My Favorite Movies, TV Shows, and Novels* (*Note: I Have Only Read Two Novels)
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
“Rocky: Saving me from the wrong women since 1985.”
Recently, some friends and/or readers have asked me about the works that motivate me to write. These people are almost uniformly surprised to hear that I'm not a big fiction reader, and that I haven't really read a lot of fiction books in my life. (You can probably tell from my writing.) For me personally, it's extremely rare that a fictional story grabs my attention (I can be hypercompetitive at times; I'm working on it), and fictionalized accounts of actual events are almost always less interesting to me than are nonfiction accounts of the events themselves, with Goodfellas being the most notable exception. I generally find movies and television to be more entertaining and inspirational, as you'll learn below. Shun me, literati.
With that said, I do have some favorite books that I would recommend to anyone who's looking for something interesting to read until Tabernacle 2 (aka T2: Judgement Day) is released.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This has always been my favorite novel, although the reasons seem to change as time goes on. I always manage to find something new and interesting when I read it; I may find myself more interested in the character of Jordan Baker during one reading, for example, and during another I may be more interested in Nick Carraway's descriptions of New York in the 1920s. This is strictly a summer read, though, so if you're reading this blog post between Labor Day and Memorial Day, my advice is to hold off on reading Gatsby until June. Fun fact: The book also holds the Guinness World Record for having the highest number of awful film adaptations ever made.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.
Speaking of awful film adaptations, the movie version of The Road was immensely disappointing. It might have been a fine movie on its own, but the book was so phenomenal that there may not have been a way to equal its greatness in a feature-film version. (Possibly the same issue faced by filmmakers who are trying to adapt Gatsby.) I remember starting this book around 11 p.m. and not wanting to sleep until I had finished it around 3 a.m. The only other McCarthy book I've ever read was Blood Meridian, but for my money The Road is the superior text.
Corduroy, by Don Freeman.
Somewhat briefer than the others on this list, this inspirational tale of love and a stuffed bear searching for a missing button is an underrated gem. I actually read it a few weeks ago and it still holds up. I always thought Lisa's mother was a bit of a pill, though. Let the girl have a bear, for God's sake! (Although I do see the value in teaching children to save up for the things they want.)
I've never read any of the sequels. Apparently Viola Davis wrote one, but I'm not particularly interested in seeing Corduroy either murder someone or get murdered by someone. If it's the latter, however, I do hope he gets away with it, as I'm sure he had a good reason for doing so. And now I'm wondering who Corduroy murdered; most likely Lisa's mother, if I had to guess.
Maus, by Art Spiegelman
I haven't read this in ages--I feel like it's something you can only read once or twice in your life because it can certainly drain the energy right out of you. (And that is by no means a criticism.) I used to read a lot of comic books when I was a kid, and this graphic novel about a Holocaust survivor and his son really appealed to that sensibility in me. Genius, funny, depressing (as hell, in many places), it's interesting to consider how an incomparable artistic achievement like this one can come from the worst of human atrocities.
More of a Movie Guy, Myself
I can't speak for any other writers--and I hardly consider myself a writer; I'm really just someone who likes to write--but I probably get more inspiration from TV shows and movies that I like than I do from anything else. (This becomes problematic when I'm writing something new, since I actively avoid any TV shows or movies while I'm working on something so as to not be directly influenced by them.) So here is a list of TV shows and movies that I really love, and probably inspire me a lot more than I realize.
I remember telling a woman I was dating that Rocky was my favorite movie of all time. She made some sort of derogatory comment about how I must have had outdated viewpoints on masculinity and aggression to like Rocky so much. I came to the conclusion that she had either never seen it or had missed the point of the film completely. (She later confirmed that it was the former.) Either way, I knew the relationship wouldn't last. Rocky: Saving me from the wrong women since I first saw it in 1985.
(Fun note: I believe that the woman who served as the inspiration for Dr. Danielle Baron in Tabernacle owns a number of sweaters similar to the one Stallone sports in the amazing scene above.)
Those of you who've read this blog post are well aware of my love for Frasier. I really believe this show is underrated--try talking to anyone under the age of 50 about it, and you'll most likely get a blank stare--but the Frasier/Niles dynamic is unparalleled, and Niles is probably my favorite television character of all time. Flattering side note: A reader recently described Tabernacle as "Frasier meets Raising Arizona" (more on that below), and I don't think I will ever get a better compliment than that writing-wise.
Anything by the Coen Brothers, but mostly Raising Arizona.
I will say that a fair amount of Edward Jones' speech pattern was inspired by H. I. McDonough--Edward's line about Jared Young being "especially kind to the little things" is an almost direct lift from / homage to one of my favorite scenes in the movie. (And I believe the Coen Brothers took the "It's a hard world for the little things" line verbatim from "Night of the Hunter".) Much like the aforementioned Frasier, this movie is HIGHLY underrated; as a matter of fact, I don't know too many people who have ever seen or heard of it. Apparently it's one of Matthew McConaughey's favorite movies, though. (Incidentally: If any of you know Mr. McConaughey, please tell him to get in touch with me since I think he would be a great narrator for the audio version of Tabernacle. Him or Woody Harrelson.)
Classic. There are still a number of Coen flicks I haven't seen yet (Burn After Reading, Hudsucker Proxy, etc), but I don't know that any of them will ever measure up to Raising Arizona in my eyes. Save your angry comments, Lebowski nerds.
WWE Monday Night Raw.
I'm not ashamed of it. It's not Masterpiece Theatre, but it can be as thrilling a form of entertainment as anything else out there--it's just telling its stories in a different way. Although to be honest, as of this post, I've really been more into AEW lately, especially the work of Le Champion, Chris Jericho, who is doing some of his best character work since his time as the cruiserweight champion on WCW Nitro. Who amongst us doesn't occasionally celebrate our achievements by drinking a little bit of the bubbly?
This is my preferred viewing when I'm writing something. I don't mind being influenced directly by real life--all fictional and creative works should have some sort of grounding in reality, which is probably why science fiction and fantasy works never really appealed to me personally.
I have too many favorite documentaries to list here, but a couple of great ones I've recently watched are:
It's rare that a documentary without any gore or medical procedures makes me want to throw up, but this one about Alex Honnold's attempt to climb El Capitan without any ropes or harnesses had me nauseous at times. I'm actually amazed that Mr. Honnold can climb a mountain at all, given that his giant steel testicles must weigh about 400 pounds each.
The Last Waltz.
Martin Scorsese's documentary about The Band, which is one of my favorite musical groups of all time. Showcasing Levon Helm at the height of his vocal powers, which in and of itself would justify the film's existence, but also notable for shining the spotlight on some of the other non-Robbie Robertson members of the group. Supposedly Robertson's mic is shut off throughout the entirety of the set, which makes his histrionic facial expressions during his backing vocals even more hilarious. I've also read that a number of the band's members resented both him and Scorsese for making it seem as though Robertson was the mastermind of the entire group. Worth picking up for the live version of Rick Danko's "It Makes No Difference" alone. And that's it! Rumor has it I'm supposed to ask what YOU think about your favorite et ceteras, so on the off chance you stumble across this post, feel free to let me know! I'd like to hear about it.