Friday, December 29, 2017

Review: The Little Prince

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A book so short you can read it in one sitting (as I did) but containing so much insight and wit that it will last with you for a long while. There is little wonder why this charming (and depressing!) book is a classic. The basic theme is that when we grow older, we lose sight of the wonder all around us, but it's books like The Little Prince that will constantly remind us that we were once young and full of hope. A five star book that is perfect for all ages, but especially good for adults who have grown jaded and cynical.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why Don't Kung-Fu Flicks Get the Same Love as Musicals?

Hollywood loves musicals. My wife just got done watching La La Land, and this was her review: "OMG. La La land was terrible!" I haven't seen it yet, so I can't say I agree or disagree with her assessment, but the movie was up for God knows how many Oscars, and actually won best picture...for a few minutes.

But for my money, Five Deadly Venoms, or Shogun Assassin, are far superior films than Chicago or Oliver. And they aren't any more ridiculous, either. Nobody just breaks out into kicking and punching people in the head, just like nobody just breaks out into song and dance, but the Academy apparently thinks one genre is legitimate art, and the other is just chop sockey nonsense. But why? Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the only martial arts movie to ever be nominated for best picture, and probably only because it was artsy fartsy. But what about Hero? What about House of Flying Daggers? Isn't either one of those better than West Side Story? No, but you get my point. Why does the Academy favor one over the other? I'd like to hear your thoughts. Sound off below.

Monday, October 9, 2017

It's Okay to Think Blade Runner Sucks.

(Image taken from: The Vinyl Factory)

Blade Runner is one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. It's the "thinking man's" sci-fi film. Ridley Scott is a genius, and Harrison Ford has never been better.

Except none of that is true. At least not for me. Blade Runner is a boring, meandering, mess of a movie, and I hate it, even if you love it. Sure, everybody talks about it like Jesus Christ Himself was behind the camera when it was filmed, but there are many, many people out there who have seen it and said, "That's what everybody was talking about? That sucked!" Or at least, they would say that if they didn't think they would be made fun of or ridiculed by "smart people".

But good news! I'm here to tell you that it's liberating to admit that you don't like a movie that other people love. It's also freeing to admit that you love a movie that other people hate. Like mother! by Darren Aronofsky. Have you seen mother!? Don't answer that. Because if you have, you might have hated it, and I don't want you to feel compelled to lie and say that you liked it just because I liked it. Because the truth is, the saying, "You just didn't get it," doesn't really apply to anything but, say, a math problem, because art is totally subjective. If the artist is saying something deeper that you didn't manage to pick up on, the problem is not with you. And for the most part, it's not with the artist, either. The problem is mostly with the story and your preferences for how a story is told. Oh, and the pacing. Can't forget the pacing.

(Image taken from: Pinterest)

That said, even a slow paced film can be interesting if the characters and the story are engaging. There are a lot of "greatest films of all time" that don't really put much attention into the characters and instead put more focus on breaking the conventions of storytelling. This is why a lot of the "greatest movies of all time" are often dismissed by the general public as being pretentious or boring. Look no further than Sight and Sounds 50 Greatest Movies of All Time List. I guarantee that if you showed 10 people 8 1/2, or The Passion of Joan of Arc, probably seven of those people would fall asleep, two of those people would lie and said they liked it, and one person would genuinely think they're masterpieces. But are any of them wrong in their opinion? I'd like to say no. Their opinion is just not your opinion, and that's okay. Your upbringing and outlook on life will sway your feelings dramatically when it comes to art. As I said before, art is not as direct as a math problem. And it's not supposed to be. Art is personal. And that is why it's so beautiful.

So if you hate Blade Runner and love Transformers, that's okay. Not only is it okay, it's great! And never let anybody ever tell you otherwise.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (Oz, #4)Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lot of people don't seem to like this book because the title is misleading, but honestly, I only really liked the book when Dorothy and the Wizard WEREN'T in Oz. The surrounding world beneath the Earth, and the other strange territories were super inventive and fun, and I actually think this is the best book since the first one, since the two in-between seemed more like fan service rather than actual stories. I also think the Wizard is probably the most engaging an interesting character in this series, and I hope he's in more of the future books. I really liked this one.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: The Marvelous Land of Oz

The Marvelous Land of Oz (Oz, #2)The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For most of this book, the second in the lengthy Oz series, the characters are just traveling around and arguing with each other. It's like a fantasy road trip, which the first book was as well, but at least all those characters got along with each other. Whether you like this book or not really all depends on if you like the new characters. Personally, I thought the book picked up when the Scarecrow and Tin man showed up again. But even with them, the plot is quite slim. It picks up toward the end, and like noted by many, there's a cool surprise toward the climax, but otherwise, it's pretty middle of the yellow brick road (you like that?). Since I have the first 10 books, I hope the rest have a bit more meat to them.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: The Truth

The TruthThe Truth by Jeffry W. Johnston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a teacher of seventh graders, I have a lot of students who just flat out DON'T READ. In fact, just yesterday, I had a student-a bright student, no less-who told me they hate books. I said "hate is a very strong word," and she said, "But it's the truth, Mr. Knight." (And I swear. Pun not intended). Jeffry Johnson's book, also called The Truth, is definitely not boring, and I'll be giving copies out to some of my students next year who are adamant on their feelings that reading=boring. The Truth is immediately interesting and maintains that pacing all the way through. In fact, when it's nearly over, it's ratcheted up to a point that I was literally flipping ahead to see, wait, how is this going to end? It is surprisingly complex for a YA book, and the male characters are a lot more sensitive than you often see in this medium. A five star book, and enjoyable for adults as well teenagers. Give it a read.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review: Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue (The Giver, #2)Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I can genuinely say that this is one of the worst books I've ever read in my entire life. A companion to The Giver, my butt. This is about as close to The Giver as Big Trouble in Little China is to Buckaroo Banzai, which is to say not at all except in maybe the author's mind. The whole story, you're wondering when is this book going to actually pick up? And by the time you reach page 200, you realize that it's not, and you feel cheated. And rightfully so! The Giver was so good, and this is a boring slog. It starts out with genuine conflict, but it gets resolved in about the first 20 pages, and the rest of the book meanders. This novel is a complete waste of time. I won't be reading the next two books. I'm done with this series.

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