Sun Jan 01 2023 18:44 Yuletide Reveal!:
Now it can be told! I wrote two stories for Yuletide 2022. The one for which I anticipate more interest is The Practical Boyfriend: A Post-Scarcity Rom-Com. This is a brand new Constellation Games bonus story, the first one in ten years, depicting the meet-cute between Tetsuo Milk and Ashley Somn at the beginning of the contact mission. Guest starring Curic and You'll Only See Kis Echo!, a character you've forgotten about. It's got laughs, romance, and Tetsuo designs a game!
As a fan of high-quality 2012 releases, I'm sure you also enjoy Subset Games' FTL, a death-in-space simulator that inspired certain bits of Situation Normal. Now I'm closing the circle with an fanfic called Try, Try Again, where I used the gallows-humor style of Situation Normal to tell a story in the FTL universe.
Wherever you find yourself today, I wish you a happy new year, and happy reading and writing!
Mon Jan 02 2023 15:53 December Film Roundup:
- Paddington 2 (2017): Watched based on an in-movie recommendation in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. It's fine. Fun kids movie.
- Moonstruck (1987): More fallout from Massive Talent, though this time taking the form of "I've been wanting to watch that Nicolas Cage movie." A rom-com from before the formula was fixed in the 90s, with a tighter focus on the other family members and a little less on the main couple. In fact my favorite part of Moonstruck was the interlocking stories it told of different romances in different stages of life. Olympia Dukakis is great in this, and John Mahoney is a pleasant surprise.
There's always a sacrificial or decoy boyfriend in these movies, and I always feel bad for the guy. The most pitiful victim of this trope is Bill Pullman's character in Sleepless in Seattle, whose disqualifying problem is serious allergies. The guy has trouble sleeping! He's practically your title character!
- Glass Onion (2022): A fun addition to the franchise. The setting was a lot less interesting than the cool old house in Knives Out, but the obnoxious douchebags were a lot more colorful and fun.
- A Christmas Movie Christmas (2019): A big missed opportunity. Sometimes when I can see a better movie conceptually near the less-good one that got made, it's understandable what happened: the better movie would have cost a lot more or taken longer to shoot or required better actors. But a Christmas romance parody doesn't need a bunch of expensive Zucker and Zucker one-off gags. You could shoot it in the same time and budget as a regular Christmas romance, with the same equipment and sets and actors. The magic is all in the screenplay.
This screenplay starts off really promising, but it loses its way quickly and we just get a cornier than usual Christmas romance with an extra dose of creepiness. That was possibly a commentary on Christmas romance movie creepiness, but it's hard to say for sure--again, a screenplay problem. The good news is that the space of concepts used in Christmas romances inhabits a vague public domain, so nothing's stopping people from ripping off this idea and doing five new Christmas romance parodies every year until someone gets it right... and then ripping it off ten times a year.
- Made in Heaven (1952): We watched this after Sumana's Wikipedia browsing turned up the old British "flitch of bacon" tradition/incentive for marital harmony. Like a lot of old British traditions, the flitch trial fell into disuse until it was revived in a Victorian-era work of fiction, and like a lot of old British movies, this is a cheesy farce where people scheme about cheating on their partners and evading postwar rationing. Everyone in this movie is stupid, and the higher-status they are, the stupider. As opposed to the Ealing comedies where everyone is smart but the high-status people are too smart for their own good. Recommended, but only in hopes that a better, modern comedy will be produced to take its place as the champion of bacon rom-coms.
- Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941): Yes indeed, here he comes, played by Claude Rains. This was based on the same play that became Heaven Can Wait (it also has a sequel and a second 2001 remake with Chris Rock). It's a cool concept but how many of these do we need? I'm concerned that we're about due for another one.
Admittedly, in 1977 I would have said "Do we really need to go here again?" and then the Elaine May/Warren Beatty version would have blown me away. I feel like the characterization of the trainer is done better in the 1941 version, but the most crucial dramatic issue--a character dropping dead in the final act for no good reason--is handled even worse here. A reason is given for the death, a reason that really ought to result in significant changes to everyone's behavior, but nope, everyone just ignores it. It's like they noticed the problem in the screenplay and patched it with duct tape. Anyway, this was fun for its genteel 1940s approach to death, but I'm on team Elaine May 4 life.
Wed Jan 04 2023 14:04 Our Morning Games:
In the year or so since Wordle became very popular, bringing along with it the more general online game model of "everyone gets the same quick game every day". Since then, Sumana and I have curated a set of games that we play together most mornings over breakfast. Many games have gone in and out of our list, and I figured the start of a new year was a good time to make some recommendations. I hope you find some fun with any or all of these:
- Framed: guess a movie from increasingly obvious stills.
- Artle: guess an artist through their artwork. I find this one very educational.
- Globle: guess a country via distance from other countries. This also has a new "capitals" variant.
- Flagle: guess a national flag as the arithmetic sum of other flags.
- Subwaydle: guess the trains taken on a trip through the NYC subway system (also available for a few other cities). This is mainly a Sumana game because I don't like the weird, convoluted routes it comes up with, as if for a spy trying to shake a trail.
- OEC Tradle: This was originally "guess the country from its exports" but it's currently going through US states.
- There are a lot of variants of Heardle (now owned by Spotify), which is basically "Name That Tune", but we enjoy Heardle Decades and TMBG Heardle (originally a Casey Kolderup project).
There are also two slower-paced games that we don't necessarily play every day:
- Redactle: guess the Wikipedia article by filling in blacked-out words.
- After spending a while playing Wordle, Dordle, Quordle, Octordle, etc. we spent quite a while with no Wordlelike in our rotation. (I actually have a separate post in draft form for those who are into the N-ordle series of games.) Recently we picked up Squareword, which can be played just like Wordle but which adds a surprising depth of strategy to the formula if you want to take it slower.
Thu Jan 05 2023 08:27 The Procedure Sign:
My bad-dystopia-SF parody "The Procedure Sign" is out in Issue #16 of Etherea Magazine, a steal at USD $2.
Tommy stared at a blank concrete wall painted hospital green.
He heard the hot-air hum of a projector starting up behind him. He
squished his eyes closed, but the headband gave him an electric
shock that jolted them open.
I did not expect to ever sell this story, because its satire skates so close to the edge of being simply bad. "The Procedure Sign" was directly inspired by an item in the ancient Strange Horizons "Stories We've Seen Too Often" list:
A mysteriously-named Event is about to happen ("Today was the day Jimmy would have to report for The Procedure"), but the nature of the Event isn't revealed until the end of the story, when it turns out to involve death or other unpleasantness. [Several classic sf stories use this approach, which is one reason we're tired of seeing it. Another reason is that we can usually guess the twist well ahead of time, which makes the mysteriousness annoying.]
More seriously, the story was also inspired by the experience of my own mysterious Event: being baptized into the LDS church when I was eight. Assuming the story has any real emotional edge, that's where it comes from.
Wed Jan 11 2023 12:02 The Crummy.com Review of Things 2022:
Here we go, another year gone and I'm no wiser than before. But I do have some quality recommendations for you!
2022 was a year where I read a few really long books rather than a lot of shorter ones. Here are my top three of 2022:
- The Power Broker by Robert Caro
- Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes
- Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum
The big live event for me in 2022 was seeing Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in the Music Man revival. It's my favorite musical, as I've surely mentioned here before, and seeing a live professional production live of it a real bucket-list event. We're not going to end up like that sap in The Apartment!
I also did more museum outings and whatnot than I did in 2021, and even took a trip to California to see my family, for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
As usual, Film Roundup Roundup is up to date with 21 new recommended motion pictures among the ones I saw in 2022. My top ten for the year:
- Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
- Local Hero (1983)
- L.A. Story (1991)
- Glass Onion (2022)
- Roxanne (1987)
- The Lost City (2022)
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
- The Afterlight (2021)
- Stalag 17 (1953)
- WarGames (1983)
The Crummy.com Game Of the Year is I Was A Teenage Exocolonist. Other games I enjoyed in 2022 include ZERO Sievert, The Barnacle Goose Experiment, and Vampire Survivors. Of our daily games, the ones I most look forward to playing every day are Framed and Artle.
Ugh, don't ask me about The Constellation Speedrun right now. It will be done eventually. I am working on it today, and this blog post is but a procrastination measure. 2022 saw publication of four of my short stories (see previous post) and I finished three more: "Or Current Resident", "A Place for Monsters", and "Expert Witness". I also wrote two Yuletide fics. Not what I'd hoped, but not too bad.
Wed Feb 01 2023 18:26 January Film Roundup:
- Pathogen (2006): This was entertaining, though I'm grading on a huge curve here since the director was a teenager (she's now a non-teenager horror writer and director). The actors differed dramatically in talent, with some bringing real creepiness to their scenes and others not convincing me that knew the camera was on.
I love a good zombie attack in a store, partly because it serves as an inadvertent document of consumer culture at the time and place the movie was made. There was a scene in Father of the Bride that needlessly took place in a Vons, but I loved the trip back to 1990s California. Could have used some zombies, though. Take note, filmmakers!
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966): You know what's so far removed from our current-day context that it's no longer entertaining? The comedies of Plautus! Their stock characters and farcical scenarios are simple and dirty enough to entertain modern audiences, but the language and cultural barriers are so big that it's easier to write something new that conveys the same feel. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum does a great job of starting over, using the "remake" logic that would become more common starting in the 90s: pick a bunch of the most memorable moments from the original and jumble them together.
I saw this film in high school, which means that about as much time elapsed between its release and my first viewing as between my first viewing and my second. I remembered that it was pretty funny and that "Comedy Tonight" is a great song, but it didn't register to me how well the film captures the squalor of antiquity; everything's gross and the food is crawling with flies, and through it all people are just trying to live their pathetic little lives. I find it creatively inspiring.
Of course, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum embeds 20th-century American attitudes about what's funny and what you can joke about, so the clock has already started again. For instance, that incredibly long chase sequence at the end needs to go. It makes a Roman chariot race look like the Indy 500 (i.e., very boring to watch). Also the pointless harem girl dancing. The male love interest is very Zeppo-ish, and I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a joke, but it ain't funny.
PS: Sumana was very pleased to discover the referent of a clip from the ST:TNG/Reading Rainbow crossover where Michael Dorn steps out of his dressing room in Worf makeup and says "Stand aside; I take large steps."
- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967): More 1960s musical adaptation fun, featuring sumptuous midcentury modern sets and Robert Morse Jerry Lewising his way across them. Good satire, good songs. Ending is kind of a cop-out but they get a good song out of it. Ends with an LBJ impersonator, which I feel like you rarely get in movies amidst the many Kennedies and Nixons. Good fun overall.
- Rancho Deluxe (1975): I was excited because I misread the description of this movie and thought it starred Jeff Bridges and Sam Elliot, which would make it a Big Lebowski pre-meet. In my defense, who casts Sam Waterston in a western? Louis DiGiaimo, casting director of Rancho Deluxe, that's who.
This movie has a 6.3 on IMDB, which is mediocre at best, but most days I'd rather watch a 6.3 movie from the 1970s over a 7.3 from the last ten years. Rancho Deluxe has a decent neo-western idea, the plot way more complicated than the comedy can support, lots of nice location shots. Ultimately nothing mindblowing, except...
There's a lengthy scene where Jeff Bridges and Harry Dean Stanton engage in pothead-level mind games with each other while playing Pong in a bar. The scene is shot so you see the game of Pong with the actors reflected in the monitor, making it perhaps the world's first Let's Play, and showing William A. Fraker developing the skills he would later use on Wargames. Simultaneously, the soundtrack features probably the only Jimmy Buffet song that mentions Pong.
- Fun with Dick and Jane (1977): Hey, look, a movie from the 1970s with an IMDB rating in the low sixes. Sometimes when preparing these reviews, I look at Roger Ebert's review of the same movie, and then regret it because he's just got the movie dead to rights and I can't think of much to add.
In this case, Ebert points out that the first half of Fun with Dick and Jane is biting social satire, as the privileged attitudes of the George Segal/Jane Fonda yuppie couple collide with the cruelty and bureaucracy of the American welfare state. Then the satire fizzles out and it turns into a silly crime comedy that's about as satirical as Breaking Bad, albeit much funnier. I would recommend this one, there are a lot of good jokes, but there's a lot of untapped potential here.
In my role as unofficial content note provider for old movies, I feel obligated to point out that this movie has brief, pointless blackface; and a Taxi Driver-like sequence of unexpectedly tolerant transphobia. In my role as raconteur of my own personal experiences, I want to mention that I was very excited when Dick and Jane parked their murder car outside the famous Tower Records on the Sunset Strip, a place I remember visiting (though not regularly) to buy CDs. But then we see them rob some other random record store! I guess they couldn't film in the Tower; a big disappointment.
After writing that I decided to look up what Roger Ebert thought of Rancho Deluxe: He hated it, and I can't find much to disagree with, but I still had a good time.
Fri Mar 03 2023 17:10 February Film Roundup:
- Love in Space (2011): Gives you more for your money by cutting between four different rom-coms going simultaneously. This was fun, except the astronaut couple are incredibly incompetent in un-astronautish ways, which really took us out of the story. Simple solution: they're not really astronauts! They're wacky space pirates who stole a spacecraft and don't know what they're doing. Problem solved, the movie is fun again.
In related news, I do not believe the Love in Space Wikipedia page that any portion of this movie was shot on the International Space Station. You can see the Hong Kong wire work in the microgravity scenes. But that's one of those assertions like the supposed ARPAnet reference in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, easy to make and difficult to dispel.
This is a good time to mention (or rather, there will probably not be a better time to mention) that I've now seen the 1985 episode of Benson ("Scenario") that supposedly has an ARPAnet reference, and it doesn't have one either. There is someone using a computer to communicate with the Department of Defense, which is pretty close, but the ARPAnet isn't mentioned, no IMPs are seen, and they clearly got the whole idea from Wargames.
- Dirty Dancing (1987): You know I love the midcentury Catskills resort lifestyle (in media, probably not in real life), so this was a lot of fun. Very reminiscent of Footloose, with Jerry Orbach excelling in the John Lithgow role. He really switches between "I'm a doctor and I've got to help this patient without being judgemental" and "I'm a dad and I'm going to be very judgemental about my daughter's choices."
Tue Apr 04 2023 22:36 March Film Roundup:
- Guarding Tess (1994): Watched this in a previous month and forgot about it. Don't blame me; just as the credits rolled, a guy from New Jersey passed by my window and shouted "Fuhgeddaboudit!" What could I do? It was post-hypnotic suggestion. Anyway, I remember it now. A fun movie with Nicolas Cage trying out a more buttoned-down persona—in fact, excessively buttoned-down in a very intense way. I really think this goes off the deep end into thriller territory in act three, but you can't have this kind of Hollywood movie in 1994 without it either turning into a romance or a thriller, so would I rather it be a romance? You bet I would! A May-December romance between Nicolas Cage and Shirley MacLaine sounds great!
- The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953): Way too long, and indifferently edited. Great Dr. Seuss props, but the cinematic vision seems to be "build sets for a German Expressionism musical and then shoot non-musical scenes on it". Possibly this is an effect of selection bias, since a lot of songs were filmed and then cut, leaving a still-too-long film that's no longer much of a musical.
There's a really weird thing visible in an early chase scene that later on turns out to be easily explained—it's a prop that's out of continuity. After cutting most of the songs, someone took a long chase scene from the end of the movie and spliced it into the beginning, just to pep up the beginning with some more action. That's the kind of movie this is: scenes don't need to be in any particular order. I didn't like it in The Last Picture Show and I don't like it here.
- Brewster's Millions (1985): Some books get lots of movie adaptations because the books are really famous, like Dracula. Some books have no movie adaptations at all, like Constellation Games. (Call me, Spielberg!) And then there are books like Brewster's Millions, which has been made into thirteen movies and two plays without the book ever being super famous. It's just a great, simple premise for a comedy that transcends time and culture. In fact, one final version of this movie could be made as humanity transitions to a post-scarcity economy. Who am I kidding, post-scarcity just makes this concept more interesting! How can you possibly spend a million dollars when nobody needs money anymore? The comedic premise is immortal!
Miscellaneous notes: this is the kind of movie where characters break out into applause just because someone spent a lot of money. From internal evidence in the screenplay, I believe the John Candy part was originally written for Dan Aykroyd. And see Sumana's blog post on the definition of an asset to get a feel for what it's like when we watch movies.
Finally, my preferred Brewster's Millions strategy would be to buy the rights to works of literature and then put them in the public domain. In fact, I've already done this, with the original Brewster's Millions—you're welcome.
- Dinosaur 13 (2014): A bit of a letdown after watching the director's astounding and similarly-named Apollo 11 (2019). I felt like this film picks the most severely wronged parties in a story featuring bad behavior from everyone, and treats them as uncomplicated heroes. I admire the restraint in not blowing the budget on bad CGI animations of dinosaurs.
One interesting glimpse behind some curtain or other: they interview the guy from Sotheby's who ran the auction for Sue, and he talks a lot about wanting to make sure the skeleton went to a good home, rather than ending up in a private collection. Dude, you're running an auction, the highest bidder is going to get the skeleton, it's pretty simple. What exactly did he do? Negotiate the McDonalds sponsorship to boost the Field Museum's bid? Surreptitiously kick undesirable bidders off of the conference call?
N.b. this is also the kind of movie where people applaud when someone spends a lot of money, though here it happened in real life.
Mon May 01 2023 21:40 April Film Roundup:
Sumana was out of town for Pycon, so I saw a few films from my "Sumana probably won't like this" queue of movies from the 60s and 70s.
- The Drowning Pool (1975): Paul Newman is an actor I only recently discovered. He did all his big films before I started watching movies, or (in most cases) was born. So, like Marilyn Monroe, I mainly experienced Newman through the medium of a low-fidelity black and white picture of him used in a commercial context. Well, he's lots of fun, charismatic, charming, and he's the second-best thing about The Drowning Pool. The best thing is that the climax of this tense noir thriller is an epic slapstick set piece. The whole time they were setting up the pieces of the set piece I kept thinking "Are they really going with the slapstick? That's so awesome/tonally jarring!" It was as if the flashbacks in The Godfather Part II showed Vito Corleone carefully assembling a giant banana cream pie. Recommended, I guess?
- A Guide For the Married Man (1967): I'm kind of angry at this movie for not having the courage of its Billy Wilder convictions. Ed spends the whole movie teaching Paul how to cheat on his perfect wife Ruth without getting caught. It seems like good, practical advice, I wouldn't know. Ed keeps mentioning how highly he thinks of Ruth, and how cheating discreetly is the best way to protect her feelings.
At the climax of the film, Paul's fumbling, jowly Walter Matthau attempt at infidelity is foiled when Ed is noisily discovered in the motel room across the court, cheating on his own wife with... some blonde. C'mon! He should have been cheating with Ruth! It's so obvious! Do I have to do everything around here?
As you can tell, loosening Hollywood restrictions are on full display in this film. Nowhere is this more visible than the set design. Since this is a bedroom farce, we see a whole lot of bedrooms, and most of them follow the traditional Hays Code rule of separate beds. However, it's now the swinging 60s, and you are apparently allowed to do one scene where two people share a bed without one having one foot firmly on the ground. Sort of like how PG-13 movies today are allowed a single F-bomb. They use a double bed for that scene, as well as for a joke about tearing up a bed looking for something, which prefigures Gene Hackman's paranoid search in The Conversation.
Includes a huge number of celebrity cameos, plus one cameo that wasn't known to be a celebrity at the time: a nearly silent role for Majel Barrett. As a bizarre bonus, all of the celebrities are credited as "Technical Advisers," not their character names, leading to IMDB quotes page entries like this:
Technical Adviser: Joe?
Technical Adviser: Yeah. Hi, baby.
Technical Adviser: Hi, honey.
Technical Adviser: How are the kids?
Technical Adviser: Fine.
- The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975): When I was watching this it didn't seem nearly as funny as I was expecting, but in retrospect it was pretty funny; just more of a character study and less of the wacky Jack Lemmon farce I was expecting. In fact, if you squint this could be a crime-and-grime sequel to The Apartment (1960).
Did you know that Peter Falk played the lead role when The Prisoner of Second Avenue was nothing but a humble Neil Simon play on Broadway? He couldn't appear in the film because he was busy doing Columbo. Just one of the many interesting facts I learned from David Koenig's behind-the-scenes book Shooting Columbo.
Now, it's time for a Spring Television Spotlight, highlighting interesting episodic serials we've enjoyed over these cold winter months:
- Poker Face (2023-): You know I love Columbo, if only from the paragraph I just wrote. Poker Face is designed to bring back everything good about Columbo, and it delivers: the class warfare, the convoluted coverups, the physical tics and gimmicks, the 70s font, and polite good triumphing over rude evil. Of course, it's 2023 and you can't have this kind of cop show feature an actual cop, so you also get a lead character who isn't even supposed to be solving these mysteries; she's just that nice. This opens up the best innovation of all over the Columbo formula: the retroactive insertion of Charlie into the story via flashback.
See, Lieutenant Columbo doesn't show up until there's been a murder. This makes logical sense and avoids Murder, She Wrote-esque suspicions that he is some kind of murder magnet, but it also means the cat and mouse between him and the villain of the week takes a while to get started. In Poker Face, you see the villain set up and carry off the killing as usual, but then you see the same events from Charlie's perspective; she was there the whole time, conveniently just out of frame, ignorable and ignored. It probably takes the same screen time as the getting-to-know-you phase of a Columbo, but the viewer is pleasantly occupied the whole time, recontextualizing everything they saw up to that point.
Like the original Columbo, this pushes a mystery-lover's intellectual buttons without actually being a mystery at all. Once we discovered that this was part of the formula, Sumana and I started playing the "where is Charlie?" game in the first part of the episodes, trying to find her in the lacunae of the narrative.
If I had to complain, I'd say the season finale really bit off more than it could chew; maybe it was originally longer and it got edited down.
- Hello Tomorrow! (2023-) Beautiful visuals kept us coming back for yet another entry-level story about a con artist who's caught feelings and is now in over his head. Everyone looks great, the acting is good, and Alison Pill brings her trademark insane smile. Recommended, even though you could just watch it with the sound off.
- Star Trek: Picard (2020-2023) Now that it's over, I'm comfortable saying this is the weakest Star Trek series so far. It never had a great season, and it was too arc-driven to have standout episodes. It had a few outstanding ideas, mainly around using the Borg and positronic androids to explore the fuzzy edges of identity in a networked world, but there'd always be some boring Romulans or previously unknown child or Chosen One narrative to bring it down. It was more successful as a character study and a fanservice nostalgia trip.
As a final complaint, I'm annoyed how huge, entirely relevant, interesting things would just get Memory-Alpha-holed between seasons when they switched showrunners. Where's Dr. Jurati in season 3? Really seems like she could help with this problem! I'm not just being an annoying Star Trek nerd: they came up with a really good idea for the Borg in season 2 and then immediately went back to the same-old same-old. Sumana sent me an appropriate meme for this situation. Anyway, the best treatment of the Borg continues to be found in Star Trek: Door Repair Guy.
Actually, let's end this on a positive note. My three favorite breakout characters from Star Trek: Picard: Agnes Jurati, Cristóbal Rios, Liam Shaw. All of them staying true to the Star Trek tradition while also bringing in character traits we haven't seen much of.
Fri Jun 02 2023 12:55 June Film Roundup:
- The Thomas Crown Affair (1968): Like many crime movies of the 1960s, this film starts with a tense, exciting heist executed by characters about which we know nothing. In fact, we barely see any of those characters again. It's great stuff, because the characters we do meet aren't super exciting. Their archetypes are fun—bored playboy versus sultry insurance investigator—and I did have a good time while I was watching the movie, but looking back at the end of the month, it's not more than popcorn. Not even the despair of American noir or the French New Wave crime films are present.
I guess the lesson to take from this movie is that if you're setting up a stochastic crime wave, you won't be able to vet your heist team as fully as you ought to. Food for thought!
- Major League (1989): I was amazed at how similar this film is to Ted Lasso. You might just say, that's how sports movies are, but I've seen at least three sports movies, including sports movies of the "coach teaches players to be better men" variety, and none of them are nearly this close. The setup is the same, the mustache is... pretty similar. Case closed! The inspiration is clear.
This was before rom-coms were quite so woman-focused, so the romance subplot—a vanilla rom-com right down to the decoy boyfriend—fits in with the macho, raunchy comedy of the rest of the movie. Overall, the film is... okay. I've spent a few enjoyable days in Cleveland and it was good to see the city again.
I first encountered Corbin Bernsen as Shawn's dad on Psych so it's fun to encounter him in his leading-man, pre-"main character's dad" phase. He's always got an understated comedic exasperation in the characters he plays.
This is more of a personal connection, but James Gammon in this movie looks and sounds exactly like my uncle Garry did in 1989. Uncanny!
Speaking of which, let's do a Television Spotlight on Ted Lasso, which just concluded. Overall, really solid and funny. It got a little self-indulgent in the third season, but its self-indulgence mostly took the form of long character studies of characters we liked (Rebecca), or at least had grown not to dislike (Jamie).
However there is one big exception: Nate's third season story arc. We spent quite a lot of time with Nate after his heel turn at the end of season two, and if season three was Nate's season, it would have been justified. But all those leisurely studies of other characters created a major pacing problem with Nate's arc, making it drag on until he made an undramatized face turn near the very end of the show. This violates my storytelling motto: show, or tell, but do one or the other, for gosh sakes! We weren't shown this dramatic moment in Nate's life, nor we were told anything about the mental processes that led to a very consequential decision. For a show that enthusiastically wears its emotions on its sleeve, this pulling back felt very strange.
PS: Trent Crimm 4evah. Breakout character of the show. Fun IMDB fact: Crimm actor James Lance also played Richard, Daisy's boyfriend in Spaced, way back when.
And finally, a rarely seen Live Theater Showcase, starring Khan!!! The Musical!. I saw this play twice during May, and really enjoyed the mix of Trek fanservice and deep musical theater cuts which I only get thanks to reading the Playbill recaps of Schmigadoon! that explain all the references. The show is closing this weekend, but we're talking The Wrath of Khan here, so we're likely to see one remake after another over the next few decades as everyone in off-Broadway tries to recapture the original magic.
Probably my favorite gag is the way the actor playing Spock maintains Vulcan posture and body language even while tap-dancing. And the first song is a great Starfleet recruitment pitch. ("Our socialistic, low-key atheistic, both futuristic and anachronistic Starfleeeeet!") It's that kind of show.
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