Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Last Post

 This blog is over six years old and it has been a great ride!

However, as all good things must come to an end it is now time for me to try something else.

Thank you all for reading! Truly!!

 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Get Smart - Peter Segal 2008

I bet you thought I had quit watching films altogether and you'd be right in so far as I pretty much thought so too. 
(I cannot bear any more sequels and superheroes... Were is the creativity??) 
(In TV-series, that's where.)

Anyhow. I had watched 'Fantastic Beasts' three times in a row and so eventually it became my husband's turn to pick a film. Not surprisingly, he chose a spy comedy.

Pros :
- Great casting (Hathaway, Carell, Bill Murray, James Caan, Dwayne Johnson) and proper special effects, implying a consistent budget. 

Cons :
- Boring dialogue.
- The general sense of humour is based on stereotypes, scatology, fatshaming and I could go on... Could nobody have updated the script? Did they just pick up Mel Brooks's 1960s text without reading it through properly?
- Frankly, failing this hard with this much money is disgraceful.


In short : Use your time better (by watching 'Fantastic Beasts', for instance!) (or 'Spy')

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Den Svavelgula Himlen - Kjell Westö

I borrow Westö's novels from a friend who is dogged about keeping me updated on Scandinavian literature. 
I have, therefore, read several of his previous books.

Pros :
- As per usual, it is well-written and elegant. (Though I felt a bit clumsier than 'Mirage 38'. Or perhaps this was just one too many.)

Cons :
- Plots and motifs are extremely similar to 2009 'Gå Inte Ensam Ut I Natten'; the triangle of love and friendship, the social boundaries, the pervading passion for music, the author's alter ego, the characters' parents and children... 
Basically, this felt like a slightly more restrained and controlled version of the other book.
 
In short : A good read unless you have already read 'Gå Inte Ensam...'



Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Queen - Nicki Minaj

Pros :
- Guest appearances by rap god Eminem, and by Future, Lil Wayne, Ariana Grande and the Weeknd.
- I sort of like this! I can't tell why, really; it's too slow to run to (which is when I do most of my listening) but like Future, there is something hypnotic about this kind of talented stuff.

Cons : 
- See above. If I can't run to it, then what use is it? (You think that is shallow judgment? You may be right. But there it is.)

In short : Theoretically, I like it.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

1793 - Niklas Natt och Dag

For somebody regularly claiming to have gone off crime literature, I feel I have been have been reading unjustified amounts of it of it recently. This came highly recommended by my baby brother, and since he was the one who introduced me to Tana French, I felt I owed this a try.

Pros :
 - This felt well-researched and believable which, although not necessarily a prerequisite, is nevertheless an advantage when it comes to historic settings.
- Common pitfalls are avoided; the murderer is not a serial killer honing in on innocent young blondes. The plot is actually fairly original, as well!
- It IS a page-turner, once you have wallowed through the tedious first chapters.

Cons :
- Well, a potential Nobel Prize candidate it is not. But then, not everything has to be.


In short : OK entertainment.

 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan

Having recently fallen in love with McEwan's 'Atonement', finding this at my local bookseller felt like a windfall.

Pros :
- Restrained, elegant and poetic yet sharp! McEwan can write!
- The ending is so, so frustrating. And therefore equally clever and bold.

Cons :
- It is not a major opus like 'Atonement', although whether that is necessarily a drawback I wouldn't venture to say.

In short : A masterly parenthesis.



Friday, August 31, 2018

Rituals - Deaf Havana

If Panic! At the Disco were Brits and had higher artistic ambitions, I figure this is what they would sound like. 
And hopefully, with that American know-how and dauntless self-confidence, conquer the world.

As it is, Deaf Havana is not yet quite on the verge of universal fame, though it is not for want of talent, energy or musical talent. Personally, I like this even better than their US counterparts precisely for that darker streak.




Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Patrick Melrose Novels - Edward St Aubyn

Amazon has its downsides : One is that, like my BFF, you can order a book and then at its discovery realize it is way too heavy to carry with you in public transport and so on. (Though frankly, pal; five novels in one volume - what did you expect?..)
Anyway, being a true friend, I swiftly relieved her of this heavy opus.

Pros :
- Elegant! Masterful, even! Not a word is superfluous and none is missing. St Aubyn even has the intelligence and pluck to stop when his story is actually finished, rather than plowing on for another hundred or two hundred pages.
- ... And yet, describing your childhood by summing it up to a single day cannot have been an easy feat. Masterful, did I mention that?
- Not to mention depicting your childhood and not even focusing the plot on yourself! Daring and bold!
- This is by far the best and probably the only successful way to pull off a biography : Zooming in on isolated episodes and/or very limited time-spans. Most of these cleverly short novels (150-250 pages) deal with a day or two in the life of aristocratic brat Patrick Melrose, author St Aubyn's alter ego. 

Cons :
- What could possibly be a con here?? That the mere thought of St Aubyn's childhood abuse freezes your bowels to ice can only be to the book's credit (though definitely not to his parents').


In short : Godawful brilliant!
 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Six - We The Kings

De gustibus non est disputandum, which is very fortunate as I would be wholly at a loss to defend my soft spot for this sort of middle-of-the-road mainstream US rock music.

At any rate, I find it quite listenable.



Saturday, August 25, 2018

Untold Story - Monica Ali

I quite liked Ali's 'Brick Lane' a few years ago (ahem, I think fifteen?..) when I first read it and then found extracts in pretty much every English textbook edited for French students, so when I found this in my aunt's bookcase, I figured why not?

Pros :
- The pitch has its charm; after faking her death, Lady Diana reappears in suburban USA.

Cons :
- It's unsubstantial and unambitious, despite potentially pregnant core issues such as identity, motherhood and friendship.
- Ali seems to have no literary ambitions whatsoever, or perhaps they were simply lost in the Swedish translation.


In short : Ali has gone chicklit on us.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Gallows Thief - Bernard Cornwell

My idea of good travel literature is an easy yet captivating read; good enough to finish and bad enough that I don't want to carry it back home but can happily leave it somewhere along the trip after I have finished with it. 


Pros :
- An easy read! Almost monosyllabic. 
- A historic setting is always kind of nice in a detective novel, especially when it's Victorian London.
- An OK plot. No real page-turner, but kind of homely in a nice way.

Cons :
- Characters are stereotypical to the point of stupidity.
- The plot balances dangerously close to fatuous simplicity.


In short : Well, I finished it and then left it behind with no regrets whatsoever.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Defiant Ones - A. Hughes 2018

You may think what you like about the Netflix movie directory - I certainly do - but some of their documentaries are excellent. 
I only knew one of the guys on the poster but as that was Dr Dre, there was little need to hesitate. 

Pros :
- Now I also know who Jimmy Iovine is and, more importantly, that he has produced a huge number of great acts (Springsteen, No Doubt, Tupac, Lady Gaga...).
- Dre comes across as almost as down to earth and perceptive as my other hiphop paramour Jay Z.
- Lots of interviews with lots of (famous) people, all keyed in on these two producers and their work.
- An inside view of how streaming has brought about profound changes in the music industry.

Cons :
- No, I can't think of any.

In short : Interesting!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

My aunt is into light reading in large amounts, and so regularly needs to make room on her shelves. 
Most of what she likes I'm not really into, but that is where I picked up this thriller, long after everyone else had finished reading it and talking about it.

Pros :
- Commendably feminist ambitions. This is not one of those plots where you can remove the female character and basically have the same story.
- It's exciting. At least the first two thirds, until you figure out who the villain is.
- It's a page-turner! These are sadly few and far between these days.

Cons :
- It's a light-weight. Whether you consider that a con or not is up to you. I'm not judging. (This time.)
- For all its feminism, it will still have a hard time with the Bechdel-test.


In short : Sure!


Friday, August 17, 2018

Tag by Jeff Tomsic 2018

A film mostly defined by all that it is not :
A prequel, sequel or remake.
A blockbuster action movie.
A superhero film.

Pros :
- All of the above, really!
- An original script based on the true story of a group of youngish men still playing tag with each other for one month each year.
- Funny dialogue!

Cons :
- It passes the Bechdel-test, but only just.

In short : Good one!



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Kung Liljekonvalje av Dungen - Eklöw & Panov 2013

As per usual with adaptations, I was highly suspicious of this one; all the more so because of my love of Maria Lang's detective novels and my long-time crush on the main character, making it hard to have him interpreted by some stupid actor.

Pros :
- Stylish decade, the 1950s! Brilliant idea, then, to have set the film in the era of the book.


Cons :
- Not particularly impressed with adaptations, as a rule, as I may have mentioned before.
- A couple of changes have been made to the script, tending toward the politically correct; not all of the changes are for the worse, however!
- Didn't like Ola Rapace even before he tried to ruin Christer Wijks police superintendent for me...

In short : Read the book instead.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Blekingegatan 22 - Lena Einhorn

Oh how I loved the Hollywood glamour of the early moviestars when I was myself a gawky youth! If truth be told, I still find them gorgeous if unrealistic style icons. 
Finding a fictionalised biography of the divine miss Garbo when browsing a friend's bookshelves therefore proved an irresistible temptation.

Pros :
- Based on recently discovered letters from Garbo to her teenage sweetheart Mimi Pollak and penned by a documentary film-maker already boasting a Garbo documentary on her résumé, this felt profoundly well-informed and actually not fictionalised at all, though of course it is.
- It was also an easy read, accessible and engaging yet not infantilising. 

Cons :
- It focuses on her late teens at the Stockholm drama school, whereas I for one am more interested in her life in Hollywood.

In short : A good read.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Love Suprême - Koriass

This had me bewildered at first first : The lyrics are in French (well, mostly) and yet it sounds nothing like other French rap artists. 
Canadian citizenship turned out to be the answer.

Pros :
- American-style rap music + French and English lyrics = Brilliant combo!
- How eminently convenient to be able to switch between two languages, always finding a good rhyme. Why don't more people do this??

Cons :
- This album is from 2016 so I'm hoping for something new soon.


In short : Definitely hoping for something new soon..!


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Guitars Museum at Umea, Sweden

As you are well aware by now, I don't normally write about any stuff I haven't seen, watched, read or listened to myself. 
Still, as you are also no doubt well aware of, every rule has its exception.

This private guitar museum deserves attention and so I mention it despite the fact that the museum-goer this time was my hubby, while I was mercifully spared.

The collection is, according to aforementioned hubby, as extensive as it is impressive, containing quite a few rare tidbits (I think he may have used another word, but you get my drift) acquired in the early 1970s when the two owners initiated their collection.
It is completed by some nostalgic paraphernalia, creating a universe of old-school rock'n'roll.


In short : The family musician enjoyed it a lot.




Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Älgens Hus at Bjurholm, Sweden

This moose farm is situated about 60 km outside Umea, in the far north of Sweden.
Your visit starts with an educational, slightly boring, video before moving on to an equally slow but informational guided tour of the tiny museum before - finally! - climaxing with a meet and greet first of the calves and then their elders.

Pros : 
- It's not all that often you get to stand next to, let alone pet, a moose.
- The calves are adooooorable of course.
- This is an excellent way to grasp the actual and impressive size of a grown moose.
- This is not Disneyland : You learn a lot.

Cons :
- This is not Disneyland : It is also a wee bit boring (though that may possibly be put down to the fact that this was my third visit).
- The gift shop is a sorry excuse for a shop. Disney it is certainly not. And the restaurant is OK but that is about as as far as it goes.

In short : Discover the moose.

 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Room of One's Own / Three Guineas - Virginia Woolf

Following the well-known aphorism 'When in Bloomsbury, buy Woolf' I brought this back home from London a while ago. 
 (A word of caution as to that saying, though : If you have no memory, then keep a list in your cellphone over what you have already got, or you might end up with two copies of 'Orlando', like me.)

This book contains two of Woolf's most famous essays and I had read neither!

A Room of One's Own
Woolf wrangles with the concept 'women and fiction' and comes up with several truths that have become self-evident, such as "a room of one's own" (along with money, that is what is required to write; for both women and men) and "Shakespeare's sister" (Wills fictitious but equally gifted sister, who, being a woman, never came to write anything. Woolf has her kill herself, pregnant out of wedlock...). 
Wonderful writing!

Three Guineas
This is a longer essay, in response to a fictive letter asking Woolf's opinion on how to avoid the war. Over 200 pages, Woolf delivers her thoughts not only on war, but also - surprise, surprise! - on women's role in society and how the two are - yes, indeed - linked.
It's thoughtful, insightful, a bit dated (1938) and rather demanding to read, I thought. 
But obviously worth the trouble.  

In short : Well, it's Woolf, isn't it?



Sunday, August 5, 2018

HH - Hypen Hyphen

Pros :
- French electronic pop, catchy tunes, nice bassline!
- Ambitious.
 
Cons :
- A bit pretentious, perhaps? That arty, high-brow approach that I have a hard time with? Only a little, though...
 
In short : Sure, bring it on.

 

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Prophet - Khalil Gibran

One of my goals being to die as cultivated as possible, I felt I had to know what this 1930s bestseller was about.

Pros :
- It's wonderfully short! No 500-page litany here; 45 modest pages. Gibran apparently mastered the art of killing his darlings.
- It's rather shopworn but still not Paulo Coelho.
- Everything is of sound and good sense, as far as I can judge. It simply feels like he is pushing at open doors, which probably was not the case in 1930.

Cons :
- Very much like poetry, this needs to be read slowly. I can't! I just don't have the patience! I just want to get to the end of it!
- I don't hang about on Pinterest but it feels as though Gibran does. Every line is like something I'd expect to find printed in Lucida handwriting on a sunset background, such as the classic "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself." Corny : Yes, though I'm not sure it's Gibran's fault...

In short : Nah.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Manhunt : Unabomber

Ever the optimist, I had figured this would be a documentary, hopefully of the of the 'Jim & Andy'-kind. 
Turned out to be just a regular mini-series.

Pros :
- I learnt about the Unabomber who, due to my not being American, was a rather hazy concept for me.
- I kind of like Sam Worthington, for some reason, and I liked that they hadn't tried to sugarcoat his character into someone nice.

Cons :
- Where to begin? The script was clumsy, predictable, conventional and generally uninspired. 
- It was also much too slow. Eight episodes should have been edited down to five.

In short : Why did I even finish this? Do I really not have better things to do with my time??


Monday, July 30, 2018

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies - Austen and Grahame-Smith

It was an emergency situation - nothing to read - and I was Oxfam-shopping so I was quite resigned to getting a detective novel, but then happily changed my plans on finding this.

Turns out it really is all in the title : It is Jane Austen's masterpiece with a zombie subplot.
 
Pros :
- Well, it's at least 70% Jane Austen, isn't it? And I mean 70% not as in it's the same characters and plot, but as in it's the same sentences, word for word, to a very large extent. 
- Eliza Bennet as a skilled killer of the undead turns out an unexpectedly successful concept. A fun idea, on the whole.

Cons :
- It's 70% Austen but I had some problem with the remaining 30%. For example, at several instances Mr Darcy SMILES. From the very onset of the plot. Darcy. doesn't. smile.
- For all the Austen quotes, the literary quality is all but gone from the text. I can't figure how that happened : How can she have disappeared when there is so much of her left??
 
In short : Not as good as the real thing, but globally OK.

 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Wild, Wild Country

Netflix documentaries are of two kinds : 
The sensational National Geographic sort and the solid informative yet aesthetic sort.
This one is about an Indian guru and his followers moving into and taking over a town in the Oregon wilderness, then moving on to large-scale immigration and voting fraud, arson, poisoning, gun threats... 

Pros :
- The highpoint of the six-episode series was, to my mind, the encounter between the Rajneeshee and the American rednecks of the 1980s. Hilarious.
- Adroitly, the disheartening aspects of the cult surface only gradually as the story unfolds.
- As usual in the second sort of Netflix documentaries, an impressive amount of inside protagonists appear and give their side of the story, we are presented with several point of views and kilometers of archive footage.

Cons :
- As usual in the second sort of Netflix documentaries, it is a wee bit too long. However fascinating the subject matter, I found it hard to stay focused. 
- Bhagwan's teachings about sex and money, for instance, are kept very much under cover. We are offered a lot of intelligence on their actions but very little on their beliefs. 
- I would have appreciated a statement from one or two of the footpeople; the ordinary followers, far from the upper layers of Sheela and Bhagwan.


In short : Too long but very interesting.