Books About Eleanor Roosevelt: Reviewed in The Economist, 29 October 2016

  • Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939 – 1962, by Blanche Wiesen Cook (Viking)
  • Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady, by Susan Quinn (Penguin)

It is tempting to think that in a different era, Eleanor Roosevelt could have become president of the United States. Widely loved, the longest-serving First Lady was on the right side of history on virtually every subject including civil rights, acceptance of European refugees and the need to end Empires.


“She understood his needs, forgave his transgressions, buried her jealousies, and embarked on her own independent career . . .  FDR encouraged her independence and when he silenced her did so for reasons of state.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: “Sleeping Beauty in Space,” a Review of PASSENGERS by Sunny Lanning

The movie is beautiful, brilliantly shot. The clean, curving lines of the halls and rooms, the luxurious amenities, the sense of echoing, empty space both within and without the ship, which employs a novel design style. The lingering shot on the long lines of Chris Pratt’s naked back and buttocks fits right into the elegant overall design.

— Sunny Lanning, in her blog Sincerely, Sunny

Self has been having an off-blog exchange with Sunny Lanning about things we like, and one of the things we like is J-Law.

Yup, that’s right. J-Law.

Self knows it’s sort of fashionable to dump on her right now. Indulge in fond memories of “Winter’s Bone” (which was truly great).

Self knows, “Passengers” did not get good reviews. Self reads Everlark tumblrs on a daily basis and people are wondering what happened to J-Law, blah blah blah.

Self has a feeling J-Law will endure.

In the meantime, enjoy the parallels Sunny Lanning draws between “Passengers” and Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.”

Self’s own personal take on the disappointment with the movie (Note: Self has not seen “Passengers.” But she kinda gets the process Chris Pratt is or has embarked on. It’s called Hollywoodization.), the blown hopes: it’s Pratt. In this role, he’s reaching for that next level. Self doesn’t argue that a J-Law would find him attractive — hot, even. But can we just not make the effort so predictable right now? It just seems so determined and so cynical.

Sunny found that originally “Passengers” was a Keanu Reeves project. Keanu/ J-Law would have been an interesting pairing!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Dana Stevens, Slate

Early in January, David Bowie died, and then Alan Rickman four days later, and those twin losses now seem like the double toll of a warning bell whose somber echo would resonate through the year. 2016 was a year when the pillars that used to hold up our shared cultural universe wouldn’t stop crumbling around us. Prince? You expect us to somehow continue American pop music without Prince? Oh God, Gene Wilder. Oh no, Leonard Cohen.

— Dana Stevens, Slate movie critic, The Top 10 Movies of 2016

Curious About the Kevin Hart Movie?

And you are! You know you are!

If you can’t get there, because you’re one of the 99% of Americans who have to work in an office (as opposed to tele-commuting, where no one can see you clock in or clock out, and no one will know if you decide to break up your workday by sneaking into a local cineplex), all you have to do is go to this great movie review website, http://www.rogerebert.com, and read the (3-star) review there, by Odie Henderson.

Self must confess: this is the very first review by Henderson she’s ever read. So she cannot believe it when he writes, “. . .  I don’t have very much to tell you . . . I can’t tell you the jokes because I wouldn’t do them justice . . . My work here is done. Thank you, America! Good night and God bless!”

Mr. Henderson, if you should ever feel the need to branch out from your current line of work (movie reviewer: but why would you ever want to do that? Self would kill, KILL, for a job such as yours), she thinks you might be able to get a gig somewhere as a stand-up comedian.

Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Glenn Kenney

What admiration self has for Chaz, Roger Ebert’s widow, who kept his name alive with the site RogerEbert.com, where you can find a collection of great reviews on all the most recently released movies (It is so much better than Rotten Tomatoes. On RogerEbert.com, a reviewer can actually say Suicide Squad stinks, and it will have 10x the persuasive power of someone on Rotten Tomatoes saying Suicide Squad stinks. Even though they both mean the same thing: that Suicide Squad really really stinks)

Self was looking over recently released movies (She’s just seen two back-to-back: Pete’s Dragon and Indignation. Since she’s already gotten this far, she might as well keep going with the one-movie-a-day!) and was un-enthused until she got to the three-star review of Ben-Hur by Glenn Kenney.

Self did not realize that the star of Ben-Hur was Jack Huston, Anjelica Huston’s nephew. She also did not realize that she’s actually seen him before: in American Hustle, seducing J-Law’s tempestuous character (who was married to Christian Bale’s character)

She did not realize that the director of Ben-Hur was Timur Bekmambetov. This guy is grrrreat! He directed Wanted, with James McAvoy. Sometimes self gets him confused with Tarsem Singh, who directed 2011’s The Immortals, a movie Roger Ebert described as “without doubt the best-looking awful movie you will ever see.” But, self digresses.

Kenney begins his review by calling Ben-Hur “a masterpiece of condensation.” Self likes that opening sentence so much that she continues reading the review. And comes to another great sentence:

  • “… this Ben-Hur has more Christ in it than any previous version.”

And that’s it. That’s her sentence of the day.

In this movie, Jesus has a cameo. And is played by, of all people, Rodrigo Santoro, whose body piercings in 300 are etched in self’s memory to this day.

This is such a fun review. Just one more quote: “The characters all speak in a completely contemporary tone, which shows the influence of — what do you know? Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, which was criticized for (among other things) having the apostles talk like they’d just jumped off the IRT.” Har, har, har! Thank you, Glenn Kenney.

Since self is challenged in the time department this week, and she’s already posted twice today about movies, she’ll just slip this one in: She loved Pete’s Dragon except for the dragon. He looked like a stuffed toy.

Don’t get self wrong: she believes in dragons. But if a studio with deep pockets like Disney does a movie about dragons, she would like to see a screen dragon who is All Creature. One who looks like it could positively reek. You might call this the Game of Thrones Affect: it’s the satisfaction of knowing that when you look at a wildling, you can imagine wildling body odor.

The boy, however, that boy was really feral. More feral even than the dragon. She hasn’t seen a boy that convincingly feral since the kid in Road Warrior.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Indignation”: It Ends

SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! MAAAAAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!

Interesting, the way the characters in this movie spoke. No one sounded natural delivering the dialogue, but perhaps this was done deliberately, to reflect an “uptight” decade in American life (the 1950s)?

Everyone, that is, except for:

  • Logan Lerman
  • The actors who played Logan Lerman’s parents, especially the woman who played his mother
  • His childhood chums, discussing the death of one of their friends in Korea
  • His college roommates, one of whom (the phlegmatic big guy) was very, very good

This arch-ironic delivery, however, ends up being pure acting gold when it comes to the portrayal of a Dean of a University located in, of all places, Winesburg, Ohio (How very Sherwood Anderson!).

Nothing the Dean said (mainly a string of platitudes) made any sense. He was all about double-talk and veiled warnings, yet he delivered them with such a sense of conviction, as a man absolutely unshakeable in his moral beliefs, a man who’s been taken over so completely by his need to uphold the “right” standards that he doesn’t even know how to react when Logan’s character says (at least 5x): “I’m about to throw up. I have to go.” (Because self has seen Animal House at least 3x, she knew exactly how this scene was going to go down. How weird is it that Indignation and Animal House have a scene like this in common?)

The performances in this movie were really, really on point.

Lerman’s character, who hails from Newark, New Jersey, is completely out of his depth. Not only is he from Newark, New Jersey, he’s the son of a butcher. Not only is he the son of a butcher, he’s the son of a kosher butcher. Can you imagine? Oh the horrors of a guy like this attending university in Winesburg!

Lerman’s character is an atheist but unfortunately for him, he’s the only “out” atheist on campus. Everyone else — aside from 80 Jews — is Christian.

There’s a femme fatale. Okay, so she slit one wrist, was treated, she’s okay now. Self is so tired of these fragile college girls, these doomed Sylvia Plath iterations, who mess up the lives of innocents like our hero played by Logan Lerman. From the moment her character was introduced, self knew she would mess up the hero’s life. (Yes, Hero, You Should Listen to Your Overprotective Mother!)

And then the end. Let’s just say, not since that trendy woman’s novel where a woman kept going to bars and sleeping with strangers and ended up describing how she was killed, on the very last page, has self ever felt so cheated, cheated, cheated!

You cannot do first person when you’re dead at the end, all right?

If you’re dead — unless you’re an angel or a ghost or the second coming of Alice Sebold — you cannot tell a story like this, where everything is wrapped up so prettily in hindsight. Because the human being who lives the story will not tell it like this. He’ll be all: I cannot believe I’m going down like this! This sucks!

Total disintegration would be preferable to tragic story arc (In hindsight, everything can be made to seem tragic. It’s “spin.” It’s also a cheat. That is self’s humble opinion. You can get away with it but please, not in first person)

But, Holy Cow, LOGAN LERMAN. The only other movies self has seen him in are 3:10 to Yuma and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Her main objection to him was that he looked like a girl. She won’t be saying that again, after this movie.

When the movie ended, self had to turn to her seatmate and ask, What the heck just happened there? Is he really dead?

The woman’s countenance was completely shattered. Yes, she said. He is dead.

And with that, self left the theatre in a very bad mood. Practically stomped out. Like, she could not believe she just spent two hours listening to Logan Lerman’s poetic narration, only to have it end up like this. So, all that before, that was his disembodied dead self telling us the story? Nooooo!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Actually a Very Good Question

Self has been browsing movie reviews, and binge-watching Ripper Street, and tweeting with fans about it, and beginning yet another fan fiction, which she needs like a hole in the head, but this one’s irresistible, this one’s got a Really Really Dark Peeta, a Peeta who just might be a murderer! Like Jack the Ripper! . . . Sorry! Back to the reason for this post.

From Critic After Dark’s review of The Shallows (which self saw aaaaages ago, at the start of the summer — feels like a lifetime!) starring Blake Lively, whose legs are so on point self can’t even:

Then of course death crashes the party in the form of a humpback whale carcass. Clever way to account for the Great White cruising nearby (otherwise it’s a bit of a puzzler why the shark — which habituates the waters of California, Northeast United States, South Africa and Australia — is hanging around a Mexican beach) but also raises a whole other question: why forego this tasty, properly wet-aged all-you-can-eat buffet of rich blubber and tender meat for a bony surfer who would hardly make up a satisfying snack?

In answer to which self wishes she could insert a hundred “shrug” emojis!

And self  has a question of her own for reviewer Noel Vera: How does he know the carcass is that of a humpback whale? Because it literally is half gone. So there is no possible way to determine whether it really does have a humped back. Har, har, har! Sorry, self just couldn’t resist making a lame joke.

Self will close with a list of the summer 2016 movies she most enjoyed:

  • The Shallows
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Our Kind of Traitor
  • Café Society
  • Love & Friendship
  • Ghostbusters
  • Bad Moms

Oh, summer. Self can’t believe it’s almost over.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Seamus Heaney’s Translation of The Aeneid, Book VI

Earlier this year, self was in Ireland, cutting out book reviews from a copy of The Guardian at the breakfast table in the Main House of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig. She was explaining to a writer from Belfast that back home in California she had file drawers full of book review clippings and now . . .

The writer just smiled.

What is it about the Irish? Self never has to complete sentences there. Never. They’re pretty observant and never waste words.

In the Wall Street Journal of Wednesday, 17 August 2016, there’s a review of Seamus Heaney’s last work, a translation of the Aeneid, Book VI, which according to reviewer Christopher Carroll, he completed just a month before he died:

  • It is his last published poem, a poignant rendition of Aeneas’ arrival in Italy and journey into the underworld to see his dead father.

Right. Self is adding it to her reading list, as well as Heaney’s “Station Island” (1984) and “Route 110” (2010).

Stay tuned.

Jamie Dornan, Who Knew?

Since self broke the ice by mentioning Jamie Dornan in her previous post, she’s decided she might as well go whole-hog and discuss the Jamie. Specifically, the Jamie Dornan in “The Fall.”

(She hasn’t seen “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Only seen huge black-and-white photos of Jamie’s back — he has very nice shoulders — on the sides of buildings in London’s South Bank, summer 2015. Which was enough to send her rocketing to the nearest bookstore to purchase a copy of The Grey. Which she ended up giving away to someone because she couldn’t get past the first 10 pages)

Self has just finished watching all the episodes of “The Fall,” Gillian Anderson’s come-back role as a detective. Gillian plays a sexy, high-heel wearing, sultry detective named Stella. Couldn’t be farther from her X-Files character.

In “The Fall,” she deliberately leaves her top dangerously unbuttoned for press interviews, wears nail polish in the killer’s favorite shade of red (Self is not kidding!) and in general behaves in very un-Scully fashion. Which would make the whole thing ludicrous were it not for the fact that — yes, we do want to see Jamie Dornan come out from hiding! We do! We do! We do!

(No spoilers here. The identity of the serial killer is revealed to the viewer from the start. It’s all a matter of when Stella & cohorts will finally be able to put two and two together and catch him before he kills again)

Jamie’s character is named (of all things), Spector. As in Spectator. Get it?

Stella sleeps with everyone — fellow detectives, bosses. Even the young Merlin detective (Self means, the young boy who plays Merlin in the TV series). From this we are expected to infer (Seriously?) that the sexual predator played by Jamie Dornan would find her attractive. But Stella’s sex life is the weakest part of the series, at least it is in self’s humble opinion.

Coming clean, “The Fall” is the first time self has ever enjoyed looking so much at Jamie Dornan’s face. It’s hidden behind a full beard but it’s the emotionally distant look that makes him so, so magnetic.

There’s one moment where he has a victim completely at his mercy, and he removes his face mask. For the first time, the woman sees his face. It’s a very pretty face but it’s such an awful moment because you realize (as does the young woman) that the showing of the face means that he’s not afraid to be ID’d. He’s going to kill her.

AAAARRRRRGH.

Self will say no more. Watch “The Fall” on Netflix. (Was this guy nominated for an Emmy for his performance? Should have been)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Quote of the Day: Alice Gregory

From Gregory’s review in The New York Review of Books of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan (August 13, 2015):

  • This capacity for geographical familiarity — knowing exactly where the neighbor’s fence warps slightly — is a visceral kind of knowledge, gained organically, and it atrophies as we age. Learning a place by heart is a luxury rarely afforded to adults, and unless absolutely forced to, one seldom even notices that the ability has been lost.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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