Are You Not Entertained? Books and Films

I’ve watched a lot of films and read a lot of books this past month, and many were okay, but I’d rather cut to the chase and share the best book, film, and television I highly recommend.


The Shadow of the Wind is a 2001 novel by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón and a worldwide bestseller. The story begins with 10-year-old Daniel in 1945 in Barcelona. Deep in a library called the “cemetery of lost books”, forgotten, out of print books are shelved and Daniel chooses from a choice of thousands The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. The book contains gothic elements with chilly descriptions of the temporal as well as the temperamental weather. Outlandish and believable characters like sidekick Fermín Romero de Torres whose clownish physical features melt with wise advice and passionate feelings for women contrast the rain clouds that seem to drip blood over haunted mansions. As the novel progresses, Daniel ages and he experiences love and becomes obsessed with the life of Julian Carax. In fact, Carax’s story parallels David’s so that the novel is structurally interesting. Above all, the novel is a mystery. It is beautifully written; most of the characters get their own flashback narrative where obsession becomes a major theme of the novel. It’s a true page-turner, a rare luscious novel that’s florid in style and exciting to read. 4.5/5. 


I watched several, but they were mediocre at best, so I don’t have any to recommend.



Alias Grace was Margaret Atwood‘s 1996 fictionalized account of the notorious Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a servant who was convicted along with stable hand James McDermott (Kerr Logan) of the 1843 murders of employer Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross) and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin). Grace leaves the prison every day to talk privately with psychiatrist Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) who falls in love with her. Grace retraces the steps of her life for him while he furiously takes down notes. His job is to determine whether she is insane or deserves to be set free after being in the penitentiary for fifteen years. The committee determined to set her free has paid Dr. Jordan to give a favorable report. This six-part series on Netflix is not to be missed.

Other than Paquin, the cast is refreshingly unrecognizable. Sarad Gadon is breathtaking as Grace and the acting by the ensemble is commendable. Margaret Atwood sits as executive producer while Mary Harron is the director. She did a marvelous job framing the landscape and switching camera angles from far to the minute stitching of the quilts. Favorite detail? The explanation of the quilts and what they represent. Here’s a great article introducing the females behind the series in NOW TORONTO ARTICLE FOUND HERE.

As Grace tells her story, the flashbacks are abundant, and I wondered if this overused device would kill the project for me. But by the conclusion of the series, I understood the purpose was to show the various perspectives from the trial, so that the audience wonders, “Is Grace innocent or guilty?” Grace is so charming and practical, you want her to be innocent. But flashback perspectives are so contrary, one wonders what really did happen?

I won’t ruin the climax of the final installment of the series, but my skin crawled. The dual contradictions and confusions finally made all the sense as the story came to a satisfying ending. Beautifully filmed, expertly acted, an exquisite script including the details of the life of females in the 1800s showcasing their conflicts and impossible oppression without preaching made Alias Grace the best television I’ve seen in years. 4.8/5. 

38 thoughts on “Are You Not Entertained? Books and Films

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    1. Woody Allen’s, Another Woman and rewatched Annie Hall.
      The Sea of Trees (2016)
      Frankie and Johnnie, Al and Michelle version
      Night Moves
      Only the Brave
      American Made
      Hostiles (I liked it.)
      All the films had elements of interest and good acting. I couldn’t decide if I liked Allen’s “Another Woman”. I love the Japanese scenery and the acting in “Sea of Trees” but I’m getting tired of flashback as a way of explaining the present. Really loved the face and acting of Johnny Harris in Jawbone and Winstone has a mug I appreciate, but the story is the same-ol’-same ol’.
      Only The Brave is a crappy movie, but it’s filmed just around the corner from me so I enjoyed the familiar scenery and the emotional connection of the tragedy which really shook my area of AZ.
      I don’t know what to do with a film that’s mediocre or slightly above. It would make for a boring post, I feel, reviewing them.
      Thanks for asking, Bill. Any on the list you did like? I thought about you when I watched “Another Woman”.


      1. another wman is one of my favorite wody allen movies. annie hall is an undisputed asterpiece. i agree completely with you on sea of trees. cut the flashbacks ad you have a beautiful abstract film filled with ambiguity which i would watch wth mounting interest. i dont mind flashbakcs, but hhere they were so inferir to the rest of the movie that they ruined it. anihiatin was also destroyed by its flshbacks, which should not even had exsted had the story been properly told. i saw frankie and hohnny onn broadway and thought he mmovie horribly miscast. almost as bad as sissy space playing the role kathy bates originaated in night mother. night moves is one of the few neo noirs that i liked. as for the rest, i havent seen them.


        1. Did you mean up there with ‘anihiatin’ is that Annihilation? That limited release with Natalie Portman? I’ve been dying to see it but it’s not around here. I hear it’s visionary and awesome. But you feel the flashbacks ruin it? What a shame.


          1. dont read the book if you plan to see it, because it is a wretched adaptation. to me, the movie was garbage, but had i not read the book i might have had a higher opinion of it. not that the book is any good, it isnt. but it had some interesting themes and promising visual ideas that never made it into the movie.

            Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s funny. I was watching it when you asked me! I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars. Wasn’t it boring?
          Didn’t you wait and wait and wait for something to happen? So she was his Barbie doll and he was a Momma’s boy and the only way Alma could get him to be hers is if she poisoned him enough to make him weak enough to be close and caring. She became his Momma and that was where they found their love for each other. Okay, psychologically twisted premise, but somehow it fell flat. I heard whispers of Rebecca or Gaslight but it was nowhere near the creepiness or suspense. Even the costumes were ugly. Sigh. A shame that’s the film that DDL will be retiring from. He was amazing as Abe Lincoln.


          1. ddl retiring? well, i havent liked him since the ballad of jack and rose. he was terrible in there will be blood and the gangs of new york. but his early work was exceptional, especially my left foot and in the name of the father. i have to confess again. i dont remember a thing about the phantom whatever it was. just saw Fail Safe tonight, after not having seen it in severl years. scared the hell out of me. sidney lumet is truly one of the great american directors. last night i saw an interesting b movie from 1939 called Inside the Mafia, based on a true story in which a lot of gangsters killed one another. the violence was shocking.also recently ejoyed nick rays i was a teenage jesus AKA King of Kings, one of the best of the hollywood biblical epics, perhaps because Jesus was upstaged by JOhn the Baptist in the frst half and Barrabas in the second.


      2. just watched only the brave and wndered why you found it crappy. the scrit was muddled, but true stories dont have plots, and i personally dislike the canonization of macho heroic firemen that was a post 9/11 side effect that is still with t. but. as yousaid, the emotional element worked, and the scenery was well filmed/ plis, i thoought the acting was very good each of the four priicpals brought originality to their scenes. and i got a kick out of heff bridges in the morgan freeman part. so what didnt you like?


        1. Jeff Bridges! I thought Jennifer was bad too. She has maybe three expressions and I don’t like the whining. I thought Jeff’s role was silly–his singing in the bar–reprising the same mumbling chewing expression from his Oscar win film as Otis in Crazy Heart –he was outstanding there.


          1. he was a completely different character than he played in crazy heart. the only similarity was the guitar. and i havent liked connelly since she was in her twenties, but she really pulled some honest behavioral quirks out here that you might have seen as bad, but i found them unique, very different for this sort of character. and miles teller, who i thought was a total dud until that drummer /teacher move, has returned to his forme dullness, but with a disconnect that was true to the nature of a former drug addict. as for brolin, he was almost john wayne good as the leader. anyway, those were my reactions. it was certainly not a memorable film, but i didnt smell any outhouse stench coming out of it.


          2. id probably give it the same. here is an excellent song about a similar event from 194 in missouri that you might like. cant remember who wrote it, but this recrding is from a short lived trio caled cry cry cry and the lead vocalist is richard shindell.


          3. one of the girls was dar williams who i knew slightly before she became famous. i had heard her sig wth her boyfriend a few times, and he dominated the act to the degree that i never realized how good she was. a funny coicidence is that the final show i layed before leaving boston was opening for her now ex boyfriends cd release party in the club across te street from a theatre with her name on the marquee. i dont know the other girl. i just listened to the song again and it choked me up. im so sentimental. another thing i forgot to mention was how skillfully that final scene with mile teller going to the gym was.staged and played.


    1. That’s okay, about the book. It got pretty scary when Daniel got older and he started snooping around a haunted mansion.
      Alias Grace is pretty creepy, too. I loved the script. I’m not a fan of Anna Paquin (except in ‘The Piano’) so when she’s pushed down the cellar it didn’t bother me. Her character was perfect and Anna did a fine job. Her face bothers me, though. 😉


  1. ‘Shadow of the Wind’ has long been one of my favorite books. His other books never captured the magic of this one, Shadow is special.

    I’ve not heard of ‘Alias Grace’. I love Anna P so I will definitely check this out. Thanks. Now one for you… ‘Barry’… New this week on HBO. I don’t know you well enough to know if you liked ‘Godless’, if you watched, I enjoyed everything about that one.


    1. Hi Ted, thanks for the tip! I am trying to find something to watch. Another blogger recommended ‘Collateral’ and I’ve not heard of ‘Barry’ so will check it out. I’m glad you appreciated ‘Shadow of the Wind’. I agree it’s magical.


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