How many times a day do you seek to be entertained? It is elusive. It is dangerous. The rush of stimulus bombards us. The mob mentality of pop culture is easily distracting. Yet, I love music and books and movies and have no intention of stopping my search for fine entertainment. Here continues a monthly series of the entertainment that has occupied my time, for better or worse.
Tedeschi Trucks Band is a modern Blues band featuring the husband-wife duo Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. She sounds like Bonnie Raitt and he plays like Gregg Allman. When I’m shooting free pool on Thursday nights, I play their songs in the satellite jukebox and relax. They have released a new album this year, Let Me Get By. Want to hear more? Check out their music videos on the Tedeschi Trucks Band website. Try listening to this fine example of their talents in “Midnight in Harlem”.
The Joy Luck Club was published by Amy Tan in 1989 followed by her adapted screenplay in 1993. I’ve seen this classic lying on desks and stuffed in lockers for years. I never got around to reading it. So I borrowed a copy from our school bookstore this summer and fell in love with Tan’s imagery and her parables and stories of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters. It is an elegant book about the universal worry of the older generation who wonders if the younger one will forget the history of their people, the traditions of their ethnicity, and the fear they will be forgotten. 4.5/5.
I haven’t seen the film version. Have you?
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
For the Lucky 13 Film Club, I chose Cormac McCarthy as an author whose novels become films. I heard how depressing this post-apocalyptic book and the film was, and perhaps that’s why I put off reading it. Actually, I wasn’t depressed at all with either. In gray surroundings, love shines brightly. Even with the horrific elements thrown in to spike your heartbeat, I thought it was a beautiful tribute of the love between a father and son. Viggo Mortensen carries the weight of the world convincingly. McCarthy typically stages the good vs. the bad in his stories and the good son (Kodi Smit-McPhee )is a beacon and reminder to us all for which side to strive. When the world has come to the end, will you run or embrace your fellow-man? I highly recommend both versions. 4.5/5.
Now here is a clever retell of the classic story, Snow White. It’s a Spanish silent film and beautifully executed by Pablo Berger. Rescued from her evil stepmother (Maribel Verdú) by dwarves, a young woman (Macarena García) becomes a bullfighter like her late father. You might think a silent film would be difficult to stay with today, but not so. It’s engaging to the last frame. 5/5
I enjoyed the background article on this human endurance story found here Is it a true story?Director Peter Weir has half the world at his disposal for great cinematography and Mother Nature doesn’t disappoint. From a Russian Gulag in 1939, a group of escapees journey 4,000 miles from Stalingrad to India. What could go wrong?
The natural settings are jaw-dropping, but if the elements cause the characters to become invisible behind scarves, masks, facial hair or sunburns, it becomes a challenge to remain vested in the characters. That is, the personalities need to come forth to compensate falling into the obscurity of a group. How about a little scene chewing? The only two characters who show a personality are a knife-swinging thief Valka (Colin Farrell) and lying, charming Irena (Saoirse Ronan). All the other characters could have been interchanged with any actor out there. This is too bad for Jim Sturgess who is the central protagonist and gives a lackluster performance. Ed Harris as the cynical, iron-faced wise one softens and mixes well with Irena as the daughter-figure. It’s too bad Irena didn’t have more screen time to coax out the rest of the group more. Their personalities finally rose to the surface like mud in the Gobi desert. I like a good endurance story, and this one covered the extremes nature can offer, so it was good entertainment. 3.5/5.
Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014). I love Simon Pegg. He plays the Everyman with perfect comedic timing and can turn ridiculous plots into fun adventures. While this story is lame, the lessons are always worth reviewing, for I forget where I put the keys to happiness. I preferred The Life of Walter Mitty (4/5) much more. HSH: 2.5/5.
Being Jane (2007) I watched this one because I chose Jane Austen as a writer whose stories become films. Pride and Prejudice is a gem and this film suggests how the spinster had it in her to portray the complexities of love. It’s a nice twist on an idea. Being Jane was loyal to the period costumes and settings and the overall feel of the 18th century, but the principal members were miscast and disappointing except for Julie Walters who captured Mrs. Austen perfectly. What’s the moral of the story? Jane Austen learned that love has a happy ending if it’s fictionalized. For everyone who has lost love or realized an affair of the heart in another time or place would have worked, well, that’s Jane Austen’s specialty. In her novels, at least, the lady gets her man. 2.5/5.
Agora (2009) Roman Egypt. The Library of Alexandria. Rachel Weisz and Oscar Isaac. I’m interested! What a great opportunity for director/writer Alejandro Amenábar to highlight the female mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, Hypatia. Science and religion are at war. Fanatical Christians are the aggressors against the pagan elites. Ptolemaic vs. Heliocentric explanations are debated. In this film, Hypatia suggests in the 4th century what will be advanced a thousand years later. Meanwhile, two men adore her, but she is an independent woman and not about to succumb to a man’s authority. Guess what happens? 3/5.