Friday, June 25, 2010

Week 3 - 4 - Part 1

Greetings and salutations.

It's been nine days since I last took stock of my summer reading list. Nine days in which my husband returned from a month long trip and my best friend came all the way from Albersbach, Germany - and went out of her way to rearrange several days of a rare 3-week visit to the states - just to visit us. Clearly, this was an instance where I had to choose actual human relationships over my beloved addiction to all that is entertaining.

I'm afraid this blog is likely going to lack some humor because it's been so long, updating feels a little like a past-due essay that I'm staying up until 2am to finish. I regret to inform you that all clever quips will be delayed until further notice.

Still, I managed a reasonable amount of progress, so let's just get to it.

The Stand

Yep. I'm still working on it. I thought for sure I'd be through it in 10 - 14 days. I'm on page 746 and I won't discuss it due to plans for a Stand-centric blog entry in the near future. But, I will thank Mr. Stephen King for forcing me to break out my reading glasses for the first time in 2 years.

Holocaust (mini-series)

Holocaust is a made for TV mini series which originally aired in 1978 on CBS. If you haven't heard of Holocaust, I can tell you it was kind of a big deal back in '78.

I chose to watch this series based on a recommendation from my parents. Over Christmas break this past year we were having one of those "what are your all-time favorite movies/TV shows?" conversations. As you may have guessed, this is my favorite type conversation in the history of conversations. It's food for my media-obsession and possibly the best way to learn of new materials without doing any legwork. It's like going to the grocery store and finding a cart full of your favorites set aside without having to walk up and down any of the aisles.

During this conversation Holocaust came up. My parents claim that in 1978, despite the passing of over 30 years, much of the general population was still a bit naive as to what really happened in the Holocaust or possibly knew, but had never actually seen much true footage. The series had clearly had a profound effect on my parents. After all, over thirty-one years had passed since it aired and there we were, sitting around my kitchen table discussing it.

So, I trudged through the eight-hour series.

For a person like myself, born in the very year the series was released, it's hard to judge the effectiveness of a series made during a time when the definition of the term "groundbreaking" was strikingly different than it is today. I've had a lifetime of Schindler's Lists and Diary of Anne Franks. The content, though never less shocking, has presented to my generation widely. I went into it, knowing what I was about to see and therefore it is impossible for me to see it through the eyes of a viewer in 1978.

The series brilliantly incorporates authentic film and photo of the Holocaust into a fictional story of a family, destroyed. What I loved most was its ability to show the events from the point of view of the family and an up-and-coming German military officer, without ever mentioning Hitler himself (other than using the term "The Fuhrer"). It makes for a true viewer-story bond. It certainly kept me coming back to learn more about the fate of each character.

Unfortunately, times have changed, as have film techniques and acting styles. A modern viewer may have some trouble with waning interest and character believability. There's really almost nothing I wouldn't recommend on the Holocaust, short of historically inaccurate depiction, it's a lesson we can never learn enough about. It's a topic that will never cease to force me to question my own beliefs. Overall, I'd recommend it. I'd just ask the viewer the keep in mind the climate in which it was released.

Toy Story 3

What do two adults, four children, an infant, 5 pounds of popcorn and 2 pound of soda have in common? Toy Story 3 - that's what. I can't say enough about my friends over at Pixar. The Toy Story trilogy is just beyond words, the third installment being no exception. Much more bittersweet than the first to, at one point everyone in our party crying (with the exception of my 5-year-old daughter who will cry for two hours over not being allowed to wear her Christmas dress to school, but is seemingly soulless when it comes to emotional content). Any movie that can get a 7-year-old boy to think, if even for just a moment, wins my vote.

On an aside: Ken, of the famed "Barbie and Ken" duo, was one of the greatest character add-ons of all-time.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I just watched this one last night. As I was watching it I had an entire blog planned out about crude humor... but it's going to have to wait. It is so difficult to update a past-due blog and include all of these thoughts I have when they aren't fresh in my mind. I am flat-out exhausted!

I'll sum it up in a few thoughts.

1. Some day, I'll write an entire blog dedicated to why I hate over-the-top crudeness (No, I'm not not-laughing because I don't "get" it, I'm not laughing because it's not funny!). Then I'll dedicate an entire blog to why I hate Sacha Baron Cohen (No, it's not a political satire about American Culture, it's you exploiting the people of Kazakhstan and putting people in horridly awkward situations, then making fun of them while they stumble in an effort to be tactful).

I'm not prude. I'm not afraid of nudity or swearing. I just simply think that crudeness needs to match context. Take for example, Boogie Nights. Anyone who knows me knows that this is my favorite movie. It's crude. It's gross. It's exactly appropriate for it's subject matter. Watching Apatow's The Forty Year Old Virgin made me feel about the "F-word" the way I feel about my kids using the word "poop". It's funny for about .25 seconds and then it's just... annoying. It's every bit as cheap too.

In my opinion, this is the best of the Judd Apatow cache. Which is saying a lot, because in general, I'm not a fan. It's a well-proportioned mixture of crude, stupid, and sweet. It didn't pull too hard in any one direction. It made me laugh. It made me cringe. But it didn't go so far that I couldn't appreciate it. I probably wouldn't watch it with my grandma. But, I'd watch it after my kids are in bed and I need an escape from Legos and breaking up playground fights over who get the next turn on a scooter. Would I recommend it? Sure, to the right audience.

2. I never, never, never get tired of "naked guy as a cheap comedic shot." Naked guys are funny. Naked guys make me laugh. It's like Elaine said on Seinfeld, "The female body is a work of art. The male body is utilitarian, it's for getting around, it's like a Jeep."

Have you ever seen Sideways? Let me tell you, if you think naked guy is funny in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you should see overweight naked guy chasing a guy down the street at dawn.


"Holocaust" - mini-series. 8 hours. 3.5/5 stars
"Toy Story 3" - Movie. 5/5 stars
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" - Movie. 3.5/5 stars.


"The Stand" by Stephen King. 340 additional pages. 4/5 Stars. 398 to go...

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