The Elvis Files: An Update

Since I’m sure you’re very concerned about the status of the Elvis Files, here a small update.

You’re probably thinking: “Joanna, this isn’t doesn’t look that review of Blue Hawaii I’ve been anxiously waiting weeks to read.” You’re right. It’s not. I’m very busy procrastinating working on that post so it should be finished sometime next week.

In the meantime, to make these posts about Elvis’s movies more interesting I’m actually doing outside research that does not involve Wikipedia. (Crazy, right? Where do I think I am? College?) So far Spectacular Passions has been a good read and rather insightful when it comes to spectatorship in general. We shall see if and what conclusions about Elvis’s films it leads me to.

Stay tuned…

This book will also probably be useful when I decide to overanalyze Magic Mike in a few weeks.

Book Review: John Huston: Courage And Art

The trouble with me is that I am forever and eternally bored…If I’m threatened with boredom, why I’ll run like a hare. – John Huston

Early on in his biography of John Huston, Jeffrey Meyers shares many of the adjectives frequently used to describe the legendary director: intelligent, charming, confident, self-centered, and courageous. These are all repeated more than once by Huston’s closest confidantes with an emphasis on Huston’s irrepressible charm, resonant voice, and aura of recklessness.

It is no surprise then that it is film critic Andrew Sarris’ observation that Huston was “a Hemingway character lost in a Dostoevsky novel” that opens John Huston: Courage and Art. Beginning with a somewhat tedious prologue that details Huston’s friendship with Ernest Hemingway, Meyers never strays from painting an image of the adventurous and hyper masculine larger-than-life figure that is John Huston.

Hemingway and Huston: A bromance built around who was more manly (It was Hemingway. There's a dead iguana to prove it.)

Continue reading “Book Review: John Huston: Courage And Art

Now that I’ve Read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

These past two weeks I’ve been completely invested in catching up on the book series that everyone is talking about – Stieg Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy. I have now read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire. And I feel as though I am missing something. Aren’t these books were supposed to be good?

Countless people told me that the books were fantastic and the way that they have been endlessly praised made me more than eager to read them. While I did enjoy the premise and was completely sucked into the books, I repeatedly found myself wanting to throw the books against a wall. I was frustrated by the overall misogynist plot elements and the base characters. The plot teetered between boring and predictable to irritating and predictable.

I can not see how Mikael Blomkvist, the book’s journalist protagonist, had any redeemable qualities and is a lothario.  And is Lisbeth Salander really the book’s most redeeming character? I find that troubling. Even more so, the relationship that develops between Blomkvist and Salander was cringe-worthy.

So break it down for me. Am I completely off base with these books? What am I missing?

And for the record, I didn’t hate the movie. In fact, I don’t know how David Fincher can top it.

Nancy Drew at 80

On April 28, Nancy Drew, the 18-year-old sleuth who has charmed readers for decades turned 80.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Sonia Sotomayor all cite Nancy Drew as an influence, but these three successful women are of a very different generation than mine. So you have to question the appeal of this series today.

Nancy Drew is a quintessential teenage female character and there are none quite like her. She’s quirky, witty, and not afraid to stand her ground. That, I think, accounts for her lasting impact on pop culture. When I was younger, I loved the Nancy Drew series; my sisters and I read all or most of the books. But we learned about these books because our mother loved them as a child. She shared them with us, and if we can love Nancy, there is no reason why future readers won’t as well.

Continue reading “Nancy Drew at 80”

Going Rogue: The unbearable right-ness of being Sarah Palin

Given the media-saturated culture we live in, where run-of-the-mill families strive for celebrity and then become vilified tabloid fodder, we shouldn’t be surprised when an unworthy public figure—Rod Blagojevich, Carrie Prejean—pens a memoir in defense of their character. Released on Nov. 15, former Alaska governor and GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s memoir Going Rogue:?An American Life falls somewhere between fodder and defense. It is far too soon for us to be reliving her presence in the 2008 campaign, but to Palin’s credit, she has yet to film an appearance on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, so her public persona is (ever so slightly) more redeemable than most.

In Going Rogue: An American Life, Sarah Palin offers an inside look at her childhood, her family life, her tenure as governor of Alaska and her 2008 vice presidential campaign. It is a book that is part memoir, part ode to Alaska and part self defense. Palin initially charms with stories from her childhood, her teenage years and her college days, which is understandable; these are the few private stories about Palin we were not privy to last November. It is when the book transitions to her years as Alaska’s governor and to the presidential campaign that Going Rogue becomes practically unbearable to read.

Going Rogue becomes Palin’s platform to remind readers of her politics. Palin has always been up front about her beliefs, but what comes with this is Palin’s frequent ability to offend others. At one point, Palin writes about her unexpected fifth pregnancy with son Trig. “Sad,” Palin writes, “that our society has elevated things like education and career above the gift of bringing new life into the world.” Coming from a working mother of five, statements like these question Palin’s claims to her feminist identity.

Palin paints herself as the heroine of small-town America, as a champion of fiscal conservative politics and as the ultimate victim of the 2008 presidential campaign. It is believable that Palin probably didn’t know the lengths to which she would be scrutinized as the vice presidential candidate, but there is only so much one can read about her blatantly naïve understanding of American politics and the election process. She questions, for instance, why Barack Obama’s family was left untouched by media when her family, namely daughter Bristol, became a major media fixation. Likewise, she comments on her now infamous interview with Katie Couric and calls the journalist and her interview style “badgering” as a way to prove how she was, yet again, wronged by the media during the campaign.

Palin uses the final chapters of her memoir to criticize the Obama administration. She questions current White House policies, frequently asking “Is this what the president meant by change?” This chapter not only feels out of line and irrationally argued, but like one last strained attempt to prove to readers how she would have been the best choice for the country.

I can’t help but think about Senator Ted Kennedy’s memoir, True Compass, which I recently read and reviewed for this newspaper. Say what you will about Kennedy the politician and the public figure, but there was probably no one more deserving than Kennedy to pen his memoirs. In it, he does not attack other politicians and he does not place the blame on the media for how his actions were received. Rather he writes intelligently and passionately about his life, his decisions and his career as he looks back on his life from the perspective of someone who is wiser because of his experiences. That is difference between True Compass and Going Rogue: one memoir was a lifetime in the making while the other took only months.

Published: The Mount Holyoke News
December 3, 2009