Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cool stuff to read and watch

Many lovely, good things await out there for the avid readers/watchers right now. Some notable choices I found worth my time and/or dollars (and maybe yours) include:

Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow: The writer and director Judd Apatow lives, breathes and loves comedy. I didn't even know he used to do stand-up, but yup, he did. He also made a point of interviewing his comedy heroes, going back 30 years when he was still in high school. This book collects those interviews and adds some new ones (I'm only about 25% of the way through and loving it). And bonus, book proceeds go to 826LA, a charity to promote literacy and creativity for children. Sick in the Head is interesting, funny, and an education in comedy and performing. You'll find a few useful nuggets about life and work in general, too. You'll even get the fun fact that Garry Shandling was a writer for Sanford and Son (?!), though you'll never learn how many times he used the word "dummy" per script (as in Fred's abusively loving line to Lamont of "You big dummy!").

Stories We Tell: This documentary by writer and director Sarah Polley is streaming free for Amazon Prime members, or you can rent it for a cool 99 cents. In it Polley investigates her mother's life, who died when Polley was young. She puts together the puzzle of who her mother was, as much as one can from speaking to those who knew the woman, and uncovers a startling secret that creates massive ripples in Polley's own life. My favorite type of mystery is that of people unraveling their own family history (a good episode of Who Do You Think You Are? can have me enthralled -- watch the Kim Cattrall episode to see what I mean). This documentary was right up my alley (oh my, that phrase sounds so dirty; cool). Quotes from print media reviews on Amazon call it "riveting" and "unmissable," which I would call a bit of an exaggeration. It's interesting and well-done in a novice sort of way. You can tell Polley hasn't quite got the polish to make this truly great, but still, it's pretty darn good. Watch to the very end, folks, as she saves one final twist for last.

Bosch: My husband really liked this Amazon original series; I thought it was OK (but I'm not big into crime drama). The main thing I want to know is why did the intro of this show, set in modern day, immediately make me think of Sharky's Machine, the 1981 Burt Reynold's cop flick that I barely remember? The impression of similarity was sort of like one of those paintings that look like nothing and you have to unfocus your eyes to see a shape emerge. I'd have to rewatch the movie to know what made me draw the comparison, and I'm not prepared to do that. But when I excitedly pointed and exclaimed, "This reminds me of Sharkey's Machine!" as the opening credits to Bosch flashed past, my husband laughingly cried out, "Yes!" So, vindication and all that.

Omit the Logic: Richard Pryor. I recorded this doc about one of the greatest comics to ever grace the planet awhile back on Showtime, but only recently watched it. It covers Pryor's professional and personal life, offering up a lot of detail I'd never known. You get his highs and lows, his triumphs and tragedies (and there were plenty of both). It reveals that Pryor, after watching a Buddhist monk's self-immolation on TV, purposefully set fire to himself (he was out of his mind on drugs, of course). I'd always thought that was an accident. And of course he turned that extremely painful, near fatal incident into comedy gold, just like so much other trauma in his life. Catch this tribute to a man whose legacy will outlive us all on Showtime On Demand or Showtime Anytime, or one of the upcoming airings (check Showtime listings).

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