Best Books & Fabulous Films

Reviews and More

School Ties: A Film Review

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Photo credit: Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s 1955. David Greene (Brendan Fraser), a Jewish boy from a working class family, leaves his home, the industrial city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to go to a prestigious New England prep boarding school for his senior year. His ticket in? A football scholarship since David is an outstanding quarterback! “Don’t tell people any more than they need to know,” the school team’s football coach advises David upon arrival, hinting at the social gap between David’s future schoolmates and blue-collar people like David and himself.

However, David is neither able nor willing to hide his social background from his school and teammates, boys from rich families across the board. Despite the differences, he is able to bond with them and even become popular quickly. However, just as quickly he is confronted with the sad truth that there’s yet another difference the boys won’t be willing to overlook that easily – that he’s Jewish.  Read more »

Do you really want to live Forever?

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Photo credit: Disney / ABC Television Group

Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is British, works as a medical examiner for the New York Police Department, and likes scarves and classical music. Oh, he is also immortal and utterly clueless why.

Fear not, this is not a spoiler to the show and not even to its pilot as the first episode begins with Morgan’s words about his “first death” two centuries ago. Since then he hasn’t aged a day, maintaining the look of a man in his mid to late thirties and has never died. Well, actually he has died many times but always came back to life within seconds and without a scratch. Having presented that brief statement about his “condition” – as he calls it – Dr. Morgan assures us that we know as much about it as he himself does. What follows is the unraveling of the first clues about a mysteriously emerging opponent – dangerous and unpredictable.

Read more »

The Arrival of the Aliens

By Lynette Kirschner

The limits of my language
mean the limits
of my world.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein


Does time only flow in a continuum? Does a sentence have to contain a verb? The answer to the first question hasn’t been definitively answered. The answer to the second one is definitely no. Both play a role in the science fiction movie Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve.

For once, the U.S. government doesn’t bomb first and ask questions later. When aliens arrive, they send the linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to try to solve the mystery of their language so that peaceful communication can take place. This is where my little geeky language heart starts to beat faster. Concepts such as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (the correlation between language and worldview), logograms (symbols standing for words and not a single sound), and palindromes (words reading the same backwards and forwards) are used. The movie does an excellent job explaining these concepts so that non-linguists understand and linguists don’t get bored.

Read more »

The ‘D’ Word

By Sabrina Völz

still-alice-book-coverRecently, I read a highly acclaimed novel written by Lisa Genova, a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Her first book, Still Alice (2009), chronicles the descent into Alzheimer’s of Dr. Alice Howland, the eminent William James Professor of Psychology at Harvard. Reminiscent of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Lisa Genova pens a touching, highly accurate, and gripping account of the effects of dementia on the body, mind, and spirit.

Read more »

The Road (2009)

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Several years after a catastrophic event has destroyed all of America’s – and maybe the whole world’s – flora and fauna, a father (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are on a desperate journey through this barren, cold, and gray new world. They are led by a vague shimmer of hope that there might still be a better place somewhere. “We have to keep carrying the fire,” the father tries to motivate his young son, who has seen real plants and animals only in his ragged picture book. Here and there, the morbid silent solitude is disturbed by something far worse – bands of surviving humans, just as much on the verge of starvation as father and son and, to make things worse, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

The Road (2009) photo credit: Andrés Fevrier


Read more »