Thursday, January 08, 2015

Missing Once and Again. Again

In reaction to this post by Linda Holmes at the Monkey See blog, I had some thoughts:

That I missed out on that Twitter conversation? Kills me. I ADORED Once and Again, and often point to an early season one episode where Rick explains to Jesse that, no, they will never be a family again, along with a confessional scene where he describes telling the kids that he and his wife were going to divorce as akin to just taking a hammer and smashing them in the head, as one of the most emotionally devastating things I have ever seen on television. I also wish Once and Again got more credit for the "talk to the camera" trope. They did those cutaways in black and white and they seemed to be internal monologues almost, so no, it wasn't mockumentary style, but the basic idea is all over TV these days (Hi, Modern Family!).

This will sound (and likely is) ridiculous, but can Deadwood lay claim to being more of a family show than an action show? Unlike The Wire, which brilliant as it is, is still about cops trying to catch crooks, Deadwood was never about lawmen stopping bad guys but about a community developing out of chaos. Deadwood seemed to find its finest moments in small instances of human connection in a way that reminds me of a Friday Night Lights or a Parenthood.

Finally, this piece makes me want to get back to Showtime's The Affair, which I got about five episodes into before dropping. It's not the "Manipulative. Touchy-feely. Soft. Direct. Unironic. Often sweet. Wants to make you have feelings." Holmes is looking for, but it is closer than Breaking Bad!

I have always been fascinated by how Parenthood has taken off from the film that inspired it. Particularly, I find it very interesting how the movie--which I think today has a reputation for being something of a goofy Steve Martin comedy--actually is more willing than the ostensibly more serious network drama to let its characters be, at their core, just not good people. The Jason Robards and Tum Hulce characters in particular never get redeemed, but finish the movie as basically selfish, unlikeable people. Whereas their TV analogues (Craig T. Nelson and Dax Shepard) carry over some of the same personality traits (gruffness and aimlessness), and yet as the show progresses are pretty clearly painted as very good people (flawed, maybe, but good). As much as I like Parenthood, this has always bugged me some--all of the characters are Very Good People in the end. I'm not even suggesting that the film is better than the TV show, really. I just find the contract intriguing.

Until Whenever

Friday, January 02, 2015

Books I Read in 2014


Not Enough Books

In reverse-chronological order:

The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins
A thorough, if at times too puffed-up, look at atheism and the arguments for it (as well as a thorough swatting down of the arguments against it).

The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith
JK Rowling’s second detective Cormoran Strike novel, a delightful, if very traditional and straight-ahead, mystery.

Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals That Did Not Win the Tony Award – Peter Filichia
Some interesting details on some Broadway shows, but overall a bit of a slog – too much plot summary of too many shows.

The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
A memoir of growing up in Iran during the revolution told in comic book form. Deeply informative and moving. Worth seeking out.

Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
An extremely well-done sci-fi novel with big ideas that ultimately just didn’t grab me. I could see the vision and talent but it didn’t click for me.

Saga, volumes 1-3, Brian K. Vaughn
Wonderful new comic series about a galaxy-spanning war between alien races and the mixed-race couple just trying to raise their daughter. Visually delightful and never afraid to go BIG. Can’t wait for Vol 4 in a few weeks.

The Drop – Dennis Lehane
Tight, short, gripping crime novel by my favorite crime writer. A delightful surprise in between “big” novels.

Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick – Matt Fraction
Quirky, imaginative series about a couple that discover they have the same odd power. Very confident storytelling – I have no idea what is coming next, which is just so nice.

Fool – Christopher Moore
My first Moore. What a great voice and wit, although the Shakespeare stuff made for a bit of a slog for me with all of the courts and wars and inter-marrying.

NW – Zadie Smith
Not my favorite of hers, with the fragmented plot just making things murky for me, not intriguing, but damn, can she write.

Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King
A tight (for him) piece of suspense writing, with a suitably creepy villain and a hero who felt flawed enough.

Frog Music - Emma Donoghue
Wonderful historic novel spinning off from a real historic footnote of a San Francisco murder case in 1876. Not the all-time great that Room was, but still a wonderful read.

Redshirts - John Scalzi
Damn fun sci-fi novel where a bunch of “redshirts” in a TV show universe start to realize their fictional reality.

Pulphead – John Jeremiah Sullivan
Essay collection. Great pieces here, including an account of a Disney vacation from a very skeptical viewpoint and a visit to a Christian rock festival.

David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell
Lesser Gladwell, but still informative and chock-full of great stories.

Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything – Barbara Ehrenreich
More of a memoir than I expected, and not a particularly compelling one.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
Wonderful, dense novel that was more fun in its first half when the protagonist was a kid. Still, has me looking to get her other big novel, The Secret History.

The Martian – Andy Weir
Hard sci-fi about a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars. Love the level of detail and accuracy, but the main character is not nearly as delightful and witty as the author seems to think.

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation – Michael Pollan
Wonderful deep dive into the history and modern execution of grilling, braising, fermenting, and making bread by the very engaging food writer Pollan.

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
The first in the aforementioned series, equally engaging.

Newtown: An American Tragedy – Matthew Lysiak
Nowhere near as good as the world-class Littleton book that came out two or so years ago, but still a devastating, well-reported summary of that horrible day.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster – Jon Krakauer
Amazing story about a tragic attempt to climb Everest. Exceedingly well-balanced between fact and reporting and personal memoir.

Double Feature - Owen King
This debut novel by Stephen King’s son is, unlike King’s other son, Joe Hill's work, not at all like the father’s writing. Funny, tragic, personal story about an aspiring filmmaker trying to escape his outsized father’s shadow.

The Circle – Dave Eggers
Like a novel-length episode of Black Mirror, this paranoid novel envisions a future where privacy is seen as a social evil and snuffed out wherever possible. Chilling fable of where technology could take us.

The Best American Magazine Writing 2013
My favorite collection each and every year. Can’t wait to dive into this year’s!

Until Whenever