Archives for the Month of April 2010 on Cereal Monogamist
The Great X-Files Rewatch: Season One, Part One
So I’m about halfway through the first season of The X-Files right now. (If my academic work were finished I would probably be done with the whole series at this point. Right now I’m basically on an episode reward system and plodding slowly through.) Though something like seventeen years has passed since the first season of this show (1993, people) it’s only been around five or six years since I’ve seen it. At that time, the show was in pretty regular rotation on SciFi and TNT, and I watched all the time. (Specifically, I think that episodes aired at 5 and 6pm on weekdays, and that I watched them when I got home from work. Foolproof way to get me hooked on a show is to air it in syndication at such a convenient evening hour.)
Still, the first thing that struck me on this rewatch was the passage of time. Why? Notably because Season One is pre-internet. Not only are Mulder and Scully carrying and trading around like, manila file folders with all their research and evidence in them, but the research and evidence is compiled via microform readers! You know those things? They’re teeny-teeny photos of old texts (like newspapers) which you thread into this thing, and it magnifies the image, and you turn a knob to turn pages and scan through the information that way. I have only done this once in my life; I found it fussy and headache-inducing. I imagine people who were in grad school as recently as 10 years ago used to do this almost every day. Anyway, Mulder and Scully are microform experts; they rock the archival research. They also record witness interviews on cassette tape. They still communicate via cell phone, but the phones are preciously large. Not quite reaching Zack Morris brick phone proportions, but …
The other extra-special blast from the past occurs in the second-ever episode, "Deep Throat." Mulder and Scully drove many rental cars of many makes and models over the years, but in this episode, they drive the same car I drove throughout college: a tan Cutlass Ciera.
Look at 'em go!
Click ahead for more about Scully's clothes, Duchovny's acting, and that blasted myth-arc.
From what I understand, the seventies were all about serial killers and neckerchiefs
Hey, you know what's one of my favorite movies? I mean literally? Zodiac. Just the other day someone asked me what I thought was the best movie that came out in the last 5 to 10 years. It might have been a toss-up between Zodiac and Inglourious Basterds, but then I gave it to Zodiac because I haven't gotten around to re-watching Basterds yet, but I love Zodiac SO MUCH I burned it to my computer so I can watch it all the time.
So that was all just a preamble to this (enjoy):
From Tomato Nation
Hey, did you hear they're remaking Gladiator?
This time it's called Robin Hood.
Here's a lovely story that's unfolded over the past weekend. I go pretty regularly to this site called Tomato Nation, where (in addition to the cookie, candy and cereal rankings that drew me there in the first place) the sitemaster, Sarah Bunting, sometimes mobilizes her mass of readers to donate to charities or contribute to various efforts. A couple days ago someone wrote in asking for publicity for her friend, whose dog Zeus needed surgery to remove his poor diseased eyes. This friend of hers had started her own blog with a place for donations on it, but the money (the procedure was estimated in the 2K-range) was trickling in rather slowly.
So Sarah posted this letter with a link to Zeus's blog. Within ONE DAY the dog's surgery was paid for, and then some.
It really is amazing--the amazing feats of kindness that can be achieved via grassroots efforts like this one. The fact that it is all due to a blog (which have such reputations for self-centeredness). Also, the level of compassion that people feel for their pets. Just looking at Zeus's blog makes me want to race home and give my girl Skylar a hug. (Look at the picture on that last entry I linked to. We have that exact same orange ball, though lately Sky's been favoring a blue frisbee.) I want to contribute money to the SPCA or something.
All the more impressive because Bunting herself is a cat person. Click here for one of my favorite of her essays, about meows in translation. This is my favorite: "I ate a leaf and you said not to and I ate it and it tasted bad and now I'm angry."
(Skylar says: "What's this 'your bed too' nonsense?" Also, "Hope you're feeling better soon, Zeus. And give back my orange ball.")
This morning, I was reading a fun story over at the AV Club: Life-Changing Art
Some of the blog writers talk about works of literature, film, and art that changed their tastes fundamentally—that made them say, “if a movie can do this, how can I be satisfied with a movie that does less?” and so on. And I have a few of those: The Philadelphia Story, Flannery O'Connor, Arrested Development.
But somehow, my immediate reaction to this question was to remember my experience with Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility.
It came out in 1995, when I was a freshman in high school. Even though I was already mostly an oddball, not interested in skating along with what was popular or cool, at fourteen I was still feeling a selective kind of peer pressure. I had my small group of friends, and I believed that my tastes needed to be in line with theirs. If I took a step in a direction they didn’t agree with—well, they would drop me like a hot potato, wouldn’t they? When you’re fourteen and everyone around you allies themselves based on shared tastes, liking the wrong thing is fatal. The logic is unimpeachable, so long as you haven’t lived to know better.
So anyway, one day I was watching TV with Jamie, my best friend at the time. A commercial came on for Sense and Sensibility, and it was all British, and full of straw hats and gowns and fancy dancing. Please be aware that this was Pulp Fiction times. Absolute baseline requirement for coolness at the time was subversion—drugs and violence and swearing, the harsh, the crude, the angry. (I’m talking of course about popular culture, because in our own lives we were totally suburban honor students.) And Jamie scoffed at the commercial, because Jane Austen was clearly a tool of The Man. Any movie you could see with your mom was officially lame.
As it happened, I had seen Sense and Sensibility with my mom, and I had dug it immensely. And at that moment, all my teenage frustration and righteous anger—and outright exhaustion with the effort of trying to keep up with who and what I was supposed to be—overcame me, and do you know what I said? “I loved it. And I bought the book, and I’m going to read it.” I didn’t hedge, I didn’t hesitate, I may have said it in the timid mouse-voice I was mostly using at the time, but damn if it didn’t feel monumental. And Jamie? She considered for a moment, then shrugged and said, “That’s cool.”
And thus it started. Half my lifetime ago I came to a realization: if I like something, that’s justification enough to like it! In fact, it’s cool of me to be sincere about what I feel! It shows strength, and people respect it! And never again have I apologized for liking anything. My tastes—broad and diverse—are all a part of the strange and sometimes contradictory sum of me.
I have sometimes gone almost too far in the opposite direction, sharing my opinions much too freely. I remember discussing movies with someone once, a person I didn’t know that well, and getting a little bit too excited, and responding to one of their recommendations with, “No way—that SUCKS,” and then having that person look at me very confused and insulted. I sometimes have to remind myself that not everyone communicates this way.
But we all should! I’d like to inspire everyone to express a controversial or embarrassing opinion about art today, and to not care what anyone else thinks about it.
A Condensed History of Project Runway
In honor of the finale of the most recent season of Project Runway, the first half of which airs tonight, I am counting down some of my favorite challenge outfits of all time. Some of these outfits were wins, some got commendations from the judges but lost to an outfit I didn’t prize as highly. The judges didn’t, at least not that I remember, trash any of them (although one was made from trash, hee hee). I won’t pretend that I haven’t occasionally loved something to which Heidi or Michael or Nina was indifferent, however.
Note: I wrote this entry a few weeks ago, and waited to post it to coincide with the finale. I had chosen my top ten and I really didn’t think that any amazing outfits were going to creep in there in the interim. I was wrong! So I am opening my top ten favorite Project Runway outfits with an honorable mention from last week.
11. (honorable mention) Emilio’s circus dress
Damn that Emilio! He has one of the biggest egos that has ever appeared on Project Runway and that is SAYING SOMETHING. He has been driving me crazy this entire season, becoming more and more inflated with self-importance with every one of his wins (and there’s been many) and in last week’s episode, he was grandstanding as much as ever. Sets my teeth on edge, that kind of behavior.
But did you see the dress he made? Holy crap.
The challenge was to make a fashion-forward outfit that was “circus-inspired.” Two designers sent ridiculous costumes down the runway, and two of them kind of boring outfits in circus-y colors. Only Emilio did exactly what was requested (and won the challenge without any hesitation on the part of the judges): he made a dress that was beautiful on its own, but which also was reminiscent of the circus (the stripes, the polka dots, the trapeze-y poof of the skirt). “It looks like the circus! And it’s BEAUTIFUL!” That’s what designing is about, isn’t it? (Now just quit giving Tim lip, Emilio! He’s there to help!)
Having dispatched of that, let’s get to my preexisting top ten!
10. Sweet P’s denim dress
This season four challenge was to create an outfit made entirely out of repurposed Levis. One of my favorite designers from that season, the strangely loveable biker chick Sweet P, started out envisioning a long, flowing denim wedding gown. But when Tim Gunn suggested it was too “hippie-dippie,” she chopped it off at the knee and made the most adorable Little Blue Dress you could imagine. Michael Kors said it had “voodoo” and Heidi chimed in, “Slimming voodoo!” She then said that any of them would be eager to wear it, though she couldn’t speak for Michael. He replied, “Well, with the right shoe…”
Why it didn’t win: Branding. The guest judge, a VP from Levi’s, complained that it wasn’t recognizable enough as Levi’s. They instead gave the win to crying Ricky, who was gone the next week.
Click ahead--unless you have dial-up, in which case don't bother, because there are pictures galore!
I have two papers to write in the next five days, and I just discovered that the entire run of The X-Files is on Netflix Instant View!
In this moment, I am desperate for some supernatural investigation and mid-nineties style. (Oh, Scully. The poofy hair. The big burly business suits. She was only 25 in the first season of that show, but she looked 40. Of course, Gillian Anderson looks awesome now, and Duchovny is crawling with sleaze.)
I occasionally catch The X-Files playing at 2am on the no-longer Sci-Fi channel, what is it again? but that's not exactly a prime time to catch up on my high school viewing pleasures.
When these papers are written, I am hitting Season One SO HARD! "Tooms"! "Beyond the Sea"! "E.B.E." and the introduction of the Lone Gunmen! Not to mention the awesomeness of playing Spot the Now-Famous Bit Player! (Oh, right, Jack Black was in this episode! Hey, is that Lucy Liu? I think that high school boy is Ryan Reynolds never mind he's already dead!)
P.S. One of my favorite current shows, Breaking Bad (in its third season on AMC right now! how about some money, AMC?) is heavily populated with X-Files alumni behind the scenes. Both shows are thus similar stylistically even if their content is pretty different. Just a word to those who might not have known of the connection.
P.P.S. And now back to, you know, the work.
Eternal Sunshine and Remember?: The Same Concept Across a Few Generations
So last week I watched this strange film called Remember? from 1939. The synopsis reminded me of one of my all-time favorites, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—in both films, former lovers utilize mind-erasing technology to forget each other—and I was curious how such a postmodern concept was going to be executed circa 1939. What I found was that Remember? is not exactly the mind-bendingly awesome experience that Eternal Sunshine is, though there were interesting similarities.
Basically, what happens is this. Lew Ayers meets Greer Garson on vacation, gets quickly engaged to her and brings her home to meet his best buddy Robert Taylor. Of course, Taylor and Garson fall in love instead. Ayers has apparently not seen his own movie, Holiday, in which almost the exact same thing happens when Cary Grant meets this woman on vacation, gets quickly engaged, and she brings him home to meet her sister, Katharine Hepburn, prompting Grant and Hepburn to fall in love (but, then, Ayers is the drunk brother in that movie, so that would account for him not remembering it). Anyway, Garson and Taylor fall in love and, with Ayers’ blessing, get married themselves. It doesn’t work out, and they’re soon divorced, but LUCKILY, Ayers and Taylor work for an advertising company that is developing a campaign for a forgetfulness serum. Ayers feeds the serum to his terribly depressed best friend—and Garson gets a hold of it somehow, too, I forget how—and, just like Joel and Clementine in Eternal Sunshine, the pair meet again and fall for each other again.
Received in the mail today...
- From Netflix: Scarface, the Shame of the Nation (1932)
- An ad for a local Jewish community center gym.
- Two coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond to throw on my preexisting pile of Bed Bath and Beyond coupons.
- Two boxes from Amazon! My "I passed my MA exam" celebration care package which I ordered for myself!
- One book of short stories
- Kill Bill vols. 1 and 2 on DVD (because, though I prefer vol. 2, to have only vol. 2 on DVD seemed incomplete)
- the third season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
I am really trying not to indulge in any of these care package entertainments right now. I should be working! Instead I am...wasting half the morning figuring out what code to use to nest a list inside a list. (Neat, hey?)