I was never involved in theater in school, but I learned to appreciate it during my years covering arts and entertainment for newspapers (even if my love of music, movies and TV was why I initially sought those jobs). Not to discount the pleasure of seeing a well-performed play or musical, but what I most remember is the theaters themselves and the groups of high school or college students or community members who performed in them.
“For the People” (10 p.m. Eastern Tuesdays on ABC) is competent at what it does, but personally, I’m not wired to enjoy what it does: Through a variety of cases each week, this courtroom drama illustrates the frustrating flaws of the American justice system. We get just enough of a window into the process to feel the same Sisyphean hopelessness as the losing lawyers. The agents, attorneys, judges, jurors – and of course the faceless state — responsible for unjust verdicts aren’t held accountable; we just move on to the next week and the next batch of cases, hoping for a better outcome. It’s real, and it’s frustrating. How enjoyable it is depends entirely on what you’re into.
“Here Be Monsters” (June 2000) is the most padded “Buffy” novel so far, but the meat of Cameron Dokey’s debut effort is pretty decent. Once the 178-pager finally gets to Buffy’s trial – proscribed by the demon Nemesis — where she takes on the monsters in her head, there are some fun references that ask “What if Buffy had lost against the bad guy in previous episodes?”
“Life Sentence” (9 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays, CW) is notable for being a rare CW show not based on comic books or the supernatural, and unfortunately it’s also notable for being really bad. You’d think there’d be something special about it if the network is willing to push aside its DC superheroes for a whole hour, but the premiere episode plays like one of those unaired pilots you’d come across on YouTube and then say “Ah, so that’s why it wasn’t picked up.”
Diana G. Gallagher’s “Prime Evil” (March 2000) is a game-changer for the “Buffy” book series – not because it’s significantly better than other books (although it is a step up from Gallagher’s first entry, “Obsidian Fate”), but because it’s the first novel to acknowledge books written by other authors. Additionally, Gallagher does a delicate continuity dance where she successfully works Anya into a story before “The Prom” (3.20), when the ex-demon humorously asks Xander to the prom out of nowhere and becomes a main character.
“Lady Bird,” now available from Redbox, didn’t totally connect with me, and since the glowing theatrical reviews and awards are long since in, that statement says more about me than writer Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut. Coming-of-age films tend to be more personal than other genres; I got peeved in the early Aughts if anyone thought my beloved “Ghost World,” “The Good Girl” or “Garden State” were less than brilliant. So if “Lady Bird” is the most personally fulfilling movie a particular viewer has ever seen, they’re not wrong.
After the often credulity-stretching “Obsidian Chamber” (2016), Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child get back on track with “City of Endless Night” (January, hardcover), their 17th Pendergast novel. As the evocative title suggests, the action takes place entirely in their favorite home stomping grounds, New York City, in the winter months when it gets dark early. It’s the most straightforward mystery they’ve penned in a while, although the string of murders are certainly grisly and bizarre enough to be worthy of FBI Agent Pendergast and NYPD detective D’Agosta.
“Everything Sucks!” (Netflix), the first season of which includes 10 half-hour episodes, starts off like a second-rate “Freaks and Geeks” but eventually strikes painfully accurate notes about first love and high school crushes. By the time the strains of Spacehog’s “In the Meantime” play over the closing credits of episode 10, the show has learned to lean into its dramatic rather than comedic beats, and I was won over. (It’s still inferior to “F&G” – which I am now inspired to rewatch — but everything is.)
“Score: A Film Music Documentary” almost seems like it’s cheating. Its score – by the very definition of the subject matter – is the greatest music cues from the history of film. And inevitably, that is a percentage of the doc’s appeal. But this is also an accessible 90-minute history lesson that vastly increased my knowledge of the topic while keeping me glued to the screen – it proves learning can be fun.
Can you believe the Oscars are nearly upon us? With the big show coming up in less than 24 hours, what better time to take a look at the nominees and tell you what will win and what should.
You can trust me due to my lack of anything resembling a social life and a slavish devotion to film that stretches back decades. Also, not to brag, but last year I was right with my picks 50 percent of the time!
All right, that doesn’t sound too good, but the winners in this year’s crop of nominees seem pretty predictable. Given, they always do, until they aren’t.
Let’s take a look.