Sunday, January 18, 2009

Welcome back!

Flight of the Conchords – Season Two

Tonight begins season two of my favorite new comedy, “Flight of the Conchords.” The show follows the trials and tribulations of New Zealand’s fourth most popular Folk band. As the boys (Bret McKenzie & Jermaine Clement) try to make a music career happen in New York City, they are challenged by an inept manager, their one crazed fan, and constant poverty.

I came a little late to the party with Season One. HBO had already aired seven of the ten episodes before I finally sat my butt down to watch the show via OnDemand. The best part was that I was able to be swept up into a large dose of their absurd world. I did not move from the sofa. I plowed through every episode, one after the other. My daughter wandered in on episode three and asked, “What are you watching?” “Oh, it’s this new show. Have a seat!” I said. She stayed with me till the end, and then I went back to show her the ones she missed. We’ve been crazed fans ever since.

If you signed up for the "HBO Flight of the Conchords” newsletter, you were treated to an advance viewing of tonight’s first episode. Often, when a show goes on hiatus, it quickly falls off my must see list. However, five minutes into this episode I was easily reminded of why I love it so much.

Alas, my enjoyment was tinged with sadness. For the first time in my life, I am without HBO. Growing up, my family was huge TV fanatics who didn’t go out much. We heavily relied on our TV for entertainment, so from my pre-teen years we had all the premium cable channels. In adulthood, I used the same reasoning; if vacation and a night out on the town were a rarity, we could at least fall back on cable to give ourselves a relaxing evenings at home.

Now though, I felt compelled to make deep cuts financially to get through these tough economic times, the irony being that I’ve created this blog when I have less access than ever to a vast array of TV watching.

I’m hoping I can pick up the new episodes on iTunes or Amazon on Demand. What I don’t know is will they offer the show weekly, right after it airs? If not, I’ll have to wait till the entire season is over and I’ve now realized it’s going to be harder than I thought.

Like our new president has warned, this won’t be easy. He’s right. 2009 is already proving to test my wills. Yet I must persevere as an American and believe that times will get better. I will once again bask in the luxury of my premium cable, but until then…

I love you guys! Wait for me!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Button Up For the Long Ride!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

After watching this beautiful new flick starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, I drove directly to Borders and picked up a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, Six Tales of the Jazz Age and Other Stories to read this story for myself.

Like many others, when I first saw the trailer for this movie I thought it was an adaptation of Andrew Sean Greer’s 2004 novel The Confessions of Max Tivoli, but it’s not. This film claims to be adapted from a short story written by Fitzgerald in the 1920’s. After comparing the movie and story, I’d have to say the similarities hang by such a short thread, you wouldn’t have enough to sew on a button!

In the short story, the father of Benjamin Button owns a button factory. Oh and the title is the same. That is absolutely where the resemblance ends. The tone of the story is quite bitter and it’s more of a looking glass into an oddity. The reader never even knows how this character really feels. The film and story are so vastly different I have no idea how you can say adapted…maybe inspired or loosely based?

How does this compare with the Max Tivoli book? Well, I not only read and recommended this book, I even had the pleasure of meeting the author at a reading. The love story aspect is most definitely the same and the time frame is closer than the Fitzgerald story. Greer, however, is not crying foul and rightly so. He is an author on the rise. His latest novel, The Story of A Marriage is once again a top-notch piece of fiction. He is an author with a Pulitzer in his future. If he makes a big deal out of this he will be forever connected with this rumored situation and take notice away from his great writing. Personally, I really have to question the source aspects, but in the end, it’s better for Greer to take the high road and hope that the controversy attracts more readers to his fine work.

Now, all this aside, this truly is Best Picture for 2008. It’s exactly what we go to the movies for. A fantastical story that draws us in, makes you believe the unbelievable and has you leaving the theater teary and satisfied.

This hits superior film making on all levels; interesting story, fine performances, beautiful cinematography, special effects and direction. This is how you make a great movie.

Brad Pitt is perfectly cast as Benjamin Button. As he morphs from shriveled old man/baby to a middle aged man, then younger and younger still, he is increasingly more beautiful. His physical appearance truly transcends personal taste. He is a modern day Newman or Redford; he may not be “your type” but no one can deny his powerhouse looks. Good looks aside, Pitt brings the acting chops to the role. His look of awe and child-like wonderment is vital in believing the storyline. Blanchett delivers her role well, but it’s more difficult to connect with her character. The supporting casts of characters do a superb job with moving the three hour drama along and adding to the rich story. This film does feel three long, but it’s a trip you’ll love going on.

Although the competition will be tough, I do believe this will pick up the Best Picture Academy Award for 2008.