Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Reading & Seeing 7

awesome illustration by Laura Perm-Jardin

Moonrise Kingdom
Released over three weeks ago and the screenings of this were still selling out probably because everyone has been raving about it (rightly so) - and I'm going to do just the same! From the minute the opening titles roll to the closing scenes of the movie Wes Anderson envelopes you into his world of beautifully shot sequences, eccentric and colourful characters wearing some amazing costumes and delivering a witty and poignant script. Everything and everyone shines in that particular hue and finish which can only signify a Wes Anderson film, where every frame could be a photograph or painting. But enough of how it looks because not only it is something delicious to admire aesthically, it's also a brilliant story. The plot is centred around Sam and Suzy who just don't seem to fit in and so, after a chance meeting, decide to run away together. Although the focus is on the two youngsters and their fledgling love for each other (Sam to Suzy "I may wet the bed later but I thought I'd tell you now so you don't get offended" <3) my favourite characters were those on the peripheries Edward Norton as the Scout Master and Bruce Willis as the police officer both leading the search to find the two escapees. That saying, the two young leads were amazing! I'd forgive for thinking that from my watered-down plot summery the film was rather tame and a little on the twee side - far from it. Yes the scenes between Sam and Suzy are incredibly cute and innocent - particularly their dance moves - but there quite a few dark moments which highlight some of the more sombre themes running throughout the film - bullying, unhappy marriages, death, suicide and loneliness. Buuuuut, everything works out in the end with plenty of excellent cameos along the way (Anderson mainstay Jason Schwartzman as cousin Ben and Bob Balaban as the narrator were my faves). I felt the cinema with a massive grin on my face, thinking it would be great if more things in life were given the Wes Anderson treatment, I bet I'd even love my commute to work if it was more Moonrise Kingdom styled.

Opinions are certainly divided over this, Ridley Scott's cinematic return to the 'Alien' world. There has been so much hype surrounding it's release not to mention the awesome mini films on youtube (my favourite being the Fassbender one about David) and I admit I was caught up in it all (of course, I'm a girl who loves her sci-fi). But then the reviews started to appear and my expectations were lowered, perhaps that's why I thought it was actually alright. True, it is nothing like the original 'Alien' film but then why was everyone expecting it to be? As a stand alone film it was entertaining, suitably jumpy, particularly gruesome in places and well acted. The problem I have with Prometheus is that it poses so many questions (not to mention attempting to talk about the idea of creation and the origins of the human race) and fails to provide any answers, save giving us with the back story to the 'alien' and how it came to be, which to be fair, was interesting (and gross). But what of humanity and the weird beings that created us and who also, by the way, wish to destroy us? Who knows. Saying that though, I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the film but after the foreign-body-removal episode the pace went a bit off kilter. I'm glad I saw it for myself and at the IMAX which instantly made it twice as engaging, some of the scenes (especially the shots in space) gave me a twinge of motion sickness, in a good way. There was plenty of action and the sets were amazing but it just had way too much to answer for. Would I recommend it? Yes but not as whole-heartedly as I'd hoped.

love this cover

Valley of the Dolls (1966)
Three girls, all trying to make it, in one way or another. In search of a husband, career, money, love... Jacqueline Susann's cult classic follows the stories of Anne, Neely and Jennifer throughout the late 40s, 50s and 60s America namely New York and LA, exposing the backstabbing and cut-throat world of show business in all it's forms - tv, the movies and broadway. Their stories become intertwined as we watch their lives and characters develop- this is probably my favourite aspect of the book, the rise and fall of Neely in particular. Anne is at the centre of the book, and although she is a bit of a wet blanket, you still want to see her succeed, namely in finding love. Jennifer is probably the most likeable out of the three (she's my favourite) but although she achieves her ambitions she meets a sad end. Actually, the conclusion of the book is pretty grim all round but it's a great read, perhaps a little trashy but in a v.good way (and so what, we all need a bit of escapism sometimes). There are a number of excellent secondary characters that pop up every now and then only to enhance the rollercoaster ride of a plot - sex, celebrity rivalry, marriage, divorce, betrayal, mental illness, suicide and of course the dolls (drugs to you and me) in all their colours and sizes. I love this book (this is my second time reading it) and it's one that I always seem to seem to lend out to people, (most recently my boss). Would I recommend it? Hells yeah!

The Marriage Plot (2011)
I'm a big Jeffery Eugenides fan, having loved loved loved The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, it seemed only natural to read what came next out of his incredibly interesting brain. I was not disappointed. The title refers to 'the marriage plot' found in English Literature (including the works of Austen and Elliot), wherein the storyline focuses around the lead up to a prominent character's wedding, romantic union or not. It was a fairly common plot in the novels of the 18th and 19th centuries probably because of the great emphasis placed on the sacrament of marriage as a means of securing a future, particularly if you were a woman. Any-hoo back to Eugenides' more modern (set in the early 1980s) version. At the heart of the book are our three protagonists: Madeline, Leonard and Mitchell. Both the guys are, in their own ways, in love with Madeline and she, well, she doesn't really know what she wants - one of them, both of them, neither of them. But being Eugenides it's not as simple as all that 'who's going to get the girl' crap. The novel takes place, primarily, during the first year after graduation, although we, as readers, are frequently allowed to glimpse into each of the graduates pasts. Eugenides is brilliant at creating a backstory. Madeline, Leonard and Mitchell each have a voice which narrates at intervals throughout the novel which not only presents them as very three dimensional characters but as all very different and isolated individuals, with different ways of seeing things. What I particularly liked was when more than one of them describes the same event. Hearing the different views in this overlapping narration was quite amusing in places and gave an interesting depth to the story. I also liked the fact that the three main characters were linked to three contrasting, and at times conflicting, subjects - Science (Leonard), Literature (Madeline) and Religion (Mitchell) and how their lives and experiences were linked up to those subjects in the year that the book takes place - Leonard's time at Pilgrim Lake working on yeast cells, Madeline's literature course and Mitchell's jaunt around Europe and India. On a more serious note it was very interesting to read about manic depression in such a personal way, both first hand and from the perspective of others. The book ends very suddenly but appropriately, and certainly not in the traditional 'marriage plot' way... If you loved Eugenides' other books I reckon you'll like this too. To those who've not read his stuff - do!  

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