Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Recommended (and Non-Recommended) Reading

I’m back! It’s been some time since I posted – I blame my car’s blown transmission, the holidays, the inauguration, and my discovery of Bud Light Lime. I should probably throw Facebook in there, too.

Despite my absense, I did read or listen to a number of books over the past few weeks. I won't go into the details, but here are my impressions:

Divining Women by Kaye Gibbons:
This book is chock full of strong Southern Women, ghosts real and imagined, family tragedy, eccentric elders, and rising above. It's a jumbalaya of Steel Magnolias, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Gone with the Wind, seasoned with a dash of Dixie Carter (Bam! Feisty Southern Heroine is on the menu!). The plot is thin, but the characters are rich and, at the end of the day (after all, tomorrow is another day), I enjoyed it. The author narrated the CD and, at first, her thick Southern accent was a bit off-putting, but by the middle of the book, her languid inflection and long drawn out vowels (or, as the author would say, “vah-oles”) were as much a part of the story as any word on the page. Can I see it as a Lifetime special starring Ashley Judd? You bet your deep-fried, gravy-laden, Momma-loving behind.

Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan
I fell asleep listening to it. Multiple times. While I was driving. Not a favorite.

A Kiss Remembered by Sandra Brown
If you’ve read this book, chances are you’re either (a) blushing right now; (b) furious that you'll never get those hours back; or (c) hoping to find your own Mr. Chapman, so he can part your lips with his probing tongue and caress your… Nope, I can’t do it. It was hard enough (no pun intended) the first time around. Have I mentioned I have a long commute? The day I checked this out of the library the pickings were slim. I read the back quickly, and it sounded like a literary fiction romance. Wrong. It’s all romance. I’ve never read romance, so imagine my surprise when (listening to it on CD in the car, no less), I found it consisted of a meager, predictable plot, merely providing segues between pages of, well, soft-core porn, really. One reviewer on Amazon said it was so bad she threw it out of the car on a road trip. It was terrible. But did I turn it off or fall asleep? No. Maybe I'm a little more deperate housewife eating bon-bons and a little less connoisseur of meaningful literature than I thought. For the most part, the book just amused me, due in large measure to how dated it was. To wit: the dashing young professor drives a Datsun, the beautiful protagonist wears silk blouses and has permed hair, and the banking industry is just beginning to loan to single women. All in all, it was mildly entertaining, but not the kind of book I’d ordinarily seek out - and certainly not a book to listen to in a carpool.

The Collected Stories of Richard Yates
I trudged to the library, heavy with the burdens of the day, and planted my son on the round Alphabet-bordered carpet of the children's section before making my way down the aisles to a shelf near the back. I hadn't wanted to read more Yates right after reading Revolutionary Road, because my soul was still raw, but I was ready that day. I ran my fingers over waxy spines and cracked book covers, until I stumbled across a broad-shouldered book I'd never heard of before - The Collected Stories of Richard Yates. I didn’t open it for a week, savoring the anticipation. When I finally pulled back the cover, it was with a cup of tea in one hand, feet in slippers, children in bed. I am now 7 stories in, and rationing it like one savors a favorite candy so it won't run out too quickly.
I can’t sum up the works in a few sentences, so I’ll save a meaningful review for a later post. But, once again, I find that Yates writes eloquently about the smallest of dreams--about that tiny internal light of the soul, which can be extinguished with the slightest of breaths. About our need for human connection, and yet our insecurity among others--our inability to find something meaningful in our lives. About good intentions gone awry, crushed expectations, and the solace of the familiar. His stories aren’t gimmicky or showy, or outwardly intense. They can’t be summarized by words like “sad” or “uplifting.” They are human stories and, thus, they are complicated and real and evoke real, complicated, human reactions. They stay with you. They must be read.

Ramona Quimby Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
One of my favorite books of all time - I'm reading it to my kids and have to say, it stands the test of time. Well worth a second look!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - A Shakespearean Tragedy

I finally read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Calm down Suze Orman, I did not buy the book (nor did I charge an unholy number of items at the Gap Outlet last week – you weren’t there, you can’t prove anything). My dear friend and writing partner, Kris, shipped the doorstopper of a book to me all the way from Germany. God Bless her.

I think of the book as having three distinct parts. I devoured the first part. David Wroblewski develops the relationship between Edgar (a mute boy), his parents, and the fictional breed of dogs they raise and train at such a languid, pleasurable pace, I felt almost guilty reading it – it was the fictional equivalent of an expensive Cabernet and a box of dark chocolate truffles. In the second part, however, it stopped tasting so good. The language was still beautiful, but the story seemed too drawn out, and I was frustrated by Edgar’s choices. I was, again, invested at the end, but I’m afraid I binged. I gobbled it up because I had to know what happened, without considering the consequences of eating too fast. The book ended abruptly for me, and without satisfaction. I didn’t for a minute regret having spent time with it, but I was disappointed it didn’t turn out the way I wanted (kind of like stepping on the scale after the aforementioned Cabernet and chocolate). Much of the book seemed too convenient – when Edgar needs to know something, his father’s ghost shows up and tells him; when Edgar needs to know something else, the old woman in town, who just happens to have the gift of prophecy, shows him; when Edgar still is unsure, his dogs perform an act that points him to the truth. And I took issue with the characters, who struggle with choices that seemed apparent to me. Of particular note, I felt I didn’t know enough about Edgar’s uncle, Claude. There was no explanation for his truly evil behavior, and that unnerved me. Where was the character background? The Freudian analysis?

I poked around online looking for answers and I learned a hard lesson…I’M A MORON. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle has convenient plot devices, larger than life characters that make unnerving decisions, and an ending that recognizes good doesn’t always triumph because The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a tragedy in the truest sense. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is Hamlet. Again, I’m a Moron. Now that I know, I don’t understand how I didn’t recognize it at once (especially since, I’m ashamed to admit, I majored in Theatre with a Shakespeare emphasis – in my defense, the Bard has taken a backseat to Encyclopedia Brown and The Magic Treehouse kids these past few years). Edgar is Hamlet. Almondine, Edgar’s faithful canine companion, dismissed by Edgar in a fit of jealousy and contempt, is Ophelia (I don’t have to spell out what happens to her - like I said, it's a tragedy). Edgar is tormented by his father’s ghost. Edgar’s uncle, Claude is…Claudius. Duh. There is a reenactment of murder by poison, a death resulting from mistaken identity, and a “king” from another land coming to rule the dogs. The Sawtelle dogs are exceptional because they can make their own choices – in effect, they decide whether “to be or not to be.”

So now that I know, I can’t decide if David Wroblewski is brilliant, or a copycat. But, I will say the book makes sense now. In fact, I think I might read it again with Hamlet in mind and let myself get lost in the tragedy and dilemma facing Edgar. Like Shakespeare, the author has an exceptional command of language (though not in iambic pentameter) and I wouldn’t mind losing myself in the pages a second time. Plus, despite my initial reservations, I actually liked the dogs.

When this book is made into a movie, I hope Hollywood has the sense to cast the talented and soulful Freddie Highmore (from Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Spiderwick Chronicles) as the soulful and conflicted Edgar. (Thank you, Kris, for the suggestion.) He was made for this role the way Johnny Depp was made to play Captain Jack, and if the movie is directed with care (I’m thinking Ron Howard or Ang Lee), I see a golden statuette recognizing his portrayal. A character actor should fill Claude’s role. I vote for someone along the lines of Neil McDonough, or that one guy who looks like a Robert Patrick/Christopher Walken hybrid after a hard day's work (can anyone help me?). Tim Roth could be exceptional, as well. Edgar’s father, Gar, doesn’t say much, and when he does speak his words are measured. I saw Tim McGraw on SNL this past weekend and, I gotta tell you, I think he could maybe make a good Gar. I haven’t seen him in any movies (Flicka and Friday Night Lights weren’t my cup of tea) so I could be waaaayyyy off base. I'm most concerned about the casting of Edgar’s mother. I can imagine some starlet trying to make this her “no, really, I’m a serious actress” movie. Trudy (as in Hamlet's mother, Queen Gertrude - sheesh) is the lone female character in the movie (besides the dogs and the prophet and the little girl in the cafe) and she needs to be strong. Maybe Ashley Judd or Sandra Bullock? And finally, there are the dogs. I picture a German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Retriever, Akita, St. Bernard, Mastiff mix—the dogs need to be big and broad-chested with intelligent eyes. And, most importantly, they must be real. Computer generated dogs will not cut it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Three Cups of Tea...Read It!

Here's the thing about Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin . . . you just need to read it. No matter your political affiliation, religious beliefs, social status, gender, ethnicity, race, age, or favorite breakfast cereal (mine's Cheerios . . . I'm old school), it will speak to you. Within the pages of the book, "hope" and "change," which have saturated our airwaves the past two years, cease existing as words and take shape as tangible ideals.

The book is non-fiction - a true account of American Greg Mortenson's failed attempt to climb K2 and his subsequent recuperation in a remote mountain village in Pakistan, which spawned his promise to build a school for the village, and led to 15 years of single-minded devotion to educating the war-stricken and impoverished children of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I know, I know, it sounds kind of dry. But it is not. It reads less like a factual account and more like an action-packed novel with a daring protagonist who just happens to have integrity running through his veins. It's like the love-child of Into the Wild and a biography of Mother Teresa. There is enough action to induce stomach acid (falling down mountains, kidnapping by a radical sect of Pakistani militants) and sufficient facts, figures, and maps to appease a scholar. But above all, there is the story. The story of impoverished communities in the Middle East whose hospitality toward Greg made me examine my own notions of love and acceptance. The story of children, their villages and parents and siblings destroyed by years of civil conflict, foreign wars, and American missiles, who scratch figures in the dirt because they have no school but want to learn. The story of radical Madrassas sprouting up across Pakistan and Afghanistan, built with blood money, certain to educate generations in the art of terror and graduate scores of Jihadists who hate America, unless the children have the option of attending real schools. The story of Muslim leaders agreeing to educate girls, because they recognize the importance of education for the future of the individual, the nation, and the world. The story of a Pakistani girl (who, ten years ago, had never attended school) now studying to become a doctor for women. And the story of Greg Mortenson who, through sheer determination and love for humanity, began raising money, building schools, paying teachers, and otherwise attending to the real human needs of the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. While living out of his car. The story of hope. The story of change. The story of peace.

I don't presume to know how the book will affect you. For me, it engendered many feelings. I was embarrassed that I had to keep referring to the map at the beginning of the book because I never learned Middle Eastern geography. I was ashamed that in the days after 9/11, I was scared of the turbaned men on the BART train with me--that I considered myself progressive, and yet subconsciously equated Muslim with Terrorist. I was so incredibly thankful for my life in America, for my education and my opportunities, which I admit, I've taken for granted. The book talks about teachers and children climbing a ladder to reach the second story of their school, because the stairs were bombed out. I couldn't help but think about what would happen in America. Here, parents would be outraged if their child's school didn't meet each and every building standard. Here, most kids would be thrilled if they couldn't reach their classroom. I was inspired by Greg. I believe that one person can make a difference. I was frustrated at our government's lack of humanitarian aid, but simultaneously so proud to be an American, because, as citizens, we can be a beacon of light around the world.

Greg is speaking at Chico State University in April. I'm thrilled it's already sold out (and also sad I didn't get tickets in time). I encourage you to read this book, and see him speak if he comes to your area. I worry that the subject matter of the book will put some people off - that more people would be initially interested if it was about inner-city schools in the U.S., not about the Middle East. But it is so much more than a book about the Middle East. It challenges, educates, and inspires. For me, it shifted my perception. It clearly demarcated the notions of "want" and "need." It led me to pick up trash in my neighborhood and seriously consider whether I "needed" to add another pair of jeans to my closet. Given the result of the election, I think Americans are ready to embrace a spirit of volunteerism. Even if you think are not, please, read the book. It exemplifies pioneering spirit and perseverance at its best.

Oh...and just to keep with the theme of this blog. I know of no plans to make a movie (though that would be great, because it would reach more people), but in the event a movie is made....I see Brendan Fraser as Greg Mortenson. Read the book and let me know what you think.

To learn more about Greg's foundation, the Central Asia Institute, or to make a donation, visit: http://www.ikat.org/ To learn more about Three Cups of Tea, visit: http://www.threecupsoftea.com/

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Medium

In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion eloquently and elegantly describes the time following the sudden death of her husband (writer John Dunne). When you read the book (or listen to it, in my case . . . I have a long commute), which is nothing short of unflinchingly honest and beautifully lyrical, you’re surprised by her admission that she didn’t think she could write about what she was feeling in those post-death days - those days after life changed "in the instant." Rather, she recalls thinking if only she had film and editing equipment, she could organize her thoughts and memories properly; that her particular kind of grief required image and sound—moving snapshots of a lifetime together. Of course, she did eventually write about it and the result is a type of written photo album capturing her very soul, with events and places meticulously described and feelings framed, labeled and on display. It is nothing short of gorgeous.
So on my drive to work today (on a “highway” that, I kid you not, I’ve had to stop on more than once to let chickens cross . . . we’re quite rural here in Northern California, a point Ms. Didion would no doubt appreciate, having grown up Sacramento when it was still farmland) I thought about storytelling and the various mediums through which it is achieved. And I came to a conclusion . . . the medium can make or break the story. I still have my doubts about Revolutionary Road as a movie. The book is replete with self-observation and inner dialogue. How will this translate? Will the movie have voice-over narration? Will it be Leonardo DiCaprio’s voice? If so, can he manage to remove the slight twang that accompanies so many of his spoken words (even, unfortunately, when he’s attempting a decidedly un-twang-y accent. See, Blood Diamond). As for The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion’s story is so intensely personal I can't imagine it would resonate in film quite as much as it does in print. In fact, Ms. Didion turned the book into a stage play, which is the perfect complementary medium to an intimate, one-narrator, first-person, personal tale of emotion.
But you already know that I have some concerns about turning books into movies. Here’s my epiphany for the day. Technically, it’s my second epiphany, the first being that it’s pointless to iron a linen shift and then sit in the car for an hour. In any event, here’s my on-topic epiphany. Some movies would make better books. When discussing books and movies, usually people are concerned with whether the film adaptation has been faithful to the book. But I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone say a movie, which was not a book first, should be translated into print. But I’m saying it. And I’m giving you a stellar example. M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. This movie showed up in our mailbox the other night (yes, we’re a bit slow on the movie front, two small kids and all that) and I was actually fairly excited. My husband has notoriously bad taste in movies. Let me just give you one example: Dog Soldiers. Dog Soldiers, with the tagline: "Six soldiers. Full moon. No chance." Dog Soldiers, which features a scene of a man morphing into a dog, but the budget must've already been spent on that tagline, so the camera stays focused on the table while a man falls behind the table and rises back up clearly wearing not much more than a plastic dog mask you could pick up at Walgreens. After weathering Dog Soldiers, you can imagine my excitement when I opened the DVD sleeve and saw The Happening. I wouldn't say I'm a die-hard M. Night Shyamalan fan, but I enjoyed The Sixth Sense, loved Signs, and was one of few who couldn’t stop talking about the larger social message in The Village (nature or nurture in the extreme). Lady in the Water was terrible, but not Dog Soldiers terrible, so I figured the odds were on my side with The Happening. So, we watched, and I found the idea fascinating. People suddenly become confused and take their own lives in what is first considered a terrorist attack but is soon understood to be something environmental and unexplainable. In the midst of this crisis, a young married couple (an adequate Marky Mark and flat-as-pancake Zooey Deschanel), facing an unidentified marital calamity of their own, must save their lives while making sense of both their external and internal worlds. The personal parallels the world at large. The almost imperceptible change in their relationship is but a microcosm of the larger environmental change. Like I said, great idea. But I didn’t buy it. It’s as if M. had this brilliant idea and then just started shooting without working out the backstory. I know I was supposed to understand the couple’s angst and disconnect, but I had a hard time caring because the characters weren't developed. And the big secret regarding what was causing the suicides was resolved too quickly. Everything was a bit too tidy and shallow. But imagine if, instead of creating a storyboard, M. had opened a Word document and written a short story - a story exploring the impact we have on our environment, both personal and at large. A story that could, through the written word, navigate both the nuances of the protagonists’ relationship and the history of our impact on the planet. The movie wasn’t much of anything. But the story was brilliant. I think it just needed the right medium.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dig Out Your Library Card

My friends tell me I’m optimistic to a fault sometimes. Silver linings? Shoot, the clouds above my head have platinum linings. With bling. When life hands me lemons, I’m likely to make homemade lemon tarts and distribute them to my neighbors. So, in the midst of this financial train-wreck, this market-equivalent-of-the-movie-Glitter, it should come as no surprise that I’ve found something positive. I’ve rediscovered a forgotten treasure. The local library. I’d become so accustomed to ordering books online or grabbing a couple of titles at Target or running to the big-box-book-store (say that five times fast) at lunch, that I’d been neglecting the library. Now, though, with Suze Orman and her fantastically white teeth yelling at me every other day from the TV, and food prices going up faster than Hilary Clinton's blood pressure after a Palin rally, I’m trying to tighten my belt and get what I can for free. Hence, my visit to the library this week. The library is a bit like the local outdoor market. You never know what’s going to be available. You might plan on making plum sauce for dinner, but end up serving chilled melon soup, instead. That’s what happened at the library. I wanted to check out The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Not only were all copies checked out already, there were also over 70 hold requests in line before me. Looks like I’ll be buying the book (don’t tell Suze) if I want to read it sometime before 2010. After my initial disappointment, I remembered Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – the 1961 book made into a film coming out this fall, starring Leo and Kate. And it was available! I have to shout out a huge thank you to the man or woman who decided to make this book into a movie. If not for your interest, I don’t know that I would have ever heard of this book, or this author. The book is a masterpiece. No wonder Yates, who never achieved huge commercial success, was known as a writer’s writer. Revolutionary Road is so….real. And it’s heartbreaking. Frank and April Wheeler’s sense of suburban suffocation and loss of self is palpable (NPR has a brilliant discussion of the book’s theme). It permeates every page. And it’s entirely relevant (and rather depressing in a “what has become of my life” sort of way). If not for the 9:00 dinners, constant drinking and smoking, and absence of cell phones, the Wheelers could be living in any number of subdivisions in any number of cities in America today. They could be your neighbors. They could be you. Yates has incredible insight – putting words to feelings that most Americans have felt, but don’t know how to articulate – like the revulsion a man sometimes feels at the sight of his children, even though he loves them; like the immense hopelessness one feels when faced with the same mundane, unimportant job every day; like the awkward tension seeping into a room when friends realize they have nothing to talk about anymore. Each character is meticulously described. And I don’t mean simply hair color and shirt style, etc. I mean I know these characters. I could tell you how they would react in any number of situations. And, more importantly, I know why they act the way they do. I have no doubt Yates created intricate biographies for each of his characters before putting pen to paper, and we, the readers, now reap the benefits of his diligence. For the movie to do the book justice, it will have to be detailed. Each word and set piece and thread of cloth must live and breathe the story (I’m thinking of The Ice Storm). If it does, I think the movie just might work. Sam Mendes is at the helm, and if past movies are any indication, he pays attention to the details - almost in a hyper-stylized way (see American Beauty; Road to Perdition). Kate Winslet could tell an entire epic with one look, so she’s a natural choice. I’m more apprehensive about Leo. Frank Wheeler is the cornerstone of the book – he must be perfect for Yates’s vision of American disillusionment to come across. My fingers are crossed that he pulls it off. In any event, though, I’m thankful the movie was made, because it will introduce an entirely new generation to this book. And we have much to gain. As do our therapists.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wake Up Mother Nature!

I’m wearing tights today for the first time in, oh, nearly half a year. Sure, it’s supposed to hit 93 degrees today in Northern California, but that’s not stopping my homage (or at least my legs’ homage) to Fall. I think maybe Mother Nature’s still reeling from the summer of fires, storms, earthquakes, and hurricanes (and let’s not forget the biggest natural disaster, Madonna dating A-Rod) and has forgotten to usher in Autumn (either that or she drank too many beers at Father Time’s Labor Day party and hasn’t yet recovered). Even the campaign signs in my neighborhood (popping up at such a rate that I wonder if, like Gremlins, they multiply when doused by the lawn sprinklers) and pumpkin-shaped peeps on the grocery store shelves haven’t prompted her to cool things down, so I figured I’d break out the tights and do my part. Fall is my favorite season. The kids are back in school, my lawn turns green again, my cat starts growing back his fur, and I can begin forgetting the magnitude of the SF Giants’ failure. What’s more, I can look forward to the Fall Movie Season. This Fall, theatres will show no fewer than 11 movies based on books. Here’s a quick list of the movies and my initial thoughts (warning: approaching stream of conscious, river of uninformed first impressions, and rapids of unrelated opinions):

Appaloosa – Entertainment Weekly describes the two main characters as “laconic.” I had to look it up. It means “using few words.” So the two main characters are men of few words. In a Western? Shocking. When was the last time you saw a Western with a couple of chatty Cathys? The movie could prove a lesson in subtlety, though, given the two fabulous, understated actors playing the leads – Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris. But wait…scratch that…Renee Zellweger is in it, too. So much for subtlety.

The Duchess – Thankfully, it’s not a Fergie documentary, but a movie based on the book Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman and starring Keira Knightley. I haven’t decided if I think Keira Knightley is a great actress, a good actress, or just adept at choosing the right scripts, but I have a feeling I’m going to love this movie. Corsets + Ralph Fiennes (or any member of the Fiennes family, for that matter) – my husband grumbling in the seat next to me + smuggled Junior Mints = an enjoyable movie experience. I haven’t read the true-life tale, but Knightley’s last turn in a page to screen story (Atonement) was riveting.

Blindness – The ads made me think of Children of Men, but that’s probably due to Julianne Moore’s presence and the post-apocalyptic look of the sets. I’m interested in the fact that the characters in the book don’t have proper names, just descriptions (i.e. Girl With the Dark Glasses). In fact (get ready for a shameless plug), my friend and I recently wrote a novel using the same device…and if you’d like to read more about our characters (The Pecker, Babies Don’t Spit Up, Sweat Rings and Man Slippers), head on over to http://www.fictionlimbo.blogspot.com/. I feel a tad dirty now . . .

What Just Happened – I know nothing about this film except that it’s a Hollywood satire, adapted from a book, starring a mess of people (Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Bruce Willis, Catherine Keener, Robin Wright Penn). Never heard of the book, barely heard of the movie, but De Niro as a producer doesn’t seem like terrible casting.

The Secret Life of Bees - Can I just tell you how irritated I am that I used my “internet buzz” metaphor already . . . I should have planned better. In any event, I LOVE this book. I LOVE this book so much that I read all the book club questions at the end and had a little schizophrenic conversation with myself about plot and character development alone in my bed around 2 a.m. (Sue Monk Kidd’s second book, The Mermaid Chair, however, was a colossal disappointment. Truly a book to cast away.) I think Dakota Fanning is great casting, as is Paul Bettany as the abusive father, and Queen Latifah as the leader of the bee farm sisters. I’m on the fence about Jennifer Hudson as the nanny, though. I don’t think she’s old enough, but, then again, I don’t remember how old the character was supposed to be in the book. I guess she always seemed tired so I pictured her older. And, I’m not sure J. Hud can pull it off. Sure, she was fantastic and deep and moving in Dreamgirls, but she was singing 90% of the time. Would her “I’m Not Going” Oscar moment have been as emotional if she’d had to deliver it as a monologue? Does she have what it takes? Her superfluous role in Sex and the City sheds no light on the question. I’m a huge Hudson fan – I have been since the American Idol days, agreeing with Quentin Tarantino when he called her Un-Bleepin’-Believable (or was it Fan-Bleepin’-Tastic?)—so I’d like to see her shine. I will definitely go see this movie (again, without my husband).

High School Musical 3: Senior Year – Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name, this much-anticipated third installment of the never-stale franchise . . . just checking to see if you’re paying attention.

Quantum of Solace – Technically, I don’t think this, the latest Bond flick, was adapted directly from a book. Of course, the 007 character was Ian Fleming’s literary creation so, in a sense, all Bond films are adapted from a book. Quantum of Solace is the name of an Ian Fleming short story, but I don’t believe the movie is based on the story—I think the title was just hijacked. (It’s entirely possible I could be wrong, but I’m too tired to look it up right now…) A couple of thoughts run through my head when I think about this movie. First, Daniel Craig looks like the adult version of my seven-year-old nephew, which is a bit disturbing because I find Daniel Craig delectable in a rather inappropriate way. Second, I used to see the Bond movies for free when I was in law school because one of my fellow students was the daughter of the producer . . . I miss law school . . . I miss school . . . I wish I didn’t have to work . . .

The Road – The Road comes out the day before my husband’s birthday. We both loved the book (and you know how I feel about the casting) so I expect we’ll see it opening night. And then we’ll mainline some Prozac and hold our children tight until the nightmares cease.

Marley & Me – Blech. It’s a Dooooooggggggggggg Movie. Based on a Dooooooooggggggggg Book (I’m not a fan, generally). Starring Rachel Green--I mean Jennifer Aniston--Owen Wilson, and a Dooooooooogggggggg. And the trailer shows all three running on a beach. In slow motion. I have nothing else to say.

Twilight – I haven’t read the books so I’m scared to say anything, for fear a bunch of tweens will come and put a stake through my heart. But I am nervous for the filmmakers - vampire movies are hard to cast – remember the uproar surrounding Tom Cruise as Lestat in Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – This movie, based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, sounds terribly interesting. It’s about a man aging in reverse. And I wager even Brad Pitt cannot ruin the movie, because it also casts the celestial Cate Blanchett and riveting Tilda Swinton (although The Talented Mr. Ripley was all sorts of awful and it had a stellar cast). Ooh, I can’t wait to see the two of them at all the premieres, interviews, and awards shows. Cate with her fickle sense of style and Tilda with her, well, how would you describe these ensembles? I love these women!

Revolutionary Road – The first pairing of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio since . . .since . . . what was that movie? Kate Winslet betters every film she’s in. I sat next to Leonardo DiCaprio at Fixx in Vegas. He’s quite tall and manly in person. And Fixx has the most delicious fried macaroni and cheese and crusted mashed potatoes. This has nothing to do with the movie, just thought I’d share. I’m going to pick up this 1961 book by Richard Yates, described as a “cautionary tale . . . full of big ideas that question the viability of the American dream.” Quite a pertinent topic 47 years later. Let’s hope it translates to the big screen.

Happy reading and/or viewing!