Recently Rated Movies #58: Warning - Watching This Movie May Lead to Literacy. Proceed with Caution.

OK, I have to admit that I watch far more movies than I have the free time to write about them here on the Pylon. And in order to have material to write about, I need to use some of that limited time to actually watch movies. Add in my job and the various pastimes in which I have buried myself, this leaves me little time to engage in the activity which I probably enjoy the most: reading. In fact, when faced with the awesome pile of books that I have sworn for the last few years that I would read, I generally throw out an "oh, well..." and dive into another movie instead.

This isn't to say that I do not read books at all. I almost always have about a half dozen books going at any time. The last time I didn't perform this juggling act was when the new and final Harry Potter came out, which I barreled through like a Jamaican bobsledder, showing little concern for the niceties of proper reading, knocking down the occasional unwary adjective out of my way, and all in a desperate race to keep Jen from revealing any more of the plot to me than she, the news media and Entertainment Weekly had already fiendishly hinted around. Indeed, there are always books in the bathroom, on the nightstand, and at least one in my backpack. But the leisure time to read as much as I would wish? Not with my movie addiction in place.

And so I sometimes run into a film whose adaptation of a well-known novel so thrills me that I kick myself for not reading the source material first. Sure, there are plenty of The Silence of the Lambs in my past, where I not only read the novel years before, but purchased it initially in hardback, because the author or the genre were right up my alley, so to speak. But then I am confronted with Atonement, a not-great but severely good adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel which I have not read. I did enjoy the novels he wrote which bookend Atonement, Amsterdam and Saturday, but somehow I missed out on the one of the film's concern, and I am now deeply interested in how closely the book's structure mirrors that of the film, which leaps about in the narrative enough to cause several plebians following our showing on Saturday night to complain about the lack of a more linear narrative. (Not that these dullards would have actually said the phrase linear narrative...)

Which leads me to the chief cause of my dismay over my wayward reading habits: Tom Perrotta's Little Children, which instantly became the focus of my attention through Todd Field's amazing film of two years hence. I only recently saw it on DVD, and I was stunned. Floored, really. And though I have heard both Perrotta and Field strove to make the film a separate entity from the book, I am now intrigued by the possibility of finding another author that will capture my attention in the manner in which John Irving became a fact of my life for about a decade after I first ran into Garp on a late-night HBO viewing. In those days, I read mainly horror and science-fiction authors, and Irving, however removed from the subsequent authors in style and intent, launched me into reading more adult authors. You know, not the greasy kid stuff (though it really wasn't) upon which I subsisted through those teenage years. Working for a bookstore chain for years kept me up on William Kennedy, Charles Bukowski and, eventually, at the end of that line, Michael Chabon. Now, I primarily depend on my sister-in-law and brother to alert me to potential new author interests (they, in fact, introduced me to McEwan) but it's tough for me to crack anything that isn't non-fiction or film-oriented these days.

And through this all, I missed out on Perrotta. Luckily, in spite of the cries of those more inclined to razz Hollywood for its baser instincts, the damn place is causing me to read. Now, maybe the writer's strike will allow me some extra time to do it...

Atonement
Director: Joe Wright // 2007
Cinema 4 Rating: 7

Little Children
Director: Todd Field // 2006
Cinema 4 Rating: 8

Sleeping Dogs Lie [Stay]
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait // 2006
Cinema 4 Rating: 4

De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté [The Beat That My Heart Skipped]
Director: Jacques Ardiard // French, 2005
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

Mortelle Randonnée
Director: Claude Miller // French, 1983
Cinema 4 Rating: 7

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