For most of our married life, my wife and I have intentionally not had a television in our bedroom. This was mostly her idea. The thought being that the bedroom is sort-of a special place. A place of intimacies, where we slough off the weariness of the day and rest. It is a place where we can talk and cuddle before diving off to sleep. To place a television set in it where we would inevitably sit mindlessly in those final hours of rest would be an invasion of that space. Also I’m too cheap to spend the money on a second television when we have a perfectly good one in the living room.
About a year ago, my brother gave me his old TV so we moved ours into the bedroom. We still barely watch it. We gather around it on Friday nights to watch Doctor Who and have “sleepovers” with the daughter. I turn it on when I’m sick, but other than that it usually stays off. Recently, that has started to change. When my daughter has friends over, I tend to migrate to the bedroom to watch movies or shows that are inappropriate for such small people. My in-laws were recently staying with us for my daughter’s birthday, causing my daughter to sleep on the couch. Which, in turn, meant everyone went to bed early. Me and the wife used this time to catch up on some shows. And to do some reading.
Let’s see what we found that was pretty cool.
I was a pretty big fan of Netflix’s Marvel shows. They tended to be darker and grittier than the movies and they allowed for more character detail, telling their stories over an entire’s seasons worth of episodes. Somewhere around the release of Iron Fist, I started tuning out. That show was just not very good. But being the completist that I am, I wanted to finish it before moving on. Then the series started piling up. Seasons Two of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage dropped. Then The Defenders came out followed by Daredevil: Season Three. They kept releasing more seasons and I stopped keeping up.
Several months ago, I plugged in The Defenders, their version of a big cross-over and watched all but two episodes. I’m pretty sure I did this while recovering from whatever bug was floating around at the time. Then I got better and didn’t bother with finishing it. Which tells you just how far these shows had dropped in quality.
This week, I finally got around to finishing it. While it nowhere near as good as Daredevil or even Luke Cage, it does have its moments. The story, involving The Hand, a secret international organization trying to take over the world, mostly holds up. It is led by a sinister cabal of folks, including Sigourney Weaver who discovers some ancient goo that allows you to live for eternity. Or something. Typical comic-book silliness but its fun. It's also really fun to have the entire Defenders gang bantering. It could have been much more, but I’ll take what we got.
The Umbrella Academy
Another superhero show from Netflix. This one’s based on a Dark Horse comic about a group of super-powered people who were all born on the same day at the same time who are adopted by a weird old dude who tries to create the ultimate super team but ultimately just leaves them all emotionally wounded. They split apart as adults but come back together when the old man dies. One of the kids, who literally disappeared into the future years ago, suddenly comes back with news of a pending apocalypse.
They must learn to work together as a team and a family. All the while a group of time assassins try to stop them. It is tonally all over the place and its large cast makes it difficult to really love any of them, but there is enough interesting stuff going on to make it well worth a watch.
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
A couple of weeks back my mother had a doctor’s appointment in which she was supposed to have someone drive her home. My father was out of town and so I was called upon to be her chauffeur. Her procedure was going to take awhile and so I packed this not-so hard-boiled classic with me. I already had a stack of books I’ve been reading, but I wanted something light and relatively easy and as I’d already read The Thin Man before, it fit the bill.
It is just as delightful as I remembered. It follows Nick Charles, a former New York detective who is married, rich, and now a man of leisure, and drinking. While visiting the city, a former client disappears and his family tries to enlist Nick into hunting him down. Nick refuses as he’d rather keep up his drinking. When bodies start piling up, the police, the local criminal element, and the newspapers all think he’s part of the investigation though he has no intention of doing anything but relax, visit speakeasies, and drink. Naturally, he eventually does help solve the crime, all the while cracking wise with the cops, the crooks, and his wife. The dialogue is clever and witty, the plot moves along at a crackling pace, and the mystery is intriguing. Every time I reread Hammett, I am bowled over at how good he was.
Tito and the Birds
Brazilian film about a disease turning people into rocks and the little boy who saves them. The story is slight though its political allegory about how fear paralyzes a culture is pretty timely. The real reason to see it is its beautiful animation that blends oil painting and digital effects to an imaginative degree. You can read my full review here.
George Clooney stars in, executive produced and directs some episodes of this new Hulu series which adapts the classic Joseph Heller book about the insanities of war. It also stars Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, and Christopher Abbott. I’ve not read the book and Clooney doesn’t have the best track record in film as a director, but the trailer looks like a lot of fun.
Late-period Spaghetti Western stars Franco Nero as a man returning from the Civil War to find his hometown overrun with the plague and a band of vigilantes. He takes it upon himself to set things right. The plot is a mess but it's got some real visual style. You can read my full review here.
I neglected to talk about the devastating destruction of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris last week so I wanted to mention it now. I was fortunate enough to have visited it several times prior to that terrible fire. It is an incredible place. Filled with history, art, and awe. Say what you will about the Catholic Church, and it certainly has its fair share of problems, but my god, they sure know how to create something to inspire millions of people. I was quite sunk with grief watching it burn, but awoke anew to see that much of the structure was saved and that so many have pledged millions of dollars to see it repaired. I hope to see it again some day.