5. Lions for Lambs
Finally, a movie that puts Tom Cruise's altogether too-toothy smile to its full, creeptastic potential! Way to go, Robert Redford. There are several more reasons why I loved this movie, but I expected to like this movie despite Tom Cruise, you follow? Cruise makes a great sleazebag politician. His smoothly prepared speeches and calculated emotions made my stomach turn, and not in the normal way Tom Cruise usually makes my stomach turn, my eyes roll, and my mouth to foam and froth at the inanity of his acting skills. This movie was excellently directed over all, and I really loved the three-tiered and intertwined story lines. I felt they worked well together to give a micro-glance into a much larger, much more disturbing macro. I also thought that the morals/fears expressed by the film are hard learned lessons that shouldn't be forgotten. Meryl Streep was, of course, brilliant as always, as was director/actor Redford. Although it didn't do to well by the reviewers or by IMDb, I really enjoyed it. It makes several great points without beating you about the head and shoulders with a sociological history anthology, or drowning you in caustic political ideals.
Okay... what? So I adore Emilie de Ravin, I think she's cute as a button. I also love seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt be all filled out and angsty (rawr!), but as a high school loner diving into an crime ring to find out what happened to his ex-girlfriend aka the only thing in his life he ever luuuurved? No, sorry. Let's be real, this movie was fun. The dialogue was both hilariously overdone and amazing, and who doesn't like a good detective story? But see, the thing about detective stories is that they have to seem reasonable or else you're automatically putting yourself on the same playing field as Johnny English. Hopped up code lingo about "ops" and "shaking out" and whatnot just doesn't work when you're using a pay phone by the high school, wearing the same clothes for days, talking about the "library" as being "too out in the open." And yes, high school kids do drugs... but they probably don't get their hands on entire bricks of heroin, let alone frame each other, kill each other, coordinate to blame others, and/or hide bodies strategically. So, if you can get over the fact the setting of this movie is totally absurd, you'll love it. As for me, I would've adored it if the cast consisted of vaguely connected adults living in a thriving, drug-ridden metropolis.
1. Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers
Dan's mother/parents gave me this book for Christmas, and I was interested in it because it's not the kind of book I would normally pick for myself. I tend to shy away from contemporary Christian anything, especially fuzzy Hallmark-esque Yay-God! novels, and this seemed almost on the verge of falling into that category.
Truthfully, in some places it absolutely does fall into that category. It's not great literature, and I found quite a few typos in my copy. The heroine is so pure that she's impossible to see as a genuine person. I definitely rolled my eyes a few times. She's more of an unlikely angel who attracts all those around her to a better relationship with their family and the Lord.
That being said, the other characters are so flawed and so human that you feel them, love them, and hate them. They way they come together seems natural enough, and the effect they have on one another is quite beautiful and emotionally compelling.
It's a very simple story, and a remarkably female work. I think it speaks volumes on the relationships between women in families. There is no specific perspective, as all the major characters have their say in this book, which is something I really appreciate. It feels like a conversation, a group of memories coming together to weave a beautiful tapestry.
Simply put, the plot revolves around Leota, an estranged elderly woman who is lonely and near the end of her life. She craves reconciliation with her children, and finds it with the help of her granddaughter.
The book has some very lovely metaphors, parallels between the garden and the organic circles of life, as well as with biblical references to gardens and the spiritual impact of tilling the earth, tilling the soul, and cultivating relationships.
I felt a deeply personal connection with this book because of my Grandma Fae's alienation from her family, and from my own hostile interactions with my mother (and also my deep and abiding love for gardening.) I felt convicted by this story, but I also felt very hopeful.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book and would call it a current favorite. My only complaints are that of poor grammar in places, and I absolutely detest the character Hiram. We can discuss that in comments if you've read the book, I don't want to spoil anything here. At any rate, I would recommend it.