April 17, 2014

The World That I See: Reads and Listens #12

I’ve yet to mention the end of Television Without Pity, which was one of my regular sites for a long time. What really sucked me in were the extensive recaps of The Amazing Race and Survivor by “Miss Alli”, known today as Linda Holmes from NPR’s Monkey See blog. The early seasons of those shows were much different than how they are viewed today. Survivor was a phenomenon with huge viewing numbers but wasn’t as focused on the strategy like today. The Amazing Race was a less popular upstart with diehard fans loving it and hoping for just another season each time. I read the very long recaps of each episode, and that experience just added to the fun. I haven’t kept up with TWOP as much in recent years, but I still have fond memories of digging into the long posts after each new episode.

Here are some interesting blogs and podcasts that are definitely worth your time:

Speaking of Holmes, her warm piece about Say Anything has an excellent grasp on what makes it so affecting 25 years later. She describes how it’s more than your standard teen love story for so many reasons. The label of Lloyd Dobler as “perhaps the single most human 19-year-old that the films of the '80s and '90s gave to us” might sound like a stretch, but there’s some real truth to it. What I love about Cameron Crowe is the heart in his films, even the less interesting ones. That compassion is everywhere in this movie, and Holmes’ piece makes me want to watch it again very soon.

One of my favorite ongoing blog series is “In Character” from Alex Withrow at And So It Begins. He picks a character actor that’s a familiar face but not might be a household name and spotlights the top roles from that person’s career. His latest subject is Gary Cole, who is widely known as Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. That only tells a small part of the story, however. I first saw Cole in the TV series American Gothic as the evil Sheriff Lucas Buck. He’s delivered so many great performances over the years, including Kent Davison in Veep. Alex does great work on his blog, and his spotlight on Cole is just another example of why you should be reading his work.

Lauren Brooks always has plenty to say at Man I Love Films, and her column this week is one of her most interesting pieces. She tackles the auteur theory and its limitations on interpretations in film criticism. While I think it can be applied to certain figures in cinema history, I agree that the director is given too much emphasis in the final outcome is a movie. Of course, I have a feeling that new obstacles would arise that might distract us from having more complex discussions. Regardless, it’s an interesting topic that deserves more attention. Lauren is the right person for the job.

Steve Honeywell at 1001 Plus always has plenty to say, and I’m right with him with his take on Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. I admire it greatly, yet watching it a second time doesn’t sound very exciting. It’s a gorgeous film with interesting performances, especially from Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. Even so, there’s something about the movie that pushes me away. I’ve seen Magnolia plenty of times, but Anderson is working on a much different plane with his last movie.

I’ll close this week in a much different sphere with the world of theme parks. One of the best Disney blogs is Passport to Dreams Old and New despite the infrequent posting schedule. Foxxfur’s latest essay moves across town to Universal Orlando to explore The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride. It’s one of the most stunning achievements that I’ve ever seen in themed entertainment. The combination of 3D visual effects and physical sets works so perfectly, and the attraction is so much fun. This post delves into why it works so well and compares it to the similar Transformers attraction at that resort. Here’s an excerpt that summarizes the article’s points:

Although Spider-Man's 2012 visual upgrade has helped close the gap between the two rides in many respects, Spidey is still an intentionally cartoonier experience. I often decry tooniness in my articles, but it just works like gangbusters in Spider-Man. Spidey has an immediacy lacking from the usual take-you-inside-the-cartoon visual vocabulary employed successfully by, say, Roger Rabbit's Car-Toon Spin (which it vaguely resembles). Some of this can be attributed to Universal Creative's successful adaptation to the tone of comic books and pulp adventure serials: crazy action with a healthy seasoning of sarcasm. The villains in Spider-Man are absurd: instead of simply trying to kill you for discovering their secret hideout they take time to terrorize you with various objects (electrical plugs, pumpkin bombs, tongues) in a way that makes nearly no sense at all but adds to the sense of lighthearted menace. This same ride wouldn't work with Batman villains.


  1. Wow, Dan, thank you so much for those kind words. You've been such a steadfast supporter of In Character since its inception, and I so appreciate it. We seem to share an overall admiration for character actors, and man, that's what it's all about.

    Thanks again buddy, I really do appreciate it.

    1. No problem, Alex! It's well-deserved, and the In Character series is a favorite.

  2. I'm always pleased when someone who's opinion I respect matches mine. Thanks for the mention.

  3. TWOP closing is a bummer. I got a lot of amusement out of their recaps. I didn't really read it, but hearing that FearNet is getting absorbed sounded like a pretty crappy situation too. It sucks when sites like these just lose control and all the work is lost.

    1. I didn't follow FearNet either, but it's never good to see these long-term sites fall apart. I do feel like TWOP was never the same after it was purchased, but I also didn't read it as much due to time. I did hear that the work would end up being out there, hopefully.