Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Night of the Gun - Book Review

Published August 2008
The Night of the Gun - David Carr  C+

Some addiction memoirs read like fiction. This one, not so much. David Carr's life was certainly tumultuous and slightly blurred. The Night of the Gun unabashedly recounts his life story via his own investigative reporting. Carr interviewed friends, family, colleagues and drug buddies. The book includes photographs, legal documents and police reports, all in an effort to get the story straight. The Night of the Gun is an admirable effort; but, it got old fast. There were interesting and revealing moments (Tom Arnold selling info to the National Enquirer), and moments that made me want to know more (Jayson Blair's plagiarism). But, first and foremost this is a story about addiction. I was hoping for more insight on his journalistic career and journalism in general.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Don't Think Twice- Movie Review

Don't Think Twice (R) 92 mins B+
Hope and Change and Comedy

Starring: Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Maggie Kemper, Mike Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Chris Gethard, Tami Sagher, Richard Masur, Seth Barrish and Adam Pally

Don't Think Twice was not as funny as I hoped. But, it is a well-crafted humanistic film that is both entertaining and affecting. The film follows six members of a New York improvisational troupe. A tight knit group of friends honing their skills and striving toward the same goal- to earn a spot on the popular comedy show Weekend Live (a fictional Saturday Night Live). However, when one member gets his lucky break it changes the group dynamic. It motivates the remaining five members in various ways. The triangle of success, jealousy and friendship is well-charted territory in film. Nevertheless, writer-director Mike Birbiglia makes this film stand out because his characters are believable. They are characters you'll care about, laugh with and maybe even shed a tear for.

Watch the trailer via YouTube----> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RFTpObS95U

Monday, August 1, 2016

Cafe Society - Movie Review

Café Society (PG-13) 96 mins B+
You can't always get what you want

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Parker Posey, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Sari Lennick

In his 47th film, Woody Allen proves once again why he is my favorite filmmaker. At the rip old age of 80, Allen is still making films that move me. He is still venturing into new cinematic territory. Café Society is the writer-director's first film using digital cameras, and his first with multiple Oscar winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

In this nostalgic love story, fresh-faced Bobby Dorfman (Eisenberg) leaves his working class roots of Bronx, New York for the glitz and glamour Tinseltown. Bobby hopes to land a job with his highfalutin uncle (Carell), a name-dropping Hollywood talent agent. Bobby gets the job, meets a girl (Stewart), and cultivates network of friends. Yet, the film is a reminder that you can't always get what you want, even when you seemingly have it all. Café Society is a bittersweet delight, convincingly played by Eisenberg and surprisingly charmed because of Stewart.

Watch the trailer via YouTube---> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2c1y1HT0yo

Friday, July 22, 2016

Modern Lovers - Book Review

Published May 2016
Modern Lovers - Emma Straub A-

In the 1980s, Andrew, Elizabeth, Zoe and Lydia were in a moderately successful rock band called Kitty's Mustache. Now, over two decades later they are all having a mid-life crisis, except for Lydia. Lydia, the most notable member of Kitty's Mustache, died at age 27 (infamously joining Cobain, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, and others as part of the 27 Club) after a short but successful solo career.
Andrew and Elizabeth married and had a son, Harry. They live a normal upper middle class life a few doors down from Zoe, Zoe's wife Jane, and their daughter Ruby. The novel starts off fairly typical, but things quickly heat up when the news of a Hollywood bio-pic (think Ray or Walk the Line) about Lydia's life is destined for the big screen. Revisiting Lydia's past means revisiting past secrets and desires. There's also an entertaining side plot about young love affair. Essentially, Modern Lovers is a cool summer novel about the angst of falling in and out of love. It is better and more serious than the lighthearted book cover would have you believe.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Girls - Book Review

Published June 2016
The Girls - Emma Cline A-

The Girls is a riveting and alluring debut novel. Loosely based on the Manson murders, Cline explores the vulnerability and angst of 14-year-old Evie Boyd (via the narration of her now middle-aged self). The predominant story is about young Evie and her entanglement with a murderous clan of outliers during the late 1960s. That part of the novel is heartbreaking because many of us will recognize the teenage naiveté and desperate longing to belong. The other part of the novel is about middle-aged Evie. She is still drifting, but with a greater sense of responsibility and foresight. The older Evie is lonely and quietly haunted by her past. However, this novel is not about older Evie, it is about her youth. Then again, isn't it always about youth and how we survive (or don't survive) it?

Monday, July 11, 2016

This is How You Lose Her - Book Review

Published September 2012
This is How You Lose Her - Junot Diaz A-

Junot Diaz is the Michael Jordan of literature, he can't miss. This is How You Lose Her is his second story collection and nearly each story is a slam dunk. Only one of the nine narratives, "Otravida, Otravez" is from the perspective of a woman. Coincidently, that was the only story that didn't completely resonate with me. Otherwise, this is a stellar examination of dyslexic hearts. Bravo!

*The book was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction in 2012.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Slouching Towards Bethlehem - Book Review

Published in 1968
Slouching Towards Bethlehem - Joan Didion C-

I really want to like Joan Didion. I really wanted to like this book. But, despite some intriguing subject matter - a murderous wife, the free love and chaos of Haight-Ashbury circa 1967, Joan Baez, Howard Hughes, etc... these essays simply didn't resonate with me.

For more on this essay collection check out Dan Wakefield's 1968 New York Times review, "Places, People and Personalities."


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Amputee's Guide to Sex - Book Review

Published February 2007
The Amputee's Guide to Sex - Jillian Weise A

I regret not reading this book sooner. The Amputee's Guide to Sex is provocative, powerful and one of the best debut poetry collections I have ever read. Divided into three sections: "Translating the Body," "Help Your Physician Better Understand Your Pain" and "Of Holman" - Weise, an amputee, masterfully details the vulnerability of being fetishized, medicalized and emotionally brutalized. These poems are like catchy songs I can't get out of my head. Engaging and titillating.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Bigger Splash - Movie Review

A Bigger Splash (R) 124 mins C
Sun-soaked and the self-obsessed

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Corrado Guzzanti and Matthias Schoenaerts

Luca Guadagnino, the director of A Bigger Splash, and I have at least one thing is common; we both think Tilda Swinton is a sex symbol. I was smitten with Swinton in Guadagnino's 2009 film, I Am Love. In A Bigger Splash Swinton is the sexiest in a film that tries sedulously to be sexy. Set in the beautiful island of Pantelleria, it's hard to deny the film's beauty. But, I also can't help but feel like the film relies too much on aesthetics and not enough on plot. I appreciate the humanistic drama of emotions the film is built upon. However, as a piece of dramatic cinema A Bigger Splash screams "rich people problems" sans any empathic characters with whom moviegoers can make a heartfelt connection.

The plot in a nutshell, Swinton plays a rock star, Marianne Lane (think Chrissie Hynde meets David Bowie) who is in seclusion/on a sexcation with her beau while recovering from throat surgery. Their days are quiet and relaxing until her former manager/lover (Fiennes) abruptly arrives on the island with his Lolita-like daughter (Johnson) in tow. I don't think I am giving anything away when I say that one can see the pairing off of couples from a mile away- two former loves reunite, while two young hotties flaunt their bodies until neither can take it any longer.

A Bigger Splash isn't a bad film. If you need motivation to visit Sicily, this is it. But, if you want to see a better film from this director that also stars Tilda Swinton, seek out I Am Love.

A Bigger Splash trailer via YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBpvKfMWB-o

I Am Love trailer via YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NjA8CIDvZ8

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Animal Farm - Book Review

Publish August 1945
Animal Farm - George Orwell B-

"Cute" might be a strange way to describe George Orwell's Animal Farm. But, when I imagine these pigs, horses, donkeys and goats overthrowing a drunk farmer and starting a revolution, it's hard not to smile. This "Fairy Story," as it was initially subtitled, is heavy stuff once you get past the cute and clever animals. By now I suspect everyone knows that Animal Farm, written during the first half of the 1940s and published in 1945, parallels the Russian Revolution. The animals in the book represent people like Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. People, places and things in the book represent religion, Russia, the media, the working class and more. Animal Farm started strong. I was intrigued. But, eventually my attention waned. Overall, I enjoyed it. However, I probably expected too much since it's considered to be a classic. This one might warrant re-reading down the line.