Sunday, April 22, 2012

An Idiot's Guide to Jane Eyre

When I received Jane Eyre in the mail I was ready to spring into action to read this beloved tale that regularly tops peoples favorite book lists. People get misty just thinking about this book and I imagined myself joining this well read group of academics, pining for good ol' Mr Rochester, imaging myself roaming the hills around Thornfield.... Only it didn't go down quite like that. First off, this isn't a book you can polish off in a couple swift  settings. (Well, maybe you can but I couldn't) So I would read a bit then something flashy would land on my nightstand and Jane Eyre would sit abandoned or a book club pick would need read and again my Bronte classic would sit shut. It was such a cool looking book I never minded having it bedside, it's very presence made me feel accomplished. Finally, a year later I decided it was time to knuckle down and finish. And I did find myself reaching a point when I was excited to pick it up at night, toting it along to piano lessons and sneaking it downstairs to read a page or two between loads of laundry or dishes. I even shed sentimental tears on the last page but overall it was, to quote 'the dawg',  "just alright for me".

You know how he generally gets booed for that line, I pretty much got a similar reaction from the fellow book babes. When I mentioned that I read it at book club and it was just ok, no stars and rockets and life changing stuff, some of them (Crystal, Sara and Elisabeth) had a reaction akin to one as if I had said something like 'I hate puppies and babies'. I'll admit when I first finished I was worried, was I too dumb to get this book?? So I turned to the movie thinking that if I missed some huge plot point my eyes would be opened by the cinematic, but....I guess I'm missing the Jane Eyre lovin' gene. (Although movie Mr Rochester was so much better than the Rochester I conjured in my imagination.)  

   BlackBackground.jpg Mr. Rochester


And don't get me wrong, I didn't hate the book, I just didn't LOVE the book. I'm still glad to have read it, now I can be in the know with any Jane Eyre/Thornfield/Rochester literary reference (I imagine this really upping my Jeopardy game) and I've been waiting to read the Eyre Affair for over a year now, so next time I'm between books, I'm covered.

Maybe everyone built it up too much, maybe there was just too much pressure to 'connect' with this classic, am I the only girl out there who read this book and had only a luke warm reaction? Do I need to make a doctor appointment stat and get some extra estrogen rolling? Perhaps there's an herbal remedy? Let me know....til then I'm taking on 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hunger Games Movie

After my third viewing I finally felt I could commit something to writing. From the opening shot of Caesear Flickerman, perfectly characterized by Stanley Tucci and Senaca Crane, rocking the sculpted facial hair and managing to make those white slacks work, I was sold.

I'm one of those obnoxious people who thinks it matters more what I think of the movie because I read the books first. And don't get your panties in a twist because I couldn't possibly have read it first, I just mean that I read it hot off the press (because another author online made a recommendation) and had to wait the long years between releases instead of in some whirlwind sleepless weekend. And if you're still offended, whatever, I'm sure you can feel superior later when I discover something you've loved for years. Back to the movie, though, I started out heated up about the casting, convinced it was all going to be wrong (aside from Josh as Peeta and Woody as Haymitch). But then the propaganda got to me and I decided to take a more relaxed approach to the movie. I'm pretty sure my blog-side ranting wasn't going to start a revolution so I decided to go with the flow and enjoy what was good about the movie instead of trying to figure out ways it wasn't going to work. And I was so overall impressed that I refuse to nit-pick about the few things that were off, I think aside from turning it into a six-hour BBC movie it was about as perfect as a book to movie could translate. Some of the highlights for me were:

1. Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman. Without taking anything away from the tone of the movie Tucci added a comical but perfect portrayal of Flickerman. I loved the over-the-top expressions done in a way that was funny without being cheesy and seemed completely in sync with the spirit of his character in the book.

Caesar Flickerman

2. The music. As a rule I hate it when a soundtrack or song is released from a movie and when you actually see the movie the songs are missing completely or show up in the credits, but this is exactly what happened in the Hunger Games and I don't care. The entire mood of this movie was so perfectly set that I can't complain about the exclusion of any song. And to be fair, when the soundtrack was released, it was labeled as songs from District 12 and beyond, which to me suggested a playlist inspired by the movie rather that a soundtrack from the movie, which is exactly what it is. And even so, with no real connection to the movie (aside from two in the credits) it does manage to embody the tone of the movie really well. I particularly like Maroon 5's contribution, which doesn't have an official video but this youtube version at least lets us spend a few minutes basking in Adam's glory.

3. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. I like him even better than the book Haymitch. Book Haymitch was on Katniss' team but I always wondered if he really liked her. Movie Haymitch was the perfect tough love version, crusty but definitely in her corner.


4. When Katniss attacks Peeta after his declaration and Effie's blurts out "Manners", I love this. Hunger Games can be pretty heavy stuff so I really appreciated the appropriate moments of light.

5. When Katniss is shaking like a leaf before going up to the games, I have no idea how Jennifer Lawrence pulled it off, but that was so amazingly realistic. (not that I in fact have any idea what a 'realistic' reaction would be for being thrust into an arena to fight to the death) Anyway, it seemed legit.


6. Gale. I have always firmly planted myself in Peeta's corner (I'd say Team Peeta but I'm afraid someone might call me out and say I've aged out of teams, and I'm super sensitive about my age) Anyway, I was completely against Liam Hemsworth as Gale, part of that may be on grounds that I doubted being able to take serious anyone who has dated Miley Cyrus. But in his limited screen time he won me over, not so much that I'd abandon my Peeta loyalty but enough that I was sympathetic to his character and could absolutely see why there was a triangle at all.

7. I loved finding out that all this time I wasn't saying anyones names wrong in my head. Peeta really was pronounced like the pocket bread. It's always awkward to see a movie and feel like the characters are completely different just because you were hearing their names different when you read. Maybe this is weird to mention and number as a highlight, but it was oddly reassuring to me. 

I'm pretty sure I could keep the numbered bullets going infinitely. I haven't even touched on Josh and Jennifer and major plot points, but to me it was all the little nuances that made the whole awesome.

I know that Hollywood and the entire Hunger Games community isn't all that worried about my support, but I give it wholeheartedly, nonetheless!

Me and Crystal at the midnight showing!!!
Now you can see both victims of my flying elbows!

PS. If you go to a midnight showing dressed up like people from the capitol you might feel like people are looking at you. When I thought about dressing up in bright wigs and outrageous eyelashes I just thought it would be fun, only once there I felt like a spectacle and I realized I'm much more comfortable blending in, and when you are wearing an untamable neon purple wig and turquoise feathered eyelashes it is hard to blend. Just an FYI if the thought crossed your mind......


Monday, April 16, 2012

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

If you know me even a little bit, you know I HATE the S word.  I really, really hate those things, those cold, creepy, slithery, scaly, evil-embodying stuff of nightmares.  Hate them with a passion that may unfairly get taken out on a sinister looking stick or lone shoelace left behind on the garage floor, just on the presumption that it MAY have slightly resembled an S.  And by “taken out on”, I mean shrieked at and bolted from.  So when Andrea told me I better not ever pick another medical book or she would then choose a field guide to S as her pick, I started to get the feeling that my April pick, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, wasn’t her new best friend. 

Even with that initial response, this book turned out to be book club gold.  There was just so much to talk about.  It’s one of those books that raise questions you have never thought about before…who should be able to make money off human tissue and/or cells?  Does a person have the right to determine what happens to parts and pieces of their body once removed?  If a person essentially throws some part of themself away, are the monetary benefits that could be made off it up for grabs?  Is there an ethical obligation that if a person’s cells turn a profit, the original user of those cells should be compensated?  And if so, how much?  And more creepily, could my cells be out there somewhere being experimented on, researched on, cloned or used in any way without my knowledge?  (Now I’m picturing any army of micro-Crystals in a lab somewhere, some true clones, some half human half dog hybrids, maybe something that would be on the Island of Dr. Moreau...  I like it!)
Rebecca Skloot did a fantastic job of weaving the story of Henrietta and her family into the bigger picture of scientific advancement, the history of medical research, American race relations and health care capitalism.  She wrote the heavy, meaty sections in ways that the average person could understand and then put a face on it, albeit sometimes it was a face I didn’t much like.  She tried to stay as impartial as possible, not sainting or demonizing either side, but rather laying everything out and letting the reader decide where they stood.  Even after reading, pondering and discussing this book, I still don’t have the answers.  Maybe the awareness Ms. Skloot raised and the fact that the questions are being debated is enough.