After a long day of work, I typically want to do nothing but lay on the couch, watch a movie, and relax. Last week with the wife and child away, that’s pretty much what I did. It was kind of awesome. And yet there is a realization that this is not the healthiest way to live. It is certainly not the best way to raise a child. With the family back this week and with school starting up again, the wife and I created little nightly schedule that attempts to limit the amount of television in our lives. We have a game night, a reading night, a project night, a date night, and yes, Friday nights are movie nights.
We did this last year and it worked out pretty well. I’m excited about getting back into a groove again, but there is a realization that this does hinder my own pop-culture consumption just a bit. This week was especially dry because the transition to our new schedule and back to school kept me busier than usual. Luckily, my time as a bachelor last week gave me some extra things to talk about.
Dressed to Kill
I’ve been catching up on my Brian De Palma films circa the 1980s. I had actually watched this one as a young teenager, but that was more due to the sexy pair of legs on the cover than any love of De Palma. I was pretty disappointed with it back then as the only real sex in it is a rape fantasy at the beginning, but as a more mature cinephile in my 40s I found a lot to love.
De Palma has always paid homage to Hitchcock in his films but here he runs pretty close to straight out ripping off Psycho. It's got a lurid shower sequence (the aforementioned rape fantasy), a cross-dressing killer, and one of the main characters is killed off before the half-way mark. But De Palma makes it his own with a sensual soft-focus visual aesthetic, plenty of his usual split-screen shots, an effective use of a split-diopter lens (which keeps two planes in focus at once), and lots of mirrors.
There’s a scene early in the film in which Angie Dickinson’s characters is flirting with a stranger in a museum. De Palma shoots it with interesting cuts and long shots with a Steadicam, following her back and forth through the museum's labyrinth corridors. It's a mesmerizing, brilliant sequence with minimal dialogue and lots of suspense.
De Palma is a guy I’ve kind of given short shrift to due to his late-career mistakes, but I’m looking forward to seeing more of what he could do in his prime.
Excellent geopolitical thriller concerns the French version of the CIA and its crew of spies dealing with various international concerns. I watched (and reviewed) Season Three, but had not seen much of the previous seasons. While I was definitely a little in the dark about some of the finer details, the show does a great job of giving you enough information that you can keep up. I’m definitely ready to go back to the beginning and catch it all.
There is a great used bookstore in Tulsa that I just love. It's one of those great big, old stores that’s filled from floor to ceiling with books. It's the sort of place you can get lost in for hours. Normally, I like to just wander around grabbing anything that looks interesting, but a few weeks ago I decided I needed to discover some new crime writers. After a little Googling (and a lot of wandering around the aisles trying to find anything on Google’s lists), I found some paperbacks by Jo Nesbo. He’s a popular Norwegian writer and as crime writers from Scandinavian countries have been all the rage of late, I thought I’d give him a try.
As is often the case with these things, after I picked up that book, I began seeing Nesbo stuff everywhere. A few days after my purchase I saw about half a dozen of his books at a Goodwill. Then the library was selling several. I went to the movies and found myself watching a trailer based upon his novel The Snowman. Nesbo went from being a completely unknown entity to me to a name I can’t seem to escape from.
The book is a good one. It's grand in scope - it moves from the frontline of World War II to modern day and back again, detailing how many Norwegians fought on the side of the Nazis against Russia and its current problems with white supremacists. It gets a little long in its conclusion, feeling the need to go over, in great detail, the killer's motivations, but mostly it was a very enjoyable read. I look forward to reading more Nesbo in the future.
Bonnie and Clyde
I got to see Bonnie and Clyde on the big screen for its 50th anniversary. You can read my full review here.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Upon initial viewing, I was not as thrilled as many seemed to be with this first (and what will no doubt be many) Star Wars anthology films. I liked it alright, but I found it confusing at first as it spends a good chunk of its first 20 minutes jumping from planet to planet, introducing a torrent of new characters very quickly. I also wasn’t all that enthralled with its more gritty portrayal of this world, especially after the glorious fun of The Force Awakens.
But after watching it again this week, I’m all in. It is a lot more joyous than I remembered it being, and while its ending is kind of a downer, it fits well with the story it needs to tell. The droid K-2SO, like a lot of Star Wars droids, provides the film with most of its levity, but unlike C-3PO his sarcastic, deadpan nature is hilarious. Like The Force Awakens, it goes a long ways into making me forget those awful Prequels and learn to love Star Wars again.
After shows like Serial and S-Town, I’ve been craving a new true-crime, real life podcast to listen to. The trouble with so many podcasts, and especially crime podcasts is that they tend to be loosely made affairs. Over and over again, I’d pull up a show only to find it being two or three people casually talking (and trying to be funny, and failing). They’d have a story to tell, but first they wanted to talk about their cat or the coffee they just ordered, and I find it all to be completely obnoxious.
Then I found Crimetown. It's from Gimlet Media and created by the guys who did The Jinx on HBO. It tells the story of Providence, Rhode Island and how it became ruled by mob violence and a mayor on the take. It is well written, exquisitely produced, and free of obnoxious chatter. It unfolds like the best true-crime books and is told with a journalist's eye. complete with lots of taped interviews from the various players in the story. I’m only a few episodes in but I’m really excited to have found another podcast I can really sink my teeth into.