Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid

Light reads more often than not deal with light subjects, though as set forth by Hamid this is by no means a foregone conclusion. 
Indeed; depression, suicide, fundamentalism, aloofness and corporate America are all prominent themes in this life-story (not wholly different from 'How To Get Filthy Rich...').

'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' qualifies as a light read because of its weight (a modest 200 pages), its approachability and fluid narrative style.

I realize my topic list above may not appear very engaging, yet for all its lightness in form and gravity in subject, this was both perceptive and pleasurable!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Squid and the Whale - N. Baumbach (2005)

In between football-games - which, I must stress, I do not myself watch - I managed to squeeze in this low-key masterpiece! 

Ever excellent Laura Linney but also equally excellent Jeff Daniels and Jesse Eisenberg (plus very young - though excellent! - Owen Kline) form the intellectual Brooklyn nuclear family of 1986, surrounded by discreet but significant time-markers, whose divorce goes somewhat sour. A profoundly miserable bunch of people, helmed by Bridges's dickhead dad.

All the more gut-wrenching as it smelled strongly of autobiography - confirmed by various articles, yet to what extent of course nobody knows but the Baumbachs.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Try as I might, I can't think of any way of saying this without sounding condescending, so I'll just out with it : Only in exceedingly rare instances do thrillers qualify for Real Literature in my book. (No pun intended, though I'm not displeased with it, either!)

Hyped-up 'Gone Girl' was no exception to the rule; despite ambitious toying with the narrative voices, it never got more than quite OK. 
Entertaining enough should you feel the need to let your little grey cells rest awhile.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fête de la Musique

Jet Lager at quartier de la Contrescarpe
Concerts everywhere around Paris last night, and quite possibly, some might even have been technically superior to the band featuring my lawfully wedded husband. 
But how many of formerly mentioned bands do you think had a bagpipe in their finale?... 
Just saying.

DJing at the Batofar

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Good Wife, season 5

Seeing that this is already the fifth season, it would indeed make sense for Florrick and her associates, present and former, to start losing some momentum. 
It often happens , quite naturally, around the fifth-sixth season of a series, once the characters have passed their 'best-by'-date.

Not yet in 'The Good Wife', however, much to my amazement! Not only is the plot not spinning out of control (everyone sleeping with everyone), it's actually tightening up and adding a restrained, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.

Spoiler-alert : Having turned Prince Charming into a JR Ewing-like villain, all the while maintaining the basic tension of a frustration couple is nothing short of TV genius!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Possibility of an Island - Michel Houellebecq

Admittedly, there is much to be said against Houellbecq's writing : it is cynical, misogynistic, vulgar, violent, uncompromising and probably also a few more that don't spring to mind right now.

'La Possibilité d'Une Ile' is hardcore Houellbecq, dealing with cloning, sex, sects and ageing, all tinted with his jaundiced view of modern society.

The action is unhurried; 500 pages in the first person to depict the life of what might be a Houellebecq alter ego, commented on by two of his subsequent clones, several centuries later. 

This is double science fiction insofar that (1) it is set in a distant future and (2) Houellebecq's style, however elegant and fluid, is strangely scientific. It is also what redeems the atrocity of the subject matter : Though I frequently disagree with the opinions and cynicism he vehicles, there is no denying he is a genuinely talented and truly original writer.

This novel has been adapted on film by Houellebecq himself, and according to Wikipedia, it also inspired the 2009 Iggy Pop album 'Préliminaires' (en français dans le texte).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Veep, season 3

I reckon art generally relies on identification : Seeing yourself or something from your own experiences in the work of art.

Now, I am not even going to attempt an explanation to how / why I see myself more in a self-portrait by some 17th century Dutchman than in a contemporary TV-series about a vice-president, intelligently written and played by an actress I greatly admire.

Still. For some reason I don't. (See myself in 'Veep', that is.) Perhaps because these characters are all either so nasty or self-centered or plain stupid or - frequently - all three that there is really nothing to redeem them.

Washington Crossing the Delaware,
Emmanuel Leutze, 1851

Friday, June 13, 2014

Real Humans

One of my colleagues - a philosophy teacher - is firmly convinced a fellow philosopher is behind 'Äkta Människor'. Be that as it may (I confess a total ignorance of co-Swede Lars Lundström's past) the underlying query - What Makes A Human Being? - is truly philosophical.

Moreover, this series is well-penned, well-played and generally thought-provoking.
Fortunately, my colleague and I are not the only ones to appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Episodes, season 3

One Crane (David) clearly does not make a hit show all by himself, not even with Joey in it. Indeed, 'Episodes' is no 'Friends' (co-created byCrane) yet this mise en abyme of the LA TV world, starring a British scriptwriting couple interacting with the star of their crummy series, has snappy dialogue, and characters that grow on you.

It is not unmissable, nor groundbreaking in any way, but it's pleasant enough.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - D. Scardino 2013

Ever likeable Steve Carell as a Las Vegas magician (think David Copperfield, or Sigfried and Roy); Steve Buscemi , Jim Carrey and Olivia Wilde in secondary roles = This could have been good!

Would have been, too, most likely, had not the plot been so sadly predictable.

Once again - This is an OK comedy, if you aren't up to anything else in particular. 

And to finish : I need to watch myself a really good film! 
Why do I get stuck in front of all these humdrum comedies??


Monday, June 9, 2014

Les Gamins - A. Marciano 2013

A French bromance, starring Alain Chabat as a disillusioned family father attempting to dissuade his future son-in-law from tying the knot. (Teaser of the month : GUESS how it ends??!!!)

In short : Nothing innovative nor creative nor even remotely unconventional about this, still a fairly entertaining comedy, acceptable if you have nothing else going on.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Shaka Ponk, Zénith de Paris

A dedicated Shaka Ponk-fan for some time now, the low-expectations principle was a no-go from the start. Still, we arrived searching our pockets for Advil, an irritating summer-cold having almost got the better of us.

Two hours later, we were dripping in sweat (26°C outdoors, an approximate 40°C in the Zénith hall), blissfully happy and forgetful of any headaches or other ailments.

More elaborate and visually challenging than Skip the Use, yet just as uncompromising and powerful, this totally rocked!!!

(More Paris dates in October, though at a larger venue (Bercy). Still : Get tickets.)


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Gosford Park - R. Altman 2001

Before hatching 'Downton Abbey', Julian Fellowes sharpened his teeth penning this terribly elegant whodunit, set, no doubt, in some neighbouring mansion in the 1930s.
It's almost uncanny how this otherwise classic Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery now merely feels like a DT-prequel!

Choice actors! The list ranges from Derek Jacobi, via Kristin Scott Thomas and a devilishly handsome Clive Owen to the inescapable Maggie Smith.

Somehow, though (Strangely, it is not one of Robert Altman's better films) it lacks the soul and humanity that make 'Downton Abbey' so endearing.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Great Mosque of Paris, 5ème arrdt

We had ourselves an Arabian afternoon, the other day : Intending to visit the Orient Express, on display in front of the Institut du Monde Arabe (5ème arrdt), we found the queuing rather too tedious (one hour before the next visit and people were already lining up). Instead, we bought souvenirs at the Arab World Institute gift shop before moving on to the Great Mosque of Paris.

For obvious reasons, I couldn't enter the Mosque, but their tearoom is well worth a visit, for its pretty surroundings and their delicious baklavas. 
(The other pastries are quite edible, too.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Orlando - Virginia Woolf

This fictitious biography about Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West astutely mirrors Vita's own life, her family history and four centuries of English history. Orlando is born a man in Elizabethan England, turns woman overnight 200 years later and then finds herself "in the present day" (1928) more or less Sackville-West herself.

Woolf labelled this "a writer's holiday" and though I do consider it a bit sad that her lightest work was her best-selling in her lifetime, I also see why, as is also a 'reader's holiday' for all its playfulness and wit. Notwithstanding the merriness, it still turns around two themes that are central in Woolf's writing; gender and time.

Pertinent and helpful notes, whose only drawback is that they are situated in the end of the book = not convenient! (Footnotes should be placed at the bottom of the page. Period. Otherwise you need two bookmarks and an extra finger while reading...)