Posts by flares

I am a critic and researcher of sf, with interests in queer theory, postmodernism, psychoanalysis and other long words. I have various blogs.

Kiss of the Black Widow

Black Widow (Cate Shortland, 2021 film)

I confess I’ve only seen about a third of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I’ve long wondered with something like three hundred films in the franchise now, why the recurring characters were so male and pale. Black Panther challenged this — although for obvious reasons a sequel is problematic. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) seemed to be a character defined by her gynaecology, and I don’t think they ever explained who her husband was. Now she gets her own film and a female director, so as the world ended.

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Tilda Speaks

La voz humana (The Human Voice, Pedro Almodóvar, 2020)

Part way through this English-language short, I got a flash of memory of Law of Desire (1987) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), and realised that Tilda Swinton was channeling Carmen Maura, once Almodóvar’s muse and favourite actor. What I’d forgotten was that Cocteau’s 1930 monodrama, on which this film is loosely based, was performed in Law of Desire and fed into Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Like Tom Stoppard, Almodóvar loves this kind of mise en abîme and the whole film seems to be filmed on a film set. Continue reading →

Water Dropwort

Minari (Lee Isaac Chung, 2020)

This has the feel of a fable — the Yi family move from 1980s California to Arkansas to live in a static caravan where Jacob (Steven Yeun) starts a farm to grow vegetables for Korean restaurants and Monica (Han Ye-ri) works in a chicken sexing unit to try and bring more money in. After a short period, they bring her mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) across for childcare and Korean War vet Paul (Will Patton) helps out.

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Prim and Improper

Joanna Moorhead, The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington (2017, revised edition)

The journalist Joanna Moorhead knew that she had an older cousin, Prim, who was estranged from the rest of her family and was some kind of artist in Mexico. At a party, she discovered that Carrington was not only an artist, but one of the most respected artists in Mexico and was still alive. Moorhead decided to travel across the Atlantic to meet her and the two became friends, with Carrington agreeing that she could write a biography.

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Don’t Try This at Home. Or at Work

Druk (Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg, 2020)

Supposedly, the Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud suggests that humans are born with a blood alcohol 0.05% too low. In this comedy, four middle aged, jaded, male teachers decide to keep drinking to ascertain what the psychological effects are and whether it improves their work and personal lives. After initial success, they increase their intake.

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The Write Off Spring

David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 (Royal Academy of Arts, 23 May–26 September 2021) 

You have to admire Hockney for his prolificness and his ability to reinvent himself in a sixty-odd year career. The Tate retrospective was great but, the 1960s rooms aside, you could imagine at least two surveys of his work that didn’t overlap with that one. Having made art with paint, pencil, charcoal, various kinds of prints and Polaroids, it was hardly surprising that he’d embrace iPads and for some years he has been using them to make landscape images. 

Here we have 116 works drawn on iPads around his newish home in Normandy during the early Covid weeks of 2020, printed above their created size on paper and on the walls of three of the rooms in the Main Galleries (and they will move in August to the slightly smaller Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries). But are they any good? 

Well, they’d look good on a fridge.  

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Sssshhhhhhh!!!

A Quiet Place Part II (John Krasinski, 2020)

I confess to a bit of a hazy memory of part one — there are some kind of aliens or critters who react to sound and are menacing an American family in the wilds of New York State. Alongside bearded Lee Abbott (Krasinski) and heavily pregnant Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), there are various kids, including the hearing impaired Regan Abbott (Millicent Simmonds) who is, of course, used to communicating nicely. It seemed a bit of a back to basics one damn thing after another thriller, without the tongue in cheek of Tremors or the social commentary of Blumhouse horrors.

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Daddy, Daddy

The Father (Florian Zeller, 2020)

So Anthony Hopkins bags an Oscar for playing disabiity — Anthony (Hopkins) is an elderly man, suffering from some kind of Alzheimer’s, has fallen out with his carer, and now lives with his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) and her boyfriend Paul (Rufus Sewell). The film is moreorless — but insufficiently – focalised through Anthony’s eyes, as the flat changes subtly or less so and Anne turns into Olivia Williams and Paul into he’s-the-new-Tony-Slattery Mark Gatiss. At times it feels like he is being gaslighted — has his watch been stolen? has his art been sold? — and that would be somewhat more interesting.

Hopkins is ok, and I’ve not seen Boseman’s performance, but Ahmed was better in Sound of Metal. Meanwhile, Colman confirms her place on the list of actors I’d watch in anything — with here her astonishing ability to have to performances on her face at the same time.

Oslo Blues

Anne Holt, 1222 (2007, translated by Marlaine Delargy)

Anne Holt, Salige er de som tørster (Blessed Are Those Who Thirst, 1994, translated by Anne Bruce)

Anne Holt, Demonens død (Death of the Demon, 1995, translated by Anne Bruce)

Anne Holt and Berit Reiss-Andersen, Løvens gap (The Lion’s Mouth, 1997, translated by Anne Bruce)

I prefer, where possible, to read series in order — but not all novels necessarily get translated and I found a copy of 1222 so figured I should go for it, although this is several titles after the first. So, the detective Hanne Wilhelmsen is in a wheelchair, she seems to have split from her girlfriend and a minor character has been killed off. I’ve missed a lot.

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