This might be my favourite Studio Ghibli. It’s less breath-taking in how it looks and how diversely weird the characters are, but I guess that it also makes it more accessible. Or that could be because it’s ‘just’ 75 minutes instead of the studio’s habit to go for two hours and over.
Is this a children’s film? I wouldn’t know, aren’t all of them? The style is of pastels and little chuckles, but with enough barbs for the viewer to scratch their head. Possibly.
Sweet girl Haru risks her own life to save a cat. Turns out that that cat is a prince, and his father decides that Haru deserves eternal gratitude. Oh, and his son’s hand in marriage, because why not.
Haru is – understandably – a tad confused and rather doesn’t marry a cat. Good thing she gets help from an unlikely angle, and the catty balance is evened out.
The Cat Returns feels more traditionally like a fairy tale than other Studio Ghibli creations, and there’s less gruesome looks and characters. Maybe you should view it as an introduction to the studio. It will also help with preventing you from feeling slight frustration about every main female character from the studio looking the same, but maybe it’s already too late for that.
The parties at the Tuñóns’ house always ended unquestionably late, and since the hosts enjoyed costume parties in particular, it was not unusual to see Chinas Poblanas with their folkloric skirts and ribbons in their hair arrive in the company of a harlequin or a cowboy.
Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Del Rey 2020
It’s always tricky to read a hyped book, I’ve mentioned this before. Is it a hype because people jumped on the band wagon, or does it really deserve all praise?
I wanted to say that I don’t know with this one, but I think I do. The promo laid it on thick that for once this wasn’t a Latin-American author writing magic-realism and that her scares were genuine. Magic-horror, terror, gothicness! I, far from a fan of horror, was curious because of the denial. I understand – no-one wants to be cornered as a one-trick-pony, but why not promote the story if it was So Different Than Any Other?
Maybe because it isn’t. Noémi moves to a scary, old house far away from civilisation to help a cousin that sent her a nerve-wrecking letter. Is it abuse, is it gas lighting or is it [add drums here] something else?
I won’t answer that question, but will say that Moreno-Garcia takes her time for a build-up only to throw everything at you in the last fifty pages.
It’s a nice roller-coaster ride, but nothing we haven’t experienced before.
Sommige titels onthoud je wel, maar je vergeet waarom je ‘m onthoudt. Met Dirty God wist ik het snel weer: de actrice heeft zichtbare brandwonden en dat was Nogal Een Ding toen de film uit kwam. Gezonde, slanke acteurs krijgen awards wanneer ze obees of gehandicapt doen voor een rol, maar de gehandicapte acteur krijgt maar weinig kans.
In de film zijn de brandwonden door zuur, een gebaar van een jaloerse vriend. En terwijl de kijker (deze dan) er snel aan went, kan Jade zich er niet bij neerleggen. Haar dochtertje schrikt van haar gezicht, ze wordt op straat beledigd en de leuke man die haar ook leuk vindt, kiest toch maar voor haar vriendin.
Dit alles moet opgelost worden met cosmetische chirurgie, al vinden haar artsen dit niet nodig. Marokko biedt een goedkope optie, maar dan weten we ondertussen al dat niets rechtlijnig is in het leven van Jade.
Dat betekent niet dat ze het niet blijft proberen, waardoor die lijnen wel geschapen móeten worden. Jade en haar pijnlijke geboetseer maken de film, waardoor ik ook gelijk het allerbeste voor haar acteur wens.
Conservation of Shadows, Yoon Ha Lee, Prime Books 2020
Now that’s what I call fantasy. Or scifi. Maybe both. Either way, there is fantasy and there is science (fiction) and it’s mind boggling, eerie and beautiful (not just for linguistic and/or math enthusiasts either). Eat that, tropes.
Conservation of Shadows is a collection of (short) stories previously published by the author. It’s about colonialism, wars, music, writing, reincarnation or maybe only death.
Especially the first five – six stories tickled my imagination, but even when you get used to Lee’s style and subject choice the originality stays with you.
My only complaints are that some stories deserve entire novels and that – for an e-book – it’s almost too much, too dense. Experience this relic from a future time through paper, I’d advice.
As mentioned before, am I right now enjoying a Kanopy-account as if whatever Netflix provides isn’t enough. I vaguely remembered this name as being good, maybe? Or interesting, possibly? But sometimes you can’t decide what you feel like and films like that fit the bill precisely.
As it is in Heaven is a Swedish film (so subtitles!) with a common trope: stranger moves or returns to small town, changes the lives of absolutely everybody. It has been done, it has been done well. In this case it’s definitely a ‘done well’. It seems like the writers took pleasure in steering towards cliches, only to avoid them at the last moment. Here no characterisation just for laughs or sadness, but all people that are recognisable as people opposed to ‘small town character number 5’. There’s no shying away from more serious subjects, and even though this is an ‘old’ (2004) film, it doesn’t feel outdated.
In all honesty, it surprised me how easy to watch it was, how genuine it all felt. The one thing that made me squint a little was the main couple; it felt like quite the age gap and I never care for those.
On the night of October 4th, 1966, Val and I, both in late middle age, attended the opening of Many Are Called at the Museum of Modern Art – the first exhibit of portraits taken by Walker Evans in the late 1930s on the New York City subways with a hidden camera.
Rules of Civility, Amor Towles, Sceptre 2011
As with my previous review, this novel can be summarised in one sentence. The characters however, can not.
Young woman in NYC 1940s moves up through class-levels while learning things about society and what she wants.
Just like in his following novel, Amor Towles manages to make a lot out of a little, without rocking any kind of boat in any way. A little less sofa, that’s all. You’re not completely detached, but never manage to break the surface either. Towles makes it feel like this is how he wants to be, in complete control of the story/stories.
It’s only about that, and do with it as you will. If you want.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up.
Pride, Ibi Zoboi, Balzer + Bray 2018
It’s embarrassing how angry this book made me. At myself. Being confronted with racist, classist and other thoughts wasn’t what I was suspecting from reading a YA retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in contemporary Bushwick (New York City, USA).
So, first of all: “Why has it to be such a big family?” Because it’s just like the original material.
“Why is protagonist Zuri so angry and unyielding all the time?” Because she’s a teenager, of colour, gentrification and poverty.
“Why doesn’t Darius try harder to fit in with the majority?” … and this from a person that proudly called herself ‘alternative’ in high school. Shame on me.
Good thing is that all the frustration was directed at me, because I feel like Zoboi did really well with this. It’s no carbon copy, there’s all the right emotions and worries (now fitting because of puberty and a quickly changing surroundings), and Bushwick and its inhabitants as a welcome third party. Which such people, no wonder Zuri is willing to fight.
A novel like this is the YA that should be heavily promoted and adapted, instead of book 234 out of the CC club. Because a good story comes with insight (of the self), which is a good thing for all ages.
As if Netflix doesn’t offer you enough yet, there’s other streaming options out there (duh). Through my library (thanks, Ottawa!) I can use Kanopy, where I found Little Sister.
The thing I might like most about this film is that it shows that there can be insights without huge changes following. Sometimes we just need to improve what we’re doing, instead of do something else.
Colleen is a young (future) nun, her brother is an ex-soldier who got hurt in the Iraqi war, her mother survived a suicide attempt; good luck keeping this family together. The father and the girlfriend of the brother try, especially when the brother is released from the hospital. Colleen is invited to welcome him home; her brother just isn’t very welcoming.
The summary calls this film a dark comedy and for once I don’t feel like fighting when a media product calls itself comedy. Because this is funny, in regular and awkward and sad ways.
A third point in their favour is that it’s not very long, and/but still feels complete.
This being ‘indie’ might make it harder to find, but consider a Kanopy subscription, or other ways for an original comedy that is definitely dark (and not just because of the hair dye used).
Is it fair to judge a book like this on more than its promise and if it’s delivered? Like a “real” novel? Well, there’s different kinds of judging of course, but what if I just mention what’s going on?
The plot is an enemies-to-lovers trope. Although the hate seems to be one-sided, and isn’t very clearly motivated. He wears speedos and looks good in them? He’s different from other men and makes her feel things? Okay, I guess?
But maybe that’s because of my next point: characterisation. It’s not great. For any of them. Every character gets one trait, and most are high in clichés.
Surroundings? World-building? Yes, ma’am! Here’s what we came for: Kevin Kwan is a who’s who and what’s what on riches, royalty, relationships and rumours. It’s lavish and lucious and enormously over the top all the time. It’s empty glitter filled with names you might not even recognise, but it all sounds very glamorous and filthy rich.
Just read quickly: there’ll be too much sparkles in your eyes to notice the things lacking.
They must think I don’t have long left, because today they allow the vicar in.
Bitter Orange, Claire Fuller, Fig Tree 2018
I first saw Freya at my high school.
The Swap, Robyn Harding, Simon & Schuster 2020
New template, new way of posting? I read the second book to have something different from the first (because my previously planned book was also in a historic setting), turns out I got another portion of unreliable narrator and obsessive behaviour. Oh, well.
All protagonists are female, how often does the combination of unreliable narrator and obsession happens with male characters? Frances is close to forty, while Low and Jamie are a teen and a thirty-something. The set time period is different as well, but both books end in murder (or do they?).
The Bitter Orange covers up the thriller/mayhem part better, masquerading for a long time as a story of a woman as exciting as a dry black bean in technicolour surroundings. She has to evaluate gardens of a neglected mansion and finds people who have to do something similar, but don’t really do it. They make her think that she could be technicolour, instead.
The Swap on the other hand starts out with a clear manipulator; an ex-social media influencer for Pete’s sake. She twists everyone around her pinky finger, but some you don’t want around your pinky or other body parts…
Both stories have appealingly-written surroundings, dramatic characters and don’t attempt to make you root for them. It’s train wrecks waiting to happen, with an extra point to The Bitter Orange for a more subtle lead-up to the twist.
Neither are stories that will end up on your Best Of-list (probably), but they’re good for what they attempt to be.