My week in Pop Culture – week 18
Posted by Hedwig on May 6, 2012
The boyfriend and I went on a trip this week, from sunday until thursday, to a place with a blessed lack of input: no news, no recent TV shows, not even internet. What was available? Lots of detective novels and detective shows on dvd – and peace and quiet, and nature to walk in.
As a result, this was mostly a week of reading: 4 books total. Admittedly, two of them were fairly slim mysteries: Dorothy Sayers’ FIVE RED HERRINGS, found in the bookcase on the trip, was fairly forgettable and formulaic, but serviceable, and P.D. James’ very disappointing DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY, which is basically boring fanfic. Its main crime isn’t even that the mystery is a non-starter, but that it renders Elizabeth Darcy (née Bennet) boring. I might have been able to accept this if there was a point made about the dulling effect of matrimony and motherhood, but no – she’s stripped of life and wit for no apparent reason. Worse, the characters spend endless time rehashing the events of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, adding completely superfluous psychological explanations to their actions. I’d heard a positive review on the NPR books podcast, but to me the book had no appeal, and I even considered abandoning it halfway through. I hoped it would improve. It did not.
The third book was THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA, described in the previous post. The final one was Jennifer Egan’s A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD. Both of these I’d actually sampled in a not-so-legal manner on my iPod before getting the paper version. In the former case, it worked very well, but I don’t think there’s any sample that can give you a complete impression of GOON SQUAD, which consists of completely disparate chapters in many styles (one of them looks like a powerpoint print-out, for instance), loosely connected only through the characters present in them and the theme of, well, lost dreams? The inexorable ravages of time? Something like that. It’s hard to form an opinion of the whole. I loved some chapters (the opening one, about Sasha, the power point chapter, the bizarre chapter involving a disgraced PR person and a murderous general in search of rehabilitation), but others annoyed me to no end, especially a David Foster Wallace pastiche that reminded me in sentiment more of the ramblings of a certain oft-banned commenter on certain film blogs.
Movie-wise, I only watched two full movies. I showed 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU to the boyfriend: it must’ve been the seventh or eighth time I watched it, but it holds up, especially the parts with Alison Janney as Ms. Perky, and Kat’s feminist one-liners. I used to identify with it mostly due to my fights with my sister, but now what got to me most was Heath Ledger, and how full of life and smiled he was. I also tried to get him interested in COPIE CONFORME, but I gave up after the scene in the café that constituted the volta of the movie – though I actually appreciated it more this time around, especially the irony that the movie leaves you very anxious to know which part is “real”, and which part is “copy”, despite the fact that neither option can be fully explained.*
We also watched parts of a miss Marple film and MURDER BY DEATH, but I fell asleep before the conclusion – they’re good films for that. I liked the parodies in the latter film, especially Peter Falk’s Sam Spade, but the humor was a bit broad for me.
Speaking of parody, I want to talk about podcasts a bit. I love the THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR podcast (especially the BEYOND BELIEF and SPARKS NEVADA eps), and now I’ve decided to go back to real old-time radio. The first thing I listened to was an episode of the Harry Lyme series with Orson Welles, “Man of Mystery” which to my surprise basically contained the whole story of MR. ARKADIN, except with Welles in the part of the investigator instead of Arkadin himself. It predated the release of the movie by about 3 years – but recycling ideas is clearly an old Hollywood habit.
No real remarks on TV this week, except that I was both frustrated and gratified to see that the *spoiler* torture in S02E04 of Game of Thrones was not gratuitous, but fed into one of the most interesting narrative developments yet. I’ll keep watching then – not in the least because I can’t wait to see where that particular story line goes.
Finally, I started watching Slavoj Zizek’s PERVERT’S GUIDE TO CINEMA, which is highly entertaining so far. It’s also been inspiring: the third For the Love of Film blogathon is taking place, and the subject is Hitchcock. I’d planned to write about MARNIE, but after listening (and partly disagreeing) with Zizek, I might turn to VERTIGO instead. I urge you all to check out the blogathon 13-18 May, here and elsewhere, and to donate, this year to preserve a very early Hitchcock silent, THE WHITE SHADOW.
*my previous post about the film can be found here.