Monthly Archives: December 2009


It’s Complicated isn’t very complicated. The movie is basically director and writer Nancy Meyer’s wish-fulfillment fantasy. Meryl Streep plays a 60-ish divorced woman who can cook and bake (she owns restaurants), has two good-looking successful men vying for her affection, three perfect children, three perfect friends, and is about to build a beautiful new kitchen for her fabulous house. Meyer overplays her hand when she has Adam (one of Steep’s prospective lovers played by Steve Martin) tell her, “Your age is one of things I most like about you.” Empowerment fantasies are powerful which is why Meyer doesn’t tamper with her successful template that produced money-making movies like What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, and The Holiday. Alec Baldwin plays Streep’s randy ex-husband who woos her again. Every cliche about younger wives find their way into the plot. Clearly, Meyer knows how to push a woman’s buttons. The theater we saw It’s Complicated in was packed, mostly with women. GRADE: B


George Clooney will probably be nominated for an Oscar for his role as a man addicted to travel. Clooney plays a corporate “hit-man” brought in by firms to fire their staffs. Through his job, Clooney spends 300+ days traveling. And gaining frequent flyer miles. Clooney meets up with a female frequent flyer played by the lovely Vera Farmiga (pictured above) and sparks fly. The on-screen chemistry of Clooney and Farmiga is electric! Director Jason Reitman makes one mis-step, but it doesn’t ruin the movie. Up In the Air manages to combine dark comedy and a critique of lifestyle choices in one entertaining package. GRADE: A-


Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is based on the Roald Dahl children’s book with the same title. Basically, it’s the story of Mr. Fox and his family who are terrorized by three farmers: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Of course, Mr. Fox brings this retribution on himself by stealing the farmers’ chickens, geese, and cider. With the voices of George Clooney (Mr. Fox), Meryl Streep (Mrs. Fox), and plenty of other notables, Fantastic Mr. Fox provides excitement and entertainment. The stop-action techniques are clever and a welcome change of all the Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) so common in movies today. Children will enjoy this movie, but so will adults. GRADE: B+


During the Holiday Season we should remember those who are protecting us. If you read only one book on the Iraq War from 2009, The Good Soldiers should be that book. David Finkel documents the lives of the soldiers in the 2007 Surge. The day-to-day grind can suddenly turn deadly with rocket attacks, IEDs, and snipers. Finkel captures the normalcy and intimacy of a combat unit punctuated by the instant surreal incursions of warfare. After reading The Good Soldiers you’ll really appreciate the sacrifices our military make on our behalf. This is a moving, profoundly intense book. GRADE: A

THE ANTHOLOGIST By Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker’s writer’s blocked poet, Paul Chowder, pontificates on rhyme and famous poets all while he delays, delays, delays writing the Introduction to his poetry anthology. Chowder’s editor is getting frustrated with the delay. Paul Chowder’s girlfriend, Roz, leaves him after tiring of his evasions and excuses why he won’t write. Baker has plenty of fun criticizing poets and critics and the general state of poetry in the world as he tries to get his writing mojo back. As a novel, The Anthologist is a bit of a confection. It rambles along and entertains. If you’re in the mood for something light, frothy, and amusing The Anthologist is just what the doctor ordered. GRADE: B


Scroogenomics argues that unless you know EXACTLY what the person you’re giving a gift to wants, you’re wasting your time and money. When people receive gifts they don’t really want, Joel Waldfogel’s research says it hurts the U.S. economy. A lot. Waldfogel says we waste $13 billion a year in bad gifting. Waldfogel’s advice is to give cash (or gift cards) where the recipient can buy what they really want. Or, you can do what Diane and I do. When we first were married, we had Christmas gifting disasters galore. Don’t even mention my gift of a Chinese wok to my wife unless you want to experience the Wrath of Diane. Then, we came up with the idea of Diane buying the gifts she would like to receive (mostly clothes) and I bought the gifts I would want to see under the tree on Christmas Day (mostly books, CDs, and DVDs). We would wrap them, exchange them with each other, and pretend to be surprised on Christmas when we would open them in front of the kids (but they caught on pretty fast). GRADE: B+