Tuesday, December 05, 2017

It's a book...it's a film...

It's a book...it's a film...(it's not Charades - just another blog post!)


The Long Earth, the first novel of a sci-fi series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, and my current reading matter when offline. I'm getting towards the end of the book, enjoying it, and intending to move on to the second in the series soon. The premise of a multi-dimensional world is the main theme of the series, and when I say multi-dimensional, I don't mean half a dozen, or even a hundred dimensions, I mean millions and millions of alternative worlds, versions of Earth in a never-ending variation of modes, states, levels of development and evolution. A means of travelling between these Earths has been discovered.

This novel isn't as "laugh aloud" funny as some of Terry Pratchett's novels are reputed to be, but there's gentle humour, a touch of allegory, a touch of satire, none of it is forced.

A quote or two:

So now, he hoped, here was a chance to bring mankind back into the book-loving fold. He gloated. There was still no electronics in the pioneer worlds, was there? Where was your internet? Hah! Where was Google? Where was your mother’s old Kindle? Your iPad 25? Where was Wickedpedia? (Very primly, he always called it that, just to show his disdain; very few people noticed.) All gone, unbelievers! All those fancy toy-gadgets stuffed in drawers, screens blank as the eyes of corpses, left behind. Books – oh yes, real books – were flying off his shelves. Out in the Long Earth humanity was starting again in the Stone Age.

He quite liked the English. They tended to say sorry a lot, which was quite understandable given their heritage and the crimes of their ancestors.

And Joshua felt oddly uncomfortable, once more. A slight feeling you get when everything is so right that it might have gone all the way around the universe and come back metamorphosed into wrong.

All creatures on Earth have been hammered on the anvil of its gravity, for example, which influences size and morphology. So I am sceptical about finding armoured reptiles who can fly and spout flames.

Few bad words were said – apart from ‘Republican’, which was an extremely bad word.

Mankind isn’t really evil. It hasn’t got enough dignity to be evil.


The Dinner, a 2017 movie curently available to stream via Netflix. It stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall. In a word it was: disappointing. Wikipedia states: The Dinner is an American drama thriller film directed and written by Oren Moverman, based on the Dutch novel of the same name by Herman Koch.

Where to begin ? For me, there were too many irritants in this movie. Bare bones of its theme hinge upon two brothers: one is a congressman (Richard Gere, natch, in his best oily smooth silverness), the other a neurotic misanthropic school teacher (played, for some peculiar reason, by British actor/comedian Steve Coogan). The brothers meet, wives in tow, at a painfully "elite" restaurant. They intend to discuss the problem arising from their sons having committed murder. That fact is hinted, but detail is slow to come and awkwardly revealed.

That these people would choose to discuss such a problem in a public place is quite unbelievable and that is one continual irritant, which sets the scene for what might, in other hands, have been dark high farce with some moral message embedded. Perhaps that was the original intention, but, well... something went wrong.

If a pompous maitre d' reciting the ingredients of every dish and garnish on the quartet's menu in great detail was intended to provide humorous contrast to serious matters discussed at the table - it didn't, it was clunkily time-wasting and caused me to shout at the TV!

Steve Coogan imitating, or rather ripping off, Woody Allen's voice, tone and attitudes was another major irritant. The role of the schoolteacher brother would have been considered tailor-made for Woody Allen, were he a few decades younger, but that didn't give Coogan the right to copy.

The film is confusingly carved up into sets of flashbacks, supposedly related to the many courses of the dinner. Dinner? I didn't notice much actual chewing of food taking place, come to think of it.

The movie's ending, no doubt reflecting how things would have turned out in a comparable real life situation, was unsatisfying, and a further irritant.

Bearing in mind the movie is based on a respected Dutch novel, all in all, I have to assume that much was lost in translation. Husband and I sat through the movie rather than ditching it, mainly out of curiosity to see exactly where it was going. We agreed that it was a sad waste of a talented cast. Next day I skimmed a handful of reviews and found that half were positive, for reasons I had difficulty understanding, and half negative, outlining views similar to my own. Polarisation - it's par for the course these days!

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