Iron Filings - 64
March 1, 2020
Iron Filings – 64
In order to help you get through these last few weeks of winter with a good attitude, I'd like to offer some really good movies and a few books for you to enjoy. They're not all necessarily the "best of" anything – just good entertainments. All are widely available in bookstores, libraries, and the various disk and streaming video services. We'll start with movies.
Green Book - Some marvelous acting in this picture. Based on a true story, it features a white man of various employments agreeing to chauffeur a black musician (a fabulous concert pianist) through a tour of the south.
Finding Your Feet – While the opening premise is a downer – a titled British woman finding out that her husband of forty years is having an affair – how Lady Sandra Abbott goes about picking up the pieces of her shattered life is a hoot: funny, inspired, a rockin' joy.
Bohemian Rhapsody – This is a beautiful blend of biopic and music. Even if you've never heard of Freddy Mercury and Queen, you'll finish this movie both saddened by the tragic, perhaps typical, downward arc of a musician's life, as well as wanting to lose yourself forever in the magic that was Queen. What I found astonishing was the manner in which the music never gets in the way of the story, and the story never gets in the way of the music.
Jimmy's Hall – Ah, you gotta love the Irish even if they don't want to love themselves. In 1921 Jimmy Grafton built a hall in his small village where young people could meet, take classes, talk, argue, dream, and have social events. Such a venture in this Catholic venue was seen to be bordering on socialism with horrific consequences. Not all the critics loved this movie, but I found it gripping and powerful.
On The Basis Of Sex – On The Basis Of Sex is a dramatization of the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While this most amazing and so intelligent of our Supreme Court justices has led a remarkable life, the struggles that have shaped her have required a grit and determination that is just breathtaking to see. She is an inspiration regardless of your politics.
The Shape of Water – Part love story with bits of sci-fi, it's almost impossible to summarize this movie without sounding silly, but this Best Picture Oscar winner will knock your socks off. Briefly, a mute cleaning woman in a secret government lab discovers a half-human amphibian in a laboratory tank and gradually falls in love with it. Upon hearing that the scientists are going to kill it and dissect it, she arranges one thriller of an escape plan. Love it when something so stirring, yet just a bit kooky, gets the honors it deserves.
Wonder – This is a fascinating portrayal of a little boy struggling for acceptance having been born with a congenital facial deformity. Not at all sappy or sentimental, it's upbeat, funny, and a wonderful study in courage.
Midnight In Chernobyl (Adam Higginbotham) – A few years ago I wrote a bit about the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor incident in Pennsylvania. As a nation we scared ourselves with that, and rightly so, but it was profoundly upstaged just a few years later. As the world surely knows, on April 26, 1986, the nuclear reactor in Pripyat, near Chernobyl in Ukraine, exploded. What followed was damage control, clean-up, investigations, and scapegoating. Today, almost thirty-five years later, the area is still highly radioactive and unlivable, although it is open to tourism. That's only the bare bones of the story, however. What's really important are the people involved and you will find them simply overwhelmed by tragedy. This is an important book and yet, having said that, it also reads like a marvelous mystery story.
City of Girls (Elizabeth Gilbert) – I hate to use the clichéd term page-turner, but I guarantee the only thing that will slow you down in reading this book is that you won't want it to end. Really, it's a simple story set in the period around WWII, something of a coming-of-age story as a young woman, having flunked out of Vassar, goes to live with her wildly kooky aunt who's the owner of an off-off Broadway theater. Are there consequences for a life built on good times? You bet, but for Vivian Morris those good times far outweigh even the most wrenching of consequences.
Lilac Girls ( Martha Hall Kelly) – Some time ago author Kelly happened to hear about a Caroline Ferriday, a one-time actress and New York socialite. As she learned more about Ferriday she was inspired to write this novel. During World War II, Ferriday (her real name is used in the novel) worked in New York for the French consulate sending aid packages to France as France was being threatened by the Nazis. At one point she hears about a concentration camp holding only women – called Ravensbruck – and the medical experiments perpetrated on those women. Really, if it's my nine-hundredth book about WWII (I may be exaggerating), it's still one of the most absorbing: a compelling read.
102 Minutes, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn – There isn't a whole lot to say about this book other than that it will make you relive that terrible morning back in 2001. It's reportage that focuses on what was happening in and around the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001. There was a lot of communication going on – some of it effective, some of it not – amongst police and fire fighters and those on various floors. What's most interesting is that for those of us at home watching things develop on TV we had a much greater sense of what was happening than those in the buildings. When the first plane hit the north tower, for example, the people there felt a huge impact and felt the building sway, but they had no idea what had happened. Nor did those in the north tower know that the south tower had collapsed, let alone knowing that their own tower was in peril. More than anything, though, you get a terrifying and very personal glimpse of the last moments of so many people.
That should keep you occupied until it's time to smell the roses again.
G.K. Wuori © 2020
Photoillustration by the author