J.K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is not an easy novel to read. It’s depressing, melodramatic, and populated with a variety of flawed characters, from the self-absorbed to the self-righteously malicious. Although Rowling is arguably one of the most beloved and popular authors of the 21st century, her first non-Potter novel drew mixed reviews from critics, with some praising it for being ambitious, and others decrying it for being too grim. After reading this book for the 4th time, the grimness loses its shock value, and the more incisive elements of the book start to stand out, the most important being the novel’s razor sharp glimpse into class struggles in a modern Western country. The Casual Vacancy can be preachy and a tad on-the-nose, but it also highlights the inability of the upper class to empathize with those below them, or even to appreciate their humanity. While The Casual Vacancy can seem like it’s tackling mundane issues, Rowling’s story shows us that the same small-fry squabbles that divide English parishes can be found on global political stages, including in many of the United States’ current domestic policy crises.
Hello, everyone! I’m back at home for Thanksgiving break, which means I’ve had lots of time to sleep all day and write all night, and of course, catch up on my movie viewing. Last night I watched The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film and also his most self-indulgent. Now I love Inglourious Basterds and Django and the Kill Bills because they have a slick, stylized violence to them, as well as clever dialogue and dynamic characters you can’t help but root for, even in their debauchery. But Hateful Eight is like a recipe gone wrong. On the surface you have all of the Tarantino trademarks, the blood, the punchy dialogue, the memorable protagonists, but the end of the film leaves you feeling empty and a tad robbed. Why, you may ask, does Tarantino’s latest film fail to satisfy? I say it’s because of bad editing, both of the actual footage and of the concept. Tarantino is certainly an auteur, and usually his quirky touch is heavy in all the right ways, but in this film I finally felt the weight of his ideas crashing down. So let’s dive into some of the reasons that Hateful Eight succeeds, and some of the reasons it really, really fails.
Hello, everyone! Having just seen The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola’s latest film for which she won Best Director at Cannes, I’m left feeling confused. To say the film is good or bad oversimplifies the matter; it simply feels half baked. Coppola’s take on author Thomas Cullinan’s novel is lush, beautiful to behold, and potent with tension, but it’s held back by flawed pacing. Coppola is skilled at crafting slow, atmospheric movies like Lost in Translation, but while that film’s anti-climactic ending was a perfect period to its meandering plot, The Beguiled has an explosion of climax with too much rising action and almost no resolution balance to it out. Whether the fault in pacing is due to the source material (I’ve never read the book so I can’t comment) or due to Coppola’s own directorial choices remains to be seen, but the result is a film that feels as incomplete as General McBurney’s amputated leg.
Hello, everyone! I recently finished Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls, a tale of one girl’s summer in a Manson-inspired cult which apparently sold for a cool $2 million advance. I gave up on reading books about bored, apathetic teenage girls around 9th grade, but I was suckered in by the punchy, cool-girl cover design. Readers, don’t be fooled. The Girls is a trashy teen lit book dressed up as a sophisticated thriller, mired with angst, female self-hatred, dangerously sexy older girls, and men so uniformly despicable that they belong in a treatise on misandry. The prose is entertaining, but overworked. Worst of all, the whole thing is tiresome. Everything from the plot to the characters to Evie’s individual thoughts have been done before. But Cline’s fatal flaw is in her protagonist: Evie is a Nick Carraway with no Gatsby to make up for it.
Hello, everyone! I’ve written before in my posts about how I think Marvel movies have all become formulaic, heartless, soul-sucking cash grabs, so I guess it’s no surprise that the Guardians franchise has succumbed to that paint-by-numbers scheme too. The first film was surprisingly witty and heartfelt, and managed to make the origin story of a group of unfamiliar, oddball assholes endearing. Not to mention, the soundtrack was fantastic. Vol.2 also has a killer soundtrack, but the wit and heart are harder to find. There’s a great movie in here somewhere, but it’s lost amidst $200 million worth of special effects and a plot so familiar that even the journey isn’t very fun.
Hello, everyone! I watched two horror movies this week, one that was surprisingly awesome, and one that was not-surprisingly un-awesome. Since I watched the un-awesome one tonight, I’ll review that one first. Here’s the lesson I learned from watching Creep: if you think Mark Duplass would make a bad horror movie, trust your gut. Don’t listen to Reddit. Even they have bad taste.
Hello, everyone! I watched Nerve yesterday and all my expectations were positively surpassed. A teenage movie that is witty, pretty, realistic, techy, and full of social commentary is like a hidden gem these days. Nerve is a movie that simultaneously defines a generation while also warning that generation to abandon its destructive tendencies.
Hello, all! I haven’t watched a new horror movie in a while, so yesterday I decided to watch The Amityville Horror. The movie was mediocre, but I came away with two thoughts: 1) The reason America is falling apart is because Ryan Reynolds has starred in too many bad movies and 2) People wouldn’t have to deal with ghosts if they bought houses that they could afford.
Hello, all! Just some technical stuff: the blog has a new look, but it’s still the same blog, just prettier. I’d love your opinions on the change. Do you like it? Does it look more readable, less readable, etc? I’ve been wanting a change for a few months now, and I think this theme is more visually appealing and more accessible than Eighties Theme I was using. Onto more interesting things: I watched The Witch on opening night. It was a perfect storm of disturbing imagery, chilling music, bleak atmospherics, and bold directing.
Hello, all! I just finished the 2005 horror movie The Descent, directed by Neil Marshall. I’m the type of person who thinks that activities which create unnecessary danger, such as cave diving, deep-sea diving, skydiving, any type of diving, etc, are stupid. The Descent is a film about smart women who stupidly decide to go cave diving. Chaos, death, and betrayal ensues. And through it all I kept thinking: