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kenmorefield

The Goldfinch (2019)

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Link to our thread on the Donna Tartt novel

Echoing thoughts from Letterdboxd: IMPLIED SPOILERS

 

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Just got around to this which I somehow missed last year amid reports it was a dud. I actually thought it was solid. Good acting, interesting writing...and, of course, Roger Deakins's cinematography. (I swear, that man could film the telephone book and make it look interesting.) The ending, assuming I understood it correctly (in a First Reformed kinda way), went on a little too long and explained itself a little too much, but for the most part I like films that I don't necessarily know where they are going.

I will add that I don't feel a need to go read Tartt's novel, but once libraries are open, I'll probably read the end of it to get a sense of whether or not I am tracking with the movie as far as how I interpreted the ending. 

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Yeah, I don't get the hate this got - I gave it 3.5 stars, mainly dinging it because a couple of chance urban encounters break credulity, and because the adult actors weren't nearly as good as the kid versions.  (I still don't get Ansel Elgort's appeal, beyond the decent job he did in The Fault in Our Stars.)  But I found it a very satisfying movie outing overall. 


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Well well well, look at that. I’ll be the third person to chime in and say I liked this film. I’d given the novel 5 stars on GoodReads and claimed it was the best work of fiction I’d read in ages, but Beth (who read it shortly after I’d posted my own reaction - maybe due in part to my comments? I don’t think I ever asked her outright) posted soon thereafter that she didn’t understand my or anyone’s enthusiasm, or the point of the book, which, if memory serves, she summed up as “don’t do drugs.” (Beth: I don’t mean to drag you into this, but please chime in if I’ve mischaracterized your assessment of the book.) 

I simply didn’t know how to respond to that. Beth’s a professor, and I’m just a guy who hadn’t felt so absorbed by a novel since junior (!) high school.

The film is too long, but I was again absorbed by the storytelling, especially during the first half. For a book of this scope, it could’ve been a miniseries, although I’m not sure more would’ve been better in this case. That would’ve depended on what was added and why.

As a cinematography nut and Deakins fan, I was less impressed with what he did here, although it’s appropriate to the tone of the material. It sure is pretty, as Ken said. But the whole affair is rather staid, which, while I thought it mostly worked, can be deadly for those who disagree. And a lot of people disagreed, finding this film unremittingly dull/boring. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who felt otherwise.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I look forward to Beth's comments on the novel; both Jessica and I felt the audiobook was an enthralling listen, even if the ending was a tad dragged out.  I listened to this back in the days I often drove 8 hours in a day in my traveling psychiatrist role, and this made those hours fly by.  Even before this thread was revived, I'd mentioned to Jessica that I'm keen to rewatch this, now that it's available on one of the streaming platforms we subscribe to.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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1 hour ago, Andrew said:

I look forward to Beth's comments on the novel; both Jessica and I felt the audiobook was an enthralling listen, even if the ending was a tad dragged out.  I listened to this back in the days I often drove 8 hours in a day in my traveling psychiatrist role, and this made those hours fly by.  Even before this thread was revived, I'd mentioned to Jessica that I'm keen to rewatch this, now that it's available on one of the streaming platforms we subscribe to.

I, too, read this one with my ears, and couldn’t agree more with your assessment.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I have nothing against those who enjoyed and appreciated The Goldfinch novel and/or film. Christian is right about my summary of the audiobook, which I recall as extremely long--and believe me, I have listened avidly to books that are 25-42 hours long (not all at once). I just felt so bad for the kid throughout, with so few competent or trusted adult carers in his life, so little incentive of his own, and so many no-hopers pushing him here and there. The painting, despite its symbolism, became more and more of a macguffin as the tale proceeded. I haven't seen the film yet--as you might imagine, it's not at the top of my list--but it might be one of those cases in which compressing a long novel into a movie actually improves the storytelling.

Writing a novel is an accomplishment, and I can appreciate Tartt's achievement. I'm not saying that all novels should be pure escapism, but there's a difference between feeling sympathy for a protagonist and pitying him--I just found young Theodore pitiful.

Other novels that are amazing achievements but that I didn't care for: The Luminaries. Wolf Hall and its sequels. Sue me.


There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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18 minutes ago, BethR said:

Other novels that are amazing achievements but that I didn't care for: The Luminaries. Wolf Hall and its sequels. Sue me.

We agree on Wolf Hall, at least.  I found its prose style confounding, like swimming through maple syrup.  I chucked in the towel after 100 pages or so.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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44 minutes ago, Andrew said:

We agree on Wolf Hall, at least.  I found its prose style confounding, like swimming through maple syrup.  I chucked in the towel after 100 pages or so.

Melville is the only one in my experience who can make swimming through maple syrup prose intoxicating rather than exhausting. God knoweth how...I still haven't figured out his secret ingredient.

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Just a few thoughts in response to Beth's post (I've not seen the film, by the way). I've really tried, several times each, to get through Tartt's novels, and I've not succeeded. She's gifted, has imagination, and is skilled at setting the milieu in each of her books, but her prose is too stilted/self-conscious for my tastes. 

Beth, I'm with you on Catton's The Luminaries. Never cared for it much. By the way, it's been adapted into a TV miniseries in New Zealand. Not sure if it's available in the U.S. or other countries yet. I might eventually watch it if one of the streaming services in the U.S. picks it up.

 

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54 minutes ago, kenmorefield said:

Melville is the only one in my experience who can make swimming through maple syrup prose intoxicating rather than exhausting. God knoweth how...I still haven't figured out his secret ingredient.

Sad to report I've never read Moby Dick.  It, along with the 2000 page Lincoln biography on my shelf, are the two books I plan to read if I'm ever on extended medical leave.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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3 minutes ago, Andrew said:

Sad to report I've never read Moby Dick.  It, along with the 2000 page Lincoln biography on my shelf, are the two books I plan to read if I'm ever on extended medical leave.

This probably belongs elsewhere, but MD, like most long books, is disproportionately influenced by one's reading situation. (Time, teacher, deadline, whether you are leaning into it). Reading it in Dr. Von Cromphout's Emerson and Melville seminar was one of the highlights of graduate school. But reading it in AP English was second only to my gawdawful Chaucer seminar in the list of all-time-worst academic reading experiences.

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I was talking to Cindy, who also enjoyed the film, and she asked me what it was that people didn't like about it. Since Beth's comments were about the book, I went over to Rotten Tomatoes to take a look. That's a small sampling size to be sure. It was 24% fresh. Some of the pull quotes seemed to focus on:

--dull (which I did not find it).

--overly long/pacing

---emotionally manipulative (which I think refers to...)
---psychologically and emotionally underdeveloped characters.

--a couple people said disjointed/confusing (I suppose in reference to the flashback structure?)

Strangely enough, at least two different critics in the first two pages of summaries used the phrase "less than the sum of its parts." It's almost as though if one has to write too many reviews too frequently, one lapses into aphorisms more frequently than one realizes.

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5 minutes ago, kenmorefield said:

Strangely enough, at least two different critics in the first two pages of summaries used the phrase "less than the sum of its parts." It's almost as though if one has to write too many reviews too frequently, one lapses into aphorisms more frequently than one realizes.

No doubt I'm guilty of this far too frequently.  I take perverse comfort in finding 'top critics' doing the same; for instance, Justin Chang's reviews for NPR are stuffed full of cliches (but his taste is splendid, and his ability to explain why he loves what he loves is enviable).  Ah well, there are only so many Stephen Hunters, Roger Eberts, and Matt Zoller Seitzes in the world...


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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3 hours ago, Andrew said:

No doubt I'm guilty of this far too frequently.  I take perverse comfort in finding 'top critics' doing the same; for instance, Justin Chang's reviews for NPR are stuffed full of cliches (but his taste is splendid, and his ability to explain why he loves what he loves is enviable).  Ah well, there are only so many Stephen Hunters, Roger Eberts, and Matt Zoller Seitzes in the world...

I love Chang's reviews and have never picked up on the cliches - perhaps because I usually read him in the L.A. Times, not NPR? Maybe the same holds true for his Times reviews. I've just never noticed. I've gotten very wrapped up in the way he integrates his Christian faith into reviews that are widely appreciated by people who don't share that faith. Sometimes he comes right out and acknowledges this. He's a model of Christian film reviewing as I see it.

I'd be curious to hear, Andrew, if you pick up on his faith in subtle or overt ways in his reviews, and whether, as a former Christian, that puts you off at times. But this is grist for another thread, isn't it?


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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1 hour ago, Christian said:

I love Chang's reviews and have never picked up on the cliches - perhaps because I usually read him in the L.A. Times, not NPR? Maybe the same holds true for his Times reviews. I've just never noticed. I've gotten very wrapped up in the way he integrates his Christian faith into reviews that are widely appreciated by people who don't share that faith. Sometimes he comes right out and acknowledges this. He's a model of Christian film reviewing as I see it.

I'd be curious to hear, Andrew, if you pick up on his faith in subtle or overt ways in his reviews, and whether, as a former Christian, that puts you off at times. But this is grist for another thread, isn't it?

Perhaps, to the final question.  But I'm finding this tangent (in a thread full of tangents) enjoyable.  I've seldom if ever read Justin Chang's reviews, only hearing him sporadically at the tail end of Fresh Air.  So I'm betting that the cliches speak to his (relative) unease with the medium.

I don't think I'd ever heard that Chang is a Christian, and details of spiritual autobiography tend to stick with me when writers dribble them into their pieces.  (And the article you linked to is a fascinating read.)  I picked Hunter, Ebert, and Zoller Seitz because, for me at least, their prose unfailingly pops, their critiques expressed with flair, with nary a cliche to be found.  I selected them, too, because each has been formative to me personally.  Hunter's reviews are the first I can ever remember reading, back when he wrote for The Baltimore Sun in the 80s, and they were unfailingly entertaining.  Ebert impressed me with his mellowing and growing charity as he faced mortality; and his beliefs (or lack thereof) come through, but not with a sledgehammer.  And having read Zoller Seitz's Wes Anderson tomes, and currently partway through his Sopranos analysis, he's the kind of writer I wanna be when I grow up.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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The Goldfinch (film) is now at the top of my Netflix DVD queue, which means it will get here in a week or two, probably. I wasn't previously aware of Justin Chang, and now I am, so thanks, Andrew and Christian.

I agree with Ken that reading situation makes all the difference with Moby-Dick. I'm thankful that nobody made me try to read it in high school (which they did with The Scarlet Letter, unfortunately). I read it in a grad school American novel class with the late, great Louis Rubin, and though I'm unlikely to voluntarily read it again, I definitely appreciated it. (Rubin also rehabilitated The Scarlet Letter, so I bless his memory.


There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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41 minutes ago, BethR said:

(Rubin also rehabilitated The Scarlet Letter, so I bless his memory.

And yet, sadly, who will rehabilitate Chaucer for poor Ken...? 

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On 5/20/2020 at 2:03 PM, BethR said:

I agree with Ken that reading situation makes all the difference with Moby-Dick. I'm thankful that nobody made me try to read it in high school (which they did with The Scarlet Letter, unfortunately). I read it in a grad school American novel class with the late, great Louis Rubin, and though I'm unlikely to voluntarily read it again, I definitely appreciated it.

I love Moby-Dick, even though I've ready it only once, many years ago as an undergraduate. I took an upper-division literature course on the American Renaissance and was fortunate to have a professor who was very incisive and, also, a generous guide as I and my classmates made our way (and struggled some) through the book. Since then, whenever someone asks me what Moby-Dick is about, I always say, "well, I can tell you it's not really about a whale ..." :) 

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On 5/20/2020 at 5:45 PM, kenmorefield said:

And yet, sadly, who will rehabilitate Chaucer for poor Ken...? 

I don't think I can help you.


There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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