Saturday, March 07, 2015
“The Imitation Game” tells the amazing and tragic (partly) true story of the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) who helped solve the Nazi Enigma code during the Second World War and became the father of computer science.
Norwegian Morten Tyldum has directed the film and it’s a bit confusing as the story jumps between not only two but three periods of time. There is the “now” in the 1950s where Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is under suspicion of being a communist, the “then” during the codebreaking period from 1939 and on and finally the “far past” in 1927 when Turing as a boy in Sherborne boarding school realises that he is gay. Whenever the scene changes, you have to hold on to your popcorn and see what decade Turing is going to pop up in next.
Benedict Cumberbatch is very convincing as Turing, a man who is a genius and knows it. When Turing comes to work in codebreaking, this makes him obnoxious and intolerable in the eyes of most of his colleagues. His only female colleague Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) doesn’t mind and she falls in love with him, not knowing that he is gay and this is the big problem of the film. I had hoped it would be a film about codebreaking and of living in the UK as a homosexual during the war, but instead we get a love affair between Elizabeth Swann and the bastard child of Sherlock and Rain Man and that annoys me. There isn’t much truth to it, either, as the film builds up the relationship to much more than it actually was.
In the film Clarke is the only one who can reach Turing with her intelligence, beauty and sweet disposition, but people who knew Turing and Clarke in real life have complained that Knightley is inappropriately cast, as the real Clarke was “rather plain”. Furthermore, she and Turing were friends solely because they had the same kind of personality, but a female Rain Man? Oh, no! Not in this film! Instead, you get the impression that even gay guys are going to give heterosexuality a shot, if only Keira Knightley comes along. When that is said, the film addresses the problem of prejudice against gays and women and that is very sympathetic.
Keira Knightley and especially Benedict Cumberbatch dominate this film so profoundly that you hardly notice any of the other actors. Despite decent efforts from actors like Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear and Matthew Goode, the only one really noticeable is Mark Strong as the sly and elusive Stewart Menzies, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).
Despite all good intentions and amazing acting from Benedict Cumberbatch, I can only give the film three out of five stars: ***
© Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2015
Friday, February 13, 2015
Big Hero 6
“Big Hero 6” is based on a team of comic book superheroes appearing in Marvel Comics. It tells the story of 14 year old Hiro (Ryan Potter), who suffers incredible losses, faces a masked villain, gains some friends and suffers even more losses.
Had Hiro been a normal boy, it would have been hard to justify the light tone of the film, as he is leading an extremely traumatic life, but Hiro isn’t normal. Firstly, he is a 3D computer-animated character and secondly he is so brilliant that he enters university at the age of 14. Here hangs out with his much older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) and his much older friends Gogo (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and Fred (T. J. Miller) and meets professor Callaghan (James Cromwell) and entrepreneur Krei (Alan Tudyk). When a masked villain steals Hiro’s newest invention, he has to turn himself and his friends into super heroes while forming a close friendship with the personal healthcare robot Baymax (Scott Adsit), which his brother has invented.
All the losses that Hiro has to suffer makes this film at least PG-rated, but I quite like it, although it isn’t surprising, but actually a bit boring at times. The robot is the star of the film - big, cuddly and kind like so many animated characters before him from Baloo in “The Jungle Book” to Sulley in “Monsters Inc.” - and the friendship between him and Hiro is quite touching. I found it much too easy to guess the identity of the masked villain, though, and all of the characters are extremely stereotype, especially the female characters, Hiro’s Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) included.
What I like the best about “Big Hero 6” is how San Francisco and Tokyo has merged into one city: San Fransokyo, taking the best from both. That is brilliant. Moreover, YouTubers Dan Howell and Phil Lester cameo as two of Krei’s technicians, at least in the UK-version.
The film is directed by Dan Hall and Chris Williams, it lasts 102 minutes and I’ll give it three out of five stars: ***
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Books I read in 2014
Another year has gone and it is time for my annual reading list. Once again I’ve read (or re-read) 40+ books throughout the year, mostly novels and short stories, but also children’s books, manga, biographies and other non-fiction. Most of the books I’ve read in the original language (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, English, French and a bit Japanese – no German books this year, sadly), but the list also includes translations of books from Spain, Finland and Russia as well as the more complicated Japanese books.
My favourite in 2014 was without doubt Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles”. In this, her first novel, she retells Homer’s “Illiad” in the voice of Patroclus, Achilles’ highborn companion and lover, as the novel is composed as an autobiography. The love story between the degraded Patroclus and his sworn brother, the demigod Achilles, is brilliantly written and very moving and the depiction of the Trojan War is heart breaking.
I would also like to call attention to Pat Barker’s “Regeneration” trilogy, especially volume two, “The Eye in the Door”. These novels are fantastic and I was surprised to learn that the author is a woman, as both the tone and the subject of the books are very masculine. The trilogy consists of historical novels on the First World War, especially the effect that the war had on British soldiers.
During 2014, I re-read a lot of books written by old favourite authors of mine, like the Danish H. C. Branner and the Norwegian Johan Borgen, but I also got a new favourite and that is the Japanese female author Banana Yoshimoto. She writes about urban existentialism and the exhaustion of young Japanese trapped between imagination and reality in contemporary Japan. She does this in a very subdued and - to me - Japanese way with recurrent use of dreams and sense impressions. So far, I have written three books by her, “The Lake” being my favourite, and I can’t wait to read more.
With Miller, Barker and Yoshimoto being my favourites in 2014, it is safe to say that it was a year of female authors for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get anything published myself, at least not in my own name, as I’ve been very ill all year, but I expect to finish a new short story collection in 2015. Anyway, here is my complete reading list and I hope it will inspire you to read some books yourself:
Baggesen, Jens Immanuel: “Epigrammatisk Billedbog”
Barker, Pat: “Regeneration” (Regeneration trilogy, vol. 1)
Barker, Pat: “The Eye in the Door” (Regeneration trilogy, vol. 2)
Barker, Pat: “The Ghost Road” (Regeneration trilogy, vol. 3)
Bishop, Michael: “Med lidt hjælp fra vennerne og andre science fiction-historier”
Borgen, Johan: “Blåtind”
Borgen, Johan: “Elsebeths Hjerte og andre nye noveller” (“Nye Noveller”)
Borgen, Johan: “Far og Mor og Os”
Borgen, Johan: “Jenny og påfuglen”
Borges, Jorge Luis: “Ficciones”
Branner, H.C.: “Ingen kender natten”
Branner; H. C.: “Legetøj”
Branner, H. C.: “Røde heste i sneen”
Branner; H. C.: “Søskende”
Branner; H. C.: “Thermopylæ”
Burroughs, William S.: “Junky”
Carey, Peter: “Jack Maggs”
Geneser, Kenneth Maximilian: “Petrarcas hemmelighed”
Geneser, Kenneth Maximilian & Lars Holger Holm: “Gotisk”
Geneser, Kenneth Maximilian & Lars Holger Holm: “Gotiske forvandlinger/Gotiska förvandlingar”
Genet, Jean: “Querelle de Brest”
Ginsberg, Allen: “Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems”
Kawabata, Yasunari: “Senbazuru” (“Thousand Cranes”)
Kingsley, Charles: “The Water-Babies”
Langberg; Jesper: “Ikke et sekund spildt”
Lyng, Ajatsa: “Jin Boys vol. 5 - The Mariposa Effect”
Malamud, Bernard: “A new Life”
Miller, Madeline: “The Song of Achilles”
Mínervudóttir, Guðrún Eva: “Yosoy”
Murakami, Haruki: “After the Quake”
Murakami, Ryu: “In the Miso Soup”
Nagel, Carsten: “Passionsfrugter & al slags vejr”
Nakamura, Shungiku: “Junjo Romantica”, vol. 16
Niemi, Mikael: “Populærmusik fra Vittula”
Pelevin, Viktor: “The Helmet of Horror”
Rifbjerg, Klaus: “Nansen og Johansen”
Weinreich, Torben: “Kun en tiøre! – og andre sære, sjove, og sørgmodige tekster for børn fra 1800 til 1900”
Weston, Marta Cullberg: “Ditt inre centrum. Om självkänsla, självbild och konturen av ditt själv”
Wiedemann, Finn: “I grunden har vi det jo godt”
Yamada, Taichi: “Strangers”
Yoshimoto, Banana: “Kitchen/Moonlight Shadow”
Yoshimoto, Banana: “N*P”
Yoshimoto, Banana: “The Lake”