Friday, August 12, 2016
Thursday, August 11, 2016
A review of the films I've seen this past week.
HE NAMED ME MALALA (2015)
When this documentary about Malala Yousafzai was released last year, I saw most of the reviews were playing that internet game of "More Woke and Informed Than You" and went on and on and on about how Malala doesn't need a "puff piece" and all that because, you know, we get it. But I think calling this doc a puff piece misses the point of it. What I liked about this movie is that it doesn't deal in legendarium and mythmaking, turning Malala into a symbol. It tells the story of a teenage girl and her intellectual, proud father, and why they felt education was important, even (or especially) in the face of suppression. Malala tells us about her life before she was shot by the Taliban and how she and her family live as expatriates now. Malala's story is an important one, but it's also important to remember that outside of her bravery and her willingness to stand up for what she believes all women are entitled to, she's a person. The humanity that's on display here is as essential to understanding what happened to her as all of the speeches. Showing Malala's interest in athletes and her own difficulties in school isn't a puff piece; it's a part of who she is. As usual, I feel like most of what passes as criticism online today just misses the point. ****
THE NIGHT BEFORE (2015)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie as three friends in their early thirties who get together every Christmas. This is their last hurrah before settling into their adulthoods, and they're finally getting into a legendary secret party they've been chasing for eight years. It's a reunion of JGL and Rogen with their 50/50 writer-director Jonathan Levine, and like that movie, it has some genuinely emotional stuff, some genuinely funny stuff, and some stuff that doesn't really work but at least tries. It is nice seeing a Christmas movie that seems to really love Christmas without getting preachy about it. And I appreciate the message about friendship and how you make your own family in the world as you grow up. Fun Miley Cyrus cameo, but Michael Shannon as a mystical, enigmatic pot dealer was my favorite thing. I feel like this is the kind of movie I would have absolutely loved in 2009 but am a little over these days. So... I don't know, it's fun, and there are things I dug in it, and I don't feel like I wasted my time at all. But I'll probably never watch it again. Gonna go with ***.
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
So, born July 17. That was the same day the Summer Olympics opened in Montreal.
I guess it must be the anxiety disorder that makes me attached to things and then traumatized when those things are gone. Obviously, I didn't understand that then. All I knew was that Miss Mousie was suddenly missing and no one really cared. That's a lot of my life in a nutshell.
Also, Benedict Cumberbatch was born on July 19, 1976. Probably not why I was smiling, though.
On July 20, the Viking 1 successfully landed on Mars and started returning amazing photos of the planet's surface. I spent a lot of my childhood fascinated by outer space and other planets, and I think it's neat that I was born right as this was happening.
Also happening: the Son of Sam committed his first murder on July 29. Scary stuff happening. The Olympics, the Mars landing, and a serial killer. Yep, definitely born in mid-seventies America.
Look at my parents, man. Mom is 19. Dad is 21. We live in a house on Des Moines Street in Des Moines, Iowa. I'm just a couple of weeks old. It's so crazy to just look back and see that as my life was beginning, theirs was, too, in a way. And people do this every day. Everyone has the story of their life. This is just mine.
Also cover dated in August: Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru and Dick Giordano. One of my all-time favorite comics. Just thought I'd mention.
On August 5, the same night Eric Clapton went on his racist, anti-immigration, "Keep Britain White" tirade on stage at Birmingham (wonder what he thinks of Brexit), the show What's Happening!! debuted on ABC. Loved that show as a kid, though obviously I mainly saw it in reruns. I think WFLD used to rerun it on weekday afternoons. Damn, I wanted to be kinda cool but really funny like Rerun.
Side note: Whac-A-Mole was invented in 1976. Its inventor was Aaron Fechter of Creative Engineering, Inc. He went on to create my beloved Rock-afire Explosion. Whac-A-Mole delighted the hell out of me as a kid, but not as much as the Explosion. Even today, just the thought of that animatronic band makes me smile. My Mom was at her boyfriend's kid's birthday party a few weeks ago at Chuck E. Cheese, and mentioned they had some of the old Explosion animatronics. "They have the gorilla," she mentioned. And me, her forty year-old son, said "He's called Fatz Geronimo, Ma."
According to Wikipedia, this was the night of the first professional appearance of the Ramones on the stage at CBGB's. I probably wouldn’t have slept through the night for that. I would’ve been too busy rocking.
The next day, August 17, Alex Haley's Roots: The Saga of an American Family was published. It had a profound effect on me when I first read it in high school.
This is the world I'm evolving into. We'll see what sparks next time.
For now, here are some Clydesdales.
Sunday, August 07, 2016
I'm feeling really bad this morning (I am in allergy hell this week), so that means it's time to put on some soul music. The Spinners, 1973. Unconscionably, this is the first time I've ever featured the Spinners.