Movie Review: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (20


Title: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Release Date: July 9, 2004
Director: Adam McKay
Production Company: Apatow Productions
Summary/Review:

This is one of those movies that look like something I wouldn’t like but since it has become so iconic in popular culture I decided I had to watch it.  Will Ferrell plays Ron Burgundy, the vain anchorman of San Diego’s most popular TV news program in the 1970s.  The totally brotastic crew of the nightly news includes characters played by Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner with Fred Willard playing their producer. Into this milieu enters Christina Applegate as Veronica Corningstone, a woman with ambition of becoming the first female news anchor.  I like that Veronica is neither the butt of the jokes nor a staid straightwoman, but just as goofy as all the men on the news staff.  She becomes both Ron’s rival and romantic interest.

I think the fact that this movie goes for absurdist comedy rather than just plain satire works to its advantage.  Nevertheless, it didn’t make me laugh.  Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by seeing all the memes and thus expected there to be more to the jokes.  Maybe I would have enjoyed this more watching this in a group rather than on me own. Or perhaps I just needed to have watched this when I was 12 years old.  All said, I’ve done my due diligence and declare that this is better than expected but still not my thing.

Rating: **

Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney


Author: Sally Rooney
Title: Normal People
Narrator: Aoife McMahon
Publication Info: [S.l.] : Crown/Archetype, 2019.
Summary/Review:

This novel tells the story of two young Irish people who attend the same secondary school in County Sligo, Ireland.  Connell is a popular, working class student while Marianne comes from a wealthy family but her eccentric demeanor makes her unpopular at school.  They get to know one another because Connell’s mother works as a housecleaner at Marianne’s home.  They start a relationship that they keep secret from their classmates.

Both Connell and Marianne end up studying at Trinity College Dublin where Marianne blossoms and becomes popular while the shyer Connell feels like an outsider. Their paths cross frequently over the years, sometimes rekindling their romance, sometimes fighting.  The story is unsettling because it deals with abuse and the dark side of otherwise likable characters.  The title Normal People is ironic since both of them do not feel normal due to their intelligence and disinterest in what the people their age are typical interested in.  Overall it’s a realistic and compelling narrative.

Recommended books:

Rating: ****

TV Review: Ms. Marvel (2022)


Title: Ms. Marvel
Release Date:  June 8 – July 13, 2022
Creator/Head Writer/Showrunner:  Bisha K. Ali
Episodes: 6
Production Company:  Marvel Studios
Summary/ReviewMs. Marvel, one of my favorite comic series, comes to life in this limited series from Disney+.  Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is an ordinary teenager in New Jersey, obsessed with the Avengers (especially Captain Marvel), the child of Pakistani immigrants, and a faithful Muslim.  A magical bangle reveals that she has powers and she begins to learn how she can be a superhero while uncovering her family history back to the Partition of India and Pakistan.

Vellani is perfect as Kamala capturing the conflict and joy of teenage life.  The rest of the cast, including Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur as Kamala’s parents, Matt Lintz as Kamala’s best friend Bruno, and Yasmeen Fletcher as Kamala’s good friend Nakia are also perfectly cast.  The style of the show is great with colorful, comic book animations in the credits and backgrounds of the show, and magnificent soundtrack of American pop songs mixed with Pakistani music.  Some people have criticized that Kamala’s powers are different from the comics but I like the change because 1) I don’t want to see the exact same story recreated, 2) I love how it ties in her powers to her family and cultural history, and 3) Marvels shows The Inhumans bombed so I can understand why they’d want to avoid that.

This was a delightful series and I look forward to Kamala Khan’s return in The Marvels next year.

MASTER LIST OF MCU REVIEWS

 

Movie Review: For Sama (2019)


Title: For Sama 
Release Date: March 11, 2019
Director: Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts
Production Company: PBS Frontline | Channel 4 News | ITN Productions
Summary/Review:

Journalist Waad Al-Kateab filmed her everyday life for five years as she finishes her university studies, falls in love, gets married, and has a baby.  The difference from other personal documentaries of this sort is that she filmed this in Aleppo during the Arab Spring, the Syrian Civil War, and the ultimate fall of Aleppo to the forces of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Her husband Hamza was one of the few doctors to remain in Aleppo during the civil war and Waad’s film is unflinching in its depiction of the traumatic violence suffered by the patients brought to the hospital. And yet the movie is also a portrait of hope and perseverance of the people of Aleppo who somehow retain good humor under constant attack.

The movie as framed as a message to Sama, Waad and Hamza’s baby born during the war, explaining why her parents needed to stay.  You may question why anyone would keep a small child in the war zone, although we know the fate of Syrian refugee children was one that also could end in death.  At times I  feel that Waad might have gone to far in filming the brutal violence on people’s bodies and the grief of people watching their family die.  But it is nevertheless necessary to demonstrate the full horror of war and tyranny.  I think this is an important movie that everyone should see but be prepared as it is not easy to watch.

Rating: ****1/2

Album of the Week: Renaissance by Beyoncé


Album: Renaissance
Artist: Beyoncé
Release Date: July 29, 2022
Label: Parkwood Entertainment
Favorite Tracks:

  • ALIEN SUPERSTAR
  • BREAK MY SOUL
  • MOVE (feat. Grace Jones and Tems)
  • HEATED
  • THIQUE
  • ALL UP IN YOUR MIND
  • SUMMER RENAISSANCE

Thoughts:  I’m not going to say much because who hasn’t already said everything about Beyoncé?  But this is an exuberant new album of dance tracks that gets more thrilling as it goes along.

Rating: ****

Album of the Week 2022

January

February

March

April

May

July

August

  • Petrol Girls – Baby

Song of the Week: “Ocean (feat. Tomberlin)” by Young Jesus


Young Jesus – “Ocean (feat. Tomberlin)”

An ethereal track from the LA-based band Young Jesus with Tomberlin providing harmonies is the first single off the upcoming album Shepherd Head.

Song of the Week 2022

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

Movie Review: Roger & Me (1989)


Title: Roger & Me
Release Date: December 20, 1989
Director: Michael Moore
Production Company:  Dog Eat Dog Films
Summary/Review:

Roger & Me was one of my favorite movies of my youth and one I find that holds up well revisiting it several decades later.  This was Michael Moore’s first documentary and his most human.  While later films like Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 were important agitprop for their time, Roger & Me holds up best as an actual movie.  This is partly because Moore was not yet famous and thus the subjects of the film had no frame of reference for what to do when Michael Moore crosses their threshold with a camera.  But it is also less scattershot and more focused on a central narrative.

The premise of the film is that Moore is returning to his home town of Flint, Michigan after working in San Francisco.  His return coincides with General Motors’ president Roger Smith closing down several assembly plants in Flint and laying off thousands of workers.  Moore makes it his mission to talk with Smith and bring him to Flint to see the effects of the layoffs, something that proves very hard to do.  In between attempts to locate Smith, Moore interviews ordinary people in Flint as well as city officials and civic boosters attempting to revive the city with increasingly ludicrous plans to replace the auto industry.

The movie is very funny, but not due to Moore.  A couple of jokes he tells in narration fall flat.  Instead the enthusiasm of city officials and celebrities for saving the city with things ranging from an indoor theme park to a prison bring the laughs.  The cockeyed optimism is hard to believe, but the 1980s were a very optimistic time.  Optimism trickled down from President Reagan (see what I did there?) and lead people to believe that famine could be ended with a song or homelessness would be solved by a human chain across the country.  Even the ordinary people suffering layoffs and evictions depicted in this movie don’t have the rage that you would expect to see today.  Of course, they had no idea that things in Flint would continue to get much, much worse.

The Beach Boys’ song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is featured prominently in this movie over a montage of abandoned buildings.  I forever associate this song with this movie, and its appropriate in that the lyrics express hopefulness with an undercurrent of melancholy.  Whatever the flaws of Michael Moore’s later career, and he really did let fame go to his head, this movie remains a masterpiece.

Rating: ****1/2

Favorite Albums of All Time: 100-91


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141
240-231 190-181 140-131
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

 

100

Artist: Joy Division
Title:Unknown Pleasures
Year: 1979
Favorite Tracks:

  • Disorder
  • New Dawn Fades
  • She’s Lost Control
  • Shadowplay
  • Interzone

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Last year, although I think I’ve heard it in dribs & drabs going back to my college days

Thoughts: Before it was t-shirt, the cover of Unknown Pleasures contained one of the great albums of the Punk Rock era.  The album sounds like it could’ve been recorded by an indie band within the past decade, which is sign of either how far ahead of the time Joy Division was or how rock music has been frozen stylistically for some time

Bonus Sounds: Joy Division released only two albums and their follow-up from 1980, Closer, is also excellent.


99

Artist: Stevie Wonder
Title: Fulfillingness’ First Finale 
Year: 1974
Favorite Tracks:

  • Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away
  • Boogie On Reggae Woman
  • You Haven’t Done Nothin’
  • It Ain’t No Use
  • They Won’t Go When I Go
  • Please Don’t Go

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: A somber and less-optimistic album for Stevie Wonder, both musically and lyrically, compared with its predecessors. A strong gospel influence runs through the album alongside funk, soul, and jazz improvisation.

Bonus Sounds:  There’s more Stevie Wonder to come in this countdown, but don’t sleep on Stevie’s early 70s albums Where I’m Coming From (1971) and Music of My Mind (1972).


98

Artist: RUN-DMC
Title: Raising Hell
Year: 1986
Favorite Tracks:

  • Peter Piper
  • It’s Tricky
  • Walk This Way
  • Raising Hell
  • Proud to be Black

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1986

Thoughts: This was the first rap album I ever owned and it’s still one of my favorites.  The funny thing is that I never heard of Aerosmith before their collaboration with RUN-DMC on “Walk this Way.”

Bonus Sounds: RUN-DMC’s eponymous debut album from 1983 is also a milestone of hip hop.


97

Artist: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Title: 100 Days, 100 Nights
Year:  2007
Favorite Tracks:

  • 100 Days, 100 Nights
  • Let Them Knock
  • Humble Me
  • Keep on Looking
  • Answer Me

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 2010s

Thoughts: Sharon Jones’ confident voice brings retro-soul sounds into the present.

Bonus Sounds: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings shined like a bright star in their brief career before Jones’ death in 2016.  Check out my thoughts on their discography here.


96

Artist: David Bowie
Title: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Year: 1972
Favorite Tracks:

  • Five Years
  • Moonage Daydream
  • Starman
  • Lady Stardust
  • Ziggy Stardust
  • Suffragette City

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: This concept album offers a lot to chew on regarding  aliens, fictional rock stars, and impending doom.  Musically it’s a compilation of rock and roll styles bridging rockabilly to punk rock.  Another classic.

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Bowie to come although his discography is full of treasures.  Check out On Bowie by Rob Sheffield for a fan’s experience with Bowie’s music


95

Artist: Weezer
Title: Weezer
Year: 1994
Favorite Tracks:

  • My Name Is Jonas
  • The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
  • Buddy Holly
  • Undone – The Sweater Song
  • Say It Ain’t So
  • In the Garage
  • Only in Dreams

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1994

Thoughts: Weezer’s debut came toward the end of the peak of the alternative rock era and featured songs and lyrics that the nerds among us could relate to set to quasi-metal guitar riffs.  It still sounds fresh today.

Bonus Sounds: Weezer is notoriously hated for not being as good as they once were, but I’ve enjoyed listening to Pinkerton (1996), Weezer (Green Album) (2001), and Maladroit (2002).


94

Artist: St. Vincent
Title: St. Vincent
Year:  2014
Favorite Tracks:

  • Birth in Reverse
  • Huey Newton
  • Digital Witness
  • I Prefer Your Love
  • Severed Crossed Fingers

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2014

Thoughts: Annie Clark had released some great music prior to this eponymous album, but it really blue me away with it’s crunching guitars, catchy riffs, and esoteric lyrics.

Bonus Sounds: Actor (2009) and Strange Mercy (2011) are also excellent albums.


93

Artist: The Halluci Nation
Title:We Are the Halluci Nation
Year: 2016
Favorite Tracks:

  • R.E.D.
  • The Virus
  • Sila
  • Maima Koopi
  • How I Feel

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: The Halluci Nation, originally known as A Tribe Called Red, mix indigenous pow wow music with hip hop beats. This concept album is strong social justice statement on the effects of colonization on aboriginal peoples.

Bonus Sounds: A Tribe Called Red (2012), Nation II Nation (2013), and One More Saturday Night (2021) are also excellent collections


92

Artist: The B‐52’s
Title:The B‐52’s
Year:1979
Favorite Tracks:

  • Planet Claire
  • 52 Girls
  • Dance This Mess Around
  • Rock Lobster

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 1990s

Thoughts: I first listened to this album after The B-52s more commercial success with Cosmic Thing and it was mindblowing just how weird it was.  But it’s brilliantly weird.

Bonus Sounds: The B-52s’ follow-up album Wild Planet (1980) and of course, Cosmic Thing (1989), are also classic albums.


91

Artist: The Operators 
TitleCitizens Band
Year:2002
Favorite Tracks:

  • Bottle
  • Rock City
  • Running Late
  • The Tarpit
  • The Old Man Doesn’t Like It
  • Xxer
  • Parasite Rex
  • Victoria

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2002

Thoughts: This is another of my more obscure choices.  The members of the Operators were friends of a friend who participated in musical collective called Handstand Command based in Somerville, MA.  In fact, I was on an adult kickball team with one of The Operators. Anyway, I really loved this melodic postpunk collection and wish I’d picked up another one of their albums while I’d had the chance.

Bonus Sounds: I got nothin’!

Movie Review: Before Midnight (2013)


Title: Before Midnight
Release Date: May 24, 2013
Director: Richard Linklater
Production Company: Castle Rock Entertainment | Venture Forth | Detour Filmproduction
Summary/Review:

Another 9 years have passed and Céline (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) are spending the summer vacationing in Greece with friends and family, including their twin daughters and Jesse’s son from his previous marriage. Breaking with precedent of the previous films, in the first act of the film we see a lot of Céline and Jesse in group settings rather than one on one.  We also get to see that Ethan Hawke as a dad in Before Midnight is a whole lot like Ethan Hawke as a dad in in Boyhood.

Also breaking with precedent, the heart of the movie leaves behind the beautiful Greek scenery and instead is set in a nondescript hotel room.  Putatively Céline and Jesse are too spend a romantic night together there without the children, but instead it becomes the scene of a bitter argument. Jesse wants to be more involved in his son’s life, but it would require moving to the United States.  Céline is resentful that she’s been forced to take on domestic responsibilities at the expense of her career.  As they unravel their feelings they begin to contend with the idea that they may no longer be in love.

As with the previous movies the dialogue is excellent and Hawke and Delpy really live inside their characters.  Hawke is so good at playing a guy who is kind of an asshole yet remains sympathetic.  This heartfelt and heartbreaking movie is apparently the last we will see of this couple. If the 9 year pattern persisted the fourth movie would be released this year, but alas there will be no B4: Tokyo Drift or anything like that.

Rating: ****

Book Reviews: Suddenly a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret


This is my Around the World for a Good Book selection for Israel

Author:Etgar Keret 
Title: Suddenly a Knock on the Door
Narrator: Robert Wisdom, Ira Glass, Miranda July, Ben Marcus, George Saunders, Michael Chabon, John Sayles, Stanley Tucci, and Willem Dafoe
Publication Info: London : Chatto & Windus, 2012.
Summary/Review:

This collection of quirky short stories deals with a lot of relatable aspects of modern day life and romance.  Some of the stories are moderately entertaining, others are excessively prurient, and most are good but not great.  With Ira Glass narrating a couple of stories this sounds like a middling episode of This American Life (This Israeli Life?).  The magical realism aspects are fun but mostly I was slightly charmed rather than overwon by these stories.

Recommended books:

Rating: **1/2