Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Inside Man - S. Lee 2006

Slick, sharp, dense and polished - This hostage-drama is a first rate Spike Lee-joint, flaunting his know-how and yet keeping his pet peeve (race issues) at bay. 
Admittedly, that makes for a rather non-committal type of film; I'm not saying he should always be doing these, but hey, every now and then, there is nothing wrong with a little light entertainment (light as in undemanding; as opposed to chipper)!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Spy - P. Feig 2015

Feig is truly fun and truly feminist! 
(If not always terribly subtle.)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Is Paris Burning? - Lapierre & Collins

I confess I frequently get a little carried away at museum gift shops, and I did enjoy the exhibition on the liberation of Paris, where I got this book last year.

Now, a mere fifty pages into it, I wonder what I was thinking. It's not bad or anything - really, it's not! - it just BORES ME STIFF. 
I'm giving it away and finding something else to read. 
Life is too short for boring books.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Butler - L. Daniels 2013

Why this ought to be a brilliant film :
- Top-notch actors.

- An engaging angle of the infected father-and-son relationship, exacerbated by the roles they play in the Civil Rights movement; the father is a butler at the White House, the son a Black Panther.
- A large chunk of US history, treated in a somewhat cursory manner, but still!

Why it isn't : 
Da*ned if I know. Conventional storytelling. But still?

Should work just fine in class, though.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Beckomberga, Ode Till Min Familj - Sara Stridsberg

The title 'Beckomberga' refers to a mental hospital situated in the Stockholm suburb of that name, where the main character's father spends a portion of her childhood.

Using a state institution as a metonymy for a family is rather a bold move, but it works!
Stridsberg's ode to her family is poignant yet sober; ambitious in a restrained, noncommittal way. 

It's social realism and poetry in a singular combination.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Thumbs-up to my dad, so hell-bent on getting rid of this heavy old book he carried it with him from Sweden to Paris last spring, claiming it was a gift for me.

Nationalmuseum itself is one of my Top Five most boring museums ever - the only art museum in that category, otherwise inhabited by war museums I have been dragged to - and this book clearly displays why; Swedish 16th and 17th century art (baroque and romanticism... my so not-favourites...) plus some minor works by major artists, all of which seem pretty insignificant to me.

There are a couple of Dutch Golden Age artworks that are quite unobjectionable, but the book as a whole... 

Way to go, dad.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bessie - D. Rees 2015

Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in a quite OK though highly conventional biopic. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Lola Uppochner - Monika Fagerholm

I was pretty confident about this, until I opened it and found a character-list on the first page. To the best of my knowledge, nobody - nobody! - gets away with character-lists, these days. If a character-list is needed, then the writing is sloppy and the characters too many, that is my take.

Now, I won't push this as far as to accusing Fagerholm of being sloppy, but there is definitely a dizzying profusion of characters and narrative voices here. 
Add to that a storyline that I could not for my life find anything significant about (though I admit it would have been even worse had the corpse been a young woman instead of a man) and a particular something about the style that I simply could not abide. Not sure why.

I quit after 150 pages. I don't think it's intrinsically a bad novel, though. It just didn't agree with me at all.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Blurryface - Twenty One Pilots

There are actually only two of them (not twenty-one) but that was obviously amply sufficient to accomplish this album which was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! 

My one issue is how regrettably unfavourable this is to running. 

20 June : I'm going to have to review my own review on the runnability of this thing! 
Turns out most tracks are quite runnable and some even very runnable!
Of course, that only heightens the overall value!

For those of you applying less shallow and materialistic standards to you music choices, I recommend the album, and to those who long for a more detailed review, click here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Carthage - Joyce Carol Oates

It all starts out as a Shakespearean comedy : Young maiden Cressida sets out to cross the forest on a midsummer's night. Then, as the name of the town and of the novel lets on, tragedy takes over.

Of course, Oates not being cast in the Lehane or Connelly mold, the plot then moves away - far, far away! - from any cheap-thrill murder mystery and 'Carthage' turns into a dense chronicle about US prisons, smalltown America, deviant behaviour inside the US army, and outsidership.
Oates continually plays with narrative voices and points of view, rendering this quite a challenging read, apart from its 500-page format. 

It's not as enthralling as 'The Accursed' but it's still very, very well worth the trouble!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Original High - Adam Lambert

Admittedly, this seemed foolproof : Personal Favourite Adam Lambert + iconic (Swedish!) producers Max Martin and Shellback. Failure appeared inconceivable.

Failure is, of course, inconceivable! It rocks, it swings, it has you dance and sing loudly off-key and behave in a fashion altogether highly embarrassing to your children.

It is not, though, - Sorry, Adam, love, I have to say this - quite as accomplished as 'For Your Entertainment'. Ever since 'Trespassing', the Lambert sound is less and less bombastic, less and less melodramatic, less and less extravagant. (Excuse me, but shouldn't a collaboration with Queen lead to rather the opposite?)

Conclusion : Although working with Swedes is almost always a fine idea, for the next album, I would suggest a teaming up with Jim Steinman. Him you can generally count on for high-flown magnificence.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Turn, season two

Compared  to season one, true to fashion, this was pretty much more of everything. 
Not that this was in any way a letdown! The villains are meaner, the heroes have risen in rank, relations between characters grow more complex, the main character turns double agent and all this makes the plot even more dense and hard to keep track of (especially for your truly who is developing a serious hang-up on remembering proper names and has therefore grown largely dependent on the good-will of fellow viewers). 
Yet, it also obviously renders the whole show even more engaging than before, especially seeing its consistent refusal of clichés and stereotypes.

History moves on : Washington is given a lot more space, and is not always presented as the solicitous founding father we are accustomed to, and the American revolution gradually gains momentum, partly thanks to the French assistance brought on by Lafayette (Anything to spite the Brits!). The final episode is set in early 1778, so there is still room for a third season!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Hansel & Gretel, witch-hunters - S. Wirkola 2013

Unless my eleven year old, death-metal wannabe daughter is a lot more run-of-the-mill than I suspect - and not even she was all that crazy about this - I have a hard time seeing exactly what type of audience this film targets.

It is set in a fairytale world with fairytale characters yet the generous blood-splattering rules out any younger kids watching. I don't know what kind of teenagers would appreciate it, nor, clearly, why; though admittedly I frequently fail to grasp the workings of today's youth.
It lacks the beauty of the imagery and the know-how of previous fairy-tale remakes. 

The French poster promises it to be FUN but I don't believe anyone but perhaps Quentin Tarantino, a self-proclaimed fan of kitsch and violence, would laugh at this.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Even the Rain - I. Bollain 2011

I missed out on the first half of this, so once again, I'd like to disclaim full responsibility for my opinions... Or at the very least, flag for the possibility I might actually, just this once, be mistaken.

Be that as it may, what I saw was this :

The arrival of a film crew, including ever heavenly hot Gael Garcìa Bernal, shooting a film about Spaniard's cowing Bolivian Indians smartly parallels the true story of how a TNC (that's Trans National Corporation for you ignorant lot, who know as little as I did until a couple of months ago) attempts to make Bolivians pay for access to clean water.

I am extremely lucky to actually understand the three or four common languages I do, as I am a hopeless bigot when it comes to foreign-language films. (I like to believe that's because I KNOW how much is inevitably lost in translated subtitles...) Despite this inane initial reluctance, I learned to say 'Puta madre' and saw half of what for all intents and purposes seemed to me an intelligent and elaborated picture. Albeit in Spanish.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Us - David Nicholls

Nicholl's style is basic to the brink of simplistic, in point of fact : A classic, first-person narrative, two time-spans, a distinctly British, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour and a style that is so prototypical as to almost lack personality - or at least, to disqualify for the label 'first-rate literature'.

There are, however, particularities to this novel :

1) A striking ability to render his characters endearing to a point where you never ever want to depart from them. 

2) The cunning with which Nicholls delays until the last third of the novel our discovery of hitherto secluded aspects of the narrating main character. And the helplessness with which at that point I already doted on that selfsame character. 

At heart, this is pretty much 'One Day', just as unassumingly lovable, yet dealing with a much more challenging subject matter.

... And if you have ever in your life read a less spoiling review than this, then I'll be d***ed. 
I have not said ONE WORD about the plot!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mozart In The Jungle, season 1

Although Godfather Coppola is not involved, it seems the whole clan shares the same filmic DNA; this is produced by a son and a nephew, and I loved it!

Absolutely adorable Gael Garcìa Bernal plays the newcoming passably eccentric maestro of the New York Philharmonic orchestra whom the plot evolves around. 
Pitfalls and stereotypes are avoided (sometimes by a hair), characters are elaborate and the dialogues sharp and witty. Full advantage is taken by the serial format which allows for multilayered personalities to be partially discovered by the viewer, which in turn renders unanticipated and out-of-character events almost as possible as in real life.

Interestingly, I find it problematic to pin down the exact genre of the show. 
It ranges from hilarious comedy to personal drama via your basic romcom.
Loved it!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Real Tudors - Bolland & Cooper

A beautiful book about Tudor portraits, edited by the National Portrait Gallery!
Due to the sad but historic fact that hardly any of the original portraits remain - not even Holbein's famous full-length of Henry VIII is anything but a copy; or rather, several distinctive copies - the pictorial analysis is prevented from being too detailed : There are just too many, too disparate versions of each portrait.
Then, of course, that is also a boon, as these royal portraits would otherwise have been lost to the world, and the royals themselves as a consequence certainly not as renowned.

Most of all, this book made me want to get a proper biography of almost all the Tudors (Edward VI I guess I could do without; dying at the age of fifteen is often a hindrance to everlasting fame) especially Elizabeth I who is my personal favourite.

Hans Holbein's original mural is thought to have looked something like this. 
It was destroyed in a fire, late 17th century.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hollywood - Jamie Foxx

As stated previously, I am NOT a hiphop connoisseur. There IS therefore a vague possibility I might be wrong about this. 
After listening through bits and pieces of this, the one thing I seemed to be able to think about was Miami Vice-Don Johnson's musical ambitions in the 1980s.