Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Things I don't like, but should

Recently I ran across an article in the Onion's AV club about music, movies, etc. that you should like, but don't. Not things you should like because they're supposed to be good for you, like classical music or Dickens novels. But things that, based on all the other things you like, you really think you'd like but for some reason you just don't. I thought it was a neat idea and deserved spreading, meme-style.

I'll get it started off with Things Il Gato Really Should Like, But Actually Cannot Stand:

1. The Wire
2. Hitchcock movies
3. Wilco (all of it)
4. Donnie Darko

There are others, but I want to hear everyone else's dark secrets.


I guess this idea works better if you explain why you don't like said cultural object. Although numbers 2, 3, and 4 really irritate me, the real problem for me is #1 "The Wire."

Literally, every person I talk to about movies, books, tv, music on a regular basis with and agree with at least 20% of the time LOVES this show. And I simply don't get it. Well, I get certain aspects of it. Is well directed? Yes. Is it well cast? Yes. Well acted? Yes. Do I care about it at all? No.

I've thought a lot about it, and I think my problem with the Wire is it's basic premise: that criminal life is just as complicated, dare we say sophisticated, as law-abiding life. The ganglord is a CEO. Isn't that basically the premise of New Jack City? The Godfather? The Sopranos? It just seems played so out. (Don't get me started on the "detective who can't play by the rules".)

"But," you say, "The Wire is so authentic. It is so accurate." Bullshit. How would you know? Seriously, explain to me how you could know that the Wire is an accurate representation of life in a Baltimore slum. You can't. It just seems like it's accurate. Which means is it merely naturalisitic, not realistic. Well, so are all sorts of other tv shows.

Worse, though, is the show's attitude that it isn't just accurate, but important. David Simon has turned his Stendahlian mirror on innercity Baltimore and exposed the corruption of the cops, the indifference of the school board, the basic humanity of the junkie. I'm not buying it. David Simon is a self-righteous dick, and if you doubt me just watch his appearance on the Daily Show, in which he cannot abide a single joke being cracked while he and John Stewart discuss his beloved civics lesson disguised as a Dickensian serial. The whole thing is just insufferable.


Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

Great post idea. A few that come to mind:

1. Arrested Development (it is funny and "smart", but I just don't enjoy watching it)
2. M. Ward / Bon Iver / Okkervill River
3. Microbrews
4. Jim Jarmusch

10/13/2009 1:23 PM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

ok. this borderline irrational contrarian screed has caused me to seek out the free hotel internet. though i only get 10 min, better write quickly.

it's perfectly fine to not like the wire. but your criticism doesn't really make any sense. the show was written/created by two guys, one of them a police reporter and the other a narcotics investigator who later taught inner city middle school. actors on the show include former police commissioners and drug kingpins from baltimore. these individuals would be as qualified to present a "realistic" depiction as anyone possibly could be.

second, what is "authentic" about the wire is how the characters relate to one another. the wire is the most complex, layered interaction between characters i have personally ever seen. tv or movies. also the depiction of the flaws / failings of institutional bureaucracy, something that i think we can all relate to in different settings.

10/13/2009 7:00 PM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

sorry, got cut off by hotel internet...

back on your criticism on the show's authenticity, regardless of the show/writers' credentials, the same criticism you make could also be made any any fictional program. if it's not "real", it cannot be called realistic? isn't that essentially what you're arguing?

as for david simon, he definitely takes himself really seriously. but he is smart as shit. he genuinely views what he's doing as shedding light on a societal problem, so i don't hold it against him that he doesn't want to make light. anyway, if you listen to a long, seriously interview with him you can tell how insightful he is (even if he may be a prick).

10/13/2009 7:32 PM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

PS- Wire rift aside, I still hope folks will answer the original post concept. I think it's an interesting idea.

10/14/2009 10:34 AM  
Blogger il Gatto Grande said...

For movies, I'm gonna change my entry from Donnie Darko - which is patently lame - to "Chinatown". Chinatown I definitely want to like. And I think it's okay, but I'm just very "meh" about it.

10/14/2009 11:02 AM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

I agree on Chinatown. I enjoyed it, but didn't think it was anything to write home about.

The Ladyfriend hates Donnie Darko. She also did not like Lost in Translation, which I enjoyed.

10/14/2009 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If nothing else this is proof that the big cat has cantaloupe-like testes--dissing the wire to the 4ks audience is a bold move.

My contributions

1. Pavement--not that I hate them by any means. Summerbabe is one of my 20 favorite songs of all time, but that's it. And this may be the musical equivalent of a wire dis here. I am actually having regrets writing this knowing that mcsquared will probably read it.

2. Any movie, aside from Streetcar named Desire, made before 1965--aside from the S.N.D. exception, this is probably the same stance that would be espoused in any building with greek letter s in Athens. Still, all the dialog just sounds fake and goofy as shit.

3. L'il Wayne

4. My morning jacket--half the time that singer sounds like John Denver. I wouldn't listen to him, no matter how epic his bonnaroo concerts might be.

I will save my wire thoughts (as a brand new viewer) for another comment.


10/14/2009 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. L'il Wayne-the voice bugs me
2. Wilco and lot's of other bands
3. HBO shows besides Curb and Wire
4. I can go Donnie Darko too, and I suppose I was supposed to like Bottle Rocket but I've never really felt like watching it again.
5. That mexican restarant in Athens on the Corner of Prince and ???, right by the old Allen's and across the street from the old Peruvian Caliente Cab (RIP)
6. Anything by Beck besides Sea Change just really annoys me
7. The Simpsons-I know it's amazing, or whatever, but I'd be lying if I said I've ever made an effort to watch more than one episode by myself

Don't worry about the Pavement dis PC. To each his/her own.

10/15/2009 12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

agreed that el gato must have cantaloupe sized balls. i agree with everything huevos said in his rebuttal and had actually crafted almost identical points on my drive home. he said it way better than i could, either way.

10/15/2009 12:48 AM  
Blogger il Gatto Grande said...


I couldn't agree with your #2 more. Hostage Crisis and I have talked about it at length. Why are old movies so fucking stupid? But why do I feel like such a philistine just typing that?


10/15/2009 10:22 AM  
Blogger Zig said...

I can't believe that so many of you have Donnie Darko on your lists. It's a perfectly fine movie, but it's completely overrated by its fans. Kinda like Fight Club. You shouldn't feel guilty for not adoring either of those movies.

Now, movies before 1965 is an entirely different matter...you should definitely feel guilty for not enjoying them more. Yes, the dialogue and the acting are completely scripted and fake. But scripted and fake isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when it involves wit. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, Deadwood, Veronica Mars, David Mamet, and Tarantino are usually scripted and fake, too.

Besides, if you ignore everything before 1965, you're missing out on one of the greatest genres in the history of American film: noir. Seriously, 1965 is pretty harsh. Do you like the Coen Bros? 3/4 of their movies seem to be inspired by pre-1965 movies.

10/15/2009 2:26 PM  
Blogger Zig said...

I really like the idea of this meme. As for a personal list, though, I haven't had much time to think about it. Hmmmm...what would I have on there? In no particular order...

1. I've only seen half of the first season of Arrested Development, but I'm tempted to put it on the list. Maybe absurdist comedy just isn't really my thing. Not a huge fan of Mr. Show, either.

2. Superchunk -- If you simply described this band to me--pop/punk indie rock, not pretentious in the slightest, etc.--I would probably love them. But for whatever reason, I never could get into them. No idea why.

3. Hal Hartley -- He doesn't really make movies anymore, so I haven't thought about him in a while. But there was a time when everyone I knew was crazy about this guy. I could never get over the stilted tone of his movies, though.

4. The Sopranos -- I watched almost all of the first season, but this show always felt like a b-version of a bunch of other great mob movies.

5. The Dawgs -- I'm about to get my 3rd degree from UGA, but I just can't bring myself to root for the Dawgs on a consistent basis. Part of it has to do with the fact that I grew up watching pro football and didn't know anything about college ball. But when I did finally start paying attention, Crews kept trashing Georgia Tech and talking about Georgia's glory days. I kinda pulled for Tech simply because Crews and everyone else constantly dissed Tech's recent accomplishments. But I also got frustrated because Georgia greatly underachieved during the first 5 or 6 years that I followed them. Although things have gotten better, I still feel as though they underachieve more often than they either live up to expectations or overachieve.

I don't know. I figure that I'll start liking the Dawgs when I move away from Athens.

10/15/2009 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superchunk! I agree Zig.

10/15/2009 3:11 PM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

Mc2, you hating on agua linda? I like Estrella and Parrilla better in town, but I think it's solid. Fair enough, though. Maybe I go there for proximity as much as anything (a longish but doable stumble from Lyndon Ave).

Tend to agree on old movies. They're overrated. But I'd also make exceptions for Casablanca and Seven Samurai.

Agree on Sopranos. And I like almost every HBO show. It just doesn't hold my interest.

10/15/2009 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

agua linda, yes. too much grease for me. i'm sad i never tried Estrella.

10/15/2009 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ, I don't check this blog for a few weeks, and we get posts disparaging all movies made before 1965? From multiple people? For real? Put your handheld portable electronic devices away, take some fucking Adderall, and try to maintain an attention span of more than thirty-five minutes...

How about The Wizard of Oz? The Best Years Of Our Lives? Notorious? The Third Man? Breathless, Contempt, 8 1/2? Both Black Sabbath and Black Sunday? Ikiru and The Seven Samurai and Rashomon? Un Chien Andalou? The Thin Man? Fantasia? Pinocchio? Sullivan's Travels? Singin' in the Rain? Weird noirs like Detour and Gun Crazy and In A Lonely Place and Out of the Past? 40s horror stuff like Val Lewton movies, esp. I Walked With A Zombie, The Seventh Victim, and Cat People? High Noon? The Haunting? The Ox-Bow Incident? The Apartment, Peeping Tom, Psycho? Spartacus or Lolita or Dr. Strangelove? The Hustler? Jules and Jim or The 400 Blows? To Kill A Mockingbird? The Manchurian Candidate? The Haunting? Invasion of the Body Snatchers? La Dolce Vita? Goldfinger? A Hard Day's Night? Touch of Evil? Some Like It Hot? Forbidden Planet? Freaks? Trouble In Paradise? Weird 30s pre-Code shit like Baby Face and Red Headed Woman? These are bad movies, how? The dialogue in all of them is stagey and fake-sounding? For real? It really takes that much work on our college-educated brains to make that adjustment somehow? I'll agree that some of the worse-made movies (and even some of the better-made) from the 30s and 40s and 50s have some creaky moments at times, but it's just a matter of patience. There are so many other rewards... And I say this as someone who thinks the golden age of American (and probably international) cinema was from about 1965-1979 or so. My life would be a much more desolate and boring place without having seen many of the films I just named. The Production Code in Hollywood (in effect from 1934-the late 60s) kept a lot of subject matter overtly off screen, but directors found incredible ways to smuggle in perversity and real life into their movies pretty regularly. And black-and-white and Technicolor look pretty awesome.

I guess there's no accounting for taste, or for the things that will make me write way too much late at night...


The Very Rev. Fritz Orson Alfred Jean-Luc Francois Screedfellow the III, Esq.

10/16/2009 4:23 AM  
Blogger il Gatto Grande said...

I think the debate over pre-1965 movies deserves a post of its own. I'll try to put one together soon. Or, if anyone else wants to get it started, please do.

10/16/2009 10:20 AM  
Blogger Zig said...

I posted a long list after mcsquared's pre-1965 list above, but I guess that it didn't register. Damn. I'm not re-writing it. Just imagine that it was mind-blowing and all of you added a bunch of pre-1965 movies to your NetFlix queues afterward.

10/16/2009 5:32 PM  
Blogger deuce deuce said...

I have to agree about Agua Linda. I get a stomach ache most times I go there. But I do remember circa 98 (I guess that's when it was) in Athens when Agua Linda first opened. Back then, you could only go to Mexicali Grill or Taco Stand for your Mexican fix. Agua Linda was the first authentic mexican place I remember eating at in Athens --so I think it gets some props for opening the door for other mexican places to open up.

Things I should like, but don't.

1. The NBA - I think I just need a break from obsessing over sports when the NBA gets going, and the season is too damn long. The players also seem to not give a shit, just going through the motions, until at least late May. Everyone seems to make the playoffs --you only have to be a .500 team. Watching football, college basketball, tennis, and baseball already consumes enough of my life.
2. The NHL - for about the same reasons as the NBA --and I've never really lived in a cold climate.
3. Harry Potter - as a librarian, i'm sure this is sacrilege, but all that fantasy crap bores me.
4. To go along with Harry Potter - Most novels over 300 pages - I just don't have the patience. Of course, there are many exceptions, but I just think most authors would be better off with an editor that slims things down a bit.
5. Movies over 2 hours - for about the same as novels over 300 pages.
4. I guess I don't care about the wire either. I watched twenty minutes of the first episode and was already confused. Seemed like another tired cop drama to me. But I'm sure 15 minutes ain't enough to make an informed decision.

Things I shouldn't like, but do like.

1. Twilight - I wouldn't ever bother reading the book, but the movie was entertaining.

2. All movies before 2009...just kiddin'

Huevos - Jarmusch is pretty good, yo. I like Broken Flowers, Mystery Train, and Down by Law. He does have some real snoozers too (coffee and cigarettes really sucked), though, and he does seem pretty full of himself --like most successful artists.

10/16/2009 6:02 PM  
Blogger deuce deuce said...

i thought of another thing --just to be the proud owner of the twentieth comment.

music, but especially rock music, without a melody.

i.e. a long allman brothers solo, some of jim o'rourke's wankery, radiohead at its most boring, a yo la tengo incessant mood setter, sonic youth when they go way too far out in left field and it hurts my ears, etc. etc.

10/16/2009 6:22 PM  
Blogger kenniebloggins said...

You guys could have a listserv instead of a blog. At least you guys post/comment (see oceanchum for opposite (no posts nor comments.)

Okay here's my list, though I really don't think there are things people are supposed to like, but here goes...
1: Wilco- (Agree) I never understood what there is to like about the most mediocre, boring band on the planet.
2: Agua Linda (agree with mcSquared completely, though I will eat there).
3: Jigga. I don't dislike Jay Z at all, but I am completely unable to get into his music wholeheartedly. Really like a ton about him, especially his wifey, and I like some of his singles, but he gets some cred for dropping some mediocrity, too.
4: I don't think Superchunk is really popular enough to warrant mention.
5: Why I spent most of my 20s listening to mediocre indie rock.
6: beets- I'm a half-assed food nerd and all the ood nerds jizz over beets. Least favorite food, ever.
I'm gonna repost and elaborate on the chum

10/17/2009 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mb: i once remember you commenting on the underratedness of radishes and i wholeheartedly agree. i like that they are a staple at every taco truck and authentic mexican restaurant i visit. (i bring this up because of your comments on beets, which i actually like in small doses)

10/17/2009 11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay dudes, I'll play too ---

1.) "The Simpsons" and "Arrested Development." Easier to admire than like or love for me, somehow. And like McSq., I can't ever really say I've ever sought out an episode of "The Simpsons" to watch on my own. Of these two, though, "AD" gets the edge because of Dr. Tobias Funke.

2.) Joy Division/The Cure. I suppose one just sticks with whatever miserablism got one through adolescence, and for me, Morrissey and the Smiths (and Nirvana) did just fine. Although both bands have about four or five really awesome songs, I can't muster up the urge to ever listen to any of their albums straight through. Or really listen to either of them much at all...

3.) Steven Soderbergh. Instead of making two mediocre, "experimental" movies every year, why not just try to make one really, really good movie, say, every four or five years? Or one really, really good movie ever? ("Traffic" and "sex, lies" are overrated. And I couldn't watch one of those "Ocean's" movies again without having sustained a head injury or something...)

4.) Pro sports during the regular season. I will watch you in the playoffs.

5.) White Noise. That book's pretentious and overrated. Libra is a whole lot better, and it's about Oswald. White Noise is some academic-satire bullshit. Oswald trumps all.

6.) Tapas. I always pay too much and leave hungry.

7.) Potlucks. I always end up eating too much dessert and leave hungry. Potlucks are always just sad to me. Like an expression of communal failure and lack of proper hostmanship, if that's a word.

Moral of the story is don't leave me hungry.


The Poet

10/19/2009 1:08 AM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

not to harp on the big cat, but looking back over the original post, two thoughts:

1. as we're using the terms, naturalistic and realistic mean the same thing. both are defined as "representing what is real".

2. you write that the premise of the wire is that "criminal life is just as complicated, dare we say sophisticated, as law-abiding life. The ganglord is a CEO." that is not the premise. at all.

to use david simon's words, the wire is "really about the American city, and about how we live together. It's about how institutions have an effect on individuals, and how whether you're a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, you are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution you've committed to." the premise is that individuals are good on the whole, but that institutions routinely fail them.

10/19/2009 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

agreed completely on the cure and steven soderbergh. i actually thought about putting tapas on my list too. i like tapas in other countries, when they're free if you buy a beer. not so much in the usa where you spend 40 bucks to get 1/2 full.

10/19/2009 1:40 PM  
Blogger il Gatto Grande said...

Not to harp of Huevos, but I'm not using naturalistic and realistic synonymously.

Second, no one has countered my position that Stringer and McNulty (just to stick to the original examples) are two of the most worn-out cliches in TV/movies.

10/19/2009 1:50 PM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

unless by naturalistic you mean depicting the physical environment, i think they mean the same thing. dictionary.com does nothing to desuade me of that notion. but fair enough, i concede you to be probably more "literate" than i.

regarding mcnulty and stringer, you could reduce any movie or show to stereotypes. no country for old men? another movie with a demonic villian that can't be killed. yawn.

10/19/2009 3:19 PM  
Blogger deuce deuce said...

the cure and potlucks --on my list too.

10/19/2009 6:58 PM  
Blogger il Gatto Grande said...

I also don't see how the David Simon quote contradicts what I'm saying. The show very clearly includes the gang with the other "institutions", along with the police department, the union, etc. I mean, how can you deny that the premise - or at least one premise - of the show is that the gang has just as many layers, just as much politics, etc. as the other "institutions." I think that's a pretty obvious part of the show. Are you saying that's not true?

10/20/2009 9:21 AM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

i don't think there's an implication that the layers / politics of these different institutions are equally intricate. merely that they all have layers that tend to subsume and compromise those that take part in them.

in fact later in show stringer bell, for all his intellectual mastery of the drug game, sort of eats humble pie when he tries to "go legit" with his money and gets scammed / outsmarted by members of the "legitimate" community. so he's not painted as some mastermind.

10/20/2009 2:45 PM  
Blogger Zig said...

I gotta defend Soderbergh for a minute here. Traffic may be a tad overrated, although Benicio del Toro's performance in it is definitely not. I still like S, L, & V, although I can understand your complaints.

However, The Limey is amazing, and Out of Sight might be on my list of the top 10 movies of the 90's. It'd be close. It's probably the best romantic comedy since Annie Hall. Also, there's a great sex scene in it that is a nice play on Roeg's _Don't Look Now_.

Additional thoughts:

All of that cussin' from Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich? Fabulous.

The balls to take on a classic Tarkovsky film and actually make a better version of it? Huge.

And what about Schizopolis? Maybe one of the most bizarre and interesting film experiments ever made.

As for one final detail, he films his own movies, which is pretty awesome.

10/21/2009 11:35 AM  
Blogger kenniebloggins said...

Actually, in a literary sense, they are closely related but different. Naturalism leaves out the individual and basically leaves the character's reaction up to socioeconomics and nature, while realism attempts to portray life as it really happens. Stephen Crane's "The Red BAdge of Courage" is a work of realism, while Jack London's "To Build a Fire" is a great example of naturalism. Sorry, but that's high school lit bullshit. But, the two shouldn't be used interchangeably.

10/23/2009 5:36 PM  

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