Am finishing up the body of the Aran cardy, and starting on the first sleeve. I wondered whether I should block the pieces before basting and cutting them, but can find no advice for or against this in the Almanac -- I'm guessing that it's not terribly important, or Elizabeth would have mentioned it. It seems to me that the stitches would lie flatter if I block it first, which might make a difference in where the machine-basting ends up, but on the other hand, the garter stitch edging is to be picked up afterwards, and it might be awkward to work a new bit onto a blocked bit. I'm leaning towards not blocking, simply because the gauge didn't change all that much with it, so it shouldn't matter terribly. If anyone thinks I'm making a dreadful mistake, please let me know!
I think this is what Elizabeth means by the "kangaroo-pouch neck-shaping" -- the instructions seem a bit casual. "About 3" shy of desired body-length," she writes, "put the center 1/3 of the front stitches on a piece of wool, cast on 2 stitches [I put one on each side of the departed stitches], and continue working. When the body is finished ... machine-stitch and cut the front center 3", which will fall apart to reveal a nicely scooped-out neck."
Frankly, this looks more like a codpiece to me, but I suppose that a) I've been watching too much of "The Black Adder," and b) "kangaroo pouch" is more tactful.
I'm also doing short-rows and a three-needle bind-off at the shoulders, instead of a stepped slant on the back half and sewn shoulder seams. I think the three-needle bind-off is wonderfully tidy, and more flexible than my sewing.
David and I went out for lunch and a movie yesterday, while Grandma was here to look after the girls. We tried a new Indian restaurant, and then went to see "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".
I wasn't really sure what to expect, having heard different reactions from friends and in print. I was very disappointed in the first few seconds, in which we see the Blitz from the viewpoint of the German bombers -- distracting and unnecessary -- but the non-Lewis addition of the evacuation scenes were so moving that I was in tears. (What an awful position to find oneself in, sending one's children away in order to keep them safe, or being sent away to live with strangers, in an already-disorienting time.) I thought it interesting that Edmund was the one who ran back from the Anderson to get the photograph of their father, not one of the others, who we could expect to be more sentimental.
I did not think that Tilda Swinton was particularly miscast (as I've heard from a certain person who may disagree at length here, if she likes!). Swinton always gives me the creeps anyway. I thought that her plastered dreadlocks were odd, but not out of character, as it were, although I found myself more distracted by her dress and its strange way of seeming that it contained her, rather than that she wore it. I could find, in my dash through the book last night, no mention that the White Witch is supposed to be dark-haired -- the only physical characteristic mentioned other than a general ominousness is her crimson lips -- and that mental image seems to be from the Baynes illustrations that so many of us grew up with (reinforced by Jadis' "later" appearance in The Magician's Nephew, published after LWW but set earlier in Narnia's history). I never found the Baynes illustrations of the White Witch to be particularly frightening, anyway, so it doesn't bother me.
A lot of the dialogue has been changed from the book, for reasons that on first viewing don't seem particularly obvious to me, other than to inject more humor into things (Mr. Beaver's first line, for instance). Lewis' dialogue always seemed to me very easy, very readable and speakable and natural, so it seems strange that it's been rewritten, but I can't really quibble much, never having written a movie. (Mr. Beaver's first line was pretty funny, after all.) I do think it unfortunate that it was felt necessary to "update" some of the wartime speech, especially when it was so painstakingly established to be that particular time and place. (It certainly doesn't hurt to use a different vocabulary now and then, or "dude" will soon be the only word people know.)
The effects in this movie are amazing -- the animals are so incredible that after a few moments I stopped being intrigued by the effect and just accepted that beavers and lions could talk. There were a few rear-projection inconsistencies that were jarring -- the backdrop when the children cross the frozen river, for one -- but otherwise it's just incredible. The expressions on Aslan's face are so subtle, so nuanced -- I would say "so human" if that weren't more than a little insulting! I liked that the filmmakers didn't make the animals more Beatrix-Potterish, like putting an apron on Mrs. Beaver or such (Tumnus' scarf was all right, as I worried that he was cold!), and I appreciated the way that the Beavers played off each other (an inspired bit of voice casting, there). I liked the little touches, too, such as the giants -- which in Lewis are rather stupid -- pushing each other and arguing on the way to the battle, and the way that the lamppost actually appears to be growing from the ground, with a treelike lumpiness of surface roots at the base, which we later, in The Magician's Nephew, find to be the case.
In fact, one of the few distractions I had during the movie -- aside from the cell phone ringing somewhere in the theatre during the Stone Table scene, for heaven's sake -- was thinking suddenly, "Is Susan's cloak ... knitted?"
This is not the best image of the cloak -- the first time she's wearing it, it looks like a fairly fine-gauge stockinette. Curious -- an interesting choice, if it is. A knitted cloak would not be particularly comfortable in the rain, but it would be warm otherwise and it certainly moves very nicely.
A lot has been said, in a number of places, about Susan, and quite rightly a lot of feminists are disappointed that it's the girl who grows away from Narnia when she gets interested in boys and make-up. Susan always struck me as being a bit wet, so it didn't surprise me that, in The Last Battle, she as "the pretty one" and the oldest girl of the family is the one who falls prey to the desire to fit in with what is obviously meant to appear to us as superficial. I'm not saying that in any given set of people, one of them has to lose the childlike innocence that lets one believe in magic wardrobes, but it does happen in real life. This is, after all, a story, and Susan's function in the story is as an example of what might happen to those who want only to "grow up" and fit in with everyone else. (Paul R. Ford makes an interesting point about Lewis' own character, which was in fact much more like Susan's than Lucy's, something Lewis himself realized and acknowledged.) While my sympathies were usually with Lucy, I could almost always identify with Susan's practicality (the coats, the meals) and often with her fears. Lucy is, of course, the one who is afraid but follows Aslan anyway, the point that Lewis wants to make. Lewis wasn't the only writer, by any means, to succumb like Susan to the stereotypes of his time and place -- it can't be argued that men didn't have the upper hand in pre-war England -- and while I don't think that women have to be satisfied that "at least" he gave the most important role to a female character, Lucy, it seems that in at least this he was willing to be fairly open-minded.
For some reason that I don't understand, I hesitate to say that this movie is "brilliant" -- my head is still swimming with the stunning images and the cultural implications, its problems and joys, the deep feelings I've had for these books ever since I first read them at age eleven or twelve. All in all, I found myself much more viscerally involved in this movie than in any of the three "Lord of the Rings" movies. (I knew what was going to happen, but that didn't stop me from gasping aloud when Edmund was wounded at the battle, and finding this inexpressibly moving.) I don't know if this is due to the movies themselves or to the stories -- I think of myself as being more than a little hobbitlike, but perhaps it is that I could never find myself in Middle Earth, but as Professor Kirke might point out it is not impossible that I too might, like Lucy, one day find a door into Narnia.