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kottke.org posts about movies

Get Back: Creativity Lessons from The Beatles

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2021

the Beatles asking for some toast and tea during a practice session

I haven’t had a chance to watch Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary yet, but I really enjoyed reading Tom Whitwell’s 10 lessons in productivity and brainstorming from The Beatles gleaned from the series.

1. The ‘yes… and’ rule

The first rule of improvisation (and brainstorming) is “yes… and”. When someone suggests an idea, plays a note, says a line, you accept it completely, then build on it. That’s how improvisational comedy or music flows. The moment someone says ‘no’, the flow is broken. It’s part of deferring judgement, where you strictly separate idea generation from idea selection.

As they slog through Don’t Let Me Down, George breaks the spell. Instead of building and accepting he leaps to judgement, saying “I think it’s awful.” Immediately, John and Paul lay down the rules: “Well, have you got anything?” “you’ve gotta come up with something better”.

Don’t judge, build.

I worked on a secret project recently (shhh…) where I really wanted to just say no but chose to do “yes… and” instead, which led my collaborator and I to a better solution. I love the improv rule, but it’s so hard for me to follow sometimes because my job is basically saying no to things all day.

6. One conversation at a time

One of the striking thing about the sessions is how polite everyone is. Perhaps it’s editing, but nobody speaks over anyone else. Everyone has a chance to be heard, which means people spend most of the time listening, rather than talking (apart from Paul, perhaps).

This is another lesson from musical and theatrical improvisation. The difference between a creative environment and a bunch of people shouting out ideas is the listening.

You can read all ten lessons here.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2021

In this movie, Nicolas Cage plays Nicolas Cage (or “Nick Cage”) playing Nicolas Cage roles from actual Nicolas Cage movies at the behest of his biggest fan for $1 million. Ok, I’m sold! It’s like Adaptation crossed with Being John Malkovich. (This is the second movie in as many days that’s reminded me of BJM. Something in the water?)

Everything Everywhere All At Once

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 14, 2021

I don’t know anything about this movie and its directors (Daniels? Oh, Swiss Army Man!) but it has Michelle Yeoh kicking ass in it and I want to see it at the first possible opportunity. Getting some Jackie Chan meets Marvel multiverse meets Being John Malkovich vibes here.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 13, 2021

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, a documentary about the beloved show’s first two decades, debuts today on HBO Max. The film is based on Michael Davis’s 2009 book Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street.

The documentary focuses on the first two experimental and groundbreaking decades of Sesame Street, highlighting this visionary “gang” that audaciously interpreted radical changes in society and engaged children with innovative new ways to entertain and educate.

Featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with over twenty original cast members and creators, the documentary explores how the team incorporated groundbreaking puppetry, clever animation, short films, music, humor, and cultural references into each episode to keep kids and parents coming back, while never shying away from difficult conversations with children.

In a review, NY Times TV critic James Poniewozik says the film reminds us that Sesame Street was political right from the beginning:

“Sesame Street,” which premiered in 1969, was the project of Joan Ganz Cooney, a TV executive who was originally more interested in the civil rights movement than in education but came to see the connection between the two. “The people who control the system read,” she once said, “and the people who make it in the system read.” And she believed that the best way to get the kids of the 1960s to read, paradoxically, was through TV.

Her Children’s Television Workshop brought together educators and entertainers, including a puppeteer named Jim Henson and the director Jon Stone, an idealist attracted to Cooney’s idea of closing the literacy gap for inner-city Black children. “I think what drew Dad in really had to do with her political vision,” his daughter Kate Stone Lucas says in the documentary.

A Short History (and Future) of Choir Music in Movies

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 08, 2021

a sound designer at a mixing board scoring a film

Adrian Daub has noticed something unusual about choir music in movies: usually, we can’t understand the lyrics. For some reason, it’s important to have human voices rather than an instrument or orchestra carrying the musical load, but the linguistic content, whether it’s in pseudo-Latin, a made up Tolkien language, or Sanskrit translations of Welsh, usually might as well be empty.

This dates from the 1930s, when sound in movies got sophisticated enough to handle simultaneous polyvocal sound, the era of movie musicals and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:

And then there was Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937). The film concerns the discovery of Shangri-La in the Himalayas, and when we finally get to the fabled land the soundtrack accompanies the matte-painted wonderland with a chorus singing in… well, in a language that isn’t English and doesn’t seem to be Tibetan either. And thus another Hollywood tradition was born: film choruses belting out perfectly nonsensical prose with utter conviction.

The film’s producers tried to claim that the choral music from Lost Horizon was rooted in Tibetan folk traditions, but this, Daub writes persuasively, is plainly nonsense, and nonsense about nonsense to boot. What matters isn’t the sense, but the feeling, not the authenticity, but the cinematic je-ne-sais-quoi (literally, je ne sais rien) of the music.

What’s more, music choirs (even the nonsensical, polyglot ones) have gone digital and programmable:

The EastWest Symphonic Choirs software allows you to make a virtual choir sing in just about any style imaginable. Want your ooos and aaas to sound like a whisper? More Broadway or more classical? All of that’s in the package.

But there’s more: Due to a system called WordBuilder, you can have this choir sing pretty much anything — you can type in text in English, in phonetics, or a proprietary alphabet called Votox, and the software will assemble it out of a massive databank of vowels and consonants…

All the professional singers I spoke to were keenly aware of products like EastWest Symphonic Choirs and the sample libraries — because more likely than not they’re in them. If you’re in the business of singing on film, these days you won’t always be asked to sing for an actual score, but instead you might get booked to record samples. There’s a scary possibility that these artists are slowly eroding the industry’s need for their labor — that the fruits of their one day of paid work will perform for the studios in perpetuity and with no extra residuals.

At the moment, though, singers come pretty cheap — and in many cases, even a union shop in a city like London (a favorite of movie music producers for just this reason) might insist only on a set rate without residuals. They’re even good at singing their way around nonsense:

As the soprano Catherine Bott said: “You enter a studio and you open the score and off you go. You sing what you’re told, and it’s all about versatility, just being able to adapt to the right approach, whatever that may be for that conductor or that composer.” And part of that, singers told me, was singing the words — whatever they may be. As Donald Greig pointed out to me, a lot of these singers have training in classics; they certainly know their way around a Requiem or a Stabat Mater. And yet often enough when they step into Abbey Road they’re being asked to sing perfectly nonsensical phrases in pseudo-Latin — but the studio is booked, the clock is ticking, and as Bott put it, “that’s not the time to put up your hand and, you know, correct the Latin.”

But the thing is, many of us have some experience being sung at in Latin we don’t understand — it’s the Catholic mass. And as Daub writes, the emotional content of the mass (and the accompanying tradition of Latin choral music) has never depended on its intelligibility — in fact, it’s often benefitted from the fact that few if any of the audience could understand what is being said word for word.

Whether they’re after a feeling of evil (as in The Omen), magic (Harry Potter), exotic African-ness (the misplaced Swahili of The Lion King), or familiarity (Black Widow’s callback to the theme from The Avengers), movie producers are literally counting on familiar human voices being misunderstood.

Math on Screen

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 07, 2021

Simpsons - Homer Simpson writes mathematical equations (some of them wrong) on a blackboard

Mathematics isn’t the most obviously cinematic academic discipline out there, but it is one that the movies (and to a lesser extent television) have repeatedly tried to understand, or in some cases, used to goose up a vaguely science-y story. Unsurprisingly, mathematicians often become sticklers for detail in such high-profile depictions of what they do, and a good or bad portrayal can become famous or infamous.

My friend Jordan Ellenberg, a math professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is also an expert in translating math to popular audiences, in his books and sometimes on screen. In this video, he takes a look at some popular representations of math in TV and the movies, and tries to explain what’s going on, including what the filmmakers do well or not so well.

Good Will Hunting’s use of math is famously bad, and Ellenberg unsurprisingly agrees (although, surprisingly, he had never before seen the movie or even the math scenes in question). Portrayals that get a perhaps-surprisingly high score include The Simpsons (which includes several former mathematicians among its writers) and Jurassic Park — Jeff Goldblum pulls off a passable explanation of chaos theory while also eerily accurately capturing the slightly-creepy vibe of a neurotic academic asked to describe what he studies to a layperson. “He was the one who I most felt might have spent a long time studying mathematicians and truly trying to give off a mathematician vibe,” says Ellenberg.

One thing I love is Ellenberg’s attention to how each of the on-screen mathematicians write (if they do any writing themselves at all, rather than ponder something that’s already been written by a character offscreen) — the connection between math and writing is so powerful, and math is one of the great remaining repositories of manuscript culture (even as it’s also taken on computers and machines, like everything else).

Ellenberg also adds that the most important thing a movie about mathematics can do is to convey to the audience that being a mathematician is something real, ordinary people still do, rather than being just a bunch of old dead men wearing robes.

Why Can’t I Hear The Movie?

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 06, 2021

boom-mic-and-movie-camera.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Movies Can Teach Us About Mozart’s Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 01, 2021

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

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

Objects

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Look Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2021

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

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

Julia: A Documentary Film About Julia Child

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2021

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

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

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

The Beauty of Denis Villeneuve’s Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2021

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

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

The Dutch Angle

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

David Fincher’s VOIR

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2021

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

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

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

8-Bit Christmas

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2021

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

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

Wes Anderson: Sharp & Precise, Not Twee

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2021

The French Dispatch

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

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

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

Finch? Finch.

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2021

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

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

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

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

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2021

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

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

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

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2021

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

Unstuck In Time, a Documentary Film About Kurt Vonnegut

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2021

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

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

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

Analyzing the Health Risks in James Bond Movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2021

James Bond looking sick

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

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

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

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

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

Lightyear

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2021

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

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

And:

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

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

A Celebration of Opening Title Sequences

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2021

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

a quote from Sual Bass on title design

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

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

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

How Radiohead Wrote the Perfect Bond Theme

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2021

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

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

Star Wars Oil Paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters

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

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

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters

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

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

The Most Important Device in the Universe

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

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

The Trailer for The Beatles: Get Back

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

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

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

The Walk of Life Hypothesis

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

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

Or Dr. Strangelove:

Or Terminator 2:

Case closed, I think! (via fave 5)

The Short Horror Film Hidden in Spider-Man 2

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2021

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

Trailer for PT Anderson’s Licorice Pizza

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2021

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

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

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