homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

kottke.org posts about movies

Going to the Movies with Jackie Kennedy

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2019

Carly Simon’s recent piece in the New Yorker about going to the movies with Jackie Kennedy (an excerpt of her book Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie) was unexpectedly moving. And funny. And thoughtful. Trying to avoid seeing anything related to Oliver Stone’s JFK — “scarier, even, would be a two-minute trailer for ‘JFK’ inserted before the feature-length film we’d gone to see” — the two opted instead for Warren Beatty’s mobster flick, Bugsy.

Every time a shot sounded on the screen — and the film was plenty violent — she reacted physically, dramatically, her body mimicking the victim’s.

How do you deal with trauma like that when society keeps reminding you of it, not only generally (with gunshots in movies) but specifically, with blockbuster conspiracy movies that depict in detail the exact moment when your life was torn apart? And how can you be a good friend to someone who suffered from PTSD (and perhaps never recovered)? How do you assure her that you’re a safe harbor for her thoughts and feelings, that you’ll help insulate her without isolating her?

P.S. Somehow, in everything I’ve read/seen about the Kennedys over the years, I’d never heard that Jackie had given birth to a premature baby boy named Patrick in August of 1963. The baby died 39 hours after his birth. Her husband was assassinated just 105 days later. I… Jesus.

What Would Mister Rogers Do?

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 13, 2019

Mr Rogers Trolley

In 1998, Tom Junod wrote an article for Esquire about Fred Rogers. It is a particular favorite of mine and if you’ve never read it, I would recommend setting aside some time soon to do so.

Koko weighed 280 pounds because she is a gorilla, and Mister Rogers weighed 143 pounds because he has weighed 143 pounds as long as he has been Mister Rogers, because once upon a time, around thirty-one years ago, Mister Rogers stepped on a scale, and the scale told him that Mister Rogers weighs 143 pounds. No, not that he weighed 143 pounds, but that he weighs 143 pounds…. And so, every day, Mister Rogers refuses to do anything that would make his weight change — he neither drinks, nor smokes, nor eats flesh of any kind, nor goes to bed late at night, nor sleeps late in the morning, nor even watches television — and every morning, when he swims, he steps on a scale in his bathing suit and his bathing cap and his goggles, and the scale tells him that he weighs 143 pounds. This has happened so many times that Mister Rogers has come to see that number as a gift, as a destiny fulfilled, because, as he says, “the number 143 means ‘I love you.’ It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you.’ One hundred and forty-three. ‘I love you.’ Isn’t that wonderful?”

The article has been adapted into a movie called A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; it stars Tom Hanks and will be out in two weeks time. Here’s a recently trailer — my skepticism about Tom Hanks playing Rogers is fading:

Junod recently wrote a piece about his friendship with the television icon, which began with the writing of the Esquire piece, continued until Rogers’ death in 2003, and clearly still reverberates in his life.

What would Fred Rogers — Mister Rogers — have made of El Paso and Dayton, of mass murder committed to fulfill the dictates of an 8chan manifesto? What, for that matter, would he have made of the anti-Semitic massacre that took place last fall in his real-life Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill? The easy answer is that it is impossible to know, because he was from a different world, one almost as alien to us now as our mob-driven world of performative slaughters would be to him. But actually, I think I do know, because when I met him, one of the early school shootings had just taken place, in West Paducah, Kentucky — eight students shot while they gathered in prayer. Though an indefatigably devout man, he did not attempt to characterize the shootings as an attack on the faithful; instead, he seized on the news that the 14-year-old shooter had gone to school telling his classmates that he was about to do something “really big,” and he asked, “Oh, wouldn’t the world be a different place if he had said, ‘I’m going to do something really little tomorrow’?” Fred decided to devote a whole week of his television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, to the theme of “little and big,” encouraging children to embrace the diminutive nature of their bodies and their endeavors — to understand that big has to start little.

The whole piece is great, but the latter half, where Junod writes about Rogers’ complicated legacy, the failure of his grand task, and how the people who idolize him today might nevertheless find it difficult to follow his example…well, I’m going to be thinking about that for awhile.

Polygon looks at the past 10 years in pop culture

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 07, 2019

Mad Max: Fury Road

Is this the first salvo in the end of year barrage of reviews? Polygon are going all out anyway, with a review of the whole decade! “Looking back at the past 10 years in pop culture.” There’s lots to read and I can’t say I’ve gone over the whole thing yet but it’s a fun mix.

The second decade of the 21st century was marked by seismic shifts in media and entertainment — loot boxes, games as a service, esports, livestreaming, virtual reality, smartphones, streaming services, “binge” watching, cloud computing, corporate consolidation, and a blockbuster takeover of the box office. It’s tempting to dismiss those items as big-picture developments rather than changes that affect us personally. But as we increasingly rely on pop culture as the lens through which we process the world around us — and, as ever, a mirror that reflects that world back at us — it’s important to take a breath every so often to ponder how we got here and what it all means.

They’ve got a bunch of lists, some which are actually lists of lists by various team members, like The best movies of the 2010s (some surprising choices as well as some Fury Road and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), or doing one detailed selection like The best comics of the 2010s, and also some deeper dives in individual topics, like Why Minecraft is the most important game of the decade.

Counting Minecraft among the most influential games of the 2010s is a no-brainer. According to its developer, Mojang, Minecraft recently became the bestselling video game of all time, beating out Tetris by moving over 176 million units. Unlike Tetris, it hit that number in a single decade. (Emphasis mine.)

A Documentary Film about Anthony Bourdain Is in the Works

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2019

Morgan Neville is directing a documentary movie about Anthony Bourdain.

CNN Films, HBO Max, and Focus Features are partnering on the still-untitled film, which is produced by Neville’s Tremolo Productions. Focus will release the documentary first in theaters before a television premiere on CNN, followed by a streaming bow on the soon-to-launch HBO Max, coming in 2020. Dates for the release have yet to be announced.

Neville is the director of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the Fred Rogers documentary that may have made you cry recently. It will be interesting to see what this film can add to the extensive self-documentation that Bourdain put out into the world through his books and TV shows.

Drag Performer Jaremi Carey Cosplays New Harry Potter Character Each Day in October

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2019

Jaremi Carey Potter

Jaremi Carey Potter

Jaremi Carey Potter

For his project 31 Days of Wizardry, Jaremi Carey has been dressing up as a different Harry Potter character each day in October and posting the results to his Instagram. These are great. Strong Cindy Sherman vibes when you view them all together. And his Dobby! He’s only done one of the main characters so far though (Hermione on polyjuice)…perhaps he’s saving Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, and Voldemort for the final days?

Carey previously did a similar 365 Days of Drag project in 2016. (via @rel_games)

My Recent Media Diet, Decorative Gourd Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2019

Every month or two for the past couple of years, I’ve shared the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. Here’s everything I’ve “consumed” since last month. It’s a little light because I’ve been working and a full rewatch of The Wire took some time. Stuff in progress includes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the kids and I are reading it together), The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, and the second season of Abstract.

The Wire. Over the past two months, I rewatched all 5 seasons of The Wire. It very much holds up and is still the best TV show I’ve ever watched. Season 4 in particular is fantastic and devastating. Even season 5, which seemed a bit outlandish at the time with the serial killer plot, is great. (A+)

Downtown Abbey. Not great but it’s always nice spending some quality time with the Crowley family. (B+)

Mario Kart Tour. There’s something deeply un-Nintendo about this game. The use of all of the casino-like iOS tricks to keep you playing (and hopefully spending money on in-game currency) runs counter to the DNA of the company. $70 for 135 rubies is $20 more than the Switch version of Kart is going for right now on Amazon — ridiculous. And remember that the original Wii periodically suggested taking a break if you’d been playing for awhile? Still, racing in Mario Kart is always fun. When they turn networked multiplayer on, it might be a game-changer. (B+)

Peanut Butter Falcon. Feel-good? Eh. More like heavy-handed treacle. And LeBeouf’s character treats the kid with Down syndrome like a normal person but is creepy and borderline abusive to a girl he likes? Yuck. (C)

Succession. I hate that I love this show so much. (A)

1619. Very good podcast, particularly the third episode about the birth of American music. (A-)

Transparent Musicale Finale. I was skeptical about watching a 2-hour musical to end the series, but I ended up liking it a lot. My god, that last song though… (B+)

Parasite. Downton Abbey a la Bong Joon Ho. (A-)

Bottle Rocket. Rough but many of Anderson’s trademarks are already on display here. (A-)

Diego Maradona. Another examination by Asif Kapadia (Senna, Amy) of how talent and fame can go wrong. (A-)

Kevin Alexander on the Beginning and End of America’s Culinary Revolution (House of Carbs). Listened on a rec from a friend because Alexander’s book sounded interesting, but the bro-ness of the host is almost unbearable. What if the discussion about food was more like sports radio? No thank you. (C-)

Joker. The pre-release coverage of this movie being dangerous or problematic was mostly overblown. (B)

The new MoMA. Full review here. (A-)

Silence and the Presence of Everything (On Being). Really interesting interview with an acoustic ecologist. More here. (A-)

The Testaments. A sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale could have easily gone wrong. This very much did not. (A-)

Tonic. I used this for a few days but the recs weren’t great so I stopped. (C-)

Amazon Go. A marvelous and unnerving experience for this law-abiding introvert. Shopping without interaction was cool, but walking out without paying felt like shoplifting. (B+)

Machine Hallucination. Impressive display, like being immersed in an IMAX movie. But not sure it’s worth the $25 entry fee. (B)

Liberté, Égalité and French Fries (Rough Translation). How do we define work and community in the age of global mega-corporations? This story takes an amazing turn about 20 minutes in. (B+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

The Final Trailer for Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2019

Let’s just all pretend that this trailer did not give me goosebumps and make me pump my fist a little, because at this point Star Wars is a sliced-n-diced and repackaged global financial instrument and very much not something a 46-year-old man who knows better should get excited about. (Jk jk, pump Mark Hamill’s gravely voice and John Williams’ soaring crescendos directly into my veins. And if James Earl Jones’ voice does not make an appearance in this movie, I will eat a Stormtrooper helmet.)

2001: A Space Odyssey, The Frank Poole Epilogue

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 10, 2019

From Steve Begg (who I would guess is this Steve Begg, who has done VFX on the recent Bond films) comes an epilogue of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The scene picks up 203 years after the events of 2001, following Frank Poole’s body as it encounters a monolith.

The Fantastical Flying Machines of Hayao Miyazaki

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2019

Riffing off a remark made by Guillermo del Toro that a director’s output is all part of the same movie, Andrew Saladino of The Royal Ocean Film Society looks at the many airships in Hayao Miyazaki’s films. What does the director’s continued use of flying machines tell us about filmmaking, technology, and everything else he’s trying to communicate though his films?

What’s Weirder: Glenlivet’s Tide Pods or Le Creuset’s Star Wars Collection?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2019

Last week we saw two absolutely incredible product introductions, and I’m having trouble picking a favorite. First, there were Glenlivet’s cocktail capsules that immediately reminded the entire internet of Tide Pods.

Glenlivet Pods

And then there was Le Creuset’s Star Wars collection of cookware, including a Darth Vader dutch oven, R2-D2 cooker, a Han Solo in carbonite roasting pan, and a “hand-painted, special-edition Tatooine™ Round Dutch Oven, inspired by the desert planet with captivating binary sunsets”.

Star Wars Le Creuset

Star Wars Le Creuset

People, we are living in a true golden age.

1917, a WWI Thriller Presented In Real-Time as a Single Continuous Shot

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2019

Master cinematographer Roger Deakins has teamed up with director Sam Mendes on 1917, a WWI thriller that follows two soldiers tasked to deliver a message to the front lines to save the lives of thousands of men. To create a more immersive feeling, they decided to present the action of the movie in real-time and pieced together many long takes to make it seem as though the film is a single continuous 2-hour-long shot. In the video above, the filmmakers give us a behind-the-scenes look at how that impressive undertaking was accomplished.

With the emphasis on time as the film’s organizing principle, it’s not difficult to see the influence of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk here. Even the watch-ticking music in the trailer for 1917 is similar to Hans Zimmer’s score for Dunkirk. (via @jayjrendon)

Pixar’s Fake Real Cameras

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 03, 2019

Pixar is always trying to push the envelope of animation and filmmaking, going beyond what they’ve done before. For the studio’s latest release, Toy Story 4, the filmmakers worked to inject as much reality into the animation as possible and to make it feel like a live-action movie shot with real cameras using familiar lenses and standard techniques. In the latest episode of Nerdwriter, Evan Puschak shares how they did that:

As I learned when I visited Pixar this summer,1 all of the virtual cameras and lenses they use in their 3D software to “shoot” scenes are based on real cameras and lenses. As the first part of the video shows, when they want two things to be in focus at the same time, they use a lens with a split focus diopter. You can tell that’s what they’re doing because you can see the artifacts on the screen — the blurring, the line marking the diopter transition point — just as you would in a live-action film.

They’re doing a similar thing by capturing the movement of actual cameras and then importing the motion into their software:

To get the motion just right for the baby carriage scene in the antique store for TS4, they took an actual baby carriage, strapped a camera to it, plopped a Woody doll in it, and took it for a spin around campus. They took the video from that, motion-captured the bounce and sway of the carriage, and made it available as a setting in the software that they could apply to the virtual camera.

Now, this is a really interesting decision on Pixar’s part! Since their filmmaking is completely animated and digital, they can easily put any number of objects in focus in the same scene or simply erase the evidence that a diopter was used. But no, they keep it in because making something look like it was shot in the real world with real cameras helps the audience believe the action on the screen. Our brains have been conditioned by more than 100 years of cinema to understand the visual language of movies, including how cameras move and lenses capture scenes. Harnessing that visual language helps Pixar’s filmmakers make the presentation of the action on the screen seem familiar rather than unrealistic.

  1. Q: How do you know when someone has recently visited Pixar?

    A: Oh don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

Jeff Bridges Takes Photographs

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2019

Jeff Bridges Photos

Jeff Bridges Photos

Ever since Starman in 1984, Jeff Bridges has taken photos on the set of every film he’s acted in using his Widelux F8 camera. Sometimes he compiles them into picture books for the cast and crew. Sometimes he posts them to his charmingly old school website. And sometimes he compiles them into coffee table books that you and I can have in our homes. Nick Chen recently interviewed Bridges about his photography.

Dazed: You did The Big Lebowski and True Grit with the Coen Brothers. What do they make of your photography?

Jeff Bridges: I think they get a kick out of it. They’re pretty cool cats. They don’t go overboard with praise or anything. They’re certainly wonderful to work with, and they’re true masters, so I was happy that they gave a stamp of approval on my book. That was nice.

Dazed: Does Roger Deakins ever want a co-credit for doing the lighting?

Jeff Bridges: (laughs) No, he did not ask me. But wow, talk about masters. Isn’t he terrific? My God, he does it just right.

Pictures by Jeff Bridges was released in 2003 and now a follow-up is coming out in mid-October 2019: Jeff Bridges: Pictures Volume 2. (thx, david)

Update: The International Center of Photography honored Bridges with an award in 2013 and produced this video about his photography.

My Recent Media Diet, the “Is It Fall 2019 Already?!” Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2019

Every month or two for the past couple of years, I’ve shared the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. Here’s everything I’ve “consumed” since late June. I’d tell you not to pay too much attention to the letter grades but you’re going to pay too much attention to the letter grades anyway so… (p.s. This list was shared last week in Noticing, kottke.org’s weekly newsletter.)

Fiasco (season one). Slow Burn co-creator Leon Neyfakh explores the Florida recount in the 2000 Presidential election. My key takeaway is not that anyone stole the election but that any halfway close election in the US is fundamentally unfair, can easily be swayed in one direction or another, and violates our 14th Amendment rights. I didn’t enjoy this as much as either season of Slow Burn…perhaps it was too recent for me to emotionally detach. (B+)

The Impossible Whopper. All the people saying that the Impossible patty tastes just like a real burger have either never tasted meat before or don’t pay a whole lot of attention when they eat. It’s the best veggie burger patty I’ve ever had, but it sure ain’t beef. (B)

American Factory. Completely fascinating and straight-forward look at what happens when a Chinese company takes over an old GM factory in Dayton, Ohio. Give this just 5 minutes and you’ll watch the whole thing. (A)

XOXO Festival. Always a creative shot in the arm. (A)

Norman Fucking Rockwell! I tried with this, I really did. I don’t think Lana Del Rey is my cup of tea. (C)

The Handmaid’s Tale (season 3). The show’s producers noticed how much critics praised Elisabeth Moss’s emotional closeups and now season 3 is like 80% just that. Way too much of a good thing. Still, there’s still a good show in here somewhere. (B+)

Do the Right Thing. Somehow still bold and controversial after 30 years. But I confess…I am not sure exactly what the takeaway from this movie is supposed to be. (B+)

Tycho’s 2019 Burning Man Sunrise Set. Always a treat when the latest installment of this series pops online. (A-)

Spider-Man: Far From Home. It was fine but I kept waiting for an extra gear that never came. (B)

Existing Conditions. The drinks here are very precise and well-balanced. Hit ‘em up if you miss Booker & Dax. (B+)

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Excellent and rhymes with the present in a number of ways. I previously shared a bunch of my highlights from the book. (A)

Keep Going by Austin Kleon. A timely little book. (A-)

Stranger Things (season 3). The best part of this show is the 80s nostalgia and they overdid it this season. (B)

Weather. Tycho switched it up with this album by adding vocals. I hated them at first but they’ve grown on me. (B+)

Apollo 11. The first time around I watched this in a terrible theater with bad audio and didn’t care for it. The second time, at home, was so much better. The footage is stunning. (A)

Apollo 11 soundtrack. Love the first track on this. (A-)

Ex Machina. Still gloriously weird. (A-)

Planet Money: So, Should We Recycle? I don’t 100% agree with their conclusions, but it was interesting to think that recycling might not be the most efficient use of our resources. Pair with an earlier episode on how recycling got started in the US. (B)

Chef’s Table (Virgilio Martinez). Central sounds absolutely bonkers. I hope to make it there someday. (B+)

Silicon Cowboys. Compaq took on IBM in the personal computer space and won. The first season of Halt and Catch Fire was inspired in part by their story. (A-)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Needed more plot. (B)

To Kill a Mockingbird. I listened to this on audiobook and am convinced that Sissy Spacek’s narration made it like 20% more compelling. (A)

Metropolis II. I could have watched this for hours. (A)

redwoods

Redwood trees. (A+++)

The Dahlia Garden in Golden Gate Park. One of my favorite places on Earth. (A+)

Mindhunter (season 2). I love this show. (A)

The Clearing. Not the strongest true crime podcast but still worth a listen. (B)

5G. On my phone (iPhone XS, AT&T), anything less than 4 bars of “5GE” basically equals no service. And there’s no way to revert to LTE. (D+)

Atlanta Monster. Started this after watching Mindhunter s02. Too much filler and poor editing in parts. When they started talking to a conspiracy theorist who has been brainwashed by the convicted killer (or something), I had to stop listening. A pity…this story could use a good podcast. (C)

Booksmart. Second viewing and this may be my favorite movie of the year. So fun. (A)

I’ve also been watching Succession and rewatching all five seasons of The Wire (to test a hypothesis that with the hindsight of the past decade, the fifth season is not as outlandish as everyone thought it was at the time). I’ve slowed way down on listening to Guns, Germs, and Steel on audiobook and reading SPQR — both are interesting but not holding my attention so I may end up abandoning them. I watched the first episode of the second season of Big Little Lies when it was first released but might not finish the rest of it; the reviews of this season have not been great.

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

Wes Anderson Explains How He Makes Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2019

For their series The Director’s Chair, Studio Binder pulls together interviews with notable filmmakers to shine some light on how they make their films. In the latest installment, Wes Anderson explains how he writes and directs his uniquely stylistic movies.

The video covers five main points about his approach:

1. Pull from your past.
2. Build a world.
3. Focus on precision & symmetry.
4. Find your spark.
5. Just go shoot.

(#5 is a bit of a head-scratcher. Anderson is pretty much the opposite of a “just go shoot” filmmaker. But I suppose he did have to start somewhere…)

The Four Notes of Death

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2019

When something dark and ominous happens onscreen, there’s a good chance that the action is accompanied by a four-note snippet from the dies irae, a 13th-century Gregorian chant used at funerals. It shows up in The Lion King, The Good Place, Lord of the Rings, and It’s a Wonderful Life. This Vox video explores how this “shorthand for something grim” went from chant to Hollywood.

Think back to some of the most dramatic scenes in film history — from The Lion King, The Shining, It’s a Wonderful Life. Besides being sad or scary, they have something else in common: the dies irae. “Dies irae” translates from Latin to “Day of Wrath” — it’s a 13th-century Gregorian chant describing the day Catholics believe God will judge the living and the dead and send them to heaven or hell. And it was sung during one specific mass: funerals.

Alex Ludwig from the Berklee School of Music made a supercut of over 30 films that use dies irae.

Pixar’s AI Spiders

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2019

As I mentioned in a post about my west coast roadtrip, one of the things I heard about during my visit to Pixar was their AI spiders. For Toy Story 4, the production team wanted to add some dusty ambiance to the antique store in the form of cobwebs.

Toy Story Cobwebs

Rather than having to painstakingly create the webs by hand as they’d done in the past, technical director Hosuk Chang created a swarm of AI spiders that could weave the webs just like a real spider would.

We actually saw the AI spiders in action and it was jaw-dropping to see something so simple, yet so technically amazing to create realistic backgrounds elements like cobwebs. The spiders appeared as red dots that would weave their way between two wood elements just like a real spider would.

All the animators had to do is tell the spiders where the cobwebs needed to be.

“He guided the spiders to where he wanted them to build cobwebs, and they’d do the job for us. And when you see those cobwebs overlaid on the rest of the scene, it gives the audience the sense that this place has been here for a while.” Without that program, animators would have had to make the webs one strand at a time, which would have taken several months. “You have to tell the spider where the connection points of the cobweb should go,” Jordan says, “but then it does the rest.”

Chang and his colleague David Luoh presented a paper about the spiders (and dust) at SIGGRAPH ‘19 in late July (which is unfortunately behind a paywall).

The 25 Most Important Characters of the Past 25 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2019

I love cross-disciplinary lists like this: The 25 Most Important Characters of the Past 25 Years.

We polled critics and other culture obsessives from Slate and beyond to assemble an enormous master list of influential characters. They were animated and live-action, wizard and Muggle, human and avian, fictional and based on actual persons, living and dead. They came from movies, books, TV series, video games, tweets, podcasts, comics, songs, and (in a surprise to us) more than one musical. Reflecting our franchise-driven time, many of them came from many of those media at once. The only rule was that they must have originated in a work of culture sometime in the past quarter-century, which meant no Simpsons or hobbits or diner-dwelling New Yorkers who argue about nothing. Then we ruthlessly winnowed down the list to the most crucial of those characters, the ones who have left an outsize mark on our planet circa 2019, to assemble this new pantheon.

Hermione Granger

Many of my favorite characters made it on there: Thomas Cromwell from Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies; Omar Little from The Wire; Tracy Flick from Election; and Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, a much more inspired pick than the titular hero for reasons I’ve already articulated. The full list is worth a read.

The Opposite of Superman

posted by Tim Carmody   Aug 30, 2019

Namor-the-Sub-Mariner.jpg

The late 1930s were a time of explosive creativity in the comics industry, with the creation of Superman, Batman, and Marvel Comics’ own unlikely fan favorite, Namor, the Sub-Mariner. I enjoyed reading this short précis on Namor in honor of his 80th anniversary.

Namor is less an early superhero than the last of the pulp icons, an antihero who threatened humanity with death and destruction. Unlike Superman, he’s not a secret alien raised by the best of humanity to save us all; he’s a hybrid mutant raised by a nonhuman race here on Earth that regards humanity as overgrown, ill-tempered children. And unlike Zack Snyder antiheroes who have to be twisted from their origin stories to bring them up to date, Watchmen-style, nothing about Namor needs to be changed to make him genuinely menacing, alien, and scary, while retaining his sexy charm. Namor’s just got it going on.

Namor’s film rights have been circuitously tied up for years, so we’ve never seen him on the silver screen. The first hit that always comes up when you search for him is Keanu Reeves, and Keanu at any age wouldn’t make a bad Namor. There’s talk of introducing him into the MCU via the Black Panther franchise, and that’s a great idea as well, since the main thing Black Panther and the Sub-Mariner share is that they’re not really super-heroes; they’re kings.

(Superman is precisely interesting to the extent that he is neither a king nor a god, but a man; these two things are not mutually exclusive. Hollywood’s inability to grasp this is part of why superhero movies have so much trouble, despite being the most dumb-simple megagenre of all time.)

Supercuts of the Stylistic Cues of Master Filmmakers

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 30, 2019

Video essayist Jacob T. Swinney makes makes these great little supercuts of the stylistic habits of filmmakers. His two latest ones are of Barry Jenkins’ close-ups and Christopher Nolan’s wide shots.

Barry Jenkins may be the modern master of the close-up shot. Jenkins’s close-ups are reminiscent of those crafted by the late, great Jonathan Demme — shallow focus with the character looking directly into the camera’s lens. Take it from close-up aficionado, Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson once told Jenkins, “I’m very jealous of your close-ups. There’s a long line of people who have really tried to do Jonathan Demme close-ups and I try all the time, but I have to say, you got it right better than anybody.” In Jenkins’s last two features, MOONLIGHT and IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, the close-ups seem to transcend the narrative of the films. Time seems to stand still as we gaze into the eyes of the characters. They are intimate and profound, and they are simply pure cinema.

For a man whose films cover everything from masked vigilantes, to dream heists, to interdimensional travel, Christopher Nolan is a rather personal and intimate filmmaker. This is expressed in the way that he tends to position his camera. Nolan prefers to keep his camera close to his characters, often hugging their bodies in warm medium shots or close ups. So when Nolan chooses to back off and take a step back from his characters, we are going to feel it. Nolan’s wide shots are obviously beautiful, but what they convey extends far beyond a stunning visual. They convey magnitude and significance, isolation and disorientation.

Swinney has also done supercuts of David Fincher’s wide shots, the sound design of Jurassic Park, the use of shallow focus by Denis Villeneuve, P.T. Anderson’s reflective silence, and Darren Aronofsky’s extreme closeups. May I suggest some women filmmakers for the next round of videos though? Lynne Ramsay and Ava DuVernay for starters…

The Railrodder, Buster Keaton’s Final Silent Film from 1965

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2019

In 1965, long after his days making some of the most iconic and physically demanding silent films, pioneering physical comedian Buster Keaton made one last silent flick with the National Film Board of Canada.

This short film from director Gerald Potterton (Heavy Metal) stars Buster Keaton in one of the last films of his long career. As “the railrodder”, Keaton crosses Canada from east to west on a railway track speeder. True to Keaton’s genre, the film is full of sight gags as our protagonist putt-putts his way to British Columbia. Not a word is spoken throughout, and Keaton is as spry and ingenious at fetching laughs as he was in the old days of the silent slapsticks.

Buster Keaton Rides Again, a 55-minute documentary about the making of The Railrodders, might be even more interesting because you hear Keaton talking about his craft and career.

See also The Scribe, a film that was released the following year that was Keaton’s final starring role, Buster Keaton and the Art of the Gag, the small collection of posts about Keaton here at kottke.org, and this video of some of his most amazing stunts (with a voiceover of Keaton talking about his career):

(thx, marcus)

The 100 Best Movies of the 2010s

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2019

Indiewire is early out of the gate with their list of the 100 best movies of the decade, betting that anything coming out in the next 5 months will not be worthy of inclusion. There are a few eyebrow raisers on there — 75. A Star Is Born? 26. Magic Mike XXL?? 5. Inside Llewyn Davis??? 2. Under the Skin?????!!? (reader, I didn’t like it) — but mostly this list is a goldmine for good movies I haven’t seen. Here are some that I have seen and enjoyed seeing on the list:

92. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
78. Inside Out
72. The Handmaiden
63. Inception
60. Black Panther
37. Roma
32. The Grand Budapest Hotel
23. O.J.: Made in America
13. The Tree of Life
9. Mad Max: Fury Road
7. Carol

I love that Fury Road made its way into the top 10…it might be my favorite film of the past decade.

Update: Also from Indiewire, the 25 Best Movie Scenes of the Decade.

Oh, and I thought of some films that definitely should be on that list but weren’t: Arrival, Dunkirk, Selma, Upstream Color, Senna. And I will continue to stubbornly go to bat for Cloud Atlas.

Trailer for Harriet, the Harriet Tubman Biopic

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2019

Harriet is a biopic about freedom fighter Harriet Tubman coming out in November. Tubman is played by Cynthia Erivo, who looked super familiar but I couldn’t place her…turns out I’d seen her in Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale. Erivo is joined by fellow castmembers Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, and Clarke Peters.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2019

Well, this trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is our first look at Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers and, hmm. I dunno. Hanks looks a little stiff to me, unnatural, but maybe no one could actually play such a beloved childhood figure in a convincing way. I was so young when I watched his show every day for years on end that Mr. Rogers’ movements and mannerisms were imprinted on my super-plastic preschool brain, never to be forgotten. Mr. Rogers tossed his shoe between his hands a little bit differently every day, but he never tossed it like Hanks does in that trailer.

But who am I kidding, I will still see this movie. It’s based on Can You Say…Hero?, a piece that Tom Junod wrote about Rogers for Esquire magazine.

Mister Rogers weighed 143 pounds because he has weighed 143 pounds as long as he has been Mister Rogers, because once upon a time, around thirty-one years ago, Mister Rogers stepped on a scale, and the scale told him that Mister Rogers weighs 143 pounds. No, not that he weighed 143 pounds, but that he weighs 143 pounds…. And so, every day, Mister Rogers refuses to do anything that would make his weight change-he neither drinks, nor smokes, nor eats flesh of any kind, nor goes to bed late at night, nor sleeps late in the morning, nor even watches television-and every morning, when he swims, he steps on a scale in his bathing suit and his bathing cap and his goggles, and the scale tells him that he weighs 143 pounds. This has happened so many times that Mister Rogers has come to see that number as a gift, as a destiny fulfilled, because, as he says, “the number 143 means ‘I love you.’ It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you.’ One hundred and forty-three. ‘I love you.’ Isn’t that wonderful?”

If you’ve never read it, you should…it’s a lovely piece of writing about a wonderful human. I reread it every year or so, just to fill up my cup.

How Alfonso CuarĂ³n Uses Long Takes in His Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 17, 2019

Filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón has become the modern director most associated with the long take. In this video, The Royal Ocean Film Society takes a look at the long shots in his films, from Great Expectations to Gravity to Roma and considers how his approach evolves over time and what separates them from the use of long takes as “an obnoxious mainstream gimmick”.

All of the sequences discussed in the video are available to watch in full length here.

(I looked up Cuarón’s filmography and noticed he’s only directed 5 films in the past 20 years and only 8 total. I would have guessed more.)

Character Routing Maps of Famous Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Illustrator Andrew DeGraff makes what he calls Cinemaps, maps of movies and their plots in the style of the dotted-line wanderings of The Family Circus comic strip or Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map. He’s done maps for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Princess Bride.

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

My favorite DeGraff drawing is probably Back to the Future, with Hill Valley represented twice on the same page: 1955 in pink underneath 1985 in blue.

Cinemaps

DeGraff collected these maps (and several more) into a book called Cinemaps. (via fairly interesting)

The Shining Starring Jim Carrey

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Taking advantage of inexpensive and easy-to-use software, deepfake artist Ctrl Shift Face has replaced Jack Nicholson’s face with Jim Carrey’s face in several scenes from The Shining. If you pay close attention it looks a little off — it’s not as good as the Bill Hader / Arnold Schwarzenegger one — but if you were unaware of Nicholson or The Shining going in, you probably wouldn’t notice.

These Shining videos are clever and fun and we’ve talked a little bit about how deepfakes might affect our society, but this Hannah Arendt quote from a 1974 interview is likely relevant:

If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

This is the incredible and interesting and dangerous thing about the combination of our current technology, the internet, and mass media: “a lying government” is no longer necessary — we’re doing it to ourselves and anyone with sufficient motivation will be able to take advantage of people without the capacity to think and judge.

Deflating the Black Director Boom of the 1990s

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 12, 2019

Dickerson.jpg

In the early 1990s, there was a mini-boom of films made by black filmmakers. Spike Lee and John Singleton led the way, but there was also Ernest Dickerson (who’d been Lee’s director of photography), Julie Dash, Matty Rich, Darnell Martin, and more. The New York Times talked to a good-sized group of these directors about their careers, and how each of them, separately, found themselves in “director jail,” unable to get new projects or find new collaborators. It’s a pretty riveting conversation.

Dickerson is a favorite of mine — in addition to directing Juice and working as DP during Lee’s great period, from She’s Got To Have It to Malcolm X, he’s done terrific work for television. Here’s his story:

I made a movie called “Bulletproof,” with Damon Wayans and Adam Sandler. Working on that film was the only time I ever got mad enough to punch a hole in the editing room wall. It was supposed to be a raunchy, R-rated comedy slanted more for an adult audience. But I could see we had trouble when they were giving out tickets to 15- to 16-year-old kids at the first preview. Afterward, I had to really sanitize the relationships. It meant savaging the movie.

It still opened at No. 1, but I got the worst reviews of my career. I was criticized for not having everything I was told to take out. I had several projects lined up — I had been developing “Blade,” with Wesley Snipes. The whole idea of where “Blade” went was mine. But the producers looked to “Bulletproof” and thought I had completely lost my street cred. After that, nobody would touch me. I think I’m still in jail, in a way, because I’m doing television. [Dickerson — like many of his peers, including Martin and Dash — has found work on the small screen, with credits on “The Wire” and “The Walking Dead.”] I consider myself a filmmaker who’s working in television.

A common thread through all of the stories is articulated by Ted Witcher:

White people get more bites of the apple. That’s just true. You can fail three, four times and still have a career. But if you’re black, you really can only fail once.

Christopher Walken Can Dance

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2019

This is an older clip so maybe you’ve seen it before, but if you need something a little bit fun & joyful today, you can’t do much better than this video of Christopher Walken dancing in dozens of his movies, edited together to C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat”.

Walken is, of course, a wonderful dancer…a throwback to the “Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, dance on air” era of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. See also Walken dancing in Spike Jonze’s video for Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice.

10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2019

Japanese public broadcaster NHK has produced a four-part documentary on legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki called 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki. The behind-the-scenes film follows Miyazaki as he made his last two films for Studio Ghibli, Ponyo and The Wind Rises. Here’s the synopsis of the first episode:

An exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the genius of Japan’s foremost living film director, Hayao Miyazaki — creator of some of the world’s most iconic and enduring anime feature films. Miyazaki allowed a single documentary filmmaker to shadow him at work, as he dreamed up characters and plot lines for what would become his 2008 blockbuster, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.” Miyazaki explores the limits of his physical ability and imagination to conjure up memorable protagonists.

The whole show is available to watch online at NHK with English subtitles and narration.

See also Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki. (thx, yuko)