An Education

The “older man sweeps the schoolgirl off her feet” plot really isn’t anything earth shaking and if you’ve seen it at all before, you’ve basically seen An Education. Given that it garnered a Best Picture nomination, I was hoping there was something more to it than that, but there really isn’t. What was kind of interesting/creepy was that as the older man moves in to sweep said school girl, he does so with the full approval of her parents. Apparently as recently as post-war Britain bartering your daughter off for a good match was preferable to sending her to Oxford. The only reason to watch this movie is Carey Mulligan. This has rightly been hailed as her movie and she owns every frame. Were it not for Meryl Streep, I would have said this was the best performance by an actress last year. It’s unfortunate that even with bestselling author Nick Hornby writing the screenplay, the rest of the movie doesn’t rise to her brilliance.
7.0/10

Renaissance News Vol. 2 Issue 7

To my utter shame and regret, the RN is a day late. I will make no excuses. I could have done it yesterday. No matter that I had horrifying back pain that laid me low. No matter that I was in agony. I could have dragged my husk of a husky shell to the computer to bring you your news, but it would have been of questionable quality (and by that I mean “Percocet-intensive”). So feeling marginally more myself today, I wade into the news feeds to see what stand out.

  • In case you’ve been living in extreme lock-down, Apple released the iPad, the most fanfare any one tablet has gotten since Moses descended from the Mount. The 3G wireless version will be out later this month, but for right now the 16GB will set you back $499, 32GB $599, and 64GB $699. We are taking donations for the tech savvy but currency-challenged. Apple has sold 300,00 units in the first weekend and projects to move 20 million in the next few years.
  • JK Rowling hasn’t ruled out writing an off-shoot book or series out of Harry Potter but won’t consider it for “10 years or so”.
  • David Fincher (Zodiac) will direct a feature film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
  • Marvel has tapped Peter Sollett (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) to direct an adaptation of the comic Runaways.
  • Disney is developing National Treasure 3 and is already working on a sequel to December’s Tron: Legacy.
  • The sequel to Zombieland will be called 30 Seconds or Less.
  • Sebastian Stan (Gossip Girls) has been cast as Captain America’s partern, James “Bucky” Barnes. Stan has signed to appear in five Marvel movies as the character. Emily Blunt declined the role of Peggy Carter, Capt. America’s WW2-era girlfriend.
  • Henry Selick, who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, has returned to Disney to direct stop-motion animated films for Disney/Pixar.
  • DVD release dates:
    Avatar, April 27th (this is a bare-bones release, special edition is this fall)
    Brothers & Sisters: The Complete Fourth Season, August 31st
    Castle: The Complete Second Season, September 21st
    Cougar Town: The Complete First Season, August 17th
    Crazy Heart, April 20th
    Desperate Housewives: The Complete Sixth Season, September 21st
    Invictus, May 18th
    Private Practice: The Complete Third Season, September 14th
    Ugly Betty: The Complete Fourth Season, August 17th
    Valentine’s Day, May 18th
  • Box Office
    1. Clash of the Titans $61.4 million (Easter weekend record)
    2. Why Did I Get Married Too? $30.2 million
    3. How to Train Your Dragon $29.2 million
    4. The Last Song $16.2 million
    5. Alice in Wonderland $8.3 million ($309.8 million total)
  • Rolling Stone Album Chart
    1. “Raymond V. Raymond” by Usher
    2. “My World’s 2.0” by Justin Bieber
    3. “Now 33” by Various Artists
    4. “New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh” by Erykah Badu
    5. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum
  • Best Selling Video Games
    1. Pokemon Heart Gold, DS
    2. Fist of the North Star, PS3
    3. God of War III, PS3
    4. Wii Sports, Wii
    5. Battlefield: Bad Company 2, XBOX 360
  • New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers
    1. Caught by Harlan Coben
    2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
    3. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
    4. The Silent Sea by Clive Cussler
    5. Bite Me by Christopher Moore

Where the Wild Things Are

There are some inherent problems in adapting a children’s book that contains 338 words into a 90 minute movie. Maurice Sendak’s book is a masterpiece and somehow controversial because it dares to examine the fact that little boys are angry little bundles of fury wrapped up in confusion. The book does a masterful job of exploring that and using the monsters as embodiments of the various pieces of Max’s psyche. It’s not that Spike Jonze’s movie is unfaithful to this concept or the book. It’s just that it turns out that a little bit of Max goes a long long way because this movie could have been called Island of the Little Shits.

Before Max throws his third fit in under ten minutes and bites his mom before running off to the island of the monsters, the movie is unbearable. Everyone is hateful and rather than sympathizing with him, you just want to smack him. Once he makes it to the island and meets the monsters, the movie reaches its high point. From his first meeting with them (and they look simply amazing, like an illustration from the book come alive), through the iconic wild rumpus, and everyone collapsing in a heap to sleep, the movie captures the wonder of the book. After that period though it devolves into an in-depth examination of the monsters and their relationships with each other and it’s just unnecessary and uninteresting.

The problem with the film isn’t that the acting is poor or it doesn’t look fantastic. The problem is that this is a 338 word book that was never meant to be anything more than that.

5.0/10

Ultimate Spider-Man: The World According to Peter Parker


For 10 years now, Ultimate Spider-Man has been the most consistently good superhero comic on the stands. Despite the rest of the Ultimate universe tanking, the flagship book is still going strong 140 issues into the run. Volume 2’s first trade is in stores, and if you’re looking to hop on, this is the perfect point. Peter Parker’s life is in an uncommonly good place. He has a close circle of friends that know he’s Spider-Man including his Aunt May. New York loves him in the wake of a disaster. He’s dating Gwen Stacey, much to the dismay of exes MJ and Kitty Pryde. Things are going pretty great….so clearly that won’t last. Hitting NYC is Ultimate Mysterio who makes an impact by killing one of Spidey’s oldest foes and announcing himself as a force to be reckoned with, and Peter’s house is turning into a boarding house for teen superheroes. Brian Michael Bendis has been the biggest writer at Marvel for years, but his work on USM is the run for which he’ll be remembered. He’s exceptional at dialogue, so much so that the best moments of this series have been entire issues of people sitting around and talking. The book has always had good-to-great art, but David Lafuente’s style is the perfect match for the tone of this book. You can’t go wrong with any collection of USM and this is no different. One of the best series in comic history gets even better.
9.5/10

Meeting Games #1

I seriously considered posting something completely outrageous and false (DAVE HAS EYE RICKETS!) but given that you good people aren’t really the most interactive and participatory commentators (and, yes, I’m trying to bait you all to get comments), I decided to forgo the obligatory April Fool’s Internet hoax. Probably the real reason I have no ambition to complete a grand post has something to do with the gelatinizing of my mind during a 3 hour meeting. So it’s time for what I’m sure will be the first in a series of mind games I play to keep myself sane during meetings. Today it’s “Buzz Word Counting”! If you’re not tasked with keeping minutes in a meeting, this is a good one as it actually forces you to pay attention to at least some of the words being spoken. Pick three random management words. “Paradigm” is a popular one. I will also accept “dynamic” or “strategic”. Really any three overused buzz words will do. You know what ones are abused at your office. Keep a tally of how many times each is said and the winner should be inserted randomly into every email you send for the next week. Little things keep us sane (or functionally mad), folks.

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