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The Sparks Brothers

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2021

Edgar Wright has directed a documentary on a band called Sparks, which was formed by brothers Ron & Russell Mael in 1967 and the trailer (above) hails as “your favorite band’s favorite band”.

How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time? Edgar Wright’s debut documentary THE SPARKS BROTHERS, which features commentary from celebrity fans Flea, Jane Wiedlin, Beck, Jack Antonoff, Jason Schwartzman, Neil Gaiman, and more, takes audiences on a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers/bandmates Ron and Russell Mael celebrating the inspiring legacy of Sparks: your favorite band’s favorite band.

The Sparks Brothers will be in theaters on June 18.

The Otherworldly Sounds of Ice

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2021

The holes drilled into Arctic, Antarctic, and glacial ice to harvest ice cores can be up to 2 miles deep. One of my all-time favorite sounds is created by dropping ice down into one of these holes — it makes a super-cool pinging noise, as demonstrated in these two videos:

Ice makes similar sounds under other conditions, like if you skip rocks on a frozen lake:

Or skate on really thin ice (ok this might actually be my favorite sound, with apologies to the ice core holes):

Headphones are recommended for all of these videos. The explanation for this distinctive pinging sound, which sounds like a Star Wars blaster, has to do with how fast different sound frequencies move through the ice, as explained in this video:

(via the kid should see this)

Seth Rogen: Tales from the Nineties Bar Mitzvah Circuit

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2021

The New Yorker is running an excerpt from Seth Rogen’s new memoir, Yearbook (ebook), which will be out next week. When you’re reading this, remember to hear Rogen’s voice in your head; it makes it so much better.

The movie “Tombstone” came out in 1993, and, although it wasn’t a massive box-office or critical hit (the New York Times called it “morally ambiguous”), it made an impression on many, mostly owing to an amazing performance by Val Kilmer that was publicly praised by President Bill Clinton — which is the single most nineties sentence one could write. As 1994 rolled around, a young me was smitten with not only Kilmer’s performance as Doc Holliday but the entire Western aesthetic. The result? A fuckload of vests.

I could not own enough vests. I’d have bought more torsos just to wear them all if that were an option. A vest packed me in, gave me shape, and, most important, kind of made me feel like a cowboy who was dying of tuberculosis, which Kilmer had somehow made seem super-awesome. I also wore a pocket watch, which, in a truly impressive act of delusion, I’d convinced myself was cool.

It wasn’t.

Weekend after weekend, a slow song would come on, boys would ask girls to dance, girls would ask boys to dance, and I’d generally find myself standing off to the side, watching it all happen, spinning my pocket watch like some sort of nineteen-twenties Mafia snitch.

I’m a little older than Rogen — Tombstone hit when I was in college — and seeing the film didn’t make me want to wear vests, but that didn’t stop me and my friends from going around quoting the film at length, pretty much all of the time for months on end. One of our favorites — I can’t remember which of us originally came up with this — was reworking Doc Holliday’s line about his partner not wearing a bustle (seen at the beginning of this clip) into: “Kate, you’re not doing The Hustle. How doo doo doo doodoo doodoo doo doo…” That’s some prime middle school humor right there.

A Reevaluation of Jimmy Carter’s Presidency

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2021

A new documentary film called Carterland and Jonathan Alter’s biography His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life (ebook) are among the recent media attempting to reconsider and recontextualize the presidency of Jimmy Carter. From Megan Mayhew Bergman in The Guardian:

“Here’s what people get wrong about Carter,” Will Pattiz, one of the film’s directors tells me. “He was not in over his head or ineffective, weak or indecisive — he was a visionary leader, decades ahead of his time trying to pull the country toward renewable energy, climate solutions, social justice for women and minorities, equitable treatment for all nations of the world. He faced nearly impossible economic problems — and at the end of the day came so very close to changing the trajectory of this nation.”

Will’s brother, Jim, agrees. “A question folks should be asking themselves is: what catastrophes would have befallen this country had anyone other than Jimmy Carter been at the helm during that critical time in the late 1970s?”

I’m gonna need a three-episode series about Carter on You’re Wrong About, stat. If there’s any justice in the world (wait, don’t answer that), in 50 years’ time Ronald Reagan’s presidency will be considered the disaster that is was and Carter’s will look better in comparison.

If you’re interested in seeing Carterland, it looks as though it’s not out widely quite yet — the only place I could even find a trailer is on this Atlanta Film Festival page (click “Play Trailer” at the bottom of the page).

Paddington in Film

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2021

Paddington in Film

Paddington in Film

Paddington in Film

Paddington in Film

Paddington in Film

Paddington in Film

Reddit user JaytheChou is photoshopping Paddington Bear into one new movie scene every day — “until I forget” they say. So far, they’ve done Avengers, North By Northwest, Star Wars, and Blade Runner. In recognition of Citizen Kane’s rating recently getting knocked down below Paddington 2’s on Rotten Tomatoes, they did a Citizen Kane one. The Photoshop work could be better, but Paddington is such a perfect “quietly there” character that it doesn’t even matter.

Titanic: Melodrama Done Right

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2021

As an unapologetic fan of James Cameron’s Titanic, I really enjoyed Evan Puschak’s video love letter to the film and the genre it embodies: melodrama.

The term “melodrama” literally means drama accompanied by music, which is why film is maybe the best most natural medium for it — aside from opera. What’s important to note is that the moral core of melodrama doesn’t intellectualize the story; it adds to the emotion by giving it the flavor of virtue. You know that Rose and Jack should be together, so when they get together it feels right and righteous. And when Jack dies at the end, it’s a heartbreak that makes the whole universe seem wicked.

Miiight be time for a rewatch.

Amy Sherald: The Great American Fact

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2021

Amy Sherald painting

Amy Sherald painting

Painter Amy Sherald is displaying new work at the Hauser & Wirth gallery in LA through June 6: The Great American Fact. One thing I really notice in her art now, after watching the excellent documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light, is how at least one person in her paintings is looking directly at the viewer. Here’s Sherald talking about that in the documentary:

The eyes tell you what’s in the soul and, for me, the people that I paint, they’re no longer themselves in the painting. They are these archetypes that know they are present. These aren’t passive portraits — they’re maybe subversively confrontational, if you will — but it’s definitely a response to a lot of images I saw growing up where our gaze was always averted. Or thinking about the fact that you couldn’t look at a white person in the eye. So, this is my way of nodding my head at that narrative and empowering the image in a way. I like the paintings hung a little lower for that reason so when the viewer walks up, it’s a different conversation. You’re not looking up at it — it’s almost looking directly at you and I think that creates a different kind of sensation.

She also says of her subjects: “It’s important for me that they’re just Black people being Black” and I think that really comes through in this new work. (via colossal)

Make Everything Important

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2021

I enjoyed this interview with actor Mads Mikkelsen.

Q: Is there a life philosophy that you feel has carried you through your career?

A: My approach to what I do in my job — and it might even be the approach to my life — is that everything I do is the most important thing I do. Whether it’s a play or the next film. It is the most important thing. I know it’s not going to be the most important thing, and it might not be close to being the best, but I have to make it the most important thing. That means I will be ambitious with my job and not with my career. That’s a very big difference, because if I’m ambitious with my career, everything I do now is just stepping-stones leading to something — a goal I might never reach, and so everything will be disappointing. But if I make everything important, then eventually it will become a career. Big or small, we don’t know. But at least everything was important.

“All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.” —Yoda, Empire Strikes Back. See also “I’ve Never Had a Goal”. (via @tadfriend)

The Outside Story

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2021

One of the fun things about having a website that’s been running continuously for more than 23 years is that you get to watch the people you featured early in their careers grow and change and do bigger and better things. I’ve been posting filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski’s work on kottke.org since 2009 and now, his first feature-length film, The Outside Story, is set to debut at the end of this month. A short synopsis:

After locking himself out of his apartment, an introverted, heartbroken editor finds himself on an epic journey up, down and around his block with life-altering ramifications.

From the looks of the trailer (embedded above), The Outside Story has the same energy, playfulness, and keen lens into the interplay between humans & their environments as Nozkowski’s shorter work, which is not surprising given how it was filmed and where the inspiration came from. He told me, via email:

This is an indie film in the truest sense. Shot in 16 days on the streets of Brooklyn. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done and I’m just trying to get the word out any way I can. It’s loosely inspired by my short doc, 70 Hester Street where I examined my own building and block after years of taking it for granted.

You can watch 70 Hester Street here and The Outside Story will be available for purchase on all the usual streaming services on April 30.

Carrie Fisher’s Screen Test for Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2021

Before her appearance in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher had only appeared in one film (Hal Ashby’s Shampoo) and for the role of Leia, she was going up against several other great actresses, including Karen Allen and Jodie Foster. In this footage of Fisher’s screen test from late 1975/early 1976, where she’s reading a scene with Harrison Ford about the Death Star plans, you get a tantalizing glimpse of why she ended up winning the part.

See also Mark Hamill’s screen test and several other Star Wars screen tests, including this one of Kurt Russell, who auditioned for the roles of Han and Luke.

The Green Knight

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2021

A24 and David Lowery have adapted the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for the screen. The film was scheduled to be released early last year, but the pandemic intervened; it’s now due out at the end of July.

An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger. From visionary filmmaker David Lowery comes a fresh and bold spin on a classic tale from the knights of the round table.

I read this story (Simon Armitage’s translation) to my kids a year or two back and it wasn’t our absolute favorite (it paled in comparison to our previous read, Emily Wilson’s The Odyssey), so I’m curious to see how it works as a film.

Why Do Wes Anderson Movies Look Like That?

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2021

Love it or hate it, we all know what Wes Anderson movies look like by now — the vibrant color palette, use of symmetry, lateral tracking shots, slow motion, etc. etc. In this video, Thomas Flight explores why Anderson uses these stylistic elements to tell affective and entertaining stories.

But what is at the core of those individual stylistic decisions? Why does Anderson choose those things? Why do all those things seem to form a very specific unified whole? And what function, if any, do they serve in telling the kinds of stories Wes wants to tell?

The sources for the video are listed in the description; one I particularly enjoyed was David Bordwell writing about planimetric composition. (via open culture)

Two Identical Strangers

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2021

In 2018, Tim Wardle’s fantastic documentary Three Identical Strangers introduced us to a set of identical triplets who were separated at birth. The film goes deeper into the story (and into nature vs nurture) and I don’t want to spoil it too much, but after it was released, some people began to suspect that they might have identical siblings out there themselves. One of those people was Michele Mordkoff, who found she had a twin sister and got in touch with Wardle, who was there at their reunion and made this short film about it (major TIS spoilers in that first paragraph).

“She is a stranger to me, but she’s also a part of me-I mean, we shared a womb,” says Michele in the film after she meets her twin for the first time.

“I’ve been struck by how instinctive, magical, and moving genetic reunions can be,” Wardle told The Atlantic in a recent interview. “This isn’t to denigrate non-genetic/adoptive relationships, which can also be wonderful, but there’s something extraordinary and almost transcendent about observing the interaction between two people who have never met before but share the same DNA. It defies rational explanation.”

If you can’t get enough of twin reunions, here are a few more to watch.

A Supercut of Everything Brad Pitt Eats & Drinks in Ocean’s Eleven

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2021

If you’ve seen Ocean’s Eleven more than once, you probably noticed that Brad Pitt’s character Rusty Ryan is eating or drinking something in almost every scene he’s in. cinemATTIC made a supercut of all of those food and beverage moments from the movie. And if you’re wondering why Rusty was always eating, according to Rolling Stone:

Pitt figured that since the Ocean gang was on such a tight schedule, his character would have to grab fast-food whenever he could. The constant snacking ended up showing Rusty’s unflappability.

Someday someone will release an action or heist movie with a relevant & entertaining 15-minute sequence where the protagonists have to find a bathroom. During a recent Avengers: Endgame viewing, my son asked, “Doesn’t anyone ever have to go to the bathroom in these movies?” Then we talked about how they hardly ever eat either, aside from the occasional shawarma. But now that I’m thinking about it, there’s quite a bit of eating and drinking in Endgame: Black Widow’s peanut butter sandwich, Hulk-delivered tacos, the diner scene, Thor’s drinking, and many more.1 Ocean’s reference or nah? (via @Remember_Sarah)

Update: These folks did a Snackalong of eating everything that Rusty ate while watching the movie.

  1. FYI, Endgame hits different when you watch it in the (hopefully) late stages of a devastating pandemic. Oof.

Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2021

Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World is the latest world-explaining documentary series from television journalist Adam Curtis. It’s available in the UK on BBC’s iPlayer and, unofficially as a fan upload, on YouTube; I’ve embedded the trailer and the first part above.

But what exactly is it about you might wonder, even after watching the trailer. Reading Sam Knight’s January 2021 profile of Curtis in the New Yorker might help you there:

For more than thirty years, Curtis has made hallucinatory, daring attempts to explain modern mass predicaments, such as the origins of postwar individualism, wars in the Middle East, and our relationship to reality itself. He describes his films as a combination of two sometimes contradictory elements: a stream of unusual, evocative images from the past, richly scored with pop music, that are overlaid with his own, plainly delivered, often unverifiable analysis. He seeks to summon “the complexity of the world.”

Lucy Mangan’s review for The Guardian was overwhelmingly positive:

The power dynamic, how it shifts, how it hides and how it is used to shape our world — the world in which we ordinary people must live — is Curtis’s great interest. He ranges from the literal rewriting of history by Chairman Mao’s formidable fourth wife, Jiang Qing, during the Cultural Revolution to the psychologists plumbing the depths of “the self” and trying to impose behaviours on drugged and electro-shocked subjects. He moves from the infiltration of the Black Panthers by undercover officers inciting and facilitating more violence than the movement had ever planned or been able to carry out alone, to the death of paternalism in industry and its replacement by official legislation drafted by those with hidden and vested interests. The idea that we are indeed living, as posited by various figures in the author’s landscape and (we infer from the whole) the author himself, in a world made up of strata of artifice laid down by those more or less malevolently in charge becomes increasingly persuasive.

Other reviews, particularly from those on the right, call his work incoherent and Curtis himself something of a propagandist. Admission: I haven’t seen any of Curtis’s work, save for the occasional clip here and there. I know some of you out there are big fans — should I start with this one, HyperNormalisation, Century of the Self, or….?

Tintype Portraits of the Cast of Little Women

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2021

Little Women tintype portrait

Little Women tintype portrait

Little Women tintype portrait

Photographer Wilson Webb made these great tintype portraits of the cast of Little Women. Invented in 1851, the collodion process would have been in use during the time the movie takes place. You can read about Webb’s process at PetaPixel.

To capture the actual portraits, Webb got his hands on a 130-year-old Dallmeyer lens that he strapped to a modern large format camera, and set up 25,000 Watt-seconds worth of flash to ensure he had enough light. That’s… a lot of light. So much that Webb says his subjects “can feel a wave of heat and they can also smell the ozone that’s created when the picture’s taken.”

But despite all of this light — which allowed him to capture a much faster “shutter speed” than traditional wet plates — he still had the cast pose in a traditional fashion: facing the camera, stoic expression, sitting still for 30 seconds at a time to capture each individual frame.

You can check out the whole series of portraits at My Modern Met.

Modern Trailers for Classic Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2021

In order to promote the classic films available on the streaming service, HBO Max has created a selection of modern-style movie trailers for them. The re-trailered flicks include Dog Day Afternoon, Boogie Nights, Alien, Casablanca, and The Exorcist.

BTW, because of its Turner Classic Movies section, HBO Max seems like the best big streaming service for watching good, classic movies. It’s become nearly impossible to find anything on Netflix made before 2000, but on HBO Max right now you can watch Rocky, A Clockwork Orange, The 400 Blows, Seven Samurai, THX 1138, Malcolm X, 8 1/2, Solaris, Citizen Kane, Grey Gardens, North By Northwest, Rashomon, Tokyo Story, and dozens of others. (via open culture)

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.