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The Results are In…and the Fauxscar Goes to…

February 24, 2013 in Fauxscars, Fiction, Film, Literary Movies

As the stars begin to primp and prep for the Academy’s big night, here at Literary Traveler we are still sipping coffee in our pajamas as we announce the year’s big winners.  While the results of the Oscars may be kept under wraps for a couple more hours, we won’t keep you waiting any longer.  The fix is in and while some of these adaptations may not be receiving accolades from the Academy, we think they deserve acknowledgment for their spot on representation of some of our literary favorites.

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While Jennifer Lawrence may be cleaning up in the awards department for her portrayal of Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook, our voters have spoken and decided that Bradley Cooper deserves his share of the spotlight for his humorous and endearing portrayal of Pat Solitano, Jr,

Which is why our first Fauxscar, for “Best Character Portrayal by an Actor” goes to Bradley Cooper!


Best Character Portrayal by an Actor: Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano Jr. (Silver Linings Playbook)

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Luckily for Jennifer Lawrence, the acting nods at the Academy Awards are split into “Leading” and “Supporting” categories, because audiences can agree that Anne Hathaway’s Les Miserables‘ performance, however brief, was the ray of musical sunshine in the adaptation of the popular classic.  Here at Literary Traveler, we believe some of the best characters written are not necessarily the main protagonist in the work, which is why we chose not to split the category in two.  Sorry Jennifer! (Editor’s Note:  Good luck, Jen, fingers crossed for you!)
The Literary Fauxscar for “Best Character Portrayal by an Actress” goes to Anne Hathaway as Fantine!
Best Character Portrayal by an Actress: Anne Hathaway as Fantine (Les Miserables)
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The selection of Literary Love Stories portrayed on film this year has been wide ranging and dare I say, epic.  From an unrequited high school crush, a sweeping nineteenth century extramarital affair, an unbeatable team forced into a dystopic death match, a couple crazy kids vampires living happily ever after and a couple facing tragedy and finding humor and each other.  We couldn’t choose just one if we tried, and turns out neither could anyone else.  We have a tie!  It all comes down to the ill-fated affair portrayed in a long-loved classic and our favorite baker and badass, joining forces in a contemporary young adult juggernaut. (Which is sure to be a staple in the Fauxscars for the next couple years)

So we are excited to award the Fauxscar for  “Best Portrayal of a Literary Love Story” to Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky  AND Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark!  May the odds be EVER in their favor ;)

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Best Portrayal of a Literary Love Story: Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky (Anna Karenina)
AND with a tie!

Best Portrayal of a Literary Love Story: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games)
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As Literary Traveler contributor, Antoinette, put it so eloquently:  “Every scene [of Life of Pi] is a visual indulgence. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I could have watched the thing on mute like a 2003 Windows Media Player sound Visualizer (you remember those right?)… It was, in addition to being a thoughtful and thought-provoking film, a display of artistry.”  It appears that voters agreed!

Therefore, the Fauxscar for “Best Visual Representation of a Novel’s Setting” goes to Life of Pi.
 Best Visual Representation of a Novel’s Setting: Life of Pi
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While the movie captured (a little too well) the expanse of time and space Pi felt on the open sea, the movie is almost an acceptable alternative to reading the book…after all, author Yann Martel, is in the movie, playing the interviewer who becomes friends with grown-up Pi, played by the amazing Irfan Khan.

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The Fauxscar for “Best ‘Almost as Good as the Book’ Film” also goes to Life of Pi.

Best “Almost as Good as the Book” Film: Life of Pi
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 Beating out the final installment of Twilight  to take this award would be a huge feat, had this been an MTV award show… but here at Literary Traveler, it was no contest.  The Hunger Games may be a YA series, but it is thought provoking, exciting, and presents a female protagonist that we can all be proud of.
The Fauxscar for Best “Young Adult” Adaptation goes to The Hunger Games.
  
 Best “Young Adult” Adaptation: The Hunger Games
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The Fauxscar for “Best ‘Family Fun’ Adaptation” goes to The Lorax.
Best “Family Fun” Adaptation: The Lorax
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We love ourselves some Tolstoy, and reading his original masterpiece, Anna Karenina,  is a commitment all bibliophiles should make at some point in their life, but alas, pushing 800 pages, it is a commitment.  In the meantime, check out the 2012 film version as a teaser — it seems that our readers agree that it is one of the best adaptations of the year.
The Fauxscar for “Best Adaptation of a Classic” goes to Anna Karenina.
Best Adaptation of a Classic:  Anna Karenina
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Sweeping the first annual Fauxscars like Katniss with a cross bow, The Hunger Games is a force to be reckoned with.
The Fauxscar for “Best ‘Guilty Pleasure’ Adaptation” goes to The Hunger Games.
Best “Guilty Pleasure” Adaptation: The Hunger Games
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Literary Traveler contributor, Amanda, would not stop gushing about this film until the entire staff agreed to see it.  It appears that voters are on her side (or she is somewhere maniacally stuffing the ballot box — just kidding, this film definitely stands on its own merits!)
The Fauxscar for “Best ‘Stand Alone’ Film” goes to Silver Linings Playbook.
Best “Stand Alone” Film: Silver Linings Playbook
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Looking forward to the fabulous adaptation coming in 2013, from a new YA favorite, Beautiful Creatures, to a Helena Bonham Carter led Great Expectations reboot.  While both sound fabulous, this award was nearly unanimous and it seems that we are not alone in our uncontainable excitement over the 2013 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age masterpiece.
Without further ado, the Fauxscar for “Best Anticipated Literary Adaptation of 2013″ goes to The Great Gatsby.
Best Anticipated Literary Adaptation of 2013: The Great Gatsby
On that note, until next year… Let us know in the comments section if you agree with this year’s winners, or if your favorite was snubbed. Thanks for joining us and we will be tuning in to the Oscars tonight to see how our favorites fare with the Academy!

The Siberian Mammoth: An Unexpected Guide to Cuba’s Revolutionary Past

January 14, 2013 in Cuba, Film, History, Movies, Political History, Politics

The title of the documentary about the making of I Am Cuba doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue: I am Cuba, The Siberian Mammoth seems to bear an especially obscure relationship with the country. For the puzzled traveler or movie fan, it’s enough to be aware that this Italian film explores a culture clash between the Soviet film-makers who went to the country to make a propaganda film on behalf of Castro’s new regime and the Cubans who were their audience.

The 2005 documentary The Siberian Mammoth opened up the processes behind the making of the mysteriously beautiful propaganda film I am Cuba, after it had been rediscovered by directors such as Francis Ford Coppola. In a time before Cuban tourism had become an option for the offbeat traveler, I am Cuba was a brochure of a political rather than commercial kind. In the 90s, it was easier for hip audiences to enjoy it for its unreal beauty rather than its uncomfortable revolutionary propaganda. The film was directed by a well-known Soviet film-director who ended up alienating Soviets and Cubans both. Kalaznov had worked for Soviet authorities who were impossible to please for long. Before making I am Cuba, he had been banned for several years by the authorities from film-making due to “negativism.” Given these competing demands it’s difficult to know what audience this film was really aimed at. It was described by the film critic J. Hoberman as a “Bolshevik hallucination”. For the contemporary viewer, its beautiful imagery is confusing. Each shot wistfully points to some greater ideal, so that the pace is both slow and hard to follow, like melting ice—first static, then rapidly slipping into the sublimated, altered reality of the triumphant people’s revolution. The inevitable revolutionary sacrifice portrays Cubans as suffering idealists drawn towards action in a dreamlike state. This is a film that shows a Cuba of great natural beauty, but just like an advertisement, it has no real use for the reality of the place and its inhabitants. What’s stranger still is how the actors conform to its artificial purpose. The explanation behind this is that they were untrained Cuban actors selected by the Soviet Directors.

Cuba is a place that has been draped in romantic mystery for many reasons; often literary and cultural, but mostly political. Now that the country is open to tourists, it would be an interesting piece of homework for a traveler to watch this film along with its documentary counterpart as preparation for a visit. At this point the writer has a confession to make: I have seen I Am Cuba, but I have not seen The Siberian Mammoth. Nor have I seen Cuba. If I’m ever lucky enough to visit, I’d like to sharpen my memories of that beautifully shot propaganda film with this documentary about the culture clash between the foreign film-makers and their subjects.

Fauxscar Nominee: Les Misérables

January 7, 2013 in Classic Literature, Classic Writers, European Writers, Fauxscars, Film, French Authors, History, Literary Movies, Literature, Movies, Political History

Strictly speaking, Les Misérables is not a Literary Adaption; it’s based on the musical, not the Victor Hugo novel. The story has traveled far since it was first published in France. It’s always been a big, hulking phenomenon, and it’s always had its critics. What demolishes the criticism, however, is its emotional forcefulness. And the funny thing about the criticism of each successive adaption, is that it tends to focus on the new version’s faithfulness to the original, despite the fact that the novel was criticized at the time for being sentimental – unfaithful to reality itself. Flaubert deemed it “infantile” and Baudelaire privately called it “tasteless and inept.” But in the preface, Hugo outlined a social purpose for his book that was greater than literary accomplishment:

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

In 1862 when Les Misérables was published, the American civil war was being fought over the emancipation of slaves. The noble hero of the book, Jean Valjean, is an ex-convict whose unnatural strength reveals his identity as a former galley slave. He is on the run for most of the film, trying to build a better life as a factory owner, and then stepping up to the role of adopted papa of the orphaned child Cosette. The film of Les Misérables, though based on the musical (it uses all the songs from the 1985 musical bar two) goes where the stage production cannot in portraying the misery of the poor peasants – and in this it rejoins the book. I’ve rarely seen a ‘costume’ production, where the cast is made to look as filthy and downtrodden as this. Most of the characters’ teeth are blackened – though I did notice that Hathaway’s angelic Fantine flashes a cleaner set than some of the lesser cast members. Also Helena Bonham Carter is allowed to get away with her usual steampunk, hallucinatory version of historical costume. This role finds her once again as a flouncy, amoral proprietress of a low dive establishment, even making sausages out of suspect bits of meat, just as she did in Sweeny Todd.

Aside from the comic filthiness of Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, there’s no getting around the sentimentality of the movie and its antecendents, the musical, the book, and numerous film adaptions. But because it’s a musical, a version of willing suspension of disbelief sets in. Call it, “willing suspension of cynical running commentary” (we’ll wait ‘til the movie’s out on Netflix to relax our standards on that). But it’s more than that. The movie packs real emotional weight, especially through the performances of the leads. No one could fail to be moved by Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream.” While they’re delivering their soliloquys, the shots are trained on the characters’ faces – often from above, as if to capture the desperation and abandonment which makes them invoke a higher power. By the time Hathaway’s Fantine bows out of the film, she is a broken woman, shorn of her locks and her dignity; the camera does not flinch from describing the dirt and tears on her face.

Hugh Jackman is also a great, sympathetic lead as Jean Valjean, and Samantha Barks is a sad, forlorn Eponine.  Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried are fairly wooden, but as the fairy prince and princess characters, they don’t have much to do besides adorn the happy ending.

Overall ‘Les Miz’ works because of its great cast rather than originality – but really, who was looking for that? It manages to stay true to the form of the musical – and to the intentions of the book: to portray the victims of poverty. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of those soliloquys bag a few Oscars for the leads.

Fauxscar Nominee: The Hobbit

December 28, 2012 in Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Fauxscars, Fiction, Film, Literary Movies

When Peter Jackson took on the gargantuan task of adapting Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series for film, he sparked fear and excitement in the minds of million fans. There are few series quite as beloved amongst both children and adults as the Middle Earth trilogy, yet, somehow, Jackson managed to do the literary marvel justice. His cinematic trilogy was sweeping, moving, and awe-inspiring. It won awards and inspired many a trip to New Zealand, a nation that saw its magical landscape larger-than-life on the big screen. The films were by no means perfect, but they were a fitting tribute to the novels.

So it was with great expectations that I entered the theater for an afternoon screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Directed by Jackson and starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf, and Andy Serkis as the sneaky Gollum, this film covered only the first third of the novel (a fact I had learned weeks earlier, much to my disappointment). While the story may not have needed to be stretched out into three installments—I suspect financial reasons were behind this decision more than artistic ones—there is quite a lot of ground to cover. The film opens with a voice over, describing the shire and Bilbo’s life before the “unexpected adventure.” Bilbo, as we quickly learn, is a quiet hobbit who likes fine food, a warm fire, and comfortable nights spent at home. His likes include smoking a pipe, his nice china dishes, The Shire, and dancing. His dislikes include noisy dwarves, physical exertion, and leaving The Shire.

But Bilbo, that sweet summer child, isn’t going to spend his life getting fatter and fatter off his well-stocked larder. No, Bilbo is in for a surprise, which begins when the mysterious Gandalf marks his door, inviting a coven of dwarves in for a raucous party that double as a political strategy session.

If you’ve read the novel, you know exactly what comes next. Bilbo gets drawn into the adventure, neither against his will nor entirely with it. He is the 13th member of their party, the much-needed thief that will steal the dwarves treasure and help defeat the dread dragon Smaug. The little hobbit has a heroic role to play, but whether or not he is truly up to it remains to be seen.

For the film ends long before Bilbo ever meets Smaug. This may be my greatest quibble with the adaptation. Though not entirely true to the book (I was particularly disappointed when Bilbo gets caught by some idiotic foragers who turn stoney when faced with a little trickery), the film largely stays on Tolkien’s course. There are few moments that prompted me to whisper angrily to my boyfriend “that wasn’t in the novel!”

Rated just 65% on critical aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Hobbit has been torn apart for its sleek Hollywood styling and its overdrawn plot. And while entertaining, I found the movie rather underwhelming. It’s a fun movie, but the voice-overs have begun to grate on my nerves, and in some ways, it feels a little too reliant on its theatrical predecessors. The Hobbit didn’t feel quite as invigorating as the Lord of the Rings movies; the feeling of excitement and newness is gone, and Jackson does little to replace them. Furthermore, I felt that certain scenes were lacking in whimsy. The most child-friendly of all Tolkien’s novels, The Hobbit always felt lighter than the others, full of clever riddles and goofy rhymes.

All in all, die-hard fans of the novel might take issue with the slight changes to the plot, but even Tolkien scholars will enjoy the unexpected journey.

Fauxscar Nominee: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

December 19, 2012 in American Authors, Book Review, Fauxscars, Film, Literary Movies, Young Adult Literature

The movie adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s well-loved 1999 novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, tries really hard, but doesn’t really succeed. Interestingly enough, Chbosky wrote and directed Perks himself, which could have resulted in a perfect adaptation, but which actually seemed to contribute to some of the move’s shortcomings. The story, as you probably know, is about the of the trials and tribulations of Charlie, an awkward adolescent boy, the very epitome of the shy, intelligent teen who can’t get out of his own head, who feels like he doesn’t belong.

The movie opens with his entry into high school, where he’s awash in an unforgiving and harsh landscape. Logan Lerman, the actor who plays Charlie, is far too good looking to be cast as a misfit, and his attempts at looking shy come across as emotionless and blank. His smile is too perfect to find the bullying he endures believable. Allusions to his troubling past (his best friend’s suicide, the death of his beloved Aunt Helen and a possible mental illness) are made throughout the movie, but due time is not given to his past, so Charlie’s current state of confusion and sadness is hard to empathize with or fully understand. Mostly by accident, Charlie is adopted by the other kids at school who don’t “fit in,” including the odd stepbrother-stepsister duo of Patrick (played by the dynamic Ezra Miller) and Sam (played by the charming Emma Watson). Patrick and Sam welcome Charlie into a world where he feels accepted, safe and loved. Things begin to look up for him—he learns how to eat a weed brownie, he goes to some parties, he exchanges Christmas gifts, and yes, he falls in love with Sam. His naïveté and earnestness is endearing, and, at times, a bit painful to watch—perhaps, in part, because the moments in which these things materialize remind us of our own adolescence.

Ezra Miller, with his gorgeous, sculpted cheekbones steals the show as the openly gay Patrick, who puts on a mean rendition of Rocky Horror Picture Show, a moment well worth watching. A cameo from Judd Aptow’s go-to, Paul Rudd, as the Charlie’s English teacher (you know, the one who “believes in him”), doesn’t carry the depth it should; instead, the character ends up just another corduroy-wearing-To-Kill-A-Mockingbird-reading English teacher. And while certain elements are cliché, the soundtrack is very well done. Featuring David Bowie’s Heroes and teen dream classics by Sonic Youth and The Samples, the sound track helps move the movie along, but still falls somewhat short of the mark.

As much as we want to care about Charlie, the reasons for his issues are left largely untouched, and addressed only through snapshots and brief flashbacks. As we watch him gain self-confidence, secure a girlfriend (even if he’s still in love with Sam) we find ourselves wondering, Does this kid really have it that bad? His family, (while maybe ineffectual and under involved) seem to truly care about him, and he doesn’t struggle with intellectual affairs. But as the movie comes to a close, and we watch Charlie’s life start to unravel, his problems seems to be somewhere far off.

Emma Watson does her darndest with the role of the bubbly, but somewhat lost, Sam, and the connection between Charlie and her is one of the more believable relationships Perks has to offer. Ultimately, Perks the movie attempts to make us feel something we can’t: a connection to the emotionally and philosophically advanced psyche of a young man. It was a heroic try, but the movie, unlike the novel, is easy to dismiss—something like closing the lid on a shoebox full of yearbooks and graduation tassels.

Fauxscar Nominee: Anna Karenina

December 18, 2012 in Book Review, Classic Literature, European Writers, Fauxscars, Leo Tolstoy, Literary Movies

Great film adaptations of classic novels are all alike; every junk Hollywood movie is terrible in its own way. Which way will the 2012 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina go? We don’t know yet, but I can guess.

The 2012 adaptation of the tragic romance was released at the Toronto Film Festival, and so far, reviews have been mixed. Some critics have praised director Joe Wright’s “bold new structure,” which highlights the theatrical nature of the novel by setting most of the action on a stage, but others have called the thoroughly modern version of the Russian love story flat, even emotionally distant. The Hollywood Reporter goes so far to complain that “whereas the book is sprawling, searching and realistic, the film is constricted, deterministic and counterfeit.”

It’s particularly disappointing to read this review (and others like it) because I love Anna Karenina, and re-read it quite frequently, probably every other year. The 900-page novel is a massive undertaking, and I have to admit I often pick and choose which scenes I focus on. Some—like the lengthy descriptions of Levin farming—are tedious and forgettable. But others, particularly the scene when Anna enters the ballroom in her black, low-cut dress, sparkling and pale like a diamond, transform the way I view the world. They make me look in the mirror differently, searching for traces of aristocracy in my own winter-pale face. They make me consider the terrifying and all-consuming nature of love, and the many ramifications of betrayal.

Though I do want to see Anna Karenina, I can’t help but feel that no movie could truly do that book justice. I also wonder whether Keira Knightly, who has been cast as Anna, will be able to live up to the role. I always imagined Anna as voluptuous, lush and gorgeous. Keira is certainly beautiful, but she lacks a richness that infuses Tolstoy’s Anna. More than just pretty—a compliment more aptly applied to the girlish Kitty—Anna is rich, poised and erotic. Jude Law, cast in the role of her somber, dry husband, might seem like the more shocking choice, but Law has shown a great range in the past few years. I’m interested to see what he can do with a character I never liked and often skimmed past.

The trailer, too, gives me some hope. It’s beautiful to watch, and while some might worry about style over substance, I happen to love a perfectly choreographed film. It doesn’t hit theaters until November 16, but I can assure you, I’ll be watching.

Get Your Sparkles Here!

November 19, 2012 in Book Series, Literary Movies, Movies, Young Adult Literature

Hi Literary Travelers,

What do you think about Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight? Is the series “literary”? Are the movies any good?

Today’s article, How Twilight Took Me Places I Never Thought I’d Go, asks whether Bella’s “sole ambition was to spend eternity in her vampire-boyfriend Edward’s sparkly presence”, and, if so,  “What kind of message does that send young readers, especially girls”? And, does traveling to places of fiction “cheapen” the experience?

Read the article and let us know! Or post on LT’s Facebook page.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

The Master: a Peculiar Bromance

September 28, 2012 in American History, Movies

By Melissa Mapes

A winning film must succeed in three essential categories: production, performance, and plot. The Master scores highly in first two categories, but falters in the third. Surely, one may ask, a nomadic cult, a disturbed World War II veteran, and a lost love create the perfect recipe for an enthralling story? The answer should be yes – I wanted it to be yes – but the payoff never came.

The plot instead meanders like its erratic man-child lead, Freddie Quell, whose issues extend well beyond his time at war. Joaquin Phoenix seems an odd choice for the character. Many times throughout the film he is referred to as “boy,” and the love of his life is a 16-year-old girl. But Joaquin appears to be well-weathered forty, and, unfortunately, the suspension of disbelief can only extend so far when it comes to age. He needed to be twenty years younger for the audience to sympathize with Freddie’s romance rather than feel relief at his failure to consummate it.

Joaquin’s exaggerated body language does not help. He hunches over with severe scoliosis and juts his elbows out at his sides with his hands on his hips – thumbs placed in an unnatural forward position. The camera often locks on the sharp edges of his shoulder blades and bumps of his spine. His teeth are brown from neglect. Despite apparent deterioration of mind and body, he wins numerous fights and outruns adversaries with ease. We see one or two fleeting glimpses of wit, but the vast majority of the time Freddie seems to suffer from a severe mental handicap rather than PTSD.

Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a Scientology-esque cult, sees Freddie as the endearing embodiment of the animal in us all, and takes him on as a pet. Philip Seymour Hoffman channels the narcissistic Master with ease. The chemistry between Hoffman and Phoenix is extraordinary, and makes the film worth watching. Their relationship in the film vacillates between heartwarming and sadistic. Dodd is the only person in the world with an affinity for Freddie Quell, despite his family’s strong misgivings, and Quell is willing to do (quite literally) anything to please and protect him.

Though the visuals are beautiful and acting is exceptional, the audience is left waiting for it to all come together. While exiting the theater, I heard a young man say, “I’ll need someone a lot smarter than me to explain it later.” But quite honestly, I don’t think the issue was with him. The audience knows that the story is about re-assimilation after war, as told by an unreliable narrator. It is also about our baser instincts and our ability to control them. And lastly, it is about bromance. Despite heading down all of these roads, it never quite reaches a destination – at least not a satisfying one – leaving the audience to wonder, “Did I miss something?”

The director, it seems, was in love with his actors and the post-war era and did not wish to distract with a big plot. If his goal was to compile over 2 hours of beautiful images of some of the most talented actors in existence, then he succeeded. But, if his goal was to make the audience feel something, I hope that feeling was confusion.

Eat, Pray, Love Hits Theaters Friday

August 11, 2010 in eat pray love, elizabeth gilbert, julia roberts movies, Travel Writers

As I’m sure everyone haImage via Amazons heard, Eat, Pray, Love hits theaters this Friday.  In case there is anyone unfamiliar with this cultural phenomenon, Eat, Pray, Love follows the protagonist, played by the always gorgeous Julia Roberts, as she travels around Italy, India, and Bali.  She starts a “no carb left behind” project, she consumes copious amounts of delicious pasta, she learns to pray and discover herself in India, and she finally finds love in Bali.  But here’s the thing: Julia Roberts isn’t playing some random character – she’s playing a real woman.

The woman in question is author Elizabeth Gilbert, who penned the 2006 memoir/travel narrative/food porn extravaganza that quickly became a best seller.  The book has inspired numerous readers to search within themselves for a deeper strength, and to reexamine their lives, looking closely at what makes them truly happy.

Gilbert starts the book – and the movie – unhappy.  She has just gone through a messy affair and a subsequent divorce.  She’s educated and wealthy, but she is just not satisfied.  Something, an elusive something, is missing from her life.  This realization prompts her to drop everything and begin traveling.  She is lucky enough to have the funds to undertake a project many of us can only dream of, but her story is still relatable.  Gilbert is lacking something, and through risking everything, she finds what she needed the most: herself.

In honor of the movie’s release, I’d like to suggest we all take a moment and think about what it is that makes us truly happy.  For some people, it’s the thrill of travel, or the calm of mediation.  For others, it’s creamy, indulgent pasta or freshly made sausage.  For me, it’s fresh basil, old cotton t-shirts, used books, and red wine.  What makes you feel blessed?

Connecting the Dots: Under the Tuscan Sun, New Moon, and a Visit to Montepulciano

May 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

Photograph by Deborah DownesI am, it must be said, a good patriot.  I love my country and adore all things American.  However, America, beautiful as it may be, lacks a certain something. We might have wilderness and amber waves of grain, but our melting pot mentality makes a unified national character somewhat harder to obtain.

Not that I am complaining; I am thoroughly convinced that the United States is one of the most wonderful places in the world.  However, I occasionally feel a certain twinge of jealousy when reading about the historic centers of the so-called Old World.  As much as I adore our purple mountain majesty, I sometimes suspect that Europe has cornered the market on majestic.  There is a grandeur conferred on buildings and squares by age and the slow weathering of time that no amount of modern mechanics can ever recreate.

Today Literary Traveler has added a new feature article to our website, titled Sun & Moon in Montepulciano, Under The Tuscan Sun & New Moon Film Locations. In this piece, writer Deborah Downes journeys to a hill town in southern Tuscany to see the sights immortalized in two famous films.  Both movies (and both books) center around an American woman visiting Italy, traveling through the crowded city streets and learning her way around the new landscape and culture.  Although very different, New Moon and Under the Tuscan Sun share more than just a setting – they also share a sense of adventure, the over-brimming of excitement that comes with the exploration of an ancient place, and the somewhat contradictory feeling that stems from the discovery of something new.

Join us in Italy this May Day by taking a look at our newest feature article.  Not only did Downes teach me a thing or two about Italian history, but she also takes her readers on an imaginative journey through the snaking alleyways and winding streets of Montepulciano.  For those of us unable to travel across the Atlantic, this is the perfect weekend getaway.  Just try not to get lost.