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Rolling Out the Red Carpet

posted on February 26, 2014 at 2:52 am by Jenny Oleinik
Oscar himself guards the staircase at our U-District store.

Oscar himself guards the staircase at our U-District store.

Now that the Winter Olympics have concluded–and can I say bravo to Sochi on that epic celebration of Russian literature in the closing ceremony?–it’s time to turn our attention to the 86th Academy Awards. The lights! The dazzle! The pageantry! And, most importantly, the books that made so many of these movies possible from the start.

 
This year’s nominations stem from a bunch of great reads, and we’ve listed the majority of them, along with their respective book titles, below. Read the book and see the movie (or switch the order, if you so prefer). Lights, camera, action!
 
12 Years a Slave (Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Directing, etc.) 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northrop. Solomon Northup was a free-born African American who lived between 1808 and around 1863. Twelve Years a Slave is Northrup’s memoir (as told to and edited by David Wilson) of his experience being kidnapped and sold into slavery for twelve years in Louisiana before regaining his freedom. Northrop’s book was a bestseller when it was first published (just a year after Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin) but then slumped into a a century of obscurity before it was “re-discovered” in the early 1960s. The movie 12 Years a Slave is not the first film adaptation of the book, though: in 1984, Solomon Northrup’s Odyssey (later released as Half Slave, Half Free) was aired on PBS.
 

WolfWallStreetThe Wolf of Wall Street (Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Directing, etc.) The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort. Having not read this one myself, I will pass the baton to Publishers Weekly: “Belfort, who founded one of the first and largest chop shop brokerage firms in 1987, was banned from the securities business for life by 1994, and later went to jail for fraud and money-laundering, delivers a memoir that reads like fiction. It covers his decade of success with straightforward accounts of how he worked with managers of obscure companies to acquire large amounts of stock with minimal public disclosure, then pumped up the price and sold it, so he and the insiders made large profits while public investors usually lost.” And a follow-up from Kirkus Reviews: “Entertaining as pulp fiction, real as a federal indictment […] a hell of a read.”

 

bookthiefThe Book Thief (Music – Original Score) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The Book Thief has been a must-read since its publication in 2006. Narrated by death, it tells the story of Liesel, a foster child in 1939 Nazi Germany. She discovers an insatiable love of reading that she shares with her foster father, her neighbours, and the Jewish man hiding in her basement. Though categorized as a teen book, it has become an international bestseller with readers of all ages and has spent over 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It is one of those books that gets passed from reader to reader and has become a staple for book clubs nationwide. Zusak was recently awarded the 2014 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime contribution in writing for young adults. Even if you don’t see the movie, this book is a wonderful choice.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects) — The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien. Well this one seems pretty obvious, don’t you think?

 

Captain Phillips (Best Picture, Actor in a Supporting Role, Writing – Adapted Screenplay, etc.) A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephen Talty. In A Captain’s Duty, Captain Richard Philips tells the story of the hijacking of the container ship MV Maersk Alabama and his experience as a hostage to Somali pirates before he was rescued. Tom Hanks’ acting in the role of Captain Phillips was, as is typical for Hanks, fantastic. While the film focuses mainly on Phillips’ experience, the book alternates between his ordeal and the experiences of his family in Vermont as they faced a different kind of emotional turmoil. A Captain’s Duty received starred reviews from both Booklist and Publishers Weekly.

 

mayor cover for webInside Llewyn Davis (Cinematography, Sound Mixing)The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir by Dave Van Ronk. The Seattle Times says this book is “[a] delightful, keenly-observed, cantankerous autobiography…which, if you love ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ you owe it to yourself to read.” In it Van Ronk, one of the founding individuals of the 1960s folk music revival, gives a firsthand account of his experiences and encounters with soon-to-be famous Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and more. According to the New York Review of Books blog, Inside Llewyn Davis “extensively mines Van Ronk’s remarkable posthumous memoirThe Mayor of MacDougal Street (seamlessly compiled from interviews by Elijah Wald; Da Capo, 2005) for scenes, anecdotes, and details of background, and its protagonist, Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac) sings songs closely associated with Van Ronk.”

 

The Great Gatsby (Costume Design)The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Whether you loved or hated the film–and it was definitely a dividing movie–almost everyone can agree that the novel by Fitzgerald is one of the all-time best American classics. If you haven’t read it yet, now is as good a time as any.

 

The "Before they were Oscars..." display set-up at our Mill Creek branch.

The “Before they were Oscars…” display set-up at our Mill Creek branch.

Saving Mr. Banks (Music – Original Score) Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers. Okay, so it’s not based on Mary Poppins so much as the woman who wrote it and Walt Disney’s determination to bring it to cinematic life, but I still think it belongs on this list. Another title that might be of interest is Mary Poppins She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers by Valerie Lawson. Booklist says: “It turns out there was a lot of the difficult Travers in Poppins. […] This meticulously researched but overlong biography may help restore a diminished literary reputation, but its unsparing portrait of an exceedingly unsympathetic human being will win Travers no new posthumous friends.” Biography fans ought to appreciate this one, especially those who were annoyed with the inaccuracies portrayed in the film (as charming as it was).

 

room on the broomRoom on the Broom (Short Film – Animated)Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson; illustrated by Axel Scheffler. This short is based on the classic picture book created by the same duo who wrote and illustrated another bestselling kids’ favorite, The Gruffalo. Learn more here about the animated short, the original book, and a new game app that’s available.

 

Philomena (Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role, Writing – Adapted Screenplay, etc.) — Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, & a Fifty-Year Search by Martin Sixsmith. Philomena tells the true story, as told by journalist Sixsmith, of a pregnant teenager in 1952 who was sent to a convent and forced to give up her son for adoption. Five decades later she decides to find him and, unbeknownst to her, he attempts to find her as well, though they are now an ocean apart. Dame Judi Dench, who is nominated for a best actress award in this film, writes, “The extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman […] Philomena’s tale is special. […] It reveals a remarkable human being with astonishing fortitude and a truly humbling willingness to forgive. […] I hope Philomena’s heroic search and her courage in allowing her story to be told will bring comfort to all who have suffered a similar fate.” (Dench has written the foreword to the newest edition of the book that is now available.)

 

lone survivorLone Survivor (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing)Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. Lone Survivor is a non-fiction account of Luttrell’s experience in Afghanistan under Operation Red Wing in which he and other Navy SEALs were to observe a local village and capture or kill a Taliban leader. An encounter with local residents, however, turns their mission treacherously violent as they find themselves surrounded and greatly outnumbered by Taliban warriors. Film rights were obtained in 2007, the same year that the book was released. According to The Washington Post, “If you’re looking for a true story that showcases both American heroism and Afghani humanity, [this] may be the book for you.”

 

Blue Jasmine (Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Writing – Original Screenplay) — This drama, written and directed by Woody Allen, tells the story of a fall from wealth to poverty by a Manhattan Socialite. Though not specifically based on a book (note the nomination for best original screenplay), it has been heavily compared to Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire. Some critics believe Allen was directly inspired by the play, citing similar plot and characters, though not all critics agree. Regardless, the two leading ladies in Allen’s film have previously been associated with Williams’ play, and a comparison of the two would certainly bring about a lively conversation about comparative art.

 

OsageAugust: Osage County (Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role)August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. This play, an American black-comedy drama, premiered in Chicago in 2007 and then received  Pulitzer Prize in 2008. It focuses on the strong-willed and disjointed women of the Weston family who reunite after a family crisis in their hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The film adaptation features a star-studded cast (including Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, both with Oscar nods for their roles). The play itself is three hours long while the film is just around two hours. According to our own used book buyer, Brad Craft, “If you want to experience the full disfunction of this family, you owe it to yourself to read the play. A lot more drinking, drugs, and fighting–all of the fun.”

 

As always, happy reading! (And watching.)

Anna U’s October Reads

posted on October 18, 2013 at 7:59 pm by Blog Archive

THE DISASTER ARTIST: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made – by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell

Anyone who has seen THE ROOM can attest to that moment perhaps just after the first line of dialogue out of Tommy Wiseau’s mouth or maybe not until the end credits roll when they stop and think, wait…”What?” or maybe “How?” or the exponentially more philosophical “Why?”

Greg Sestero as “Mark” and Tommy Wiseau in the infamous Rooftop Scene.

 

 

THE ROOM, is an independent film produced and released in 2003 with a filming budget of six-million dollars  and a first screening run ticket sales of nineteen-hundred.

 

 

Yet the film continues to play on numerous theater screens around the country, has been taught in university film studies classes as a modern-era “Plan Nine From Outer Space”, and has garnered cult-like status for its stars. One of those stars, Greg Sestero (aka “Mark”), has now co-written along with award-winning journalist Tom Bissell, his account of the making of the film and his relationship with its enigmatic and curiously fascinating and mysterious writer/director/producer/financier/star: Tommy Wiseau, titled THE DISASTER ARTIST, out this month from Simon & Schuster.

A decade after the film’s release, Sestero is famous for playing “Mark”–though not in the way he probably originally hoped when he started pursuing acting. He is also incredibly kind and extremely generous with his fans. Somehow even within the sometimes awkward and repetitive onslaught of cultish fandom he manages to find the humor in his situation. Appearing at midnight screenings where audiences dress up, throw things at the screen, and scream lines along with characters, he’ll pose for pictures and sign autographs. He’ll even toss around a football with a fan. It’s clear from reading the book that this open and kind attitude is exactly what led him to being swept up into Wiseau’s world. Now with THE DISASTER ARTIST he lets people in even further, into his memories and experience making the film.

There are thousands of bad movies made every year, why THE ROOM has stuck–why it manages to be an exercise in continuity errors, rambling narrative, and plot canyons and yet be so entertaining is a fascinating question. The book examines why the film was made, who Wiseau actually is (genius, intentional or not?), and how movies get made (badly or not), but more than that THE DISASTER ARTIST is a fascinating page-turning story (almost impossible to believe it’s not fiction) of one man’s drive to create a work of art, what constitutes art, and what makes an artist.

You don’t have to have seen The Room in order to be drawn into this story, but if you have, this book may help answer at least part of the “?!” most people feel upon viewing.

 

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PERV: THE SEXUAL DEVIANT IN ALL OF US – Jesse Bering

 

Do you have genitals?

Do you have a human brain with complex psychology?

Do you exist in a society?

YOU PERVERT.

 

 

Don’t worry, though, you’re not alone. Psychologist Jesse Bering’s latest PERV: THE SEXUAL DEVIANT IN ALL OF US, (follow-up to last year’s WHY IS THE PENIS SHAPED LIKE THAT) out this month from MacMillan, shines the light on the often times blush-worthy subject of human sexuality, especially fetishes and paraphilia (the intense sexual arousal to highly atypical objects, situations, or individual). With actual scientific data to back up his plain language exploration of the history, politics, and cultural impact and attitudes of sex, Bering calls readers to examine sexuality and paraphilia from an amoral place, without moral judgement or shame.

 

Once we understand the science behind the desire, Bering claimed at a recent appearence at Town Hall, we will be better prepared to deal with its various possible impacts on society.

This book is a fascinating read, not lacivous, but a frank and entertaining page-turner even when broaching complex subjects and the sometimes silly and also darker corners of human sexuality. You may learn something about yourself, or come to view your fellow human beings with a little more understanding–After all birds do it, bees do it, even HUMAN BEINGS do it.

 

 

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HYPERBOLE AND A HALF: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms and Other Things That Happened – by Allie Brosh.

If you’ve been on the internet any time in the last few years you’ve probably seen
this figure somewhere, maybe with the caption “[X] all the [Y]”. The meme was born (or stolen depending on your opinion of fair-use) from one of web-comic artist Allie Brosh’s works.

That yellow triangle…mohawk?…party hat? Actually it’s a blond ponytail. This is Allie Brosh’s representation of herself from her wildly popular blog/webcomic Hyperbole and a Half, which she started in 2009–and is now compiled, with new material, in a book HYPERBOLE AND A HALF: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms and Other Things That Happened (out October 29th from Simon & Schuster). Except this isn’t just Allie, this figure has become the everyman (and everywoman) of the internet and beyond, the avatar of so many people who felt slightly odd or awkward but who along with and through Brosh have learned that they’re not so alone after all. Whether it’s dealing with mentally challenged dogs, the desperate need for cake, the cycle of procrastination, or the affects of depression. Brosh has been able to express the absurdist hilarity of life’s most mundane or trying moments through a distinct visual medium–MS PAINT.

With simple but magically evocative drawings and bright bold colors, Brosh manages to convey the absolute frenetic energy of a hyper dimwitted dog:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or the seering, vengeful rage of a toddler denied cake: 

 

The blog, with its scrollablity favored well into the comic genre, the reveal of each consecutive cell a treat. The book mirrors that sensation, the hilarious reveal planned perfectly with each page.

This book is laugh out loud hilarious, but it is more than simply a book of funny comics. It’s incredibly personal, memoirist, insightful, honest, and hilarious.

Brosh’s work has always had a deeper, psychological bent. After not posting for several months, Allie returned this past May with “Depression: Part Two” wherein she recounts her struggle with the condition. Her honesty and humor struck an emotional chord with fans and earned her many new ones. The final chapter of the book “Identity: Part Two” features Brosh digging deep into what kind of person she actually is, in Brosh’s own words: F*cking Sherlock Holmes, Psychology Explorer.

The hilarity comes in the shared experience that Brosh’s darker side, is our own. Whether it’s her sugar crazed, power drunk, pure ID toddler version of herself or her apathetic, “wanting to do good but maybe just because we care what people think of us” adult self, we are right there alongside her: trying to be grown ups, feeling awkward at times, hating spiders, getting attacked by geese, and spending too much time online–basically livin’ life to its fullest:

I like this book, alot.