2011 Pop Culture Challenge: Status Update

Back in November, 2010, spurred by my decision to read the most banned books in the States (as listed for Banned Books Week), I challenged myself to finally get off my lazy ass and ‘catch up’ on all of the pop culture and reading I always ‘meant to’ finish.  This is the first major status update.

So, four months into a thirteen-month series of challenges, I figured it was time to reflect on my progress, and also, on the recently enjoyed items on my lists.  For those interested in the full extent of the challenge, list items and the original posts, click the 2011 Pop Culture Challenge tab in the header.

We’ll take this by categories, for simplicity.

Literature
Progress:  2 new items crossed off on American list, 1 on Canadian

For all of the reading I’ve done as of late, I confess much of it was pleasure reading done without the list as a guide.  That said, one item I’ve crossed off both lists was really 7 books, so I deserve some credit.

I’ve polished off Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, which was not remotely a book that should be banned.  It wasn’t graphic, and it was appropriate for YA readers.  I personally found it a bit dull, truth be told, but a worthwhile read.

My other checklist completion was finally reading the Harry Potter books, and, with a few exceptions, they were really well done.  I don’t know that I would endlessly reread them or anything, but I enjoyed the journey, for the most part, and liked the end (even if it felt a little too easily achieved).  My favourite of the series was Goblet of Fire, followed closely by Chamber of Secrets.  I’m glad I got off my ass and gave them a go, and much thanks to my little brother, who never lends anyone his books… but lent me the first four.

Television
Progress:  1 new series tried; 2 caught up; others in progress

This is where I’ve made most of my headway; it’s easiest for me to find time and the attention span to watch an episode or two and then scurry off.  TV shows are also easier to find to watch than 150 movies, know what I mean?

Fiance and I finally tried out The Walking Dead and being zombie nuts, we loved it.  We knew we would, but we were so lazy about watching it.  Not having cable is a massive hindrance.  I was a little mixed about the ending of the season, but overall very satisfied and ready for the next.  This show really needs to be seen, because it is about more than zombies; it`s about humanity itself, in any crisis.  It`s what I wished 28 Days Later had been (the ending’s always irked me, because I wanted to know what happened!).

We also finally caught up on Dexter (three seasons plus!) and I have loved them, with the exception of season 3, which just pissed me off.  I think season 2 is the best overall, followed closely by 4.  I wish the Trinity Killer had been used to greater potential; I feel the reveal was way too soon, and we needed more suspense.  I loved Lithgow, though.  The Lumen story in 5 was patchy and hit or miss, but overall good.  Such a fucking good show.

I also finally watched all of South Park… This show really has aged well, far better than I even predicted.  LOVE.  It sometimes misses, but given how many episodes there are, whatever.

I’m currently in progress with Heroes (loved season 3, mixed on season 4 so far) and Robot Chicken (pure genius!).  Now that we have Netflix, this is even easier for me.  Whee!

Films
Progress:  7 new films seen

I’ve begun attacking the films list more thoroughly lately, being as it is so long and I have so many other obligations.  Part of the issue lies in tracking all of them down, of course, particularly older or more obscure films.  That aside, of the films I’ve seen, I’ve been quite happy about doing so.

The most recent one, M, is fantastic, and I never woud have even heard of this 80 or so year-old film without taking this challenge on.  It’s in German with subtitles, which I know aggravates some people, but it’s an insightful look at serial killers and how their crimes affect the public, society on the whole, and the killer himself.  Slumdog Millionaire was a long overdue viewing, as was The Wrestler; both should be seen by film afficionados.  The JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek was pretty bad-ass, and unlike my Trekkie fiance, I rather enjoy Zachary Quinto as Spock.  Kick-Ass?  I’ve already REWATCHED that one.  The Departed?  It’s what Lock, Stock… wishes it was, even if the ending irked me.

But The Social Network is my big one, thus far, because it, by all rights, shouldn’t work on paper.  And yet, the casting, the score (fuck yeah, Trent!), the way it’s shot and paced…  I love it.  It’s truly one of the best films I’ve seen in years because, in so many ways, it’s subtle to pitch-perfection, and in your face in others.  Jesse Eisenberg’s performance makes it, and it was totally robbed for the Oscar.

I know that ahead lies a bunch of movies I have zero interest in (wtf, IMDB voters, with all the mobster and sci-fi action shit?), but for now, it’s been a blast.

See you in a few months… and hopefully, with a much more diligent progress report…

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