- Dead Pines – This debut Scandi-thriller by Brit Will Dean has been the talk of the town. I briefly met Will at theFebruary First Monday Crime session and he seemed a very interesting chap – lives in a Swedish forest off-grid with his wife and kid, chops wood, freezes his waste, etc… The book flummoxed me though. His character is a deaf journalist ‘investigating’ several murders in the forest. We learn a great deal about the experience of being deaf: pillow alarms that shake you awake, recharging hearing aid batteries, putting the aids in desiccant when they get wet, hearing the tweak of Twitter alerts going out. We also get treated to a bunch of Swedish forest-dwelling weirdoes and acres of evocative description of moody Swedish skies.
But what does our heroine do? I got to halfway through the book waiting for her to do something. Sure, she goes places and talks to people and sees things, but none of these play a role in anything. She is more like a ghoulish ambulance-chaser than any kind of proper investigator.
Not only that, but she actively avoids doing things on numerous occasions, or recklessly delays taking action for no good reason. Eg – a guy jumps in the back of her truck in motion, trying to break the glass to the cab. She just about manages to shake him off, and what then? She goes direct to the police, right? The guy is still in the vicinity. If not her as a victim, someone else could be targeted, yeah? She has a responsibility. But no. She waits about 24 hours, beyond lunchtime the next day, to tell her pal at the police. Why? I absolutely could not understand this. Likewise a creepy taxi driver pulls her over in a deserted area and it’s a toin coss whether the guy rapes her or not, and what does she do? Tell the cop late the next day. In the same guy’s house she discovers he uses a high pitch mice-killing alarm that is clearly a torture to his son, because he can hear it, and who does she tell about this child abuse? Not one soul. Instead she spends her time rustling around in the woods.
I got very frustrated. The pretty writing about the forest continued, and so did the deaf schtick, but where was the story? Where was the heroine getting stuck in and directing the flow of events? It wasn’t here. She was a tourist not only in the nvestiagtion, but in the lives of everyone she crossed. I ended up skipping large chunks just to see if she ever did anything. Yes, we can infer that the stories she writes have an impact on the villagefolk, but not in any interesting way – such as getting them to come out with new information. Just to get her ostracized.
In the end – spoiler – she uncovers the killer completely by accident, chases after said killer for no understandable reason without instead running off to tell the cops, and gets herself captured. She gets the full horrifying confession from the killer, then she dies.
No, wait. She gets rescued. Of course she does. So what did she do? Just hang around seeing things. It’s not at all my idea of a thriller. Rather it’s disaster tourism.
- The Anomaly – I’m reading this book by Michael Rutger, a pseudonym of Michael Marshall Smith, about a conspiracy-theorist/ghost-hunter type Internet TV show host who is hunting a fabled cave in the Grand Canyon. I’m only a third in, and while it was a slow start, it’s really picking up – I’m actually getting scared as they delve deeper. And nothing bad at all has happened yet! The main guy started seeming like a useless drip, but he’s not – he’s actually incredibly knowledgeable and very able to punch back at others when the need arises.
- The Breadwinner – An animation by the makers of the Secret of Kells and the Song of the Sea, neither of which I liked. This one was better, but the degree of repetition was infuriating. When you’re padding out your movie by having the main character tell a fairy story, including lines spoken in the fairytale, then have the character in the fairytale say those same exact lines, you’ve left me cold. Why do that? It annoys me. But the overall story was fascinating, set in Taliban-held Kabul, Afghanistan, where women are prisoners in their own homes and get beaten if they step out without a man. Our heroine is a young girl who has to pass for a boy to keep her family alive when her father gets taken to prison on a petty Taliban gangmember’s whim. Sad, shocking, beautiful at times.
- BlackKKlansman – I loved this, a fascinating story with an incredibly charismatic lead. Probably his level of success and the way he is treated in the police station – the first black police officer in his town back in the 70s – is fairy-taled up a bit just to make an even stronger contrast with the real events tacked on at the end, which include Charlottesville and other recent racist events under Trump. Powerful and also entertaining.
- Inconvenient Truth 2 – Another call to arms from Al Gore. Good stuff, but somehow a little sad – like he is inhabiting the shell of the man he might have been, had he become president. Acting on the international stage, but at the fringes, shown respect by the major players, but not wieldign any real power. He has clearly done things, and played a role, but somehow the movie’s efforts to make him look instrumental instead make him look like he is sidelined. I don’t know what the answer is to this. I appreciate his work. I wish he had been president instead of Bush…
- Fyre – A documentary about the Fyre festival mega-con from 2017, in which Billy (some conman guy) and Ja Rule (a rapper?) spend millions to pre-promote a music festival on a Caribbean island by getting 10 top supermodels and having a party on yacht, with photos and a single orange square placed on the social media feeds of super influencers for cash. It goes huge and viral – but has basically already spent all its money. So begins a herculean effort to hustle, blag and swindle folks out of more money to try and actually put on the festival. Here we see a case study of what Trump has done, on a smaller scale but played out to the end. Incredibly competent social media bullshitting (in getting people to pony up millions for the chance to meet famous people and do something cool) combined with utter incompetence in actually achieving logistical things in the real world. Shameless, emotionless swindling and conning that leads to an utter shit festival that gets canceled with no bands turning up, and hundreds of contractors going unpaid. Billy gets arrested and bailed, and what does he do next? Takes up residence in a 5-star penthouse and goes right back to swindling the people on his Fyre festival mailing list over new meet&greet opportunities, biling them of more millions! People are so dumb, and people are so shameless. Trump!
- We also tried a number of movies that sucked and we had to switch off. Time Share was one, a miserable piece about turning up at your Time Share villa and having to share it with another family. Why would I want to watch that? Probably some others too but I have gratefully forgotten!
- Death in Paradise – A solid choice to watch over dinner.
- Star Trek – Still enjoying season 2 very much.
- Great British Sewing Bee – Really not my bag but Su seems to like it.
- The Umbrella Academy – Pretty boring new Netflix-own superhero X-men hybrid. I like the actor from Black Sails, but they give him absolutely nothing to do here. I liked the guy from MisFits when he was in MisFits, but not here. How sad that he left a good superhero pastiche years ago, seeking better things, and only managed to land in a much worse one years later. We’re done on episode 3.
- Russian Doll – I hated the first episode. We were done with it. Then a read a review that loved it, but described the main character as a woman who used her body as an ashtray and was pretty disgusting, getting her comeuppance. I thought – OK. So maybe I was right in my first appraisal – we’re supposed to dislike her, and then take pleasure in her dying? I guess so. I’ve now watched 4 episodes and am enjoying watching her die, and even gaining some sympathy for her along the way.