Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Doug Loves Movies - 5 Reasons Why

As I write this, I am sitting in the crowded waiting room of a Honda dealership, waiting for the front brakes to be replaced on my car. 

I am certain the people around me think I am insane.  It’s my own fault.  I can’t stop laughing because I’m listening to Doug Benson’s podcast ‘Doug Loves Movies’.  Attempts to muffle my laughter just end up with me snarfing into my winter jacket, and that’s just super unattractive.  So now I’m not only crazy, I’m also the gross girl with snarf all over her coat sleeve.  I really shouldn’t listen to these things in public places.

If you’re not familiar with DLM, the structure of an episode is pretty basic.  The first half is essentially a talk show about movies, during which Doug chats with his guests about the most recent films they’ve seen.  Following the chat portion of the show, the guests are challenged to play against one another in a variety of movie trivia games, setting the stakes by selecting an audience member to play for.

I have a 45-minute commute to and from work.  Listening to DLM consistently ensures that the time flies by, making it hands down my favorite podcast of 2013.   Here’s why it should be yours too.

One – As I mentioned above, DLM is frequently laugh-out-loud funny.  Doug usually invites 3 – 4 guests to each episode, and he’s a natural and gregarious host.  If it sounds as if you’re listening in on friends chatting at a dinner party, that’s probably because the guest list is often populated with Doug’s close pals.  It helps that Doug’s friends include famous funny people such as Adam Scott, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Scott Aukerman, and Jon Hamm.  (Side note – Even stripped of his handsome card due to the audio-only format of DLM, Jon Hamm is consistently one of the funniest, quickest and most engaging guests on the show.  Once, during an impromptu conversation about the Tom Hanks weepie, Hamm once made a joking, off the cuff reference to Philadelphia as ‘the place where AIDS was perfected’, making me think he has a back up career in stand up if this whole gorgeous actor gig doesn’t work out for him.)

Practically Perfect in Every Way.
He's like the male Mary Poppins.  Only hotter.  Much, much hotter.  And funnier too.
Two – The podcast engages your brain.  Yes, you read that right.  As a self-proclaimed movie enthusiast, I consistently delight in the part of the show where the games are played.  Sure, the games aren’t too taxing on the brain, but they are definitely good fun.  The simplest of the bunch is called ‘How Much Did This Shit Make’, in which Doug asks guests to estimate how much a given movie made in total domestic box office sales.  (Side note - My favorite part is that Price is Right regulations are adhered to, so guesses need to be made without going over the actual amount.)

The mother of all games on DLM is the ‘Leonard Maltin Game’, which is played using Maltin’s movie review app.  Maltin sometimes even gets in on the action by stopping by and guesting on the show in person.  Spoiler alert – he pretty much sucks at the game, but it’s fun to listen to him play.  I won’t go into full detail about the game here.  Like most party games, it’s difficult to explain, but easy to learn once you listen in on a few rounds.  Suffice to say, each category tickles your brain to come up with long forgotten facts.  Adding to the fun, if you come up with an answer and the guest just isn’t getting it, you can shout at your radio with undeserved righteous abandon.  “How can you be wrong Ken Jennings?!?!? The answer was SO obvious! OMG AM I SMARTER THAN YOU?!”  By the properties of logic, since I’ve bested Ken Jennings at random movie trivia from the privacy of my Honda Civic, I’d kill it on Jeopardy.  Right?  Don’t answer that.  I’m totally right.

Three – You can experience the podcast live and in person. Although the show is based out of the UCB Theater in LA, Doug frequently travels and stops in all sorts of cities around the country.  Thankfully he makes frequent trips to NYC, because I’ve seen DLM at the Grammercy Theater in NYC multiple times, and each time is more fun than the last.  The Grammercy has a bar at which adult beverages can be purchased, increasing the fun level all the way to ‘11’.  Remember when I said that the guests pick an audience member to play for?  DLM fans are a fun bunch, toting along homemade nametags of all shapes and sizes to the show. Perusing the nametags is often a super entertaining part of the show.  Super extra bonus – if one of your seat neighbors brought something edible that’s not chosen by a guest, guess who gets to help eat it?  That’s right, it’s all you, you lucky devil. 

(Side note - Doug announced last week that he’s bringing DLM’s annual ’12 Guests of Christmas’ episode to NYC in December of 2014.  Who’s coming with me?  I’ll even bring an edible nametag to up the ante.)

Four – Doug and his guests often provide helpful reviews of recent (and past) movie releases. Not too much to elaborate on here, I just appreciate a good and honest conversation about a film.  Even when I disagree with the opinions presented on the podcast, I enjoy having something to ponder while I cruise down the decidedly non-scenic strip of highway that is Route 95 in Southern CT.

(Disclaimer –If you’re looking for the ‘movie’ part of Doug Loves Movies, you generally won’t find it on episodes featuring Jeff Garlin, T.J. Miller or Pete Holmes.  In fact, you probably won’t find too much of ‘Doug’ or ‘Loves’ either. Although these eps are pretty hilarious, they can be frustrating without prior warning.) 

Five – DLM has the catchiest podcast theme song I’ve ever heard.  And I listen to a LOT of podcasts.  I catch myself singing the song at random intervals throughout my day, and once even started mindlessly humming it while trying to pick a ripe avocado in the produce section of my grocery store.

Laughing uncontrollably and singing in public.....it’s a wonder no one’s tried to commit me yet.  DLM clearly makes me a little crazy, but in the best way. 

Which brings me to Five and a Half – It’s FREE on iTunes.  So no excuses.  Let DLM bring a little cheer to your commute in 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lou Reed - 5 Reasons Why

So my album of the year is not technically an album. 

This post is half cop out and half tribute.  If I’m being completely honest, year after year I lose a bit of my passion for pursuing new music.  As I put more mileage between my current self and my college self, I tend to tenaciously hold on to what I know and love, and spend less and less time exploring the unknown.

I suppose that’s why in lieu of listening to Miley Cyrus’s new album and ferociously debating her controversial ‘Wrecking Ball’ video in the last few weeks of 2013 like most hip people below the age of 25 did, I chose a different route.  

I mourned.  I mourned the death of Lou Reed, and punk, and a world where every single move by a musician wasn’t choreographed by some agent or label ravenously seeking publicity.  I mourned a time when groundbreaking artists were actually judged on the merit of and passion for their work.

Don’t get me wrong; I still give the former Ms. Montana credit for bringing music videos back into vogue, even if it was only for a brief moment.  Yet, whether she knows it or not, she owes a debt to Mr. Lou Reed.  And whether you know it or not, you do too. 

Lou Reed’s legacy looms larger than any single year or even a single decade.  He is a bonafide legend.  And legends are timeless. Need more reasons to love Reed?  The following are 5 reasons to persuade you to put down that album with the naked pop star, and pick yourself up a piece of musical history. 

One – Don’t think you know who Lou Reed is?  You do.  You definitely do.  If these songs aren’t indelibly etched in your mind, they need to be, so click on.

Walk on the Wild Side

Sunday Morning (Velvet Underground and Nico)

Perfect Day

Sound familiar?  I can practically feel you nodding.  It’s a testament to Lou Reed’s talent that you know his music before you know who he is as an individual.  Incalculable musicians have been influenced by his music, and if you don’t know the songs above, treat yourself to a belated Christmas gift and click on over to amazon and purchase either the Velvet Underground’s first album, or Lou Reed’s first solo album Transformer, produced by none other than David Bowie.  Or use iTunes or Spotify.  Or pirate it.  Rebel that he was, Lou probably wouldn’t care if you got it for free, as long as you listened.  Bottom line, just listen. 

Two – Reed was an integral part of the punk boom in New York City.  As documented in the oral history of punk "Please Kill Me", pop artist Andy Warhol’s involvement with the Velvet Underground helped legitimize the punk ‘scene’ in NYC, giving leeway to the bad behaviors of eventually groundbreaking bands such as Television, the Ramones, and Iggy and the Stooges.  If you have ever felt even a slight affinity with punk culture, or have ever lamented the loss of pre-Giuliani ‘gritty NYC’, “Please Kill Me” is required reading for your next snow day.

Three – Reed tried his best to be unlikeable but cool. He avidly followed his passion for creating music that made sense to him, audience be damned.  While his ‘punk’ contemporaries were quite loud, Reed had a subdued tone that truly felt like a Sunday morning.  His most popular albums exuded a relaxed and indifferent cool amidst a chaotic, nomadic, perpetually intoxicated life.

Four – A few months before his death, Reed took the time out to write a review of what is probably the actual best album of 2013.  Despite his near debilitating illness, he wrote a lively and engaging review of Kanye West's 'Yeezus'.  Even at deaths door, Reed had his finger to the pulse of contemporary music, and as evidenced by his near ubiquitous praise for West's album, continued to champion the idea of creating music for oneself, and not for anyone else.  

Five - Lou Reed died on October 27th, 2013.  My fiancée Chris and I coincidentally had tickets to a Phish show that evening.  As the members of Phish have been vocal about being influenced by the works of Lou Reed, we speculated that the band would open with the Velvet Underground song, ‘Rock and Roll’.  They did.  And it was magnificent.  The entire crowd at the Hartford XL Center sang along with the words and swayed in unison.  For the majority of the concertgoers, I can only imagine that Reed’s music was a discovery made at some point in college or high school.  Whether the find was made via an album passed down from an older brother or sister, a snippet heard in a music history course, or, like me, discovered after becoming throughly intoxicated by the undulating highs and lows of 'Heroin' played in the background at a house party.  To me, Reed's fans, both young and old, remembered his music on that day.  I’d like to think that perhaps some new fans were even created in that very moment, simultaneously basking in the memory of an icon and eagerly anticipating the promise of his legacy. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half - 5 Reasons Why

2013 was a great year for entertainment.  This is the first in a 5 part series on my ‘Bests’ of 2013, starting with the ‘Best Book of 2013’.

Hyperbole and a Half is the best blog that you’re probably not reading.  If you are reading it, you deserve a gold star.  Here you go!
This star is ecstatic that you have such wonderful taste in blogs.

If you don’t read the blog, don’t worry! You can definitely still earn that gold star.  In fact, you’ve probably seen the work of Hyperbole’s creator, Allie Brosh, all over the web and not even realized it.  You know the ‘All of the Things’ meme?  Yeah, Allie’s responsible for that.  The post in which that phrase originated is in her book, aptly titled ‘Hyperbole and a Half’, that was published back in October.  Just like the blog, the book sets simplistic, vibrant, comic-like drawings against well-written and often laugh-out-loud stories. 

The book is great.  For oh so many reasons. 

One – First, in this increasingly digitized world, ‘Hyperbole’ is a rare reason to get a physical copy of the book.  It’s just about 10 bucks on amazon, and it’s completely worth it.  The book is brightly colored, with each chapter on a different colored backing.  Viewed from the side, the book showcases delightful rainbow stripes of color.  The pages themselves are high quality, glossy paper that provides a great platform for Allie’s drawings to pop off the page.  The weight and feel of the paperback book in my hands was also a delight for me, maybe just because I could now carry around a piece of my favorite blog in book form.

Two – Allie bravely tackles complex issues, such as a recent bout of severe, debilitating depression in her own life.  These posts are thoughtful, touching and unexpectedly funny.  Her writing and accompanying images so accurately depict what it’s like to battle with depression that I have occasionally copied the chapters and used them as handouts for some of my clients who struggle with mental illness.   Quite frequently the clients react to the handouts with a mixture of relief and gratitude for knowing that someone else has gone through what they are experiencing. 

Three – Allie Brosh is a delightfully odd and openhearted woman.  Case in point - when I first started this blog about 4 years ago, her blog was on the cusp of superstar status.  I reached out to her via e-mail, requesting feedback on how to increase traffic to my own blog, and she not only responded with a lengthy response, but also drew me a unique monster.  He is awesome and now lives on my laptop background.  She used to have this thing where if you requested a monster, she would send you one, no questions asked.  Not like I would know what type of questions are required for creation of a monster…but I digress.

My monster.  I love him to an irrational degree.
Obviously as Allie now has millions of visitors to her site on a daily basis, she can no longer keep up with monster demand.  Yet, I hear that she continues her tradition of getting to know her fans on a deeper level as book signings can last hours and hours.  I hear she takes time out to draw pictures for and chat with each and every person waiting in line to see her.  For more evidence as to how fantastic Allie is, click here for her interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air podcast. 

Four – Once you’re done with the book, you’ll still have the entire blog to read.  Allie did include a few previously published posts from her blog in the book, but not nearly all of them.  Some highlights include 'The Alot Is Better Than You At Everything', all Spaghetta Nadle posts, and a post entitled 'It's Too Late to Apologize Kyle...But Do You Still Want to See Me Strip?'  in which she responds to a hater named Kyle by doing a raucously funny striptease in which she strips off countless layers of clothing without ever showing any real skin. 

Like people binge watch Netflix shows, you’ll very likely be sucked into the blog, fiendishly and obsessively consuming her posts from start to finish.  You’ve been warned.

Five – Laughter.  Allie has the ability to make anyone laugh.  Anyone, you say?  All ages, you say?  Do you have proof?  Well, here you go.

My sweet little niece can’t even read yet, but she just knows this book is funny. 
That’s how potent the funny is. 
We could certainly all use a little more laughter and happiness in our lives, and Allie nails it time after time.  So, give yourself a little present this holiday season.  Hop on over to amazon and get the book