What do Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss have in common? Nothing you say short of being shot on black and white? I beg to differ. They are part of a unique list that until now has never been published. I unabashedly love lists! As such I’m digging in my archives for one of my favorites constructed with film friends and colleagues from a part time job of the past. Back in my early days in New York, I spent some time at Evergreen Video, an iconic institution in the West Village known for having the largest and best collection in the city. It also had a great reputation for having the most knowledgeable staff of film geeks that didn’t believe knowledge and snobbery went hand in hand.
On the rare occasion that an evening at work was quiet, with little business to speak of, staffers would device creative ways to entertain themselves beyond the usual movie viewing. For those nights it would be a challenge of film titles and themes based on certain criteria. One of my personal favorites was “The Top 10 Best Openings of a Movie.” We’d each collect our selections (dvd or vhs - remember those formats?), take turns in screening, and then dub the best list of the lists. This not only made for a challenge, but a unique way to look at a short bit of film over several titles. In no particular order, here’s a sample of the best of the best (my personal selection). And by the way, I would recommend watching any of these movies in their entirety, but pay careful attention to the brilliance of the opening.
Who knew kidnapping could be so much fun?! If you get a chance to to hear Jeffrey Toobin speak about his latest book, American Heiress, definitely do so! His oratory skills are as exceptional as his writings, but for very different reasons. He’s blunt and funny as well as intelligent and articulate. Toobin, lawyer/journalist known for being a commentator on CNN as well as penning such high profile books as The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson and The Nine, is touting his latest book about the Patricia Hearst kidnapping. Lucky me got to hear him recently at Book Passage in California. After recently reading American Heiress, I can attest to the fact that like his other books, this is a captivating read. It serves as a bit of history lesson on two levels - the kidnapping and the subsequent trial, and what it was like in the Bay Area in the 70s.
At the heart of this thoroughly investigative journalistic story is the uncovering of a pathological liar that is Patricia Hearst. She epitomizes the rich, white and privileged beating the system. Instead of being clothed at some point in guilt and remorse, she only ever claimed to be a victim and felt a sense of entitlement, worthy of complete clemency (of which Presidents Carter and Clinton granted). Towards the conclusion of the book, Toobin aptly sums up Hearst's unfair legal fortune.
"Patricia Hearst was woman who, through no fault of her own, fell in with bad people but then did bad things; she committed crimes, lots of them, including one of three bank robberies in which a woman was killed. Following her arrest in 1975 (and prior to her kidnapping), she was unlikely to commit these kinds of crimes. If the U.S. were a country that forgave the trespasses of such people, there would be little remarkable about the mercy she received following her conviction. But the U.S. is not such a country; the prisons teem with convicts who were also let astray and who committed lesser crimes than Patricia. These unfortunate souls have no chance at even a single act of clemency, much less an unprecedented two."
Needing a good book for any upcoming travels, gifts, or just your regular down time reading? Well, here's a wonderful source as The Commander-in-Chief recently released his reading list and recommendations. Now whether he actually had time to read these books, or he delegated the task off to a staffer, is another story. He does usually have some “down time” in the summer where he’s know to hang out on Martha’s Vineyard. We all know there’s nothing better than chillin’ on the beach with a margarita and a good book. Well, we’ll never know for sure if it’s coming directly from him, but for now it’s pretty cool that the prez has a few suggestions of the literary sort.
I’ve only read one from the list (The Girl on the Train- an intriguing thriller, but a bit of a popular, obvious choice- ha). I am very much looking forward to reading and reviewing Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.
The 2016 Presidential Summer Reading List
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life - William Finnegan
The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead
H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
Seveneves - Neal Stephenson