Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 13, 2012

News staffer offers picks for wintertime entertainment


— The weather outside is frightful, a yuletide tune tells us.

That vaguely ominous holiday warning doesn’t apply just yet, but it will soon enough. This is northern Indiana, and it’s winter.

Now is the time to rediscover the wonder of the great indoors, in other words. But how best to spend that time?

“Doing something productive,” some will advise. “No,” responds at least one staff writer with The Goshen News.

For this News scribe, the post-autumn/pre-spring period lends itself to leisure in the form of movies, TV, books and music. A short list of recommendations — some familiar favorites, other more recent finds — he now shares with you, dear reader, in the giving spirit of the season.

Holiday classics

“A Christmas Story” (1983) — This tale of a boy who really, really wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas is charming and laugh-out-loud funny even after repeated viewings.

Ralphie is thwarted by his elementary school teacher. Even Santa gives him the boot. Will Ralphie prevail? Will he, in fact, shoot his eye out?

Watch and see.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965) — Nearing the half-century mark, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” remains warm, witty and wise. Linus’ speech (“Lights, please ...”) is the highlight, and Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack sets a lovely tone.

Aside from maybe the Grinch, Charlie Brown is the top dog in the holiday TV special pack. Take that any way you want to, Snoopy.

Not at all Christmas-y

“V/H/S” (2012) — Has your yuletide ebbed? Feel Halloween was over too soon? Then check out “V/H/S,” a horrorfest that finds fresh scares in the “found footage” formula that was dangerously close to being played out.

This is an anthology that could stand to lose one of the weaker stories. When “V/H/S” succeeds, though, it does in spades. In one of the best tales, buffoonish guys out on the town meet a young woman who’s chock full of surprises. In another, a couple on a road trip is greeted by a mysterious visitor.

Caution: “V/H/S” is not for the squeamish. At the family get-together, go with “A Christmas Story” instead. Or at least warn grandma.

How about a book?

“Gone Girl” (2012) — Man and woman meet, fall in love, marry. They get to know each other better — for worse. Then “Girl” goes missing.

Author Gillian Flynn builds on the promise of “Sharp Objects” and “Dark Places” and trumps expectations. She’s got a gift for observing human folly and frailty. Suspense? “Gone Girl” is wound tight, and Flynn’s expanding fanbase can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

“You & Me” (2012) — Two guys talk, continue talking and talk some more. There are indications that they drink, continue drinking, etc.

That’s it, pretty much, but worth your time. Author Padgett Powell has crafted a joyride occasionally philosophical, often daffy and always fun. Powell’s last book, “The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?”, was made up of a series of questions. Oddly enough, it worked. So does “You & Me.”

Turn it up

Rush, “Clockwork Angels” (2012) — Buckle up. These Canadian prog-rock veterans have chops and musical drive to burn on “Clockwork Angels.” Need proof? Give a listen to “Headlong Flight,” clocking in at a prog-tastic 7:20. Then listen to the rest of the album.

Gary Clark Jr., “The Bright Lights EP” (2011) — Soulful, bluesy and rocking, there is not one thing wrong with this piece of work.

Clark is a new-generation guitar hero, and no doubt he can pull off the blinding runs. Clark’s tone and feel are what shine on “Bright Lights,” though. Check out the stomp and grit of the album-opening title track and the extended acoustic workout on closer “When My Train Pulls In.”

Clark released a new full-length album this year. It’s probably not half-bad, either.

A quick bite

Jack White, “Sixteen Saltines” (2012) — Remember The Riff? The kind of big, lunkheaded/brilliant sonic force that cannot be played loud enough and demands reckless driving?

“Sixteen Saltines” is that. It’s a choice cut off Jack White’s solo outing “Blunderbuss” that will almost make you not miss The White Stripes.


Scott Weisser is the entertainment editor at The Goshen News. He wonders if he’s being Scrooge-like for not including “Elf” on the list.