California Literary Review


The Weekly Listicle: Ballad Of The Soldier


January 21st, 2011

This weekend, Peter Weir graces us with The Way Back, a tale of daring escape by prisoners of war. In due fashion this week’s Listicle salutes the soldier in film. From comedy to adventure to stark, sobering drama, soldiers have faced a great deal on the movie screen.

The Weekly Listicle: Parties For A New Year


December 31st, 2010

In the spirit of celebration, we take a moment to remember some of our favorite movie parties. In some cases the party itself is one the audience might very much like to attend. In others it is a complete catastrophe, but still very entertaining to watch. So strap on your party hat and join me (Dan Fields) and William Bibbiani around the punch bowl.

The Weekly Listicle: Worlds Of Fancy And Other Wondrous Places


November 19th, 2010

A cleverly rendered fantasy world has the power to make us believe astounding things, and to transport us to places we may never have imagined ourselves. In the history of film there have been countless attempts to take real-world places and performers outside the realm of what has been seen before, and into far-off lands where the amazing, the terrifying, and the marvelous lurk around every corner.

Movie Time Nostalgia, Part 4: We Are All Children Of Paradise


November 9th, 2010

A movie can do a lot of things to an audience. It may move them, amuse them, disgust them, terrify them, or in all too many cases bore them. One thing only a handful of films can do is inspire wonder. Every once in a while, a winning combination of writer, director, designers, composers and cast meet in perfect harmony. Such, I feel, is the case of Marcel Carné’s 1945 epic romance, Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise).

Movie Time Nostalga, Part 3: Raising the Stakes with Raising Arizona


October 13th, 2010

My appreciation of Raising Arizona is as much sentimental as aesthetic. But don’t be fooled. It is a great, great piece of work.

Book Review: Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk


July 20th, 2010

Tell-All follows the general plotline of the movie Sunset Boulevard, which pairs a down-and-out young writer with an aging actress seeking to reclaim her former glory. If you’re going to base a novel off of a movie, this 1950 noir classic is a terrific place to start.

Frederick Burr Opper’s Happy Hooligan


January 22nd, 2009

Viewed in retrospect, post-Depression, however, he acquires a special poignancy. Here was a man who was only ever trying to help, never asking for favors, loved by children, and here was a society intent on beating him down. The line between comedy and tragedy is a fine one, and Hooligan’s lines were pretty fine.

Girl Factory by Jim Krusoe


April 28th, 2008

And, in true Krusoeian fashion, the oddities are delightful. Jonathan, the adult narrator with a childlike perspective who has a penchant for endangered animals, attempts to free a genetically modified dog named Buck who might or might not be recreating Boris Spassky’s game against Anatoly Karpov during the 1973 Soviet Chess Championship. That’s before Jonathan discovers women cryogenically frozen in yogurt (would that be yogurgenically frozen?) in a basement. It’s the acidophilus in the yogurt that makes things work, apparently—using the type of wink, wink logic that would make slavish devotees to realism queasy.

Hocus POTUS by Malcolm MacPherson


March 31st, 2008

Satire, of course, does not depend on subtlety. However, there are more effective ways to wield it than like a hammer bludgeoning readers. Imagining a more plausible premise also would have helped.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett


November 12th, 2007

There is also something conversational about the way he writes, a straightforwardness, and a beguiling, gentle rhythm. And of course, there is that dry wit. Bennett has a genius for the sardonic one-liner, his timing is immaculate.

Noogie’s Time To Shine by Jim Knipfel


October 1st, 2007

One day, a young boy scares Noogie when he is the middle of restocking a machine in Fast Eddie’s Drug Hut by shouting ‘bang’. Noogie drops four thousand dollars in twenties all over the floor, screams at the kid and then gathers the notes up. It is only when he has loaded them all into the ATM that he finds a stray twenty under his shoe. It is then that the idea for the ‘perfect slow-motion heist’ occurs to him.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris


September 17th, 2007

The childishness, the pettiness, the jealously, the nitpicking, the backstabbing, the politicking, of all this is delicious, authentic, accurate and brilliantly realised. Ferris’s office is one of pranks and games; sushi rolls find their way behind people’s bookshelves, things go missing from desks, and chairs are mysteriously swapped. There are the customary shifts and swings of popularity and power; endless arguments about who deserves to go, and who deserves to stay; and regular colloquies about some of the more unusual behaviour of the staff. But Ferris’s novel is as much about the way we act when thrown together with strangers, as it is office life.

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