Saturday, August 31, 2013

Nord Poolen, Boden (Sweden)

A tad timeworn by now, and not always super-clean - but practically empty during schooldays!

Friday, August 30, 2013

I Am Zlatan - Ibrahimovic, Lagercrantz

This was fairly entertaining, even for a non-fotballer like myself.
(Not only do I enjoy telling my communist, football-loving father that football is "opium for the people" I even think it is partly true.)
(But yes, I do realize football also does some good. As does the church.)
(Which doesn't prevent either from also serving as a sedative. But I seem to be digressing.)

Whether the pleasure in reading this is due to Zlatan's undeniable charisma, or to Lagercrantz's just as obvious skill as a writer I can't say, but then again, is it really important?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gröna Lund, Stockholm

Fun fairs, in my world, are of tantamount interest to football matches.
(If that doesn't tell you anything, use the search motor, top left, to check how many times I have mentioned football in the last year and a half.)

Gröna Lund, however, is at least nicely old-fashioned and pretty to look at, while waiting for other people to come off the rides. Lots of benches and ice-cream for people like me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett


I always found Anne of Greengables, Pollyanna and their likes in Anglo-Saxon 19th century literature insufferably smug and artificial.
What renders Sara Crewe bearable is probably precisely her absence of cheerfulness in adversity (although admittedly, I cannot for my life think of a single royalty I would ever picture acting as unselfishly as she does...).

Other things this book has going for it :
Victorian London (always a good setting, for just about everything!).
The numerous descriptions of pretty dresses.
The doll-house Sara's unknown benefactor sets about creating in Sara's miserable garret.

Evidence these still work came when my 9-year-olds despite their initial resistance quickly were won over and sat gaping throughout the book.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, Arkitekturmuseum, Stockholm

Although the blue/white striped marinière shirt and the cone-shaped bra have become Gaultier's hallmark items, there is a lot more to be discovered in this retrospective.

A large number of outfits are displayed (some on talking mannequins), as are photos, videos and a first-person video introduction by the Man himself.

Everything is not beautiful - far from it, actually - but almost all of them are jawdropping showstoppers. Well worth a visit.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rihanna's Party Habits

As far as I can judge, only two things set Rihanna apart from many other famous 'party animals', such as Charlie Sheen, Leo di Caprio, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the Gallaghers and so on :

1. Her instagram account.

2. Her sex.

I am certainly not defending her lifestyle, but why are women always expected to behave as role models?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Modern Family

Just two thoughts :

1. Why do these competent, beautiful TV-women always put up with husbands they have to act both mother and secretary to? It's a frequent phenomenon in US sitcoms, think about it, you'll see.

2. This show needs a villain. Everyone is so nice to each other, it gets boring.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Heat - P. Feig 2013

While preparing classes last year, I was confronted with the near-impossible task of finding a female example of an 'odd couple'. Somehow it didn't feel right to list only men, though there was certainly no shortage of male couples : Sherlock & Watson, Calvin & Hobbes, Laurel & Hardy... 
It turned out unfeasible. The only ones I came up with were Patsy & Edina and Thelma & Louise, and my teenage students are not familiar with either of them.

Had French distributors done their job correctly, Bullock & Mc Carthy might have made the list, but seeing the idiotic title and the lack of publicity this film suffered from, I doubt any of my students have seen it.

And yet, they should have! The characterisation is overly conventional, the plot is nothing new, but the cops are female and the dialogue is caustic and punchy.

Highly entertaining, I say.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls - Peter Biskind

What is translated into French as 'the New Hollywood' was the wish of a young generation of directors to wrestle the creative power from the famous studio heads - Zanuck & co - and make a new kind of films, with "real people" instead of artificial stars like Rock Hudson and Doris Day.
This took place in the 1970s and ended, according to Biskind, with 'Star Wars' in 1977. 
(A New Dawn rose then, entailing all sorts of evils; Simpson & Bruckheimer with their 'Top Gun's, 'Flashdance's and subsequent pirates...)

Biskind provides a detailed account of the lives and films of a whole bunch of 1970s film-makers, only about half of which I was familiar with beforehand. That is my only problem with this book; there is just too much information and not enough structure. It was really hard to keep track of who was who.

Several interesting points are made, though!
For instance many of the prominent films of the 1970s actually castigated the liberal theories of the hippie era. Biskind quotes 'The Excorcist', where the single-mother family and the young girl's budding sexuality are severely reprimanded by single, male priests, while the psychologist is a huge failure, ending up hanging himself.

Also, Biskind points out that many of the directors en vogue had issues with their fathers, as well as with the studio heads, rendering paternity and patricide a recurrent motif in for example 'Star Wars', 'The Godfather', 'Taxi Driver' and 'Apocalypse Now'.

A good read. But a long one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On cougars and the like

It is not so much the age difference that bothers me with these couples, as the power balance.

I like to think it would be a lot easier to believe in true love if I also sometimes came across 55-year-old plumbers married to busty, 20-year-old blondes, or middle-aged supermarket cashiers accompanied by hot young studs.
Never seen any of those, though.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tree Hotel, Harads, Sweden

In a dense forest in the middle of nowhere (more precisely 60 km west of Luleå, Ultima Thule, north of Sweden) lies a quaint little hotel, filled with paraphernalia from the first decades of the 20th century.

They also have excellent food and, at a short distance, half a dozen rather particular tree cabins, all of which have different names and shapes.

We slept in 'the UFO', partly because it is one of the two that can bed a family of five, and partly because it is by far the coolest. 
(No TV, but a game console with sci-fi games to go with it. Lego Star Wars..!) 
(Not to mention the retractable ladder that descends to allow you inside!)

Not very roomy, perhaps, but super-cool. If somewhat expensive.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Just Go With It - D. Dugan 2011

Some good-looking people women, an unusually ironical Nicole Kidman, a highly predictable script and some very dull, uninspired dialogue.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Le Livre des Etoiles 1 - Erik L'Homme


Fantasy fiction never having really been my cup of tea (and not really enjoying tea, anyway), it was the advice of one of my students which prompted me to purchase this for my 9-year-olds.

The plot can be defined as something in between Harry Potter and any medieval-type quest - young boy discovers himself to be a sorcerer and sets out on an adventure with his friends - but the author has created a setting which is fairly original.
The boy lives on a top-secret island off today's France, bordering also to a fairy tale universe of the Tolkien-kind. The island, therefore, is a curious blend of Nutella and middle age bards, TV-films and sword-fighting.

My 9-year-olds enjoyed it, and so did I. We might have to invest in the other two books (if we can manage to squeeze them in, drowning as we are in Harry Potter...)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Elysium - N. Blomkamp 2013

Most artists have a motif, their very own bone of contention which they use their art to come to terms with.
Perhaps due to his childhood in South Africa, Blomkamp's pet peeve is the increasing discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots.

Visually, however, he is more into violent and explosive science fiction than everyday realism... The setting in 'Elysium' is closely akin to that of his first film, 'District 9'.

Brilliant film, basically!
Science Fiction with a social conscience = Not something you come across very often, you will admit.
Go see it.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Your Highness - D. Gordon Green 2011


Vulgar, rude, violent, farcical, gory and/but with witty dialogues.

And James Franco.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blod Eld Död - Johansson, Klingsberg

A very well documented and articulate report about a subject most competent journalists seem to have great difficulty taking seriously.

Starting out with heavy metal, the authors take us through all its subsequent variations; death metal, speed metal, black metal and so on; not to forget a couple of band interviews and biographies - Bathory, Mayhem, Entombed, Watain - and in-depth studies of metal music in relation to media, money, etc.

It's all very insightful and humorous - although a lot of the laughs stem from the feeling of total incongruity between the visual imagery of metal, and the everyday life in a Swedish small town, where most of these bands come from.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Nocturnes - Little Boots


Can't help comparing this with Hesketh's last (and first) album.

Still here : 
The airy pop sound; traditional dance music from the disco era, but striving forward, not backward like Daft Punk (whom I also adore!)
The silky voice.
The highly metaphorical lyrics.

Gone now :
The tunes, drilling themselves into your brain and then sticking there, like ABBA-songs. 

In conclusion :
This is no 'Remedy' but there is still hope for the future.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Big Bang Theory

This series is a blend of the slightly original (because all the main characters are exceedingly stereotypical 'geeks') and the highly conventional (because of everything else about it).

What amazes me every time I come across one of these classic sitcoms is the laugh tracks.
HOW is it possible these are still in use??

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Psycho - Alfred Hitchcock 1960


Aesthetic though black and white films may be, there is also no doubt they have aged considerably in the last decades.
Likewise, the trendsetting music and sound effects Hitchock used would be unthinkable today.
Furthermore, the important increase in frames per second since 1960 renders 'Psycho' unbearably slow, even for an elderly lady like myself. (Let alone for my teenager, who didn't even bother looking up from her magazine.)

Yet, despite everything, of course this is ingenious film-making!
I don't have much to say about it that hasn't even already been said by much more competent people than moi.
Except perhaps that despite all of the above time-induced flaws, it still works.
For elderly ladies, at least.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Study In Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle

Depicting the first encounter between Watson and Holmes, and being presented in the formidable length of a mere 150 pages, 'A Study in Scarlet' possesses a particular charm.

Not much to say about it, really, apart from that.
A light read, though it does require some knowledge in English vocabulary, since Doyle was a learned man and this book, after all, is 120 years old.

... And while we are on the subject of English vocabulary : I find extremely interesting the large extent of English-speaking TV-shows, books, films and music you can indulge in with a fairly limited range of English vocabulary.
I wonder if that is due to the omnipresence of the English language?
Is that how you achieve or facilitate cultural domination?
Food for thought.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Unwomanly Face of War - Svetlana Alexievich

The Russian Army contained, according to award-winning journalist Alexievich, between 250,000 and 500,000 women, some of which (quite a number of which, actually..!) were interviewed for this book.

Enrolling as a female soldier apparently took a certain amount of drive, for none of them seems to have received a warm welcome at the outset.
Their accounts are all poignant and, indeed, different from most male accounts I have read. Hard to tell, though, whether this depends on their "biological female disposition" or the expectations they were subjected to, before and after the war.

What struck me most in the book : 20 million Russians died in WWII! 20 million!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Life Is But A Dream - Beyonce

As far as I can judge, Beyonce is a very talented artist; and a woman in charge of her own career is always inspiring. (She is a sort of anti-Britney, in several ways.)
The only thing I can really hold against her is that I don't like her music.

The attention she pays to every minute detail of her work, however, is twofold.
Obviously, perfectionism leads to near-perfection.
On the other hand, perfection generally is a lot less interesting than more personal stuff.

In this HBO documentary, the outcome is an extremely smooth surface, where nothing comes across that wasn't the intention of the lady in charge.

Simultaneously inspiring and strangely unexciting.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Sandman - Lars Kepler

The married couple behind this pen name (and behind previous 'The Hypnotist' adapted for the screen by Lasse Hallström) are both of them part of the Swedish high-brow cultural establishment.

Contrary to what you might expect - what I did indeed expect - that does very little when they set about authoring detective fiction. This is only marginally superior to Camilla Läckberg's writing, although admittedly that doesn't say much.

'The Sandman' is a pageturner but that is pretty much the one thing it has got going for it.
Stereotype is heaped upon stereotype here, and it is so gory I find myself frequently skimming through whole pages of text (and none the worse for it).

I need to find myself a GOOD book pronto, this is getting depressing.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Paul - G. Mottola 2011

Paul is a rude and rather vulgar alien, who escapes from his government mission and strikes company with two geeky Brits and a hardcore Christian (wonderful Wiig), on the run from evil men in black in this surprisingly funny road movie.

My nine-year-olds did not fully grasp everything - but then, I don't think I have ever come across such an impressive amount of filmic references in one film before! Except perhaps in 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid'. - but they did learn a whole heap of interesting new words.
My teenager and myself had a great time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

I Wanna Be Your Dog - Hard Rock Sofa and Swanky Tunes

What is it that makes this so brilliant?

Is it the fact that they have kept the Lizard's voice?

Is it because they have basically settled for an update of the original song, instead of remixing it into something entirely different?

Or is it just that it is a great song to begin with?


Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling

It has been almost a week, I am only 150 pages into this and now it is with some shame I have to confess I am giving up on it.

I am truly sorry, Rowling, but much as I do feel fond of you and of Harry, and much as I have tried, I cannot seem to muster up the slightest bit of concern for the - way too numerous, btw - characters in the little town of Pagford where, so far, the only thing that has happened is the sudden demise of a parish councillor on page five.

I do not wish to imply that a book needs a plot!
Woolf, Joyce and a certain amount of others have given ample proof of that.
But - how to put this, Rowling? - only very skillful writers can offer themselves that luxury.

Better luck next time. I still have faith in Rowling as a writer!