What I'm Digging - March 2, 2007

Books


Hawaii by James Michener

Scott says: "This was recommended to me as a research tool for a project I'm writing that takes place in Hawai'i but I just ended up enjoying it as pure pleasure. They just don't write these great multi-generational (in this case multi-multi-multi-generational) sagas like they used to (remember Alex Haley and Roots?), perhaps with the exception of Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex (which if you haven't read I also recommend). Wonderful drama and a good sense of the history of one of my favorite places and people on this planet."


David Copperfield by James Dickens

Scott says: "I've always been a huge Dickens fan but there are those books I just never got around to. This is one of them. It was Dickens' favorite and is quickly becoming one of mine (half-way through at this point). Great read for the fireside ... or as I recently found on the shores of Moloka'i, the oceanside for that matter."


Music


Neon Bible by Arcade Fire

Scott says: "They're my favorite band out there since having a religious experience seeing them at the Hollywood Bowl a couple of years ago and their new album is AMAZING. More somber and less anthemic (except for my favorite song "Intervention") than their debut album Funeral it's still an extraordinary rock symphony.


Picaresqe and The Crane Wife by The Decemberists

Scott says: "After hearing a few of their tunes on KCRW out here in LA I was fully introduced to these guys when a friend took me to see them in concert and I was hooked. Hard to describe but they are to me the American version of The Pogues, their songs like rocked out sea chanties from days of old - - some melancholy, some angry, others oddly upbeat and romantic but all wonderfully tuneful and intelligent. Lead singer Colin Meloy's voice is a love it or hate it thing I've found, but I happen to love it and can't imaging anyone else's suiting this music. Picaresque seems quite old-fashioned while their new album The Crane Wife (the band's first major label album) finds the band melding their old ways with more modern sounds."


Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit by Belle & Sebastian

Scott says: "Like a dummy I gave up on B&S when there was a change in personnel. Fortunately after hearing some tunes from their new album, The Life Pursuit I went back and grabbed Dear Catastrophe Waitress to listen to as well and have been happily reunited with this wonderfully, oddly, jangly, groovy little band. Even when they sing of sad things their songs seem to have an uplifting quality. Get them both and find yourself tapping your feet and humming along after just a few minutes."


Movies

Children of Men (out on DVD March 27)

Scott says: "Incredible performance by Clive Owen and one of the technically best (and bleakest because it all seems so plausible) films dealing with the future I have ever seen. I think it was a crime that Alfonso Cuarn wasn't even nominated for an Oscar for his dazzling direction. Just trying to fathom how he choreographed some of the seamless and endless takes blows my mind."


Scott says: "I've seen a bunch and have enjoyed many so here are some titles without a lot of description."


Last King of Scotland (out on DVD April 2007): "Forest Whitaker's best performance in years and an oddly fun film."

The Queen (out on DVD April 2007: "Helen. Mirren."

Letters from Iwo Jima: "A wonderfully unique perspective on war."


DVDs

Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge and I'm Alan Partridge (BBC)

Scott says: "If you're a fan of Steve Coogan but are unfamiliar with what made him famous in England in the first place these are a must-see. You can also see the pre-cursor to the style that led to The Office as well, in my opinion. In both series Coogan plays an awful chat show host named Alan Partridge. He is tactless, egomaniacal and completely unqualified to host a chat show and ends up offending just about everyone about him ... yet there is something endearing in his mania (similar to Rick Gervais's "David Brent") that makes you cringe so delightfully at his many faux-pas that you can't wait to see how he screws up next. In Knowing Me Knowing You ... he hosts a chat show on BBC and which goes from bad to worse each week. This series ends up being a brilliant satire of chat shows themselves while introducing us to Partridge's quirks. The guests each week are played by a small, wonderfully versatile group of actors and part of the fun is recognizing them in their various roles. I'm Alan Partridge" finds him cancelled from the BBC and DJ'ing the graveyard shift at a tiny radio station in Norwich. He's also in the midst of a divorce and living in a local cheap hotel. This gives the whole series more of a standard sit-com feel, but it is shot single-camera style (like The Office) which makes it much edgier. Partridge is desperate to get back on the BBC and indeed keeps having visions of himself as a go-go dancer selling his body for a new show. Again, the ensemble cast (the staff at the hotel and Partridge's long-suffering P.A.) are great. Good, dark, deeply funny stuff."


Scott says: "I've seen a bunch and have enjoyed many so here are some titles without a lot of description."


Half Nelson: "Ryan Gosling's performance is outstanding and the story heartbreaking." 

Babel: "Why can't we all just get along?" 

Casino Royale (out on DVD March 13): "Eva. Green. ... and Daniel Craig is great." 

Volver (out on April 3): "Penelope." 

The Prestige: "Sure Christian and Hugh are swell but David Bowie was the big surprise for me." 

Borat...: "Look for the line about "a wizard's sleeve" and win a prize." 


TV


Sleeper Cell, Season 1 (Showtime)

Scott says: "I don't know when I've been so tense watching a show (not having gotten on the 24 bandwagon I can't compare) or when I've actually found myself so torn in my loyalties between characters. A fascinating and chilling look into a terrorist cell in Los Angeles that has been joined by a deep, DEEP undercover FBI agent (an amazing Michael Ealy) as he tries to figure out the plan of the group's leader (played by the extraordinary Oded Fehr) and thwart it. Strong performances all around especially by the other cell members played by Henri Lubatti, Blake Shields and Alex Nesic and story-lines that always stay one step ahead of you. Plus there's only 10 episodes so it' s great to have on the iPod for 5-hour coming and going flights. I understand Season 2 is even stronger and I look forward to seeing it."


My Bare Lady (FOX Reality)

Scott says: "Guilty pleasure. Four porn stars get shipped off to London to get acting lessons so that they can appear in a showcase of Shakespearean scenes and hopefully become "legit" actresses. Need I say more?"

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