The Sound and the Fury
By William Faulkner
I'm not quite sure what to say about this book, mostly because I'm not quite sure I completely understood it. I've always had trouble with stream-of-consciousness writing, and most of the story is told in that style. In general, I found the text very difficult, nearly opaque. In fact, if not for Barron's BookNotes, I probably would never have made it through the first section. I did make it, though, and underneath the words I got a sense of a story that I found compelling, even if I didn't completely follow it. I'm not sure I could tell you what happened in that story--in fact, I'm pretty sure not much happened at all--but something about the characters and their circumstances evoked some pretty strong feelings in me. I think I'll have to come back to it again some time.
Started: 12/20/2004 | Finished: 12/28/2004
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
I should preface this review by stating that I have not read any of the books upon which this movie is based; everything I know about the books comes secondhand from my wife and brother-in-law. Apparently, this film covers the events in the first three books in the series. My wife thought the movie did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the books. My brother-in-law did not. For my own part, I think the movie was very entertaining. It was light enough to be fun (and funny), but with a dark quality that provided a certain depth to the story. In that respect it was somewhat reminiscent of a Tim Burton film. All of the actors did a good job, even Meryl Streep, who I usually can't stand. Jim Carrey was, of course, the real star of the show. (You could tell that from the trailers though, couldn't you?) He managed to be simultaneously hilariously hammy and truly sinister. I hope that this won't become a giant Hollywood franchise, though. I enjoyed the film, and with eleven books in the series there is clearly more to cover, but the film as made is neatly self-contained, and I just don't trust the studios to make a sequel that wouldn't be repetitive and boring.
Viewed: 12/25/2004 | Released: 12/16/2006 | Score: B
It turns out that the makers of this film chose quite an apt title. The word "Spanglish" refers to the pidgin that native Spanish speakers often use before they become proficient in English. It's not quite English, but it's not Spanish either. Similarly, this film couldn't seem to decide what it was. The overall structure of the movie makes it clear that it's about cultural identity and heritage, a juxtaposition between Mexican and American life. Yet we only really see this at the very beginning and very end. The entire rest of the film seems to be about relationships and parenting. The problem is that too much of the story is told from Adam Sandler's character's point of view, or his wife's. The characters that should be in focus--the Mexican housekeeper and her daughter--are kept distant by the fact that the housekeeper doesn't speak English and nothing is ever shown from the daughter's perspective. So we are left with what we think is a somewhat odd love story--or, rather, two odd love stories in parallel--that remains completely unresolved. Even so, the film was not completely without redeeming qualities. Adam Sandler was good as a benevolent father, though not so believable as a romantic figure. Téa Leoni was very good as Sandler's neurotic wife, to the point where I almost began to dislike Leoni herself. And Paz Vega was probably the best of all; I'm somewhat interested to see what else she's done. The movie, for the most part, kept me entertained. But that really only serves to make the ending that much more disappointing.
Viewed: 12/23/2004 | Released: 12/16/2004 | Score: C
Maps in a Mirror
By Orson Scott Card
If you're a fan of Orson Scott Card, this collection is worth your time. Consisting of nearly all of Card's short stories (notably missing are those stories already released in other collections), it is great for seeing how Card's work progressed over his career. I can't say that I liked every story--especially those where his politics or taste in literature come out--but some of them were particularly moving.
Started: 11/15/2004 | Finished: 12/19/2004
I disapprove of the recent Hollywood trend of only producing remakes and sequels, but even so, I couldn't help wanting to see this film. And I wasn't disappointed. The producers of this film knew that simply recreating the first episode wouldn't be enough. So, while the heist is still a big part of the plot, it's somewhat less prominent in the overall story than in the previous installment. What really makes this movie fun is that the cast has such great chemistry. Much of the humor banks on that fact and you really get the feeling of camaraderie that exists between a bunch of people that have known each other for a long time. There's no point in singling out any one of the crew for praise; they're all great in their roles. The one weak link is Catherine Zeta-Jones--who still can't act to save her life--but I can forgive the film that one flaw.
Viewed: 12/11/2004 | Released: 12/7/2004 | Score: B
Despite the fact that I didn't particularly like any of the four characters, I really liked this movie. Closer tells the story of four people--Alice, Dan, Anna, and Larry--and the complex web of relationships that connect them. It's a movie about love, sex, adultery, passion, honesty, and deceit that could be the same as every other movie about broken relationships out there except that it's done so well. Every scene is so charged, so intense, so full of subtext. In this way it's easy to see the play on which it was based underlying the movie. The acting more than bears out the script. Normally I don't particularly care for Julia Roberts, but this was one of her best performances. Still, the movie was not entirely without its problems. For one thing, long periods of time pass between scenes, which is not immediately apparent, especially in the beginning. And while Natalie Portman continued her recent streak of excellent performances for most of the film, I just didn't believe her as a stripper; she's a little too soft, a little too innocent. She didn't completely commit to that part of the role. Despite these flaws, though, the film as a whole is well worth a look.
Viewed: 12/9/2004 | Released: 12/2/2004 | Score: A