movies

Stuff I Liked in 2016, pt. 3 – Movies

2016 stands out for the potentially great movies I haven’t seen. For the first time in years, I can compile a list of films that I regret not having the $15 for admission more than I regret spending that $15 on Crunchwrap Supremes. 1Including Arrival, Moonlight, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Bad Batch, Silence, A Monster Calls, American Honey, and Hacksaw Ridge. Meanwhile, my own favorites were seen by far too few people who aren’t me. Here are ten of them:

Doctor Strange10. Doctor Strange
A dinky script and a performance by Benedict Cumberbatch so hammy that they have to stop the movie every 30 minutes to add a coat of glaze can’t blot out IMAX 3D visuals that made me feel like what I imagine audiences in 1968 felt when first seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey.



The Witch9. The Witch
This exceptionally creepy and gorgeous psychological horror about isolated Puritans besieged in the woods : M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village :: Alien Howard the Duck



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1. Including Arrival, Moonlight, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Bad Batch, Silence, A Monster Calls, American Honey, and Hacksaw Ridge.

I Read All 3000 Pages of Ian Fleming’s Groovy 007 Oeuvre

NOTE: This post originally appeared on September 13, 2013. I’m republishing it today for Ian Fleming’s 108th birthday.

Ian FlemingIn May of 2012, I finished a five-month stint of watching all the James Bond movies in order. When I was done, I somehow found myself no less unemployed than when I’d started, so I opted to rectify that the only way I knew how: by reading in order all of Ian Fleming’s 007 books — 12 novels and two short-story collections. It took me over a year, a rate of about one book per month.

I’d read two of Fleming’s stories before — Casino Royale 12 or 13 years ago, and Goldfinger when I was a teenager, from which for some reason I’ve always remembered the sentence, “Bond felt the skin-crawling tickle at the groin that dates from one’s first game of hide and seek in the dark.” — long enough ago that I didn’t know what to expect in terms of quality, theme, character, or anything else.

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Art That Changed My Life: The Counterfeiters

NOTE: This post was originally published Sep. 11, 2012. I’m reposting it for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Counterfeiters – directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (2007)

The Counterfeiters
My dad’s Catholic; my mom’s Jewish. So by the rules of Judaism, I’m Jewish. I certainly have the typical family for it, with the sheer size and volume of my mom’s side 1Her father was the youngest of 11 children. drowning out my dad’s small, quiet side. If I called my maternal grandmother, all I had to do was ask her one question and sit back and listen for an hour. If I called my dad’s mother, I needed a ream of material to keep her on the phone for five minutes.

But I never had the belief for Judaism. My sister and I were raised with samples from both religions: a Christmas tree with a star of David on top, Dukes of Hazzard action figures for Hanukkah. Between birth and high school I’d been to temple maybe twice. It took me a few years to realize that the illustrated book of stories that my maternal grandmother gave me, full of cities being destroyed and big dudes getting killed by rocks, were all tales from the Old Testament. I was allowed to make up my own mind about religion, and that combined with a steady dose of ontological science fiction put me on a slow but reasonably steady path toward atheism and a general lack of interest in religion.

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1. Her father was the youngest of 11 children.

How Star Wars: The Radio Drama Pre-Copied Special Relativity

Today I started listening to Star Wars: The Radio Drama produced in 1981 by NPR. It’s five hours long, so it includes several original scenes not even hinted at in the movie, including one that prefaces the film’s opening encounter between Princess Leia and the Empire. In it Leia is confronted by Lord Tion, an Impreial Doofus who tries to get into her pants.

I immediately noticed an eerie similarity between the performance of John Considine as Tion and the performance of James Urbaniak as Mr. Wandell in my own sci-fi radio show, Special Relativity. I created a short video with a side-by-side comparison of the two. It’s uncanny. Listen:

As I edited the clips, I realized how strangely alike these two scenes are. Leia (played by Ann Sachs) and Nox (played by Alex Borstein) both confront men they disdain. Wandell gets all smarmy because he’s afraid Nox is going to kill him; Tion gets all smarmy because he wants to boink Leia. Mine ends with an exploding tripe bomb; I think Star Wars does too.

As far as I know, neither James nor I had heard Star Wars: The Radio Drama before, so this isn’t copying. Special Relativity does involve time travel, so I’m obligated to think this might be some sort of pre-copying on the part of the Lucas people. Either way, it’s clearly a sign that I’m sitting on a multi-billion dollar empire. Finally.

Stuff I Liked in 2015, pt. 3 – Movies

Looking at the list of movies I enjoyed the most in 2015, it occurs to me that it’s a list my 12-year-old self would’ve carefully curated in his imagination as some kind of unattainable ideal. 1Even more so when considering that I also bolted out the door to see a new 007 movie this year. As a Very Mature Adult, that makes me a little disappointed in myself, especially in light of the mass societal infantilization that befell America as Star Wars approached. But the writer Mark Leyner once said that it’s the responsibility of artists to provide joy, so I’ve decided to happily accept a year of joyous, purely cinematic movies about how we become better individual humans.

ChappieChappie
Yeah, that’s right; I’m picking Chappie. This movie became the butt of so many jokes that I’m not sure anyone actually saw it. I can’t blame them, since no one could look at the trailers and posters without thinking, “Number Five is alive!” I wouldn’t have seen it myself it hadn’t shown up in the $2 theater on an afternoon when I was feeling particularly sad and sorry for myself and needed to step out of my life. Chappie turned out to be the perfect remedy, because it’s designed to remind us that being an adult necessitates understanding and dealing with our emotions in hard ways that most of us are unwilling to tackle. The moment when Chappie finally becomes a grown-up is the most touching one I saw this year, and I sat alone in the dark and cried.



Inside OutInside Out
Speaking of movies about dealing with adult emotions. Maybe the most impressive thing about Inside Out is that someone thought to produce it– to create a movie not just to induce feelings in children but to make them recognize and begin to understand their feelings. As an adult struggling with my own mental health, my psychiatrist told me something that I’d wished I’d figured out decades earlier: that one’s goal shouldn’t be to live on a plane of eternal happiness, but instead to experience the normal range of emotions that humans require. Luckily kids now have an experience as enjoyable as Inside Out to get them started on that idea.

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1. Even more so when considering that I also bolted out the door to see a new 007 movie this year.

10 Jews Who Are Cooler Than You

A very small list. Who’s your favorite cool Jew? 1Cewl? Jool?

Mick Jones
Mick Jones
Musician, founding member of The Clash
Mélanie Laurent
Mélanie Laurent
Actor, (Inglourious Basterds)
Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall
Oscar-winning actor
Lou Reed
Lou Reed
Musician

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1. Cewl? Jool?

Keep Your Public Domain Off of My Stuff

backOffReading Leslie S. Klinger’s The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes before bed last night, as all the swingers do, I was reminded how Klinger’s successful lawsuit that brought Sherlock Holmes fully into the US public domain had prompted a friend and I to debate the proper length of time before creative works become public property. This friend thought 20 years from publication/distribution was plenty long. I, being a working (albeit not working) artist, found that unacceptable to the point of insulting. With it being hotter than livestock interior in LA this week, I then laid awake dripping, giving me time to belatedly formulate this argument as to why creators should retain control of their work during their lifetimes:

Let’s use as an example my radio show, Special Relativity (a comedy starring Alex Borstein, which well over one million people have enjoyed not listening to). I wrote and produced the first episode at my own (significant) expense and released it to the world for free on April 15, 2015. (Click here to listen to it and you will surely appreciate the argument below even more.)

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