Or maybe it was looking back on a post I wrote in this blog’s infancy (pre-spin, when it was just davethenovelist) where I listed what I proclaimed to be the Greatest Novels of All Time (which of course meant the best novels I had read up to that point in my life) and realizing how much I had read in the seven years since then and thinking about what that list would look like today. How many new entries? What would still make the cut, and would the passage of time have colored my opinion on significance, fondness and ordering?
Or maybe it was watching “The English Patient” episode of Seinfeld for the umpteenth time on TV tonight that got me thinking…damn, The English Patient…Ondaatje…that has to be one of the greatest novels ever, right? (Spoiler alert: IT IS!)
At any rate…I’m keeping this one simple and asking you to share your own lists.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and star Jessica Chastain hold a mirror up to the manhunt for Bin Laden in ZERO DARK THIRTY.
America’s grand dame of literature, Toni Morrison, has given us many haunting words…but none have echoed in my mind more than the ones from A Mercy when a young girl who has lived through a colonial hellscape in 17th century Virginia announces to the world that she is, “In full. Unforgiven. Unforgiving. No ruth, my love. None. Hear me?”
I’d like to think that former art student and painter Kathryn Bigelow has read Morrison, but who knows? That’s the beauty of connecting one piece of art to another. Morrison’s words came to clear mind while watching Bigelow’s tightly wound dramatization of events more recent – the man hunt for Osama Bin Laden – in Zero Dark Thirty. How does one fight against terrorist enemies who are willing to kill anyone (including themselves) to achieve their mission? Well, the answer is painfully simple. You show them no ruth. No mercy. And you hunt them down by any means necessary and kill them.
At the center of Bigelow’s film is one of filmdom’s greatest female characters of all time (all the more powerful for having been based on a real-life CIA analyst still working in the field), an agent named Maya played with calculated precision by Jessica Chastain (the doe-eyed red-head, all awkward coils that are both sinewy and frail, and with a soft voice that hides her steely demeanor beneath) who announces her talents to the world with this role much in the way that Cate Blanchett first staked her claim as the Queen in Elizabeth. Here we see Maya’s journey over ten years from wunderkind analyst to ruthless field operative. Continue reading →
Steven Spielberg is a director/producer clothed in immense power. He has carte blanche to do whatever his heart desires in Hollywood after years of pleasing audiences. Sometimes his whims and faults get the better of him – as lame attempts to resurrect past haunts (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) or return to childhood wonder (The Adventures of Tin Tin) often are rendered mute in artifice and strained sentiment. Yet, when left to his own devices in pursuit of his most sincere ambitions, once in a blue moon, Spielberg is able to pull a rabbit out of his magician’s hat. He did it with Schindler’s List. And he has done it again here with Lincoln – perhaps the crowning achievement of his career and the greatest American film since Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.
Not surprisingly, like There Will Be Blood, Lincoln is anchored by an impossibly great performance by Daniel Day Lewis. If Lincoln’s political successes (among them the passing of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery, a process brought to painstaking and lively light here in the film) teach us anything, it’s that no matter how much power one is clothed in…nobody can do it alone. There must be compromise, teamwork, and appeals to individual sentiments to achieve the greater good. Continue reading →
In Toni Morrison’s A Mercy we see life through the eyes of people physically and emotionally abandoned, orphans with names like Lina, Florens, Jacob, Rebekkah and Sorrow. The storm is the clashing of cultures in pre-Revolutionary War America where the laws are not yet defined, everyone and everything is for sale, and all are threatened with annihilation by God, the environment or each other. Europeans looking for a promised land of unending wealth or escape, Natives living through an apocalypse, indentured servants and slaves from Europe and Africa bound to barbaric institutions are all brought to a slow, simmering boil in the torrid fog rolling in over Mary-Land and Virginia…colonies ironically named for women but that are unmerciful and cruel to those females who come to their shores. Continue reading →