The usual interesting links from the depths of ye olde internets:
Box Office Game – Have you ever listened to the Blank Check with Griffin and David podcast and been frustrated when they play the box office game because you know the answer and they’re struggling? Prepare to be humbled. One game posted a day, very wordle-like…
Framed – Ah yes, the Wordle derivatives continue to appear, this is a fun one based on movie screenshots.
Jomboy Will Smith Slap Breakdown – I’m posting this not so much for the content (it’s a solid enough breakdown of events) but because I find it interesting just how quickly he got this video up. The Slap happened and this video was up less than an hour later. The only other thing I have to say about this is that I’m a little annoyed that “The Slap” will now be associated with Will Smith and Chris Rock rather than the cutting NBC drama about a guy who slapped a kid at a suburban cookout, an event that rocked a community and caused apocalyptic fallout. Also, come on, “The Pursuit of Slappiness” was right there for the taking.
Brickbat: Candygram – Guy installs a giant novelty shark crashing into his roof as some sort of political statement. Neighbors and community government asks him to take it down, but he doesn’t… so they switch tactics and have it declared a “protected landmark” and now it would be illegal for him to take it down.
Bizarro World – Fun little story about a reporter who accidentally discovers that his wife is the word’s greatest Tetris player.
It’s been a rough couple of years for the Oscars. Declining ratings, the impossibility of finding a host that will please anyone (let alone someone who won’t spark outrage and controversy), and oh yeah, a worldwide pandemic that made getting large groups of people together in an enclosed space a bad idea. As much as we all complain about the Oscars, one of the few things it had going for it was the pageantry. That’s never been my favorite part of it, but people like to see their favorite stars get dressed up and do glamorous things on the red carpet and so on.
For a second there, I thought that Steven Soderberg would manage last year’s ceremony well. It started with a great, long tracking shot following Regina King as she made her way to the stage to present the first award. It was a cinematic way to start the proceedings, but alas, the host-less nature and continued weird choices throughout the ceremony quickly bogged the whole thing down. Not to mention that the pandemic year produced odd shortlists. It’s usually fun snarking about the awards on Twitter, but it felt a little like shooting fish in a barrel last year, and I think everyone knew it.
Will things return to “normal” this year? The producers continue to make some bizarre choices, including leaving some pretty hefty categories out of the broadcast (notably film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, and sound), not to mention shuffling the lifetime achievement awards out of the main ceremony. Look, I get that the producers have a difficult job and they have to balance the artistic against the popular, but, like, Samuel L. Jackson got a lifetime achievement award. He’s gotta be one of the most popular actors in the history of cinema and one of the great success stories of the industry. As presenter Denzel Washington (um, also a pretty popular dude) noted:
“152 movie titles,” Denzel Washington said, beginning to rattle off Samuel L. Jackson’s accomplishments in a tribute to the actor. “I got IMDB Pro. $27 billion in box office.”
Jackson reflected on a 50-year career that began with roles with names like “gang member number two,” “bum” and “Black guy.” He thanked his agent, manager, lawyer and publicist for “making sure I lived in the comfort zone of knowing what the next two jobs would be.”
Jackson and Washington embraced (multiple times), and Washington was clearly overjoyed that Jackson had finally gotten some recognition from the Oscars (he’d previously only been nominated once, for Pulp Fiction). It was a very moving moment that would have been fantastic on the main broadcast. Again, I don’t want to underappreciate how difficult it is to produce something like the Oscars, but this particular Lifetime Achievement Award seems like a no brainer.
Alright, enough complaining, it’s time for the annual reminder that the Oscars broadcast is the biggest source of income for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is actually a very useful organization. As Steven Soderberg noted a few years ago, what the Academy does for film archiving and preservation alone should be praised, and it’s all paid for by the broadcast. So while most complaints about the ceremony are valid and we all have our own strategy for shortening the ceremony (mine has always been remove the shorts categories and the musical performances), actually putting on the show is difficult and it does have a lot of benefits for the industry and cinema as a whole. Anyway, let’s look at the categories and make some predictions:
2022 Oscars Predictions
Best Picture – CODA. The buzz was that The Power of the Dog would take this and I suppose there’s still an off chance of that, but support fell off a cliff after some awards season missteps, and I suspect voters will still be able to recognize it elsewhere. The notion that Best Picture and Best Director are coupled has pretty much disappeared since they instituted the longer list of Best Picture nominees, so I think CODA will take it this year. There’s maybe an off chance that Belfast will win, and an even more off chance that West Side Story will win. I’ve seen 9 of the nominees, and 3 of those did make my Top 10, which is actually a decent showing. Of course, there’s an approximately 0% chance that any of those 3 will win. I think CODA is a fine movie, but it is so cliched and predictable that I find it hard to call it the best of the year. It’s your standard inspirational artist coming of age story about following your dreams etc… and it’s a pretty well done version of that, but you’ve seen this movie before. Maybe not with a deaf family, but there’s been a surprising amount of much better, much more subtle looks at the deaf community in the past couple of years. Look no further than last year’s Sound of Metal (also nominated for best picture, but nowhere near a contender) or even this year’s Drive My Car (which has a deaf side character). Anyway, I think CODA is going to win. My choice amongst the nominees would have been Nightmare Alley or Dune, but again, no chances there.
Best Director – Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. She’s long been a favorite for director and her film for picture, but some recent controversy involving some ill advised comparisons has maybe dulled the shine a bit. I think she’s still a favorite as director though. I suppose it’s possible that Kenneth Branagh will pull an upset, or maybe even Steven Spielberg (though I suspect we take him for granted these days – I would probably vote for him this year though, even if I don’t love West Side Story).
Best Actress – Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Penelope Cruz had some early buzz but seems to be falling behind the popular Chastain.
Best Actor – Will Smith in King Richard. Pretty much a sure thing.
Best Supporting Actress – Ariana DeBose in West Side Story. This is probably the only place voters think they can show some love to WSS, and to be fair, she is great in that movie. Maybe Kirsten Dunst could sneak in, but I’m doubting it.
Best Supporting Actor – Troy Kostur in CODA. He’s got buzz and the only competition comes from two nominees from The Power of the Dog, which historically means the vote gets split and someone else wins.
Best Original Screenplay – Belfast. I suspect voters will want to award this movie, but that it won’t be in Best Picture or Director, so it’ll be here. There’s a strong possibility that it won’t win though, as Licorice Pizza has a similar situation going on and Andersen could easily take this.
Best Adapted Screenplay – CODA. Though again, The Power of the Dog could sneak in. It’s really going to be a battle between those two movies this year.
Best International Film – Drive My Car. I mean, it’s the only one of these that is also on the Best Picture ballot…
Best Song – No Time to Die. I don’t know, I like Bond, I suspect it’ll do well here.
And that’ll about cover it. If, for some odd reason, you want to plumb the depths of the Kaedrin archives for old Oscars commentary (if you go far back enough, you can even read what used to be called “liveblogging” of the event, you know, back before Twitter was a big deal and blogs were still a thing), all my previous entries are here:    | [2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004] (I didn’t post in 2020 because I was lazy and ran out of time before posting my top 10, and I didn’t post last year because I had much more important films on my mind on the day of the ceremony). If you feel like watching along, I’ll be on Twitter @mciocco (and when the musical performances start, I’ll be posting alcohol @kaedrinbeer). I won’t post that often, but feel free to say hi…
Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we watched the Citizen Kane of Astrology movies. This time, we’ve got a tale of forbidden love between people named Obama and Osama. Ultimately, it’s a tale of two internet-based movie databases.
Because streaming services are terrible at curation and discoverability, I peruse a number of other websites and tools to see what’s new and interesting. Because I’m a weirdo, it’s often the more obscure selections that catch my eye, like this one that I discovered on JustWatch (new on Amazon Prime, because of course it’s Prime material):
The subject of the film is exceptionally intriguing. It revolves around a man named Barrack Obama and a man named Osama bin Laden. To win the hand of the middle aged man, the hero, bin Laden needs to cross a few obstacles on his way as he is a Muslim and the man of his dreams is a Christian. The movie “When Obama loved Osama” and remember: Osama bin Stylin on all yall n*gs
Apologies for some minor censorship at the end there (honestly not sure what to make of that), but what the fuck is going on with this movie description? Was it written by a six-year-old who doesn’t quite speak English and was only told the title of the movie? As it turns out, the description on Amazon Prime itself isn’t nearly as weird (or as tantalizing, sadly):
Two youngsters, Maggi Obama and Aman Osama, who come from different communal backgrounds are in love with each other. Will their love overcome the religious differences and will they be united?
I mean, that sounds outright boring compared to the bananapants movie described by the six-year-old. What’s going on here? It turns out that there are two major internet movie databases. Everyone knows IMDB (Internet Movie Database), which is also owned by Amazon and unsurprisingly powers Amazon Prime (and thus it has the more prosaic description). But there’s also TMDB (The Movie Database), which has the more insane description and powers lots of websites, including JustWatch and Letterboxd.
Anyway, I didn’t end up watching the movie. It turns out that this is probably not actually a weird movie of the week, but I figured I’d capture the process of figuring out that it’s not. For posterity. Or something.
Although the Moon is airless, recent findings indicate the presence of hematite, a form of rust that only occurs with oxygen and water. This has scientists baffled.
The Moon is also constantly exposed to a steam of hydrogen from the solar wind. Hydrogen is a reducing agent that ‘donates’ its electrons to the materials it is exposed to.
Rusting occurs due to a loss of electrons, so if hypothetically oxygen and water were present on the moon, the hydrogen would cancel out the rusting process.
“It’s very puzzling,” says planetary scientist Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.” “The Moon is a terrible environment for hematite to form in.”
SHOCK it to me – Final Girl is back and returning to Shocktober roots by going interactive. Check it out and send her your top 20 horror films. She’s done this a few times in the past, and it’s always been a fun Halloweentime activity…
I realize that some of these link to Twitter. I’m sorry, I’m trying to avoid it too. But these particular posts are still fun and you don’t have to browse the rest of the site. Be strong. Alright, so we’ve had a lot of Link Dump posts of late, but we’re entering Halloween season, so you’re about to be inundated with horror movies and other nominally ghastly signifiers of the season. Brace yourself.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years (two decades!) since I started Kaedrin Weblog. I’ve already covered the history behind the site often enough, so I won’t bore you with repetition. I’ll bore you with something new and hopefully even more boring.
The first few years of the blog were filled with design changes, upgrades and the like, and I suppose I “found my voice” at some point, whatever that means. I eventually settled into a pretty comfortable 1-2 posts a week cadence and subject matter has shaken out a lot of random stuff. I’m mostly posting about books and movies these days, with the occasional foray into other topics.
Blogs themselves have gone through the whole lifecycle of technology, from a new and trendy form of self-expression and empowerment for the normals, to something that became almost universal and monetized and co-opted by professionals, to a steady decline. Looking back, I suspect the death of Google Reader was the biggest nail in the coffin. People don’t talk about it often these days, but Google’s ill-advised adventure in Social Media really hastened the demise of blogs and associated technologies like RSS. Not that blogs weren’t already in decline by then, but this was a big blow, and I think the internet landscape is worse off because of it.
Of course, blogs aren’t entirely dead, but this has never been a particularly popular blog. I like knowing some folks read it, but I like getting the practice in writing and it allows me to explore various things in a somewhat organized fashion. At this point, I’ve been writing this blog for almost half of my life (we’ll cross that threshold next year), so it’s become almost automatic.
One thing I noticed when transferring the blog to WordPress is that I have this Best Entries category that I haven’t added anything to in about a decade. I figure it’s time to recognize some of my favorite entries in that timeframe, so here’s a few entries worth checking out:
Consider the branzino. The Spider-Man scene originally called for Peter to be unnerved by the fish’s eye staring back up at him — something that’s not possible with the real-life dish, where the eyes melt in the oven. White found himself having to painstakingly remove one eye from each raw fish, then place it back in a roasted socket. The scene also needed one of Gwen’s little brothers to expertly debone the fish for Peter, a task that had to be as easy as possible for the child actor. White took a pair of scissors and made a few tiny, imperceptible cuts that allowed the kid to pull the bone out as if he were a Michelin-starred chef. He did this for every fish, for every take, alongside cooking the entrees for everyone else’s plate, as well. Sadly, neither moment made the final cut.
The Day the World Didn’t End – You may have heard of the story about the Soviet officer who got a missile launch warning but basically saved the world by not acting on it; this is a more detailed account of that story, with context usually missing from the story.
How To Make the Perfect Burger – Pretty much the platonic ideal of a How To Basic video. Perfect amount of innocuous content before it gets… weird. Wait for it. (I hope you like pickles.)
Over the next four years, the law professor would be drawn into a “campaign of fraud, extortion, and false accusations,” as one of his lawyers would later say in legal proceedings. At one point, Hay’s family would be left suddenly homeless. At another, owing to what his lawyer has described as the “weaponiz[ation] of the university’s Title IX machinery against Hay,” he would find himself indefinitely suspended from his job. He would accrue over $300,000 in legal bills with no end to the litigation in sight. “Maria-Pia and Mischa want money,” Hay told me last summer, “but only for the sake of squeezing it out of people — it’s the exertion of power.”
…what makes us uncomfortable changes with time. Our ancient ancestors were so worried about bears, they didn’t even want to name them because they feared [the bears] might overhear and come after them. So they came up with this word — this is up in Northern Europe — bruin, meaning “the brown one” as a euphemism, and then bruin segued into bear. We know the euphemism, but we don’t know what word it replaced, so bear is the oldest-known euphemism.
Bears were the first Voldemort.
Criterion’s Kindergarten Cop – April Fools’ Day jokes are mostly awful and unfunny, but a few years ago, the Criterion Collection hit the perfect note. On the other hand, I’d totally buy this if it was real.
Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, and the Quest to Kill eBay – Steve Yegge’s story of how what started as Amazon Auctions evolved and morphed into something more useful over time. Glad to see Yegge writing stuff like this again, even if it’s still pretty rare these days…
Buran, the Soviet Space Shuttle – Convinced that the U.S. Space Shuttle couldn’t possibly be as poorly designed as it was, the Soviets assumed that there was some secret use-case that would totally redeem the program… so they build an exact replica of the Space Shuttle.
The Six Weeks of Halloween is fast approaching, so here’s a final clearing of the baffles before we descend into horror:
The Gig Economy – At first I thought this was a non-fiction commentary on the gig economy, but it quickly becomes clear that this is not the case. It’s still a very interesting little piece of internets ephemera, well worth checking out. It actually reminded me of a modern, technology focused version of the opening of Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show, in which a postal worker assigned to the dead letters office finds patterns in the lost letters. This story posits anonymous gig contracts online, and it turns out that there are patterns to be discovered in the nonsense. An interesting story and might even make good Hugo award fodder (it’s probably better than 99% of recent Hugo short stories).
Survivorship bias – The notion that focusing on survivors of a given tragedy can distort conclusions; the military example is a good one:
During World War II, the statistician Abraham Wald took survivorship bias into his calculations when considering how to minimize bomber losses to enemy fire. Researchers from the Center for Naval Analyses had conducted a study of the damage done to aircraft that had returned from missions, and had recommended that armor be added to the areas that showed the most damage. Wald noted that the study only considered the aircraft that had survived their missions—the bombers that had been shot down were not present for the damage assessment. The holes in the returning aircraft, then, represented areas where a bomber could take damage and still return home safely. Wald proposed that the Navy reinforce areas where the returning aircraft were unscathed, since those were the areas that, if hit, would cause the plane to be lost. His work is considered seminal in the then-fledgling discipline of operational research.
Fan Fiction Friday: Hogwarts and a Giant Squid in “First Encounter” – Warning, you probably don’t want to read this. More adventurous readers who are not scared of what the internet can throw at them probably don’t want to read this either. I didn’t particularly want to read it, but someone sent it to me and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I used to save all sorts of interesting links on del.icio.us and I had this tag called idontknowwhatthefuckisgoingonhere that I would use to categorize stuff like this. Unfortunately, I kinda do know what’s going on here, and it’s pretty gross.
That’s all for now. Stay frosty people, 6WH starts next Sunday.
I’m brewing beer today (something like this), so here are some linkies from the depths of ye olde internets:
The 10 Best Movies of 2017 – Christopher Orr’s list is nice and all, but this is worth reading for all his cheeky categorical awards later in the post. I will be shamelessly ripping some of them off for my Arbitrary Awards.
Want to know why most New Year’s resolutions flame out by February? Because they’re always about doing things that suck. Losing weight, drinking less sugary soda, reading a bunch of books: All of these things are awful. Even painful! No wonder no one ever follows through.
That’s why, every year, I make a New Year’s resolution about movies. In my experience, a person is much more likely to commit to self-improvement when self-improvement involves watching a lot of films.
Except for the part about reading books. Anyway, one of his suggested resolutions is to watch 50 films made before 1950. Looking back at my viewing last year, I only had 5 (and 2 of those were movies I’d seen before). This seems like a decent idea. I should get on that.
As per usual, just some linkies I found interesting:
My IRB Nightmare – Scott Alexander got revved up and tried to do some formal research at his hospital. The resulting bureaucratic mess is a thing to behold…
IRREGULARITY #1: Consent forms traditionally included the name of the study in big letters where the patient could see it before signing. Mine didn’t. Why not?
Well, because in questionnaire-based psychological research, you never tell the patient what you’re looking for before they fill out the questionnaire. That’s like Methods 101. The name of my study was “Validity Of A Screening Instrument For Bipolar Disorder”. Tell the patient it’s a study about bipolar disorder, and the gig is up.
The IRB listened patiently to my explanation, then told me that this was not a legitimate reason not to put the name of the study in big letters on the consent form. Putting the name of the study on the consent form was important. You know who else didn’t put the name of the study on his consent forms? Hitler.
The ultimate point is worth considering as well:
I sometimes worry that people misunderstand the case against bureaucracy. People imagine it’s Big Business complaining about the regulations preventing them from steamrolling over everyone else. That hasn’t been my experience. Big Business – heck, Big Anything – loves bureaucracy. They can hire a team of clerks and secretaries and middle managers to fill out all the necessary forms, and the rest of the company can be on their merry way. It’s everyone else who suffers. The amateurs, the entrepreneurs, the hobbyists, the people doing something as a labor of love. Wal-Mart is going to keep selling groceries no matter how much paperwork and inspections it takes; the poor immigrant family with the backyard vegetable garden might not.
though I bet somewhere, some bureaucracy is mandating the use of something like one of these for ridiculous reasons.
World’s Strongest Man — Full Day of Eating – Around 12,000 calories. This is almost a week’s worth of calories for me (or, uh, should be). The crazy thing is that he considers eating to be the hardest part of his training regimen, though it sounds like a constant, all day affair, so I could see that getting old.
The audience at Hercules in the Haunted World thought the styrofoam boulders were hilarious. They cracked up the first time Park opened his mouth and baritone Kihun Yoon began to sing. Soon after, most people settled down. But a third of the house continued to treat Bava’s heartbreaking fantasy epic like a comedy. Guy gets boiled in lava? Hysterical! Lady gets her throat slashed? Priceless! People weren’t laughing because Mario Bava was funny. They were laughing because Mario Bava wanted them to feel. (No one seemed to care if composer Patrick Morganelli and his singers had their own feelings hurt.)
The guy behind me munching Sour Patch Kids and wearing an ironic Hawaiian shirt kept up the chuckles for 91 minutes, long after I began to beseech Zeus to throw a non-styrofoam boulder at him. His stubborn laughter was an advertisement for his own superiority, like it’s heroic to refuse to be “suckered” by a fake rock that’s obviously fake. But there’s nothing triumphant about being too cool to dream.
Seriously, why would someone like that go to a Mario Bava movie? I guess he found it funny, but it’s still obnoxious.
Oh man, the Six Weeks of Halloween is coming. Just two weeks. Gird your loins.