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Showing posts from November, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

I really liked this movie, and I’m happy we got to see it in a real theater. It also helped me clarify what I didn’t like about that book I read recently, The Christmas Shoes. Both the movie and the book have basically the same message: enjoy every moment of your life and the people in it. But Stranger than Fiction has a quirky, unique way of getting the message across. (I was going to say it has a novel way of getting the message across, but I just couldn’t do it.) Will Ferrell plays the serious guy for once, and he is really good: his character, Harold Crick, an IRS agent whose life is suddenly being narrated by a female voice only he can hear, is earnest, shy, tentative, his life dictated by his routines. The other actors are also very good. Emma Thompson is the chain-smoking novelist narrating Harold’s life; Dustin Hoffman is a literature professor (and while he wasn’t exactly like any of my literature professors, he brought back memories of my days as a Comparative Literature m…

The Ugly American (1963)

Hmmm.... I'm assuming this movie is not as good as the book. It brought up lots of important questions about U.S. involvement in foreign countries, but didn't really answer any. My favorite line in the movie was uttered by the U.S. ambassador to a fictional Southeast Asian country, played by Marlon Brando, and it went something like this: "We'll support dictators if that's what it takes to keep the free world free!" It has taken me an embarrassingly long time to understand that since Communism was the Greatest Evil during the cold war, there was a lot of harmful and baffling intervention by the U.S. government in various foreign countries. That line summed it up pretty well, and now when I read about some country like Haiti, where the Americans supported crazy, murderous dictators in order to keep out the Socialists, I'll remember that line and think, oh, of course, that makes perfect sense!

The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest by Conrad Anker and David Roberts

George Mallory, one of the first explorers to try to climb Mount Everest, made three attempts in the early 1920s. On his third attempt, in 1924, he and his climbing partner, Sandy Irvine, never came down. This book is about the 1999 Everest expedition that found Mallory’s body. It’s pretty interesting. How could it not be? This book reminded me of the weird things about Everest that were hard for me to believe at first. I think I had to be exposed several times to the fact that people who climb Everest actually go up and down it several times before trying for the summit—from base camp, they climb up several thousand feet, set up a second camp, then climb back down, spend the night. Next day climb up past the second camp, set up another camp, go back down to the second camp, spend the night. They’re carrying supplies and getting used to the altitude. Well, after all, they are trying to get to the summit of Mount Everest, which is 29,028 feet above sea level. Next time you fly, and t…

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere

I didn’t like this very much. One of the book clubs I go to is reading it for December, and it’s a quick read, so not too much time lost. It’s a touching story, but too sentimental and predictable. I’m kind of dreading going to book club, because I’ll have to admit that I don’t like it. I will say that it wasn’t as manipulative as other sentimental fiction I’ve read, and it wasn't terribly written. Oh, yeah, and it's based on a song. I don't know if I've ever heard it, but I don't really want to. I'm not sure why I react so strongly against stuff like this. I'll stop now.

Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life

Somehow I skirted the edges of awareness of Hugh Nibley for a long time, though many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have read his articles and books, or at least knew something about him.When I was in high school, my mom had a copy of Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless that she read and really enjoyed, and she encouraged me to read it. I only read a little of it, and I don't remember it making much of an impression on me. As a student at BYU I heard his name mentioned from time to time, and around 1994 a friend took a Pearl of Great Price class from him. This friend was not impressed. He felt Dr. Nibley rambled on about seemingly arbitrary topics, and made no sense to the students. (It may have been this very class that caused Hugh to quit teaching in disgust with the students, an event described in the biography!)Shortly after that time, Erin and I noticed our friends Mike Haire and Theron & Valerie Harmon were reading a bit of Nibley. Mike had …

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

This is not the sort of book I normally pick up at the library. But I liked the movie so...First of all, it's a lot different from the movie. And longer. It sort of went on and on, repeating a lot of phrases which got sort of annoying. Okay, I know the guy was an amnesiac, and he had to repeat phrases to himself to try to stir his memories or whatever, but if I had to read "Cain is for Charlie, Delta is for Cain. Get Carlos. Kill Carlos.." again, well....I would have skipped it like I did that last few times it was repeated.The plot was really long and really confusing (I missed a lot). And THEN, after all the plot twists, all the chasing, fighting, running, excitement, the bad guy gets away!! Setting up for more books, I'm sure (which there are. More books, that is). The author was good at describing fight scenes, but my imagination has a hard time picturing it. Movies are much more intense. Now I have to watch the movie again. It was so different and I wonder why.…

Clueless (1995)

I think this is very funny, especially for fans of Emma. It's a pretty good modern interpretation of that book: Cher (Alicia Silverstone) is privileged, popular, and well-intentioned, but she ends up causing various problems while trying to help others find love. Her lawer father is hilarious (to Cher's slick, smooth-spoken and cocky date, he says, "I have a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anyone would miss you"). Jon watched it with me. He hasn't said he hated it, and he laughed several times, so that's good. (I'm very grateful to have a husband who will watch chick flicks with me. And without making gagging noises or anything like that.) One of the reasons Clueless works so well as a Jane Austen adaptation is that the high school is an excellent parallel to class in pre-industrialized England. In Austen's time, income, titles, and background meant everything; in high school, it's how you dress, talk and what you do for fun ("the loadies hang …

Emma (1996)

This is another delightful adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, but I confess that it's my least favorite. Actually, the novel itself is my least favorite, because Emma annoys me. I think she's supposed to be annoying, or to put it differently, she is an immature and flawed character, and her actions have sad consequences for others (though everything turns out well in the end, of course). I am also annoyed by the whole husband-as-teacher-and-guide thing. Knightley is so condescending towards Emma, at least in the film. I can't remember the book well enough to compare, but I hope I don't ever fall in love with someone who would hiss at me "Badly done, Emma! Badly done!" Of course that would be extra weird if it happened to me, since my name isn't Emma. Sorry. Couldn't (or didn't) resist that obvious joke. The secondary characters are well-done and often very funny, but I seem to be experiencing an overdose of Gwyneth Paltrow, even though I haven&#…

The Prestige

This is a nice movie to see on the big screen. I loved Batman Begins, which also starred Christian Bale and was written and directed by the same guy. That would be Christopher Nolan. I shouldn't say it's a nice film, though. It's not really "nice." Interesting, dark, entertaining, well-acted and well-told, beautiful to look at, yes. The movie starts at the end of the story, and I like that particular narrative trick. All of the acting was very good: Hugh Jackman, who has seemed run-of-the-mill until I saw him in this; Michael Caine, who's always very good; Christian Bale; even David Bowie, whom I forgot to recognize during the film. (I'd read somewhere that he was in it, but then I forgot, remembered during the credits and had to look at the cast listing to find out who he played. He played Nicola Tesla, who was a real person, of course, inventor of alternating current (AC) electric power and lots of other things. Tesla in the movie was interesting and w…

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

I had a slow start with this book--there's a lot more literary criticism than I expected, and I got bogged down feeling like I should read all the books the author had her students read. Nabakov and Henry James, mostly. But then I just plowed through it. I had trouble keeping the characters straight, but that might have to do with the names, which are unfamiliar to me. It is fascinating to read about these Iranian women and to try to get a picture of what things are like in Iran. The last paragraph, written by one of Nafisi's students who is still in Iran, made me cry: Five years have passed since the time when the story began in a cloud-lit room where we read Madame Bovary and had chocolate from a wine-red dish on Thursday mornings. Hardly anything has changed in the nonstop sameness of our everyday life. But somewhere else I have changed. Each morning with the rising of the routine sun as I wake up and put on my veil before the mirror to go out and become a part of what is…

Bounce (2000)

There were parts of this that I enjoyed, but after it ended, it seemed much less important than it had seemed while I was watching it. Which is a bad thing, I guess. Gwyneth Paltrow is a good actress and even managed to look almost dowdy in this role. But in retrospect, the main characters were too close to tears too often and the Ben Affleck character was kind of annoying: sometimes the advertising executive jerk, sometimes the eloquent potential lover, most of the time incapable of saying anything really meaningful. There are several scenes where he opens his mouth, about to say that really important thing, and instead he says something really inane. By the end of the movie, I think it's supposed to be some kind of code for how he really feels, and I'm supposed to be moved and want them to get back together. But I wanted her to say, "Not cute! Immature and stupid! Grow up!" or some variation thereof. As an amusing (to me, at least) aside, a friend of mine who gre…