Saturday, November 30, 2013

Larry Crowne - T. Hanks 2011

A very forgettable romcom, indeed. My mind kept straying toward more material things such as :

- WHAT has Tom Hanks done to his face? It's him and it isn't, yet it doesn't look like fillers.

- Does macrobiotic, organic, ecological raw-food contain zero calories, or why is Julia Roberts thin as a straw?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bound, 2 and 3 - Kanye West

Stereotype gender roles, anyone? (I think I want to marry James Franco.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Doctor Who

Let me warn you beforehand this is going to be a very unfair review, since I have only seen a shamefully limited number of episodes, and I am not exactly spot-on the target audience age group.

Judging from what I have viewed, though, I find 'Doctor Who' kitschy, witty and a general laugh! 

It is refreshing with a children's show that does not treat its public as a group of dimwits.
 It is also a pity my own children are apparently too dimwitted to appreciate 'Doctor Who'.

Anna Karenina - J. Wright, 2012

True to his ways, Wright places his gem, Keira Knightley, in a gorgeous setting; pre-revolutionary Russia is as dazzling as a painting by Dicksee, and Knightley is bewitchingly beautiful.

Perhaps it's all a bit overwrought, though? The saga somehow dissolves into the framework, and it feels soul-less, in the end. 

My views on adapting literature (once and for all; in their very own post below!) are put slightly to a fault here, since the Russians are not at all my cup of tea and I must confess I am not even certain of having ever read Tolstoy's novel. 

Frank Bernard Dicksee, 'Romeo and Juliet' 1884


Adapting Literature On Film

In the words of American poet Ezra Pound, "Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree."

Incontestably, then, plot is subordinate to style. In literature, that is!
In cinema, I reckon the opposite is true.

To adapting literary masterpieces on film, therefore, I can come up with only one reason, namely to sell heaps of tickets to people who for some strange reason prefer to see films showing characters they are already familiar with. 

Otherwise : What Is The Point??

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

Yet another coming-of-age story may not at first hand appear to be precisely what the world needed. As Tartt seems to have made them her stock-in-trade, however, the answer finally turns out to be 'yes'.

There is nothing conspicuous about her style, either way, but the story is positively riveting. 
Its resemblances with Dickens 'Great Expectations' are notable, yet instead of weakening the book, they serve to enhance it.

One drawback, however : The elephant size of the hardback copy makes it near-impossible to carry around. = It took me forever to finish it!
On the other hand, once I did have the opportunity to sit down to read, every page felt like Christmas!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Masters of Sex

Setting-wise, this brand new show is successfully surfing on the aesthetics created by 'Mad Men' - dashing 1950s fashion and stiff gender roles.

The plotline - true-life authors of the groundbreaking Masters & Johnson-report on human sexuality - allows for both TV-nudity (breasts, no dicks) and detached, scientific verbalization of the issue. 

High-reaching, this series also broaches a wider range of subjects (infertility, homosexuality, parent-children relationships, female emancipation...) and does so with skill and sensibility.

An extra plus for the gorgeous opening credits!

Friday, November 22, 2013

One-hour Hamlet, Théâtre de l'Agora (Evry)

Boiling down diffident Hamlet from three hours into one is not necessarily a bad idea - especially as a large part of the text remained unchanged in this version.

Have the main protagonist played by a girl was equally interesting, and gave us an inkling of what truly Elizabethan theatre was like, with its all-male casts.

The stageing was dynamic and contemporary. I tend to enjoy modernized Shakespeare, as I can't help feeling he would have, too. 

(You can feel the 'but' coming, can't you? Here it is : )

All that was fine and dandy enough, yet I found it very troublesome to get past the performers' heavy French accents.
As an English-teacher in France, I consider myself well-acquainted both with the French accent and with Elizabethan English - and still, understanding the players was burdensome. I dare hardly think of how tough it must have been for my students..!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Monkeys in Bercy - Shaka Ponk

Should you not yet have taken my enlightened advice and tuned in to Shaka Ponk's energizing rock, this would seem a brilliant opportunity!

A live-album making me deeply regret having missed them at Bercy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Jade Emperor, Stars of the Beijing Circus

Never been much for circus, but when there is no display of overly tamed animals it is actually acceptable. This, furthermore, was not too long and the circus was not overheated.

That the artists were top-notch goes without saying.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Palais de la Découverte, Paris 8th arrdt

Envision a playful, modern, hands-on science museum for children in bright state-of-the-art surroundings.
Then, picture the exact opposite and you have a fair idea of where I took my 9-year-old yesterday.

The planetarium was OK, that is the best I can say about this place. 
If you have a Sunday to spare and nothing to do, then sure, why not go? It's better than watching TV.
If, however, your time in Paris is limited, then take your bambini to La Villette, instead.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Artpop - Lady Gaga

Because Gaga is going out of her way to be a trailblazer while her principal talents lie more in PR than in music, listening to her is always a bit of a letdown.

Not that there is at all anything at all wrong with her music - far from it; clearly her musical skills are largely superior to, say, Madonna's - but she is no Prince (not many are, admittedly) and the soundtrack is way less cutting edge than the imagery accompanying it. 

Nothing innovative; basically, she is plodding along her chosen path, pushing it a bit further with every album, but not making any major changes. Great dance- and running-music, though!


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Louie, season 3

I must apologize for being so tedious about this, but OCS has been broadcasting two episodes a day of this highly addictive show for ages, now! Clever humour in an intelligent formula (20 minutes definitely constituting the ultimate sitcom length!) - This is just irresistible!

Of course, there is a drawback : I am running late on all my other TV-shows, have a hard time finding time to read; magazines are piling up, and it's all Louie's fault.

Somewhere I read that TV-shows are not supposed to be like homework, but I don't know... Easier said than done.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lightning Bolt - Pearl Jam

Basic, post-grunge rock music. 
Very, very basic. 
Can't seem to find much to say about it, really. OK running-music.

Can't help wondering : Is this what Nirvana would have sounded like??


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Top of the Lake

After Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' I was hell bent on emigrating to New Zealand and spend my time admiring landscapes. For some reason, it never really came to, and judging from the eccentricity of the characters in 'Top of the Lake', that was perhaps all for the best.

Just like it was inconceivable to not compare the early Lady Gaga to Madonna, there is no way I can talk about 'Top of the Lake' without acknowledging everything it owes to 'Twin Peaks'. 

The crime is the same (innocence reviled, how original...), the fascinating setting occupies a large place and the characters are almost as eerie.

I reckon the differences are due to a) time having passed, and b) Campion being somewhat more down to earth than Lynch. (I guess everyone is?)

Brilliant TV, therefore!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Oprah Magazine

How brilliant is this?!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

Notwithstanding the magic, the camaraderie and the Weasley twins, what I enjoyed the most about the Harry Potter-books was the relish I felt Rowling took in telling her story.
Sadly absent from 'The Casual Vacancy', it is conspicuous here. (Galbraith is Rowling writing under a pen name.)

This is a classic, old-fashioned whodunit inhabited by particularly endearing main characters. It is nicely non-violent (think Agatha Christie) and London is so present it almost constitutes a character on its own.

A pleasant read, I dare say. (Pronounce in RP)

Prism - Katy Perry

I guess if it's cerebral music you are after, you will perhaps not be searching right at the top of all the charts, anyway?

This very much resembles her previous album, at least to my inexpert ears. 
This one is slicker and less rowdy, but it remains unoffensive, melodious pop-music that will stick with you for weeks after listening.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Exit Through the Gift Shop - Banksy, 2010

I was a major Banksy-fan even before I first discovered this film, and seeing it again the other night, I can only re-emphasize how much you need to see it, if you haven't. 

Under the pretext of documenting the career of faux street artist Thierry Guetta, Banksy first takes us on a guided tour of today's street art ("the biggest countercultural movement since punk") and then debunks the establishment of modern art. Ensuring you have fun all the while. 

For my views on mockumentaries in general :

Friday, November 8, 2013

Corpse Bride - T. Burton and M. Johnson 2005

Johnny Depp and I go way back. He was my not so secret celebrity crush for decades, until only recently when I realized he does nothing but Disney pirate films any more, and then he walked out on Vanessa Paradis. (To shack up with a 20 year old blonde! How pathetic was that??!)

Anyhow (I seem to be digressing?) to put it short : Depp is attractive, even in puppet-form. And yet! Two brides battling over a dithering groom, albeit Depp, makes for a very thin plotline.

The imagery is elegant, as usual, but the film possesses nothing of the magic of 'A Nightmare Before Christmas' (or 'Coraline' - so I presume Henry Selick is the mystery ingredient?).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ghana Must Go - Taiye Selasi

To have read several laudatory reviews and then still be this agreeably surprised by the book must say something about the distinction of Selasi's writing.

Her diction is Toni Morrison-esque, in a way : Dense, poetic; scholarly yet unconstrained. Sheer reading pleasure.

The subject matter only enhances the thrill; intellectual, well-educated Africans are singularly under-represented in Western fiction, and the plotline about a family maneuvering between two continents serves as a reminder that family-stories do not necessarily have to smack of soap opera. 

In short, much as I do enjoy going against the current, there is no denying that everyone was right about this book. Absolutely ingenious.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lilyhammer, season 1

The first episode was auspicious! Classic fish-out-of-the-bowl comedy, admittedly, but still! 
Van Zandt as the New York wiseguy expatriated to tiny Lillehammer in tiny Norway - in bleak midwinter, of course, for good measure - was huge fun.

After the first couple of episodes, however, it all turned Sopranos-goes-to-Norway, which, admittedly again, is not the worst of references but still did not quite measure up, in my opinion. 
Or perhaps it was just not my cup of tea.

Co-produced by Lasse Hallström and Van Zandt.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Skip the Use, Casino de Paris

A concentrate of white-hot energy! Absolutely brilliant!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Louie, season 2

Still the same overpowering brew of basic truisms, swear words, talk about feces and body fluids, occasional gutwrenchingly embarrassing behaviour, self-deprecating humour and New York, the way it actually looks when you see it for real (as opposed to the New York you typically see on film and TV).

All this in the savoury, easily digested format of twenty-minute episodes, very similar to cashews (once you start, you can't stop).

Euro-Punk exhibition, Cité de la Musique

The subject matter is unprecedented, as far as I know, and the amount of documents on display is remarkable; concert videos of more or less illustrious bands, 1970s newsflashes starring brown-clad news-anchors with giant sideburns, fanzines, record covers, posters plus a recording studio with a musician to assist your version of 'Anarchy in the UK' and a hand-operated device allowing you to design and print your own punk-badge.

In all, an inspiring and penetrating exhibit, though perhaps not as arresting as it could have been. (I would have added mannequins, clothes, and more hands-on paraphernalia...) 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - A. Lee 2000

I realize I am breaking through open doors here, but anyway :

- Bechdel-test passed with flying colours.
- Visually breathtaking.
- Inventive and unpredictable plot.

Great film.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Miley Cyrus

I find it deeply disheartening that so many young girls of today (and I'm not aiming solely Cyrus, here. You will come up with heaps of them, if you set your mind to it; Spears, Aguilera, Rihanna...) can think of with nothing but the porn card to show they are Now Grown Women.
Are we really that short on valid female role models??

Friday, November 1, 2013

Paranorman - S. Fell & C. Butler 2012

A random observation : Outcast little boys seem to be particularly apt at connecting with dead people. Strange.

On the film : Creepy supernatural phenomena, zombies and a puritan witch curse make this film slightly more gruesome - and refreshing - than your average kiddie-movie. 
Yet, the message conveyed is the same as usual; tolerance, understanding, standing up for oneself.