Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

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Yesterday, the Netflix/BBC adaption of Bram Stoker’s Dracula became available here in the United States. I’m a big fan of the Dracula mythos, have read the novel multiple times, read many other books featuring the character, and have seen too many film adaptions to count. Basically, if there’s a new Dracula movie, I watch it. So of course, yesterday I dropped everything to watch the three part miniseries, which runs about 4.5 hours.

Was it time well spent? Well…yes and no. Let’s take it one episode at a time. I’ll be including a few plot details, but no serious spoilers. We kick things off with…

Episode One: The Rules of the Beast

Dracula 1 The first episode gives a nod to the epistolary format of the novel by framing the narrative as a conversation between Jonathan Harker and Sister Agatha, who struggles with her faith but has made a serious study of vampires and the occult. The introduction of this character let me know right away that the show wasn’t planning on strict adherence to the source material, but that wasn’t really surprising. There are a lot of elements from the original story here, and the show’s take on Harker’s time in Dracula’s castle is creepy, visually engaging, and generally felt like a worthy adaption. I really enjoyed Claes Bang’s portrayal of Dracula as he used Harker’s blood (the show relies heavily on the idea that drinking blood allows the vampire to absorb knowledge, memories, etc.) to transform himself from an octogenarian, old-world aristocrat to a young, modern gentleman who would fit in well once he journeyed to London.

As Harker’s story came to a close, the show included some reveals that further distinguished it from the novel. I won’t get into specifics because of spoilers, but I will say that overall I didn’t mind the changes, because they were interesting and made me wonder where the show was headed. The climax of the episode was a confrontation with Dracula that showcased both his powers and his limitations. The situation surrounding this event was completely new, and while it felt a little forced, and went on a little too long, on the whole I thought it came together pretty well.

Overall, I enjoyed the first episode and happily went straight into…

Episode Two: Blood Vessel

Dracula 2 Here, Dracula shifts firmly into the role of protagonist. Once again, a large chunk of the episode is framed by storytelling, but this time it’s Dracula himself narrating. Again, we have an important section of the novel adapted and re-imagined. This time, it’s Dracula’s voyage on the Demeter. In the book, Dracula is only glimpsed as he slowly picks off the ship’s crew. The show greatly expanded the story of this trip, adding a collection of passengers, including Dracula himself. As the death toll mounts, the count actually participates in the attempts to find the murderer. I would have liked to see a little more exploration of a few things (specifically, several of the passengers and their connections), but you can’t have everything. Unlike the Demeter’s doomed voyage in the novel, in the show a group of survivors discovers Dracula’s nature and we have another confrontation.

I liked the second episode as much as the first, especially because of the flavor of a mystery story, a genre I really enjoy. I was looking forward to seeing how everything played out in…

Episode Three: The Dark Compass

Dracula 3 …when, in my opinion, the whole thing falls apart. After the events on the Demeter, Dracula wakes up in the modern world, and it turns out that he has been expected. I was dubious about this turn of events from the start, but was willing to give it a go. What I was expecting was a new interpretation of the London events of the novel, with a spin on Lucy Westenra’s turning and the subsequent final confrontation with Dracula. Was I got was…not that. Honestly, this episode simply couldn’t decide what it wanted to be about, and became a strange collection of shallow characters, poorly developed conflicts, and plot holes. It was completely lacking in tension, and the resolution was as bland as it was unsatisfying. Stories can be changed, adapted, reinvented, etc…but any story needs to be good.

This version of Dracula ended up being 2/3 pretty good, and 1/3 hot mess. I’d say it’s worth three hours…but not four and a half.

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Seen it? Want to see it? Other thoughts? Let’s chat.

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Happy New Year, everyone. I hope 2020 is off to a great start.

I’m officially calling an end to my Blogmas and probably won’t be posting again until Sunday. I’m super proud of myself for thirty-two straight days of blogging, but after much consideration I’ve decided not to try continuing to post every day. I enjoyed the experience, but found it to be occasionally stressful, struggled with ideas a few times, and discovered that posting daily left me without the creative energy to write the longer and more detailed posts that I’ve been doing since starting this blog.

So I’m returning to the old format of one main post on Sundays, but I’m planning to try writing at least one additional post a week to share something that’s going on, a lesser known holiday, or a focused idea (more along the lines of my Blogmas posts). We’ll see how that goes, especially since things are picking up at work again.

Thanks for reading and supporting me over the past month. I’m looking forward to a fantastic new year!

best life

How are you starting 2020?

New Year Party

2019 is almost behind us (and, in a few early time zones, is already gone). I hope it’s been a wonderful year for all of you, and that you’re ready to welcome the new year with hope and anticipation.

I’ve kept New Year’s Eve pretty low key for the past few years, preferring small gatherings with family or friends to large events. I guess I’ve gotten a little too old for serious partying. Lol.

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What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?

books

The best thing about the holidays is spending time with family and friends. The second best thing is having more free time. I chose to spend a lot of mine reading. With a whole week off work, I binge read like nobody’s business, and put ten more books in the “finished” column. That brings me up to 267 for the year.

Back in September, I wrote two posts about increasing reading, including whys and hows. If you missed those, here they are:

Being able to spend several hours each day lost in a story has been one of the highlights of the past week.

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What’s your favorite way to spend extra leisure time?

To Do List

Being somewhat hooked on to do lists, I have day like this about once a week, but today is the official Still Need To Do Day. Today is a great day to:

  • Take stock of the things you wanted to accomplish in 2019, and try to get in a few you’ve left untried or unfinished.
  • Tackle some of the things you set aside during the rush of the holidays.
  • Set yourself up for a clean slate for a new week/month/year.

I’m concentrating on two things today. First, post-holiday business, like cleaning and finding a home for Christmas gifts. This year, I received lots of stuff for the house, so I have a pile of things to put up or put away. Second, for the past week I’ve completely unplugged from my job (which is pretty rare for me), so I have emails to read and material to review so I’m ready to hit the ground running when business resumes.

You Can Do It

What’s on your list?

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Today is National Call a Friend Day, intended to motivate everyone to take the time to have a conversation. A lot of our communication these days happens digitally, through emails, social media posts, texts, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t quite the same as a real time, back and forth conversation. I’m a big fan of conversation (I prefer face to face, but on the phone is still pretty good), and make an effort to have regular talks with the important people in my life. Even so, when I took some time to reflect and take stock this morning, I easily thought of several friends I haven’t actually talked to in weeks.

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I’m going to be making some calls and catching up with them over the next few days, starting today.

Let Me Know

Are there people you need to catch up with? How important do you think it is to have phone or face to face conversations?

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My parents and I had been planning to see Knives Out since we saw the first trailer, and after all the great reviews we were even more excited. So last night we went out to dinner and then settled in for just over two hours of whodunit fun. Did it live up to our expectations? Well, let’s see:

  • Appropriate Setting? Check. The central location is the Thrombey estate, which at one point is very accurately compared to a Clue board. It sets (and maintains) the perfect tone for the film.
  • Interesting Victim? Check. Christopher Plummer plays Harlan Thrombey, a mystery writer who is found dead on the day after his eighty-fifth birthday. In flashbacks, we get to know Harlan, a very successful mystery author dealing with a family that hits all the standard wealthy family tropes. We soon learn that he was extremely intelligent, clever, and sympathetic.
  • Quality Suspect Pool? Check. Harlan’s entire family had gathered to celebrate his birthday, so there’s a collection of children, grandchildren, and in laws to suspect, as well as his housekeeper and nurse. They all have secrets, and most of them are eager to get their hands on Harlan’s money and property, as well as the rights to his novels.
  • Charismatic Detective? Check. Daniel Craig gives a great performance as Benoit Blanc, a famous private investigator who is hired anonymously to look into the death, which the police are about to rule as a suicide. Watching his investigation is a delight, especially when he discusses a few extended metaphors that are absolute writing gold.
  • Twists and Turns? Check, Check, Check. It’s hard to say too much about this without spoilers, which I always avoid (and in the case of a whodunit, that’s even more important), so let me just say that the movie definitely leaves you guessing.

A few other notes:

  • The movie has a lot more talk than action, which contributed to an old school feel that I really enjoyed.
  • The entire cast was excellent, with Chris Evans’s performance as the family’s black sheep a definitely highlight. He has some of the best lines, and it’s especially fun to see the man best known as Captain America taking a turn at sarcasm, insults, and callousness.

Highly, highly recommended.

Popcorn

Seen any good movies lately? What’s on your watch list?