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The Lives of Others

or officially titled: Das Leben der Anderen.  

This is the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time. Definitely the best I’ve seen all year. The Lives of Others is a political thriller which takes place in the German Democratic Republic (G.D.R.), better known to most Americans as East Germany. The movie starts in 1984 (how appropriate for all the Orwellian fans) and has some of the best understated performances I’ve ever seen. The central characters include a handsome and affable writer named Georg Dreyman and his live-in lover, Christa-Maria who is an actress.

The movie starts with Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler conducting Big Brother business as usual, but as the plot unfolds, it becomes clear things are about to take an unexpected turn. I don’t want to write too much about the plot because the great thing about the movie is the way it slowly unfolds to reveal an unexpected hero.

Since I’m a cynic when it comes to movies, I researched a little about how the Stasi conducted surveillance and this movie seems to be very authentic in its recreation. In fact, the props master on the movie crew spent two years in a Stasi prison and insisted on complete authenticity in the movie. The props, for listening and recording, were borrowed from museums and collectors ~ all the props were actual Stasi equipment.

I was reluctant to add this to my Netflix queue because I thought it would be too depressing ~ really, the gray, cold slab buildings of the former East Germany are enough to make me sad BUT this movie was so worth the watch. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for an intelligent and different movie which will leave you enlightened and feeling good about humankind.

Let me know what you think of it.

PS The movie is in German but has English subtitles. Don’t let it dissuade you from watching the movie. The movie was so engrossing it didn’t bother me to read the subtitles and it gave me a chance to practice my extremely limited knowledge of the German language.

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Barefoot and Other Summer Reading

So far this summer, I’ve read the following:

Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. It’s an interesting story of love and how, when you date (marry) someone, you get all those family & friends connections. In other words, baggage or some sort of complication comes with almost everyone. It’s an easy read with references to classic movies which has made me want to rent a few of the movies mentioned such as: The Philadelphia Story, Love Affair and Libeled Lady.

What I didn’t like about the book was the ending. Too neat, too convenient. Don’t get me wrong, I love a happy ending but, not at the expense of being realistic. Life is messy and to wrap it up in a neat little package complete with a bow is boring. I won’t give examples because that would be too much of a spoiler. I would recommend this because the story is a good one but, be forewarned, the ending is lukewarm.

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand: LOVED it!! 

This was one of the books I won from Books on the Brain and Hatchett Books. I read it while on vacation at the beach and, since the story took place “at the beach”, it was a good choice. The story takes place in Nantucket, which *surprise*, I’ve never been, too. The author did a fabulous job describing the island and I felt like I could get around Nantucket just from her wonderful descriptions. Nantucket is now on the list of places I’d like to visit while we’re living so close.  That’s the type of travel I like ~ no jet lag!

Back to the book ~ it got my attention from the first chapter. And why wouldn’t it ~ we’re introduced to the three main characters and their emotional issues all at once since they arrive on the island together. And we’re talking some big issues. I almost put the book down when I found out one of the women is battling cancer. It’s such a scary subject to me and having lived through my dad’s unsuccessful battle with cancer, I didn’t know if I wanted to even think about it while on vacation. But, I was too invested in the story line by then so I kept on reading. I could relate to all three women: I’ve seen aspects of them in my friends and in myself as well. Who doesn’t know someone desperately trying to get pregnant? Or who is ill? or who is in an unhappy marriage? It’s a very relatable story.

I’m not a “lay out and read at the beach” kind of gal. I’m either swimming, walking the beach, snorkeling, etc. But when Favorite Man and Favorite Girl were fast asleep, I’d be reading into the late night. I was able to finish the book before leaving the island.

One of the recurring things in the book was “finding sand in your shoes” and so, when I was packing to leave St. John, I was not too careful in getting the sand out of our things. It’s been nice to find a little sand in my shoes now that I’m back home. It brings back good memories.

The book was a gift from the blogosphere and, if it’s not too tacky, I’d like to pass it forward to someone else to enjoy.  I’m going to have a giveaway so leave a comment and I’ll put your name in the hat. Literally, I’ll take all the names, put them in a hat and let FG pull a winner. It’s in good shape, but be forewarned, it might have a little Caribbean sand in it.

The drawing will be on 21 August so please leave a comment before midnight on 20 August. Thanks!

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