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March media consumed

  1. Confessions, St. Augustine (trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin): This had been sitting on my shelf for a long time and it was only recently that I got around to reading it. Interesting read, and much more so in the first nine books than in 10-12, when he gets into riffing on Genesis in what feels like an entirely separate work, tacked onto the end. Of course, I didn't think anything he said was terribly convincing, but he was certainly a very smart guy and way, way, way smarter than I would have been had I been a contemporary of his. His biography was certainly touching, even if I thought that he was barking up the wrong tree. I'm certainly envious of his conviction and the comfort he finds in his faith, since both of those things are completely unreachable for me.

    One thing that took me by complete surprise was in Book XII.16 and XII.28, where allows for what amounts to reader-response criticism in biblical exegesis. Groovy! 
  2. Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton: I finished this literally minutes before AdB took the stage in Meany Hall for a talk on the self-same topic/book. I've been a de Botton fan since reading How Proust Can Change Your Life over a decade ago. I thought this was a really gives a really good leg-up to the atheist movement, in terms of where it goes after just declaring one's atheism. And his main point is that religions get a lot of things right, even if they're completely wrong about their One Big Idea: they're great at building and fostering communities, educating people, forgiveness, art, contemplation, etc. I think his hope is that this can kickstart some conversations about building more meaningful secular communities. I don't know if that's likely, but it's certainly a noble idea.
  3. "The Cask of Amontillado," Edgar Allan Poe: A friend of mine was writing a paper on this for a college course, so I reread it to be able to talk with her about her paper. Still a great story about the slippery nature of revenge.
  4. Habibi, Craig Thompson: Not as good as Blankets. But very pretty. Thompson does some absolutely gorgeous stuff with Arabic script. Some of it is pretty breathtaking.
  5. The Three Paradoxes, Paul Hornschemeier: I know I said I was going to read more word-books. AND I AM I SWEAR. But I wanted some lighter reading, especially after the St. Augustine (and other things I'm in the middle of). Words and I just weren't jibing toward the end of the month, so I read all of the Paul Hornschemeier I own. This one was pretty good. It's all about stasis and difficulty moving on. Pretty cool was the ways in which PH uses different styles of cartooning to nest stories and memories in the main narrative.
  6. Mother, Come Home, Paul Hornschemeier: Holy crap. Deva-fucking-stating. But good. VERY good. It's not spoiling too much to say that this is about the ways in which a man and his son deal with the death of their wife/mother. But holy crap. Absolutely brilliant and heart-wrenching. Have something more uplifting to read once you finish this one, ok?
  7. Life With Mr. Dangerous, Paul Hornschemeier: This will do the trick, in fact. A story about a young woman dealing with being single. It ends on an upbeat note. A lot of people compare PH to Chris Ware, which is an unfair comparison, I think. Really the only similarities are in their coloring (they both prefer solid colors) and that they're both from the Chicago area. The similarities end there, in my mind.
  1. It's a Gift: I think this is the first W.C. Fields movie I've ever seen. It was all right. I think it's a bit out of character for him, too, from what I know about his on-screen persona (in that he's not quite as irascible as I'd been led to believe). He also had a few really funny physical comedy bits, which I really wasn't expecting.
  2. Downton Abbey Seasons 1&2: If you aren't Down with Downton, I feel bad for you, son. I'm sure you've seen me yammering about this on Twitter and FB. It's a fucking fantastic show, on par with The Wire (yeah, it's that good). The characters are nuanced and interesting and heartbreaking. Everyone has a story, too, which is a pretty impressive feat for a show with over a dozen featured characters and so far only, what, 14 episodes? As I think I said elsewhere, the thing that's special about the show is that it features characters in an unjustly stratified world demonstrating what class really is. There are some tear-jerkingly good moments when those things happen.
  3. OSS 117: Lost in Rio: I still haven't seen The Artist, but I've now seen both OSS 117 movies. This is the funnier of the two, by far, which is rare for a comedy sequel (seriously -- how many comedy sequels can you name that are funnier than the originals?).
  4. Wristcutters: A Love StoryDecent. Moody. Reminded me a lot of the atmosphere in Six-String Samurai. Tom Waits has a good cameo in it.
  5. Bob Le Flambeur: Pretty good. I can sort of see where the Ocean's 11 movies get their inspiration (though everything goes horribly wrong in BLF).
  6. Army of ShadowsAnother Melville film (did you know he took his nom de guerre from the same place where I got mine? I didn't!). This one was brutal and great. All about the French Resistance and done in a very non-sentimental, in-your-face way. A pretty controversial film when it came out, since it was released in the wake of 1968 and the Algerian uprising (and it's trivially easy to draw parallels there). Of the Melville movies I watched this month, this was the best by far.
  7. Le Cercle RougeAnother good Melville film. A heist film, and I love a good heist film. They're apparently doing a remake with Orlando Bloom. I bet it doesn't end the same way, though kudos if it does.
  8. Waste Land: Holy crap. This was amazing. Like, it starts off and you don't think it's going to be much. The premise is pretty simple. Vik Muniz, a Brazilian artist living in America, returns to Brazil to live among the trashpickers of Jardim Gramacho, which is the main landfill for Rio de Janeiro His goal is to recruit some of the trashpickers to help him make pictures using trash from the landfill. And you start to think, "Ok, yeah. He's just going to breeze in and breeze out and use these folks for his art, enchant them for a while and then they're going to go back to their horrible lives." And that concern gets voiced by Vik's girlfriend. But that's not what happens. At all. The people he recruits are all genuinely touched by the art they help to create (which is portraits of themselves, often in poses from famous paintings). Vik helps them auction their stuff off and gets them a considerable amount of money which their union leader -- one of the most engaging people in the film -- uses to help build up their library and improve living conditions. I think this documentary had me in tears toward the end. It was really gorgeous and moving. I wish they had kept the original title, though: Lixo Extraordinário (which I think translates to Extraordinary Waste/Garbage). It really is amazing what Muniz and the rest of the artists do. Watch this.
  9. Alphaville: I think this is my first Godard film. It was all right. Alpha 60 has a creepy voice.
  10. How to Get Ahead in Advertising: Meh. It was ok.
  11. Young@Heart: Another really touching documentary. This one's about a group of older folks who sing modern songs in a choir. You'll never hear a more touching rendition of "Forever Young" or "Nothing Compares 2 U" than you'll hear in this movie. I'm not kidding.
  12. How I Met Your Mother, Seasons 2–6: Guilty pleasure. I mainlined it. It's pretty much The Neil Patrick Harris Show.
  13. The Killing, Season 1: I'd heard good things about this, so I watched the first season (only 12 episodes) last week. It's one more thing (in a long, long, list) that Takes Place In Seattle, But Is Filmed In Vancouver. It's a decent enough murder mystery (think Twin Peaks, but remove the quirk and supernatural elements) and it gets some things about Seattle right, namely that this is a place colored in green, blue and gray. But they get a lot of things amusingly wrong, notably in how people dress and how much it rains. It rains WAY too hard and often in this show. Also at one point, a character goes to a bed and breakfast in Tacoma. HA. You wouldn't go to a B&B in Tacoma. I'm not even sure Tacoma HAS an B&Bs. The cinematography, especially in the first two episodes, is pretty stunning. And they have some very good aerial B-roll (it's fun to pause and go "Hey! That's my Trader Joe's!" when they, like, have B-roll of the Ship Canal as it runs through Ballard.
  14. The Discreet Charm of the BourgeoisieFirst Buñuel movie I've seen. Meh. Rich people can't eat dinner because weird shit keeps happening.
  15. The Hollywoof Complex: Watched this at the recommendation of pauldeman2pt0. It was good, but sad. And not sad in the way that, say, Young@Heart was sad at times (it's about old people -- you can do the math). This was more pathetic. It's pretty much how parents without much good sense are talked into bringing their kids to Hollywood and are then summarily drained of their money by the class of people in Hollywood who exist solely to falsely pump up the hopes of would-be stars.Very few of the children profiled get anything resembling success, much less steady work.
  16. That Obscure Object of Desire: I liked this better than TDCotB, but I was still pretty meh about it. It took me a while to notice that they were using two different women for the same part. And I'm still not quite sure why.
  17. Being Elmo: Wow. Great documentary. All about Kevin Crash, the guy behind Elmo. Very touching. A few moments moved me to tears and it reminded me of how great Sesame Street is and how sorely Jim Henson is missed.
  18. Dr. Bronner's Soapbox: I was on a documentary kick and I wanted to know more about the crazy soap dude. He was indeed crazy, but he makes pretty good soap, it turns out. One of his sons is a complete sweetheart and the company seems to be pretty cool to their employees.
  19. My Left Foot: Never saw this before. Had it on in the background Saturday morning. It was all right, though Daniel Day Lewis was incredible. They appear to have whitewashed Christy Brown's relationship with his last wife, which is pretty unfortunate (she was apparently an abusive asshole and that's completely ignored).
  20. Cookie's Fortune: Meh. Decent ensemble cast. Julianne Moore was adorable.
  21. Act of Valor: Shitty, as you might imagine. It's a movie about Navy SEALS that uses active SEALS as actors. So the script and delivery were wooden (the villains were actual actors and decent in comparison). There was one scene with the SEAL I'll call Captain Beardy (since they didn't use any of their names) that was decent. But it was mostly awful. EXCEPT: the first mission was pretty neat. The appeal of the movie was that it's supposed to show how they work, which is pretty interesting. And the first mission is a hostage extraction in the jungle, so it was neat to see the tactics they'd use in such a situation. But the next major action sequence was just your run-of-the-mill firefight, which we've all seen a zillion times before.
  22. Friends with Kids: This was all right. It had an all-star cast (Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Chris O'Dowd [covering up his Irish accent with an American one with reasonable success], Jon Hamm, Jon Hamm's wife) and it should have been better than it was, but it was still ok.
  23. The Hunger GamesEh. Decent movie. Implausible concept. Like, really? Your idea of keeping colonies under control is to summarily piss 11/12 of them once a year by ritually slaughtering their children? And this seems like a good idea how?


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 4th, 2012 11:21 am (UTC)
Ooooo, i've now bumped Waste Land up considerably in my Netflix queue.
Apr. 4th, 2012 02:29 pm (UTC)
I think you'll really enjoy it.
Apr. 4th, 2012 11:23 am (UTC)
Also, speaking of shows that are almost as good as The Wire (and created by David Simon): have you watched Treme yet? If not, you should: aftermath of Katrina, great music, extremely compelling characters, etc.
Apr. 4th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
I haven't. The premise honestly didn't seem all that interesting to me.
Apr. 4th, 2012 02:48 pm (UTC)
I've watched a few episodes and I really don't find it all that interesting either.
Apr. 4th, 2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
I watched season 1 and just could not get into it. I liked the characters enough, but could not really do the second season. Does it get better?
Apr. 4th, 2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
The characters ARE what i love about Treme and i can't quite explain it, but i feel so... involved with them. That's what i love about the show: the characters are SO well-developed. i haven't seen the second season yet (STILL WAITING, THANK YOU NETFLIX) but i find that i'm eager to know what happens to all of them.

i guess i understand why some people find it dull - not much HAPPENS - but i feel like it's the Seinfeld of dramas, if that makes any sense.
Apr. 4th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
John Goodman broke my heart.
Apr. 4th, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC)
Oh my god, MINE TOO! I loved that family so much; they were the perfect realistically functional / dysfunctional family until the end.
Apr. 4th, 2012 12:34 pm (UTC)
I felt similarly about The Hunger Games. Which I also thought was, in places, a poorly-done movie.
Apr. 4th, 2012 02:31 pm (UTC)
Yeah. About 5 minutes in, I was all, "Ok, enough shaky hand-held camera already. Thanks."
Apr. 4th, 2012 01:27 pm (UTC)
That's the same translation of the Confessions as I have, and I have to admit I'm still amused by the translator's name. (So, 9 years now of amusement? 10?)

(Meanwhile, I loved The Hunger Games so much I read all three of the books this past weekend. But implausibility in a premise doesn't bother me, if the rest follows clearly from it.)
Apr. 4th, 2012 02:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the name amused me as well. Made me think of the inn-keeper in Moby-Dick named Peter Coffin. I want to imagine that his parents met and got married on principle, regardless of their feelings for one another. ("Dude. We should totally get married and become hyphenates! Best. Hyphenate name. Ever.")

I mostly went to see it because it was what was playing -- I was on a man-date with a friend whose wife just had a baby, so I brought them burgers and fries, played with the kid a little (well, sat around talking about the kid while she slept in our arms) and then went out to catch a movie since it was pretty much the first time he'd had a chance to get out of the house for non-baby duties in a month. So it was THG or Wrath of the Titans.

And it was fine for the most part as a movie (minus all of the shaky hand-held camera work); I think it's just that I could tell that the plot was one that would feel less implausible to a child, and so I was all "Really? Really?" and rolling my eyes through much of the political parts (especially when The Powers That Be initially reneged on their amnesty deal: "Really? You have at least one district engaging in violent revolution and you now want to kill one of the kids from the one district who might actually like you right now? This seems like a good idea how?"). Also, since I hadn't read the books, I heard the names and had to guess at the spelling in my head, so I heard "Katniss" as "Catness," which made me think "What a dumb name" for the entire movie.
Apr. 4th, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
Wristcutters is awesome! And I'm impressed with how much NPH show you mainlined.
Apr. 4th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah. When you can watch roughly three an hour, though, they go fast.
Apr. 4th, 2012 03:12 pm (UTC)
Seriously! I fucking love that movie. It was SO MUCH BETTER than i expected.
Apr. 4th, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
I like Downton quite a bit, but I'm not sure its second season lived up to the first - it seemed to jump around and raise some story lines only to drop them suddenly. So I'm reserving judgment on its Wire-comparison until I see what's coming. I'm excited to keep watching, but I think its large ensemble did it some damage this season.
Apr. 4th, 2012 03:12 pm (UTC)
The first season was unquestionably better than the second, but I still enjoyed the second quite a lot.
Apr. 4th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
Totally agreed. Esp when a certain couple finally make it legal. I cried.
Apr. 7th, 2012 03:34 am (UTC)
Loved Being Elmo but I also think I was so partial to it because Kevin is from Baltimore and it was really nice to see a kid from a poor neighborhood in Baltimore actually make something amazing of himself.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )