Shorties #3

It's time to tear through some more shorties! Vroom!

#1: Why We Broke Up: I read this between Taft 2012 and the John Connelly books, but it somehow fell through the cracks. I don't know why, as I generally love Daniel Handler books. Though not my favorite of his, this one is certainly in the top three. It's a series of notes from a teenage girl to her ex-boyfriend, ruminating over the dissolution of their relationship as she returns all the items that remind her of them as a couple. Each item is also given an illustration, and the total package really encapsulates the diary-like remembrances of an adolescent protagonist, sure that the world is ending because her high school relationship fell apart. (Grade: B+)

#2: Stephen Fry in America: I love Stephen Fry, and I love programs that explore these United States of ours, so what's not to love about combining the two? Unfortunately, there's plenty. While there are glimmers of both the character of our country and the sparkling wit of Mr. Jeeves, they were too few and far between in this program.

The biggest problem was the pacing. With fifty states to get through, Fry often drops by a state, makes a couple of observations (often about the most obvious characteristic of that state - Maine is a short conversation with lobster fishermen, while Vermont is reduced to a Ben & Jerry's tasting) and leaves. If more time was given to a wry humorist's reactions to our often-crazy land, this would have been a gem. As it is, it felt forced and rushed. (Grade: B-)

#3: The Wire - Season 2: When I first dove into The Wire for the Pop Culture Homework Project, I was relieved to find that it more than lived up to its hype. It was a riveting dramatization of the intricacies of an inner city drug culture, and the ways society is ill-equipped to handle it. I had heard that each season tackles a different aspect of this doomed society, which intrigued me all over again. Season 2 was a much slower burn than Season 1. I mean that as a compliment sometimes, but it didn't quite work here. Season 2 focused on the dying port industry, corrupt unions, and organized crime, while still tying in the storylines of the drug kingpins from Season 1, and yet with all of these topics to explore, it somehow dragged a bit. It was still eminently watchable, and superbly acted, with one exception. James Ransone (Ziggy) sticks out as the sorest thumb ever bashed with a hammer. I'll definitely continue watching The Wire, but I'm hoping Season 3 amps this series up a bit. (Grade: B-)

#4: Big Babies: My sister has an extensive library, so when I visit, I sometimes like to select a book almost at random, and if it looks the least bit interesting, I'll borrow it for a while. Last time, I took home two of Sherwood Kiraly's books, and read this one first. It was so boring that I almost just skipped writing about it, because there's so little to say. The plot involves two brothers, each losers in their own way, trying to improve their lives in whatever small way they can, but attempting to expand on that has a soporific effect on me that I have no interest in shaking. After I finished this book off, I didn't even bother to crack the other one. (Grade: C)

#5: Michael Clayton: I was at a friend's house the other evening to watch a movie, and he rattled off a list of titles for me to choose from. I had seen all of the offerings previously, but of all of them, Michael Clayton was the one I remembered the least about. I knew I had liked it, and I knew that Tilda Swinton is awesome, and totally deserved the Oscar she won for it, but a lot of the film's details had faded. I'm glad I watched it again, because it reminded me of what a tightly-scripted thriller it is. George Clooney deftly straddles the line as a character who is equally admired and unappreciated. Tilda Swinton is perfect as a woman who can calmly handle the savagery of business, but becomes increasingly frantic at the thought of losing a modicum of respect or control. The conspiracy aspect of the plot never spirals out of control, and is chillingly realistic - particularly a clinical assassination that is nearly silent and swiftly carried out. It's a great movie, and will definitely stick in my brain this time around. (Grade: A-)


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