Saturday, January 30, 2016

Morning Coffee (1/30/16)

Reminder! I'm going to see four Oscar nominees today and writing up a little diary of it as a Patreon exclusive. Sign up by tonight to get it!

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project post was about the delightfully feminist Creed.

Gilmore Girls is OFFICIALLY BACK and that link has some details.

I am totally fine with Coca-Cola product placement in Grease! Live, when I think about it. It fits so well. And to the other point in that article, it's certainly worth noting that "Did she put up a fight?" is still considered an acceptable lyric, but what a lot of the stories about this seem to be missing is that the lyrics that are being changed ("The chicks'll cream" to "scream," etc.) are frequently changed in stage productions, including (according to Seth Rudetsky) on Broadway. So it's not Fox suddenly doing this without precedent. And REGARDLESS, the actor does not seem the correct person to ask about this. It's not up to HIM.

Hillary Clinton and the audacity of political realism (Bill Clinton said on Snapchat [!] yesterday that Hillary makes him rearrange their furniture every three months, and when she is done being president HGTV should really give them a show. Imagine: Two former presidents show up at your house and tell you what's wrong with the layout of your living room! GOLD.)

Speaking of: How “House Hunters” became the most unstoppable juggernaut on TV

Bernie Sanders' Campaign Is Concerned About the 'Berniebro,' As They Maybe Should Be

When A Country Without Abortion Tells Women To Not Get Pregnant

I was happy to read this non-terrible review of The Finest Hours, given what I was saying yesterday about wanting to watch Chris Pine be soaking wet for two hours act.

Interesting: 32 Top Network Execs Dish on the Shows They Really Want

From Pickup Artist to Pariah

Perseus Rescuing Andromeda, In Order Of Rescuing

Friday, January 29, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: Creed

Movie: Creed

I went into this without ever having seen a previous Rocky movie, and still liked it quite a lot. There were definitely some times when I felt like I was missing details that would have helped me understand what was going on, but the movie stood decently on its own and I don't think those details impeded my understanding of the emotional truth of it even if I didn't get all the plot/character intricacies. Michael B. Jordan was phenomenal as Donnie, and I can now join the rest of the Internet in outrage over his lack of Best Actor nomination. (I might have also nominated Tessa Thompson as Supporting Actress.) I don't really care about boxing, but I loved this found-family story, and the way the main characters messed up in realistic ways while still being basically good and caring about each other. And absolutely my favorite thing about the movie was the way the love interest Bianca (Thompson) had her own life and own career completely separate from boxing, and the way Donnie was so supportive of that. WELL DONE, Creed.

Availability: Still in a few theaters.

Nominated in:

Actor in a Supporting Role: It's honestly tough to think about this without letting the fact that he was nominated and Jordan was not affect my feelings, but Stallone did do quite a good job here. It must be tough to return to such an iconic role and play the character in a different stage of his life (and through a serious illness) in a way that is both believable for the new version of the character while still feeling like genuinely the same person as the old version.

Morning Coffee (1/29/16)

Tomorrow! I'm going to go to an independent theater in Boston and do a mini-marathon of some of the more obscure Oscar nominees - four features. I'll post normal movie posts about the titles next week, but I'm also going to write up a little diary of the day as a Patreon exclusive. (Are the audiences driving me nuts? Can I stay awake/focused for four movies? How much caffeine will I need?) You can get it with any pledge (starting at $1/month) if you sign up by Saturday night. Right this way! (If you're already a patron I LOVE YOU and of course you will be getting this post as well.)

ICYMI: TWO Oscar Project posts yesterday, on Star Wars and Ex Machina.

Okay, Friday! Happy links!

Since Friday is for happy links the only one I will give you about the primary is Gail Collins, as she is hilarious in addition to being very smart. (And, I think gets at the basic Sanders/Clinton divide: "Vote for Bernie: Send a message. Vote for Hillary: She knows how to make things work.")

Barbie has new body types! Here's Time's very interesting cover story. (Touching on something they get into there: even when Barbies all looked more similar, as a child, the thing that most confused me about them was that almost all the dolls were supposed to be the same character. So why did they exist in the same world [i.e. my bedroom]??? I found this highly disturbing.)

Fox is showing Grease! Live on Sunday and Vanity Fair has a fascinating story about the making of the 1978 movie that will probably make you want to go rewatch it immediately. (They liken Newton-John's casting to if someone cast Taylor Swift in the role today and now I WANT THAT MORE THAN ANYTHING.)

Today in Things You Should Be Watching: The 100’s Clarke Is Sci-fi’s Best Teen Heroine

And if you ARE watching, you should check out new podcast The Ark 100 FM from my friends Holly and Bailey. (Rumor has it I may fill in for an episode next month when Bailey's on vacation. I'll keep you posted.)

Ben Whishaw Is Even Better Than You Think is both the truest headline ever written and a very interesting interview with the creator of London Spy.

I cannot handle this even a little bit: Chris Pine sings school closings to the tune of 'Let It Snow' (I know it's an unpopular opinion but you can keep Hemsworth and Evans and Pratt; Pine is my favorite of The Chrises and I am greatly looking forward to that Coast Guard movie that seems to consist of him speaking in a terrible Boston accent while people throw buckets of water at him for two hours.)

My friend Chris - ACTUALLY my favorite Chris, obvs - tweeted this link and I may never forgive him: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' As An Anime Opening Works Way Too Well

Honest Wedding Website Admits There Jack Shit For Guests To Do While In Town

"ZEUS: look, I have produced a daughter from mine own head
this is Athena
HERA: like fuck you did"

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I should say first that I'm a casual Star Wars fan; I've seen all the movies but I'm certainly no expert; I have some nostalgic emotional attachment to the franchise but much less than many people do. I went into this with no particular hopes or expectations other than to be entertained, and I wound up liking it quite a lot. I thought it did a good job of being familiar and new at the same time, as far as characters, story, look, everything. A fun time all around (except for some of those specific not-fun plot developments but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN).

Availability: In theaters.

Nominated in:

Film Editing: Yeah, okay. (Spoiler: "Yeah, okay" is what I am going to say for a lot of these categories.)

Music (Original Score): Sure! John Williams is always great, and I thought he did a very good job here of providing callbacks to the previous movies' scores without making this sound like it was just a warmed over retread.

Sound Editing: Sure. Lots of complicated sounds!

Sound Mixing: Yeah, okay. It was fine and probably fairly complex!

Visual Effects: They managed to make the elaborate effects look good and very... A LOT... without tipping over that point at which things start looking kind of accidentally animated, so sure.

Oscar Project 2016: Ex Machina

Movie: Ex Machina

A few minutes into Ex Machina, I suddenly realized - this was not really a science fiction movie. It was a traditional gothic dressed up in the trappings of sci-fi. I don't mean this as a bad thing, at all: if anything, I was more intrigued. Domhnall Gleeson as Jane Eyre to Oscar Isaac's tech genius Rochester? Sign me up. But though this was basically fun to watch, I wound up disappointed as the movie went on: it was well-made but very predictable, it didn't explore any of the philosophical issues it brought up on any but the most surface level, and the ending was unsatisfying (and/but the friend I watched with and I agreed that, the way things were set up, we couldn't come up with an alternate ending that would have satisfied us).

Other points of note:
1. One of the most coincidentally interesting things about the movie was the way the cast was made up of actors from much buzzier current movies (Domhnall Gleeson of Brooklyn and Star Wars and The Revenant, Oscar Isaac of Star Wars, Alicia Vikander of The Danish Girl). It was neat seeing them in these very different roles, and they all did fine jobs with what they were given.
2. I am in no way an expert on A.I., but I know enough about tech in general to often be annoyed by ridiculous portrayals in movies, and this was somewhat less ridiculous than most. I didn't yell at the screen about it, in any case.
3. However, I DID yell at the screen about the terrible sound mixing, and I am certainly not an expert in THAT, so that tells you just how bad it was.

Availability: Streaming on Amazon Prime.

Nominated in:

Visual Effects: While watching, I actually forgot that Alicia Vikander's character was being played by a human woman rather than REALLY A ROBOT so . . . yeah, I guess the effects are awardworthy!

Writing (Original Screenplay): Nope. Reasons above!

Morning Coffee (1/28/16)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project post was on Sicario.

I don't 100% agree with Joan Walsh's specific reasons/priorities here, but this is a good read and I am SO TIRED of all the sexism in this campaign/the universe in general: Why I’m Supporting Hillary Clinton, With Joy and Without Apologies

(Should I write something about why I'm supporting Clinton? Is it obvious? Does anyone care?)

How Bernie Sanders Helped Derail a Promising Legal Fight Against Gun Violence

Two interesting pieces about Trump and Cruz and the Republican Party's dilemma: The Duel and Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? Republicans Argue Over Who Is Greater Threat

Donald Trump Is Skipping the GOP Debate Because He Hates Women

Is Trump's debate-skipping ploy a brilliant move or a devastating blunder?

"But Trump has other qualities that many evangelicals admit they admire: wealth and success and — don't let this surprise you — ruthlessness."

The very weird news week continues: Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa’s bizarre Twitter feud, explained

This is an important point: Don't ask actors to fix Hollywood diversity. Ask literally anyone else.

None of these statistics about (the lack of) diversity in publishing are surprising, but seeing it all spelled out that way is important.

Your reward for getting through all that is a happy, kitten-centric news story.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: Sicario

Movie: Sicario

Sicario dealt with interesting subject matter - the "war on drugs" around the U.S./Mexico border - but I had a very hard time feeling engaged with it, I think in large part because it did little to make me care about or even be interested in the characters before jumping into (often unexplained) action. It would have been stronger if it had felt more like it was about the story and characters rather than about some abstract concepts that mostly seemed like an excuse for lots of shooting. (Though to clarify, I'm not objecting to violence per se; I'm just more interested when it serves more of a narrative or character purpose, rather than vice versa.) All that said, the categories in which it was nominated have little to do with any of my objections.

Availability: Available on DVD/Blu-Ray/digital download, to buy or rent.

Nominated in:

Cinematography: Yeah, actually, maybe. It probably wouldn't be my first choice but the cinematography was definitely the movie's strongest suit.

Music (Original Score): The score was fine. I don't particularly want it to win but I wouldn't be outraged.

Sound Editing: Sure, fine, whatever. (By which I mean that the sound editing was good but I already know I'd prefer either of two others I haven't had time to write up yet.)

Morning Coffee (1/27/16)

ICYMI: Yesterday's Oscar Project post was on the disappointing Bridge of Spies.

Me elsewhere: Little House movie news!

Yesterday was a completely insane news day; I'm getting through all ten links here without even getting out of the newsy ones to tell you important things about kittens or cheese theft. Tomorrow! I hope! Anyway: Last night the leaders of the Oregon militia were arrested; here's an update.

BOTH parties have drama going on with debates: Trump doesn't want to face Megyn Kelly (but is totally up for facing down Putin, you guys) and realizes he can get a lot of press by refusing, basically, and MSNBC is holding an unsanctioned debate in New Hampshire and Clinton and O'Malley say they are in if everyone else is but Sanders is resisting. That seems slightly weird, since the Sanders and O'Malley campaigns are the ones that had their supporters being completely obnoxious calling for more debates, and it's not like Sanders has ever cared what the DNC thought before. I suppose he probably just doesn't think facing Clinton again before the first primary will help him, but it would be hilarious if he felt he were on tenuous footing with the party - being NOT A DEMOCRAT but insisting on being on the ballot and all - and now has to do whatever the DNC says. (I guess since they already gave him an exception to be on the ballot here they couldn't take that back, but is he still waiting for exceptions in some other states? I'm honestly not sure.)

Also B.o.B is in a rap feud with Neil deGrasse Tyson about whether the earth is flat, because... I don't even know anymore, you guys. (I mean. I know the earth is not flat. I don't know why yesterday was crazy.)

This is so important and undercovered: Hillary Clinton Wants To Talk To You About Love And Kindness

Is Ted Cruz Really an Awful, Terrible Jerk? Signs point to yes!

What an anti-Hillary hashtag tells us about sexism in the 2016 campaign

In case you were waiting for this to make your decision: Balloon Boy Officially Endorses Donald J. Trump for President

Of course he does: Paul LePage Wants To Bring Back The Guillotine For Drug Traffickers

Okay, how about some DELIGHTFUL news? Post-blizzard, Sen. Murkowski notes that only women turned up to run the Senate

The Creative Arts Emmys are splitting into two and THR's lede is fantastic: "In a move that should help fill a long-lamented hole in entertainment awards ceremonies, of which there will never be enough..."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: Bridge of Spies

Movie: Bridge of Spies

I like Cold War spy stories, and this one was . . . okay. It was way too determined to be a feel-good movie for my taste, undercutting its own most interesting points in its need to show that if Tom Hanks is just earnest and American enough, everything will work out. There were a ton of moral ambiguities that were hinted at and then quickly papered over. Most of the acting was decent, but the writing was weak at times, the pacing was weird, and the whole thing just didn't hang together very well. However, the movie DID do a good job of setting the scene and historical context, and I really liked the way it showed how shocked people were by the idea of the Berlin Wall, which is now so obvious and well-known in retrospect.

Availability: Still in a few theaters, or coming out on DVD/Blu-Ray/digital download on February 2nd.

Nominated in:

Best Picture: No. As I said, this was okay, but not great - maybe not even good - and there were many stronger movies this year.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Mark Rylance always does a masterful job with what he's given, though this was not his best role. I wouldn't be upset if he won.

Music (Original Score): Meh. It was okay, if overwrought at times.

Production Design: This is the one category in which I really felt this deserved a nomination. The New York sets were good but the East German ones were really impressive and felt very real and immersive and detailed.

Sound Mixing: Uh, maybe. Sound mixing tends to only stick out to me when it's bad, unless I'm particularly watching for it, and I'd forgotten this was nominated in this category so I wasn't. It was fine!

Writing (Original Screenplay): Nooo. There were some sort of unexpectedly funny moments, enough that when the Coens' writing credit appeared I thought "Ohhh, that explains it," but a lot of the earnest stuff - which was the majority of the movie - was just clunky. There were a lot of points that never really resolved or went anywhere, including some of the aforementioned jokes: I expected something to come of Donovan's daughter dating his associate, or for it at least to be mentioned later, but no, it was just a cheap funny moment at the beginning. We never see what happens to Pryor after he's released; the interesting ambiguities about Abel's and Powers' fates in the movie itself are immediately undercut by the historical note about their real lives.

Morning Coffee (1/26/16)

ICYMI: Yesterday's Oscar Project post was about Spotlight, which (so far) I want to win it all.

Me elsewhere: The Magicians premiered on Syfy last night and I wrote a bit about it.

Disgusting: Ted Cruz’s campaign is handing out bottled water in Flint — but only to anti-abortion groups

This is fascinating: 14 years a fugitive: the hunt for Ratko Mladić, the Butcher of Bosnia

Why Donald Trump Plays Phantom of the Opera at His Rallies

The most disturbing thing about Donald Rumsfeld's mobile gaming app is how very much I want to play it.

I am greatly enjoying the new X-Files but I ALSO enjoy the Fug Girls' rather grumpy (but loving) recap.

Related: I love when the CIA has a sense of humor.

You may all already know about this but I recently came across We Hunted the Mammoth and it's pretty great/infuriating!

Ooh: Fleeting Wonders: A Petrified Forest Unearthed By A Beach Storm

Shameless fans, here's a video for "The F Word"!

I'm not sure why Slate/Atlas Obscura are talking about Julian of Norwich, but she was quite interesting.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: Spotlight

Movie: Spotlight

Spotlight, about the Boston Globe investigation into sexual abuse by priests, is absolutely my favorite nominated movie I've seen so far; I want it to win all the categories in which it was nominated and some of those in which it wasn't. During the movie, I remember thinking "I want to be watching this movie forever," which is a feeling I do not have often. I loved the writing, the acting, the realistic Boston setting, the way the main characters were none of them perfect but were all working together to accomplish something important. I can't wait to see it again.

Availability: In a few theaters. Go find it!

Nominated in:

Best Picture: Yes yes yes. It's a wonderfully made movie with great writing and a great cast, telling a very important story.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Mark Ruffalo was great, but I honestly could have filled this entire category with nominees just from this movie. But yes. Ruffalo's portrayal of Mike Rezendes was just controlled enough, just this side of over-the-top, so that the audience felt how much he cared about the story without ever making it about the reporter rather than the subject.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Sure. Rachel McAdams had a pretty quiet role, but she did very well with it, and I kept forgetting it was her, which in this context I mean as a compliment.

Directing: Yes. This was a movie that could have easily lost a lot of its power by being too much or too obvious in any of a variety of directions, and Tom McCarthy resisted that and kept things admirably controlled, which made the movie stronger.

Film Editing: Sure. I think the editing played a large role in creating the tone of quiet urgency that made the movie so successful.

Writing (Original Screenplay): Yep. The writing was complex and compelling and just generally great. One challenge of movies based on the recent past is that the audience knows what's going to happen; I was living in the Boston area at the time of these events and followed the story and even that knowledge didn't decrease the tension of the movie, which is, among other things, a mark of good writing.

Morning Coffee (1/25/16)

Welcome to newest Patreon patron Elias! Learn more about how you can support the blog here.

Me elsewhere: TV news!

In response to the reaction to the very white Oscar nominations, the Academy is making some changes.

Last week I emailed "Wait, does this end in President Bloomberg?" to a friend, and now I am glad I have that prediction in writing.

How Ted Cruz’s best friend drew him into Jamaican politics and business

It's Monday so I bet you need a bunch of pictures of three huskies and their cat BFF.

Stiffing waitstaff on tips in the name of religion is just gross.

Here is your annual reminder of the difference between sound editing and sound mixing. (This weekend I was watching a movie and kept yelling "The sound mixing is so terrible!" so apparently I have learned the difference!)

What A Mostly Black Hockey Club For Kids Tells Us About The Sport's Future

Ooh: The Secret City of the Cosmonauts

These Little-Known Photographs Put an Eerie Face on Child Labor

I'm not even that into vampire movies but this one has a hilarious title and intriguing cast.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Morning Coffee (1/24/16)

The X-Files is back tonight and if you were not aware, Gillian Anderson was offered half Duchovny's pay. HALF. IN 2015. Also, in the original series: "The studio initially required Anderson to stand a few feet behind her male partner on camera, careful never to step side-by-side with him."

I love love love Lena Dunham's essay about saying no to things: "A delightful cocktail of self-doubt blended with the need for constant approval had me convinced that 'yes' was the key to my like-ability. Without 'yes' what did I have to offer? And so I sprinkled it liberally, and as my obligations built up, so did my resentments, so did my feelings of inadequacy."

How Progressives Can — and Must — Regain the Moral High Ground

This is long and complicated at times but really intriguing: The DIY Scientist, the Olympian, and the Mutated Gene

"You have to think about what these people are saying when they scrutinize me, or every other brown person, in an airport security line. They’re clearly saying: I think you would kill me, and you, and all the people on this plane, including the children."

Disturbing but important and fascinating: How the Klan Got Its Hood

Huh: A Fake Politico Reporter Is Becoming Facebook Friends With Lots Of Journalists

Ooh: John Dee painting originally had circle of human skulls, x-ray imaging reveals

The 1962 Laughter Epidemic of Tanganyika Was No Joke

Miserable-Looking Women Wearing Flower Crowns In Western Art History

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Morning Coffee (1/23/16)

ICYMI: Yesterday's Oscar Project post was on World of Tomorrow.

Me elsewhere: I explained that Romeo and Juliet sequel in the works at ABC.

I can only assume this will increase his support: Trump retweets support from neo-Nazi ‘White Genocide’ account

Shocker: Putin ‘Probably Approved’ Litvinenko Poisoning, British Inquiry Says

Charlotte Rampling's comments on the Oscars and diversity are obviously terrible and disappointing but this sort of thing also always makes me think "Where are her PR people and why was she not prepared for this question???"

And here's another entry in "This is terrible and SURELY IT WAS SOMEONE'S JOB TO STOP HER:" Carly Fiorina accused of 'ambushing' children for anti-abortion rally

Who Poisoned Flint, Michigan?

Here's some good historical context for the A Birthday Cake for George Washington controversy.

SIGH: State Police drove Patriots game balls to Gillette after refs forgot

Hey Boston-ish friends, let's go to the Mapparium! That sounds really neat.

It will be interesting to watch what happens with this: Narrowing a Gap in the Sci-Fi Universe: One Fangirl Giving a Voice to Others

Women With Snake Boyfriends In Western Art History

Friday, January 22, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: World of Tomorrow

Movie: World of Tomorrow

This was a delightful animated short about a little girl being given a tour of the distant future. It's adorable and weird and funny and sad and definitely worth 17 minutes of your time. The art was interesting and fit the subject matter very well, and perhaps my favorite part was the way the little girl's comments and answers were all realistic and age-appropriate even when confronted with crazy science fiction hijinks.

Availability: Streaming on Netflix.

Nominated in:

Short Film (Animated): I haven't seen any of the other nominees in this category yet, so I can't say whether I think this was the best, but I thought it was very good and, in a vacuum, I'd say it deserves this.

Morning Coffee (1/22/16)

Happy Friday!

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar Project post was on Carol, which I found disappointing.

Happy birthday, Wilbur Scoville! Reading about him made me want hot peppers, of course.

The kid in Brooklyn is a delight.

Whoa! 230-year-old secret lovers' code solved by Antiques Roadshow viewer

The Boston Timescape Project is nifty.

io9 doing important work: Kids of The Magic School Bus, Ranked

11 Things Women With Curly Hair Are Tired Of Hearing Especially this one:
"4. 'I have curly hair too, but I always get up in the morning to straighten it.'
Wow, cool, very awesome. But also, how sad for you."

Interesting: Gently Posed Photos of Everyday Life in Late-19th-Century Rural Japan

I came across these Stars Hollow art posters this week and they are gorgeous.

The odds of me buying something from Taylor Swift's fashion line are . . . certainly greater than zero.

Prayers That Would Double As Excellent Pickup Lines If I Possessed Even An Ounce Of Real Courage

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: Carol

Movie: Carol

I liked this but didn't love it, which was disappointing because so many of my friends had spoken so highly of it, and I'm usually all about the Rich Sad Drunk Midcentury WASPs. And the more I've thought about it, the less I like it. I think my main problem with it was that none of the characters felt like people, at all; they were one-dimensional collections of cliches, and most of them - mostly problematically Therese - seemed to have no existence before or outside of the timeline of the movie. This made it very difficult to empathize with anyone or to understand their motivations, and there were plenty of actions in this movie that would have benefited from some explanation of motivations. It's possible that the characters were shown this way to show that none of them saw each OTHER as real people, in which case I understand it as a choice, but it still didn't really work for me. In the middle of the movie I came up with a theory about a possible giant plot twist that would have made it all much more comprehensible, but it didn't happen.*

(Some slight spoilers: My main issue, I think, was that Therese was such a blank. Who WAS she? Did she have a family? How did she afford that apartment while working in a department store? (Note: Eilis in Brooklyn was working in a department store in the same year and her life seemed much more realistic.) No one other than her boyfriend was around to care that she was going off with some person she'd just met? Did she just quit her job? What was she THINKING?)

This WAS a very pretty movie, gorgeously shot, and it was very effective at making me want a martini. Would someone please bring me a martini?

Availability: Currently in theaters.

Nominated in:

Actress in a Leading Role: Nope. My main reaction to Cate Blanchett in this was "Is she auditioning to play Baroness Schraeder?" but that comparison does a disservice to Eleanor Parker, who was a PARAGON OF SUBTLETY compared to Blanchett here. To be fair, she wasn't given a lot to work with, I don't think, but she came across almost as a caricature of herself.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Rooney Mara was a bit better, I think, but she also didn't do much to deepen the essential blankness of her character. Again, maybe that was the point! But it didn't work for me.

Cinematography: Yes! THIS is deserved: the movie was beautifully and interestingly shot and the cinematography did more than anything else to convey the characters' personalities and points of view.

Costume Design: Okay, sure. The costumes were great, though I thought Brooklyn did a better job, when it comes to 1950s New York.

Music (Original Score): I thought "This is really distracting/obvious/cliched" about the music several times during the movie, so . . . no.

Adapted Screenplay: No. Again, I'll have more thoughts after reading (I swear I have ALL THESE BOOKS on hold at the library), but most of what I didn't like - especially the flatness of the characters - came down to the writing, I think.

* So - SPOILERS - my crazy twist theory, especially given that this is based on a Highsmith book, was that the husband had paid Therese to entrap Carol, planted her in the store, etc. That would have made Therese so much more interesting AND explained so many of the issues I had with the plot (and also how she could afford that apartment) and I was so disappointed that that wasn't actually what was happening.

Morning Coffee (1/21/16)

ICYMI: Yesterday's Oscar Project post was on Brooklyn, which I liked quite a lot.

Wait: The Grand Jury in the Tamir Rice Case Did Not Take a Vote on Charges (Reading the various updates since I first saw this story yesterday, it's unclear what actually happened, but I think it's important to be aware of anyway.)

My friend Chris is in a new comedy web series called Ride With Me and as of this writing I have not had a chance to watch it yet but Chris is great and YOU should watch it.

And my friend Jack went to the lesser-known candidates' forum this week and it was apparently quite something.

On to real candidates: "Look, let’s get this out there once and for all: It’s not that I don’t think Bernie can win, it’s that I don’t want him to."

Why Bernie Sanders is fighting with Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign

Is the Bernie Sanders Surge Real?

What a time to be alive: Rand Paul calls Donald Trump 'Gollum'

Whoa, look at this: Prehistoric Massacre Hints at War Among Hunter-Gatherers

New planet?!?! (I still miss Pluto.)

This is amazing: The Illegitimacy of Aragorn’s Claim to the Throne (Note: I have read Lord of the Rings but am not enough of a buff to know if everything in that piece is accurate; I just loved the writing.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: Brooklyn

Movie: Brooklyn

This was such a lovely, thoroughly enjoyable film, with a complex coming-of-age story that included but did not revolve around a love story. It does a very good job of bringing its settings (1950s New York and Ireland) and their cultures to life, and it's full of strong performances. It's sentimental but not treacly, which is a difficult line. This wasn't particularly daring or shocking or edgy or anything, but it was just - good.

Availability: In a few theaters - and some are holding it over or getting it back because of the nominations.

Nominated in:

Best Picture: It's not my favorite movie of the year, but I thought it was very very good, strong all around, and I would not be sad if it won.

Actress in a Leading Role: Sure. Saoirse Ronan is extremely good at showing all sorts of shifts of emotion quietly, and she's generally delightful here. And she's in almost every scene, which is a LOT to carry.

Adapted Screenplay: If I had my way, Nick Hornby would stop writing novels and devote himself to adapting midcentury coming-of-age stories full time, because I love his screenplays. (An Education was great; you should see it if you haven't.) Again, I'll have more thoughts on the adaptation angle after I read the novel, but I thought the writing here did a great job of making the movie earnest but also funny and smart rather than saccharine.

Morning Coffee (1/20/16)

ICYMI, I posted about a book - Fool Moon - and a movie, Room.

I've got a few new index pages for you! First, you can see all my Oscar Project posts here, sorted by title and category. And you can see a running list of the books I've read this year with links to my posts here.

Sanders Campaign Event Closes Birmingham Warming Station on Coldest Night of Year So Far (This is the kind of thing that I absolutely don't think he did on PURPOSE or anything, but the fact that neither the actual issue nor the way it would make the campaign look apparently occurred to anyone just seems tone-deaf and inept, as usual.)

Michael Bay's 13 Hours promotes some of the worst Benghazi conspiracy theories

An important read: America’s Other Original Sin

Well this is horrifying: Fangirl Starts Dating Jake T. Austin After Relentlessly Tweeting Him Since 2009

Yay AS Byatt!

Wow: Southwark newborns to receive free books thanks to Dolly Parton

Target Wants to Make You a Cocktail While You Shop. Okay.

"They are visual objects, casualties of Pinterest’s aesthetic teleology, which elevates domestic busywork to what essentially feels like pyrotechnics."

I would absolutely watch this version of Little Women.

This 1917 Map of Fairyland Is Like A Where's Waldo of Fantasy Easter Eggs

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016 Books: Fool Moon

Fool Moon: Book Two of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Roc, 2001
342 p.

I like the concept of this series - noir-ish detective! But with supernatural stuff! And I read the first one years ago and remember liking it. Unfortunately, I had a really hard time getting into this one; it seemed way too slow for a WEREWOLF MURDER MYSTERY, and the protagonist spent a little too much time congratulating himself for his "old-fashioned" views on women. (Which - I don't think all characters need to have beliefs and viewpoints I approve of in a moral sense. It's often more interesting when they don't. But here the utterly stereotypical retrograde views just served to make the character unsympathetic and less, not more, interesting.) However, several people have told me that book three is when these get good, so I'll try the next one soon.

Oscar Project 2016: Room

Movie: Room

First of all: Obviously this is a very disturbing story, about a woman and child held captive in a shed, and (spoilers? It's in the trailer!) how they escape and adjust to the world. That said, it wasn't as difficult to watch as I had feared; there was a lot of humor and beauty interlaced with the more painful material. If you are particularly bothered by a piece of the content - children in peril, stories involving sexual assault, etc. - you probably want to avoid this, but otherwise, I think it's worth watching, especially for the performances of Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay.

Availability: In theaters, though it was pretty hard to find.

Nominated in:

Best Picture: Nah. The movie as a whole just didn't work for me as well as other Best Picture nominees did, though it was very affecting in the moment, completely terrifying at one point, and had some very good performances. But immediately after I finished watching, I started thinking "Hm, I wish it had done xyz instead" or "Wait, how did that...?" I do still think it's worth seeing, but I don't think it's the best movie of the year.

Actress in a Leading Role: YES. Pretty much the entire movie rests on Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay's performances, and they were both amazing. (He really should have been nominated as well.) Larson takes a character that could have easily been reduced to one-dimensional victim and makes her very complex and interesting.

Directing: Um, sure. I think the directing deserves some of the credit for the strength of the portrayal of Jack (the little boy)'s unique worldview, and for letting quiet moments and subtle performances have a lot of power.

Adapted Screenplay: I will probably revise this after I read the book - I'm on the hold list for it at the library - but I think they did a good job of retaining Jack's distinctive point of view. Unfortunately, I think this was to the detriment of really making the story work as a story (which could well be a problem with the book, too). There were many times when I felt like the audience needed information Jack didn't have.

Morning Coffee (1/19/16)

ICYMI: My Oscar Project post on Fifty Shades of Grey

Most of Bernie Sanders’s big ideas are dead-on-arrival in Congress. Do Democrats care? YES. Please yes.

AND Bernie Sanders’s single-payer plan isn’t a plan at all. I honestly do not understand how anyone believes he's a good candidate. Maybe I'm just too pragmatic?

A bit of good news? Donald Trump Is Really Unpopular With General Election Voters

Ted Cruz's college roommate's tweets are pretty amazing.

The tennis scandal is quite something but my favorite part might be BuzzFeed's title.

Sigh. New Hampshire. NH Tea Partier sorry for disturbing description of how he would carry out school shooting: ‘I’d have a field day’

SIGH. NEW HAMPSHIRE. New Hampshire Legislators Refuse to Sign Sexual Harassment Policy, Claim It Would Violate Their Free Speech

I'm always a big skeptical of "We found xyz!" but this evidence for the Salem witch hanging site seems pretty good.

Space flower!!

Woman Who Lived Alone in Siberian Wilderness for 70 Years Airlifted to Hospital

Monday, January 18, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: Fifty Shades of Grey

Movie: Fifty Shades of Grey

I have mixed feelings about the conversations around this book/movie. I didn't like it. I didn't think it was good, qualitatively, completely aside from the subject matter. But the conversation too often veers toward the ever-popular "women can't tell truth from fiction so need to be protected from xyz," and I hate that. I will say that I thought the movie actually improved on the book in some ways, especially in the writing, and that Dakota Johnson did a good job with what she was given.

Availability: On DVD or Blu-Ray now, or available to buy from various download services. HBO also has it at the moment, so check your listings or HBO Go.

Nominated in:

Music (Original Song): This movie actually did have a decent soundtrack! And really, as far as categories go, this is probably the one most divorced from the movie itself, so we can say "Academy Award nominee Fifty Shades of Grey" (which is fun because people are so shocked) but it's practically on a technicality. Anyway! This song is okay I guess - I wouldn't be OUTRAGED if it won - but I think "Love Me Like You Do" is way better.

Morning Coffee (1/18/16)

Welcome and thank you to newest Patreon patron Holly! The first Patron update went out this weekend; get in on it here.

ICYMI: My Oscar Project post about Cinderella.

Me elsewhere: So much TV news!

Bernie Sanders, Guns, and the Idea of Vermont

Speaking of Sanders, this thing about him claiming to have never worn a tuxedo sounds silly but actually does bother me. Because if it's true, then he's saying he's either never attended a black tie event or has refused to follow the dress code, and neither of those options give me any confidence in his ability to be an effective president. And if it's NOT true, then it's a dumb pointless lie that a. will probably be found out easily (formal events are often photographed!), b. sounds like that kind of anti-intellectual folksy pandering that drives me nuts and, I think, causes genuine harm, and c. is probably actually intended as part of his "rich people are inherently evil!" thing, which I also think is wrong and harmful.

This is an important point in Oscar dicussions: "The shocking — or maybe not so shocking — whiteness of this year’s field of nominees exposes not only the myopia of the nominating body but also the deep structural biases of the industry that feeds it."

I adore Fringe, but I also agree with Blair Brown here: "...the truth is that was originally a story about a female protagonist [Olivia, played by Anna Torv]… and the show turned into a story about father and son [played by John Noble and Joshua Jackson]. Very often in this business, that’s what tends to happen."

Scholastic Halts Distribution of ‘A Birthday Cake for George Washington’ (Here's the statement. Good for them for taking action and being honest and specific about the issue.)

Standing Up To Sexual Harassment And Assault In L.A.’s Comedy Scene

I love 3D printing but THIS IS TOO FAR.

!!!! Cadbury Is Launching a Very Chocolaty Crème Egg Café Pop-Up in London

I like this: Play Life Less Like Chess and More Like Tetris

Whoa, remember the Thames whale?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Oscar Project 2016: Cinderella

Movie: Cinderella

I've never been a huge fan of the "Cinderella" story unless Rodgers and Hammerstein or maybe Sondheim are involved, and nothing in the writing of this movie changed my mind. But it was enjoyable enough; the performances were decent and it was an extremely pretty movie. I wouldn't particularly tell you to go out of your way to see it, but it made for a pleasant and entertaining evening with friends.

Availability: On DVD or Blu-Ray now, or available to buy from various download services.

Nominated in:

Costume Design: Yes, sure. The costumes were extremely elaborate and lush and gorgeous and really helped the "animated movie come to life" part come across. Even though I wasn't that into the movie in general, I think this award would be deserved.

Morning Coffee (1/16/16)

Hollywood has told women to ‘date the nerd’ for decades. It’s bad advice.

Oh, Slate, NO.

Whoa: This hack for Netflix’s genre codes is about to vastly improve your life.

AND: Super Browse Integrates Those Secret Netflix Categories Into the Netflix Search Page

This gold mining reality show story is quite something.

Ooh: This Ancient City Was Three Times Bigger Than Archaeologists Suspected

Did Jesus really go to England? (No.)

Untangling an Accounting Tool and an Ancient Incan Mystery

If you're looking for some contemporary fiction to read, you could do worse than the Tournament of Books longlist.

Signs You’re About To Be In A Sinister Homoerotic Subplot In A Midcentury Drama

Friday, January 15, 2016

Time for Oscar Project 2016!

The Oscar nominations are out, so it's time for my annual tradition of making a convoluted spreadsheet and driving all over the Boston area trying to see as many nominees as possible! And this year I'll take you with me. I'll post about each nominated movie that I see (roughly a post a day, maybe more on some days if things clump up, especially with the shorts), with both my general mini-review of the movie and whether I think it deserves the award in each of the categories in which it was nominated. (And if I think it should have been nominated in another category as well, I'll probably mention that too.) Then toward the end I'll write a post about each category and which nominee I think should win. I'm probably making this sound more confusing than it is; I'll maintain an index so you can easily find what you're looking for.

The numbers, as they stand: 57 titles are nominated this year in 24 categories, for a total of 121 nominations. I'd seen six of the nominated movies before the nominations were announced and saw Room last night, so I'm currently at 7 of 57 movies, representing 27 of 121 nominations, or 22%. I'm picking what to see based on a combination of interest, availability, and number of nominations - seeing The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, for example, will cover about another 20% of the nominations just between them, so they're priorities even though they're not necessarily the movies that most closely match my interests. (Though I should point out that one of the reasons I like doing this in the first place is that in past years it's gotten me to see a lot of very interesting movies I wouldn't have otherwise watched.) Looking at the list, I'm hoping to be able to see EVERYTHING that's nominated in at least two categories, and a good percentage of the rest.

As of this moment, I want Spotlight to win all of the categories in which it's nominated and some of the ones in which it isn't. It will be hard for anything to beat that one for me this year, but I have four more Best Picture nominees to see, so we'll see what happens. I have also really enjoyed Brooklyn, The Martian, and Room so far, and I'm hoping to see the rest of the Best Picture nominees soon so you'll have a post about each of them in the next few weeks.

A few caveats: Yes, I know the Oscars aren't the be-all and end-all of anything. As usual, I am disappointed in the lack of diversity in the nominations - no non-white acting nominees, no female directing nominees. This project isn't intended to signify that I believe this is an objective list of the best movies of the year or anything. I do this because it's fun, because it makes me see things I wouldn't otherwise see, because I like lists, and because it's interesting to think about both the movies themselves AND why they were nominated and what that says about our culture.

And a note: I go to matinees and small theaters when possible, but this project isn't cheap. As I mentioned on Twitter last night, I don't have any screeners or anything, so aside from the few titles that are streaming legally for free, I'm paying for theater tickets or rentals or downloads. If you enjoy reading about this and want to kick in a buck or two toward movie tickets, please head over to my Patreon page. Thanks!

Morning Coffee (1/15/16)

Happy Friday! Thanks to my newest Patreon patrons, also known as Mom and Dad. Get in on the fun here!

Oscar nominations! I'll be attempting my Oscar project again this year; look for a post later today kicking that off!

Stop everything. Oscar Isaac and Jacob Tremblay had adorable lightsaber battle at Golden Globes after-party. My faith in the universe is restored.

Whoa, look at the first 3D printed watch!

The Wonder Woman movie is set during World War I??? That is delightful news.

Hee: Works of Micro-Fiction, Based On the Madewell Spring Lookbook

Royal gifts are always fun to read about.

Michael Caine on Muppet Christmas Carol: "I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role and there are no puppets around me." I love him.


Are You Able To Identify The Real YA Cover From The Fake? (Yes. Yes I am. I got 10/10 because I totally learn things from my job.)

A Guided Meditation For Visualizing The Destruction Of Your Enemies

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

8 Thoughts Upon Reading the Anne of Green Gables News

The CBC is making a new Anne of Green Gables show! From one of the Breaking Bad writers, because sure! (Actually it's the Flesh & Bone one so... we'll see.) Thoughts:

1. Obviously I have a lot of feelings about Anne but
2. I am not a purist and am happy to give various adaptations a shot.
3. I really thought someone had a contemporary Anne show in development but now I can't find anything about that so maybe I dreamt it?
4. I started thinking about Canadians to cast, and this is set when Anne is a kid but if someone adapts the later books you could do worse than Tahmoh Penikett as Gil.
5. Which - why hasn't anyone made a sweeping Anne's House of Dreams miniseries yet? The structure of the novel lends itself perfectly to that. Tahmoh might be slightly too old (maybe not!) but I feel like my friend Meg and I had someone else we'd fantasy cast for that. Colin Donnell, maybe? (Anne at that age should obviously be Classic Alice's Kate Hackett and about that I will brook no argument.)
6. And where is the Rilla of Ingleside World War I miniseries we deserve? Just cancel Reign already and bring back Megan Follows; it's the perfect time for her to play that part of Anne's life.
7. When is that new Anne TV movie coming out, anyway? I already tear up at the mere THOUGHT of Martin Sheen as Matthew, so I'm sure I'll handle that well.
8. I really need to watch Breaking Bad already.

Morning Coffee (1/13/16)

Come join me on Patreon and get the inside scoop on what I'm working on here!

The Cologne sexual assaults at the center of German politics, explained

Why Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage Is the Proto-Trump (He is, I should point out, supporting Chris Christie, and they're making a LOT of it, at least in New Hampshire, presumably because they fear Christie doesn't seem terrible enough on his own!)

The writer does not look exactly... neutral... but I will continue to pass along updates on the Litvinenko case anyway because at heart I want to be living in a Le Carre novel.

This is soothing: "What would not change, though, is that Clinton would remain the clear favorite for the Democratic nomination."

I saw these new Deadpool ads and actually went and looked it up on IMDb because I thought maybe it was something completely different than I'd thought, so... well done? I guess? Maybe?

The Funny Thing About Abusive Relationships

There are still basically no female directors.

Adorable: J.K. Rowling Celebrated the End of Harry Potter by (Very Lightly) Trashing Her Hotel Room

Ooh! Archaeologists uncover the best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found in Britain

This is perfect: A Guide to Flirting with Plausible Deniability

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Morning Coffee (1/12/16)

Thanks to my newest Patreon patron, Jack! That puts me over halfway to my first goal. (I realized Patreon only shows the next goal, not the whole list; maybe I'll put them in a post here so you guys can see what I've set up?)

It's Charles Perrault's birthday and the fairy tale Google doodles are ADORABLE.

Sean Penn interviewed El Chapo. Which one of them got played?

This is a great, juicy overview: One year, two races: Inside the Republican Party’s bizarre, tumultuous 2015

The Nation He Built is a readable, comprehensive overview of President Obama's domestic policy achievements.

I have this scar! (The "This is something they'll live with for the rest of their lives" quote is interesting because that's CLEARLY TRUE and yet it's sort of surprising how little I think about it at this point. Though wait, I DID describe it to a friend last week, so maybe it comes up more than I think it does.)

What Goes Through Your Mind: On Nice Parties and Casual Racism

Insane read of the day: The Celebrity Surgeon Who Used Love, Money, and the Pope to Scam an NBC News Producer

As someone who spent the first few seasons of Gossip Girl telling anyone who would listen about the COMPLEX LITERARY PARALLELS but was disappointed in it by the end, I really enjoyed this: Gossip Girl went from being in on the joke to being the punchline (And as I read it I was astonished at how many of their crazy plotlines I had blocked out of my brain. Remember the Hilary Duff threesome???)

I appreciate that this piece on mail-order brides mentions Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Men Who Have Finally ‘Found Their Sound’ In Western Art History

Monday, January 11, 2016

Morning Coffee (1/11/16)

Big thanks to my newest Patreon patron Alissa! Learn more about how you can support the blog and get extra content here.

Me elsewhere: Lots of TV news!

Check out today's cute Alice Paul Google doodle.

Trump got ABC to drop the Union Leader (a big - the biggest? - NH daily newspaper) as a co-sponsor of an upcoming debate, and . . . I don't know. IN THEORY I understand objecting to a news outlet that has made an endorsement being a sponsor, but that has never ever been a problem for anyone with debates in NH before. And Trump is so clearly just mad that the paper is critical of him. And between this and the WMUR thing with the Democratic debate, it really looks like ABC is happy to just drop whatever local partner anyone tells them to drop, without thinking about how that will affect or play to the voters in the state for whose benefit the debate is supposedly being held. I never expected to be siding with the Union Leader on something, but here we are.

In other local media news: NBC Will Launch Boston Station, Threatening Longtime Affiliate WHDH

A very good point about Game of Thrones: "When you’ve come to prize outcomes over the journey that leads to them, and to fetishize being spared the dread specter of so-called spoilers over the quality of prose, character development or carefully established themes, what you’re really admitting is that you care less about engaging with a work as a whole than knowing the basic facts of the story."

Great read: The Tax Sleuth Who Took Down a Drug Lord

In Silicon Valley Now, It’s Almost Always Winner Takes All

Yes yes yes: "If only it were possible to do something good and rewarding without publicly prioritizing what effect that act has on you." (I am all for reading authors from a great variety of backgrounds, and am trying to be more mindful of it in my own reading this year, but this trend of talking on and on and on about how great you are because you won't read ANY straight white men because NONE OF THEM HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY just drives me completely nuts.)

Shocker: The economics of prettiness: more attractive women get higher grades

This story is insane and amazing and I want someone to write me a big thick historical novel based on it RIGHT NOW: How A Dead Millionaire Convinced Dozens Of Women To Have As Many Babies As Possible

Heee: "As far as the amendment, of course it’s the former. If every private citizen had the right to carry a musket, a thousand people would’ve shot Patrick Henry by now, am I right? Don’t worry about it. Everyone will know what it means."

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Morning Coffee (1/10/16)

Thanks to my newest Patreon patron Jen! Get in on the fun Here.

Today in headlines Mad Libs: Sean Penn interviewed El Chapo for Rolling Stone. (My main takeaway is that it's good Sean Penn has a day job, as I do not particularly want to read his writing ever again.) Obviously this was ethically questionable in any number of ways - including that they let the drug lord approve the piece before publication - and Brian Stetler has a decent rundown of the issues. Last night on Twitter there were many reports from reputable news outlets that Mexican officials "confirmed" that the interaction with Penn helped them catch El Chapo but I'm not seeing stories about that this morning, so . . . I'm not sure. If something surfaces I'll include it tomorrow.

Important service journalism on this Golden Globes Sunday: Here’s Your 2016 Oscar Season Pronunciation Guide (Speaking of, I finally saw Brooklyn last night and it was very good.)

Good news: Court Allows What’s Thought to Be China’s First Lawsuit Demanding Same-Sex Marriage Rights

Here's what Jackie Fuchs's life was after she made her rape public: "I Woke Up in a Parallel Universe"

Blitzen Trappers is an interesting look at the changing lives of Russia's nomadic reindeer herders.

The real roots of Sunni-Shia conflict: beyond the myth of "ancient religious hatreds"

Shameless is back tonight. And they made a coloring book!

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt: Why MAKING A MURDERER Isn’t A Whodunnit

There is now an official diagnostic code for hurt at the library.

The Candy Crush empire is expanding. (I love logic games and have played these on and off for years and have never given them any money, a fact about which I am absurdly proud.)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Morning Coffee (1/9/16)

Big thanks to my newest Patreon patron Chris! You can get in on the fun here.

Tomorrow's issue of the Times magazine has a really great profile of the New Haven special-victims unit. It can be a hard read at times, for obvious reasons, but it's important and extremely well-written.

This story just gets crazier: ‘Catfishing’ over love interest might have spurred U-Va. gang-rape debacle

Devils, Deals, and the DEA was a fascinating and very well-done look at a giant drug cartel case, and yesterday there was a relevant piece of news: El Chapo, Escaped Mexican Drug Lord, Is Recaptured in Gun Battle

Important update on that Alabama cop story from a few months ago: Alabama Cops, Confederate Flags, Racism, and an Over-Eager Media

I'm sorry to break it to you but a lot of those funny Blair/Clinton transcripts going around this week are parody.

Donald Trump plays the media like a fiddle. This Ted Cruz birther flap proves it.

Israel Bans Arab-Jewish Romance Novel in Schools Over Fears of Race-Mixing

This edges a bit toward librarian inside baseball, but nothing about this debacle with commercial sponsors and publication sounds like it was handled well.

A Winter Classic Debacle and the Future of Women's Pro Hockey

Shakespearean tragedies visualized through character interactions

Friday, January 8, 2016

Quick TV Takes: The Magicians, Shannara, American Crime, New Comedies

A few shows started over the past few weeks and I didn't have time to write full posts about any of them, so how about some quick thoughts?

The Magicians (Syfy, Mondays at 9/8c, premieres January 25th) - As I mentioned in today's Morning Coffee, I loved this premiere. "Adult Harry Potter" is the easy way to characterize this, but it's reasonably accurate - young man finds out magic is real and goes to a special university to study it. They make some major changes from the novel but none particularly upset me (so far) and I instantly wanted to watch more, which is always a good sign.

The Shannara Chronicles (MTV, Tuesdays at 10/9c) - Another fantasy novel adaptation (with a third coming next week with Shadowhunters). It was . . . fine? I honestly think the premiere was hurt by being SO LONG (almost two hours) - it started feeling like a slog, and some plotlines were introduced without really giving the audience reason to care about them. I like a lot of the cast; I like the way the chosen one is kind of dumb and surrounded by smart women. The elves wore more t-shirts than I expected. I'll watch at least one more episode.

American Crime (ABC, Wednesdays at 10/9c) - I'm counting this as new because it's an anthology, so this second season has some of the same cast but they're playing different characters and it's a new plot. It took a lot of soul-searching but I managed to watch this even though I only saw a few episodes of the first season. I've seen a lot of people say this show is easier to admire than to like, and that makes sense; luckily I tend to like slow, serious TV, as well as things about prep schools and sports team dynamics. I like that it's paying attention to race and class and gender and how they affect perceptions of crime and justice. John Ridley's directing is great. I'm in.

Superstore (NBC, Mondays at 8/7c) - This comedy about employees at a Walmart clone also does some interesting things with race and class and gender, actually. It's funny and charming. America Ferrera is a delight, of course. And the most recent episode revealed something that genuinely surprised me and suggested it wasn't going the most predictable route, so now I'm intrigued.

Telenovela (NBC, Mondays at 8:30/7:30c) - I just realized while writing this that NBC has two comedies with Latina leads back to back and that's nifty. I don't like Telenovela as much as Superstore, but it's cute, and has some actors I like in it (Diana Maria Riva! Zach Levi!).

Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life (Fox, Sundays at 8:30/7:30c) - Comedy about post-college guys learning about the real world. I watched four minutes of this and decided it wasn't for me. It was far from the worst comedy I've ever seen, I'm just . . . not its audience. Which is fine! I wish to like fewer TV shows, in general, really.

(I haven't watched Angel from Hell or Shades of Blue yet - look for another post next week about them and a few other new shows.)