Although I came prepared to sneer at INTERIORS (1978) as Woody Allen’s first shot at Ingmar Bergman-style drama (also his first film not to star himself) I found myself caught up in the story of the dysfunctional family of mentally troubled Geraldine Page, straying father E.G. Marshall and artistic but frustrated daughters Mary Beth Hurt and Diane Keaton. The biggest problem is that it has the stiffness of a Filmed Stage Play but it worked for me nonetheless; Maureen Stapleton plays Marshall’s second wife and a young Sam Waterston is Hurt’s husband. Hannah and her Sisters would be an obvious double bill for the family emphasis. “She has all the anxiety and agony of the artistic temperament but none of the talent.”
THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) adapts the bestselling Y/A dystopia in which 24 teenagers are recruited for a battle to the death as part of the central government’s policy of crushing resistance (“We could just kill 24 children, but having a victor gives them hope.”) with Woody Harrelson as a trainer, Stanley Tucci as an oily MC, Lenny Kravitz as a consultant (the realization that black characters were actually being played by black people created a firestorm among some outraged fans of the books) and Donald Sutherland as the reigning tyrant. Very good, even given the Game Show of Death is hardly a new concept (even a non-genre fan like TYG is familiar with it), though I notice here it reflects current American Idol trends (the public gets to vote by providing medicine or other goodies to its favorites). “May the odds ever be in your favor.”
THE FILMS OF FRITZ LANG by Frederick W. Ott is a competent but unremarkable look at Lang’s career, relying on then-current reviews of the various movies rather than in-depth analysis. As someone who only knows the highlights of Lang’s career, however, I must say it was a useful overview, showing that like so many directors, his work ranged from SF to crime drama to noir to historical epic.
FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies has a retired history teacher entering his flashback booth to show that he wasn’t the amiable fuddy-duddy Mr. Chips clone that some of his acquaintances have assumed. We then follow him from growing up in a provincial Canadian town through the hell of WW I, into teaching history, becoming a hagiologer and his life-long uneasy relationship with a hot-shot businessman of similar roots. The kind of thing I don’t normally like, so it says a lot that I quite liked this one.
THE CREAM OF THE JEST: A Comedy of Evasion by James Branch Cabell starts off well as a minor functionary in Poictesme reveals that his elaborate schemes are due to his being an avatar of the author plotting the books and finding no other way to make them come out right. Unfortunately we then switch from Horvendile to the life of the author which becomes a whiny tale of how such sensitive spirits can never truly be at home outside their dreams, and how horrible it is that his beautiful art became a success purely because of rumors that there’s S-E-X in them (after which we get Cabell’s equally uninteresting Philosophy of Life, The Universe and Everything). Perhaps it’s a good thing I’ve concentrated my Cabell reading on his best stuff and not his entire works.
AVENGERS: The Children’s Crusade has the teen super-heroes Wiccan and Speed attempt to find their suspected mother the Scarlet Witch with the help of their teammates in the Young Avengers, only to have both the Avengers and the X-Men try to stop them for fear of what Wanda’s powers did (death, destruction and warping reality for the worse) when she went mad in her last appearance. A fun read, though as the Young Avengers point out, the X-Men’s own history hardly qualifies them to pronounce judgment on anyone—and the time-travel ending left me a little unclear if this story got wiped out of continuity or not.