A real great horror movie creates a visceral sense of dread and fear in the viewer. The easiest way to do this is through “jump scares,” the moments when something pops out at a character, often accompanied by a musical sting. Jump scares can be very effective (I used to hide in the linen closet and utilize the jump scare to terrify my sister. Worked every time), but there is very little nuance involved. Jump scares are the horror equivalent of vulgarity in a comedy – it is the easy laugh. A great horror film will build suspense and tension through circumstance and performance. The best example of this method from last year is not even a horror film; it is Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt.
Month: January 2014
029 – Random Access Memories – Daft Punk
For those who don’t know or don’t care (I count myself among the latter), the 56th Annual Grammy Awards took place this week. This is one award show that I just don’t really care about. I don’t want to sound like a snob (although I have a blog where I review things for my own conceited purposes, so the cat’s out of the bag on that one), but the Grammys don’t really seem to have much meaning. The Academy Awards are similarly meaningless, but at least there’s a level of prestige associated with them; the fact that there are approximately 1,000 awards given out at the Grammys each year kind of dilutes their purpose (There are actually 82 categories, which is crazy because it makes my hyperbole seem kind of reasonable). But at the very least the fact that some body came together to recognize achievement in some field implies there is media worth checking out. In this case I decided to take a look at Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, the so-called “Album of the Year.”
028 – How I Met Your Mother, “How Your Mother Met Me”
Two-hundred episodes is a huge accomplishment for any show, even if you think it has been on the air for a few too many seasons. Think back to the early days of How I Met Your Mother, when it seemed to be on the verge of cancellation every six months; back then the idea of nine seasons would have seemed glorious. But now – in practice – the general consensus is that the show has fallen off, especially in this final year. I am personally of the opinion that season nine is more of the same, equal in quality to what we’ve come to expect the last few years (if not actually a little bit better). While it is disappointing that the show will seemingly never go back to the whip-fast, smart, even edgy comedy that it once was, I’m certainly not going to give up on it with the end so close.
027 – True Detective, “The Locked Room”
It is hard to discern whether True Detective is getting better, or whether I am slowly getting used to what it is going to be. There’s bound to be a learning curve to any slow-burn show, but there also seemed to be a step up in the writing this episode. “The Locked Room” definitely felt like showcase for both Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, and not just the latter. This allows the two actors to turn their scenes together into competitions, a situation where the viewer wins.
026 – The Golden State
It was almost a month ago, when my hopes of eating a burger from The Golden State were dashed by the villainy of one of my roommates. That injustice was finally corrected this afternoon when we made the journey for what is regarded as one of the better burgers in LA.
025 – Snowpants 01/25/2014
A friend of mine recently told me that he thinks improvised comedy is one of the most important art forms that we have. Two things: 1) this guy isn’t even an improviser (which raises the question of why I was even interacting with him), and 2) he was at least a little drunk. So, while I take what this anonymous “friend” said with a grain of salt, I do agree that improv has a lot of redeeming qualities that should bring it more attention than it currently has.
024 – Molly Malone’s
The quiet dive bar. It is the holy grail of night-time hangouts, especially in Los Angeles, where it is nigh-impossible to find such a thing. I’ve found a few spots where I can spend an hour or two, but I fear I will spend the rest of my life searching for a low-key spot where I can just sit and talk to my friends at a normal volume. I don’t know; maybe this is something that only exists in television and film. Perhaps there is no real-world equivalent of How I Met Your Mother’s MacLaren’s. My search continues unabated, however, as giving up is just not in my nature. Which brought me to Molly Malone’s in the beautiful Fairfax district.
023 – Beyond Scared Straight, “Portsmouth County, VA”
Delinquentism among inner-city youths (and youths in general) is a serious problem (I know that is not a popular position to take, but I will fight anyone who dares to disagree). It is something that I saw from a distance growing up, and something that I get a closer look at now, in my second life as an education professional. Trying to explain to a teenager the errors of their ways is one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had the joy to undertake, so I certainly understand the impulse behind shows like Beyond Scared Straight – forget trying to explain why what they’re doing is wrong; just show them what will happen if they don’t stop.
022 – Doug Benson Movie Interruption – Thor: The Dark World
I’m a sucker for comic book movies. Always have been, always will be. They were such a novelty back at the beginning of the new millennium. X-Men and Spider-Man changed the whole game. Up until that point all we really had were the Batman movies, which had gotten pretty dire by the time Arnold Schwarzenegger started spouting ice-themed puns (“Chill out!”). The best part about the comic book movie boom was that they were good. For the most part. The first two X-Men and Spider-Man movies are still looked on fondly, even though Tobey Maguire was not great in his role. The expectation is that quality would fall off as the years went on and the movies began multiplying. But that hasn’t happened. Thanks to Marvel Studios we’re now getting thought-out films that try to build something impressive, rather than just cash in (though they are definitely cashing in, big time). Just because I love the movies doesn’t mean I’m not more than willing to watch as Doug Benson and some of his comedian friends knock them down a peg.
021 – Enlisted, “Pilot”
I’m a bit of an industry insider, you guys. I don’t want to brag, but I know people who know people. So believe me when I tell you that the 30-minute comedy pilot is a truly difficult task to take on. Look at some of the best comedies going right now; the pilot for New Girl is pretty uninteresting, and not at all indicative of the show it would become about six months later. Likewise for Parks and Recreation, which floundered as an Office clone for its mini season one before coming into its own. The problem is a result of the subjectivity and malleability of comedy itself; great jokes must be written to an actor’s sensibilities, and on the other hand an actor has to mold the character into something that fits him or her. It takes several episodes for these pieces to come together, which explains why shows like New Girl, Parks and Rec, and Community take time to really hit with viewers (though in the case of Community it never really took off outside of the dedicated fanbase). All of this makes the pilot episode of Enlisted such a surprise. Because it’s pretty good!