Monday, September 30, 2013

Mirror Mirror - T. Singh, 2012

Pretty much an updated version of the classic fairy tale.
Per definition, then wholly outdated.

Julia Roberts, however, seems to be enjoying herself immensely as the wicked stepmother.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Roy Lichtenstein Retrospective, Centre Pompidou

Of Lichtenstein I basically knew the comics and the brushstrokes, so I had a lot left to discover. Had I disposed of more space, and had not the crowd been so stressful, I would have spent a lot more time doing so, and enjoyed it a lot more.

As it was, it was a great exhibit; very exhaustive and well-disposed. And well-visited.

'Detail from Three Landscapes' 1970-71

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Real Steel - S. Levy 2011

The idea is an astute one, but then Levy started out on 'Nickleodeon' so he probably knows his audience : A film for kids wielding the imagery of an action film for - erm... - young adults.

What still gives it away as a kiddie-film are the simplified dialogues and hyper-predictable storyline about Jackman as a the boxing owner of a fighting-robot, reconciling with his estranged son.

... And combats of giant, boxing, futuristic robots?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Moranthology - Caitlin Moran

To be brief about it, this was more fun than :
- My previous read, 'The History of Buddhism'
- Moran's previous book, 'How To Be A Woman'
- other music journalists' anthologies; NME's Nick Kent, for instance, has never made me laugh out loud.

That Moran is witty and well-spoken (I learnt heaps of new words; lollygagger! pantechnicon! tittivate! termagant!) with firm beliefs was apparent in 'How To Be A Woman' as well.
What came through a lot better in this one was how knowledgeable and experienced a journalist she actually is. (Advantage of self-deprecation : It creates low expectations.)

Best of all the articles, of course, is her famous Lady Gaga-interview, beginning with a missed flight, dealing with Gaga's potential disease, and ending up in the VIP restrooms of a Berlin sex club.

That alone is worth the price of the book.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Platane (season 2)

Initially, I thought this series would present an interest to my offspring, huge fans of Eric & Ramzy's insufferable 2001 film 'La Tour Montparnasse Infernale'.
The progeny, however, turned out surprisingly indifferent - which probably was all for the best, especially after last night's sex-orgy episode - and ultimately, I am the one snickering at Eric Judor, playing a disparaging version of himself.

The main character is such a horribly naive, thoughtless, brainless egocentric that most of the time I feel half bad about laughing. (He owes A LOT to Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David!)
I see those qualms as evidence of two things :
          a) The show is well-penned and fairly original.
          b) Judor is a much better actor than he lets on in 'La Tour Montparnasse Infernale'.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Green Lantern - M. Campbell 2011

I am struggling to come to terms with my nine-year-old's unforeseen inclination toward superhero-movies.
Is this in any way related to the child's fascination for the power it lacks?
Or is it just the handsome fellas and damsels in distress?
And would I possibly have been less taken aback if the nine-year-old in question had been my son, instead of my daughter?

Ryan Reynolds reminds me furiously of any Lindsay Lohan, or  Britney Spears or, for that matter, Blake Lively, even with her hair dyed brown. Just another blond bimbo, basically.

'The Lantern' is DC Comics and not Marvel, so the visual landscape is slightly different from the Avengers, but the film as a whole, sadly, is not.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

House of Cards

Potus & friends have become rather common features in US visual media. Bad-ass main characters are also much easier to come by than they used to be.
Yet, the combination of the names Fincher, Spacey, Wright and Mara did get my hopes up.

And obviously, they vouch for quality! An undeniably Shakespearean quality, as it turns out : Apartes, apostrophes, brilliant actors, eloquent dialogue, plotting and scheming... This is 'Julius Caesar' or 'Richard III' in contemporary form. Only the iambic pentameter is missing.

Problem is, the Bard's plays are 400 years old. Art is immortal and this truly speaks to me - but I confess I did expect something more cutting-edge from someone as proficient as David Fincher.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Asterix au Service de Sa Majesté - L. Tirard 2012

WHAT is it that over the last decade has rendered filmproducers so forcefully squeamish about risktaking?? WHY do they so frequently prefer to play it safe, resorting to already familiar characters and then replicating them ad infinitam??
Is it the financial crisis?
A general mindnumbing brought about by reality shows? 
Or does the myriad of available entertainments on differently-sized computer screens make people yearn for more basic pleasures?

Food for thought.
Refraining from watching this film will save you two hours of your life, sparing you further brain-daze and thereby allowing you to ponder on the aforementioned subjects.

Rest assured, you won't miss out on anything, other than debilitating nonsense.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Le bouddhisme - Cécile Becker

My purchase of this book is the very embodiment of a dismal case of dissatisfied expectations.
I wanted a light user's manual to Buddhism, and what I got was a theoretical history.

That was not at all what I had hoped for - nor, allow me to state, what I had had reason to expect from perusing the back cover! 

As history manuals go, this one is certainly useful enough; it provides minute descriptions of the complex history of Buddhism in relatively few pages. Unfortunately, that also makes for rather indigestible reading, unless the writer is a very talented one, which Becker is not.

Still waiting for the perfect introduction to Buddhism, therefore.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela

I suppose 27 years in prison gives you plenty of time to cogitate, which may account for the minute detail with which Mandela recounts his life-story.

Despite all the particulars, he sticks mainly to politics, so if you are after juicy tidbits about, say, his divorce from Winne and the particulars of her issues with South African justice, you must look elsewhere.

850 pages is a long read to the ending, yet not devoid of interest. 
I personally preferred the parts about his dealings in prison to the less personal accounts of his debuts as a freedom fighter, but that is in no way a judgement on the quality of his writing.

The messianic character to Mandelas's person remains unmarred - Is it possible that people this dignified, generous and resourceful actually exist?...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Journée du Patrimoine

Ever since the creation of Local Heritage Day, in 1989, I have allowed myself to be scared off by news items showing people queuing for hours to visit the Elysée Palace or the Opera Garnier.
This year, however, I braced myself, went at lunchtime (also a good idea for museums and exhibitions) and was gratified with zero waiting!

We visited the Ministry of Finances, in the 12th arrondissement, quite near our home. Having often contemplated its facade, it was stimulating to see the inside, for a change.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Campbell's Soup Can - Andy Warhol, 1962

For the second year in a row I am studying Andy Warhol and Pop Art with my students.

I thought my provocative introduction "Is This Art?" would cause debate, or at worst have everyone agree that drawing a soup can has nothing to do with art.

Students, however, often manage to surprise me, even after 15 years of teaching, and the consensus twice reached has been a clear-cut YES to my question.
Their reasons vary; some say it is art because the can looks appealing. Others deem it is art due to Warhol's status as an artist. Most have no idea why they think it is art, but are adamant they do indeed think so.

Personally, I reckon the soup can qualifies as art because it still stirs emotion and wonder 50 years after its creation.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Electric Lady - Janelle Monàe

However much I enjoy teenage music of today (well, not all of it...) (and I am NOT trying to imply for example current favourite Macklemore plays teenage music!) it is also nice to hear something more adult-sounding.

Monàe's jazzy blend of funk and r&b smacks of Prince, and sure enough, His Royal Badness counts among the contributors on this album. So do Solange Knowles, and Erykah Badu.
They all stand as high-quality guarantees, if Monàe's name alone was not enough for you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The World's End - E. Wright 2013

This started out as a light, sentimental comedy, starring five more or less successful, middle-aged blokes returning to their hometown in the English countryside, for old times' sake.
Then, something goes rather unexpectedly awry, and the Ken Loach-ish universe is replaced by something that could have been the latest blockbuster by Roland Emmerich.

The surprise and the respectlessness of the genre-switch is a large part of the fun, which I wouldn't want to spoil for you. Suffice it to say gentlemen Wright, Pegg and Frost seem to have quite a penchant for aliens.

However - and it is ironical, for there is indeed a lot of punching going on in this film - I felt the dialogues were lacking in punch and inspiration. More could have been done.

This was entertaining, but not half as much fun as 'Paul'.
(I haven't seen either 'Shaun of the Dead' or 'Hot Fuzz' but I kind of want to, now..!)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Captain America - J. Johnston 2011

Having given the matter some thought, I have finally reached the conclusion that these superhero-movies have one major feature in common with romcoms (apart from the massive use of stereotype, failure in the Bechdel-test etc.).
I. e. when you settle down in front of one, you  know exactly what you will get.
No surprises.

None, whatsoever.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Searching For Sugarman - M. Bendjelloul 2012

Sixto Rodriguez was an unsuccessful, Dylanesque folk singer in Detroit whose music, unbeknownst to himself, became iconic in South Africa.
The film follows the subsequent hunt for Rodriguez, several years later, over two continents.

The story is colourful, the interviews numerous and the travelling extensive.
Time is spent on the music and different landscapes.
In short, Bendjelloul takes his time telling his story and it pays off.
He adds depth by rooting Rodriguez's popularity in the protests against Apartheid, and by detailing Rodriguez's life in gritty paucity.

As a bonus, or as a consequence of the film-making, Rodriguez himself comes off as a particularly interesting personality.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Magic Mike - S. Soderbergh 2012

Another mystery of life : Men exploiting or being exploited by sex are typically perceived as studs or players, while women doing the same are termed sluts, tramps, hoes, bitches or any other of the countless existing synonyms.
Is that because western society likes to see women as victims?

Soderbergh's film is said to be loosely based on an episode in Channing Tatum's past, but I think a director of this talent should still have been able to make something out of this.
A complacent story about friendship, and the transition from innocence to experience feels like a very shallow treatment of a sadly under-exploited subject.

It is aesthetically appealing, of course. The yellowish filter adds a dream-like character to the film.

Interesting point : Despite my aversion to detective shows, I must have seen hundreds of female strippers on film. Yet, I cannot remember ever seeing a single one being coached in the art of stripteasing, like McConaghey's character does to Pettyfer's.
I (reluctantly!) refrain from drawing any conclusions.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Heja, Heja - Martina Haag

Failed actress turned successful, lightweight writer records her own path from couch potato to marathon runner.

Whenever 'lightweight' is not tantamount to 'inane', I'm happy enough, so I had a few laughs at this.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Angry Bird (that would be me)

It drives me insanely mad that girls are permanently supposed to look pretty and be nice.
I had no idea those birds were all male until I discovered the girl bird (just like the smurf girl, her single characteristic is her sex).

What is it about women's anger that makes it so terrifying??
Is it related to omnipotent mothers terrorising little boys (now hopefully grown into adult men)??

Monday, September 2, 2013

Allt Eller Inget - Rickard Engfors

A former drag-queen now turned artist creative consultant and suffering from regular panic attacks writing his mémoirs may not sound like a huge turn-on, but Engfors being such an articulate and apparently perceptive young man, with nuanced and well-considered opinions on lots of things, this was actually worthwhile!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pussy Riot - M. Lerner

How godawful cool are these people?
On a scale from 1 to 10, I would have to say around 16.

One-hour documentary. Brief but to the point.