Aug 19 2016

Stranger Things Is All The Things

The Netflix series Stranger Things is all the things. I’m serious. I’ve never been affected by a television show like this before.

I’m going to attempt to explain. Please don’t get the men in white coats. I will also attempt not to spoil anything because you should watch Stranger Things and be amazed by it. There is a chance that I will mention something that happens on the show but I’m going to try not to.

DaddyTips, 'Strange'ified

 

(Make your own ‘Strange’ified text at MakeItStranger.com. But wait until you’ve watched the show.)

Everything about Stranger Things, including the pitch-perfect and totally brilliant fonts, is pure nostalgia. You can read about those aspects of the series everywhere. (Links are included below.)

What I haven’t read yet is what I think, which is the following:

Stranger Things is a dream I had but didn’t have, memories of a life I never lived but also did.

That’s harder to explain. I’ll give it a shot.

I grew up in the city. Lived in an apartment. Never learned to ride a bike. The kids in Stranger Things live in the suburbs, in houses, and ride their bikes everywhere.

Somehow, as I watched the series, especially the middle episodes (there are only eight in total, which is perfect both for your time and for the story being told), I found myself viewing the screen through a haze that I can only describe as memory, or a dream, or some combination of the two. The rest of my living room faded out and all I could see was my television. I mean this almost literally. It was an experience that I wish everyone could have because it was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, at least when it comes to a TV show.

I suppose one could say that what I’m describing is what happens when you see a great movie, or at least what used to happen when you were younger and less jaded about entertainment. Maybe you are still less jaded, and if so, I envy you. In a world with so many entertainment options, it is difficult not to evaluate work differently than I once did. The sheer joy of seeing Star Wars for the first time is something that no one will ever experience again, if for no other reason than because no movie will ever come out of nowhere the way Star Wars did in 1977. That doesn’t mean the new stuff isn’t good. It is. (We all know how I feel about the first Avengers movie.) It’s simply different.

Stranger Things is different as well. Yes, the show taps into old movies, referencing specific ones. That’s not why I loved it. (If you’re interested in knowing what those references are, that information is very easy to come by.) What the show did for me was the following: it managed to be both entertaining and, in some very strange way, present a life experience that I never actually had. It’s the deepest form of nostalgia.

I want to repeat that one more time because it sounds so unbelievably odd: Stranger Things felt like something that happened to me, even though it obviously didn’t. (Again, I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but trust me, Stranger Things didn’t happen to anybody.)

A person could argue that this is simply the movie references at work. This person may be right. I don’t think they are. Somehow, the Duffer Brothers created a piece of entertainment that sprang forth from my own brain, from my my own memories of something I never actually experiencedThat is an impressive piece of work.

A few specific things I loved about the show:

  • The moment when Winona Ryder, who is so good in this she deserves every award, is going to leave her house but decides she’s going to stay instead. It sums up her character, and it’s an astonishing piece of acting.
  • The kids. Where did they get these kids, a time machine? I didn’t think they made kids like that anymore.
  • No parents. Yes, the kids have parents. But they are rarely seen. That’s extremely retro, and so important to the artistic success of the show. As a parent, I would never allow my children to be on their own the way I was, which is the way the kids on the show are. It was a different time. And I’m not a ‘helicopter parent’. Mothers and fathers simply don’t allow children to do their own thing the way parents in the 80s did. That’s not a social commentary, it’s a fact.
  • The walkie-talkies.
  • The majority of the adults, in particular the two parents (other than Winona Ryder) that we see more often than others, and also the science teacher. Well, and the police officers. OK, I like everybody on the show.
  • Yelling through rooms. “Time for dinner!” “OKAY! (gets quieter) Now listen, here’s what we need to do.” (Not a direct quote.) The jump between jarringly loud and normal speaking voices is something that I don’t think we do anymore. I know I did it. It’s a small detail, one of many, that make Stranger Things possibly even greater than the sum of its wonderful parts.
  • THE KIDS. ALL OF THEM. Everyone is talking about the main group of kids, and for good reason. They’re amazing. I want to include every kid, even the ones with small roles. And speaking of small roles…
  • The characters, and the actors who play those characters. Every detail in Stranger Things has been picked over in numerous articles online. This is because those details were carefully chosen. (Apparently there is one car that isn’t the correct year. I can’t find the story but I’m sure you can if you want to.) Every character, even the small ones, gets something to do. The main characters each have so much going on that in a lesser show it would be distracting. On Stranger Things, it isn’t. Orange is the New Black, another brilliant (for different reasons) Netflix series, manages a similar feat. But Stranger Things does it in a shorter amount of time and on a show with kooky stuff. Orange is the New Black is brilliant in part because it is based on events that actually happened, and as it continues, on events that still are happening, even if it’s not these specific events happening to these specific people. (That is, prisons are super messed up places and horrible things are happening in them.) Stranger Things somehow is about things that happened even though there is no way they could have happened. And in real life, everybody has a story. EVERYBODY ON STRANGER THINGS HAS A STORY. You don’t get to hear about all of their stories, which is also just like real life. (Again, please don’t get the men in white coats. I am aware that Stranger Things is a television show.)
  • D&D

There are so many other pleasures that came from watching this show. A friend told me when I started watching it that Stranger Things had “all the feels.” I thought I knew what he meant but I didn’t. Stranger Things brought up emotions in me that I didn’t know I could still access. I frequently had to pause an episode because I found myself getting more than a little verklempt. Three times while watching Stranger Things, I ate chocolate. Not because I was hungry, because I needed it. That has literally never happened to me before.

I hope you watch Stranger Things and that you enjoy it. I realize I’ve probably oversold it to the point where if the show doesn’t give you a foot massage while feeding you peeled grapes it won’t live up to the type. I apologize for that. Watch it anyway. It’s really good.

Other articles:

(Warning: many of these stories will reveal details of Stranger Things that it would be better for you not to know before you watch. This may not matter to you, which is fine. The warning is because I want to do my part to give you the experience that I had, which is impossible. But I want to try. I’m getting verklempt again. OK, here’s the list.)

Stranger Things Is a Nerdy Story That Is So Much More Than Its References, io9

Gizmodo’s Stranger Things coverage

I don’t totally agree with this, but I’m glad someone did it:
Stranger Things, Side-By-Side With Every Excellent Film It Borrows From (Sploid/Gizmodo)

An article from The Guardian about Winona Ryder, who is SO GOOD ON THIS SHOW

Read this Business Insider article only after you’ve watched the series; I don’t even want to include the title because it’s spoilery.

Watch this after you’ve watched the show. It’s very funny. (io9)

A review of Stranger Things and another Netflix series, The Get Down (The New Yorker)

Here are even more articles. Some of them look cool. See the disclaimer, but also this one: if don’t want to know anything about the show before you watch it, wait until after you do to read these stories. It’s OK. We’ll wait. And if you want to talk about Stranger Things, leave a comment below, or hit me up on Twitter.


Jul 27 2016

All the M*A*S*H for 60 Bucks

Amazon Deal that ends tonight, so move fast if you want it — get all the M*A*S*H for 60 bucks.

Technically the price is $59.99. But there might be tax which would make it more. So let’s say 60 bucks, for which you receive 34 DVDs. Not bad, right?

Just to make things interesting, here’s a personal M*A*S*H story. Because we used to watch whatever was on TV, I watched a fair amount of M*A*S*H, even when I was too young to fully appreciate it. This was extremely true when I saw an episode in which Klinger has some sort of nightmare. That’s all I remember — other than the fact that I was scared out of my mind. I’m fairly certain it gave me nightmares, and TV generally doesn’t do that.

Obviously M*A*S*H is one of the all-time great television shows, true classic tv, and the movie it’s based on is worth seeing as well. So go ahead and buy this uber-collection. But do it today because Amazon says it goes bye-bye tomorrow.

Source: Amazon.com: M*A*S*H: The Complete Series + Movie


Sep 02 2015

Netflix Giveth, Netflix Taketh Away, September 2015 Edition

Via The Mary Sue (originally via Death and Taxes), a list of what will be added and removed from Netflix in the month of September in the year 2015. A highly selective micro-list follows. For the full list, head over to The Mary Sue.

taro taking his pictures for netflix 'ads' (se...

taro taking his pictures for netflix ‘ads’ (see more here: tar0shiba.tumblr.com/post/967950437/shibaadvertisements2 ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Notable losses:

Sept. 30
Apocalypse Now
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
World War Z

Notable gains:

Sept. 1
First Blood (1982), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III: Ultimate Edition (1988) – So, like, ALL the Rambo.

Masters of the Universe (1987)

Mister Roger’s Neighborhood: Volume One – this is interesting. I’ve said in the past that it saddens me to know that children are growing up without Mister Rogers in their television lives. (My kids didn’t get to watch him, but he was important to me.) Will the show work as something to be streamed? I don’t know.

Sept. 12
Portlandia: Season Five – even when this show is bad, it doesn’t bother me. There’s something soothing about it. I’m not caught up, so it’s possible that they’ve run out of ideas by now. Still, I’ll probably watch when I get the chance. Side note: Carrie Brownstein wrote a book and is doing a reading in NYC in October. Anyone wanna go with me?

Sept. 18
Keith Richards: Under the Influence (2015) *Netflix Original – this *could* be interesting, as long as it isn’t too long and overly sanitized.

Sept. 22
SMOSH: The Movie (2015) – I was surprised to see this. It’s from the goofy guys who are mega YouTube stars. Here’s one of my personal favorites: a 7-year-old describes the Twilight movies based on the trailers. Semi-NSFW. My kid showed me this years ago.

Anyway, it would appear that they made a movie. Good for them. No, I mean actually good for them, not Christian Bale gooooood for them. I like it when people succeed.

Many, many more movies and TV shows coming and going from Netflix in September 2015. Hit the link below for the full list.

Source: Here’s What We’re Losing (and Gaining) on Netflix in September—Starting Tomorrow | The Mary Sue


Jul 09 2015

Oh My, It’s Comic Con Time

To borrow the words of the ever-wonderful George Takei: Oh my, it’s comic con time.

George Takei Oh My

What are we talking about? Why, the San Diego Comic-Con of course. It happens every year.

(Here’s a video of George saying “Oh My” in case you need to hear that. There’s never a bad time to hear George.)

Anyway, San Diego Comic-Con has been around for awhile, but in the past decade, it has become big news. Geekery, as we all know, is no longer a hidden pleasure for many. It’s become a billion-dollar business. Amazon recently introduced their Geek Boutique, which about as mainstream as it gets.

One could debate when this all started, the explosion of so-called geek culture into the real world. I’ve been a Geek Gold Card member for my entire life, but suddenly people actually want to know who the hell Ant-Man is. (If you are one of those people, just ask. I’m nice that way. For example, here’s the latest “Ant-Manmovie trailer, complete with a reference to The Avengers.)

The links below give you more information about the big event than I ever could, and not only because I won’t be there. I’ve actually never attended the San Diego Comic-Con, just the New York Comic Con. But there will be lots of announcements about nerdy stuff (or perhaps I should say formerly nerdy — is something still nerdy if it’s immensely popular?) like movies, TV shows, video games, and yes, even comic books.

Here’s how to follow io9’s coverage of Comic Con. (We like io9.) The Mary Sue is also a good source. For example, here’s Betty White as Wolverine.

And then there’s this, via Polygon.com. Watch it at your own risk.

 


Jan 17 2014

Why Kids Shouldn’t Be On Reality TV

This story, if true, illustrates something I’ve said for a long time. Children shouldn’t be on reality television shows.

This Daily Mail article, taken from a report in the New York Daily News, says that Kate Gosselin told her daughters, “You embarrassed mommy,” after they didn’t “defend her” during an interview on NBC’s Today Show.

I know I’ve said it to people I know, and I think I’ve written about it and/or talked about it on podcasts. What have I said? That kids shouldn’t be on reality shows. It’s not fair to them. They aren’t able to make an informed decision about their privacy.

Now, what do I mean by “kids”? I would say “18 and under” but that’s both unrealistic and a little silly. What would be reasonable, though, is 13 years old. That’s the age used by COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

COPPA establishes rules for websites collecting information about children under the age of 13. Seems reasonable, right? Maybe we could apply the same cut-off age to whether or not a kid is allowed to be on a reality TV show.

Now, you might say, “what about child actors?” Well, there are laws about child actors — the hours they are allowed to work, what happens to the money they make so that unscrupulous parents can’t spend it all. Also, those kids are ACTING. They don’t have cameras in their homes recording their real lives.

Yes, I am aware that “reality television” isn’t reality. These shows have writers on staff, and much of what is purportedly real is staged. (I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before by hundreds of other people. If this is the first time you’ve heard it, my apologies.) Still, would you like to grow up and discover that you were a reality TV star when you were two years old?

Here’s an idea. As the Marx Brothers said, there is no sanity clause.

But maybe there should be. It doesn’t seem fair that young children should be allowed to have their lives broadcast on television, even with parental consent. Many news outlets fuzz out the faces of kids in photos. Why? Presumably because they respect the idea of a child’s right to privacy. Why not extend this same right to reality TV?

Kate Gosselin tells twins they ’embarrassed mommy’ at Today show appearance | Mail Online.


Aug 27 2013

Discovery Channel Turns Facebook Science Page Into a Show

Via AV Club. Wow. Good for them.

http://mobile.avclub.com/articles/discovery-channel-fucking-loves-science,102067/


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Jul 19 2013

Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial Offer

You know what’s fun to do when it’s really hot outside? Sit inside with the A/C on and watch TV. You know what’s a good way to watch TV? Amazon Prime.


(This is an air conditioner. It makes your room colder.)

This is obviously a “click this link to try out Amazon Prime for 30 days for free” thing. That said, I use Amazon Prime and it’s really cool. The free shipping is nice, but the TV and movie library is very deep. There are even some titles that Netflix doesn’t have (and vice versa).

The bottom line is that you can try out Amazon Prime for free. What’s bad about that? Nothing. So here you go.

Join Amazon Prime – Watch Over 40,000 Movies

What have I watched on Amazon Prime? Bionic Woman.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcba-ZgtsT4

No Six Million Dollar Man, but maybe someday.

Amazon Prime also has Downton Abbey. So you get stuff both nerdy and semi-highbrow.

It’s free for 30 days! Give it a try.