Mini Reviews of The Weather Underground, The Good Earth movie, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Rob and Biz of Trumpy Productions have been having fun reviewing books and movies, so I decided to defend the honor of tdaxp and do both. To begin

The Weather Underground

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The 70s were sick. Sick. I had to look up many of the claims of this documentary because they seemed so improbable. I’m a pretty knowledgeable guy, but the America of the 1970s is hardly the America I know.

For instance, from the documentary I learned this (verified from Wikipedia)

For a fee paid by The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the Weathermen smuggled Leary and his wife Rosemary Woodruff Leary out of the United States and into Algeria. The couple’s plan to take refuge with the Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver failed after Cleaver attempted to hold Leary hostage.

Me: *stupified disgust*

The Weather Underground is an excellent documentary of the terrorist successor to Students for a Democratic Society. It is an impeccable documentary of a great nation in crisis.

The Good Earth

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Pearl S. Buck’s trilogy on the House of Wang – The Good Earth, Sons, and A House Divided – are some of the best books I have ever read. Coming in, I knew The Good Earth movie covered basically the first half of the first book, or the story of the marriage of Lung and O-Lan.

Movies rarely can capture the spirit of a movie. Contact did. The Fountainhead did. But could The Good Earth, a movie adaption of a book that still brings tears to my eyes?

Yes. While some characters have bee shifted — Lung’s sons are now The Tiger from Sons and Yuan from A House Divided — the relationship structure has been carefully maintained. Scenes which modern Hollywood might shy away from, such as the fate of Lung’s second daughter, are directly adapted from the book. O-Lan’s absolute loves, Lung’s touching simplicity, the conniving uncle, and all the rest are there.

When my father and I watch The Godfather together, he will always point out some minor scene and explain how much more meaningful it is in the book. Because of time, the same thing happens in The Good Earth. Off-hand comments and actions remain, largely divorced from their contexts.

Still, in spite of production troubles, The Good Earth succeeds at what no other movie I have watched has not: it does not overwhelm the book. My memories of the novels Contact and The Fountainhead are permanently colored by the movie adaptions. The Good Earthmovie allows me to remember the book as it always is.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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I still have The Silver Chair and The Last Battle to go, but so far The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the best Narnia book ever written.

Everything previous Narnia books do well, Voyage does better.

  • The Magician’s Nephew is funny? Voyage is hilarious.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is fantastic? Voyage is amazing.
  • A House and His Boy is a journey? Voyage is an Odyssey.
  • Prince Caspian is serious? Voyage is adult.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a meditation on death, told through a naval voyage by Caspian & Co to discover the fate of seven exiled Lords. Government corruption, cannibalism, horror, and the end of the world are all touched on. No stronger Narnia book has been written.

All three works – The Weather Underground, The Good Earth, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – get perfect scores from tdaxp

4 thoughts on “Mini Reviews of The Weather Underground, The Good Earth movie, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

  1. Prince Caspian was good, A Horse and his boy was boring, The Silver Chair was entertaining. But Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite. Hands down.
    The people who seek allegory in every volume of Narnia are missing the point. These books are entertaining and the world is immersive. Dawn Treader is a swashbucking adventure tale. Not for the fate of the world, but for some improbable quest.
    Plus, I love Reepicheep.

  2. I really didn't enjoy reading “The Good Earth” novel, but maybe that's because I had to for school. I haven't seen the movie though.

  3. Biz,

    Reepicheep rocks. But the Dufflepuds are hilarious. 🙂

    Shay,

    High school English has the ability to ruin any book. I was very lucky with my classes, getting a love of poetry [1] out of it, but my experience where books I know are taught is negative. Machiavelli's “The Prince” is warm and human, while Beowulf is amazingly fun, but in a school class both are cold, frozen, and dead.

    (If the puritans ever seize, they could do little better than teach the oeuvre of Bunko Kanazawa. Or, for that matter, Aztec [2])

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/poetry/
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/06/27/bookosphere_the_elements.html

  4. I finished the sixth Narnia book, The Silver Chair.

    Most of it was OK, but not all that great. I kept thinking “I would rather be reading 'The Horse and His Boy,” which struck me because

    1) until The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy is the weakest Narnia book, but
    2) imagery The Horse and His Boy is remains vivid. Average scenes in Horse stay with me as well as the very best scenes from other books, such as the Dufflepods (Voyage) or the feeding of the professor (Nephew)
    3) Horse and His Boy is a lot like Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath [1]. Not necessarily plot wise, but in odyssey-in-arabesque-world wise. Strange.

    However, the impact of The Silver Chair changes remarkably at the end. After seeing most of the surprises coming, one in particular was a shocker. The narration at the end is just hilarious, and the very end of the Silver Chair is even more moving than the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

    So far I've read six of the books, and every one has been “good.” Next up: The Last Battle

    [1] http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/thedreamquestofunknownkadath.htm

  5. What order did you read them in? I ask because they were written and published out of order, but the crazy version is the one I'm most familiar with.
    Last Battle is pretty good. Some interesting suprises.

  6. I read the Narnia books mostly in order, except I read LWW first because I had seen the movie, and was anxious to see what that book was really like. So, my order is

    Lion, Witch, Warddrove (1st written, 2nd chronologically)
    Magician's Newphew (6th w, 1st c)
    The Horse and His Boy (5th w, 3rd c)
    Prince Caspian (2nd w, 4th c)
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (3rd w, 5th c)
    The Silver Chair (4th w, 6th c)

    Which leaves me with the Last Battle, the 7th written and the 7th chronologically.

    A rather bitchy review of the Narnia movie gave away some of the Last Battle, which I'm bitter over.

  7. I finished The Last Battle.

    I have now finished all of the Narnia books. The Last Battle is extremely quick reading. It ties together everything that has come before, so the whole thing reads like a climax. In the context of the series, The Last Battle is the best of the series. (Though I'm still partial to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader as best stand-alone book.)

    It's quiet inevitability reminds me of Aztec. So does its pathos. Indeed, looking back on the best books [1], Narnia shares with The Good Earth and Aztec (but not Zen or Atlas Shrugged) the ability to make me cry.

    Narnia also can be hilarious. The subtly explained canine equivalent of the insult “bitch” is hilarious. I laughed very loudly.

    I wonder if the charges of racism come from just reading the dwarves' dialogue. If so, the critics miss the point by a mile.

    Narnia is highly, highly recommended.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/06/27/bookosphere_the_elements.html

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