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Wednesday, 23 January 2008 00:00

Recommended diversions

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“3:10 To Yuma”

Russell Crowe as vicious murder Ben Wade and Christian Bale as Dan Evans, a farmer hired to help deliver the captured Wade to the train in Yuma, give outstanding performances in this new version of a previous film by the same name.

Russell Crowe is one of my favorite living actors, yet I found myself impressed with Christian Bale as well; he was strong and believable in his role as a crippled Civil War veteran trying to scratch out a living on a small ranch. Although the ending left me somewhat confused — Wade’s sudden change of heart seemed a little false — the movie offered many treasures: moral ambiguity, excellent directing, and a strong screenplay. Catch it on DVD.

“10 Things I Hate About You”

I happened to be in Rosebud Video in Asheville when this film was playing. The female student in that particular scene, the virago Kat (played by Julia Stiles) reminded me of one of my former students, another independent young woman who never showed fear when it came to speaking her mind or confronting the young men in her life. I rented the movie, which is based on The Taming of the Shrew, and found parts of it delightful, especially the first 45 minutes when Kat is at her most untamable. Certain scenes stole some credibility from the film, particularly in some of Kat’s actions regarding her teachers. Both Larisa Oleynik, who plays Bianca, Kat’s sister, and Julia Stiles give viewers some nice insights into sisterhood and high school life. It’s a fun movie with some surprises in the plot and some fine acting.

The Blessing

Nancy Mitford, one of England’s famous Mitford sisters and author of such books as Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love, wrote this book, I would guess, based on observations made during her many years in France. Here we follow the lives of newlyweds Grace Allingham and Charles-Edouard de Valhubert. Grace’s move to France, and the social collisions that ensue, add to the humor of this highly comic novel. Rarely in recent years have I so enjoyed the pace, dialogue, and wit of a novel. Some of Mitford’s books are available from the public library; some, such as The Blessing, may be found in secondhand bookstores or online. Mitford may not appeal to every taste — for years, I did not think she appealed to my own — but The Blessing with its carefully selected prose and its insights into people has made me a fan.

— By Jeff Minick

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