Sunday, May 31, 2015

To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar

Far from being any sort of hiphop authority, nor indeed even aficionado, I nevertheless consider 'King Kunta' a masterpiece of sorts. (Surely, that can't be put down to how much I loved Haley's book two decades ago??)

Sadly, though, the rest of the album is not of the same ilk.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Argo - B. Affleck 2012

No time is wasted here on stuffy introduction; the film takes off in media res with the storming and subsequent hostage-taking at the US Embassy of Tehran from which six Americans manage to escape only to end up in hiding at the Canadian ambassador's home.
It is to extricate them from this predicament that Affleck's secret agent will set them up as a film crew and pull them out of the fire. (That fire being the 1979 Islamic Revolution).

Though Affleck's acting is as stilted as ever, his filmmaking is a lot more vibrant!
Everything looks and feels real - thick moustaches and big-rimmed glasses helping! - and knowing the outcome did not prevent me from gnawing my nails down.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Canada - Richard Ford

The inception is enticing : The main character as an adult announces a tumultuous subject matter - a bank robbery committed by his parents, and "the murders, which happened later" - and then proceeds to a leisurely narrative about his childhood in 1960 smalltown America. 
The book is divided in two equal portions, both climaxing in crime, in their final pages.
Only the second part is set in Canada, and since the first is, in my opinion, of greatly superior quality, the naming of the novel remains a bit abstruse to me.

Many things did, in fact; I finished it with the feeling that there is a lot more to this novel than meets the eye - Real Literature always improves upon analysis - yet even its face value was brilliant! Of course, it revolves around issues typical of a bildungsroman - fatherhood, maturation, separation, loneliness - but theoretically, seeing the high crime rate in the book, it could also have been a crime novel. (Which, however, it most definitely is not.)

The writing appears diligent and effortless at the same time. It's poetic and quiet, yet it feels as though Ford has pondered every word for a length of time.
Beautiful, in short!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Recess - Skrillex

Reluctantly, I was going to write a post about not enjoying this half as much as I had hoped; about it being less melodious and approachable than 'Bangarang' which I have listened a lot to.

But then! After a large number of listenings, somehow it took just one more for me to like it. 
So now I do.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Harry Potter Exhibition, at the Cité du Cinéma, St Denis

A considerable amount of props and costumes from all the films are bewitchingly arrayed in a way too tiny space containing waaay too many simultaneous visitors.
It is a little like really entering Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest, albeit alongside crowds of other tourists. My only grievance - apart from the throng, but I believe I have mentioned that already?... - would be that it's not a very interactive exhibit. It's mostly walking around and looking at stuff.

The gift shop, foreseeably, was exceedingly well-stocked and the prices quite what you'd expect from a place attracting masses of keyed up youngsters along with their wallet-carrying parents.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Talking Is Hard - Walk The Moon

Mainstream, American pop-rock. Okay to run to.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Day Is My Enemy - The Prodigy

Notwithstanding their 25 years of history as a band, this is only the sixth studio album from The Prodigy. This was a surprise to me yet it may still be what prompted me to download it despite having never felt even remotely tempted by any of their previous opuses. 
The music is rambunctious and ear-popping, but also thoroughly well-processed : It is obvious they have taken their time recording it.

In point of fact, this is a little too much garage punk and not enough consonance for me, yet I do get some sort of charge out of it. Highly useful when running!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Good German - S. Soderbergh 2006

And so it would seem even the masterly Steven Soderbergh runs aground, albeit only once in a blue moon. 
Kudos to him anyway for daring to be bold and trying out new stuff!

In the same vein, but more fun, check out 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid'.

Battleship - P. Berg 2012

It all boils down to what frame of mind you are in. No, really! 
Viewed as a genuine attempt at entertainment, even light, this is ludicrous.
It is, however, so utterly, immensely, unthinkably ludicrous, it actually also becomes sort of a hoot..!

Friday, May 15, 2015

How To Become A Vegetarian

Speaking of heart-rending stuff ...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Grave of the Fire-Flies - I. Takahata, 1988

This tear-jerking story of two orphaned children in World War II Japan, under frequent US bombing, would most likely have been totally insufferable if filmed in any other way but literally and figuratively wide-eyed anime.

According to Wikipedia, the story is partly autobiographic. You might prefer not to think too closely about that one, though, as the events are absolutely heart-rending, in a H.C. Andersen, 'The Little Match-Girl' kind of way, from opening to closing credits, yet in some unfathomable way not Disney-sickening or off-putting at all.

Keep your hankies close by while watching.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith

On my first acquaintance with Harry Potter (following the advice of a colleague; teachers love HP, I will have you know) I was blown away by Rowling's offbeat imagination (despite large-scale reading of YA novels well into my thirties). And though I realize after the Potter-series, disappointment was a foregone conclusion - from the top, the only way is down - it was even more of a letdown that she went on to such an extremely predictable genre as detective novels.

STILL, both 'the Cuckoo's Calling' and this are charming and entrancing enough to ensure an entertaining time, although they are nothing that hasn't been done before. 
Nerds like myself will appreciate Rowlings's playful use of literary references, such as Caroline Ingels ('The Little House on the Prairies') or Mr Brocklehurst ('Jane Eyre') and probably another few I didn't pick up on.

In short : Definitely not as good as Harry Potter, yet a whole lot better - thankfully! - than 'A Casual Vacancy'.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

France Miniature, in Elancourt

50 km south of Paris, on quite a green and generous surface, we ambled around over a hundred scale models of assorted French monuments (many of which, admittedly, were châteaus and castles). 
The weather behaving properly, this is a fair enough outing, I suppose, albeit limited in temerity. Mostly for seniors and juniors, perhaps. 
Dreadful cafeteria. Ambitious playground.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Much Ado About Nothing - J. Whedon 2012

Shakespeare's original text - Though far from all of it! Extensive cuts have been made, which is probably just as well. - and black & white pictures of contemporary, upper middle-class people sipping impressive amounts of red wine in an Italian villa while playing at who-will-marry-who and scanning iambic pentameter all the while : This was something of an antithesis to Kenneth Branagh's playful 1993 version, and indeed most other interpretations of this classic comedy.

Original, therefore, which is generally something positive! 
Somehow, though, I didn't quite buy into this version. No matter how light the bantering, these square-jawed men in suits just didn't seem lively at all. It wasn't nearly as winsome as Ado usually is.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Business Pleasure - Little Boots

It is with great reluctance I confess to not really liking this... 
Yet, I am all for experimenting in music, seeking new paths and trying out new stuff. 
And though I am in theory willing to accept that even Prince the almighty occasionally went astray in the course of this procedure (trial and error, people; trial and error), this is already the second opus from Little Boots that I just don't enjoy, try as I may. 

Any day now, I'll find I have forgotten all about 'Hands' and how much I loved it.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Vermeer - Arthur K. Wheelock JR

Analyzing artworks in a layman-friendly manner is a first-rate book principle, and Vermeer is one of my favourite artists, so this ought to have been a transcendent read.

However, the art dilettante that I am could not find it in me to share Wheelock's excitement for the precise dating of paintings, or the adjustments Vermeer did or did not operate on his canvases before completing them. 
I would have welcomed well-rounded comments on the copious symbols used, colours and composition and perhaps some insightful remarks on life in 17th century Delft.
Some of this Wheelock provides yet not enough to my taste.

What I did learn : 
1. Vermeer's early works had Biblical motives! I had never seen any of these before.
2. Vermeer's final works are considered (at least by Wheelock) of lesser quality than the masterpieces of his prime.

The Geographer, Johannes Vermeer, 1668

Monday, May 4, 2015

Systrar och Bröder - Maria Sveland

Until only a few years ago, I used to consider myself a staunch feminist.
Then, a new generation of Swedish young women appeared, making my egalitarian view seem rather obsolete.

Sveland is only a half a decade younger than I, yet I tend to brand her one of the ultras. 
Here, she takes yet another swing at the nuclear family, alcoholism and feminism. 
Not particularly joyful topics, admittedly, yet the problem lies elsewhere : She is a journalist and writes as such; a concise, uneventful style and important social pathos.
Although social pathos is praiseworthy indeed, it does not, regrettably, suffice to produce good literature. Sveland's writing is uninspired and abounds with clichés, and I almost threw away this book after a mere fifty pages. The only reason I hung in there was the ease with which you read it.

Another of my issues with Sveland - whom I appreciate as a journalist, I must point out! - is that I utterly fail to recognize myself or identify with her characters. 
I suppose I must have led a far happier life than she, or perhaps I am just totally mislead by the patriarchy. Either way I figure I'm far better off for it!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Velàzquez at the Grand Palais, Paris

Loads and loads of paintings at the Grand Palais, most of them portraits of dark-complexioned, heavy-set men or royal children, all done up in adult attire. 

Fortunately, portraits were what Velàzquez did best, so contemplating them sort of takes you back in time, to 17th century Spain. Whether due to our knowledge of the inquisition or to the murky colours of the artworks I can't say, but the fact is I left this exhibition quite thankful to be living here and now (and that's despite the persistent rain) rather than then and there.

In short, it was a lavish exhibition - though the absence of 'Las Meninas' is conspicuous, to say the least! - even if the works of art were not.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Have Mercy On Us All - Fred Vargas

Initiated readers will know by now I have grown rather weary of detective stuff, so I won't go into that again (Just did anyway! Apophasis, though admittedly not very elegantly used.).

Whenever I do indulge in a detective story, though, I like it to be one by Vargas.
She is sort of an anti-Camilla Läckberg. Where Läckberg - a former economist and marketer - writes unambiguous and undemanding stories presenting a limited range of onedimensional characters, Vargas - a historian and archaeologist - has adopted a more convoluted style, frequently resorting to historic and folklore motifs to add spice to her plots. The character list does include the usual crowd-pleasing, idiosyncratic detective, but also a large spectrum of various personalities, not all of whom display their positive sides from the outset.

That said, even Vargas's stories follow the typical storyline with all its unavoidable aspects (Yes, there are! Knox's are the most famous, but not the only ones.) which is why I feel I've OD'd.