Input/Output #2: Bloody revenging, cult comedy and audio docs (9/19/2016 - 10/23/2016)

Welcome to another installment of Input/Output, where I take a moment to reflect on stuff I saw or heard last week, as well as stuff I made in that same period of time. It's been a while since my last post (Guess what! I got married!), so today's column will include just the highlights of the last several weeks of media inputting and outputting:




'The Revenger's Tragedy' --  This play, produced and performed through Halloween night by the Grassroots Shakespeare Company, is not actually by Shakespeare, but one of his contemporaries, Thomas Middleton. And the production reaffirms Grassroots as my favorite production company in Utah. It's hilarious, poignant, thoughtful, dramatically interesting and very, very bloody. When the blood starts spraying into the audience, all I can say is "Let it rain." It was the most fun Halloween theater experience I've ever had.

'Arsenic and Old Lace' --  The Springville Playhouse put on one of my favorites in "Arsenic and Old Lace." It has charming performances, especially in the two aunt characters who turn out to be sweet, grandmotherly murderers. It also has some fine satire of theater and theater criticism. My one concern with the production is the pace. The zaniness of the play was watered down by a little bit of scenery chewing, and I would have liked to have seen the actors say their lines at about two thirds the pace that they did. It made the play feel a little long, and made the many delights that much less delightful.


'MacGruber' -- I chose to watch this film as a sort of bachelor party, and it did not disappoint. It opened to terrible reviews but has gained a cult following in the years since, and I had been meaning to catch up with it. I kept hearing from people I respect that it was comedy gold. I now join that constituency proudly.

'Queen of Katwe' --  A beautiful Disney film that feels more serious and thoughtful than what that you may expect. Filmed on location in Uganda, the camera never lingers on poverty porn but instead gives captures and humanity in every frame. (My full review is below in the Outputs.)

'Goosebumps' --  Hey. This movie is actually pretty great. It goes to seriously weird places with one of the main characters, that does raise the imaginary "manic pixie dream girl" to even more disturbing levels of imagination. But it lands some surprisingly funny jokes and feels like the perfect introduction to the horror genre for children. (There are those who believe that the perfect children's introduction to horror is to accidentally watch "The Exorcist" at 2 a.m. after everyone else is asleep, but I disagree with that premise.)


A smattering of political podcasts -- As I've gone through the depressing and largely unsubstantial three presidential debates, I've eagerly consumed (and appreciated) the podcasting work of FiveThirtyEight Elections; NPR Politics; On Point; To the Point and Left, Right & Center. (The one dud in that mix was the first ever live show for Left, Right & Center. Hearing audiences applaud at lines takes the punch away from the egalitarian premise of the show.) Now that the election is two weeks away, FiveThirtyEight and NPR Politics promises daily podcast episode updates. I anxiously (in every sense of the word) anticipate the coming hours of audio journalism.


'Crazy Ex-Girlfiend' --  This is my favorite show on TV. It's a hilarious comedy that also happens to be an original movie musical every single episode. The second season kicked off last week, and it surprised me in some of the directions it took. Like a good sequel, it deepens things about the first season I didn't even think about before, and it set up some excellent questions that I am excited to see answered. Plus, it contained this amazing musical number:

'The Good Place' --  The creator of "Parks and Recreation" (Michael Schur) has gone full "Lost" with a high concept comedy built in a world that becomes more and more mysterious in every episode. Kristen Bell is doing a great spin on a Liz Lemon type, and Ted Danson plays a superhuman god-like character who is constantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Several episodes in, I'm excited to see where this goes.

'The Price is Right' --  Add this to the list of strange family traditions. So far in our marriage, Katie and I have not missed any episodes of "The Price is Right." It's in its 45th season, and Drew Carey is delightful, you guys. We watched the show each morning of our honeymoon on TV in the hotel, and since we've been home, we've watched on demand on the CBS app. Only time will tell if this is a sustainable tradition (we're already a couple episodes behind). Also, the show is one enormous advertisement, and it does improve on the CBS app without commercials for law services and adult diapers.

And it's miraculous and nice to change what was a Pavlovian association of being home sick from school to a new association of being in love with your favorite person. Also, occasionally, something truly magical happens on the show, like what happened last week in this clip (seriously, watch this):


Audio documentary work -- Court Mann and I produced an audio doc, "The story of Mykel and Carli, Weezer’s most legendary fans." It took a lot of hours of interviewing and editing and storytelling work, and I think it turned out quite nicely. It's an intersection that is perfect for our particular show -- between arts and Utah and culture -- and raises some provocative questions about what it means to be a fan. I hope we find many more stories like this to tell in a similar way.

Movie reviews -- I reviewed two films: one that I really enjoyed, and one that disappointed me. I also wrote a feature on a really interesting entry in Mormon cinema from a promising new director.

Theater features -- I covered a few plays, including "Catch Me if You Can" at Hale Center Theater Orem and "The Revenger's Tragedy" at the Grassroots Shakespeare Company.

Investigative work of an entertainment journalist -- I did the kind of hard-hitting digging you expect from an entertainment reporter, figuring out every known instance that an LDS apostle wrote a song.

Talking Pixar -- I also made another appearance on the podcast "Film Cult," where we mathematically proved what is the best Pixar movie. Listen below:

That's it for this week! Enjoy your own ins and outs until next time.