movies you missed: Quiz Show (1994)

quizshow01

A big-money, high-stakes TV game show becomes the subject of scandal when a Washington investigator uncovers corruption behind-the-scenes – implicating both the current and former champs.

I saw Quiz Show when it was first released on VHS back in 1995 and I instantly fell in love with it. I’m not sure why – I was 14, why would a movie about a quiz show scandal in the 1950s resonate with me? There was no murder, no mayhem, no car chases, no lightsabers yet it held my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat, leaving a lasting impression as a film I enjoyed.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to show it to a friend. I hadn’t seen it in a long time, maybe since the 90s, but I still remembered it just being good. We sat down to watch it and for a moment I was worried it might be awful, that maybe I was the only person who remembered it because I was a teen when I saw it and glossed over any problems with the movie. Luckily, I was wrong.

The movie is still perfect and still scarily relevant. It deals with issues of racism, ethics, rich vs poor, the American Dream, television, politics, and the definition of entertainment. It’s about money, self destruction, our idea of justice and the reality of our justice system. It is about the invasion of technology and how it changes our culture. It’s about growing up and trying to earn the respect of your peers and the temptation to do whatever it takes to become famous.

Robert Redford directed this movie and he FILLED the cast with amazing actors, down to the random guy in the background. Every single actor in this movie is amazing. Rob Morrow as Richard Goodwin hits it out of the park as the Jewish lawyer from Washington D.C. who manages to straddle the two worlds that John Turturro’s Herb Stempel and Ralph Fiennes’ Charles Van Doren inhabit. He understands the prejudices that Stempel faces as a Jewish man from Queens and he longs for a life like Van Doren’s where being over-educated is respected rather than suspected.

These three men carry the weight of the movie on their shoulders, but then you have the rest of the supporting cast. Mira Sorvino plays Goodwin’s wife who spends most of her time trying to help him see both sides when he gets caught up in one of them. Hank Azaria and David Paymer play the two tv executives behind the fixed show “Twenty One” and they both manage to make these men into real people and not just caricatures of the fast-talking jerks they could have been. Paul Scofield as Mark Van Doren, the father of Charles, elevates the film with what little screen time he has, breaking your heart as he tries to support a son who just wants to get out from under his shadow. And Johann Carlo as Herbert Stempel’s wife, who loves her husband and her family, no matter how crazy they make her. And even the tiny role of the owner of Geritol, the sponsor of “Twenty One” is played by Martin Scorsese who gives a fantastic performance.

If you’ve never seen Quiz Show I highly recommend picking it up ASAP. Heck, if you saw it back when it was initially released, pick it up again. You’ll be amazed by how little has changed.

books read in February

Glory O'Brien's History of the FutureGlory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another strong story from one of my all time favorite authors. If you have never read any A.S. King, she has this wonderful sense of magical realism. Her stories are grounded in reality but there is always something different about this. In this one, the book starts with Glory and her BFF drinking a dead bat and then they feel like they are hallucinating visions of the past and future. But really it is about growing up, that weird realm of existence right before high school graduation, when you know that the people who have been around you for the past 4 years are going to go away soon, that you are no longer a child but an adult…King’s books always hit me right in the feels and the voices of her characters are very real.

Saga, Volume 4 (Saga #19-24)Saga, Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just keeps getting better and better. I actually feel like this collection is the best it has been since the first trade. I just really hope that BKV has this all planned out. It has been compared to ‘Game of Thrones’ in it’s complexity which means it could be awesome or it could all fall apart if they don’t know where it will all end. Right now I am enjoying the ride.

Andre the Giant: Life and LegendAndre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My only knowledge of Andre is from the movie The Princess Bride. This was a fascinating look at the world of wrestling in it’s early form as an entertainment and the examination of a man who was unlike any other. Box Brown does not pull any punches (unlike the wrestlers) so you get a very balanced look at Andre, his life, his work, and his legacy.

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across AmericaCarsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this might have fared better as a blog that waters updated on the road rather than as a book. I think the only reason I made it through this was because Waters was reading it to me. The first half of the book, heck, the MAJORITY of this book is Waters fantasizing about the best and worst things that could happen to him on the road. I really did enjoy the last part of the book, the ACTUAL real rides of the trip. Probably not as exciting as Waters or his publishers had hoped (perhaps that was why they felt the need to create more dramatic rides in the beginning?) but fun.

If you are going to experience this book, definitely pick it up as an audiobook.

Adventure Time: The Flip SideAdventure Time: The Flip Side by Paul Tobin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not the best one. I think the story could have been half the length, which would have helped. I ended up speed reading/skimming the last few “chapters” just to see how it all ended.

My Little Pony:  Fluttershy and the Fine Furry Friends FairMy Little Pony: Fluttershy and the Fine Furry Friends Fair by G.M. Berrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s “Babe” meets “My Little Pony” is another adorable chapter book. Totally loved this one!