Media of the moment

An ongoing series on books, movies, and music I’ve encountered recently.

A Clockwork Orange. Had been putting this off based on what I’d heard of its disturbing content, but finally bit the bullet for the sake of the AFI 100. Typically impressive Kubrickian cinematography and dark satire.

An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz. Kaleidoscopic narrative of a violent Chicago summer. Kotlowitz embeds with people and families affected by gang violence, illuminating the humanity within tragedy.

Captain Marvel. Brie Larson was a great choice.

Minding the Gap. Stunning.

A Star Is Born. Admire Bradley Cooper’s dedication and Lady Gaga’s talent.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. Paired with Sapiens and Homo Deus, this book made me at once immensely proud of humanity and profoundly disturbed by it.

Three Identical Strangers. Wild, stranger-than-fiction story.

Pretty Woman. My first time, despite having seen the “jewelry box laugh” scene and shopping montage as parodied in Dumb and Dumber. This wasn’t ’90s Julia Roberts at her peak, but she was on the way up.

When we make our art

“When we make our art, we are also making our lives. And I’m sure that the reverse is equally true.”

— Wendell Berry, in the beautiful documentary Look & See (currently streaming on Netflix). Might have found my new life motto.

Only dopes use drugs

I love everything about this book cover, which I encountered at the Frances Willard House Museum & Archives:

See more from Frances Willard.

Recent Views, not-recent edition

More photography here.

With a photogenic infant at home, I need to make sure my photo backup situation is solid. I decided to start using iCloud since my Dropbox is maxed out and because it so seamlessly integrates with my iPhone. Digging through my photo archive has brought back some nice memories, including photos from a photography class I took junior year of college, 10 years ago now. They might be the last photos I took on an SLR film camera:

My son, the audiobook

Just set a picture of the Boy as the wallpaper on my phone lock screen. The idea was to see him when I use my phone, but I chuckled when I realized what that looks like in practice:

On endeavoring through Top 100 film lists

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The primary function of my logbook is to document in a Google spreadsheet what I read and watch. But that’s not all it tracks. Among sheets dedicated to typewriters I own and words I like is one that charts my progress through several Top 100 film lists (see above).

I’ve been slowly endeavoring through the AFI 100 since high school. I then added Image’s Arts & Faith Top 100, the Time 100, and recently the BFI Critics 100 just cuz. There’s a fair amount of overlap between them, but enough differences for all of them to be useful sources of viewing suggestions.

Here’s where I’m at now on each list:

AFI: 92

Image: 50

Time: 59

BFI: 52

There’s a completist satisfaction in checking off titles and inching closer to 100. Though as close as I am to finishing the AFI list, there are a few remaining titles I’m in no rush to subject myself to, like Intolerance, A Clockwork Orange, and Sophie’s Choice. As with any movie I watch, mood has to align with opportunity and availability. Having lists like these ready to go ensures I always have good options for when the moment is right.

These lists are also great fodder for exploring cinema beyond whatever Netflix or other streaming services decide to make available at any given moment. Besides Kanopy, these services tend to have a recency bias. Everyone, but especially Kids These Days, should be exposed to older and lesser known movies. See Ty Burr’s book The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together for more ideas, or peruse your local library.

Media of the moment, post-baby edition

An ongoing series on books, movies, and music I’ve encountered recently.

The Baby Book by William Sears. This has been helpful thus far. Though don’t think we haven’t also randomly Googled things at odd hours.

The Cider House Rules. Filling in the gaps of my 1999 movie viewings. This gets less compelling once Homer leaves the orphanage.

Brazil. I’m always up for a good dystopian satire, but this one feels actively antagonistic toward the idea of being likable.

Saturday Night Fever. I was familiar with this from references in Airplane! and The Simpsons, but I hadn’t actually seen it in full. The dance scenes are oddly mesmerizing, but the sexual politics are quite disturbing.

Terms of Endearment. I’m sorry, I just can’t get into Shirley MacLaine. Debra Winger is the highlight.

Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up by Tom Phillips. Reviewing this for Booklist. It’s like Yuval Harari’s Sapiens by way of a cheeky, crude stand-up comedian.

What is utter sadness, Alex

Since coming home from the hospital with our baby boy, we’ve been alternating between several streaming shows to pass the hours that need passing. Current go-tos include The Office, The Great British Baking Show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and The Wire.

As much as I like all of them, none give me as much joy as watching Jeopardy! on Netflix. I literally gasped when I discovered it was on there. Finally I could finally skip the awkward contestant small talk and Medicare commercials and just engage in pure, uncut, nonstop trivia.

I found it just in time. The other day the Boy was getting fussy as I was starting an episode. As soon as Alex Trebek’s legendary voice started in on the clues, he calmed down. I’m gonna go ahead and assert that in this instance correlation did equal causation, because Jeopardy! fixes all.

Which makes the news about Trebek’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis that much sadder. The straight-laced optimism and sly humor in his video announcing the news is inspiring and very on-brand. It’s like he’s a Clue Crew member delivering a Video Daily Double:

(See also his interview on The Nerdist.)

Barry Petchesky from Deadspin gets it right:

This is exactly what you’d want and expect from the man who, for 35 years, has hosted the best and smartest game show in existence. Businesslike. Competence exuded through every pore. Cool, professional, authoritative. (It’s what makes his occasional jokes work so well. They’re gems because they’re so rare. They’re earned.) You are not there, in Trebek’s house, for chit-chat. You are there to answer some damn questions. And there is no one on earth better suited to oversee the merciless, no-frills format of Jeopardy! than him.

I’m so glad I got to see Trebek and the show in person. Long may he reign. And may we have mercy on whoever has to eventually replace him.

Love & Revelation

So excited to receive Over the Rhine’s gorgeous new album Love & Revelation in the mail. I don’t get many CDs these days, so it was a treat to admire the design and new-CD smell:

This album was part of Over the Rhine’s fundraiser from a few years ago my wife and I contributed to. Two more future albums are included in our donation level, along with the treat of getting our names in the liner notes:

Get it when it’s released wide March 15!

Papa’s got a brand new baby

And he’s the best: