Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hit The Lights - Selena Gomez

A youngster in my close vicinity claims this is great running-music and wants me to download Selena Gomez asap.

Always unfairly suspicious against all multi-artists except Da Vinci, I procrastinated for some time but finally got around to giving her a shot.

Regretted it almost instantly. The picture above is a very accurate illustration to how the music sounds. 'Soulless' only begins to describe it.

Check it out for yourselves, but don't blame me afterwards :

The Incredibles - B. Bird (2004)

For over 10 years straight now have I had children in Pixar/Disney/Dreamworks-age.
That is my excuse for my unmitigated weariness with American children's films and their ever-recurring credo (In Order To Live Happily Ever After, A Family In A Home In The Country is the only solution.)

Much to my gratification, 'the Incredibles' differs perceptibly from this dogma. Nature is more of an evil element than a welcoming haven, and the quiet family life Mr Incredible is limited to does not, amazingly, render him happy and fulfilled.

The script is OK, therefore! The flaw lies in the dialogue, which is a bit dull. Which is a pity.
When you have to face 2.000 viewings of a film, it might as well make you laugh the first 5-6 times.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Streets of Gold - 3OH!3

I read somewhere that the music you listen to between 15 and 25 will mould your taste for life, and it proved true in my case until I turned 40 and all of a sudden developed an unexpected penchant for hip-hop.

Admittedly, ever-knowledgeable Wikipedia has 3OH!3 down as "electropop, dancepop, crunkcore (wtf???), electronic rock" but to me, they sound a lot like another recent favourite of mine, Gym Class Heroes.

Brilliant running-music!!

Should you wish to appear more erudite than the voice-over lady on my ipod, please be informed that their name is pronounced "three-oh-three". (I suspect she is 100%digital. She prefers silence to risking a diction faux-pas.)

Here is a duo with Katy Perry, which rocks :

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Polisse - Maïwenn (2011)

The pitch is not exceedingly original : A photographer follows a Police Juvenile Division, documenting the officers' work and free time, in an attempt to make out how they cope with the sordidness of their assignments.

The spectator is doubled by the photographer, played by director Maïwenn, and thus turned into a voyeuristic bystander, an impression which is further reinforced by the shabby and heart-rending subject matter (incest, child abuse and paedophilia of all kinds).

The feel is of authenticity; the budgetary and staff restrictions, the lack of financial means and the frustration at immoral or incongruous orders from superior officers all have a familiar ring to any French civil servant (and I reckon that is true also for other countries).

Add to this a documentary-style filming and the result is positively arresting, no pun intended.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Emmy Awards, 2012

First and foremost, my eternal gratitude to Série Club channel who - for the first time ever in French TV history, at least as far as I am aware - broadcast an Awards ceremony in English with subtitles (as opposed to hushing the original voices and sticking an insufferable French commentator on top)! 
True, the subtitles vanished for some 30 minutes, and had Ellen de Generes's first name become Helen, but there is no having it all, I guess! 

As for the awards :
I can't make any sense of 'Modern Family'. Watched a couple of episodes, and got bored since everyone insisted on being friendly to each other all the time.
'Homeland' was by all means a well-deserved triumph! (Danes's speech  must be regarded as collateral damage.)
All in all a crushing zero awards for 'Downton Abbey' despite an impressive number of nominees : WTF???
And finally; am now even more eager to catch 'Game Change' on Sarah Palin's vice-president candidacy. Looks alluring!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mordets Praktik - Kerstin Ekman

For any newcomers or negligent readers (sounds unlikely!) still in doubt regarding my views on Ekman's writing, catching-up is possible in these posts :

Concerning this, recent, opus of Ekman's : This was my second reading, although I'm not certain it actually did much for my understanding of the novel. (That is the downside to being old an extensive reader; I forget what I have read almost the minute I close the book...)
And understanding it does require some endeavor! There are three narrative levels, and a most likely unreliable narrator offering you his version of truth.

A mise en abyme of literature, it is a spin-off to one of Sweden's most famous novels, early 20th century 'Doktor Glas' by Hjalmar Söderberg, and so it abounds with meta-literary references and considerations (what is a perfect reader? who do literary characters belong to? the importance of writing...).

Ekman's customary, compelling style moves so slowly forward it actually gains a majestic quality from sheer lentor, and makes her conclusion - Murder will out! - appear inevitable.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lady Gaga, The Born This Way tour (Stade de France)

One positive aspect of younger artists is that they often appear genuinely moved that such a huge crowd that has turned up. ("75.000 people here to see moi")
One of the downsides is that they are not yet sick to the core with their own hits, and so contentedly settle for radio edits on stage, which I find a bit boring. (You can listen to those on the radio, right?)

Both of the above were true of Lady Gaga last night.
Apart from that, this concert was a fully coherent follow-up to 'The Monster Ball Tour' of 2010 : Everything was a bit More - stage props, audience communication, choreography, costumes, life lessons à la Gaga - but still pretty much the same. I got precisely what I expected.
Paradoxically, therefore, I feel a bit let down.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Way, the best of Frank

Worthless for running, but surprisingly ideal for cooking; this is the best Old Blue Eyes Greatest Hits album I have ever had the pleasure to encounter.
Personal favourites : Strangers In the Night, Somethin' Stupid, I've Got You Under My Skin, Come Fly With Me and, obviously, My Way.

For quite some time after moving to France, I sincerely believed the French were deluded by their usual chauvinism into claiming 'My Way' to be a French song. (We are talking about a people who, for years and as seriously as you could wish, asserted that Madonna owed her fame to Patrick Hernandez.)
They are actually right about 'My Way', though.
The French original lyrics, however ('Comme d'Habitude' by Claude François and some Gilles Thibaut) are a lot more sentimental and less touching than Paul Anka's.

Friday, September 21, 2012

La Sagesse de l'Espion- Alain Chouet

Description : Truly pocket-sized essay about espionage penned by a former head of French Intelligence.
Crammed with facts, figures, relevant comparisons with other countries and far too few personal anecdotes, all in an official, civil-servant style of writing, sadly rendering perusal a rather tedious pursuit.

Whenever Chouet decides to publish his mémoirs, however, (and preferably secures the aid of a ghost-writer) I'm sure that will be a lot more fun.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Newsweek, Sep 24 issue

The cover might not exactly make you shiver with anticipation (unless you are really into islamophobia), and admittedly, 'Newsweek' as a general rule is no riot.
This particular issue, however - despite its front page - contained a heap of arresting reading (although perhaps no riot).  

My favourites :
'Arnold's True Lies' - gossip about Schwarzenegger's marriage and subsequent divorce.
'The Trouble With Valérie' - more gossip; this time about French President Hollande's somewhat unpredictable significant other.
'We Exploited the Sexism' - Cannot get enough of 'Homeland'!
'Fashion's Original Tyrant' - on a documentary about iconic Diana Vreeland, seminal chief editor of 'Harper's Bazaar' and 'Vogue'.
'Andy, Andy, Andy' - about a very tempting exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum.

More ambiguous, but, I guess, still noteworthy :
'The Islamists' Last Stand' - Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the Rushdie fatwa.

Most are available at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Switch - J.Gordon (2010)

Cannot really fathom why an actress with Aniston's evident flair for comic timing will so doggedly persist in making basically the same film over and over and over again??

Not that I have any objection whatsoever against to a complacent romcom every now and then, but just for the sake of change? Growth?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Postcards From the Edge - M. Nichols (1990)

The novel is semi-autobiographical, and was adapted by Carrie Fisher herself. (Couldn't she have played it herself, too, I'm wondering?) Fisher is always self-deprecating, perspicacious and very witty, so the film is clever and entertaining.

It is a Hollywood mise en abyme, but from a slightly less glamorous side than the one usually displayed. After 'Star Wars' and rehab, Fisher is confronted with b-films, her former drug-abuse and her alcoholic movie-star mother (Debbie Reynolds).

Half the fun is admiring the 1990 youthfulness of Hollywood A-list actors in first and secondary roles; Meryl Streep and Shirley Mac Laine of course, but also Gene Hackman, Oliver Platt, Dennis Quaid, Annette Bening, Richard Dreyfus...

Somehow, though, penetrating and bright as it is, this film doesn't come all the way through.
Despite all its potential, it is a bit shallow.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

Entering this book was a bit slow (perhaps it reminded me too much of Anita Brookner's 'Strangers' which I found horribly humdrum), but then it unexpectedly turned out to be a 150-page concentrate of metaphysical themes (rememberance, love, suicide...) and well-developed characters treated in a plain yet poetic tone.
Brilliant, really!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Johnny English Reborn - O.Parker (2011)

I have never been one for slapstick. Or for laughing at Rowan Atkinson. (I do realise they may be connected.)
The funniest thing with this film was that in the French version (had to; there were children present) his last name was pronounced 'Aanglish'.

The present children found it a riot, though.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The pitch is offbeat, and the focus lies on the action rather than on the characters, which is not to say these are in any way one-dimensional (plus, I have had a soft spot for Clare Danes ever since 'My So-Called Life' in the 90s) = I got caught up right from the start, and was thrilled by the first three episodes. Can't wait to see the rest!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How To Be A Woman - Caitlin Moran

Contrary to most other readers of this book (only women, come to think of it??) I was not rolling in the aisles with laughter while reading it. I did snicker from time to time, and I did find it entertaining - and I don't think there is any way you can read it and not fall in love with the author, so I did.

The identification factor was zero : I can't remember ever having found it particularly hard to be a woman (but perhaps I am totally misled??).
Still, opinionated, outspoken people are often beguiling, especially when they are as articulate as Moran.

By far the most interesting chapter is on 'Role Models And What We Do With Them'. 
There is no delving into her childhood here, and her background as a broadsheet journalist comes to its full right in analysing the situation rather than just in dropping names.

An extract on feminism :
"... we need to reclaim the word feminism. We need the word 'feminism' back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist - and only 42% of British women - I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of 'liberation for women' is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? 'Vogue' by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?"

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime - P.Claudel (2008)

Had I not so thoroughly appreciated Philippe Claudel's novel 'Les Ames Grises' a couple of years ago, there is absolutely no way in hell I would even have contemplated watching this film; written and directed by Claudel.

By many accounts, it fits into they Typically French Drama mould; it dawdles slowly along, there is a tremendous lot of talk, much of it in cafés, Kristin Scott Thomas is brilliant and chain-smoking... - You know the kind of film I'm referring to.
It is anti-Spielberg in the sense that crucial issues are addressed using practically no means at all.

Can't say I was really brought to my knees, but I did sit it through to the powerful dénouement, and it was no sacrifice at all.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Super 8 - JJ. Abrams (2011)

I missed out on the beginning, but it didn't feel like any major loss... A curious blend between 'Stand By Me' and 'Starship Troopers' and possibly something else ('Close Encounters of the Third Kind' perhaps?).
Not very original, at any rate.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gainsbourg (Vie Héroïque) - J. Sfar (2010)

To the attentive reader now wondering why I bother with biobics at all - after
- I would like to point out that I do it more in hope of adding to my personal education than in pursuit of artistic enjoyment.

As biopics go, this was rather a shallow one. Covering 50 years in 2 hours is a hopeless endeavor, obviously, and Sfar seems to be way too French and therefore way too deep into her subject-matter to display any sort of objectivity.

Gainsbourg's musical talent is undeniable, but where the French appear to be collectively under the spell of his personality, I, as a foreigner, see little more than an alcoholic wife-beater with a taste for deliberate provocation.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wall-E - A. Stanton (2008)

That it is a non-speaking film does not automatically make it a good film.

Cosmopolitan, Swedish edition

I reckon legendary Cosmo chief editor Helen Gurley Brown is currently rotating in her grave, seeing how recent Swedish editors have turned her seminal, glam-feminist manifesto into some 1950s pamphlet, educating girls how to look and act in order to attract boys without appearing too bossy...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Friends With Benefits - W. Gluck (2011)

How utterly thankful I am that I never got around to seeing this at the cinema last year, as I actually did have half a mind to do!

How despicably disappointed I would have been to discover that it is so conventional it alsmost physically hurts.

(Boring films are much more bearable on TV. You can read at the same time!)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Jane Eyre - S. White (BBC)

Were I wholly unfamiliar with 'Jane Eyre' and for some reason could not read it, I would love to discover it in a series like this!

The adaptation is not 100% faithful - around 94%, I'd say - but, astonishingly enough, none the worse for it. Director Susannah White has had the intelligence to display a passably plain Jane. Too many have fallen for Jane and/or the temptation to make her look "conventionally beautiful".

I do realise how commonplace it is, but no matter how many books I read, this remains my all-time favourite love story.

Tell-All - Chuck Palahniuk

Tough call, this one.

One the one hand : 
High-flying stylistic ambitions, which must be seen as positive, and also require a certain amount of aplomb.
Thorough research, resulting in name-dropping to the point of the absurd, and rendered extra conspicuous by the use of bold letters for all proper names.

On the other hand :
Remarkably thin plotline. Not that a book rests merely on action, far from it, but if it doesn't, you need to be able to Write...
... and sorry, but there is just not enough savvy to match the ambition, here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


On the whole, Australian TV makes brilliant youth series; 'Blue Water High' or 'Heartbreak High', just to mention those that come to mind at the moment.
Come to think of it, what is missing in 'Castaway' might be the high school reference in the title? Or a sense of humour and self-depreciation? Or is it just that I have finally grown out of this sort of thing?

It remains a mystery to me how my offspring can take such a thrill in watching these irritable and irritating kids who seem to do nothing but scowl and growl at each other, episode after episode, when all I want to do is just smack them in the face.

On the plus-side, though : Disney, it ain't!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Merchant of Venice - M.Radford (2004)

Pacino as Shylock, My Favourite Fiennes as Bassano, ravishing views of renaissance Venice, and Shakespeare text - what's not to like, really??

I confess, however, to being an extremely poor judge of Shakespeare-adaptations.
Most uncharacteristically, I tend to appreciate just about all of them. I even recently took pleasure in a modernist version of 'The Tempest' played in Bengali (didn't see the whole play).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bus Palladium - C. Thompson (2010)

If you are between 15 and 25, or simply have a limited experience in films, you might find this fictional band-bio pleasant enough.

Should you, however, have already seen a mere couple of films in the same genre, you will instantly recognize the numerous stereotypes at work here : the greedy manager, Mick (or is it Brian?), Keith and Anita, all sporting long, dark hair and brown eyes.

And to use Bowie's 'Rock'n'Roll Suicide' for the closing credits...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Prince Harry (well, why not?...)

Just a few thoughts :

a) It takes a sly old fox such as Elizabeth II to figure out she has only to declare herself "shocked" and "furious" in order to make people side with Harry and go "Aawww, what's she on about? 'E's only 23, for chrissakes!"

b) How similar in tone would people's reactions have been, if Harry had been a Henrietta? Are 23-year-old girls also entitled to "have fun" in public? (From how the Andrew & Fergie daughters have been treated by the media, I would not have thought so, but of course I could be wrong..?)  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Juno - J. Reitman (2007)

Absolutely adorable and atypical.