I’ve had Jidenna’s Long Live the Chief stuck in my head ever since leaving the theater for the Black Panther showing, and I think that could give you a bit of a clue about the film and how it leaves you. Assuming you don’t hate superhero movies, and aren’t racist or sexist. P.S.: the song isn’t in the film, the soundtrack is cool and fitting (either way).
The character of Black Panther has been shortly introduced in previous Avengers/Marvel movies, but finally he and his country get their own movie. Which of course comes with a moderately interesting villain, love interest, family issues and hardships he has to work through.
But, and here where it turns out not to be a black Captain America; the director doesn’t take one step back on the blackness and African-ness of it all. It’s in the music, it’s in the accents, it’s in the attitude; for once there’s a story in which an African people are by far the superior ones. With special mention to all the women that are allowed in the spotlight, showing all the things they can do without needing (the leadership of) men.
So even though it’s still a Marvel movie in many more colours, it’s cooler and feels less plastic. And the soundtrack, that soundtrack.
Black Panther, Marvel 2018
I’ve finished the bloody book.
And Dud Read in February goes to The Power. If there wouldn’t have been some well timed critiques read, I would have walked headfirst into disappointment, because so many people were so_positive about this one.
I mean, Margaret Atwood supported the author in this (at least, that’s what’s mentioned in the acknowledgments), critics mentioned a science fiction story that would make you question patriarchy, the poison of the male fragility, how power corrupts and so on. All that, and teenage girls managing to shoot electricity from their hands.
But then there’s the execution, and the execution is crummy. There’s no fiber, no rhythm, no connection between the characters, the chapters, the paragraphs. It’s an idea dump, sketches of world building that are deserted before you can imagine the image. There’s no push to care about these characters, the worlds they (try to) destroy or build up. It’s not refined enough to add men(‘s right activists) without making it feel like the story is excusing them, and the conclusion of Power Corrupts is clear from early on.
Just don’t bother; I’m sure there are books out there with similar themes that do manage to come out more balanced.
The Power, Naomi Alderman, Hachette 2016
Just out of reach, just beyond you: the rush and froth of the surf, the sharp smell of the sea, the criscrossing shape of the gulls, their sudden, jarring cries.
And the Southern Reach Trilogy is done. As it looks like I haven’t reviewed the previous novels, I’ll just judge the entire trilogy in one go. It’ll be easier than just Acceptance, the last (and biggest) novel.
The Southern Reach Trilogy is an eerie set of books you’d best ignore if you like your conclusions clear and your clues obvious. In these three books, especially the first one, a lot of uncomfortable weirdness builds up, but Jeff VanderMeer doesn’t give you a breather.
There’s an unfamiliar place where life functions along different rules. It infects, it controls, it changes the research teams that enter, and no-one seems to be able to understand if it’s aliens, the planet itself, or something they can’t even think of.
The first two books are small ones, just enough to give the reader the creeps without feeling like you’re being brought along for a ride to nowhere. Acceptance might mean that the people involved are accepting, but the reader will have to do without a clear answer. The creeps stay though, just in a lesser amount.
Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer, HarperCollins 2014
History has failed us, but no matter.
Yes, a much better start for the new reading year than Acceptance. Much better than any recent books, and it’s January 24th. Anyway, Pachinko was lauded and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint me.
It’s a family epic of a Korean family, starting in 1910. Generation after generation takes you past living in poverty, living in a colonised country, war, prosperity and loss. There’s born family and created family and all the other connections that happen in society.
Sounds terribly vague? Simply because this is a book you should allow to overwhelm you, instead of going in with any expectations. “Meh”, you think, “a soap opera spread through time”, but that’s an insult. Pachinko is history, humanity, entertainment and mind boggling (the things I didn’t know as a white woman). Oh, and the descriptions of food might make you drool a little.
Pachinko is nominated for the American award ‘National Book Award for Fiction’. It has my vote.
Pachinko, Min Jin Lee, Hachette Book Group 2017
I don’t know if this one is considered a classic, but I watched it over the holidays and at the very least I’d call it a holiday classic. Not just because parts play out during Christmas, but simply because it’s a comfortable movie á la Beethoven, Home Alone and the likes. Also known as movies from the nineties that weren’t so polished that you could see yourself in its reflection.
Now that the humbug part is out of the way; Little Women is based on a book, has been turned into a television and film project before, and is again (this year even). It’s about a family mostly made up out of women, and they go through things, in the nineteenth century.
It’s the characters and actresses (and a young Christian Bale) that make all this so very charming. Yes, a lot of it all looks to be in a different shade of brown or green, and sometimes the decisions made aren’t the sharpest, but gosh darn it, aren’t you rooting for everyone’s happiness soon.
Little Women, Columbia Pictures 1994
I don’t watch a lot of thrillers, definitely not those involving aliens because I really don’t like aliens (I’m sorry, aliens). This movie – like The Invitation – was sold to me as ‘just scary, not gross’, and because I have the human need to be scared by (outrageous) things, I added this to my Netflix list. I was promised very little aliens as well.
10 Cloverfield Lane uses one of my favourite tropes for horror/thriller/scary stuff: are humans not the worst monsters?
Michelle is in a car crash and wakes up in a bunker. The owner of the bunker says it’s for her own sake, because something bad happened outside, but isn’t particularly sharing about what this badness is. Instead, he seems to care more about her fitting into the image of what life in the bunker should be.
It’s easy to say too much, so I’ll stick with ‘Is he being a scary mean guy for a reason, or just because he is a scary mean guy?’. The movie balances nicely between those options, and after finishing it you may find yourself thinking that the other option would have been better.
10 Cloverfield Lane, Paramount Pictures 2016