A book review from the desk of The Movie Snob.
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (1932). I read this classic dystopian novel a long time ago and was inspired to re-read it by an episode of the National Review podcast called “The Great Books.” It is a weird story, much weirder than I remembered it. Huxley set his tale in the distant future and predicted a caste-bound society in which people are created in laboratories and subjected to extensive physical and psychological conditioning so that they will be perfectly adjusted to their eventual caste and status in life, whether the lowly, semi-intelligent worker class or the higher classes who do the finer work in the bio-factories and conditioning centers. (The caste descriptions are, unfortunately, pretty racist.) Everyone, save only the tiny group of world-governing Controllers, is kept mindlessly content with a feel-good drug called soma, constant entertainments, and endless recreational sex. But off in the wilds of New Mexico is a reservation of people who still live the old way, and the action of the tale is sparked when a reservation dweller called the Savage makes his way into modern society and questions everything he sees. Definitely worth a read. The volume I got also featured a subsequent Huxley essay called “Brave New World Revisited,” but I found it very tiresome and couldn’t finish it.
A movie review from The Movie Snob.
Yentl (C). Hm, seems to me that the Magnolia Theater is pushing the limits of what counts as a “classic” in its Tuesday night classic-movie series. Nevertheless, onward! This was my first time see this 1983 musical starring (and directed by) Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl). What can I say? If you want an extra-hearty helping of Ms. Streisand, this is the movie for you. The movie is set in “Eastern Europe” in 1904 (I think that’s what the caption said), and Streisand plays Yentl, a young Jewish woman who scoffs at marriage and wants only to be allowed to study Torah. Alas! Such study is reserved for men! But that’s little obstacle for plucky Yentl, who skedaddles from her small town as soon as her dear old dad dies, disguises herself as a man, and joins the yeshiva in the next town over. She soon falls for her passionate study partner Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin, The Princess Bride), but he’s madly in love with his fiancée Hadass (Amy Irving, Traffic). Oh, and there’s the little detail that he thinks Yentl is a man (although he does seems to get kind of handsy in after-school horseplay with his younger study partner). As the melodrama builds, Yentl pushes her cross-dressing scheme surprisingly far. Anyhoo, the movie was okay, but I didn’t think much of the songs, and I couldn’t quite suspend disbelief at the idea that Streisand (then 40ish) could pass for a Jewish man too young to grow a beard.
Another classic reviewed by The Movie Snob.
Destry Rides Again (B). I wasn’t sure what to expect from this 1939 Western starring Jimmy Stewart (Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation) and Marlene Dietrich (Witness for the Prosecution)—I had never heard anything about it and saw it pretty much on a whim. But I must say that I rather enjoyed it—much more than the Dietrich movies in “The Glamour Collection” that I watched so long ago. It’s rather tongue-in-cheek, as Westerns go. It’s set in a typical rough-and-tumble Western town, with a typical villain, his typical gang of ruffians, and an atypical saloon songbird named Frenchie (Dietrich) who helps the villain fleece people in crooked card games. When the town’s sheriff disappears under not-very-mysterious circumstances, the new sheriff sends for assistance in the person of Tom Destry (Stewart), son of a well-known lawman now deceased. But Destry quickly becomes a town laughingstock when he refuses even to carry a gun. Can he defeat the bad guys with nothing more than his wits? And maybe woo Frenchie on the side? It’s sort of goofy, but enjoyable. Worth a look, especially since it’s only 95 minutes long!
A new book review from The Movie Snob.
The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands, edited by Huw Lewis-Jones (2018). I saw a glowing review of this new book and promptly ordered it. It didn’t live up to the hype, but it’s fine. It’s a slightly oversized book that is full of reproductions of maps, both real maps from long-ago days and modern maps of fantastic places like Oz and Middle Earth. The illustrations are pretty cool. The book also contains lots of short essays by “a team of distinguished writers and illustrators” about how wonderful and inspirational maps are. I found the essays pretty forgettable, although I did like the one about Dungeons & Dragons by Lev Grossman.