Laid up these past few days with a certain elective man-surgery, I’ve had the opportunity – doctor’s orders, really – to spend a lot of time streaming film after film on the couch. Mini-reviews of the recently-seen and read:
High and Low – Kurosawa tells the story of a kidnapping and its aftermath. Ambition, heroin, murder, solid police work. A good detective story with some interesting stylistic flourishes. Feels a lot like live theater. Good stuff.
Luther – Dreadful, dull biopic of one of history’s most interesting personalities: Martin Luther. After suffering through wave after wave of abject suckage, I turned it off. Blech.
Rome – Competent and (mostly) historically-faithful series on the transition of Rome from republic to empire in the first century B.C. All the big boys are here: Cicero, Marc Anthony (“hummuna hummuna,” according to Mrs. SMEs), Octavian, Brutus and Julius Caesar himself. Well-acted and attractively shot.
Beer Wars – Popular documentary on the beer business. The big boys get to tell their side of the story, but clearly the deck is stacked against them – as well it should be. Passionate little guys, like Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione, play a central role. Professionally-done, with less snark than…
This Film Is Not Yet Rated – Exposes the arbitrary and often absurd process the Motion Picture Association of America uses to arrive at movie ratings. Lively and entertaining, but would have been stronger if told with less Moore-esque flippancy. There are fictionalized, cartoon interviews with MPAA spokespeople, for instance.
The Parking Lot Movie – The charming story of a paid parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia and the cast of oddball attendants who have worked there over the years. Class dynamics play play out, as do cads/easy targets fraternity and sorority members. Basic civility is in short supply; one guy kicks the shit out of a park-and-dashing SUV. Good times.
On the reading front, I’ve been trying to slog through The Name of the Rose. Eco always pulls me in only to throw 400 pages of mud in my path about a quarter of the way through (see, “Before, The Island of the Day”). The man has a talent, but I may have to throw in the towel.
Other literary ephemera:
Engaging, timely and personal exploration of Mark Twain, dedicated food-lover.
How to Cook a Wolf
By M.F.K. Fisher
At a time when women were expected to stick to puffery and silliness, Fisher was writing powerfully and well about things that mattered, namely, keeping “the wolf” of gnawing hunger during times of rationing at bay. Think Pollan, but 70 years earlier and with a better sense of humor.