Bad Blood

November 17, 2006

I’m fond of the sentence ‘truth is stranger than fiction’, but this time the truth is so recognisable that the fictional version of it would have been waved away for being too boring. Ignorant people sticking to ignorance because it can possibly make them money? Sounds familiar.

This time there’s health involved though, which makes the schadenfreude slightly less because you know people might suffer more than a hurt ego and an empty savings account. Main villain is a young woman that decides she wants to be the next Steve Jobs, and as soon as possible. This leads to material that never works, a very tense work atmosphere and so much lies and threats towards both supporters and criticisers that you wonder if anyone involved has energy for daily life left.

So while you can laugh about all the dumb rich people that keep throwing more money at this company which is basically just a collection of shams, you’re confronted with the reality that this isn’t new. That companies work like this, that people out there will work harder for fame then for bettering society.

Yes, it’s a wild ride, but not an uplifting one. Just another argument for knowing that it’s truth: no clear cut happy ending in which everyone deserving of it get their comeuppance.

Bad Blood, John Carreyrou, Borzoi

Derry Girls

6 x 25 min.

Ik weet dat ik recent nog iets heb aangeraden waarvan ik hoopte dat jongens/mannen het zouden kijken, maar ik denk dat dit echt té meisjesachtig is.

Derry GirlsTerwijl het niet eens een show is waarvan ik zou zeggen dat het alleen maar over meisjesachtige dingen gaat. De vier meiden gaan naar een nonnenschool, proberen onder huiswerk, vervelende klusjes en straf uit te komen (op creatieve manieren), gaan naar feestjes, hebben ruzie, allerlei tienermateriaal. Het aanhangsel van de groep is zelfs een tienerjongen (arme jongen, hij is Engels tussen al de Ieren).

Het fijne is dat er geen moment excuses worden gegeven voor hun (vrouwelijke) acties. De vier zijn een stelletje tieners met verschillende motivaties, soms gruwelijk irritant, maar nooit “omdat het meiden zijn”. Combineer dat met de setting (tijdens de Ierse Troubles) en je kunt het bijna een antropologisch-geschiedkundig project noemen.

Maar eigenlijk is het vooral gewoon hartverwarmend en opvrolijkend, zelfs als ze irritant zijn. En met zo’n klein aantal afleveringen ben je er doorheen voordat je door hebt dat je ze allemaal lief vindt, zelfs Erin.

Derry Girls, Netflix 2018

 

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

109 min.

I understand why this is quite award-friendly. I also understand why it didn’t win a lot. With these vague comments out of the way, let’s get to the story.

CYEFM posterLee Israel is an author that writes biographies not a lot of people – and definitely not her agent – care about. Instead of trying to find a job that will make her enough money to take care of her bills and sick cat, Israel digs in and tries to continue with making money from her writing. She’s complimented on completely disappearing behind the person’s voice she writes a biography about so that’s what she does: disappear. With her research and writing skills, she starts a very profitable business of embezzling letters from dead celebrities. With her lack of people skills and restraint … let’s just go with ‘it doesn’t end well for many people involved’.

The entire movie looks and feels a bit grubby, stubborn and unwilling to get out of the rut Lee Israel put it in. Israel herself isn’t a likeable character, but she isn’t exactly unlikable either. That’s probably largely due to neither Melissa McCarthy and the writing worrying about showing her ugliness. This is a sad creature, and her friend/fellow criminal isn’t much better off. Maybe you don’t completely root for them, but the ending will leave you tender.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? Fox Searchlight Pictures 2018

The library book

Even in Los Angeles, where is no shortage of remarkable hairdos, Harry Peak attracted attention.

You had me at libraries, you from time to time lost me about the focus on not just the Los Angeles Public Library (so okay, it’s one of the main plots), but especially the background of the possible culprit and fluffy descriptions of ever person involved in any way. I would rather have seen book covers, if Susan Orlean felt like she needed to add some visuals.

But still: there is so much love for books and libraries and librarians that you almost feel yourself slip into that world that is more than only centered on books. Libraries are miniature societies, and Orlean shows it well.

So, if you’re about books, architecture, and American history through librarians – this is the book of your dreams. If just any of these categories do it for you: consider it as a bit of an encyclopedia; read a few chapters from time to time. That way, you’ll always have some time left to visit your own library.

The library book, Susan Orlean, Simon & Schuster 2018

Number One Chinese Restaurant

The waiters were singing “Happy Birthday” in Chinese.

One main disappointment about this story: not enough descriptions of food. In some ways, this one felt like an international version of De zoetzure smaak van dromen; also the (immigrant) family in and around a Chinese restaurant. Except this one has a lot more infighting and drama. And as I said before – less descriptions of food.

So, what does happen in this novel? No-one seems to be very happy with their place in society. All are connected to a Chinese restaurant, but some (feel like it’s) in the wrong way, and some want to cut all ties. There’s the son of the owner, employees that have been there for decades, and those at the fringes of their lives. A fire doesn’t make things easier, even though it was slightly expected to.

It’s not the most accessible of novels; there are very few people to like and sometimes side plot lines take a bit too much space. On the other hand: it’s mostly the male characters that are the annoying ones, and all of it shows humanity. With a title and subject like this, it could have easily become a collection of stereotypes about Asian Americans: instead you’re shown that family and finances issues work the same in every (sub)culture.

Number One Chinese Restaurant, Lilian Li, Macmillan Publishing 2018

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

69 min.

Wow. Ik loop weer eens achter met iets kijken dat een poos geleden helemaal gehypet is/was, maar genoeg mensen zeiden ook dat je er echt wel de tijd voor moest nemen. Dat het emotioneel nogal pittig was, en dat is niet iets dat ik even voor de lol/uit verveling er doorheen jas.

Gadsby NetflixIk weet niet of ik het zou aanraden als ’emotioneel pittig’, Hannah Gadsby is gewoon heel erg eerlijk en geeft daar geen excuses voor. Ze vertelt over hoe ze dat gewend is, iets persoonlijks en ongemakkelijk vertellen om vervolgens er snel een grap van te maken want stel je voor dat iemand anders door haar niet comfortabel is. Ze vertelt ook hoe slopend het is om dat steeds weer te doen.

Ze vertelt over haar homoseksualiteit, haar jeugd, Vincent van Gogh en mentale ziektes. Ze doet het gortdroog en met emoties, en altijd onderbouwd. Er zijn zoveel opmerkingen en momenten waarbij je ofwel een ‘oh ja’- of een ‘oh shit’-gevoel ervaart. En dat hebben we allemaal wel eens nodig.

Dus ja, het is de hype waard, wanneer je ‘t ook kijkt. Maar serieus Netflix, waarom in vredesnaam Ellen hierna suggereren? Kon je echt geen andere link vinden dan “ach, het zijn allebei lesbiennes”?

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette, Netflix 2018

 

Where the Crawdads Sing

Marsh is not swamp.

Subconsciously I picked out two books about protagonists who are –  by their surroundings – viewed as dangerously different. This one plays out in the (recent) past, but both Kya and Evan suffer from living in a small town.

Kya’s family is very, very poor, living in the marshes (or on the edge of it) and there’s not enough happiness around for anyone. Her family members leave her, and she falls back onto her familiar surroundings instead of the judgmental villagers.

This goes on for years, and might have gone on longer – Kya turning into something of a Tarzan, except with gulls and other birds – if a murder mystery wasn’t added to the equation. And what happens when disaster strikes? People look at the stranger.

This isn’t as greasy and damp as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but Owens does create a colourful, sometimes feverish world in which every human is a misfit – except for Kya. Yes, there could be more background about certain things, and the murder mystery is tied up not completely satisfying, but it’s a book with a feeling. And quite a few ornithology lessons.

Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens, G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2018

The dangerous art of blending in

I should have guessed something was up when I was walking home.

Somehow I expected a softer story: the title, the subject (teenager doesn’t dare to come out), the surroundings (a small American town). But the author doesn’t hold his punches, like the mother of the protagonist doesn’t. I know that’s considered a spoiler, but I feel like that subject should come with a warning.

Evan’s life isn’t an easy one. His mother views him as lazy and evil, and his father almost never steps in when she gets aggressive. He doesn’t dare to come out to anyone, and all his energy goes to keeping all his different worlds (home, church, school, friends) apart.

Things change when his good friend starts to change, and when someone from Bible-camp shows up. Collision happens, and Evan can’t stop it.

The language used is clean and honest. Sometimes the tone feels a little bit too much like that from an after school program, but one has to remember that first of all these are a teenager’s feelings, and second of all, this is all too often someone’s reality. Besides that, you just want better. And possibly push his mother into the Grand Canyon.

The dangerous art of blending in, Angelo Surmelis, HarperCollins 2018

There There

There was an Indian head, the head of an Indian, the drawing of the head of a headdressed, long-haired Indian depicted, drawn by an unknown artist in 1939, broadcast until the late 1970s to American TVs everywhere after all the shows ran out.

Disclaimer: even more () than usual; I don’t want my ignorance about other’s people culture to show too badly.

I feel like I can share how I’m discerning a certain kind of mood, element in books written by different contemporary Native (north) American authors. It’s not just in the style they use (non-chronological without clear pointers of time, multiple character points of view), also the subject. Life as a native in North America doesn’t seem to be very good a lot of the time.

After doing a bit of research on this story, it turns out that the conscious stream of thoughts around the same things, connecting every character in passing, was on purpose. There’s a focus on oral tradition with (some) Native people and this book should feel like that. Which changes things a bit.

With that, you get not just a people’s history, but the huge amount of weariness, pain and discomfort that comes with it. Plenty of minorities stories are slowly shared and heard more often, but what about the people that were first on the North American continent? So yes, maybe there’s a recurring element, but maybe that’s because that’s just something essential that has to be shared before anything else can.

There There, Tommy Orange, Penguin Random House 2018

Titans

11 x 45 min.

Alweer een DC tv-serie. Heel lang vond ik dat DC vooral Batman was, en Batman vond ik niet zo spannend (ik weet nu beter, excuses). Maar tegenwoordig, met Black Lightning, Gotham, Legends of Tomorrow, en nu dus Titans verander ik straks nog in een DC-fan.

titans netflixTitans zit redelijk tussen de laatste twee: het donkere van Gotham (zowel als in gebruikte kleuren als onderwerpen) als het (licht-)idiote en kleurrijke van Legends of Tomorrow. Ook deze keer zijn er weer jonge mensen met bijzondere krachten, maar hun omgeving lijkt daar al redelijk aan gewend te zijn. Totdat één van de jongelingen wel een zeer destructief talent lijkt te hebben, en ander een alien blijkt. Je maakt wat mee.

Er zitten plotlijnen en hele afleveringen tussen die het tempo uit de serie halen; maar het viertal dat als hoofdpersonen telt, houdt de boel heel redelijk overeind. Voordeel is dat je geen achtergrondsinformatie hoeft te hebben: dat wordt hier en daar toegevoegd zonder dat je het gevoel krijgt dat er wéér iets uitgelegd moet worden.

Voor men die van het soort superhelden-zonder-maillots houdt, en een niet al te gevoelige maag heeft.

Titans, DC/Netflix 2018