By Reece Hirsch
Why do fools fall in love? Well, here are a few things that this fool has fallen in love with recently.
Drive by James Sallis. I’ve heard good things about the new Ryan Gosling film adaptation, but I’d recommend that, if you haven’t already, read Sallis first. Even if the film is great, you wouldn’t want to dilute any of the pleasures of reading this fast, dark and poetic noir about an L.A. stunt driver who works as a getaway driver at night. How about this for a first sentence? “Much later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake.” Mmmm, neo-noir goodness.
A Perfect Getaway. This is what used to be called a B-movie. The film, starring Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich, about two couples hiking on Kauai with a serial killer in their midst, admittedly doesn’t sound promising, but it’s much more entertaining, funny and well-written than it has any right to be. The secret ingredient is Timothy Olyphant, playing a guy who is either a former “American Ninja” Specials Ops soldier or a big fat liar. Yes, there’s the requisite twist (which you will probably see coming) and an over-the-top ending, but it’s the characters that make this movie so insanely watchable. The good guys (when you figure out who they are) are endearing and likeable and the serial killers (when you figure out who they are) are convincingly sociopathic. Favorite line from Olyphant’s character: “Well, Nic Cage is always money in my book. I like how he gets all intense right at the end of a sentence!”
Intriguer by Crowded House. When I first heard this CD, I thought it was pleasant, but nothing special. But after a few listens, its melancholy, Beatle-esque melodies began to burrow into my brain (in a good way). Neil Finn has always been one of the best melodists working, and "Intriguer" is, in its quiet and under-the-radar way, one of the New Zealand band’s best.
Cyrus. I liked the early efforts of Mark and Jay Duplass, the writing-directing-producing brothers behind films like “The Puffy Chair” and “Baghead,” but wasn’t sure they’d ever graduate beyond their resolutely indie, "mumblecore" aesthetic. The premise of “Cyrus” sounds like another super-broad Will Ferrell comedy (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that): a lonely divorced guy (John C. Reilly) gets lucky in love (Marisa Tomei) only to find that Cyrus (Jonah Hill), his new girlfriend’s 21-year-old electronica musician son, is living with her and determined to sabotage the relationship. I loved “Cyrus” because it manages to be funny and weird without turning its lovelorn characters into caricatures. Favorite line, said by Reilly's character to Tomei's: “I’m like Shrek. What are you doing in the forest with Shrek?”
Uberlin by REM. I knew that REM was still out there making music, but I had sort of stopped caring a few years back. However, I loved them so many years ago when they were still playing dances at Georgia State and the I&I Club in Athens. This gorgeous, soaring song reminds me why I loved them. Added bonus: the song title has an umlaut (irreproducible here). As all headbangers know, everything is better with an umlaut. It's like having an amp that goes to 11. Favorite line: “I know what I’m chasing. I know that this is changing me.”
Morning Joe. I’m addicted to MSNBC’s morning talkfest “Morning Joe.” Admitting that fact is the first step toward recovery. I love that the show manages to represent both liberal and conservative perspectives in some depth (the show is three hours long), without shouting, without talking points (for the most part) and without idiocy. At a time when our political discourse has sunk to a sub-atomic level, “Morning Joe” is refreshingly civil and rational. It’s like sitting in a K Street bar and eavesdropping on a table full of the most insidery Washington insiders. Favorite talking head: the ever-erudite Jon Meacham. Favorite Morning Joe drinking game: counting the number of times that Joe Scarborough references his tenure in Congress. Caveat: If you’re on the West Coast and you’re not an insomniac, you need a DVR to watch “Joe” -- it’s on from 6-9 a.m. EST.