Archives for category: Movies

Hi all:

As you know, I love to read and review books and other things (movies, plays…). Although I read and watch things in very different genres (and I have a penchant for the unclassifiable, I must admit, both in my work and in that of others), and I love horror, and don’t flinch at gore or hard scenes or topics, sometimes one just fancies something gentle, that will leave us with a smile on our face and our heart, and a sigh of contentment, rather than making our blood pressure go up and leave us thinking about how awful the world can be.

I’m lucky enough, through Net Galley, to catch glimpses of books before they go on sale to the general public, and that was the case with this book, that will be officially published on the 18th of June but is available for pre-order.

The readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarian Bivald

The readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

First, the blurb:

The readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Sara is 28 and has never been outside Sweden – except in the (many) books she reads. When her elderly penfriend Amy invites her to come and visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Sara decides it’s time. But when she arrives, there’s a twist waiting for her – Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman’s house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.

But Sara discovers she is not exactly alone. For here in this town so broken it’s almost beyond repair are all the people she’s come to know through Amy’s letters: poor George, fierce Grace, buttoned-up Caroline and Amy’s guarded nephew Tom.

Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

Here, my review:

A dream of a book for all book lovers

Thanks to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with an advance copy of this book that was a bestseller in its original Swedish.

What a wonderful book! If like me, you love books, you find time spent reading always rewarding, and would love to live in a library or a bookshop, this is your book.

Sara, the protagonist, who has always found company, consolation, friendship and support in books, takes a leap of faith and when the bookshop where she works closes down, she accepts the invitation of her pen-pal and fellow book lover, Amy. She goes to spend two month with Amy in Broken Wheel, Iowa. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan, but when she is adopted by the whole village, she comes up with a scheme to repay them in kind, by sharing the magic and power of books.

The transformation of Sara and the town are what drives the narrative, and the assorted characters (some more recognisable than others) become humanised by their contact with Sara and her books. So much so that they can’t let her go and will do anything to keep her with them.

I enjoyed Amy’s epistles that help us imagine the missing character, the sad characters (like George and John), the riotous ones (Andy, Grace), wonderful Caroline, the love interest… Well, everybody.

This isn’t a book of mysteries and intrigues. There are no major surprises and the plot meanders along gently inviting us to share in the characters’ adventures, where nothing drastic or earth shattering happens, just life as usual.

I loved the bookshop, and Sara’s classification system, and I’d like to work there and move to Broken Wheel. Because a book about books can’t be wrong.

A delightful read.

Ah, let’s not forget the links:

Kindle: $8.97

http://www.amazon.com/Readers-Broken-Wheel-Recommend-ebook/dp/B00TQDWHJO/

Paperback: $ 13.05  http://www.amazon.com/Readers-Broken-Wheel-Recommend/dp/070118907X/

Hardback: $12. 92 http://www.amazon.com/The-Readers-Broken-Wheel-Recommend/dp/0701189061/

Through Amazon Prime I have access to movies, TV series, etc, directly streamed to the TV (if you have it connected to the internet, that is) or to the Kindle or wherever. And I found a movie from 2010 I hadn’t seen, by Rob Reiner, called Flipped that had a similar effect. A gentle movie, good for family viewers, set in the late 1950s. I haven’t read the original book, but now I’m quite curious about it. The critics didn’t seem to like it very much, although viewers were kinder. OK, it’s no Stand By Me, not many movies are, but it is a kind movie, for all the family, mostly about children, their families, and I particularly enjoyed watching John Mahoney (from Frasier fame) portrayal as the grandad, and thought Anthony Edwards played with considerable restraint a truly unsympathetic character.

Just in case you feel curious, here is the link to IMDB:

Flipped

Flipped

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0817177/

Two eighth-graders start to have feelings for each other despite being total opposites. Based on the novel “Flipped” by Wendelin Van Draanen.

Director:

Rob Reiner

Writers:

Rob Reiner (screenplay), Andrew Scheinman(screenplay),

Stars:

Madeline CarrollCallan McAuliffeRebecca De Mornay, Aidan Queen, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Penelope Ann Miller

Thank you all for reading, thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for the advance copy of The readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Hi all:

These days I let the content of my posts be dictated by those thoughts or connections that keep popping up in my mind and refuse to go. In the last couple of weeks I’ve watched three movies, and although they are very different, I couldn’t help but notice that they have something in common: the main characters wave wads of money around. What they are trying to achieve couldn’t be further apart.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

In Jim Jarmusch’s film Only Lovers Left Alive  (I give a brief summary and more details of the movies at the end obtained from www.imdb.com ), Adam and Eve (the film is loosely based in a book by Mark Twain , The Diaries of Adam and Eve. If you want a free e-version go here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0195101529/ although others are available) are two vampires who’ve lived (or been undead) for centuries and have been in love it seems for as long. They are exquisitely well educated (I love the scene where Eve is packing to go and visit Adam, as she lives in Tangiers and he is in Detroit, and she packs two suitcases full of books [a woman/vampire after my own heart] after speedreading classics in many languages), live pretty isolated lives, and feed themselves by buying blood from well-connected doctors and blood-banks.  Despite their peculiar lives, their existence is like a shining diamond compared to that of the human being around them because they appreciate the beautiful things around him, literature, music and love. Adam doesn’t call humans ‘zombies’ for nothing. He is a musician and seems a romantic lost in the modern world, with suicidal ideation and all. Eve reminds him that he has lived through similar experiences when he was associating with Lord Byron and his circle. The film is astonishingly beautiful. Even a dilapidated Detroit looks sad but fitting.

John Hurt, who plays Christopher Marlowe, throwing darts with a painting of Shakespeare as target, is wonderful, as always. Unfortunately, he runs out of supply of “the good stuff” and ends up dying because of contaminated blood.

Enter:

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club, based on a true story, where the main character, Ron Woodroof, played in a well-deserved Oscar winning performance by Matthew McConaughey, is a Dallas electrician who is neither educated not sophisticated. He seems to be only interested in drugs (cocaine mostly) and women (more about that later) and as we discover when he is diagnosed with AIDS due to an accident at work, he’s homophobic too. At the time of his diagnosis the illness was very poorly understood and most people thought transfusions, IV drug use or homosexual relations were the likely culprits. After a brief period of denial he discovers that unprotected sex, that he has plenty of, can also be a mode of transmission. They give him 30 days to live. His character is not likeable. He’s sexist, homophobic, and seems to live only for the moment. But he won’t quit. He’s determined to live for as long as he can, and he will confront whoever gets in his way, be the FDA, hospital, doctors, the government. He is not completely altruistic (when he starts bringing drugs from Mexico and later on from wherever he can get them, he charges people and you have the sense that he is making money out of it), but he is not heartless and he goes out of his way to share the information he finds, including sending medication to a policeman friend, for his father who suffers dementia. And he seems to abstain sexually until he finds a girl who comes to the clinic seeking treatment (and boy, is he happy about that!). He also gets to accept homosexuality and defends his transgender friend and associate Rayon, a deeply touching Jared Leto (who again deserves the oscar). Throughout the movie we see Ron change and be transformed by his experience

There are brief scenes where you get to sense the real person behind the bravado (like when Ron goes for dinner with his female doctor and friend, and they talk about his mother, who was a painter but abandoned him when he was very young) and I particularly liked the scene when Rayon, dressed in a man’s suit, goes to visit his father, a banker, who at some point says ‘God help me’ and Rayon says: ‘He is. I got AIDS.’

The film is not one for great stylistics. It does have the look of a documentary, and the form is at the service of telling the story. The performances of the two main male actors are outstanding.

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street

I mentioned how Ron is mostly interested in drugs and women. He shares these interests with Jordan Belfort, the protagonist of another story based on real events Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. His other interest being making money. The film is fast paced (although it’s quite long), beautifully filmed, has fantastic performances, it is really funny at times (when both Jordan and his best friend and associate end up legless due to a drug overdose the movie becomes pure slapstick) but it is horrifying. When I talked about American Hustle a few weeks ago I discussed the possible amorality of the film, here there is no doubt; this is a celebration of trickstery, corruption and fraud in the grand scale. Money is justified by itself, there are no limits to greed and selfishness, and when punishment finally arrives, it is too little, too late. And judging by the seminars the character is offering at the end, he has learned nothing in the process. Matthew McConaughey plays a small but powerful part (reminiscent of Alec Baldwin’s bit-part in the film version of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross) giving Jordan his own version of the ethics (or lack of) of being a stockbroker.

Would I recommend them? They are all good films, although very different. Dallas Buyers Club is a solid movie with great performances, and a history of the human spirit and human resilience. The Wolf of Wall Street is like King Midas’s story in modern times, but with no punishment. If you hate bankers and financiers and feel aggrieved by the current economic situation I don’t recommend it as it will make your blood boil. I think that Only Lovers Left Alive will become a cult-film, and I’m intending to buy it and watch it more than once. It is one of those movies (like Blade Runner or even Wall-E) where the non-humans have more appreciation and understanding of the beauty and greatness of life than humans do. Maybe we should take heed.

 

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

A story centered on two vampires who have been in love for centuries.

Director:

Jim Jarmusch

Writer:

Jim Jarmusch (screenplay)

Stars:

Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt

Direct link to imdb page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1714915/

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.

Director:

Jean-Marc Vallée

Writers:

Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

Stars:

Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto

Direct link to imdb page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0790636/

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.

Director:

Martin Scorsese

Writers:

Terence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)

Stars:

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie |

Direct link to imdb page with trailers, etc.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0993846/

Thanks for reading, and you know what to do if you’ve enjoyed it, like, comment, share and get watching!

 

Poster for American Hustle

Poster for American Hustle

After reading some good reviews of American Hustle (Dir: David O’Russell, with: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence…) I decided to go and watch it. I’ve been interested in con games and con men (and women) for many years. They have a long tradition (you can read Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man if you need any proof). In Spain, the Picaresque novel is our autochthonous version of it, and movies such as the Argentinean 9 Queens (I wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s fabulous) bear testimony to that.  My interest grew while I was writing the final assignment for my ‘Hollywood Film’ course at Mount Holyoke. I decided to write about David Mamet’s films and con-men. I wrote about House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner (I also recommend these two films if you’ve never watched them). The first one has a female psychiatrist being conned and in turn conning a group of con men, and it still remains my favourite Mamet film. The second one is a beautifully executed con game. I became so engrossed with David Mamet and the subject (as it is a theme he comes back over and over again, not surprising in somebody as fascinated by language as he is) that I ended up doing a PhD on ‘The Films of David Mamet’. I read a fair amount about con games and con men, researched the subject, and discovered David Maurer, a Professor of Linguistics who had researched the typical criminal argot, and become fascinated by the subject of con men, publishing two books, The Big Con (in 1940) and The American Confidence Man (1974). The library at Sussex University managed to obtain a copy of The American Confidence Man borrowing it from Edinburgh (at the time there were only 3 copies in the UK), but The Big Con was not available. And then, one day walking around in London I went into a big bookstore, and checking their crime section I saw a brand new copy of The Big Con. It had been republished, oh miracle of miracles. I promptly grabbed it and went to the till, where the young man asked me if it was a gift for somebody and I told him it was for me. His eyes lit up and he told me how good it was, how much he’d enjoyed it, etc, etc. His admiration was well deserved. If you’re interested in the subject, do read it. Of course, it is a historical book, and you won’t find anything about cyber-crime, or anything like that, but the magic is still there. It’s a bit like watching The Sting. The mechanics of the cons might not be possible today, but the beauty of the concepts, the acting, and the performances, keep the magic alive. (And it seems that The Big Con was one of the sources of The Sting and indeed if you read the book and watch the movie you’ll clearly see the con at the heart of the movie described brilliantly in the book. There was a novel written based on the film that ended up in court for plagiarism and The Big Con won.)

Con men consider themselves the aristocrats of crime (they bring people into their confidence, they make people give them their money willingly, and they can come up with some pretty elaborate schemes), but whatever your opinion what is clear is that they need to be pretty good and convincing actors.

The story of American Hustle is told from the point of view of several characters. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale with a belly, bolding and with a pretty elaborate combover) a star in the world of con men, meets Sidney Prosser (Amy Adams, Lady Edith during much of the film) and they discover they are keen in their love and skill in setting up cons. Unfortunately she picks the wrong mark, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper, who although not balding has the most bizarre curly hair, that later in the movie we discover is the result of using rollers at home) who happens to be with the FBI. He offers to let them walk free if they cooperate with him in setting up other people. The scale of the operation grows to proportions quite unexpected. A New Jersey mayor, Carmine Polito (played with conviction by Jeremy Renner) in his eagerness to rebuild Atlantic City via legalised gambling gets into business with them and the fake sheik (there is always a fake sheik somewhere), big gambling Mafia gets involved (Robert De Niro, also balding), politicians can be offered a bit of money to expedite the paperwork to nationalise the sheik, for business purposes… Richie gets high and carried away in his never ending ambition to bring more and more important people down. I will not reveal more details of the plot, as it is an absolute joy to go through it, try to piece the story together and see how you feel by the end. It is well written, the 1970s are well recreated ( in all their doubtful glory, for our sins, I would add), the director makes good use of some of the actors he has worked with before (having directed Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter), and the performances are fabulous. Bale is a fascinating actor. To my mind he always is whoever he is portraying, and after having watched quite a few of his movies (and having seen him develop his career since he was a child) I still have no sense of who is the man behind the performance. And that is as it should be. Bradley Cooper is very convincing as the FBI man who is compelled to show everybody he is not just a small time guy, who wants to upstage his boss, and be cleverer than anybody else. Amy Adams is an actress who has made very good career choices, providing varied and always pitch-perfect performances, and she is in her element here. I think she will develop into a great actress. Jennifer Lawrence plays Bale’s wife and she has a ball of it. Although her part is not the biggest, she shines through. Oscars, here we come again. As I mentioned Jeremy Renner portrays Polito sympathetically and you like the character, who does the wrong thing for the right reasons, and is the one who makes you question the morality of the whole operation more than anybody else. It’s a good story, well told and fantastically acted. If one might feel that it is morally tepid, it is a story told from (mostly) the criminals’ point of view, and it shows that the lines between right and wrong can get blurred when one forgets that the end does not (always) justify the means. I do recommend it.

Just in case you’re interested I leave you the links to the two books by David Maurer I mentioned (The Big Con is available as e-book and paperback. The American Confidence Man is only available second hand in hardback).

The Big Con

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005F3GL6E/

The American Confidence Man

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0398029741/

Thank you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, go and watch the movie, like, comment and share!

Note: I write and schedule my posts (when I can) ahead, and I’m pleased to see that the Golden Globes agree with me with regards to the movies and the female performances in particular.

GetAttachment[1]

Storyline

In this inspired, genre-twisting new film, Oscar®-nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who’s telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the … Written by The National Film Board of Canada

Sarah Polley

I went to watch Stories We Tell because I have been intrigued by Sarah Polley for a while. I’ve loved her as an actress in My Life Without Me (by Isabel Coixet, a writer/director from my country that I’m also very interested in), and The Secret Life of Words (again by the same writer/director) and watched on with interest when she directed Away From Her, as touching and loving a movie about Alzheimer’s disease as you’re bound to see. When I read about Stories We Tell I knew I had to go and watch it, not only because she was directing it, and it was about her and her family (a documentary this time) but also because it was about family secrets, the nature of memory, and how we tell stories.

English: Sheffield: The Showroom A cinema, caf...

English: Sheffield: The Showroom A cinema, café and bar just up from the station on what used to be a roundabout called Sheaf Square before it was redeveloped a couple of years ago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to the Sheffield Showroom, an independent cinema (part of the Europa Cinemas partnership) and can report I was alone in Screen One where it was showing. Yes, it was Sunday and a sunny day and people were out in the Peace gardens, children paddling in the water…I hope it had more viewers at other times, because it deserves them. But I must admit it made for an even more interesting experience, because if this is an intimate and small movie, a personal showing made it even more so.

The documentary got good reviews (and deservedly so) and it explores…I guess family dynamics. We all have family myths and stories that get repeated no matter what (according to my father I was born a very long and very thin baby, full of hair…I’ve worked hard to be thin, I’m not particularly long now and definitely not hairy…You’ll have to take my word for it), and become the ‘truth’ even when they might not stand up to scrutiny. There might be reasons why we live with those versions of events but I don’t think that many of us have investigated them, at least not as Sarah (again I’m taking liberties here) does. Not sure we’d dare.

The story discussed and the questions she asks go to the core of her identity. If we have all asked ourselves ‘where do I come from?’ in the majority of cases we’re not questioning our direct origins. We believe we know where we were born, and who our parents are (not everybody, of course). Although Sara’s family is not your standard one (her parents were both actors, her mother had been married before, divorced her first husband and was the first woman in Canada to lose custody of her children) certain roles seemed established. Her mother died when she was a child and the film is also an exploration of her mother, as Sarah was too young to have had the opportunity to ask her many questions. Who was this bubbly and talented woman, not afraid to chase after her dreams? What made her so attractive to so many people? Her father, Michael, brought her up and she has a good relationship with him and her siblings. So why was there a family rumour insisting that Michael was not her real father? And if he wasn’t, who was?

Sarah uses interviews/interrogations with those involved (family members, friends, some of her mother’s colleagues), has her ‘father’ Michael read his own account of the story, and recreates scenes from her mother’s and the family’s past, real materials and recreated memories based on diverse account, documents, family movies…

Some of the people interviewed feel they ‘own’ the story. Others are generous enough to just tell their version and let her/us do with it as we will. And all truly love Sarah and each other. Do they all understand what she is trying to achieve? No. Are they worried about it? They don’t seem to be.

Whatever else the movie does, I felt it allowed me into the heart of this family who are strong and close enough to let a camera in and not be worried about what those watching it might think. Family secrets cannot destroy you if you just let them out in the open and embrace them. Such a great lesson. I hope you watch it and enjoy it.

Thank you for reading. And if you’ve enjoyed it, don’t forget to watch, comment and share!

Living in the Gap

“Ruffled feathers and endless squawking over a minor difficulty is typical of a crow’s life. I lean back on the counter and realize that could be my line….”

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