Posts filed under ‘books’

Best of times, worst of times

I just finished reading “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. I can’t remember how many times I have read this book over the years. I love the beginning line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I also love the different plots in the novel. I agree with Alex Trebek when he said to a Jeopardy contestant who is also a booklover that every time you read the same book, it’s a totally different experience. Sometimes you forget what a book is about after a long time, but what I couldn’t forget about this book is Sydney’s ultimate sacrifice at the end.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It seems this line applies to my life at the present. Ending a long-time relationship may sound like it could be the worst of time in someone’s life, but if it’s a bad, explosive relationship, it could mean that it could also be the best decision someone makes. But of course, when we talk about relationships, there are always emotions involved. And that’s what makes it suck big time. I had wanted to leave a long time ago and it’s not like I left on a whim. I have thought about it very carefully and I don’t have any regrets.

A few weeks ago, I was given two awards at work. Perfect Attendance and 100% Quality for the year 2010. “How did you pull that off?” asked a co-worker. I honestly don’t know. I guess instead of wallowing in self pity and despair last year, I just really tried to focus on something else – work. And I guess it worked! And I’m very proud of these achievements. But the irony of it is this. Later that same day when I received these awards, I was at my lawyer’s office finally signing my separation agreement. It has been a long process drafting that document, going back and forth with my ex’s lawyer, trying to bargain on how much I should get from the division of our conjugal assets and liabilities. In the end, I agreed to what the ex wanted, just so I could get the money in my hands already (well it will go to my bank, actually.)

“Hardworking, niceheart. Life’s not fair, eh?” My lawyer greeted me when I showed up at his office.

“Well, it’s not.”

“How do you put up with it?”

“Well, I have already accepted that that’s the way he is and this is the way it’s gonna be.”

I could have fought it in Court, but as my lawyer has explained to me, I might end up losing more in the end.

What I have learned in life, especially during the time I have spent with this person, is that you have to choose which battles to fight. Not all of them are worth fighting for. And when you think you have lost in one aspect of your life, just look at the rewards and blessings you have. That’s how you move on with your life. That’s how I move on with my life.

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March 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm 2 comments

Running With Augusten Burroughs

Let me just finish writing about Augusten Burrough’s memoirs before I forget what I’ve read.

I loved A Wolf at the Table so much that I just had to get his other books. After searching the second hand bookstores in my area, I found three more of his books. What can I say? I love this guy. I was reading Dry on the bus when the young woman sitting next to me said, “He’s one of my favourite authors.” Actually, she said it after I closed the book. And yeah, now, he’s also become one of my favourite authors.

In Running With Scissors, Augusten writes about his painful childhood. In the first chapter titled, “Something Isn’t Right,” he must have already known at ten years old that there’s something wrong with his mother. She wasn’t seeing Dr. Finch, the psychiatrist, just because of her marital problems, but because she’s crazy, as in psychotic crazy. His father was cold and distant and by the second chapter, his parents are already divorced. It was an explosive divorce.

When he was 13, his mother left him to live with the Finches because she could no longer handle him. The Finches were an eccentric and dysfunctional family.

I could relate to Augusten’s story. I was twelve when my parents separated and it was also an explosive separation. I was 15 when mother left me and my sister to live with relatives. Also a dysfunctional family. I love them dearly, but that’s the truth. I grew up in a dysfunctional family and was sent away to live in another dysfunctional family. But when I say dysfunctional, I say it like it is a term of endearment. (Sorry, folks. But I do love you all.)

Just when you think that you had a tough childhood, you read something like this and you feel lucky that this childhood didn’t happen to you. And once again, here’s a memoir that relates about the pains of growing up, about one’s trials and tribulations early in life. And it was written so beautifully and injected with humour. I think there’s only a chosen few who can do that.

I’ve read quite a few memoirs already and I think that the best way to relate about a painful childhood or experience is to either write it beautifully or with humour, or better yet, both.

Just a few interesting notes that I like to point out after reading this book:

Dr. Finch encouraged his children and patients to shout, scream, confront. Because as he said, if you don’t let the anger out, it will kill you. I do agree that sometimes it feels better when you let off the steam, but I don’t know, a shouting family? Is that any healthier?

Augusten said that the Finches showed him that you could make your own rules. Your life was your own and no adult should be allowed to shape it for you. At one point in the book, Augusten said that while he was living with the Finches, he had freedom. There were no rules at the Finches’ house, yet he felt trapped. “I wanted to break free. But free from what? And that was the problem. Because I didn’t know what I wanted to break free from. I was stuck.”

When Augusten was still living with his mother and he didn’t want to go to school, she wouldn’t force him and she would let him stay at home with her. When he was also living with the Finches, he’d skip school and the doctor even helped him stage a suicide attempt just so he’d have a valid reason to stay out of school. But he had to spend a month in a psychiatric hospital. I know, that’s just sick and weird.

Augusten also wrote about how he’d rather stay at home and write in his journal. I wonder if all memoirists kept journals. I’ve always wondered how they can remember details vividly from their childhood.

In Dry, Augusten writes about his life in advertising and about his alcoholism. His co-workers did an intervention and he agreed to check into rehab. He became sober and attended AA meetings. In this memoir, we get a glimpse of the life of this gay guy in his twenties struggling to fight the urge to drink and let go of his baggage. He wasn’t supposed to date anybody in his AA group, but he became involved with someone in his group.

I found it interesting how he, a gay guy, describes his feelings towards somebody that he’s attracted to. It’s the same feelings and emotions that I have experienced towards anybody that I have been attracted to. Gay or straight, we’re all the same. In Dry, I like how he wrote about his sexual feelings. It was so sweet and he wrote about it in sort of a discreet way.

In Running With Scissors, I was shocked at how he described his first sexual encounter, with a gay guy. But he wrote Running from his point of view as a child. I guess, when you have been taken advantage of at age 13, it will stick in your mind as a nasty experience. And there’s just no other way of saying it.

Dry is written like a novel and I love how he wrote it with his self-deprecating sense of humor. In the book, he used the word riveting to describe one of the stories that was shared in his group. Riveting is how I found his story. This has been a page-turner for me.

Magical Thinking is a collection of true stories. Funny, amusing, entertaining, and just brilliant writing. A couple of memorable ones are the one about his cleaning lady who was trying to rip him off and how he outsmarted her, and the one where he tried to kill a rat in his New York apartment. Magical Thinking is also the title of one of the stories in this book. Magical thinking, he explains, is the belief that we can influence events by thinking about them. Like for instance, how he willed his partner to let him have a dog, or how at 34, he decided to stop being an alcoholic and become a New York Times bestselling author. And look at him now.

I believe my youngest son has this (power?) influence, too. On November 1st, he came home complaining how he was forced to sign up for volleyball. Now, I don’t really think that he was forced against his will. The good mother and motivator that I am, I tried to sell it to him. Oh, that’s a good activity for you. You’ll get the exercise that you need. Still, he complained and begged me to not let him go to the tournament that was happening at the end of the month. But what’s the point of all these lessons and practice? Just go, I told him. The night before the tournament, he got ill. He had a fever and he had to stay home the next day. Coincidence or magical thinking?

Read my movie review of Running With Scissors here.

January 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

A Wolf at the Table

A few years ago, I watched the movie Running With Scissors. It was based on the book, a memoir, by Augusten Burroughs. It is about the time he spent with his mother’s psychiatrist, a dysfunctional family. I thought it was funny.

So when I saw Augusten Burroughs’ A Wolf at the Table at McNally Robinson, I got interested in buying and reading it. A Wolf at the Table is Augusten’s memoir about his father, mostly about his life before Running With Scissors, when he was still little.

He wrote about how he couldn’t remember his father at all before he was six years old. He remembers being two years old and living at the farmhouse with his mother and brother and crawling under the neighbor’s bushes, but he couldn’t remember his father. He must have felt his presence on the stairs leading to the basement, but he couldn’t remember his face, him being there.

His first memory of his father was when he and his mother came back home from Mexico. They went away because his mother said that his father was dangerous. Now that they’re reunited, Augusten describes how it was at home. His parents hated each other and they were always fighting. He describes his relationship with his father – how he pushed him away when he wanted to sit on his lap; how he gave him a baseball mitt but wouldn’t play with him and show him how to catch a ball with it; how he terrified him with his tempers and “mind games.” He also tells about his fear of turning out like his father.

I think it was a very honest account of his life as a young boy. This is the first book by Augusten that I’ve read. I haven’t read any of his books yet at that time. But I found out on the internet that he’s known for writing his memoirs with humor, except for this one. Even if this one isn’t funny, I already started to like him as an author. Although he wrote about his sad life, it doesn’t drag you down. But it tugs at your heart. You read sad stories where you feel sympathy for the author or the main character, but it’s not what I felt for Augusten. Rather I felt empathy for him. Maybe it’s just me. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s just a very honest story that anybody who has longed for a parent’s attention, especially a father’s attention could very well relate too.

In one of the final chapters of the book, Augusten wrote, ”I used to believe I couldn’t grow up right without a father, that I would ever be ‘normal’ without one. But maybe a father is really a luxury after all. Maybe you could grow up without one.

Father – a luxury? So sad but it’s true. And yes, there are lots of kids who grew up without fathers and they turned out alright. (Myself included) But I also want to point out that I think this is changing. I’m seeing a new trend in our current generation of fathers. I think they are now more involved in their children’s lives, even with the higher rates of divorce nowadays, we see ex-couples with joint custody of their children or the fathers regularly visiting their children.

Spoilers:

I just want to say that I loved the ending of the book. It is so touching. Augusten ended it with an epilogue. It’s about how he felt this other father’s pride and love for his son who was graduating from Medical School. Augusten has never felt it from his own father and he thought that he would never ever feel it. But this man’s love for his son was so strong and it overpowered him and it leaked into him. And he felt it. He felt that love. And I was like, Wow!

December 1, 2009 at 11:22 pm 1 comment

New Moon: My Movie Review

I watched New Moon with my girl friend this past weekend. We talk about the books that we read and the movies that we watch but this is the first time we ever went to the movies together. It was nice.

I like New Moon. And I love Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black. He’s cute, he’s hot and “he’s sort of beautiful.” 🙂 Now I find Taylor more appealing than Robert Pattinson. I apologize to Rob’s fans. Not that I don’t like him. But just look at the bulked up, dark and smiling Jacob and then turn to the pale, slender, and always brooding Edward Cullen. Don’t you just want to turn your eyes back to Jacob again?

Robert is a lot more good looking without the pale Edward make-up and the restrained look. I’ve seen him on The Ellen Degeneres Show and yes, I did find him appealing on that interview. He was smiling and laughing and he’s sort of humble. And I like that kind of personality in a person, celebrity or not.

In New Moon, Edward left Bella. Heartbroken, she turns to Jacob for comfort. The movie stayed pretty close to the book, although there were a few changes and they weren’t that bad. As usual, it’s exciting to see the characters that we’ve only read about in the books, like the werewolves and the Volturi.

The movie is better than Twilight, as I hoped it would be. I’ve read a movie review of New Moon where the critic had a problem with the acting. It was flat, he said. I don’t even know what that means. I’ll have to look it up. How are lovesick teenagers supposed to act anyway? The acting was okay for me.

The only thing that I wish they could have done better was the transformation of the werewolves. One second, Paul and Jacob are human, and the next, they’re werewolves. The special effects are great, but I just wish that they could have shown how they have transformed a little bit slowly so we could see maybe at least a close up of the face changing into that of a wolf’s. After all, this is the first time we see them transform.

But overall, I like New Moon. Can’t wait to see Eclipse. And did I hear it right? It’s going to be shown in June? Only seven more months.

Read my New Moon Book Review here.

November 24, 2009 at 6:01 pm 1 comment

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic - book

My girl friend raved about Confessions of a Shopaholic and the others in the series a few years ago when she first read them. But I wasn’t interested in chick-lit back then so she wasn’t able to convince me to read them. Then they made a movie based on the book and I thought that it must be really good. So I thought I’d give it a try. Also, the book just came out in pocket size and it was on sale at Superstore. Besides, I thought that I could probably relate to the main character. Well, I’m not really a shopaholic, but Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood was deep in debt, and so was I.

I have had a love-hate relationship with this series.

That’s probably because I sometimes see myself in Becky. First of all, she is a financial journalist. She tells people how to organize their money but there she is, accumulating all these Visa bills, unable to pay them, and she’s always trying to avoid her bank manager who has been constantly trying to get an appointment with her to settle her bank overdraft. How can I relate to that? Well, here I am with an accounting degree. Yes, I do know how to balance my bank accounts. And I’m supposed to be able to analyze my financial status. Well, I’m able to do that, too. I know how to analyze my financial status. And my analysis is that- it was in a bad state. I was deep in debt, I was barely making the minimum monthly payments, I didn’t know how to get out of the hole and I was so stressed out. But that will be another post. Today, we’re talking about the Shopaholic series.

The first book in the series, Confessions of a Shopaholic, introduces us to Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood. It starts with a letter from Endwich Bank in London (that’s where Becky lives) congratulating her from recently graduating from university and offering her an overdraft account of 2,000 pounds. Now, shouldn’t one be offered such an account only after they get their first job, when they are already earning money? But, sadly to say, this is the reality that faces young people today. They don’t know any better and these bank companies are taking advantage of that. The second letter from Endwich Bank, which is dated two months later, informs Becky that she has exceeded her limit and her balance stands at over 3,000 pounds. In the third letter, we learn that Becky wasn’t able to get to the bank to discuss her financial situation because “she had broken her leg.” The reader will realize that that is just an excuse.

In Confessions of a Shopaholic, we are reading Becky’s thoughts. One thing that I like about it is that her thoughts are candid and honest and a lot of times funny. How many times have I also thought about something or someone that I dare not say out loud for fear of offending the other person or sounding rude? But if you just say it to yourself, it sounds funny. What I don’t like about Becky, and I know she means well, is that when she finds herself in a sticky situation, she tries to pretend she knows what she’s talking about instead of just fessing up. And then there’s also her debt situation. She’s accumulating these huge Visa bills, but she still keeps on shopping. She ignores her bills, hides them in her drawers and even throws out her letters from her bank and credit card companies. But of course, she couldn’t help it. She’s a shopaholic and she even describes what it feels like when she enters a shop. She lusts for things and she experiences a high, an exhilarating feeling, when she goes shopping. As I have mentioned a few times, I also experience some kind of high when I do my grocery shopping. 🙂

And so the reader is transported to Becky’s world as she tries to reason out her spending. Like how she thinks a bottle of wine is essential, or how buying a suit that was on sale – 30% off – is actually saving money. She did try to CB (cut back) and MMM (make more money), but when her efforts fail, she finds comfort in – shopping. And the cycle goes on and on.

Then a big story arises and the break that Becky’s waiting for finally comes. Becky realizes that there are people who think that she’s a joke and now she’s going to try her best to prove them wrong. She feels guilty about giving her neighbours a neglectful advice. She does a journalistic investigation and writes an explosive article.

But just when I thought that she had learned her lesson, there she is at the end of the story ordering sunglasses on TV. I was turned off by that.

I wasn’t so sure if I’d like to continue on reading the Shopaholic series and so I read different book. I really liked A Thousand Splendid Suns, but it has such a serious and heavy theme and I thought that I needed something easy and light to read next. So I went on ahead and read the next Shopaholic book.

shopaholic 2

In Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, Becky goes to New York with her now boyfriend Luke Brandon. She had a few mishaps there but in the end, she sort of redeemed herself. So I like how this one ended. And I probably should have stopped with this book.

Shopaholic 3

But I went on reading the next book, Shopaholic Ties the Knot. What can I say? I sort of fell in love with Luke Brandon. Okay he’s a workaholic but I like the way he makes Becky feel. She feels so secured with him. But then again I realized that Becky’s addiction to shopping isn’t being cured by being with Luke. He’s wealthy, you know. He has his own PR company and Becky’s getting away with her shopping addiction because Luke’s got money.

shopaholic 4

I started to get impatient with Becky again but somehow, I just felt that I wanted to know what happens to Becky and Luke next. Now that Becky and Luke are married, I wanted to find out how a joint bank account will work. With Becky’s shopping, how will Luke react to all these expenses that will show up in their bank account? Also, I read in the back cover that in Shopaholic & Sister, Becky has found a long lost sister, but her sister hates shopping. But does having a thifty sister help Becky stop shopping? No need to tell you the answer.

shopaholic 5

Because there is a fifth book called, Shopaholic & Baby. And this is probably not much of a spoiler and a surprise, but Becky still loves shopping. And now, she’s not just shopping for herself, but for the baby as well. This is where I got really disappointed after reading the fifth book. Becky’s shopping addiction hasn’t been resolved. Unless, the author, Sophie Kinsella, is planning to write a final book where Becky will really finally wake up. And then it will be an inspiration to those shopaholics who are deep in debt and don’t have a wealthy spouse who can bail them out. Although, I wouldn’t need that book to inspire me because I have finally got out of debt, well, sort of. Maybe I will write about that to inspire others. Well, anyway, back to the book. The only redeeming part that I found in the fifth book (or final maybe?) is Luke’s answer to Venetia when she asked him why he married Becky, “this mindless consumer little girlie … All she cares about is her shopping, her clothes, and her girlfriends.

Luke said, “The first time I ever saw Becky Bloomwood, she was asking a bank marketing department why they didn’t produce checkbook covers in different colors. The next year, they did produce checkbook covers in different colors. Becky’s instincts match no one else’s…. Her mind goes to places no one else’s does…Yes, she shops. Yes, she does crazy things. But she makes me laugh. She makes me enjoy life. And I love her more than anything else in the world.

And then I realized those are exactly the reasons why I kept reading the Shopaholic books. I got sucked into Becky’s crazy world and she made me laugh. It was a great escape from my own crazy world. 🙂

confessions movie

Now, let’s talk about the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic.

I had a huge problem when I watched the movie the first time. I shook my head a lot. They squished the first two books into one movie. There are a lot of changes and it seems at times like a totally different story that was just loosely based on the Shopaholic Series. First of all, Luke is the only one who’s British in this movie. Then the movie was totally set entirely in America, mostly in New York. For the most part of the movie, Luke is working at a company called Dantay-West and then he hires Rebecca Bloomwood as a journalist. In the book, Luke has owned his own PR company, Brandon Communications, since the beginning and Rebecca is working as a financial journalist in a different company, Successful Savings, not working for him.

I also had a problem with the casting. I think Isla Fisher fits the character of Becky Bloomwood, but other than that . . . Hugh Dancy is of course, British, so that was a plus. But I pictured Luke Brandon to be a much taller guy and someone who exudes confidence, and at the same time, charm. Yeah, there are a few scenes where I found Hugh Dancy charming. Let’s not take that away from him. And then, Becky’s parents – I think both John Goodman and Joan Cusack look much too young to be Becky’s parents. I have pictured them to be a lot older. They are both retired after all.

Elinor Sherman, Luke’s mother, was mentioned but didn’t appear in the movie. And what about Janice and Martin Webster? They are missing in the movie. They are very important characters in the first book. When Becky realized that they were tricked out of their investment, Becky investigated and exposed their bank. I also missed Becky and Luke’s debate on Good Morning Coffee. These are my two favourite parts in the first book and they didn’t make it to the movie.

Some of the changes that appeared in the movie:

Becky joins a Shopaholic Anonymous group. It doesn’t seem realistic. There’s no such thing, is there? But then again, maybe the producers included this in the movie in an attempt to solve Becky’s shopping addiction. But it didn’t work on Becky. Instead, she sort of influenced the people in the group to go shopping again, which was kind of funny, really.

Becky assumes the pseudonym of The Girl in the Green Scarf. I sort of like the idea, but why green scarf? It is some kind of blue in the book, and she fantasizes about herself as the Girl in the Denny & George Scarf, not the Girl in the Green Scarf. Why did they change it? Green doesn’t really go with most of the colors. I think they should have stuck with blue, which would easily match better with the other colors. I think.

Derek Smeath is portrayed as a mean guy. Okay, Becky’s told her parents that he was a stalker, but that was a lie. She actually got to know him personally and found him to be a nice person. She even referred to him as Sweetie Smeathie in the end.

I read the first book, Confessions of a Shopaholic a second time and also rented the movie a second time, because I wanted to write/finish these reviews. I now realize why the series became a bestseller. It’s smartly written and it’s funny and I think everybody, even those who are not shopaholics, can relate to Becky. And after watching the movie a second time, I realize it’s not that bad. But I still think they should have included Janice and Martin’s story there and made Derek Smeath a nicer guy.

I’ve read that the movie received mostly negative reviews. It came out at a time when the economy is down and there’s financial crisis everywhere. Not a good time to release a movie about shopping and wasting money.

October 10, 2009 at 11:40 pm 3 comments

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

astronomy tower

“Did you like it?” I asked my 11-year old son after we watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

“Yeah, it was okay,” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I didn’t like some of the changes they made. I mean, I still like the movie.”

Yeah, it took me a while to decide whether I like it or not. Oh, no, don’t get me wrong. It’s always a treat to watch a Harry Potter novel come to life. But you see, I’ve just finished re-reading the book the day before we watched it. I actually read the entire book in only five days, quite a record for me. So the story was still very fresh in my mind. Although much of the movie stayed pretty close to the story, I noticed right away the differences, what wasn’t included and what was added that wasn’t there in the book. The new scenes, I didn’t care so much about them at first, but now that I’d have a bit of time to think about it, I think they give the viewers a sort of a different experience. So, yes, I like the movie.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one of my favourite books in the HP Series. It is has a darker theme, just like the later instalments in the series, but it has some of the funniest moments of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and their friends. And that brought a balance of comedy and darkness, and I like that.

Spoilers Alert!

In the Half-Blood Prince, Harry and his friends are now 16 years old. Their hormones are raging. And they’re showing more of their rebelliousness towards Snape, especially, Harry and Ron, and I like the smart-ass answers they would throw at their most hated professor, which unfortunately didn’t make it to the movie. Also, their friendships are now developing into budding romance and you could tell who’s going to end up with whom in the end. Of course, the love potions make the story interesting and funny, too. 🙂

There were two match-ups that didn’t make to the movie though, that of Bill and Fleur, and Lupin and Tonks. The last two were seen together in the movie, but there was nothing much about them. I hope to see Bill and Fleur’s wedding in the final movie, not because I love the couple, but because there were a lot of important things that happened at that event. But where will the wedding take place now that the Burrows is gone?

“What’s your favourite part of the movie?” I asked my 11-year old son again.

“When Ron won the Quidditch. He saw that in the mirror of desire in the first movie,” he said.

“Oh, you mean the Mirror of Erised,” I said. I was surprised that he remembers that.

I have three favourite parts in the book and they were the ones I was looking forward to seeing in the movie.

First. Harry and Ginny’s first kiss. This is my most favourite part of the story. I’m sorry, maybe it’s because I’m a girl or it’s just the kind of thing that I like in stories the best. This is the part that I was looking forward to seeing the most. I really like the way it happened in the book. Harry wasn’t able to play in the Quidditch match against Ravenclaw because he was in detention with Snape. So he replaced himself with Ginny as Seeker. When he came back to the Gryffindor common room, he heard them celebrating for they have won. Ginny came running to him and she hugged him and he kissed her, there, in front of everybody. It was so spontaneous. And I like it. And then he sought Ron’s eyes and saw his best friend’s approval. I like that, too.

Sometimes I don’t mind when they make changes in the movie. But this is the one part which I wish they had not changed. The way it happened in the movie, it just seems that Ginny had it all planned. And I like it better to happen spontaneously. But that’s just me.

Second. The trip to the black lake and the cave. This is one of the parts that I vividly recall. I like the way it was interpreted in the movie. Although, the potion in the basin was supposed to be emerald liquid. It was a clear liquid in the movie. And even though I knew it was coming, I still jumped on my seat when the Inferius grabbed Harry’s arm. It was like watching a horror movie. Great special effects on the ring of fire.

Third. The scene at the Astronomy Tower. Harry was under Dumbledore’s orders to follow the professor’s instructions, not to question them and to just trust what he tells him to do. When they reached the tower, Dumbledore told Harry to fetch Snape. And then Draco showed up. In the book, Dumbledore Immobilised Harry while he was under the Invisibility Cloak. And that’s why when Snape came to do the deed that was tasked to Draco, Harry wasn’t able to save Dumbledore because he was powerless. Yes, in the movie, he was hiding and wasn’t immobilised, but it happened all so fast that he didn’t get a chance to save Dumbledore anyway. But I just thought, that with Dumbledore immobilising Harry, it would give the viewers something to think about. Because it was all part of the plan, wasn’t it?

Well, that was my initial reaction, until I read a blog that discussed this deviation from the book. Do fans like it better that Harry was powerless to save Dumbledore (book) or that he made the conscious choice to follow Dumbledore’s instructions (movie)? And then I thought about it. Snape was supposed to kill Dumbledore. Harry was to witness this and not be able to do anything about it. He now hates Snape more than he did before. Same thing as the book. In the movie, Harry didn’t feel guilty that he wasn’t able to save Dumbledore, he shouldn’t anyway, since he didn’t know Snape would do it and as I said, it happened all so fast. So the change didn’t really bother me that much. It just gave me a different experience of the scene.

The movie was two and a half hours long. As much as I’ve always enjoyed watching a Harry Potter movie, I think it was quite long. That’s probably why they decided to make the final movie into two parts. I’m sure they would want to include as much as possible there to please the fans, but yet not bore them by having to sit for more than two hours.

I noticed that Daniel Radcliffe has bulked up a bit, much more macho, as Ginny would say. 🙂 He said in an interview in a magazine that he likes to play his role more seriously. This movie is lighter. So he didn’t have a lot of the more serious scenes like he did in The Order of the Phoenix. Harry was angry a lot of times in that movie and Daniel’s acting was more intense in The Phoenix. In The Half-Blood Prince, he just got to be his charming self. 🙂 On the other hand, Ron’s character is the funniest. And I agree with what they say that Rupert’s got that comedic timing, or whatever you call it. Well, anyway, I think J.K. Rowling made this story lighter because the final one is the darkest of all the books, and that will probably require a lot more from the actors.

Just one more thing that I noticed, and this is after my 15-year old son, who hasn’t read the book, asked me. What does the Half-Blood Prince mean? I guess they forgot to elaborate on that in the movie. Snape revealed to Harry that he was the Half-Blood Prince, but it wasn’t explained that he called himself so because his mother was Eileen Prince, a wizard, and his father was Tobias Snape, a Muggle-born, making Snape a half-blood. Since the title of the movie is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, isn’t it an important bit of information that should have been included in the movie?

July 24, 2009 at 8:56 pm 2 comments

The Reader – A movie and book review

TheReadermovie

Here’s another movie that I have seen before reading the book. After watching the Academy Awards earlier this year, I started making a list of must-see movies this summer and The Reader made my list. It received several nominations and won quite a few awards. And the plot of a teen-aged boy having an affair with an older woman and then she mysteriously disappears intrigued me.

I rented the movie a few weeks ago. The story begins in the late 1950s in Berlin and 15-year old Michael Berg (David Kross) starts an affair with Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), a woman in her mid-30s. Whenever Michael goes to her apartment, she will ask him to read to her his literary books before they make love. And yes, you must have guessed by now, she’s nude in the movie. Sometimes I wonder if it’s really necessary to have these nude scenes. I’m pretty sure it’s not. A good director and good actors (and Kate is one, she won awards for her portrayal of Hanna in the movie, didn’t she?) can tell a romantic story by forgoing the nude scenes. It has been done. And I’ve read somewhere that the movie has been criticized for including child pornography. Well, David Kross was still a teenager when he did the movie, but I also read somewhere that they waited for him to turn 18 before shooting the nude scenes. But what really bothers me in the movie is how the character of Hanna refused to reveal her secret and would rather serve a lifetime sentence in prison. But of course, I knew better that there is more to the story than what was portrayed in the movie.

thereaderbook

And that’s why I tried to get a copy of the book. I found one at another second-hand bookstore, The Book Fair, on Portage Avenue. And yes, I like the book better than the movie.

The book is an easy read even though the topic is quite heavy and emotional. This is another book that is beautifully written even in its simplicity. It was originally written in German by Bernhard Schlink and translated by Carol Brown Janeway. I think the translator did a very good job. So I wonder what made the book good, the author or the translator? Or maybe both. Anyway, it’s a very good novel.

After reading the first part of the book, I take back what I said earlier about the nude scenes. Yes, Michael talks about his physical relationship with Hanna, but I still think the nude scenes could have been limited and toned down a bit in the movie. Also, in the book, Michael explains to the reader how he is feeling at certain parts of the story. Yes, in the movie, I felt young Michael’s excitement as he starts his relationship with Hanna and later falls in love with her. And his pain when Hanna suddenly leaves and years later when he sees her again at the trial and he realizes that she committed a war crime. But I think the movie fails to let the audience understand (especially those who haven’t read the book) that Michael is in pain not just because Hanna, the woman he loved, committed a terrible crime, but that he’s also in pain because he feels guilty for falling in love with a woman who committed such crime even though she had committed the crime after their relationship was over.

Even in the later part of the movie, I didn’t feel the conflicts that Michael has within himself. I only understood them after reading the book. And Ralph Fiennes, who played the older Michael, is such a fine actor.

Could it be the director’s fault? Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just got distracted by the nude scenes and that nagging question after watching Hanna get sentenced for life. Is her secret really that shameful at that time that she would rather go to prison for life than reveal her secret? And unfortunately, the book didn’t answer that question either. But the title of the book is The Reader and it’s not really about Hanna, right?

My most favourite part of the book is when Michael talked to the prison warden in person. It almost brought me to tears when she explained to him how proud and happy Hanna was when she overcame ‘her secret’ and how Michael has helped her in doing that. Somehow that part of the movie didn’t have the same impact on me. But I’m going to stop here now before I reveal the secret and spill any more spoilers. 🙂

June 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm 9 comments

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