Books and movies that made the cut for February digestion. Some have mini-reviews, some don’t. Enjoy or skip: I’ll never know. ;D
* Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst and others) – Well, I saw it. So now I can say I saw it.
* Anatomy of a Murder (Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara and a ton more) – Wow. This one starts kinda slow, but before you know it, you’re fully invested in this murder trial. A granddaddy of the genre, and well worth a rental. Although the crazy way crimes were investigated back then might make you wonder how anybody ever got caught.
* The Brethren, by John� Grisham – Not bad. Standard Grisham.
* Thank You For Smoking – Not a documentary, this is the story of a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. It’s cringingly funny at times.
* Mazes and Monsters – A guilty pleasure from years ago. Anybody who’s ever gotten excited by a roll of the dice letting your magic user evaporate a Deadly Slime Mold might get some gentle, wistful enjoyment from this story about college students who get tooooo caught up in their D&D. Stars a baby big-eyed Tom Hanks, back before he was anybody.
* Stardust – I love this dippy movie, unapologetically. The seven dead brothers are totally awesome, as is Captain Shakespeare.
* Sister Theresa, by Barbara Mujica – Fascinating novel about Teresa Sanchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, a wealthy and spoiled young woman in Avila, Spain, who goes on to become Sister Teresa of the Discalced Carmelite order. Barefoot Carmelites. After a tumultuous life of faith in the late 1500s, Theresa was beatified in 1614 and canonized in 1622.� Saint Theresa was also, later, named one of the Doctors of the Catholic Church, a rare honor. The fictionalized account of her life draws on many historical sources and is very well written. Based on the way she’s portrayed, I think I would’ve liked her.
* Interworld, by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves – A kid’s book, basically. Took me about a day to read. Nothing special.
* Off the Black (Nick Nolte, Timothy Hutton, Trevor Morgan) – I don’t even recall what brought this movie to my attention, but I’m so glad I watched it. I truly enjoyed the off-kilter tale of an old drunk and the friendship he strikes up with a teen-ager he catches vandalizing his house. Completely unsentimental but oddly affecting. Oh, and one thing that made me want to scream: This movie has no violence, no sex, no nudity, very little talk about any of those things. And yet it’s rated R. Hello? In scanning through it again, the only thing I saw that could POSSIBLY be offensive is that one time the old guy tells the young guy to quit being a pussy. Is that enough for an R, when movies that featured blood, gore, violent death, exploding city buses, multi-car pileups and cannibalism can get a PG-13?
* The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Absolutely excellent movie. I have no idea why it didn’t draw the raves that other movies did last year. Maybe it’s because it’s slow moving. But it’s the flat-out most gorgeous movie I’ve seen since Out of Africa and Alatriste. You could just about freeze any frame and put it up for sale as fine art. Casey Affleck is totally creepy, and Brad Pitt is disturbingly heart-breaking. A terrific character study, and not a shoot-em-up at all. Maybe that’s why it sank.
* Persepolis – I couldn’t believe this actually came to a theater near me. It’s a subtitled French animated movie about a young woman’s life, growing up in Iran during 70s. It’s stylized and in black and white. It’s wonderful.
* There Will Be Blood – An inflated mess of a movie that works desperately overtime to try and cover the fact that it isn’t really about anything. There’s not a single likeable character in it, and by the time it (finally) clunked and groaned and screeched its way to the final scenes, I was hoping a Transformer or Grendel or the Balrog would explode through a wall and devour the whole distasteful mess. And people who compare it favorably to Citizen Kane have clearly not seen Citizen Kane.
* Clara Callan, by Richard B. Wright – An online friend (Hi, Jacks!) sent me this for birthday/Christmas and I’m really glad she did. It’s the story of two sisters from a small Canadian town, and their lives during the 1930s. Sounds dead boring, doesn’t it? And yet I couldn’t put it down. Excellent, excellent book.
* The Day of the Jackal – Made in the ’60s, this thriller about an attempted assassination of Charles deGaulle sorta sucks you in by surprise. I mean, you know nobody’s gonna kill deGaulle, so you know the attempt will fail before the movie even starts. That given, this movie manages to work up a totally unexpected level of suspense. Well done all around.
* Three Days of the Condor – Thanks to Turner Classic’s 31 Days of Oscar, I saw this and Day of the Jackal end to end. (Pause for a big shoutout to TCM!) I have to admit that my inital reaction to this was ‘God, I’d forgotten how gorgeous Robert Redford was, back in the day.’ But once I got that out of my system, I could settle down and enjoy yet another very well-made thriller. Director Sydney Pollack knows how to tell a story, no question about it. About the only downfall to this movie, IMO, was the total lack of chemistry between Redford and Faye Dunaway. Fortunately, it’s not a romance, and their dalliance mid-movie serves more to chug the plot along than to light up the screen. Good movie.
Other than that, did stretches today. Also wrote some.� I’m determined to crawl out of the hole I’ve been living in. Wish me luck.