Friday, June 29, 2012

Death of Nora Ephron

This is a loss for mankind! Ephron was not only 'Silkwood', 'Heartburn', 'When Harry Met Sally', 'Julia and Julia' and 'Sleepless in Seattle' (and, admittedly, an array of not quite as fortunate romcoms), she was also a very witty writer and journalist.

From 'I Feel Bad About My Neck' (2006) : “Why do people write books that say it’s better to be older than to be younger? It's not better. Even if you have all your marbles, you’re constantly reaching for the name of the person you met the day before yesterday.”

Living Things - Linkin Park

Nothing groundbreaking or innovative about this; it's fairly straightforward, melodious, typically mainstream American rock music.
Bennington & band members appear to have led placid lives since recording their previous album, two years ago : The not-so-die-hard fan I am, at least, can hardly percieve any variance at all between this and 'A Thousand Suns'.

However! It fits snugly right into my ipod, almost as if it had been made for an elderly lady like myself to listen to while running!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Maroon 5 again

"She's got tickets to her own show
But nobody wants to go.
I'm stuck sitting in the front row
Singing along like there's no tomorrow."

I am such a sucker for witty song lyrics!  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Date Night - S. Levy (2010)

Replace Fey (my idol!) and Carell with just about anyone else, and you have here an extremely conventional action comedy, showing nothing you haven't already seen in a whole heap of other films.

The choice of actors is the single stroke of genius in this film, and altough it doesn't carry the film all the way, it does make for an entertaining hour and a half, which might be enough for you, depending on your expectations.

(The first time I saw it, I liked it well enough. Tonight, in front of my TV set, all I could think about was what Could Have Been Done, had Fey & Carell been given more latitude and better direction...)

Overexposed - Maroon 5

The thing is, you see, it is actually impossible not to enjoy artists performing Prince-covers!
A seven-minute long version of 'Kiss' would redeem just about any piece of crap, assuming this was one, which it isn't!

(And for the record, allow me to point out that Rihanna, whatever her other attitude problems may be, did no less than TWO Prince-covers on stage in Paris, last October..!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

L'Armée Furieuse - Fred Vargas

I had all but given up on detective novels, but I think I just changed my mind on that!

F. Vargas differs greatly from the American / British / Scandinavian mold; the cliché excentric, loner cop is apparently inescapable, but globally this is more Maigret-style, slow-motion detective work with a spicy touch of tongue-in-cheek humour. Entertaining!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Dictator - S. Baron Cohen

You can either call this a political comedy with a romantic twist, or a romantic comedy with a political twist. Both work equally well, which means 'the Dictator' is a lot more conventional than Baron Cohen's previous films.

Cohen is of course equal to his usual poop-and-head self; not always very sensitive or finely tuned - Except when it comes to social and political satire. In that field, he is sharper than most. - but vulgar, crude and pretty hilarious.

Friday, June 22, 2012

After Dark - Haruki Murakami

I am rather at a loss to determine whether Murakami is truly an exceptional writer or not. What I do know for certain is that his writing is Special. It seems to differ from everything else I have read.

'After Dark' is a lot less ambitious than '1Q84' (which I adored) but remains an eccentric little novel. It's a bit like a literary movie script : the time-span is narrowed down to a couple of hours, the story is told in the present tense, and the viewpoint is limited to - and visualized by - a filmcamera.

The camera-metaphor obviously confers a voyeuristic impression which, added to Murakami's own parallel universe, not necessarily meant to be understood, vouch for pleasant reading.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fête de la Musique

If you are in France, I certainly hope you are not at home tonight, but out wandering the streets, listening to all sorts of more or less talented musicians currently playing all sorts of more or less interesting music. The great variety in genres and skill are both part of the fun. 

June 21st is generally a congenial and rallying event, bringing huge crowds into the streets throughout the night and forcing me to go to bed late and windows closed.

As for tonight, I trust you will not be so discourteous as to question my reasons for crashing onto my couch at the present time, firmly intent at spending the rest of the evening there. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Le Voyage d'Hiver - Amélie Nothomb

Seemingly insignificant because of the novella size, Nothomb nonetheless broaches two of her recurrent subjects here - exacting love, a writer and his/her writing - in her usual, elegant prose.
Problem is, you easily miss out on it, since the format is so much more modest than the subject-matter. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Freedom - Jonathan Franzén

Despite all 700 pages of reading, I never fully grasped the genius here.
A well-wrought bestseller in the line of Tom Wolfe or Jeffrey Eugenides it is indeed.
An immortal work of literature it is not.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Shining Recut

Intelligent entertainment created with simple means!
(Not implying in any way I'd be capable of it myself, however! On the contrary; and that may be why I find it so clever.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Frankenstein - K. Branagh (1994)

Undeniably, this film frequently crosses that fine line separating the ridiculous from the unbelievable. But then! What else could you reasonably expect from a faithful adaptation of Shelley's gothic nightmare? There is no way anyone could have turned this into a Ken Loach film.

As far as I am concerned, this is a globally OK version, perhaps because the novel excels more in the field of action than in that of stylistic acumen. (Being deprived of the text, therefore, is no great loss.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Picasso et le Portrait

Found this at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago. It was edited for an exhibition in the 1980s that I now deeply regret having missed, as the book is masterly! The articles are numerous, well-penned, instructive and richly illustrated, and the subject-matter profuse.   

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Drive - N Winding Refn (2011)

Here is another film I was intelligent enough not to watch at a movie theater, but on my little home TV set. Much too violent to my taste, but also dreamlike in a spellbinding sort of way.

The story is familiar (with a not so discreet touch of Shakespearean tragedy to it) and Gosling takes the concept of the strong, silent and handsome hero to a whole new dimension.
Yet, the staging is remarkable, largely due to the contrasts between music and silence, speed and slow motion.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Scandal of the week

I am bit unsure as to exactly which of these facts is the most shocking to me :

That the president's girlfriend's disagreement with the Party line becomes front-page news.


That two women in opposition STILL are systematically described as rivals.
(Although I do see the journalistic temptation here, considering their private lives. But still?? Haven't we come further than this??)

1000 Svenska Klassiker - Gradvall et al.

Like most brilliant ideas, the concept is uncomplicated : Short, concise, illustrated and well-informed entries on one thousand Swedish records, films, TV-shows and books, from 1956 to 2010.

Genuinely captivating reading for any Swede even remotely interested in popular culture, and / or even vaguely nostalgic about his/her past.

Monday, June 11, 2012

District 9 - Neill Blomkamp (2009)

I remember being too apprehensive to go see this film at its release, and in hindsight, I can only congratulate myself on my self-knowledge. Saw it on TV last night, and can therefore now state that although the film is first-class as I suspected, I very much doubt that I would have survived it on a full-size movie screen with surround sound effects.

First-class, though!! A double-narrative frame device, a high-speed, intelligent script and particularly accomplished special effects create a rapidly mounting sense of panic and revulsion which conveniently prevents you from comparing the action to any current situation (while you're watching...).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Toutankhamon (Porte de Versailles)

This afternoon we visited the tomb of Tutankhamon, following the trail of archaeologist Howard Carter and his crew. 
The objects are all copies, obviously, and we were herded around in groups to films and exhibits with earphones on, but the information was detailed and accessible even for children. My 8-year-olds were mesmerized.
Educational fun, I would call it..!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

La Carte et le Territoire - Michel Houellebecq

It is impossible not to be appreciative of such an artful combination of mastery and originality.

Houellebecq's is a high-level-testosterone, scientific kind of writing. The characters appear extremely far removed from me (although this one does live on my turf!) and their world-views are very foreign to mine.
Not at all my cup of tea, therefore!
But the thing is that with a writer this accomplished, you don't even have to like tea at all.

Adèle Blanc-Sec - Luc Besson (2010)

Do not allow yourself to be decieved by the comic-album reference nor the aesthetic backdrop of early 20th century Paris exteriors.
Despite all that, this is and remains a children's film (like most of Besson's later films, for some reason). 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Only those who have actually read, preferably also studied, Jane Austen are allowed to accuse her of being shallow and predictable to my face.

While watching Austen is a pleasant enough occupation - those with access to French/German channel Arte can follow the excellent BBC series 'Pride and Prejudice' forthcoming two Thursdays - all her 7 novels with regard to the mere plots, boil down to banal love stories.

Austen's textual body, however, abounds in scathing social criticism with a feminist backbone, all in witty phrasing and biting irony. It just seems a pity to reduce her to who-marries-who-schemes.

As to Joe Wright's 2005 adaptation, it sums up the whole novel in barely 2 hours, which induces significant cuts in the narrative. The pictures are pretty, though.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lost In Translation - Sofia Coppola (2003)

I hadn't seen this film in a long time, but it has aged very gracefully, I must say.

The fish-out-of-the-bowl-idea is a classic, but while we are generally presented peculiar characters in familiar surroundings, Coppola's stroke of genius is to do the opposite, thus epitomizing her obsession with alienation.

Scarlett Johansson actually looks like a normal person and not the larger than life moviestar she has since turned into.
Bill Murray is admirably low-key, of course, and Tokyo is allowed to play a large role in itself.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

50 / 50 - Jonathan Levine (2011)

This is a comedy. It's about cancer. And it works!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Papercut Chronicles II - Gym Class Heroes

I read somewhere that the music you listen to between 15 and 25 moulds your taste in music for life. I have adopted it as true in my case, and use it as an excuse for my failure to see the grandeur in hiphop or rap music.

After Eminem, Gym Class Heroes is only my second exception to that notion.
They don't play hardcore hiphop, but crosses it with rock, pop and r & b in a most butt-shakeable and runnable cadence.   

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Le Malade Imaginaire - Molière

Zzz... zzz... zzz... zzz... zzz... zzz...

The Trip

Like all self-respecting directors these, days, Michael Winterbottom created his own mini-series in 2010, then edited it into a feature film, released last year.

This is cutting-edge TV, bringing the medium forward! The characters are fictionalized versions of themselves, the settings authentic and the dialogue partly improvised.
And yes, I know Larry David did all of the above - brilliantly! - 10 years ago, but it has not become really widespread yet, so to speak..!

The comedy here is less straightforward than in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' : No snappy one-liners or awkward situations to visualize your own self in. Think 'Treme' (or watch it, if you haven't already).
Skillful acting. Imposing landscapes. Witty dialogue. What more could you want?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Magic Hour - Scissor Sisters

I confess to have had unreasonably high hopes in this album, and therefore to being partly responsible for my disappointment.
Had an exceedingly hard time deciding what to actually make of it (It was SO not what I had expected!) and almost the same dilemma in finally facing the bitter fact that I Do Not Like This. (It was hard, for let's face it : unpredictability is precious in an artist!)

My final conclusion : Jake Shears & co had apparently decided to go clubbing here. Somehow they got lost along the way. Better luck next time.