Saturday, December 11, 2010

How to Procrastinate During Finals Week

Well, it's not technically the Holiday break from school yet, as I still have one last final next week. However, there's only one left and with plenty of time left to prepare, so I have been cutting myself some slack. I've been able to watch all my favorite television shows (on the day they actually air!) as well as some good movies. It's about time I actually put that Netflix subscription to good use. Below are some of my favorites this week.

Robin Hood, Season Two

Yes, I've been watching this old thing again. But I can't help it. Yes, the story lines and dialogue are super cheesy. Yes, the costumes are even cheesier than the dialogue. And yes, there's a certain Inspector Gadget element to it - it's easy to imagine the Sheriff of Nottingham (who, incidentally, could be Billy Joel's British twin) yelling: "I'll get you Robin, if it's the last thing I do!!!!"

But I love the characters and their adventures. I like that I can watch one episode and leave it for awhile. The episodes can even be watched out of order, and there's not much you'd miss - except the last two episodes of the season are really one long episode.

Luckily, Season 3 is on Netflix instant watch already, and Google tells me that Season 4 is happening as we speak, despite heavy speculation that it would never be made. I would like to tell you what's happening, but I don't want to spoil it for you. Just give it a chance. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to watch instantly if you have Netflix.

Also, because season two ended on sort of a cliff-hanger, I watched the first episode of Season 3 and it looks like the show got a huge budget increase - the photography is much better and the costumes no longer look like they were purchased at Walmart. I'm not sure if this is going to make the show better or worse. Stay tuned.

The Boys are Back

This is a movie based on a memoir, so be prepared for sentimentality (translation: I cried - big surprise). However, the sentimentality was not overdone and this was not too sugary or sweet. The protagonist, Joe, is a sports writer who travels a lot and therefore doesn't have much of a relationship with his young son beyond bringing home presents after trips. He loses his wife to cancer and now has to care for his son full time on his own. His parenting skills are unorthodox as the two of them learn to cope with the loss of the woman in their life and to adjust to each other. My heart broke more for the son who lost his mom than for Joe. The kid says some of the funniest things, which could have seemed contrived, but instead feel honest and real.

Just as they get settled, Joe's teenage son from a previous marriage comes to stay and everything changes again. It seems formulaic, and I'll admit that the movie didn't make me want to read the book (which is a real first). In fact, the more I looked into things after watching the movie, I'm really glad I knew nothing about the story before I watched the movie. While it's not going to make my list of often-watched movies, I really enjoyed it. Give it a chance!

Five Minutes of Heaven

This is the true gem of the week. I could gush over this movie all day. I love Liam Neeson, and I would watch anything with him in it. He plays a guy who got involved with the UVF in Ireland in the mid-1970s. He killed a man in front of the man's younger brother. Fast forward 25 years. He's gone to jail for the crime and has written a book and is on a speaking tour to promote it. His message is peace: what I did was dumb, I caused so much pain, etc., and he has a plan on how to prevent young children today from getting mixed up in the same kind of life.

Meanwhile, the little brother, Joe, has had a terrible life. His mother hated him and blamed him for his brother's death. She misses no opportunity to remind him what a terrible brother he is. He grows up, marries and has two daughters, but he can never get over his guilt and his hatred for his brother's killer.

Eventually, a TV producer gets the idea to unite the killer and his victim's younger brother on television. I'll leave the rest of the plot to your imagination and viewing pleasure. The movie is minimalist in every way, but it made a huge impact on me. I thought about this movie for days after watching it. The acting is phenomenal, and the characters are well-developed. This should be a must-watch.

Dorian Gray (the movie)

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a sucker for period pieces - especially if it takes place in England. Also, I loved this novel. There was no way I was going to miss this movie. Then the producers had the good sense to cast Colin Firth (not as Dorian, of course - he's not pretty enough for that), and it became even more imperative that I watch it.

The movie was great - it was the perfect combination of beautiful and grotesque, darkness and lightheartedness. Oscar Wilde's language comes through, and the acting is great. The story goes how you think it will, and the ending is heartbreaking as usual. It was a good movie, but nothing unexpected or extraordinary. It goes how you think it will go, and the acting is average. I liked the movie, but mostly because of the story, not because of the directing or acting. The movie didn't bring anything new to the table, it was just another retelling of a great story. I'd still recommend it, and to someone who doesn't know the story of Dorian Gray, it would probably be better.

Dorian Gray (the book)

I began re-reading this book as my "right before I fall asleep" book this week. I got my tattered copy ($1 from my college's book store!) off of my shelf to look over it and compare the movie to the book, and to revisit some of the great language. But of course, I got sucked in. I love all Oscar Wilde - he's so witty and quotable, but I really love this novel. I love the idea of it - what would happen if we could stay young forever and never age or suffer the consequences of our actions? It's a great fantasy, but of course, the moral of the story is that we must age, and all actions have consequences.

Here is the line that sucked me back in to the novel: "I am too fond of reading books to care to write them." It is one of Lord Henry's irreverent lines, something he says offhandedly and meaning to shock and sensationalize.

But it struck me because it is EXACTLY how I feel about literature. I will forever be a connoisseur and consumer of the written word. I play at writing in these posts, but I would never consider writing something serious because I have too much respect for the written word.

I love getting lost in a story and I love getting surprised by language. I love it when I read something (like this sentence) that exactly expresses my opinions, but in a way I would never say it. That's why I now have to finish reading Dorian Gray again. I need to see what other things Oscar Wilde has to say.

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