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B. Alcat (Hanoi, Vietnam)

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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
by Azar Nafisi
Edition: Paperback

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "None of us can avoid being contaminated by the world's evils; it's all a matter of what attitude you take towards them", 20 Jan. 2007
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to read the autobiography of a person that loves literature, has studied it, and is able and willing to share her passion and knowledge with others? Someone that appreciates books as much as you do, and has the talent to express herself fluently and flawlessly? And what if that person had lived under difficult circumstances, facing complicate decisions regarding her personal and academic life? "Reading Lolita in Tehran" is that book, and I promise, it makes for very interesting reading material, the kind you enjoy while you are reading it and afterwards.

On the one hand, you enjoy this book while you are reading it because Nafisi's prose is magnetic, allowing you to imagine that you are with her, while she teaches Literature in Iran after the Islamic Revolution. You are also at the Tehran University defending Gatsby, during the "Gatsby trials", and when Azar decides to quit teaching in order not to wear the veil. You try to understand with her what has happened to her country, and how the situation there can be better understood through literature. You are also with the author during her long walks with her "magician", when she tries to decide whether to teach again or not, and why. And of course, you will be part of her secret classes with selected female students, meetings that made books and plots come to life, and fiction become a space of freedoms reality denied them.

On the other hand, you enjoy "Reading Lolita in Tehran" after reading it because this is a book about a person and part of her life, but also a book about books. It teaches you as you read it, but also afterwards, specially if you pay attention to the list of suggested reading material included at the end.

On the whole, I can say that "Reading Lolita in Tehran" is an outstanding book that happens to be the best one I read in 2006. I believe that most people will like it, because it is well-written and engaging, delves upon serious matters but also makes you laugh. All the same, I think that the kind of reader this book is waiting for are those zealous readers that simply cannot conceive their lives without good books, and imagine -like Borges- Paradise in the shape of a library. They will realize just how good "Reading Lolita in Tehran", and appreciate its worth. Highly recommended!

Belen Alcat


Roma [DVD]
Roma [DVD]
Dvd ~ Juan Diego Botto

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The past is there, but you have to leave it there", 15 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Roma [DVD] (DVD)
"Roma" is a film about memories, the memories of an Argentinian writer that has lived in Spain for so long that he seems to be an Spaniard. Joaquín Góñez (José Sacristán), a prestigious novelist, hasn't allowed himself to think about Buenos Aires and his life there since the death of his mother. But now he needs money, and that is the reason why he decides to write an autobiography, something that forces him to remember.

Joaquín's editorial hires Manuel Cueto (Juan Diego Botto), a journalist and aspiring writer, in order to type whatever Joaquín writes, so that the book will be ready in less time. Manuel will be the recipient of some tips given by an old writer to someone that wants to become one, for example "Nobody can teach you how to write. The person that can write, writes". My personal favorite, however, was "Never stop writing, there will always be someone that writes worse" :)

The spectator will bear witness to Joaquín's life, because as he talks his words become images that we are able to watch and share. We will learn about the 60's and 70's in Buenos Aires, and of his life as the beloved only son of a widow, Roma (Susú Pecoraro). There are good memories, but also the kind of terrible moments lived by many Argentinian citizens during the dictatorship.

There are lots of movies, and nobody has time to watch all of them. This one, though, should be in your short list of foreign movies to see. "Roma" is not a classic, and doesn't have actors that are overly well-known in USA, the UK or Canada, but its director (Adolfo Aristarain) somehow managed to provide us with a vivid portrait of what a trip down memory lane is like. You feel that you know Joaquín, and that you have lived what he lived. You believe that you have lived in Buenos Aires, and will probably want to see how that city is like now. In a nutshell, you will think fiction becomes reality, at least during the 155 minutes that this film lasts.

On the whole, I can say that "Roma" is a film I really liked, and that I can easily recommend to others... Enjoy it!

Belen Alcat


GREY'S ANATOMY: COMPLETE SECOND SEASON
GREY'S ANATOMY: COMPLETE SECOND SEASON
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: £15.74

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...not too often, but every now and then, some things simply speak for themselves", 14 Jan. 2007
The second season of "Grey's Anatomy" is just as good as the first, and that is a lot to say. I am pretty sure you have already watched at least some episodes of the series, but missed others and want to make up for it with this dvd. If so, this is your chance, grab it! On the other case, if that is not the case and you are new to "Grey's Anatomy", do yourself a favour and purchase first "Grey's Anatomy - Season one", in order to start watching this series by the beginning.

Why should someone be interested in this series? Well, because it is engaging, can boast a great cast and an excellent script. What is more, it is about medical operations in a hospital, but also about the personal lives of the interns and attendings that work there. This series is about the main characters as doctors, but also as people with everyday problems, and their struggle to try to deal with them.

In this second season every character has changed, and quite a few things are different. For example Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) has to face the fact that the man she loves, attending physician Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), has a wife she didn't know about, Dr. Addison (Kate Walsh). That hits her hard, and among other things she does to cope with that fact, Meredith ends up buying a dog. According to her, "Four hundred years ago, another well-known English guy had an opinion about being alone. John Donne. He thought we were never alone. Of course, it was fancier when he said it. "No man is an island entire unto himself." Boil down that island talk, and he just meant that all anyone needs is someone to step in and let us know we're not alone. And who's to say that someone can't have four legs. Someone to play with or run around with, or just hang out".

Regarding the other interns, Izzy Stevens (Katherine Heigl), Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) and George O'Malley (T.R McKnight) will have quite a few more problems in their personal lives in this second season, but they will continue to grow as professionals. Christina Yang (Sandra Oh) will have some trouble dealing with her growing feelings for her lover, attending surgeon Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington), and with the adjustments both need to make so that their relationship can work.

"Grey's Anatomy" is the kind of show that is easy to recommend, as almost everybody will find something good in a show that entertains but also gives you some food for thought. I will finish this review quoting Meredith Grey, who says that "At the end of the day, there are some things you just can't help but talk about. Some things we just don't want to hear, and some things we say because we can't be silent any longer. Some things are more than what you say, they're what you do. Some things you say 'cause there's no other choice. Some things you keep to yourself. And not too often, but every now and then, some things simply speak for themselves". Buy this dvd, it will speak for itself...

Belen Alcat


The Lake House [DVD] [2006]
The Lake House [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Keanu Reeves
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £2.50

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "What if you live your life and no one is waiting?", 13 Jan. 2007
This review is from: The Lake House [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
"The lake house", directed by Alejandro Agresti, is not a film for everybody. If you want to enjoy it, you must forget about logic, and be ready to overlook quite a few inconsistencies in the plot. Provided that you do exactly that, you will enjoy an engaging and thoroughly delightful romantic movie that will leave a smile on your face.

From my point of view, the main theme of "The lake house" is the existence of a soulmate for everybody, and whether we are ready (and able) to wait in order to meet the person that completes us. Kate (Sandra Bullock), who along with Alex is one of the two main characters of this movie, asks herself the question everybody has asked himself at least once, "What if you live your life and no one is waiting?". I suppose the only valid answer is to have hope, and go on searching.

But I digress... I would like to point out that for Kate and Alex (Keanu Reeves), the problem of meeting their other half is even more complicated than for us. You don't believe me? You can't conceive of someone with more problems than you in your search of the "right" person? Well, you should take into account that Alex Wyler and Kate Forster have our same problems, but also need to struggle with the fact that they live at the same place, in different years. And yes, you read that well, but please remember you need to suspend your disbelief for the duration of this film, if you want to enjoy it.

The way in which Alex and Kate get in contact with each other, and fall in love, is strange, and whimsical. It doesn't make sense, but... when did logic become an obligation? "The lake house" is a magical movie that entertains, and can completely charm the right spectator. Are you that person? Are you interested in their story, and on whether they will overcome the obstacles before them in order to be together? If that is the case, just rent or buy this movie.

All in all, I can say I really liked "The lake house", and I highly recommend it to those that like romantic films, and don't feel uncomfortable when fiction doesn't follow reality closely. This movie is not for everybody, but if you know what you are getting into and still decide to go ahead and watch, you will love it.

Belen Alcat


Merci pour le Chocolat [DVD] [2001]
Merci pour le Chocolat [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Isabelle Huppert

4.0 out of 5 stars Very good French thriller with a somewhat rushed ending..., 12 Jan. 2007
"Merci pour le chocolat", directed by Claude Chabrol, is an interesting French thriller with an abrupt ending, that is nonetheless worth your time. The reasons for that are many, including a superb cast, an engaging story, and a director that manages to make the spectator part of the story. You are not in the movie, but you feel involved in what is happening...

The story begins when Jeanne (Anna Mouglalis), a young and talented pianist, learns that she might be the lost daughter of André Polonski (Jacques Dutronc). Jeanne is intrigued by the idea, specially due to the fact that André is a very famous pianist, and she wants to learn from him. Jeanne visits André's house, meeting him, his new wife Mika (Isabelle Huppert), and a son from a previous marriage, Guillaume. Even though André is certain that Jeanne is not his daughter, he is interested in her, inviting the young woman to his home. That kind gesture sets off a chain of events that are dangerous, specially for Jeanne, and that could be linked to the death of André's previous wife, Lisbeth.

What is going to happen? And can appearances be utterly deceiving? "Merci pour le chocolat" makes you ask yourself those questions more than once. On the whole, I think that this is a very good movie, and I recommended it to those who love good thrillers and don't mind a somewhat rushed ending.

Belen Alcat


Kimstim Collection: Color of Lies [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Kimstim Collection: Color of Lies [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "That's the sort of thing you only see in movies", 10 Jan. 2007
"The color of lies" (1999), directed by Claude Chabrol, is a good whodunnit, but also a social study regarding the way in which a small community reacts to someone that seems to be a threat.

In this case, that person is René (Jacques Gamblin), an art teacher and the main suspect regarding a hideous crime that involves the rape and murder of one of his young students. But is he really to blame? And does that matter, in the eyes of the community?

It is quite frightening to watch the power of rumors, half-truths and lies, and the way in which all that affects René. His wife Viviane (Sandrine Bonnaire) seems to believe in his innocence, but she is also lying, to herself and to him. Viviane is a nurse that is somewhat bored by her marriage, and considering the possibility of an affair with Desmot (Antoine de Caunes), a well-known writter that fascinates her.

What will happen? And does that truly matter, or the real purpose of "The color of lies" is to make us realize the power of lies and deceit, and their effect on the lives of real people? Whatever you decide, recommended...

Belen Alcat


An Inconvenient Truth [DVD] [2006]
An Inconvenient Truth [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Al Gore
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.50

3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We are entering a period of consequences", 8 Jan. 2007
"An inconvenient truth", directed by Davis Guggenheim, allows you to watch a lecture about global climate change that Al Gore has given many times, in different parts of the world. Strangely enough, it is not boring, and even though the subject is somewhat complicated, Gore manages to make it accessible to the spectator.

Al Gore is entertaining and patient with his audience, saying that "It is just human nature to take time to connect the dots. I know that. But I also know that there can be a day of reckoning when you wish you had connected the dots more quickly". According to him, climate change and how we react to it is ultimately not a political issue so much as a moral issue. Once you are aware of what is happening, and realize that climate change is not just a "theory", you will have to act, because there is just no other option. Either you are part of the problem, or one of those trying to find a solution.

I strongly believe that this dvd should be seen by everybody, because it tackles a difficult subject that concerns us all, that is climate change and the way in which it is affecting our planet. Disregarding your political ideas or the place where you live, there are some disturbing facts that you won't be able to deny any longer, even if they lead to an inconvenient truth.

In the last few minutes of this movie, Al Gore says that he set himself a goal, to try to communicate clearly what he has learnt about global climate change. Congrats on a well-done job, Mr. Gore! And thanks...

Belen Alcat


The Dante Club: Historical Mystery
The Dante Club: Historical Mystery
by Matthew Pearl
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I do not profess to understand this strange pattern, but we cannot escape its implication", 17 Dec. 2006
"The Dante Club", Matthew Pearl's first novel, is the kind of book that manages to combine suspense, history and literature successfully, engaging the reader and making him care about what is going to happen next.

The story takes place in 1865 Boston, where a group of friends that include poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, writer and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes and poet James Russell Lowell, among others, decide to form a Dante Club in order to produce an English translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy". Many people are against this endeavour, as they believe Dante's "Divine Comedy" to be dangerous reading material, but our academics are steadfast in their devotion to Dante. However, they begin to get nervous when a madman that seems to be delivering the punishments Dante Alighieri talks about in his "Inferno" (= "Hell", one of the three books in which the "Divine Comedy" is divided) starts killing people in Boston. Trying to avoid a death blow to Dante's reputation even before the American public can read his translated works, the members of the Dante Club decide to catch the killer by themselves. That is easier said than done, but makes for a very entertaining book.

From my point of view, "The Dante Club" is a perfect choice for Dante's fans, but also for those that just want to buy something interesting to read in their spare time. If you already love Dante, you will enjoy the way in which Matthew Pearl makes the "Divine Comedy" an integral part of this book; if you are new to Dante's works, you will learn about him and his books at the same time you read an original whodunit. In any case, you are highly likely to love "The Dante Club". Of course, recommended!

Belen Alcat


Flower of Evil [DVD] [2004] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Flower of Evil [DVD] [2004] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £27.34

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Everything's a secret here", 13 Dec. 2006
"The flower of evil" (= "La fleur du mal"), directed by Claude Chabrol, is centered on an upper middle-class family, the Charpin-Vasseurs. This family seems perfect but has dark and deep secrets, as seen from the very first scenes of this movie. What is wrong with the members of this family? Chabrol's mission is to make us care about the answer to this question...

The story begins with a crime, and continues many years later, when Francois Vasseur (Benoît Magimel), returns home after spending four years in the United States. Gérard (Bernard Le Coq), his father, is happy to see Francois again, but disturbed by the fact that his wife Anne Charpin-Vasseur (Nathalie Baye) is involved in politics and running for mayor. Francois doesn't have a very good relationship with Gérard, but is pleased to see his stepmother Anne, his aunt Line (Suzanne Flon) and specially his stepsister and first cousin Michèle (Melanie Doutey).

Truth to be told, Francois left France because he had strong feelings towards Michèle, feelings she reciprocated. Is he now ready to act on those feelings? And what impact will that relationship have on the dynamics of his family, already disturbed by Anne's incursion into politics and old scandals that surface again? "The flower of evil" answers these questions, and tackles subjects such as the cyclical nature of life, the importance of secrecy in some lives, guilt and the need to keep up appearances ("il faut faire belle figure").

All in all, I think that this film will interest those who are fond of whodunnits, but that can also appreciate complex psychological studies that make a movie more interesting. Of course, recommended.

Belen Alcat


Thank You For Smoking [DVD] [2005]
Thank You For Smoking [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Aaron Eckhart
Price: £3.48

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Everybody has a talent. Mine is talking", 13 Dec. 2006
"Thank you for smoking", directed by Jason Reitman, is a wonderful satirical comedy that is likely to offend some people, but that is nonetheless witty and entertaining. If you merely want to watch a feel-good film, I strongly urge you to avoid this dvd. On the other hand, if you are eager to think a little bit more, and don't mind a sometimes acerbic sense of humour, this is the right movie for you.

The main character is Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), a lobbyist and spokesman for the American tobacco industry that is a master of media spinning and doublespeak, and that is glad of having "a moral flexibility that goes beyond most people". Nick has a son, Joey, and thus has to try to be a role model to him, despite his polemic job. That is specially difficult after a beautiful reporter (Katie Holmes) with whom he had an affair betrays his trust, writing a tell-all article about him.

It is pretty interesting to watch Nick as he twists logic in order to defend the right of everybody to smoke, saying that has to do with freedom of choice. In his words, "that's the beauty of arguing, because if you argue correctly you are never wrong". This film has fictional characters, but is also based on some real facts, something that makes it specially interesting. From my point of view, "Thank you for smoking" is a caustic and ironic film, but also a must see for everybody that is interested in the power of words. Recommended!

Belen Alcat


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