DVDs: Arrow Season 3 sees the team grow to even include known villains, and Oliver's big arc (present) is a hand-me-down from Batman - becoming the heir to Ra's al Ghul. His arc (past) gets him off the island, and onto Hong Kong where Amanda Waller pushes him into becoming an assassin. The opening's phrase about becoming someone else, becoming something else, basically becomes the show's mantra. Now that The Flash is a thing, less street-level shenanigans spill into Starling City - a crossover with the Flash (who I wish hadn't appeared for a cameo later on, without spoiling, the more you use him, the more you wonder why he can't ALWAYS save your bacon in between seconds) and a starring role for the Atom (who started life as Ted Kord, but DC wouldn't have it, and so what we have is basically Iron Man at this point). Invested in the large cast, lots of shocking reversals, and appearances by DC characters (the Berlanti formula does fan service very well). The DVD includes a commentary track on two key episodes, lots of deleted scenes, fun highlights from a Comic-Con panel, a gag reel, and good, long featurettes on the Nanda Parbat set, the show's costumes, and the Atom.
Oscar Pool Stash Forced Watch: Burlesque's bog standard clichéed plot is basically an excuse for Christian Aguilera and Cher to perform various Burlesque-lite numbers. If you watch it as a sexy dance revue, then it's perfectly entertaining. It's Coyote Ugly (apparently) meets Moulin Rouge. If you need a story that makes sense and/or surprises you, move along. Stanley Tucci, however, steals the freaking show and I'm almost tempted to recommend the movie on the basis of his ad libs alone. The DVD includes a pretty lame director's commentary, isolated song and dance numbers (including one omitted from the film), an alternate opening (which I think actually works better, but I dunno), and a blooper reel. #OscarPoolResult: Keeping. I mean, I like dance well enough.
Don't be fooled, the glamorous Meryl Streep on the DVD cover doesn't have anything to do with Dark Matter. It's really the story of Liu Ye's character, a brilliant Chinese physics student who gets shafted by his professor, leading to tragedy. I don't buy that climax; it's really the reason I can't recommend a movie that otherwise explores unusual and interesting subject matter. And Streep? And older, dowdier version of her appears in a strictly supporting role, as a sinophile who welcomes Chinese students to her area and gets tangentially involved in Liu Ye's life. It's a sensitive performance, and avoids the White Messiah trope I hate so well, but I don't think it's fair to market the film on the basis of her presence. #OscarPoolResult: Keeping. It's good until it isn't anymore.
Books: Personal project - read a handful of France Daigle's novels and discover this local (but nationally-rated) postmodern author. "Pas pire" (Not Bad - and yes, very hard to resist using the title as a review - although the title in translation is actually Just Fine) is a mid-career effort, and perhaps the most traditionally written of the ones I have on hand. Daigle uses a collage-like structure, interrupting the two basic narratives - a young couple falling in love, and the author herself fighting agoraphobia after being invited to Bernard Pivot's Bouillon de Culture - with informational pieces on river deltas and astrology, so we're very much geographically between two maze-like structures, and in those invisible geographies, the author-character must navigate. It's good, but nowhere near as maverick a piece of work as her other books, three of which I've completed (below) and another I've started. So yeah. No bad. (In the end, I couldn't resist.)
France Daigle's first three novels are collected under a single cover, but as they're short, they do fit. And they're shorter still, with each one featuring relatively brief text on each page, each in a unique layout, that some would want to call poetry. And one could say they make up a trilogy, moving us from immobile portraiture to the end of something which requires something new to be built. Perhaps it ties into the author-character's agoraphobia (see above), using three books to forcibly move out of her house and the literary stagnation it represents. "Sans jamais parler du vent" "Without Ever Talking About the Wind" is a series of sometimes repeating images, creating a world where nothing new ever happens, and where any of us might be inserted (thanks to a his/her disgendered grammar). In "Film d'amour et de dépendence" ("Film about love and dependence) is like a conversation about a film you'd want to make rather than the script for one, although the right-hand page is always laid out like dialog. From immobility to at least planning to move, and with "Histoire de la maison qui brûle" ("Story of the Burning House"), things are irrevocably set in motion, though we're still waiting for that motion. The book is essentially a dialog between facing pages. On the left, a man looking for a post office and coming across a woman sitting in front of her burning house, meditating. On the right, that woman's thoughts turning into mantras. And more overtly, the sense that the burning building will make room for a new literature to be built. Those last two I devoured in about 45 minutes, total, and that's when Daigle charmed me completely. The material is about being tentative and unsure, but it's bold, fearless work that cares not a jot what you think a novel ought to be.
Though I've met France Daigle once or twice, this next author I can call friend. Justin Guitard is an improv coach and we've worked (and still do work) on various projects together. Guy's got energy enough for twelve and is always working on various artistic projects. Last year he directed a movie, this week he produced a burlesque play he wrote. And this year, he published a trilogy of Young Adult novels (or collections of linked short stories, if you will) called "Voilà pourquoi cette fille n'est pas ta mère" ("And That's Why That Girl Isn't Your Mother"), two volumes of which are already available. A take on How I Met Your Mother, essentially, each chapter/story is about a love from the narrator's past, and why the relationship didn't work out. Volume 1 takes us to Narrator Age 18, and the younger he is, the sweeter the stories are. We get more cynical as we grow up, and that arc is thought through, I think. The 14 tales are short (it's a 69-page book in fairly large type), but amusing and rich in details. A mystery (well, aside from just how autobiographical this is): Justin told me his editor made him take out a sex scene. It's still there (the video store, right?), so I'd love to know just how explicit it used to be! Time to share your original draft, man! Fun little book that finds a way to punch up its repetitive end note (I mean, we know none of these girls are the Mother).