Finished The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Highly regarded satire set in Stalin-era Moscow: the devil comes to town and causes much slapstick havoc in a place where no-one believes in him. One of the characters is a novelist who has written a book about Pontius Pilate: chapters from that give an alternate account of the execution of Jesus. Pilate is treated quite sympathetically: his position as a man trapped by a vast system into acting inhumanely seems to be a metaphor for life under Communism.
However, while it's moderately entertaining and the Pilate passages interesting, I didn't enjoy the book that much. There's a lot of discussion over which translation is best: I might have found one of the other versions better. Physical comedy needs a pretty light and deft touch to work in print, and the fairly plodding and literal translation here doesn't really appeal.
Overall, hard to recommend this translation, but others might be better: there are certainly a lot of creative touches.
What I'm Reading 2
Shooting History is the autobiography of TV journalist Jon Snow. Pretty interesting as an account of the early days of TV journalism as the author jetted around covering various conflicts. Has some rudimentary geopolitical analysis, but the anecdotes are more of a highlight.
What I'm Reading 3
Read Everyone Dead by Teatime, book, spin-off of the Daily Mash satire website. Bit disappointed. Usually the deal with web tie-ins is that you get a few pages of bonus content at least, but this was pretty much a straightforward printout of the web content. Still, fairly funny even when not topical, worth keeping around to flick through.
What I'm Watching
Saw Tron Legacy at the cinema. About what I expected: fairly nice visuals, somewhat leaden and portentous plot. Wasn't actually that blown away by the effects though: certainly not as astonishing as the original Tron or the dense, layered, textured 3D of Avatar. Young Jeff Bridges was OK, but not that different to Avatar or even Beowulf.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw Surrogates on DVD. Adequate SF thriller with a daft but interesting premise, set in a future where everyone stays at home and sends out good-looking and athletic telepresence robots out to interact instead. Not sure why they don't just use virtual reality, but could see some kind of path-dependence behind it: early adopters would have a whole world of people to meet and things to do, and others could follow.
The big problems are first that the plot is utterly predictable, and the trailer gave even that away, assuring you that everything would follow that predictable path. Bruce Willis' wig is pretty amusing though.
What I'm Watching 3
Saw Megamind 3D at the cinema with my nephews. Decent cartoon about a supervillain with a heart of gold who gets bored and restless after defeating the local superhero. Seemed to keep them entertained and works OK for adults too.
What I'm Watching 4
Saw Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on TV. Should have been entertaining with the usual on-screen graphics and some creative effects in the fight scenes. However, couldn't get over two major irritant values: Michael Cera as the obnoxiously limp main character, and the general whining of people with no real problems. Would have switched off if I'd been alone but relatives had paid 3.99 for it on Sky Box Office so had to suffer through the whole thing.
After Venice had a couple of days in London, then went back to spend Xmas with the parents. My sister brought her kids (5 and 7-year-old boys) and husband along. Pretty tiring to deal with them, but Christmas is for kids of course and they seemed to enjoy it. They got absolutely vast mountains of presents and there are even more waiting for them at home apparently. Days later the clear winners seemed to be: two free robots-inside-other-robots from a trip to Burger King, and my disabled father's Grabber for picking things up off the floor if you can't bend down.
Pretty pleased with my own present haul: for once I mostly got either stuff off my wishlist or things to be eaten or drunk as requested: didn't get lumbered with much space-hogging junk. My gifts seemed to go down OK, though the kids' toys were pretty much buried in the vastness.
Pics. Smiling Victorians.
|< Late breaking 2010 movie updates | Wot I read in 2010 >|