April 19, 2012
2012 1st Quarter Round-up: What I’ve Been Digging

Forgive me for not updating my blog in so long, but I’m busy and stuff, but I have been watching and listening to and (kind of) reading a lot, so maybe I’d share what I’ve been doing for the first 3 months or so of this year.

MOVIES

I’ve seen 33 movies so far this year, which is way less than I was planning. There are a few rewatches in there, but the vast majority of them were movies that were new to me. There really hasn’t been anything from 2012 that has really put itself in contention for my year-end list (that’s assuming this year picks up in quality films, which it usually does), but the two movies that have entertained me the most are The Cabin in the Woods, the meta-horror deconstruction from Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon that is both a think piece on the state of horror and a hilarious takedown of the entire genre, and The Raid: Redemption, an awesomely brutal martial-arts/action extravaganza from Indonesia that’s pretty much all impressive action choreography from start to finish. So yeah, two genre films topping my first part of the year, which is pretty typical. 

I was disappointed by The Hunger Games adaptation, which I thought dropped the ball on a lot of opportunities to deepen and illuminate the universe, but instead just served as an all-too-faithful illustration of the book. Like the Watchmen film, it shows us the perils of fidelity. Movies have to be their own things.

Other 2012 movies I saw were Haywire, which is, of course, well shot by Soderbergh, but mostly by the numbers, even if those numbers had been stripped down to their core essence; Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, which is about what you would expect from a Tim and Eric movie, but a lot more coherent than I expected (to its detriment, I feel); Chronicle, a quite good low budget superhero movie that doesn’t outstay its welcome; John Carter, which entertained me greatly, despite the doom and gloom the entertainment industry spat at you; 21 Jump Street, which was surprisingly funny and fresh, but mostly gets by on being way better than anyone expected it to be; and The Secret World of Arriety, which is a gorgeously animated Studio Ghibli film that I greatly enjoyed, in both its simple story and luxurious pacing.

MUSIC

I’ve listened to a bunch of new records so far this year (I’m nearing 50), and there have been a few that have impressed me. Early in the year Cloud Nothings put out a record called Attack on Memory that took a while to grow on me, but between giving it a few spins, and seeing them live, I’ve warmed up to greatly.

Then it was kind of a dark time, but then Lower Dens came out with Nootropics, and Lotus Plaza released Spooky Action At A Distance, which are both extremely accomplished pieces of guitar rock (of different styles) from acts whose leaders are constantly striving to achieve a particular sound, with remarkable results from both of them.

And then, just this past week, Spiritualized dropped Sweet Heart Sweet Light, which is just incredible. For some reason, I thought Spiritualized went as far as it could go with Songs in A&E, their last album, so this was a pleasant surprise for me. And then it became much more than that. This is a ridiculously good record.

And in the weakspot pleasures department, Allo Darlin’ came out with a record, Europe, which is perfect for you lovers of summertime twee/jangle pop that makes you feel like a lovesick teenager again.

BOOKS

I’ve been kind of stuck on the same book this year (Albert Camus’ The Plague) so I can’t recommend much from a literature standpoint. But at least there’s comics! Brian K. Vaughn, writer of Y: The Last Man and many other properties, has debuted a new ongoing series called Saga which I’ve read the first issue of and I loved it. Please pick it up if you get the chance. It has a lot of promise.

VIDEO GAMES

I’ve been playing and enjoy Mass Effect 3 greatly. You can tell that the game is going through the painstaking process of wrapping up all the threads, but that doesn’t really bother me. The story is high stakes, the characters are nice, and the enemy is gripping. I haven’t beaten it yet, so I don’t know what’s the big deal about the ending everyone has complained about, but I doubt I’ll have such a strong negative reaction. I guess we’ll see though. 

Besides that, I’ve been most wowed by thatgamecompany’s latest release, Journey, which is a gorgeous, magnificent, awe inspiring piece of artistic work that does so much with so little, and is possibly the most affecting multiplayer game/component ever created. Yeah, this is not hyperbole. It’s fantastic. If you have a PS3, you must get this game.

TELEVISION

Ah, TV, the thing that sucks up most my time. Game of Thrones is back and it’s great. Eastbound & Down and Justified have both finished up their seasons (Eastbound & Down, for good), but I’m a few episodes behind so I have nothing to say. Mad Men is compelling as ever this season. But these are all old shows.

As for new shows, there’s only been one that I’ve kept up with and enjoyed, and that is Awake on NBC, the parallel reality detective drama from Kyle Killen, of the late and could have been great Lone Star. I like Awake a lot, it feels like it trusts its audience, it’s shot in a unique style, and parallel reality construct is interesting without being the entire focus of the show. The construct is much more interesting as a way to study a character than as a mystery. Which has been missing from all those BIG MYSTERY genre shows since Lost. Check it out.

And that’s my 2012 so far. How was yours?

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