On Movies and
Books (written 1999)
I love movies and I love writing
reviews for movies I like. My taste almost goes across the
spectrum, but not quite. Movies, for me are purely
entertainment, escape. I don't want to be preached to by
some bleeding heart when I sit down, popcorn in hand. I
want to have fun. When I want to hear a sermon, I go to
church, when I want to learn something, I'll watch a
documentary, and when I want to feel bad I'll ask my wife what
she really thinks of me.
Oh, and I don't want to watch a movie
about things I like to do, or have to do. No slice of life
stuff for me.
I choose movies based on my mood at the
moment. When I'm in the mood for adventure, I want it to
be way out there (13th
Predator, etc.). I don't like comedies that remind
me of what a jerk I can be, or was when I was 15 or 25. I
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World kind of comedy.
Hey, I love quotes. The walls of
my office are covered with them. I've got yellow post-its
all over both computer monitors. But one of my favorite
quotes regarding life and fear is from The 13th Warrior.
Herger the Joyous (Dennis Storhøi), who is how every class clown
visualizes himself when he's living it, and how he remembers
himself once he hits middle age. Well, it's a very tense
moment, it's dark, just about to fight against God knows what
kind of vicious creatures. He turns to Antonio Banderas
and says, "The Old Father wrote the end of your life long ago,
go and hind in a hole if you wish, but you won't live one moment
longer: your fate is fixed. Fear profit man nothing".
What a line. And spoken by the class clown. That's
one great adventure character, let me tell you.
My favorite movie review is by a guy
who goes by the name Jeb, it's posted on
There's Something About Mary page. Jeb said,
"Yes, yes there is".
Books are a passion. There is absolutely nothing like a
great book. Yes movies are great, but they give you
everything, and that's great, but a book, a great book will
paint pictures in your head, sounds in your mind, and physical
sensations. I remember reading
First Blood, by David Morrell. I was in bed in the
final stages of the flu. It was well into the night when I got
to the part where he was crawling through the caves in pitch
black (to torch like they had to use in the movie), just a
breeze on his face to follow. Crawling through what he
realized must be insects infested bat guano, with bats flying
over head. I was so disgusted my skin was crawling.
I was sitting bold upright in my bed, eyes glued to the words,
the words that were revolting me, compressing my chest till I
couldn't breathe from claustrophobia...
On my first of many trips to Italy, I
brought with me a book by a author that was new to me, Tony
Hillerman. The book was
A Thief of Time. I read it in the steamy heat of a
Neapolitan summer. And then I read
The Ghostway in the small mountain town of my ancestors,
Colli al Verltuno, in Molisse. I read through the hot
sunny day and cool night, weather not unlike that in the books I
was reading, in between visits to relatives, many times removed
and sight seeing. And now when I think of the old people
of Colli, I could almost mix them up with the Navaho elders of
the four-corners reservation. Not such a far stretch when
you consider the similarities people; not ethnically, of course,
but in their humanness. An old Jewish woman, a customer of
mine in Brooklyn, in another life, once told me, "in every
ocean, there are all kinds of fish". She'd been talking
about the good and the bad people you can find in every ethnic
group. But I've learned that each ocean also has fish of
each personality, too.
People. That's a subject.
And it's the people, and what they do, and what they don't do
that makes great stories. It's what makes History so
interesting. I'm fascinated by the stories of America.
Louis Lamour (there's a great writer who's been sold short), he
has a great book of short stories, every other story is a
non-fiction account of western life that he'd gotten from
newspaper stories and diaries, with his fiction woven
in-between. Exciting tales of predators and victims, and
of men and women, and children who reached in side and found
strength they didn't know they had...and prevailed.
Larry McMurtry is like that too.
History, people, things, life: Stories.
Michener, James A. There's a joke around my house,
when one of my kids asks me a question for homework or out of
curiosity, they quickly follow the question with, "now don't
start with Columbus!" They've never read Michener.
The funniest example is his book Hawaii. It starts
on the ocean floor 500 million years ago, with a spurt of steam,
which turns into an volcanic eruption. He has you follow
the slowly growing undersea mountain till it breaks the surface
of the Pacific. Then a wind storm blows some dirt from
North America, another a few hundred years latter brings a bird,
who drops a fertilized seed (guess how), which grows into a
Don't get me wrong, I love Michener's
books, I've read them all. And so should you.
Historical novels are a great way to get an idea of how "dry"
history was lived by the people of the time.
Now if you want the history of
knowledge in a small, very readable package, you must read
A History of Knowledge, by Charles Van Doren. it
is utterly fascinating, and not dry in the least.
Mystery and espionage. I must say
that I'm not a James Bond fan. I liked most of Ludlum's
books, especially the early ones (the first two Bourne books
were good, the third, well...).
As far as mystery, I really like two of
Stuart M. Kaminsky's characters:
Inspector Rosnikov and
Detective Lieberman. All of Sherlock Holmes, and
well, there are just too many good writers to list here.
On HugeReviews.com, we're planning a
I'd like to hear from you, tell me your favorite books, give
me your reviews, you can be a charter Guest Reviewer on
Joe De Matteo.