Our Current Favorites

Here’s what we’re listening to / reading / watching right now:   3/31/2019

[ Mike ]


  (Currently in my MP3 or CD player)
  Superorganism - Superorganism
  Meghan Trainor - Thank You, Title
  Taylor Swift - Reputation
  Ani DiFranco - Binary
  Randy Brown (aka BrownRandy) - Dream Big, But Wait...There's More
  Tom Lumen - Manual Mode
  Open Book - Grateful
  The Chainsmokers - Memories Don't Open, Bouquet, Collage
  Lake Street Dive- Free Yourself Up
  Punch Brothers - All Ashore
  The Big Broadcast (20's and 30's classic jazz)
  The Next Day - David Bowie
  They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun

  (Highly recommended)
  Flying Machines -  Flying Machines
  Bad Self Portraits - Lake Street Dive
  Regina Spektor - Far, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, Remember Us to Life
  Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement, How Do You Do
  The Kooks - Konk
  Of Montreal – False Priest
  Nickel Creek - Why Should the Fire Die?, A Dotted Line
  Punch Brothers – Antifogmatic, Who's Feeling Young Now?, The Phosphorescent Blues
  Rob Morsberger - The Chronicle of a Literal Man
  The Strokes – First Impressions of Earth, Comedown Machine
  Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
  Sarah Bareilles - Kaleidoscope Heart, Little Voice
  Ben Folds - Supersunnyspeedgraphic
  They Might Be Giants - Nanobots


  (Currently reading or recently read)
  Walking the Dog: And Other Stories - Bernard MacLaverty
  Cal - Bernard MacLaverty *
  Unsheltered - Barbara Kingsolver
  Waking Up White - Debby Irving 
  The Relive Box and Other Stories - T. C. Boyle
  Educated - Tara Westover *
  Fear - Bob Woodward
  The Yellow Birds - Kevin Powers *
  The Hard Problem - Tom Stoppard
  Future Home of the Living God - Louise Erdrich
  Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
  Into the Water - Paula Hawkins
  A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
  Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink - Elvis Costello
  Dietland - Sarai Walker
  Sleeping Beauties - Stephen King & Owen King
  How I Became a North Korean - Krys Lee
  To The Bright Edge of the World - Eowyn Ivey *
  Dear Mr. M - Herman Koch
  Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer
  Like Life - Lorrie Moore
  Anagrams - Lorrie Moore
  Moonglow - Michael Chabon
  The Terranauts - T.C. Boyle 
  Animal Dreams - Barbara Kingsolver *
  Illywacker - Peter Carey 
  Number 9 Dream - Dennis Mitchell
  The Peripheral - William Gibson
  Drop City - T.C. Boyle
  My Name Is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout
  A Plague of Doves - Louise Erdlich
  The Zone of Interest - Martin Amis 
  The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
  BWLF - Dennis Nils
  The Return of Little Big Man - Thomas Berger 

  (Particularly good * or noteworthy)
  Challenger Deep - Neal Shusterman *
  The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt 
  The Orphan Master's Son - Adam Johnson (2013 Pulitzer Prize winner)
  Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout (2009 Pulitzer Prize winner)
  The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey  (2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist) *
  Looking For Alaska - John Green
  The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
  Nightwoods - Charles Frazier
  The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick *
  The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell
  The Good Luck of Right Now - Matthew Quick [Read by Oliver Wyman] *
  The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton (2013 Man Booker Prize winner)
  The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes (2011 Man Booker Prize winner) *
  Arthur and George - Julian Barnes
  Pulse - Julian Barnes
  A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon  *
  The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
  The Good Lord Bird - James McBride (National Book Award winner)
  Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn
  Salvage the Bones - Jesmyn Ward (National Book Award winner)  *
  Swamplandia! - Karen Russell  (Pulitzer Prize nominee) *
  MetaMAUS - Art Spiegelman *
  Amaryllis in Blueberry - Christina Meldrum *
  The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd 
  The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell *
  Bootstrapper - From Broke to  Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm - Mardi Jo Link
  Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell*
  The Farmer's Daughter - Jim Harrison *
  11/22/63 - Stephen King *
  Life During Wartime - Lucius Shepard *
  The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War On Terror Turned Into
       a War On American Ideals - Jane Mayer
  Wild - Cheryl Strayed
  World War Z - Max Brooks
  Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver
  Telegraph Avenue - Michael Chabon
  A Working Theory of Love - Scott Hutchins *
  Infidel - Ayaan Ali Hirsi *
  Escape - Carolyn Jessop
  Sniper - Nocolai Lilin
  She Drove Without Stopping - Jaimy Gordon *
  Once Upon A River - Bonnie Jo Campbell *
  The Land of Decoration - Grace McCleen *
  The Lower River - Paul Theroux *
  Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro *
  Jaimy Gordon - Bogeywoman *
  Jonathan Safran Foer - Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close *
  M. T. Anderson - Feed (National Book Award finalist) *
  Barbara Kingsolver - Prodigal Summer *
  Barbara Kingsolver - The Lacuna (PEN/Faulkner Award finalist) *
  Cormac McCarthy - The Road (Pulitzer Prize winner) *
  Cormac McCarthy - No Country for Old Men *
  Cormac McCarthy - Blood Meridian *
  Cormac McCarthy - All the Pretty Horses (National Book Awd winner) *
  Jaimy Gordon - Lord of Misrule (National Book Award winner) *
  Martin Amis - House of Meetings *
  Charlie Smith - Three Delays *
  Aron Ralston - 127 Hours Between a Rock and a Hard Place *
  Paolo Bacigalupi - The Windup Girl 
      (winner Hugo, Nebula and Campbell awards)
  Jon Armstrong - Yarn
      fashionpunk sci-fi
  Susan Heyboer O'Keefe - Frankenstein's Monster
      Sequel to Mary Shelly's novel
  Emma Donoghue - Room
  Roz Savage - Rowing the Atlantic
  Dana Spiotta - Stone Arabia
  Erik Larson - Thunderstruck
  Colson Whitehead - Zone One

Film / Video:

The Girl in the Spider's Web - Sorry, didn't like this. Bad script, and Clare Foy is no Rooney Mara.
Us - Excellent...though liked Get Out! better.

Bohemian Rhapsody
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Marshall (2017)
Baby Driver
Doctor Strange (2016)
Mowana (2016)
A Hologram for the King (DVD)
Spotlight (2015)
Boyhood (2014)
Birdman (2014)
Parkland (DVD) - Some good moments
After Earth (DVD) - Incredibly awful!
Before Night Falls (DVD) - Very good, but harrowing.  Excellent unexpected cameo by Sean Penn, and two strange cameos by Johnny Depp.
August, Osage County (DVD) - This goes on my all-time best list.  Pitch-perfect writing and amazing acting, especially Streep and Roberts.
Interstellar (2014 Imax) - Very disappointed, especially considering all of the hype.  Why did this get such good reviews? 
Whiplash (2014) - Must see!
Hunger Games - Catching Fire (Netflix) - Laugh if you want; I liked it
Get On Up (2014) - (James Brown biopic) Good
The Lone Ranger (DVD) - Not bad!
Noah (2014) - Got a free movie ticket.  Worth every penny.
The East (DVD)
Panic Room (DVD)
The Machinist (DVD) - wow!
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Oz The Great and Powerful (DVD) - Awful.  Michelle Williams somewhat less awful.
The Great Gatsby (DVD)
American Hustle (2013)
Her (2013)
Catfish (DVD) - Must see!
War Horse (DVD) - Great cinematography. Horses were excellent.  Corny script.
Morning Glory (DVD) - Barbara wanted to watch romantic comedies
Friends With Benefits (DVD) - Barbara wanted to watch romantic comedies
The Fighter (DVD) - Highly recommended
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) - Space opera fun
The Dark Knight Rises - DVD
Looper - DVD - Very good
One Day (DVD) - Awful.  Couldn't even finish it.
Contagion (2011) DVD - Surprisingly realistic, not comic book.
Ruby Sparks DVD - Cute
Silver Linings Playbook (2012) - Wasn't expecting that this would be so good.  Well acted, especially DeNiro.
Jeff, Who Lives At Home - DVD
Melancholia - DVD
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Lincoln (2012)
Argo (2012) - The acting and script were nothing special, but the story is amazing.  Based on a true story - I wonder how much of it was made up?
John Carter (2012) - Looks good, screenplay and plot changes range from so-so to bad; based on the Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which still stands up as a terrific read.  Why couldn't they have just stuck to the book?

The Iron Lady (2011) - Decent, interesting biopic with nice twist (Thatcher with dementia), incredible acting by Streep.

The Descendants (2011) - Well acted, but best picture/actor?  I don't think so.  Very nice scenery.

The Debt (2011) - Well acted, suspenseful thriller.  Mostly believable, except for the final scenes, and no car chases, astonishing leaps from buildings or pyrotechnics.  One evil Nazi.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) - You might think it was me who wanted to see this movie, but in fact I've never liked the Planet of the Apes movies, and this one didn't change my mind.  (The book was interesting, though.)  It was Barbara who really wanted to see this.  I assume it was some fond association from her college days - I didn't ask her who her date was when she saw the original film.  Or maybe she just liked Charlton Heston.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2) (2011)  - A few inexplicable minor changes from the book, but what the heck.  Still fun.  And the very end works better in the movie; was horrible in print.

The Triplets of Belleville (2003) - DVD
I loved this strange, beautiful, darkly humorous and unpredictable animated film!  It was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature.  And the music is fabulous; a combination of Django Reinhardt and crazy percussion jams.  Highly recommended.

Atlas Shrugged (Part I)
Not bad, really (despite having been panned universally by critics), especially considering that it was a low-budget, no-movie-star rush job.  Mostly faithful to the book which, of course, is far far better and really makes you think.  Check your premises - and check for the flaws in Ayn Rand's philosophy.  A couple of genuinely bad performances here, but mostly decent performances, and some really good ones.

The Perfect Stranger (2005) - JCTV
Stumbled upon this one while channel-surfing.  Alternate title could have been My Dinner with Jesus.  Not bad, really, especially considering that it was a low-budget, no-movie-star production.  Sort of faithful to the Book which, of course, is far far better and really makes you think.  Check your premises - and check for the flaws in Jesus' philosophy.  Decent performances, all talk and no action, and a nice multi-course dinner, elegantly served, with the Eternal One footing the bill.

Memento (2001) - DVD
This one goes onto my all-time favorites list.  The film is an innovative and wonderfully executed puzzle, a philosophical thriller - and very funny as well.  Part of the fun is figuring it out for yourself so I won't reveal anything at all about the movie.  I had to watch it three times to work out all the details (since there is so much nuance and attention to detail, so many cool and/or significant things you'd never notice the first time through), but I still have a few questions that keep me up at night.  Anyone who wants to discuss, let me know!

Following (1998) - DVD
This was director/ screenwriter Christopher Nolan's first movie (just before Memento), shot in B&W 16 mm on the weekends on an almost non-existent budget ... and it's really good.  Like Memento (or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) it jumps between different timelines; visual clues indicate each scene's timeframe.  (Nolan discusses this in the DVD commentary.)  Also like Memento, there are unreliable characters and delightful plot twists.  Oh yeah - the plot?  It's about an aspiring writer who looks for inspiration by choosing random people to follow - a different person each day.  But when he breaks his own rules he is drawn into an unpredictable and dangerous situation with an unusual burglar and a blonde.  Highly recommended.

The Road (2009) - DVD
Based on Cormac McCarthy's superb post-apocalyptic novel.  I knew this could never be translated to film, but I had to check it out.  Lots of close-ups and minimal lighting to save FX $.  But worse, without McCarthy's biblical/poetic prose, the film is reduced to a series of Mad Max incidents, without the colorful comic book characters.  Read it, don't watch it.
The Way (DVD)  
My Week with Marilyn (DVD)
Snow White and the Huntsman (DVD) - Don't bother.  Even Charlize is not particularly good.  Good special effects, though.
Jeff Who Lives at Home (DVD)
Ruby Sparks (DVD)
Drive (DVD) - Do not see this movie!  Just plain bad.  Although John Hurt is actually terrific in a small role.  So just watch the end.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (DVD) - Really good.  Mind-blowing.
 Water For Elephants (DVD) -  The book was much better.
Never Let Me Go (2012) DVD - Pretty good, but don't bother - read the book, which is really, really good (and really, really depressing).
Night of the Hunter DVD - Cult classic ??? !!!
In Time (2011) DVD - Interesting concept, but I can't recommend this movie.
Where the Wild Things Are (DVD) - Got this from the library, and it could not be read by my DVD player, desktop or laptop.  Just thought I'd complain.
The Green Zone (2010) DVD - Decent action adventure political thriller.  So who were the bad guys, really?  Based on actual military invasion, ha ha.
In the Valley of Elah (2007) DVD - Good, well-acted.  But I still don't believe it, even though it's based on actual events.
Inception (2010) DVD - Sorry, nowhere near as good as prior Nolan films Memento and Following.
Margot at the Wedding (2007) - DVD  Fabulous: wonderful, clever, offbeat screenplay and terrific performances.  Highly recommended.
A Single Man (2009) - DVD  Good, well-acted.  Sometimes slow.  Cheats a bit.
Shutter Island (2010) DVD  Fascinating and really good.  After you think about it, some things just don't make sense, but what the hell - a fun ride.
Love and Other Drugs (2010) - DVD  Recommended.  Anne Hathaway was especially good.
Straw Dogs (1971) - DVD  Not as good (or as violent) as I had remembered it.
The Help (2011) - DVD  Very good.  A bit too neat and sweet at times.
Jack Goes Boating (2010) - DVD  Everyone is great in this bizarre yet moving and sophisticated film, with Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Two thumbs up.
Cold Souls (2009) - DVD  Tries to be Being John Malkovich, not as good, but still very good and well worth watching, especially Paul Giamatti.
The Lovely Bones (2009) - DVD  The book was much better.  Excellent and creepy performance by Stanley Tucci.  Really annoying CGI vistas of the in-between world via Peter Jackson.
The Kids Are All Right (2010) - DVD  Really good, especially Annette Bening and Julianne Moore.
Please Give (2010) - DVD  Excellent: really funny, also really moving.
Rango (2011) - DVD  Visually stunning computer animation, inventive plot, and one of Johnny Depp's best roles.
Bridesmaids (2011) - DVD  Good silly fun.
Crazy Heart (2010) - DVD  Good songs, good acting (Jeff Bridges), otherwise predictable.
State of Play (2009) - DVD  Don't bother.
Step Brothers (2008) - DVD  Dumb, immature, and very funny.
City Island (2009) - DVD  Quirky, charming.


Who can keep up?  What we're watching regularly: The Walking Dead, Talking Dead, Survivor, Project Runway.  Summer shows we watched: Falling Skies (still dumb), Extant (dumb), Halt and Catch Fire (interesting, well acted), Under the Dome (trying to be "Lost" but no way)
  Started to watch Olive Kitteridge mini-series on HBO, well acted but even though the story is the same as the book, the feel and characters are very different.  Book much better.
  Checked out Ascension (SciFi) - awful

Breaking Bad - AMC
Got Netflix specifically so we could watch this series.  We don't go out any more - any spare time spent watching this!  Finishing the final season this week... [finished - best show ever]
The Walking Dead - AMC
We're officially addicted.  Even Barbara.  Now we have to wait till Fall for Season 5.  &*^(($%$*^$!

Terra Nova - Fox
Ok, watched the first episode, but the alternative was watching people drown again in The Perfect Storm.  No need to watch this show again.  It made Falling Skies look good.

Survivor: Brains vs Brawn vs Beauty - CBS
This show is still fascinating.

Falling Skies - NBC
Unfortunately, this falls into the "fascinatingly stupid" category.  The best portrayal of an alien invasion is in book form: David Gerrold's "War Against the Chtorr" series.  Nothing else, in any format, comes close.  Fascinatingly smart.  [Update: This show was popular and was renewed for summer 2012.  But SyFy's "Stargate Universe" was canceled.  Go figure.]

Project Runway: All-Stars - Lifetime
Less talk, less drama, better garments.  Also checked out 24-Hour Catwalk - awful!

Sand Serpents - SyFy
Not as good as MegaPython vs. Gateroid.