Posted on August 10th, 2020
It's always a pleasant surprise when I watch a television show or movie for entertainment value and walk away learning something. I'm not talking documentaries and true-life story adaptations and stuff like that... I'm talking fictional stories built for entertainment purposes which have at their core some real knowledge to be had.
Most of the time, this happens with something small. Maybe you learn the capitol city of some country you never knew about. Maybe you learn some oddball scientific fact. Or maybe it's something really off the wall like the way a particular poison can be used to get away with murder. There's all kinds of small facts that are weaved into TV and movies, and it's these facts big and small which can lead your head to accepting the larger fiction.
A recent example of this is the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. Most people had no idea that such a horrific event ever happened until the HBO super-hero show, Watchmen, made it a primary plot point for the mini-series. I'm sure some people even thought it had been invented just for the show. That's how buried it was in our history.
For me personally, the movie that most comes to mind about learning something was a 1991 film starring Danny DeVito, Gregory Peck, Penelope Ann Miller, and Piper Laurie called Other People's Money. It was based on a play of the same name by Jerry Sterner...
I went to the theater to see the movie because A) I fell in love with Penelope Ann Miller after she appeared in Kindergarten Cop and I realized she was Brenda in Adventures in Babysitting, and B) It was Danny DeVito starring in a movie that looked like he might be doing something along the lines of Ruthless People, a movie I love, and C) Piper Laurie was hot off of Twin Peaks, a show I love, and D) Gregory Peck...
Looking back at a film from nearly 30 years ago, you just know that there's going to be plenty of problematic moments. And there truly are. The sexism alone paints Other People's Money as a dinosaur from another age.
But man if I didn't learn a heck of a lot about how Wall Street works, how stocks and shareholders work, how hostile takeovers work, how money works. Just look at this scene that gets the movie ball rolling...
And don't think that the movie is all money talk. We got lawyer jokes too!
But the real education came at the end of the movie when I learned how proxy fights work. Now, if you have any plans to see this movie... and I suggest that you do see it... this video is a bit of a spoiler here. Gregory Peck has just made an impassioned plea to the stockholders to save his wire & cable company and not give in to Danny DeVito and his culture of greed. The room goes wild and he is lauded with thunderous applause. And then it's Danny DeVito's turn...
Fantastic performance there. And here's the thing... Danny DeVito makes an argument that is completely air-tight. You can't argue with what he's saying in the context of the movie. And the big lesson I took away from this was that when it comes to situations like this, it's not always black-and-white. It's shades of grey. Or, in this case, shades of green.
I've been thinking a lot about Other People's Money as it relates to contemporary times.
There are industries that are dying yet we keep propping them up just because it's politically advantageous to do so. There are many, many examples I could drop here. Many. But the one that got me thinking about this movie is the coal industry. Coal is dead. It's beyond dead. Many of its uses have become antiquated. Nobody burns coal to heat their home or make a train run any more. And while I'm sure there are some industrial uses for it... like coal-fired pizza ovens and such... coal has fallen out of use in favor of cheaper sources like natural gas and renewable energy sources (both of which are cleaner as well). The use of coal for electricity production is plummeting year-over-year. It's quickly getting to the point where nobody wants to buy coal any more. The pandemic has put that fact in vivid relief. Coal mining companies are declaring bankruptcy left and right.
And yet politicians keep dragging it along with their campaigns so that they can pick up some electoral votes in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
And it makes zero sense.
Other than the fact that voters fall for it hook, line, and sinker.
And you know who gets hurt by all of it? The coal miners. Coal miners get screwed along with all the workers associated with coal mining.
Because no matter how long politicians want to prop up coal... whether it's with subsidies or by coming up with idiotic nonsense like the notion of "clean coal"... it doesn't change the fact that coal is dead. And rather than accept that coal is dead and move forward by creating new jobs for coal workers with new renewable energy technology jobs, politicians keep dragging it along while foreign countries invest in renewable energy jobs which won't be going to American workers.
And why is that?
Lobbyist money, of course.
Big Coal and Big Oil and Big Pharma and all these "Big" companies OWN our politicians. They BUY them off to promote their bullshit so they continue to make money while American workers lose their jobs and American citizens get screwed.
And we have nobody to blame but ourselves because we keep re-electing them.
I feel badly for the people who keep voting for politicians who don't have their best interests at heart because the lie is always so much easier to believe. They trust the people who say they will take care of them even though it rarely turns out to be true... and is getting less true by the minute. I probably learned that from a movie somewhere, but the best way to learn is to just look at the news.
Assuming you can find actual news any more.
Much like the buggy whip and coal, actual, factual news seems to be dead...
So, game over, I guess.
Posted on July 30th, 2020
With life being more virtual than in-person now-a-days, I've been spending more time socializing online. It can't take the place of Real Life, but it's better than nothing... and it does actually have some advantages. Namely that you don't have to get dressed or leave the house. Also? You can find like-minded individuals much easier on the internet.
Because there's no in-person interaction, things can go sideways very quickly.
Tonight I left an anime discussion group when there was a fight because somebody started a chat over the upcoming Studio Ghibli film Aya to Majo, which is a computer-animated film instead of traditionally animated feature...
"COMPUTER ANIMATION IS NOT ANIME!"
"ANIME LITERALLY MEANS JAPANESE ANIMATION AND THIS IS JAPANESE ANIMATION!"
It ended up in a shouting match with name-calling and everything.
Yeah, I'm ready for this whole COVID thing to be over.
Posted on July 26th, 2020
Comic-Con San Diego may have been canceled this year, but you can't cancel Bullet Sunday, which starts... now...
• EXCELLENT!! Not only did we get a brand-new trailer for the upcoming Bill & Ted movie at Comic-Con at Home, we also got a release date of September 1st. But the best news? It's going to be released for streaming rental day-and-date with the theatrical release!
Sure it will probably cost $20 to rent early, but I would pay it in a heartbeat to avoid having to go to a bogus COVID-19-infested theater!
• NANDOR! I watched a few virtual panels and, by a wide margin, my favorite of the bunch featured the cast of What We Do In The Shadows. If you're a fan of the show, there's no need to tell you what to do...
I know the second season just ended, but I want a third season right now.
• SEEKERS! What I want more than anything else from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is a sequel to their incredible movie, Paul. But outside of that, I'll take whatever I can get. Including their new paranormal hunter show... Truth Seekers...
Alas, no date is given as to when the show debuts on Amazon Prime, but here's hoping it's soon-soon rather than later-soon.
• DECKS! I have no problem with an animated Star Trek. The original animated Star Trek series was pretty darn great. But a comedy? I don't know that I get why that has to go under the umbrella. It seems an odd fit...
Guess I'll see how I feel once I've seen an episode or two. Lower Decks drops on CBS All Access on August 6th.
• Jack! Not exactly Comic-Con-related, but Jack Whitehall has a new Netflix special out. If you like Jack, it's a great waste of time...
I sure am sad that we likely won't see any more episodes of Travels with My Father, but watching this special makes me want to watch all the episodes we got all over again.
• Cutesplosion! And lastly, I leave you with this...
And that's a wrap, True Believer.
Posted on July 19th, 2020
The USA may be leading the world in COVID-19 infections, but that's not the worst news you'll hear today... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Psych... Again! NBC's new streaming network, Peacock, launched this week. To entice people to subscribe to yet another service, they are making some content free for a while. Including Psych 2: Lassie Come Home...
I had forgotten how much I love this show. The one-liners are as fast and funny as ever and the story is actually pretty darn good! It features the return of Timothy Omundson (Carlton Lassiter) after his stroke, and he is wonderful. Everybody is. I tell you, bringing back Psych would be a sure-fire way to get me to subscribe to the network, that's for sure.
• Coming 2! Heaven help me, it might actually be worth getting infected just to go see this...
With the exception of all the Marvel Studios movies waiting to be released, this is what I most want to see.
• Leibovitz? In my work I've seen this many, many times. Photographers shooting Persons of Color the way they shoot white people because they cannot be bothered to learn how to create a shoot for darker skin. And apparently it can be a challenge for even the best photographers. Annie Leibovitz is a true artist, but she completely and totally failed in her shoot of Simone Biles. The Vogue shots are dim, murky, and poorly adjusted...
My guess is that Leibovitz is of a caliber that she can dictate nobody modify her photos, which is a shame because Simone Biles is a beautiful young woman who deserves far better (as does her family). Any pro photographer worth their salt will be able to get stunning shots regardless of skin tone because that's their job. Or, you know, Vogue could hire Black photographers who have a lifetime of experience shooting Persons of Color... just sayin'.
• Viola! Case in point? Meanwhile over at Vanity Fair where they hired the first Black photographer in the history of the magazine to shoot a cover story of Viola Davis...
Viola Davis would probably look amazing even if she was murky and tinted green... but, boy, this is phenomenal work by Dario Calmese.
• STOP! I've seen demos of SawStop technology before. It still takes my breath away to see it in action, and here it is in slow motion...
I use a table saw as an absolute last resort because I am well aware of how dangerous they are. No matter how careful you may be, accidents do happen. SawStop is a pretty brilliant way of keeping the damage to a minimum.
• Hobbes and Me! As a massively huge Calvin and Hobbes fan, I can't believe that I missed these shorts when they were released back in 2014...
You can see the entire series right here. You're welcome!
And that's a wrap. Enjoy your pandemic, everybody.
Posted on July 14th, 2020
ScreenRant recently published Every Steven Spielberg Movie Ranked from Worst to Best and I have thoughts. In some places I definitely agree with their assessment. But in many places I do not. But since lists like this are subjective, that's only natural. If there's one thing I think we can all agree on it's that Spielberg is responsible for some truly great movies. He's got vision that propels stories to movie blockbusters and there's no denying his talent.
If Spielberg had only made the first ten films on my list, he'd be one of my favorite directors of all time. But it's the bottom ten than kinda sink him for me here. It has me wondering if Quentin Tarantino's plan to only direct ten feature films is a good idea. This focuses the director on making ten of the best films they could have possibly made instead of squandering their talents on a scattershot oeuvre that's uneven and mired by mediocre efforts. Heaven only knows how much better some of even Spielberg's best works could have been if he hadn't been distracted with some of these projects.
Food for thought.
My list is ordered "best to worst" instead of "worst to best" because I don't buy into the idea that there's any suspense to be found from saving the best for last. My favorite movies deserve to be first on a list! So here we go...
See you in the movies, cinema fan.
Posted on July 13th, 2020
I've flown somewhere every year since 1983. Today it hit me that this may very well be the first time in 37 years that I go nowhere. And I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it.
On one hand, it has been SO nice to not have to drive 2-1/2 hours to the airport... deal with airport security... sit on a plane for hours... stand in line at the rental car counter... sleep in weird hotels... live out of a suitcase... not to mention, well, this right here... and... the travel part of travel pretty much sucks.
On the other hand?
I've been stuck at home instead of out exploring the world.
Every place I had on my list to see before I die suddenly doesn't seem as important as it once was. Except possibly India. I am very upset that I haven't got to visit yet and something inside of me dies at the thought of never seeing it. I would also like to visit Africa again. But other than that? It's not so much places as it is people I will miss. I have friends scattered around the globe, and there are more than a few I'd be very sad not to see in person again one day.
In other news...
I passed on the movie Last Christmas last year because A) It only got 47% on Rotten Tomatoes... and B) I suspected I knew how the story ends up just from watching the commercials. — I was right about the story, but Rotten Tomatoes got it wrong. Maybe it's the Hallmark Christmas movie lover in me... but I thought this was a really good film. I love Emilia Clarke and the incomparable Michelle Yeoh, but had only ever seen Henry Golding in Crazy Rich Asians. His fantastic performance in that film was no accident. He is crazy charming in this movie. And it's not like you can go wrong building your soundtrack around George Michael...
A nice mid-month surprise for my annual Christmas in July movie marathon!
Posted on July 10th, 2020
If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that movies based on comic books are a mixed bag. Sometimes they do a great job of translating the source material... other times they do a horrendous job. But in every case, there's always changes that get made.
Marvel Studios has been the most successful in respecting the original comic books with their films. When they make changes, they are usually in the service of the story and are made so that the essence of the characters and stories will work in an entirely different format. DC had some very good Batman movies with Christopher Nolan's take on The Dark Knight, yet their current movies have been worse than shit. And then there's the 20th Century Fox X-Men movies, which were awful to extreme levels of bad, and about the worst comic book translation you'll find.
You just never know.
So when I heard that Netflix was creating a movie based on The Old Guard, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I loved the comic book. Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez told a great story in a cool way and it had incredible potential for a movie. So when Netflix unleashed it, I tuned in with a mix of both excitement and dread. How much of the story would they butcher? How many senseless changes would they make?
Turns out they did a fucking amazing job.
This story of immortal beings working as mercenaries stars Charlize Theron, which was reason enough to watch. She has never disappointed. And she absolutely does not disappoint here. She kicks copious amounts of ass and delivers exactly as you'd expect her to. That much was not surprising.
What was surprising? Not did Netflix keep two of the major characters gay... but they did not reduce their characters to platonic shells as what usually do. Take this scene between them from the comic book, which was incredibly touching and romantic as it gets...
And compare it to The Old Guard movie...
The scene is not just faithful... it's word-for-word faithful.
There was a time not even ten years ago that this would likely have not been the case. If the characters of Joe and Nicky were allowed to stay gay, they would have been neutered or played for laughs. And then there's the fact that the two leads of an action movie are women... and one of them is a Black woman. Don't see a lot of that, even in 2020.
Highest possible recommendation. If you like action movies, it's definitely worth a look.
Posted on June 26th, 2020
When it comes to television and movies, I'm a bit of an obsessive-compulsive. Sometimes I will latch onto an actor, pull up their IMDB profile, then watch every last appearance I can find. It's just something I do for whatever reason. This time it happened after I watched the movie The General's Daughter (with John Travolta!)... then went back to rewatching Barry... only to realize that John Benjamin Hickey is in both. He's a solid actor that pops up in a lot of places, but I most remember him as appearing in The Big C. He played Laura Linney's homeless brother. And so... I decided to work my way back through his acting catalog.
The first movie I found that was free for me to watch was called Forever My Girl...
It has a crappy 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I figured I'd have a higher tolerance for it because I enjoy all those crappy Hallmark romance movies. Despite precious little chemistry between the leads, it's actually a pretty good flick! And the little girl who plays the daughter is great. Sweet, feel-good stuff.
I went back to Rotten Tomatoes in order to find out what critics hated about it... and did a double-take when I saw that the Audience Score is 79%. This is like... really good for an audience score (as a comparison, Titanic has just 69%). Of course this is exactly the kind of movie that critics feel obligated to hate, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
What totally did surprise me? The guy who stars in it... Alex Roe (somebody I'd never heard of before)... is British. Not just British... very, very British...
The movie is also hilarious... if only unintentionally so. Early on Alex is running six blocks BAREFOOT in New Orleans to get his mobile phone fixed. And while running barefoot in any big city could be dangerous... NEW ORLEANS?!? In the French Quarter, no less.
And now, if you'll excuse me, more John Benjamin Hickey is calling... this time in the movie Tallulah.
P.S. I don't know which Hollywood types need to hear this, but... voicemails are not stored on your mobile. They are stored on a server at your carrier. So a major plot point in Forever My Girl is pretty laughable. And not in a good way.
Posted on June 23rd, 2020
uncanny valley • Used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it. — Lexico, Powered by Oxford
Entering the uncanny valley is a different experience for different people. Some people can't tell the difference between computer-generated humans and actual humans. Some people have a sense something is off, but aren't bothered by it. Still others don't like it at all. As for myself? It freaks me out in ways that I can't express... or even fully comprehend.
The worst experience for me is easy to pinpoint... it's Star Wars: Rogue One. In this film they have computer-generated appearances by Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia... circa 1977. Peter Cushing (Tarkin) died in 1994. Carie Fisher (Leia) was alive when Rogue One debuted in 2016, but died before I made it to theaters to see the movie.
Carrie Fisher had only one scene at the end and she looked straight-up bizarre. Her glassy eyes and weird expressions were way freaky to me, especially when her head was 10-feet tall on a movie screen...
It was like a video game character gone horribly wrong. This was not uncanny valley, it was uncanny canyon.
Grand Moff Tarkin had many scenes in the movie. In a way, he came off a little better than Leia because there were some shadows at play. Alas, this made the glassy eyes even more pronounced. His skin tone also had some serious issues, looking more like plastic than human skin. I really think that they would have been better off if they got a different human actor for the part... or found a way to eliminate him from the movie entirely. But, still, it was a fun connection to the original movie, and the connections were part of why I liked Rogue One so much. So... who knows? Maybe this is just the way it had to be.
I was reminded about this all again when somebody posted a video that attempted to fix Grand Moff Tarkin so he wasn't quite so freaky...
Now, I would hardly consider this to be "fixed," but it is a step in the right direction. It's probably not as good as it could have been if the face-mapping were on an actual human instead of a CGI replica.
"Deepfake"... a technology which remaps one face on another face... shows far more promise than CGI humans currently do. I've talked about this plenty of time on Blogography... the last time being in January where somebody "fixed" the de-aging effects on The Irishman...
Now, the place that people always go with deepfakes is this: "Pretty soon the technology will be so good that we won't be able to tell what's real!" And my response is always the same... "Well, yeah, that would be terrible for getting to the truth, but just think of how great it will be for movies!"
Because if I never see a dead, glassy-eyed, dead person ten feet tall on the movie screen again, that would be okay by me.
Posted on June 14th, 2020
If I were a religiously superstitious man, I'd say that a Bullet Sunday associated with The Mark of the Beast is strangely apt given the times we live, and yet there's no need to go fearing the apocalypse just yet... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia! There are some people in the world who would have skipped right over a blog post numbered "666" out of fear that this number invokes the devil. This fear is known as "hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia." Quite a mouthful. My fear of satan has long since disappated because we've got hell on earth happening all around us. From Impeached President Trump scheduling a rally at the site of the Tulsa Race Massacre on Juneteenth (then rescheduling, but no worries... we know what you meant)... to Impeached President Trump erasing transgender American health protections during Pride... to Impeached President Trump easing restrictions on killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens so Donald Trump Jr. can spend tens of thousands more tax dollars on hunting trips... evil is being unleashed from the very top of our government every fucking day. Who needs the devil?
• IMDB That Shit! How my mind works... "What was that series I wanted to watch that has General Hux from Star Wars and Zoey from Nurse Jackie? Was it called "Escape?" And it was on Netflix, wasn't it? No... I saw it advertised before Last Week Tonight a few weeks ago so it must have been HBO? Or was it before Upload on Amazon Prime? Surely it's not one of those Apple TV+ shows is it? No, pretty sure it was HBO. Ugh... so many shows... what was the name... what was the name... what was the name... dang. Guess I'm going to IMDB. The guy was definitely in that amazing time travel movie with Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams that Richard Curtis made... what was it? Oh yeah! It was About Time! Man I loved that movie. I should remember to watch that again. Hmmm... guess I'll look up About Time on IMDB and... WAIT! I remember, it's DOMHNALL GLEASON! Hard to forget an Irish name like that after he discussed how the M and the H are just there to confuse Americans! Domhnall Gleason. Boy, he's an amazing actor, isn't he? That's why I have to watch this new series. But it's not "Escape." Oh wait... it's Run! The name of the show I want is Run! Sweet! I didn't need IMDB after all because I'm just that smart! SUCK IT IMDB! Huh... wasn't the woman who played Zoey in Nurse Jackie also in The Walking Dead? =sigh= I guess I need to IMDB that shit.
• Whoa! I totally missed this. Or forgot I saw it. Or something. This is a "faithful, word-for-word recreation of one colorful day in the American court system" as recreated by Rick and Morty...
Because American justice sometimes perfectly resembles a cartoon. And Rick and Morty is the perfect cartoon to do it. Insanity.
• Damn, Daniel! This is faked, of course, but still hilarious...
I ended up watching this video five times in a row so I could look at everybody's reactions. Thank heavens all my Zooms are on my iPad and I physically close it when I leave the call (which disconnects everything).
• Alexaaaaaa! A slice of life in 2020...
ALEXA: "From Amazon Product Ratings: Three months ago, you purchased 9 Inch Bread Banneton Proofing Basket. How would you rate this product from one to five stars?"
ME: "What the fuck? Alexa, stop bothering me with this shit!"
ALEXA: "Okay. I'll stop asking you for product reviews for a while."
ME: "A WHILE?!? WHY NOT PERMANENTLY?!?"
This is how it starts, doesn't it? Technology slowly creeps into your life and eventually just takes over. It's not like The Terminator didn't warn us this would happen.
• Not-So-Foxy! Lately FOX "News" has been caught Photoshopping images to support their idiotic narrative as to what's happening in Seattle... to being so desperate for news on what's actually happening in Seattle that they fall for absurd Monty Python parody posts. I guess the truth about what's really happening in the tiny little 6-block section of Seattle which has sectioned itself off as an autonomous zone is just too boring? Better lie and bias it up then. Seems to make no difference to their viewers. Maybe when Impeached President Cadet Bone Spurs invades Seattle personally, as he's threatened to do, they'll have the story they're really looking for.
• Party! It's gotten impossible for me to support any facet of the Republican Party. Where I live, I generally voted Republican on State issues because the Democrats which dominate Western Washington don't give two fucks about what happens East of the Cascades... there's no votes for them here, so we get ignored. No, I don't support a lot of what Republicans represent, but there's really no choice if the region where I live wants a fair share of the pie.
All that stopped after Cadet Bone Spurs Trump was elected. Any party which enables... and continues to support... this monster has completely lost me. There is no reality where I would ever vote Republican now. Instead I do what I swore I would never do... check every fucking Democrat on the ballot. Because even if a Republican publicly condemns the president, there are still too many other horrific people and issues that never get condemned. And ANY Republican who even attempts to be a human being by representing ALL of their constituency is quickly targeted and devoured by the Republican Party. Perform a same-sex wedding to offer support for a segment of your community. Get fucked. It's just the way they operate now. The Republican Party has no future unless they can gerrymander it.
And now back to our regularly-scheduled hell on earth.