Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cinema Babble: If you only see one movie about the fall of the White House...

The Flick: Olympus Has Fallen

The Peeps: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Ricvk Yune, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, etc, etc.

The Dealio: The White House is taken over and the President is being held captive, while things go from bad to worse throughout the greater DC metroplex. With absolutely no one able  to affect a rescue and with fear and hopeless ruling the day, disgraced former Secret Service agent, Mike Banning (Butler), finds himself the only surviving member of the team to actually be on-site. Driven by the twin demons of failure earlier in the administration, and the desire to save both the President and the country he loves, Banning becomes a one-man spoiler, the monkey in the wrench, the fly in the ointment- as another pain in the butt cinematic law officer once said. Along the way, there are many eye-rolling moments, but also some grippingly tense and engaging ones, too. So, why, do you suppose we need other similar flicks (Summer's White House Down and the now-playing and also available at Walmart mention GI Joe: Retaliation- which we also saw)? Clearly...we don't. So, pick, but choose wisely, because those are two hours you will never get back.

Lessons Learned: Beware the disgruntled former employee, for therein lies the concealed serpent's tooth, which will surely strike when least expected. Also this, learning a subject inside out, upside down and backwards- as we were taught in elementary school- actually can come in handy. You just never know when. Lastly this: if someone is torturing you to learn something you are reluctant to give up, but you think you will survive if you do, just let them kill you outright, 'cause that's how this is always going to end. Always.

Biblio Babble: The Best Book I Ever HEARD

The 'Read': The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Writer: Muriel Barbery

The Dealio: Have you ever heard any book described as a 'coming of age book'? And has that ever referred not only to a 12 year old, but also, and even more movingly, about a 54 year old? May I present The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I came to this book through one called The End of Your Life Book Club, a non-fiction work by Will Schwalbe. And, for reasons I can not now recall, I elected to give this a go as an audiobook. REALLY the best decision, where this book is concerned, because the spoken words, in the talented hands (er, voices) of Cassandra Morris and Barbara Rosenblat was a things of such incredible beauty, humor and intensity, that I am not at all sure just the written word would have had the impact on me that listening in definitely did. OBTW, this was made into a movie in 2011. Which I intwend to investigate pronto.
The story is, on the surface, that of two wildly disparate residents of 7 rue de Grenelle, both of whom are harboring secrets. Twelve year old Paloma Josse is a brilliant, precocious, inwardly rebellious girl who is planning to kill herself on her 13th birthday because life seems to have no meaning. The 54 year old Renee Michelle is the concierge at number 7, and proudly covers her sharp, philosophical agile mind (she is a proud 'auto-didact') behind the very conventions of her job: dull, fat, ugly, plump, stereotypical  and uninspired. Through the course of this beguiling tale- interspersed with reams of philosophy, which can tend to pinch and pluck at the story's progress- we come to find out that these two actually have much in common. Much more than they- or anyone else in the building- could ever believe. But it is the arrival of the mysterious M. Ozu which suddenly throws electricity into the mix prompting all sorts of changes and revelations all sorts of revelations. Barbery is such a beautiful writer, with some great elegance of her own in her graceful and sumptuously delicious  turns of phrase. It was such a treat to listen to her moving and amusing plot lines spool out as the miles whipped by while I drove from locale to locale, that I often found myself  idling in the driveway or parking lot just  to 'finish up' a chapter before going inside.

The Grading Session: 4.997 pengies out of 5. It would have been more, but for the lengthy discourses on philosophical schools of thought that tended to slow the story down a bit. However, I was both unwilling and unready to let this story end.  It was exactly that addictive.

Lessons Learned: Um, you can't judge a book by its cover? How about this, then: it is both unfair and silly to assume you know everything about a person based upon their job or their appearance. Also this: there is much joy in the simplest of things:home-made  madeleines, Japanese films, a cat who listens to you pour out your heart and soul, then goes back to ignoring you once the crisis is past. Lastly this: I simply love it when one book nudges me in the direction of another. Or others! True lagniappe!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cinema Babble: Opening some doors for a cost

The Flick: 42

The Peeps: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford,  T. R. Knight, Nicole Beharie, Christopher  Meloni, Lucas Black, Alan Tudyk, John McGinley, Max Gail, etc.

The Dealio: Branch Rickey (Ford) decides to deliberately integrate the Brooklyn Dodgers. After 'scouting' numerous candidates from the  Negro League,  his attention settles on Jackie Robinson. But this is more than an interesting historical film, or an  involving sports story. This is a chance to slide a not-so-distant event under the microscope and, just maybe, learn how far we have come...or not come. At times, undeniably sugar-coated and anachronistic, the movie has a great heart and some absolutely splendid acting- not least of which came from a person I had never heard of before: Chadwick Boseman (Jackie). An admitted baseball nut in my youth, I recognised so many of the names, and it was fascinating to see them on the screen: living, breathing, scrapping, standing tall,  even being just plain wrong-headed. But, this time, seen without the accepting veil of childhood observations.

The Grading Session: 4.73 pengies out of 5. Is this a perfect movie? Well, I can't think of a single example of that. But, this I do know: here is a film well worth seeing, whether you love America's Sport or break out in hives at the thought of enduring another season under the sun. There is so much to  this story, so many people who played a part- positively or negatively- into making, not just sports, but America, what it is today. Go see this one and learn from it.

Lessons Learned: Sometimes valor lies in not fighting injustice with force and  fists, but with honorable behavior and great strength of character that shames your adversaries by comparison. Also this: if you have achieved much, it is absolutely vital that you pay it forward. Lastly this: if you do something right, but for the wrong reasons, does it count? What do you think?