Movie Review: Blood Diamond (2006)

Exciting old-style action-adventure movie with a lingering message (9/10)

As I was growing up in middle class America in the 1950s and 1960s, I got to see plenty of movies.  We lived in Overland Park, Kansas, a post-WW2 suburb of the Kansas City metro area.  The little town was something out of a Norman Rockwell painting or a Jean Shepherd—author behind the movie, A Christmas Story—reminiscence.

Written by Charles Leavitt
Directed by Edward Zwick

Leonardo DiCaprio … Danny Archer
Djimon Hounsou … Solomon Vandy
Jennifer Connelly … Maddy Bowen

The small downtown included TG&Y (dime store), two drug stores (a Rexall outlet and locally owned “McDaniels”), A&P Groceries, a Sears catalog-order store, an A&W Root Beer franchise, a couple of restaurants, etc… and the Overland Park Theater.  When we were just kids, Mom and Pop would shuttle my brother and me to the matinees on Saturday.

I suppose then they went shopping or something—wink, wink—but we never thought to ask.  When you’re a child of nine or even nineteen: the universe revolves around you and your parents do not have lives apart from seeing to your every need or whim.  Anyway, sorry to get off track. Continue reading

Movie Review: A Christmas Story (1983)

“You’ll shoot your eye out.” (10/10)

christmas_storyA Christmas Story is becoming the It’s a Wonderful Life of the Baby Boomer generation… maybe more so for the Tweener Generation—a designation I just made up for folks born between, say, 1930 and 1946.  The movie is especially meaningful for those who were boys in the context of a loving family where Pop worked, Mom kept house (and kept you out of trouble), and the Popsicle Index [1] was nearly 100%.

The year is somewhere around 1940—some reviews claim it’s the depression era, one says it’s 1940, some say it’s the 1940s in general, and it always looked to me something like 1949—in Hohman, Indiana, a mythical northern industrial city approximating Gary, Indiana.  The movie is based on several narratives from Jean Shepherd’s book of reminiscences, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.

Mr. Shepherd narrates the movie, which was filmed in the early 1980s in Toronto, with some downtown shots set in Cleveland. He’s Ralph Parker, a New York writer thinking back to the days when he was Ralphie, a nine-year-old everyboy growing up there in middle-class Indiana off the smokestack-laden southern shores of Lake Michigan with Mom (Melinda Dillon) and the Old Man (Darren McGavin) and his exasperatingly, though often funny, infantile five-year-old brother. Continue reading

Brian’s Column: ‘Life and Times’ Prospecting

Some Thoughts and a Pitch from the Brave New World of People’s Publishing

PressSay what you will about the Amazon dynasty, its Createspace subsidiary has made possible an entire new set of careers for writers and editors qua publishers. What I mean by that is if you want to write a book and you know how to use a computer, you can put a real one up on the Web and available as printed material complete with ISBN and all the bells and whistles that make it available to all the libraries of the world. It’s like in the movie, The Jerk, when the Steve Martin character finally sees his name in the telephone directory! Continue reading

Book Reviews: Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories (1971),204,203,200_.jpgAnd other disasters, by Jean Shepherd
Reviewed by Brian Wright

1971, Doubleday [stories originally appearing in Playboy]

“For some unaccountable reason, I discovered I was a consumate polka dancer. The polka is a true soul dance. You don’t learn it; it engulfs you and sweeps you on in a flood of braying coronets and tootling clarinets and the thundering syncopation of bass drums and cymbals.  The drummer, a heavy-set Pole, squatted like a toad and his equipment, operating with the machinelike precision of a pile driver. I bounced and sweated, Josie clinging and hopping, ducking and bobbing as one born to the beat…”
— from “The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski” Continue reading