February 2018 was a month of extreme firsts. Hopefully it was not a month of lasts.
Unfortunately, the volume of my blogging has been a little hampered lately. I have a part-time job with my alma matter (Saint Joseph’s University) during basketball season. During games my time is spent clipping plays for the video board and web stream. Last Wednesday night George Mason sunk a buzzer beater to beat the Hawks, but the highlight led off the 11:00 PM SportsCenter. Even though SJU lost the game, I was thrilled for my friends who broadcast and filmed the play. I grew up watching SportsCenter. I never expected to see Linda Cohn and Scott Van Pelt talk about your friend’s work. Unreal.
The other February first was watching my Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl for the first time ever. It is not a stretch to say that Philadelphians have not been this happy since the end of World War II. For a few weeks this city has been on Cloud Nine. The game was great. Watching a couple of million people go nuts was something that I will never forget.
Here are the non-sports highlights of February 2018:
The Polka King – A Polka musician running a Ponzi scheme? You could not make that one up if you tried. Unfortunately, the story of a Pennsylvania Polka music sensation being the mastermind of a Ponzi scheme is true. It is based on the story of Jan Lewan, a Hazelton man who was convicted of defrauding over 400 people in 2004. The Netflix comedy stars never takes itself too seriously. At best, the one-man show led by Jack Black is a B-minus comedy. The Polka King is still a fun watch if you are looking for a mindless flick. In addition to the scheme, The Polk King also includes an unlikely audience with Pope John Paul II and beauty pageant shenanigans.
Wormwood – This is a tricky one for me. The story behind the Netflix documentary Wormwood is important and I am issuing this criticism with some sensitivity in mind. Wormwood focuses on the U.S. government’s role in the 1953 death of Frank Olson. Olson, a government scientist, worked in the government’s biological warfare division. The government gave Olson LSD just nine days prior to his mysterious death, potentially triggering an emotional breakdown. Olson’s alleged concerns about the military’s potential use of biological weapons in the Korean War is suspected to play a part in the affair.
While the story is interesting, the six-part documentary is not good. The six episodes probably could have been whittled down to a two-hour documentary. Olson’s son is the dominant voice in the series. Unfortunately, he is the only person to speak extensively on the matter. A series of that length would have benefited from bringing in more people to be interviewed. By adding different viewpoints, director Errol Morris would have been able to create more comprehensive documentary.
Oscars: If you’ve been following along on Facebook or Twitter, you might have seen my quest to watch every Best Picture Nominee before the 2018 Oscars. So far I have watched eight of the nine and am looking forward to the last one. This coming weekend I will post my Oscar pictures and predictions. I can’t wait to finish all nine and kick off a proper debate about the best movies of 2017.
Black Panther: Black Panther is one of the most enjoyable blockbuster movies that I have ever seen in the movie theater. I went into the theater knowing nothing of Wakanda. Two hours later I left fully invested in a powerful story. The film is so well done that director Ryan Coogler is the biggest star of the film. Black Panther is only his third feature film, but Coogler could not have done a better job orchestrating the Marvel hero’s first standalone movie.
Desert Island Discs: My go-to podcast for interviews hosted two epic guests. The first interview was Christopher Nolan. The cerebral film director had interesting comments regarding his creative bubble, #Metoo, and how Super 8 cameras played a role in his early style. One of Nolan’s song choices included David Bowie’s “Loving The Alien.” Given that Bowie appeared in one of my favorite films, Nolan’s The Prestige, I was surprised to hear that be his song choice.
The second Desert Island Discs guest was chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov. I was aware of his talents with chess pieces, but I did not know that Kasparov fled Russia after his repeated criticism of Vladimir Putin. It was also stunning to hear Kasparov classify himself as an outsider whose success rankled the Russian hierarchy. It is not often that you hear chess players with an anti-establishment flair.
Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds at the Merriam: Former Oasis star Noel Gallagher is now on his third tour sans brother Liam. It is clear that he is comfortable leading his own band. While the High Flying Birds may be less anthemic than Oasis, they have grown into a rotating eleven-piece band that includes a scissors player. Oasis reunion rumors will always swirl around the Gallagher brothers, but Noel seems to be doing just fine on his own. The majority of his set at the Merriam included High Flying Birds material. Gallagher will always include Oasis staples like “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” but his loyal following appears to be content to hear the new stuff too.
“Mistake,” Middle Kids – The single “Mistake” is the first new music from Middle Kids in 2018. The Aussie band’s track has a perfect indie pop vibe. The most striking part of “Mistake” is a catchy uptempo rhythm that lasts throughout the song. Meanwhile, singer Hannah Joy offers a rebuke to someone who is correcting some unknown misdeed. The combination of Joy’s lyrics and the trio’s music peaks in a great chorus that should play great live. Middle Kids released their self-titled debut EP in 2017. Their first full-length record, Lost Friends, drops on May 4. Look for the Sydney three-piece to be one of the breakout bands of 2018.
www.flatcircleblog.com is a Philadelphia pop-culture blog that covers television, music, podcasts, and movies. Follow along on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, or subscribe by e-mail to catch all posts and conversations.