Tag: Biography

1995, Movies

Carrington (1995, Christopher Hampton)

This is an extremely episodic film about the painter Carrington and her highly unconventional personal life. The film is mostly about her personal relationships and not really about her work so if you’re looking for a biography of a painter, look elsewhere. The film won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1995 but with …

2008, Movies

Bronson (2008, Nicholas Winding Refn)

There are probably two types of people: people who think Winding Refn is a genius and people who think he is ponderous, boring and way too interested in style over substance. You can count me among the latter. Despite all the praise over Valhalla Rising and Drive, I found both movies to be flawed. I …

2012, Movies

Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012, Robert B. Weide)

Putting aside the possible moral objection some may have to Woody Allen, this is a decent summary of his career as a filmmaker (and, before that, as a comedian). It’s a little odd in its approach, given that the first “half” (I watched it on Netflix) is fairly chronological, but the second part is less …

2006, Books, Non-Fiction

Thomas Paine (2006) by Craig Nelson

I have only ever read The Rights of Man many years ago. I loved Paine’s wit (there are many classic one-liners, including my favourite anti-monarchist barb of all time: “a hereditary monarch makes as much sense as a hereditary poet laureate”) but found his philosophy superficial, probably because I had just left grad school. This …

2010, Movies

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (2010, Andrei Ujica)

This film attempts to paint a portrait of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu simply by assembling and editing together excerpts from something like 1,000 hours of official footage. Because of the way it is assembled – just this footage, no talking heads, no narration, no obvious message – what you make of this movie appears …

1996, Movies

Andrei Rublev (1966, Andrei Tarkovsky)

Writing a brief review of Tarkovsky’s immense, uncompromising, willfully difficult Andrei Rublev seems inherently unfair. This is one of the most ambitious and difficult films I have ever seen, also among the longest. When I say it’s immense, I mean it: 9 chapters over nearly 3 ½ hours, ostensibly about the Russian medieval iconographic painter …

1953, Books, Fiction

The Worldly Philosophers (1953, 1999) by Robert L. Heilbroner

The Worldly Philosophers is an impressive and engaging summary of the lives and ideas of the major economists from Adam Smith through Joseph Schumpeter, covering both the people you would expect (Ricardo, Keynes) and some people you would not. Heilbroner is a refreshing guide because he both has a historical sense of economics and he …

2010, Books, Non-Fiction

Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont (2010) by Joseph Boyden

At first, I found the style fairly jarring. This was not what I was expecting. And I am not sure it’s entirely appropriate, certainly if you are looking for a rigourous historical study. But, as I read it, I found it worked well enough. Well enough that it triggered my own creative ambitions, much like …

1999, Books, Non-Fiction

Millionaire: The Philanderer, Gambler, and Duelist Who Invented Modern Finance (1999) by Janet Gleeson

This is a brief, cursory biography as biographies of major historical figures go. It’s certainly interesting but the predominant feeling I am left with after finishing is “I want to know more.” That’s not a great feeling after reading a biography.

1971, Books, Non-Fiction

Stillwell and the American Experience in China (1971) by Barbara Tuchman

Tuchman appears to be attempting two disparate things with this book: to tell the story of Joseph Stillwell’s career in the military and to tell the story of US intervention in China from the (first) Chinese revolution to the expulsion of the Kuomintang. She succeeds at the former a lot more than the latter, in …

2012, Movies

The Queen of Versailles (2012, Lauren Greenfield)

This is a near-perfect analogy for what happened to the US (and world) economy in 2008: David Siegel had lots of money. However, he wanted more. So he mortgaged what he had to expand his business. Then the housing crisis hit and he lost a lot; not everything, but a lot.

1989, Books, Non-Fiction

The Life of Graham Greene Volume One: 1904-1939 (1989) by Norman Sherry

Sherry’s biography of the first 35 years of Greene’s life is exhaustive, that is probably the thing to start with. If you are not a fan of Graham Greene, I cannot emphasize enough that you should not read this book.

2010, Books, Non-Fiction

Extraordinary Canadians: Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin (2010, Penguin) by John Raulston Saul

I first learned about Robert Baldwin in grade 7, and I can’t say that particular bit of junior high history moved me much. I was far more interested in the war of 1812 at the time – because I was a boy and because I liked military history, not history. So I can’t say I …