Monday, December 30, 2013

Ett Kort Uppehåll - Göran Rosenberg

Rosenberg is one of Sweden's foremost journalists, so that the research on his father's past is so extensive and thorough comes as no surprise.

What I had not anticipated, however, was his literary ambitions. Much as I do encourage journalists to use a more flourishing and inspired style, though, I didn't think Rosenberg's talent quite lived up to his ambitions. But kudos for trying!

The subject matter is engaging; Rosenberg senior survived Auschwitz and started a new life in Sweden after the holocaust. Not enough has been said, to my mind, about the survivors' first post-war years, which were rendered so much harder by the fact that nobody really wanted to hear about what had happened to them. Indeed, David Rosenberg's past finally caught up with him.

This was gripping and well-researched although the writing was irritating.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Clash - Strummer, Jones, Simonon, Headon

This may not be a journalistic masterpiece of research and analysis, but I for one found it extremely refreshing to read first-hand accounts of musicians who actually appear to have their brains intact. No harping on about drugs and girlfriends, no whiny Bill Wyman-figure spewing bitterness : Everyone seems fairly content with their brilliant and brilliantly short career with the Clash, notwithstanding a few regrets which they appear to have all but accepted.

The fact of the matter is that reading this made me want to delve deeper into their work, and that feels like a positive outcome from a book about music.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Beyonce & the F-word

I have not yet had the opportunity to listen to her latest album, nor do I much appreciate her music in general.
BUT - a female American artist who actually proclaims herself to be a feminist!
I am going to have to give her album a shot, out of pure decency! Re-spect!

(For the record, I'll remind you that for instance Lady Gaga, despite her fierce appearances, refuses to call herself one, because she "love(s) men" - whatever that has to do with anything??

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Karl-Bertil Jonssons Julafton - P. Åhlin 1975

A Robin-Hoodesque Christmas tale, severely influenced by its birth date, created of one of Sweden's greatest wordsmiths ever, this TV short tells the tale of a young boy who takes it on himself to hand out post parcels among the Stockholm underworld.

It might be necessary to have grown up with this to fully appreciate it, but I don't think so. Karl-Bertil's angelic kindness is irresistible.

(And yes, this was the last Christmas film for this year. I promise.)

Merry Xmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Arthur Christmas - Smith & Cook 2011

1) This is from Aardman studios. They make 'Shaun the sheep' and 'Wallace & Gromit'.
2) A pitch about high-tech Santa's stumbling and neurotic black-sheep son is near-infallible.

As a result, there is no way, I believe, not to enjoy this, particularly when shown at the right season and all!

(Actually, there might in fact be a way. Our kids all deserted the ship, strangely. My husband and I had a good time, though.)


Sunday, December 22, 2013

How The Grinch Stole Christmas - R. Howard 2000

Dr Seuss's children's classic has, it seems to me, travelled fairly little outside the American borders (as opposed to, say, Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little House'-series which I did my very best to learn by heart as a young girl in my native Sweden). 

I, for one, have never read 'The Grinch', and as Christmas in Whoville appears to carry a distinctly Disneyesque stamp, which both I and my kids have outgrown, I don't think I will, either. 
Just like my kids, I definitely prefer Tim Burton's 'Nightmare Before Christmas'.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tremé, season 4

Although I can certainly see why 'Tremé' has had a hard time finding an audience, this is still brilliant TV! 

No murders, no adultery, no snappy one-liners, no gorgeous (nor even famous) actors to be found, but a clever, well-wrought plotline and believable characters.

This tiny epilogue of five episodes is to be the last season, which is simultaneously a pity and of course exemplary as it means there will be no slow decline of the show.

It took a couple of episodes for 'Tremé' to find its rhythm and balance at first (the first three episodes were pretty much incomprehensible) but just like New Orleans itself, its fictive inhabitants have picked themselves up and got their show back on the road.

I'll miss it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Will I Am, at Bercy

I can't really say what I had expected from Will I Am's first solo tour, but for some reason I was rather taken aback by what we got. However, in artistry, 'surprised' almost automatically equals 'good'!

The show was extremely visually elaborate and the star himself turned out multi-talented : He sang, danced, rapped, mixed other people's music, conversed the audience and even tap-danced.

Perhaps because of my status ad middle aged, I also had not anticipated that an all-electronic show - not a guitar in sight! - could seem to spontaneous.

As a bonus, Will proved to share my tastes in music, having Stromaé perform 'Alors On Dance' and 'Papaouté' to a frenzied crowd. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Sopranos, season 1

I distinctly remember watching this a number of years ago, and soon losing interest as I felt the mob-business took the upper hand on wise guy Tony's psychotherapy.

I can't tell yet whether I'll see the first season through this time, but however that goes, the pilote episode is just excellent. Dr Melfi nodding away, Tony's anxiety attacks and reluctant counselling, the strip club, the Italian family... and the ducks! Genius!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tous Les Mêmes - Stromaé

Although this young Belgian's previous dance tunes have been of various caliber, to my mind, this one is particularly brilliant! 

I am unsure as to whether it has something to do with the north European landscape, but I find no small amount of Jacques Brel-ish dramatic spleen in Stromaé's lyrics.

Poetic, socially engaged, rhythmic and witty, as well!

What's not to like?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Tempest - William Shakespeare

As a playwright, Shakespeare penned tragedies, historical plays and comedies. Some of the latter are sometimes termed romances, due to their ambiguities in content. For instance, the play ends happily though doubts and ambivalence remain.

I always tend to find the romances the most interesting, precisely for these reasons, although admittedly, they often require more than a little of Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief". (In 'Twelfth Night', a cross-dressing girl is taken by everyone to be a boy; in 'A Winter's Tale', a long-vanished woman reappears as a statue... )

'The Tempest' is no exception to the rule; the equivocal character of Prospero's personality is largely what adds dept to the play.

Furthermore, Stephen Orgel, the editor, writes excellent and informative introductions. 
Skip this one at your own risk.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit, part 2 - P. Jackson

In no way a knowledgeable Tolkienologist, I am - despite having read the book - wholly unable to tell you whether Jackson has stuck to the original text or gone bananas with inspiration. Judging from his earlier work, I'd guess the former.

What I can tell you, however, is that the film is a colourful, entertaining feast for the eye, well-suited for a bleak winter's afternoon.

Regarding the New Zealand scenery, I'm still not sure exactly how I will spend my time there, apart from flying around in a helicopter, admiring, (problem; the mere thought of climbing into a chopper makes me shit my pants) but I am now ready to emigrate!

For faithful readers now wondering how the above opinion suits my views on adapting novels, I would like to point out that Tolkien's greatness lies mainly in the action rather than in the text. That is why his books adapt so well to the screen.


Beginners - M. Mills 2010

Challenged by a friend to establish a top-five list of hot males last summer, I was so short on names it was positively embarrassing. Once the pressure dropped, fortunately, faces started popping up.
So, Maria, if you read this : Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Jake Gyllenhaal, Joseph Gordon Levitt, James Franco and Ewan Mc Gregor. 
(None of these can compare to any of my previous celeb crushes - Prince and Johnny Depp - but then I do get older.) (Though my crushes don't!!)

However, reducing 'Beginners' to McGregor's good looks would be a pity!
His character's grief for his gay and gone father is heart-rending, yet the staging is playful and innovative, Mc Gregor for instance regularly addressing his father's dog, who responds in subtitles. 

 A top-notch trifle.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lucia, Swedish Church in Paris

Leave it to the Swedish expats to uphold traditions with near-military rigor. 
If in doubt, please consider that the Swedish Church in Paris gives the annual Lucia concert no less than eight times in a mere couple of days.

Admittedly, it is a rather solemn and awe-inspiring moment, and the choir is first-class.
There is also mulled wine to be bought afterwards.

Picture borrowed from . (Lucia in London!) Thanks!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Phil Spector - D. Mamet 2013

I'll admit that the idea of Spector's innocence in the death of the girl at his house had never seriously crossed my mind. A brave stand to take on David Mamet's side, therefore!

Very cleverly - but then, Mamet usually knows his stuff..! - he also focuses on the relationship between Spector and his defense lawyer, rather than on the dead girl or the actual trial.

However brilliant a producer Spector was, he has never given the impression of being anything but a full-fledged shithead, so it is hard to side with him, which actually is in the best interest of the film! 

Excellent actors, obviously. 

Sadly, I found it a bit boring...

As for Spector, I am still pretty much convinced he did it. Celebs have a way of getting off the hook in the US, no matter how bad they look, so for Spector to have been actually convicted, I'd say the evidence must have been rather overwhelming.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mr Selfridge, season 1

Heavily inspired by 'Downton Abbey' - the period costumes, various social classes with their distinctive accents, the modernity of the early 20th century etc. - 'Mr Selfridge' nevertheless lacks the fundamental likeability of its predecessor. (And yes, I made that word up. But you get my drift.)

At Selfridge's, most of the staff seems morally devious and has no qualms about exploiting more naive co-workers. This profiteering is made even easier by the fact that telling the two character types apart is a mere child's play. 
The moral depth of these people is nil. It all comes out a bit flat.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mitt Positiva Liv - Andreas Lundstedt

Lundstedt is a Swedish popstar who achieved international success with 'Crying at the discothèque' a decade ago. By then he had already contracted HIV but kept it secret until 2007.

There is, therefore, material for something more than a celebrity-bio and indeed, his diagnosis - or more particularly his way of (not) dealing with it - represents the main interest of this book.

I guess the hyper-sentimental narrative style comes from Lundstedt himself, yet I tend to think his co-writer should have reined in on the hyperboles. (But then, what to expect from someone who is basically a fashion journalist? Sorry, Blankens, but please stick to fashion in the future. You are good at that.)

However much spice a drama queen will add to everyday life, I don't want it in writing!


Monday, December 9, 2013

School of Rock - R. Linklater 200

Predictable and conventional to a point where even my film buff 9-year-old thought it was too much.

Interesting observation, though : Why is it that - even in a lot more realistic films than this one - music on film always looks so astonishingly effortless? 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Very She & Him Christmas - She & Him

Quirky and facetious Christmas music. While the choice of melodies is conventional (but then, with 'Baby It's Cold Outside', how could you go wrong?) Deschanel's rather weak voice actually upgrades the classics to something a lot more up to date.

The one problem I have with this, is that I definitely prefer more bombastic versions; Barry Manilow, Motown and the likes.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Bechdel Test

 Once and for all :

The Bechdel test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. 

The test is named after the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel. In 1985, she had a character in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For voice the idea, which she attributed to a friend, Liz Wallace. The test  is also known as the Bechdel/Wallace test, the Bechdel rule, Bechdel's law, or the Mo Movie Measure.

stolen from
also check out Bechel's own website


Friday, December 6, 2013

Ted - S. MacFarlane 2012

In hindsight, I cannot fathom exactly what it was that made me believe I would enjoy this. Reviews, probably.

As it is, it turned out the dirty-teddybear idea was far from sufficient to compensate for the oppressive use of stereotypes in what ultimately boiled down to yet another weary (and wearying!) coming-of-age story. 

The Bechdel-test feels impossible to even allude to in a post about 'Ted'. Women in this film are girlfriends, period.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gremlins - J. Dante 1984

The lady at the Cinémathèque summed it up nicely when introducing the film last Sunday : It is a blend of producer Steven Spielberg's wholesome family fun and director Joe Dante's gore noir. Writer Chris Columbus's teen-movie touch is also clearly detectable.

My 9-year-olds were thrilled and terrified, but several younger kids were way more terrified than anything else and had to leave the theatre. 
(Frankly, Cinémathèque française, "cycle jeunesse"? Really?)

I personally found it predictable and booooring.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Eye Has To Travel - Vreeland & Perlmutt 2011

Diana Vreeland was fashion editor at 'Harper's Bazaar' and editor-in-chief at 'Vogue' before going on to exhibit costumes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It is difficult, with this kind of charismatic and energetic person to dissociate her persona from the documentary itself. Is the film interesting because she actually met Hitler, Coco Chanel and Wallis Simpson, or is it because the film-makers knew what they were doing?

Whatever the reason, the film was interesting!
It was also more than just an interview-based documentary; namely a document over the several eras Vreeland lived to see, starting with Belle Epoque Paris. Well worth seeing!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Good Wife, season 4

As far as TV-shows-clearly-targeting-a-female-audience go, 'The Good Wife' is a sort of antithesis to 'Desperate Housewives' where virtually all the characters were boneheads.

These Chicago lawyers all kick ass all the time, which is strangely empowering to watch. The moral complexity of some of the cases they defend obviously adds interest. 

Still, the plot is losing momentum, there is no denying it. 
All TV-series eventually come to a point where everyone has already slept with everyone at least once, and the scriptwriters just don't really know what to do with their characters any more. (For a very clear illustration, check out the final season of 'Friends'.) 
'The Good Wife' isn't there yet, but it's clear where we're heading.

Which is a pity, as there IS something special about courtroom dramas! I can't tell you how many times a day I feel like pounding my gavel and growl "Silence! Or I'll have you in contempt of court!"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Crazy Stupid Love - Ficarra & Requa 2011

... So it is still possible, then, to have romantic comedies be funny and romantic (rather than just tired and repetitive, I am looking at you, Hanks.)! 

This, too, suffers from all the conventions of the genre, which doesn't prevent it from also being quirky and cute. What else do you want from a romcom?!