Top 100 Novel Review: I, Claudius – Robert Graves (1934)

Duller Than A Text Book

Graves’ novel is worse than a milk-toast, disinterested-historian narrative.

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

This book was supposed to be made for me.

One Summer, I read 30 books with many of them being about Greek and Roman history. I never made it past Augustus, so how excited was I to learn that there was a novel about the Roman Emperors from the perspective of Claudius. Not only that, it was historical fiction and should have all those cool thing you can do within the genre: dialogue, themes, story arcs!

Graves pulls off an impossible: I’ve read dull, straight historical accounts that had more pop than this book.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #85 – Duck Soup (1933)

Meh.

A couple of witty lines in a sea of lame, vaudevillian gags. 

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American Film Institutes Ranking: #85/100
Awards: Nope.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Groucho Marx is ubiquitous with anyone instantly recognizing the dark-rimmed glasses, painted mustache, and requisite cigar. One of the earliest film stars to transition from stage to film, how does the material hold up?

Not well.

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Top 100 Album Review: #56 – Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

Stevie’s Magnus Opus

While a bit self-indulgent, this double-LP contains so much good material it’s impossible to listen to it all in one sitting. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #56/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I had a three hour drive ahead of me, and I thought I would be able to get through all of “Songs in the Key of Life,” but halfway through the album I was exhausted. It is a pit of endless material.

If I had to register a minor compliant — some of these songs are just too long, which contributes to the exhaustion level. But hey, if I put together a 21 track album, some of which would live on forever as a quintessential-American soundtrack, I might do whatever I want, too.

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Top 100 Album Review: #1 – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (1967)

It’s a Good One.

Afraid that I would dislike “the greatest album of all time,” The Beatles deliver in spectacular fashion. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #1/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

The Beatles are mythical. Growing up before a wave of Americans, their career spans decades from a boy band, to quintessential hippies, and finally finishing with solo careers. The Beatles are the biggest band of all time — no argument. But, would the hype lead to oversight? Would weak tracks and poor music be wiped under the rug, powered by the musical force that is The Beatles?

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is everything as advertised: a complete album representing a perfect cross-section of avant-garde arrangements, lyrical content, and song writing.

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Top 100 Novel Review: The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene (1948)

Take Control Scobie!

But is our protagonist even capable of doing that? He always misreads the situation, using pity to guide actions. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I felt bad at the end of this book. Scobie is a man who mostly wants to be left alone, but others keep pulling him in multiple directions. He isn’t a bad person per say, but his laissez-faire attitude matched with his inability to read the direness of situations leads to a combustable situation; he slowly gets pulled down an unscrupulous path, over relying on pity to guide decisions.

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Top 100 Album Review: #65 – Moondance, Van Morrison (1970)

Brass Folk

Morrison mixes folksy guitar work with some brass backing to make a unique sound.

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #65/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I put on this album before I started a 5 mile run. Reaching the crest of a hill with the sun peaking out on the horizon, “Into the Mystic” began to play. It made me reach a spatially different mindset where time seemed to neither move nor matter. I had moved into some alternative space where my run was effortless and my thoughts easy.

The entire Moondance album has an otherworldly feel: it slowly hypnotizes you with easy guitar, folky lyrics, and soft brass bands interspersed through the music. The style becomes repetitive though, with not all the songs making an impact.

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Top 100 Movie Review: 89# – Patton (1970)

He Was a Nut.

Best war biography I’ve seen, it captures the complicated picture of Patton.

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George C. Scott in his Oscar winning role as Patton.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #89/100
Awards: Nominated for ten , winning  seven for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay and others.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

This particular DVD opened with the Francis Ford Coppola (who won an oscar for Best Original Screenplay). He was quick to talk about the trouble of depicting Patton — he had to balance pressure from the Far Right and Far Left political spectrums wanting to turn him into a caricature for their own purposes when he was much more than that.

Coppola found the right balance, bringing to light all the positive, negative, and crazy attributes that makes Patton worthy of his own eponymous film.

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