Friday, January 15, 2021

When TV and Film Lead Back to Books, You Are Having a Good Day

I gave up on most television channels years ago with the exception of a few exceptional series, the rapidly dwindling list of sports I still follow, and what passes for television news these days. My attention, instead, went to whatever appealed to me on Netflix, Prime Video, and more recently, the PBS/Masterpiece Theater app. In the last year, I've noticed that the offerings on Prime often interest me more than what Netflix has on offer, and I'm very much enjoying the fact that the PBS app also offers series and movies from all over the world via its affiliation with "Walter Presents." As a result, I've become quite proficient now in reading subtitles as they go past, but they can be pretty quick sometimes. Surprisingly, since I still understand and read French at a basic level, I have more difficulty reading French titles because it makes me realize that the translations are far from literal - that they have been "Americanized" for the intended audience. 

So why am I rambling on about this? Well, I've found that some of the series I've watched end up leading me back to the books from which they were adapted. And, in fact, I have two of those books stacked up right now with all the other library books I've picked up in recent weeks. 

I'm looking forward soon to comparing these books to their movie/TV versions:

This one is a Masterpiece Theater production that caught my attention because it marks the return of actress Glenda Jackson to movies for the first time in 27 years - and her performance is remarkable. The premise is that the best friend of Jackson's character has disappeared and no one seems to take it seriously. The kicker is that the two women are elderly and the Jackson-character suffers from advanced dementia, so even she is not certain what she is hallucinating and what is real. But because victims of dementia so often have vivid memories of the distant past, things start to make sense in the disappearance of the Jackson-character's own sister more than sixty years earlier. Elizabeth is Missing was British author Emma Healey's debut novel, and it looks like she struck gold with it.

I watched the Apple Tree Yard in late December only because it grew on me. After the first episode, I would not have bet that I would continue on, but I did and it turned into quite a courtroom drama with a twist at the end that actually surprised me. It's another one I found on the PBS app via Prime. I don't want to give anymore away about this one because it would be too easy to spoil it. Just know that I can't wait to see if the book is even better than the film adaptation. Books almost always are, in my experience. This one, too, is British, although Apple Tree Yard is far from Louise Doughty's first novel. 

I'm finding myself watching quite a few documentaries on Netflix, too. I just finished one there called Pretend It's a City that is actually seven thirty-minute interviews of Fran Lebowitz, a 70-year-old New York comedian and writer I'm embarrassed to say I never heard of before watching this. Fran's delivery and smart, dry wit remind me of the comedians I loved so much a few decades ago when nothing was out of bounds in comedy. I didn't always agree with what Fran had to say, but she made me laugh - or more importantly, think - even about the things upon which we don't think alike. This can easily be binge-watched over a couple of evenings, and I really recommend it.

I may not be reading as many books as I read in the past, but I'm learning so much more about the world now because we are blessed with so many choices and possibilities. Some feed my addiction to crime fiction and drama; others teach me things I never even suspected I didn't know. What a beautiful time to be alive this is.

12 comments:

  1. When laughter can cause you to think, it is doing the best job possible. I may have to check out Fran Lebowitz!

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    1. Lebowitz reminds me of all that "smart" humor that was so popular (and common) when I was much younger, the kind I used to see every week on the Ed Sullivan show while growing up. I think you'd enjoy her. Unfortunately, she has been in a writer's slump since something like 1994, but she was a popular "late night" guest on TV that she is much better known than I would have imagined before seeing this.

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  2. I didn't watch Elizabeth is Missing and now wish I had. Never mind, I'm sure it will be repeated.

    'what passes for television news these days.' Well quite. We're both old enough to remember when they reported the facts rather than instructed viewers to take a certain viewpoint.

    We still watch a few things on mainstream channels, mainly travel docs. and cooking shows. Watched a wonderful doc on The Alps but can't now remember whether it was Netflix or Prime. LOL! Also discovered YouTube on the TV. We knew it was there but hadn't really bothered, then found an old detective series I'd loved on it so have been rewatching that. I'm just grateful for the fact that we're not stuck with mainstream channels and the - mostly - drivel they serve up.

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    1. Ooh, Cath, what is the old detective series??

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    2. Nan, it's P.D. James's Adam Dalgliesh series, starring Roy Marsden. If you can get Youtube on your TV I can't recommend it highly enough. I was addicted to it back in the 1980s. When we've finished that I'll be looking for Wycliffe and Wexford. We've also been enjoying Inspector Montalbano on BBC iPlayer, made in Italian with subtitles.

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    3. Glenda Jackson is very impressive in this, Cath. If you get a chance, do take a look at it.

      What I miss about the news is more coverage of events that have nothing to do with politics or natural disasters, etc. I want to know what else is happening here and around the world, and I find it ironic that I feel more uninformed now than I did when we lived in a world with "news" being available to us 24-7.

      I see that you are watching YouTube on TV. Just wanted to let you know that I've posted about 130 videos to YouTube that I shot with handheld cameras over the last dozen or so years. The videos document the live music bands, and the roots music, that I love so much. I miss not being able to add to my collection of hundreds of videos, but I'm grateful that I have the ones I have because so many of the performers have died since I recorded the performances. If you are at all curious, just do a search on "sam sattler" and my music channel there should come up. Do be aware that there are two young women also on YouTube called Sam Sattler, one from Australia, and that they have nothing to do with my stuff. I think one of them is a singer herself, and the other seems to be posting a lot of sign language vids.

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  3. Oh, wasn't Elizabeth is Missing just beyond wonderful. I was riveted. Glenda Jackson was, as always, excellent. And though Maggie Steed had a small part, she is one of my favorites. It is a show one could watch over and over and learn something new. I recently joined PBS at $5 a month. I wanted to see the Call the Midwife Christmas special and the other episodes when they come on. A HUGE bonus is watching a new version of All Creatures Great and Small. I didn't think I would want to see it, but I read a lovely review, and then I read that Samuel West was Siefried and Callum Woodhouse was Tristan I thought I would love it, and I do. The graphics are beautiful. Anna Madeley plays Mrs Hall, and they have enlarged her character. Oh, I can't recommend it enough. It is one of the most perfect shows I've ever seen. A brand new actor plays James Herriot, Nicholas Ralph, and he's really good. So, I am very happy to be back with PBS. I also subscribe to Acorn and Britbox and watch a lot on them. I don't watch much on Netflix or Prime.

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    1. It really was that wonderful, Nan, to watch this because everyone involved did such a good job portraying what dementia is often like and what happens too often to the elderly who live alone.

      The new All Creatures is well done, for sure. I've watched the first episode and I'm looking forward to this week's addition to the series. As in the first series, the scenery is almost breathtaking.

      I did try Britbox for a few months but grew impatient with them because they didn't seem to be adding any new programming to keep me coming back after I had exhausted what I wanted to watch there. I have a problem watching the older stuff sometimes because the picture quality is so inferior to the newer stuff, and that is painful on a large screen TV. It's kind of like blowing up an old photo to the point where it becomes counterproductive.

      I have a digital subscription to the UK's Times newspaper and I scan the TV sections just to see what's likely to come down the pike to the US at some point. Sad to say, butI trust that paper to tell me a higher percentage of "the truth" than any I sampled in the US...and they are proving me right.

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  4. It will be interesting to see of the books are as good as the TV series, or better. And how different the two end up being! I haven't heard of either of these. I hope you enjoy they both. :)

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    1. Just what I needed, Lark...yet another source of books to stack up on the credenza behind my desk so that I can stare at the stack every time I come into the room. LOL

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  5. I've come back because I just finished the Fran Lebowitz yesterday. She is the kind of New Yorker that I fear isn't nearly as common as used to be. Intellectual. Deep thinker. Opinionated!! Reader. Buyer of books. If truth be told, I am a teeny (Tom might disagree with that small amount) bit like her. She spoke of being angry because she has opinions but no power. And she is so right on about spending money on useless things. The subways have so much wrong with them, but let's put some Wegman Weimaraners down there! I just signed up for Netflix DVDs so I could see the Golden Door movie she and Scorcese were talking about- the immigrant experience. That thing about her grandfather would have had to "go back" if his conjunctivitis hadn't gone away. Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know I saw it, too!

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    1. Nan, I still think about that woman and wonder how she's doing right now. She reminds me so much of the "comedians" I grew up on because of being exposed to them on the old Ed Sullivan show. People like Mort Sahl (even Lenny Bruce) and a few others who used satire and irony to make you laugh at the absurdity of popular culture, the government, etc. We seem to have lost that kind of comedy, and it's a shame. Intellectual comedy is a lost art.

      My favorite saying of hers from the documentary is: "A book is not a mirror; it's a door." She was referring to people who complain about not seeing people like them (whatever minority group/s they are part of) reflected in books. Blunt, but true, IMO.

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