Just to say, school really gets in the way of movie-watching. So expect pretty pathetic review recaps for the next couple of years, apparently. Even the films I did watch, I seem to have been highly distracted while watching them, so I hesitated to even mention them, but I did anyway. So expect not only a pathetic number of reviews, but also pathetic writing.
Closely Watched Trains
This is one of the most highly-regarded Czech films. I’m not entirely sure why, so perhaps I should see some more Czech films in order to make proper comparisons. It’s set just before WWII, and the main character is a young man on the cusp of adulthood who proudly takes his first job as a conductor at the local train station, which is the central point of the very small town. Once he’s started working, his main goal in life becomes getting laid. Which, you know, I kind of expect in recent films, but this is a 1966 Czechoslovakian film that’s considered a best ever. There are some good moments, yes, and the very end is surprising and excellent, and the bits about the Czech resistance are very good. But they don’t seem to be the main, um, thrust of the story. Put it on the “read about sometime” list, so I can figure out what I missed.
Unfortunately, we were starting to get into schoolwork rather severly here, and I didn’t give Gandhi the attention it deserved. It will definitely be due for a rewatch at some point, and I’m hesitant to say much at all before that point in time. It struck me as very well-done, but overlong and a little lacking in some areas. Notably, a really great movie will force me to pay attention to it, and I expected this to be a great movie, but it didn’t grab me and pull me in. But this is at least partially my fault, so I guess I’m saying, don’t listen to me here.
The Last Kiss
I wrote about this one a little bit right after I watched it, and my opinion hasn’t changed. It wasn’t the transcendent experience that Garden State was, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. I thought it was quite good as the little film that it was, and I appreciated its overall view, even if I did want to smack the main character upside the head an unhealthy number of times. Plus the cast is so good, and the music so awesome, that I really did enjoy it. I’ve seen a number of reviews both liking and disliking it since I saw it, and interestingly, any given element can be what makes the reviewer like or dislike it (for instance, on reviewer thought Jenna was underdeveloped as a character, and thus didn’t give you any reason to care whether or not Michael went back to her, whereas I and at least one other reviewer had the polar opposite reaction–I though the actress did an outstanding job and I couldn’t understand why he would even think of cheating on such a wonderful girl), which leads me to believe that whether you like or dislike this movie depends almost entirely on what you bring to it.
High School Musical
Total cheese. And only partially in a good way. The songs were atrocious, the singing adequate but bland, the dancing nothing spectacular, the story a retread, and yet, it was all done with such enthusiasm that you couldn’t help at least rooting for them a little bit. Okay, a lot of people will be able to help rooting for it, because really, not that good. It was like Grease, but take out all the rebellious bits. And with less memorable songs. The real reason I watched it was for glimpses of Allison Holker, aka one of my favorite contestants on last summer’s So You Think You Can Dance. But don’t blink, or you’ll miss her here.
The Art of Literary Research by Richard D. Altick and John J. Fenstermaker
Okay, see, if I don’t include textbooks and such, my book numbers will go down as drastically as did my movie numbers. And I can’t have that. Yep, this is a guide to the great and wonderful world of being a scholar, which really, may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Until you get to their last chapter, when they wax eloquent about what a wonderful community academia is and how everyone helps each other, and how if everyone would just be like English scholars, we’d have world peace. /sarcasm The book has a lot of helpful things to say, but the authors editorializing was a little over the top at times. (Also, the book is old enough to be very out of date when it comes to computerized research…supposed there’s a new edition coming out this year, but it didn’t make it in time for us.)
A Reader’s Guide to the Twentieth-Century Novel in Britain by Randall Stevenson
I read this for my favorite teacher’s class; he assigned it as a book for me to review, and I’m really glad he did. It’s a very short book, only about 170 pages long, but it covers all the major movements and trends in the 20th century British novel. Quite a feat, and he does it with aplomb. If you’re at all interested in 20th century lit, start with this book. It’s easy to read, but packs a lot of info. It’s certainly added a bunch to my reading list. As if I needed more on my reading list.
Well Above Average
Holy Delight by Kate Gartner Frost
This book was assigned as a critical approach to John Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, which I did a presentation on for my Metaphysical Literature class. I was really happy to get the Devotions, mostly because they were prose, and prose > poetry for me, but also because they’re really quite interesting, as metaphysical prose goes–Donne wrote them as meditations on a severe illness he suffered, each devotion a meditation, expostulation, and prayer at a certain point in his illness, which overall serve to show man’s inability to help himself out of sin without God anymore than he can heal his sickness without a doctor. Holy Delight looked at the work as a whole in terms of its place in the history of spiritual autobiography and its structure according to Renaissance and Biblical numerology (which isn’t, like, mystical or anything, but just a way of using symbolic numbers as a structuring device…the way the Bible uses 7s and 12s and 40s, for example). It was an interesting piece of criticism, and helpful for understanding and appreciating the Devotions. Incidently, if you get a chance, read some of Donne’s sermons. I chafed against his poetry every week, but his sermons really are excellent.
Shopgirl by Steve Martin
Hey, fiction! Guess when I started reading this? The week I came to St. Louis for the American Idol concert (August 13th). Guess when I finished it? Sept 30th. Guess how long it is? 130 pages. That oughta give some indication for how much non-school-related reading I’m doing. Since I finished this book? None. Oh, but the book. Right. It’s pretty much the exact same as the movie, which isn’t surprising, since I think Martin wrote the movie screenplay, too. I found his excessive narration a little annoying after a while, just like I found his voice over offputting in the film version, but I understand what he was trying to do, and it largely worked–it just got old. The book had a dreamy feel to it, and I think Jeremy was better realized in the novella than in the film. Other than that, you might as well just watch the movie, honestly.