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kottke.org posts about movies

Tina

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2021

Tina is an upcoming documentary film about music legend Tina Turner, featuring interviews with Angela Bassett, Oprah, Kurt Loder (who co-wrote the 1986 autobiography on which the movie is based), and Turner herself.

With a wealth of never-before-seen footage, audio tapes, personal photos, and new interviews, including with the singer herself, TINA presents an unvarnished and dynamic account of the life and career of music icon Tina Turner.

Everything changed when Tina began telling her story, a story of trauma and survival, that gave way to a rebirth as the record-breaking queen of rock ‘n’ roll. But behind closed doors, the singer struggled with the survivor narrative that meant her past was never fully behind her.

Tina will begin airing on HBO on March 27. A companion playlist of Turner’s music is available at Spotify.

Update: Cassie Da Costa reviewed Tina for Vanity Fair:

Her new interview in the film allows her to speak authoritatively on her own celebrity and personal life without having to revisit the sordid details of the abuse she experienced at the hands of Ike. And though it doesn’t shy away from the darkness held within her biography, Tina turns decidedly toward the light. The result is a film that shines, both in its passion for Turner’s talent and the depth and complexity of her character.

Netflix to Air Documentary About the Last Blockbuster Video Store

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2021

Netflix was founded in 1997 as a DVD rental service. At the time, Blockbuster Video was a multi-billion dollar video rental behemoth, growing to over 9000 stores as recently as 2004. In 2000, Netflix offered to sell to Blockbuster for $50 million — Blockbuster declined. By 2011, Blockbuster was bankrupt and down to 2400 stores while Netflix had gone public and their streaming business was exploding. Today, Netflix has a market cap of $223 billion, is a member of the S&P 100, and will soon start showing The Last Blockbuster, a documentary about the very last Blockbuster video rental store in the world. Absolutely savage victory lap.

Bob Odenkirk Action Movie??!

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2021

This is the trailer for Nobody, an action film that’s a cross between John Wick, Breaking Bad, and a tiny bit of Force Majeure (although maybe I’m alone in making this connection). The film stars Bob Odenkirk as an unassuming dad who decides he wants to be assuming again — violent hijinks ensue. Looks like it’s coming out in late March, which is still a bit too early for me to want to see a movie in a theater again.

The Projection Booth

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2021

Projection is a short film by Joseph Holmes of clips from 50 different films that take place in movie theater projection rooms. This supercut was made to accompany Holmes’ series The Booth, a collection of photos from 2012 that document the disappearing/changing movie theater projection rooms.

Joe Holmes, The Booth

Joe Holmes, The Booth

The Typewriter

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2021

A few days ago, I featured Ariel Avissar’s compilation of giant moons from movies and over the weekend, he sent me his most recent supercut: The Typewriter. This brisk & artfully concocted 2-minute video features dozens of typewriters being used in TV & movies, including The Shining, Mad Men, Adaptation, Barton Fink, Citizen Kane, All the President’s Men, and even Stephen J. Cannell (80s kids know).

Flim, an Intelligent Movie Screenshot Search Engine

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2021

Flim is a movie search engine currently in beta that returns screenshots from movies based on keywords like “clock” or “tree”. Like so:

film screenshot search results

You can filter results by things like genre, year, and film ratio. You can search by color and within movies, e.g. “tuxedo” in Titanic:

film screenshot search results

I would love for the screenshot detail pages to include timecodes — it would make this an amazing tool for creating supercuts, film analysis videos, and other sorts of media. Imagine how much easier Christian Marclay’s job would have been with “clock” and “watch” searches on Flim. (via waxy)

30 Minutes of Relaxing Visuals from Studio Ghibli

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2021

This. This is the stuff. Lapping water, wind through the tall grass, patient trains, birds, rolling countryside, mountains, sleeping, castles in motion, and more calm scenes compiled from Studio Ghibli movies.

See also hundreds of Studio Ghibli backgrounds for your Zoom calls and 10 Hours of Extremely Relaxing Ocean Scenes & 40 Hours of Relaxing Planet Earth II Sounds, both from BBC Earth. (via laura olin)

Dozens of Giant Movie Moons

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 17, 2021

Ariel Avissar made this 2.5-minute supercut of giant moons from movies — like E.T., The Nightmare Before Christmas, Spider-Man, The Lion King, Black Swan, Despicable Me — accompanied by Frank Sinatra’s rendition of Fly Me to the Moon.

Arcade Fire’s Score for ‘Her’ Finally Released

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2021

Her soundtrack album art

The original score for Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her, composed by Arcade Fire & Owen Pallett, will finally see a proper release next month. You can preorder on vinyl, cassette, or MP3. I’m assuming it will also be out on streaming services on its release date of March 19. I’ve been waiting years for this (even though it’s been available as a bootleg online this whole time).

Update: Here’s a list of several streaming/purchase options for the album.

The Animation That Changed Cinema

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2021

This is a treat: a 30-minute video that celebrates the animations & animators that changed cinema, e.g. Yuri Norstein, Miyazaki, Fantasia, The Iron Giant, Persepolis, etc. — a full list of the filmography is available in the description. Absolutely stunning visuals on some of these. See also The 100 Sequences That Shaped Animation. (via open culture)

The Film Scores of Studio Ghibli Performed by a Live Orchestra

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2021

In 2008, composer Joe Hisaishi conducted a 2-hour performance of music from the scores he created for Studio Ghibli’s animated films, accompanied by an orchestra, several choirs, a marching band, and scenes from the films themselves. Hisaishi and director Hayao Miyazaki have been collaborating on film scores since 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. In addition to Nausicaä, the performance includes songs from Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and a few others. (via open culture)

How Marvel Movies Are Made Before They’re Actually Made

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2021

Insider takes a look at how big Hollywood blockbusters (Marvel movies, in this case) are increasingly made, with an extensive digital previsualization stage that happens before any of the shooting starts. Think of it as supercharged storyboarding — the digital version of what Bong Joon-ho created for Parasite for instance. This is how digitally animated movies have been made for decades now — studios like Pixar always create roughly animated cuts of their movies before moving along to the expensive and time-consuming visual effects step. Big blockbusters like the Avengers movies are essentially animated films now, with live actors seamlessly inserted into the mix, like Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The “techvis” layer of the process is super interesting. Based on the previsualization, the system can output camera angles, movements, and settings that directors & camera operators can use on set to get the shots they want, speeding up production. This is the reverse of a technique that Pixar uses, in which real-world motion is captured and then programmed into virtual cameras:

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

The flip-flop they’re doing in filmmaking right now is fascinating to watch.

My Recent Media Diet, the Still Isolated Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2021

Holy shit, do I miss going to the movies. Oh, and going everywhere else. Anyway, every few months for the past couple of years, I’ve shared the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. Here’s everything I’ve “consumed” since the beginning of the year. (Don’t sweat the letter grades — they’re so subjective that I don’t even agree with them sometimes.)

Mank. Wanted to hate this, for secret reasons. Didn’t. (B+)

The Royal Tenenbaums. I have seen this movie a half dozen times and it’s still so fresh every time. (A+)

The Painter and the Thief. Best movie I’ve seen in months. (A+)

In & Of Itself. Everyone was raving about this and so I watched it and…I don’t know. It’s a magic show. I can see why people find it interesting, but watching it the night after The Painter and the Thief, it paled in comparison. (B+)

Ava. Jessica Chastain is good in this movie that is otherwise pretty bleh. (C+)

I’m Your Woman. Loved the 70s vibe of this one — not only the in-film setting but it had the feel of a movie made in the 70s as well. (B+)

Idiocracy. Fascinating documentary of the Trump presidency. (A-)

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Sure, Star Wars was the biggest movie in the world but without such a strong sequel, maybe we’re not still talking about these movies more than 40 years later. (A)

Blood Simple. First Coen brothers movie and Frances McDormand’s debut. (A-)

L.L. Bean fleece-lined hoodie. The most comfortable piece of clothing I’ve ever owned. (A+)

Wonder Woman 1984. This wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone said it was, but they should have worked a little harder on making an entertaining movie and less on hitting the audience over the head with a moral lesson. (B+)

Song Exploder (season two). The Dua Lipa and Trent Reznor episodes were the standouts here. (B+)

Ammonite. Great individual performances by Ronan and Winslet. (B+)

The Mandalorian (season two). Enjoyed this way more than season one. The final scene in the last episode… (A-)

MacBook Air M1. A couple of years ago, I bought an iPad Pro intending to use it for work on the go. For folks whose work is mostly email and web browsing, the device seems to work fine but after a solid year of trying to make it work for me, I gave up. Last month, I bought a MacBook Air M1 to replace my 6-year-old iMac, my 9-year-old Air, and the iPad. It’s a remarkable machine — lightning fast with a long-lasting battery. I’ll be much happier traveling with this, whenever it is that we get to travel again. (A)

The Crown (season four). The show has never reached the giddy heights of the first two seasons, but Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher was a fantastic addition to the show. As someone on Twitter said, Anderson played Thatcher perfectly: as a sociopath. (A-)

Sunshine. Rewatch. Afterwards, as one does, I looked the film up on Wikipedia and of course Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Devs) had written it. (A-)

Florida by Lauren Groff. Excellent and eclectic collection of short stories. (B+)

Phantom Thread. Undoubtably a masterpiece but also something that I personally find it hard to get fully into. (B+)

Emma.. Super-fun period piece starring Anya Taylor-Joy. (A-)

In Our Time, Eclipses. I love any opportunity to hear about eclipses. (A)

Hang Up and Listen: The Last Last Dance. This picks up where The Last Dance left off with the story of Michael Jordan’s second (and much less successful) comeback with the Washington Wizards. (B+)

Soul. A sequel of sorts to Inside Out. The underworld score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross is fantastic. (A)

Ready Player One. Almost in spite of myself, I like this movie. (B+)

The Hobbit film series. Not as good as the Lord of the Rings movies, but not as bad as commonly thought. (B)

Locked Down. This took a while to get going, but Hathaway and Ejiofor are both really good in this. I’ll tell you though, I really had to be in a certain mood to watch a movie about the first weeks of pandemic lockdown. It will be really interesting to see how much appetite people will have for pandemic-themed movies, TV, books, art, etc. (B+)

Young Frankenstein. Madeline Kahn is only in this movie for like 5 minutes but she so dominates the screen that it feels like much longer. (A-)

Batman Begins. I don’t know why Christopher Nolan wanted to direct a series of superhero movies, but I’m glad he did. (A-)

This American Life, The Empty Chair. There are so many more podcasts now than there were 10 years ago, but This American Life is still consistently among the best and they don’t get enough credit for that. (A-)

Criminal, The Editor. I will listen to anything about people who love encyclopedias. (B+)

The Midnight Sky. I feel like I’ve seen this movie — or a movie very much like it — several times before. (B)

Ocean’s 8. Good fun. And Awkwafina! (B+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

Black Art: In the Absence of Light

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2021

Next week, a documentary film directed by Sam Pollard will premiere on HBO: Black Art: In the Absence of Light.

Inspired by the late David Driskell’s landmark 1976 exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” the documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light offers an illuminating introduction to the work of some of the foremost Black visual artists working today.

Directed by Sam Pollard (Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children) the film shines a light on the extraordinary impact of Driskell’s exhibit on generations of Black artists who have staked a claim on their rightful place within the 21st-Century art world. Interweaving insights and context from scholars and historians, along with interviews from a new generation of working African American curators and artists including Theaster Gates, Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold, Amy Sherald and Carrie Mae Weems, the documentary is a look at the Contributions of Black American artists in today’s contemporary art world.

Just added this to my HBO Max queue — it looks great.

Home Movie: The Princess Bride

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2021

In June and July of 2020, Jason Reitman directed an at-home reenactment of the entirety of The Princess Bride featuring too many notable actors to list here. It ran in 10 installments on doomed streaming platform Quibi — which is why you probably haven’t heard of it — but it is fantastic. Mixed media, multiple actors playing all the roles, Fred Savage and Cary Elwes reprising their roles from the original, the star power & talent, the fact that they got permission to do it — it’s just so weird and good. You can watch the whole thing embedded above.

Ok, ok, here’s just a few of the actors who appear: Adam Sandler (as The Grandfather), Jon Hamm (Westley), Zoe Saldana (Buttercup), Penelope Cruz (Prince Humperdinck), Pedro Pascal (Inigo Montoya), Shaquille O’Neal (Fezzik), Charlize Theron (Fezzik), Andy Serkis (Count Rugen). And Carl Reiner as The Grandfather in his final onscreen role — he died just three days after recording his part.

I know you’re perhaps over the whole quarantine production thing, but this is worth checking out. This movie was done to raise money for José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, so if you enjoyed it, join me in sending them some money to enable their essential work. (via @mathowie)

USPS Announces Star Wars Droid Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2021

Star Wars droids stamps from the USPS

Star Wars droids stamps from the USPS

Star Wars droids stamps from the USPS

Star Wars droids stamps from the USPS

The spring, the USPS will be releasing a set of 10 stamps featuring droids from Star Wars movies and series. (These are the droids you’re looking for lolololol.)

Representing more than four decades of innovation and storytelling, the droids featured in this pane of 20 stamps are IG-11, R2-D2, K-2SO, D-O, L3-37, BB-8, C-3PO, a GNK (or Gonk) power droid, 2-1B surgical droid and C1-10P, commonly known as “Chopper.”

The characters are shown against backgrounds representing settings of memorable adventures. The selvage features a passageway from the floating Cloud City above the planet Bespin, introduced in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.”

(thx, caroline)

The 25 Best Films of 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 26, 2021

Because the pandemic (mostly) shuttered US movie theaters for the duration of 2020 and studios reduced or redirected their output accordingly, you might be excused for thinking that it was a bad year for film. As David Ehrlich’s masterful video countdown of the 25 best films of 2020 demonstrates, there was plenty of good stuff out there if you knew where to look.

I didn’t end up seeing many of the films on Ehrlich’s list — I’ve been stuck rewatching old favorites and meaningless garbage during the pandemic — but I’m going to make some time for several of these soon. Two documentaries that I was surprised to see omitted: My Octopus Teacher and The Painter and the Thief. The latter is one of the best movies I’ve seen in ages — I can’t imagine that Ms. Americana (for instance) was better. And I’m Thinking of Ending Things? Did not do it for me at all. *shrug* (thx, brandt)

Spaghetti Western Trailer for The Mandalorian

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2021

Just as the original Star Wars movie was inspired by Flash Gordon and Kurosawa,1 The Mandalorian is modelled on the western — a lone gunfighter makes his way through the wilderness to protect the innocent. As Mando star Pedro Pascal put it: “I think that George Lucas played with the Western undertones with the first movie, ‘Episode IV,’ and now they’re taking the suggestions of that tone and infusing it with steroids.” So naturally, it’s a great idea to make a trailer for The Mandalorian in the style of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, complete with music by Ennio Morricone. Il Mandaloriano!

  1. Lucas made Star Wars because he couldn’t get the rights to do a Flash Gordon movie. Who knew that “Flash Gordon as a samurai film” would be such a lucrative idea?

Sisters with Transistors: Electronic Music’s Unsung Heroines

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2021

Sisters with Transistors (great title!) is a documentary film by Lisa Rovner about the overlooked female pioneers of electronic music.

The history of women has been a history of silence.

As one of the film’s subjects, Laurie Spiegel explains: “We women were especially drawn to electronic music when the possibility of a woman composing was in itself controversial. Electronics let us make music that could be heard by others without having to be taken seriously by the male dominated Establishment.”

The film’s subjects, which you can read about here, include Clara Rockmore, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, Delia Derbyshire, Maryanne Amacher, Eliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani, and Laurie Spiegel. Oram, for example, was one of the founding members of BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop:

With many of her country’s men serving in the second World War, she began her career in radio broadcasting in the early ’40s. Galvanized by the ongoing developments in audio technology, she devoted much of her free time to exploring new ways to make sounds with electronics. One of the founding figures of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, she was one of the earliest British composers to produce electronic sounds and compose from field recordings — Musique Concrete, the ancestry of today’s electronic music.

Sisters with Transistors has been playing at some online festivals but I couldn’t find any info about release dates or screenings in the US. Hopefully it will be out there soon? (via open culture)

21 Things That Kept Me Going In 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 31, 2020

overhead view of my home office

For the past few years, I’ve been keeping track of everything I read, watch, listen to, and experience in my media diet posts. As a media diet wrap-up, here’s the most compelling content & experiences from 2020, stuff that helped stimulate and sustain me in a year of isolation and pandemic.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire. This was the final movie I saw in a theater before the pandemic hit; I chose well. Not a week has gone by this year that I didn’t think about some aspect or another of this film.

You’re Wrong About. By far my favorite episodic podcast. The joy with which the hosts delight each other with insights and humorous asides is the engine that drives the show. Literally my only complaint: I wish they hadn’t changed the theme music.

The Queen’s Gambit. Seems like everyone watched this miniseries this fall and I loved it just as much as anyone.

The Rain Vortex at Singapore’s Changi Airport. An enchanting oasis in the middle of an airport indicative of Singapore’s incorporation of natural elements into urban spaces.

MASS MoCA. For my birthday, I treated myself with a road trip to this superb museum. The Sol LeWitt, James Turrell, and Jenny Holzer exhibitions alone were worth the trip. I sorely miss museums.

Ted Lasso. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood + Major League. Who knew you could make radical empathy funny? Everyone I’ve recommended this show to has loved it.

The Land That Never Has Been Yet from Scene on Radio. An essential series on American democracy. Like, do we even have one? It’s hard to choose, but the episode on how the libertarianism of the contemporary Republican Party was the result of a deliberate campaign by just a few people that increasingly came to dominate American politics is my favorite.

Carol. I remember liking this back when it came out, but my rewatch a couple of months ago was a revelation. A remarkable, sparkling film.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. Wilkerson has a gift for finding new ways for her readers to think about entrenched systems and behaviors.

Devs. This show got neglected a little in the end-of-year lists because of an early-in-the-pandemic release, but it was one of my top 2-3 shows this year.

The Great. I really enjoyed this Hulu show as I watched it and it’s grown in my esteem in the months since. It’s one of the first shows I recommend when friends ask what I’ve been watching lately. Huzzah!

Nintendo Switch. To distract themselves from the pandemic, did America spend more hours playing video games or watching TV? I did both. Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 35, Rocket League, Fortnite, Minecraft, Among Us, and all the old NES games were popular in our household this year.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. I found reading difficult for most of the year — I only finished three books in the past 10 months. But this one I couldn’t put down; finished it in two days.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang. Perfect little stories expertly told. Don’t miss the endnotes, where Chiang reveals where the ideas for each of his stories came from.

AirPods Pro. The best augmented reality device yet devised — the music feels like it’s actually in your head more seamlessly than ever before.

Little Women. Fantastic casting, performances, and direction. Waiting patiently for whatever Gerwig does next.

My Brilliant Friend (season 2) & Normal People. I didn’t think anyone could effectively adapt either of these authors, but somehow the shows nearly equalled the books.

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. Everything from Larson is great and this book about the Battle of Britain and the triumph of leadership resonated throughout this pandemic year.

Future Nostalgia. I listened to this more than anything else in 2020. Also notable because IMO there are no skippable songs on this album.

Tomidaya shoyu ramen. This tiny ramen shop in the Little Tokyo section of Saigon is supposed to closely resemble Japan shops. One of the best bowls I’ve ever had.

The Mandalorian. I was lukewarm on season one but loved season two. Of all the recent Star Wars things, this show best channels the sometimes goofy/campy magic that made the original movie so compelling.

The image above is an overhead view of my home office, where all the kottke.org magic happens.

A Sneak Preview of Peter Jackson’s Documentary About The Beatles

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2020

The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson’s documentary about the making of Let It Be, was delayed by the pandemic, so he and the studio have released a montage of about four minutes of the film as a sneak peek. The film, constructed from 55+ hours of largely unseen footage and 140 hours of audio recordings, seeks to portray the making of the band’s final studio album in a better light than previous accounts. The project has the support of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison and will out in August 2021. (via ted gioia)

Update: The film has turned into a three-part series to be released on Disney+ in November.

The streamer explained that “because of the wealth of tremendous footage Jackson has reviewed, which he has spent the past three years restoring and editing, ‘The Beatles: Get Back’ will be presented as three separate episodes.” The installments will roll out November 25-27 and be approximately two hours in length each.

My Recent Media Diet, The Late 2020 Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2020

Forgive me reader, for I have been lazy. It’s been 7 months since I’ve shared a list of the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts that I’ve been watching/reading/listening to, uh, recently. But I’ve been diligently keeping track1 and so here’s everything I’ve consumed since early May. Warning: soooo much TV and soooo many movies (and bad ones at that) and very few books. At the end of most days — after work, parenting, cooking yet another meal I’m not actually in the mood for, and constantly refreshing Instagram — I just don’t have enough left in the tank for books. (Oh, and as usual, don’t pay too much attention to the letter grades!)

Winds of Change. A fun ride but ultimately kind of empty? (B)

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Perhaps not what you’d expect going in — thought-provoking on almost every page. (A)

The Ezra Klein Show — Madeline Miller. Super interesting, especially if you’ve read Song of Achilles or Circe. (A-)

Godzilla. This was sort of the tail end of my pandemic disaster movie film fest. (C+)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters. I love that this exists but it is not for me. (B-)

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel. I knew it was coming, Thomas Cromwell’s downfall; it’s historical fact after all. But somehow the actual moment shocked me, despite Mantel’s careful foreshadowing over hundreds of pages. (A)

Normal People. No way in hell was this going to be as good as the book, but they somehow did it. Stellar casting. (A-)

Fleabag Live. I wanted to love this like I loved the TV show but could not get into it. (C+)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Whatever else you might think about the third SW trilogy, the casting was fantastic. (B+)

Partysaurus Rex. One of my favorite Pixar shorts. (A-)

Iron Man 3. The only MCU movie I hadn’t seen. It was…fine? (B)

Dunkirk. A masterpiece. (A)

Arrival. Another masterpiece. (A)

Kursk. This should have been better. (B)

Harry Potter at Home. My kids and I listened to this in the car and loved it. (A-)

Watchmen. After admitting I’d stopped watching after a few episodes, several of you urged me to keep going. I finished it but still was not as dazzled as everyone else seemed to be. Maybe if I’d read the graphic novel? (B+)

Against the Rules with Michael Lewis (season two). This season was all about coaching and may have been even better than the first season. (A-)

The General. A silent film masterpiece from Buster Keaton. The kids were a little bored at first but ultimately loved it. (A-)

The Endless. Solid sci-fi horror. (B)

13th. A powerful argument that slavery is still constitutionally legal and alive & well in the United States. (A)

Ida. Beautiful film. (B+)

The Last Dance. I grew up watching and rooting for Jordan and the Bulls, so this was the perfect nostalgic entertainment. Jordan comes off as both more and less of a dick than I remember. (A-)

Da 5 Bloods. This was a mess. (C+)

Undone. Inventive animated sci-fi with plenty of plot left for season two. (B+)

Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls by Sonya Renee Taylor. Borrowed this from my daughter to brush up on how to help her approach some changes coming down the pike. (A-)

Beyond Meat. I snuck some of their ground “beef” into a casserole to try it out and see if the kids would notice. They didn’t at first, but once I told them, the three of us agreed that it was not that tasty — and definitely didn’t taste like beef. Plus I had an upset stomach until noon the next day. (C-)

Knives Out. I enjoyed this much more the second time. (A-)

Honeyland. A maddening microcosm of modernity. (A)

The Conversation. Maybe this hit me on an off-night? (B+)

The Great. Super fun show from the screenwriter of The Favourite. (A-)

Hamilton. Obviously better in person (and 4 years ago), but the performances and music are so great it doesn’t matter. (A)

Slate Money — Modern Monetary Theory. Really interesting alternate way of thinking about the economy, federal debt, inflation, and taxes. They kinda jumped right into the middle of it though, leaving this interested MMT beginner a little baffled. (B)

12 Monkeys. So very 90s. Brad Pitt is great in this though. (B+)

Cloud Atlas. An underrated gem. (A)

The Old Guard. Engaging and built for a sequel. But what isn’t these days? (B+)

Cars 2. I’d only ever seen the first 2/3s of this because my then-4-year-old son was so upset that the onscreen baddies were going to kill Lightning McQueen that we had to leave the theater. (B-)

Nintendo Switch. Such a fun little console that doesn’t take itself too seriously. (A-)

Greyhound. Not Hanks’ best effort. (B)

Radioactive. An overly complicated movie about a complex woman. (B+)

Ratatouille. The scene where Ego takes his first bite of ratatouille still gives me goosebumps. (A)

The Speed Cubers. Heartwarming story. (B+)

Project Power. Incredible that they were able to turn the story of Henrietta Lacks into a superhero movie. (B+)

Pluto TV. Am I the last person on Earth to find out about this app? Dozens of channels of reruns that you can’t pause and are interrupted by ads, just like old school TV. I’ve been watching far too much old Doctor Who on here. (B+)

Folklore. I don’t really get Taylor Swift and that’s ok. (C)

This Land. Excellent and infuriating — this had me yelling at my car radio. (A)

13 Minutes to the Moon — Apollo 13. Not as good as season one about Apollo 11 or Saving Apollo 13, but still compelling. (B+)

Black Panther. Had to rewatch. Rest in peace, Chadwick Boseman. What a loss. (A-)

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. Anything she writes, I will read. (A)

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. I had forgotten how slow this starts, but once it gets going it’s completely gripping, even the quiet parts. (A-)

Contact by Carl Sagan. First time I’d read this in many years. Did not resonate as much as it had in the past. (B+)

Contact. They should have sent a poet. (A-)

True Grit. Hailee Steinfeld is fantastic in this. (A)

Being John Malkovich. Terrific performance by Malkovich. This was a favorite movie of mine for years but its impact on me has lessened. (B+)

Reply All, Country of Liars. The origin story of QAnon. But let’s just say there are some unreliable narrators in this story. (B+)

Jurassic Park. A blockbuster masterpiece. (A)

50 First Dates. One of the very few Sandler comedies I really like. (B+)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Really did not vibe with this one. (C+)

Pride & Prejudice. I am a huge sucker for this film. (A)

MASS MoCA. Took a day trip down here back in October. My first museum since Feb. Sol LeWitt, James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, great building, virtually no one here on a weekday — very much worth the 6-hour RT car ride. (A+)

Palm Springs. Groundhog Day + 50 First Dates. (A-)

Kona Honzo. After getting a taste of mountain biking on a borrowed bike, I upgraded to this hardtail. Had some really great rides on it but also stupidly crashed, landed on my face, had to go to the ER, and got 9 stitches on my chin. Would not recommend crashing (stupidly or otherwise, but especially stupidly), but I liked mountain biking enough to get back on the bike a couple of weeks later. (A-)

My Octopus Teacher. As I said previously: “It’s such a simple movie but it packs a surprising emotional wallop and is philosophically rich. Even (or perhaps especially) the bits that seem problematic are thought-provoking.” (A)

His Dark Materials. I like the show but the main character is so irritating that I don’t know if I can keep watching… (B+)

You’re Wrong About — Princess Diana. I never fully understood the appeal of Princess Diana but now I do. Excellent 5-part series. (A)

Human Nature. Documentary on Netflix about the discovery and potential of Crispr. (B+)

The Booksellers. Was ultimately not that interested in this. (B)

Ted Lasso. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood + Major League. Who knew you could make radical empathy funny? (A+)

The Queen’s Gambit. So well done in almost every way. (A)

Haywire. Solid Soderbergh thriller. (B+)

Enola Holmes. I will watch almost any Sherlock Holmes adaptation, riff, or spin-off. (B+)

The Trial of the Chicago 7. I loved this. Classic Sorkin and great ensemble cast performance. (A)

Zama. Maybe surrealist film is not my cup of tea. (B)

AlphaGo. I’d read a lot about the events in this film, but seeing it play out was still gripping and surprising. This and My Octopus Teacher would make a great double feature about the shifting definition of what makes humans human. (A)

The Way I See It. Pete Souza reflects on his proximity to power. (B+)

The Queen. Had to watch this after the Princess Di You’re Wrong About series. (B+)

Lego Star Wars Holiday Special. Is this canon now? If so, I have some questions. (C)

Carol. Holy shit, wonderful! I think I held my breath for the last two minutes of the movie. (A+)

Song Exploder. TV version of the OG podcast. The REM episode was great. (B+)

Rogue One. I wouldn’t call this the best Star Wars movie, but it isn’t not the best Star Wars movie either. (A-)

Little Women. Rewatched. I love this movie. (A)

Tenet. Primer + James Bond. Maybe the pandemic has made me dumber, but this totally confused me. In a bad way — it could/should have been simpler. (B)

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. A masterful examination of the skin color-based caste system of the United States, compared and contrasted with the caste systems of India and Nazi Germany. (A)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

  1. People have asked so here’s the extensive system I use to keep track of everything: the Notes app on my phone.

Our Friend

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 25, 2020

That’s the trailer for Our Friend, a movie based on the true story told in this Esquire article by Matthew Teague: The Friend: Love Is Not a Big Enough Word.

His wife was just thirty-four. They had two little girls. The cancer was everywhere, and the parts of dying that nobody talks about were about to start. His best friend came to help out for a couple weeks. And he never left.

I remember very clearly that essay and the day I read it — I think about it all the time. I don’t know if the movie is going to be any good (I hope so), but if you’ve never read this essay, carve out some time to do so today.

Blade Runner Soundtrack Remastered into a Feature-Length Soundscape

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2020

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to argue that much of the enduring success of Blade Runner comes down to how well the potent combination of the film’s score, created by electronic composer Vangelis, and the visuals instantly evoke, even in 2020, the future. Ok, a dystopian neo-noir future, but the future nonetheless. A YouTuber has reworked that score, along with ambient sounds and dialogue from the film, into a feature-length soundscape that, as Colin Marshall put it at Open Culture, “feels a great deal like watching Blade Runner without actually watching Blade Runner”. I think I’ll be listening to this as I work today. (via open culture)

Virtual Sets Are Replacing Green Screens

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 13, 2020

The green screen is a staple of visual effects for movies and TV. You film actors in front of a green or blue screen and then use digital editing technology to replace the solid color with any background you’d like. But as Phil Edwards explains in this video, the effects teams for some movies and shows (like Disney’s The Mandalorian) have swapped green screens for virtual sets. In lieu of block colored backgrounds, the actors are surrounded by massive LED panels that display the background and background action so everything can be filmed in one go.

It’s a pretty cool technique. Among the benefits of such a system: you get the “natural” light from the LEDs falling on the actors and other objects in the scene, so you don’t need to add it in later digitally or use extra on-set lighting.

AlphaGo - The Movie

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2020

I missed this back in March (I think there was a lot going on back then?) but the feature-length documentary AlphaGo is now available to stream for free on YouTube. The movie documents the development by DeepMind/Google of the AlphaGo computer program designed to play Go and the competition between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol, a Go master.

With more board configurations than there are atoms in the universe, the ancient Chinese game of Go has long been considered a grand challenge for artificial intelligence. On March 9, 2016, the worlds of Go and artificial intelligence collided in South Korea for an extraordinary best-of-five-game competition, coined The DeepMind Challenge Match. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched as a legendary Go master took on an unproven AI challenger for the first time in history.

During the competition back in 2016, I wrote a post that rounded up some of the commentary about the matches.

Move after move was exchanged and it became apparent that Lee wasn’t gaining enough profit from his attack.

By move 32, it was unclear who was attacking whom, and by 48 Lee was desperately fending off White’s powerful counter-attack.

I can only speak for myself here, but as I watched the game unfold and the realization of what was happening dawned on me, I felt physically unwell.

Back to the Future: Reimagined

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2020

Back to the Future is 35 years old this year and to celebrate, Universal has cut together eight fan-made animations of action from the film into an abridged version of the beloved movie.

See also a deepfake version of BTTF with Tom Holland as Marty and Robert Downey Jr. as Doc.

“Reverse Toonification” of Pixar Characters

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2020

Using an AI-based framework called Pixel2Style2Pixel and searching for faces in a dataset harvested from Flickr, Nathan Shipley made some more photorealistic faces for Pixar characters.

reverse toonification of Pixar characters

reverse toonification of Pixar characters

reverse toonification of Pixar characters

In response to a reader suggestion, Shipley fed the generated image for Dash back into the system and this happened:

reverse toonification of Pixar characters

I cannot tell where these images should live in the uncanny valley. You can see some similar experiments from Shipley here: a more realistic version of Miles from Spider-Verse, images of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera “reverse engineered” from paintings, and an image generated from a Rembrandt self-portrait.

The Way I See It, a Documentary Film About Former White House Photographer Pete Souza

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2020

Pete Souza was the White House photographer for Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Reflecting on his experience and the how the current President comports himself while in office, Souza published two books: Obama: An Intimate Portrait and Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents. Those books form the basis for a documentary directed by Dawn Porter on Souza and his work called The Way I See It.

Based on the New York Times #1 bestseller comes The Way I See It, an unprecedented look behind the scenes of two of the most iconic Presidents in American History, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, as seen through the eyes of renowned photographer Pete Souza. As Official White House Photographer, Souza was an eyewitness to the unique and tremendous responsibilities of being the most powerful person on Earth. The movie reveals how Souza transforms from a respected photojournalist to a searing commentator on the issues we face as a country and a people.

I didn’t know that Trump’s presidency is not really getting recorded photographically as past presidencies have, but I’m not surprised.

The film was shown on MSNBC the other day…I don’t know if they’re rerunning it or what. It’s also out in theaters but with many of those still closed, I assume it’ll be out on streaming at some point soonish? (Update: According to the MSNBC schedule, it looks like it’s re-airing at midnight on Friday.)

Darren Aronofsky & His Cast Reunite for the 20th Anniversary of Requiem for a Dream

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 12, 2020

To mark the 20th anniversary of the debut of Requiem for a Dream, MoMA organized a virtual reunion of director Darren Aronofsky and the four principle cast members (Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans) to talk about “the film and its impact on cinema and culture”. Would have loved to hear from cinematographer Matthew Libatique and Clint Mansell (who did the fantastic music for the film) as well, but even six-person online panels are a little unwieldy. (via open culture)