Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bowling For Columbine - M. Moore (2002)

Hard to determine what is the worst thing about this film :
- the 911 telephone calls from desperate students at Columbine High School during the shooting, or
- the fact that in the decade that has elapsed since the killings, this sort of event has become so much more frequent.

Michael Moore may not be the king of subtlety, but in his first films (also check out 'Roger and Me') he remains knowledgeable and clear-sighted, though admittedly, a bit biased.

Plus : He has dug up quite a crowd of oddballs, here!
Apart from articulate and left-wing officials voicing Moore's own opinions, as do Matt Stone (co-creator of 'South Park') and Marilyn Manson (unexpectedly lucid and eloquent), must be mentioned James Nichols (brother to Oklahoma City bomber Terry) and Charlton Heston. Appalling, hilarious and terrifying.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

In Time - A. Niccol (2011)

Pros and cons of multiplying mainstream action movies :

Pros : It whiles away time in a moderately exacting way.
Particularly convenient when your brain feels crammed with porridge after a long day at school.

Cons : The Bechdel-test turns into more of an unattainable Bechdel-dream.
It eventually sort of sends you into a daze, and I feel like I might end up utterly mindless.

The Bechdel-test, yet another reminder :
1. Are there at least two female characters with names?
2. Do they talk together?
3. About anything else but men?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ocean's Eleven - S. Soderbergh (2001)

A facetious sense of humour, no violence (at all!), a shallow but savvy script and a bouquet of becoming boys = as good a pastime as any, on a rainy winter's night.

Monday, January 28, 2013

En suite

I wish I could take credit for presenting the paintings in this order, but the idea is not mine.
Not all the students appreciate analyzing them as much as I do, but not everyone hates it, either!..
(... small mercies!)

Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emmanuel Leutze

Daughters of Revolution, Grant Wood

Ladies of the Red Hat, James R. Huntsberger

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Musée de Cluny, Paris 5ème arrdt

The Hôtel de Cluny is partially built on remains of Gallo-Roman baths, and was initially part of the neighbouring Abbey of Cluny. The building is therefore interesting in itself.

The collections of medieval art and artefacts is now way more impressive than last time I was there (can that really have been 20 years ago?...), the Lady with the Unicorn being their crowning delight.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Lady - L. Besson (2011)

Educational but insipid.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt - Nick Hornby

Hornby's chronicles about the books he reads were initially published in a monthly magazine, and are accompanied by assorted extracts from his favorites.

The concept of an author writing about reading may sound a tad introspective at first, but as the author in question is Nick Hornby, I sat through the whole book with a nitwit grin on my face.
I seriously reckon Hornby would make me laugh even if he wrote pie recipes.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Hunger Games - G. Ross (2012)

Well-written science fiction can work in writing, but very rarely does on film.
'The Hunger Games' is no exception to that rule.

I found the book quite a pageturner, and so was rather disconcerted to find the film both lengthy and tame.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Heathers - M. Lehmann (1991)

Shoulderpads, waist belts, high hair, a débauched Christian Slater and a doll-faced Winona Ryder to identify with : Quintessential 1990s stuff!

Yet, for all its outdated-ness, the story - teenage angst, peer pressure, alienation - still holds.
It is a scathing assault on narrow-minded, smalltown America and the 'to have and have not' of coolness most adolescents can probably still relate to.

Moreover, it is hard not to connect at least the final scene (Slater attempting to blow up the packed school gymnasium) to the stunning number of recent school massacres.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Django, Unchained - Q. Tarantino (2012)

In substance, your average Quentin Tarantino : Dexterously directed and acted, over-extended by a good half-hour, and blood-splattered to a sickening degree.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hugo Cabret - M.Scorsese (2011)

Set in a fairy-tale Paris of the early 1920s, the film starts out as a fable for children and then turns into a vibrant homage to mute-film director George Méliès, played by eternally brilliant Ben Kingsley.
It is cinema mise en abyme; Scorsese is itching to convey his enchantment with film-making to the viewer and since he is so remarkably deft at it, he automatically (like clockwork..! or an automaton..! or fine machinery..!) hands his fascination on to the viewer.
In addition : Sacha Baron Cohen as a startlingly subdued policeman.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Muppets - J.Bobin (2011)

In supporting roles of various consequence : Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Jack Black, Zach Galifianakis, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Emily Blunt, Mickey Rooney, John Krasinski, all of them unaided by a highly predictable screenplay.
But hey!... It's the Muppets Show!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Specials - Scott Westerfeld

Currently having some of my students study the first book in this series ('Uglies'), I felt a sudden urge to read part three (I had quit after the second tome, 'Pretties').
It is a series of young-adult books in the same vein as 'The Hunger Games'; the high-tech, sci-fi adventures of a reckless teenage girl, involving heavy references to vast philosophical issues (free will, physical appearance, friendship, peer pressure).
I wish I had had access to this sort of book when I was a teen!
It's not great literature, as such (the truth of the matter is, it's not even as good as 'Uglies' and 'Pretties') but it definitely classifies as an OK read, if you don't feel like taxing your brain too much.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Intouchables - Toledano & Nakache (2011)

A full year after the rest of France, I finally came around to viewing this odd-couple dramatic comedy about the friendship between an unemployed immigrant and a quadriplegic upper-class gentleman.
The most arresting thing about this film is that absolutely everyone seems to love it. I have had teenage boys practically go tear-eyed on me when evoking it.
And yes, OK, I can see the appeal.
It is funny and charming, and most of it is due to Omar Sy, who owns the film. Referring to him alone, a more appropriate title could be 'Irresistible'

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - D.Yates (2007)

My favourite HP!
The one inconvenience with the films is that just like everybody else, I now find myself viewing the films rather than reading the books, although the books obviously are so much better.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sanctuary - William Faulkner

Quite some time ago, I spent a whole year analyzing this novel.
I was blown away by its literacy, its multiple aspects and layers, not to mention the sheer beauty of its language.
Re-reading a book having made that kind of impression is a hazardous enterprise, especially as I have since then considerably extended my knowledge of Faulkner's works.
Faulkner being Faulkner, however, even his "cheapest novel" (because written in order to make money) is still a masterpiece.
Existential fear and chaos, the decline of the American South, a statement on voyeurism and the evil in society are only a small part of the subjects broached in this particularly lurid Southern Gothic.
Evidence of its genius is that I put up with the blatant misogyny and covert racism in the story of this 1920s flapper who basically gets what is coming to her in the form of a corn-cob wielded by the one of creepiest villains in literature.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

La Délicatesse - S & D. Foenkinos (2011)

In book-form, it is Foenkinos's witty and poetic style that prevents his stories from being mawkishly sentimental.
This style is, self-evidently, absent from the film, and mawkish sentimentality is therefore all that remains.
If not even the author himself is capable of transferring his text on to film, doesn't that ascertain that it just isn't feasible?
Or does it simply ascertain that Foenkinos is a better writer than director?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Rumble Fish - F.Ford Coppola (1983)

Bewitchingly square-jawed Matt Dillon as a modern James Dean, and a pristine Mickey Rourke as his enigmatic and revered older brother in Coppola's all but forgotten black & white reverie.
One of Coppola's more experimental opuses, though not his best.
The symbolism is over-wrought and simplistic while the script is just over-simplistic.
It has an adolescent feel about it, which I realized yesterday has nothing to do with it dating back from mine.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

50 Modern Artists You Should Know - Weidemann & Nippe

Chronological order is The Best : It begins with Whistler and ends with Matthew Barney. There is not enough pictures to my taste, but then I guess if your focus is on the artists rather than their works, that makes some sense.
Instructive and inspiring!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hollywoo - F.Berthe (2011)

Woe indeed for French dubbing artist Jeanne, when the actress she lends her voice to resigns from her hit TV-show. Jeanne then takes the most obvious course of action : She is off to Hollywood in order to obtain a change of mind.
This evidently makes for a classic fish-out-of-water-comedy with Florence Foresti, one of France's leading comics as Jeanne, sidekicked (Yep! SHE is sidekicked by HIM!) by another quipster, Jamel Debbouze.
Foresti has co-authored the dialogues, and she is amusing most of the time.
Add to that an original pitch, the culture shock France vs. the US, and the constant language cross-over and voilà! A light and entertaining comedy which - additional bonus! - easily passes the Bechdel-test!
Reminder of the Bechdel-test for the oblivious :
1. Are there at least two named female characters?
2. Do they talk together?
3. About other things than men?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Shame - S.McQueen (2011)

Sex on film has always made me cringe (Not sure what that says about me. Not sure I want to know.), a bit like when someone picks up an acoustic guitar or whenever I watch reality TV shows.
In 'Shame' however, the sex scenes lay no claim to being sexy or sensuous. Indeed, I have never seen such angst-ridden sex in my life (to which I can only heartily congratulate myself).
Fassbender's sex addict and his little-girl-lost sister, Carey Mulligan, both make you sympathize with their disrupted attitudes to life, due to their enigmatic but clearly messed-up childhood.
The filming is strikingly static; some shots are several minutes long, and I'd guess it contains approximately the same modest amount of dialogue as your average action film. Tried to google the number of frames per second, to no avail; but it feels like the anti-'Hobbit'.
Was it any good?
I think so. It was atypical, at any rate, which is no small feat, in itself!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Scoop - W.Allen (2006)

Woody Allen's filmography is concurrently uniform quality-wise and fairly heterogeneous plot-wise.
This one is a 'whodunit' (or rather 'did-he-do-it?'), coupled with a romantic comedy.
It works OK, but does not stand out as The Film he will be remembered for.
(Kind of sad that is bound to be 'Annie Hall' or 'Manhattan', both of which are over 30 years old.)
Hugh Jackman is as handsome as ever. Scarlett Johanssen sounds fake, and Allen himself has finally come to terms with the fact that he can no longer plausibly act the love interest of his young heroines.
A special movie-goer's award to Woody, also, for the exemplary length of his films! 1h35! Just Perfect!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Beetlejuice - T.Burton (1988)

This is vintage Tim Burton!
A mere second in the listing of his feature films (but then, the third was larger-than-life 'Batman'), the themes and imagery of his beginnings - especially 'Vincent' and 'Frankenweenie' - are particularly prominent.
Colourful kitsch, therefore, and an Alec Baldwin who suddenly reminds you why in the 90s, a hot guy was sometimes referred to as 'a Baldwin'. 
Evidently entertaining (Burton is always Burton..!), but no masterpiece.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Catch Me If You Can - S.Spielberg (2002)

The 1960s setting is delectable, Di Caprio's con man is boyishly charismatic, and his frauds - posing as a teacher, an airline pilot, a doctor... - are presented and percieved as playful fun from someone who isn't really aware of what he is doing.
And yet... From a film-maker with Spielberg's talent, I would have appreciated some soul-searching or any form of justification for Abagnale's behaviour. Perhaps also a brief consideration of the risks encountered, not just for the swindler himself.
Moreover, I had trouble buying the triumph of paternal authority. Abagnale senior not being able to provide it, Tom Hanks's FBI agent takes giant, daddy-esque proportions.
Still, all things considered : A fair enough comedy.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Geeks and the Jerkin' Socks - Shaka Ponk

I cannot begin to describe how hot and trendy I felt when discovering 'Shaka Ponk', a.k.a. SHK PNK!
The bliss lasted until I realised the group is actually almost 10 years old, this is their third album and they have sold about a jillion records already.
But no matter! They feel cutting edge and uncontaminated by all the negative aspects of modern music business.
Wikipedia calls it 'electro-rock', and I guess I more or less agree with that.
Please feel free to form your own opinion : 
(Ca déchire!)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Stridens Skönhet och Sorg - Peter Englund

Peter Englund is an erudite sort of writer; historian, professor in narratology and outspoken permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.
This book on the Great War classifies as new social history, focusing on 'ordinary people', rather than on deciders and royalty.
The mass of information provided is awesome! I learnt heaps of stuff, and I thought I was already tolerably well-schooled in WWI-data.
Englund tells the stories of almost two dozen real persons (based on diaries, letters etc) in chronological order, which makes it practically a no-go to remember who is who.
The thing is, though, after a couple of hundred pages, you realize how irrelevant their respective nationalities are.
Despite their different experiences, the war was an ordeal to all of them.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Princess and the Frog - Musker & Clements (2009)

A truly old-fashioned Disney princess-story (Are those real drawings??!), politically correct with a hard-working, black heroine, poetically set in 1920s New Orleans; fanciful architecture, jazz music, black magic and yummy food.
Of course, Disney political correctness only goes so far - There is no racial segregation (ho? What happened there??), the heroine's friend is silly, therefore ugly, and for all its modernity, the concept of a racially mixed couple is apparently still unthinkable.
I'm not sure this is really suitable for young children?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Warrior - Kesha

Nope. Not a single track on this album is anywhere near as catchy as 'Tik Tok', but it's not for want of trying.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Narnia; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - A.Adamson (2005)

Contrary to most other young-adult books of my junior years, I only remember reading these once. I guess they didn't really blow me away.
I'm at a loss, therefore, to say whether the film is true to the book or not. (Seems to be?)

Be that as it may, it broaches difficult issues (loneliness, self-sacrifice, betrayal and forgiveness), contains exciting adventures, escapism, identification, cute animals, scary animals and a Tilda Swinton born to play the White Witch.

Interestingly, the first book ('The Magician's Nephew') is "currently in development".
We need more info on that,

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Aquaboulevard, Paris 15ème arrdt

Capacious. Costly. Crowded. Clean.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

L'Age d'Or des Cartes Marines - Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris 13ème

Exhibitions at libraries - ancient books and, in this case, maps - are inescapably a bit flat. 
The brand new (well; 15 years!) Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, nonetheless, always takes pains to make their exhibits animate and appealing, nearly always succeeding.

Even my 8-year-olds were captivated by the 17th century nautical charts.
They were outraged at the inaccuracy of the charts, compared to the world as we know it.

Me, I was upset at the mostly non-existent representations of my homeland, Sweden.