Leisure Learning: Filled with Love Edition

by Melissa Haas
published in Reading

This post is filled with love and packed with things that I either couldn’t wait to share with you or ones that you can utilize for learning over the next several years.

If you would like to see similar content (3 short things, that are often educational but not limited to literature), sign up for my biweekly newsletter at www.MelissaHaasCreates.com. No paywalls, no spam. Just 3 brilliant things that are actually worth your time.

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché 

Be Natural is a documentary about the world’s first female cinematographer, Alice Guy-Blaché, a name whose role expanded to include studio owner and director, screenwriter, actress, producer, and occasional detective. (After all, if you want to catch the culprit stealing your scripts and floating them to other studios, it’s just one of those things you’ve got to do yourself.)  

As a 22-year-old secretary in France, Alice was invited along with her boss, Louis Gaumont, to preview the first equipment used in motion picture making. She fell in love with the technology, realized its potential for storytelling (as opposed to strict documentation) and went on to make over 1,000 films. She took it upon herself to learn the science behind these new cameras, and when she combined her efforts with her style of storytelling, it resulted in a host of new techniques, very much like Orson Welles’ Citizen Cane

Like many female artists, her work has been overlooked – to an extent that should make Hollywood historians turn rogue. Even worse, in the course of this documentary, we find out along with an elderly Alice herself, that her work has often been credited to the men she’d hired as assistants.

Be Natural follows documentarian Pamela B. Green’s first-hand efforts at tracing Alice’s relatives and others to see who might have scraps of this obscure but powerful woman’s work. Jodie Foster narrates this beautifully rendered, slapstick-hilarious at times, ultimately “wow!”-inducing film that should not be missed by anyone who has ever had a story in their head.  

The Lost King

The Lost King is an exceptional film that will rally the hearts of leisure learners everywhere. It is based on the real life story of Phillipa Langley, now known as “The Kingfinder,” not only to her children but also scholars the world over. 

Disappointed in her career and struggling with a chronic health condition, Phillipa dutifully attends a school production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. During the play, she relates to the character of the deformed king in such a meaningful way that she becomes consumed with learning more about him. 

She reads everything that she possibly can about the king, attends meet-ups at pubs and professional conferences, until the real Richard appears to her, prompting her to right a historical inaccuracy.

To do this, she must find his body. It is this decade-long, topsy-turvy, rollercoaster of a journey that constitutes most of the film. Tackling problem after unforeseen problem, Philipa’s efforts result in changing the formal historical narrative as well as acknowledgment by the British monarchy itself.   

For detail oriented underdogs, The Lost King is a riveting movie that succeeds in shedding a positive light on the phrase “doing your own research” while fully delivering on all the good feels. Script by Steve Coogan.

For Jane Austen Fans

I know that there are a number of Jane Austen fans here at DIY MFA, and so I thought it only appropriate to include some of the best Jane links I’ve found. 

First off, take a virtual tour of Jane Austen’s House (aka The Jane Austen Museum). Not only can you see where both Emma and Pride and Prejudice were penned, but narrations from Jane’s own letters provide a uniquely intimate dimension to this experience. The website offers a rich collection of “all things Jane”, including an essay overview and examples of her teenage writing.  

Next, spend a lunch break exploring these divine English manor houses and other prominent locations associated with Austen’s work.  While gorgeous and informative, it might take some playing around to see what buttons move you around. Using Firefox for Windows, I had to hold the left mouse key while simultaneously using left and right arrows to take a 360° whirl around the estates.  

Finally, if you need a good laugh or quick minute of gratitude for modern day plumbing, check out these hygiene procedures that Jane, as well as her characters, would have practiced. 

Links of Links

The following entries lead to lengthy lists of links. Click on anything below and open an intellectual buffet of free books, potential projects, and a treasure trove of culture that should serve your intellectual curiosity for years to come.

  • In more of a mood to settle in with a book? Check out UpJourney’s roundup of all the places you can read or legally download free books.
    *They even have pages with high-end printable coloring books for the culturally minded.
  • DIY for DIYers. This extensive list of open source software provides you with endless opportunities to add to your creative arsenal. If you want to make an interactive feature for your book, author website or simply see what is possible with current technology, this is the place to go.     

Melissa Haas is the author and illustrator of Catula: The Misadventures of Dracula’s Cat and The Night Before Christmas (NOW WITH CATS), among others. Follow Catula’s whereabouts on Instagram @CatulaTheCat. If you’re interested in downloading free coloring pages or seeing Margaret Atwood with a blowtorch, check out more Leisure Learning related content at www.MelissaHaasCreates.com.

Enjoyed this article?