Tag Archives: Oscars

Review: Scrappy Little Nobody

scrappy-little-nobody-9781501117206_lgRecap: Actress and singer Anna Kendrick proves she’s as funny as you think she is in this bestselling memoir about her path to becoming a Tony and Oscar-nominated actress, best known for her role in Pitch Perfect. Like Tina Fey’s BossypantsScrappy Little Nobody reads as if Kendrick is speaking to you with silly lines that you can hear in her voice like “if i saw ‘advanced’ in the corner of a Martha Stewart Living recipe, I’d think, Bring it on, you crazy bitch” or “Player WHAA.”

Her memoir tells her story, including growing up in Maine and becoming an unlikely child star on Broadway, being nominated for a Tony, continuing to work in theater and then movies, dating guys, losing her virginity, meeting celebrities, and being nominated for an Oscar while still not being able to afford food or toilet paper. But it also includes more introspective stories as well, about mourning her grandmother while shooting a movie, about witnessing Drew Barrymore having a “moment” to herself after winning an award, about getting advice from acting legends, about dealing with her anxiety.

Analysis: It’s too much for me to count the number of times I laughed out loud while reading this. She’s witty and silly while still being analytical and finding subtle ways to let the reader into who she really is. She also tells stories in great detail. She described premiere dresses, scenes from movies, references to camera shots during awards shows in such a fun way, I found myself Googling photos and YouTube clips so I could see everything. She wrote the book, knowing that would happen too, specifically when she includes a photo of her stoned at that red carpet and wrote “Here’s a picture of my stoned face, so you don’t have to Google it later.” (How does she know? She just does.)

Scrappy Little Nobody includes all the things a celebrity memoir should: fun facts about shooting her most famous movies and skits — like how she lost her shoe while performing at the Oscars, the complete ridiculousness of being famous — like how she showed up stoned to a red carpet about a brief hospitalization,  what it’s really like to work with Zac Efron (spoiler: every bit as incredible as you think), and the fact that she’s just a real person who often can’t believe her life is her life.

Get Scrappy Little Nobody in paperback for $8.06.

Or on your Kindle for $13.99.

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Movie vs. Book: Still Alice

It takes a lot for a brilliant college professor like Alice Howland to forget her words in the midst of a big speech. But she does. It takes even more for her to get lost just blocks from her home in the middle of her regular run. But she does. It’s then that Alice decides to go for testing. And it’s then — at the ripe age of 49 — that Alice learns she is suffering from early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. It doesn’t feel like suffering then. But it does soon, after she clues in her husband and three grown children.

Still Alice tells the story of Alice and her family as they cope with the disease over the next few months. Two of Alice’s children use that time to take a test to determine whether they have the gene associated with the disease — one does, one does not. Alice’s husband spends a lot of that time away from Alice. Her youngest daughter is the one that uses this time to get to know her mother, especially since their relationship has always been somewhat strained.

The movie Still Alice does not stray far from the book. In fact, the way it’s filmed beautifully parallels the way the book is written. In the book, author Lisa Genova writes from Alice’s point of view. As the novel continues, the writing becomes more and more disorganized and confusing to keep in line with Alice’s brain and the effect Alzheimer’s has on it. In much the same way, part of the movie includes blurry, hazed shots — to help show what things look like through Alice’s mind. The movie also becomes disorganized toward the end. Certain plot points are not told to the viewer. We, instead, must figure it out ourselves, similar to the way an Alzheimer’s patient who can’t make sense of things would have to do. It’s messy. There are gaps in time. But that’s what it’s like inside the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient.

It goes without saying that Julianne Moore’s performance as Alice is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. She portrays that hazy glaze effortlessly — showing that Alzheimer’s is much more than just forgetfulness; it’s a state of desperate confusion and incapability to understand. It is difficult to see onscreen how careless some of her family members are, and Alice’s oldest daughter (Kate Bosworth) and husband (Alec Baldwin) portray that well. However, in the book, her husband does a lot of research on Alzheimer’s and still has a hard time coping. In the movie, we don’t see any of the research or willingness to try to understand. We mostly see her husband giving up on trying altogether.

But what both the movie and book have in common is the power to raise awareness, the power to make us feel, and the power to — hopefully — make a change.

Get Still Alice in paperback for 2.97.

Or on your Kindle for $6.99.

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’12 Years’ Oscar Wins Boost Book Sales

12 yearsInterest in the movie 12 Years a Slave has peaked once again after the movie won three Oscars Sunday — for best picture, best adapted screenplay, and best supporting actress.

But according to The Hollywood Reporter, the wins have also helped boost book sales for the memoir on which the movie is based. 12 Years a Slave is a 19th-century book written by black free man turned slave Solomon Northrup. As of Sunday before the Oscars broadcast, the book was No. 326 on Amazon.com. By Monday afternoon, it had jumped to No. 19.

Movie theaters also plan to cash in on the award success of the movie by releasing it in theaters again this Friday, even though the movie is about to come out on DVD.

Get 12 Years a Slave in paperback for $6.40.

Or on your Kindle for just 99 cents!

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Movie vs. Book: Still Alice

It takes a lot for a brilliant college professor like Alice Howland to forget her words in the midst of a big speech. But she does. It takes even more for her to get lost just blocks from her home in the middle of her regular run. But she does. It’s then that Alice decides to go for testing. And it’s then — at the ripe age of 49 — that Alice learns she is suffering from early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. It doesn’t feel like suffering then. But it does soon, after she clues in her husband and three grown children.

Still Alice tells the story of Alice and her family as they cope with the disease over the next few months. Two of Alice’s children use that time to take a test to determine whether they have the gene associated with the disease — one does, one does not. Alice’s husband spends a lot of that time away from Alice. Her youngest daughter is the one that uses this time to get to know her mother, especially since their relationship has always been somewhat strained.

The movie Still Alice does not stray far from the book. In fact, the way it’s filmed beautifully parallels the way the book is written. In the book, author Lisa Genova writes from Alice’s point of view. As the novel continues, the writing becomes more and more disorganized and confusing to keep in line with Alice’s brain and the effect Alzheimer’s has on it. In much the same way, part of the movie includes blurry, hazed shots — to help show what things look like through Alice’s mind. The movie also becomes disorganized toward the end. Certain plot points are not told to the viewer. We, instead, must figure it out ourselves, similar to the way an Alzheimer’s patient who can’t make sense of things would have to do. It’s messy. There are gaps in time. But that’s what it’s like inside the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient.

It goes without saying that Julianne Moore’s performance as Alice is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. She portrays that hazy glaze effortlessly — showing that Alzheimer’s is much more than just forgetfulness; it’s a state of desperate confusion and incapability to understand. It is difficult to see onscreen how careless some of her family members are, and Alice’s oldest daughter (Kate Bosworth) and husband (Alec Baldwin) portray that well. However, in the book, her husband does a lot of research on Alzheimer’s and still has a hard time coping. In the movie, we don’t see any of the research or willingness to try to understand. We mostly see her husband giving up on trying altogether.

But what both the movie and book have in common is the power to raise awareness, the power to make us feel, and the power to — hopefully — make a change.

Get Still Alice in paperback for $12.97.

Or on your Kindle for $6.99.

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Movie vs. Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Often times, we think the book version of a story is without a doubt better than the movie adaptation. For me, they’re often on the same level. But in the case of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I found the movie to be far superior to the novel.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tells the story of 9-year-old Oskar, whose father has died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Oskar sets out on a mission to locate the lock to a key he found in one of his father’s vases. The search brings him on a journey across the city — a hunt for something his father left behind, a mission to reconnect with his dad one last time.

Though I enjoyed the overall story of the book, I disliked the ending and had a lot of problems with the book’s subplots and characters. There are a number of details, characters, and subplots the movie left out entirely, and that’s why I think the movie is better. For instance, it eliminates the narration by Oskar’s grandparents and their backstory. I didn’t care about the grandparents in the novel. I found them to be unlikable and more of a nuisance than an addition to Oskar’s story. By eliminating that subplot from the movie, Oskar and his search are better developed. And let’s be honest; that’s the story we really care about anyway.

Another big change the movie made was deleting the character Mr. Black, who — in the book — explores the city with Oskar and makes sure he’s safe. Instead, the movie substitutes Mr. Black with Oskar’s grandfather. Though Mr. Black is one of my favorite characters from the book, I’m actually okay with the movie giving this role to Oskar’s grandfather. It allows them to build a relationship, and a grandson-grandfather relationship is far more important than a friendship.

Then there’s the ending. In the novel, the ending is heartbreakingly disappointing. After months of searching, Oskar finds out to whom the key belongs and what it opens. But he also learns it has no relation to his father. I remember feeling angry when I read the ending. But seeing it on film made me realize it was more about the journey than the end result. The movie and Sandra Bullock (as Oskar’s mother) also do an excellent job of portraying the moment Oskar’s mother tells him she knew what he was doing all along.  Up to this point, the reader/viewer thinks that Oscar’s mother must be completely self-absorbed and terrible. But when we learn that she made an effort to contact all of the people Oskar visits in his search, we realize how wonderful she is. Oskar and his mother have finally found a way to connect.

The movie also makes the ending more uplifting when Oskar finds a note from his father in Central Park. It was the final piece of a puzzle he had tried to solve before his father’s death. If I remember correctly, this discovered note was not a part of the novel. Though unrealistic, it gives Oskar closure, knowing he did, in fact, solve one of his father’s last puzzles. In the book, there’s no uplifting moment at the end. That’s why the movie is a beautiful look at relationships, family, and life’s mysteries, whereas the book is often times a depressing mess of emotions.

**Thomas Horn (Oskar) also shows off unbelievable acting chops for such a young age. His passion brought me to tears on multiple occasions and should not be overlooked.

Get Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with movie tie-in now for just $8.79.

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Review: The Reader

Recap: It’s a daring, forbidden relationship, but how is 15-year-old Michael supposed to resist the beautiful, curvacious woman more than 20 years his senior? The Reader tells the story of Michael and Hanna’s 30+ year relationship in post-WWII Germany.

The story begins when Hanna rescues Michael after he falls ill on his walk home from school. He is very sick for a few months, and afterwards, he finally seeks out Hannah to thank her for her heroic actions. But their friendship quickly and ferociously turns sexual, and suddenly Hanna, a 36-year-old train conductor, is sleeping with a high school student. After some time, the sex turns into love, and all the while, Michael reads to Hanna. When they’re not making love, he’s reading stories, teaching her about the world outside their lovesick bubble.

Suddenly, Hanna leaves town. But it’s not the last Michael sees of his first and only true love. They do meet again — but this time it’s in court, and it’s not sexual at all. Hanna is on trial for a Nazi war crime — one that only Michael, who spent all those months reading to Hanna, knows she did not commit. But off she goes to jail, and Michael makes it a point to continue their relationship.

Analysis: The beauty of The Reader is that the novel is written so eloquently, yet like a diary. With Michael narrating, he doesn’t go into details. He speaks bluntly and openly to the readers, nonchalantly mentioning the night he fell in love with Hanna and their sexual escapades. His matter-of-fact narration sets the tone for the novel itself; the story moves quickly without much description. Author Bernhard Schlink writes The Reader so one storyline flows immediately into and causes the next. I like a book that moves quickly and wastes no time.

But I also like book with intertwining stories and surprises, which is what Schlink offers here. I knew that Michael and Hanna would meet again, but I didn’t think it would be during a war crimes trial. While Michael and Hanna are involved, there’s so little we know about Hanna. So initially, her involvement in Auschwitz is shocking.

The trial shines light on how Germany struggled to deal with the war even years after it ended. It also speaks to the issue of illiteracy, which — we can infer and later learn for a fact — is why Michael reads to Hanna. Big social issues, historical fiction, and romance play dynamic roles in The Reader, which left me fascinated and wanting to learn more.

MVP: Hanna. She had her issues — illiteracy, a murder conviction, sexual relations with an underage boy, and obvious insecurity. But she’s bold. She commands power, albeit unknowingly, over others in a way that’s both infuriating and captivating. She’s as complex as complex characters get, and I just wanted to know more about her.
Get The Reader for just $11.

Or get it on your Kindle for just $9.99.

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Get The Invention of Hugo Cabret in Hardcover for Just $14.99

Here’s one last Oscar book for you — The Invention of Hugo Cabret — which Martin Scorsese made an Oscar nominee this year with his movie, Hugo.
A fun and animated book, Hugo tells the story of a boy who lives inside a Paris train station. It’s a long book, but it’s also full of pictures. Likewise, Scorsese is getting a lot of critical acclaim for his movie adaptation — one of the few movies, he’s said multiple times, that he’ll allow his 12-year-old daughter to watch. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, the book seems to be a fun one, with quite the journey.

Get The Invention of Hugo Cabret in hardcover for just $14.99.

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