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Stephen King's It
Stephen King's It
DVD ~ Richard Thomas
Prix : CDN$ 9.93
29 used & new from CDN$ 2.98

2.0 étoiles sur 5 The Scariest Thing in the Movie..., June 22 2004
This review is from: Stephen King's It (DVD)
..is Richard Thomas's ponytail. Honestly, this is a pretty sorry adaptation of a great book. I did not expect the film to capture all the plotlines, minor characters, and intricate themes of the 1100-page book, but I thought at least the acting, staging, and writing would be competent. They weren't. Tim Curry did a good job as Pennywise the clown, but here's the thing--"It" is not supposed to just be a clown; that is only one of Its guises. It represents what people are most afraid of, and embodies the evil in the town of Derry. All this is much easier to understand in the novel. If you don't have the patience to read the book, and the movie happens to be on TV, go ahead and watch it, but by no means should you spend any money on this thing.

20th Century Burnt Out Case
20th Century Burnt Out Case
by Graham Greene
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 12.99
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Really Moving and Involving Book, Nov. 2 2003
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD.
The plot of this book will sound odd in summary. You have to read it to understand. "A Burnt Out Case" takes place in a Catholic-run leproserie in the Belgian Congo. A mysterious man, Querry, arrives by boat and will not say where he is from or why he has traveled so far. He has no medical training, nor any inclination to help the lepers. We eventually learn that Querry is something of a celebrity, already familiar to some of the doctors and priests who work at the leproserie, but we are still unsure about what he is doing there.
A "burnt out case" is the term for a leper whose disease has run its course, but left him mutilated. The traces of the disease are still on him. Querry is also a burnt-out case. He has experienced pain in life and left it all, but has become hollow and unable to feel. He cannot sympathize with others and their suffering. But over time he begins to help around the leproserie and to establish a kind of friendship with the only doctor there, Doctor Colin.
Some of the people around Querry try to make sense out of him, or to fit him into a model they can understand. Father Thomas, a hypocritical and self-righteous priest who would probably be the hero in a different sort of book, is sure that Querry acts out of service to God. So is Rycker, a factory owner who lives nearby with his young wife, whom he treats like something dirty. The young woman is unsure what to make of Querry but finds herself drawn to him. Eventually Parkinson, a self-aggrandizing British journalist, turns up and tries to write about Querry as a Schweitzer-like humanitarian. But none of these people's ideas about Querry are accurate.
Much of the book concerns religion, and the presence of God in human beings. It's interesting that Graham Greene, a Catholic, directs our sympathies towards the two atheistic characters, Colin and Querry, while portraying the Catholics as clueless (even if he ultimately wants to use the two atheists to make some kind of religious or at least spiritual point). Querry and Colin understand more than the Catholics ever will. They know that suffering is not a narrative used to illustrate some point about God.
An earlier reader remarked unfavorably about the sudden drama near the end. I agree to some extent; at least, the conclusion does not seem inevitable, as it does in some of Greene's other books. But I cannot really complain, as it is foreshadowed somewhat, and is extremely affecting. This book left me too sad to cry. By the end I felt like a burnt-out case.

Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
67 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 More Like 3 1/2, But It's Worth Reading, Oct. 5 2003
Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" has some very interesting ideas, but they get bungled in the execution. The book was written in the 1950's and takes place in the unspecified future. Books are now illegal and no one learns to read more than is absolutely necessary. The world is in a constant state of war, but drugs and mindless T.V. programs keep most people pacified.
The main character, Guy Montag, is a fireman. But firemen no longer put out fires; they start them to burn books and the houses that harbor them. (Because there is no written history, very few people are aware that this was not always so.) Montag meets an intriguing teenage neighbor, Clarice, who challenges him to think and not conform to society. This leads him to reexamine his life, and his relationship with his dull and placid wife. Montag is also troubled by a conversation with an old man about a year earlier. Though he was sure this man was harboring books, he never turned him in. Finally, Montag steals one of the books he is supposed to burn. He dreams of collecting books and sharing them with everyone willing to listen.
What's good in this book are the theoretical ideas: the sheer horror of the society being depicted (it's like a less complex "Brave New World"), and the image of thousands of people memorizing books so they can keep the words alive. Here we see that books are not paper and ink, but living words that start with one person but can touch everybody. This is what makes them so potentially dangerous.
Although the book is very involving, and reads quickly, I was dissatisfied with some aspects of the plot. Montag's conversion was much too quick. If that was all it took, why weren't there millions of others like him? He doesn't come across as an unusually bright man. Also, I think the ending of the book is rushed.
A minor complaint: The 50th anniversary Ballentine edition is riddled with typos, which should be unacceptable in a commemorative volume.

Without Feathers
Without Feathers
by Woody Allen
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 9.49
86 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Very Funny, July 7 2003
"Without Feathers" was Woody Allen's second collection of humorous pieces, and probably his best. These originally appeared in the early 1970's, in magazines like "The New Yorker" and "The New Republic."
Some are short stories, like "No Kaddish for Weinstein" and "The Whore of Mensa." There are two plays, "Death" (the inspiration for Allen's "Shadows and Fog"), and the much better "God", a masterpiece of absurdity.
There are parodies of Encyclopedia Brown ("Match Wits with Inspector Ford") and Henrik Ibsen (the hysterical "Lovborg's Women Considered"), irreverent essays on English literature and civil disobedience, reviews of some very bizarre ballets, and more.
"Without Feathers" is fantastic and, as a bonus, much less expensive than many inferior humor books.

Manhattan
Manhattan
DVD ~ Woody Allen
Offered by newtownvideo_ca
Prix : CDN$ 12.09
17 used & new from CDN$ 4.29

5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Best Woody Allen Film?, July 4 2003
This review is from: Manhattan (DVD)
In many ways "Annie Hall" is Woody Allen's signature film, but I think "Manhattan" is the better movie. Allen stars as Isaac Davis, a forty-something writer with a teenage girlfriend, Tracy, (Mariel Hemingway in an excellent performance) and a lesbian ex-wife (Meryl Streep in a small role). His best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) is having an affair with the bitter, intellectual Mary (Diane Keaton). Predictably, she and Isaac despise each other at first and then fall in love. Although Isaac chooses her over Tracy, dismissing the latter as just a kid, he later comes to regret the decision.
Besides being wonderful in the areas of acting, writing, and directing, "Manhattan" is a real treat to look at. The black and white photography by Gordon Willis gives the film an old-fashioned look. This, along with the classical soundtrack, creates a romantic, idealistic feel that clashes with the characters' coarse language and often amoral behavior. The look of the film, and the soundtrack, represent how Isaac wants to see his city ("he idolized it all out of proportion"), in contrast to how it really is.
Without giving anything away, the conclusion is absolutely sublime and perfectly ambiguous, with Isaac being asked to do the one thing that may be impossible for him. You'll see what I mean.
It may take a while to get really involved in the movie but once you do, it will charm you and break your heart. Essential for any lover of film.

Understood Betsy
Understood Betsy
by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 My Favorite Childhood Book, March 6 2003
This review is from: Understood Betsy (Hardcover)
I almost wrote "My Favorite Children's Book", but that would be misleading, because I can still read and enjoy it now. It doesn't condescend to children and appeals mainly to genuine emotions, not sentiment, so it really holds up over time.
The plot, briefly, is about a nine-year old orphan, Elizabeth Ann, who lives with her aunt and a cousin. When her aunt falls ill, Elizabeth Ann has to go live with some rural Vermont relatives, whom the rest of her family has never liked. At first Elizabeth Ann is afraid of them, too--they immediately shorten her name to Betsy--but she eventually overcomes her shyness and blossoms in the rural environment. She also learns to be much less nervous and uptight.
What really makes this book stand out are its digressions. The author, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, often informally addresses the reader: one chapter is called, "If You Don't Like Conversation in a Book, then Skip This Chapter!" The most insightful sequences show Betsy discovering that not all learning takes place in school; measuring butter with her aunt, she is astounded to discover that "an ounce" exists in real life. She thought it was only found in textbooks. But you have to read the book to see how well this is pulled off.
When I was a child I owned an edition with an afterward by Peggy Parrish, which pointed out how modern the book was for its time (it was published in 1917.) Indeed, the women and men share all the tasks, and Betsy is forbidden from nothing because of her gender. That makes this book a really excellent and inspiring gift for young girls, although its message of equality is never heavy-handed.
Occasionally there are sections that are too sentimental, and not really necessary to the story, but the rest is so good that this is easy to forgive. Conclusion: Buy it for a child, but read it for yourself first!

Age Of Reason Paper
Age Of Reason Paper
by Thomas Paine
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 15.16
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Flawed but Important Work, Feb. 18 2003
This review is from: Age Of Reason Paper (Paperback)
In "The Age of Reason", an angry, well-researched, and surprisingly witty book, Thomas Paine makes the case for deism. The book is divided into three parts: the first part attacks organized religion in general, the second, written much later, demolishes the Bible piece by piece, and the third sums it all up. Included in this edition is a very thorough biographical introduction to Paine, written by Philip S. Foner in 1948.
The problem is that Paine's work depends largely on two basic assumptions, neither of which applies today. First, most of his criticisms of Judeo-Christianity are aimed at Biblical literalism. For instance: Matthew and Luke disagee about Jesus' ancestors; therefore the Bible is not divinely inspired. But many Christians today acknowledge some Biblical imperfections, and say that the underlying message is what's important. So errors of chronology and inconsistencies would not disprove the Christian religion. In fact, many more liberal Biblical scholars have devoted themselves to finding and explaining Biblical imperfections.
I say this not because I disagree with Paine that Judaism and Christianity are false, but only because his critique is insufficient to deal with religion as it is practiced today. This book is sure to baffle any fundamentalist, though.
The second problem is Paine's assumption that deism is the "true" religion. He bases this on the order of the world and universe, and because conditions on Earth are so amenable to man that a higher power seems likely. Paine was writing before Darwin's theory of evolution, however, which would have provided an alternate explanation for this. And explorations into black holes and the like have shown us that the universe is much more chaotic than we once thought. I can't help thinking that Paine would be an atheist, or at least an agnostic, were he alive today.
Nevertheless, Paine's defense of science and his intellectual courage are outstanding. His book is well thought out and a lot of fun to read. We can't judge him by our scientific standards today; the criticisms are just something to bear in mind as you read the book, which you certainly should.

Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Orson Welles
Offered by WheelNDeal
Prix : CDN$ 53.99
22 used & new from CDN$ 9.94

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Don't Expect, Feb. 15 2003
"Citizen Kane" tells an old story, but what it has to say is as relevant as ever. Everyone knows the basics--Charles Foster Kane is a newspaper publisher who, after his death, is remembered by those close to him. ("Close" is really the wrong word, as Kane managed to alienate pretty much everyone he knew.) What becomes clear is that nobody really knew Kane; he kept himself removed from the world as he accumulated possessions. The reporters covering his death feel that, if they can identify the meaning of his last word, Rosebud, they will gain some insight into his mind. This is really only a plot device, though. Nothing can fully explain Kane, or any of us.
This movie has been so lauded for its technical achievement, the camera angles, etc., that it is easy to overlook the screenplay (by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles) and, especially, the acting. That Welles, at 25, could have portrayed an elderly man so well is astounding. One wants to give credit to the makeup, but it's more than that. We feel that Welles has really lived all those bygone years. Of course the supporting cast members, most of whom had never acted in film, are also excellent.
Roger Ebert's commentary on the DVD is really outstanding, and particularly good at pointing out specific shots and camera tricks. There is also a track by Peter Bogdanavich. A documentary, "The Battle Over Citizen Kane", explores the parallels among Welles, William Randolph Hearst, and the figure of Kane. It is quite well made, and they certainly got a lot of people to talk. But after seeing both Bogdanavich and Ebert explain that many parts of Kane were based not on Hearst, but on other figures, the documentary seems too intent on showing Kane to be an exact double for Hearst.
The reason for my title is that, when something has been called "the greatest film," people want to approach it with an oppositional attitude. "Oh yeah? We'll just see about that!" It is better to simply expect a good movie. Noting its influence on later films increases one's admiration. But it is not necessary--"Citizen Kane" does just fine by itself.

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