Monday, June 30, 2014

Adaptation Week: Emma Approved

Hello!  So... "Adaptation Week" got hijacked earlier - sorry about that.  But I am really excited to jump back in with a few more.  The types of adaptations I am highlighting will be the actual focus of my Master's research.  I've started following quite a few adaptations and keeping tabs on others.  In this digital renaissance, there are so many exciting possibilities in storytelling.  So, back to it:
See previously featured adaptations: Mansfield Park and Classic Alice.

Ok, so if you haven't started watching Emma Approved yet, it's time to get on it!  Pemberley Digital's 2nd full-length series recently returned from hiatus and 57-episodes in feels stronger than ever,

Emma Approved is: "A lifestyle brand and documentary of life coach and matchmaker Emma Woodhouse."  When the series begins, Emma & her long-time family friend Alex Knightley have recently formed a subdivision of the "Highbury Group" to focus on match-making, event planning and lifestyle excellence. 

This modern day Emma is no Cher Horowitz. She's more a combination of ruthless Kardashian business skills meets Mary Fiore's event coordination. She is talented but unwilling to compromise one ounce of her vision of the world. She goes to great (questionably illegal) lengths to accomplish her plans. 

This series, even according to its creators, started a little weak for a couple reasons. The biggest issue was fans adjusting to a very different format than it's predecessor, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Where Lizzie shot vlog-style videos & knowingly posted them on the internet where other characters could find them & viewers could interact with them, Emma Approved videos (minus the Q&A) are told almost "mockumentary" style. While the in-world reasoning for this didn't make much sense, anyone familiar with the story will know that telling Emma the way PD told Pride & Prejudice wouldn't work. Aside from the risk of in-world characters viewing the episodes, it would be highly implausible for high-society Emma Woodhouse to vlog.

One of the stronger parts the show has been Brent Bailey's Alex Knightley.  He is the perfect Knightley - counteracting Emma's (sometimes misplaced) enthusiasm with doses of reality and delivering his lines with a blend of humor and care.

And there's just something to love about a grown man who can still look like a five year old when the occasion calls for it:

They've done rather well with the rest of the casting, too, with highlights being Harriet Smith, Bobby "B-Mart" Martin, Annie Taylor-Weston, and Maddie Bates.  In addition, Frank Churchill has made a few appearances and Jane Fairfax just re-joined Highbury.

Thus far, Emma Approved has taken 2, month-long hiatuses (hiati?).  Though it's sad to go a month long without Monday and Thursday pick-me-ups, both times the team has returned to take their game up a notch.  After January's hiatus, they achieved an Emma Approved-Lizzie Bennet Diaries crossover that just blew me away by combining/replacing the character of Mrs. Augusta Elton with the LBD's Caroline Lee.  Brilliant move!  And following the May hiatus, they had not only the long-awaited reveal of Jane Fairfax but introduced a both in-world and real-world charity drive to fight modern day slavery.  These kind of game-changers combined with the heightened anticipation have made the hiatuses more than worth it!  So, Pemberley Digital, while I hate to be without you, take all the time you need to make it awesome!

The show has had a few detractors - mostly the ones I mentioned early on.  Some things, like Jane Fairfax's character development, will just take time or others like myself, who initially disliked Emma, will have to be won over.  Personally, the two biggest obstacles for me have been the format and certain production choices.  As I mentioned earlier, I understand that vlogging wouldn't work for this story, but full-time surveillance in an office doesn't make sense either.  I also felt that the strength of LBD's transmedia was really missing from the first 1/3 of this story, though I feel that's improved recently with twitter conversations about Knightley offering to carpool with Jane Fairfax and especially with the charity drive. 

My second - and even bigger - frustration has actually been with the costume department for Emma herself.  I understand that she is in event planning and that she's supposed to be trendy.  But more often than not I inwardly cringe at her costumes because they are so not office appropriate.  Short shorts, mini dresses, and midriff just do NOT belong in her world of high-profile clients.  I know they are working with sponsorships from trendy places like mod cloth - which is great!  But even Harriet looks more trendy-but-appropriate than Emma does and honestly I find it distracting.  Okay.  Personal rant over.

Overall, I do love the show, but not nearly as much the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  That is probably due to the fact that I love Pride and Prejudice far, far more than Emma.  But if the LBD was a 5/5, this is still 4.5.   I really enjoy the interaction between these actors and several of the modernizations they have made with Bobby Martin, Mr. (Senator Scum-bag) Elton, and especially with the Caroline Lee - LBD crossover.

And I can't review it without mentioning that the show has received an extra spark thanks to a very "Emma Approved" real life pairing: Joanna Sotomura and Brent Bailey, who play Emma and Knightley in-world, are in a real-life relationship.

I told you he was perfect. :)

Be sure to check out Emma Approved and in the mean time, I'll leave with a recent video from the stars goofing around on the Tonight Show. 

Excerpts from TS Eliot's "Four Quartets" [Part III]

"Little Gidding"
Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic…
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time's covenant.

You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
     We only live, only suspire
     Consumed by either fire or fire.

For last year's words belong to last year's language 
And next year's words await another voice.


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.

Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


Friday, June 27, 2014

This week I've had Birdy's cover of The National's "Terrible Love" on repeat.

"It takes an ocean not to break..."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Excerpts from TS Eliot's "Four Quartets" [Part II]

"The Dry Salvages"

The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint--
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Excerpts from TS Eliot's "Four Quartets" [Part I]

"Burnt Norton"

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind 
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious in not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden...
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness...

"East Coker"

...Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter...
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion...

Friday, June 20, 2014


I've been meditating on these words and images from the Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011).  Enjoy.

The nuns taught us there are two ways through life...
The way of Nature
And the way of Grace. 
You have to choose which one you'll follow.

Grace doesn't try to please itself. 

Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. 
Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself. 

Get others to please it too. 
Likes to lord it over them. 
To have its own way. 

It finds reasons to be unhappy--
When all the world is shining around it,
When love is smiling through all things.
They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace

Ever comes to a bad end.

Lord, why? Where were you?
Did you know what happened? 
Do you care? 

Help each other. 
Love everyone. 
Every leaf. 
Every ray of light. 

The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.