What Wendesday #30

Today I watch an edgier Downton Abbey, read about Swedish hitmakers, and find my dad’s doppelgänger, Colin Farrell.

What Wednesday is where I talk about what I’m watching, reading, playing, etc, because for some reason I think you’ll find that interesting. If you have recommendations, I’d love to hear them :)

What I’m Watching: The Crown (Netflix)

I can’t look at this image without saying “Pish posh” to myself

The Crown won a bunch of Golden Globes, so naturally it went to the top of my lengthy “watch this already” list. Well, after watching the first episode and a half, I’m happy to report that it’s quite enjoyable. Think Downton Abbey mixed with House of Cards and just a dash of Game of Thrones (minus the dragons and boobs (at least I assume we don’t see the Queen’s family jewels (groan))).

Centered on the ascendency of Queen Elizabeth, Netflix bet big on this British royal family drama, giving it the largest budget in TV history at a cool $130 million for 10 episodes. I’d say it’s paid off so far: it’s appropriately gorgeous and well acted; it’s not nearly as kitschy or soap opera-y as Downton; and it has history all over the place. It’s about as close to watching a documentary as you’ll find in a drama. Plus, it has John Lithgow as Winston Churchill! (Though, I can’t help but think “that’s John Lithgow!” the whole time.) And I’m a sucker for almost all things British (sorry, Mr. Bean), so it’s a win, win, win.

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill as the Penguin

Netflix is finally starting to come into its own with actual high quality content (get outta here House of Cards)…though I can’t help but think it would still be a slightly better show on HBO. Watch it, if you can dig people in elegant costumes talking with elegant accents in elegant settings.

What I’m Watching: The Lobster (iTunes, Amazon, 90% RT)

Appropriately weird indie poster for this weird indie movie

Do you like a little dark with your funny? Like, “laughing at hunting humans and attempted suicides” dark? Well, have I got the movie for you. The Lobster, starring Rachel Weisz, John C. Reiley, and a gloriously mustachioed Colin Farrell, is a supremely unsettling dark comedy.

Set in some alternate reality where adults are legally required to be in a relationship, those unfortunate enough to be single check into a creepy “rehab” facility designed to pair them off with a suitable mate. The twist is that if they don’t find a partner within 45 days, they’re turned into the animal of their choosing. Colin Farrell chooses a lobster, obviously. That’s actually the easiest part of the movie to describe. There’s tranquilizers, forced seductions, and some really awkward makeout sessions. There aren’t any “she’s your lobster” moments in this one. There’s also a fair amount of obvious culture commentary, but that’s the least interesting part of this strange beast.

It’s the best super weird high concept indie movie I’ve seen since farting Harry Potter. Check it out if you don’t mind a little creepy and disturbing with your romantic comedies.

But for my money, the best part of it is that Colin Farrell is a dead ringer for my dad with that mustache! For those who know him, just watch this trailer. That’s not Colin, that’s Craig!

Separated at birth? I can’t even tell which is which anymore!

What I’m Also Hearing/Reading: The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, by John Seabrook (Amazon)

I can’t read music, but I love reading about it (sorry, I’m out of wittiness this far down)

The only thing I love more than music is reading about music. One of my favorite books last year was Questlove’s Mo Metta Blues, and I’m kicking 2017 off with The Song Machine, by New Yorker writer John Seabrook, a look inside the hitmakers that produce superstars like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. I’ve long known about the Swedish superstar producers like Max Martin, whose credits date back to the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, but it’s still fascinating to read about the evolution of modern pop music, and its infusion with R&B and Hip Hop through the masterful efforts of these foreign producers. Just the sheer amount of hit songs guys like Max Martin have written is insane: you can thank him for “Oops!….I Did It Again”, “Quit Playin’ Games (with My Heart)”, “Teenage Dream”, and “Since U Been Gone.” Plus, the author has Spotify playlists for each chapter, so you can follow along as he talks about different songs. Very cool.

Main takeaway so far: if you don’t like modern pop (I happen to enjoy much of it myself…it’s just so well made!) I’m sorry, it’s not going anywhere. Something like 80% of the music industry profits are from 1% of the artists. The age of Spotify has only made hits more important, not less. With streaming and radio apps like Pandora, it’s easier than ever to listen to your own niche tunes, but pop and its stars will continue to saturate mainstream culture for years to come. Maybe forever. Those darn Swedes.

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