Monthly Archives: March 2011

Twenty two becomes nineteen and I muse on The Bell Jar

Well, three more books have bitten the dust and my tally for the year has risen to a hefty six. Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, was insightful and fun but, ultimately, not very substantial. The Hunger Games was a nice page-turner but it left many loose ends waiting to be resolved. I guess I’ll have to get around to reading the sequels someday but they’re certainly not at the top of my to-read list.

By far the best of the three books I’ve recently read was the late poet, Sylvia Plath’s only work of prose, The Bell Jar which is in the form of a novel. It is said to be semi-autobiographical which makes it an unsettling read as Plath committed suicide no more than a month after the book’s publication. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating look at clinical depression.

Nineteen year old, Esther Greenwood is an aspiring poet who recieves an internship working for a women’s magazine in New York. Her time at the magazine introduces her to many women of her age. These women are unlike Esther in that they seem to have a pre-determined path laid out before them that they are content with. By the end of her tenure working for the magazine, Esther gains a new, disheartening perspective on everyday life and once she returns to her home in Massachusetts, her lack of a future career path brings on feelings of inadequacy and a deep depression begins to consume her.

Sylvia Plath at work

I was expecting The Bell Jar to be well written as Sylvia Plath was a very highly acclaimed poet but some of the figurative language in this book really exceeded my expectations. The metaphor at the heart of the book slowly reveals itself over the course of the story and it is so simple yet so profound. I suppose that when I began reading this book, I thought that the dark subject matter would make it a slow and drawn out experience. On the contrary, The Bell Jar proved to me that a book about depression can still immerse you in it’s world no matter how far removed from the subject matter you are. Esther’s life at various asylums is one of deceptive banality; with dull routine threatening to give way to a bout of shock treatment any day. I think that it’s this mysterious quality that compelled me to read this book so voraciously.

Sylvia Plath commited suicide by way of carbon-monoxide poisoning in February, 1963. She left two children motherless and a husband a widower. The Bell Jar was a final cry from her soul. It is harrowing and somewhat prophetic but even if Plath had lived to this day and conquered her depression, this book would be no less important. If you have ever known anyone who has suffered from depression at any point in time, then The Bell Jar will give you an idea of how it felt to be in the skin of that person in their darkest hour.

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The Evil Dead review – a flawed masterpiece

Ash: the film's hero

Last weekend I watched The Evil Dead with my friends Alex, Phil and Louis. We were all talking throughout the whole movie and therefore didn’t get much out of it. I thought it seemed good enough but I knew I’d need to sit down with it again. Today I did just that, on my own this time. As I expected, it’s actually great.

A group of friends embark on a weekend retreat to a cabin in the woodlands of the Tennessee Mountains. From the moment they arrive, things seem wrong. Voices are heard, things go bump in the night. The two men of the group, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and Scotty (Richard Demanicor) discover some recording equipment and an ancient funerary text titled ‘The Book of the Dead’ in the cabin’s cellar upon investigating some of the strange noises. They play back some of the old tapes they find which are recordings of a man who was once researching the power of ‘The Book of the Dead’. The voice of the man recites some incantations in a strange tongue and things go completely downhill from then on.

The Evil Dead was made on a shoe-string budget and it is nuts. One of the girls in the group gets raped by the forest; another gets stabbed in the ankle with a pencil by her possessed friend. There are even points in the film where it is apparent that claymation was utilised. This was director, Sam Raimi’s (the Spider-Man trilogy) first film. Watching this back in 1981 when it was first released must have been a breath of fresh air for film-goers, particularly horror fans. Raimi shows ingenuity in his choice of film-making techniques. Some of the best sequences in the film involve POV shots from the perspective of an unknown presence, later revealed to be demonic spirits. In these scenes, the camera surges through the air on the wind, shoves tree branches out of the way and in perhaps the best moment of the film, doors as well. It’s really the camerawork that stands out the most in The Evil Dead (apart from the gore, maybe).

The acting is questionable at times, excluding Bruce Campbell. He doesn’t get much to work with in the way of characterisation, however. Ash doesn’t really seem to care when his sister gets possessed but when his girlfriend does he’s devastated. Otherwise, he owns this film. There’s some fairly hokey continuity issues too: characters who are sprayed with blood at one point, appear to be cleansed in the next scene and there’s even a moment where a not-so-subtle wardrobe change is evident. These aspects of the film can be jarring but they don’t really bring the overall experience down.

The Evil Dead is entertainment at it’s most thrilling. It’s a potent and concentrated mix of blood, evil spirits and edge-of-your-seat thrills. I’m looking forward to the sequel now, which is supposed to be even better. It’s going to be interesting to see how an increased budget added to what was already a winning formula.

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TOOT TOOT! I have a list of my favourite pop culture road trips and I’m not afraid to use it

Here is me performing an affirmative hand gesture

Since yesterday, I have legally been able to drive a car on my own. It’s a great feeling. The driving test itself was pretty nerve-wracking: every mistake I made, however small, seemed like an instant fail to me. Then thirty minutes later, the instructor was all like, ‘OK, I’m passing you today,’ as if he plans to test me again some time in the future and fail me.

Yeah, so I feel liberated and all that. Blahdi blah blah. I was planning on writing a blog post if I managed to get my license;  however, not just a simple ‘soap-box’ rant. In order to awaken the adventurous beast that lies dormant somewhere within me, I’m going to compile a list of my favourite road-trips in pop culture history. A couple of my choices are so obvious that I give you permission to laugh derisively to yourself.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Dean and Sal

An absolute classic written by one of the pioneers of the ‘beat’ movement, Kerouac’s book is the kind that awakens a teenager from an apathetic slumber by blowing several loud saxophone notes in his/her ear. It’s an almost entirely autobiographical account of several years of his life; with alternate names used to avoid accusations of libel. Kerouac is Sal Paradise, a young beatnik living in New York City, itching to go and discover America after meeting a friend of his pal (Carlo Marx/Allen Ginsberg) called Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady). Throughout the story, Paradise and Moriarty form a lifelong bond born from their adventures on the road. They wind up everywhere from San Francisco to Mexico City. There are many quirky characters that they meet along their way, each influencing the pair (particularly Sal) in one way or another. These include Old Bull Lee (William S. Burroughs), a sage-like drug addict, and The Ghost of the Susquehanna (as Sal dubs him), an old hobo whom Paradise meets while hitching his way west. Sal Paradise and particularly Dean Moriarty have become cult icons. Dean is anti-authority and anti-establishment. Sal is in awe of his seemingly pure freedom. Dean’s laidback lifestyle, however, comes at a cost as you’ll find out upon reading the book.

On the Road is my first choice for this list (although it’s really in no particular order) because I think that the ideal cultural depiction of a road-trip is one in which the ultimate destination itself is not necessarily just a city but an existential awakening. Sal’s journey in On the Road teaches him a great deal about himself. Jack Kerouac managed to successfully capture the essence of what we know as a ‘road-trip’. 

Dumb and Dumber

Lloyd and Harry

OK so it’s pretty ridiculous going from one of the foundations of modern literature to this. I’ve had a special place in my heart for this movie since I was really young. It’s immature, cringe-worthy and totally hilarious.

Lloyd (Jim Carrey in his best role) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) are two lower-class dimwits struggling to make ends meet. When Lloyd witnesses a beautiful woman drop a briefcase at the airport he convinces Harry to set out on the road with him to track down his new object of affection. What follows is a series of increasingly embarassing and very funny scenarios as the two make their way to snowy Aspen (‘Where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano’) and the woman of Lloyd’s dreams.

Lloyd and Harry’s journey in Dumb and Dumber doesn’t really teach them that much (they’re dumb after all), but they do learn that a friendship as strong as their own can never really fade. Any two people that still like each other after one drives them both halfway across the country in the wrong direction, are pretty much destined to be friends forever.

This Is Not the Way Home – The Cruel Sea

This song by the whiskey-soaked blues-rock band from Sydney doesn’t tell a detailed story but it manages to capture the experience of a young male’s Australian road trip pretty damn well. Everything from barren landscapes and bullet-ravaged road signs to downing six packs of beer and throwing up in a men’s restroom. The drums gallop along aimlessly while the guitars weave in and out of the song like snakes by the roadside. Whenever I listen to it, I can almost feel the sun ruthlessly beating down on my neck and that alone would have earned this song a spot on my list. It’s a killer blues-romp as well so that doesn’t hurt either.

Bart, his friends and a creepy hitchhiker

Bart on the Road (The Simpsons)

This is by no means one of my favourite episodes of The Simpsons, but I think the concept of four ten year olds concocting an alibi that involves a ‘grammar rodeo’ in Canada and hitting the road after one of them gets a fake ID is pretty memorable.

This is Bart’s episode through and through. My favourite moment (off-topic alert) is when Bart reads the title of a pamphlet outloud in class: ‘Go to Work With Your Parents Day?’ Suddenly, Principal Skinner answers him over the PA: ‘Yes, Go to Work With Your Parents Day.’ Gets me every time.

The actual road trip portion of this episode is naturally far-fetched but some aspects of it ring true; namely the dynamic between Bart, Milhouse, Nelson and Martin. They argue over their destination (Martin suggests a tour of the Bridges of Madison County) and the little things (Milhouse insists that they stop to buy a cup upon discovering that their car has a cup-holder). It’s actually a pretty accurate depiction of how a car full of young folks would behave.

Like many road-trips, Bart’s does not end like he’d hoped. Shit goes wrong pretty regularly but he winds up safely at home (via Hong Kong) by the time the credits roll.

I’m sure there are many more great examples I could have crammed into this list but the ones I’ve chosen are those that make up the image of a ‘road-trip’ in my mind. I’ve never really seen cars as an object of pleasure; more a simple means of transport. All I wanna do is get where I wanna go without having a back-seat driver every time I get behind the wheel. Now that I can do that, it’s just a matter of figuring out where I’d like to go…

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Why I love Batman – superhero pseudo-psychology!

Batman: The Animated Series

Batman. His sheer awesomeness cannot possibly be contained by words. I have loved Batman for as long as I can remember. My third birthday cake was modelled after the chiseled visage of his head. Almost all of my childhood fears revolved around his arch-enemies. Sure, there were stages which I have tried to erase from my mind on many occasions, where I replaced Batman with a new hero/christ-figure. Fred Flinstone, Action-Man, Stretch Armstrong, Hercules from the Disney movie. None of these, however, lasted. Everything begins and ends with Batman.

I often wonder about the psychology behind children’s obsessions. Why is one little boy fascinated by racing cars and another by dinosaurs? Why did Batman appeal to me so much and more importantly why do I still enjoy his escapades? Of course, Batman’s badassery is hard to resist for most young boys but surely his appeal goes depper than that.

I was introduced to Batman via his early ’90s representation in the dope-as-fuck, Batman: The Animated Series. This show was really dark for a kid’s cartoon. It wasn’t only made for a young male audience, but mature fans as well. The opening sequence that kicked off every episode is still great to watch today. It suceeded in capturing the essence of the series in little more than sixty seconds. This short clip is most likely the first exposure I had to the character.

That music. Danny Elfman (the composer of The Simpsons theme and countless other recognisable film and TV themes) created a menacing and iconic musical backdrop. It’s righteous in just about every sense of the word, as is the entire minute that makes up the sequence. We see police blimps (!), faceless, shadowy bank robbers, an explosion, the Batmobile, Batman, guns (which were rarely allowed to be shown in children’s shows twenty years ago), batarangs and swift rooftop justice. The final moment is the silhouette of Batman standing atop a skyscraper, suddenly illuminated by a fork of lightning. That image has always stuck with me and seems to be what I always see when I hear the word, ‘Batman’.

Batman/Bruce Wayne’s character was explored in many interesting ways in this series. Batman’s enemies often seem to challenge the darker places of his psyche and this is one of the keys to the character’s lasting appeal in all forms of media. For instance, The Joker (impeccably voiced by Luke Skywalker AKA Mark Hamill!) is the embodiment of anarchy and chaos, whereas Batman represents order and justice. This creates a ying/yang relationship and forms the heart of the Batman mythology. The Scarecrow brings out Batman’s fear of failure, Two-Face provides the hero with a glimpse at what his dual identity could become if he sacrifices his morality too often; the list goes on. B: TAS really nailed the characterisation of Batman and his villains along with the tone employed by the artists/animators. It is said that rather than drawing on white sheets of paper, the art team would use black to create the darker look that the series is known for. I highly recommend anyone who is interested in the character of Batman after seeing Christopher Nolan’s recent films to watch Batman: The Animated Series. After all, Nolan’s interpretations of Batman and his enemies are clearly very inspired by those of B: TAS.

Batman sees those secret folders on your computer

The creators of the series must be credited with introducing Batman to a whole new generation. So what was it about this series that drew me to the character and his world? It’s very hard to find an answer off the top of my head. I can’t really remember what motivated me in my first years of life. Who can? There isn’t much ambition or drive at that stage of anyone’s life. It’s all about food, fun and affection; at least it was for me. Like a lot of great entertainment, Batman: The Animated Series (and Batman in general) is pure escapism. I think Batman just came along at the right time in my case. He became my hero and I was in awe of him. Not just because he could beat the shit out of baddies with ease and had access to an array of gadgets that would make Bond blush but also because of the way he dealt with his problems; his grief and sadness in particular. The death of a parent is the worst fear of many children, me being one of them. Batman became a masked vigilante as a result of the death of his parents at the hands of a petty criminal. I think this stuck with me. Seeing someone,  even if they were just a work of fiction, turn their fears into righteous vengeance was the coolest thing ever for child-rob.

I dreamt of being able to fly when I was younger. The Batman of the animated series appeared to be able to fly at times which I thought was the epitome of uber-cool. In several episodes though, he fell from the sky or betrayed his inability to fly without the assistance of gadgets. This was when Batman seemed at his most human in my eyes. It was as though he’d let me down. What’s a superhero if he can’t even fly? I kept watching though. The reason that Batman is so well-loved is often attributed to his lack of superpowers and the relative amount of ass he is able to kick without them. His lack of a real ability to fly eventually made him morereal to me and made me realise that heroes can exist in real life, even if on a slightly smaller scale than Batman himself.

Yeah, that's why I was scared of him...

There were always particular Batman villains that haunted me in my sleep. For some reason, I was terrified of Clayface. I vaguely remember an episode where Batman fought Clayface on top of/in/near a speeding train. I had nightmares after watching that. A fear of the unknown has always plagued me and I think that Clayface may have embodied that. He could morph himself into just about anything which enabled him to sneak up on Batman and pull off big heists and whatnot. Maybe I thought that my bed would suddenly turn into Clayface while I was asleep and scare the living shit out of me; I really don’t know.

Two-Face was the villain I was the most scared of, however. It wasn’t the B: TAS incarnation but Tommy Lee Jones’  in Batman Forever. I have still not seen that film from beginning to end. The reason? Because Two-Face is in the opening scene. I cannot for the life of me give you any psychological reasoning for the crippling fear I suffered as a result of seeing that opening scene. After refreshing my memory just now via YouTube, the scene involved Two-Face deciding the fate of a bank’s security guard by flipping his trademark coin. The scene is pretty much tension-free (as opposed to a very similar scene in No Country For Old Men, a film which also stars TLJ coincidentally), but nevertheless, I can see why I was scared of it. Tommy Lee plays a great bad guy. That slow reveal of the disfigured half of his face is memorable and he has the gravelly voice down pat. I think I was just exposed to a guy that knows how to play a scary villain for the first time in my short life. As simple as that.

Batman satisfied my morbid curiosity as a child. We’ve all got a bit of it in us. I was scared of the dark, yet I loved Batman. I was scared of the death of my loved ones, yet I loved Batman. I was scared of the unknown, yet I loved Batman. I was scared of just about everything ever, yet I loved Batman; and still do to this day. He’s timeless, representing the darkness that lies within all of us. It chooses to show itself at strange moments. But it’s there whether we like it or not. The character of Batman shows that good things can come from the bad and this ultimately gives children and adults hope. I guess that’s why I still love him. But again, the badassery, the gadgets…

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Odd Future takeover: a hip-hop collective to rival Wu-Tang Clan?

Earlier this week I watched this video:

That is Tyler the Creator and Hodgy Beats, two MCs that make up only a fifth of the hip-hop organisation that is Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (we’ll stick with OFWGKTA thanks). As you can see in the video above, they know how to put on a show. Garden gnomes, possessed children, gargantuan brass instruments with names that escape me. More importantly though, they know how to create buzz. Right now they are the definition of the word ‘hype’ but don’t tell them that.

Odd Future have been active since 2007 and began releasing mix-tapes for free via their tumblr page in 2008. An air of mystery surrounds the group, with little biographical information on the members available. They are all young; their ages ranging from 17-23. To me, they seem like smart guys. They’re making fun of the music industry while simueltaneously poising themselves to conquer it.

Tyler, the Creator

OFWGKTA’s enigmatic and talented leader, Tyler the Creator spits rhymes full of menace on his debut mix-tape, Bastard. This was the first Odd Future release that I checked out after watching the Jimmy Fallon performance. His lyrics are disturbing and often disgusting. I’d heard of death-rap before but was never so much as intrigued by the concept of people rapping about necrophilia and rape. For some weird reason, Tyler’s modus operandi comes off as intrinsically disturbing rather than believable. The beats that back his rhymes are minimal. On the title track of the album (my personal favourite), a piano pounds away behind him and as the track progresses, synths swell ominously. It’s pretty refreshing to hear for someone who’s not fully-schooled in hip-hop, like me. Bastard served as a great entry point into the Odd Future experience and I’d definitely recommend it as an ideal gateway for anyone else interested in the group.

Hodgy Beats, Tyler’s sidekick in the Jimmy Fallon performance, has a pretty low-key, almost boring style. He’s very much a background player. The second most promising member of the group behind Tyler is probably Earl Sweatshirt who is in fact the youngest, having released his own debut mix-tape at the tender age of 16. Apparently his mum listened to it and forbid him from hanging out with Tyler and the gang from that point on. The OFWGKTA website is adorned with the slogan, ‘FREE EARL’.

Even Tyler and Earl have some ways to go before they are recognised as truly great MCs but Odd Future’s…future is looking very bright. Are they the second coming of the Wu? Nah. Their debut material is nowhere near as strong as Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 breakout classic, Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers). The comparison is too obvious and not very substantial. Like Wu-Tang Clan though, they are a product of the times. Wu-Tang burst onto the scene in the early nineties with gritty beats that blew Dr. Dre’s oft-maligned G-funk out of the water. They totally revitalised east coast hip-hop and paved the way for the future of the genre as a whole. Perhaps OFWGKTA aren’t as explosively revolutionary but their punk-mentality and market-savvy tactics are making the Gucci Manes of today look like chumps. The musical landscape has changed. Artists are releasing their work for free and relying on other means to create revenue in the early stages of their careers. Odd Future know what’s what.

Watch out.

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The twenty five book challenge of twenty eleven

Reading has always been an ‘on and off’ thing over the course of my life. I’ve never stopped loving it, but sometimes it just seems that the thought of it likes to escape to the back of my mind. During the latter half of last year I started reading pretty solidly again after about a six month period devoid of booky wonder. I haven’t let up since. In an effort to keep this momentum going strong, I’ve set myself a goal: I’m going to read twenty five books this year. Or, at least try really hard to.

There’s only one rule: I’m not going to include graphic novels in my list despite the fact that I’m currently working my way through The Walking Dead. I tend to breeze through them so it would feel like cheating to me.

So far I’ve only made my way through a measly three books. They were:

  • A Game of Thrones – by George R. R. Martin
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire – by Stieg Larsson
  • The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three – by Stephen King

I’d like to write quick reviews for some books every now and then, if I feel like sounding off about anything in particular. Right now I’m reading Keith Richards’ auto-biography, the imaginatively titled, Life. It’s proving to be a good read so far. Keith’s writing is a bit haphazard at times but he makes up for it with some truly humourous tidbits. My favourite one of these is his insight into the almost subconcious aspect of songwriting.

‘You might be having a swim or screwing the old lady, but somewhere in the back of the mind, you’re thinking about this chord sequence or something related to a song. No matter what the hell’s going on. You might be getting shot at, and you’ll still be “Oh! That’s the bridge!”‘

Reading two books at a time has never really worked for me, but if I’m going to have any chance of finishing twenty five books in the space of a year with a third of that year nearly gone and only three books down the hatch, I may have to. I just hope it doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of certain books. This dangerous experiment is going to come sooner rather than later, as I’m planning on starting the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy. Yep, hoppin’ on that bandwagon. Nevertheless, I’ve heard some very good things about the series so I’m going to give it a shot.

…and so the journey continues. Wish me luck.

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My love affair with Freaks and Geeks plus 5 reasons why it’s so great

The main cast

The cast of Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks is Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s seminal coming of age comedy classic set in an American high school in 1980. It follows the everyday lives of two groups of social outcasts: the Freaks and the Geeks. Recently, I’ve been trying to make time to watch an episode of it each night. I’d heard so many good things about it that I felt I was doing myself a disservice by not watching it. The entire first and sadly, only season of the show has been sitting on my hard-drive for months now. Not more than a month ago, I bought a brand new laptop computer and decided that a great way of christening it would be to watch some quality television shows on it’s sleek 15″ screen. I carted all the precious stuff from my previous troublesome notebook over to the new machine and hey, presto! I was all set. Naturally, I could withstand the allure of F&G no longer and so my love affair with the show began. Here’s the show’s magnificent opening titles.

Pilot episodes can sometimes be a drag and not entirely indicative of what the show’s writers have planned for the series. Freaks and Geeks however, pretty much had me hooked from the get-go. The show opens with a jock and cheerleader couple having an apparently meaningful conversation on the bleachers (or as us Aussies like to unimaginatively call them: stands) of a school football field. They discuss the troubles that the future of their relationship faces and their exchange ends with a heart-warming (or alternatively bile-inducing) declaration of love from the guy. Just when I was beginning to think, ‘Hang on a second. This isn’t right. I don’t want any of this Dawson’s Creek shit,’ the camera moves down through the bleachers as Van Halen’s ‘Runnin’ With the Devil’ kicks in. We are introduced to the always awesome James Franco as bad-boy Daniel Desario, Seth Rogen (yes, frickin’ Seth Rogen) as Ken Miller and Jason Segel (Marshall from How I Met Your Mother) as Nick Andopolis, all hangin’ where they can’t be seen. These guys are the ones that make up the majority of the eponymous Freaks, a clique of grey-matter deprived stoners. The opening dialogue between them is beautiful as it dangles each of their primary personality traits like carrots in front of the viewer, never giving you enough to write them off as stereo-types (which for the most part, they aren’t).

Then comes the Geeks. Three freshman year kids that stick together like glue: Sam Weir (John Francis Daley), Neil Schweiber (Samm Levine) and Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr). We see them getting picked on and threatened by a group of douche-bags only to be saved by Sam’s sister, Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini), the main character of the show. I have developed an embarassingly school-girl like crush on Lindsay as I’ve progressed through the series, like many others I’m sure. She is always sandwiched between both the Freaks and Geeks but what the show is really all about is her trying to break free from stigmatisation.

After the pilot episode, I was in love, plain and simple. I feel like I have a personal connection with the show but I’m almost certain that this was the exact intention of the creators/writers. It is meant to resonate with almost all teenagers and anyone who has ever been a teenager. Here are five reasons why Freaks and Geeks is so damn great:

1. IT’S REAL

Freaks and Geeks doesn’t sugar-coat things. It tackles problems that almost all teenagers have/will face at one time or another, whether it be sexuality, drugs or clashes with authority. We don’t see everything of course as the show wasn’t designed to confront but to instead present these situations in a believable and often fun fashion. Just because it’s fun, however, it doesn’t mean some of the issues that the characters have to deal with won’t stick with you.

2. IT’S DIDACTIC BUT NOT PREACHY

Sam Weir in a deadly dodgeball showdown

This is almost an extension of number one. Freaks and Geeks is fantastic to just sit down and lose yourself in without having to think too much. In this way, it’s almost like one of those shows you’d come home to watch when you were a kid, exhausted after school. Like some of that after school programming, there’s a lot to be learnt from F&G (if you’re starting to get turned off, please bear with me). I’m not talking about spelling or arithmetic but real life lessons. I get the feeling that if I’d have watched this show when I was fifteen, life may have been a bit different for me today. Most of these lessons are of the ‘what not to do’ variety but they are nevertheless relevant. The best thing about the show’s educational quality is that it never seems like preaching. You’ll learn but you won’t even know it.

3. INTEGRITY, AHOY!

The cancellation that Freaks and Geeks suffered at the turn of the 21st century still smarts for many fans. I believe one of the many causes for this was the integrity of the show’s producers/writers. They never stooped so low as to include pointless gross-out humour or total eye-candy cast members to attract a wider teenage audience (ironically, this is probably the most mature work Judd Apatow has put his name to). This was a story about growing up in the real world. It’s funny, smart and touching. No wonder it was cancelled.

4. BREEDING GROUND FOR THE STARS OF TODAY

Judd Apatow has become a comedic force of nature in the film industry over the past ten years. His directing credits include The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up and his producing credits have now reached a ridiculous number which includes Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Step Brothers. Judd Apatow is no longer just a prominent name; Judd Apatow is a brand. It could be argued that Freaks and Geeks essentially created and defined the comedy climate of the ’00s.

Shia Labeouf

The cast of Freaks and Geeks have mostly gone onto very successful careers. A couple of them have even defined the past decade like Apatow. James Franco is a big Hollywood name now. This is pretty amazing when you consider his humble beginnings as the slacker-stoner, Daniel Desario. Seth Rogen is the biggest name in comedy this side of Will Ferrell nowadays and his role as Ken in F&G is just about the smallest of the main cast members. Then wehave Jason Segel who is just establishing himself in Hollywood now, having starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You Man, and of course in TV’s How I Met Your Mother. Sadly, Linda Cardellini who plays Lindsay never really rose to stardom, mostly having small parts in films and some regular stints on other shows such as E.R. This is disappointing as she’s arguably the most talented actor of the whole bunch.

On a fairly irrelevant note: Shia LaBeouf even pops up in an episode!

5. MOTHERFLIPPIN’ CULTURAL FLASHBACKS

Freaks and Geeks is set in 1980. The Freaks listen to Van Halen and Rush while the Geeks make constant reference to sci-fi films such as The Empire Strikes Back. Nick (Jason Segel) is constantly grieving over the recent death of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, Sam’s (John Francis Daley) bedroom door is plastered with a huge poster of Steve Martin when he was cool and Bill (Martin Starr) often struggles to hide his love for the trashy show Dallas. The school’s gym teacher is even played by Thomas F. Wilson! As in Biff from the Back to the Future films.

I’m still only halfway through the series but I’m taking it nice and slow, watching one episode each night as if I’m savouring a fine glass of vintage wine. If you haven’t seen Freaks and Geeks yet, I urge you to go and do so. You won’t regret it and you might even learn a thing or two (I’ll shut up now)!

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