Bookworming

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Jane

I checked out another adaptation of a Victorian classic, this time one of my favorites: Jane Eyre, in a comic form.

er-janeJane by Aline Brosh McKenna

Category: Comics

Find it on: LibraryThing

What it is:
A modern-day adaptation of (bits of) Jane Eyre’s story. Jane escapes her unloving family to New York, where she enrolls in an art college and starts working for a mysterious businessman as his daughter’s nanny. But there’s a door upstairs she’s never allowed to touch. What’s behind the door? (You know what. Not a twist.)

How I found it:
I heard the author talking about her comic on a podcast about script writers (she normally writes the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, something of which I bounced off pretty hard). The idea, obviously, appealed to me immensely.

Summary judgment:
All in all, it’s a wasted opportunity but the great art saves it from being a waste of time.

Best things about it:
Definitely the art by Ramón Pérez. He has a casual lightness of line and an ease of switching between styles that elevates the story and makes it oh-so-pretty. His art remains engaging but never becomes too artsy and so inaccessible.

Worst things about it:
The story doesn’t justify the idea. Why choose to work on Jane Eyre if you have nothing new to tell about the tale and don’t even seem to care about the original story as it is?

Other pluses:
✤ In addition to Pérez’s great art, the competent coloring by Irma Kniivila deserves a special mention.
✤ What I found the most interesting part of the story was actually the cursory foray into artistic education (which doesn’t really have time or space to develop realistically). I feel maybe Pérez employed some of his own experience in this part? I would much rather read a story about a girl from nowhere trying to become a New York artist.

Other minuses:
✤ The story doesn’t even try to do anything worthwhile with the inherently problematic character of Rochester, his morality and his decisions. Sure, the wife thing is slightly mitigated but just enough to make it boring, not justifiable.
✤ New side characters only seem introduced for the sake of diversity but nothing happens with them.
✤ I found the criminal/gothic ending particularly disappointing, as if the author realized she’s almost out of pages and the story needs wrapping up. In fact, I generally felt there was not enough space to do the story justice.

How it enriched my life:
I really enjoyed the art and found it inspiring.

Fun fact:
So where I mostly know Pérez from is his work on Wolverine and the X-Men – a comic I always liked, also for the art, though didn’t make the connection without visiting Pérez’s website.

Follow-up:
There’s not a direct thing to follow up with but I’m sure I would enjoy more of Pérez’s work in this style. I’m also up for any future adaptations of my Victorian favorites. Bring it on.

Recommended for:
People who care about art more than about story. People who will take any Victorian adaptation gratefully.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Hatin’ on Strictly Ballroom (you’ve been warned)

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Rotten Tomatoes

Wildly Enthusiastic Review: Whiplash

I’ve finally watched a movie I’ve been meaning to watch for a while and it didn’t disappoint.

er-whiplashWhiplash

Category: Movies

Find it on: IMDb

What it is:
Damien Chazelle (who must be a jazz fanatic) wrote and directed this 2014 movie about a music student, played convincingly by Miles Teller, who gets a chance at the top distinction in his school: joining a demanding band that can jumpstart his career. The only problem is that the instructor (J.K. Simmons, great as usually) will stop at nothing to push his players. Also, so much drumming.

How I found it:
A few years ago I saw the trailer and I immediately loved it for a couple of reasons. I meant to watch it but, of course, didn’t and I’ve only caught up now.

Summary judgment:
I liked everything about this movie, on this very cerebral, admiring level.

Best things about it:
It’s smart but never boring; it cranks up the drama but at the same time the stakes remain debatable: not everyone would give up their life and dignity for a spot on a band (which only makes it more fascinating).
My favorite part of the whole story is the relationship between the two antagonists: how they destroy and save each other at the same time because they remain two sides of the same obsessively ambitious coin. This might be the best written protagonist-antagonist relation I’ve seen in a long time.

Worst things about it:
Honestly, the only thing that comes to mind is I slightly wish for more female presence in the story (even if just as some other musicians in the band). But I don’t have many complaints. They even made jazz exciting.

Other pluses:
✤ I like how this story belongs very much to Andrew. It’s his obsession with excellence and achievement that makes him a perfect victim but also he never really feels like a victim. Small things you notice in the plot combine to build the character, e.g. at first it’s surprising to see no relations between him and the other students but slowly it all begins to add up. In a way, the less we like Andrew as a person, the more he becomes a worthy adversary for his teacher.
✤ I was genuinely surprised at the final part, after everything that happens in the school.

Other minuses:
I was maybe a little tired of the relative ugliness of Andrew’s surrounding, which comes from filming them so realistically but that’s my personal bias for pretty interiors.

How it enriched my life:
It made me think and admire the storytellers. It also made me appreciate the art of drumming.

Fun fact:
I always had an appreciation for drumming, as a matter of fact. Actually, I used to fantasize that if I were to be in a rock band, I would definitely be the drummer (mostly because I’m completely tone-deaf and the rhythm is all I could manage; except I couldn’t, probably, especially once I’ve seen this film and realize how hard it is). I even wanted to take drumming lessons for a while but I never wanted it hard enough to follow through.

Follow-up:
So apparently the creator, Damien Chazelle, wrote La La Land? And I admit I’ve watched it since but it’s not worth a write-up.

Recommended for:
People who admire a psychological drama of abuse and revenge. People who wanted to be professional musicians and need reasons why it’s not that great.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Next time: Jane

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Loving Vincent

er-lovingvincentLoving Vincent

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
A bold animation experiment by a Polish artist Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, it tells the story of an attempt to discover the reasons for the death of Vincent van Gogh, undertaken a year later by his casual acquaintance. The movie uses oil painting combined with more typical animation and regular live acting in a truly impressive way, pushing forward the formal limits of animation. Van Gogh’s paintings come to life, the people he painted begin to inhabit his own story and the viewer follows an investigatory journey into his last days. Or you can think of it as of a painted, animated version of that Don McLean song (whose cover, appropriately, is used during the credits).

How I found it:
I saw some sort of trailer when it was being made and thought it a somewhat interesting idea and then my friend A asked me to go with her to see it.

Summary judgment:
Whether you like van Gogh or not (I’m not a fan) this is a chapeau-bas impressive work of art – and of love, which shows.

Best things about it:
I’m really impressed with the guts and patience it took to undertake the whole endeavor, and no less with the fact that it worked. Not only does the movie look great and employs actual paintings by van Gogh in an intelligent way – the story also keeps you interested. It manages to recreate the atmosphere of the places where van Gogh lived in France and to breathe life into the people he immortalized in his portraits. The colors live on the screen and I loved focusing on the thick texture in some of the backgrounds. This technique works particularly well for the images of nature.

Worst things about it:
I said already, I think, that I don’t like criticizing things that are obviously labors of love because I know what it feels like to become so obsessed with a creative idea that you push through just to see it done and, frankly, we could always use more of those. So I’ll just put some minor stuff in “Minuses” but mostly I’m writing to express my admiration.

Other pluses:
✤ The colors and how they are used to create the mood of the scenes. You can see what the light must have looked like for the characters.
✤ It’s quite a feat of both the screenwriters and the actors that even the minor characters are lively and memorable, particularly those in Auvers. You also become quite involved in the very mystery of what happened.

Other minuses:
✤ You need to get used to the vibration that stop-motion animation brings: sometimes the screen seems to twitch before your eyes.
✤ The style is slightly uneven in that in some scenes the actors seem to push through the paintings’ layer more than in others. But I do realize that with an experimental technique like this one, there are no conventions the viewers are used to so everything, both good and bad, becomes more visible.
✤ Probably the storytelling might be called sentimental. I don’t mind so much but I imagine some people I know that would cringe so hard at that. Basically, if you like “Starry Night” the song, you won’t mind this either because the tone is similar.
✤ I guess the biggest thing for me personally is that most of van Gogh’s paintings don’t speak to me on an emotional or aesthetic level (and so I actually preferred their animated versions to the originals). A movie in which e.g. Corot’s paintings come to life, that I would love to see even more.

How it enriched my life:
It interested and impressed me, both on a narrative and technical level.

Fun fact:
At the end of the movie as people where getting up you could hear muffled sniffling in the theater.

Follow-up:
I will be interested in seeing it again, at least to pay even more attention to how the whole thing is done. It’s also definitely worth seeing some sort of making-of movie about.

Recommended for:
Painting and animation lovers. Anyone fascinated by van Gogh’s legend or even just by the whole “tragic artist” myth.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Stranger Things

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Going Places, Picture Perfect

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Musée Jacquemart-André

Our recent trip to Paris deserves at least one more post and this time I want to focus on a slightly lesser-known tourist attraction we managed to visit,

Museum Jacquemart-André

er-jacquemartandre

Category: Places

Find it in: Paris, on Boulevard Haussmann (some 10 minute walk from Champs-Élysées)

What it is:
It’s a quite unique little museum that boasts a few impressive works of art – including Rembrandts and Botticellis – which, even more interestingly, is housed in the original location: a residence of the museum founders. A couple of filthy rich art collectors (no really, they were insanely rich, if you think of it), Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart, spent their lives buying works of art that caught their fancy and, dying childless, bequeathed the collection together with the house to the state to make it into a public museum.

How I found it:
It was actually our second visit to the museum, though the first one without a temporary exhibition so that we could focus on the permanent collection. During our honeymoon stay we saw an interesting exhibition of less-famous Pre-Raphaelites there and when our plans to go to Amiens fell through this year, we decided to revisit Jacquemart-André instead.

Summary judgment:
Obviously you can see more impressive art collections elsewhere in Paris but the building itself and the story of the museum make for a lovely visit.

Best things about it:
I loved seeing the building with a lot of its original 19th century decor preserved and, as we took the audioguides, we learnt a lot about the historical background, which also fascinated me, particularly the details of the life of people who could entertain every fancy and never worry about money.

Worst things about it:
The gift shop doesn’t come up to the standards of gift shops in other museums. And if you think that’s minor, I understand why, but visiting gift shops is one of the reasons we travel. It is what it is.

Other pluses (and yes, bullet points):
✤ Feminist skew. The whole story you hear on the audiobook focuses on Nélie, her rise to fortune and her life as an art buyer. You barely learn anything about Édouard – except that it was really his dream at first. I found it refreshing.
✤ Also, let’s not overlook the art. There might be so much more to see in the Louvre, Orsay and other places but if we had a museum like this here, everyone would be clamoring to see it. Some pieces the museum hosts are really worth seeing.
✤ Charming courtyard through which you enter the museum is well worth sitting in for a few minutes, preferably with a croissant or a pain au chocolat. (And we did.)
✤ Details of presentation allow the visitors to easily imagine the life of the married couple. These are really small things, like music in the ballroom but they improve the experience.
✤ Last but not least (I dislike this expression), I value the overall optimistic feeling of the exhibition. It’s nice to think of people who did live leisurely and followed their passions (well, Nélie did anyway). History is too full of gloomy stories.

Other minuses:
✤ That’s in no way the museum’s fault but we came too late to see the cafe.
✤ Uccello’s painting was being renovated – again, just our bad luck but a pity, too.
✤ Some commentary on the audioguide concerning some paintings (e.g. Chardin) basically listed things that the painting showed. Thank you, that’s all very useful and superfluous, but how about a little analysis?

How it enriched my life:
The visit proved both educational and charming. It was also my first time ever using an audioguide which I’d always considered pointless, and it convinced me of their usefulness, even though they prolong a visit extensively.

Fun fact:
It might be obvious to those of you who know more about history of architectural inventions than I do, but the house had pneumatic walls that you could let down and combine three rooms into one gigantic ballroom. How steampunk is that?!

Follow-up:
I will probably not return soon for a regular visit but it’s a lovely place for a temporary exhibition and I will be happy to check out any that I might come upon.

Recommended for:
People who love history, Paris or art. People who dream about spending their lives leisurely and with tons of money so they could buy the biggest painters in history.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: 10 Things I Hate about You

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Picture Perfect

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Bauhaus in Motion

When we were in Berlin we didn’t have as much time for sightseeing as we would’ve wanted but we listed a few attractions we were determined to see and this included the Bauhaus-Archiv, the museum collecting and curating all things Bauhaus. At the time (and still) the museum has been presenting an exhibition called

er-bauhausinmotionBauhaus in Motion

Category: Events

What it is:
A temporary exhibition housed in the Bauhaus-Archiv which focuses on the notion of movement in the teachings and the very history of Bauhaus, the extremely influential design school operating in 1919–1933 in Germany (which you probably knew, sorry). As Bauhaus is such a cornerstone in the history of modernism and we are, to a large extent, modernists at heart, we did feel the deep need to visit the museum. The exhibition itself shows some students’ and professors’ works created in the classes and studios and archival photographs with some – not a lot – information printed on the walls.

How I found it:
I think our friend Z, who was planning her own Berlin trip, mentioned the Archive and then we just found it in the travel guide. We had no idea the exhibition we saw was temporary until we read about it later.

Summary judgment:
It was not a bad exhibition but altogether I found it disappointing (and, frankly, not quite worth the admission price). I would’ve wanted to see at least one of these two things: either four times as many exhibits or a really impressive design of the exhibition that would make the idea immediately clear. Ideally both.

Best things about it:
Some of the exhibits were interesting – many in the predictable way but some surprised me, particularly photos from PE classes (which horrified me in its own way to think that the estimable Bauhaus school tortured its students with PE classes).

Worst things about it:
As I already said, it was too small, which made it both unsatisfactory and random-looking. There were simply not enough exhibits (and not enough space, probably) to tell a captivating story.

Other pluses:
The building is quite nice and located in a curious area: an embassy paradise where all the buildings are huge and house various embassies of more and less exotic countries. It made for a pleasant walk to get there, particularly that the Tiergarten was partly open that day despite the church day celebrations and we could finally see most of this lovely park.
As for the exhibition itself, knowing that this was a temporary exhibition focused on a particular aspect of the Bauhaus’ history makes it better because I can assume that visiting other smallish exhibitions like this one creates quite a detailed knowledge about the Bauhaus. Too bad we live too far to make it a habit.

Other minuses:
The cafeteria was not great. We love visiting museum cafeterias but most of the places we visited in Berlin disappointed in this respect.
Also, I know it was before renovations but the exhibition space wasn’t really that great (neither the architecture nor lighting) and the lack of legible design for the exhibition made it hard to understand the particular selection of exhibits.

How it enriched my life:
I learned about those PE classes in the Bauhaus school. It was also interesting to see the course projects that students made. Also, the trip made for a rather pleasant walk.

Fun fact:
You can’t buy much of proper food in the museum but you can buy copies of original Bauhaus designs, like chess sets and a lot of toys and cups. They are fun to look at but crazy overpriced.

Follow-up:
I imagine when we visit Berlin some time after the renovations in the museum we will be happy to revisit it and hopefully by then there will be a more impressive and well-rounded collection on display.

Recommended for:
People interested in the history of design and modernism. People with no patience for exhibitions that take a lot of time to see.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: God Don’t Like Ugly

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