Letters to Father Jacob

In the original Finnish it was called Postia pappi Jaakobille and was intended as a made for TV movie. But, luckily, this seventy-four minute masterpiece was released as a movie. The deft cinematography draws you in and the acting of the two principals (Kaarina Hazard as Leila and Heikki Nousiainen as Father Jacob) keeps you riveted to the screen.
The basic plot surrounds the newly pardoned criminal Leila coming to work with the blind Father Jacob as an assistant. But there are layers of meaning in every amazing shot and moment of dialogue. The story is succinct but full of subtlety. The clash of faith with modernity, in particular, was skillfully played with.
I had to watch the film for a second time immediately just to satisfy myself that I had grasped everything.
Klaus Härö is the young director and wrote the screenplay using an original work by Jaana Makkonen. It’s official: I’m now a fan.
Very highly recommended to an older audience with an open mind.

Take Shelter

Jeff Nichols 2011 movie Take Shelter is different. Not what I was expecting at all and yet it kept drawing me back while my wife watched it. I kept trying to go back to my writing but I ended up watching the whole thing. There are the obvious themes of coping with mental illness and the responsibility of supporting and protecting a young family but I saw more here. Nichols deftly investigates the lines between prophecy and madness. What is the distinction? In this case they ride on whether the apocalypse happens or not.

And there is some great acting here. Especially from Michael ShannonJessica Chastain and Shea Whigham. Even the child actress, Tova Stewart, was believable.

A subtle but interesting film that will leave you thinking. If that’s your cup of tea then I recommend it highly.

Anathem

AnathemAnathem by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s hard to encapsulate a book that is so large in scope and so enjoyable to read. Your intellect revolts at trying to peg it down by mere description and emotionally… well… I just didn’t want the thing to end. When I found, on his site, someone had actually been inspired enough to create music (http://nealstephenson.com/anathem/music….) for Anathem I was amazed but, now that I’m done, I understand.

What can I say that you can’t read elsewhere. I might warn you that Stephenson is a master world builder and so it takes effort to get out of this world and into his. But, by God, it’s worth the effort!

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Jessica’s Farm

front cover
Josh Simmons picked an interesting way to write a graphic novel, not to get it over with but to stretch it out. Over a long time.
Jessica’s Farm is 96 pages long and each page, we’re told, was drawn over the course of a month in the eight year span between January 2000 and December 2007. Josh plans to continue on until 2050 when the entire 600 page book can be published. But he has published Jessica Farm 1 now and will publish part 2 in 2016.
Jessica seems to be a child in an abusive situation but either she’s found how to stay sane within her own imaginary world with a host of friends or she’s found a way to fight back. I’m not sure if her courage is a shield or a weapon.
An interesting life project and I think, well worth a read. Even though it only takes an hour or so to get through 8 year’s worth.

The Bird Can’t Fly

The Bird Can’t Fly (2007) is, at first, a strange movie to absorb. So much is unexplained and you wonder if the steep learning curve is worth it. I’m writing this to say, emphatically, YES.
This is the first directing effort of Threes Anna (she also co-wrote it) from the Netherlands and I look forward to her next film Silent City and all future endeavours.
When you let this film in, it begins to haunt. You have to see it again almost immediately because there is so much you missed. I don’t want to explain too much of the plot since experiencing it for yourself is so crucial, so I’ll give some impressions.
First, the beautiful acting. Every member of the cast, even the children, are fabulous. Barbara Hershey superbly plays Melody who appears so serene and controlled, almost inhumanly so, at the opening of the movie but changes so dramatically by the end. Yusuf Davids (Melody’s grandson River) is riveting. When he’s on the screen (especially in his ‘Lord of the Flies’ element) you have to watch him. All the characters are unique from all the strong women which fill this movie to the skill of Tony Kgoroge (Scoop) and John Kani (Stone) who are the adult men.
Fairlands, South Africa, is the setting of most of the film. This was a diamond mining town which is being progressively buried by desert. The resort hotel, where Melody once worked, has only it’s roof and sign still exposed. The people still living there exist in huts that are drab at first but become more colourful as we learn more about the people who live in them. A truth most travellers learn.
One of the most beautiful transitions that I missed the first time (but Karen spotted right away) was the little girl’s doll. I’m not sure who the actor is (perhaps Amanda Dilma?) but what an amazing performance from such a young and beautiful girl. River demands rope of his feral band of conspiratorial children and this girl, whose seeming only possession is a doll, pulls it’s hair out and braids it. Then she replaces the hair with ostrich feathers. Doll with hair, Doll with no hair, Doll with feathers. It’s easy to miss but… wow, it’s a gorgeous symbol for the loss and then rejuvenation that we’re witness to here!
Very highly recommended. An important movie for anyone sensitive.

Wonder

WWW: Wonder (WWW, #3)WWW: Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sawyer bills his WWW trilogy as the story of an optimistic singularity event. Where an AI achieves awareness but doesn’t go bad. Of course, it’s never so simple in a story by Canada’s dean of science fiction. Webmind has ‘his’ (he seems a him to me) growing pains especially when the powers that be in China decide to sever him again with a firewall.
I think it’s appropriate that the first e-book I have ever purchased is excellent science fiction like this. The formatting on the kobo app on my iPad had many faults but this final book of this series was such a page turner I found myself not caring.
This book is well worth the price of admission.

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Eat Pray Love

I haven’t read the book, I’ve only seen the movie, but if it is anything like this waste of DVD plastic then I don’t want to. Ever.
It was such a disappointment to see the quest of this incredibly selfish woman to ‘find’ herself. I expected something deep but Liz Gilbert (the main character played by Julia Roberts) could have saved all the cost and effort with the following simple forumula:

  1. order in a good pizza and eat it
  2. say the following mantra: “Hallelugah I’m me!”
  3. kiss the shallow person in the mirror

Or just read a good book. I can’t believe this was so popular. Who’d be taken in by this sham?
At one point she is imagining a conversation with her former husband who still loves her. She tells him ‘So Love Me’. Wow! That’s empathy for the ages alright.
Definitely not recommended.