This new Italian romantic comedy from IFC definitely looks noteworthy. It seems to be a major change of pace from the dramas American audiences are used to seeing out of that country, and a welcome, refreshing change of pace.
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In one of the great songs in all of Broadway, lyricist supreme Oscar Hammerstein III argued that racial insensitivity was not an inherent human trait. In his mind - and he was 100% correct - such horrific concepts as bigotry and prejudice “had to be carefully taught”. While no one is accusing South Pacific (from whence the tune originates) is the perfect example of understanding and diversity (“Bali Hai”, indeed…) it’s clear that Hammerstein wanted audiences to recognize the power of persuasive - and even more importantly, the greater influence of suggestion. Show a child a man belittling another with slurs and epithets, and they probably won’t comprehend the confrontation. But give them cutesy, cloying characters that clearly fit into hoary old ideas of class and culture, and you are guaranteed to influence them in frighteningly unnatural ways.
Ten years ago, George Lucas was raked over the coals for introducing that “Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit”, Jar-Jar Binks to the newly infantilized Star Wars universe. Added for “comic relief” and executed via a cartoonish CG process, the Gungan gave critics conniptions, mostly for his basic broken English bumbling. In response, Lucas argued that Binks was a conceit to “kids”, a chance for them to have a character that they could relate to and root for while an entire universe of vague political intrigue was playing out onscreen. Granted, it’s a weak excuse, but it goes to a much bigger issue. A decade later, Michael Bay used his mandatory sequel to Transformers to up the robot factor significantly. Among the new Autobots are a duo known as Mudflap and Skids, two smaller sized machines that begin their time together as a broken down ice cream truck but eventually wind up as two smaller, slicker vehicles.
I think if you look up “train wreck” in any dictionary, there will be a picture of this. What happened to Lara Flynn Boyle?!
The first time I heard “Marlene on the Wall” playing on the radio, I fell in love with Suzanne Vega. The song was catchy, her voice was soft yet defiant, and the image of a Marlene Dietrich poster passing judgment on a woman searching for love stayed with me long after the song finished playing. Suzanne Vega’s self-titled debut was one of the best albums of the year, with tracks like “Cracking” (“my heart is broken; it is worn out at the knees”), “Small Blue Thing”, and the devastating “The Queen and the Soldier”. But none of the three singles A&M released from the album charted on The Billboard Hot 100.
Surprisingly, neither did “Left of Center”, her enigmatic but hypnotic contribution to the Pretty in Pink soundtrack.
So I was happily surprised when, a couple years later, “Luka” became a major hit, spending three months in the Top 40 and peaking at #3. Finally, other people were discovering what a phenomenal talent Vega was. The Solitude Standing CD peaked at #11 on The Billboard 200 chart, and she was poised to become a major star.
It’s that time of year again - time to take stock of what you’ve been waiting to read, the books you’ve been hearing about, that stockpile on your bookshelf, possibly a holdover from holiday gift giving (I won’t ask which year). Or perhaps your reading slate is clean and you’re looking for advice?
I’m interested in where people get ideas for what to read next. So when it comes to summer reading lists - who do you get reading advice from?
Do you look to traditional newspaper sources? The Boston Globe has some recommendations.
Do you ask your local librarian for a little help? The New York public libraries website has lists for all ages.
People who’ve already demonstrated an ability for creating new literature might be a good source for titles new as well as old. So do you consult what your favorite author will be reading? The Philadelphia Examiner asked several local authors what they’ll be reading this summer.
In a similar feature, the magazine School Library Journal highlights authors of young adult and children’s literature, asking for their recommendations.
National Public Radio recently talked to Nancy Pearl, librarian and writer of the Book Lust series of reading recommendation books (not to mention the model for the Librarian Action Figure. I am not making this up). Pearl is something of a guru in the library world when it comes to reading recommendations.
And people who listened to the NPR program left messages with their own recommendations. So are those random folk who call into a radio program about books a good source for new reads?
Perhaps when all else fails, you check out what Oprah has to say on the subject?
There’s no shortage of suggestions out there. Naturally they’re not created equal. Do you have a preferred source to share?