Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Angel of Groznyj - Asne Seierstad

In this decade-old book, my favourite Norwegian investigative reporter - the competition may not be exactly fierce, but still! - recounts her travels in the ravages of post-war Chechnya. 

The angel of the title is the head of an unofficial orphanage (orphanages being banned, as Putin claims there are no orphans in Chechnya) and the life-stories told are those of people surrounding her; stray children, deported seniors, mutilated soldiers, outcasts, childless mothers... 
Seierstad, however, would not be what she is if she hadn't also sought to question people from the other side of the social spectrum; ministers, government officials, racist skinheads and their likes.

As per usual, her writing is well-informed, intelligent, articulate, inspired and inspiring.

I also warmly recommend her book on Anders Breivik, the terrorist of the 2011 Utöya shooting.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


My own memories of both the 1980s TV version and, subsequently, of Haley's family saga are of enthrallment and fascination, though very likely my opinions were closely linked to my age and inexperience.

My own offspring, you see, did not quite share my views on the new miniseries. 
Nor, frankly, was I quite so enthralled myself with this. Either I have grown as jaded as my kids, or this was just not as good. I can't really tell.

As a history lesson, though, it is a very decent one!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Night Manager

Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Coleman (sadly absent from all the publicity shots, to the advantage of much less famous blonde...) star in Susanne Bier's adaptation of John Le Carré's classic spy novel. 
Not being, however, familiar with the novel (because not being, sadly, much for spy literature on the whole), I would be at a loss to compare it to the film, thus smoothly removing the issue of screen adaptations.

What remains is the issue of spy thrillers and how they tend to give me a headache.
This most likely would have, too, if I hadn't viewed it from the depths of my TV couch, where I can simultaneously employ myself otherwise while watching. 
Half an eye was amply sufficient for these eight episodes which could have perfectly well been streamlined down into five or six.

Nicely done and all, though perhaps a bit uninspired. Unoriginal may be the word I'm looking for. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Crumbs - Chill Bump

Hiphop is evolving faster than any Pokemon, and that is a good thing!
Not that there is at all anything intrinsically wrong with gangsta rap, but the more genres the merrier, right? Isn't is super that there is now hiphop for nearly everyone?

This French-British duo reminds me a bit of personal favs Twenty One Pilots and Skepta, so my views on 'Crumbs' are probably a no-brainer. I did, however, prefer their previous opus, 'Ego Trip'. The music is very much the same, it's just that the two-minute format of the 'Crumbs' is a bit too tiny, I reckon.

Still; clever, well-articulated and runner-friendly! Not that common!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Maleficent - R. Stromberg 2014

Female-centered, celebrating friendship, beautifully decorated and certainly preferable to the classic fairy-tale version. 

The middle-aged lady I somehow seem to have become, however, definitely outgrew this stuff decades ago.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fantastic Beasts - D. Yates

YES! It works! I enjoyed it! 
So very relieved right now! I would have hated to hate it.

(Basically, it's Harry Potterland in stylish New York prohibition. Entertaining escapism!)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Night Of

After a night of drug-induced sex with a stranger, a confused young man wakes up in her house, to find her mutilated corpse in the bedroom. 
Whether he did it or not is of course at the core of the following seven episodes, though the main topic of this mini-series is more in the line of scathing criticism of our criminal justice system, and what it does to people.

Overall, the series bears an uncanny resemblance to the first season of the podcast 'Serial', at least in the essentials; the doe-eyed young Muslim accused of the murder of his girlfriend (why, oh why, are young girls such perpetual murder victims?..) which he may or may not have committed. 
Plus, that ambivalence; the uncertainty as to his guilt or innocence.
That realistic feel; the accuracy in particulars and settings makes 'The Night Of' seem almost as documentary as 'Serial'.
And the nail-consuming tension!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Grand Prix de France de Patinage at Bercy, Paris 12th arrdt

I tend to consider sports very much like I do porn : Though I don't mind practising them myself, I cannot for the life of me see the point of watching other people do it. 

Figure skating is probably the exception to confirm that rule. 
The gap between brilliant skaters and those merely good is abysmal, even to a neophyte like myself - and there were some truly talented people on the ice at Bercy last weekend!

The single hitch - there always is one - was that a four hour long show requires more comfortable seats. Came out satisfied, but with a sore bum.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

La France d'Avedon at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris 13th arrdt

Ricard Avedon's soulful photos of Dior's gorgeous 1947 New Look, frequently inhabited by Audrey Hepburn, against a backdrop of historic Paris are available for admiration at the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand.

Also on display are a number of portraits, most taken for Egoïste magazine, plus a series of videos of the artist himself. All of it brilliant! 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hard Times - Charles Dickens

I have long considered Dickens's writings as somewhat akin to Steven Spielberg's kind of art.
They both seem quite at ease with their appeal to the mainstream audience; no flirting with the highbrows here (well, mostly no flirting..!).
They share modest yet undeniable educational ambitions and something of a political conscience.
They are both of them more into action than finely tuned psychological portraits; their characters are frequently shallow yet endearing.

Sadly, all of the above result in my dislike of them both.

On 'Hard Times' as such : 
Dickens's violent anti-utilitarian, anti-industrialist views render this frankly unpalatable.
Besides, the endearing characters I boasted in the previous paragraph are here merely shallow, followed from afar, not even remotely likable.
The plot - another of Dickens's usual fortes - is slow, uneventful and predictable.

In short, the title pretty much sums up my reading experience.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Felicia Försvann - Felicia Feldt

Feldt's mother is a Swedish High Priestess of child education, author of a controversial bestseller, published in the early 1980s. You might, therefore, argue that this mother, whom Feldt turns upon in this horribly public manner, at least partly gets what is coming to her. 

Feldt's narrative is that of a childhood filled with alcohol, men coming and going, moving house annually, suicide attempts, melodrama, occasional abuse and a mother whose educational methods are sometimes irresponsible, to say the least.

The mother in question has declared this book to be untrue and some of Feldt's numerous siblings have also distanced themselves from her story. 
Accordingly, sorting reality from narration is hardly possible.

Fortunately, that sorting does not feel relevant, if you choose to consider the book as a literary work rather than a tell-all. It is elegantly written, it has the features and the ring of authenticity (that Feldt's truth may be at variance with other people's truth does not necessarily make it any less true) and the main question she asks - Do you have to forgive? - concerns us all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Skrock och Skrömt - Beatrice Norberg

I even enjoyed the booklet on ghosts and folklore in London, so that I would equally like this opus - dealing with the same sort of stuff around my hometown - was, so to speak, a no-brainer.

And yet, Norberg's book, though more consistent than the London thing, was far less likable! Few and poor illustrations, large chunks of text consisting mostly of listings of testimonies and legends, and what I perceived as a lack of enthusiasm for the subject, though it may well have been just a lack of taste in storytelling.

Fortunately, the subject titillates me! 

I have a very scientific approach to supernatural events (well, at least I myself feel highly scientific about it!) : As neither their existence nor their nonexistence have been proven, I cannot but confess myself open to their actuality. Same with god, same with aliens. 
Spices up my life, it does, this take on things!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dance of the Vampires - R. Polanski 1967

Notwithstanding Polanski's status as one of my all time favourite directors, I must own up to never having enjoyed this weird mix of horror, farce and slapstick.
Realized when viewing it again the other night I still don't.
Much preferred the musical.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Strange Little Birds - Garbage

A bit late to be discovering Garbage now, you will say (and you will be right) but to that I will reply Better late than never!

As I am wholly (or all but) ignorant about their previous albums, I can't compare them to this. This I did, however, enjoy! Intelligent rock music is not something I come by every day, sadly. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Peaky Blinders

From the outset, I'd like to emphasize that I have only watched episode 1 of season 1 of 'Peaky Blinders'. And you are absolutely right; nobody in their right mind should attempt - or be allowed - to review a series after just one single episode. 
It's indecent and dishonest, but voilà! This is my blog and I review what I want!

To compensate, the review in question is mercifully short : 
'Goodfellas' in post-war Birmingham. 
Not a thing in here (in the pilot, that is!) that you haven't already seen before, unless perhaps the setting. 

Well-made and all, but...

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Norbottens Museum, Luleå (Sweden)

It's not the Louvre, obviously.

Nor do I really expect it to be.

What I do expect, however : A permanent collection to mirror the ecosystem, culture and history of the very north of Sweden. Explicit signs in Swedish and English. A consequential exhibition of Sàmi art.

What I get : Temporary exhibitions of rather disappointing characters. A great playroom if you are 6 and want to play at the 19th century. A beautiful cafeteria.

(There are ways to make small museums work! This is one.)