I watched five DVDs plus one theatrical movie this week:
Last weekend, right before I went to my friend Lyn’s Oscar party, I went to Union South to see Argo. It was not the first time I’ve watched a movie and seen in win Best Picture later the same day, but it was definitely the best movie I've seen under those circumstances. (The other time, if I’m remembering correctly, was 1996, when I saw Braveheart on the day of the 68th Academy Awards. At the time, I made a point of seeing all the best picture nominees in advance of the Oscars ceremony, and I had put off seeing Braveheart because I didn't really want to see it.) I’m not 100% convinced it was the best movie released last year — it certainly wasn't the one I liked best — but neither am I convinced, as some have argued, that it was a "pity Oscar" for Ben Affleck. Nor was I bothered in the slightest that the chase across the tarmac never happened. I mean, I knew it wasn't a documentary going in, so …
The next night, I watched The Descendants, which won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar last year. I had been really excited to see it win, because it was co-written by Community's Jim Rash — an actor, not a writer, though I understand that he did write a fourth season episode that has yet to air — but I'd never quite gotten around to it. I thought it was a good movie featuring a very nice performance by George Clooney — I loved the run he developed for the character — but I didn't find it quite as moving as I'd been led to expect. I really liked the character of Sid, though.
Both Argo and The Descendants won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, leading me to joke on Twitter than I seemed to be working my way backwards through the Best Adapted Screenplay winners. When I checked the list of winners, I determined that thanks to my old habit of seeing all the Best Picture nominees, I had already seen all but six of the last Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar winners dating back to 1980. So I decided to make my joke a reality, and checked out The Social Network to watch next. I liked it, but by the end I was getting tired of how … Sorkinesque it was. Not only is Mark Zuckerberg probably the apotheosis of one of Aaron Sorkin's stock character types — the guy who's obsessed with showing off just how clever he is and views women as little more than objects to be fantasized about or condescended to — there are at least five other characters in the movie just like that. Not to mention the idiosyncratic syntax — "Also I'm breaking up with you! — and the fact that all the women were little more than fantasy object s or targets of condescending remarks by the male characters. But the performances were really good.
Last night, I watched American Splendor, the 2003 biopic about comic book writer Harvey Pekar. I've never been much of a fan of his comics — call me an arrested adolescent if you will, but I prefer superhero and adventure comics — and I didn't watch Letterman back in the days when Pekar was a regular guest., but I'd always heard good things about it and I love Paul Giamatti, so I figured why not. I didn't come away from it liking Pekar any more or wanting to give his comics another try, but Giamatii was great, and I thought the way the filmmakers blended documentary-style interviews of and narration by the real Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner with the fictionalized portrayals.
In spare moments and on evenings when I didn't feel like I had time to watch a movie, I worked my way through discs one and two of the second season of Party Down. I never fully warmed to Megan Mullaly's character, but I enjoyed seeing more of everyone else. I liked that they gave Ken Marino more opportunities to show off the darker, more depressing side of his character; his performance in the first season class reunion episode was probably the highlight of that season, so it was nice to see the writers take advantage of what Marino is capable of. And I liked that everything ended on an up beat, with everyone on the Party Down crew perched on the cusp of the success they've been dreaming of. I'm a sap like that. It's almost a relief that they didn't come back for a third season.
In the more refined arts, yesterday I attended a concert featuring four friends and colleagues of mine. My church employs four paid section leaders for the choir. Our recently hired soprano soloist had been affiliated with another church here in town before coming to us, and one of the things she'd done for them — and continued to do, since she's committed to that before we hired her — was to coordinate their Saturday afternoon concert series. That led our alto soloist to suggest that our choir's quartet should perform Brahms's Liebeslieder-Walzer for their concert series, and yesterday, they did (excepting, perhaps ironically, the woman who'd originally proposed the idea; she's since moved to Chicago, so out choir director took her place) and it was great! The Liebeslieder are just gorgeous, and it was a real treat to hear them performed live. Each singer also performed two solo works; they were all good, but I have to admit I didn't care for the works chosen by the soprano as much as the others. Sorry, Rachel!
Wordwise, I reached the end of Volume II of Emma. Only 19 chapters to go! I'm glad Mrs. Elton has finally arrived on the scene; she and Miss Bates are the source of most of what amusement can be found in this novel.
I read one particularly interesting long-form article online this week: "Cinema Tarantino: The Making of Pulp Fiction" at vanityfair.com. I wouldn't describe myself as a huge Quentin Tarantino fan — I like his movies fine, but I'm hardly a fanboy — but I really loved Pulp Fiction, and it made enough of an impression that I can remember exactly where I first saw it, even after almost 20 years. (It was the Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle 5.) And even if you didn't like it, I think you'd be hard-pressed to deny that it was one of the most influential movie of, say, the last 25 years.