Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is my favorite book right now. It’s a rich and textured account of two magicians at the beginning of the 19th century in England. I recommend it to everyone even though it’s size (just over 1000 pages) might be daunting. I carried the hard cover version around with me in Paris and would recieve all sorts of stares when I whipped it out on the Metro and began reading.

Now it is in my car as an audio book. It’s even better the second time with Simon Prebble, who does wonderful accents and nuances for the different characters, as narrator. Here is an excerpt from the book and my favorite scene.

SPOILER ALERT

This scene happens about halfway through the book. It reveals two major characters though one is not really in this scene. If you are planning to read it, you might want to skip this, but if enticement is your game I don’t think it will do any harm to listen. You’ll just know that such and such characters exist and what they are capable of. There are still plenty of things things this scene doesn’t reveal. Arabella is Jonathan Strange’s wife. This cut is 7:51 in length.

The scene:
Jonathan Strange has been asked by relatives to visit the king of England to see if he can not help the king with magic. The king is suffering from madness. Strange’s first maneuver is to take the king out for some fresh air. While they are walking along side a bare wood (it is winter) they hear flute music which is drawing the king deeper into the wood…..

Place the moon at my eyes…. (mp3)

Let me know what you think.

The Poppy Family

You know that there are people out there who don’t like The Poppy Family. Crazy but it is true.

This nugget is the B-side to their hit single Which Way You Going Billy? which according to All Music Guide sold over 2 million copies. You won’t find it on the “A Good Thing Lost” CD compilation. Terry Jacks did not write the tune, Jody Reynolds and Dolores Nance take that credit. I only have one Poppy album, “Which Way You Goin…” and though that title track is the A-side, the B-side isn’t on that album either.

I found the 80s Susan Jacks album “Ghosts”, produced by Terry, recently so look forward to some cuts from that.

The Poppy Family – Endless Sleep

Munich

Finally saw Munich the other night and to be quick about it there is a reason that it didn’t get a Golden Globe nomination for best picture. Stevie did get a GG nom for Director but the film is a fuzzy mess and doesn’t do half a good a job as Match Point does which details the other end of the spectrum in terms of guilt and remorse. But maybe it’s because the character in Match Point under question isn’t jewish. (But the same point was made in Crimes and Misdemeanors with a Jewish character.)

There were some nice things in it and I even suffered a case of deja vu during my viewing but the broad moral brush stokes that Stevie paints with don’t show the detail of the idea that he is trying to get across. Like I don’t know why I need to see evidence that the main character went to cooking school. The stunt double chef that they brought in for that scene is ridiculous attention to detail that distracts more than it conveys anything interesting. The scene in the Godfather, as a counter example, where the guy is teaching the younger guy to cook for 30 guys is much more touching and really shows a love of food and how like family these mafia toughs are. Now that I think about it, The Godfather is probably a good comparison film for Munich.

Sure there are lots of technical things going on in this film that I don’t even see. Seamless effects shots which Spielberg has perfected could legitimize a best director nom. I liked the shot that started as a reflection in some shiny silver door knocker or something. But where I was wooed by pizzaz I was lost and disinterested in story. The film tries too hard to be nonchalant and non-obvious which points out its obviousness.

The weird thing about it for me though, ***POSSIBLE SPOILERS*** is Stevie’s weird use of sex. Now I haven’t seen every movie that he has ever done but it seems that whenever there are naked women involved there is some sort of violence or threat of violence not far behind. The Dutch spy bearing breast to stave off her retribution execution is one weird example (weird because of its sexual politics: she is the black widow, luring men into her trap with sex and offering herself to save herself she’s struck down with the most single orgasm phallic guns that I have ever seen.) The only other time I remember flesh in a Spielberg flick was in Schindler’s List shower scene where the threat that the women are going to get gassed is counterpoint to their nudity. And finally, back to Munich, the final sex scene between the protagonist and his wife (the other time we see them after sex don’t we, not during?) is reminiscent of Italian horror films or 80s slasher flicks where sex is the instigator of some psycho-trauma. The idea that this guys actions have consequences that he didn’t imagine is fine. But like I said, Match Point makes a good argument in the face of the altruism shown by Spielberg. If it were a debate competition, Match Points wins.

Producer Kathleen Kennedy was commenting that the film was marketed wrong or something and that is why it was doing poorly. That maybe, but it isn’t meditative block buster that she thinks it should be.

Finally, the costumes are excellent. Really cool. Maybe even too cool than the period really was. Like an idealized 70s. And as my viewing partner noted though, the pubic hair was definitely NOT 70s.