Movies

Avonlea Showdown: Which Anne of Green Gables is Better?

Three different versions of our Anne-girl.

L.M. Montgomery’s classic, Anne of Green Gables has inspired dozens and dozens of Annes on film and television since the book’s original publication in 1908. But, to my mind, there are only three worth real consideration: First, the famous and extremely popular 1985 adaptation that starred Megan Follows, long considered the modern gold standard of Montgomery’s vision. And then there have been two new versions causing quite a flutter recently, with fresh takes on Carrots and her fellow Prince Edward Island adventurers. The first came out late 2016 and aired in the U.S. chiefly on PBS stations (though the first installment is currently available to Amazon Prime streaming subscribers). The second debuted on Netflix in 2017.

So how do they stack up? Are any of these new Annes worthy of the Lake of Shining Waters or puff sleeves? I’m spitting out my lime once more, setting down my glass of gin, and cracking my knuckles in anticipation of another great showdown between rival cinematic loves. Just as with the Longbourn Showdown (Ahem, Pride and Prejudice fans), this will be much like Thunderdome, but with ipecac and red currant wine! So scoop the mouse out of the plumb pudding sauce and get ready!

Anne Shirley

Anne of Green Gables Showdown

Megan Follows vs. Ella Ballentine vs. Amybeth McNulty

I thought my Anne would always be Megan Follows, whose 1985 take was dramatically serious in her imagination and fantasies. Every dream and speech was an audition for  play, a sworn oath, with her gaze constantly averted skyward, and it was easy to imagine that Follows’s Anne was maybe destined for the stage. She never lacked sweetness, but came across as a bit more self-centered, at least, at first. And she was always a bit embarrassing. But I just took it for granted that this was sort of baked into the character.

In 2016, we got a fresh Anne from Ella Ballentine. And I’m just gonna say it–she’s awful. Sure her look is sweetly generic, but her freckles are irritatingly fake, as is her grin, and her overly sunny disposition plays as a carefree girl who could make it anywhere. She’s the Mary Tyler Moore of Avonlea. Plus, Ballentine reminds me of a young Lindsey Lohan. And that thought hobbles me like smelling cheap whiskey. I’ve been burned before.

By 2017, we got a very different Anne from Amybeth McNulty. Darker, grittier, and slightly traumatizing to my youth, retroactively. McNulty has a very distinct look that isn’t too adorable or charming. Like a young Shelley Duvall. She’s the orphan that’s a little more difficult for the residents of Avonlea to welcome. And, this is a traumatized Anne who is precocious, but also damaged. She is appropriately distrusting, but still sees the wonder in people and moments. In fact, McNulty’s Anne strikes just the right chord between fear, passion, and silly-heartedness.

This is a tough call. But for age, tone, and looks, McNulty’s Anne is the most believable. She seems real and touching, even with all her imperfections. I’m so sorry to slight Megan Follows this way. She was wonderful, but she was played the role a bit too old, and lacked a certain brightness of youth that McNulty can pull off poetically.

Winner: Amybeth McNulty as Anne Shirley 

McNulty


Marilla Cuthbert

Marilla Cuthbert Showdown

Colleen Dewhurst vs. Sara Botsford vs. Geraldine James

Three brilliant women who do a great service to one of my favorite literary characters of all time: Marilla Cuthbert. Geraldine James’s take stands out the most as a little bit harder around the edges, which matches her version’s tone. Still, she manages to thaw beautifully, as does each of our Marillas. Sara Botsford was maybe a little too accommodating and lovable, making her Marilla a little shallower and easy to please. Almost too easy.

But I note that while grasping for criticism. All the ladies are wonderful. But there must be one winner! And of course, it has to be Colleen Dewhurst. Our husky-voiced Marilla knows how to be harsh and deep, but incredibly loving all the same. Her boisterous anger at the neighbors is brilliant, and yet she can be subtle in her emotions. She is simply perfect, and I wish our Marilla was still around.

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Longbourn Showdown: Which Pride and Prejudice Version is Better?

Today in my Jane Austen confessional, I admit that I love both recent modern adaptations of Pride and Prejudice–that is to say, both the 1995 BBC version, and the 2005 Keira Knightley version. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, particularly when it comes to casting. I was recently mulling over a glass of gin, watching the lime wedge twirl around inside of it and muttering about what would make the perfect adaptation if only I could breed the two versions and add my own bits. There was a lot of wild gesturing, especially when I got to the bits about the Darcy performances. And since that seemed to keep me distracted for a couple hours, I figure it’s probably time that I put fingers to keyboard and organized my thoughts on the matter, sans gin.

Just to make this fun, let us do this in true showdown fashion. Like Thunderdome, but with more ribbons and carriages.

Elizabeth Bennet

Lizzie BennetsJennifer Ehle vs. Keira Knightley

Neither are the perfect Lizzie whom I pictured while reading the book. Ehle’s take on Lizzie is a little too sweet and coy. What is supposed to be a slightly cutting and wry wit is softened maybe just a tad too much. Whereas, Knightley goes too far in the opposite direction, making Lizzie a bit too moody and angry, and worst of all, not terribly clever. Appearance-wise, Knightley is almost entirely wrong. I do love her wardrobe immensely, but she is far, far too skinny for this role and would have been considered sickly looking for the time. In contrast, Ehle is much more fitting. It is only a shame that they did not allow her looks to be a little less formal. I wanted my Lizzie to have a just slightly feral look to her–not quite as buttoned up and pinned as her peers. Still, though I loved Knightley’s chemistry with her Darcy, this one hands down goes to Ehle!

Winner: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet

Best Elizabeth Bennet


Jane Bennet

The Better Jane Bennet

Susannah Harker vs. Rosamund Pike

Sweet, shy Jane. This is not a terribly challenging role, I imagine, but it is nevertheless important to pull off the perfect tone. Lean the wrong way, and Jane acts like a simple fool, or worse, a simpering lump of clay. And this is where Harker treads ever so slightly. Both Janes are all sweetness and humility, but Harker fails to demonstrate even the mildest passion, even when Jane is hushed away in a bedchamber with her little sister. Too sedate. Pike, on the other hand, was able to achieve the coyness and gentleness of spirit, while still seeming ensnared by the idea of romance. That extra breath of life gives Pike the edge. Plus…you know. Come on, let’s just out with it: There were some beauty issues with Harker. Allow me to declare firmly that Susannah Harker is a true beauty. But the 1995 styling did her no favors–especially in the hair department–and her pregnancy during filming altered her delicate facial features into a more mannish appearance. Trust me, she has my utmost sympathies on this count. While I dislike neither Jane, I must choose but one, so here it is.

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The Greatest Movies of All Time According to The Haunted Coconut

I guess I am a list maker. Ranking, rating, reviewing. Love it. And conceding that this is the case, and that my love of entertainment and fun has left me swirling in a vortex of lists, I had better include the most ubiquitous one there is: The Greatest Movies of All-Time! [echo, echo, echo!]

So here it is, my highly subjective list that is based on criteria including:

  • Star Power
  • Quality Performances
  • Re-watchability
  • Quotable Lines
  • Music
  • Clever Writing
  • General Enjoyment

Notice what isn’t on this list: Award and box office numbers. Toss out academic ideas about what was most influential on other filmmakers, which movies defined certain eras, or which roles were the high watermark for a certain performer’s career. I care little about benchmarks or importance, and more about the personal experience–specifically, my personal experience. In fact, the last criterium on my list–“General Enjoyment” is probably the most heavily weighted. Even if a movie is considered a cinematic pile of shit, if it is ceaselessly entertaining, then it matters. A lot. (This is something the Academy Awards will never understand.)

So without further drudgery, I submit to you my list of the greatest movies ever made, according to my own completely subjective, yet excruciatingly perfect opinion:

1. The Godfather & The Godfather Part II

Godfather

Fredo’s banana daiquiris, Sonny’s bridesmaid, the cannoli, Kate’s willful ignorance, Moe Green’s eyeball, the priest renouncing satan, Michael reaching behind the chain toilet, a young Clemenza helping himself to a rug.

2. The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski

The caucasian cocktails, Jesus bowling over the line, the lingonberry pancake-eating nihilists, the porno sketch on the notepad, Dude dancing to a Willie Nelson song, the ferret in the bathtub, and the fucking rug that tied the room together.

3. Spirited Away

spirited away

The soot sprites collapsing under their coal, the alarmist frog being eaten and spat out, the valuable railway ticket, the giant baby hidden in the pillows, the soak tokens for the big tub, the paper birds hitching a ride, a young girl who loves a river spirit, and our beautiful No Face who needs to stay with Granny for his own good.

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Remaking Groundhog Day

I cannot explain it. I have been obsessed lately with the idea that the movie Groundhog Day needs to be remade. With Bill Murray.

There, let’s get that first detail out of the way right now before too many of you roll your eyes about 80s and 90s classics being remade with peppy new soundtracks and overloaded jokes about texting a Twitter to make it au courant. I in no way advocate for a remake starring Mark Wahlberg or Melissa McCarthy. No, we need the man back. The funniest goddamn man on this planet: Bill Murray.

With that in mind, just consider all the ways in which we could elevate a cute, schlocky early-90s comedy into one of the greatest films of all time. The plot is already there–it’s a classic tale of magic, human nature, and redemption. We just need to strip away some of the varnish, the bouncy 90s soundtrack, and all of Andie MacDowell’s vests. And Andie MacDowell, who seriously is just a terrible actress.

People, I have a vision. A grand vision about how this could be brilliant. But there are rules. And none of these rules can be broken, or my adolescence will be retroactively ruined (more than it already was).

Rule #1: It Must Star Bill Murray

The excellent news is that the plot is not reliant at all on him being middle age. As of this posting, he is 66 years old, and the story will still work just perfectly. No reason he can’t have late-in-life new love, right?

bill-murraycurrent

He is still pitch-perfect, devilishly handsome, and the only man who can pull of this role properly. I don’t even know why I need to lay out this argument.

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