Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quick Pop Culture Sunday Notes

Just a few scattered thoughts on a lazy Sunday morning:
  • Kathryn Bigelow won the Directors Guild prize for Hurt Locker!  We finally saw it last weekend, and I cannot remember a movie that made me feel more tense for as much of the film.  Just the most involving film of the past year.  Avatar was a tremendous production, but I got pulled out of the story--Blue Indians, Private Military Contractors with not only no compassion but no brains either, the Marine switching sides only to direct a frontal assault with inferior technology, etc.  So, I am pretty pleased that Bigelow won, even if one ignores that she is the first woman to win this award.  Bodes well for the Oscar.
  •  Finished re-watching Band of Brothers, which is the 10-part HBO miniseries focusing on a single company in the 101st Airborne from training in Georgia to preparing in England to D-Day to Operation Market Garden, Bastogne, and then on to the possible last redoubt of the Nazis in Austria.  I had seen it when it was first on and then caught some of the episodes when they were repeated over the years.  I recently read the book, so watching it from start to finish a second time was still really moving and educational.  I was better able to follow most of the characters better both because I had seen it before and because of the book.  Before, all of the dirty young men kind of looked the same and it took me several episodes to figure out who was who.  I borrowed the DVD collection from a friend and fellow security scholar, so I got to catch the extras.  I had seen the documentary "We Stand Alone Together" before, but the extras included some making of stuff, a video diary by Ron Livingston of the boot camp the actors had to go through (run by a former marine who ended up playing the Colonel that ran the regiment during the war), and a short news bite from HBO about the premiere they had--at the Utah Beach museum on an anniversary of D-Day with many of the surviving members of Easy Company.
    The whole series is just fantastic.  The production values, as the making of doc reveals, are just out of this world.  The actors are terrific. The source material is just amazing.  These guys went through the grinder.  It may be the case that other units faced tougher battles (like going through Italy), but these guys were involved in the biggest and most important events on the Western front.  It really should be required viewing, as it does a great job of capturing the American experience in the war.

    I am very much looking forward to The Pacific, which is "sequel," this time focusing on the Marines and the war against Japan.  Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, as in the case of Band, but with a broader canvas, apparently.  Relying on more than just one book (plus heaps of interviews) and on one company, it will use several books (including one I have read--Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed) and on more than just one company.  Ironically enough, I will be in Australia when it debuts.  As the preview indicates, there will be more on the homefront, including American women who were entirely absent from Band of Brothers which lacked any real romantic subplots with only two short scenes indicating the fraternization that went in in Europe.

  • SNL was a mix.  Started off with an only mildly funny State of the Un it did not suck me in.  Indeed, I spent a lot of time during Avatar giggling at the obvious stuff that took me oion address that went on too long and then a horrible musical sketch (too much music trying to be funny) with Kristen Wiig overly emphasized (she was much better in Whip It! which we saw earlier in the evening).  But Jon Hamm was absolutely there to play ball, with a variety of sketches that involved shirtlessness.  Perhaps the SNL demo is skewing female and gay?  Anyhow, the best parts of the night were: Ham and Buble, a commercial for Hamm's new ham and champagne restaurant where he coerced the musical guest to participate; the Closet Organizer and the follow on to that at the end; and the Update, which had a great, great set of jokes about Obama's encounter with the House Republicans, comparing it to Indiana Jones shooting the guy with the big sword in Raiders.

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