My Challenges (timed)

See my list here
Completed 8 of 9

See my list here
Completed 2 of 3

See my list here
Completed 2 of 4

See my list here
Completed 71 of 81

See my list here
Completed 9 of 10

See my list here
Completed 34 of 50

See my list here
Completed 1 of 2

See my list here
Completed 1 of 2

See my list here
Completed 1 of 5

See my list here
Completed 3 of 5

See my list here
Completed 5 of 100

My Challenges (perpetual)

See my list of stories read here

See my list of stories read here

See my list of books read here

See my list of books read here


See my list of books read here

See my list of books read here

See my list of books read here


New York Times Book Review: 6/40
New Yorker: 0/36
New York Review of Books: 0/20
Vogue: 1/16
Email: 841/1373

Monday, August 27, 2007

Movies of the Week -- August 20-26

1. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006): A stark and realistic portrait of the World War II battle for the island of Iwo Jima, as told from the point of view of the Japanese. In Japanese with English subtitles. Starring Ken Watanabe. Nominated for 4 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director -- Clint Eastwood.

It seems that few, if any, modern-day movies glorify war, and this one is no different. Battles are shown in their bloody, gory, often sickening intensity, but the movies never loses its main focus --it presents the Japanese soldiers as human beings with the same desires, hopes, and fears as soldiers from any other nation, a distinction not previously made by an American moviemaker. It's often so easy to forget that an enemy is no different on an individual level from ourselves, and Mr. Eastwood makes this point well. I can't say that I enjoyed this movie, as the subject is fairly depressing and the movie dark and dreary, but it was well done and beautifully shot.

2. Becket (1964): A look at life and death of Thomas Becket, close friend and advisor to King Henry II of England. Becket eventually became Archbishop of Canterbury and put the Catholic Church ahead of his friendship with the king, which ultimately lead to his death. Starring Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. Nominated for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director -- Peter Glenville, Best Actor -- Richard Burton, Best Actor -- Peter O'Toole, and Best Supporting Actor -- John Gielgud.

An excellent movie, stupendous acting by both Burton and O'Toole. Both my husband and I majored in history in college, and as far as we can remember, the story seems to follow the real-life events very well. Very highly recommended.

3. Smash-Up--The Story of a Woman (1947): A woman turns to alcohol as her husband climbs the ladder of success. Starring Susan Hayward. Nominated for 2 Oscars, including Best Actress -- Susan Hayward.

A moving portrait of one woman's slide into addiction based on her feelings of worthlessness. Recommended.

4. Z (1969): The events preceding the assassination of a left-wing political leader. Based on a true story. In French with English subtitles. Nominated for 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Directing -- Costa-Gavras, and Best Foreign Language Film (France/Algeria). Winner for Best Foreign Language Film.

Very good movie, a crisp telling of a politically important story. Recommended.

5. Hondo (1953): An Army dispatch rider befriends a woman and her young son in the Old West. The group must face both the Apaches and the U.S. Army. Starring John Wayne and Geraldine Page. Nominated for Best Supporting Actress -- Geraldine Page.

A typical but enjoyable John Wayne western. It was somewhat obvious that this was Ms. Page's first role, but overall a good job. Worth the time for fans of westerns or John Wayne.

TAMMY'S TRIVIA: Did you know that films nominated for Best Foreign Film are submitted by the country of origin? The Oscar is awarded to the winning film's director, but is considered an award for the country. How is a film nominated for this award? Each country is invited to submit a film for consideration. A jury in that country selects what they consider to be that country's best non-English film of the year and submits it to the Academy. Each country is limited to 1 submission. The Academy then nominates 5 of the submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film category. Oscars have been given for Best Foreign Language Film since 1947.

Answer to last week's trivia: Peter O'Toole was nominated twice for playing the role of King Henry II of England. The films in which he played this role are Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968). He did not win for either performance.

It's also interesting to note that, although the two films were made within 4 years of one another, there is a difference of 13 years in the time periods in which the two films are set. Peter O'Toole was 32 at the time he starred in Becket, in which King Henry would have been 37. Four years later at the age of 36, he played the King at the age of 50.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Movies of the Week -- August 13-19

1. Venus (2006): An elderly gentleman's relationship with his friend's 20-something niece. Starring Peter O'Toole. Nominated for Best Actor -- Peter O'Toole.

This film was not a blockbuster but certainly deserved all the positive attention it received. O'Toole remains one of the best actors of our day. A sensitive and moving film. Highly recommended.

2. Imitation of Life (1959): The relationship between two single mothers, one white, one black, and their daughters. Both women struggle to survive and to raise their daughters alone, while one tries to make a name for herself as an actress and the other tries to help her light-skinned daughter accept the limitations of being a black woman in segregated America. Starring Lana Turner. Nominated for Best Supporting Actress -- Juanita Moore and Best Supporting Actress -- Susan Kohner.

A remake of an earlier movie by the same name, starring Claudette Colbert, nominated for 3 Oscars, including Best Picture, 1934. Enjoyable but somewhat poor acting by the supporting cast. Ms. Turner did an adequate job but somehow didn't seem altogether right for her part. Overall, I found the original to be the better movie.

3. Camille Claudel (1989): The female sculptor's life and tempetuous relationship with Auguste Rodin. In French with English subtitles. Starring Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani. Nominated for Best Foreign Film (France) and Best Actress -- Isabelle Adjani.

A gorgeous movie, with superb acting by Ms. Adjani. I felt connected to her throughout, and am now anxious to discover if any of her sculptures remain in existence, and if, where they can be viewed. Highly recommended.

4. Fat City (1972): The strugglers of two small-time boxers in California. One is making a half-hearted try for a comeback, and the other is a kid just starting out. Starring Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges, directed by John Huston. Nominated for Best Supporting Actress -- Susan Tyrrell.

More of a guy's movie, but ably done. Keach is a bum, but he's an honest bum, and his girlfriend (Susan Tyrrell) is a complete basket case. My husband enjoyed it a great deal.

5. Love Me or Leave Me (1955): The real-life story of 1920's and 30's singer Ruth Etting and her small-time hoodlum husband. Starring Doris Day and James Cagney, directed by King Vidor. Nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Actor -- James Cagney.

Lots of great songs in this movie, and a meatier part for Ms. Day than the more famous pairings with Rock Hudson. Cagney is terrific in anything, and playing a hoodlum fits him to a tee.

TAMMY'S TRIVIA: Peter O'Toole is the only actor to play the same role in two different movies and receive Oscar nominations for both portrayals. What role and movies earned him this distinction? Answer in next week's Movies of the Week.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New Weekly Section -- Movies of the Week

One of my long-term projects has been to watch movies that have either won or been nominated for an Oscar, from the inception of the awards through the present-day. Since my blog is supposed to be in part about movies, it occurred to me that a good recurring post would be short descriptions and reviews for the movies that I've seen.

The movies that I have on my master list were nominated for Oscars in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, and Best Foreign Language Film. As of the 2007 Oscars, that totals just under 1,400 movies. I've been working on this for some time now and have completed about 40% of the list. Many good movies so far, and some not so good -- you have to wonder what they were thinking at the time for a few of them. But so far, the project has been very enjoyable and I've seen a lot of movies that I probably would never have watched otherwise, either because I would never have heard of them or I wouldn't have given them a chance. I hope anyone that reads these posts will discover something up their alley.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Celebrate Banned Books Week, Sept. 29 - Oct. 6

2007 Banned Books Week: Ahoy! Treasure Your Freedom to Read and Get Hooked on a Banned Book

"Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2007, marks BBW's 26th anniversary (September 29 through October 6). BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them."

Check out the ALA Banned Books Week website by clicking on the button above or going to There's lots of good information there on why books are challenged or banned, lists of banned books, and what readers can do to fight back. You can also order posters, shirts, buttons, etc. that let the world know you support banned and challenged books. You should also check out for more information on what you can do to celebrate Banned Books Week.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

An Unfinished Woman by Lillian Hellman

I first heard of Lillian Hellman when I watched the movie "Julia," starring Jane Fonda as Ms. Hellman and Vanessa Redgrave as her friend, Julia. From that movie, I learned that Ms. Hellman was a playwright in the 1930's and 1940's, that she was an independent woman, and that she had a long-term relationship with the writer Dashiell Hammett (played by Jason Robards). For many years, that was the extent of my knowledge, until another movie, this time a film version of one of Ms. Hellman's plays. The play was "The Children's Hour" and it showed me that this was a woman who was an excellent writer in her own right, and not just a someone who had attached herself to a famous man. Now, having read this memoir of her life, I'm more intrigued than ever.

Despite being a memoir, this book focuses a good deal on the people that Ms. Hellman knew and less on herself. However, one should not expect any dirt on the famous from this book -- Ms. Hellman was an extremely private individual and not only refrained from sharing what we would view as the "juicy tidbits" of her life, but also refrained from sharing those of her friends. We are instead given an insight into the knowledge she gained from others, and the life experiences that made her who she was (Ms. Hellman passed away in 1984). The reader is left with the impression that Ms. Hellman was very self-aware and had no qualms about sharing that information, good or bad. She presented herself as, "Here is who and what I am, no apologies, no excuses."

Unlike many modern-day memoirs, we are also not subjected to endless psychoanalysis into her psyche -- it's obvious that she spent a great deal of time reflecting on herself and others, and figuring out what made them tick, but that knowledge is presented through their actions, so that the reader is often left to draw her own conclusions as to the reasoning behind the actions. This actually makes for a more meaningful reading experience, and one that I enjoyed immensely.