Tuesday, March 29, 2011
In my group ten years ago, we tried to do a sort of Best Of but chronologically. We started with The Lady Vanishes which was funnier than I expected. Then moved onto Notorious, Rebecca, Vertigo, Psycho, Rope, then Rear Window.
I think we stopped around then, but I have seen a number on my own. Click on the link above in order to get to the article I read, but reading this made me want to go back and try and fill in some that I may have missed. I'm sure it will do the same for you.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Best movie I saw: The only movie I watched this week was not very good at all, but since it’s the only thing I watched, I guess it’s the “best”. The second installment of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was a sad and pathetic attempt to explain the big credit crisis from two years ago and at the same time update an audience with a character that really didn’t need updating. The movie was too long, too full of itself and all in all just bad. The only good thing was I happened to watch this movie while reading Michael Lewis’ The Big Short which was a great book about a similar topic, and I was able to have a better understanding for what was trying to be accomplished, but this also may have me realize more of the issues with this story. On a side note: The best part was definitely Charlie Sheen's cameo especially given the recent craziness.
Best thing I read: South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami was the third novel of Murakami’s that I’ve read in about as many years and was once again knocked out by how this writer is able to make the most mundane of stories full of life and beauty. This short 200 page novel is on the surface a simple first person narrative about a middle aged man telling the story of his life from 1950s Japan into the middle aged man he becomes in the late 1980s but the way Murakami writes makes this so much more. He has a way of writing that makes everything feel like a dream and the characters, while fleshed out and well-written, are also difficult to fully grasp because Murakami always makes the reader add that last piece. While reading his books, I feel the same way I feel while watching a David Lynch movie. Like everything is right there to be seen, but something is still missing and you need to take that extra step and put in that extra effort to fully understand what’s going on. And like Lynch’s films, even if you don’t fully grasp everything you still walk away with a deep sense of enjoyment and pleasure from reading it. I look forward to reading more of Murakami’s books and the news that Jonny Greenwood will be doing the music to his novel Norwegian Wood puts that book on deck.
I also read: The Big Short by Michael Lewis. In this book, Michael Lewis tells the story of about 5 or 6 people that were able to see the mortgage crisis of 2007 & 2008 before everyone else and make a ton of money while the rest of the economy failed. He tells the history of these individuals and why they may have been uniquely positioned to see this failure of the economic system better than most. The best thing is they were positioned this way by simply not taking things at face value and asking simple questions like “explain to me why this would make me money and what does this product do?” People like Steve Eisman who created Frontpoint Capital were often crass in a boardroom, but he was smart enough to say he didn’t understand something. When he looked into it further he was able to see the banks creating these crazy deals to give loans to poor people and then looked into the future to see that there would be no way these poor people would be able to pay the loans back, so he bet on the loans defaulting. The book gives a great perspective to a difficult time in our economic history (that I personally do not think we are actually done with and think there will be a second, possibly worse, hiccup within the next three years, but that’s beside the point). Michael Lewis has a great, easy going way of writing and explaining complicated financial instruments to the layman. Although it is still complicated and confusing (even to someone like me with an MBA who works in the day to day world for a large bank), I think almost anyone can read this book and have some sort of enjoyment from it.
I also read: The graphic novel Kick-Ass which was very similar to the movie, although I actually think the changes they made in the film version helped the story. But being a huge comic book fan, and already having seen the movie, when the book was sitting on the shelf in the library I had to pick it up. John Romita Jr. is one of the first artists I can remember reading comic books of when he was an artist on Uncanny X-Men and the Amazing Spider-Man in the mid 1980s and seeing his distinct art is always something I enjoy. Meanwhile Mark Millar’s distorted view of superheroes and comic books I’ve been a fan of since his anti-christ creator owned book from the early 2000s Chosen. If you’ve seen the great (but VIOLENT) movie, you know what you’re in for. Kick-Ass basically tells the story of what would happen if people with no super powers really tried to put on a costume and fight crime. The answer is it would be violent, funny and a little bit scary. But for more, read the book (and its sequel which should be coming out soon)
Best thing I heard: On Wednesday I decided to get tickets to see American Idiot on Broadway before it closes next month. Starting next Monday, Billie Joe Armstrong will be performing in the show until it closes at the end of April. This will cause a spike in ticket sales and after seeing the show and knowing he plays St. Jimmy (who only sings about 4 songs in the entire show) makes me happy I didn’t pay the extra $100 per ticket it would have cost to see him. I was able to get a ticket in the 13th row for $40. The show had a few production problems. I think the sound mix was off, the microphone on the drummer seemed to cut in and out and couldn’t hear the drums at times, it wasn’t quite loud enough, and I think the band missed a few cues throughout.
Overall, it wasn’t the greatest show, not only for these reasons. I think the story thought it was a little bit deeper than it actually was (or I didn’t get some of the points they were trying to make) and the actors were all good, but no real stand outs or anyone that blew me out of my chair.
All that said I found a few songs to be done quite well. Also the novelty of seeing Green Day on Broadway was worth the price of admission. I thought the stage design was cool with the punk/newspaper lined backdrop. But my biggest issue really was that it wasn’t loud enough. This is a Green Day show, it should be loud and in your face. I remember when I was a Junior in High School I saw The Who’s Tommy on Broadway and my aunt next to me had her hands over her ears due to the noise. I remember jumping from the battle scenes during Les Miserables. Broadway can be loud and although it’s possible there was some tech problems, this should have been louder and more in my face.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
I came across this Book Cloud of books everyone should read. I don't necessarily agree that all these books are "MUST READS" but its as good a list as any. I have read 46 of the novels listed in this cloud. Of the books that I have read, I have rated them as follows:
|The Picture of Dorian Gray||Oscar Wilde||A+|
|Harry Potter||JK Rowling||A|
|A Prayer for Owen Meany||John Iriving||A|
|A Clockwork Orange||Arthur Burgess||A|
|The Time Traveler's Wife||Audrey Niffenegger||A|
|The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay||Michael Chabon||A|
|To Kill a Mockingbird||Harper Lee||A|
|The Little Prince||Antoine de Saint-Exupéry||A-|
|Atlas Shrugged||Ayn Rand||A-|
|Animal Farm||George Orwell||A-|
|Life of Pi||Yann Martel||A|
|Of Mice and Men||John Steinbeck||B+|
|The Fountainhead||Ayn Rand||B+|
|One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest||Ken Kesey||B+|
|The Lord of the Rings||JRR Tolkien||B+|
|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy||Douglas Adams||B+|
|Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep||Philip K. Dick||B+|
|Brave New World||Aldous Huxley||B+|
|Heart of Darkness||Joseph Conrad||B+|
|The Unbearable Lightness of Being||Milan Kundera||B+|
|Fahrenheit 451||Ray Bradbury||B|
|The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time||Mark Haddon||B|
|Lord of the Flies||William Golding||B|
|The Chronicles of Narnia||CS Lewis||B|
|Les Miserables||Alexander Dumas||B|
|The Hobbit||JRR Tolkien||B|
|Alice's Adventures in Wonderland||Lewis Carrol||B|
|The Da Vinci Code||Dan Brown||B-|
|The Stranger||Albert Cadmus||B-|
|The Kite Runner||Khaled Hosseini||B-|
|A Farewell to Arms||Ernest Hemmingway||B-|
|The Grapes of Wrath||John Steinbeck||B-|
|The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn||Mark Twain||C+|
|Don Quixote||Miguel De Cervantes||C+|
|Great Expectations||Charles Dickens||C+|
|The Handmaid's Tale||Margaret Atwood||C|
|The Scarlett Letter||Nathaniel Hawthorne||C|
|The Road||Cormac McCarthy||C-|
|On The Road||Jack Kerouac||C-|
|A Confederacy of Dunces||John Kennedy Toole||C-|
Monday, March 21, 2011
Best TV show I saw: Still not really enjoying anything on TV. Is there just nothing good on, or am I missing stuff. Besides always enjoying The Daily Show or reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm, there has been nothing of note on TV for me.
Best movie I saw: Let Me In – A decent remake of the original Norway film Let The Right One In which I watched and really enjoyed a few years ago. This had great work by the two child-actors as the leads. The only thing I did not enjoy about this version was the use of some unnecessary and low quality CGI for the little girl when she “vamped out” from time to time. The reason the original was so good was because of its restraint and not necessarily showing everything that was going on. But the new version kept the atmosphere and plot very similar and I was quite happy with it. If you have not seen the original, this one will be worth seeing. If you have seen the original, it may be redundant, but the kids really were great actors (as far as kids usually go).
I also enjoyed: Death Race 2000 - I rewatched this on Netflix streaming and it is still simple, good fun and worth watching if you’ve never seen it before.
The Fourth Kind – This movie was just odd for me. It’s like it didn’t know if it wanted to pass itself off as “real” like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activities, or “Based on a True Story” like the original Amityville Horror, so they did some sort of weird hybrid. A very strange story told in an even stranger way.
Best thing I read: The Book Thief – Everywhere I go someone seems to mention this book to me. I finally got around to reading it and I enjoyed it for the most part. I loved the fact that the narrator was Death and its point of view was very matter-of-fact and sounded kind of bored by everything.
This book is the story of a young girl that is growing up in a small town in Germany during the early parts of WWII. The book does not really break new ground by being a Holocaust story in a sense, but there are some truly great characters and an impending sense of hope throughout the book which was equally surprising since Death is telling the tale.
I found myself at times bored by the main character, but she was also the central figure that we were able to learn more about the much more interesting supporting character. Most notably, her friend Rudy, her adopted father Hans, and their dirty little secret Max were all written so well and believable that they kept me coming back for more. I am happy that these types of stories are timeless and will continue being written though.
I also read: Cross Fire by James Patterson. I have read the entire Alex Cross library and although they are all the same, they are also all really a ton of fun. They are 350 pages that take 2 days to read because of how they are written and as dumb as it is, I feel like I know all of these characters so well that I need to find out what happens in each installment, even though it is always pretty much the same.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Please take a look at the video and see if you can name every movie they show. Also, make sure you take some time to enjoy the awesomeness of the RJD2 song they play:
Friday, March 11, 2011
Best movie I saw: Without question rewatching Inception was as much fun as I expected it to. I’m glad it cleaned up on the technical awards, but I think it should have won best script. I think I understand why it didn’t, it’s a little to cerebral and there are some possible loose ends that don’t come through. But in the end, those plot points that make your brain hurt and you can’t figure out have two possible explanations: 1) They actually do make sense, you’re just not looking at the movie in the right way or not understanding it fully (Not to say I do, I just have MY understanding of it which may or may not be correct). 2) The movie is about dreams and the unconscious. Perhaps the entire key to everything lies in this exchange:
Cobb: You create the world of the dream, you bring the subject into that dream, and they fill it with their subconscious.
Ariadne: How could I ever acquire enough detail to make them think that its reality?
Cobb: Well dreams, they feel real while we're in them, right? It's only when we wake up that we realize how things are actually strange. Let me ask you a question, you, you never really remember the beginning of a dream do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what's going on.
Ariadne: I guess, yeah.
Cobb: So how did we end up here?
Ariadne: Well we just came from the a...
Cobb: Think about it Ariadne, how did you get here? Where are you right now?
Ariadne: We're dreaming?
Cobb: You're actually in the middle of the workshop right now, sleeping. This is your first lesson in shared dreaming. Stay calm.
Basically if the movie itself is about recreating the experience of a dream anything is possible and everything makes sense. It doesn’t matter what you think you know or don’t know, but you go along for the ride nonetheless. On top of that, the action is great, the music is fantastic and for the most part everything makes sense.
The second time watching it I was able to keep up with the quick changes that came. I wasn’t always playing catch-up in my head. I was simply enjoying the ride. Are there plot points that may run into dead ends? Possibly, but that can be explained away with one simple word: Paradox.
I also enjoyed: Freakonomics – Some of the shorts were better than others (I could have done without the Japanese Sumo wrestler bit, there was too much reading). But over all it was a fun documentary.
And last night I happened to catch Inglourious Basterds for about the 8th time. It really is fantastic. I especially enjoyed the sting in the basement bar this time around. The dialogue between the German Officer and the British posing as the German is just great. “Well, if this is it, old boy, I hope you don't mind if I go out speaking the King's.”
Best thing I read: I read Mr. Funny Pants by Michael Showalter who was in MTVs The State sketch comedy show from the mid 90s. The book is very funny and is more about his process of trying to write a book than anything else. But really the book is just a stream of consciousness and a peak into the mind of a very strange, but funny man. After reading this I really understand his brand of humor and have a better understanding of which sketches from The State were written by him (especially since I basically have them all committed to memory)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
The ABC's of Me...
V. Vegetables you don’t like: If mushrooms are considered a vegetable, than I will say mushrooms.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Best TV show I saw: Since everything has been Charlie Sheen, the only thing that I can think about that I enjoyed was the new, disturbing episode of Eagleheart. Chris Elliot continues to be the best in idiot-humor
Best movie I saw: Saturday Night I went and saw Black Swan before the Oscars hit. I really had no expectations for this movie except that I normally like Darren Aronovsky’s directing style. For the first half of the movie I must admit I was a little confused. I couldn’t quite figure out the pacing and I think I had a slight preconceived notion of what I expected the movie to be about and since I was off it took me a while to get into the swing of the movie. About halfway through, I started to understand that the movie was really an examination of one person trying to completely change themselves in order to succeed at their given profession. Natalie Portman started out so quiet and timid that her transformation literally and figuratively into something that was so foreign to her was fun to watch.
As good as she was in the movie the real star is always Darren Aronovsky. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Wrestler, I’ve enjoyed all of his other movies. He has a way of really making you feel uncomfortable while watching his movies. He has such a great eye, and is able to use a handheld camera in such a way that it just keeps you on edge. Black Swan especially was great because he used the edges of the frame in such a way that I was never sure if I saw something in the corner of the screen or not, but I think this was done intentionally so we understood how unnerved and uncomfortable in her own skin Natalie Portman’s character was. Lastly, the movie simply looked beautiful especially during the scenes with the character on stage. WARNING: DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE IF YOU ARE SQUEEMISH. Even I flinched a few times, and I can handle virtually anything (as I’m watching Alien while I type this)
I also enjoyed: Sugarland Express – I had never seen Steven Spielberg’s first film and thought it was a light-hearted, 1970s version of Natural Born Killers. The movie was not the greatest, but there were some hints of things to come and I’m glad I finally watched it
Best thing I read: This week I read a novel called Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro. It tells the story of an alternate reality where cloning is possible in present day England and the story of one clone and her two friends as they grow up knowing what they are and their feelings behind being less than human. The book really is about the notion of what is a human clone and if they have a soul or not. I enjoyed the novel, but the writing and its first person narration was the real highlight. Even though it was written very matter of fact and conversationally, there was a lot of depth behind it. I've also heard the film version of this book is worth seeing and I look forward to getting it from Netflix soon.
I also enjoyed: DMZ – On The Ground. This is the first five issues of a comic book that takes place in a future United States where the USA is in a civil war vs. another faction called the Free States where Manhattan Island is the No Man’s Land between the two factions. This story is told through the eyes of a slacker with little ambition who gets dropped into New York City and has to fend for himself the only way he knows how by becoming a reporter and telling the world what is going on in New York. So far, it is quite good and I can’t wait to keep reading this. I just love it when I find a good new comic book that I can catch up on.