We’re a little freaked out that it’s almost 2015. The decade is half over! To try and make sense of time passing the Recorder staff is going to write about their favorite stuff from the past 5 years in a few installments between now and the end of the year. We’re starting things off with music! [Read more…]
Over the past year it’s been increasingly common to see Comedy Central’s programming pointed to as among the best on cable. Key & Peele, Inside Amy Schumer, Kroll Show, Review, @Midnight, Nathan for You, and Broad City are all relatively young shows that push at the boundaries of what TV comedies can do, while still being gut-bustlingly hilarious. Throw in those venerable stalwarts The Daily Show and the soon-to-be-departed Colbert Report, and it’s not hard to look at Comedy Central’s lineup and say it’s the equal of HBO, Showtime, or FX.
Drunk History is not as ground-breaking as some of its sibling shows, but it might be the most purely enjoyable show in Comedy Central’s lineup. It’s a sketch show where host Derek Waters gets comedians blitheringly drunk and has them tell stories from American history. Waters and a wonderful cadre of guest actors then act out the stories in full costume using the drunken soundtrack recording as both dialogue and narration. It’s a goofy concept, and doesn’t always hit, but when it does the show just soars. The slurred speech and wild excitement of the speakers (especially Drunk History all-star Paget Brewster) lend the action a pleasantly loony atmosphere. The real fun, though is seeing actors like Jordan Peele, Retta, Weird Al (as Hitler!) and Charlie Day perform the loopy action described by the narrators. Nothing on TV right now is funnier than the moments where a skilled actor mouths along to a drunken digression that utterly shatters the fourth wall.
Alex and his wife Becky watch a lot of TV. Probably too much. But that means that they sort of know what they’re talking about when the annual Emmy nominations come out. For reference’s sake, Becky has seen 24 of the programs we talk about here. Alex has seen 12. He may be talking out of his ass a lot more.
Should Win: Uh…we really, really like Louie and Orange is the New Black, but it’s a stretch to call this past season of the former a comedy and the latter is a drama through-and-through. Of the nominees, we vote for Louie, but the consensus choice for us this year was Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Will Win: Modern Family has won four in a row, which is apparently the cap on a series winning consecutive awards at the Emmys. Plus, it’s remained pretty damn mediocre since…season one. Another win would be awful. So we think that Orange is the New Black will prevail. Huge buzz and fandom, groundbreaking gender and sexuality politics, and new blood in a stale category.
WTF?: Why is Silicon Valley here? Alex watched the pilot and Becky watched one other episode, but it seemed like…not much. Maybe we missed out, but this feels like it got nominated solely for being on HBO.
This should not have worked. FX’s Fargo — a limited-run series “original adaptation” of the Coen Brothers’ seminal 1996 film, which had its season finale last night — should not have been good. Carrying over many character types, plot tropes, and thematic ideas from the movie, it should have been a lazy cash-in or a failed experiment, ala the TV adaptations of Crash and Traffic after their Oscar-winning successes. But that was not the case. Just the opposite. In stunning fashion, Fargo was one of the best things I’ve seen on TV this year.
Sometimes we at The Addison Recorder just need to talk about whatever pop culture ephemera occupies our time. So we are starting a monthly column for just that. It will be a bit shorter — just a paragraph or two from whichever Recorder voice wants to join in — and will hopefully provide a spark for comments from any readers who connect with whatever we are reading/watching/listening to/playing.
Summer is my least favorite season. Monstrous humidity, bland movies, and no school. Combine all these and the Bean-mind atrophies. But I admit that summer is full of possibilities. Some say those should include outdoor recreation, camping, or taking vacations. I disagree. Why get even sweatier when summer offers great and unexpected things you can find on your computer or TV screen? Somewhere Michelle Obama and the Surgeon General are screaming out loud and don’t know why. Oh well. To the suggestions!
Heh. I can’t lie, most of the reason I roped you into this conversation was because I knew you would be spitting mad about my reaction in some way. To keep my response short: I get why the appeal of Tolkien is in the scope, why the characterization is archaic, and I did read it with an open mind. Like I said, I did enjoy Fellowship quite a bit. Just not without reservations.
But I do think the pleasures of Fellowship outweigh the reservations. Like I mentioned in the first half of this piece, one thing I particularly enjoyed were the touches of the medieval. Chris and Andrew had a pretty great discussion about this when they wrote about Hild last month, but the Medieval period we see in pop culture is very rarely anything but a mess in terms of accuracy and spirit. I won’t dive too deep into complaining about it, suffice to say reading history books about the actual events of that period in European history has been really eye-opening over the past few years.
How do you like that clunker of a title, everyone? Travis and I will be continuing this talk soon, but there’s enough here to merit its own post. Also, clunky titles are appropriate for the material! – Alex
Okay, so it has been three months and I have successfully read a book! Actually, I’ve read about a half-dozen books in the past three months. But only one of them is relevant to this article (for now): The Fellowship of the Ring. Thus the long-awaited second installment of “Alex, Travis, and Tolkien Step Into a Bar…” Wait, did we really call it that? Must have been Polar Vortex Madness. Anyway!
Since this is my journey back through the Tolkien I read as a youth, I suppose the burden is on me to start things off this time. As just a blanket opening statement Fellowship was…good. I want to be clear of that, I did like this novel and expect to enjoy its sequels to a similar degree. However, this is still a novel that it took me about three months to read, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Especially since I set it down several times to read such light fare as The Fall of the Roman Empire, 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, and Lonesome Dove (OHMYGOD, THAT NOVEL). Those three tomes put together are longer than all of The Lord of the Rings, and I devoured them in a fraction of the time it took me to wade through Fellowship. In the novel’s defense, perhaps I just wanted to wait so that our next entry would synch up with the Blu-Ray release of The Hobbit Part Deux. But, uh, that theory would hinge upon me having long-term planning skills. So, it’s probably more likely that Fellowship just never really took a hold of me. [Read more…]
In the very best films there are always a handful of quiet things that insist on the large-scale completeness and grandeur of the filmmakers’ vision for their work. The big scenes are always there to be commented upon and picked over regardless of how good or bad a film might be. To me, though, the very best filmmakers often leave their mark in the quieter or more subdued moments. Perhaps the classic example of this is the story of the girl with the parasol in Citizen Kane. That little moment remains with me as much as anything else in that masterpiece, but it has none of the showmanship and chutzpah that Orson Welles’ work is so renowned for. It’s just a quiet moment of grace and insight which subtly illuminates all the rest of the film’s emotions and themes upon reflection. I am not bold enough to say that The Grand Budapest Hotel, the new film from my favorite director, Wes Anderson, has anything on the level of that immortal parasol story (or Citizen Kane in general). But I do think this is a wonderful film that is brought to most vivid life and vibrancy by such small moments illuminating the larger construct.
The Addison Recorder has a lot of movie nerds on staff. Not all of us, of course, but enough to make the others bend to our will. So in anticipation of this week’s Oscar ceremony the staff is going to do their Will/Should/Dream winners picks for the category we care most about with some brief accompanying comments. The cinema nerds will have seen enough (or feel self-righteous enough) to really make it seem like their opinions and guess have weight and meaning. The others have said they are throwing darts. Either process is as valid as actual Oscar voters filling out a ballot proclaiming one work of art objectively better than another.
Also, sometimes an Alex can’t help himself and has to respond to the other writers. It’s just something an Alex does when shaken.