So I Just Watched: Cake Boss

Ninth in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

Well, to be fair, I’m through just two seasons (of five?) as available on Netflix, so it’s an ongoing endeavor.  Why?  Well, some reasons!

There is a comedian by the name of Paul F. Tompkins, with whom I have been familiar for some time.  I first saw his work on the legendary Mr. Show With Bob and David, a mid-to-late 90’s springboard for a whole slew of emerging alternative comedians (in addition to writing, Tompkins made a few appearances, such as in this sketch where he briefly appears as an entertainer-for-hire, Champion “The Drinker”).  Later, I’m sure I’d seen him in other things, maybe a few clips in rotation on Comedy Central in the days where they’d chop up as many stand-up specials as they could and repackage them into those interminable clip shows.

Most recently, though, I’d become reacquainted with him through the intimidating world of comedy podcasts.  He is probably the most prolific man in podcasting, having contributed hundreds of hours of appearances across dozens of shows, as well as sporadically releasing episodes of his own, The Pod F. Tompkast.  There used to be a website that kept track of them all, but I believe they must have given up a few months ago, realizing it to be an exercise in futility.

So wait, what does any of this have to do with Cake Boss?

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So I Just Watched: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Eighth in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

Thanks to Comedy Central, I’ve never seen John Hughes’s 1987 frenemy road comedy all the way through, or in a format that wasn’t cut for time and content, and edited to fit my screen.  Hey, my screen is versatile!  Don’t be so presumptuous.

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So I Just (Re)Watched: Beauty and the Beast

Seventh in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

I don’t know what it is about the letter “B”, but if you ask me “what are some good ______?”, my mind gravitates towards it.  I certainly like things that start with other letters, but I kind of jump to “B” at a moment’s notice.  It’s a fun, round, plump letter that’s produces a warm, soft, and cozy phoneme.  You might say it’s my favorite letter of the balphabet.  No, that’s stupid.  “Alphabet” derives from the common sequence of Greek letters (alpha, beta, gamma, delta, etc.)  So it would be more appropriate to say it’s my favorite letter of the betagam.

Anyway!  Examples.  “What are some good musicians?”  Beck, Bowie, Byrne, Badly Drawn Boy, Basement Jaxx, Björk.  “Esoteric or idiosyncratic games?”  Bayonetta, Bastion, Braid, Borderlands, Bushido Blade, Breath of Fire.  “Movies you can watch over and over?”  Big Lebowski, Brazil, Barton Fink, Beetlejuice, Back to the Future, Being John Malkovich, Beauty and the Beast.

And so I watched Beauty and the Beast again!  The Disney one with the singing and the animations.

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So I Just Watched: “Ringing Bell”

Sixth in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

A few weeks ago, I was at Fry’s Electronics, looking through their movies.  In the Children’s & Family section, I was somewhat amused to find Studio Ghibli’s grim “Grave of the Fireflies” wedged alphabetically between such fare as “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest” and “The Great Mouse Detective”.  Ostensibly, it was created as a family-oriented feature, and in fact debuted on a double billing with the much much lighter “My Neighbor Totoro”.  However, due to its harrowing depiction of the trials and tragedy of young war orphans struggling against starvation and societal collapse in the wake of the Kobe firebombings of WWII, it is very often reshelved under, say, drama.

Think about that… a double feature of children dying during wartime, backed with “My Neighbor Totoro”, one of the breeziest, most cheerful, most fantastical fixtures of Ghibli’s catalog.  Heck, recreate the experience at home!  Watch them back to back, and I doubt you’ll come away from it thinking, “doing that was a normal kind of idea”.  I’m guessing they showed Totoro second, kind of a dessert after the main course?  But in my American upbringing, it’s basically, “no dessert until you finish your vegetables”.  This is more like, “no dessert until you finish your vegetables, and I smack you around a bit”.

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So I Just Watched: “The Cider House Rules”

Fourth in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

Was this movie kind of a big deal when it came out or something? Product of its time, I guess. I will feel no great sadness if I never see it again.

First of all, the title… not too long ago, a friend and I were having a discussion about titling things, and how obtuseness and assumed lyricism do not often serve a potential audience’s interest. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. “The Godfather”. “Romeo & Juliet”. “The People vs. Larry Flynt”. These are your utilitarian titles. One can look at them and pretty quickly know what a story is probably going to be about.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have thematic and evocative titles that are novel and intriguing, and wind up having some greater subdermal implication to the story at large. “Cat’s Cradle”. “Gattaca”. “No Country For Old Men”. “There Will Be Blood”. “The Bad Sleep Well”.

Then you have a murky grey area in the middle, where titles are self-consciously trying to be evocative and bridging some sort of thematic/poetic gap, but falling short. “The Constant Gardener”. “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. “Secondhand Lions”. “Million Dollar Baby”. And for me, “The Cider House Rules” is there too. What are these stories about? Who knows? Plus, I can never get through without interpreting it at least once as if a Ninja Turtle is saying it… the cider house rules, dude!

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So I Just Watched: “Arthur Christmas”

Third in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

Okay, so I didn’t just watch it… it was a few days ago, when I was at my parents’ for a holiday break.  I was vaguely aware of the movie when it came out, but had no interest whatsoever in seeing it.  It was a confluence of multiple vectors of disinterest!  First, Sony Animation has not done us well, historically.  “Open Season“?  “Surf’s Up“?  “The Smurfs“?

Second, holiday-themed animation is always a mixed bag.  Zemeckis’s “The Polar Express” and “A Christmas Carol” are itchy, uncomfortable affairs.  I had no interest in “Hop” based on the previews, and a cursory look at the critical and audience reception shows I was right to be skeptical.  Plus, I’ve never really been a fan of those Rankin/Bass stop-motion specials.  It’s like the ugliest crap at the flea market came to life to teach you trite moral lessons.

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