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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Recent and Future Podcastery
I have a regular stable of podcasts that generally keep me happy on a weekly basis, but as much as I love all of them, I will sometimes greedily consume them all too quickly, leaving me with nothing. Plus, it's always good to look out for new and interesting stuff. Quite frankly, I've not done a particularly good job keeping up with the general podcasting scene, so here's a few things I caught up with recently (or am planning to listen to in the near future):
  • Idle Thumbs - This is primarily a video game podcast, though there are some interesting satellite projects too. I have to admit that my video game playing time has reduced itself considerably in the past year or so, but I still sometimes enjoy listening to this sort of thing. Plus, the Idle Book Club is, well, exactly what it sounds like - a book club podcast, with a book a month. I've not actually listened to much of any of this stuff, but it seems like fertile ground.
  • Firewall & Iceberg Podcast - The podcast from famed television critics Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg. It focuses, not surprisingly, on television shows, which is something that I've been watching more of lately (due to the ability to mainline series on Netflix, etc...) Again, I haven't heard much, but they seem pretty knowledgeable and affable. I suspect this will be one of those shows that I download after I watch a series to see what they have to say about it.
  • Film Pigs Podcast - A movie podcast that's ostensibly right in my wheelhouse, and it's a pretty fun podcast, though I'm not entirely sure how bright it's future really is at this point given that they seem to be permanently missing one member of their normal crew and publish on a bi-monthly schedule. Still, there's some fun stuff here, and I'll probably listen to more of their back catalog when I run out of my regulars...
Speaking of that regular stable, this is what it's currently looking like: There are a few others that I hit up on an inconsistent basis too, but those are the old standbys...
Posted by Mark on February 27, 2013 at 09:43 PM .: link :.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Oscars
The Academy Awards! At this point, every conceivable opinion you could have about the Oscars has become gauche. Whether you're genuinely enthusiastic, profoundly bored, or searingly cynical, you've got a pretty lame outlook on the event. It's not your fault, it's just the hand we're all dealt. I've found that two things help make the show palatable: beer and mockery. And predictions!

For the past 9 years (!?), I've been "liveblogging" the Oscars. When I started this practice, blogging was still mildly hip and cool. Now the concept of a "liveblog" is hoary and lame. As such, who the hell knows what I'm going to do tonight. I will certainly update this post throughout the show, but I probably won't do so as often as I have in the past. Or maybe I'll take to twitter, like any sane person would do. We'll just have to wait and see what happens, won't we? If you're interested, previous installments are here: [2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004]

In accordance with tradition, I'll lay out my predictions for major awards right now:
  • Best Picture: Argo. I'm as surprised about this as you are. Like everyone else, I thought this was going to be a Lincoln year. But Argo has a lot of momentum from other awards shows, it's got an actor as a director (always popular with the actor-heavy Academy), and finally, it's a movie about how awesome Hollywood is and how Hollywood saved the world or something. Oh sure, Affleck wasn't nominated for director, and those two awards usually track together, but it doesn't seem like that rule is as relevant now that the best picture category can feature up to 10 movies. It stands to reason that these awards will eventually split at some point. If I were voting, I'd pick Zero Dark Thirty or Django Unchained, but they almost certainly won't win (because torture bad and Tarantino's movie uses the N word a lot). Also, Kathryn Bigelow already got her Oscar just a couple years ago, and even though Zero Dark Thirty is drastically better than The Hurt Locker, no one will see the need to reward it. Les Miserables is a musical, a genre which rarely wins, plus it seems to have a mixed response anyway. Amour will take the Best Foreign Language Film award. Everyone will see the nomination itself as reward enough for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Life of Pi seems divisive. Silver Linings Playbook is a wildcard, but I don't think it will win. In the end, I think it still comes down to Argo or Lincoln.
  • Best Director: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln. This is basically by process of elimination. Benh Zeitlin is out because he's so young that just the nomination is reward enough (as mentioned above). Michael Haneke will be getting the Best Foreign Language Film award, so no need consider him. David O. Russell seems more likely to take a Screenwriting award (a typical compensation move). Ang Lee took a lot of chances, but such ambitions are rarely recognized. Spielberg brought a revered historical figure to life. Plus, slavery is, like, really bad. And Spielberg managed to say that without excessive use of the N word, so I guess that makes his movie more palatable. Or something. I would be genuinely surprised if Spielberg doesn't win (and given these nominees, he would probably be my pick too).
  • Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. Perhaps a consolation prize for this movie, but also a recognition for the rising star of Lawrence, who has paid her dues (already been nominated once) and I suspect many will be pleased at her Hunger Games stardom as well. Oh, and she was also pretty good in the movie. There's always that. I'd give Jessica Chastain fair odds as well, but she plays a torturing torturer (who totally tortures people), so maybe that will hold back a few votes (she would probably take mine, though it's close). Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest actress to ever be nominated, but I think the pattern with this film is that the nomination is enough. Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest actress to ever be nominated and she's a genuine legend... but only in France, which won't play here. Naomi Watts is in the slot normally reserved for Meryl Streep, a charismatic actress that everyone likes all the time, but such nominations rarely win.
  • Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln. No contest here. Everyone else should feel honored to lose to Day-Lewis, whose performance is legitimately amazing (if I were voting, he'd be my pick).
  • Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables. Really just based on people liking her. Perhaps as an apology for pairing her with James Franco as an Oscar host or something like that. I didn't see Les Mis, but from everything I've heard, she was the best part and that I Dreamed a Dream thing is catchy too. The only other nominee I could see winning is Amy Adams, who is another popular actress who should be rewarded sometime, but I think The Master might be a little too cerebral for the Academy.
  • Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln. Because who the hell knows with this category? Everyone in the category has already won an Oscar, so no one really cares here. That being said, I think the other main contender will be Robert De Niro, because he hasn't done anything worthwhile in a long, long time, and maybe the Academy wants to throw him a bone as encouragement. But he has to go up against Tommy Lee Jones, who fought to abolish slavery, so yeah, tough call. In all honesty, anyone could take this home.
  • Best Original Screenplay: Django Unchained. I know I've been down on this movie's chances because of Tarantino's usage of the N word, which theoretically should be most attributable to the script, but this is a really tough category to pick. Mark Boal's script would have a better chance if it didn't endorse torture (which it doesn't, but that's the perception). Amour will get the Best Foreign Language Oscar. I'm surprise Flight was even nominated. Moonrise Kingdom is actually an interesting Dark Horse nomination here, as maybe the Academy will seek to reward Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola because they snubbed them in all the other categories (seriously, what's up with that?)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Silver Linings Playbook. Consolation prize for David O. Russell. On the other hand, if Argo has a good night, it could snap this one right up.
  • Editing: Argo. Even if it doesn't take best picture, it will probably still rack up some of these technical awards.
  • Cinematography: Skyfall. Definitely not the conventional pick here (which is probably Life of Pi), but I'm pulling for a career consolation prize for Roger Deakins, who has been nominated 10 times without a win.
  • Visual Effects: Life of Pi. Though there's also a strong contender in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I'll chalk some lost votes up to the whole 48fps thing.
  • Makeup: Les Miserables
  • Costumes: Les Miserables
  • Musical Score: Argo
  • Best Song: Skyfall. I never realized that this is actually Best Original Song, which explains why I Dreamed a Dream wasn't nominated (it would have probably killed if it was). As it is, I'll just go with Adele, as everyone seems to like her.
  • Best Animated Film: Frankenweenie. A tough category to pick this year. Normally you just look for the Pixar film, but Brave has not fared so well, and the category is actually pretty strong this year. I'm betting on Burton, but I wouldn't be surprised if any of the other nominees won...
  • Best Foreign Language Film: Amour. Seems like a lock.
  • Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man. This is a notoriously difficult category to predict. Supposedly the rules for who can vote on this category were broadened this year, so that puts another spin on things. Still, Sugar Man has momentum, and it's a feel-good doc, which sometimes wins out over more "important" docs....
So there are my picks. I'll be back later tonight, though I think I'm going to be mostly just tweeting or something. Who knows? Will post an update here either way.

Update 7:30 pm: It looks like Twitter will work for this, so I'm just going to insert a twitter widget here. Feel free to leave a comment here or @ me on twitter...

Posted by Mark on February 24, 2013 at 12:06 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Adventures in Brewing - Beer #10: IPA Bottling
After two weeks in the bucket, I bottled the Fat Weekend IPA today. Fermentation seemed to as well as usual. A week into the process, once fermentation had slowed considerably, I cracked the lid and dropped in an ounce of Simcoe hops. This is only the second time I've dry hopped a batch of beer, but hot damn, judging from the smells emanating from the bucket during bottling, I'm in for a fantastic little brew here. Last time, I got a huge grapefruit character, this time, I got a more well rounded fruitiness as well as a piney aspect that was very pleasant.

Final Gravity: 1.014, which is just about dead on what I was expecting. That being said, I also still seem to have trouble reading my refractometer. Comparing an actual hydrometer reading, I get something lower (around 1.012). The refractometer is showing something around 9.3 bx, which translates to around 1.016. I need to get better at this. Regardless, it's looking like I'm somewhere on the order of 7.3% to 7.6% ABV, which is close to what I'm shooting for, so all will be well.

Pre-Bottle-Conditioned Fat Weekend IPA.

Very pretty looking beer, a nice warm golden orange color, perhaps a hint darker than my last batch of IPA. As already mentioned, the aroma is fantastic, citrusy fruit and pine all over. I gave it a taste too, and I do believe this is going to be fantastic stuff. I got almost exactly 1 full case of beer out of this batch (2.5-3 gallons), which will be perfect. Though only half of what I normally make, I've found that hoppy beers don't last, and start to fade quickly. After 6 months, my last IPA was still good, but it was a bit of a malt bomb. This is something I've become more sensitive to as my palate evolves, so I'm glad I'll probably finish this case off before it has a chance to fade significantly. Fat Weekend is about a month out, which means that this should be fully conditioned and indeed peaking right about then.

Not sure what's going to come next here. I've been toying with the idea of an imperial red ale, but may also try a batch of barleywine or imperial stout too (and perhaps finally take the secondary fermentation plunge, complete with bourbon soaked oak cubes). Whatever the next batch is, I'll probably start it in March/April. If I end up going the big beer route, I'll definitely be spending more time conditioning the beer than usual, so it will hopefully be doing really well by next Autumn... But I definitely want to make a sessionable Summer saison, akin to my last saison attempt, but a little lighter. I'll plan for that in April/May, and that should last me through the summer...

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog)
Posted by Mark on February 20, 2013 at 08:23 PM .: link :.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Favorite Films of 2012
2012 was a solid year for movies! Unlike last year, we got a full spectrum of movies, ranging from very good to truly great. 2010 was back-heavy (a horrible first half that year), but 2012 was pretty well stocked throughout the year, with great films peppered into even the doldrums of the year. Most years, I have difficulty filling the top 10 list. This year was also difficult, but only because I had too many movies that I wanted to sneak in...

The notion of finding a theme for the year in movies is perhaps unfair. It's an attempt to condense the irreducible, but sometimes it can happen. 2010 had a clear theme of questioning reality, but 2011 was less cohesive. I am seeing something in 2012 though, and I think it could be best summarized by "the search for truth". At least half of my top 10 fits that mold pretty well, and I could arguably include a few others, not to mention some of the honorable mentions. Some films are literally about a search (Zero Dark Thirty, Searching for Sugar Man), others feature a more metaphorical search for truth, such as the search for perfection (a word that could easily be substituted for truth) in Jiro Dreams of Sushi or the argumentative system of law in A Separation. You can come up with other forms of this theme, like objective reality versus subjective reality, or maybe science versus faith, and all would be pretty well representative of the year, even for bad movies like Prometheus (sorry, had to get in another dig)! Of course, that may just be because this is a pretty universal theme, but hey, work with me here.

As of this writing, I have seen 72 movies that would be considered a 2012 release. This is a distinct step down from the past few years, though perhaps the quality of this year's crop means that I didn't have to search as long and hard to fill out the below list. Is that a good thing? Who knows! In recent years, I've certainly been gravitating more towards making this a list of my favorite films, rather than some sort of "objective" list of "best" films (and thus that search for truth rears its head again, this time in a meta-context). I guess that's a disclaimer of sorts, but in all honesty, my list of "favorite" films is more distinct and thus probably much more interesting than any sort of "objective" list. There were certainly films that I have a lot of respect for, but just could not connect with on a personal level, for whatever reason. They don't appear below, though maybe I'll reinstitute the conspicuously absent category. Anywho, that's enough by way of introduction, let's get this party started:

Top 10 Movies of 2012
* In roughly reverse order
  • A Separation - A movie about a couple attempting divorce in Iran? This was not a movie I was expecting to like. The near universal praise this movie garnered made me think it had to be critical groupthink, and as the film slowly unfurled, I found myself initially resistant. It eventually won me over, putting me in mind of the old boiling frog anecdote. It's like I was placed in cold water that was slowly heated, and thus I did not perceive the danger and eventually found myself cooked alive. Hurm. Maybe that's not the most convincing metaphor for the movie, but I found myself fully invested and captivated by the story's portrayal of the oddly personal justice system employed in Iran. Give this movie a shot, it will surprise you.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Raid: Redemption - There's a notion that top 10 movies need to be deep or Important (with capital I), but sometimes a movie makes it onto my list simply by virtue of being totally badass. There is a story here, about two brothers on opposing sides of the law, but that's all just window-dressing for the main feature of non-stop action; visceral, intense, impeccably staged action. Sometimes, that's enough!
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Winner of 1 Kaedrin Movie Award]
  • Looper - This was not the movie I was expecting it to be, but taking it on its own terms, it's a fantastic film. The time travel aspects take a back seat to the heart of the story, a metaphor-rich conflict between the selfish, short-sighted Joe and an older version of himself. Oh sure, you've got some frightening consequences of the whole time travel process, but that's all just setup for a story with twisting sympathies and an odd form of redemption. It also features the best booty call of the year, for whatever that's worth.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Frankenweenie - A surprising return to form from Tim Burton, who has produced a loving homage to Frankenstein (amongst all the other Universal Horror monsters), tweaking and updating the story in just the right way to modernize the traditional caution against meddling themes of the original novel. There's a stumble here or there, but the movie is ultimately very affecting and successful in its goals.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Capsule Review]
  • Searching for Sugar Man - Fascinating documentary about the search for and unexpected success of folk singer Rodriguez, whose music never caught on in the US, but became an important milestone in South Africa (completely unbeknownst to him). A reminder that popularity and success work in strange ways, and that information (both the music and stories of Rodriguez's infamous onstage suicide) can sometimes travel far beyond where we'd expect.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Bernie - Richard Linklater's small film based on a true story about a popular Texas mortician who befriends a wealthy widow, kills her, and covers up her murder... only to find community support once he's caught. Not a direct search for truth movie, though it does raise some interesting ethical questions about that search for truth and the way a community will ignore said truth if it suits their needs. A really entertaining movie though, with a fantastic central performance from Jack Black of all people.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Detention - The most criminally underseen movie of the year. Director Joseph Kahn has made a movie calibrated for the information-overloaded internet and texting generation. Referential, manic, kinetic, goofy, this thing makes Scott Pilgrim look like an Ozu film. Perhaps not for everyone, not just because of its exhausting pace, but because of its relentless references to horror and science fiction. Still, for me, this is bold, adventurous filmmaking at its best.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Winner of 1 Kaedrin Movie Award] [Full Review]
  • The Cabin in the Woods - With this movie, writer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard have crafted a fascinating exploration of the horror genre, as well as the relationship between the creators and consumers of art in general. Plus, it's just plain entertaining to watch! It takes an overused premise and somehow manages to make it feel fresh, all while creeping you out and making you laugh. It doesn't quite stick the landing at the very end, but that's a minor complaint, and this looms just as large in my mind now as it did when I first saw it. Great stuff.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Winner of 2 Kaedrin Movie Awards] [Full Review]
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi - I'm fascinated by those who pursue perfection, such as the titular Jiro. He has the reputation for making the best sushi in the world, owning a tiny little restaurant (located in a subway!?) that you have to reserve months in advance. Of course, perfection is unattainable, but Jiro has done his best and this movie explores his methods. I also found the exploration of how Jiro's success has impacted his family interesting, perhaps being partly a demonstration of Japanese social mores as well.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Django Unchained - Every time I hear about Quentin Tarantino's latest project, I'm almost invariably disappointed by the premise. Then I actually go to see the movie, and am usually blown away. Django Unchained was no different, and I wound up enjoying this movie more than any other movie of the year. Memorable characters, terrifying villains, a brutal, unflinching depiction of a horrible time in US history, and a revenge fantasy to make up for it all.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Winner of 1 Kaedrin Movie Award]
  • Zero Dark Thirty - Despite all the controversy surrounding this film, director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal have made a superb movie. The search for Osama Bin Laden is something that cuts a little deep for us Americans, but few movies have explored this sort of thing in such a thoughtful manner. I don't personally see the controversy here, because I like that Bigelow and Boal have allowed us to make up our own minds about the subject instead of making the didactic polemic critics of the film apparently wanted. I found this to be a superb, difficult film that is nevertheless a compelling watch.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
Honorable Mention
* In alphabetical order
  • Argo - Ben Affleck's entertaining dramatization of a daring CIA rescue mission during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980 was very good, but also something that didn't really stick with me after I saw it. In fact, I kept forgetting about it until it started making the rounds at all the awards shows, showing a surprisingly strong performance, perhaps even being a dark horse candidate for the best picture Oscar. Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back, and this is based on a true story where people were rescued by posing as a film crew, so there is that. I would totally recommend this to anyone, and I think it's got some depth if you're looking for it, but I never really got past its popcorny tendencies (which, as I mentioned above, isn't necessarily a bad thing).
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Avengers - Another extremely entertaining popcorn film that I'd totally recommend, and that I was surprised turned out as well as it did, especially given the long leadup to this movie. It narrowly missed out on a top 10 slot, and I'm grateful that this movie made comic book movies fun again. Great performances, solid dialogue, and an impressive visual flair.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Winner of 1 Kaedrin Movie Award]
  • Brave - Pixar's latest film seems to have taken a critical drubbing, but I actually really enjoyed this movie, which focuses on a Mother/Daughter relationship that you don't see that often in films like this. It's worth watching for the middle sections with Merida and the Bear alone, but I found the whole thing held together well enough. It's certainly not at the very top of Pixar's oeuvre, but it's still a good film.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review]
  • Cloud Atlas - I have to give this movie a lot of credit for the sheer audacity of attempting to interweave six separate stories and settings, and for the masterful job of editing that made that actually work. Unfortunately, the film's didactic tendencies get in the way, and that just held it back for me. Still, it's a visually arresting movie, and it never drags the way you might expect. Great pacing, which is very impressive for a film of this scope. Certainly worth a watch, but a little too on the nose for me.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review]
  • The Dark Knight Rises - A fitting end to Christopher Nolan's trilogy of Batman films, I didn't find this one as transcendent as the previous entry in the series, but that's a tough trick to pull twice in the same series, and things worked well enough here. Indeed, I saw this a second time and was shocked at how well it held up to the repeat viewing. I wouldn't blame anyone for being disappointed by this movie, but it worked well for me.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review]
  • Dredd - One of the biggest surprises of the year, this is another underseen genre film that any comic book or science fiction movie fans should be checking out. The plot bears a similarity to the aforementioned The Raid: Redemption, but the setting is completely different, and honestly, this movie fares pretty well even in comparison to The Raid. Karl Urban puts in a pretty spectacular performance considering that he has to act with only the lower portion of his face! Lena Headey elevates a thankless villain role as well, and there's a lot of other things to like about the movie as well. Definitely worth checking out.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • FDR: American Badass! - The most bonkers movie of the year, bar none. Even the manic insanity of Detention takes a backseat to this film's glorious craziness. Certainly not a movie for everyone, this is an exercise in juvenile humor, but in the most ardent way possible. Just a boatload of fun.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Girl Walk // All Day - The notion of a feature-length dance music video isn't something that seems like it would strike a chord with me, but I'll be damned if this film didn't just infect me with its enthusiastic nature. Financed through a Kickstarter campaign and set to mashup artist Girl Talk's album All Day, the film follows three dancers as they rock their way through New York City. In particular, Anne Marsen's exuberant attitude is infectious and it's hard to not like this movie simply because of that...
    More Info: [IMDB] [Watch Online (free)]
  • Goon - Another small film that probably wasn't seen by enough people, this is a hockey comedy with a heart, something that struck a nerve with me. Worth watching just for Seann William Scott's amusing monologue (the one with E.T. in it) midway through the film. Scott actually plays this goon as such a lovable character, that it really anchors the entire film. Also, some of the funniest fist-fights of the year!
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • John Dies at the End - Another tiny indie film from Kaedrin fave director Don Coscarelli, this is a very strange film. It's a wonderfully weird film, episodic but ultimately cohesive, streamlining its non sequitur tendencies while retaining its sense of playful ideas and manic humor. It's a really fun, interesting movie, worth watching for fans of the horror genre.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Lincoln - This is a movie that should be right up my alley. I'm a sucker for movies that portray the excruciating details of something that seems like it should be straightforward. The devil is in the details, and this movie does hit those notes throughout, but I'm curiously soft on this movie for some reason. Perhaps it was the more biopic-like tendencies to go into Lincoln's personal life and relationships with his wife and son, or that shmaltzy opening sequence, but even considering those, this is a film that I would expect to loom larger in my mind than it does. It's something I'll have to revisit at some point, and leave it as an honorable mention for now.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Magic Mike - Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum, a winning combination. Not a movie I was expecting to enjoy, er, at all, but it was surprisingly effective, even if a few aspects of the story never connected with me. Still, more entertaining than I'd expect, and while certainly a "chick-flick", it's not entirely uninteresting for us guys (plus, you know, Olivia Munn).
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Moonrise Kingdom - Director Wes Anderson's return to his wheelhouse of quirky cinema was actually an assured and entertaining effort. It features a surprisingly tender love story between young characters (something rarely portrayed well on screen, even if this was quirky), and some great performances, not to mention Anderson's always keen ear for music. Certainly a contender for the top 10, but it just missed the cut.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Sleepless Night - A French thriller that takes place mostly in a single setting (a swanky nightclub), I was surprised at how well this movie was able to wring tension out of a simple premise. An interesting, entertaining thriller, worth checking out if you're not scared of subtitles.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Seven Psychopaths - I remember loving this movie when I saw it in the theater, but thinking back on it, very few things are really standing out for me. I just don't have that much to say about it, which I think says something in itself. Certainly a fast paced, interesting movie with lots of action and snappy dialogue, but perhaps not as deep as it wants to be.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Wreck-It Ralph - I had a lot of fun with this movie, and as a video game fan, it was a lot of fun spotting the references and tropes, though fortunately the movie doesn't rely too heavily on them, instead leaning on its own creations, which are well done. Good voice work, but one absolutely perfect casting in Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
Just Missed the Cut:
But still worthwhile, in their own way. Presented without comment and in no particular order: Should Have Seen:
Despite the fact that I've seen 72 of this year's movies (and that this post features 30+ of my favorites), there were a few that got away... mostly because I'm lazy! Or something wasn't available yet. Take your pick. I may or may not catch up with some of these... Well that just about wraps up 2012 movies... Stay tuned next Sunday for the usual Oscar Liveblogging - previous installments here: [2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004]

Update: Uh oh! It looks like I miscounted and put 11 movies on my top 10. Dammit, I had a hard enough time narrowing down to 11! Let's just call two of them a tie. Or something.
Posted by Mark on February 17, 2013 at 08:45 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Link Dump
Time is short, so just a few links to tide you over until Sunday:
  • Visual timeline of the One Ring - A thoughtfully composed diagram of the One Ring from LotR, illustrating how the ring passed from owner to owner as well as the location of the ring, over the course of almost 5000 years. Well played.
  • Yelping with Cormac - An old one, but any tumblr dedicated to parodying Cormac McCarthy by portraying his reviews on Yelp is worth a look. Sample awesome:
    The hacendado whistled through his teeth and shook his head. You Americans, he said. Always the judge. This hotel is very good. That country is very bad. But when it is time for you to be reviewed you are begging please no. Please I can pay money. I will review you now. The hacendado snapped his fingers and a vaquero entered carrying a branding iron in the shape of a star, the whitehot tip sputtering and sparking like some wroughtiron incubus.
  • Cudgel of Xanthor - Many moons ago, back in the days of GFW Radio, Jeff Green wrote a spoof video game preview on April fools. Apparently he cut too close to the bone, in that nearly no readers realized it was a joke and continually emailed 1Up, asking when Cudgel of Xanthor would actually hit shelves. A couple years ago, Green built upon the idea for his NaNoWriMo novel, writing a story set in Xanthor, but also set in a video game studio that was tasked with making Cudgel of Xanthor. As the game developers have to compromise and change the game to meet their budget and corporate goals, the setting of Xanthor changes, and the characters living in that setting have to fend for themselves. Green claims he'll release the book at some point, and heck, I'd read that.
  • A Letter To “The Breakfast Club” Explaining Why They All Failed Their Assignment - By Principal Richard Vernon, Shermer High School...
    At one point during the essay, the handwriting changes four different times. Brian wrote, "We found out that each of us is a brain," and then someone else wrote "an athlete," another wrote "a princess," another "a basket case..." Why did you guys do this? It's weird.

    You're not all of these things. Brian, you have no athletic ability. "Bender" certainly isn't a brain. "Bender" isn't an athlete either, because he backed down after I threatened him physically in the supply closet. Your essay doesn't make sense.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on February 13, 2013 at 09:37 PM .: link :.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Netflix's House of Cards
Last weekend, Netflix debuted their highly anticipated original series House of Cards. Based on an old BBC series, starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher, the show certainly has an impressive pedigree and has been garnering mostly positive reviews. From what I've watched so far, it doesn't quite reach the heights of my favorite television shows, but it's on the same playing field, which is pretty impressive for original content from an internet-based company that was predicated solely on repackaging and reselling existing content from other sources. It's a good show, but the most interesting things about the series are the meta-discussions surrounding the way it was produced and released.

Like the way free music streaming services are changing the narrative of that industry, I'm seeing something similar happening with Netflix... and like the music industry, I don't really know where this will end up. Netflix certainly fell on hard times a couple years ago; after a perfectly understandable price hike and the inexplicable Qwikster debacle their stock price plummeted from 300+ to around 60. Since then, it's been more or less ping-ponging up and and down in the 60-140 range, depending on various business events (earnings reports, etc...) and newly licensed content.

Recently, the stock has been rising rapidly, thanks to new content deals with the likes of Disney and Warner Bros., and now because of House of Cards. Perhaps fed up with wrangling the rising cost of streaming content (which are ever rising at a spectacular pace and cutting into Netflix's meager profit margins), Netflix has started to make their own content. Early last year, Netflix launched Lillyhammer to middling reviews and not a lot of fanfare... I have not watched the series (and quite frankly, the previews look like a parody or SNL sketch or something), but it perhaps represented Netflix's dry run for this recent bid for original content. A lot of the interesting things about House of Cards' release were presaged by that previous series.

For instance, the notion of releasing the entire 13 episode run of the first season on day one of release. Netflix has done a lot of research on their customers' viewing habits, observing that people will often mainline old series (or previous seasons of current series like Mad Men or Breaking Bad), watching entire seasons or even several over the course of a few days or weeks. I've wondered about this sort of thing in the past, because this is the way I prefer to consume content. I can never really get into the rhythm of "destination" television, except in very limited scenarios (the only show I watch on a weekly basis at the time it airs is Game of Thrones, because I like the show and the timeslot fits into my schedule). There are some shows that I look forward to every week, but even those usually get stored away on the DVR until I can watch several at once. So what I'm saying here is that this release of all episodes at once is right up my alley, and I'm apparently not alone.

With the lack of physical shelf space or broadcast schedule needed, I suspect this would also lead to shows actually getting to finish their season instead of being canceled after two episodes, which could be an interesting development. On the other hand, what kinds of shows will this produce? Netflix greenlit this series based on a mountain of customer data, not just about how viewers consumed TV series, but also on their response to Kevin Spacey and David Fincher, and probably a hundred other data-points.

And the series does kinda feel like it's built in a lab. Everything is top notch about the show. Great actors, high production value, solid writing, the show is optimized for that binge-watching experience. Is that a good thing? In this case, it seems to be working well enough. But can that sort of data-driven model hold up over time? Of course, that's nothing new in the entertainment industry. Look no further than the whole vampire/zombie resurgence of the past decade or so. But I wonder if Netflix will ever do something that sets the trends, rather than chasing the data.

What does this all mean for the world of streaming? Netflix appears to have stemmed the tide of defecting subscribers, but will they gain new subscribers simply because of their original content? Will this be successful enough for other streaming players to take the same gamble? Will we have Hulu and Amazon series? Will we have to subscribe to 8 different services to keep up with this? Or will Netflix actually license out their original content to the likes of Cable or Network television? Ok, that's probably unlikely, but on the other hand, it could be a big source of revenue and a way to expand their audience.

Will Netflix be able to keep growing thanks to these original content efforts? House of Cards is just the first of several original series being released this year. Will the revived Arrested Development (season 4, coming in May) draw in new subscribers? Or the new Ricky Gervais show? Will any of this allow Netflix to expand their streaming content beyond the laughable movie selection they currently command (seriously, they have a good TV selection, but their movie selection is horrible)? Will we ever get that dream service, a single subscription that will give you access to everything you could ever want to watch? Technologically, this is all possible, but technology won't drive that, and I'm curious if such a thing will ever come to fruition (Netflix or not!) In the meantime, I'm most likely going to finish off House of Cards, which is probably a good thing for Netflix.
Posted by Mark on February 10, 2013 at 02:01 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Adventures in Brewing - Beer #10: Fat Weekend IPA
So I've been slacking on my brewing hobby of late, though not without good reason. I spent most of December revamping my kitchen from the ground up, so there was much time when I simply wasn't capable of brewing anything (not to mention the sanitary conditions, which were obviously poor whilst work was proceeding). After putting some finishing touches on the kitchen in January, I'm finally ready to resume brewing. One of the nice things about my new kitchen is that I upgraded my stovetop, which now comes complete with a "PowerBoil" element that, you guessed it, boils water faster than my old stovetop (I'm forced to use electric, which is less than ideal for brewing purposes). And boy did that come in handy. I estimate that this shaved a solid 30-60 minutes off the brewing process, which came in at around 2.5-3 hours, including post-brew cleaning.

This batch is being brewed for a specific reason, the titular "Fat Weekend", a gathering of portly friends from all over the northeast (and some points west) which will be sometime in mid-march. Last year, I brought a variety of homebrews and was shocked to see that the Simcoe IPAs were the first beers to go (and got the best complements), so I'm making this specifically for that weekend. Let's hope it turns out well.

In terms of recipe, this is a variation on my Simcoe Single Hop IPA from last year (interestingly enough, brewed exactly one year ago to the day). For the most part, the malt bill is identical. A slight increase in Crystal 20, simply because my homebrew shop was only selling in half-pound increments, and I'm using pilsen for the entire base malt (which, again, is just based on what was available). The big change, though, is in hops. Instead of using just Simcoe, I'm adding in the trendy hotness of Citra and Falconer's Flight (both used in equal proportions for flavor and aroma additions). Simcoe will remain on bittering duty, as well as contributing the dry hop addition. Otherwise, we've got an identical recipe.

Beer #10: Fat Weekend IPA
Half-Batch (2.5 gallons)
February 4, 2013

.5 lb. Crystal 20 (specialty grain)
.5 lb. CaraPils (specialty grain)
.5 lb. Vienna Malt (specialty grain)
3.3 lb. Briess Pilsen Light LME
1 lb. Briess Pilsen DME
0.5 lb. Turbinado Sugar
1 oz. Simcoe (bittering @13.2 AA)
0.5 oz. Citra (flavor)
0.5 oz. Falconer's Flight (flavor)
0.5 oz. Citra (aroma)
0.5 oz. Falconer's Flight (aroma)
1 oz. Simcoe (dry hop)
1 tsp. Irish Moss
Wyeast 1056 - American Ale Yeast

Overall, pretty straightforward stuff here. The only major change is the hops. Citra seems very much in the vein of Simcoe, but it's got a more fruity and less piney, woodsy feel to it. I also usually get a more herbal fruit out of it... nothing like a Euro-hop, but distinct from the grapefruit and pine character of Simcoe. Falconer's Flight is actually a proprietary blend of numerous hops, including Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe, Sorachi Ace, and other Northwestern US hops, apparently even experimental hops not yet available by themselves. The idea of this blend is to approximate the flavor of the trendy hops in a blend featuring those same hops, but also less trendy (and thus more readily available) hops. Tired Hands has made a few beers featuring Falconer's Flight recently, and they're exceptional, so I'm thinking they'll be a good fit here. Really excited to see how this will turn out.

Brought 2 gallons of water up to steeping temperature 150° F - 160° F in record time (less than 10 minutes), steeped the specialty grains for around 25 minutes or so, drained, sparged with another half gallon of water, added the malt extracts, put the lid on to bring to a boil. Again, this happened in record time, at which point I added 1 ounce of Simcoe and started the timer. Realize I forgot to add the Turbinado sugar, so do some quick calculations, add about half a pound in, throw the lid back on to get the boil going a little better. 45 minutes into the boil, add half an ounce each of Citra and Falconer's Flight. I don't have a scale or anything, so I'm doing this by sight, but it seems to be working out fine. Also throw in the irish moss at this time. Finally, with 5 minutes left to go, I add the aroma hops, which is again split between Citra and Falconer's Flight.

Moved the pot to the ice bath to cool it off, brought it down to about 80° F, strained the wort (removing the hops) into the fermenter, and topped off with about a gallon of cold water, bringing the final temperature down below 70° (almost too low, actually, but still above 62°). This will produce slightly more than 2.5 gallons, but it'll all work out for the best in the end.

Original Gravity: 1.070. A little higher than my last batch, but not by much (this makes sense, given the hot scotchie adventure I engaged in last time). I'm guessing this will still clock in around the 7% - 7.5% ABV range, perhaps on the higher end, which is fine by me.

Like I did last time, I'll wait a week or so to let the primary fermentation stage end, then add the dry hops (1 ounce of Simcoe) for another week or so, at which point, I rack to the bottling bucket and bottle the suckers. I'm quite confident this batch will come out well.

After this one, I'm not sure what will be next. I've been toying with the idea of a hopped up imperial red ale, which could be a lot of fun (and would probably resemble the above recipe quite a bit, with some amber malt and maybe some other darker malts to balance things out). After that, I want to make a sessionable summer saison, similar to my last saison batch, if not quite as potent.

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog)
Posted by Mark on February 06, 2013 at 09:37 PM .: link :.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

2012 Kaedrin Movie Awards: The Arbitrary Awards
As the normal awards have concluded, the abnormals begin. Sometimes I can't think of enough nominees, other times, it just seems like a movie is doing something so weird that it deserves recognition. A few of these have become an annual tradition, but most are just random and, well, arbitrary. Let's get to it, shall we:
  • The "You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else" Award for Worst Dialogue: Prometheus. I admit that I'm hard on this movie, but it's just so relentlessly stupid that I can't help myself. In terms of dialog, this movie has it all. Michael Fassbender actually does a heroic job with his dialog, and comes through mostly unscathed. Most other cast members aren't so lucky. Two scenes of note: 1. When confronted with a space cobra, a scared scientist actually says "It's okay baby. It's okay." as if this terrifying creature was a cute puppy. 2. The hackneyed way in which it's revealed that Vickers is Weyland's daughter. The way ", father" (the comma is important and is almost pronounced out loud) is just sorta tacked on to the scene is just mindblowingly dumb. So there's probably a bunch of other lines that qualify, but the problem with this award is... who really wants to sit down and document all of that?
  • The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: The Woman in Black. I suppose there are some who like this movie, but I never really connected with it. It's the typical haunted house trope where the protagonist discovers the house is haunted, but just kinda shrugs it off and continues to visit/stay there.
  • The Park Chan-Wook Award for Excessive Vengeance: Django Unchained. Fantastic movie, and as revenge fantasies go, a pretty darn good example.
  • Best Hero/Badass (Non-Human Edition): Bark Lee (a dog), from John Dies at the End. Gotta give some love to Kaedrin fave director, Don Coscarelli, and this bizarre little movie which managed to streamline some of the book's more episodic non sequitur tendencies while retaining its sense of playful ideas and manic humor.
  • Best Villain/Badass (Non-Human Edition): The monsters, from The Cabin in the Woods. The traditional Best Villain/Badass award always has a disclaimer mentioning that non-individuals (like generic zombies or vampires or whatever) are exempt, but Cabin in the Woods features (or at least, implies) every class of horror monster imaginable, and they all escape onto the screen in one of the year's best sequences, so I thought it deserved some recognition.
  • Best Computer Modeled Hair: Brave. For whatever reason, this movie hasn't quite received the rapturous response of most Pixar releases (I enjoyed it more than most), but everyone at least acknowledges how amazing Merida's animated hair looks.
  • Least Representative Marketing Campaign: The Grey. The trailer promises Liam Neeson: Wolf Puncher, what we get is decidedly more elegaic. But then, there is a good wolf punching scene at the end, so there's that.
  • Best Opening Sequence: Detention. There are, perhaps, some more conventional choices, but I'm choosing Detention because it grabbed hold of me so immediately that I actually tweeted, "I have watched the first 6 minutes of Detention... Prediction: It will make my top 10 of the year list." A prediction that will come true shortly. More thoughts on Detention.
  • Best Closing Shot: Zero Dark Thirty. A simple shot, to be sure, but it invites so much interpretation that it's a kinda lightning rod for critics. Actually, this movie could have also easily taken the best opening sequence as well, but in the interest of variety, I'll just award it for that great, ambiguous closing shot.
So that wraps up the awards, with the top 10 list coming in the next couple weeks or so.
Posted by Mark on February 03, 2013 at 11:42 AM .: link :.

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