Saturday, December 22, 2018

Best of 2018

Hey, no one asked, but I'm going to give you a list of the things that I liked most in 2018--and I'm not going to divide things out into categories such as movies, television, performances, or whatever.

I'm lumping everything together into a single list of the things that I liked the most and try my best to give them a ranking of worst to best--or maybe just from least worthy to most worthy (because all of this stuff is great.)

Let's get this started!

10. SHAVING MY BEARD (personal facial choice)

I've surprised myself with how much I've enjoyed being clean-shaven in the last few months of this year. Sure, it is more work to tidy up in the morning than it used to be. But getting that grey off my face has improved my inner outlook about myself.

9. EMMA STONE (actress)

I felt like Emma Stone did five different things this year. But that is probably because I stop flipping channels whenever I see her and stop to watch. I really did enjoy Maniac on Netflix. (It felt like a weird cousin to the already weird Legion, even though neither had anything to do with each other.) And I caught up on 2017's Battle of the Sexes this year and really liked her performance as Billie Jean King.

I put her here because I think I've decided that I just like her lots and wanted to spend a bit of time celebrating her in 2018.

8. BLACKKKLANSMAN (Spike Lee movie)

As a placeholder, I had Incredibles 2 and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse as two movies that I anticipated and enjoyed greatly this year. And these two movies are definitely On Brand for me. But when I did a quick search for 2018 movies, I was reminded that I saw Spike Lee's movie BlackKKlansman this summer. And it's no feel-good movie. But no other movie made me cry for its final ten minutes either.

HARRY POTTER PODCASTS (a. Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion, The Ringer podcast network & b. Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, formerly on the Panoply Network and now moving to Patreon)

7. (b) Harry Potter and the Sacred Text  

The Sacred Text podcast team has also been a favorite of mine for several years. In 2018 they finished Goblet of Fire and have been walking through Order of the Phoenix chapter-by-chapter. Their divinity school training, textural and spiritual interpretive practises, their compassionate insights, and guests make each episode something new.

6. (a) Binge Mode: Harry Potter Binge Mode first hit the scene a few years ago when Mallory and Jason went through every episode of the HBO series Game of Thrones and also expounded on how much they loved George R.R. Martin's novels. Once they were done with that marathon, they teased listeners with the equally gargantuan task of diving into their deep love of J.K. Rowling's novels as well as their views on the growing movie franchise. The HP focus started this summer and as the end of the year approaches, they still aren't done. But their insights and fun are worth the time and the wait.

5. ATLANTA (FX, hiatus between season 2 and season 3)

If you spend any time watching quality television, you don't need me to tell you how good Atlanta is. Always great storytelling. Frequently great photography. Excellent, surprising acting. If you haven't seen the Teddy Perkins episode, give yourself 45 minutes to get really creeped out by one of the most unexpected episodes of television you'll never be able to imagine.

4. HAVING KIDS (perpetual commitment)

As you probably know, Sarah moved out for college this fall. And even though we see her quite often (she's only 15 miles downtown), it is nice to watch her explore this new space and search for herself more directly. It's nice to catch up on the weekends and get a glimpse of the good (and sometimes bad) things that she is facing on her own.

And that is only her! Grace is so busy with school, extracurriculars, and a bevy of friends. She makes me so proud every day for how she sees and moves in the world. She is simply excellent.

And then there is Hannah, who doesn't deserve to be listed last every time because she is always challenging my parental comforts--reminding me to not be complacent with my parenting, to stay engaged, to respond to her curiosity and her energy; reminding me that this is HER first time through these challenges and I need to treat them with the same level of commitment and excitement that she deserves. She's still figuring out who she is and she's helping me remind myself of who I want to be.

3. KILLING EVE (BBC America, season 2 going on right now) 

Full disclosure on this one. I didn't start watching the first season of this show until Last Night. Other media critics told me that it was really good and once I finally got around to verifying it, I could not have been happier. I knew very quickly that it was going on my list right away. I have a fondness of spy shows and I definitely like shows with a sense of humor. This show handles both elements so well. And I can't highly recommend it more strongly. You should watch it.

2. ADVENTURE ZONE (The McElroy Brothers, Maximum Fun podcast network, biweekly)

I knew of the McElroy's before this year and even before I started liking their content. But I didn't really become a fan until sometime in the spring or summer of 2018. And while I'm about a decade behind on their flagship MBMBAM (My Brother, My Brother, and Me) podcast I entered the 'verse by binding through The Adventure Zone--first the Balance arc and now listening to the Amnesty arc. The McElroys are first and foremost funny. But they are also sweet and humane and likable guys. They are creative and energetic and just fun to experience. Really, really great!

1. KIDDING (Showtime, hiatus between season 1 and season 2)

I tweeted a lot about this show when I was watching it. So you might not be surprised to see this one high on my list. I can't think of another show or media experience that so surprised me this year. I knew that I liked the pairing of Michael Gondry and Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and I was intrigued to see Carrey back in the spotlight after I had watched the documentary about his struggles in recent years. And I liked the idea of him playing a Fred Rogers-esque children show host. What I wasn't ready for was the heart and the compassion that was shown in this show, even when it was wrapped around a lot of individually-bad behavior and choices. There are several flawed people on this show--definitely including Carrey's Mr. Pickles. But the way that Pickles tries to make others see the good in each other and find the good in himself was really touching.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018: A Casual Christmas Card

2018 doesn't need fanfare. It just needs to be done so that we can get busy with a new year.
Here's hoping you keep it casual this Christmas and charge up for whatever comes your way next.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Conference Champions Week

After an unscheduled and unannounced absence in Weeks 11 and 12, Football Counter-Programming made a triumphant return in Week 13 . . . just in time to witness Ohio State's triumphant return to prominence and relevancy.

But that is as much football-specific talk as you are going to get in this post. Because I know what the title of this post is and I know what I'm doing here. I trying to get you to do something other than watch college football on a Saturday. And that is only harder to accomplish in late November and early December when most places are cold, gray, and all you really want to do is sit inside and stay warm, eating snacks and vegging out.

But NO! I say NO!

In place of (semi-professional) amateur gridiron, let's talk about Harry Potter. Well . . . specifically let's talk about Newt Scamander and the Fantastic Beasts film franchise that he is the titular (if no longer truly the content driver of) movie hero of.

A few weeks ago I went to see FB2: TCoG and well, I guess it was fine. For a movie that had little to no connection to the charity-based "textbook" the title is based upon . . . it was fine. It was much better than Peter Jackson's three Hobbit movies that played a similar game of taking source material and bloating it out into as many movie tickets as it could get away with.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gindelwald was a visually pleasing film with some adequate plot elements. And I like the actors by-and-large--with the de rigueur vilification of Johnny Depp implied, you understand? I very much like Jude Law's Dumbledore portrayal and it almost made me forget what a young Pope he is. But . . . the cinematic reveal at the end of the film was viewed by me, in the moment, as a drastic and very concerning up-ending of Potterverse canon. (If you don't know what I'm talking about it is either because you could not care less or because you just haven't seen the movie. Please use your favorite search engine to discover the awful truth for yourself.)

ANDBUTSO . . . I've listened to podcasts and read the Internet since the movie watching and I am confidently holding out hope for a sensible resolution in films 3-5--assuming of course that the public wasn't so turned off by FB2 that there is no financial stomach to even make the remaining films. If that ends up being the case, then I'm sure J.K. Rowling and the WizardingWorld publishing machine will give us hard-copy versions of the screenplays that were never filmed so that we know what might have been.

But truly--and this is the real reason that I even decided to write about this topic in the first place--what I WANT out of all of this is a canonical, hard-copy version of Rita Skeeter's The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. It was the tell-all book that shook poor Harry to the core in the wandering parts of Deathly Hallows. It forced the reader to reevaluate what we knew about Albus PWB. And, in no small measure, it is the content spine of FB2 and what we can now assume are the plots of FB3-FB5.

Let's just have the book, shall we?

Until that day comes and we get the books we richly deserve, just remember. It's doesn't matter if your alma mater's special teams coach is a Ravenclaw. If they aren't playing in a conference championship game today you can kiss goodbye their (non Notre Dame) chances of making it into the CFP Final 4.

Have a fun non-football weekend.