Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the Mood for a Moonlight Serenade


What a week! New term, I have a few classes in common with Anna Popplewell (who played Susan in both The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian) and I went to a concert for the first time! But first things first:

You absolutely have to go see An Education (2009). I was eagerly waiting for this movie for it stars none other than Carey Mulligan who has been one of my favourite actresses for four years. I believe I've seen practically everything she's done and yet she managed to completely blow me away in this extremely well-crafted piece. She deserved a Golden Globe for Best Actress so much, I'm really shocked she lost to Sandra Bullock of all people. I fell head over heels for this film - the story is simple. In 1961, a young woman, Jenny (Carey) who lives in a dull suburb of London and who dreams of going to Oxford to read English meets meets a charming older man, David. He'll show her everything she ever dreamt of seeing: Oxford, Paris, jazz clubs, nice restaurants. Jenny is greatly intelligent, she's not clueless at all (her approach to sex is actually quite refreshing for the era) and shows that intelligence isn't only book-smarts. I don't want to spoil anybody as to the plot of the whole movie but let's just say it's a reflection on education, on privileges and on happiness - all themes very dear to me. The movie is impeccable from beginning to end, the last sentence being so practically perfect in every way. There's also a moment, a tiny moment when Jenny has an important conversation with her headmistress (Emma Thompson, brilliant) about the point of education that is so clearly going to be the clip shown at the Academy Awards that it left me completely speechless. Oh sorry I really have to spoil you to express my feelings accurately, don't read if you haven't seen the movie or don't want to know the end:

Ms Walters: Nobody does anything worth doing without a degree.
Jenny: Nobody does anything worth doing with a degree. No woman anyway.
Ms Walters: So what I do isn't worth doing? Or Ms Stubbs does, or Mrs Wilson, or any of us here? Because none of us would be here without a degree. You do realise that, don't you? And yes, of course, studying is hard and boring...
Jenny: Boring!
Ms Walters: I'm sorry?
Jenny: Studying is hard and boring. Teaching is hard and boring. So what you're telling me is to be bored, and then bored, and finally bored again and this time for the rest of my life? This whole stupid country is bored! There's no life in it, or colour, or fun. It's probably just as well the Russians are going to drop a nuclear bomb on us any day so... My choice is to do something hard and boring or to marry my Jew and go to Paris and Rome and listen to jazz and read and eat good food in nice restaurants and have fun. It's not enough to educate us anymore Ms Walters, you've got to tell us why you're doing it.
(Ms Walters fails to give an answer)
Jenny: I don't want to be impertinent, Ms Walters. But it is an argument worth rehearsing. You never know, someone else might want to know the point of it all one day.

And on that note, she quits school. But after finding out David isn't who he is (and this part is handled so subtly) she realises she can't give up on her dream, she applies to Oxford and after a lot of hard work, she gets in (it's so eerie seeing Oxford on the big screen it's like seeing one's bedroom on the big screen, feels so personal). It made me question a lot of things. (I want to teach but at the time Jenny, because she's a woman had a choice between teaching and being a civil servant, a choice she resented. Did I chose this profession because I too felt it was the only one I could access? Worth thinking about, and terrifying of course). Jenny's fears and arguments make a lot of sense when you think about it. But this movie is incredibly smart - to me, Jenny realises she has to be her own self and discover this life by herself by getting there with a mind of her own, not because she's tied up to somebody else on whom she depends. The last line is all about that, self-discovery, education for the sake of education. Jenny dates other boys and "One of the boys suggested that we go to Paris and I said I'd always wanted to see Paris. As if I'd never been." I relate so much to Jenny it's as if the film had been written for me. One of the best movies I've ever seen, for sure.

I finally read my first play by Oscar Wilde - up till now I had read Dorian Gray, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I was looking forward to discover more of his writings, so I borrowed a copy of The Importance of Being Earnest from the library. I was not disappointed, this play is really good. It's a classic tale of mistaken identities with a lot of comedy thrown in, most of it provided by the wonderful character of Cecily - a young woman whose personality is so interesting she completely steals the show. She creates her own reality - when she's in love, she writes letters to herself and pretends they're from her lover and then thanks her fictional lover for his letters. "Do you remember when you called off the engagement?" she asks to a confused Algernon, and she produces the letter she wrote in Algernon's name explaining the whole affair as she imagined it.
There's also some great situation comedy in the first scene in which Algernon eats the cucumber sandwiches made for his Aunt and keeps assuring his friend they're for his aunt before helping himself to some more. An absolute delight of a play, it's witty and entertaining and I'm looking forward to reading more by Wilde.

I've just (a few minutes ago, I had typed this post before and now I'm adding this paragraph) come back from the Glenn Miller Orchestra concert at the Oxford Playhouse. I'm at a loss for words. This was my first concert ever and boy did it deliver. Absolutely fantastic. I had a dream seat (row C, seat 12) and couldn't have been more ideally placed. I was by far the only person under the age of 50 that I could see but I do believe I was the most enthusiastic - to be quite honest my mouth might need surgery because I just couldn't stop smiling for two hours and a half! I was often the first one to clap after a song and I was for sure the first person to stand up to clap the whole orchestra at the end of the concert. People were a bit... slow but the row behind me was super enthusiastic as well. It's such a wonderful feeling to be sharing this music with other people.
I don't know if the seating arrangement is the best - I for one wanted to dance so bad during several songs but had to stay still in my seat.
The orchestra was absolutely splendid. Not one mistake, completely flawless and the selection of songs was amazing. Moonlight Serenade live is pure heaven. It outranked In the Mood as my personal favourite and trust me that was a challenge. Insanely catchy and gorgeous during the slow songs, we were treated to a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in the middle and one last rendition of My Favorite Things by Rogers and Hammerstein. Other highlights included Tuxedo Junction and When the Saints Go Marching In. Worth every single pound. Just to give you a clearer picture: I actually cried, literally, when they played their first song. I couldn't believe my luck - most of the artists I love are long dead. And the song was Anchors Aweigh, one of Miller's catchiest. One of the musicians was in Benny Goodman's band for years. Can you imagine?
DO try and see them if you can, it's a terrific experience. I can't believe this was my first concert, it set the bar so high!

See you soon for the next adventure!