Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The False Inspector Dew

This 1982 novel shows up on a lot of best-of lists for mysteries, and up until the final page, I was in agreement with that. This is a very funny, twisty murder mystery that never gets boring. And then, in the final moments, there is one more big twist that absolutely does not make sense. At least not to me. I have read other reviews that talk about the very clever ending but none of them explain exactly how it's plausible. The upshot is that last pages don't usually ruin books for me but when it's a mystery then last pages absolutely do matter.

If anyone's read this, and has an opinion, please let me know.

And while I'm here, and while I'm on the subject of endings, I just finished watching Top of the Lake, Jane Campion's detective miniseries on Sundance Channel that stars an absolutely stunning Elisabeth Moss.

It was an interesting series, one in which I found myself struggling through some of the subplots, but hanging in because of Moss's portrayal of a deeply broken police detective looking for a missing pregnant twelve-year-old girl. But for all its meandering, and this series definitely meandered, the last fifteen minutes were absolutely perfect. One of the best thriller endings I've seen, and made all the more shocking by the looping way in which the writers get you there.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Upstream Color

In my continuing quest to see one movie this year that I like, (and also to get out of the house and away from tragic Boston news for a couple of hours), I went to see Shane Carruth's new film Upstream Color. I liked his first feature Primer, and this movie has gotten pretty ecstatic reviews from all around, but it didn't really work for me. Despite some beautiful digital photography and a good central performance from Amy Seimetz, it's a movie that wallows in its own incomprehensibility. But if you put the plot together (it involves worms, hypnosis, and a pig farm) I'm not sure it's a very good sci-fi plot at all. Instead, it works hard at being about the way humans have lost connections with nature (maybe), but it never struck an emotional cord with me.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Kiss Before Dying

Simply, one of the best suspense thrillers I've ever read. I don't know why I haven't read this before since I'm a big fan of Ira Levin's other works, especially his 1967 novel Rosemary's Baby, and his 1978 play Death Trap. This novel was his first, published in 1953. It tells the story of a sociopathic gold-digger and his involvement with three sisters.

What makes the book particularly compelling is that Levin gives you information as you go along (this is not a who-dun-it), and yet he hides information that you don't even know he's hiding. There are several great reveals throughout this novel.

There have been two American film versions of this novel, and I haven't seen either, but will try and check out the film made in 1956 that stars Robert Wagner.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Funeral in Berlin

I'll admit that I've been reading this particular book in fits and starts, and even took a break to re-read Lucky Jim, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it. The plot, although not terribly complicated by cold-war spy novel standards, lost me a little, but Len Deighton's prose style and dialogue is so consistently good, that I was happy to read along even when I wasn't hundred percent sure what was going on.

They did a film version of this book with Michael Caine, reprising his role as Harry Palmer from The Ipcress File. I haven't seen it yet, but just ordered it from the library.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Film Frames Friday

RIP, Roger Ebert. Today's film frames come from his ten favorite movies. I won't say something silly like I hope he's watching these films somewhere, because he didn't believe that, and neither do I. Here's a quote from his beautiful essay on death in Salon Magazine:

"I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Alison Wright on The Americans

There are many amazing performances on FX's The Americans, but the character I most look forward to seeing on a weekly basis is Martha, the secretary who is an unwilling accomplice to the KGB agent played by Matthew Rhys (another terrific performance). Martha has a small role, and she is played by Alison Wright, who has done very little, according to IMDB. I assume she's a theater actress because there is no way she is this good without having a lot of practice. She does a lot of quirky facial expressions, and comic-style acting, but it feels totally natural and lived-in.

FYI, I have not watched this week's episode, and now that I'm writing this, I'm wondering if Martha survived the week. I'm worried because a) she had a big role in last week's episode and b) the episode ended with her ex-boyfriend following her home. I hope she survives. If not, I hope she gets some more work soon.