Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Kansas Auntie

During this year's Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, I'm highlighting things more people should know about. For the most part, I'll be ignoring the most popular and widely known items (and sometimes my personal favorites) in order to promote the unfamiliar and underappreciated.

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm Edition!
There are far too many great M's, and we get tomorrow off, so why not share an even dozen...


FILM
Miller's Crossing
If the Coen brothers have one film that's woefully underappreciated, this is it. During the prohibition era, two rival gangs vie for control of the city, with the Irish mob boss's right-hand man (Gabriel Byrne) caught in the middle. Ambushes, shifting loyalties, and powerful performances by a colorful array of characters make this one fantastic piece of noir.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
A Korean War vet (Frank Sinatra) investigates the cause of his recurring nightmares only to discover a war hero has been brainwashed to become a political assassin. Let me just say, when I first saw this film, two or three times I found myself thinking, "Holy crap! Did that just happen?! In a movie from the 60s?! Holy crap!" If you haven't seen it before, you need to watch this movie. You'll never look at Angela Lansbury the same way again.
Moon
After an accident near the end of his 3-year solo mission at a lunar station, Sam Bell makes an unexpected discovery, and begins to doubt first his sanity and then his true role at the station. Now, you may think a movie starring Sam Rockwell (and only Sam Rockwell) might not be that good, but you would be oh so very wrong.
M
The classic. Berlin police are having trouble catching a child murderer (the magnificent Peter Lorre, in one of his earliest roles), and since their search is disturbing the city's other criminals, the criminals decide to catch him for themselves. A cinematic masterpiece.
TELEVISION
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Of course, everyone's heard of Monty Python, but I suspect many of you only know the Holy Grail and a few of their most popular sketches. Let's take a poll. If you've never seen one of their episodes, raise your hand. Yeah, it's just as I thought: I can't see your hands through the monitor. Point is, the show is far better than any of their movies. So put your hands down and go watch some Flying Circus.
Murder One
One murder. The trial plays out over an entire season, with a young Hollywood actor known for his substance abuse accused of killing a teenage girl. The series featured excellent writing and a stellar cast (including Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci in supporting roles), with enough twists and misdirection to make it a gripping legal thriller. (Note: The second season, which I gave up on partway through, covered three cases instead of one.)
GAME
Mr. Jack in New York
Jack the Ripper is loose in Manhattan, his identity narrowed down to 8 suspects. You play as either Mr. Jack or the Detective, and every round you each control two of the suspects, maneuvering them around the board and using their special abilities to either try to unveil and catch Jack, or to make your escape. A clever strategy game for two players.
MUSIC
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Behold! The ultimate punk rock cover band! Each album contains punk versions of a different type of music, from classic rock hits of the 60s and 70s to show tunes to R&B classics to country. In this fast-paced world, who has the time to listen to all those slower songs from decades past? Well, that's why God invented punk: you get twice the energy (and three times the fun) in half the time. Go ahead, check them out. And relive your old favorites.
Mountain Goats
I first came across this group when their song "Cotton" played at the end of an episode of Weeds. Singer John Darnielle combines fantastic lyrics with striking melodies to create some truly wonderful music. I especially enjoy the album The Sunset Tree, filled with autobiographical elements from his early childhood spent with an abusive stepfather.
The Mars Volta
Their debut, De-Loused at the Comatorium, is one of my favorite albums of all time. Now, there are several tried-and-true techniques — focusing on melody, rhythm, lyrics, etc. — which producers often employ to create hit songs. The Mars Volta ignore every single one of them, and the album's all the better for it. (Oh yeah, and their other albums are pretty good, too.)
LITERATURE
Mom's Marijuana by Dan Shapiro
The true story of how, when my cousin was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, my aunt — a decidedly anti-drug woman — grew pot in the backyard of her suburban Connecticut home. A witty, emotional memoir of cancer-survival experiences that I still count among the best books I've ever read. (And yes, this was written by the same cousin who will be appearing in Great American Manhunt on the NatGeo channel starting 4/19.)
Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy
In this debut mystery by mother-daughter writing team P.J. Tracy, a string of bizarre Minneapolis murders mirror those in a new online computer game, including ones on levels no player has yet reached. The software company's employees try to identify the next victims in order to stop the murders, but become suspects themselves as more and more secrets (and more and more bodies) are revealed. The characters are quirky, the plot twisted, and the wit wonderful. An excellent read.

My my my, that's a lot of recommendations. If you read them all, my hat's off to you. If you didn't, please notice my hat still sitting squarely on my head. (Yes, I have a square hat. What of it?)

Yet, even with all these M's, I'm sure I missed some. Enlighten me.

26 comments:

  1. In order: Manchurian Candidate also stars Angela Landsbury in a role nothing like Murder She Wrote!

    The original Mr. Jack is fun too.

    Holy shit! Someone else that's heard of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes! You rule!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also enjoyed the original Mr. Jack, but I like the adjustments made in this version that give the game a little better balance.

      And yes, I do rule... with an iron fist. (I keep it prominently on my desk so people know I'm the one who defeated the Iron Giant and I mean business.)

      Delete
  2. So many M's and all of them intriguing.

    Look forward to the rest of your challenge run…can’t believe we’ve had 14 days already!
    --Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I do try to be intriguing. And entertaining. And well-rested. (This month, I'm only managing two of the three...)

      Delete
  3. You should have made it a baker's dozen and included Momo by Michael Ende, the story of a girl, some time thieves, and an oracular tortoise named Cassiopeia. I know it doesn't have the same sentimental meaning for you as it does for me, but it definitely qualifies as an unfamiliar, underappreciated book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly is underappreciated. I certainly enjoyed it much more than Ende's better-known book, in which the story seems to go on forever and ever and ever.

      Delete
  4. I was introducted to The Mountain Goats through John Green's books and vlogs; they have some interesting songs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They sure do. And John Green has some interesting vlogs.

      Delete
  5. I heard of Miller's Crossing and think Moon might be sitting somewhere on my Netflix list...unless I removed it. My interest in watching Moon, however, changes from time to time. I mean, I dig that Kevin Spacey and Sam Rockwell are in it but the plot just has me going "should I or shouldn't I?" LOL.

    I didn't know that The Manchurian Candidate I've been familiar with for some time (the one with Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington) is a remake (or is it not?).

    ~Nicole
    Blog: The Madlab Post
    *My recent A to Z Challenge posts - K for Karma; L for Love
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the Denzel/Streep version is a remake of the one from '62. Only, without a Korean War to work from, they had to make Manchurian a company. I found it decent enough -- mostly because of the actors -- but nowhere near as good as the original.

      And as for Moon, Spacey himself isn't in the film, just his voice... but yes, you should.

      Delete
  6. Monty Python! You have excellent taste in humor, Nate. And Miller's Crossing was great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alex. And I agree; my taste in humor is impeccable. (Or, maybe it can be pecked. I should it tested.)

      Delete
  7. I have to be in a silly mood to watch and fully appreciate the Flying Circus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That may be, but did you know it's a proven scientific fact that Flying Circus can put in a silly mood? Proven scientific fact. You can't make stuff like that up (because I already have).

      Delete
  8. Nate, I absolutely love Miller's Crossing (even though I cannot even coerce my wife to watch a Coen Bros movie)it is way underappreciated. Murder One was completely destroyed by the morons running the programming at the station. It was a great show, great cast, and because the continuity fell apart with huges gaps in time between some episodes, viewership was lost. A lesson that shows like 24 and Lost didn't repeat. Monty Python...where to begin...with my N post maybe?? And I'll take one dose of Mom's Ganja please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your wife won't watch even one Coen brothers movie? But they come in different styles, and they're so good! Clearly, she has better taste in husbands than in movies...

      Delete
  9. I just saw the Manchurian Candidate out of that list. I was intrigued because it was banned for so many years. Cheers to being halfway through the challenge!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my experience, the banned movies/books/shows/science fair exhibits are often the best ones. And cheers to you, too!

      Delete
  10. Great lists for each day of the challenge. Some of them I have heard of or seen, others are now on my radar.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad I could get some of these onto your radar. Sadly, to get anything on my radar I have to use post-it notes, since I lost the manual a while back.

      Delete
  11. Mmmm, indeed. Love the original Manchurian Candidate; love the remake, though like most peeps I think the original was the best. If for no other purpose than to understand the cultural reference, this movie is a MUST SEE, just like 1984 is a MUST READ.

    Monty Python, just like SNL, is not on target ALL of the time, but often enough to make the TV show a required viewing element.

    Am now sampling Mom's Marijuana for my Kindle. Will I need brownies?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Any sketch show is going to have its highs and lows, but Python has some phenomenal highs.

      And speaking of phenomenal highs, I think brownies are always a good idea... medicinal or otherwise.

      Delete
  12. Really great lists of movies. Manchrian candidate was the best, especially the newer version with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep!
    Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you on that one, Debra. The newer Manchurian was decent enough, but in my opinion lacked the tension and shock value of the original. (Plus, it's hard to do, but I feel Angela Lansbury outdoes Meryl Streep in the same role.) Anyway thanks for reading!

      Delete