Ralph W. Larkin, Comprehending Columbine: An "academic" take on the events, which is not a backhanded compliment nor an insult; I'm not sure I believe 100 percent of what he says, but Larkin does a good job of placing Columbine and Eric Harris in the middle of the mid-90s angry-white-guy movement. There's also his depiction of the late-90s bullying culture at the school, replete with reports of actual incidents (mostly revolving around one guy), which is actually legitimately horrifying, so now I at least know what all those "Columbiners" are talking about, meaning that they're not just whining about their high school experiences online. He also paints a significantly less sympathetic portrait of Dylan Klebold than Dave Cullen does, but the book collapses at the end when Larkin starts talking about "solutions" like having football players and wrestlers take crisis-management classes before they can be team captains. Whatever.
Dave Cullen, Columbine (RE-READ): This is why I read the Larkin book first: Cullen's book has been attacked by countless online armchair sleuths for discounting bullying as a motive behind the Columbine attacks. Re-reading this otherwise mostly-compelling book--probably my favorite true-crime book ever, in spite of its problems--I have to say, it does seem like a pretty glaring flaw. I don't know why the "solution" to Eric and Dylan's motives can't be between the two poles--that Cullen is right about Eric being a nihilistic psycho (God do his diary entries get tiresome) and Dylan being a suicidal romantic depressive, but that the school's atmosphere made them worse. Let the blame go around!!!
John Douglas and Johnny Dodd, Inside The Mind Of BTK: I always read true crime around this time of year, and since BTK was Kansas' most famous ever, I decided to try a book about him, written by an FBI guy who consulted on Silence Of The Lambs (I think he's in it, actually.) Yeah....BTK isn't really worth studying. He's just a sick bastard who did sick sick shit and was obsessed with tying people up with rope. I certainly didn't like reading about his crimes, but the details involving the CD-ROM that he didn't know would get him caught were hilarious. Douglas isn't really a great writer either. It's not like any of you were ever going to read this but I don't recommend it, anyhow.
Hail, Caesar!: An average Coens entry; at this point, they've probably beaten both 1940s/50s satire and Hollywood satire about to death. Alden Ehrenreich is the star; I'm not sure that the movie really needed Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, or Scarlett Johansson; the former two probably just wanted at least one Coens film on their resume. They can keep using Josh Brolin, though. And hey, bring Fisher Stevens back while you're at it.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Again, I wasn't in love with anything at all in this movie, so I'm likely to never revisit it. I ended up being more conscious of the response to the movie than the movie, which actually rarely happens with me, in spite of how much time I spend reading up on responses to movies. I'm just saying that's what I'm going to *remember*. There's nothing terrible in Rogue One, but I just couldn't get excited and said everything I had to say about it in that thread below.
Goodnight Mommy: Disliked. Too quiet and subtle and "atmospheric" for its own good; only the super-little-seen Berberian Sound Studio went further down the rabbit hole in this regard. Two Austrian twin boys who look about nine years old think their mom, recently returned from plastic surgery and wearing bandages over her face, might be someone else. There's a scene where the mom goes out into the woods and does this crazy demonic face thing so who knows, but the ending of the movie, after a load of torture porn stuff that's only sort of effective, crappily reveals a crappy "twist" that is by now one of the most tired "twists" in the world. Maybe THE most tired twist in the world.
Room: Not impressed with this at all. A shame, I was really looking forward to it. The first half, detailing the horrible life of being trapped in a shed by a misogynistic bastard, is watchable enough, but fails the "believability" test: surely that child would not be so chipper, and surely that mother would be in much worse shape (yes, I know there are similar real life cases, but I haven't researched them.) Then the second half comes, and the movie slides down the toilet. I was bored with the scenes detailing the little boy's perceptions of his new world because they're shot like one of those credit-card/bank or communications-company commercials that show lots of shots of skies and people playing around all over the world and crap (you know the ones, right?) And then there's the scenes with the mother's family, which manage to waste William H. Macy as egregiously as possible and which could have only been a greater string of painfully obvious family-in-crisis cliches if they'd brought in Julianne Moore to cry at the dinner table--really, the only positive thing I can even THINK to say about the family scenes is that Joan Allen looks like she could actually be Brie Larson's mom. The film really is nowhere near as "harrowing" as it's been made out to be either, and as for Brie Larson, well, she restrains herself well enough, so I guess she deserved her Oscar more than Jennifer Lawrence did.
Foxcatcher: One of the greyest, quietest, drabbest, coldest movies I can think of, which is what I'm going to remember first and foremost; it's that tone that depresses me more than what happens on screen, which is still pretty depressing in and of itself. That's not to say it's a great movie--it's not crap, but it teeters annoyingly close to being my least favorite kind of serious/art movie: the film that thinks it's being really subtle but is in fact jackhammer obvious. It avoids the "jackhammer obvious" thing mostly by not giving us easy answers, which is a double edged sword in this case. Steve Carell is "creepy" from frame one, so he probably deserved all the acclaim he got (certainly you never once think of his comedy roles--an effective "he disappears into it" sort of thing), but the film never really tells us what's wrong with John E. Du Pont enough to make him kill someone. Hey, maybe there was no great answer, but why make the film if there isn't? Most reviewers though Mark Ruffalo did really well too, but I found his role totally thankless. Won't be revisiting this most likely.
Hi, Mom!: Brian De Palma's 1970 starring Robert De Niro is usually held up as the best of his counterculture-era comedies, by which I mean I heard Tarantino once say he liked it. (Contemporary reviews are all over the map.) De Niro plays a Vietnam vet (it's actually a sequel to the 1968 Greetings, also by De Palma) who films people in the adjacent building for porno purposes, then gets signed up to play a cop in a guerrilla black theater group's "play" called "Be Black, Baby!" where they teach a bunch of stuffy white people to be black by painting their faces black, actually stealing their purses and raping them; then the white people all talk about how amazing the experience was! The comedy stuff plays like a mediocre precursor to Woody Allen's slapsticky era, the controversial political stuff was handled better in Medium Cool. So go see Medium Cool. It goes without saying that this film is beyond dated.
Time Chasers (MST3K): Derelict 1994 load of crud starring a creepy blonde guy with a mullet who does some sort of time-travelling crud. The MST3K guys do okay, but not great. The one thing I'm going to remember about this movie is that the ending sequence takes place in the woods with a bunch of guys dressed for the American Revolution firing off countless volleys with their muskets and it goes on for freaking FOREVER. Unlikely that I'll ever revisit it. The lead puts off a really creepy loser vibe.
Pumaman (MST3K): How bad is this 1980 Italian "superhero" fantasy movie? Donald Pleasance called it the worst thing he'd ever been in, that's how bad. And he's been in some CRUD, people!!! It's full of stupid godawful green-screen "flying" effects straight out of SNL and some Indian guy with a godawful pageboy haircut (now I know where they came up with Anton Chigurh!) helping some white guy do some stupid fantasy quest crap and I couldn't make heads or tails of it. The MST3K guys were just nerdy and lame this time around. Won't be revisiting it.
Sparks, Lil Beethoven: It's...okay. I dunno, at first I was blown away at the novelty of the whole well-inspired idea/sound that the Maels came up here, but after multiple listens, some--JUST SOME--of that novelty wears off. It's not actually the oft-cited "repetition" problem that causes the wearing off, because that repetition drills most of the hooks into one's head after like two listens. No, I think it's actually the realization that I'm only really in love with "The Rhythm Thief" and the last two songs, the metal one and the silly "Suburban Homeboy" bit which doesn't sound like the rest of it. Well, even if I'm not jumping on the bandwagon with this, give 'em credit, they came up with an album like nothing else instead of just desperately aping whatever dance music happens to be popular in the world.
The Stone Roses, Second Coming: 69 minutes of this disjointedly-produced, all-over-the-map, six-years-in-the-making, band-broke-up-immediately-after-for-seven-hundred-reasons mess is actually its biggest Achilles' heel. I know, I know, they didn't want to "do the 60s" again and instead ended up...uh, aping Led Zeppelin for a strangely large portion of those 69 minutes, but whatever--if I were hearing both this and the debut for the first time, it's *this* one that'd strike me as far closer to my idea of what "Madchester" was, because the starting point seems to have been "Fool's Gold" and the jam in "I Am The Resurrection," both of which bore me to tears. So you can take stuff like "Daybreak" and throw it out the window...WTF, there's no "Waterfall" here either, even if I'm going to jump all over the ballads as the best songs. Yeah, "How Do You Sleep" is the ace, with that "angel of death" line, and "Ten Storey Love Song" and "Your Star Will Shine" are the next-easiest tunes to like. Of the dance stuff, the choruses to "Break Into Heaven" and "Love Spreads" will probably put those towards the front rankings as well, but really, the CD-era 90s bloat of this album makes me want to stay away from it, like eating a seven course meal where you only want four courses. You?
Stereolab, Peng!: I HAVE A FAVORITE STEREOLAB ALBUM NOW!!!! Yaaaayyyy! Why?!? Because it starts with FOUR straight awesome My Bloody Valentine impressions! "Super Falling Star," "Orgiastic," "K-Stars," "Peng! 33"...good LORD I'm such a sucker for this sort of shit! I fall for it EVERY time! Almost NOBODY cares about this album, go try to find more than four existing reviews of it, but hot damn if these people couldn't do some terrific MBV knockoffs! Oh yeah, after that it turns into more of that one-chord droning neverending VU organ commie-lyrics stuff that drowned their other albums, but when these guys wanna do dreampop....sign me up! Think I'll do those singles collections next...
Van Halen, OU812: God help me, but this is...pretty good, even if it contains its share of clever rewriting. "Source Of Infection," I love that one, and it's obviously trying to ape the glorious "Girl Gone Bad." "Feels So Good," feels like "Jump" toned down and played with a silly little kiddie synth organ, but I liked it. "A. F. U." is great, but it's possibly a rewrite of AC/DC's "Shake A Leg"? Who knows. "Mine All Mine" was a great energetic opener, and I can't believe I didn't hate Sammy's dumbass "Cabo Wabo" or "Finish What You Started." Hell, I didn't even hate Sammy, at least he does nothing to piss me off here, schmuck though he may be. What's WRONG with me?!? I'm no fan of 5150 much at all, so why'd I like this? (Note: it's got far less cheesy synths and sounds less obviously '80s than their other stuff from this era.)
Alice Cooper, Flush The Fashion: I wonder if there's anyone on Earth who considers this a glorious masterpiece, like their favorite album or something? I liked it fine--particularly "Model Citizen," "Pain," and "Clones (We're All)"--but it's so freakin' SLIGHT. 28 minutes long and just a bunch of 3 minute pop-rock songs that Alice happened to slap with a few Cars-y synth flourishes. It can't have been a particularly Herculean effort for him, but then again, his songwriting is still palatable enough. Worth one look at least...
Badfinger, Ass: "Apple Of My Eye" is a glorious beautiful slammer of a power pop song, an immediate call to one's ears that they're in for something glorious, but actually one's just in for more good-enough Badfinger tunes. "When I Say" is this glorious wistful thing (not at ALL a good way to describe a Badfinger song...EVERY Badfinger song is "wistful"), I think most people cite "Icicles" as a highlight, and why not?...and "Timeless," repetitive as it is, blows "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" out of the water, if you ask me, but mostly because I just hate the Beatles tune. "Constitution," they tried to do Cream or Hendrix or something there, maybe a couple years late on that, guys? The guitar riff is okay though. "Get Away" is WAY WAY WAY too close to McCartney, that one's a minus. Oh yeah, wasn't this where they really started to unravel? Apple Records going to hell and all at the time. Sad. Hey, few bands are easier to like than Badfinger. But that leaves me with little to say.