Monday, January 06, 2020

Golden Globe Awards

Turns out that one somehow missed the entire lead-up to the first awards show of the season, consequently one only got rather late coverage of the fashions. Who to blame for this? Perhaps intercontinental travel does truly mess with the brain after all, or is this punishment for being so blithe about having escaped jet lag altogether this trip? Alas, these burning questions will remain unanswered. On to my report.

Up in the Interesting category is one Joey King, wearing the ever-reliable Iris Van Herpen. Upon blurring my eyes this almost looks like one of those strange deep-sea creatures on some random Nat Geo documentary that make you go, "I had no idea something like this even exists!" Also, who are the freakishly skilled humans who construct these dresses to hang flawlessly from elegant shoulders by what look like mere filaments? 

The only niggle here: Shoes. Never underestimate the power of a good shoe, Miss King. What are these ankle-strap things? You are not going to work on Tuesday, I might remind her sternly. Sigh. But no one asked my advice, so I shall move on.

Speaking of Dresses which Remind you of Something Else Entirely, this Mary Katrantzou concoction on the right reminds me of a top I once had tailored to my laboriously sketched-out design. Now I should have known it was an ill-fated endeavor- it ended in much gnashing of teeth and the fact is I never once wore the end product- but I was thoroughly convinced at the start. I had a certain bitter hope that the tailor could not fail with such a clear prototype and precise measurements. Alas, I ended up sadder but wiser. Now, seeing Jodie Comer looking quite fetching in this odd-but-successful emerald-green silk, (the exact shade and material of my failed couture) I look back fondly on the wild enthusiasms of my youth. Add the canary parts she is carrying as a purse, plus those hot-pink heels peeking through, and I am won over. 

"Que rico!"the Spaniard in me wants to shout, meaning, what a rich and luscious color! Rachel Brosnahan's pale coloring offsets this utterly delicious dark purple Michael Kors, always among my favorite shades. And the subtle but devilish sparkle! The red lip! And finally, the fringed skirt, which has the bonus of lending added sass when the wearer moves. What fun- yet how polished and elegant. 

Oh, Ana, I knew you wouldn't disappoint! Just look at this girl in this dress! Midnight-blue sparkles, I ask you. Proving once and for all that she is a bonafide movie star, Ana de Armas slays me with old-world glamour courtesy Ralph and Russo, and unpurchase-able, jaw-dropping beauty. 

Also of note were my ladies Cate Blanchett and Charlize Theron, although in the 'interesting but do I like it?' category. La Blanchett was clad in a pleated, pale Mary Katrantzou that turned her into a buttery frilled lizard, one with silver thingummies in the front that added to the confusion. However, beaming with what looked like good humor and a spirit of why-nottery, la Blanchett looked Interesting instead of Kooky Trying to Look Interesting. La Theron, much in the same vein and Dior, rocked a saturated green-and-black caped creation that showed off the perfect oval she calls her face to great effect. (Also, it made me realize that she has a freakishly long neck. Ha.)

With that somewhat rocky beginning, I hope I shall be able to follow along and join in the fashion festivities on time for the rest of the awards shows. Also there is the confusing (new) ATP Cup in tennis to keep track of, egad! How much can one fashion-and-tennis enthusiast keep up with, I ask?

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Watched: Knives Out

Why don't we ever go to the movies anymore, I wailed the other day to J, knowing full well the answer. So few movies elicit interest in me; fewer still in the notoriously hard-to-please J. And besides, don't we have Amazon and Netflix to keep feeding us options all day long? 

But knowing that Ana de Armas from my beloved (Netflix tv series) El Internado is the main star of Knives Out was the sole impetus for me this time. Plus, the trailer made it seem interesting enough- a whodunit, modern in tone but entrenched in classic roots and starring a raft of very big names besides.

And that sums it up entirely. An old mystery writer, Harlan Thrombey, has been found dead in rather dramatic fashion up in the study of his grand mansion post his 85th birthday. The entire family are present. Naturally, they all have motive to do away with the oldster. But there's a catch. The physical evidence has shown that old Throm has definitely died by his own hand. 

This is where the role of his caregiver, the young Marta Cabrera, becomes central. Pitched against the family in a sort of good-vs-bad equation, the script paints Marta as coming into her own nonetheless. Thankfully she shows some spark, some fight, rather than just being the young angelic foil to the borderline desperate and scheming family. 

And what of Daniel Craig? Here he plays a private eye named Benoit Blanc, hired anonymously to do the digging behind the death. Craig has been tasked with sounding like he's from the deep American South somewhere- New Orleans?- and the accent is exceedingly thick. Still, like every other cast member, Craig has such a fine time playing here that you are swept up in his enjoyment as well. 

And that, my friend, I said triumphantly to J, is why we go to the movies. Ha. He agreed. And that is a ringing endorsement to the entertainment value of Knives Out. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Watched: Monty Don's French Gardens

For someone who claims not to be a foodie, I do watch an awful lot of food shows. We also have so many cookbooks we've had to purchase a whole 'nother SHELF. Then, for someone who becomes a gibbering half-wit after two alcoholic drinks, I have an abiding fascination for the art of bartending. One of my favorite fantasies is that juicy big bar I have set up in my imaginary home...

In the same vein, let it not be said that I have green thumbs. (I once managed to kill a fake plant.) Thus, naturally, I adore gardens. It seems but obvious then that along comes Monty Don, casual as you please, hiding in plain sight on the awful Netflix grid named "New This Week" or something. 

And in this limited series (fooey, why only three episodes, Monty my man?) he is tooling around in France in a blue Citroen, how dare he! The show is every bit as soothing as the title and the poster suggest. It is nothing more than this slightly rumpled, immensely knowledgeable straw-hatted Brit passing from garden to heavenly garden come rain or shine. He speaks passable French, of course. He digs his hands into the soil to make oddly fascinating observations on the quality of earth, stone, air, the untranslatable French word terroir. Once, in a moment that won both me and J over forever, he turned to the camera at just that 3/4th angle, twinkled in his eyes and gave us this quip that we shall someday have framed in needlework: "There's nothing in the world quite like a good hedge.

With that kind of low-key jollity, who can resist. Throw in some grandeur- Louis XIV, anyone? - and some rural strawberry growers who also present you with fresh chutneys and jams, and there you have it. J and I are set for the next four Sunday nights, not plagued by what to watch on the bloody tv.- one episode more in France, then Monty is in Italian gardens, and thenceforth we shall have to scrabble about on the interwebs and simply start buying up all his stuff. Imagine Monty in JAPAN!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Readings: The Binding

Lately there has been a Gothic/macabre streak in one's reading. Sample this beautiful cover- irises with gold leaves, no less- and I shall tell of what lies within. 

And that grandiose introduction illustrates overall what feeling I was left with after having read this book: a sort of anti-climax, if you will. A slight sense of having been misled in some small way. See, the thing is, this story is a love-story and no mistake. All right, it's in an unidentified age somewhere in England where exists an art called binding. Binders are gifted individuals who are capable of extracting a person's most awful memories and capturing those in a book, thus leaving the actual person a clean slate. Hence, no trauma, life back to normal, etc. etc. There are also those who would use this art for nefarious purposes- steal someone's book, for instance, and sell it. Or, worse, abuse a person again and again because after all, you just send them off to a binder and bing bang boom, all bad memories erased, you can get back to messing them up again...

Even with all that, THAT is not the crux of this story. Sigh. See what I mean? The actual crux was the love story, one of a forbidden attraction, heartbreaking in its own way to be sure. But why not tell the reader that straightaway instead of mentioning it as if it were merely one thread of this fascinating world? 

The other thing that bothered me was the switch in point-of-view. The first two sections in one voice. Third and last section, bang, the other character narrates, to no great effect. One can't even at times keep it straight if it's Emmett or bloody Lucian. What was the point of this? (And while I am at it, the title too is extremely weak. Which binding exactly are we discussing here? They happen an awful lot you know, and would you kindly tell us which one was the most important?)

Not to sound like a bitter critic. In fact let me hasten to add that the novel was immersive and the author is a talent. I wish she were better served by the publicity for her own work, and also better served by an editor who forced her to stick with the same narrative voice throughout. 

I'll look for you again, Bridget Collins! Fare thee well, and ere long we shall share a pint whilst I listen enraptured to your plans for your next offering.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Year end shenanigans

The last tournament of the year is turning out to be rather juicy. First there was the spectacle of Thiem vs. Djokovic. Baby Dominic was playing at a level that can only be described as 'diabolic' because he managed to get the better of his esteemed opponent mentally. No easy feat. At the end Djoko had match point only to have it snatched away by Baby Dominic, and that's when the Serbian realized what was up. That wild, unbelieving grin! He was steamrolled in the final moments, a rare sight indeed. (Thiemrolled?)  And not to forget that Baby Dominic has actually beaten Djoko in four of their last five meetings. Unbelievable. A new, simmering rivalry has arrived: DomiNov. Ha.

On to the next, where a certain mad clown otherwise known as Daniil Medvedev went up against one R. Nadal. Now these two have proven that they will entertain us every time they face off, even if Rafa hands out a beating or Mad Clown fights back refusing to take it. This time it was a bit of a weird one. One set apiece. Deciding set, the Rafster appears to sag like a sad souffle. Goes down- gasp - 0-4. Earlier, he clutched his eyebrows theatrically in frustration at an unforced error. But is he fully down and out? To answer that question one may fast-forward a few minutes and look at the scoreline. It's now 2-5.

And, just like for Djoko, a switch flips in Med's head: he too, in that moment, loses his grip on the match. He grasps that Nadal yet again is about to pull out that certain something, and that everyone is right to have the fear of God in them when they play him. Med starts to rain unforced errors, mocking himself after each one. Rafa stays calm, turns up the heat, mauls Med with every shot. Something slightly ridiculous is happening. One can almost hear Med squealing in agony, but Rafa doesn't relent. In the end, they go to a ludicrous tiebreak. Rafa wins. 

I fear I must now name them-what else- Med-al. Har har.

Regrettably I missed the hottest part of all this action because my head was stuck inside an Excel sheet. But Google did obligingly ping me the final result which looked innocent enough. Only later did I learn the full ghastly arc of the actual last set. 

All of this drama is great. HOWEVER, and this is where I must howl my protest, it turns out that if Zverev wins his next match against Medvedev, Rafa will be out of the tournament. 

Sigh. At least there's Djoko vs. Fed tomorrow to look forward to. And in this case I am rooting so hard for Fed that it has practically incapacitated me physically. 

Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Analog Room or, The Library Bar

Once again proving that he is not just a pretty face, my good friend J has somehow managed to give us a whole new room in our existing home. Nay, a whole new realm. For entering here is to enter a sort of in-between zone, where we are both cooler, better, wiser versions of ourselves. We sit there to gape at the books, to hold discussions, to do nothing in the scent of pine-scented candles, or then of course to read. 

We also drink tea at times. But I, in my infinite wisdom, have decided that must change. Or change at least some of the time. Tea is fine and all, but does this nest of loveliness not demand a goblet of something strong and sweet? A tall frosty glass of something potent? A wicked brew redolent of olives and spicy sauce floating atop the scent of quality gin? And so on and so forth. 

And an even better idea: My next project is to devise some sea-captain-worthy new beverages and name them after the very books at which we gape. A few have presented themselves already. Ergo, Dark Star Safari, Sandstorm, Bangkok Days, The Goldfinch. And the award-winning one, which I shall unveil on Christmas Eve? The Blue Light of African Dreams.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Readings: The Swallows

What is it about boarding school stories that attract me? After becoming inordinately fond of the now-vanished Spanish Netflix series El Internado and now a follower of Elite, it seems to be a firmly-established favorite in terms of story whether in book or screen format. 

Anyhoo, here the school in question is one Stonebridge Academy, set in the sylvan outback of Vermont. (The students refer to themselves wittily as Stoners.) But much as the woodsy surroundings and literary-themed building names would suggest otherwise, all is not well at Stonebridge. Certain of the Stoners have a very unhealthy habit that will eventually lead to a tragedy...

Enter Alex Witt, new teacher disgraced at a former job and assigned to Creative Writing. Soon Alex, from whom we hear besides two students and one other adult as narrators, sniffs hints of the dreadful underground scene that is flourishing in the school. Suffice to say it is nauseating. So much so that some of the female students, when they give vent to their rage, emerge as warriors plain and simple- stripped down to a core emotion and functioning with the chilly, tactical cunning of seasoned war strategists. I must admit I found this imagery satisfying. A feeling of solidarity with the wronged ones surfaced. Me too. 

The adults though come off in a bad light. Highly dysfunctional and/or clueless for the most part, falling subject to the manipulation of the admittedly savage students. But this bunch of twits is fairly representative of adults especially today I think: the shadowy online world is a world populated and run well beyond the aegis of adulthood in many cases. 

"Enjoy" is perhaps the wrong way to describe my primary engagement with this book. Satisfaction? Immersion? Empathy? All good things to feel as a reader. The Swallows was quite worth the aggravating wait to get from the library. I shall be reading more of Lisa Lutz in the near future; I am told she writes a great detective series as well.

On an aside, The Swallows would make a smashing mini-series. Are you listening, Netflix?
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