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kottke.org posts about movies

Wonder Is Steven Spielberg’s Blockbuster Secret Ingredient

Starting with Jaws, his first big blockbuster movie that defined the genre, Steven Spielberg has filled the audiences of his films with a sense of wonder, that alchemical mix of fear and astonishment of the unknown. No other director does it better and this video essay explores how he does it.


How Streaming Caused the Writers Strike

Vox talked to four television writers about how streaming and prestige TV have changed the financial picture for writers over the past 15 years, contributing to the writers strike that’s been going on since early May.

Companies like Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, and more have given consumers an unprecedented array of films and TV shows and opened the door to new voices that don’t have to adhere to mainstream network formats. On the other hand, streaming has also changed how television gets produced, the role writers play, and how they get paid. We interviewed four television writers and showrunners about how streaming has changed how they work, how their incomes have taken a hit, and why it has become harder than ever to build a career.


My Recent Media Diet, Barbenheimer Edition

Hey folks. I’m trying to get into the habit of doing these media diet posts more frequently than every six months so they’re actually, you know, somewhat relevant. Here’s what I’ve been watching, reading, listening to, and experiencing over the last two months.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. One of the most visually stunning movies I’ve ever seen. A worthy sequel to the first film. (A)

On Being with Krista Tippett: Isabel Wilkerson. I will take any opportunity to listen to Isabel Wilkerson talk about her work. (A)

Deep Space Archives. Been listening to this album by A.L.I.S.O.N on heavy rotation while working recently. (A-)

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Bleak and powerful, science fiction at its finest. (A)

Asteroid City. I liked Wes Anderson’s latest effort quite a bit. Not quite as much as The French Dispatch but more than many other folks. (A-)

Dunkirk. Rewatched for the 5th time. For my money, this is Nolan’s best movie. (A+)

Beef. I wanted to like this but I only lasted two episodes. Not for me, YMMV. (C)

Antidepressants. It took a bit to home in on the right one, but even my relatively low dose has helped me out of a particularly low point over the last few months. (A)

The Diplomat (season one). Burned through this one in just a few days — an entertaining political thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously. (B+)

Ooni Volt 12. Ooni was kind enough to send me this electric pizza oven to test out, so take this with a grain of salt, but I’ve been having a lot of fun making no-fuss pizza. Need to work on my dough game tho. (A-)

Silo. This hooked me right away and didn’t let go, although it got a little bit ridiculous in places. I’m eager to see where things go in season two. (B+)

Interstellar. Watched this with the kids and we all enjoyed it. The musical score does a lot of heavy lifting in all of Nolan’s films but in this one especially. (A-)

The Age of Pleasure. My only complaint about this album from Janelle Monáe is that it’s too short. (A-)

Barr Hill Gin & Tonic. The best canned cocktail I’ve had. And it’s turned me into a G&T fan. (A)

VanMoof S3. *sigh* Figures that I finally pull the trigger on getting an e-bike and the company that produces it files for bankruptcy. No matter: this thing is fun as hell and has flattened all the hills out around here. (A)

Átta. You always know what you’re going to get with Sigur Rós: atmospheric, ambient, abundant crescendos, ethereal vocals. (B+)

Air. Ben Affleck has a bit of a mixed record as a director, but this Air Jordan origin story is really solid and entertaining. Viola Davis is great as Michael Jordan’s mother Deloris. (A-)

The Bear (season two). There are aspects of The Bear that I don’t like (the intensity seems forced sometimes, almost cheesy) but the highs are pretty high. Forks was a fantastic episode. More Sydney and Ayo Edebiri in season three please. (A-)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Solid Indy adventure and I love Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the sidekick/partner. I know some folks didn’t like the climax but seeing Jones get what he’s always wanted was satisfying. (B+)

Rebranding beloved brands. Max? X? No. So dumb. (F)

65. Oh dear. Adam Driver needs to choose his projects more wisely. Interesting premise but the rest was pretty lifeless. (C+)

Pizzeria Ida. The pizza is expensive (esp for Vermont), the ingredients top-notch, and the service rude (if you believe the reviews). We had a great time and this is probably the best pizza you can get in VT; it wouldn’t be out of place in NYC. (A)

Oppenheimer. Epic. Almost overwhelming at times. Don’t see this on anything but a big screen if you can help it. Perhaps not Nolan’s best but it still packs a wallop. (A-)

Barbie. I enjoyed this very much but found it uneven in spots. And no more Will Ferrell please. But it was great seeing people dressed up for the occasion — Barbenheimer felt like the first time since before the pandemic that you could feel the buzz in the audience, an excitement for what we were about to experience together. (B+)

Currently I’m reading American Prometheus (on which Oppenheimer is based) and Wool (on which Silo is based), so I’ll have those reviews for you next time hopefully. I don’t have a TV series going right now and nothing’s really catching my eye. Maybe I’ll dig into season three of (the underrated) The Great — I’ve heard it’s back to top form after a s02 dip.

Past installments of my media diet are available here.


Wes Anderson Talks Up Some of His Favorite Movies in a Parisian Video Store

When you think of directors that have influenced Wes Anderson, you typically think of Truffaut, Godard, Scorcese, and Ashby. But as you’ll see in this video of Anderson pulling out some recommended films from this Paris video store, his taste in movies is broad. There’s Drunken Angel (Kurosawa), A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan), Vagabond (Varda), Birth (Glazer), Bridge of Spies (Spielberg), and Witness (Weir).

Of Spielberg, Anderson says:

If you make movies, if you direct movies, this is somebody who can help you. You looked at his movies for solutions. He usually found a way to do it right. He’s one of my favorites.

(via open culture)


The Final Plunge of the Titanic in Movies & TV

This is a supercut of the final moments of the Titanic as represented in various films and TV shows, from 1912’s La Hantise to a 2012 British TV series written by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes. It also doubles as a demonstration of the increasing capabilities and aspirations of filmmakers and their special effects teams throughout the years, although in terms of budget and effort, James Cameron’s effort in 1997 marks the high point.


Greta Gerwig’s Barbie Influences

Greta Gerwig takes us on a whirlwind tour through 33 films that influenced the Barbie movie, visually, thematically, and in terms of plot/content. The influences include The Wizard of Oz, Rear Window, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Singin’ in the Rain, The Godfather, Oklahoma!, 2001, and Saturday Night Fever.

Then, Saturday Night Fever, I always had a sense of wanting this to be a movie with an amazing soundtrack. Saturday Night Fever obviously has this incredible soundtrack by the Bee Gees. There’s a documentary about the Bee Gees, and I’d seen it and was so touched by the Bee Gees, and I thought Barbie seemed so disco to me in her heart, because Barbie’s sort of — and I will say this as a lover of Barbie and disco — a little bit dorky in the best way. Saturday Night Fever was a movie that was driven by music, but not a musical. I guess we’re half of a musical.


Barbenheimer

mashup movie poster for Barbenheimer (Barbie + Oppenheimer)

Barbenheimer poster by Sean Longmore. Perfect, 10/10, no notes.


The Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Napoleon

Well, this looks good: Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby star as Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte in Ridley Scott’s forthcoming film about the French dictator. The film will be out in theaters on November 22 and on Apple+ sometime after that.


The Full Trailer for Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon

Oh boy. I thought the teaser trailer was good, but the full trailer for Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon just dropped and I am. So. Excited. To. SEE. THIS!

At the turn of the 20th century, oil brought a fortune to the Osage Nation, who became some of the richest people in the world overnight. The wealth of these Native Americans immediately attracted white interlopers, who manipulated, extorted, and stole as much Osage money as they could before resorting to murder.

Once again, it’s based on David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, which I highly recommend. Grann + Scorsese appears to be a potent combination — the latter is already signed on to adapt Grann’s latest bestseller, The Wager.


Wes Anderson’s Imperfect Moments

Precise. Symmetric. Stylized. Controlled (often bright) color palette. Slow-motion. Lateral tracking. These are all hallmarks of Wes Anderson’s films. But as this short video from Luís Azevedo shows, there are plenty of imperfect moments in his movies as well. Anderson is a canny filmmaker and it’s the contrast between the controlled worlds he constructs and these more frenetic, off-kilter, imperfect moments that gives them their weight and impact.


The Missing Bill Murray Scene From Asteroid City

Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman in a fake promo for Asteroid City

Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman in a fake promo for Asteroid City

So, ever since I’d heard that Bill Murray had to drop out of filming Asteroid City, I’ve wondered which role he’d meant to play. After seeing the movie, I thought it was either the grandfather (played by Tom Hanks) or the hotel manager (Steve Carell) and it was Carell’s role:

Murray was originally cast as a motel manager in the desert town where the movie is set, in 1955. “Normally, I don’t think it’s such a nice idea to tell everyone the person who didn’t end up in the movie,” Anderson said recently. “But Bill got covid in Ireland, and it was four days before he was supposed to work.” Murray was in Ireland for a family trip (“And usually golf has something to do with it,” Anderson said), en route to Spain, where “Asteroid City” was shooting. With Murray in quarantine, Anderson scrambled to recast the part. “The movie was a jigsaw puzzle of actors’ schedules, so we couldn’t wait,” he recalled. “We were extremely lucky that Steve Carell said yes — and was perfect in the part.”

Murray showed up to the set anyway after he recovered and he and Anderson filmed tongue-so-firmly-in-cheek-I-don’t-even-have-the-right-metaphor-for-it promo for the film that perfectly complements the film’s meta structure.

Then, the day after the movie wrapped, Anderson and Murray concocted an idea: in a metatheatrical curlicue, Murray would play a character who was cut from the film. Anderson corralled Schwartzman, who plays a war photographer (and the actor playing the war photographer), and they shot a short scene in the style of a retro promotional trailer for a Hollywood film, in which a director or a studio executive would give a stilted pitch for an exciting new picture. Think of the Paramount head Robert Evans boosting “Love Story” and “The Godfather,” or Cecil B. DeMille hyping his 1934 production of “Cleopatra.” Anderson recalled, “We made this very peculiar thing that is just a spontaneous creation before the set was going to be struck down. It was the last thing we did. And then we put all our things in the golf cart and drove off into the sunset.”

[I know, this is a lot of Asteroid City stuff — maybe you don’t care about this quite so much? He gets like this about stuff he likes. It’s ok, he’ll grow tired of it in a few days and the site will go back to being about *checks notes* everything else in this whole wide world. -ed]


Behind the Scenes of Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City

The other day I posted about how contemporary filmmakers, Wes Anderson in particular, use miniatures in their films. The model/prop maker featured, Simon Weisse, has worked with Anderson on several films, including his latest, Asteroid City. Weisse has been posting behind-the-scenes shots of his studio’s work on Asteroid City to his under-followed Instagram account and I thought a separate post highlighting some of those props and miniatures would be fun.

a model train in the desert

a vending machine that dispenses martinis

three asteroids of different sizes in cages

a model of an asteroid impact crater next to two model makers

a model maker inspects a model alien spaceship

This video shows a bunch more of the miniatures used in the movie:

I also ran across a few behind-the-scenes videos of the production if you’re in the mood to deep-dive (as I appear to be):

If you’re lucky enough to be in London in the next week and a half, you can go and see some of these props and sets and even eat at the diner at 180 Studios. Very. Jealous.


How Wes Anderson Uses Miniatures to Create His Distinctive Worlds

Vox talks to prop & model maker Simon Weisse, who made miniatures for Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, about the perhaps surprising popularity of miniatures in contemporary filmmaking, when the technique works and when it doesn’t (e.g. when unscalable elements like rain or fire/explosions are involved), and why certain directors use it instead of CGI.

Miniatures in movies are way more common than you may realize, and one of the most stylish filmmakers keeping them alive is Wes Anderson. In this video we spoke to Simon Weisse, prop maker and model marker for some of Wes Anderson’s recent projects, like The Grand Budapest Hotel, The French Dispatch, and Asteroid City.

Older movies, like 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope, had no choice but to use miniatures to make their worlds feel real. But even in the modern day of CGI, filmmakers are still using minis — just look at projects like The Mandalorian, Blade Runner 2049, Harry Potter, and The Dark Knight series. In those movies, miniatures are used for expansive sets that establish the world of a film, otherworldly vehicles like spaceships, and more.

It’s perfect for Anderson’s storybook aesthetic, of course…it looks great in Asteroid City (which I really enjoyed overall).


Lego Stop-Motion Recreation of Iconic Scenes From The Shining

The creepy twins. Jack feverish at the typewriter. Danny riding his Big Wheel through carpeted hallways. The elevators of blood. These familiar scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic The Shining (and several more) have been recreated in this Lego stop-motion animation. The video took 50-60 hours over a three-week period to make and was an exercise in constraints:

“Mostly, it came down to choosing the right pieces,” he says. “I made this movie only with pieces I already had in my collection, so I had to do with just what I had laying around. For instance, the famous carpet pattern in the hallway could have been more realistic, but with the pieces I had, it became a little more abstract. I went with clay for the bloody elevator scene also because I do not have thousands of red translucent pieces.”

(via boing boing)


1968 Howard Johnson’s Kids Menu Featuring 2001: A Space Odyssey

In the 60s and 70s, Howard Johnson’s was the largest restaurant chain in the US — the restaurants and their associated hotels were ubiquitous while travelling America’s roadways. So it made sense that when Stanley Kubrick needed a hospitality brand for the Earthlight Room on the space station circling Earth in 2001: A Space Odyssey, he reached for HoJo’s.

And of course, even in 1968, you had to do some sort of cross-promotion and, bizarrely, what Howard Johnson’s came up with was a 2001-themed children’s menu.

1968 Howard Johnson's Kids Menu Featuring 2001: A Space Odyssey

Even more weirdly, the menu is not about the movie itself, it’s about a family that goes to see the movie. The whole opening sequence with the apes is omitted entirely, as is the HAL 9000 (arguably the film’s main character) — I suspect the HoJo’s people didn’t get to see the entire movie while putting this together (as evidenced by the “preview edition” graphic in the bottom right corner of the menu’s cover).

1968 Howard Johnson's Kids Menu Featuring 2001: A Space Odyssey

It’s cool to see scenes from the movie rendered in comics form:

1968 Howard Johnson's Kids Menu Featuring 2001: A Space Odyssey

1968 Howard Johnson's Kids Menu Featuring 2001: A Space Odyssey

You can see the entire menu here, including the activity page — just click on one of the images to enter slideshow mode. (via meanwhile)

Update: Fun fact: The food on the 2001-themed kids menu would likely have been developed by Jacques Pépin and Pierre Franey, who were the head chefs at Howard Johnson’s. (via @EineKleine)


The Spider-Verse Lego Scene Was Created By a 14-Year-Old Animator

After 14-year-old Preston Mutanga’s Lego version of the trailer for Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (embedded above) went viral, the team hired him to animate a short Lego sequence for the actual film.

In the brief scene, we see a Lego version of Peter Parker as he observes a dimensional anomaly and sneaks off to the Daily Bugle’s bathroom to alert another Spider-Man about the issue. While the scene is short, it killed in my theater and it also looked as good as anything in the recent Lego films. After seeing it, a few friends of mine even commented that it must have been the same team that animated it. But nope! It was a lone teenager, actually.

You can check out more of Mutanga’s work on his YouTube channel.


Swimming Pool Stories

Icelandic filmmaker Jón Karl Helgason has made a film called Sundlaugasögur (Swimming Pool Stories) about the central role of the swimming pool in Icelandic life. The trailer is above. From Fatherly:

The swimming pool is first and foremost a communal space. “The swimming pool is your second home,” Helgason says. “You are brought up in the swimming pool.” There may be only 160, or so, swimming pools in the entire country (which is roughly 305 miles wide by 105 miles long), but every one of them is the essential social hub of a community, large or small.

The swimming pool is a public utility — as critical as the grocery store or the bank. “The British go to the pub, the French go to the cafes — in our culture, you meet in the swimming pool,” says Helgason. Swimmers come from all walks of life, from farmers to artists to clergymen to celebrities. “You can have 10, 15, 20, 30 people [in the pool] — they’re talking about politics and about their lives.”


Stunning Poster for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

a Chinese poster for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Totally loving this Chinese movie poster for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (perhaps designed by Huang Hai).

And while we’re on the subject, I watched the movie the other day and loved it. In fact, it might be the most visually inventive movie I’ve ever seen…it’s just one mindbending visual after another, for more than two hours. (via @gray)


Why Does Jack Nicholson Repeatedly Break the Fourth Wall in The Shining?

Yesterday I posted a link to a Twitter thread by Stanley Kubrick scholar Filippo Ulivieri about a previously overlooked (*ahem*) aspect of The Shining: Jack Nicholson breaks the fourth wall by micro-glancing at the camera dozens of times during the film. It turns out that Ulivieri also made a visual essay about this and it’s really worth a watch.

Let’s go back to that glance that has been noticed by a few film critics. Some say it’s a Brechtian effect to expose the artifice of the mise en scène and have the audience reflect on the film medium. But Kubrick’s films are not intellectual, despite what the critics say. “The truth of a thing,” Kubrick said, “is in the feel of it, not in the think of it.” If this look at the camera means anything, for me it means that we are not safe from Jack’s fury. He knows where we are, he may come for us next. But what about the others? Why on Earth is Jack Torrance constantly glancing at us, breaking the fourth wall over and over, and over, and over.

What all of these micro-glances mean is open to interpretation. Ulivieri offers a few theories of his own — e.g. Jack is looking at ghosts, or perhaps just one ghost: the camera ghost — but says one of the reasons he made the video is to hear what other film critics and fans think might be going on here. I thought this response to his thread hit near the mark:

My gf’s read The Shining, and it’s really interesting now that they notice all these fourth wall breaks Jack does. throughout the whole book, Jack feels like he’s being watched and judged, and that’s why he feels so much pressure to keep up appearances.

If Jack is the only one in the MOVIE to consistently break the fourth wall, where it’s always just passing glances, that’s a pretty effective way to show the character’s fear of being watched or judged. Especially if WE don’t notice it at first.

I wonder how many The Shining re-watches this video and thread have inspired…I’m gonna watch it again in the next few days and see how my awareness of the glancing changes the film for me.


My Recent Media Diet, Summer 2023 Edition

Mad Men's Peggy Olson saying 'Oh shit. It's June 1st?'

Oh no. It’s June? Where what how?!? I did not mean to let this much time elapse since the last installment of my media diet, all the way back on Dec 2 in a completely different calendar year. But there’s nothing to be done about it, we’re all here now, so tuck your arms inside the carriage and let’s do this thing. Here’s what I’ve been watching, reading, listening to, and experiencing over the last six months. Enjoy.

Fire of Love. Superb documentary on volcanos and obsession. The footage, mostly shot by the subjects, is unbelievable. (A)

Star Trek: First Contact. Maybe my favorite Star Trek movie? Ok, maybe not favorite but I like it a lot. (A)

Splendor. This is one of my favorite engine-building games that I’ve played — it strips the concept down to the bare bones. That makes it easy to get the hang of but there’s a lot of room for different strategies as skill levels rise. (A-)

Ted Lasso (season three). I almost didn’t watch this because season two was not my favorite and the critics were just tearing into season three, but I’m so glad I did…this is one of my favorite things I watched over the past few months. This was more like free therapy than a “sitcom”, which probably explains why some people didn’t care for it. (A)

Mercado Little Spain. José Andrés’ Spanish version of Eataly. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but omg the food. The pan con tomate is the simplest imaginable dish — bread, tomato, olive oil, garlic, salt — but I could easily eat it every day. (A)

Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure. Such a gift to see so much of Basquiat’s art in one place. Loved it. (A+)

Wood stove. An actual fire inside of your house that warms and captivates. Perfect, no notes. (A+)

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. A memoir about loss, grief, food, and the Korean American experience. (A-)

The Bourne Identity. Over 20 years old and still a great action thriller. (A-)

AirPods Pro (2nd generation). I’ve been using the first-gen AirPods Pro for the last few years and they’ve been great. But these 2nd-gen ones are next-level: the noise cancelling is way better and they are much more comfortable…been wearing the hell out of these since I got them. (A+)

Succession (season four). Has any show ever hit it out of the park on every episode like this? The whole last season, including the finale, was just fantastic. (A+)

China’s Van Goghs. A Chinese man who’s been painting replica van Goghs for half his life visits Holland and France to see the original paintings and the locations where van Gogh painted. Fascinating. What makes someone a “real” artist? (A-)

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Got to ski here with my kids a couple of times this winter and I can see why they love it. (B)

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Better than I expected and perhaps better than a superhero holiday special has any right to be. (B+)

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. If you’ve ever enjoyed a long collaborative creative partnership with another person or group of people and that collaborative frisson felt like the highlight of your life, you will probably like this book. (A)

Glass Onion. Super fun. (A-)

Andor. I really enjoyed this but was also kind of perplexed about the hype around how much better this series was than the rest of Star Wars. Again, I liked it but it didn’t seem too far apart from the whole. (A-)

The 2022 World Cup. This whole thing gets an F for the corruption, human rights abuses, and idiotic TV coverage in the US, but as a long-time fan of Lionel Messi, watching Argentina win the trophy was 💯. The final against France was one of the peak sports viewing experiences of my life. (F/A+)

Rogue One. Had to rewatch after Andor. Still a favorite. (A-)

1899. This gave me Lost and Westworld vibes (that’s bad) but I’d heard good things so I stuck with it for two more episodes than I should have. Stopped watching halfway through and then read the Wikipedia page and, yep, thankful I didn’t spend anymore time on it. I have to stop watching these puzzle box shows. (C-)

Bullet Train. People seemed to like this more than I did. Seemed like a Guy Ritchie Tarantino sort of thing, but a bit flashier? It was fine? (B)

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. This movie gets better and better every time I watch it. Two world-class hams, William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban, trying to see who can chew the most scenery, the first movie scene wholly generated by computer, and Scotty playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes? Come on! (A+)

White Noise. Fine, I guess. But the end credits were the best part. (B)

Acupuncture. I tried acupuncture to address a chronic injury. It didn’t end up working for that purpose, but each time I went, I felt an incredible sense of relaxation and calm after the session. (B)

Wonderland Dreams. I posted about Alexa Meade’s “living still lifes” more than 13 years ago and I finally got a chance to see her work in person in NYC. (A-)

Edward Hopper’s New York. Always good to visit the Whitney. (B+)

Avatar: The Way of Water. Oh dear. Amazing effects but the plot & dialogue were right out of a B movie. And yeah, just a few months after seeing it, I can’t name a single character. (B-)

Fleishman is in Trouble. This wrecked me and I loved it. So much of this rhymed with my life — very uncomfortable at times! (A+)

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Read this straight after I finished the show. (A)

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. Entertaining time travel adventure from the author of Station Eleven. (B+)

Ambient 23. Moby made an 2.5-hour-long ambient album and it’s pretty good. (B+)

The Fablemans. I liked this quite a bit — it’s one of those films that grows in your esteem as you think back to it. Curious to see it again in a month or two to see how it holds up. (A-)

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I hadn’t read any Hemingway since high school and ok, I get it now. Enjoyed the first half more than the second though. (A)

Minions: The Rise of Gru. I enjoy the Minions more than, what, I should? And what’s not to like about Steve Carell doing a funny voice? (B+)

The White Lotus (season two). I didn’t care for the first season of this (I stopped watching halfway through), but I loved this season. I did think the ending was a little weaker than the rest of it. (A-)

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Picked this book up after a viral tweet by Bigolas Dickolas sent it screaming up the Amazon bestseller charts. Not bad (time travel, causality, etc.) but the writing style was not my favorite. (B+)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. My kids and I went to see this the other day and afterwards had an interesting chat about how you can make a movie where one of the themes is animal cruelty and then the rest of the movie is just a lot of hyper-violence with a surprising amount of yelling (at children!) and also mindless killing of some cyborg animals (during the rescue of other cyborg animals). Honestly disappointing and kind of a muddle. (B)

The Rihanna Halftime Show at Super Bowl LVII. It’s been years since I watched the Super Bowl (or American football), but my daughter and I were excited to catch Rihanna’s halftime show. We both loved it, a great performance. (A)

Raiders of the Lost Ark. A perfect action/adventure movie. (A+)

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. Listened to this on audiobook with my mystery-loving daughter — it made some long drives fly right by. (A-)

The Last of Us. Some of the episodes showed their video game roots (side quests, NPCs, etc.) a little too much but maybe that’s just how most action drama is written now? (A)

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The kids and I agreed this was just fine but wasn’t as fun as the other two Ant-Men. (B)

The Book of Mormon. Live things are always a hell of a lot of fun, but I think this played a lot differently when it premiered in 2011 than it does today. (B+)

Speed Racer. Not a fan of the visual style of this movie. (B)

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout. I’ve been in a mode of my life for awhile now where I identify with the characters of books I read and movies/TV that I watch and it makes it difficult to actually be objective (ha!) about it, even with myself. Did I like this or did I just identify strongly with the characters? And what does it matter if I got something valuable out of it even if it wasn’t “good”? (B+)

Ivory. I’ve mostly quit Twitter and this app from Tapbots makes Mastodon feel a lot like Twitter for me. Well, without the right-wing owner and increasingly fascist rhetoric. (B+)

Triangle of Sadness. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to everyone, but I loved it. The dinner scene had me hyperventilating with laughter. (A)

Combustion Predictive Thermometer. I preordered this years ago when I was doing a lot more grilling. Mixed results so far. The thermometer is designed to stay in the meat while you cook it, but the heat of my hardwood charcoal grill was too much for it (I run it *hot*) and I had to take it out. But doing the oven part of the reverse sear is a total breeze with this thing…worth it just for that. (B+)

The Complete History & Strategy of LVMH. I am not usually a VC/startup bro podcast listener, but my pal Timoni strongly recommended this episode on luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and it ended up being really fascinating. The episode is 3.5 hours long and I wanted more. (A)

ChatGPT. I wrote about this extensively back in March and I’m still using it several times a week, mostly as a programming assistant. (A)

The Mysterious Benedict Society. Watched with the kids and I think we all agreed it was a bit better than the first season? But Disney cancelled the show and removed it completely from Disney+ 👎 so good luck watching it… (B+)

Star Trek: Picard (seasons two & three). I’d heard not-great things about season two so I wasn’t super-curious to watch but with the buzz around season three, I decided to give it a try. I ended up watching both seasons in the space of a couple of weeks during a particularly tough period. I just really like spending time in that universe with those people. (A-)

The Mandalorian (season three). This season really dragged in spots — I guess I don’t care about the Mandalorian back story that much? (B+)

Crossword puzzles. I’ve never been a crossword puzzle person, but I’ve been doing the NY Times crossword with a friend for the past few months (mostly over FaceTime) and I’ve become a fan. (B+)

The Wager by David Grann. The beginning is sort of unavoidably slow due to having to explain global geopolitics and how the British Navy functioned in the 18th century, but the rest of the book is just plain masterful and unputdownable. (A)

The Five Lives of Hilma af Klint by Philipp Deines. A graphic novel based on the diaries and art of Hilma af Klint — better than I was expecting. (B+)

Nuun Sport Tablets. I drink a lot of water during the course of my day but also too many sugary drinks. I don’t like seltzer so I’ve been on the lookout for a beverage that tastes good (or at least not terrible) without a lot of sugar. In her excellent newsletter, Laura Olin recommended these and I’ve been enjoying them so far, particularly the citrus flavors. (B+)

Superman. Christopher Reeve would be just 70 years old right now if he hadn’t died in 2004. Wish he were still around; he was a hell of an actor. (A-)

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Strong word-of-mouth got me to sit down and watch this and it didn’t disappoint. Solid action/adventure that reminded me of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. (B+)

Poker Face. I’m only a little more than halfway through this, but Natasha Lyonne solving mysteries while on the lam across America in a TV series by Rian Johnson? In. (B+)

Mrs. Davis. I wanted to like this! I’d heard good things! But it was giving me Lost vibes so I had to stop after two episodes. I do not know how to describe it, but I do not like television shows that are confusing/mysterious in the particular way that this show is. See also Lost, The Leftovers, and Watchmen – all, not coincidentally, written and created by Damon Lindelof. (C)

The Great (season two). I loved season one but season two took me forever to get through – like 7-8 months – and I still have the last episode left. I’ve heard season three gets good again, so I’m gonna push through and give that a chance. The leads are marvelous. (B)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.


Watch Tarkovsky’s Best Films Online for Free

Mosfilm, one of the largest film studios in the USSR during the Soviet era, has put full-length versions of many of its most acclaimed and influential films on YouTube for free, including six of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films: Stalker, Solaris, Ivan’s Childhood, The Mirror, Andrei Rublev, and The Passion According to Andrei. Also available is Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein. Several of these movies appear on Sight and Sound’s 2022 list of the best 100 movies of all time. (via @irwin)


It’s Just Business

Whenever I hear someone say “it’s just business” in order to magically justify some decision to ignore the humanity of individual people, I remember that it’s adapted from a line in The Godfather spoken by Michael Corleone at the precise moment when he decides to become a murderous sociopath. We should maybe stop running businesses like fictional mafia families.


Watch the Trailer for Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon

I’ve been waiting patiently on this one: the teaser trailer for Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s based on the fantastic book by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.

The movie will be out in theaters on October 6. Oh, and Scorsese & DiCaprio have already signed on to adapt Grann’s latest book, The Wager, which I recently read and loved.


How A24 Took Over Hollywood

If you’re like me, sometime in the past 4-5 years you noticed that a lot of the films you liked (or, even if you didn’t, you appreciated that they were getting made) were coming from the same place, A24. Moonlight, Uncut Gems, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Aftersun, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Eighth Grade, Lady Bird, The Lobster, Amy, Ex Machina. More recently, TV shows like Euphoria, Beef, and Erma Vep.

This video from Vox charts the rise of A24 from a small distributor to an Oscar-winning powerhouse that pumps out more movies each year than much bigger studios. See also The Cult of A24 (a good companion piece to the video above) and Every A24 Movie, Ranked.


The Whimsical Fellowship, Wes Anderson’s Lord of the Rings

I know, I know. Too much Wes Anderson. Too much AI. But there is something in my brain, a chemical imbalance perhaps, and I can’t help but find this reimagining of the Lord of the Rings in Anderson’s signature style funny and charming. Sorry but not sorry.

See also The Galactic Menagerie, Wes Anderson’s Star Wars.


Tour the Bridges of All of Star Trek’s Starships Enterprise

Drawing from the materials of The Roddenberry Archive, this video takes us on a virtual tour of the 3D rendered bridges of every iteration of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek, from the original 1964 sketches to the final scenes of Star Trek: Picard. I’ve watched a bunch of Star Trek recently and it was neat to see the evolution of the design and presumed technology. Designing for the future is difficult and it’s even tougher when, for instance, you need to design something that for the future that looks contemporary to now but also, somehow, predates a design that looked contemporary 30 years ago. (If that makes any sense…)

You can also head over to The Roddenberry Archive to check out all of the Enterprise designs in more detail, inside and out. (via open culture)


Oppenheimer

Finally: a full-length trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, easily the movie I am most looking forward to seeing this summer. Dunkirk was one of my favorite films of the past few years, I’ve done quite a bit of reading about the Manhattan Project over the years, and I studied modern physics in college, so I am all the way in for this. Fingers crossed!

P.S. The movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. Might have to read this one before the movie comes out.


A Collection of Sci-Fi Movie Logos

a collection of sci-fi movie logos, including ones from 4D Man, Ghostbusters, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, 2001, 1984, and It Came From Outer Space

Loving scrolling through this collection of sci-fi movie logos from Reagan Ray.

As is the case with most of my logo posts, it’s been fun to pick up on the trends. There’s the trick where they remove the segments from the top half of the letters like Blade Runner, or the embossed brushed metal of Robocop. Glowing letters were a big trend that started in the late 80s, most likely set off by the Alien franchise. And I can never get enough of the 3D type in early films.

You can check out more of Ray’s logo collections here.


Trailer for Dune: Part Two

Ok, here’s the first trailer for second part of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. Time to get hyped! It comes out on November 3 — we have until then to decide what “Timothée Chalamet rides the worm” is a euphemism for.


The Kidnappers Foil, the Most Remade Movie in History

For his second Iconic Sans video, David Friedman tells us about an itinerant filmmaker who travelled the country from the 30s to the 50s making the same movie over and over again with different casts of local children.

Why would somebody remake a movie hundreds of times? Was he obsessed? Mad? Director Melton Barker was a traveling filmmaker (historians call him an “itinerant filmmaker”) who went town to town from the 1930s to the 1970s convincing everyday folks to pay him to be in his movie “The Kidnappers Foil” over and over and over. He used the same script each time, with an all local cast. It’s a fascinating bit of Americana and cinema history.

You can learn more about The Kidnappers Foil at this site from The Texas Archive of the Moving Image, watch several full-length versions on the film on YouTube, or use the script to make your own version.