Monday, June 21, 2010
I was raised, as many in my generation were, on the Alice in Wonderland Disney cartoon from 1951 (perhaps because all of our parents were raised on the same cartoon when they were young). I've watched the TV show from the 1990s, seen the made for TV movies, and all of the remakes. Though I have never read the book (though I plan to as part of the 1001 Book challenge), I believe myself to be quite familiar with the story and its characters. I was hoping that Burton, in his usual manner, would show a different interpretation of the novel that we have all been saturated with since we could focus our eyes on a TV screen. Sadly, he didn't. Though there were some aspects that were not presented in some of the other adaptations, I felt that the majority of the story was the same and I was bored. I don't think that I need to rehash the story of Alice in Wonderland (girl falls down rabbit hole and finds herself in another world where things are extremely confusing at first and yet perfectly logical upon reflection and simply fantastic as quotes on facebook/myspace profiles) because we are all familiar with the characters and plot points. As usual, Johnny Depp's performance was phenomenal as was Carter's and Anne Hathaway's. The animation and backdrops were exceptional and created a sinister and creepy atmosphere that some of the other adaptations have not. Still, this did not change the fact that the story had been done before...many many tireless times.
On the other hand (though I just spent two paragraphs berating the film), I do believe that people should watch it even if it is on mute. The reason being that the effects are so fantastic that any kind of description would not do it justice. I constantly wanted to freeze frame the movie and print the images on the screen onto posters. Despite the fact that it didn't live up to my expectations, I know that I will find myself picking up a copy once it reaches the discount bins at Blockbuster.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The novel starts in the early 1900s and follows Mary Morrow and Enidina Current as they live, work, and raise their families on two nearby farms. Mary is delicate, judgmental, and not particularly able to take the blame for her own actions. Though one would think that this would make her an unlikable character, it instead makes her easy to relate to at times and very real. Enidina Current was born to work the hard land. She is strongly built, strong willed, and extremely hard working. When she moves to the farm with her husband, she is thrilled with the prospect of living off of the land in a secluded area. She is not there a day before Mary comes over and "befriend" her. The two never quite have a friendship but they feel a kinship due to their similar situations. However, the tumultuous 1920s and 1930s push both women to their breaking point. Family and farm matters only further complicate their relationship which evolves from mutual respect and kinship to distrust and hate.
As with many excellent novels, there is no single climax. The story unfolds much as life does with ups and downs some of which can be foreseen while others wreck havoc for years in the future. The story is told in alternating voices between the two women. I was nervous about this aspect because I find such a technique to be kitschy when not done right. Yet, Hoover is able to master this device in a way that hasn't been done in years if not decades. Though there are some mysteries throughout the novel that keep you intrigued, I realized at the conclusion that the answers to all of these questions were sprinkled throughout the book. It is for this reason that I caution readers to notice each word. While other books allow for the occasional skipping of pages without much loss of plot, this novel captivates the reader and insists that he/she reads every sentence carefully. I honestly believe that this novel will become a classic of our time, which is saying a lot for a debut author!
The plot for Toy Story 3 flashes forward 11 years from the previous film. Andy is now 17 and is getting ready to leave for college. Before he goes, he has to decide which toys he is bringing with him, which are going in the attic, and which are headed for the trash. The usual gang of toys, minus Bo Peep and some other classics that didn't make the cut for #3, feel bittersweet about this event. While they want to go with Andy, they also crave the attention that they once got when he was a child. In other words, they miss being played with. Andy goes through the toys and chooses Woody to bring to college and puts the rest in a trash bag to go into the attic. The plot starts escalating when Andy's mom confuses the trash bag of toys for trash and puts them out on the curb. As the trailers show, the toys spend some time in a daycare which is run by an evil red/purple bear who smells like strawberries. The ending came as a surprise to me, though I am sure it won't to others, and left me extremely touched with wet cheeks.
The animation is what we have grown accustomed to from Disney and Pixar though I thought it wasn't as engrossing as UP from last year. I should also state that I saw Toy Story 3 in old fashioned 2-D, so my observations on the animation are limited. Still, the true beauty of this film is the story not only the one in this 1 hour and 59 minutes but the entire story from the first film to this one. Within the first ten minutes, I was already teary up as the opening scene showed clips from Toy Story set to the ever-familiar "You've Got a Friend in Me". The characters were just as enchanting as I remembered and seemed to have really come into their own (as much as an animated piggy bank can...).
Unlike other Pixar films that are geared towards children but have adult humor, I felt that this film was much more geared towards my age group who grew up with the story and the toys. Of course there was some child humor, some good action scenes, and a lot of suspense, but the overall story was much more advanced than in the previous films. In many ways, it was similar to that of UP both of which focused on loss and the difficult crossroads in life. For those unfortunate people out there who have not seen the first two films, do not despair! I went with a friend who had never heard of Toy Story until last night, and she loved the movie almost as much as I did.
If I were to write a letter to Pixar right now it would go a little something like this "Dear Gods of Animation, You did it again! Keep up the fantastic work. And get cracking on Finding Nemo 2. Your humble and devoted servant, Dani"
Thursday, June 10, 2010
What was so intriguing about the book when I first picked it up is that the cover reads (at least my edition of it) "a novel in monthly installments with recipes, romances, and home remedies". The plot revolves around the character Tita who is the youngest of three daughters. Due to this, her family tradition dictates that she must never marry but instead has to take care of her mother until her mother dies. Unfortunately, she falls in love with a boy named Pedro whom she knows she will never marry. In addition, she is her mother's least favorite daughter and the one on whom her mother takes out her anger. The only place that Tita can find solace is in the kitchen where the housekeeper (her surrogate mother) showers her in love and guidance in cooking. As Tita faces more tragedies (her sister marries Pedro, her mentor dies, etc.), she escapes through her cooking. Magically, when people eat her food they experience the emotions that she was feeling when she made the food. On nights when she is sad, everyone at the table begins weeping. Other nights she is filled with love and lust, and that is passed on to those who eat her food. At first, Tita doesn't understand her power but she soon is able to harness it and use it to speak for her when she is unable to speak for herself.
My satisfaction with this book fluctuated. At times I found the recipes at the beginning of each chapter to be intriguing and endearing, while at others I thought they were annoying and kitschy. I thought that Tita's ability to affect others through her food was an excellent character trait and certainly carried me through the novel. However, there was no one in the novel that I actually liked and wasn't emotionally invested in the story or the characters. I think that it is worth reading because the technique is interesting and something that few others have tackled. However, I won't be re-reading this one.
It is very difficult to adequately explain this novel because it is very simple and yet some of the stories are quite complex. Basically, the novel is made up of short stories (those of you out there who don't like short stories, don't run away yet!) about a house on Cape Cod that was built in the 1700s. There are twelve stories in the "novel" and each describes a new generation of the house as it is bought, sold, and passed down through certain generations. The stories follow the characters but only as it relates to the house. The true development of the book is that of the house and the times that surround each generation of owners. Each owner brings a part of themselves the property which allows the house to grow with its inhabitants. There is no climax or enthralling events, the true satisfaction comes with the unveiling of each person and the mark they leave on the house.
I simply adored this book. I thought that it was beautiful in every way. The characters were not always likable but they were real, which I believe is far more important. The atmosphere was almost tangible and I felt completely engrossed with each tale. There isn't a single "story" that I could pin point as my favorite because they were all splendidly written. This is a book that I will certainly go back to over and over again and urge others to do the same.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Gap Creek takes places in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina where Julie Harmon lives with her mother, brother, father, and three sisters. The book opens with the death of Julie's brother which is then followed by the death of her beloved father. Julie was always a hard worker around the house and was assigned the chores that were usually given to men. One day while she is working outside, a handsome man drives by in the his carriage and the two begin courting. Hank Richards and Julie Harmond quickly fall in love and though Julie is only 17, they become married and move to Gap Creek where they will tend to the cantankerous Mr. Pendergast. Though their love for each other is strong, their responsibilities weigh heavy on them and their relationship. When Julie becomes pregnant, it seems like a blessing but as her pregnancy continues events occur that jeopardize their happiness and safety.
When I discussed this book with someone else who had read it, we both commented on the fact that the novel is character driven and though there are plot points, none of them matter as much as the development of the characters and their relationship. In many ways, it reminded me a great deal of Carolyn Chute's The Bean of Egypt Maine which is an ultimate favorite of mine. Though the books are set in different time periods and in different parts of Appalachia, they have a great deal in common. Both are relationship based and describe not only those between two people but also between families and (possibly most importantly) between people and the land. The story is hard to read but that is only because the people in it are hard and their lives are difficult. There are no true heroes or heroines and the novel doesn't leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling, but I think those are the strengths of the book and not weaknesses. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is sick of happy endings, cliched characters, and hackneyed plots and wants something more real. Bravo, Oprah, Bravo.