You are here: Kaedrin > Weblog
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Ranking the Marvel Movies
In keeping with my recent thinking on Referendums and such, it's worth noting another edge case. Like Pixar, a new Marvel Universe movie has, of late, yielded a general referendum on the state of the overarching franchise (rather than just a simple review of the latest movie). All the cook kids have been posting their rankings, ranging from the absurdly comprehensive, to official, indisputable rankings, to unofficial, disputable rankings.
For my part, I'll only be ranking the official Marvel Universe films (so no Spider Man or X-Men movies, etc...) and with the added caveat that every one of these movies has achieved a certain level of base competence that is pretty solid. The fact that they are all connected helps strengthen and reinforce even the "bad" movies, and the all tend to be fun. Another thing worth noting is that these all seem to be infinitely rewatchable, which isn't the only or even primary measure of a movie's worth, but it is one of the things that I think ties these movies all together. Let's get this party started at the bottom of the heap:
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Weird Book of the Week
And the hits just keep on coming. I don't specifically go out and hunt for weird stuff, somehow it just finds me. Last time on Weird Book of the Week, we pondered the age old question: How Green Were The Nazis? (It turns out that they were not as environmentally friendly as they claimed.) This time around, we'll stick with the Nazi theme (indeed, Nazis seem to be a common theme amongst Weird Books/Movies of the week).
Many times, the hook for the weird thing of the week is purely visual. A book cover or poster or whatnot, but this time, it's all about the title: Call Me Mumbles: Subcommandante Mumbles vs. The Dinosaur Nazis. I mean, you know right away if you want to read this story (which, actually, is only about 40 pages long, making it a short story or novelette or something like that). But if you were on the fence, this brief description might also help:
He expected boredom, or maybe a Taliban attack. He didn't imagine Dinosaur Nazis. But then, who ever does?Who indeed? But I get it, that's a terse description, perhaps you'd like some sample awesome? Here are the first lines in the story:
Call me Mumbles. Why, you ask? Because I fucking told you to.If you're not on board by now, I don't think this is for you. Me? They had me at "Dinosaur Nazis" (or probably even just "Subcommandante"),
Sunday, April 06, 2014
Adventures in Brewing - Beer #15: Barleywine
A sort of companion to my Russian Imperial Stout (which I named Bomb & Grapnel), this is another beer I'm hoping to clock in at ~10% ABV. As with the RIS, I'm going to brew up a full 5 gallon batch, then split the result into two secondary fermenters. One will simply condition, the other will get an addition of bourbon soaked oak cubes (just like the RIS). At packaging time, I'll bottle some of each, then a blend of the two. With the RIS, the blend actually came out the best, though maybe the bourbon oaked one will hold up better over time (alas, only one way to find out).
For the recipe, I used one of my favorite barleywines as a guide, Firestone Walker's §ucaba. Fortunately for me, Firestone Walker is pretty open with their ingredients. Unfortunately, they're not quite as open with their proportions! So I took a swing, and made some tweaks along the way:
Brew #15: Barleywine
April 5, 2014
0.5 lb. Crystal 40 (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. Crystal 120 (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. Munich Malt (specialty grain)
0.25 lb. Chocolate Malt (specialty grain)
9 lb. Briess Golden Light DME
0.75 lb. Turbinado Sugar
2 oz. Bravo hops (bittering @ 15.5% AA)
1 oz. East Kent Golding hops (flavor)
1 oz. East Kent Golding hops (aroma)
2 oz. Oak Cubes: Hungarian Medium Toast
16 oz. Bourbon (Eagle Rare 10)
Wyeast 1028 London Ale
I'm shooting for something in the 10-11% ABV range here. Now, §ucaba is 12.5-13.5% ABV, but as I understand it, this is difficult to obtain for mere mortals like myself. Something about the laws of physics not operating the same in Firestone Walker's warehouses? Whatever, the point is that this recipe isn't quite the beast that §ucaba is...
I tried to keep my specialty grains reasonable as well. I think one of the reasons my RIS had such a high FG was that I included too much in the way of unfermentable sugars. So I toned that down here. I also added a small simple sugar addition, which should help keep that attenuation in check. Fingers crossed.
For the hops, it seemed pretty straightforward. Bravo for bittering and East Kent Goldings for late kettle additions, just like §ucaba. This puts the beer firmly in English Barleywine territory. According to my calculations, the IBUs should be somewhere in the 40-50 range, which is actually a little low, even for an English Barleywine, but then, §ucaba clocks in at 42 IBUs, so I'm actually on track.
For the oak cubes, I chose Hungarian Medium Toast (supposedly less intense than American oak, but more intense than French oak) and started soaking them in bourbon a couple months ago. I think one of the issues with the RIS was how long I kept the oak in bourbon, so hopefully the additional time will yield more complexity and less char (among other harsh tannins, etc...) Depending on how this goes, I may also keep this batch in secondary for an extra week as well (so 3 weeks primary, 4 weeks secondary).
Firestone Walker's house yeast is rumored to be similar to Wyeast 1968 (London ESB, same as WLP 002), but that has relatively low attenuation and low alcohol tolerance (which is yet another reason to question the laws of physics at FW). I ended up going with Wyeast 1028, which has a much better attenuation range and one of the higher alcohol tolerances (11%, which should work here). Also, since this is a big beer, I did a yeast starter. I've had trouble making starters in the past because I never took into account how much water is lost to evaporation. This time, I managed to get it almost right. Started with 1250 ml of water and 1/4 cup malt extract, and ended with about 900 ml of 1.042 wort (slightly high, but right around the 1.040 I was shooting for).
On brew day, the Original Gravity ended up at 22.3 Bx or 1.094, slightly lower than I was shooting for, but it should still be fine. I installed a blow off tube instead of the airlock, as I'm anticipating a pretty active fermentation.
So that just about covers it. This one should take a while, so I anticipate doing one more batch of something before the heat of summer makes brewing a bit more difficult. I'll probably do something sessionable that I'll keg, like a 4% pale ale or maybe a light saison for some summer drinking fun. Next up on the big beer front would be a Scotch ale, which may also get the oak treatment described above (though it'll likely also be lower in ABV)...
(Cross Posted at Kaedrin Beer Blog)
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Again Referendum: John McTiernan Edition
A couple weeks ago, I mentioned how some newly released works of art seem to initiate a referendum on the whole of the artist's oeuvre. This was occasioned by the release of Wes Anderson's latest film The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I have since seen, and which is fantastic, among my top Anderson films), but I came across this curious case recently, which marks an interesting case of the referendums. Jonathan V. Last lays down the gauntlet:
Proposed: John McTiernan is the most under-rated director of his generation, having helmed three instant classics (Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, The Thomas Crowne Affair), one of which is in the running for Most Influential Movie of the Decade. Even his middling work (Predator and Last Action Hero) is really, really good.First thing's first, I object to the notion of Predator as a "middling" effort. That three movie run from Predator to Die Hard to The Hunt for Red October is nothing short of astounding, and there are a rarified few directors who can boast a similar run of classics. I'm less sanguine about Last Action Hero, though I will grant the notion that it was a movie that was way ahead of its time, probably deserves its increasing cult status, and is definitely worth a revisit. I really enjoyed both Die Hard: With a Vengeance and The Thomas Crown Affair, though I should probably revisit those films as well.
His work after The Thomas Crown Affair seems a bit lacking, but the general explanation there is mounting legal troubles which basically sidelined him for most of this century. This is basically one of the reasons that Last cites for McTiernan not getting the respect he so richly deserves.
The other reason he cites probably also plays a role:
McTiernan eschewed any particular visual style and instead concentrated on economy of storytelling. There are truly great visuals in his movies (see the opening series of shots in Thomas Crowne where the camera zooms down on the Met from space; a shot which seems cliched now, but predates Google Earth by nearly ten years) but these visuals don’t have any particular signature to them. Instead, you can tell a McTiernan movie by how skillfully it moves the story, builds tension, and uses every knife it lays out on the coffee table.This is dead on, though perhaps a closer analysis of his work would reveal some signature moves. But I would add that he's a director that doesn't call attention to his filmmaking. Similar to how some of the best movie scores blend into the background while still playing an integral role, McTiernan's clear visual style hits all the right notes without forcing you to notice them. This isn't to say that great directors with bold styles can't produce great works, just that this is a different kind of greatness.
In terms of the commonalities I found in this sort of referendum, McTiernan may not qualify for the "singular vision" criteria (though I suppose it's arguable), but he most certainly does qualify for the "relatively small filmography" criteria. What's more, it's a really interesting filmography. He's got multiple classics, a growing cult film, and several films that were legitimately "middling" (but in those cases, they are often better than they have any right to be - I'm looking at you The 13th Warrior).
I've lost track of when he is getting out of jail, but IMDB already has his next film listed, called Red Squad (about the DEA hiring a team of mercenaries to take on a Mexican drug cartel). Will the release of this film warrant the same sort of referendum that the likes of Wes Anderson receives? I suspect that Last is correct and that McTiernan is underrated, so I don't think the referendum will be as universal as it is for Anderson, but I think it very likely that it will be common, especially if the movie is great. I suppose time will tell...
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Weird Movie of the Week
Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we took a look at a horrific/touching tale of redneck polka ditties. This time, we've got a werewolf who is also a cop, for reals: Shock Til You Drop (more fantastic imagery at that article as well, including one where wolfcop is give a come hither look whilst holding a revolver and standing on a pentagram), sounds just about how you'd expect:
It's not unusual for alcoholic cop Lou Garou to black out and wake up in unfamiliar surroundings, but lately things have taken a strange turn. Crime scenes seem oddly familiar. Lou's senses are heightened, and when the full moon is out, he's a rage-fueled werewolf. Wolfcop is one cop's quest to become a better man... One transformation at a time.As I mentioned last time, my record for actually going out and watching these Weird Movies of the Week is somewhat appalling, but this is one that I will almost certainly see (depending on release and distribution details, which are somewhat spotty right now).
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
More links from the depths of the internets:
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Sometimes, when certain artists release a new work, a lot of the critical response seems to be more a referendum on the whole of their oeuvre than a straightforward review. I suppose this is something of a natural tendency, and I'm sure it happens often, but there are some artists for whom this approach seems to be the overwhelming default. This is probably best described by using some examples:
Next would be a relatively small filmography. When combined with a singular, distinctive style, you get something that screams to be listed and ranked. This, I think, is why you don't always see a referendum on someone like Martin Scorsese. This is partly because Scorsese has been making movies for so long, partly because he has made a lot of disparate types of movies (I think he has a distinctive style, but he also isn't afraid to tread new ground from time to time). Of course, with something like The Wolf Of Wall Street, there were a ton of comparisons to Goodfellas (and to a lesser extent, Casino), but that makes a certain sort of sense, as the three movies are basically exploring the same ideas and themes, from slightly different angles. If those were his only three movies, you better believe that his next movie would be used as a referendum on his whole career. As it is, the guy has so much stuff, including several absolute classics, that no one feels the need to do so.
Maybe all of this means nothing and I'm just reading too much into a few reviews (and it's not like I read every review evar), but I think there's something here. And there's probably a bunch of other examples I haven't really thought through yet (Tarantino? Aaron Sorkin?), but I'll leave it at here for now. To be honest, I'm not even sure it matters that much, as the three examples above are all excellent in their own way...
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Weird Movie of the Week
The last Weird Movie of the Week was actually a book (a surprisingly common feature in this series), but today we have a bona fide weird movie, courtesy of Brian Collins (aka the guy who did Horror Movie a Day for, like, 5 years), who recounts weird movies he's watched on his birthday, including this gem:
2007: CALVAIRE (aka THE ORDEAL) (2004)So yes, it's got some rapey stuff (that's bad), but also redneck polka ditties (that's fun!), so I guess I'm in. I have to admit that my record in terms of actually watching Weird Movies of the Week is actually rather appalling (though I have seen several), but given Collins' note that the less you know about this movie going in, the better, I think this one might be a nice surprise.
Thoughts and ramblings on culture, movies, technology and more; updated every Sunday and Wednesday.
Kaedrin Beer Blog
And Now the Screaming Starts
Back of the Cereal Box
Movable Type 5.12
Copyright © 1999 - 2012 by Mark Ciocco.