Friday, December 31, 2010

December 2010 Books and Movies

Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Let's just start by saying, I'm not into graphic novels. In fact I'm reading this one, my first graphic novel, only because I enjoyed this movie so much. It was kooky and fun and set in Toronto, which made it all that much cooler. I loved the telling of the story as an 80s video game, and the characters were great. Micheal Cera is the same in every movie I see him in, but his style suited the Scott character well. I'm on part one of the novels (there are 6) but since I already know how it ends and the movie pretty much sticks to the books, I guess I don't really have to read it. I like the pretty pictures though. :D

Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices

Excellent documentary about the evil that is Walmart. I had already given up shopping there (and I had only been there a few times, usually with someone who was already going there) but this strengthened my resolve. The most heartbreaking stories were the family business going under and the horrific conditions of Walmart factories in China, Bangladesh and Latin America. Definitely a must see, especially if you're on the fence about shopping at Walmart.

Easy A

So disappointed! Great actors, lame story. Bad pacing. Ugggg. Emma Stone was fantastic with what she was given, as were Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci. The concept is interesting, a girl lies about losing her virginity, then helps out a nerdy friend by pretending to sleep with him with disastrous results. I liked the shout out to John Hughes though, hopefully this movie will inspire a whole new audience for his films, which would be the best thing to come out of it.

A Christmas Story

Very cute. I was surprised I hadn't already seen this classic. Ralphie is the best, and it was great to see the bits that were shot in Toronto, especially the retro streetcars rumbling past, that I used to ride as a little girl. Because there were so few on the tracks, it was always super exciting when one came along. I loved the narrative (reminded me of a good show, The Wonder Years) and thought the whole movie was charming.

Sh*t My Dad Says
Justin Halpern

I thought this would be funnier. I started following this twitter feed a while ago, so someone lent me the book. It was nice to find out Justin Halpern and his dad's back story. The book is more story than funny one liners, so if you're looking for a laugh a minute, this isn't it. But as a quick, fun little read, it's very enjoyable.


Bill Mahr's rant at the end of this film (included here) pretty much sums it up. Religulous was very informative, somewhat made up at times and always interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A must see for anyone who is interested in religion and it's impact and a confirmation that atheism is alive and kicking.

Here's the speech:

"The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world could actually come to an end. The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having in key decisions made by religious people. By irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn't learn a lot about it. Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it's wonderful when someone says, "I'm willing, Lord! I'll do whatever you want me to do!" Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don't. How can I be so sure? Because I don't know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting shit dead wrong. This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you actually comes at a terrible price. If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers. If the world does come to an end here, or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let's remember what the real problem was that we learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That's it. Grow up or die."

Love that last line. Pretty much sums it up. :)

Lions For Lambs

Very interesting Hollywood commentary on the U.S. campaign in Afganistan. Robert Redford directs three loosely connected story lines (Merryl Streep as a reporter interviewing Tom Cruise as a senator in support of the war, Robert Redford as a university professor talking to one of his students and two young soldiers in the thick of it, who used to be students of Redford) that happen in real time. The film's obvious leftist agenda is everywhere, but why the writing and acting are so stilted, I don't know. That being said, although the topic was interesting, the film on a whole, was not.

Vantage Point

This is the story of the same crime as seen from a number of different angles. The cinematography was great (I've got to go to Spain, and soon), Forrest Whittaker was quite good in his role of an American tourist who catches some of the crime on his camcorder, but overall, it was cheesy and over scripted. Violent crimes of terror have never pulled me into a movie, and it didn't here. Good for a look, if you like looking for clues as they re-tell the action again and again.

Three Junes
Julia Glass

Beautiful novel. I couldn't put it down. Amy lent it to me, after loving it as well. Set in Greece, Scotland and New York, the descriptive language is just stunning. I loved the links between plots, they never seemed forced. I was very surprised to learn that this was a debut novel. The author says it's a triptych as opposed to a trilogy, and I agree. Parts of the previous story that seem insignificant, pop up later, as very important. Apparently there's a second novel, that features characters from Three Junes. I'll have to check it out.