Saturday, November 26, 2011

Media Endorsements!

One blog I read regularly, Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style, (which I came to via The Hairpin), recently posted a short little note on things she is currently loving and recommends. And since LORD KNOWS I have no shortage of opinions when it comes to media, here are mine:

First up, American Horror Story. The story of the Harmon family and the haunted house they move into. This show just gets more addictive the more insane it becomes. It's like a nice little stylistic mash-up of the eeriness of The X-Files crossed with the bat shit, off-the-wall insanity of, say, True Blood. Or really any other Ryan Murphy creation. It has some great supporting performers, such as Denis O'Hare (speaking of True Blood: the greatest scene of anything ever), Frances Conroy, and finally Jessica Lange, who eats all the scenery for breakfast and is completely FANTASTIC. The Halloween two-parter, which centered on Evan Peters and Zachary Quinto, was amazing.

Also: Community. This show is just so smart and so endlessly clever. They recently set up a background joke where the punchline was three seasons in the making. Three seasons! Admittedly, the show doesn't really know what to do with Chevy Chase or Ken Jeong and I'd personally love to see less of those two and more guest spots by John Oliver. But take the most recent episode, which was a riff on Heart of Darkness AND featured Joel McHale's impersonation of the Dean. So funny, so smart. (Actually, per the recent Nielsen ratings, the top three shows with the greatest concentration of viewers, 18-49, with four or more years of college are: Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Community.

And speaking of Parks and Rec: Awwww.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is super brilliant (and Pulitzer-award winning!). While it is nominally about an aging record producer, Bennie, and his assistant Sacha, each chapter delves into a different character with a relationship (in some form) with one or the other (or, unknowingly, both). It skips back and forth across decades and ends up giving you a sense of the scope of these two people's lives, even if their paths only crossed for a short while. It also examines how events in the past continue to shape their lives or influence them decades later. And given that they worked/work/will work in the music industry, the book also touches on the communal nature of art.

(Plus, Jennifer Egan is a fellow Burkes alumna, who mentions the school in the book. How could I not love it?)

Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelley is a twelve-part graphic novel about wanderlust and different locales around North America. While it was originally intended to be portraits of places with one character, Megan, as a unifying thread, it gradually became more and more Megan's story and the tale of how she grew up as she traveled. Obviously, as someone who has moved a lot during her twenties, and has a pretty strong case of gypsy blood, I'm biased. But the art is beautiful and, as evidenced by the previous book, I really enjoy narrative structures that come at their characters obliquely and through differing points of view (Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, which won the Pulitzer as well, is another good example of that type of structure.)

I have to say, there is a glut of things to come in the next month, but I feel like this has been an oddly off year for movies. Not that there haven't been great things out - particularly on the indie/foreign circuit, as per usual-, but there hasn't been much that I've really fallen in love with. And not quite as many great things.

On DVD: Stake Land is a really fun post-apocalyptic vampire flick. Cave of Forgotten Dreams will be released on DVD this week, although I believe you can only see it in 3-D with a 3-D TV. However, I'm sure the paintings are still beautiful in 2-D, and Werner Herzog is crazy no matter the format. The newest Jane Eyre, with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender is well worth watching, both for its great performances and the beautiful moor/dimly lit great hall cinematography. And Circumstance, about two teenage Iranian girls and what it is like to grow up under the Iranian state, is also worth checking out.

Drive is still showing in one or two theaters and it is fantastic. It is art house existentialism meets pulp violence. Martha Marcy Mae Marlene is also showing and is a really amazing film about a young woman trying to break free of a cult.

I think I've pretty well covered that this week.

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