Monday, January 05, 2015

My Week in Pop Culture

Happy New Year, everyone!!

I tend to watch and read a mishmash of stuff all at once, and sometimes it's tough just devoting one post to a single thing, so I thought I'd combine a bunch on this first day officially back to work in 2015.

The Good Wife
My husband made a comment to me a couple of weeks ago about the fact that I was DVRing the current season 6 of The Good Wife, even though we had only watched up to the end of season 3 and had stalled since we both had big projects we were working on through the fall. He said, "If there are 22 episodes a season, and we watched one per week, we'd never make it through seasons 4 and 5 on time to catch up to the DVR." I looked at him like he was from another planet, and said, "I'm sorry... do we know each other? When do we binge-watch shows on DVD by watching one a week?!" And so last Monday we popped in the first disk of our S4 set... and a week later we have one episode left. This is SUCH a good show, the quality never wavers, from the writing to the acting. The guest stars are fantastic, the plot lines exciting, and I wish Alan Cumming could be on every program. He is so good. My favourite moment in the season, for those who have already seen it: Kalinda reading Vampire Diaries fanfic aloud in the office as part of an investigation she's doing. HA!!

Call the Midwife
I'm a sucker for this show, and DVR'd S3 way back in April 2014, but then we went to the UK and somehow episode 4 didn't record, and so I couldn't watch it because I'm a stickler for never skipping past an episode. I did it once — and this will curl the toes of more than one of my readers — when way back in 2005 our VCR (yes, VCR) didn't record "Numbers" from S1 of Lost, and I figured we could just skip to the next one. WRONG. I love this show. Yes, it's sappy and almost always goes for the happy ending every time, but I still love it, mostly for that. How many shows aren't dark and dreary and caustic? This is SUCH a good show, and I swear I'm in tears in every episode, but then again, I can't seem to ever watch a scene of a baby being born without crying, so I was doomed.

I have been meaning to read this graphic novel for years, and I'm finally reading it now and WOW, it's so fantastic. I've bombed through the first six in the trades and I'm just starting the seventh (there are nine in total) and I'm hoping to be finished next week. LOVE this series. And my 10yo daughter is really enjoying it, too, and is angry that I got past her when she was distracted by these Canadian history books she got for Christmas and was reading up on the Underground Railroad. (You can just feel my pride in that last sentence, can't you?) ;)

Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy? 
I've raved about this on Facebook and Goodreads, but honestly, I don't think I had a better read last year. I finished it on New Year's Eve (by getting up early and reading the last 150 pages all morning just so I'd get it done in 2014!) and I adored it. Baby Peggy was a silent film star in the 1920s, appearing in her first picture at 18 months in 1920 and being a bona fide star (and multimillionaire) by the age of 4. Then one tragic mistake leads to another, and soon she's out of work, her family is destitute with no money, and it just gets worse from there. But this is the story of a survivor — written by Peggy herself, who changed her name to Diana Serra Cary — and if you love old Hollywood, I can't recommend this enough. She has a section where she talks about what happened to other child stars, including Jackie Coogan (whose name, ironically, stands for fairness in child star labour now but who lost everything back then), and what it was like to be the first "former child star" in American history and having to navigate her way through the rest of her adult life without precedent. It's remarkable. Even more remarkable: at 96 years old, she's still alive and is the last living silent film star.

Station Eleven
I've had this on my to-read list since Entertainment Weekly first raved about it, and just started it a few days ago. I'm not very far in, but I love it already. I ranted a lot in my Walking Dead posts about how hopeless that world is becoming and how art and culture have no place in it, and then along comes a book about an apocalypse where a group of people strives to insert art and culture into the post-apocalyptic world they live in.

My husband and I got out to see this right before New Year's because of all the hype surrounding Steve Carell's nuanced performance, and while I'll agree his performance was very well done (as was Mark Ruffalo's, who is excellent) I thought this movie was dull dull dull. I felt like it was building up to something — I went in blind, not knowing anything about the story — but GOD it felt like it took an eternity to actually get there.

Of all the Christmas movies, this one was probably last on my to-watch list, and the critics panned it and audiences haven't responded well, but my daughter REALLY wanted to go so I took her to see it on Saturday. And frankly, it wasn't half bad. (Then again, it was only half good.) I'm a sucker for Annie, and have seen the 1982 version a million times. Jamie Foxx as the Daddy Warbucks character was quite funny, and Cameron Diaz played an over-the-top Miss Hannigan (can she be played any other way? Of course not!) as a singer who should have made it big in the 1990s on VH1 but C+C Music Factory kicked her out of the group right before their Arsenio Hall appearance. (Hahaha!) The cast was all quite good — including Mr. Eko, who is a toned-down version of Punjab — and the story had some major issues (and the direction was kind of awful) but for me the biggest letdown was the little girl who actually played Annie. Quvenzhan√© Wallis, who was up for the Oscar for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, garnered raves for her almost wordless performance. Turns out, the moment she has to speak and sing, she's a little flat. If you know the 1982 version, you remember Annie's face when she sees the couple pretending to be her parents. Wallis just goes, "Yay!" and holds her hands out, and it felt disingenuous (really? You've been waiting your entire life to meet these people and that's all you can muster?) where in the original, Aileen Quinn is really subtle in this scene, unsure of who these people are and with a bad feeling she's being duped. ALL THAT SAID, for as much as it didn't hold a candle to the original, my daughter thought it was fantastic, and she adored the girl who played Annie, so what do I know? Maybe other adults would watch the 1982 version and say, "Um, you do know that movie is crap, right?" (For the record, IT IS NOT. My 9yo self adored that film.) The updates were clever at times — Annie's a foster kid, not in an orphanage, and when the fake parents steal her they are able to track her movements by other kids posting pics of the getaway car on Twitter — but it wasn't very good.
Parent score: 5/10  Daughter score: 9/10

1 comment:

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Did I tell you about the time I played Miss Hannigan in a production of Annie?