What We're Loving: Unconventional Law Enforcement, Music With a Heart, Dining on Classics, Modern American Mythology

photoEach Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Julia Cotton finds character best taught with an axe, David Allison teases desert island possibilities, Ashley Bright binges on Italian, and Ryan Callahan finds inspiration from an unlikely source.  

axecopThey say not to let television babysit your kids. Well, whoever “they” is has never volunteered to babysit my 1st and 4th grader for free. Television gets the job done while I do important things (like search for cheap tickets to sold out Beyonce concerts online). My kids have stumbled upon two shows that I am proud to have as my Mrs. Doubtfire, as they both highlight creativity, imagination, and exploring life’s capabilities. They are Disney’s Phineas and Ferb ...and Fox’s Axe Cop. I won’t go on much about Phineas and Ferb. It is hilarious, very well written, and those two little boys get more accomplished in one day than most adults get done in a lifetime. I am sure you’re more concerned that I allow my kids watch TV-14 rated Axe Cop. “Mom. He is a cop, but instead of a gun, he uses an axe!” They are genuinely drawn to the unconventional nature of Axe Cop. And, sure an axe yields just as much (and perhaps more gruesome) damage as a gun, but, beyond the violence, there are prominent themes of loyalty, accountability, service, tolerance, and innovation. Axe Cop is voiced by the epitome of manliness himself, Nick Offerman. Full of the Ron Swanson “no nonsense” gravitas, this hero has only one passion: killing bad guys. My kids’ favorite episode is when Axe Cop simply draws a picture of a magical land and is able to transport there. It is a land full of formidable bad guys that need slaughtering. It is his dream land. If you still have reservations about my 7 and 9-year-old watching this ‘Animation Domination’ program, consider this: the show was created by a 5-year-old. Axe Cop is the brainchild of actual child-child Malachi Nicolle. My daughter’s reaction to this news was much like my reaction when I remember that Beyonce and I are the same age. “Mom. I’m already 7! What have I been doing?” After watching either of these shows, my kids are motivated to stop watching television for a while to try to create something of their own. This inevitably tears me away from searching for Beyonce tickets and my babysitter’s job is done. - Julia Cotton

A+Mighty+Wind+Motion+Picture+Soundtrack+A+Mighty+Wind++All+on+StageI love alliteration!  In celebration of that fact, I’m creating “Movie Soundtrack March” to showcase great comedy soundtracks that go underappreciated.  The only rule for my weekly pick is that the soundtrack has to mostly be comprised of original music.

With Spinal Tap, Waiting For GuffmanBest in Show, and A Mighty Wind, Christopher Guest and his core group of creators experienced an amazing run by producing four amazing comedies.  I could wax poetic about each of these films, but you could easily find breakdowns of them by writers far more talented than I am.  Instead of that, I’m going to focus on the soundtrack of A Mighty Wind because of it’s combination of catchy, fun songs with genuine heart and emotions.  I know this is a collection of tracks created to score a mockumentary, but this is one of the three albums I would take with me on a desert island.  Heck, it might be my number one (Please don’t send me to a desert island and make me choose).

The tracks of A Mighty Wind are provided by the three fictitious bands profiled in the film.  You’ve got The New Main Street Singers (Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, and John Michael Higgins, among others) a group that sounds and looks like what would happen if the Polyphonic Spree created 60s folk.  Their interpretation of The Bible in “The good book song” is fantastic.  The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean) are a trio, much like the Kingston Trio of real life folk music fame, who create great harmonies in their patient, laid back tunes.  They provide the only cover on the album, a stripped down version of The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” that showcases the absurdity of the original lyrics.  The true superstar group of the album is Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara).  Their music isn’t funny. Sorry.  But it’s beautiful and earned the film an Oscar nomination for “A kiss at the end of the rainbow.”  Here’s a great clip of Levy and O’Hara performing it live at the Academy Awards.  The whole album is streaming on most music services. - David Allison

James GandolfiniSometimes you find yourself in an unintentional onslaught of some theme or person in the things you're watching or reading. During the Ice-mageddon a few months ago, my roommate and I accidentally binged on John Candy. This past week, I've consumed a lot James Gandolfini. I've been watching the Sopranos for my first time and I'm now on the 5th season. I see now why they say the Sopranos kicked off this new era of TV drama: Tony Soprano certainly opened the door for Don Draper and Walter White to lead shows as men very much in the gray area of good or bad. But the heart attack jokes about Tony are plentiful, sad, and uncomfortably on the nose. A couple of days ago, I fed my hankering to re-watch one of my favorite movies, True Romance; Gandolfini is in one of my favorite scenes. Oh, sweet Bama. And last and possibly least, I watched Enough Said, the somewhat underwhelming rom-com staring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Mr. Gandolfini. Avert your eyes now, if you are troubled by spoilers, but I'll try my best not to ruin any future viewing experience. I have no problem being left with questions after a movie except when I feel like the answers to those questions would have made for a stronger story. In Enough Said, we find out that Gandolfini's character archives old television shows and has watched them all repeatedly along the way. I felt like this was never really explored. In fact, the whole movie felt a little lopsided because I don't think his character was ever fully explored. I'm not good at Internet research so I cannot confirm that his untimely death impacted the movie, but it kind of felt like it did. Despite all of that, Julia L-D's performance and their chemistry make it worth watching. Although, if you've never seen True Romance, watch that first. - Ashley Bright

TV After OprahSo Ellen Degeneres hosted the Oscars. I figured I’d write about her and the way she influenced my personality when I was a nothing but a teenager making sarcastic jokes in class: her cadence, her optimistic deadpan demeanor, and the way she could deliver the most horrible news in the most casual, and cheerful manner.

After that I’d I’d dip into the Oscars, and write about watching for 25 years and not caring as much anymore, but watching out of habit, and still kind of caring because it’s still the Oscars.

That’s when the truth hit me. I had been living a lie.

Ellen is great and the Academy Awards are a fertile ground for pop culture discussion, but I’m loving one thing and one thing only this week. And that one thing is Rick Ross.

rick_ross_bet_hip-hop_awards_-_h_2012

I feel so much better having said that.

For those who don’t know, the Rick Ross story goes like this: William Leonard Roberts II was a former college football player and corrections officer who appropriated the persona of noted cocaine kingpin “Freeway” Ricky Ross and parlayed his new image into a rap empire. He’s the real life version of Gusto from the oddly-forgotten Chris Rock gangster rap satire CB4. I’ve been listening to Rick Ross in my car all the time all week. Even when I have no place to drive.  The music is pure capitalism: Make money, spend money, make money, spend money. It’s basically propaganda. And nothing inspires me more. Each time I hear “Hustlin'" I get excited and sometimes begin to dance or hop around (my form of dance,) and sing the first three verses. That music revs me up. I know it’s fake and I know it’s deeply wrong on a moral level, but dang it if it doesn’t lift my spirits without fail.

I grew up in a small New England village. We lived near the woods and sometimes saw bears.  We're run and play outside, with sticks and Jarts, all summer and fall. It was a safe, beautiful, and undramatic place. I grew up without religion. I didn’t read Tolkien. My tales of morality and adventure, my escape, came from professional wrestling, from comic books, and from gangster rap. NWA’s Straight Outta Compton was the first tape I memorized front to back. From there it was Ice Cube, and The Geto Boys, CPO, and 50 Cent and G-Unit. And Rick Ross.

The stories and images of gangster rap shaped my understanding of what material success means in this country. Also, they fostered my interest in conversational dynamics. Every rap song is a monologue. Every argument has a winner.

In conclusion, here’s Ellen Degeneres talking about bees. (jump to 15:55) - Ryan Callahan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWOdNSh3W3U