Cultural round-up: October

So apologies over the recent blog silence. Between legislation (work) and my break from work (five days in Port Douglas) there has not been much time. And given the non-stop legislation drafting action which has been my life since mid September, there is not a whole lot on the culture front to report. But we will do our best here.

Books

The Deep Field James Bradley I hadn’t reread this book since it was first published over ten years ago and it was interesting to read it with a consideration of what has transpired in those ten years. Small details of small details of the novel – the newscaster crying as atomic bombs are about to hit the city – are eerie in their prescience when one thinks about the impact on the world and the viewing audience of 9/11. I also found the novel fascinating again in the sense that in the last 10 years I completed my PhD which had ideas about memory and the constructed nature of the past – ideas which are played with throughout the novel. Despite being so different in period and setting, one can clearly see the auteurist links with The Resurrectionist, particularly having only read it a few months ago. For me, the book is suffused with a sense of longing, but some of its darker tone is alleviated by the spark of hope which travels through the book, the sense that renewal – be it of the beach or of the lives of individuals – is possible. Well worth re-reading.

The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold While I haven’t read the book before, it was interesting to read having cried through the film on a plane earlier this year. The novel did not make me cry as much as the film did, in fact I am not sure whether it made me cry at all. I was struck though by how much like the film the book is, despite the fact that some of the events get moved around. Anyway, it is an immensely readable book, and I actually found the whole Heaven construct more digestible in the book than in the film. It is clearly primarily a narrative device, a way of telling the story which makes it more compelling and engaging in many ways than telling it from a different point of view. I enjoyed it a lot and read it in no time flat.

Movies

Spartacus Stanley Kubrick As a giant Kubrick fan and also having only last year finished writing a thesis on constructions of history and how they are influenced by the present in which they are produced, I was very excited to see this. Sadly, I was rather disappointed. Clearly this is one of the lesser of Kubrick’s films – perhaps influenced by the fact that he came in to it late and had less auteurial control than he did over most his films. It is sad to say, but the parts of the film which were most entertaining was the homoerotic undertones and the shiny presence of young Tony Curtis (and coincidentally we watched it the week he died). Otherwise, it does not rise much above the more plodding of Roman dramas.

 

 

100 sci fi women #54: Anna Frasier

So, for those who have come to this list late, I just want to remind you that I am taking a wide view of science fiction – including speculative fiction, fantasy and horror. I understand the views of the purists when it comes to science fiction, but I like to think of the broad church of fiction that takes us away from the present, that stimulates the imagination, that uses the space provided by a unreal world to explore a range of new ideas. Of course, the same could be said for historical works in some ways – and when writing about films set in the past I was surprised at the way that many of the tropes and devices were so similar to those used in science fiction and fantasy.

But enough pontificating, and on to the next woman.

Anna Frasier The Deep Field James Bradley

Anna is a strikingly beautiful woman, an artistic with the ability to capture the essence of a thing in a photo. She is a woman who loses herself, but not so much that she cannot find herself again. She loves deeply, and sometimes unwisely. She also is a woman who makes choices, active choices which are about her life and her destiny. She has an abortion. She is a loving, caring mother, partner and sister, but she is not immune from the frustrations that the world presents. She is both brave and yet scared. She looks after herself, and yet not selfishly. She inspires adoration, but is not entirely comfortable with that which she receives. She is someone who, in the end, knows when she has to grasp her destiny.

Anna watches each item pass across her screen, patterns of colour and sound that seem so complete, but which fade too quickly. How does the world endure this? she wonders, How do we go on? This ceaseless static of lives, their too-brief traceries of light against dark, this constant promise of completion, of connection, running through our fingers like water; like dreams their meaning illusory.

January Cultural Round Up

So I have decided as an exciting new feature to give a quick overview at the end of each month of those things cultural which have taken up my attention over the last month. We thus commence with January.

Books

The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov

In a word, Russian. There is something about the first half of books that requires that the plot really doesn’t move along much – I’ll never forget the endless wanderings around the streets for the first half of Crime and Punishment. Anyhow, I did enjoy the second half and clearly it is fascinating as a product of its social time and place.

The Resurrectionist James Bradley

Have not finished yet, but it is darkly seductive, drawing one in and leaving one dreamily wanting more just like the opium Gabriel finds himself taking. And whoever thought that short chapters made a book easier to put down at night. I find myself reading well past my bedtime, figuring just one, short chapter more can’t take very long…can it?

Cinema

Avatar

Well, I have said my piece on Avatar elsewhere to some extent. Beautiful to look at but empty at its heart. And I am sorry, but a “best Film” should really be a bit more than aesthetically pleasing – I generally demand an actual script and some less by-the-numbers acting.

Sherlock Holmes

Strong auteurial influence – it had never occurred to me to think of Watson as a bit of a geezer before. However, rather an enjoyable romp, though I think it might have been better if the central characters were renamed – really, anything other than Holmes and Watson.

The Princess and the Frog

Classic Disney in the classicist sense. Old school animation, American Dream rags-to-riches storyline…Admittedly the “princess” is a poor girl with a dream (Cinderella anyone) and the Prince is a lay about – but let’s face, he is transformed by love and hard work and she is transformed by marriage, so there we go. Nonetheless, not too bad, and I will even guiltily admit I got a little tear at one point – must have been dust in my eye.

Television

The Wire  – Season 2

The charisma of Jimmy McNulty insidiously creeps under one’s guard, and suddenly one finds oneself with a full blown case of TV boyfriend! So far, season 2 is showing itself to be as intriguing as season 1, full of moral dilemmas and perspectives and a demonstration that some of our notions about crime and morality are not as black and white as they could be. Situation, opportunity and grinding poverty are all keys to the story.

Dollhouse – season 1

It occurs to me that this series was just a big chance for Joss to do what he loved to do in Buffy and Angel – make his characters be someone else. Better mid season than its shaky start, I still long for it to be a bit better. The mid season episodes are improved though by Eliza getting to play Eliza, which has always been her strongest suit.

Games

Lego Star Wars  for the Wii

It must be said that the interstitial moments of Lego Star Wars really make you want to get to the end of the level. Wait, so does the frustration of having to do the same annoying thing over a few times… Having never really played one of these types of games before I was somewhat addicted for the first half of the month – and I can see Zelda purchases in my future.

Music

This month was dominated by the Big Day Out which we journeyed all the way to Adelaide to attend. The best discoveries for the day: my mild interest in The Decemberists was heightened by seeing them perform live and Peaches, let’s just say her show is totally, rockingly, insane. For my full run down of the Big Day Out, see here.