Wednesday, December 26, 2007

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Movie: National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Like/Don't Like: Like - because it was Christmas Eve and I was in the mood

Have you ever been on Google Earth and done their globe hopping thing where it takes you from one major world land mark to the next? I think that's where the writers got the idea for this movie. Mount Rushmore, Mount Vernon, Buckingham Palace, the Library of Congress, the White House, and the "other" Statue of Liberty all made appearances in this movie. It is not a stretch to say that the words "far-fetched" went through my brain several dozen times.
And that was before they broke into the Queen's office AND the Oval Office and then kidnapped the president.

So I rolled my eyes A LOT and I think on any other occassion I would have said no thanks but several things saved it for me, 1.) It was Christmas Eve and I was looking for a mindless, fun adventure movie, preferably without Nicholas Cage, but you can't be picky, right? 2.) That funny sidekick guy who's name has slipped my mind, 3.) I'm kind of a sucker for historical trivia, the likes of which this movie was blowing out it's nose, 4.) Helen Mirren. 5.) Helen Mirren's hair. It was so cute and very flattering and made up for her shoddy American accent.

Speaking of Nicholas Cage...have his teeth always been like that? They looked really weird. Like his bite was off or his caps were too big.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Christmas Carol

Book: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Like/Don't Like: Like

Dear High School English Teachers of the World:

Do NOT make your students read Dickens. I'm serious about this. Dickens is not for kids. If you want your students to hate Dickens and curse your name forever then go ahead. But I'd advise you to back away from it and give them Lord of the Flies instead. It's a much better story for 15 year olds.

I know what I'm talking about. I loved to read when I was 15, just like I do now. I was one of those kids who read every book assigned in school, not just because I had to but because I actually enjoyed it. I read every book - even Moby Dick - every book but A Tale of Two Cities. Why? Because the year before I had to read Great Expectations and it did me in. It was too dark and there were too many foot notes and too many characters and the crazy old lady in the wedding dress and gosh it was confusing for my young mind. Dickens and I were through.

I harbored bad feelings for him for years. I had a teacher in college* who was OBSESSED with Dickens. He was PASSIONATE about him. He dreamed about consumption and debtors prison. I wasn't actually taking a Dickens class from him but not a lecture went by without some obscure reference from the Pickwick Papers. And every reference made me say “Bleh! Dickens. I’m not going to do that again!”

Which was a big shame because Dickens is actually fantastic. Last year, thanks to Katie, I redeemed myself and read A Tale of Two Cities and I loved it. Seriously. It's such an amazing, beautiful book. In fact, it was my number one book of 2007. (Yeah, I keep track of the books I read in a little notebook. I'm a dork. So what?) And I felt like I had wasted all of these years when I could have been reading his stuff.

So I vowed to be friends with him again. I’ve had a copy of A Christmas Carol in my bookshelf for years. It may have been a gift. I can’t remember. Every Christmas I would think, “Maybe I should read A Christmas Carol.” And it would take me about 30 seconds to remind myself that I didn’t like Dickens. But since we’ve been reunited I didn’t talk myself out of it this time

Who doesn’t know this story? Everyone knows this story. I’ve seen A Muppet’s Christmas Carol enough to know it (Incidentally, only 15 more sleeps ‘til Christmas. Fa la la.) So I thought that it would be a little dull reading something that I already knew so well. But Dickens charmed me again. I was lovely. And short. It love a book I can read in a couple of hours.

So, in conclusion, I found my way to Dickens, even after hating him. But I could have read him a lot earlier. I would have found my way to him years ago and would have had the joy of Tiny Tim every Christmas. If only you people wouldn’t insist on forcing us to be best friends.

Best at this festive time of year,

PS. Another author who is terrific that kids shouldn’t read because they just won’t get it is John Steinbeck. Don’t give them Steinbeck! Let the readers find him on their own. East of Eden was my favorite book of 2006 but that was after years of not liking him after I had to read The Pearl in the 7th grade.

*Interesting side note: This professor actually had a very Dickensian experience the year before I took his class. He almost died from a flesh eating bacteria. He had scars all over his neck and face and gaping, oozing sores on his arms. I bet it was like a dream come true for him.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Movie: Waitress
Like/Don't Like: Um...overall - don't like

I remember hearing about this movie when it came out, mostly because of the tragic stuff with the writer/director/person in the movie who was murdered in her own apartment before it came out. Sad. And also because I have a soft place in my heart for Keri Russell. Oh Felicity. The hours I spent watching you walk around the streets of NYC in slow motion, wistfully looking over your shoulder. Those were the days.

I remember hearing that this movie was sad and quirky. So true. Although more sad than quirky. I'm not against sad movies. Shadowlands is pretty high up there for me and if there's a sadder movie out there, I'd like not to hear about it because I'm a sucker and would probably end up watching it and I don't think there's a tissue box large enough to handle the amount of tears I would shed if it were sadder than Shadowlands. That the attic...when they're sitting on the steps...after she dies. Oh gee whiz.

But this one was more depressing than sad. Felicity plays a pie baking waitress who is pregnant with her abusive husband's baby and she's not happy about it. Boy, is she not happy. And then she has an affair with her doctor, who is married. And then (this is where I give away the ending) she has the baby and ends the affair and dumps her louse of a husband. Which is great, but that is about 5 minutes at the end. The rest just kind of wears you down with how sad her life is.

Which may be the reason why I went to bed feeling a little let down, even after everything worked out for the best. It had all the makings for a movie I'd really like. Snappy lines, homey locale, wise cracking side characters, pie, Andy Griffith, and a guy who creates spontaneous poetry. That last one should have won me over all by itself, and it was close. So close. But not close enough. I wanted to eat pie at the end of it, but mostly to cheer me up.