30 December 2010

3 Mini-reviews: Ponder-ing Much About Flops

Due to the insanity of moving house during the holidays, meaning I have even less free time than normal (into the negative numbers, if such a thing is possible) and I have packed nearly everything I own, I'm going to compress three reviews into one post and save what's left of my sanity.

#1: The Ponder Heart by Eudora Welty

Read as the December pick for Literature by Women at BNBC, this was the first Eudora Welty book for me.  Compared to last December's choice, The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor (masterful Southern Gothic but too much all at one time during the holidays), this is a chatty, gossipy family dramedy.  It's a short novel - nearly a novella - and Miss Enda Earle Ponder will tell you all about her dotty Uncle Daniel and the Ponder heart.

#2: Don't Know Much About History (audio) by Kenneth C. Davis

I was looking for a new audio book for my 10 minute commute every day (this is quite handy since network radio is the pits anymore these days and I can get about 20+ minutes of an audiobook listened to while driving) and thought I'd give one of the Don't Know Much About books a try.  I quite liked this one - I learned or re-remembered things from history class (such as the Alger Hiss trial which was one where the name was familiar but couldn't remember why).  I think I like this more because of the audio format - it was quite easy to digest - but I think I would have gotten bored while reading the book because of the repetition in format.  I also think that Davis was very balanced in his assessment of US History; I have read some reviews which called this a "liberal propaganda" piece, but I don't think there's anything conservative or liberal in reporting the facts as they are, particularly when the facts say the US government has behaved less than honorably at times.

#3: My Year of Flops by Nathan Rabin

Last year I read The Big Rewind and found Rabin's AV Club posts so I was eager to read My Year of Flops when it came out in book form.  My Year of Flops takes its name from Rabin's AV Club column and the nice thing, unlike other blog-inspired books, is that the book isn't a simple repetition of the MYoF blog.  Instead, Rabin curated his blog posts, grouping his favorites/best posts by theme, and added some "book only" Flops and interviews.  I especially enjoyed the interview with Roberto Benigni about Pinocchio, a movie I've had the misfortune of seeing (I saw the subtitled original Italian, not the dubbed-in-English-by-Breckin-Meyer one, so I'm sure it was better than the theatrical dubbed release but it was still creepy with a 50-year-old Italian man-child playing a bratty wooden puppet). Some of the movies are, yes, bad movies that result from spectacularly poor judgement on the part of directors/stars/studios/writers/producers (like The Conqueror, The Scarlet Letter, and Exit to Eden not to mention Waterworld) but some of the movies Rabin reviews are secretly quite enjoyable (The Rocketeer is one, and I'm surprised that it was considered a flop because my little brothers watched it all the time).  At the end, there is a very, very funny minute-by-minute review of Waterworld, agreeably one of the worst flops in cinematic history, aside from being a terrible movie on its own.  My Year of Flops was a great distraction from the mess of moving and I very much enjoyed Rabin's style.

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