October 27, 2011

Jonathan Tropper, Author

Jonathan Tropper's books are smart and breezy, beautifully written and poignant. I LOVE This is Where I Leave You - great writing; not a comedy but told with a humorous perspective. I also really like Everything Changes and The Book of Joe. They both get bogged down a little in the middle for me but worth staying with. I had tears rolling down my face for the last twenty pages of The Book of Joe.

Here's a sample of his writing - a perfectly written scene from Everything Changes. The main character, Zack, is in a bar and sees a woman across the room talking to her girlfriend. He walks over to her and introduces himself (told from Zack’s POV in second person).

“There’s no easy way to break this to you,” you say, “so I’m just going to come right out with it. I’m here to hit on you.”
Hope laughs, and it’s a rich, musical laugh, unguarded and comfortable, like you’re old friends. Not at all what you expected. “Well,” she says. “I appreciate your candor.”
“May I begin?”
“Go for it.”
And what follows is two hours of perfect conversation, the kind you couldn’t have scripted if you wanted to, the kind where it becomes instantly apparent that your sensibilities and wits jibe, and when the conversation turns to banter, it’s easy and fun and never veers away from the substance of the discussion. And she quickly becomes familiar, touching your wrist when she laughs, leaning in to you easily when the crowd jostles her. And after a while, you realize your friends have left, and her girlfriend is long gone, and it’s with mixed feelings that you realize that they’re ringing last call at the bar, because on the one hand, when was the last time you made it to last call, but on the other, what the hell do you do now? You’ve long ago determined that tonight will not be about sex (as if it were up to you anyway), not because you don’t want it, God knows you do, but because you don’t want to ruin this one with a crude one-night stand.
But you don’t want the night to end, either, even though it already has. So you offer to walk her home and she acquiesces, and that works out well because it’s bitterly cold outside and she doesn’t so much hold your arm as wrap herself around it, and the wind blows her hair into your face, drawing tears as it whips at your eyes, and there’s intimacy in this, so much more so than with casual sex. Her building is one of those posh monoliths on Fifth Avenue, and you start to say good night, your voice hoarse from hours of shouting above the jukebox, but she pulls you past the doormen – “Hi, Nick. Hi, Santos” – and into the elevator. And before you can work up the nerve for a good-night kiss, she does it first, kissing you deeply, hungrily, backing you up against the elevator wall, the full length of her body pressed against you, making you wish to God you weren’t both wearing thick coats. And this goes on for fifteen flights, and then a little bit more, since she doesn’t stop when the door slides open on her floor. And then she steps back, breathless and windswept, deliciously disheveled, and says, “That was lovely.” She pulls out a silver Cross pen from her bag and writes her name and number down on your hand, and under that she writes To Be Continued, and then she turns serious and says, “Listen, Zack. I’m not into games and I don’t like players. If you like me, call me, okay? There’s no appropriate waiting period. If I don’t hear from you tomorrow, I’ll assume you’re not interested.”

Didn't that put you right in the middle of that scene?
You should read his books.

October 18, 2011

So Many Movies, So Little Time

This is movie season. You know: end of the year, so films are being released in order to get Oscar consideration. And, if that's not enough, the Chicago Film Festival is in progress. Whew, it's tough to keep up. But I'm making a valiant effort.
I don't have time to write reviews of them all (have to keep moving forward on my new book: The Ones You Left Behind - yes, a shameless plug), so I'm doing a mass movie review: a quick synopsis of the films I've seen in the past month. (Probably more like three weeks but that's just embarrassing.) Okay, let's start with
Moneyball ***** Great baseball film, excellent acting-Brad Pitt is great. Jonah Hill is fantastic - he has such a great face that tells the whole story. If you like rooting for the underdog you'll love this film. I did.
50/50 **** Based on a true story about a young man with a rare form of cancer. The script is a little heavy-handed but it's basically an engaging story told with humor and poignancy. There's nothing funny about cancer but I believe that finding humor in life helps us with the tough times. So does this film.
The Ides of March ***1/2 How bad can it be with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling in it? Also Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood. Good cast, interesting story, acting/directing very solid (Clooney directs this film). My problem is with the script and the way it deals with the central theme of idealism vs. realism vs. corruptibility - just doesn't quite work for me, especially the ending.
Toast ** This could have been a sweet film about a young English boy who develops a love for cooking and becomes an accomplished chef. But the characters are so poorly written (except for the boy) that it's hard to get involved. The mother can't be characterized as a lousy cook - there are no words to describe a woman who boils cans unopened. Stupid, right? And the father is implausibly cruel. And then the mother dies and a caricature of a housekeeper (soon to turn evil stepmother) comes on board (Helena Bonham Carter) but there's no saving that role the way it's written. It was written by the screenwriter of Billy Elliott which was a very sweet film. This one is not.
My Afternoons With Margueritte ****1/2 Okay, now THIS is a sweet film. It's about an unlikely friendship between Germain (a super-sized Gerard Depardieu) and 90 year old Margueritte who meet in a park. The relationship is lovely and as we learn more about the characters we grow to love them. Beautifully told.
Contagion ***1/2 Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law. Story about a rampant virus that crosses the globe at the speed of light and the people trying to figure out where it came from and how to stop it. Pretty good story that pulls you in.
Without ***1/2 This is a film festival film about a young woman who takes a job in a remote location caring for a catatonic old man while his family takes a vacation. The man is in a wheelchair and cannot speak. We're told that he makes his needs known but we never see evidence of it and we don't know how aware he is of what's going on. The young woman slowly unravels in her solitude, alone with thoughts of an event that we slowly learn about. Really well done and beautifully acted, and I'd have given it more stars if parts of it hadn't been so difficult to watch.
What Love May Bring *1/2 Claude Lelouche's (a Man and a Woman) 43rd film about a woman on trial for murdering her husband, and the lawyer who defends her. Very self-indulgent film that repeats itself throughout and seems like a compilation of his (and others') previous films. I was bored to tears and annoyed by all the repetition and the songs we had to sit through for no reason. And then people clapped when it was over. Go figure.
Fireflies in the Garden **1/2 Great cast: Willem Dafoe, Julie Roberts, Ryan Reynolds, Emily Watson. Again, could have been a good story with better characterizations and more subtlety. Another implausibly cruel father. I'm sure there are cruel parents in this world (hard for me to imagine) but I have a difficult time believing that a mother would allow the kind of abuse that's depicted in this film. Michael (Ryan Reynolds), an adult now who has somehow survived his childhood, has turned into a fish-bludgeoning, firefly smashing role-model for his niece and nephew. Nice.

October 15, 2011

WebSite Story

Since West Side Story is one of my all-time favorites I couldn't resist sharing this video with you. It's a very clever parody from CollegeHumor. Check it out.

CollegeHumor is a comedy website based in New York City. Funny stuff.

October 12, 2011

Ushering in a New Era

I'm probably the last person on earth with a picture-tube TV, and I'm tired of waiting for the damn thing to break. It's got to be 30 years old. What's up with that? Things don't last that long today. (Jeez, I sounded like Jed Clampett just then.) So I've decided to euthanize it - I'm getting ready to send it to TV heaven.
Drum roll please...I bought a FLAT SCREEN TV. Yay!
You know you've got a problem when you watch TV shows and movies on your computer and the clarity is immeasurably better than your TV. The picture on my TV is fine, but hey, it's 2011. Time to get with the program. So I called Abt, told them what I wanted, gave them a credit card number and it'll be here on Thursday. They'll hook it up, fine-tune all the settings and cart away the behemoth and recycle it.
Can an iPad be far behind?
Hmmm...I wonder if I'll be able to hook up my Betamax to it.

October 6, 2011

What's Your Legacy?

Steve Jobs is one of the geniuses of the world, alongside Einstein, DaVinci and Isaac Newton, to name a few. Jobs changed the world; not just people around him but the ENTIRE world; the way we think, the way we live, the way we work and play, the way we communicate, the way we listen to music, the way we read...and the list goes on. How many people can say that? It's an awesome legacy.
Do you ever think about your legacy, what you'll leave behind? I think about it a lot, probably because I don't have children. I think about all the things I've collected over the years; the thousands of photos, the family antiques, tapes of my father's voice, videos of family events, journals I've kept for most of my life...and it's sad to know that when I die no one will want those things or care about them.
If you have children, you're lucky (on so many levels). They still might not want your things, but you have a built-in legacy. Right? So what's mine?
That's part of why I write - my words are what will survive me. With the publication of my book in the spring (yay!) - and hopefully many more - I'll leave a piece of me behind, something that people for generations to come will be able to pick up in a library or bookstore and in some way know me. It's my hope that something I've written will resonate, that my readers will be moved or touched in some way, that my words will have made a difference.
What more could you wish for?

October 1, 2011

It's a Strange New World

Mark Zuckerberg created the early derivative of Facebook in retaliation for a girl breaking up with him (if the movie is to be believed). That early version was mean and vindictive, unlike the Facebook community we know now. But when Mark and his friends were creating FB I wonder if they thought about what would happen when Facebook people are married or in a relationship and they break up.
Who gets custody of the Friends?
Gone are the days when your ex just vanished from your life. Today, all you need to do is open your Facebook page and voila! there's your ex and everything he or she is doing, right there in front of you, ready to piss you off or make you jealous or break your heart at a moment's notice.
In the olden days the only way to find out what your ex was up to was to drive by his or her house. Or call and hang up. Well, that doesn't work any more cuz you don't even have a car. Oops, I mean some people don't have a car. And caller i.d. has put the kibosh on the call-and-hang-up method of stalking. (I haven't done those things since I was 16. Truly. Well alright, maybe 30...when was caller i.d. invented?). But now it's a new ballgame. You can cyber-stalk your ex right on Facebook! But be prepared -
you may see some things you don't want to see. Like when this comes up on your FB page:
_______ (insert the name of your spouse/S.O./ex/FWB here) and _________ are now friends and you think...Hmmm, what's going on there? And then your mutual friends "Like" that, and you think...Really? I thought they liked me.
And even for people who are still together, isn't there a myriad of cyber ways to make yourself crazy? Suppose your husband or wife has just friended a high school sweetheart. Should you worry? Should you ask about it? Should you friend your own high school sweetheart and see how your spouse likes it?
Do you think Demi took notice when Ashton friended Sara Leal on Facebook? (I obviously read too much People magazine.)
How to deal with this strange new world we live in?
Vodka. It's the only answer.