I thought the adaptation of The Book Thief was good, but not great. Excellent casting, but so much of the beauty that is the book was completely missed. I was not surprised about this. I really enjoyed Lovelace. I thought it was compelling with a superb cast, this could have so easily gone the titillation route and it did not. What Maisie Knew was a bit of a mess, great cast, but sloppy script and acting, yet an underlying sweetness that made me watch it to the end. The Big Wedding was not as bad as I thought it would be. Huge cast pulled together as a large modern family attending a wedding, predictable and a little lazy in parts, it was ok.
My pick of the month was Saving Mr Banks. I knew I would like this, but the whole Disney/Tom Hanks (two of my least favourite things!) double act kinda made me cringe. But you know they weren't bad at all. But really this is Emma Thompson's film. I have worshipped at her altar since I can remember, she is just a stunning actress and made this very unlikeable character interesting and adorable. The supporting cast was magnificent, great character actors doing their thing. I particularly loved the song composition scenes.
TV on DVD
I've been whipping through some TV series.
Californication S6 was ordinary, in fact it's been ordinary since S3. I do love Duchovny but it's time to move on. Restless was a British mini-series with Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery finding out her mother, Charlotte Rampling, was a spy during WWII. Hayley Atwell played a young Rampling in the flash back scenes and it was an edge of your seat drama. Excellent acting and great story. I cried my way through The Big C finale. Laura Linney was outstanding in this black comedy. The supporting cast brilliant, it was always going to end I guess but I was sad to see it go. American Horror Story: Asylum was a delicious mind fuck with Lily Rabe stealing every scene she was in.
I've also started to rewatch Medium. I used to love it but as always commercial tele messed around with when they showed it so I just never finished it. I picked up where I left off mid S4 and been powering through. Patricia Arquette is fabulous as the mother/psychic. Whilst the psychic storylines are fascinating (although mostly very far fetched!) it is the sense of family the show portrays that I admire. The middle daughter is particularly funny!
Show of the month was True Detective. The best new thing I have seen this year I think (along with Fargo, more on that soon!). Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are brilliant, in this true crime series, as two detectives with very different styles and personalities who don't quite see eye to eye. Shot beautifully and layered so intricately, this is superb viewing and not to be missed. I could say more, but...spoilers!!
TV on TV
I do love Call the Midwife, as I have previously mentioned not really subject matter I would have thought would appeal to me, but it is the characters, the time period, and such great stories that make this series wonderful and heartwarming viewing. And S3 was no exception, I particularly loved the changes in the girls as life gets in the way. I believe there will be a 4th series and will be curious to see how things progress. Offspring returned with widowed Nina and has pretty much broken me every week since. Powerful and quite possibly manilpulative storylines have had me wishing I had brought shares in Kleenex! Possibly the strongest season yet!
And then there was Fargo. What a refreshingly brilliant series this is. Great characters from the biggies of Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, to the wonderful supporting cast. Much like the film it is set in the mid 90s, with quirky characters, lots of snow, and much more death. Gruesome death! Beautifully filmed with great dialogue it's Twin Peaks meets Northern Exposure and I cannot wait for S2.
I listened to a lot of Lloyd Cole and Henry Wagons this month due to seeing them both live. I really enjoyed the new Paloma Faith. My work background music was a lot of Neil Young, Bob Seger and Nick Cave's Lyre of Orpheus. I bought a stack of new CDs, but not yet listened to them!
Shy by Sian Prior - this was an interesting read, part memoir, psychology, self-help, and sociological book. Essentially it’s about parts of her life as a shy person, but really it’s much more than that. It’s not a straight memoir, it uses other people who suffer similarly and examples of information she has found regarding shyness. It explains situations she has been in – as a child and as an adult – when she has suffered badly. It is also a potted expose on her partner “Tom”, a musician and writer (and womaniser) with a drug problem. How his presence and love helped her and how when he suddenly ended their relationship how she coped…or rather didn’t. This is beautifully written and fascinating to read. As an introvert who at times suffers from shyness, although not to Sian’s extent, I really related to and understood a lot of what she was writing about. However I was left wondering what she really hoped to gain from this. It was obviously a release, a reach out for others like herself to see they are not alone, and for others to gain an understanding. But I guess it was the ‘character’ of ‘Tom’ that bothered me. For those that know Sian dated and lived with Paul Kelly for a decade, it would be obvious Tom is Paul, and in every interview I read she said she called him Tom to protect him, but then why mention it in every interview? And really much of what was written about him was no real news. It just struck me as odd and was at the back of my head the entire time I was reading this and I found it detrimental.
The gardener of Versailles: my life in the world's grandest garden by Alain Baraton - This was a magnificent read and my book of the month. Alain tells the story of Versailles from his perspective and how he became a gardener there; to live there and eventually take on the role of head gardener. He describes the gardens and how the work has changed (or not) over the past few decades of working there. He weaves in historical aspects of Versailles and important aspects of his own life. He particularly loves the trees, some there for centuries. Stories of the revolving door of visitors from politicians, films stars, workers, tourists, and regulars are endlessly fascinating. It was also beautifully written and the turn of each page brought a new delight or magical tale. The only negative thing about this book was no pictures. Having been there I could picture in my mind most of the places he wrote about, but still visual depictions would have been lovely. Even so, this is a remarkable book, one I highly recommend.
Cuckoos Calling by Robert Galbraith - this was out Bibliotweeps bookclub title this month and I must say it didn't grab me. I only got about 5 chapters in. Whilst the detective interested me greatly, I just did not care for the remaining characters (which is normally not something that bothers me) or the story (something I do need to care about). I read a lot of murder mystery as a kid and a teen and I just don't read that sort of thing anymore. It wasn't that difficult to read, just not that interesting to me.