Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

13 May, 2008

Pop culture ephemera

While I was so studiously not blogging, I was also engaged in soaking up all manner of popular culture. A sample of the sights and sounds of the casa de wobs:
  • ms. wobs and I recently finished watching Band of Brothers. I am, admittedly, a sucker for a well-made WWII flick and had been keen on watching this series for years now, and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed. It's a well-crafted epic, both narratively and visually. More importantly, there's a fine line between telling the truly incredible stories of those who were there and myth-making, and I think the series tacks towards the former the vast majority of the time. The filmmakers also manage to keep the film apolitical (save the obvious narratives about the justness of WWII and a general "war really is hell" sentiment) while not flinching from the political and moral ambiguities that were inherent in the conflict.

    A special shout-out to goes to Donnie Wahlberg as Sgt. Lipton. When you see a former New Kid on the Block in the cast, you tend to be a little dubious, but Wahlberg plays Lipton with an understated dignity that's perfect for the role, even if he's less than convincing as a West Virginian.

    The only serious misstep in the series was casting David Schwimmer in a small but important role. It's really hard to get into the episode when all you can think is, "You're such a fucking douchebag, Ross!" Aside from Schwimmer and the obligatory awkwardly paced exposition of the first episode and the less-than-satisfying (emotionally, at least) denoument of the last, Band of Brothers is breathtaking to watch, especially the emotional heart of the series centered around episodes based on the Battle of the Bulge. It really is some extraordinary visual storytelling.

  • We also managed to watch Thank You for Smoking and Idiocracy. They're both funny - I wouldn't necessarily watch them over and over, but they're definitely worth a spot in your Netflix queue. They're both over-the-top in their moralizing (though Mike Judge uses the outlandishness to far better effect, especially in a meta sense) but have plenty of gags to make them more palatable. I'll especially recommend Idiocracy for the visual gags that are Judge's vision of a distant future ruled by morons. The "House of Representin'" alone is worth the rental price. Or check it out free from your public library.

  • I thought I was done with REM. The only new album I've bought since Automatic for the People was Up, and only really for the first six songs. So when I heard some good things about Accelerate, I at least paid attention. Then I read that someone heard a track on a college radio station, and that pushed me over the edge. It's good! Peter Buck rediscovered his distortion pedal, Mike Mills rediscovered those sweet counter-melodies backing up Michael Stipe, and the whole band rediscovered the whole jangly* rock thing that made us love them back in the 80s. There's a few tracks on there that sound like they could've been outtakes from Life's Rich Pageant or Green. The music itself is enough to put a nostalgic smile on your face, but the sly self-referential lyrics definitely seal the deal. This new album makes an old fan happy.

    * A little known section of law stipulates that media discussing REM with more than 50 words must use some variation of "jangle" within their work. It's true. Look it up.

  • The best dKos diary I've read in a long, long time.

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