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Overzealous Recycling 008: Welcome to this one-man show

This might be one of my more anti-social tendencies, but I enjoy going to the movies by myself. Mark Serrels planted his flag for solo moviegoing, calling it one of “life’s secret pleasures” in a piece for CNET, so I figured I’d share my feelings on the topic too.

— If you missed the last Overzealous Recycling, you can read it here 

Most people I know — and I presume most people you know — have a big hang-up about it, like going alone says something about you socially. Or maybe they just don’t like being by themselves in that kind of environment.

I totally understand. That was something I needed to get over too. And I feel the same way on a Friday or Saturday night, when it’s all couples at the theater. It feels awkward, especially if I’m unfortunate enough to be seated between two couples or groups. Most of my solo moviegoing is done during the day, and I imagine that’s the case for the majority of people who see a movie alone.

Going to the movies by myself wasn’t necessarily a choice I made early on. It was kind of forced on me as a kid. As a sixth grader, I wanted to see a movie on a Saturday afternoon and asked my dad if we could go. He had work to do — or just didn’t want to see that particular movie — and rather than deal with a bored, possibly pouting, kid around the house, he made what turned out to be a very formative suggestion.

Dad gave me $10 for the movie and apparently thought it would be good exercise for me to walk to the mall, nearly two miles away. Decades later, I still remember how surprised I was by that. You won’t even give me a ride? He was probably worried about me being too chubby at that age.

Of course, that would be seen as awful parenting in 2019. People would freak out if they saw a 10-year-old walking anywhere alone these days.
It was obviously a very different time, and I’m sure many people who grew up in the 1980s have stories about being left in the car, riding without a car seat, and other stuff that just seemed normal then.

If my father was still around to ask about it, I wonder if he’d express any regret or surprise over sending me off to the movies. (He expressed remorse for a lot of things he did after he had heart surgery and his health declined.) But my parents felt strongly about me being independent. I was routinely sent to the grocery store, drugstore, or even the nearby Domino’s Pizza to pick stuff up. Though now that I think about it, I don’t recall any of my friends ever being sent on errands like that.

No worries, Dad. I’d thank you for it. Going to the movies by myself — even if it included a two-mile walk at that point (and eventually I rode my bike) — was liberating. I no longer had to rely on my parents (Mom didn’t drive) to see a movie if I wanted. That went for friends too. If they didn’t want to or couldn’t join me, I’d just go by myself. I’ve applied that ethos to just about everything ever since (though it works better for some situations than others).

I don’t know if I’d say I prefer going to the movies alone, but I’m certainly accustomed to it — especially when seeing some films to review. Having someone to talk about the movie with afterwards can be a lot of fun, especially if it’s a film that compels some discussion. That walk, drive or time at a coffee shop or bar can be almost as engaging as the movie itself.

But I definitely agree with Serrels. It’s an underrated pleasure, an opportunity to escape from the world for a couple of hours that often feels refreshing.

Spreading the Links

Rather than post a long list of links to read, I think I’m going to sprinkle them throughout each Overzealous Recycling from here on out. Let me know what you prefer as a reader, however.

** Guillermo Del Toro getting to present this year’s Best Director Academy Award to his friend and fellow Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron was a special moment. And it was the latest update to the story of three Mexican filmmakers (do we really want to call them the “Three Amigos”?) ruling the Oscars. Del Toro, Cuaron and Alejandro González Iñárritu have won five of the past six Best Director awards. [Slate]

** Hi, my name is Ian and I am a nail-biter. I don’t know when I started, and it was really bad through my teens and 20s. My fingernails probably aren’t as strong as they could be because of it. I’m not so bad anymore, though I’d still rather bite my nails than clip them. It’s “a manual art,” as Suzannah Showler writes. [New York Times]

My Comic Book DNA

On Twitter a couple of weeks ago, writer Alex Segura asked people to post their #ComicsDNA, the three or four books that formed their fandom as readers. That led to a whole bunch of fun and fascinating responses.

Unfortunately, I missed out on this a couple of weeks ago, so I’d like to do it here. I’m not absolutely certain, but I’m pretty sure this was the first comic book my mother ever bought for me, picking it up at the drugstore on her way home from work:

Of course, I was a big fan of Super Friends on Saturday morning and after-school cartoons. Remembering that a Super Friends comic book was important to me, I think this is the one that got me hooked. (Seems kind of dark, looking at it now.)

I love plenty of Batman comic books, but none is more important to me than issue No. 1 of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

And the same holds true for Daredevil comics. I love a bunch of ’em, especially during Frank Miller’s run. But this is the one that means the most, written by Miller and illustrated by David Mazzuchelli. I should get that image of Daredevil tattooed on me somewhere.

** Dave Bautista says he wants to be viewed more as an actor than action star. Some of his recent choices, like taking smaller roles in Blade Runner 2049 and Hotel Artemis, have been impressive. Facing Triple H at Wrestlemania might run counter to that, though. [Tampa Bay Times]

** I’m a Bill Maher fan, and I think his Real Time panel discussions can occasionally be some of the most intelligent and engaging conversations on politics in a given week (though not as often as it once was). But Drew Magary is right: Real Time is too often a safe haven for liberals now and marginalizes Maher. He tries to be too provocative because of it. By the way, I don’t give a shit about what Maher thinks of Stan Lee or my love of comic books and superheroes. [GQ]

Musical Interlude

Shortly before the Oscars and True Detective finale, Mahershala Ali’s college basketball career was discovered (or remembered) and went viral.

With a second Academy Award in three years now under his belt and a compelling Season 3 of True Detective (in which he played a character throughout five timelines) completed, let’s also look at Ali’s burgeoning career as a rapper. Prince Ali! [Hat tip, The Big Lead]

Next week, are we going to find out that Mahershala was an aspiring four-star chef or race car driver? What can’t this man do?

** Tom King is arguably the most intriguing writer in comic books right now. Some fans don’t like his plotting or storytelling, and his narratives sometimes feel dragged out. But his willingness to dig into the psychology of superheroes (seen in Batman, Mister Miracle and Vision) is fascinating. His Heroes in Crisis mini-series — exploring the mental trauma suffered by these characters — is a really compelling read. [The Ringer]

** I will always be baffled by people who say they “forgot to eat.” And I’m certainly envious of athletes who have difficulty keeping on weight. Washington Nationals pitcher Erick Fedde put on 20 pounds in hopes of becoming a better, more durable pitcher this year. I could probably do that over one weekend eating on Atlanta’s Buford Highway. [Washington Post]

** My go-to line whenever lamenting a possibly bad Best Picture winner is that we’ll look back in 10 years and wonder what the hell the Academy Awards were thinking. Unfortunately, that’s happened many times. What are the best nominees that didn’t win the big award each year? [Vulture]

** Writer Victor LaValle explained how profoundly meaningful the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man is to him. I wish I’d thought more about the importance of representation and diversity in comic books while reading them as a kid. I certainly appreciate it as an adult with three young nieces. [New York Times]

** I wonder how I would’ve felt about an Asian-American Hulk when I was a kid, especially in those formative junior high years as a comic book reader. Would Amadeus Cho’s Totally Awesome Hulk, the Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel, Silk, or S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo have blown my mind? Or would I have still preferred Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne? I probably would’ve followed the big names, but I’m intrigued by the growing number of Asian-American characters now. [Fandom]

I did read some Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, comics, but think I preferred watching Bruce Lee films for martial arts action.

** Filmmaker Michael Mann has launched a book imprint. It’s been a while since his last film (2015’s Blackhat), so it’s nice to see that his good taste in storytelling can be applied to true crime, such as Elaine Shannon’s Hunting LeRoux. Fiction — including a prequel to Heat — is coming soon. [Vulture]

Weekly Affirmation

Podcast

Amusement Park Podcast 028: Oscars recap! Plus, True Detective, Doom Patrol and Trouble in Arrowverse

I’ve always been a fan of the Academy Awards, even when I wasn’t as much of a movie buff as I am now. Once upon a time, I let the Oscars dictate most of the movies I went to see. Now, it’s the other way around: I hope the Oscars reflect what I felt were the best movies of the past year.

For various reasons, I wasn’t as excited about the Oscars this year as I usually am. I didn’t even make an effort to see all of the Best Picture candidates, which I typically do. I had plenty of opportunity to see The Favourite, Green Book, and Roma, however. (And I’ll see them in the weeks to come.)

But there was still plenty to talk about with the Oscars, notably the show not having a host and a crowd-pleasing blockbuster like Black Panther being one of the Best Picture nominees.

— Show notes for Ep. 28 are available at the Amusement Park Podcast website —

We also dissected the Season 3 finale of True Detective. Overall, I enjoyed the season, especially Stephen Dorff’s performance as Roland West. The mystery was intriguing enough, though not the driving storyline for the season, as it turned out.

Please leave a review and rating on iTunes for us and a like on our Facebook page to help spread the word. You can subscribe to the Amusement Park Podcast everywhere you find podcasts:

You can also give us feedback at amusementparkpod@gmail.com and find us on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear from you! Thanks for listening!

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Overzealous Recycling 006: Is this as far as we got?

peanuts_reading

If you missed the last Overzealous Recycling, you can read it here

During the past couple of years, I’ve looked to the past to try and make the present happier. Getting back in touch with the things that once brought me joy could bring joy once again. Maybe that’s a form of regression. Maybe it’s a futile attempt to reminisce about simpler, more care-free times.

This has been on my mind for quite a while, but Meghan Daum’s recent essay on Medium got me thinking about it more. At 47, two years after her marriage ended, Daum is living much like she did as a 27-year-old. Is that always who she was, deep down, even when she tried to follow the path — career, marriage, etc. — to which we all aspire?

Maybe Rust Cohle was right. Time is a flat circle.

A couple of years ago, I was intrigued again by pro wrestling. I don’t know if I needed some TV that didn’t require me to follow storylines or an athletic endeavor that I didn’t have to write about soon after. The promise of watching old matches and documentaries of previous eras on WWE Network was enticing. Yet I never quite followed through. And eventually, what interest I had in wrestling was quashed by how much of it was on TV. It was five hours a week, and some of those weeks included another three or four hours of a pay-per-view event.

Nowadays, it’s comic books. After avoiding spending money on comics for a long time, I’ve began reading more regularly again. (One example of that is in the reading links below.) Pop culture has certainly made that easier with superhero movies and TV being so popular and their source material being accepted, rather than mocked.

This blog is another example. I’m trying to write for me again and find what enjoyment I once got from it, rather than just churning out content and chasing topics that will get views. Hopefully, that leads to me writing some fiction again. I recently had a good idea for a story worth jotting down for the first time in years and I was happy about it for two days.

Surely, I’d feel differently or wouldn’t go back to the past if I was a parent. Daum reached the same conclusion. I don’t have kids forcing me to be an adult or to put my own interests and concerns aside. Yet I don’t have a problem with that either. And I’m OK with going back to things I used to love.

The Steven Soderbergh Invitational

Steven Soderbergh’s latest movie, High Flying Bird, is now on Netflix, adding to a filmography that goes at least 30 films deep. (The body of work is even larger when you include short films and TV he’s directed.)

For many critics, students and fans, a new Soderbergh movie often compels the need to look at his entire career and determine where his latest film fits among the dozens of others he’s made. Personally, I know I feel that pull and try to nudge myself into going back to watch every one of Soderbergh’s films. Not to rank them, necessarily, but just note what each movie represents in his evolution as a filmmaker, what new thing he’s trying, what boundary he’s attempting to challenge.

soderbergh_bracket

Or you could do something really fun — and timely, with college basketball tournaments approaching — and put all of Soderbergh’s films into a bracket. Slate’s Dan Kois did just that, posting his bracket on Twitter, pitting Soderbergh’s movies against one another to determine which are his best.

Even better, Kois divided the films into regionals based on different stages of Soderbergh’s career. Where was he most experimental or most popular? What about when he and George Clooney were making films under their Section Eight production banner? The bracket was set up nicely by Kois and it was fun for followers to chime in and vote for their winners.

I still intend to go back through Soderbergh’s filmography chronologically during the year. Maybe afterwards, I’ll fill out this bracket.

Meal Plan

I subscribe to (too many) food newsletters with recipes and recently noticed what I thought was a familiar dish: Collard Greens and Kimchi. I figured it was Edward Lee’s recipe because that was where I first saw someone add some Korean kick to a Southern food staple.

However, the Garden & Gun recipe was different, more ambitious in calling for the cook to make his or her own kimchi. While that could be fun, it’s also a lot more work than wilting down the greens and adding a jar of your favorite kimchi (which is increasingly easier to find in grocery stores nowadays).

Lee’s Collard Greens and Kimchi have been a regular part of my cooking rotation for the past few years, ever since he made the dish on The Mind of a Chef. This could be a side dish or a full meal, depending on whether or not you add country ham and how much of it you include. A little goes a long way with that stuff. Bacon might be a better choice.

Musical Interlude

I should probably have a real song/video here, but Melissa Villasenor’s impersonation of Lady Gaga singing “Shallow” from last week’s Saturday Night Live provides this week’s music. Villasenor really belts it out here! Can we have her perform at the Oscars too? (Maybe if it was an NBC production…)

I suppose I haven’t watched enough Gaga performances to know if the shoulder and eyebrow movement is accurate. It might be even funnier if she doesn’t really do that and Villasenor just added those quirks.

10 to Read

** In geek circles, streaming TV provides a double-dose of fun with the premieres of Doom Patrol on DC Universe and The Umbrella Academy on Netflix. That speaks pretty highly of My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way, who’s written comic book stories for both groups of characters. (He created The Umbrella Academy.) [New York Times]

** Since Donald Trump was elected, many conservatives have spurned the Republican party and have made careers out of being “Never Trumpers.” One of my favorites has been Steve Schmidt, who worked on John McCain’s presidential campaign (and was portrayed by Woody Harrelson in the Game Change movie).

I’d been listening to his podcast with Elise Jordan, Words Matter, because of it — to hear from the other side, so to speak. But Schmidt is now consulting for Howard Schultz and when he was asked about that obvious conflict on the podcast, he got mad enough to storm off the show. [The Daily Beast]

** Slate’s Mike Pesca followed up with Words Matter‘s producer, Adam Levine (no, not the Maroon 5 guy), who asked the questions that compelled Schmidt to end the interview. [Slate]

** If you’ve gotten irritated over being logged out of The New Yorker‘s website constantly, you are not alone. (Recently, this has been a particular annoyance for me, especially when I can’t remember passwords and get locked out after three to five tries.) The site tightening its paywall could be a culprit, but it’s also a bug that the tech guys can’t figure out. [Nieman Lab]

** I doubt anyone gets into journalism for the money, unless he or she has ambitions of becoming an anchor or pundit on TV. But when an established writer like Jeff Pearlman gets paid $250 for a 1,500-word article, that’s depressing. Yet Pearlman is defending The Athletic here. (Hopefully, not just because he wants to continue writing there.) [Jeff Pearlman]

pearls_blogging

** Stephen Pastis’s Pearls Before Swine is consistently one of the funniest comic strips being made. (Rat is my spirit animal.) His productivity is even more impressive when you consider how many of his peers (Get Fuzzy‘s Darby Conley, for example) have either stopped creating new strips or have really throttled down on their schedules.

Besides the humor, however, one of the reasons Pearls is so good is because Pastis sometimes gets personal. In December, his strip about his dog, Edee, who was dying of cancer, was published and readers responded in a big way. [Washington Post]

** Many of us grew up on “alternative” music like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. (Maybe it goes back even further, if you include punk groups like The Ramones or Dead Kennedys. But wasn’t that music “punk”?) Now, that could almost be considered “classic rock,” which should make your skin shrivel. So what is considered “alternative” music in 2019? Does the term even apply anymore? [City Pages]

** One reason I’m not as interested in this year’s Oscars is that many of the films I thought were really good were overlooked. (I guess that makes me like most people who don’t care about the Oscars. At least this year.) Leave No Trace, for example, and Ben Foster should’ve received much more recognition. [IndieWire]

MrMiracle_5

** From mid-2017 to late 2018, no comic book series intrigued me more than Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. The 12-issue series is about to be released in a trade paperback collection (that I’m probably going to buy, even though I have the individual issues). I swear, it renewed my interest in comics. Susana Polo takes an outstanding, page-by-page deep dive into issue No. 5 of the series to demonstrate why it’s so good. [Polygon]

** Newer apartment buildings throughout the country really do look the same, don’t they? I especially noticed that over the past year when I saw bigger versions of buildings in cities like Seattle, Providence and Charlotte that I regularly drive by in Asheville. It’s not our imagination. [Bloomberg]

Weekly Affirmation

Courtesy of Doctor Strange screenwriter, C. Robert Cargill:

movies

2019 Oscar nominations: Who was snubbed? Who are the favorites?

panther_trio

The Academy Award nominations are always an exciting morning, but the 2019 Oscars seem to have a bit less juice than in previous years. Maybe because there’s not one clear front-runner that many fans are rallying around? No clear critical darling?

Also, I think there are a lot of movies that people either simply haven’t seen. That’s always the case (and Oscar nominations can change that), but feels like it’s even more so this year. Also, one of the favorites was made for Netflix, an idea people will have to get used to.

Since I typically write something about the Oscars, I figured I’d do a quick overview of the big categories, picking the favorites and noting the snubs. And there were a lot of notable snubs this year.

I’ve seen five of the eight Best Picture nominees, but there are several contenders I need to watch. (That’s one reason why I dragged my ass on putting together a Best of 2018 list.) Those include Green Book, The Favourite, Roma, ShopliftersCan You Ever Forgive Me and The Wife. (I know!) So my opinions on any of these could change before Feb. 24. If so, maybe we’ll have some predictions.

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movie reviews

Aquaman makes a splash with exotic visuals and Jason Momoa’s charm

aquaman_shoulder

If you grew up snickering at Aquaman while watching Super Friends, it might be difficult to imagine that the man talking to fish and riding sea horses would be the one to save the DC cinematic universe. (Personally, I was grateful to Aquaman for his safety tips warning against the hazards of seaweed wrapping around your legs or getting clothing snagged against pan handles. To my frustration, those clips don’t appear to be available on YouTube.)

OK, Aquaman isn’t a pop culture joke anymore. Not when Jason Momoa is cast as the King of the Seven Seas, portraying a charming lunk who could rip your arms off then enjoy a couple of pints afterwards. As Arthur Curry, he’s far more charismatic and compelling than Henry Cavill as Superman or Ben Affleck as Batman. Had Warner Brothers and DC Films tried to properly establish its core characters, rather than impatiently push its Justice League franchise, perhaps that superhero team-up wouldn’t have been such a flop.

Maybe there is no more DC cinematic universe, in terms of an interconnected series of films that all occupy the same storytelling space. But if DC were to call a mulligan and hide Batman v Superman and Justice League in the cupboard, Aquaman (along with last year’s Wonder Woman) is something that the studio could rebuild its superhero franchise around.

Yet Aquaman is perfectly capable of standing on its own, rather than be a piece of a convoluted puzzle. Director James Wan has built an impressive world around his superhero, creating a spectacle that aspires to the heights of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Avatar. However, while its influences are clear, this movie isn’t derivative. Arthur Curry’s journey from reluctant hero to champion might be familiar — a modern-day fable — but Aquaman feels new and exciting, providing visuals that we haven’t seen before.

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movie reviews

Bohemian Rhapsody reminds us Queen was great, ignores too much about Freddie Mercury

freddie_rami

If you’re a fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury, you will very likely enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie is a celebration of the band and its music. You’ll be reminded of just how much you loved songs like “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Radio Ga Ga,” along with deeper cuts such as “Love of My Life.”

Whether or not the film is a fitting tribute to Mercury will depend on your view. Director Bryan Singer (who was fired from the production yet is still credited) and writer Anthony McCarten take a safe approach to the singer’s personal life, largely settling for allusions to Mercury’s homosexuality, drug use and partying. Much like Mercury did publicly, the movie keeps that away from the audience.

However, Bohemian Rhapsody does a fine job of portraying Freddie Mercury, the rock star. Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) has all of the legendary frontman’s stage moves and swagger down. Mercury commanded the stage, punching, gyrating, and thrusting with the beats from bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor. The rest of Queen effectively faded into the background because the eye was always drawn to Mercury’s energy and charisma.

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movie reviews

Robert Redford’s charm carries The Old Man & The Gun, but only so far

redford_tucker

Robert Redford might regret saying that his starring role in The Old Man & the Gun may be his final on-screen performance. But if Redford is indeed going to retire from acting, he chose an excellent role to put a final bow on his acting career.

It’s difficult to imagine anyone else playing Forrest Tucker, a 70-year-old man who can’t give up robbing banks. He just loves it too much and doesn’t want to do anything else. And don’t tell him that he’s too old for this; he’ll just take that as a challenge and try to show you wrong.

Tucker is an absolute charmer, which plays perfectly to Redford’s strengths as an actor. (Even when Redford is playing a deadly serious character, he shows off a wit that can easily pull someone to his side.) The shock of a kind, extremely well-dressed old man suddenly declaring that he’s robbing the bank — usually by showing his holstered revolver — is enough to make tellers and bank managers all too willing to comply.

Policemen and federal agents are amused and flustered by a common statement among all of the people he encounters during his robberies: He was really polite. He was so nice.

It’s almost surprising that Tucker wasn’t given a nickname like “The Gentleman Bandit” (though that would probably be an implicit endorsement of his actions). The media dubs the trio “The Over-the-Hill Gang,” however.) We should probably be thankful that director David Lowery didn’t give this movie such a title either. “The Old Man and the Gun” is taken from the 2003 New Yorker article by David Grann that told Tucker’s improbable story.

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