Saturday, March 31, 2007

March 2007 Books and Movies

Freedom Writers Diary
How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them
The Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell

Better than the movie. I really got into the students journal entries. Some of them were absolutely gut-wrenching. Gruwell's entries were preachy in tone, and a touch self righteous, which is how I felt about the depiction of Gruwell in the film. Good message and well written by the students who evidently learned a lot during the process. The end of the book contained a sneek preview of a memoir based on her first student teaching year at Wilson which was released the same time as the movie. A little too convenient, seemingly to capitalise on the envisioned sucess of the film. It's really great that all proceeds from the book are going to the non-profit organisation founded to re-create the Room 203 classroom environment.

700 Sundays
Billy Crystal

I have always loved this guy! The book is based on his eponymous stage show about the 700 Sundays Crystal spent with his father before he died. He also talks about his family life and early years. I wish I had seen the show, as I'm sure it was hilarious. The writing is fast paced, witty and heartwarming. The book is short but even if it were longer, it would be a quick read. I was amazed to read about some of the people he met, even before he was famous. He is connected to the jazz world through the family business of Commodore records which in itself is incredible. I definitely feel I know a lot more about how one of my favourite actors and commedians came by his love for the art of acting.


Interesting but not that well made. Gratuitous ending was lame! About the biggest breach in FBI history, an agent who leaked information to the former USSR for over 20 years. Chris Cooper and Laura Linney are great, and Ryan Phillipe was better than expected. I was glad to see Dennis Haysbert (David Palmer on 24) but wish he had a bigger role. To be honest I thought it would be much much better. Worth a DVD rental, but a little slow in parts.

Cinderella Was a Liar
Brenda Della Casa

Pretty good! The Cinderella analogy became very tiresome after oh, about page three, but once you got used to skimming over the constant references to maidens, princes, toads, slippers and cottages, the point of the book comes through loud and clear. Everyone has something to work on to be able to put their best foot forward in a relationship. There's points to be taken, no matter what stage you're at, from falling in love with yourself, to casual dating, to fledging relationships to heading toward significant commitment. Della Casa is a touch aggressive in tone, but it is with good intention. She really seems bent on waking up the masses. At times it borders on condescending, but I find that is true with a lot of self-help books. Worth reading for reflection and for the funny quotes at the end from the men she interviewed during research.

Real Women Have Curves (DVD)

Not so indie now that America Ferrera is a big star on Ugly Betty, but very watchable. The title is a bit strange because it suggests that thin women aren't real. The featurette talks about how the title is more a metaphor that real women curve off in different directions and don't always conform to what is suggested as acceptable in their time. I like that a lot. For me, the film is about acceptance for who you are whatever size. Very nice coming of age story set within Mexican-American culture. I saw a lot of similarities to Italian culture, especially when watching the over-bearing mother. I was really impressed with the acting and the simple yet powerful storytelling. The scene where they all take off their outerclothes is well done, but I couldn't help but notice that they had the biggest women wearing girdles. I'm curious as to if it is a neccesity for comfort or if it was an aesthetic choice by the director. The character Ana is very easy to identify with and the film is extremely strong because of this. Highly enjoyable.

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