Unlike the protagonist of my previous review, Sofie and Max have clear reasons to be maladjusted, rude weirdos. Most of the time. They also get much less flack from me for this because they’re funny and pretty attractive. Just being honest here.
Sofie is a married mother who’s brought in as a consultant at a publisher. Max is the IT-guy. They give each other weird assignments. The assignments escalate. So do feelings. So do their lives. And it all plays out in Stockholm, so the escalations are all with subtitles.
This is romance, slice-of-life, coming-of-age without any Life Lesson beating you over the head of soundtrack telling you what to think. It’s quick (eight episodes), funny, sad and fresh.
Anarchy might be a big word, but it’s something different; in a good way.
Today Will Be Different, Maria Semple, Little, Brown & Company 2016
Maria Semple did it before: the frazzle, the alien character in a grand, wealthy world. This time it’s not a side-character, but the main. And that gets a bit exhausting after a while.
Because what’s happening, really? Our protagonist tries to be better, for at least one day. It doesn’t work the way she wants to, but only part of that is because of reasons outside of her control.
Unlike with Bernadette (I’m just going to continue comparing here) – there is no direction here, no pay-off, not even a crooked compass. It’s Ducks with better punctuation, but with even less consideration for the person we have to feel something more than annoyance for. There are crumbs of motivation behind her behaviour, but never enough to create even a biscotti from. Instead, you just don’t care about any of the people involved.
Maybe this is Semple’s thing. Maybe I’m not finely-enough-tuned to a traumatised person’s inner-workings, maybe it was the wrong book at the wrong time.
And just like the author of Today Will Be Different I’ll let the reader decide.
What’s ‘NYE’ about any of these films? Probably nothing, except that I watched all three of them on December 31 and January first. Maybe the start of a tradition.
Anyway, what they do have in common is a black male lead. With two out of three films the male lead is turned into something else, but baby steps. Right, Hollywood?
I would have liked it better if Soul would have been done with a female lead, but what do I know about soul music. For a film about one, it was definitely lacking one: just a lot of minutes going through the Kiddie-story-with-A-Life-Lesson storybook. And will Pixar ever move away from that hideous way of drawing people?
Spies in Disguise, then. This time the main character is turned into a pigeon to learn that there’s no ‘I’ in team. There’s also long action scenes, fat jokes, and pigeons-are-stupid/eat-everything repetitions that might make you slightly nauseous. Besides that, some genuine humour can be found, but that’s mostly on Will Smith’s charm.
Maybe I’ve outgrown Disney Pixar/Disney Fox-animations. When you can’t find any relief from picking things apart, it might be time.
For something completely different, I finished this holiday with Get Out. You might still remember the reviews and discourse which partly seemed to be led by “OMG, racism is the real horror??”.
I went in with plenty of knowledge (I’m a scaredy cat), but was still enjoyable uncomfortable, definitely in the first half. I always enjoy the humans-are-the-worst-monsters trope, and it delivers. The second part is more traditional horror, but doesn’t go overboard enough to lose balance. This way, you’re stuck to your seat the entire time and only want to look away out of discomfort or disgust, not boredom.
All in all, the satisfying cinematic experience I felt I deserved after two days of disappointment.
The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman, Viking 2020
This was fun! Of course, like as in every detective the characters learn things sooner than the reader does, but Osman managed to balance it in such a way that made me go “Okay, we’ll wait a chapter” instead of reading the final paragraph and trying to remember how many story lines were there and how they’re being tied up in twenty words.
In an old folks home, a group of seniors meet up on Thursday to try to solve cold case murders. When a murder happens close by, they decide to put their talents to a warm case.
As with any detective, the senior Sherlocks leave the local authorities (far) behind, but because the author writes with an almost audible wink it’s entertaining instead of annoying.
Is the murder solved? Moh, do we really care? Are the characters on display entertaining and maybe a little bit tugging at the heart-strings? Definitely.
“Oh dear,” Linus Baker said, wiping the sweat from his brow.
The House in the Cerulean Sea, TJ Klune, Tor 2020
This was just the sweetness needed. It felt like a story that could be animated as part of another story. It’s an origin story, the entire plot a huge cliché (man goes through things, discovers that there are joys in life to be had), but it’s all done so nicely, without ever veering into the saccharine.
Also, there’s monsters.
I mean – children with abilities. Hidden away in an orphanage on an island at the end of the world and our protagonist has to make sure they are treated well. It’s what he does for a living (if you can call it living). This time he even has to keep an extra eye on the headmaster because he likes to colour outside the lines (gasp!).
TJ Klune makes it all fresh, funny and adorable because of their descriptions, characters and little jokes. You might see the ending coming closely after the beginning, but it’s such a nice ride.
I watched this entire film with focused energy and still don’t know why this is the title. It’s not the only thing lacking: the summary says this is about a street kid suing his parents for being born. It really is about Zain and his lack of control over things, plus his attempts to change that.
He tries to save his sister, he tries to save a left-behind toddler, he tries to save himself a bit. The streets of Yemen provide little, but Zain tries to take all of it.
It’s hard to believe that this is fiction, that it’s only actors that were put through this. Especially the boy playing Zain pulls story-lines off that would have been scoffed or laughed at with a lesser actor.
After, you’ll be glad that this time it was fiction. It just won’t make it easier to acknowledge that this way of living is reality for plenty of people.
And the court case? Or the title? Meh, I can do without.
The clouds finally broke into a sullen drizzle after a muggy, overcast day.
Trickster Drift, Eden Robinson, Alfred A. Knopf 2018
I can’t remember the last time I was so consciously waiting for a book. I read Son of a Trickster a long while ago, so why library – why did it take you two years to get me a sequel that was written in the year I read the prequel? Rhetorical question, I don’t need an answer.
With the first novel it took me a while to adjust to the story and appreciate what I took from it. With that knowledge, I expected to struggle again this time, but get a satisfying pay-off. Except – no struggle in sight. The e-book is almost 600 pages and I flew through them. Maybe Robinson found her flow, maybe I did, but I didn’t want to stop reading.
Jared has escaped some of the wild, eerie, lethal shit that was braided through his life and surroundings, but not all of it. And now he’s adding sobriety and study to them. So even though it seems like there’s more love and care around him, we should probably give him a break when he doesn’t immediately (positively) react to it (I tried, boy – did I try).
As it been two years since I’ve read the previous book, I can’t say if this one got scarier or more gory, but gosh – there’s a fine line between things that should only be myths and our reality in Robinson’s world.
It’s deliciously eerie, and can the library please get the completing novel in soon?
What did I read and watch in 2020 and was any of it worthy of my time? Looking back.. yes, of course. It’s what you make of it. The year started slowly when it came to good, satisfying books, but in the end I still had to make cuts to end with five I’d definitely recommend to any curious reader.
With film I’m pleased to see that I (subconsciously?) went for pictures that had a (heavy) female cast and that my taste continues to be all over the place. See also: recently watched. I watched and reviewed some good films this year.
Sometimes I’m bored of this blog and thinking about how to put something down in writing that hasn’t been done a gazillion times before. Other times it’s almost like letting a sore bleed: a relief and others can deal with the mess. Hello, 2021!
I keep giving N.K. Jemisin chances, to sound delightfully dramatic. Like they care. I mostly care because on paper (heh) she’s got everything I desire, but the click continued to miss. This time the click was loud. A bit delayed, but loud all the same.
In The City We Became there’s cities that come alive and people that are cities, multiple dimensions (a bit like an onion, but maybe more like a pastry), human beings (bigotry) being the scariest enemy and oh sh- is that a Cthulhu reference?
It’s like Jemisin inhaled all that I love (close to reality, eerie as hell, new ideas with familiar roots) and coughed up this creation written so well that Iwas worried about this not being fiction at all. I don’t want her to be the person showing us behind the matrix.