Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sure, They'd have to do More Pledge Drives and Hand Out More Tote Bags, but...

Our state economy is in the tank, like pretty much everyone else's, which means that the state government's in financial trouble. Our Governor (with the nickname that people love to hate on) proposed a series of spending cuts and other measures to help us limp through, including phasing out some state agencies and programs. One target for phasing out is Idaho Public Television, and proposing this apparently ranks up there with atrocities like smearing tomato sauce on the Mona Lisa. From all the hue and cry I've read about this, you'd think that most of the state watches IPTV at least 50% of the time--and I don't need to consult Neilsen results to know that's not the case.*

Adam Graham, over at the Idaho Press Tribune's blog "Give Me Liberty," outlined eight talking points defending Otter's proposal, which pretty much makes the case. I'd quibble over the order he gives them, his number 7, should be number 1.

It is no more the job of the government of Idaho to ensure that that IPTV is on the air in Burley than it is for the state of Idaho to ensure there's an opera house and disco in Burley.
That's the whole point, isn't it? It's not the government's job to provide a television station to provide educational programming (for young or old), entertainment, and biased (or unbiased, for that matter) news. In fact, it's downright dangerous for the state to assume that role, ignoring the dollars and cents of it all.

The fact is, Nickelodeon and other cable channels oriented towards kids, libraries, Netflix, BBCAmerica, 24-hour news channels, CSPAN, etc. do everything that Public Television does--and do it more efficiently, effectively and conveniently. We ought to let them do that, and let the state spend it's money where it's needed.

Sadly, it appears that the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee isn't going along with the idea. I just don't get it.

* Actually, last week in a story on KTVB, Mark Johnson claimed that southern Idaho was one of the best audiences for The Jay Leno Show, which might say more about the State's troubles than anything.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The First Rule by Robert Crais

Robert B. Parker did many things to revolutionize as well as revitalize the hardboiled detective novel. One of those things was to introduce a character who would work alongside the detective/detectives and handle the more violent/thuggish aspects of the story, as well as watching the back of those doing the sleuthing. These characters do a lot of their work "offscreen", keeping the more reputable portion of the duo free from the stain of their violence; they're mysterious, usually not given to talking a lot, and tend to wear sunglasses more often than necessary. For Parker it was Hawk, for Robert Crais, it's Joe Pike.

Back in '07 with The Watchman Crais did something that Parker couldn't do -- he wrote a novel from the point of view of Pike. Honestly, I didn't have high hopes for it, and really would have rather Crais had spent his time on another Elvis Cole novel (for the record, that was my reaction to all his non-Elvis novels, even those that I ended up liking). The Watchman turned out to be a fun read--re-readable, actually; and Pike was able to carry a story with Elvis functioning as his sidekick. So when it was announced that Crais' 2010 novel would be another Pike novel, I wasn't nearly as disappointed as I would've been if it had any other non-Elvis book.

With The First Rule Crais out-did himself, crafting a weightier tome for Pike that equals the more recent Cole books for quality. After his time in the service, Pike led a small mercenary team in a variety of third-world locales. One of his team, Frank Meyer, left before Pike, opting for a "straight life"--marriage, kids, mortgage, mini-van, etc. and has no more contact with Pike. One night Meyer and his family are killed, the latest in a series of violent home invasions. The LAPD are certain that this is proof that Meyer was some sort of criminal, Pike refuses to believe that and sets out to clear his friend's name and exact vengeance.

What follows is a tightly-written, fast-paced, thriller, which fills in rather than expands our understanding of this enigmatic character. Crais doesn't use these excursions of focusing on Pike to alter his character, but to help us get a better view of what he's already created. I'm looking forward to reading this one again in a few months, almost as much as I'm looking forward to Crais' next novel, also a Pike book.

Never thought I'd say that.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Rubber Band by Rex Stout

With the third installment of many series, you can see the author settling into the world he's creating and while there are hints of it, Stout's been pretty at home since Day 1--he just adjusts the furniture a bit in The Rubber Band.

I have a pretty good sense of history, but it consistently throws me when someone in an early 20th century novel makes a reference to something in their recent past (or, in this case, the past of their parents) which is straight out of a Western movie. I can look at the dates all I want, do all the subtraction necessary, and realize it's fitting, but I can't accept it. Doesn't matter how many times I try, I just can't. Which is a cryin' shame, cuz it makes it harder for me to get through the opening chapters of this novel than it should.

Regardless, this is a fun read. You've got Wolfe facing off with the District Attorney and Police Commissioner, Wolfe hiding a client from the police--also featuring the introduction of Lt. Rowcliffe, who will become a favorite punching bag of this dynamic duo, some interesting back and forth between Wolfe and clients/witnesses, a good revealing of the criminal to an assembled crowd in Wolfe's office, and best of all, a woman staying in Wolfe's home. Archie doesn't tell us yet how nervous this makes Fritz (that's a standard line that will come up later), but it is clearly a novelty.

The central client to this piece is Clara Fox, the aforementioned female guest. She's one of the top 5 female characters in the corpus. She has every male who spends ore than a few minutes with her eating out of her hand, and from what Stout tells us about her, she earns it. Often when you come across a character like that, I just don't get the appeal (naturally, an example escapes my mind), but Ms. Fox is an exception to that rule.

I'm finding it difficult to summarize the plot without a lot of spoilers, so I'll just quote the back of my bantam edition and leave it at that.

What do a Wild West lynching and a respected English nobleman have in common? On the surface, absolutely nothing. But when a young woman hires his services, it becomes Nero Wolfe's job to look deeper and find the connection. A forty-year-old pact, a five-thousand-mile search, and a million-dollar murder are all linked to an international scandal [a fairly inaccurate and overly sensational conclusion to that has been removed]

I didn't try to write down the quotable lines in this one, tho' there were plenty. There's really only one that matters. Clara Fox, the adventuress, sums up life in the brownstone so succinctly, so perfectly, that it's impossible to look at The Corpus without reflecting on it. You also have to admire someone who could go toe-to-toe with Archie with that quip on the end.
You know, Mr. Goodwin, this house represents the most insolent denial of female rights the mind of man has ever conceived. No woman in it from top to bottom, but the routine is faultless, the food is perfect, and the sweeping and dusting are impeccable. I have never been a housewife, but I can’t overlook this challenge. I’m going to marry Mr. Wolfe, and I know a girl that will be just the thing for you, and of course our friends will be in and out a good deal. This place needs some upsetting.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Hurt Locker

The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.

A lot of movies will open with an epigraph (from a poem by Chris Hedges) to set the tone, mood, explain the title, etc. with The Hurt Locker the epigraph (quoted above) is more of a thesis, particularly as the text begins to fade out, emphasizing the words "war is a drug." Having stated that, it spends the next 127 minutes demonstrating how it can be a drug. And it does so brilliantly.

The film follows an United States Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in the last month or so of their tour in Iraq, both in the line of duty and between harrowing assignments.

While there are some killer lines, this isn't one of those movies you rave about dialogue in. Nor is this a movie that dazzles you with camera work -- although there are some shots that I want to replay over and over. I really appreciated the time most shots get--none of the short, choppy shots to heighten tension/excitement. The effects aren't over the top, opting for realism (such an oddity).

What the film excels is in a very honest, and fairly apolitical feel (one of the reviews I read about it complained that the politics were too muddy, and therefore the movie was subpar. Talk about missing the point). It's not so much a commentary on this particular war, but on those who fight in wars, and what happens to them. As the subjects are the soldiers, it comes down to the actors to make or break this film.

There are brief (sometimes too brief) appearances by marquee (or marquee-ish) names: Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Evangeline Lilly, they make their appearance and then disappear. The film is carried by the not-yet household names: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty.

As one of the 156 viewers nationwide of ABC's The Unusuals last year, I came into the movie liking Jeremy Renner. It took maybe 15 minutes for me to realize I didn't have a clue what a good actor he is. Renner plays Staff Sergeant William James, the explosives expert the film focuses on. He will risk his life to diffuse, deactivate, whatever the bomb no matter the cost to himself.

Anthony Mackie plays the sergeant who handles the situation around James, making sure it's safe for him to take care of the explosive, with the assistance of Geraghty and others. He doesn't like James' style and attitude. Sgt. Sanborn is strictly by the book, get the job done the right way.

The only hiccup for me was spotting Better Off Ted's Malcolm Barrett beneath the helmet and cammo, which almost took me out of the moment, almost. But that's such a minor point I've taken 5x as long to describe it as it's worth.

The film has one of the best ending sequences I can think of--it makes the point strongly and clearly, but doesn't condescend to the audience and over-explain (as the tendency is so often today), a great way to conclude a great film.

Frequently when it comes to awards season, I'll have a favorite or two that I pull for, and am disappointed when they're beaten. But when I hear about The Hurt Locker losing some award (especially to a cliché-ridden disappointment like Avatar), I've found myself having a flash of anger. It's such a good movie, and had such a powerful impact on me, that failure for others to recognize is just wrong. (an irrational reaction, I realize, but frankly don't care).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout

The second installment in Stout's Wolfe/Goodwin series is a great follow-up to Fer-de-Lance, following up the outlandish machinations of the killer in the first novel with s more subtle, psychological criminal. The main characters don't really develop (ever), but they are honed somewhat as Stout solidifies his vision for the series.

Wolfe is approached by a man carrying both a burden of fear and guilt--back in college, he was one of a group of students (associated only by place of residence) played a prank on an underclassman which resulted in a tragedy leaving the victim crippled. Years later, these students are mostly very successful in their various fields but are bound together by this incident, they have periodically helped their victim in various ways throughout the years until he has found his own measure of success. However, it now seems that he has also taken to exacting his revenge on those he holds responsible, and Wolfe's prospective client wants the detective to put an end to it. Wolfe sends him away, but is eventually provoked by circumstances, money and, of course, Archie to take up the case -- investigating a missing persons case, two deaths, and potentially preventing many others.

Stout's novels are filled with all sorts of characters--particularly when the clients are committees, as in this novel. Most of the characters (even, occasionally, the villains) are little more than a name and a near-stereotypical collection of behaviors/remarks. But most stories feature a character or two (beyond the regular cast of characters) that really stand out and are memorable. TLoFM features two of these: Paul and Dora Chapin. Paul Chapin is an author of some talent, who was left crippled (physically) after the prank mentioned above, but he seems to have been born with an emotional/psychiatric disability that's worse than that--the physical injury just makes him even more demented. Contemporary authors might do more with his character, might explore the depths of his depravity more than Stout did, but they wouldn't do so as effectively. (incidentally, he has to be played by Michael Emerson if they were ever to film this). I really can't describe his wife without getting into spoiler territory, but the pair are amongst the most memorable of all Stout's creations.

This is closer to the fully-formed Wolfe novel than Fer-de-Lance, but it's not all the way there yet. For example, Inspector Cramer was smoking a pipe, not chewing a cigar; the chairs used in the office for the guests are non-descript (now that I'm looking for its first appearance, I'm really missing the red leather chair); and Wolfe uses a top-of-the-line atlas instead of his giant globe to take his fantasy trips away from a complicated case. But we are introduced to what will be mainstays of the series: large crowds assembled in Wolfe's office a time or two; his very dramatic revealing of the solution to the case; and best of all, the introduction of Wolfe's rival, foil, colleague, champion, and almost friend--Inspector Lionel Cramer of Homicide.

As with any Stout, there are a few handfuls of lines that deserve quoting and requoting, I really should've kept a notebook or something handy to jot them down. As it was, I only got three of them noted:

...with the quarry within reach, the purpose fixed, and the weapon in hand, it will often require up to eight or ten minutes to kill a fly, whereas the average murder, I would guess, consumes ten or fifteen seconds at the outside. - NW

She was following what Wolfe called the Anglo-Saxon theory of the treatment of emotions and desserts: freeze them and hide them in your belly. - AG

I felt uncertain too, when I saw her. They don't come any uglier...At that she wasn't really ugly, I mean she wasn't hideous. Wolfe said it right the next day: it was more subtle than plain ugliness, to look at her made you despair of ever seeing a pretty woman again. - AG

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Robert B. Parker, author of almost 70 books, died yesterday morning. When I read the news this morning, I was stunned. I knew he was getting up in years, but I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea. A few moments later I was hit by a powerful sense of loss -- it was like I'd lost a friend.

Many others have -- and will -- detail the impact Parker had on American publishing, the development of detective fiction in this country (particularly through the authors he inspired), the relative merits of his work. I just want to talk a little about what he meant to me, haphazardly thrown together.

Since the summer of 1987 (or maybe 1988, I'm not sure) I've spent hundreds--probably thousands--of hours with Parker. With the exception of the last two years of work, I've read nearly all of his books multiple times--many countless times. Each year in college (while I was single, anyway), after my last class on Friday before President's Day weekend I'd say goodbye to the world and read through the Spenser series in order--this was back before he branched out to other detectives--and many other times throughout the year I'd turn to Parker and Spenser if I needed a good read. And then he brought us Sunny and Jesse (and the Westerns, the baseball book, and the YA novels)--even more sources of enjoyment.

There's really only one other fiction writer I've spent more time with--and I bet it's a close race. More than once when I needed sanctuary from the world, I'd retreat to Parker. When I needed a comfort read, a quick read, something to break me out of a slump, or when there was a new volume published--and many other times, Parker's world and words were there. In between those covers was a home away from home, members of my extended family and friends.

Sure, in recent years, I've been disappointed, even annoyed by some of his work -- but I'm always back for the next go 'round, eager to forgive and forget and move on. Usually, I've been rewarded for that--even in his most problematic output, he could bring a smile to my face with a turn of a phrase. I'm so looking forward to the last three (I think) books coming out this year (even if I'm really sick and tired of the Cole/Hitch series, I'll eagerly snap it up)--but I can't imagine a year where more of my bookshelves aren't occupied with 3+ new volumes with his name on them.

I owe Dr. Parker a deep debt of gratitude for the impact he's made on my life, my thinking, for some great stories, essentially for some great times.

But perhaps what Parker was best at creating were characters that were well-rounded, flawed (but not irredeemably so), basically, human (not that all of his characters fit this, many were more thinly drawn than a stick figure). So for all the characters great and small, like Virgil Cole, Everett Hitch, Martin Quirk, Frank Belson, Rita Fiore, Chollo, Henry Cimoli, Joe Broz, Tony Marcus, The Grey Man, Spike, even Sunny and her family, Rosie, Pearl (both of them), Suitcase, Molly, Jesse, Paul Giacomin, Susan, Hawk (naturally), and most of all, for Spenser, I want to thank you, Dr. Parker.

You will be missed.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Radio Silence

Not sure what little mental blip I hit the other day, but I haven't been able to finish a post since Wednesday. Part of the problem is that I was getting tired of doing nothing but review/review-ish posts -- tho' I have 2 more almost complete and at least 1 more planned for the week. But honestly, can't think of anything else to say. What could I say about the earthquake last week? I'm against 'em?

I had something moderately amusing/interesting to say about situations like the Leno/Conan thing in the works 'til Conan's very classy letter to the People of Earth hit, which took all the wind out of my sails (actually, that's probably what derailed me last week). Anyway, who cares?

I'm going to force myself to finish at least one of these posts in the next couple of hours, and if all I can talk about for the next few days (or longer) are reflections on what I'm seeing/reading, so be it. Something else will come eventually. Probably.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chuck Season 3

The biggest fear I had last week (and this should tell you something about the a-perilous nature of my life) was that, despite my anticipation, despite my giddiness at the prospect of its return topped off with the unexpected gift of the Season 2 set from TLomL (squee!), Chuck's magic would be gone, or at least greatly diminished. Given the season 2 finale, and the new/augmented direction the show would take as a result, the possibility was certainly there.

And after the first two episodes aired as the season premier, I thought that might be true. Yeah, it was good to see Chuck, Sarah, Casey, Awesome, Ellie and the Buy More gang back, something felt off. I enjoyed the episodes, don't get me wrong, but it was almost like an athlete coming back from an extended time injured to be almost his former self (obviously, this was an athlete who didn't take PEDs). Were all those Subway sandwiches bought in vain?

Nope. Episode 3, "Chuck Versus the Angel De La Muerte," proved that the show was the same goofy bundle of action, comedy, romance, and fun that it's been, it just needed those first two episodes to establish its new direction. Between Chuck's new abilities, and new organizational nemesis there was enough foundation to be laid that it makes sense the episodes wouldn't feel quite the same.

What did this episode feature? The episode featured Awesome being awesome, Ellie getting to do something other than be in the background/nag her brother, Sarah and Chuck (hopefully) putting the crushes aside for awhile, Casey being all sorts of growly-gruntily awesome, getting to see another aspect of the Intersect 2.0. A decent bad guy, a great bad guy trying to be not-so-bad, and a jaw dropping cliffhanger.

Should've seen the cliffhanger coming, but was enjoying myself too much to look around for it (which made it so effective); and NBC's promo department have ruined it between commercials for next week/promo photos they've released. Oh well.

It wasn't quite a pure return to formula, there was only a passing reference to any of the good people down at the Buy More(which we can use less of--as long as it's not too much less), which is good, really--I'm not against growth, I'm just not crazy about fixing what ain't broke.

I should note, in light of episode 3, the previous two seem better, which is a plus.

If you missed these episodes, fear not, you can still catch them thanks to the magic of teh Intranets.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

I've been watching (read: obsessing over) the BBC's Wire in the Blood over the last couple of weeks, and but haven't been terribly inclined to read the source material -- which is more than a little odd for me, I normally have to immerse myself in that kind of thing. Something about the stories and the way they were being told kept me from it. On the whole, I'm not a big serial killer fiction kind of guy--I'll dip into that type of thing occasionally, but generally if it's from an author I follow (I'm a little more inclined to handle the subject on TV than I am in movies or in print, but even then...)It was an aside in a blog entry by Lee Goldberg, contrasting TV series adapted directly from books vs. those based on the character/franchise that gave me the necessary push. I thought I knew what he was getting at, but wanted to see it in practice.

The Mermaids Singing is the first installment in the novel series (which was also the first story adapted for TV), the setup is essentially this: Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan and her the Assistant Chief (who's name I can't recall atm because the book's already back at the library) are convinced that a series of murders are the work of a serial killer, despite the outright (and seemingly blind) hostility Jordan's immediate supervisor has to the idea. The Asst. Chief recruits a local psychologist, Dr. Tony Hill, to work out a profile of the killer--luckily, he's heading up a nationwide task force to profile killers of this sort in an effort to help the police. Jordan's assigned to liaise between Hill and the investigation. As they work together, the two recognize kindred spirits and a shared idea for how a profiler can best assist the police in their investigations (both for this case and others), and a friendship--and partnership--develops between the two.

McDermid's point of view keeps jumping from character to character -- primarily between Hill and Jordan, with a handful of supporting characters getting their moment in the sun -- with journal entries from the killer in between chapters. Normally I'm not crazy about this technique, but on the whole, I thought it worked here -- particularly as a way of focusing on the two methods of tracking the killer: the police procedure (seen through Jordan's eyes) and the psychological profile (Hill's). Hopefully as the series progresses we lose the voice of the killer, while we see Jordan's and Hill's voices become stronger.

The killer's work is highly sexual in nature, but not even the densest copper needs Hill to tell him that. McDermid makes a lot of hay along these lines -- almost, but not quite, going overboard. Not just with the killer's sexual problems, but with one of her protagonists as well. The thematic link here worked well, but I hope that's not something that's dwelled upon in future installments.

It's not an equal partnership, by any means, Jordan's in the driver's seat, and she's not too intimidated or outclassed by Hill's expertise. I think a little of that is lost in the TV series, where it almost seems that the detectives are but means for Hill to gather information that they are clueless when it comes to interpreting. In fact, it's solid police work that saves the day--police work guided by the profile, no doubt, but police work nonetheless.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, I think I see what Goldberg was talking about: as an adaptation, the TV show captured the essence of the core of characters, and did a fantastic job of bringing 85+% of the novel to screen. The changes in plot were small, and the one new character introduced helped the adaptation into a better set up to an ongoing series than the novel did. That character also toned down the least appealing feature of Hill's character, making him palatable to TV.

As a novel, it worked well (even without reference to the TV series), the relationship with Hill and Jordan will easily lead to further cases together, and character development. McDermid's style, and the cleverness of her plot, definitely create a desire to see further adventures with the pair, and it's easy to see why this is a series that's lasted over a decade.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Secondhand Smoke by Karen E. Olson

As I mentioned last week, when reading over my list of '09 reads, I couldn't recognize one title, Karen E. Olson's debut, Sacred Cows, and that I felt incredibly guilty about that. So I picked up the second installment in her Annie Seymore mysteries this weekend to assuage that guilt. It didn't take too long to get re-immersed in Annie's world, I'm glad I did.

Olson's focus isn't on the case, it's not about the mystery for her. This is Annie's story--it's about what happens to her (and those around her) while she investigates/reports on this case.

Annie Seymore is a single woman, pushing 40; a life-long resident of New Haven, CT; and a newspaper reporter getting tired of it all (I look really forward to seeing how that progresses in further novels in particular--especially in light of all the industry troubles). This particular novel finds her between relationships--still dealing with the detrius of her last as she begins her next. While reading, I thought Olson focused too much on that, but in retrospect, I think I was wrong. Not sure why it struck me that way.

Of course Annie has her share of family issues (who doesn't?). She has a strong relationship with her father--who seems to have some connections with certain nefarious types. Things with her mother are more strained--an upstanding member of the community, lawyer, who happens to be dating the new publisher of Annie's paper.

Oh yeah, the mystery, can't forget that--a neighborhood institution, an Italian restaurant, burns down on Thanksgiving across the street from Annie's apartment. A body is found inside, but the building collapses before the firemen can retrieve it. This sets off a domino effect involving illegal gambling, animal rights protesters, the Mob, the FBI, and of course, Annie and her circle.

This book did have the misfortune of being the book I started within the same hour that I finished Val McDermid's rather intense, The Mermaids Singing, so I spent the first 75-100 pages thinking how lightweight it was. True, comparitively speaking, it is--but that's a good thing, Annie's not Tony Hill or Carol Jordan, and the world's better off that she isn't. A good, fast-paced, entertaining read--definitely coming back for more.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thought for the Lord's Day - #54

We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit, sanctifies [1] him and makes him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man; for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith which is called in Scripture a faith working through love, which excites man to the practice of those works which God has commanded in His Word.
These works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by His grace. Nevertheless they are of no account towards our justification, for it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works; otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good before the tree itself is good.
Therefore we do good works, but not to merit by them (for what can we merit?); nay, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not He to us, since it is He who worketh in us both to will and to work, for his good pleasure. Let us therefore attend to what is written: When ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do. In the meantime we do not deny that God rewards good works, but it is through His grace that He crowns His gifts.
Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them; for we can do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus, then, we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be continually vexed if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.
The Belgic Confession of Faith, Article XXIV
Man's Sanctification and Good Works

Saturday, January 09, 2010

6 Reasons Why You Should Watch Chuck

As I've indicated a time or two in the past, I really love NBC's Chuck. Super TV Critic Alan Sepinwall wrote an open letter to people who don't watch the show earlier this week listing the reasons why they should start watching Chuck now.

Especially now, when NBC seems to be trying to self-destruct, the fact that they air any goo TV is laudable and should be encouraged. But frankly, I don't care what network this is on, you should watch Chuck. Therefore, I've copied and pasted the bulk of Sepinwall's letter for your perusal and consideration. Be sure to read the whole thing and/or send some love and pageviews to The Star-Ledger.

...this particular open letter is for the many of you who don't watch "Chuck" — either because you didn't realize it existed, or it was on in a brutal timeslot, or even if you watched the show in its earlier days (when the show was still finding itself) and decided it wasn't for you. I gave NBC six reasons to renew the show, and here are six reasons you should watch, in large enough numbers that we might get a fourth season:

1. It's funny. When I wrote last spring that "Chuck" was the best comedy on NBC at the time, I wasn't exaggerating. Now, most of NBC's Thursday sitcoms were slumping back then, but even with that quartet in much stronger shape this season, "Chuck" remains a goldmine of laughter.

As Chuck, an underacehiving nerd who does tech support at an electronics store, Levi is a gifted, expressive physical comedian, and creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak have surrounded him with a cast of exceedingly funny sidekicks, whether disturbing store employees Jeff and Lester (Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay, aka Jeffster!), Chuck's homicidal government bodyguard John Casey (Adam Baldwin, able to wring laughs with just a grimace or grunt) or Chuck's brother-in-law Devon (Ryan McPartlin), so perfect in every way (even his awareness of his perfection seems admirable) that he's nicknamed Captain Awesome.

The series' comic tastes range from abundant pop culture references (early in Sunday's premiere, Chuck morphs into a character from "The Big Lebowski") to slapstick (Chuck falls down a lot) to explosive dialogue (when Jeffster! crashed Captain Awesome's wedding last season, his father complained, "Why are you letting Sam Kinison and an Indian lesbian ruin your wedding?"), and all of it lands, hilariously.

2. It's exciting. No, it's not a Bond movie, or maybe even "24," but "Chuck" doesn't skimp on the cool stunts and fights. Sometimes, they've been done relatively straight, like Chuck's CIA handler Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) having a fight inside a tiny sports-car (using the CD player, bucket seats and airbags as weapons). Other times, they get a comic twist, like Chuck being chased through the Gravitron ride at an amusement park.

The new season offers plenty of both stripes, with a highlight being a sword fight between Chuck and wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin in the cargo hold of a passenger jet. In seasons past, the show leaned on Strahovski (a trained dancer who's become very good at martial arts choreography) and Baldwin (who's been beating people up on-screen since 1980's "My Bodyguard") for the fight scenes. The kung fu twist, in which the computer in Chuck's head can briefly turn him into a great martial artist (among other skills), doesn't put them on the sidelines, but it does let Levi in on the action, and Levi (and/or his stunt double) proves adept at the punching, kicking and gymnastics that go with the new role. While Chuck's new abilities aren't reliable enough to solve every problem, they do let him at times appear more the confident hero than the trembling coward he often turned into in years past.

3. It's dramatic when it needs to be. It would be easy for the show to just ride the '80s movie references and fight scenes, but "Chuck" takes itself just seriously enough to feel like something more than a diversion. Strahovski in particular does a strong job reacting to this world like it's real, and in the process making even the most ridiculous plot seem believable. And she has chemistry to burn with Levi, making Chuck and Sarah's mutual, unconsummated crushes on each other something more than an excuse for the show to leer at Strahovski in a bikini or lingerie (opportunities for both are provided in the first two episodes), or to make a joke out of the nerd falling for the sexy spy.

(If the show has an obvious flaw, it's that the writers have dragged things out a bit too long with keeping the two apart. It's not so much that the show needs them to be together to work, but that the number and duration of the obstacles in their path has become distracting. Take a cue from "The Office," guys: resolving sexual tension can actually make a show better if you do it right.)

4. It has great guest stars. This was one of the biggest improvements of the second season, and one that carries over to the third. Where most TV shows that employ a lot of recognizable guests lean on them like a crutch, "Chuck" does something smarter: it takes your familiarity with the guest and uses that as shorthand to establish a new character, so they can then spend less time on exposition and more time wringing laughs and/or menace out of them. So when you see soccer-thug-turned-actor Vinnie Jones as a lovestruck arms dealer, or Armand Assante as a smarmy Central American dictator, or Brandon "Superman" Routh as a square-jawed spy, you get what they're about in 10 seconds and then the show can quickly get to the good stuff.

5. It has great music. As he did on "The O.C.," Schwartz enjoys filling the soundtrack with songs from his favorite indie bands, which the show uses to pump up the action or heighten the drama. (I've been listening to In-Flight Safety's soaring "Model Homes" pretty much non-stop since I heard it in a key scene in Sunday's second episode.)

But Schwartz and company also take great pleasure in slathering on cheeseball classics of yesteryear, sometimes for giggles, sometimes to make you appreciate a song you long ago dismissed. Last year featured the likes of Huey Lewis & the News, Toto and Rush (Chuck used "Tom Sawyer" to save the world), while in the new episodes we discover that store manager Emmett Millbarge (Tony Hale) has a fondness for embarrassing power ballads, and the second episode makes liberal use of David Lee Roth's "Just Like Living in Paradise."

6. It is, simply, fun. Because the comedy is so strong, the cast is so likable, and everyone involved so obviously has a passion for making the show as entertaining as it can be, there's a sense of joy around "Chuck" that's infectious. Rare is the episode that doesn't make me smile for the hour.

For all that it likes to mock the '80s culture its writers grew up on, "Chuck" also feels like exactly the kind of mass-appeal adventure series that would have been an enormous hit in that decade. It deserves to be a success in this one.

So watch already. Okay?

Friday, January 08, 2010

A Belated Birthday Gift

Dave Kellett, probably my favorite working cartoonist, had a birthday the other day and asked his readers to recommend his strip in honor of the day. I've done so in person, but I figured why should the precious few people I talk to in Real Life™ get all the good stuff?

Really, truly, if you like comics, if you feel yourself not laughing enough at the sorry state of "funny pages" in your local newspaper (assuming you're one of the dying breed who still get one of those things), or if you like reading things that range between quite amusing to laugh out loud funny, you need to read Sheldon.

Kellett describes the comic thusly:

Sheldon is a sarcastic, nerdy family strip filled with pop-culture references and fun, random storylines. At its center is this weird, wonderful little family: a boy, his duck, and the grandfather that raises them both. It's a strip of geeks, for geeks, drawn by a geek. You'll dig it: trust us.
He forgot the lizard being raised by the duck--who talks, by the way. And even if you're not that much of a geek, the frequent food/beverage (esp. coffee) strips will be enough to keep you coming back for more.

The four members of this household who read comics (Arnold's not quite old enough, but he will) love this strip, we have the computer/phone wallpapers, Tshirts, books, and daily emails that demonstrate it. Better yet, we have the laughs. Heck, Frodo and Samwise are known to re-enact certain strips/storylines, like this one (click for enlargement)

Incidentally, I should add that I found Sheldon a few years ago when listening to the commentary tracks from season 1 of How I Met Your Mother--one of the many reasons to be obsessive about such tracks is that you get to find little gems like this.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

And So it Begins...Netflix to Delay Releases

Back in November, I posted that Netflix was negotiating with movie studios to delay renting DVDs.

It was announced this week that they've reached a deal with Warner Bros. Netflix will delay new WB releases for 28 days, in exchange, WB will provide more from their catalog for Netlix to stream.

It's a win-win for everyone--'tho personally, I'd have preferred savings over streaming (maybe I don't stream as much as I should). Interesting to know that 75% of DVD sales happen in the first four weeks of release. I wonder if this will affect that somewhat, personally I rarely buy a movie until I see it in the theater/rent it, and I can't be the only one.

The 2009-10 TV Season, MidSeason peek

Since it was popular (moreso in other forums than these comments), figured I'd do a follow-up on the post from Sept. 30 now that things are starting to come back from the December break...

  • Better off Ted it's so, so, so tragic that ABC has tossed this on the trash pile to burn off in January. At least we'll have DVD. Never fails to deliver big, big laughs. My wife has no interest in the show at all, but if I'm playing it in the background, she'll crack up at least twice.
  • Big Bang Theory--They don't seem to know for sure what to do with Leonard while in the relationship with Penny, but the show's good enough that it'll survive. Still the funniest thing on TV.
  • Bones--really enjoying this show this year--they've even turned the rotating assistants thing into a strength, a good improvement over last season.
  • Castle--fun, fun show, improving on it's first short season. Great comfort food.
  • Community--a real treat, now that they've started focusing on the whole ensemble especially. Watching these people bounce off each other is everything a comedy should be.
  • Cougar Town--also strongest when it's an ensemble comedy, not just a Courtney Cox vehicle. Not as good as the first episode or two made me think it would be, but it's good, and the writers/producers seem to be learning how to improve.
  • Dexter--what to say about this year? Jennifer Carpenter remains the best reason to watch this show (not that Michael C. Hall's any slacker). John Lithgow is the creepiest serial killer this side of Silence of the Lambs, but until the end of the season finale, I really didn't find it all that compelling. But for the first time since Lila set her last fire, I'm really looking forward to the next batch. One faithful reader told me on facebook that the finale is where Dexter jumped the shark, tho. He's encouraged to defend that thesis in the comments here.
  • Dollhouse I'll be honest, I only watched the first episode of this season. Watching "Epitaph One" on the BluRay set really soured me on the series, but from what I hear, I really need to shake it off and get back to this.
  • Family Guy--wearing a bit thin for me this year. Not worth a lot of effort, but good for a laugh.
  • Fringe--I really wish this show would get the ratings it needs to survive, I'm getting more and more into this one. The character development--and show mythology development--has really endeared Fringe to me. Definite appointment TV.
  • Glee--a not-so-guilty pleasure. This article sums up everything I wanted to say (and a few things I should've thought of) about it.
  • The Good Wife--I can't say enough good things about this show. Still not sure it can sustain the story for more than a season, but want to see it try.
  • House--has eroded most of the good will that the first episode or two of the year generated from me--not as bad as last year tho, but stumbling again. But that Wilson-centric episode? Loved it.
  • How I Met Your Mother--this isn't the strongest season, but it still has its golden moments--and even when it's not that strong, it's still one of my favorites. Can't wait for the 100th ep, what little I've heard (and I've avoided as much as I can) sounds great.
  • Lie to Me--much improved over a good first season. Some outstanding individual episodes. Still essentially The Mentalist but far less annoying.
  • Men of a Certain Age--this quiet little drama is a real treat. Nothing flashy--in fact, it avoids the flash--just a few friends growing old and trying to get by.
  • The Mentalist--really don't know why I watch this show. It's moderately entertaining at best.
  • Modern Family--great, great sitcom. Something heartfelt, something laugh out loud hilarious, and more than a few quotable lines every episode. Great characters (all of the kids not named Manny need a bit more work tho'), good stories. People actually caring about every member of the family.
  • NCIS--nothing remarkable, but a solid procedural show with good characters. Textbook entry on how to get it done right. Am actually watching the latest episode as I wrap up this entry--Ziva just quoted Charles De Mar of Better off Dead, even in NCIS there's character development. :)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles--when the best episode of the year relies on a guest star from the show you spun off of, you know you're struggling. There's potential here, but I think it's being wasted.
  • Numb3rs--something seems off this season, can't put my finger on it.
  • Scrubs--AfterScrubs, Scrubs 2.0, Scrubs: The Next Generation, ZombieScrubs/whatever you want to call it. Close to funny, better since Braff left (can't believe I said that!). Still wish ABC let this thing die a natural death.
  • The Simpsons--hey, it's The Simpsons still pretty good after all these years. What else can you say?
  • Supernatural--lovin' absolutely lovin' this year, I should have something more to say than that, but I don't. Can't wait for the second half of the season.
  • V--Never got into the original version--even after I bought TLoML the series on VHS (kids, ask your parents to explain) for our first Christmas, so I'm coming to it new. I've only seen 50% of the episodes ABC ran this fall, and think it has promise, but not sure it's gonna deliver on 'em (or that ABC will give it the time it needs). But hey, Tudyk and Baccarin back together again--score.
  • White Collar--I don't think it's lived up to the promise of the pilot episode, but it's close. Hope they haven't screwed things up too much with that mid-season finale cliffhanger.

Coming up soon: Caprica (intriguing pilot DVD, very curious about it), can't wait for Burn Notice's return, and so, so, so psyched about Chuck's premier--am like a kid on Dec. 22nd thinking about this weekend's episodes (not to mention Monday's). Oh, and there's this little thing called Lost--don't know if you've heard about it, guess it's coming into its last year soon. I finally succumbed to peer pressure and have started watching it. Now pushing myself to get through with the previous seasons by Feb 2 (if for no other reason than I won't be able to talk to coworkers once it comes back if I don't).

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout

Rex Stout's Fer-de-Lance is the first of 40+ books (novels or short story collections) featuring the exploits of private investigator Archie Goodwin (2 parts Huck Finn, 1 part Philip Marlowe) and his eccentric employer, Nero Wolfe (1 part Sherlock Holmes, 1 part Mycroft Holmes)--yes, I am one of those who think that Archie's the main character in the mis-nomered Nero Wolfe Mysteries.

In reading about Rex Stout/Nero Wolfe (either by fans or professionals) there's an oft-quoted line from Walter D. Edmonds that you simply cannot avoid seeing, "I shall never forget my excitement on reading Fer-de-Lance, sprung like Athena perfect form the Jovian brow, fresh and new and at the same time with enough plain familiar things in scene and setting to put any reader at his ease." Aside from Oliver Wendell Holmes' margin note ("This fellow is the best of them all."), there's nothing that sums up Fer-de-Lance better, sprung like Athena indeed.

It really doesn't matter how many times you've read it, but upon re-reading (and probably even initial reading if this isn't your first encounter with Wolfe and Archie--my initial read was more than 20 years ago, so I don't remember) you can't help be struck by how much Fer-de-Lance fits the model of a mature Wolfe novel--almost all the elements are there. These characters are introduced in practically their final format--a little tweak here and there over the course of the first few novels (off the top of my head I can't say how many) will get them in their final form, plus the addition of a few other characters will be necessary, but the cast of characters is already over 90% complete. In the first chapter we already have Wolfe, Archie, Fritz, Theodore, Fred and Saul presented in a manner fully recognizable to the familiar reader. The story follows a fairly typical route ('tho the identity of the murderer is revealed far earlier than is the norm), and the essential environmental elements are there--the beer, Wolfe's eccentric schedule, the orchids, a relapse, the food, a cocky scheme to land a client, an outrageous stratagem for getting that last essential piece of evidence (not that Wolfe needs it to solve the crime, merely to prove he was correct)--the only thing missing is the gathering of the witnesses/suspects/clients for Wolfe to reveal everything in his characteristically dramatic fashion. One recurring thought I had while reading it this time was that this could just as easily have been the fifteenth installment in the series as the first.

As I don't recall reading about Stout consulting notes--and he's known not to rewrite any part of these stories--the fact that he can keep all the idiosyncrasies he establishes here well-intact over the next 40 years is a testimony to his mental prowess as much as anything else could be. (Contrast Stout to contemporary authors who find themselves re-writing their own protagonist's biographies thanks to their refusal to check their facts/fix errors).

Enough of that--what about the book itself? Wolfe takes a small case as more of a favor/indulgence/get-him-off-my-back to one of his operatives and in doing so, stumbles upon a fact or two that leads him to conclude that a university president has been murdered in a preposterous manner. Seeing (and seizing) the opportunity to earn a large fee from this, Wolfe sends Archie to place a $10,000 bet with the District Attorney responsible for the area the president died in--wagering that an exhumation of the body will produce two particular evidences of homicide. No bet is made, but since it's Nero Wolfe suggesting it, the body's dug up, the evidence found and we're off...

A fun read, a decent mystery (Stout will get better at this), great characters, and a good introduction to a wonderful world fit for revisiting over and over again.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

2009 Books

Last year I tracked the books I read like the movies I watched. I was quite disappointed by the total, I have to say. I have resolved to do better, and that's probably a resolution I can keep (much to the chagrin of TLomL). Not only did I not read as much as I thought I should, I wrote about what I read far less than I should've. I make no promises in that regard--time will tell.

Going over the list this morning I had a really bad moment, I absolutely couldn't recognize book #4 on the list (Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson). I had to go to a couple of different websites before the thing clicked with me--worse yet, once I remembered the book, I recalled enjoying it. And there are 3 sequels! I actually feel guilty about not reading more of Ms. Olson's work (and forgetting that which I did read). I'll fix that as soon as I can.

Anyway, if you're interested, here's the list.

I had a hard time coming up with "best of" lists, my instinct was to go for the "most literary" or whatever, but that ended up leaving off most of the books that I enjoyed most, had the biggest impact on me, etc. So instead, I went with the books I most wanted to write about (one I actually did), most of which I at least have a draft post about.

3. Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog - John Grogan
22. Confessions of a She-Fan: The Course of True Love with the New York Yankees - Jane Heller
29. John Calvin--A Biography - T. H. L. Parker
49. In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace - Danny R. Hyde
56. Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse - Thomas E. Woods Jr.
88. Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing - Elmore Leonard

26. Turn Coat - Jim Butcher
50. Spook Country - William Gibson
51. Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery - Spencer Quinn
55. The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
69. This is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper
75. The Sleeping God - Violette Malan
103. The Magicians - Lev Grossman

As far as the worst go...well, there's the handful of books I didn't bother finishing (poorly written, just offensive, couldn't hold my interest...tho' to be fair, some of those should get another shot from me) and then these, which for some reason I just finished.

20. Stalking the Unicorn - Mike Resnick
47. Chasing the Bear - Robert B. Parker
67. An Underachiever's Diary - Benjamin Anastas 8/18/2009

104. Is This a Great Game, or What?: From A-Rod's Heart to Zim's Head--My 25 Years in Baseball - Tim Kurkjian (this was a fun read, just not a good book--a fine collection of brief anecdotes)
110. Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America - Barbara Ehrenreich

Yo Joe!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: I really shouldn't have delayed watching this as long as I did -- thankfully, I got a free redbox rental today, and didn't know what else to do with it, usually, I end up renting something I regret, not this time.

I had I don't know how many G. I. Joe action figures as a kid--I loved the Marvel comics, and probably watched every episode of the animated series 5+ times (at least). In other words, I was the target demo for this movie: had the nostalgia thing going for me and I have three sons who are of the toy buying age.

However, this was not a movie for the G. I. Joe I knew and loved--last year's animated G. I. Joe: Resolute was that flick (and it's a cryin' shame it didn't get the promotional push this one did).

That said, this was one fun flick. In many ways, this was a sequel to the '07 Transformers movie -- you take the basic premise of an 80's cartoon/toy franchise, surround that kernel with an outrageous story and F/X that defy belief, and infuse the whole thing with a sense of fun. This was obviously not intended to be anything other than a movie to enjoy -- there's not a lot of deep thinking to be done on this one (there probably is some).

None of the performances really stood out, every actor did their thing well (not that a lot was required of any of them). I do feel bad for poor Ray Park, guy must feel like he's stuck in the pre-Jazz Singer era (not the Neil Diamond one). Can I just say how nice it was to see Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in a role where he could crack a joke and smile a little?

Only one quibble, if it's an international team, why does it have a moniker denoting American troops?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Changing of the Guard

Several things I wanted to try to talk about today, but all my efforts along those lines were derailed by waiting for mechanics and washing machine repair people to come by (don't want to be mid-thought and interrupted, makes for posts weaker than the norm)--and then further derailed by both of them being hours late.

If only I didn't need clean clothes and a running vehicle. Silly me.

Anyway, I don't know what the rest of you thought of Part 2 of The End of Time, but I quite enjoyed it--it made up for some of the weaknesses of Pt. 1--and the self-indulgent victory lap taken by Russell T. Davies/David Tennant was justifiable, earned--and best of all, fun to watch. The first few seconds of Matt Smith's tenure were amusing as well.

I cannot fathom the hate that Mr. Smith has already engendered. Mind-boggling, really. Particularly from people like my co-worker, who is proud to not have watched an entire Tom Baker episode--and has watched less of the other pre-Eccleston Doctors than of him. Yet, based on watching each episode of Davies' run (some even twice), she has pronounced Smith unfit to helm the TARDIS. And there are many, many like her.

Frankly, I'm not sure--why am I not sure? Haven't seen much of him, practically nothing. A few seconds at the end of an episode aired within the last week (far after many people had judged him a mistake). That's all--who knows what TPTB have in mind for this personality, this regeneration, this actor. And given that one of those powers is Steven Moffat, and other powers include a network that's been dealing with this character since the 60's...just don't get why everyone's prejudged him so harshly.

Anyhow, BBCAmerica launched a trailer for this Spring's upcoming episodes...still can't tell much about him. But looking forward to meeting this guy--and seeing Karen Gillan move from a one-episode character to a companion (worked out pretty well for Freema Agyeman).

...can't say I'm looking forward to the Weeping Angels from "Blink" coming back all that much, had finally got the nightmares to stop. But hey, if Sally Sparrow gets to come along for the ride, it could be worth it.

But just so I can remain relevant to the hate-fest surrounding this upcoming season, I should note that I'm not crazy about the new logo. Seriously. Not my cup of tea at all. Down with the New Logo!!!

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest.

(you know what's really funny? I'd initially titled this post "In Lieu of Actual Content" and planned on whining a bit in the first paragraph and then embedding the preview, but once I got started, guess I was able to find the time today to write something)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Thought for the Lord's Day - #53

A friend posted most of this to his blog recently, and it really stuck with me...what was deserved, what could have been done to Adam, vs. what actually happened to him. Striking really.

From Matthew Henry's Commentary on Gen. 3:22:

God drove him out, made him go out, whether he would or no. This signified the exclusion of him, and all his guilty race, from that communion with God which was the bliss and glory of paradise. The tokens of God's favour to him and his delight in the sons of men, which he had in his innocent estate, were now suspended; the communications of his grace were withheld, and Adam became weak, and like other men, as Samson when the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him. His acquaintance with God was lessened and lost, and that correspondence which had been settled between man and his Maker was interrupted and broken off. He was driven out, as one unworthy of this honour and incapable of this service. Thus he and all mankind, by the fall, forfeited and lost communion with God. But whither did he send him when he turned him out of Eden? He might justly have chased him out of the world (Job xviii. 18), but he only chased him out of the garden. He might justly have cast him down to hell, as he did the angels that sinned when he shut them out from the heavenly paradise, <2 4.="" a="" abandoned="" and="" be="" blockquote="" but="" by="" chain.="" converse="" designing="" despair="" drag="" dungeon="" earth="" eating="" end.="" excluded="" first="" for="" from="" fruits="" god="" good="" grave="" ground="" he="" him="" his="" hold="" humble="" ii.="" improvable="" innocency="" its="" keep="" latter="" love="" man="" new="" not="" observe="" of="" only="" our="" out="" parents="" pet.="" place="" plough="" prison-house="" privileges="" probation="" purposes="" recompensed="" remind="" s="" second="" sent="" state="" taken.="" taken="" terms.="" that="" the="" their="" them="" then="" they="" though="" thoughts="" till="" tilling="" to="" toil="" torment.="" upon="" was="" were="" whence="" which="" with="" work-house="" would="" yet="">

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Since You Asked...

In response to my last post, a friend asked, "Out of the 166, how many were totally lame?" Not sure about totally lame, but here are my bottom 13--am sure some of them had some redeeming value but were "almost completely" lame, as hard it it might be for me to think of what the redeeming value is.

7.8% of my 166 weren't worth the time and trouble. That's not bad.

5. Rightous Kill - Jon Avnet
11. Repo! The Genetic Opera - Darren Lynn Bousman
19. Dead Like Me: Life After Death - Stephen Herek
25. What Just Happened - Barry Levinson
36. Punisher: War Zone - Lexi Alexander
66. Life of the Party - Barra Grant
85. Two Lovers - James Gray
114. Let the Right One In - Tomas Alfredson
118. Good Dick - Marianna Palka
135. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Gavin Hood
139. Chéri - Stephen Frears
145. The Marc Pease Experience - Todd Louiso
157. Mr. Art Critic - Richard Brauer

Friday, January 01, 2010

2009 Movies

Last year, for the first time, I decided to log the movies I watched. The end total (166) is somewhat depressing (2008 would've had a higher result, I think). If you want to see what things grabbed my attention in 2009, take a peak.

While I was getting the list ready, I compiled a list of my personal top 10 films I saw last year (for the first time, anyway, so Star Wars, etc. doesn't make the list). These aren't ranked in order of preference, cuz I don't think I could make that call. Instead, they're in order I saw them.

Runners-Up (many of which would be tied for 11th, the rest are somewhere in the top 20 or so), again, in order I saw them:
  • The Wackness - Jonathan Levine
  • Pride and Glory - Gavin O'Connor
  • Il y a longtemps que je t'aime - Philippe Claudel
  • Marley & Me - David Frankel
  • Frozen River - Courtney Hunt
  • The Wrestler - Robert Harmon
  • Wendy and Lucy - Kelly Reichardt
  • The Go-Getter - Martin Hynes
  • Gran Torino - Clint Eastwood
  • Fanboys - Kyle Newman
  • The Soloist - Joe Wright
  • SherryBaby - Laurie Collyer
  • Away We Go - Sam Mendes
  • Funny People - Judd Apatow
  • Paper Heart - Nicholas Jasenovec
  • Julie & Julia - Norah Ephron