Monday, July 31, 2006

media update: July

I got more reading/viewing done than usual this month, chiefly because it was too fucking hot to do anything else! Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. Eye Contact* by Cammie McGovern: An autistic little boy is the only witness to the murder of his classmate, and his mother must try to find out exactly what he knows. A unique concept, brilliantly executed.

2. Calling Out by Rae Meadows: A woman working as a receptionist for an escort agency winds up working as an escort herself. Clichéd.

3. 24 Karat Kids by Dr. Judy Goldstein and Sebastian Stuart: A pediatrician joins an Upper East Side practice that caters to the kids of the very rich and famous. It's an amusing trifle, although I'm still not sure how she managed to get positive blurbs from both Gregory Maguire and Woody Allen. Since the author is a pediatrician in New York City herself, I'm thinking some logrolling might be involved.

4. Baby Proof* by Emily Giffin: Claudia Parr, the protagonist, marries a man who doesn't want children any more than she does...and then he changes his mind. Most chick lit is utter trash, but Giffin is one of the rare authors that's a credit to the genre.

5. The Abortionist's Daughter* by Elisabeth Hyde: The suspicious death of a prominent abortion doctor opens up a particularly ugly can of worms in this riveting novel. (And no, don't think the irony of this one following #4 escaped my notice!)

6. The Ruins* by Scott Smith: A group of vacationers in Mexico befriend a fellow tourist whose brother has disappeared. They decide to go in search of the brother, and very, very, very bad things happen. This book takes some time to get going, but once it does, it doesn't let up; if the accursed need to sleep hadn't kicked in, I would have read this in one sitting. Be warned, you do NOT want to eat while reading this. Seriously.

Read so far this year: 30


1. The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones by Anthony Bourdain: The famous chef weighs in on various culinary topics. (My inner Beavis adds: "Uh huh huh huh...trim...uh huh huh huh...bone...")

2. A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson: A beautifully illustrated account of the author's stay in Japan.

3. Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case by Diane Dimond: You're going to have "Billie Jean" stuck in your head for the next hour, aren't you?

4. Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants* by Jill Soloway: Essays on topics ranging from Monica Lewinsky and Kobe Bryant to the author's "huge Jewess bush". Hysterically funny, with the occasional sharp pang of truth.

5. Horsemen of the Esophagus* by Jason Fagone: An incisive and engrossing (and occasionally just gross) look into the absurd world of competitive eating contests. I recently read another book on the subject (Eat This Book by Ryan Nerz), but this one is better, and sports a fantastic title to boot.

6. Superstud, or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin* by Paul Feig: These essays about the author's adolescence are literally laugh out loud funny. I was reading this book in bed one night, and I had to clap a hand over my mouth, lest my hysterical chortling wake K or the neighbors.

7. No Touch Monkey!* by Ayun Halliday: A collection of anecdotes, some howlingly funny, some excruciatingly painful and/or gross, from the author's world travels. (And given the opportunity, I will ignore the title, and touch a monkey.)

8. Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence* by Paul Feig: I had to run out and get this after reading #6. It's not quite as good as Superstud, but there were plenty of moments where I burst into hysterical laughter. Feig created the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks, which I've never seen, but now I'm thinking I might have to hunt it down.

9. But Enough About Me: A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous* by Jancee Dunn: The author alternates recollections of some of her more memorable celebrity interviews with personal anecdotes, and it's a fun, breezy, gossipy read. (Extra points for tossing in two lines from a Smiths song without attribution, I assume because---and rightly so---she figured that anyone who caught the reference would feel secretly thrilled, and like part of a geeky but awesome club.)

10. Two for the Road by Jane and Michael Stern: This couple has pretty much the coolest job in the world, which is to drive around the US sampling road food. Fuck this secretarial gig; I want to drive around and eat BBQ and Jell-O cola salad with pretzel nuggets too, dammit!

Read so far this year: 52


1. Swamp Thing: A Murder of Crows by Alan Moore: When I borrowed this from G and mentioned how cool it is that a group of crows is called a murder, he told me that a group of apes is referred to as a shrewdness. That just might be even cooler.

2. Swamp Thing: Earth to Earth* by Alan Moore

3. Swamp Thing: Reunion by Alan Moore

4. Say Cheesy by Darby Conley

5. Royal Seventeen* vol. 2 by Kayono

Read so far this year: 55 volumes


1. Hoodwinked: A cute, albeit poorly animated, Rashomon-like retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It has some clever moments, but it's not exactly essential viewing or anything.

2. Palindromes: Wow, what a strange movie. It's about a 13-year-old girl named Aviva who wants nothing more than to become pregnant. Throughout the movie, she's played by different actresses of varying ages and races (and once by a boy). Roger Ebert once said that you leave a Todd Solondz movie feeling like you've just failed a course in ethics, and that's the case here.

Anyway, I'm not going to star this---it's no Welcome to the Dollhouse (one of my favorite movies of all time; the first time I saw it, I alternated between laughing and crying hysterically because it was so much like my own junior high experiences) or Happiness (the only movie to make me feel sorry for a child molester)---but it's better than Storytelling by a long shot, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'll always watch whatever Todd Solondz does, because even when I'm disappointed, I'm never bored.

3. Rize: A frenetic documentary on the dance style known as krumping, which sprang up in Los Angeles as an alternative to gangs. Interesting, but I was disturbed by footage of children dancing like strippers. As a little girl thrust her pelvis while chewing on a corner of her shirt, exposing her stomach, a fellow dancer said (paraphrased from memory), "You hear a lot of people saying 'Oh, I would never let my kids dance like this,' but there's nothing sexual in it at all." Um, dude, yeah there is. There are perverts who pop boners over Toys R Us flyers; I can only imagine what they'd think of prepubescent krumpers.

4. Flightplan: Not bad, but I'd recommend Red Eye over this one for all your inflight thriller needs.

5. Happy Endings: A quirky set of interconnected stories about people who aren't all that happy. Lisa Kudrow has always bugged the shit out of me, but I have to admit she's great in this (as well as The Opposite of Sex, another---and superior---Don Roos movie). Contender for line of the year: "Who is pro-life, once you start to pay attention?"

6. Pretty Persuasion: A very black comedy about a manipulative teenage girl who cons her friends into accusing a teacher of sexual harrassment. It has some very funny lines and scenes, but man, something near the end left a bad taste in my mouth.

7. Superman Returns: I might have enjoyed this a lot more if I hadn't been about to fall asleep---through no fault of the film, I must add. Still, I did like what I managed to glimpse through my bleary eyes; I'm a sucker for superheroes and 'splosions. (Side note: I couldn't keep my eyes off Superman's crotch, thanks to the Internet rumor that Brandon Routh's bulge had to be digitally minimized because of his colossal package.)

8. The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things: I suppose this movie, which is based on the JT Leroy book about an unbelievably shitty mother and the son she somehow manages to get out of a loving foster home, could be more depressing...but I'm not sure how. The director/star, Asia Argento, is the daughter of Italian horror film genius Dario Argento, but this is more disturbing than anything he's ever done. Sure, he had a ballerina fall through a stained glass ceiling, and he had a teenage Jennifer Connelly fall into a pool of maggots, but he never had a little boy in drag trying to get bloodstains out of his underwear after being anally raped by Marilyn Manson. It's a well-done movie, but my god, is it painful to watch.

9. Oldboy*: A twisty Korean thriller about a guy who's been imprisoned for 15 years and has no idea why. When he's finally released, he sets out to find the truth, and much shit hits the fan. There are some really cool moments in here, including a hallway melee that's one continuous take, and the story constantly kept me guessing (and guessing wrong, I might add). Warning to the sensitive: there is a scene where the main character eats a live octopus, for real, and it's utterly disgusting.

10. Clerks 2*: Unbelievably, unabashedly raunchy, and the funniest damn movie I’ve seen in a long time. It’s worth watching for Jay’s Silence of the Lambs imitation alone, but if you can keep a straight face through the donkey scene, the ass-to-mouth debate, the Lord of the Rings vs. Star Wars conversation, and the pussy trolls, then you’re either a better person than I, or you’re Joel Siegel.

11. Into the Blue: This flick about divers in the Bahamas tangling with drug dealers isn’t exactly classic art or anything, but you can’t beat it for eye candy, both in the form of its stunning cast (Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Tyson Beckford) and its gorgeous underwater scenes.

Seen so far this year: 58


1. Perfect Blue OST: This is a really interesting mix of creepy ambient music and unbelievably peppy tunes. I still think "Ai no Tenshi", the opening song, is one of the most exquisite slices of J-pop heaven anyone could hope for.

2. "Last Nite" by The Strokes

3. "Dirrty" by Christina Aguilera: You don't even have to say it.


It's so amazing I'm not even going to make a crack about the name. I had a very nasty ingrown hair that was beginning to hurt like hell, and I was about two seconds away from going to a dermatologist to get it removed. Oh, sure, I suppose I could have tried to extract it myself, but I scar easily AND I'm clumsy, which is just asking for trouble. One of my biggest fears is dying in a way that would be amusing to everyone else, and I would hate to be remembered as the Chick Who Severed an Artery With Her Tweezers While Being Vain.

Anyway, I was in the drugstore and I saw this stuff, and I figured it might be worth a shot. I applied it faithfully for several days, and voila, that bad boy poked its ugly little head out, and I whipped out my tweezers and got to yankin'. No fuss, very little muss, and no expensive dermatologist visit!

I'm still not using their depilatory goop on my cooter, though.


Who Wants to Be a Superhero?: This is a reality show about a group of people who have created their own superhero, and they compete to have their creation immortalized by the legendary Stan Lee in a comic book and Sci-Fi Channel original movie. In the first episode, the challenge is to change into your costume without being seen by anyone else, and then race to reach the goal. Ah, but the crafty Stan Lee has thrown a monkey wrench into the path, and planted a crying child in the way to see if the contestants will stop to help her, as any good superhero would, or if they’ll ignore her in their race to get to the finish line. It was really a fun show, and I enjoyed it even as I rolled my eyes. I tell you what, though, Major Victory is going to be the winner, both because he looks the part and because he has a great Bruce Campbellesque delivery.