California Literary Review

Great Britain

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Eastern Promises, #29

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April 12th, 2013

The diary of Tatiana (Tatiana Maslany), a 14-year-old, drug-addicted prostitute who dies while giving birth to a daughter in a London hospital, sets the film in motion. Her account of how and why she came to London—provided by periodic voice-overs as the diary is translated from Russian—offers a back story of the mob’s involvement in white slavery and English brothels.

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848–1900, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

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March 10th, 2013

The Pre-Raphaelites shared several treasured ideals, but their painting styles varied greatly. The two transcendent themes, especially in their early work, were “truth to nature” and the power of religious faith. They aimed to depict the natural world with great fidelity, while evoking spiritual values as medieval artists had done.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: The Long Good Friday, #34

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March 7th, 2013

There’s a fascinating blend of flag waver and felon in the English bulldog character created by Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday. Comparing his homeland with that of a visiting American Mafiosi, Shand says, “Look what England has given to the world: culture, sophistication, genius. A little bit more than the hot dog, know what I mean?”

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, #39

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January 31st, 2013

The twisting, amusing heist movie was written and directed by Guy Ritchie, a 29-year-old Brit who never went to film school and learned his craft by creating music videos and TV commercials. Unfortunately, as we see it, this feature-length debut also serves as the high point of Ritchie’s career—unless you count his eight-year marriage to Madonna.

Book Review: NW by Zadie Smith

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September 21st, 2012

By calling her newest novel NW, Zadie Smith follows in the tradition of other writers, including Mary Gaskell, George Eliot, and Winifred Holtby, who have named the work after the setting. Like its predecessors, NW is an ensemble novel that explores human nature through a microcosm of the world, a technique that has historically appealed to women writers. Jane Austen famously said her work, containable on a “little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory,” was about “four or five families in a country village.”

Book Review: Diaries by George Orwell

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August 28th, 2012

Europe had yet to recover from the First World War and the Allied peoples were at a grave psychological disadvantage in comparison with the civilian population of Nazi Germany. Through nearly a decade of political indoctrination, news censorship and threats of imprisonment or worse, the German people were schooled for war. To Orwell, the only things that could shake the British out of their complacency were the drone of the engines of German aircraft over London and the detonation of the bombs they dropped.

The Thick of It Recap – Series 3, Episode 5

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June 3rd, 2012

Of course we can’t know what goes on in the writers’ rooms, but combining Martin’s hand-turned insults with Armando Iannucci’s long expertise in pointing out the ridiculous and solipsistic way we live our lives seems to be a winning combination.

Blu-Ray/DVD Review: The Wicker Tree

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April 24th, 2012

The rites themselves have changed in practice if not in spirit, and the movie rekindles enough of its ancestor’s spirit that it’s hard to imagine a better result. What more were all the naysayers expecting?

I Say! Hammer Plans A Woman In Black Sequel?

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April 5th, 2012

The Hammer Studio has announced a sequel, but what are we to expect in revisiting the tidily packaged horror of The Woman In Black?

John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum

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April 4th, 2012

Constable’s approach to landscape painting, however, was far more than an exercise in nostalgia. Instead, he rooted his appreciation of nature in the “here and now” of everyday life. Through paintings like Hampstead Heath, Branch Hill Pond, Constable presented scenes of human beings interacting with nature, not despoiling it. With these works, he bequeathed a sense of the precious nature of the world around us, in whatever age and place we call home.

Book Review: The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination

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February 29th, 2012

It was at Oxford University that Burne-Jones found divine beauty and William Morris. They shared a love for medieval themes, what we now call Gothic Revival, and were attracted to the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Founded in 1848, the Pre-Raphaelites were a loose confederation of young artists in revolt against the false veneer of academic art.

Movie Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

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January 7th, 2012

Most of the actual “spy stuff” that goes on is hidden even from the audience, and hinted at later in passing. Every bit of explanation you need to follow this movie is in the script, but just barely. In other words, don’t take a restroom break.

May Day! May Day! It’s Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Tree

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December 14th, 2011

Early press for The Wicker Tree has not been overwhelmingly good, but one might say it has been encouragingly mixed. The original Wicker Man did not become known as “the Citizen Kane of horror films” overnight, or even during the horror boom of the 1970s. It vanished into relative obscurity for some time before its rediscovery, and look at that baby burn now!

Book Review: Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

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November 6th, 2011

The happiness was not to last. More Scrooge than Bob Cratchit in some respects, he was not particularly fond of his sons. Charley, his eldest, he deemed to be suffering from a “lassitude of character” and he did not see much hope for the others. He worried they might metamorphose into his father or his brothers, relying on him for handouts. And he was becoming thoroughly sick of Catherine.

Art Review: Charles Dickens at 200, The Morgan Library and Museum

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October 19th, 2011

Dickens’ novels probed the social ills of Victorian England in order to create unforgettable images of human misery and redemption in the minds of the literary public. Conscious of how the accompanying illustrations to his text would help in this respect, Dickens worked very closely with the artists who provided these memorable pictures.

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