Dandy Cat

‘Mank’ Wins Top Honor at ASC Awards

Just an incredibly well-deserved win for Erik Messerschmidt. This guy has been blowing me away lately. You can check out a load of shots from the film over at Filmgrab. 🎥

UPDATE: He won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, too! Good for him.

Whoa! There’s a brand new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album out now! Be still my quaking heart. This is the best news I’ve heard in a long time. And, of course, the songs are as beautiful and glorious as ever.

Happy early birthday to me! 🎵

The album cover for G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!

Title Card: How to Steal a Million (1966)

The title card for the film, How to Steal a Million.

How to Steal a Million was written by Harry Kurnitz and directed by William Wyler. It was released in 1966. It was produced by World Wide Productions and was distributed by Twentieth Century Fox. The main title design was done by Phill Norman.

The film gives us the wonderful pairing of Audrey Hepburn as Nicole Bonnet, the daughter of an art forger, and Peter O’Toole as Simon Dermott, a charming burglar. Nicole’s father is lending a much-lauded Cellini Venus statuette to a local art museum but unknowingly agreed to have this piece inspected for authenticity. Should this happen, his fraud would be found out, ruining his life and work. Following an unsuccessful robbery attempt at Nicole’s home, Simon agrees to help her steal her father’s statue before his livelihood can be put at risk.

I would call myself a pretty unabashed Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole fan,1 but my experience with their films is startling in its meager size. Sure, I’ve seen Charade and Venus, but that’s about as far as it goes. I desperately need to see more of their work. When my wife suggested watching this one, I was intrigued. How could you not be with a title like that? I didn’t know how much fun I would have watching this one. Truly, it was a blast. A nice and breezy caper is sure to please anybody who watches it. Throw this duo of actors together, and it’s impossible not to have magic. This film may be the reason why I end up seeing a lot more of their work, and for that, I’m also grateful for it. 🎞

  1. Although, what is there to possibly be embarrassed about? They’re absolutely wonderful performers. [return]

Bezos says Amazon should “do a better job for our employees” after union vote

Bezos is concerned about these glaring and long-standing issues with Amazon only now that he’s leaving the accountable CEO position?

Just more fuel to add to the fire of him basically being a villain.

I’m always curious to know if people rate movies and tv shows based on their perceived quality of the production or how much they enjoyed what they watched. I don’t think those are the same metric. 🎥📺

A UFO resting on top of a building in Utrecht, Netherlands.

De Inktpot building. Utrecht, Netherlands. June, 2010. 📷🗺

They’ve landed.

The day that I’m all ready to make an appointment for my driver’s license renewal at the DMV is the day that the website decides not to load? Come on, DMV. Stop living up to your terrible service stereotypes!

I finished watching Sound of Metal yesterday, and it’s still stuck in my head. What a truly remarkable performance by Riz Ahmed (and Paul Raci, too). They deserve all the awards. 🎥

There’s a fabulous new episode of the More Movies Please! podcast this week. We’re continuing our month of animated movies by talking about one of the best movies of the last decade: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Listen today!🎙

Justice League Screenwriter Chris Terrio Is Super Pissed Off

The more I read about what went on with the making of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, the more I’ve come to understand how misguided Warner Bros. has been about their understanding of the characters in those films.1 Likewise, how inept they have been in crafting coherent stories that are worth telling.

Before Joss Whedon was brought in to rewrite and direct Justice League, Chris Terrio had written the script. It was his words that were being filmed by Zack Snyder and his crew. After Snyder’s exit from the film, the whole thing went off the rails, leaving Terrio behind and feeling frustrated.

In an interview with Anthony Breznican, writing for Vanity Fair (in what appears to be developing into his beat),2 Terrio has some strong feelings about how things went:

The 2017 theatrical cut was an act of vandalism. Zack may be too much of a gentleman to say that, but I’m not.

He’s got well-considered opinions to back this up. He’s not just mindlessly pissed about how things with both films turned out. Seems that Warner Bros. just doesn’t understand the necessities of storytelling:

I was proud of the [Batman v Superman] script when I completed it, but it turns out that when you remove the 30 minutes that give the characters motivation for the climax, the film just doesn’t work. As we learned from the two versions of Justice League, you can’t skip on the character and think the audience will give a shit about the VFX. That stuff was later restored in the extended version.

None of this is surprising to read. Since Justice League came out in 2017, it’s been clear that there’s a fundamental problem with how Warner Bros. handled the making of the film:

When the movie was taken away, that felt like it was some directive that had come from people who are neither filmmakers nor film-friendly—the directive to make the movie under two hours, regardless of what the movie needed to do, and to make the colors brighter, and to have funny sitcom jokes in it.

Contrast that to his approach to Batman v Superman:

I came into it thinking the only way that this could work is as a fever dream or as a revenge tragedy. I thought, How do we create a story in which Bruce Wayne is traumatized by the war of Krypton coming to Earth, and in which he enters into this kind of madness? He becomes Captain Ahab, and he won’t listen to saner voices, like Alfred, for example, who are telling him to just see reason. He’s a man possessed.

This is clearly someone who understands the motivations and nuances of the characters. He knows what it takes to write a good story. It’s just a shame that his role will always be subservient to studio heads and money people who think they know better:

These [investor] guys were in charge because they controlled the money at the very top of the pyramid. They were making big decisions—not the film executives we’re talking about, but Wall Street guys. One guy, who I can only describe as the man who Central Casting sends you when you’re trying to cast Douchebag #1, pulled me aside and started telling me how to write Batman.

There’s a lot more that can be quoted in this article, but this is a good primer. It’s a fascinating interview that’s worth reading. I’ve always enjoyed Snyder’s vision for these characters. Now, I’ve also come to understand that he’s not the one who’s been the issue with the films. If they’re not your particular cup o’ tea, that’s fine. If you want brighter, more comedic, less serious superhero movies, then watch a Marvel film. However, not all superhero films have to be copies of, say, Iron Man. They can be darker visions like Snyder’s have been. He’s been consistent in his storytelling and love for the characters he’s bringing to the screen. Unfortunately, his work appears to be hamstrung by those working above him.

It’s a damn shame that Warner Bros. isn’t run by people who understand the films they’re making. 🎥

  1. You can read past posts about this subject here and here. [return]
  2. Apple News+ link [return]

It’s a truly sad day for the movies. It’s been announced that the ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres won’t be reopening, and possibly for good. I’ve only been to the glorious Cinerama Dome a few times, but it was always a special experience. 🎥

Speaking of AT&T and its acquisition of Time Warner, and therefore also HBO, the whole deal has always disappointed me.

On the one hand, HBO Max has done well for AT&T. It got 4.1 million new signups in its first month of existence, which is nothing to sneeze at. Even more impressive is that it’s accomplished this while demanding $15 a month, making it one of the most expensive streaming services available. By all accounts, it’s a big success for AT&T. No doubt it was helped along by the COVID pandemic; when we’re all stuck at home, it helps to have excellent and fresh programming to consume.

The decision to premiere feature films that otherwise would have been theater exclusives on the service was another boon for them. Sure, it upset many people involved with both the entertainment and theater industries, but their objections were never going to sway business daddy AT&T. Until HBO Max starts losing money, nothing will deter them from their present course.

On the other hand, HBO as we knew it before the acquisition is gone and will likely never return. The blame for that lies entirely on the shoulders of AT&T’s CEO, John Stankey.1 In an incredibly detailed and well-researched CNBC article, Alex Sherman details the rocky process of this acquisition. The article boils down to this quote from a former HBO executive:

If HBO stood for anything, it was making a product for the customer, not the advertiser. It’s not as though John is unpleasant. He doesn’t throw stuff. He just knows much less about television than he thinks and won’t be debated.

Is Time Warner and HBO’s acquisitions by AT&T good for business, or at least the business of AT&T? Undoubtedly. This opens up a bevy of new revenue opportunities, which will, in turn, make the bottom line of the telecommunication giant look great. However, I don’t believe this will improve the quality of the content that’ll appear on HBO Max in the coming years. HBO was doing just fine without AT&T’s heavy, leading hand before the acquisition. You can expect the familiar HBO quality to get watered down as AT&T spreads the focus to areas that have never mattered to past HBO. In an interview with Jillian Morgan at Realscreen, executive vice-president of original non-fiction and kids programming, Jennifer O’Connell, says:

There is a ton of weight on unscripted… We’re doing dating, we’re doing social experiments, we have competition shows, we have really big competition shows… That is an area that, for example, our colleagues at HBO, they are not necessarily in that space so deeply, so it’s very rich, very fertile ground for us to dig into.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with unscripted programming. It’s enormously popular for a reason—people flock to those shows in droves. However, it was never HBO’s area of interest. AT&T doesn’t care about that history. It cares about making money, and there’s a lot of money to be made in unscripted, non-HBO style content.

If you’re looking for a future replacement for HBO, the service that’s making the strongest play is Apple TV+. Netflix has become flooded with content that’s aimed at appealing to the broadest number of viewers. A service like Hulu has an advertising-supported pricing tier, meaning their content is ultimately beholden to other entities. Disney+ has shown that they’re interested in telling unique stories, but they’re doing it off the springboard of their massive library of previously made content.

The only service out there that’s charting a unique course is Apple TV+. They’re walking the HBO path of debuting movies and shows that will, over time, grow to be a body of impressive work that’s all their own. They’re going to stumble along the way—even HBO was never perfect—but they’ll catch themselves and improve on their mistakes. They’ve invested too much money already to just ditch all their hard work. I’m looking forward to seeing where they’ll go.

It’s just a damn shame about HBO.

UPDATE: From a 9to5Mac article published on April 13, 2021: Apple TV+ features the highest-rated content of any streaming service, study says. Seems like Apple TV+ is already beginning to deliver on my estimation of it being the new HBO.

  1. I’m going to put aside the baffling issue of a telecommunications company deciding to purchase a visual media company for now. Nonetheless, it’s a strange pairing. Should the quality of the content available on HBO Max begin to degrade, surely this business arrangement will be the culprit. [return]

I probably don’t need a Stream Deck, but maybe I should get one? I do enjoy automation, and it sure would make doing tedious computer things easier.

I’d probably be required to become a Twitch streamer, though. Hmm…

I’m continuing to watch Mr. Mercedes. It’s been a fair adaptation, but I’ve also found it to be fairly tame relative to other adaptations of Stephen King’s work.

Also, it’s an “AT&T Original.” AT&T owns HBO. Why isn’t this show on HBO Max right now? 📺

Title Card: The Fall (2006)

A man enshrouded in thick and heavy steam with the title card of the film, The Fall, shown next to his head.

The Fall was written by Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis, and Tarsem Singh, and was directed by Tarsem Singh. It was released in 2006. Radical Media and Absolute Entertainment produced the film, while Roadside Attractions distributed it. The title design was done by Stefan G. Bucher and John R. Waters. The main title typography was done by Stefan G. Bucher and 344 Design.

The film stars Lee Pace as a hospitalized stuntman named Roy Walker, who is bedridden in early 20th century Los Angeles. While in the hospital, he meets a young girl recovering from a broken arm named Alexandria, played by Catinca Untaru. He takes a friendly liking to her and spins her a fantastical tale about five mythical heroes. Her youthful imagination allows us to witness Roy’s story as he tells it. However, Roy is in a bad way, and between tellings of his story, convinces Alexandria to steal morphine pills from the hospital. He wishes to end his life. Thankfully, that doesn’t pan out for Roy, and he’s willed by Alexandria to tell her the full, wonderful story.

This film’s heart, its story, the beauty of its production design, costume design, and cinematography, are all unlike anything that’s ever been set to film. The entire title sequence is itself a masterwork of storytelling and filmmaking. It exists in its own microcosm within the film. In it, we see a large group of locomotive workers attempting to lift a horse out of a river beneath a railroad bridge. It does not appear to have any direct connection to the rest of the story. Instead, it sets a time and place, along with a unique mood. It’s shown in black and white, slow motion, and accompanied by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92: II. Allegretto. Watching it, we understand that we’re entering a world of hardship and backbreaking work. There will be no modern conveniences. No mobile phones or television or internet. It’s a tough world where rescuing a horse from a river requires a band of sweaty, yelling men and a freaking train. Color-wise, it’s quite the contrast with the rest of the film, which is shown in brilliantly saturated hues of many colors. This title sequence is a wonder.

In fact, it’s so remarkable that you must watch it. This title sequence is a compelling short film in its own right. 🎞

Amazon workers vote against unionizing at Alabama warehouse

Suhauna Hussain and Jenny Jarvie reporting for Los Angeles Times:

Over half of the 3,215 employees who cast ballots by mail since early February voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which led the effort to unionize employees at the facility in Bessemer, Ala., according to a preliminary tally Friday overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

What a damn shame. This could have been something positive, not just for the employees at this particular Alabama warehouse and not just for all Amazon employees, but for workers everywhere. Instead, it suggests that it’s okay for the heavy boot of all too powerful corporations to remain on the backs of the people those corporations need the most—their employees.

On the other hand, perhaps the exposure this unionizing effort has gained is still a good step in the right direction.

I wasn’t alive when labor unions were at their peak in this country, but I would hazard an educated guess that things were better back then. At the very least, more progress was made than it is now.

The public vote count came after more than a week of the labor board reviewing and certifying each ballot cast behind closed doors, with representatives from both the union and Amazon contesting the eligibility of some ballots. The union said about 500 ballots total had been challenged, largely by Amazon. The union said it intends to challenge the results.

We’ll see what comes of that.

A COVID vaccination sticker sitting top of a desk.

Well, if this doesn’t make for a phenomenal day, then I don’t know what will. I feel great about doing my part to help us all move past this terrible disease.

Ray Fisher Opens Up About ‘Justice League,’ Joss Whedon and Warners: “I Don’t Believe Some of These People Are Fit for Leadership”

I first made reference to this problem in a previous post. That one dealt more with the thoughts I was having about separating art from the artist, but it’s still a good primer.

On April 6, The Hollywood Reporter released this lengthy story that delves further into the heaps of bullshit that actor Ray Fisher has had to deal with concerning the production and aftermath of Justice League. It’s a fine read. What I find unpleasant is that Fisher is still engaged with this fight with Warner Bros., and how much he’s having to defend his own grievances and actions. There appears to be a lot of disbelief over his side of the story, as if he’s a person who would willingly risk the ruination of his acting career just to stick it to some film industry execs. And for what? Out of spite? Boredom? Please.

Isn’t it far more likely that Fisher is telling the truth, and Warner Bros., Joss Whedon, Jon Berg, and Geoff Johns are now scrambling to cover their asses for fear of public backlash and losing future employment? This story is continuing to develop, but I believe this latter scenario to be the truer one. 🎥

Back in late 2016, venerable tech journalist Andy Ihnatko broke the news in a tweet that Sal Soghoian, Apple’s Product Manager of Automation Technologies, left the company when his position was terminated.

In 2017, Apple acquired Workflow, the delightful iOS automation app that punched way above its weight.

Workflow became Shortcuts and was released alongside iOS 12 in September, 2018. It would later become a default app installed on all devices running iOS 13 when that update was released the following year.

The Mac automation app, Automator, has seen no appreciable improvements or updates in a very long time. Indeed, it appears to have been forgotten. In contrast, Shortcuts has seen relatively consistent updates since its release. Automation touches many aspects of iOS now, including within the Home app. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shortcuts and Home run on much of the same underlying code.

This sequence of events leads me to believe that there is a dim future for Automator on the Mac. Since the acquisition of Workflow, I’ve believed that we’ll see Shortcuts appear on the Mac one day. Apple downsized its old automation department and has subsequently invested heavily in its Shortcuts team.

In many ways, Automator is a remarkable app, but it’s never been user-friendly in the way that Shortcuts is. For people who don’t know much about automation, it’s far too complex and demanding.

Shortcuts, on the other hand, is bright, friendly, and hides its complexity behind action blocks that are easier to figure out. I may not use it as frequently as some people, but when I do the end result is more success and less headaches. If Apple wants non-power user people to get into automation, the answer does not lie in Automator.

I believe Shortcuts is the future of automation on the Mac. I really want to see it on that system. I think it will happen one day. 🍎

The impression of Charlie Chaplin's feet and his signature set in cement.

Los Angeles, CA. January, 2010.

I was taken on a breezy tour of the Jim Henson Company Lot several years ago. Along the way, I spotted a curious impression in the cement. Turns out the location I was standing in used to be the film studio that Charlie Chaplin completed in 1919. Many of his most famous films were shot there.

(I also inadvertently stole Paul F. Tompkins’s parking spot that day, too.) 📷🗺

I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life trying to fashion a career out of something I’m extremely passionate about. Lately I’m wondering, would I be happier just doing any acceptable job and leaving my passions out of work?

I had to take the unfortunate action of turning off the could-be-great Transfer to HomePod feature on my phone. I got very tired of my screen being taken over by the request to transfer what I have playing to my HomePod minis. It’s far too aggressive.

Starting today, More Movies Please! is kicking off a whole month of animated films. This week, Steven and I watched a charming film about a lonely robot who falls in love with a futuristic bot from the stars. Make sure to listen to our episode about WALL•E today!🎙🎥

It’s taken me far too long to get into it, but I think I’ve found the text editor that’ll give me everything I need: Drafts by @Agiletortoise. It’s developed into far more than just a place for quick text snippets. I’m really enjoying it.

Title Card: Badlands (1973)

A man walking toward a young majorette who is twirling her baton on the front yard of her home.

Badlands was written and directed by Terrence Malick and released in 1973. It was released by Warner Bros. The titles were done by Consolidated Film Industries.

The film stars Martin Sheen as Kit and Sissy Spacek as Holly. The pair fall for each other hard and right away.1 Holly’s father disapproves, which leads to his violent death at Kit’s hands. The pair go on the run, leaving a growing trail of dead people behind them as they try to evade capture.

This was not the first Malick film I’ve seen. That distinction would go to The Thin Red Line, but by the time I got to Badlands (which was not long after), I was an avowed and major fan of his. I find this one fascinating because it doesn’t quite feel like his other films, but you can already see sprinklings of several of his trademarks. The calm voice-over throughout (done in this one by Spacek); the introspective reflection on life, spirituality, and our place in the world; and of course, the beautiful cinematography from a trio of artists: Brian Probyn, Tak Fujimoto, and Stevan Larner. It may still be Malick’s most straightforward film, and therefore, his most accessible. It’s not the first film about star-crossed murderers, but it is one of the most captivating. There’s violence in this film, but it’s perpetrated by someone with such charisma that the pair even seduces the officers and National Guard troops that eventually end up catching them. For me, this is far more captivating than movies like Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma & Louise, or Natural Born Killers.

Be sure to enjoy this video from The Criterion Collection which delves into Malick’s use of voice-over throughout his work. Editor Billy Weber, who did uncredited work for Badlands, discusses Malick’s inspirations and history with this filmmaking tool. 🎞

  1. Although it could rightly be said that Kit rapes Holly, what with him being 25 years old and her being 15. [return]