Friday, October 31, 2014

Klättercentret, Solna Stockholm

In my personal, yet humble, opinion, we humans were intended to keep our two feet on the ground most of our time awake (except possibly when relaxing in any comfortable couch that comes our way). 
I have come to realize, however, that not everyone agrees with me. Some even wildly enjoyed climbing 15 metres up the walls at Solna's Climbing Center.

Admittedly, the place was clean and the instructors friendly enough. The crowded carpets and the persistent smell of sweat I guess may be things you have to put up with when accompanying would-be mountain-climbers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Full Monty - P. Cattaneo 1997

Still really cute and entertaining, although deeply sexist : The same story with female losers turning strippers would be either unthinkable or particularly seedy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Skyfall - S. Mendes 2012

My ten-year-olds latest passion is James Bond-films...

The basic principle that makes this somehow vaguely acceptable and sets it apart from - say, 'World War Z' - is that the amazing stunts and highly unlikely immortality of the Bond character are part of the concept and therefore bother me much less than the Pitt-family-man-turned-reluctant hero.

Or at least, it doesn't automatically turn a James Bond-movie into a turn-off.

Or I don't think it does. Problem is I just don't like action films at all.
Shootouts and explosions.
I hope my daughter moves on to something more interesting in a very near future.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Match Point - W. Allen 2005

HOW does Jonathan Rhys Meyers not have a glorious career going on for him?
Admitted, he may not be any brilliant Laurence Olivier acting talent, but then so few are (I'm not going to mention Scarlett Johanssen's name)! It seems unfair to hold that against him, handsome as he is! Did he drown his own career in alcohol and public outbursts, or what happened??

PS There is a film surrounding him in here, as well, I seem to recall. 
Something about Rhys Meyers lusting for his future sister-in-law, which eventually turns into a terribly commonplace story (Remember 'A Place In The Sun'?).

No 'Annie Hall', but not bad either, as far as Woody Allens go.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

World War Z - M. Forster 2013

As I - much to my surprise - enjoyed the book, it would have made sense not to watch the film. I wasn't going to. Then I don't know what happened, but for some reason (as you may have guessed by now) I did.

This is what is wrong with it :

1. The global, somewhat impersonal nature of the novel is gone, to the benefit of a fairly ordinary story about a family man fighting to save his female, hence helpless, family.

2. Zombie-attack scenes galore! Way too galore! Even squeamish me ended up numbed to the violence after a while, and I generally squirm at fist-fights. (Less is more, as a general rule...)

3. The Pitt-character could well have been played by Tom Cruise, to very much the same effect; that is how 100% invincible he is. Which is all the more inconsistent as the whole point with zombies is that they are totally unstoppable.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Song Book - Nick Hornby

Just like Patrick Bateman of 'American Psycho', Hornby here dedicates whole chapters to songs he enjoys. Instead of dissecting Whitney Houston- and Huey Lewis and the News-albums, however, Hornby is more into low-key hippie music. 

At least I think he is! Because however much I adore Hornby - and I do! I do! - our tastes in music have no more in common than our tastes in literature (see 'Ten Years In the Tub') so most of the time I have no idea who he is on about.

Which is just fine, though, because as I have already pointed out on numerous occasions, if Hornby wrote user's manuals for electronic hardware, I am confident I would read them with just as much delectation as I did this.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Frances Ha - N. Baumbach 2012

Curiously, absolutely nothing about this film - the poster, the black& white, the indie hipster thing, the media praise - attracted me to it. I finally got around to it because of how favourably impressed I was with 'The Squid and the Whale' a couple of weeks ago.

... And yet, I ought to have enjoyed this! The link to 'Girls' is conspicuous - Hannah's Adam is there to highlight it to us - as they both portray the same kind of people in the same kind of vein.

However, where Dunham's show is light and serious and clever and relaxed, I found this pretentious and nonsensical. The characters were all rather irritating, and I couldn't identify with any of them.
Yet, I have to hand it to Baumbach : His film passes the Bechdel-test better than most!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bend It Like Beckham - G. Chadha 2002

I have been studying this film with students for longer than I care to remember.
I had therefore decided it was time for these football-playing young girls to finally retire from my classroom, and for me to move on to something different (or preferably; the very same, but in an updated version).

Circumstances, however, would have it otherwise and I ended up looking at football-vocabulary and unsympathetic parents with students that are even younger than my usual crowd.
Turns out they still enjoy it! Some even knew the film already and promoted it among the others!
Way to go, Chadha! Nice work! 
And on behalf of all the English teachers in France : A heartfelt Thank You!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Problem(s) With Biopics

Once and for all :

1. Art aiming at recreating life as faithfully as possible is simply missing something about what art is supposed to be! 

2. Be it director or scriptwriter(s), someone at some point has to adopt a point of view of the main character - not seldom a forgiving point of view, for obvious reasons - which would be acceptable if it didn't unmistakably lead to a biased portrait.

3. You Cannot Tell A Whole Life-Story In Just Two Hours. Or even three. 
You just can't. No way, no how. Not possible.


Hemingway & Gellhorn - P. Kaufman 2012

Normally gorgeous Clive Owen (not so much in this opus, sadly) is Hemingway to Kidman's narrating war-correspondent / third wife. Filming the civil war in Spain, drinking & writing in Key West, they do just about everything you expect them to do and not much else.

An imaginative (well...) play with colours and grain is the only thing that sets this ambitious TV-film apart from other, basic love stories. If, like my father (and probably at some level myself; why else would I keep bothering with biopics??) you get a kick out of believing things to be Based On A True Story, then this is an OK way to learn a few things about one of America's greatest writers. (Unless you have already studied some literature, in which case you already know this.)

Not much to redeem old Papa Hemingway in here, interestingly. He is portrayed as being precisely as vain, macho and self-indulgent as the public image makes him out to be.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Though in no way well-schooled in psychology, the concept of two separate ways of thinking - one intuitive, 'fast' and the other more analytical, 'slow' - does not seem that far-fetched to me, really. 
If you stop to think about it, it even becomes kind of obvious.

That was precisely the case  with a lot about this book : I have only read 150 pages (and I'm quitting now) but so far, none of Kahneman's findings has come as any sort of surprise to me. At some level, I think we all know what he says to be true. 
I am not saying we could have done without his book - Intuition, as he painstakingly points out, only goes so far, after all - I am just saying I personally can probably go without reading it.

For instance : 
I knew beforehand it's media coverage that has made the Western world all wound up about Ebola, although cancer is statistically a lot more likely to do us in. 
I did not know that the scientific term for this is 'availability heuristics'.
Questions that arise :
1. Do I need (or even wish) to know that?
2. Did I really need a full chapter to learn it?
3. How long am I going to remember it?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Take This Waltz - S. Polley 2011

Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams (in a horrible haircut) star as a happy hippie couple whose new neighbour poses an unexpected threat to marital bliss.

The action is slow-moving and poetic; it's that rare sort of film that somehow makes you feel you are actually watching real people instead of made-up Hollywood actors. 
(I wonder if that may be linked to Williams's haircut?)

Altogether, it was kind of romantic although also there was also something more than a little irritating about the Rogen-Williams couple...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hypnotisören - L. Hallström 2012

I do recall reading this a couple of years ago, but must admit that is pretty much all I remember about it.
My enthusiasm for detective novels has moved from rather intense to practically nonexistent, I'm afraid. These days, it seems to me most of them consist largely of cheap thrills and misogyny. 

Nothing about this adaptation clashes with the above. It is more slow-moving than most American thrillers, and well reflects the mood of what is known in Sweden as 'Stockholm noir'.

Apart from that, the one positive view I might forward about it, would be that Hallström finally deviates from his customary feelgood-approach to film-making. 
(Regrettably, he is no David Fincher.)
(Not many are. Another regrettable fact of life.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Strut - Lenny Kravitz

For those of us who were young and fresh in the 1990s, this is runner-friendly, old-school rock music.

The rest of you can probably save yourselves the trouble.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hyde Park on Hudson - R. Michell 2012

Ever excellent Laura Linney stars as Roosevelt's distant cousin, suddenly turned lover. 
The author apparently shares my views on biopics, and cleverly focuses on the fairly casual visit of British George VI and wife, rather than telling the Whole Story.

It does some good to the film! Where a more exhaustive narrative would have been superfluous and probably uninteresting, this remains an adequate enough film. 

Nothing overly exciting, though, except perhaps if you start musing on how society still today would consider a female head of state surrounding herself with spouse + lovers + an ageing mother...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Masters of Sex, season 2

Not only have sex-researchers Masters and Johnson's private lives evolved since the first season, the plot is now also spiced up with psychotherapy and the race issue inherent to 1960s USA.

Interestingly, as the episodes move on, the sex scenes become more and more scarce, to leave room for a deeper dive into feelings.

Aesthetically, this is still very appealing. It is also well-played and well-written. 
Daringly, the authors have removed several (sorely missed!) secondary characters to introduce new ones.

Still entirely watchable, therefore! Which was a relief, as I was starting to believe drama series had no way of surviving, let alone bettering, their first season. (A phenomenon now known as the 'Homeland'-effect.)


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

V - Maroon 5

I am having a hard time making up my mind about this. 
Clearly, it is not as catchy as the first few albums. 
Then, neither is it as uninteresting as the previous.

Tough call, then. Fairly runnable, however, so I'm keeping it in my ipod for the time being. 
(It shares ipod-space with Prince, Adam Lambert and Jack White, in case you are wondering.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thor ; The Dark World - A. Taylor 2013

No, I have not changed my mind about men in tights. 

Sadly, neither has my ten-year- old daughter. 
I therefore still sit through one, from time to time, holding out for better days.

Nothing new under the sun, in this one, except perhaps a rather Jackson's-Lord-Of-The-Rings-inspired imagery.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

L'Eternel - Joann Sfar

Sfar produces comics, novels and films in a highly impressive creative frenzy. 
He seems to have published books at almost every editing house in France, if the list in this pocket edition is anything to go by. 
Despite this abundance, 'L'Eternel' was my first Sfar, not counting 'Petit Vampire' which I may have read to my children some years ago.

This narrative about an early 20th century Ukrainian vampire, however, did have several common points with the jolly little succubus I remembered. It was playful, irreverent, very verbose and slightly surreal. 
Not quite my cup of tea, but definitely worth discovering.

Friday, October 10, 2014

We're the Millers - R. Marshall Thurber 2013

A band of warm-hearted sinners team up and pose as a 'normal' nuclear family on a road trip into Mexico with weed in their van and - guess what? - heinous villains at their heels.

Perspicacious readers just might be able to figure out how it ends. No surprises in view!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Plectrumelectrum - Prince and 3rd Eye Girl

Prince's greatness never lay either in inches above water - although he IS short - nor in any particular album - although some of them ARE pure genius - but rather in his refusal to adopt one single style, even to excel in it. But that was way back in the day, of course; before he got stuck in a funky jazz-rut, and I filed for a divorce.

Having not even considered buying a single Prince-album in the last decade, I can't really say what prompted me to get this. Marketing, perhaps?

Be that as it may, this was actually quite OK! It's not 'Purple Rain' or 'Lovesexy', obviously, nor even anywhere near the New Power Generation, but then those days are, I guess, irrevocably gone.

The Prince on guitars is the Prince I prefer, so I enjoyed this, even though it's not always very runner-friendly.

Incidentally, I did take a shot at the other album as well. It's just that I have never really shared his neverending enthusiasm for languorous ballads, so that was not for me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dial M for Murder - A. Hitchcock 1954

A devilish conspiracy to frame an innocent woman, camera shoots from unforeseen angles, protracted scenes with nothing but dialogue and, to boot, Grace Kelly.

Vintage Hitchcock! The one thing missing would be James Stewart.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Identity Thief - S. Gordon 2013

Mary Mc Carthy is pretty irresistible doing her usual stunt, coupled up with Jason Bateman's ordinary family man on a road trip with villains on their heels. (Not all that original, as you see.)

The dialogue could have been punchier, the ending could have been less conventional... 
Yet all in all, this is a watchable comedy, if you have nothing better to do.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Avant l'Hiver / Before the Winter Chill - P. Claudel 2013

Two French films in the course of a week! I guess I have already filled my quota for the next six months by now!

Like Sarah's Key, Claudel's first film, this is a slow, subdued and finely tuned affair, about an ageing surgeon, his wife and his stalker. (That may have come off a wee bit more dramatic than it does in the film...)

It is a vehemently un-American film in that it rests heavily on the implicit and the un-said. 

It also has quite a strange, hypnotic character to it : My husband and kids of all ages passing in front of the TV set all somehow froze and remained staring at the excruciatingly slow-moving plot. Only the cat was insensitive to Claudel's directing talents.

Should you like to have a go at his writing, I recommend you try 'Les Ames Grises' (Grey Souls).

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The 7.39 - J. Alexander 2013

Predictable and banal indeed - Still, sort of Britishly cute. 

And David Morrissey!

And Simon Doonan's mother from 'Beautiful People'!