Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done #13 – October 12, 2020

School holidays is almost over. Will that change my viewing habits? We’ll find out soon enough, but for now there’s still a steady stream of movie-viewing to facilitate moments of family togetherness!

First up is a classic favorite of the 80’s, The Breakfast Club. John Hughes’ story teen angst on a Saturday afternoon in detention is a film I appreciate more than love, but still still had a good time re-watching. It’s not a realistic film by any means, but it does a good job touching on some real feelings of teen isolation and angst. It features some good performances from the young cast, including what should have been a career-making one from Judd Nelson. I always though Emilio Estevez’ Andrew was one of the less interesting characters amongst the group, but this time around I came to appreciate the actor’s delivery, especially in his bit “confession scene.” If there’s a weakness to the movie, it’s probably just that Assistant Principal Vernon is such a terribly unpleasant person that he’s hard to take seriously.

Rat Race, directed by Jerry Zucker, is a movie that seems to never have gotten a lot of love from critics, but I thought it was really funny when I saw it in the theatre a couple of decades ago.

I rewatched it with some trepidation with my wife and daughter the other night, and it turned out to be a big hit with them. It’s the story of six teams of people (ranging from 1 to 4 people in each) who are sent on a treasure hunt by a millionaire (John Cleese) so that other high-rollers can bet on who will be the winner. Mad antics ensue. It’s not the sort of movie one would accuse of being high-brow, but there are lots of clever gags along the way. Favorites include a Jewish family (Jon Lovitz & Kathy Najimy and their kids) who end up stealing a car from pro-Nazi museum, a disgraced referee (Cuba Gooding jr) who ends up driving a busload of I Love Lucy cosplayers across the country, and seemingly normal normal helicopter pilot (Amy Smart) with some serious rage issues losing her mind when she discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her. The cast also includes Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Wayne Knight, Dave Thomas, and Breckin Meyer (who had the only line that made me laugh in the atrocious Kate & Leopold).

After all the off-the-wall adventures, the movie ends in a surprisingly inspirational fashion that involves all the contestants at a Smash Mouth charity concert!

After the less than satisfying Enola Holmes that I mentioned last time, I also introduced my daughter to Sherlock.

We watched the first two episodes, A Study in Pink and The Blind Banker. I feel like the last season of Sherlock fell down a bit, but the early days of this series were really something special–outstanding writing, direction, style, and acting. A Study in Pink is by Steven Moffat, one of my favorite writers, and has got the better characterization and dialogue. But The Blind Banker, written by Stephen Thompson, might have the better plot. They both have great acting from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

We also watched Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly, with some of my daughter’s classmates.

This movie has gotten a lot of flack for various reasons–it’s been accused of having a whole white savior narrative and of misrepresenting the relationship between piano player legend Don Shirley and his driver, Tony Vallalonga. But other information says the film is actually more accurate then some of the criticisms leveled against it would say, and I think the “white savior” accusation is mischaracterized , unless we’re saying that any story about white and black people finding common ground in a racist society is a “white savior” story.

Aside from all that, Green Book is a well done movie that I enjoyed watching (although maybe it’s a bit much that it won Best Picture). I pointed out to my daughters that the lead actor was Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. One of them exclaimed, “He’s got range!” while the other one said, “He got old!”

My wife and I also finished the latest season of Shetland, the British mystery story about the police officers on the Scottish archipelago of Shetland, based on the novels of Ann Cleeves.

The bleakly beautiful landscapes create an atmospheric setting for this procedural mystery. I love the main character, DI Jimmy Perez played by Douglas Henshall. He’s got the blend of keen intellect, physical presence, honorable conduct, and suitably limited patience that makes him the perfect central character for a detective drama like this.

The early episodes of Shetland were all two-parters, while the later stories (including the one that we finished) are season-long stories of six episodes each. This one focused around Perez and his team trying to find a young woman who is the victim of a people-smuggling operation. It was a gripping and satisfying mystery with some strong character work. There was just one story point I wasn’t crazy about, which I feel like I’ve seen elsewhere recently: the detective’s potential love interest pulls away from him because circumstances force him to briefly suspect her of involvement with the crime, and she can’t handle that. But otherwise it’s good drama, and I’m looking forward to whenever another season comes out.

On the personal side of life and media, knowing that this post was coming has helped to make sure I made some progress on The Hanna Jo Stories–the audio drama I’ve been doing on and off with my kids for years. I got a bit further on Episode 13 (the latest and probably last installment), specifically working on the initial rough draft of the sound effects. I still have a way to go, but at least I’m past that bit where the evil kangaroos attack the flying miniature horse and the mechanical roabbit with a robotic hippopotamus that I mentioned last time.

Also, not long ago my team did a short film called Beach Barbie which I co-wrote, executive produced, and briefly appeared in. One scene takes place at a beach as some friends are having a barbecue. One of my co-workers is an American guy who is very successful at TikTok, and he did a video about how barbecues are a popular and common feature at Australian beaches, which my hands appear in briefly (I’m the one cooking the food). It took off and apparently he’s got like 120,000+ views on the thing, which I’m pretty sure makes it the most viewed thing I’ve ever been a part of.

Here’s the film…

We entered it as part of a contest. If you want to vote for us to win a prize, click here.

And here’s the TikTok…

@toshinmac

Random things at Australian beach that just makes sense. Inspired by @her.atlas #CapCut #australia #sausagesizzle #beach #DayInMyLife

♬ 아무노래(Any song) – kozico0914

Pretty fun, right? It even got picked up by the local news! Check that out here!

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