Archive for the 'movies' Category


Life Update

Wishing: For a sundial like this one to put in my yard.

Laughing: About this video on YouTube, which features one joke from every MST3K episode. My recent discovery of this is well-timed: just a few weeks ago I met Joel at an MST3K event and got to shake his hand.


Reflecting: On the hidden costs of chocolate.

Being delighted: By the fact that not only was my daughter thrilled with the new socks I just finished knitting for her, but she was so pleased that she wore them right away. Even though it was 95 degrees outside. Now that’s gratifying!

Watching: Or trying to watch, at least, My Dinner with Andre. It’s famous and there are a gazillion cultural references to it, so I figured I ought to (finally!) watch the thing. I got about forty-five minutes into it and had to turn it off. I recognize that it was innovative for its time, and the premise could still make for a good movie today. But the conversation itself was so mind-numbingly dull that I just couldn’t bear it.

Reading: Nation, by Terry Pratchett. It took me a little while to get into this book–most likely because my subconscious kept expecting Discworld fare–but once that happened I was hooked. The premise is somewhat grim, and the overall tone is decidedly lacking in the humor of his other works. But his usual themes are present: questions about religion and rationality, criticisms of social class, clever wordsmithery.

I hate the ending, though. Long before it arrived its inevitability was apparent, and I found myself reading the last chapters while hoping Pratchett would enable the protagonists find a way to escape the destinies that seem to be laid out before them. No such luck, I’m afraid. The ending is bittersweet and leaves me feeling punched in the gut…but honestly, I can’t imagine how else the book could have ended without ruining it. So for all that I do hate the ending, at the same time I think it’s appropriate.



Cleaning out my inbox just now, I came across a reminder to myself to take a look at this article by Edward Mendelson about type in the New York Review of Books. He writes a great deal about Helvetica and the documentary film (about that type) by the same name. I saw that film several months ago and liked it, and I agree with Mendelson’s description of it:

Much of it presents graphic designers talking sensibly or fatuously about Helvetica, either for or against it, while the filmmakers remain too cool or dim to have views of their own.


Two awesome things come together

Miyazaki films and Lego.


A new fad

Yet another choose-your-own zombie adventure. It seems to be the current fad.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think these zombies are just a bit too speedy?


You’ve been robbed

By changes to the copyright law, that is.

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University Law School published an article on how changes in 1978 to the U.S. copyright law have affected us all. For the worse.

Works published or produced in 1954 that would have gone into the public domain on January 1, 2011, will now remain under copyright until 2050. This includes books, movies, musical compositions, and some scientific articles. The article also argues that up to 85% of the works produced in 1982 would also have entered the public domain a few days ago (assuming their copyrights weren’t renewed).

Most of this stuff falls in the category “orphan works”—that is, their copyright owners can’t be found. So these things get used less frequently because no one know who they belong to (and no one wants to get sued for illegal use). Sounds like a bureaucratic mess.


This looks like a dream

An artist stuck a high-speed camera out the window of a high-speed train as it passed through a crowded train station on a Saturday morning. The result is something that looks like a dream:


The filmmaker describes how he made this film here.


Today’s piece of brilliance

Star Trek plus Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I just finished rewatching the original Star Trek series (the flying leg kicks!), so coming across this mashup video now is a happy coincidence.




The latest Star Trek movie

I saw the Star Trek reboot movie in the theater last summer and didn’t like it for lots of reasons. Jan and I have been watching the original Star Trek series recently, though, and with that on my mind I decided to give the latest movie another try. This time, I liked it much better

  • Why? First of all, this time I watched it on a screen I could see. Last summer I was persuaded to see a screening in an IMAX theater–really faux-IMAX, in my opinion, since the only thing that makes so-called IMAX movies qualify for the title is the fact that you’re sitting ten feet away from a ginormous screen. (I have since resolved never to see an “IMAX” movie unless it was filmed in actual IMAX format.) Consequently, most of the action sequences were frustrating to watch: my eyes can’t take in a screen that size all at once, so I often miss anything that happened on the edges (and in a J. J. Abrams action film, that’s a lot). During my recent rewatch, I often felt like I was seeing the movie for the first time–because I could actually SEE most of it. Hooray!
  • Retconning something like the original Star Trek really bugged me last year, but this time I didn’t mind so much. I appreciate how the characters were mostly the same (if you’re going to make huge changes to them, I think you should just start with new characters in the same setting) but with new backstories.
  • Karl Urban as McCoy = genius. He’s got the voice (tone and cadence) down pat. Simon Pegg works well as Scotty (though I am generally predisposed to like Simon Pegg anyway). His colleague at the remote Starfleet outpost, though? Epic fail. Seriously–that guy serves no purpose except to remind me of Ewoks. And thinking about Ewoks is never a good thing. Likewise, I think the filmmakers flubbed with Chekov, making him out to be a comic-relief-type character. Considering that Chekov wasn’t even in the original Star Trek until the second season, I was surprised to see him get so much screen time in this movie.
  • The Spock-Uhura romance seems odd to me–like the filmmakers needed to follow convention by including a romance plot (why does everyone think this is necessary?) and for some reason settled on this one. At least they didn’t spend much time on it. (This reviewer says the romance has two purposes: to make sure audiences know that Spock is not gay, and to give Uhura something to do. I think he’s right.)

I am generally not a fan of most DVD extras. Deleted scenes can sometimes be interesting, but that’s pretty much it. This time I took a look at the segment about how the filmmakers realized their vision of how this movie should look, and although there were some interesting parts, it was mostly a hagiography of J. J. Abrams. One after another, a producer, A.D., or some other highly ranked member of the crew followed this formula:

  • J. J. Abrams came up with this awesome innovation.*
  • J. J. Abrams is a god.
  • I really want to have J. J. Abrams’ baby.

Mostly, though, I thought the film was well done. Fun to watch and not terribly mentally taxing–just what Star Trek is supposed to be.


*Not the case. He did not invent the “shaky cam” look. He did not come up with the idea of having a background behind someone as they walked into the turbo lift, then having the person walk back out of it into a room (from which the portable background had been removed); the original series actually did that first.


Dancing in the rain

Amazing stuff here–so fluid. Like watching water in motion.[youtube][/youtube]


“Hot Tub Time Machine”

I finally got around to watching this recently. I wanted to like this movie–truly I did. I like John Cusack (even though many of his latest roles seem to fall into the “what was he thinking?” category), and I enjoy many aspects of ’80s culture (and making fun of them). This movie had some clever moments, but mostly it didn’t work for me: too much homophobia, too much sexism. Too bad.

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