was built and what was rented amongst the minor costumes because I assume the house(s) that handled this production were on a very short fit leash. The second half of the IMDB trivia is costume reuse. These costumes stand up!

I'm not saying all the costumes were great. Maria Lucas wears a yellow gown with white flowers on the front that screams 70s to me, and Mary has a terrible yellow and green number at the dining table at some point, but those are probably rented.

Hair and Make Up
Right in line with costumes, hair and make up can be a huge deal breaker. (I'm dying to see how Amy Adams' character holds up from the new Sherlock Holmes films with all her eye shadow...) What P&P gets absolutely right is the use of the actors' actual hair when possible, excellent wigs when not, and as little "make up" as possible. Lore (and imdb) has it that Jennifer Ehle tried to be helpful and thus shopped off all her hair to fit under a wig better, hence the necessity for a wig...(ugh, ACTORS! When you get a role your body is no longer your own! Don't alter it unless instructed to do so!). I'll say though, even now that I know it's a wig (or three) I'm absolutely delighted by its excellent styling and clever deceptions as I know how much of a pain disguising the nape is, and how much of a pain getting baby hairs under it can be (looking at you P&P 2005). Mrs. Bennet is the only other wig on record, but I'd guess Lady Catherine's is as well, Miss King, and possibly Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.
Natural hair, excellent menswear, minimal makeup,
 and beautiful material. (source)
Actors whose own hair was used was excellently styled for period and character. Darcy and Jane's was dyed. I adore Kitty's hair and Lydia's is perfectly obnoxious for her. Again, not everything was perfect. For the shape and size of Susannah Harker's head I would have definitely made her 'dos softer. I get that they were going for Grecian and wanted a contrast with Lizzie...but that's an awfully small bun for hair to her bum.
the more mature characters have
the best accessories! (source)
Make up: basic corrective with a little flush and stain when necessary. I'd guess Ehle had some cake mascara and Firth's face is rather sculpted (you can actually see his jaw line when he goes in to kiss Lizzie at the end...stops before it can get the collar dirty), but there's no eye shadow, liner, or lashes to speak of. Mrs. Bennet gets a bit of rouge when Bingley comes to propose, but very appropriate. I have the tenth anniversary DVD so I'd be interested to see how this stands up to restoration....

Andrew Davies, you pillar of novel adaptations you. In an interview he said the opening scene with Bingley and Darcy on horseback was meant to set the active pace and tone throughout the film. You all may be rolling your eyes because it's five hours long, but it's five hours of well crafted and beautiful intrigue. Much of this is Austen's genius but of course credit goes to Davies' well crafted and highly source referenced script. It's a monster to tackle and get right. My only qualms are with "Dearest, loveliest Elizabeth" which is in the book, and if Firth had loosened up a bit more near the end I could give it to him, but you'd better not risk such a sugary line. In context it works, but not enough in the film. Also there needed to be more affection. I've come to terms with only one freeze framed kiss at the end, but even Elizabeth taking Darcy's arm as they walked on would appease me (mostly). I watch this film straight though at least once a year and every year I'm delighted and find new things about it that I can't get over.

Duh. Colin Firth (despite initial objections from directors and himself) is perfect. I'm not really going to say anything else. Flaws in Darcy are script in nature. Jennifer Ehle of course is perfect Elizabeth. Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet is perfect. It's all pretty great, but of course there are misses. The Bingley sisters come off rather evil stepsister-ish, and Mr. Collins is creepy when I believe he should be awkward. And the big debate for almost 20 years: Elizabeth to Jane's attractiveness ratio is not correct. I will give you this, but I think it's more of Jennifer's bar being too high and thus Susannah Harker will forever be the "ugly Jane" when really she's not bad looking and with better hair could have been much lovelier. To everyone else that balks about Bingley or Wickham's looks, they are handsome fellows. Get over it. British people see things differently.

Shout out to under appreciated Maria Lucas (Lucy Davis) who is absolutely delightful!

Locations and Production
Such great detail is paid to the locations of this film, which really inform what we think of the character's statuses. Longbourne seems so shabby on the outside, but is so cozy on the inside. DVD extras have excellent interviews with production designers about set dressing and location selection. And I'm going to say right now, I've been telling people that Pemberley in this version is Chatsworth (rumored to be the actual model for Pemberley), but it's not. Pemberley in this is Lyme Park, a much darker, less inviting exterior, but it fits with the darker Darcy. So, my bad for leading you astray.

Basically this film stands the test of time because it is just a well crafted piece of art across the board. The qualms I find with it are minor and appeal to others, so I can't say too many boos. This film is great and really nothing like it should ever be attempted again. More modern Austens can fiddle all they want, but another 5 hour production has little to improve on. I mean...I guess you can try. If you did I'd have one more P&P to add to my collection!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Even more things about me that men should find attractive*

My left hip is 3/4" higher than my right because I've carried babies on it my whole life.
I can live out of a carry on for weeks.
I don't need a hairdryer.
I shine shoes like a champ.
I have a recipe that makes 10 dozen pumpkin cookies.
I know how your pants should fit.
I can tie a bow tie, and many knots of necktie on and off myself.
I'm really great at packing dishwashers.

*If you're unfamiliar with my "Why I'm Attractive" series, it is all a joke (mostly) and other installments can be found here.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Confession: I'm not a very good reader

"I mean, I can read, of course. And I'm not suggesting you can't read out of doors."

D'ya get it? huh? huh? That was a quote from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, which I watched last night. Guess what, I've only read Pride and Prejudice completely once (I reread parts of course). Shocked? Confused by what this all has to do with itself? Lemme 'splain...

I read the first of the Boxcar Children books in first grade and loved it, then hated the second so stopped reading outside of school assignments.

Around seventh grade I decided I was going to be pretentious and work through the British classics, starting with Whuthering Heights. Woof. Do not start your 12 year old with unabridged Emily Bronte. I'm amazed I continued after 60% of all characters died (I did the math, it's in my journal).

Amazingly I moved on and got Pride and Prejudice from a book order (remember those?!). It was paper back and had a terrible painting of blue satin and pearls on the cover with yellow writing. I underlined every word I didn't know. Words like "condescend" (thanks Collins!) and "felicity". Oh man, good times. I loved P&P and remembered that some yahoo sent it to the printer so that it read "how ardently I admire and

love you."
The last two words were on the NEXT PAGE! I had to turn the page! Ugh, the worst. Can you even imagine? Anyway, I loved it and got the '80s BBC production to watch right away, then the '95 when I realized the '80s version was not "the good one".

This was the beginning of my reading phase, and a foreshadowing of its end. I began setting reading goals for myself, and my reward was watching the film...eventually I couldn't read fast enough and so just left the books behind. BUT I did get quite a bit knocked out.

read each Austen before I was 16.
read one of each Bronte before I was 18.
read a Gaskell, read a Forster, and started some Dickens and Thackery and Rand.
read more Brontes and an Ishiguro and Salinger.
read a lot of historical romances and a little dragon fiction...

I tried to keep up with each BBC or Merchant/Ivory film I found that had been adapted from a novel, but I just got lost in the films and left the books all together.

Am I proud of this? No. Have I tried to fix it? Yes, but I fail. I've come to accept that I am not a good reader. I read sewing books, Wikipedia articles, any and all historical tidbits I can find that add up to hours, but it seems my novel days are over. I have reread Persuasion and Little Women and North and South and Ella Enchanted. Part of it is that I have this idea that I've read all the good stuff. I'm sure the novels are better than the films I've read, but I know Tess of the D'Urbervilles ends at Stonehenge...I know how Bleak House and Howards End go.

I'm terrible, believe me, I know. I have this whole self-loathing thing for my bad reading habits. Everyone assumes I read because I've seen the films, or Wishbone, and/or have a pretty quick and ready knowledge of Brit Lit in general. People give me referrals thinking they've found someone with whom they can share the loveliness of their new literary find, but it's no good.

I love to read actually. When I have a good book I love to be transported and get consumed and I stop feeding myself and all of those things, but I just have the hardest time starting. Reading the first Boxcar book in first grade was actually forced on me by my mom and I was not happy about it. I remember. She made me read it, and I loved it, then it was over and I was done.

So there it is, my dirty secret. I'm not a great reader. Now you can all shun me and ignore any conversations we've had about books.

What I have read:
Persuasion, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Whuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, Tennant of Wildfell Hall, A Room With a View, North and South, The Remains of the Day, Little Women, The Great Gatsby, The Importance of Being Earnest, Pygmalion, The Catcher in the Rye

What I've started:
Vanity Fair, David Copperfield, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Gone With the Wind, This Side of Paradise, Wives and Daughters, Howards End, The Fountainhead, Catch-22

A rather old list of what I've seen can be found here.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Yes, here I am. I finished my first semester of grad school and as you can tell I survived! I've decided I need to blog more for mental health, but in general the best way for you to keep up with my projects is to follow me on Instagram @belbcorinne. It's easier for me to snap a photo on there than compose an entry.

That being said, my semester in a nutshell...

I had a millinery class where I made a pillbox embellished with zippers, an 1830s bonnet made from two 1960s hats, a fosshape based turban, and a straw boater. This class was great bc my instructor is very loosy-goosey seat of your pants when it comes to crafting. He provided resources and advice, but at the end of the day it was sort of hat therapy for me. It's mostly hand work and problem solving which is great for my brain at the end of a long week.

I had a wig class where I styled a few wigs, photos are on Instagram. I hardly ever get to wear wigs so it was fun to go blonde and ginger for a bit! If you know me at all you know I love doing my own hair and truth be told the biggest challenge I face with wigs is being able to see the back! The motion of styling the hair on the back of my head does not translate into styling the back of a wig that's in front of me. That was a surprising challenge...

My studio class included a section on color theory in which we learned to mix any color (including black) from three warm primaries, three cool primaries, a neutral ochre and white. It was frustrating at first since we were in acrylic and I was told to do away with all my watercolor notions. Eventually I learned that that did not mean I couldn't use any water. I also discovered acrylic medium that extends your paints and makes them smoother and it was absolutely lovely! I eventually did pretty great copies of a Degas and Seargent. Pics on Instagram.

Also in studio we work on paper design projects. The first year scenic and costume students did A View From The Bridge which is a fantastic Arthur Miller, You Can't Take It With You, by Kaufmann, and our last project was to pick two plays from Thornton Wilder's The Angel That Troubled The Waters collection of three page, three character, unproducible plays. I made leaps and bounds with each show. I'm working on different mediums and different styles and have been discovering some great designers to take inspiration from. I'll scan my renderings and update my website when I get back.

I was the assistant designer on Guys and Dolls which was designed by a third year. It was a big show and I was in charge of scheduling fittings, taking notes, one build, paperwork, and was the wardrobe supervisor, dresser, and wig master for the show. This basically involved using all the skills I'd acquired as an assistant to my professor at BYU and the office and personal skills I learned at USF. By the time we got to tech it was like I had my 40 hr/wk job at USF plus my school work. Not going to lie, it got a little rough. I was sick most of the time and couldn't design to save my life during these weeks, but it's over! I whipped my dressers into shape (and the actors for that matter) and truth be told, I missed being back stage and in charge :)

Uh...what else? I'm the music director of my branch. Serves me right for volunteering to lead the music my second week. The branch is great, Institute is wonderful, and we're getting a chapel built for us that might be ready by the spring! How exciting is that? Pretty darn.

And now I'm at my sister's for the holidays and my baby niece Addie is helping me type. She's pretty cute.