Feb 5 2009

Mr. Magness’ Top Movies

Ok, I have been a bit remiss in blogging lately.  I am trying to motivate myself for this last semester of school, studying for my comprehensive exams, looking for work and a job, and blogging.  Unfortunately blogging has taken a bit of a hit lately, but hopefully I get in the groove soon and figure out how to balance everything out.  That being said I am also pretty terrible at writing any type of favorite or year end lists, which brings me to this post.  This is the first ever–and hopefully not the last–guest post.  This is the first in a series of four favorite lists composed by Mr. Magness.  Today’s list is Top 10 movies of 2008 (and spare me the whole “it’s too late for that it’s already February crap.”  I’m a habitual procrastinator so deal with it, plus it’s better late than never).  Seeing as how I rarely ever see movies in theaters (and the fact that I hate writing lists) I am ill-equipped to write up a list like this and defer to the knowledge and experience of Mr. Magness:

Mr. Magness

Mr. Magness

Another year and another drawn out list of my favorite movies, TV and books. Hopefully everyone enjoys it and hopefully this will spark some lively debate at home and through email. I have included the links to all the trailers for the best movies and television that I thought were great. If you pay close attention you will find 2, count them, 2 Sean William Scott movies in my top ten of the year. And the winners (OF NOTHING) are….

10. Burn After Reading

The new masterpiece from the Coen brothers was overlooked by critics but I think it is one of the best Coen brothers movies up there with Raising Arizona, Big Lebowski, and O’ Brother. It is amazing watching Clooney and Pitt dressed up and acting like such normal men and being able to act like such idiots and douches at the same time in this film. The characters that are in this movie perfectly embrace what it is to be the new version of an American moron. The whole movie revolves around a CD full of nothing and the desire for plastic surgery. It is very funny and is easily one of the best films of the year.

9. The Foot Fist Way

Danny McBride is the future of comedy and this movie should of launched his career but sadly not many people saw this little film. This movie is a story of an overweight Tae Kwon Do instructor in Minnesota. Not laughing yet…the main character is one of the most ridiculous humans alive and it follows his sad life even though he thinks his life is just Awesome!!!! Luckily Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Judd Apatow saw this film and put McBride in Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express (he was the best part of both movies). This has the humor of Napoleon Dynamite but of the R rated variety. Easily a movie that will become a cult hit and be quotable for years to come.

8. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

The second best love story of the year and easily the most beautifully filmed movie of the year. This movie tells the story of a man who ages backwards and the struggles that come with any lifetime. This movie is a surprise from director David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, last years Magness top ten Zodiac) but really captures everything that is pure and great concerning a love story. the film is almost 3 hours in running time but feels like it just flies by. Brad Pitt is good as Benjamin but his mom played by Tarjie Henson is absolutely amazing and she is well deserving of an Academy Award nomination. This movie leaves a Forrest Gump feeling in your heart by having us feel grateful we were able to take Button’s journey along side him.

7. Frost/Nixon

Watching this movie by Ron Howard I was amazed how a simple interview could lead to such an intense political thriller. The movie is based around the interviews President Nixon had with David Frost a British journalist. Now the key word is BASED because it is not all fact but it sure makes for a great movie. The best parts are the interviews between Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (Frost) because of their chemistry and the noticeable tension that is built between them throughout the course of the film. It is well deserving of a Best Picture nod and is easily one of Ron Howard’s best movies.

6. Slumdog Millionaire

The best love story of the year goes to this movie simply because I have never seen a movie quite like this movie. Who knew you could make such an intense, beautiful, devastating and romantic movie based around Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The story is told in flashbacks as a “slumdog” is answering questions on the game show. Every question is realized through the tragic events of the main characters life. Danny Boyle the director (Trainspotting, The Island) brings India to life in ways I have never seen before and really brings out the beauty that can be found any and everywhere. This movie is nominated for 10 Academy Awards and has a great chance of being this years Best Picture.

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Jan 5 2009

A Farewell to Arms

I finished A Farewell to Arms today–it was a really quick read–and this will be the last time I ever go from a Steinbeck novel to a Hemingway novel.  Their styles are so different that I think I don’t like A Farewell to Arms as much as I may have.  One reason for this is because, if you know anything about Hemingway, you know that his prose is short and succinct.  Where Steinbeck gives the reader an epic description of a sunset, the tilled earth, and a grasshopper Hemingway tells the reader that it is cold and muddy.  And it works it really does there is something about his sparse style that is really gripping and leaves you wanting more.  He gives you the bare essentials and then moves on; it’s almost like watching a chase movie where you have to watch it a few times before you catch everything.  Since this is one of Hemingway’s earlier novels, however, it is also not as strong or polished as his later works and it is easy to tell that he is still trying to perfect his style.  All that would be forgivable if it wasn’t for the fact that the I hated the characters.

A Farewell to Arms is a love story set in World War I betwixt Lieutenant Fredric Henry, an American serving with the Italian army, and Catherine Barkley–a British nurse.  There are a lot of good elements in this story and some very good scenes, but the crux of the story depends on the love affair between the two protagonists, and that element fails.  I never for a second believe in or care about these two characters.  Catherine Barkley seems like a precursor to the babbling bitches from The Hills that infect our airwaves on a daily basis.  The dialog between the two is mind-numbingly terrible and reminds me of the high school couple that would argue about who is going to hang up first.  Bleeetch.  Henry doesn’t fair much better.  He is developed a bit better than Catherine, and instead of being one-dimensional he is one and a half dimensional.  They basically become two characters who I don’t care much about and I tend to root against  instead of for.  Their first few meetings are cringe worthy and I totally don’t buy their summer love-affair, but that’s just me maybe I’m just a cynical Grinch.  Lucky for me it’s a Hemingway novel so you know that it isn’t going to have some crappy Disney fairy book ending.  For me the last thirty pages made up for the first 300.  If you have read For Whom the Bells Toll then you know what Hemingway is capable of.  The relationship between Robert Jordan and Maria is so much more compelling.  By that time Hemingway’s style was set, his dialogue was great, the story was amazing so I think that maybe I was expecting a bit too much out of this one.

There is still a lot to like about this book despite the fact that it’s never going to be, for me, one of those epic books.  Even in this early stage Hemingway’s sentence construction is fascinating, and there is really no one else that does it like him.  He will go from a regular sentence, to a long sentence, to a three or four word sentence that concludes his point succinctly.  Most of his sentences though are brief.  He also has this habit where he will overuse ‘and’ in one sentence and then not use it in the next sentence in an obvious situation.  Like I mentioned above his descriptive prose left a lot to be desired but the more I read of it the more I liked the sparse descriptions.  It works especially well when the characters are in life or death scenarios and instead of plodding through these he briskly describes them and then moves on quickly giving the reader a sense of immediacy that would not come as easily with long plodding prose.  If I want pointers on how to write a brief concise sentence Hemingway is the man.  It’s not as easy as it sounds especially for people who like to write and who like to be as thorough as possible in all of their sentences.  Sometimes it is easy to forget how much can be said with just a few words.  If this book was a movie I would say wait for the DVD.  It’s worth reading if you’re a fan of Hemingway, but don’t buy it just check it out from the public library.  I will refrain from leaving an excerpt this time too as the only part I would like to excerpt might spoil it for those of you who haven’t read it and want to read it.  Tomorrow I will start Team of Rivals and hopefully I can finish that before school starts.

Jul 8 2008

The Brothers Karamazov

I should begin by stating that I absolutely love Dostoevsky, and Russian Literature.  This is the fourth major novel of his that I have read.  The other three are Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Demons (also alternately titled The Possessed ).  This novel I would rank after Crime and Punishment and probably just in front of The Idiot.  Although The Demons is a good book is lags well behind the others.  Reading Dostoevsky is daunting.  Every time I start on page 1, and realize that I have 700+ pages left, I feel that I will never finish.  His books are long, methodical, and incredibly verbose.  For many people this is unacceptable, and they can’t stand reading books that long.  I, however, really enjoy long, well written books.  In this day and age of instant gratification, even in modern novels, it is nice to read a book that takes its time.  Like his other books, this one starts out slowly plodding along like an old horse.   It is his prose and his ability to write consistent, believable characters that makes his books so enjoyable.  He is a true master, and I learn something new about writing every time I read his work.

The Brothers Karamazov, in my opinion, is a much more lofty and mature work.  It is rightly considered his greatest work, because it is his most ambitious.  It seems as if he took everything he learned from his previous novels–including the grand themes from each–and combined them into one glorious masterpiece.  Dostoevsky’s greatest strength is how he writes his characters.  He is able to take the reader into the mind of these fabulous–and many times dark–characters.  In Crime and Punishment the whole novel is about the inner workings of the mind of a murderer before, during, and after his murder, and subsequently into his path to redemption.  Dostoevsky was able to expand on that, and other themes that he had explored in previous books.  He brings in his ideas of God, science, nihilism, corruption, good and evil, and many others from The Idiot and The Demons.  Like in The Idiot, an epileptic character plays a major role in this novel.  The Brothers Karamazov is about so much more than parricide.  The book was published during 1879-80, and during this time science really started to conflict with religion.  Dostoevsky uses this book, in part, as a treatise on the fundamental questions of the relationship between religion and science.  Can they co-exist?  Does God exist or is he just a construct of man?

These are some of the questions that are raised in the book, and these questions help to drive the story.  One question posed is if God doesn’t exist, and is just the creation of man, then there is no sin.  Sin only exists if God exists, and therefore, if God doesn’t exist, then everything is legal, and nothing is prohibited.  Dostoevsky writes convincingly in favor of each stance, and shows a real knowledge about both topics.  (Dostoevsky, in fact, knows deeply about both topics.  He was sentenced to death for his radical socialistic views–a sentence which was rescinded.  He ended up spending four years in exile, in prison, in Siberia.  It was here where Dostoevsky renounced his radical and subversive views, and became deeply religious.  It was also here in Siberia that Dostoevsky’s was in the company of the worst sort of people: murderers, rapists, robbers, and other corrupted men.  It is through his close proximity to these people that allows him to write about these characters so convincingly.) These ideas of religion, science, and reason are characterized by the three sons of Fyodor Karamazov: Dmitri, Ivan, and Alexey (who is the hero of the novel).

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Jun 9 2008

Paul Lo Duca’s Fiance

Wow she is fucking hot. I don’t know how Paulie does it but kudos. Story here and here.