Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

At the onset of the novel, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith, we're told that as a young man trying to support his family by working at a five-and-dime store in Rhinebeck, NY, the author was approached with an intriguing proposal by a store regular, Henry. While Henry had always been courteous, unlike many of the condescending weekenders who came into the shop with the oversized cups of coffee yet never spent a dime, they'd never had an in-depth conversation, until the one day Henry questioned why the author had abandoned his writing. While a little annoyed by the question, the author nonetheless gave an honest answer and pointed to his main priorities of wife and kids for putting his life-long dream of being an author on the shelf. One question led to another, each question more personal, and yet he felt compelled for some unknown reason to answer each question. After that strange day, things went back to normal; Henry would come in, exchange polite pleasantries, purchase his goods and leave.

The last time Henry came in, he carried a small package wrapped in brown paper which he placed on the counter and indicated the author should read the note on top of the package first. Unsure of its contents but extremely curious, the author closed the shop a few minutes early and headed to the basement to sneak a cigarette and open the package. The note attached to the package outlined conditions to be agreed to before opening it; including the understanding that the contents where a loan and not a gift, to be protected at all cost, and to be discussed with no one except Henry and the 11 individuals listed on the opposite side of the note. The proposal was that the author would write a manuscript about the contents for which he would be compensated, if it met Henry's approval. If the author could not meet all of the conditions, he was to wait to be contacted for a safe return of the package. If he agreed, he could proceed. As the author states "Well, shit...there was no way I wasn't opening it now." The package contained a bundle of letters and ten leather-bound books of varying sizes, the smallest of which began with "This is the Journal of Abraham Lincoln" and as the author skimmed each book one word kept appearing "Vampire." Convinced Henry was out of his mind and playing a hoax on him, the author gathered the package's contents ready to share a good laugh with his wife about the day's event, only to turn and find:
"Something leaned over me. Its eyes were a pair of black marbles. Its skin a translucent collage of pulsing blue veins. And its mouth -- its mouth could barely contain its wet, glassy fangs. It was Henry. "I'm not going to hurt you", he said. "I just need you to understand."
This book is therefore the author's attempt to finally set the record straight and tell the truth of Honest Abe's life based on those secret journals. A truth not found in any of the 15,000 plus books previously published about his life. The story goes on to relay through journal entries, Lincoln's life-long battle with the forces of darkness, his countless personal sacrifices and sad life of loss, and how those struggles began a war and helped shape a nation.

Wow. I loved this book. A previously vehement detractor of all vampire-related literature, I borrowed this book from a friend out of pure curiosity after seeing the kick-ass trailer for the film which is due for release this Summer. I'm so glad I didn't let my Twilight-related phobia spoil my fun. The book put me in mind of The Da Vinci Code, because like that great book, the storyline in a biographical style was so finely woven and well written that every line becomes almost plausible. A wonderfully original and compelling read, though not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

I've Got Your Number

In I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, Poppy Wyatt has done the unthinkable; while attending a champagne tea function with friends at a hotel, she's lost the heirloom emerald wedding ring which had been in her fiancee, Magnus Tavish's family for three generations. The ring had been safely on her finger for the past three months, but today as Poppy and her friends were swigging down champagne and stuffing their faces with cupcakes, she had basked in their admiration, and let them pass the ring around the table so they could try it on. Unfortunately, during this bit of either momentary insanity or irresponsibility there's a fire drill, and now the ring is nowhere to be found. Of course she's lost the darn thing on the eve of Magnus' parents (both genius professors who constantly make her feel inferior) return from sabbatical in the States. Things go from bad to worse when while standing on the front steps of the hotel trying to get a signal, her phone is literally plucked from her hands and stolen. Her phone is like a vital organ; it's her people, friends and family, her work, and horribly it's her sole connection and source of hope for finding her ring. Poppy's given her number to the hotel staff, to friends, to anyone and everyone she could think of who might find the ring. Freaked out and feeling as if her world is unraveling, Poppy is pacing the hotel lobby when she spots a cell phone dumped in a garbage bin. Eureka! Finders keepers, except that the phone rings, and the man on the other end of the line, Sam Roxton, the phone's owner, has other plans and wants his phone back. After careful negotiations and shameless pleading, a bargain is struck and with it hilarity ensues as Poppy wrecks havoc on Sam's life, and in the process Sam helps Poppy face some surprising truths.

I loved this book! It was funny, and sweet, and romantic. I expected no less from the brilliant Sophie Kinsella. You can always count on Kinsella to deliver a lighthearted romp that delivers both laughs and a few happy tears. As with most Kinsella heroines, Poppy is your typical girl next door, if your girl next door happens to be sweet, funny, smart, and resourceful; her fears and vulnerabilities only make you love her all the more. While at times aspects of the plot are more than a little implausible, the connection between the two main characters, two completely disparate human beings -- one cold and business-like the other unerringly idealistic, feels so real and captivating that you overlook the little details and enjoy the bigger picture. Laughter and love, what could be better?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

God Bless America

Yesterday I bought tickets from the Jacob Burns Film Center for a special screening of writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest movie God Bless America. The screening will feature a Q&A session with Bobcat, Joel Murray, the lead actor in the film, and NY Times critic Janet Maslin. Those of you familiar with 80’s pop culture might remember Bobcat as the comedian with the high-pitched crazy voice who also appeared in such movies as Police Academy and Scrooged.

God Bless America is described in the LA Times as “An oddball road trip comedy crossed with a furious social critique.” I bought the tickets based purely on the kick-ass trailer (see below). Looks like it will be plenty violent and foul mouthed, but also one helluva ride.

Generosity Simplified

I stumbled upon in a Huffington Post article. Web Thrift Store allows users to shop and/or donate online, with the proceeds from their sale or purchase going towards supporting the work of great nonprofit organizations, like the ASPCA. It’s a win-win for all involved, the charities and you, since you’re not only helping to make a difference but your donations are also tax-deductible.

The site is still very new, so currently there aren’t a lot of charities participating, but the list is growing every day. This is a great opportunity to do some Spring cleaning and support a cause which is close to your heart. Are you an animal lover? Then let your dollars and cents help the ASPCA in their fight against animal cruelty.

While I think NPD Research’s figure that the average US household has $7,000 worth of stuff they don’t want might be slightly (or in my case, very) inflated, all of us undoubtedly have a few items collecting dust around the house. Maybe those “skinny” jeans you’ve been saving for when you lose those last 10 pounds, or that exercise bike or treadmill that’s doing double-duty as a glorified clothes hanger. Hmm…I see a recurring theme here; a subject for another day. Anyway, what are you waiting for? Giving couldn’t be easier. Give today.

NPR's First Listen

Norah Jones’ new album, Little Broken Hearts, which features 10 tracks of her silky smooth voice, will be released on May 1st, but for a limited time NPR Music has generously made the entire album available on their Exclusive First Listen page. My favorite tracks were the breathy “Travelin’ On”, and the sweet, soft melody of “Good Morning.”

I couldn’t find an expiration date on the audio’s availability, so hurry on over to NPR before this sweet opportunity passes you by.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


In Abducted by T.R. Ragan, Lizzy Gardner is known as the one who got away. Lizzy was a teenager making her way home from a clandestine meeting with her boyfriend when she was taken by a serial killer known as Spiderman. It’s been 14 years since Lizzy planned and executed her escape from the maniac’s clutches, and she’s still dealing with the mental and emotional toll of those two months spent in hell. Now a private detective, Lizzy deals with her own fears and tortured memories by giving self-defense classes to teenage girls, all in an effort to ensure that the same doesn’t happen to another young girl. Making small strides in her life but still mired in the past, Lizzy knows she’ll never have peace until she knows Spiderman is dead. When Lizzy gets a call from the madman himself, and is brought in by her ex-boyfriend, now an FBI agent, to help them with a new kidnapping, she realizes she’s once again being caught in the maniac’s web, but this might be the chance she’s been hoping for to break free from the past and finally heal.

I thought this book was great. All of the characters, not just Lizzy, were well written and developed. As the heroine, Lizzy was a flawed but likable character; damaged but not broken, and in her strength and determination you found hope for her future. The wonderful supporting cast of characters gave you more than one person to root for. I particularly loved Hayley, a hard as nails teenager, who won’t give an inch despite fighting some personal demons. The romantic thread to the storyline was sweet and engaging, without taking over the more important dramatic aspects of the tale. A page-turning thriller which makes you care about each character as much as you care about catching the bad guy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men is a 1957 film starring Henry Fonda which tells the story of a jury deliberating a murder in the first degree trial in which a young immigrant teenager is accused of having stabbed his father to death. At the film's onset, the judge is seen instructing the jurors in the fact that it is their duty to separate facts from fancy and that they must unanimously find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If found guilty, the defendant will face a mandatory death sentence. The twelve men leave the court room and congregate in a cramped and sweltering deliberation room. As they sit around a narrow table, the foreman calls for a preliminary vote sure in the fact that it will be a short afternoon and that they'll be out in time for juror #7 to make the evening's baseball game for which he has tickets. The preliminary vote comes back 11-1 with Henry Fonda's juror #8 being the lone descent vote. Soft-spokenly and calmly Juror #8 explains the importance of this vote that could send a young man to the electric chair and admits that while he can't guarantee his innocence, neither can he positively assert his guilt, and that at the bare minimum a man's life merits further discussion.

The other jurors concede this point and decide to each make a case for why they think the boy is guilty. As each point of evidence is discussed, juror #8 questions each and makes valid points for a not guilty vote due to reasonable doubt. As tempers rise, especially that of angry and belligerent Juror #3, he makes a bold offer. He asks for a second secret vote, stating he will abstain from the vote, and if 11 guilty verdicts come back, he will acquiesce and change his vote. The foreman opens each folded piece of paper, reading guilty verdict, after guilty verdict until...not guilty; and so, the discussions continue. As the temperatures rise and a storm brews outside, the men deliberate each "fact" and with them the fate of a young man.

This was a superb film. Henry Fonda was wonderful as soft-spoken juror #8. His bearing and face conveyed the perfect solemnity for his role as the jury's conscience and/or voice of reason. Even the use of his measured voice as he went point by point over each piece of evidence was compelling. Lee J. Cobb was the perfect counter-balance in his role as the stubborn, irrational and explosive juror #3. The give and take between these two great actors added a palpable tension throughout the film, which left you anxiously sitting on the edge of your seat anticipating what would happen next. The raw drama of the film is a praiseworthy fait accompli when you take into account that almost the entirety of the film, with the exception of the opening and closing scenes, were shot in one small cramped room with just 12 men. No fancy props, no explosions, no special effects. A film which gives credence to the statement, "they just don't make 'em like they used to."

Friday Funnies

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Music & Memory

Music & Memory is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “improve the quality of life for the elderly and infirm through the use of personalized music and digital technology.” Based on the simple premise that through its many therapeutic benefits music can help reach hearts and minds, health care providers and family care givers use iPods and similar technology to try and bridge the gap left by other forms of therapy to reconnect with patients and loved ones, respectively, who were previously unresponsive. By stimulating their minds and transporting them to a happier time in their memories, they help bring peace and joy to lives that otherwise might have been lost forever.

The video found on the site’s homepage of an elderly man named Henry is a compelling demonstration of how music can stir a soul. Henry is at first unresponsive, sitting in his wheelchair with his head hanging low, his chin resting on his chest, but as soon as they place the headphones on, his head lifts, his eyes grow wide and he is alive again. It’s a moving sight to behold.

As soon as I read about Music & Memory I automatically thought of my mom. Unlike Henry, mom wouldn't have needed music for reanimation, but instead for comfort and escape from the life which had been turned upside down overnight. In 2009, when mom suffered a cranial hemorrhage, she developed sudden onset vascular dementia that brought with it severe anxiety whenever I wasn’t by her side. Confined to a wheelchair because she was no longer able to walk on her own, mom would insist on trying to get out of her chair which meant she needed a restraint, a fact that only stoked her frenzy. For reasons beyond me, probably the fact that we'd been closer than two peas in a pod most of my life, my mere presence was stronger than any dose of Xanax or Ativan being doled out during the day by the nursing staff, because while I’d walk into the nursing home to find her yelling and agitated, as soon as she'd see me a sense of peace would come over her - her face, her body language, her whole demeanor would change -- it was a sight to see and oh so humbling. I remember my own anxiety each day as I’d rush from work to the nursing home; desperate to get there as soon as humanly possible, frantic whenever I’d hit traffic because I knew she was dependent on me for her sense of peace and well-being.

Today I wonder if something as simple as music would’ve assuaged her fears and brought her solace during my absences. Would her face have lit up with a smile, transported to a happier time and place? I’ll never know that answer, but I know that I couldn’t pass on this opportunity to help someone else’s mom or dad, brother or sister, son or daughter. How can we help? The organization accepts monetary donations, but they also need donations of iPods, new and old. In fact, they are currently facing a shortage of iPod Shuffles for patients with special needs. I plan on making a donation, won’t you do the same? If you plan on upgrading your iPod soon, consider donating your old device to this great organization. Give the gift of music and touch someone’s life.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Once Upon A Time

It's been tons of fun but sadly our time with the Charmings (Snow, James and Emma) from Once Upon A Time is almost at an end, as the Season 1 finale is scheduled for May 13th. Per some recently published reports, the finale episode is titled "A Land Without Magic." With the excitement and anticipation building until the big day, I couldn't help myself and scoured the net for some spoilers on upcoming episodes, and found a few tidbits I thought I'd share.

Spoiler Alert - STOP - Spoiler Alert. You've been warned.

The press release for Episode 19, The Return, states: "Mr. Gold attempts to uncover August's true identity, and Rumpelstiltskin agrees to let his son find a way to take away his evil powers and turn him back into the loving father he once was." Click here for a sneak peek at episode stills.

TVGuide's description for Episode 20, The Stranger, states: "August tells Emma how to beat Regina and how she can get custody of Henry, while Regina hatches a plot to seduce David now that Mary Margaret is back at work. In the fairy-tale world, a plan to save Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter unfolds and is agreed to by Geppetto, who has his own child's safety in mind." Click here for a sneak peek at episode stills. also reported on a number of spoilers revealed at a recent PaleyFest event moderated by, including the fact that Archie (aka Jiminy Cricket) will have two new patients soon, David and Mr. Gold. I can't wait to be a fly in the wall during Mr. Gold's couch time with the good doc. A big reveal which I'm practically salivating over revolves around The Stranger or August Booth. Executive Producer Adam Horowitz stated that "Before we get to the finale, we'll be pretty clear on who he is, what he's doing, why he wants to do it and how he's going to do it." One possible theory considered was that the Stranger is actually a grown up Henry back from the future, but the producers declined to comment on any theories. I doubt that theory because Henry was never in fairytale land. Another theory which has more merit in my mind is that he's Rumplestiltskin's son. Lastly, the sweet hottie we lost earlier in the season, Sheriff Graham aka The Huntsman will reappear in the season finale. At the same PaleyFest event, executive producer Edward Kitsis stated "[He] may have had his heart ripped out in Storybrooke, but he is still very much alive when we go back to fairytale land." Two last bits of news are that Emilie de Ravin will return before the end of the season to reprise her role as Belle, as will Kristin Bauer Van Straten as Maleficent, the queen's frenemy with whom she battled over a curse during a Fall episode.

Even with these sneak peeks, I'll still be eagerly tuning in during the remainder of the season to enjoy some wonderful performances and gain some more insights into these captivating characters I've come to love; each of which has taken root in my imagination and supplanted the previous Disney images for each character which lived there.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Marty is a 1955 film starring Ernest Borgnine in the titular role of Marty Piletti. Marty is a sweet neighborhood butcher in the Bronx who is constantly harangued by clients and family, especially his Italian mother, about his bachelor status, a state which Marty would gladly change if he could. Disheartened by his lack of luck with the ladies, including a fresh brush off from a girl he'd barely gotten the nerve to call, Marty resigns himself to another Saturday night spent at home and the fact that he'll always be alone, as he tells his mother "Whatever it is that women want, I ain't got it." When during dinner his mother starts harassing him to go to the Stardust Ballroom to try to meet a girl, Marty movingly yells at his ma, voicing his fears and heartache:

"I'm just a fat little man, a fat ugly man. I'm ugly, I'm ugly, I'm ugly. Ma, leave me alone. Ma what do you want from me? What do you want from me? I'm miserable enough as it is. Alright, so I'll go to the Stardust Ballroom. I'll put on a blue suit, and I'll go and you know what I'm going to get for my trouble? Heartache. A big night of heartache."

Marty's hopes (and ours for him) are seemingly answered when having listened to his ma and gone to the Stardust Ballroom with his friend Angie he meets plain and soft-spoken high school teacher Clara. As the night progresses, Marty and Clara share hopes and dreams, and the future seems bright for two lonely hearts in New York, but will Marty step beyond his fears and his family and reach for happiness.

In 1955, Marty won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor. In addition to its success in the U.S., Marty also won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

I absolutely loved this film. It's a simple little film, but truly moving in its portrayal of loneliness and hope. I think I loved it so much because it spoke to my heart and my own fears and hang ups. I saw myself reflected in Marty. I had never seen Ernest Borgnine in another film, but he was wonderful in conveying Marty's emotions. Whether it's the exhuberant joy he feels after having dropped off Clara at home, where his face practically glows with hope, and in his eyes you could almost see his dreams for a future shared with someone. Alone no more. Or the more understated scene in the coffee shop when he tentatively, almost fearfully, shares his dream of buying the butcher shop, and Clara shyly offers her encouragement, and with her simple words offers him the confidence to believe in himself. Truthfully, this has become a new favorite. I had tears in my eyes and a smile on my face when I finished this film.

Must Watch: The Intouchables

Looking forward to seeing this award-winning French film, which is scheduled for release in the U.S. on May 25th.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Poetry Feeds the Soul

April is National Poetry Month so take the time to read a new poem or an old favorite, and let its words motivate and inspire you. Since it just happens to be her birthday today, here's a poem from renowned American author and poet Maya Angelou.

By Maya Angelou

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern tells the story of two illusionists and star crossed lovers, Celia and Marco, whose entire life has been orchestrated by the machinations of each of their respective mentors in a twisted competition that will span a lifetime and can only have one victor. A gentlemen's wager struck between Celia's father, the magician Prospero the Enchanter and the mysterious man in the grey suit or Mr. A. H. when Celia and Marco are mere children shapes their childhood as each hones their skills in preparation for the challenge. Aware of the game yet not the scope of the deadly wager, Celia and Marco act as mere chess pieces in the challenge with Le Cirque des RĂªves (The Circus of Dreams) serving as the venue; a traveling circus which functions from sunset to sunrise and where each will practice their magic and bring to life their most breathtaking flights of fancy for the nightly patrons and for each other.

The book is pure poetry in its descriptions of the magic crafted by each opponent; from the Ice Garden created by Marco, where trellises covered in pale roses and frosted peonies are all made of ice; to the Wishing Tree, a tree covered in fire, created by Celia as a complement to Marco's creation. The love story is as fantastical as the magic and even more beautiful. A love where chandeliers break from the energy created by the mere touch of their hands. It's a beautiful story, beautifully written, with beautiful images created with flowery words, but at some point the magic isn't enough and it becomes a bit anti-climactic. The challenge never materializes and instead it becomes a dual exhibition without tension or conflict but with a pretty love story to make up for the fact. So, while I can't say the book is a new favorite, I did enjoy it for many of the reasons listed above.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

PBS' Masterpiece Classic Great Expectations

PBS is airing an adaptation of yet another Charles Dickens classic, Great Expectations. Along with the usual excellence in casting, sets, costumes and production which I’ve come to expect from any Masterpiece production, this piece has the added benefit of a more instant gratification, since it’s only two episodes long. The first episode aired this past Sunday, but you can still watch it online at Episode 2 is scheduled to air this coming Sunday.

In the story, Pip, an orphaned boy living with his cruel older sister and her kind husband Joe, who is a blacksmith, stumbles upon an escaped convict who threatens him with dire repercussions if he doesn’t help him evade the authorities. Frightened, Pip complies and brings the man not only a file to hack off his shackles but, in a simple act of kindness, he also brings him a piece of food. The convict is captured and life goes back to normal for Pip, until he’s volunteered as a playmate to Estella, the adopted daughter of the quite batty yet very rich Miss Havisham, hauntingly portrayed by the beautiful Gillian Anderson. As Pip falls hopelessly in love with the bewitching Estella, he dreams of a bright future far away from the drudgery of the forge. As a simple blacksmith apprentice, his hopes seem all for naught, until a mysterious benefactor presents him with the means to rechart his future and reach for his dreams and his love.

Episode 1 shined thanks to the wonderful performance by its young child lead, Oscar Kennedy, as Pip, whose talent was on par with his adult counterparts. The sets and scenery were amazing, from the sweeping shots of the marshland near the forge at the movie's onset to the decaying Satis House home to the fragile and wraithlike figure of Miss Havisham. Every aspect of the production transports to a time and place far, far away.

Happily Ever After & Hollywood

If you thought only Snow White was getting the movie star treatment in Hollywood, with competing movies about the damsel in distress including Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts and the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman with Kristen Stewart on the big screen, than you'd be wrong. It seems fairy tales are all the rage and there are a couple of innovative takes on some other childhood classics which will be hitting a theater near you.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters won't be released until January 2013, but given the great cast, I think it will be worth the wait. Oscar-nominated Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker stars in this modern retelling of what happened to the brother and sister duo when they grew up and became bounty hunters killing witches. Here's a picture of the dynamic duo via EW.

Maleficent, starring the beautiful Angelina Jolie in the titular role, will tell the never before told story of the evil sorceress from Sleeping Beauty. Depending on the script, this film could do for Sleeping Beauty what Wicked did for The Wizard of Oz, and help us look at the story and the character in a whole new light.

Brace yourself for this one. In this new retelling of the children's classic Peter Pan, Captain Hook is a policeman hunting a childlike kidnapper. The film is in pre-production and supposedly will star Aaron Eckhart as Hook, Sean Bean will play Smee, and AnnaSophia Robb from Soul Surfer will play Wendy, who in this adaptation is one of Pan's victims. Freaky!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Proust Questionnaire

The Proust Questionnaire is a questionnaire intended to reveal one's innermost thoughts. Its name is owed to the responses given by the French writer Marcel Proust. Vanity Fair regularly publishes a similar questionnaire on the back page of the magazine with the questions answered by varying celebrities.

Most months I read the Vanity Fair questionnaire online and just love the wide spectrum of answers you'll get from one participant to the next. They are at times insightful, surprisingly candid, and hilarious. For example, while I love and I'm inspired by Ray Charles' response to the question, What is your motto? "God helps those who help themselves." Matt Damon's response to the same question, "Don't be a d-bag" is a close second in my book.

So, here is my Proust Questionnaire. You can answer a questionnaire of your own or share with your friends and family and gain a little insight into their hearts and minds.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To know you're loved

What is your greatest fear?

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Mother Teresa

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My countless fears (heights, public speaking, social functions, roller coasters, etc., etc.)

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

On what occasion do you lie?
To avoid hurting someone’s feelings

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I’m OK with all of my flaws, though one less chin would be awfully nice

Which talent would you most like to have?
A beautiful singing voice

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Be braver

What is your most treasured possession?
My family

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Kindness (and height, what can I say, I like tall men)

What is it that you most dislike?
Mean people

How would you like to die?
From old age, with all my faculties, surrounded by those I love

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Citizen Kane

I have a long standing 'must see' list of classic movies which I've been chipping away at slowly. This past Friday I was able to check one of those movies off my list, Citizen Kane, named #1 in the American Film Institute's list of Best American Movies, and revered by many as the greatest picture of all time.

Citizen Kane starred 24-year old Orson Welles in his first feature film in the main role of newspaper publishing tycoon, Charles Foster Kane. The movie opens with a shot of Kane's dark and foreboding palatial estate which sits on a hill. Our first glimpse of Kane is of him on his death bed, holding a snow globe, as he utters his dying word "Rosebud" as the globe slips from his hand and crashes to the floor. Through news reels announcing the death of this at times loved and hated man, we learn of his vast empire, his tragic and turbulent personal life, and some of the exploits surrounding the triumphs and failures in this one man's life. As speculation rises on Kane's mysterious final word, a news reporter is tasked with interviewing key people in Kane's life who might hold the key to unraveling the mystery of Rosebud. It's through these interviews and the use of flashbacks during each that we get a fuller picture of the man; his humble beginnings as he's separated from his beloved mother, his rebellious and idealistic youth as he charts his own path in life, his meteoric rise to fortune and power, and his driving need to be loved.

While I'm not qualified to judge its artistic greatness, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The acting, both from Welles in the lead, as well as the supporting cast, including Joseph Cotten as his best friend Jedediah Leland, and Dorothy Comingore as his paramour and later to be second wife, Susan Alexander, was superb. For me, Welles was at his best in the early scenes where his own youthful optimism shined through to his character. Overall, its just a great story. A cautionary tale of the inherent evils found in extreme wealth and power, and a simple reminder that sometimes our greatest treasures in life aren't those bought and paid for with the almighty dollar.

The documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane, which came in the particular boxed set I borrowed from the library, was as compelling as the movie itself. The documentary details the real battle between 24-year old Orson Welles and 76-year old publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, on whom the movie is supposedly based, over the release of the film. Incensed by the fact that his life had been laid bare on the silver screen for the whole world to see, Hearst did everything within his considerable means both to stop the movie from seeing the light of day, as well as to destroy Welles' future in Hollywood. Geniuses each in his way, the film documents the rise and fall of each man and how their lives intersect over this one film.