Must do’s: What we like this week

"The Facades" is a delightfully eccentric new novel, and "Rush" is one of the best "auto-racing movies for years"

Topics: Our Picks: Books, our picks: TV, Our Picks: Movies, Entertainment, TV, Television, literature, Movies, Film, cinema, Novels, entertainment news, Rush, The Facades,

Must do’s: What we like this weekZooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson in "The New Girl" (Credit: Fox/Greg Gayne)

BOOKS

 

Eric Lundgren’s ”The Facades” is the delightful, eccentric and charming new novel narrated by its central character, the glum and nebbishy legal clerk, Sven Norberg, who is on a mission to find his vanished wife, Molly. Its setting, a melancholy town with aesthetics of fin de siècle Middle Europe that is filled with residents passionate about opera, may indicate the idiosyncrasy of Lundgren’s writing. But the oddity of the book is its allure and “it’s possible to delight in Lundgren’s creation in various ways without settling on a theory for what it all means,” writes Laura Miller:

You can read “The Facades” as a Paul Auster-ish metanoir or as a travelogue of the sort of surreal city described in Italo Calvino’s ravishing postmodern masterpiece “Invisible Cities” — Trude is, in fact, named after one of the cities in that book. I suppose you could even read it as a mystery novel or a tale of lost love. There were moments when I thought, “This is Lemony Snicket for grown-ups.” Without a doubt, it is a book for readers, flush with literary references and hat tips; even the adult bookstore in the Ringstrasse (where lonely Sven obtains his copies of librarian porn like “Card Catalog Confidential” and “Indecent Reference”) is called by the bibliophilic name the Bachelor’s Library.

MOVIES

Pick of the week:

You may have seen the previews for “Rush,” the new high-octane action flick from Ron Howard, and written it off as just another Hollywood money-maker about rival racing drivers and fast cars. But in fact, Andrew O’Hehir praises it as “tremendously exciting cinema” from filmmakers who have made one of the “best and most exciting auto-racing movie for years if not decades”:

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Morgan and Howard got hold of a true-life sporting saga that filmmakers have slobbered over for decades, the dramatic story of the 1976 Formula One racing season and the fierce rivalry between English playboy James Hunt (played by Aussie heartthrob Chris Hemsworth, Thor in the Marvel Comics movies) and Austrian tactical genius Niki Lauda(German actor Daniel Brühl, in his first major Hollywood role). I’ve seen Brühl in several German-language films, and I’m not surprised that he’s perfect as the monomaniacal Lauda, but Hemsworth is the revelation here. He’s charismatic and funny, not to mention physically impressive, but also brings some depth to a character who could have been cartoonish, hinting at the real-life Hunt’s uncertainty and unhappiness. It seems peculiar to issue a spoiler alert for a movie based on well-known events, but most of the potential audience for “Rush” either won’t remember the Hunt-Lauda clash or weren’t interested at the time. I can’t avoid some discussion of what actually happened, but I’ll try to keep it general.

TELEVISION

The new season of “New Girl” finally brings together Nick and Jess, he the “scruffy, incorrigible bartender” and she the “adorkable schoolteacher.” Neil Drumming writes that the problematic relationship between the show’s protagonists can be seen as “commentary on our evolving relationship standards”:

Here’s where “New Girl” demonstrates a powerful advantage. Its lovestruck pair faces a huge obstacle in that one of them is both financially and emotionally unstable and — quite possibly — wholly unsuited to being in a long-term relationship. When “New Girl” began, the character of Nick Miller  (played by Jake Johnson) was the obvious romantic choice for quirky, optimistic Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel). Sure, he was scruffy and surly and lacked ambition, self-esteem and health insurance. But opposites attract, right? And given the alternatives — housemate Schmidt, a frenetic, pseudo-frat boy narcissist, and Winston, a blank, black cypher for whom the writers can’t seem to even come up with a compelling C story — Nick’s sad-sack package seemed almost endearing.

Liz Fields is an Australian freelance journalist based in New York who has previously scribbled for Slate, ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald and more. Follow her on Twitter @lianzifields

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