Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done – March 8, 2022

Life continues! And that means all the things that make up life continues. The School of Communication that I am helping to lead, the editing of the documentary about Sister Veronica, the editing of the documentary about Mt. Margaret Mission, and of course, as always, my film and television viewing.

One thing that not only continued lately, but actually completed, was my viewing of a TV show I’ve been working may way through on and off for years now. I’m not sure how many, but it could be as many as twenty!

Alias

I didn’t watch this espionage drama when it was first on, or at least not very much. But I have watched it when I could access to it for free–either borrowing episodes from a friend or from the library. After a long gap, I was able to view the last two seasons on Disney+, which is not exactly free but does mean I’m not paying any more for the episodes than I would have otherwise.

And now I’m finally done, which means that after I finish writing these paragraphs, I’ll probably never think about the show again. It is at once completely moronic and highly gripping; not the sort of thing one can take seriously but which nonetheless makes you want to know what will happen next. The fifth season shook things up a bit by apparently killing off one of the main characters in the first episode, and introducing a bunch of newcomers–never really a great sign for the health of a series.

That last year ended up being only 17 episodes (unlike the normal 22) and apparently the last 7 were made after a hiatus following star Jennifer Garner’s real-life pregnancy. At that point, the producers knew the show was cancelled so a bunch of endgame storylines were rushed into action, which included an(other) abrupt betrayal by the evil-all-along Arvin Sloane and a lot of old characters making return appearances. The major character who had died comes back to life and in the end, the biggest bad of the show turns out to be Sydney Bristow’s oft-evil mother, Irina, who has a plan to destroy a couple of major cities. It’s all a bit vaguely motivated, but what’s clear is that it has to be stopped.

Anyway, it’s still fun and is legitimately well-acted by the cast. The final season introduced a character played by Rachel Nichols who was the star of Continuum, which I also enjoyed back in the day. In spite of being a cool action-chick in both shows (as well as in the first GI Joe movie), the characters are quite different, and I was left reasonably impressed by her acting. Apparently she shows up in The Man in the High Castle as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing here there.

Encanto

My daughters saw Encanto back in the cinema and loved it, and recently got onto a kick of listening to its music. They convinced both my wife and I to spend an evening giving it a shot, and in the end I’m pretty glad that they did.

The Disney film some truly beautiful animation–really, it’s a pleasure to look at. The story is about a family in Colombia that somehow gained a magic house and magic powers when they were fleeing for their lives from invaders. The protagonist is Mirabel, a teenaged daughter who for some reason never received any special powers, but becomes aware that something threatens the magic which provides the safety for their village.

The story has got some obvious dynamics as it talks about how the Mirabel is still “special” even if she is not perceived this way by everyone else, but it handles them with far more finesse that I was expecting.

The music works well in the film, and the songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who seems to be able to do no wrong at the moment) are catchy and memorable.

There is a character called Bruno in the movie, who is vilified but turns out to be a good guy. He even gets one of the better songs, We Don’t Talk About Bruno. This is funny to me because the recent Pixar film Luca also made reference to “Bruno”, specifically as the name for the inner doubt that holds a person back from pursuing their dreams or doing something risky. This came with the catchphrase “Silenzio Bruno!” which was spoken many times in the movie.

This is funny to me because one of my dogs is named Bruno. The result has been a lot of quotes about Bruno being yelled about in my house, especially when he is being annoying.

My Cousin Vinny

One night we were looking or something fun to watch, which is stressful if nobody has any ideas. I ran through some streaming services and came up with our options–The Great McGinty (one of my 50 films over than me that I’m working through), Charade from 1963, My Cousin Vinny from 1992, and The Holiday from 2006. As you can probably guess, we ended up with My Cousin Vinny, a legal comedy starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei.

I saw this movie when it came out and maybe I’ve watched it since, but not for a long time. It’s really funny. I’m not the biggest Joe Pesci fan but he’s the right combination of funny, annoying and surprisingly intelligent here, and Marisa Tomei as his fianceé is a dream. Her Oscar win for this movie was a bit controversial (even giving rise to an urban legend that her win was a mistake) but she’s genuinely good here, an easy scene-stealer. The movie also has a good supporting cast including Lane Smith as the prosecuting attorney and Fred Gwynne, who is amazing as a no-nonsense judge.

The movie also features Ralph Macchio in an important but not particularly interesting role as a guy falsely accused of murder, whose cousin Vinny is called in to defend. Macchio was second-billed as his star-making roles in The Karate Kid franchise hadn’t been that long ago at the time, but his role is far less significant than Tomei was, who was credited after him.

Red Dwarf

Just last night as I write this, I decided to introduce my daughters to Red Dwarf, the British science fiction comedy which started in the 1980’s…and we ended up watching the entire first season in one evening. Now granted, it’s only six episodes long, but still, that’s a lot of Red Dwarf in a short time. Suffice it say, the girls loved it. They both think the Cat (as played by Danny John-Jules) is hilarious. They haven’t yet met Robert Llewellyn’s Kryten, whom I think they are going to love as well.

The first season of the show is fun but I’m looking forward to seeing it develop into the series I really remember, about the four leads (Rimmer, Lister, the Cat and Kryten) dealing with various funny science fiction challenges. There was a some of that in the first season, especially in the episode Future Echoes, but not as much as I wanted.

I did like all the cat jokes, though.

I’ll finish off there, and leave us off with a short video that I watched recently that I really enjoy. This is actor and musician Bill Bailey doing the Doctor Who theme song, but as if it were a Belgian jazz number. It’s pretty funny.

Til next time!

One thought on “Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done – March 8, 2022

  1. Red Dwarf was one of two British sci-fi shows that I got into just after the cancellation of the classic Doctor Who. The other was Blake’s 7. Red Dwarf found great ways to make its silliness quite funny and on occasion it really made me bust a gut laughing. Thanks, Ben, for another reminder of great stuff from the 20th Century.

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