Tuesday, April 04, 2017
Bill Condon has directed this two hours and nine minutes long Disney live action adaptation of their 1991 animated feature film, which again was based on “La Belle et la Bête”, a traditional fairy tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740.
The animated film was one of the first Disney films to use CAPS (Computer Animation Production System), a digital scanning, ink, paint, and compositing system of software and hardware developed for Disney by Pixar, and to me it was the one that marked the loss of quality in animated Disney films. Since “Beauty and the Beast”, none of Disney’s feature films have been as magic as for instance “Snow White”, “Pinocchio” or “Peter Pan” where everything was hand-drawn, but that’s another story.
This new version of “Beauty and the Beast” fixes some of the problems from the animated film such as the time line and why the villagers are not aware of the castle nearby, but all in all it sticks to the animated film rather than to the original story.
As for the music, I’m still not overly fond of the songs apart from “Be Our Guest” and the title song “Beauty and the Beast”, but as it’s a musical, I endure it. Much worse is the filming; especially when the camera makes 360° panning! Then everything gets fuzzy and blurred and you can’t focus on anything. It looks awful, to be honest.
As for the actors, Emma Watson plays Belle (the Beauty), which really shows that she was wrongly casted in Harry Potter where Hermione is supposed to be no beauty with frizzy, untamable hair and protruding teeth. At least Hermione and Belle has the love for books in common.
Dan Stevens plays the Beast, so now we know what poor cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey was up to in a previous life! Of other major parts, there are Belle’s father Maurice (Kevin Kline), the narcissistic Gaston (Luke Evans), his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad) and all the enchanted servants: Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), Lumière (Ewan McGregor), Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), Chip (Nathan Mack), Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald) and Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci).
None of the actors are particularly memorable except for Josh Gad as LeFou who is gay in this version. This is the first Disney-character to be openly gay and that’s about time, in my opinion. Now we only need a heroine with frizzy hair and protruding teeth…
Anyway, I read somewhere that the film has been banned in Malaysia and that you have to be over sixteen to see it in Russia because of LeFou, but the censorship that PG-rates films here in Denmark where I live didn’t even noticed that LeFou is gay! It’s not in your face in the film, but only hinted at, especially in the closing scene.
I don’t get why everyone is so worked up over LeFou being a homosexual anyway, especially when the zoophilia-aspect of the film doesn’t raise an eyebrow. So it’s okay for a woman to fall in love with a beast, but not for a man to like other men? Talk about double morale standards! Tut-tut!
I’ve always wondered why Disney’s Beast looks the way he does, by the way, as most of the early drawings to the original French fairy tale suggest that he resembles a wild boar. But maybe making out with a pig would be too much for the double moralists after all! In any case, Emma Watson is perfect for the role as in an interview she let slip that her childhood crush was the lion Aslan from C. S. Lewis’ chronicles of Narnia!
All in all, this new version of “Beauty and the Beast” is a nice, clean, cosy family film, but to be honest, I don’t think there’s a need to make Disney’s animated feature films into live action films as they don’t really add anything or make them better. Therefore, I’m not able to give “Beauty and the Beast” more than three out of five stars: ***
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
”Wonders” sensory exhibition
For almost thirty years, Brandts art museum in my hometown Odense, Denmark, has come up with a new sensory exhibition each year. A sensory exhibition talks to all your senses and it’s a place where children are allowed to run around, touch things and do whatever you’re normally not allowed to do at an art exhibition. This way, the art of a sensory exhibition is experienced by the entire body.
For the present exhibition, Brandts has – for the first time ever - invited back an artist with whom they have produced a sensory exhibition before, namely Alfio Bonanno. Alfio Bonanno (b. 1947 in Sicily, but now living in Denmark) is an internationally acclaimed artist, known as one of the pioneers of the Land Art genre, where he creates worlds and stories about nature and using nature.
The present exhibition is called “Wonders” and basically it is about all the wonderful things that exist in nature, as it takes you on a journey into a magical and fun world that is to reminds us that there are amazing details to be found everywhere in nature - if only you stop and take a look.
I made the journey with my daughter and although she isn’t a little girl anymore – she is eighteen – we both enjoyed it. The journey starts in a train station inside the art museum where we had to leave our shoes behind and enter a train. As we walked down the aisle inside the train, it really felt like it was moving and when we looked out of the windows, we could see landscapes go by as well.
At the other end of the train compartment we found ourselves in a passage of plywood that led to a waterfall, that had to pass through. Luckily the waterfall turned out to be projection, so we didn’t get wet and on the other side we could look through a window and into a dark room where strange, neon coloured creatures that were floating around in a pool and giant butterfly cocoons were starting to hatch. To me this was the best part of the exhibition.
As we walked on, we came to a jungle made of leaves as tall as trees. Everywhere we could see giant prints of different insects and hear the insects humming. We walked around in the jungle for a long, long time, and it seemed really big, especially as the leaves had mirrors on the backsides, which gave a kind of infinite mirror-effect.
From the jungle, we came to an ocean filled with tall, grey towers. You could walk out into the waves of the ocean, as the ocean was a projection just like the waterfall, but the towers were real and inside them there were small caves with tube-lights and pillows, which made up cosy hide-outs for kids.
The exhibition ended in a passage of black plastic that led us back to the station – and our shoes! While putting them on, my daughter and I agreed, that although “Wonders” exhibited wild, quirky and adventurous natural art, the exhibition as such seemed quite small with only a few things to do. At least it had the same magical, dreamlike quality as the best of the sensory exhibitions have had and for that it gets three out of five stars: ***
“Wonders” can be seen at Brandts art museum, Odense, Denmark until April 16, 2017.
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Books I read in 2016
In 2016 I read/re-read forty books, mostly novels, but also short story collections, plays, children’s books, manga, graphic novels, biographies and other kinds of non-fiction. Like last year I read books in Danish, English and Japanese – no German, French, Norwegian or Swedish this year either, I’m sorry to say.
Some of the non-fiction that I have read has been truly remarkable, especially Jens Andersen’s biography about the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, who wrote mostly for children and is one of my all-time favourite authors. You really get to see the person behind the stories and Astrid Lindgren was truly a brave, strong woman who dared be herself. Not unlike her character Pippi Longstocking!
Of non-fiction, I was furthermore impressed by Kevin Marx’ “Speak Japanese in 90 Days: A Self Study Guide to Becoming Fluent: Volume One”, which so far is the best textbook in Japanese that I have read.
As for fiction, Ransom Riggs, trilogy about the peculiar children, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, “Hollow City” and “Library of Souls”, was quite a revelation to me. These books are truly magic and not only for young adults. I could hardly wait to see the first one made into a film, but what a disappointment it was, even though it was directed by Tim Burton and had Asa Butterfield in the leading role as Jake. As long as Burton followed the narrative of the book, everything was fine, but changing Jake’s love interest and especially the ending of the story was awful. Worst of all, Burton’s ending didn’t leave room for sequels and I for one am very sad that I shall never see an emu-raffe, get to know the talking dog Addison MacHenry or visit the scary library of souls. Shame on you, Burton, but well done, Riggs. I hope more books will be added to the series.
Other works worth mentioning are the novels of the Japanese author Hiromi Kawakami – I hope to read more of her in the future – and then of course everything by Shakespeare, Tove Jansson and Ursula K. Le Guin.
As for the worst read in 2016, it has to be J. K. Rowling’s “The Cursed Child”. I know we are supposed to “keep the secrets” of this manuscript/play, so I won’t reveal anything, but it’s damn boring reading with a ridiculous premise and even more plot-holes and loose ends than the Harry Potter books. Besides, if we are to keep the secrets, why make the story so obvious and see-through that you can guess everything in advance?
Other disappointing works this year were Kim Newman’s “An English Ghost Story” and the short stories of both Haruki Murakami and J. K. Rowling, but for different reasons, as the ghost story wasn’t scary, Rowling’s stories had already been published on Pottermore and Murakami’s were so boring that I forgot about them immediately after reading them!
To end this on a happier note, I’m glad to say that I had a short story collection called “Metanoia” published last year. It is available on Amazon of course, as e-book. This is my first book since the official biography “Look Wot I Dun”, which I wrote about the British drummer Don Powell from the band Slade, published in 2013 by Omnibus Press. The reason for this long wait was that I have been very ill the past three years and have had surgery three times – once a year, actually. To finally have “Metanoia” published was great and the reviews were great too. Thank you. “Metanoia” was my published book number eighteen, thanks to my readers. I really appreciate it.
If you want to know, which other books I read in 2016, here’s the full list of books:
Andersen, Jens: “Denne dag, et liv. En Astrid Lindgren-biografi”
Beskow, Elsa: “Elsa Beskows eventyr – et udvalg”
Bradbury, Ray: “October Country”
Bradbury, Ray: “The Day It Rained Forever”
Capote, Truman: “The Early Stories of Truman Capote”
Falkenberg, Lise Lyng: “Metanoia”
Hua, Yu: “Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China”
Höglund, Anna: “om det her taler man kun med kaniner”
Jansson, Tove: “Moominvalley in November”
Jansson, Tove: “The Moomins and the Great Flood”
Johnson, Adam: “Fortune Smiles”
Kawakami, Hiromi: “Kvinden ved havet” (“Manazuru”)
Kawakami, Hiromi: “Senseis mappe” (“Sensei no kaban”)
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “Always Coming Home”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “City of Illusions”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “Four Ways to Forgiveness”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “Ni liv” (“Nine Lives” / “Vaster than Empires and More Slow”)
Le Guin, Ursula: “The Dispossessed”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Lathe of Heaven”
Le Guin, Ursula: “The Word for World is Forest”
Marx, Kevin: “Speak Japanese in 90 Days: A Self Study Guide to Becoming Fluent: Volume One”
Mazzucchelli, David: “Asterios Polyp”
Murakami, Haruki: “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”
Murakami, Haruki: “Maend uden kvinder” (”Onna no inai otokatachi”)
Murakami, Haruki: “The Elephant Vanishes”
Murakami, Haruki: “The Strange Library”
Newman, Kim: “An English Ghost Story”
Reuter, Bjarne: “Zappa”
Riggs, Ransom: “Hollow City”
Riggs, Ransom: “Library of Souls”
Riggs, Ransom: “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”
Rowling. J. K.: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”
Rowling. J. K.: “Hogwarts – An Incomplete & Unreliable Guide”
Rowling, J. K.: “Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies”
Rowling, J. K.: “Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists”
Seth: “It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken”
Shakespeare, William: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Shibahara, Tomoyo: “Marugoto: Rikai Japanese language and culture Elementary1 a2”
Valente, Catherynne M.: “The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship by her own making”
All the best for 2017 and keep on reading!