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Weekly Mishmash: March 30-April 5

Atonement (2007). This one seemed a bit too predictable from the previews, but I found it really absorbing once the momentum of what will happen to Keira Knightley and James MacAvoy started building. Direction was good if a little show-offy (the six-minute tracking shot on the beach, and a scene with Knightley primping in front of a mirror looking like a TV commercial), and I loved the ending. Also, the ’30s-’40s period settings were spot-on.
From Rags to Bitches: An Autobiography by Mr. Blackwell with Vernon Patterson. An out of print tell-all from 1995 that I found at a used book sale (autographed, even!). Blackwell had an interesting life story that took him from poverty-stricken Brooklyn childhood to Hollywood also-ran to chichi California fashion designer. Not a lot of bitchiness here, unless you want some serious dirt on the forgotten singers Lily Pons and Connie Haines. It’s hard to take the author seriously as he describes his youthful self as “Hollywood’s most in-demand boy toy” — when the photos have him looking like a young Adam Goldberg. But that’s part of the fun of breezy books like this.
Nine Lives (2005). Nine short films, all centered around women of various walks of life, with most of the characters interconnected in some way. I enjoyed it, even though at times it played like an arty Lifetime movie. At times it reminded me of Crash (and, unlike many others, I liked Crash). The final sequence with Glenn Close and Dakota Fanning made me appreciate the treat that a well-crafted short film can be.
The Notebook (2004). A goopy romance recommended by one of Christopher’s co-workers. Not as bad as it could’ve been, but the ’40s period sloppiness makes Atonement look like a documentary by comparison. The cast is very good — except toothy Rachel McAdams, who seems like a distinct step below costars Ryan Gosling, Gena Rowlands and James Garner talent-wise. I need a he-man action movie now.

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