Fringe is more than you think it is. Yes, it began with X-Files-like investigations into strange events, and you’ll certainly find episodes with the best storytelling elements of science fiction, fantasy, and even horror. However, it grows beyond formulaic genre fare. Fringe became a complex and poignant exploration of parenthood, identity, and humanity. Terrific performances, most especially that of John Noble as the repentant, Red Vine-loving mad scientist, expose the beating hearts beneath dual worlds. Not many series boast episodes that include a noir musical, an LSD-fueled jump into animation, or a twenty-five-year fast-forward into dystopia, but that’s par for the course on a show that embraces the full spectrum of human emotion, from the creepy to the heart-tugging.
Check It Out
Michael C. Hall can’t seem to escape death. Before he was Dexter, he was a mortician in Six Feet Under. He’s part of a quirky family whose lives are entwined with the funeral home their father left after suddenly dying. Although the setting seems maudlin, the show is about relationships, expected and unexpected, and their complications.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, cinematic history’s first transsexual, glam-rock musical, follows German expatriate Hedwig and her hilariously unpopular band The Angry Inch (named for Hedwig’s semi-botched sex-change operation). Their cross-country tour plays a chain of cut-rate family seafood restaurants in a film about pain, love, and what identity means.
It’s a new year, so how about thinking of the world around you in a new way? The Earth is the only planet that can sustain life in humanity’s foreseeable future. Take some time to learn more about it, the way we currently use it, and some of the ways that we could use it better.
Click here to see for documentaries focusing on crucial environmental issues.
Werner Herzog has a reputation of making heady, inaccessible films, but – wait – don’t give up! His documentaries are more easily digestible (re: Grizzly Man and Into the Abyss). Most recently, Herzog directed Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which explores the Chauvet Cave in the South of France. The Chauvet Cave was found in 1994 by three archeologists. It was sealed off by the French government shortly after because it holds the world’s most ancient drawings and handprints, dated over 30,000 years. With only a 4-person crew, 4 lights, and 4 hours of filming allowed each day, Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams has brought this find to the public, who are not permitted in the Chauvet Cave for preservation’s sake.
Sail the seven seas on the HMS Surprise with Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and Doctor Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany). Nominated for ten Academy Awards, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, based on Patrick O’Brian’s naval series, will supply enough thrills for even the most adventurous viewers.
“More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century.” Wow. But as startling as statistics like that may be, Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn know that people don’t respond to numbers — they respond to stories. Accordingly, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide focuses on people: those who have been victimized, those who are working to combat untenable situations, and those who have survived unimaginable horror and are now fighting back themselves. This extraordinary work celebrates the victories, the progress, and the solutions, and it gives specific options for each of us to respond to a call to action. As we pause to reflect on our own blessings at this time of year, it is also good to be reminded that most of us know very little of real need or oppression. What can one person do? Read this life-changing book and find out.
If reading the book seems too much, check out the audiobook (expertly read by Cassandra Campbell) or the documentary series on DVD. Your only regret will be that it took you this long to have your eyes opened.
Sunday, Monday, every day’s a happy day for television superstar Garry Marshall, in My Happy Days in Hollywood. There’s no mollycoddling here. From his mom warning “Beware of the boring,” to his dad’s note “Sorry you had to get a tooth pulled. It’s over now,” Marshall’s memoir charms and entertains.
Journey to radiant Botswana and spend time with Precious Ramotswe, Gaborone’s first lady detective. Based on the international bestselling series by Alexander McCall Smith, the HBO adaptation of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency wisely allows the cases to serve only as backdrop to the real draw: the irresistible culture, community, and characters of this beloved African setting. Singer/actress Jill Scott brings Precious to engaging life, mastering the cadences of her speech and language to showcase wisdom, determination, and teasing fun. “There are so many people who want to know the truth about some mystery in their lives, some mystery they cannot solve themselves,” she claims. “That is what a detective is for, and that is what I will do.”
Carl Sandburg is best known for his poem “Chicago.” After that, historians know him for his six volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. There’s more to Sandburg than these two works. He was a poet for the people, an amateur musicologist with a focus on early American folk songs, a children’s author, and a man about town who influenced everyone from Marilyn Monroe to John F. Kennedy.