Monthly Round-Up: February 2020

As we are nearing the end of another month – how are we coming into March already?! – I thought I would look back at the month of February and discuss the books and movies I’ve consumed. There’s also a new game I’ll be doing every month which I’ll explain below. I’m saying ‘new’, new to me, I’m sure others have already done this before! But I shall stop rambling and get into the books:

Books read and reviewed in February 2020

At the Teahouse Café: Essays from the Middle Kingdom by Isham Cook

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Fantastic Planet by Douglas Bosley

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

Whilst in January I was devouring non-fiction like my life depended on it, February has been more fiction heavy. This is partly due to the Women’s Prize longlist being revealed next week, and you will see a handful of these books in my predictions post come Monday. I like to have read a couple of the nominees beforehand, as it makes the list seem less intimidating to me and I can focus on the maybe more obscure picks. It also means I have a greater chance of actually reading all of them before the winner is announced in June. One day it will happen guys. One day…

Fantastic Planet was also my first Reedsy Discovery review of 2020 and it has been nice to get back into that. I have a couple of ideas for posts for them as well as reviews so hopefully there will be more content going up there from me as well. And at the moment I am currently reading The Binding by Bridget Collins. I’m just under halfway through and enjoying it; wasn’t expecting the fantasy elements so they were a definite surprise but regardless still having a lot of fun. The review for that will be up at some point in March so look out for that.

Films Seen in February 2020

I only saw three films this month at the cinema and, as you can see, I had been attempting to see some of the Oscar nominees before the ceremony. Now that awards season is over it will be fun to see which films I’m drawn to, without relying on awards to help me pick.

A Hidden LifeA Hidden Life (dir. Terrence Malick)  

This is the story of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis during the Second World War and subsequently faced imprisonment and execution. I really enjoyed this. The cinematography in particular was stunning; those some landscape shots were beautiful on the big screen. Nature was also successfully used to reflect individuals’ personal feelings and the general collective sense of fear and dread. Malick’s films are always visually interesting and this one ranks highly in his body of work.  The acting as well was excellent, particularly Valerie Pachner, who is heart-breaking as Fanny, Franz’ wife who is left behind in Austria and faces a hostile community. Her scenes were absolutely riveting and now I want to see more of her work.  If you’re already a fan of Malick then I think you’ll love it.

A Beautiful Day in the NeighbourhoodA Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood  (dir. Marielle Heller)

Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a cynical investigative journalist who is send to profile children’s TV host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). At first reluctant, Vogel starts to open up to Mr. Rogers and the two begin an unusual friendship. I’ll admit I know nothing of Mr Rogers. Whilst I know about the documentary he was the subject of a couple of years ago, I never watched his show growing up.  This meant the film didn’t hold any nostalgia for me, which with hindsight was perhaps needed to be fully invested in the story. There was also a really interesting technique at the beginning; the story of Lloyd was being told as though it was a story on Rogers’ show. This was a cool way to frame the narrative but sadly Heller doesn’t keep that running throughout, instead making it a much more straightforward biopic. Tom Hanks is as charming as always but I think people more familiar with Mr Rogers will get the most out of the film.

ParasiteParasite (dir. Bong Joon-Ho)

Parasite has been raking up awards since it opened at Cannes last year and with good reason. It is better going into this film without knowing the plot, so all I shall say is that we follow two families, one wealthy and the other working class, and how their lives intersect. This was expertly crafted. Everything slotted in so perfectly, even details that seem small initially are significant by the end. It’s a film to rewatch just to pinpoint these details and hints. Bong also blends different genres with ease, flitting between comedy and drama throughout. Parasite is ultimately about class divide in society and whilst its theme isn’t subtle, the film never beats you around the head with it or feels condescending to the audience. The ensemble cast all work well together and each have their moment to shine, though my favourite might be Park So-dam as the feisty daughter from the working-class family. Well deserved Best Picture winner.

It is interesting looking back at the films I’ve watched and seeing my feelings towards them in relation to each other. I did like A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood but because it is wedged between two films that are some of the best I’ve seen this year (probably both making the top three) it does suffer because of that. But I highly recommend both A Hidden Life and Parasite.

Stealing from Other Peoples’ Shelves

Yes, this was the new (but probably old) game that I mentioned earlier. I always have a hard time knowing what to read next, so I thought having one book I definitely need to read a month would help. It is very simple: through highly advanced technology *coughs* WheelDecide *coughs* I pick a book blogger and the last book they read will go on my TBR for the month. If I have already read the book then I simply move to the next review until there’s one I haven’t read, and if it is part of a series then I will read wherever I am up to (so probably the first book since I haven’t started a lot of series). Not sure what to do if I come across an ARC but will cross that bridge when I come to it.

The first blogger picked was the lovely Nirmala at Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs  who you should follow if you aren’t already. At the time of writing, her last review was the short story ‘The Witch’ taken from the collection The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. I’ve never read any Jackson before so I’m going to attempt the whole collection this month and see if I like her writing style. Short stories are a good way to gauge if I will like an author’s longer works so this will be exciting.

 

And that is my wrap-up for February. My Women’s Prize predictions will be up on Monday and the reviews will be returning Thursday. In the meantime, let me know if you have read or seen any of the books and films mentioned and what you thought of them!

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