Monday, July 29, 2013
Sunday, July 28, 2013
I realize I am pretty much breaking through open doors here, but I viewed this again last night, and couldn't but fall in love with 'Juno' all over again.
The whole film is still 100% cute, clever and just overpowering.
Jennifer Garner is particularly fantastic.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
I am irresistibly drawn to rockstar memoirs, although they are of a homogeneous breed.
Just as their autobiographies tend to parallel each other, many bands appear to mirror each other's dynamics, the diverse musicians often assuming congruent roles in the group. Almost always, you will find one musical architect, one marketing expert, one creative genius - often left behind early on - and one Frehley-type; the one in the background, increasingly bitter toward the band leaders.
Frehley was smart enough to go solo before turning into Bill Wyman, sourest of all the sour, but not before developing a powerful and possibly legitimate animosity toward Gene Simmons (the marketing expert).
But I'm digressing! Rockstar autobiographies are homogeneous. I know this, but still can't seem to stay away. Frehley makes no exception to the rule. It sets out entertaining enough, but within 150 pages I'm revolted by this uneducated, self-centered, whiny guy, going on and on about sex and drugs and rock'n'roll.
The inside information to be had in this book is very limited, most likely because Frehley himself remembers precious little, caught as he was in a perpetual drug-induced haze.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The concept of this documentary TV-show is genius incarnate : Two educated 'common people' moderately prepared spend 5 days living the life of common people in a given decade of the past. They dress and above all eat the part, which is remarkably surprising. (Do you know what people ate in the 1880s? I certainly had no more than a vague idea.)
In the name of social equality, they move up and down the social ladder in the course of the week; one day they are an upper class couple, the next they are farmers, then manual workers etc.
From time to time, they interview history researchers, specialists in various fields (economy, costumes, architecture...)
Thanks to the concept, this is a highly educational show.
Thanks to the two hosts, it is also absolutely hilarious.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
"La" Camilla Henemark became one of Stockholm's most prominent it-girls in the late 1980s and remained so for a couple of decades.
She started out as a model, then turned popstar in 'Army of Lovers', freelanced as a political activist, reached unprecedented status as a scandal beauty when exposed as mistress to the King of Sweden and eventually hit rock bottom, suicidal and shut up in a closed psychiatric ward. Her life has been variegated, to say the least.
Henemark has never struck me as anything but dimwitted and for sure, her erratic behaviour does nothing to contradict that impression - though obviously, her hyperactivity disorder explains a lot more than her IQ..!
She does, however, appear surprisingly clear-sighted here; lucid regarding her own shortcomings and many blunders.
Only marginally younger than Henemark myself, I have had the pleasure of following her antics in the press ever since my early teens.
That contributed largely to making this autobiography a highly entertaining read.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Sunday, July 21, 2013
My low-expectations principle was at fault from the outset : Niemi is a gifted storyteller, and the pitch is admirably atypical for Swedish literature - A giant tsunami-like flood wave rushes over northern Sweden, wreaking havoc.
The key issue raised by Niemi is to what lengths we are prepared to go in order to survive.
It was an OK book, fairly well-written and thought-provoking.
I just didn't find it quite as brilliant as I had expected to.
I suppose I'm the one to blame, rather than Niemi, really.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
You are in your full right to settle for the various Camilla Läckberg, Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and other more or less adequate Swedish detective fiction authors.
Just be forewarned that if you miss out on Åsa Larsson, you miss out on the best.
Of all the above-mentioned and all those un-mentioned (and they are multitudinous!) Åsa Larsson is the only one to possess elegance, poetry and a personal style in her writing. Plus the compulsory conundrum.
I eagerly await the day when she will have gathered enough momentum - and perhaps self-confidence - to cross the boundary between the formal genre of detective fiction and just plain fiction.
This is her latest novel, not yet translated into English. But try 'Sun Storm', 'The Blood Spilt', 'The Black Path' or 'Until Thy Wrath Be Past'.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Thursday, July 18, 2013
I downloaded and appreciated this even before being aware that the musicians are fellow-Swedes!
Of course, their citizenship only makes me enjoy their gutsy pop-rock music even more.
Sounds a bit like the Ting-Tings. Very summer-y and bouncy.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
This novel was actually fairly typical of Jewish New York literature - and yes, that is a genre; Singer, Roth, Bellow, Mailer, Auster - and more recently, Krauss's husband, Jonathan Safran Foer. These are all great authors, and so is Krauss, clearly.
Her writing is rich and multi-layered (several narrative voices, a number of plots all deftly woven together in the end), the plot is elaborate. Just like Paul Auster (and Shakespeare, for that matter) her story is a mise en abyme in that it focuses on writing, and naming.
'The History of Love' is her book within the book, just as it is her book.
The problem is that I found both books exceedingly dull.
Krauss's style is admittedly very elegant, but to my mind also pompous and pretentious, wholly lacking self-distance and a sense of humour.
On the positive side, she is terrifyingly young; maybe she'll grow out of it?
Can't help wondering about the dinner conversations in a hyper-intellectual home such as the Krauss's/Safran Foer's. Do they discuss various figures of speech while munching away, or do they gossip about the neighbours?..
Monday, July 15, 2013
Vintage Christie always has its appeal; the syntax is so utterly upper class British that even in translations you can hear their typical expressions shine through.
Here, the detective has been replaced by an alluring young countess, whose aristocratic background, interestingly, opens up doors, gives access to people's homes and places her as everyone's confidante.
A very classic murder plot, and certainly not one of Christie's best, but a most charming trifle, indeed.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Friday, a forthcoming security guard pointed out to me how to gain access to the top floor and external escalators without acquiring a ticket.
Modus operandi : To the far left of the building, there is a small, red elevator with a bellboy (bellman, actually) who will take you up to the first floor if you tell him you want to visit the restaurant. The first floor connects with the escalators, and so there you are!
Way up there, surrounded by a stunning view of Paris and heaps of Dutch tourists.
I plan to get back to you on the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective. Patience.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Too busy to see the exhibition myself (and, let's face it, not all that concerned), I shrewdly sent the two teenagers by themselves, with pre-paid tickets in their hands.
Outcome : They returned home thrilled AND I got my work done AND could wallow in the ingratiating feeling I had done a good deed, imparting culture to today's youth.
A win-win situation, I believe you call it.
Friday, July 12, 2013
As faithful readers are well aware, Ekman is the Grande Dame of Swedish literature and one of my personal paragons.
Like many other great authors, she started out with detective stories.
The stabbing of two tourists near my childhood dwelling place prompted Ekman's return to her roots in 1993 with this masterly opus.
I wasn't even worried about rereading it : Ekman being Ekman there was no way this could have aged otherwise than gracefully.
It had, of course! Nature, as often in her writing, plays a predominant part, and contributes to conveying the heavy mood, laden with innuendo and suspicion.
Red herrings galore!
The narration is intricate, with multiple time spans, multiple narrators, multiple plots, all converging toward the same finish.
Brilliant! Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!
Eclectic, to say the least! Reggae-inspired French hiphop with the occasional flamenco-guitar, and three colorfully disguised, bouncy lead singers.
Extremely well-suited for a family-friendly seaside resort concert.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
If you want my opinion, much of the reputation of the French as adepts of scandalous amour stems from 19th century novels and their fascination for the courtesans. ('Nana', 'Boule de Suif', 'La Dame aux Camélias'...)
'Bel-Ami' on the surface appears to deal with pretty much the same subject matter, though the main character is a man. On a closer inspection, however, that changes everything.
Indeed, Bel-Ami climbs the social ladder by means of his women, while the above-mentioned paramours are all used by the men.
All is in its right, patriarchal order, then!
I know I did read de Maupassant's book at some point in my distant youth (I know it because it's still sitting on my shelf.) but only very vague recollections remain.
The film was uneventful and commonplace, and Edward Cullen should probably have stuck to doing vampires.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
A mere one-hour long Bowie retrospective will inevitably circumvent certain periods.
This one, mercifully but also annoyingly, chose to ignore most of Bowie's ill-fated film attempts ('Labyrinth', 'Absolute Beginners'....)
That may have been just as well, though, especially as old footage only goes so far, and the recent interview of the Man Himself looking back at his career, was clearly much too short, and ten years old, to begin with.
RESPECT, however, to Bowie and to all others - not that many - who have had the courage to steer clear of public appreciation and follow their own paths in artistry.
Which is not to say I don't also enjoy their opposite, the self-proclaimed McDonald's of rock music, Kiss. ("If the audience wants more ketchup, we give them more ketchup.")
Monday, July 8, 2013
Sunday, July 7, 2013
I dare say you have to be a bona fide connoisseur to accept the threat of losing a Michelin star as the major source of conflict in a film.
To me, neither food nor silly, conventional comedies count as art, and so this felt an awful lot like 'Ratatouille' with real-life actors.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
The plot is a lot less complex than in Smith's previous novels. Indeed, this is more of four portraits of young North-West Londoners, each with their own, idiosyncratic narrative style.
Overall, Smith's focus has lain more on voice this time; her writing has crossed the line separating the 'personal' from the 'experimental' : This actually reminded me of Virginia Woolf, which says a lot of what an exceedingly ingenious author Smith has matured into.
Notwithstanding the relative straightforwardness of the plot, 'N-W' does require a certain amount of concentration, as there is a lot going on between the lines.
It is impossible, really, not to appreciate writing this talented, but I will confess to having missed Smith's sense of humour. She was a lot more fun in 'White Teeth'.
Friday, July 5, 2013
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
That the manifest destiny of this series was imminent shutdown - it lasted 2 seasons - must have been a foregone conclusion : Indeed, for all intents and purposes, it felt like an updated version of 'The Mentalist'.
Not at all inept, or anything, but as 'the Mentalist' is still running...
(I reckon French TV bought it after leading actor Damian Lewis nailed it big-time in 'Homeland'.)
Monday, July 1, 2013
After an ill-translated Murakami, it is was a pleasure to wallow in Vargas's effortlessly elegant prose, albeit for a short and not wildly inspiring detective story.
Vargas is at her best when she delves into folklore, exploring local legends; this time it's about werewolves.
Not a great Vargas, but still an OK detective story.