Orphan Black 5.07.

Jul. 24th, 2017 02:22 pm
selenak: (Rachel by Naginis)
[personal profile] selenak
In which there's pay off for severa storylines, hooray! And flashbacks.

Who are you? )
selenak: (Default)
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For once, I manage to write my book reviews on a Wednesday.

Sam Bourne: To Kill the President

It was to be expected: the first Donald Trump era thriller (that I've read). Which takes full advantage of the fact that when previously any critic worth their salt would have complained about the one dimensional characterisation of the villains and the lack of realism in the US voting someone like that into power and then the Republican Party falling in line, followed by no checks and balances from any institution after even the Supreme Court caves due to the stolen seat being filled by the new President's choice, now all this looks like, well, realism.

Spoilers from an age where reality beggars caricature )


Philip Kerr: March Violets.

This is the first novel of a mystery series which I heard/read about via The New Yorker. The article in question was enthusiastic enought to overcome my instinctive squick at the premise, to wit: hard-boiled/noir detective novel set in the Third Reich. Basically, what if Philip Marlowe was German? Wandering those mean streets as a cynic with an ethical core takes a whole new meaning if the authories aren't just corrupt but a dictatorship preparing for war and genocide. Our hero is Bernie Gunther, former policeman who quit the force in 1933 for the obvious reason given that the novel positions he has ethics, and became a private investigator instead. Kerr serves up all the usual hard boiled/ noir tropes - untrustworthy millionaire clients, corrupt cops, shady dames -, complete with Chandleresque language, and he did his research - the novel's setting is Berlin in 1936, around the Olympic Games, and in addition to the well drawn Berlin geography, there are some great nods to Fritz Lang's movie M via some of the supporting cast, gangsters (given that Bernie Gunther originally gets hired to recover some diamonds, though of course it turns out it's far more complicated and what everyone is after is something else altogether. The brief appearances by historic figures (Göring and Heydrich, to be precise) are drawn credibly, which is to say their vileness comes across without Kerr employing sledge-hammery moustache twirling; in fact, he uses Göring's bonhommie manners to make him chilling.

As opposed to To Kill a President, this actually is a good novel. But. I still struggle somewhat with the basic premise. This is the first novel of what according ot the New Yorker article I'd read are twelve so far, and already I'm having to suspend disbelief about Bernie's continued survival. There's no reason why Heydrich at the end of this first novel shouldn't have gotten him killed, for example. And since we're in 1936, Bernie would still have the possibility to leave the country, and given what happens to him in this novel, it's hard to wonder why he doesn't, given he has no dependants who'd suffer for it. Yes, the decision to emigrate wasn't as easy as hindsight would have it if you weren't rich and didn't have friends abroad, but again, some truly harrowing things happen to Bernie in this novel which would serve as an incentive to get the hell out of Germany if ever there was one beyond the general situation of the country.

With this caveat, I'll keep reading.

Spider-man: Homecoming (Film Review)

Jul. 18th, 2017 05:43 pm
selenak: (Henry Hellrung by Imaginary Alice)
[personal profile] selenak
Okay, that's it. As Civil War made me suspect, Tom Holland is my platonic ideal of Peter Parker, at least in his teenage phase. Also, while I had liked the first Raimi/Maguire movie and parts of the rest while increasingly disliking other parts of those films, and liked the first Garfield without thinking it needed to exist while extremly disliking the second one, this latest cinematic go at Spidey was a complete delight to me and I love it.

Ramblings beneath the cut )

Doctor Who and Orphan Black 5.06.

Jul. 17th, 2017 02:03 pm
selenak: (Missy by Yamiinsane123)
[personal profile] selenak
Spoilery Doctor Who talk about the big casting spoiler. )

On to Orphan Black. Which was a good spy hijinks hour that moved the plot forward.

Read more... )

Versailles (Season 2)

Jul. 16th, 2017 04:09 pm
selenak: (Max by Misbegotten)
[personal profile] selenak
Since the other Borgias left me in the mood for over the top historical melodrama, and since it was available, I marathoned the second season of Versailles. (My first season review is here.) Aka, the show with the general accuracy of The Tudors (which is to say more than than the all around anachronistic crack like Reign, but generally not that much, though the occasional clever use of historical fact actually happens), produced by Canal just as Borgia, with the main selling point to internet fandom that there’s canon m/m prominently featured, courtesy of Louis XIV.’s brother Philippe d’Orleans, aka Monsieur, played by the increasingly gorgeous Alexander Vlahos. The second season tackles the affair of the poisons, one of the most notorious events in the reign of Louis XIV., but just as it did in the first season with just about any historic event fictionalizes the hell out of it, including, mystifyingly, changing the name of the main supplier of the poisons in question. Instead of La Voisin (first name Catherine), we have “Madame Agathe”. (Otoh the black mass celebrating renegade priest gets to stay Father Etienne Guibourg, which means the first time he is introduced in a seemingly benign undercover identity, the more historically versed parts of the audience know who he is and what he’s infamous for.) In terms of historical characters, we also get introduced to the delightful Liselotte von der Pfalz, the Princess Palatinate, and may I say that I was hugely relieved the Versailles version is great, because the original is one of my favourite figures of the era, due to all those vivid letters she penned for the folks back home, and as Versailles’ first season unfortunately reduced Monsieur’s first wife Henriette to a very passive, agenda-less character, which the original definitely was not, I was a bit afraid something similar might happen to Liselotte, the second Madame. But no. She’s blunt, no-nonsense, determined to make the best of a bad situation, as all versions of Liselotte should be. (Mind you, this show still obeys the Hollywood rule of plain and beauty, so when Monsieur’s lover, the Chevalier de Lorraine, ridicules Liselotte’s fashion and looks, it’s not clear what he’s on about since the actress is pretty – whereas historical Liselotte cheerfully admitted to her plainness in youth and weathered stoutness in age, comparing her looks as a middleaged woman to a roasted pig – and so is her wardrobe.)

On to more spoilery musings beneath the cut. )

Nominations and observations

Jul. 15th, 2017 12:32 pm
selenak: (The Americans by Tinny)
[personal profile] selenak
Emmmy nominations: as a fan of The Americans, I'm pleased that Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright were all three recognized at last. Will root for them accordingly, which is all the easier since frustratingly, Bates Motel' final year went without an Emmy nomination again. Freddy Highmore has been fantastic throughout, and especially in this last installment where the show had to at last enter the same narrative territory as Psycho, and succeeded with flying colours, very much because young Highmore has managed to make an iconic role his own. (Very Farmiglia would have deserved nominations in all preceeding years, but I can understand she didn't get one this year, since she played "only" Mother, not Norma anymore.) My loyalties might be slightly split for best actor because of Bob Odenkirk for Better Call Saul, and I'd be happy if he wins, too, but if I had to decide and push came to shove, I'd go with Rhys over Odenkirk. Speaking of Better Call Saul, I call fail on the nomination of Jonathan Banks for best supporting actor over Michael McKean (Chuck). Or for that matter Michael Mando (who plays Nacho). Look, I get the Mike cult, and Banks is always solid, but Mike really did not have all that much to do this season. Whereas Nacho got core emotional dilemma stuff, and the actor rose to the task. And McKean may have played the most disliked character on the show, but I don't think the most fervent Chuck hater on the planet would dispute he did so amazingly, and this season, it was a lynchpin performance, with Chicanery and the s3 finale as the two particularly outstanding episodes in this regard. As for the utter lack of nomination for Rhea Seahorn as Kim, don't get me started. Though, again: makes it easier to root wholeheartedly for Keri Russell and for Alison Wright in their respective categories.

_____

Yesterday there was a lengthy interview with Christopher Nolan in one of my regular papers, apropos his upcoming movie Dunkirk. Two issues caught my particular attention: a) he mentions having written the script for a movie about Howard Hughes, only to be foiled by the Scorsese/Di Caprio movie "Aviator", which made it unlikely for a few years studios would finance another movie about Hughes, and now when the time would have been right again, Warren Beatty struck first and made Hughes a non-subject for a few years more. But, quoth Nolan, he hasn't given up and swears this script is the best he ever wrote. To channel some writerly frustration, he added, he put some of his Howard Hughes characterisation into Bruce Wayne in his three Batman movies. And suddenly Bruce's utterly self indulgent hermit phase between movies II and III as well as his bizarre rewriting on why things didn't work out with Rachel in I as voiced by him in II appears in a new light. :) Or maybe Howard Hughes' decades in Las Vegas hotel rooms do - clearly the cover for a secret vigilante identity. Come to think of it, old Hughes sueing unauthorized biographers does resemble the Frank Miller version of Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Returns somewhwat, no?

Anyway: b) the other particularly interesting-to-me Nolan statement was that in preparation for Dunkirk, he watched All Quiet on the Western Front (classic 1930 film version of Erich Maria Remarque's WWI novel, directed by Lewis Milestone) and was amazed such a movie was possible in 1930. But, says Nolan, it probably only was because it was an American movie based on a German novel, because an American director would never have presented American soldiers in this way, and the Germans wouldn't have made the movie to begin with, "so hooray for one culture speaking for another in this case", ends Nolan. Thinking about it, I concluded he was right that the German film industry would not have made All Quiet on the Western Front in the early 1930s - the book had been a big bestseller in Germany, but the movies were utterly dominated by the UFA by then, and the UFA was owned by Alfred Hugenberg, hardcore conservative who'd go on to support Hitler in his 1932 and 1933 election campaigns. As it was Goebbels orchestrated an anti All Quiet on the Western Front campaign when the movie was released in Germany - SA guys loudly protesting in the cinemas, white mice released, I kid you not -with the result that the movie was quickly withdrawn and most Germans saw it only once the Third Reich had come and gone. (My paternal grandparents back in the day did see it in the cinema, but they had to travel to Belgium to do so, which they did because not only did Granddad own the book, but he regarded it as a matter of local pride - he was born and raised just a few streets away from where Remarque, the author, had been born and raised in Osnabrück. And my grandfather, who'd lost his father in WWI when he, Granddad, was still a toddler, always regarded the book as a way to figure out what his father might have been like.)

Last year, when I heard a lecture by Elizabeth Bronfen on war movies in Zurich, she compared the aesthetic and thematic treatment of All Quiet on the Western Front with what WWII movies and news reels quickly established as standard in US movies, and it really is strikingly different. Not being an expert on war movies, my lay woman opinion would be Nolan is right in the American part of his statement as well, that an American movie about US soldiers like All Quiet on the Western Front at the time and for some time to come would never have been made. Probably not until the genre of Vietnam movies started, and that came and went again; more recent US movies, no matter about which war, which present US soldiers being lured into a war by propaganda and then fighting pointless battles and dying with no heroic justification or reward whatsoever (i.e. not even saving a comrade's life or turning a battle, or getting an epilogue declaring that their cause lives on or their sacrifice is remembered or what not), don't come to mind, either. Or am I missing something?

The Other Borgias

Jul. 11th, 2017 05:49 pm
selenak: (Borgias by Andrivete)
[personal profile] selenak
Aka the European-produced series which debuted exactly in the same year as Neil Jordan’s The Borgias did, and got three seasons as well. I had seen the pilot back in the day and hadn’t liked it much, but as Amazon Prime put it up, I thought, why not. Also back in the day: at least two articles proclaiming Borgia (with each of the seasons having subtitles “Faith and Fear” (s1), “Rules of Love, Rules of War” (s2) and “Triumph and Oblivion” (s3)) being the superior show with more “historicity”, which put my back up, since I happen to be fond of The Borgias (well, fond of the first two seasons and two or three s3 episodes). That was another reason why I delayed watching Borgia beyond the pilot until this year.

Having now accomplished this, here are a few impressions: Borgia on the one hand does use a lot more actual events from the historical characters’ lives than The Borgias did (including such very Renaissance trivia as Lucrezia’s later father-in-law, Duke Hercole d’Este of Ferrara, collecting nuns with stigmata, I kid you not) , but on the other hand is no slouch when it comes to breathtaking dramatic license. (Cesare Borgia did many gruesome things, but I don’t think ordering pants made of the skin of his enemies was one of them. Also, I really doubt that a bunch of 15th century cardinals would have conspired to replace the Pope with his daughter, no matter how impressive a job she did when the Pope made her regent while he was indisposed. Michelangelo creating the David in Rome instead of Florence is almost harmless as an invention by comparison. And then there’s the drug addiction plot complete with cold turkey conclusion…) The first season suffers from several instances of telling over showing when it came to some important relationships. However, this was mostly remedied in subsequent seasons. And it was really interesting to see both the differences and similarities in the storytelling choices based on the same basic material. Not to mention that the series Borgia actually includes the decline of the family fortunes; Rodrigo dies mid s3, and the rest is Cesare’s falling apart until the series finale ending with his historic death and some other spoilery (not for history) stuff.

One of the biggest differences is the overall emotional arc for the Borgia family. In The Borgias, we start with the featured members more or less affectionately close to each other (even the Cesare-Juan relationship isn’t yet worse than mild fraternal rivalry), and end with them having outwitted and outplayed all their enemies, but lost each other in the process, or have their former closeness turned dysfunctional. In Borgia, otoh, we start with the Borgias dysfunctional and estranged (this Rodrigo hasn’t yet admitted to his children that they are his children but still employs the “niece and nephews” excuse even in private), it gets worse except in one regard from there until Juan’s death at the end of the first season… and then it gets better. From mid s2 onwards, there are family reconciliations all around, and for the rest of the show, the strong affection the Borgias have for each other are often their saving graces, so to speak. When near the end of the show Lucrezia’s third husband, Alfonso d’Este, ruefully observes to his wife that the D’Estes are worse than the Borgias and that she can show them how to be better (as in, a family), he’s not kidding.

A lot more spoilery ramblings and comparisons ensue )
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