As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

My Week in Pop Culture – week 16

Posted by Hedwig on April 22, 2012

In the context of writing more/more often/more regularly, a new feature! I’ll try to sit down every Sunday and write a little about what I watched/read/played/listened to etc. in the past week. It’s not meant to be exhaustive, but more an associative kind of diary, full of pieces that are a bit too slight to merit their own individual post. Under the fold: I am Legend, SOYLENT GREEN, MISS BALA, and assorted bits and pieces.

Just today, I finished reading A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness. I should have loved it: I’m always a sucker (…sorry) for vampires, the book is basically a romance novel in fantasy guise, and there are lots of references to literature and history. Main character Diana is a stubborn witch with the requisite mysterious past, her lover Matthew is a 1500 year old vampire, and it’s altogether silly.

So why did it annoy me so, despite keeping me reading? Well, it started out as small things: Matthew is a wine collector, and while “dating” they open several bottles of priceless and very old wines.. a night! As far as I can tell, they drink only one glass each from every bottle, which, as a wine lover, irritated the hell out of me. It kind of encapsulates the whole book, though: it’s forever starting things it doesn’t finish. It’s very fitting, therefore, that (spoiler alert) while marriage is entered into in haste, it has yet to be truly consummated at the end of the book, at least if you consider P-in-V to be necessary for that. I know this is meant to be a trilogy, but that’s no excuse for offering zero resolution at the end. In other words: it’s the book equivalent of coitus interruptus (put that blurb on the cover). I don’t think I’ll indulge it by reading the following book when it gets published next July.

I’m always reading different books at the same time, usually bound to a certain place or form. Witches was my current e-book (still don’t know what I’ll read next), Cosmopolis is the book I always have in my bag in case of an emergency (none arose this week, so no progress) and this week I picked up  Matheson’s I am Legend again as my night stand book, months after I’d abandoned it in favor of the book BF gave me for my birthday*. It’s still unrelentingly bleak, too bleak to read much of it at a time, but I might make it to the end this time.  So far, it seems THE LAST MAN OF EARTH, with Vincent Price, is a pretty close adaptation of the book, though oddly enough, it’s Charlton Heston I see when I read.

Maybe it’s because I had Heston on the brain that I watched SOYLENT GREEN on Thursday. I knew the ending, of course – is it possible that anyone doesn’t, at this point, even those who might not even know that it’s from a movie? – but I was still fascinated. It made me think of THE HUNGER GAMES – they’re both post-apocalyptic movies with a clear 1%/99% distribution of wealth, and with big food shortages in the underclass. SOYLENT GREEN is a lot better at making the hunger palpable, though: when Heston and (a so tiny! so frail!) Edward G. Robinson eat a meal with two apples and a bit of limp salad and a small piece of beef, you can tell it’s an incredible experience for them, a one-in-a-lifetime dinner. THE HUNGER GAMES movie fails in this respect, and I’ve even heard from a friend who hasn’t read the books that the title remained a mystery to him. In the book, when Katniss is presented with fancy foods on the train to the capitol, she gorges herself to the point of nausea. In the movie, however, you get no sense of how extraordinary the spread is for the citizens of District 12.

I also watched the great, atmospheric TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI. BF remarked it was like the makers wanted to imitate the American gangster movie, and this is of course true, but there’s something so french about the cafe where the criminals meet, about Jeanne Moreau’s moue, about the melancholy that seeps through every frame. The ending is pure noir, though, or at the very least very typical of heist films. It’s not as defaitist an ending as the “eh. What’s the difference” from THE KILLING, but it has the same resignation.

I also watched MISS BALA. I remembered Mike D’Angelo’s enthousiastic Cannes review (and his enthousiasm is rather rare), but his and other reviews led me to expect something more kinetic. Sure, there was enough shooting and action, but it didn’t feel very propulsive, and combined with the sometimes confusing plot and the strange ending, it was a bit of an unsatisfying experience.  I did greatly admire the direction, though, with long shots from strange vantage points.

TV-wise, Mondays are good right now – that’s when I catch up with Sunday’s shows, which now has GAME OF THRONES, MAD MEN, GIRLS (about which I wrote) and one of my favorite shows to work out to, THE GOOD WIFE. I loved the introduction of Brienne and Margaery in GoT, two more intriguing women to add to the already brimming roster, and on two opposite ends of the spectrum, too: the latter relying on manipulation and sex and beauty, the former called “beauty” only ironically, but with more than enough purely physical strength to be a force to be reckoned with. MAD MEN made me curious to read Ken Hargrove’s sixties sci-fi stories, and GIRLS got me to finally catch up with TINY FURNITURE.

I watch too many shows to enumerate strong points of all. CASTLE (another work out show) jumped out this weak due to a reunion that made me squeal, out loud, just a few minutes into the episode. The sexiest scene of the week, meanwhile, belonged to Elena and Damon in this week’s VAMPIRE DIARIES (also an exercise show – what can I say, TV’s making me athletic).

Finally (and I promise these posts won’t always be so endless), I listened to some interesting podcasts this week, as I had to do some rather tedious work that allowed for it. One of them, Watching TV with Ryan and Ryan, featured one of my favorite pop culture bloggers, Alyssa Rosenberg. It was strange hearing her voice, though – when reading, I never imagined her voice to go up at the end of the sentence. I also found a picture of a guy I’ve only communicated with through phone and e-mail – strange how what we have in our minds seldom fits reality. Even when it comes to yourself – I did an interview Saturday before last, and spent last Sunday alternately transcribing it and cringing. I sound so much more sophisticated in my head.

That’s all for this week – and again, I won’t go on so endlessly everytime. These posts are probably best for skimming, not in depth reading. And they have the added advantage of making me feel like all this watching and reading and listening isn’t just passing time. Next week: well, I’m going to see THE AVENGERS on Thursday, so there’ll probably be a post about it on Friday. So far, reviews are making me hopeful, but I’m trying to manage my expectations. As long as it has shirtless Evans/Hemsworth/Ruffalo, though, it’ll at least not have been a waste of money.

*Handling Sin by Michael Malone, for the curious. Very entertaining, but somewhat superficial.

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