Over the past few days I’ve been archiving lots of older stuff (from the bits of my old tumblr/twitter/facebook that the Internet Wayback Machine caught.) After all, the clue’s in the OVERLY DEVOTED Archivist name. So I thought I might post links to some choice older nonsense here, meticulously labelled, for your viewing pleasure.
You may recall that when the BBC’s Les Miserables miniseries was announced, I had a bit of a wish list. All I really wanted was a few trifles, really: constant symbolic light imagery, radical politics, and a transformative moral and spiritual experience. Now, I knew that I would not get everything I desired. For one thing, the book is too long to be condensed faithfully into a mere six hours, and even I realized that the literal halos were probably too big of an ask. Also, with each passing interview that Andrew Davies gave, I became more concerned with his takes on some of the characters and themes. But surely, I thought, there would be plenty of good along with the bad. I may be an adaptation grinch, but this is Les Mis we’re talking about. Just by virtue of being this story that I’ve loved for *checks watch* two-thirds of my life, it was sure to move me on some level.
Well, I wasn’t wrong. I was moved. To rage.
As with my last Les Mis post, I humbly ask you to bear with me even if you don’t care about Les Mis itself. What I’m really going to be talking about here is My Thoughts On Storytelling. Also, I will give credit where it’s due. I wasn’t filled with rage during every moment of this adaptation; in particular, I thought the last episode was the least bad — and yes, I am deliberately damning with faint praise here, but I actually did get choked up a couple of times. Also, the set design was very good, and the acting was uniformly excellent even when the characterization was not. Honestly, one of the biggest bummers of this adaptation has been imagining how great this cast could have been with a script that didn’t make me want to tear my hair out.
Note that these are (mostly) not what I consider the BEST films of the decade. Honestly I don’t even get to go the movies all that much, so the best ones I might not have even seen. But they are the ones that made me the happiest.
My GOD this film. It was claustrophobic, creepy, gnaw-your-own-arm-off terrifying… and a FANTASTIC power fantasy. Michelle, the protagonist of this film, quickly became one of my favourite sci-fi heroines ever. She suffers a lot of trauma during the movie, unimaginable things (but nothing graphic/titillating/male-gazey) and comes out the other side swinging. Then she downs an entire alien spaceship using nothing but her wits. God I love her and this film so much. I could write essay after essay about female empowerment as portrayed in this flick.
When I was a child I dreamed they would one day make a Pokemon live-action film, and they DID, and it was better than I ever imagined. It was sweet, it was funny, it was packed with references to the Pokemon lore (Pokelore?) that would have gone over most people’s heads but was included anyway, and Bill Nighy was in it. I loved this film so much and I can’t wait to show it to my future children.
Okay here goes: I never saw the original Ghostbusters. I never saw the sequel movie either, or any of the cartoons. Why’d I like this so much then? Well… honestly… because it was all women. Funny, smart, main-character women, the mere existence of which apparently drove some people into teeth-gnashing mania. And that was it. That’s enough, right?
The Greatest Showman
It stills surprises me that this film got such bad reviews on release. Audiences apparently disagreed because not only did it get really high audience ratings it ALSO made a ton of money AND everyone I’ve ever shown it to liked it! I know some of the songs within it ended up massively overplayed (especially This Is Me, thanks a bunch Simon Cowell) but when you see them being performed in the movie they really do seem raw and real and touching.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
I have absolutely no idea if GOTG2 is a good movie or not and honestly, there’s a part of me that doesn’t even care. It fills me with such insane joy every time I watch it. I love the friendships between all the main characters, I love Yondu’s redemption, I love how the music ties into the story, I love Baby Groot. And I especially love how the film is mostly about different forms of abuse and how we all have it within ourselves to overcome them.
Les Mis is a very good movie, but it’s actually on this list not so much for itself but because its existence introduced me to the book, which transpired to shape my entire life. That being said I do really mean that it’s a very good movie (and quite faithful to the book as well it turns out), it thoroughly deserves to be on everyone’s Best of the Decade list. Don’t be put off by the fact that Tom Hooper’s next musical was Cats.
The Lego Movie
I wasn’t expecting much from The Lego Movie. Was anyone?! I thought it was a cheap, cynical cash grab. MAN was I wrong. Instead it was an amazing story about the power of imagination and the importance of childhood. The final speech (“You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe…”) is one of my favourite speeches in any movie, ever. It makes me think of a parent talking to a child and it captures the spirit of Lego perfectly.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Is there anything to be said about Mad Max: Fury Road that hasn’t already been said? It’s been called the greatest action film of all time, a feminist masterpiece, one of the best movies of its era… and all the people claiming those things are 100% right. I don’t think it’s technically perfect but it’s damn close. And special-effects wise it’s a staggering achievement. (All those people REALLY WERE climbing poles on motorbikes, holy heck.) I hope it’s celebrated for years to come.
I love Pacific Rim not because it’s a bonkers, brightly-coloured monsters-vs-robots movie (though that definitely helps) but because how utterly adamant it was that teamwork, collaboration and in some cases love would help humanity save the world. God, the whole movie seems like a relic from a totally different time, doesn’t it? The less said about the sequel the better.
Apparently Paddington 2 is the highest-rated film ever on RottenTomatoes, and despite what you think of RottenTomatoes the site (I personally am not a fan) HOLY HECK IT DESERVES IT. This is a children’s film about a cute teddy bear who lives among humans and loves marmalade sandwiches and somehow it was more hard-hitting, beautiful and poignant than a lot of the “serious” movies released the same year. Hugh Grant deserved an Oscar for playing such a fantastic baddie/hilariously exaggerated version of himself. The whole damn film deserved an Oscar. (As it happened, The Shape of Water won that year. They got the wrong Sally Hawkins Forms A Relationship With A Non-Human Character Resulting In An Emotional Underwater Scene film.)
Honourable mentions: (my god there are a lot) Toy Story 3, Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther (most of the MCU honestly), The Rise of Skywalker, Belle, Their Finest, Big Hero 6, Frozen II, Aladdin, Batman vs Superman (yes really), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the entire Hunger Games series, SO MANY
#1 Use a different movie for each prompt #2 Add photos and/or explanations of how your choices fit the prompts #3 Tag a few friends to play along
Let’s see what we got.
1. A Partridge in a Pear Tree — movie that involves agriculture
OH NO. Okay… Hmm. WAIT! My husband just HANDED ME the most obvious answer. The Martian, a space movie which I love, all about a guy who survives on Mars by growing potatoes. (It’s much, much more interesting than I make it sound there.)
Home to a really good line about humanity and the world:
“Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”
2. Turtledoves — movie about a long-lasting relationship
Back in 2007 this movie ripped my heart out, stamped on it, put it back in, then kicked it upwards through my brain and out my head.
I speak of course of Atonement, the tale of a doomed romance and some beautiful, beautiful dresses. In the end, Robbie and Cecilia can’t survive World War II or the British class system. (Yeah, the British class system, not Briony, is the villain of this story.) But Briony ensures via her writing that they have a long-lasting relationship anyway, and I cry.
3. French Hens — movie that takes place in France
Okay, it’s a toss-up between two movies here, both based on works by Victor Hugo: Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables. And… despite the fact that it has virtually nothing at all to do with the book… I think Hunchback juuuust takes it, because it’s a gorgeous, interesting, progressive-for-Disney film, and I love it.
I can’t even choose one shot from this movie so just have the opening one. And hey! The titular church didn’t burn down this year! It’s still there!
4. Calling Birds — movie where people talk on the phone
Okay, I’m gonna stretch the definition of “phone” a bit here and show you something from The Phantom Menace:
I’m sorry I knoooooow Love Actually probably isn’t really all that great as a movie and it’s so cheesy and corny and up-itself but I love it. It’s like a warm Christmas hug. (And I don’t even really like Christmas, so…)
6. Geese A-laying — movie with a birth or that features babies
So before there was Baby Yoda, there was this equally adorable fella:
And I think his presence is enough to qualify Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as a film that features babies. No births though, unless you count the birth of a god or the birthing chamber stuff on the gold planet or various “rebirths” of characters. Wait… GOTG2 is surprisingly birth-metaphors-heavy actually. Who knew.
7. Swans A-swimming — movie where someone goes swimming
Okay, so maybe this isn’t so much “someone goes swimming” as it is “someone tries to swim and nearly drowns” but…
I can still remember the music from that bit in Fellowship of the Ring after all this time. My god, the last quarter of that movie kicks all kind of ass and tramples on my feelings, I love it so.
“I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise. Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee. And I don’t mean to. I don’t mean to.”
8. Maids A-milking — movie with cows
Okay, this can only be Children of Men. (A film that I very nearly put at #6.) Why? At the film’s pivotal moment we get this beautiful, striking scene featuring a whole lotta cows.
I think it’s meant to be reminiscent of Mary in the manger. And I love it so much. Please watch Childrenof Men, it’s so harrowing but so good, it’s amazing, I promise.
9. Ladies Dancing — movie with a dance scene
AM I GONNA DO IT? YEAH I’M GONNA DO IT. I’m gonna put Spider-Man 3 in here. Yes, that one.
But not for that dance scene… or even that one. You know the much-derided ones I mean. The one I like is this one:
Harry Osborn (in his various incarnations) is my Second Favourite Fictional Character Of All Time, and Mary Jane is pretty high up the list as well, so it was nice to see them have a moment of happiness before one of them dies. Honestly, that’s it. (I unapologetically love Spider-Man 3, even if only for Harry. I admit it. I’m sorry. No wait, no I’m not.)
10. Lords A-leaping — movie about athletes
Aw dang… I’m not good at this genre. But I do really like Noel Clarke’s Fast Girls and no-one else seems to have seen it, so I’m putting it here. I really need to watch it again actually. It suffers from Unnecessary Forced Heterosexual Romance In An Almost All-Woman Film Syndrome but eh, what doesn’t.
(Yeah, the Noel Clarke from Doctor Who. And yes, that is a pre-mega-fame Lily James.)
11. Pipers Piping — movie with someone playing a musical instrument
Wait, NOW I can get Les Miserables in here. During the very start of the “Drink With Me” scene Grantaire (my First Favourite Fictional Character of all time) starts running his hands over a broken piano.
It doesn’t make any sound of course, but that’s so much more poignant than if it had.
12. Drummers Drumming — movie with characters in the military
I don’t really get to go to the cinema much these days but one film I did see this year was Tolkien, which kinda delves in a little into how Tolkien’s experiences in the First World War inspired his writings.
It didn’t get very good reviews, to my surprise, and I suppose the dispute with Tolkien’s descendants definitely didn’t help, but I liked it. It definitely didn’t shy away when depicting the horrors of World War I.
And that’s that…
You should definitely do this meme if you want to! In fact, please do!
Victor Hugo’s original handwritten manuscript for Les Miserables, 1862. More photos here: https://t.co/vBPHQXeiI2https://t.co/kIYhdCbtOB ||(via Twitter http://twitter.com/historylvrsclub/status/1178324569175855106)@historylvrsclub
Ladj Ly’s politically-charged urban drama Les Miserables has been chosen to represent France in the Best International Feature Film category at the 92nd Oscars. The Cannes Jury Prize winner also recently played Toronto and is opening the COLCOA fest in LA at the DGA this Monday. It will release in the U.S. via Amazon on…
So I just realised I never posted my BBC Les Mis episode-by-episode reviews on here! Let’s rectify that:
Les Mis episode one. Apparently writer Andrew Davies hates the musical, so I have an instant distrust of him, I’m sorry. I also have an instant distrust of a man who claims to be “saving Hugo from himself.” Victor Hugo was a womanising fiend who once sent a live bat to his fiancee via post, the old asshole would die laughing at the notion he needed “saving.”
Anyway. It wasn’t bad! Perfectly cast so far. Johnny Flynn looks EXACTLY like the Felix Tholomyes in my head. It was nice
to see Fantine’s friends, too, even though they’re down to two from the
novel’s three. I always wondered if they met kinder fates than her.
It was good to see the Petit Gervais scene. I understand 100% why it
gets omitted from the musical but of all the scenes Not In The Musical
it’s probably one of the more important ones. Also Dominic West makes a
very good closer-to-the-book Valjean. Hugh Jackman is lovely but he can
never hide his loveliness even when playing a hardened violent criminal.
This is a good Fantine. One thing I do agree with
Andrew Davies on, Fantine is silly and soppy and easily led. She’s not a
strong female character. You should care about her anyway.
Les Mis episode two. The writers seem to have given Fantine a last name, which I’m actually quite pleased about. (I wonder if they’ll also give Javert a first one.) However, that’s the only thing I’m pleased with. NO Valjean doesn’t and shouldn’t have anything to do with how Fantine ends up on the streets! In the book he has no idea she’s been fired. His only crime, if it could be said to be one, is trusting that his factory workers will treat their employees well. So yeah, why, whyyyyy throw that in for no reason? Why make it Valjean’s fault when it was *society’s* fault? You know….?
David Oyelowo is a great actor but Javert hasn’t been given anything to
do so far except stand around and be menacing. (And all his dialogue is
so clunky.) But also… Book Javert is just cold and aloof. *This*
Javert is outright mean and nasty, calling Fantine terrible things and
just generally being awful. Again whyyyyy? What’s the point? We’re
supposed to feel sorry for him, that he’s given up his identity to an
establishment that doesn’t care. This Javert *is* the Establishment, and
oooh, that’s getting on my nerves.
Actually yeah, I kind of feel
that’s the problem with this whole adaptation. Everything that’s
happened in it has been A Person’s fault, not People’s fault, you know?
Fantine can’t suffer and die because of a whole community being
compassionless and cruel, it has to be primarily the doing of Valjean
for some reason.
Sigh. I am at least looking forward to meeting
Eponine and Les Amis, who I love with all my heart. (Also I only found
out today that the actress who’ll play Eponine also played my favourite
character in the Star Wars Han Solo movie. Noice.) Oooh, and I am very
glad to see Eponine’s little sister, Azelma, around. She’s actually one
of my faves in the book because god, she suffers SO MUCH and I want to
protect her poor soul. But anyway, this complete misunderstanding of the
story is really rattling me. As you can probably tell.
So far I rate this production 0/2 candlesticks.
Les Mis episode two OH GOD I HAVE MORE I’M SO SORRY. I love Olivia Colman a lot but there’s not a terrible amount of depth to Mme Thenardier so far. I find her more interesting than her horrible husband so I wish there was.
(Side note: Oh, when The Crown airs with
Colman and Helena Bonham-Carter this year, two Mme Thenardiers will be
sharing the screen, how fabulous a tidbit that is to NO-ONE BUT ME)
Another irritating thing: Sister Simplice. She’s an interesting minor character
in the novel and here’s the thing: she LIKES Fantine! Simplice is a nun
and Fantine is a “fallen woman” and yet she cares for her health
completely and is kind to her. It’s not what you would expect and is a
great departure from the cliche, so OF COURSE she’s only in the
adaptation so Valjean can yell at her for calling Fantine ‘the
Please somebody make me stop talking
Les Mis episode three. I liked it a bit more than the last. LOVE the fabulously morbid detail of Cosette’s first doll possibly being where her dead mother’s hair ended up.
The writers have compressed a
lot of stuff down for this episode. No Fachevelent, and Sister Simplice
and the Mother Superior are sort of both composite characters of each
other, if that makes sense. Between this show and Call the Midwife it
was a good night for Benevolent Nuns.
It’s good to see Gavroche so
early (the musical never bothered mentioning he was a Thenadier) and ah
look he’s being mistreated by his parents even as a very young kid
because they’re literally the worst people on the planet.
I saw someone on Twitter point out that it’s kinda disconcerting how Les Mis seems to have been cast colour-blind and yet two of the main antagonists, one of whom PIMPS OUT A CHILD (ugh) are also two of the few characters of colour. So I kinda agree with that I think. Javert still seems to have been written meaner and crueler than he is in the book.
thing! Despite the protestations of Andrew Davies this production seems
to borrow an awful lot from the movie musical. Even Georgie Glenn has
been reused. (She was a nun in the movie and a Mother Superior in this.)
Obviously there’s only so much you can do when both are based on the
same source material but it’s a wee bit surprising how many shots look
One big departure I forgot about and LOVED: Little
Cosette swearing! I mean, of course she bloody would, wouldn’t she,
considering the environment she was in. It was nice to see her have a
bit of bite.
Les Mis episode four. Too much sex. Too much not-in-the-book sex. It’s very silly and totally unnecessary.
Les Amis! Enjolras looks nothing like anyone ever imagined him (where
are his ridiculous angelic blonde locks?) but Grantaire is bang-on
They did pay a TINY bit of lip service to
Enjolras/Grantaire but so far even less than the movie-musical did.
Still I wasn’t really expecting much.
…Weird how every other relationship in this story has been given
sexual overtones (including Valjean/Cosette, UGH) but not the only gay
relationship. WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED…
I love this Eponine.
Everything about her is perfect.(I mean, apart from the pointless sex
scenes) Actually I like her better than Sam Barks’s Eponine, and I
liked her a lot.
Good to see Azelma still around. I wonder if
she’ll meet the same fate in this she does in the book (she remains
tethered to her horrible abusive father even when he goes to America and
becomes a slave trader). Which brings me to…
I think this
adaptation’s a good example of how colourblind casting (though great in
many cases) can fail. As a lot of people have pointed out on Twitter,
almost all the protagnonists are white and almost all the antagonists
are people of colour. They could’ve gotten around that pretty easily and
they didn’t. (Why not a black Valjean?) And Thernadier, considering his
position in the story and where he ends up (a SLAVE TRADER, although
most adaptions leave that out…) I kinda feel he should have been
white, you know? A few things switched here and there and it wouldn’t
feel so uncomfortable.
Um. I guess that’s it for now? Yeah I still don’t like it, you can tell.
Les Mis episode five. I guess I’ll be keeping my eye on Grantaire since he’s still my favourite fictional character of all time! They still haven’t quiiiiiite got around to stating he’s gay/bi (Victor Hugo managed it the best he could, with lots of euphemisms regarding Greeks) but his death scene was in the ‘next time’ trailer so maybe they managed to tell his story to *some* extent at least. That’d be nice.
I LOVE Erin Kellyman’s Eponine. I loved her smile when she’s finally free of her mother, I loved her final moments, it made me so sad. She better go onto be big.
Gavroche is also great, but it pisses me off they didn’t show his
reaction to his *sister* dying right there in his vicinity. Great time
to forget they’re related guys, you remembered in previous episodes.
All in all this was probably the best episode they’ve done so far,
nothing MASSIVELY out of character. Valjean and Cosette maybe but I’ve
kind of given up on the adaptation getting them right. And any
adaptation getting Marius/Cosette right. No, they didn’t actually fall
in love in that short space of time! In the book it takes ages!
Thought I posted on Twitter: I love Eponine so much, I could write
essays on her. She has no reason to ever be heroic and she fails a lot
but she’s always TRYING SO HARD to be good. Imagine what she might have
Thought I didn’t post on Twitter: I still have no idea whether Victor Hugo intended his audience to like Marius or not.
Les Mis episode six, the last one!
Okay I find it hard to
collect my thoughts, because they all go back to my overall thoughts on
the series. Mostly it’s been alright, but there are some character
things I just can’t forgive. Like Valjean being responsible for
Fantine’s downfall. And in this episode something even worse: Marius
hears directly from Thenardier that he plans to become A SLAVE TRADER
and GIVES HIM MONEY ANYWAY. SO HE CAN TRADE SLAVES. Absolutely 100%
cannot accept that one. (In the book
Thenadier just spins some yarn and Marius gives him the owed money to
“go get hanged somewhere else.) So that put a BIT of a damper on the
otherwise alright ending, shall we say. Gah.
Enjolras and Grantaire’s death scene had all of the visuals but none of
the heart. If you don’t know it’s a love story (or if it’s a love story
you can’t be arsed to tell) it loses some of its power, you know?. (I’m
still terribly suspicious that they managed to sexualise every single
relationship in the story *apart* from the gay one.) That being said,
both their actors were really good, I just wish they’d gotten to be the
tinest bit more like their book counterparts.
portrayal of Javert’s suicide better be the BAFTA clip that plays when
he wins it. MAN, that was good. Dominic West was also good. I don’t have
a single quibble about the acting in this series, it’s just those
little things here and there which made me sigh and go back to the
This series ends with two kids (the lost Thenadier
siblings?) begging in the street. It’s not a bad ending but god, imagine
how powerful it would have been if they’d flash-forwarded to the modern
day, just for those last few seconds.
The BBC’s Les Mis is failing at many turns, especially with regards to Valjean. (Who is the main character and all so you should really TRY to get him right.) But they actually do seem to be doing Grantaire justice, so I suppose I can forgive it some.
So I guess next episode we have, in order: Gavroche dying, Enjolras watching all his close friends die, Grantaire begging to be shot next to Enjolras, Javert’s suicide, Thenardier escaping all justice, Valjean dying. I suppose they don’t call it Les Cheerfuls