Sunday, August 28, 2011

Summer Reading Reviews Part 2

Now that I am moved back in to college and my computer troubles are over I can commence with the blogging.  Classes start tomorrow so my summer reading is officially over and I want to update about the final books I read.
10.) The Things They Carried- Tim O'Brien
Why: I have heard so much about this book from friends that I decided it was finally time to read it. Plus being the war junkie that I am I thought I might like it.
Likes: The Thin Red Line is to war films what The Things They Carried is to war books. It was so much different than anything I've ever read about war. It was so deeply contemplative that it spoke not only about war, but about life and death and love and friendship in ways I've rarely thought about them.
Dislikes: At first the unreliable narrator bothered me. I wanted to know what was fact and what was fiction. However, the more I read, the less it mattered. There is no truth in war. I think that was the point O'Brien was trying to make.
Favorite Quote: "And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It's about sunlight. It's about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and do things you are afraid to do. It's about love and memory. It's about sorry. It's about sisters who never write and people who never listen."
11.) Interview With the Vampire-Anne Rice
Why: I had seen the film while in New Orleans and loved it so much that I wanted to read the book.
Likes: Everything! Rice truly has a gift for story telling;  this novel pulled me and never let go. I found myself thinking about it even when I wasn't reading. It was dark, haunting, and mesmerizing-everything a vampire story should be. 
Dislikes: Not much. There were some slowish parts, but over all I loved it.
Favorite Quote: "It struck me suddenly what consolation it would be to know Satan, to look upon his face, no matter how terrible that countenance was, to know that I belonged to him totally, and thus put to rest forever the torment of this ignorance. To step through some veil that would forever separate me from all that I called human nature."
Also, a side note I saw the film before I read Interview With the Vampire and I love both separately. At first I was confused with the casting of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise but the more I read, the more I could not see anyone else in those roles. I think Neil Jordan did a fantastic job of capturing the feeling of Rice's novel.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Think You Should Know Thursday

The artist I think you should know this Thursday is one who has filled my summer with catchy beats as well as good lyrics, Marina and the Diamonds. The songs she sings are fun and down and out funny and much more upbeat than the music I usually listen to (there is only so much Mumford and Sons you can listen to before needing something happy).
The song I am sharing is "Girls," the first song that attracted me to Marina as well as one of my favorites on her album The Family Jewels. 
"Girls are not meant to fight dirty
Never look a day past thirty
Not gonna bend over and curtsey for you"

Monday, August 8, 2011

"I Finally Saw Brokeback Mountain!"

"You gonna do this again next summer?"-Jack Twist
 I had really wanted to watch Blue Valentine last night, but the film was not in the redbox or on Instant Netflix so I decided to watch something else. I had heard so much about Ang Lee's 2005 Brokeback Mountain when it first came out and like everyone else, I was curious. Especially since it featured one of my favorite actors, the incomparable Heath Ledger. I decided to finally watch it as day four of my movie experiment.
How glad I am. I thought Brokeback Mountain was going to be one of those languid films with lots of long shots of nature and light streaming through trees. While there were plenty of those, the pace was definitely not slow. I think it would be so easy for a director to let the landscape take over the film. Lee manages to showcase the beautiful scenery without letting it overpower the film. While the titular mountain played a large role, it is the story not the setting that take prescience.
The story itself is so powerful. I could care less about politics or controversy; I just like good films and this was a damn good film. One of the main things that made this story work was that it was believable. There was such a raw emotional force that drove the film and made you feel for the characters. I think most of that came from the phenomenal Heath Ledger. I found myself fuming while watching this film because I was angry that he was dead. This man was an amazing actor; I knew that he lost himself in his roles, but I hadn't realized how completely until I saw this film. I could hardly believe that this man was the same who had played the loose-cannon Joker and the heroic William Thatcher. He had so much left to give; I would have loved to see what other things he could have done with his career because I know that he could have been up there with some of the greats. He had the power to reveal so much about his character solely through his expressions; every emotion is etched plainly on the face. His performance is so powerful despite the fact that his dialogue is very minimal.
I think it is Heath's complete commitment and devotion to his character that makes Jake Gyllenhall look weak, not actually any fault of his. Jake did a good job, but good is not good enough when your acting against Heath Ledger. I found it hard to believe Jake's character and the idea that he actually lived the cowboy lifestyle. He seemed like one of those men who doesn't have a blister on his hand. On the other hand, you could see the cowboy etched on every line of Heath's face. His face, even when it wasn't doing anything, told a story.
The two did work well together however. The scenes with them meeting after years of being apart were emotionally touching and passionate. These were two people who loved each other despite insurmountable odds. The fact that they were both men matters little. Like I said before, their relationship was believable. Both actors played their parts with conviction; it would have been so easy just to walk through the roles and take a paycheck, but they made me feel for them and become absorbed in their story which is ultimately a love story. Gender and sexuality matter little when a story is told as powerfully as this one.  People can say whatever they want, but I thought this film was beautiful, touching, and emotionally stirring.
Honestly, it reminded me of Joe Wright's Atonement in style, pace, and emotional impact. Both films portrayed doomed love in such a manner that you could not help but root for the characters despite the fact that you know their love will not succeed.
I really commend Ang Lee for making this film and for doing it right. Everything worked from the cast, to the setting, and costumes and make-up. He managed to create a highly unconventional, yet wholly believable love story.
Review: No Milk Need. But more Heath needed in life. Much more. R.I.P sweet Prince.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"I Finally Saw The King's Speech!"

"Because I have a right to be heard. I have a voice!"-King George IV
I skipped two days of movie watching to finish my book (The Things They Carried if anyone cares). So it won't be fourteen consecutive days of movie watching and I don't even know if I will watch fourteen films, but I am trying and I do have a list of certain films I will watch before the summer is over.
The 3rd film I watched was Tom Hooper's Oscar Award winning film, The King's Speech. I had been meaning to see it since awards season, I just had not gotten around to it. I really liked it. The cast in particular I thought was superb. Colin Firth completely deserved the Oscar for his portrayal of King George the VI. He portrayed the journey of a man trying to find his voice with conviction and passion. He was wonderfully supported by Geoffrey Rush, who was just eccentric enough to be lovable as well as believable. Helena Bonham-Carter also appeared in one of her most normal roles ever. I am constantly surprised how she can play both the completely insane ala Bellatrix Lestrange, Mrs. Lovette, and Marla Singer as well as the Shakespearean and royal.
Now comes the big statement, early on in my review and months late. I think The Social Network deserved to win the Oscar. The King's Speech was a great film. There were touching moments and long, beautiful shots of the characters' faces as the contemplated the enormity of their situation. However, it felt like it was all something I had seen before. It was old, not only in subject matter, but in style. That was one of the things I liked best about The Social Network, it felt new. The music, the camera work, and the editing all drew the viewer into a world not very far removed from own own and still make it feel refreshing. I loved the sharpness of it; not only in the dialogue, but in the very pace of the film itself. There were moments of The King's Speech that I felt dragged and while it build to a rousing conclusion, it was too late. But there is nothing Hollywood loves more than the story of an underdog overcoming adversity. That was what the The King's Speech was about- the amazing true story of a man who refused to give up despite the odds against him. And while that is not refreshing or new, it is uplifting, something theater-goers have always liked to see.
Alas, last year's award season is over and discussions of this year's films are already beginning so it matters little. The film was still enjoyable and one I am glad to have finally seen.
Review: Needs Milk

Friday, August 5, 2011

I Think You Should Know Thursday

Technically, it is Friday, but since I haven't gone to sleep yet, to me it is still Thursday. Today the band I think you should know is Bon Iver. I am horrified at myself for not sharing them sooner. They (really meaning lead singer Justin Vernon mostly) are amazing. Probably my favorite current band. Vernon's voice is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard and his lyrics are pure poetry. Most of the time they don't even make sense, but they just sound nice.
"Holocene" is my favorite song off of their new self-titled album. So beautiful. The lyrics mean so much and at the same time nothing at all. Its one of those songs that makes you feel so small and yet such a large part of the world at the same time. So few artists have that power nowadays.
"…and at once I knew I was not magnificent
strayed above the highway aisle
(jagged vacance, thick with ice)
I could see for miles, miles, miles"
 I also have to share my favorite Bon Iver song and potentially favorite song period, "Skinny Love." I first heard it on Grey's Anatomy and literally got the chills. Vernon's voice speaks to my soul. This is one of those songs I belt out in the car with the windows down driving around my town at night realizing how beautiful the place I live really is.
"Come on skinny love just last the year
Pour a little salt we were never here
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer
And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
And in the morning I'll be with you
But it will be a different kind
And I'll be holding all the tickets
And you'll be owning all the fines"
 This should've been the first song I shared.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"I Finally Saw Inglourious Basterds!"

"We have a German here who wants to die for his country. Oblige him."-Aldo Raine
 So day two of my movie challenge was exponentially better than day one. I watched Inglorious Basterds directed by Quentin Taratino. I have to say, the more time I spend watching this man's films, the more I come to like what I see. Honestly, he is moving towards the Fincher/Nolan/Burton realm in my mind which is a pretty darn special place to be. I'm angry that it took me so long to see so many of his films.
Chapter One ("Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France") was a great way to start the film. It immediately revealed Landa's character and gave the viewer just a small taste of what to expect from Christoph Waltz. His performance in this film was wonderful and completely deserving of an Oscar. Not only does he manage to speak four different languages, but he manages to play crazy in a way that would make Jack Nicholson proud.
The camera work by Taratino was amazing; the pan to the Jews hiding beneath the floorboards made my heart pound. Combined with the music that swells to a tremendous climax, I was hooked from the very beginning. There was a wonderful feeling of anticipation and dread that accompanied the scene and wove through the rest of the film.
Chapter two ("Inglorious Basterds") with the introduction of the basterds was the point in my notebook (because yes, I was taking notes) that I wrote that I was starting to fall in love with Taratino. The casting continued to be phenomenal. I am always surprised by Brad Pitt despite the fact that he is one of my favorite actors and in my opinion, never fails to deliver. The first scalping scene was just bloody enough that it got its point across, but not bloody enough that I needed to avert my eyes. I won't say I enjoyed the violence, but there is some form of aesthetic pleasure that comes from seeing the rush of red filling the screen.
 Chapter three ("German Night in Paris") introduced my favorite character, Shosanna Dreyfus played by the talented Melanie Laurent. Even with the performances of the men around her, Laurent shone. She managed to be both strong, fierce, terrified, and striking all at the same time.
Chapter four ("Operation Kino") was one of those moments of the film that managed to surprise me. I thought, wrongly, that well known actors would be protected from the violence. How wrong I was. I only got to enjoy Michael Fassbender for one scene before his untimely demise. I thought him and the others would be saved and in a normal film they would have, but I forgot, this is no normal film.
Chapter five ("Revenge of the Giant Face"), who's title I just understood now, was the perfect ending to the film. It managed to be funny, violent, and satisfying all at the same time. Again, Taratino does not play by the rules; he completely changes history, but in the best way possible.
I loved this film; it managed to feel both old and new at the same time. The setting and costumes were appropriate to the time period along with the story itself, but the filming techniques like having a narrator, chapter titles, and name tags for some of the characters, made the film feel fresh. It was not just another war film. (I have seen plenty of those, I took a class called "Cinema at War" which was great). Inglorious Basterds managed to capture the spirit of the war film and at the same time elevate it to new heights.
Review: No Milk Needed. At all.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"I Finally Saw...Rango"

So, the first day of my project did not quite start out the way I hoped. My sister wanted me to watch Rango with her, so instead of watching say The Matrix, I decided to make her happy. Fifteen minutes into the film she bailed and I stuck it out, encouraged by friends from twitter.

Rango was not terrible, I think there was just one major problem: I have never seen a Western before. Not 3:10 to Yuma, not Blazing Saddles, nothing with John Wayne. I think the entire film was lost on me (Although I did enjoy the "Attack of the Valkyries" scene ala Apocalypse Now). All of the jokes,  recreations of scenes from famous films, and talk of "spirit of the West" meant little to nothing to me. It was not my style. I found myself dosing close to the end of the film.
Another problem I had with the film is what my dad called "too much Johnny." I love Johnny Depp, truly I do, but lately I have found his acting (or should I say over acting) annoying. He tends to hog the scenes he is in, overshadowing any other actor. When he was mugging it up in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and upstaging Geoffrey Rush I had no problem. That was Johnny in his element, doing what he does best. In Rango, he came off as cartoonish, even though it was an animated film. I did enjoy the other voice work though, especially Abigail Breslin who was adorable and Ned Beatty.
One thing I did like about the film was the music. I was pleasantly surprised upon seeing Hans Zimmer's name in the credits. As always his score was flawless; it managed to be quirky while still traditionally Western sounding at the same time.
I think I may give his film another viewing potentially when I am not so tired and maybe after I've actually seen a Western.
Review: soggy

Monday, August 1, 2011

"You Still Haven't Seen (Movie Title)?!"

I cannot even tell you how many times I have heard that line. Especially as a cinema minor and a self proclaimed "kind of a movie snob" people expect you to see certain films. And when you haven't people tend to judge and/or mock you. So today I am taking matters into my own hands. Today is a new month and the two week mark until I return to school. I plan on putting those two weeks to good use; to watch all of those films I have not seen. There are so many, too many actually.
So here is the plan. Two weeks is fourteen days (wow college must be paying off for me!). In those fourteen days I have left I plan on watching (and blogging about) fourteen movies that I feel ashamed of not seeing. Depending on how these two weeks go I might even extend this little project longer since classes do not start until the 25th of August.
Now, the question is: what films to watch? I have some in mind already: The Matrix, Inglorious Bastards, Memento, and Boondock Saints. Potentially Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy if I can find/borrow it (plus I feel like that is a film you watch with friends). Now, for the rest of the days I need some suggestions. What films is it imperative for me to see? What is your favorite film? Which film changed your life, made you think, laugh, cry...I don't care I just want suggestions. They can be anything, documentary, foreign, I love all genres.  When I get some, I will return with my official fourteen day list.
Tonight I am starting with The Matrix (as of right now, could be subject to change).
Let the movie watching begin!

Summer Reading Reviews

 I've read nine books this summer (so far). For me, this number is low. You're talking to the girl, who last summer, read the entire Harry Potter series (for the umpteenth time) and the Millennium trilogy, along with numerous other books; for an all time reading high of around fifteen books.
Here are my brief reviews.
1.) The Accidental Billionaires: the Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal -Ben Mezrich
Why read it?: A combination of things. Watching The Social Network was one of them. I wanted to see the source material for Fincher's amazing film and Sorkin's witty screenplay. Also, having read Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions also by Mezrich, I wanted to read another of his books. I am a huge fan of his writing and the intriguing stories he tells.
Likes: What surprised me about The Accidental Billionaires was how much of the script came directly from the book. So many of the lines that I had attributed to Sorkin actually came from Mezrich.
Dislikes: Mezrich's books tend to be a bit one sided. I know the book is from Eduardo's perspective, but I can see why many people would take offense to the story and the movie as well. Also, I would have liked him to go into more details; I felt some things were glossed over or not explained well or enough.
2.) Tender is the Night- F. Scott Fitzgerald 
Why: This goes for all the Fitzgerald novels I read this summer: I read them because I plain, flat out love this man and his writing. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time and I wanted to see what else he had to offer.
Likes: Of the Fitzgerald books I read this summer, this was my favorite. The funny thing was, I didn't realize it until later. It was so evocative of Fitzgerald's life, the alcoholism, the madness, the greatness, and the fall. One of the things I like so much about his writing is Fitzgerald's ability to pull the reader into the moment, to perfectly describe the setting. I also developed an obsession with the 1920's, especially in Paris from all the books I read this summer.
Dislikes: There were a few moments that dragged and the narrative tended to skip around in some places which could be disorienting, but nothing too terrible.
Favorite Quote: "He looked at her and for a moment she lived in the bright blue worlds of his eyes, eagerly and confidently."
 3.) The Hobbit- J.R.R Tolkien
Why: I've been attempting to read the Lord of the Rings series since I got over the fact that it was not competition for Harry Potter. Plus, I promised myself I couldn't watch the movies until I read all the books.
Likes: The story was interesting enough. I liked the world that Tolkien created and the fact that I could picture it from the little I know of the films.
Dislikes: The Dickens-style descriptions. The book could have been cut by several hundred pages if Tolkien did not describe every single leaf and blade of grass. It got very tedious after awhile and reading felt like a chore.
4.) This Side of Paradise- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Likes: Amory Blaine, plain and simple. His character was a mix of Holden Caulfield and Jay Gatsby, two of my favorite literary characters; he really made the novel. It was a great novel to start Fitzgerald's career.
Dislikes: The problem I had keeping the characters (especially the female ones) separate in my mind. 
Favorite Quote: "And through the shell of his undergraduate consciousness had broken a deep and reverent devotion to the gray walls and Gothic peaks and all they symbolized as warehouses of dead ages."
5.) Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring- J.R.R Tolkien
Likes: The ending. The book grabbed me at the end and made me want to start Two Towers right away. It had a good build up. I felt that the characters were more interesting than The Hobbit and I liked that I had that back story to go on.
Dislikes: Pretty much the same comments as The Hobbit. It took forever to get moving and then literally became interesting at the last page which frustrated me to no end.
Favorite Quote: "Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not see them."
6.)  A Moveable Feast- Ernest Hemingway 
 Why: I saw Midnight in Paris and literally started this book the same night. 
Likes: The descriptions and writing style were so beautiful. It made me want to move to Paris. My favorites were "A Good Cafe on the Place St.-Michel," "Une Gereration Perdue," and "Ezra Pound and His Bel Esprit."

Dislikes: I wish I had actually been to Paris so I could better imagine some of the places Hemingway was describing.
Favorite Quote: "Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know."
7.) Zeitoun- David Eggers
Why: I spent a week in Louisiana building houses early on in the summer and pretty much became hooked on the culture and the city of New Orleans.
Likes: Everything. The story, the characters, the way it was written. You cannot believe something like this happened in our country. Startling and brilliant all in one. I loved that I could imagine the places he described. Tied for my favorite book of the summer. 
Favorite Quote: "New Orleans, his home, needs no speeches, no squabbling, and no politics. It needs new flooring, and new roofing, new windows and doors and stairs."
8.) The Love of the Last Tycoon- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Likes: The story and the descriptions of Hollywood in the 1930's.
Dislikes: Fitzgerald died while writing this novel so it is unfinished and there is a lack of editing. There is so much promise for what this novel could have been.
Favorite Quote: "He wanted the pattern of his life to be broken...He wanted to stop being Stahr for awhile and hunt for love like men who had no gifts to give, like young nameless men who looked along the streets in the dark." 
9.) Let the Great World Spin- Colum McCann
Why: I found it in my sister's room and it seemed interesting.
Likes: Absolutely everything. This is the one tied for my favorite read of the summer. I love the style; the way the narratives were all interconnected, yet separate. McCann's writing was a great mix of long, intricate sentences and short descriptions. Very well written. The novel made me fall in love with New York City again, made me feel about the city the same way I have come to feel about New Orleans.  I finished it, but I'm still carrying the book around the house with me; it is that good.
Favorite Quote: "He might have been naive, but he didn't care; he said he'd rather die with his heart on his sleeve than end up another cynic."
Now the question is: what to read next?