Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Romance and Cigarettes - The Toxic Avenger

Mixing dance electronica with rap is a bold move, and perhaps even more so coming from a French artist. (In no way looking to antagonise anyone, Frenchmen as a general rule are after all no friends of innovation...)

In art, surprise is everything, so I enjoy this! 
It helps, of course, that it's very runnable and catchy without being plain stupid. That is harder than you'd think. (Otherwise, I might as well run to Taio Cruz.)


Monday, January 27, 2014

The Newsroom, season 2

Most TV-shows need at least a few episodes, sometimes up to a whole season, to find their pace. While 'The Newsroom' started off as a 55-minute journalism-version of Sorkin's previous facetious masterpiece 'The West Wing', it then veered off into The Dark Side, abounding with neuroses, war crimes, childhood drama - and, sadly, two very predictable love affairs. 

All the fun is gone from the dialogue, but the sharpness and acumen are still on, so of course I will be watching the third - and final!? - season as soon as I can.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

La Dynastie Brueghel, La Pinacothèque de Paris

As faithful readers are already aware, I generally appreciate being surprised when it comes to art.

However! Entering the Pinacothèque, I expected scenes of daily life in medieval Holland, more or less gruesome depending on which Brueghel was behind the easel (still can't keep track of them all) which I highly enjoy. 

What I got, though, was indeed some scenes of daily life - not too gruesome, as it turned out - but also still lifes, vanities (bouquets with malevolent insects), landscapes, allegories and even Biblical scenes. 
A lot less tortured than anticipated, much to the relief of my companion, so not all of us left disgruntled.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mandela, Long Walk To Freedom - J. Chadwick 2013

2,5 hours is of course way too long for a film, but at the same time very short to depict 70 years of an intrepid and eventful life.
As a consequence, this opus is decidedly better as a history lesson than as a work of art.

As a history lesson, it worked fine! Roughly a hundred senior-high school students sat stock-still throughout the film, and learned a lot while doing so. 

Even I, who knew the story, resent biopics and execrate long films, didn't really have time to lose interest. Contrary to Mandela's autobiography, this film does not gloss over his womanizing or Winnie's propensity for violence.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mandomsprovet - Jonas Cramby

Introspection is not sinful per se, but in order for it to hold for a whole novel, the author needs to be able to Write.
You'd reasonably think Cramby, a skillful journalist, would fulfill that requirement, but sadly and despite appearances, journalism and literature are worlds apart.

It's interesting to note, furthermore, that the important amount of female Swedish journalists penning novels all seem exclusively to focus on societal problems - child and sexual abuse, feminism, urban poverty, immigration... - while Cramby homes in on his own midlife crisis (representative though it may be of a whole generation of Westerners (my generation!) refusing to adhere to the traditional view of what 'growing up' actually means).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Musée de l'Immigration, Paris 12ème arrdt

Admittedly, 'immigration' may not be the simplest of notions to explicit and display at a museum.
True enough, this therefore amounts pretty much to an extensive photo exhibition.

The 1930s art deco building is spacious and magnificent, and the basement houses an aquarium full of exotic fish.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Newsroom, season 1

There is no great directing-name behind this one, but TV royalty (Aaron Sorkin is the creator of 'The West Wing'). 
Acting are, among others, the apple of my eye, Dev Patel, a brilliant Olivia Munn and too rare Jeff Daniels.

'The Newsroom' is nothing groundbreaking; it's not Trailblazer TV, like 'Treme' or 'The Sopranos'. What it is : well-wrought, graceful, sharp and quick-witted. 
Oh, and heavily addictive.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Marshall Mathers LP 2 - Eminem

Eminem is my guilty pleasure, and that is sort of embarrassing, NOT because I'm 45 years old - he is after all middle-aged himself - but because it makes me feel like all the people who discovered blues through the Rolling Stones, and rock music thanks to Elvis Presley. I. e. a bit pathetic. 

At my age, however, I can live with that! Especially as it allows me to vicariously feel like the angry young man Eminem somehow seems to have managed to remain.

An eminent sense of poetry and "rapbot" rhythm  ("I rap like a robot"). 
What's not to like?


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rise of the Guardians - P. Ramsey 2012

Ooooh, another coming-of-age story! Again? No, I mean : Precisely what the world needed!

What I personally had no objection to, though : Enjoying Jude Law's velvety voice without having to put up with his self-contented smirk.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tattoos - Jason Derülo

I sometimes feel I can put just about anything in my ipod while running, provided it is upbeat enough.

Then, every now and then, I am reminded that I am not, after all, quite that despondent.
There is no way I can take Derülo, for instance. I have tried! I just find this soul-less and commercial. 

(And yes, I do honestly hold Avicii for a more personal and conscientious artist.)
(And that is not only because he's from Sweden.)
(At least I think it isn't.)


Friday, January 17, 2014

Sleep - Haruki Murakami

Very few male authors choose women as their main protagonists, especially in a first person narrative. That is, however, not the only aspect of Murakami that sets him apart from just about everyone else.

His particular Twilight-zone universe is comes to its full right in novels, it seems to me, but this novella has the advantage of being enhanced by illustrations of German artist Kat Menschik.

The story is about insomnia. Or rather the loss of the need to sleep. And about love. Or lack of love. Or solitude. Or memories of the past. And a re-evaluation of life.
Or all of the above. (Or, perhaps, none?)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera, Art in Fusion - Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

There were hordes of visitors, at the entrance and once inside, (Do book tickets online! That will reduce your queuing to 30 minutes.) as opposed to the number of exhibits, which was relatively meager. 

Diego Rivera was lavishly over-represented, and while he may be a great artist, I for one am not exactly transported by his work.

Yet Kahlo's work generously made up for everything else! 
Her canvases are literally mesmerizing, expressing suffering like nothing else I know of.

Jag Ringer Mina Bröder - Jonas Hassen Khemiri

Khemiri is one of Sweden's greatest now living writers (the other is Kerstin Ekman) and I truly pity you English-speaking readers, since inexplicably, there are no English translations of Khemiri's work. 

(Not that I don't also pity the hypothetical translator... I would not want to translate a first-class linguistic contortionist such as he.)

(There is a lot to be said, by the way, about the fact that Camilla Läckberg and Stieg Larsson not only can be found in every language of the Western hemisphere, but also sell billions of books... but I reckon I don't need to go there again.)

This novella, like Khemiri's other publications, deals with Sweden's second generation immigrants and their feelings of alienation. It is more than thought-provoking; it actually forces you to reconsider the issue from a new angle, and it does so in the most melodious style you can possibly imagine. 

My one vexation with this book is that 150 pages is much too short.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Life of Pi - A. Lee 2012

I read Yann Martel's novel a couple of years ago, and was enough enchanted to make very sure to steer clear of the film.

(Forgetful readers will find my views on adaptations here : )

After pressure from my nine-year-old (I know. I have weird kids.), we caught it on TV the other night, despite some resistance on my part as the book did not at all strike me as child-friendly.

The film, however, turned out a lot more come-at-able, easier to grasp, since all the darker aspects are gone. Hence, a lot less interesting.

It was visually enchanting, of course, (Ang Lee knows his stuff!) but basically, I felt he had made a children's movie out of a novel for adults.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Just Kids - Patti Smith

Shamefully uncultivated, my beforehand knowledge of Patti Smith boiled down to 'Because the Night' and that seminal photo with the doves. I have now learned she is a multifaceted artist, author of several novels and a load of poetry.

Her poetic skills are obvious in this autobiographical novel of her penniless youth in early 1970s New York along with soul-mate photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. They are both 'just kids' and in search of their artistic identities among their likes; Janis Joplin, Johnny Winters, William Burroughs, Todd Rundgren, Sam Shepard, the Factory people...

This was a great read! Entertaining and poetic and literary - plus all the namedropping!

 Patti Smith, by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1979


Sunday, January 12, 2014

We Are Miracles - Sarah Silverman

You are all perfectly aware of the saddening lack of women in comedy, so I'm not going to discourse on that subject. I'm just mentioning it to underline how very much I wanted to enjoy this. 

Apart from being of the underrepresented sex, Silverman dauntlessly broaches issues such as porn, religion, feminism and politics.  

Sadly, she is just not very funny. At least, this didn't make me laugh, despite all of the above.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

20 Ans d'Ecart - D. Moreau 2012

Regular romcom, presenting two advantages : 

1) It's kinda cute.

2) It's so fantastically predictable, you can watch the beginning, then go take a shower and do your nails, then come back and watch the ending while your polish dries and feel like a multitasking maestro.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Oldboy - S. Lee 2013

This is not a review, but a dilemma : I have revered Spike Lee and his joints for almost as long as I can remember, but the trailer to this opus almost made me wet my pants with fear.
And I hate being frightened by a movie!! 
(I do realize that sets me apart from all the teenagers of today. That is okay, though, as I am after all a lot older!)

What to do?? 
How scary is 'Oldboy'? 
Can I close my eyes from time to time (I did after all sit through 'Django Unchained'!) or will bones be crunching and blood splattering throughout the film?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Game Change - J. Roach 2012

Julianne Moore is first-rate as highly entertaining and very scary vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in this TV-film on the 2008 election campaign.

The film is as diverting as its heroine, and holds its major strength from its nuanced portrayal of Palin. 
Indeed, where it must have been terribly tempting to merely wallow in her numerous shortcomings as a politician, her strengths and vulnerabilities are almost as present. (Interestingly, Mc Cain comes across as a very decent person.)

The film is also a harsh denunciation of the hypocrisy and cold-blooded manipulation of politics today.

Very seldom do I come across biopics or reality-based movies that make this good films!


Monday, January 6, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street - M. Scorsese, 2013

As far as educational cinema goes, this beats 'Invictus' with approximately 750 %.
It's elegant film-making, an unfolding of the Scorsese know-how in a brilliant moral- and history-lesson on the 1980s and late -90s.

It is also waaay too long (Three fucking hours!!) (That is a semi-quote from the film, btw.) but thanks to my daughter's deceptive sales technique, I wasn't aware of that when buying our tickets (or I most definitely would not have bought them).

Taken as a work of art, however, this film contains nothing you haven't already seen in a heap of movies, if you are a movie-goer over 25.

In a nutshell, it's Scorsese, so it's great, but it's not great Scorsese.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Invictus - C. Eastwood 2009

A great fan of Mandela and Freeman (and I don't even mind Damon that much, either) I am nevertheless quite allergic to Clint Eastwood's way of treating his audience as creatures of lesser intelligence, simplifying everything to the extreme, rendering everything over-obvious.

However, I viewed this with my kids, who remained sedately seated almost until the credits started rolling, which allowed them to enjoy a free and efficient history lesson, well adapted at least for the nine-year-old's age group.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Funny Lady - H. Ross 1975

Notwithstanding a few notable exceptions - The Godfather 2, The Empire Strikes Back, The Two Towers - follow-ups are rarely much fun.

True to this basic tenet, comedian Fanny Brice's adult love-life is in substance tantamount to a two-hour long music video. Mercifully, James Caan sings very little.

Funny Girl - W. Wyler 1968

I adored this at twelve, and much to my surprise found the other day that I still do!

This persistence of sentiment is most likely due to the idiosyncratic Streisand pizazz, and the splashy 1960s studio setting. And to 'Peopleeeee... who need peopleeeee'.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Meaning of Life - Jones & Gilliam, 1983

There are worse ways to inaugurate a new year than reviewing a classic!

Although it necessarily provokes less laughter than it used to, watching the Monty Python swing ferociously at religion, the upper class, the army, the school system and just about anything is still a blast.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mitt Första Liv - Bodil Malmsten

Malmsten is a somewhat flimsy-looking elderly lady with razor-sharp views and phrasings.
That, in addition to her deadpan sense of humour and the poetry of her style makes for an entertaining and thought-provoking read.

This is the first part of her autobiography, recounting her childhood in a small village of northern Sweden. It feels typical of the author that part three was published a couple of years ago...