Notable 2009 consumptions, so far
I haven't been posting much recently for various reasons, and I can't honestly say whether that will change or not. But one thing I haven't done here recently is mention a few things I've read/seen/heard in 2009 that are worth recommending/commenting on. So here goes:
2666 by Roberto Bolaño
I read this earlier this year and was alternately floored and bored by it (mostly the former) -- which is not all that surprising for a 900-page novel split into five tonally unrelated parts. It's such a brutal book to read at times, especially the fourth part which describes in clinical detail the murder of hundreds of women in a Juárez-like city in northern Mexico. But it's been a long time since I've read a book that immediately after I've finished compelled to me to skim through the entire book again right there, even at that late hour. And I had to go on an Internet quest after finishing it as well, enjoying especially this Nation article which delves into Bolaño's real life obsession with the Juárez murders.
I missed this seven-episode miniseries when it aired on HBO last summer, partially unmotivated by its military subject matter. But I should have never underestimated David Simon and Ed Burns -- the team that brought us The Wire. The same keen dramatic eye they brought to the city of Baltimore is played out here in the more narrowly-focused world of military command, and with the sheer power of realism they have created some of the tensest war scenes I've seen. I probably don't have to add that there's some subtle and not-so-subtle political commentary as well.
The first season of this HBO series suffered from several flaws, including a half-hearted attempt to be a Mormon polygamist version of Desperate Housewives. It's still a flawed show, often teetering on the edge of contrivance (sort of like Six Feet Under), but the current season has gotten a lot darker, and more willing to explore the lesser known aspects of Mormon culture.
Real Time with Bill Maher
Sometimes this show has the best political commentary on TV (like the first episode this season with Chrystia Freeland, Tina Brown, and Rep. Maxine Waters on the panel) and sometimes it's painful to watch (like Friday's episode with Michael Eric Dyson and Andrew Breitbart). But on average, it makes even the best of cable news embarrassing to watch.
This is probably the least consistent show I've ever watched to completion. I can't wait to see the season finale this Friday so I never have to watch this show again.
On the other hand, Lost is really good! It faltered during seasons 2 and 3, but they've found their voice during the past two. This is the only solid sci-fi entertainment I can find right now. (Please, help!)
Those of you who have read my thoughts on Beowulf 3D know that I'm a big promoter of 3D cinema, and Coraline 3D just took it to another level. Since it was filmed with stop-motion animation, watching it felt like I was miniaturized and placed into its fascinating world. And the story and art design are very good, surpassing The Nightmare Before Christmas, I think.
I enjoyed many parts of this movie, but overall the experience was ruined for me by Zack Snyder's ham-handed directorial style, especially the musical selections and over-heightened sense of violence. Surprisingly, I thought the acting was solid, and the story was handled somewhat well. I'm afraid this is the type of movie which makes viewers less likely to read the source material, which is unfortunate as Alan Moore's comic book is a subtler read.
The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists)
I've heard some good music this year, but I want to comment only on this new album from The Decemberists for now. I absolutely loved The Crane Wife, partly for its operatic rock feel. I was disappointed with my first listen to The Hazards of Love, partially because I found the subject matter fairly uninteresting for a pseudo-rock opera, but it's really grown on me with several listens, particularly the parts with Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond singing the role of The Queen.
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