Saturday, February 28, 2015

Grand Budapest Hotel - Wes Anderson 2014

Few and far between are films that can be said to be truly original without being weird more than anything else. Wes Anderson's films are!
(Original but not weird, that is.)
(At least not too weird.)

Moreover : Wohoo! A functioning computer! I feel like I have been stranded on a desert island for a fortnight, and not visited the north of well-connected Sweden.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

I tried this out for rather curious reasons. For instance, I follow Gaiman on Twitter, though I can't really say why. Also, I kept coming across his name in various articles and blog-posts.When the copy I ordered on Amazon arrived and the cover carried blurbs by USA Today and Stephen King, I was slightly worried but went on reading anyway.

Ultimately, I was glad I did! The plot revolves around the aptly named Shadow, who is hired as a bodyguard for Scandinavian god Wotan / Odin and subsequently is made to navigate, Jesus-like, between an impressive number of more or less ancient gods, brought to the US by the settlers and then forgotten for more modern deities.

It was all entertaining and clever enough! A good read, though not exactly Nobel-prize material.

I'm currently having issues with the internet access. Sooner or later, pics will come.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - D. Fincher 2008

A part from cutting a slice of US history and presenting it in a pretty present wrapper, this indeed curious short story by Fitzgerald (Honestly; no Hollywood producer would ever have taken the risk of financing this backward story had not the director and original author been such legends...) is also a bold take on the ideal of eternal youth.

Benjamin is born in 1918 a senile old man, and then ages in reverse, gaining youth and vigour as he grows older, until he dies a baby.

It is weird. It is slow. It is beautiful. It is mesmerizing.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

57th Grammy Awards

Not that I have meticulously followed the Grammy Awards through the years -  I watch with pleasure when fate wills it, otherwise not - yet it seems to me to be less and less an awards ceremony and more and more numbers of top-notch musicians taking great pains to impress one another with their performances.
Unexpected duos and re-arranged hit-songs have become run-of-the-mill procedure.

This year's highlights : 
- Surprise trio; Paul Mc Cartney, Rihanna and an unexpectedly subdued Kanye West.
- Katy Perry, also unusually restrained.
- Pharrell Williams in an new version of 'Happy' (Kudos for that! The Stones still play the album versions of all of their hits...)
- Hozier and Annie Lennox in a mashup of 'Take Me To Church' and 'I Put A Spell On You'.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Back To The Start - Plasticines

Admittedly, there is nothing really groundbreaking about this almost a year old album : It's fair and square rock music, with a not so subtle hint of catchy pop tunes. 
Or indeed the opposite.
Yet after a couple of days spent scanning the top 40 radio lists for new music, finding this felt like stumbling across a precious gem in a deep and dark forest. (And allow me to remind you, I am in no way adverse to commercial music; I'm just asking for a minimum of quality.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? - Jeannette Winterson

I was already familiar with Winterson's writing, so her skill came as no surprise. 
I have not yet got around to her magnum opus, autobiographical 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit'. If I had, I suspect this also autobiographical, but not novelized, childhood mémoir would have felt a little like a repetition.

As a baby, Winterson was adopted by a deeply religious couple, evolving around a particularly stern, unbalanced woman, in the north of England. Needless to say, baby Jeannette was considered a failure - otherwise, as she points out herself, her future might have taken a wholly different course - indeed soon 'possessed by the devil' as her sexual preferences developed. 

The back cover blurbs promises the book to be "laugh-out-loud funny", which prompted me to wonder whether I perhaps had read another text altogether, or had misunderstood every word. However talented, Winterson is also tormented and though humour is not absent from her writings, at no point did I laugh out loud. (One might also wonder where on earth my present yearn for lighter entertainment comes from? Is this winter just proving too much for me?)

Another brilliant, though slightly depressing, read!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Imitation Game - M. Tyldum 2014

Last year, for the 60th anniversary of his death, Alan Turing started appearing in various publications intended for high school teachers of English, at least in France. Before that, I don't think I had ever heard his name. I now know he was a mathematician, pivotal in cracking German WWII codes, and counts as a precursor in computer science.

This film will tell you all of the above (except for his appearances in French schooling documents) in two entertaining hours. My ten-year-olds both enjoyed it, albeit not as much as I did. Wholesome family fun, then! (OK, perhaps more educational than fun.)

I am so going to get this on DVD and show it to students! Apart from the fact that it fits nicely into the work on the Blitz I generally do with my last-years, and its obvious didactic value, it also skilfully raises the issues of outsidership, feminism, friendship, tolerance and homosexuality.

Plus, it's directed by a Scandinavian.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Stalag IIB - Tardi

The full title, translated into English, would be 'I, René Tardi, Prisoner of War at the Stalag II B; My Return to France' which is actually a full disclosure of the narrative.

In the previous tome, Tardi junior (one of France's foremost creators of graphic novels) depicted his father's time as a soldier and then as a prisoner of war in the infamous above-mentioned camp. German surrender is now imminent, and the prisoners are made to leave the camp as the Russian army is drawing nearer. A toilsome travel awaits Tardi père before finally falling into his fiancé's arms again, in the final picture.

The drawings are of Tardi's usual aesthetic and the use of colour shrewd. The story is told in two voices, the distressed, cynical father's and his teenage son's; youthfully candid and detaining historical hindsight at the same time.

First-person life-stories are history of a different kind than what you normally find in history books, and much is said here about human behaviour in war, notwithstanding the nationality. 

I'm not sure why I liked this tome better than the first? Perhaps because I took longer to read it. I suspect this kind of epic needs some time to be properly digested. 
A brilliant read, if not very uplifting. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Knick, season 1

Ever-gorgeous Clive Owen stars in this Soderbergh-directed series as a moody, drug-ridden, yet obviously brilliant head surgeon at a fictional early twentieth century hospital in New York. 
The plot is dense and well-conceived, the setting is almost as gorgeous as the head surgeon (though I wish he'd lose that facial hair...).

And yet... from über-skilled Steven Soderbergh I confess I expected something a little less conventional, especially as far as the characters are concerned.
Bit of a disappointment, therefore. 

However, I have only seen the first three episodes, so I'm not sure I should actually be allowed to pronounce an opinion. 
I think I'll leave it at those three, though. Life is too short for stereotypes.