With my Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon underway and the start of May around the corner, it’s time for another Buzzwordathon book review! For April, the theme is ‘Big & Little’. Participants had one of two options: 1. Read a book that has the word ‘big’ or ‘little’ in the title or 2. The title has to feature a word associated with ‘big’ or ‘little’. Because I happen to own a beautiful copy of A Little Princess and because ‘little’ is in the middle of that book’s title, I decided to read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic! The 1905 story has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. However, this is the first time I read it in a novel format.
While reading A Little Princess, I became nostalgic of the 1995 adaptation, as I have loved that film since its release. So, it was interesting to read how similar and different the movie was from its respective source material. One major difference is how Frances provides explanations for character motivations and situations. I haven’t seen the 1995 adaptation of A Little Princess in years. From what I remember, though, Sara’s dad goes missing during battle and is assumed dead. This provides the catalyst for Sara’s struggles and lost fortune. Looking back on the film, it never made sense, to me, for Sara to lose everything simply because her father was missing in action. If her dad knew there was a chance he could be in danger, wouldn’t he have created a will for Sara? The source material provided a stronger explanation for the lost fortune, as Sara’s father invested in diamond mines, but his money was mishandled. Even though this situation is resolved by the book’s end, the inclusion of these explanations was a strength for the book itself!
Another strength of the book is how Frances used descriptions to flesh out the characters and their world. At the beginning of the story, Sara is referred to as “wise beyond her years”. She’s also described as “intelligent”, “imaginative”, and “courageous”. Interactions between characters and narrations from an anonymous narrator provide proof of those statements. On the first day of class, Miss Minchin gives Sara a French textbook in preparation for an upcoming French lesson. Throughout this scene, Sara tries to explain to the headmistress that she already knows basic French, as she grew up learning the language from her dad. It’s not until the French teacher arrives that he and Miss Minchin discover how advanced Sara is in French. In the 1995 adaptation, important and timeless messages and themes can be found throughout the story. That is also true for the source material! Because Sara imagines she is a princess, she assumes how a princess would behave. This includes assuming how a princess would treat others. After finding some money on the ground, Sara plans to buy some food from a nearby bakery. But just before she enters the bakery, Sara sees a girl who appears to be worse off than herself. With the found money, Sara purchases a set of rolls. But she ends up giving most of the rolls to the aforementioned girl.
Even though A Little Princess has been near and dear to my heart, I’ll be one of the first readers to admit it is not a perfect or near perfect book. Though this flaw wasn’t consistent throughout the text, there were times when parts of the story were repetitive. A portion of the book’s last chapter provides a great example, as it re-caps almost everything that happened prior to that point. As a reader, I don’t like longer chapters. This can, sometimes, cause a book’s pace to be slower. While A Little Princess’ pace was steady, the book contained longer chapters, with thirteen pages given to the longest chapter. In my copy of the book, there are full page illustrations that bring to life certain parts of the story. I honestly wish these illustrations had a more consistent presence, as they could have broken up some of the chapters. Other than that, though, I still enjoyed reading A Little Princess all these years later! I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to read it again!
Overall score: 4.1 – 4.2 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: Because A Little Princess was published in 1905, some of the words and phrases are reflective of that time, with their context different from today. A few of these words are “queer”, “gay”, “fat”, and “chubby”. At one point in the story, a man from India is referred to as “oriental”. There is also a stereotype about Chinese people included in the text. Again, these parts of the story are reflective of the book’s time; 1905.
When I write a Word on the Street story, I sometimes talk about stories that were covered on the Youtube channel, Clownfish TV. I not only like Kneon and Geeky Sparkle’s commentary, but I also learn about subjects I never would have known about before. So, when I watched one of their newer videos, I figured it would be an interesting topic to discuss on 18 Cinema Lane! In the video, ‘Elizabeth Banks Doing a BEANIE BABIES Movie?!’, my initial assumption was the movie being similar in execution to the 2014 hit, The Lego Movie. But as I watched the video, I learned the film would revolve around the popularity of Beanie Babies in the ‘90s. While analyzing an article from The Hollywood Reporter, Kneon and Geeky share how actors Elizabeth Banks and Zach Galifianakis are going to headline a film based on The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute, a book written by Zac Bissonnette. According to the original article, the movie will focus on the production and consumption of the classic stuffed animals, including “a celebration of the women who helped power Ty Warner’s success”.
While watching Kneon and Geeky’s video, ‘Elizabeth Banks Doing a BEANIE BABIES Movie?!’, they brought up a documentary titled Beanie Mania. In this documentary, the rise and fall of Beanie Babies are explored. From “a lot of drama” to “the one woman even has a rap song she wrote” (referring to a rap song dedicated to the Beanie Babies), Beanie Mania presents the perspectives of those heavily affected by the iconic toy. As I watched Kneon and Geeky’s video and listened to their commentary, I couldn’t help but feel Elizabeth and Zach’s project was a re-hash of the HBO Max documentary. When speculating which direction the film was headed, Geeky says “I think their take on it’s going to be very similar, cause I think the one guy that wrote the book they’re basing it on was in the documentary”. With this and everything else said, it makes me wonder what is the point of Elizabeth and Zach’s movie? What can they offer to the conversation that Beanie Mania didn’t? Personally, I’d like to see a documentary about Tickle Me Elmo, the coveted toy that dominated 1996.
Speaking of re-hashed ideas, this next story I found in Kneon and Geeky’s video, as it was an advertised article on Deadline’s website. According to the aforementioned site, Justin Kroll writes about a “remake of the classic thriller To Catch a Thief” in the pre-production stages. The Paramount Pictures project has recruited Gal Gadot to star in the film and produce it. Eileen Jones will pen the script, with Jaron Varsano and Neal Moritz also producing the movie. Similar to what I said about the Beanie Baby film, I wonder what the point of this remake is? I know you can ask that about any cinematic production. But what can this creative team bring to the table that Alfred Hitchcock and his team hasn’t already? Personally, I think the remake seems unnecessary.
What are your thoughts on these movie news stories? Are you anticipating any of the projects mentioned in this article? Let me know in the comment section!
When I was invited by The Classic Movie Muse to join their It’s a Wonderful Life Blogathon, I had no idea what to write about. Because there are so many moving parts to this seventy-five-year-old film, it was kind of overwhelming to choose just one aspect. But then I remembered an editorial written by fellow blogger, J-Dub. On their blog, Dubsism, they have a series called ‘Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate’. The first entry was about It’s a Wonderful Life. In this editorial, J-Dub explains, without the sugar-coating, bells, or whistles, why they don’t like the Christmas classic. While I respect J-Dub’s opinion, I personally disagree with them. These differing viewpoints inspired me to write my editorial, where I defend It’s a Wonderful Life. Like I have said in previous editorials, my article is not meant to be mean-spirited or negative. It is only meant to express my opinion and present a different view to the subject of It’s a Wonderful Life. If you are interested in reading J-Dub’s article, you can visit their blog at dubsism.com.
Debunking the “Lie” of It’s a Wonderful Life
Throughout the editorial, ‘Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate’: Episode 1 – “It’s A Wonderful Life”, J-Dub claims the film is a lie. They believe the film is not only filled with nihilism, but that Pottersville is wrongfully villainized. J-Dub also says the film tells the viewer they are among “jerks who will crush our dreams for no other reason so they can suck the life out of us”. This statement relates to J-Dub’s belief that everyone in George’s life is trying to hold him back. For this part of the editorial, I’m going to discuss three points. The first point is about Pottersville. While the glitzy sparkle of the “dream town” may give the appearance of a successful paradise, it’s what the city represents that is important.
When George first visits Pottersville, he is unfamiliar with his surroundings. Beloved locals have drastically changed, but so have its citizens. One of these citizens is Nick, a bartender who works at Martini’s Bar. In the “dream town”, Nick owns the bar. With this ownership comes a mean attitude. He not only treats George and Clarence horribly, he also embarrasses Mr. Gower. The pharmacist in this “dream town” is now an ostracized criminal who is known for poisoning a patient. This leads me to my second point. The idea of success is not a bad one. However, it has the ability to change people for the worse. Pottersville is also the complete opposite of Bedford Falls, with Bedford Falls representing familiarity. Why do so many movie studios and companies choose to revisit well known franchises and IPs? It’s because they can, sometimes, capitalize on a fandom’s familiarity with certain characters and stories. Familiarity can also be experienced during the Christmas/holiday season, as people may choose to gather with those they are familiar with or carry on familiar traditions. Therefore, Bedford Falls’ representation of familiarity debunks J-Dub’s claim of the film containing nihilism.
My third point involves the people in George’s life. Earlier in this part of my argument, I mentioned how J-Dub feels the characters surrounding George are holding him back. But when you pay attention to what these same characters are saying and doing, this is not the case. Let me bring up Mary as just one example. Ever since they were children, Mary knew George wanted to travel the world. That was the plan after they got married. But when the Bailey Building & Loan was in financial trouble due to the Great Depression, those plans quickly changed. After seeing George desperately trying to help his clients, it was Mary’s idea to use their honeymoon money to pay these clients. To make up for the financial sacrifice, Mary organizes a honeymoon dinner at the infamous Sycamore House. The living room in this house is decorated with posters of faraway lands. Music fills the room to help elaborate the immersion of travel. Throughout the scene, Bert and Ernie can be seen assisting Mary in her plan of giving George a thoughtful alternative. If she was truly a “millstone” around George’s neck, why would Mary bother helping George save the Building & Loan on more than one occasion? Why would she plan the honeymoon dinner on the same day as the aforementioned crisis? Heck, why would Mary take the time to pray for George at the beginning of the movie? Personally, I think Mary serves as George’s reminder of what really matters the most.
George is the “Every Person”, Not a Criminal
A point J-Dub stresses in their editorial is how George Bailey is a criminal. This is because they see the protagonist as “a predatory lender” by “economically enslaving a large part of the town’s population by saddling them with debt they can never pay”. There are instances throughout the movie where Bailey’s Building & Loan is struggling to get by. Potter has explained the operations of “Bailey Park”, where the homes are lower in initial value. But these things are not done to cheat the system or live above the law. As the audience can see even from George’s younger years, the folks at Bailey’s Building & Loan simply care about people.
When the viewer is first introduced to George’s father, he is conducting a meeting with Potter. In this meeting, Potter claims the establishment’s payments are late. While this statement is true, Mr. Bailey tells Potter he is waiting payment from his clients, as he extended their deadline in order to prevent them from losing their homes. As George grows up and eventually takes over the Building & Loan, he chooses to follow in his father’s footsteps by putting the customer first. The purpose of “Bailey Park” was to provide their customers with the option of owning a house, instead of renting one through Potter. Even when Uncle Billy loses the $8,000 the Building & Loan needs to stay afloat, the situation is nothing more than an accident. Though Potter does threaten to have George arrested for the missing $8,000, he does this because he thinks his plan will help him finally achieve the Building & Loan, the same establishment he has always wanted to own. As George’s father said about Potter, “He hates anybody that has what he can’t have”.
George Bailey is one of the most beloved characters in not only the realm of Christmas movies, but within the world of cinema. Like I said in the title of my second argument, George is the “every person”, which makes him a memorable and likable character. Throughout the story of It’s a Wonderful Life, George experiences his ups and downs. He can become so frustrated, he destroys the architectural corner of his living room. But there are moments where he places others before himself, with George helping Violet start a new chapter in her life by giving her money as one example. Even though George’s life plays out differently from those in the audience, it does contain a sense of relatability. While working in the drug store one day, George is mistreated by Mr. Gower. The pharmacist physically hurts and yells at George for not delivering a bundle of pills. During this ordeal, George stands up to his employer, explaining how the pharmacist mistakenly placed poison in the pill capsules. This mistake was caused by Mr. Gower’s consuming grief, due to his son, Robert, dying of Influenza. Everyone has experienced a time in their life when bravery was needed. Because bravery can look different for each individual, the audience may see George’s decision as a huge step in his story. They may also see it as “something big, something important”.
Standing Up for Clarence
Another aspect of disagreement between J-Dub and I is Clarence the Angel. J-Dub is not a fan of this character. They claim Clarence uses “predatory skills” to give George a false narrative by “misrepresenting reality in order to make an exceptionally nihilistic point”. Even as the film begins, the script makes it pretty clear Clarence really wants to earn his wings. But if you’ve been waiting over 200 years to get what you wanted, you’d make sure you did your job as best you could. Plus, with Clarence having the “heart of a child”, he wants to find the best in George’s character. While Clarence accepts his mission with awaiting wings in mind, he is not selfish. At the end of the film, Clarence gives George his copy of Tom Sawyer. Also, when George makes his ultimate wish of having never been born, Clarence gives George what he wants. But this granted wish is used as a teachable moment; showing how getting what you want doesn’t always mean getting it the way you want.
The “dream world” Clarence creates was never meant to be literal or mess up time. Instead, this exaggerated alternate universe was simply a visual example of a very important point. After being kicked out of Nick’s Bar in the “dream world”, Clarence tells George “Each man’s life touches so many other lives”. Even though this can be said about any other character in this film, George is the one who needed to hear it the most. At that point in the story, George is filled with fear, insecurities, and self-doubt. In fact, one of George’s reasons for considering suicide was Potter’s harsh claim that George is “worth more dead than alive”. If it’s anybody giving a false narrative, it’s Potter. With that said, Clarence tries to expose Potter’s lies throughout his mission.
George Plays His Part
In their editorial, J-Dub claims George “runs into a gigantic example of “crab in the bucket” syndrome”. This connects to their previously stated belief that the people in George’s life are holding him back. Toward the beginning of the film, George told his father he wanted to do “something big, something important”. That’s why he had dreams of going to college to become an architect. George’s father reminds him how working at the Building & Loan is important, as they are helping people acquire a home. As the story plays out, George’s father is proven right. Another way Mr. Bailey is proven right is during World War II. Everyone in Bedford Falls does their part to help the war effort. One of George’s responsibilities is hosting various drives, such as a scrap metal drive. Even though this seems like a small role in the grand scheme of things, it is “something big, something important”. United States history will tell you every aspect of the war effort provided a huge help in winning World War II. This includes things like scrap metal drives, as the metal was used to create weapons and machinery for the U.S. troops. Having those materials available was not only “big”, but “important” as well. George’s role may not have been glamourous like Potter’s life or news worthy like Harry’s military achievements. But to everyone who was helped by George, his role made a tremendous difference.
Though this editorial was submitted to celebrate the 75th anniversary of It’s a Wonderful Life, it was written to present a different opinion from that of a fellow blogger. J-Dub is not wrong for disliking this film and I’m not correct for defending it. What I’m emphasizing is how subjective film is. Both J-Dub and I approached the same movie. We each wrote an editorial, presenting the material in two differing ways. This provides more content for the reader and an opportunity to keep the conversation going. Maybe this is why It’s a Wonderful Life has been well-regarded for so long. Remember when I said how there are so many moving parts to this film? Well, I’m starting to realize that’s the beauty of it. No matter which aspect of the story you choose, there’s a conversation waiting to be spoken. With that said, I hope you check out J-Dub’s editorial. They put as much work into theirs as I did into mine. When it comes to blogathons, that’s what it’s really all about.