We here at The Addison Recorder read stuff. We also watch stuff. And play stuff, even. Sometimes, that stuff is interesting. Sometimes we just need to talk about whatever pop culture ephemera occupies our time. Which brings us to this column. Swagger on.
I don’t write as much about movies as I’ve wanted in recent years, so here’s a quick blurb: The Babadook is the scariest thing I’ve seen in years. Years. We’re talking Shining levels of scary, even Exorcist scary. The Australian film is the debut feature from Jennifer Kent, and she performs a masterstroke of horror here by combining a quality story and characters we’re meant to care about from the start with a terror that might be deeper than the superficial monster the movie suggests. A film about the terrors of raising a child alone in a dark, dark world, you might have to dig around to find this one (it’s playing at the Music Box Theatre here in Chicago) and you’ll want to see it with a packed crowd in a movie theatre – it makes screaming in terror all the more fun. Just remember – once you’ve seen it, you’ll never get rid of the Babadook.
The only good thing about getting sick is not feeling guilty about binge-watching TV. I used my time well, catching up on the first seasons of Transparent on Amazon Prime and Red Band Society on Hulu. The two are very different, but each is having some interesting conversations on screen: Transparent, as you probably know, is centered around a transgender woman and her struggle to come out to her three adult children. Red Band Society is a teen drama not unlike the early seasons of Glee, and takes place in a hospital. It’s a smart show, but the most interesting part of it to me is what it has to say about eating disorders. A character’s dealings with anorexia and having her illness not being seen as a legitimate one (or even a negative) is interesting to see from her perspective. I appreciate what they’re doing with this topic and I look forward to seeing more.
Having missed it in the cinema the first time around, I finally saw Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s The LEGO Movie during my Christmas visit home…and it is definitely one of the best movies of the year, as well as my pick for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Lord and Miller have a knack for making films that pile great jokes and one-liners on top of each other until there’s a veritable mountain of them (as they did in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and 21/22 Jump Street), and once again my laughter could not be switched off. What they add to the mix in The LEGO Movie is elaborate, enticing animation that simulates everything we know about LEGOs to a tee and a third act which becomes emotionally powerful for kids and adults alike. One final opinion: Chris Pratt, as the hapless hero Emmet Brickowski, assembles an even better team (shockingly enough!) than he did in Guardians of the Galaxy. Pratt takes on Will Ferrell’s megalomaniac with Elizabeth Banks, a terrific Morgan Freeman, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, and Charlie Day at his side…and there’s even more renowned voices delivering Lord and Miller’s infinite number of gags.
December was the month I didn’t play the new BioWare game, Dragon Age: Inquisition (I waited until the holidays to get a PS4). Now that I’ve avoided spoilers — and a copy of the game on the way — I’ll excitedly be able to jump into the new game.
In the meantime, I spent December replaying Dragon Age II from start to finish. At first, I wondered why I was so “meh” on the game when it originally came out. I loved (some of) the characters, I enjoyed the simplified combat, and I gushed at the art direction. I really dug the narrative, both in terms of populating the early fictive history and moving the series forward. By week two, I recalled which characters annoyed me and how the lazy re-use of generic maps squandered some of the enjoyment. By the end, though, I was again excited for Inquisition. Thedas, here I come.
December was very busy for me, so this entry actually covers stuff as far back as October. My reading since then has revolved around the history of Asia. In sequence, I read Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World, Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, My Name is Red, and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Like most Americans, my historical education focused almost exclusively on Europe and the United States. So despite being a pretty gigantic history nerd I had read relatively little about the rest of the world. So I have loved discovering the cross-religious Golden Age of convicencia in Umayyad Iberia, the frighteningly modern warfare and toleration of the Mongols, the enduring passion and mystery of Ottoman art, and the obfuscated politics that shaped Jesus of Nazareth. All these books are highly readable and recommended, so hop on it!