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The 50/50 Challenge The Rules Signing Up What Do I Win? Major/Minors

Courtesy of Maxqnz | Fifty Pachaas | Originally posted 5.22.2012

"If Wodehouse hadn't existed, it would have been necessary to have invented him."

Voltaire may not have said that, but I'm sure he would have done, given the chance. After wading through a fatiguingly mediocre Sapne Sajan Ke, I was desperately in need of refreshment, and the chance to return to Wodehouse was a blessing.

Wodehouse's writing is like a soufflé, light, insubstantial and airy, and guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of anyone who enjoys a sweet treat. Despite having read many of his books, including almost all the Blandings books, and most of the Wooster/Pelicans stories, I'd forgotten that I even had Piccadilly Jim until reminded of it by Dustedoff's excellent review review of the 1936 movie adaptation. Having "discovered" it, it's now one of my favourites, almost the quintessential Wodehouse.

One of the reasons that Wodehouse does generally not translate well to the screen is that his trademark style is not in the narrative, but in the descriptive parts of his works. An oft-quoted example of this is "if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled." Or, one of my favourites from this book, "it was his tendency, when he found himself in a sea of troubles, to float plaintively, not to take arms against it. To pick up the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and fling them back was not a habit of his." Phrases like that can't be brought to life onscreen, but they are what makes Wodehouse Wodehouse. So too are ridiculously complex and contrived plots, the sheer silliness of which make not smiling at them an impossibility. Even by Wodehouse's high standards, though, the farcical intricacy of the plot in Piccadilly Jim takes some beating.

Reading a Wodehouse story is liking pulling on a comfortable pair of slippers, you know exactly what you're getting into. True love will conquer all, but only after twists and turns that would make the Minotaur's head spin, and only after defeating women who make the Minotaur seem like a pussycat. In Piccadilly Jim the twists and turns include the delightful bonus of the lead character and hero of the story having to impersonate himself, a twist I don't recall from other PGW stories, and one that made me laugh out loud when I saw it coming.

In a world full of political darkness, economic uncertainties, and various grim horrors, it's therapeutic to turn the clock back a hundred years and just laugh. Wodehouse at his best is a master laugh maker, and Piccadilly Jim is Wodehouse at his best. If you haven't read it, do, and if you have, return to it when you need to rediscover your smile. I guarantee that reading Piccadilly Jim will leave you thoroughly gruntled.

Courtesy of 1 Book 1 Movie | 1book1movie | Originally posted 5.13.2012

It’s Mother’s day, so you know what that means? Another themed post! I thought I’d list some of my favorite movie moms. There are so many out there, either truly good moms, evil ones, crazy ones…I’m gonna list my favorites. For all the mom’s out there, hope you had a happy mother’s day!

1.
Stepmom: Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts are the perfect combination for a tearjerker. Roberts being the stepmom, clashes with Sarandon in the beginning…understandable. The stepmom being a “cooler” younger woman, has a tough time winning over the kids and Sarandon. Fighting turns to friendship, the kids disrespect turns to love, which makes it really hard to watch, especially towards the end.

2. Mermaids: I love this movie: The 60′s, a promiscuous Cher as single mom, a teenage Winona Ryder and an even younger Christina Ricci. Also Bob Hoskins, as Cher’s latest love interest, and Jake Ryan from 16 Candles! Constantly moving, makes for a functional, dysfunctional family. Ryder’s character is obsessed with trying to be good and pure, and essentially, nothing like her mother…but as her mother says: “With half my chromosomes, that may be tough.” Hilarious, touching and just a movie I can watch over and over.

3. Anywhere But Here: Another single mother tale, starring Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman. Complete opposites, from a small town in Wisconsin, end up in Beverly hills. The two clash about Portman’s future, especially since her mother pushes her failed actress dreams onto her.

4. Steel Magnolias: The movie you watch, when you want to cry. Starring Sally Field as the overprotective mom (for good reason!) and Julia Roberts and what she risks to become a mother herself. The best ensemble of female actors including Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, and Daryl Hannah.

5. Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood: A crazy woman…who probably shouldn’t have had children. Supported by her 3 best friends, creates a friendship known as the “Ya Ya sisterhood.” This is a flash back movie about a woman’s childhood and the memories she had of her depressed mother. Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t one of my favorite “good” mother’s, she’s under the crazy category, but the movie is entertaining and is another tearjerker. Stars Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, Fionnula Flanagan, Shirley Knight, Maggie Smith and the charming James Garner.

Here’s a great list with plenty more movie moms: http://www.greencine.com/central/momslist

Who are your favorites?

Courtesy of Bibliotechnicienne | Bibliotechnicienne | Originally posted 5.10.2012

In the not so distant future, China has emerged from the 2008 global economic meltdown unscathed and more prosperous than ever. The general populous is euphoric. Constantly. And yet one month is missing from the official record. Twenty-eight days to be exact. Newspapers have been destroyed. The online versions that remain have been altered to reflect that the economic meltdown and China’s so-called Age of Ascendancy happened simultaneously, without protest or disharmony. Few people remember the lost month and dare to question it. Why are there so few people who remember the chaos and protests, the same people who don’t feel the immense and unending happiness of the majority?

I liked this book. However I like the story behind the novel better than the actual book. It’s banned in China. The cover of the book proclaims it as “the book no one in China dares publish.” Who isn’t intrigued by a forbidden book?

Some books are translated into English from their original language and they flow. This is not one of them. I found some passages clunky and/or confusing, and I found myself re-reading many parts of the book for clarity.

One part I re-read because it was heartbreaking. The main character, Lao Chen, is thinking about “90 percent freedom” which he believes he currently enjoys in China. The government is much more relaxed than they were in the past. So what if he can’t get some of the books he wants, that he could before the lost month? As a writer, he feels guilty that he hasn’t read many of the Russian classics. He can still access those. “It’s enough for me to have these classics, I don’t need too much freedom.” Perhaps they’re already at 95 percent freedom. Watching him slowly rationalizes that things are better than they were before, and he doesn’t need “too much freedom” and should be happy with what he has is tough to read. It’s a work of fiction, but it’s not hard to imagine that it’s true. If things are better than they were in the past, why would you want to stir things up by advocating for that final 5 percent of freedom?

While the story, and perhaps the translation could use a bit of polish, it’s a worthwhile read.

Book 19/50 for fiftyfiftyme.

Are you taking part in 50/50me? How are you doing so far? Any book recommendations?

Note: be wary of reading articles about this book before reading it. I found one in the Globe and Mail, and it contained a colossal spoiler. A spoiler from the last pages of the book. I won’t repeat it here (but I’ll email it to you, if you’re one of those people who can’t help but spoil things for yourself. I do that too, but this time the spoiling was inadvertent and unwanted.) So, in the event that other journalists are jerkstores, refrain from reading reviews/articles until after reading the book.



BOOKS READ:
  • I Hunt Killers, Barry Lyga
  • The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  • The Big Nowhere, James Ellroy
  • Old Man's War, John Scalzi
  • The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, Aimee Bender
MOVIES WATCHED:
  • Damsels in Distress, Whit Stillman
  • Lockout, Stephen St. Leger
  • Love in the Buff, Ho-Cheung Pang
  • Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  • The Raven, James McTeigue

A banner month as April contained virtually no missteps on the movie or book front! That's pretty rare right? Well, unless you count Lockout, which was only a filler film because I was movie hopping. I need more Guy Pearce as sarcastic anti-hero but the rest of the movie was horrible. Let's start with Love in the Buff, which was the reason I sat through three movies that day anyway.

I've seen my share of Chinese movies but they tend to be of the John Woo action variety or the Wong Kar-Wai stuff. Love in the Buff is a romantic comedy set in Hong Kong and Beijing and because it's not American, the beats are different. American romcoms haven't changed much in the past decade, so to get my fix, I may now have to turn to Asia.

Seeing as it's Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, let me just say that watching a movie with young-ish urban Chinese folk, wearing their bold rimmed glasses and drawing their fashion cues not from Williamsburg but from their own influences, was an eye-opening experience. The looks ultimately aren't that different but seeing a city full of young urban Asian people without knowing immediately what their fashion stereotype is was refreshing.

The last time I set foot in Asia was ten years ago, and I have no idea what the modern young population does there. After watching Love in the Buff, I kind of want to visit and find out. Note: This is a sequel to Love in the Puff, which has the two main characters meeting at an outdoor smoking area and falling in love. What's not to like?

On the books front, I finally got the chance to toss down The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, which I'd been saving for a rainy day. I'm a little tired of the multi-generational, interlinking stories type of book but Junot Diaz's novel is a must read. Big bonus for all his geeky comic book references. I mean, literature that incorporates Uatu the Watcher? I'm in.

At the end of the day, I thought Brief Wonderous Life was our generation's One Hundred Years of Solitude and I'll likely return to it at some point. Although I think I'd recommend his short story debut, Drown, first. Also, if you're looking to get a sense of Diaz's style, his short, "Miss Lora", was recently in this month's New Yorker.

And speaking of highly recommended shorts, Aimee Bender's The Girl in the Flammable Skirt -- which is not about Katniss -- was so great. I loved Bender's clean writing and the impactful nuance of her stories. It's been years since I've fallen so in love with a short story collection. This rejuvenated me. I had picked up The Girl in the Flammable Skirt thinking of another "Aimee" author, but I'm glad the mistake happened. Now I'm gonna get into Bender's latest, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which is just one of those long evocative titles I love.

Last up, Damsels in Distress starring Greta Gerwig. I think you have to officially put "indie darling" when you talk about Gerwig but it's fully deserved. Anything Gerwig is in I'll watch, even the (mostly) disappointing Greenberg. If you didn't know, Gerwig starred in mumblecore-y movies like Hannah Takes the Stairs and Nights and Weekends and is now slowly making her way through still quirky yet more mainstream projects.

I was very impressed with writer/director Whit Stillman's script and can't believe I'd never heard about him. Movies with sour dialogue and dour worldviews are right up my alley and Damsels in Distress was a near perfect example of the form -- although I can see a lot of people not enjoying it. If you watch one of Stillman's films and love it, please befriend me so I can be less alone. Bonus: Analeigh Tipton, another high riser in my "who to watch" ranking, co-stars in Damsels.

May is the start of summer blockbuster season so my indie diet may have to take a back seat to special effects and superheroes. Fire up the popcorn please!

[Crossposted from www.jonyang.org]

 
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