Mar. 27, 2006

Episode 217, in which Ben watches some films and reads some books.

One of the things I do with this blog is keep track of the films I see and the books I read. A bit compulsive I know, but there you go... I've got a back log of films and books to pass judgment on so here they are, in order.

A Short History of Progress: This book is a reprint of a recent Massey Lecture series given by Canadian author/historian Ronald Wright. A Short History is a thought-provoking look at human society, how it has evolved, and how our civilizations repeatedly back themselves into "progress traps". Think Mesopotamia (aka Eden), the Maya, Easter Island, etc. Can we spot the next one before it blind-sides us? Maybe...

Walk the Line: The Johnny Cash bio-pic. Great performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, including their covers of Johnny Cash and June Carter's iconic songs. I really enjoyed the film, especially seeing Reese out of a pink skirt and handling herself well, but with Ray's Jamie Foxx still fresh in my mind it gets the silver medal.

Date Movie: This was a movie that I'd never consider but my twelve year old son was desperate to see. It was full of movie parodies (Shallow Hal, Hitch, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Meet the Fockers come immediately to mind) and sexual humour of the most predictable kind. The actual plot was simply girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy back. Wish I could get those two hours of my life back. My son's review? "Best movie ever."

The Kite Runner: The best-selling first novel by an Afghani doctor now living in the USA. The Kite Runner is a powerful story of childhood mistakes, shame and ultimately redemption. It's also a remarkable taste of the religious and class conflicts that have made recent life in Afghanistan so harsh. Keep the hankies within reach.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story: Without a doubt this was strange animal, although I enjoyed it (Sheryl wasn't so sure). Tristram Shandy is based on an 18th century comic satire. In the film the cast play their modern real-world selves half the time and the period plot never gets past the protagonist birth... Tristram Shandy takes post-modernism to a whole new level and then twists it sideways. I get the feeling that there were layers to this film that I missed, but what I "got" was entertaining.

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso: I've know about this 1989 film for years, but finally got around to seeing it on DVD. What a sentimental gem! Beautiful performances and an incredible peek into 1950's Sicily. The film chronicles life in the village of Giancaldo, the rivalry/friendship of little Toto/Salvatore and Alfredo the projectionist, and ultimately Salvatore's lost love and home. Keep the hankies within reach here too.

La Peau douce (The Soft Skin): I saw this last week with Sheryl at Cinematheque, which is currently running a short retrospective of the Françoise Dorléac's films (Françoise, who died in a car crash in 1967, is Catherine Deneuve's forgotten older sister). La Peau douce was directed and written by François Truffaut in 1964 and shot in black and white with some shaky camera work but great editing. The tale of a doomed affair between a married publisher and a stewardess (Françoise is beautiful beyond words) is well told and ends with a tragi-comic twist. The last scene of the film was a complete hoot.

And that's all the reviews that are fit to print.

Listening to: Northern Lights by Lux from Northern Lights.

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