A nice long labor day weekend. We even made it to church. Here are a couple things to prop you up this week.
A Separation: I thought about writing an entire post about this film. We’ll start with the fact that it’s Iranian, and at times, it’s difficult to suss out the motivations (religious, personal, and otherwise) and bureaucracy the characters sift through to find justice (if that’s what you want to call it). I hope the general hoopla about this movie is more nuanced than a general, xenophobic surprise that Iranians are like us and not just head-scarved, camel-riding zealotes bent on American amelioration. The five major characters in this twisty domestic drama, which moves and looks like a thriller, are flawed and heartbreaking. The subject matter, one could argue, is something found on Lifetime, but handled with the dramatic precision of Greek theatre.
The Pirates!: Band of Misfits: Slightly less serious but just as impressive is the new film from Aardman (Wallace and Gromit, Flushed Away). Awesome to look at, each frame packed like a Mad Magazine cartoon panel, yet the humor is largely gentle and punning and mildly sardonic—very early Zucker Brothers, at their most random. I worry that my kids will never fully shake the idea that Charles Darwin was a conniving idiot and Queen Victoria a sociopath, but we don’t live in England, so who cares?
The Carpenter by The Avett Brothers: Quieter than their previous, I and Love and You, and initially disappointing (where are the whoops and screams?), a second listen revealed the song craft, their strongest yet. I love this band.
NPR Music App: Lest you worry that I ripped off the Avett Brothers and downloaded the album (Moi? Non, non, non) before it drops on Sept. 11, let me introduce you to the free app from NPR and my new personal obsession. The first listen option (currently you can stream the new Cat Power, Stars, Deerhoof, and a collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent, xx) is worth having it on your phone, but the podcasts, specifically All Songs Considered, are just icing.
Sweet Heart, Sweet Light by Spiritualized: I’ve never listened to Spiritualized, but after hearing snippets of songs on—what?–All Songs Considered, I snatched it up. It’s the kind of album that makes you wonder why you weren’t listening all along.
Random: “I Love It” by Icona Pop (Swedish duo, though the “Swedish” part becomes obvious about two seconds into the song). “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells (why haven’t I heard more about this group? “Crimson and Clover”? “Sweet Cherry Wine”? Anyone else?), “The House that Heaven Built” by The Japandroids (makes me want to punch a hole in the ceiling of my car when it comes on—why does great music make me want to destroy things?)
Breaking Bad ended for the year with a good run, though at times I felt like there were some overly convenient twists and turns as the series draws to a close.
Copper: I’ve seen the first three episodes of this drama on BBC America, and though it’s not Deadwood, it’s a rowdy historical series that manages to meld the pleasures of a police procedural (NYPD Blue, Homicide: Life on the Street) with the grimy “Five Points” period of Civil War New York. The main kick of the show is the rather jaundiced view that the corruption and loose ethical guidelines of the police force exist because of the entrenched moral depravity of the upper classes, who use the lives and land of immigrants and minorities as there own personal playground. The show was created by Tom Fontana, who made Homicide and Oz, and though it tries too hard, it’s settling into a groove.
Doctor Who is back!! It’s kind of a BBC week…
One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper: I finished Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy before starting this, and I worry that the Tropper suffered unnecessarily in the transition. That said, Tropper writes casual, funny prose and witty dialogue, though the repartee can get overlong and tired. He’s basically the kind of foul-mouthed, sadsack men’s author, like Nick Hornby or Mordecai Richler or more recently Chad Harbach, who writes books about and for guys but is read predominantly by women because guys don’t read. It concerns the former drummer of a one-hit wonder, his crappy life and impending death. The book is funny, though at times a bit too broad, and worth your time, tough it pales in comparison to his previous book, This is Where I Leave You. Truth be told, you should probably read the Thomas Hardy. Or About a Boy by Nick Hornby, Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, or Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler. Actually, just read Mordecai Richler—he should be mentioned in the same breath as Philip Roth.
Looking Forward to…
The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson
Mickey Mouse History edited by Mike Wallace
New Fall Television!