11September-5November2011 :: These (Riding) Weeks
Have dropped running in favour of riding (a fixed wheel exercise bike) a few times a week, which is especially good when the weather is too poor or it's too dark to get outside. Now that the weather and the light are both trending to favourable I might start mixing between riding and running.
It's been a while since I last posted a media consumption update; there's been plenty through these last few weeks, so I might split them into different media and just detail the highlights instead.
First up, the movies:
- Watched The Other Guys (imdb); stupid humour, but entertaining, and sets a tone that lasts the whole movie.
- Watched Knight and Day (imdb); awful, but (shamefully) good fun.
- Watched Fright Night (imdb); genius, campy, utterly ridiculous; seeing it in 3D was a bonus simply to take it completely over the top.
- Watched Abduction (imdb); surprisingly good fun, in the vein of scores of teen action/adventures, but reasonably well acted and paced.
- Watched I Am Number Four (imdb); more teen action/adventure, but an example of just how wrong the genre can go; poorly paced, laughable plot points, average acting.
- Watched Source Code (imdb); solid, and an interesting premise, but had a lot of potential that it failed to fulfill, so ultimately disappointing.
- Watched Contagion (imdb); brilliant; incredibly tense, with the shots of germs spreading (coughs, lingering touches, &c) matched to music that provoked a visceral reaction each time they returned; I liked its primary focus on the people caught up in the event, rather than on the detail of the disease and its spread per se, but the final reveal of the events of "Day Zero", or how the virus got out in the first place, was actually something of a let down and really unnecessary anyway.
- Watched In Time (imdb); an interesting concept, and its commentary on wealth was timely, but it was flawed and unbalanced, with some peculiar details really well figured out (like observing that the time poor move a lot faster than the rich), but others lazily glossed over or dropped in for convenience (inconsistent economics, or people being uncharacteristically stupid with their time); the cast is okay, with Cillian Murphy excellent; Alyssa over at Think Progress has a review that covers everything I'd otherwise say, describing it as a "mediocre action movie":
In Time is a fascinating illustration of what we — and Hollywood in particular — refuse to speak aloud about income inequality in mass-market entertainment. And especially at a moment when Americans are literally being beaten in the streets for raging against vast wealth disparities, In Time feels almost revolutionary in its insistence that redistribution is the only option...
- Watched the 2010 restoration of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (imdb), with a live score performed by Sydney Symphony; it's not actually a good movie, and its core message incredibly trite, but it's fascinating to watch, especially for its take on class struggle and exploitation and revolution, and the different motifs it uses (visually and aurally) to present that; I watched it the same day as In Time, and it was particularly interesting simply because many of the same ideas are explored in both, even if both come to fairly useless conclusions; the score isn't particularly special on its own, but it was great to see live, and interesting that it was so integral to the construction and telling of the story — it's often easy to forget, while watching, that it's a silent film.
If I use this final one as a segue, next up, various live performances:
- Watched Transparency, at the Riverside Theatre; a very interesting, if difficult, exploration of identity, with its central character a former child offender living under an assumed identity, with only a psychiatrist who knows his true history; he's not supposed to be with children unattended, but his partner is talking about having a kid; meanwhile the couple's friends, a young couple with a child of their own, are struggling to stay together, in part because the young mother finds herself unattached to her child; this is then set against a neighbourhood child going missing, bringing to the fore the various tensions amongst the characters; it's got some really interesting ideas and interplay, but the central character himself is the least relatable, making it difficult to get emotionally involved.
- Watched the Darlinghurst Theatre Co's 10,000 Beers; very clever story about a rugby union team coming to Sydney to drink post-season; it's entertaining and well-paced, and full of interesting observations and explorations of masculinity, (male) team relationships, power, &c; DTC's only a small company, with four actors in this particular piece, but it was a quality cast and well-produced, so I'll be keeping an eye on their activities in future.
- Watched the Sydney Symphony's 'Sinfonia' in Discover Brett Dean; beautiful contemporary classical, full of the sounds I love from Kronos Quartet and others, so was exciting to hear live, and from an Australian composer too; have picked up tickets for more Brett Dean works this year and next.
- Watched the Sydney Dance Company's The Land of Yes and The Land of No; beautiful contemporary dance; I especially loved the score (which would make a great album), and the design of the set and the costumes was sublime; the dancers were great, an interesting mix of physical forms moving together and against each other; really quite haunting, in a good way; have picked up tickets for the SDC's 2012 season too.
On the music side, I haven't picked up as much lately (though I've a long and fast-growing wishlist!):
- Listening to Metric's Fantasies (iTunes/amazon); picked it up after Ta-Nehisi Coates included a couple of their music videos in his 'Morning Coffee' series (see, for example, 'Gold, Guns, Girls'), and am thoroughly impressed, looping it again and again; it's great dancey rock, and Emily Haines' vocals are incredible throughout.
And finally, I've been reading, a lot:
- Read Lev Grossman's The Magicians (amazon); it was difficult to avoid the noise around this one, with its sequel just released, so I had to check it out; I'm conflicted though, unsure whether it was really entertaining and full of clever conceits, or just fan-fiction; its central premise is essentially that Narnia (here, Fillory) is real and the character with whom we identify gets to learn magic and so on; I lean towards it being actually quite clever, as it consistently builds us up with the promise of wish fulfillment, before dashing people's dreams or revealing that they're ultimately not very nice people anyway; my enjoyment of the novel outweighed my annoyance just enough that I'll probably read the sequel, but not enough that I'm going to hurry and get it.
- Read Tim Winton's The Riders (amazon); an excellent read once it gets going, but oh so brutal; it doesn't reveal its nasty side until about halfway through the book, which is delightfully devious.
- Read Neal Stephenson's Reamde (amazon); ridiculously long, incredibly geeky, but (or therefore) I enjoyed it throughout; it's a weird book really, with probably limited appeal; its basic story is the stuff of a Tom Clancy novel, but Stephenson pads what could be a two-to-three hundred page novel out to a thousand pages with incredibly detailed descriptions and his trademark digressions; I think his skill, though, is in taking concepts I probably wouldn't otherwise be reading about and making them incredibly fascinating (in the Baroque Cycle it was the money markets, piracy, and the birth of rational science; here it's gun-craft, online game/world-building, gold farming, and contemporary spy-craft).
- Read Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love (comiXology); very entertaining mini-series, with fun characters, a well-paced plot, and set within Bill Willingham's incredibly rich Fables world.
- Read the first "season" of American Vampire (comiXology); dark, adventurous, and an excellent take on vampire mythology, blending classic old world vampires with the new world, incorporating early Hollywood and the Wild West.
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