Film · Kelly M · Non-Fiction · Pop Culture/Entertainment

Life Moves Pretty Fast | by Hadley Freeman

Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (and Why We Don't Learn Them from Movies Anymore)

Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (and Why We Don’t Learn Them from Movies Anymore) by Hadley Freeman
(Simon & Schuster, 2016, 352 pages)

Life Moves Pretty Fast is a fun survey of all the 80s movies that endure today: Princess Bride, Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Back to the Future, Steel Magnolias, Baby Boom, 48 Hours, Ghostbusters, and more. Freeman states that the types of movies from the 80s are not made today. Instead, movie studios go for the blockbusters, the big-budget superhero films, because those are the movies that translate internationally. Of course, there are low-budget independent films, too, but there’s nothing in between because movie studios think people in other countries (where a lot of money is made) can’t relate to the American cultural experience.

Discussions on movies starring women, such as Working Girl and Fatal Attraction, have a feminist slant, with which I sometimes agreed and sometimes didn’t. For example, I thought it was a stretch to say that bunny-killer Alex in Fatal Attraction represents all unmarried women in their forties. Somehow Trainwreck, a non-80s movie written by and starring Amy Schumer, a self-proclaimed feminist, gets into the discussion and is criticized for its portrayal of women. Otherwise I found the commentary and quotes from actors and directors interesting and fun. If you love 80s movies, you will enjoy this book. Get ready to go to the library because you’ll want to watch these movies over again (as I did with Pretty in Pink)!

Audiobook · Celebrities · Film · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Pop Culture/Entertainment

As You Wish | by Cary Elwes

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
(Touchstone, 2014, 259 pages)

I started listening to the audio verison of As You Wish before I saw the movie The Princess Bride. The first disc was about how the film came to be, how the actors were cast, etc. Then, I thought, “I should probably watch the movie before I go on.” After I finished the book, I wanted to watch it again.

The book is written and read primarily by Cary Elwes who played Westley in The Princess Bride. Elwes is a British actor who does a great job with voices, and when he talked about other actors, he could sound like them too. What makes the audio version of this book even more special are the memories shared by director Rob Reiner and other actors, including Robin Wright (Buttercup), Wallace Shawn (“Inconceivable!”), Chris Sarandon, and Christopher Guest, all who read their own segments of the book. Other memories from Mandy Patinkin (“You killed my father; prepare to die!”), Billy Crystal, and Fred Savage are also interesting but are not read by the actors themselves. Still, whoever read their parts did a nice job emulating their voices. Although Andre the Giant (Fezzik) died in 1993 at the age of 46, there are several heartwarming stories about him in the book. Other stories include how certain scenes were shot, such as the trek up the Cliffs of Insanity (Wallace Shawn was terrified of heights); how the great sword fight between Westley and Inigo Montoya  was choreographed; and about injuries sustained on the set by interactions with swords AND an ATV, of all things.

This would have probably been a delightful book even if I hadn’t watched the movie after listening to disc 1, but I’m glad I watched it. Now I’ll wait for it to come on tv again so I can see when Westley blacks out during a sword fight for real.

Celebrities · Fiction · Film · History · Julia P

A Touch of Stardust | by Kate Alcott

A Touch of Stardust

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
(Doubleday, 2015, 296 pages)

A Touch of Stardust is a fictionalized account of the making of the epic film “Gone with the Wind.” We are on set with Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, David O. Selznick, and more as they struggle to make a film that was under constant scrutiny and constant change. The reader experiences this world through the eyes of young Julie Crawford, a girl from Ft. Wayne, Indiana who has moved to California with dreams of being a screenwriter. She ends up being offered a job as Carole Lombard’s assistant which puts her in a great position to hopefully make it in her dream profession.

A central part of this book is the relationship between Carole Lombard and Clark Gable. Julie also has a romantic storyline but it doesn’t really have the same feel as Lombard and Gable. You can tell that Alcott did her research on this book. The behind-the-scenes information about “Gone with the Wind” was really interesting. If you’re a fan of the film, the book, or just this classic period in film history I think you’ll have fun reading A Touch of Stardust.

Andrew S · Film · Non-Fiction · Religion

Shining Glory | by Peter J. Leithart

Shining Glory

Shining Glory: Theological Reflections on Terrance Malick’s Tree of Life by Peter J. Leithart
(Cascade Books, 2013, 98 pages)

Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life is a film of remarkable beauty and depth. It deals with big questions of suffering and eternity through a kaleidoscopic view of cosmic origins and an intimate family portrait. The meaning of the film is contained in symbols, both visual and audible. Though there is a kind of narrative structure to the film, the story only gains coherence when the ideas that are inherent in the visual and audible symbols are meditated on and allowed to rise to the forefront of your mind. As Leithart explains in the Preface to his book, “The Tree of Life is not just another film, but another way of doing film” (vii).

Leithart, a biblical scholar who has also written on various aspects of the relationship between Christianity and culture, traces the plentiful theological themes that structure The Tree of Life. His book is a meditation on these themes that both explores the meaning of the film and illustrates how to discern that meaning. Again from the Preface, he explains his task as understanding “both what the film means and how it means” (viii). Biblical motifs abound in the film, and Leithart draws out the way that Malick’s use of water, fire, hands, windows, doors, meals, and, of course, trees all draw on biblical and theological imagery in order to pose questions and seek resolutions about the meaning of suffering and death. This is a very helpful guide to the religious themes of a captivating, yet difficult, film.