Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Friends

... Well. At least there were SOME I didn't recognise.

Still, I have definitely watched this show a few times too many.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Monster - Micael Dahlen

I initially wanted Dahlén's first book, 'Nextopia', dealing with his field of expertise, namely consumer behaviour. As it turned was unavailable, I settled for this instead.

Murder off paper has never titillated my senses - Dahlén did! - and in point of fact I found the first part of 'Monster' lurid, prurient and rather shallow. The author accounts for his meetings around the world with famous killers, and not much is said that hasn't already been said before.

I had pretty much given up on Dahlén, when in the second part he started analysing, and it got a lot more stimulating! 
As the researcher he is, he polls people and reaches the conclusion that our opinion of a person changes for the better when the person is said to be a murderer. 
He examines the business around famous murderers (murderabilia) as well as the significance of murder in the entertainment industry. Murder is a cheap and simple way to instil suspense in a film / book / whatever.
He also questions how this permanent exposure to murder affects our behaviour. (Can the high murder frequency in the US be mere coincidence?)

Interesting, therefore! Well-written, too. 
I will make another attempt at 'Nextopia' next time I'm in Sweden.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

RRRrrr!!! - A. Chabat 2006

Two prehistoric tribes, the first serial killer in history (indeed, the very first murderer; "We must find him and ask WHY he did this."), a combat over the manufacturing of shampoo and an infinitude of silly, Monty Pythonesque jokes which had us snickering in the depths of our couch.

If a good laugh truly helps you live longer, I reckon Alain Chabat has, by now, extended my life with at least a week or so.



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Indiscreet - S. Donen 1958

Throughout the film I kept wondering to what extent this storyline would have been feasible today. It seems to me however much contemporary romantic comedies target living happily ever after, this intent focus on marriage itself - rather than merely living happily - is quite outdated.

Basically, Bergman's rather unsympathetic main character is kept at bay by eternal gentlemanlike Grant's made-up wife, to prevent her from bullying him into wedlock.

On the plus-side : Sassy New Look dresses and glamorous London exteriors.
 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Prête-Moi Ta Main - E. Lartigau 2006

An awfully conventional romcom, but Alain Chabat.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dracula - F. Coppola 1992

The colorful imagery and bombastic costumes could very easily have steered this opus overboard into an ocean of 1990s kitsch.
Remarkably, however, two decades later, it is still a visual enchantment, albeit not of the subtle kind.

Keanu Reeves is still as graceless as ever, though. I wonder what sort of hold he had on Coppola that prevented the latter from hiring a real Brit as Jonathan Harker. That would have ensured a proper British accent, and possibly some real acting as well.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Girls, season 4

Not much has changed from the previous episodes, at least not - Spoiler alert!! - once Hannah returns to New York. Same people, same surroundings, same type of storylines, same punchy and penetrating dialogue. Yet for some reason I just didn't find it as fun and attaching as the previous seasons. I'm at a total loss to explain why.
Focus is on Hannah, who shows herself uncommonly stuck-up, ego-centered and particularly un-likable.

Excellent final episode, though! I'll probably follow season five, as well. 
Maybe Hannah will come around...


Monday, March 23, 2015

Charade - S. Donen 1963

Cary Grant is heroic and at the same time deliciously ambiguous. 
Audrey Hepburn is witty, clever, doe-eyed and equipped with a stunning wardrobe.
The villains are numerous and constantly appear at unexpected places.
Paris looks sublime, all clean and 1950-ishly stylish.
The story line is divinely entangled.

A treat!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

David Bowie is, Philharmonie de Paris

This retrospective premiered at the Victoria and Albert in London over a year ago, and attracts crowds way too large for its own good in Paris at the moment.
Despite specific pre-bookings, we were squeezed in among loads of other - mostly middle-aged, like us - Bowie-fans, making it hard at least for me to take the time to truly admire the costumes, manuscripts, videos and other objects on display.

Moreover, the period in focus clearly ended with 'Scary Monsters' in 1980, so it was really only a decade of Bowie's admittedly variegated career that was under study.

Still, a beautifully heterogeneous exhibition!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Maktspelet - Henrik Fexeus

Fexeus calls himself a mentalist (yes, that does sound a bit like a TV-show past its prime) and the English title of this book - 'When You Do What I Want You To' - is pretty explicit.
Anyone regularly interacting with other people (anyone at all, hence) has already either intuitively used these techniques or has been subjected to them. The book is more of a coming to awareness, therefore, than an actual lesson, clarifying rather than explaining.

Not in any way uninteresting, however! Especially as Fexeus sprinkles his text with inside references to popular culture ("Do. Or do not. There is no try." quote Yoda) and witty phrasing.

Some of the gems, for your benefit only :
- Repeating your argument a sufficient number of times will ultimately make it seem true to other people.
- The smoother you package your message, the more people will accept it to be true. ("I'm Lovin' It")
- Praising people will heighten their productivity.
- Throwing people's brain off course through an unexpected turn of thought will open a window for you to pass on your message through.

...Plus : Body language, the crucial importance of conjunctions 'and', 'or', 'but' and their various uses, and more or less well-known sales techniques (follow and lead, for instance, or creating a series of 'yes').

Most of this I already knew, or sensed intuitively. 
Still; an entertaining and enlightening read.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Clerks - K. Smith 1994

To state that this film's genius is all in the dialogue would probably qualify as the understatement of the year. (So I'll try not to.) Yet to make a film work under these premises is nothing short of cinematographic brilliance : black and white, static shots lasting for minutes on end, a plot reduced to two goofy shop clerks spending a Saturday in a smalltown convenience store, with people coming and going.

What on earth has kept Smith from making other masterpieces like this??

 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Funny Girl - Nick Hornby

Leave it to Hornby to surprise me with a book (his first novel in 5 years! Five!) evolving around a pretty young blonde from Blackpool teaming up with a couple of comedy writers (loosely based on Galton and Simpson, creators of 'Steptoe and son'). Though the title conjures up Streisand's Fanny Brice, the aspiring young comédienne has Lucille Ball for a heroine.

There is obvious feminism in this stunning blonde not settling for being beautiful. 
There is also a nostalgic view of the swinging London of the 1960s, complete with the struggling homosexual and the conspicuous clash between old England and new England.
There is also a vibrant ode to comedy, both for the pleasure of making people laugh and as a possible promoter of modern values.
And it's all quite irresistible, really.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Fever Pitch - Nick Hornby

For those who might have missed it, I will repeat that I worship Hornby as a writer and have always proclaimed that I would certainly take pleasure in reading any text of his, whatever the subject.

That proclamation was of course severely put to the test with Hornby's first novel, 'Fever Pitch', which I had, inexplicably, never read before. The take is brilliant : It is an autobiography divided into football-matches, Hornby being a notoriously obsessive Arsenal-fan. I personally am very much the contrary, only my disapproval extends to the whole sport, rather than to just one team. That's why this book was indeed something of a challenge.

Each chapter is one game, starting in 1968 and ranging from 'Arsenal vs Liverpool / Luton / Ipswich' or 'England vs Holland' to 'My school vs Their school'. Via the matches, Hornby tackles not only the subject of his own youth, but also of the major societal events that were, for instance, the Heysel tragedy, or Hillsborough.

... And it's brilliant, of course! 
It would unquestionably have been even more brilliant if I had been able to muster up even the slightest interest in football, but as it were, I still intend to go on proclaiming I relish in Hornby's writing, whatever the subject.



Friday, March 6, 2015

Contagion - S. Soderbergh 2011

The final weeks of a flu-filled winter was perhaps not the optimum moment to view this all the more credible story about the swift, worldwide spread of an unknown virus. Think Sars, or H1N1, but of course deadlier - It's Hollywood, after all.

Soderbergh's film-making here is of the same clinical, detached style as in 'Traffic', which suits the subject-matter brilliantly. It says a lot about his talents that the film is still gripping.


And for the record; killing off major stars early on in a film is ALWAYS a clever idea!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Swing - Bengt Ohlsson

Ohlsson is one of Sweden's major contemporary writers; pragmatic, articulate, well-pondered and intelligent.
Boldly, he attacks tricky subjects from tricky angles, such as this two-voiced narrative - one of the voices being female, a rarity from a male writer - of a middle-aged, middle-class small-town couple giving in to a sudden whim to visit a swinger's club.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Jobs - J. Stern 2013

Quite a match, actually : The film and Kutcher's acting are both equally drab.

 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Expeditionen, Min Kärlekshistoria - Bea Uusma

I already knew a little about Andree and his two fellow explorers' aborted trip to the North Pole in 1897, which ended prematurely three days after take-off when their hot-air balloon floundered on the pack ice.
I learnt from this book that the men then spent ninety days on a small island just east of Svalbard, inhabited only by polar bears, before dying from causes still to this day unknown (much to Uusma's despair).

Had not the critics been so over the moon about this book, I would certainly never have even considered reading it, yet I certainly don't regret doing so. The title is 'The Expedition - My Love Story' which is an accurate description of how committed (obsessed is perhaps a better word?..) Uusma is to the explorers and their fate. 
Her enthusiasm is highly contagious, her writing elegant, and the book a sheer pleasure.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Levande och Döda i Winsford - Hakan Nesser

At his best, Nesser is one of Sweden's most underestimated contemporary writers.
This one is an  excellent thriller, as thought-provoking and exciting as it is poetic in style.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

This Is How You Lose Her - Junot Diaz

All the while reading this, Sandra Cisneros's iconic 'The House on Mango Street' kept popping into my mind, though arguably that says more about the lack of internationally renowned hispanic authors than about either Cisneros or Diaz. Still, these two do have a lot in common : They both depict first or second-generation latino immigrants in major US cities. They possess a well-developed sense of style and phrasing, an oral and seemingly uncomplicated language. Moreover, they have both chosen to collect short stories so closely knit together that they are almost novels, that way rendering several life destinies in a fairly limited number of pages.

Diaz's most frequent narrator corresponds to the often described person of the volatile West Indian family father, perpetually cheating and frequently taking off to start new families. 
At least to me, this was the first time this un-likable character is allowed a voice of his own.

Interesting, then, in form as well as in content!