Quondam Dreams

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Media Junk 2006, Part One: Movies and TV

I'm stating this right off the top: This isn't a "best of" entry. For all the time I've spent watching and reading stuff this year, I know I've hit only the slightest fraction of what's out there. This is a vaguely-grouped recitation of movies, shows and books that provoked some sort of reaction from me, and/or weren't so much of a waste of time that I mind revisiting them. Conversely, movies, shows and books which represent time I'll never get back aren't here, because, really, why bother? (Non-inclusion does not indicate a complete waste of time, however. Just means that they didn't stick with me as much as the others.)

Also not here: A slew of movies, shows and books that a lot of the year-end lists are extolling or slamming, but which I haven't forced myself to get around to quite yet. Sometimes it's a question of not having had the time, but at least as often, the reasons have nothing to do with my perceptions of their quality. I know that a lot of people liked Rocky Balboa, but Sylvester Stallone bugs the crap out of me. I'm not touching that one until I can consume it in small, widely-spaced chunks. I haven't read The Emperor's Children because, frankly, I've had my fill of characters in their late 20s-early 30s, Ivy league graduates who who are rarely employed but rarely short on cash, slouching through New York City at a very important time in our recent history, waiting for something to happen but not quite prepared to have the outside world intrude on their faux-slummy apartments. I think the real story is that we're far enough beyond 9/11 that we're ready to start folding it into the navelgazing genres.

So, having disclaimed, here's some stuff I watched that stuck in my mind. Books will be in Part Two, which I'm hoping to get up in a day or two.


See previous entry Borat: Cultural Learnings Of The San Fernando Valley.

Casino Royale
Yeah, you know: return to classic Bond, reboot, new take, blah blah blah. This pretty much came down to Daniel Craig advertising a video game, and I've got no problem with that. Especially when he's in Speedos. Ahem.

See previous entry Review: Idiocracy. The DVD comes out in a couple of weeks, by the way. Guess what you're all getting for your birthdays this year!

Let's Go To Prison
I think your reaction to this movie was going to depend on your particular affection for movie cliches, your tolerance for slightly forced social criticism and the amount of time you've spent at Upright Citizens Brigade theaters. Me, I love cliches, am willing to give screenwriters a little leeway if they're trying to prove a point that serves the plot and have spent an awful lot of time at UCB since they opened the Hollywood theater, so this was right up my alley. It wasn't great, but for what it was, I thought it was decent.

Snakes on a Plane
See previous entry Review: Snakes on a Plane.

Marie Antoinette
The Departed
I'm grouping these two because I think a given viewer's reaction to them is colored by their opinion of the director in question.

Granted, Sofia Copolla doesn't have much of an -- oh, help me, I'm getting pretentious here -- oeuvre, but Marie Antoinette fits right in there. It's historical biography as Impressionism. We all know how the story ends. Marie Antoinette is about one aspect of how it got there. Plus, it's a very pretty movie. Ooh, shiny things!

The Departed is, of course, A Martin Scorcese Film. Like so many Martin Scorcese Films, it's a gritty portrayal of men in tightly-choreographed circumstances, inviting us to try to sort out the morality involved when it's clear that every character has his own particular take on the matter. And I do mean "his": Martin Scorcese Films have this tendency to be devoid of women who aren't flat-out plot devices. (This doesn't mean that they're necessarily bad parts; fleshing out those roles certainly worked out for Jodie Foster and Cate Blanchett. They just seem to have to work much harder than -- and be seriously outnumbered by -- the dudes.)

I appreciate Martin Scorcese and his Martin Scorcese Films, but I don't always like them. My principal reaction to The Departed was, "I think I'm missing a point here".

Night of the Living Dead
I know, I know: We're a few decades past the original release. This year, I got to see it on the big screen at the Nuart. If you get a chance, you should see it that way, too.

It's so nice to be reminded that there are people as compulsive as I am.


30 Rock; Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
30 Rock is a Tina Fey-and-company show. Studio 60 is an Aaron Sorkin show. Tina Fey and company write comedy. Aaron Sorkin writes occasionally-funny dramas about work. Not everyone likes both genres. I do.

Or maybe I'm just hoping that sketch comedy will get enough industry cred that it will become a viable career path.

Heroes; The Office; Scrubs; Veronica Mars
You know that cliche about some things being more than the sum of their parts? Here are a few illustrations. The parts are good on their own. The results are even better.

Doctor Who
I went into full-on geeky glee when I heard that the BBC was producing a new version of Doctor Who. And then I blinked in amazement as it turned out to be.... well, good. It's still got the cheese factor, but there's this completely different undertone to it now, like the kids who wrote increasingly-complex Doctor Who fan fiction grew up to make television shows and run networks.

That's my theory, anyway. I don't think it matters whether it's accurate. This is just pure, solid, well-done television. If you didn't get a little choked up during the last few scenes of the season-ending "Doomsday," then you live a truly charmed life.


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