"Emma" on Masterpiece Classic - PBS HD - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 05:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Outstanding PQ for Sunday's PBS Masterpiece two-hour introduction to yet another production of a Austen classic. The BBC's 35mm shooting seems to have aided colors and contrast. This mini-series allows more time for character development compared to major features, and matchmaker Emma's, ah, 'density', as well as silliness, is given greater play. The NY Times ran a nice summary review . -- John
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post #2 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 08:25 AM
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I had thought about watching this but despite Michael Gambon's being in it decided not to for two reasons. First, there have been so many recent productions of Emma, I wasn't sure I was up for another. Second, Romola Garai. I just don't think she's a very good actress. She was not very good in Daniel Deronda, and she was definitely the weakest part of both Vanity Fair and Atonement.

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post #3 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 10:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mason View Post

Outstanding PQ for Sunday's PBS Masterpiece two-hour introduction to yet another production of a Austen classic. The BBC's 35mm shooting seems to have aided colors and contrast. This mini-series allows more time for character development compared to major features, and matchmaker Emma's, ah, 'density', as well as silliness, is given greater play. The NY Times ran a nice summary review . -- John

I thoroughly enjoyed this production too. I have a recollection that BBC HD showed it at a different time to BBC One (the BBC HD channel is a "Best of" outlet at the moment - which shows HD content commissioned by all the BBC channels - which can mean there are clashes)

I had assumed that the show had been shot SD on Super 16 (as Sense and Sensibility was ISTR) and watched the first episode on BBC One in 16:9 SD. Then I saw it on BBC HD a few days later. Grr... Watched the rest of the series in HD.

It was interesting to compare it to Cranford, which was shot electronically.

I quite like Romola Garai's performance - but I can see how others wouldn't.
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post #4 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 11:26 AM
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The first of the current Masterpiece Classics shows on PBS that I tried to watch was Return to Cranford. I thought it was terrible and couldn't get through it. It seemed to me to be filled with uninteresting people and uninteresting situations. I understand, though, that Cranford (2007), its predecessor was good. I am far from afraid of films and miniseries based on the works of 19th Century English women writers. For example, I think that the BBC miniseries, Pride and Prejudice (1995), which was a faithful adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, is one of the finest miniseries ever made. I own the BD. I think almost equally highly of Joe wright's 2005 film of the same name. The novel itself is one of my favorites and I have read it several times. Despite my positive predisposition in favor of Return to Cranford, I still thought it was poor, maybe the worst thing I have seen the great Judi Dench in.

All of the foregoing is to explain why I had deleted my season pass to Masterpiece Classics and missed last night's first showing of Emma. Thanks to this thread, though, I decided to give the series another chance and see how that works out for me. I share an earlier poster's opinion that Romola Garai's performance as the 18 year old Briony Tallis in Atonement was underwhelming. Nevertheless I'm going to try Emma anyway, thanks in large part to the presence of the estimable Michael Gambon. Fortunately, the first episode is being repeated in the wee hours of tomorrow morning and, if all goes according to plan, my new season pass will record it.

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post #5 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 11:27 AM
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Didn't think I needed to see emma again but I was wrong. Romola Garai did very good as Emma. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this.
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post #6 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

It was interesting to compare it to Cranford, which was shot electronically.

I quite like Romola Garai's performance - but I can see how others wouldn't.

Yes, while watching Emma, thought they'd found an exceptional DP, very skilled with digital-camera shooting, until I researched the 35mm capture this morning (initial link). Contrast, resolution, etc.--overall cinematography--benefited from, presumably, a TV-series negative transfer, not a print. Should look super on a Blu-ray. Cranford's digital capture is good, too, although it doesn't have the impact PQ-wise of this one IMO. Also enjoying Garai's Emma performance, perhaps more authentic to the novel, given the extended character development time, then, say, Gwyneth Paltrow's 1996 theater feature. -- John
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post #7 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

The first of the current Masterpiece Classics shows on PBS that I tried to watch was Return to Cranford. I thought it was terrible and couldn't get through it. It seemed to me to be filled with uninteresting people and uninteresting situations. I understand, though, that Cranford (2007), its predecessor was good. ...

You should not judge Cranford based on the sequel only. The original is superior to it and the acting is superb. I have the Blu-ray, which is very nice, and also watched it originally on PBS-HD. As for Return to Cranford, based on knowing the main characters and some background from the original, the sequel, while not as good, becomes more tolerable. I never felt a desire to turn it off, even as I realized it was not as engaging as the previous effort. I can see how someone who did not watch the original would react as you did. All I can say is that you should give the original a try sometime.
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post #8 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

I thoroughly enjoyed this production too. I have a recollection that BBC HD showed it at a different time to BBC One (the BBC HD channel is a "Best of" outlet at the moment - which shows HD content commissioned by all the BBC channels - which can mean there are clashes)

I had assumed that the show had been shot SD on Super 16 (as Sense and Sensibility was ISTR) and watched the first episode on BBC One in 16:9 SD. Then I saw it on BBC HD a few days later. Grr... Watched the rest of the series in HD.

It was interesting to compare it to Cranford, which was shot electronically.

I quite like Romola Garai's performance - but I can see how others wouldn't.

sneals -- Thanks to your post, I searched for and found the IMDb listing for this miniseries, which indicates that it ran in the UK last October. I'll be interested to see Romola Garai's performance. Austen's Emma is, to put it gently, not terribly likable, at least not for a long while. I can see where an actress who can convincingly play a somewhat unsympathetic character might do well with the role. Anyway, Garai can't be any worse that Gwyneth Paltrow was in the 1996 movie version. How was Kate Beckinsale in the TV version? It seems to me that she would have been perfectly cast as Emma. I remember Beckinsale fondly from the deliciously weird but funny Cold Comfort Farm. ("Jane Austen and I have so much in common - neither of us can endure mess.")

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post #9 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 12:21 PM
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IMHO, Gwyneth Paltrow nailed the part in the 1996 movie, but Romola Garai is doing okay so far. Jeremy Northam's (1996) Mr. Knightly was better. I don't like the Mr. Elton dude in the new one, compared to 1996. I like Michael Gambon's father part better in the new one. I like the background info about the small kids in the new one. I like the old Frank Churchill better. The Miss Smiths are the same. The Miss Bates are the same.

To sum up, so far, I like the 1996 movie slightly better.

BTW, the audio was very distorted on the WUNC station. Hope yours was better.

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post #10 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 12:34 PM
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IMHO, Gwyneth Paltrow nailed the part in the 1996 movie, but Romola Garai is doing okay so far.

To be fair, I haven't seen the 1996 version of Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow in such a long time, she may have been better than I recalled. Actually, I think that Paltrow is an accomplished actress and that much of the disrespect she gets is undeserved. Unlike many, I thought that the Best Actress Oscar she won for her performance in Shakespeare in Love was richly deserved. Paltrow doesn't have a lot of range but can be very good in the right roles, I think.

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post #11 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

For example, I think that the BBC miniseries, Pride and Prejudice (1995), which was a faithful adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, is one of the finest miniseries ever made. I own the BD.

I agree. I too bought the BD which is a huge improvement in PQ and audio over the DVD.

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post #12 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 03:39 PM
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I recognized Romola Garai in a where-have-I-seen-her way. I only remember the young Briony and Kiera Knightley from Atonement*. My favorite of the Emma adaptations is "Clueless" with Alicia Silverstone, who seems to have disappeared into vegetarianism, but I'll give this a try.

* btw, can someone explain where is the atonement in Atonement? I read the book and saw the movie and still did not get it.
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post #13 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 03:49 PM
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I agree. I too bought the BD which is a huge improvement in PQ and audio over the DVD.

In addition to the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, my other all time favorite miniseries is Lonesome Dove, with Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall. The BD of it is wonderful, too. They went back in and carefully reframed the 35 mm film to 16:9, with the concurrence of the director. Actually, the film had been shown to a preview audience in widescreen format before it was copied to videotape and run on TV in 4:3 format. I own that BD, too. Highly, highly recommended! The old DVD, which I also owned was a murky mess.

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post #14 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 04:21 PM
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You should not judge Cranford based on the sequel only. The original is superior to it and the acting is superb. I have the Blu-ray, which is very nice, and also watched it originally on PBS-HD. As for Return to Cranford, based on knowing the main characters and some background from the original, the sequel, while not as good, becomes more tolerable. I never felt a desire to turn it off, even as I realized it was not as engaging as the previous effort. I can see how someone who did not watch the original would react as you did. All I can say is that you should give the original a try sometime.

Yep - you really have to have seen the original for much of the follow-up to make sense. Even little nuances resonate - like the eating of an orange and Judi Dench's reaction.

Eileen Atkins was outstanding in the first series.

I agree that the second series wasn't as good - but it benefits from having watched the first.
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post #15 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 04:22 PM
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* btw, can someone explain where is the atonement in Atonement? I read the book and saw the movie and still did not get it.

I had always assumed the atonement was giving them the happy ending in the book that they didn't get in life? Though that's not really atonement?
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post #16 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mason View Post

Yes, while watching Emma, thought they'd found an exceptional DP, very skilled with digital-camera shooting, until I researched the 35mm capture this morning (initial link). Contrast, resolution, etc.--overall cinematography--benefited from, presumably, a TV-series negative transfer, not a print. Should look super on a Blu-ray. Cranford's digital capture is good, too, although it doesn't have the impact PQ-wise of this one IMO. Also enjoying Garai's Emma performance, perhaps more authentic to the novel, given the extended character development time, then, say, Gwyneth Paltrow's 1996 theater feature. -- John

Yep - though it was shot on 2-perf 35mm - which is how the BBC could afford to do it! I think it was the Beeb's first major 2-perf 35mm production - previously Super 16 was used for drama, but the BBC won't commission HD production shot on Super 16, so until 2-perf 35mm was used all HD drama was electronic (or a co-pro and shot on more conventional 35mm kit).
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post #17 of 38 Old 01-25-2010, 08:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barth2k View Post

* btw, can someone explain where is the atonement in Atonement? I read the book and saw the movie and still did not get it.

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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

I had always assumed the atonement was giving them the happy ending in the book that they didn't get in life? Though that's not really atonement?

I thought that "Atonement," referred to
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler  
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
how Briony tried to atone for what she had done to her sister's lover, Robbie Turner, with the book she wrote about the tragic consequences of her actions by telling a beautifully romantic but fictional story of their love affair
. I LOVED that movie and am happy to report that the new BD edition is on its way to me from Netflix. I think that the story is a tragedy of nearly Shakespearian proportions. Poor Robbie, poor Cecilia, poor Bri, poor everybody.

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post #18 of 38 Old 01-26-2010, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by abward View Post

IMHO, Gwyneth Paltrow nailed the part in the 1996 movie, but Romola Garai is doing okay so far. Jeremy Northam's (1996) Mr. Knightly was better. I don't like the Mr. Elton dude in the new one, compared to 1996. I like Michael Gambon's father part better in the new one. I like the background info about the small kids in the new one. I like the old Frank Churchill better. The Miss Smiths are the same. The Miss Bates are the same.

To sum up, so far, I like the 1996 movie slightly better.

BTW, the audio was very distorted on the WUNC station. Hope yours was better.

Interesting. I saw the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow about the same time that I saw the previous BBC miniseries with Kate Beckinsale as Emma. Not only did I think Kate was a better Emma, I much preferred Mark Strong's Mr. Knightly to Jeremy Northam.

SMK
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post #19 of 38 Old 01-26-2010, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

I thought that "Atonement," referred to
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler  
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
how Briony tried to atone for what she had done to her sister's lover, Robbie Turner, with the book she wrote about the tragic consequences of her actions by telling a beautifully romantic but fictional story of their love affair
. I LOVED that movie and am happy to report that the new BD edition is on its way to me from Netflix. I think that the story is a tragedy of nearly Shakespearian proportions. Poor Robbie, poor Cecilia, poor Bri, poor everybody.

The way I interpreted it was: some actions have such tragic consequences they cannot be atoned for and the title "atonement" is meant to be ironic, because what atonement can there be in retelling the story with a fictional prettified ending?

Of course in "Saturday" McEwan
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler  
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
made the reading of a poem the redeemer of a crisis, so maybe he did intend the power-of-arts interpretation for Atonement too. I just like my take better Btw, Saturday is also worth reading for the gorgeous prose.


It's a difficult book to adapt because you had to get into the mind of the young Briony to understand her actions and I don't think the movie pulled it off. I liked the actress who played the young Briony. She and Vanessa Redgrave seemed like one of a piece, whereas Garai felt like another person. I liked Keira b/c well I like her in everything except that horrible Tony Scott movie.

Sorry to turn this into a book club thread, but we are discussing Austen
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post #20 of 38 Old 01-27-2010, 04:13 AM
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Interesting. I saw the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow about the same time that I saw the previous BBC miniseries with Kate Beckinsale as Emma. Not only did I think Kate was a better Emma, I much preferred Mark Strong's Mr. Knightly to Jeremy Northam.

SMK

That wasn't a BBC mini-series, it was an ITV one. (ITV is the main commercial network in the UK).

It may subsequently have aired on BBC America or PBS (as some ITV shows like Poirot, Midsomer Murders, Morse etc. do) - but it wasn't a BBC production (or BBC commissioned).

(Not all costume drama made in Britain is made by the BBC - though most is. Other notable exceptions made by ITV are Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Upstairs Downstairs and the recent remake of The Forsyte Saga)

I agree about Mark Strong - he's a brilliant actor. Thoroughly recommend "Our Friends in the North" - though the accents and mid-to-late 20th century setting may be a bit of an issue. (Mark Strong, Daniel "007" Craig, Christopher "Doctor Who" Eccleston all star, as does Gina "Croupier" McKee)
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post #21 of 38 Old 01-27-2010, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by barth2k View Post

The way I interpreted it was: some actions have such tragic consequences they cannot be atoned for and the title "atonement" is meant to be ironic, because what atonement can there be in retelling the story with a fictional prettified ending?

Of course in "Saturday" McEwan
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler  
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
made the reading of a poem the redeemer of a crisis, so maybe he did intend the power-of-arts interpretation for Atonement too. I just like my take better Btw, Saturday is also worth reading for the gorgeous prose.


It's a difficult book to adapt because you had to get into the mind of the young Briony to understand her actions and I don't think the movie pulled it off. I liked the actress who played the young Briony. She and Vanessa Redgrave seemed like one of a piece, whereas Garai felt like another person. I liked Keira b/c well I like her in everything except that horrible Tony Scott movie.

Sorry to turn this into a book club thread, but we are discussing Austen

I apologize to all for continuing this thread drift into a discussion of Atonement but I can't help myself.

I watched the new Atonement BD yesterday and was just as captivated as ever. I thought that the character Briony seemed to be the same person, although she was portrayed at age 13, 18, and 80 something by three different actresses. I was particularly impressed by Garai this time so I am looking forward to watching her in Emma.

The thing that convinced me that I understood the meaning of the title Atonement was that
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler  
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
the old Briony's last book (or as she put it, her first) was entitled Atonement. In her interview with the TV interviewer Briony tells us that the scene with her sister and Robbie during the war, in which Briony promised to set right what her false accusations had caused, was entirely made up, that Cecilia and Robbie actually never saw each other again after their brief meeting early in the war. Both died tragically in 1941. Nevertheless, in Briony's novel the fictional Cecilia and Robbie survived the war, went to their lovely seaside cottage, played on the beach, and one hopes went on to live long and happy lives. This was Briony's way of trying to atone for what she had done to them, something she could never bring herself to do until she learned that her life was coming to a close.

The fact of the matter was that Ci and Robbie never had any time together as lovers because of the young Briony's jealousy of her sister and her vivid imagination. Worse, Briony was never able to make peace with her sister before Ci died in the tube station during the blitz or even try to make right what she her false accusation had done to Robbie. Thus, the best that Briony could do was write an ultimately happy and optimistic book as attempted atonement for the unhappiness and loss that she had caused.

The story is a curious mixture of hope and loss, love and tragedy. I loved it.

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post #22 of 38 Old 01-27-2010, 11:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

Yep - though it was shot on 2-perf 35mm - which is how the BBC could afford to do it! I think it was the Beeb's first major 2-perf 35mm production - previously Super 16 was used for drama, but the BBC won't commission HD production shot on Super 16, so until 2-perf 35mm was used all HD drama was electronic (or a co-pro and shot on more conventional 35mm kit).

Vaguely recall discussion of 2-perf and the BBC in an earlier thread. Couldn't undercover any mention of PQ disadvantages after Googling yesterday; here's the Wiki and a cinematography summary (search "2-perf"). Can see how the ~2.39:1 negative format, only two perfs/side high, takes up less negative space and provides more images per film roll. Images are just smaller, presumably, than other 35mm formats. EDIT: This site mentions PQ loss if the 2-perf must be optically enlarged to 4-perf for theaters. -- John
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post #23 of 38 Old 01-27-2010, 12:37 PM
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Interesting. I saw the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow about the same time that I saw the previous BBC miniseries with Kate Beckinsale as Emma. Not only did I think Kate was a better Emma, I much preferred Mark Strong's Mr. Knightly to Jeremy Northam.

The DVD of the version of Emma starring Kate Beckinsale is on its way to me from Netflix. Despite its not being available on BD, I am really looking forward to seeing it. It seems to me that Austen's character, Emma, would be a good fit for Beckinsale's skills. Beckinsale does a good job of playing officious but charming young women. I would also like to see the Paltrow version of Emma again because I really like Jeremy Northam but don't remember much about his portrayal of Mr. Knightley. I thought that Northam was terrific as Sir Robert Morton in David Mamet's adaptation of The Winslow Boy.

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post #24 of 38 Old 01-27-2010, 01:51 PM
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I missed the one with Kate Beckinsale. I really like her, and Northam too (he was terrific in Winslow Boy, a nice departure for Mamet). So now I have to seek it out. Should I watch that version before this one?
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post #25 of 38 Old 01-27-2010, 03:33 PM
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I missed the one with Kate Beckinsale. I really like her, and Northam too (he was terrific in Winslow Boy, a nice departure for Mamet). So now I have to seek it out. Should I watch that version before this one?

I finally watched the first two hours of the Masterpiece Classic version today and thought it was just so-so. I plan on watching the Beckinsale version tomorrow and will report my opinion then.

In the first two hours of the Masterpiece Classic version Emma was such an arrogant intermeddling snob, I didn't just dislike her, I cordially detested her. Maybe she will show some socially redeeming virtues in the last two hours but she has a long way to go. I think that my problem with the character probably has more to do with how Austen wrote her in the first place than with Romola Garai'a performance. That's why I am looking forward to seeing the movie version starring Kate Beckinsale, in whose talent I have a lot of confidence.

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I missed the Cranford sequel - is there any way to watch it again
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post #27 of 38 Old 01-28-2010, 11:38 AM - Thread Starter
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I missed the Cranford sequel - is there any way to watch it again

It's on a DVD .

Also, for a while, it's online at PBS.org, along with the first Emma episode. And of course check local PBS listings for a re-airing. -- John
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post #28 of 38 Old 01-28-2010, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by barth2k View Post

I missed the one with Kate Beckinsale. I really like her, and Northam too (he was terrific in Winslow Boy, a nice departure for Mamet). So now I have to seek it out. Should I watch that version before this one?

I just watched the DVD of the Beckinsale version today. It's 4:3, which was a bit of a disappointment but the PQ is pretty good. I cannot overstate how much I loved the production. Everyone in it was perfect. Beckinsale was a marvel. In her hands Emma, even at her exasperating worst, was still lovable and appealing. Come to think of it, Mr. Knightley thought so, too.

I was surprised to see that the role of the young, beautiful, and talented Jane Fairfax was played by the then also young and beautiful Olivia Williams. I have enjoyed Williams hugely as Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse. She is a terrific actress, with a talent for comedy, although she did not have the opportunity to demonstrate it in Emma.

I think the Emma with Beckinsale is far superior to the Emma now showing on Masterpiece Classics. I have concluded that Romola Garai is in over her head as Emma. She shows the willful, headstrong Emma without being able to also show her warm and gentle nature, or so it has seemed to me. The upshot of this is that I thought the Emma we saw in the first two hours of the Masterpiece Classics version was very hard to take.

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post #29 of 38 Old 02-09-2010, 12:51 PM - Thread Starter
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A nice closing episode Sunday, although would have preferred one two-hour show last week. With all the eye candy again, especially the outdoor full-sunlight scenes, the excellent music score was a reminder of its importance. Here, the PQ from WNET-DT, via TWC, reminded me of the best HDNet Movies--dropped by TWC in a pricing dispute--use to offer. Maybe better than HDNet's older films, since these 2-perf 35mm Emma episodes seem to have exceptional color and resolution for Masterpiece theater. Again, assume that's from scanning negatives rather than prints with newer equipment. WNET-DT has two subchannels listed, but the PQ makes it look like WNET was piping 'full' 1080i via fiber to TWC's head end, and onward to viewers, without the reported PQ disadvantages of multicasting. Looks like Austen's re-aired Northanger Abbey starts next Sunday.
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post #30 of 38 Old 02-09-2010, 01:56 PM
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I'm with gwsat. This Emma just didn't do it for me. It missed most of the comedy, as Austen is usually pretty funny. It is the sort of fare that gives British television a bad name. (Cranford, on the other hand, shows how much the Beeb and Granada can shine.)

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