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02/07/2017

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One find from last year was something I've been meaning to find for a long time and just never got around to it.

Years ago I listened to the Catholic Author series on EWTN and one of the authors they talked about was Edwin O'Connor. I had meant to read The Last Hurrah, but somebody in our book club suggested Edge of Sadness and I'm really glad they did. Eventually I realized that it was the novel about a priest that Sally had recommended so highly on her blog. I wish I could find her post, but there's not search function.

It is a very excellent novel about a priest in Boston who, after having been a very successful parish priest, succumbs to alcoholism. The book begins after his recovery when he goes to his new parish which in many ways is like the parish where I work. He is summoned by a rich businessman and slumlord whose son is a brother priest and close friend, and he finds himself an unwilling favorite of the man. I wish I could describe it better, but I can't write very well in these boxes.

I also read The Last Hurrah which is about the mayor of a city like Boston--a political boss--and his campaign for re-election. I liked it, although not as much as The Edge of Sadness, and as our presidential campaign progressed, it became even more interesting in retrospect.

AMDG

Funny you should mention O'Connor, Janet. On Monday night I gave a talk for a Catholic writers' group on "unknown" Catholic fiction writers. After the talk one of the fellows mentioned O'Connor as a very good "forgotten" Catholic writer, and recommended those same two novels. He said that he thought The Last Hurrah was one of the best political novels he ever read.

I'll put some of my 2016 faves up here later today.

At first glance I thought this guy was referring to Flannery O'Conner as "forgotten" and thought "things are worse than I thought".

Isn't there a movie of The Last Hurrah? Pre-1960?

Yes. Spencer Tracey. It's a good movie.

AMDG

Does favorites of the year mean that the book, movie, album etc. was released in 2016, or just that during that calendar year I was impressed by it and wish to share my joy? So it could be Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart, for instance.

Either one, as far as I'm concerned. I think that was Rob & Janet's thought, and it was their idea. Janet's note above is in that vein.

Yeah, that's what I had in mind: either something that came out in 2016 that was a fave of the year, or something you encountered for the first time in 2016 that you really enjoyed.

I really loved Manchester by the Sea, and will be bummed out if it doesn't win anything at the Oscars. I do like heavy drama more than any other genre of movie though. I have not seen LaLa Land but will probably boycott it now just because of hype - really, a musical is just a musical - generally enjoyable, but never memorable. Too much hype had me never watch Dirty Dancing or Top Gun!

"I do like heavy drama more than any other genre of movie"

Then don't miss Fences, Stu. I think it's even better than Manchester (which I liked a lot).

I didn't get to Fences last week and now I've broken my leg and if its on anywhere I won't be able to reach it.

I thought Manchester by the Sea was excellent

!

Is it the same leg you hurt before?

AMDG

I do also want to see Fences. Have been meaning to go, but so far things have come up. Perhaps this weekend!

Yes Janet the same leg

I amchanging my monicker

I think I would be too under the circs (very grumpy).

In 2016 I finally got round to watching Gone with the Wind. I might be the only person here not to have seen it earlier. Oh, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which I think came out in 2013. Both of them on a small screen. Arrival is a 2016 film, but I only saw it last week.

The best film I saw in the cinema in 2016 must have been Our Little Sister (trailer here). Three grown-up sisters, still sharing their parental home, hear that the father they haven’t seen for fifteen years has died. At his funeral they meet their orphaned teenaged half-sister for the first time, and unexpectedly invite her to move in with them. The rest of the film traces the first year of their new life together. There are some stunningly beautiful shots of the passing of the seasons and of small-town Japan. The characters and the story mostly develop by indirect revelations, small shared joys and crises, and meaningful looks and gestures. It would be possible to watch the surface of the film and just think it was very feel-good and pretty, but thinking through the implications of so much that is left unsaid touches on all sorts of very deep emotions. Like a lot of films these days, it’s inspired by a cartoon – the graphic novel Umimachi Diary – but it’s certainly more worth watching than Spiderman or X-Men.

As to books, nothing really comes to mind. I must have read something last year, but I can't think what.

Broken? Oh dear. That is miserable. Get well soon!

I am really sorry to hear that, V.Grumpy.

AMDG

These things are sentbto try us

Sorry to hear about your mishap, VG!

My favorite movies that were released in 2016 were Midnight Special, Arrival, Nocturnal Animals, and Fences (no particular order). Manchester by the Sea was also up there, but I liked it slightly less than those others.

Music:

I had heard Cat Power (stage name of singer/songwriter Chan Marshall) on a few soundtracks and so I got a few of her CDs from the library to follow up. Two of them I thought were mixed bags, but I ended up really liking her most recent record, Sun, from 2012. It's an Americana-type thing, but with some electronics thrown in, which makes it kind of unique. Plus I like her voice and find her lyrics interesting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6AGQ_L1KF8


I also really like the new record Two Years by Emily Rodgers which came out this past summer. I'd heard her previous one, Bright Day, playing in a local bookstore and bought it, and so was happy to see this new one appear. The tunes are mostly slow to midtempo, and have a sort of subdued noisiness to them, while violin and pedal steel give some of them a slight “alt country” feel. Rodgers has got one of those voices that may be an acquired taste for some folks, but I fell for it immediately. I think it's her voice that really pulls it all together for me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy0-edXufkk

My definite favorite record this past year was Slow Meadow’s self-titled release, which came out in late 2015. It’s an instrumental album, with piano, violin and cello serving as the foundation, with some layered keyboards, electric guitar and percussion added in. It's a sort of ambient-classical mix, very slow and simple, but quite beautiful. It's more melodic than a lot of ambient music -- it's actually listenable and isn't just wallpaper. If you like this track you'll like the whole thing, as it all basically inhabits this same soundworld. I think it's just gorgeous stuff.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RbGBjgY60M



For music, Nena's Oldschool and The Mountain Goats' Beat the Champ (both released 2015).

Is that the Luftballons Nena?

I really like the one Mountain Goats album I have, Tallahassee. It's brilliant and darkly funny. Eventually I'll hear more of their/his work. Sunset Tree is supposed to be great.

I have two early Cat Power albums and like them ok but they're not among my favorites. This track sounds like it might be better. Haven't listened to Rob's other two yet.

Listened to the other two now. I like both of them. I have a whole lot of ambient music, including an embarrassing number of recordings of Hearts of Space programs, and on this hearing Slow Meadow doesn't seem much different from many others.

It's funny, when the idea of this thread was proposed I said I probably wouldn't have anything to say because I couldn't think of things that way. As far as new-in-2016 stuff is concerned, there wasn't much, and as far as new-to-me-in-2016 stuff is concerned, unless I read/heard/viewed it toward the end of the year, I have trouble placing it within the year. This concerns me slightly.

However, I can think of two TV shows that I liked a whole lot, and looking at my Netflix history I can verify that it was in 2016. One, Detectorists, we've discussed. I loved it. The other I don't think I've ever mentioned: Bloodline, which is one of those Netflix originals.

I hesitate to recommend it, because it's fairly unsavory in some ways, and generally a very painful story but it's *really* good. It's about a family who run a hotel in the Florida Keys and their extremely serious problems. I admit part of the appeal to me is the beautifully photographed scenery, but it's a very gripping story.

There are two series. The first is pretty much a complete story unto itself. I don't think the second is quite as good. I think I read that there's to be a third, but no more.

If you try it, be aware that the sex scene that comes very early in the first episode is not typical of the show. I don't know if they threw that in early to draw people in, or just changed their minds about what kind of show they wanted, or what.

I've not heard of Bloodline but it sounds very intriguing.

I must be hearing the wrong sort of ambient music. Much of what I've heard tends to be mostly chord progressions that don't really go anywhere, and without much by way of melody.

Book-wise, I didn't read any new fiction this year, but my favorite older "finds" were the short stories of Breece D'J Pancake and John William Corrington, neither of which I'd read before (I hadn't even heard of Pancake). I also read Faulkner's Light in August for the first time and liked it very much.

My favorite non-fiction book of 2016 is The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel, a review of which by me was published by the University Bookman a couple weeks ago. Other very good 2016 releases were Ryszard Legutko's The Demon in Democracy and James Matthew Wilson's The Fortunes of Poetry in an Age of Unmaking. And J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy was undoubtedly the most important nonfiction book I read last year.

Ambient is a huge category, which is a little odd considering that it's almost by definition somewhat monotonous. Eno's Music for Airports is the prototype, and he has a well-known definition of ambient along the lines of "both ignorable and listenable." Slow Meadow may not fit exactly. I'll listen to that track again but my first reaction was "Sounds like something I would hear on Hearts of Space". (If I still listened to it--haven't for a long time.) Most of what I like best is, for lack of a better word, weirder. More other-worldly.

Looked at the HOS site and they have played something by Slow Meadow at least once.

The acting in Bloodline is mostly first-rate. I can't remember whether I mentioned this when I wrote about seeing the recent Star Wars: when the new villain appeared (not a new Darth Vader but just a regular human, in charge of building the death star), I kept thinking he looked familiar. Finally it hit me that he is Danny in Bloodline, the central problem of the problem family. Ben Mendelsohn is the actor's name and he is *really* good.

Yes, Mendelsohn is very good. He's Australian, I believe. I first saw him in 'Animal Kingdom,' then in 'The Place Beyond the Pines,' two good films. He was also in that submarine picture with Jude Law from a few years ago.

I think the first couple minutes of that Slow Meadow tune are what I think of as typically "ambient," but when the violin and cello show up and the discernable chord progression kicks in it veers away from that.

I listened to it again, this time sitting and paying close attention. It really is beautiful. I'd say it fits into the general classification of "ambient," which maybe is a bit broader in my mind than in yours. And it fits right in with Hearts of Space.

It made me think of Hammock, and it turns out the guy who is Slow Meadow is associated with that group and label:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_Meadow

Beautiful video too, btw.

Im going to cheat a bit and mention a few things that came out in 2015, because I am thinking of academic year 2015-2016, and interpreting that quite broadly.

I enjoyed The Remnant, the famous movie with the bear attack in it. Its quite surreal in parts, but still despite that the plot holds together and its a deep movie about resurrection and rebirth. I saw that one in New York, perhaps around Christmas time 2015.

I am surprised no one has mentioned Brooklyn. This is a great movie about an Irish girl who moves to America, about her nostalgia for the home country but resolve to make a new life and a marriage in this strange place, America. I think I saw that in mid winter 2016, also in New York. Very strongly recommended if you have not seen it.

Back in South Bend, in August, still with a broken foot I saw Son of Saul. This a movie about a few days in the life of a Capo in a concentration camp. It is a very nauseating movie, because of the 'hand held camera' effect. I felt physically shaken for several weeks afterwards. As he is dragging the dead bodies out of the ovens, the protagonist, Saul, sees a body which he decides is that of his son. He tries to get a rabbi to take appropriate funeral measures. By far the most depressing movie I've ever seen. I'm loathe to apply any aesthetic judgement to it. Years ago I would have said with some moral certainty that such things should not be shown. I do not know what I think any longer. If Schindler, why not Saul? I would not willingly put anyone through this movie.

Later, after my foot had healed, I drove to the theatre (something of a triumph if you have not been able to drive for several months with a broken foot), and saw the new Mel Gibson film, Hacksaw Ridge. I thought it was really top class, very moral, and underpinned by a beautiful love story. All about sacrifice, which is Gibson's basic theme in all his films.

So this is why I'm not going to see 'Silence'. I have read the book, and I have my opinions, and I'm open to changing those opinions. But I cannot take any more extreme violent movies in one year after The Remnant, Son of Saul and Hacksaw Ridge. Basta.

Later still, I saw Manchester by the Sea (I was going to call it Manchester beach but I checked). It is not as depressing as John Podhoretz says, if you happen to have read his reviews in Commentary and the Weekly Standard. One death occurs at the beginning of the film, but the body cannot be interred because the ground has frozen. At the end of the film, the burial takes place, because the ground has warmed enough to dig. This detail must in some way indicate some small change in the soul of the protagonist. Yes, that chap is pretty depressed throughout the movie, and while the ending could not be called 'up beat', still, the protagonist is moving toward doing the best he could for others in the last reel.

I didn't read any great books.

The new music I most enjoyed during this year was two CDs by Michael Kiwanuka, called Home Again and Love and Hate. This is very good 'listening to in the car music'. Unfortunately, I cannot drive my car for the forseeable future, but still, I do recommend these CDs to anyone in a fit state to drive a motor vehicle. It is like 21st century Marvin Gaye, if that comparison means anything to you.

The TV films that I saw have already been discussed pretty much here. The River was good, and so was the second season of Broadchurch. To me, the most gripping series I've watched since the end of Breaking Bad is The Americans. I'm looking forward to that re-starting. I was pleasantly surprised by how good 'Better Call Saul' turns out to be.

I intended to watch Stranger Things but people kept saying what a great parody of 80s TV it is, and given that I watched almost no TV in the 1980s (except for my favourite, Hill street Blues), I found that an anti-motivant. In the 1980s I sometimes didn't have a TV for years on end, and honestly I think I'm going to miss the joke.

I don't know why my Monicker reverted to Grumpy, but I can assure you I am still, VG

Oh, it's good without the 80s connection. Just understand that when it seems hokey, that's why.

AMDG

Sometime soon, I hope to write a post about why I'm not going to see Silence.

AMDG

I've been assuming that Silence is not showing here so the question would be moot for me until it comes out on dvd. I just checked the two nearest theaters and my assumption seems to be correct. I'm not necessarily opposed to seeing it but I'm the sort who always wants to have read the book first, and although I've been hearing for 30+ years that it's a very good book I've never much wanted to read it.

I had only vaguely heard of Son of Saul but I will certainly heed your warning, VG.

You definitely don't need the '80s connection to enjoy Stranger Things. To me the only effect of that was a vague sense that there was something a bit out of time about it. It's a good story independently of that.

Funny you mention The Americans. I just got up from watching four episodes this evening. (Not quite as bad as it sounds as they're only 40-50 minutes long.) My wife and I watched the first two seasons and weren't that crazy about it, so didn't watch the third. But one night a week or so ago we were out of short things to watch (1 hour or less) and decided to give the third season a shot. Now we're hooked. It seems considerably more interesting now, and we're into season 4.

One of the best books I read last year was Elizabeth Goudge's The Dean's Watch, which was mentioned by Very Grumpy quite a while ago. After I read it, I gave my daughter a copy and she loved it, and just this past week I recommended it to a friend who'd never read Goudge and he thinks it's great. So, thank you, V. Grumpy! And I hope your leg heals really quickly.

Thank you Marianne.

I will give Stranger Things a shot

Mac I loved the Americans from the start but as the man getd pulled in and the man gets more and more sickened, iy just becomes rivetting

I read Silence about a year or so ago. It was one of the hardest reads I've ever had. I didn't exactly thin it was bad or heretical or something, but it certainly was agonizing. I don't want to go through that again, especially visually. Also, I don't do extremely violent movies.

Here is Greydanus's take. He's basically sympathetic. Bp. Barron, as Graydanus points out, not so much.

Yeah, I have a bit of an "I don't need this" feeling about Silence.

I can't remember what I didn't like about season 2 of The Americans. But it is in great part the tension within the family that makes 3 and 4 so gripping. Also the plot strand that involves Agent Beeman and Martha. I will say that the whole thing puts a huge strain on my suspension of disbelief, but I manage to overcome it.

The Martha thread was one of the saddest things I ever watched. I know it feels very unbelievable. But I read an interview with the actress who plays Martha. She said she read up the background and this did happen to some women who worked for the US government in the 70s and 80s. She said that some commit suicide when they learn how they had been double crossed by these Russian agents who had been their boyfriends ir husbands

Of course Imesnt to write, 'when they bring in the daughtet'! People just kniw viscerally that its wrong to interfere in the family in this way

I watched the first episode of 'Making of a Murderer'. It is about a man who is wrongfully imprisoned for a rape/murder. It is a documentary. It seems that the police have it in for the whole family the man belongs to. There are multiple shots of the used car / mechanical store run by the Neerdowell family. The documentary aimed to show that the police framed the man.

After many years of wrongful or at least dubiously rightful imprisonment the man is released. But then at the end of that episode he is arrested for a second murder. He is still in prison for the second murder. The 'Making of a Murderer' means to say, 'the construction of an innocent man as a murderer by the police and criminal justice system.' Not just Trump but absolutely everyone thinks everything is 'so-called' these days.

The first episode reports that one of the things that the man did which made the police suspicious that he has violent tendencies was to burn a cat on a bonfire. The 'murderer' is interviewed about this and it sounds as if the cat and the fire somehow accidentally came into contact. I was very disturbed about it, and after watching the first episode, I googled around. It seemed that the 'murderer' doused the cat in petrol and threw it on the fire where it burned to death.

Now, I have no idea if he commit the first crime or the second murder. I have no way to say. But its impossible for me to sympathize with a man who incinerated a live cat. They say we need more empathy and I agree. But I cannot empathize with a guy who nonchantly burned a cat to death. I'd give him life imprisonment for doing that, forget about the other crimes and whether he commit them.

All our graduate students loved this documentary series. Maybe it is great stuff and the man is innocent and the series exposed it. It is not in doubt that I am a crazy cat lady. I don't say this as a deep critique of this widely praised TV series.

Well, admittedly, I do. I don't think it was balanced to let him just toss off a comment about the cat without exploring it in depth. Its possible that he is a bad and violent man who nonetheless did not commit one or both of the murders of which he has been accused. I just don't think this action should have been whitewashed.

My point is that I couldn't 'suspend disbelief' after the first episode. And it could be I'm mistaken. But I think it was an error on the producers' part.

Yeah, I have a bit of an "I don't need this" feeling about Silence.

That reminded me of what Greydanus wrote in an earlier piece on Silence:

It poses a challenge for viewers of any faith or of none, or of any culture or ethnicity, even if the challenge is not the same for everyone. A friend who is an atheist has said that Silence made him want to believe in God. For my part, Silence presses my Christian ethos to the breaking point.

"It made me think of Hammock, and it turns out the guy who is Slow Meadow is associated with that group and label"

Yes, that's how I first heard of it. It popped up on Amazon when I ordered the most recent Hammock disc. My next group of this general sort to try is "This Will Destroy You." I get the impression that they're sort of like Sigur Ros without vocals.

I will mention one other item in this broadly construed '2016' - to me, between December 2015 and January 2017.

I watched an early 1980s British TV series called 'To serve them all my days'. Its about a soldier who is discharged shortly before the end of WWI. He goes to serve as a school master in a minor British public school. As one who spent 7 years in a girls boarding school in England, I can vouch that the depiction of boarding school
life is very realistic. It takes no suspension of disbelief. Of course having said that, I must add that this is low budget 1980s BBC costume drama, so the school appears to have three masters and about 15 boys. The dopey Anglican headmaster, Algy, the mustachioed maths master Carter, the cynical English master are all beautifully portrayed. Algy in particular is nailed with great comical effect.

Its a little bit leftist. All British TV of that term served socialist propaganda purposes. But it is an excellent series which I warmly recommend to anyone on this blog.

The DVD set is another matter. It stuck several times so that I had to resort to Wikipedia to find out how some scenes ended. And the DVDs seem to be the only way of getting to it. Other people complain on amazon about the quality of the DVDs, so I didn't just get the one bad apple of a DVD set.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Serve_Them_All_My_Days

VG, now that I think about it, the Martha plot may have been part of the reason why I didn't initially want to continue after season 2. It was just too painful to watch, and seemed like it could only get more so. But that wasn't what I was thinking of regarding the suspension of disbelief. I did think the basic thing was believable. What I keep having trouble with is the idea that Phillip & Elizabeth could keep all these crazy balls in the air while having an apparently normal family life and running a travel agency. Not to mention the murders which must be in the double digits now, but never seem to arouse any great consternation in the world at large. You just have to ignore those aspects. Yes, I thought you meant the daughter earlier. That definitely ratcheted up the interest level.

VG, I've not seen the series but I have actually read the book twice. It's very good. I've thought about watching the series but have never done so.

Also, I realized I made a mistake when I said above that I didn't read any new fiction in 2016. I did read this:

https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/5570.htm

which as a Hardy fan I quite liked. It's kind of a fictionalized memoir, an experiment of sorts that to my mind ultimately doesn't quite work, but it's well-written and enjoyable, esp. if you like Hardy.

I remember when To Serve Them was on tv, but I didn't see it. Didn't think it seemed that interesting, as I recall, but sounds like I might have been mistaken.

Mac Yes of course they coukd not do all the things they do. In the old days on BBC drama the lack of realism with something like two few characters to actually run a boarding school. In Modern day American TV the lack of realism is just too much happening all the time.

I think if you have read the book the TV series would be a bit super Erogatory but if you had not read the book the TV series is very enjoyable

Not only too much, but just too implausible. I regret to say that I'm one of those tiresome people who have a hard time suppressing observations about physical impossibilities. But I usually succeed.

Looks like Silence is going to be one of those movies that I hear so much about that I don't feel like I need to see it.

The discussion of Making of A Murderer reminds me of a line from a movie that I mostly hated, that bit of baby-boomer narcissism from the early '80s...what was it called?...aging leftists confronting their middle-aged compromises. Anyway, one of the women, who had gotten a law degree with the intent of helping poor people accused of crimes, laments of her clients that she "hadn't realized how guilty they would be." I wonder if this guy is the beneficiary (as far as the documentary's sympathies go) of a similar wish not to believe that a criminal has been justly punished.

Boys often do cruel things and grow up to be normal decent people. But dousing a cat with petrol and setting it afire is definitely beyond the normal. Without knowing anything about the series or the crimes that it describes, I'd agree that it's not entirely honest to gloss over that incident.

The Big Chill. I kept thinking it was "The Big" something.

I enjoyed The Big Chill. It has a great soundtrack.

Cat was a family pet. It wasn't some stray cat who came along it was a cat he knew

Even worse, obviously.

I wrote at some length about my favourite movies in 2016 here. The brief version is roughly: Brooklyn (seconding VG), Stations of the Cross, Knight of Cups, Love & Friendship, La Sapienza, and The Witch, with a few others thrown in to round out a top 10.

Just recently I was able to see La La Land, and I have to say that even with my jazz allergy I loved it.

Craig, to me, Knight of Cups was more like a symphony or a three hour intense retreat than a movie. I thought it was great and I'd like to see it again. Im very glad I saw it in the cinema.

I meant to link to your best-ofs earlier, Craig.

Feeling that they need to be seen in the cinema is the reason why I've seen so few of Malick's movies. I saw Tree of Life once and that's it for his more recent work. Now that I have a flat-screen tv maybe I should give one a try.

Knight of Cups never made it to any theatres here but I bought it as soon as it appeared on DVD. I'm sure that it would have been far more enrapturing on a big screen, but even at home on my 32" TV I found it very powerful.

Speaking of Malick, I'm currently reading the little book on The Tree of Life by P. Leithart, Shining Glory, that Craig recommended some time ago. It's very good.

I remember telling a friend about To Serve Them All My Days after I read it the first time some 20 years ago: "Imagine if Galsworthy had written Goodbye Mr. Chips..."

(Although that's not strictly accurate, as Delderfield's a better read imo than Galsworthy, whom I find a bit tiresome and stuffy. Goodbye Mr. Chips, on the other hand, is excellent.)

I've only had time to briefly scan this discussion, but about TSTAMD. I fist saw this on Masterpiece Theater and really liked it. Then I read the book and got irritated about the changes they had made. ;-)

The miniseries may have actually been my first introduction to Gilbert & Sullivan.

After that I remember reading a LOT of Delderfield, but now I can't remember much. Still I remember that I liked it.

AMDG

Saw Hidden Figures the other night. That was very entertaining, and in places quite gripping.

I read the wiki article about it because of the DVD sticking and I didn't know what was happening in the story. So I know the book is different from the TV series. It didn't leave me with any desire to read the actual novel or maybe just a very small one

Rob G I was telling someone about the TV series at the weekend and he said I must waych Goodbye Mr Chips. I have not seen this one

Are we talking about the one with Martin Clunes?

AMDG

I just watched Mr Chips with Robert Donat. That is the one I was told to watch. Its very emotional as a film.

There's also a Goodbye, Mr. Chips with Peter O'Toole and Petula Clark. And, yes, there's singing.

I heard of that one as a child. That's why I've never seen the movie. I hate musicals. I didn't realize it was a non-musical version until I saw it tonight

I like the Robert Donat version the best.

I think at the time I was watching To Serve...., I was reading 4 or 5 books a week, so I was always looking for an author.

AMDG

I don't think I've ever read at that rate. I would have had to have nothing else whatever that I was obliged to do.

Yes, VG, the Donat one is excellent, as is the book, which is quite a little thing -- 150 pages if that.

Donat's in the older film of 'The Winslow Boy' playing a very different sort of role, but he's brilliant in that one too.

Re: ambient music, I recalled last night how much I like Cliff Martinez's soundtrack to the Soderbergh Solaris. And another fave ambient record of mine is the Sigur Ros-related Riceboy Sleeps.

I love the Solaris soundtrack. You sent me a copy several years ago, because it was out of print, and I've really enjoyed it. I actually have Riceboy Sleeps but have never listened to it.

A lot of the ambient I like sort of stretches the definition of music. It's all atmosphere. Like Eno said, you can just let it be wallpaper, yet if you pay attention you hear lots of changing details. Like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOc42jPXa0I

Rob, I'm glad you're enjoying Leithart's book about The Tree of Life. It is brief, but contains, I thought, a lot of insight into what is going on in the film.

In a little while I'm going to watch the last two episodes of season 4 of The Americans. There's going to be a season 5 so I know this won't resolve much, if anything. However, for the record: this is a bit like Breaking Bad, in that you really want to see the main character(s) get caught, even as you sympathize with them. I'm going to be disappointed if, when the whole series ends, Phillip and Elizabeth are not in jail.

I don't think the writers have the moral vigour that the Director of BB has. My guess would be that Philip escapes and Elizabeth goes back to Russia.

Plausible.

That season finale was rather a letdown.

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