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kottke.org posts about movies

Stan & Ollie

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2018

Stan & Ollie is an upcoming film about the legendary comedy duo of Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy in the twilight of their career, starring Steve Coogan as Laurel and John C. Reilly as Hardy. I would not necessarily have picked those two actors — I’m not sure who I would have picked instead…perhaps the latter day Stan and Ollie (Tucci & Platt) — but damned if they don’t fill out those roles well.

I’m excited for this one. As kids, we didn’t watch a lot of TV aside from Sesame Street and Mister Rogers, but we did watch all sorts of stuff from the black & white era that my dad was into: Abbott & Costello, Flash Gordon, The Lone Ranger, Buster Keaton, The Three Stooges, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd. But my favorite was always Laurel and Hardy. I don’t remember laughing harder at anything as a kid than The Music Box:

What’s My Name?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2018

What’s My Name? is an upcoming HBO documentary about Muhammad Ali. This is a teaser trailer so there’s not much to go on but LeBron James and Maverick Carter are executive producing and the director is Antoine Fuqua, who directed Training Day in 2001. What’s My Name? will air in two parts in early 2019.

Wes Anderson’s Movies, Ranked

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2018

Rushmore List

For NME, Sophie Charara ranks Wes Anderson’s nine feature films in order of greatness. Her top 3 picks are correct, I think, but I’d shift the order a little. Here’s my list, which is a tiny bit objective but mostly really really subjective.

1. Rushmore
2. The Royal Tenenbaums
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Fantastic Mr Fox
5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
6. Isle of Dogs
7. Bottle Rocket
8. Moonrise Kingdom
9. The Darjeeling Limited

Honestly, 4-8 could have gone in any order for me and The Darjeeling Limited is not that far off.

Jamie Lee Curtis Recreates the Psycho Shower Scene

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2018

Jamie Lee Curtis Psycho

For an episode of a TV show called Scream Queens, Jamie Lee Curtis recreated the shower scene from Psycho performed by her mother, Janet Leigh, with a shot-for-shot homage. Even though they had limited time to shoot, Curtis and the crew took the recreation very seriously.

Falchuk began contemplating having Munsch in the shower as an homage to Curtis’ mother. “I thought, ‘Can I do this? Do I need to ask her?’ I didn’t want to offend her but at the same time this would be so awesome,” remembers Falchuk. “So then I wrote it and then got a text from her very quickly after she read the script. Her text was, ‘We need to do this shot-for-shot.’ Then, typical Jamie Lee, she started sending me all the websites and Tumblrs that have each shot laid out and storyboarded.”

What a photo! Curtis’ scene is not quite shot-for-shot, but you can see a screencapped video of it on YouTube and compare to the original.

For Sale: Han Solo’s Jacket & Indiana Jones’ Fedora

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2018

A huge cache of rare Hollywood memorabilia is up for sale at a London auction on September 20. The catalog includes over 600 items from movies like Back to the Future, Blade Runner, Batman, Blues Brothers, Die Hard, Goonies, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, Superman, Terminator, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and X-Men.

Among the most valuable and unique items are the iconic Indiana Jones hat worn by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark (estimate £200,000-£300,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 01

They’re also selling Indy’s bullwhip from Temple of Doom (estimate £50,000-£70,000).

The most expensive item is Han Solo’s jacket from Empire Strikes Back (£500,000-£1,000,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 02

Pairs nicely with this stormtrooper helmet from the first film (estimate £40,000-£60,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 03

Marty McFly’s hoverboard from Back to the Future II (estimate £30,000-£50,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 04

They’re also offering the DeLorean’s OUTATIME license plate from the first film (estimate £10,000-£15,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 05

A Wonka Bar from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (estimate £8,000-£10,000), a rare item because most props from the film were “destroyed at its Bavarian film studio to allow production to wrap quickly, making way for the immediate filming of Cabaret”:

Hollywood Auction 2018 06

Captain Picard’s uniform from the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation (£10,000-£15,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 07

And a bunch of other stuff, including John McClane’s radio from Die Hard, Edward Scissorhands’ costume, Mikey’s doubloon from The Goonies, a T-800 exoskeleton from Terminator 2, Tom Hanks’ helmet from Saving Private Ryan, a THX 138 license plate from American Graffiti, and a full-size drivable replica of the DeLorean from Back to the Future.

If you want to bid on any of this stuff, either in person, via the phone, or online, check out the info page on how to register.

Every Owen Wilson “Wow” In Chronological Order

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2018

Yeah, I’m not sure what else needs to be explained here, it’s what it says on the tin, etc. Owen Wilson likes saying “wow” in movies, people like pointing out that Owen Wilson likes saying “wow” in movies, and this is a collection of those moments. Purple monkey dishwasher.

A Shot-By-Shot Remake of Toy Story 3 by Two Teen Superfans

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2018

Since 2011, brothers Morgan and Mason McGrew have been working on a shot-by-shot recreation of Toy Story 3. They’ve built sets, borrowed garbage trucks for scenes, and spent hundreds and hundreds of hours shooting stop motion animation of their army of Toy Story dolls & action figures. They’ve made enough progress on the film to release a trailer and it looks great!

For way too many years now, my brother and I (with the support of our awesome family and friends) have been working on a shot-for-shot recreation of Toy Story 3. This project has been an incredible undertaking, and we’ve made the decision to have this complete by 2019. At this time, I’m not quite sure what a release will look like, but I do know that this has to be done by next year. We’re both pursuing college and full-time careers right now, and it’s time to wrap this side-project up.

It looks like the brothers were around 11 and 14 when they began filming. You can check out the project’s Facebook page for information and updates.

See also Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.

My Recent Media Diet, Special In Denial That Summer’s Over Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2018

I’ve been keeping track of every media thing I “consume”, so here are quick reviews of some things I’ve read, seen, heard, and experienced in the last month or so. This installment has a few things on it from a trip to NYC and is also very movie-heavy. In addition to the stuff below, I also finished Sharp Objects (HBO series, not the book) and Star Trek: Voyager, both of which I reviewed last time. I’m almost done with Origin Story…might do a whole separate post on that one. Up next in the book department: Now My Heart Is Full, The Good Neighbor, or Fantasyland.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout. I’m not a particular fan of the series, but this was so fun that maybe I should be? Love the practical effects. (B+)

Bundyville. This podcast came highly recommended by a reader but as soon as Cliven Bundy opened his mouth to speak I realized I did not want to spend a single second of my life in this asshole’s ville or town or mind or anything. Maybe this makes me intolerant or incurious? Not sure I particularly care…there are worthier things I can choose spend my time on. (-)

Radiohead at TD Garden, 7/29/2018. I somehow won the Ticketmaster lottery and got floor tickets, so we were about 35 feet from the stage. Cool to see my favorite band that close. (A)

MFA Pastels

French Pastels: Treasures from the Vault, MFA Boston. I don’t have much experience with viewing pastels but these seemed simultaneously alive and dreamy. (A-)

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. One of our culture’s recent great storytellers. It’s dated (and cringeworthy) in places, but that Bourdain voice and perspective is right there on the page, almost fully formed. In the chapter about Tokyo, you also get to witness the prototype for Bourdain’s third and, arguably, greatest career as a culinary and cultural observer of far-flung places. Pro tip: get the audiobook read by the man himself. (A)

My new electric toothbrush. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this sooner? My teeth feel (and probably are) so much cleaner now! (A-)

Holedown. I’ve spent too many hours playing this. It sucks I hate it it’s so good and I can’t stopppppppp. (A-/D+)

David Wojnarowicz exhibition at the Whitney. A strong show about an artist I didn’t know a lot about going in. (B+)

The Problem We All Live With

Celebrating Bill Cunningham exhibition at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition was in a small room and featured very few photographs, so I was a little disappointed. But I did get to see the Norman Rockwell/FDR exhibition, including this arresting painting. (B)

Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs at the Museum of the City of New York. Even though I have the book, the original photos were worth seeing in person. (B+)

Eighth Grade. The feelings generated by watching this film — dread, crushing anxiety — closely approximated how I felt attending 8th grade. Well played. (B+)

Sorry to Bother You. If you haven’t seen this, don’t watch or read anything about it before you do. Just watch it. (A-)

Arbitrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin. This had me thinking about all sorts of different things. Recommended. (A)

Succession. This wasn’t quite as good as everyone said it was, but I still enjoyed it. My tolerance for watching rich, powerful, white assholes, however entertaining, is waning though… (B)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Unsurprisingly more spare than the TV series but still powerful and unsparing. (A-)

The Dark Knight. If not the best superhero movie ever, it’s close. (A-)

Crazy Rich Asians. A romantic comedy with a strong dramatic element rooted in family & cultural dynamics, women who are strong & interesting & feminine in different ways, and a wondrous setting. Also, put Awkwafina in every movie from now on. (A-)

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. Fred Rogers was a relentless person, a fantastic example of a different kind of unyielding masculinity. I sobbed like a baby for the last 20 minutes of this. (A)

BlacKkKlansman. Messy. I didn’t really know what to feel about it when it ended…other than shellshocked. Was that the point? (B+)

Tycho’s 2018 Burning Man Sunrise DJ set. Always an end-of-the-summer treat. (A)

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I watched this movie at least 100 times in high school. Despite not having seen it in probably 20 years, I still knew every single line of dialogue — inflections, timing, the whole thing. (A+)

Foggy hikes. (A+)

American Animals. This is like Ocean’s 11 directed by Errol Morris. Stealing things is more difficult than it seems in the movies. (B+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

Good movies are unspoilable

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2018

NY Times film critic A.O. Scott recently discussed the technology he uses to do his job. Near the end (spoiler!), he highlights something that I’ve been thinking about recently: movies worth watching are unspoilable.

Q: Hasn’t social media made it impossible to keep a lid on movie spoilers ahead of a film’s theatrical release?

A: Social media also amplifies the hysteria about spoilers, which I find kind of depressing. There is so much more to movies than plot, or at least there should be, but the studios have so little faith in their products that they mystify banal and obvious story elements. Rosebud is the name of a sled. “Citizen Kane” is still a great movie.

Still, I dislike hearing spoilers and lately have taken to ignoring everything about movies & TV I might want to watch. I’ll sometimes view trailers, but mainly I just pay attention to people I trust telling me to see stuff. Sorry to Bother You, Blackkklansman, Crazy Rich Asians, Eighth Grade, Succession, Sharp Objects, American Animals…I went into all of these without reading anything or even looking at trailers.

Would Sharp Objects have been as entertaining had I known the ending all along? Not quite. Ditto for Sorry to Bother You. I was told not to read anything about Boots Riley’s film before seeing it and I’m glad I listened…there was a scene in there that delivered a feeling of shock and delight that I would hate to have missed out on.

But the charms of Crazy Rich Asians, the creeping anxiety of Eighth Grade, and the dramatic ludicrousness of Succession all would have hit the same had I known all of the plot details beforehand. I’ve seen films like Dr. Strangelove, Ocean’s 11, and Raiders of the Lost Ark more than ten times apiece and rewatching them, while not quite like the first time I saw each, is still very worthwhile and entertaining for me.

The Other Side of the Wind

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 30, 2018

Netflix is finally releasing The Other Side of the Wind, a film by Orson Welles that has been unfinished since filming was completed in the mid-70s. Here’s how Netflix describes the movie:

Surrounded by fans and skeptics, grizzled director J.J. “Jake” Hannaford (a revelatory John Huston) returns from years abroad in Europe to a changed Hollywood, where he attempts to make his comeback: a career summation that can only be the work of cinema’s most adventurous filmmaker, Orson Welles.

And here’s Wikipedia’s take:

Starring John Huston, Bob Random, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg and Oja Kodar, it is a satire of both the passing of Classic Hollywood and the avant-garde filmmakers of the New Hollywood of the 1970s. The film was shot in an unconventional mockumentary style in both color and black-and-white, and it incorporated a film-within-a-film that spoofed the work of Michelangelo Antonioni.

You can also read about the many trials and tribulations of the film’s production on Wikipedia.

Update: As a companion to The Other Side of the Wind, Netflix is releasing a documentary about Welles at the end of his career as he labored to make the film. Here’s the trailer for They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead:

The documentary is directed by Morgan Neville, whose most recent film was Won’t You Be My Neighbor? about Fred Rogers.

American Dharma, Errol Morris’ upcoming documentary about Steve Bannon

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2018

Errol Morris has made a documentary film about Steve Bannon called American Dharma that he refers to as “a kind of horror movie” for folks uneasy in Trump’s America. There’s no trailer yet but a pair of recent interviews with Morris shed light on the film, the third installment of the director’s American Political Monsters trilogy (along with The Fog of War and The Unknown Known).

Both interviews are quite good. Here’s a bit from Frank Bruni’s chat with Morris in the NY Times:

Bruni: Is Steve Bannon an earnest ideologue or is he a cynical and grandiose opportunist?

Morris: It’s the big question. And everybody, including myself, wants a pie graph. They want to be able to say what percentage is ideologue, what percentage is snake-oil salesman. And I’m not sure I can answer the question. We all know that being an effective salesman is coming to believe in what you’re selling. You know, I like to think that the human capacity for credulity is unlimited, unfettered. But the human capacity for self-deception — the ultimate self-credulity — is also unfettered, unlimited. I look at him and I think to myself: You can’t really believe this stuff. And yet, for all intents and purposes, he does.

Bruni: Which stuff do you find it hardest to believe he believes?

Morris: I find it hardest to believe that he thinks that Donald Trump is an honest man. I find it hard to believe that he thinks that Donald Trump is enabling populist programs. How is this tax cut or the attempt to roll back capital gains taxes — how does that benefit the people? Is allowing all kinds of industrial pollution populism? I could go on and on.

I try making fun of him. You know, he was reading a book about tariffs and China and the Great Wall. And I said to him, “You know, the wall really worked in China.” He said, “How’s that?” I said, “No Mexicans.”

And from Deborah Chasman’s conversation for the Boston Review:

DC: It’s clear that he’s good at giving voice to a legitimate grievance, at least in some contexts. In the United States there’s the legitimate grievance that a corrupt political machine has left a bunch of people behind. But I’m unclear what he is actually delivering to these people, or even just thinks he is giving them, other than this permission to hate.

EM: I think that’s certainly part of it. He told the French National Front, “Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativist. Wear it as a badge of honor.”

I also think you see it in his reaction to Charlottesville. He basically says, “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill. The neo-Nazis have no currency in our culture.” In my movie he even says that the neo-Nazis are a creation of the liberal press. Which, of course, is absurd. Yes, the liberal press gets upset by neo-Nazis being coddled by the president, and why shouldn’t they? But that’s not to say that journalists parked them in Charlottesville and caused them to run over people.

Bannon also called Macron “a little Rothschild’s banker.” He said, “The French are realizing how much Macron has become an embarrassment. He’s a Rothschild banker who never made any money, the ultimate definition of a loser. He would sell his soul for nothing.” I did not like that. He doubtlessly would say that his remarks were not anti-Semitic, but I would respectfully disagree. He knew what he was doing. He knows who he’s appealing to.

DC: So why talk to Bannon at all? What’s to be gained?

EM: I think there’s a lot to be gained. I consider myself a journalist, proudly so, and the job of journalism is not to have five pundits sitting around a table on Fox News or CNN. The job of journalists is to report-to go out, look at stuff, and report on it. I went out in the field and this is what I saw, and I would like to present it to you for your consideration.

I find Morris’ constant interrogation of the truth — in politics, in photography, in storytelling, in people’s own minds — endlessly fascinating. I’m looking forward to this one, despite the subject matter, and will share the trailer when it arrives.

The 23 best films of the 2000s

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2018

The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday proposes a list of movies made in the 2000s that should be added to the canon of the best films ever made. Many of my favorites are on there — The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fog of War, Spirited Away, There Will Be Blood, Children of Men.

Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of the P.D. James novel evinced the perfect balance of technical prowess, propulsive storytelling, complex character development and timeliness when it was released in 2006. But its depiction of a dystopian near-future — what we ruefully now call the present — has proved to be not just visionary but prophetic. Its predictive value aside, it stands as a flawless movie — a masterwork of cinematic values at their purest, with each frame delivering emotion and information in equally compelling measure.

Dunkirk, from just last year, is a bold inclusion…I love that movie but it’ll be interesting to see how it holds up. You can compare this list with two older lists: Dissolve’s and BBC Culture’s.

Update: The NY Times did a similar list last year, with There Will Be Blood and Spirited Away taking the #1 and #2 spots. (thx, paul)

Battery death is the new horror film staple

posted by Tim Carmody   Aug 17, 2018

Daniel_Kaluuya_And_Microsoft_Lumia_Phone___Get_Out_2017_3.jpg

I’ve been enjoying The Verge’s series of posts about batteries, not least because it’s not just about so-called “hard” tech, but also how changing technologies change our culture, our social interactions, our range of possibilities. A good example is Tasha Robinson’s essay on how the dead or dying mobile phone battery has become a staple of contemporary horror films — not so much a cliché (although it sometimes veers into that) but a new condition of the genre.

[In the past,] it was possible for a horror movie to isolate its victims by taking them slightly outside the warm glow of civilization. Classics like 1960’s Psycho, 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, or 1980’s The Shining dropped the protagonists at remote houses. With no access to landlines, the characters in those movies were so removed from help or contact with the outside world, they might as well have been stranded on the Moon. Even as of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, it was plausible that a group of tech-savvy young people would venture into the woods without cellphones or a GPS tracker, and have no way to alert anyone else when their situation took a bad turn. But with upward of 75 percent of Americans owning smartphones, and upward of 95 percent owning cellphones of some kind, modern horror films have to work harder to keep their characters from summoning the police the second a maniac starts waving a chainsaw in their direction.

These days, a dead phone doesn’t just cut users off from emergency services; it also cuts them off from the conversation, the daily flow of online life that so many of us use as our primary form of contact with the outside world. In that sense, the need to kill a victim’s battery before killing the actual victim is becoming less of a predictable cliché, and more of a way of building the stakes and establishing sympathies. Horror movie audiences may find it hard to believe in Cloverfield’s group of friends fleeing a Godzilla-sized monster through the streets of New York, but they can certainly believe in a guy coming away from a party with a drained phone battery and obsessing over the need to make one last phone call before the night’s over.

Robinson talks about how this trope taps into real-world anxieties about being unable to communicate or connect with other people, whiling away necessary power with frivolous uses, and technology letting us down in key moments, but she also gestures towards something else; a peculiar sort of wish-fulfillment. She imagines a high-tech horror film in which unplugging becomes a form of escape. But we’re already longing for a retreat from our devices, notifications, internet drama, and everything that comes with it. Isn’t part of the uncanny quality of the battery death trope that it’s giving us what we want, just in a distorted form?

Typeset in the Future, a book about the typography & design of science fiction movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2018

Typeset In The Future

Inspired by the website of the same name, Dave Addey’s Typeset in the Future will look at how design and typography is used to build futuristic worlds in science fiction movies like 2001, Wall-E, Star Trek, and Blade Runner.

The book delves deep into 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Alien, Blade Runner, Total Recall, WALL-E, and Moon, studying the design tricks and inspirations that make each film transcend mere celluloid and become a believable reality. These studies are illustrated by film stills, concept art, type specimens, and ephemera, plus original interviews with Mike Okuda (Star Trek), Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall), and Ralph Eggleston and Craig Foster (Pixar).

You can pre-order the book on Amazon.

Behind-the-scenes footage shows how the Mission Impossible: Fallout stunts were done

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 07, 2018

Tom Cruise is not scared of heights. And he can fly helicopters? (Not only can he fly them, he does it well enough to perform stunts.) In this rough 30-minute reel of behind-the-scenes footage from the filming of Mission Impossible: Fallout, you get to see how many of the movie’s best stunts are done. Note: you’ll need to skip around a bit…there’s a lot of less exciting bits in there too. But don’t miss the car/bike stuff at the beginning, Cruise flying/hanging from the chopper, and, holy shit, the skydive choreography at the end, where the actors and camera folks dance intricately in a military cargo plane with the back hatch open before just jumping out of it, Cruise acting all the way.

You can tell when watching the film that you’re seeing practical effects. Visual effects are getting really really good, but movies like this with real people driving real vehicles…they just feel different. Visual effects sometimes break the fourth wall (and not in a good way); if it looks fake, your brain says “that’s fake”, and then you’re just a little less invested in what’s going on in the story.

If Beale Street Could Talk

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 02, 2018

Director Barry Jenkins is back with his first feature film since Moonlight won the Best Picture Oscar in 2016. It’s called If Beale Street Could Talk, an adaptation of a 1974 novel of the same name by James Baldwin.

In this honest and stunning novel, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl, in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin’s story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions-affection, despair, and hope. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin has created two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche.

The trailer looks amazing…can’t wait to see this one.

Anthropocene, a new film about how humans are changing the Earth forever

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 01, 2018

From Edward Burtynsky (known around these parts for his aerial photographs of industrial landscapes) and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal & Nicholas de Pencier comes a film called Anthropocene.

The Holocene epoch started 11,700 years ago as the glaciers of the last ice age receded. Geologists and other scientists from the Anthropocene Working Group believe that we have left the Holocene and entered a new epoch: the Anthropocene. Their argument is that humans have become the single most defining force on the planet and that the evidence for this is overwhelming. Terraforming of the earth through mining, urbanization, industrialization and agriculture; the proliferation of dams and diverting of waterways; CO2 and acidification of oceans due to climate change; the pervasive presence around the globe of plastics, concrete, and other technofossils; unprecedented rates of deforestation and extinction: these human incursions, they argue, are so massive in scope that they have already entered, and will endure in, geological time.

The film is one part of a larger “multimedia exploration” of the human epoch, which will include a book of new photography from Burtynsky, a traveling museum exhibition, interactive VR & AR experiences, and an educational program.

The film is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Update: In this video for Canadian Geographic, Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, talks with Burtynsky, Baichwal, and de Pencier about this project.

What made Darth Vader such a visually iconic character

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2018

Darth Vader was only on screen in the original Star Wars movie for 8 minutes and for a little under 34 minutes in the whole original trilogy. In the latest Nerdwriter episode, Evan Puschak examines how the cinematography of the films (particularly Empire Strikes Back) helped make Vader into an iconic character despite such little screentime.

Today seems to be movie villain day on kottke.org: see also this morning’s post on Black Panther’s Killmonger.

Welcome to Marwen

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2018

Mark Hogancamp was beaten by five men outside a bar and left for dead. He spent nine days in a coma, lost his memory, and spent over a year in physical therapy. As part of his recovery, Hogancamp built a meticulously constructed WWII town in his backyard that he called Marwencol.

When his state-sponsored rehabilitative therapies ran out, Mark took his recovery into his own hands. In his backyard, he created a new world entirely within his control — a 1:6 scale World War II town he named Marwencol. Using doll alter egos of his friends and family, his attackers and himself, Mark enacted epic battles and recreated memories, which he captured in strikingly realistic photographs. Those photos eventually caught the eye of the art world, which lead to a series of gallery exhibitions, the award-winning documentary “Marwencol,” the acclaimed book “Welcome to Marwencol,” and a new identity for a man once ridiculed for playing with dolls.

Robert Zemeckis has turned Hogancamp’s story into a movie starring Steve Carell called Welcome to Marwen. Here’s the trailer; it comes out in December 2018:

In 2010, Jeff Malmberg made a documentary about Hogancamp & and his project. It’s a little hard to find these days despite a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but you can watch it on Amazon w/ a trial subscription or buy it on iTunes. Here’s the trailer:

Hogancamp also collected some of the photos of Marwencol into a book.

How Black Panther created an empathetic antagonist for the hero

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2018

What makes a good movie villain? In this video, Lessons from the Screenplay discusses what I thought was the best and most interesting aspect of Black Panther: the empathetic villain in the form of Killmonger.

Killmonger is a great example of how an antagonist can challenge the hero not just through confrontation and violence, but by representing something that affects the hero emotionally.

Rather than pitting T’Challa against some “generically evil” villain, the filmmakers gave him a true foil that both he and the audience could empathize with. And by the end, Killmonger actually changes T’Challa’s mind on the central issue in the film and it felt earned.

The Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2018

I watched RBG last night, the documentary film about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What a remarkable person she is. Here’s the trailer:

If you’ve seen the movie (or even if you haven’t), Jeffrey Toobin’s 2013 New Yorker profile of Ginsburg goes easier on the memes and deeper into her legal process and views.

At this point, Ginsburg was a leader on the legal side of the women’s movement, especially when she became the first tenured woman at Columbia Law School, in 1972. She co-founded the first law review on women’s issues, Women’s Rights Law Reporter, and co-authored the first casebook on the subject. Also in 1972, she co-founded the women’s-rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union. When Sally Reed took her case to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg volunteered to write her brief.

“In very recent years, a new appreciation of women’s place has been generated in the United States,” the brief states. “Activated by feminists of both sexes, courts and legislatures have begun to recognize the claim of women to full membership in the class ‘persons’ entitled to due process guarantees of life and liberty and the equal protection of the laws.” In an opinion for a unanimous Court in Reed v. Reed, Chief Justice Burger overturned the Idaho law as “the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Sex discrimination, in other words, was unconstitutional. Susan Deller Ross, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, who also worked as a lawyer on sex-discrimination cases during this period, said of Ginsburg, “She helped turn the Court a hundred and eighty degrees, from a very hands-off attitude, which had often been expressed very cavalierly, to one where they struck down law after law that treated the sexes differently.”

Building on the Reed precedent, Ginsburg launched a series of cases targeting government rules that treated men and women differently. The process was in keeping with Ginsburg’s character: careful, step by step. Better, Ginsburg thought, to attack these rules and policies one at a time than to risk asking the Court to outlaw all rules that treated men and women differently. Ginsburg’s secretary at Columbia, who typed her briefs, gave her some important advice. “I was doing all these sex-discrimination cases, and my secretary said, ‘I look at these pages and all I see is sex, sex, sex. The judges are men, and when they read that they’re not going to be thinking about what you want them to think about,’” Ginsburg recalled. Henceforth, she changed her claim to “gender discrimination.”

The piece mentions an impromptu serenade of opera fan Ginsburg by Plácido Domingo at Harvard…it’s a cute moment:

For a deeper dive, the best books about Ginsburg are The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Scott Dodson, My Own Words (a collection of her writing), and the more fun Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik.

My media diet for early Summer 2018, special roadtrip edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2018

I’ve been keeping track of every media thing I “consume”,1 so here are quick reviews of some things I’ve read, seen, heard, and experienced in the past two months or so. My summer has been a little slow, media-wise…the World Cup, my roadtrip, and time spent enjoying the outdoors have conspired to limit my reading and watching time. This is not a bad thing. I’m still working my way through The Odyssey w/ the kids (now on hold b/c they’re at camp) and David Christian’s Origin Story. I wanted to get way more reading done this summer than I have…maybe I can pick up the pace in August. (Ignore the letter grades. Or don’t!)

Solo: A Star Wars Story. The movie was fine, but I liked the branding for it more. I would watch an Enfys Nest movie though. (B)

The Dave Chang Show w/ Helen Rosner. Chang is an engaging interviewer, and Rosner is a great guest. (B+)

RBG. What an extraordinary person. (B+)

American Innovations. Engaging and informative podcast hosted by Steven Johnson. (B)

Ocean’s 8. Pretty good but would have benefitted from a slightly more clever plot and direction by Soderbergh. (B+)

ye. As I’ve heard from more than one person: I hate that I like this album. (B+)

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This book contains a valuable central message and several fascinating insights but the constant ad hominems, irrelevant tangents, stereotyping, and general antagonistic tone of the writing makes for tough reading. I wish Taleb were a more generous writer. (B)

Incredibles 2. A solid sequel. Kids gave it two thumbs up. (A-)

Everything is Love. Ok, “The Carters”, but they smartly made this a Beyoncé album feat. Jay-Z. This has been on heavy rotation in my car. (A-)

The Disaster Artist. Gave up on this about 30 minutes in…zero interest. (-)

Justice League. Not as terrible as I was led to believe. But maybe DC can trade Wonder Woman to Marvel? (C+)

Caliphate. Finished this…what a great and important series. I know a lot of people think Serial is the podcast gold standard, but this was better and more significant. (A)

Seabiscuit. This one always gets me right in the feels. (B+)

Scorpion. Kanye’s latest album is 23 minutes long while Drake went for a full 90 minutes. I know there’s some controversy about it, but it was genuinely great hearing new music from Michael Jackson. (B)

The Handmaid’s Tale. The remainder of the second season was brutal. (A-)

A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin. An epic story of adventure and discovery, expertly told. (A)

Sharp Objects. This one is a slow burn, but I will watch Amy Adams in anything…she is mesmerizing. (B+)

Star Trek: Voyager. Still making progress on this…I’m about 70% of the way through. It’s better in the middle seasons than a lot of people give it credit for. (B)

Solo roadtrips. The world is a fascinating place…get out and explore it if you can. (A+)

Pacific Rim Uprising. They could have done more with this, but they didn’t. They really didn’t. (C+)

The 2018 FIFA World Cup. I missed most of the knockout stage because I was traveling, but I still loved every minute of this World Cup. (A-)

Jaws. My first time seeing it. (Yes, yes, I know.) Amazing to see so many of Spielberg’s filmmaking techniques on display so early in his career. (A-)

Westworld. This show asks, over and over again, “Is any of this real?” The result is a complete inability on my part to suspend my disbelief…I’m always very aware that what I’m watching is fake. (C-)

Hot Fuzz. Will watch this anytime. (A-)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

  1. You probably dislike the use of the word “consume” when it comes to media. So do I. It conjures up an image of mindlessly feeding on things that talented and artistic people have worked hard on. (See also “media diet”.) But different forms of work have different verbs associated with them: TV shows & movies are watched, books are read, podcasts are listened to, theme parks are experienced. What one word works for all of those? Enjoyed? I surely don’t enjoy all the stuff I watch/listen to/watch/experience (see!!). Experienced? That suggests a passiveness that doesn’t apply to how I watch/read things. “Consumed” works, for better or worse. Does anyone have a better suggestion? I am ready to consume it…

Film and Furniture, a site about the decor in movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2018

On Film and Furniture, you’ll find info about the production and set designers of films & TV shows and features about the furniture and wallpaper in Phantom Thread, the Parr’s massive new home in Incredibles 2 (Pixar listed the place on Zillow), and some of the cooler items from Blade Runner 2049.

Overlook Hotel Rug

They also have a store from which you can buy items from your favorite movies: whiskey tumblers from Blade Runner, a sofa from Ex Machina, lounge chairs from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and, of course, the Overlook Hotel rug from The Shining. (thx to several ppl who sent this in)

How to see kung fu films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2018

In this video, MoMA film curator La Frances Hui gives us a very quick and informative overview of what to look for when watching kung fu and martial arts films. Aside from Jackie Chan & more recent stuff like Crouching Tiger & Hero, I’ve never been super into martial arts movies, but after watching this, I’m excited to watch some of Lau Kar-leung’s films, particularly The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime). Lau also directed and did the fight choreography for Drunken Master II, a favorite of mine that I haven’t seen in awhile.

Peter Jackson is remastering old WWI film footage

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2018

Working with the 14-18 NOW project, Peter Jackson is making a film about the experience of the soldiers fighting in World War I. As part of the process, Jackson and his special effects team (who have worked on the LOTR films, etc.) have been remastering and reimagining film footage from the collection of the Imperial War Museums. Here’s Jackson talking about the project and showing some of the remastered video:

The footage has been stabilized, the grain and scratches cleaned up, and the pace slowed down to from comedic to lifelike. Jackson’s also planning on using colorization to make the people in that old footage seem as contemporary as possible. Here are some split-screen stills comparing the old footage with the remastered video:

Peter Jackson WWI

Peter Jackson WWI

Peter Jackson WWI

The finished product will be shown in theaters and schools around the UK in the fall and also on the BBC. (via open culture)

I just saw Jaws for the first time. AMA.

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 18, 2018

Everyone has that one obviously great and popular movie that they haven’t seen yet for no good reason. Mine is Jaws. Or at least it was. Last night, I finally watched it. What an experience to get to witness the invention of the blockbuster movie and the storytelling gifts of a young Steven Spielberg already approaching full strength.

In this video, Julian Palmer analyzes the beach scene in Jaws and explains what makes it so effective. He compares Spielberg’s filmmaking to Alfred Hitchcock’s and the parallels are apt.

I think the reason why Spielberg is so popular with audiences is because he is so adept at putting the viewer through the ringer. He doesn’t just objectively play out a scene, he engages the viewer directly and makes them experience the same emotions as his characters.

(video via @veganstraightedge)

How Trajan became the go-to typeface for movie posters

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2018

In the early 90s, a digital typeface designed in the 80s — but based on the letterforms used in a Roman column completed in 113 AD — became the go-to typeface for movie poster designers. (Reminder: everything is a remix.) It was used on posters for movies like The Bodyguard, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Children of Men, and Quiz Show. This Vox video details the rise of the Trajan typeface in movie poster design and why its not used that often by big movies anymore.

A movie adaptation of Sapiens is coming

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 12, 2018

Ridley Scott and Asif Kapadia are working on a film adaptation of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator, Alien) is producing while Kapadia (the excellent documentaries Amy & Senna) will direct. Harari, you’ll recall, is a Prophet and states in Sapiens that the Agricultural Revolution is “history’s biggest fraud”.

Rather than heralding a new era of easy living, the Agricultural Revolution left farmers with lives generally more difficult and less satisfying than those of foragers. Hunter-gatherers spent their time in more stimulating and varied ways, and were less in danger of starvation and disease. The Agricultural Revolution certainly enlarged the sum total of food at the disposal of humankind, but the extra food did not translate into a better diet or more leisure. Rather, it translated into population explosions and pampered elites. The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return. The Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud.

The meaning of the ending of 2001 according to Stanley Kubrick

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2018

Few directors allowed their movies to speak for themselves more than Stanley Kubrick. Still, when it came to 2001: A Space Odyssey and its mysterious ending, he did attempt to let viewers know what his intention was. In a 1969 interview with Joseph Gelmis, he quickly summed up the entire plot in two paragraphs:

You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man’s first baby steps into the universe — a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And finally there’s a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system.

When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny.

But recently, an audio clip from a never-released Japanese documentary recorded in 1980 surfaced in which the director shares his view of the ending of the film in more detail.

I’ve tried to avoid doing this ever since the picture came out. When you just say the ideas they sound foolish, whereas if they’re dramatized one feels it, but I’ll try.

The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film.

They choose this room, which is a very inaccurate replica of French architecture (deliberately so, inaccurate) because one was suggesting that they had some idea of something that he might think was pretty, but wasn’t quite sure. Just as we’re not quite sure what do in zoos with animals to try to give them what we think is their natural environment.

Anyway, when they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman. We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.

So that’s the plot stated plainly, but luckily it takes nothing away from any of the metaphorical meanings that people have ascribed to the film over the past 50 years.

Dancing in movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 20, 2018

A supercut montage of dance scenes from over 300 movies (like School of Rock, The Wizard of Oz, Footloose, Dances With Wolves, West Side Story, and Straight Outta Compton). A full list of the movies represented is available here.