What We're Loving: The Mundane, The Dysfunctional, The Delicious, The Discovered

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison catches up on some comedy, Jonda Robinson tries the book before the movie, Brittany Smith listens to people chewing, and Ryan Callahan, in something of a surprise, writes about a crime novel.  etc_critic15__01__970-630x420I’m not always the most timely person (Have you heard of this Bobby Darin fellow?) and that forces me to miss out on meaningful conversation about things I watch way after everyone else. For example, I just watched Road House for the first time like last week, but I can’t talk to anyone about it because then they’d know that I hadn’t seen it before. Thankfully, I wasn’t thirty years behind on my entry this week, because I recently watched Silicon Valley and loved it and must discuss it. This is a tv show that was nominated for an Emmy for best comedic series, so I don’t think that I’m unearthing a cult hit, but it’s so good that everyone needs to take the time to check it out.

Silicon Valley is an HBO sitcom from Mike Judge about a tech startup in modern day California. It was created by Mike Judge (Idiocracy, Office Space, and the still great but not as applicable to this recommendation, Beavis and Butthead), and his ability to extrapolate and heighten humor from the mundane is really fun to watch. Also, the show stars a stable of up and coming comic actors, almost all of which have strong improvisational backgrounds. Thomas Middleditch, TJ Miller, and Kumail Nanjiani all studied improv in Chicago, while Zach Woods has been performing at UCBNY and UCBLA since he was 16, which should give hope to all of us schmucks that love to do make ‘em ups.. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Christopher Evan Welch, a disconnected, cold, hilarious, investor that provided some of the best moments of the series.

It’s only eight thirty minute episodes, so catch up now and we can all watch Season Two together when it arrives next Spring. Like, watch it on time. - David Allison

imgresYou know how “they” say that you should always read the book before you see the movie? That you’re depriving yourself by skipping forward to the film? While I don’t subscribe to this idea on every book-to-movie adaptation, I fell to the pressure recently and decided that I must read Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You before the movie comes out September 19. The casting director for the film had me at Tina Fey, and I sure don’t mind sticking around for Adam Driver (not to mention all the other fantastic people I like who populate the film...Jason Bateman, Connie Britton, and more).

I’m glad I read it, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story centers around the Foxman family, and more specifically on Judd Foxman, the novel’s narrator. When we meet him, things are bleak: his wife is having an affair with his boss, his father has just died, and he’s spending the next seven days sitting shiva with his dysfunctional family. That set up begins the inevitable domino effect of family drama, and it’s an enjoyable roller coaster ride. There’s just something I love about dysfunctional families being forced under one roof together by death; this reminded me of a much more lighthearted version of one of my favorite plays, August: Osage County. [Sidenote: Don’t judge August: Osage County by the movie...go see the play.]

Near the end of the novel I was so hyped up on the drama and adrenaline running through the Foxman clan that I felt like I could punch someone if they crossed me the wrong way. If you’re in the market for an enjoyable read, give it a go. Or just go see the movie. No judgment here. - Jonda Robinson

Mike and MikeYou guys, the past two days have been an aural feast in my podcast dashboard. First, Mike Birbiglia has a segment on This American Life. Then U2 finally drops their new album, which ordinarily I wouldn’t care about, but now it ensures more episodes of the strange and sublime U Talkin’ U2 To Me will come out soon. And most importantly of all, my favorite podcast of all time returned from a year-long hiatus, Mike and Tom Eat Snacks is back, baby!

Hosted by Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh, it is the only podcast employing the PER system. They Pick a snack, Eat a snack, and Rate a snack. But that’s not what they’re about, to quote the guys, what they’re about is respect for women, (though it’s not who they are). This week’s snack is hard boiled eggs, and let me tell you, they do not go over easy (you’re welcome). The episode is a solid return for the guys, and if you enjoy this one I’d recommend checking out their Haggen Daas or  Ho Hos episode as a second course.

Broken down to its simplest element, the show is two old friends eating food they may or may not like and joking around, basically your ideal high school lunch table. And much like a high school lunch it clocks in at just over half an hour and it’s suspiciously cheap ($0). - Brittany Smith

41iKVAyB4ML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been working my way through the collected works of Raymond Chandler over the past month or so but I had to drop all that this week. James Ellroy’s latest book, Perfidia, was released. Ellroy’s books always shoot to the top of the to-read pile, like some kind of rocket ship burning up the sky.

I first discovered Ellroy in college. Having loved L.A. Confidential, the movies I decided to check out L.A. Confidential the book. It was a good news/bad news kind of discovery. Good in that I became so enraptured with the book I read it in a couple of days. Bad in that there were passages of such power and suspense that I knew I would never create anything this great. I've been an Ellroy devotee ever since.

Perfidia is the first book of a planned quartet. In his two previous series, the much-lauded L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz) and the less-lauded-but-much-richer Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy (American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood’s A Rover) Ellroy examined the intersection of crime and politics in Los Angeles and then the nation from the late 40’s until the early 70’s. Perfidia is set prior to these previous works (the book begins right before Pearl Harbor) but contains many of the same characters.  I’m about 200 pages into Perfidia and I’ll be doing little else but reading it over the weekend.

Ellroy’s novels are famous for their rough, staccato style, and the way he intertwines dozens of fictional and historical characters in massive, complex stories. But it is the simple moments that make his work memorable. Ellroy is at his best when he writes a man or a woman, alone, making a discovery, often a violent, horrific discovery.  In these scenes of silence and suspense, the inner monologue churning while the eyes peep clues, Ellroy shines. These scenes reveal much more than the truth about a mystery, they reveal the truth about people, the painful, regrettable truths that everyone wants to hide. – Ryan Callahan