Thursday, March 30, 2017

Beauty and the Beast {2017}

Last week, my mom and I went to see the new Beauty and the Beast in theaters. I had no immediate plans to review it here, and as soon as we came out of the theater I remember thinking, "I have so many thoughts about this that there's no way I can express them all." And yet by the time I got home, I'd decided to write a post about the movie. :)

As I mentioned in my last post (a review of the animated film), Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie. It came out the year I was born, and I grew up loving it (and obviously I still do). So I was wondering how that would affect my feelings for the live action remake...would I love it no matter what because it's my favorite, or would I be more critical because it has so much to live up to?

I think my bias made me veer into the "more critical" category. The movie was so, so good, but not quite perfect. I felt myself getting nitpicky over a few things. But...I do feel like I'll love this movie more each time I watch it.

Let's start off with the good, okay? Beauty and the Beast was a beautiful film. Between the colors and costumes and sets, it was visually so stunning. And the cast was excellent. Honestly, I can't think of a single character that wasn't a perfect fit. Emma Watson will forever be Hermione to me, but she fit very well as bookish Belle. Dan Stevens (again, forever Matthew Crawley) was wonderful as the Beast. I'm not a fan of over-the-top CGI, especially in these live action Disney films, but I was so impressed with how realistic he looked. It amazes me how they can incorporate Dan Stevens' facial features and expressions into the Beast. Gaston and all of the supporting characters at the castle were lovely as well!

I like what Disney does with the live action adaptations. It's nice how they slightly expand on the historical setting or add some backstory to often vague fairy tales, or how they answer questions. Here they really ran with the 1700s-1800s French setting, with the wigs and clothing and everything. (Matthew Crawley in makeup and a wig: I'll never be able to look at him the same!) And in this movie, they answered the question of why the villagers had forgotten about the Beast, and I loved the little reference to the original Mrs. Potts being elderly and having a young child. (It involved Emma Thompson getting offended when someone refers to her as a grandmother, ha.)

Be Our Guest was one of my favorite scenes. It was gorgeous and hilarious and just perfect! I also really loved the classic title song scene. It made me feel so nostalgic, remembering how it felt to grow up watching that scene in the animated film, and knowing that little girls now will grow up feeling the same way about the live action version. And Belle's dress, oh my goodness. I know this is a controversial opinion, but I loved her dress so much more than Cinderella's. It was beautiful! So was the library. The end fight was appropriately dramatic and tense, though I was a bit disappointed with Gaston for taking the easy way out and just shooting the Beast. I liked how they showed all of the servants at the castle becoming completely inanimate again at the made that part even more heartbreaking than it already was.

Now that I think about it, what I didn't like about this movie comes down to aspects of the music. I didn't like the new songs at all. They might grow on me some eventually, but I think the film would have been basically perfect if they had left out the new songs. One of the best things about Beauty and the Beast is the music: the songs are catchy and funny and they intertwine perfectly. The original songs are so good that the new ones felt cheesy and mediocre, especially lyrically. Also, why did they mess with Emma Watson's voice? So what if she doesn't sing perfectly? Most everyone else's voices sounded genuine and like themselves, but the auto-tuning on her voice in "Belle" made me cringe. I didn't notice it as much in later songs, so maybe that was the main one they altered. Besides that, I also didn't like the scene where the Beast and Belle sort of magically teleported to the place where her mother died. I see what they were trying to do, but it felt random and out of place.

{I know much has been said about Gaston's sidekick LeFou. Honestly, I feel like the whole thing was blown out of proportion. LeFou is obviously a bit feminine in this version, but unless you're specifically looking for this "gay subplot," you're not going to find it.}

I started writing this post the evening after we saw the film, when it was all fresh on my mind and I was feeling a little critical. Even now, just a week later, I'm already feeling more positive looking back at this adaptation. I can't say that it's better than the animated version, but it is really beautifully done, and I'm sure my little issues with it will be forgotten about after a couple more viewings! :)

Have you seen the new Beauty and the Beast? What did you think?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Beauty and the Beast {1991}

{Animated Disney Film #30 of 56}

I know I've mentioned this (multiple times) before, but Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favorite Disney movie. So be prepared for some gushing. :) This movie came out in 1991, the year I was born, and I grew up watching it and loving it. But as I've continued watching it as an adult, I've come to appreciate it even more!

From those first few notes of music in the prologue, I just love everything about this movie. (Well, I do have a few tiny qualms, which I'll mention later.) First of all, let's talk about Belle. She is obviously the best Disney princess! Or at least she has always been my favorite. :) She's smart, and she's a bookworm. She has a tendency to wear colors like blue and yellow and green. She's a brunette. (Never underestimate the significance of a fellow brown-haired girl in a sea of blond princesses.)

And most importantly, Belle has common sense and a strong sense of morality. (One good example: when the Beast rescues her from the wolves and he's injured. Even though he just saved her life, she could have easily escaped, but she chose not to. She keeps her promises.) I can't help but compare her behavior and personality to Ariel's in The Little Mermaid. Ariel is so shallow and annoying and spoiled, and she would have fallen for Gaston in a minute. (Paige O'Hara is the voice of Belle, and she was chosen because they felt her voice had a slight Judy Garland-ish quality. And apparently Belle was made to look reminiscent of Judy Garland? I never knew that before, but now looking at her, I can kind of see that.)

All of the other characters in this movie are equally interesting. The Beast reminds me a bit of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre...rough around the edges, with some mistakes in his past, but such a redeemable character. Gaston: wow. He has to be one the biggest jerks in Disney history. :) He's just a conceited, arrogant annoyance at the beginning, but he quickly escalates into full-blown villain after trying to get Belle's dad sent to the asylum and hunting the Beast. And then there are all of the charming enchanted servants in the castle: Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip, etc.

I love the music in Beauty and the Beast. Originally it was not going to include songs, which I can't even wrap my mind around, because this movie was meant to be a musical. The songs were written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, the talented team responsible for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Not only are all of the songs catchy, but the lyrics are amazing and hilarious. I find myself cracking up when I listen closely to the words of Gaston and Be Our Guest. Be Our Guest is also stunning's just like the elaborate, over-the-top dance numbers in those old musicals I love so much.

A few other little random things: the Beast's library. That has to be a memorable part for every book lover who has ever watched this movie. I know it's the reason why it's one of my life goals to someday have a bookcase tall enough to require a ladder. :) Also, the end of the movie always makes me teary-eyed. During the battle scene when the Beast has lost the will to fight Gaston because Belle is gone, that gets me every time. And then I get teary for nicer reasons when the transformation happens. :)

There are a couple things that always bothered me as a kid about this movie. First of all, why is Mrs. Potts a white-haired, grandmotherly type when her son, Chip, is a young child? And then there's the fact that I used to be so disappointed with how the Beast looked after he turned back into his human form. I think it was the long hair that always threw me off, ha. It doesn't bother me as much now...I like that he's so tall and broad, like the Beast, and I guess the longer hair fits with his Beast look, too. And then something that I only noticed the most recent time I watched: how did the village not know about the Beast? He was a prince, so logically he should have been the ruler of this nearby village, and the curse only happened about 10 years before. But it's like nobody remembers him.

Obviously, those little qualms don't affect my love for Beauty and the Beast at all. :) It really is the perfect Disney movie, in my opinion: pretty animation, incredibly memorable songs, good characters and plot, and the right blend of humor and drama.

Of course I'm very excited about the live action version of this story that's coming out this weekend. I might even review it here at some point. But up next on the animated list is another childhood favorite: Aladdin.

What do you think about Beauty and the Beast? What's your favorite Disney movie?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Yarn Along

Reading: Life Among the Savages, by Shirley Jackson. Ever since I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle (and absolutely loved it) and a collection of her short stories, I've been meaning to read more Shirley Jackson. This is so different from her usual style (eerie, unsettling...just plain creepy), but I'm loving it so far! It's a memoir about her raising her children in an old house in the Vermont countryside. It's amusing and I just love her writing style.

Knitting: A sock, always. :) Just a couple more inches on the foot and this one will be finished, then on to the second of the pair. It's another pair of Hermione's Everyday Socks...I really love that pattern!

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sock scrap blanket {100 squares}.

Two years ago, I started my blanket made from sock yarn scraps. Last week I completed the 100th square, so I thought it might be a good time to share my progress.

100 squares over two years isn't really that many, especially considering I had almost half of those done just months after starting the blanket. But this is a long-term project with no deadline. Sometimes I'll finish ten or twenty squares over a few weeks, and sometimes I'll go months without even touching it.

I really do love everything about knitting on this blanket. (Well, everything except weaving in the ends. I do those every 5 squares so I won't get behind.) I love picking out the next color and occasionally buying cute mini skeins to add in. I love all of the memories involved: being able to see glimpses of so many previous projects in one place, and remembering where all of the yarns came from. I love how it's easy and mindless knitting, a perfect break from more challenging projects.

To celebrate, I bought that pack of St. Patrick's Day themed mini skeins from Gnome Acres. Here's hoping the next hundred squares don't take two years! :)

You can find more about my progress here, or more information on my Ravelry project page.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

What I Read: February

February was an okay reading month. I really enjoyed two of the books I read, but the rest were just okay. I'm trying to make sure that each month I read at least a couple of books that have been on my shelves for a long time, and that's been going well. As always, click on the titles for my Goodreads reviews.

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This was a very good middle grade novel about two siblings evacuated from London during WWII. Not the most original premise, but there is an interesting twist: the daughter has a clubfoot and has been kept in her apartment her entire life by her abusive mother. I really enjoyed this one, but oh, that horrible mother made me so furious.

The Miserable Mill, by Lemony Snicket. I sporadically started rereading a Series of Unfortunate Events last year. I'd read the first three, and after I found out that the new Netflix series (which I haven't seen yet) covered up through the fourth book, I decided to reread it so I'll be ready to watch the series. I didn't remember much about this's not one of my favorites but it was still good.

A Little Something Different, by Sandy Hall. This was my fluffy, romantic Valentine's read. It was about what I expected: pretty cute but nothing mind-blowing and not something I'll ever reread. The whole 14 viewpoints thing was hard to get used to.

Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons. I don't even know what to say about this book. It sounded like something that would be right up my alley, but I didn't enjoy it. It improved near the end, but it was strange and bizarre, and so far from the hilarious modern classic I'd been led to expect.

A Pocket Full of Rye, by Agatha Christie. After slogging through Cold Comfort Farm for ten days, a Miss Marple mystery was exactly what I needed! This one was very enjoyable and comforting. (British murder mysteries are comforting to me, apparently?)

The Yarn Whisperer, by Clara Parkes. I enjoy yarny memoirs in general (think Stephanie Pearl McPhee's books), but this one was just okay. I felt like it was trying too hard to be philosophical most of the time, but I did like some of the essays.

In February, I also decided to start quitting books. Not without good reason, of course, but there are so many books that I want to read, why would I waste my time on ones that I'm not enjoying? I struggled through about half of this book, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, before finally deciding to stop. It wasn't awful by any means, but it didn't feel worth continuing. I don't know why quitting books has always been so hard for me!

{This post is a little late because honestly it's been a rough week. Pa, my grandfather, passed away Tuesday night. He was eighty-eight, but it felt very unexpected because other than a bad stomach bug for several days previous, he seemed so healthy. My family would appreciate your prayers.}