“We solve crimes, I blog about it, and he forgets his pants.”

Season Two

A Scandal in Belgravia picks up right where The Great Game left off, in the pool, with Sherlock pointing a gun at a collection of bombs. Then Staying Alive echoes through the room from Moriarty’s phone. He asks to take the call and starts congenial, then becomes angry at what the mysterious caller is telling him; “and know that if you are lying, I will skin you,” he drags out. Turns out for Sherlock and John, “Sorry, wrong day to die,” but warns them he will be in touch. On his way out, still on the phone, he tells his friend, if they’re right, they will be rich, and if they’re wrong, they will become shoes. We see a woman end the call, then ask another mysterious person, “Have you been wicked, your highness?”

John’s blogs bring in clients, advancing the duo, particularly Sherlock, to the status of Internet phenomenon. The press start showing up at crime scenes and Sherlock has to don the infamous deerstalker hat to hide his face. Sherlock attempts to solve a case from home, wrapped in a sheet, while John does the legwork on location. Then they’re both taken to Buckingham Palace. And…Sherlock still can’t bother to put on pants. Mycroft comes in to tell Sherlock he has a new case, but the client must remain anonymous. Sherlock refuses at first, even threatening to walk away while Mycroft holds the sheet (there’s a hilarious blooper of Benedict falling over in one take). He does take the case; the royal family is being threatened with scandal due to a dominatrix, Irene Adler holding compromising photos on her phone. This is the woman from the start of the episode. Irene receives photos of Sherlock and prepares for his arrival while Sherlock prepares to meet her. He has John punch him in the face (which John always hears when Sherlock is speaking, “but it’s usually subtext”) so he’ll appear suitably distraught to gain entrance to Irene’s residence.

Irene shocks Sherlock by entering the room stark naked. He stumbles a bit and can’t read her like he normally does. She further turns the table and asks Sherlock about his latest case; “brainy is the new sexy” (I totally agree). She eventually dons Sherlock’s coat to make John more comfortable, but they’re ploy to find the phone is interrupted by American CIA agents. They threaten John to make Sherlock open the case (the combination is Irene’s measurements) and with a hint from Irene, Sherlock warns his sidekick “Vatican cameos!” so they all duck as a gun takes out their opponents. Sherlock almost gets away with the phone, but Irene drugs him and escapes. She does return the coat while Sherlock sleeps (and reveals the solution to the case, where a backfiring car covers up a boomerang accidentally killing its owner), and also has now programmed his phone to moan sensually whenever she texts. Which hilariously interrupts Sherlock telling Mycroft off for yelling at Mrs. Hudson to shut up.

This transitions into a Christmas party at Baker Street. Sherlock actually apologizes when he embarrasses Molly Hooper, then his mood turns when he discovers that Irene Adler has left her phone, her insurance policy, for him. He warns Mycroft that they will find the woman dead that evening. He and Mycroft identify the body later that evening. Mycroft even offers Sherlock a cigarette which signals that Sherlock is suffering emotional pain. Sherlock tries to unlock Irene’s phone, but only has four attempts and discovers that if the case is forced, measures are in place to destroy the information. John is picked up while he’s out; he assumes it’s Mycroft again, but really it’s Irene. She’s not dead and she needs her phone back. And…Sherlock is listening. he’s in a bit of a daze as he makes his way back to Baker Street, but then he’s frighteningly focused when he discovers that Mrs. Hudson is in danger. The CIA agents are back. The leader is taken away in an ambulance, after falling out the window, several times. Sherlock declares England would fall is Mrs. Hudson ever left Baker Street.

sherlock and irene

Then he discovers Irene in his bedroom. She has a case for Sherlock. She has an important e-mail she got a hold of that needs decoding. Sherlock manages to crack it in less than a minute. Irene is impressed: “I would have you right here on this desk until you begged for mercy, twice.” Sadly, if we recall, she’s in the league with Moriarty and sends damaging information out. Moriarty contacts Mycroft and Sherlock has just set back a joint operation that could lead to a dangerous group, just to impress a woman. Irene attempts to blackmail Mycroft into her demands, but Sherlock has finally figured out her code to unlock her phone: I AM SHERLOCKED.

This puts Irene in danger. Mycroft visits John later so the man can inform his flatmate that the woman is in witness protection when really she’s dead. However…when we see her send her final text, a phone moans nearby. Sherlock is on hand to save her.

Hounds of Baskerville brings a familiar BBC face to play, Russell Tovey has appeared in Doctor Who and plays George the werewolf in Being Human (I only watched that show because Aidan Turner [Poldark, Kili from the Hobbit, and ironically Luke the werewolf from The Mortal Instruments movie] played Mitchell the vampire). One of the bar owners was Little John in BBC’s Robin Hood series as well. In this episode Russell is the client Henry Knight who witnessed his father murdered as a boy on the moors outside the Baskerville Army installation. He believes he saw a gigantic hound with red eyes tear his father apart. Sherlock is desperate for a case (so desperate, he begs for drugs) and almost doesn’t take it, until Henry specifically says, “it was a gigantic hound.” Hound is a more archaic term, why does he use it?

We get some gorgeous shots of Dartmoor. The consulting detective and his blogger sneak onto the base using Mycroft’s keycard and find a connection to an e-mail a child sent; her mother works for Baskerville, which explains the glowing bunny that shortly afterwards disappeared. So there is something strange going on at Baskerville. Sherlock convinces Henry to take them to Dewer’s Hollow (where the devil supposedly pops up). It’s foggy, they hear rustling. Then Sherlock sees a hound. He denies it to Henry, but John finds him later freaking out. “Once you rule out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable must be true.” John in turns call Sherlock “Spock” (There is Star Trek trivia that in the fourth movie [not the new ones], Spock quotes that line, claiming one of his ancestors said it, thus connecting Sherlock Holmes and Spock. NuSpock also quotes this line). Sherlock insults John, who goes for a walk.

Come morning, Sherlock apologizes in the way that he does. And another familiar face for him, Lestrade has come, on orders from Mycroft. John muses that it helps with Sherlock’s Asperger’s (I have no way of knowing one way or another if that is a true statement). Sherlock sends John to search the labs and freaks his friend out. Then discovers that the sugar he thought contained the drug does not. He must consult his Mind Palace. Henry had started to remember two words associated with the night his father was killed, “Liberty, In.” Sherlock also realizes that “hound” may actually be an acronym. It is. There was a CIA project years ago codenamed “H.O.U.N.D.” that took place in Liberty, Indiana. It was supposed to be part of chemical warfare and drive the enemy to terror and fear. But it adversely affected the subject and the project was scrapped. But a doctor from that time has started it up again.

Henry, with a gun because he’s starting to see the hound at his place, heads to the Hollow. Sherlock, Lestrade, and John race after him and run into his old family friend, Doctor Franklin, who has worked on the American project. Turns out, what young Henry had seen was Doctor Franklin wearing a gas mask and killing his father. The drug is aerosol form and is hidden in the fog of the hollow. Oh, and there is an actual dog; the pub owners had one that they hoped to capitalize on the tourist craze, but it grew too wild. They claimed to have had it put down; no, they just let it loose in the hollow to terrorize people. Franklin runs to escape prison…into a minefield.

At the very end, Mycroft lets Jim Moriarty leave interrogation, after having written “Sherlock” around his cell.

This leads right into The Reichenbach Fall. Sherlock’s popularity is on the rise, not that he really cares. He’s started solving high profile cases, even receiving the insufferable deerstalker hat as a gag gift from Scotland Yard. Then Moriarty simultaneously breaks into the three most secure places in London, including the Crown Jewels. He goes on trial and Sherlock is called in as a witness. In the loo beforehand, he’s cornered by a “fan,” actually a journalist who wants “the real story” on Sherlock Holmes. He dismisses her. Sherlock deduces afterwards, that Moriarty wanted caught. And he manages to be found not guilty. Jim visits Sherlock at Baker Street and informs his nemesis that the final problem is approaching. Every fairytale needs its villain. Sherlock needs Jim. Mycroft warns John briefly of an upcoming exposé on Sherlock, but more concerning is four assassins moving in nearby.

There is a kidnapping case. Sherlock solves it. But when he goes to visit the girl, she screams at the sight of him. Donovan, alongside Anderson, who have never liked Sherlock, start to believe that he staged the whole thing, just so he could solve it. John knows Sherlock is not a fraud, but Lestrade gets in trouble from his superior and has to come arrest Sherlock. John is offended by the superior and punches him, Sherlock uses it as an opportunity for the two of them to escape. Sherlock tracks down the journalist, who startlingly has a clear history of Sherlock’s childhood and a mysterious source, Jim Moriarty, who claims to be an actor named Richard Brook that Sherlock hired to play his nemesis. I hate this part; I dislike this woman. She got turned down by Sherlock but is so desperate to prove her career that she eagerly laps up a story to explain that he’s an ordinary man. As Sherlock tells John, it’s a lie wrapped up in a truth, so people will believe it.

Sherlock retreats to St. Bart’s and quietly enlists Molly Hooper’s help. She is a kind hearted person and has offered to Sherlock, even after he’s mean to her, that if he ever needs help, she’s there. He trusts her and tells her, she has always counted. “I think I’m going to die,” he tells her. “What do you need?” she simply asks. “You.”

John races off to Baker Street, thinking Mrs. Hudson is in trouble. But she’s fine (aside from an assassin is standing next to her). John then races back to St. Bart’s figuring that Sherlock is planning to face Moriarty alone. The opposing players meet on the roof. Staying Alive plays again and the final problem is that Moriarty has grown bored of Sherlock. Claims he’s ordinary; he’s beaten him. Sherlock retorts to the criminal, “Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them” [and he sounds so much like Kahn at that moment.] There was no magic key. He paid off guards, just like he blackmailed the jury. And now, to end his story, Sherlock must die. Sherlock must commit suicide; if he doesn’t, three gunmen are set up to kill John Watson, Greg Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson. Sherlock thinks for a minute he would be able to get the information out of Moriarty, he figured out that in German, Richard Brook translates to Reichenbach, Sherlock’s fame-making case and he can prove that Jim created a falsesherlock call identity, but the insane man shoots himself in the head. Now Sherlock has no choice. John has arrived on scene; Sherlock makes him stay back. John calls his phone. Sherlock claims he has lied to John the whole time; John does not believe him. Sherlock jumps. John rushes to him, but is first hit by a bicyclist, and then the people won’t let him near Sherlock.

I still tear up at the end when John begs Sherlock for one more miracle, “just, don’t be dead.” John tells Sherlock’s tombstone that he was the best man, the most human person he had ever known and he will never believe that Sherlock was lying. He owes Sherlock so much. The camera follows John as he leaves the cemetery and pans to Sherlock watching.

I enjoy this season more than the first. I like the hour and a half long episodes because it allows the writers time to fully develop a story and delve into nuances.  There’s humor and action mixed in with the mystery and drama.  Sherlock still shows us that he is human and experiences human emotions, as much as he may deny them.  He trusts Molly more than John at the end to help him pull off his suicide.  He recognizes on his own that he hurt John’s feelings at Baskerville.  I wish we had a more satisfying end to Moriarty, and more public, after what he put Sherlock through.  And as Season Two ends, I desperately want to start watching Season Three.

Next Time: Season Three

“Because Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and I think one day, if we’re very, very lucky, he may even be a good one.”

Sherlock – Season One

One of BBC’s incredibly popular shows, despite the fact that there are only three episodes per season and we’ve only had four seasons and one movie in seven years. Made Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman household names (they would team up again as the dragon Smaug, and titular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, and as already stated, both appear in the MCU. We’ve seen Benedict briefly in The Other Boleyn Girl and Amazing Grace.) We have become “The Fandom that Waited.” Oh, there’s lots to discuss about the fandom and theories…we’ll cover that in the last post. Created by Mark Gatiss (who also plays Sherlock’s older brother, Mycroft and has appeared in Doctor Who and written a few episodes) and Steven Moffat (an integral writer to Doctor Who since 2005), both of whom are professed Sherlock Holmes fanboys. It’s BBC, so many actors pop up in the show who have been on others.

In A Study in Pink, we’re first introduced to John Watson, a war veteran attending a session with his psychologist, who suggests he keep a blog describing his day. John (they go by first names in this rendition since it’s modern times, compared to Victorian when it was more common to be referred to by surnames) comments, “nothing happens to me.” Going on at the same time, Scotland Yard is investigating a string of suicides that are connected, but they’re unsure how, since they’re suicides. Detective Inspector Lestrade heads the case and gets texts during a press conference, the last one saying “you know where to find me. SH.” John runs into an old friend, who remarks who knows someone else in need of a flatmate. Then we’re introduced to Molly Hooper, who plainly has a crush on Sherlock and does favors for him in the mortuary, like, letting him whip a corpse for a science experiment. Stamford brings about John to meet Sherlock, Sherlock easily deduces John’s purpose, and finally introduces himself on camera: “the name is Sherlock Holms and the address is 221B Backer Street.”

sherlock intro

John follows Sherlock on his case, telling his potential flatmate that yes, he would like to see more trouble. “The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!” Sherlock pronounces as they sweep out of the flat. We discover that most of the police force dislike Sherlock, some even calling him a freak to his face. One officer, Donovan, warns John that Sherlock is a psychopath and one day, the body they discover will have been put there by Sherlock. Sherlock has already raced off for more clues and John starts to make his way back to the center of town, though pay phones keep ringing as he goes by. He eventually answers and is picked up by a car and meets a mysterious man, well dressed in a suit and carrying an umbrella. The man claims to be Sherlock’s arch enemy, the closest thing a man like Sherlock has to friends. He worries about him and offers to pay John to pass along information. The man deduces that John is not traumatized by the war, like his psychologist suggests; he misses it. His hand does not shake when in stressful situations. John receives a text from Sherlock: “come at once if convenient, if inconvenient, come all the same. Could be dangerous.” John turns down the offer and gets dropped off at 221B.

Sherlock has found the missing pink suitcase so he can carry on with the case; there is also an absolutely hilarious conversation between the two men on dating. John asserts he is not gay and the subject doesn’t seem to interest Sherlock (oh boy, fans play around with this a lot). They do grab some dinner (well, not really. Sherlock doesn’t eat and they’re off chasing a cab before John can eat. He does leave his cane) and ultimately arrive back at Baker Street to find a drugs’ bust going on in their flat, conducted by Lestrade. Lestrade needs Sherlock to cooperate (and we, along with John, find out that Sherlock may have illicit drugs in his possession, though he seems to use cases as a way to get high instead). Sherlock corrects Anderson of forensics “I am not a psychopath, Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath, do your research.” Then later yells at Anderson while he’s trying to unlock clues: “Anderson, don’t talk out loud, you lower the IQ of the whole street,” and tells everyone to shut up and has Anderson turn his back. He silently leaves with a waiting cabbie, who is apparently the serial killer. John tracks him but ends up in the building next to where Sherlock is engaged with the killer. The killer simply gives what he considers a 50-50 chance to his victims, two bottles, with identical pills, they just have to figure out if he’s placed the good or bad bottle in front of them. Sherlock is ready to play the game, particularly intrigued when the killer mentions he has a sponsor who is very interested in Sherlock. He pries a name out of the man after John shoots him: Moriarty.

The wrap-up is a bit funny, the police keep putting a shock blanket on Sherlock and he starts to rattle off his deductions on who shot the serial killer, until he realizes it was John. Then he tells Lestrade to ignore everything he’s just said, “I’m in shock, look, I’ve got a blanket.” Sherlock meets up with his new flatmate and thanks him. They giggle a bit, which they really shouldn’t do, but are stopped by the well dressed man John met earlier. Nope, not Moriarty like we might have first guessed, it’s his elder brother, Mycroft. He really does worry about his brother. He remarks to his P.A. that John Watson could be the making of his brother, or make him worse.

The second episode, Blind Banker manages to tie a Chinese crime syndicate to mysterious graffiti in an international bank and the murder of a stock tradesman. Turns out the tradesman, along with a journalist and I’m sure many others, acted as couriers to smuggle stolen artifacts out of China to sell at auction for huge profit. All involved with the Black Lotus syndicate are tattooed on the bottom of their foot and communicate with an ancient Chinese cipher involving a book, which turned out to be London A to Z. John and Sherlock get some help from a young woman who works at the museum. John starts to see a young woman when he gets a side job as a physician; Sherlock tags along on their date to the Chinese circus, which acts as a cover for the syndicate. John’s girlfriend, Sarah, is kidnapped alongside John because he was mistaken for Sherlock (he had been mocking his friend earlier and was overheard). Sherlock rescues them, though the leader gets away. Not for long; she’s tied into the organization with Moriarty.

In The Great Game, Sherlock is given a series of cases to solve, with an innocent life at stake with each one. It’s all kicked off with a bombing across the street from 221B. And Mycroft needs a case solved involving missile plans. When Lestrade calls Sherlock in, he remarks “I’d be lost without my blogger,” and encourages John to come. The first case calls upon the pink phone from their first case (John’s blog is more highly read than they realized) and has pictures from the other flat at 221 Baker and shoes from the first case Sherlock tried to solve. He ultimately solves the case so a innocent person won’t be blown up.

The second case involves a bloody car and ultimately a cover-up for someone to disappear. The third case is about a celebrity’s death. Sadly, the old woman who was the in-between for Sherlock and the mastermind is killed; she was blind and wouldn’t be able to read a text and so she started to describe the mystery man’s voice and was killed in an explosion. John works Mycroft’s case while Sherlock is busy. The fourth case involves a new painting that a gallery has procured which is actually a fake. It’s down to the wire and a kid’s life is on the line before Sherlock realizes the painting included an astrological event that hadn’t occurred at that time.

sherlock meets jim

There’s still one case left: Mycroft’s. The brother to the fiancé of the man who was killed did it on accident and hoped to cover it up. Sherlock intends to meet the bomber at a local pool; then John steps out. He’s wired up and there’s a sniper to keep things on track. (Sherlock dear, please do not scratch your head while holding a loaded gun!) Then Molly’s boyfriend Jim, whom Sherlock commented was gay, steps out. His surname is Moriarty and he’s a specialist, just like Sherlock. While Sherlock is a consulting detective, Moriarty is a consulting criminal. And he doesn’t want to kill Sherlock yet, that wouldn’t be fun. He’s saving that for something special. No, if Sherlock doesn’t stop prying, Jim will “burn you. I will burn the heart out of you.” Jim strolls off. “Catch you later,” Sherlock says in farewell. “No you won’t!” Jim calls back. But Jim does come back, “I’m so changeable,” it’s his only weakness. He cannot let Sherlock and John live. Red sniper dots hover on Sherlock and John and Sherlock aims at the bomb vest as the music crescendos, Sherlock and Jim face off, building tension…and…black. Cliff hanger!

The acting is superb in this show. At the end, oh, we hate Moriarty, but we want to know what he does next…the cliffhanger only encourages us more. He’s all laid back and la-la-la, then shouts “that’s what people do!” when Sherlock mentions people have died as a result of the game Jim Moriarty has played with Sherlock.

While Sherlock flaps about showing off his intelligence and spouting that he is a sociopath and doesn’t have friends, he clearly has come to care quickly for John Watson. There’s a brief look of horror on his face when it’s John who steps out at the pool. For a moment, we and Sherlock wonder, was John only playing at being Sherlock’s friend? Was it all a set up? And then, Sherlock is anxious to get the bomb vest off his friend and save his life. He calls John an idiot only so much that everyone who is not Sherlock is an idiot. Yes, he doesn’t understand all the social niceties, but we still want to see him succeed. He comments to Jim at the pool, “I have been reliably informed that I don’t have one [a heart].” “Oh, we both know that’s not true,” Jim replies.

John is the audience, quite impressed by Sherlock and willing to take him under his wing and try to acclimatize him to proper society, because he finds the cases thrilling as well. He’s only just met the strange man, but refuses to take bribe money to spy on him. (Of course, Sherlock remarks that John should have accepted the offer and they could have split the money; because Sherlock knows it’s Mycroft.)

Personally, I highly recommend the show. I like the inclusion of modern technology to keep with the times. It makes me think, because I’m trying to solve the case and the twist, but I also know that Sherlock will solve it in the end.

Next Time: Season Two

There’s a Fish…For Some Reason

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

The sequel to the previous movie (and there is news of a third movie in the works) bringing back Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams (briefly). Stephen Fry (veteran British TV actor and he pops up in The Hobbit trilogy) joins the cast as Sherlock’s older brother, Mycroft. Jared Harris (Hodge in The Mortal Instruments movie, the father in Pompeii, and King George VI in The Crown) plays the conniving Professor James Moriarty. The soundtrack is once again entertaining.

The film opens with Watson typing, informing us that it is 1891 and the world is on the brink of war. Bombs have been set off in big cities and countries blame each other. Sherlock meets up with Irene once again, attempting to intercept a package. He warns her of men following her, turns out, they’re her escort. Sherlock beats off the four of them and races after Irene. She’s delivering the package during an auction and receives a note in return. Sherlock manages to stop the bomb from taking out its target, but Irene gets away. The victim is ultimately killed and Sherlock is on his next case. Sadly, Irene misses her dinner date, due to having lunch with Moriarty (whom Sherlock refers to as the Napoleon of crime…[I thought that was Macavity…we’ll get to that with the musical Cats down the road]). He chides her for succumbing to her feelings for Holmes and poisons her with a form of tuberculosis. We witness her pass out.

Watson visits Sherlock and discovers his map work of crimes tied to Moriarty, a shadowy game of cat and mouse. But before he can delve too deeply into the madness of Sherlock’s mind, they have plans for the evening, Watson’s stag party. He’s getting married in the morning and Sherlock Holmes is his best man. Sherlock uses it as an opportunity to work more on his case, so Watson goes off to the gambling tables. Congress Reel plays as Sherlock fights off a Cossack from killing a gypsy, whose brother is involved in Moriarty’s scheme. The gypsy, Sims, helps in fact; I always like it when they let a woman fight her own battles. Both Watson and Sherlock are worse for wear when they arrive for Watson’s wedding, but it goes off without a hitch. At the end, Sherlock is called to meet Moriarty. The mathematics professor reveals that Irene Adler is indeed dead, giving Sherlock her bloody handkerchief. And the only reason Moriarty has left Sherlock live so long is professional respect. And Moriarty intends to go after Watson, even though he no longer works with Sherlock.

Which means that Sherlock has to crash the newlyweds’ honeymoon. He gets Mary off the train (don’t worry, Mycroft picks her up) and he and Watson take care of the regiment of soldiers….It’s rather entertaining. Sherlock is in a dress. Then they’re off to Paris, to meet up with Sims. They try to ruin Moriarty’s plans at Don Giovanni, but that was a decoy from the bombing that covers up an assassination. (To the Opera is my favorite track on the soundtrack, because I don’t mind a little opera music in my life.) Watson and Sherlock deduce that Sebastian Moran is working for Moriarty (the middle man we keep seeing); an expert shot and once served with Watson. The mastermind’s plan is ramping up and next stop is Germany, which they have to sneak across the border. A moment of humor; Sherlock dislikes horses: they’re a danger at either end and crafty in the middle. Why would he want something with a mind of its own between his legs? (That could be taken another way…both movies are full of innuendos).

gos hookIn Germany, Sherlock is captured and interrogated by Moriarty, which involves having a large fish hook stabbed into his shoulder, raised up, and Moriarty spins him about. The Napoleon of crime broadcasts Sherlock’s screams over a loud speaker. Watson faces off against Moran, ultimately using a bigger gun: “Come at once if convenient, if inconvenient, come all the same.” They meet back up with their gypsy friends and make a run for a train involving some excellent use of slow-motion. Once safe, Sherlock stops breathing. Watson thinks to use his wedding gift, a vial of adrenaline. They then meet up with Mycroft at the peace summit in Reichenbach, Switzerland. Morarity’s plan is to create a world war now that he has ties to everything from bullets to bandages. The final push will be an assassination of an ambassador at the peace meeting.

Sherlock leaves Watson and Sims to deduce which ambassador, determining that her brother’s face was changed surgically and he’ll take the fall. The genius moves Moriarty outside to play chess. He reveals he got Moriarty’s little red notebook which tracks all of his fortune and has sent it safely to Mary Watson and Scotland Yard. The two brilliant men are about to face off, each planning out their opponents moves and counter-moves, when Sherlock realizes that with his injury, his demise is inevitable, but he can take Moriarty out with him. Watson and Sims stop the assassination and Watson opens the door just as Sherlock pushes off.

Watson ends with Sherlock’s funeral. Mary checks on his progress and reminds him they need t leave soon for their second attempt at a honeymoon. But there’s a package first. Inside is Mycroft Holmes’ oxygen supply, which Sherlock had been toying with. When Watson runs out of the room, Sherlock reveals himself to have been catalogued as his armchair. Is this truly “The End?”

I enjoyed seeing Sherlock face Moriarty; they were well matched. Sherlock deserves, or requires a brilliant opponent, or else life is dull…and then he causes problems for Watson. The criminal mastermind did have a point; this is very similar to how the first World War began: tensions between nations rising before as assassination kicks it off. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. once again play well off of each other, Watson always being right where Sherlock needs him. A good sequel, an equal to the first.

Up Next: BBC’s Sherlock

Discombobulate

Sherlock Holmes

One of the most famous literary characters ever created. I am once again a horrible English major and have not read the tales. They’re sitting on my bookcase; I’ll get to them…eventually. There have been many incarnations of Sherlock and his faithful sidekick Watson throughout the years. Basil Rathbone from the Golden Age of Hollywood is iconic. Christopher Lee was involved as well. Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin from the original Star Wars), Christopher Plummer, John Cleese, Ian McKellen, and of course, BBC’s smash hit Sherlock made starts out of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. And I love that show, though along with new fans everywhere I was confused when the episodes ran long and at the end of the third one; “where’s the rest of the season?”

This iteration features Robert Downey Jr (this movie came out a year after the first Iron Man) as Sherlock Holmes, Jude Law (now part of the MCU with a role in Captain Marvel, he’s also recently portrayed a younger Albus Dumbledore in Grimes of Grindewald [which I still have not seen], and I adore him in The Holiday) is his partner John Watson. Irene Adler, “the woman” is played by Rachel McAdams (again, now part of the MCU as Christine from Doctor Strange [made even more ironic since Strange is played by Cumberbatch, she has now starred opposite two Sherlock’s. Oh, there are a bunch of fans who want the line “No shit, Sherlock,” to show up and Downey and Cumberbatch just look at each other], also famous from Mean Girls and The Notebook [that movie will not appear in this blog]). Mark Strong (we just saw him in Young Victoria, and know him from Robin Hood) made his mark as Lord Henry Blackwood, accompanied by Hans Matheson (Mordred in Mists of Avalon and Thomas Cranmer in The Tudors) as Lord Coward. And if the palm reader looks familiar, she was Isolde’s maid in Tristan and Isolde. The soundtrack is composed by Hans Zimmer.

We jump right into the middle of a case. Sherlock enters first and begins taking down the guards. I like how this movie frames some of his analytical thoughts, when he imagines how an opponent will react and plans his own defense. He finds a man practicing dark arts, ready to sacrifice a woman on an altar. Watson joins Sherlock and they capture their adversary, Lord Blackwood. Quick time jump, we’re at 221 Baker Street where Watson is preparing to move once he marries. First, he has to rescue his roommate from his own mind; Sherlock’s mind rebels at stagnation, he requires work. Taking down Blackwood was their last case, but they’ll attend his hanging together. Watson wants Sherlock to meet Mary.

Dinner…could have gone better. Mary insists that Sherlock make deductions about her, even though he and Watson protest at first. Sherlock, concerned for his friend, deduces that Mary has been engaged before, but assumes that she broke the engagement for better prospects. Actually, the man died, and Watson was aware. Sherlock finds his way to a boxing match (Rocky Road to Dublin is played underneath) and expertly takes his opponent down, despite a brief distraction from a woman. Come morning, Sherlock is Blackwood’s last request. Blackwood warns Sherlock there will be more deaths. The criminal is hung and Watson pronounces him dead.

rdj sherlock

Back at Baker Street, Sherlock has a visitor, Irene Adler. She has a case for Sherlock. When she leaves, Sherlock demonstrates he is a master of disguise and follows her, glimpsing her mysterious employer. His day is ruined when word arrives that Lord Blackwood has risen from the dead. Watson accompanies him, just until he has to meet Mary’s parents, and find a ring. Buried in Blackwood’s coffin is the man that Irene is looking for, which leads them to a lab that combines sorcery and science. A few thugs show up to tie up loose ends and there is a smashing fight between Watson, Sherlock, and the three men (one of whom is large). This carries on to a shipyard and results in a partially completed ship sailing into the water and promptly sinking. Watson and Sherlock are arrested.

They bicker like a married couple. “Get that out of my face.” “It’s not in your face, it’s in my hand.” “Get what’s in your hand out of my face.” Mary kindly bails Watson out. Sherlock has to wait until Lestrade comes with orders from friends in high places. They blindfold Sherlock, but that doesn’t prevent him from deducing where he is and who he is dealing with. They are a secret society with the intention to steer the world to their liking. Blackwood has grown too powerful and is a threat. Sherlock will stop him, but not for the society and not for a price.

Sherlock tries to warn Irene about the dangerous man she is now dealing with, but she drugs the wine. A bit hilarious later when a maid enters the room to find a naked Sherlock (modesty covered by a pillow) handcuffed to the bed. There has been another death, Blackwood’s father in his bathtub. Sherlock discovers a secret room. At a meeting of the secret order, another member dies, who opposes Blackwood. This leads him, and Watson, to a factory where they find and rescue Irene, only to be caught in an explosion, Watson more so than Sherlock. A friend on the police force finds Sherlock and warns him that there is a warrant out for his arrest, and assures him Watson is still alive. Sherlock briefly visits his friend, in disguise, and is encouraged by Mary to find the man responsible, Watson would say it’s worth the wounds.

Irene tries to leave her employment, but the professor will not allow it. She was supposed to manipulate Sherlock’s feelings for her, not succumb to them herself. He wants what Blackwood is working on. Sherlock descends down the rabbit hole (reference to Alice in Wonderland) and deciphers Blackwood’s spell. Then fills is in to Irene and Watson the next morning. It involves the sphinx and the four elements. Sherlock sends his two companions away so he can be arrested by Lestrade so he can see Lord Coward. The final puzzle piece fall into place and the trio prevent Blackwood from unleashing a chemical weapon upon Parliament. Irene gets away with the radio control feature and Sherlock faces off against Blackwood on the Tower Bridge, which is under construction. Blackwood does hang this time, permanently.

Mary and Watson stop by for a visit, Mary sporting a large engagement ring; a present from Sherlock, featuring a stone Irene stole. And Sherlock is on to a new case, involving Professor Moriarty.

This was my first true exposure to Sherlock Holmes and I was hesitant going in to it. But I love it. Robert Downey Jr. (this was also one of the first roles I watched him in, I didn’t get into Iron Man until afterwards) is excellent; the fight scenes are superb. Watson is serious and suffering. Sherlock is quirky and eccentric; Jude Law and Robert play off each other well. The music almost has a steampunk vibe to it, with the persistent tempo underneath and making use of some rather unconventional instruments. The story line keeps me intrigued. Overall, a very good film.

Next Time: A Game of Shadows

Before the Jubilee

Young Victoria

This was the movie that got me interested in Queen Victoria, one of the most famous British monarchs. We tend to remember her as the widow who dressed in black and was supposedly “not amused.” This film shows the start of her reign and the start of her marriage to Prince Albert Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Their story is told more fully in the British serial Victoria and Albert, which features Victoria Hamilton as the queen. Hamilton has recently played the Queen Mother in Netflix’s The Crown. Masterpiece has also begun a series on Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman (and others who are very recognizable from BBC, including our old friend Rufus Sewell as Melbourne). Victoria’s reign brought the monarchy to be viewed with respect and an essential British institution, “the queen had become a proud symbol of the stability and power of Britain…the greatest empire known to history (Royal Britain, pg. 213).”

This film also boasts an all-star cast. Emily Blunt (Devil Wears Prada) is Victoria, Paul Bettany (Chaucer in Knight’s Tale and Vision in the MCU) is Lord Melbourne. Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter, Madame Giry in the film Phantom of the Opera, Queen Rosalind in The Prince and Me, and Queen Mab from the mini-series Merlin which starred Sam Neill) is Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent. Another Harry Potter cast member, Jim Broadbent (Professor Slughorn, also Professor Kirke in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge, and he pops up in Game of Thrones) is King William. And baddie Sir Jon Conroy is played by Mark Strong (Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes). And fun fact that I did not realize until now, the screenplay was written by Julian Fellowes, the same man who wrote Downton Abbey.

The film’s opening sets the stage: “In 1819, a child is born in a London palace. Caught between two Royal Uncles – the King of England and the King of the Belgians, she is destined to be a Queen and to rule a great empire. Unless she is forced to relinquish her powers and sign a ‘regency order.’ A Regents is appointed to govern in place of a monarch who is absent, disabled…or too young.” Victoria herself feels she was born more fortunate than others, but a palace can still be a prison. She lived a solitary childhood; slept in the same bedroom as her mother, could not go down the stairs alone, having to hold the hand of an adult. Her time was severely censored. Her mother’s advisor, John Conroy, hoped that there would be a regency enacted when her uncle died, allowing Victoria’s mother to rule, and thus John to rule her. Victoria knew what sort of man he was and prayed for the strength to meet her destiny.

We briefly glimpse the coronation in 1838, then jump back a year. Conroy is attempting to force an ill Victoria to sign the regency document, but she still refuses. Meanwhile, her uncle in Belgium hopes for English aid to keep him on the throne, so he and his advisor come up with the plan for his nephews Ernst and Albert to visit Victoria. Albert is tutored on what Victoria likes and dislikes, clearly setting the stage to entice Victoria to marry him. Albert’s not terribly keen on the notion, but attempts it nonetheless. When he finally mentions one of his own likes, Victoria gives him a smile. She confesses to him that she feels like a chess piece. Albert understands what it is like living inside your head, never showing your true emotion to the outside world.
Victoria’s mother and John Conroy have kept Victoria from court; the king is not fond of either adult, but loves Victoria. Victoria insists on attending the king’s birthday and meets Lord Melbourne who starts winning her over. The king declares his dying wish is to live long enough for Victoria to turn eighteen, so there can be no regency. John still insists and goes as far as to lay hands on Victoria (in actuality, he wasn’t quite that stupid).

Victoria does indeed turn eighteen before the king dies and she becomes the new queen. Her first order of business, separate her from her mother. She will sleep in her own room from now on. Victoria admits that she is young, but she is willing to learn and intends to devote her life to serving her people. Albert had to return home, but they continue to write letters to each other. Victoria informs him she is the first monarch to live in the recently completed Buckingham Palace (the current monarchy still lives there primarily).

young victoriaShe also glows about Melbourne. Albert decides to return to England to spend time with Victoria (by now, he has fallen in love with her. She has admitted to Melbourne she has made no promise to Albert, but she still feels alone). Albert counsels Victoria to play the chess game better than the others, and that others will expect Victoria to fail and taken advantage of her inexperience. He believes in her. And truly cares about the working people. Melbourne doesn’t want to upset the status quo, though he does tell Conroy “you have played the game and lost.” We witness the coronation again, in the context of what we have just learned. Victoria wants to rule on her own for a while and thus, even though she danced with Albert at the coronation ball, he must return home again. They continue to write letters and Albert worries for Victoria.

Melbourne loses power and Peel becomes Prime Minister, but Victoria does not like Peel and Melbourne ends up back on the job, but that bypasses what the people want and creates a constitutional crisis. Rioters turn up at Buckingham. There is an assassination attempt. Albert continues to write to Victoria that he believes she can rule her country. Victoria decides to invite Albert back, and proposes. We catch a glimpse of their wedding (yes, Victoria was the one who made famous wearing white at your wedding).

Sadly, Victoria being queen means they cannot go on an extended honeymoon like most upper class people. (Albert makes a comment about visiting Scotland, that it would most be like Germany. It is true that they enjoyed visiting Scotland and bought Balmoral Castle, making it a royal residence that the current queen still enjoys visiting.) Then comes the difficulty of Albert fitting in to England and finding a way to support his wife while she is queen, but also still able to act like a husband, though they do end up expecting a child. Victoria disliked Albert getting involved with politics and they have an argument. The next day, they go on a carriage ride and there is another assassination attempt. In the film, Albert is injured, real life, no. But Victoria does put their desks next to each other. Afterwards, history would prove that “he played an increasingly central role in affairs of state and meeting with ministers (Royal Britain, pg. 220).”

The film summarizes that Victoria and Albert had nine children. “Among their descendants are the Royal Families of Britain, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Yugoslavia, Russia, Greece, Romania, and Germany [this is how World War I was an overgrown family squabble].” They reigned together for twenty years until Prince Albert died in 1861 from typhoid fever at the age of 42. “In memory of her husband, Victoria had his clothes laid out every day until her death at the age of 81. Among their accomplishments, Victoria and Albert championed reforms in education, welfare, and industry. Their unflagging support of the arts and sciences was most famously celebrated in Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition of 1851.” The last statement the movie makes is that Victoria remains the longest reigning British Sovereign. To date. This film was made in 2008. It is no longer true. Her descendent, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest ruling British Sovereign in 2015 (Victoria reigned 63 years, her great-great-granddaughter has now reigned 65 years. Personally, I think it’s awesome that the two longest reigning British monarchs are women).

Historically, “Victoria and Albert’s marriage, stable life and large family did much to restore the dignity and standing of the monarchy after the excesses and public disgraces of the early Hanoverian kings (Royal Britain, pg. 220).” The film does show and more so in the longer serial and television series, it was not smooth sailing. They had difficulty with their eldest son, Edward, the Prince of Wales. When Albert died, Victoria did indeed go into black and withdrew from society for at least ten years. What I liked about this film is that is shows that Victoria and Albert truly loved each other. I liked the way they tried to support each other. As I stated earlier, it showed a different side to a monarch I knew was important, but haven’t studied in depth.

Up Next: A popular Victorian literary hero, Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie’s film starring Robert Downey Jr.)

“Well Fiddle-dee-dee”

Gone with the Wind

Based on the 1935 novel by Margaret Mitchell (no, I have not read it, though I know it is over 1,000 pages long [and those pages are thin; to put that in perspective, Outlander is 850 pages and Game of Thrones is about 800]), it takes place in Georgia during the Civil War. Adjusted for inflation, it is the highest-grossing movie of all time and won an Academy Award for Best Picture. AFI ranked it as the sixth greatest movie of all time; and it is one of my mother’s favorite films. I remember a friend of hers from when I was young who participated in Civil War re-enacting and wore gorgeous Southern belle gowns, quite possibly another influence in my interest in history (there also exists pictures of my brother and I as youngsters for Halloween dressed as a Confederate officer and a Southern belle [that dress lasted several years, we kept letting the pleats down]). We’d see her every year at local Victorian days celebrations…and it’s only years later that I have made the connection on why Civil War re-enactors were at a Victorian celebration…because they take place during the same time period. Though it’s understandable to miss the connection, the Victorian era spans sixty years and is also primarily thought in regards to European history, not American history.

Its cast is well known. Clark Gable is Rhett Butler. Olivia de Havilland (who we saw in The Adventures of Robin Hood alongside Errol Flynn [who was considered for the role of Rhett Butler]) is sweet Melanie Hamilton. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, and won the Oscar for Best Actress. Of special note is Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy; she was the first African American to be nominated and win an Oscar, she won Best Supporting Actress, beating out co-star Olivia de Havilland.

“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton-Fields called the Old South…there in the pretty world Gallantry took its last bow…Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave…Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A civilization gone with the wind,” the opening of the film explains. It is a very romantic view of the South. The plantation Tara is just as famous as its inhabitants. Scarlett is seated with her beaux, dismissing their talk of impending war. She’s upset to learn that the lad she fancies, Ashley Wilkes, of the neighboring Twelve Oaks plantation is due to announce his engagement to Melanie Hamilton. She schemes to try to win him, but he is in love with Melanie. Scarlett does not see that she is not a good match for Ashley, and she could have the pick of any man that hangs off of her. She quickly engages herself to Melanie’s brother, Charles, even though he is promised to another woman. Melanie is sweet and truly loves Ashley and wants to be friends with Scarlett. Scarlett also meets Rhett Butler at the Wilkes’ barbecue, a visitor from Charleston who already has a reputation. Talk continues of the war, which is declared and the young men whoop and holler and cheer and ride out to volunteer. The young one feels that the war will be quick, decisive, and they’ll whoop the Yankees. Ashley and Rhett have a little more of an idea on how things will turn out.

Scarlett’s husband dies soon into the war and she must go into mourning. But it’s not very fun. So her mother suggests she join Melanie in Atlanta; she may even get to see Ashley when he is home on leave. Scarlett runs into Rhett again in Atlanta; he’s making a name for himself as a blockade runner. Rhett is attracted to Scarlett; he recognizes another like-minded person; as he remarked to Scarlett back at Twelve Oaks, he is no gentleman and she is no lady. In a way, he wants to tame her. He declares he will not kiss her, but she should be kissed, often, and by someone who knows what they’re doing (i.e. him).

Then comes Gettysburg. And the South begins losing. Rhett remarks to Scarlett one day it is a result of the South living in the past. Luckily, Ashley comes home for Christmas. When he leaves, Melanie is not feeling well, so he has Scarlett promise to take care of her. Scarlett is still hoping to win Ashley from Melanie, but promises, as a sign of her devotion to Ashley. The ladies begin work as nurses, then Sherman’s attack comes to Atlanta. He bombards the city first, then the South burns their ammunitions before he can reach the city. Turns out, Melanie is pregnant. And they can’t get her out of the city because she’s in labor. (This is where the famous line “I don’t know nothin’ but birthin’ babies” comes, after the girl made a fuss about knowing everything). Scarlett helps deliver the baby and sends the black girl to fetch Rhett Butler (from a brothel) to help them out. They manage to escape just before the ammunition blows. [Fun fact: the burning scenes were the first shot and they burned old set pieces to make room on the lot.]

Rhett leaves Scarlett, Melanie, the baby boy, and the slave girl on the road to Tara, declaring he’ll join the army to make a last stand. The women press forward and find Twelve Oaks abandoned and destroyed. They carry on to Tara to luckily find it still standing (the Yankees had used it as a headquarters). And there are even a few people home; Mammy, and Scarlett’s father, her two sisters who are overcoming an illness. Sadly, her mother had just passed away; and Scarlett had wanted to leave Atlanta to return home to her mother. Her father is confused in his grief, so Scarlett takes over running the plantation. The first act ends with Scarlett vowing to never go hungry again.

This movie does has an intermission (and an overture and entr’acte. I kind of wish long movies now came with an intermission; better for bathroom breaks in theatres). We come back with the movie briefly summarizing Sherman’s march to the sea (yes, that actually happened. No, Sherman is not well remembered in the South) and the arrival of carpetbaggers (Northerners who moved to the South during the Reconstruction to take advantage of the building economy). Times were hard in the South, and at Tara. They start to take care of returning Confederates and Ashley returns. Melanie and Scarlett are thrilled. Then comes the news that a Northerner has jacked the taxes on Tara sky high. Scarlett is desperate to come up with the money to save her beloved home, though she throws the old foreman out (there’s bad blood there going back before the war, he got “white trash” [I’m assuming a prostitute] pregnant, finally has married her after all these years, but Mrs. O’Hara caught a sickness from the woman and that caused her death…so no, Scarlett is not going to listen kindly to this man). Her father tries to chase after him and falls jumping a horse, causing his own death.

Scarlett goes to Ashley for help, even asking him to take her away from Tara. But he thinks highly of her and won’t let her feel so defeated (he’s not helping her fall out of love with him…heck, they even kiss). Desperate, she thinks of Rhett Butler. She makes new gown out of old curtain [this later becomes a bit in a parody of the movie on the Carol Burnett Show; heck, Scarlett’s whole wardrobe is as legendary as the movie, everyone has a favorite dress]. She flounces in to visit Rhett and almost has him believing she’ll marry him out of love, but he figures out her angle. He can’t help, his money is all tied up overseas and he’s being held prisoner by the Yanks. That’s when Scarlett stumbles upon a new idea; her sister’s fiancé has managed to start earning money and Scarlett ends up marrying him herself so she can get the tax money for Tara. She even manages to talk Ashley out of moving to New York, gaining sympathy from Melanie, who still tries to explain her actions to everyone else. That woman is really the most kind-hearted person. Scarlett starts a lumber business so she’ll never have to worry about money again.

 

Trouble comes about again, endangering Scarlett, her new husband, Ashley, even Melanie and Rhett. Rhett helps save the day, but Scarlett’s husband is dead. She starts drinking after that and Rhett visits. He proposes, fully knowing what kind of woman Scarlett is. He’s thrilled to be able to shower her with presents and treat her properly. He agrees bring Tara back to grandeur and build a grand house in Atlanta as well. But Scarlett, in her desperate climb to the top, has not gotten a good name in high society. This comes along when she give birth to a baby girl, that Rhett is all too eager to spoil. Her proper name is Eugenia Victoria, but they call her “Bonnie Blue” for her blue eyes. Still vain, Scarlett wishes to regain her eighteen-and-a-half-inch waist line from her youth; Mammy points out that will never happen. So, Scarlett simply won’t become pregnant again. Rhett’s not terribly pleased, especially when she carries on about Ashley and has kept a picture of him all this time. But Rhett will give their daughter a place in higher society, and goes out of his way to be sweet to all the right people.

Ashley doesn’t help matters when he continues to meet with Scarlett, call her dear, wish for her happiness, and give her hugs. They’re caught by friends of Melanie. Scarlett tries to stay home from a party, but Rhett insists she show her face. And Melanie carries on as nothing is the matter. At home that evening, Rhett reveals that he knows Scarlett still drinks. He carries her to bed. Afterwards, Rhett suggests a divorce from Scarlett, though he’ll keep Bonnie. Scarlett refuses, insisting that her daughter will not leave her house. Rhett goes on an extended trip to London and indeed takes Bonnie with him. He butts head with the nanny when Bonnie wakes from a nightmare and Rhett tells the nanny off for leaving Bonnie. The nanny points out that Bonnie will always be afraid if she’s coddled. Rhett dismisses her. Bonnie asks after her mother, so Rhett returns home. Bonnie is thrilled to see her mother. Rhett intends to leave right away for London again, but Scarlett reveals she’s pregnant. They start arguing at the top of the stairs, Rhett jokes that maybe Scarlett will have an accident. She goes to hit him, but he steps out of the way, causing her to in fact, fall down the steps. Scarlett loses the baby and Rhett is worried about her, but is kept from her.

Later, Scarlett is recovering outside and Rhett asks forgiveness. He wants to make another try at their marriage. The two are watching Bonnie ride her pony; the young girl insists she can jump side saddle. Both parents warn that she can’t. She does so anyways and falls off her pony. The fall kills her. Rhett is distraught. Mammy calls for Melanie to help Rhett. Melanie talks him around, but faints afterwards (this may be due to her being pregnant again, which everyone figured she couldn’t or rather shouldn’t, considering how the birth of her son went). Rhett and Scarlett are present as Melanie worsens. Melanie calls for Scarlett and asks her to look after her son, and Ashley. Scarlett throws herself at Ashley when she comes out of the room, which leads to Rhett quietly leaving. Scarlett finally realizes that Ashley truly loved Melanie more than Scarlett, which she promptly blames her behavior on Ashley, for never telling her. Which makes her realize that she loves Rhett and run home to him. Rhett is leaving. Scarlett begs for him to stay; “where shall I go, what shall I do?” “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” [AFI’s top movie quote of all time]. Scarlett falls to the stairs, sobbing. Then she remembers something her father told her, before the war. “Land is the only thing worth working for; worth fighting for; worth dying for. Because it’s the only thing that lasts.” There’s no getting away from love of the land if you’re Irish (Gerald O’Hara was born in Ireland). That’s what Scarlett will do; she’ll return home to Tara and think of some way to win Rhett back. But she’ll think on that tomorrow, “after all, tomorrow is another day.”

While this is one of my mother’s favorite films, it’s never been one of mine. I can’t rightly tell you why.  I watched long movies as a youngster; one of my favorites is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  This movie has gorgeous gowns and considering I went as a Southern belle for countless Halloweens, I should at least be interested in that.  The story does slow down a bit during Scarlett’s second husband…I actually forgot that part of the movie existed, but that’s not something I would have recognized as a youngster.

Nor am I sure that as a child I would have recognized that Scarlett is a vain, selfish character.  She gets better for a time.  I think she did come to care for Melanie, as much as she looked down on her at the beginning.  She wouldn’t leave Atlanta without her.  She made sure she recovered well.  I liked her character growth when she took over the running of Tara.  Then she dropped all of that when she married her sister’s beau.  And goes right back to being a priss once she marries Rhett.  He almost had a chance of curing her; he had the best chance of anyone.  I preferred his characterization once he married Scarlett and he was utterly thrilled when Bonnie was born; aside from wanting to spoil her rotten.  Ashley is a bit of a simpleton; he couldn’t have ended things a lot better with Scarlett if he had just laid it all out, firmly, when he announced his engagement.  I’m not sure I really understand why Scarlett wanted him in the first place; her main desire was she wanted to steal him from Melanie, but before the announcement was hinted, she was fine flirting with every other man.  Ashley let it carry on far too long.  But Melanie is the sweetest person I have ever witnessed.  She’s not dumb, just can’t see the worst in some people.  She sees good in Scarlett, which the young woman needs.

I loved lots of things my mom did, just not this.  Don’t know why.  Personally, I would not call this the best movie ever, but my heart has been won by other stories… Chronicles of NarniaLord of the RingsHow to Train Your Dragon, etc.  Nevertheless, it is well done.  Margaret Mitchell never wrote a sequel, in fact, this was the only novel she wrote.  Scarlett was written by Alexandra Ripley in 1991 (remember, the original book was written in 1935).   Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig acts as a prequel and was written in 2007.

What are your thoughts on Gone With the Wind?

Up Next: Back across the pond for Young Victoria

Bayonets!

Gettysburg

As already covered in last week’s post: based on the book Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Gettysburg sign
Sign to Gettysburg Park

and covers the most famous battle of the Civil War. My brother sat down and watched this movie when he came home from kindergarten one day. (Yes, my family is full of history buffs). I’ve also already mentioned that my parents took my brother and I on summer vacations to Gettysburg; it was a pleasure to return in high school and again during a college choir trip. I’m the dork that asks about the canons. I’m not entirely sure why my own high school class came to love parts of this movie, but they do bring back a fond memory or two. What I found helpful during our lessons on this were maps laid out of each day and major movements of each army. I still have that project…buried away somewhere. This is one way that the book is better than the movie; I still can’t keep everything straight. And I can’t rightly remember if our concert band played this theme or not for a concert; it is a stirring theme nevertheless.

A few casting changes: Martin Sheen portrays General Robert E. Lee, Stephen Lang now plays Major General George Pickett, Tom Berenger plays Lieutenant General James Longstreet, and Sam Elliott is Brigadier General John Buford. The film opens with pictures of the major players with the stars listed and transforms into pictures from the film, showing how close the hair and makeup department got with their work.

The two armies are circling around each other; Longstreet has a spy who scopes out the Union line, mainly since J.E.B. Stuart is nowhere to be found. Lee needs information and also begs his general to stop his habit of riding at the front of his men when they fight (Longstreet point out it’s hard to lead from the back; a popular criticism of that style of leadership in battle); this is a result of the death of Jackson; Lee cannot afford to lose Longstreet. It appears to be an accident that the armies found each other at Gettysburg, though the general consensus is, it’s good land, and it’s very hot and humid (which it is, especially in July). Buford is first to arrive at Seminary Ridge (yes, there is Seminary and Cemetery Ridge) and guesses what both Lee and Meade (new general of the Union forces) will do. Since he is there, he makes the decision to fight for the high ground. The Union retreats a bit on the first day and Longstreet wants to break away and make for Washington. Lee decides (stubbornly, in my opinion) to stay.

It is from “Buster” Kilrain we get the title of the book, remarking to Lawrence Chamberlain, “if men be angels, then they be killer angels.” He remarks that Chamberlain is an idealist; Kilrain is fighting to prove that he is better than the horrible men that do exist. On the other side of the battlefield, we meet more of the Confederate leaders, including Pickett and Freemantle, a British envoy to the South. He later remarks to Longstreet that Northern and Southern Americans have different dreams. Longstreet brings up England’s own civil war (yes, there was one, but fought differently. I believe it was mentioned in Gods and Generals that America is trying to mimic Europe’s bloody history). Longstreet also feels that the slaves should have been freed before the Confederacy ever fired on Fort Sumter. But, they’d rather lose the war than admit a mistake. And they like their leaders religious and a little mad.

A theme that echoes poignantly in this film and the books and was very true of the war; there were friends who fought each other on opposite sides. Longstreet knew Grant from the wars in Mexico. Another key friendship is between Confederate Armistead and Union Hancock, best friends from previous wars, now across the same battlefield. Hancock is not taken lightly by the Confederates; they know how well he fights and what he will do. Both men wish to visit each other, one last time, during a lull in the fighting. Longstreet even approves Armistead’s request, but they never have an opportunity.

Devil's Den
Devil’s Den, from my trip in 2009

Come the second day of battle, Confederate Hood is ordered to take the high ground around Devil’s Den, terribly rocky terrain. He tries his darndest, but ultimately fails. The 20th Maine becomes the flank of the Union army on Little Round Top and are ordered to hold the line. The Confederates move up the hill five or six times and Maine repels them, though they take hits and casualties. When they’re low on bullets, Chamberlain orders them to charge down with bayonets. This is the part that my class re-enacted when we visited Gettysburg. It is a rather amazing scene. At the end, the Confederates surrender and Maine has earned a little break.

Little Round Top
Little Round Top, also from 2009 trip

Stuart finally arrives and faces Lee. He tries to resign for the slight he has made to his own honor, but Lee won’t let him. He needs his best cavalry leader, but Stuart needs to do better in the future. In the morning, after Lee comments that they are a day away from Independence Day and they may well gain the South’s independence, he orders Longstreet to have Pickett’s men charge the center of the Union line, correctly figuring that the flanks will be reinforced. A big problem though, there is an artillery unit smack in the middle of the line, under the command of Hancock and the Union troops have managed to fortify the center; they are well entrenched and Longstreet realizes the danger Pickett’s men will be in. Lee feels it will work.

A slight deviation from historical facts has the 20th Maine moved to the center of the Union line, figuring it will be quiet. Lawrence Chamberlain and his younger brother Thomas (whom he always has to discipline to call him “sir,” not “Lawrence”) were there on that day, asking for supplies. They take cover when Longstreet’s artillery starts firing, hoping to break the line first, sadly after they find out that Kilrain has died from his injuries the previous day. Pickett’s men charge: realize, this is a mile of open terrain for the Confederates to cross, with no cover, right at canon fire. Pickett urges his men to victory for Virginia. What Longstreet feared (since this movie was made long after the actual battle, characters can have incredible insight) occurs. It’s a slaughter. Hancock is shot and refuses to be moved until the battle is decided. Armistead is shot leading his men to the line. Pickett, far back from the action, openly worries “what’s happening to my boys?” Thomas Chamberlain finds Armistead, who is desperate to see Hancock, only to find out that Hancock has been injured. He calls out for his friend: “not both of us!” At the end of the fighting, the Union soldiers chant “Fredericksburg!” in relation to the defeat they suffered under similar circumstances there.

Lee decides to fall back; tells his men to retreat and fight another day. He comes across Pickett, who stands in shocks and informs the general, “I have no division.” The film closes on the Chamberlain brothers hugging. Pictures play again, summarizing what happened to many of the main characters. Longstreet remained Lee’s most dependable solider. He died in 1904 at the age of 83. Stuart was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern and dies May 12, 1864. Pickett’s division was virtually destroyed. He survives the war to great glory, but broods on the loss to his dying day. Hancock survives his wound and runs in 1880 for president, only to lose to Garfield. The package that Armistead left with Longstreet to be delivered upon his death was his personal Bible for Myra Hancock, Winifred’s wife. Chamberlain received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Little Round Top. Lee served until the end of the war; he surrendered to Grant at Appomattox April 9, 1865. He died in 1870, “perhaps the most beloved general in American history.” (I completely agree with this).

Gettysburg is remembered as the turning point of the Civil War; it is the most North the Confederacy ever got. It is also the biggest and bloodiest battle on American soil; combined losses total over 53,000. And similar to Gods and Generals, Gettysburg was filmed on location at Gettysburg. A few scenes were filmed at a nearby farm, due to changes over the years. This is I think the only time Gettysburg allowed a movie to be filmed on location. They’re careful with re-enactors every year; the park is one of the best preserved in the country. It has set the bar for what I expect from battlefields, which is why I’ve been disappointed elsewhere.

I have traveled Virginia a little bit, but haven’t visited any of the other Civil War battlefields; it’s something I know my mother would like to do. We’d also like to visit Lee’s home in Arlington. Virginia is just chockfull of history and historical sites; it is the first colony (he he, we’ll cover that in 1776), thus a center of Colonial history and Civil War history.

As always, if you have any questions, let me know. If I can’t answer it, there’s a decent chance someone in my family can, ha ha.

Up Next: The epic, Gone with the Wind