Friday, September 22, 2017

Sjuka Själar - Kristina Ohlsson

The writing style is so unbelievably common and uninspired that I can't help wondering what on earth possessed Ohlsson to make her want to write a book. It certainly wasn't the love of fine literature.

It might, though, have been the urge to tell a gripping story - It is, indeed, gripping! 
Serial killers (yes; again...), satanism, mysterious pasts and ghosts, no less. 
Overkill she has not worried about. Throughout the book, I kept wondering how she would manage to tie up all the loose ends in a satisfactory and non-disappointing way, seeing how spectacular and overwrought the plot panned out. 
Obviously I won't tell you how; suffice to say she managed!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Skäringer & Mannheimer

I generally prefer well-structured interviews (not like Mark Maron's) to people prattling on about whatever pops into their minds, but this one actually makes me laugh out loud in the metro from time to time.
It's a successful TV author / performer and a successful actress / performer rambling on about everyday topics (charity, doctor's visits, feminism, childbirth, bees...) and it is sometimes thought-provoking and mostly fun.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge - M. Gibson 2016

Andrew Garfield is, ordinarily, the epitome of boyish charm (which ought to make him pretty much the opposite of the disgruntled director Mel Gibson?) and yet here, he may be overplaying his charms a little.

Apart from the conscientious objector soldier, refusing to bear arms, I had already seen the rest of this film in countless other war movies. I was bored and don't like writing about films I haven't finished, so I sat through it, and can therefore now safely recommend you not to.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Girls, season 6

I felt compelled to quit this brilliant show after Hannah became such a horribly annoying sub teacher I am positive I would have strangled her had it been physically possible.
And yet, that is the bottom line and the strength of this show; that the characters are multifaceted, evolving, 'real' people.

In this brilliant final season, the girls are enriched by a couple of boys (one of them Riz Ahmed!) who are allowed to take up more space.

Sorry to be so wholly lacking originality but : Fantastic series.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Everything Now - Arcade Fire

Some of this is really OK pop/rock music, and some of it just sucks. 
Uneven only begins to describe it. A strange combination of high and low - all the more bewildering as some seriously talented people have been involved - which makes for a rather lukewarm general impression.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Château du Lude, Loire Valley

Yet another beautiful Renaissance château, built in the Middle Ages (though not much, if anything, remains from those days) and surrounded by a spacious, flourishing park.

The château is still inhabited, which lends a titillating impression of peeping into people's private lives to the visit. Stately renaissance furniture.

An extra plus for the visit being comprehensive enough to show us not only the usual sitting rooms and libraries, but also the kitchen and cellar.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

No Such Thing As A Fish

Three witty Englishpeople and one American, all equipped with microphones, each describing an interesting fact learnt during the week. 
Everyone comments and quips, it's all terribly British and rather fun.

The topics tend to be science-oriented, which is probably the reason I didn't find this quite as hilarious as I had thought I would.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Beguiled - S. Coppola 2017

As faithful readers will no doubt have guessed, I have not seen Don Siegel's 1971 version of the same novel. 
Even so, considering the context, the director and the male lead (Clint Eastwood), I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the two films are fundamentally different.

Despite the civil war setting, Coppola's movie feels profoundly modern. 
Attention lies on the women, Farrell's wounded soldier serves mostly as a foil, triggering and funnelling their actions and feelings (multilayered, confuse and sometimes contradictory, as feelings tend to be).

Plus : Beautiful imagery and the perfect, 90-minute format. A treat! 

Friday, September 8, 2017

About Time - R. Curtis 2013

So it would appear that there is a reason to the demise of the romcom.

If despite
Richard Curtis's savoir-faire,
time travel in a romantic story,
British humour,
this still feels uncharismatic and unoriginal, very much based on the same blueprint as 'Love Actually' and 'Notting Hill', then I reckon the genre is simply dead.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Game of Thrones, season 7

Setting aside all other advantages of this show (writing, characterization, refusal of stereotypes, setting...) it is actually a lot better than a. the books and b. the first season, especially now that;
- they have plucked up the courage and sense to do without unwarranted sex scenes.
- the plot moves steadily on towards the end, gaining focus and convergence (and white walkers and Arya Stark).

In short, it is a super-feelgood thing to watch all the Good Guys dear to your heart finally get together, all the while knowing in the back of your mind that Game of Thrones is not your average Spielberg movie and might not end with a "happily ever after".

Monday, September 4, 2017

Leeds Castle, Maidstone

My kids, begot by a history-crazy father, have already visited a large number of castles despite their early teenage years. Needless to say, they have considered every one of those castles an inexpressibly boring heap of old stones. 
Remarkably, both these teenagers declared Leeds castle the best they had ever visited, possibly because we never got around to actually entering it. (Having been there before, however, I know it is rather sumptuous inside as well.)

What we did get around to doing : Saw the falconry show (love falconry!), got lost and muddy in the maze, watched a somewhat over-advertised large-screen video on the battle of Britain, walked in the park and looked in on the Dog Collar museum.
With a little more time, we would also have taken the punting tour around the moat ("puntagenet"!) and done the treetop adventure course. 

For any history buffs among you, I will point out that the castle in question was built in the 12th century and subsequently taken over by British royals. Henry VIII lived here with wife no 1, Catherine of Aragon. And though it no longer looks quite (or at all) like it did in the 16th century, it remains a very beautiful castle.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Avici - Avicii

Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with sounding like The Swedish House Mafia, but after Avicii's previous opus, it's a tad disappointing, isn't it? Plus, it a couple of years too late.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Dunkirk - C. Nolan, 2017

More than a war-movie, this is a work of art. Great art, in the line of Kipling, Hardy or Otto Dix. Outstanding!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kvinnorna och Staden 2 - Kerstin Ekman

As previously stated (when I re-read the first two books) this series combines literary genius with new social history and extensive historical research. Unmissable, therefore.

But then, in book four, something strange happens. The book is set in what was present day at the time of writing (1973) with frequent flashbacks into the near past, and somehow it doesn't work. I suppose it is the 1970s spirit that adds this decidedly hippie, free-love spirit to the story that sadly is doing it absolutely no good at all.

Although the third part was excellent, part four was therefore something of an anticlimax.
It would seem not even Kerstin Ekman has produced 100% sheer brilliancy, then?


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Grateful - DJ Khaled

Contrary to what you'd expect from his stage name (at least if you are as much of a hiphop novice as yours truly) DJ Khaled does not produce dance-friendly electronica, but intelligent, beefy rap music, not quite up to the standards of a Jay-Z or an Eminem, but definitely above the likes of YG or Snoop.

Appearances by said Jay-Z, Beyonce, Drake, Rihanna, Chance the Rapper and Travis Scott are an added bonus.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sherlock Holmes Museum, London

£50 ticket fees for four + 50 minutes of queuing in the street + a 25-minute visit + 10 minutes in the particularly well-stocked gift shop. 

True enough, all the exhibits were genuine Victorian furnitures and accessories, but still... 
 As they say; You do the math. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

National Portrait Gallery, London

A modest three floors - but three very full floors! - of the exquisite mix of art and history.
Not perhaps the most mindboggling, innovative, moving of artworks (at least not all of them) but still : Art + History!

Famous portraits of famous people from British history, exhibited in chronological order starting with my favourites the Tudors, going all the way to an oil-on-canvas of Ed Sheeran, via Shakespeare, the Brontës, Disraeli and all sorts of royalties. A great way to spend a couple of hours! 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Kvinnorna och Staden 1 - Kerstin Ekman

In the 1960s, Per Anders Fogelström published a series of books entitled 'City of My Dreams' telling the story of Stockholm, from a worker's perspective. They are dearly loved classics in Swedish literature and a great example of history brought 'down' from royalties and wars to a more humane perspective.

Ekman's series 'The Women and the Town' was published a decade later and completes Fogelströms stories by adding a female perspective to the new social history aspect. 
Ekman certainly paved the way for brilliant Sandberg's books, adding focus on cooking, home management, family relations and a frequent wish for another, freer life.

Add to that Ekman's considerable literary skills, and you will see that although a bit old, these first two books are a must-read.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford (London)

I am in dire need of an adjective expressing the notion contained in my own word 'Disney-esque'. I would have used it for Shakespeare's Birthplace the other day, and now again for this studio-turned-amusement park. That's twice in a week!

If you like Disney, then this 'Disney-esque' aspect should not be a problem; I personally have issues with the artificial side to it, but then I also realize that in film-making, artifice more or less comes with the territory, so...
This exhibit of film artifice is amazingly well-made and a feast for the eyes. 
It's also Disney-esque-ly well-organized, which is fortunate since it's very, very crowded. 

(And another thing : Obviously, people can do what they want; live and let die, all that; I'm all for. But What In The Name of Heaven do people actually do with all the gazillions of photos they seem to be taking at places like this?? Everyone is snapping away like there is no tomorrow!?)

I personally spent a large part of our three-and-a-half hours at the Studio Tour mentally urging people to just "go home and read the books, instead!" 
And if that seems somewhat contradictory to my previous rants on free will, then so be it.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn

Playing with narrative voices is always a good idea, especially in literature, especially in crime literature. Flynn is particularly good at it, as she demonstrated in 'Gone Girl'.

This rather classic thriller delves into a cold case - nearly a whole family assassinated in their home, the story obviously told by the sole survivor in present time, and of her family members in flashbacks.

It was an OK pageturner, not much more. Definitely not up to the 'Gone Girl' standard.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Glastonbury Abbey

If truth be told, more has vanished than remained of this site, where monks allegedly found King Arthur and Queen Guinevere's graves in the 12th century. (No evidence suggests either Arthur nor Guinevere have ever really existed of course.) 
The abbey had been founded way before that (7th century!) and persisted until Henry VIII saw no other way but to divorce first the Pope and then Catherine of Aragon, in the early 16th century.

Despite the sorry state of the abbey, enough is left to allow you to glimpse the past splendour. The spiritual presence of the Round Table and the swarms of hippies around the abbey and the rest of the town rather added quaintness to the general impression of otherworldliness. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Shakespeare's Birthplace at Stratford Upon Avon

Throngs of tourists are annoying enough to be elbow-to-elbow with, but then how could I as an English teacher and lover of Will be anything but appreciative of the fact that people want to be part of the fanbase? So I grit my teeth in silence.

The birthplace (and New Place, where he retired as an elderly self-made Jay-Z) had a Disney-sort of quality to it. 
The preparative museum was extremely lightweight (check out the Globe instead!) but the rose garden was exquisite, and contained actors performing famous monologues on demand. 

Best of all was the stroll (pilgrimage, if you must) down the Avon to the Holy Trinity Church, where we visited the Bardic grave. Though far from being a faithful Christian I am nevertheless a rather frequent visitor and admirer of elderly churches, especially when there is a Shakespeare inside.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Cardiff Castle

As far as castles go, this one was well-preserved and unusually versatile!

It contains WWI wartime shelters, a Norman keep, remains of a Roman wall, a handsome clock tower, a lavishly well-furnished residence in Victorian Gothic style plus a museum of Wales at war including a dress-up section where war-enthusiasts of all ages can dress up in authentic-looking uniforms. (I'd publish photos, but my kids would kill me.)

Beautiful and interesting.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Absolutely Fabulous - M. Fletcher 2016

Because the TV show was only broadcast dubbed to French in the 1990s, and I have always boycotted dubbing, I never managed to catch more than the odd episode.
I therefore can't compare the film and the series, which is probably just as well.

Especially as this film kind of made me regret having missed out on the series.
Not that it was in any way hilarious, but it did contain : Aging ladies disrespecting just about every rule in the book, a Jean-Paul Gaultier cameo, a 'Some Like It Hot'-pastiche, a few funny jokes and a plot! Could have been so much worse.