JOHN ARCUDI 7 of the Best

John Arcudi’s 7 of the Best

Written by John Arcudi
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Alice in Wonderland alice-s-adventures-in-wonderland
by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) is a book that is supposed to appeal to children and adults. The absurd nature of much of the imagery and narrative are certainly appealing to even a 5 year old, but it’s the wide reaching social commentary that is snuck into the book under the guise of nonsense that makes it particularly appealing to most folks.  And while his broadly satirical poem, The Jabberwocky, is in Through the Looking Glass, it’s this first Alice book which I reread perennially.
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stalker-11Stalker
is a 1979 Soviet/Russian film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.  Ostensibly a science fiction story, it really is a lot more than that.  Unrelentingly dreary, even grim, it’s hard not to see Tarkovsky taking a swipe at the Soviet state with this bizarre travelogue through the “Zone.”  Not much action — and no monsters — but very rewarding nonetheless.
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Slaughterhouse-Fiveslughterhouse
by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is a hard book to classify, let alone categorize, but there’s no doubt about it; there are fantastic elements within that make its inclusion on this list possible.  Far from typical of the science fiction genre, this book delves deeply into the human condition and comes up with some really sharp insight.  Also a great movie — if you ask me.
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primerPrimer
from 2004 is a very short, almost boring movie about time travel.  And while that may sound like a bad thing, it really isn’t.  Shane Carruth uses a confusing, tedious approach in telling us the story, and that makes time travel seem real.  Not like “Oh, yeah, we can do that some day” real but “Oh, I guess we already did it.” real.  It’s a hell of a device and catches you off guard.
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Frankensteinfrankenstein
by Mary Shelley (duh!).  Why tell you about this book?  I mean, everybody knows it, knows it’s a cautionary tale about man meddling with things that should be left to the divine hand of God, etc.  So why even mention it?  Well, because I don’t really buy that.  To me, Shelley was exploring the growth of a child in the absence of a woman — in the absence of a mother, specifically.  It’s not a pretty picture, is it?  A distant father and no mother at all.  The result is utter chaos!  This was, of course, how Shelley herself was raised after her biological mother died soon after giving birth and was replaced a few years later by the proverbial wicked stepmother.
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the-spirit-of-the-beehive-images-1ea5ac0a-4817-44bf-9282-6341cde9891Spirit of the Beehive
stretches the boundaries of this list, I know, but given that this 1973 movie deals with — among other things — a child’s fascination with the 1931 movie, Frankenstein, I figure it’s still cool.  Directed by Victor Erice and starring the haunting little Ana Torrent, the film portrays the inner life of a child better than anything I’ve ever seen.  I cannot tell you how much I love this movie!
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Tarzan of the Apestarzan_of_the_apes__book_cover__by_ynasaurus-d6xjibf
by Edgar Rice Burroughs, is a far cry from how we see the popularized image of the titular character today, and with good reason.  Published in 1912, it’s a novel of its time; untranslatable in any real way to be appreciated by who we are in the 21st Century.  Pulpy (in every sense of the word) and action packed, it also leaves us with one interesting question.  Or it leaves me with one, anyway.  The last line reads “My mother was an Ape, and of course she couldn’t tell me much about it. I never knew who my father was.”  Think about that in the climate of the early 20th C.  Darwin’s book, Origin of the Species, was still rather controversial — especially as it outlined evolution (or Descent with Modification) and what that meant for the origin of man.  So is Tarzan saying “My earthly mother was an ape-like creature and I know little of that, while my heavenly father is inaccessible and unknown to me.”?  Was Burroughs struggling with what evolution meant to faith in God?  Maybe not, but that’s how I’ve always read it.
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