Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Worst Thing Ever In the History of Film Media

It's been almost 20 years since I've taken a math class. Eighteen years, to be precise. That math class is a story in and of itself, but it is where it was last emphasized to me that if one makes a mistake at the beginning of a long and complicated problem, said mistake compounds itself as one continues to work. My crazy, French Calculus professor (and it's too bad you can't hear the explanation in his hilarious, excited French accent--he was always VERY excited about Calculus) explained it thus, "If you make a tiny mathematical error here, then your graph is just a little off when you start plotting, but the further you get from the starting point, the wider the space between where you are and where you're supposed to be." This seemed fairly useless information at the time. I wasn't going to be a math major. I only took the class because the University said I had to do so to graduate. However, Professor French Guy had a very important point. One that, it turns out, is easily applicable to other parts of life.

Like miniseries.

I think it has been well documented previously that I freaking LOVE a miniseries. They are so much fun. Long. Usually pretty soapy. Dramatic. TONS of people who either used to be famous or are about to be. My two favorites are War and Remembrance and North and South. They're war-centric and based on hugely popular books. The former is pretty faithful to the novel. I guess you really don't have to go for added histrionics, romance and melodrama when the central plot involves an American Jewish lady who gets trapped in Nazi-controlled Europe and ends up in Auschwitz. In the latter, some tweaking happened--characters were combined, characters who weren't killed were and characters who were were not, and in the third installation, George and Madeline's marriage of convenience was turned into a mad-hot, sex-up-against-the-porch-railings torrid affair, and what's not to love about THAT? Anyway, the point is that even when a miniseries goes way, WAY off the rails (please see for reference Scarlett which has little to do with the book on which it's based. Which is convenient because the novel, Scarlett, has little to do with Gone with the Wind) it can be so spectacularly awful that it still is totally awesome. We like to call this the Grease 2 Phenomenon.

And the point of all that is to tell you that Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning is the most horrible thing that has ever happened. Ever. You see, with the advent of Netflix, hundreds, nay...hundreds of THOUSANDS of films, tv series, documentaries, miniseries and assorted other watchable-type things which I would have previously had to track down and purchase for an exorbitant price were suddenly right at my fingertips. Which is why, when it came up in my 'suggested' list I immediately put it in my queue. Wait...not just that. I moved it to the TOP of my queue. Now admittedly I was a little leery. This is actually the fourth Anne miniseries. The first two, which are absolutely SUBLIME, were made in the mid-80s, and starred, as Anne Shirley, Megan Follows, who was just amazing. They cover (with a smidge of dramatic license which I heartily condone) the first four books written by Lucy Maud Montgomery about the spunky red-haired orphan. Like I said...a few tweeks. The period of the mini is (weirdly) moved forward about 15 to 20 years from where it is in the books. Anne is a couple of years older to start out, ostensibly to accommodate having the same actress--again, the imcomparable Miss Follows--play Anne all the way through the story. The entire fourth book is moved, timeline-wise, to the middle of the third book. The love interest in Book 3, used to potentially spoil the main romance of Anne and Gilbert is scratched, and an infinitely better romance is placed into the story of the fourth book (because, if you've watched it, dashing, taciturn, Darcy-esque Morgan Harris is WAAAAAAY better than bores-to-tears Roy Gardiner). So long story long...the first two Anne of Green Gables miniseries are made of win.

The third? Not so much. The EIGHTH Anne book is about Anne and Gilbert only peripherally. It's really about their six(!) children during WWI. The third miniseries bastardizes this horribly. Since the story was moved forward in time in the original outing, it's Anne and Gilbert involved in WWI. Which would be okay if the story wasn't so ludicrous and silly. The tiniest slivers of story were gleaned from the book and the rest is just...idiotic. It's not the worst thing ever, but it's..bad. Not over the top enough to verge into true, cheeseball awesomeness and not close enough to the characters as I know them to actually care.

Which is why I was both horrified and intrigued by the fourth miniseries. And it managed to fulfill my every desire. At least as to the horrified part. It's AWFUL. First and foremost, Anne is played by Barbara Hershey. Which...just NO. AND in the first minute and a half...GILBERT IS FUCKING DEAD??!?!?! WHAT THE HELL??!?!?! I already hated it, but I kept watching. And then it goes into this supremely asinine flashback, where we are supposed to be shown Anne's life BEFORE she was adopted and came to Green Gables. Which would be fine IF it didn't contradict EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Anne had ever said about her past. Thus making her, rather than a charming and imaginative child, A PATHOLOGICAL LIAR. As if that wasn't enough, the newly retconned backstory involves Shirley MacLaine. Who should know better. Because she's an awesome, awesome lady. And yet she's involved in this tripe. I mean, she's good, 'cause she's still Shirley MacLaine, but everything around her--from the scenery-gnashing child playing Anne right on down to the dreadful backstory and bore-you-to-tears,grown-up Anne story--positively reeks.

I realize that if you aren't the kind of person who loved the Anne books and original miniseries this would be but a merely subpar television happening. But for me, and I guess all true fans, this was an anathema. It was literally so awful that with probably half an hour to go, I took the DVD out, laid it to the side and then blocked it so thoroughly from my memory that Netflix sent me an email saying, "Did you forget to return our DVD?" because I was watching things on instant queue instead.

Sorry, Netflix. It was trauma-induced amnesia. You can have the DVD. In fact, please...take it now. And remember that YOU are the ones who recommended the stupid thing in the first don't be surprised when I sue you for intentional infliction of emotional harm

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