Genius (2017)

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May 292017
 

National Geographic channel’s biographical series about Albert Einstein.  It’s very good (relatively speaking).

The Saga of Tanya the Evil

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Apr 102017
 

Good anime series.  Only one season, so I suspect you’ll have read the Manga to see how it ends (though the anime reaches a perfectly good stopping point).  There’s lots of neat historical parallels, though for each one there’s an example of how the series diverges, so don’t read too much into that.  It’s by no means an allegory, and many aspects are more characteristic of WWII (such as the aerial component), though there’s no Hitler.  I’m impressed by some of the little things (like the French starting the war without helmets).

On a more personal scale, the protagonist has a definite Job thing going on between herself and God.   Though to be sure, Job wasn’t such a bitch-on-wheels.

http://www.crunchyroll.com/saga-of-tanya-the-evil

The Green Room with Paul Provenza

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Mar 172017
 

This Showtime series is so good it’s unreal.  Simple premise: a few comics chat half an hour about comedy.  I’ve never seen a single minute of it that wasn’t great though.  I think a big part of it’s the execution.  The guests are seated in a semi-circle facing each other, not the audience.  There’s a “host,” but he’s more of a participant – he doesn’t interview them, nor is it a panel discussion.  They’re all intelligent and speak intelligently – there’s no playing to a crowd whatsoever – but it never gets heavy.  It’s 20% Q&A, 30% stories, and 50% them ripping on each other.  It’s what late-night talk shows should be.

This link (while it lasts) is season 2 ep 1, with among others Gary Shandling, Ray Romano, and Bo Burnham.

I’m working my way through Season 1 atm.  The first episode was awesome.  The second one’s making me laugh so hard it physically hurts.

Yuri on Ice

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Mar 032017
 

A truly excellent anime series I thoroughly enjoyed.  Well-written, with beautiful art.

http://www.crunchyroll.com/yuri-on-ice

I hesitated to watch this because I read that it was a little gay (in the literal sense), and I felt kinda queer (in the classical sense) about watching something that might be kinda queer (in the modern sense).  But in retrospect, I decided it was totally gay (in the pejorative sense) for me to be queer (in the classical sense) about watching something that was a little gay (in the literal sense), and that I should stop being a goddamn faggot (in the pejorative sense) and just enjoy this charming, well-executed series, even if it is a tiny bit gay (in the literal sense).

Rectify

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Feb 282017
 

Mesmerizing.  It’s from Sundance TV, which for reasons I can’t easily describe turned me off – I had half-baked notions of wanky, abstract, film-school nonsense.  No particular logic behind that – it’s not as if I’d ever watched a minute of the Sundance channel (if there is such a thing).  I dunno, I haven’t screwed a coax cable into a TV in about 20 years, so I’m either ahead of the curve or hopelessly out-of-touch.  Probably the latter.

Anyway, nothing warms my heart more than discovering good media, especially when it confounds my preconceived notions.  I’m as weak as anyone in that regard, but I pride myself on my voracity (which makes me try new things) and my extreme pickiness, the marriage of which makes for what I flatter myself is a not inconsiderable objectivity.  And if my “taste” – as far as such a thing can be qualified – is of any value whatsoever, then I feel confident in putting this forward as a most uncommonly good series.  A slow, quiet, nuanced monster of a series, so well-written and -acted, so unpretentious, so deliberate (what some might even deem plodding if they weren’t inclined to pay attention to the finer points of the thing), that to this day I can scarcely believe it exists.  How it came-about I cannot imagine, though I fairly glow with happiness that it did.

The premise is a total downer – so much so I encourage you not to bother with the sort of summary research I engage-in by reflex, for it almost led to my not trying it at all (my current circumstances being sufficiently depressing to discourage me from any indulgence in what might be termed “tragic” drama).  The show is by no means sad – quite the contrary.  In another place and age, its protagonist would have been a Zen monk, or a transcendentalist poet of the more severe sort.  He is immediately likable and utterly captivating, and his living, breathing presence on the screen is hypnotic.

Rectify is a rare gem: a work of art whose beauty makes one’s heart ache – not at specific, choreographed moments – but at almost any time for seemingly no reason.  Aden Young doesn’t portray the character of Daniel Holden, any more than letters and subscripts and arrows portray the combustion of nitroglycerin.  He simply happens, moment after moment, like a bomb going-off in slow-motion.

I just finished season 2, and still don’t even know with any certainty that he is innocent.  The kindness and care he shows for others lead one to think he’s made of glass.  Yet over time his naivete betrays telltale signs of conscious strain, and his awkwardness a tincture of artifice.  The objective eye might notice his caution directed always outwards, not inwards: it’s not Daniel who’s fragile and in-need of protection, but the world around him.  However, guilt and innocence seem more irrelevant with every passing moment.  This series is morbidly obsessed with who or what one is right now, in this present moment.  And that’s an even greater puzzle than what came before.  I’ve no idea who Daniel was, but I’m even less certain what he is now.  He simply happens, moment after moment, like a bomb going-off in slow-motion.

PS: The opening sequence features a highly-edited cut of Balmorhea’s “Bowsprit”.  The showrunners get bonus points for taste, but I nonetheless abhor hearing the track so cruelly butchered, it being near and dear to my heart for years.  I highly encourage you to listen to it in its entirety…

“Rick and Morty” does “The State of Georgia v. Denver Fenton Allen”

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Jul 272016
 

This is pretty great.  This video from Comic-Con is Justin Roiland from Adult Swim series “Rick and Morty” reading an insane courtroom transcript from a June 2016 Georgia murder trial, word-for-word, in the voices of characters Rick and Morty (with minimal animation added).  For more info see these posts from College Humor and slashfilm.com.  If you’re not familiar with the show, scroll-down and check out the opening scene from episode 1 first.

Kuromukuro

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Jul 152016
 

Netflix started producing their own anime, and apparently somebody was a big Evangelion fan.   The Lord giveth and taketh away – mostly the latter in my experience – but sometimes he is kind…

House of Five Leaves

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Jun 272016
 

Great anime series: stylish as hell, slow-burn, and morally ambiguous as all get-out.

The main reason this series really gets to me is its protagonist, Masanosuke.  And just to get this out of the way, he’s an Edo-period ronin.  If that doesn’t ring any bells for you, it means a wandering (or masterless) samurai.  If it does, then you know this concept’s been strip-mined so thoroughly that you already want to stop reading this.  However, this particular ronin has a “problem with his personality”- and it’s not that he’s a stolid loner whose lust for battle explosively manifests at convenient plot points.  Instead, he has a classic case of what we now refer to as Social Anxiety.  Which doesn’t mean he’s a coward or he can’t kick-ass; it just means no one will hire him for honest work.

That’s half of the reason why he falls-in with a group of criminals, the “House of Five Leaves”.  The other half is that its leader, Yaichi, has a pathological obsession with kidnapping, and Masanosuke reminds him of someone from his past.  It’s all explained in due time.

This is one of those short, sweet deals with a perfect ending, and I mean perfect.  It’ll rip your fucking guts out, not because someone you like dies – nothing so crude as that – it’s far more subtle, but if you get there, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It’s almost as good as the end of The Shield, maybe as good, though it’s an apples-and-oranges thing, since House of Five Leaves is 12 episodes, whereas The Shield is 88.

Detroit Metal City

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Mar 122016
 

Detroit Metal City (Wikipedia) is one of my favorite anime series.  It’s a comedy about a hapless virgin who dreams of becoming pop artist of the bland, cloying, up-beat acoustic variety.  He instead he falls-in with a heavy-metal group and his true destiny is unleashed on the world: his alter-ego Krauser, the demon king of metal.

Little Witch Academa

 Art, TV, Video  Comments Off on Little Witch Academa
Mar 042016
 

What a lovely little gem!  Little Witch Academa (2013) (Netflix) is a single-episode anime from Studio Trigger (wikipedia), an up-and-comer started in 2011 that promises great things.  The cel-animation is incredible – feels like Looney Tunes was a major inspiration (along with Disney and traditional anime of course).  There’s also a sequel (Netflix) that was kickstarter-funded.

Trigger’s first full-length series is Kill la Kill (2013) (Netflix), another breath of fresh air.  Decidedly more mature (but not direly-so), its artistic styling is pure 80’s anime, directed with the frenetic, absurd blatantcy of a twelve-year-old Quentin Tarantino on a three-day binge of Red Bull and Pop Rocks.