Bad Times at The El Royale

141 min.

Wat is het toch met films die niet weten wanneer ze moeten stoppen? Bad Times at The El Royale is heel lang vermakelijk (op een vervreemdende en absurde manier, verwacht geen haha-comedy), maar dan blijven scènes naar het einde toe ineens maar duren en duren. Zet die schaar er toch eens in.

Bad Times at the El RoyaleEen hotel in de jaren zestig met wat vreemde trekjes en nog vreemdere gasten. Klinkt als horror en is het ook een klein beetje, maar doordat elke gast zijn/haar moment krijgt, is het te fragmentarisch om echt spanning op te bouwen. En wanneer de slechterik er is, duurt het dus allemaal net iets te lang (zie vorige alinea).

Had de film iets meer verschoven naar de achtergrond van het hotel dan naar de kartonnen slechterik die te weinig verbinding heeft met de andere gasten. Gaat dit over de onschuldigen die hoe dan ook gewond zullen raken? Hoe ziek de wereld is? Of was er helemaal geen les, en alleen de six pack van Chris Hemsworth?

Bad Times at The El Royale, Twentieth Century Fox 2018

A Place for Us

As Amar watched the hall fill with guests arriving for his sister’s wedding, he promised himself he would stay.

Finally, a story that grabbed me again. One of those that makes you ache for the characters involved, making you wish that you could reach out to them and shake some sense into them.

At first, I got a bit frustrated by the lack of chronology; a story line is never finished before a memory (from another character) intervenes. It took me until much later that this is how humans work: our bodies might follow a chronology, our minds are always connecting things to thoughts past and future dreams. You learn so much about this family because of all the things they remember, worry about and wish for. But gosh darn it, why don’t they just TALK to each other?

Maybe it’s because it’s a Muslim family that uses their traditions as a wall, a shield and a safety net. Maybe it’s because they’re immigrants in the USA, some of them growing up during and after 9/11. Maybe it’s culture and surroundings and character and fears.

But gosh darn it, do you root for them. Do you wish for more pages to set things right, because surely a happy ending is in order here. Until then, you’re stuck with a lump in your throat.

A Place for Us, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Penguin Random House 2018

Exit West

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.

This is an author of which I like his stories, and usually his detached way of writing, yet find it hard to put into words what I precisely like about both things mentioned.

This time he manages to make the refugee story (people fleeing versus people accepting and or fighting their addition to their familiar surroundings) slightly magical and/yet apocalyptic. Because the main characters are refugees, but they manage to leave their country through a door, a black hole, that can appear behind any door. This means that people from all around the world appear all around the world without the lethal trips and troubles.

But after that, there’s still acceptance to fight for. The book is pretty evenly divided between before, during and after the migratory moves and changes. This way you don’t have to think about the ever after, Hamid provides.

In the end, it’s kind of a hopeful story with plenty of realism to make you feel better about the subject.

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid, Hamish Hamilton 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale

It was late winter in Northern Rus’, the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.

Just like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms an enthralling, easily accessible fantasy novel, with plenty of room for a cool (literally, in this case) female protagonist. Yay!

With my discovery of the CloudLibrary app (I’m not paid for this), I found a new way to more books. These are Express, so you can only borrow them for a week, meaning I just have to read faster. Alas.

As mentioned before, The Bear and the Nightingale is such an easy read, with only 300+ pages as well, that that time limit wasn’t an issue. It’s a (Russian) fairy tale about fairy tale elements being part of daily life. The young protagonist is too wild and strange for her family, and supports the ‘old’ gods and creatures besides Christianity. When the super religious join her house, things start rolling (into chaos).

I’m fond of reading stories set in Russia, and even though this is a romanticised version of history, it still gives an interesting look at early Moscow and its surroundings. But mostly it’s just a tasty morsel of a fairy tale that – even though it already got a sequel – can definitely stand on its own.

The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden, Penguin Random Publishing 2017

Year of Wonders

I used to love this season.

This is the first of the books I have to read for school. Lies of Silence, Catcher in the Rye, The Help and The Tortilla Curtain will follow.

Looking at that list, and having already read two of those, I know I could have done a lot worse.

Year of Wonders is about the plague. An English village in the 1660s gets hit by the disease and decides to quarantine itself, an element that’s based on a real story. Of course that doesn’t go well with everyone, and doesn’t the plague refrain from laying waste to it.

Main character Anna is not completely inner circle, but not a complete outsider either, giving a(n usually) sensible view to the happenings of small village life. When she loses her control of her emotions, it’s all the more painful and uncomfortable; because if she can’t handle it any more, who else will?

It’s a book on ordinary happiness, family life, small minded judgment, feminism and religion. Maybe I’ll change my mind about appreciating it when I have to write a 2000 word essay on it, but for now; an addition for many to read lists.

Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks, Penguin Books 2002

Everfair

Lisette Toutournier sighed.

Well, it could make an amazing looking TV-show. The world building is there, it’s bright and diverse (both in surroundings as represented race and sexuality). It’s just the plot that ..not really isn’t.

Everfair is the name of the reclaimed, bought Congo and later parts of surrounding countries. With steampunk elements and money from societies and countries world wide, Africans, Europeans, Americans and Asians build up a country without colonial rule. Cool, original, awesome idea.

And that’s about it. The author seems to be in a hurry to showcase the rise and fall of this young country, hopping ahead in time like she was told not to use too much pages on character development. The story only gets sadder because of this as well, pulling the reader out of the freshly created fantasy.

I’m very fond of stand alone books, definitely in the fantasy series, but maybe Everfair could have done better with being a two-parter.

Everfair, Nisi Shawl, Tor 2016

The Name of the Rose

On August 16, 1968, I was handed a book written by a certain Abbé Vallet, Le Manuscrit de Dom Adson de Melk, traduit en français d’après I’édition de Dom J. Mabillon(Aux Presses de l’Abbaye de la Source, Paris, 1842).

I gave Umberto Eco a second chance; now I know that he isn’t my kind of author. This was like my Art History class all over again. Except with a few murderous monks added.

With some authors, you don’t want to know other people’s opinions. With some, you need their support. I heard ‘Give him time’, ‘have patience’ and a lot of variations on that. Also that you need to appreciate an eye for detail, but there’s only so many details I can appreciate. It’s dense, I lost the story before it started, thinking back I can only remember frustrations. Besides a mild sense of interest towards the library of the monastery, some of those books sounded very cool.

I’m sure there’s plenty of other history-themed books out there I can enjoy.

The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco, Vintage Classics Random House 2004