Monday, August 19, 2013

Belated Cultural Notes From All Over

Jess Walters' Beautiful Ruins is the best American novel I've read in years. Touches on all the big issues: love, loss, death, time, the urge to create, and how to be a successful Hollywood asshole. All with a wicked sense of humor. So get thee to a library, or bookstore (if you can find one that's still open), or push that one-click button on Amazon. Can't recommend it highly enough. Also can't wait to see how they screw up the movie version...because you know they probably will.

And speaking of movies, The Lone Ranger wasn't nearly as awful as preliminary reviews might indicate. In fact, it was not awful at all. Much more entertaining than Man of Steel or World War Zzzzz. The framing device is cleverly done and the Depp meister's spin on Tonto is inventive and fun. It is way too long--but not as oppressively so as some of its summer blockbuster competition. (How many times do we have to watch some super hero and his or her evil nemesis endlessly crash around Manhattan, trashing skyscrapers left and right? Jesus. Wreck Paris next time, or Rome. And what's the deal with zombies all of a sudden? I haven't gotten used to vampires and now it's zombies? Give an old man a break.)

Woody Allen's latest, Blue Jasmine, is an entertaining story about a woman whose life falls apart and her efforts to try and put it back together. The wonderful Cate Blanchett leads a strong cast, including Alec Baldwin, Louis CK and Andrew Dice Clay (!).  It isn't exactly a comedy, by the way, so don't expect a lot of yucks.

The Act of Killing, a documentary about Indonesian death squads, is alternately disturbing and funny in a truly surreal way. The most bizarre non-fiction film I've ever seen. There are indeed monsters amongst us.

On the TV front, The Newsroom has returned to rub a soothing balm on all of our liberal scabs. Unfortunately, this season is tending towards soap opera. If you didn't catch them the first time, the hysterically funny Veep and Christopher Guest's Family Tree are also worthy of your attention. Yes, after years of resistance, and not infrequent prodding from his loving family, Mr. Franklin has finally signed up for HBO. It's too damn hot to go outside, so why not stay inside and stare at the throbbing pixels?

Throbbing pixels? What a great name for a band! 

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