Four that got away.

For today’s pop culture entry I want to highlight a book, a movie, a TV show, and a CD that deserve a little more attention.  These aren’t reviews; rather they are just little blurbs describing why they should be revisited – or visited for the first time.

TV Show:  Sports Night

Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) created this groundbreaking show that gave viewers a behind the scenes peek into the inner workings of a Sports Center type program.  But if you are not a sports fan, don’t let that setup turn you off.  The show is so much more than sports or sports related ideas.  It is about the characters: The anchors, the producers, the writers and it follows their triumphs and their failures.  The characters are three dimensional and fully fleshed out.  The writing is sharp and fast paced.  The acting is top notch with Josh Charles, Peter Krause, and Felicity Huffman all giving some of the best performances of their careers.  The show only lasted 2 seasons but those two seasons were great.  Also, since it is only 2 seasons long you can watch the whole thing in a fairly short amount of time. 

CD:  Shout Out Louds – Our Ill Wills

My brother recently introduced me to this amazing band, and since they just released their 3rd album, Work, I felt that I should point people back to their incredible sophomore release of 2007.  So, what does this band sound like?  Good question and its one I probably can’t answer since their sound changes quite a bit from one album to the next.  The album in question, Our Ill Wills, has elements of Arcade Fire’s spontaneity and energy with a healthy dose of The Cure’s vocal and lyrical structure.  But even that doesn’t really do their sound justice.  The music is energetic and exuberant.  They blend traditional rock instrumentation with dynamic percussion, string arrangements, and a variety of other musical instruments.  The results are compelling and a whole lot of fun. 

Movie: Sweet Land

My guess is most people haven’t even heard of this film.  That’s too bad because it’s a wonderful little romance set in rural 1920’s Minnesota.  The film stars Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, Lois Smith, Ned Beatty, John Heard, Alex Kingston and Alan Cumming.  It tells the story of a young Norwegian woman who comes to the United States to marry a farmer due to an agreement with his parents back in Norway.  It’s a simple, meditative film with subtle performances and beautiful imagery.  While the film is slow moving, it is never boring. 

Book: Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

Auralia’s Colors, film critic and author Jeffrey Overstreet’s first attempt in the world of fantasy/fairytale, is an original and inventive piece of fantasy literature that is a delight to read.  Overstreet has a way with words.  He delights in constructing sentences that swell with vibrancy and color.  His characters are memorable and interesting.  The plot is simple yet complicated at the same time.  If you read it you will understand what I mean.  It is not an easy read, whatever that phrase implies to you.  You have to really pay attention, because he doesn’t dumb things down.  He kept me on my toes the entire time I read it, and when I got lazy, I would pay for it.  It’s the first book in a four part series and the second and third books are already available to read, but it is necessary to start at the beginning of this tale.  I have yet to read the third entry in the series, Raven’s Ladder, but the second book, Cyndere’s Midnight was exceptional storytelling.  If you love fantasy or fairy tales then this series will be a joy for you to discover.


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