Atonement: A Film Review

I don’t know if this will so much be a review as just my thoughts immediately after having seen it. They really haven’t changed in the two days since then, so it still works. After I finished Atonement the other day, I was talking to Lauren about it. She asked if I liked it, and I didn’t know. My initial assessment was as follows:

It is intense. As movies go, I think it was good. The story was well-written, but the events that transpire are just awful. Like tragic awful. If it happened in real life, you’d say it was one of the most awful things you’d ever heard of. And to make matters worse, the whole thing could have been prevented. You get to the end of it, and you’re a tiny bit happy, but mostly frustrated and sad and furious. I mean, just downright angry. But still, you can’t say it was a bad film. You were just dissatisfied with the story and its ending. So in a nutshell:

Movie: Good (I give it one and a quarter thumbs up with a quizzical facial expression and a shrug
Story: Well-written (I’ll have to read the book now)
Series of events: Tragic awful (Like depress-you-for-the-rest-of-the-day awful. Seriously.)
Keira Knightley’s mouth: Predictably annoying, but her hair is really cute
Feelings at the end of the film: Frustration, sadness, slight happiness, fury

I don’t want to buy it or see it in my stocking at Christmas by any means, but I would recommend it. I hear the book is even better, and clearly I’m all for you reading it as well. Let me know what you think if you watch or read it (or what you thought if you’ve already watched/read it).

I did have to put on the Legally Blonde: The Musical soundtrack the instant the movie was over as I might have stuck my head in the oven otherwise, but I’m ok now. And yes, I have been listening to LB:TM ever since. Shocking, I know.

Friday at last, Friday at LAST!

Thank God Almighty, it’s FRIDAY AT LAST! Man. It has been some kind of WEEK. I honestly couldn’t even tell you where all the time has gone, but I’ve felt just ridiculously busy. So much so that I have failed to regale you with anything interesting since last Friday! For that, I apologize. I hope that you’ve gotten more done at work this week without Onward Hoe! to distract you from your responsibilities. Let’s see if I can catch you up on the exciting things that have happened.

First of all, Jill got married. It was sweet and beautiful, and she played the fiddle at her own reception. Because she’s awesome. Then I caught the bouquet, and Guthrie (her new hubby) ran over a traffic cone in their get-away vehicle. With all his wedding guests watching. Good times, good friends, good fun.

Then, there was a lot of teaching. And I started going to bed earlier so I could spend a few minutes writing every night in addition to my nightly reading. It’s been off to a bumpy start, but habits take a while to form. I’ll get there.

I had a date last night with Whitney. She ate dinner (I’d already eaten), and then we went on a field trip to Target and Lowe’s Foods. They share a parking lot, which was convenient because we were in a hurry to get back, finish our OK! Magazine article on the Madonna/Guy Ritchie split, and watch The Office. So we went to Target first, returned a sweater I’d purchased, then flew across the parking lot to Lowe’s Foods. It was dark, and you know how those parking lots are. There are little islands everywhere, and you never can tell exactly where the exits are. They’re like mazes sometimes. So I was driving quickly while trying to make sure I didn’t hit anything, which sparked the following conversation:

Whitney: You seem a little unsure of where you’re going.

We both survived, by the way.

When we got home, we watched The Office while peeling grapes for the “Haunted Classroom” my students put on today. The grapes, in the dark, feel like eyeballs. It is very disgusting. We also watched 30 Rock for the first time, and I have to say, I’m hooked already (DLF, you were right). Whoever writes for Alec Baldwin’s character is a freaking genius. I mean, the part where he was talking about the Dora the Explorer underwear that were clearly made for an obese child…that was amazing.

Last night, I had a dream that I married my friend Jim, except I wasn’t actually at the ceremony. I just asked him about it later. He said it had all gone well. He’d said “I do” and everything.

So then today,  my class set up and put on “Haunted Classroom 2008.” They’d spent a large part of Thursday planning it, and then when they came in this morning, it was all I could do to keep them on task for the first hour and a half before it was time to start setting the thing up. And by “on task,” I mean learning vocabulary and putting the lyrics to “Thriller” in order.

Anyway, at 10:30, we stopped “working” and started getting the diddy ready, and by 11:30, we had creepy sounds, cobwebs everywhere, the windows blacked out, skeletons hanging from the ceiling, severed heads on every table, a Taiwanese mummy, an Argentinian witch, a Ukrainian demon bar wench, a Tibetan monk vampire, a Hungarian ghost monster, several multicultural under-the-table goblins, and a Korean clown (handing out candy at the exit). I tell you, friends, it was a thing of beauty.

So after the long break, I put on the werewolf mask and hands they’d brought for me and went around to all the other classes, one by one, inviting them to come experience “HAUNTED CLASSROOM.” And surprisingly enough, people were actually freaked out by it. And my students had a BALL. They all felt, afterwards, as though they were truly ready for their first (in most cases) American Halloween. And that’s what I’m all about, y’all. Preparing them to enter the culture. Normally, I would teach them more Mary Kay-approved makeup techniques than covering one’s face in green eye shadow, but that’ll have to be another lesson. Maybe for when the Tibetan monk is absent.

Let’s talk books, shall we?

Again, special thanks to Danielle for bringing us a topic of bloggersation. By the way, “bloggersation” is apparently an acceptably-spelled word. I think something strange is afoot in my spell-check, so if you see any typos, please let me know. And please, if you feel so inclined, chime right on in via your own blog and/or the comments section!

What was the last book you bought?
The last two books I bought were On Writing Well by William K. Zinsser and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I bought them at the same time. I don’t remember which one they rang up last.

Name a book you have read MORE than once:
I have probably read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe about fifteen times. I love it. I’ve also read Pride and Prejudice more than once, which is much more of a feat.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
I don’t know about a complete fundamental overhaul. If I were a good Christian, I’d say the Bible, which is so many things, not the least of which being life-changing. But I grew up in a Christian home, going to church and believing in the truth of the Bible, so it really helped to shape the way I was seeing life as I went along (and still is), but I can’t say that I had one worldview and then a different worldview after reading the Bible. It just didn’t work that way for me. There have been books, however, that have strongly illuminated Biblical truths in new ways for me, and those, I would say, have had more of the effect I think this question is asking about. One is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third (or maybe fifth depending on how you organize them) book in the Chronicles of Narnia. More specifically, the scene where Eustace, having been transformed into a dragon, encounters Aslan and turns back into a human. It’s beautiful and painful and deeply personal. It’s full of both discipline and grace. I really should just read that one scene every day.

How do you choose a book?
Usually, I choose books that have been recommended to me by others. Or if I’m a fan of a particular author’s work and they have something new out, I’ll pick that up too.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Ooooooo this is hard!!! I tend to read more non-fiction, but I LOVE fiction as well. They’re just different ways to tell great stories, and both can have a profound impact on their readers.

What’s more important in a novel – beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Danielle’s right on. It’s the characters. If you have gripping characters to follow, you’ll follow them anywhere (in plot) even if the writing is mediocre. And really, what is “beautiful writing” anyway? Honestly, a lot of the writing that critics would call “beautiful,” the average reader just finds verbose and confusing. If I have to read and re-read every sentence or paragraph (when I’m fully awake and cognizant), I’m probably not going to finish that book. But I remember when I was reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers, I felt like the story was carrying on without me whenever I put the book down, and that if I wasn’t reading it, I was missing it. I found myself wondering, in the middle of class, what was happening to the main character(s) in my absence, and every moment I got, I would sneak a peak to find out.

Most loved or memorable character:
Well, there’s Eustace. And I wouldn’t say he’s beloved, but Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice is quite memorable. Almost all the P&P characters are, though. Particularly that hot Mr. Darcy. Sigh.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Let’s have a look, shall we?

There’s the NIV Study Bible, On Writing Well, Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman, The Database (aka my journal), and The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs (even though I finished it weeks ago).

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
A couple of weekends ago, I read A Wrinkle in Time. I know I’d read it before, but it had been a while, so it was nice to revisit it.

Have you ever given up on a book half-way in?
On the way back from Mexico back in July, I started reading The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson, and I found it both uninteresting and condescending, which was the perfect recipe for offensive. Having grown up in small-town Southern America, I can tell you that very little of my life has been boring, so it should naturally follow that stories about small Southern towns  would also be not boring. I guess it’s difficult, though, to write good stories about piddly little places you find insignificant and prosaic when you are as important as Bill Bryson.