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2015/01/25

Ellen Foster

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

With an opening line like “When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy”, it’s no wonder that the book Ellen Foster grabs a reader’s attention and pulls them in with both hands.

I wound up with this engrossing debut novel by author Kaye Gibbons completely by chance. Taking part in a book exchange at my writers’ group’s holiday party, I mulled over the pile of brightly wrapped mystery packages and finally chose a slim little volume to take home with me. After I’d pulled off the festive paper, I flipped it over to read the back, like so many people do when they pick up a new book. The blurbs exclaimed that the author was “A stunning new writer,” and that the story itself was “A lovely sometimes heartwrenching novel…” Those were some intriguing accolades, so I decided to just open it up and dive right in.

Meeting Ellen, the narrator of the book and the main focus of the story, I could tell almost immediately that she was a young girl, but I wouldn't keep finding out more until I read on. Gibbons does an excellent job of measuring out information in small doses, so that as a reader, we have enough to go on to keep us in the loop, but are still left curious and eager to learn more.

Right away, it’s revealed that Ellen has been removed from her home by the county, and as she starts to look back on the past two years or so that have passed since then, the skillful, slow unfolding of the story takes place. We find out that her father is an alcoholic and her mother was ill, and Ellen learned to basically take care of not only herself, but her parents too. Her language varies between sounding very wise for her age, and still sounding young (at one point, she explains that she thinks her mom has a heart condition because she’d suffered from “romantic fever” when she was a girl), so it’s hard to tell exactly how old Ellen might be. In an especially moving scene, she lies in bed with her mother even after she realizes that she’s died, and we see that while her circumstances may have forced her to grow up faster than she should have had to, she’s still a child trying to muddle her way through an unfair and complicated life.

Besides carefully doling out details (we eventually learn that Ellen was around nine years old when the story starts), one of the writing techniques that Gibbons uses so well is the way she volleys back and forth in the narrative, starting with the present and then having Ellen flash back to talk about the past. Telling a story this way can be tricky; you don’t want details to get confused or have a reader get frustrated by the switching around and find themselves getting lost in the timeline of the plot. The way Gibbons works it in doesn’t do any of this though; she finds connections that make it feel like skipping between the present and the past is one of the best ways that the reader can fit the puzzle of the brave little heroine’s backstory together.


Ellen Foster author Kaye Gibbons
And Ellen herself is a puzzle; the reader gets to be privy to her thoughts and feelings as she grapples with the aftereffects of her past even as she looks forward to a brighter future. In flashbacks, we see her handling situations remarkably well, keeping calm and being very logical about what to do when most other kids her age probably would have been at a complete loss. Getting further into the novel though, you begin to wonder if her composure is a defense mechanism learned from growing up like she did, if it’s her sense of pride and not reality exactly as it happened as she retells the story a couple of years later, or both.


Set in the Southern United States, Ellen Foster touches on issues of race and social class, but does so mostly through the eyes and experiences of Ellen. In a scene where she goes to her best friend Starletta’s house and tells the reader about their home and their lifestyle, it’s plain to see where adult thinking and comments have influenced her thoughts. We get more insights throughout the book, and figure out how these same issues have caused Ellen’s grandmother to basically disown her mother and to harbor an unfair and cruel contempt for Ellen herself.

With heavy-hitting topics like these in the book, you might think it’s a downer of a read. But Gibbons tempers it with doses of humor and hope, making it hard to put down once you start reading it. It’s a modest-sized novel; 126 pages in the copy that I have, and I blew through it in one day. Again, it was the pull of the story and the way it’s written that kept stringing me along though, making me grumble when everyday tasks got in the way and I had to stop reading until I was able to pick it up again.

Not surprisingly, Ellen Foster won the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was given a special citation by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation. It was also turned into a made-for-TV movie in 1997, which earned a Primetime Emmy nomination.

A still from the Ellen Foster TV movie
Author Kaye Gibbons has also written A Virtuous Woman, A Cure for Dreams, Charms for the Easy Life, Sights Unseen, On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon, and Divining Women.  In 2006, The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster was published, a sequel that brings readers back to Ellen’s story when she's 15 years old.

After just discovering Ellen’s story and the fantastic writer who brought it to life, I’ll be on the lookout for the sequel and any of Gibbons’ other work.

What about you, 2FL readers? What was the last book that you read that you just couldn’t put down?




2015/01/18

Jesse Winchester

by John Bloner, Jr.

Photograph of Jesse Winchester by Jordi Vidal/Redferns
His voice was a marriage of Roy Orbison with a mourning dove or the articulation of a sigh, and his recording career covered over 30 years, yet I had not heard the music of Jesse Winchester until 2009 when he appeared on the Sundance TV series, Spectacle: Elvis Costello With . . ., to sing a tender tune that made Neko Case cry.

Neko Case
This song, "Sham-A-Lam-Dong-Ding", reminds us that the romantic heart of America still beats strong, while it wraps itself in the style of 1950s-60s R&B classics, such as "Save The Last Dance For Me" and "There Goes My Baby", and uses nonsense lyrics, popular in the doo-wop era, to impart deep emotions.

"I grew up loving to hear the boys singing to the girls," Winchester confessed to CBC Radio. "There's something so sweet about it, so human. It never fails to touch me."


Jesse Winchester emerged in a decade when a musician could entertain with the use of only his voice, paired with a piano or an acoustic guitar. In the 1970s, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman and many more made their names as modern-day troubadours, gifting us with well-turned phrases married to melodies.

From the first song he wrote, "The Brand New Tennessee Waltz", to the final cut on his final album, gentleness flows in his music like the waters of the Wolf merging with the mighty Mississippi river. While I'm a northern boy, living in Wisconsin, and he was the consummate Southerner (even after spending years in Quebec), each time that I listen to his music, I swear I can smell the sweetness of magnolia trees.


After ten years without a new studio release, Winchester delivered Love Filling Station, a summation of everything that this artist had done well over his career. It contains songs that glow, shimmer and shake, thanks to performances by some of newgrass' finest talents: Jerry Douglas on lap steel, Russ Barenberg on guitar, Andy Leftwich on fiddle, and vocalist Claire Lynch, who cuts loose with Jesse on the country rave-up, "Loose Talk."

Love Filling Station begins with the slow weave of "O, What A Thrill", moves to the clog dance beat of "Jump Jim Crow" in "It's A Shame About Him", finds solace from a broken heart with his six strings in "I Turn To My Guitar", and captures the work song tradition in "Wear Me Out" to tell a tale of a man whose mate demands much of him in bed.

The touchstone of this album, however, is a cover of a song co-written and made popular by Ben E. King: "Stand By Me." I've heard this tune hundreds of times by various artists in my life, but it took Winchester's version for me to see its power goes beyond its intoxicating bass line and its ethereal chorus.

Whenever you're at a crossroads in your life, this song has something to say to you. It can carry a secular or religious meaning, drawing its source from an old gospel hymn and, even deeper, from The Book of Psalms.


 In 2013, Winchester returned to the studio to record A Reasonable Amount of TroubleHe'd encountered more than a reasonable amount of trouble since 2011, when he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. In remission from the disease, he was able to create what would be the coda of his career. In February 2014, cancer returned, this time to his bladder. He passed away two months later.

The record doesn't play like a eulogy, even though there's a line in the first track that says adieu in the most beguiling way (see below). A Reasonable Amount of Trouble serves up stellar musicianship, courtesy of God's own fiddle player, Stuart Duncan; Leonard Cohen's bassist, Roscoe Beck; and Jerry Douglas on lap steel is back with Winchester for one last ride (and, oh, what a ride it is).

Jesse Winchester could sing doo-wop, gospel and honky tonk and make tunes written by others his own. Love Filling Station had "Stand By Me", and A Reasonable Amount of Doubt includes "Devil or Angel", "Rhythm of the Rain", and "Whispering Bells." Songs that someone may have heard a hundred times on the radio suddenly sound as if they were being played for the first time. There is an endearing quality in each note that he played and sung.



Photo: Jamie Martin/Associated Press
Winchester could break your heart, but he could also make you shake your booty. In 1977, he sang, "I'm still doing the rhumba, baby/So I'm still the man for you." This song went on to be covered by Jimmy Buffet, Little Feat and (my favorite version) Nicolette Larson with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen.

Over 40 years later, Winchester was still stepping out to remind us to "Never Forget to Boogie." In February, 2012, he performed at Blue Rock Artist Ranch & Studio, performing (in the video below) cuts from throughout his career, including:

Never Forget to Boogie
Bless Your Foolish Heart
Talk Memphis
Gentleman of Leisure
A Showman's Life
You Can't Stand Up Alone




Author and environmentalist Edward Abbey wrote, "I choose to listen to the river for awhile, thinking river thoughts, before joining the night and the stars."  Winchester knew a thing or two about waterways, having grown up in Memphis.  On his 1981 album, Talk Memphis, he sang "Come trail a finger in a river's flow/Come help me wonder where the soul will go."

From now on, whenever I listen to a river speak, I will think of Jesse Winchester, and when I listen to his music, I will be reminded of the waters coursing through our land.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next month.

Jesse Winchester, surrounded by musicians who made magic on his final two recording. Clockwise from top left: Jerry Douglas • Andy Leftwich • Jim Horn • Claire Lynch • Russ Barenberg • Mark McAnally • Mark Fain • Stuart Duncan
To learn more about Jesse Winchester and listen to his music, visit this artist's page at AllMusic.com

2015/01/11

Adaptations

by Dave Gourdoux

I love movies and I love books.  When a movie is based on a book, more often than not the result is disappointing.  But when it's done right, the adaptation of a book into a movie can transcend the book, and make you see things you might not have appreciated before.

What makes a great adaptation of a book?  First of all is the source material.  There has to be something in the book that makes it worth filming. The director has to have a vision, had to be personally affected by the book. Second, the director can't be so in love with the book that he isn't willing to be at least a little bit unfaithful to it. It isn't possible to cram everything that happens in the book into the two hours that is the duration of most movies.  This is my problem with a movie that most of my friends love but I don't - The Shawshank Redemption.  To me, it's too earnest, and it plods along, holding the Stephen King book on which it was based in deep reverence.  I much prefer Brian De Palma's film of King's Carrie, because it is more alive, and the filmmakers aren't afraid to take chances with the material.

Another thing about adaptations of great works of literature: more often than not, the great books have great and memorable characters. This presents the opportunity, if the film is cast correctly, for great performances.

Here are some of my favorite movie adaptations.  The list is off the top of my head, and I'm certain there are a lot of great movies I've overlooked, but here goes:

14. Catch-22, 1971, Directed by Mike Nichols, screenplay by Buck Henry, based on the novel by Joseph Heller.



Catch-22 was one of the most eagerly anticipated films ever made.  It reunited Nichols and Henry, the same director and writer of The Graduate, and Heller's surreal novel, equal parts comic and tragic, was one of the most celebrated books of the 1960s.  An all star case signed on, including Orson Welles, Bob Newhart, Jon Voight, Art Garfunkel, Richard Benjaimin, and in an inspired bit of casting, Alan Arkin as Yossarian. Filming took place in Mexico and quickly ran over budget and behind schedule. The final result is a mess. None other than Joseph Heller criticized the film for being too faithful to his novel, and he was right. One of the rules of good adaptations is that the film has to decide on a narrative and point of view of its own, especially when there is as much going on in the book as there is in Heller's manuscript (for an even messier adaptation of a great book, check out Milos Foreman's 1981 adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime). Despite the mess, Catch-22 is still worth watching, as the sheer genius of the cast frequently rises above the chaos and Arkin's performance as Yossarian is brilliant.

13. Tomorrow, 1972, Directed by Joseph Anthony, screenplay by Horton Foote, from the short story by William Faulkner.


A small, low budget black and white film that not many people have seen, Tomorrow is probably the best representation of Faulkner ever put on the screen. It tells the story of a simple man (Robert Duvall) and a pregnant woman (Olga Bellin) who wanders into his life. Bellin is quite good, and Duvall is simply amazing (his performance in this film was the model for Billy Bob Thornton's character in Sling Blade.) All of the Faulkner themes are here, including the contrast between the ephemeral nature of existence and the enduring power of love.

12. In Cold Blood, 1965, Directed by Richard Brooks, screenplay by Brooks from the book by Truman Capote.


Capote's book about the real life brutal murder of a small town Kansas family helped usher in the "new journalism" that would be further explored by Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe, blurring the line between fact and fiction, using the devices of a novel to tell a non-fiction story. The film was even more controversial, as Brooks cast neighbors of the victims in small roles and shot key scenes in the actual house where the murders occurred. It's these details, plus the documentary feel of the film (shot on location in black and white) that stretched the boundaries of narrative versus exploitation to a degree not seen since Tod Browning's 1933 horror film, Freaks. In 1965, In Cold Blood was one of the most chilling films ever made, and although it's lost a little bit of its edge over the years, just remind yourself that it all really happened in the exact place it shows us, and you'll feel some of the same impact.

11. Long Day's Journey Into Night, 1962, Directed by Sidney Lumet, directly from the play by Eugene O'Neill.


Unique among adaptations, Lumet filmed Long Day's Journey Into Night directly from O'Neill's play. That's not to confuse it with a filmed play, as Lumet opens up enough to show us the Connecticut countryside that the family's home is in. The movie, like the play, is bleak and unforgiving, telling the story of one of the most dysfunctional families in all of literature. The performances of each of the four actors are exceptional, with Ralph Richardson as the father and Jason Robards and Dean Stockwell as the sons all giving their best performances. But it's Katherine Hepburn, as the heroin addicted mother, who is especially brilliant, able to transcend time and space and appear beautiful and young in one moment and violent and psychotic the next. It's an unbelievably intense performance, the greatest of the greatest film actress's long and brilliant career.

10. Adaptation, 2002, Directed by Spike Jonez, screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, from the book The Orchard Thief by Susan Orleans.


In Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman, the celebrated screenwriter who twisted and bent storytelling conventions in films like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (both also directed by Jonez), writes a screenplay about his own real-life neurotic adventures trying to write an adaptation of Orleans' book while suffering from writer's block. Kaufman is not sure that the book is up his alley, and with nowhere else to go, he decides to write a script about him writing the script. The movie then takes two paths: the first about Kaufman (played by Nicholas Cage) writing the script, the second the film of the adaptation he's writing. It's been done before, in 1981's The French Lieutenant's Woman, which tells the story of the 1963 novel written by John Fowles while in parallel telling a love story involving the actors playing the leads in the adaptation. But in The French Lieutenant's Woman we are watching two full and complete parallel stories; in Adaptation, we watch each story as they are created by Kaufman/Cage, and we see Kaufman's frustration boil over until he creates a twin brother to himself, who rescues the script by suggesting cliche ridden twists and ridiculous subplots, and we see the two worlds, the world Kaufman creates and the world he exists in while creating the adaptation, intersect and collide. Adaptation is hysterically funny and inventive, and it gives us a rare glimpse into the process of writing a screenplay. We get just enough of Orleans' actual book to get an idea of what it's about, but this is really about the process of giving birth to a successful script.

9. Breakfast of Champions, 1992, Directed by Alan Rudolph, screenplay by Alan Rudolph, from the novel by Kurt Vonnegut.


Breakfast of Champions was written by Vonnegut in 1972, as he turned fifty years old and was going through a mid-life crisis. The result was probably his funniest and most sardonic book, and also his most sophomoric. The book is filled with crude drawings by the author (including one of his own asshole), and the plot, what there is of one, involves a used car salesman named Dwayne Hoover who's coming unglued and Vonnegut's frequent alter-ego, the reclusive and eccentric science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, and their eventual and unavoidable meeting in a small Midwestern town's arts festival. The book seems impossible to film because half of what makes it so enjoyable are Vonnegut's little asides to the readers, oftentimes in the form of stories that Trout wrote. But Alan Rudolph successfully captures the tone of the book, which is surrealistic absurdity. Rudolph lets the actors, Bruce Willis and Albert Finney as Hoover and Trout, and Nick Nolte, as a salesman who works for Hoover, all shamelessly ham up their roles. The movie, like the book, is a mess of exaggeration and excess, but it captures the mood and feel of a man going through a mid-life crisis.

8. Wuthering Heights, 1939, Directed by William Wyler, screenplay by Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht and John Huston, from the novel by Emily Bronte.


In the novels Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, Emily and Charlotte Bronte effectively invented the romance novel. The plot of Wuthering Heights has been copied so many times that it has become cliche: beautiful young upper class woman (Catherine) and a lower class worker (the stable boy, no less) named Heathcliff fall into a deep and doomed love. Catherine rejects Heathcliff and marries another of her same social class. Heathcliff goes away to make his fortune. He returns with wealth and power and forces his way into Catherine's life; he courts and marries her sister-in-law. Catherine, still in love with Heathcliff, falls ill, and Heathcliff is at her side when she dies. What separates the movie from other romances and why it still stands head and shoulder at the top of the genre, is Wyler's direction and Laurence Olivier's performance as Heathcliff. Wyler films the moors and the darkened English landscape with a stunning desolation and bleakness that provides the perfect backdrop to the romance. Olivier, in his first great film performance, is more than dark and brooding. He's so intense he is frightening,and his capacity for cruelty to Catherine, despite of, or because of his love for her, is as nuanced and complex as it is menacing. As played by Olivier, Heathcliff becomes one of the most fascinating lead characters in any film.

7. The Yearling, 1946, Directed by Clarence Brown, screenplay by Paul Osborn and John Lee Mahin, from the novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.


The novel The Yearling is widely considered a classic american children's story, but I think that is selling it short. I'd put it on the list of great American novels. Its themes--loneliness and death in the vanishing Florida wilderness--are uniquely American. Most of all, it is about the relationship between a father and son, and the child's journey into adulthood. Clarence Brown's film version captures the mood and the essence of the book perfectly, and Gregory Peck and Claude Jarman are perfect as the father and the son. Also perfect is Jane Wyman, as the cold and harsh mother. The mother has to be harsh, because the father is overly romantic and still something of a child himself. Wyman keeps the family grounded. She has difficulty expressing her love, but it's there. The Yearling is that rare film where the characters are all emotionally complex and three dimensional.


6. A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951, Directed by Elia Kazan screenplay by Tennessee Williams, from his own play.


In A Streetcar Named Desire, Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski and Vivien Leigh as Blanche Dubois give what are arguably the two greatest performances in the history of film. Kazan had directed the Broadway production, and most of the play's cast, including Brando, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, was recast in the movie. The biggest exception was replacing Jessica Tandy as Blanche with Leigh. It was an inspired choice, as Leigh had already played the archetypal southern belle Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. Williams had written Blanche as a faded version of the romantic icon who clings to the mythic and illusory "gentlemen callers" and the high ideals of youth and privilege and esteem, while the truth is that she has become an aging scandal. Kowalski represents harsh and unforgiving truth, and is determined to expose Blanche and all her beautiful lies. While Kazan stays faithful to the stage production (in terms of setting, the film isn't very "cinematic," in that the action takes place on the set modeled on a small part of New Orleans' French Quarter), he uses the cramped quarters to establish a sense of claustrophobia, and you can feel the gritty heat and the stale air as Stanley and Blanche go about destroying one another.

5. The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, 1991, Directed by Simon Callow, from the novella by Carson McCullors, adapted for the stage by Edward Albee, screenplay by Michael Hirst.


In The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Carson McCullors deepens her exploration of themes she presented in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding. The worlds McCullors creates are dominated by loneliness, and love is a destructive force of nature that has a will of its own. It has no reason or rationale; it just is, and there's not much one can do about it. People fall in love with the most grotesque with no idea of why or how. In The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, these themes reach their zenith as McCullors presents perhaps the oddest love triangle ever. Miss Amelia, a harsh and hardened and mannish woman who is physically stronger than most men, suddenly falls head over heels in love with a hunchbacked dwarf who comes to the small town and claims to be her Cousin Lymon. Meanwhile, Ameilia's ex husband, Marvin Macy, has just been released from jail and has vowed vengeance on Miss Ameila. Macy was once a violent criminal who changed his ways when he fell in love with Miss Amelia. So deep was his love that he gave up his life of crime as well as all of his earthly possessions. After the wedding, though, Miss Amelia violently rejected Macy when he tried to consummate the marriage, physically throwing Macy out. Upon Macy's return, Cousin Lymon is mesmerized and falls in love with Macy. The love triangle is complete, as Macy is still in love with Amelia, Amelia is in love with Cousin Lymon, and Cousin Lymon is in love with Macy. All of the loves are powerful and all are unrequited.

The reason this film makes the list is because it so effectively evokes the novella. The dusty streets, the clapboard buildings, the dimly lit cafe, are all exactly as I pictured them when reading McCullors' novella. The characters come right out of the book too, in the way they look and in the bizarre behavior they display. As Miss Amelia, Vanessa Redgrave is perfect - she's an enigma, simple and plain and tough, and the climactic fight between her and Macy (played by Keith Carradine) is not soon forgotten.

4. Lolita, 1962, Directed by Stanley Kubrick, screenplay by Vladimir Nabakov and Stanley Kubrick, from the novel by Nabakov.


James Mason, as Humbert Humbert, gives one of the all time great performances as Nabakov's man who becomes obsessed with a young girl, Lolita, played by Sue Lyon. Mason's performance is all the more remarkable when one remembers that Stanley Kubrick is the director. In most Kubrick films, actors are something of an afterthought. Mason has a depth that a Kubrick character rarely achieves, and Peter Sellers, in the expanded role of Claire Quilty, is his usual brilliant self. What makes Lolita so significant is that it was able to be made and get past the harsh production code censors who ruled Hollywood morality at the time, Nabokov and Kubrick raised Lolita's age from twelve in the book to fourteen in the movie, and only suggested the sexual nature of their relationship. Quilty's expanded role was a key change, too. As Humbert's nemesis, Quilty is something of a dark and sinister alter ego of Humbert, and it's interesting to speculate if he really exists or if he is a manifestation of Humbert's guilt (note that the name "Quilty" rhymes with "guilty").

3. To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962, Directed by Robert Mulligan, screenplay by Horton Foote, from the novel by Harper Lee.


One of the finest and most faithful adaptations ever filmed, To Kill a Mockingbird perfectly captures not only the look and feel of Harper's novel, but also the author's voice and her poetic prose. The love and respect that Atticus Finch was written with comes through in Gregory Peck's rock solid performance. When Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) finally makes his appearance, it's about as perfect as film can get.


2. Wise Blood, 1979, Directed by John Huston, screenplay by Bemedict Fitzgerald, from the novel by Flannery O'Connor.


I've only seen this movie once, over thirty years ago, but I remember it as capturing the surreal and dark and caustically funny mood of the book, one of only two novels that O'Connor ever wrote. In O'Connor's novel, the main character, a young man named  Hazel Motes, is one of the most bizarre characters ever conceived, and he becomes the embodiment of all of O'Connor's complaints about Protestants and non-Christians. Motes becomes a street preacher, starting the "Church of God Without Christ." He is the strangest character in a book filled with strange characters.

The film was one of Huston's last, and, though not many people have seen it, one of his best. He cast the character actor Brad Dourif, best known for his role as Billy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, in the lead, and it's an inspired choice, as Dourif is quirky and odd enough to embody Motes, and he is a strong enough actor to carry a movie. Huston succeeds more in bringing out the comedic elements in the book; O'Connor injects Hazel with an odd pathos that I don't remember the film capturing.

1. The Grapes of Wrath, 1940, Directed by John Ford, screenplay by Nunnaly Johnson, from the novel by John Steinbeck.


The Grapes of Wrath was initially published in 1939 and instantly regarded as a classic American novel, winning the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was adapted for film in the same year it was published, and the film was released in 1940. It was directed by the great poet of American cinema, the incomparable John Ford.

Both the book and the film came out so quickly that they were extremely topical and uniquely and unquestionably American. Still in the throes of the Great Depression, Steinbeck's story about families being thrown off of their farms in dust bowl Oklahoma and their subsequent exploitation in the migrant fields of California has a feel of authenticity because it was occurring as he wrote it. The film has the same feel to it, and now, more than seventy years later, watching it feels almost like watching a documentary.

The book created one of the central characters in American literature, Tom Joad, and the movie cast that most American of great screen actors, Henry Fonda, in the role. Fonda's performance is so great that after seeing the movie, it's impossible to read the book without projecting the image of Fonda on Joad. Fonda's performance is as much responsible as Steinbeck's book for elevating Tom Joad to one of the iconic characters in American literature, and Ford's brilliant visuals stand next to Steinbeck's prose, making the movie a true companion to the book, and, in my opinion, the greatest adaptation of a book into a movie ever.


2015/01/07

2015 Recommends

2nd First Look posts 2FL Recommends every week. These can be found on all of our social networks including FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+. Click on the year below to read our past posts.

2019   |   2018   |   2017   |   2016   |   2015   |   2014   |   2013



2015-12-30
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: When Harry Met Sally...
Director: Rob Reiner
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098635



2015-12-23
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: A Christmas Story
Director: Bob Clark
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085334/



2015-12-16
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Director: Michel Gondry
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338013



2015-12-09
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Philomena
Director: Stephen Frears
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2431286



2015-12-02
2FL RECOMMENDS by Tony Ramos
Film: El Secreto de Sus Ojos
Director: Juan José Campanella
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1305806/



2015-12-02
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Elf
Director: Jon Favreau
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319343



2015-11-25
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Director: John Hughes
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093748/



2015-11-18
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Goon
Director: Michael Dowse
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1456635



2015-11-12
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Antarctica: A Year On Ice
Director: Anthony Powell
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2361700



2015-11-04
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: Fly At Night
Album: Dreams, Dreams, Dreams
Artist: Chilliwack
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fly-at-night



2015-10-28
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: The Monster Squad
Director: Fred Dekker
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093560/



2015-10-21
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Series: iZombie
Creators: Diane Ruggiero & Rob Thomas
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3501584/



2015-10-14
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Album: Tracks (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Artist: Garth Stevenson
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/tracks-original-motion-picture/id922684305



2015-10-07
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Album: Ibeyi
Artist: Ibeyi
Link: http://www.ibeyi.fr



2015-09-30
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Sill Mine
Director: Michael McGowan
Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2073086



2015-09-23
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Song: Somebody Loves You
Album: Take Me When You Go
Artist: Betty Who
Link: http://takemewhenyougo.bettywhomusic.com



2015-09-16
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: Disapearing In New York
Artist: Josh Clayton-Felt
Album: Beautiful Nowhere
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/disapearing-in-new-york



2015-09-09
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Film: Matty Brown--A Colorful Life
Director: Matty Brown
Link: www.shortoftheweek.com/2015/07/06/matty-brown-colorful-life



2015-09-02
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Album: Tea For The Tillerman
Artist: Cat Stevens
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/tea-for-the-tillerman



2015-08-26
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Song: I Knew This Would Be Love
Album: Fire Escape
Artist: Imaginary Future ft. Kina Grannis
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/…/i-knew-this-would-be-love



2015-08-19
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Kill Bill: Vol. 2
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0378194



2015-08-12
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Series: Orange Is the New Black
Creator: Jenji Kohan
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt2372162


2015-08-05
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0266697


2015-07-29
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Album: Let the Good Times Roll
Artist: JD McPherson
Link: www.jdmcpherson.shop.redstarmerch.com



2015-07-22
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: The Switch
Director: Josh Gordon & Will Speck
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0889573



2015-07-15
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Unbreakable
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0217869



2015-07-08
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: Downtown Money Waster
Artist: Black Crowes
Album: Amorica
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/



2015-07-01
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Kung Fury
Director: David Sandberg
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt3472226



2015-06-24
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Pink Floyd The Wall
Director: Alan Parker
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0084503



2015-06-17
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Album: Dead Man Walking (Music from & Inspired by the Film)
Artist: Various
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dead-man-walking-music-from/id169989987



2015-06-10
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: Paris
Album: Yael Naïm
Artist: Yael Naïm
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/yael-naim/id388095283



2015-06-03
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
TV Series: 3rd Rock From the Sun
Creators: Bonnie Turner & Terry Turner
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0115082



2015-05-27
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Die Wand (The Wall)
Director: Julian Pölsler
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt1745686



2015-05-20
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
TV Series: Grounded For Life
Creators: Bill Martin & Mike Schiff
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0255734



2015-05-13
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Album: Guero
Artist: Beck
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/guero/id485498129



2015-05-06
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
TV Series: Cheers
Creators: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0083399



2015-04-29
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Tracks
Director: John Curran
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt2167266



2015-04-22
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Ex Machina
Director: Alex Garland
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0470752



2015-04-15
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Album: Nebraska (Original Soundtrack)
Artist: Mark Orton
Link: www.itunes.apple.com/us/album/nebraska



2015-04-08
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: The Real Thing
Artist: Faith No More
Album: The Real Thing
Link: www.itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-real-thing



2015-04-01
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Series: Maron
Creator: Marc Maron
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt2520512



2015-03-25
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Series: Sleepy Hollow
Creator: Alex Kurtzman
Link: www.fox.com/sleepy-hollow



2015-03-18
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: Sole Witness
Artist: Heinz Kiessling
Link: (song unavailable)




2015-03-11
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Film: Big Hero 6
Director: Don Hall and Chris Williams
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt2245084



2015-03-04
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: No Storms Come
Artist: the innocence mission
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/no-storms-come/id270127394?i=270127432



2015-02-25
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Song: City Lights
Artist: Kate Adams
Link: www.facebook.com/KateAdamsMusic



2015-02-18
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: I Love You All
Band: The Soronprfbs
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/i-love-you-all




2015-02-11
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Series: Reign
Creator: Stephanie Sengupta
Link: cwtv.com/shows/reign




2015-02-04
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: Starbuck
Director: Ken Scott
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt1756750



2015-01-28
2FL RECOMMENDS by Lisa Adamowicz Kless
Song: Afterlife
Album: Lights Out
Artist: Ingrid Michaelson
Link: www.ingridmichaelson.com




2015-01-21
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: Catch Me If You Can
Artist: John Williams
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/catch-me-if-you-can/id101876768?i=101876645




2015-01-14
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Song: Slow
Artist: Kylie Minoque
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/slow/id693183065?i=693183338




2015-01-07
2FL RECOMMENDS by Jav Rivera
Film: The One I Love
Director: Charlie McDowell
Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt2756032