Posts Tagged A Single Man

When Georgie Met Jimmy

Project Give Thanks day 12

I am sitting in my office, battling the beginnings of a killer migraine and waiting until 7:00, when I’m off to teach an evening class with 17 students who are far more interested in browsing Facebook than in actually learning something. Ah, the perils of teaching in a computer classroom. Curse multimedia and its attempts to highjack my students’ attention spans. Have I mentioned that this particular class has a collective attention span shorter than Kim Kardashian’s marriage? So they really don’t need more motivation to tune me out.

In spite of that, I am still smiling (or making a brave attempt at something that is a cross between a smile and a grimace) because while rocking out to my Michael Buble station on Pandora today, what should pop up, but “Blue Moon”. This song never fails to make me smile, mostly because it instantly reminds me of my favorite scene from “A Single Man”. As if I needed an excuse to wax rhapsodic over this award-worthy film, whatever the Academy might have thought to the contrary. (I’m over it. Honest. Water under the bridge). I really need to channel my frustrations into a more productive outlet; I didn’t intend for this to be a post about the ten reasons why the Academy annoys me. (Alright, so they redeemed themselves this past year with “the King’s Speech,” even though Geoffrey Rush got the shaft, but I digress). If I’m feeling snarky enough as the 2012 Oscar race draws to a close, I might turn my talents in that direction, but I think one of my new-year’s resolutions should be to eliminate snark from my life, so perhaps not.

In any case, thanks to blue Moon and British brilliance, this day hasn’t been a total waste of makeup.

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And Just Like That!

Project Give Thanks day 8

“A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity, when for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than
think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have
lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.”-A Single Man (the 2009film )

Today I am thankful for the tingling warmth of sunshine on my skin; for the crackle of fallen leaves beneath my feet; the breeze tangling my hair in its invisible fingers; the brush of my dog’s cold nose against the back of my hand; today, I am thankful for the little things, not because they aren’t always present in my life, but because today, unlike most days, I took the time to actually notice them. I am thankful that during every moment of every day, I know that I am precisely where I’m meant to be, even if I’m not entirely certain why.

Have you heard the story about the man who was half way to the subway one morning before he realized he’d forgotten his metro card and had to double back? That man was on his way to work…in the World Trade Center…on September 11. Ten years later, he’s still alive because he forgot his metro card.

Today, I am thankful for the little things, because little things make a big difference.

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Did You Want Coffee with Your Monday?

Nearly every Monday morning, for various reasons, I find myself reflecting on the truth of a passage from Christopher Isherwood’s novel /A Single Man/–the passage describing George’s arrival at the university for yet another mundane day of teaching:

So now George has arrived. He is not nervous in the least. As he gets out of his car, he feels an upsurge of energy, of eagerness for the play to begin. And he walks eagerly, with a springy step, along the gravel path past the Music Building toward the Department office. He is all actor now–an actor on his way up from the dressing room, hastening through the backstage world of props and lamps and stagehands to make his entrance. A veteran, calm and assured, he pauses for a well-measured moment in the doorway of the office and then, boldly, clearly, with the subtly modulated British intonation which his public demands of him, speaks his opening line: “Good morning!”

And the three secretaries–each one of them a charming and accomplished actress in her own chosen style–recognize him instantly, without even a flicker of doubt, and reply “Good morning!” to him. (There is something religious here, like responses in church–a reaffirmation of faith in the basic American dogma that it is, always, a good morning.

I’ve always loved the sarcasm with which Isherwood questions the social convention of wishing someone a good morning—especially on a Monday—the very existence of which seems to counteract the “goodness”. I couldn’t help smiling as I recalled the above passage this morning. I shuffled into the kitchen, switched on the light, rummaged through my pantry for the necessary coffee, cream, sugar, etc. In happy (or at least anxious) anticipation of my morning dose of caffeine, I set the coffee brewing and stumbled outside to let the dog relieve himself, sniff the grass, bark at birds, and otherwise show his superiority to humankind in his ability to embrace morning before sunrise.

The dog completed his business efficiently; we came back inside; I reentered the kitchen, reached for my coffee cup, and…alas! For some reason unbeknown to me, the coffeemaker hadn’t actually started. Fine; Monday is the day I usually go into work a bit later. I wasn’t in a rush, so refusing to be frazzled, I reset the machine, checked the water, and wandered back into the bedroom to check my e-mail while my fresh, fragrant elixir of consciousness brewed. I sifted through my mail until I heard the percolation process winding down. I retrieved my mug, added cream and sugar, took my first much-anticipated sip and…*splutter*. Horror of horrors! I was sipping boiling water laced with cream and sugar. Note to self: when making coffee, the desired result is usually best obtained if you actually add the…coffee! I was now approaching half an hour of being mobile and semi-conscious without caffeine. My limit is usually somewhere around ten minutes, and this is on an exceptionally slow day. So: dump the mess in the sink; reset the coffeemaker; lather, rinse, repeat. They say third time’s the charm, and thankfully that statistic proved accurate in this case, as I was fast-approaching under caffeinated, premenstrual, homicidal psychobitch.

To make a long story short, I have to agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Isherwood here; the implication that mornings (or at least Monday mornings)are good is a highly questionable one, and I’m thoroughly convinced that there’s a niche in the market for a coffee machine with an attached hand that reaches out to slap the under caffeinated human who is negligent enough to forget to add coffee before attempting to brew any, or even better, one that will conveniently add the essential forgotten ingredient, and possibly deliver it to the caffeine addict on a tray, Jetsons-style.

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The Firthday Five: Viewing and Reviewing Colin at his Best

For years–ever since I was a child–I’ve been an avid Colin Firth fan, and over time, my fascination has evolved into an academic investment of sorts,
from the occasional graduate student seminar paper addressing his work in literary adaptation to employing it as a teaching tool in my own courses (God
bless you, Colin, for being almost single-handedly responsible for contributing to renewed student interest in Jane Austen. If literary academia hasn’t
collectively written you a letter of thanks, It’s high time we did).

In a celebratory tribute to the man on his birthday, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite Colin performances. For purposes of practicality, time, and space, I’ve limited the list to five films, mostly because any more than that would make narrowing my choices considerably more challenging. Four out of five of these films are literary adaptations because I think that this branch of film represents some of Colin’s most impressive work. The intuitiveness with which he brings literary characters to life manages to tap into the popular imagination’s image of that character while presenting an authentic interpretation of his own. So: let’s have a look!

1. A Single Man (2009) This adaptation of the Christopher Isherwood novel of the same title features Colin as the middle-aged, British English professor George Falconer as he struggles to cope with life following the tragic death of his partner, Jim. After nearly two years since seeing this movie in theater, Colin’s performance still resonates with me—the way he gives every fiber of his being over to the character of George. In general, the movie strikes at the white hot center of life, snaps your head around and challenges you to stare your own mortality in the face, and Colin captures that so well. He dissolves the boundary between actor and audience and invites us into his personal space. At once shocking and sensitive, heart-warming and heart-wrenching, I’ve only since reluctantly forgiven the Academy for overlooking this performance because they redeemed themselves with “The King’s Speech”.

2. The King’s Speech (2010) I’ve never missed an opportunity to wax rhapsodic about this film; Colin’s portrayal of the stammering monarch George VI is masterful; he maneuvers the mechanics of stammering with amazing authenticity and presents an intimate portrait of Bertie as a man, not a monarch. Needless to say, a very well-deserved Oscar. Kudos to the king.

3. Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) Yet another of Colin’s appearances in a literary film adaptation and, I think, one of his best. Here he plays Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer in an adaptation of Tracy Chevalier’s historical novel of the same title. Though his character has little screen time, he is allocated a very pervasive presence throughout the film, and Colin capitalizes on every visible moment he does have. His interpretation of Vermeer is precisely how I imagined him when reading the novel; seemingly withdrawn and enigmatic, with a quiet, mesmerizing intensity, he draws his audience into his gaze and into Vermeer’s world—a world of swirling colors and intense passion. We feel, even as he entraps us in this web of color, that we want to be held captive by his gaze, if only for a moment.

4. Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) This film needs no introduction; in a witty adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel—itself a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s /Pride and Prejudice/, Colin’s portrayal of Mark Darcy manages to pay tribute both to the Mr. Darcy of Austen’s making that remains one of popular culture’s iconic Byronic heroes and to Fielding’s contemporary recasting of Darcy while reprising his own legendary performance of Mr. Darcy in the BBC/A & E Pride and Prejudice with grace and good humor.

5. The Importance of being Earnest (2002) I first saw this adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play as an undergraduate in a Victorian Literature course several years ago, and it’s the Firth film I inevitably reach for when my life needs a little comic relief. Alternately witty and ridiculous, Colin’s spot-on performance of Jack Worthing is one of which I think Wilde himself would have been proud—a true tribute to one of the Victorian era’s most celebrated playwrights.

Finally: two bonus picks:
Pride and Prejudice (1995) I didn’t include this in the above list because I think—and Jane Austen and Colin fans alike will likely agree with me—this performance defies categorization. A staple of the Austen film phenomenon, Colin’s Mr. Darcy brings our beloved hero to life in a memorable and, I think, unmatchable performance.

Lastly: The Secret Garden (1987) I’ve included this one purely for sentimental value; Colin appears briefly here as the adult Colin Craven in Hallmark’s television adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel, and it was my first encounter with Colin. Short-lived and little-known though this role is, I remember, as an eleven year-old girl, being mesmerized by that face. There wasn’t anything immediately remarkable about it;
so neutral in appearance, so passive in expression, but with a hint of something rippling beneath the surface like a lake stirred by a light wind. That
was what intrigued me; that carefully modulated reserve; that passion kept in check, a characteristic Colinesque trait that fans have come to love and admire over the years.

So, Happy Birthday, Colin Firth; your talent is a gift that many cherish. Thank you for serving as a constant reminder to me, as to many others, that a life without laughter is no life at all.

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