FEATURE by Harriet Robbins

The last two years have been turbulent years. The world is in a turmoil. Trying to keep my spirits up, I draw on the comforts of the arts. The books I've read, movies I've seen, music that rings in my ears, the warmth and love of family and friends help bring me a sense of inner peace and prepare me for whatever the future might bring.

I would like to share some of these comforts with you.

THE MOVIES OF MY LIFE, a book by Chilean author Alberto Fuguet reflects the immigrant experience in an unusual way. Melding the movies he has seen with the events of his life during the 60s and 70s, Fuguet brings into focus his political and personal agenda with clarity and purpose. A delightful and ingenious read, published by Harper Collins and translated from the Spanish by Ezra E. Fitz, the book bridges the gap between two worlds, North and South America, and explores the influence of movies on our lives.

Another important book is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's long-awaited first volume of a planned trilogy. LIVING TO TELL THE TALE is the story of Marquez's life. Now resident in Mexico City, he recalls with lyrical beauty the early years of his life (1927-1950). This revealing memoir is a joy to read. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman.

The feature films of 2003 have recently been evaluated by such critical bodies as the Acadamy Awards, Golden Globes, etc. As a longtime member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, I can attest that last year was a bumpy ride. When the announcement was made that no screeners would be sent for evaluation, the L.A. and Chicago critics announced they would not be giving out awards. However, after a court decision some of the studios relented and sent out screeners, however reluctantly. The critics' position was reversed. LAFCA gave the Best Picture (and Best screenplay) awards to AMERICAN SPLENDOR, but tapped Peter Jackson (LORD OF THE RINGS) as best director. The actor awards went to Bill Murray (LOST IN TRANSLATION), Naomi Watts (21 GRAMS), Scarlett Johansson (GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING), Bill Nighy (LOVE ACTUALLY) and Shohreh Aghdashioo (HOUSE OF SAND & FOG).

Most of the major critical groups put LORD OF THE RINGS and MYSTIC RIVER at the top of their awards lists. One surprising and welcome winner (including LAFCA) was the animated film THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE which brought a new look to an old tradition of cartoonery. Another favorite of mine was THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS, a Canadian film directed by Denys Arcand which blended comedic flair with elements of strong drama, resulting in an uplifting message of hope and love.