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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

All the King's Men

In 2016, the New York Times commemorated the 70th anniversary of All the King's Men and described it as "by wide consensus...America’s essential political novel".  The book tells the story of the rise and governorship of Willie Stark, who transforms, mostly by accident, from a naive country lawyer to the "Boss", in charge of a corrupt political machine.  It is told from the perspective of Jack Burden, a failed historian turned reporter who abandons that career to become Stark's right-hand man (basically a Doug Stamper, for those who get the reference).  


Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing is not a traditional novel.  The author makes this clear upfront by informing the reader that the "frame" of the book is a 60,000 word short story which could stand on its own.  This story is broken into several parts with selections from the protagonist's notebooks in between.  These notebook entries make up the majority of the book.  The run the gamut from newspaper clippings to stories about her life and her friends.  As with most mechanisms employed by authors to be different, as opposed to just telling their story in a traditional but compelling way, I was skeptical.  While I definitely found certain parts of the notebooks tedious, I enjoyed the book overall.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

3 Years of Reading

Today marks my completion of three years of doing at least one half hour of reading per day. In the past year, I have read 36 more books comprising 18,358 pages. This brings my total for the three years to 96 books totaling 50,401 pages. I have also finally managed to catch up on my backlog of reviews.

My year three books were:

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson (544 pages)
Darkwalker on Moonshae - Douglas Niles (380 pages)
The Heart is A Lonely Hunter - Carson Mccullers (356 pages)
Black Wizards - Douglas Niles (347 pages)
John Adams - David McCullough (752 pages)
Gravity’s Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon (760 pages)
Darkwell - Douglas Niles (345 pages)
What If - Randall Munroe (314 pages)
The Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller (318 pages)
The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson (1,008 pages)
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin - Erik Larson (448 pages)
Middlemarch - George Eliot (736 pages)
Words of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson (1,088 pages)
Alexander Hamilton - Ron Chernow (832 pages)
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston (219 pages)
Oathbringer (and Edgedancer) - Brandon Sanderson (1,484 pages)
The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple - Jeff Guinn (544 pages)
The Naked and the Dead - Norman Mailer (731 pages)
Canticle - R. A. Salvitore (384 pages)
Wright Brothers - David McCullough (336 pages)
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf (248 pages)
In Sylvan Shadows - R. A. Salvitore (320 pages)
The Queen - Sally Bedell Smith (721 pages)
The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand (720 pages)
Night Masks - R. A. Salvitore (368 pages)
The Checklist Manifesto - Atul Gawande (240 pages)
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess (192 pages)
The Fallen Fortress - R. A. Salvitore (368 pages)
Night Trilogy - Elie Wiesel (350 pages)
Finnegans Wake - James Joyce (656 pages)
The Chaos Curse - R. A. Salvitore (384 pages)
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim - David Sedaris (257 pages)
A Passage to India - E. M. Forster (368 pages)
Foundation - Isaac Asimov (296 pages)
The Great Escape - Paul Brickhill (304 pages)
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing (640 pages)

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Great Escape

In The Great Escape, Paul Brickhill  details the time spent by him and other Allied air force officers being held by German forces during World War II.  Given the subject matter, it is surprisingly light hearted and comedic.  Having read Unbroken, which tells the story of an American POW in Japan, I was bracing myself for some grim reading.  It does get dark, but it's a fairly small portion of the book.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Passage to India

A  Passage to India is a novel by E. M. Forster that largely focuses on the tensions that existed between English and Indians living during the British Raj in the 1920s.  I mainly found the book depressing.  That shouldn't be surprising in a book that is mainly portraying an oppressed people having to deal politely with the representatives of their oppressors while often being treated as less than human.  When you add in allegations of sexual assault that certainly doesn't help.  It surprised me, although it probably shouldn't have, that many of the reviews when it came out were critical of how close the relationships were between the English and Indian characters.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Finnegans Wake

While it may have seemed difficult reading at the time, A Clockwork Orange was a model of clarity next to my second (and sadly not my last) James Joyce novel, Finnegans Wake.  Its often described as one of the most difficult works in the English language.  I believe that is intended as an accolade, though it's difficult for me to see it as such.  I might also contest the describing it as a work in the English language.  Before I go further, I'd like to be clear: I get that this book isn't designed to be enjoyed by simply reading through it as one would any other novel, if it's meant to be enjoyed at all.  It's supposed to be difficult and confusing.  I believe the intention is that there is a reward for having spent a hundred or more hours dutifully studying the text and available commentaries to pierce its veil.  This book is included on three of the eleven lists I combined to create my list of classic books, so clearly some people have found that reward.  Personally, I can't imagine it justifying that effort when I could easily spend the same amount of time reading War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, The Count of Monte Cristo, and, just in case I need something that's a challenge to read, A Clockwork Orange and Infinite Jest, including commentaries for both.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Night Trilogy

A much more depressing book recommended to me by my friend Daniel is Night by Elie Wiesel.  Night is hard to classify.  It is, at base, an artistic portrayal of the time Wiesel spent in German concentration camps toward the end of the Second World War.  It's not quite memoir or autobiography, but it certainly isn't at the other end of the spectrum in the historical fiction category.  The author called it a deposition.  Regardless of what you call it, it's powerful.  It begins with the Jews being expelled to ghettos but largely living in denial, much like the rest of the world, about the danger and horrors that the Nazis have in store.  You then follow him and his father as they are moved to concentration camps and subjected to the horrors within.

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Monday, July 9, 2018

A Clockwork Orange

I generally don't watch movies based on books that I'm planning to read but A Clockwork Orange slipped through while I was making my way through AFI's 100 Greatest Films.  It was actually probably for the best.  I think the movie made it much easier for me to comprehend what was happening as I read the book.  Anthony Burgess's novel uses a made up slang with literally hundreds of words largely based on the Russian language.  It can be difficult to comprehend what is happening, especially because the narrator uses a somewhat forced and awkward formality.

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande was the first of sixteen non-fiction books that my friend Daniel was good enough to recommend.  In addition to being an author, Gawande is a medical doctor and public health researcher.  The Checklist Manifesto recounts his attempts working with the World Health Organization to decrease the number of preventable deaths and complications incurred during surgery.  He makes a fairly compelling argument that basic checklists, thoughtfully crafted and diligently followed, can make a significant difference in the mortality rate and need for follow up care.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Fountainhead

I remember reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged at the height of my libertarian fervor.  I never thought it was that good, but it's been about a decade, so my memory probably isn't perfect.  From what I remember, the book posits a black and white view of the world where you have the productive people, who are uniformly attractive hardworking geniuses, and everyone else, who are ugly viscous people who just want to destroy the productive people.  Underscoring all of that is an utterly inhuman story of romance where people are immediately in love with the most productive person of the opposite gender they meet but completely understanding of that love not being returned because there's a more productive option.  The productive people are also completely aware of and in agreement on their relative ranking.  Now I've read The Fountainhead, where the people are slightly less black and white but the relationships are somehow remarkably less healthy.

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

My sister made me start watching The Crown, but I certainly kept watching of my own accord.  So it seemed a natural next step to read Sally Bedell Smith's Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch.  Published in 2012 to coincide with the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrating 60 years on the throne, Smith's book tries to take the reader behind the public, stoic face of the queen and show that underneath the facade there is a woman who cares deeply about her family and has a dry wit.  I found the book generally very interesting and worth reading.  It's not as tantalizing as the television show, probably because the author doesn't feel free to present speculation on private moments as fact (I'm looking at you Devil in the White City).  The closest it ever really gets to that is mentioning scenes from the movie The Queen and commenting on whether they are likely to be accurate.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

To the Lighthouse

The title of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" is not misleading.  The first chapter is mainly people arguing, speculating, and otherwise discussing making a trip to the lighthouse.  Then there's a montage of time passing.  Finally, in the last chapter, you have the big payoff where some people actually go to the lighthouse.  From a very superficial perspective the story is simplistic to the point of being boring but, as compared to much of my list, refreshingly straightforward.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Wright Brothers

I imagine that everyone has heard that old Edison quote:  "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."  It borders on the cliché.  But I don't think I've ever seen as practical and interesting an illustration of the concept until I read The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.  This is the third book I've read by McCullough, and I've enjoyed all three of them.  I don't think I had realized that, no matter what popular opinion was, the world was largely on the cusp of flight.  People were trying to solve the problem the world over.  Had anyone bothered to survey the contenders, it seems unlikely they would have put their money on the Wright Brothers.  There were players with almost unlimited government funding, much larger teams, and numerous publications to their names.  Somehow, despite all of that, the Wright brothers came out on top, due to an almost unbelievable combination of hard work, single mindedness, scientific rigor and ingenuity, business sense, and courage (or foolishness, depending on how you look at it).  I won't bother going into too much detail, but I do recommend the book to anyone who enjoys historical biographies.  It's a pretty quick read.

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Naked and the Dead

It was somewhat odd timing that I watched Platoon so soon after reading Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead.  Both of these works tried to portray the experience of soldiers in a single platoon on the front lines of a war.  While Platoon focused on the Vietnam War, The Naked and the Dead takes place on a fictional island in the South Pacific during World War II.  It has been described as semi-autobiographical since it largely came from Mailer's service on a reconnaissance platoon.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

I'm probably revealing my ignorance here, but, despite the popular saying, I honestly hadn't realized that there was a cult that committed mass suicide by drinking Kool-Aid.*  The saying "don't drink the Kool-Aid" actually seems to be more popularly used to warn someone away from accepting indoctrination rather than doing something really bad as a result of indoctrination.  Now I know more about the topic than anybody needs to thanks to Jeff Guinn's The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple.  While his life and methods have been extensively researched, Jim Jones remains an enigmatic figure.  Guinn, at least, certainly doesn't portray him as the easy to hate two-dimensional villain one would expect from a cult leader responsible for nearly (if not more than) a thousand deaths.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Stormlight Archive

Recently my fantasy books have come from Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series.  I have read the three books that have been published out of the planned ten.  Brandon Sanderson really came to the forefront of the fantasy world when he stepped up to finish the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan died.  I can't speak to his work there, since I could not continue that series when Jordan's later books became unbearably tedious.  Now that I've read his original work, I can say that Sanderson is a great author.  He creates fantastically intricate worlds.  He has the universe developed to such an extent that he has appendices at the end of each of his novels providing meticulous charts laying out various facets that are completely unnecessary to the story.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Their Eyes Were Watching God

I tend to have difficulty appreciating books that are filled with accents that are portrayed phonetically.  For me, the story often gets buried under the effort to decipher what's being said.  But in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston's beautiful prose makes the story shine through.  Hurston tells a story about Janie Crawford, a woman who was biracial in the 1900s, which, of course,65 wasn't a great time to be the product of an interracial marriage.  Janie spends the book searching for love, but for her this turns out about as well as it did for Romeo and Juliet. More than that, the story is a compassionate, but ultimately fairly bleak, look into the immense difficulties facing both women and minorities at the time, which were compounded for the protagonist.  I can't think of much else to say about this book without spoiling it except to say that I did not see the ending coming.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Alexander Hamilton

It was pretty inevitable that I would get around to reading the biography of Alexander Hamilton.  While Hamilton has always been a recognizable name, the average American didn't know much about him.  A study conducted in May 2015 found that 71% of the U.S. residents sampled thought that Hamilton was a U.S. President (spoiler: he wasn't) and those responding rated their confidence in this at over 80%.  When writing his book, Ron Chernow could not have had any idea that his book would inspire a musical that would cause Hamilton's popularity to surge as never before.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

AFI Movies

2007 List

The Deer Hunter (1978) – Struggling, and failing, to watch this film is what caused me to give up on the AFI list several years ago. I made it through this time, but it was no easy task. The film is three hours long for no good reason. It’s generally about a group of friends who join the Army during the Vietnam War. As POWs, they are forced to play Russian roulette, which is something that there is absolutely no reason to believe happened during the actual war. I read somewhere that it was initially set in Las Vegas. The ongoing conflict after that is based on something that makes literally no sense. I would not recommend. If you want a solid POW movie from AFI’s list, stick with The Bridge on the River Kwai.

M*A*S*H (1970) – It’s hard for me to judge whether this was a good film when it came out. I get that it’s a satire, but the sexism and racism just came across as horrible rather than reasonable attempts at humor. It also felt less like a movie than three episodes put together with very little thought put into connecting them. Not my cup of tea.

Rocky (1976) – This is one of those movies that I’ve probably seen a couple times in pieces and without really paying attention, so I watched it straight through. It was moderately better than I expected when put into a coherent whole. I get it. I’m glad I watched it, but won’t go out of my way to see it again. Also, Paulie is a cesspool of humanity.

The Gold Rush (1925) – I am not a Charlie Chaplin fan. At all.

Nashville (1975) – A weird, sprawling film covering dozens of characters in seven or eight independent story lines that only sort of interact. It reminded me of Seinfeld. You have all these insanely selfish people pursuing their goals without regard to how they're impacting others and sometime thwarting each other in funny and unexpected ways. The humor in the movie has aged better than I expected. Pretty long, but I enjoyed watching it.

Duck Soup (1933) – I only enjoyed the Marx Brothers slightly more than Charlie Chaplin. Slightly.

Sullivan’s Travels (1941) – This is about a director trying to go undercover as a poor person so he can accurately portray their plights in film and his misadventures along the way. It was meant to be a comedy, drama, romance, and action film. It didn’t really land for me in any of those categories. Above all else, it seemed to me to be the wildly self-indulgent output of a director who was tired of being told that his comedy films weren’t as important as dramas. I have no idea if any of that’s true, that’s just the impression I got.

American Graffiti (1973) – Richie Cunningham is a jerk to his girlfriend and learns a valuable lesson. Also, people spend a ridiculous amount of time driving around aimlessly. To nobody’s surprise, the 50s aren’t all that relatable to me.

Cabaret (1972) – On some level, I’m probably a failure for not watching this before now. The music and performances are generally fantastic but the setting in 1931 Berlin definitely makes it darker than most musicals. Worth watching. The first film to receive an X rating, now an American classic.

Network (1976) – I didn’t expect to care for this movie, but it’s pretty great. A satire about ratings-driven news programming that remains relevant even though they had no idea just how crazy things would get. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the contract negotiation scene.

The African Queen - I liked this a lot more than I expected to. The ending was ridiculously improbable, but I even enjoyed that part. I definitely liked Humphrey Bogart in this more than Casablanca.

Raiders of the Lost Ark - Despite the massive problem with this movie pointed out on the Big Bang Theory, it's still enjoyable.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - This is a weird movie, but I still liked it, which is unusual for me. Two couples have a night filled with passive aggressive sniping and weird flirting.

The social awkwardness actually made me feel physically uncomfortable.

Unforgiven - Now I've finally seen the film that my property professor loved to quote: "Innocent of what?" Don't ask what that had to do with property, very little in that class did. I'm not a fan of Westerns, but this was pretty good.

Tootsie - Generally kind of funny in a Mrs. Doubtfire way. I can't decide whether this was feminist or not. It definitely portrayed a few different men as pigs and recognized the crap women have to deal with, but to have this countered by a man dressed as a woman seems kind of patronizing.

A Clockwork Orange - So, so weird. It was Kubrick, so I expected that, but I was still fairly shocked by the content. It's going to be difficult for me to hear the titular song from Singin' in the Rain without going to a very dark place.

Saving Private Ryan - As I read somewhere shortly after the release of the Martian, between that, the Bourne Identity, and Saving Private Ryan, America has spent a ridiculous amount of resources trying to retrieve Matt Damon and it started here. A very solid movie.

The Shawshank Redemption - Fantastic movie. I can't believe I haven't seen this before. This reminded me of the Godfather, in that it's a movie that, on paper, contains nothing that would be of interest to me but I just found it completely riveting.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Pretty good, I just always assumed that the Sundance "Kid" would look like such an old man.

In the Heat of the Night - This was a good movie. I also learned that the Lion King has a reference to a line from a 30 year old crime drama that's mainly about how racist Mississippi is.

All the President's Men - Solid movie about the investigative journalism that broke the Watergate scandal. It's good, but it was definitely made for people that were around during the scandal. It stops when the public started becoming aware of the truth which would have been when audiences at the time knew what happened next but also pretty interesting for me.

Modern Times - Ending on a low note. I'm not a Charlie Chaplin fan and, with this third entry on the AFI list, I've come to hate him. I do not see why he needed more than one mention.

The Wild Bunch (1969) – Not a fan at all. Basically Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid if you take away everything I liked about it.

The Apartment (1960) – I think this was supposed to be a romcom, but I just found it to be really stupid. I imagine the wordplay was clever when it came out, but it just fell flat.

Spartacus (1960) – Parts of this movie have not aged well, but it’s solid overall. Ustinov is fantastic. The movie doesn’t have the happy ending it probably would if it was made today. The end is supposed to be moving, I think, but I was really just yelling at her for risking her child’s life.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) – This was a lot darker than what I expected from a silent film made in the 20s. Mostly boring, sometimes ridiculous.

Easy Rider (1969) – I’ve never cared for motorcycles or gotten those who like them as anything more than a form of transportation. This didn’t do anything to change that.

A Night at the Opera (1935) – I still don’t care for the Marx Brothers.

Platoon (1986) – A depressing, gritty, intense, and very good movie about just how terrible war is.

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Annoying. I found Hepburn’s character truly obnoxious and could not understand how anyone would choose to spend time around her.

Swing Time (1936) – The humor, and therefore the film, didn’t really land for me. I had the same feeling about the male leads here as I did about Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby.

Goodfellas (1990) – So many references I’ve heard through the years make sense now and I get why it’s well regarded. I think if the Godfather didn’t exist then this would be the quintessential mob movie.

The French Connection (1971) – I didn’t particularly enjoy this movie. It was fine, it just never really drew me in.

Pulp Fiction - I'm pretty sure I've watched this before, but I couldn't be certain I'd watched it all the way through. It's just as bizarre as I thought.

The Last Picture Show - This is basically the American pie of the early 70s, but set in the early 50s.

Do the Right Thing - Spike Lee's 1989 film about race relations. This still seems pretty relevant today, sadly. A solid, depressing film. Transformers has made it hard for me to watch anything that has John Turturro and is supposed to be serious.

Blade Runner - The premise is fairly similar to Battlestar Galactica. There are some really stupid parts, but it was probably pretty good at the time.

Yankee Doodle Dandy - In my opinion, a weird stupid musical about a guy who's a jerk.

Ben-Hur - Come for the chariot race, stay for four hours. Pretty good, but way too long. I imagine I'd like the much more recent shorter version with Morgan Freeman better.

An American in Paris (1951) - I didn't care for this movie. Gene Kelly stalks a woman who has made clear that she wants nothing to do with him. Naturally she is won over by his charm, making clear to men everywhere that a woman saying no just means you need to try harder. What really annoyed me was that there was that this woman had said no to him many times very firmly and made clear that she didn't appreciate him bothering her at her place of work. He literally just makes what he thinks is a funny face and she immediately agrees to a date with him. Naturally, since Gene Kelly is the star, there's also a lot of stupid dancing shoehorned unnaturally into the story along with a mixed up romance.

Birth of a Nation (1915) - I can see a few different reasons that this might have been removed from the list. It's a tribute to the birth of a nation that was stillborn that takes over three hours. Also, it glorifies the KKK and aggressive actions towards women. Not much here to like.

From Here to Eternity (1953) - I truly didn't see the twist at the end of this coming, which helped me really experience it with the characters. I generally liked it, though I found that tragic event towards the end stupid and pointless. I understand this only got made after it was made less lewd and critical of the military than the book it was based on.

Amadeus (1984) - A weird movie about Mozart told from Salieri's viewpoint. Worth watching I think, but Mozart's laugh made me want to strangle him.

The Third Man (1949) - I honestly can't recall anything of interest from this film, so I can't give a ringing endorsement to a movie that was voted the greatest British film of all time. My impression was that this got high marks for novel cinematoghraphy.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) - The awkwardness of this movie made me cringe at times, but I'm glad I watched it. This is not an uplifting movie and I found Plato to be pretty weird.

Stagecoach (1939) - This made me think of Gilligan's Island. A very mismatched group trapped together by circumstance and trying to survive. Not bad, but not something I'd go out of my way to see.

1998 List

An American in Paris (1951) - I didn't care for this movie. Gene Kelly stalks a woman who has made clear that she wants nothing to do with him. Naturally she is won over by his charm, making clear to men everywhere that a woman saying no just means you need to try harder. What really annoyed me was that there was that this woman had said no to him many times very firmly and made clear that she didn't appreciate him bothering her at her place of work. He literally just makes what he thinks is a funny face and she immediately agrees to a date with him. Naturally, since Gene Kelly is the star, there's also a lot of stupid dancing shoehorned unnaturally into the story along with a mixed up romance.

Birth of a Nation (1915) - I can see a few different reasons that this might have been removed from the list. It's a tribute to the birth of a nation that was stillborn that takes over three hours. Also, it glorifies the KKK and aggressive actions towards women. Not much here to like.

From Here to Eternity (1953) - I truly didn't see the twist at the end of this coming, which helped me really experience it with the characters. I generally liked it, though I found that tragic event towards the end stupid and pointless. I understand this only got made after it was made less lewd and critical of the military than the book it was based on.

Amadeus (1984) - A weird movie about Mozart told from Salieri's viewpoint. Worth watching I think, but Mozart's laugh made me want to strangle him.

The Third Man (1949) - I honestly can't recall anything of interest from this film, so I can't give a ringing endorsement to a movie that was voted the greatest British film of all time. My impression was that this got high marks for novel cinematoghraphy.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) - The awkwardness of this movie made me cringe at times, but I'm glad I watched it. This is not an uplifting movie and I found Plato to be pretty weird.

Stagecoach (1939) - This made me think of Gilligan's Island. A very mismatched group trapped together by circumstance and trying to survive. Not bad, but not something I'd go out of my way to see.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) - To me, this seemed like a lot of build up to very little. I guess after watching Idependence Day, an encounter composed of playing music to each other seems kind of low key.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) - Definitely an interesting movie. Angela Lansbury has never been so terrifying. I would think that a conspiracy involving this degree of sophistication would use a somewhat less common phrase to trigger their sleeper agent.

Dances With Wolves (1990) - A good movie, but it felt like it was about two and a half times longer than it needed to be.

Giant (1956) - A Texas rancher marries a woman from Maryland who likes to speak her mind and is simply shocked when she doesn't mesh perfectly into his home life. We then see their family grow for two generations as he fights to stick with his traditional ranching while Texas seems to become all about oil.

Fargo (1996) - I really enjoyed this movie. Having only heard of it being funny (which it is), I really wasn't expecting it to be so dark. I am kind of annoyed that it's never revealed just how William H. Macy's character came to need so much money. Obviously he was trying to get out from prior scams, but how'd he get to needing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the first place?

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) - Incredibly strict captain eventually gets his comeuppance from the crew. I didn't find it very good, and it's not all that historically accurate.

Frankenstein (1931) - I'm sure it was interesting when it was made, but I generally found it silly.

Patton (1970) - I enjoyed this movie. I didn't know much about Patton, but I'd be interested in reading a biography now.

The Jazz Singer (1927) - I don't know that any of the singing in this film can really be called jazz. The lead's face just seemed creepy to me, and that didn't improve when he busted out the black face.

My Fair Lady (1964) - I've probably watched all of this through in pieces before now, but I wasn't sure I'd ever watched it all the way through. It's a cute movie, and I enjoyed it, but the ending rightfully pisses a lot of people off.

A Place in the Sun (1951) - This is the film adaptation of An American Tragedy, which I've already reviewed ( The movie's not bad, but it missed a lot of the nuance and poignant moments that made the book worth reading to me.

Lists by category

Porgy and Bess (1959 - Passionate Movies #92): I don't know what I expected from a movie with this name, but it definitely wasn't an opera about a cocaine addict and the disabled man who takes a shine to her.

Sons of the Desert (1933 - Funny Movies #96): To me, Laurel and Hardy are somewhere between the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin. I'm not a fan of the works of any in that group.

Fame (1980 - Inspiring Movies #92): This was silly, but enjoyable. Struck me as a dated Step Up, except that there were a couple scenes that I did find somewhat moving.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993 - Romantic Comedies #10, Passionate Movies #45): My impression has always been that this was one of the quintessential romantic films in existence. It surprised me how much lying, stalking, and cheating* was involved. I'm not saying that made it bad. I get why people like the movie, it just surprised me. I think I like You've Got Mail Better, but I haven't watched that in over a decade.

Moulin Rouge! (2001 - Top Musicals #25): The story doesn't do much for me, but I love the music.

Pillow Talk (1959 - Passionate Movies #99): Another romantic movie with lots of lying and stalking. One might think that You've Got Mail was a take on this film that substituted email for party lines.

Bull Durham (1988 - Funny Movies #97, Sports Movies #5): As a movie ostensibly about baseball, I assumed I would hate this. I actually really liked it.

Cat Ballou (1965 - Funny Movies #50, Westerns #10): As a rule, I'm not a fan of Westerns, but this wasn't terrible. More slapstick than I care for (which is none).

Ray (2004 - Inspiring #99): A solid movie, though often depressing.

Show Boat (1936 - Musicals #24): Based on a Hammerstein musical of the same name, which is the origin of the fairly enduring song Ol' Man River. Incredibly dated but not terrible otherwise.

Silver Streak (1976 - Funny Movies #95): Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in movie along the lines of Naked Gun and Airplane but on a train.

The Ten Commandments (1956 - Inspiring Movies #79, Epics #10): Certainly an epic film, being nearly four hours in length. It was an achievement for its time, but has not worn well. I'm partial to The Prince of Egypt.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939 - Passionate #98): A pretty good movie for its time, but I prefer the animated version.

The Usual Suspects (1995 - Mysteries #10): Unfortunately I already knew the big reveal before watching this movie from beginning to end. There are some movies that just can't be evaluated fairly when spoiled before the first viewing, and I think this is one.

Captains Courageous (1937 - Inspiring #94): This reminded me of Overboard, but with less amnesia. A spoiled child falls falls off of a ship and is picked up by New England fishermen who won't be returning to port for a couple months. It has a few good moments and is okay overall.

Guys and Dolls (1955 - Musicals #23): I can see why some people would like this, but it wasn't for me.

Night of the Living Dead (1968 - Thrilling #93): Really bad, and mostly boring.

Safety Last (1923 - Thrilling #97): I think it's supposed to be funny. Mostly slapstick and not very good.

The China Syndrome (1979 - Thrilling #94): The film that killed nuclear power. I didn't really find it all that thrilling.

The Court Jester (1956 - Funny #98): Sort of a medieval Naked Gun with an emphasis on word play. Funny if that's what you're into.

Working Girl (1988 - Inspiring #87, Passionate #91): Melanie Griffith seeks to get revenge on an idea-stealing boss (Sigourney Weaver) while falling for Harrison Ford. Okay, but fairly predictable.

A Beautiful Mind (2001 - Inspiring #93): A fairly disturbing look into the world of mental illness. Probably overly dramatized and not terribly accurate.

Ball of Fire (1941 - Funny #92): This was really weird. A group of professors working on an encyclopedia get mixes up with a nightclub singer and her mob boss boyfriend.

Blood Simple (1984 - Thrilling #98): The Coen Brothers put their own weird twist on a murder for hire. Pretty funny at times and gross in others.

Scarface (1983 - Gangster #10): It's definitely no Godfather, but I get why people love this movie.

Auntie Mame (1958 - Funny #94): A weird movie in which an orphan goes to live with his very free-spirited aunt while the banker who serves as executor of his father's estate tries to make sure he grows up in the true WASP lifestyle. Occasionally funny, more often just bizarre.

The Heartbreak Kid (1972 - Funny #91): A movie about a complete jerk who abandons his wife during their honeymoon to have an affair with a woman way younger than him. He then proceeds to stalk that young woman back to her college campus.

Barefoot in the Park (1967 - Funny #96): It's funny because he's super buttoned up and she's a super care free hippie and they just got married! (It's not funny.)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938 - Thrilling #100): It's a take on Robin Hood that I found more odd than thrilling.

Blue Velvet (1986 - Thrilling #96, Mysteries #8): It's a David Lynch movie, so I was mainly busy realizing how very similar it is to Twin Peaks.

Chariots of Fire (1981 - Inspiring #100): It's about a couple of guys who are pretty good at running.

Body Heat (1981 - Passionate #94, Thrilling #92): I'm pretty sure my property professor talked about this movie because I really doubt there are two semi-erotic thrillers that use the rule against perpetuities as a major plot device. For those not familiar, it's an obscure and confusing rule created many years ago to prevent property from being controlled by people who have been dead for a long time.

Dirty Dancing (1987 - Passionate #93): This was a movie that I had never watched through in one sitting but I assumed I had watched most of in clips while growing up, being one of my sister's favorite movies. Sort of like the way anyone with TNT during the 90s would see Overboard. Now I don't think I've ever watched a single scene of this movie. Of course I'm familiar with the big songs and the dramatic lifts from lots of parodies, but none of this seemed familiar. Basically: people with money are the absolute worst and the best people are amazing dancers.

Full Metal Jacket (1987 - Thrilling #95): This movie is bizarre.

Good Morning Vietnam (1987 - Funny #100): I was expecting 90 minutes of Robin Williams making stupid jokes in a radio station. I should have realized that it was obligated by Hollywood law to criticize the Vietnam War. It gets pretty dark to do so, which, to me, is pretty weird for a Robin Williams comedy. It's like if the kids got kidnapped halfway through Mrs. Doubtfire and it turned into Ransom.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961 - Courtroom #10): I found this to be a really good movie. It depicts one of the lesser-known Nuremberg Trials, in which the defendants were the judges in Nazi Germany. I get why they did this. There was no real question in the outcome of the early trials. Those men were going to die. But as you moved down the ranks to the enforcers, rather than the creators, of these heinous policies and relations with Russia created difficult political realities, things weren't so clear. On a lighter note: Aside from the stuff that just started coming out recently, I have watched every officially released Star Trek film and television show and I believe I can honestly say that watching this movie was the first time I saw William Shatner do something that can fairly be called acting.

Lady and the Tramp (1955 - Passionate #95): I don't think I've ever watched this movie before. It's fairly cute, but I couldn't help thinking how insane we'd think the humans were if we were seeing it from their perspective. Particularly the guy setting up a nice Italian dinner and playing music for dogs that wonder into the alley behind his restaurant. I did enjoy what Lady thought that the humans were named. I also found it interesting that this didn't make the top 10 animated films list, but did make it into the top 100 passionate movies.

Places in the Heart (1984 - Inspiring #95): This was a pretty sad movie in a lot of ways, but I liked it. Sally Field plays a woman struggling against racism and misogyny to keep her family above water after her husband is killed. Danny Glover and John Malkovich are also excellent.

Madame Curie (1943 - Inspiring #97) - As someone who's not a huge fan of older movies or really all that into science, I didn't expect to care for this movie at all, but I really enjoyed it. I don't know how historically accurate it is, but the Curies are absolutely adorable and it shows a woman altering the course of science through incredible perseverance and brilliance.

Reds (1981 - Epics #9, Passionate #55) - I wasn't a huge fan of this movie. It tells the story of communists trying ro organize workers. It's generally a traditional movie, except that they regularly splice in interviews with people who were part of this movement.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982 - Funny #87): A fairly typical comedy made to appeal to teens.

Father of the Bride (1950 - Funny #83): This is not the Steve Martin film you're probably familiar with, which is a apparently a remake. This one has less slapstick than that one, but I still didn't find it all that funny. One think I found surprising was that the parents felt that the kids we marrying too young, doing it right out of high school. I thought the average age of people getting married has generally increased over time.

The Thing from Another World (1951 - Thrilling #87): A really, really bad sci-fi movie about a humanoid carrot wreaking havoc and the Nobel laureate who loves it.

The Bridges of Madison County (1995 - Passionate #90): I've always been aware that this movie exists, but I had no idea what it was about. I would not have guessed it was Meryl Streep posthumously telling her children about the time she was seduced by Clint Eastwood. And if someone had told me what it's about, I wouldn't have been inclined to watch it, but I enjoyed it.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 - Inspiring #67, Sci-fi #5, Thrilling #82): The first movie I've watched that made it onto three different lists. From the first few minutes, I thought it was going to be terrible. It didn't disappoint.

The Guns of Navarone (1961 - Thrilling #89): A generally enjoyable, though occasionally silly, movie about an attempt to sabotage massive fictional guns WWII.

The Jerk (1979 - Funny #89): Generally a stupid kind of funny, but I was still laughing. Now I know where "I was born a poor black child" comes from.

The Omen (1976 - Thrilling #81): I didn't find this particularly scary or suspenseful. Apparently you should pay attention when a priest tells you your kid is the Antichrist.

The Thief of Baghdad (1924 - Fantasy #9): Sort of a really old school Aladdin. Disney definitely lifted the Sultan and Jafar from two of the suitors in this film.

Witness (1985 - Passionate #82): An enjoyable movie, but nothing that remarkable about it.

City Slickers (1991 - Funny #86): A super cliched fish out of water comedy, but still pretty funny.

Dinner at Eight (1933 - Funny #85): I didn't really find it funny.

Lost in America (1985 - Funny #84): I liked Julie Hagerty in Airplane, but I just wanted to throttle her throughout this movie.

National Velvet (1944 - Inspiring #24, Sports #9): I found the girl obnoxious throughout. Even with that it was okay until the end, which was just stupid all around.

Morocco (1930 - Passionate #83): This reminded me a little of Casablanca, but I didn't really enjoy either of them.

Woman of the Year (1942 - Funny #90, Passionate #74): "We men have only got ourselves to blame. Women should be kept illiterate and clean like canaries." Really sums up this movie.

A Cry in the Dark (1988 - Courtroom Dramas #9): The source of "Maybe a dingo ate ya baby!" It feels like it's somewhere between well made Lifetime movie and poorly made true crime film. Pretty interesting. This really sucked for those parents.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971 - Inspiring #82): Pretty good.

Harold and Maude (1971 - Inspiring #89, Romantic Comedies #9, Funny #45, Passionate #69): This movie made four lists! I don't see the appeal here. I didn't find it funny, romantic, passionate, or inspiring. I found it creepy, macabre, and lackluster.

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955 - Passionate #85): All about being Eurasian. I could be very wrong, but I thought all of the actors depicting Eurasians seemed super white. Also, this terrible line: "Even the fat and ugly people in the world think love will make them beautiful."

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936 - Inspiring #83, Funny #70): This felt very Mr. Smith Goes to Washington but with Gary Cooper instead of Jimmy Stewart.

Poltergeist (1982 - Thrilling #84): A pretty good haunting movie for its time.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954 - Musicals #21): A musical in which a young woman makes the mistake of marrying a man the same day she meets him, only to find his house full of feral gingers. She pulls a Snow White to get things cleaned up and teach them manners and then takes them to town where they have a dance off to win the hearts of the local ladies but things go awry. Then the brothers kidnap all of the women and just wait for Stockholm Syndrome to work its dark magic. The brothers each get a wife, effectively removing a generation of women from the small town's dating pool and quite possibly dooming it.

Stand and Delilver (1988 - Inspiring #86): Now I know who Cartman was modeled after when he was teaching those inner city kids. Personally I can't see being motivated with him as my teacher.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988 - Passionate #87): Dear god, why is this movie so long? It shows some truly horrifying things happening during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, but that's completely overshadowed by a love triangle and lots sex, nudity, cheating, and people abandoning other people.

The Goodbye Girl (1977 - Passionate #81): I wasn't really inspired by the passion here, but it was okay.

The Navigator (1924 - Funny #81): Buster Keaton does absolutely nothing for me.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945 - Thrilling #86): Not bad, but they definitely decided to forego the homoerotic subtext of the novel.

What's Love Got to Do with It (1993 - Inspiring #85): Inspiring at the end, but pretty depressing overall. I felt like about two-thirds of it was Ike beating Tina up.

Beetlejuice (1988 - Funny #88): I know some people love this film. I honestly don't understand why. Is it supposed to be funny?

Boys Town (1938 - Inspiring #81): I think this is supposed to be inspiring along the lines of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. I don't really care for these movies, but I'm not sure why. In this one, it was supposed to be inspiring that the priest never got down no many how many bills he couldn't pay. To me that represents someone constantly making commitments that he didn't know if he could meet.

Dial M for Murder (1954 - Mysteries #9, Thrilling #48): A pretty good movie about an attempt to commit the perfect murder.

Dracula (1931 - Thrilling #85): Super slow and not much happens. This Van Helsing is no Hugh Jackman.

The Nutty Professor (1963 - Funny #99): Eddie Murphy did it way way better. That should not be taken as a compliment for his movie.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925 - Thrilling #83): Silent films have never really done it for me. This was not an exception.

Nine to Five (1980 - Funny #74): Starts sort of like working Girl, but the bad person is a man, then "an old fashioned ladies pot party" leads to all sorts of craziness.

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962 - Inspiring #76): This movie is basically an attempt to glorify and free a man who was, according to at least one psychiatrist, a psychopath. I'm no fan of the prison state America has become and I generally find the institutions deplorable. Even so, I found the prisoner protagonist of this film to be completely unsympathetic. He's a complete jerk to everyone and murders a guard for no real reason. Then he starts raising, training, and curing birds and writes books about it. His mother is also awful. The movie is two and a half hours long, which felt way too long.

Caddyshack (1980 - Sports #7, Funny #71): I expected to hate this move. I hate golf and Rodney Dangerfield. But it's pretty funny.

Breaking Away (1979 - Inspiring #8, Sports #8): A film showing extremely codependent adolescent boys being frustrated because they are townies in a university town. It ends with a fantastically unrealistic bicycle race.

Coming Home (1978 - Passionate #78): A pretty depressing movie about Vietnam veterans.

Cool Hand Luke (1967 - Inspiring #71): A kind of charming movie about a guy trying to escape from a chain gang several times.

Dark Victory (1939 - Passionate #32, Inspiring #72): A film about an insufferable debutante who has a brain tumor and falls in love with her doctor. Over dramatized with manufactured conflict.

Driving Miss Daisy (1989 - Inspiring #77): A very sweet movie about a hateful old white woman being won over by Morgan Freeman's irrepresible charm.

Erin Brockovich (2000 - Inspiring #73): Julia Roberts takes on the man.

Gaslight (1944 - Thrilling #78): The play this is based on is the origin of the term "gaslighting" which means to manipulate somebody into questioning their own sanity, a technique used by abusive partners. It's a pretty good movie. It's weird to see Angela Lansbury as the slutty maid coming on to all of the men.

Groundhog Day (1993 - Funny #34, Fantasies #8): I think the idea behind this movie is interesting, but I just didn't find it that enjoyable to watch.

Gunga Din (1939 - Inspiring #74): A really bad really old action flick.

In Cold Blood (1967 - Courtroom Dramas #8): Based on a Truman Capote novel about a quadruple homicide. It's not bad, but I wouldn't really consider this a courtroom drama. The movie is more than 80% over when you first see a lawyer and only three minutes of the two and a quarter hour movie actually depict part of the trial.

Sleeper (1973 - Funny #80): A genuinely terrible movie about a man from 1973 woken up 200 years later and asked to help fight the government. It's supposed to be funny. I've never been a Woodie Allen fan, and this wasn't the movie to change my mind.

Jezebel (1938 - Passionate #79): A woman is convinced everyone will still love her no matter what she does and ends up playing nursemaid to a man who doesn't love her in what's basically a leper colony for people with yellow fever.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948 - Funny #72): A massively irresponsible ad executive refuses to learn from his mistakes and ends up spending about three times what he probably needed to building a home in Connecticut. He's on the verge of being jobless when he shamelessly rips off an ad slogan from the black housekeepeer to get a happy ending. Not terribly funny.

Laura (1944 - Mysteries #4, Thrilling #73): I liked this movie. It's a good mystery, but not one the viewer can really solve. I It was weird seeing a young Vincent Price.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971 - Westerns #8): Like most Westerns, there wasn't much here that appealed to me.

Monkey Business (1931 - Funny #73): Still not a fan of the Marx brothers.

On the Town (1949 - Musicals #19): A musical about horny sailors stalking women through New York City.

Road to Morocco (1942 - Funny #78): Two idiot sociopaths stumble through the desert. It's so classy to see Bob Hope pretending to have a disability to get a discount.

Roxanne (1987 - Passionate #72): I was surprised to see a Steve Martin starring in a movie that was ranked for something other than comedy. Especially since he portrays a man with a massive nose who is the chief of an incredibly incompetent fire department. But this is a romance in which Daryl Hannah likes his personality but finds another firefighter more attractive (which isn't a close call, the other firefighter is Slider from Top Gun).

She Done Him Wrong (1933 - Funny #75): Just terrible.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991 - Thrilling #77, Science Fiction #8): My god that child had a high-pitched squeaky voice. To me this always seemed to be the truly iconic movie in the series. While the first Terminator is ranked higher as a thrilling movie, it didn't make it on the list of top 10 sci-fi movies, while the sequel did. The T-1000 is an implausible villain, but still great.

The Freshman (1925 - Funny #79): Basically a much, much worse Rudy where it's a silent film and there's more slapstick and less cancer.

The Verdict (1982 - Inspiring #75, Courtroom Dramas #4): An ambulance chasing lawyer accidentally grows a conscience and takes a Catholic hospital to court because a careless doctor turned a young woman into a vegetable. Technicalities cause the truth to be suppressed, but that's okay because the jury just does what they want anyway.

The Awful Truth (1937 - Funny #68, Passionate #77): A really stupid movie where a couple tried to get a divorce and act like jackasses throughout.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947 - Passionate #73): A woman moves into a haunted house and befriends a ghost. Not terrible, but pretty weird.

The Magnificent Seven (1960 - Thrilling #79): I generally don't care for Westerns, but I liked this okay. I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps because it's not Western at its core. It's really a Western remake of a Japanese movie called the Seven Samurai.

The Palm Beach Story (1942 - Funny #77): Really, really stupid.

The Public Enemy (1931 - Gangster #8): It's like the Godfather, but super lame and boring.

The Quiet Man (1952 - Passionate #76): I have never seen a movie that glorifies spousal abuse like this one. In the film's glorious climax John Wayne pulls his wife five miles while occasionally kicking her or dragging her along the ground to the cheers of the locals. One old woman approaches with an offer: "Here's a good stick to beat the lovely lady." Also, he definitely sexually assaulted his wife the first time he met her.

The Sheik (1921 - Passionate #80): Sort of a silent Beauty and the Beast, but more Arabic. There's even a Gaston.

Thelma & Louise (1991 - Thrilling #76, Inspiring #78): I don't know if this should really be considered inspiring, but I did really enjoy it.
Victor Victoria (1982 - Funny #76): Not bad. Julie Andrews plays a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.
Way Down East (1920 - Passionate #71): There is absolutely no reason this silent film needed to be more than an hour long, let alone two and a half hours.
Goldfinger (1964 - Thrilling #71): Given that this is iconic Bond villain, I did not expect the first time I saw him to be him cheating someone at Gin using an earpiece you could see from 50 yards away. Pretty disappointing. "You expect me to talk?" "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die" is a pretty great exchange, but if you really just want him to die then why a powerful laser moving slowly towards his crotch instead of a bullet to the head? I can't tell if these movies are intentionally absurd. I think I always underappreciated Austin Powers because I thought lines like this weren't nearly as fair to the source material as they were: "All right guard, begin the unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism....I'm going to leave them alone and not actually witness them dying, I'm just gonna assume it all went to plan." Also, the terrible word play.
Rebecca (1940 - Thrilling #80): Hitchcock's first American film. It's way too long, and would be pretty good if it was shorter.
Adam's Rib (1949 - Funny #22, Romantic Comedy #7): A husband and wife represent opposing parties in a trial for attempted murder. The defense almost seems to be based on battered woman's syndrome, which I thought would didn't come around until much later. This has the worst seduction attempt ever: the guy says he loves her because she's convenient, living just across the hall.

Bananas (1971 - Funny #69): I simply do not find Woody Allen funny.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962 - Thrilling #63): I really liked this. Bette Davis is terrifying. Sort of like Misery, but between sisters.
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961 - Passionate #61): I don't know how I feel about this movie. There are parts of it that I really liked, but it's marred by two major issues. The first is Mickey Rooney's character, who I dislike even before considering the fact that it's an incredibly racist caricature of Asian Americans, which is problematic, to say the least. I also really dislike Holly Golightly. She is manipulative and gives no thought at all to how her actions impact other people. I get that part of the ending is her growing as a person, but I saw no indication that it involved her becoming less of a sociopath. It was all about her being willing to be part of a real relationship.
Broadcast News (1987 - Funny #64): I enjoyed this movie fine, but its entry on the list confuses me for a couple of reasons. Mainly it's that I didn't find this movie funny at all. That's probably why I don't get why it's listed at all, it just doesn't strike me as a significant movie generally. Towards the end of the movie there's a blow up over what one character believes to be an egregious ethical breach while I really couldn't see anything wrong with what had been done.
Cape Fear (1962 - Thrilling #61): A family is stalked by a man who manages to comply with the law while threatening them, so the law seems powerless to stop him. It's not a bad movie, but what drove me crazy is that they repeatedly leave their teenaged daughter alone in a vulnerable position no matter how poorly that goes.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975 - Thrilling #70): Another film that seems mismatched with the list it's on. Certainly there are some thrilling moments but, on the whole, I found this movie hilarious rather than thrilling.

Funny Girl (1968 - Passionate #41, Musical #16): I don't find the story in this movie that compelling, but the music is fantastic.
Harvey (1950 - Fantasies #7): I don't like Jimmy Stewart in pretty much anything I've seen, and this was no exception. He always just seems to wander about obliviously making terrible decisions until everything works out for him in the end.
Horse Feathers (1932 - Funny #65): I will never understand why so many Marx Brothers movies made this list.
Manhattan (1979 - Funny #46, Passionate #66): I still don't find Woody Allen all that funny, but there were a couple parts that made me laugh, maybe because it's not as absurd as his other movies I watched. The main part that made me laugh was when a guy who had been built up as an amazing, passionate boyfriend turned out to be Vizzini (the Sicilian) from the Princess Bride.
Marty (1955 - Passionate #64): This is a movie about the two most boring people in the world falling in love and the guy's incredibly selfish family and friends trying to keep him alone and miserable.
Sense and Sensibility (1995 - Passionate #70): Not a bad movie, but I really hope the book is better.

A Raisin in the Sun (1961 - Inspiring #65): I've been so used to Sydney Poitier being the stand up guy in movies about race relations that seeing him be the screw up here really threw me. Pretty good movie.
An Officer and a Gentleman (1982 - Passionate #29, Inspiring #68): I'm surprised I've never watched this. It's really good.
Coal Miner's Daughter (1980 - Inspiring #70): I didn't realize this was based on a true story. The name Loretta Lynn sounded only vaguely familiar. It was a good movie, reminded me a lot of the Whitney Houston movie I watched, though this husband was way less abusive. Still, if I'd known it was a true story I would have been even more uncomfortable when Tommy Lee Jones, looking at least to be in his late 20s, rapes his new 14 year old bride. A good movie anyway.
Silkwood (1983 - Inspiring #66): A lot like The China Syndrome. Not a terrible movie but it's certainly lacking a satisfying conclusion, even if it's for a good reason.
Sounder (1972 - Inspiring #61): A really depressing movie, and I understand the book is even more depressing.
The Black Stallion (1979 - Inspiring #64): I've never really seen the appeal of these horse movies. They sometimes try to act like they're doing it for the horse, but I imagine they'd be just as happy running in a field. I don't find the riders that impressive, they just happen to have lucked into having an incredible animal. All the more so in movies like this one where they are amateurs.

The Spirit of St. Louis (1957 - Inspiring #69): An interesting story, but I'm not a fan of Jimmie Stewart, which marred it for me.
42nd Street (1933 - Musicals #13): Some good songs, but a really stupid story.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948 - Funny #56): Not a fan.
All that Jazz (1979 - Musicals #14): A truly weird movie about a director working himself into an early grave.
Arthur (1981 - Funny #53): Really, really stupid.
Dead Poet's Society (1989 - Inpiring #52): I didn't expect to like this. I'm not much of a poetry person or a fan of Robin Williams in serious roles. But I thought this was a really great movie. Also very depressing, on a couple different levels.

Last updated: July 30, 2019

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life

George Eliot's Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is widely considered to be the greatest British novel.  I can certainly agree with the sentiment.  While the characters often make incredibly stupid or selfish decisions, they are generally very rich and compelling.  The novel portrays a fairly small rural English town through the lens of four separate story lines and has a sprawling cast of characters.  At times, it can be difficult to keep track of them all, but if you can, you will find that they each have a distinct voice.

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

As morbid as it was, I greatly enjoyed The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, so I decided to try another book by Erik Larson that my mom recommended.  My next book was In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin.  One thing Larson doesn't excel at is coming up with succinct titles. As you can probably gather from the title, it recounts the experiences of an American family living in Berlin during Hitler's rise to power.  More specifically it's about the family of William Dodd, the incredibly unlikely American ambassador during one of the most crucial periods in the history of US-German relations.  I would highly recommend it.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

The Tropic of Cancer

A justice of Pennsylvania's Supreme Court once said of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer that it is "not a book. It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity."  Personally, I think that makes it sound more interesting than it is.  The book is a hybrid of autobiography and fiction that is nominally focused on the life of a struggling writer in France in the 1920s and 30s.  Much more often, it's about that writer having, thinking about, and pursuing sex.  I am not a fan.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Gravity's Rainbow

There was no Pulitzer Prize for Fiction awarded in 1974, despite the fact that the judges for that award unanimously selected Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.  Pulitzer's advisory committee decided that it was better if there was no winner.  There was no formal statement, but apparently during deliberations words used to describe the work included "unreadable", "turgid", "overwritten", and "obscene".  Gravity's Rainbow did share the National Book Award and its reputation among critics seems to have only improved over time.  I side with the advisory committee.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

John Adams

John Adams is the second book I've read by David McCullough. It was one of the fastest selling non-fiction books in history and made into a mini-series by HBO.  Like 1776, the other book I've read by this author, John Adams is a highly engaging read that draws the reader in and makes historical figures come alive.

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At the same time, McCullough is a bit too much of a fan and comes across, at times, as an apologist rather than a historian.  Adams was a great diplomat  who was fundamental to the birth of our country and, in many ways, exemplified the values and integrity that are often ascribed to and rarely found among America's founding fathers.  All available evidence indicates that he had an amazing relationship with his wife and integrity in his personal dealings.

Adams was far from perfect in certain areas.  He was an absentee vice president, which was fairly excusable given the nature of the job.  But he continued this trend as president and his administration was ineffective as a result.  He couldn't effectively run the government by correspondence.  He was enormously critical of the intolerance and ego he perceived in others and had a complete blind spot to these qualities in himself.  Adams would nurse grudges based on any slight for years and perceive conspiracies when there was no basis.  To be fair, the conspiracies he believed were basically nothing compared to those his successor perceived everywhere.  It was a fairly common occurrence at the time.

This is an enjoyable book, but you should go in expecting to find some glossing over of Adams less desirable qualities.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

When I read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers it didn't strike me as good or bad so much as extremely depressing.  The book is mainly about John Singer, a deaf man who can't speak and lives in a mill town in 1930s Georgia.  It opens with his best and only friend being sent away to an asylum and gives the reader a window into life in a small town in the deep south as Singer struggles to make a new life alone.

While I would certainly say that the depressing tone of the book is its most notable feature, I would still admit that it is quite good.  McCullers makes the downtrodden, lost, scared, and depressed members of this town feel very real.  I have complained in the past about bizarre characters that I found it impossible to relate to.  For some reason the bizarre acts of the characters in this book didn't bother me at all.  Their actions may not be logical, but it's clear that they are coping with their circumstances loneliness in the only way that they can think to.  They're driven by a desperation that has little consideration for reason.

A good read that I'd recommend, but certainly not a happy one.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Sot-Weed Factor

I have been pleasantly surprised by the fact that relatively few of the books that I've read have been so bad that it was painful for me to keep reading.  Unfortunately, I still have had a few of those, and one of them was the Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth.  Like another of my least favorite books, Don Quixote, Barth's novel is a satire.  While Don Quixote was intended as a commentary on orthodoxy, The Sot-Weed Factor intended to make light of the origins of America through the use of licentious and scatological humor.  The full title goes into a little more detail on the subject matter: "The Sot-Weed Factor: Or, a Voyage to Maryland. A Satyr. In which is describ'd, the Laws, Government, Courts and Constitutions of the Country; and also the Buildings, Feats, Frolics, Entertainments and Drunken Humours of the Inhabitants of that Part of America."

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

The latest book I read that I have yet to review is The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro.  This book is not for someone looking for a light read.  It's over 1,300 pages, which made me particularly annoyed that it's not available for Kindle.  It's a highly critical biography of Robert Moses, a man I'd never heard of before reading this book.  He was ostensibly nothing more than a particularly ambitious park builder.  In the author's opinion, he single-handedly fundamentally shaped New York City's infrastructure, pretty much always for the worse, by bulldozing every branch of the municipal and state governments and even occasionally dictated to presidents. 

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