Spotlight: Robert Duvall

I watched Tender Mercies (1983) again, recently. It’s one of my favorite “little” movies. I realized as I watched it that Robert Duvall is one of those actors who make you forget you are watching someone performing a role. He has that special ability to make his characters real. His performances as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Jackson Fentry in Tomorrow (1972), Tom Hagen in the first two Godfather movies, Frank Hackett in Network (1976), Lt. Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now (1979), Bull Meechum in The Great Santini (1979), Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies, Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove (1989), and Sonny Dewey in The Apostle (1997) rank as some of the finest acting ever put on film. It is an impressive body of work.

He has had several Oscar nominations including one for his performance as a military man and father in The Great Santini and he earned his first Academy Award for Best Actor in Tender Mercies.

Pick one to watch and see if you don’t agree that he is one of the best. Some of his most acclaimed films are To Kill A Mockingbird, M*A*S*H (1970), Lonesome Dove, The Godfather I and II, True Grit (1969), Apocalypse Now, and the TV miniseries Lonesome Dove.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2012)

Robin Sloan’s book has all of the elements of wonderful and unforgettable story. There are a quirky set of characters led by the clerk of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Clay Jannon. With help from his roommates, childhood friend, and new girlfriend, Clay attempts to figure out what is really going on at the unusual bookstore.  He unknowingly stumbles on a 500 year mystery and embarks on an epic journey. Humorous and well written with a great narrator, this is wonderful novel to listen to.

The Man with a Cloak (1951)

An idealistic young French girl Madeline Minot (Leslie Caron) travels to New York City in 1848 to obtain financial assistance from her fiancée’s wealthy grandfather (Louis Calhern) to further the cause of the French Republic. When she arrives, she finds that the old man is destroying himself with drink and being assisted in his demise by the old man’s sinister paramour (Barbara Stanwyck), his butler (Joe De Santis), and his very cynical maid (Margaret Wycherly). The wicked trio plan to inherit the old man’s money.

Madeline Minot meets Dupin (Joseph Cotton), the mysterious man with a cloak who, feeling sorry for the young girl, offers his assistance.

I like this film for the fine performances, the witty dialogue, the almost noirish feel of the film, the mystery aspects, and the setting in 1848 New York. I have no hard data but I suspect that 95% or more of films about 19th century America are westerns, Civil War films or a combination of the two. Even though I am especially fond of westerns, it is a real pleasure to see a film set in the East.

Students of American literature will appreciate this film as well.

I saw The Man with a Cloak for the first time a few years ago and I have seen it three more times since.  It has become one of my favorites and perhaps it will be yours as well.

Justified. Seasons 1-3 (2010-2012) TV-MA

Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is sent home to Eastern Kentucky after the “justified” shooting of a South American drug dealer in Miami. Givens is a modern day Gary Cooper, tall, lanky, and laconic; and he is always sporting his signature Stetson.

In Harlan County, he has to deal with the crazy Crowder and Bennett clans, current day bootleggers—purveyors of marijuana, crystal meth, and prescription painkillers. And he must do it in a society where toting a gun is an everyday fashion statement.

Watch the first three seasons of Justified today.

Spotlight: American Musicals

Do you love the American musical? If so, then don’t miss the series of books on Broadway musicals by Ethan Mordden. The first book of the series, Make Believe: The Broadway Musical in the 1920s (1997) tells about all the composers, directors, and stars of the era. The series continues with a book for every decade up through the 1970s and ending with The Happiest Corpse I’ve Ever Seen: The Last 25 Years of the Broadway Musical (2004).

Here’s the books in between:

Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013) PG

Discover how “Oz” came to be in Oz: The Great and Powerful. James Franco stars as Oz, a magician caught in a power struggle between three witches (Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz).

For all things Oz, also check out the original movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) or the novel of the same name by L. Frank Baum.

The Dinner by Herman Koch (2012)

The Dinner is alarming…a novel which makes you think twice. It takes place over the course of a dinner meeting between two couples, two brothers and their wives, at a high-end restaurant in Amsterdam (although it could be anywhere). Through careful revelations by its unreliable narrator, Paul Lohman, Herman Koch unravels the threads that bind. It is a novel in which the disclosure of secrets tells the tale and, though not an easy read, its twists and turns keep you reading.
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Rust and Bone = De rouille et d'os (2012) R

This is a moving French film about the power of love and loss. Rust and Bone stars Marion Cotillard as Stephanie, a killer whale trainer and Matthias Schoenaerts as Alain, a single father struggling to keep it together. Stephanie and Alain meet one night and later form an unlikely bond after Stephanie suffers from a life altering accident. A beautiful and emotional film that is a must watch.

http://youtu.be/vyAJDL3mTxI

First Frost by James Henry (2013)

Have you enjoyed the Touch of Frost mystery DVDs? Frost’s exploits first appeared in a series of books by R. D Wingfield in the 1980s. This year, Frost’s story is continued in a prequel by James Henry entitled First Frost. Frost is just as rumpled, irascible, and brilliant as in the original books and TV series as he solves crimes on the perpetually understaffed Denton Police Force.

 

From Time to Time (2009) PG

From Time to Time promo movie poster AFM 2009This fantasy film starring Maggie Smith is the story of a thirteen-year-old boy named Tolly staying with his grandmother in the country in 1940s England. Grandmother lives in a very old house built during the time of the Normans. While living there, young Tolly travels back to the time of Napoleon and meets some distant ancestors.

This film was adapted from the second of the Green Knowe books by Lucy M. Boston, The Chimneys of Green Knowe (released in the US as Treasure of Green Knowe). From what I have read, most people are enchanted by the movie with the exception of those who have read the book before seeing the film.  Since I had not read the books, I too loved the film, but I have to agree that the film could have been much better if it had stuck closer to the book.

Nevertheless I still recommend seeing From Time to Time. Although the books were written for children, if you like things British, you will thoroughly enjoy them.

I’m a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America's Most Beautiful (and misunderstood) Pet by Kevin Foster (2012)

The book is a collection of stories about pit bulls and how they are misunderstood. I loved Kevin Foster’s I’m a Good Dog because it gave so many examples of how, if given the right/correct way to rehabilitate any dog, they can give back to their owner’s community.

The Four Agreements: a practical guide to personal freedom by Miguel Ruiz (1997)

A quick read from the self-help section with four very simple guidelines for life. Use it to simplify your life and foster a strong sense of well-being. Check out The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz today.
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Deadwood. Seasons 1-3 (2004-2006) TV-MA

A combination of historical and fictional characters populate this HBO series. In Deadwood, South Dakota, in the late 1870s, Seth Bullock and his partner Sol Star open a hardware store to sell to Black Hills miners. The general lawlessness of the town leads Bullock to become sheriff. As sheriff, he must deal with competing houses of ill repute and gambling and the drunkenness of the likes of Calamity Jane. Deadwood is colorful, violent, and contains much strong language.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012)

WOW! This is a beautifully written first novel. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a coming of age story, yet it is incredibly complex.

In the 1980s, June, the 14-year-old narrator, is dealing with the death of her uncle Finn, who was her closest friend and confidant. He has died from AIDS.  Finn was an artist and leaves as a legacy a painting which is at the center of the novel. It is a portrait of two adolescent girls… sisters. It is this portrait that reveals the relationships that are the heart of this novel.

I found this to be a very moving novel, but not in any way sentimental. Carol Rifka Brunt is spot on in moments like this when June says: “I knew the way lost hopes could be dangerous, how they could turn a person into someone they never thought they’d be.”
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An Education (2009) PG-13

All of the actors gave strong performances, but Carey Mulligan’s performance as Jenny particularly sold the film. As Jenny, she portrays an innocent yet sophisticated teenager in 1960s London. An Education is a very believable coming of age tale featuring beautiful scenery and stunning architecture as the characters travel throughout Europe.

http://youtu.be/ALrcTM9W-9s
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