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

Yesterday

116 min.

How much better would this movie have been with a female main character, and are there are well-known singers that have covered The Beatles?

Yesterday film posterOf course, it’s considerate that they didn’t make the entire cast of this film about one guy bringing The Beatles music to the masses white. The Beatles were white, after all. All this playing out in England, with a large immigrant population – why not have the protagonist be of Indian descent? Is it sad that we have to applaud this happening? Yeah.

Anyway, the plot. After a strange occurrence is Jack the only one that recognises The Beatles and their impact on music and pop culture. Having struggled as an artist before, he decides on bringing their music into the world again, working hard to remember all those lyrics. And getting incredibly famous on the way because wow – what music!

Along the way there are some Life Lessons and sometimes you wonder why Jack makes the decisions he does, but in a world where every other movie is a sequel or a reboot, it’s a slight fresh breath of air in the theatre. Or on any streaming service it will soon hit, no doubt.

Yesterday, Working Title 2019

Strictly Ballroom

94 min.

Remember how it took me little over a year to watch Lore? I’m pretty sure I’ve had this movie on a HD somewhere for the past four – five years. And it being from 1992 – not because it was such a recent production that it was to acquire.

strictly-ballroom-movie-posterBut anyway, to the ballroom. This is a movie by Baz Luhrmann, the Moulin Rouge, Australia, The Great Gatsby man, but before he had the budget (or care) to go as colourful all-out as we’re used to. There’s dancing and bright outfits though, plenty of the both of them.

In a small Australian town, dance hero threatens to lose his shine because he dares to go down barely trodden paths (gasp!). He can’t win the championships like this, and what about the name of the family dance school, but luckily there’s a few female dancers that are still willing to bring him back into the fold Luckily there’s an odd one out, a young talented woman that just needs a chance to shine.

It’s sweet, and quite silly. Right now the romcoms are slowly returning to us, but if you need a real nineties romantic comedy, Strictly Ballroom can definitely help you out.

Strictly Ballroom, Beyond Films 1992

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

101 min.

Wat een vermakelijke idioterie. Dit is een voordeel van films over boeken: wanneer je klassiekers (en ik gebruik het woord losjes) wilt uitproberen, gaat dat met film vaak een stuk vlotter.

TRHPS posterIn het geval van The Rocky Horror Picture Show ben je in anderhalf uur klaar, plus misschien een half uurtje om te verwerken wat je gezien hebt, en of het wel een film te noemen is en niet een soort kunstinstallatie.

Want een lief, onschuldig stel krijgt autopech en komt terecht in een duister kasteel waarin iemand (iets?) tot leven wordt gebracht door een zingende travestiet (maar eigenlijk zingt iedereen wel regelmatig). Soms helpen die liederen met verduidelijking, maar het is vooral show voor Dr. Frank-N-Furter, en die steelt hij ook meerdere keren.

Voor een film uit 1975 zit er geen moment iets oubolligs of ouderwets bij, het is gewoon idiote lol waarbij je vooral niet te veel moet nadenken. Aan de ene kant wil ik meer weten van deze vreemde types, aan de andere kant ben ik vrij zeker dat je dan de vreemdsoortige magie ontmantelt. Die tag line is er voor een reden, tenslotte.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Twentieth Century Fox 1975

The Library at Mount Char

Carolyn, blood-drenched and barefoot, walked alone down the two-lane stretch of blacktop that the Americans called Highway 78.

This is one book that could do with the cleaning up of of TV-script writer. There’s so much violence, described in detail, that could be put away behind an (atmospheric) description or implication instead.

While the plot’s got plenty of things going for it. Mysterious not-alien, godlike but not gods creatures that look like humans, call themselves librarians but are able to do about anything? International mythic elements used to show these skills and knowledge, and something going on underneath the surface to spur things into action? Yes, yes, and yes.

But then there’s a conclusion that can elicit little more than a ‘mwoh’, possibly also because you’ve been beaten into a pulp by all the abuse, rape, murder and torture.  So maybe Scott Hawkins can release his notes about the world he build, and give someone else a chance with it. That way we get more of the story behind the librarians, and less of the blood and pain that made them the way they are.

The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins, Crown Publishers 2015

Ricki and The Flash

101 min.

It’s been a while since Meryl Streep has blown me away in a movie, but it’s still Meryl Streep. And a movie about a loving, but dysfunctional but loving family, can always entertain (until a certain level). That didn’t happen this time around.

Ricki-and-the-Flash filmposterBecause Ricki and The Flash isn’t a movie, or even a story about a family. It’s a decor piece for Meryl Streep with a bad hairdo, singing a bit and being disgruntled. Even the movie seems to think so, ending at what would be considered early, only to attach a few more minutes for ..Meryl Streep’s character to redeem herself a little. Let’s not forget who we’re watching here, after all.

She plays Linda (but she is a Ricki), a mother whom abandoned her family for her dream of becoming a rock star. Her daughter goes through a bad time, and she returns home. Why she does so this time, after many years of missed birthdays, holiday and so on.. call it plot. The family members attempt to add something to the story, but this is the Ricki show.

I guess the poster says it all; just don’t expect rock or love.

Ricki and The Flash, TriStar Pictures 2015

 

Dear White People

10 x 30 min.

Ik kreeg het niet voor elkaar om de film te kijken, maar gelukkig hielp Netflix (weer eens): nu is er ook een serie.

dear-white-people-netflixMet hetzelfde gegeven: zwarte studenten op overmatig witte campus die in mindere en meerdere mate tegen racisme ingaan. Hoofdpersoon is misschien wel Sam met radioshow Dear White People, maar – heel fijn – anderen krijgen elk ook een aflevering. Iets met ‘verschillende, nodige invalshoeken’ en zo.
Zo leer je waarom sommigen “zo min mogelijk zwart” willen zijn, of hoe het is om waarheid te ontkennen voor je eigen veiligheid.

En door het evenwicht van continu activisme en ‘ik wil gewoon leven, hoe dan ook’ wordt Dear White People geen eenzijdig pamflet. Hoeft ook niet; de ervaring van met de neus op de bittere feiten gedrukt worden gebeurt toch wel.

Dear White People, Netflix 2017

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

In a single year, my father left us twice.

This was work. I don’t know how I managed to read two similarly build up novels (the other one being Disappearing Moon Cafe), but this one was the tougher of the two. Maybe because the comparison material was so recent. Both left me wondering how I’d like something contemporary written by an Asian actor.

Anyway, time moves every way but chronologically in Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Keep your head with you, because there’s a lot of characters going through a lot of things. The most brutal one, probably Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ and the horrors of Tiananmen Square.

These aren’t light, bright stories. There seems to be no end to what a family can be put through, and the small, mythology-like side steps only make the difference starker. How did anyone come out alive?

It’s a novel to take in in small doses, to learn and see through another set of goggles.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien, Granta 2016

Beaches

123 min.
Why didn’t I watch this sooner? And why did I had to dig down to the eighties for a Female Friendship Is Awesome kind of movie? How do I get my hair like Bette Midler’s red curls?

beaches-movie-posterBeaches is the story of Hilary Whitney and C.C. Bloom. Two young girls from very different backgrounds start a friendship. Of course, as friendships go, it’s not just roses and happiness. One of them grows up a lot more colourful than the other (Midler’s C.C., who goes all out in outfits and hairdo’s to fit her star studded career path), fights happen and are resolved again. It’s almost completely focused on the two women and how they evolve. Heck, there’s even conversations that aren’t about men, making this a Bechdel-friendly movie.

But? Yes, friendships don’t always end well, even if the people involved don’t want them to. It gives a tad more weight to the happy fluffiness — because it’s so very clear that Hilary and C.C. are the Real Friendship Deal. The movie’s balanced enough to not hurt your teeth, just your heart.  Still, it’s worth the fun and colour of it all. A classic on the softer side of things.
Beaches, Touchstone Pictures 1988

Allen Klein:

Everyone in the world wants to be a Beatle.

The title is kind of everything you need to know to summarize this book. Sadly, it leaves out all the disappointing filler you have to plow through to get to the cool (music entertainment) tidbits. I won’t bother with biographies for a while, I just don’t care enough about just one person to read a couple of hundred pages about him.

Because Allen Klein gets so much life story that The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Apple and Eric Clapton all turn into third rate side characters. Klein did THAT or didn’t do THAT, Klein was a cheater but refused a divorce, Klein was a bulldog that no-one loved, Klein was a revolutionary, and so on, and so on. I thought that not knowing the main character would make reading easier, but it didn’t. My interest in the (music) entertainment business only became less, not more.

I wouldn’t even know who to recommend this to. Fans of the mentioned bands probably already know about their shared history, and it’s too dense for everyone else. Ignore it, surely there are more accessible books about the music industry out there.

Allen Klein: The man who bailed out The Beatles, made The Stones and transformed rock & roll, Fred Goodman, An Eamon Dolan Book 2015