Black Panther

135 min.

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).

Black Panther film posterThe 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

The Power

Dear Naomi,

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

 

IFFR 2018

Het Internationale Film Festival Rotterdam is net zoiets als Museumnacht: je denkt er aan wanneer het al voorbij is. Maar deze keer zag ik de filmkrant bij Pho Rotterdam liggen, en deze keer was ik zo ruim op tijd dat ik zes films kon inplannen!

Met wisselend succes; hierbij de films.

Respeto is een Filipijnse film waardoor nog maar eens duidelijk wordt wat voor gruwel Duterte en zijn idee├źn zijn. De film gaat over hiphop, maar muziek is een te iel schild tegenover het eindeloze geweld dat op elk onderdeel van de samenleving als normaal wordt beschouwd. Niet vrolijkmakend, wel indrukwekkend.

Zama brengt je naar koloniaal Zuid-Amerika, om je daar vervolgens achter te laten met een plot dat steeds dunner wordt tot er niets meer te snappen valt. Het ziet er wel mooi uit, maarre …huh?

The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful was tot nu toe een hoogtepunt, zonder al te deprimerend te zijn. In een film dat makkelijk een Taiwanees Goodfellas (of ander criminele familieverhaal) had kunnen zijn, zitten er frisse kantjes door het merendeel van de hoofdrolspelers vrouwen te maken, de omgeving, en het gebrek aan geweld. Veel mooie mensen ook.

Sweet Country was de eerste western die maar een klein beetje een western was, en ik koos ‘m door de Aboriginals die er in mee spelen. Het is een lange film, wel een heel mooie film (Australian outback) maarre …wederom weinig geluk.

Afsluiter van mijn week was The Reports on Sarah and Saleem (een prijswinnaar), in het hele coole De Doelen (kom je daar ook eens). Serieus, dat Israeli en Palestijnen van vreemdgaan een warzone kunnen maken. Indrukwekkend lachwekkend, bijna.

 

Acceptance

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

Pachinko

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

Bad Moms

104 min.

De boog kan tenslotte niet altijd gespannen staan. De film begint zo irritant dat je begint te twijfelen of de titel niet een soort “ironisch” grapje is en de trailer zo geknipt en gesneden dat vrouwen ‘m wel wilde zien, maar gelukkig: de moeders worden loeders.

Bad Moms filmposterHoe kan het ook anders, met die idiote druk die de samenleving op ze legt om overal onderdeel van te zijn, op tijd, goed gekleed, met zelfgemaakte baksels. Hop, tijd om de boel zo hard los te laten dat het in gruzelementen valt.

De slechteriken zijn de moeders die wel onder die druk blijven functioneren, maar gelukkig is er een moment van inzicht om iedereen (= moeders) te laten zien dat het allemaal best wel een beetje meer relaxed mag. Met vuilbekkerij, want dat is schijnbaar essentieel voor de ‘vrouwencomedy’.

Bad Moms, STX Entertainment 2016

 

The Hidden Oracle

Hoodlums punch my face
I would smite them if I could
Mortality blows

Looks like I’m on a bit of a fantasy kick these past (two) months; good thing it can be such an impressively versatile genre.

Rick Riordan is quite a familiar name in the genre, within the subgenre of YA. There’s been two movies, there’s plenty of books that brought Greek mythology to teens. Literally and figuratively.

This time it’s about – yep, right there in the title – Apollo. The god is turned human, but that doesn’t mean things go along breezily. Quests, monsters, demigods! And meeting your offspring.

Yes, the tongue is firmly in the cheek, but Riordan still manages to pass some mythology facts along. It’s all in seemingly effortless fun, and the twist might even surprise you. And if you’re looking at a way in for both reading and/or learning about Greek mythology, this and Riordan’s other work is a super accessible first step.

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle, Rick Riordan, Hyperion 2016