Monday, May 19, 2014


Since I've just completed watching the 100 oldest films I own, it seems time to cross-promote my movie blog.  Be forewarned, there are even more spoilers than on this blog. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


After twenty-seven, almost twenty-eight months, I'm done.  Not that I'll not reread any books, but I won't be blogging about them.  I will, however, in the next few days start blogging about the movies I "own."  Many of these are based on books I own, so you may get a sense of de ja vu.

Thank you to everyone who's read my posts, especially those who took the time to comment.  I'll still stop by now and again, so feel free to keep reading and maybe commenting.

I used to picture making lists like "The Longest Titles" and "Most Disappointing Reread," but I just don't have the energy to go through all my posts in one sitting.  I will though give you my Top Ten and Bottom Ten Plus:

Top Ten (most of them with A-s)

  1. Emma by Austen (quotable, clever, romantic, well-plotted)
  2. The Importance of Being Earnest by Wilde (incredibly witty but also insightful, romantic but cynical)
  3. The Land of Oz by Baum (also witty, fun, beautifully illustrated, ultimately feminist)
  4. Reasonable Creatures by Pollitt (simply brilliant)
  5. Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Sometimes Zeppo by Adamson (a book as good as the Marxes at their best)
  6. Right Ho, Jeeves by Wodehouse (best in the series and jolly good fun)
  7. Where the Girls Are by Douglas (raucous roller-coaster through several fascinating periods of pop history)
  8. Pride and Prejudice by Austen (perhaps over-rated but still a great work)
  9. Little Women by Alcott (for all its flaws, undeniably lovable)
  10. (tough choice because there are 59 B+s, but OK) The Beatles Forever by Schaffner (still great almost thirty years after I first read it)

Bottom Seventeen (doing more than ten, in case you think it's unfair to pick so much on individual works by Shakespeare and want to omit them from the list, otherwise made up of four F+s, three D-s, five D's, and five D+s)
  1. Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare (gross, racist, implausible, it's got it all)
  2. Coriolanus by Shakespeare (BORING)
  3. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: A Novel by Edwards (and you thought it couldn't be worse than the movie)
  4. Salome (oh, Oscar, what were you thinking?)
  5. The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte: A Novel by Tully (implausible and sexist, while also sexist and implausible)
  6. Pericles by Shakespeare (speaking of implausible)
  7. All's Well That Ends Well by Shakespeare (one of the great misnomers)
  8. Caricature: The Wit and Humor of a Nation by various (unfunny humor collection that captures turn-of-last century racism, sexism, and other prejudice)
  9. Armande by Colette (one of the most unpleasant romances I've ever read)
  10. Cymbeline by Shakespeare (implausible and yet forgettable)
  11. Timon of Athens by Shakespeare (no reason to care about Timon)
  12. Venus and Adonis by Shakespeare (no reason to care about Venus or Adonis either)
  13. The Moor's Last Sigh by Rushdie (again, no reason to care)
  14. Once Upon a Time: A True Story by Vanderbilt (the worst biography)
  15. A Very Brady Guide to Life by Briggs (painfully unfunny and a bit homophobic)
  16. Delusions of Grandma by Fisher (very annoying style)
  17. The Golden Notebook by Lessing (possibly the most disappointing book)

Warm Bodies: A Novel

2011, 2012 Atria movie-tie-in edition
Isaac Marion
Warm Bodies: A Novel
Bought newish for $15.00
Slightly worn paperback

I'm not a zombie fan, as you might've guessed from my book collection.  Yet I found the trailer for the movie adaptation of this book hilarious, and the zom-com itself is one of the best films I saw last year.  (Third, after American Hustle and World's End.)  So I rushed right out and got the novel, only to be disappointed.  It may be a case of "you shouldn't see the book first," but that never dampened my love for The Wizard of Oz, book or movie.  I still laughed out loud and was moved the fourth or fifth time I saw Warm Bodies as a movie.  This second time reading the novel, I mostly tried to enjoy it as reliving a pale "imitation" of the film.

Actually though, it's more like Romeo & Juliet, where he's "dead" until the end.  His love for her brings him, and a lot of other zombies, back to life.  The movie gets away with this cheesiness because it's a very sweet movie.  The book is not sweet, primarily due to the zombie "society" and to the character of Julie.  In the movie, there is no zombie marriage, adoption, church, or school.  The zombies at most grunt at each other.  They do not attempt to have sex with each other!  Early in the beginning of the film, this isolation is playfully contrasted with the pre-Apocalypse world of "connection" (where even the little kids are focused on their cell phones).  

As for Julie, she has a much darker background in the movie (including having sex for money at thirteen), which might be OK, but R also sees her as angelic, as if he can't take in even that she drinks, smokes pot, and swears.  Damn, does she swear!  And her favorite thing is to call R's best friend M "a fat fuck."  Now admittedly, he, too, is less likable in the book than in the movie, but that has nothing to do with his weight.  She even mocks the dead fat people whose house she and R shelter in one night.  She's much nicer, more accepting, all round in the movie.

Not that there aren't problems with R's character, particularly his selective amnesia.  Marion may well be the youngest writer in my collection, having been born in 1981, but he's given R (who can't remember anything of his life beyond his first initial) and Julie a frame of references that seem rooted in the 1950s and 1960s, not just the Sinatra and Lennon music they listen to, but things like R comparing zombies "on the road" to Kerouac.  And R would have to be born sometime after Marion himself.

One of the many wise decisions in the movie was to make it more the YA story it should've been, to make R's awkwardness around Julie a funny and charming symbol of adolescence, to take him out of his suit and put him a hoodie.  This novel got a glowing recommendation from Stephenie Meyer, who apparently missed the little swipe about vampires' eyes changing color when they feed, but it's got much more potential than Twilight.  As it turns out, director/screenwriter Jonathan Levine (born in 1976) understood that potential better than Marion did.

Senseless Sensibilities

2011, first edition, from Random House
Text by Patrick Baker
Cover and Interior Design by Danielle Deschenes
Senseless Sensibilities: Create Your Own Austen-Tatious Mash-Up!
Bought new for $10.99
Slightly worn paperback

This is basically Mad Libs for Austen fans.  The problem is, Baker (in the female guise of Ima Hack) doesn't seem to know much about Jane Austen, as when he thinks Persuasion's Anne has a crush on Mr. Elliot.  Also, the trend of most of these partially blanked out passages is towards the trendy and shallow, which gets old after awhile.  Thirdly, come on, it's Mad Libs!  The readers are doing at least half the work.  

Of course, that means I can't rate this very low, since a clever reader and friends could conceivably indeed create austen-tatious mash-ups.  So dead C sounds right.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Harry Potter Film Wizardry

2010, HarperCollins first edition
Harry Potter Film Wizardry: From the Creative Team Behind the Celebrated Movie Series
Written (mostly) by Brian Sibley
Designed by Minalima Design
Bought new for $39.99
Hardcover in good condition

Like the pop-up books, this is a lot of eye candy, even more so of course, since it runs to 160 pages.  There are no pop-ups, but there are lots of "paper ephemera," such as Harry's Hogwarts letter, booklets like Advanced Potion-Making, Honeydukes packages, and best of all, the Marauder's Map!  The book is arranged roughly in chronological order, although there will be focus on a person, place, or thing if particularly prominent in one film.  Understandably, given the timing of the release, there are only fourteen pages on DH1, and only two on DH2.  Still, it's a great way to relive the movie series.  If I have any quibble, it's that the writing by Sibley could've been stronger, but it doesn't get in the way too much, and I especially liked the pages by production designer Stuart Craig and producer David Heyman.  I also like that, while it's mostly about the film series, the book series is discussed where pertinent. 

Highly recommended for moderate to obsessive fans.  Appropriate for, say, ten years old and up, although Helena Bonham Carter does get a bit naughty at times.

Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book Based on the Film Phenomenon

2010, Insight first edition
Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book Based on the Film Phenomenon
Paper Engineering by Bruce Foster
Art by Andrew Williamson
Text by Lucy Kee
Bought new for $34.95
Hardcover in good condition

Although there's more to this than to 2008's Magical Scenes from the Sixth Film in the Harry Potter Series, it does promise more, so I can't give it a higher rating.

  • Dumbledore's Office, this time with a packet from the Ministry and for some reason a Howler.
  • Diagon Alley, with pop-up buildings and smaller pop-ups of Hedwig and the Weasley-twin joke-shop statue.
  • Hogwarts pop-up, with a smaller pop-up of both the Beauxbatons carriage and the Durmstrang ship.
  • Magical Creatures, including the Forbidden Forest, Hagrid's Hut, and smaller pop-ups of Fluffy and a Mandrake.
  • "Magical Games and Sports," with Harry and the dragon in the First Task, smaller pop-ups showing the giant chess game and Ron as Quidditch Keeper.
  • The Dark Arts, showing Voldemort torturing Harry in GoF, and this time three smaller pop-ups: Nagini, the Inferi, and Dementors.

There's more text than in Magical Scenes, although understandably still not very much.  I think rather than themes, I'd prefer a scene from each film to that point.  (Deathly Hallows, Part I was released that November, but they could've gone up to HBP.)  Or maybe they could've focused on a character, or group of characters, each spread.  The pop-ups are more detailed than before, including backs, but they seem to tilt more than necessary.  The book is probably less spoilery than Magical Scenes, although anyone willing to spend 35 bucks probably had seen all the released movies more than once by then.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Rise of Enlightened Sexism

2010, undated later edition, from St. Martin's Griffin
Susan J. Douglas
The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us from Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild
Bought newish for $16.99
Slightly worn paperback

This disappointing follow-up to Douglas's Where the Girls Are (1994) is not without its merits, but I do need to talk about its flaws first and foremost.  To begin with, the earlier book was written from her perspective as a fortysomething Baby-Boomer, while this time she's a "Vintage Female" and the mother of a then-twenty-year-old daughter.  She often writes here as if there was no generation of feminists in between, except for the riot-grrrls who produced music and zines.  Well, I was born in 1968, and I can't relate to any of the TV covered here, from Xena and Buffy to Survivor and The Real World, or even ER.  (I've seen more of the Elliott Gould sitcom of the same name!)  I have seen several of the movies she discusses, and I do appreciate, for instance, her appreciation of Clueless, but I think she missed the boat on Mean Girls and most definitely Down with Love.  I have seen a few celebrity magazines with the "baby bump" pictures.  And I sort of followed the way Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin were covered.

But this all may be a flaw in me as a reader, rather than her as a writer.  So let's take a look at her title, which was changed from the hardcover edition, Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done.  Douglas's thesis is that the American media present the following intertwined messages:

  • Women have achieved all of feminism's goals, as evidenced by all those women in power in real life and more particularly on TV.
  • Therefore, we can now relax and enjoy sexism "ironically," by showing retrograde images, like of scheming, skinny, large-breasted blondes.  (Like in Marcotte's It's a Jungle out There.  Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

The first part is what she calls "embedded feminism," where female bosses, judges, and even presidents appear as characters.  She has a problem with this, because it doesn't reflect most women's lives.  Well, no, neither did Bewitched, but she seemed to appreciate that in the previous book.  Is the problem that what's shown on TV in recent decades, as opposed to the '50s and '60s, is meant to be real, even when it's contrived "reality TV"?  

And, yes, as the more recent subtitle indicates, she does discuss the Spice Girls, and the ambiguity of their message.  She doesn't even mention the equally British Hermione Granger, despite my earlier hopes, although there's quite a bit on Bridget Jones.  It's as if she doesn't want to include any recent positive images of girl culture.  Where the Girls Are was much more balanced.

Still, when she does what she does best, like examining the devolution of Cosmo or mocking Mel Gibson, the book is funny and, well, enlightening.  If she does another follow-up, some fifteen or twenty years down the road, I hope that either I'll be more into the pop culture of that time than I am now, or she'll pick a wider range of examples.