Friday, August 31, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

Began reading to while away the time and to see why my 14-year-old was so infatuated with this book. Soon became smitten with the narrating hero myself and had to see how it ended.

Found it very similar to Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye' not only because the narrator is so reminiscent of Holden Caulfield.
Unexpected twist in the final chapter, though, adding depth to what precedes.

A bildungsroman with a peripeteia, then. And cute!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shakespeare, The World As Stage - Bill Bryson

Any English teacher working at a French Lycee is familiar with Bill Bryson. A particularly witty and observant American, he has lived in and written about Great Britain, the US and Australia, and therefore has extracts from his productions currently published in approximately 70% of all English text books at high school-level.

William Shakespeare probably does not need any particular introduction even to non-literary scholars, which is mostly what this book is about. I.e. the fact that we know so very little about him and yet presume to be so well-acquainted with him. As Bryson puts it, "he is a kind of literary equivalent of an electron - forever there and not there."

Bryson's ambition was to stick to mere facts, considering there has been enough unwarranted theories about Shakespeare's life already. In consequence, the book is more about Elizabethan and Jacobean England than it is about The Bard himself.
Not devoid of interest, however! And fun!

Everglades National Park, Florida

Even though I have so far visited only a moderate number of American National Parks, I have been mesmerized by every one I have seen. The Everglades conformed with this general impression.

The nature in these parks is always extravagant, breathtaking and fully coherent with my theory that the mere immensity of American Nature has left an impact on the average American's sense of proportions, which in turn would account for the fact that when you ask for a glass of soda in the US, you get a bucketful.

We took the compulsory airboat tour, fed and held alligators, fawned over two three-week-old puma kittens, bought Seminole dream-catchers, transpired on the Fakahatchee boardwalk and finally concluded that the ill-famed Everglades mosquitoes are nothing but a myth, most likely invented by someone who has never (Ever) visited the north of Sweden in June.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Dark Knight - C. Nolan (2008)

Men in tights do not do it for me, and never have.
In spite of this, I was lured by the name of the director into thinking this might still be worthwhile.

It wasn't.

What it was : Excruciatingly tedious. And long! 2 1/2 hours of a clueless Bale (in tights) running around with no script.

And For Your Feminist Information; the only woman present was nothing but cannon fodder. The Bechdel-test is more of a Bechdel-joke in this film.

Monday, August 27, 2012

O Magazine

It's not very high-brow, but then it's not E! Entertainment, either ; since my early teens, I have had a fondness for the feminine press and it only gets worse as I grow older.

Oprah Winfrey is not broadcast on French TV, so I can't say I used to watch the talkshow with any sort of regularity (or hardly at all, as a matter of fact...) but I relish her as a phenomenon ('self-made-black-woman' is so much more appealing than 'self-made-man', sorry guys) and read her magazine with pleasure. I find it intelligent and inspiring but wish for longer, deeper interviews.

Winfrey's magazine even has a Swedish wannabee (and the editor is not just any plain follower, but a 'self-made-immigrant-woman') :

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Everything Is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer

Triple narratives, on three different time-spans, multiple narrators, plus extracts from an intratextual dictionary and even from a play... Complex and rich, particularly for a first novel!

Generally speaking, I tend to find pretentiousness extremely tedious.
When accompanied by extraordinary talent, however, it becomes rather refreshing to have someone dare be serious. Go figure.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sherlock Holmes - G. Ritchie (2009)

This is most likely the perfect adaptation of a literary classic for the MTV generation - average shot length should be around 3 seconds, women are reduced to decorative damsels in distress (at best) and action scenes largely take precedence over plot. 

To my mind, it is also entertainment violence at its worst; violence destined to make you laugh at it, thereby banalizing it to the extreme.

So as not to appear all-negative : Robert Downey Jr!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Deathly Hallows, I and II - D. Yates (2010-11)

It was the films I watched the other night, but the kudos goes to Rowling for
1) having the nerve to make her secondary characters (Snape, Dumbledore, the Malfoys...) gradually evolve into more complex personalities, and
2) upgrading her winning concept of books for children by turning it into something a lot darker and more demanding.

A deafening silence (Criticizing is not my way, is it?...) to the author(s) of the screen-adaptation which is very unsatisfactory. Despite having read and reread (and reread) the books, I still found myself wondering about several seemingly illogical events in both films.

And PS.
Can it really be true that Bloomsbury decided to publish the books using only Rowlings's initials because "books written by female authors (don't) sell"?..

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How I Met Your Mother

Trying very hard to be the 'Friends' of the decade.
Succeeding fairly well.

Marley & Me - John Grogan

Casual, entertaining, heartfelt / sentimental (depends on your outlook, I guess), down to earth, humoristic at times - Is it just coincidence that this book seemed to epitomize the whole US to me right now?

Disneyworld, Orlando

As we gathered the Magic Kingdom and the Hollywood Park had an awful lot in common with Euro Disney, we settled for :

Epcot Center : With which the kids were actually very modestly impressed. Only two years ago, we visited the French rather similar attraction park Futuroscope, and all found it soooo much bigger and better (yes, indeed!) and also lacking that Disney mawkishness that sets my hair so horrendously on end.

Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks : I initally considered this a huge waste of time and money, but as my offspring insisted, I went along with it anyway (This Disney plan at any rate was not mine to begin with). As it turned out, they enjoyed the water parks about 200 times more than they did Epcot, so I reckon it was time and money well spent, after all.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Lotus Grows In The Mud - Goldie Hawn

For someone having built her whole career on fun and laughs, Hawn has authored a particularly un-funny book. (At least it is not intentionally funny.)

Rather than a classic autobiography, this is a series of anecdotes in chronological order, each followed by a life-lesson, Hollywood hippie style.
To give you an idea, an example of the axioms and poems Hawn fearlessly introduces her chapters with :
 Doors slide open and shut along life's path,
Roads diverge right and left. The only way
to discover where they lead is to
choose which one to take. (p. 141)

Meet The Fockers - J. Roach (2004)

What we have here : A highly-skilled ensemble of actors, all performing brilliantly, except for De Niro (and yet, you'd think by now he would have gotten used to acting a parody of himself).

What is missing : Scriptwriters with a sense of humour. (Perhaps a bit outdated as a reference, but think what the crew of 'Friends' could have done with this concept!)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Legoland, Florida

Not sure to what extent this really classifies as culture, but what the heck... I had never heard of it before going there, so now I'm advertising. It was OK. A Lego version of Disneyland, I guess.
(Have never visited the Copenhagen park, so cannot compare.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mote Aquarium - Sarasota, Florida

A hands-on educational and entertaining place, true to US-museum standards.

We admired fish, stood in the midst of a hurricane, petted rays, played a climb-the-food-chain video game (Badly; never got past the plancton level, I'm afraid. Kept getting eaten by a vicious white shark named Nic.) and visited the veterinary zoo with two turtles (one blind, one half-paralysed), two manatees and a lonesome dolphin.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Prisoner of Azkaban - A. Curaron (2004)

Admittedly, directing a film when the whole audience has read and loved the book does not leave much space for creativity and artistry. That is probably why watching the films is pretty much a high-speed version of reading the books.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Five-Year Engagement - N. Stoller (2012)

Predictable only begins to describe it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nos Separations - David Foenkinos

Presumably because reading draws so largely on our imagination, having a personal relationship with the novelist mars, or at best influences, the perusal of his/her work.
That is a pity, since Foenkinos's books are of that rare breed shrewdly blending light-hearted ingenuity and intelligence.

No Nobel Prize material a priori (yes, I know, the Winston Churchill-principle..!) but a good holiday read.

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Week With Marilyn - Simon Curtis (2011)

There is something inherently affected about biopics : Somehow, art should not be about attempting to imitate life as closely as possible. Art implies making a statement of some kind, adding or removing something from reality as we percieve it.
Otherwise, I just don't see the point.

Admittedly, you can consider biopics less as art than as history lessons - As such; sure, why not?
I still have an issue with the inevitable subjectivity, which I think affects you stronger in picture than in text, as we have an innate tendency to believe what we see, even in the 21st century.

'My Week With Marilyn', to finish : Globally OK. Monroe as she has been described a million times before, and characters possessing enormous personal insight (Congratulations!) often uttering aloud sharp comments on their inner turmoil.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bored to Death

I have only caught one episode of this so far, but it was hugely enjoyable!

Really hope I'll be able to return with more ample comment.

Pink Floyd - Bengt Liljegren

Despite countless attempts from one of my intimates, I have never fully grasped the genius in Pink Floyd's music. It's another one of those Steven Spielberg-phenomena; I see the skill, it just doesn't speak to me.

Band biographies, however, are often fascinating. The study of a restrained circle of people, over an extended period of time is a sort of concentrate in group dynamics. The impressive number of common points between the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, therefore, comes as no surprise, but remains noteworthy : the evinced creative founder, the two over-dimensioned and competitive egos, the joker, the greed, the public catfights...

A lot of research and a well-wrought language in this bio. The one thing I missed was pictures, but perhaps it is not intended for novices like me.

Friday, August 10, 2012

La Famille - Bastien Vivès

Corrosive and very French comic strips.

Suddenly I feel so profoundly grateful I was reared in supreme Sweden...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

United States of Tara

The concept is original and titillating. The show is not.

And Toni Collette very unexpectedly sucks.

Apathy For the Devil - Nick Kent

Last year, I plowed through a number of rock-musicians' biographies (Keith Richards, Lemmy Kilmister, Motley Crue, Deedee Ramone) and was appalled by these egotistical accounts of what had become braindead junkies with vocabularies spanning over 500 monosyllabic words.

Nick Kent is a former rock critic at seminal British monthly New Musical Express, and probably because of this journalist background contrasts very strongly to the rock stars.

His writing is lucid and articulate, ripe with high-brow cultural references, and extremely knowledgeable in anything even remotely connected to the 1970s London rock scene.
The memoir chronicles his path from a young university student to an acclaimed and dedicated rock critic, finally turning into a homeless heroin addict.

No literary Nobel Prize in view (On the other hand, after Churchill received the Nobel for Literature, I reckon almost anything is possible!?), but an entertaining read!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Inception - C. Nolan (2010)

Not that many dramatic films pass the Test of the Second Screening (Oddly enough, comedies pass it more easily. Possibly because of my Low-Expectations principle.).
'Inception' pretty much blew my mind when I first saw it. Obviously, that did not happen yesterday, but I still found it mind-boggling and as a bonus, I followed the plot hands down this time! 

Pounding in open doors here, sorry, but I need to say it : The script is idiosyncratic and well-wrought; the double narrative frames' progressively interweaving adds depth to the story and the main character; the James Bond-settings are impressive (if not very original) and the permanent tension and relentless action keep the spectator on his/her toes.

In short, I kind of like this film.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Kids Are Allright - L. Cholodenko (2010)

Two middle-aged, middle-class lesbians grappling with your average middle-age problems, two teenagers grappling with your average teenage problems, and a slightly less conventional sperm-donor dad grappling with all of the above - those are not the constituents of your average feelgood comedy, and yet there it is!

It qualifies as a comedy, because some of the situations and one-liners are hilarious. ("I wish you were gay. You'd be a lot more sensitive.")
And being confronted with a director who dares assume her viewers have brains and can actually be bothered to use them indeed makes at least me feel exceedingly good. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Adventures of Tintin - S. Spielberg (2011)

Oh yes, the film is an accomplishment, both technically and scriptwise. My eight-year-olds were thrilled.

As for me, it just didn't catch my attention any more than most children's films do.
Still, the discrepancy between film and comic books was just right, and the dialogue witty enough.

In spite of my best endeavors, I can't seem to establish quite what is amiss with this film. All I can think about is how much more fun I had watching Alain Chabat's 'Sur la Piste du Marsupilami'.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Death Comes As the End - Agatha Christie

Vintage Agatha Christie (1955), bona fide British as per usual but in ancient Egyptian setting. Homely.

Doubtless, the French translation is discrediting the novel, but I was in a boring place with  nothing else to read. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ulrik Munther (Luleåkalaset)

A certain teenage girl in my close vicinity was adamant about seeing this, and so ever ready for self-sacrifice, as usual, I accompanied her.

It wasn't half bad, as a matter of fact. Typical singer-songwriter / Tracy Chapman-ish / folksy rock kind of music, performed by a slightly immature but incontestably talented youngster.

(Bit boring, though, innit?.. Not my cup of tea, clearly. Give me Adam Lambert any day!)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Nurse Jackie

I relish the idiosyncratic, quirky aspect of nurse Jackie and her colleagues. They look and feel authentic, and to every one of them, not just two-faced Jackie herself, there is more than meets the eye (except perhaps her deluded husband, stuck in a classically feminine role).

Furthermore, the renouncement of the 'Dr House' standard which implies solving the patients' problems is strangely restful.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

No Strings Attached - I. Reitman (2011)


Apologies for my bluntness, but that's all there is, really.