Watching 5.12 Souls of the Departed it occurred to me how strongly the episode seems based on a theme of smoke screens of mirrors.( All in all: Very Orphic, very fairytale-like and much smarter than it looks at first sight. Rather well-done, show. )
Very well-filmed, in a rather classical style. Well-acted and casted. Tom Hanks is playing Donovan, the chosen US negotiator, in a way that feels rock-solid and palpable, on one hand, yet not entirely free of self-ironic touches on the other. In consequence, his Donovan, while certainly put on a pedestal as the archetypal upright lawyer hero, always manages to stay likable and human.
An impression, which also seems to be strongly supported by the script; most noticeably perhaps in a scene playing in freezing-cold East Berlin where a border-crossing Donovan is forced to hand over his good woolen coat to an East German youth gang.
Also, lots of absurd and delightfully wry humor in other scenes, probably due to the influence of Joel and Ethan Coen.
My non-spoilery impression in a nutshell: Viewed and loved, for all its Star Wars-y flair. Heroes, mentors, planets, droids, and Space Nazis. Yup, everything just as it ought to be.
As someone whose focal point has always been Obi-Wan Kenobi (in both original trilogy and prequels alike), I was somewhat worried whether the new characters would manage to intrigue me. But, hey, they did, with flying colours.
The two books I'm reading parallel at the moment, however, couldn't be more different if they tried to.
Bill Bryson, One Summer in America: 1927
Popular history, strung together somewhat loosely, but all in all a quite intriguing account of the key events and the people which came to shape the collective consciousness of American citizens during the late 1920s.
Robert Gwisdek, Der unsichtbare Apfel (German)
Hitting bookstores (or Amazon, respectively) on March 8th, it seemed quite unavoidable that I ended up finding this inconspicuously looking white little book on my birthday table, right? Debut novel, written by someone who, during the thirty years he has so far spent on this planet, has already been an actor, a songwriter, a dadaist performance artist. So, approach cautiously, right? Especially if you are a fan...
Eternal skeptic that I am, I opened Der unsichtbare Apfel rather hesitatingly, fearing, no almost sure that I would certainly be disappointed. Now, that I am about one hundred pages into the novel, I guess it's safe to say that I'm not. Not by any means at all. Capturing, imaginative (the more surrealist side of "imaginative"), beautiful language. Unsettling. These are the adjectives I would pick to describe it, but if I had to chose a comparison to sum up my subjective reading experience so far I would say: This one feels as if Hans Christian Andersen and Franz Kafka had collaborated to come up with a pre-dreamt version of a movie by David Lynch.
Of course, adjectives and comparisons never do anything, anyone justice. And of course, I better ought to check if my usual pair of glasses haven't been switched for a pair of rose-coloured ones... ;-)
Together with a friend of ours, Cavendish and I went to see Gravity at a nearby multiplex last Friday, 3D, original language version. Spectacular zero g effects, engaging story. Also, the way in which this movie conveys the vastness of space is clearly a thing of awe-inspiring beauty.
However, I must say that I understand the people who loved and enjoyed this movie as much as the people who have dismissed it.
( Things I find problematic about Gravity, cut for spoilers )
If one is able to stomach the blood&guts parts, the film is well worth seeing.
Pretty fascinating and at times downright chilling analysis of Ulrike Meinhof's writings, retracing her transition from left-wing journalist into one of Germany's most high-profile terrorists of the early 1970s. As the Amazon.com book description puts it: "Leith Passmore traces Meinhof's struggle to communicate [...]. He examines for the first time the performativity of terrorist acts of language, imagery, and physical violence to reveal how Meinhof made and re-made RAF terrorism."
What seems especially noteworthy besides the highlighting of certain key aspects and tendencies in Meinhof's work, is how Passmore also provides a rather clear account of society's ongoing inability to deal with a biography like Meinhof's and its readiness to write off terrorist acts as individual cases of mental defunction. Just to give you an example from the book's introduction:
As early as 1970, Meinhof's then estranged husband Klaus Rainer Röhl publicly linked the [brain] operation with her slide into terrorism. [In the early 1960s Meinhof had undergone brain surgery, during which a widened blood vessel was treated with a silver clasp]... [Röhl] cited a severe change of personality - a sudden callousness and sexual distance - resulting from the surgery and, potentially causing Meinhof to enter the underground. Shortly after she entered prison, judge Knoblich ordered an examination of her brain based on the possibility that her illness was a contributing factor to her behaviour of the early 1970s. Debate ignited in 2002 when, decades after it had been removed from Meinhof's body and disappeared, her brain was rediscovered and examined for a second time. Both the 1997 and the 2002 examinations were undertaken to find a cause for Meinhof's terrorism in a brain defect.
Only just about twenty-five people at special premiere screening of a film at a small arthouse cinema (with both the movie's director and parts of the cast present!) should be bound to indicate something, shouldn't it?
Please feel welcome to choose freely from the following more or less likely options below. More than just one correct answer is possible:
A) This surely isn't the new Hobbit or Justin Bieber movie.
B) Whatever Bimo and Cavendish went to see this weekend at the Astra in Essen was incredibly pointless and boring rubbish. I'm sure everyone (including the poor director) had an absolutely lousy and awkward time.
C) What the audience saw was a smart, witty, well-acted, well-observed comedy, highly entertaining and at times rather endearing. Relaxed and interesting discussion ensued.
D) Obviously this movie was one of those neat little films, which, due to lack of advertising budget will disappear from cinemas far too soon. A clear case of run and try to watch as long as it is shown in a theatre near you.
Well, if you've picked A, C and D, you've chosen wisely, as Dietrich Brüggemann's comedy Drei Zimmer/Küche/Bad is just this. Witty, surprisingly poignant at times and thus well worth seeing. Starting from its basic premise "Eight friends, four seasons, eleven different moving days" both the script and the very fine ensemble cast manage to touch upon the full scale of chaos and complexities that usually come along with moving forwards or backwards in life. Moving in, moving out, searching, finding, regardless whether the need to do so should arise in your mid-twenties or much later.
The full article in German
The crucial passage:
Vielleicht denkt man aber auch zu negativ, wenn man sich nun für immer in einer Superhelden-Wiederholungsschleife gefangen sieht. Zwar wird sich an den Realitäten in Hollywood nichts ändern, und der Zyklus der Remakes und Sequels beschleunigt sich eher weiter. Aber dann tritt das Kino womöglich in eine neue Phase ein - in der sich Oper und klassische Musik schon längst befinden.
Könnte der Kanon der Geschichten, die das Publikum wirklich sehen will, nicht auch hier bald abgeschlossen sein? Dann hätte es seine Richtigkeit, dass die Spidey-Symphonie einfach regelmäßig neu eingespielt wird: hier eine innovative Phrasierung, dort ein virtuoser Spezialeffekt - und dann, im zweiten Satz, die berüchtigte Spinnenbiss-Passage in Es-Dur... An solchen Nuancen dürften wir uns dann abarbeiten - und kein Regisseur von Rang käme darum herum, seinen eigenen Spiderman-, Superman-, oder Batman-Zyklus aufzunehmen.
Auch in dieser schönen neuen Filmwelt stünde es jedem frei, sich gelegentlich noch an originale Kreationen zu wagen - solche Werke liefen dann aber unter dem Etikett "Zeitgenössisches Kino" und klängen eher dissonant bis zwölftonal. Einmal im Jahr, vielleicht in Cannes, würden wir sie bewundern, diskutieren und dazu hochsubventionierten Champagner trinken - im sehr kleinen Kreis.
As it turned out, we might have easily seen one of the finest and intriguing films of 2012. While its basic plotline doesn't account to much more than "Sometime in the mid-1960s, two smitten-with-each-other teenagers on a small New England island run away together while the involved parents and other rescuing parties aren't exactly amused", Moonrise Kingdom presents its viewers with a fascinating microcosm of the surreal and the hilarious, managing to touch upon the light and the funny as well as the sad, touching and sincere.
This almost incredible mixture of poignant and fluff is in large parts carried by a breathtaking script, great imagery, and yes, actors who just know how to highlight their characters' more comic aspects as well as a rather rare sense of personal dignity.
If you should have the opportunity to see this movie while it still runs in theatres, go, see it!
Opening my browser window, however, I got somewhat distracted, not only by reading up on the featured Keats poems, but also by the latest edition of metafandom, featuring the all time discussion classic of of how much cultural literacy fanfiction authors should expect from their audience.
Without going into any details, some of the actually quite sensible and pragmatist answers to that question scare me, mostly because I firmly believe in the importance of broadening our shared cultural horizons and the role that fiction (any fiction, not just "literature") plays as a means of transporting knowledge.
There was a detailed, rather favourable review of Grace in German at Spiegel Online. The film has won/is nominated for several prizes. Music by Clint Eastwood, Sundance Festival audience liked it. An American critic over at Rottentomatoes.com called it: A late entry in last year's parade of war movies that nobody saw, James C. Strouse's "Grace Is Gone" is a beautifully acted and terribly sad film that never makes a case for its own existence.
Despite the mixed judgment (terribly sad, too subdued and slowly paced, too inevitable and painful the ending), her review provides a rather adequate idea of the film itself, and the performances of the actors involved. John Cusack, far from the "cute guy with darker streaks" roles he has played in the past, struck me as particularly impressive in all the helplessness and confusion that he conveys, turning his character into one of those flawed, disturbingly average people that one wants to alternatively slap and hug at the same time.
I cannot claim to understand physics, or for that matter anything else that Greene is talking about, on more than just a mere surface level, but it's fascinating to stretch my mind like this and have the workings of space, time or Newton's bucket illustrated with examples from tv land, like Itchy and Scratchy shooting each other with pistols on a fast driving train and Apu watching their duel from the trainstation's platform.
In his introduction to the problems of quantum mechanics, Greene treats his readers to a one and a half page long X-Files vignette about Mulder and Scully arguing over a set of blinking, alien boxes.
- Early mid-season two parter: The one you can show your imaginary eight-year old with a clear conscience. Alien invasion, for the most part rather action-oriented. Superficial and silly, at least in my opinion.
- Late mid-season two parter: Dark, nightmarish stuff. Two hours of breathtaking television, but heavily charged and drawing from a whole pool of subconscious fears that may be either individual or collective.
I can see why half my f-list is in love with HN/FoB. Intriguing premise, touching and complex characterisations. Haunting, strangely beautiful imagery. And last but not least that awe-inducing taste of eternity brought across by the voice over. But still I think I liked "Impossible Planet/Satan Pit" that tiny bit better. Blame it on the beauty of cello music and dying stars, or on all the pacifist indoctrination I received at school. Up to this very day I question the idea of trenches and battlefields as the ultimate test of a person's bravery and true nobleness of character.
The body counts of both this year's and last year's serious mid-season two parter make the 9th Doctor's intial "Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!" appear in a completely new light to me.
Oh, and one random question before I press the send button in the vague hope LJ will let me post this: Did anyone else think the balloon girl looked an awful lot like Jemmy, Princess of Chaos from Neil Gaiman's Sandman: Season of Mists?
Perhaps it's Allingham's versatility which makes her stand out as a writer. She is inventive, she is witty, never fails to surprise. Her plots range from classic "Who-Done-It?" over bona fide treasure hunts, romantic melodrams to dark, noirish thrillers. So it's no wonder most people tend to associate Allingham not with her individual novels, but with the enigmatic persona of her favoured hero, upper class sleuth Albert Campion. And if I write enigmatic I mean it, as a great deal of the character's fascinating and at times rather endearing qualities derive from the fact that he always appears to keep the reader at bay.
Solving a large variety of cases, most of them taking place in the English countryside, it is Campion himself who remains the entire book series' largest puzzle. Allingham is wonderful at dropping hints and revealing her hero piece by piece.Background, family, the at times rather screwed-up love life.Over the course of the novels, the character grows and changes. First introduced as a somewhat distant, but otherwise perfectly self-confident adventurer, who hides his razor-sharp mind behind silly jokes, blank expression and affable manner, Campion becomes increasingly affected by the things that happen to him.Gets older, more reluctant, painfully aware of his own failures and isolation.
It's fascinating to witness this transition from formulaic hero to character.
Kazuo Ishiguro's A Pale view of Hills clearly falls into this particular category. While the author was born in Japan, he spent most of his life in Britain. His narrative voice is a very British one. Subtle but poignant. Rather understating than overdoing it, the most important things lying between the lines instead of screaming into the reader's face. The most well-known of Ishiguro's novels, also turned into an award-winning movie featuring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, probably is The Remains of the Day, the story of a dutiful butler who takes so much pride in his attitude of subservience that he forgets to live.
I guess, you can't go any more British than that *g*
Ishiguro's first novel A Pale View of Hills, however, uses Britain merely as a frame, a cultural lense through which the book's Japan-based parts are being rendered, for the reader perceives the devastation and disruption of post WWII Nagasaki through the eyes of Etsuko, a middle-aged Japanese woman, now living in England. As Etsuko dwells on the suicide of her eldest daughter, she becomes increasingly haunted by the memory of Sachiko, an old Nagasaki accquaintance, whom she now subconsciously begins to realize as her own shadow double. As a woman who, in her own headstrong but confused, very desperate way rebelled against the rigid limitations of traditional Japanese society in a time of war-imposed change, years before Etsuko dared to undertake the risk-loaden step of self-liberation herself.
As the plot unfolds up to its cruel, merciless climax, Ishiguro displays a unique talent for the elliptical. Perhaps the novel's finest achievent lies in the fact that A Pale View of Hills allows the reader to pick up all its little mosaic pieces and to form a picture for himself, without too many pre-fabricated hints for interpration.
What is expressed by the mere interaction between Etsuko and her father-in-law or Sachiko goes far beyond what any detailed scholarly description of post-war Japan could ever contain
I'm afraid, I have to keep this report rather short, because I so should be working on something different right now...
Yesterday evening, cavendish and I had the immense pleasure of participating in a panel/seminar/workshop-like Q&A session with Jan Harlan, who does not only happen to be the brother of Kubrick's wife Christiane, but also the executive producer of all of Mr. Kubrick's later films, including such master pieces as Shining and Eyes Wide Shut.
The people responsible for organising the event had done everything they could to prevent the evening from becoming a success for both the audience and Mr. Harlan (failure to install a functioning microphone and video-projector *before* the talk and not during the first twenty-five minutes of it; the most heterogeneous of audiences, longtime Kubrick fans, most of them probably university-educated mixed with an entire class of 8th graders who had been dragged there their teacher and would have been served much better with half an hour of Q&A time on their own).
However, the experience itself was just amazing and probably one of the greatest film-related privileges I'll ever enjoy.
Despite the bad start, Mr. Harlan talked for over three hours. Charming, resourceful, enthusiastic, incredibly patient; sharing his passion for Stanley Kubrick's work as well as for film and art in general, willing to give as many insights into Kubrick's way of film making as he possibly could.
The people sitting in that ugly Duesseldorf educational centre's classroom heard intriguing anecdotes, such as Mr. Harlan having to fly to Venice four times to get the masks for Eyes Wide Shut 's famous "orgy" scene, because the entire production's single costume lady was simply indesepensable. Saw unused set designs for 2001. Excerpts from several brilliant non-Kubrick movies. Production sketches for A.I. . Kubrick's still un-aired, touching but at the same time also remarkably witty acceptance speech for the D.W. Griffith award.
I guess I could write for the next three hours or so. But time's running fast and I've really got to go now.
If you ever have the chance to hear Mr. Harlan talk, somewhen, somewhere. Do it. It's so worth your time.