good times, bad times…

CranfordFeeling the urge upon us for some quality historical fiction to get involved in, we picked up something called Cranford. A BBC Masterpiece Theater production. Though I have finally gained an appreciation for the old, old classics, I still shudder when I see the words “masterpiece theater” as I so loathed the show back when I was in short pants. But we watched it anyway. And I must say, After completing 291 minutes of it, we want more! So we will be netflixing the others productions that are trailered on this disc.

Cranford is the story of an old fashioned British town, even old fashioned for the 1840’s (when it takes place). Cranford seems to be primary a town for (and dominated by) widowed or single older women and their work to keep things proper… Which leads to gossip and judgment and people trying to do the right thing… But of course, inappropriate things do happen! The story focuses primarily on two much respected sisters (one of whom is Dame Judi Dench) who are considered to be somewhat the model of behavior and opinion in the town and also on the events that occur when a charming and young new doctor moves to town and gains an attraction to the vicar’s daughter…


Though he is maybe not as careful around the others ladies of the town as he should be… The cast is a wonderful collection of British actors (including Mr Everywhere, Michael Gambon), but I most particularly liked Philip Glenister as Mr. Carter, the estate manager of the wealthy and sad Lady Ludlow. A great character of pride, logic and compassion.


It is based upon three novels by Elizabeth Gaskell, and while that doesn’t mean anything to me, it was surely a different kind of beast than the historical fictions I’ve seen from the hands of Dickens and Austin. Cranford is funny and light-hearted, but quite dramatic, and while certainly a downer at times, as there is love and death, crime and scandal, wealthy and poverty, and the eternal conflict between the old ways and the new ways… There is a charming silver lining in those old British clouds.

The final episode though, has too, too much drama! I was hiding my eyes and hanging on to the edge of the seat… Cranford is a great series that I would have liked to have not seen, just so I could see it anew again!

something i learned today…

I stumbled on this silly little webapp, NetFlix History Analyzer. Here you can enter in your NetFlix rental history to see, for example, how much you have spent/saved by using NetFlix. I wasn’t particularity interested in that, but as I can’t avoid any pointless statistic that are sent my way, I did like this part:

Here’s some more about your renting habits…

* You kept each rental for around 12 days on average.
* The longest you kept a single DVD was 117 days.
* You rented about 5 DVDs each month.
* You’re not taking full advantage of your current plan. You could be renting 13 DVDs each month.

Sure, as we barely get one a week, keep them for nearly two weeks on average and kept one for 4 months, maybe we aren’t getting the most from this… But I like the convenience and gimmickry of NetFlix, so even though we could certainly go out and rent a dvd every week without it, we aren’t going to get rid of it… I’m just saying…

Speaking of things I’m just saying, As I haven’t been able to get around to catching up with my backlog I will just jot down some movies from the last few months…

1) We watched a CIA movie, The Good Shepard. Though it had a cast I could do normally without (um… Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin? Ekk!) they actually did fine jobs, which, coupled with the good cast members (De Niro, Michael Gambon, William Hurt, among others) made it a respectable and involving movie. The (truish?) story of the CIA told via a young fellow who gets involved with the Company when it is formed. It is an engaging and serious film and Damon plays a serious workaholic spy officer who puts his family and everything else on the backburner as he seems to be involved in every major event of the CIA for decades. I liked its quiet pace and the only problem that I had (as I barely recognized Jolie) is that it made me think of Breach, which I liked better (but probably just because of Chris Cooper).

2) Primary Colors. I always find this to be an entertaining film. It is basically the story of Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. Well, not really the story of the campaign so much as the story of the personality of Bill Clinton at the time of the campaign… And the story of his handlers trying to keep the scandals under wraps, or at least in check. Told through the vehicle of an idealistic fellow (Adrian Lester) who joins the campaign only to find out that there isn’t much room for idealism. John Travolta does a good (though generally comes across as corny) portrayal of Clinton, as Emma Thompson (as Hilary) and Kathy Bates are both good, but the highlights are Larry Hagman and Billy Bob Thornton… Though Billy Bob does get carried away at times, they are the most compelling characters of story.

3) The Darjeeling Limited. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this. As I’ve said before, each of Wes Anderson’s film has been better than the previous one so I was curious to see what he would follow up The Life Aquatic with, as it is one of my favorite movies of recent times. The Darjeeling Limited is certainly cute and clever and witty and all of that. It also feels very Wes Anderson, but it feel like Wes Anderson not trying too hard and it didn’t really move me. The story of three brothers traveling across India to visit their mother, at heart it felt more like a first movie, only coated with much more money and the clever design and cinematography of Anderson’s films. The characters didn’t interest me, the story didn’t particularly interest me, the soundtrack wasn’t as good as I might have expected and it wasn’t too interesting. But it does have its visual merits, and a couple of genuinely funny and/or touching scenes, but not something I’d probably watch more than once.

4) We also watched Control. A biopic of Ian Curtis from Joy Division, based heavily on his wife’s memoir. It was pretty good, but we watched it right about when we watched Joy Division, which made for an interesting pair. The documentary is certainly better, but after watching it and hearing many aspects of Ian’s life referenced, it did add some depth to follow it up with this movie as it thoroughly cover his depression, his epilepsy, his personal troubles between his ladies, the specifics of which weren’t really covered in Joy Division. And though I don’t know how similar this was to Deborah Curtis’ book, if it was at all then she must have been quite fair minded about it, as the relationship between her and Ian seems quite honest and believable.

when men were men…

Wall StreetHonestly, I wouldn’t have upgraded to the new WordPress if I knew how much it was not made for a little screen. On this thing that text box is about 6 inches across, making me feel all claustrophobic…

Aside from that, last week we watched Wall Street. Believe it or not, I’d never seen this one before. Though it is one of those bad people behaving badly while dressed in bad fashions, it otherwise good (and I shouldn’t really dismiss it for the fashions, as it is 22 years old).

Charlie Sheen is Bud Fox, a young fellow working the trenches of Wall Street (meaning calling people on the phone trying to get them to bite on his stock tips) who is impatient to become a mover and shaker and decides that the best way to do it is to jump in with the big man about town, Gordon “Greed is Good!” Gekko (with Michael Douglas in an Oscar winning performance that made Gekko into such a figure that some people (myself included) thought that he was a real person). Of course, Gekko is a ruthless bastard but he decides to give the young feller a chance to be as much of a ruthless bastard as he is.

Looking for angles to impress his new “mentor”, Bud gets torn between himself and loyalty to his father (Martin Sheen, oddly enough) on one side and loyalty to achieving his dreams and Gordon on the other… It’s all about insider trading, betrayal, what people will do for money and what a punk Gorden Gekko is.

Also featuring Daryl Hannah, James Karen and Hal Holbrook.

tv time…

I know, who am I to make a TV reference. Especially not even owing a TV?

Well, we’ve been watching some shows lately. Enough that I felt compelled to broach the subject.

First off, the standards… We do regularly keep up with The Office, Lost, The Biggest Loser, Flight of the Conchords and Big Love. I doubt that much needs to be said about these. But here’s a little something.

Flight of the Conchords is the most important of these. Sure, the 2nd season isn’t as good as the first, but it is still good. There have been fewer great musical numbers, but some of them have been really great. Just a show (and an album) that I can’t do without.

The Office is pretty funny, now that I have gotten over comparing it with the incomparable British original.

Lost sucks, but… The way that they overstuff it with ridiculous story-lines and terrible acting is somewhat entrancing (though admittedly, it is all about Ben Linus… If it weren’t for that character, I never would have made it through a whole episode).

Big Love is just plain good. It didn’t grab me right off like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, in fact it took watching more than a whole season before I got interested. Sticking with it was certainly worth it, as it is quite good… Though I feel like I am watching Harry Dean Stanton slowly die before my eyes.

The Biggest Loser I have no excuse for. This is the first season that I have watched every episode. I think that I’m really just waiting for Ron to get booted off. That will be my dream episode.

We also watched the first two seasons of Mad Men. And that is a very good show.

Past those though, with some seasons ending we have stepped up to the plate to try some new stuff, with generally good results. First off I must mention the unmentionable.

We have had so many people tell us how good The Wire was. A couple of years back we rented the first disk and couldn’t even get through the first episode. I remember it being so bad that I felt like we were watching an episode of that terrible police drama with Ice-T! Well, Caitlin talked me into trying it again and, you know, it didn’t seem like that at all this time. I won’t say it’s the best show, but we watched an episode or too and it is quite watchably good.

We also watched the first 2 episodes of True Blood. This vampires among us drama is alright. I couldn’t really buy it. I mean sure, vampires are an implausability I could watch in a show. But Vampires accepted into society would be such a ridiculous thing that I can’t even go for it in a show. I mean, they are super-strong, immortal, shape-shifting hypnotists who, by their history and nature, kill people and drink their blood. Just getting the blood thing out of the way I don’t think is enough to make them seem acceptable.

We also started watching Spaced. I heard many positive things about it at my old job and I am a big fan of Pegg and Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz that I really wanted to check it out. It is quite funny. Very silly and goofy and filled with film references. Each episode seems to have at least a few scenes that were taken out of films. But they are so obvious that even if you don’t recognize the scene, you still can tell that it’s a homage of sorts to some film out there somewhere. While Pegg is good, I find that his co-star/co-writer Jessica Hynes is effin brilliant!

Personally the high point of this recent spate of TV discovery would have to be Breaking Bad. The story of a 50 year old family man (whose wife is expecting) and high school chemistry teacher who, when he finds out that he is suffering from terminal cancer decides to go into the crystal meth business to raise some money. It is really darned funny, in a black comedy kind of way… And surprisingly violent.


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