Monday, March 28, 2011

Best of the Week - Fourth Week of March

Best TV show I saw: Any current reader of my blog will notice that I have not been enjoying much television lately. Besides Fringe which has been solid and the Thursday Night comedies, there is very little to be excited about. I’m hoping things pick up with the spring premieres of Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara and I will also be watching A Game of Thrones. However, this week was more of the same with Michael Scott and Holly’s proposal on The Office being a true stand-out episode. It was sweet and very in-character for everyone. I do wish The Office was ending after this season though. Once Steve Carrell is gone, I know it will feel odd and forced. I also know I will continue watching it, even if it stinks so I just want to free up 30 minutes from my life a week.

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.

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