Saturday, September 24, 2016

Review of "Bridget Jones's Baby"

This is exactly what you'd expect - some slapstick, some relationship humour, a lot of stuff about being a singleton woman struggling to control weight and meet Mr Right...but as long as you're not expecting Proust there are some laughs, and it's nice to look at. Almost too nice - this is Richard Curtis London, not the real one where people actually live. Bridget is still in her flat that's literally a stone's throw from Borough Market, but she can still walk in heels to Ealing where Mr Darcy allegedly lives, a route that seems to include several illuminated Thames bridges. The NHS hospital where she goes to be treated by Helen Mirren, her consultant, is beautiful, clean and mainly empty, and the consultant is available when she goes in to labour in the middle of the night.

A couple of other things I noticed; most of the time Bridget is a soppy cow whose stupidity and clumsiness provide many of the jokes. But we get a few looks at her bookshelf which suggest otherwise. When she quits her news-producer job, saying that perhaps one day integrity will be back in fashion, she goes home and we see a John Pilger book in the right hand side of the frame. Earlier there were a few old Penguin books around, of the kind not chosen for the cover picture.

Also one of the themes is that true love defies algorithms that could be used to predict which matches will and won't succeed. Mr Darcy's rival is a cerebral American billionaire who  has used his knowledge of mathematics to create a fact-based, science-based dating site. But Bridget ends up choosing Mr Darcy  - a nod to the 'anti-expert' and 'post-factual' zeitgeist, perhaps. Incidentally she's almost certainly wrong in doing this; Mr Darcy has shown himself to be cold and distracted through several movies, whereas the American is genuinely engaged and loves her just as much.

Watched at the Everyman Cinema in Muswell Hill.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review of 'The Circle' by David Eggers

A rather good dystopian satire on Google and the world of social media/Web2.0. Very well written, with a plot and characters that work in themselves (not always the case with dystopian fiction). I thought the final denoument was a bit obvious, but that didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the book.

I particularly like the portrayal of the pompous 'internet for good' stuff with online petitions and sending 'frowns' to the Chinese government. This has made me think about my own social media use - I'm not as obsessed as the characters in the book, but they are caricatures and I'm an actual person. Highly recommended.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review of 'Cafe Society'

One of the better of Woody Allen's more recent films - a love triangle tale set against the background of 1940s Hollywood and New York. A young, slightly awkward Jewish kid moves to LA to get a job with his big-shot agent uncle, who ignores for a while and then makes him a sort of personal gopher. He develops a relationship with the boss's beautiful PA, who has an absent boyfriend but really likes our goofy hero, only the absent boyfriend turns out to be the uncle-boss, who is married.

There's a proper plot, and a sub-plot involving the family back home in New York, which features a gangster brother - who acquires a nightclub that eventually becomes the eponymous 'Cafe Society'. It's beautifully shot, full of beautiful women in gorgeous clothes, with both Hollywood and New York looking stunning. A nice soundtrack with lots of Jazz clarinet.

It's a little bit shallow, but not as silly as some of Allen's recent efforts, and a nice mix of humour and pathos. Others have drawn attention to the way in which it's an idealised white version of the 1940s, and it is - the only Black people I noticed were Jazz musicians in a dive bar to which the goofy hero improbably brings his lovers, the only Hispanics the staff in an improbably picturesque cheap restaurant. It's also noteworthy how it's mainly the working-class Jewish characters who provide the laughs, like the crude mechanicals in a Shakespeare play; in the days of Annie Hall the WASPs were also funny, and here they are mainly not - though there are some laughs about the way the tall blonde Oklahoma beauty that the hero eventually marries thinks of Jews as exotic (probably not all that silly or unlikely in the real 1940s).

Watched at Woodford Odeon with my mum and brother.

Review of 'Brooklyn'

A gentle, romantic, period drama about immigration and emigration. Kind sweet Eilis doesn't much like the small-minded small town in early 1950s Ireland where she lives, and her kind sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York. Apart from being sick on the boat, and a certain amount of teasing from her new boarding-house friends - and not immediately taking to her job as a salesgirl in a department store - everything goes pretty well. She studies at night school and goes to local dances. She misses home a bit, but soon she find a nice Italian boy who is kind and gentle. She loves his so  they get quietly married but tell no-one.

And then the kind sister dies, and she goes back to Ireland for the funeral, and sort of doesn't get round to telling anyone about the husband back home, or answering the husband's letters. And suddenly the little town doesn't seem so bad any more, and she gets a temporary job helping out  at a factory with her newly-learned book-keeping skills, and she meets a nice local boy who she doesn't mean to lead on, but she does...

And this is the only bit of dramatic tension in the film, and it is achieved by making Eilis behave entirely out of character. She's not been anything like this at all before, and it's only the nice music and the beautiful shorts (including close-ups of her open but conflicted face) that make it at all plausible. And it's not very plausible.

It's all resolved more or less happily, with a touch of poignancy about the life she leaves behind.

Netflix via Chromecast.