Friday, July 15, 2011

Best of the Week - Second Week of July

Best Movie I saw: On Wednesday night I popped in the BluRay of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One in anticipation for my Thursday Night Midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I really enjoyed the first movie and loved how bleak their prospects seemed in carrying out their mission, but Part 2 took the entire series to another level.

Some background: In 1999 I had just started reading “Adult Books” for the first time. I’ve always been a reader, but Stephen King and Dean Koontz are more fun. I graduated college in 1999 and decided to take a line from Kicking and Screaming and put it to use in my life: “I didn’t learn enough in college, so now it’s up to me to educate myself”. I still love this quote and hope to continue living it as I age. So at the time I was reading real “literature” like John Irving, Thomas Pynchon and Ayn Rand. My brother is a publisher of Young Adult fiction and he gave me this book that was very popular and part three was coming out and they were making a movie of it. I remember the best selling point to me was that it was short and only took him 3 days to read it. “It’s fun” was the word he used. I read it and thought it was OK, but nothing special. I quickly read the next 2 books and decided that was it for me.

Book Four was released to much fanfare, but I couldn’t care less. I didn’t read it at first. Finally a time came and there was a lull in books, so I picked it up, read it in a week and absolutely hated it. (I still think book 4 is by far the weakest, followed by 2 but that’s besides the point). I decided I was done with Harry Potter after that.

Fast forward a few years and I didn’t even see book three in the theater, but everyone started saying how good it was and how book 5 turned darker and better. Reluctantly, I saw the third movie and really enjoyed it. Which made me decide to give book 5 a try. I loved that book. JK Rowling had really found her voice and I went back and read the first 5 books over again before book 6 came out. Before book 7, I reread book 6 and finished the final book satisfied at an overall well crafted story.

The movies follow a similar pattern with one exception. The movie version of book 5 and 6 failed to capture a lot of what I loved about those books. They were good, quick movies but the depth of characters (especially beloved side-characters) were lost in the movies.

Now that the 7th book has been released in two movies (over 4.5 hours of run-time) I can safely say this is the movie version that all the Harry Potter movies deserved. Still some side-characters are lost in the shuffle and a lot of the depth and character histories are never shown (all of Voldemort’s childhood from book 6 is lost and Dumbledore’s younger years are skipped over) but the heart of the story was really found in this last film.

After everything that has been written about these stories, I can say they work much better if you are already a fan of the books, and on their own they can be a little confusing and silly. But if you have the background of who the characters are from the books, these movies are almost perfect in their own way. I never find myself not believing the magic they execute is possible while watching these movies. And the acting and special effects have grown as the cast and crew has with this final story really exceeding everything before it.

Best TV Show I saw: TV has finally gotten better for the summer time. I have to say that I absolutely HATED last season of True Blood to the point that I didn’t want to watch it. But this season so far has been quite fun and not the shitfest of last season.

BUT, that’s not the best show I saw this week. That has to go to the series premiere of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Although it was a little bit of a forced way to get Larry to lose his house so he will have to move to New York next episode (I’m assuming) the running joke this week of the Jewish lawyer vs. non-Jewish lawyer killed me. The uncomfortable scene when the girl scout had her period in his house and Larry was explaining how to use the tampon was a perfect explanation of why this show is still the best at uncomfortable humor.

Best Book I read: I read the worst book of the year this week. It was called Tell-All by Chuck Pahlaniuk. I usually like his novels, but either I’m reading better stuff lately and couldn’t get into this, or this was just terrible. (I’m leaning towards the latter).

Luckily, I was able to cleanse my palate by reading a great book in the second half of the week. The book was called The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. This book was similar in structure to a book I read and loved last month called A Visit From the Goon Squad. Both books tell an over-arching story of interlinked characters through short stories that really make up a tapestry of a larger novel. I’m not sure if there is a name for this type of writing, or if it’s just an evolutionary necessity to get my stupid, short-attention span generation to read again. Luckily, I really seem to like this type of story-telling (as I mentioned in my Goon-Squad review it’s probably because of my comic book reading history).

This novel’s cast of inter-linked characters are a bunch of Americans (mostly) working at a fictional newspaper in Rome. The novel is more obsessed with their lives outside of the office than within, although their problems do spill-over into their working lives quite often. Keeping the novel’s structure of telling a story about a specific person that works for the paper followed by a chronological history of the paper itself in each chaper, Rachman somehow lets us understand how them working at this specific newspaper impacted the lives of these people in different ways. After finishing the novel I realized I had absolutely no idea the name of the newspaper, and had to do a quick google search to see if they ever even mentioned it which I was unable to find. This tells me the story isn’t about the paper, but instead about the people that make up the staff that works around the clock to put out a newspaper even though they all know and feel it is a dying art form in today’s day of instant news gratification.

This was a well written debut-novel by someone that I will be sure to keep my eye on in the future. And of course, any book that has a chapter where a person dying of a long illness waxes philosophically about death is going to appeal to me. For the hell of it, here’s a quote I enjoyed: “You know, there’s that silly saying ‘We’re born alone and we die alone’ – it’s nonsense. We’re surrounded at birth and surrounded at death. It is in between that we are alone.”

With that, I will leave you for now to seek out or to ignore this wonderfully sad but touching book.

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