02 December 2010

Modern Age (Live)

Currently pushing: The Lefsetz Letter. I've had a new email friend for the past two weeks. His name is Bob Lefsetz and he writes to me about the music and entertainment industry. Bob doesn't know I exist but that's quite alright. He's a busy guy and according to his Wikipedia, Bob used to be the majordomo of a music company. The only major domo I knew of before was an android one that works for a fictional X-Villain, so this is quite exciting.

You can read more about Bob and his letter here but I'd recommend subscribing because getting his multiple emails a day has quickly become a highlight. I guess in theory you could just RSS his new blog, but it doesn't feel as personal.

I found out about The Leftsetz Letter by following Stephen Elliot's The Daily Rumpus, which has no RSS feed and is a must subscribe. So now I have two friends who email me on the regular, ain't that great?

I used to try to read reviews about things before I went to them. Food places, bars, clubs, and especially movies, books, and music. For awhile, having that extra knowledge allowed me to hedge my bets about what would be a decent time or not.

Recently however, I've had to give up the habit because reading reviews is getting useless. Take Yelp for example. Once you aggregate enough opinions, you'll pretty much just end up with three or four stars across the board. With no authority or expertise, these people's opinions are worthless to me. I mean, I can't trust Deborah S.'s review of the Japanese restaurant without knowing how much experience she's had with sushi. One schmo's "amazing onion rings" could just be limp and greasy to me. Even trusting friend's opinions on food has gotten dicier over the years.

Very recently, as of last week, I've been questioning the opinions of professional reviewers a lot. For example, we went to see Time Stands Still, starring Laura Linney and Christina Ricci. It's the story of a photo journalist and her recovery from a land mine blast. It addressed some timely topics, it has a smooth and sometimes witty script, and it has Laura Linney. Sadly, after two hours, both my friend and I were underwhelmed. She felt the timing of everything felt sitcommy, I felt the story went nowhere, and we both agreed that it was capable but hardly memorable.

Then I got to reading the reviews. There were more than a few gushing ones, with stuff like, "[this] quietly powerful drama illustrates just how much pain and trauma are involved in the everyday business of two people creating a life together, one that accommodates the mistakes of the past, the reality of the present and the changes that the future may bring."

Um, I didn't get any of that. Or I did but it was way over the top and there was hardly anything "quiet" about the drama or the themes. I felt bludgeoned. So what am I missing here? Am I not well versed enough in plays to appreciate this fine work? Am I too lowbrow to understand what's going on? Or am I not the audience this work was intended for? At their best, professional reviewers can lend perspective to a place or a piece, but I'm not sure how well they can help you answer "will I like it?"

For movies I exclusively consult James Berardelli's Reelviews.net. I don't necessarily agree with his reviews, but I got to understand his taste and could figure out which movies I could like based on my knowledge of our shared likes/dislikes. That works well for me, and I'd recommend finding one or two critics who you can learn to stand by. Going with the wisdom of the crowds is inane. I have a friend who only watches movies rated 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes. I think it's the dumbest way of deciding what to watch because the "a lot of people can't all be wrong" philosophy is the direct path toward entertainment doom.

Listening to friends should be the way to go, but as the recent shut down of Netflix's movie share feature shows, maybe that's not something people care about either. While I never used the feature that much, I do have a small list of trusted movie friends from whom I'll take recommendations, because I know the things they recommend will have some value, and even if we disagree, they're open to talking about it. I hate watching a movie and then the other person has nothing to say about it. Booooring.

Having said all that, who wants to watch Love and Other Drugs with me?!