Jamie’s Staff Picks for May

Summer Heights HighSummer_Heights_High_DVD

“In this mockumentary series set in a real Australian high school, comedian Chris Lilley brings to life three hilarious characters: Jonah, a 13-year-old delinquent breakdancer from Tonga; Mr. G, an ego-driven drama teacher with delusional showbiz dreams; and Ja’mie, a spoiled private school girl on a student exchange.”

Probably the most well-known of Chris Lilley’s several forays into mockumentary, this series really established one of his signature characters, Ja’mie. Lilley effectively skewers several fixtures of school life that I think any student can relate to, Australian or no: the overly self-important teacher; the snobby and superficial bully; the disruptive class clown. If you enjoy shows like The Office or Seinfeld where the characters aren’t exactly the most lovable people, but their awkward antics are hilarious, you will enjoy this show (though you will probably develop a soft spot for Jonah, Lilley’s troubled 13-year-old boy from Tonga).

 

Youth Novelsyouth novels
Lykke Li

This album is great for both dance hits as well as more soulful, introspective tracks. Li’s voice oscillates from light and fanciful to low and mournful. I like that most of the tracks are simply-arranged– there’s definitely something to be said for going for the understated sound rather than something overly-produced. My favorite tracks are “Little Bit,” “I’m Good, I’m Gone,” and “Breaking It Up.”

 

All summaries from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

Jamie’s Staff Picks for March

Roseanneroseanne

“‘Roseanne’ is the story of a working class family struggling with life’s essential problems: marriage, children, money, and parents-in-law.”

I’ve been on maternity leave for the last few months and during the long days that I spent trapped under a sleeping infant, I discovered that Roseanne reruns were on for half the day every weekday. I hadn’t watched the show in years, but I still found it to be so funny and relevant. I particularly love the relationship between Roseanne and Dan and the way that they find humor in every day challenges, and are able to make even the most mundane life details entertaining. I think a lot of families can relate to their brand of sarcastic, sardonic humor. The writing on the show is punchy and the jokes are fresh– is it any surprise that Amy Sherman-Palladino, of Gilmore Girls fame, got her start writing on Roseanne? I highly recommend putting this show on as a backdrop to your spring cleaning, or whatever other chores you’ve been putting off– it will make it a lot more fun.

 

Hunt for the WilderpeopleHunt_for_the_Wilderpeople

“Raised on hip-hop and foster care, defiant city kid Ricky gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec, and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options.”

This was one of my favorite movies of 2016. Made by the director of another favorite movie of mine, What We Do in the Shadows, this movie features Taika Waititi’s oddball humor in an endearing buddy adventure.Sam Neill basically plays the same character that he plays in Jurassic Park— the grumpy adult who isn’t that into kids, but finds himself stuck with one anyway, and grows to enjoy his company– a role at which he excels. I also really liked Julian Dennison, who plays Ricky, a down-and-out kid with an attitude who starts to turn himself around when shown a little kindness and respect. A super funny and heartwarming tale!

All summaries taken from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

Jamie’s Staff Picks for August

Here are my picks for August:

More AdventurousRilo_Kiley_-_More_Adventurous
by Rilo Kiley

This is my favorite of Rilo Kiley’s albums– there isn’t a single song on it that I don’t love. Jenny Lewis’s voice adds a sultry and sad dimension to their rocks songs that have influences from blues, country, pop, and punk. If I did have to pick favorites, those tracks would be “Portion for Foxes,” (excellent for rocking out) “Does He Love You?” and “A Man/Me/Then Jim.”

Hello Ladieshello ladies

“A nerdy guy from England comes to L.A. in hopes of finding a woman.”

The humor on this show is a particular kind of awkward humor that fans of The Office will recognize (Stephen Merchant wrote for both the UK and US versions of that show). For the right person, it can be very funny. This show also does a great job of depicting the main character, Stuart, as the very lonely and painfully desperate man that he really is deep down. Rather than being a caricature, he is humanized. The show’s setting in LA also reflects his sadness: it’s a city full of hope and possibility and yet, most people have trouble achieving the dreams for which they came. Stuart is definitely one of those people. He attempts to reinvent himself in order to have the social life that he’d always wanted but he always comes up short. It’s not all doom and gloom, though– the Hall & Oates inspired soundtrack keeps the mood upbeat. I found myself singing along every time the title track, “Alone Too Long,” played at the beginning of an episode. Give this show (and Stuart) a shot!

TV Shows That Will Help You Forget that You’re Not at the Beach

Perhaps, like me, you’re not sure if you’re going to make it to the beach this summer. Here are a few titles that we have in our collection that are not only engrossing, but have a summer vibe that will at least help you feel like you’re participating in summer! (They will also work for unexpected rainy days on vacation.)

The Affairthe affair

This show begins almost as an experiment in memory and self-representation. The episodes often re-tell the same storyline from each character’s point of view, and the way that they see themselves and others in comparison to how the other characters view them is fascinating. The major dramatic sequences of this show take place in the beach town of Montauk, and though I’ve never been there, I definitely want to see it now after watching this show.

Hello Ladieshello ladies

This show may not be for everyone. Stephen Merchant’s humor can be painfully awkward at times (see: both the UK The Office and the US The Office— he had a hand in both), but I think for the right person it can be highly amusing. This show is set in LA and while I haven’t lived there, it seems to me that it is one of the best at capturing the promise and heartbreak of the place: Stephen’s character Stuart has re-created himself in this trendy and happening locale in the hopes of capturing himself a lady (or 50). Stuart always comes up empty-handed, and his repeated heartbreak is totally endearing. Add in the beautiful shots of the LA skyline mixed with the Hall and Oates inspired soundtrack, and you will definitely feel like you’re on an LA vacation.

Reven8erevenge

Set in the Hamptons amongst the wealthy and elite, this show follows one woman’s plan for revenge against the preeminent socialite in town whom she blames for destroying the life of her father. This show is soap-opera-level ridiculous, but so fun to watch, mostly because it is so self-aware.

 

The O.C.the oc

While this show has perhaps become a punchline for teen soap operas, there’s no denying that it is not only entertaining but funny. This show was produced by Josh Schwartz, the same man responsible for Gossip Girl and Chuck. I’ve always found his shows to be light and witty with the occasional dose of seriousness, and his characters are always excellent. The O.C. is perhaps slightly more heavy than the other two, but the California vibes and not-too-deep plot lines are perfect for summer.

 

Jamie’s Staff Picks for July

Here are my picks for July:

Friday Night Lightsfriday night lights

“In the small town of Dillon, Texas, everyone comes together on Friday nights when the Dillon High Panthers play. But life is not a game and the charismatic football players, their new coach Eric Taylor, and the passionate fans find that their biggest challenges and obstacles come off the field.”

This show was widely-lauded by critics when it was on television but struggled to find an audience. Their struggle for ratings led to some questionable decisions in season two, but even with that, this is one of the best shows ever made. The cast is perfect in their roles and the set feels so real because it was— instead of shooting on a sound stage in LA, the show was filmed in Austin, Texas in rented houses and on real football fields. It wasn’t really a show about football; it was a show about relationships, community, Texas, poverty, racism… a beautiful microcosm of real issues facing real people. The characters are so endearing, even with their many faults. You’ll find yourself thinking of Coach Taylor’s slogan “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose,” or Tami Taylor’s “I appreciate that,” or Riggins’ “Texas Forever,” on a regular basis after watching this show (and how can you not love Texas accents?).

A Man Without a Countrya man without a country
By Kurt Vonnegut

“One of the greatest minds in American writing, Kurt Vonnegut has left an indelible impression on literature with such inventive novels as Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions. Now this iconic figure shares his often hilarious and always insightful reflections on America, art, politics and life in general. No matter the subject, Vonnegut will have you considering perspectives you may never have regarded. On the creative process: ‘If you want to really hurt your parents … the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding.’ On politics: ‘No, I am not going to run for President, although I do know that a sentence, if it is to be complete, must have both a subject and a verb.’ On nature: ‘Evolution is so creative. That’s how we got giraffes.’ On modern cultural attitudes: ‘Do you think Arabs are dumb? They gave us our numbers. Try doing long division with Roman numerals.’ and on the fate of humankind: ‘The good Earth–we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.’ A Man without a Country showcases Vonnegut at his wittiest, most acerbic, and most concerned. Beyond the humor and biting satire is an appeal to all readers to give careful thought to the world around them and the people they share it with.”

I don’t think anyone gets to the heart of any issue quite like Kurt Vonnegut does. I’m happy that in A Man Without a Country, Vonnegut was able to take some time to write down his insights on the world that are not in the form of fiction (though the fiction he wrote is amazing too!). His thoughts are straightforward and without ornament, but he always brings a fresh perspective to problems that humanity faces. I always come away from reading Vonnegut with a feeling of goodwill toward man because that is truly what he wanted, as cynical and biting as his criticism can seem. This book will definitely make you laugh too, and who doesn’t need that?

Jamie’s Staff Picks for June

These are my picks for June:

Spacedspaced

“British comedy television series based on two very different twenty-something people, Daisy Steiner and Tim Bisley, who pretend to be a professional couple to secure tenancy of a North London flat. The two along with their assortment of co-conspirators, tortured artist Brian, would-be soldier Mike, fashion fascist Twist, rock casualty landlady Marsha and Colin the dog, tackle the big questions of the 21st century.”

If you like what is known as “The Cornetto Trilogy,” (Shaun of the DeadHot FuzzThe World’s End), you will love this TV series. Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, the same people responsible for those three movies, this show was their first successful foray into the type of satirical, fast-paced, nerd culture based film-making that they are known for. Be prepared for many pop culture references and very strong opinions on the Star Wars prequels. I watched this series when I was living with roommates who are essentially part of my family now, and Tim’s impassioned speech at the end of Season 2 really sums up how I felt about the show and what I think one of its main messages was: “Marsha, they say the family of the twenty-first century is made up of friends, not relatives. If that’s true, then you’re the best auntie I’ve ever had.”

Persuasionpersuasion

“Jane Austen’s final novel is the story of Anne Elliot, a woman who gets a second chance. As a teenager she becomes engaged to a man who seems perfect for her, Frederick Wentworth. But she is persuaded to break the engagement off by her friend Lady Russell, who believes that he is too poor to be a suitable match. The episode plunges Anne into a period of bleak disappointment.

Eight years later, Frederick returns from the Napoleonic Wars flushed with success. Anne’s circumstances have also changed; her father’s spendthrift ways mean he has been forced to lease the family home to a naval family. Will Anne and Frederick rediscover their love? Can their changed fortunes inhibit their feelings? Persuasion is a story of self-knowledge and personal regeneration, of social change and emotional politics. It is Austen’s most mature work, and also her most wickedly satirical.”

I once decided that I was going to read all of Austen’s novels, one after another. While Pride and Prejudice will always hold a special place in my heart, Persuasion stood out for me during that Austen-binge. There is a sadness to the character of Anne that is far more palpable and desperate than the heroines of Austen’s other novels, which makes her story, in a way, more compelling. There is a definite maturity to this novel that isn’t necessarily lacking in the others, but is more developed. If you read it, you can also partake in my favorite reward for reading classic literature– watching the film adaptations! This movie with Sally Hawkins is excellent.

All summaries are from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

The 2011 Emmy Nominations Have Been Released

On Thursday, July 14th the 2011 Academy of Televison Arts & Sciences 63rd Primetime Emmy Award Nominations were announced.

A list of all nominees can be found by clicking here.

Here are the nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Drama Series, and Outstanding Miniseries or Movie:

Outstanding Comedy Series:
The Big Bang Theory
Glee
Modern Family
The Office
Parks and Recreation
30 Rock

Outstanding Drama Series:
Boardwalk Empire
Dexter
Friday Night Lights
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
Mad Men

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie:
Cinema Verite
Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
The Kennedys
Mildred Pierce
The Pillars of the Earth
Too Big to Fail