Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote - T. Gilliam (2018)

Whenever my hubby suggests a film where there is more dialogue than explosions, I'm in.

Pros :
- Terry Gilliam is a talented director. The savoir-faire is evident.
- Lavish setting, sumptuous costumes; very visually appealing.
- Highly ambitious script - meta-literature, meta-cinematography, meta-realism... Elaborate!
 
Cons :
- Neither me nor my better half was able to work out precisely what went wrong with this film. 
All of the above should have it work like a charm. Why it doesn't I have no idea, but it doesn't.

In short : I was bored stiff after a half-hour. Things did not improve.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Star Wars Episode XXVI, The Last Jedi - R. Johnson 2017

Here we go again. Apparently. (The reason why I went there again remains even more obscure than the Supreme Leader's bedroom.)

Pros :
It's Star Wars, innit?! Everything's familiar, more or less!

Cons :
It's Star Wars, AGAIN?! Let this franchise go and create something new, for X sake. Preferabley something that doesn't go on for 2 1/2 hours.


In short : Why did I put myself through this?



Saturday, May 19, 2018

Black Panther, the Album - Kendrick Lamar

Faithful readers will have guessed I did not approach this album via the movie. (Still no superhero-fan.)
Nor did I, really, approach it at all; the music is too slow to have on while running (which is when I mostly listen to music) and albums in full are a dying species in today's music industry. 

And still, somehow, one song after the other from this "music from and inspired by"-album has found its way into my playlists. What IS it with Kendrick Lamar? Why is he so irresistible? (And do you think he would consider marriage?)


Thursday, May 17, 2018

This American Life

Although I loved, loved, loved podcasts 'Serial s1' (s2 not so much) and 'S-Town' and both of those come from the team behind 'This American Life', I only got around to listening to this very recently. 
The upside of this late start is that I now have lots of episodes to catch up on!

Pros :
- Extraordinary stories of ordinary people, set forth by people so gifted at story-telling I'm thinking they should all be writers.

Cons :
- Try as I might, I can't find anything negative about this show? Love it!

In short : Love it!


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Merry Wives of Windsor - William Shakespeare

As far as I am aware, I am the only one in my circle who reads Shakespeare regularly, just for fun. Not sure why. 
True, they are conceived to be seen (or heard, according to the Elizabethans) yet although the text only conveys a part of the experience it is still a very nice part. 
And it's different from "hearing a play" as reading allows you to focus more on the words.

Pros :
- This is one merry play, indeed! Puns, double-entendres, dialects, metaphors and general wordplay in abundance. Shakespeare at the height of his art!

Cons :
- David Crane, the editor of this Cambridge UP edition, is clearly not an adept of the recent studies' on Shakespeare's filthy language. None of that is mentioned neither in the notes nor in his introduction, which is a pity as there is loads of sexual innuendo in the text. Loads!!

In short : Great play, mediocre edition.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Le Moustache Café, Paris 13th arrdt

So for some reason, I am drawn to cat places although you'd think I have my share of cat's hair at home. 

Pros :
- Very near my apartment! Great advantage!
- Brand new, so very clean and quiet and fresh - none of the smell and clouds of cat's hair we experienced at the Bastille place.
- The cats seem placid and congenial. They are a bit guarded but peaceable enough.

Cons :
- Can't see any? Children are not allowed in on their own, which angers my teenager but is probably agreeable to the cats inside.
- Feeding the cats is not allowed; as a consequence, they are less likely to come and sit with you. Although this may be bad for the café business, it's clearly better for the cats themselves.


In short : If you enjoy the concept, then yes.

 

Friday, May 11, 2018

She's All That - R. Iscove 1999

Fourteen-year-old + myself + Netflix. Sometimes this is what happens.

Pros :
- It does have a certain charm. I have never really understood why Freddie Prinze Jr hasn't turned into some classy sort of Ewan McGregor-star? Dashingly handsome.
- Oh the 1990s! Pagers, MTV Real World, breakdancing, Usher, razor-thin eyebrows, spaghetti straps...
- The epitome of the American high-school movie : It ticks off every box you can possibly imagine, and with such gusto that it's almost a caricature.

Cons :
- Watching a remake of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady and wish for innovation or even politically correctness is unreasonable, so I won't go into the action. 
Suffice to say there is ample food for thought on gender roles and the evolution of society here. 


In short : Kinda cute. 

 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Time Travellers's Guide to Elizabethan England - Ian Mortimer

I don't exactly remember where I got this, but as it is precisely the sort of book I tend to buy at museum gift shops - incidentally, excellent places for bookshopping! - I reckon this comes from some English museum I visited last summer.

Pros :
- Interesting! Tudor England is my favourite place and time in history, what with Shakespeare and the intricacies of a highly entertaining royal family.
- History as seldom taught : The new social kind, highlighting not the goings-on of kings and adventurers, but the everyday lives of what is known as ordinary people. Mortimer explains what people wore, ate and believed; how they read time and what they did for entertainment. Among others. I learnt a lot!
- "Accessible and entertaining" to quote the unequivocal Sunday Times cover blurb.

Cons :
- Now, what would that be? Perhaps the surplus of details in matters I am less interested in, such as bridges or the landscape.
- Still wondering about one thing : Homosexuality being a capital crime, how did Shakespeare get away with those fairly explicit sonnets of his??


In short : Great read!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Burn - Little Boots

Ever since her 2009 pop masterpiece 'Remedy' I have felt compelled to keep up with Hesketh's new releases. 
Cause that sort of pop genius is bound to crop up again sooner or later, isn't it?

Pros : 
- She is ambitious and good at what she does. If you enjoy dreamy dance electronica, then this is top of its game.

Cons :
- I don't enjoy dreamy dance electronica. I wan't 'Remedy'!


In short : Maybe next time?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

De Fördrivna - Negar Naseh

 
As an expat, it's easy to lose touch with your once-home country. Lucky for me, therefore, one of my Swedish friends has taken it upon her to keep me up to date on Swedish literature. 
At least, most of the time, I consider myself lucky for it. Some of the stuff she gives me I would most definitely never have got for myself.
Still, you have to read presents, don't you? It's sort of a moral obligation.

PROS :
- Although I know many new parents who simply adore that baby-bubble you are in during those first confusing months, I know I was a lot happier when life eventually took on a more structured form. The perpetual sleep deprivation and worrying about everything had me in a state which I rarely see depicted in books. Good point, then, for Naseh's portrayal of these two unhappy, bitter, distracted young parents who don't really know what hit them when the baby came.
- The parallel between their restricted baby-universe and the migrant crisis adds intensity.
- Naseh's prose is OK. It may not quite match her ambitions, but it's OK.

CONS :
- The situation becomes so negative after a while I felt like shooting myself in the head. All those black flies, the drinking, the smoking, the heat, their snapping at each other, arguing over baby care and household chores... Half would have been enough.


In short : If you regret the lack of recent Ingmar Bergman-films, then this is for you.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Isle of Dogs - W. Anderson 2018

The goal was to go see a movie. As I had read positive reviews on this one and it seemed devoid of superheroes and explosions, I figured why not?

PROS :
- It's a poetic, well-pondered script (penned by Anderson with a few Coppolas) on society, ostracism, exclusion, waste management, disease and a heap of other very ambitious topics...
- ... well served by a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour...
- ... and breathtakingly beautiful images...
- ... created with impressive technological skills.

CONS :
- Does there always have to be one, I wonder?

In short : Brilliant!


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Americanah - C. N. Adichie

When I first read about this book it intrigued me so little I actually turned down the offer of my booklending friend. 
A coming-of-age / love story with racial undertones? Been there, done that, thank you very much.
Then I read some more about it, about prizes and stuff, and figured only fools never change their minds (French proverb). Mercifully, my friend's offer was still on.

PROS :
- Classy prose! Simple and unassuming, yet elegant.
- The author clearly knows her stuff. Her childhood in Nigeria, her teens in the US; both are depicted colourfully.
- Viewpoints of Africans in America are few and far between, as compared to those of African Americans. (Possibly that observation is due to my passion for American literature. Still!) 
 
CONS :
- Five hundred pages are too many. Just like anything over two hours is too long for a film. It just doesn't favor the story in any way, notwithstanding the quality of the work.
- The love story-aspect that put me off in the first place indeed proved a major setback. True 'meant-for-each-other' love is not something I go for any longer. Plus, it felt redundant here.


In short : An OK read.

 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Frankenstein Chronicles

One of my teens and myself came across this six-episode series on one of the rare occasions we came to share the same couch and remote control. In case I wasn't clear enough; she actually migrated out of her room and into our common living room on a Saturday night!
Then, she fell asleep before the end of episode one which probably explains why didn't go through with the rest. I did, though!

PROS :
- A bit of a Brit version of 'The Alienist'! Vanished children, a couple of outsider detectives, a twisted plot with literary parallels.
- Victorian London! Prettier than ever! Clearly a large part of the budget has gone into the decoration.
- William Blake, Boz, Mary Shelley! I repeat : William Blake!!

CONS :
- The plot was a bit slow, perhaps. Or my teenager was just exceptionally sleepy that particular Saturday night.

In short : Very watchable!


Friday, April 27, 2018

The Alienist

Though I have read the book, as usual I remembered absolutely zero about the plot - a serial-killer, lots of blood, a 19th century profiler... - except that I rather enjoyed it. 
Not as much as my history crime-buff husband did, but still.

PROS :
- Stylish settings,though definitely less stylish than in 'The Frankenstein Chronicles'
You can tell 'the Alienist' budget was not of the Netflix kind. This frequently resembled 1990s music videos.
- Fun for the whole family, as it turned out! Adults and teens enjoyed every episode together! You have no idea how rare that is unless perhaps you have teenage kids yourself. 
(I choose to ignore the fact that I have submitted my offspring to ten hours of mutilated boy transvestites.)
- What is lacking in stage setting is compensated for by the storyline : Author Caleb Carr is one of the many producers. Cary Fukunaga is another.
 
CONS :
- Yet another serial killer... zzz... This one leaves young girls alone but goes for cross-dressing boys instead. Only inches better. Plus, he dismembers. Gross and complacently provocative.


In short : The simple fact that we enjoyed it as a family is remarkable enough.



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hiphop Saved My Life

As I find the host of this podcast, Romesh Ranganathan, pretty much hilarious on stage, I did expect this to be fun, although hiphop certainly hasn't saved my life as of yet.

PROS :
- It IS fun! Quite often it feels like a private kind of fun I'm not really let in on, though. 
Or perhaps I'm just too old and outdated for this? Still. Fun!
 - The topics are inspiring; the two hosts probe around new British hiphop instead of settling for the latest Jay-Z and Eminem albums. Excellent opportunity to discover new artists.

CONS :
- Considering the title and subject matter, this podcast contains a surprisingly small amount of music. All the more surprising as virtually all of the artists were previously unknown to me.
- "Previously unknown" is the understatement of the year... It's a bit like reading Nick Hornby's texts on music or books. I haven't a clue as to whom they are talking about. Ever. Extremely nerdy. 
Or - again - it could just be age-related? (Surely, that can't be it??)

In short : Sadly, this was a better idea in theory.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Golden - Kylie Minogue

I am very much in two minds about this woman. 
On the one hand, I find her reluctance to age physically somehow personally offensive. (Quit the fillers, people! Or at least get them done properly!)
But then at the same time, I can't help marvelling at her persistence in showing off her butt and sticking to her disco beats whichever other influences she may cross them with.
So I always give any new album of hers a shot.

PROS :
- It's still Kylie! Like it or not, it still swings, it still fairly runner-friendly music and I still defy any of us middle-aged ladies who shook our permed hair to the Stock-Aitken-Waterman rhythm to truly resist this. I know I can't.

CONS :
- What is it with this current fad for country influences?? Should I want country-music - though I cannot for the life of me figure out why I should - I would turn to Keith Urban or Lady Antebellum. Kylie should stick with collabs of the brilliant Nervo-Rodgers-Jake Shears kind.
- But then I do like change as a principle, so I suppose the aforementioned 'con' also contains a small percentage of 'pro'.



In short : It grows on you.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

L'Ordre du Jour - Eric Vuillard

When friendly coworkers want to lend me books I never know how to turn them down.
Especially history-teachers are hard to say no to, because somehow they always seem so awesomely knowledgeable.
Especially had to rebuff is this particular history-teacher with whom I have already discovered similar tastes in literature (although discrepancies have also been observed).
So I read this.

PROS :
- Thorough historical expertise genuinely impresses me. Hence my inherent esteem for history-teachers.
- Elegant if self-important prose.
- Mercifully short! 150 pages long and the tiniest little sliver of a book I have seen in a long time.
 
CONS :
- A World War II-overdose brought on by my husband's boundless passion for this conflict makes me nauseous at the mere thought of Nazi Germany. Not Vuillard's fault, though.
- For all its elegance, the prose is self-important to the point of being insufferably conceited. 


In short : Not for me, thank you.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel

I read the first part of this trilogy a while ago and liked it well enough. 
When I ran into part two in a charity shop last summer, it was clearly Meant To Be, so I bought it.

PROS :
- Tudor history! Well-rearched stuff on the downfall of Anne Boleyn (wife nr 2) and the ascension of Jane Seymour (nr 3), while Thomas Cromwell is holding on for dear life to his position as the King's Secretary.
- Elegant writing. Though perhaps no Nobel Prize contestant, Mantel is not just a historian who writes; she is actually a writer.

CONS :
- I am at a loss to determine what precisely is the matter with this book. 
Suffice to say there IS something missing. A sense of humour? (Of a more outspoken kind than Cromwell's tongue in cheek observations, I mean.) Affection for the characters? 
I really couldn't tell for sure. It's just a bit plain boring, at times?




In short : Not as much fun as it should have been.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Dear Melancholy - The Weeknd

My Dear Ms Gomez,

Finding new music to run to at my age - or is it our day and age that should be blamed? - is anything but uncomplicated.

In this matter, your ex-boyfriend The Weeknd is normally a safe card, which is why I was pleased to hear he had released a new album.

However, if these songs are anything to go by, you seem to have smashed his poor little heart into smithereens. 
Now, why would you do that?

Admittedly, I lack inside information (please feel free to email me) but he seems like a nice enough guy. I'm naturally reluctant to compare him to any other ex-boyfriend of yours, but it is very hard not to.

Specifically, I don't find it fair on the rest of us to have him waste perfectly good talent on this sort of soppy mess.

In the future, I'd be very grateful if you would please consider your respective audiences before making any rash decisions. 

Thank you in advance,


Regards,


Ingela

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Monstre de Peinture - Christophe Domino

Here is a piece of friendly advice for those of you who, like me, wish to improve your general culture without too much of an effort at boring books : Toilet-learning.
Just like you have a bedside-book, you keep a toiletside book and you take it in, a nibble at the time. Works splendidly! This one I just finished.

PROS :
- Bacon's art! I have no idea why I seem to enjoy so much of the kind of art that gives my children nightmares? Perhaps I'm compensating for my smooth and docile exterior? 
In any case, Bacon's tortured bodies definitely strike a chord in me. It is an advantage, therefore, that this little book should contain so many of his artworks and so beautifully reproduced (the many triptychs feature as fold-outs, for instance).

CONS : 
- Whenever possible I try to blame clumsy writing on the translation. That is a lot harder when, as in this case, I read it in the original language. I can't bear this very French type of word-spewing pseudo-academica. You'd think the author was paid by the word.
- Absurdly, seeing the great amount of words used, the texts don't really say much, either about Bacon nor his work. The interviews and articles featured on the final pages were actually a lot more informative.

In short : Read something else on Bacon instead.

Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962

Friday, April 13, 2018

Jack Whitehall At Large

Having already - despite his bratty appearance - appreciated Whitehall in 'Travels With My Father' and 'Fresh Meat', I confess I had good hopes of a couple of laughs here. 

PROS : 
- Whitehall came through, fortunately, and delivered a fair amount of fun in his ramblings on drinking, his American manager, Frozen, Robert Pattinson, flying and dickpics, among others. 

CONS : 
- He is no Louis CK. But then hopefully that also means he does not masturbate in front of people (which might compensate for Whitehall's lesser genius). 




In short : It was OK.


Here is what I would like on Netflix, though : A comedy special with Romesh Ranganathan.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Plantu at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris 13th arrdt

Being a regular reader of Le Monde + a teacher + a political left-winger (the two last items are fairly indistinguishable, I'll grant you that) an exhibition of Plantu's caustic cartoons was bound to catch my eye.

PROS :
- It's Plantu! It's political, it's clever, it's disrespectful without being discourteous.
- The BNF venue is situated right next to where I live. There is no denying the comfort to be found in geographical proximity!
- Free admission.

CONS :
- It was the tiniest of all the tiny exhibitions I have ever visited. Dense and interesting! But tiny!

In short : Don't cross countries for this one. But if you live nearby, definitely come!






Monday, April 9, 2018

Oss Är Allt - Hurula


Possibly, in the Hurula case, the clear-sighted objectivity you normally find on this blog might be a bit lopsided : He IS after all a homie of mine. (We share geographical origins.) Still!

PROS :
- Classic garage rock with a touch of poetry always has its peculiar charm, doesn't it?

CONS :  
- So renewal is not Hurula's game, apparently. That is a pity, because it is mine. But I suppose we can't all be Prince, now, can we?


In short : Bring it on!



Saturday, April 7, 2018

Welcome to Rapture - Logic


PROS :
- A tad melodramatic - just what I tend to enjoy in music! - and mixed up with gangsta-rap feel! An excellent combination.

CONS :
- Too few BPM to use for running-music (I realize it's a bit shallow as a criteria but...).


In short : Pretty brilliant.



Thursday, April 5, 2018

Att Vara Kvinna - Maria Lang

Faithful to the Norwegian tradition of påskekrim (reading a detective novel during Easter) (yes Scandinavian traditions can be quite quirky!) I settled in next to my cat and dug into my Easter chocolates with this old vintage gem on my lap.


YES :
- 1960s fictive police investigations are particularly charming, and even more so in the hands of Maria Lang, forerunner to Sweden's modern and by comparison rather bleak crimewriters.  
- Women are delicate and graceful, men are dashing and clever and everyone is dapper and polite. Oh the good old times!
- Despite multiple re-reads I still couldn't remember who the killer was. 
That may say more about me than about the book, but there it is.
- Classic, standard, archetype, conventional whodunit.

NO :
- What's not to like, honestly??


In short : A treat!