Last weekend, we went to Tennessee to visit some old friends for Easter. This week, Oklahoma teachers staged a walk-out in an attempt to get decent wages and more money for their classrooms. I don’t want to get to far into either of those things because I never want to write about religion or politics. I really don’t want to belittle the teachers and what they are doing in terms of how it has negatively affected my ability to consume pop culture. I do support the teachers and their important cause, but darn, if it hasn’t messed up my ability to watch the movies I want to watch.
Since there hasn’t been school, we’ve let the daughter stay up late, which means I can’t put in "not appropriate for six-year-old girls" films that I really want to watch. Which really means I’ve been putting those things on much later than normal and my sleepy brain can’t quite process them, which in turn means I turn them off and go to bed. I’ve now got a stack of half a dozen or so things I’ve started but have yet to return to. So look forward to that maybe next week. This is also why I’m turning the sixth cool thing over to Gordon this week.
Here’s what I did consume and found to be cool.
Amazon has been heavily promoting Season Two of this crime drama, so I finally decided to give it that try I’ve been meaning to for months now. It's got a great pedigree. It was created by David Shore and Bryan Cranston (who also co-stars and directed some episodes). It stars Giovanni Ribisi and the always great Margo Martindale. Ribisi plays Marius, a con man who just got out of prison. He’s on the run from Cranston’s gangster and assumes the identity of his old cellmate Pete. He moves in with his cellmate's grandparents who haven’t seen him since he was a kid. That part stretches credibility a little bit, but the performances are solid and although I’m only three episodes, the drama is already heating up.
Jenny and the Mexicats
I love NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series. It provides a really intimate performance space and some really great artists have made appearances. While they do get a lot of artists I love, they primarily allow artists I’ve never heard of get a chance to shine in a (tiny) spotlight. I typically don’t watch these as there is that unknown quality and the possibility I won’t like the artist and who wants to waste that 15 minutes? The other day I decided this was stupid and randomly selected one. I’m glad I did. Jenny and the Mexicats are a multi-cultural band (the lead singer is from England, the others from Mexico, and they perform in both English and Spanish). After watching them at the Tiny Desk, I went down the YouTube rabbit hole with them. This is my favorite performance, I think.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Filmstruck is finally serving up some more popular, classic titles from TCM. They've added in a few musicals. including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I'd not seen it in a long while, but remembered it being real fun. It has some pretty big story problems (it involves six brothers kidnapping six ladies to live with them in the mountains, a story based on an old tale called "The Rape of the Sabine Women," if that tells you anything). But the music is great.
The best sequence is the barn-raising, which has some fantastic dancing, and ends in a glorious fight sequence inside half a barn.
Amazing X-Men, Volume 3: Once and Future Juggernaut
I’ve been working my way through the Amazing X-Men and it's been a bit of a mixed bag. This book especially so. It consists of three stories and the year-end annual. Weirdly, Wolverine is dead in the main storylines but suddenly appears in the annual, which really threw me off. Two of the other stories aren’t particularly satisfying either. The first, about the beginnings of a gay relationship and the power of believing in yourself, is sweet in an afterschool special sort of way, but it's pretty dull if you aren't a confused teenager. The second finds Nightcrawler on a murderous rampage for some reason with Mystique of all people trying to stop him. The annual is likewise fairly mediocre stuff, but it's all saved by the main Juggernaut story.
There is this jewel thingie and whoever touches it becomes the Juggernaut, a super strong being controlled in part by Cyttorak, an alien with god desires. The X-Men rush to find it and keep anyone from grabbing it. Of course, someone does and eventually they destroy him. There are long bits where the X-Men just sit around talking about what to do with Juggernaut while he just kind of hangs out being all powerful. It's pretty funny is its own weird way. There is a lot to do about Colossus always rushing in to sacrifice and it does some pretty good character building there.
I’ve seen a lot of fanboy complaints about the art, but I liked it. There were lots of fun full-page action sequences which are pretty cool. I seem to be complaining about it a lot, but really I kind of dug it.
Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl
Some Earth scientists found a skull in Kenya and have taken back to a little village in England. They do a sonic scan on it, which shows that it is more than 12 million years old and also awakens something deep inside it. This alerts the Doctor and his companion Leela who come down to investigate. The skull, now periodically glowing, creates, or summons, or something, some kind giant snake creatures that can psychically stop people from moving (which is a pretty cool trick if you are out to kill). Later, one of the humans turns into a Medusa-looking goddess called the Fendahl who is from the Doctor’s own mythology. It escaped from the fifth planet long ago and had been dormant until awakened by those pesky humans. Now, it's sucking the life energy from everyone around it.
At just four episodes, the story is too convoluted to make much sense, but the glowing skull is pretty cool. As are the giant snakes and the Medusa goddess. It;s a Doctor Who story that gets a lot out of its props department but not enough from its writers.
The Eels’ "Bone Dry" - Gordon S. Miller
Off their new album The Deconstruction, "Bone Dry" is a cool song so it makes sense it would have its own cool video. The stop-motion video was produced by Starburns Industries’ Duke Johnson and Dino Stamatopoulos, the team behind Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa, and directed by Sofia Astrom, who noted, “E really liked Duke Johnson’s idea of dancing skeletons for “Bone Dry.” My co-producer and art director Tony Candelaria and I knew that we needed the best skeleton animator in the world, so we brought in Anthony Scotts (Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride) to help us make E’s skeletons come to life.”