Monday, February 23, 2015

The 2015 Oscars, in 50 words or less

Let's see how close I can come:
  1. How did Michael Keaton NOT win?
  2. I'm not frequently disappointed by Neil Patrick Harris. But I was here.
  3. We were coming up on the four-hour mark ... for what turned out to be the lowest-rated ceremony since 2009. Do you think the two are related?
  4. No, seriously: how did Michael Keaton NOT win?
  5. They should never let John Travolta near the stage again. 
Sixty-six words. Damn ... even I ran long just talking about the show ....

Till death do we part

Two recent news articles have strengthened my faith in pop culture's place in our lives.

Death is the topic of both articles, unfortunately. But how those deaths embraced the passions of the deceased is nothing short of touching.

  • Renato Garcia passed away at the too-young age of 50, and his wake featured the man propped up and dressed as Green Lantern, in a costume he'd apparently taken a liking to shortly before his passing.
  • Stephen Merrill, meanwhile, passed away at the even younger age of 31. The official cause of death is likely cancer -- details are not provided -- but Stephen's friends and family published an obituary blaming the cause of death on an uppercut by Batman. Yes, you read that right. An uppercut. By Batman. Evidently, Stephen was a huge comics fan, and those who knew him best figured he'd appreciate the gesture.

We've all experienced loss in our lives. During those times, we reach out for something to hold onto, something that provides structure and security yet allows us to remember and grieve: religious ceremony, family gatherings, friends ... the list goes on. That both Renato's and Stephen's families chose to honor their memories in such ways does not strike me as odd or, worse yet, something to mock. It strikes me as heartfelt and sincere. It reminds me of how, in good times or bad, the culture with which we choose to infuse our lives can mean so much more than simply an afternoon in a movie theater, or checking out new comics every Wednesday, or reading a book. It can have powerful and healing resonance during our lives, yes, but it can be just as vital as we shuffle off this mortal coil.

Dressed as Green Lantern, for instance. Or maybe as the result of an uppercut from Batman.

Monday, February 16, 2015

You should maybe watch this: TableTop

I'm not entirely certain what led me to watch my first episode of Wil Wheaton's gaming show TableTop. It's not as if I counted myself among the target audience: I'd never actually played a tabletop game -- well, not counting "Life" or "Sorry"-- and blithely walked past those for sale at the comic shops and bookstores I've frequented over the years.

Cloudy provenance aside, I did find my way to the show and am glad I did ... despite the fact that:

  1. The idea of watching people play a board game just sounds ... odd. Until you take into consideration that gameplay videos are huge online, and millions of people watch grown men play games like football and basketball despite the fact that many of those same viewers are completely competent enough to, you know, go to a park and play one of those games themselves. Sometimes, we all just like to watch. 
  2. The show often features guests I've never heard of before in my life. That's not a bad thing, per se. I'm just saying that it might be easier to understand the appeal of the show if its guest list paralleled favorite performers of mine. (No offense to folks like Nika Harper, Sandeep Parikh or Michael Swaim.) 
  3. Even with its phenomenal post-Kickstarter budget, the show never really strays from a table. Admittedly, there's usually a couch at the end, and intermittent "talking head" spots, but, really, it's just folks sitting around a table.

So, are you pumped? Feeling really thrilled to watch and episode or two? You should, and here's why:

  • Wheaton typically does a darn good job of bringing folks together who really seem to enjoy one another's company.
  • The show's aesthetic, modest as it is, adds to the charm. C'mon, how many times do you really want to point your eyes at $100 million of CGI?
  • The game is always the star of the show, and some of these look very entertaining. (Yes, I've purchased a few after seeing them on TableTop.)

I want to save you a bit of a trip -- clicking a hyperlink can be really difficult, after all -- so here's one of my favorite episodes, featuring, among others, Garfunkel and Oates' Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome.

You can check out more game play right here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Aliza and Mike, at the bar

This is a nice, brief comic. Go read it. No, really. Right now.

(Hat tip to The Comics Reporter.)

Catching up

Hey, can you turn that light on? I'm back.

Let's see what's changed during my hiatus:

They went with Colbert. I'm trying to come up with other times we've seen a performer shed a 24/7 character, like the uber-yet-faux conservative "Stephen Colbert," in favor of their own true -- or at least true-ish -- self, like Stephen Colbert without the quote marks.


  • The Rock was a WWE performer before becoming movie star Dwayne Johnson. 
  • Bobcat Goldthwait had an act that he just seemed to carry around all the time, until eventually becoming a guy who didn't stammer-shriek constantly.
  • Russell Brand looks like he's going to hold onto his for a bit longer yet.

I'm sure there are more. Sure of it.


They stuck the landing. Don't misunderstand how crucial this is to a show like True Detective. Just ask Lost. Or Seinfeld. Or The Sopranos. After investing all of that effort into creating something, I'd imagine the LAST thing you'd want to do is have your fans walk away disappointed, or, worst, disgruntled. Didn't happen here.

I'd like to also mention Netflix's The Fall, which started out with such promise and face-planted its ENTIRE second season, down to shamelessly aping Silence of the Lambs at one point. I'll likely have more on this a little down the line.


I was right to be bullish on Jimmy Fallon. Except I think he'll be on way, WAY longer than 10 years.


Patton Oswalt is still deserving of your love. And his new book is great.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It's real dark ... Inside Llewyn Davis

Not the laff riot you've been led to expect.

Why haven't I seen reviews that talk about the kinda-prominent supernatural/horror angle of Inside Llewyn Davis? No, I'm not kidding and, no, this isn't really much of a spoiler: you have the sense that something is up from practically the first scene.

Entertainment Weekly seems to dance around the issue with its review, using words like "spooky" and "hauntingly." And there are certainly readings of the Coen brothers film that don't require invoking "horror" as I just did, but ... man, it's right there. At the beginning, in the middle, at the end.

If, as I was, you're putting off the film because folk music isn't your thing, give it a second thought.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Stop the presses! It's a Lili Taylor post!

They look angry because it's difficult
holding that much talent in check.
I was reminded recently of the TV program Deadline starring Lili Taylor. Well, it technically "starred" Oliver Platt, but Taylor was part of an ensemble that included not just Platt and Taylor but also Tom Conti, Bebe Neuwirth and Hope Davis.

Alas, the show simply wasn't as good as its premise and cast would lead you to believe. Bummer. My Taylor fix must be filled nowadays by Almost Human (a decent show I hope realizes its potential during season two) and Hemlock Grove (which I cannot tell you anything about because I literally just fast forward to all the parts with Taylor).