A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Brief Asides #2

Welcome to the second installment of Brief Asides, the monthly column within a blog that briefly (hence the title) touches on various things that have occurred to me lately.  As I’d like to keep this whole thing to 800 words or so, let’s get started.

If the purpose of the Oscars is to draw attention to little-seen films of merit, then it is doing an excellent job.  If the purpose of the Oscars is to celebrate and acknowledge excellence among all types of films- the huge ones that fill theaters as well as smaller art-house movies- then perhaps an overhaul is needed.  I’ll probably write a little more on this topic via its own post.

Speaking of big-budget movies that fill theaters, I finally caught Pacific Rim, the 2013 movie about huge robots fighting huge monsters, on cable.  I know this won’t be a very popular opinion, but despite the artistic pedigree provided by Guillermo del Toro’s name in the screenwriting and directing credits, I didn’t think the movie was much better than Michael Bay’s Transformers movies.  But maybe the writer/director wouldn’t disagree with me, as he’s stated he just wanted to make something fun.  Anyway, it’s worth a look, even if you’re not a rabid fan of big robots and big monsters slugging it out.

Moving through A Dance With Dragons, the most recent book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series (currently being adapted into HBO’s Game of Thrones series), I’m still enjoying the story.  However, I find myself agreeing with many of the fan reviews online that express frustration over excessive bloat in the last couple of series entries, stating that too much attention is given to too many third-tier characters and plotlines, the pace is a too stately,  and there aren’t enough big, dramatic happenings. 

To be sure, the latest book or two are still enjoyable as an immersive experience in an interesting fantasy world, but they’re not the must-read page-turners of the first three.  And I’ve been doing the novels on audio, which almost always makes a book better and more fun, because someone else is doing the work of reading it, as well as providing an entertaining acting performance.  So, while artistic freedom is still a definite ideal in the creative world, more and more I’m seeing the value of the vulgar notion of a writer having to listen to an editor telling him or her to keep things moving and to be entertaining.  The television show has certainly been on the right track, dramatizing the best aspects of Martin’s story and jettisoning the excess.

Moving right along, via my cable system’s On Demand function, I’m about halfway through ABC’s seven or eight episode “series event” Agent Carter, or more precisely, Marvel’s Agent Carter.  Set in the late 1940’s and featuring lavish sets and costumes, secret agent Peggy Carter battles international crime as part of an agency that eventually becomes the SHIELD organization of the Marvel movies. 

Story-wise, the show is only a little better than okay so far, pretty good but not spectacular, which is how I feel about Marvel’s Agents of Shield (I pretty much like the Marvel movies a lot better than the Marvel TV shows).  But unlike that other show, Marvel’s Agent Carter will wrap up its entire story at the end of its small handful of episodes, and isn’t requiring me to make a long-term commitment to its modest pleasures.  I like that.  And if the series comes back, it’ll be in the form of another small batch of episodes.  Kudos to ABC and Marvel for trying to be a little innovative in its story telling.  Not everything on network TV has to consist of hundreds of episodes spanning six or seven years.  I’m a lot more willing to watch and enjoy “pretty good” if there’s a definite end in sight, and sooner rather than later.

The second half of the current season of AMC’s The Walking Dead recently commenced, and the three episodes shown at this point have been pretty solid, though so far they’re definitely emphasizing slow-burn emotions (especially fear and despair) over big action set-pieces.  But the stories have been compelling, being mostly about the difficulty of surviving on the road without the walls and security of a home base.  Though, from the looks of things, that last plot point may soon change.  But for the better?  We’ll see.

HBO’s Last Week With John Oliver, now back for its second season, continues to be a fun way to keep up with current news and issues.  In thirty minutes you’ll be brought up to speed on all kinds of current events and you’ll laugh a lot in the process.  So, even if The Daily Show tanks or experiences a reduction in quality after John Stewart’s departure, we’ll at least still have John Oliver keeping everyone honest...  and entertained.

Well, that’s it for this month’s dose of stream of consciousness.  Regular, more thoughtfully-developed posts will now resume, until Brief Asides returns sometime in March.  Be good, and if you live in the East, stay warm!

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