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Book Review: “1984,” by George Orwell

Genre: classic; dystopian; futuristic

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Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality.”

My Book Review:  Who hasn’t heard of this classic novel by now?  Of course it’s a must-read, and I had to find out for myself why it is.  I quickly learned that this doesn’t have much to do with how George Orwell predicted the world would be by 1984.  It’s not really futuristic in that sense.  It’s just the year (or, approximate year for no one really knows for certain) that the story takes place in.

This review isn’t going to do the book justice.  Let’s just say it got my inner cogs going page after page!  I wish I had kept a journal of things I came across as interesting, along with my commentary and thoughts but I didn’t have a notebook at the time.  I fairly flew through this.  I will probably want to go back and dissect it even more later.  I recommend an annotated version, commentary, curriculum, or cliff’s notes to go along with reading it.  There’s just so much food for thought!

There were not a few unsettling parts.  I wasn’t prepared for the sex scenes.  There are several, so parents will want to be really cautious if letting highschoolers read this.  The main characters don’t always make moral choices or follow a moral code.  That’s not to say our main character doesn’t try, but at some point any of us may reach a weak spot somewhere.  I disliked the character of Julia.  I found her shallow, worldly, and rather a tramp.  I didn’t really trust her emotionally with Winston.

I felt frustrated with the interruption of Winston’s reading of The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, a mini-book within the book which was more interesting than it sounds.  Just when it got to the really good part–!  (No spoilers here.)

Naturally after reading the book, I wanted to know more about the author.  Some readers may be surprised to find that George Orwell himself (pen name for Eric Blair) was a socialist.  He distinguished himself from it in the ordinary sense of the word by calling himself a democratic socialist, but all socialist roads lead to socialism in my book.  There are no checks to keep man in balance once you start playing around with it.  I think he began to move more and more toward this conclusion near the end of his life, though he may not have completely turned about.

I could make this a super long review, but I’d recommend reading the book for yourself.  If you’re looking for a feel-good story, this is not it.  The whole tone is tense, gritty, and black and blue.  I came away from it with two thoughts: A) relief that man is too human to be able to hold up a perfectly rigid system such as Big Brother’s; and B) anxiety knowing that man is too human not to try.

The world goes batty:

I would also recommend:

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Movie Review: “Lincoln”

 

3dead818f8bb0491dba54bfac1dd62b2Based on the book, “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Version: 2012; Daniel Day-Lewis; Tommy Lee Jones; Sally Fields; David Strathairn; Lee Pace; Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Genre: historical drama

Plot Summary: [from IMDb:] As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that work.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

I remember reading high praise for this movie when it first came out. Actually, I believe I had my eye on it when it was first announced it was in the making, and Daniel Day-Lewis was cast in the role of Abraham Lincoln.  The similarities between their looks are amazing, but would the movie do history and the man himself justice?

Oh wow. I can’t begin to tell you about the amount of research that went into the creating of this film.  I would love to know more about the ‘making of’ it.  I do know that the actors and actresses really gave this one their all and went into full-depth character to accurately portray these historical people.  Day-Lewis in particular researched Lincoln’s mannerisms, way of walking, speech, and voice in order to become him.

I am not so steeped in Civil War history as to know how many facts in this movie are correct, but I do know that it was inspired by the thoroughly researched book, “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The author worked closely on the making of the film as well.

LINCOLNActing is top-notch. I really felt as though I were viewing a fragment of my country’s history, and that felt exciting.  Even though I knew how history played out, this movie caused me to doubt for a little bit what would happen.  The behind-the-scenes politics of history made for a tense plot and kept me on the edge of my seat.  In fact, it was so identifiable in this day and age and maybe that’s why I felt nervous for what would happen.

One drawback of the film is that many of the historical facts presented escaped me in one viewing. I will definitely need to rewatch it to glean more from it.  Because of this, I felt somewhat confused and didn’t understand some of the plot structure.

However, I did learn a lot about the genius of Abraham Lincoln. I’ve always had the impression that he was so morally simple as to be sort of uninteresting.  Not so!  This man had a talent given to him by God that he used in the time and position he was placed in.  He was an absolute chess-master at politics, but had a core of integrity that kept him straight and true.  I believe watching this shed some light for me in deciding how to vote this past presidential election.  It also caused me to love a person I’ve never met, and left to wonder why God would allow such a man who did so much good and suffered greatly for it, to die at the hands of an assassin so soon after victory was achieved.

My favorite scene is near the end, with the singing of “Battle Cry of Freedom.” It was so inspiring, and caused me to be grateful to God for His working in our country’s history.  When’s the last time you felt excited about history?

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Movie Review: Les Miserables

928283ab6e774bf98c29d851f4efc1ddBased on the book by Victor Hugo.

Version: 2012; starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne

Genre:  drama, musical

Plot Summary: In the times between post-Revolutionary France and the Paris Rebellion of 1832, an inconsequential criminal -Prisoner 24601- is set free from penal servitude.  Can a thief receive grace and have another chance in life?  Some would think not, particularly a strict, tow-the-line, “black & white” law enforcement officer like Inspector Javert.  But others, –like the trusting little girl Cosette and the idealistic activist Marius,– choose to open their hearts to the man remade into the new Jean Valjean.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Yeah, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but a good story is a good story in a book or on film no matter when one happens to experience it. I’ve never read the book (somehow never could convince myself to begin a 2,783 page opus [see recent post]), but I have seen the earlier 1998 version with Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean.  I’m not sure I enjoyed that one.  But I’ve also listened to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s excellent audio production of the story and highly recommend that.

Les Miserables is a classic tale that contains so many human elements that speak deeply to us—love, hatred, forgiveness, compassion, revenge. That’s why it’s a classic.  The drama, the pathos, emotion pull us in and won’t let us go.  I found myself being deeply engrossed in this newest film version of Victor Hugo’s epic story.  Believe it or not, I’d never seen or listened to the musical, although a few songs sounded familiar because of how they’ve infiltrated our pop culture (I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home).  At first I wasn’t so sure this story could be presented seriously as a musical, but I was proved wrong in one of the earliest scenes (when Jean receives the gift of forgiveness from the priest).  And by the end of the movie, I was blubbering away into a soggy Kleenex.

I had avoided watching it when it first came out because of watching the trailer and hearing others’ reviews. I’d heard that so and so shouldn’t have been cast in this role because somebody else would have done so much better…  Another person was snubbed for not being cast…  This actress completely ‘ruined’ the movie… That person couldn’t sing… etc. etc. etc.  I’d heard the film was too ‘gritty’, too ‘gorey’, too ‘indecent’.  I watched the trailer and saw too much skin.

untitledI’m not a musical aficionado. Maybe so and so could have sang the part better.  All I know is Fantine sang as though her life was at the bottom of a sludge pit and Valjean sang through weary tears.  Cosette sang like a bird in love, and Marius like he’d found the treasure of his life.  If I could be so thoroughly convinced this story was real, I think somebody was doing their job supremely well.   Probably the only one who didn’t have me convinced of his role was Russell Crowe as Javert.  He felt uncomfortable and limited in the part.

Gritty? Yes.  Gorey?  It was a reflection of the time and era in which real people lived.  Not all of humanity has lived in pristine Downton Abbey.  Indecent?  Yes. Humanity is messed up.  But we live in a  place where true love shines like a jewel amidst the dirt and grime of a perverted world.

Yet, there are some indecencies I would prefer not to expose myself to, and there were some content issues I’d warn about. I have better things to do than count swear words and describe raunchy scenes, so you can read a more detailed review here if you are in need of one.  But I will say that there were at least two places I wanted to be careful about: 1)  Fantine gradually falls deeper and deeper into the backalley ways of the underworld, not out of any desire on her part but out of pure desperation.  As she sings her song, she is led into a dark room where one gets the idea of what will happen next without having to see it.  I didn’t watch, but continued to listen to her heart-rending song.  I wouldn’t fast forward through it if it can be helped because the music is some of the best of the musical and it’s well acted.  2)  The Thenardiers are the picture of the world taking delight in degradation.  The rowdy song that takes place in their inn, where they celebrate the pleasures of sin is one that can be skipped (IMO).  It is definitely NOT a family scene!  I got half way through and decided I was too sick to watch the rest and clicked through to the next scene.

Only one thing I wish could have been improved upon and that is I would have liked to have seen more of the beginning developing relationship between Jean Valjean and the little girl Cosette.  This is a weakness in the original story itself I think, and that is that Cosette’s character is too trusting.  This could have been strengthened in the movie, and their getting to know one another was rather missing.  It would have helped to cement my emotional attachment further.

But for all of that, I wish I had not waited so long to watch this wonderful story illustrated with so much emotion, music, color and drama. The sets and the details blew my mind.  I don’t often like to rewatch movies, but this is one I will want to have in my collection to go back to every so often.  I truly thought it was a good piece of art, though I know there are enough who debate me there.

What are your thoughts on this film version of Les Miserables?  I’d like to know what you think!

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Matorni’s Vineyard,” by E. Phillips Oppenheim

serveimageGenre: futuristic; suspense; intrigue

Plot Summary: Mervyn Amory is a British tennis player on his way to Monte Carlo for a holiday.  He takes a train trip that turns out to be anything but leisurely.  When an Italian spy passes on vital information to him just before he is assassinated, who will Mervyn trust?  Can we trust him?  And who is the beautiful Italian diva who has close ties to the Princess?

My Book Review: It’s been a few years since I’ve dipped into Oppenheim, but I have to say this was much more interesting to me than the last two I’ve read.  It had a flavor of The Great Impersonation, as far as the intrigue and atmosphere go.  It wasn’t hard to read, and provided some fun entertainment.

The best part was that it kept you guessing about who you could trust. I can’t say there were any huge plot twists that maybe the average reader wouldn’t see coming, but yet it keeps one suspecting everyone– even the main character.

I felt disappointed in how the Dictator was treated in the end. SPOILER ALERT: I felt the winners dealt him too soft a hand and they dared to trust someone to continue leading a large European country who had just threatened to pitch the continent into another world war.  Who’s to say he wouldn’t ever try something like that again?  On the other hand, I suppose this type of international dealing is realistic, considering how the world treated Hitler and Germany before WWII. END OF SPOILER. Oppenheim set his book in the 1940’s, which would have made the tale futuristic for readers at the time it was published in 1928.  Of course, the dictator-character Matorni represents Mussolini himself.  Oppenheim also had some of this type of foresight in my favorite of his (The Great Impersonation).

I loved the exotic location set in Monaco. Although the story is not historical, the details feel accurate, as if they were.  There is a romance as a side plot included, but I can’t say it was very believable because of how fast it occurred in such a short amount of time.  But if you want a bit of ‘alternate history’ type genre, this might interest you.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Quote for September 17, 2016

2178939c01db7793d38d1a586bd4cfbe“A public library is the most democratic thing in the world.  What can be found there has undone dictators and tyrants: demagogues can persecute writers and tell them what to write as much as they like, but they cannot vanish what has been written in the past, though they try often enough… People who love literature have at least part of their minds immune from indoctrination.  If you read, you can learn to think for yourself.”  ~Doris Lessing

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2016 in Quotes

 

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Movie Review: “America: Imagine a World Without Her”

MV5BMjM0MjgyOTQ4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTQ1NzQ3MTE@__V1_SX214_AL_Based on the book by Dinesh D’Souza.

Version: 2014.

Genre: documentary

Plot Summary: [from IMDb]: “A story that questions the shaming of the US through revisionist history, lies and omissions by educational institutions, political organizations, Alinsky, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other progressives to destroy America.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

“God damn America.” You hear it everywhere nowadays.  Sometimes in so many words, sometimes only implied but it’s message becomes more popular all the time.  Indeed, sometimes it can be hard not to be embarrassed because of some of our leaders’ choices in this day and age.  But is what we so often hear said about America in school, on tv, and in books correct?  Should we be embarrassed about the idea of America and what it was founded on?

Settling down to watch this on Independence Day last year, I found this documentary to be enlightening and spot on with its assessment of America’s past. Writer and director Dinesh D’Souza addresses such topics as the discovery of North America, colonization, slavery, treatment of the Native Americans, and America’s wars up to the present day.  Saul Alinky and Howard Zinn’s books and worldviews are also discussed.  Some shocking stories from this country’s history that haven’t made the history books are also uncovered.

At first I felt depressed as I watched the facts about the present state of our nation honestly dealt with.  It was so heartbreaking, I wasn’t so sure I could watch to the end because I felt despair taking over.  However, about halfway through the film, D’Souza provides us with some inspiration to be the America we need and that the rest of the world needs.  By the end, I felt uplifted and encouraged.

Lest you might be hesitant to watch a film with snarky back-biting and mud-slinging, I’ll assure you that you won’t find those types of negative elements in this one.  Instead, I appreciated that D’Souza (himself an immigrant from India) treated with respect all of his interviewees who held a different opinion than his.  I would be interested in seeing D’Souza in a debate or lecture in person sometime.

Much of this documentary is dramatized for us through actors’ portrayals.  Overall, I found the film to be eye-opening, truthful, and balanced.  This would be great for families to watch together (especially high school/college age kids), or for the regular joe who would like some good arguments the next time he finds himself in a discussion about politics.

~Happy Independence Day, America!~

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2016 in Movie Reviews

 

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“The Goebbels Experiment”

023adc95ba40c93716a80dd303688acbI recently watched a riveting documentary, The Goebbels Experiment.  Using text taken completely from Joseph Goebbel’s diary and speeches, the film documents the Nazi Minister of Propaganda’s life, especially his work in the years leading up and during the Second World War.  Goebbel’s voice is narrated by Kenneth Branagh, and his acting made for a completely believable retelling of what happened.

There are no graphic descriptions of the mass murders that took place during the holocaust.  However, there is some disturbing film footage of Goebbels, his wife Magda, and their six little children after they were found dead at the end of the war.  There is also a brief description near the beginning of the film of a passionate love affair Goebbels was involved in with a girlfriend.  I wouldn’t recommend this for children, obviously.  Parents would be well advised to preview it for older kids first.

It was eye-opening, and a bit creepy to be a viewer to so much material about the Nazi “spin doctor.”  I found it educational in learning how Nazis like Goebbels thought, how they manipulated the public’s perception of information, and could see similarities in things going on in the modern world today.  I highly recommend this film– the more we learn from history, the more alert we are to the things going on around us.

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2016 in Movie Reviews

 

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