Friday, December 21, 2007

Paging Doctor Acula....Dr.Acula

#97 Dracula by Bram Stoker

He's been a blood sucker longer than Carson Daily.

Back in the book blogging game, I return - finally - with my Dracula review. A few preliminary, non-educational things before I get into the meat of this review. One, the book's author Bram Stoker's first name is short for Abraham...I thought thought that was cool. Good stuff, Abe. Two, in his movie, Mel Brooks follows the basic plot pretty closely; whereas Young Frankenstein - like many Frankenstein movies - alters Mary Shelley's plot, Dracula: Dead and Loving It honors Stoker well.

One of the initial aspects of Dracula that first strikes you is the medium in which it is delivered. Stoker chose to write it limited, first-person in the from of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, telegrams and other various methods of communication in 19th century Europe. Novelty aside, this method works as the truly scientific nature of the piece is conveyed more affectively. As the story evolves, the reader reflects on hypotheses laid out and conclusions drawn; Stoker lets you think that you are reading a scientific journal written by some pretty educated dudes. Also, the story's climax is told by a character who is watching the action from a distance; it's odd to have a play-by-play account of a battle or conversation, but it works for Stoker.

A major character in the novel is Mina Harker, the wife of a solicitor (British talk for lawyer) and recent victim of a vampire's bite. All other characters - including the legendary Van Helsing - worship her; yet, they continually demean her. I understand women were not held in the highest regard back then, but they give her so many backhanded compliments, it's silly. Every time she comes up with a brilliant idea (that the men, for all their Ph.D's, were not able to devise), they are shocked. I think she bailed their asses out at least six times in the novel. Aside from offering noble chivalry towards Mina, the nicest compliment ever paid by them is saying she has "a man's brain." Nice. I'd like to think Stoker was a feminist and proved a point by making one of his protagonists a woman.

Aside from rampant chauvinism, another thought-provoking aspect is the appearance of religious symbol. By looking at standard urban legends, it is commonly held that vampires are kept at bay by crucifixes, holy water, rosary beads, etc. Chief vampire slayer in Dracula, the aforementioned Van Helsing, uses all of these as tools against the count. An addition that I wasn't aware of, but feel probably was in that movie Bram Stoker's Dracula, was the inclusion of the Eucharist as a (primary) tool in defeating vampires. The tone of the play dripped of religious fervor. I suppose when one is faced with the possibility of walking the earth for centuries after their earthly death, feasting on the flesh of humans, he or she may start praying a little bit more than before. What struck me as interesting was how often doctors Van Helsing and (principle character) John Seward referred to God. I suppose this is set in a time when the church and medicine were not strictly at war with each other, but it still seemed odd for a doctor to include in his medical notes a phrase like "If only the good Lord would intervene."

On top of the religious symbol was the awesome gross-out factor. The bloody details Stoker used to describe the gruesome accounts of a vampires death were stomach churning. If you don't like term "decapitated the head and filled the loose cranium with garlic" then maybe Dracula isn't for you.

Character development is great, though. Aside from Mina and Van Helsing, Seward really steals the show. The owner of a sanitarium in London, Seward falls for the destined for vampire-hood Lucy; after he is romantically rebuffed by her, Seward still remains her devoted friend and tries to cure her of the ailment....of being a vampire. When Mina is sick or Lucy dies, Seward displays deep affection and grief; his diary entries are the darkest and show the kind of emotion only the owner of a nut house can possess. Additionally, fascinating in of himself is the titled charactered, Dracula. Crafty and evil, with the strength of an Irish setter (it's a strong dog, I swear), Van Helsing characterizes the count as one with the brain of a child. His justification lies in the fact that Dracula can only focus on one prey at a time. Although (as demonstrated by my weak explanation) I never fully grasped Van Helsing's characterization, it gives more depth to Dracula's character than is typically alloted.

A criticism I will make, though, is that Stoker painstakingly describes every last detail and development. The events leading up to the finale took seven chapters and roughly 150 pages; Stoker could have summed up everything in two chapters, 30 pages. I don't mind long books; as you can see by my Gone With the Wind (1,000 pages) review, sometimes I love them. The pages just have to be meaningful, and this one is drawn out.

Another critique is in the form of a lame post-script written by Mina's boring, yet devoted husband Jonathan Harker. Here, Harker wraps up the story seven years later. This includes unnecessary information about some characters getting married, a trip back to Transylvania and the naming of the Harker's first child. It's sappy, trite and screams of a Hollywood ending. I know Stoker wrote this years before Tinseltown, but it seemed as if he knew some dumb kid would want to know what happened to Van Helsing after the vampires.

As a whole, Dracula is a good read that sometimes is long-winded and sappy. It does scare at times, but the fear is based on the psychology of it all, more than boogie-men, or vampires, rather.

Who knows when I'll finish this, but the next book for me is the first one I've never heard of, The Good Soldier Svjek (#96)by Jaroslav Hasek. Oh boy.

And, a Pulp Fiction review should be out soon.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

And I Still Haven't Found, What I'm Looking 4

#96 The Searchers directed by John Ford

If you thought the PATRIOT Act was bad, wait until he illegally searches you.

Titles of movies and band names often blend together. "The Untouchables," "Men Without Hats," "Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo," "Initech." Which is which?

John Wayne's epic Western The Searchers stirs the memory of 50s and 60s R&B groups. The name has the feel of the Coasters or Temptations or even the Proclaimers (although, they are a mid-90s Australian one-hit wonder....."(I Will Walk) 500 Miles"....I'm sure it was like on a car commercial or in the trailer of a Sandra Bullock movie, too). In fact, the band the Searchers were not a Motown Barry Gordy product, but instead a contemporary of the Beatles. Who knew?

Aside from whatever misguided notion I held regarding the movie, a part of my past came out half-way through the picture. More on that later.

Remember the Civil War? Well, Wayne's character does. After the surrender at Appomattox, he takes the South's defeat a little too personally and wonders around the country being a crazy, vigilante nomad that enjoys showing up all those dirty, carpetbagging Yankees. The movie opens with him returning home several years after the war has ended. His family (brother, sister-in-law and their kids) is happy to greet him, but do notice he is a little crazy.

All of that is explained in like five seconds and then everyone is brutally murdered by Indians. EXCEPTIONS - Wayne (as unbalanced, vigilante Confederate), the family's adopted half-Indian son and a little girl who was kidnapped by the "Injuns." Shortly into the movie, you realize what they are searching for, the little girl.

Then all of a sudden you realize that the characters you spent a little time getting to know and thought were going to be the focus are dead. So, the film introduces a whole new slew of Texans to further confuse you.

After extension research and lab results, you finally sorta figure out what's going on. Wayne and Indian boy look for girl. Simple enough. But a subplot exists between Indian boy and girl who was the sister of a boy that was seeing Indian boy's adoptive sister. This loosely connected character who suddenly becomes integral to the plot is played by Natalie Wood. So good for her.

All of that seems convoluted (and is), but it takes up little screen time. Mostly, you see Wayne and halfie traverse these ridiculously well-filmed scenes following or "searching" for the Red man. Every so often it cuts back to Wood hanging out, longing for her little Indian boy.

What brings the movie back to my life is a little scene half-way through the movie. A few years back my (extended) family and I were vacationing down the Jersey Shore, as we are prone to do. While watching TV one night, we had quite the giggle-fest, which featured my father comparing a facially-distorted woman to claymation, a weird boarding house joke and us a laughing at this stupid, hick dude playing guitar and screaming "She did?!?"

That little scene was taken from The Searchers. Half-Indian boy gets conned into taking an Indian wife. He writes a letter to Wood and she reads it aloud to a group of onlookers. When she mentions her lover's elicit affair, hick dude screams out his line that kept my family in stitches. I find it amusing how one scene taken out of context can be so entertaining to a group of people in the right state of mind.

As for the movie itself, the director John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath, The Quite Man) poses some interesting philosophical questions. Initially, the search for the little girl is tiresome and unfulfilling. The two long to find their objective, but like Ahab and Moby Dick, their inevitably quest becomes more important than what they are trying to find.

When they finally do corral the girl (years later) she refuses to go with them. All the searching was for nothing. In the search that is life, the end product is almost never what you were looking for in the first place. However, Ford doesn't let this temporary obstacle faze him and they do eventually (again years later) convince her to desert the Indian life for a more refined one.

Would this movie be better, more poetic, more artsy if they never were reunited with their lost family member? I felt that way until I thought about the last scene of the movie some more. The girl, the Indian boy and Wood (now his future wife) walk into the house, complacent and at peace. Wayne watches them go, then turns around, gets back on his horse and literally rides off into the sunset.

For some men, the search takes the life from you.

Honestly, it is tough to find time to read non-required books at school, but I hope Dracula will be done sooner than later (mid-October?) The next movie will be the first one I already have seen Pulp Fiction (#95).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Los tres amigos

#98 The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

His vice-like grip on the affairs of Europe was staggering.

Swashbuckling, roof-top jumping and sexy mustaches are about all I knew going into The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. It turns out I was wrong on almost all three accounts. I unfairly lumped musketeers in with pirates; Dumas’ men were more gallant than swashbuckling. Also, most of their adventures were personal – not grand political coups – so it involved duel-fighting instead of the jumping. However, the ‘staches did run supreme.

All-in-all most assumptions going into the book were false. Possibly because of my many erroneous assumptions The Three Musketeers went above my expectations (and yes, I expected more than chocolate covered nougat).

The tale is an adventure set in Richelieu-dominated France. When the book opens Louis XIII is the king of France who is estranged from his wife (Anne of Austria) and allows himself to be manipulated by Cardinal Richelieu. People are divided into factions – the royalists and the cardinalists and Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants). Basically the Protestants are non-existent except for a small group in La Rochelle which the Cardinal decides to isolate to punish the queen (who is in love with the duke of Buckingham, England’s chief diplomat). Sounds like a modern day soap opera a little, doesn't it?

Lots of royal intrigue throughout the novel, which the musketeers sometimes knowingly and other times ignorantly play a big part in. The brief biography of Dumas in my edition says “his work ignored historical accuracy, psychology, and analysis, but its thrilling adventures and exuberant inventiveness” delighted readers. OK, so the three musketeers might not have been involved with almost all the major events of Louis XIII’s reign, but it's nice to pretend (and a hell of a lot more interesting that way). They were real, though, so that’s all that really matters (Athos, Porthos and Aramis were the known pseudonyms for three down-on-their-luck French nobles).

Another fallacy I had going into this novel, which I feel is very important, is the idea that the three musketeers themselves are the protagonists. FALSE. A younger, smarter, handsomer and better fighting country boy named d’Artagnan is the focus of everything. Not only is he the main character, he also skillfully manipulates the cardinal, the evil Lady de Winter and even the three musketeers.

D’Artagnan drives the plot, but the three friends serve as representations of the human personality - so they are the symbolic mumbo-jumbo (You didn’t think I had the hypothesis of an English major inside of me, did ya?). Athos is the wizened, thoughtful being, Porthos the vein, attention-starved, comedy type, with Aramis serving the spiritual side of things. The phrase “All for one and one for all,” (coined by d’Artagnan, not by one of the three) not only shows their unity in battle, but also exhibits their unity of spirit and mind. Separate they may be stock characters but if viewed as a whole the three musketeers are a complete personality. How ‘bout that for theoretical bull shit?

Respect and honor are concepts Dumas touches upon numerous occasions. In the 17th Century, self-respect and image were more important than life. Death over a frivolous misunderstanding was considered noble. When men walk down the street and a passerby sneezes in the wrong direction, a duel is fought. If a lady is playing Connect Four and her opponent cheats, a duel is fought. Moreover, if a person confuses the definition between “fortnight” and “forthright,” you better believe a duel will be fought.

In addition to views on honor, the author has a unique opinion on women. Dumas depicts a woman as the main villain. Milady aka Lady de Winter aka Countess de La Fere aka Charlotte Backson serves as the devil personified. Crushing men’s hearts – along with other anatomical entities – to her was as mundane as brushing her teeth. The author makes the point that women were not necessarily silly and inferior (a novel concept back then) but instead duplicitous and cunning. Their sway over men – in the book – caused wars to be fought, people to loose their lives and reputations as well as grudges to be held unnecessarily. It seems Dumas thought that if women were not causing the destruction of Western society, it was a dull day for them.

I've yet to be disappointed by a book on this list (crossing fingers). So far I like Gone With the Wind the best, though. Maybe I'm just a sap for Southern charm. School's starting up soon, so we'll see if I am able to continue my readings. The next book - who knows when I'll get it done - will be Bram Stoker's Dracula (# 97). I hope I can finish it by Halloween.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Kiss Me Kate

#97 Bringing Up Baby directed by Howard Hawks

Old ladies aren't the only dinosaurs in this movie

Often times I go into a movie without doing background research because I feel it will hinder my viewing experience or give me an unwanted preconceived notion from someone else's negative or positive opinion. Usually, I even try to avoid reading the On-Demand description or the blurb written on the back of the box.

So when I sat down to view yet another Katherine Hepburn movie, Bringing Up Baby, co-staring Cary Grant, I expected some light romantic comedy where the two of them would be like a married (or divorced) couple who would be thrust into having a baby. Hepburn would be headstrong, cold and distant; Grant a hunk who got whatever he want. Pretty much I thought it would be a prequel to The Philadelphia Story.

First off, the movie itself is not a simple romantic comedy. Although a love story drives the story, this film is - as many agree - is one of the first and best screwball comedies of all time. The plot revolves around trying to lasso a leopard ("Baby") while at the same time keeping up a rouse that Grant is a big game hunter (he really is a paleontologist - even though the movie says zoologist) who just experienced a nervous brake down. Ridiculous situation follows ridiculous situation. The audience - even though they root for the couple - never really has a chance to catch their breath and realize they are being tricked into watching a romantic movie.

That fact may be help by the unromantic-ness of the characters. Grant, the consummate Hollywood heartthrob, is a big nerdy scientist. Stammering, awkward and socially inept, Dr. John Huxley is totally under the thumb of rich socialite Susan (Hepburn) and doesn't even know it. That's because Hepburn - although controlling - is just as clumsy and awkward as he. She is a silly, rich girl who sees a toy that she wants (the good doctor) and won't let his impending marriage to his prudish manager stand in her way.

This movie did initially did terrible at the box office and was the last film done at RKO Studios by Hepburn before she bought her contract out - a ballsy move to say the least. Helped by the advent of VCRs, DVDs and even a re-release in a newly colored version (there's Gilligan's Island old episodes like this, too) the film slowly gained recognition as a truly visionary comedy. Initial response, box office figures and critics' remarks are not a true way to measure the importance of a movie. Imagine if Hepburn and Grant's careers nose-dived after this? What would we do? Maybe Gigli should get another look then.

Another comment is the good deal stereotypes older movies have in them. This one depicts an alcoholic Irish gardener, a black driver, a brainy German psychiatrist and, worst of all, a frigid, decrepit, rich, old Protestant lady who screams "Well, I never!" a lot. Stock characters, sure, are important, but let's develop people at least a little bit.

My review of the candy-bar book will be out soon. The next movie will be #96 The Searchers.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog

#99 The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Watson may have wanted to be a little bit more intimate with the good sherlock.

After reading the lengthy Gone With the Wind, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' classic The Hound of the Baskervilles brevity was indeed refreshing. The same could be said for Doyle's cutting dialog, clever scenarios and curve balls to keep you guessing throughout the read.

THOTB tells a tale of an established English family cursed by an ancestor who supposedly possesses a massive hound that haunts inhabitants of their manor....or so you are led to believe. Bottom line - someone is killed, Holmes and Dr. Watson are contracted to solve the mystery/protect the heir. Many twists and turns later, mystery solved, everyone is happy.

Some words on the novel, though.

Holmes may be one of the most interesting English characters ever created. Every time he appears, the reader is enticed by his genius and enthralled by every mystery (no matter bigger or small) he solves. The novel opens with a cane left at his house; after looking at it for thirty seconds Holmes predicts (accurately) the build of the man and his occupation. Sure, it's easy when the author is creating all of this, yet there is a great charm and mystery that Doyle keeps about the detective that does not disappoint.

Watson, on the other hand, is a big boob. Sadly for the reader, Watson narrates the story with his boobery (thank my mom for that adjective) and is much more active in the novel then Holmes. The pay-off for Holmes' absence is worth it, but the cost of spending time with this medical moron is painful.

Also, Holmes and Watson have this odd homo-erotic relationship going on between them. I've read that Watson had a wife in the first few books but she isn't mentioned in this one. For no reason the pair go to an art gallery in the middle of the novel and hang out. If I had the time, I bet I could prove that Watson had the hots for the sherlock. It would go for naught, however, as it seems Holmes is asexual and has no time for silly physical or emotional happiness.

Small shock to me when reading the book - Holmes apparently has a cocaine habit (Check this article out on it). Doyle doesn't directly allude to it in THOTB but he does depict the detective brooding in a smokey room where he loses all touch with reality and becomes fully in touch with the world of the crime. Watson reports feeling very light-headed every the incident and asks to open a window. I'm not sure why Doyle would give Holmes this character flaw but it is interesting that the great Sherlock Holmes and Tony Montana have something in common.

I now see why my grandmother likes detective stories so much as they are short and fun (like this guy). However, I don't know if it should have been included on this list. There wasn't any real social commentary (other than bad guys get caught by good guys) and, unless the hound = the devil, symbolism wasn't prevalent. All-in-all a good read and I suppose a good book doesn't necessarily have to be an English teacher's wet dream to be effective.

Up next (after a short break for Harry Potter) will be sure to be a swash-buckling good time - The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (# 98).

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Addressing Racism, Party of Six

#99 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? directed by Stanley Kramer

This movie would be different if dinner was at his house.

Watching movies on tape often takes me back to childhood and watching Teen-Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles (the movie) in my friend's basement. Recently I've been time warped twice. The first came in the form of Weird Al's masterpiece UHF, featuring Michael Richards, Victoria Jackson and, most importantly, Emo Phillips.

More pertinent to this blog, though, is my viewing of Guess Who's Coming Dinner? Sydney Poitier - a black man if you didn't know - plays a black man in love with a white woman. Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (in his last film) are the white broad's parents - the Draytons - and must meet this situation head-on in one day, as Poitier and the albino chick will be leaving for Geneva by the end of dinner. Poitier's parents come over too and antics ensue.

The film was thought-provoking, stirring and funny in many parts. Hepburn endears herself to me every time she speaks and won the 1967 Best Actress Oscar - although I personally feel she's more of a supporting one in this role. A scene where she fires her assistant for being a bigoted bitch stirs the viewer to fist-pump and give Hepburn a pound. *POUND

However there are a few drawbacks to this film. One is the situation itself. Poitier is an accomplished black man; he is a UN doctor on a humanitarian mission. Mr. Drayton himself is a famous San Francisco newspaper publisher known for his liberal views. So the question this movie posed wasn't whether the family's would accept this mixed marriage, so much as how society would view them. To better clarify my problem, I think this situation was unique and didn't accurately reflect a realistic problem. In an ideal world - as Tracy eventually concluded - this shouldn't be a problem and love is all you need.

Also, I think the movie patted itself on the back a little too much. Like "look we're maturely addressing racism, give us a gold star." I mean good for them, but there were way too many hokey monologues about the new generation being dragged down by the dying out old fogies. Poitier has a particularly dramatic altercation with his dad that's well done on his part, but so cornily written.

All-in-all, great flick; better on VHS. I didn't do it justice. For some reason this one was difficult to write about. Apologies to McGee cuz she loves this movie. Up next more Heburn in Bringing Up Baby (#97)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Non-Review

This post is for the world's benefit and stems from a comment made by Ms. Megan McGee. I erroneously stated that Cary Grant was in Gone with the Wind. In response to this, I will now better illustrate the difference between the two and other similar words than confuse me:

This is Cary Grant. He was NOT in GWTW. However, he did have a very successful career; you may remember that he played CK Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story, which we did at La Salle recently (John O'Riordan played him).

Here sits Clark Gable. He portrayed Rhett Butler. He has a fine mustache and was a different type of man-stud.

Furthermore, this is Brett Butler. She played the titled-role in Grace Under Fire - a semi-successful sitcom in the mid-90s. Her name sorta sounds like Rhett Butler; maybe that's where she got it from.

Comcast provides Cable. It is a service that transmits television programs to humans at a reasonably fixed price. Monk, Mind of Mencia and Baseball Tonight are features of it. Pat Rush doesn't have it.

Will Clark was a baseball player in the 1980s and 1990s. He played primarily for the San Francisco Giants and was the MVP of the National League Championship Series in 1989. His nickname was "The Thrill."
Lastly, here lies Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It is a novel and became like a mini-series. My grandmother likes it.

I hope this clarifies things a little. My next reviews should be coming out shortly.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Mighty Wind is Coming

#100 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I accuse Miss Scarlett in Georgia with the Southern drawl.

It's funny how a book longer than 1,000 pages can have such an abrupt ending. But Gone With the Wind somehow managed to find a way - andI loved every minute of it.

This novel may have been the most interesting thing I’ve ever read cuz it had everything - war, sex, adultery, chivalry, miscarriages, debauchery, the Ku Klux Klan and violent unexpected deaths. Margaret Mitchell only wrote one novel, so I suppose she had to squeeze everything into this one.

QUICK PLOT OUTLINE - Scarlett O’Hara is a spoiled brat daughter of a plantation owner living as a teenager right before the beginning of Civil War in Georgia. When the war strikes, her bubble of indifference is popped and she is forced to survive or be swept away with the rest of the dying South. GWTW follows her through three husbands (and children), the death of her parents, her fixation with Ashley Wilkes - the one that got away - and her obsession with money.

By the way, Rhett Butler doesn't say, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" in the book. The idea is there but it's altered for the film.

There are many, many different facets of this book that could easily be turned into thirty page papers, so I will briefly talk about three (No matter what I do this will probably still sound like I'm writing a high school English paper).

First, Scarlett is constantly criticized by her elders for aligning herself with Carpetbaggers and thus becoming a "scalawag." Scarlett is a self-serving bitch and Mitchell does a great job pointing that out (not often is the protagonist as less likable as Mrs. O'Hara-Hamilton-Kennedy-Butler), however, I'm not sure if I could blame her for this strike. In the time after the peace at Appomattox, Republicans from the North did everything in their power to lord themselves over the fallen former Confederacy - they got rid of all their workers (slaves, sure, but it still hurt their economy plenty), prevented almost all Confederates from voting - and therefore, all Democrats - as well as taxing everything mercilessly thus preventing the South to recover from Sherman's epic march of destruction - after reading this I can still see why some Southerners really HATE Northerners. Scarlett's idea was that she didn't want to be hungry and poor, so why not shack up with the people who could prevent this from happening? It was the general attitude of Southerns to resist any change they could, Scarlett embraced it by - reluctantly and through clenched teeth - doing business with the people. She's a survivor who didn't want to be poor like the rest of the South. Mentally, I think her battle was tougher than the those who waited for the South to rise again. She was progressive at least.

Another point is how awesome and dynamic the characters were. Rhett Butler - played by Cary Grant in the film - was the son-of-a-bitch conman who really had a heart of gold - or at least a heart. Serving as Scarlett's antagonist the entire book, he keeps her in check and reminds the reader on countless instances what a scoundrel she - like him - really is. Melanie Hamilton-Wilkes (her first husband's sister and wife of the man she pines for) is symbolic of unfledging loyalty (to the undeserving Scarlett) and proof that good exists in the world; furthermore, she is an example of good co-existing so beautifully with the evil that is Scarlett - a yin and a yang if you will. And Mammy, the O'Hara's faithful slave/nurse/keeper of the house is an interesting character. Sure, GWTW almost defends the institution of slavery time-and-time again, but I feel it really is trying to accurately illustrate the importance of slaves to the society on both a broad and narrow scope. Mammy is one of the family, what she says goes. No one is respected more in the household (after Scarlett's parents die) and all decisions have to eventually be O.K.'ed by her. She is a pillar of stability and her presence is vital to the furthering of almost all the O'Haras.

The book brings up a theme of regret, too. It's a little corny but to the point. Often, many words are left unsaid, and shortly after a tragedy occurs which prevents true sentiments from ever being fully disclosed. It happens most notably in Scarlett's relationship with Rhett Butler - she never lets him really know how much she cared until it is far too late; her bitchiness, pride and vanity would not budge enough to have a healthy marriage with the only man who really understood her. So, for all you kids out there, don't be a C-word and keep a tough exterior that prohibits those who love you from really helping you.

Well that's all the folksy wisdom I's got fer two-day. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (#99) is the next movie and The Hound of the Baskervilles (#99) by Arthur Conan Doyle - he ain't my knight - will be the next novel.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Damn Yankees

#100 Yankee Doodle Dandy directed by Michale Curtiz

Give my regards to Broadway, and to Calvin & Hobbes, as well.

Coming in next on AFI's glorious list (or last rather) is Yankee Doodle Dandy. Jimmy Cagney stars in this bio-pic of vaudeville and Broadway star George M. Cohan (Not Cohen).

If you don't like singin', dancin', or America-in' you won't like this one. Like Broadway and vaudeville this flick is way over the top, but it works for itself. The premise is a little weak, but probably true (Cohan tells his life story to FDR before receiving a congressional medal of honor). Also its a bit self-serving, as Cohan scripted the movie and executive produced it as well. Throw a bunch of flag wavin' "I want to hump America songs" in there and you got a big ol' can of corn.

However, it works. Cagney is amazing. Any chance he gets - like Cohan - he steals all attention. Watching him dance conjures of memories (although brief) of wanting to be a tap-dancer - I still think it'd be pretty cool. The chemistry with his family (real-life sister plays that role) and wife is staggering. Tears were in mine eye when his father dies (sorry to spoil that, but it is a bio-pic, dads get old and die).

Cohan is proud of his Irish heritage and worked the side-shows as a little leprechaun tap-dancer in the ol' days. It makes him look like a pretty paddy. Stereotypes are a plenty here as most African Americans aren't depicted in the best of lights. I guess that's just how movies were in the 1940s.

This movie doesn't pretend to be a real musical and annoy me, so that's nice. All the songs are done on stage, George isn't just eating dinner and randomly bursting into song, so I can appreciate that - more realistic.

There's one scene where George cons a slightly stupid German dude into producing a play he wrote that got me. I think I can always get behind the classic pulling one over off-the-boat-wealthy-German gag.

So YDD was good. I liked it better than Unforgiven.
UPDATE on Gone with the Wind -
This book is 1000 pages; so glad on started with a short one. I'm getting there though, so expect my expose on Scarlett O'Hara soon. I have a long train ride back from DC, so maybe I can bang it out then.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

So I guess this wasn't that Oprah movie

#98 Unforgiven directed by Clint Eastwood

It doesn't take Scoob and gang to realize Scrabby Doo always sucks.

Unforgiven (no. 98) is supposedly Clint Eastwood's masterpiece - or was in 1997 when AFI did its list. Eastwood stars in this "anti-western" with Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman and Richard Harris. This won best picture and best director in 1992, among others.

Basic plot is a whore gets slashed in the face by some drunk cowboy and her fellow 'toots feel he isn't punished enough. So they raise some money and put a reward out to kill this mo-fo. Cue Eastwood, formerly a mo-fo himself, but now a timid, washed-out pig rancher. With his saint of a wife dead (the lady who reformed him of his evil ways), he feels he needs the money to support his young kids. So he, Freeman and some little shit ass-ed annoying Scrabby-Doo type go up to Wyoming to collect the heads and the cash. Mayhem ensues as Hackman is a mo-fo sheriff in his own right.

For me, Hackman really steals the show as Little Bill. Eastwood - though good - is boring at times and isn't nearly as bad-ass as he could be. Hackman kicks the shit out of several people and is not someone I ever want to fuck with. Ever. He definitely earned his best supporting actor nod in this one.

Harris aka Albus Dumbledore is only in two scenes but steals them as fast-talking Brit, "Cowboy Bill." Anyone who references the James Garfield assassination so much is a man after my own heart. However, I wish one of his scenes was more than Hackman kicking his ass.

I liked this movie and can see how it made this list (it must have been tough putting the last few on here). Often, though, I wonder how much some people are acting. Eastwood plays a cool, distant philosopher who has a pain he just can't describe; seems like I've seen it before. Same thing with Freeman as wise, ol' black man, and Harris as...well a British dude. I'm not making the point as clear as I would like to, it seems to me that sometimes famous actors get type-cast into awesome roles that they can easily play because the characters are often very similar to the actors themselves (Eastwood did direct this - and won best director - so, he kinda thought it was good for him).

Good start to my blog for me anyways.
100 - Yankee Doodle Dandy

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

In the beginning.....

The Genesis of My Blog

"And God said to Sam 'Waste your time.'"

Hello world, I finally got roped into this blogging bit. My note on all this is that mine won't be personal, more of a commentary section. Specifically, my comments - on this blog - will be limited to two areas: books and films. Getting even more to the point: it is my goal to read TIME Magazine's 100 Greatest Novels and watch AFI's 100 Greatest Films. My opinions will be anything but expert. If I have already read the novel, then I'll look at a literary criticism or something; I'll watch the movies again....maybe not Citizen Kane, but if I get that far, why not?

I hope to elicit responses and maybe make people look at stuff they wouldn't before.

Either way, I'm in this game now.


Novel - 100 - Gone With the Wind
Film - 98 - Unforgiven - (I reserved #100 and 99 on InterLibrary Loan....yeah Gloucester County Public Library Branches)