Archives for the Month of December 2009 on Cereal Monogamist
30 Before 30 (Six Month Progress Update), Part 2
Here are the list items that I am scared to do or confused about how to do (as well as some which, through no fault of my own, have been modified) which, as yet, I still fantasize that I someday check off on "30 Before 30."
30 Before 30 (Six Month Progress Update), Part 1
Just over one month late! Tee hee. Back in May, I established a 30 Before 30 list, tasks I aspired to accomplish within two years. I'm sure everyone's been wondering how I have doing on this, and so, over a fourth of a way through my allotted time, here is (the first half of) my update!
Click ahead for completed and half-completed items! Check back soon for not-completed and modified items.
Great Moments in Arrested Development History
I had a lot of chores keeping me homebound at the beginning of this week, but I made the best of it: in three days, I made it through the first two seasons of Arrested Development, a show I had seen many, many times before, though not recently. In just a couple of days at my parents' I've watched the majority of the third and final season.
How could I have forgotten how much I was in love with this show? Here are some of the best moments.
"I've made a huge mistake."
"You're high!" "You're drunk!"
"I'm a monster!"
Les cousins dangereux. GOB's segway. The banana stand. A sliding-scale for treason (from light to heavy). Multiple baffling chicken impressions. ("Has anyone in this family ever seen a chicken?") Barry Zuckercorn, Bob Loblaw, Lucille Two, "Steve Holt!" Tom Jane (as himself). Carl Weathers (as himself, getting a stew going).
Plus Gob doing magic:
If none of those things mean anything to you, it's your own fault for not watching it when it was on TV! If you are properly remorseful over that fact, hit up Hulu and complete your education.
When Entertainment Headlines Make Me Sad
I read this headline somewhere on the internet yesterday and spontaneously exclaimed, "Oh no!"
For real, didn't they seem like an awesome couple? They were both cool and political and so casually unmarried. I hope neither of them are in People magazine in three weeks dating some starlet half their age, or I'll really be disillusioned.
Movie Reviews: No School in December! edition
A pretty modest comedy from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, which suffers from the comparison, and from being a bit too miserable to really be funny. Still, there are great performances from Amy Adams and Emily Blunt.
So you have Greer Garson and Ronald Colman. She’s a life-affirming singer, and he’s an amnesiac fresh off the boat from World War 1. They fall in love, get married, and have a baby. Maybe you can guess what happens next, or maybe you can’t. But it’s TRAGIC. IT’S 1940s ERA TRAGIC, which is second only to 1950s era tragic. I’ve been seeing a lot of tearjerkers lately, but this one was above-average.
Ralph speaks for me
I didn't think so.
Like TV? Like clothes?
If you grew up in Middle America in the late 80s and early 90s, it's possible you spent Tuesday nights watching Roseanne. If so, you might be interested in Third and Delaware, a blog devoted to the fashion of that venerable sitcom. Like cowl-neck sweaters? How about fringed denim jackets? And stretch pants under an oversized man's shirt? What about that early-90s classic, the belted overall? And don't forget to accessorize with bangle bracelets and giant hair. (Tipped by Sling Blog.)
By the way, the clothes may be embarrassing to look at, but Roseanne is still utterly watchable. In fact, I watch it almost anytime it's on, which recently has been constantly. Oxygen does a full-day marathon at least once a week, with Nick at Nite and TV Land picking up the slack at night. Watch Roseanne lead a walkout at Wellman plastics! Watch Jackie do community theater! Watch Dan let his buddy convince him to buy a motorcycle repair shop (don't do it, Dan!) and other great moments in Roseanne history.
(If you catch an episode from that weird final season where they won the lottery and everybody looked like they were on crack, feel free to skip it.)
A Note to My Local NBC Affiliate
Hey, Cleveland-area television programmers! Just living in this town doesn't give us an innate interest in the outcome of the Browns game! Some of us would much rather be watching new episodes of The Office and 30 Rock like the rest of the country gets to do!
Blerg, NBC. Blerg.
Movie Reviews: Holiday Weekend Edition!
Thanksgiving is a movie-loving time.
I mostly watched this under duress; it was playing at my parents' house on Thanksgiving Day, and to avoid it I would have had to leave. I don't really want to review these kinds of movies, because it just seems petty--I mostly hated it, yeah, but I knew that it wasn't made for me, it was made for someone who finds people getting slammed into the floor and kicked in the balls and whatnot hilarious. For someone who isn't totally fed up with the "uptight woman who loves her independence secretly wants a baby of own; she didn't even know it until she saw the negative pregnancy test" trope. Also for someone who can suspend belief enough to think that someone as aggressively uptight as Reese Witherspoon is a good match for a laid-back wiseass like Vince Vaughn (I like both actors and I think they are both capable of really good performances, but they so do not belong together). On the positive side, there were some great actors of a previous generation playing the four parents, the best of which was Sissy Spacek, who also had an awesome artist's colony house.
Click ahead for more! Many are holiday-themed.
Interesting Literary Debate!
...and nobody is still reading.
I wrote recently about Twilight and why I don’t care to sample that particular cultural phenomenon. Basically, literature is important to me, and all the accounts that I’ve had of Twilight suggest that in those books the literary development is subordinated to sensationalism and girlish squealing. I tend to get those things in other places.
In that post, I said that I didn’t care to read romance novels, but a debate that’s been percolating online has clued me in to the fact that I should be less dismissive and tease out my aversion to the genre in a way that’s not patronizing. Learning!
The post, about why we shouldn’t judge romance novels by the Fabio on the cover, is here at Smart Bitches Trashy Books. (Yes, that’s the name of the site.) They’re commenting on a post that appeared over at the Huffington Post written by some old man (who, it appears, is mostly concerned with promoting his own book). (I was tipped to the debate, as usual, by Linda from Monkey See.)
The writer over at SB makes the excellent point that the old guy has no right to draw a broad generalization based on checking a random stack of romances out of the library. She acknowledges, as do the numerous commenters on the site, that the romance genre is replete with crap writers and the fill-in-the-blanks style of plotting. But what the site appears to be designed for is acknowledging the romantic fiction that goes the extra mile and is good. SB makes a strong case that romance is a broader category than people generally realize and that, to employ a cliché in a post about good and bad writing, there are diamonds in that rough.
I don’t doubt it. And some of the commenters at SB made really good observations about the fallibility of the old guy’s argument. One says, “I don’t want someone who’s not familiar with pop music reviewing the latest CDs for me,” and another says, “Maybe what he really needs to do is take a statistics class and get a refresher on what it would take to get a statistically relevant sample.” Yes, absolutely. He was not qualified to make the judgment that he did, and yet! that fact points towards why I tend to avoid romance novels altogether.
I don’t know how to filter the bad from the good. I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to have to read ten bad romance novels to discover one terrific writer. I never know whose opinion I can trust—except for my own—and I just don’t have the reading time; my to-be-read list is long enough already, thanks.
Even catching one good one does not guarantee others. I remember reading Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy in college because I really liked the movie. That was a terrific book (which has since disappeared from my shelves—I think, in fact, that it may have been absorbed by my sister’s bookshelf, ahem). It took me four more mediocre Binchy novels to decide that Circle of Friends was an anomaly.
In literary fiction, I’ve made inroads. I know which authors I like, I know which authors are like the ones I like; basically, I know the lay of the land. It would be a substantial project to explore a new genre and the takeaway—I would get to read really good romance novels—is not good enough. I read plenty of really good books and some of them have romance in them, and that’s enough for me.
This Week's Disappointments in Reality TV
If these seem like old news, forgive me. I’ve been writing papers all week and I’ve just now managed to catch stuff up. Who loves the DVR?
Jen picks out greens, intending to over-salt them
My girl Jennifer was eliminated from the first half of the Top Chef finale on Wednesday night. It seemed like one of those inevitable eliminations, having less to do with the food she produced for the two challenges and more to do with the fact that the judges felt it was her time to depart. During the quickfire, guest judge Michael Chiarello told her “I will be stealing that,” and then promptly awarded the prize to increasingly odious Voltaggio brother Michael. In the elimination challenge, she produced one good dish and one that was too salty. Chiarello explained that it was some Napa Valley-originated salt that she used, which soaks into food in an unusual way, or something, that every chef did that the first time they came across this salt. Totally understandable. And, ‘bye Jen.
I’m not saying that any of the three remaining guys deserved to go home more than Jen did—just about everybody heard about both negative and positive attributes of their dishes, even the winner of the elimination challenge, Big Brother Bryan Voltaggio (who was told that he was stingy with his seasonings, incidentally). I want to cry sexism, but actually I think it has more to do with favoritism.
The judges love those Voltaggios, especially Michael, who savors his own genius so intensely that I can’t believe he can taste anything he cooks. Eliminating Jen also ensures some good ol’ dude conflict. Michael, a typical younger brother, snipes at Bryan because no matter how well he does at anything, Michael can’t make up for those two years Bryan was in the world before he got there. He also snipes at Kevin for daring to cook comfort food instead of, like, inverting sauces and pumping helium into eggs and practicing other acts of technical trickery. Almost every week that Michael didn't win, Head Judge Tom! wrote on his blog to remind viewers that even though Michael did something Oh-So-Impressive, it didn’t necessarily taste better than everyone else’s food. Even though that’s something we at home can’t experience, I like that it continues to matter.
I think Kevin deserves the win more, but if Bryan were to win it would torture Michael, so I’m in favor of either of those two. Go team Anybody But Michael!
A stunning upset on The Amazing Race, ahead.
The Twilight Phenomenon
Can I talk for a minute myself about the Twilight phenomenon? You might have heard that New Moon is kicking ass at the box office, thanks to the expendable incomes of both 14-year-old girls and their 45-year-old mothers. You might also have heard that the movies are adaptations of an adolescent book series.
I have not read these books. I’m not particularly interested in reading the books. I’m not a huge fan of the vampire thing anyway—I love Gothicism, but as it happens I’m more about ghosts and haunted houses, although I will grant that Bram Stoker’s Dracula is actually really good—and the romance element of it means nothing to me. I have never read romance novels, and again, I’m not particularly interested in starting.
On the other hand, I know a lot of people who have read the Twilight books, both people in real life and people in literature forums online whose opinions I trust. Most of them acknowledge that the writing is a bit amateur, but that the stories are undeniable page-turners. The literary equivalent of a TV crime procedural. Twilight and Order. CSI: Forks, WA. Although I don’t like it when people want to compare guilty pleasure reading with canonical literature (“oh, Twilight is just as good as Pride and Prejudice, you’re just being a snob about it”), I don’t have fundamental issues with people who want to float around in the guilty pleasure camp indefinitely. There are a lot of corners of my life in which I unapologetically take it easy.
Besides, one thing that is emphatically in the Twilight series’ favor—which can also be said for the Harry Potter series, which I have also not read—is that it appeals to people who are in general non-readers, and this, I would never quibble with. Reading is like pot—it’s a gateway drug! The more you do of it, the more you want to do it. (P.S., Mom, I speak hypothetically having never smoked pot.) If some fourteen-year-old girl wants to read Twilight from cover to cover and then tentatively graduate on to Wuthering Heights? I want to encourage her to do so. (Even if she doesn’t move beyond Twilight, at least it’s a couple hours she won’t spend watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta, know what I’m saying?)
One question I’ve been entertaining myself with is whether I would have been one of those Twilight obsessives if it had come out ten years earlier, or fifteen, or twenty. Looking back, completely clear-eyed, taking into consideration the goofy stuff I liked at various ages, I think I can honestly state that by fourteen or fifteen I would have been too old for Twilight. I had already started reading really good stuff by that age, and even though you can graduate on to Wuthering Heights from Twilight, I don’t think that you can go backwards.
I don’t want to play like I’m too cool for Twilight, though, because I really don’t think that’s the case. I watched Supernatural for two seasons because the brothers were hotties. And those airdates won’t lie, either; I was indeed in my twenties at the time. As a preteen I swooned over many a piece of even more ridiculous tripe. Had Twilight been placed into my hands around age twelve? Yeah, I think I would’ve fallen for it.
I will say this much: I am glad that I am a grown-up now and not feeling peer pressure to turn on to Twilight. One night I happened upon the Cracked.com complete series recap. I was not aware of the actual plots of these books—especially the later ones—and when I read this for the first time I was utterly shocked. Understand that if you read this, you may have an extreme reaction, such as bleeding out of the ears. (I am not kidding. Prepare yourself.)
In case that was too graphic for you, try this: the hilariously embittered commentary of Will and Tara at Sling Blog (who every week see the #1 movie of the previous weekend).
11:40:56AM Will Edmondson: I mean, if there's anything to be said in defense of the movie, it's that it definitely knows its audience, and it appeals to that audience. The problem is: that audience is not something that I want to admit exists.
Movie Review: Out of Sight
I just wrote the final paper for my film class. I was allowed to choose the movie I wanted to write about, and I chose Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight.
Even my film prof gave me a lot of guff about it. Clooney! J.Lo! Really? This is a movie that sometimes plays on Oxygen (Lifetime Lite!) and gets heavily promoted as That Movie Where Clooney Takes His Shirt Off and Looks at Himself in the Mirror! (I swear, if you saw the commercial, you would think that four seconds of screentime was the entire film.)
Well, I love it. I remember the first time I saw it (playing on USA that time, I believe), probably watching it out of weekend laziness (“Eh, this could be OK, I guess—better than going outside anyway”) and not very long into it thinking, “This is really good.” It really is! It’s witty and edgy and romantic and sad and funny and the music’s awesome and the aforementioned J.Lo kicks ass. Even if you have dismissed every single other film in the J.Lo oeuvre, Out of Sight is a special case. Karen Sisco—her character—is in charge. Clooney is great, too; a little dumb, and a little rough, as befitting a career criminal, but in the first two minutes of the film he literally charms a bank teller into tossing a bunch of money across the counter at him. That’s not a strategy that a lot of criminals can employ, but he sells it.
While writing the paper, I watched the movie five or six times—three of those were last Monday night during an all-night writing session. I certainly overdosed on the movie—I won’t watch it again for awhile—but I can say this. There are several moments, mostly good lines, which were enjoyable every single time I saw them, even if it was for the third time in six hours.
Jack: “Thirty years—can you imagine looking at that?”
Karen: “I don’t have to, I don’t rob banks.”
Burdon: [hands business card] “Daniel Burdon, FBI.”
Mr. Sisco: [also hands business card] “Marshall Sisco, Karen’s dad.”
Buddy: “Nice outfit.”
Jack: “I’m a tourist.”
Jack: “The sign says ‘Shut the f*** up’, or can’t you read?”
[cut to sign which reads ‘Quiet please’]
Clooney made this movie at the tail-end of his work on ER when he was trying to prove he could do Hollywood; J.Lo was an up-and-comer, and director Steven Soderbergh had just directed like four flops in a row. Regardless of how much money the movie didn’t make, all of them were given a nice boost by the great work they did here. If nothing else, this movie paved the way for the next one Clooney and Soderbergh decided to do together, which was the super-successful Ocean’s 11.
Bottom line: Out of Sight is cool, it’s clever, it’s got Steve Zahn and Ving Rhames and Catherine Keener and Albert Brooks in a toupee, it’s set partially in Detroit (really, Detroit), and it changed the ending of the book so that both characters could end on a high note. It probably makes my top five favorite movies ever. Highly recommended.