Wednesday, April 18, 2018


All the shows here are in their second season, having provided much enjoyment in their first. 

La Casa de Papel did not disappoint, thank goodness. It continues to baffle me though for one reason: it's the show I can understand the most easily without any subtitles at all! How is this happening? 

As to the show, we have moved on to 80 hours after the heist happens at the Royal Spanish Mint, and things are getting even worse. Indeed, how could they not? Then there is that tricky subplot between the chief negotiator and the chief perp. Exciting! Also interesting is the relationship between Denver and one of the hostages. Thankfully I don't binge-watch anything which is fortunate because all of these series are short-lived. 

And the doc is back. After having been thoroughly cheated on in Season 1, she has to deal with a fresh crop of troubles once her ex moves back into town. Dr. Foster is (understandably) a bit off her rocker, and she has behaved in dangerous and provocative ways in the very first episode. Thanks to the direction and editing, that feeling of tension remains as strong as ever; one can't look away from this disaster. 

I hope this season there is more exploration of the doctor's friendship with Ros at the clinic. She, like almost everyone else, behaves like a bad person, and here we are with more of the same this season. Ha! What tangled webs we weave...on Netflix. 

Russia carried out a 'silk glove invasion' of Norway in this series' first season, in order to control its oil reserves. Now, much diplomatic negotiation and social unrest later, the prime minister has changed, and I'm finding it even more engaging. 

Partly it has to do with my increasing fascination with the Scandinavians: they seem to have hit upon a magical balance between individual rights and collective responsibility. Of course this could just be my jaded self talking after living three years in the world's biggest marketplace. But every time I watch a show or talk to a person from there, I get this itch to just go. Besides which, their sense of design is so appealing! Even the ashtrays are dreamy. Sigh.

Anyway, political machinations somehow seem interesting here- the same subject bored me to tears in the much-acclaimed House of Cards. 

An honorable mention goes out to Occupied's fellow-Norwegian murder mystery Borderliner. It's all very dark and forbidding, and has the unique angle of the main cop protagonist covering up a crime instead of well...solving it. Then the main actor is pleasingly hunky. I still don't know if he will be enough for me to keep up with all eight episodes, what with the relentless nature of the plot, but we shall see. 

Also the delightful Dane Rita is back for Season 4. What a relief to get away from political intrigue and broody mysteries! Rita still rocks it as the elementary school teacher in faraway Denmark (another source of fascination) and I shall have to report back on her soon.

Monday, April 16, 2018


On some random neighborhood strolls in J's old hood back in India, we could always count on seeing the corn guy at his corner. 

Street food heaven as that stretch was, we rarely had room enough in our stomachs by the time we got to him. Still, we did partake a fair number of times. He was one of those experts. Slightly burnt for me, he had learned quickly, more tender for J (these Americans!) and then an extra dollop of the hot mint chutney for me and a dainty dab for J. 

It became an off and on tradition. Here, on the other side of the globe, we don't see any such sights on weekend rambles. Instead we have a new semi-tradition. Most weekend afternoons we are driving around, sometimes aimlessly, and the most juicy old blues are played on this particular indie station. It's a delightful gent named the Wagman, and I realized the other day that he's a part of the lazy weekend afternoon just like Corn Guy (another imaginative moniker by yours truly) used to be back in the day. 

The Wagman would be over the moon to learn that he and Corn Guy are brothers in art. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Red and yellow

Why is the Davis Cup so under the radar? It's like the World Cup! Hmph. Anyhow, to my great joy Rafael is back on the courts in style, helping Spain into the semifinals no less. He beat baby-faced beanstalk A. Zverev of Germany after defeating the other German Kohlschreiber also in straight sets. 

So the semi-finals lineup will be: USA vs. Croatia, and France vs. Spain. All very fine, except that said semis will be played in September. Eh? Hmm. Maybe this inexplicable schedule is why no one cares much about the tournament? 

Almost as fun as all this news was watching Rafa on tenterhooks as his compatriot David Ferrer battled against Kohlschreiber. Ferrer, ever consistent, eventually came through, albeit at a score of 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 7-5 in difficult conditions. ("There was a lot of windy" confirmed the adorable Ferrer.) No wonder Rafa was in such a state! But it's great to watch the teams' camaraderie in this event. Especially the Spaniards since they are decked out in that paprika-red. 

He claims his hip is in fine shape. Well, clay season is here, and the dastardly Federer is sitting it out. All this points to what I can only hope for: that the Rafster will give us a repeat of 2017. Who knows, Nicolas Almagro from the Roland Garros 2008 match against Rafa might well have been hilariously prescient. Click here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Readings: Offshore

Glancing through the reviews for Penelope Fitzgerald's 1979 Booker Prize winner, I came across one that asked, "How does she do it?" 

I have to agree, meaning, how does she write like this? Some people are in fact born to write, and have the great fortune to be able to do it and attain the accolades they deserve. The world is fair some of the time, at least. 

Here in this slim novella, Fitzgerald shows a snapshot of a group of people dwelling in houseboats on the river in London. Amusingly, the owners are referred to by the names of their boats. Very charming and a bit odd, like the characters themselves. 

As to plot, there is almost none. Suffice it to say that there is one Nenna at the center of it all, in doldrums with her husband Edward. Now let it be said that Nenna is a real dunderhead as a character; still, because she is in the hands of the infallible Fitzgerald, I didn't quite feel the urge to thwack her a good one. Edward is equally a fool, but never mind about them because they are parents to two absolutely outstanding girls. 

Martha, the older one, is a serious and jaded child. And Tilda, age six, is not easily defined, but I , along with I'm sure every other reader, instantly wanted to be fast friends with her. The only thing I doubted was, did children really talk like this in the 1960s, or are these two so grown up because their parents are so infantile? I couldn't tell, and didn't really care: Tilda in particular is one of the best-written characters I've read. 

The ending is ambiguous, or rather, open to interpretation, if a bit abrupt. I almost wish Ms. Fitzgerald had decided to make this a full-length novel. But then, how would we have achieved the satisfaction that can only be gained from something short-lived? 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Reading: The Immortalists

Another triumphant read for me! This because the library waiting lists for new novels like this one are long and fraught, and I was number 204: but then I cleverly found ONE SINGLE COPY hiding in the New section of my own library, stampeded over there, and snagged it, thereby eliminating the need to wait to be No.203. Ha! 

Anyhow, I was thus fully aware that the novel itself was now rather heavily freighted with expectations. And indeed, the first few pages did not encourage me. I persisted. In just a few minutes, the story bloomed because  its central premise is universally intriguing: How would it affect us if we knew the date of our own death?

The immortalists here are the four siblings Gold, who uncover their own dates by visiting a somewhat shady seer while they are very young, ranging in age from seven to thirteen. Shockingly the seer delivers the death date even to the tot. Sigh. Therefore, when the story began on each of the four siblings as a separate section, Simon, the youngest, ultimately was the most tragic. Captured in the full glitter and glory of first love, his fast crash and burn was achingly poignant. 

From here on, the arcs of the remaining three dimmed progressively for me. Now by that I don't mean to say that I didn't enjoy the read. One does feel for Klara, Daniel, and Varya, even when they behave in exasperating ways; those are their flaws, and author Chloe Benjamin is neither sparing nor harsh. In fact the writing is beautifully fluid and I felt invested in knowing the outcome of each inevitable end. 

And is there a more fundamental question, one that will never lose its hold over us? The question of death, that is. Living vs. mere life. How do we make the most of our time? Should we fight to change our destiny, if such a thing exists? The questions in fact spin on and on, and young Benjamin's story is a worthy, if melancholy, examination of them. 

I would recommend. Hurrah for another good discovery!

Monday, March 05, 2018


I wonder why no one else is talking about comedienne Leslie Mann in this ethereal Zac Posen: she is consistently underrated on the red carpet. Anyhoo, I love the bold red combined with the delicate fabric and the subtle layers. Plus it has a pattern along the edges, even better. I'm sure the lightness of the fabric was delightful in movement. 

Emily Blunt in Schiaparelli Couture is again ethereal and light. At first I thought it was way too pale on her, especially as she insists on being a blonde, but then when I saw it in close-up it was quite captivating. (I had to brush aside J's rather legitimate observation that it looks like a fancy but prim nightie.) But thank heavens the skirt was fully lined.

I do love a bit of light sea-foam green because in the right fabric it looks other-worldly and elevating. I keep imagining how much this color would pop if her hair were her own dark shade.

Now to the metallic! Lupita Nyongo'o is shiny as ever, she rarely disappoints. I love that swoop of fancy chain-mail down the side, and then her delicate gold-wire headband. Trust Atelier Versace to make a dress that flatters you madly. Plus, her skin! Sigh. 

As if in cahoots with Nyong'o is the reliable Bullock in another metallic confection that flashed and glimmered most fetchingly. Still, she has that slight hesitancy I see in her at most red carpet appearances: why, Bullock, why? Clearly she hasn't read my earlier exhortations to revel in her own loveliness. Hmph. No, she will drag her posture down and freeze her face. Still, she continues to be the reliable Bullock, and pleases me with this goldy-silvery-slinky-flowy dress.

Not to pick favorites or anything, but gads! La Kidman owns the red carpet in her magnificent blue Armani Prive. Sheesh, that saturated color was enough, but then the sleekness of the lines in spite of a ginormous bow sealed the deal. I really shouldn't be liking this in fact because of the bow, but bafflingly, the bow makes it. Such are the vagaries of fashion.

Others in the saturated color category I liked were Octavia Spencer in dark green, one Eiza Gonzales in eye-popping yellow Calvin Klein, and Alison Janney in dramatic red. 

As for the whites, there was Mary J. Blige in divine white and silver Versace, and Margo Robbie in a very stylish Chanel.

Both pinks I saw were so so: Poor Saiorse Ronan's strapless thing I didn't care for; and my friend Viola Davis's bright sparkling pink also did nothing for me.

But overall, it was fun. The proceedings didn't leave me grumpy as they have done some years, so I'll leave it at that. (Where was my top girl P. Cruz?)

(All images taken from RCFA)

Friday, March 02, 2018


Mudbound is a film I avoided for some time: with a title like that, I am blameless. However I steeled myself because I am attempting to watch as many Oscar-buzz movies as possible this time, and I was pleasantly surprised. It's not a long, hair-pulling stretch of misery as I had feared. It can only stand accused of being perhaps overly long, but miserable it is not. 

It's essentially the story of an unlikely friendship- two young ex-pilots back from the glory of serving Uncle Sam in WWII. Why is their friendship unlikely? Well, because one's white and one's black, and it's Mississippi, duh. Strangely, the backstory of Carey Mulligan seemed like it would be the mainstay of the story, and we got to the friends only much later. This could have been tightened considerably at no narrative cost, and was a bit of a head-scratcher. However. What lifted up the rather bleak realities depicted were the performances. Especially the two war heroes, and one of them was distractingly dishy, much to my delight. 

All in all, it's a powerful film (with wonderful music and an admittedly abrupt and rather rosy ending) that I'm glad I did watch. 

Then there was The Shape of Water. Now this, after the unbearable Phantom Thread, fared much better with me and may have enjoyed certain advantages in how much I liked it in comparison. Still, it's visually very rich, almost Amelie-esque in its saturated colors and beautiful 1950s details. The mute girl at its center- Elisa- falls for a strange amphibian creature-I'll call him the amphibiman- who is being mercilessly researched in a top-secret lab in the US. The premise was presumably that both protagonists are mute, disenfranchised in their own ways, although we don't get to see the amphibiman's point of view. This one-sidedness did work, because the creature remains mysterious as all wild creatures essentially are, and right till the end we don't know if he actually responded to Elisa in particular, or if any human would have provoked the same instincts in him. (Maybe he just fell for the boiled eggs?)

Ultimately, the film skirts along the edges of magical realism and just escapes being precious or twee. These two qualities help to swallow some holes or obvious questions one is bound to have while watching: they matter little because it is an immersive (hehe) experience. Amphibiman with his peacock-blue gills and his endearing squeaks involves you fully even if you are slightly repulsed by the inter-species sex as I was, and that is quite a feat. 

This a grand movie, and you are predisposed to forgive because it is lusciously and lovingly made. 
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