Monday, July 3, 2023

TV Snide: June 2023

TV Show of the Month: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Season 1 (Hulu): I started watching this hilarious show in Season 2 all those years ago and just now got back to the opening season. The Gang really hits their stride by the time the classic Episode 6 (The Gang Finds a Body) comes along and we learn that Dee can’t stomach old people and thet Dee and Dennis’s grandfather was a Nazi. 5 out of 5 stars

Barry - Season 1 (HBO Max): SNL’s Bill Hader finds his Walter White-like role of a lifetime, and he’s won two Emmys to prove it, as a former Marine hitman who stumbles upon Henry Winkler’s acting studio and falls a bit in love with acting as well as the actress played by Sarah Goldberg. Funny and moving. 5 out of 5 stars

Movies of the Month: Spider-Man: Inside the Spider-Verse (Amazon): This 2018 is a masterpiece of cartooning. Although I had already seen it, I watched it again so I would be prepped for the new sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider Verse, which I also saw this month and it's just as good. Miles Morales is a young Brooklynite who enters a world of many Spider-Mans, including himself, with the typical battles against villains ensuing, but with the aforementioned perfect and mind-boggling production values. 5 out of 5 stars

Piranha (Sling TV): There remained nowhere safe left to swim after 1977’s Jaws and then this one in 1978. The titular fish are accidentally released from a science center high above a series of rivers and lakes that lead to the ocean. The cinematography and character studies are downright excellent and this is definitely a hidden gem of the 70s. The depictions of children at camp getting devoured by the fish is, as Quentin Tarantino recently noted in his excellent podcast Video Archives, undertaken almost with unrequited glee. 5 out of 5 stars

Short Stories of the Month: Chinua Achebe, “Civil Peace” and “Dead Men’s Path:” This classic Nigerian writer taught at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst and once gave a speech about the racism inherent in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Today we might lean towards calling it inherent bias, but his points were made and they were made strongly, much more so because it was a speech made in 1974. “Civil Peace” from 1971 tells the story of Jonathan Iwegbu, who has made it through the constant Nigerian war with most of his house and family intact. Even still, in peace, there are thieves looking to gather any cent he earns. Better yet is 1953’s “Dead Men’s Path.” Michael Obi takes over as schoolmaster of a run-down and “progressive” school. When he and his wife beautify the grounds and block a path that villagers believe their “dead relatives depart by it and ancestors visit by it.” When Michael does not relent to the priest, saying that old way of thinking is exactly what the school’s new way of thinking is trying to replace, nearly the entire school grounds are destroyed in the night, with the supervisor arriving the next day to give damning remarks about Michael’s efforts. 4.5 out of 5 stars and 5 out of 5 stars respectively

Novel of the Month: The Swell, by Allie Reynolds: This novel kept me interested all the way through in the story of three men and three women who claim an isolated beach in a national forest of Australia all to themselves. But the place is far from a paradise. Blending Keanu Reeves’ Point Break with Lost, the premise is the biggest star of this story about how facing your fears can have deadly consequences. 4 out of 5 stars.

The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor: This is a captivating read especially since there was a strong chance I was once headed to the University of Iowa for grad school. I picked Georgetown in the end, but I love coming-of-age stories like this one of grad students from the dance, poetry, and fiction departments and their interactions between themselves and the townies of Iowa City. It loses steam a little at the end but is still a solid read about the choices young people make in shaping their lives. 4 out of 5 stars

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson - Season 1 (Netflix): This wackball comedy is definitely not to everyone's taste, but I like it quite a bit. From the old weirdo who has held a lifetime grudge towards a baby that cried on an airplane to the recurring bit about the shirt that has a knob to help dudes pull it away from their bellies, this very short season has lots to enjoy. 4 out of 5 stars

“The Real Thing,” by Henry James (1891): This short story is representative of the author’s work. He would take an idea, a small slice of life and expand upon it (mainly for however many words were required by the magazine editors who might accept it). This is a simple, yet engaging, piece about an artist who likes “sitters,” or subjects, that his friends don’t think to be compelling. 4 out of 5 stars

You People (Netflix): Excellent performances from Jonah Hill and Lauren London as well as Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus save a little bit of a sappy rom-com that tackles race relations between a Jewish man and a Black woman who want to get married but have a lot of family and cultural issues standing in the way. Light fun on a tough topic. 3.5 out of 5 stars 

Katherine Ann Porter, “Thief,” “The Cracked Looking-Glass,” and “Maria Concepcion”: “Thief” is a small snapshot that seems it could be of its publication date of 1935 or from anytime. It tells a one-night journey of a women and her purse. She drinks with three different men in New York City to find her purse stolen by the “janitoress” after she returns home. The two share heated words about who needs or deserves the purse more. “The Cracked Looking-Glass" from 1933 is better. It’s about an Irish immigrant couple that have made their way after a while outside Boston, even though their style still fights against their more reserved neighbors. “Maria Concepcion” is Porter’s first published short story, from 1922. The tale of a Mexican peasant woman who murders her husband’s lover and is then protected from the police by her husband is my least favorite of this sampling from Porter and seems fairly half baked. 3.5 out of 5 stars, 4 out of 5 stars, and 2.5 out of 5 stars respectively

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