Friday, June 17, 2016

Six for Summer

School is out at last. It's been out for me for 44 years now, but I still get a feeling of freedom, especially when the weather turns hot and sultry. Reading and viewing habits change; things cultural in a lighter vein. Here is my recommended hot-half dozen books and films for your perusal:

First up is a pair of films, both of which star Sir Anthony Hopkins. The World's Fastest Indian (2006), was of particular interest to me in that it concerns motorcycle speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. My old pal Andy set a record there, forty years after New Zealander Burt Munro did. Andy rode a production 1970 Triumph over the course at 98 miles per hour, but Burt's heavily modified 1920 Indian went over 200! Both records still stand, but it is Burt's story that was made into this fine film. (There should be a film made about Andy!) Hopkins disappears into the role, never breaking the spell cast by this fascinating character. A feel-good movie for anyone who isn't too cynical to enjoy a ripping yarn. Burt made many trips to Bonneville, this movie condenses them (and several amusing side-trips) into one.

The City of Your Final Destination (2009), was the final Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala production. Charlotte Gainsborough, Laura Linney and Hopkins are the surviving lover/wife/brother of a writer who languish on a decaying estate in Uruguay. They are visited by an inept, but handsome, academic who needs their approval for an authorized biography of the deceased scribe. Merchant/Ivory films are talky, slow and visually scrumptious–the perfect mix for a hot summer's evening. The big action scene consists of a man getting stung by a bee. Not for the ADD crowd, I found it to be delightful.

From the sublime to the ridiculous:

Amy Schumer has carved out a career in comedy, her often raunchy and usually hilarious stand-up routines, specials, a film, and her TV show have put her on top.

On a whim, I picked up season 3 of her Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, at the library. The Weaver and I binge-watched it over the weekend. After a tasteless opening number, the material quickly improved. A mix of sketches, interviews, commercial parodies (and a little stand-up) made the 3+ hours whiz by. Amy goes deep into dating rituals, male/female psychology issues and ruthlessly explores self-concept delusions. The weakest part of these shows is, oddly, the stand-up segments (she could work on her diction a little). Her real-life on-the-street interactions are hilarious, and her "Amy Goes Deep" one-on-one interviews are excellent—even touching at times.

But by far the best thing on the discs is the extended (full episode) parody of the great Sidney Lumet courtroom drama 12 Angry Men. Re-titled 12 Angry Men in Amy Schumer, this note-perfect parody features some of the finest character actors of the day as jurors who are debating whether Amy is "hot enough for television." Here's a preview:

the Trip: Andy Warhol's Plastic Fantastic Cross-Country Adventure by Deborah Davis, is the true story of Andy Warhol and some friends who take a road trip to California in 1963 to attend his breakout opening at the Ferus Gallery in L.A., talking Soup Cans, Elvis, Liz Taylor, it would be a billion dollar show on today's market.

Extremely readable and packed with quirky details about Warhol as well as his transformation from a shabby illustrator (Raggedy Andy) to the most successful Pop artist of all time. Davis obtained the receipts for the trip from his estate (Andy never threw anything away)  which made her able to retrace the journey with incredible accuracy. She also interviewed several of the surviving people involved, giving this book a depth which many pop culture tomes lack. This would be a great movie.

Highly recommended.

Butterflies in November, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir.

This is the second book by Auður, set completely in Iceland. Modern Icelandic humorous fiction can be
off-putting for the uninitiated. The apparent self-centeredness, irrationality and lack of commitment displayed by the characters in them give the whole genre a surrealistic quality. Recurring motifs (road-kill, casual sex, awful weather) are more than clichés, however, Iceland is truly strange.

The unnamed narrator, after finalizing a divorce, finds herself winner of two lotteries (one is for a trailer home, the other for the equivalent of about $400,000) and the temporary foster-parent of a special-needs four year old boy. They take off on a most eventful road trip, ultimately ending up on the east coast of Iceland, in the town she visited often as a child. This is a solid effort, albeit not completely successful. The cavalier style of the protagonist became a little much after a while.

My final entry is That's Not A Feeling, by Dan Josefson.

The story of Benjamin, a trouble teen who is unceremoniously dropped off a Roaring Orchards, a residential facility in upstate New York that houses similar youths. It is run by Aubrey, a geriatric philosopher with peculiar ideas about rehabilitation. Enforcement of the schools arbitrary and ever-changing rules is accomplished through a combination of meds, group therapy and social ostracism.

There is a lot of stuff going on here, but mostly on a shallow level. This is a first novel, and has "writers workshop"  stamped all over it. It would make for a good movie, however, some talented teen actors would have a field day with this set-up.

By Professor Batty


Blogger Jono said...

Thanks for the reviews! The Salt Flats seem like another planet and mirages are plentiful.

Blogger oroboros said...

This is great,, if only I didn't have stacks of to-be-read books in every room!! ;)

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I got the most out of Indian. As always, your mileage may vary.

Blogger Shoshanah Lee Marohn said...

I also enjoyed, "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Shuemer". My husband laughed a lot, but didn't find it as completely hilarious as I did.... And it turned out he had never seen 12 Angry Men!

I'll have to check out the rest of these...

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I found City at a dollar store in Madison.

Anonymous Andy said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Professor. To round out my Bonneville experience, I went to New Zealand last February & visited Burt Munro's home town of Invercargill. Walked the beach where he raced, and sat in the "World's Fastest Indian" on display at E hayes & Sons, Ltd. I met Neville Hayes, the son of the man who sponsored Burt for most of his Bonneville trips. He invited us to his home to show us his personal collection of Indian motorcycles, and told me that I was the only Bonneville record holder to visit Invercargill! New Zealand was beautiful, but this was the highlight of the trip for me!

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I’m eagerly awaiting the movie of your life!

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