Thirty second reviews

A quick catch up of recent things:

items:

The Amazon Kindle– Amazon came out with this electronic reader late last year, and B surprised me with one for Christmas. You download books onto it, and it displays them using electronic ink so it mimics the look of a book. It’s possibly the coolest thing ever. We’re going on a trip next week and I have 7 books to take with me on the plane- all in the space of a paperback book. And if I decide I don’t want to read any of those, I can just use the internal wireless and buy a different book. It can hold up to 200 books, so I’ve got plenty of space. LOVE IT.

books:

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf- Gorgeous; lovely in the way that only Ms. Woolf can deliver. Her turns of phrase and descriptions quite literally make me catch my breath at times.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn- Most of the reviews I read about this book talked about how dark and disturbing and unsettling it was, and how it revealed the darker side of humanity and all of that kind of thing. They also talked about how well written it was. The premise intrigued me, but I didn’t really want to read it (you know, because of all of the “dark, disturbing, unsettling” elements) , I pretty much just wanted to know how it ended. Unfortunately I couldn’t find spoilers for it anywhere on this here interweb (What good are you intertron? Answer me that!) so I had to go ahead and read it. And what did I discover? That all those people who wrote about how dark and disturbing it was apparently never read VC Andrews books in Jr. High/ High School. Not that VC wasn’t disturbing in her own way- I’m pretty sure she was pretty wrong in the head- but if you’ve read even one of her books (the early ones, not the ones they wrote after she died) you can handle anything in this book.

Basically it’s the story of a journalist who is made to go back to her home town to investigate a murder for an article. The reasons she doesn’t want to return become pretty obvious pretty quickly, her mother is pretty passively aggressively hateful, her little sister is a manipulative “mean girl”, and being home brings back memories of violence in all kinds of forms (including violence she’s inflicted on herself- she cuts words into her skin). The murder investigation gets all convoluted with red herrings and twists and turns, but I saw one of the major “shockers” coming pretty early on (again, thanks VC!) and the identity of the murderer really wasn’t the shocker it was meant to be. It was still well written, and I enjoyed it, I would have just been more interested in a deeper look at the real compelling darkness of the book, the main character’s cutting. Why the words she chose? What prompted them? We get only enough to kind of figure out the obvious ones, but what about the random weird words? This is the kind of psychological exploration I want.

Well, that was longer than I intended. If any of you want to know how it ends, just let me know. Although, it is a good read.

Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood- Another in the Phryne Fisher series, just as good and entertaining as the others. Yay.

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton-One of the reasons I love the Kindle is I can buy classic books for it for just a couple dollars. This is a book I’ve meant to read for a while, and the few dollars and instant delivery made it a no brainer. It’s really good- a police officer becomes embroiled in a group of anarchists- and I really enjoyed it. I got a little lost at the end, but I think I was just tired.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill- This is a collection of short stories written by the son of Stephen King. I enjoyed his first novel- Heart Shaped Box- and this collection didn’t disappoint. Not all the stories are ghost stories, or even horror stories, and all of them are solid pieces. Some of them are still hanging around in my brain days later (I couldn’t bring myself to say “haunting me” but that’s what I mean). I think my favorite is “Pop Art”, a heartbreaking little story about a boy and his friend, who is a fully living, functioning inflatable boy. It’s just so good.

Movies:

Juno- Everything I heard about this movie was right. It’s just so sweet but smart and not sappy, the performances kill, everyone in it is perfect. (If you haven’t heard anything about it, it’s about a high schooler who gets pregnant and decides to give up the baby for adoption.) I could have done without the little crassness there was, but it wasn’t much, and the movie was just so so good.

Sweeney Todd- I’ve been anxiously anticipating this movie since I heard the rumors of it years ago. I love the stage version, and I was excited to see what Tim Burton would do with it. Overall I was pleased; Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter were born for their roles, and the rest of the casting was fantastic.* The staging of it all was great, and Burton really made good use of the potential of film to do things that wouldn’t work on stage. I do think, however, that the major motion picture format created the limitation that ultimately made it less effective than the stage version.

It pretty much goes without saying that Stephen Sondheim is a mad genius. The intricacy of his music- the words as well as the instrumentals- is mindboggling. In all of his musicals he creates musical themes and phrases that repeat and loop in a way that ties the story together and moves things along in a way that’s almost subliminal. Plot elements and connections are communicated through the timely repetition of musical phrases, and that’s what’s missing from the film. Because of time constraints, a bunch of songs were cut or shortened, and in a Sondheim musical that’s the equivalent of cutting words out of a book. The plot comes across, but not the complete beauty of the telling of the story. So what was there was awesome, but it could have been so much more. The whole Joanna storyline wasn’t fleshed out, and they skimmed over the fact that by the end she’s been driven totally crazy. But to it’s credit, I didn’t really think of that much as I watched, transfixed as I was by the utter looney-toonery of Johnny and Helena.

*The exception to this was Toby. Don’t get me wrong, the kid playing him was amazing, with a stunning voice- probably the best voice in the film. But in the stage play, Toby is probably 20ish, with the mind of a little kid. That’s drastically different than a 10 year old* playing the role, and it makes what happens at the end all the more horrific and awful to watch. I’m not convinced Burton was wrong in doing it the way he did, but it was definitely mean. (To the viewer; I’m not saying he was mean to the kid. I’m sure he’s very nice.)

*or however old he is, it isn’t on IMDB.

TV:

Lost premiere- Crazy and awesome and speculation provoking. I hope they keep it up. Poor Hurley.

All right, enough for tonight, I’m going to bed.

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