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As the brilliant Scottish poet Robbie Burns once said (apologies for the English paraphrasing), “The best laid plans of mice and men/Go oft awry.” It’s a sentiment that rings true across all avenues – and the movie business is no exception.

For instance, say you had a film. You had three talented actors leading the cast, including an Oscar winner and a couple of legitimate movie stars. You had a rising young director and a screenwriter adapting his own Pulitzer Prize-winning novel for the screen. All of this folded into a period piece with a striking setting. You’d think that it was poised to be a great film, yes?

Alas, in the case of “Waiting for the Barbarians,” the sum total falls short. Despite the presence of the brilliant Mark Rylance and bold turns from the likes of Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson, despite the presence of director Ciro Guerra, despite J.M Coetzee’s adaptation of his own 2003 novel of the same name, the film can’t scale the heights to which it so clearly aspires.

It’s a story of isolation and empire, a cautionary tale about colonialism that can never fully get out of its own way. There’s no denying the quality of performances or the stunning backdrop against which they are set, but the film simply never generates any kind of momentum, limping along through most of its 114 minutes without ever presenting a sense of dramatic urgency. All the pieces are there for a great film, only they’re assembled into something that is just OK.

Published in Movies

“Oh great,” you groan. “Another book about Winston Churchill. Just what the world needs.”

I’ll concede that those feelings are understandable. We’ve all been through the whole finest hour thing more times than we can count; it’s a story that anyone with any interest in history has at least a passing knowledge of. Untold reams of paper and gallons of ink have been devoted to the life and work of the noted statesman; while no one can argue Churchill’s historical significance, it’s also easy to assume that everything that needed saying has already been said.

All true, yes. But conversely – Erik Larson hadn’t yet said his piece. Until now.

The bestselling historian – author of acclaimed works such as “Thunderstruck,” “Dead Wake” and “The Devil in the White City” – has turned his narrative gifts and powers of insight onto the Prime Minister with “The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz” (Crown, $32). Far from the dusty doorstop of a book you might expect, “The Splendid and the Vile” is an example of Larson at his best.

Meticulously, exhaustively researched and told with Larson’s usual deftness of prose, this account of Churchill’s first year – from his being named prime minister on May 10, 1940 up through April of 1941 – is an intense close-read of the man’s life. It’s an almost day-by-day accounting of how that first year was spent, both through Churchill himself and through those closest to him – his staff, his friends and his family.

Published in Style

It goes without saying that there is a rich political history tied to the presidency of the United States. Every U.S. president has brought something significant to the table with regards to the political landscape of our country.

But have you ever considered the literary impact our chief executives have had?

That consideration is the foundation of Craig Fehrman’s new book “Author in Chief: The Untold Story of our Presidents and the Books They Wrote” (Avid Reader Press, $30). It’s a years-long undertaking packed with an incredible depth of research and thoughtful analysis, all of it devoted to exploring the literary output of our presidents.

Fehrman walks us through the entirety of American history, exploring the books written by (or at least credited to) our presidents from George Washington all the way up through Donald Trump. It’s a chance to look at these historical titans through the lens of the words they themselves put down on paper. And really, what better way to gain insight into their inner lives and thoughts?

Published in Style
Tuesday, 12 November 2019 12:48

‘Genuine Fakes’ keeps it real

What is real? What is fake? What do those terms even mean? Is there some kind of gray area in between? And what about authenticity? Is that the same thing? Can something be real without being authentic? Or authentic without being real?

That idea of what is real is the central tenet of Lydia Pyne’s new book “Genuine Fakes: How Phony Things Teach Us About Real Stuff” (Bloomsbury Sigma, $28). Through an exploration of eight different objects that land somewhere in that blurry place between real and fake, Pyne offers readers a chance to consider what the differences might be.

Too often, we allow ourselves to be conditioned to believe that there are two choices: real and not-real. But the world is far too complex to be governed by that sort of yes/no binary – authenticity depends on one’s perspective.

What Pyne does with “Genuine Fakes” is offer up examples that point up the malleability of authenticity; what is and is not real isn’t always set in stone. And just because something comes to be through methods different than the norm, does that make it fake? Or just a different kind of real? It’s a legitimately fascinating read, well-researched and packed with detail – the sort of book that will surprise and delight the intellectually curious.

Published in Style

BANGOR – A local theatre group is getting ready to offer a new look at one of Bangor’s iconic locations.

Orono-based True North Theatre will be presenting “Ghosts of Mt. Hope Cemetery,” a theatrically-minded guided tour through the venerable cemetery. Performers will embody some of Mt. Hope’s most notable figures, all while offering up facts and stories from Bangor’s rich history. The event is set to take place on October 5, starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available on the day of the event (cash only) or in advance at GhostsofMtHopeTNT.bpt.me.

The tour kicks off at the Superintendent’s Lodge and runs roughly ninety minutes. The goal is to wrap up before dark, but out of safety concerns, True North recommends bringing a flashlight.

Published in Style

Sarah Bernhardt is one of the most legendary names in the world of the theater. She was the first global superstar actress, renowned for her beauty and talent on both sides of the Atlantic. Her performances were considered iconic, once in a lifetime experiences to behold. Her fame has transcended centuries; even today, lovers of the stage know her name and have heard of her exploits.

And yet … she had a rival. A rival whose naturalistic approach to acting bore a much closer resemblance to the modern theater than any of the highly stylized work being presented by Bernhardt. A rival who might have been even better. Eleonora Duse’s name has been lost to history, unfamiliar to all but the most devoted of theater historians, but in her heyday, she stood shoulder to shoulder with Berhardt’s greatness.

Peter Rader’s “Playing to the Gods: Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, and the Rivalry that Changed Acting Forever” (Simon & Schuster, $26) takes a deep dive into this once-storied and largely-forgotten chapter of theater history, looking at the relationship between two women who ascended to the greatest heights of their profession, but took drastically different paths to get there.

Published in Style

BANGOR – This is a city built on secrets.

We’re not talking about the typical everyday mundane secrets, the little things that you’ll find in any city. No, we’re talking about the deep-down secrets. The weird secrets. Secrets like ancient crowns with mysterious social powers or a cohort of prominent figures who are probably robots.

Those secrets.

We here at The Maine Edge have never been ones for what you’d call “real journalism” – that’s never really been our beat. As a rule, we like to stay in our lane as far as that goes. But longtime readers know that every once in a while, we’re swept up into the whirlwind of a story that won’t let us go until we reach its (almost-certainly strange) ending.

This is one such story.

Published in Cover Story
Wednesday, 17 January 2018 13:45

Antarctic adventure – ‘The Stowaway’

What would you be willing to do to gain the opportunity to experience an adventure of a lifetime? What risks would you take to take part in something historic? How far would you go? Would you travel to the ends of the earth?

For Billy Gawronski, the answer to that last question was “Yes.”

Published in Adventure

History is filled with events that, despite being utterly fascinating, simply fall by the wayside of our awareness. It isn’t that they are less interesting or less valid than other events – they just don’t make it to our history textbooks. They don’t make the cut.

Published in Buzz

Book explores the U.S. government’s history of psychic research

Published in Tekk
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