Chris Neary is a producer for On the Media.
OTM Staff Picks Volume 41
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 09:28 AM
Our favorite things for the week.
All I did this week was watch movies, so I guess those will be my staff pick for this week. On Saturday I watched Argo. It was fine. Ben Affleck was fine. The whole thing was fine.
On Sunday morning, thanks to this amazing post on Metafilter, I watched the Star Wars rip-off Battle Beyond the Stars. I have to admit, I was into it. It took itself deadly seriously, which is about 90% of making a successful sci-fi pic. You can watch it on Netflix.
Sunday afternoon, I watched a documentary about the Skateboarding team The Bones Brigade, which, as a Midwestern kid in the 80’s, I desperately wanted to join. The team produced a lot of the greatest skaters of the 80’s, including my childhood skating hero, Rodney Mullen. Seriously, that guy was insane.
Along that line, I’d also recommend the documentary about skater-turned-fundamentalist-turned-murderer Mark “Gator” Rogowski.
And finally, on Monday, I saw 56 Up, which you might have heard about on our show a couple episodes back. I think what I most picked up on this time around is the tragedy inherent in aging. It seems like this time around, all of the participants were very palpably feeling a lot of loss and regret, and there was a real melancholy to it. But it was still really good.
Maybe watching documentaries while home with the flu makes me even more sympathetic to how vulnerable people can be. Or maybe documentaries are just a kick-ass way of humanizing stories about systems that have become dehumanized. Either way, my picks this week are two recent documentaries that made me just-the-right-kind-of furious:
How To Survive A Plague is about how ACT UP responded to the early years of the AIDS epidemic as it decimated the gay community in New York City. It's a searing testimony to what it means to fight back, to demand, to be impolite and angry and to force Washington and public health officials to confront the consequences of the status quo.
And The Invisible War is a remarkable/horrifying look at the epidemic of sexual violence in the U.S. military. The film makes the case that in the armed services rape and assault are widespread, there's virtually no accountability and that the victims are held responsible. I can only hope that the film acts like a lit fuse and blows this injustice up in a way that military and government officials can't ignore.
Often it falls to my non-American friends to introduce me to some of America's coolest cultural institutions. A case in point: my Italian amico Lorenzo recently turned me on to Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. In his 14 years at the helm of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein hosted 53 of these programs, which were broadcast live on CBS and syndicated in more than 40 countries. In my favorite episode from 1966, he explains the different modes — Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, etc. — and illustrates them using a mix of classical and pop music.
In his introduction, Bernstein says, "[To] add to the festivities, this is also the first season in which all our programs will be seen on television in color, which is why I've got this modishly colorful tie on."
Here's the rest of that episode: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
Over the weekend I started the new George Saunders collection of short stories, Tenth of December. I haven’t read any of Saunders’ work before, but I am really enjoying the fevered inner dialogues of his characters and the warped worlds that they live in. A lot of the stories are on the dark side (heavy shadows), but there are lines that are so absurd I’ve laughed out loud multiple times. When I’m done I am planning on reading some more Saunders, perhaps Pastoralia.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is Jonathan Swift meets Forrest Gump. The novel from Swedish ex-journalist Jonas Jonasson is wry and dry and funny and gripping from the first sentence to the last. Just a delight.
So I was talking with OTM producers PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman (and WNYC’s Caitlin Thompson) about The Australian Open yesterday. PJ and Alex don’t care about tennis, but I do. If only I could make them see. Here’s the best I can do. It's the best tennis match I’ve ever seen, the final of last year’s Australian Open. Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal. The play is so intense and physical you worry that these guys might be hurting themselves by pushing thru. (Nadal has had serious injury problems the last couple months). Some hero posted the whole match online. The video comes in at a brief six hours and thirty seven minutes. PJ and Alex have promised have promised to watch the whole thing.