Nowhere Boy (2010)


Doesn’t have a point of view;
Knows not where he’s going to;
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

   I’ve been a Beatles fan for years.  It all started when I was in middle school and I caught a rerun of the Anthology special over Thanksgiving break.  I was skeptical about a biopic tackling the life of John Lennon and the start of the group.  It had been tried, and now that I had the anthology on DVD, what could a movie give me that the documentary could not?  But the reviews kept coming up roses so I added it to my Netflix list and finally got a chance to watch Nowhere Boy tonight.  Beatles or not, this was a beautiful movie about a young man searching for direction during those precious teen years. 

The thing I really enjoyed about this movie was that they did not make excuses for Lennon, or paint him as a saint.  He was the way he was.  You could see what traits he inherited from his mother, learned from his aunt, and arose due to his situation growing up feeling unwanted.  But there are no apologies made.  It’s just his story. 

The movie spans about 3 years, but movies very quickly (only 1 hr 38 mins) but the script is so tight that the time just flies by.  Aaron Johnson was amazing as John, and Kristen Scott Thomas was perfect as Aunt Mimi.  Anne-Marie Duff did a great job with Julia, a woman who clearly had some issues but tried to had them behind a smile.  It was great to see these women brought to life.  I read a lot of Beatles bios back in the day, and while these two were always prominently mentioned when discussing John’s story, but this film made me really see them for the first time, breathing life into the black & white photos that are always included in the books and Anthology documentary (and also flash by at the end of the film before the credits roll). 

Biggest surprise was Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Paul McCartney.  I could have watched an entire movie of the boys touring Hamburg because I really felt the relationship between Johnson and Sangster as Lennon and McCartney really worked.  There was one scene at the end that I just loved, where you can almost see Paul slip into that special place in John’s heart and become more than just a bandmate, but a brother of sorts.  And I felt both boys handled it perfectly 

I don’t think you have to be a Fab Four Fangirl like me to enjoy this movie.  There is no pre-requisites for viewing this movie.  It’s well written, directed, and acted and will keep you interested for the entire run time.  A story of love, redemption, tragedy, loss — one that can only be told because it’s a true story; if they tried to make it up, it would be unbelievable.  It’s another story that proves that it doesn’t matter what decade you grow up in, what country you live in – being a teenager is a strange time for everyone as you try to find a place. 

book thoughts: Stitches by David Small (2009)


David Small

If the artwork on the cover of Stitches seems familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve seen David Small’s illustrations in such classic children’s picture books – like Imogene’s Antlers.  But Stitches is not for kids…

Imagine you are 11 years old.  Imagine you go into the doctor’s office, thinking you’re just going to have a growth removed from your neck.  When you wake up, half of your vocal chords have been removed, along with your thyroid and the only sound you can make is a pathetic “Ack” noise. 

This happened to David Small when he was growing up, and this event, along with the general dysfunctional-ness of his family, is the story he tells us in Stitches, a memoir told in graphic novel format.

This format works perfectly for his story – The book opens with all the way the family “speaks” to each otherwithout actually saying anything – his mother slams the cupboard doorsshut in the kitchen while cleaning up, his brother bangs on his drumset – the images explain it all, text is unnecessary.

David is a shy child,  too shy speak up and the wordless panels reflect this solitude.  He lives in his head, with the cartoons he draws, the characters he reads about.  His main way of getting attention from family was to let himself get sick so his parents  would take care of him.  When the operation occurs and he loses the ability to speak, the wordless panels take on a sense of frustration because now there are so many things he wants to say.

The story of the operation is just a small part of Small’s memoir, though this event effects the rest of his life.  Growing up in the 1950s, you just didn’t talk about certain things, and the poor kid stumbles through life, discovering things at all the wrong times.

Small’s art is simple and expressive.  It’s as though he has been working all these years on children’s books to hone his skill enough to create this book.  Considering what he has become today, the book is both disturbing and inspiring. 

5 out of 5 stars, best graphic novel I have read all year.

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book thoughts: Rick Geary’s Non-Fiction Graphic Novels

So, did text books pretty much ruin history for you?  All those boring pages and pages of names and dates, with the same old bits repeated year after year (found American, Revolt, Repeat) until you got out of high school?  Well, what if those history lessons had a bit more intrigue to them?

murder of abraham lincoln Borden Tragedy beast of chicago

Rick Geary’s Graphic Novels are devoid of superheroes or dream masters.  Instead, Geary uses his talents as a writer and as an artist to tell the stories from history.  His main series – Treasury of Victorian Murder – covers such classics as the Assasination of Abraham Lincoln, Jack the Ripper, The Lindbergh Kidnapping and Lizzie Borden.

Researched and readable, these books are great primers for someone who wants an accessible version of the facts before diving into a 500 page book on the subject.  Part True-Crime novel and part history lesson, Geary’s black and white ink drawings are simple enough in their style that readers unfamiliar with the graphic novel format shouldn’t feel overwhelmed.

I for one had no interest in reading about Jack the Ripper, but Geary’s book (which uses the primary source of a London citizen’s diary from the time to frame the story) was so easy to read, that I did find myself wondering about the mystery afterwards.

jack the ripper lindbergh kidnapping

So next time you’re struggling to find a book, ask a librarian for one of Rick Geary’s graphic novels.  You’ll be able to finish the thing in one sitting and afterwards you’ll have some extra bits of knowledge floating around in your brain.  And who knows, you might ignite a passion for history that you didn’t even know you had.

Book Thoughts: Born Standing Up: a comic’s life

Steve Martin’s new autobiography is an amazing read.  I am not very familiar with Steve Martin’s stand-up work, beyond what I saw on The Muppet Show.  But I’ve always liked his sense of humor (L.A. Story is one of my favorite movies).  I adored ‘Shopgirl’ and enjoyed ‘Pleasure of my Company’.  So I figured I would give this book a try.

Steve Martin gave up stand-up one night after a show when he realized he wasn’t having fun anymore.  He walked away and never went back.  Until now.  This book is like sitting down with him over coffee and watching him go through an old box of memories.  What could have been a self-love fest turns into a nostalgic and bittersweet look back at his childhood, young adult, and early 30s.  He examines the road that led him to comedy, the people he met along the way, and how his style came about.  He doesn’t pretend to remember every detail of his life, its more about feelings and memories. 

The book made me laugh.  It made me want to hug Steve Martin.  It made me want to go in search of clips of his old stand-up.  It made me wish someone was doing something as wild and crazy as that today.  It made me wish I could have been there. 

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Book Thoughts : hole in my life


Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos came to ‘Great Books Celebration 2007’ in Baltimore this year.  He spoke to us about his life and his writing career.  He’s written everything from children’s picture books (the “Rotten Ralph” series) to young adult novels.  ‘hole in my life’ is his autobiography.  But it’s not a tale of his childhood, or the struggles he had becoming an author — it’s about a huge mistake he made as a teenager and the way it changed him forever. 

Gantos was young and trying to raise money to go to a college with a decent writing program.  He hadn’t been the best student in school and he hadn’t done any writing on his own yet, so there was not portfolio to send to the universities.  So he started doing odd jobs, working with his father building crates for shipping.  Then one day a man asks him if he would sail a boat from Florida (where he lived) up to New York City.  He would be transporting hash and then selling it in NYC to get his money.  Thinking it would just be the one trip and he’d be set for college, Gantos agreed.  He finds himself on a small yacht with a crazy bearded British man who seems to have a distaste for being fully clothed, neither of them very good at sailing. 

It’s a good book, and as you can tell by the picture, it’s won a few awards.  Gantos’ writing is conversational; the words on the page feel likeyou’ve just found his diary and are reading along.  He doesn’t getpreachy about any of the tough subjects he covers (drugs, drug selling,prison etc.) he just tells you about this experience.   It’s a quick read and one of the best coming of age tales I’ve read where I feel the writer has really learned a life lesson that isn’t some cliche, but something true that still effects him to this day. 

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