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Underrated / Overrated

January 30, 2011

UNDERRATED

Apex Manor's 'The Year of Magical Drinking': Led by singer-guitarist Ross Flournoy, the Americana-dusted local band the Broken West was one of the most promising lights on the local scene a few years ago. After a lengthy period of writer's block, Flournoy makes a welcome return with this batch of Beatles-esque melodies and classic songcraft. Start with "Under the Gun," a blast of golden-hour guitar-pop warm enough to match our unseasonable winter.

'Skippy Dies: A Novel': Don't let the nearly 700-page heft of this story by Irish writer Paul Murray scare you. Surrounding the life of a doomed 14-year-old student at a Dublin prep school, the book covers string theory, Gaelic mythology and fumbling through growing up in the modern age with a uniquely Irish mix of biting wit and romantic pathos. The main character may meet an untimely end, but Murray's story kept him alive for us long after we finished reading.

OVERRATED

Micmacs (2009): Recently released on DVD, the latest from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet aimed for the same heights he reached with "Delicatessen" and "Amélie" yet somehow fell short. Maybe it was that its story of a circus-like band of misfits seeking revenge against a pair of arms dealers felt too predictable, or maybe it was an inescapable feeling that for all of Jeunet's gifts for twee visuals and quirky if underdeveloped characters, we've seen it all before.

Outrage over MTV's 'Skins': While we weren't expecting much out of MTV's heavyhanded reworking of the BBC's teen sex and bad behavior series, we're surprised how quickly it became Public Enemy No. 1. Yes, glorifying teenage vice is wrong, but did no one see this coming from a network founded on generating controversy? We'd like a breakdown of the difference between "Skins" and the tawdry six seasons of "Undressed" that MTV aired 10 years ago.

—Chris Barton

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