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by Beth Rowen

Angela's Ashes (1999)

Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes was successful because he infused his poverty-stricken youth with wit, hope, and a knack for storytelling. Alan Parker's 1999 film adaptation enlivens a miserable story with romanticized ghettos, beautifully soot-stained urchins, and other tragedies made pretty.

Three boys play McCourt at various stages of his life. Emily Watson works well as mother Angela, a woman tormented by her husband's (Robert Carlyle) alcoholism. Instead of unleashing the destructive unpredictability of a drunk dad, director Parker settles for pleasant vignettes and apt details, glossing over of the grim bits that were a constant throughout the book's narrative.

Movie Poster for Angela's Ashes

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Contrary to popular belief, only 30% of the Sahara is made up of sand.