Saturday, February 23, 2013

My List of Good (To Date) 21st Century Films

Since many of the films I enjoy are from the UK, I decided to illustrate this posting with this so-English scene of a garden behind York Minster.

After making a listing many postings ago of my all-time favorite movies (up to 1999), I decided to list those I've particularly enjoyed from this century.  I admit to rarely going to a theater any more but receive them through the mail instead.  (So I've not seen some of the later 2012 films.)  Here are the ones I've found memorable.

  • Vatel (France/UK/Belgium) '00
  • The Color of Paradise (Iran) '00
  • The Girl from Paris (Une Hirondelle A Fait le Printemps) (France) '01
  • Late Marriage (Israel/France) '01
  • Mostly Martha (Bella Martha) (Germany) '01
  • Satin Rouge (Tunisia) '02
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence (Australia) '02
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (China/France) '02
  • Travellers and Magicians (Bhutan) '03
  • The Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) (France) '03
  • Yesterday (South Africa) '04
  • Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noël) (France) '05
  • Sabah:  A Love Story (Canada) '05
  • The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant (Australia) '05
  • The Girl in the Cafe (UK) '05
  • The World's Fastest Indian (New Zealand) '05
  • Pride and Prejudice (UK) '05
  • The Painted Veil (China/US) '06
  • The Queen (UK) '06
  • Amazing Grace (UK/US) '06
  • Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna) (Mexico/US) '07
  • Vitus (Switzerland) '07
  • Ballet Shoes (UK) '07
  • The Grocer's Son (Le Fils de l'epicier) (France) '07
  • The Song of Sparrows (Iran) '08
  • The Dutchess (UK) '08
  • Miss Austen Regrets (UK) '08
  • The Last Station (Germany/Russia/UK) '09
  • Invictus (South Africa/US) '09
  • Queen to Play (Joueuse) (France) '09
  • The Young Victoria (UK/US) '09
  • I Am Love (Io Sono Amore) (Italy) '09
  • Creation (UK) '09
  • The King's Speech (UK) '10
  • A Separation (Iran) '11
  • Mozart's Sister (Nannerl, la Soeur de Mozart) (France) '11
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (UK) '11
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (UK) '12

  • Songcatcher '00
  • Something the Lord Made '04
  • Duma '05
  • Outsourced '06
  • Akeelah and the Bee '06
  • Marie Antoinette '06
  • Julie and Julia '09
  • The Way '10
  • The Company Men '10
  • Fair Game '10
  • Hugo '11

TV Series/Mini-Series (almost all UK):
  • Love in a Cold Climate '01
  • The Cazalets '01
  • Victoria and Albert '01
  • Random Passage (Canada) '01
  • Foyle's War '02
  • The Last King '03
  • Cambridge Spies '03
  • Island at War '04
  • North and South (BBC about 19th c. England, not the U.S. Civil War) '04
  • Jane Eyre '06
  • The Impressionists '06
  • Sense and Sensibility '08
  • Emma '09
  • South Riding '11
  • Downton Abbey '10 - ongoing

Documentary (art, finances, elections, food, Zen, the times, etc.):
  • The Amish:  A People of Preservation '00
  • Rivers and Tides '03
  • Howard Zinn:  You Can't be Neutral '04
  • March of the Penguins '04
  • The Gates '05
  • Maxed Out '06
  • Hacking Democracy '06
  • The One Percent '06
  • Cezanne in Provence '06
  • Helvetica '07
  • Zeitgeist:  The Movie '07
  • How to Cook Your Life '07
  • Earth '07
  • Religulous '08
  • Food, Inc. '08
  • Between the Folds '08
  • Kings of Pastry '09
  • Ingredients '09
  • Bird by Bird with Annie '09
  • Inside Job '10
  • Casino Jack and the U.S. of Money '10 (check title)
  • Buck '11
  • Woody Allen:  A Documentary '11

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Meeting the King of England

No, I never met the King, but here's Hampton Court, once the home of kings.

Sometimes during our childhood in the '40s, my mother would (very nicely, I might add) remind my brother and me not to hold bread in one hand while buttering it with the other but to place it on our plates and then butter it.  She also told us to sit up straight when eating, hold our utensils properly, keep our elbows off the table, and glide our spoon away from us, not toward, when eating soup.  As well, we were never to talk about being "full."  Then, when "finished" (not "done"), we were to ask to be excused from the table.

Once, when she was queried about all this, she replied, "If they ever meet the King of England, they should know these things."

I never forgot my mother's comment which seemed perfectly logical to me, not that I expected to meet the King of England, then George VI.  But I appreciated knowing good manners no matter whom I met.  Like writing thank you notes for gifts.  Or listening properly while someone spoke.  I wanted to be ready for adult life ... and these niceties were just part of that education.

I speak of this now because of the popularity of Downton Abbey where the people sit up straight, leave their elbows off the table, dress impeccably, and certainly give the impression of knowing how to meet the King if that occasion were to arise.  I think part of the popularity of this series--besides watching Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Jim Carter, and all the others do what they do so well--is seeing the innate dignity and courtesy that seemed an integral part of that era.

Somehow, we've turned sloppy.  In fact, all too often movies and TV portray sloppiness in dress and manners as being desirable.  Otherwise we're being elitist or pompous.  Horrors.  Ever since Grace Kelly's day, no American can portray royalty--or someone with proper manners--as well as the Europeans.  So, in The Princess Diaries, it's British Julie Andrews who takes over the regal role, tutoring Anne Hathaway, the klutzy young American who needs weeks of schooling before she can hold a teacup, sit without slouching, or walk properly.  (Though we like to think we speak for one's internal beauty, movies emphasize the external and our princess also needs some external tweaking:  eyebrows, hair, shoes.  And then there are those glasses!)  We are told, however, that though she (read "we") may be sloppy, she's fun.  The fun supposedly makes up for the sloppy and even supersedes it so that all those tight Brits want to copy us.  Europe is shown to come around to our way of thinking--to our junk food, our casual lifestyle so that we're teaching them something ... ha!  Just as it's Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey who has people sitting on the floor at her impromptu indoor picnic, supposedly enjoying themselves.  Okay, I get it.  We don't want to be stuffy.  Of course, good manners needn't be stuffy.  But I do feel it's all a slippery slope.

Getting back to the '40s--in fact, to 1940 itself--I recently came across a couple of photos from my brother's 6th birthday party.  We children were in freshly-ironed clothes.  The mothers wore stockings, heels, dresses, their hair pleasantly coiffed.  The table was adorned with an ironed heirloom table cloth, flowers in a vase, candies in a cut-glass dish, and a home-made birthday cake with fancy frosting.  All in a California patio.  And we thought life then was casual!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pitching Woo

Or how one's life partner was chosen in one community.

Some time ago while browsing through one of The Champlain Society's books, I came upon a piece that struck me ... prompting me to copy it out.  It came from Travels in the Interior Inhabited Parts of North America in the Years 1791 and 1792 by Patrick Campbell, a Scotsman who traveled with his dog and servant across what is now Ontario, Canada, and Upstate New York.

After meeting the Moravian settlers there, he wrote this about their practice in choosing a life's mate:

"There is a large house or hall for the young women, apart, in which they work, and another for the young men in which they do the same.  The sexes are never allowed to see one another.  When a young man signifies a desire to marry, he and the first girl on the list are put into a private room together, and continue in it for an hour.  If he agrees to marry her after this meeting, good and well; if not, he will not get another, and she is put the last on the list; so that all before her must go off before she gets any other offer.  And though the parties had never seen one another before this meeting, which is rarely otherwise, they have no alternative, and must make up their minds and acquaintances in that short intercourse.  If the parties are satisfied, and they marry, a house is built for them in the village where they live, and carry on business for the good of the community at large."

(With thanks to The Champlain Society, Toronto, for giving me permission to quote the above, edited by H. H. Langton, 1937, p. 153.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Excursions Outside Montpellier, France

Flamingos in a lagoon near Montpellier. 

Continuing my last post in which I wrote of studying French in Montpellier, I wanted to include some photos of that Languedoc Roussillon region which lies on the Mediterranean bordering Spain.  Winter turned this otherwise green area a tad bleak.  Nonetheless, I was happy to get out into the countryside as my French hostess drove me around on occasional Saturdays--a day I did not have classes.  Since we spoke only French, I offered questions after first figuring the vocabulary and construction ... but though my comprehension wasn't bad, I know there was a lot she explained about the region that I missed.

Palavas-les-Flots is a seaside resort just a few miles from Montpellier

Marina at Palavas-les-Flots

Walls surrounding the medieval city of Aigues-Mortes only 16 miles from Montpellier.  It was once considered to be a safe haven for Protestants.

Inside the Aigues-Mortes city walls.

The Aigues-Mortes town square.

A candy shop.

Carcassonne.  (See my July posting for more on this amazing place.)

Narbonne, once a port, now some 9 miles from the sea.

The Narbonne cathedral.  Established in the 1st century B.C., the town lay on the Via Domitia, the first Roman road in Gaul.

The cathedral's cloister.

The cathedral in the ancient town of Béziers.

A view of the wintry landscape from the Béziers cathedral.

The Pont du Diable on the Hérault River on the way to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert.  The inhospitality of this landscape made it a good region for the Cathars to hide out from religious persecution.

Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, noted as one of France's most beautiful villages.  It lay on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella.

The Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert abbey and what's left of its cloister.  The rest now resides in The Cloisters Museum in Manhattan.  Up behind, you can see one of the Cathar castles which were built in highly inaccessible places to avoid religious persecution in the 12th century.

The 12th century Abbaye de Valmagne.  The interior of its cathedral was later converted to a wine cave.

The seaside resort of Sète, known for its oysters, very near Montpellier.

After those six weeks in Montpellier, I decided against spending winters in France.  Besides the cold and a weak dollar, I did not feel as adventurous as of old.  As for studying French, I thoroughly enjoyed the language but despaired over learning gender.  With no basic rules as to whether something was masculine or feminine, each word had to be remembered separately along with its appropriate adjectives and prepositions.  Toward the end--my brain seemingly maxed out--I sometimes found that the simplest word, the simplest phrase would throw me completely. 

When I got home, I stuck my class notes in a box.  They're still there.  Regardless, this venture was a marvelous experience--one I'd long wanted to try.