Popular Posts

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I've decided to start blogging because I need something to do besides read novels and complain about the job market.

I think I'll follow the same format I have in the past when I've done this sort of thing. I'll keep the personal stuff to an absolute minimum, mostly because it doesn't even really interest me, and stick to reviews of movies and books, and perhaps reactions to events and articles that come to my attention.

Let's get started with some quick hitter reviews:

Gran Torino

I'm not as well versed in Clint Eastwood-iana as most people are. I've never seen any of The Man With No Name westerns, and I'm only half-sure I caught most of Dirty Harry once, a long time ago. So I was uncertain if I'd appreciate this flick, since most of the reviews seemed to indicate that it was some sort of commentary on his on-screen persona and it's dark side.

I don't know about all that. The movie I watched was an engrossing but small tale of an old man who learns to appreciate that he might not always have been right, and his attempt to settle his debts with God. The movies philosophical conjectures and moral stances are a confusing jumble, and some critics have objected to the film on the grounds that it supposedly perpetrates a White Man's Burden type of savior relationship. I disagree with that extreme view. I think Eastwood's Walt Kowalski is just one man, and not a stand-in for anything, or anyone, else.

I was shocked by how often I found myself laughing loudly at this movie. In the first few minutes I thought this was a sign of weakness in the acting and script. But then I realized that I was meant to be laughing, and enjoying this unlikely but likeable story.

I don't have the highest standards when it comes to films, especially ones I pay to see in the theater. I'm paying for a good time, so I put myself in the mindset that I should try to enjoy myself. That being said, even I noticed that some of the first-time actors who comprised Kowalski's Hmong neighbors weren't quite the caliber that should be expected. Some scenes, especially one with Thao, the neighbor boy, that had me laughing at what should have been a dramatic moment, make you wonder if they only did one take.

I give Gran Torino an 8.25 out of 10. Eastwood will probably pick up an Oscar nod, and why the heck not, he basically IS this movie.

Next Up: I'm hoping to see Slumdog Millionaire, or maybe The Wrestler. It's apparently too much to hope for that Frost/Nixon play anywhere near here.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

My first encounter with Michael Chabon left me wanting more from an author I'd be predisposed to think of favorably. Wonder Boys was stocked with unlikeable characters behaving in unlikeable ways. It was almost dispiriting to read it. It was also exclusively focused on writers, a tactic I'm not fond of, since it seems to suggest limitations on the part of the author.

Well, Kavalier & Clay put all those objections and more to rest. The book is awesome in the literal sense. It is an expansive and yet hyper-focused text. Some characters never travel outside Brooklyn and its surroundings, while another ventures to Antarctica and back. Chabon brings the same depth of knowledge and awareness of his readers attention to all.

Chabon weaves in real historical occurences and persons with unerring touch and consideration, and inserts true-sounding fictional occurences so effortlessly that they seem more plausible than the historical events. I was blown away by this book even though it's subject matter- the comic book industry- isn't a special interest of mine. If you're at all a cognoscenti of them, I'm sure this would be an all-time favorite.

9.7 out of 10

1 comment:

  1. John,
    You didn't like Wonderboys?! Although I agree that writing about writers can be overdone (Stephen King, cough cough) and signal a writer's laziness or inability to imagine further outside of their own life, it is often the subject a writer can write about with the most knowledge and verisimilitude.
    I also agree that several of the characters in Wonderboys are not very likable, selfish assholes really, but I found myself liking them anyway! I got a kick out of their weekend of debauchery; the narrator's well-meaning, but half-assed attempts at patching up problems with his wife, student, lover, and writing, the commentary on the ridiculous book convention and all the party-hardy, pretentious attendees, and the selfish, yet amusing antics arising from the male camaraderie between the student, editor, and narrator.

    Sidenote: In Maps and Legends, a collection of essays by Chabon (or it might have been in some random article),he talks about how a critic wrote that he needed to extend his fiction beyond his own world and explorations. Chabon said that those thoughts paralleled his own, and the sprawling, complex Kavalier and Clay was the result.

    Also, I enjoyed reading your blog. I didn't know you had one until I read your "twenty-five list thing" on Facebook. Keep it up.

    Brian Poucher