New and Improved: Thank Goodness For Chuck Klosterman

New Non-Fiction Book Review by Roxanne Baker:

Hey, it’s a cinematic desert out there, so here’s a book review.

X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the 21st Century by Chuck Klosterman

I’ve never liked buffets; mass produced food in vats, yuck. However, what if all my favorite foods from Sarasota’s best restaurants were served? Salmon from Selva, pizza from Epicure, grilled avocado from Lila…you get the picture. Well, that’s the experience of reading Chuck Klosterman’s new book X , a filling collection of previously enjoyed delicacies.

A contributor to Spin Magazine, ESPN and Esquire, Chuck Klosterman’s previous books include Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and I Wear the Black Hat which both explored music, sports and social issues with a witty, philosophical flair.

X includes profiles of Kobe Bryant, Eddie VanHalen and Jonathan Franzen just to name a few. What makes Klosterman’s writing unique is his ability to uncover the actual human beings behind the fame, exposing their average Joe-ness.

In addition, Klosterman’s fun footnotes make you feel like a confidant at a cocktail party and his deeper questions to his subjects prod you to self-explore.

Here’s just one of the latter you’ll enjoy: Do you remember the person you were 15 years ago and does that negate the person you are today? Wouldn’t it be worse to be the exact same person unchanged by any experience?

Now that’s a buffet entrée for all deep thinkers to enjoy!

PPLL Flick of the Week

Ok readers, the situation is not dire, yet due to pre pension (PP) budgetary reasons, I need to do library loans (LL) once in awhile to preserve my 401k. And I am not suffering after this week’s classic gem.

Inspired by the trailer for Feud, the new FX show about the real life feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, I borrowed “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” from 1962 directed by Robert Aldrich. The range of emotions I felt for this film were psychedelic, from fear to hilarity. Bette Davis’s stellar performance is so nuanced that I am watching the film with commentary for a second even more enjoyable time.

I am not a fan of horror films which tells how great this movie truly is. This morning, my co-worker Barry and I howled repeating some lines from this cult classic, one of which is, “But you are Blanche, you are in this chair!”

Victor Buono, who played a money hungry piano player ready to cater to Bette Davis’s whims, is also both cunning and sarcastically comical.

The FX show Feud is also very entertaining with Sarandon looking like a Davis doppelganger. Jessica Lange certainly evokes the melancholy of Crawford, but her facial features are too wide for a true physical match. Nevertheless, since FX has only shown episode one of Feud, I look forward to even more Baby Jane related fun.

Get thee to your local library and borrow this film. But don’t show it to anyone under 18. I mentioned it to a few friends who said they were scarred from watching it at an emotionally impressionable age.

Good Fences Make Good Actors: August Wilson’s Fences

I read the criticisms of the movie version of Fences (‘too confined and stagey”) and as a result, didn’t go for a time. I’ve taught the play and was obviously moved by the story, with an added sentimental attachment to the physical book (which is now on the shelf at Bloomfield Central School) after seeing David Gray at my hotel pool in Dayton Ohio and having nothing else for him to sign.

But the movie was far better than the shallow reviewers revealed. I was physically moved by the acting, so much so, it was difficult to return to the real world and my gala art walk shift at the bookstore. Denzel Washington had a right to scowl at the Oscars upon hearing Casey’s name read. I really think they should have hack sawed the trophy in half and had an unprecedented tie. Why not? It would have made Warren Beatty look better (aside, poor guy, I love Warren). Denzel was Troy Maxson, just as other great actors (Christian Bale “The Fighter” and whatever real life kook he played in “Big Short”/aforementioned Casey Afleck in Manchester/JK Simmons in Whiplash). He reminds everyone of the universal father figure, equally afraid to be surpassed by his son and equally afraid of the opposite, a non-evolutionary expansion.

And what human words can actually explain the force of Viola Davis????????????? She deserved an Academy Award for her acceptance speech alone!!!! She truly gets what it means to come from poverty and to be blessed to have ridden on the backs of those with far less choices. I, too, had a similar epiphany just the other day on one of my lengthy bridge walks: my mother married my dad to get out of the house! It was an escape from the insanity of 8 unsupervised kids as my grandparents eeked out a small town existence.

Movies that help you see your past and your future while telling a compelling story are truly magical. Denzel obviously, having portrayed Troy on Broadway, felt the power and universality of August Wilson’s play and wanted to give it permanence on film. My next internet search is a hope to find that he won the Tony for it at least, as he is one of the finest, if not the finest, actors of our time.

PS Thank you Jesus, Denzel won a Tony for Fences in 2010.