Mondaying

Right now, I am mostly…

Eating : All the food in the world ever. Seriously, yesterday, I had a lovely Easter Sunday roast at my niece’s house with my dad, and my sister’s family. We had a quite ridiculous number of roast potatoes, and a friend of ours dropped the above cake around in the morning, saying she baked it because she was bored. It was lemon flavoured, and it was quite divine. I still feel full now, though.

Reading : My reading is all over the place again, but I was quite pleased to receive six new books in the post on Saturday morning! Added to that were the two I got from the library – Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, which I’ve been eager to read for a while, and Six Years by Harlan Coben, which I read about online on Saturday morning, and had a look for on the shelf on the off chance it might be there when I got to the library. I was most surprised when it was; my local library is not the sort of place where that happens an awful lot (it’s only marginally bigger than my living room).

Watching : I watched a film on Netflix last night, Breathe In, for which I’ll write a My Thoughts On… post later this week. I’m still in love with Netflix, but sometimes I feel that there’s too much choice. It’s hard to narrow it down!

Playing : All the best family afternoons end with board games, and we played a couple yesterday, including Frustration. Would you believe, given where my counters are situated in the above photo, that I didn’t win? Abbie beat me, which was ridiculous, but lots of fun.

Feeling : Cold! It’s that really annoying time of year when the weather has started to warm up, so it’s OK to maybe start wearing that light jacket and leaving the coat at home, but the house is no warmer than it was two months ago. It seems the height of ridiculousness to continue having the heating on at the end of April, so I’m suffering, very much not in silence.

Listening : As I am writing this, I am listening to the most narcissistic playlist I have on Spotify. It’s called Jane, and it contains a number of songs that include my name in the title. There’s a particularly awesome live version of Sweet Jane by Lou Reed that I adore.

My Thoughts On… Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Just a quick reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, please skip down to the section titled Why Should You See This Film? where you will find no spoilers!

Synopsis

Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier. (via IMDb)

What I Liked

  • I love superhero films, and I especially love Avengers films (my favourites are the X-Men films, but the Avengers run them a close second). It makes liking each individual film a lot easier, because I like the characters and the stories and the style of the films going in. All that being said, I think it’s clear that The Winter Soldier is one of the superior films in the series. It feels a lot different to its predecessors, more of a conspiracy theory thriller than and out and out superhero film. Robert Redford, he of very famous seventies conspiracy theory thrillers, just adds to this feeling.
  • I always think that I’m not really a fan of Samuel L. Jackson, and then I see him in a film, and I think “What are you thinking? Of course you’re a fan!” He’s so very prickly as Nick Fury, but I still love him. I’m 100% convinced that he can be trusted, or that what he’s doing is in the best interests of our heroes, rather than his own interests, but he usually comes through. I particularly liked him at the end of this film, when he was incognito, with his hood up. I just thought he looked cool!
  • I like Scarlett Johansson a lot, and so I was pleased that she was here in a starring role as Natasha Romanoff. I like watching her fight, because she (or her stunt doubles) is so very good at it. I also like that there is very little romance going on between her and Steve; although it’s alluded to in a roundabout way, they agree to be friends, and then have each other’s backs throughout the whole film. I also really liked the moment when she revealed herself to Redford’s Alexander Pierce towards the end.
  • I really, really liked the introduction of Sam Wilson, or Falcon, as I presume he’s better known in comic book circles. Anthony Mackie is not an actor I am all too familiar with, (although I noticed on looking him up afterwards that he is in The Hurt Locker, and I’ve seen that), but I thought he did a fabulous job here. I really liked his relationship with Steve; it was very quickly established but they became firm friends, and I liked Sam’s line, “I do what he does, only slower.” I’m looking forward to seeing him in future Avengers instalments.
  • I enjoyed the moment when Steve spoke to all the workers at S.H.I.E.L.D., even if it was a bit cheesy, and that they responded to his rallying call, to the point where the worker at the computer was prepared to do as he suggested and pay the ultimate price for freedom. It also provided Emily Van Camp with the opportunity to be a bit awesome.
  • It’s always nice to see Toby Jones pop up. It’s his signature move, popping up in films. It was also nice to see Cobie Smulders again (I have a reasonable sized crush on her), Stan Lee making his now requisite cameo, Alan Dale, Jenny Agutter, and Danny Pudi.
  • I thought the end credits were great, with the black, white and red. And I enjoyed the mid-credits and post-credits scenes (I’ve never understood why people get up and walk out at the ‘end’ of a Marvel film. Do they know nothing?).

 

What I Didn’t Like

  • Captain America isn’t my favourite Avengers superhero. I mean, he’s fine, but he’s not the most exciting man in the world, is he? I guess I like how he’s dependable, and steady, and principled, but he doesn’t make me laugh or make me swoon like some of the others do.
  • For all the callbacks to the previous Captain America film, was there no room for a Stanley Tucci flashback? Really?
  • I generally have no real problem with the gender politics in this film, except for the one thing: Natasha is dressed in a nice suit when she is pretending to be Jenny Agutter, and then she finds the time to change to get in the helicopter to retrieve Sam from the 41st floor. Fair enough, I suppose, though why bother? More to the point, does it have to be into a skin tight jumpsuit that is unzipped low enough to give us a flash of the side of her boob? No. It doesn’t. Except it’s Scarlett Johansson, so of course it does.
  • I couldn’t help but think that the issues that Steve and Natasha were dealing with were significant enough that they might have picked up the phone and called Tony Stark, at the very least. It felt like a job for the Avengers as a collective, rather than just relying on two people to get the job done.

Why Should You See This Film?

Despite four bullet points for What I Didn’t Like, they are very nit-picky. I did really, really enjoy Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you’re a fan of the Avengers films, chances are you are either already planning on seeing this, or you’ve seen it already. So maybe you don’t need me to convince you! But if you aren’t generally a fan of comic book films, you might be interested in this, because it does take things in a slightly different direction; it feels more of a conspiracy theory thriller with a lot of comic book action sequences thrown in. Or maybe you should see it because you think Chris Evans looks good in a vest (he does).

Book Review ~ All the Things You Are by Clemency Burton-Hill

All the Things You Are tells the story of Natasha, a young Jewish woman living in New York. Following a broken engagement, she falls in love with Rafi, an architect working on her grandmother’s social club, who also just happens to be from a Palestinian family.

I’ve long been fascinated by the Jewish faith, and for a while I’ve been looking for a non-fiction book that will help me understand all the customs, traditions and history that come with being a Jew. Having read All the Things You Are, I’ve realised that the best way to understand the faith may be to read books like this, novels that are focused on Jewish families. I certainly do not know as much as I should about the historical conflicts surrounding Israel, and even though this novel hasn’t made everything clear, it has certainly encouraged me to seek out more information and read more about it.

As much as I enjoy standard chick-lit books, sometimes I find myself looking for something more in a book. All the Things You Are has, at its heart, a romance, and yet it is so much more than just a boy-meets-girl kind of a story. Natasha and Rafi fall in love in New York, where, at first, she assumes that he must be Jewish. It’s not clear why she assumes this; maybe it’s just because her Holocaust-surviving grandmother has employed him as an architect, or maybe it’s the way he looks. When she finds out that his grandparents were forcibly removed from Jerusalem as children, it doesn’t affect her feelings for him, but she does feel a sense of guilt at the way that he is treated in Jerusalem, when, as a Jew, she is able to visit the city without anyone questioning why she is there.

The title speaks to the fact that who you are is made up of so many things; Rafi spends a lot of time telling Natasha that he doesn’t want to try and take on any of the resentment that she seems to want him to feel over the injustice that his parents suffered. For her part, she can’t help but feel a sense of guilt, just because she is Jewish, even though she of course had nothing to do with it.

When the action moves, halfway through the book, from New York to Jerusalem, these issues become even more heightened, with Natasha meeting Rafi’s family and friends, and the political and historical issues really come to the forefront.

For me, the most fascinating character in the book is Natasha’s grandmother, Esther, and it’s a shame that there isn’t really enough room within the story to focus more on her. She’s very much in the background, providing a reason for Natasha and Rafi to be brought together, and book-ending the novel with her work, but it would have been nice to learn more about her. Perhaps there’s a whole other novel waiting to be written about her tragic past. She says that New York saved her life, and I would love to read more about that.

Although I felt that things got tidied up almost a little too neatly at the end, I did enjoy All the Things You Are; it was an interesting story about a romance that has to transcend tribes, proving that even in this day and age, sometimes love has to try very hard before it is able to conquer all.

 

All the Things You Are by Clemency Burton-Hill
First Published: 2014
ISBN: 9780755358274
Publisher: Headline
Book provided in exchange for an honest review by bookbridgr

My Thoughts On… American Graffiti

Just a quick reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, please skip down to the section titled Why Should You See This Film? where you will find no spoilers!

Synopsis

A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college. (via IMDb)

What I Liked

  • American Graffiti is a film that has been on my radar for a while, but one that I had never got around to watching. When I was looking through the AFI 100 Years… 100 Laughs list, I realised that it was on Netflix, and so I decided to watch it. It’s beyond time to get a move on with regards to that AFI list! I was really pleased I did; it’s a genuinely funny, engaging and interesting film.
  • One of the things I love the most about it is its sense of time and place. Roger Ebert said that American Graffiti is “a brilliant work of historical fiction; no sociological treatise could duplicate the movie’s success in remembering exactly how it was to be alive at that cultural instant.” While I wasn’t born for that cultural instant, I know exactly what he means. It feels so completely faithful to the early 60s in a small California town.
  • I’m a huge fan of Star Wars, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not because George Lucas is a particularly fabulous screenwriter or director (in fact I’m not sure how it’s such a great trilogy given his involvement). But here, in a film he made before Star Wars (he actually used the profits from the film to start work on the series), he handles everything perfectly. There are various storylines all happening at the same time, and they all work brilliantly together; interweaving before all finally coming together.
  • The soundtrack is awesome. It’s almost continuous, given that the teenagers spend almost the entire film driving around town with the radio on, so it provides a constant backdrop. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Ain’t That a Shame, Why Do Fools Fall in Love – just the tip of the iceberg as far as the songs in the film goes. There are loads, and they are all great.
  • The aforementioned radio is manned by Wolfman Jack, someone who was evidently a real life DJ. There’s one scene where he appears in real life, though it’s not clear that it’s him at first, and I have to say, I loved him. He was like a guardian angel for the character of Curt, who is searching for a woman he caught sight of in a car at a traffic light. He gives him great advice, and just seems so lovely.
  • My favourite scenes of the film involved John and Carol. John obviously fancies himself as a bit of a player, so when he invites a a girl in a car full of her friends to come cruising with him, and she sends in her sister, he fancies his chances. When she actually gets in the car, and he realises she is only a young girl, he is more than a little put out. But their subsequent journey is really funny, because she is a precocious, insecure little thing, and he’s too nice to be truly horrible. The funniest line of the film, for me, comes when Carol, trying to insult John’s nemesis (played by Harrison Ford), shouts “You’re car is uglier than me!…That didn’t come out right.” I laughed out loud.
  • I liked John so much that when the on screen epilogue came up telling us the ultimate fate for his character, I was genuinely upset.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The film is maybe a little on the long side. Given that it takes place over the course of a whole night, maybe that’s fine, but I did feel it was quite long while I was watching it.

Why Should You See This Film?

As someone who has no true nostalgia for the sixties (having not lived through it), I enjoyed this film, so I would imagine anyone with a first hand experience of this time and place would probably have a lot of fun with this. Assuming that you’re not a seventy year old Californian, I’d still recommend it, because it’s a great film. There’s not a huge amount of plot, you just cruise around the town with these teenagers as they straddle the divide between high school and college. But it’s funny, and brilliantly observed, and well worth a watch (if only to see a young Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford).