Saturday, January 26, 2013

Weekly Round-Up: What I'm Reading & Watching


The "nifty fifties." Unprecedented economic prosperity. The blossoming of rock and roll. An era we nostalgically see as being innocent, now that we have the hindsight to know the Cold War will not, in fact, bring about nuclear Armegeddon ...

... Jim Crow. Overt racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism. Lack of environmental regulations ... Ah, well. I should've quit while I was ahead. :-)

Jake Epping travels back to 1958, on a quest to prevent two tragedies, one local and one global in scale. His shift from one era to another is beautifully crafted thanks to King's writing skill, the wonderful narrative voice, and meticulous attention to details about each time period.

I am about 25% of the way through this novel, and I'm loving it so far. King's work has always been hit or miss for me, but when he's good, he really hits it out of the ballpark.

Notable Quotes: 

On whether to disclose the existence of a portal into the past:

Then I thought of the federal government discovering they could send special ops into the past to change whatever they wanted. I didn’t know if that were possible, but if so, the folks who gave us fun stuff like bio-weapons and computer-guided smart bombs were the last folks I’d want carrying their various agendas into living, unarmored history.

On a quest to prevent JFK's assassination (hence the title of the book):

“Or what about Vietnam? Johnson was the one who started all the insane escalation. Kennedy was a cold warrior, no doubt about it, but Johnson took it to the next level. He had the same my-balls-are-bigger-than-yours complex that Dubya showed off when he stood in front of the cameras and said ‘Bring it on.’ Kennedy might have changed his mind. Johnson and Nixon were incapable of that. Thanks to them, we lost almost sixty thousand American soldiers in Nam. The Vietnamese, North and South, lost millions. Is the butcher’s bill that high if Kennedy doesn’t die in Dallas?”

On the (probably illusive) innocence of the past:

If you say something about a terrorist attack in 1958, people are gonna think you’re talking about teenagers tipping cows.

And this also made me laugh:

I came to believe that Derry wasn’t like other places. Derry wasn’t right. -- Yes, no kidding. Mr. King, I've been reading your novels all my adult life. And one thing I've learned -- for sure -- is that Derry, Maine is not right. All kinds of insanely bad shit happens in that place. ;-)

Posts This Week:

Book Review: My Journey as a Combat Veteran by Patrick Thibeault

Author Interview: Patrick Thibeault Author of My Journey as a Combat Veteran 

Movies Watched This Week:

Blue (5/5 stars) -- Gorgeous film about a young woman who loses her husband and daughter to an accident. She goes to great lengths to restructure her life so she won't feel her emotions. I thought it was an unusually clear-eyed, honest look at the early stages of grief. I'd like to review it after a second viewing. Many thanks to Josh -- if it weren't for him, this film may not have even been on my radar.

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (4/5 stars) -- A lonely spinster in 1950s Dublin pins her hopes on a middle-aged bachelor. A sad and worthwhile film about loneliness, disappointment, alcoholism, and how people respond -- in middle age -- to diminished hopes for their lives. Strong performances by Bob Hoskins and the wonderful Maggie Smith.

Twelve Angry Men (4.5/5 stars) -- This classic courtroom drama offers a glimpse into the jury room after a murder trial, showing how conflicting personalities come into play and prejudices float to the surface. I watched this with my home educated high schoolers because, well, this play/movie is a freaking classic. ;-) It's also a good springboard for discussion about our judicial system, the notorious unreliability of eyewitness testimony, and other issues. More on this later.

Downfall (4.5/5 stars) -- German film on the last days of the Third Reich. I want to review this one, but I haven't gotten around to it. We watched this as part of our homeschool "curriculum." Although it's a very long and rather brutal movie, we all enjoyed it, particularly Bruno Ganz's performance as Hitler, teetering between despair and delusional grandiosity in his last days. My 14-year-old son liked it a lot more than he'd expected. He said he appreciated "knowing what really went on in that bunker" during Hitler's last days.

Next week, for our homeschool movie line-up, we have Compliance and Judgment at Nuremberg. Many thanks to Alex and Shantanu for these recommendations. More on all this later.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (4/5 stars) -- We all liked this movie, including my 9-year-old; this is a good thing, since most of the films coming into this house aren't exactly family friendly fare. :-) I can't say I loved this movie, but I definitely appreciated the performances, especially by Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry. And I found the premise and imagery quite intriguing. We saw lives filled with filth and squalor but also freedom and beauty. I was also absorbed by the way a devastating flood and a teacher's words about the ice age were combined and reconfigured in a little girl's vibrant imagination.

Brave (4/5 stars) -- A fun movie to rewatch with Trisha and the rest of the tribe. It's somewhat predictable but well done and entertaining. Beautiful animation, a feisty heroine, drunken, raucous dudes in kilts ... what's not to like? :-)

Take Shelter (4.5/5 stars) -- I've been excited about this movie since it was released, and it measured up to my expectations. I may review it soon.

I don't have any blogger links to share, because I haven't had time to keep up with my feed reader. I'm sure you're all posting brilliant stuff. ;-) I'll be around to visit soon.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.


  1. I always find myself attracted to 11/22/63 whenever I go to the book store but every time I stop myself because of its sheer volume. Its too damn big !!

    You have seen some great movies this week. Looking forward to how our suggestion go next week. Glad We helped.

    1. It is a long book! :-) I can understand why you'd be hesitant, especially if you have limited free time.

  2. 12 Angry Men is a true classic that everyone should see. Downfall is a great movie and I still have trouble thinking about the fact that the same actor who played Hitler in this played the angel in Wings of Desire. I liked Beasts of the Southern Wild, but didn't love it. I will be reviewing it soon. I liked Brave. My expectations for Take Shelter were too high and so I felt a little let down by it. I actually feel it would have been a better film without the twist ending. I haven't seen the other two films.

    Just a heads up. You mentioned having a 9 year old. Compliance has an R rating. If you have any doubts about what your child can and cannot handle you may want to view this one first yourself.

    1. Don't worry, I don't plan to watch Compliance with Trisha, my 9-year-old; it's just for me and the teens. :-) The content would be way too intense for Trisha. Thanks for the heads up.

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the movies I saw this week. I had mixed feelings about the ending of Take Shelter.

  3. are now reading the book I am dying to read too, but I still haven't read it yet for many reasons :(

    many have said the book is great. I will make sure I read it this year

    1. Everybody seems to be really liking this book, don't they? I hope you get a chance to read it, Novia.

  4. LOL, Derry isn't right! What an understatement hm?

    Have a fantastic week!

  5. Yay! So glad you loved Blue! :) Can't wait to hear what you think of White and Red.

    I really should watch Downfall.

    1. I don't know whether you have any particular love for historical movies, but I have a feeling you'd appreciate Downfall. :) Ganz's performance alone is worth checking out. :-)

      I am definitely looking forward to finishing the Colors trilogy ... maybe we can discuss it at some point.

  6. I don't know why I haven't read 11/12/63 yet, its on mt tbr. Glad you're enjoying it. I agree, when King is good, he's amazing. Yes...there certainly is something very wrong in Derry :)
    We haven't watched Brave yet, but it looks cute. Looks like you had a great blogging week!

  7. I rewatched Brave on the plane back from vacation recently, I so love that movie!! It was so hilarious, much funnier than I thought, I was laughing so hard in the theater when I watched it the first time I was practically snorting uncontrollably. I still haven't seen Take Shelter but I heard the performances were superb. Looking forward to your review, Steph.

  8. I'd love to read your review of Take Shelter! I loved the film - the way dreams didn't differ that much from reality was very eerie in this movie.

    I liked Brave a little less than you did but I adored how the film focused on a relationship between daughter and mother. It's not often that animated movies do that with so much heart.

  9. Adore Brave so much. I know it's not the strongest of Pixar films, but there's something about that film that totally chokes me up. The mother/daughter relationship and Merida - adore it!

  10. I'm glad you're liking 11/22/63. When he's good, he's very very good. And when he is bad, he is horrid. : )

  11. I really want to see Beasts of the Southern Wild. I wasn't even aware of the film until Oscar noms came in. I am going to go check out your review of My Journey as a Combat Veteran because I missed that one.

  12. Twelve Angry Men sounds like a great movie for classroom discussion!


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