February 6, 2014

The World That I See: Reads and Listens #2


Last weekend, I saw one of the odder stage shows that you’ll likely see in a large theater. Alton Brown is known as the host of many Food Network shows, and he’s taken his act to the road. The live show had a goofy mix of silly food presentations and songs performed by Brown’s trio. The music was not good, but it was an entertaining night for the most part.

I’ve also been reading the book Citizens of London thanks to a recommendation from Steve Honeywell. It depicts several Americans who worked in London during World War II and played a key role in getting the U.S. to join the conflict. This includes Edward R. Murrow, memorably depicted by David Strathairn in Good Night, and Good Luck. You should definitely check it out if you get the chance.

Beyond those activities, I’ve been checking out my usual horde of blogs and podcasts, including this fine group of examples:

One of the major stories was the sad news about the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who’s delivered so many great performances. Plenty of fans wrote pieces describing their love of his work, including this fine post from Slate’s Dana Stevens. She really captures the essence of what made him unforgettable.


The Oscars are approaching rapidly, and it’s easy to get drawn into the hype of what should win the top prizes. There have been strange nominations and wins in the past, and many have come thanks to Harvey Weinstein. In this intriguing article from Vulture, Jesse David Fox outlines some of the inventive ways that he’s ensured the success of his projects. It’s another reason to not get too invested in the Oscars.

In more upbeat news, Jandy at The Frame has decided that 2014 will be the Year of Positivity. She accurately describes the growing culture of extremes on the Internet that serves little purpose. Having a young daughter has made it more challenging to get to the theaters, and I’m in a similar boat. Jandy’s going to focus on the positive aspects of movies in her writing, and I can’t disagree with that approach.

I’m not a big fan of posts that question Oscar results, but there are exceptions if the writing is sharp. Steve Honeywell at 1001 Plus has started a series where he catches up with Best Picture winners and then ranks them. His latest “Oscar Got It Wrong!” piece looks at 1948, a ceremony that included The Red Shoes and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre among its nominees. I’m right with Steve with his thoughts on both films, and he discusses several lesser-known films that haven’t maintained the staying power of those choices.


Writing about the James Bond franchise always draws my attention, and there is a great series happening at Confessions of a Geek Mind. This U.K. blogger is ranking the entire run of Bond films and has just posted his #4 choice of Goldfinger. I don’t agree with every pick but also wouldn’t put Bond’s signature film at the top. The writing delves into more than just a review and digs into the cultural context for the movie’s impact.

Recent trends in the theme park universe seem to require existing intellectual property with every attraction. Disney has also been moving to add more characters to its existing rides, particularly at EPCOT. Robert Niles at the Theme Park Insider makes a case against these moves and for non-fiction theme parks. I’m completely on board with his points and hope a few executives share this take. I have pretty strong doubts, of course.


One of my favorite podcasts is NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, and they had a fascinating discussion this week about the Grammys. The panel always does a great job balancing entertainment with larger issues, and this week is fine example. Gene Demby from the Code Switch blog joined to talk about Macklemore’s wins and appropriation in hip-hop. It’s a fair and intriguing conversation that delves into more than just the impact of the awards.

Finally, I have two young daughters and am frequently saddened by efforts in our culture to silence and marginalize women. There are prevailing norms that we’re still a long way from addressing in a meaningful way. This article from Salon’s Soraya Chemaly addresses this issue in terms of the push back against women having friends and joining together to buck the system. I’ve end with this quote from the piece:

“What’s the benefit of telling children that powerful women can’t work together (despite the obvious untruth of this), that women don’t help one another (when they clearly do) and that they are destined to be dependent and peripheral (when they are so clearly struggling not to be)?

The clearest and simplest explanation is that it perpetuates institutionalized male domination of families, politics, media and the economy.”

Have you read or listened to anything remarkable that you’d like to spotlight?

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the mention.

    Also, I'm happy that you're enjoying Citizens of London. I found it fascinating, and it made me appreciate Murrow on a completely new level.

    Sadly, I agree with you on the marginalization of women as well. I also have two daughters, and we have had (and will continue to have) a number of conversations about the way women are depicted in the media and in advertising.

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    1. No problem, Steve. I can tell that I'm really into Citizens of London because it's taking me a really long time to read it. I'm only a little over 100 pages in, and I'm moving slowly because it's so good.

      It's distressing to note that we still have a long way to go in the depiction of women. It's driving me to watch a lot more films from female directors, and I'm definitely reading a good deal more about the issue.

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  2. That James Bond series at Confessions of a Geek Mind sounds interesting!

    You ask for other remarkable posts?
    Bonjour Tristesse is doing daily coverage of Berlin Film Festival: http://www.bonjourtristesse.net/

    NeverTooEarlyMP put a lot of work into a massive list called "Every Film Ever Nominated For An Academy Award In Any Category" Interestingly I had seen 19%.
    http://letterboxd.com/nevertooearlymp/list/every-film-ever-nominated-for-an-academy/

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    1. Chris, you're ahead of me on that Letterboxd list. I've seen all of 16%, though I may check it later to ensure I didn't forget to rate anything. I would have expected it to be higher. I'll definitely have to check out Bonjour Tristesse's festival coverage. Thanks for the recommendations!

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