Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Dressmaker - J. Moorehouse 2015

A Parisian couturière in the Australian outback during the 1950s = Exquisite accents, stylish outfits. Plus Winslet as an avenging angel, back to wreak havoc among her former neighbours and find out the truth about her own past. Hugo Weaving as a cross-dressing policeman. And a Hemsworth.

Occasionally, it goes a bit over the top, but most of the time Moorehouse is mistress of her game, and it's very entertaining!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Chef - J. Favreau 2014

35% is pure food porn (you know; close-ups on vegetables being chopped, onions sizzling in a pan, focused chef creating innovative cuisine, colourful fruit, original ways to cook meat...).

The remaining 65% form a rather basic story, the bottom question of which is 'food truck or no food truck?' 
Although the poster might be something of a spoiler there, you have to admit this is an issue not that many main characters have faced before. Problem is, I found it hard to consider as any sort of real problem.

The Bechdel-test is nowhere near being passed, but apart from that I suppose this was an OK feelgood movie. (Though if that is what you are after, I warmly recommend 'Pride' instead.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Emma - Jane Austen

Plotwise, Austen's books are a blend of marriage novels and coming-of-age stories.
As with all true literary talents, it's her writing style that sets her apart from her less talented contemporaries. 
Plus, at Austen's best, there is also social criticism to her work. And when she puts her mind to it, she is fiercer than any modern-day unionist you could think of. (Not sure what she had against the clergy, for instance, but if Mr Collins and Ben Elton are anything to go by, it must have been a major thorn in her side. I should probably Google this.)

'Emma' brilliantly combines all three; the marriage plot, the bildungsroman and the views on early 19th century England. Not quite as brilliantly as 'Pride and Prejudice' perhaps, but still very pleasurably!

Excellent www.librivox.org reading by Elizabeth Klett!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Deadpool - T. Miller 2016

Considering my distaste for superheroes - why do they always have to wear those horrible tights?? - you'd think a superhero parody would be right up my alley. 

And so it well might have been, I suppose, except this particular superhero parody (or whatever) is full of two things that are highly detrimental to all sorts of comedy :

1. Huge amounts of exaggerated violence we are basically supposed to laugh at. 
The worst kind! I don't like any kind of violence but I truly abhor the one supposed to make me laugh.

2. Unfunny jokes. Unfunny scenes. Unfunny characters.

I feel very sorry for Ryan Reynolds for having this in his resumé now.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bridge of Spies - S. Spielberg 2015

Tom Hanks stars as the upright American lawyer, Atticus Finch-style, in this courtroom drama turned exchange of spies, the plot moving from cold war New York to Berlin, ending in Potsdam, at the Glienicke bridge of the title.

Spielberg is Spielberg and is surely excellent in his game yet so very much not my trip.
In point of fact, I find it very hard to bear with his immutable patriotism and shameless tear-jerking.

No matter how "based on real facts" this story may be, stereotypes abound and the picture of the narrative is painted in brushstrokes coarse enough for any extremist populist to grasp, even when munching popcorn at the same time. (And yet! Penned by the Coens! Not that I am particularly fond of them either, but nobody could accuse them of coarse plotwriting.)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Innocence Lost - Erik Hassle

Swedish soul-pop, perhaps not overly original, but quite listenable!
I suck at describing music, I know. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Love's Labour's Lost - William Shakespeare

This play's place in Shakespeare chronology (one of the early comedies; 1598, give or take) could account for its flaws; the very basic marriage plot and the lack of sympathy for the characters (especially the women) for instance. There is none of that guarded subversity that makes 'Twelfth Night' or even 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (first performance 1600) so accomplished.

However, even in his early years, Shakespeare was still Shakespeare and by 1589 had already produced masterpieces such as 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'The Taming of the Shrew'. Therefore, there is no pretexting inexperience and youth, and I'll just have to live with the fact that there are ups and downs even in the writings of The Bard.

The storyline aside, this is still a brilliantly brilliant text, of course! The sexual double-entendre is so pervasive, you hardly even need to have studied Shakespeare writing to percieve it. (Though if you are interested, I heartliy recommend Kiernan's 'Filthy Shakespeare'!) 
And, at the risk of repeating myself; Shakespeare is always Shakespeare.

On the introduction by one William Carroll : OK, no more no less.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Man Called Ove - H. Holm 2015

Cute and heartwarming yet not wholly debilitating, this was. 
Pretty much, in fact, like the one book I have read by Backman (who, if his former blog and present instagram-account are anything to go by, seems like a very decent fellow). 

Though I was moderately impressed by the novel, his concept works better on film. 
Probably that is due to my irritating habit of wanting books to be Literature. 
If you have other demands on your reading material, you should give Fredrik Backman a shot.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Well, it's not quite a shot-by-shot remake, like Gus Van Sant's 'Psycho', but it IS an almost identical new version of an irresistibly kitsch old classic

As such, it is as kitsch as you could wish for; it features Adam Lambert; the singers can actually sing (Much as I do love Susan Sarandon, I'd like us to be honest about her singing skills...) and Laverne Cox is an excellent Rocky. 
Faced with the options of a remake - either remake it completely or remake it the same as it was - this may not have been the bravest of choices, but it made for 1h30 of some sweet entertainment.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Eloge Du Quotidien - Tzvetan Todorov

Previously I knew only Todorov's essays on literary theory, which I found brilliant for the simple reason that they are. His writings on Dutch 17th century genre paintings (depictions of everyday life) are of the same ilk.

Not only did he write clever stuff, he wrote it in a style that is approachable and uncomplicated : None of the usual, French universitary loghorrea where Proustian professors seem to believe that prolixity is tantamount to prodigy.

Two of Todorov's statements on the Dutch Golden Age :

- Although morality in literature inherently transforms the text from the inside, in painting morality merely superposes another layer of interpretation. In other words, although morality makes a novel perfectly indigest, it somehow enhances the reading of a painting.

- Vermeer's work is so impeccable that the image is merely the starting point. He was the first to have his representation (the image) neutralized by the force of his presentation (the way he painted). Subsequent painters only caught up with him 200 years later, when a bunch of Frenchmen invented impressionism. (OK, this idea is not Todorov's, but so brilliantly explained!) 

Food for thought, indeed. (Impatiently awaiting the forthcoming 'Scènes de genre' exhitbition at the Louvre. Also regretting Todorov's recent demise.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fiskarna Har Inga Fötter - Jon Kalman Stefànsson

As far as I can recall, this is my first experience of Icelandic writers. 
Though I hated this book and quit after less than a hundred pages (with yet another 300 to go!) I hope I am open-minded enough to try some other Icelander, some other time. 
Surely, not all of them write in this conceited, ridiculously prolix style??


Monday, February 6, 2017

Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Apart from the considerable length of the recording (thank you, though, www.librivox.com) I still think it's remarkable that I found it more cumbersome this time than when I read it on paper, a couple of years ago (well, OK; quite some time ago). Perhaps I should not have spread it out over such a long time.

At any rate, I did indeed find it cumbersome! For all intents and purposes, I reckon it is more of a work of philosophy posing as a novel, than as anything ambitioning a narrative. 

Nothing happens, of course. Raskolnikov kills the old lady very early on, and spends the rest of the book agonizing, whining, pacing, worrying, upsetting everyone around him and generally making himself as much of a nuisance as he possibly could. Perhaps you need to be Russian to get the hang of this?

Very glad to have finished it!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Nerve - Joost & Schulman 2017

Peer pressure, high technology and advanced, interactive video games are at the core of this teenage thriller that is such an adrenaline-kicker that it would probably throw even Danny Boyle off balance.
It is also clever, original and slick. It passes the Bechdel-test with flying colours, it co-stars James Franco's handsome baby brother and features all too rare Juliette Lewis. Emma Stone is excellent.

In short, I kinda liked it!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Declares Pereira - Antonio Tabucchi

The odd title of this short novel is both self-explanatory as such and used a persistent mantra recurring throughout the story, smoothly adding a dimension and an additional time span to the plot.

That Pereira - a middle-aged journalist - is testifying somewhere at some later point is therefore clear from the outset. The tension in the narrative stems both from this fact and from the historical context. (Portugal is under pressure from fascist forces in pre-war Europe and the atmosphere under Salazar is growing tense.)

Though I do believe white middle-aged men have already taken up more than their fair share of literary space and though the subject-matter may not sound overly tempting, there is no doubt that this modest little book is an absolute masterpiece. The writing is elegant and simple, the symbolism present yet not overstated and the subjects dealt with as numerous as they are universal (friendship, oppression, courage, psychoanalysis, grief...).

Warmest thanks to equally brilliant Mohsin Hamid (author of 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist') for recommending it.