A Tiny Announcement. ↗

    From Letterboxd co-founder, Matthew Buchanan, on the Letterboxd Journal:

    [W]e have accepted an offer for Tiny to acquire a 60 percent stake in Letterboxd, securing the platform’s future as an independently run company and part of the Tiny stable.

    Aside from the ownership change, and in line with Tiny’s core operating values, very little else will change. [Co-founder] Karl and I are still leading the team, which remains the same, but now has the additional support of a company with vast experience in helping founders through periods of growth, which Letterboxd continues to enjoy. It means we can bring you more of the features you love and deserve, at a sustainable pace.

    If Letterboxd had to be acquired, then I’m glad it was by Tiny—as acquisition firms go, they have a general track record of not being godawful leeches.

    There’s always a shiver of fear that runs down my spine whenever a company I like is bought up by something else. That rarely ends well for the users (see Twitter), most of whom are die-hard fans of the service into which they’ve poured a lot of time and love.1

    I wish the best for Letterboxd and the people who run it; I’m not going to stop using it anytime soon. Anyway, what are the alternatives? A massive spreadsheet? Not likely at this point. But I am going to keep a more watchful eye on how its user experience develops from here on. I’ve never hoped that something will avoid the Process of Enshittification more than I have with Letterboxd.

    1. Hey there! 👋 ↩︎

    Warner Bros. Discovery Says Ongoing Strikes Will Mean $300M-$500M Hit to 2023 Earnings ↗

    By Georg Szalai at The Hollywood Reporter:

    Warner Bros. Discovery has lowered its 2023 adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) forecast to $10.5 billion-$11.0 billion, a hit of $300 million-$500 million, “predominantly due to the impact of the strikes,” compared with the previously targeted low end of the $11.0 billion-$11.5 billion range.

    Let me get this straight: it’s unreasonable for writers to justifiably demand a relatively modest pay increase, but it’s the height of business savvy for Warner Bros. Discovery to lose $300–500 million in a year?

    What I’m hearing is, “I’m really upset with my face right now, so let me cut off my nose!”

    To be clear, it would cost WBD far less to pay writers a fair wage than they’ll lose this year. According to IndieWire, of the $429 million a year it would cost the AMPTP to meet the demands of the WGA, WBD would be on the hook for about $47 million. On the low end, that’s a $253 million difference in 2023 and $453 million on the high end.

    But yeah, it’s the writers who are the real problem. 🙄

    It must be nice to lose that much money and not have to worry about also losing your job. I don’t know what WBD CEO David “I’m Super Good at Business” Zaslav has done to make his position so secure, but if anyone else in the world lost their company that much money, they’d never work in their industry again. Instead, these overpaid ghouls keep failing upward while the writers are increasingly unsure if they’ll have homes and food to rely on soon.

    Make no mistake—it’s not “Hollywood” that’s the issue here. The blame for these strikes rests 100% on the shoulders of inept executives like Zaslav.

    Another Box Office Milestone: ‘Barbie’ Becomes Top-Grossing Movie of 2023 Domestically, Global to Soon Follow ↗

    By Pamela McClintock at The Hollywood Reporter:

    On Wednesday — its 34th day in release — Greta Gerwig’s movie passed up runaway blockbuster The Super Mario Bros. Movie at the domestic box office to become the top-grossing title of 2023 after finishing the day with a North American total of $575.4 million.

    Couldn’t have happened to a better film and director. Barbie was probably the best time I had at the movies so far this year.

    Streaming TV costs now higher than cable, as ‘crash’ finally hits ↗

    From Ben Lovejoy at 9to5Mac:

    As little as a year ago, a popular set of streaming services added up to a total cost of $73 per month – compared to $83 for an equivalent cable package. But the latest round of streaming price increases has pushed that cost to $87, says a Financial Times analysis, making it more expensive than cable.

    Good job, dummies. You became the very thing you swore to destroy!

    Also, from Karl Bode at Techdirt in a related article:

    If you hadn’t noticed, it’s not just good enough for a publicly traded company to provide an excellent, affordable product that people like. Wall Street demands improved quarterly returns at any cost, which, sooner or later, causes any successful company to begin cannibalizing itself to feed the “growth for growth’s sake” gods. Mergers, price hikes, offshored labor, whatever it takes.

    While high level executives and some shareholders benefit from this enshittification, there’s just an endless list of casualties from this process, whether it’s product value, quality, customer satisfaction, customer support, employee pay, jobs, or even the long-term health of the company itself.

    Capitalism was a mistake.

    Illinois becomes first state to pass law curtailing book bans ↗

    From Brendan O’Brien at Reuters:

    Illinois has become the first state to legislate against the banning of books in public libraries, a practice that has been on the rise across the United States as conservatives look to suppress some books dealing with race, history and LGBTQ topics.

    Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, signed the historic measure into law on Monday in a Chicago library. The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, the governor’s office said in a statement.

    I’m a little late on this one—the story broke on June 13—but I think it’s still worth celebrating. This is a step in the right direction, a positive step, a good step. I don’t think book bans of any sort are helpful to anyone, especially young people who should have every opportunity to expand their minds and grow their empathy. All of them are reactionary crusades against that which ignorant adults can’t handle and, therefore, hate. None of them are truly done with the well-being of young people in mind, no matter the rhetoric involved.

    Just take the words of Laura Hois, co-chair of a chapter of Awake Illinois,1 for proof:

    “We object to gender influencing, indoctrination of our kids toward anti-racism and leftist agendas.”

    They object to gender influencing (which surely isn’t actually a thing) and anti-racism? They’re promoting and longing for racism? It’s all just their own contemptuous hang-ups that they’re trying to force into the minds of young people, spreading the hate virus. At this point, it should be no surprise that the quiet parts just keep getting said louder and louder. It’s still disgusting to see.

    A ban on book bans. Good job, Illinois! Seriously. I’m proud of that state for doing the right thing here, and I hope more states, especially my own, follow suit (and soon).

    Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed this bill into law, and what he said is a fine way to end this post:

    “Here in Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth, we embrace it. […] Young people shouldn’t be kept from learning about the realities of our world; I want them to become critical thinkers, exposed to ideas that they disagree with, proud of what our nation has overcome.”

    1. I’m not going to link to that person or any affiliated websites. I’m sure you understand why. If you want to dare venture into that muck, then please search for it on your own. ↩︎

    Cormac McCarthy, Novelist of a Darker America, Is Dead at 89 ↗

    By Dwight Garner at The New York Times:

    Cormac McCarthy, the formidable and reclusive writer of Appalachia and the American Southwest, whose raggedly ornate early novels about misfits and grotesques gave way to the lush taciturnity of “All the Pretty Horses” and the apocalyptic minimalism of “The Road,” died on Tuesday at his home in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 89.

    Knopf, his publisher, said in a statement that his son John had confirmed the death.

    This is a sad one. I haven’t read all of his works yet, but I’ve greatly enjoyed those that I have. Whatever one might think about his often dark subject matter, it’s undeniable that he was one of the Great American Novelists. His work is timeless.

    I had the pleasure of reading his dual swan song novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris, earlier this year. Both were representative of his immense storytelling powers and unique style. I recommend them both as they’re two halves of a story.

    He went out on a high note, that’s for sure.

    BookTok encourages reading as an aesthetic and no one is safe from its gaze ↗

    From the Makes Me Feel Old Even Though I’m Not Actually that Old Department.

    By Elena Cavender at Mashable:

    “Lots of people read on their phones or Kindles on the train, and those people are reading just for the sake of reading. But the people that are reading a physical book with a cover on it, they’re making a choice to read that one in public,” Erin Hunziker, a 28-year-old digital marketing content creator, tells Mashable.

    The implication that reading has transformed into a theatrical performance in which everyone must be engaged doesn’t sit well. I would have guessed that the person reading a physical book was doing so because they liked reading. It’s a mistake to assume one’s worldview must be shared by the rest of the world (is there a name for that fallacy?).

    Maybe I’m out of touch with what younger people value these days. If that’s what being active in BookTok entails, then I’ll take the ridicule and frustrated eye rolls. It’s been clear for a while that I won’t get much out of TikTok. In the past, I may have endeavored to jump on the bandwagon so I could be aware of what’s popular, but that desire has faded. It’s not for me.

    Performative reading isn’t something I want to engage in, nor have I felt compelled to. It’s an unequivocal good that BookTok has gotten more people reading books, but shouldn’t reading be done for personal joy instead of clout? Making value judgments about what a stranger is reading is exclusionary. It’s more likely to drive people away from reading for fear of displaying the wrong book. Or it’ll destroy the urge to discover new works in favor of relying on what the rest of BookTok is currently fixated on.

    Men who read are largely except [sic] from this treatment of reading, just as they are largely exempt from the conversation around chasing aesthetics. (Though, there’s a certain archetype constructed around men who read Infinite Jest.)

    That’s fair. I’ve never felt the pressure to chase an aesthetic in my life. Whether that’s because I’m not on TikTok (and hardly any social media) or because of what’s in my pants is up for debate. Regardless, men should not take for granted their relative lack of pressure from the world.

    This whole thing makes me think of how I feel about the term “guilty pleasure”: I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about what they enjoy. Like what you like. To hell with anyone who tries to make you feel bad about your passions!

    Conversely, if carrying around a book and designing a look/personality around what accompanies you on your travels is fulfilling, then who is anyone to judge? “Like what you like” cuts both ways—I should enjoy what I want and you should enjoy what you want, and both of us should carry on unmolested.

    This article describes a symptom of the broader issue with social media: If you let it, TikTok, Instagram, or whatever else will eventually rise to the top will take what you love away from you. It’s one of the greatest, most efficient joy-sucking tools humans have ever created. That’s the danger inherent in performative posting, as mentioned earlier. Books are a great thing. Wouldn’t it be a shame if that love turned rotten because of the nasty demons lurking in all those services?

    Hulu and Disney+ Content to Be Combined In One App, Services to Stay Separate ↗

    By Caitlin Huston at The Hollywood Reporter:

    Disney will be combining Hulu content with Disney+ content into one app, CEO Bob Iger announced Wednesday.

    The company will begin to roll out the new app by the end of the calendar year.

    This news has been written on the wall since Disney+ debuted in 2019. Disney owns two-thirds of Hulu, so why wouldn’t they consolidate into a single app? Less overhead, no split focus, and potential subscriber boosting for their namesake app sound like good reasons to do something.

    Whether this means I’ll be able to drop my Hulu subscription in the future remains to be seen. There’s also still the question of Hulu’s live tv offering up in the air. I wouldn’t expect to see that on Disney+. What I would expect is for Hulu to disappear entirely sometime in the future.

    In related news from Jill Goldsmith at Deadline: Disney Pulling Some Content Off Streaming In Strategic Rethink.

    Disney will be yanking content from streaming as it rethinks its costs and strategy […]

    Seems they’re following in the footsteps of Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to remove loads of content from HBO Max in the name of cost-cutting. At one point, I believed that the originals produced by the various streaming companies were destined to live on their respective services forever. Why would they remove their own content? Surely, it couldn’t cost them much to keep it up; licensing fees would be nonexistent. I thought it would be nothing but upside.

    That evergreen world doesn’t exist anymore. These billion-dollar media giants are just so strapped for cash that the mere suggestion of continuing to pay for their less-than-successful content is laughable. No better than a slap in the face! A company like Disney has to regularly cull this content from their service or they could face extinction in… [checks notes] Oh, that’s right, Disney will never die. They’ll never face any meaningful hardship whatsoever no matter what their subscriber numbers are or how many infantile governors cross their paths. They could lose every one of their streaming subscribers tomorrow and still have billions in the bank.

    I wouldn’t explicitly condone finding copies of those excised movies and tv shows that have conveniently “fallen off the back of a truck,” but I wouldn’t discourage it either. These days, obtaining those copies and storing them on drives you own may be the only way to ensure you always have access to the stuff you want to watch.

    Nothing wrong with wresting some control back from the mercurial whims of wickedly wealthy companies who always complain about not having enough money.

    Hollywood writers to strike as streaming shift upends TV business ↗

    By Lisa Richwine and Dawn Chmielewski at Reuters:

    Thousands of film and television writers will go on strike starting Tuesday, throwing Hollywood into turmoil as the entertainment business grapples with seismic changes triggered by the global streaming TV boom.

    The Writers Guild of America (WGA) called its first work stoppage in 15 years after failing to reach an agreement for higher pay from studios such as Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and Netflix Inc (NFLX.O). The last strike lasted 100 days and cost the California economy more than $2 billion.

    “The companies' behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,” the WGA said in a statement on its website.

    It always saddens me to see just how unwilling those with money and power are to ever give an inch if it involves the betterment of those who they view to be below them. What would the entertainment industry be without the talented writers who craft its stories?

    I wish all of the writers the very best of luck and a speedy and favorable resolution to this strike.

    HBO Max Renamed as Max ↗

    From J. Clara Chan:

    Warner Bros. Discovery on Wednesday unveiled Max, its refreshed streaming service combining programming from both the original HBO Max streaming service and Discovery+.

    Good job, Zaslav, et al. You took the prestige of and brand affection for HBO and turned it into a muck of “Max.” A small part of me hoped that the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO would course-correct away from this graceless endeavor. At the very least, they could have come up with a better name. Even better, they could have kept the HBO Max and Discovery+ apps separate instead of the weird tack of creating this new combination service and keeping Discovery+ around and unchanged.

    But grace doesn’t appear to be in their wheelhouse. Like Zapp Brannigan piloting an orbiting restaurant, Zaslav is full steam ahead on seeing what the heck is going to stick to the wall this time.

    By removing HBO from Max’s branding, WBD is also hoping to appeal to a wider audience that may have previously turned away from the streaming service due to HBO’s high-brow reputation and higher price point. [WBD’s president, JB] Perrette said removing HBO from the branding was a part of “preserving and protecting the most iconic trailblazing brand in entertainment.”

    And yet, they’re still using the style of the old HBO logo in the new Max logo!1 That filled-in “a” in “Max” bears a striking resemblance to the familiar filled-in “o” in “HBO.” Despite what WBD may say, HBO is still a brand with a large and important audience. This amalgamation doesn’t seem like protection. It feels like a lack of confidence in their new product.

    And anyway, I thought the point of Discovery+ sticking around was to appeal to that “wider audience.” What, then, is the point of continuing to offer two separate apps—Discovery+ and (now) Max? I understand why they’re keeping the former around. The HBO catalog probably won’t appeal to those who want an endless supply of reality shows. But surely the inverse is true, as well.

    We’ll have one focused streaming service that meets the desires of those who use it and one unfocused mess crammed full of stuff that’s likely to confuse and/or frustrate many. As I wrote last August, it’s going to be unpleasant scrolling past, for instance, a giant banner image of 90 Day Fiancé to get to Succession. That kind of silly experience is nowhere to be found on successful rival services like Disney+.

    Way to dilute a strong brand in the name of sticking it to AT&T, guys. I’m sure this new service and pricing 4K resolution content into a more expensive tier won’t lose you loads of previously invested fans.

    1. Something I just learned while trying to find an image of the new Max logo. Searching for “max logo” or “new max logo” returns predictably unhelpful results. Max is such a common word. Good luck to anyone trying to find more information about Max in the future through an internet search. You’re going to get a lot of nonsense. ↩︎

    Gone with the Wind publishers brand novel ‘racist’ and ‘harmful’ at start of new edition ↗

    From Jacob Stolworthy:

    A new edition of Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel, released by Pan Macmillan, contains a caution at the start warning readers of its “problematic” content.

    The note reportedly says the book has not been rewritten to erase the offensive material, but says it includes “racist” elements that are “hurtful or indeed harmful”.

    I feel that this is an appropriate and adequate addition to the book. Assure the readers that nothing in the text has changed, give some historical context, and allow people to choose for themselves if they want to venture into a problematic book.

    This is in contrast to the recent trend of removing or altering problematic language and themes in previously published works. New editions of the books of Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, and Roald Dahl have had their texts changed in recent months. I can understand why the publishers have made their alterations, but I believe it’s the wrong tack to take.

    It will surprise nobody to learn that I don’t own the rights to these books. I’m just some guy in Southern California, not some powerful publishing decision-maker. However, I don’t feel censorship is necessarily the correct decision to make with most things. Not only would Margaret Mitchell’s book be reduced to a slim and confounding thing, but trying to erase slavery from history, even in the context of a work of fiction, would be far more problematic.

    It’s not a book ban, but a text ban is still an erasure. In the case of Gone with the Wind, removing any text relating to slavery would be akin to whitewashing the past. I’m glad the publishers haven’t made that decision. Context and education are important. Willful ignorance and turning a blind eye to the atrocities of the past are harmful.

    UPDATE: Is there a word for book publishers who fall over themselves to alter the content of older works for “current sensibilities” because other publishers are doing it and they don’t want to be branded as politically incorrect or behind the times?

    Penguin Random House has started changing “outdated” terms in the works of P.G Wodehouse. Jeeves and Wooster couldn’t escape this fate either. This time, they’ve also included a disclaimer at the front of the book. As I wrote above, an explanation of a book’s history and how it may be problematic today is an acceptable addition. Altering the content? I’m not as certain.

    This is beginning to feel like reactionary jumping on the bandwagon. At what point do these actions go from feeling like they’re well-intended to an obvious fear of losing money?

    ‘Monk’ Reunion Movie Set at Peacock ↗

    Second only to better-be-soon news about the better-be-happening fourth Psych movie, a Monk movie is the best thing I’ve heard about all day.

    Tony Shalhoub will once again star as Adrian Monk, the consulting detective who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and a wide range of phobias. Other returning cast members are Ted Levine as Leland Stottlemeyer, Traylor Howard as Natalie Teeger, Jason Gray-Stanford as Randy Disher, Melora Hardin as Trudy Monk, and Hector Elizondo as Dr. Neven Bell.

    I can’t wait!

    Apple Music Classical to Launch on March 28th ↗

    From John Voorhees at MacStories:

    On March 28th, Apple will launch Apple Music Classical, a free app that’s already available for pre-order that will offer a catalog of over 5 million classical recordings to Apple Music subscribers at no additional cost.

    I was beginning to think that this app would never see the light of day. That it would be another Apple acquisition that’s just quietly absorbed and never heard from again. Maybe some of the features of Primephonic would find their way into Apple Music, but nothing more.

    As a classical music lover, I’m happy they proved me wrong.

    It’s too early to say if this new app will answer classical music lovers’ prayers, but it looks like the foundation is sturdy. The app should only get better once it’s released (especially since it’s being released through the App Store and may not be encumbered with receiving only annual updates, like most of their other apps).

    The audio quality should also be top-notch. Classical songs were quick to take advantage of Hi-Res Lossless and Dolby Atmos playback. Coupled with proper metadata and a more thoughtful and appropriate presentation, Apple Music Classical could be, pardon the pun, music to my ears.

    ‘Luddite’ Teens Don’t Want Your Likes ↗

    From Alex Vadukul at the New York Times:1

    For the first time, [Logan Lane, the 17-year-old founder of the Luddite Club,] experienced life in the city as a teenager without an iPhone. She borrowed novels from the library and read them alone in the park. She started admiring graffiti when she rode the subway, then fell in with some teens who taught her how to spray-paint in a freight train yard in Queens. And she began waking up without an alarm clock at 7 a.m., no longer falling asleep to the glow of her phone at midnight. Once, as she later wrote in a text titled the “Luddite Manifesto,” she fantasized about tossing her iPhone into the Gowanus Canal.

    Some stories hit you at the right time in your life and bring your emerging (or well-cultivated, as the case may be) worldview into greater focus. You might, for instance, be sitting at your kitchen table waiting for your dinner to finish cooking and happen on an article about a bunch of Brooklyn teens who have eschewed the trappings of modern online society in favor of less technology and more tree-gazing.

    Vee De La Cruz, who had a copy of “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois, said: “You post something on social media, you don’t get enough likes, then you don’t feel good about yourself. That shouldn’t have to happen to anyone. Being in this club reminds me we’re all living on a floating rock and that it’s all going to be OK.”

    I’m not about to throw my iPhone out a window and replace it with a flip phone, nor do I think it’s particularly valuable to put too much stock into something like the preventably tragic story of Chris McCandless. That’s just me; these kids can take it as far as they please. But I do think that the broader lesson of spending more time with your eyes directed at the world or in a book is a powerful one.

    Written in the article is a concern amongst the teenagers about this endeavor being seen as classist by their peers. I feel the concern is overblown and inspired by a misguided sense of what “classist” can mean. Is it not classist to require a phone, especially a smartphone, to be “included in society”? The derision these people are facing surely comes from a lack of understanding. It’s a shame that such a harmless thing would garner such ridicule, but I guess that comes with teenage territory. Again, they should do as they please.

    I especially appreciate the closing of the article:

    As they marched through the dark, the only light glowing on their faces was that of the moon.

    1. Which surely ham-fisted that haughty title onto the reporter’s article. ↩︎

    Cat Clinging To Side Of Christmas Tree Admits That Was Extent Of Plan ↗

    “Okay, so I’ve jumped halfway up the trunk of the tree and dug my nails into the bark, but now what?” said the cat, who pondered whether pissing on the trunk or screeching at the top of his lungs would be the best next step forward.

    Oh Butterscotch, you furry, gorgeous fool.

    After all the global nonsense of the last… Well, let’s just say the last couple of decades, I’ve come to the realization that the only publication worth reading is The Onion. It truly is “America’s Finest News Source.”

    Biden signs gay marriage bill at White House ceremony ↗

    From Chris Megerian at The Associated Press:

    President Joe Biden signed gay marriage legislation into law Tuesday before a crowd of thousands, a ceremony that reflected growing acceptance of same-sex unions.

    “This law and the love it defends strike a blow against hate in all its forms,” Biden said on the South Lawn of the White House. “And that’s why this law matters to every single American.”

    Often, the news I read isn’t very happy or life-affirming. This story is not one of those sad pieces. This is a “finally” that is well worth celebrating. With this law, we’re continuing to move in the correct direction.

    Love wins, as it always will.

    Apple advances user security with powerful new data protections ↗

    From Apple Newsroom:

    Apple today introduced three advanced security features focused on protecting against threats to user data in the cloud, representing the next step in its ongoing effort to provide users with even stronger ways to protect their data. With iMessage Contact Key Verification, users can verify they are communicating only with whom they intend. With Security Keys for Apple ID, users have the choice to require a physical security key to sign in to their Apple ID account. And with Advanced Data Protection for iCloud, which uses end-to-end encryption to provide Apple’s highest level of cloud data security, users have the choice to further protect important iCloud data, including iCloud Backup, Photos, Notes, and more.

    For a company that touts a claim of superior privacy protection over all of its competitors, not providing end-to-end encryption of all iCloud data capable of being encrypted1 was a glaring and shameful hole in its messaging. Their marketing said one thing and their actions another. As we should all know, words don’t mean anything when they’re not backed up with action.

    While all three features are fantastic, the most notable is the Advanced Data Protection for iCloud. I’m going to turn this on2 as soon as I reasonably can. I feel confident in my safeguards against data loss, i.e., I’ve made sure to memorize my Apple account information and have that safely backed up elsewhere. If I sound anything like you, then I’d recommend doing the same.

    Good on Apple for doing this.

    1. iCloud Mail, Contacts, and Calendar are unable to be encrypted. These can’t be to ensure that they’ll work with other systems. ↩︎

    2. It does appear to be an opt-in service. ↩︎

    Oscars 2023 Will Include All 23 Categories Presented Live on Air ↗

    From Variety:

    Bill Kramer, CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, announced the news exclusively to Variety Tuesday morning. “I can confirm that all categories will be included in the live telecast,” he said.

    This is welcome news after the utter nonsense from last year’s ceremony. It was clear from the outset that there had to be better ways of increasing interest in the Oscars show than stripping the winners and nominees of eight categories of their rightful time in the spotlight.

    Who knows if the Academy will ever be able to figure out how to win back their awards show viewers,1 but I do know that slighting hard-working artists of the filmmaking industry was not the way to do it.

    1. Although I’m betting that 2023’s broadcast will be well-watched by people hoping for another train wreck after the bullshit from 2022’s show↩︎

    Regal Closes 12 U.S. Cinemas As Parent Cineworld Grapples With Bankruptcy ↗

    I’m extremely sad to see the Anaheim Hills 14 location listed among the places that’ll be closing soon. It was one of a small but dearly loved selection of theaters in which I’ve spent a significant amount of my life (and money). My dad used to take me there all the time when I was younger. I eventually started bringing friends there with me, turning them into diehard fans of the location in turn.

    I’m not super surprised by this news, though. That place was always stuck in the past, decor- and technology-wise. But I saw that as part of its charm. It still had the carpet, upholstery, and pink-blue neon of old, back when all of the Regal cinemas around here were known as Edwards. Take a look at this blast from the past. Curiously, this location retained its “Edwards Cinemas” sign on the outside of the building.

    This particular location had a fun layout. From the edges of its expansive foyer, with a large concession area smack dab in the middle, branched off two hallways. These led to all of the screens, seven on each side. The hallway walls were covered in mirrors extending from waist level to the ceiling. Each hallway ended in a smaller room (tiny foyers?) that was filled with tables and the sort of ill-advised candy machines that go KA-CHUNK-CHUNK when fed quarters. Each of these smaller rooms had an additional screen-spotted hallway that ran along the outside walls of the building. It felt like traversing through a fun and easy maze to get to your movie.

    Despite my reluctance to go to a theater these days, I’m still very sad to see this one go. It’s an important piece of my history that will live only in my sweet memories.

    Here’s to you, Anaheim Hills 14!

    Roger Federer to retire after Laver Cup in September ↗

    From BBC Sport:

    Roger Federer, one of the greatest players of all time, will retire from top-level tennis after the Laver Cup in London this month.

    The 20-time Grand Slam champion has not played since Wimbledon 2021, after which he had a third knee operation.

    “My body’s message to me lately has been clear,” Swiss Federer, 41, said.

    “I have played more than 1,500 matches over 24 years. Now I must recognise when it is time to end my competitive career.”

    I’m generally not a fan of sports, but for reasons I can’t figure out, I love watching tennis. I think the blame for this appreciation can rest entirely on the shoulders of one Swiss person: Roger Federer.1

    Watching him play in Wimbledon over a decade ago was a defining moment for me. It felt like I was watching someone excel at something in a way that no other person was, and that’s because he was doing exactly that. It’s something special to witness true mastery at play.

    But now he’s forty-one years old; it’s no surprise that he’s going to retire. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t do it sooner, but I’m glad I got to see my fair share of his matches. Along with Serena’s recent retirement, I expect that we’re going to see many of “the greats” stepping away from competition in the next few years. So it goes.

    Knowing that there are so many up-and-coming stars to watch takes the sting off this announcement. The next generation of superb tennis athletes is beginning to pick up steam; it’s going to be exciting to watch as they come into their own. There’s something just as moving about that prospect as was watching Federer become one of the best ever.

    1. Rafael Nadal then went and cemented that love for me. ↩︎

    Jean-Luc Godard, Enfant Terrible of Modern French Cinema, Dies at 91 ↗

    I’ve been trying to make this website a generally more upbeat and happier place these days to combat the cesspool of several other internet destinations, i.e., social media sites, but I feel this deserves a mention.

    By Jordan Mintzer:

    Jean-Luc Godard, the brilliant and polemical Franco-Swiss filmmaker whose work revolutionized cinema, has died. He was 91.

    Godard resorted to assisted suicide Tuesday in Switzerland, a family spokesperson told Agence France-Presse.

    “Jean-Luc Godard died peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones,” his wife, filmmaker Anne-Marie Mieville, and producers said in a statement. He will be cremated and there will be no official ceremony, they said.

    I saw his revolutionary and still exciting film, Breathless,1 when I was in my 20s—a great age for a film lover to experience it. I was awestruck by the brash confidence and who-gives-a-damn attitude with which it was made. Decades after it was released, I still found myself thinking, Wait, you can do that in a movie?

    And he made it when he was only 29! By that age, I’d finished film school but could only dream of being that good.

    I’ve yet to see enough of his other work, but I’ll be rectifying that soon.

    As sad as this news is, it did inspire this amazing Onion headline: “Jean-Luc Godard Dies At End Of Life In Uncharacteristically Linear Narrative Choice”.

    1. Or À bout de souffle, as it was originally titled. ↩︎

    ‘Harley Quinn’ Renewed for Season 4 at HBO Max ↗

    If you heard an enormous sigh of relief coming from somewhere in the general vicinity of Southern California today, that would be me when I saw the headline of this article.

    I wrote in a footnote in this post that I was concerned that HBO Max, which is currently suffering from some kind of burn-it-all-to-the-ground madness, would kill the hilarious and subversive animated show Harley Quinn. For my money, it’s one of the best Batman-related things ever made. The shake-up happening in the DC area of HBO has been concerning from the start. The thinking there seems to be “screw righting the ship; just sink the damn thing and build a new one!” Had Harley Quinn been canceled it would have been a huge stain on the burgeoning reputation of Warner Bros. Discovery.

    And this is all in the name of juicing up their stock prices. Since the chaos started, new CEO David Zaslav has been puffing out his chest and shouting, “Look how good at business I am!” This behavior has been appalling to see play out in real-time.

    Well, fear no more for Harley Quinn (at least until it comes time to decide on renewing for a fifth season):

    Harlivy shippers rejoice — everybody’s favorite supervillain couple is coming back to fight another day. “Harley Quinn” has been renewed for Season 4 at HBO Max.

    In addition to the renewal, the streamer also announced that Sarah Peters, who has written for the show since Season 1 and serves as a consulting producer, has been promoted to executive producer and will take over duties as showrunner from creators Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker.

    Good news all around for a show that deserves every accolade it receives. It’ll be a while before anybody knows whether the new ten year plan for DC will pay off, creatively and financially, but at least they’re not ruining every worthwhile property they currently have. Keep your fingers crossed that I haven’t spoken too soon.

    I was surprised in the best way to read that there’s also a spinoff show in the works, and it looks delightful:

    In addition to the main show, the “Harley Quinn” team is currently in development on a spinoff series titled “Noonan’s,” which follows Poison Ivy’s ex Kite Man (Matt Oberg) as he acquires the titular dive bar frequented by various Gotham City villains. Halpern and Schumacker told Variety that the series will also feature the voice of Cathy Ang, who guested in Season 3 of “Harley Quinn,” as Kite Man’s new girlfriend Golden Glider. The series also plans to feature the voice of James Adomian as recurring villain Bane.

    Sold. I’m there on day one.

    Neil Gaiman Says He Sabotaged Jon Peters’ ‘Sandman’ Movie by Leaking ‘Really Stupid’ Script ↗

    I’ve been enjoying The Sandman (save for one specific moment in the show). It’s been a delight to see this grand story finally take shape.

    I’m also delighted to see how forceful and occasionally sneaky Neil Gaiman has been in trying to protect the work for which he’s perhaps best known. I’m sure producers have been sniffing around those graphic novels for a long time. At any moment in the past, we could have had a Sandman movie or show that was despicable.

    Gaiman declined several movie offers for “The Sandman” throughout the last three decades, but the author recently revealed that he went as far as to sabotage an idea from “Wild Wild West” and “A Star Is Born” producer Jon Peters by leaking the script to the press.

    “It was the worst script that I’ve ever read by anybody,” Gaiman said in an interview with Rolling Stone.

    What a delightfully duplicitous thing to do. I would expect no less from him.

    Texas School District Removes Bible and Anne Frank Adaptation in Back-to-School Sweep ↗

    From Amanda Holpuch:

    One day before students returned to classrooms in North Texas, a school district ordered principals and librarians to remove books including the Bible and a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl” from libraries and classrooms.

    Forty-one books were challenged by this backward school district last year with a new policy requiring that they be pulled from bookshelves until they can be reviewed. More than thirty-five thousand students may now have free access to important books taken from them.

    Additional books challenged by the district include The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe.

    These challenges are becoming more frequent, but no less disturbing and sad. Another public banning happened earlier this year, when Maus and others were removed from the shelves of a Tennessee school district. I wrote about it then in a post called The ban of Maus and other essential books. I shudder to think of the momentum that these misguided bans are building.

    A notable quote from a speaker during a school board meeting on August 8, included in a CNN article on this story:

    “We are very pleased that our new unwoke school board has made these changes. This is just the beginning, I hope.”

    For too many people, being “woke” is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. It’s the boogeyman. A living death. Unwokeness is a quality to strive for and wear like a badge of honor. In other words, compassion, equality, and fact-based learning should be rejected at all costs. Hatred, racism, misogyny, and bigotry are the only admirable qualities (but nobody who bans books would ever put it that truthfully).

    How pathetic. Ignorance should be rejected at all costs instead.

    Please consider purchasing, reading, and freely sharing these banned books with everyone you know. Especially younger people. They need to read the words that are kept from them. They’re all smarter than they’re given credit for; they can decide for themselves who they want to be and what they want to believe.

    As an aside, I feel lucky to have attended school in Southern California when I did. Book bans have long been a blight on this country, but they weren’t so frequent and blatantly hateful when I was younger. I continue to hope that these bans don’t become more prevalent in my area of the state.

    I also find it delightful that the Bible was flagged as an inappropriate book. It makes me think of The Satanic Temple and their continued fight against all things religiously hypocritical. Was the inclusion of the Bible their doing?

    HBO Max, Discovery+ to Merge Into Single Streaming Platform Starting in Summer 2023 ↗

    Looks like my fears about HBO Max becoming more like Discovery+ were completely warranted. Since the merger was approved earlier this year, it was always going to end up this way. But it’s one thing to talk about it and another thing to see it happening.

    Further evidence from Variety that things are going to get weird: ‘Fixer Upper’ and Other Magnolia Network Shows Coming to HBO Max in September. There’s a fair chance that we’ll soon have to scroll on past enormous banner images of such illustrious shows as 90 Day Fiancé, Alaskan Killer Bigfoot, I Love a Mama’s Boy, World’s Most Evil Killers, and My Five Wives to get to The Sopranos and Game of Thrones.

    I enjoy stuff like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives as much as the next person, but I don’t think it should share space with The Wire. Conversely, I’d bet that people who love what’s currently on offer at Discovery+ don’t want to see the sort of stuff that’s on HBO Max mixed together.

    More concerning is the recent spate of original programming that’s recently been canceled or removed from HBO Max. These include:

    And they’ve also announced that kids’ content will be cut, which is a damn shame. For anyone of a certain age, i.e., my age, the WB cartoon shows from the ‘90s were revolutionary.

    I’m sure I’m missing some, but that’s already a hefty list. With the way things have been going lately, I’m sure it’ll grow longer.1

    A little over a year ago, I said that AT&T (the former owner of Warner Bros.) CEO, John Stankey, was one of the worst things to happen to the studio and HBO. It turns out that I was too early in that assessment: Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav is hard at work destroying what made HBO the powerhouse source of original storytelling it used to be. If former HBO CEO Richard Plepler was dead, he’d be rolling in his grave. Right now, he’s probably just shaking his head in frustration.

    I’m hoping that my concerns will end up being unfounded. Perhaps some good can come out of this messiness. Deadline did also report that Zaslav said about HBO and HBO Max:

    We’re going to spend dramatically more this year and next year than we spent last year [and] the year before.

    Who knows what that’ll actually mean in the long term. I hope it won’t include abandoning all scripted television, as Screen Rant reports. However, given the figurative bloodbath that’s been occurring, I’m not going to hold my breath.

    If you’re looking for a new place to enjoy excellent storytelling, I continue to heartily recommend just about everything on Apple TV+. Give Ted Lasso, For All Mankind, Severance, and See a try. They’re clearly building a brand focused on longevity and, most importantly, quality. It reminds me of what the old HBO used to be.

    1. My greatest concern now is that the wonderful Harley Quinn will be among the next to go. ↩︎

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