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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Three More Of My Favorite Animated Movies

It's no secret that I love animated films.  I did a post a little while back mini-reviewing five of my favorite animated movies, as well as doing full reviews of both Tangled and Frozen.  Since my mini-reviews, I've watched three more animated movies (actually, I've watched more than that, but some of them don't deserve a review - like Ice Age 4) that I love, so I'll be reviewing those today.  I'm sure that when I started this blog, I wouldn't have dreamed of reviewing animated movies (since it was strictly period drama), but I've broadened out since then and I don't think animated films are just for little kids.  My mom loves Up and likes Despicable Me and, of course, I like pretty much every animated movie I watch.  So there.


Thanks for the adventure- now go have a new one! "Up" has the best message about grief/loss for people of all ages

Up is pretty much the animated film to end all animated films.  Everyone, it seems, has seen it and loved it, and after watching the 'Married Life' montage, I knew I had to too.  It's an amazing film, with much more heart than is usually seen in animated films (and a unique take on marriage for this day and age).  The music is beautiful (I believe the film won an Oscar for Best Original Score - totally deserved it).   Let's see...the characters.  I'm not sure I have a favorite character.  They were all pretty much the same in my character rankings.  Carl was probably the best one, though.  The way his priorities shift throughout the film is done well - in a subtle way, but there nonetheless.

Russell was another favorite character (he's probably my top favorite, actually).  He certainly earned his 'assisting the elderly badge' (or, the Ellie it bad that I teared up just a little bit typing that?).  Charles Muntz/his dogs were creepy (except for Dug, of course).  This film was definitely gorgeous in terms of cinematography...the jungle, Paradise Falls itself, the balloons - I loved all of it.  It was more of a tearjerker than I thought it would be.  I knew the montage was sad, but the adventure book scene was even more tearjerking, in a way.  And, of course, the Ellie pin scene.  Happy tears all around.

Despicable Me

Despicable me 1 (2010) en 2 (2013)

The first time I watched this film, I laughed so hard.  Harder then I've ever laughed for any other film (with perhaps the exception of the animated Robin Hood).  The minions are hilarious, and pretty much everyone has funny moments.  Gru, Vector, Gru's mom, and Agnes, Edith, and Margo.  After watching it about five times, my family now has an inexhaustible supply of quotes to go to for practically any situation.  Seriously, a day can't go by without someone quoting something from DM.  In the appropriate tone/accent, of course.

Anyway...I really love the music in this, but it's extremely rare.  You can't find it on Youtube, or any other site (I don't even think the CD is for sale anymore), but having watched the film so many times, I can still hear it in my head.  The characters are pretty much the best part in the film (after the minions).  I love Gru's character change (please tell me I'm not the only one who gets a lump in their throat when he reads his book to the girls...) but my favorite character would be Vector.  "Oh, yeah!"  I know he's the villain, but he's so funny and arrogant and just...yeah.  I like him.  A lot.  Now, I didn't care much for the sequel.  It was funny and all that, but it wasn't as sharp as the first one, if you know what I mean.  Gru being a villain can't be beat by him turning good and making jams instead of rockets.  So the first film is definitely my favorite.


Epic Black and White

This is the animated film I've seen most recently and it's one of my new favorites.  When I started it, I thought from how the plot was going that it was going to be one of those 'my mom died so now I'm an angsty teenager' things, but MK (Mary Katherine) was actually really good about it all (she was even working through the Five Stages of Grief on her own).  Now, I have to admit that the filmmakers had to be pretty sure about their movie to name it Epic because what if it had turned out to be...not so epic?  But it was.  One reason I think I liked it so much was the characters (I've said it before, and I'll say it again - good characters are what makes me love a book or movie so much).  There was MK, of course.  She was great.  And Nod (who reminded me of Flynn Ryder - face, voice, and actions).  But the character I really loved was Ronin.  He was amazing.  Even though we didn't get to see much of their relationship, he and Queen Tara (who, by the way, was epic [pun intended]) are my new OTP (I know it means 'one true pairing', but I have several of them).

This is the kind of film that begs for a prequel.  How did Ronin know Nod's father and why did they go to the Boggan headquarters together?  And what was Queen Tara and Ronin's relationship like as kids?  Anyway...the Boggans were creeepy (especially their leader, Mandrake - one thing I liked about him as villain, was that he was a little bit human with how he loved his son.  I like that kind of thing) and even though the battles were epic (there's that word again...) in the fullest sense of the word, they were also pretty intense (I wouldn't recommend this film for children under ten).  But, yeah, it's really good.  The animation is beautiful (all the greens!), the music is good (though not really outstanding), and there are a couple of minor character who keep the whole thing from being too serious.  Highly recommended.


A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Winners & Wrap-up

The winner of the character tournament is Sydney (no big surprise there), although Mr Lorry was a close second.  Thanks to everyone who voted!  The winners of the giveaway prizes (the real reason you're all reading this post, I'm sure) are as follows:
  • Literary Print – Agnes Nutter
  • Gift card – Anda Alexandra
  • Cork Coasters – Miss Jane Bennet
  • Book Charm - Lydia 
Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to everyone else who entered.  You'll be getting an email from me as soon as possible.

And now we come to the end of this blog party.  It's been hectic right from the start, since I couldn't be here on opening day, and, of course, I've had to cut it down by two days.  But, overall, I've had fun, and I'm sure you've had some too.  There was lots of reader participation in the comments, and even though I didn't reply to all of them, I still enjoyed reading your thoughts.  I want to give a special shout-out to the guest posters - Jane, Amy, and Ally.  Your guest posts were amazing - I really enjoyed reading them.

Here's to more good blog parties in the future!


A Tale Of Two Cities Week: My Tag Answers


Here are my answers to the tag!
  • How were you introduced to A Tale Of Two Cities?  I talked about this in my 'review' of the book, so I'll just say that I was gradually introduced to it.  Reading it was a natural result of my obsession with the classics.
  • Have you read the book, seen a movie adaption, and/or watched/listened to the musical?  I've done all three!  I've read the book twice, seen the 1935 movie adaption twice, and watched/listened to the musical several times.  I love all three of them.
  • Who is your favorite character?  Sydney, of course, but other than him, it would be Mr Lorry.  He's just awesome and loyal and kind and funny all in one.
  • Who is your least favorite character?  The Marquis St Evremonde.  Ugh.
  • What's one of your favorite scenes from the book (if you've read it)?  I really love the scene where Mr Lorry tells Mr Stryver off about his plans to marry Lucie.  That was such a great part.
  • What's one of your favorite songs from the musical (if you've watched it)?  I have so many favorites, but one of the top ones is 'Never Say Goodbye'.  Pure gorgeousness.
  • Share some of your favorite quotes! (book or musical)  I'm terrible at remembering quotes, so I'll give one of my favorite bits from the musical..."She's still so small, she'll never understand how people fail and lives break down and don't turn out the way You planned.  For now save her the sorrow, for now save her the tears, save grief for somewhere years away, just not today, not here.  For now let her be lucky, for now look down in grace.  Give her time to learn compassion, give her time to learn forgiveness.  Help me find the strength to give this gift to her..."
  • What was the last ATOTC-related thing you did/watched/read?  Writing posts for this week.  Of course.
  • What character do you think you're the most like?  Eh...I'm not sure.  I really can't think of anyone right now.
  • If you could meet any character, who would it be and why?  I think Lucie and I would get along well, but I'm not really sure who I'd most like to see.

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Musical Faithfulness/Non-faithfullness To The Book

These days, I've taken a more relaxed view to movie's faithfulness to the book.  No matter what, the book will always be better (except in the case of Little Dorrit), so why allow some unfaithfulness to spoil your enjoyment of the movie?  And if it's really blatant, it's fun to watch anyway and discuss in tones of outrage with your friends, right?  So it's a win for everyone.  Still, nothing quite matches the thrill of watching a book you love so much come to life on screen (or stage) in breathtaking detail and, not only that, something that matches the tone of the book (which is extremely important).  I've only watched a very few movies that do that and, unfortunately, ATOTC doesn't quite do it right.  It doesn't follow the book that faithfully and, in my opinion, doesn't quite capture the tone.  But I still love it (see how generous I am? ;)) and I thought I'd outline some ways it doesn't/does follow the book.

  • Lots of lyrics are taken directly from the book.  Or at least as much as they can.  One notable example (actually the only one I can think of right now, although I know there are others), is during 'If Dreams Came True'...

If dreams came true I might have been a better man.
If dreams came true you might have set me free.
But God is kind, for you he had a better plan,
And saved you from the pain of loving me.
And even if I'd not surrendered long ago,
All you can ever do for me you've done.
You've been the finest dream a man could ever know:
That this abandoned fight might have been won.
Old voices I had thought long since dead,
A whisper of another life I might have led.
But daylight takes dreams away.
Dreams that leave a sleeper where he lay. 

Compared to...

“If you will hear me through a very little more, all you can ever do for me is done. I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul. In my degradation I have not been so degraded but that the sight of you with your father, and of this home made such a home by you, has stirred old shadows that I thought had died out of me. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.” ~Book 2, Chapter 13

And also from 'If Dreams Came True'...

What are you weeping for?
I am not worth the tears you waste.
Not far from now I'll sink once more,
And even mark the heart that loves you chaste.
The low companions, low desires, I scorn,
But yield to every day,
Make me unworthy of your caring, 
Yet you still don't turn away.
I won't forget.
You wept for me!

Compared to this passage from the same chapter...

"Be comforted!" he said, "I am not worth such feeling, Miss Manette. An hour or two hence, and the low companions and low habits that I scorn but yield to, will render me less worth such tears as those, than any wretch who creeps along the streets. Be comforted! But, within myself, I shall always be, towards you, what I am now, though outwardly I shall be what you have heretofore seen me. The last supplication but one I make to you, is, that you will believe this of me." 
  • The revolutionary fervour of the book is well portrayed in the musical.  Dickens' focused quite a bit on the revolution in the book and both 'Until Tomorrow' and 'Everything Stays The Same' show a good picture of what he tried – and succeeded in portraying.
  • Actually, many of the songs are accurate to the book, if not in words, then in situation.  'The Promise' is an excellent example of that.  Even though the conversation between Charles and Dr Manette isn't word for word from the book, we still get a good sense of all the key parts in this meeting – Dr Manette's distrust, Charles' respect and love for Lucie, and, of course, the part near the end with Charles wanting to reveal his name and Dr Manette forbidding it.  Other notable examples include 'Resurrection Man', 'Letter From Uncle', 'Reflection', 'The Tale', and 'Finale'.

  • The biggest thing for doesn't is the character portrayals.  Sydney is the main character. Mme. Defarge is sympathetically portrayed.  Lucie is much more spirited.  Charles is barely more than an extra.  Of course, pretty much all these changes are good, but it's still taking away from the book.
  • Some songs are completely different from the book.  This mainly has to do with the character changes I mentioned above.  Songs like 'Never Say Goodbye' (well, maybe not that so much), 'Without A Word', 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind', and 'No Honest Way' are not book accurate.  Especially 'No Honest Way'.  I guess each musical has to have that kind of song although, thankfully, it's clean, unlike 'Master Of The House' (that was one thing I forgot to mention in my review of the musical is that it's refreshingly clean.  Only about half a dozen British slang words/swear words and that's it for content.  Well, of course, 'The Tale' all hinges on some questionable activity, but it's handled well, in my opinion).

Have I missed anything for either side?  Let me know your thoughts!


A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Guest Post By Ally

In A Tale of Two Cities there are two main female characters. The first is Lucie Manette, the gentle and sweet daughter of imprisoned Doctor Manette and the love interest of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. The second is the main villainess of the story, Therese Defarge, known in the book as Madame Defarge, who harbors revenge against Charles Darnay for a deep, dark secret in her past. We often notice the contrasts between the characters – Lucie is characterized by light and purity, and Madame by darkness and violence. This extends to even their physical appearance, with Lucie’s golden hair and Madame’s dark countenance. However, I was recently struck how, despite their many differences, they have very, very similar pasts. There is only one thing that makes them different – how they responded to the circumstances in their lives.

Both women had difficult childhoods, losing their families at a very early age due to tragic circumstances Рdue to the Evr̩monde family, no less. They were both innocents who suffered injustice for no reason; both had their lives ripped away in a moment. And yet Lucie became a beautiful, loving young woman and Madame Defarge became a woman filled with hate.

Doctor Manette may forget,
Doctor Manette may forgive,
But this one survivor
Will never let Evrémonde live!
All those years in the dark,
All those years biding time.
This was hidden away
Till the moment was right,
Till the time came to pay…
Out of sight, out of mind!

How did they get to that point? Defarge didn’t start as a bitter, hateful woman. What was the difference?


It rested in the choice they made – the choice whether to harbor bitterness against the men that ruined their lives, to plot and desire revenge, or to forgive and show love to those who hurt them. Lucie Manette went one day, and Madame Defarge went another.

Bitterness is a sneaky, subtle parasite that starts deep inside and slowly begins to erode away at your heart, like a weed. It spreads and changes you until you’re no longer the same person, and you end up hurting many people in the process. Hebrews 12:15 says “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”

And that’s the scary thing about bitterness. Madame Defarge wasn’t born a sadistic, violent person without natural feeling. She became that way, slowly over time. Slowly the bitterness grew and grew until she was completely consumed by it, until it had taken over her personality, her morals, and her entire worldview.
I’m not saying that it is easy to just forgive someone, or that you should not allow yourself to feel initial pain of hurt, rejection, and betrayal. Forgiving doesn’t mean that it still won’t hurt or that you have to *like* the people who have hurt you, especially if it’s a traumatic thing they’ve done. It just means letting go and letting God take care of it, instead of holding on to what they have done to you – accepting that what’s past is past and moving on with your life.

Instead, if you allow yourself to hold onto the hurt, it consumes your life. You become obsessive over it, and soon it controls you. You become the very thing that hurt you.

Lucie, despite her past, did not allow the tragic circumstances of her childhood to control her. She could have hung on to her victim status. No one would have blamed her if she had let it change her forever. And yet she was so sweet and kind, even to those who personally hurt her family, and even to Madame Defarge.
Don’t ever think that you cannot possibly become like people such as Madame Defarge. Don’t ever think that you are above that. I’m sure that a young Therese never thought that she would become the woman who ruthlessly killed and tore families apart. It all began when she allowed that root of bitterness to grow in her heart.

Is the mightiest sword
Forgiveness of those you fear
Is the highest reward
When they bruise you with words
When they make you feel small
When it's hardest to take
You must do nothing at all.

- Helen Burns, “Jane Eyre”

A Tale Of Two Cities Week {Concept Cast Recording Review}

A Tale Of Two Cities: Original Broadway Concept Album

I find concept albums hilarious to listen to, as long as I've heard a good version of the recording first (as is usually the case).  The Original London Cast Recording of Les Mis, though not technically a concept album, shows Les Mis in a still very concept stage.  It makes me wonder whether twenty or so years from now, we'll listen to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Cinderella with little smiles on our faces and think of how old-fashioned/out-dated it sounds (not that I can actually visualize that happening, but it's definitely food for thought).  So when I heard that there was a concept album of ATOTC (with songs that weren't included in later versions!) I had to listen to it. was kinda disappointing.  Actually, scratch that.  It was really disappointing.  For one, they left out all my favorite songs.  I guess they hadn't been written yet, but I still wanted to hear them.  And Sydney sounded bored all the time (except for 'Let Her Be A Child' – oh my goodness, he poured so much emotion into that song I couldn't believe it.  I like that version even better than James Barbour's), a lot of the lyrics were changed so it just didn't flow well and both 'No Honest Way' and 'Resurrection Man' were slowed down considerably, so both songs lost their appeal/atmosphere.  Also, the only person I recognized on the cast was Natalie Toro as Mme. Defarge.  All the other cast member were different, but none of them were really bad/good (except Sydney)...just sort of meh.  I would only recommend this album to the most die-hard ATOTC fan.

Now, there are four 'new' songs in it that aren't in the concert/on the international recording, so I'll do a quick review of all four of them.

  • Up In The Garret – If I remember correctly, this is the only solo Defarge has ever gotten.  They lyrics are quite a lot like all the parts Mme. Defarge sings in 'The Tale', which is probably why they did it, with several tweaks here and there.  I quite like this song, although I'm not sure who Defarge is singing it to...
  • All In My Mind – Now this song is amazing.  It's a love duet between Charles and Lucie and I wish it hadn't been replaced by 'Now At Last' (even though that's also a beautiful song).  It's absolutely gorgeous.  One of my top favorite musical theatre songs ever.
  • Round and Round – Another drinking song?  Really?
  • No One Else – This song is sung by Jerry Cruncher about how he and his wife love each other despite their differences.  Though it's sweet, it's also kind of boring and I really can't see it fitting into the musical anywhere :P


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

{a small note}


Due to scheduling problems (brought on by real-life events that I basically have no control over), I'm going to have to end this event two days early.  I really wanted to do the full thing, but it's just no going to work out. I have the final poll up (Sydney Carton/Mr Lorry/The Seamstress), so please vote (and don't forget to enter the giveaway).  Tomorrow will be chock-full of all the posts that were going to be published during the next three days, so at least this 'week' will go out with a bang.  I'm truly sorry that it had to work out this way, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances.  Here, have some chocolate as a peace offering (or, in the case of Galanna, mint chocolate).


A Tale Of Two Cities Week: The Defarges

When I first discover a liking for a book, I like all of it as a whole.  Then, after I've read it a couple (or more) times, I start analyzing it more and sifting through what I do and don't like.  My love for the book still remains strong, but the particulars – the units, you could call them – of said book rise and fall in my estimation.  And it's usually the characters more than anything else.  A lot of times, a character's likeability (or lack thereof) is more focused on their relateableness and complexity than whether they are 'good' or 'bad' (although I always hate the truly evil characters).  Such was the case with Earnest Defarge and Theresa Defarge from A Tale Of Two Cities (I actually don't like Mme. Defarge at all in the book, but the musical is a different matter).  

When I first read the book (an abridged version, I admit), I just cast them as black, ominous villains with no real characteristics other than the fact that they were bad.  However, I love reading into things in books/movies (it's a great weakness of mine, actually) and so, rather unconsciously, my opinion of M. Defarge (in the book) and Mme. Defarge (in the musical) began to change.  This post will probably be shorter/less coherent than the others during this week because, as I write this (in preparation of scheduling it), I'm sick and, let me tell you, writing a Deep & Serious blog post while one is sick is hard.  But I'll do my best.  First, I'll start with Earnest Defarge (henceforth referred to as plain 'Defarge').

I believe Defarge is actually a good man, at heart.  He remained faithful to Dr Manette, even after he had lost his mind in prison (although, now that I think of it, might he only have been keeping Dr Manette in the tavern to stoke the revolutionary fervour?) and he tries to stop his wife from bringing harm to Lucie and her child (because they are related to Dr Manette).  Now, granted, he doesn't try very hard (probably since his wife would as soon send him to the guillotine as anyone else) or at least as hard as he could have, but I suppose the thought is what counts.  Basically, he lets his wife run the revolution (or, at least their part of it) and just stays in the sidelines.  In the musical, he's given a stronger character, in my opinion, where he and his wife work together well and, as I mentioned earlier, he genuinely mourns her death.  I much prefer him in the musical.

Mme. Defarge.  Now there's an interesting character.  Ally once pointed out that her and Lucie's back-stories are remarkably similar – both were hurt by the Evremonde family in some way or another – but the way the two women reacted was completely different.  Whereas Lucie moved on with her life and created a family out of her hardships, Mme. Defarge grew increasingly bitter until she would have gladly killed innocent women and children just to get her revenge.  And that's book-Mme. Defarge in a nutshell.  Now, musical-Mme. Defarge isn't that much different, but I do find her a bit more sympathetic.  For one, her solo 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind' is pretty sad (in a scary kind of way).  But it's during 'The Tale' where it all really comes out (literally/figuratively).  When she sings “All those years in the dark...” in that heartbroken  I've got to admit I was moved by that.

Interesting Fact To Wrap Up This Blog Post:  Sierra and I were once talking about how Natalie Toro (she portrays Mme. Defarge in the concert) would be amazing for Eponine if she were younger because of her strong belt.  And then I was browsing a musical theatre board and I discovered that she had played Eponine.  I was completely and totally thrilled and immediately went off to Youtube to see if there were any bootlegs of her performance.  There wasn't really any, but I did find a few seconds of her singing 'On My Own' in an Eponine comparison video.  She sounds amazing (and apparently she was the first American to join the Les Mis cast) and it's better than nothing, right?


A Tale Of Two Cities Week {International Cast Recording Review}

My library has a program where you can download free songs from a site they partner with and although most of the selections on there aren't anything I would listen to, I have found lots of good musical theatre cast recordings, including the international cast recording for A Tale Of Two Cities.  Let me tell you, I was absolutely thrilled when I discovered that.  I must have listened to the entire thing over five times in the first week of my having it and I've pretty much memorized all the songs, thanks to that :)  The cast is exactly the same as in the concert, so I don't need to go into character portrayals and all that, but there are several songs included in this recording that aren't in the concert, so I'll talk about those.

  • Prologue – in some ways, I'm glad this was left out of the concert.  It's a rather bland, irrelevant, one minute long piece sung by Dr Manette about how he'll write down the Tale before he loses his mind in the Bastille.  In my opinion, The Way It Ought To Be is a much more exciting beginning.
  • The Trial – I was really happy when I discovered this song, since I thought that Charles' trial (actually a large plot point) was hurried over in the concert (after all, it is a concert) with a bit of narration from Michael York.  But this track brings out everything about the actual scene in just a few minutes.  It even has the quote about Barsad getting a statue if people in England were like those in ancient Rome.  It cracked me up.
  • Letter From Uncle – another short, rather insignificant track.
  • Resurrection Man – now this is a fun song, despite the rather macabre topic it dwells on.  It's sung by Jerry Cruncher and two or three of his 'minions' and it's the kind of song that you can't help grinning at, even if the subject matter is unsavoury (kind of like 'No Honest Way').  It provides a good, light-hearted change of pace from all the epic, tragic songs.
  • Everything Stays The Same -  this track is epic (and I don't mean that in the sense of 'totally awesome!').  From what I can make out, part of it is in the Bastille when Earnest Defarge finds the papers Dr Manette left, and part of it is a play (which includes the famous opening lines of the book, slightly paraphrased).  I love listening to it – the whole thing is so vast and multi-layered.
  • Without A Word – This is Lucie's solo, the one that was replaced by Never Say Goodbye in the concert.  I don't know which song I like better, but one point that would probably be against this one is that Lucie seems too angry and accusatory towards Charles.  To me, that just doesn't seem like her.  However, this is still a beautiful song.  One of my top favorites. [note on Let Her Be A Child: in the concert, this is sung as a duet between Sydney and Charles, but on the ICR it's one of Sydney's solos.  I think I prefer the solo version.]
  • Defarge Goodbye – this song, a solo sung by Earnest is short, but it's incredibly heartbreaking.  It's his farewell to his wife (after she's dead, no less) and even though she was terrible, it still makes me cry.  A lot.


Monday, February 24, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Character Tournament {Round 2}


In most of the polls for round 1, the voting was very close, so I had to chose a couple of the winners randomly.  Here are the pairs for round 2.  This should get very interesting...
  • Charles Darnay/Sydney Carton
  • M. Defarge/Mr Lorry
  • Jerry Cruncher/The Seamstress
Have fun voting!


A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Musicals Clips & Behind The Scenes

As I mentioned in my review of this musical, I think it's a shame that ATOTC isn't more widely known in the musical theatre world (as in, known at all).  I've scoured Youtube for long periods of time, tracking down scraps of interesting things about the ATOTC musical, and I've compiled a few clips.  There are more videos on the site, but I've picked the best/my favorites.  Have fun (and if you find any other good clips or behind the scenes videos, post a link in the comments - I'd love to see them).

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Guest Post By Amy

Hello, lovely peeps!  Eva very kindly invited me to guest post for her A Tale of Two Cities week, and since I'm a big fan of the musical, I agreed without reservation.

Sadly, I've only seen the concert version and listened to the cast album-- I've never seen the whole show live.  (Someday, though.  Someday.)  But then, most of us haven't had a chance to see any more than that, so I'm just as qualified as any of you to discuss it, yes?  And the thing I'm here to discuss today is the similarity between ATOTC and The Best Musical That Ever Was.

....Les Mis, guys.  I'm talking about Les Mis.

It is a truth universally acknowledged (I've got to stop using that line, I use it way too much...) that Les Mis and ATOTC have a lot in common, and those of the more cynical sort have sometimes said that ATOTC is just a ripoff of Les Mis' success.   Now, I'm not going to deny that I'm a bit of a cynic at times (though I'm not as bad as Grantaire) and I've been known to point out the similarities between the musicals with my own fair share of snark.  And though I don't really think ATOTC is ripping off Les Mis, per se, I do find amusement in comparing the two and having a little private giggle now and then.

So.  Let us do this.  

Comparison #1 
"Until Tomorrow" vs. "One Day More." 

ATOTC on Broadway, 2008 and Les Mis on the West End, 2004-- yes,
that's Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras.  :D

 This, I think is one of the most obvious correlations.  Take a listen to the concept cast recording of "Until Tomorrow"-- Defarge sounds an awful lot like Enjolras there in the beginning, yes?  Well, maybe more like Enjolras in "Do You Hear the People Sing?," but it's the same thing, basically.  (Yes, yes, it is.  Shush.)  One more day before the storm, and all that.  And if you're not sure what you're supposed to be comparing this to, go listen to "One Day More"-- I mean, the idea of being all hyped about something when there's just one day left is an age-old concept where musicals are concerned... just think of "How Can I Wait" and "Tomorrow" and all that.  The choreography, too, is very similar, and I can't deny that I have wondered if maybe the producers ripped off Les Mis just a teeeeeeeeeeny bit.  I mean, they practically do the famous "One Day More" step.  That can't be coincidental.  But
"Until Tomorrow" is still a cool song. :D 

Comparison #2
Marius and Cosette vs. Lucie and Charles

Simon Thomas and Brandi Burkhart in the PBS concert - Alistair Brammer
and Emily Bull (?) on the West End in 2010.

Now, I'm not really comparing the two couples' storylines here.  Sure, they all end up with their true loves and in both cases there's an unrequited third party languishing out in the cold, but Marius/Cosette and Lucie/Charles are two very different romances.  M/C is a love-at-first-sight deal, whereas L/C takes a little longer to develop (in my opinion, at least).  Here, I'm just comparing the couple's portrayals in general. When my sister and I first heard Simon Thomas as Charles, we looked at each other and went, "He could TOTALLY play Marius in Les Mis."  It's that head-in-the-clouds, romantic male lead type of voice.  Heehee.  And Cosette and Lucie are rather similar in temperament and voice type... high sopranos with generally sweet personalities.  Lucie, I think, goes through a lot more character development in her musical, but Cosette would too if she actually had more STAGE TIME.  Ahemmmmmmmmm.  (I'm Team Cosette, in case you didn't notice. Do not hate on Cosette.)  

Plus, both musicals feature the scene-where-the-suitor-asks-the-father-for-the-daughter's-hand, though of course in Les Mis' case, it's Valjean who's trying to confess his past to Marius, and in ATOTC it's Charles attempting to tell his story to Dr. Manette.  Heehee.

Comparison #3
Sydney Carton vs. Grantaire, Who Doesn't Have a First Name

Sydney Carton James Barbour in the PBS concert and
Hadley Fraser in the 25th Anniversary concert

Um, they're both alcoholics who cry about how hopeless they are and die by the finale, the end.

All riiiiiiiight, I'll elaborate.  Sydney really does remind me of Grantaire, though Sydney is in the end a much more admirable character.  Yes, yes, Grantaire dies with his friends (or with Enjolras, depending on whether you're watching the stage show or the movie or reading the book) and gives up his life for a cause he doesn't believe in, but it didn't really benefit anybody... I know, I know, heresy, but it's TRUE.  But Sydney's sacrifice in the end enables Charles to live with his family, happily ever after, while Sydney goes willingly to the guillotine because he wants to spare Lucie the grief of losing her husband.

Be right back, have to go bawl in the corner.

Comparison #4
Father-Daughter Relationships

Unknown stage production, snagged from Google Images, and
Hugh Jackman and Isabelle Allen in the 2012 film

Dr. Manette and Lucie are biological father and daughter-- Valjean adopted Cosette when her mother died.  Dr. Manette and Lucie were reunited after years of being apart, and ended up having a good many years together after that-- Valjean took Cosette in when she was eight and died when she was sixteen.  (Wahhhhhh.)

Comparison #5
Sacrificial Lullabies

James Barbour and the little girl who played Lucie in the concert, Ramin
Karimloo on the West End in 2012

"Bring Him Home" is not, on the surface, very similar to "Let Her Be a Child."  Both are prayers, yes, but one is for a young man who's passively "threatening" to take away the singer's daughter, and the other is for a little girl whose father's life is in danger.  And yet they're both completely selfless.  Valjean literally offers up his own life in exchange for Marius', while Sydney spends the whole song pleading with God to protect little Lucie from fear, repeating the theme of how "she mustn't know what we know."  (I prefer this version of the song, by the way-- the one from the concert with Charles Darnay duetting is also lovely, but the first one is just more gutwrenching.)

"Save grief for somewhere years away-- just not today, not here."  // "He is young, he is only a boy.  You can take, you can give; let him be, let him live."  
"Show me some way to give this gift to her!"  //  "If I die, let me die.  Let him live, bring him home."

It's also worth pointing out that both Valjean and Sydney realize that if they do nothing in a particular situation, the man taking away the girl they love will die and she'll stay with them.  And yet they both choose the harder path.  

"What if he can’t be saved?
What if he dies? 
What if she turns to me?"
"This is the day that most I feared
Now a young man has appeared to change my life
This Marius will take away the treasure of my autumn day to be his wife.
He could die tonight...
I must find this boy."

Comparison #6
Tragic Yet Uplifting Endings

'Nuff said.

"I can't recall a sky so clear.  The heavens seem an inch away and not unfriendly after all-- if life was never quite this sweet, I can't recall.  It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done.  It is a far, far better rest I go to, than I have ever known."

"Will you join in our crusade?  Who will be strong and stand with me?  Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?  Do you hear the people sing?  Say, do you hear the distant drums?  It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!" 

A Tale Of Two Cities Week {Musical Review}

one of those 'tomorrow' songs :)

The idea for this week started when I felt a need to heighten public awareness of the amazing, gorgeous musical that is A Tale Of Two Cities.  Of course, I decided to broaden out to include the book (which is amazing in its own right) and a movie adaption, simply because I wasn't sure I'd have enough ideas related to the musical to fill the whole week.  However, this week is still very much focused on the musical version of ATOTC (which you can watch here) and I think it was a justified decision on my part.  So many people know nothing about the musical, in comparison to the book, and I think it's a shame because the musical is absolutely wonderful – my all-time favorite after Les Miserables (well, it's actually tied with Cinderella).  I've been waiting until this week to review the musical, so here it is.

I stumbled across the musical ATOTC quite by accident (that seems the common theme with fans of it).  I was searching on Youtube for clips of certain songs from the musical version of The Scarlet Pimpernel and while I was listening to 'Into The Fire', I noticed the link to the full musical on my sidebar.  I hadn't even know there was a musical of ATOTC, but I'd always liked the story, so I clicked on it.  Michael York started off reciting the opening lines of the book, and I was mildly interested, and then the opening notes started and I was spellbound (I think the best thing any musical can do is have a really strong opening number, preferably with strong opening notes, as they're sure to capture the viewer's interest right away).  I watched the whole thing in one afternoon, loved all the songs, and cried bucket loads at the end.  And then turned around and showed it to the rest of my family pretty much the next day.  After that, I did what I always do when I get a new obsession – scour the Internet for anything even remotely related to the object of my obsession.

And besides a few old cast photos and some spiritless reviews from critics (mostly comparing the musical to Les Mis – and not favourably, either) I found nothing.  Boy, was that disappointing.  I couldn't understand why everyone wasn't as obsessed with it as I was.  It had everything!  Based off a classic book (those kind of musicals seem to make it least in some cases), gorgeous songs/orchestration, a satisfyingly emotional ending – what more could you want?  Fans of a musical which has pretty much sunk into oblivion are extremely hard to find, but I was able to convert a couple of my friends to ATOTC musical obsession (and Sierra already loved it).  But mostly it's just been my own little private fandom.  I've listened to both albums – Concept and International – several times (reviews of each coming soon) and watched the musical at least four times.  I've hunted up every single interview, bootleg clip, and alternate song renditions that I could find on Youtube (I'll be showcasing them in a post later this week).

I've noticed that I tend to talk about my feelings/experiences with whatever book/movie/musical I'm reviewing rather than talk about the plot and that, but, in my opinion, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  If I'm a fan of something, I'd much rather read how said thing made people feel than just get a plot/character overview.  Know what I mean?  And I'm sure everyone knows everything about the plot and characters of ATOTC ;)  But I will talk about each character portrayal (or at least the main ones), what I thought of them, and what my favorite songs were.  That's always fun.

'and from my nearly empty glass, the wasted years stare back at me.  it's no one else's fault i see the man i see.  or that my life is not the way it ought to be.'James Barbour plays Sydney Carton.  From the first moment I saw him on-stage, I was drawn to his performance.  Although the musical's portrayal of Sydney focuses more on his unrequited love for Lucie than any of his faults (at least I think so), I still think James Barbour does an amazing job portraying the Sydney of the book as well as the musical.  He blends Sydney's self-loathing and nobler feelings together in a way that makes me cry every time I listen to/watch one of his solos.  James Barbour has the enviable talent of showing emotion just using his voice (as shown in the original cast recording of Jane Eyre – another sadly overlooked musical) and in the role of Sydney Carton he has ample room to bring all his acting skills to the forefront.  

Simon Thomas played the other male lead role as Charles Darnay, and although I enjoyed his performance, there was something lacking in it.  Like I mentioned earlier, musical Charles isn't as well-rounded as book Charles.  Brandi Burkhardt as Lucie, on the other hand, gave a stellar performance.  She portrayed Lucie as a strong, spirited woman (though not annoyingly so), a devoted daughter, and a wonderful wife.  My favorite version of Lucie ever (even over book Lucie).  Natalie Toro played a frightening, though entirely unsympathetic, Madame Defarge.  Her single solo – 'Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind' – is frighteningly good, in a spooky way.  It's one of my favorite songs in the whole musical, mostly because of Natalie Toro's amazingly strong belting voice.  It's not a beautiful voice, per se, but one that's full of power.


Speaking of favorite songs, I had several.  I pretty much love all of them, but the ones that stick out to me the most are 'I Can't Recall' (gorgeous, gorgeous orchestration), 'Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind' (as mentioned earlier), 'Now At Last' (I'm smiling just thinking about this one – it's even better than 'A Heart Full Of Love' as a love song), 'If Dreams Came True' (the song spans about nine years, all told – it's brilliant and heartbreaking), 'Never Say Goodbye' (sooooo beautiful), and, of course, the finale.  It gives me the same emotional high as the Les Mis finale, which I love, even if I'm crying.  Oh, and there is one little scene in the concert that is probably my favorite.  It's called 'The Letter' on the soundtrack and it's when Lucie reads the note Charles (and Sydney) wrote in the prison and then discovers Charles is sitting next to her.  It's perfect.  I love it.

Well, that's my review of the musical version of ATOTC.  Have you watched it?  If not, I highly recommend you go and do so right now.  You're really missing out ;)


Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Defending Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette-Darnay

Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay, A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette-Darnay tend to get a lot of flak in both the period drama/classic literature blogosphere and the critics' circle and I can understand the reason for some of it. They aren't the most three-dimensional characters (at least not in Lucie's case) and Charles often falls to the side when compared to Sydney (although, Sydney isn't exactly a gentleman for most of the book, and Charles is...more on that in a bit) mostly because of the self-sacrificing thing and also because Sydney is a well-rounded character. I used to share the majority's opinion of Charles and Lucie, but after reading through the book for English Literature, which had me delve deeper into the meaning and symbolism and all that, my thoughts changed to a more favourable way.

And, after all, what's one of these themed weeks without a defence post? I always do one :) I was actually going to do one for Madame Defarge, but then decided that since she does have a lot of evilness in her (for just evilness' sake, in most cases), she wouldn't make the best person to defend. In my opinion, it was different when I defended Guy during Robin Hood week, because he redeems himself and, really, he's a more sympathetic character. But if you're intrigued by Mme. Defarge like I am, don't worry. I have a post about her and her husband coming later on this week. For right now, though, I'll be talking about Charles and Lucie. Mostly Charles, but some of Lucie too (I'll be pulling information from the musical, as well as the book, just so you know).

Charles is the main character in A Tale Of Two Cities, in my opinion, although some people probably won't agree with me. Much of the story is told in his point of view and it's his being an Evremonde that really drives the plot. The musical downplays his role, at least to some extent, which I think is a shame because it would have been fantastic to see book Charles really played out well on-stage. But it is Sydney who carries the plot in the musical (he has three solos. Count 'em – three!). And while I don't really have a problem with that, it would be interesting to see how the musical would change if Charles were the main character. use crying over split milk :) 

Book Charles has several good qualities to him (he's definitely has more to him than the abridged version I once read shows). For one, he stands up to his evil uncle and renounces his aristocratic roots and the money, power, and prestige that would have come from keeping his position as the Marquis St. Evermonde. Now, I know that the revolution happened just a few years after his uncle's death, which meant he wouldn't have had any money or lands, but how was he to know that? You know a man's principles are good when he follows them even if it means loss to himself. Charles' refusal to profit off other people's misfortunes is one of the things that speaks to me the most about him. Also, when a letter comes to him from an old servant, he has little hesitation in going and saving a life it at all possible (did we ever actually learn what happened to Gabelle? In the 1935 movie, they show Mme. Defarge and her minions forcing Gabelle to write the letter that will bring Charles to Paris – and then they kill him. But I don't remember reading anything about his fate in the book), even if it means leaving his wife and daughter. Again, principles before personal comfort.

A Tale of Two Cities - Dr Manette and Lucie with Charles Darnay, by Charles Edmund Brock, c. before 1938

One thing I really love about Charles (probably due to my romantic nature) is that he asks Dr Manette's permission to marry Lucie. I love that. Lucie couldn't have asked for a better husband. Instead of going and declaring his love for Lucie right away, Charles 1) waited for quite some time even before telling Dr Manette of his feelings and 2) was extremely thoughtful towards Dr Manette's wishes on the matter. This scene is one of my favorites in the musical. You can listen to it here, although I highly recommend finding the scene in the musical and watching it as well. This scene (in both the book and the musical) also brings forth another reason I like Charles. He doesn't want to conceal his true name from Dr Manette, thinking that it's deceitful and would render him unworthy of Dr Manette and Lucie's trust, even though it could mean an end to the relationship. 

But Dr Manette himself refuses to hear the name until the morning of Lucie's wedding to Charles (should it come to pass). I think Dr Manette said that because he was afraid that if his suspicions about Charles' name proved true, he would forbid Lucie from seeing him just because of his unpleasant associations with the name of Evremonde. But he didn't want to mar Lucie's happiness (and Charles'), so he puts a condition that basically won't allow him to forbid Charles and Lucie's marriage (obviously). It really speaks about Charles' character that Dr Manette would trust him that much. And the last point I want to bring up in defence of Charles, is his forgiving nature. Sydney wasn't exactly polite to Charles early in the book, but when he asks forgiveness, Charles quickly and readily forgives him. And I'm sure he forgave Dr Manette for sending him back to the Bastille – because no matter how unwittingly it might have happened (Dr Manette couldn't have known what would happen when he wrote the letter in the first place) there was probably some bitterness or disappointment at first. And Charles is just an all-around amazing French/British gentleman and I like him a lot and this is my defence of him.

And now I want to do a short defence of Lucie Manette-Darnay (short, just because this post is getting ever-so-long). Lucie is one character change I love in the musical – she's more spirited and interesting, no matter how little stage time she may have. She has one solo (which is more than Charles can say, unfortunately); two, if you count both 'Without A Word' and 'Never Say Goodbye', even though she doesn't sing them both in the same production (she sang 'WaW' at the end of the concert, I believe, but not in the actual story itself). 'WaW' is actually pretty different than book Lucie, with quite a bit of anger and accusation in it. 'NSG' has the same, but more toned down. Two things really stick out to me about Lucie in the book. First of all, she follows Charles to France, no matter what the danger, and stands outside the prison all day (pretty much), every day, for about two years (I think it's two), in whatever weather. That speaks volumes about her loyalty to her husband, especially since he could only see her a few times for all the days she stood there. And something that some readers might have missed – she lost a child quite early in her marriage, but she still stayed sweet and kind and even happy through her faith in God. Now that is something worth mentioning.


A Tale Of Two Cities Week: A Tale Of Two Cities {1935 Movie Review}

A Tale of Two Cities _ 1935 based upon Charles Dickens' 1859 historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The film stars Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton, Donald Woods and Elizabeth Allan. The supporting players include Basil Rathbone, Blanche Yurka, and Edna May Oliver.

I have a love/hate relationship with movies made in the 30's and 40's. The films based on classic books are usually terrible adaptions (P&P was the worst, although TSP was pretty good – though I didn't enjoy it that much) and several others that are just based on, real life, I guess, are not so great. One time watches are what I usually call them (I love pretty much anything with Jimmy Stewart in it, though). So when I sat down to watch this movie version of ATOTC, I wasn't expecting much, if anything. I'd suggested watching it, because if a movie-to-book adaption is bad, I always enjoying discussing its bad points with my siblings/blogging friends. In this case, however, there would be no bad points.

It was stupendously amazing.

Sure, there were the typical aspects of a 30's-40's movie – melodramatic music (honestly, I don't know why they feel it necessary to list the composer in the credits, since all the music sounds pretty much the same for any of those movies), some overacting (mostly on the part of the actress who plays Lucie, who, incidentally was the typical blonde actress that one sees in every. single. old movie), and a couple of other timeless cliches, but overall, it was spectacular, in every sense of the word. The mob scenes, the all-star casting (all-star for way back then, of course), and the surprisingly accurate adaption made for a smashingly good film.

158. A Tale of Two Cities (1935, dir. Conway)  Rating: B+  Finished: May 4, 2013

Yes, the book-to-screen adaption was one of the best I've ever seen. Naturally, things had to be cut (when aren't they?), but it was done very well. Little touches here and there showed that the film directors had obviously read the book. A lot of the dialog was taken straight from it, although a few bits were moved around and given to different characters (for instance, instead of Charles saying to Lucie that someday George Washington could be as famous as King George, Sydney says it at a dinner party in the Manette home, much later in the movie). I really loved the way everything stayed so accurate, and it wasn't just with the plot/dialog. The character portrayals were, for the most part, completely true to the book.

"You're going to die in his place. Why?" "He is my friend."  A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1935)To start with, Ronald Colman gave a stellar performance as Sydney Carton. From what I gather, he was the Tom Hiddleston or Aaron Tveit of his day, and his portrayal of Sydney goes to show why. Acting, voice, everything, was I really, really loved how he played one of my favorite characters in literary history. And it was completely accurate. At first, you could really feel the loathing Sydney had for himself and then as he gradually changes under Lucie's guidance and his love for her, your opinion starts to change as well. Just like in the book (in my opinion, the musical version of Sydney doesn't quite capture that – more on that in my review later on this week). And the way he played The End, so heartbreaking. The one and only time I've really cried in an old b&w film. Other than the epic tragedy of the role, he also had several funny scenes/lines – it made for a good, balanced performance.

As for the rest of the actors/actresses...they all played their parts quite well (although, compared to Sydney...). Lucie was probably my least favorite character portrayal as she seemed to weepy and fainty (is that a word?). And her acting wasn't that great (during the wedding, she says “I wonder why Sydney didn't come to my wedding...” HELLO. Sorry. I guess that's not bad acting, per se, but it struck me as really, really dumb – book Lucie isn't at all like that). Charles was okay, as was Dr Manette. The Defarges were really, really good, though. I really liked both of their portrayals (more on them later this week). Miss Pross and Mr Lorry were great too. I pretty much liked everyone, with the exception of Lucie (fun fact: I have several copies of ATOTC and one of them is illustrated, and almost all the drawings look like they were taken from the movie. It's pretty cool).

This film is definitely worth your time. You won't regret watching it, especially if you're a period drama fan.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Book Quotes

A tale of two cities

So, here's a few book quotes that I think really illustrate the book's theme and style and all that.  You will not find the 'it was the best of times/worst of times' or 'it is a far, far better thing' quotes, simply because they are so overused (even though they are still amazing quotes) and I'm sure they'll be in other posts this week.  And without further ado, may I present...the quotes!

“Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.” 

“A day wasted on others is not wasted on one's self.” 

“Mr. Cruncher... always spoke of the year of our Lord as Anna Dominoes: apparently under the impression that the Christian era dated from the invention of a popular game, by a lady who had bestowed her name upon it. ” 

“The cloud of caring for nothing, which overshadowed him with such a fatal darkness, was very rarely pierced by the light within him.” 

“When they took a young man into Tellson's London house, they hid him somewhere till he was old. They kept him in a dark place, like a cheese, until he had the full Tellson flavour and blue-mould upon him. Then only was he permitted to be seen, spectacularly poring over large books, and casting his breeches and gaiters into the general weight of the establishment.” 

“Of little worth as life is when we misuse it, it is worth that effort. It would cost nothing to lay down if it were not.” 

“It is a long time,' repeated his wife; 'and when is it not a long time? Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule.'
'It does not take a long time to strike a man with Lightning,' said Defarge.
'How long,' demanded madame, composedly, 'does it take to make and store the lightning? Tell me?” 

“[...] Says it with his head on!" Mr. Stryver remarked upon the peculiarity as if it would have been infinitely less remarkable if he had said it with his head off.” 

"She had laid her head upon my shoulder, that night when I was summoned out--she had a fear of my going, though I had none--and when I was brought to the North Tower they found these upon my sleeve. 'You will leave me them? They can never help me to escape in the body, though they may in the spirit.' Those words I said. I remember them very well.'"

"I have sometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have made the echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by and by into our lives."

“If I may ride with you, Citizen Evremonde, will you let me hold your hand? I am not afraid, but I am little and weak, and it will give me more courage." As the patient eyes were lifted to his face, he saw a sudden doubt in them, and then astonishment. He pressed the work-worn, hunger-worn young fingers, and touched his lips.
"Are you dying for him?" she whispered.
"And his wife and child. Hush! Yes."
"Oh, you will let me hold your brave hand, stranger?"
"Hush! Yes, my poor sister; to the last.” 


A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Guest Post By Miss Jane Bennet

Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay.  The drunken cynic and the gentlemanly aristocrat.  These two are compared and contrasted no end; people are on Team Sydney or Team Charles, and they’re going to stick to it!  We Tale fans sob over Sydney’s unrequited love and sigh over Charles’ amazing manners and courage.  But very few people think about the relationship between Charles and Sydney—and it’s not something to be missed, as I discovered once I began to consider it.

One thing that struck me right away was how much Sydney was like Grantaire. (Did the words “drunken cynic” ring a bell?)  It took me a little longer to realize that Sydney and Charles had a dynamic not unlike Enjolras and Grantaire’s.  Obviously, Charles isn’t much like Enjo.  For one thing, he’s against the revolution, for another, he’s married, and…but I am *not* going to start talking about that.  If I do, before you know it this entire post will just turn into gushing over Enjolras’ many qualities, and this just isn’t the time.  Sadly. :P

Anyways.  The main reason for this comparison is that Sydney, throughout the book, sees Charles as the man he perhaps could have become; his mirror image, if you will.  And Enjolras is pretty much Grantaire’s opposite.  The difference here is how the Enjolrai treat the R’s.

Charles kind of despises Sydney, but being the perfect gentleman he is (*gushy sigh*), he doesn’t show it, though he does complain to his wife about Sydney’s behavior—and is told off for it, to my great delight. :P  Sydney admires Charles, but doesn’t show it, instead insulting him at a bar.  However, when Lucie chooses Charles, Sydney attempts to gain Charles’ friendship for Lucie’s sake.  (One could argue here that Sydney was friendly to Charles to be able to see Lucie more, but remember that he only visited them a few times a year, so I don’t think he was simply taking advantage of the Darnays.)  

Throughout the book (and musical), Sydney often regrets that he didn’t have anything substantial to offer Lucie, but as far as I know, he never blames Darnay or Lucie, which is a point for him—but this isn’t a Defending Sydney post, either.  My, this is just going on and on, isn’t it…Anyways.  I think that this is because Sydney respects Darnay, as well as loving Lucie.  Charles has earned himself a place in Sydney’s heart.  I think this is at least partly because the man treates him courteously, and I doubt Sydney has received much courtesy in his life.  

Now we get to the climactic final act.  Charles is arrested, Sydney wanders the streets at night wondering what to do (and I believe that he comes to know God sometime around that time, as well), and then goes to Charles’ prison to change places and sacrifice himself.  Usually, the motivation for this act is attributed to his love for Lucie—but remember this Bible verse?  “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” (Romans 5:7)

This is taken a bit out of context, but it’s still true.  Sydney died for Lucie and Little Lucie’s happiness, but I believe he also died for Charles—for one of the only men to gain his true respect and friendship.  For a good man.  Charles had just as much to do with Sydney’s transformation and subsequent sacrifice as Lucie did, in my humble opinion; if Charles hadn’t taken the time to be hospitable and polite and compassionate—even if it was just to oblige his wife—, Sydney would probably have ended up on the streets, worse off than before.  

So that’s my take on the relationship between Charles and Sydney.  They saw each other three or four times a year, were rivals for the same woman’s affections, came from nearly opposite conditions in society—and yet, they had huge impacts on each other’s lives.  It’s amazing what love can do, don’t you think?

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: A Tale Of Two Cities {Book Review}

A Tale of Two Cities

What better way to really start of ATOTC Blog Week, than with a review of the book that started the whole thing? I've been studying the book for English Literature this year (and last year), but I'm not going to be getting into the symbolism and detail, and all that jazz (seriously, I think English teachers/courses get wayyyyy more out of classic books than the authors intended – just my opinion). There have been probably thousands of reviews of this book, as well as essays, analysises, even whole books, so at first I really wasn't sure what the point in reviewing it was. But, no event dedicated to the subject would be complete without it, so here I go.

A Tale Of Two Cities (hereafter abbreviated to ATOTC) has been put down by critics and readers of Dickens' works alike, as being a 'little' book, and very unlike Dickens' usual style. I can see where they're coming from – it's one of only two historical novels Dickens wrote, there aren't a million secondary characters with weird names, and even the writing style, at times, is different from many of his other books. However, it's my second favorite Dickens book (after Great Expectations) and I think it has just as much right to be called a classic as any other of his books. It has amazing themes, symbolism, humour, tragedy, amazing characters...what more could you want out of a classic?

Honestly, so much has already been said about the characters and plot...I really find myself at a loss for words. So how about I talk about my own personal experience with ATOTC and intersperse it with my Opinions on Certain Things? Yes, I think that'll work quite well. To begin, my first introduction to ATOTC was a tiny comic book edition (don't ask). It confused me greatly (I mean, I 'understood' it when I read it, but thinking back to it now, I had a lot of strange ideas about the story). I thought that Sydney actually proposed to Lucie (I guess the romantic subtleties escaped me) and other such things. I also read the Great Illustrated Classics version – wasn't really impressed. Then, I grew up, and read friends' reviews of the book and really, really wanted to read it. However, my mom said no, because I'd already read so many classics she had been planning to teach me, that she wanted something left over (I'll bet not many English Lit teachers have that problem).

Anyway, to make a short story shorter, I started reading it in eleventh grade, and even though the essay questions that go with each chapter are hard, I'm still loving it. I'm writing this post ahead of time (to schedule it, you know) so by the time you read this, I'll most likely be done the book. I went ahead and read the whole thing (although I did pace myself – do questions for a chapter, read three chapters ahead, and so on) so I've already cried over the ending, but I'll probably do it again when I officially reach the end (whether it'll be from Sydney, or tough essay questions is a whole different matter). I already knew what was going to happen (who doesn't? It's got to be one of the most famous endings in literature) but that doesn't make it Any Less Painful, y'know?

It doesn't seem like I really put in my opinions on the characters so...favorite character: Sydney. Least favorite character: Barsad...blah, blah, blah – put in all the cliched answers to all the cliched 'questions' you're supposed to ask yourself in a review :P However, you'll be hearing more about Charles, Lucie, and the Defarges this week (none of my posts have anything to do with Sydney, though, because everyone knows everything there is to know about him, so let's break the mold, shall we? Although I do think one of the guest posts is at least partially about him). This has been a Rather Irregular book review (much different from my other ones – oh, wow. Have you noticed the frequency in which I used parentheses in this post?) but I hope you all enjoyed it. And you might have noticed I didn't put a single book quote in here. That's because the next post is going to be chock-full of them...


Friday, February 21, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Character Tournament {Round 1}

I always have a character tournament for my blog parties, and ATOTC Week is no different.  I tried to make things fair, but it was difficult.  I'm sure Lucie will be pushed out of the running right away, but I'm interested to see the results of several of the other polls, particularly the first and the fourth.  And let's attempt to be unique and have someone other than Sydney win, shall we?  Here are the polls for round one...

  • Dr Manette/Charles Darnay
  • Lucie Manette-Darney/Sydney Carton
  • M. Defarge/Mme. Defarge
  • Miss Pross/Mr Lorry
  • Jerry Cruncher/John Barsad
  • Little Lucie/The Seamstress

 Have fun voting!

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