Two TV Shows & A Movie: Reviews

It’s been a while since I felt like there was anything worth writing about to put on here, but here I am again with some recommendations of stuff to watch.

Been spending a lot of time on domestic issues – home improvement, and acclimating my new cat (yay! kitty!) to his new surroundings, although the little bastard has pretty much acted like he owns this place since he arrived. He personifies (or cat-ifies?) the eternal riddle of cat brain: smart enough to figure out how to open every closet door in the house by jumping up and pulling the door handles, but not smart enough to figure out what glass is and how it keeps him from eating the lizards outside. When he wakes me out of bed in the wee hours with his paw banging on the windows, I’ve tried calling him a shit for brains dumbass to shame him into learning, but it’s not working. Wondering if he’s thinking I’m the shit for brains dumbass for getting out of bed whenever he does this, but I guess I’m too big a shit for brains dumbass to figure that out. If he figures out how to reprogram the autofeeder and spells out “Fuck the system” with his dry food along the floor, I’m calling the exorcist.

Ah, but your lovable king of leisure time has some streaming recommenations for ya.

First up is a spankin’ new documentary that came out a couple of weeks ago but somehow is already available free via Hoopla, The Mojo Manifesto (2023), a very entertaining straightforward documentary on the career of Mojo Nixon. I’m sure y’all remember Mojo’s biggest radio hit “Elvis Is Everywhere,” and this doc covers his entire career interspliced with clips from a present day interview showing that the older, grayer and heavier Mojo is still exactly the same loud mouth obscene hilarious guy he’s always been. The film begins in the middle of the story – after Mojo split from his longtime music partner Skid Roper. Their falling out must still sting since Skid refused to take part in this documentary, but it seems like everyone else Mojo has ever worked with eagerly takes part & still works with the guy. He’s had the same manager forever & has been married for over thirty years – and maybe it’s my own prejudice but whenever a music/movie celeb has a track record like that and is as brutally honest-not-give-a-shit the way Mojo is, I gotta think the problem here is with Skid. Anyway – lots of fun clips here and snippets of Mojo’s music – my only beef with this film was that no complete song is ever featured or spotlit, but I guess that’s what digging out the old record collection or youtube is for. Watching this brought back some nice memories of seeing Mojo & Skid live back in the late ’80s, a very funny show and also a revelation that those guys are actually pretty adept musicians. One of my favorite Mojo stories is included only over the end credits, however: after putting out the song “Don Henley Must Die,” Henley turned up at one of Mojo’s concerts. And to his everlasting credit, Henley got up on stage surprising Mojo and singing the song with him. Only Morrissey doing that to Mojo’s rockabilly cover of “Girlfriend in a Coma” might top that, I guess.

Currently running on AMC is Lucky Hank, an 8 episode adaptation of the novel “Straight Man” by Richard Russo staring Bob Oedenkirk as English prof Hank Devereaux Jr, an academic shlub at a small mediocrity (his own words) of a college, dealing with the various struggles in his life – mostly in his long-absent father retiring from the fame and success of Columbia and NYC to move to the same small town. This plays out a lot like Alexander Payne Lite, in that it focuses mostly on people who are mired in failure, but once I got past the first episode, which I thought magnified the cringe factor a bit too much, the show has gotten better. The supporting characters of other professors and students and family members have been developed more, and while the tone has been maintained, a major difference between this show and the kind of material Payne lives in (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, etc.) is that the show likes the characters and adds a humane touch. In episode 1 I thought this show would go in the Payne-like direction of making the entire show about the moral failing & weakness of the characters, which is always the prevailing theme in his films. He’s one of the only directors who hates people who makes movies I like, by the way. Oedenkirk is good here, especially in his darkly sarcastic one-liner replies to the characters around him when he’s the only one in the room acknowledging reality. The storyline, true to the novel, unfolds slowly – the pressures of both Hank’s job and his wife’s assistant principal job are handled adeptly, and the open and honest nature of their marital discussions is very refreshing TV. Hank’s family story with his parents lies at the center, so no spoilers here. Different academic “types” are satirized a lot, as well as the sorts of petty faculty rivalries and fights over nothing that I know about all too well after my decades in that venue. Maybe that’s why I like this show. Making fun of academia in the small-failure setting is a genre that turns up a lot in novels since they’re all written by English profs who take the teaching jobs since their novels might get critical wows or log rolling but don’t make a lot of money (ahem. Go up to “Buy My Books” and hit those amazon links, ya plebes). Russo has had commercial success with a lot of his work however, but clearly understands the world he’s writing about. While the novel came out in the 1990s and the campus has changed a lot (and for the worse) since, not a whole lot needed to be updated here.

For Jimmy The Foodie™, I got a rec to check out The Bear, an eight episode first series of a dark dramedy due for a second season of ten episodes this coming June. Jeremy Allen White stars as Carmy, a chef from the French Laundry world of snob cuisine who returns to run his families’ old beef sammich shop in Chicago after his brother commits suicide. This was another show that took me a few episodes to get into – the opener felt like people yelling at each other in a chaotic atmosphere for a solid thirty minutes and not much else – but as later episodes go on, the supporting characters of the restaurant staff and the backstory of the family, of him, and of all sorts of stuff with the supporting characters are drawn out very well and it becomes very engrossing. I’m not sure why this show is considered a comedy by all the awards categories in Hollywood – there are funny moments and lines, but the situations themselves are very real and it feels way more like a character drama. It’s very well done – acting, directing and story structuring within episodes and with the overall season arc are solid. There’s a lot of cooking/food stuff in here as well, especially with Carmy’s new sous chef hire Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and his ambitious baker Marcus (Lionel Boyce). Ebon Moss-Bachrach is also wonderful at making his cousin Richie character into an annoying asshole but who you feel sympathy for.

Wait, did I tell you to buy my books? I got a cat to feed, y’know.


2 thoughts on “Two TV Shows & A Movie: Reviews

Add yours

  1. I enjoyed reading your post, and thank you for sharing your recommendations. Have you ever wondered why academia and the failures within it are a common theme among novels and shows? Does Lucky Hank have any groundbreaking insights, or does it add to the popular stereotype of the academic world?

    Mr. W

    1. It’s more the popular stereotype, with little observations from Hank either in dialogue or in voice-over that I guess could be called “insightful.” I think the theme is common since so many authors out there work academic gigs to pay the bills, so they’re writing about the ocean they swim in. I’m sure I could write something about the academic experiences I’ve had and it would make David Lynch & David Cronenberg both go “WTF???” I really need to write the next books in the series I already have. But who knows.

      BTW: I put film on my windows in my old condo many years ago, not so much for shade but for wind protection. You might want to add that idea to your website.

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