Tag: Biography

2020, Books, Non-Fiction

American Madness (2020) by Tea Krulos

(Way) Before Pizzagate there was the Phantom Patriot’s raid on Bohemian Grove. I had never heard of this before I read this book and completely missed any news coverage of the story, if there was any. So I’m glad I read this alternately hilarious and saddening story of one man’s obsession with conspiracies and his …

2017, Movies

I, Tonya (2017, Craig Gillespie)

This is a very funny faux documentary about Tonya Harding’s skating career and her relationship with her ex-husband. The cast is excellent as is the sense of time and place. And though some minor dramatic license is taken this is entirely by design, which is worth thinking about giving the uproar this film caused.

2011, Movies

Moneyball (2011, Bennett Miller)

This is an enjoyable dramatization of the Oakland As’ 2002 season, from the perspective of their General Manager, who was trying to win games with the lowest budget in baseball. I say dramatization because there is a lot of poetic license here, and because the most important players on that team are barely even acknowledged.

1968, Movies

Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach (1968, Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub)

I’ve spent much of my adult life cultivating an interest in movies made before I was born and so I have a high tolerance, for someone my age, for the slower rhythms of past films. (I have watched so many old movies in part because i really want to know where things come from, but …

2002, Books, Non-Fiction

Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life (2002, Kathleen Dalton)

At long last, I have finished this mammoth, exhaustive one-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Given the depth of this one, I have to wonder about the detail of multi-volume biographies. Anyway, why would I read such a thing? Well, I read this because TR is my dad’s favourite president. I had mixed feelings about him …

1938, Movies

The Childhood of Maxim Gorky (1938, Mark Donskoy)

This is the first part of a three part adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s autobiographies, released in the years after his death. I don’t believe I have ever read any Gorky, but I know he’s considered one of the greats of his era.

2008, Movies

Che (2008, Steven Soderbergh)

So the first thing that must be said is that this is an incredibly ambitious project – rarely is a biographical film this detailed and this long. Only in TV now could you get this level of depth into a the subject of a person’s life. The fact that the film exists is an accomplishment …

1989, Movies

Chameleon Street (1989, directed by Wendell B. Harris Jr)

This is a bonkers film about the a Detroit con man who successfully impersonated many people, which really serves as a vehicle for its director-star’s interpretation of the real person, rather than any kind of piece of docudrama. It’s a crazy story but that story is subsumed in a crazy art film.

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future (2013) by Paul Sabin

This is an interesting book ostensibly about a bet between a biologist and an economist over the earth’s future, but really about the problems of extremism and the folly of prediction.

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 thought …