The Animators

Introduction to Sketch was held in Prebble Hall, a building Professor McIntosch called “Ballister’s dirtiest secret” during our first class.

The turn around on this novel is incredibly impressive. It took me three – four chapters to change my mind about abandoning it, it’s incredibly ugly and depressive and scary and I think I’m even angry after(/about?) finishing it. It’s also one of those books you just want to press upon everyone just to see if they had the same experience, if it can touch different people in the same way.

Its ugli- and darkness might be its winning element, it creating a story that dumps you outside of daily life and makes you wonder how you can ever participate again. It isn’t ugly like a Gillian Flynn-creation, no murder here. It’s the way in which women are even less shown in fiction: dark and bitter and scared and a myriad of bad decisions while being bottomless wells of imagination and creativity.

This book isn’t to be summarised; it would fall incredibly short while at the same time preparing you for something it isn’t. To me, it was confrontational about daring to create and to create all – not just the cute stuff. About family and friendship and identity in an USA that made never have felt more filthy.

It’s a blast, it’s a terror. Read it so we can discuss.

The Animators, Kayla Rae Whitaker, Random House 2016

Queen Sugar

13 x 60 min.

It’s no secret that I enjoy family epics, be they written or on screen. It’s a way in which writers (and actors) can show how much they now about character-creation, and if done well, can shove plot and world-building to the background. In the case of Queen Sugar, that isn’t done exactly – the cinematography of this show alone is making it worthwhile to watch.

queen_sugar_posterIn the beginning everything is clear. Three siblings come together because of a family emergency and disagree with each other on everything. Something happens, and they’re stuck together longer than desired. It’s the acting of everyone involved – down to the young boy – that makes you actively root for them to find each other again, and get what they desire.

Queen Sugar plays out in and around Louisiana, shown in such luscious colours that the few times in and around Los Angeles feel flat and fake. It’s clear that this state is another world, and some siblings fit in better than others.

It’s of little importance if they siblings learn that they work best when together and if they get what they want in the end (although I’ve learned that there’s four seasons, so who knows what will still happen?). Solely the looking and listening might be enough for you to enough this first season – which does fine on its own.

Queen Sugar, OWN 2016

Vinegar Girl

Kate Battista was gardening out back when she heard the telephone ring in the kitchen.

What a gross disappointment, ew. Sometimes a book just doesn’t fit you right from the start. In this retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew it starts with the introduction of characters that are quite impossible to love or even like.

This is followed by the plot (quite logical), a situation which main character balks at for approximately five chapters before completely giving into it without any clear motivation. If this novel set out to depress about how some women don’t have any outlook on life and what they want to do with it, it succeeds.

Something extra to grind my gears is that – after it has been shown that this guy she needs to help out might not be so ugly and annoying after all – there’s a demonstration of verbal abuse and aggression. And Kate just … takes it.

Combine this with an epilogue that is about as plausible as the Harry Potter’s one and it leaves a lot to be desired. Ten Things I Hate About You did this much more entertainingly.

Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler, Hogarth 2016

Truly Madly Guilty

This is a story that begins with a barbecue,” said Clementine.

I think I don’t have to summarise this story if I’d tell you that this author is the one behind Big Little Lies as well and that she definitely carved out a spot for herself in the ‘What’s Really Happening Behind the Doors of Seemingly Happy Families’-niche. A niche I very much enjoy, so no negative comments there.

The negative comments here are solely plot related. When my thoughts turn to “this is filler, just give me the twist/clue”, the story is going on just a tad too long. If all that build-up leads to not that much, you need a stronger conclusion. Maybe that’s just the burden of reading so much that surprise is hard to find.

Because there’s nothing otherwise wrong with this story: it doesn’t pretend to provide something more than it offers. It’s entertaining, it fits the bill, it’s escapism.

And it might make you want to visit Sydney.

Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty, Flatiron Books 2016

Toni Erdmann

162 min.

162 minuten van mijn leven die ik nooit meer terug zal krijgen. Was het zo erg? Ach, niet helemaal, maar wel genoeg om er spijt van te hebben.

toni erdmann posterDe tijd moet vast gebruikt worden om vast te leggen dat de relatie tussen vader en dochter niet normaal zijn. Vader is een vreemde vogel met grappen die lang niet altijd grappig zijn, dochter is een zakenvrouw. Waarom ze echter een licht-sociaal-onhandige vrouw is – buiten zo’n vader om – wordt niet uitgelegd. Zij mag sowieso de motivatie en inspiratie zijn van vader, maar krijgt zelf niet veel verder de ruimte dan ‘denkt alleen aan werk’.

Oké, misschien is dat omdat het zijn film is, misschien zoek ik balans waar die niet is. Maar ook Winfried (de film legt het wel uit) laat weinig zien waardoor de kijker sympathie voor hem kan voelen, of op z’n minst begrijpen waarom hij op deze manier door het leven gaat. Nu is hij weinig meer dan de clown die hij uithangt, en clowns worden snel vervelend.

Ik hoop dat die arme Ines de controle over haar leven weer terug heeft gekregen.

Toni Erdmann, Missing Link Films 2016

 

C’est quoi cette famille?

99 min.

Leuke films maken die Fransen toch (soms). Is het de taal die de film gelijk een opgewekter, vrolijker gevoel geeft, of is het de Franse levensinstelling die hun (komische) films zo toegankelijk maakt?

cest quoi cette famille posterEen film over halfzusjes en -broertjes die besluiten maar zelfstandig te gaan wonen omdat hun ouders er zo’n zooitje van maken en ze genoeg hebben van huis te wisselen elke drie dagen – het zou makkelijk sneu kunnen worden. Of in het geval van de Amerikanen: vol met superirritante, te bijdehante en wijze kinderen.

Niet elk familielid krijgt een gelijke hoeveelheid aandacht, daar zijn het er gewoon te veel voor, maar de balans tussen ouders en kinderen en kinderen onderling is nergens irritant. Aanstichter Bastien is ook de verteller van het verhaal en mag dan ook wat meer plotlijntjes van andere broers en zussen. De ouders komen helemaal licht uit de verf, maar zij zijn dan ook niet degene die met dit lumineuze idee zijn op komen dagen.

Het is een film met een Pippi Langkous-gevoel. Dat de kinderen Frans zijn, maakt dat zelfstandige alleen maar geloofwaardiger.

C’est quoi cette famille?, Netflix 2016

Swing Time

It was the first day of my humiliation.

I’ve read some Zadie Smith before and I think I can repeat a previously used sentiment: Zadie Smith doesn’t write plots, she creates characters. Although this time, in Swing Time there definitely might be some plot-like features to be found.

There’s the growing up of a mixed girl in eighties England on the (edge of the) estate, her sort-of friendship with an equal in skin colour but very different in background and surroundings and their shared passion of dancing.

There’s the woman who’s an assistant of a world-famous pop-star who gets entangled in the lives of West-African villagers (maybe Gambian) in an attempt of charity work.

And then there’s the woman who can’t seem to do right by the dreams and ambitions of her mother, who in turn decides to pursue them herself.

It’s all the same woman, so you might get what I mean. It’s a slice of life but life is firmly on the background, even when the protagonist (unnamed) interacts with it and the people part of it. It’s all very much in her head, even when, or maybe especially when you would appreciate a bird’s eye view.

But the title is ever so fitting, the story providing a certain kind of rhythm that makes the book easy to pick up and stick to.

Swing Time, Zadie Smith, Hamish Hamilton 2016

Crosstalk

By the time Briddey pulled into the parking garage at Commspan, there were forty-two text messages on her phone.

“You were so busy discovering if you could, that you didn’t spend time wondering if you should”, to paraphrase a certain fictional character involved with dinosaurs. Another subtitle could have been ‘Communication, are you sure it should be endless?’

And all that while I was recommended this novel as good representation of the romance genre. Maybe I should have known better, this author wrote Doomsday Book.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t any romance (although it’s a spectacular slow burn), it just means it’s surrounded by the scientific element of getting an implant that will make you sensitive to the emotions and moods of your loved ones. Sounds like a bad idea, right?

It turns worse when some things happen that shouldn’t and some shouldn’t that should. Willis spends a lot of time on lore, which a bit too often leads to “I can’t tell you that right now!” cop outs. It’s the only frustrating thing about the novel, and the only thing that brings the tempo down.

Honestly, with certain elements going haywire, you could even use this book as an argument for taking internet- and social media use down a tad. The romance, and the lore, are bonuses.

Crosstalk, Connie Willis, Gollancz 2016

 

Witches of New York

In the dusky haze of evening a ruddy-cheeked newsboy strode along Fifth Avenue proclaiming the future.

Remember The Rules of Magic? I’ve got a similar book-from-the-nineties-feeling with this one. Or maybe it’s just the nineties that make me remember the nineties? This story doesn’t even play out in the nineties, so we might never know. On to witches!

This is New York in the nineteenth century, which certainly was part of the appeal for me as well, and luckily for me does Ami McKay spend time on giving the city room in her story as well. It’s enough of another world from the New York city we know (through media and fiction), that a magical element seems to fit almost right in.

The three main characters are quite charming as well, even though I would have enjoyed learning more about the older two. There’s also something to say about how the author decides to completely commit to magic instead of keeping the implication and illusion of it, but it doesn’t sour the story of the three women. All in all, like the book mentioned in the first paragraph – none of this is mind-blowing and groundbreaking – but it is sweet and easily enjoyable.

Witches of New York, Ami McKay, Alfred A. Knopf 2016

The Young Offenders

85 min.

Uh ja, dit was nog wel even iets anders dan de film die ik er voor keek. Maakt niet uit, ik kijk film voor verschillende verhalen, niet eindeloos hetzelfde. Ik kan me niet meer herinneren waarom ik deze aan mijn Netflix-lijst heb toegevoegd, al kon ik wel vaag het nieuwsbericht herinneren waar de film is op gebaseerd. Aan de Ierse kust spoelt heel Wildcard_YO_1sht_R3_Art_vE2.inddveel drugs aan: twee tieners gaan op weg om er een deel van te stelen.

Deze tieners zijn niet de slimsten, mocht je daar nog over twijfelen. Maar op één of andere manier is het niet Amerikaans “kijk eens die dombo’s”; het blijft steeds net charmant. Met de achtergronden van de tieners is het soms bijna zelfs sneu, waardoor deze comedy net iets meer is dan “kijk eens, die dombo’s”.

Daarnaast is het ook een lekker vlot filmpje, slice of life van een heel klein wereldje waarin het absurde het grootste aandeel van ieders leven is. Jeetje, wat ben ik blij dat mijn wereld groter is. Jeetje, ik hoop dat die twee jongens een grotere wereld hebben gekregen/gevonden.

The Young Offenders, Netflix 2016