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Join or Die

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2024

Join or Die is a documentary about the life, work, and ideas of Robert Putnam, popularizer of the concept of social capital and author of the prescient Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

How many times last year did you go to church? How many times did you go to a dinner party? How many times last year did you go to club meeting? In barely a couple of decades, half of all the civic infrastructure in America has simply vanished. It’s equivalent to say half of all the roads in America just disappeared.

(via colossal)

The Superb Owl Trailers

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 11, 2024

Here are all the cool new movie trailers that they played during The Big Game™. Or, the ones that I give a shit about anyway. First up, Deadpool and Wolverine:

Did I even see the second Deadpool movie? Does it matter? I’ll see this one. Next: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.

Apes in charge, running down the humans? I’m in. There’s also Despicable Me 4 (a franchise I like more than I care to admit), The Fall Guy (based on the 80s TV show I very much didn’t watch; starring, somehow, Ryan Gosling & Emily Blunt — I hope this is a pleasant surprise), and Twisters (the Twister sequel no one asked for).

Stinge Watching Is the Opposite of Binge Watching

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 09, 2024

a screencap of the cast of Schitt's Creek walking with a pause symbol over it

Last weekend, my daughter and I watched all 8 episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians on Disney+. We binged it. That’s how people watch TV shows now: streaming services have entire shows available at the click of the “next episode” button. Many shows are uploaded a whole season at a time for maximum bingeability — no need to wait more than the time it takes to skip the credits to continue the story. It’s an all-you-can-eat media buffet. The mechanics and economics of streaming media have changed how we watch TV and movies — the binge watch reigns supreme.

But recently, I’ve found myself watching some shows in a much different way. When I find a new show I really like or I’m digging into the newest season of a favorite series, instead of getting hooked and then blasting through all the available episodes, I’ll slow down or even stop watching so as to prolong the pleasure…or to delay the end. I feel like a squirrel, hoarding nuts for the winter. It’s stinge watching instead of binge watching.

Schitt’s Creek was the first show I recall stinge watching. I just didn’t want to stop spending time with those people and so I went from watching 1-2 episodes per day to a few a week. The final season’s 14 episodes probably took me longer to watch than the first three seasons put together. I’ve also done this with The Great British Bake-off, The Expanse, and Silo. And it’s gotten worse — right now, I’m in the middle of four different shows that I am loving but cannot bring myself to actually watch: Reservation Dogs (love those shitasses), For All Mankind (haven’t watched the last episode of the most recent season), Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (stalled out on the second-to-last episode of s01), and The Great (I stopped in the middle of an episode where something Very Dramatic happens and I just can’t seem to continue).

Wondering if anyone else has been stinge watching and curious about what their motivations might be, I asked about it on Instagram and found that dozens of others swim against the fierce current of binge watching…and even stinge read books.1 The Sopranos, Ted Lasso, The Wire, Firefly, Escape at Dannemora, Fleishman Is in Trouble, The Bear, Griselda, and Brooklyn 99 were all cited as shows too good to keep watching. One reader told me she still hasn’t watched the end of Schitt’s Creek “because those characters all grew so much and I knew the last episode would be really emotional and I wanted to avoid crying”.

This was a common theme amongst the stinge watchers, particularly with series finales. Digital media producer Micaela Mielniczenko didn’t want to finish Gilmore Girls “because I loved the characters so much and I didn’t want the story and world to end”. I felt the same way about The Expanse — I wanted to live in that world and with those characters forever, a testament to the world building and character development by the writers, directors, showrunners, and actors.

My friend Adriana X. Jacobs, a professor of modern Hebrew literature, poet, game designer, and long-time stinge watcher, says she has trouble with denouements. She told me:

They put me in a melancholy mood. I prefer the build-up, that long stretch when a character is tunneling (literally or figuratively) their way into or out of a problem. But the story interests me a lot less once the issues start to resolve. This is why it took me YEARS to finish Oldboy (dir. Park Chan-wook), a movie I kept pausing and abandoning when the protagonist was still trapped in that unholy hotel room.

I knew that the story would take him out of the room but I wanted to remain in the mess and confinement. It’s the same thing with Normal People. Even though I’ve read the book and know that the ending is (thank god) open-ended, by not finishing the series, I leave these chaotic characters even further suspended in that beautiful, very human state of uncertainty and possibility.

Wow, yes, exactly.

Andreas, who normally hoards shows to watch in the “dark days of winter” in Berlin, said that he had trouble finishing Wednesday on Netflix: “God I loved that so, so much, I could not bear the thought of it ending so soon.” He rewatched the entire first season immediately after finishing the show and even “did a whole keynote speech only with [Wednesday’s] quotes as slides”.2

Courtney Walsh, who is holding off on finishing Brooklyn 99, told me:

Delaying the finale keeps the characters in stasis and delays me feeling sad when it’s over. By keeping it in the queue, I’ll be happy when I watch, not sad.

Several other people told me they hold off on watching certain shows until they need them. When I asked her when she was going to watch the rest of Brooklyn 99, Walsh said:

When I need a guaranteed, bittersweet day. When I’m thinking about the past and I know that these 8-10 episodes will fit the bill. Probably in the next year or two. Bittersweet is a hard emotion to plan for and keep for later. When I can, I do!

Ryan N said that he keeps a stash of Queer Eye episodes because they’re “like soothing medicine in dark times”. Mielniczenko keeps the last episode or two (or sometimes a whole season) of a show in her queue because she likes “the idea that I can finish these shows at any point”. I definitely held back on the final episodes of Schitt’s Creek until I was emotionally ready and on GBBO episodes until I needed a guaranteed pick-me-up on a particularly gloomy day.

Josh Puetz is portioning Firefly out in drips and drabs — he last watched an episode in Dec 2022 as a treat to himself for being sick — and I asked how he was going to decide when to finish the rest of it:

I think…when I’m ready to let go of the characters and story on my terms. So many endings and changes in life are out of our control, but this one little thing (ending a series, saying goodbye) happens when I need it.

Puetz said he’s not a binge watcher at all (one-in-a-row is the most he can muster), but I both binge and stinge. Several of the shows I mentioned above (like Reservation Dogs & ST: Strange New Worlds), I binged several episodes at a stretch before slowing down when I realized, oh god, I’m going to run out! I loved Succession and could not wait to watch the series finale last May. The second season of the Gilded Age aired over two months last fall and I gobbled up each episode as it aired on Sunday nights.

Mielniczenko said she doesn’t horde every book or show; her stinge watch candidates “usually have a world that is unique/exciting or comforting/wholesome”. Like I said above, for me it usually comes down to the characters and the world and whether they overcome my need to find out how the plot wraps up. When something is soapy or sensational, like The Gilded Age or The White Lotus, I have to watch to find out what happens. But if my desire for the company of beloved characters and the comfort of a familiar place outweighs my desire for plot closure, I slow down and bank those shows for later.3

Streaming services are definitely geared towards binge watching, but the creators of particular shows have worked their magic so well, creating realities that feel unusually real, that some of us want to stay in them for as long as we can. My Brilliant Friend, one of my favorite shows of the last few years, is returning this year for a fourth and final season on HBO, and I am at once deliriously excited to meet those characters again but am also already bracing myself to have to say goodbye to them. At least I’ll have fellow stinge watchers to commiserate with.

Are you a stinge watcher? Let us know which shows you’re stuck on and why in the comments.

  1. I hoard books too, but it’s more difficult to do with audiobooks and ebooks. Sometimes I’ll get to the end of an audiobook without realizing it and the “Audible hopes you have enjoyed this program” trods on my spirit a bit.
  2. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see that keynote deck! (This reminds me of the time I suggested to my daughter that she do a school project about the philosophy of The Good Place because she’s seen that show seven times. She did not take my advice.)
  3. Several people said that they don’t hoard shows, they just rewatch them, sometimes just after they’ve finished. I do that too, but rewatching doesn’t feel the same. Knowing what happens is comforting in a different way, but the novelty is important to me in terms of spending time in worlds with characters.

Groundhog Day, But With Potato Chips

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2024

I don’t know exactly what this is, but it appears to be an ad for Lay’s potato chips made by Jimmy Kimmel Live? But whatever, it’s great: a Groundhog Day-inspired clip starring Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) himself that’s perfect for hawking a bajillion different flavors of potato chips. (via @ironicsans)

How France’s Film Industry Works

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2024

The film industry in France works a little differently that the American film industry. In this video, Evan Puschak explains how France treats filmmaking as a public good to be invested in at all levels.

One of the most interesting things is that the government gives grants to filmmakers that are specifically untethered to box office success in order “to support an independent cinema that is bold in terms of market standards and that cannot find its financial balance without public assistance”. Filmmakers who have made their early work with this public assistance include Agnes Varda, Celine Sciamma, and Claire Denis.

Orion and the Dark

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2024

This is the trailer for Orion and the Dark, an animated kids movie written by Charlie Kaufman. Yes, the I’m Thinking of Ending Things; Synecdoche, New York; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Charlie Kaufman. And it’s getting pretty good reviews so far. The AV Club:

Orion And The Dark may look almost nothing like any Charlie Kaufman film to date, but it bears his personality. While that might be a bit much for the youngest kids, for 11-year-olds like those depicted in this story, it may strike a chord simply by refusing to underestimate their intelligence.

The movie is based on a book of the same name by Emma Yarlett and will be out on Netflix on Feb 2.

The Trailer for Adam Sandler’s Spaceman

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2024

Adam Sandler in a movie about space… I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I clicked play on the trailer for Spaceman this morning. Was I going to get Waterboy / Billy Madison Adam Sandler or Uncut Gems / Punch-Drunk Love Adam Sandler? Thankfully, it appears to be the latter. Spaceman is directed by Johan Renck (who directed the excellent Chernobyl) and is based on Jaroslav Kalfař’s 2017 novel Spaceman of Bohemia.

Six months into a solitary research mission to the edge of the solar system, an astronaut, Jakub (Adam Sandler), realizes that the marriage he left behind might not be waiting for him when he returns to Earth. Desperate to fix things with his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan), he is helped by a mysterious creature from the beginning of time he finds hiding in the bowels of his ship. Hanus (voiced by Paul Dano) works with Jakub to make sense of what went wrong before it is too late.

Spaceman is out on March 1 on Netflix.

The Ferris Bueller Finale With Music From Inception

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 12, 2024

One of the many reasons that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off works so well as a film is that the music kicks ass *and* it meshes so well with the action. In the heyday of MTV, this was no accident — parts of the movie function almost as elaborate music videos. No scene illustrates this more than when Ferris is hurrying across backyards and through homes to beat his parents & sister back to the house. As good as that scene is, I think Todd Vaziri improved it by re-cutting it to music from Inception. So good!

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2024

I’m still catching up from being blissfully away from the internet in December so apologies to those of you for which this is old news, but Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga looks %$&*#@ good. My expectations for this film couldn’t be any higher — Fury Road was one of my favorite films of the past 10 years. Crucially, the Furiosa production team includes editor Margaret Sixel and several other folks who won awards for Fury Road — that’s a great sign.

See also An Oral History of Mad Max: Fury Road and Max Mad: Fury Road Sped Up 12X Is Still Watchable.

Origin, a Film by Ava DuVernay About Isabel Wilkerson

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2024

I had forgotten that Ava DuVernay was working on an adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s excellent Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. I think the assumption was that DuVernay was going to make a documentary, but interestingly, she’s adapted it into a biographical drama called Origin instead (trailer above).

Origin chronicles the tragedy and triumph of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson as she investigates a global phenomenon of epic proportions. Portrayed by Academy Award nominee Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor (“King Richard”), Isabel experiences unfathomable personal loss and love as she crosses continents and cultures to craft one of the defining American books of our time. Inspired by the New York Times best-seller “Caste,” ORIGIN explores the mystery of history, the wonders of romance and a fight for the future of us all.

I’m intrigued! Origin is set for a wide release in theaters on Jan 19th.

The 25 Best Films of 2023: A Video Countdown

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2024

I always look forward to David Ehrlich’s annual love letter to cinema and his favorite films of the year. So put this thing on the biggest screen you can find, slap on some headphones, and get ready to put a bunch of excellent films on your must-watch list. This year in conjunction with the video, Ehrlich is raising money for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

You can also watch this video on YouTube and past countdowns on his website.

What’s Your Go-to Comfort Media?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2024

I reckon most of us have certain books, movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, and other media that we turn to when we need some comfort. These are things we’ve seen, read, or heard before — often many times — and know exactly what we’re going to get from them.

What we reach for depends on our needs. When I just want something familiar on in the background while I’m doing something else, to provide a vibe and the barest hint of a plot to follow, I often turn on Star Trek: TNG or old episodes of Doctor Who on Pluto TV. A few years ago during a really tough period, I read several of Tom Clancy’s novels (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Red Storm Rising) to keep my brain reliably engaged but also unfettered by challenging prose or the deep emotional lives of the characters. I rewatch Star Wars and Avengers movies for their reliable entertainment, characters I’m invested in, and predictable-but-satisfying outcomes — these are often good plane movies.

When I’m feeling a lot of relational feelings and need a bit of salt to make them feel even more intense (and punishing), I’ll watch season two of Fleabag or Midnight in Paris or even 50 First Dates (which is as close as I get to rom-coms). Radiohead is a great all-arounder for many situations — I’ve leaned on Everything In Its Right Place, True Love Waits, Videotape, and even Burn the Witch at various times in my life. The Great British Bake Off is reliably low stakes, entertaining, and nothing but good vibes.

So how about it? What’s your go-to comfort media?

Some Wonderful Things from 2023

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2024

view of the green rolling hills of Vermont under a mostly sunny sky

As the bulk of 2023 recedes from memory, I wanted to share some of the things from my media diet posts that stood out for me last year. Enjoy.

Succession. I did not think I would enjoy a show about extremely wealthy people acting poorly, but the writing and acting were so fantastic that I could not resist.

25 years of kottke.org. Very proud of what I’ve accomplished here and also genuinely humbled by how many people have made this little site a part of their lives.

Fleishman Is in Trouble. Uncomfortably true to life at times.

Antidepressants + therapy. I was in a bad way last spring and it is not too strong to say that finding the right antidepressant and arriving at some personal truths in therapy changed my life.

The Bear (season two). I don’t always love it (especially when the intensity ramps up) but there’s definitely something special about this show.

Barr Hill Gin & Tonic. The best canned cocktail I’ve had, by a mile.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Brutal and inspiring.

Crossword puzzles. A few times a week, a friend and I do the NY Times crossword puzzle together over FaceTime. It’s become one of my favorite things.

AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Am I ever going to shut up about these? Possibly not. The sound quality is better than the first-gen ones and the sound cancelling is just fantastic. I used these on several long flights recently and you basically can’t hear much of anything but your music.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Visually stunning.

The Kottke Hypertext Tee. Might be bad form to put your own merch on a list like this, but I’m just tickled that these exist. Putting an actual physical good out into the world that people connect with is somehow satisfying in a way that digital media is not.

ChatGPT. This very quickly became an indispensable part of my work process.

Downhill mountain biking. I did this a couple years ago and it didn’t click for me. But my son and I went last summer and I loved it…it’s one my favorite things I did all year. Gonna try and get out more in 2024!

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland. Probably the best TV thing I watched last year. Listening to survivors of The Troubles talking about their experiences was unbelievably compelling.

Au Kouign-Amann. One of my all-time favorite pastries. Looks like a boring cake, tastes like magic.

Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson. An extremely clear-eyed explanation of how Trumpism fits in with the Republicans’ decades-long project of weakening American democracy.

The Creator. I liked this original sci-fi a lot — more stuff that’s not Star Wars and Marvel pls.

Northern Thailand Walk and Talk. I will write this up soon, but this was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

BLTs. I could not get enough of this simple sandwich at the end of last summer — I was eating like 4-5 a week. When the tomatoes are good, there’s nothing like a BLT.

The little hearts my daughter put on the backs of the envelopes containing her letters from camp. Self explanatory, no notes.

The smoked beef sandwich at Snowdon Deli. The best smoked sandwich I’ve had in Montreal.

The Last of Us. A bit too video game-y in parts but overall great. A couple of the episodes were incredible.

Photo of a Vermont vista taken by me this summer while mountain biking.

My Recent Media Diet, the End of 2023 Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 28, 2023

Over the past few months, I’ve had some time away from the computer and have taken several very long plane trips and some shorter car rides, which means a bit more reading, TV & movie watching, and podcast listening than usual. Oh, and holiday movies.

But the main story is how many things I’m currently in the midst of but haven’t finished: the latest season of the Great British Bake Off, season 3 of The Great, season 4 of For All Mankind, season 2 of Reservation Dogs, season 2 of The Gilded Age, the Big Dig podcast, On the Shortness of Life by Seneca, Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier by Kevin Kelly, and I’ve just dipped a toe into Craig Mod’s Things Become Other Things. That’s five TV shows, one podcast, and three books. I’m looking forward to tackling some of that (and maybe a new Star Trek series) over the upcoming holiday weekend.

Anyway, here’s my recent media diet — a roundup of what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, and experiencing over the past few months.

The Killer. The excellent Michael Fassbender portrays a solitary, bored, and comfortable killer for hire who has a bit of a midlife crisis in fast forward when a job goes wrong. (A-)

Fortnite OG. I started playing Fortnite in earnest during Chapter 3, so it was fun to go back to Chapter 1 to see how the game worked back then. (B+)

Northern Thailand Walk and Talk. I’m going to write more soon but this was one of the best things I’ve ever done. (A+)

Edge of Tomorrow. Speaking of video games… Still love this under-appreciated film, despite a third act that falls a tiny bit flat. (A)

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff. I did not enjoy this quite as much as Matrix — especially the last third — but Groff is one hell of a writer. (B+)

New Blue Sun. Good on André 3000 for not doing the expected thing and instead releasing an instrumental album on which he plays the flute. (A-)

Songs of Silence. I can’t remember who clued me into this lovely instrumental album by Vince Clarke (Erasure, Depeche Mode), but it’s been heavily in the rotation lately. (B+)

Trifecta. A.L.I.S.O.N.’s Deep Space Archives is a favorite chill work album for me and this one is nearly as good. (B+)

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Entertaining but lacks the zip and coherence of the first film. (B)

Shoulda Been Dead. I had no idea that Kevin Kelly appeared on an early episode of This American Life until someone mentioned it offhand on our Thailand walk. What a story…listen all the way to the end. (A)

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. Oh the writing here is exquisite. (A)

Avengers: Infinity War & Avengers: Endgame. These are endlessly rewatchable for me. (A)

Elemental. Good but not great Pixar. (B)

The Wrong Trousers. I watched this with my 16-year-old son, who hadn’t seen it in like 9 or 10 years. We both loved it — it still has one of the best action movie sequences ever. (A+)

The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler. Are AGI robots intelligent? Are octopuses? Are humans? This novel plays entertainingly with these ideas. (A-)

Myeongdong Kyoja. I stumbled upon this place, extremely cold and hungry, and after a brief wait in line, I was conducted to an open seat by the no-nonsense hostess running the dining room. The menu only has four items, conveniently pictured on the wall — I got the kalguksu and mandu. The hostess took my order and then, glancing at my frozen hands, reached down and briefly gave one of them a squeeze, accompanied by a concerned look that lasted barely half a second before she returned to bustling around the room. A delicious meal and a welcome moment of humanity in an unfamiliar land. (A)

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts. This made me want to give notice to my landlord and take off for somewhere else. (A-)

Barbie. Second viewing. Entertaining and funny, but this is a movie that has Something To Say and I still can’t figure out what that is. (B+)

Emily the Criminal. There were a few hiccups here and there, but I largely enjoyed this Aubrey Plaza vehicle. (A-)

Midnight in Paris. Not going to recommend a Woody Allen movie these days, but this is one of my comfort movies — I watch it every few months and love every second of it. (A)

Gran Turismo. Extremely predictable; they could have done more with this. (B)

The Rey/Ren Star Wars trilogy. I have lost any ability to determine if any of these movies are actually good — I just like them. 🤷‍♂️ (B+)

Loki (season two). This was kind of all over the place for me but finished pretty strong. Glorious purpose indeed. (B)

Die Hard. Still great. (A)

Home Alone. First time rewatching this in at least a decade? This movie would have worked just as well if Kevin were 15% less annoying. (B+)

The Grinch. My original review stands: “I wasn’t expecting to sympathize so much with The Grinch here. The social safety net constructed by the upper middle class Whos totally failed the most vulnerable member of their society in a particularly heartless way. Those Whos kinda had it coming.” (B+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here. What good things have you watched, read, or listened to lately?

The Best Movie Posters of 2023

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 27, 2023

movie poster for Barbenheimer

movie poster for John Wick 4

movie poster for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

movie poster for Asteroid City

movie poster for They Cloned Tyrone

movie poster for Poor Things

movie poster for John Wick 4

I am not in the habit of buying movie posters, but I bought one this year — for a movie that doesn’t even exist. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to snag one of Sean Longmore’s Barbenheimer posters. It’s still in the shipping canister, but I’m gonna get it framed and find a spot for it on my wall soon.

As for the rest of my favorite movie posters of 2023, I’ve included a few above that caught my eye. For more excellent picks, check out Daniel Benneworth-Gray’s Movie posters of the year 2023, Mubi’s The Best Movie Posters of 2023, First Showing’s 10 Favorite Movie Posters from 2023, The Playlist’s The 20 Best Film Posters Of 2023, and IndieWire’s The Best Film and TV Posters of 2023.

A Stranger Quest: David Rumsey’s Marvelous Map Collection

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2023

The David Rumsey Map Collection is one of the true gems of the web: a massive trove of maps & related images from over 40 years of collecting.

Rumsey began building a collection of North and South American historical maps and related cartographic materials in 1980. Eventually the collection expanded to include historical maps of the entire world, from the 16th to the 21st centuries. His collection, with more than 200,000 maps, is one of the largest private map collections in the United States.

Italian filmmaker Andrea Gatopoulos has made a documentary film called A Stranger Quest about Rumsey’s passion for maps. Here’s the trailer:

And because I can’t resist, a few maps from the collection:

a map of the world from the 1450s

a world map from 1492

a data visualization of the length of rivers and the height of mountains

snippets of maps that say the word 'lighthouse'

That last one is a screenshot of the results for “lighthouse” from their new Text-On-Maps search capability.

Why Star Wars Was Dubbed Into the Navajo Language

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2023

About ten years ago, after a long campaign by Navajo Nation member Manny Wheeler, Disney/Lucasfilm released the first Star Wars movie dubbed into the Navajo language. In this clip from the PBS series Native America, the Navajo version of Star Wars is shown at a drive-in in Arizona, with some of the voice actors who contributed to the dub in attendance. Some Navajo feel a strong connection to some of the themes in the movie:

The Force and the universe is all interconnected. When you put that in the Navajo language, especially for an elder to hear that, they’re going to just be thinking, like, yeah, of course. It’s not just a movie. That’s stuff we really believe.

You can watch the Navajo version of Star Wars on Disney+ (Finding Nemo too!) and catch the second season of Native America on PBS. Oh, and here’s a movie poster for the film:

movie poster for the Navajo version of Star Wars

Coyote Vs. Acme Movie! Shelved?!

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2023

That's All Folks

I just found out today that they made a movie version of Ian Frazier’s classic 1990 New Yorker piece Coyote V. Acme, in which Wile E. Coyote files a product liability lawsuit against the Acme Company.

Mr. Coyote states that on December 13th he received of Defendant via parcel post one Acme Rocket Sled. The intention of Mr. Coyote was to use the Rocket Sled to aid him in pursuit of his prey. Upon receipt of the Rocket Sled Mr. Coyote removed it from its wooden shipping crate and, sighting his prey in the distance, activated the ignition. As Mr. Coyote gripped the handlebars, the Rocket Sled accelerated with such sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote’s forelimbs to a length of fifty feet. Subsequently, the rest of Mr. Coyote’s body shot forward with a violent jolt, causing severe strain to his back and neck and placing him unexpectedly astride the Rocket Sled. Disappearing over the horizon at such speed as to leave a diminishing jet trail along its path, the Rocket Sled soon brought Mr. Coyote abreast of his prey. At that moment the animal he was pursuing veered sharply to the right. Mr. Coyote vigorously attempted to follow this maneuver but was unable to, due to poorly designed steering on the Rocket Sled and a faulty or nonexistent braking system. Shortly thereafter, the unchecked progress of the Rocket Sled brought it and Mr. Coyote into collision with the side of a mesa.

My excitement was tempered almost immediately by hearing that Warner Bros. has shelved the completed film (starring John Cena & Will Forte and produced by James Gunn) in order to take a $30 million tax write-off.

In another maneuver by the David Zaslav-run Warner Bros Discovery to kill movies, we hear on very good authority that Warner Bros will not be releasing the hybrid live-action/animated Coyote vs. Acme, with the conglom taking an estimated $30M write-down on the $70M production. We understand the write-down for the pic was applied to the recently reported Q3.

What the fuck? Understandably, the folks who made the film are pissed.

I was lucky to help write on this. [Dave Green] spent years directing a hilarious heartwarming film that tested well with every audience. If great stories with beloved characters and A-list stars are getting shelved for tax write offs, why are studios even in the movie business.

Release the film, you cowards!

Update: Warner has apparently agreed to let the filmmakers of Coyote vs. Acme find alternate distribution for the film.

Warners declined to comment, but a good source tells me the decision was made this weekend by Warners film chiefs Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy, along with new animation head Bill Damaschke, after the online outcry by filmmakers and the animation community, as well as some heated back-and-forth between the studio and reps for the director and stars. Warners had agreed to pay the top talent their streaming bonuses despite the film being scrapped, but obviously, everyone involved in this project wants it to be released by someone.

And here’s a behind-the-scenes reel of the filming…it kept getting taken down from Twitter & YT but has found a home on the Internet Archive.

(thx, andy)

Two Songs from The Muppet Movie

posted by Tim Carmody   Nov 03, 2023

Tim and Karen Rooftop Wedding.jpg

Tomorrow, November 4th, 2023, is my first wedding anniversary. I married Karen McGrane at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 2022. We walked down the aisle to Gonzo’s “I’m Going To Back There Someday.” It was one of the best days of my life.

To celebrate our anniversary, I’m reposting what I wrote shortly after I moved into Karen’s house (which also, somewhat unusually, was the first time we met in person). It’s also the most recent — and since we haven’t renewed our WordPress license, quite possibly the last — post on Snarkmarket.com. I hope Kottke.org readers enjoy it.

Why write a blog post somewhere nobody has published in five years, in a new WordPress interface where you recognize… yeah, nothing? Where somehow you can’t even upload a JPG or PNG file you downloaded from another site “for security reasons” without converting it first? Or get paragraph tags or linebreaks working inside blockquotes? (Really? On Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s own World Wide Web???)

Because sometimes there is no other place to put such things. There is no other place where you want to put such things.

I bought a new laptop late in 2020, one of the new Apple Silicon M1 MacBook Pros that was announced just after the election (which was also my birthday). It is easily the best laptop I’ve ever used, let alone owned. I’m typing on it now. (It doesn’t have enough ports; otherwise, it is as perfect a machine as has ever existed until the next one comes out.) Buying that laptop started something for me: a new round of investment in myself after a long period of being fearful and dormant. And shortly after I bought it, I covered it in Muppets stickers.

I’m hardly unique in loving The Muppets; we’re past fifty years of Sesame Street and even longer of Jim Henson’s earlier creations, meaning just about every living generation has been touched by those special creatures one way or another. But the Muppets are a talisman of something I try to guard in myself: tenderness, exaggerated emotion, a desire to experience the world as something new, an urge to creativity and renewal, a fear of rejection, and a sometimes desperate need to be loved in a world where love is often in short supply.

The most famous song from The Muppet Movie is the opening number, “The Rainbow Connection.” It’s sung by Kermit the Frog, as played and performed by Jim Henson himself, and the conceit in the movie is that Kermit is playing and singing the song alone, on a banjo. This conceit is quickly abandoned, at least aurally; a whole orchestra comes in, turning a dead-simple children’s song into something swelling and cinematic. It’s three minutes long, and sung by a puppet, performed by someone who, for all his unbounded talents for voice and performance, can’t really sing. But I think it’s the greatest song ever written for a film. (A surprisingly competitive category!) It’s really worth watching, as many times as you can.

Here is a story about the writing of “The Rainbow Connection.” And here are the lyrics:

[Verse 1]

Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?

Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see

[Hook]

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

[Verse 2]

Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?

Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
Look what it’s done so far

What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see?

[Hook]

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

[Bridge]

All of us under its spell
We know that it’s probably magic

[Verse 3]

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name

Is this the sweet sound
That calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it:
It’s something that I’m supposed to be

[Hook]

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

[End/Outro]

That’s the whole thing.

As a child, I was taught that this song was about hope in tough times — a rejection of cynicism, an attempt to uphold on the threshold of the Reaganite 1980s something of the idealism of the 1960s, from Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech to the antiwar movement, only somewhat looser and more adaptable (if also more inchoate). The song also had a religious element to it: something of my mother’s highly adaptable (and thoroughly idiosyncratic) Catholicism — a belief there was a magical, spiritual universe both separate from and pervading the one we could see. The Rainbow Connection was not heaven in any proper theological sense, but it was the heaven my mother believed in. And, I think, that she still believes in.

And it is those things — insofar as it “is” anything but a sweet song with a good melody — but it’s also something else. And as you get older, and continue to deal with grief and heartache (as I have, many times), and are dealt reversals and disappointments, the other meaning of “The Rainbow Connection” becomes insistent and impossible to ignore.

It is a song about what you can and can’t believe in after a life filled with missed chances, casual cruelties, and dead family and friends. It’s a song shot full of the melancholy many of us remember most clearly in our own childhoods, an ache to your bones that has never gone away. It is every heartbreak you have ever had, every injury suffered to your body, mind, and pride. It is how you think about friendship and community when your community is broken and your friends are all so very far away. It is not about a cohort of happy dreamers, or lovers. It is about how you care for your child inside when all your illusions are gone. It is the last illusion you keep, because without it, you would have nothing left.

The questions “The Rainbow Connection” asks are genuine questions, with a more ironic edge than Kermit places on it in the song itself:

Seen from this perspective, The Muppets are not childlike or naïve at all. They are advancing a powerful critique of how we live and what we believe, and how we’ve come to settle for so much less than what we are capable of. There is a utopian element to “The Rainbow Connection,” but it turns out to be a very slight one. A Minimum Viable Utopia, if you will.

The other song that matters the most to me from The Muppet Movie (which, like Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Prince’s self-titled album, was released shortly before I was born) is Gonzo’s “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday.” And this song, too, has multiple layers that are worth unpacking.

Here are the lyrics:

Verse 1:

This looks familiar
Vaguely familiar
Almost unreal yet
It’s too soon to feel yet

Hook:

Close to my soul
And yet so far away
I’m going to go back there
Someday

Verse 2:

Sunrises, night falls
Sometimes the sky calls
Is that a song there?
And do I belong there?

Hook:

I’ve never been there
But I know the way
I’m going to go back there
Someday

Bridge:

Come and go with me
It’s more fun to share
We’ll both be, completely
At home in midair

We’re flying not walking
On featherless wings
We can hold on to love
Like invisible strings

Verse 3:

There’s not a word yet
For old friends who’ve just met

Part heaven, part space
Or have I found my place?

Hook:

You can just visit
But I plan to stay
I’m going to go back there
Someday

I’m going to go back there
Someday

[End/Outro]

This song is somehow even simpler than “The Rainbow Connection,” but it wears its ironies farther out on its sleeves.

The obvious (although not literal) reading of the song is that Gonzo is not talking about any past he remembers, or even really a future he’s waiting for, but about the love and newfound family he’s discovered with his friends now all around him: the Muppets to whom he’s singing the song. Again, as a child, this is what I was taught without having to be told, and for the most part, it’s what I believed.

The second, more critical take on “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” is that it is a profound confession of abandonment and loneliness in Gonzo’s formative years. It is the absence of anything like the heartsoaring love he is stumbling to find words to describe, and his very early and extremely keen awareness of that absence, even before he knew there was hope of anything different. It is less about loss (you have to have something before you can lose it, technically) than lack.

And while you could say that Gonzo is realizing now that he’s found what he’s long been looking for, the fact that he still puts it in the future tense suggests that he’s still feeling something lacking, either in his companions or in himself. He still feels incomplete, blown apart, alone and lonely, en route to something he does not have and has never had, does not know and has never known — something that he can only describe or define by its absence. A negative theology.

You could take this a step further and say that what “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” is really about is the fact that such a place does not exist, has never existed, and if it waits for anyone, it does not wait for the singer. Gonzo — Tim Carmody — is so irreducibly damaged by what has happened to him, so thoroughly alone, that he can only think of love and belonging as a return to a paradise he’s never known and will never in his lifetime see.


The trouble with all of this is that sometimes the impossible happens.

Here I’m going to invoke another important text from my childhood, but I won’t take the time to explicate it, because I can talk about baseball (and specifically, this single plate appearance) forever.

It is hard to talk or even to think about miracles, especially if (like me) you have long since relaxed the God hypothesis. The 18th-century empiricist / skeptical philosopher David Hume defined a miracle as “a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.”

Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country.

The trouble for Hume with miracles is the trouble for Hume with all knowledge (including very basic relationships of cause and effect): the evidence to genuinely believe in miracles is always lacking. It falls apart given the tiniest bit of criticism — and yet, people are inclined to believe in miracles anyways.

In fact, people all over the world, at every age and in every walk of life, may be more inclined to believe in something impossible they believe they’ve witnessed themselves, alone or in a small group, than an ordinary event witnessed again and again by millions of people. Aristotle, too, understood, this irony, writing in the Poetics that (translations differ, but here is the gist) “the poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities.” And if you can keep God’s hands off the probable impossible, so much the better.

The world Gonzo prophecies in “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday,” that Kermit imagines in “The Rainbow Connection,” is not supposed to exist. It is an illusion, an impossibility, even if it remains a necessary one. And yet: sometimes, somehow, after you have already set aside your own eligibility for such things, and doubted their real existence for others or their cameos in your own past, you nevertheless, to your own total astonishment, find yourself back there again.

On Saturday, February 6th, I moved back to the city of Philadelphia. I made my nostos, not to the city where I was born (Detroit, which will also always have my heart), but the city I chose when I was 22, and where I spent most of the important years of my life.

I am back. I am home.

You can just visit
But I plan to stay
I’m going to go back there
Someday

Tim and Karen and Beedie

My Recent Media Diet, Fall 2023 Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 01, 2023

I know I always say this, but I didn’t mean for so much time to elapse since the last installment of the media diet. But I have a slightly different reason for the delay this time: I have been really busy with work and family stuff, so much so that I haven’t been reading or watching as much as I usually do. So I needed to wait a couple of months to collect enough stuff.

Anyway. Here’s my recent media diet, a roundup of what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, and experiencing over the past few months. ✌️

The Creator. Original, engaging sci-fi with good action, heart, and something to say. Madeleine Yuna Voyles is the best child actor I’ve seen in years. (A)

Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson. I’m still making my way through this one but I’m going to review it now because Virginia Heffernan was absolutely correct in saying that the first part of the book is “the most lucid just-so story for Trump’s rise I’ve ever heard”. Richardson ties so many things together so succinctly that by the end of it, Trump feels not like an abberation but more like the result of a plan that conservatives have been striving towards for decades. (A+)

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Watched this twice: once in the theater and once at home. I didn’t like this quite as much as Fallout (or Top Gun: Maverick tbh), but this is a top-notch action movie. The tiny car chase on the streets of Rome is 💯. (A-)

The ocean. Still undefeated. (A+)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2. *sigh* Like many of you, I am extremely disappointed with the weird & harmful anti-trans crusade the author of the Harry Potter book series has embarked on over the last few years and it’s prompted me to attempt a reevaluation of my relationship to these movies and books. But I’ve had some difficulty doing so because the Potter wizarding world is so wrapped up in spending quality time with my kids (particularly after their mom and I separated) that it’s hard to have anything but extremely fond feelings for it all. Over a period of five or so years, we read the whole series together at bedtime and I can’t even put into words how meaningful that time together was. We’re listening to the series on audiobook in the car right now…it’s one of the few things my two teens and I really enjoy doing with one another.

Anyway, all that is to say that when some recent changes in our schedule together — good, developmentally appropriate changes for them but changes nonetheless — caused some parental melancholy, I watched these three films on back-to-back-to-back nights just to feel close to my kids in some way. It was just the thing. (A)

American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. Perhaps not the beach read I needed, but the one I deserved. I liked this maybe a bit better than the movie, but still not nearly as much as Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb (and its sequel, Dark Sun). (A-)

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland. This was excellent. Listening to actual people who lived and worked in Northern Ireland during the Troubles — victims, murderers, police officers, bystanders, family members of those who were killed — was completely enthralling and brought the 30-year conflict to life in a way that Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing couldn’t, as good as it was. I’ve been thinking about this series a lot over the past few weeks as the latest tragedy unfolds in Gaza. (A+)

The Repair. Another excellent podcast series from Scene on Radio, this one on climate crisis. I’ve read quite a bit about the climate over the past decade or two, so I thought I knew what to expect going in, but this takes a pretty unique angle. For one thing, they don’t start with the Industrial Revolution…their lead-in to the topic is the Book of Genesis. And it keeps going in unexpected directions from there. I think even a seasoned observer of the crisis will find something interesting here. (A)

The Belan Deck by Matt Bucher. Maybe a better choice of beach read than American Prometheus…I finished this slim, creative tome in one sitting on my final day at the ocean. Here’s a better review than this one. (B+)

The Postal Service & Death Cab for Cutie: Give Up & Transatlanticism 20th Anniversary Tour. Saw this in New Haven in a former outdoor tennis arena. So wonderfully nostalgic. I’m a bigger fan of Give Up but the track of the evening for me was Transatlanticism by Death Cab…it sent honest-to-god chills down my spine. (A)

The mashed potato pizza from Bar. I’d tried this once before and found it kinda meh. But not this time around…I couldn’t stop eating it. (A)

the exterior of the Hotel Marcel, a brutalist building desgined by Marcel Breuer

Hotel Marcel. If you’ve ever driven on I-95 through New Haven, you’ve probably noticed the brutalist building unceremoniously situated in the Ikea parking lot. Designed by Marcel Breuer, the former Armstrong Rubber Company Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021 and converted to the Hotel Marcel a year later. Pretty cool to be able to stay in such a well-designed building. (B+)

The Super Mario Bros. Movie. This was perfectly fine. But it had that tightly controlled and over-engineered feeling that many franchise movies have these days. (B)

Arrival. Still an absolute banger and one of my all-time faves. And I notice a little something new every time I watch it. (A+)

The Flash. Better than I expected! And I bought the Quick Bite emote in Fortnite. Can we staaaahpp with the multiverse tho? (B+)

Legally Blonde. First time. Enjoyed it! (B+)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Second time. It’s not the best Indy but I think in the long term, it will be rewatchable. (B+)

Tycho’s Burning Man Sunrise Set for 2023. Not quite up to past years, but it’s still in the while-working rotation. (B)

Ahsoka (season one). Hmm. This was slow, enjoyable, boring, engaging — sometimes all at once. Space whales tho? (B)

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. This is Wes Anderson, unplugged: simple sets, lots of acting, spare-but-precise cinematography, and a meta narrative. (A-)

Downhill mountain biking. Ollie and I went to a local ski area that offers lift service to mountain bike trails a few weeks ago and did several rides on a intermediate flow trail and it was the most fun I had all summer. I even got some air. (A+)

Boundaries, Burnout and the ‘Goopification’ of Self-Care. For the Ezra Klein Show, guest host Tressie McMillan Cottom (one of America’s leading public intellectuals) interviewed Pooja Lakshmin about what she calls Real Self-Care. Not yoga and juice cleanses but more like setting boundaries and practicing self-compassion. An excellent listen. (A-)

Wool by Hugh Howey. After really enjoying the Apple TV+ series, I was looking forward to dipping into the first book of the trilogy. But I preferred the show…and was also surprised when the book, well before the end, continued on past the events of the show. I stopped reading at that point and will revisit after the show’s second season. (B)

Killers of the Flower Moon. I wanted to like this more than I did. Great acting (particularly by De Niro, Gladstone, and Plemons) and it looked amazing but it lacked oomph. Plus I didn’t have a clear sense of what Scorsese was trying to say… (B+)

Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises. I watched these with my son (a budding Nolan fan) and I know this is sacrilege, but my favorite of the series is The Dark Knight Rises. Heath Ledger’s performance though… 🤡🔥. (A-)

I also have a bunch of stuff in progress, including The Vaster Wilds (good so far, need to make more time for it), the new season of The Great British Bake Off (my fave got eliminated in the first episode 😢), and Loki (skeptical this can match the style & weirdness of the first season). I stalled out on season three of The Great but I’m going to go back to it. I’m two episodes into Reservation Dogs (after many recommended it) and I love it already. And I haven’t even started Emily Wilson’s translation of The Iliad!

How about you? What have you been into lately? Anything you would particularly recommend? Let us know in the comments! (Just don’t argue with my grades…we all already know they don’t make any damn sense!)

Fungi: Web of Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 31, 2023

Fungi: Web of Life is an upcoming IMAX documentary on mushrooms & their fungi brethren narrated by Björk and presented by Merlin Sheldrake.

Join acclaimed British biologist, Dr. Merlin Sheldrake, on a quest to find an incredibly precious blue mushroom, against the backdrop of Tasmania’s ancient Tarkine rainforest. Merlin will show us some the grandest and strangest organisms ever discovered, showcased through jaw-dropping time-lapse cinematography, in a landscape largely unchanged from the time of the dinosaurs. Fungi have important lessons to teach humanity about survival through cooperation. Indeed, these incredible lifeforms may hold the key to solving some of humanity’s most urgent problems. With millions more species to discover, our journey into the secret world of fungi has only just begun.

Sheldrake is the author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures.

Trailer for Stamped From the Beginning

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 31, 2023

Based on the bestselling book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (also available as a graphic novel), this documentary explores the mythology of American racism and how it still shapes the world today. The director is Oscar-winner Roger Ross Williams and in preparing for the film, he decided that only Black women would appear in it:

“When we started looking at historians and scholars, we came up with a long list. I noticed the pattern that most of the people doing the work around racism in America were Black women,” Williams told Netflix. “I asked them in pre-interviews, ‘Why do you do this work?’ And many of them said the same thing — that they had no choice. This was their experience and their life. And if they’re going to dedicate their life to something, it’s going to be about changing and understanding racism in America because they can’t escape racism in America. I said to everyone, ‘We’re going to have only Black women in this film.’ It was an important statement to make.

Stamped From the Beginning comes out on Netflix on November 20.

Lego’s New Dune Set With a Loooooong Baron Harkonnen Minifig

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2023

a lineup of the Dune Lego minifigs, inclduing a super-tall Baron Harkonnen

several views of the Lego Dune set

Lego is coming out with a huge new set that’s based on Denis Villeneuve’s two-installment adaptation of Dune (or, as it’s know around these parts, DUNC). OMG, the Baron Harkonnen minifig!! It reminds me of something…ah yes:

Long Baron Is Long

Longbaron is looooooooong.

Anyway, it’s coming out in February and the main build is a 1369-piece model of the Atreides Royal Ornithopter with “fold-out, flappable wings, deployable landing gear and an opening cockpit”. Baron Harkooooooooooooonnen. I can’t stop! I, uh, may have pre-ordered this the second I saw it. (via polygon)

Update: Absolutely perfect:

Dune Lego 03

(via @justgregb)

David Byrne’s Dance Rehearsals for Stop Making Sense

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2023

Even if you haven’t seen Stop Making Sense, you are likely familiar with the herky jerky dance moves of Talking Heads’ frontman David Byrne. In this video, which has only recently been made public, you can see Byrne practicing his now-iconic moves.

40 years ago, David Byrne rehearsed dances for Talking Heads’ upcoming Speaking in Tongues tour by recording video of himself to determine which moves worked better than others, which developed into many of the iconic moves seen in the Stop Making Sense movie, filmed at the end of 1983 and released in 1984. It was recently rereleased by A24 in restored 4K. These videos, recorded in David Byrne’s loft, have been mentioned before in interviews and now after 40 years the footage is finally available!

If you don’t want to sit through the full 25-minute video, here’s an hors d’oeuvres version:

(via open culture)

Martin Scorsese Breaks Down His Most Iconic Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 03, 2023

This is a treat: almost 25 minutes of legendary director Martin Scorsese talking about how he made his most iconic movies, from Mean Streets and Raging Bull to Gangs of New York and The Irishman. You have to laugh at the number of times he says, “Well, I didn’t want to make this film, but…” From an accompanying profile/interview with Scorsese (which is quite good as well):

It is a peculiar fact about Martin Scorsese that he does not enjoy actually making movies. “I don’t mean to be funny,” he said, “but, the thing is, you get up real early.” And Scorsese has never been a morning person. For most of his life, he recalled, “I’d stay up late watching movies on TV or reading late, or doing homework late, or trying to write scripts late. I lived at night and the streets were dark, and I never saw the light. It took me many years to understand where the sun set and where the sun rose. I didn’t know. I’m not kidding. I learned it in LA. When you’re going on Sunset Boulevard and you hit the Pacific Coast Highway and it’s seven o’clock and the sun is setting — it’s right there.”

He likes to borrow a complaint from Kubrick. “They said, ‘What’s the hardest thing about directing?’ He said, ‘Getting out of the car.’ Because once you get out of the car, the questions start.” Now, when Scorsese gets out of the car in the morning, he looks at his AD and says, “What can’t I have today?”

Movies That Began As Short Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2023

Deadline’s Robert Lang compiled a bunch of short films (that you can watch for free online) that were later developed into feature-length films like Reservoir Dogs, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Boogie Nights, Bottle Rocket, Napoleon Dynamite, and District 9.

For instance, here’s Quentin Tarantino’s original Reservoir Dogs:

Wes Anderson’s original Bottle Rocket:

The original short version of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On:

Peluca, upon which Napoleon Dynamite was based:

The Dirk Diggler Story, the short film by PT Anderson on which Boogie Nights was based:

Psycho and the End of the Continuously Showing Movie

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2023

a movie poster for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho that states that on one will be admitted to the theater after the movie had started

Going to the movies used to be a somewhat different experience than it is today: people wandered into a theater at any point in a film and would just watch until it looped back around when they came in. From a piece in the Hollywood Reporter:

Throughout the classical Hollywood era, moviegoers dropped in on a film screening whenever they felt like it, heedless of the progress of the narrative. In the usual formulation, a couple go to the movies, enter midway into the feature film, sit through to the end of the movie, watch the newsreel, cartoon, and comedy short at the top of the program, and then sit through the feature film until they recognize the scene they walked in on. At this point, one moviegoer whispers to their partner, “This is where we came in,” and they exit the theater.

This began to change in the 40s and 50s for a variety of reasons — theater owners and movie studios didn’t like it, movies were getting more complex, the rise of TV, etc. — but the real shift occurred with the premiere of Psycho in 1960. The studio put out a promotional blitz before it’s release stating that no one would be allowed entrance to the theater after the start of the film.

On June 16, 1960, after a saturation campaign giving fair warning, the DeMille and Baronet theaters in New York premiered Psycho with the see-it-from-the-beginning edict in place. In a practice later to be known as “fill and spill,” exhibitors hustled audiences in and out with military efficiency (the staggered showtimes — every two-hours for the 109-minute film — made for a tight squeeze). Uniformed Pinkerton guards were on hand to enforce the policy.

Here’s a video of Hitchcock laying out the policy for moviegoers (via open culture):

Psycho didn’t singlehandedly stop the practice, but Hitchcock’s stand was an important part in shifting moviegoing practices to the set start times we have today.

The Life Cycle Of Superhero Storytelling

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2023

In this short video essay, Evan Puschak explores the typical life cycle of superhero storytelling, where things move from standalone stories to crossovers and interconnections, the stakes continually rise, and things get so complicated that entertainment becomes homework. Marvel in particular is in the later stages of this cycle,1 where casual fans are dropping off because they haven’t watched increasingly mediocre movies and full seasons of shows to keep up to date on what’s to come.

  1. Star Wars is getting there too, and Star Trek seems like they’re trying their hardest to catch up.

The Trailer for The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazaki’s Final Film

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2023

It is with the appropriate feelings of melancholy and excitement that I share with you the teaser trailer for The Boy and the Heron, the legendary Hayao Miyazaki’s final animated feature film for Studio Ghibli.

A young boy named Mahito, yearning for his mother, ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead.

There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning.

A semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation, in tribute to friendship, from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki.

Miyazaki had previously retired after 2013’s The Wind Rises but according to Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki, he had good reason to come back for one more film:

Miyazaki is making the new film for his grandson. It’s his way of saying, ‘Grandpa is moving on to the next world, but he’s leaving behind this film.’

The Boy and the Heron opens on December 8 in the US. (via waxy)

368 Broadway: the NYC Building That Nurtured the Film Careers of Greta Gerwig, Lena Dunham, the Safdie Brothers, and More

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2023

Somehow I’d never heard of this before watching this video (nor it seems, had much of anyone else outside of the participants), but the building located at 368 Broadway in Manhattan was, in the years after 9/11, the creative home for a surprising number of filmmakers: Greta Gerwig, Lena Dunham, the Safdie brothers (Josh & Benny), the Neistat brothers (Casey & Van), the Schulman brothers (Ariel & Nev), and Henry Joost.

Here’s a clip of Van Neistat talking about those days (starting at 19:50):

Brian Eno had a word for places like 368 Broadway and the people who gather together to create: scenius. Austin Kleon elaborated on scenius in his book Show Your Work:

There’s a healthier way of thinking about creativity that the musician Brian Eno refers to as “scenius.” Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals — artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers — who make up an “ecology of talent.” If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of “a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.” Scenius doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals: it just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.