April 2007 Reading/Watching Recap

Guess what! I finally finished April’s recap! I know, right? April was the month in which I rediscovered Turner Classic Movies during a few weeks of relative dead time at school and, between that and an active month of Netflixing and theatre-going, watched a total of 24 movies. I think that’s a record. And that’s not even including the four or five rewatches. So without further ado, here are my reactions to Marie Antoinette, Band of Outsiders, Kiss Me Deadly, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, The Lives of Others, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Through a Glass Darkly, Hot Fuzz, and many others. Plus some books.

The posters/covers link to the Amazon.com product page (in the case of books, not necessarily the same edition as the cover depicts), except for While the City Sleeps, which has never been released on DVD. The Frame, which I have linked at the bottom of each review, is my wiki wherein I am ambitiously trying to keep track of intertextuality and references in books, films, etc. Some pages are more complete than others.

Films

To Sir With Love
To Sir With LoveSidney Poitier plays a young man from Africa who takes the rather undesirable position of a teacher at an inner-city London school to make a little money before he continues his studies to be an engineer. His class of high school seniors is full of hoodlums and smart-alecks who can’t see the point of finishing school when they have basically no chance of a future outside their crime-ridden, poverty-stricken area. But “Sir,” as he is called first mockingly and later respectfully, insists on order and respect in his classroom and soon turns the kids around. To Sir, With Love, along with Blackboard Jungle and others, is one of the earlier examples of the “inspirational teacher” story, and though it’s a bit dated by its 1960s setting, and the London setting will make it seem strange to a lot of Americans, it has a certain charm–not least of which the title song, which was a number one hit for British Invasion singer Lulu (she also has a supporting role in the film). However, the quick turn around of the students from thugs to upstanding citizens is a bit abrupt and not always handled believably, so it’s at best a limited success.
Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Detective Story
Detective StoryThis simple title heads a deceptively simple story detailing one day at a city police precinct, largely confined to the station’s second floor. This rather claustrophobic setting is peopled with weary detectives questioning petty criminals, a young man driven to embezzlement and the girl who loves him unconditionally, and the star detective of the force, obsessed with justice to the exclusion of mercy. His strict definition of righteousness is tested when his current investigation into a murder case uncovers an unsavory side to his wife’s past. The conflict between his uncompromising moral sense and love for his wife brings this contemporary Javert to a crisis of character. It’s a small film, played in a cramped three rooms and on the faces of Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker, but well-done and attention-holding–aside from a few instances of old-fashioned overacting which threatens credulity at times.
Well Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Paris When It Sizzles
Paris When It SizzlesWilliam Holden is a hard-drinking screenwriter who hires Audrey Hepburn as a typist to help him finish his current screenplay in the two days he has left before the deadline. As he writes, he and Hepburn take on the roles of his characters in pseudo-fantasy sequences in which the action frequently changes to reflect the changes Holden makes in his script (told through voice-over narration). It sounds like an interesting take on the writing process, but it ultimately devolves into silliness and can’t sustain the premise. It’s still mildly enjoyable, especially if you like Audrey Hepburn, and you know, who doesn’t?
Average
IMDb | The Frame

District B-13
District B-13Here’s a poser for American distributors: a complete popcorn action film full of adrenaline-charged sequences and set pieces hung on just enough plot (a cop and a criminal join forces to clean up a crime-ridden section of a futuristic Paris) to give it structure. Easy. Market it like an entry in the Bad Boys or Transporter series. But wait. It’s French. We can’t market a foreign-language film to the mainstream–they won’t read it! We can’t market a mindless popcorn film to the arthouse crowd–it’s way too “low-art.” Not that it’s a great film; it’s not. But for a purely enjoyable action rush (with some incredible parkour), it’s perfect, and there’s no reason in the world it shouldn’t get the same treatment as any of a dozen mainstream blockbusters. Sorry, this is devolving into a “Americans are stoopid and won’t watch foreign films even when they’re just like American films” rant. In any case, I enjoyed it.
Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Marie Antoinette
Marie AntoinetteI’ll admit it: when I first saw the trailer for Sofia Coppola‘s Marie Antoinette, I had serious doubts. Why was Coppola following up the incredible Lost in Translation with a fluffy-looking biopic of the doomed French queen? Exactly how light was she going to make the tragedy of the French Revolution? And for crying out loud, why did she cast Kirsten Dunst, whose acting is inconsistent at best? I should have had more faith. Though Marie Antoinette is unconventional, it is a solid and riveting re-interpretation of the giddy but not untroubled courts of Louis XVI and Louis XVII. The use of actors like Dunst and Jason Schwartzman, who are not known as period actors, as well as anachronistic music, sounds like an ill-conceived attempt to make the story feel contemporary, but it actually works. Dunst impresses as the barely-more-than-a-child treaty bride, always in danger of being sent home or worse if she fails to produce a male heir. Her problems may seem trivial when juxtaposed with the plight of the exploited French people, but the sudden explosion of the French Revolution into the opulent court only emphasizes the absolute shock and complete historical break that the Revolution represents. I could write much more about the film, because I honestly was so much more impressed by it than I expected to be. Coppola took some serious risks artistically and historically, but they paid off. When can I see her next film?
Superior
IMDb | The Frame

Band of Outsiders
Band of OutsidersOh, Jean-Luc Godard. You and I have had a rather uneasy cinematic relationship, I know. I’ve considered your colleague François Truffaut to be the essential New Wave director and his masterpiece The 400 Blows to be greater than yours, Breathless. So why, after seeing Breathless multiple times, as well as your other most famous film Contempt, is it this admittedly important but slightly lesser film Band of Outsiders that made me fall voraciously in love with your films? Why should this slight story of three young people and their rather apathetic and doomed robbery attempt have captivated me so much? Is it the joyful spontaneity with which the characters suddenly break into an imitation of an American crime film? Is it your noncommital camera that seems both objective and tragically sympathetic at the same time? Is it the almost wholly foreign (to Americans) tendency to showcase scenes–like the scene where the characters dance in a cafe for several minutes, or the one where they experiment with a minute of complete silence–that seem to do nothing to advance the plot, but rather embrace the lives of the characters? Is it your bittersweet, detached yet complicit voiceover narration? Maybe. I only know that after watching it, I immediately added all of your movies to my Netflix queue.
Superior
IMDb | The Frame

Kiss Me Deadly
Kiss Me DeadlyThis noirish detective film has a healthy reputation as a pulp classic (adapted from the king of pulp fiction, Mickey Spillane) that may overshadow its actual quality. It’s good for what it is, but it’s not great. In fact, I’m having difficulty remembering the exact plot, other than it has to do with a mysterious box which acts almost as a McGuffin in Hitchcock’s films–in other words, the excuse for all the action, but everybody wants it without quite knowing what’s in it. It plays into 1950s atomic paranoia, but the final payoff seems rather anticlimactic. Of course, it’s still enjoyable to watch, if you like noirish detective pulp fiction films. Just don’t try to make it more than it is.
Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Divorce, Italian Style
Divorce Italian StyleNow, I really think I missed something here. Divorce, Italian Style is usually right up there on critics lists and is considered one of the best Italian comedies ever. Perhaps Italians don’t make very many good comedies? No, but seriously. The premise is great–an Italian man stuck in an unhappy marriage hits on the idea that since he can’t divorce his wife, divorce laws in Italy being pretty strict, he will kill her instead. However, in order to take advantage of a leniency in Italian murder law concerning crimes of passion, he concocts a complicated plan that involves bringing in a former sweetheart of his wife’s, getting them into a compromising situation, and then killing her in a fit of passion. Add in the other man’s wife, who has similar designs, and you should have a zany good time. But…you don’t. The film is slow-moving, strangely lifeless, and focuses far more on the main character’s desire for his niece than seemed healthy or helpful. Yet, there must be something I missed, because really smart film people really like this film. For my part, I’m giving it an above average because there are moments that are perfect (thanks mostly to actor Marcello Mastroianni).
Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull StoryLawrence Sterne’s 1769 proto-postmodern novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy has long been considered unfilmable. So what does director Michael Winterbottom do? He makes a film about the difficulty of filming Tristram Shandy. Steve Coogan plays three parts: himself as an actor, and both Tristram Shandy and Shandy’s father in the film-within-the-film. It’s hard to describe (I’ve attempted about six different sentences, none of which were adequate), but wonderfully playful and gleefully intertextual. The behind-the-scenes sections illuminate the difficulty of filming any film (conflicts with the production company, artistic decision-making, issues with set visitors and famous guest stars), as well as just being funny, while the film-within-the-film scenes depict well the circularity and self-defeating narrative of Sterne’s novel–they only get through the first section of the novel, by which time Tristram has not managed to successfully narrate even up to his own birth. Winterbottom’s film is something of an experiment, but it’s a delightful one, especially if you’re interested in the subject of adaptation itself.
Well Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

The Killers
The Killers (1946)Loosely based on one of Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams short stories, the 1946 version of The Killers tells of a washed-up boxer and his involvement with a crime ring that later comes around to haunt him. It’s always interesting to see adaptations of short stories, simply because so much as to be added to make a full-length film. After watching this, I found the story and read it, and it’s basically just the first scene of the film, which shows two strangers enter a diner, intending to kill a man known as the Swede when he comes in for dinner–when he doesn’t come in, Nick Adams, one of the diner’s patrons, runs off to warn him, but he’s tired of running from his past and succumbs. The movie takes off from there to tell us the backstory. It’s a noirish approach, and works very well. A young Burt Lancaster as the Swede, and a young Ava Gardner as the obligatory femme fatale don’t hurt either.
Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

The Killers
The Killers (1964)Criterion packages both the 1946 and the 1964 versions of The Killers together, so after I finished watching the earlier one, I popped the later one in to compare. Wow different. You can still see elements of the same story, though the whole diner scene which was taken directly from the short story has been scrapped–even though they still call it “Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers,” there’s really nothing left of Hemingway in it, except the barebones idea of a former criminal’s old gang catching up to him. The Swede character is now a former racecar driver rather than a boxer, and the hitmen are characterized a lot more strongly–really, it’s almost their movie rather than his now. The whole thing doesn’t hold together as well as the earlier film, but it’s flashy and enjoyable like any average 1960s crime caper.
Average
IMDb | The Frame

Farewell, My Concubine
Farewell My ConcubineOkay, I don’t know where to go with this. I was expecting something like Zhang Yimou‘s period dramas (as in, Raise the Red Lantern, not The Curse of the Golden Flower), and apparently Kaige Chen is…nothing like Yimou. The two main characters are male actors, brought up from childhood in a brutal apprenticeship to an opera troupe. Eventually, they become the leads in a classical play titled Farewell, My Concubine, one of them playing a king, the other the titular concubine (women were not allowed to act, even during this period of 20th century history, so males played the female roles). Over time, their relationship gets more and more ambiguous, especially when the more masculine actor gets married, causing intense jealousy in his partner. All of this somewhat disturbing personal narrative is interrupted by the bloody Communist take-over. There’s no real resolution to either the private or public stories, and motives are very difficult to ascertain. So I can’t say that I enjoyed the film at all–I just found it very disturbing, even with my tendency to like ambiguity. On the other hand, I can’t deny that it looks gorgeous–the cinematography is beautiful, and Gong Li as the interloping woman is amazing, as usual. And again, this is a film that is very highly regarded by the critical community at large, so I’m probably missing something; but though I’d say it’s worth watching for stylistic reasons, I found the story very offputting.
Above Average on style alone
IMDb | The Frame

The Lives of Others
The Lives of OthersI went into this thinking “it better be pretty darn good if it’s going to compensate for my bitterness at it winning the Best Picture Oscar over Pan’s Labyrinth.” And you know, it’s not better than Pan’s, but it IS pretty darn good. It’s the late 1980s in East Berlin; one main character is a surveillance agent, the other is the writer he’s assigned to watch. As the writer gets more and more involved in subversive activities, his surveiller gets more and more entrenched in his life and eventually begins covering up evidence from his superiors. There’s an element of predictability to all of this, but it’s handled with a great deal of finesse in both acting and directing. The end of the movie, after the Berlin Wall has come down, is also very effective. I figure if something not Pan’s Labyrinth had to be named the best foreign film of the year, The Lives of Others is a more than acceptable choice.
Well Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
I am a Fugitive from a Chain GangMoving from Germany’s idea of a socially-conscious film to a prime example of 1930s Warner Bros. example of a social problem film. Paul Muni plays an initially optimistic and energetic young man who struggles to find a job during the depression. Eventually, down on his luck, he ends up unwillingly involved in a robbery and sentenced to the chain gang. He eventually manages to escape from the brutal system, change his name and start a new life, only to have the police discover who he is years later and force him, now a hugely productive member of society, back into the chain gang. It’s all a bit overwrought and about as subtle as an anvil, but if the dichotomy between the severity of the crime and the severity of the punishment was really as broad as it’s painted here, then it was a real social concern.
Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Written on the Wind
Written on the WindHere’s my preconception of director Douglas Sirk: weepy 1950s melodramas, lavish color, overwrought relationships, for some reason highly regarded. Not a great preconception, because I have a prejudice against weepy melodrama. But I’ve seen a few more classic melodramas in the past few months and I’m starting to rethink that. And as melodramas go, Written on the Wind is amazing. It’s focused on a dysfunctional uppercrust family–Robert Stack as the drunken brother, Dorothy Malone as his playgirl sister, and Rock Hudson as their best friend, who tries to keep both of them from destroying themselves. Enter Lauren Bacall, who both Stack and Hudson take a shine to, but she marries Stack, though eventually her heart moves more toward Hudson (who Malone also loves unrequitedly). The story of the family’s self-dissolving is melodramatic, but Sirk somehow stops short of making it maudlin. But the majority of my praise for Sirk goes to his mise-en-scene. He uses his camera and sets up his shots and arranges his actors and everything better than anyone I have EVER seen in my life. For that alone, he gets an A++. Whether you like the melodramatic story or not, it’s simply gorgeous to look at–and I thought that would make it shallow, but it doesn’t. It makes it nearly perfect.
Superior
IMDb | The Frame

The Proposition
The PropositionI’d heard really good things about this Australian Western, but I’m starting to think that there’s an element of relief that someone made a half-way decent Western within the last five years. Because it is half-way decent, but I don’t think it was really that great. When a former gunslinger’s younger brother gets captured by the sheriff for an, um, indiscretion, the sheriff offers him a deal: go out and bring back his outlaw older brother and turn him in, and the younger brother will be freed. Complications ensue, motives are questionable, and estranged families are forced to rethink their relationships. There’s some good stuff going on, but ultimately, there was far too much needless brutality for me. And I’m the one who can watch Kill Bill over and over in delight.
Average
IMDb | The Frame

The Nutty Professor
The Nutty ProfessorI don’t entirely get the appeal of Jerry Lewis. This is probably his best-known film, the pseudo-Jedkyll and Hyde tale of a nerdy professor transformed into lady-killer Buddy Love, the message of which appears to be “be yourself and your pretty student will still date you.” I’m a little extra-sensitive to storylines like that right now, being somewhere between a student and a teacher. In any case, there are several funny sequences, and I enjoyed Lewis’s poking fun at his former partner Dean Martin in his characterization of Buddy Love, but without resorting to extra-textual knowledge, Love is not at all an attractive character, which makes the premise fail a bit. So yeah. I don’t get it. Enjoyable enough, but not worth its reputation.
Average
IMDb | The Frame

Second Chorus
Second ChorusSecond-rate vehicle for Fred Astaire. He and Burgess Meredith play college buddies (note that Astaire was in his forties at the time) who play together in a band. When both of them are forced to graduate–apparently they’ve been failing on purpose to continue getting lucrative college engagements–they both go after a spot in Artie Shaw’s orchestra. Along to help is Paulette Goddard, who becomes their manager and the wedge that drives them apart, as they both fall in love with her. There’s some good music from Shaw, if you like big band, far too little dancing from Fred, and a believability factor of around 0.5. I didn’t hate it; there’s not enough there to hate. Interestingly, though Goddard ends up with Astaire (I’m fairly certain that’s not a spoiler), she married Meredith in real life two years later.
Below Average
IMDb | The Frame

While the City Sleeps
While the City SleepsI’m convinced I’ve seen this before. I can’t find any record of having seen it before, but when I started watching it…I must’ve started watching it one time and not finished it for whatever reason. I don’t know why that could be, because it’s quite a good noir film. The head of a New York newspaper dies, leaving it in his son Vincent Price‘s hands to choose someone to promote: managing editor Thomas Mitchell, lead reporter Dana Andrews, or a couple of other people. The way to get the job? Get the scoop on the serial killer taking out women around the city. There’s a lot of plot going on, between the editors jockeying for the job via any means possible (including through Price’s wife), Andrews romancing Sally Forrest and drawing her into his trap for the serial killer, and the murder plot itself. It gets a little plot-heavy at times, but it’s so full of classic character actors and the noirish feel that director Fritz Lang does so well that it’s still very worthwhile. Even the parts I’d already seen.
Well Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera’s novel was one of my favorite reads last year, and I knew any film version was going to have a lot to live up to, especially given the self-conscious, postmodern, meandering narrative technique (which was one of my favorite things about the book). The film doesn’t quite make it, though it gives it a fighting try. It does a great job with the segment about the Czech uprising, and Lena Olin is an absolute revelation. But the beauty of the book is its expression of internalization, and as much as I love film, that’s one thing it can’t match. I did love the characters as I watched the film, but I honestly don’t think I would have if I didn’t already love them from the book. I sort of wish I had watched it before reading the book to see what my reaction would have been coming in blind. Because it is a beautiful film at times, mysterious and entrancing. Just not as much as the book.
Well Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Through a Glass Darkly
Through a Glass DarklyKarin is having some issues. She’s just out of a mental hospital and seems to be doing better on vacation with her husband, father and brother. Her husband is still concerned about her, though, a concern which turns out to be warranted when she starts having terrifying visions, famously one of God as a spider. We don’t see any of these visions, however, and experience them solely through actress Harriet Andersson‘s flawless performance. Ingmar Bergman is a difficult filmmaker, exploring philosophic questions through his impassive camera–it’s difficult to know precisely what he’s going for, and yet, I was mesmerized by the film and intrigued to watch Winter Light and The Silence, usually grouped with Through a Glass Darkly as an unofficial trilogy. Like I said, Bergman is not a terribly accessible filmmaker, but he’s worth it. Don’t let my inability to explain why he’s worth it stop you from thinking it’s true.
Well Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Mildred Pierce
Mildred PierceI mentioned rethinking my dismissive opinion of melodramas, and this was another one of the films that led to that reconsideration. In the Bette Davis vs. Joan Crawford debate, I generally come down on the side of Bette Davis, because I simply find that Joan Crawford…how do I say…can’t act. At all. And she’s not attractive. Now, Bette Davis, also not that attractive, but she can act. However, Joan Crawford somehow manages to imbue Mildred Pierce with great vulnerability, strength, and sympathy. She deals with deadbeat husbands, hellion children, owning a business, and oh yeah, murder. The mixture of melodrama and film noir works extremely well, and the film as a whole is a perfect example of what the Golden Age Hollywood production machine could turn out on a good day.
Well Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Hot Fuzz
Hot FuzzSimon Pegg is the best cop on the London force–so good, in fact, that he’s making the rest of his team look bad and he gets “promoted” to a small village in the middle of nowhere. He resists this, but is intent on being the best cop he can be wherever he is, and starts seeing all sorts of suspicious activity in the town, much to the amusement of his laid-back colleagues. But…what if he’s right? Thus is the premise of what will probably remain the funniest film of the year. From the same group that made the very funny zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz takes loving aim at the buddy cop film genre. It’s nonstop hilarity, with a British flavor, which is the best kind. I’ve seen it twice and I can’t wait until I can get the DVD and see it again. If you like either British comedy or buddy cop films, or both, you will LOVE Hot Fuzz. No question.
Superior
IMDb | The Frame

Avenue Montaigne
Avenue MontaigneI’m starting to become concerned about my infatuation with French film. And it’s only gotten worse in the intervening months. It’s like, if it has a French accent and is set in Paris, I automatically love it. Avenue Montaigne played into that infatuation perfectly, telling a quiet and simple set of intertwining stories situated around the Theatre des Champs Elysses in Paris. A young country girl takes a job for a little cafe next to the theatre, befriends a concert pianist who wants out of the demanding profession and an actress hoping to move from soap operas to films, falls in love with a man whose estranged and ailing father owns a nearby antique shop, and I know there are a couple of other aspects I’ve forgotten. The whole thing has a charm and grace that makes it, if not a great movie, a delightful experience. And put me just a little bit more in love with Paris.
Well Above Average
IMDb | The Frame

Books

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching GodThis is Zora Neale Hurston’s best-known book, and the one with the most critical literature on it. I know this is true because I almost wrote about it myself but got bogged down in all the criticism I would’ve had to read first. *shudder* I did enjoy it, once I learned to read the dialect (actually, I started thinking in the dialect for a while), but I’m not sure I understand the attention it gets. Actually, I do. It’s a work written in the 1930s by a black woman writer. Add in a story which can be read as a feminist manifesto (it isn’t really, in my opinion), and you’ve got instant success among feminist and postcolonial critics. Anyway, the story follows Janie Crawford through her three marriages as she moves toward self-fulfilment; she’s a great character, and her tale is well worth reading, both for itself and for Hurston’s subtle yet innovative narrative techniques.
Well Above Average
WorldCat | The Frame

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Sorrows of Young WertherPoor Werther is in love. But his beloved is engaged to someone else. And so Werther sorrows. And eventually kills himself out of unrequited love. And sparked hundreds of copycat suicides around Europe. Goethe’s novel was a sensation in the 1770s, depicting the ultimate “man of sentiment” that was becoming popular in literature of the time. It’s a classic of early Romanticism, and still holds up quite well, if you let yourself go with the idea that someone would get so emotional over a girl he barely knows. The style is interesting, too–it’s mostly presented as Werther’s diary, but then at the end, an editor pops out and has to tell the end of the story, since Werther’s mental condition has deteriorated too much for him to even write. Goethe would later consider himself a classicist and deny any involvement in the Romantic movement, but he pretty much can’t deny some association with Romanticism, having written a book like this.
Well Above Average
WorldCat | The Frame

Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston
Moses Man of the MountainOr, Exodus According to Zora Neale Hurston. Thing number one: Hurston was a religious skeptic. Thing number two: Hurston was an anthropologist, especially interested in folk culture (all folk cultures). Thing number three: Hurston liked to deal with racism and slavery obliquely. Thing number four: She hoped that Moses, Man of the Mountain would be her masterpiece. It didn’t turn out quite so well as she’d hoped, but you can definitely see all these things in it. Moses in her story is probably Egyptian rather than Hebrew, but that’s left ambiguous; however, he is definitely a magician, almost in a voodoo sense. He may or may not have really heard the voice of God on Mount Sinai–the important thing is that he convinced the people of Israel that he did. The fascinating thing about the book is how closely she does stick with the events of the Biblical narrative, but manipulates the motivations or just enough of the minor details to give it a wholly different spin. I honestly enjoyed Moses more than I did Their Eyes; whether it’s a better book or not is debatable.
Well Above Average
WorldCat | The Frame

Seraph on the Suwanee by Zora Neale Hurston
Seraph on the SuwaneeAnd I enjoyed this much-maligned last novel by Hurston best of all. In a turn that many critics have denounced, she sets this one among white people and focuses much more on the marriage relationship than on racism, or self-actualization, or any of the things that preoccupied her in her other novels. However, in that close focus on that one marriage and the people who have to overcome inferiority complexes, patriarchal structures, and debilitating lack of communication, she really captivated me. As evidenced by the fact that I ended up writing my final paper on Seraph (largely arguing against various other critics negative reactions to the book, but hey). If you haven’t read Hurston and want to, I actually recommend starting with this one instead of Their Eyes. It’ll get you into her style of looking at things without the difficult of the dialect, for one thing. But then, I’m also biased, because I really loved it.
Well Above Average
WorldCat | The Frame

Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
CosmicomicsNon-required reading! Wow. I had forgotten what that was. Calvino has been one of my favorite writers since I stumbled upon his book of pseudo-short stories, Invisible Cities, and Cosmicomics is similar in style and structure. It’s basically a series of vignettes based around personified mathematic principles. Yeah, I can’t wrap my mind around it either, and I’ve read it! It’s a radically different way of seeing the world and the order underneath it; some of the sections are lovely and fascinating, others are more incomprehensible. Generally, I enjoyed it a lot less than Invisible Cities because it was so abstract–I found it very hard to latch onto the word pictures he was drawing. But that could also be my lack of mathematical understanding to catch his terms and everything. Anyway, if you’re read other Calvino stuff (or people like Jorge Luis Borges), then give Cosmicomics a try. Otherwise, check out Invisible Cities or If on a winter’s night a traveler first.
Above Average
WorldCat | The Frame

  • Holly Miller

    I watched a movie recently of which I’d like to know what you think. “Papillion” has Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen; you’ve probably heard of it and possibly watched it, but it sometimes surprises me what you’ve heard of and not watched. I think you’d probably enjoy it at least as much as some of the movies you just critiqued and likely more than some. :0)
    I enjoyed your critiques. I agreed with most (of the ones I’ve seen) and got interested in some movies I hadn’t thought about.
    By the way, I do like Jerry Lewis. He makes me laugh, and, frankly, there are very few comedians that can do that.

  • Holly Miller

    I watched a movie recently of which I’d like to know what you think. “Papillion” has Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen; you’ve probably heard of it and possibly watched it, but it sometimes surprises me what you’ve heard of and not watched. I think you’d probably enjoy it at least as much as some of the movies you just critiqued and likely more than some. :0)
    I enjoyed your critiques. I agreed with most (of the ones I’ve seen) and got interested in some movies I hadn’t thought about.
    By the way, I do like Jerry Lewis. He makes me laugh, and, frankly, there are very few comedians that can do that.

  • Holly! I was just thinking about you the other day…my mom enjoyed getting a letter from your mom, and then I had to go look for your latest baby pictures, and yeah. Anyway. How’s everyone doing?

    I actually haven’t seen Papillion…I think it falls in that ’60s-’80s dead spot in my movie knowledge, which I’m working to correct, but slowly. ;) I’ll have to put it on my rental list, especially since I’m learning to really like Steve McQueen (I saw The Great Escape last month; have you seen that?). And I don’t really dislike Lewis, he just doesn’t appeal to me as much as a lot of other comedians. I’m glad you like him, and you’re in good company. I hear he’s particularly popular among the French for some reason…

  • Holly! I was just thinking about you the other day…my mom enjoyed getting a letter from your mom, and then I had to go look for your latest baby pictures, and yeah. Anyway. How’s everyone doing?

    I actually haven’t seen Papillion…I think it falls in that ’60s-’80s dead spot in my movie knowledge, which I’m working to correct, but slowly. ;) I’ll have to put it on my rental list, especially since I’m learning to really like Steve McQueen (I saw The Great Escape last month; have you seen that?). And I don’t really dislike Lewis, he just doesn’t appeal to me as much as a lot of other comedians. I’m glad you like him, and you’re in good company. I hear he’s particularly popular among the French for some reason…

  • Holly Miller

    I actually only watched it because my husband wanted to, but I enjoyed it.
    We are all doing really well. We moved, had a baby, Justin upgraded his job, and Mom is improving (slowly).
    I hope you enjoy the movie!

  • Holly Miller

    I actually only watched it because my husband wanted to, but I enjoyed it.
    We are all doing really well. We moved, had a baby, Justin upgraded his job, and Mom is improving (slowly).
    I hope you enjoy the movie!

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