Saturday, April 10, 2010

Movies, TV, Books

Just a random assortment of suggestions and non-suggestions. Basically, it's Saturday morning and I'm avoiding cleaning my house and grading. You're welcome.

Books

Last Night in Twisted Riverby John Irving

Is it all right that I'm giving this review and I'm not done with the book? Because I already love it. This may have something to do with the fact that, as a rule, I love John Irving's novels. He's sucked me in right away (although it does begin with a lot of history of the logging industry)--he'll have you going along, thinking, "OK, good plot, memorable characters..." and WHAM! He throws a curve-ball at you. Let me put it this way: I've read ahead in about four places because I can't wait to see what's next.

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Admittedly, I am also not too far through this novel (that I'm reading for my book club. Whoops. J, you've probably finished it AND made copious notes. But you are a human dynamo), but I'm enjoying the lack of completely linear writing. The narrator interjects himself a lot, working two intertwined plots at the same time. I happen to like that. I find his writing here very lyrical in spots. Hopefully it will continue. I'm going to hear Rushdie speak next Friday, so that should be fascinating.

I suppose I should add the caveat that I may like Midnight's Children so much because most of what I've read for our book club I (and others) have not enjoyed, so perhaps part of my feeling toward this book involves sheer relief, but I don't think that's entirely why I recommend it.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I'm reading this one as my summer reading book for the students, and I find it riveting. It's a collection of short stories all based in one small town in Maine, and they're all intertwined. The main character, Olive, is a retired schoolteacher who's a bit crusty, a bit domineering--I alternate between utterly disliking her and feeling sorry for her as the author drops more and more bits of Olive's life into the stories. It won the Pulitzer Prize, and I can see why.

The cool part is that this year we had the students come in and recommend books (an idea both obvious and innovative), and I believe a few kids recommended this one. Thought-provoking and at times bitterly sad, Olive Kitteridge also has its bright spots. I've truly enjoyed it. Plus it's not terribly long, so it's one you can keep on your bedside table and read a story a night.

TV

If you haven't gotten into LOST yet, well, I don't understand why not. Rent the DVDs and watch it from the beginning and see if you don't get hooked. In a sea of crime and doctor dramas, it has a sometimes confusing but never boring storyline.

I never thought I'd feel sympathy for a serial killer, but we love the Showtime series Dexter. I warn you, it's extremely dark and sometimes unnerving, but we think the acting is great and the plot often blackly humorous. Lots of blood, though (obviously), and lots of swearing, so if that's not something you like, don't go for it. Tell you what--if you could get through and enjoy the movie Fargo, I think it has that same air about it. These are also on DVD.

I just got into Modern Family after hearing three people (whose opinions I trust) rave about it within as many days. We watched it the other night and laughed a lot. I think someone finally hit on a combination of families that are exaggerated in just the right way and got away from the "dumb-husband/shrewish, acerbically witty wife" combo that's been around since The Honeymooners. And I think Ed O'Neill has gotten funnier as he's gotten older-- he's improved on his timing. Honestly, some of it was so hilarious because it seemed familiar.

Movies
  • I don't have much here except to write that apparently the movie Crank 2: High Voltage
    is, according to my husband, "the worst movie I've ever watched all the way through," and he's let himself watch some real stinkers. He said it felt as though a fourteen year-old boy had written the script: bad one-liners, explosions, fast cars, sex, scantily clad women, and bad guys...all to a soundtrack that featured lots of electric guitar. But worse.
I have become convinced that the reason I like the movie Meet Joe Black as much as I do is solely because of the soundtrack by Thomas Newman, who's done the music for American Beauty, Finding Nemo, The Shawshank Redemption, Road to Perdition, and others. I just love how hauntingly beautiful it is. Otherwise, it's not that terrific a movie.

Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet confuses 9th graders because they can't reconcile Elizabethan English with modern scenarios. The men need to be in doublets and tights (although the codpieces are a bit much), not gang-wear, for them to get it.

Honestly, I haven't seen anything in the theater lately, so let me know what's good.

So there's my two cents. Do with it what you will. I'm off to clean and bake cinnamon-raisin bread with my mom for my grandma's 95th birthday tomorrow.

2 comments:

Wonderland said...

Thank you for the Irving review! I was holding that book in my hand in the library YESTERDAY and couldn't decide if I should take it home. I honestly love Irving so much but his last one "Until I find you" was SO boring, I feel a little burned. But now I know to just get over that and go pick it up. Thanks!!

Scarlet Lily said...

OMG, B & I LOOOOVE Modern Family so much! It's so nice to see such an incredible combo of talented writing and comedic acting in a night time drama.

And no kidding about the lazy husband/shrewish wife thing - UGH!