M and I are off to Bloomington for campus visit number five today, so it is a perfect day to drop this list on you.
Movies, Series, Shows
Somebody Feed Phil, season one
Crap, I forgot to include this in my June entry. After watching the Anthony Bourdain film, I tried to find something similar to his classic shows to scratch my food/travel/culture show itch. This came pretty close.
The show is far funnier than any of Bourdain’s and never tries to be as arty. Phil Rosenthal isn’t a chef – he’s an actor/writer/producer – and he doesn’t try to break down food the way Bourdain did. But he is equally as good at finding interesting people along his travels and telling their stories. He doesn’t always connect with them the way Bourdain did, but their stories still shine.
Another big difference is that Rosenthal seems like a far sunnier and more optimistic person than Bourdain was. That’s why he can do an episode in Israel and focus on how there are areas where Arabs and Jews live in peace and harmony and suggest that gives hope for the entire country. I can’t say that Bourdain would take that same positive angle.
Stranger Things, season four
Expectations and experience. That sums up how you evaluate a popular, returning show like Stranger Things.
The issue here is that the first season of ST was as good as any season of any show. And, to me, seasons two and three fell well short of its mark (my daughters disagree).
Season four doesn’t match season one; I’m not sure that’s possible. But I found it much better than seasons two and three.
The big issue, and I knock it down a notch because of this, was the sheer length of episodes. There was absolutely no need to have the final episode last nearly two and a half hours. Or have several others stretch beyond 90 minutes. Come on, Duffer Brothers, edit yourselves!
I also thought the Hopper timeline in the Soviet Union was, largely, a waste of time until the finale, when it was shoehorned it into what was going on back in Hawkins.
Those issues aside, the story was better and more interesting than it had been in three seasons. I don’t think the magic of season one can be recaptured, mostly because the kids aren’t really kids anymore and they can’t show that wide-eyed innocence and belief that came with being younger. The strongest part of the season was when the kids were together struggling to battle Vecna. The scene where Lucas held a (assumed) dead Max was maybe the most powerful of the entire four seasons, and a tremendous acting performance by Caleb McLaughlin.
I think a lot of fat could have been stripped from the script, the focus kept on the kids, and you would have had a much tighter and better season.
30 For 30: Once Upon A Time In Queens
I’ve read Jeff Pearlman’s book about the 1986 Mets. This expands on that and is filled with great footage and interviews. I never knew the thing about Roger Clemens shaving after he came out of game six. Or that the Red Sox had 16 pitches they could have won the World Series on before Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner had their moment.
Norm McDonald: Nothing Special
A fascinating show. Shortly before undergoing surgery to treat the cancer that eventually killed him, McDonald sat down in front of his computer and recorded the set he was working on, just in case he was never able to perform it. Which turned out to be the case. It is strange watching a comedy set without an audience that the performer built in moments in which he would react to/interact with the crowd.
The set is followed by a roundtable amongst David Letterman, Dave Chappelle, Molly Shannon, Conan O’Brian, Adam Sandler, and David Spade in which they discuss both the piece and their experiences with McDonald.
The whole thing is very interesting if a little unsettling.
Better Call Saul, season six
I waited until about a week ago to start the final season of BCS. I made it up to episode nine and had to take a breather. That episode was a nearly perfect 90 minutes of TV. In reality, not much happened. It was more about how the surviving characters dealt with the aftermath of some massive developments in episode eight. It was so expertly written, shot, and acted, though, that it didn’t matter that there wasn’t much action. It was brilliant high point of one of the best shows ever.
At the end of season five there was a scene between Lalo Salamanca, Kim Wexler, and Jimmy McGill that I called one of the greatest I had ever watched. That scene was carried by Rhea Seehorn, who plays Wexler. She may have topped that with her performance in S6, E8 when she makes one of the coldest ass speeches her character has ever made, and then finally cracks under the pressure of everything she and Jimmy have been doing. Give her the damn Emmy, cowards!
Most importantly it seems like, in the final moments of that episode, we crossed over from the gravitational pull of Better Call Saul into the more direct influence of Breaking Bad. Maybe I’ll be surprised when I watch episode ten that there is still “BCS* territory to navigate but that was my impression when the final scene faded from the screen.
I tried not to read much about this when it first came out, but was aware of the tricks Sam Mendes used to make the film appear to be a single, continuous shot. So it was fun to catch the little breaks that allowed him to build that illusion.
I was more fascinated by the sheer genius that went into filming the scenes themselves. How did they build a massive trench complex and battlefield filled with craters and barbed wire and faux corpses that the actors could stumble through for minutes at a time? And then how did they film traveling, close up shots when the actors were struggling not to fall on their asses in the mud? Just an amazing act of photography.
The story was also great, although I kept feeling the influences of Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk.
The Office Season Four Bloopers
I laughed. I bet you will, too.
Adventures of A+K
My millennials made it to Alaska!
Kansas Beats Soviet National Team
I remember watching this game live, and am bummed only these bits seem to be available on YouTube. I was also convinced KU was going to win the national title that year after they beat the Soviets. I was only a year off…
“A Slice of Paradise” – A short film by Liam Tangum and No Laying Up
I am a native Kansan, with roots deep in the central part of the state. But, let’s face it: since I mostly grew up in Kansas City there’s a lot about my home state I don’t know. Like this aspect of high school golf, for example.
24 Hours Alone on the Washington Coast
Everything about this is gorgeous.
Still As It Was
I could do this for a weekend. But people who choose to live like this strike me as slightly mad.
We have a few trips planned over the next nine months, so I’ve dived into videos about packing, travel bags, etc. It’s really kind of disturbing how much time I’ve spent watching them, and plotting how to buy new gear when already have a lot of perfectly good travel gear in the house. Rather than share all the videos I’ve watched, I’ll share a few of my favorites.
I’m a little addicted to both the Pack Hacker website and their videos.
I’ve been getting Carryology’s emails for years, but now their videos are part of my obsession, err, research process.
Packing Tips for Men – What to Pack & Wear in Europe
This video has nearly cost me thousands of dollars in new purchases.
I have a bunch of PD camera gear already. I have my eye on their travel gear now, too.
One Shining Moment | KU Edition
As a KU super fan, I quibble with some moments that aren’t in here. But there are some pretty cool random ones, notably Calvin Rayford straight picking Damon Bailey in the 1993 Elite Eight.