Monday, August 20, 2012

The Week that Was #27

Okay, so I'm going back to the weekly – well, try at least – blog post thing, doing short summaries of things that have happened recently. This one, though, is going to include some stuff a bit further back than the last week or so, simply because there were longer blog posts that I decided to not finish.

The Dark Knight Rises

While I wouldn't call myself a fan of Christopher Nolan's Batman series – I didn't like the first one all that much, and while I did like aspects of the second, that was mostly because of Heath Ledger's amazing performance as The Joker – I did want to see the third and final installment, both to see how they ended it and (once again) because of the supporting cast, in this case Anne Hathaway (for whom my fondness is already documented here) as Selena Kyle/Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane.

And I liked it, probably more than I liked either of the others. Yes, it had its flaws, but I came away happy with what they'd done. I didn't experience one of the big problem I had with the earlier films, which was disliking Christian Bale's performance as Batman1. I really liked Tom Hardy as Bane, though it certainly didn't start off that way; that bizarre accent2 was really off-putting the first time I heard it, but from about halfway through the film I'd gotten used to it, and once it was over I wished I could hear more.

What I'm also happy about is that is was well-received, meaning that Christopher Nolan can (if he chooses to) follow it up with another original film – and if it's even half as good as Inception, I'll be very happy.

1I specify 'as Batman' because I never had a problem with him as Bruce Wayne. I also can't watch a scene of him as Batman talking without think of Abed from Community imitating him.
2Which I since decided was Tom Hardy doing an imitation of a drunk Sean Connery doing his imitation of Obi wan Kenobi. With the attitude of Raul Julia as Bison in the original Street Fighter film.

The Olympics

The Olympics have come and gone, and I have to admit that I watch all of about ten minutes of the sporty parts. I did end up watching a lot of the opening ceremony, but that was more by accident than by design; I was at a friend's house and they'd recorded it – and when they heard I hadn't seen it, they insisted I watch it.

I hadn't bothered to catch any of it, mostly because I'm not fond of pageantry – but I'd forgotten that  it was to be directed by Danny Boyle (someone whose work I've admired for years, ever since Trainspotting; his stage version of Frankenstein was amazing – I wrote about it here and here), which, had I remembered, probably would have prompted me to record it.

But I was glad my friends did, because it – most of it, at least – was pretty awesome. Lots of shout-outs to great British film, literature and music (including James Bond parachuting in with Queen Elizabeth; Mr Bean playing with the London Symphony Orchestra and daydreaming about running in the famous scene from Chariots of Fire; JK Rowling reading out some Peter Pan; and hordes of Mary Poppinses fighting off a giant Lord Voldemort) and a scene with Kenneth Branagh playing Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Britain's engineering genius of the 19th century.

Anyway, back to the sport; I'd probably have watched more if it hadn't been on at the worst possible time – though there's no guarantee, since I've come to the conclusion that I don't care that much about any of the Olympic sports. It was kind of tempting to watch for the sake of scorn-tweeting the truly awful commentary, but I couldn't be bothered staying up just for that.

On the plus side, I didn't get to experience all the disappointment of Australia's poorer than average performance.

The 50 Coolest Books Ever

A link to this article appeared on my Facebook wall the other day; given my interest in books and book culture I had to read it.

A lot of my most favourite books are on the list: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Perfume by Patrick Süskind, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Watchmen by Alan Moore, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

But I also realise it's a very specific list; it could be more accurately described as the fifty coolest mostly American lit fic books for white hipsters. More than a few people I spoke to consider many of them overrated – which I definitely agree with; I found The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen good but not great, and couldn't even finish Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis; Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer was lost on me as well.

Some I know I've read but neither loved nor hated, like Underworld by Don DeLillo. I'm fairly sure I've read American Tabloid by James Ellroy, but don't have a specific opinion of it – but I've not read a book of his I didn't like, so I'm fairly sure I enjoyed it. Heck, I may even have a copy of it somewhere around the house3

There are two Ayn Rand books on the list and I've read neither, but considering they're in many ways the basis for Libertarian sociopolitical theory – something with which I most certainly do not agree – I can't imagine I'd appreciate either.

Some are works by authors whose other stuff I've read, like Cormac McCarthy; I've always intended to read Blood Meridian but haven't yet gotten around to it. I've read most of Chuck Palahniuk's books, but not Diary. Similarly, I've read something of William Gibson's, but I don't think it was Neuromancer. I've not read anything by Jack Kerouac at all.

There are a few books I'm surprised aren't on there. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace tends to show up on these sorts of lists, as does Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco – though that one also tends to turn up on lists of books pretentious people claim to have read to seem more interesting than they are4, so that might have played a part. I'd also have included both The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon because I think they're easily the superior of many on their list.

Anyway, it's an interesting list if nothing else – and most, if not all, of the books are definitely worth reading. I know I've got a few more to add to my own (already-long) 'to-read' list.

3That might sound a bit weird, but there's a reason; I know I never bought a copy of it, but I got given a box of random books and there were definitely some James Ellroys in there and it may be amongst them.
4Yes, I've read it. No, for real. It's good, though I liked The Name of the Rose more.

1 comment:

  1. Middlesex is probably one of the most interesting and engaging novels that I've ever read. I read it while pregnant with my daughter and it really made me rethink gender and how I would treat her when she was born. A Confederacy of Dunces made me cringe and laugh and cringe again (in a good way). The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay drew me in with the historical aspects and the well developed characters (Plus, Salvadore Dali makes a cameo). I have a character crush on Joe Kavalier, whom I picture as looking like Adrian Brody. In short, I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestions, and I am 3/4 through Perfume!