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Emma: Jane Austen Rides Again!

Jane Austen wrote her novel "Emma" back in 1815. It’s never stopped being popular.

That fact has not escaped Hollywood, evidenced by the fact that it has been brought to the big screen twice in two decades; once in 1996 with Gwenyth Paltrow in the starring role and again in a new release just hitting theaters this weekend.

Emma was also a television series in 2009 and 2010 on the BBC.

It would seem to be part of Jane Austen’s remarkable reemergence recently with the remaking of Little Women last year. Katharine Hepburn starred in an early Hollywood version of that film way back in 1933.

I’d be remiss to not mention a very popular updated adaptation of Emma that was released back in 1995.

I am of course referring to the movie Clueless starring Alicia Silverstone, written and directed by Amy Heckerling. It was nothing short of brilliant, proving that something very old, could indeed be new again. And hip. And funny. And wildly entertaining

So Emma is back. And Jane Austen’s timeless story is back.

The early buzz on the new version was very positive with a lot of attention on its new leading lady Anya Taylor- Joy.

Anya really grabbed my attention with her standout performance in the creepy low-budget horror film The Witch back in 2015. She was pretty much an unknown making her mark early-on in her career. We all wondered what would follow.

All I can say is that she more than lives up to all the hype regarding her portrayal of Emma Woodhouse.

It’s a memorable performance; one that will hopefully be remembered a year from now when the members of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences make their Academy Awards nominations.

You’d be tempted to just hand her the Best Actress Oscar right now. She’s that good.

The same can be said of her co-stars: Mia Goth as Harriet Smith, Miranda Hart as Miss Bates and Bill Nighy as Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse.

I want to take a moment to mention my admiration for the work of Bill Nighy, who is such a welcome presence in pretty much every movie he’s in.

He has that rare ability to make even minor characters memorable, Like a truly great actor, he always makes it seem so effortless and easy. He never seems to be acting, which of course is the mark of a real master.

Emma is a beautiful film to behold. I’d suggest Oscar nominations for Best Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. Let’s throw in Best Editing, too. This is a quality film, from top to bottom.

I doubt that Emma will be a runaway success at the box office.

I suspect that Jane Austen stories will skew toward female audiences and maybe only those with a taste for literary classics.

I enjoyed it as a well-crafted movie. If you love movies, there is a lot to see, appreciate and enjoy here.

This might be the best screen portrayal of Emma you're ever going to see. It oozes depth and nuance.

Anya Taylor-Joy makes every moment count. In my estimation, she hits every proverbial note, down to the last detail.

While watching Emma, I was reminded of another period piece I really enjoyed many years ago, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.

Granted, it might not be regarded as Kubrick’s best film, but it really made a splash with its stunning visual beauty and technical virtuosity.

I was a film student working on my doctorate at Temple University back in those days and I knew enough about filmmaking to be blown away with Kubrick’s epic landscapes and jaw-dropping breakthrough interior scenes illuminated by mere candlelight, shot with specially designed, low light camera lenses.

As always, Kubrick elevated moviemaking to the level of visual art.

Emma may not be a cinematic tour de force on that extent , but it does deliver scenes of elegance and natural beauty reflective of old school filmmaking and artistic craftsmanship. I was impressed.

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