27: Why I’ve been gone for so long + blog cleanup

So this is a weird post to write, because I hadn’t intended for this blog to be particularly personal, but I did start it because I love pop culture, and I’m always looking for places to discuss my opinions on various things. You’d think a blog dedicated to me watching things and providing my thoughts on them would foster some of my best writing, and some it has been! A lot of it has been really lackluster, though, and that’s pretty unacceptable for a perfectionist like me.

I went on vacation at the end of October, and maybe that’s what got me out of the habit, but honestly, I think it was my unsatisfaction with the writing. I’m back, though! I don’t really make resolutions, but this year I did, and one of the 5 things I decided to focus on was getting back to writing in this blog.

So, look out! There are a couple of interviews coming up with a couple of my favorite musicians, a compare and contrast of the two Mandela films that have come out in the last few years, and (hopefully!) much more to come.

26: Us & Them (2013)

Though it was a smash hit across the pond, not a lot of people in the US have heard of the plucky UK comedy Gavin & Stacey, which ran on the BBC from 2007-2010. It’s been one of my favorite shows for years; one of those programs that just makes you feel good every time you watch, even when the episode isn’t necessarily going the way its characters would like it to. To be honest, that adds a lot of the appeal.

It’s a recurring theme on this blog, I think, but I’m one of those saps that genuinely enjoys stories about decent people getting together and falling in love and being decent to and with one another. It’s kind of boring, which is probably why shows like The Killing succeed on networks like Fox, and ones like last fall’s entrancing Ben And Kate, or Us & Them, the G&S Americanization, starring Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel, are doomed to fail.

Initially ordering 13 episodes, Fox has cut down their down to 7, essentially cancelling the show before it even premieres.

I don’t presume to know anything about networks and how the decisions behind scheduling or advertising are made. I’d like to, one day, but for now, I’m just a consumer. What I don’t get is pre-emptively deciding something is going to fail without giving it a fair shot, but then again, network execs didn’t get to be network execs without knowing what they were talking about.

Hopefully the show takes off and is as big a success as its British step-clone. I like Bledel and Ritter a lot. Hopefully they’ll make it shine.

25: Tatina Maslany is Awesome! (NO ONE IS SURPRISED) Part Two

Remember that time, many moons ago, when news broke that Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany would be on Parks & Rec this fall? Remember how hard I lost my mind over it?

Well. The kind folk over at Vulture have posted a clip of her first appearance on the show, and it’s so great.

Check it out here and then come back and talk to me about how great she is.

(She is SO great.)

Update on OB watch: I’ve gotten through every episode but the last one, which I’m saving because I’ve been spoiled on it and don’t actually want to see what I know is coming. Never let it be said that I don’t admit my cowardice.

24: Now Let’s Talk About Music! (10/2013)

Sometimes I get into ruts where I hate every single song in my music library. Sometimes I get into ruts where there are three things I want to listen to, and only three things, and I will listen to those three things Ad nauseam.

I don’t know if I’m in one of those  ruts right now, but my sister and I did see an off-Broadway performance of Once a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to the Glen Hansard version of “Leave” since purchasing it on iTunes late Saturday afternoon.

Some songs deserve to be played at their highest volume, and “Leave” is definitely one of them. I’m pretty sure my officemates hate me. …I’m also pretty sure I don’t care.

Oops.

Aside from sad Irish music, I’ve been really obsessively listening to “To Build A Home“, by the Cinematic Orchestra. It was used in the trailers for Brit Marling’s Another Earth a few years ago, and has been rattling around in my head ever since. I’ve been doing a whole lot of fiction writing lately as well as trying to keep this blog as up-to-date as possible, and when I’m writing, I definitely fall into past comforts.

With that said, I’ve also been obsessively listening to “Skyscraper” from Demi Lovato on repeat, too, because my brain goes into a very singer-songwriter-y, yearn-y place whenever I’m trying to write. Say what you will about the Demster, but she’s sure got a set of pipes on her.

On Friday, I listened to Chris Bathgate’s “A Corktale Wake” the whole way through at least 30 times, and I still want more of it. I’m going to attempt a longer, more focused post on that guy and how astounding I find his music, but those types of posts take focus and also time, two things I am strongly lacking on the Tuesday after a long weekend.

If you’re interested — and you should be interested — check out, well. Check out the whole album, really, but especially the song “Serpentine“. I promise you won’t regret it.

What are you guys listening to obsessively? Do you sometimes hate all your music too? Come by and tell me and maybe we can share some tunes!

(All links provided are from YouTube. Thanks, YouTube! None of them are NSFW, either, because I like to provide you with a clean, PG experience every time you drop by.) (…this is a total fucking lie. :D) (This post was not sponsored by YouTube, but if anyone from YouTube is Google Alertsing themselves? I would totally be up for that.)

23: Once Upon A Time In Wonderland — Down the Rabbit Hole (pilot)

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland (2013)

Like a lot of folks in their 20s, I was partially raised by Disney movies.

My brother, twelve years older and often tasked with the thankless chore of babysitting me, often tells the story of how our portable VCR was a godsend, because by 3, I’d learned how to press pause, play and rewind. I watched The Little Mermaid a lot. You know, if “a lot” is a variable for constantly.  I haven’t checked back in recently, but I bet I could still recite the whole thing verbatim.

A few years ago, during a preview of the season where both Once Upon A Time and Grimm would premiere, I remember being stoked on the concept of seeing Disney princes and princesses re-imagined for the small screen. Television has the great storytelling advantage of having so much more space and time to expand on a narrative, and the constraints of those films are so confining. With the exception of maybe Merida in Brave, young girls in Disney movies are generally made to give up their identities time and time again in the name of true love. Going back and watching those films as an adult is a total mindfuck, because the music is mostly still great, but the stories kind of suck.

I know a great deal of people like OUAT a lot (my sister included), but gosh, I really don’t.

I’ve said this before, but I’m a person obsessed with pacing and character development and strong dialogue, and I think it falls pretty flat across the board. Most pilots have a lot of rough patches. The nature of the beast is in world building, introducing characters that are both interesting and complex enough to keep an audience coming back, and it’s difficult to balance the need to do that and also push an episode forward that tells a story instead of just relaying character facts. I’ll give all the credit in the world to a pilot that’s at least trying to do something interesting, but more often than not, they fall pretty flat, which is okay if eventually, the show finds its footing and tells a good story. Once Upon A Time doesn’t.

It was for those reasons and more than I wasn’t particularly excited when I first learned about the forthcoming Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, but when it popped up in the “Fall Preview” tab as I was looking through Hulu+ in the small hours of the morning, I figured: why not? What’s the worst that could happen? I couldn’t think of much, and since Michael Socha is at least always pleasant to look at, I figured the pilot would be a good time to stretch out my fantasy legs.

There are some missteps, sure. The last 5-7 minutes are definitely my least favorite (Naveen Andrews, while a truly inspired choice for Jafar, was caught between the camp of being too over the top and not over the top enough), but there’s also something pretty wonderful happening. The storytelling is more cohesive. The visuals and costuming sharper. Maybe the focus of not having an entire ensemble cast to root for and root through is what’s necessary for a narrative like this to succeed.

A girl has lost her true love. She’s gone through hell and back. She’s willing to give up because she believes him dead and throws herself back into the mystery world that got her into so much trouble the first time.

The fact that the entire conceit of the show is all about a man again is a little worrisome, but this version of Alice, at least, seems to be stronger than some of the other iterations of Disney heroines. Hopefully she gets some more character development between now and the rest of the season, but at the moent I’m pretty stoked that she got to hold her own in a fight scene. The fact that Michael Socha and Sophie Lowe have such nice chemistry is pretty fun too, although I do wonder if this will be another Robin Scherbatsky situation. Hopefully, time will tell, although considering the show is run by the same people who did lost Lost and OUAT, I’m not expecting a lot.

Have you checked out Once Upon A Time in Wonderland? Are you planning on it? Come back and let me know if you do!

22: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Official Trailer – 2013)

So.

Clearly I am not up-to-date on my imDb stalking, because let’s talk about how I almost screamed — out loud, in my office, at my place of employ — when I discovered that Chris Pine was the new Jack Ryan.

Yesterday, while innocently going to imDb for about the 40th time in a row to look up a thing I suddenly couldn’t remember once facing the search box, I saw, in the “newly released trailer” section, the teaser for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Is that the worst title ever? Kinda. Will anything ever live up to The Hunt for Red October? Never. Do I care? NOPE. CHRIS PINE IS THE NEW JACK RYAN, YOU GUYS. I’m thisclose to vomiting a rainbow.

21: Super Fun Night

It is super easy to make me laugh. I’m kind of a dick about it when I don’t find you funny, but typically, I’m the dude in the corner giggling over the sight gag that involves an old lady getting a pie to the face.

When I first heard about the Super Fun Night pilot, it was a few years ago, before Rebel Wilson had reached the pinnacle of her success, and Jenny Slate was attached to co-star. I’d liked her since her run at SNL, so I was excited to see her in something a bit more streamlined, and then kind of bummed when the project was shelved.

This isn’t a new theory, but there’s something to be said about the fact that “passion projects” almost never work out the way their creators would like them to. Rebel Wilson has campaigned for this project for years, it seems, and according to her Vulture profile, is committed to making it to the best of her abilities. According to almost everyone, including some critics I almost always agree with (and some I do not), friends and co-workers, Super Fun Night is a miss on nearly every level. There  are too many “fat jokes”, there isn’t enough character development, Wilson’s American accent is a travesty. Etc, etc, etc. The list goes on.

Sure, the pilot is rough, but I found that there was a genuine sweetness to it that’s so often missing in a time of weekly “hate watches” and an overabundance of irony. Remember Lake Bell’s episode of New Girl, you guys? I know that’s sort of the most obvious choice, but I also feel like it’s a genuine reflection of how a lot of young folks view media today. Super Fun Night, for its faults (of which there are many, because — pilot), is a genuinely sweet show filled with people who care about themselves and each other. I hope it makes it.

Also, ask my best friend. I am a total monster when it comes to accents. Rebel Wilson’s isn’t nearly as bad as it could be.