Must See

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Cheap Dreams

Inception blatantly invites comparisons. The zero-g simulation and the center room of the dream heist evoke the mystery of 2001, the cityscape of Limbo wants to look like Brazil, and the gimmicky plot screams “this is what Matrix 2 and 3 should have been like”. Failed ambition.

If I were in want of stunning visuals lacking in emotional and logical depth, Avatar would be a much better fit than this and do the job much more nicely and honestly, without leaving the tinny taste of being taken for a sucker in the mouth. For all its technical glory, Inception makes almost no sense as story or metaphor, and it’s sad to imagine the movie this could have been, in the hands of a writer/director taking the mind seriously. Diving down into somebodies subconscious ought to be unsettling and intense, but instead there is just stuff being blown up and secret agents shooting blanks: mind as submachine gun. Yawn.

Additionally, the only way Inception can keep you from falling through the cracks in the plot is by keeping everything in frenzied motion. But once the action stops, everything crumbles. The crumbling is pretty to look at, no doubt, but what remains in the end is still only technorubble.

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Cormac McCarthy – The Road (1)

Gestern nacht wurden die Möbel vom Strassenrand abgeholt, das schrille Pfeifen des zurücksetzenden Müllwagens hatte mich geweckt, im Halbschlaf lag ich in der Dunkelheit, hörte gedämpftes Gerumpel und Rufe, und fürchtete um mein Leben. Oder vielmehr war es ja schon verwirkt, die Welt eine verkohlte Wüste und die Kannibalen vor dem Fenster, die durch die Trümmer eines Leben wühlten würden sich bald ausrechnen, dass ich hier lag. Unruhiger Schlaf.

Heute Rumpeln in der Wohnung über mir, während zuende lese, woraus der Alptraum geliehen war. Unerschöpflich offenbar die Fragmente Willies, Glasscherben im Hinterhof, die ich zusammenfegte. Nach der letzten Räumetappe, einem Keller voller kaputten Kleinkrams, wurden wir wochenlang von Schaben überrannt, aufgestört aus den Ruinen. Was diese neuerliche Räumung wohl ans Licht bringen wird.

Die letzte Seite, ein Eichhorn auf dem Fensterbrett, vielleicht angelockt vom Geräusch, als ich das Ende kommen sah, sieht mich an und zuckt nervös mit dem Schwanz. Ich biete ihm eine Nuss an, minutenlang ringt es mit seinem Misstrauen, und nimmt sie doch erst, als ich sie ablege und mich einen Meter zurückziehe, in Richtung des Tisches, auf dem es liegt, schwarz wie Asche, rot der Name des Autors, und über mir die Geräusche des Zerfalls.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle (1)

150_cckv.jpg Every time I read one of Vonnegut’s books, I feel like hugging the whole world, or the members of my karass, at the very least, or do something powerfully meaningless, yet poetic, to make someone else happier than they have been. Which, of course, seems to be a pretty accurate description of what Vonnegut did with any and all of his books.

And if I have to fill in some words here, just so the layout of the page doesn’t clash with the size of the book cover illustration, would not Bokonon approve?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Michael Pollan – The Omnivore’s Dilemma (1)

150_OmnivoresDilemma_med.jpg This book was a magnificent ride. Starting out with a depressing description of the industrial food system, and the great river of corn flowing across the American continent, he proceeds to look at what he calls the industrial organic food system, the coopting of sustainability values by unsustainable big agriculture, and finally homes in on local growing and foraging. The section on Polyface farm in Virginia, with its insight into the biology of grazing, is truly inspiring, especially when contrasted with the nightmarish images of factory farming and CAFOs. The section on foraging and hunting touched me, too, but probably more for it’s Northern California flavor than for its content. As Pollan himself points out, foraging and hunting aren’t viable strategies for feeding a population any more, but reading about mushrooms in Berkeley, pig hunts in Sonoma and morels in the Sierra made me profoundly homesick.

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Big Love (1)

Big-Love-Saeson-1-7321970110371-01.jpg A fascinating glimpse into a way of life both far removed from mainstream culture and morals, and very close to them at the same time. A well written drama, an audacious subject, and an even handed and balanced presentation of the subject make this a delightful foray into the foundations of human social mores, by example rather than by lecture. A tremendous cast, a gripping cliffhanger. Season two, here I come.

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Park Chan-wook – Chinjeolhan Geumjassi (1)

poster.jpg Would you? Or wouldn’t you? And are the artificial plot settings the question arises in only superficially important or does it change the quality of your answer that you may never be in a situation that’s remotely close to the one depicted in this movie? In other words, is the moral conundrum this movie seems to present only applicable within its own stylized universe? If even within that universe, the kathartic act falls short, and everybody seems more upset after it than before, should these people have trusted their instincts? And am I falling into Park’s trap, asking all these questions instead of just enjoying a wildly original ride?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Steven Aldiss – Haiku Humor (1)


One umbrella
The person more in love
gets wet

Even the winner
of the argument
has a hard time sleeping

By saying not to worry
he says something

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

W.G. Sebald – Luftkrieg und Literatur (1)

sebald.jpg When the Apocalypse caused by Germany came back to engulf it in its fire and destruction, there must have been immeasurable suffering and trauma, yet, as Sebald points out, almost none of it made it into the story of life as set down by the writers. Sebalds exploration of the reasons for this omission, are both deeply touching for his compassion even with those who caused the very desasters that struck them, and illuminating for their original and provocative view on the narrative of Germany.

Stumblin on Happiness Why are we so notoriously bad at predicting what will make us happy, and why are we so often mistaken when we remember how we felt in the past? Gilbert’s hypothesis is that the nature of the neural system that allows us to imagine is to blame/ This system, which allows us both the filling in of the details of memories and the fleshing out of the nature of the future, draws on the same circuitry we use to feel the present, which is why both the past and the future are contaminated by how we feel right now. While the style of the book is maybe a tad forced in terms of wittyness, it is a delightful read, and the wealth of experiments Gilbert draws on to make his case was fascinating to read. At least that’s how I remember it.

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Neil Gaiman – Coraline (1)

coraline.jpg Reading Gaiman, I frequently marvel at the way he manages to circumvent my defenses. Things I would normally consider cliche or kitsch, are all right when he does them, and a scenario that reeks of Cirque de Soleil and the fake weirdness of professional quirkers, is genuinely creepy and rings true, when he touches it. Buttons for eyes? Dead children behind a mirror? A talking cat? A blind doorway that leads to a spooky place? Bring ’em on.