Looking Backwards and Looking Forwards

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You may have noticed that it’s been a little quiet here lately.

If I told you it’s because I’ve been finishing my masters thesis, that would be true, but it isn’t the full story.

This coming week, I will receive my master’s degree. This is a turning point, and I feel as though I must make changes here as well.

At the risk of getting a little bit philosophical here, I’ve been thinking a lot about “the future.” Although I have loved the last two and a half years of running Many Media Musings, as I advance in my academic and professional career, I feel as though my writing needs another home.

So, yes, this is my last post on Many Media Musings. But I have set up a new website, which you can find at nataliejonckheere.com. You can read my first post there on the language issues of Disney’s Frozen multilanguage “Let It Go” video.

I may not post content all the time over there, and I also expect that the content will be a bit more focused on my academic interests, mostly classic film and contemporary television, with particular bends towards historical, cultural, and linguistic studies. As such, I likely won’t be writing too much about theater or literature, which also means that I will (sadly) not be an active participant of the Classics Club anymore. I do, however, have every intention of completing 50 books from my list by March 2017.

I’m also suspending my other projects, but, as of this moment, I have no plans of taking down Many Media Musings, should anyone feel like reading an old post in the future. My Twitter account remains the same, but I have changed the handle to @nejonckheere.

I want to thank all my subscribers, commenters, and other readers. Thank you for letting me know that I had something to write worth reading, and I do hope that some of you may follow me to my new site.

The Writing Conundrum of Downton Abbey

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This post contains spoilers up to the first half of the fourth season of Downton Abbey, through Episode 4 of the U.S. broadcast and Episode 5 of the U.K. broadcast.

The problems began in Season 2.

Remember Matthew’s miraculous recovery?  Vera Bates, the mustache-twirling villain who mysteriously died?  Or shall I remind you about P. Gordon, who just may have been an amnesiac Patrick Crawley?

I’ve been a Downton Abbey apologist in the past.  I loved the first season so much that I was willing to let some of the stranger elements of the second and third seasons slide.  I trusted that creator and writer Julian Fellowes would pull through for us fans and provide us with drama worthy of our attention.

I’m not saying that the fourth season is worse than any of the others.  It’s simply that certain elements of the fourth season have prompted me to look more critically at the previous seasons.

Look, the raw material of Downton Abbey is excellent.  The change abounding in the early twentieth century, coupled with the diverse cast of upstairs and downstairs characters, could be the fodder for some great stories.

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On Reading Emma and Getting In Sync with Jane Austen’s Novels

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Hammond-Emma24

By Chris Hammond (1860-1900) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I get the feeling that I’m probably not the right person to be discussing Emma, so this is less about Emma itself than about my experience reading it.

I’ve struggled with Jane Austen in the past, and Emma was no exception.  While I enjoyed the first couple of chapters, once the host of characters entered the picture, I had trouble keeping straight who was who and who was related to whom and who wanted what.

I won’t lie: a major reason I bumped Emma up from obscurity on my Classics Club list to now was in anticipation of the web series Emma Approved, a modern adaptation from the team who modernized Pride and Prejudice in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  I hadn’t finished Emma by the time the series started, but I began watching it anyway, finding that it helped illuminate the main characters for me.

But it only emphasized how frustrated I felt actually reading the book.

And yet…

When I started getting towards the end of the novel, I felt that things were falling into place.  When I could finally keep up with the plot and the prose, I flew through the last fifty or so pages.

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Favorite Things About Film in 2013

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Happy New Year!  As I mentioned in my last post, 2013 was a fantastic year for film and television. Although I’m still catching up on some 2013 releases, today I share my favorite things about film in 2013.

The audacity of The Great Gatsby

When I first heard that Baz Luhrmann was adapting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in 3D, I thought it was a terrible idea. But Gatsby proved me wrong on all accounts. I loved the edgy mix of hip hop and jazz. I loved the vibrant colors and over-the-top party scenes. I loved the passages from the novel floating on the screen. The excess in filmmaking to me mirrored the excess that Fitzgerald questions in his novel, and for that reason, this audacious 3D version a classic novel worked on every level for me.

Gravity

While watching Gravity both times in IMAX 3D, I was reminded of my childhood passion to become an astronaut, and I cried and cheered along with Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone.  But I also marveled at the technical achievements of this wonderful film. With its impressive visuals, Gravity is the epitome of spectacle cinema, but it’s more than a spectacle; it’s the most immersive film I saw this year, both visually and emotionally.

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Favorite Things About Television in 2013

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In 2011 and 2012, I shared lists of my favorite things about film and television in those years. 2013, however, has been such an exceptional year for television in particular that I feel compelled to split this into two lists.

This is not a traditional Top 10 list, as I watch nowhere near enough television to feel qualified to make one. Rather, this is a list of things I felt were particularly noteworthy on television this year.

PBS Sunday night British drama (PBS)

Although Downton Abbey had its problems this year (meaning its third season, as I’m going by U.S. airings for this list), it remains one of my favorite television programs, and I will follow the triumphs and trials of the Crawley family and their servants until the powers that be decide to end the show. But PBS offers so much more British drama. Last year, I got hooked on Call the Midwife, which continued to charm me this year, but I also sampled a few other shows, with my favorites being Mr Selfridge, which entertained with its lavish turn-of-the-century department store setting, and The Bletchley Circle, which intrigued with its female quartet solving crime in the 1950s.

The Good Wife (CBS)

2013 has been the best year of The Good Wife so far. The one problem with the fourth season – Kalinda’s husband – was resolved at the end of 2012, allowing the show to move forward in this year. From last season’s stellar St. Patrick’s Day episode, featuring John Noble as a guest star, to its brilliant finale, The Good Wife set up the fifth season to be the best yet, and so far, it has delivered. The dissolution of many of the show’s professional relationships has created some of the most riveting television this fall, including the thrilling “Hitting the Fan.” This show is on fire, and I cannot wait to see where it takes us next year.

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Favorite Books Read and Plays Seen in 2013

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A lot of my coursework as a graduate student involves reading, which is great, but it does mean that I don’t have as much time as I would like for leisure reading.  That said, I was able to make time to read several books for pleasure this year, as well as to go see plays and musicals in New York City.  Here are my favorite books and plays out of all the ones I read and saw in 2013.

Books

Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

I want to note that, although this is an unordered list, Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was far and away my favorite book I read in 2013. Its shocking depiction of alcoholism, psychological abuse, and a woman abandons her abusive husband was years ahead of its time. You can read my full thoughts on it here.

Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel

I also read “The Birds” earlier this year, but My Cousin Rachel was my first trip back through a du Maurier novel since enjoying Rebecca last year. Much like Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel hooked me from the opening sentence and didn’t let go until the ambiguous ending. I finished it mere days ago and am still processing it, so you can expect a full Classics Club post on it in the new year.

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Why Didn’t I See These Earlier?: Favorite Classic Movies I Saw for the First Time in 2013

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Like last year, I thought I would share some of my favorite classic movies that I saw for the first time in 2013. This year’s list contains a mix of well and lesser known films, as well as a handful of French and Japanese films, as this is the year I genuinely started to dive into foreign classic cinema.

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels (public domain) - via Wikimedia Commons

Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea in Sullivan’s Travels (public domain) – via Wikimedia Commons

As soon as I watched Sullivan’s Travels, my first thought was, “Why didn’t I see this earlier?”, making it the perfect film with which to begin this list.  Not only is Sullivan’s Travels a great comedy, but it is also a moving portrait of the power of movies, or, more broadly, art itself.  I know that this film has a lot of fans in the classic film community, but it deserves to be better known than it is.

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

The Lodger was the first movie I watched in 2013.  I was sitting in the back of a car watching it on my laptop.  Despite the many distractions, this Hitchcock silent held my attention the entire time with its eerie depiction of a serial killer on the streets of London in the fog.  My only wish is that I could have seen it earlier to include it in my Hitchcock discovery post from last December.

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