Category Archives: Arts & Culture

My take on the artistic

Book Review: Wolf Hall

Wolf HallWolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn’t finish this book. Didn’t even come close. I enjoy history, great literature, and have a penchant for most things British, but just couldn’t break into this book. I think was the perspective of the storytelling that I just couldn’t get past. The story is told from a first person, at times sub-conscience level. It’s a unique perspective and at times realistically thrilling. Mantel does a fantastic job of staying consistent in this style, and the timing and feel/flow is very real. But I think it just required more attention and concentration that I was willing to afford.

This book was most enjoyed during long sessions, and was very distracting to pick-up/put-down willy-nilly. It requires your attention to thoroughly enjoy. Perhaps I’ll give it another go at a different time.

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Book Review: A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918

A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 by G.J. Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This isn’t exactly a review, but I want to write something in hopes that others will give this book a read as well.

You don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy this book. With all honestly, this is the first serious history book I’ve ever picked up, and I only did so because of a recommendation. But to say this book fascinated me is an understatement.

Not only did this book take me through all I thought I’d ever want know about WWI, but it has in fact driven me to learn more about the great historical events that have shaped the world. This book gave me a great understanding of the cogs that shape and run the modern world, and gave me some much needed historical perspective on regions that still create turmoil today (Eastern Europe, Middle East).

This book is an invaluable piece of education.

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Road Trip: March 11, 2011

The American road trip: a destination shrouded with optimism; the limitless horizon your only obstacle; all the required power at your fingertips, in your control; the speed and momentum of the movement, the hum of the road, the purifying wind through open windows, all to assure you, you are on the right path. The road trip is quintessentially American, in both metaphor and experience.

And an essential component to any road trip is the soundtrack. A steady-driving beat, a story of exploration, epicness to match the journey, or even the permission to sing it like no one’s listening, can turn any song into the perfect road trip song.

The 83rd Academy Awards

The 83rd Academy Awards Ceremony starts in no less than 75 minutes. I sit here with a mixed cocktail (a fancy whiskey sans sugar) feverishly typing away trying to publish this before the Red Carpet event is finished and the Awards begin. So here it is, my take on the year’s movies as seen through the eyes of the Oscar nominations:

Best Leading Actor

The only performance I didn’t see in this group was Javier Bardem in BIUTIFUL. It’s in our Netflix queue and does look like a remarkable movie (plus Javier Bardem always bring such a strong passion to the work he does), but I am going out on not-so-much of a limb to say Colin Firth will win for his performance as the stammering, bumbling, and unconfident but unwavering King George VI. Firth manages to bring such power and command to a seemingly weak character. That in itself shows the true ability of an actor—to bring out a performance from a character unwilling to perform.

James Franco was also great in 127 HOURS (an unforgettable movie in itself) and brought great dimension to a potentially one-dimensional movie.


I haven’t had a chance to see THE FIGHTER or THE TOWN yet, so it’s a little hard for me to pick in this category. I really respect Jeremy Renner (he was truly amazing in THE HURT LOCKER), but since I haven’t seen THE TOWN, I could be way off by not picking him. WINTER’S BONE was a fantastically uncompromising and startlingly realistic movie, and all performances in that movie were tremendous. But I’m going to have to go with Geoffrey Rush in THE KING’S SPEECH. I think I may be a little biased here because Colin Firth’s performance was so good, and Geoffrey Rush’s character’s job was to build up and help Firth’s character overcome his deficiencies. But if John Hawkes wins here, I won’t be disappointed.

bEST Leading actress

  • Annette Bening – THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
  • Nicole Kidman – RABBIT HOLE
  • Jennifer Lawrence – WINTER’S BONE
  • Natalie Portman – BLACK SWAN
  • Michelle Williams – BLUE VALENTINE

This one is really tough because there were a LOT of great performances in the past year. I’ll just come out and say that Natalie Portman will win for BLACK SWAN. That movie was one of the best movies I’ve ever watched, and Natalie Portman’s intensity of performance had a lot to do with it. BLACK SWAN is a piece of art itself, and I believe the whole experience of the movie is a depiction of what it’s like to truly experience great art. Impossible to do it justice with just a sentence.

Again, all performances from WINTER’S BONE were tremendous, so Jennifer Lawrence really deserves recognition, but unfortunately she’s competing with BLACK SWAN this year. Also Michelle Williams was very strong in the aptly named BLUE VALENTINE.

BEST Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams – THE FIGHTER
  • Helena Bonham Carter – THE KING’S SPEECH
  • Melissa Leo – THE FIGHTER
  • Hailee Steinfeld – TRUE GRIT
  • Jackie Weaver – ANIMAL KINGDOM

I haven’t seen THE FIGHTER, so again, I’m at a disadvantage here. I’ve heard Melissa Leo is a lock in this category, but I can’t pick a performance I haven’t seen, so…

I love everything Helena Bonham Carter does, but I have to admit I was impressed with Hailee Steinfeld (despite her age and all the “controversy” with her nomination). Her performance in TRUE GRIT is so noteworthy because she really held her own with much more experienced and strong actors in Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. I’ll give her the nod but will likely be wrong.


  • 127 HOURS

BLACK SWAN hands down, but only because it was such a fantastic experience of a movie. WINTER’S BONE deserves a mention and was a brilliant movie, along side THE KING’S SPEECH.


Okay, I have 6 minutes until kick off. Just a couple things I’d like to mention.

Any other category BLACK SWAN is connected with, will win. If there is a single movie to see from 2010, it is BLACK SWAN. Also see WINTER’S BONE if given a chance.

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP was not that good of a documentary. It is only getting attention because of BANKSY. He deserves the recognition, but his movie does not. RESTREPO and I’m sure some of the other documentaries are much better.

RABBIT HOLE wasn’t that impressive to me because we saw a local theater company perform the stage version last year, and they did a terrific job. Nicole Kidman did a good job, but Aaron Eckhart gave a stronger performance and didn’t seem to get the same recognition.

INCEPTION and THE SOCIAL NETWORK were not that great (in my opinion). That’s why I can’t really give them much credit in any categories. I know INCEPTION was a favorite film this year for a lot of “casual” movie-goers, but I guess I’m not a “casual” movie-goer. And THE SOCIAL NETWORK was a watch-it and forget-it movie for me.

And as always, HOME FOR PURIM deserves all the oscar buzz it can get.

Music in my Mind: February 18, 2011

These are the songs that have gone through my head today:

I heard the ladies on the Grammy’s perform Jolene, and what a great song! Jack White agrees. Goosebumps.