Episode 149 – Keith Knight

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Virtual Memories Show #149: Keith Knight

“The talk about race in America hinges on how comfortable white people are with it. Because once white people are too uncomfortable, they’ll either say you’re pulling the race card, or just say, ‘Enough.'”

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We kick off 2016 with gentleman cartoonist Keith Knight! Keith & I met up at a cafe in Chapel Hill to talk about comics, race, fixing the Star Wars prequels, his career as a Michael Jackson impersonator, the literature course that made him a political artist, his campus lecture tour on race relations, the importance of crowdfunding, the reasons he continues with a daily comic strip (and two more strips), why you never see black people on Antiques Roadshow, the songs that will turn any party out (excluding tracks by MJ and Prince), the case for Off The Wall over Thriller, whether it’s an honor or a disgrace to be the first non-white guest on this podcast in two years, and more! Give it a listen! (the conversation starts at the 7:30 mark)

“The comics industry needs to catch up to its audience, because the creative side is not as diverse is not as diverse as their readers.”

BONUS: I launch a Patreon for the Virtual Memories Show! You get to hear me talk about all the neat stuff I’m planning for the show if we get enough support from listeners like you!

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Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Keith Knight is many things to many people–rapper, social activist, father and educator among them. He’s also one of the funniest and most highly regarded cartoonists in America, and the creator of three popular comic strips: the Knight Life, (th)ink, and the K Chronicles. For nearly two decades, this multi-award-winning artist has brought the funny back to the funny pages with a uniquely personal style that’s a cross between Calvin & Hobbes, MAD, and underground comix. Keith Knight is part of a generation of African-American artists who were raised on hip-hop, and infuse their work with urgency, edge, humor, satire, politics and race. His art has appeared in various publications worldwide, including the Washington Post, Daily KOS, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com, Ebony, ESPN the Magazine, L.A. Weekly, MAD Magazine, and the Funny Times. His comic musings on race have garnered accolades and stirred controversies, prompting CNN to tap him to grade America on its progress concerning issues of race. Follow him on Twitter and support his work on Patreon.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. “Yellow scarf” photos of Mr. Knight by me, no credit for the photo of him with a marker..

Episode 148 – The Guest List 2015

Virtual Memories Show: The Guest List 2015

It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2015’s podcast guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2016! More than 30 responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) So now that you’ve got your Hanukkah and/or Christmas gelt, the Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! Get ready to update your wish lists!

This year’s Guest List episode features selections from nearly 3 dozen of our recent guests! So go give it a listen, and then visit our special Guest List page where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.

(Also, check out the 2013 and 2014 editions of The Guest List for more great book ideas!)

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Your illustrious podcast-host, as drawn by Roger Langridge

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Derf Backderf, Anthea Bell, John Clute, Michael Dirda, Matt Farber, Jonathan Galassi, Brad Gooch, Langdon Hammer, Liz Hand, Jennifer Hayden, Ron Hogan, Dylan Horrocks, David Jaher, Kathe Koja, Jonathan Kranz, Peter Kuper, Lorenzo Mattotti, JD McClatchy, Scott McCloud, Michael Meyer, Dan Perkins (a.k.a. Tom Tomorrow), Summer Pierre, Witold Rybczynski, Dmitry Samarov, Elizabeth Samet, Liesl Schillinger, Posy Simmonds, Levi Stahl, Rupert Thomson, Irvine Welsh, Warren Woodfin, Jim Woodring, Claudia Young, and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. Most of the episode was recorded at Virtual Memories Manor on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. A few segments were recorded by the guests and e-mailed in (which is to say: don’t blame me!). Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro.

Episode 128 – Impecunious Nobles

Virtual Memories Show #128:
Rhonda K. Garelick – Impecunious Nobles

“Chanel was trying to gift herself to women, and give them something that would lend them an allure that would be useful.”

mademoiselle335Rhonda K. Garelick, author of Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, joins the show to talk about Chanel’s impact on women’s fashion and French national identity, how she managed not to get tried for collaboration after the war, the one figure from our age who compares to Chanel, what it’s like teaching the accordion-and-beret crowd, and more! Give it a listen!

“I remain certain that there is no one else who has had this sort of aesthetic influence.”

We also talk about Chanel’s pleasure in hiring fallen royalty to work in her boutiques and factories, the need for myth-making in fashion, the challenges of getting Chanel’s associates to talk to her, the psychological similarities of fashion and fascism, and the decision to structure Mademoiselle around Chanel’s relationships. Also, I make the major mistake of letting Rhonda ask me a question, which sends the conversation utterly off the rails.

We talk about a couple of books in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em (Note: if I ever go to a Patreon crowdfunding model for the show, this is the first thing that goes subscriber-only):

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

rhonda250Rhonda K. Garelick writes on fashion, design, performance, art, literature and cultural politics. Her books include Rising Star: Dandyism, Gender, and Performance in the Fin de Siècle (Princeton University Press, winner of the Kayden Award for outstanding manuscript in the humanities), Electric Salome: Loie Fuller’s Performance of Modernism (Princeton), and, as co-editor, Fabulous Harlequin: ORLAN and the Patchwork Self (University of Nebraska Press, winner of the 2011 award for book design from the American Alliance of Museums). Her new book is Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, New York Newsday, International Herald Tribune, and The Sydney Morning Herald, and numerous journals and museum catalogs in the United States and Europe.

She is a Guggenheim fellow and has also received awards from the NEA, the NEH, the Getty Research Institute, the Dedalus Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the Whiting Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Prof. Garelick received her B.A. and Ph.D. in comparative literature and French from Yale University. She splits her time between Lincoln, Nebraska and her hometown of New York City.

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she is Professor of Fine and Performing Arts and English, as well as the founder and director of the Interdisciplinary Arts Symposium. For the academic year 2015-2016, Rhonda will be the Stanley Kelly, Jr. Visiting Professor of Distinguished Teaching in Comparative Literature at Princeton University. Garelick has also had a long career as an international business consultant, specializing in the fields of fashion, media, and journalism.

Credits: This episode’s music is Cri de Coeur by Edith Piaf. The conversation was recorded at an undisclosed location on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Prof. Garelick by Agaton Strom.

Man Out Of Time: Movies

Introduction | Music | Movies | Comics | Sports | Books

A few months ago, I listened to a Bill Simmons podcast in which he and guest Chris Connelly discussed the “movie of the decade.” Simmons’ criteria were

  1. Excellence when it came out
  2. Rewatchability
  3. Originality

but they were somewhat compromised by the fact that Simmons’ job consists of sitting at home, watching TV, and writing columns. He does good work, but someone who has the TV on 16 hours a day is going to have some odd ideas about the second and third of those criteria.

Anyway, both men had some odd choices — O Brother, Where Art Thou? was the Coen Brothers’ best movie, Chris? The Dark Knight is rewatchable, Bill? And you’re considering The Departed, even though it’s a remake? — but it sparked an interesting conversation. Connelly initially drew a blank when asked about movies of the decade, pointing out that movies during this period “really bifurcated.”

He said, “You had movies you admired, and movies that were popcorn movies. It was not a good decade for the twining of the two. The economics of movies meant that they had to be thrill rides. And all the critical metrics of how you assess these movies flew right out the window. . . . Guys who could make the high/low movie, they just didn’t do it this decade, because the economics were baited.”

My initial thought when he said this was, “Well, Spielberg wasn’t making as many movies this decade, so that must account for the shortfall.” Because if anyone can negotiate storytelling with studio expectations, it’s Steven Spielberg. Then I opened up his IMDB page and realized that he actually directed more movies this decade than last. They just weren’t good.

1990s

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Amistad (1997)

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Schindler’s List (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Hook (1991)

2000s

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Munich (2005)

War of the Worlds (2005)

The Terminal (2004)

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Minority Report (2002)

Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)

(Some people like Minority Report, but that just means they didn’t actually watch the movie. See, the whole minority report turned out to be a Macguffin, and the only thing that would’ve made the story compelling would be if the cops were busting people days and days before they committed a crime, not mere moments before. I understand how the latter is better for the sake of thriller-tude, but the issue of “psychic profiling” becomes a lot more ambiguous if the criminals-to-be have no idea they’re going to be committing a crime. I know some people like AI, but that just means that they’ve failed a Turing Test and are actually automatons of some kind.)

Connelly concluded that TV was where the great movies were, citing The Sopranos (beginning in 1999) as the movie of the decade, and The Wire as the great indie movie of the era.

Simmons began the conversation by offering up Almost Famous (2000) then revised his pick and went with The Dark Knight (2009). He recanted that position in a recent podcast, presumably after realizing that, despite its technical virtuosity and a great performance by Heath Ledger (although I’m convinced that if Ledger hadn’t OD’d, it would have just been another big superhero movie, not the Titanic of this decade), it has ridiculous plot-holes, the third act goes on about 2 days too long, and the wrong villain dies.

Still, their conversation got me thinking about the topic, and how it differs from my Favorite Movies of the Decade list (below: have patience!). Since I see relatively few movies, I feel pretty unqualified to offer up candidates for “movie of the decade.” I mean, Borat (2006) was a monstrous success in comedy, and pretty re-watchable. The first Saw (2004) also made huge box office was pretty influential on the horror genre. (I never watched it; I’m not a horror fan.) I find 300 (2006) pretty darn entertaining, and I’ll stick with it for a little while if I notice it while channel-surfing. It too was a massive and unexpected hit. I never saw Gladiator (2000), so I have no idea how “movie of the decade” it is, outside of the fact that it inspired a bunch of sword-and-sandals flicks. Similarly, the Lord of the Rings cycle (2001, 2002, 2003) was a massive success that inspired a wave of cookie-cutter “let’s build a movie franchise out of a series of fantasy novels” releases. My wife and I have a tradition of watching the trilogy annually around New Year’s Eve/Day. She always gets mad when I tell her that the moral of the story is that evil is too clumsy to win.

But the whole theme of my decade-trospective posts is Man Out Of Time, so I have to go to 1999 to find my “movie of the decade”: Three Kings.

I’ve seen Three Kings three times: in the theater, the night before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and two weeks ago, in preparation for this post. Because if this decade’s going to be defined as The Bush Years, then one of the best warnings we had for What Went Wrong is David O. Russell‘s caper movie about Gulf War I.

The plot of Three Kings is pretty simple: after the ceasefire at the end of the first Gulf War, three Army reservists discover a map for a cache of gold that Iraq plundered from Kuwait. A special forces major — played by George Clooney, first seen having sex with Judy Greer (yay!) — finds out their secret, and the four head off to steal some gold.

Of course, it all goes awry. The guys find the gold, but also discover that the Iraqi army is too busy brutally suppressing internal revolt to bother protecting the treasure. The major changes the mission mid-stream to save the dissenters, leading the men into disaster. One winds up dead, another gets captured and tortured, the humanitarian mission almost leads to the death of all the Iraqis it’s supposed to save, and media embeds are manipulated to spin the war and the caper. Oh, and the dissidents’ only hope is to flee into the arms of Iran.

All this movie needs is roadside bombs and some beheadings by extra-national jihadis, and we’d have a blueprint for why Gulf War II was never going to work! But don’t take my word for it; here’s Clooney’s Major Gates and his commanding officer near the movie’s start:

Major Gates: I don’t even know what we did here. Just tell me what we did here, Ron!

CO: What do you want? To occupy Iraq and go through Vietnam all over again? Is that what you want? Is that your brilliant idea?

Later in the movie, Gates is trying to convince a rebel fighter to give him a fleet of cars in order to rescue a soldier. The fighter says he has no money for food, prompting Gates to launch into pep rally mode:

Major Gates: Listen to me! We will rise up together! Rise up! Look at us! Many races, many nations, working together. We’re united. George Bush — George Bush wants you! Stand up for yourself!

Rebel: George Bush?

Gates: Yes! Wants you! Wants you! Wants everyone to rise up! George Bush wants you! He wants you! You have to fight for freedom on your own, and America will follow! God bless America and God bless a free Iraq! [cheers of throngs] Now what do you say, my friend?

Rebel: Can not give car.

Gates: Okay. I guess we’ll buy ’em.

Interestingly, the only character who’s “right” is the one who just wants to take the gold and leave the locals to their ugly fate. He’s the one (played by Mark Wahlberg) that gets tortured by an Iraqi soldier who’s been trained by the U.S. and who — in another wonderfully prescient moment — begins his interrogation by asking, “What is the problem with Michael Jackson?”

I don’t want to make this out as simply a propaganda flick, nor an anti-war diatribe. While Three Kings ridicules the idea of liberating Kuwait and shows the revolt as something the U.S. should have supported and that would have been impossible to support, the movie is made memorable by the fantastic performances of Clooney (my favorite flick of his), Wahlberg (in the role the inspired Adam Samberg’s awful impression of him), Ice Cube (and his ring of Jesus fire), and Spike Jonze, who steals every scene he’s in. Oh, and Nora Dunn does a fantastic job as the media-embed who’s clearly patterned after Christiana Amanpour. If you’ve never seen Three Kings, or you didn’t catch it during the decade that it presaged, do yourself a favor and watch it. Just like Major Gates, you can ask what we did over there.

For a followup, avoid David O. Russell’s next movie, I [Heart] Huckabees, and go straight to In The Loop.

(Oh, and here’s a short video by NYTimes critic A.O. Scott about Three Kings, which should give you some idea of how visually striking it is.)

So that’s my convoluted take on the Movie of the Decade. In fact, 1999 was a very important year for movies. Here’s a couple of the big ones from that year and the lessons they had for us:

  • American Beauty – Middle-aged guys want to have sex with hot high school girls! Surprise!
  • Election – Ditto. Oh, and Hillary Must Be Stopped.
  • American Pie – Everyone wants to have sex with hot high school girls! Surprise!
  • Cruel Intentions – Ditto.
  • The Straight Story – Some guys don’t want to have sex with hot high school girls; they just want to visit their dying brothers by driving their riding mowers hundreds of miles.
  • The Matrix – black vinyl + martial arts + wirework + lots of guns + slo-mo rotating camera – Keanu talking = revolution in action movies
  • Being John Malkovich – From the beginning, Charlie Kaufman was always trying to get us into someone else’s head.
  • Office Space – Kill yourself now . . .
  • The Sixth Sense – . . . but don’t keep going to work after you’re dead.
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – All the CGI in the world doesn’t make a good movie.
  • The Blair Witch Project – None of the CGI in the world apparently can make a good movie.
  • and . . . Fight Club – Testosterone-fueled guys with no sense of higher purpose are capable of bringing down the world financial system.

And now . . . my favorite movies of THIS decade, in no particular order, although the first two probably are #s 1 and 2:

Favorite Movies of the Decade

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – It may be my favorite love story committed to film. If not, it’s at least the Annie Hall of the decade. Although I’d already met the woman I would marry by the time this one came out, I still carried the memory of a recent heartbreak. This collaboration between Michael Gondry and Charlie Kaufman captured so much about what we gain when we find love, and how we’ll do anything to escape the pain when we lose love. And it covers the terrain in between, when it all falls apart. It’s also quite funny and visually mind-blowing (as it were). Earlier this year, I thought about how it was the perfect sweet-spot in the arcs of Gondry and Kaufman, with the former going on to make the silly, adorable Be Kind Rewind, and the latter going on to make . . .

Synecdoche, New York (2008) – . . . the most frustratingly rewarding (or rewardingly frustrating) movie I’ve seen this decade. Unlike Cronenberg’s adaptation of Naked Lunch, it didn’t cause me to throw my hands in the air and surrender. Nor did I feel as though misinterpreting one symbol was enough to set me on a wrong path that devalued the rest of the movie. It’s an insane trek into the artistic process, for which Kaufman’s Adaptation (2002) was a mere dry run (and I loved it at the time). No, I don’t have any idea what to make of Samantha Morton’s house being perpetually on fire. (UPDATE: It looks like Roger Ebert considers it the best movie of the decade, too! But Crash? I know someone’s not gonna be happy about that . . .)

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005) – I heard about this one when Robert Downey Jr. went on Howard Stern’s show to promote it. It turned out that Stern hadn’t watched the screener DVD the studio sent over, so Downey spent the interview telling Stern about how much he would’ve enjoyed all these aspects of the movie. I filed it away, and picked it up on DVD, and thought, “Howard would’ve hated this movie.” That said, it’s right up my alley: a smartass meta-narrator, a sidekick (Val Kilmer, who’s really more of a boss) constantly taking the piss out of him, an adorable female lead (Michelle Monaghan, who we’re supposed to believe is around the same age as Downey), and a caper/crime plot that tries to pay tribute to Raymond Chandler’s LA.

Hero (2002) – My pal Sang described this as a Confucian Action Movie. It’s visually breathtaking, with fantastic wuxia action scenes, a Rashomon-ish story to tell, and some Hegelian questions about the responsibility of power and the head of state. It’s difficult to pick a favorite scene: I’m partial to the fight in the chess court in the rain, but the archers laying waste to the calligraphy school is unforgettable.

Kung-Fu Hustle (2004) – If entertainment were freebased into little crack-nuggets of entertainment, they would be this Stephen Chow movie. It’s a Tex Avery cartoon come to life, the best superhero movie of the decade, and a touching tribute to kung-fu movie legends, especially the indomitable Qiu Yuen, who became a grandmom the year this one came out. I make every houseguest of ours watch this. You’ve been warned.

Oldboy (2003) – Yeah, I feel bad that the VA Tech shooter was crazy about this movie, but he was crazy in general. It’s too simple to call it a study in the nature of revenge, but that’s the base of it. It’s a tense thriller, has one the greatest fight scenes of all time, and will leave you hollow and scorched by the end. Not in a good way.

Spirited Away (2001) – This was my first exposure to the work of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. The plot is pretty simple; a young girl and her parents are moving to a new home, take a shortcut, and end up in the spirit world, where the girl has to rescue her parents. The centerpiece of this world is a bath-house, populated by all manner of unearthly creatures. The girl “wins” by growing up, but never in a Disneyfied way. I can’t do justice to how full this world is, and how full of wonder. I once described The Triplets of Belleville thus, “It’s like being in another person’s dream; unfortunately, that person is astonishingly dull.” This movie is like being in the dream of the most interesting man in the world. Not the guy from the Dos Equis ads.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) – I had to put one of the Apatow / McKay / Ferrell movies on this list. I was torn between this and Anchorman, especially because this one really suffers after the first hour. That said, the first hour is awesome. I’m a sucker for supporting performances, and the camaraderie on display at the electronics store among Steve Carrell, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd is dementedly entertaining and (to me) convincing. Its peak may be when the guys are sitting out back on the loading dock, smashing fluorescent light tubes while shooting the breeze. Oh, and Jane Lynch is hysterical in her few scenes. I think Anchorman‘s funnier overall, but this one wins for not having Will Ferrell in his underwear.

American Splendor (2003) – This meta-biopic of autobiographical cartoonist Harvey Pekar somehow convinced us that Hope Davis could stand in for Joyce Brabner, a miracle in itself. My wife & I watch this each year on Pekar’s birthday. It’s a great study in the story behind the storytelling, with a career-making performance by Paul Giamatti (I wasn’t as much of a Sideways fan as most everyone else).

Memento (2000) – My wife thinks it’s funny that I didn’t remember this was from this decade, but for some reason, I kept associating it with 1995’s Usual Suspects, and thought it was from around that era. Ingeniously structured in the shape of a V; the protagonist’s anterograde amnesia forces him to recreate the scene from scratch every few minutes, while the main strand of the movie keeps jumping backwards in time, disorienting the viewer but never cheating. All the pieces are there, making the conclusion inexorable and, um, unforgettable.

Shaun of the Dead (2004) – I’m not a horror movie fan, and I’ve got a weird hangup about zombies, but this is a wonderful flick. It’s not redeemed simply by its sense of humor, but by the sheer humanness of its characters. Shaun is a fantastically realized character, full of doubts, frustrations, laziness and love for his mum and mates. And he has to save his girlfriend (who just dumped him) from a zombie plague wreaking havoc on London. It’s funny, warm, scary, and has some scenes with Bill Nighy. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

Zodiac (2007) – No movie has ever left me feeling so carefully manipulated, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. David Fincher keeps every scene so utterly under control, carries the viewer along so expertly, with individual shots and compositions perfectly set up to convey the frustrations and obsessions of the investigation into the Zodiac killings. I can’t turn away when I’m channel-surfing.

Wasabi (2001) – It used to be an ironclad rule that every movie could be made better by adding Jean Reno. Someone let me know if that held up for The Da Vinci Code, the Pink Panther remake(s!), and Couples Retreat. Meanwhile, I’ll stick with Wasabi, which carries the tagline, “Quite Possibly The Greatest French-Language, English-Subtitled, Japanese Action-Comedy Of All Time.”

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) – My favorite Coen Bros. movie of the decade. Everyone else was taken by No Country for Old Men, but this one wins for me. Only thing that would’ve made it better is if Billy Bob Thornton‘s character never managed to get out a word of dialogue, but owned the movie via voice-over.

Millions (2004) – Another one of my contrary picks. Everyone else loves Slumdog Millionaire, but my favorite Danny Boyle movie of the decade is this little gem. It sorta retells Boyle’s first movie, Shallow Grave, from a child’s perspective. Two young brothers find a suitcase filled with money. There are two catches:

  1. it’s in pounds, and the UK is moving over to Euros at the end of the month, so they need to spend it all before the changeover, and
  2. the people who stuffed the money in the suitcase want it back.

The protagonist, a young boy whose mother recently died and who obsesses over The Lives of the Saints, is a wonder. Go watch this.

Light Keeps Me Company (2000) – A documentary about the wonderful cinematographer, Sven Nykvist. He lit one of my favorite flicks, Another Woman, and this teasing out of his story by his son, as Sven decays from aphasia, is heartrending and wonderful.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004) – I saw this with two friends who did not get the joke. I tried not to laugh too hard, because I was staying at their place that week, and thought it’d be rude. Later, I watched it with my girlfriend, and we fell out laughing. I was glad to find that this wasn’t just an instance where I was being weird.

In Bruges (2008) – I’d managed never to see a Colin Farrell movie before this. I only knew him from his Page Six escapades, so I was pleasantly surprised about how good a comic actor he is. This one’s a small scale crime movie, fitting in behind Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, but the story’s so sharply constructed around the performances of Ferrell and Brendan Gleeson (and a ferociously mean Ralph Fiennes) that I’ll go back to it repeatedly.

In The Loop (2009) – A verbal tour-de-farce (as it were) about the buildup to war. It plays off of UK/U.S. relations and expectations, features one of the most foul-mouthed characters of all time (Peter Capaldi, whom I’d last seen in Local Hero, shot 25 years earlier, looking all innocent), and needs multiple viewings, since you’re likely to be laughing too hard at one line to catch the next.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) – I hated this movie when I first saw it. I had that reaction with Rushmore, too, but now love it, so I think I just have an instinctual wariness about Wes Anderson‘s brand of preciosity. Now I understand and accept that he creates elegant little jewel-boxes and I adore this flick, about a mutant version of J.D. Salinger’s Glass siblings revisited by their long-lost, ne’er-do-well dad.

Honorable Mention

Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, Anchorman, The Incredibles, 300, Borat, Role Models, Adaptation, Ghost World, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Darjeeling Limited, Be Kind Rewind, Superbad, Man on Wire, Bad(der) Santa, the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Pootie Tang (just kidding).

Introduction | Music | Movies | Comics | Sports | Books

What It Is: 6/22/09

What I’m reading: Plutarch’s lives of Timoleon and Aemilius Paulus, and Seth’s amazing comic about Canadian designer Thoreau MacDonald (it’s in an anthology called Kramers Ergot 7). Reading that strip after his George Sprott and Wimbledon Green books (the latter of which I reread on Saturday), it struck me just how much Seth’s work has grown in recent years, and how much of it seems to be a response to the work of other top-flight cartoonists of this era. My pal Tom has a great interview with Seth that explores this topic, but the MacDonald pages, even more than George Sprott, really drive home the point that Seth’s response to “the competition” (especially Chris Ware) is to make better and better work. I’m not sure he would’ve made the leaps he’s made without it.

What I’m listening to: Greatest hits collection of Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, after reading this short post by Ta-Nehisi Coates. (He thought she was high yellow?)

What I’m watching: The Original Kings of Comedy, Big Night, Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs, Manhattan and Hot Rod, the latter of which was inspired by its recent My Year of Flops writeup.

What I’m drinking: Miller’s & Q Tonic

What Rufus is up to: Getting the last of his stitches out, learning how to hang out by himself again, and building up his stamina. I can’t believe we went 3 weeks without a walk outside of the yard. I’m glad it’s not hot out.

Where I’m going: Pharmaland. Lots and lots of Top Companies profiles to write!

What I’m happy about: That it’s not raining right now.

What I’m sad about: That my dad got pasted with an attack of gout this weekend, which means we have to put off our Father’s Day lunch till next Sunday. And that we’ll have to take the red wine off the menu.

What I’m worried about: Getting all of those profiles written and then laid out in time to put the issue to bed by July 2.

What I’m pondering: Whether crystal meth would help with that.

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