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

 

Little Women

115 min.

I don’t know if this one is considered a classic, but I watched it over the holidays and at the very least I’d call it a holiday classic. Not just because parts play out during Christmas, but simply because it’s a comfortable movie รก la Beethoven, Home Alone and the likes. Also known as movies from the nineties that weren’t so polished that you could see yourself in its reflection. little women poster

Now that the humbug part is out of the way; Little Women is based on a book, has been turned into a television and film project before, and is again (this year even). It’s about a family mostly made up out of women, and they go through things, in the nineteenth century.

It’s the characters and actresses (and a young Christian Bale) that make all this so very charming. Yes, a lot of it all looks to be in a different shade of brown or green, and sometimes the decisions made aren’t the sharpest, but gosh darn it, aren’t you rooting for everyone’s happiness soon.

Little Women, Columbia Pictures 1994

Hot Milk

Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this, and I finished it two days ago. What’s the genre? How do I feel about it? Would I recommend it, and to whom? Well, at least it’s original (urgh, worst argument)!

Hot Milk is the story of Sofia and Rose. Sofia is the daughter taking care of her mother, who has strange symptoms no-one can diagnose in a successful way. Rose is the mother, the ball and chain of her adult daughter, suffering all kind of mental and physical aches. They end up in Spain for a specialist that might be their last chance.

Sounds pretty straight forward, but the story quickly goes of the rails in an almost fevered matter. The relationship between Rose and Sofia is far from healthy, but Sofia’s relationship with the world outside of Rose is unstable and confusing as well. Then there’s the specialist, whom seems to go for something between mad scientist and rich hermit. It feels a bit like an ugly, depraved version of magic realism, with the heat and discomfort sensible.

So …you could read it, if you don’t mind feeling annoyed and uncomfortable from time to time. It gets under the skin, I just can’t say if you’d like it there.

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy, Penguin Books 2016

Rich People Problems

PROBLEM NO. 1

Your regular table at the fabulous restaurant on the exclusive island where you own a beach house is unavailable.

Follow up from Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, now with even some issues that everyone that isn’t a billionaire or millionaire could relate to. Maybe.

Does one read books of these series for recognising situations from their own lives? Probably not. Bring in the details about the clothes, the planes, the houses, the spending.

Again, there’s so many characters that the genealogy in front of the book can be helpful. The author ramps up the amount of notes as well, this time using them (more often) to comment, instead of to explain. But in between all of that is a brightly coloured, very expensive (looking) story full of dramatics and diamonds. It’s silly, it’s superficial, it’s quite delicious (especially in between Year of Wonders and writing essays about The Catcher in the Rye).

Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan, Doubleday 2017

Snowflower and the Secret Fan

I am what they call in our village “one who has not yet died” – a widow, eighty years old.

I allowed myself another book in between the ones school wants me to read. As I started The Catcher in the Rye, I really needed it.

It probably couldn’t be more different from that novel if I’d consciously gone looking for it. Snowflower and the Secret Fan is in nineteenth century China, the main character a girl the reader follows into adulthood. Lily has the firm belief that she isn’t worth anything, solely by being a girl. She will be someone’s wife some day, someone’s mother some day, but herself? Just a burden.

Feet are still bound in that century, and Lily goes through it. Small, beautiful feet will make her chances for a husband better, for starters. Before that relationship is created by planners and family, another connection is laid: with a girl that will become her sister, her other half: ‘laotong‘. With her comes the fan from the title, and that fan is written in ‘nu shu, the women’s language.

And this way, Lily can share her story. There’s ordinary life and hopes and dreams, disease and disaster. Lisa See puts you on her door step, showing a historical reality so incredibly foreign to me.

The story is fiction, the elements used in it not. I’d recommend this for anyone interested in those that move within a women’s constraints. In China, this time.

Snowflower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See, Random House 2005

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