I’m finding myself less interested in absorbing any sort of news and more interested in just watching a lot of ‘90s WB cartoon shows.
It’s taking all of my effort not to complain about how hot it’s going to be today and this week.
Aaaaand… I’ve already failed at that.1
Be sure to listen to this powerful episode today! 🎙🎥
Raised by Wolves was created by Aaron Guzikowski. It premiered on HBO Max on September 3, 2020. The show was produced by Film Afrika Worldwide, Lit Entertainment Group, Scott Free Productions, and Studio T. The titles were directed by Steven Small and created at Studio AKA.
In the future, there is a war between the devout Mithraic believers and the atheists. Following the destruction of Earth, two androids are tasked with traveling to Kepler 22-b and raising children on this new planet. Mother, played by Amanda Collin, and Father, played by Abubakar Salim, develop a small community with their children. All is as well as this new life can be, until a straggling colony of Mithraic humans crash lands on the planet after Mother destroys their ship. The remaining humans manage strife within their ranks while trying to save their children that have been taken by the androids. Within this colony are two atheists who are hiding their true identities: Marcus (once known as Caleb), played by Travis Fimmel, and Sue (once Mary), played by Niamh Algar. Marcus’s devout atheism (and Sue’s trust in him) is tested when he begins to believe that he has a divine presence living inside him.
I love a good Ridley Scott production and this one has it all: androids, mysterious planets, human drama (even amongst the non-humans). While the famed director may not have been the leading creative force behind the show, his name is still powerful enough to make this show required viewing. Now that I’ve finished the first season, I’m left with a thousand more questions than when I started watching it. What secrets does Kepler 22-b really hold? Why does Marcus believe he’s basically the second coming of this Mithraic god, and is it actually one of the androids’ children? What in the absolute hell was that flying snake monster that Mother birthed? I’m really looking forward to the second season where I hope many of those questions will be answered. I’m especially hoping that this show won’t be axed because it’s too expensive for the viewership it might be receiving.
This show is a great example of how to tell a story without bludgeoning an audience over the head with a mountain of exposition in the first episode. By the end of the first episode, you are not going to know what brought the androids to Kepler 22-b, you won’t know the full extent of the war that’s happened on Earth, and you sure as heck won’t know the full capabilities of all characters involved. There’s nothing but hidden layers here. I like a show that invites its viewers to unravel its mystery slowly. It requires a lot, but it gives a lot in return.
The full opening titles for this show are transformative to behold. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The dark, painterly quality of them makes for a melancholic and tense mood. Accompanied by the ethereal voice of Mariam Wallentin and the composition by Ben Frost, the titles are transformed nearly into a contradiction. Some may find only gloom in them and I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. However, I think there’s also great beauty in the pairing of these images and the music. Even if you don’t want to watch the show, I think the titles are worth your time.1
I enjoyed Apple’s opening keynote presentation for this year’s WWDC. It wasn’t a particularly flashy event—this far into the COVID pandemic, they’ve toned down their “look at me” camera work and are mostly focusing on delivering information,1 of which there was a lot.
However, what I did find frustrating, as someone who enjoys using their expansive iPad Pro for both play and work, is the continued lack of extended display support for this device.2 It’s an unpleasant situation that persists, year after year. There was a lot of speculation that 2021 would be the year that iPad fans would be gifted with the ability to completely fill our widescreen displays, run different apps on different screens, and move content between our devices and the monitors to which they can be connected. Alas, that did not happen. We’re stuck with the inferior mirroring support we’ve always had.
The puzzling part of all this is the new iPad Pros have the same M1 chip that can be found inside Apple’s far more display-capable Mac computers. There should be nothing preventing the M1 iPad Pros from enjoying the same external display abilities that are given to all of the Macs. And yet, here we are again. I can think of two reasons why this might be the case:
There’s no evidence to back up the first possibility. Heck, they just spent a large portion of their April 2021 event talking up the truly amazing mini-LED display in the new 12.9” iPad Pro. It may undercut the unique advantage it has if they were to release a product that removes that advantage so soon after its respective event.3 Why buy the 12.9” iPad and that hypothetical monitor when I can just get the monitor for the iPad I already have?
Indeed, there’s no definite indication from the people that matter, i.e., Apple, that there’s any sort of forthcoming monitor. Their current stance boils down to “if you want an Apple monitor, then you can feel free to spend at least $5,000 on our glorious Pro Display XDR.” At the moment, any possible Apple alternative to that display lives only in our collective dreams.
The far more likely possibility is that iPadOS 15 continues the long tradition of the iPad’s software falling far short of its amazing, powerful hardware. This is also the sadder possibility. While we were gifted with a preview of some truly excellent upcoming features during this year’s presentation, to omit the sort of external monitor support that they grant their other computers sends the message that Apple still doesn’t fully believe their own iPad messaging. An iPad can be so much more than “just a computer,” but despite what they think, it’s still a computer. Either all that or they’re continuing to ignore the clear fact that many people do real work on their iPads. Both are likely. I don’t know which is worse.
What would make the iPad “more than a computer” isn’t just the Apple Pencil, touching the screen, or ARKit. It would be the ability to do all that a computer can currently do and then more.
But hey, maybe it’ll happen in iPadOS 16… 🍎
Following my triumphant return to movie theater watching last week, my co-host, Steven, and I recorded a podcast episode about A Quiet Place Part II. Give this thrilling episode a listen today!
Just be sure not to make any noise… 🎙
I think my favorite part of WWDC is making the determined choice to stay off of places like Twitter while the presentation is happening. I sure as heck don’t need that much cynical snark in my life. 🍎
There’s been increased talk online about UFOs lately. After spending the morning with a stupidly, insanely rich couple, I can safely say that the people who are really not of this world are the ridiculously wealthy.
After accidentally killing his supervisor, Bill, played by Richard Gere, flees to Texas with his girlfriend, Abby, played by Brooke Adams, and his younger sister, Linda, played by Linda Manz. The trio become employed as wheat harvesters on a farm owned by a character played by Sam Shepard. Realizing that the farmer’s failing health presents a cruel financial opportunity, Bill and Abby scheme to take his fortune by having her marry the farmer. As they often do, their best-laid plans fall apart when the farmer learns of Bill and Abby’s true relationship.
This film was famed for its beautiful cinematography and that still holds true today. There is some impressive filmmaking happening every year, and yet, Days of Heaven is still a towering presence. The unusual circumstances surrounding its cinematography are equally notable—Néstor Almendros, the film’s cinematographer, was beginning to lose his sight during the production. He had assistants take photographs of scenes and would then examine them with strong lenses. The troubled production ran so over schedule that Almendros had to leave to attend to a prior filmmaking commitment. He tasked Haskell Wexler, a legend in his own right, to finish the film in his stead. What resulted was a moving film that has stuck in my head ever since I first saw it. It’s elegant in the finest sense of the word.
The improvisational filmmaking style that Malick and Almendros developed was frustrating to most of the crew. Damn the lighting setups! Forget about intricately blocked scenes! Call sheets? Who needs ‘em?! This was a most unusual production at the time,1 but it laid the groundwork for Malick’s style in later films. It’s remarkable to see how formative this film was for him. With it, he developed a style of serendipity. This is on full display in films like The New World and The Tree of Life where the camera is an invisible participant in the actor’s performances, instead of a central fixture. Days of Heaven is notable in itself, but its legacy also continues to reverberate through Malick’s work.
There’s a moving essay written by The Criterion Collection’s staff writer and social media director, Hillary Weston, about Sam Shepard’s quiet, elegiac performance. For anyone who’s ever been moved by the work of this beautiful writer and actor, it’s a lovely read. 🎞
A less creative and exciting name there could not be, but I guess that’s not the point. I can’t wait for the upcoming app which will surely be named: HBO Discovery Max+.
Total movies watched: 20
Be sure to follow me on Letterboxd! 🎥
Ever wanted to see Ethan Hawke square off against John Travolta? Well, today is your lucky day. Listen now! 🎙🎥
Today, for the first time in well over a year, I get to see a movie in a theater. I’m so happy I might cry. This is an activity that means a lot to me and I’m thrilled to be able to enjoy it again. 🎥
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman and was directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman. It was released in 2018. It was produced by Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Sony Pictures Animation, Avi Arad Productions, Lord Miller Productions, and Pascal Pictures. The titles for the film were created by Alma Mater.
Miles Morales, a teenager living in New York City, stumbles into a universe-ending plot when he becomes a new Spider-Man. Feared crime lord, Kingpin, has had a super-collider created so he can open up a bridge to another universe and bring back his deceased wife and son. Miles is instructed by the previous Spider-Man, as he is dying,1 to stop Kingpin before he’s able to go through with his plan and inadvertently tears everything in several universes apart. Miles is joined by five other Spider-Heroes from different universes—seems that some slipped through during Kingpin’s first machine test—and they all work together to find the courage to avert disaster. In doing so, they all learn what it takes to live up to their potential.
I’m still holding firm to the belief that this film will soon be considered not only the best animated film of the last decade, but one of the best films ever made. From a technical perspective, there’s never been anything like this. This is as close as any movie has ever come to portraying a comic book on-screen. Sorry, Ang Lee. I watched this one a couple of months ago and was still impressed with the animation techniques at play. This could have easily turned into a mess of garbage, but instead, it sang. From a story perspective, I find it to be affecting and, like all good Spider-Man films are capable of doing, invigorating. Swinging along with Miles through New York City feels energetic like nothing else. You’ll finish this film and wish you could feel air rushing past your masked face, too. These two qualities intertwine and create a film that lifts itself. The innovative animation gives life to the story and the heartfelt story gives substance to the animation’s style.
Safe to say, this film is still a revelation and it deserved its Oscar win for Best Animated Feature Film. I may have to give it another watch as soon as possible.
WIRED made a fascinating video in which they interviewed Visual Effects Supervisor, Danny Dimian, and Head of Character Animation, Josh Beveridge. The pair talk about their visual inspirations, the choices they made when leading the film’s animation, and how they hoped their work will affect the film’s viewers. It’s a great watch if you’re looking to better understand how it was all done. 🎞
After dealing for the past day or so with a Plex server that seems to have nuked itself, I’ve never been more aware of how little I know about computers and networking.
For those working in tech, are your days full of inscrutable, depressive catastrophes or is it just me?
Thanks so much for doing this, @vincent. You continue to be one of the most thoughtful and giving developers working today. 🥳
We’re continuing our western theme on More Movies Please! this week with the darkly comedic and very grim film, The Sisters Brothers. There are some amazing performances going on in this one. It’s a surprising film for western lovers. 🎙🎥
Had I but one wish to ask of a genie, I would request the thing that people around the world could truly benefit from: that all pizza become free of calories but remain just as tasty.
I do not doubt that a possible side effect of this wish would be world peace.🍕
Batman: The Animated Series was developed by Mitch Brian, Paul Dini, and Bruce Timm. The show was produced by Warner Bros. Animation. On Leather Wings originally aired on September 6, 1992. It was written by Mitch Brian and directed by Kevin Altieri.
[Note: while IMDb lists On Leather Wings as episode two of the series, on subsequent video releases, it appears as the first episode. The episodes were originally aired out of their production order.]
A giant, man-sized bat is terrorizing Gotham City! After a string of break-ins at local pharmaceutical companies, certain members of the police force are champing at the bit to go after the mysterious and titular Batman. The intrepid Commissioner Gordon, evangelist of the masked vigilante, objects. Batman, believing he was set up, investigates the recent break-in and finds clues that lead him to the Gotham Zoo where a scientist by the name of Kirk Langstrom is employed. Through careful investigation, Batman discovers that poor Langstrom is actually the dreaded Man-Bat and must discover a method to reverse his terrible condition before he’s caught by the police.
A thrilling episode, and a perfect introduction to this heavily stylized, groundbreaking animated show. Not only do we get to witness Batman in all his fearsome, be-cowled glory, but we also get to see him in detective mode throughout the episode. This is a dark cartoon series, and not just because of the unique process of its animators drawing on black paper. The storylines are mature, the voice acting is deadly serious, and we’re shown a Gotham that takes its visual inspiration from gothic, Art Deco architecture.
I was six when this show started airing on television, so my enjoyment of the show, and subsequent awareness of its importance, developed much later. Develop it did, though! At a certain point in my youth, there was a two-hour block of cartoon shows that was essential after school viewing. Batman, Superman: The Animated Series, Pinky and the Brain, and Animaniacs made the toiling through homework hours bearable. Some people may speak highly of the cartoon shows that were made after my preferred group, but for my money, there is still no greater collection of quality animation than what was produced in the mid-‘90s. SpongeBob SquarePants may have become the internet’s darling, but I believe it’ll never hold a candle to the WB classics. They are transcendent and damn if they don’t still hold up. Heck, Hulu even rebooted Animaniacs because of its still passionate fan base. The legacy of those ‘90s shows continues to amaze me.
I’d be completely remiss in my posting duties if I didn’t include the classic and legendary opening sequence of this show. It doesn’t include a title, and frankly, it doesn’t need to. It gives you everything you need to understand what show this is and what you can expect. It’s a real masterclass in short-form storytelling. 🎞
In the latest More Movies Please! episode, Steven and I watched and talked about one of the more gruesome westerns ever made. In store for you this week is Sam Peckinpah’s seminal film, The Wild Bunch.
Gear up for a good one! 🎙🎥
I think my new celebrity crush is Joan Fontaine. I absolutely loved her in Suspicion. She was the most magnetic person onscreen in every scene she was in—a rare feat when starring alongside Cary Grant. 🎥
When did decent tasting envelope glue fall out of favor? I feel like there was a golden age of not being disgusted by sealing envelopes, and now my tongue is forever being attacked. I worry that I’m going to face the same fate as George Costanza’s fiancée.
Drive was written by Hossein Amini as an adaptation of the novel of the same name by James Sallis, and was directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. It was released in 2011. It was produced by Bold Films, Oddlot Entertainment, Marc Platt Productions, and Motel Movies. The title designer was Jay Johnson.
Stunt driver by day and getaway driver by night, the character of Driver, played by Ryan Gosling is a force to be reckoned with. Seriously, don’t make the mistake of crossing him. After falling for his next-door neighbor, Irene, played by Carey Mulligan, he finds himself forced into violence when her husband, Standard, played by Oscar Isaac, is released from jail. Standard owes some powerful people money, and the only way to keep Irene and her child safe is for Driver to assist in a pawn shop robbery. When things go south during the heist, Driver has to rain vengeance down on anyone who means to harm the people he cares for.
What a strange sequence of titles this film employs. Sure, this is one stylish as hell movie, but the bright pink, ‘80s-inspired look of that text seems so incongruous to the rest of the story. It’s a conscious choice on the part of the director to go with something so dramatic and eye-catching. Titles like these don’t happen by accident. However, aside from the throaty roar of the car chase sequences and the gruesome violence, this is a fairly quiet film. Its characters don’t demand attention, save for Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. Most of the interactions between Driver and Irene are peaceful and fun (that is, until the horrifying scene in the elevator when Driver beats an assassin to death). Nothing about these two characters screams “look at me!” quite like those titles do.
Pairing such flashy titles with a couple of shy, introverted characters serves the film well, though. It keeps the viewer on edge, and always wondering what the film is going to surprise you with next. Make no mistake, there are some surprising moments to be had here. The sweet looks that Driver and Irene share will not prepare you for how gruesome some moments are. It shocked me when I saw it, so much so that I considered it a revelation by the end of its running time. I ended up watching all of the credits in the theater because I was unable to move from my seat for a long time. I had no idea a film could be this way, and it’s still one that amazes me.
For the cinematography fans out there (like me!), please enjoy the video that Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting made for Drive. It examines cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel’s use of a quadrant system, which breaks up the frame into four distinct zones of focus. It is a phenomenal video that examines how many different stores can be told within a single shot. The artistry that went into this film remains impressive. 🎞
The displeasure associated with turning another year older continues to be worse than actually turning another year older.
Happy 35th to me! 🥳
Setting up my new AirTag was a fun, but short experience. Usually, a new Apple gadget comes with days of messing around with it. The point of these seems to be to forget about them until that unfortunate day when you actually have to worry about them. 🍎