History is a surprising thing. Something when you think that all of the details have been shared, a new twist appears.
This is Monuments Men. The movie is based on a book by Robert Edsel, about a group of art specialists who are dispatched to Europe just after the Invasion of Normandy during WWII. Their mission to find and save precious works of art that are in danger of being destroyed by the Nazis.
They are led by Frank Stokes (George Clooney). The motley band of anti heroes include James Granger (Matt Damon), Bill Murray (Richard Campbell), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Cate Blanchett (Claire Simone), Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Sam Epstein (Dimitri Leonidas) and Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville).
Among World War II movies, this is something new and different. It was little long, but I enjoyed the movie. The movie had a fish out of water quality to it, being that the characters that were part of the Monuments Men were not young men in their teens and early twenties, but men old enough to be their fathers. Cate Blanchett as the only woman, whose character is critical in assisting our heroes in reaching their goals is in the beginning questionable on where her loyalties lie, but it becomes clear as the movie progresses on what she is looking to get out of this journey.
I enjoyed it, I just wish it was a little shorter.
Romantic dramas and coming of age stories usually fall into two categories: Sappy and predictable or suspenseful and unpredictable.
Labor Day, thankfully falls into the second category.
Based on the book of the same name by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day is a love story, but also a coming of age story.
Adele (Kate Winslet) is a divorced single mother who has become anxious and isolated since her husband Gerald (Clark Gregg) left her for another woman. Her son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith) tries to make up for his father’s absence, but is lacking. When a convict, Frank (Josh Brolin) uses them as a means to hide until he can escape from the police, he becomes the father Henry needs and provides the love that Adele needs.
I enjoyed this movie. It sort of had a Wonder Years type of narrative. Toby Maguire narrates the story as an adult Henry, remembering those fateful 5 days. It could have been sappy, cliched or predictable. But it wasn’t. I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie. Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin have electric chemistry, Gattlin Griffith plays his character as both a young boy on the edge of growing up, but also taking on the responsibility of being the man of the house.
I may just read the book.
There is a reason that Tennessee Williams is one of the most brilliant playwrights of the 20th century. His characters are so human, full of the same experiences, joys and mistakes that we all go through in life.
This weekend, I saw a revival of The Glass Menagerie starring Cherry Jones.
The Glass Menagerie is the story of a family living in the midwest during the 1930’s. Amanda Wingfield is a single mother living with her adult children, Tom (Zachary Quinto) and Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger). Tom is working at a local factory and frequently argues with his mother. Laura is walks with a limp and only socializes with her mother and brother, suffering from anxiety attacks if she has to socialize with anyone else.
Amanda is determined to bring in gentleman callers for her daughter and fondly remembers her youth and the gentleman callers she used to entertain. When Tom bring in a gentleman caller (Brian J Smith) home for dinner, a slim chance of happiness and marital bliss appears for Laura, only for it to be smashed into tiny pieces by the end of the play.
Tennessee Williams is one of my favorite playwrights. I love Streetcar Named Desire, it’s one of the most brilliant plays ever written, Blanche Bubois is hands down one of the great characters ever created. The same themes of reality vs. fantasy, the dream like memories of the past vs. the rough and not so nice present appear in both plays.
Cherry Jones is a wonder in this part. I saw her a few years ago in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. She blew me away then and she blew me away this weekend. Zachary Quinto and Celia Keenan-Bolger as her children seem on stage as if they are really siblings, instead of actors pretending to be siblings. Brian J Smith as the gentleman caller gives the audience hope that Laura may find the happiness that both she and her mother want to have.
The play closes on February 23rd. If you have the opportunity to get tickets, I highly recommend this show.
Edith Wharton’s Age Of Innocence is a classic. Newland Archer’s inner struggle between personal desire and duty is timeless.
Francesca Segal’s debut novel, Innocence, moves the story from Gilded Age New York to a predominately Jewish suburb in North London. Newland Archer has become Adam Newman. Adam’s life is well ordered and perfect. He is living in the same community he was born into, newly engaged to Rachel Gilbert, his longtime girlfriend and working for Rachel’s father at his law firm.
His world and his decision making is turned when Ellie, Rachel’s independent, rebellious and headstrong cousin returns from New York, running from a scandal. When Adam takes on Ellie’s case, he begins to question if his well ordered and perfect life is really what he wants.
There are some fans who are so cannon (fanfiction term for original script or novel) that any reboot which removes the characters and story line from their original setting seems blasphemous. I am not one of those fans.
However, there is something to be said when a writer takes a risk and tells a new story, instead of retreading the path of another writer. It doesn’t take much to change Ellen Olenska, a woman trying to divorce her abusive European aristocratic husband to Ellie Schneider, a young woman escaping a sex scandal involving a prominent public figure.
Did I enjoy the novel? I can’t say I didn’t, but I look forward to her next novel when she tells a new story instead of re-writing an old one.
Sylvia Plath is literary legend. Fifty years after her death, her writing is still as powerful as it was during the initial publication.
The Bell Jar is one of her most famous works and one my favorite books. She tells the story of Esther Greenwood, a woman in early 20’s who on the surface appears to have everything one should want or need. And yet underneath, she is slowly disintegrating into madness.
Andrew Wilson’s biography of Sylvia Plath, Mad Girls’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted, takes the reader into the world of the writer before she becomes the literary genius that we know of her today to be.
Sylvia Plath was the daughter of immigrants, hard working, strong and intelligent, but also fighting against the rules that governed women of her generation. Affected by the death of her father during her childhood, Plath was a brilliant writer, but also plagued by bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide.
Andrew Wilson has done his homework, this book is meticulously written. The interviews with her classmates, family members and friends brings the reader into a very intimate and familiar place. Pulling back the curtain on this literary giant, we understand how her early life influenced her writing, her relationships and her eventual suicide at age 30.
It’s always interesting, both as a writer and a reader to get to know a fellow writer, to understand where they come from and how their experiences shape their writing. I enjoyed the book tremendously and I recommend it to anyone who just likes to read.
There is something about the British Aristocracy that always seems to bring in an audience, whether on screen or in print.
Lauren Willig’s new book, The Ashford Affair weaves together two different stories. At the start of the 20th century Addie is an orphan, taken in by her aristocratic relatives. Her closest confidant is outgoing an vivacious cousin Bea. At the end of the 20th century, Addie’s granddaughter, Clementine is working crazy hours as a lawyer while dealing with a broken engagement. During her grandmother’s 99th birthday party, a long held family secret is let out. The journey to uncover that secret will ultimately change Clementine’s life.
This book is Downton Abbey Meets Mansfield Park. Right up my alley.
Ms. Willig tells an interesting story. Sometimes, interwoven tales in different time periods can be confusing. But not in this case. Clementine’s personal journey interwoven with her grandmother’s life was a compelling read.
I highly recommend it.
It’s not difficult to find books and movies about Nazi Germany. A good majority of these stories focus on the victims of the Nazis. A few take a different standpoint, telling the stories of the ordinary Germans who, whether they liked it or not, were forced to live under Nazi rule.
Markus Zusak’s book, The Book Thief is about an ordinary young lady and her life during World War II. Liesel Meminger’s brother has recently died. Taken from her mother, she is given to Hans and Rosa Hubermann to raise as their foster daughter.
She soon learns to read and begins stealing books. Her foster parents are hiding a Jewish man. While externally following those around her, her internal growth and beliefs are contrary is what is being taught around her.
I haven’t seen the movie, but I enjoyed this book. It is a little slow, but when it gets going, it’s really good.
2014 is nearly upon us and with that in mind, I would like to share the best and worst movies of 2013.
1. Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon + William Shakespeare= Movie magic.
2. Mandela: Walk To Freedom
This biopic of the recently deceased Mr. Mandela reminds the audience of the power of the human spirit.
3. 12 Years A Slave
A brutal and honest look at slavery shows the best and worst qualities of humanity.
4. Blue Jasmine
Woody Allen’s modern reboot of Streetcar Named Desire is just as powerful as the original.
5. Man of Steel
A refreshing take on the Superman mythos.
The civil rights movement was never more powerful than on screen.
Not as quotable as the original, but still extremely funny.
Worst Movies Of The Year
5. Don Jon
Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut wasn’t as good as it could have been.
4. Romeo and Juliet
Don’t bother with this movie. If your hankering to see R&J on the big screen, try either the 1968 movie or Baz Luhrmann’s mid 90’s reboot.
Everything about this movie is a waste of time. It’s not even worth the dollar bin.
2. Lone Ranger
It could have been so good, but it wasn’t.
I wonder if the filmmakers had a secret plan to mock the audience they were looking for.
Anchorman is a comedy classic. The movie came out only 9 years ago and was instantly quotable.
The sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, is as brilliant and funny as the original. More often than not, many movie sequels suffer from sequelitis. Anchorman 2 is not afflicted.
The movie starts 7 years after the original ends. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are married with a young son and co-anchor the news. After Veronica is offered and accepts her own solo anchor seat, Ron, who has been fired from his position forces her to choose between him and her job. When he is offered an opportunity to anchor a new 24 hour news network, he brings back the crew: Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Champ Kind (David Koechner).
This movie is funny. Even after 7 years, Ron Burgundy is still Ron Burgundy. Even when trying to be to open to diversity and meeting his boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), he is still the same.
I won’t give the details away, but the fight scene and the cameos in that scene is just the icing on the cake. It’s 2 hours, but a funny 2 hours.
Tonight I saw Saving Mr. Banks, the biopic of how Mary Poppins was transferred from the page to the screen.
The film has two alternating, but equal story lines. PL Travers (Emma Thompson) is the author of Mary Poppins. Sales have dried up and she is in need of an income. For the past twenty years, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has been asking her for the rights to make a film based on the book. She has finally agreed to travel to Los Angeles to discuss the possibility of making the movie, but she is determined that it does not become too Hollywoodized.
The other story line is the flashbacks of her childhood in Australia. Her father (Colin Farrell) loves his family, but has flaws that prevents him from being the father and husband that he needs to be. Her mother (Ruth Wilson) does her best to be a good mother, but finds herself hindered by her husband’s actions.
We all know Mary Poppins, the movie has been part of our lives since it premiered. It’s like any classic, sometimes when you know the details and experiences of the author’s life, the story takes on a different meaning.
The movie clocks in at 2 hours. It’s a little long, but enjoyable.