Best Books & Fabulous Films

Reviews and More

Beatriz at Dinner: Comedy, Tragedy, Portrait?

By Bobbie Kirkhart

We first see Beatriz (Salma Hayek) going through morning chores, feeding her dogs, and lighting a candle for deceased loved ones, including her dead goat. She’s in a rush to her work in a holistic healing firm. Her last patient of the day is a house call for a massage for Kathy, a wealthy woman in a gated community.

After the house call, Beatriz’s car won’t start, so Kathy invites her to stay for the small dinner party she’s hosting for her husband’s business associates.

It’s the stuff of comedy, a movie you’ve all seen before: The wealthy matron invites an employee to an important dinner party she’s hosting for even wealthier associates. We have rollicking fun watching the crude manners of the outsider exposing the pomposity of the wealthy. At the end, everybody realizes that the simple ways of the poor employee are superior to the smug frivolity of the privileged. Everybody is happy. Everybody learns something.

Spoiler alert: They didn’t go that way.

Read more »

Safety First!

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Photo Credit: Tangqiu☺

Many of you might remember Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio together on the big screen, surrounded by water and ice. While “Rose” whispers last words of love in the freezing air, “Jack” sinks to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. And despite their coldish, blueish skin we feel nothing but warmth witnessing those eternal words of love. And – without a shadow of a doubt – we know that his life ends, but their love doesn’t.

Eleven years after Titanic (1997), Kate and Leo are back, this time as a married couple in Revolutionary Road (2008), the film adaption of Richard Yates’ novel (1961) of the same name.

Read more »

Watch and Write! Writing the TV Drama Series

By Kai-Arne Zimny

 

“To create a television show out of thin air, without anybody paying you,

requires a certain amount of delusion, and that’s taken me very far.”

Matt Weiner, creator of Mad Men

 

Do you regularly watch a TV series? Probably yes.

Have you ever considered writing one? Probably not.

But if you like TV series and love to write, you might want to reconsider. The recent serial television landscape is diverse and of a quality as never before. And production studios are beginning to open their gates a tiny crack to meet an ever-increasing demand for series ideas and concepts.

In her book, Writing the TV Drama Series:  How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV, television writer and screenwriting teacher Pamela Douglas offers an approach to learning how to slide through that crack and gain insight into what’s lurking behind those gates.

Read 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 »