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kottke.org posts about movies

Why Can’t I Hear The Movie?

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 06, 2021

boom-mic-and-movie-camera.png

In theory, this should be a golden age for movie sound. There’s better digital recording and mixing equipment than ever, theaters are incentivized to offer a premiere experience, and home theater equipment is more expensive, elaborate, and ubiquitous.

But many viewers report that even simple intelligibility of movie sound is worse than ever. In “Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It)”, Slashfilm’s Ben Pearson tried to break down the various causes of the problem and propose some solutions. It’s a thorough (and quite enjoyable) read.

Some of the sound problems just have to do with plain incorrigibility of the people involved: directors (Christopher Nolan is singled out) and actors who pride themselves on arty unintelligibility. There’s also some incompetence: movie houses who’ve let go of skilled projectionists and play the movie back too low (often if someone complained it was too loud), or filmmakers who rush through a shoot or a mix counting on the fact that they’ll be able to pick up the sound later. And sure, we’re probably overromanticizing our youth, when everything was pure and clear (but really made by the same kind of hacks still in charge of the movie business).

The more interesting problems, however, really are structural. For instance, remixing a movie for streaming (when you can afford to do a proper second mix), often bumps up against not just digital compression, but the fact that competing streaming services have no single standard for sound quality and mixes:

Compression is inescapable when streaming is involved, but it turns out not all streaming platforms are created equal. Craig Mann tells me something he says “is not well-known” outside the sound community: different streamers have different specifications when it comes to their audio mixes. “Netflix has excellent specs in terms of dialogue norm and overall levels,” he reveals. “They need a particular level in order to pass quality control, and the level is essentially based on the dialogue level throughout the length of the program.”

But since there’s no industry standard in how to measure audio for streaming, other platforms base their levels on other parts of the sound mix. Case in point: Mann recently worked on Joe Carnahan’s “Boss Level,” which was originally meant to be a theatrical release. “For a variety of reasons, it ended up at Hulu, and when we got a look at that spec, they require it to be based on the overall [volume] of the film, not on the dialogue level of the film. Consequently, that’s a big action movie with shooting and cars and big music, and the result of that is that you have a much more squashed up, un-impactful mix … there are only a couple different ways of measuring these things these days, and I can only imagine that it’s somebody just not understanding the reason why it should be this and not that.”

As for downmixing the streaming service for stereo, well, as Pearson writes:

For audio mixers, the theatrical mix comes first, followed by a streaming mix. Then, a stereo mix will often be created, funneling the full scope of the sound mix through just two simple speakers in a process Donald Sylvester likens to “taking a beautiful steak and dragging it through the dirt.”

As for solving the problem of unintelligibility and bad sound experiences, it mostly boils down to having more respect for and a better understanding of sound, from preproduction to the algorithms that serve up a mix to your TV set or headset. No easy fixes, just time and craftmanship. (In other words, don’t hold your breath.)

What Movies Can Teach Us About Mozart’s Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 01, 2021

Typically, we think of music in movies in terms of what the music adds to the visuals. Music often tells us how to feel about what we’re seeing — it sets the mood and provides an emotional context. But, as Evan Puschak details in this video, you can also learn something about music (Mozart, in this case) from the way in which talented directors and music producers deploy it in movies, particularly when they use it unconventionally.

[These films and TV shows] teach us something about the Lacrimosa. They open up doors in the music that maybe even Mozart didn’t see. This is what’s so cool about movies — they bring art forms together and, in these collisions, it’s possible to see some really beautiful sparks.

Objects

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2021

Objects is a film about the type of person who holds onto things as “a way to keep a treasured record of their lives”. The trailer is embedded above and here is a statement from filmmaker Vincent Liota:

The idea to make Objects came from a phone conversation I had back in 2014 with a long-time friend and collaborator, Robert Krulwich.

We mused about how we had saved objects for years that seemed precious to us, yet had no intrinsic value. Often, we came to own these things accidentally… mementos from an important moment in our lives or objects that evoke a time shared with a loved one. Over the years, these objects gained great significance; some we had each held onto for many decades. To us ‘keepers’ this seemed… natural.

Of course, not everyone shares this quirk. Take both our spouses, who do not hold onto things from the past. For them, objects simply have no resonance or meaning.

Why? What was it that made certain things so important to some people?

Objects is available to stream online at DOC NYC until November 28.

While I’m much more of a person who does not want a lot of possessions, I have keeping tendencies as well — old photos, favorite books I read to my kids when they were tiny, postcards from friends, 90s internet swag, the computer I built the first version of kottke.org on, and nearly every drawing, sculpture, and painting my kids have ever made for me, not to mention keeping online and public every single post I’ve made on kottke.org since March 1998. (via rob walker)

Don’t Look Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2021

Somehow, I missed the teaser trailer for Don’t Look Up a couple months back, but the official trailer just came out yesterday. Directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short, Vice) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio & Jennifer Lawrence (and Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, and Timothée Chalamet), Don’t Look Up is a comedy about what happens when scientific fact (in the form of a planet-killing comet) slams into the fantasy worlds of politics and entertainment media. Just because you can’t spin Newton’s laws of motion doesn’t mean you can’t try!

Nothing, absolutely nothing whatsoever, about this movie is related to current events, nope, no sir. *sobbing intensifies* (I love disaster movies and will 100% see this even though it will probably be completely enraging.)

Julia: A Documentary Film About Julia Child

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2021

Directed by Betsy West & Julie Cohen (who previously did RBG), Julia is a documentary film that chronicles the life of Julia Child, perhaps the first and still most famous celebrity chef.

Using never-before-seen archival footage, personal photos, first-person narratives, and cutting-edge, mouth-watering food cinematography, the film traces Julia Child’s surprising path, from her struggles to create and publish the revolutionary Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) which has sold more than 2.5 million copies to date, to her empowering story of a woman who found fame in her 50s, and her calling as an unlikely television sensation.

The film opened in theaters a couple of weeks ago and is getting great reviews (98% on Rotten Tomatoes).

The Beauty of Denis Villeneuve’s Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2021

Dune. Arrival. Blade Runner 2049. Sicario. The films of director Denis Villeneuve are filled with incredible cinematography. Some of the best shots are showcased in this 6-minute video accompanied by the haunting strains of Max Richter.

This is from a YouTube channel called The Beauty Of, which has many similar videos featuring the cinematography of movies, TV shows, and video games. Like Studio Ghibli movies, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Wire, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, and The Queen’s Gambit.

The Dutch Angle

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2021

These days, movies, TV shows, and even commercials all use something called the Dutch angle,1 a filmmaking technique where the camera is angled to produce a tilted scene, often to highlight that something is not quite right. The technique originated in Germany, inspired by Expressionist painters.

It was pioneered by German directors during World War I, when outside films were blocked from being shown in Germany. Unlike Hollywood, which was serving up largely glamorous, rollicking films, the German film industry took inspiration from the Expressionist movement in art and literature, which was focused on processing the insanity of world war. Its themes touched on betrayal, suicide, psychosis, and terror. And Expressionist films expressed that darkness not just through their plotlines, but their set designs, costumes… and unusual camera shots.

This got me thinking about my favorite shot from Black Panther, this camera roll in the scene where Killmonger takes the Wakandan throne:

It’s the Dutch angle but even more dynamic and it blew me away the first time I saw it. I poked around a little to see if this particular move had been done before (if director Ryan Coogler and cinematographer Rachel Morrison were referencing something specific) and I found Christopher Nolan (although I’d argue that he uses it in a slightly different way) and Stranger Things (in the scene starting at 1:33). Anywhere else?

  1. As with Pennsylvania Dutch, the Dutch in Dutch angle is a bastardization of Deutsch (German).

David Fincher’s VOIR

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2021

A few weeks ago, I posted about David Fincher’s new project with Netflix. Unfortunately, it’s not a third season of Mindhunter. But, here’s what it is: a 6-episode series of visual essays about movies and filmmaking, not unlike the YouTube videos I post here all the time (many of which you can find under the film school tag).

VOIR is a series of visual essays celebrating Cinema and the personal connection we each have to the stories we see on the big screen. From intimate personal histories to insights on character and craft, each episode reminds us why Cinema holds a special place in our lives.

Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos of the dearly missed Every Frame a Painting are contributing to at least one of these visual essays, so that right here is reason enough to rejoice. VOIR drops Dec 6 on Netflix.

8-Bit Christmas

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2021

8-Bit Christmas is a Christmas movie set in the 80s starring Neil Patrick Harris and centered around the Nintendo Entertainment System that seems to be hitting the Christmas Story, Doogie Howser, Stranger Things, Princess Bride, The Wizard, and Goonies nostalgia buttons all at the same time. As someone who was roughly the age of the movie’s child protagonist when the NES came out,1 this movie is directed squarely at me, I will probably watch it, and I cannot see how it can possibly be good. But…maybe?

  1. I am not exactly sure when I got my first Nintendo, but I do know it was early enough to get the Deluxe Set with R.O.B., the Zapper gun, Gyromite, and Duck Hunt. I also got Super Mario Bros. at the same time. My recollection was that I used some money I had saved up from my confirmation to buy it, but I’m not sure that lines up with the timeline. Maybe I got it for Xmas? Whatever the case, it was a big deal…it was by far the most expensive thing I’d ever owned and the first video game system our family had. I played that thing into the ground for years and years afterward.

Wes Anderson: Sharp & Precise, Not Twee

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2021

The French Dispatch

I saw The French Dispatch last night and really liked it. Then I read Cassie da Costa’s review/appreciation of the film and I think I like it even more now.

With all due respect to Ganz and other dissenting critics, who are well within their rights to dislike Dispatch or the general direction Anderson’s work is headed in, there is nothing childish or superficial about the film. The similarly maligned-for-her-tastes Sofia Coppola showed us in Marie Antoinette that teas, cakes, and even childhood (or teenagedom) are not frivolous subjects, not even when rendered with ostentatiously luxurious styling. Such exercises in not plainly depicting a set of ideas but entangling them in a detailed visual makeup are best done in films, and for good reason — a medium as prolonged as it is abridged, it ideally requires audience members’ sustained and close observation.

“Sustained and close observation” nails it. I wasn’t bored for a single second during The French Dispatch — more like rapt. I love films that reward paying attention — it’s a form of love, don’t you know.

Finch? Finch.

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2021

Finch is a movie starring Tom Hanks, whose character befriends a dog in post-apocalyptic America and then builds a robot to protect the dog. It’s like Short Circuit meets I Am Legend meets Turner and Hooch meets Castaway meets Terminator 2. The only reason I am telling you about this preposterous-sounding entertainment product is that David Ehrlich (who is responsible for the epic movie recaps I post every year) wrote a mostly favorable review of it. The star of the show, says Ehrlich, is Jeff, the dog’s robot bodyguard:

Dewey sets the tone as the first of Finch’s manufactured friends. An articulating arm that’s attached to a metal cube on wheels, the prototype is lovable despite being only lightly anthropomorphized, and the decision to cast him as a 100-percent practical animatronic makes it that much easier for your eyes to accept that Jeff is just as real (Jones’ on-set motion-capture work and top-notch CGI help to complete the illusion). From the moment Finch powers him up, there isn’t a doubt in your mind. In fact, Jeff is so tactile and endearing that a more adorable design might have risked a kind of overkill; essentially an oblong, gourd-like orange cushion affixed with two protruding camera eyes and squished on top of a giant chassis of exposed titanium joints, Finch’s magnum opus doesn’t seem like the solution to all his problems so much as a robot Cousin Greg who’s been programmed with Asimov’s Three Laws plus a prime directive to “protect dog above all else.” He can only be loved for his potential.

It’s streaming on Apple+ starting this Friday. I might….watch it?

An Animated Music Video for a Jarvis Cocker Cover, Directed by Wes Anderson

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2021

Wes Anderson has directed a stylish animated music video for Jarvis Cocker’s lovely cover of Christophe’s “Aline”, which was a big hit in France in the summer of 1965. The video, illustrated by Javi Aznarez, also doubles as a trailer/moving poster of sorts for the film in which the song appears, Anderson’s own The French Dispatch.

The song appears on the soundtrack for The French Dispatch, as well as on an album called Chansons d’Ennui Tip-Top, a collection of French pop songs covered by Cocker in character as Tip-Top, the character he voices in the movie. (via open culture)

The Beach, a “Infinity-Looping Experience” from A24

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2021

The Beach is a documentary from Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton that documents his time living on a isolated beach in order to “transform his life through the healing power of nature”. From the looks of the trailer, it’s a little bit ASMR combined with slow TV — A24 is playing the film in a continuous loop (an “infinity-looping experience”) from November 22-28 so you can just dip in and out of it during the week. More info here and here. Looks beautiful. More cool weird stuff like this please. (via craig mod)

Unstuck In Time, a Documentary Film About Kurt Vonnegut

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2021

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time is a feature length documentary on the life and works of the titular author. It’s…been in the works for awhile:

In 1982, a young filmmaker wrote a letter to his literary idol, proposing a documentary on the author’s life and work. Kurt Vonnegut soon met with Robert Weide and authorized the production. Weide thought it would take a few months to raise the needed financing, and figured a film could be completed within the year. That was 33 years ago.

The trailer is embedded above and the film will be released in theaters and on-demand on November 19th. (via austin kleon)

Analyzing the Health Risks in James Bond Movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2021

James Bond looking sick

A group of epidemiologists have analyzed all 25 James Bond movies to assess the risks Bond encounters on his travels around the globe.

The result is a highly entertaining, tongue-in-cheek short paper in the journal Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. The paper details 007’s exposure risk to infectious agents during his global travels, covering everything from foodborne pathogens to ticks and mites, hangovers and dehydration from all those martinis, parasites, and unsafe sex.

Some of the findings include that 007 should wash his hands more often, frequently risks dehydration and heatstroke due to improper hydration, often engages in unsafe sex with partners whose sexual histories are unknown to him, and endangers his sexual partners (“27.1% of them died shortly after sex”). My favorite finding is the speculation that Bond contracted Toxoplasmosis1 from a cat in From Russia With Love and that’s why he engages in risky behavior all the time:

The biggest stretch in Graumans et al.’s analysis is that of feline-borne Toxoplasmosis, a parasite carried by cats. Those who contract the parasite tend to exhibit reckless behavior, such as mice losing their fear of cats. Bond engages in all manner of reckless behavior, and the authors suggest he may have contracted the parasite from Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s fluffy white Persian cat (featured in both From Russia With Love and Spectre). The possibility is admittedly far-fetched, but isn’t that the essence of a good Bond film?

  1. I will take any opportunity to remind you of one of my favorite things I’ve ever posted: a short talk by Kevin Slavin about how the Toxoplasma gondii may be responsible for viral videos.

Lightyear

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2021

Pixar is doing an origin story prequel of Toy Story called Lightyear. The teaser trailer is above. Chris Evans is taking over from Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz. Release date is sometime next summer. Like the folks at Polygon, I too am confused about the time bending that seems to be going on here:

does the existence of a #RealBuzzLightyear zipping through space in the far future imply that the world of Toy Story is also set in the far future

And:

That doesn’t mean he’s a real guy. Toy Story is not set in a world where aliens are just real and that’s fine with everyone. That isn’t a thing in those films. That’s just not the case. We would know if it were.

Is the movie going to explain any of this? Or is everyone just overthinking an (absurdly beautiful and expensive) kids cartoon movie (that likely has themes and humor that will resonate with adults)? Or or am I just yearning for some fun, dumb, low-stakes online arguments to replace the dangerous, dumb, and high-stakes online, uh, discourse? that we’re subjected to 24/7/365/2021/?????? (I think the answer to all of these is “yes”.)

A Celebration of Opening Title Sequences

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2021

From Patrick Willems, a history and celebration/defense of movie opening title sequences. They have fallen out of favor over the past decade or two, but Willems argues they serve a needed purpose. For instance, opening title sequences can set the tone or theme of the film before it even gets started — that’s what Saul Bass set out to do:

a quote from Sual Bass on title design

Bass called this “creating a climate for the story”. Here’s one of Willems’ favorite opening sequences by Bass, from 1966’s Grand Prix, which I’d somehow never seen before and is fantastic:

Me? I love opening title sequences. (Except when they are bad and too long.) But I also love when the movie starts right away. And when the movie starts right away and then you get a title card like 8 minutes into it. I’m a fan of anything when it’s done well. *shrugs*

P.S. You can check out hundreds of great examples of opening title sequences at Art of the Title.

How Radiohead Wrote the Perfect Bond Theme

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2021

For his YouTube channel Listening In, Barnaby Martin analyzed the theme that Radiohead wrote for the 2015 Bond film Spectre, a song that he calls “one of the greatest Bond themes ever written”. Somewhat notoriously (at least around these parts), the producers rejected this theme in favor of a lukewarm by Sam Smith.

After watching Martin’s video, you should watch the Spectre opening credits sequence with the Radiohead theme — it’s so much better than the theme they used in the film.

Star Wars Oil Paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters and the Millennium Falcon

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters and the Death Star

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters

Check out these expressive impressionist oil paintings of scenes from Star Wars by Naci Caba. (He also does paintings of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.) Seeing futuristic sci-fi rendered in this medium is giving me a bit of cognitive dissonance.

You can buy prints and even the original oil paintings in his shop or at Etsy. (via digg)

The Most Important Device in the Universe

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

You’ve probably seen it: a dual-tubed generator console that’s appeared in movies and TV shows like Star Trek (all of them, pretty much), Knight Rider, V, Austin Powers, The Last Starfighter, and even Airplane II. This prop was originally built in the 70s and in the decades since has been placed in scenes requiring an impressive piece of high-tech equipment. The video above is a compilation of scenes in which the console has appeared (parts two & three of the compilation).

The Trailer for The Beatles: Get Back

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

If you’re even just a little bit interested in The Beatles, popular music, or making creative work, The Beatles: Get Back looks really good. Directed by Peter Jackson and utilizing dozens of hours of footage shot in 1969, this six-hour series documents the Beatles recording Let It Be, their final studio album release, and playing their infamous rooftop concert. The series premieres on Disney+ on November 25 and an accompanying book is out now.

Previously: a six-minute preview of the series introduced by Jackson.

The Walk of Life Hypothesis

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

The Walk of Life Project has set out to prove a simple hypothesis: Walk of Life by Dire Straits is the perfect song to end any movie. Like There Will Be Blood:

Or Dr. Strangelove:

Or Terminator 2:

Case closed, I think! (via fave 5)

The Short Horror Film Hidden in Spider-Man 2

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2021

I love Evan Puschak’s short analysis of a two-and-a-half minute scene from Sam Raimi’s 2004 film, Spider-Man 2. Raimi, a horror movie veteran, basically snuck a tight horror sequence into a PG-13 superhero movie — it’s a little cheesy, bloodless, and terrifying.

Trailer for PT Anderson’s Licorice Pizza

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2021

I don’t know anything about this film but if you like PT Anderson, you’ll probably like this. From the synopsis:

“Licorice Pizza” is the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and falling in love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973. Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the film tracks the treacherous navigation of first love.

Limited release in theaters on Nov 26, opens wide on Dec 25.

One Complaint Per Table

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2021

Laura Olin is right; this recorded lunch conversation with Orson Welles from 1983 is well worth a read. I mean:

Waiter: Gentlemen, bon appétit. How is everything?

O.W.: We’re talking, thank you. [Waiter leaves.] I wish they wouldn’t do that. If I ever own a restaurant, I will never allow the waiters to ask if the diners like their dishes. Particularly when they’re talking.

H.J.: What is wrong with your food?

O.W.: It’s not what I had yesterday.

H.J.: You want to try to explain this to the waiter?

O.W.: No, no, no. One complaint per table is all, unless you want them to spit in the food. Let me tell you a story about George Jean Nathan, America’s great drama critic. Nathan was the tightest man who ever lived, even tighter than Charles Chaplin. And he lived for 40 years in the Hotel Royalton, which is across from the Algonquin. He never tipped anybody in the Royalton, not even when they brought the breakfast, and not at Christmastime. After about ten years of never getting tipped, the room-service waiter peed slightly in his tea. Everybody in New York knew it but him. The waiters hurried across the street and told the waiters at Algonquin, who were waiting to see when it would finally dawn on him what he was drinking! And as the years went by, there got to be more and more urine and less and less tea. And it was a great pleasure for us in the theater to look at a leading critic and know that he was full of piss. And I, with my own ears, heard him at the ‘21’ complaining, saying, “Why can’t I get tea here as good as it is at the Royalton?” That’s when I fell on the floor, you know.

And this bit, about how people used to treat going to the movies like reading a magazine or flipping on the TV, is fascinating:

H.J.: Warren Beatty was just saying that TV has changed movies, because for most of us, once you’re in a movie theater, you commit, whether you like it or not. You want to see what they’ve done, while at home …

O.W.: I’m the opposite. It’s a question of age. In my real moviegoing days, which were the thirties, you didn’t stand in line. You strolled down the street and sallied into the theater at any hour of the day or night. Like you’d go in to have a drink at a bar. Every movie theater was partially empty. We never asked what time the movie began. We used to go after we went to the theater.

H.J.: You didn’t feel you had to see a movie from the start?

O.W.: No. We’d leave when we’d realize, “This is where we came in.” Everybody said that. I loved movies for that reason. They didn’t cost that much, so if you didn’t like one, it was, “Let’s do something else. Go to another movie.” And that’s what made it habitual to such an extent that walking out of a movie was what for people now is like turning off the television set.

The Most Difficult Shot in Movie History (And Why It Matters)

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2021

I don’t know if a 10-second sequence of a plane landing in one of Brian De Palma’s worst films properly qualifies as “The Most Difficult Shot in Movie History”, but the story behind it is genuinely interesting. The logistics of having only 30 seconds out of an entire year to get this exact shot of the setting sun and coordinating that with a landing supersonic jet at one of the world’s busiest airports are certainly daunting. As Patrick Willems notes in his commentary, this shot also signifies the end of an era in the film industry.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2021

Welp, from the small glimpses we get in this trailer, Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, looks pretty fantastic. Out in theaters on Dec 25, streaming on Apple+ Jan 14.

My Recent Media Diet, the Summer/Fall Switchover Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2021

Oh, I’ve let it go too long again. It’s been almost four months since I’ve done one of these media roundups and there’s lots to share. If you’re just joining us — welcome but WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN THO?! — I do a post like this every few months with short reviews of all the movies, books, music, TV show, podcasts, and other things I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. The letter grades are very subjective and inconsistent — sorry! Ok, here’s what I have for you today.

The Land That Never Has Been Yet. This podcast series by Scene on Radio on American democracy is essential listening. The episode on how a small group of libertarians have had an outsized influence on American life is especially interesting and maddening. (A)

The Legend of Korra. Watched this with the kids and we all enjoyed it. (B+)

The Expanse. A little uneven sometimes, but mostly compelling. I’ve got crushes on about 4 different people on this show. (B)

Galaxy Quest. The teens were skeptical about this one, but Alan Rickman’s presence won them over. I love this movie. (A)

The Truffle Hunters. The first movie I’ve seen in the theater since March 2020. The pace of the film is, uh, contemplative — I never would have lasted more than 10 minutes if I’d started watching this at home — but full of wonderful little moments. (B+)

The Ezra Klein Show, interview with Agnes Callard. I don’t catch every episode of Klein’s podcast, but this interview with Agnes Callard was particularly wide-ranging and good — I want to know her opinion on anything and everything. (A-)

NBC Sports’ Premier League recaps. I don’t get to watch as much football as I’d like, but I look forward to catching up with all the action at the end of the day. A lot of the networks’ recaps are pretty shabby — incomplete, rushed, no goal replays — but the ones from NBC Sports are really good. You see each of the goals (and significant near-misses) from multiple angles and get a real sense of the flow of the match. (A-)

Nomadland. I didn’t seem to like this quite as much as everyone else did. Frances McDormand is excellent as usual. (B+)

Mare of Easttown. Kate Winslet. I mean, what else do you have to say? I raced through this. (A)

Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation. Great exhibition at the MFA of one of the golden ages of NYC. (A-)

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis. It’s a little early to write the definitive book on what went so wrong in America with the pandemic, but Lewis did about as well as can be expected. The CDC doesn’t fare well in his telling. (A-)

Alice Neel: People Come First. Great show at the Met of an outstanding portraitist. (A-)

Nixon at War. The third part of the excellent podcast series on the LBJ & Nixon presidencies. Nixon’s Watergate downfall began with the Vietnam War…when Nixon committed treason to prolong the war to win elected office. (A)

Rashomon. Hard to believe this was made in 1950. A film out of time. (A-)

Velcro ties. Unobtrusive and super handy for organizing cords — wish I’d gotten these sooner. (B+)

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché. Documentary about film director French film director Alice Guy-Blaché, who pioneered so much of what became the modern film industry, first in France and then in the United States. (B+)

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. Compelling dystopian science fiction from Nobel-winner Ishiguro. An interesting companion book to The Remains of the Day. (A-)

Handshake Speakeasy. Super creative and delicious. Maybe the best new bar I’ve been to in years. (A)

The Fugitive. Great film…still holds up almost 30 years later. (A)

Speed. This doesn’t hold up quite as well as The Fugitive but is still entertaining. (B+)

Edge of Tomorrow. Underrated action/sci-fi movie. (A)

No Sudden Move. Solid crime caper movie from Soderbergh. Don Cheadle and Benicio del Toro are both excellent. (B+)

Black Widow. Struck the right tone for the character. Florence Pugh was great. (B+)

Summer of Soul. Wonderful documentary about 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival. Director Questlove rightly puts the music front and center but cleverly includes lots of footage of people watching too (a la the Spielberg Face). Beyonce’s Homecoming used this to great effect as well. (A)

Loki. Loved the design and architecture of the TVA. Great use of color elsewhere as well. (B+)

Nanette. Very clever and powerful. (A)

Fleabag (season two). Perhaps the best ever season of television? (A+)

Consider the Oyster by MFK Fisher. The highest compliment I can pay this book is that it almost made me hungry for oysters even though I do not care for them. (B+)

The Green Knight. Even after reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and seeing this movie, I’m not entirely sure I know what this story is trying to convey, thematically or metaphorically, or if it’s even that entertaining. (B)

The Dark Knight Rises. Probably sacrilege, but this is my favorite of the Nolan Batmen. (A)

Bridge of Spies. Mark Rylance was superb in this and Spielberg’s (and Janusz Kamiński’s) mastery is always fun to watch. (B+)

Luca. A fun & straightforward Pixar movie without a big moral of the story. (B+)

Solar Power. Not my favorite Lorde album. (B-)

Reminiscence. I have already forgotten the plot to this. (B-)

The ocean. Got to visit the ocean three times this summer. One of my favorite things in the world. (A+)

The White Lotus. Didn’t really care for the first two episodes and then was bored and tried to watch the third — only made it halfway through. I “finished” it by reading Vulture recaps. Why do people like this show? (C-)

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes. Between Emily Wilson, Madeline Miller, and now Natalie Haynes, I’ve gained a unique understanding of the Iliad and Odyssey. (B+)

TWA Hotel. A marvelous space. (A-)

Turbo. Like Cars + Ratatouille but by Dreamworks and with Snoop Dogg. (C)

Laserwriter II by Tamara Shopsin. A love letter to NYC, printers, Apple computers, and the late, great Tekserve. Another banger from Shopsin. (A)

Donda. Beeping out all the swear words while managing to keep the misogyny in seems apt for an artifact of contemporary American Christianity. Too long and very uneven, I hate that I really love parts of this album. (D+/A-)

Certified Lover Boy. Same ol’ same ol’ from the easy listening rapper. Nothing on here that I wanted to listen to a second time. (C-)

The Great British Baking Show. I’ve only seen bits of one season so far (#6), but I can see why so many people love this show. It’s the perfect combination of soothing but competitive and about a topic that everyone loves — baked goods. (B+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

The Texas Switch

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2021

The Texas Switch is a filmmaking technique in which an actor and stunt person are switched seamlessly during a single shot — the actor steps out of the frame or behind a prop and the stunt person steps in (or vice versa). The lack of cutting keeps the narrative going and helps to obscure the switcheroo. The video above contains many great examples. of the technique.

See also some Texas Switches from James Bond movies. (via storythings)

Black Film Archive

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2021

Black Film Archive

Black Film Archive is a collection of links to films made by Black filmmakers & actors from 1915 to 1979 that are available to stream online. Maya Cade writes about why she created this archive.

The films collected on Black Film Archive have something significant to say about the Black experience; speak to Black audiences; and/or have a Black star, writer, producer, or director. This criterion for selection is as broad and inclusive as possible, allowing the site to cover the widest range of what a Black film can be.

The films listed here should be considered in conversation with each other, as visions of Black being on film across time. They express what only film can: social, anthropological, and aesthetic looks at the changing face of Black expression (or white attitudes about Black expression, which are inescapable given the whiteness of decision-makers in the film industry).

Films, by their very nature, require a connection between creator and audience. This relationship provides a common thread that is understood through conventional and lived knowledge to form thought and to consider. Not every filmmaker is speaking directly to Blackness or Black people or has the intention to. Some films listed carry a Black face to get their message across. But presented here, these films offer a full look into the Black experience, inferred or real, on-screen.

What a great open resource — exactly what the internet is for. You can read more about the archive on Vulture and NPR.