Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pop stuff: The Imitation Game; Amelia and the Snowman; Lost

What I'm watching, reading, hearing, etc.


The Imitation Game. This film very well could've been another entry in the overwrought brilliant-but-tortured-man genre. You know the type: Lots of melodrama, emotional speeches and clobbering the audience over the head with its message: "This guy is really smart, but messed up and deserves our sympathy and understanding."

Yet, "Imitation Game" tells the story of World War II codebreaker Alan Turing with gentle humor and understatement.

Played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Turing is not another "Sherlock." Yes, he's socially awkward and sometimes abrasive. But he's also self-effacing and gentle, with halted speech and an occasional stutter. He'd love to fit in, but knows he ever will.

So he follows his true nature, working doggedly and obsessively on his Nazi code-breaking machine, not caring that anyone else thinks. And thank goodness he did. Not only did Turing's work bring about a quicker end to the war, saving thousands of lives, but also laid the groundwork for the modern computer.

Cumberbatch is nicely balanced by the always compelling Keira Knightley, who is on hand to make Turing seem more human. Her character, a quirky, slightly nerdy mathematician who keeps pace with the lead character is refreshingly different, too.

Like "Lincoln," this film zeroes in on one crucial episode of its subject's life rather than telling his story cradle to grave. That helps keep the story focused and makes it less of a conventional bio-pic.

The film also tastefully refrains from amping up the drama related to Turing's sexuality (he was gay at a time when homosexual acts were illegal in Britain) but makes it just one aspect of his wholly interesting character. The result is a very human story about a very extraordinary man.


Abigail and the Snowman is a delightful new mini-series from KaBoom Comics that just released its second issue last week. My daughter is a fan, and so are her parents.

This is excellent stuff: whimsical, heartwarming, funny. It reminded me a bit of "Calvin and Hobbes," but less zany, more gentle.

Written, illustrated and even lettered by the talented New Zealander Roger Langridge with lovely colors from Fred Stresing, the comic tells the story of 9-year-old Abigail, who's just moved to a new school and has recently lost her mother.

She has trouble making friends and her only ally -- apart from her funny, loving, but somewhat clueless dad -- is an imaginary dog named Clyde.

Shunned by the other kids, things look bleak for Abigail until she encounters another creature nobody -- at least no grownups -- can see: an on-the-lam yeti from a government research center.

Abigail is the first kid to spot the snowman, who is being pursued by Men in Black wearing special yeti-detecting goggles. Forgetting all about her made-up dog, she renames the creature Clyde and vows to keep him safe.

When it turns out other kids can see Clyde, too, Abigail's popularity zooms. Especially when she brings her new friend to school. As you might imagine, all manner of hi-jinks ensue.

Langridge's artwork is warm and engaging, cartoony but with lots of nice detail. The story and action flow smoothly and the dialogue between Abigail and her father, who's struggling to make ends meet without adding to his daughter's stress, is funny and real.

I look forward to the remainder of the four-issue run and hope it won't be the last we see/don't see of Clyde and Abigail. 


Lost. Longtime Pop Culture Safari readers know I developed a perhaps unhealthy obsession with this show during its original run. And if you read all those posts, you probably know I hated the ending. It made me wish I'd never invested so much time into the show in the first place.

So, I've somewhat surprised myself by giving the whole thing another look. The main reason is my son, who missed it the first time around and was curious. He's been warned about the end, without receiving any spoilers. My wife if re-watching again, too.

Anyway, watching the show on Netflix, with no ads and no long waits between episodes or seasons, has been fun. Less focused on the mystery, I'm enjoying the performances by the ensemble, especially Jorge Garcia as Hurley, Josh Holloway as Sawyer and Daniel Dae Kim as Jin, and the crafty storytelling.

Even if they botched the ending, Lindelof, Cuse and crew, knew how to keep people coming back week after week. The cool touches of 1970s sci-fi, comics and cultdom are still lots of fun.

I also find I'm less annoyed by Kate, more annoyed by Locke and just as annoyed by Jack as compared to the first time around. And watching the WTF reactions from my kid as it all unfolds is the most entertaining part of all.

3 comments:

  1. My favorite thing about your lost commentaries was the occasional "What we still don't know" lists. I'd love to see a "What we still don't know" or what hadn't been revealed after the series finale. They left quite a few questions--MAJOR questions unanswered. You always caught things I missed. Would you consider compiling such a list? Thanks!

    Jerry

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  2. I did a list when the series ended: http://popculturesafari.blogspot.com/2010/05/last-lost-thoughts-on-finale-and.html

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  3. That's exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

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