Here it is, folks! A brief run-down of our current media diet: Some of the TV shows and movies we’ve been watching, books we’ve been reading, and podcasts we’ve been listening to and more.
We usually only list things that we’d recommend and highly rate. Occasionally we’ll list something that’s so egregiously bad that it warrants inclusion. For ratings, we’re using a basic American-style school grading scale, with “A+” being best, “F” being worst.
Here we go…
“The Mandalorian” – Seasons 1 & 2 – A- – Some reviewers have said this Star Wars TV series is better than many of the actual films, and we agree. Well-produced and riveting, each episode moves quickly through the adventures of a bounty hunter in his quest to deliver a baby Yoda to a Jedi for training. Some episodes are weaker than others and seem to not significantly advance the larger narrative. But there’s never a dull moment, with lots of action and drama and measured doses of comic relief.
“My Octopus Teacher” – A+ – One has to wonder whether this film would’ve ever been made were it not for Netflix and its voracious need to consistently produce original content. This documentary explores the undersea life of a single, small octopus and the personal relationship between the filmmaker and one of nature’s distinct and most unusual life forms.
“You’re Wrong About” Podcast – B+ – This show does ultra-deep dives into specific pop-cultural events and infamous celebrity icons like O.J. Simpson and his murder trial, Doctor Oz and his daytime-TV quackery, the marriage and death of Princess Di and Prince Charles. Each subject discussion spans several long episodes.
“Solar Opposites” – Season 1 – A- – If you liked Rick & Morty, then you will like this. For the record, we’re big fans of Rick & Morty, whose producers and writers created “Solar Opposites.” The show largely feels like an extension of its predecessor. It’s brilliant and funny, but the insidery astronomy, philosophy and science jokes have been dialed down a bit. The nuanced, contemporary pop-cultural references are turned up.
“My Neighbor Totoro” Film – A+ – Japanese animated-film auteur Hayao Miyazaki seldom fails to deliver something magical, entertaining and beautiful. “My Neighbor Totoro” is a classic of Japanese anime and one of Miyazaki’s most beloved animated feature films. “Totoro” is one of those films that rewards with repeated viewing. We’ve seen it about six or seven times now.
“Inherent Vice” by Thomas Pynchon – Film, Book and Audiobook – A+ – We’ve done this weird thing where we’ve read a novel, and then seen the movie adapted from the novel, and then listened to the audiobook version of the novel, then re-read /-watched /-listened to them all over again several times. We’ve done this with several works of fiction over the past few years. The experience is throughly, richly rewarding if the material is good and well produced. “Inherent Vice” is a great novel, as is its film adaptation directed by P.T. Anderson. The audiobook nails the material. The book is one of Pynchon’s more accessible and recent works. It’s a vividly observed L.A. detective odyssey set in the early 1970s in the wake of the Manson-cult murders and the souring days of the hippy drug culture. Think Sam Spade but with lots of pot-smoking.
“Killing & Dying” by Adrian Tomine – A+ – Among the best graphic novels we’ve ever read. “Killing & Dying” is a poignant collection of short stories, some quirky, some profound (and some both) filled with the bittersweet tribulations of people trying to escape the mundane and awkward circumstances of their lives.
“The Lion King” Film (Original Animated Versions) – B – This 1990s Disney classic hasn’t aged well. Watching it now with my own toddler after so many years since its original theatrical release, the animated film feels thin, formulaic and less impressive. Maybe it’s just because we’re older and current animated feature films look vastly different now with their incredibly high-res CGI animation and more visually and editorially sophisticated storytelling.
Kottke Blog – A+ – We’ve been reading Jason Kottke’s blog since 2002. It’s virtually a national treasure. The blog has been a great digest and source of news and opinion on arts, culture, technology, politics and science.