Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.

 Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net

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» Sunday, July 05, 2009
A Short Sunday
Well, all Sundays are short...LOL...especially when you sleep late.

In contrast with yesterday, today was cloudy with intermittent rain. When it rained it was cool; otherwise it was like a steambath.

James needed some shorts, so we went to WallyWorld. Found a good deal on them, too, and picked up a couple of other grocery things. Stopped by the house to get the Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons we forgot and went to buy a new frying pan. James was looking for a clip-on fan for his cubicle and didn't see one in either WalMart or BB&B. Linens'n'Things always had them. It figures: the better store was the one that went out of business.

We also stopped for a few minutes at Barnes & Noble. Notice there's a new "Politically Incorrect" guide, one on the Founding Fathers.

Came home to do one more necessary chore: change the A/C filters. They were both quite furry.

Otherwise what we ended up doing was watching the Little House on the Prairie miniseries they did for Disney a few years ago. We didn't see it from the very beginning, but missed the Big Woods part; came in as the Ingalls were headed west quickly so they could cross the Mississippi before the ice cracked.

I'm ambivalent about the production. Please note this had nothing to do with the television series, which was based on Wilder's On the Banks of Plum Creek, but called Little House on the Prairie because it followed a very good television movie by that name that covered the same plot as this miniseries: the Ingalls family moves to Indian Territory (which was mostly Oklahoma, but included a strip of Kansas, which is where the story is set) on land which they think is available for settlement. At the end of the story, the government throws them off the land because they are illegally settled there.

I have to admit this looked really good. The beginning was excellent in showing the hardship of the wagon journey. Some other "natural" parts, like Pa in the woods, the prairie fire, etc, were well done. They took pains to get the Osages not to be cookie-cutter clones of other Plains tribes, and they weren't deified or vilified. Charles Ingalls had a beard like he was supposed to. Mr. Edwards was bearded, but otherwise the "wildcat" from Tennessee. Much of the miniseries followed the book except that once again Jack the dog was the wrong breed: an Australian shepherd—they never can do the proper breed of Jack, who was what we would now call an American bulldog. But that doesn't really affect the story. Dr. Tan, the black doctor who was a true character, appears in the story.

On the other hand, they Hollywooded up many of the scenes, including the episode where the Osage are having a convocation to decide what they are going to do about the settlers. They turned this into a big siege scene. The incident where the big "loafer wolf" follows Pa and his horse suddenly includes Laura and turns into a big fight scene between Pa and the wolves, who don't attack him after he falls in the water. Nonsense. Pa is also attacked by a mountain lion.

But there were little things that were so irritating: the Scott family who helps the family is sort of a buffoonish elderly type and poor Mrs. Scott is a garrilous glutton to boot. No one ever combs their hair! Not only does Caroline wander around most of the time with her hair down and blown in her face, which married women never did, but Laura and Mary always seem to be in disorder with their hair in their faces. They wear straw hats instead of sunbonnets, which were de rigueur in the books. There are numerous scenes where Laura sneaks off and spies on the Indian camp, and she even plays with the children, something that Pa and Ma Ingalls would have never allowed. Ma allows Laura and Mary to say things they never would have said in the first place.

I found the music to be irritating most of the time. It had these spells where it went into ethereal fits with angelic humming in the background, which really didn't fit the time period. Even worse, it was a devotee of the "shakycam" school of filmmaking. The camera tilted one way, then the other, and there were weird shots from above, or underneath where the first thing you saw were horses' butts, fantasy sequences, nightmares, etc. There was a lot of scenes of Laura standing gap-mouthed looking at things, like the prairie fire, where the angle of the shot would rapidly change, dart in and out. Annoying as all get-out.

Pity they couldn't have cut out all the artsy-fartsy cinematography and put more period-appropriate music. It would have made the story must tighter and easier to watch. The cast was okay, but the actress who played Ma seemed more like a 20th-century kindergarten teacher than Caroline Ingalls. She probably would have done okay if the conventions of life back then were actually followed.

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