Saturday, November 14, 2009

Notes and Notions (November, Part 2)


The best thing about the newly remastered release of U2's Unforgettable Fire CD (and there are many great things about it) is the clean, crisp version of track 9: "Elvis Presley in America." This is one of my favorite U2 songs, but I never enjoyed it as much as I do now. Previous versions were muddy and flat and the otherworldly effect of the song was lost. Not anymore. To me, the song is endlessly captivating. Bono's voice rides the waves of accompanying music, rising into clarity one moment then dropping into ambiguity the next. His cryptic, improvised lyrics move from the meditative to the highly emotional. The result is a hypnotic song that is simultaneously ethereal and raw. Outstanding.

Speaking of remastered disks, another great new release is The Stone Roses' self-titled CD from 1990. (Actually, now, the more precise title is The Stone Roses 20th Anniversary.) I love all the songs on the disk, but I'm especially pleased to hear the rousing, "This is The One," in crisp, remastered clarity.

I haven't seen nearly enough films lately.  But all that's going to change!  The holiday season is upon us and there's a slew of movies that I'm eager to see.  First among them is Avatar.  I know, I know: there's a lot of James Cameron backlash out there right now.  Apparently the Avatar trailer doesn't live up to the hype (or the promise of the 3D technology). But talk about griping!  What do movie fans want?  They're disappointed with the Avatar trailer?  C'mon!  It's breathtaking.  Plus, if I'm going to plop down ten dollars to see a movie, I know James Cameron is going to deliver.  Nobody gives you a better bang for the buck.   Sure, Avatar will feature the same old Cameron cliches--a simplistic romance and a heavy-handed message about corporate greed.  But so what?  The special effects, the action, the attention to detail--film and genre geeks everywhere should be celebrating.  I think Avatar will be exhilarating.  It will also be one of those rare films that must be seen on the big screen.  There's no waiting for the DVD with this one! (For an in-depth profile of James Cameron and more info about Avatar, check out this New Yorker essay.)

More TV:
As long as Glee can provide episodes as great as "Wheels" this past week, I'll be eager to tune in.  But while "Wheels" shows how good Glee can be, it also underscores how uneven the series is.  Some episodes are cartoonish and slapstick with flat characterizations and buffoonish performances, others (like "Wheels") are captivating, well-acted, and moving.  Clearly, series co-creator, Ryan Murphy, is the real talent here.  He wrote "Wheels" as well as being co-writer on the season's other outstanding episode, "Preggers."  I hope he gains more creative control on Glee as the series goes along.  Of course, Glee will eventually face the dilemma of all "high school" shows:  Do the characters graduate or stay in high school forever?  The premise of the show demands the latter (it's all about high school glee club, after all).  But the young actors who play the students are already looking too old for their roles and certainly by season two it will be hard to accept them as teenagers, let alone high school students.  I guess we'll be seeing "community college glee" in the next few years.  (Still, right now I'd rather watch Glee, with its 25-year-old high school kids, than FlashForward or the god-awful V. Ughh.)


  1. Oddly enough, I watch Glee, FlashForward, and V. I enjoy each of them. :) Those three shows and Heroes.

  2. John, is 24 still the worst show ever?

    Raymond M.

  3. Raymond,

    That is so funny! That anyone would remember an editorial I wrote, like, 6 years ago! I don't know how bad 24 is (I stopped watching after season 1). I'm sure it wasn't as bad as I made it out to be. (I was way more of a TV snob, then.) But I do know it wasn't good. After watching so many great TV shows since then (The Sopranos, The Wire, LOST, Deadwood, Mad Men, the first three seasons of Battlestar Galactica (before it out-24'd 24 in the make-it-up-as-you-go category), Big Love, Veronica Mars, Firefly, etc., etc.) I doubt I'd find 24 any more compelling than I did back during season 1. Still, worse show ever? That's harsh. I mean, where would that leave Heroes?

  4. I used to work with a guy who loved 24, so I gave him a copy of your Wrapped in Plastic—or was it Spectrum?—commentary to try to convince him of how bad it really was. It didn’t work.

    I never watched the show, myself, but from what I’ve learned since, it doesn’t seem to have had any redeeming qualities.

    Still, I’d often wondered over the years if you’d given up on it or not.

  5. Oops. Forgot to sign the above.

    Raymond M.