Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Strawberry Rating

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close touches the viewer to the very core. In the way that Titanic and The Sweet Hereafter depicted tragedy by pulling back at the pivotal moment, only increasing the heartache portrayed, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close shows the massive losses experienced in New York on September 11, 2001, through the lens of one young boy. Thomas Horn plays Oskar, a boy devoted to his dad (played by Tom Hanks, in flashbacks), who is lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center. The devastation of that day shudders through Oskar’s family, including his mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock, in a subdued and affecting turn). Young Oskar is lost in the broken new world, but suddenly finds a purpose: a key left by his father. As Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close progresses, Oskar focuses on the key as a way to connect to his lost father–but finds, instead, connections in the unlikeliest of places. Horn is a wonder in his leading role, and commands attention even as his emotions are scattered. Hanks and Bullock are excellent, as always, though they are more incidental to the film than the viewer might have hoped. Standing out in the cast is Max von Sydow, a mysterious mute whom Oskar meets on the New York subway, and who becomes the most unlikely of guardian angels. Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s best-selling novel, which was able to depict a bit more wry humor to leaven the heartbreak and history lessons, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close nonetheless faces human tragedy straight on, and shows how a broken family can be rebuilt, one small key, one subway ride, one awkward hug at a time. —A.T. Hurley

I have very little to say about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

I went to the movie theater with the intention of going to another movie, only to find out that I was a little late for the showing.  Whoops!  I didn’t want to waste my trip to the movies so I chose another Oscar-nominee off the list.

That is how I ended up sitting in this movie without being fully prepared- no tissue box, no candy to distract myself with.

Like most tragedies, one thing that links all of us is that we remember exactly where we were when we heard the news.  I was only in ninth grade when 9/11 happened, but I remember standing in my first period concert choir, numbly watching my conductor try to explain to us what was happening.  After that, I have very little memory of what I actually did for the rest of the day.

I was lucky.  I did not have family members or friends who were in the buildings that day.

Oskar was not so lucky, and he spends the rest of the movie trying to find a way to cope with his father’s death.

Some critics say that this movie uses these terrible events to play on our emotions, and that it crassly uses a tragedy to heighten those emotions.  Perhaps that is true.  I am not sure.  I think that the movie is terribly sad, but it also shows the possibility of hope for the future.  It shows how people can come together to help each other.

That promise of hope and growth was the only thing that saved this movie for me.  The title is quite fitting because, just as it denotes extreme discomfort, I was very distressed and uncomfortable for the entire movie.  I left the theater with red-brimmed, moist eyes, and the desire to go home and huddle in the dark.  And maybe that was the movie’s intention?

The Grade

Visuals: 4.5/5

Plot: 4/5

Acting: 5/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.  I’ve already seen Moneyball, Hugo, and The Help.  Now on to the rest!

Oh, and don’t forget to try out this treat.  It will help wash away your tears…

Read on for the recipe!

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Movie > Book? Impossible!

Rating: Green Leaf

Orphaned and alone except for an uncle, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. Hugo’s job is to oil and maintain the station’s clocks, but to him, his more important task is to protect a broken automaton and notebook left to him by his late father (Jude Law). Accompanied by the goddaughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) of an embittered toy merchant (Ben Kingsley), Hugo embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of the automaton and find a place he can call home.

~Fandango

Have you ever had faith in an idea that you thought was truly unshakeable, until one day, you realized you were wrong? At that moment, when you realize that everything you thought to be true in the world is just a bitter lie, how do you feel?

When I sat in the movie theater last week and saw my world crumble, I reacted in a way that I could never have predicted.

I was THRILLED.  I walked out of the dim theater like I was floating, set free of some invisible shackles that I hadn’t known existed.

Those of you who read regularly may have picked up on the fact that I enjoy books. I enjoy movies too, but books are my thing. One of the foundations of my entire way of being is that the act of reading is special and unique, and that films just cannot replicate or replace that.

After reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and then watching Hugo, the film based off of the book, I can safely say that I have found a movie that beat the book.

I’m shocked too.  Do other anomalies like this exist?

I love the book.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was recommended to me a few months ago by one of my fourth grade students who was so proud that she had managed to read a “big book.”  In fact, because we didn’t have it in our school library (that has since been rectified), that student brought me in her copy an lent it to me so that I could read it.  Imagine that!  A student loaning a book to a librarian 🙂

Anyway, I did not want to take her book for long so I settled down that night to read it.  It was entrancing.  After I finished the book, I then went on to YouTube to watch “Journey to the Moon.”

The film takes the beautiful idea of the book and weaves it into an artistically masterful work whose delivery enhances its message.  The purpose of the film is to celebrate the way that movies construct dreams.  Scorsese uses intricate technique to mesh together Hugo’s dream world and his own grittily romantic Paris.  The first moments of the movie, when the cogs in a clock transform into the streets of Paris, give a taste of what the audience can expect for the next two wonderful hours.

So yes.  Here is where I admit it.  I was wrong.

Whew!  That was hard.

The Grade

Visuals: 5/5

Plot: 4.5/5

Acting:4.5/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.  I’ve already done Moneyball.  Now on to the rest. While you are waiting, try this out.  You know you want to.

Read on for the recipe…

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And the Oscar Goes to….! Year 2

Last year, I decided to watch every movie nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.

It was grueling.

Watching 10 movies in a month turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be. I finished, but just barely.

But… it was quite rewarding and I LOVED actually having an opinion when I was watching the Oscars.  You can check out my round-up post here.

This year, I am doing it again.  Heck, there are only 9 movies this year.  I’ve already even seen one already (can you guess which one?).  This is almost small time!

Not to mention, of course, that Billy Crystal is hosting the Academy Awards this year.  I love Billy Crystal.  This is destiny.

The movies nominated for Best Picture this year are as follows:

The Artist– Thomas Langmann
The Descendants – Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close– Scott Rudin
The Help– Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan
Hugo– Graham King and Martin Scorsese
The Descendants– Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum
Moneyball– Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt
The Tree Of Life– Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill
War Horse– Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy

And, of course, I will make a food inspired by each movie so that you will know exactly what to make for your Oscar Party 🙂

February 26th, here we come!

V For Vendetta (and V’s Eggy in a Basket)

A shadowy freedom fighter known only as “V” uses terrorist tactics to fight against his totalitarian society. Upon rescuing a girl from the secret police, he also finds his best chance at having an ally.

Amazon

It is difficult for me to even begin a post on V for Vendetta because every time I watch it, I get something different out of it. The only part of the film experience that does not change is how much I really enjoy it.

I first viewed this film during my sophomore year of college as a requirement for a Science Ficion class. Before this course, I thought that Science Fiction and I did not get along. When I heard the term, my mind would immediately go to cheesy aliens and some sort of weird, echoey music.

I was totally wrong and that class, with the help of this movie, made me see that.

I now am quite an avid SF fan. I even let that TV show, Battlestar Galactica, take over my life for about a month and a half (and I don’t regret that…mostly). If the me of 4 years ago could have seen the reading list of the me today, she would feel confused and appalled. Whatever.

V for Vendetta is on my top 5 movies of all time list. In fact, it is so sturdily on that list that I don’t anticipate seeing it bumped off any time soon.  I think it has that place of honor because it satisfies both parts of the film-viewer in me:  it is smart enough and has such beautiful cinematography that is makes me truly examine the film and think about it while being action-packed, emotional, and at points absurdly funny enough that I am entertained.

Things I Love:

  • V’s character and his lair
  • “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof. ” -V
  • Natalie Portman.  She got some serious acting skills, as I already covered in my post on Black Swan.
  • The domino montage about 3/4 through the movie
  • The colors of the film- it is very dark, but certain colors repeat and stand out

Things I’d Change:

  • Sometimes the film is unnecessarily confusing.  I didn’t notice this myself, but when I taught this to high-school students, I found that there are an abundance of names and places that could have been consolidated without losing any of the film’s meaning.
  • The fact that there is no sequel.  I want one.

You need to be in the right mood to sit down and watch a movie like this.  When you find yourself in a mood for a film that is dark and serious and beautiful, have this on hand.

Have these on hand too.

Isn't that so pretty? I am proud of myself.

Read  on for the recipe…

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The Song of Fire and Ice…and Cupcakes

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

-Back Cover

Hello out there! I am, in fact, alive. You may wonder what I have been doing for the past 4 months. Here is a sampling: full time job, night classes, cooking, cleaning, mourning the loss of Milly (my pet fish), spending time with family, friends, frantically shopping when I woke up and realized that Christmas was only two weeks away, playing in the pitiful amount of snow that we have accumulated, playing with my Christmas toys that Santa brought me, etc.

Oh, and A Song of Fire and Ice Series.  That.  After some calculating (which was difficult because I don’t always work with numbers this big), I have concluded that that monstrosity of a series is a full 4,864 pgs.  Compared to Harry Potter, that may not be so bad, but this series is no Harry Potter.  This series is dense with detail and imaginative ideas that make you stop and think.  I read sloooooowly.  I have been working on this series since Thanksgiving and just finished yesterday.  For me, that is an epic amount of time to spend on one story.

The patience that it required for me to work through this masterpiece is evidence enough to show you that it was fantastic.  If it were a food, it would be my request for my last supper.  If it were a person, we would be best friends.

Because I could not handle having this level of emotional connection with a book, I began to associate the book with George R.R. Martin instead.  Of course, by now, I am familiar enough with him that we are on a first name basis.  As I worked my way through his story, I routinely talked to George, asking him why he had the characters do certain things or when I would get to see another character again.  Now that I have not touched the series for a full day, I am starting to miss George and our (albeit incredibly one-sided) conversations.

I could ramble for hours about this series, but I am going to leave you with this instead.

What I Liked:

  • Incredibly detailed
  • George isn’t afraid to kill a main character who you love (or hate)
  • The chapters are told from a variety of perspectives

What Drove Me Crazy

  • Incredibly detailed
  • George isn’t afraid to kill a main character who you love (or hate)
  • The chapters are told from a variety of perspectives

Conflicted much?  Yes.  Read this series.  Now.  Go use those gift cards you got over the holidays. Let me know your burning questions and thoughts in the comments.  Oh, and make these cupcakes too.

Read on for the recipe…

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Thursday Next’s Battenberg Cake

They are a series of books based upon the notion that what we read in books is just a small part of a larger BookWorld that exists behind the page.

A fantastical place populated by off-duty and sometimes mischievous bookpeople from the Classics to Fanfiction, and ruled over by the wheezing bureaucracy known as The council of Genres. It is their task to maintain the pageant and integrity of the books within their charge, and these efforts are sometimes thwarted by the very evildoers and bizarre plot devices that give the Bookworld its appeal.

Aided in this endeavour but sometimes disagreeing with them are Jurisfiction, the policing agency within Fiction. The adventures follow one of their operatives: A woman from the Realworld named Thursday Next, whose reality-based credentials bring a dimension of independent thought to the proceedings, something that is often absent in the mostly predetermined Bookworld.

Confused? Excellent – turn to page one and start reading!

-Jasper Fforde’s description of the Thursday Next Series

I first encountered Jasper Fforde when I, intrigued by the title, read Shades of Grey.  As you can tell from my post on it, I LOVED it.  Later on, when I was basking in the joy known as the library, I noticed that Fforde had published other books. Of course, I took the bait.

Of the several series that Fforde has dreamed up, I chose the Thursday Next series.  Any character whose name is Thursday Next must be pretty darn interesting, not to mention that the first book is entitled The Eyre Affair.  Jane Eyre fan fiction?  Yes, please.

What kept me reading this series is Fforde’s hilarious, fantastical, and original take on BookWorld.  He puts us (readers) in our place.  The characters in books are alive and have their own dramas behind the scenes.  They jump between books, have other jobs, and characters who are linked romantically in books may actually hate each other.  Even more exciting, they have a certain level of free will, meaning that if they are unhappy enough with how the author wrote their story, they can change it!

Hint:  The “original” Jane Eyre has a very different ending from the one we know and love.

Basically, if you enjoy the concept of characters truly coming to life, I suggest you check these out.  They made me giggle some of the time and happy all of the time.  Except when I was sad.  But, that was because sometimes, sad things happen.  But, yeah.  You get my point.  Read them.

Battenberg Cake

Thursday Next is a fantastic and spunky character.  She is surrounded by a wonderfully loony family and her mother is the only one who really cooks.  While most of her cooking is quite awful, she is known for her Battenberg cake.

According to the great brain of Wikipedia, Battenberg cake “was created in honour of the marriage in 1884 of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg, with the four squares representing the four Battenberg princes: Louis, Alexander, Henry, and Francis Joseph.”

Typically made with marzipan, this cake does not agree with Thursday, who detests almonds.  I decided to make a Thursday-approved Battenburg cake.  Try making one yourself!  It is not nearly as complicated as it looks.

  1. Mix up the batter for your favorite white cake.
  2. Split the batter in half.  Color one half red (or any color you want, really).
  3. If possible bake each half in a loaf pan.  I didn’t have two load pans so I improvised…

  1. Bake as the cake recipe directs until the cakes are firm.
  2. Let cool.
  3. Cut each cake in half so that you have two long strips of each color.
  4. Heat up the jam of your choice.  I used marmalade.
  5. Assemble the cake.  Stick the pieces together by “frosting” each side and then pushing the cake strips together, to make that lovely checker.

  1. Make or acquire your favorite frosting OR get marzipan (If you want marzipan).  I made a pistachio frosting, basically by mixing pistachio butter in with white frosting.
  2. Frost your assembled cake.  Do not be afraid to use a lot of frosting.  Because you are trying to mush together four strands of cake, frosting is the great concealer.  And it’s yummy.
  3. Eat, preferably with tea, as Thursday would.

Short Reviews of Long Books

So the summer definitely took me away from the computer.  I did not post nearly as often as I had intended (though, to be fair, I had grand aspirations about daily posts), but I read far more than I thought possible.  This bookworm was apparently verrrrry hungry.

Here’s the thing.  I would love to do a beautiful, happy post for every book read or movie viewed over the summer, but I’m not going to.  It’s too overwhelming.  In fact, it has kept me quiet for the past week as I struggle to even begin talking about my summer.  Instead, I will give you a description of the book or movie in under 11 words or less and my thoughts in 20 words or less.  Feel free to add more ideas in the comments.

The Piano Teacher: A Novel by Janice Lee.

Summary: Sad woman and sadder man have affair in Hong Kong.

Thoughts: This historical backdrop (Hong Kong during WWII) was intriguing, but I didn’t like any of the characters.  Meh.

The Twilight Saga Collection by Stephenie Meyer

Summary: Bella must choose between creepy vampire and not-as-creepy-but-still-superhuman werewolf Jacob.

Thoughts: It teaches teenagers that the best kind of love is obsessive, controlling, and dangerous.  No thank you.

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Summary: 3 witches, one a fairy godmother, must stop a happy ending.

Thoughts: Hilarious.  This is my first Pratchett novel and I now want to read the entire Discworld series.

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Summary: 3 photographers and their relationships as they photograph the Vietnam war.

Thoughts: Well-written and intricate storylines.  The background and the characters are fascinating.  I want to study photography, or go to Vietnam.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal

Summary: Sweet valley twins, 10 years later.  Sex, betrayal, and swearing.

Thoughts: So bad.  I read it because I loved the series.  It makes no sense and I hated both twins.

Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Summary: Love triangle in Greece during WWII.

Thoughts: Loved it with 15 pages to go.  Then almost threw it across the room.  Still love it.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Summary: Follows two friends through school, love, and duplicity.

Thoughts: I may have used up an entire tissue box on this.  Read it if you want a good cry.

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mirielle Guiliano

Summary: The title pretty much says it all.

Thoughts: Commonsense advice aside from drinking leek broth for three days and purchase enough champagne to have at every dinner.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (for the fifth time, at least)

Summary: Big brother knows all.

Thoughts: Love it.  Love it.  Love love love love it.  It gets better with every read.  Read it.

 

Phew!  Now that I have those out of the way, I can get back to posting on what I am reading right now!  Trust me, I have an awesome one coming up 🙂