Movies, Series, Shows

Ozark, season four, part two
Ozark found its groove in season three and maintained that into the first half of season four. S4, E8, which kicked off the last half of the final season, was one of the best hours in the series’ total run. And then things kind of fell apart. That tension I loved so much from the first half of the season drifted away. It seemed like there was a lot of killing the clock to get to the end. A lot of moments that felt like repeats of earlier moments. And then an underwhelming finale to cap it off. I kind of knew (SPOILER ALERT) that Ruth wouldn’t survive, unlike Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. It still bummed me out she had to die. As I’ve said all along, this was a series where there were never any truly good or innocent people to root for. So perhaps that unsatisfying ending was appropriate if not the most artful or memorable end to the series. For a moment it challenged the greatest dramas of the current age of TV – Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, The Americans – but in the end, it was entertaining but not the all-timer those shows were.


The Courier
I remember this being compared to James Bond films when it was first released. It took place in the Sixties, (mostly) in England, there was a stylish element to how it was shot, and a lightness to its dialogue and performances. But it was never as silly as classic Bonds, nor as action-packed as any movie from that series. It was a still a smart, very well done spy flick with a pretty brutal last 30 minutes.


Primal Survivor: Escape the Amazon
I used to watch shows like this, the whole “adventurer doing something crazy in the wild” type show, quite a bit. I grew disillusioned with them because they became increasingly contrived, or focused on being different versions of Survivor. And I hated how the standard became to really ramp up the drama with shaky video and special effects, as if some dude trying to walk across the Sahara or whatever wasn’t dramatic enough.

Anyway, in this series adventurer Hazen Audel is tasked with traversing the length of the South American country of Guayana, in the Amazon Biome, as the rainy season hits. All he has is a machete, a backpack, and his knowledge of the region and a lifetime of adventuring. Kind of cool, if you’re into that kind of thing.

But they still do the same shit with these shows, with quick cuts, sped up video, and other techniques to make the show look edgy and the danger look worse than it is. With like 30 years of knowledge of these kinds of shows, I’m also better attuned to how many of the “dramatic” shots were done after the fact.

It was a cool adventure. I would have been more interested in seeing how it really went, and not how the producers wanted it to look, though.


Strapped: South Carolina
As my obsession with golf flagged last summer – thanks pre-arthritic wrists – so to did my consumption of No Laying Up’s various shows and pods. But golf twitter was abuzz about the latest season of Strapped, so I checked it out. It did not disappoint. What turned into NLU’s best series several seasons ago took an unexpected and touching turn in season 10. Episode three is one of the most delightful things they’ve ever done, and was an emotional viewing experience for anyone who has come to admire and love the crew’s work.


A Week in the Life: Stanford Women’s Golf
The NLU boys have begun to branch out into content that isn’t travel related. This is the best work of that tangent so far, an in-depth look at the Stanford women’s golf team. There is a ridiculous amount of talent on that squad, especially Rachel Heck and Rose Zhang. (The Cardinal just won the team national championship and Zhang just won the individual title.) The real revelation is coach Anne Walker, who seems like the perfect coach.


The Kids in the Hall
The Kids are back! I spent a lot of time watching the classic Kids in the Hall shows, mostly on the repeats that aired on Comedy Central well into early ‘00s. I never saw their much-maligned Brain Candy movie, so I was cautiously optimistic about them putting together a new season. I loved it. I had forgotten about how random they could be. There were plenty of sketches that made no sense to me. But I admired the ambition. The sketches that worked for me, though, worked 100%. I’m disappointed the Chicken Lady didn’t make a return, and dock them a notch because of that. But this was better than it had any business being.


Our Great National Parks
I prefer my ex-presidents to do cool things like this instead of subverting democracy.


Adventures of A+K: Journey to Alaska
As you’ll see below in the Shorts section, I got sucked into watching tons of travel and adventure videos last month. All that led to this, a series that is still in progress, featuring a husband and wife who are traveling from Austin, TX to Alaska.

They kind of annoy me, with their Millennial ways. I generally watch it at 1.25-to–1.5 speed to try to mitigate that. But this seems like a freaking awesome trip. The Big Sur episode in particular has some absolutely stunning visuals. I think S is getting worried that I’m watching so many videos like this, as she is decidedly not a camper nor a person who would enjoy traveling like this.


Tokyo Vice
I’m about halfway through this, so it gets an Incomplete for now.

Our Father
I wrapped up the month with this light-hearted look at a single dad trying to stay afloat in an increasingly crazy world…

Lord, I wish that’s what this show was about.

No, if you haven’t seen this, or read about it, it is about the Indianapolis fertility doctor who lied to his patients and used his own sperm rather than donor sperm for decades. At latest count he is the confirmed biological father of 94 people, most of whom live in the Indianapolis area, who believed they were the product of either their presumed father’s DNA, or that of an anonymous donor. It’s a truly fucked up story and I really hope that if the God this doc believes in exists, that God punishes him for eternity when his time comes.

Two points of personal interest. 1) My father-in-law was in the same high school class as this doc. Fun! 2) I know at least two people whose parents were defrauded by this fuck. I know one pretty well. I’ve only had one brief conversation with her about this, and I tread lightly as I know discovering the truth of her paternity was a massive shock to her entire family. It was a weird feeling to see her picture included in one of the collages of “kid” pics late in the piece. I could write a lot more about what I know of her experience, but that seemed better suited to a real life conversation than a blog post.

Big props to local TV anchor Angela Ganote, who was the only person with any power who helped the poor people who were trying to get some kind of support from any level of government. They never got justice in the court system, but at least the truth is out.


Shorts, Etc

(A quick note that I’ve decided to stop grading these shorts. That seems kind of silly and I’m surprised I did it for so long.)

Kansas Jayhawks Top Plays of the 2010s
Top plays from a barren era of KU hoops. Why, we didn’t win a single national championship in this decade!

Hiking 45 Miles Alone on the Grand Teton Loop
Hiking the Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park
Two different podcasts I listened to suggested this guy’s videos, and I’m nothing if not willing to take suggestions on YouTube content from other content providers I trust. There are a ton of videos similar to this guy’s – as you’ll see below – and I was fascinated by the combination of incredible visuals, zen-like simplicity, and the obligatory gear-sesh at the end. I seriously think YouTube runs as much on gear vids as it does racially-motivated hate or copyright infringement. Anyway, this tweaked my YT algorithm and I fell into a pretty deep rut of other videos in the same vein.

The Last Wilderness of Scotland – A canoe expedition into a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands
Wild Scotland – Beyond the NC500 (1 month camping, bothying & hiking in the Highlands & Islands)
How To Do The North Coast 500
Don’t watch one video about adventuring in Scotland because soon that’s all you’ll be watching.

Iceland – 4×4 Winter Road Trip
Not sure what was more fun about this video: the stunning visuals or the host’s very good but still very European English narration.

Camino Portuguese Documentary: When The End Is Just The Beginning
I think these long hikes are pretty cool. But taking your two-year-old along with you seems like an absolute nightmare. I’m sure he wasn’t always as delightful as he is in the video, right?

Two friends, five days & 110km of Swedish wilderness
Solo Hiking 115km in the Pyrenees
The Mountains
It’s amazing what you can do with a drone and a generous travel budget.

52 hrs on Amtrak Sleeper Train – Chicago to San Francisco
I think this looks like a pretty cool way to travel.

3 days solo camping in ice, rain, sleet and snow
I would have taken a tent, but that’s just me.

Actual vs. Deleted Cold Opens | The Office Season 2 Superfan Episodes
I’m a sucker for deleted The Office scenes.

Why is Denali So Tall?
I heard Casey Kasem say, on an old AT40, that Denali was one of the three highest mountains in the world. I knew that was wrong, and looked it up to confirm. Turns out there are different ways of measuring a mountain’s height, and by one of those measures, Denali is in fact on of the highest peaks in the works. That tidbit is included in this piece.

Arctic Midnight Sun – 24 hour time lapse
Total Solar Eclipse, March 20, 2015 – Spitsbergen, Arctic
Both of these are cool, but the second is incredibly cool.

The Making of Casino Royale(s) was a Sh*t Show
A bit of a dishonest headline here. This is more about the nearly 50-year struggle to get Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale novel turned into a proper Bond film than some dirt on the making of the first Daniel Craig edition in the series.

Why Indonesia is Moving Their Capital City
I didn’t know anything about this. Crazy stuff.

Indigo Traveller in Ukraine
Day 1: Arriving in Ukraine During War
Walking Ukraine’s Destroyed Streets in War
Indigo Traveller has bopped into Ukraine to show the world some of the effects of the current war there. Each time you grow frustrated at the price of gas, remember Putin’s illegal war is the biggest cause.