From: The Beat
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Posted by The League at 10:53 AM
Robosaurus is on the auction block.
For the first time, I know exactly what I want to do with my life.
Thanks to Randy for sending the link.
The object of my affection...
Monday, January 07, 2008
And we're back.
Well... It's tough to say it was a building year for the Texas Longhorns. This was Year 2 without Vince, and Year 2 when I cringed my way through the multiple personalities of Colt McCoy at QB. Add in an offensive line which didn't always look that interested in protecting Colt and a secondary that seemed to slow, too small and often perplexed by every offense which they faced.
And, of course, UT lost to an A&M team for the second year in a row. An A&M team which, on paper, they should have manhandled. The bottom line is that A&M wants it more when UT faces them down.
The Holiday Bowl brought me some small feelings of good cheer as UT walked all over ASU in the first half and kept it up pretty well in the 2nd. Once again, and this is just my feeling, but I sorta still believe the Big 12 is just a lot tougher conference than the Pac-10. This year I would put virtually any Big 12 school up against ASU and I'd expect pretty much the same result.
Oh, the season held such promise. And then Romo started "dating" Jessica Simpson.
My Superbowl dreams of Cowboys v. Pats now seem in a great deal of jeopardy.
My God, TO was getting along with the team... it was going to be great...
The Spurs won. Again.
Did not win. Again.
Baseball and Steroids
For some reason, I'm completely in denial about Roger Clemens taking steroids. Bonds? Sure. But Clemens? No reason it couldn't be true, but I thought he was just a guy who liked to eat a lot of red meat and pasta or something.
As much as everyone wants to freak out about the list of names, what they should really be looking at is why Selig and MLB have ignored the rumored use of steroids and not asked the players to do so much as pee in a cup for their million dollar salaries. After all, high school athletes have to do the same, as do employees at Subway.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
I dig Blade Runner. Depending on my mood, its easily one of my favorite movies. Sure, it's clunky in parts, and there are multiple cuts with different meanings, but this isn't a post about the arcane magic of Blade Runner. This is a post about a 13 year-old League raising an eyebrow in honor of Sean Young as a robotic noir love interest.
It's not accurate to refer to the Rachael character in Blade Runner as a Femme Fatale. In fact, for a noirish crime drama, there is no woman trying to take Deckard out unless you count both Pris and Zhora, neither of whom use seduction in the "kill Deckard" technique and so aren't really femme fatales in the sense I understand the term.
I saw Sean Young as Rachael before I was aware that Ms. Young had an odd reputation in Hollywood circles. And I am positive I had seen the movie before the Catwoman debacle. In all likelihood, I didn't know who Sean Young was when I saw Blade Runner the first time.
Rachael the replicant is smokin'.
Not to belabor a point, but I might add this movie also had Daryl Hannah in punk-aesthetic and Joanna Cassidy running around in nothing but glitter. But I guess, you know, the whole "trying to kill you" thing was a bit of a turn-off when I was 13.
The character of Rachael was (spoiler alert) of course a "replicant", ie: a synthetic human. More human than human, if you will. And, of course, that lent a certain odd, doomed mystique to the character as she progresses down her character arc and adds her to the distinguished line of Lady Robots of Interest (we can begin with the robot Maria from Metropolis and follow through Ghost in the Shell).
Mostly, though, Rachael personified the elitist ice-queen of the detective flicks, sometimes the wife or daughter of a shady millionaire in Chandler novels. Like other good ice-queens, Rachael was tough on the outside, but once past the frosty exterior, she falls for the bedraggled detective.
And, of course, what guy doesn't want to see himself as a tough guy detective (no, it doesn't matter how young or old)?
Rachael examines a note from Rick. She will check "Yes, I like you".
Or, more to the point, what wanna-be hard-boiled detective doesn't also want to think that if he finds the right angle, the lovely but generally unpleasant girl will fall madly for him and will no longer be so unpleasant? (My suspicion is that this generally does not really work out.)
Aside from a shot or two of Sean Young's thigh when Deckard and Rachael get their groove on, Rachael is always dressed in throwback outfits, lifted from the Lauren Bacall gowns and dresses, particularly the big-shoulders-era. I think we were to understand the wardrobe suggested what the script did not explicitly mention, that the suggested social role Rachael had been placed into was of the elite, living above the squalor of the streets. After her introduction, Rachael's huge fut coat seems oddly out of place on the streets of LA versus how it might look among the heights of the Tyrell pyramids.
Whether Young developed Rachael's mannered speech and movements, I really have no idea. Certainly the casting away of those behaviors becomes part of the movie and character as she finds out the truth about herself.
But, there's that toughness to Rachael that's necessary to a film like Blade Runner or, in fact, a believable love-interest for a hard-boiled detective film of any stripe. Rachael does, after all, pick up Deckard's gun and save the day when Deckard faces off with Leon. She does decide to take her life into her own hands once she realizes that her memories were nothing but implants.
Depending upon your preference for which cut you want to watch, Rachael may or may not have much time. Let alone Deckard (late breaking spoiler. Sorry).
Raccoon eyes for Rachel
So, a salute to Sean Young's portrayal of Rachael. That's a Replicant in the Media the League Once Dug.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
I while back The League took a look at the Marvel online comic experience with their Digital Comics Unlimited effort.
Today I saw their new marvelkids.com website, and its really, really cool. They have some major nav issues to work out, and having Cap prominently displayed at this point is a bit... well. But there's potential here.
DC's efforts for kids are not so good. Category before characters? What are they selling, anyway? And, really, you can't actually BUY anthing off the site, so the whole point of the site is sort of up in the air.
I'm probably just really jazzed by the Iron-Man CG feature, but I think Marvel is taking a step in the right direction.
If only I could get this excited about the actual Spidey and Iron-Man comics...
Friday, January 04, 2008
In trying to create a new Ryan for 2008, I dropped a few titles when I went to the store this week. I dropped:
- JLA: Classified
- Amazing Spider-Man (I'll pick it up again when they eventually ret-con One More Day out of existence)
- Some Countdown tie-ins that I totally don't care about (Mystery, Adventure)
- Wildstorm titles
- Black Panther
- Birds of Prey
- Teen Titans
- ...and a few more
This is after I'd already dropped:
- Batman: Classified
- Welcome to Tranquility
- ...and a few more
1) I was simply getting overwhelmed. I wasn't finishing my stack each week.
2) I kept getting vaguely depressed about money I'd spent on comics I didn't like. For every two or three bad comics, that was a Jimmy Olsen, Superman, Adventure, Action or Lois Lane back issue I could be picking up.
3) I wasn't picking up and trying anything new. Why did I spend money on Arena and not try the hipsterish "Umbrella Academy" they interwebs are liking? Or trying stuff I'd never heard of.
4) As much as I like the characters, there's no joy in seeing them go through the paces in mediocre stories.
I certainly haven't lost love of super-hero comics. There are still lots of titles on the list of what I will pick up. I just don't want to buy comics any more that aren't consistent or well done, hoping they get better. Comics are too expensive any more to justify following a series because you keep forgetting to purge it from your pull list.
There are a few substandard series I'm sticking with until they wrap, just because I'm curious. "Countdown" and "Death of the New Gods" (seriously... this series has been two issues two long already, and Starlin's "everyman" dialog for the New Gods is awkward and misplaced. He's a fine artist, but he needs an editor like nobody's business.) are on that list.
I'm hoping as the events of 2008 unfold, I'll find new titles to stick with. We'll see. In the meantime, I'd also like to do some exploring of comics I haven't given a chance.
Oh, and by the way, Jim Shooter's issue of Legion of Super-Heroes was the single best issue of Legion I've ever read. Just saying. That guy still has it.
Everyone is sick. Not just Jamie and me and Nicole. EVERYONE. People from my office were either at home or going home to be sick. I feel funky, and not in the James Brown approved manner. Jamie feels bad. Nicole wasn't doing great. Jason is usually so full of allergies, he didn't really notice anything different.
Jamie is in full-blown denial regarding her allergies and is insisting she's got a cold, which is possible, but it seems odd that she has exactly the same reaction to the spores in the air as the rest of us, but hers are coming from another source.
My eyes have honestly felt sort of weird for three days, and yesterday I took something called Alavert. Which made me feel better, but which made me have the attention span of a hamster on crack. It was impossible for me to focus for more then five minutes at a time yesterday.
It would be great if we'd get some rain and wash some of the stuff in the air away, but forecasts aren't really calling for any of that.
Posted by The League at 12:07 PM
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
During my days off, I saw some movies...
Juno: Occasionally you wander into a movie and realize that the movies aimed at the hip, the young, the with-it, the tastemakers... are no longer aimed at you. And that movie has unintentionally informed you that you are either too old, too unhip or too cynical to enjoy the movie in the way it was meant to be watched.
People love this movie. I thought it was okay, but I don't really get why people are falling over each other to praise the flick. At best, it seems like a good starter vehicle for star Ellen Page.
I found the dialog oddly stilted and stylized for a fairly concrete sort of movie, and I was sort of having trouble buying the hipper-than-thou'ness of the lead character and references that seemed to place the movie about ten to fifteen years ago. Toss in a nigh-lack of consequence for the lead characters, and a somewhat insidious cry for conformity, and the movie just didn't work for me.
Walk Hard: Is Exactly what you think it is. Only a little less funny. I do wonder if it would be funnier on a second viewing as the movie is terribly quotable. Unfortunately, in spoofing a film like "Walk the Line", the characters need to follow the same path as the late, great, screwed up Johnny Cash, you have to pretty much follow the many beats of the source material. This makes the movie seem a bit bogged down, and occasionally those familiar with Walk the Line or Cash's bio may not find much humor in scenes as they're played.
A renter for a boring Friday night, I'd say.
And, I know I am alone in this, but I think Tim Meadows is one of the most under-appreciated comedians on TV or film. That guy cracks me up. And, yes, I have both seen and ENJOYED The Ladies Man.
I am Legend: If Juno was not aimed at me, I am Legend is pretty squarely targeting me directly. Part action movie, part character piece, part Zombie flick, and featuring explosions and the affable Will Smith, they might as well have written "with The League in mind" right on the poster.
That said, the movie left too many gaps that I filled in from viewings of The Omega Man, but successfully changed the "mutants" into something far more frightening than the albino goobers of Omega Man.
Still, one feels that the movie seemed like it could have been larger in scope somehow, and that the movie seems too often like its trying to get you to jump and too seldom like there's much past the spookiness in the shadows.
Probably worth seeing in a dark theater at matinee. Or go rent Omega Man for an ending that has a really grim downer before the credits, the kind that you just don't get any more thanks to the suits wanting to offer the audience either hope or a chance of a sequel.
I've had a question regarding what I'm actually reading. I picked up a three book Cormac McCarthy collection of the Border Trilogy.
It's just over $20 for three books in hard cover, and that ain't bad.
There was also some talk of some sort of reading circle. Well, I'm reading All the Pretty Horses, and I'm on about page 95 right now if you want to catch up.
Before I read my next book, I'll be listing the book and version of it I'll be reading before I crack the cover. And if you want to play along at home, feel free to do so.
1) Play the bass guitar. It is shiny. It is blue.
2) I'm going to read more books this year and watch less TV. This year my book intake was probably the lowest of my entire life, and I'm deeply embarassed of that fact. So, hope to do better in 2008.
3) Consider getting rid of a portion of my comics collection. And maybe some toys. Rather than try to just sell them en masse, I may enlist Jamie to work with me to get set up with eBay. I am not going to read large portions of my collection ever again, and many series and issues hold no sentimental value. I think it may be more work, but I am sure a better price for much of my collection could be got by not trying to foist my collection upon the few remaining comic shops in Austin.
I will not be getting rid of any Superman, Batman, JLA, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc... In fact, I have no idea where this leaves me.
4) Quit eating so much sugar and salt.
5) Drink more water.
6) Play two shows this year with Jason and anyone else who wants to join the band. (Hurry up if you want to join. We'll need to get fitted for our matching suits.) Even if these two shows are in my living room, it's a goal.
I think that's a pretty good list.
Posted by The League at 12:47 AM
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
I'm not even sure what to say about this one.
It's Cathy the Cowgirl... a topless, bovine, humanoid... I'm wearing myself out thinking about this.
I warn you, this is just weird and wrong. Here's Cathy the Cowgirl.
It says one thing about tis English fellow who designed Cathy the Cowgirl. It says something completely different about you if you feel you need Cathy the Cowgirl added to your home decor.
Somehow I am just waiting to hear Mr. Harms' opinion on this one.
Not much to report about my New Year's Day Eve. Below you can read the fruits of my labor regarding a comic end of year commentary. Most of you don't read comics, and thusly will not care.
In the afternoon Lucy and I met Jason and Cassidy at the dog park off Riverside. We thought about maybe going to Austin's First Night festival, but decided that it would be easier, and maybe it would just be better to wrap up 2007 in the same mellow spirit I tried to deal with the year. Just playing with dogs seemed like a good idea.
Jamie and I met Matt and Nicole for dinner at Thai Tara, a place we'd been before. The food was still good, but clearly they weren't ready to deal with a New Year's Eve crowd. The service was unforgivably awful.
We then went to Jason's to ring in the New Year. And I got a smooch from Jamie.
And, if I may, a $4 bottle of spumante is exactly as bad as you think it might be. Not even funny bad. It's just... bad. Jason called it when he said "I'm not starting off 2008 with the cheapest champagne money can buy." He is wise, he is.
I want to wish all Leaguers a Happy New Year. Health, happiness and all the best to you and yours in 2008.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Last year I think I swamped you guys with a lot of unfortunate year-end reflecting regarding comics. Well, this year I have a job, and am no longer reviewing comics. Also, I honestly had a lot less time to spend thinking about comics.
Civil War, Death of Captain America, World War Hulk, One More Day... and I'm sure there's tons of stuff going on in the X-Books, but I haven't read those very much in the past several years.
Mainstream Marvel saw a year of chaos, and, generally the storylines were intriguing. Recognizing that an adult audience is looking for character development and plot development (often if they do not realize it or will admit it), Marvel took the liberty this year of actually changing the status quo in the Marvel Universe.
Masks and capes are now either federally regulated or outlaws, Captain America was taken down by a sniper's bullet and the Hulk took mainstays of the Marvel U to task for their perceived crimes, and there was nothing cute about it. One More Day is turning out to be Marvel's big goof of the year, and I foresee the results being reversed within a calendar year or two. Daredevil continues to be the most interesting "super hero" comic on the stands, but I recommend picking it up in collected formats. Strictly for adults, and the only title I can think of that seems to have a fully dysfunctional but believable super hero in the lead... Anyway, Daredevil continues to be a hell of a comic.
Add in Annihilation, and my faith in the Marvel U is once again piqued. (Especially since one of the post-Annihilation books featured Rocket Raccoon.)
I believe Quesada and Buckley are doing their best to make sure that when you buy a Marvel comic, you get something beyond "fight, chase, fight", and I'm not sure either DC or smaller publishers are painting their universes with such a diverse set of brushes right now.
After a few good years, this was the year DC seriously shook my faith. The "One Year Later" event of 2006 collapsed back into a status quo by early 2007 in virtually every title. "52" had a satisfactory ending with a world of promise for the DCU as a whole, which editorial seemed to take in exactly the wrong direction. "Countdown" was simply unreadable from Week 46 to Week 26, and still, week 18, shows almost no signs of actually going anywhere. (I'm still not sure what I;m supposed to be getting out of the Piper/ Trickster storyline.)
Didio pretty clearly had a slate of writers who were willing to follow his mandates and hand in multiple scripts per month. The unfortunate part is that many of them (Bedard, Gray, Palmiotti) can't tell an intertesting story to save their lives, even with an outline in hand. Further, Didio's friends Bilson, Matteo and Green handed in stories that had a tremendous impact and were simultaneously DOA. The horrendous reboot of Flash ended with issue #13 this year and the pointless aging and death of Bart Allen (from Kid Flash to Flash in 13 easy issues). Meanwhile, Green decided he could outdo "The Killing Joke" and wrote an awkward and somewhat pedestrian re-imagining of the origin of The Joker.
Several key DC titles were running behind at the beginning of the year, including Action Comics, Batman, Wonder Woman and others. It does seem DC managed to get these titles back on track for the foreseeable future, and with the exception of the "Return of Ra's Al Ghul" storyline, they're some of the first books I read out of the stack.
Kudos this year go out to Geoff Johns (and Tomasi) for his work on the spectacular "Sinestro Corps War" in Green Lantern and the always engaging Justice Society of America.
The oddest bit of 2007 was that DC seemed to realize Things Are Not Working, and they semi-publicly seem to be taking steps to clear that up. Tony Bedard is no longer writing half of the DCU books, Countdown suddenly seems to be going somewhere, books are coming out monthly (even if storylines are wrapping up in annuals), and all titles are no longer beholden to Countdown. Furthermore, Didio saw a genuine success with the Sinestro Corps War, and I expect more events like that will be the status quo rather than Universe Wide events.
Oh, and while Supergirl still isn't very good, it's a hell of a lot better now that Berganza is no longer editing the books.
In 2008 I will be clearing a lot of titles off of my pull list. More announcements about that later.
In the meantime, go read Blue Beetle. He's the teen-age protector of El Paso! It's a darn fun comic.
2008 will be the 70th anniversary of Superman's publication, and so we may see some small events in publishing, etc... I'd expect 2013 will be the big year, with 75 years of Superman. And I'll be 38. Christ.
Anyway, 2007 saw Geoff Johns' work on Action Comics with the not-quite finished "Lat Son" storyline, the Bizarro Worls three-issue run with Eric Powell (a fun read. Highly recommended.) and the Legion story currently taking place in Action. Johns' work is fantastic, and while some of the folks who came to Superman in the Byrne age might be put off by the Bronze-Age flair the comics have, I'm really enjoying them.
Kurt Busiek has been writing his own mini-events in the oft-overlooked "Superman" title. What's intriguing to me about Kurt's run is that he's making a conscious effort to establish the elements of Superman's life and tell stories in a manner which went out of fashion about ten to fifteen years ago. In short, while he's writing self-contained stories, there's a general backdrop that doesn't seem linked only to six-issue stories aimed at a trade collection. He's in it for the long-haul, and its helping out the mainstream Superman books immeasurably to have that context.
Mr. Busiek is telling engaging stories with a greater thematic vision than "Superman meet bad guy, Superman fight bad guy" and taking a look at Superman's place within his universe in a way that other writers have tried to do (including Azzarello) and haven't necessarily succeeded. I did feel the "Fall of Camelot" storyline had a satisfactory ending, but felt it had been cut a bit short.
Looking forward to upcoming issues.
That said, Kurt... more Subjekt 17.
"All Star Superman" is a critical darling for a reason, and if I were to recommend picking up one Superman comic, this would be it. From Quitely's refreshingly metitative art work to Morrison's larger-than-life scripts, it's a comic that seems to have a bit of something for anyone. It does feel a bit like the Superman comic you always wanted to pick up and read, but just never existed until now.
I don't foresee All Star Superman making it past issue 13 or so as Morrison moves on, but I imagine it will live on in collected formats for some time.
Superman also starred in the straight-to-DVD movie "Superman Doomsday", which has little to nothing to do with the original Death of Superman comics from the early 90's. As DC's first PG-13 animated feature, it was a lot of fun to see Superman cut loose on the screen the way he occasionally does in the comics. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the second half of the movie lives up to the promise of the first half.
That said, it also doesn't seem to go off in the "all-action, no logic" direction of the original "Return of Superman" comics.
Two big stories wrapped up the year in digital comics.
Firstly, Marvel launched Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Their service, for $60 a year, would give readers access to a partial library of Marvel comics. The project has been widely criticized for the lack of completeness, as runs of series currently available as collections are not available as part of the site. In short, Marvel seems to be asking readers to pay for a marketing tool.
At $60 a year, I'm not sure this is a bad deal or worth complaining about. After all, the cover price on most Marvel comics is $3, and trades run about $18 for around siz issues worth of comics. But as I have as of yet to pay $60 myself for the service, I can't say whether it's worth the money.
DC is watching Marvel closely, but they seem content to continue to publish printed collections of older material. I suspect DC's marketing research has told them that their audience is older and seems willing to pay for printed collections. As DC spent 2006 and 2007 ramping up their trade collections department, they've done a great job of bringing collections to their audience, and that audience has been happy to pay the fairly low prices associated with the collections.
One day, perhaps, DC will have a stronger online effort. I've heard in 2008 the Archives Editions may disappear in favor of another model. I'll be keeping an eye open for what they'll do next. But I suspect it won't be online.
The other big story was that DC and Marvel jointly began asking the sites which were illegally carrying scanned copies of comics to knock it off. Honestly, I have no idea what the sites were thinking. Their activity was pretty clearly illegal, and they were getting a lot of hits.
There is an argument in the comic community that the free comics online were nothing but great marketing for the print collections. From an informal poll I took at work (and we have lots of guys and girls at work who read comics), this is sort of true, but not really. The truth seems to be that the $3 cover price for comics is simply too steep for what they're willing to pay for comics they'll read once. And I'm increasingly in agreement. What they do not do very often is actually purchase any comics whatsoever.
What I personally found ludicrous were the voices online who were outraged that the free comics sites had been shut down. For people who read comics every day about de facto law enforcement, the understanding of legal v. illegal and what is stealing and what is not is a little shakey. If you're going to illegally download comics, at least know what you're doing.
2007 saw the rise of popular web strips such as Achewood and Perry Bible Fellowship, which give me a lot more hope for comic strips (in print OR online) than, say, Fred Basset. And I continue to enjoy the hell out of Daniel Fu's action comic "The Retriever" (bookmark it and check weekly for updates).
No list of my favorite comics. This went on way longer than I expected. Hope you kids enjoy. More comics in 2008!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I'm not going to monkey with top 10 lists. Inspired by Jamie's random Top 10 list, I'm just going to highlight several things I found to be of import in 2007.
I didn't see 95% of what came out this year. I'm moving into a period in my life where trailers tell me nothing about why I should drop my hard-won clams on a movie, movies aren't aimed at my demographic, or I feel like I've already seen the movie before.
My favorite movie of 2007: No Country for Old Men
It's probably Cormac McCarthy who deserves the real praise here, as from what I hear, the movie's greatest achievement was sticking close to the book. But for once, a movie managed to surprise me, have uniformly excellent performances, stark but fantastic cinematography and told a story with no fear. Still, adaptations are difficult at best, and to truly do the source material justice may actually be more difficult than creating a movie from the ground up where the audience has no foreknowledge and/ or no expectations.
Moreover, it's no secret that the Coens were a huge part of why I was enamored enough with film when I started college and remained a tremendous influence throughout much of my teens and 20's. Unfortunately, of late, I had felt they were no longer making movies I really cared about. This movie proved me wrong.
The movie took a plot that could have been a standard "package" movie, and, instead managed to make a coherent statement upon the nature of evil in the world and what becomes of good men who spend their lives fighting something they can't ever really understand.
Anyhow, it did lead to me buying a three-novel collection of McCarthy's work I'm going to crack here before the New Year.
Least Favorite Movie of 2007: So many to choose from!
Probably the most cynical and bankrupt of the movies I watched this year was "High School Musical 2", which I watched half of one night with Wagner. Calculated and intentionally stupid, but bright and shiny as a 52" Plasma Screen's demo disc, this movie was intended to give elementary and middle school kids who think high school is going to be AWESOME something to aspire to. Made Saved by the Bell look nuanced. Heck, it reallyw asn't any different than "From Justin to Kelly", except that this movie was somehow even more chaste. But, then again, it is for little kids.
Also, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" was... it was just a failure on so many levels, I don't have the time. Pair it with the nuttily bad "Ghost Rider", and Marvel had a rough year at the movies. Both will have sequels, I am sure.
As I mentioned, we really didn't see a lot of movies this year, and while many of them didn't do much for me, I can't say it was that the movies were bad, per se. They just weren't that great. But I think that's pretty typical.
Had we not had tickets to see Robosaurus after Transformers at the Alamo, I would have walked out. It was that bad. Oh, yes it was. The entire center thirty minutes of the film was embarrassing and nigh-unwatchable. If you weren't bored and squirming in your seats during the "Transformers sneak around Spike's backyard" sequence, I cannot help you.
But above all stands Tarantino's "Death Proof", the second half of the Grindhouse double feature. Yes. I do, in fact, get it. I am not against paying homage o exploitation movies, bad movies, etc... I think it can be nifty. But I do think that believing that whatever dialog you put in the character's mouths is interesting and needs no editing is a fallacious assumption. Tarantino's post "Pulp Fiction" career seems to be a test to see exactly how much he actually does need Roger Avary as the years go by.
Whatever Tarantino once added to the movies he made by recycling old bits from cheap movies and polishing them up has drained away. Now we're left with endless, pointless dialog and modestly directed action sequences. The movie was not (a) exciting, (b) funny. And it was easily thirty minutes too long.
My favorite TV show of 2007: 30 Rock
For probably snooty reasons, TV reviewers (who have absolutely no ground to stand on being snooty) thought Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was going to be the winner in the contest between the shows about a comedy sketch show. After all, Studio 60 was moody and joyless and featured alcoholics and other staples of the TV landscape of adult programming. But a show where absolutely nobody is funny or even cracks a smile about a sketch comedy show?
30 Rock stepped up to the plate and gave a writer's-eye view of working on a sketch comedy show owned by a mega-corporation and the goofiness the disconnect between the two worlds creates. Like all good jesters, Tina Fey is able to comment by making a joke, on everything from politics to star theatrics to the very suits who have made her career possible. The show may not be for all tastes, but with every episode a bit different, and without getting bogged down in any pointless "will they or won't they?" romantic plotlines, it's been a standout show that seems to get better all the time.
Also, due in large part to Alec Baldwin, it's possibly the most quotable show on TV any given week. Thanks to JAL and a certain sketch featuring "Paul Schwetty", I was quite glad to see Baldwin take on the role of Jack Donaghy, and they show has found it's voice in the schizm between the idealistic Liz Lemon and corporate shark Donaghy.
Add in Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski and Jack McBayer (as well as any of the rest of the show's multitude of characters) and it's a lot of fun.
Honorable Mention: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The premise of the show: people are awful, especially when they're looking for an advantage.
There's no real story here other than a bar run by family and friends and their various misadventures from starting a band to trying out for the Eagles. In the current trend set by HBO programming, basic cable is waking up to the fact that shows with characters who are more morally ambiguous are inherently more interesting. And, in this case, a lot funnier.
This is the show that made me like Danny DeVito for the first time in more than a decade, made me want to join a band, and gave us Kaitlin Olson as Sweet Dee (a tie for my favorite female character in TV, right there with Liz Lemon).
Least Favorite Show of 2007: Any show that asked me to get invested (while providing nothing in return)
I have only so many hours in my week. I know most people now seem to love getting wrapped up in the complicated mythologies of hour long dramas. I am not one of them.
There was a time when TV shows were good first, and then lasted long enough to build up a backbone and larger plots. These days, you take a fairly benign concept like "The Bionic Woman" and load it down with fifteen tons of dead-weight in the first two episodes with massive conspiracies, fractured families, precocious teenage sisters with criminal records, huge San Francisco apartments owned by bartenders and overly complicated backgrounds for Harvard-bound future bionic women.
Thanks to shows like X-Files (which eventually built a mythology), and the break-away success of shows like "Lost", every show has to have a built in mythology. This ignores the fact that probably, at some point, a better idea could come along but the show will be locked into whatever angle they put in the pilot. And trying to write around whatever was in the pilot will just make things even more awkward.
I wonder if I am not a bit jaded regarding the "instant mythology" bit from seeing too many comics that believe they need to cram potentially interesting ideas down your throat in the first issue or two, but when you get down to it, there's nothing there beyond the mythology. The characters don't behave from an area of honesty, they become walking plot devices or behave in ways that serve plot while providing no real motivation of their own that I can buy.
In the deepest, darkest places in my heart, I am secretly hoping that the writer's strike and lack of programming for a year or so will mean that in 2008 I will no longer see the look of shock on people's faces when I admit I am not interested in Show X, or that I have no plans to watch Show Y, no matter how good it is. Especially if I have 40 episodes to watch in order to catch up.
Where do you people find the time?
Sophomore Slump 2007: Friday Night Lights
Formerly a show about the pressure cooker of kids growing up in the spotlight of high-school football, as well as the strain on a coach in a town where football is king... this year Friday Night lights became a show about inappropriate relationships between those above and under the demarcation of high school graduation.
This is not what I signed up for.
Last year, even when the show had a bad week or flimsy plotline, it would be wrapped up quickly. This year, it seemed as if they brought in the writers from Felicity and set them loose upon formerly interesting characters.
Once the plotlines were used up from the Peter Berg movie (and the book? I've not read it.), the writers knew too little about their own subject to know what to do. Even the potentially interesting "finding Jesus" storyline started for one of the characters was dropped without comment, while the implausible "murder" storyline took up an inordinate amount of screentime when the ending was really never in doubt. And while Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler both deliver great performances each week, the TMU coaching storyline was awkward and somewhat unbelievable. Probably too believable was Julie's storyline about a high school girl acting out and feeling misunderstood. It just wasn't interesting.
It'll be curious to see what happens when/ if the show returns.
I really didn't buy many albums this year. I think the real story for 2007 was that fissures in the music industry became visible cracks as Radiohead tried it's own distribution experiment and pretty much proved that whatever labels once offered (especially for established artists) is no longer relevant. The interwebs have compltely repainted the picture as of two or three years ago, and effects are now becoming obvious.
Musical Celebrity of the Year
Suck it, Steve Jobs. I know you wanted this, but it ain't happening.
I choose Amy Winehouse. It's not often we get a musician who is such a public trainwreck as part of the package BEFORE they've really taken a toe-hold on the American music scene. But Winehouse was already a celebrity in the UK, and came to our shores pre-packaged as a bee-hived chanteuse who was so deep in the sauce, she might just pass out at any time.
We didn't even need to watch the inevitable rise and crash of a starlet. Winehouse came to us in "Britney, Career Year 6" mode, so there was no suffering through the peppy teen-years, awful movies or ghost-written books.
Nope, we went right for the "I have to cancel my ACL Fest appearance because I'm drying out" phase shortly after I'd downloaded Rehab to iTunes.
Plus, her album isn't half bad, IMHO.
Surprisingly lived up to the hype. It was a perfect way to watch music for those of us with attention deficit problems, and I saw a lot of good shows. And walked away from a lot of shows I just wasn't interested in.
I will definitely be attending again in 2008.
What the @#%$??? goes to the Hannah Montana phenomenon and all of the psychotic parents raising a generation of entitled sociopaths by dropping thousands of dollars on tickets to watch a modestly talented little girl lip-synch.
Just imagine if those parents, instead, wrote checks to Doctors without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross or some other worthy organization and told their children what they were doing with the money, and then bought their kid a Season 1 DVD set of the TV show.
Yes, I am judging. It's what I do.
I also liked the LCD Soundsystem album
That's it for this post. Next time we'll get into some other items of import. Maybe the news, politics, comics and space travel. Who knows?
Hey, you might be interested to know Denise and her husband, Ryan, are now proud parents of not one, but TWO new Kudvas.
Please welcome young Grace and Dylan Kudva to planet Earth. They were born, I believe, on December 20th. Denise is a tough lady, but, geez... twins. You are a superwoman, Denise.
Anyhow, Denise and Ryan will do a great job. And I have no doubt they will have a couple of molecular biologists or something equally sciency on their hands in a couple of decades.
For more info and pictures of the cute little nippers, go to the Bambino Blog.
Hi, Leaguers! I've asked Jamie to come up with a list of her Top 10 of 2007. Here it is. Enjoy!
Totally Random Top Ten 2007 List
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
3. Holiday Heckstravaganza '07
4. Swimming at Gus Fruh
6. LOST season finale
7. In Rainbows
8. My new CR-V
9. Starting dance classes again
10. My awesome game at Peter Pan Golf
**Extra special bonus item: Mom's medical scare was a false alarm. We love you, Mom!!
As I mentioned, I received a bass for Christmas. It is shiny. It is blue. I have no idea how to play it. I do know that no matter how long I sit down and play the thing, Jamie says "You didn't play your bass very long." I'm not sure she really wants me cranking away on it for hours when I know exactly one bass line (U2's "With or Without You").
The main problem is that I did not want a bass guitar for Christmas. I wanted a delicious bass. Oh well. Some things get lost in the translation.
Jason and I played some tonight, and he showed me some other bass lines. It seems Adam Clayton may not be the genius I have often given him credit for if I can already play two U2 songs.
Anyhow, its fun. I may not get a chance to pick up chicks playing bass (unless Jamie starts throwing the house keys at me while I'm playing), but it is fun. Sooner or later, we will need more than just me and Jason, but for right now, it's kind of cool to be able to play with him and try something he's into after all the trips to Austin books he's suffered through to amuse me.
So look forward to more future rockin' announcements in these pages.