Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into…
Stan & Ollie (Movie, Director: Jon S. Baird, 2018)
…which was fine. Just fine. I grew up watching Laurel & Hardy with my dad, so I was excited to see Stan & Ollie. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly looked the parts — they looked it so good! — and they did a terrific job with what they had to work with, but it all felt a bit too fluffy for my tastes. It wasn’t bad! But it wasn’t great either. It was fine.
The wives, though…they deserve a movie of their own. The best!
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Movie, Director: Marielle Heller, 2019)
Also just fine was A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Everyman Tom Hanks inhabits the role of the thoughtful, sensitive Fred Rogers as the film takes a stab at bringing to life the essence of Tom Junod’s 1998 Esquire piece on Mr. Rogers, but the actual star is Matthew Rhys playing a fictionalized version of the journalist as he’s researching and writing the piece. It almost works, but didn’t fully land for me. I acknowledge that it may have been the mood I was in, but I was searching for a feeling and the movie failed to deliver it to me. Matthew Rhys was excellent though, and Tom Hanks is as Tom Hanks does.
Dogtooth (Movie, Director: Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009)
Over the past few years, writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos has given us some weird ass shit. If The Lobster (2015) was this quirky Greek man’s deadpan spin on a rom-com, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) was his deadpan thriller/Greek tragedy, then Yorgos’ film Dogtooth was his deadpan pro-femal empowerment coming-of-age tale wrapped in a cautionary tale of over-parenting. I enjoyed it, but seeing his progression as an artist I find his deadpan thriller to be my favorite.
Speaking of favorite, The Favorite (2018) was Yorgos’ departure from the deadpan lane and, while enjoyable, stands alone in its own Parthenon of pretty good Greekness.
I Know This Much Is True (HBO Limited Series, Director: Derek Cianfrance, 2020)
Unlike my wife, I did not read the book by Wally Lamb before watching the HBO limited series, but from what she’s told me, the series is pretty spot-on and did for the source material what no one was able to do before the book was published — edit it.
Derek Cianfrance directs each of the six-episodes in the series where Mark Ruffalo plays twins — one of whom suffers from paranoid schizophrenia — in a family that bounces from one tragic event to the next. The acting is fantastic across the board, but it’s Rosie O’Donnell as a social worker who, to me, steals every scene.
My wife found that what was removed from page-to-screen made for a better, tighter story. If you read the book and sort of liked it, you might really enjoy the series. If, like me, you didn’t read the book, then just watch it and enjoy Rosie and Mark and Mark act the hell out of this thing.
The Professor and the Madman (Book, Author: Simon Winchester, 1998)
After taking a couple months off from reading, I hopped back in when Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman became available to check-out digitally from the library. The book tells the tale of the meeting of the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and one if its most prolific contributors, and — man! — is it a fascinating and fun read. Recommended!
The Stranger (Netflix series, 2020)
Author Harlan Coben has a bajillion things on Netflix all of a sudden. I only watched this because my wife started watching it, but we both landed on the same conclusion: This story is ridiculous and dumb. I can’t recommend watching this. At all. Please don’t. Save yourself.
What the Dog Saw (Audiobook, Author: Malcolm Gladwell, 2009)
This was the last Malcolm Gladwell book left for me to tackle and, as with the others, I listened to the audiobook because it’s read by him and the audiobook versions of his books are just like listening to a really long episode of his podcast, Revisionist History. I’d’ve given this one 4.5 start on Goodreads, but the no-half-stars-allowed rating system made me question which way to go, so I went up this time and gave it 5.
Gladwell has his detractors. I can understand why people might find him disagreeable, or how they might hate the conclusions he comes to or the points he tries to make. I don’t think that it’s invalid for them to find him that way or to feel the way that they do toward his ideas or his presentational methods and I don’t think that I could say anything to dissuade anyone from being critical of Gladwell. But I will say this: I think that’s part of what he’s trying to accomplish, to get people to think differently about everything from the mundane to the controversial.
Gladwell finds an event or a topic to delve into, presents what is known about it, collects (handpicks?) data to support both sides, and often comes to a conclusion somewhere just off-center enough that it can be questioned by people on either side of the issue. To top it off, he’ll often take multiple topics or events and find a very loose thread with which to tie them together and in such a way that they might share said questionable conclusion or, for flavor, represent the opposite of it.
It’s not lazy nor is it hamfisted; it’s purposeful and thought-provoking. If one believes they already know much about the items being discussed and is familiar with the data being presented, Gladwell can come off as an advocate for the devil, but I think that’s by design; I think he feels like someone has to be. The devil is in the details, and the details are often messier than they first appear.
Temple (Album, Artist: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, 2020)
I’ve been listening to this album a lot lately and I really like it. That’s It. That’s the post.
But no, for real…that’s the post. If I don’t “just hit Publish already!”, then I would probably keep writing and writing and post nothing ever again. There will be more to share, but later (though I can’t imagine anyone will care either way).