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Book Notes

April 3, 2014

'Blue Jasmine' shows talent of troubled Allen

It’s a shame that Woody Allen is caught up in controversy in his personal life because it deflects from his talent as a filmmaker. You can see the brilliance in his most recent release, “Blue Jasmine,” now available for rental at the Village Library of Cooperstown. 

The cleverness and unique humor he has displayed in writing and directing movies ranging from “Annie Hall” to “Zelig” are quite remarkable. When he turns serious he offers the same ability to produce a beautiful outcome. His latest endeavor, “Blue Jasmine,” is as impressive as any film he has ever made.

“Blue Jasmine” is the story of a former socialite who has hit rock bottom. She was married to the ultimate con artist and adulterer, a man who not only cheated on her but destroyed the lives of the people he conned. He ends up in jail and she dead broke and suffering a nervous breakdown. The movie follows her as she tries to pick up the pieces.

It is clear from the start that the film’s protagonist, Jasmine, has major problems. In her own mind she was leading the perfect existence, living a life of luxury and madly in love with her “highly successful” husband. She was either totally ignorant or turned a blind eye to all her husband’s malfeasance. Either way she paid dearly for it.

Jasmine journeys to San Francisco from New York to start over. She moves in with her sister but one can see immediately it will not be an easy transition. She is a physical and emotional wreck and the siblings have nothing in common. What can she do when for years she was a “kept” woman and has no qualifications for any profession (on top of being hooked on meds)? 

Woody Allen does a tremendous job weaving the story back-and-forth from flashbacks to Jasmine’s flush days in New York where she acts the snobbish socialite to present-day San Francisco where she struggles to regain her dignity. The viewer knows immediately the emotional meltdown she has suffered as she talks gibberish non-stop to her seatmate on her flight to California.

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Book Notes
  • Early 'blahs' sometimes hide a gem There are often films that sound rather "blah" when you first notice them and have no interest in seeing. It's usually due to the preview either being really stupid or the producers wanting to avoid giving away too much of the plot. If it's the latter category you must be careful. Sometimes there's a gem of a movie hidden behind the facade.

    July 24, 2014

  • 'Moneyball' author tackles Wall Street with 'Flash Boys' Have you ever read a book that feels like it's in a foreign language? It covers a subject you know is important and figure at some point it will all make sense. What do you do when that doesn't happen? Obviously, the easiest solution is to toss the book aside. But what if the underlying message is something you "get" and don't want to give up on? I faced that dilemma recently.

    July 17, 2014

  • MacNeil reading highlights novels Several weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Robert MacNeil at the Guilderland Public Library. MacNeil is best known as the former co-host of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. He retired in 1995 but has continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. His talk at Guilderland focused on two of his novels, "Burden of Desire" written in 1992, and its sequel, "Portrait of Julia," which was published last year.

    July 10, 2014

  • 'The Monuments Men' shows important history World War II continues to hold a special place in the hearts of readers and movie goers. The reasons are many but much of it can be traced to the endless number of storylines from that conflict. There is literally a treasure trove of material that keeps emerging. The latest example is the movie, “The Monuments Men.â€�

    July 3, 2014

  • Authors not afraid to think like freaks Conventional wisdom is something we automatically take for granted. It can be something as simple as assuming there is no cure for the common cold or political polls being a good indicator of who will win an election. Common assumptions of course can be wrong but we usually just accept them as fact. However, in many cases it would be much better to think "outside the box" and consider an alternative way of looking at the world.

    June 26, 2014

  • Book goes further into Armstrong's lies There hasn't been a shortage of elite athletes that have fallen from grace in recent years. Most of them have been baseball players who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and then lying about it. Golfer Tiger Woods fell from his pedestal because of extra-marital affairs. He has yet to regain his previous aura and perhaps never will. But the loudest crash of all came from cyclist Lance Armstrong who was not only a liar and a cheat but ruined other people's lives in the process.

    June 19, 2014

  • Documentary proves Butch, Sundance still enchant "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is one of the most popular films of all-time. The 1969 Western is based on the real life exploits of two infamous outlaws whose specialty was robbing trains. They became folk heroes because they supposedly never shot anyone.

    June 12, 2014

  • Pohl's call-up reminds me of Feinstein book We recently learned that Cooperstown native and professional baseball player Phillip Pohl was promoted to the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics where he played for nearly a month. For those that don't know, AAA is the highest minor league before reaching the major leagues.

    June 5, 2014

  • Movie gives clues into real Disney Everyone has heard of Walt Disney. How can you not when Disneyland and Disney World are the most popular family vacation spots around. Add in his historic cartoons and animated features and you have a Hollywood legend. But how many people know what the man himself was like?

    May 29, 2014

  • Wooden bio by Davis feels definitive Any long-time observer of college basketball knows that one school and one coach stand out above all others. In the 1960s and 1970s the John Wooden-led UCLA Bruins won ten championships in twelve seasons. Their level of achievement is so remarkable that it will probably never be equaled. Forty years after his last championship the ghost of John Wooden still reverberates at the university.

    May 22, 2014