Sunday, July 24, 2011

Odds and Ends

I spent some time this weekend catching up on my reading, and discovered this post about Google+ in Slate by Farhad Manjoo. I frequently find Manjoo insufferable (let's not fight over the content of that link, it's the tone I can't stand), so I was surprised to see we'd written almost the exact same post. But hey, nice to be backed up by a major tech columnist.

This made the rounds a few weeks ago, and I resisted posting it because this blog was coming dangerously close to becoming Muppet Call. But as Jenn said, it seems to have been made for me, given my other interests as well:

Related: If you missed the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "inspired by" Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, find it and watch it (that link is to iTunes, but I assume it will be rerun at some point). It's not actually a good Law & Order episode, but as a send-up it's unbelievably brilliant. Cynthia Nixon somehow manages to do an impression of Julie Taymor's face, despite looking nothing like her, and not trying in any way to do her voice. And the costume designer deserves all the awards.

The full trailer for The Muppets came out around the same time, and I held back from posting for the same reason and then forgot about it.

I have mixed feelings. I loved seeing them all there, and it looks like it might be good, but Kermit's voice alone might be enough to make more than a minute of it unbearable. I have larger thoughts on that that I'll reserve until I've seen the whole movie. But also just as I was having that thought, there's that moment with Jim Henson's voice on the car radio, which is a very weird combination of incredibly sweet and incredibly cheap. Which, actually, might define the Muppets at their best. So we'll see.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Season 2, Episodes 13-16

"You think he's too old 'cause he's a senior? Please. My boyfriend had a bicentennial." A much stronger showing for Marti Noxon (it's her 4th episode in a row), who especially nails the Willow/Oz cuteness. (Alyson Hannigan's innate cuteness plays a huge role in this, of course.) And bonus points for "Hey did everybody see that guy just turn to dust?"

But as a setup for the supposed great, tragic love story that is Buffy and Angel, I have to say there's something creepy about a 20-something-year-old guy (or 200-something) telling his 16-year-old girlfriend "You don't have to go to school."

Oh, yeah, and Angel turns evil.

Angel bites a woman who is smoking a cigarette and then exhales smoke! That moment is so cool I'll let it slide that the show established in S1 that vampires don't breathe (Angel can't give Buffy CPR).

The "I gave it up to my boyfriend and he turned evil" thing is a wee bit heavy-handed. Much more powerful in the high school drama realm is the look on Willow's face when she sees Xander and Cordelia kissing. "It just means that you'd rather be with someone you hate than be with me." This episode is remembered for the former, of course, which makes it easy to forget how good Alyson Hannigan is in it (this is a strong disc for her, overall). Her small, quiet, "Giles, shut up" when she's realized what's happened between Buffy and Angel is just perfect. And Oz gets one short scene in which to be the most adorable ever.

I remember being sort of annoyed by this episode when it first aired, since the last two dropped such a huge bomb and except for two short scenes we don't see Angel at all this week (and Buffy seems pretty unbothered). Also, terrible werewolf costume and deeply cliche werewolf hunter. But knowing how much I'd grow to love Oz casts it in a new light. "Is Geordie a werewolf? …Uh-huh. …And how long has that been going on? …Oh, no reason. Love to Uncle Ken."

There are some nice little moments here too, like the reference to Amy's mom in the cheerleading trophy and "They might not look it but bunnies can really take care of themselves." I especially enjoyed Giles' uncontainable delight at werewolves, "one of the classics."

And did anyone realize that Karofsky on Glee is totally Larry?

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
We're back with the Big Bads and a Marti Noxon script, but all I can focus on is how deeply unflattering Cordelia's pants are in her first scene. It's the most "Oh, 1997" thing all season. Nice to see Amy back. I can't imagine anyone thought she'd keep popping up all the way through the Season 8 comic books. And the writers are playing with witchcraft and relationship vengeance in ways they'd return to. And the scene with Drusilla and Xander is just plain fun.

Michaela's been finding Xander's crush on Buffy annoying in S1 but it pays off really nicely here (not that it ever really goes away, all the way into S8). Xander's been kind of a dick lately, with the I-told-you-so-ing over Angel and the Cordelia, so it's nice to see him being a total good guy with love-spell-struck Buffy, and having a genuinely sweet moment with Cordy at the end.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Get Off My Lawn, Google Plus!

I keep grumping about Google+ on Google+, so I thought I'd join the fray and compile my thoughts here, especially since it relates to my earlier post about Facebook.

The short version is: I don't get Google+. I mean, I get it; it's Facebook. And I already have Facebook. This isn't like saying "I already have Friendster." Right from the start Facebook offered something different. Google+ looks and functions exactly like Facebook. I'm all for competition, and would never say "Why do we need Apple if we already have Microsoft?" but like it or not, a social network isn't just an individual choice like picking a PC or a cola. It's only as good as the people on it, and if no one is on G+ then it's basically useless. I can't see a lot of people wanting to maintain both, or abandoning Facebook entirely, which would be required for G+ to reach a usefulness tipping point.

A lot of people are making the "it's a fresh start" argument. Well, a) A fresh start from what? If you're a Facebook Hoarder it's nobody's fault but your own. And b) If you're a Facebook Hoarder, won't you also be a G+ Hoarder? I've never understood this idea that Facebook is work. It shouldn't be. If it is, maybe you shouldn't be on Facebook. I've always only accepted friend requests from people I actually know. It's not that hard. I don't feel bad at all saying no! Even so, because I used to freelance, I picked up new coworker "friends" at a pretty alarming rate, so I have a pretty big Facebook network. But you know what? If something shows up in my feed from someone I barely know, or I get invited to someone's show I'm never going to see for the millionth time, or something offends me, I block or unfriend that person in the moment. It's not a project, it's not hard. I'm already getting Google+ notifications on my work email that I've been "added" by people I barely know who have obviously just dumped their entire Gmail contact lists in there. A fresh start it ain't.

As for what I share, if someone is my Facebook "friend," it means I have already decided that I'm okay sharing with him. So if a slight acquaintance seems something personal I've put online, well, I chose to put it online. In my current job, I started getting friend requests from work colleagues outside of my actual office, and because of how I use Facebook in a personal way, this was a line I didn't want to cross. But under the circumstances it also seemed rude to say no. So I made a list called "Professional" and set some privacy controls on it, and now whenever I get one of those requests it goes right into that list. It's two clicks.

And speaking of lists, you know that's all "Circles" are, right? Granted, the drag-and-drop interface is sexy, and I get how if you have 500 Facebook friends you're not going to start putting them in lists now, so the newness is appealing there, but, you know, this is something you can do on Facebook too.

I keep getting notifications that new people are "following" me (see above re: the random work contacts I've met once). These are not friend requests. I can't say yes or no to them. So it looks like Facebook, but it's really Twitter? One thing I really like about Facebook is how you get to decide who goes in your network. (One thing I really like about Twitter is how it's open, but they're not the same thing and don't serve the same purpose, and I don't think I want a hybrid.) So I don't have to put these people who follow me into Circles, and I suppose I have the choice to never share anything with them. But the default setting for posting on G+ is Public, and do you really think all those people who wind up on Failbook are suddenly going to understand how to change that? (Can you even change the default, or is it only on a per-post basis? I've looked and can't find a setting.) I do like that it shows up as a big bright button under the post, but hey, click on the padlock icon on Facebook - it's the same thing. Given how few of my very smart friends seem to know that all this stuff exists on FB, I have to question how, once it fills up (if it does), Google+ will be any different, since most people aren't that smart.

I think people think G+ will be the answer to their privacy concerns with Facebook, but Google hardly has a good track record with that, after the Buzz fiasco. Plus, they already have your search history and, for a lot of you, your email, calendar and reading habits. Add a social network and they basically know everything there is to know about you, and if you don't think they're going to find creepy ways to monetize that, you're insane. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm all for making money (off of services we don't pay for directly!) and I'm on record saying that you can't expect anything you post online to be truly private. I'm just saying Google isn't in this for philanthropy. On the iPhone app (which I will grant is very sexy, way better than Facebook's useless app), if I click on "Nearby," I can see a whole list of people I have never heard of before, with their locations. Wanna bet they didn't know they were sharing that with the world? Like I said, if you're concerned about privacy, don't share things online. I'm not blaming Google for that info being there. You shouldn't be posting your location without understanding how the service works. My point is just that your privacy isn't Google's concern any more than it's Facebook's or Twitter's or Foursquare's.

I was on Facebook pretty early, too, when it was still only available to schools. I had an alumni email address from my college and a bunch of interns who insisted I join. I didn't use it for a year, when the next summer's batch of interns found me there. By then it had developed a bit and I got pretty hooked. So I'm fully willing to eat these words a year from now (or less) if enough people do make the switch and the network becomes more useful. I'm not saying it's a bad product (and it's in beta, so anything could happen), just that it replaces something that I don't think needs replacing, without offering any compelling reason to switch. I also expect Facebook to copy G+'s best features, because that's how these things work, and there really won't be any reason to change.

I guess, also, I don't want to start over. The whole point of a social network is its network. I like mine! I like the random assortment of high school friends (and high school enemies) and family and colleagues and real people who I see every day. I like finding random unexpected connections between those people. I like when people from disparate parts of my life get into a conversation in the comments of something I've posted. Starting over makes all that go away until I build it up again. And then G+ will be exactly the same as Facebook in every way, not just the cosmetic ones.

UPDATED: I caught up on some reading this weekend and it turns out Farhad Manjoo said almost the exact same things I said about Google+ in Slate. Nice to know I'm not alone in this! And from what I can gather from his columns, he's an early adopter extraordinaire, and a big fan of Google.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Challenge to the Netflix Challenge

Last week, Netflix raised their prices and Twitter exploded. People are PISSED. And I'm just sort of…not. I tweeted as much and got shot down from a few sides, so I thought I'd explore it here with a few more characters. Sure, I'm a little annoyed by having to pay more, but it's still a pretty damn good deal. Watch as many movies as I want, many of them instantly, for $16 a month? That's amazing! A movie ticket in NYC is up to $13. An iTunes movie rental is $4.99. I have no idea what Blockbuster costs these days (um, does it even still exist?) but back in the day I recall it being around $5 for one movie. So let's put it in perspective.

As one Twitter friend pointed out, it's really amazing that they've kept the price so low for as long as they have. I suspect that people like me who let DVDs sit for months were subsidizing the power users, but with the shift to streaming that model doesn't work anymore. I grant that the percentage of the price increase is distressingly large, and I wonder why they didn't just do a small raise every year. My gym does that, $1 or $2 at a time, and I barely notice. I mean, most things do that. Which I guess is why I can't get too worked up about Netflix.

I wonder if the streaming thing - which is really added value over DVDs, what with the instantness - is what's causing the PR problem here. There's a sense that anything on the Internet is free. Strangely, instant gratification doesn't look like it costs money. We don't see paper and printing and postage and the elves that scan the DVD barcodes when it's zapped to the Wii. But bandwidth is expensive, and so are storage space and licensing fees and Netflix uses a hell of a lot of all three.

This general sense in our society lately that nobody wants to pay for anything - be it music or taxes - has been really bugging me for several years now. That's a whole separate post that I may or may not ever write, but I think it's why all the reactionary complaining struck a nerve. And I am a champion complainer! I get that the economy is bad. I get that I'm very lucky to have a job that I love and that pays me reasonably well and I can afford luxuries like unlimited DVDs. But that's just it - it's a luxury. And it's one that I value. We all make value judgments all the time. I appreciate not just the selection and the service but the ease of use. Look at how much money Apple and Amazon have made by basically hiding the transaction for iTunes and Kindle. It's dangerous and a little scary, but it's also supremely simple in a way that I consider worth paying for. That single click to have something in 30 seconds is well worth 99¢ over the time I'd have to spend searching for something on bit torrent and hoping the file's not corrupted when it gets to me.

I'm not saying I've never downloaded anything illegally (I'm not saying I have either, FCC and RIAA!), just that our expectations of what we "should" be able to get instantly and cheaply are a little out of hand. I think $16 for my insanely long Netflix queue is still a pretty amazing deal, and it's one I can afford. So why get all crazy about it? I'd much rather save that energy for idiots on the subway or the lack of seating or air conditioning in Penn Station.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Season 2, Episodes 9-12

Hey, are you reading MCM's awesome rewatch recaps too? Because they're awesome! And she started at the beginning, so we're not even covering the same ground yet. Go here for them!

What's My Line, parts 1 and 2
I know a lot of fans turned on Marti Noxon, but I always really liked her writing. Still do. But I find it interesting that she not only got an important two-parter as her first credited episode, but then wrote four out of five in a row. This one strikes me now as very over-written. It has lots of lines I remember even though I haven't seen it in years (including one of my favorite Buffy/Angel exchanges ever: "How do you know [about that]?" "I lurk."), but it's also aggressively quirky in a Diablo Cody sort of way that I guess I liked when I was 23 but find deeply annoying now.

But one of those moments stuck: Xander says to Cordelia, "Come on, if you want to be a member of the Scooby Gang, you've gotta be willing to be inconvenienced now and then." Is this the first use of "Scooby Gang" on the show? In this context it makes perfect sense - Xander is actually using it ironically as a joke. I always found it weird later on when they referred to themselves like that, as if a fan thing had crossed over into the writers' room, but here it makes sense that it's an in-joke with the group.

This is a big episode for the…Scoobies. Willow and Oz finally meet for real, and Xander and Cordelia hook up (which seems as sudden now as it did then; I was actually thinking "Oh, look at how they're laying the groundwork for that" as I watched, expecting it to happen in a few episodes, but then it happened in 5 minutes). This is also our introduction to Kendra, a divisive character who I always liked. But boy is her accent worse than I remember. (And if she's all unsocialized and all slay all the time, why would she dress like that?)

Not much to say about this one except, "Aw, John Ritter." Also: "So creepy, John Ritter!"

Bad Eggs
Bad episode! Actually, it's not nearly as bad as I remember. But wow, the cowboy vampires. There's some nice stuff with Joyce here, and a conversation about how Buffy and Angel can't have a "normal" future that I'm pretty sure The Vampire Diaries lifted word for word last season.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Season 2, Episodes 5-8

Reptile Boy
When I picked up the DVDs to resume this rewatch, I groaned about having to start with this episode. Partly, it turns out, because I had it confused with "Go Fish." So I'll groan about that one when I get there. "Reptile Boy" isn't so bad! It's a little heavy-handed (frat boys are eeeeeeevil) but it's actually pretty fun, and Xander gets shirtless. I think I remember it unfondly because I was always a mythology guy, and I wanted to get back to the "real" story.

This is one that I remember better than I liked it this time around, but it's still fun. Slutty ghost Willow ("the ghost of what?") is great, and it's a nice turnaround for Xander to get to be soldier boy for a while. SMG's attempt at an accent is painful, and a harbinger of old-timey flashbacks to come. Spike and Dru make an appearance, and the general chaos is fun. But it's oddly paced, and a little clunky.

Lie To Me
I feel pretty well-versed in Season 2 but I guess it's really just the second half, because I haven't seen this one in years either. It's much better than I remember. The vampire wannabes are a bit over-the-top and on-the-nose, but that's kind of the point. Jason Behr's performance is quite good. Most importantly, is this the first time Giles gets to be funny on purpose? His scene with Buffy at the end is funny and incredibly sweet, and really kicks their father-daughter relationship up a notch.

The Dark Age
Weird to have four basically standalone episodes in a row (a whole disc!) in a season that I remember so much for the strength of its mythology. There's some Angel, Spike and Drusilla stuff sprinkled throughout (knowing what I now know about how TV gets written, I feel like they were inserted into this and "Halloween" late in the game), but this episode is all about Giles' backstory, and some adorable awkwardness with Jenny. I didn't remember the actual plot of this one AT ALL. Another one I don't think I've seen in 10 years or more. I never cared for Ethan, and the monster in this one is weirdly ill-defined, but the episode sets up some nice stuff. Jenny just can't have a good day, can she? Also, the kids' talking about their image of Giles, in tweed diapers, and "There should be more math. This could be mathier" is great.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Season 2, Episodes 1-4

The first disc of Season 2 is where I stopped my first attempt at this rewatch, so here's one more shmushy post before I start doing individual episodes.

Season 2 gets off to a rocky start. Is The Anointed One really going to be the season's Big Bad? Is there really an episode about making a Frankenstein girlfriend for a zombie jock? (Seriously, is there? I watched this a year ago and looking at the synopsis for "Some Assembly Required" now I still can't believe it happened.) It's a mess.

And then "School Hard" happens. You can call Spike and Drusilla (fun fact: OSX's spell-checker knows Drusilla) cheesy, you can complain about their ridiculous accents, you can get into where Spike would go later, but let's not, because they are such an amazing jolt of energy in this episode. They're delightfully crazy, insanely fun to watch. The Master had that whole grandiose, sort of Bond villain thing going on, and that's all well and good, but Spike and Dru put a pin in that instantly and it's just fun. They also help turn Angel into a real character by giving him something to do besides mope and moon, and making his past much more relevant ("People still buy that Anne Rice crap? …You were my sire! My Yoda!"), which of course will become a bigger deal later.

This episode, the 15th of the series, feels to me like the first truly great one, the first one where the show really figures out what it is. In a time when shows rarely get more than a few episodes to find their legs, this feels pretty remarkable (though I guess The CW, like The WB before it, is still small enough that anything anyone is watching can limp along for a while). It's also impressive that the show became such a hit. People really stuck with it, or found it later, in a time before DVRs and Netflix. Though, again, my negativity is mostly hindsight. The early episodes look worse when you know what's coming.

Of course, next up is "Inca Mummy Girl," which makes "Teacher's Pet" look like a masterpiece. It's a shock to see an episode this bad right after one so good, and disappointing to not get to see more of Spike and Dru. We do get our first brief glimpse of Oz though. Still, it's no wonder my rewatch stalled after this.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Season 1

One of my favorite memories of summer camp didn't take place at camp, but on a night off when I was a CIT and a few of us saw the original Buffy movie at the Berkshire Mall. I don't know why we picked it, but we were basically alone in the theater and we MST3Ked our way through the whole thing. It was delightfully awful. (I've since seen it again and kind of love it, and also learned about Joss Whedon's unhappiness with the film.)

A few years later, I fell asleep after dinner in front of the TV (I majored in napping my senior year) and woke up just as the pilot of the Buffy TV show was starting. This being the early days of the internet, and me being in the bubble of college, I had no idea the show existed, but I was immediately intrigued. Both because I couldn't believe they had based a TV show on that movie, but also because it was, you know, good. I was hooked.

I've been a fan of many things, before and after Buffy, but Buffy has really stayed with me. I taped the whole series (partly out of necessity because I often worked at night in those days, but I kept and carefully labelled them out of love), and it's one of the few things I will watch a rerun of pretty much whenever it's on. I sort of feel like my knowledge of the show is encyclopedic, but the truth is, I've only watched it from start to finish, in order, the one time (you know, over seven years) and my memory is shit.

So watching all of Season 1 again was interesting, because while the two-part pilot remains pretty amazing, the rest of it is wildly uneven. A lot of it is just budget. The effects are terrible, and the video quality hasn't fared well over 14 years and a digital transfer. (I should check and see if my tapes look better or worse; plus I bet the commercials are hilarious.) But a lot of it is a show finding its legs. It's funny, looking at the episode list now, some time after I rewatched these episodes, there's only one giant clunker ("I, Robot…You Jane"), but knowing what the show would become - particularly how sharp the writing and (most of) the acting would get, it really feels like a show finding its voice.

I think Michaela is absolutely right about the awkward pacing in the pilot, which pretty much goes for the whole season. And also about how good Sarah Michelle Gellar was, which is weird in hindsight. After seven seasons of Buffy and her strange film career, I wouldn't think to call SMG a great actor. But she's really perfect here, and also playing the only character who's pretty much fully formed from the beginning. The supporting cast is hampered by their writing, again, especially in hindsight of knowing what the characters would become. That 20/20 hindsight makes Season 1 a little hard to rewatch, actually, because it means that some of my favorite episodes - particularly "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" - turn out to be pretty hokey and poorly paced.

Actually, Buffy's not the only fully-formed character: The Master is pretty great. He's kind of a cliché, but a delightful one, and Mark Metcalf plays him so perfectly. The season finale, with its running gag of "Nice dress," and "I may be dead, but I'm still pretty," is pretty great, and sets up what's to come so nicely, it almost feels like an extension of the pilot.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Prologue

The AV Club has a great feature called TV Club Classic where, when things get slow in the TV season, they revisit older shows. For a while now, Noel Murray has been watching - for the first time - Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and later Angel alongside it). I love Buffy, and I loved watching Murray discover the show for the first time. I thought I should watch it again myself.

I didn't get around to it (that Murray is almost done tells you how long I've been not getting around to it), and in the meantime Logo started showing them. Logo tends to favor the later seasons (lesbians!), and frequently shows episodes in a seemingly random order. So I kept dipping into Buffy pretty regularly, and enjoyed rediscovering later episodes that I hadn't been wild about the first time around, finding them much more enjoyable when removed from the burden of how great the first few years had been. There's also the Season 8 graphic novel series, coming out in dribs and drabs for like two years, which isn't very good but it's kept the characters around. So I still didn't get around to starting from the beginning.

Then Logo did a "Fan Favorites" vote and marathon, and Joe was, shall we say, disturbed. And rightly so. He made his own list, which was delightful, and reading it made me finally start my own rewatch.

And then I stopped. Four episodes into Season 2. There was new TV to watch, and Netflix queues being challenged. In the meantime, though, Amazon had an amazing sale on the complete series DVD set, which seemed like a sign. And an ex-intern from work started watching for the first time too. He'll randomly IM or text me with things like, "Xander and Cordelia? Really??" and it's been fun to vicariously watch it with him at the same age I was when I watched it the first time.

Long story short (too late), I finally resumed my rewatch last week! As I watched, I had thoughts. And since I'm trying to blog more, and I like goals, I thought I'd write about those thoughts. These won't be recaps; the sites linked above and of course TWOP have already done this far better than I ever could. I'll just be doing impressions, short posts, a few episodes (probably by disc) at a time. Based on the readers of this blog I know personally, I'm guessing a lot of you are Buffy fans too. And if not, you know, you can skip these posts; I won't be offended (or know). I highly recommend the show, of course, if you haven't seen it. It's on Netflix Instant. I'll be spoiling here, so definitely skip if you're going to watch!

And, BONUS: I convinced the super-smart, feminist high horse-riding MCM to do this with me (it really didn't take much convincing). We're already out of sync, since she's starting at the beginning and I'm picking up where I left off, so we'll be linking to each other and commenting on each other's posts as they come. I'll be putting up my first one in a couple of days, giving her time to catch up a little.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Stuff I Like!

A couple of weeks ago over margaritas, Joe mentioned that he liked my Muppet post in part because "it was so sweet and normally you hate everything" (or words to that effect; there were several margaritas). It was Joe who called me "a finely tuned hate machine" (affectionately?), which immediately became the new tagline of this blog and in fact inspired Crankypants J. Hatemachine's last name.

This is a big part of my personality, and an even bigger part of my online persona. It's genuine - I am deeply judgmental, and very easily irritated, impatient, and a natural contrarian. In college, my best friend and I were often compared to Statler and Waldorf.

But I also have the capacity to be a total softie. I think they're connected. Whatever it is in me that moves me so quickly to snap, can also easily trigger tears. It's not that my heart is cold and dead, its passion swings both ways (not like that). So not to blow the whole crankypants persona, but I started thinking about all the things I am a total sucker for. One might say, "defensively." It was a little weird to find myself in a position where I had to be all, "Hey! I like stuff!" but I know I brought it on myself. Anyway, some pop culture weaknesses came to mind and I started writing and then, typically, didn't finish. But now I'm back. This is a very incomplete list; it's literally just the things that popped into my head at the bar and on my way home. Again, please remember there were margaritas.

Moulin Rouge
I love this movie. This movie is why I feel so betrayed by Nicole Kidman's creepy new face. I have a playlist on my iPod of all the songs from the movie, in the right order, from the two soundtracks and a couple ripped from the DVD. I am not a crackpot. It's musical theater manipulation at its finest, with the soaring strings and the very dramatic tangos. I can watch it forever. Related:

Musical Theater
Duh. Also, kids who love musical theater, which makes me feel like I haven't completely wasted my life. Also, while not actually my favorite show, Once On This Island gets me every time. There's a great documentary called After the Storm about a bunch of kids putting on a benefit performance of the show in post-Katrina New Orleans which isn't on DVD (yet?) but is worth keeping an eye out for on TV.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
More on this soon.

Star Wars
Not much to say here. I've never put on Jedi robes or bought a light saber or written fan fiction, but I know an awful lot about these movies, and have even been known to be a bit of an apologist for the prequels (a bit!). I will watch any of the original trilogy any time they're on TV. I have all the soundtracks and for the original trilogy can largely tell you what's happening while any moment of music is playing. I think I have decent nerd cred, but this is certainly my nerdiest.

Say Anything
I'm not a big romantic comedy guy, but Say Anything always works. In hindsight I think Lloyd Dobler is maybe kind of a dick. I mean, standing outside someone's house with a boom box? There are laws against that. If the movie were made today he'd be an annoying hipster, wouldn't he? But I don't care.

Kurt's Dad
Glee is a deeply flawed show, but any storyline involving Kurt and his dad inevitably gets me. It's almost like those scenes are pulled from a different show, but that's kind of why they work. I don't think I'd want a whole show of them. The contrast is part of the point.

I mean, obviously.
Week 24: June 4 - Blockheads

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Netflix Queue Challenge: Tangled

Hey look, it's a blog post! Busy-ness at work and, well, a lot on TV, have kept me from both the blog and the Netflix Queue Challenge. It didn't help that I've had Tangled at home for three months. Sure, there's Watch Instantly, but, you know, TV.

Anyway, I kept Tangled lying around for so long not because I was avoiding watching it, but because I wanted to watch it when I was able to give it my full attention, and with Boy. I'd heard such good things about it, and I'm predisposed to like Disney musicals, and Alan Menken musicals, and anything with Donna Murphy in it.

But...meh. I mean, it was fine. But there was so little to it. There's hardly any story, really, and all the characters felt so thinly drawn. I did really like all the lead actors. Zachary Levi (who I've never seen in anything but found mildly off-putting because of the way I find Chuck mildly off-putting (no, I've never seen it, yes I'm being judgmental, hello look at the name of the blog)) was quite good, in a way that reminded me of Kevin Kline (maybe that's just my love of Disney's Hunchback coming through). Mandy Moore was good in an awfully bland lead role (Tiana and Anika Noni Rose set the bar pretty high in The Princess and the Frog). Donna Murphy was deliciously Donna Murphy-ish, though again without much to do. The idea of such a brilliant musical theatre actor, who tends to brighten up anything she's in (eg Star Trek: Insurrection) as a Disney villain made me really happy, but she was such a boring villain that it seemed like a waste. She did great with what she had though, and I felt like the animators really captured her physicality too. I also thoroughly enjoyed the chameleon.

There were some beautiful sequences, but why did everyone have such creepy giant eyes? And after seeing a display at Disney World about the animation and how there was a whole separate team of animators just for her hair, I expected more from it technically (the movie, not her hair...well, her hair too).

It fell flat as a musical too, with only a handful of songs, none of which are going to be Disney classics. Because there were so few of them, they all felt a little shoehorned in. It never seemed like a world in which people sing. And then they did. It felt obligatory.

None of that would have mattered if the story had been better. It just all felt a little lame. The supporting characters had no, well, character, and the deus ex machina involving them felt completely unearned. I appreciated the attempt to put a twist on "Rapunzel," but what they came up with didn't make a whole lot of sense, even for a fairy tale. And why on earth would you name your child after lettuce unless there were a reason to?

I'm being hard on Tangled because my expectations were high, I guess. I enjoyed it well enough, and laughed several times, but it mostly made me wish I were watching Aladdin or Into the Woods (now when is someone going to cast Donna Murphy in that?).