Archive for March, 2010

I re-watched this film after over a decade last week and found that I fell in love with it all over again. Here are some quick thoughts on why I thought this was a very good film…

  1. The treatment of racism blends humour with honest criticism and self analysis at a time when racism itself was an important (if delicate issue) in the American consciousness. Incidentally, at the time of the film’s release, interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 southern American states.
  2. Sidney Poitier follows his role in To Sir With Love with another outstanding performance in Guess who’s coming to dinner. Both films also incidentally examine the role of race in contemporary American and British Society respectively.
  3. Remarkable editing. Scenes end and come together at all the right places, building up the film’s tempo to crescendo, while always leaving the audience uncertain of how the action will finally find resolution.
  4. Brilliant performances from the rest of the supporting cast that includes Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton and Isabel Sanford. Incidentally, Katharine Hepburn was the only member of the cast to win an Academy Award for her role in the film. Poitier wasn’t even nominated.
  5. The film also has significance in the context of the history of Hollywood. It marks the last onscreen pairing between Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as Spencer Tracy died 17 days after filming ended. Apparently, Hepburn’s tears at the end of Tracy’s final speech in the film were real. They both knew that these were the last lines of his final film as he would not live much longer. The film is also another landmark in the gem studded career of director Stanley Kramer who made “message films” like The Defiant Ones (1958), On the Beach (1959), Inherit the Wind (1960), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) and Ship of Fools (1965). Incidentally, he’s also the director of High Noon and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Amongst my goals for the time when I take a break from work is the wish to complete the books that still remain unread.

So the 60 books that I would like to read in this time are…

2.The Odyssey
3.The Illiad
4.The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir
5.Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
6.Don Juan – Lord George Gordon Byron
7.Dracula – Bram Stoker
8.Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
9.Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
10.The Karamazov Brothers – Fyodor Dostoevsky
11.Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
12.War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
13.Les Misérables – Victor Hugo
14.Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
15.Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
16.The Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy
17.Moby Dick – Herman Melville
18.The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
19.The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
20.Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
21.Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
22.A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
23.A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
24.Narcissus and Goldmund – Herman Hesse
25.Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
26.Animal Farm – George Orwell
27.Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
28.A Room with a View – E M Forster
29.Howard’s End – E M Forster
30.Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
31.To Sir With Love – E R Braithwaite
32.Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer
33.The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
34.East of Eden – John Steinbeck
35.Of Mice And Men – John Steinbeck
36.A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
37.The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
38.Cry, The Beloved Country – Alan Paton
39.Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller
40.The Godfather – Mario Puzo
41.Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
42.The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
43.A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
44.My Feudal Lord – Tehmina Durrani
45.The Glass Palace – Amitav Ghosh
46.The Brick Lane – Monica Ali
47.My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk
48.Love in the time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
49.Grass is Singing – Dorris Lessing
50.Song of Solomon -Toni Morrison
51.Beloved – Toni Morrison
52.Charlie And The Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
53.Every Second Counts – Lance Armstrong
54.The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
55.Motorcycle Diaries
56.Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
57.Life of Pi – Yann Martel
58.Books by Terry Pratchet
59.Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
60.The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot

Let’s see how it goes 🙂

I re-watched To Sir With Love the other day, and followed this up with reading the book for the first time.

The interesting thing is that I came away from both the film and the book with an overwhelming sense of it being very British. But I don’t remember even noticing this element of the film when I was younger.

So now having both watched and read To Sir With Love, I would say that this is one of those rare instances where a film is as good as the book, helped in no small measure by a powerful performance from Sidney Poitier. Yet, there also remain marked distinctions between the two, resulting in a subtle shift of primary focus and meaning.

Random thoughts on the differences between the book and the film that stood out…

  1. The focus of the book is on the true meaning of education and the unique goals of a school established in a dodgy part of East London. But Sidney Poitier overshadows all of this in the movie. In fact, he becomes the film.
  2. Perhaps because E R Braithwaite has more time to do this in the book, all the characters are more well-rounded. The build up is also more logical here. In retrospect, I would say that in spite of some big gaps in sequence, Poitier saves the film.
  3. The pain of colour prejudice is also more real in the book. Here, one of the finest analysis of colour prejudice in Europe versus North America is crucial to Braithwaite’s narrative. This is only incidental to the film.
  4. Subsequently, everything is heightened in the book – whether it is the coarseness of the students or the depth of the teacher’s struggle.
  5. The book is also a love story – of love between two true spiritual and intellectual equals – and how race challenges it. This is another facet of the book that gets completely eliminated in the film.
  6. Finally, the movie is the teacher’s journey. But the book is actually the class’ journey over colour prejudice into adulthood.

So it is true that there are moments when the film does not sufficiently mirror the depth of the book. Yet, inspite of this, Poitier still elevates the film to another level, and both manage to remain classics in their own right.


Posted: March 6, 2010 in Life and Living

Is an end in itself.
Satisfying, Satiating.

Not self seeking.
Never fueled by underlying other motives.
But the fluid echo of life’s expression of itself.

Love is silence.
Love is noise.

It breathes deeply.
Laughs easily.
Lives completely.

It is to life,
As life is to love.