Celluloid Diaries: Reading / watching / listening to...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Reading / watching / listening to...

Palo Alto James Franco


* Ru by Kim Thuy. When I came across a description of this award-winning autobiography that read: "A little book that feels more like poetry than prose," I knew I had to grab a copy. The delicacy of Kim Thuy's writing compells, but her experiences as a refugee from war-torn Vietnam don't. Therefor, the book is too concise. With its minuscule chapters that never exceed two pages, Ru is so terse it's almost in note form.

* With Palo Alto, James Franco proves he has the makings of a new Jay McInerney or Brett Easton Ellis. His style is conversational and easy, yet I ended up having one big problem with his short story collection: all the characters are alike and I could scarcely differentiate whether it was a girl or a boy speaking. I don't doubt Franco's next book will be brilliant, though.

* The horror manga I Am A Hero volume 1 by Kengo Hanazawa isn't very known yet in the US, but in Japan and France it's a big hit. Not sure why, though? Scenes such as opening a door or eating a ramen meal drag on for pages, probably as a means to show the boring life of the main character, a down-on-his-luck manga artist. Apparently it's with zombies, but I haven't seen much of those. Maybe in the next volumes.

* Plum: Un amour de chat volume 1 and Plum: Un amour de chat volume 2 by Hoshino Natsumi. Similar to the cat manga Chi's Sweet Home, Plum is equally charming. It's so easy to fall in love with Plum, a cat who brings home a hungry kitten in order to provide food and shelter for the night. Little does he expect, however, that his family will keep it and that the newcomer will badger him all day long. Cute, cute, cute.

* Also heart-warming are the children's books KeeKee's Big Adventures In Rome, Italy and KeeKee's Big Adventures in Paris, France which I received for review from its author Shannon Jones. I can't stretch enough how excellent these are. Apart from being adorable and fun, they're also informative as the feline main character takes us on a trip through each city, showing us the cultural and architectural highlights. If you aren't purchasing KeeKee's Big Adventures for your kids right now, you're committing a crime.


* Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story Of INXS. The information we get through this mini-series about the life of INXS singer Michael Hutchence is mainly what we already know from the press (lots of lovers, drugs, and professional pressure), and I wish the story would have dug a little deeper into his personality. However, I did have an enourmous amount of fun watching Never Tear Us Apart, and the mini series flew by as if it were only an hour and a half.

* In Fear. I never really got into this recent horror movie about a couple that becomes lost in the Irish backlands and is set upon by a tormentor with an unnknown motive. In Fear does have some hidden potential in terms of suspense, but it's generally a pile of contrived dialogue and story arcs.

* The Pit. I watched this eighties horror flick for the first time about fifteen years ago and I always wanted to see it again, though more out of nostalgia than for the story. What did I remember? A solitary boy with a teddy bear who lures the people into the woods where he pushes them into a pit full of man-eating monsters. The Pit is most of all a weird little film. Not scary, but definitely entertaining.

* Death On The Nile. Of all the Agatha Christie adapatations, Death On The Nile is my favorite. I watched it for the first time when I was a child and the 'bloody' scenes in the third act (at least, I thought they were bloody) gave me nightmares for months. Of course, seeing it again as an adult, I'd rather call Death On The Nile cozy instead of traumatizing. The cruise visits to Egypt, the luxurious evenings on the boat, the way Hercule Poiraud examines all the suspects... They all contribute to the lingering warm feelings the film procures.

* Ms. 45 is another film I've seen a dozen times before. It's the best Abel Ferrara, in my opinion, as well as one of the better rape-revenge movies. Its visual style and atmosphere are simply mind-blowing. Fun fact: I know a close friend of late actress Zoe Lund who updated us on many interesting tidbits after the film: Lund died of pneumonia at the young age of 37. She co-wrote the screenplay for Bad Lieutanant. And she was so fond of drugs that she even gave them to her pet rats.

* Impulse came as a recommendation by director Fabrice Du Weltz, but it wasn't as good as he pretended it to be. The idea intrigues (people behaving violently for no apparent reason), but it never really got my interest.

* Where The Truth Lies was a better than average murder mystery starring Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and Alison Lohman, but I missed the personality of some of Egoyan's previous films.

* Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a modicum better than the previous Paranormal Activity movies, but I'm far from calling this a good horror film.

* Under The Skin. Remember how crazy I was about Michel Faber's novel Under The Skin (reviewed here)? Since then, it's been one of my most awaited movies and I was glad to be invited for a press screening. The first hour of Under The Skin is a masterpiece. Nothing less. After that, my fascination dwindled. While Under The Skin is meant to be experienced instead of understood, many thought it didn't make sense. Having read the book, however, it was much easier to grasp the story. I only wonder why they didn't include the book's metaphor for the meat industry.

* 13 Sins. There have been many movies recently about people acting out increasingly violent and dangerous tasks for money and 13 Sins was by far the worst. It's ninety percent déjà-vu material. The remaining ten percent is ridiculous and unbelievable.

* Magic Magic. Despite many interesting ideas, an compelling built-up and talented actors, Magic Magic has a forgettable quality about it. A girl goes on holiday with her niece's friends and quickly regrets having to spend a week with these heartless idiots. However, the girl isn't the easiest person to hang out with either and when her secrets surface, things quickly escalate, though never to a point that satisfies.

* Deep End. A fifteen year-old boy takes a job at the local swimming pool where he falls in love with the attractive attendant Susan. The girl constantly teases him, and when the boy realizes he doesn't have Susan for himself, he becomes increasingly desperate and obsessed, with tragic results. Deep End is relatively unknown, yet, it's a masterpiece with fascinating characters, fitting music, and a wonderful seventies atmosphere that often reminded me of Blow Up.

* Finally, I also spent an evening at the Brussels Short Film Festival where I watched the following five short films: Pride by Pavel G. Vesnakov (interesting but way too long), Solo Rex by François Bierry (funny), Democracia by Borja Cobeaga (wish I could have come up with such an original idea), Lettres de femmes by Augusto Zanovello (not my taste at all) and Folk Kjøper Blomster by Morten Haslerud (hilarious and Tarantino-esque).

Listening to:

* The soundtrack for Only Lovers Left Alive. I watched the film at the Sitges Film Festival last year and didn't think much of it, but its soundtrack had stayed with me since. Exotic, dreamy, beautiful.

And of course, if you're looking for more to read, watch, and listen to, you can check out my previous "Reading /watching / listening to..."-posts.


  1. Didn't Hutchence accidentally hang himself while trying to get off? Terrible way to go...

  2. I loved the first Paranormal Activity movie, but I felt like they got worse as they went along. I don't think I've seen the last one...it was just out, right? What are we at now--Paranormal Activity 4? 5? Maybe they should just stop...

  3. I saw "Only Lovers Left Alive" a couple of weeks ago and thought it was okay, if slow and a bit ponderous. I said at the time I was glad I saw it but had no need to see it twice, LOL! However, various scenes have stayed with me, replaying themselves in my mind and so wouldn't you know it? I'm going to go see it again in a few weeks. Our local art film theatre is having a mini Jim Jarmusch film festival in July comprised of this film, "Down by Law" (which I saw many years ago) and "Dead Man" (which I've never seen).

  4. I'm enticed mostly by the last two books, children's books. They sound delightful. Thanks for your comprehensive reviews as always, Vanessa.

  5. Wow, these are all new to me. Where have I been? lol This construction is cutting me off from the real world.

  6. Cozy instead of frightening? Ha! I love, love it.

    I could never really get into the manga thing. I've tried, not very hard, actually, but I have tried in the past. Let me know if you know of a really good one. I'll trust your judgment and try that .

  7. Wow, this is quite the load down, lots of things that peeked my interest.

  8. A dreaming picture...

  9. wow! Interesting sounding reads! Thanks for sharing :)
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  10. I love how you give us the impressive build then say it was disappointing. But I also love your enthusiasm when you love something.

    I'm not a huge manga fan, though I've not experienced much to be objective. Totally agree about the Paranormal Activity franchise. Predictable and I spend most my time waiting for the obvious to eventually happen wishing the camera was juggling around. Not a fan and not scary.

    I love all of the Poirot stories. Good old Agatha - but yes, cozy more than scary. :)

  11. You are doing a lot girl ;o) I want to see Magic Magic, sounds good, but then I have to admit, everything is sounding good ;o)

  12. Great readings, listening and watch post ~ Happy Weekend ~ xoxo

    artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

  13. You've been busy. So much for me to check out -- thanks. I've been on a Hitchcock run, borrowing all the old '40s flicks from the library. Watched Spellbound last night.

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