Sep 29, 2009

The "bitch" is back.

If you couldn't tell, I'm looking forward to the return of The Hills and Kristin Cavallari's Reign of Chaos. Lauren Conrad navigated her later seasons on the show with a degree of class and maturity lacking in her cast mates, but if you think about it, she spent her entire Hills tenure playing the Wronged Girl. People started rumors about her, yelled at her, dumped her, and dated her ex-boyfriends, and as such, she lived a dramatic life. If it weren't for the crimes committed against her, I don't know if any of us would find her all that interesting.

Kristin has been many things, but never a victim. You can tell she's having the time of her life messing with Audrina Partridge because at the end of the day, she could care less. She is playing a role just as much as Heidi and Spencer; her charm, however, lies in the way she does it. If Heidi and Spencer try their hardest to make their rehearsed breakfast conversations appear genuine (and fail miserably), then Kristin effortlessly engages in pool party drama, winking at us all the while. She knows we know that The Hills is as heavily produced as any scripted show, but she also knows that doesn't mean we can't enjoy it.

Now, I like Lauren Conrad, and I think she has her shit together. I enjoyed watching her grow up on national television. I mean, she gave us "He's a sucky person!" and "You know what you did!" I'm glad she found success, and I'm glad she said goodbye to a show she clearly tired of doing. I'm even more glad, however, to have Kristin Cavallari back in my life. If Lauren taught us how to deal with being Wronged, then Kristin is here to teach us how not to get Wronged in the first place.

Song for you.

Sep 28, 2009

TV time.

Thanks to the cable I got last week, I've been able to catch up on all my favorite shows. You can check the sidebar to see what I'm watching; the roster is pretty much complete, except for The Hills which returns on Tuesday. Going forward, I don't intend to blog about every episode of every show. While I enjoy shows like The Office, I don't have something new to say about them every week. So we're all on the same page, here's a quick look at recent viewing:

Dollhouse: The premiere, "Vows," was good, thanks again to the genius of Amy Acker. The Echo/Ballard storyline was fine, and we learned Echo retains something of her multiple personalities, but Dr. Saunders' identity issues were easily the highlight. I don't really care about an undercover FBI agent; I do care about a woman coming to grips with the idea that her persona is an invented personality inhabiting the body of a stranger. Less B-movie explosions, more tortured soul-searching, please.

Mad Men: I'm two episodes behind on this one. "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency" was a great showcase for Christina Hendricks. I'm sure Joan will be back at some point; I just hope she doesn't go away for too long. Tonight's "Seven Twenty-Three," on the other hand, was tough. Between Peggy sleeping with Duck (ugh), Don acting like a total dick to both Peggy and Betty, and Betty having another near-affair, no one was acting admirably. The evening's Gold Star goes to Bert Cooper for demonstrating he's a total fucking badass, not just some funny, old guy who walks around in socks. Still the best show on television, but I'd like to be able to root for at least one of the main characters, you know?

Modern Family: Watch it. Go to Hulu, or ABC, and watch it. It's well made and amusing for the first 17 minutes or so, but the last five minutes will make you laugh until you cry.

The Office: Like I said in my comments on last season's finale, these people are old friends. Watching this show is like wearing your favorite pair of jeans that are starting to get worn, but that just makes you love them all the more. This season's first two episodes were standard Office fare, but that doesn't mean they weren't wonderful. I'm interested to see what will happen with Jim and Michael as co-managers (I'm a little skeptical).

Sep 25, 2009

Don't stop believing (in "Glee").

I almost gave up on Glee after the "Acafellas" episode (episode 3, for those keeping count). The show was just all over the place, so many characters with so little depth, not enough laugh-out-loud humor, and musical numbers nowhere near the excellence of "Don't Stop Believin'." I thought, maybe the pilot was the best this show could do, maybe Glee already peaked. But, then I watched Wednesday's episode, and I'm back to being hooked.

"Preggers" had everything I want from Glee: musicality, dark humor, a pinch of drama, and recognizable humanity. It was funny, it was fun, and it had heart. The teenage cast is finally starting to stand out - Kurt, Tina, Quinn, Puck, Mercedes, and Finn have all emerged as distinctive personalities. Rachel, of course, was already distinctive, but I realized on Wednesday that you're supposed to think she's just as annoying as her peers do. The adult cast, meanwhile, has always been strong; Will, Sue, and Emma were the best things about the first three episodes.

My favorite "Preggers" moments were the football team doing the "Single Ladies" dance, Kurt's conversation with his dad, Tina's solo, Terri and Quinn's confrontation, and Sue's closing monologue. Next week looks even better with Kristin Chenowith and the cast singing "Somebody to Love" (download it on iTunes, it's phenomenal). Bravo Glee, you've made a believer out of me.

Song for you.

The Corrections

The Corrections is a big, sprawling, epic mess of a novel. When I say "mess," I don't mean lazy, or cluttered, or in dire need of editing. Jonathan Franzen carefully crafts every plot turn, every character reversal, in such an intricate, subtle way, that you don't realize the extent of his machinations until you put down all 500+ pages and think "holy shit, it all makes sense." I use the word "mess" to imply that these people, the Lambert family, are a total fucking mess.

The strength of The Corrections is Franzen's ability to completely actualize all five of his chief protagonists, and weave their narratives together into a seamless tapestry. We start with Chip, then shift to Gary, then Alfred and Enid, then Denise, then everyone takes turns leading as the story smashes toward it's climax. All five of the Lamberts are selfish, annoying assholes who make horrible decisions at the expense of their family members, yet you can't help but love them. You love Alfred for his desperate attempts to manage his Parkinson's, even while he emotionally distances his family. You love Denise for her tenacity and sense of duty, even as she sleeps with a married man (and his wife). You love Enid for her desperate hope that she can have all the things she wants (her family's love, financial security), even as she refuses to admit her life is falling apart.

Each section builds upon the others. In Chip's, we experience Denise as a know-it-all, uber-successful career woman who intimidates her older brother, yet in her section we realize she's barely got herself together. It's just a really impressive thing to watch an author juggle so many people and so many plots and make it look effortless. This book deserves all the praise and accolades it's received. This is what novels are supposed to be.

Sep 23, 2009

Coming soon . . .

. . . lots of fun things. It's late, and I'm tired, so this post is really just a placeholder until tomorrow, at which point I'll be refreshed, recharged, and ready to go. We got wireless/cable at my apartment today, so I can finally start posting regularly. Some things you have to look forward to:
  1. My thoughts on last week's Mad Men, Glee, and The Office.

  2. My reaction to The Corrections (it feels like forever since I've written about a book, mainly because I didn't give Unaccustomed Earth the space it deserves, and because The Corrections is an awesome sprawl of a narrative that took some time to get through).

  3. This idea keeps rattling around in my head: Gossip Girl's Serena/Blair, Wicked's Elphaba/Glinda, and New X-Men's Jean/Emma are all telling the same story. Serena, Elphaba, and Jean burn with crazy Phoenix powers, thus rejecting the social systems they're born into, while Blair, Glinda, and Emma rock the system hardcore because they're too scared/don't know any better*.

*Of course, Elphaba and Jean both end up dead. The Wicked Witch has to die at the end of The Wizard of Oz and Phoenix is too powerful a character to keep around in a superhero team book. According to this model, Serena's ultimate fate will prove tragic, yet I'm inclined to believe Josh Schwartz has something a little more optimistic in mind. We'll see.

Song for you.

I was originally going to make Kid Sister's "Right Hand Hi" a "Yay or Nay?" but then I found myself singing it in the shower this afternoon, and realized she's here to stay.

Sep 20, 2009

The Witching Hour.

Frau Totenkinder: Ozma was right. It's a time for ending.
A time for dramatic and terrible change.

Sep 19, 2009

September issues.

I had the pleasure of seeing The September Issue last night, and it was fantastic. Respectful, fair, it was a truly balanced portrayal of these women and the work they do. It wasn't a portrait of Mean Girl bitchiness, or a snicker at the seriousness with which these people take their jobs. For Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, and all the rest, fashion is about art, it's about turning fantasy into reality. That's what they do, and they're damn good at it.

A lot of reviewers have hailed Coddington as the film's true star, and she definitely opens herself more to the cameras than some of her co-workers, but I think there's a reason the film begins and ends with Anna Wintour. She keeps us at arms length, but with a twinkle in her eye and a knowing mystique to her aura. We don't really want to know what she's thinking because then the mystery would be gone. I found her charming, in an utterly terrifying way.

Some housecleaning:
  • I'm getting cable/Internet on Tuesday (!) so expect more talk about television. I'm going to catch up on Glee and The Office next week, since I don't feel like buying them on iTunes. I might check out Community too. Plus, The Hills returns in ten days, and I'm interested to see what the show looks like post-Lauren (my prediction: Kristin talks shit about/starts fights with everyone, while looking totally bored/completely amused).

  • Last week's Mad Men ("The Fog") was good, but not one of my favorites. I like January Jones a lot, but Betty is far from my favorite character, and I really dislike when the script uses the episode title in such a pointed, obvious way ("It was all a fog"). The Peggy/Don scene was terrific though, thanks to the never ending brilliance of Elizabeth Moss and Jon Hamm. I can't say enough about those two.

Sep 16, 2009

"Mr. Osborn . . . "

" . . . we're all X-Men now."

So ends Utopia, Matt Fraction's first cross-over as writer of Uncanny X-Men. Now, I like that moment a lot; I dig the idea that you have to be your own X-Man (or X-Woman) if you expect to survive in a world that hates and fears you. In theory, I support the whole "be your own superhero" mantra, but in practice, what does it mean for the book?

This book needs a regular cast of 7-9 characters, not 35. It's all well and good for fan favorites to make a cameo every few issues, but the cast needs emotional arcs, not two panels of face time every two months. It dilutes the readers' connection to the story when they can't relate to any of the main characters. Also, mark me down as unenthused about the X-Men running their own island nation (after only 15 issues in San Fransico). It was called Genosha, and Grant Morrison decimated it for a reason.*

*This post brought to you from the EXTREMELY NERDY portion of Wade's brain.

Song for you.

Sep 15, 2009


I've been horrible about keeping a regular posting schedule; bear with me. I still don't have a reliable Internet connection in my apartment, nor do I have a desk. Nevertheless, here's a quick and dirty look at my recent cultural consumption:

Men Men "The Arrangements": This is from two Sundays ago, but since it took about a week to download I'm just getting to it (it's killing me to be so behind in my Mad Men viewing). Another strong episode, with a heaping portion of Peggy Olsen hilarity. The scenes between her and Joan ("Please Joan, tell me what to do"), and her and her potential roommate (" . . . you know, fun") had me laughing out loud. I don't remember much else besides Grandpa Gene being pretty cool to Sally and then dying. Poor Sally should ask Don and Betty to start saving for her therapy bills now. And the scene between Sal and his wife was kind of hard to watch.

Glee "Showmance": I don't know. The teenage cast members can't act and the songs sound so ridiculously dubbed over it's embarrassing (I had to avert my eyes during the "Gold Digger" performance). This show has so many things going for it (mainly Jane Lynch and Jayma Mays, even though Lynch's character stopped resembling anything close to a human being after 30 seconds). I'm going to stick it out another episode or two in hopes that the writers are just finding their feet, but I'm getting nervous. I did like Rachel telling the chastity club that girls want sex just as much as boys (and Lea Michele still has a great voice).

Sep 10, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Emma Frost.

"I know [Jean's] so pure and their love is so special, and I'm so shallow and spiteful and manipulative . . . I know because she saw right through me. She saw the truth and I had no defense . . . Why did I allow myself to become so stupid and vulnerable, Logan? Why did I have to fall in love with Scott bloody Summers?"

Pure magic.

I made it to New York, and am getting settled just fine. To tide you over until I get a more reliable Internet connection, here are some of my favorite quotes from my favorite book, Gregory Maguire's Wicked:

"'We could get together, we could have a quiet dinner party together in our rooms upstairs. Please, Fiyero . . . It would do me such an honor.' She cocked her head and put a single finger to her chin, elegantly, and he could tell she was struggling through the language of her class to say something real." (Glinda and Fiyero, pg. 210)

"'Yes, Papa, I'm here,' she answered, with child's politeness . . . She sat down, wary, tired, astonished at the wealth of her own feeling for him. She was full of need. But, she reminded herself, you're a grown woman." (Elphaba and her father, Frex, pg. 307)

"'I'm drunk and disorderly,' [the Witch] said, 'and I cannot take any more riddles. I killed someone today, I can kill you too."

'You didn't kill her, she was already dead,' said the dwarf calmly. 'And you can't kill me, for I'm immortal. But you try very hard at life, and so I will tell you this . . . you are a new breed, you are a grafted limb,
you are a dangerous anomaly. Always you were drawn to the composite creatures, the broken and reassembled, for that is what you are.'" (Elphaba and the dwarf, pgs. 373-4).