Sunday, October 28, 2007

Where did October go?!

Thank you for your kind words about my field exams. I'm sorry I've been rather silent lately, but I've been plunging into my dissertation research. I've gotten a bit sucked into my work. But I have managed to do some fun things:

I've been plugging away at Highland Triangle #3. I made it to the bind-off edging this morning, so hopefully I will finish soon. I cannot believe I've managed to knit this pattern three times in a year. My plan after I finish this shawl is to try the Shetland Triangle shawl from Wrap Style. I've got some lovely Knitpicks Alpaca Cloud set aside for this project.

I've been reading the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series by Pamela Aidan. It's a somewhat cheesy "Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's POV" trilogy. I've tried a few of these P&P reworks before, and they usually disappoint. However, Aidan has managed to capture Austen's characters well, and she adds some interesting touches to the already well-known story. I have read the first two installments and have begun the third. Unfortunately, the second book, which details Darcy's actions during the "lost year" between his time in Hertfordshire and Kent is poorly plotted. For some reason Darcy gets drawn into some crazy revenge plot involving friends from his university days. I felt like I was reading a historical mystery/thriller instead of an Austen drama. But the first book was quite good, and the third is shaping up well also.

Bourne Ultimatum
I saw this a couple months ago, but I haven't had the time to write about it until now. This movie was awesome! The acting, the direction, the plotting . . . everything was perfect. I saw an interview with Matt Damon, in which he said they didn't really have a script while they were filming the movie. That seems utterly unbelievable to me. Paul Greengrass (the director) must really know what he's doing. Of course, I do think he deserved an Oscar for directing (and writing, for that matter) United 93. The only "bad" thing about watching this movie was that there was a rather loud lady sitting in the same row as me at the theater. She kept saying things like "who's that?!" and "wait, is he dead?!" all the time. This was amusing and slightly annoying.

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
I went to see this with Mike, because he really likes the books this movie is based on, The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper (who, btw, is visiting Boston for a couple speaking engagements in November). This movie was okay. It did a really good job of setting up a spooky atmosphere early on, but the climatic final battle was pretty lame. The effects got murky and muddy, and the kid they had playing the lead (an actor named Alexander Ludwig) couldn't quite carry the scene. Ludwig was pretty good throughout the rest of the movie, though.

Across the Universe
This is another uneven movie. Julie Taymor (of the Broadway version of The Lion King fame) has put together a visually stunning film, but the plot is quite cliched. In that respect, it's just another movie about kids trying to deal with the trauma of being sent to fight the Vietnam war. And it doesn't have anything new to say about that topic. However, the use of the Beatles' music (in several inventive arrangements) and the creative use of puppets, masks, and visual effects is very powerful. Plus, I did think the fellow who played Jude (Jim Sturgess) was impressive. However, there were several other characters I could have done without (such as Prudence) and some songs that were superfluous (they were cool to watch in and of themselves, but they didn't further the plot at all).

Gone Baby Gone
The acting and the direction in this film are both very impressive. Ben Affleck shows amazing talent behind the camera. However, the script was not as strong (this was co-written by Affleck and Aaron Stockard). It is reasonably well plotted, and it does a good job of planting the clues that solve the final mystery without being obvious. Nevertheless, there were several voice-overs and speeches that felt stilted, especially when the performances and visuals were otherwise so realistic. There were some bits of "The Departed" deja vu, but that was probably inevitable given that these are both movies about the Boston underworld.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Good news

Last Friday, I passed my field exams. This means that I have now completed my masters degree in economics at Harvard. I'm still in a bit of shock (how could these past couple years have gone by so fast!), but I'm excited to be able to turn to my thesis research. Now, with a little luck, I'm aiming for my PhD!