Read In the Devil’s Territory by Kyle Minor, The Chronology of Water by Lydia Yuknavitch, and Niceties: Aural Ardor, Pardon Me by Elizabeth Mikesch. Listened to I Was All You Are from Birds of Paradise. Watched Killing Them Softly and Under the Skin. Notes on some of these after the jump.
The style Kyle Minor uses in In the Devil’s Territory is a tricky one. He expands on little moments, inflates them until he achieves a sort of hyper-realism. It’s a difficult move to pull off. If you expand on details too much then the narrative becomes bogged down, but Minor strikes a good balance.
I loved most of The Chronology of Water, and Yuknavitch is great at rendering emotional complexity in a small space. The final section of the book, which deals with her third marriage and the birth of her son is maybe too free from conflict. She ties those events to the trauma of earlier sections, but I felt like it could’ve been condensed.
I’m a big fan of Andrew Dominik’s film The Assassination of Jesse James, but I wasn’t as impressed with his follow up, Killing Them Softly. There are plenty of fine performances (James Gandolfini and Brad Pitt are both at their best), and the film is visually stunning, but I didn’t like with how it integrated its political message. The incorporation of footage from the 2008 elections worked the first few times — it established the setting and contrasted the high promises of the candidates with the grim reality of the protagonists. But Dominik makes the same point over and over, ending the film with Richard Jenkins’s character talking almost directly to Barack Obama. It’s true that politicians are generally indifferent to the collapse of the middle class, but Dominik makes the point too often and without subtlety.
Under the Skin was fantastic. I loved the soundtrack, as well as the lack of narrative hand-holding. The images are presented simply, and the viewer can make sense of them how they see fit. Scarlett Johansson’s performance is largely blank, but she does an excellent job of suggesting the character’s inner life.