In the visual arts, I watched five DVDs this week:
I've come to the end of the first season of Happy Endings, and I find myself looking forward to the next one. The episodes on the second disc of the full-season set were noticeably better than those on the first: the jokes were funnier (though still not as funny as, say, Community or Parks and Recreation); the six main characters are better defined and the actor displaying more chemistry; the writing sharper and more imaginative. And I won't have to wait so long to see them, because the bottleneck is all on the first first-season disc. Plus they're all on Hulu too, but I sort of prefer watching on DVD, because when I'm watching on the computer, I sometime find myself distracted by all the other things the computer has to offer, making it harder for me to concentrate on the shows.
I was distracted away from The Wire for a few weeks, but I finally returned to it this week and finished up the last five episodes of the first season. I'm still not fully on board with the "best TV show ever" reputation it has among a certain variety of TV geek, but it certainly is very good, and the storytelling style is a nice change of pace from your typical procedural. Or any other sort of TV show, for that matter. On to season 2!
The first season of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated maintained a nice balance between serving the interests of both the traditional Scooby-Doo! udience and older, more sophisticated viewers, i.e. the "Brony demographic." The second season seems to be leaning much more in the direction of the latter group. Each episode now begins with a recap montage; many of the adult characters are more overtly sinister; the first episode of the season ended with the bad guy getting away; and while the producers were scrupulous in the first season about showing that no one was seriously hurt by the monster attacks, there's an instance in the second episode of the second season where a museum guard is, to all appearances., just outright killed. Also, the animation isn't as good; the computer-animated sequences are very obviously computer-animated, whereas in the first season I recall the hand-drawn animation and the computer animation blending together much better. As a Wisconsin resident, I was excited to see our own native cryptozoological creature, the Hodag, make an appearance in one of the episodes, and as a Community fan I was even more excited to hear Jim Rash voicing a character in the third episode. A character that bore a strong resemblance to the man himself, I might add.
After what seems like a long break, I hopped back on the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar winners train with Midnight Express, Alan Parker's 1978 film (from a screenplay by Oliver Stone) about the imprisonment and escape of an American citizen, Billy Hayes, caught trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey. I certainly wouldn't say Hayes deserved the harsh treatment he received from his Turkish jailers, I was never quite able to get past the fact that he had, in fact, been caught trying to smuggle 2 kilos of drugs out of the country, which made it hard to feel all that sympathetic. Nevertheless, it was a very good movie, and Parker's technique of leaving the Turkish dialogue untranslated and unsubtitled was very effective at conveying the confusion Hayes must have been feeling.
In the literary arts, I finished For 91 Days in Idaho, about which I have nothing to add beyond what I said last week, plus two others.
When War Shots: Norm Hatch and the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Cameramen of World War II popped up in one of the daily deals for Kindle email lists I subscribe to, I jumped on it, not because of any particular interest in World War II or the Marine Corps, but because works of history, especially ones that weren't self-published, show up on those daily deals lists pretty infrequently, so when they do appear, I make a point to download them just to show there's an interest. That said, it was pretty good; I didn't know much about the battle for Tarawa before reading this, and the section about the controversy surrounding Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph of Marines raising the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima</i> was genuinely interesting.
Lady Susan is a short epistolary novel by Jane Austen, completed but not published during her lifetime. I'm not always a fan of the epistolary format, but this novel is short enough that I didn't really have time for it to get to me. The title character is an unusual one for an Austen main character, in that she's really quite a wicked person: she's selfish, cruel to her daughter, and she not only breaks up the courtship of a friend's daughter but pursues an affair with the same friend's husband. It makes for a fun read.