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What is the point,

of An Education???

That was the burning question that Jenny sought to answer in her final year of high school. The only daughter of a middle class couple, Jenny had her future planned out for her. There wasn’t any doubt about it. She was to finish school, score top marks (if she could just get her Latin up to scratch), apply and get accepted by Oxford to study English. Beyond that, well, given that it was the 1960’s, she would probably find and husband and have a family. Of course women had careers then, but they weren’t exactly married to their jobs either.

An Education received an Oscar nod for best picture whereas Carey Mulligan, who plays Jenny, is nominated for Best Actress. So I professed that I was very curious to watch her acting skills during this movie, because the only other time I saw her was in Keira Knightly’s Pride and Prejudice and at that time, she wasn’t much more than a giggling teenager.

However, 22 year old Mulligan had to act all 16 and giggly again for this film because she brings us along on her ride to maturity. It can be called a coming of age film but I find this to be much more than that and there is something about each character that helps build on the meaning of this film.

The film does give me a sense of being all bored and odious because I think post-war Britain was supposed to be like that. Although it was the 60s and we’ve heard alot about the ‘swinging sixties’, I guess it hasn’t really reached across the Atlantic then from America to England. Everything was still grey and dull. The cold war was still in full swing and even though I wouldn’t dream of giving up anything to grow up during that period, I suspect it was quite a momentous period to grow up in. So much happening during that time (J.F. Kennedy, Berlin Wall, Apollo space project, nuclear research and testing, Vietnam war… not to mention T.A.R. announced his idea of forming Malaysia and also Catch – 22 was published – I’ve yet to read that book), quite a tremultous time to grow up in without having to deal with one’s own problems nearer at hand.

So imagine good ol’ Jenny who is the hope of her family (and her teachers), judiciously slaving away at her books, dreaming of Oxford (and Paris, because yes, the continent is THE place to visit for all things culture) Here, I wish I know some cool french word that I can just casually slip in but all I know is chic so erm, lets forget that shall we? Anyway, one day she meets this 30-ish man who suddenly opens her eyes to the world outside of school and home. Think art auctions, trendy nightclubs, racing meets, champagne, perfume….

Somehow, this sophisticated guy manages to charm her parents on his first meeting, convincing them to let their 16 year old daughter go on a date with him and later, even let him take her to Paris for her 17th birthday. O_O I find it quite hard to imagine such gullible parents (or greedy?). Just because he drives a flashy car and knows C.S. Lewis, doesn’t mean he can court your daughter just like that?

being a famous author isn’t as good as knowing a famous one. It shows that you’ve got connections…

so said Jenny’s father. Honestly, even his daughter couldn’t comprehend his logic.

I was anticipating some sort tragedy happening the minute she started going out with the guy. You know, like him seducing her and then dumping her and all that stuff. Instead I was left tittering on the edge every single time. Sure, she choosed to lose her virginity when she turned 17 but the story did not end there. In fact, it glazed over that fact so quickly, I didn’t even realised until some time after -_-“. Throughout this, Jenny started questioning her initial choice in life. She started wondering why people even bother going to school. Rosamund Pike (I love her), who plays her female companion in the posh life, teaching her about makeup and dresses, is a complete airheaded bimbo who is so artless and ignorant, one would think that is reason enough why people bother sending their kids to school. Of course, I’m sure the lack of education doesn’t render everyone hopeless when it comes to having meaningful, provocative conversations. In fact one does envy her luck in life, even if she does day the darnest things.

I find it highly amusing that when confronted by Jenny, none of her teachers, including her formidable headmistress (Emma Thompson) could give her a solid reason to continue her studies. Her English teacher admitted to staying up all night slaving through endless essays by the girls about their ponies while the headmistress advertised that with her degree, she could go into teaching or some clerical job or the civil service *gasp*. Tell that to someone who has just come back from a whirlwind trip in Paris and they’ll probably give it as much thought as a fly on the wall. -_-” To shed tears and sweat on English and Latin so that one can eventually exchange that for a drab, unexciting and often unappreciated job of teaching. One does wonder the worth of it all. (Plus, remember the bimbo airhead had no education whatsoever, talks of empty nothings, and lives the high life) Of course, in the 60’s, being a female and trying to get a career isn’t an easy task. They get paid 45% less than their male counterparts and are restricted from joining most fields (an interesting fact, Israel had like the highest % of female doctors in their workforce around that time, bout 33% if I’m not mistaken. Israel, imagine that).

Guess what was more astounding? When her parents were more than happy to see their only daughter quit school and get married to a man twice her age. *faints* I was expecting an angry outburst, Jenny was expecting an angry confrontation. I think we were both flabbergasted when her parents took her news with complete indifference. Not a single objection. No mention of Oxford was made. In fact, she had to bring the topic up herself in an attempt to rile them. And their answer to that??? Well, she wouldn’t need Oxford now would she, if she’s already found a nice man to settle down with? I particularly liked how Jenny retaliated by saying that if the whole point of sending her to Oxford was so that she could meet a rich husband, they could have just dolled her up and sent her prowling through the nightclubs. Far less painful for each of them. I was rather shocked as well with that revelation. I mean, what happened to the feminist movement and all that??? Was suburban London that far behind in terms of modern thinking and values??? It seems like England had a lot of catching up to do before it arrived at the independence that American women enjoyed. Heck, Amelia flew her transatlantic flight in 1932! Okie, that has nothing to do with it…..

Jenny’s rude awakening finally arrived. However, she showed great deal of mature thinking and responsibility when the time came (more so than her parents). No she did not became a teenage single mother, that was Juno. -_-” Needless to say, I was most impressed with how she handled everything, not letting events get the better of her and wallowing in self pity. Her determination and perseverence, although I hope I would never find myself in such a predicament, I do hope that when required, I am able to show that much courage.

I’ve been rambling too much.I notice that my entries have become rather wordy of late. A complete opposite from the trends of blogs nowadays which tend to be picture heavy with captions. But I guess that’s the reason why I blog, to write down my ramblings. =P

Anyway, An Education is worth a watch. It is refreshing, funny, sad and most importantly meaningful. Meaningful in a different way from the likes of My sister’s Keeper, 19 minutes, Time Traveller’s Wife etc. I cannot abide by these stories at all and keep well away from them (apart from the latter, that was not too bad). Jodi Picoult writes moving stories but somehow I just find them too….. mass marketed. *sigh* I don’t know how to explain. Yeah, the characters pull at our heartstrings but when it is over, we put away the book and move on without a moment’s hesitation. This film however, made me think twice, thrice. Made me want to understand why these people acted the way they did back then, made me wonder at the evolution of social patterns over the years, and made me wonder what was to come.

So I ramble…..

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In the mean time…

A book is a Gift that you can open again, and again, and again.

How true. =) Books are Best.

Blog for a rainy day

The sky is overcast. I watch as tiny drops of rain (or tears) fall from the sky. Pitter Patter on the roofs, the gravel. Bursting in a million minuscule drops before converging together into little puddles. Puddles that became steadily bigger as more and more of their ‘buddies’ join them, falling from the sky in straight unchanging course. ‘So unlike snowflakes’ I thought. ‘Now snowflakes are nice. Each falling as if with a parachute, sometimes swirling due to a gust of wind.’ But it is not winter here. It is December and summer is starting to make its presence felt. Today is just an anomaly, a break in the sunny days that we have been having since.

I’m sitting here in my room, a cup of white tea beside my laptop. Jason Mraz is singing ‘I’m Yours’ to me and I’m bobbing along to his tune. An unfinished craft project litters one half of my study table, the other half taken up with magazines and books that I have ascribed to my ‘Holiday reads’. My voracious appetite for devouring books during exams period seemed to have died with it, I no longer find an excuse put down my textbook for fiction. Instead my half-hearted atempts to read makes me secretly ashamed of myself. What happened to the girl who could easily finish a book in a day? Even Roald Dahl couldn’t entice me. Admitedly, short war stories with chilling, sad tales of soldiers affected by their experiences in the trenchers are not your usual summer light reads.I have a million things that I want to do, instead here I am, tottering along while my stay here in Adelaide gets steadily shorter.

Today is a quiet day. I am surrounded by little comforts, quietly appreciating what I have, dreaming about what I want. I’m currently into classics. Sedate stories observing the lives of people of the 19th century, not fantasy. Where the characters do not harbour notions of going over mountains nor crossing treacherous oceans. Monsters are not mentioned, nor is magic performed. Hobits, though having perfectly respectable lives and practices have no place in the lanes of Hyde Park or the drawing room of A Lady. Supper is taken amongst family and invited guests with servants at hand to serve and polite conversation flows just above the clink of cutlery, not under the eaves of a gnarled old tree, observed by creatures of the night who take care to stay just out of the circle of campfire one has set up. One worries about the entailment instead of the fate of an entire race.

Both have happy endings though, or at least one hopes to have emerge from the pages wiser. Whether contemplation was done by the window seat or under the stars, there is always something to be learned from the people who walked the cobbled streets and the dusty, untraveled paths of the wilderness.

Hance end the rambling thought of mine in this rainy day

It just struck me when I was about to write this that I have only ever watched Keira Knightley whenever she was in period films. Films like ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘Atonement’… It is a funny coincidence but I wonder whether I would be able to watch her in a normal present day / futuristic movie next time.

I recently watched ‘The Duchess’ staring Keira and Ralph Fiennes. I’ve always like period films. I love to see the elaborate dresses and the manner of speaking, style of living and mentally compare them with the present. Sometimes things happening back then aren’t that much different from what we have now and it is curious the way some things undergo such drastic makeovers while some are able to endure. I am partial to English history and culture. I guess I have to give credit to Jane Austen who is one of my favourite authors and her stories just pique my interest in anything English. My ultimate dream trip is to visit the places mentioned in the books, especially Bath.

‘The Duchess’ is the story of Georgina, daughter to the Earl of Spencer who married the Duke of Devonshire when she was just a young girl (well not so during her time though). She was instantly catapulted into the spotlight and every move, every action of hers her scruntinised by her peers and the public and reported and discussed by everyone. Georgina enjoyed a life of luxury and fame. She had access to the best parties, everyone clamoured to be considered her acquaintance and the common people adored her. However, her good fortune did not extend to her marriage. The Duke was distant and cool. He main priority was to secure an heir and apart from that, did not seem to consider the need to spend time with his wife. As one of the characters in the movie remarked ‘The Duke of Devonshire is the only man not in love with her.’. Georgina naturally felt disappointed and hurt. It was an even bigger insult when the Duke was unfaithful to her. She was forced to accept the fact that her husband was having an affair and pretended that things were fine. It was probably quite common for men of rank at that time to keep mistresses but the greatest blow was when the Duke turned to her best friend. Georgine’s perfect world started falling apart and the only solace she could find was in an unlikely candidate. An ambitious politician by the name of Charles Grey. Finally there was someone who understood her and loved her for who she was, who would not look at her inability to produce an heir as a failure. Georgina decided to make a deal with her husband, to give his permission for her to see Chrles Grey while she in return give her blessing to his relationship with her friend. The Duke of course would not stand to be insulted in this way. He was an unyeilding man who expected everyone to bow to his demands and what Georgina was asking would humiliate him before the whole of London. Thus followed the most bitter and heartbreaking of battles for Georgina as she fought for her heart and freedom.

It was a very moving movie and it did not feel draggy at all. Kiera was at her best so far and I usually do not like her acting skills. I can never get used to her style. I don’t think I ever will but it did not bother me at all in this movie. The colours were wonderful and the cast amazing. They were some comical moments supplied by the Duke. I felt really sorry for Georgina and her situation in life. If she was born in this period, maybe her free spirit and courage would have brought her to a different fate… It is something we could only wonder. However, she was the Duchess of Devonshire, an extraodinary girl who stayed true to herself and emerged a woman, one who faced faced every challenge fate dealt her with unflinching conviction and bravery. To think that Princess Diana was her descendant…

Adventures

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.

– Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring –

The road does go on…

Pilobolus in Adelaide

Ok, Pilobolus. I’m pretty sure some are wondering what does that word signify. Well, if you’ve googled it before, you come up with
a) Some sort of fungus that survives on cattle dung
b) a famous US dance company that has been in existence for 38 years =)

Obviously, the second one is what I am referring to. Attending the Adelaide Fringe has got me excited about attending another one. Pilobolus has amazing dancers and this is the company’s debut in Australia (and exclusive to Adelaide. Haha..). Student tickets were relatively cheap at $25. The show was held at Her Majesty’s Theater on Grote St. It is quite an old theater but still very nice. I got quite excited about the chandelier -_-“. We were seated at the balcony overlooking the stalls so we got a pretty good view of the stage. The program of the evening was split into 5 short pieces: Aquatica, Pseudopodia, Gnomen, Symbiosis, and Day Two. I was a little worried that I might not understand all these artsy dance stuff but once they started on their first piece, I was completely blown away. They were awesome. All the grace and fluidity in their motions. I know everything is choreographed but they were able to make it seem a spontaneous, spur of the moment action. Those with a subtle storyline were intriguing. They make you wonder, smile, they leave you awed. I especially love Gnomen which had this sense of regal-ness as the dancers interacted with each other. They had an air about them which sometimes serve to puzzle and at other times just make you laugh. Ok, I’m not making much sense here but I find it hard to describe the feelings that went through me when I was watching for my perch at the top. One thing that struck me (and really amazes me) is their ability to not only control themselves but also the amount of control. I sometimes get this fleeting feeling that the dancers were emotionally outside their bodies and that they, were watching, like us the audience, themselves moving from a distance instead of being in the whole whirling thick of things. I guess it is just the precision and grace of their movements. It just seems surreal. Like there is someone outside tweaking the scene while the dancers were also controlling their bodies with invisible strings from above.  Aquatica was also nice as it gave me a fairytale sort of feeling. I was a kid again playing by the seashore, while the waves sent up seaweeds to tickle my feet and every piece of flotsam was a treasure the sea gave up.

I think my $25 well spent. Its a pity they’re not touring to other cities in Australia. There are quite a few videos of their performances on Youtube. Just type in Pilobolus. They also performed at the 79th Academy Awards ceremony and that was really good. I wish I could have sneaked some pictures of the performance we were prohibited and I don’t want to take any chances with it.

Oh no… I’m now looking forward to going on another theater excursion again. The Australian Ballet is giving a performance later this year, and there is Cinderella on Ice (omg!) as well. I saw a leaflet advertising Les Miserables and I was quite interested in that until I realised that 1) it is a musical 2) I suspect that everything is going to be in French and THEN I will be worse than a duck lost in the desert. I really want to watch Cinderella on Ice but the tickets are a whooping $40 – 50 for students. =(

Sense and Sensibility

I profess that I love Jane Austen’s books. I’ve read them many times especially Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion. These 3 are my favourite. I’ve watched the adaptations of the books whenever I could and I have the 1998 version of Emma featuring Gywneth Partlow as the heroine. =) I’ve watched Kiera Knightley and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth in perhaps the most popular of love stories and admired the way Ann Hataway played Miss Austen herself in the movie Becoming Jane. Being an ardent fan of Miss Austen, I was of course quite sad that none of her film adaptation ever made it to local tv networks. I guess it’s because these types of shows do not appeal to the general audiences and thus will not be profitable to be aired. Therefore, I spent several years pining for the 1994 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice (starring of course Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, yes, for those who loved Bridget Jones’ Diaries….).

However, I discovered that youtube (of all places) contains full clips of all Jane Austen’s adaptations, all uploaded by die hard Regency addicts!!! (bless them) I could hardly contain my excitement when I found this out. Lets just say I was ecstatic. I was able to feast myself upon the wonderful productions, both old and new, that paid tribute to the wonderful authoress.

Recently, I got to know that a new 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility has been aired. Now, among all 6 of the books, I must confess that I have actually never properly finished this particular story. I am perplexed as to how I had allowed this to happen but there it is. I did not even know the plot for the story (shameful!). Anyway, I heard good review of the movie therefore I went to trusty youtube and found the videos being put up by some kind soul for us all to enjoy.

Edward Ferrars (S and S 2008)In so many words, I loved the adaptation. Making a mini series out of this book does it justice. This story has many characters which is surprisingly uncommon in any of her other stories therefore it was actually easier to watch than to read the story (I suspect I lost track of who was who and going out with who). The actors and actresses who played each character in the movie was delightful to watch and the setting of the movie was beautiful. Houses, cottages, wild english landscape, wet. =P And the storyline was just lovely!! I have always thought that nothing, could beat P&P in terms of storyline and have always wondered why S&S is as popular as P&P (as opposed to Emma). I judged this by the fact that I did not even finish the book, so it didn’t even manage to get me hooked on it long enough (maybe because I did not like the fact that the two heroines were cut of penniless in the beginning of the story with the passing of their father). But as a movie, the story was just so touching and just right. One would think that Jane Austen had it in her mind that this will be an adaptation when she wrote it!!

Marianne and Colonel Brandon (S and S 1995)

Anyway, lots of people were comparing it to the 1995 version featuring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and (gasp!) Hugh Laurie (Dr. House!!!!! lol!). It was so disconcerting to watch House play a sarcastic husband in this movie (and to think that he is British!!!) but oh well, he was actually quite okay. This version had an all star cast compared to the newer one which had people that are not that internationally well known (to me anyway).

Mrs Dashwood and Elinor Dashwood (S and S 2008)

However, I believe I liked the new one better. Somehow, the actors in the second production were able to capture and portray the emotions of their characters better. When I watched it, I could somehow feel that this is what Jane Austen had wrote in her book. There were some similarities between some of the scenes were played out in both movies (which always happens with all her adaptations) but I still felt that the second one was better. Most people prefer the first one though. But I liked how Mrs Dashwood was portrayed in the second movie. More sedate and elegant, as opposed to the first one which showed her to be a little shallow. =P Elinor Dashwood also is better in the second movie. And Hugh Grant, I don’t know why but he just didn’t seem to carry his role as Edward!!! It was kinda disappointing really because you would expect so much from him, being always in romantic films and all that, but somehow his manners just seem so out of place in a Regency setting. Perfectly fine for modern, everyday life but not for a gentleman in Regency England!!! Alan Rickman was hard to see as Colonel Brandon as well since all I knew of him was just as Prof Snape. =) But he had it better than Hugh Grant.

Anyway, I would encourage anyone who likes period dramas to watch Sense and Sensibility 2008. Very nice and with such a happy ending, what is not to love about it???