July 2011

A perfect example of the populist Best Picture winner: Dances with Wolves, which beat out GoodFellas in 1990

The 63rd Academy Awards for the film year 1990.  The nominations were announced on February 19, 1991 and the awards were held on March 25, 1991.

Best Picture:  Dances with Wolves

  • GoodFellas
  • The Godfather Part III
  • Awakenings
  • Ghost

Most Surprising Omission:  Reversal of Fortune

Best Eligible Film Not Nominated:  Miller’s Crossing

Rank  (out of 82) Among Best Picture Years:  #22 (more…)

A nice family dinner in GoodFellas (1990) - never mind the guy dying in the trunk

My Top 20:

  1. GoodFellas
  2. Dances with Wolves
  3. Miller’s Crossing
  4. The Grifters
  5. Presumed Innocent
  6. Cinema Paradiso
  7. The Hunt for Red October
  8. Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
  9. May Fools
  10. The Killer
  11. Longtime Companion
  12. Reversal of Fortune
  13. Avalon
  14. Jesus of Montreal
  15. Edward Scissorhands
  16. White Hunter, Black Heart
  17. Total Recall
  18. The Nasty Girl
  19. Misery
  20. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (more…)

My Harper Perennial Classic copy of Great Expectations

Great Expectations

  • Author:  Charles Dickens  (1812  –  1870)
  • Rank:  #35
  • Published:  1861
  • Publisher:  Chapman & Hall
  • Pages:  495
  • First Line:  “My father’s family name being Pirrip and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.”
  • Last Line:  “I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw the shadow of no parting from her.”
  • ML Edition:  Modern Library Classics (2001) – surprisingly, never in hardcover
  • Film: many – most notably 1946 (**** – David Lean), 1998 (*** – Alfonso Cuarón)
  • First Read:  Spring, 1989 (more…)

So, I am almost ready for the next post.  But my trip to Philadelphia, family visits, a trip to DC that ended up with Thomas throwing up, a return that has brought a couple of rough days for Thomas, a bad cold for me and a fever for Veronica, combined with heat that is crushing enough that I moved our mattress to the floor of the living room so we could all sleep near the air conditioner means that it is not quite ready yet.  We’ll see what the next couple of days bring, but they keep raising the high for tomorrow – it now says 100 with a heat index of 110, so I’m guessing tomorrow will not be it.

The British Deluxe (first 5), the U.S. Hardcover (all 7), the Time Magazine that announced the craze in September of 1999 and my favorite cover – the British adult Deathly Hallows

“You should read these,” the good looking manager at work said.  I had just started working at Barnes and Noble – my first bookstore job – and it was the third week of September in 1999.  She was pointing at the three Harry Potter books, which were the top sellers in the store.  The title character was about to make the cover of Time Magazine as the sales of the third book were sparking a craze.

Since I could check out hardcovers for free, I took the first one home.  The next day, having read the whole thing, I brought it back.  When she asked about it, my initial reaction was that they weren’t as good as the Narnia books.  For all the fun ways it which it combined a boarding school novel with classic fantasy, I felt the book lacked depth in its characters – they were all too clearly black or white, with the only possible exception being Professor Snape, but he was so demonized by the main characters that it was hard to tell how much gray he had.  So when she asked, I said “There’s no character in the book as good as Edmund in the Narnia books.”

She encouraged me to keep reading them.  That was easy enough and the first one was enjoyable enough, so that night I brought home the second book.  The next day, that came back and I brought home the third one.  The second one had been about equal to the first, but the third one was a big step up.  The characters had definitely begun to develop various shades of gray and the back story of the characters was beginning to fill in.  So, there I was, now anxiously awaiting the fourth one, right at the head of the wave that was beginning to build.

Oh, and the good looking manager who insisted that I read them, told me how wonderful they were and defended their quality against the Narnia books?  We got married in between books four and five and had Thomas before book six.


The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht - the best book I have read this year

The combination of heat and humidity and the lack of a fan in the office means I don’t yet have my next post ready, though I am hopeful of it going up tomorrow.

But, also, the upcoming visits of my mother and sister and my trip to Philadelphia (for work) and Washington (with Veronica and Thomas to see our new nephew Jack – born 2 July) mean that there will probably be some additional delays.  I will have at least one more and maybe as many as three more posts before I leave, but for the next couple of weeks, please bear with me.  I hope to get to the next novel (a 19th century one) and the next year in film (1990 – it’s all about GoodFellas) soon.

Relax and do some summer reading.  For fiction, I recommend The Tiger’s Wife – the best book I have read this year.  If you want a paperback, go with The Imperfectionists – the best book I read last year.  If you want something a bit more genre-flavored, go with The Passage, which was phenomenal.  If you want non-fiction, read Colonel Roosevelt, the final volume in Edmund Morris’ biography of TR.  For paperback non-fiction, Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, is awesome – especially her description of her first encounter with Allen Ginsburg.  So, with the blog sporadic for a couple of weeks, go read some books.  That’s part of what this blog is all about.

the mid-80's Penguin paperback version of Humboldt's Gift that I read for my Lit class my Junior Year and which I still have (with all attendant highlighting)

Humboldt’s Gift

  • Author:  Saul Bellow  (1915  –  2005)
  • Rank:  #36
  • Published:  1975
  • Publisher:  Viking
  • Pages:  487
  • First Line:  “The book of ballads published by Von Humboldt Fleisher in the Thirties was an immediate hit.”
  • Last Lines:  ” ‘Search me,’ I said.  ‘I’m a city boy myself.  They must be crocuses.’ “
  • ML Edition:  none
  • Film:  none
  • Acclaim:  Pulitzer Prize; last novel before winning Nobel Prize
  • First Read:  September, 1994 (more…)

Thanks to Out of Africa and Braveheart, Driving Miss Daisy is not the worst Best Picture of my lifetime.

The 62nd annual Academy Awards, for the film year 1989.  The nominations were announced on February 14, 1990 and the awards were held on March 26, 1990.

Best Picture:  Driving Miss Daisy

  • Field of Dreams
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • My Left Foot
  • Dead Poets Society

Most Surprising Omission:  When Harry Met Sally

Best Eligible Film Not Nominated:  Glory

Rank (out of 82) Among Best Picture Years:  #18