Sunday, January 21, 2018

Travels With My Father s1

The concept is a well-used classic : The particularly odd couple (hip young Fresh Meat actor teaming up with his stuffy old-England dad, dutifully playing his part) act as fish out of the bowl, viz backpacking in Asia.

For all its lack of originality, it does, nevertheless, function extremely well, in so far that it makes for some hearty, light entertainment all the while serving as a travel documentary. Probably it works extra well if you are a sucker for British tongue-in-cheek humour.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Macbeth - J. Kurzel, 2015

Despite what you might expect, there are a few common aspects to Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies. For instance, even the darkest of tragedies frequently offer some wordplay, often bawdy, and the women are generally very perceptive characters.

This version of 'Macbeth', however, comes practically as far as it is possible to go from the average comedy. Indeed, it was was more dark, stern and forbidding than most I have seen, culminating in a bloody finale preceded by two hours of Macbeth's ominous brooding and his Lady's vicious hissing (until his newly awakened bloodthirst shuts her down, clearsighted as she is) (or becomes).  

In all, it was a well-made, intimate drama though gloomy. Beautiful but gloomy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


A host interviewing two learned guests on their common specialization, ranging from climate change to more or less obscure historical persons : Definitely a winning concept, albeit one that demands a minimum of focus from the listener. 

Also, depending on your personal ambition, a concept to use on wakeful nights to fall asleep to. Works most of the time. (Sorry, you interviewees! It's not that you are at all uninteresting - it's just that despite the occasional insomnia, nights are simply made to sleep.)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Top of the Lake s2 China Girl

Noir only begins to describe this independent sequel to last year's excellent six-episode series but there is much more to it than that. 

It is also strangely innovative and classic at the same time - a little like 'Pulp Fiction', showing the same old things for the umpteenth time, somehow making you feel it's a first.
This is a whodunit detective story but focusing in equal amount on parenthood, on so many levels it nearly made my head spin.
Moreover, it its finely tuned and well-played, which are generally the signs of clever writing and directing.

Never a Campion connoisseur, I am now beginning to wonder whether I shouldn't, in fact, have been. (And whether or not it is too late?)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bright - D. Ayer 2017

Will Smith is acting a very classic tough-guy cop in a very classic buddy-cop movie set in a very classic futuristic Los Angeles, surrounded - finally! something out of the ordinary! - by creatures from the Tolkien bestiary; elves and orchs mainly.

This combo did not exactly made my mouth water. Rather, I was prepared to sit this one out ("take one for the team" as I believe they say) as generally I do when the others watch superheroes or any action films.

It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, to find the beginning of the film much more interesting than I had anticipated! I watched almost all of it. Once the classic cop-hunt was on, however, it all turned into the same film you have all seen a hundred times before and so I took up my reading again. It didn't take much concentration to follow the plot.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Moby-Dick - Herman Melville

The story of the obsessive captain Ahab and his nemesis, the white whale is an integrated part of our collective Western culture despite the fact that relatively few have actually read the book - and considering its length and meandering style, there is really no wonder.

You might, therefore, be justified in wondering why some goofballs consider a re-read necessary, especially as there are so many new books around to delve into. 
I have no proper answer to that, except that I don't regret more than a perhaps a couple of minutes of my re-read. 

(The trick to getting through this book : Small bites! Just as you would if you were to eat the whale. A couple of pages at the time.)

Just like Ellis's 'American Psycho' (no other parallels between the two!) the narrative wanders off in long, detailed digressions on obscure topics such as 18th century cetology, Nantucket, boat anatomy, the colour white, whaling as an activity... The first whale appears 200 pages in. Be forewarned.

To conclude, it is way too long, but still! The plot is powerful. The narrative voice is charming (Call him Ishmael). There is something undefinable, poetic about this novel, which is perceptible even without literary analysis.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

François 1er et l'Art des Pays Bas at the Louvre, Paris 1er

Information on François and his links to Dutch art was modest, as opposed to the religious artworks which were presented in abundance. The Dutch art exhibited was not always top-notch, although admittedly many of the lesser paintings of the Golden Age are still masterpieces.

In all, this was interesting and beautiful yet a bit frustrating, as it was also clearly not as fascinating as it could / should / would have been. (Wonder at the difficulty of applying that low-expectations principle, which would save me from a lot of disappointment...)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

San Andreas - B. Peyton 2015

When stereotypes, conventions and excesses are patent even to my thirteen-year-olds, then they are way, way too far over the top for me, even considering this is a Hollywood disaster movie.

That said, a script at this level of nonsensical predictability can be strangely satisfying.
It was actually rather entertaining to point out exactly what was going to happen a good while before it happened. 
A bit like 'Battleship' except without Taylor Kitsch the charm.

Other than that, this was pathetic.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

Though this novel adaptation of his own TV-series does not quite reach the heights of 'Good Omens' or 'American Gods' Gaiman always keeps a high minimum standard.

This is still fantasy, of course, reminiscent of a traditional roleplay; three strange figures united in a mysterious London underworld in quest of a magic object. 
It's an easy read despite its 400 pages and escapism in its purest form!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Downton Abbey s.1-6

And so, my two-week DT-marathon is now over and has resulted in the following musings on its advantages :

- Systematic and laudable avoidance of stereotypes. 

- Skillful plotwriting, taking its time, stretching a story over several chapters; hinting at things rather letting the cat out of the bag (keeping it "detectably meowing" as I read somewhere).

- Gorgeous settings and costumes.

- Maggie Smith's oneliners.

- That general, undefinable feeling of well-being this series inspires, rendering it absolutely top-notch holiday-viewing.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Greatest Hits 2017

Best Books   A draw! 
Soumission - Michel Houellebecq

Declares Pereira - Antonio Tabucchi

Best Film

Dunkirk - Christopher Nolan

Best Cultural Visit

Dior, Couturier du Rêve, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Best Music
Wonderful Wonderful - the Killers

Best TV-show

Stranger Things, both seasons (miraculousy)!

Disappointment of the Year
Louis CK. Still can't believe it. Or dont want to.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Poulets Grillés - Sophie Hénaff

I know I've claimed to have gone off detective stories, but when people lend you books moral obligation makes it hard not to read them.

No biggie, though, when they are as easy reads as this was. 

Typical journalist-writing, really : Entertaining and well-researched enough, but certainly no stylistic masterpiece.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mean Girls - M. Waters 2004

By some weird fluke of fate, I had never seen this before the other night, despite its cult status. 
Fortunately, one of the perks of having teenagers is that second chance you get at wallowing in the teen culture of your own youth (or let's say early adult years...)! 

This classic high school comedy is more caustic than John Hughes's 'Breakfast Club' and 'Ferris Bueller'-series, thereby working just fine also with disabused, middle-aged parents.

Plus : Bechdel-test  brilliantly passed! Extra important in teen movies!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas to you all

Elsa Beskow, 1874-1953

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Choreography - Bright Light Bright Light

1980s-inspired dance-music of a kind I very much enjoyed last time around but found more than a little bit bland, this time. I'd be at a loss to tell which of us has changed, Thomas or me.

All the more's the pity as this contains collaborations with prominent members of the regretted 'Scissor Sisters'.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tears on the Dancefloor - Steps

In Sweden, we call this music genre schlager and we take it very seriously, indeed.
So much so, in fact, that we like sending it to the Eurovision Song Contest to represent us (with generally rather adequate results, if you don't mind my saying so...).

I'm not sure what this British band calls it - probably not a Swedish word... 'disco' perhaps?
Whatever the term, the music is perfectly well-suited to the middle-aged runner I am. 
If you are under 40, you probably want to steer clear of this.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Revival - Eminem

Despite the rather dreadful reviews I had read, my low-expectations principle was inapplicable - It is EMINEM, after all! Fortunately, it turns out I mostly disagree with aforementioned critics as I quite enjoyed this, though admittedly not one of his masterpieces.

With time, Eminem has evolved into something more mature, thoughtful and dramatic (I do love bombastic theatricality in music!) all the while remaining pretty much himself.

Forays into pop & rock feel more like a novelty than desperation to me, so I appreciated the various collabs with Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé and Pink; mashups with 'The Rose', 'I Love Rock'n'Roll' etc.

His lyrics I found as first-rate as usual, with the added bonus of a white man speaking up against racism. (I often get the impression white people consider racism a black/coloured problem, a bit like feminism tends to be seen as concerning only women.)

In short, yes, this worked for me! 


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express - K. Branagh 2017

At the risk of stating the obvious :

- Agatha Christie's classic whodunit original is a masterpiece in its genre, albeit a literary lightweight and very entertaining one.

- Theatricality has been a Branagh trademark ever since 'Dead Again'. Though his financial and technological means have evolved, his basic patterns have not.

And so I suspect I didn't enjoy this as much as I could / should / would have, partly because I don't really fancy the Branagh approach and partly because I knew the plot much too well.
I hope you won't let that prevent you from going.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Evol - Shaka Ponk

This is a new album insofar as it was released mid-November. 
In musical terms, as far as I can tell, nothing much has changed since their previous masterpieces. 

Which is double, really!
On the one hand, I love this high-powered, melodious pop-rock.
On the other hand, renewal is the key to progress...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Jim & Andy, The Great Beyond - C. Smith 2017

During the shooting of Forman's Jim Kaufman biopic 'The Man in the Moon' Carey allowed himself to be filmed off camera (so to speak). This was particularly brave of him as it turns out his obsession with Kaufman turned him into a very outlandish person (and I'm phrasing it nicely : Universal only recently released the footage as they feared it would "make him look like an asshole"). 
'Bizarre' is a frequently stated assessment of the situation and seems 100% adequate.

Quite fun to watch, therefore! Carey provides present-day, insightful comment and there is also ample archive footage of Kaufman himself, embodying the adjective 'bizarre' just as much as Carey did.

My one regret was not seeing more of one of my favourite directors, Milos Forman.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Like A Fading Shadow - Antonio Munoz Molina

A simple plot summary : The writer fictionalizes his younger self, blending his own past with that of the killer of Martin Luther King jr and his hideout in Europe after the murder, works his way up to his own present-day narrator self and the time of the shooting, in Memphis, 1968, culminating with a long chapter focusing on MLK. 
Not so simple? I agree.

Fortunately, it is also masterly well-penned and evolving around Lisbon, a city I found so stunningly beautiful I automatically enjoy reading about it. 

However : Stiflingly pretentious, despite the talent, and at least 200 pages too long.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Every Day Is Christmas - Sia

I love how unexpected this album was as a career move slightly more than I love the actual album.

I like Christmas songs to be always the same (you may call it repetitive, I call it traditional) and generally upbeat. This album is very much the opposite to both.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

You Make It Feel Like Christmas - Gwen Stefani

Old and new Christmas songs, nicely retro-sounding and Stefani's voice : This may not be the most innovative record this winter, but isn't that at least partly the point with traditions?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon

Do not allow yourself to be put off by the 10 euro entrance fee or by the surly lady at the ticket office. 
Once inside, this 16th century monastery will take your breath away.