Today I Recommend…

Richard Roeper’s blog (http://blog.richardroeper.com). A lot of people don’t really pay attention to celebrity’s blogs unless it’s a celebrity that they truly admire.  I didn’t either until I accidentally stumbled upon movie critic Richard Roeper’s blog a few days ago.  What I found was an insightful, original, well-thought out look at popular culture from the perspective of someone involved heavily in criticism.  In his blog, Roeper gives us just enough of his opinions and personal life without assuming that we care about him (whether we do or not is irrelevant), while providing funny, interesting, insightful commentary on just about every popculture currency you can imagine, not just movies; he weighs in on Michael Jackon’s sudden death (and does a very interesting comparison between the self-proclaimed “king of pop” and the “king of rock n’ roll”, Elvis Presley); he gives us a long rant-y review of The Secret which is loaded with common sense but also humour and anger and denouncement that I’ve been waiting to see from someone else for a long time; he gives a sensible no-sided take on  Will I.Am’s feud with fellow blogger Perez Hilton.  It’s a really great blog full of awesome entries.  It’s also very well-written as an added bonus.

The Hangover.  It takes really smart people to portray really dumb assholes.  Evidenced by the humour in this AWESOME buddy comedy.  There’s a lot more to this film than the dumb gags in the trailer; it’s at its core, a night of real friendship and comeradeship gone horribly, hilariously wrong.  But it’s also a great mystery, a CSI-formatted plot of piecing together ‘what happened last night’.  The climax, or lackthereof, is unexpected but the perfect way to end a film about these particular people.  The film has perfect comic timing; the jokes just fly by and ‘exist’.  There isn’t any winking at the camera or lingering on a point to force laughs out of an audience that doesn’t want to laugh; rather, the jokes come from people that we actually care about, doing things that we’ve all done (or somehow wish we’d done), and a few clever popculture homages.  The film’s humour is dirty and adult, and offensive and sometimes off-the-wall; it’s not ENTIRELY grounded in realism, but regarding the parts that aren’t, they’re so funny it’s easy to suspend our disbelief.  I want to see this movie a million more times.  It’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen and the best movie I’ve seen all summer so far.

Old 97’s.  Due to my extreme love for Rhett Miller’s latest self-titled solo effort, I’ve been re-visiting material from his band, Old 97’s.  Some albums are exemplary alt-country ramblers, and some are more or way less punkier than that.  Regardless, they have a barrage of great material from their earliest to latest albums.  Any fans of Whiskeytown/Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Patty Griffin, Wilco, Pete Yorn, the Jawhawks, etc. etc. (who haven’t heard Old 97’s yet) should really investigate their music.  I’m so glad to have rediscovered it myself.  I heart Rhett Miller.

Regina Spektor – Far.  I’m sure that a lot of die-hards are complaining that the production on Spektor’s latest album is far too intense; a friend of mine who is a MUCH bigger fan of Spektor (who has the voice of a bloody angel) said that one of his favourite bootleg songs, which makes a produced, polished appearance on ‘Far’, “Folding Chair”, has production on the track that “kind of scared [him] a little bit”.  While I can understand a die-hard’s complaint (as a die-hard myself, I’ve had lots of gripes about production, new lyrics, slick layering, a lack of vocal distortion and so on), I have to say that I find Spektor’s music works better when it’s polished.  Spektor is known for being quirky and kooky and off-the-wall.  And I think on songs like “Wallet”, “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” and “Eet”, as well as the other tracks, none of that is lost by the way the album is produced; what the production does nicely on this release, is make Regina Spektor’s music just that much more accessible.  I think as an entirety, this is probably my favourite of her albums so far.  Her voice, lyrics and piano-playing are almost unsurpassed.  Damn, girl’s incredible.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.  Everyone who wants to has probably already read the book or at the VERY least, seen the movie (which I also highly recommend; just not ‘today’). However, I’m tossing it in today’s recommendations because it truly speaks to me in a way few other books have.  It’s among the fiction ‘elite’, a book that withstands time and social change, simply because its issues go deeper than southern slavery and emancipation and racism; it’s about justice, doing the right thing, growing up, parenting, class, gender, life lessons, the differences between men and women, and for me, what it means to be a woman.  There are so many charming sub-plots in the book, especially the relationship between Scout and Dill, which is odd considering their ages, but SO sweet.  Apparently, Dill is based on Truman Capote, a close childhood friend of Lee’s; it’s effortless the way she draws on her own experiences in order to write this plot.  The chemistry is evident on the page.  Lee really is in a class all her own of semi-autobiographical fiction.  Her experiences are confidently written to the point that I would believe this as a complete autobiography if no one had told me.  It’s a PERFECT novel, and it is so obvious to me why it is so beloved and one of the best-selling and best-acclaimed novels in history.  As an aside, Harper Lee is still alive and 83 years old.  I had no idea!  As another aside, if I only wrote one novel ever in my life before disappearing from the literary community, it would have to be as good as this, but I could NEVER be this good.

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