A quick note. Apologies for the lack of posting still. A couple of things in the works at the moment so time has been difficult to find. I intend to get back onto a pretty good posting schedule again very, very soon.
- Not really a very long read, but Chuck Klosterman manages to nail so much of why Louie is the best show on TV at the minute in his piece for Grantland. In other news, please ensure you follow Grantland as it’s probably my favourite new site of the year.
- The original article, from New York Magazine, which coined the Brat Pack moniker for that group of actors in the 1980s. Quite illuminating, especially with the consistent arguing that it would be Sean Penn, never really though of as a Brat Pack member, who would transcend that generation.
- A four-part study (Part One, Two, Three and Four) of the creation of the Unabomber, specifically as regards the role of Harvard in fostering personality traits which would eventually make him infamous.
- Cameron Crowe’s 1973 article on The Allman Brothers, surely one of the inspirations that went into Almost Famous.
- One of my absolute favourite writers, Alex Ross, moves away from his inspired classical music pieces to pen an absorbing essay about Oscar Wilde.
- But the best of the week is the GQ oral history of the Dana Carvey Show, the swifty-cancelled mid-90s folly which comprised some amazing talent and has worn really well. At the time though, the outre sketches were far from at-home following Home Improvement on the Disney-owned ABC. Just to give a taster, the writing team alone included Dino Stamotopoulos, Robert Smigel and Louis CK, and this doesn’t go into the on-screen talent, which included the likes of Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. Watching it now, from the opening sketch (from CK’s mind) of Bill Clinton breast-feeding puppies, you struggle to believe this show was on primetime network TV. Watch the first episode here and marvel.
Picks of the Week
Juno – The indie darling of this year that’s much better than the now-naysayers would like you to think. Any Juno backlash should be counteracted by a) Ellen Page’s amazing performance as well as the turns from Michael Cera, Allison Janney and JK Simmons, b) The whipsmart script that never gets too enamoured with itself, and c) the fact it features Cat Power singing ‘Sea of Love’ and Michael Cera and Ellen Page singing at each other at the close. Lovely.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Just the most moving and honest piece of cinema to be released over here this year. Julian Schnabel’s adaptation of Jean Dominique Bauby’s memoir written while suffering from locked-in syndrome is an astonishing achivement of acting, writing and cinematography. Also, Max von Sydow as Bauby’s father delivers the most crushingly emotional scene of the year and yet, never once is the film mawkish. Brilliance.
Curb Your Enthusiam Season 6 – Still delivering great moments here and there but this one’s time has passed and the genius of the first three season broadened to create just a very good sitcom rather than a work of misanthropic art.
Cloverfield – I mentioned this last week but it is a decent little monster movie and worth a watch even if the cast bland it to the max.
The Edge of Heaven – Can’t wait to see this, Fatih Akin’s follow-up to Head On looks like just wonderful.
Dirty Harry Collection – Full box set of all the terrific Harry Callahan films including the truly masterful original.
Dan in Real Life – Decent if deeply unspectacular Steve Carell vehicle in which he is good despite having to share the screen with Dane Cook.
War Inc – No cinema release for this little one starring John Cusack and seemingly some sort of comment on the war-as-business debate. Looks pretty uninspired.
Jesus Camp – Excellent if one-sided portrayal of a Christian camp for young children that features some truly satisfyingly horrifying scenes for us atheists.
Battle for Haditha – Nick Broomfield’s outstanding semi-documentary piece on Iraq’s My Lai.
Tony Jaa 2 Pack – Ong Bak and Warrior King in one handy boxset for those days when all you want to do is watch someone kick someone else really, really hard. No plot but the kicking, oh, the kicking.
Jumper – Shitty, Hayden Christensen starrer saved fully in my book due to the presence of Rachel Bilson.
The Bucket List – Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman celebrate being old with hilarious/cringey results.
With so many films planned, I bet you’re all wondering what I’m most looking forward to at Electricity and Lust and well, I’m going to tell you. So here’s the five films I’m most anticipating across June, July and August along with some honorable mentions. (UK release dates)
Music: I’ve had two weeks to let REM’s Accelerate sink in and, my verdict; it’s better than Around The Sun and overall is on a par with New Adventures in Hi-Fi. I love Man Man’s Rabbit Habits which streamlines the Waits-ian clang of their previous work into a more accessible and ultimately more satisfying listen. One of the year’s best albums so far. Add to that list Holy Fuck’s LP which is arty and sexy, mostly instrumental work. I’m digging Alopecia by Why? and I’m somewhat obsessed with Sun Kil Moon’s April and also that band’s (essentially Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters) version of Modest Mouse’s ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’ from Tiny Cities.
Film/TV: I took in Sweeney Todd this week which was pretty good but it had too many songs and too much blood. I’m not squeamish at all (I wrote my dissertation on horror movies), but I just didn’t quite see a need for the brutal scenes. Still, it was entertaining and well played by the excellent cast, most notably Alan Rickman in a return to his purring best. I also watched Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett’s slice-of-life verite masterpiece from 1977 which I pretty much adored. Last was Wet Hot American Summer, a film which has a shockingly awful title but was very amusing and reasonably heartwarming. It features a couple of great performances from David Hyde Pierce and Janeane Garofalo and a manic turn from Christopher Meloni (Oz, Law & Order: SVU). The Office is back and it was wonderful, this time highlighting the brilliance of Melora Hardin as Michael’s lover Jan. Gavin and Stacey finishes its second season this week and I can’t wait. The rest of the season has been ridiculously great, notably witnessing Bryn and Smithy working out together, topless.
Books/Magazines: I read Me and Orson Welles this week, a story of a young theatre hopeful who gets cast in an Orson Welles directed production of Julius Caesar in the 1940s. It’s being adapted into a movie and I really enjoyed the book, a hearty romp which gets straight into the plot and the interesting characters and never gets bogged down and loses pace. I’m currently almost finished on Things the Grandchildren Should Know, a brilliant autobiography from Mark Oliver Everett (E from Eels) which points the way to the reasons for the darkness in his work and constantly exhibits the sense of self-deprecating humour that makes his music such genius. My magazine reading has been a little light this week due to film watching and book reading.
Other: I’ve fallen for KCRW/IPR’s To The Point podcast with Warren Olney which is a nicely informative and thorough round-up of important political news. Otherwise folks, it’s been a quiet little week.
Music: I’ve been taking in a few new records this week, notably the glammed-up wonders of Supergrass on Diamond Hoo Ha. Nick Cave’s Dig Lazurus Dig is pretty groovy, more Doors-y than I’d normally expect but still head-and-shoulders above most of the competition. The Breeders’ Mountain Battles is more of a mood piece but equally great in its own way. My favourite of the week was Mountain Goats’ Heretic Pride which follows the trajectory of Get Lonely in becoming less frenetic on the acoustic guitar and fuller in the songcraft.
Film/TV: I haven’t really seen anything this week barring a review screening of Horton Hears a Who which I actually liked quite a bit. It was defiantly silly and very odd in places. The main take-in for me this week was The Wire’s final two episodes which lived up to the tone of the whole run. It is officially the Greatest Television Show of All Time. The fifth was the weakest season so far but it’s still so far ahead of anything else that it really doesn’t matter. More on that soon.
Books/Comics: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union was magnificent. Michael Chabon’s entire body of work is now winging its way to me because the guy’s writing is just incredible. I cannot wait for the Coens’ adaptation.
Other: It’s been a podcast bonanza this week after I purchased a reconditioned iPod from Apple. My favourite thus far is KCRW’s Left, Right and Center on which Ariana Huffington proves you can talk like Audrey Hepburn and still be a storming authority on modern politics. Real Time with Bill Maher is no less of a left-wing polemic in audio form and I really loved the two Silence in C Minor podcasts. You can download those here. Also recommended is the Slate Political Gabfest and New Yorker: Out Loud.
Same again, including crazy boss. This time though, for the TV.
I’ve really enjoyed TV this year… there’s been some really great shows amongst a bunch of drivel. But what were my Top TV shows? Granted, one of them may have not been aired on TV this year, but they’re all shows that I have watched. Check them out below the cut…
Television. The ol’ Goggle Box. The Tube. Yes, it’s time to celebrate the electronic hearth in the corner of the room which used to give us our information and still maintains its place as the one piece of art the Americans are just so, so much better at.
Without any further rambling, any further chatter, here are the eleven most notable of television shows I have seen this year and, at the close, a brief list of those I have not seen or could not make space for in the list.