By Tomo Taka
Before time’s up: a holiday in review
The best thing about holidays is you get to choose how to spend them. For me, the three weeks between a tone-setting Term 1 and a daunting Term 2 was a window of opportunity to do all the things that fell by the wayside during 2016.
Marc set us the task of doing at least three things we meant to do before the year was over. One was to read a book we’d would never consider reading, and the other was to watch a film we’d never consider watching. Here goes a review of works that – for better or worse – stole my attention over the Christmas break.
Fifty Shades of Grey (film)
‘Try new things. Broaden your horizons. It’s good for you.’
No, not if it involves Fifty F**king Shades of Grey. What a mess. I went into this this thinking film would be somewhat of a titillating, poor excuse for an erotic romance story. It barely lived up to a softcore porno. This wouldn’t make the graveyard slot on Movies4Men. And yet it was on Sky Cinema.
Somehow they’re making a sequel to this, coming out next month. I don’t really understand why because (spoiler alert) the girl decides she’s fed up of Mr Grey’s S&M in the first one.
What did I learn? Well, maybe I should try the book… Or watch Twilight next time.
Fifty Shades of Grey shouldn’t count as a film. So I sought out another I wouldn’t have watched otherwise. I remember I had the chance to watch Zootopia on a flight in the summer and instead I watched Captain America: Civil War for the umpteenth time. It was time to change that.
This was the first Disney animation (exclusing Pixar) I’d probably seen since Hercules over 15 years ago.
The film reminded me of something an old English teacher once said about how George Orwell’s Animal Farm is the perfect book for all ages. Why? Because it works on two levels: one as a simple children’s story of talking animals and the other as a mature, political allegory for communism.
Zootopia has the same thing going for it. On the surface it’s about some talking animal cops trying to uncover criminal activity. But it also tackles ideas of tolerance and diversity, which felt particularly poignant in the year of Trump and Brexit.
Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo (book)
I get that crime fiction is a massive genre but I never saw the appeal of it in terms of literature. Until I read Jean-Claude Izzo’s Total Chaos.
It’s a French noir novel from the mid-90s. And just as Manhattan is the fifth character in Sex and the City, Marseille plays a starring role in Total Chaos.
Following the film noir tradition, we follow a disgruntled cop on a journey of crime and discovery in the city’s underbelly, where cops and criminals are one and the same thing. Racism is rampant. Corruption is the norm. And the real thing people are fighting against is their pre-determined fates.
There’s another two books to read in the series. I’ll get to those eventually I think. But the book got me thinking about reading other literature where cities become characters themselves. Next up, I reckon, will be Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which is apparently all about New York.
Thoughts on a few other things I enjoyed
Star Wars: Rogue One: Decent, but not as good as the four beers I had before it.
Mad Men: Finally finished it. Don, Joan, Peggy, Roger and the gang felt like real people. And that’s actually pretty rare in TV characters.
Atlanta: Laugh out loud funny. And weirdly experimental.
Suicide Squad: Harley Quinn is a delight. Nothing else in the film is.
Planet Earth II: Perfect for a Boxing Day hangover.
Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: Rob M recommended this to us. Really insightful look into the art form. Even if you don’t read comics, you’ll learn a lot about visual communication in general.