Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reading/Watching/Etc.


READING:


You're Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black
I can't claim to be a Michael Ian Black fan from way-back -- I didn't watch The State when it was on MTV, nor did I watch Ed when it was on NBC. Like a lot of people, I first saw him on I Love the 80s and thought he was consistently the funniest part of the show (and its insane number of sequels). That led me to exploring The State, then Wet Hot American Summer, then Stella, then Michael & Michael Have Issues. I've been a faithful viewer ("they're not viewers") of his podcast Mike & Tom Eat Snacks for a while now and love his sense of humor and quick way with words. This is a very funny book, but it's also a very emotionally forthcoming book -- he writes with candid, almost brutal honesty about his shortcomings (or what he perceives as his shortcomings, anyway) as a son, a husband and a father, largely framed around the story of his courtship & marriage to his wife. That honesty is a great credit to his character (and his wife's, for letting him speak so bluntly about their relationship), and it's a great credit to his writing that amidst all that, he doesn't come off as whiny or self-indulgent. He tells a very specific story -- his -- but in a way that makes it relatable to anyone who's had moments of doubt about their own failings in life.

Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter
I'm a huge Josh Ritter fan and was intrigued by the idea of him expanding his songwriting skills into something novel-length...on the whole, I liked this, but think it might've worked better as a short story. Despite it not being a terribly long book, there's a lot of interesting ideas floating around in there about religion, destiny, faith, and the mind's ability to distort reality into delusions for self-preservation's sake, but something about it didn't feel fully realized to me. It's like it either needed to be condensed into something a little tighter, or blown out even bigger.

WATCHING:

The Descendants
Oh my god, I loved this. Great casting, good pace to the story -- it was sad and sweet, funny and sincere.

The Lorax
Everybody was ragging on this for being based on a super-slim Dr. Seuss book, and in principle, I agree -- it does seem ridiculous to try to stretch and stuff those books into feature-length films. BUT -- and this surprised me -- I liked this much, much more than I thought I would. Is it stretched out longer than it needed to be? Yes. But the core of the story still takes center stage, the casting of annoying tweenyboppers like Taylor Swift & Zac Efron will likely go unnoticed (if you're like me and have no idea what their voices sound like), and the animation was
gorgeous. The middle portion of the film, featuring the Once-ler and the Lorax in the truffula forest, is lovely and moving, and even though they added a spazzy action sequence toward the end of the movie (to keep the kids awake?), it ends on a sweet note that doesn't feel unearned.

Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Tim & Eric are...an acquired taste. They're aggressively weird and off-putting on purpose and there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground when it comes to people's opinions of their shows -- either they love 'em, or they think they're the most idiotic things they've ever seen. Me & my brother Nick fall into the first camp (we've been known to bust into this whenever we pass a cop car on the streets), so last Friday night we made a special trip to the T&E "premiere" at the Zinema in Duluth. As we dined on complimentary shrimp & white wine and the movie started, three elderly people (two ladies & a gentleman) walked in and sat down in the row in front of us. Immediately, we knew they were in the wrong theater, because I'm sorry, they were not in the target demographic for this thing -- Nick turned to me and whispered, "What, is one of their grandkids in the movie or something?" As all manner of bizarreness began to unfold on the screen, the old guy kept turning to the ladies and saying (with growing concern), "I think we're in the wrong theater." The old ladies kept shushing him and saying, "No! Be quiet!" Well, they lasted about three minutes before they finally walked out. Anyway, the movie cracked us up and the bonus show we got in the row in front of us made it even better.

Young Adult
Darker than I was expecting. But funny. Patton Oswalt got robbed of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, if you ask me.

Raising Hope, Season One
I was really dismissive of this show when I saw the pilot on TV...I think I gave it one or two episodes and then gave up. Well, after hearing my younger brother give it rave reviews ever since he started watching it on Netflix, I decided to give it another go -- and this time, I've found it charming and pretty damn funny, too. When I originally saw it, the initial premise of the pilot turned me off (guy hooks up with girl, girl turns out to be a serial killer, girl reveals she's pregnant, baby is given to guy and girl gets executed), but thankfully, that (mostly) gets swept under the rug after the start of the show and it becomes something much funnier and a bit sweeter, too.

Sidenote: this is neither here nor there, but maybe this time I was charmed a little more because I noticed this clock in the pilot -- a clock that sat on my Grandma Vera's TV for years & years and which now sits on a shelf at my house.

Grandma's clock.
The old lady rocks in the chair as the seconds tick away...kind of a fitting clock for Grandma Vera, who was a bit of an agoraphobic and spent a lot of time sitting by her windows, glaring at the neighbors' children. (Additional sidenote: when I got older and went to high school with some of those neighbor children, I was extremely amused to discover that yes, they noticed Grandma Vera in the window and often did obnoxious things on purpose just to give her a show.) When I was little, I often daydreamed of opening up the clock and putting some of my Lego people or My Little Ponies in there to keep the old lady company...she looked lonely.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
I heard about this on an episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour a few weeks ago and it sounded like it'd be right up my alley: two rednecks go out to their "vacation home" (i.e., dilapidated shack) in the woods for a weekend and, due to a series of comic misunderstandings, become entangled with a group of college kids who're convinced that the rednecks are serial killers. It's gory but silly and I got a kick out of it - it turns a lot of slasher movie cliches on their sides and there's a couple of twists that keep things interesting.

Hugo
On the whole, I liked this, but it was the sort of movie where I kept hitting the pause button and wandering off to get a Popsicle, or to feed the cat, or to take the laundry out of the dryer. It was a nice little story and the recreations of Georges Melies' studio and films made me want to dig out my college film class textbooks.

Cabin Boy
I remember reeeeeeeally wanting to see this movie when it came out back in 1994, but it didn't come to Ashland and I wasn't old enough to drive to Duluth (or anywhere, actually), so that was the end of that. Anyway, having finally gotten around to seeing it...it wasn't all that I expected, and I'm not sure I would've taken much of a liking to it at the age of 15, but there were parts of it I found really funny and/or endearing and I can appreciate its weirdness. Coincidentally, this came up on my Netflix queue just prior to the AV Club running a piece on it, which you can find over here. Synchronicity!


ETC.:

- This Mad Men spoof (in the style of an old-school Nintendo game) is amazing. In-jokes all over the place (the lawnmower during the Don/Pete chase scene, for instance) and a "Choose Your Own Adventure" format that takes things so much farther than you'd expect them to go.

- Speaking of video games, I got a free rental from Redbox and spent an evening alone in my basement with
Just Dance 3. A word of advice: don't play this in an area of your house where there are any types of reflective surfaces if you want to keep any of your self-esteem intact. (Sure, it was fun, but oh my god, I looked like a reject from Sweatin' to the Oldies.)


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