Category Archives: film

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Except not really because I would probably be absolutely petrified, have a heart attack, and die. If you are completely lost, the title refers to the first and very well-known line from the eerie Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. My first experience with Rebecca was as a child when I first watched Hitchcock’s interpretation with Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. I’ve seen it half a dozen times, more recently two months ago. I finally picked up a copy of the book at the library the day before Thanksgiving and devoured it as it rained outside, which, I have to say, is pretty much perfect reading weather but is certainly perfect Du Maurier reading weather.

The unnamed narrator, a young, unworldly woman, meets Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo while acting as a companion to Mrs. Van Hopper, an older, wealthy, prattling woman. Mrs. Van Hopper refers to some sort of awful tragedy Mr. de Winter has endured (she seems to know everything about everyone), but our narrator doesn’t pry. Mrs. Van Hopper becomes ill, and the narrator finds herself more and more in the company of Mr. de Winter, an inscrutable but fascinating older man.

All too quickly, the holiday in Monte Cristo comes to a close, but Maxim refuses to let the naive young narrator sail off into the sunset. No, there is a much-less-happy-ending in the narrator’s future. The couple goes to Manderley, Maxim’s estate, and the young companion has no idea how to run a household, much less a household as large as Manderley. She meets the household staff and quickly learns Maxim goes about Maxim’s business while she is left to her own devices.

Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper, conspicuously brings up Rebecca (the first Mrs. De Winter) in conversation, referring to how Mrs. DeWinter did this and how Mrs. DeWinter did that, leaving the narrator feeling more insecure and less able to learn how to adjust to her new home. Mrs. Danvers tempts the narrator with discussions of Rebecca’s rooms, the best in the house. When the narrator walks through the grounds, she looks up and curtains in Rebecca’s old room part to reveal Mrs. Danvers, ever watchful. Let’s stop there. Mrs. Danvers is easily one of the most spooky characters I have ever read about or watched in a film. Her obsession with Rebecca and her obvious distaste for the new Mrs. DeWinter verges on demented. This is one twisted housekeeper, and you should be very, very afraid.

As for Maxim, he is gone quite often and has turned sullen and standoffish inside the walls of Manderley. His moods are inconstant; he treats the narrator like a young girl (which drove me nuts). In the face of near insurmountable evidence, the narrator naturally believes he is still in love with the dead Rebecca. She begs him to host a ball for the neighbors, a costume ball, and Mrs. Danvers suggests what the narrator should wear. The tension mounts until the night of the party, and then there is all sorts of action.  Who was Rebecca, and what happened to her?

I will leave you hanging here because I don’t want to spoil anything. Plus, I think every blogger is owed several “Go read this book right now” statements throughout the year, so I’m calling in my first. Go read this book. Second, watch the movie. Third, come back and thank me, and we can talk. Need some more reasons? Spooky house? Check. Crazy housekeeper? Check. Dead wife? Check. Now go.

If you’ve read it, have you seen the movie? I seriously felt as though it played in my head the entire time. Hitchcock, of course, is a genius, but this film is truly a work of art and an excellent, excellent adaptation. What did you think? Rebecca truly made me want to devour everything DuMaurier has written.

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The End of a Semester (or, How I Turned into a Softie)

 

I have tried and tried and tried to finish a blog post this morning and just can’t. I have about 10 drafts going, but alas. Nothing. So I’m going to go au natural this morning.

I think part of it is the end of the semester has just really wiped me out. Grading nonstop until 1:30 in the morning is exhausting. And then, brilliant me decided to have a Christmas party. THE DAY AFTER GRADES WERE DUE. So that turned into a whole evening/morning of manic cleaning, menu planning, and decorating. The next day my parents moved out of my house (they stayed with me for a month between the sale of their old house and the closing of their new house), so the weekend was spent painting rooms and unpacking them. Their new house is beautiful and closer to me and not 100 years old, which is good for a number of reasons. Then Monday, my brother (aka Picky Boy) came in from NYC. In other words, it. has. been. crazy.

However, it’s a good crazy. I’ve done a little bit of reading, but honestly, I’ve been so busy, reading hasn’t been much on my mind. Plus, reading dozens of essays right at the end of the semester did me in. I had to share one story, though:

I had one student who, from the beginning of the semester, I really liked. He’s a young kid, from an inner-city school, and he was just so enthusiastic. When the class turned in its first essays, his was awful, though I could tell he spent some time on it. Truly. It was terrible. There was no organization, no coherence. The grammar was abhorrent, and there were sections I could barely read. So I pulled the kid aside and asked him to set up a time to meet with me because he failed the assignment. Those of you who teach know, not every kid will take advantage of extra help. This student did. He came to my office. I gave him two specific areas of concentration to focus on and told him to rewrite one paragraph. He did and brought it to me, and I increased his grade based on that paragraph.

Throughout the semester, he remained engaged and worked diligently, but he could never seem to really make the cut. We continued to work on several problems in his writing, and he improved steadily. During the final, I graded their final essays, and when I came to this particular student, I put my pen down. I read it through, and it was very obviously still his own work, but guys, it was good. It was organized. The essay topic was dead on, and I was so proud of him. I marked a few things and slapped a 90 on that essay and wrote him a note about his hard work.

When he came up to turn in his final, I pulled him aside and told him he couldn’t take the essay with him, as I wasn’t handing them back but that I wanted him to look at his grade. He scowled at my mark-ups on the first couple of pages, but when he got to his grade, he clutched his chest, looked at me, looked down at the essay and back up at me: “Really? I really got an A? I’ve never made an A on a paper.”

I told him he had done the work, had improved steadily and that he did a fantastic job on the essay. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he looked at me and said “Thank you so much. You made my Christmas.” I explained to him that the grade had absolutely nothing to do with me and that he should be proud of himself. He thanked me again and walked off, saying he would text his mom and grandma. I discreetly wiped tears from my eyes as well.

And you know what? He really made my Christmas. It’s easy to wish I made more money and gripe about how teachers don’t get paid enough (we don’t). It’s simple to fall into the trap of whining about those who don’t put in any effort and then complain because they get a C in class. But to really see a student persevere and improve and then appreciate your and his own work? It was really touching. The only problem is, ever since, I have been boo-hooing at the smallest things, and I am not a crier. Hell, last night we watched Cupcake Wars, and I practically cried. We watched Miracle on 34th Street yesterday, and the second Santa spoke Dutch to the little girl, off I went again. Don’t even let the ASPCA commercials come on. Frankly, it’s embarrassing, but I guess it’s better than the alternative.

So, to you and yours, whether or not you celebrate Christmas or just use the break as an excuse to read, I hope there is a little softie in you (if, for nothing else, so I don’t feel quite so foolish), and as always, happy reading.

 


“Dear Reader, I married him.”

Now don’t get excited. I’m not married – or getting married (at least any time soon). The title is one of my favorite lines from Jane Eyre. A little backstory here: I read Jane Eyre for the first time in 4th grade when I had no clue how to pronounce the word rendezvous, but I completely fell in love with this novel. Over the years, I read and re-read it, along the way linking the pronunciation ron-day-voo with the word rendezvous. I am almost embarrassed to say I have read this novel over a dozen times. In the last few years, I just go back to my favorite passages. I have six copies of Jane Eyre, and I am always, always on the lookout for more interesting editions.

I still remember in high school a Channel One (high school news program) commercial break where they previewed Jane Eyre the movie (from the 90s). I was ecstatic; unfortunately, the movie was not everything I had hoped it would be. Honestly, I haven’t seen a single version I have really approved of and enjoyed. So imagine my joy on seeing a trailer for a new vision of Jane and Mr. Rochester – one that looks quite beautiful:

And I have to wait until MARCH!!! I may even be more excited about this than HP7 – different kind of excited, but still…

Much to my delight, it seems Jane Eyre‘s allure has spread like wildfire across the blogosphere lately. Raych at books i done read had a great series with intertextual comparisons here (with The Crimson Petal and the White) and here (with Rebecca) and here (with Wide Sargasso Sea). The gal might love Jane nearly as much as I do. Simon had his say wherein he says he didn’t hold high hopes for Jane Eyre after reading her sister’s ugh, yuck, gah novel Wuthering Heights. [Sorry for those of you who love it.] Fortunately, Simon and I can still be blogging friends, as he loved Jane’s story.  Then Iris fell in love with Jane Eyre as well. Here she discusses prejudice in Jane Eyre and debates Bertha’s treatment in the novel, and several commenters popped in to say they liked Mr. Rochester less after reading Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’s supposed prequel to Jane Eyre. [ For those interested in Wide Sargasso Sea, I read it last summer (before I was blogging). It tells the story of Bertha, or Antoinette as she is known in Wide Sargasso Sea. The novel depicts Antoinette’s descent into madness, and the book can be a difficult read because of that. However, it’s short and gives insight as to why Mr. Rochester locks Bertha away.]

Particularly since there are so many posts out there at the moment, I will leave you quite simply with why this novel has dragged me back into its pages year after year, time after time: It is a true love story – and not just in a romantic sense. It is painful, heart-wrenching really, and hopeful. I cry ugly tears when Jane thinks she hears Mr. Rochester’s voice, knowing it cannot be. I cry when I see how Rochester changes, how he realizes what he has done to himself, Bertha, and Jane. Jane Eyre is about ordinary people who find small moments of the extraordinary within their lives. When Helen, Jane’s young friend at Lowood, dies of consumption, the scene with Helen’s arms wrapped around Jane, comforting her even as Helen lies dying, is majestic. It is these moments in which Bronte works her magic, luring me yet again to the dog-eared pages of the 50 cent copy of the novel I’ve had since 6th grade.

Perhaps a readalong is in order; strike while the iron’s hot and all that. It would be a perfect companion to the approach of the film. Let me know in comments if you’d be at all interested.


Library Haul

Just got back from the ‘brary. Oh wait – you don’t call it that? Ok, guess I won’t either. I had some great recommendations from Pop Culture Nerd, but I also just like to wander through the aisles. I usually have some author’s names in mind, and wandering is half the fun.

What I got:

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

Despair by Vladimir Nabokov

How Right You Are, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Split Image by Robert B. Parker

The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes (I really liked the cover of this and just realized who she is. This may be a no go.)

I also got a couple of audiobooks, one Jane Green and one Elizabeth George. I tend to like lighter books for my commute as I can’t really focus that well. The library also has a pretty decent movie selection, and season three of Mad Men just happened to be on the shelf. Don Draper, here I come. This series is excellent, but I don’t have cable and cannot watch it. I’m always just a little behind the curve on current TV, but I honestly don’t mind.

All in all, I’d say that was a successful trip to the ‘brary. (Hey -it’s better than liberry, as I’ve heard some pronounce it.) At the moment, I am finishing up The Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea but should finish that this evening. Now the only problem is which book to begin. Hmmm…


Picky Boy: The Kids Are All Right

When I sat down to watch The Kids Are All Right, my mind was on other things. The pizza I’d just eaten (it was alright)…the Cole Haan shoes I want to buy (I can’t afford them)…the A/C unit we desperately need in our living room (wouldn’t it be nice?).

I simply wasn’t prepared.

Here I sit, two days later, and I cannot stop thinking about this movie. Just a quick synopsis for those of you residing in places where this film probably won’t be released: The Kids Are All Right, written by Lisa Cholodenko, centers around two lesbians, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), whose two teenage children have decided to exercise their age-determined right to contact the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) their moms used to conceive them.

That’s what you could say if someone asks what the film is about. But you’d be underselling it by a long shot.

First things first: The acting is phenomenal.

Though she is wonderful in The Hours and Far from Heaven, it’s so nice to see Julianne Moore successfully tackle a current woman again. Her portrayal of Jules is unnervingly honest and I was reminded of the gritty ‘Moore of yore’ in Magnolia and Boogie Nights …and as to why I regard her as a truly great actress.

Once again, I was charmed by Mark Ruffalo who stole my affection years ago as the bumbling, loveable druggie inYou Can Count on Me.

And Annette Bening is perfection as the uptight, breadwinning and wine-loving matriarch, Nic. Bening, prone to roles in which she gets to stretch her overdramatic muscles (a la American Beauty and Being Julia), unwaveringly steamboats her way through this film, unafraid to knock anyone from her path in quick, concise judo chops of wit & severe candor.

 

 

 

The Kids Are All Right

It would be sophomoric to claim that this movie is a statement about gay couples with children. There are so many currents pulsing through The Kids Are All Right, it is difficult to classify the film. It’s hysterical without pause to beg for laughter and it’s heart-wrenching without device-motivated melodramatic outbursts.

I guess it suffices to say the movie is true. It’s a glimpse into a home, not just a family unit. They have fun together, smother each other, support each other, say hurtful things and do even more hurtful things to each other. They laugh, cry, yell and curse. The parents have sex (gasp, it’s two women!).  The kids holler and stomp up the stairs, screaming (You just don’t understand!). The film boldly and unapologetically explores the complexity of relationships and illuminates what can happen if we become complacent and stop seeing the ones we love when they’re right in front of us.

In one pivotal scene, Jules interrupts her family watching a television program to apologize. Through tears, she explains that “marriage is hard. It’s fucking hard.” And all of a sudden, as a viewer, I was struck with the clamor of the film’s voice. The sexuality and gender of this couple…it’s irrelevant. No one is exempt from making mistakes or above hurting the ones we love (especially the ones we love). Even those who have fought for the right to be with the person they love or to be able to adopt/have children. No matter the partnership, be it a straight or gay couple, committing your life to another person is a process. And it’s hard. Year after year, the game changes. You grow, you learn—about yourself and your partner. Life is in constant flux and the world changes around you. For you to somehow change as a unit…how can one not make mistakes along the way? It’s how we approach the resolution, that’s the key. Is it worth fighting for? Has too much time passed? Were we looking for an out anyway? Can we mend this? There are so many questions when trust is broken. It’s refreshing to see a film approach these issues in a mature, realistic manner.

I strongly recommend seeing The Kids Are All Right, alright? It’s a beautiful film with a lot to say, so listen up. Picky boy out!


Picky Boy’s Review of Winter’s Bone

Picky Boy in New York City here! Thanks to Picky Girl for asking me to jump in and contribute a post here and there this summer.

There has always been a reverence in my filmlover heart for independent film. When I saw Jim Sheridan’s In America, I experienced my first involuntary standing ovation in a movie theater. I still gush over Junebug (starring Amy Adams) & rave about Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me as though it came out this year.

Before you read on, let it be known…let it resound from the New York City rooftops: I love independent film.

So when I heard whispers of a small film receiving accolades and awards (It won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, for goodness sakes!), I knew I had to see the movie. I called a couple friends, hopped on the 1 train to Lincoln Center and bought a ticket for Winter’s Bone.

If you are one of those people who can’t get enough of a monochromatic color scheme or if watching boots traipse through a leafy forest for roughly 20% of a film really does it for you…then by all means, see this film. I, for one, wish I could turn back the clock, take that $13 (ridiculous, I know) and redistribute it for a plate of General Tso’s chicken across the street at Ollie’s…ah, well. Choices.

Winter’s Bone, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, centers around a 17-year-old girl named Ree Dolly (played by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence) on a backwoods odyssey trying to find her meth-cookin’ deadbeat father. If you’re a clinically-depressed individual without the will to live amidst the civilized and you’re looking for a place to summer but the Hamptons seems a bit too trendy or Fire Island just isn’t your style…try the Ozarks. Director Debra Granik paints a picture of possibly the worst place to reside in America. I’m pretty sure the zip code is just some fingernail scratches and a blood smear.

From the opening shot of two children jumping on a trampoline in a yard peppered with old toys and rusty farm equipment to the horrific climax, Winter’s Bone is saturated with an unrelenting bleakness that left me exhausted, not impressed…frustrated, not empathetic.

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone

For a film steeped in grit and extremely realistic subject matter (Yes, Virginia, there is a real Underground Meth-lab Circuit), it somehow came across as dramatic and borderline ridiculous. Some of the language was laughable and contrived. Though the motley crew of sallow-cheeked haggard people Ree visits during her search are undeniably and horrifyingly accurate;  even they seem to be playing dress up in an ill-fitting Mafia-like subculture. I am not that familiar with meth but if no teeth, a severe cheek implosion and an unexplainable craving for Mountain Dew is a result…I say Thanks, but No Thanks. (What drug makes you crave Sunkist and Haribo Gummie Bears?…because I must be doing a lot of it right now.)

A notable performance in the film is Dale Dickey’s intense portrayal of Merab. She aptly straddles the line of affectionate matron and crazy, Deliverance-esque monster as the wife of the meth circuit ‘boss’, Thump (who looks more like a leather daddy, decked out in leather and chains, than an intimidating Don of Meth).

Side Note: How has PETA not focused their crosshairs on this one yet?! There is a scene where you literally watch someone tear a squirrel apart. Tear it. Apart.

If you’re a positive review chaser, then you’ll probably end up seeing Winter’s Bone. But in my humble Picky Boy opinion, this film evokes a big lateral shake of the head and a slight shoulder shrug. I left the movie theater that night in need of a real pick-me-up, so I picked up some ice cream and popped in The Shining.


Push by Sapphire

Book to movie production is a double-edged sword. For instance, when I first saw Milk, I was appalled that it was the first I had ever heard of Harvey Milk, the man and politician in the 70s in San Francisco who made gay activism what it is today. However, I am so happy that his story was brought to me, even though I hated that Hollywood was the one that informed me. In the last year, it has almost become a joke: Precious, based on the book Push by Sapphire. Each time it won something, I would hear those words. I knew, based on reviews of the movie and the attention it was getting on several feminist websites I encountered that it would not be an easy viewing.  I also knew that, regardless, I would read/watch it. When I went to the library Monday night, I picked it up. I didn’t realize the book was actually published in 1991, which is why I love/hate that Hollywood once again beat me to the punch.

It’s a slim volume, and if you’ve been under a rock the past year, here’s the premise. Clarieece Precious Jones is 16, pregnant with her second child by her father, miserable at school, and desperate for a different life, a life for which she will always have to push. Her mother beats her because the father leaves when he realizes Precious is pregnant (he comes back). The mother has also apparently been molesting Precious. Precious is illiterate, and the book opens when she is suspended for being pregnant a second time, saying, “I ain’ did nothin’!”

The book is written as Precious’ journal and is thus full of misspellings and colloquialisms as well as foul language. ‘Miz Rain,’ her teacher at Each One Teach One (an alternative school) encourages her students to write their stories in journals; Precious takes to her journal, and it becomes therapeutic for her. The book is not easy to read, but I tire of hearing people say they don’t think they could handle it. I mean, I get it. If it were gratuitous, that’d be one thing. But it’s life. This book may be fiction, but the story is rife with truths. Life is and can be ugly.

More than anything, this book impacted me in a major way. I am also listening to the audiobook version of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (review up tomorrow), and both are stories of African-American women and incest. Although totally different, these two stories have really made great companions. Whereas Morrison’s story is, as always, so beautifully descriptive of something so vile, Sapphire’s story is in your face. It knocked me out and drug me down when I finished it at midnight last night. It made me angry; no – it infuriated me.

Precious is fat. The scale stops at 200, and she knows she’s heavier. She smells bad at times; she used to urinate on herself at school because she wouldn’t get up. She has been abused by everyone and everything in her life. Her first child at 12 was born with Down’s syndrome or “down sinder” as she calls it and is named Little Mongo. Her grandmother is absent although she cares for Little Mongo. Her father rapes her repeatedly, and her mother beats her and molests her. All of this rent my heart in two, but as a white woman – a privileged white woman – what absolutely killed me were lines like these:

Why can’t I see myself, feel where I end and begin. I sometimes look in the pink people in suits eyes, the men from bizness, and they look way above me, put me out of their eyes. My fahver don’t see me really. If he did he would know I was like a white girl, a real person, inside.

She ain’ come in here and say, Carl Kenwood Jones – thas wrong! Git off Precious like that! Can’t you see Precious is a beautiful chile like white chile in magazines or on toilet paper wrappers. Precious is a blue-eye skinny chile whose hair is long braids, long long braids.

Passages like these actually nauseated me. Feeling ugly at times is one thing; I feel that way with no makeup or when I haven’t fixed myself up. But to feel like I could only be pretty if I were another race? To feel that maybe if I were lighter skinned or white that I would not have been raped, that my mother would have loved me, that I may be able to read?

How, how we have failed children like these! I know and acknowledge that incest, rape, child abuse, and illiteracy affect white children, Hispanic children, Russian children, yellow and brown, light-skinned and dark-skinned, diabetic, fat, skinny, gay, straight, innocent and not-so-innocent boys and girls. I can understand why there are those out there who didn’t want this book to become popular or who didn’t want the film to be made because it then becomes an African-American issue and not a capital “I” Issue. What I love about this book? That it moved me to want to take action.

Toni Morrison has a gift for beautifully telling horrible stories – stories for which the word ‘horrible’ is not even emphatic enough – but she never moves me to want to leave the realm of the story and do something about it. There was a moment in reading Push when the teacher Blue Rain is working with the students that I thought, I want to do that. It scared me. I know that people like Blue Rain (the non-fiction people) are out there doing this work and breaking their own hearts every day and working for little money, but oh, the rewards. For now, I want to find a literacy program and help support it. I’m not sure how yet to do that effectively, but on this site, in the future, I won’t do giveaways. I will promote whatever literacy program I research and decide would best use your money and my money. You and I, dear reader, are blessed. We have books aplenty, but more than that, we have the ability to open the pages of those books and allow them to take us away or to inform us or to better our minds. There are those out there who don’t have that option for more than just monetary reasons.

I promise you, and I promise myself that I will become an advocate for literacy. I promise to push.


The Girl Who…. Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Let me be straight with you, lest I color your perception of these books: I am a big ole scaredy cat. The biggest. I love reading mysteries, but most do not make me curl up into the fetal position. The last scary movie I watched was What Lies Beneath with Michele Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. I saw it at the theater and lay across the theater seats of my then-boyfriend and his best friend, crying. (They were not amused.) I cannot watch Law & Order: SVU even though I love it. Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Forgettaboutit. I can handle murder, violence, and mayhem, but sexual torture? Torture in general? Nope. Can’t do it.

Flash forward to the night I stayed up devouring The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I. Was. Petrified. Sexual torture mixed with a basement full of torture devices and Biblical punishment meted out by a madman? I broke out in a cold sweat. I couldn’t get up and check my alarm system because my bed was the only safe haven anywhere, and the light from my bedside lamp, while reassuring, also ensured I was visible to the evil outside my lair. Suffice it to say, I was not looking forward to the other books.

However, a friend whose opinion I trust told me the next book wasn’t so bad. Last week, I borrowed it and read it cover to cover. If you’ve read this far, you probably know a bit about the books, so I won’t spend too much time summarizing. Lisbeth Salander, the antisocial, enigmatic young woman with a violent streak is back in The Girl Who Played with Fire. She has spent time in many different countries and returns to Sweden to determine the best way to have Nils Bjurman, her guardian, declare her competent (some mystery from her past caused Salander to be institutionalized as a child). No worries; she has something to hold over his head, and of course, she has a plan.

Mikael Blomvqist is back as well, sleeping around as usual, and is occasionally curious about Salander. He and two journalists, Dag and Mia, are working on a scoop about sexual trafficking in Sweden. Very quickly, Dag and Mia are murdered, Blomqvist finds them, and in a strange twist, Salander is being hunted as the killer. The tale that unravels involves the Soviet Union, spies, conspiracy, a killer with a disorder that makes him feel no pain, Salander, and a mysterious figure named Zalachenko. (Yes, really). I won’t give any more away, but I will say that the book ends abruptly with quite a cliffhanger. I borrowed the next book and learned that Larsson originally intended the first three books to be one continuous volume.

The other thing I learned (through reading – couldn’t confirm it anywhere) is that absolutely no one chose to edit these last two books. The first book was fast paced and had a tightly-written mystery, although the ending did seem to drag a bit. The second two books were full of such unbelievable coincidences and strange rabbit holes that the lack of editing was glaring. I still enjoyed the books because I am intrigued by Salander’s character and wanted to know more about her. However, the loose ends and the blatant tying of those ends lacked the initial ingenuity of the trilogy and left me again questioning if there was an editor. Was there some argument that since Larsson died, no one could edit the manuscripts? Was it for posterity’s sake? I’m really asking. If you know the answer, please comment. I think, as a writer, Larsson would have preferred the polished end product editing provides.

Instead, the public is left with The Girl Who… mania and not a whole lot of consistency and a bit too much substance, at times. It also struck me that these three books are almost totally different genres. The first book is two parts mystery, two parts thriller. The second book is suspenseful but reads more like a John Le Carre novel than an out-and-out mystery. The third book is pure John Grisham. Salander sits in a hospital bed for most of it, using her personal computer device to track down information and to determine the identity of Ericka Berger’s stalker. Whaaa? There is a laughable trial where the attorneys parade in witnesses but also speak to people in the courtroom who aren’t testifying. Whaa? Then, when the book is presumably over, Salander stumbles upon the killer from the second book and survives. Whaaa?

There is talk of someone taking Larsson’s extensive plot notes and character sketches for the other seven planned books and completing them. I’ll make my formal request to a writer who is alive and kicking and who writes thoughtful, complex, well-edited novels: Ian Rankin. Or, better yet, Mr. Rankin: pleeeease write more Inspector Rebus novels.

Devolving from an intelligent series to a John Grisham pulp, the last two books of The Girl Who…trilogy are not ideal, and I hoped for a lot more from this promising series.


Carrie Bradshaw is a real you-know-what.

Sorry, dear reader, for my absolute lack of posts this week. I’ll be back next week. I have been prepping for the start of summer school at the university. I have been reading, but it’s been textbook reading, and I figured you guys may not be too interested in what I thought of those books.

This weekend has been busy busy: salsa dancing in Houston Friday, errands and shopping in Houston on Saturday, a dear friend’s housewarming brunch this morning and a viewing of Sex and the City 2 this evening. My thoughts are succinct: Carrie Bradshaw is a real so-and-so, and wow! those are some over-the-top outfits. I may have more thoughts later, but that’s it for now.

Sweet dreams, and happy reading!


Robin Hood – How he became the prince of thieves

Legends. Mythology. Creative non-fiction. I love it all. So, the new Robin Hood movie? Of course I had to check it out. In preparation, I watched Kevin Reynolds’ 1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It was an interesting experience as the movie was huge when I was in middle school, and I remember the music fondly (we played it in marching band). In 2010, it held pretty well, except for Kevin Costner’s awful hair and even worse, nonexistent British accent. Robin Hood sounds pretty nondescript American. Who knew? With a cast including Morgan Freeman (whom I love) and Christian Slater (can’t stand him) and Alan Rickman (brilliant), it was pretty entertaining. It was much more violent than I remembered or would have anticipated from a movie in the early 90s.

As far as the story goes, Robin of Locksley comes back from the Crusades, having escaped prison and saving Azeem (Morgan Freeman). His friend Peter is mortally injured in the escape and makes Robin promise to safeguard Lady Marian. Robin and Azeem return to England, where he butts heads with Guy of Gisbourne (Michael Wincott) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman). Training of peasants ensues, the Sheriff is dastardly and devious plotting with Mortiana to become king. As I said, entertaining.

Fast forward to 2010 and Ridley Scott’s version, Robin Hood,with the all-too-fitting tag line: The Untold Story Behind the Legend.” Now, color me picky…. but with Batman, I’m fascinated with how Bruce Wayne morphs into this avenging, brooding, complex creature. With Robin Hood, I just want to see some hoodwinks (excuse the sorry pun). Instead, what I saw was a very Gladiator-like** Russell Crowe fighting in battle, standing up to King Richard the Lion Heart, rebelling when his master’s morality is questioned, and fighting a bit more.

Robin Longstride, as he has been penned for the movie, is the son of a stone mason who fought for equality and was killed for it … in front of his own son. Flashbacks similar to Gladiator abound. As Longstride leaves King Richard dead on the battlefield – we are playing fast and loose with history here – he runs across the remains of an ambush in which the knight Locksley dies. In order to cross over to London, Robin and his not-so-merry men, take on the royal guard’s persona to pass safely. Robin promises the dying Locksley he will return his father’s sword to him at Nottingham. Robin does so, and the fabulous Max von Sydow plays a blind Locksley, asking Robin to stand in for his son, so that his daughter-in-law Marian does not lose her land. Don’t worry: there’s not a lot of sexual chemistry between the two. The sheriff is wholly unmemorable but not for his performance as much as lack of story line. This particularly saddens me as the sheriff is played by Matthew Macfayden. Even with such a large cast of characters, though, the plot was fairly simple and easy to follow. As Jonathan Kiefer of the film blog, The Faster Times, quips: It gives clues, telling us, “Pay attention to that guy, whose name will ring a bell,” or “Don’t trust this guy; he’s very bald, and he speaks French.”

For a film that sounds as though it should have such depths of emotion, for me, it lacked heart. It lacked the spirit of Robin Hood I was waiting to see played out in front of me. It lacked the fun. I guess they were going for a recessionist, depressing feel: TAXATION! TAXATION! NO TAXATION! NO TAXATION! And, of course, Robin Longstride throws in this line: An Englishman’s home IS his castle!

I think that they tried to play the Robin-Hood-as-real-man-Robin-Longstride angle too much. Robin Hood is made up. He’s a legend. Why? Because he brought hope and comfort and mischief and delight to a people oppressed. That’s what I was going in to see. As one commenter on Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog Looking Closer says, this movie is the” Totally Made-Up Story That We Produced Hoping to make Millions and Millions of Dollars, to Heck with the Legend.”

Although the battle scenes were beautiful, and there were some nice camera angles and shots, overall, I was disappointed when the credits rolled. (Which, by the way, were very inventive and aesthetically pleasing.) I wanted to see what happened once Robin Hood is named an outlaw and tyrannical King John denies the people the signing of what seems to be the Magna Carta, which he actually goes on to sign in 1215.

Although fun in terms of an action movie, I didn’t leave the theatre with a sense of satisfaction or Yea! The bad guys always lose when Robin of the Hood is around! sort of feeling. I’m all for the examination of the psychological depth and background of characters, but here, Ridley Scott, I wanted some fun and vengeance. I got neither.

** There are several memorable moments when the slow-mo camera action zooms in on Russell Crowe’s face as he bellows: NOOOOOO!!!! I literally laughed out loud. I couldn’t help it.