Monday, December 31, 2012

Greatest Hits 2012

Best exhibit : Edward Hopper, Grand Palais, Paris
Because it was soooo beautiful!

Best Museum : Science Museum, London
Because all the 56 students we brought with us seem to have loved it.

Best Film : On Poppy Hill - Goro Miyazaki
Because I actually cried at the end.

Best Concert : The Gossip, Zénith de Paris, November
Because of Beth Ditto.

Best Album : Trespassing - Adam Lambert
Because there is no getting enough of him.

Best Book(s) : 1Q84, parts 1 - 3 - Haruki Murakami
Because reading them was like entering a room I never wanted to leave.

Best TV series : Boardwalk Empire
Because it's brilliant and feels more innovative than 'Downton Abbey'.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Until Now - Swedish House Mafia

What it is : A bit shallow, admittedly. The lyrics are reduced to practically nothing, and the music consists mostly of a rhythmic beat.
Thirty-five songs!

What it does : It rocks!!!
(Certainly not the best adapted verb, and I realise it  makes me sound totally ancient. I just couldn't find anything more fitting.)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

La Vérité sur l'Affaire Harry Quebert - Joël Dicker

In spite of the ample number of subjects broached - love, friendship, egos and the art of writing - this book is first and foremost a classic 'whodunit', albeit an ambitious one.

The American small-town setting and the overused Laura Palmer-ish heroine (young, blonde, pretty and with a dubious past) make it abundantly plain that Dicker owes a lot to 'Twin Peaks'. (But then, so do many others.)

The plot is a braintwister, but the style is commonplace and the dialogues, in particular, show an extremely poor range of vocabulary, which is a pity as they make up circa 80% of the text. (I swear, I think somebody says "complètement fou" at least once every 2-3 pages.)

Engrossing, nonetheless! A good holiday read.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Dream - W.Shakespeare, Kate Brown

For some reason, this was a lot easier to follow than 'Othello' despite the rather dizzying convolutions of the plot. Either I'm getting used to reading mangas, or this is just a better artist.

Ancient Athens has been equipped with high-tech computer devices, which further deepens the contrasts with the wilderness and errancy of the forest.

Other than that, this is a straightforward adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most attaching comedies and as such very compelling.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Othello - W. Shakespeare, Ryuta Osada

Sorry to insist further on my age; it's the only factor I can call on to account for my ignorance in mangas. And I did come to wonder whether that ignorance was not what made the perusal of this 'Othello' so arduous. It was really hard to tell the characters apart!

And though I may be unfamiliar with japanimation, I do know my Shakespeare so the plot ought to have been limpid to me.

 Yet, the story works, of course. (There is a reason he is still called the Bard, 400 years after his demise.) Tragedies are a blast, and every time I read or watch this, I still cringe and think "Ooo, that Iago, I could just rip his ears off..!!"

Proof of efficient writing

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

Being admittedly rather ancient, I am still too young to have lived in the 1950s.

After Simon Doonan and now Bill Bryson (link to Doonan below), I somehow come to regret that, although my reasonable me does indeed see that the charm of the fifties probably has more to do with narration than with actual facts.

Much like Doonan's, this is yet another entertaining - splitting my sides, actually! - childhood tale, except Bryson's was spent in Iowa ("I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to."), rather than in Reading.

Incapable, then, of judging the veracity of Bryson's descriptions, I still feel he has captured the spirit of the American 1950s to the dot : Excitement seems to have been the most predominant feeling, valid for just about anything (TV, household appliances, the red scare, the cold war, whole new ranges of food, supermarkets, baseball...).
The intoxicating, general feeling of "anything is possible" is rendered to the full.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tomten - Jenny Nyström

On Christmas, you don't blog. (Well, I for one don't!) (As you can all see.)
You rest, you eat chocolate, you read, you wait for Santa.

Merry X-mas

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Hobbit - P.Jackson (2012)

I'm not going to state the obvious (excellent script, excellent acting, excellent special effects etc), I'll just express my whole-hearted gratitude that it's Peter Jackson who took on Tolkien, and not Howard or Spielberg. Would have made for something completely different, I'm sure.
(Although both of them, too, would have been quite capable of turning 150 pages of book into 3 hours of film.)
(Then, on the other hand : Annie Proulx's 'Brokeback Mountain' is something like a dozen pages long, and yet the 2h15 adaptation was astonishingly faithful.)

The Tolkien magic, then, still operates!
I was hardly bored at all, except for the last 45 minutes, and couldn't help thinking 'The Hobbit' would have been a marvel as a TV-series, frustration being always preferable to overkill.

A slight regret, though, about this (all-male) cast : Not being a member of the Armitage Army, I miss Viggo. Yet, for all intents and purposes, the Dwarf Prince is pretty much the same character.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Holiday - N.Meyers (2006)

Seasonal. Sucky, but seasonal.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dead Again - K.Branagh (1991)

I clearly remember enjoying this film at the cinema what must have been like two or three eternities ago. (Well, because it feels like two eternities. As a general rule, any event younger than 15 years will feel like only yesterday.).

It had aged pretty well, in fact, as it turned out. It is a timeless sort of film; an old-fashioned, Hitchcock-style thriller, resorting to cinematographic tricks that are simultaneously cheap, common and efficient.

Also, Branagh & Thompson (very young & very much in love) and brilliant Derek Jacobi all sport American accents, since the scene for some strange reason is set in L.A.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Unapologetic - Rihanna

My initial reaction to the news of a fourth Rihanna album in only four years was not exactly one of enthusiasm and high expectations, I'll admit; especially as the previous three are kind of hard to tell apart from one another.

This one deviates distinctly from the foregoing three, though! Her clear-cut, distinctive club music has matured into a more subdued, heavier hip hop sound. Not bad, as such, but less runner- and dancer-friendly than before.

And yet : Evolution, people!!! What a pleasant surprise!

A final PS to RiRi, re your duo with bullying Chris Brown : I beg to differ, here.
It is not "Nobody's Business". You can't use publicity when it suits you, and then whine when you find people are judging you. That's just not how it works.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 - R.Emmerich (2009)

What with the end of the world coming up in a few days, French TV - serendipitous as always - yesterday chose to show us the Hollywood version.

The conditions were fulfilled, therefore, to render the viewing of this film at least a little bit unnerving.
Unfortunately, Emmerich falls into precisely every trap of convention & stereotype & cliché that I have ever come across in any film in my career as a moviegoer, to the extent that I finally ended up wondering whether this was not actually an attempt at a subversive parody of disaster films?

At any rate, it was a good laugh.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jane Eyre - CJ.Fukunaga (2010)

A few liberties have been taken with the time span, and extensive cuts have been made into Jane's childhood - which is here reduced to mere background - but the love story, the feminist aspect and the dialogues remain very faithful to the novel.

Globally, I find this overly melodramatic and Fassbender is, surprisingly, a rather pale Rochester in my opinion.
Most of all, it made me want to reread Jean Rhys's brilliant 'Wide Sargasso Sea' which I haven't touched for some time. 

I confess I don't really see the point of adaptations at all, unless it is to allow a young audience to discover a fine work of art (which is what I'm using it for).
And even as such, it has its limits, i. e. the Harry Potter-syndrome : Why would any of these youngsters ever bother with a book full of pages, when they can just watch the film?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Curse of the Were-Rabbit - Aardman studios (2008)

Plasticine action is an awesome kind of action, especially in combination with a clever script and a director willing to risk losing the attention of today's youtube-addicted, zapping children by slowing down the action every now and then to savour the creepy atmosphere that comes from the heavy references to various horror films. (Yes, that was a very long sentence.)

Scary scenes, then, and dizzying action scenes, some set in a vegetable patch! Not something you see every day!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

L'Armée du Crime - R.Guédiguian (2009)

As a history lesson : Highly successful! Saw it with 100 high-school students, many of whom actually gave it a round of applause at the end.
As far as I could judge (not being a history teacher myself, of course) it felt and looked overall authenthic.

As a work of art : Too long (2h20!!!), excruciatingly slow, wholly lacking subtlety, all of which felt like tell-tale signs of a director far too much in love with his subject matter.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hello Kitty Måste Dö - Angela S. Choi

It is Hello Kitty's sad lack of claws and a mouth that prompts Chinese-American Fiona to call for her demise (the original title is 'Hello Kitty Must Die'). 
To Fiona, Hello Kitty has come to represent the traditional Asian female - submissive, obedient, modest - and Fiona's struggle for emancipation is indeed at the core of the book (The 'angry young woman' main character kind of reminds me of Sylvia Plath's classic 'The Bell Jar').
On the other hand, Western society does not appear too tempting to Fiona either, as symbolized by her increasingly worrying childhood friend Sean. (Hello Kitty is not the only one destined to die in this novel, so to speak. Far from it, actually!)

An easy and not completely brainless read, though perhaps a bit simplistic.   

Friday, December 14, 2012

Black Swan - D.Aronofsky (2010)

Girl on girl sex, female rivalry, uberbeautiful uberneurotic dancer girls, drugs, a constantly tearful and painfully underweight Natalie Portman...

For some reason, this feels like a testosterone-filled and somewhat unhealthy attempt at re-creating Polanski's 'Rosemary's Baby'.

Unfortunately, men depicting female sexuality rarely come up with anything but stereotypical, rather laughable, mainstream soft porn, which is pretty much what 'Black Swan' amounts to.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

L'Art En Guerre (Palais de Tokyo, Paris 16ème)

Art during war and art representing war : A considerable amount of photos, posters, flyers, letters and various period documents interacting with the paintings, drawings, films and statues.

A varied and complete exhibition, well worth a visit!

Nausicaa - H.Miyazake (1984)

Hayao Miyazaki's second film, and the first he made on his own.

Contrary to what is proclaimed on the dvd-sleeve above, this is not a masterpiece, but still a quality film with all the usual Miyazaki themes present; an independent female lead character, the opposition of nature versus modernity, war...

Far above the ordinary Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks soup (though not necessarily a film for children).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Crossfire Hurricane - B.Morgen (2011)

Pros : Produced by the Stones themselves, this film gives access to rare footage of old and new interviews, stage performances (I, for one, had never seen Altamont before) and behind-the-scenes moments with and without sound.
Incontestably inviting, especially the early films, showing off their youthful, yet carefully calculated Neanderthal charm. Very complete.

Cons : Produced by the Stones themselves, this film glosses over all derogatory aspects of the band and inexplicably ends at the 1981 Still Life tour.
Not a word is uttered about the internal strife that tore them apart throughout the 1980s, nor about a number of other episodes I would have been curious to hear their opinions of (Brian Jones, Mick Taylor, Toronto...).
Incontestably very irritating.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tower Heist - B.Ratner (2011)

Gifted actors (Casey Affleck, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy...) playing amateur good-guy burglars.

I spent the whole film wondering whether I hadn't already seen it before, and am still unable to make up my mind. That is how imaginative it was.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Moneyball - B.Miller (2011)

Brad Pitt plays the leading role in and produces this opus about baseball. Not even about playing baseball, really, but about managing the team; Pitt is a scout with an original approach to his job. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the disparaging coach.

Sports is a bit like porn, to my mind : Doing it yourself is one thing, to which I am in no way fundamentally opposed. Watching others do it, though, has never been of any interest to me.

The setting, then, holds no appeal. Nor, indeed, does this film. It plods along, and it is well-made enough, so you plod along with it.
But appealing it ain't.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Beautiful People - Simon Doonan

I bet you thought I had gone off reading altogether..! Not quite so, but I'll readily admit my brain capacity is seriously diminished at present, due to foul weather, and so my reading is limited in consequence.

Finally managed to finish Doonan's 'Beautiful People', however!

Simon Doonan is a columnist and a window shop dresser (ultimately creative director at Barney's), and this autobiography is about his childhood and youth in Reading and London. It was filmed a couple of years ago as a BBC TV series with the same name, but rather extensively changed - the 1960s and -70s had turned into the 1990s, for instance. (Still, a merry TV moment!)

The book is an embodiment of wittiness! Doonan's writing is closely related to Oscar Wilde's (yes, indeed!) - buoyant but not balmy, delightful but not dumb! 
Impeccable for gloomy winter mornings on the train heading for work.

"If you are gorgeous and wealthy, you lack the motivation to develop a great wit.
If you are a marginalized freak like me or Marilyn or Pinkie, a caustic tongue is a prerequisite for attention if not survival." (S. Doonan)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St Nicholas

Today is St Nicholas Day! Christmas chocolates are compulsory!

Gas - Edward Hopper, 1940

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Puss in Boots - B.Lynch (2011)

Admittedly, I expected no masterpiece. A spin-off to a sequel - the odds were against this film from the start.
Still, I had not anticipated quite the extent of suckiness it actually stooped to. OMG.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Missouri Breaks - A.Penn (1976)

Brando and Nicholson go west!
The script isn't really much to get worked up about, a rather flimsy affair on the whole. (Brando as a psychotic hunter of horse-thieves. Nicholson as one of the horse-thieves.)

It feels as if Penn has basically fallen in love with these two larger-than-life personae, and then built the film around them.

Inspiring to hear handsome Brando speak with a squeaky little voice, though!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stars of Album Covers As They Look Today (NME)

Entertaining article on the NME website about people having posed for famous album covers :,%20as%20they%20look%20today

The Double - M.Brandt (2011)

Looking for a good film to keep you warm on a cosy winter night?
Look elsewhere. You have seen this a hundred times before already.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang - S.White (2010)

Emma Thompson's second film-baby is set in rural, wartime England, which indeed has seldom looked prettier (and most certainly didn't at the time).
Maggie Gyllenhaal sports a funny British accent, and Miss McGonagall Maggie Smith is of course in there, too.

The plot is particularly predictable, and I personally think resorting to magic in order to raise unruly kids amounts to shameless cheating, but OK; the film was watchable. Just about.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Buried - R.Cortès (2010)

A 1 1/2-hour close-up on Ryan Reynolds does not sound too cumbersume, at first.

However, it gets less and less tempting as your date unfolds inside a casket, buried in the sand by Iraki terrorists, with naturally limited space, accompanied by a cellphone with (of course!) a faltering battery, and for a short while a snake.

The idea is interesting, the camera shots are oppressing but the script doesn't always sound true and Reynolds overdoes it a bit, to my mind. For some reason, his fate doesn't really grab me and it all feels factitious.

A plus for the unanticipated - and realistic! - ending, though!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Seabiscuit - G.Ross (2003)

Pretty pictures. Heaps of conventions and stereotypes. A horse.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Les Revenants

A brand new French TV-series about a small mountain town where a bunch of children reappear 10 years after their death, seemingly unchanged. Obviously there is some sort of snag somewhere, but after only two episodes I am still in the dark as to its nature.

It's more than a little Twin Peak-ish : There is the uncanniness stemming from inexplicable events occurring in familiar surroundings (although somewhat less glamorous than in Lynch & Frost's series), the predominant part played by the wild landscape, the disquieting mood despite the reigning calm. A promising first two episodes, on the whole.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Looper - R.Johnson

One major advantage a TV-set holds over a movie theater is that you can regulate the sound level at your own convenience. This is more useful for some films than others. (And yes, I do realise this makes me sound like like an old madame.)

Another TV supremacy are the sofa cushions you can hide behind during gut-wrenchingly violent scenes. I still do that a lot. (Doesn't that somehow make me a lot younger??) This afternoon, I just closed my eyes.

My husband couldn't believe his luck when I suggested 'Looper' ("Really? Bruce Willis with a gun? Are you sure?") but the fact of the matter is that apart from the bedlam and the bestiality, there was also an adroit script-writer and director (Rian Johnson, had never heard of him) who had turned this opus into a well-pondered - albeit ear-splitting - film.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Behind the enigmatic acronym, the purpose of this grouping of associations and individuals is crystal clear : End child prostitution, child pornography and trafficking of children for sexual purposes.

Anything you don't agree with in there?

Log in, fork out :

Friday, November 23, 2012

Late - Florrie

I think even less cautious people than myself are inherently wary of singing models.
You have my full understanding, therefore, if this doesn't quite come across as the most tempting of my music-tips.

In point of fact, though, this is very OK pop-music. Sounds a lot like 'Little Boots', who seems to have gone for a long walk. Until further notice, Florrie appears fully qualified to be her substitute in the 'clever pop-music' department.

Alleviating circumstance (compensating for her modelling past) : She is a drummer!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kiss - Carly Rae Jepsen

The intrinsic danger in appearing 100% happy is that you are liable to seem like a total dimwit. 
If you are not plagued by that sort of worries (I'm not!), then this may be music for you.

Most of it sounds like 'Call Me Maybe'. Great running-music for a song or two, then I start to feel squeamish. Too much sugar, I guess.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ziggy Stardust Live at the Hammersmith Odeon (1973)

Since watching it the other night, I have learned there is now a restored version of this seminal concert. I'm hoping that one is markedly better, qualitywise.
Indeed, a blurred image all in electric red and pitch black you can live with, for a filmed concert, but a sound as atrocious as this should be criminal, and I don't care how rock'n'roll it is.
I was a little disappointed he spoke so little with the audience; had that been cut out?
Practically the only thing he says is the historical "Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it is also the last show we'll ever do." (Great news for everyone : You can practically hear Mick Ronson & co-musicians glare at him and go "Say WHAT?" before striking the first chords of 'Rock'n'Roll Suicide'. It turned out to be a strike of genius, of course.)
The concert per se is evidently brilliant : Bowie in 1973. No further comments needed.
Young and sincere and alluringly arrayed..!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gnomeo & Juliet - K.Asbury (2011)

Garden gnomes, Shakespeare and Elton John in a surprisingly agreeable mix.
A festival of witty kitsch and familiar situations. Loved it!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Edward Hopper Retrospective (Grand Palais, Paris)

Plunging into an imposing art exhibition and then rising to the surface again two hours later is globally tantamount to how I imagine a brain shower (I would say 'brainwash' but somehow, the connotation doesn't feel right) : I emerge with a sense of returning from far away, having had all my everyday troubles magically wiped out.

I enjoy Hopper a lot even on smaller reproductions, but to have such a huge collection of his works of all kinds (engravings, watercolours, illustrations...) classified in chronological order (the best!) and insightfully commented on the audioguide... It was a treat! I warmly recommend it!

(Book in advance, though! Leave small children at home, they don't enjoy it. And don't forget the audioguide!)