peteg's blog

Labor Day

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Some vague attempt at a Josh Brolin fix, and Winslet is usually solid. This is quite feeble however: Brolin is a cardboard-cutout perfect American dad, and Winslet a hollowed-out single mum. I don't know how it could be better given the escapee/romance premises. The director, Jason Reitman, did Thank You for Smoking.

Stephen Holden. Dana Stevens.

In the Mood for Love

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Wong Kar-wai's masterpiece. It's been a while.

Kevin Barry: Beatlebone.

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Kindle. Charles Finch's review in the New York Times sold it to me. The style is poetic, the tone knowing, the persistent just-run-with-it cajolery sometimes annoying. The premise is that John Lennon gets a hankering to spend some time on his island in western Ireland in 1978, and I have to wonder how essential that is to anything as I missed any point the author was trying to illuminate. Would this story work with an everyman? (Probably not.) John has privileged access to the history of the land thereabouts, rife with ghosts and lost souls. The ranting (a mutant derivative of Screaming) was somewhat amusing.

See also Steve Earle at the New York Times.


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A late Hitchcock (1972). Colour, London, lushly photographed. The cast is solid, the plot a tad predictable: a man gets implicated in a series of lurid sex murders. I think he did a better job on Rope. Following David Denby's pointer from a while back.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Pretty drecky. Way too much action and a very thin plot. Trying to make something of all these mismatched characters is beyond anyone's ability, I fear. Robert Downey Jr is genuinely annoying here.

The Danish Girl

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4:10pm session at the CGV CT Plaza, near the airport, with Tigôn. 210,000 VND for the both of us. There were more people than I expected. A spur-of-the-moment sort of thing; Ip Man 3 looked more appetizing but is in Cantonese with Vietnamese subs.

This story of one of the first people to attempt gender reassignment is unfortunately recounted in a vacuous style that is visually lush but fails to unfold inner lives; contrast with, e.g., Mr Turner. I don't fault the cast, who while solid often have little to work with; I didn't find Eddie Redmayne that evocative. Alicia Vikander is her usual brave self but starts on the doe-eyed martyr thing a bit too early. Amber Heard is fun in all her look-at-me unsubtlety, brief sparks breaking long periods of banality. Sebastien Koch, Matthias Schoenaerts are scaffolding. It is overlong. There are many nice small domestic touches early on that fade away as the plot is supposed to take over.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens. Vikander got an Oscar for her efforts.

Blade Runner

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It's been an age since I last saw this.

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Vale, David Bowie.

The Big Short

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On David S's recommendation. I started watching this one a bit late and absorbed the last half osmotically, in a state of semi-sleep. I was expecting it to explain the financial terminology and structures more. Steve Carell is very good. Ryan Gosling is funny.

Dana Stevens. A. O. Scott. Michael Wood.

Kim Huynh: Vietnam as if...

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Kindle. The author is an academic at ANU, and holds a PhD in international relations. This is the first foray of ANU Press into fiction, and is available as a free download. I would suggest reading the outro (Postscript: The Other Turtle's Tale) before embarking on the five novellas: I took most of them to be unsuccessful (unfunny) satires, but having read that I get the impression that the author is actually sincere. There is the odd bit of colour amongst the mostly heavily-drawn characters and well-worn tropes. I would have liked to know just why, in the last story, granny needed to be dug up and reburied.

Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger. (2008)

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Kindle. On Kate's recommendation, and it seems, Andrew T's. For mine the Booker prize has been the kiss of death for any book, with the sole exception of Rushdie's Midnight's Children. This won it in 2008. Adiga pays homage to Rushdie by adopting his timeworn episodic first-person narration with more digression than central thread. (It is also the same structure used by Beatty.) We get a series of daily diary entries, expressed as letters to Wen Jiabao, erstwhile Premier of the PRC, written from tech hotspot Bangalore and not some pickle factory on the edge of Bombay. The light structure and plot are merely vehicles for exploring the myriad issues plaguing modern India, many of which can be seen from the drawing rooms of Delhi, where this book loiters for some time, and some not. Gavaskar was in the cricket team for some of the story, and Azharuddin, the captain at the time, is a Muslim.

Adiga is out to paint an unsentimental, occasionally hilarious, and provocative portrait of his mother country, aimed squarely at Westerners; there's no language masala here. Placing kill-the-rich-and-steal-their-stuff at the centre of it strikes me as a failure of imagination, which may have been his point. Drawing an equivalence between rooster coops and the mechanism for indenturing servants made little sense to me; the narrator's search for and achievement of lebensraum had more to do with his family being hostages to his misfortune than his relation to his fellow indentured servant. That his granny was a rapacious schemer made it so much easier to do what it took to get filthy rich in rising Asia, but I far prefer Mohsin Hamid's take on that. The election rigging was depressing.