Later On

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Archive for the ‘Movies & TV’ Category

“Falling Down”

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Recently I was reading one of the many lists of great movies to watch, and I happened across Falling Down (1993), which I had seen back in the day. I can’t find the article now, but it said some interesting things. The movie stars Michael Douglas (and his father said it was his best role). Douglas was wanting to take a break after just finishing Basic Instinct, but when he read the script, he wanted the role. He even asked for his salary to be cut to make more money available for the movie. Other notable cast: Robert Duvall, Tuesday Weld, Barbara Hershey, Frederic Forrest, and Rachel Ticotin.

It’s on Netflix, so I started watching it again, and it really is excellent Reccommended.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2022 at 9:35 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Streaming content and the squeeze for more profit

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I watch a fair amount of streaming content, and I have noticed a decline in quality and range of offerings (with no decline in prices — quite the contrary, in fact). And from a report by Travis Andrews (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post, it’s going to get worse.

The morning after she gave birth last month, Lindsay Katai was in the hospital’s postpartum room with her new baby when her fiance stumbled on some bad news on Twitter. “ ‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘They removed “Infinity Train” from HBO Max.’ ”

“And that’s how I found out,” Katai said.

The critically acclaimed animated show she had worked on extensively was simply deleted, thrown into a black hole of corporate cost-saving measures, along with several titles on HBO Max. The company, she added, even scrubbed every mention of the show from its social media accounts.

“It’s hard because it used to be your show would air and it could go away forever, regardless if it was on cable or network. … But we thought we were protected from that because of streaming. That was always sort of the consolation — we’re not getting paid as much. We’re not getting residuals. But at least we’ll be accessible for a long time to come. And lo and behold, that’s not the case anymore,” Katai said. “It’s a purely bottom-line-driven decision-making process that’s all about maximizing profits over any kind of artistic voice.”

“I don’t feel great about being a writer right now,” she added. “I don’t feel great about being in the industry right now.”

Streaming television is going through an existential crisis, involving the people who make it and the viewers who watch it. Its revolutionary zeal has naturally faded, as that initial wave of near limitless expansion, boundless creative opportunities and vast archival choices crashes ashore, after a spate of megamergers and a drop in new subscribers.

Just when streaming has finally attracted more viewers than cable or broadcast TV, its major players are engaged in a long-predicted war for subscribers, who are becoming all too aware of rising subscription prices and, both subtly and directly, a change in what programs get made and how long they stick around. Commercials could soon become more common, and services may be bundled (for one low monthly price!), already triggering visions of a future that recalls the dark days of cable.

The list of seismic rumblings in recent weeks is long, as chronicled in the Hollywood Reporter, Variety and elsewhere: Warner Bros. Discovery is cutting shows from its archives and unfinished movies from HBO Max as it prepares to merge it with its sister streaming service Discovery Plus, having promised its shareholders a $3 billion cut in costs. Faced with a plunging stock price and worrisome subscriber loss, Netflix plans to add an advertising-supported model for a lower price and may crack down on password sharing. Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus, which can all be subscribed to in a cable-esque bundle, are raising prices after taking a more than $1 billion hit in the fiscal third quarter. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime just debuted the most expensive show ever made — a Lord of the Rings drama — in hopes to gain ground in a crowded market.

“The streaming services are moving more toward becoming more similar to the broadcast networks and cable networks that existed before,” said Tim Doyle, a TV writer and producer who has been in the industry for more than three decades. “They’ve suddenly come up with this great idea that if you put in advertising, you can make money selling the ads! So they’re basically just kind of retreating back to the things that are familiar.”

The fear of having your show or movie deleted on an executive’s whim — a growing reality for many, including Katai — is compounded by the fact that in the post-DVD digital age, viewers may never be able to access the shows again. Showrunners might not even have physical copies of their own work. And that’s not the only downside for creators. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

11 September 2022 at 1:19 pm

If you’re a fan of Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon,” here’s an account of the actual event

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Daniel Edward Rosen writes in City Journal:

The memory that sticks out to Jim Murphy from the screwiest bank robbery in New York City’s history is not the slow drive down a dark road at JFK Airport, with a shotgun leveled inches from his head, or the scrum of onlookers hooting and hollering every time hostage-taker John Wojtowicz stood toe-to-toe with negotiators. It’s not the salacious details of Wojtowicz’s backstory—man robs bank to pay for his “wife’s” sex-change operation in attempt to woo him/her back—or the pop of Murphy’s revolver as he shot Sal Naturale during a struggle for control of Naturale’s shotgun. It isn’t the kiss on the cheek from the hostage he had just saved, or the night, a few years later, that he saw Lance Henriksen play a grim-faced caricature of him in Dog Day Afternoon, the Sidney Lumet film based on the 1972 robbery, while seated in a theater packed with an audibly pro–Al Pacino (playing “Sonny Wortzik,” the fictionalized version of Wojtowicz) and anti-Henriksen audience.

What Murphy remembers most is the shot he didn’t take. It’s the feeling of the trigger as he aimed his gun at Wojtowicz, the mastermind of the robbery. At that moment, Murphy had just shot Naturale in his torso. Another FBI agent had just disarmed Wojtowicz of his rifle. But Wojtowicz also had a pistol in his waistband. His hands were slowly moving down toward his waist. Murphy knew that Wojtowicz had the pistol and commanded him to “freeze,” to get his hands back up in the air; his trigger finger maintained the tension between mercy and retribution.

Fifty years later, seated at a diner in Fresh Meadows, Queens, Murphy says that he can still feel that tension, the great control he had at that moment—and when Wojtowicz eventually complied with his orders, the sensation of the trigger’s release. Had Murphy not released it—had the incalculable hours of training he received at the Bureau not kicked in—he could have shot two men that early morning instead of one. Wojtowicz “wasn’t at his gun yet. He was going for it. I could have shot him, and people would have said it was a justifiable shooting. I don’t think that’s the best way to behave. The instinct isn’t to kill somebody. The instinct is to stop the action,” Murphy noted.

“You can’t leave these things in the bad guys’ hands. And I use ‘bad guys’ for lack of a better term. We’re talking about a moment. I don’t think Sal was a bad guy. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who’s a bad guy, you know? But he put himself in a very bad situation where the opposition can’t make that distinction,” said Murphy.

Both the robbery and Dog Day Afternoon brought Murphy stature and admiration within the Bureau, as he regularly gave talks to starstruck FBI agents about the eternal conflict between the facts of a case and its Hollywood portrayal. Outside the Bureau, he remained relatively anonymous—few people knew of his involvement in the robbery, save for friends and family. In both the film and in published reports about the event, he was known simply as “Murphy.”

Today, Murphy runs his own private investigation firm, which he’s done since he resigned from the Bureau in 1984. He looks the same as he did back then, save for more gray in his close-cropped hair. He still loves the Bureau and everyone he worked with there. He still wears collared shirts, ironed to perfection, still wears an expression that’s congenial yet discerning, still speaks in a gentle Queens accent. He is a man at peace with his life and the good and bad it has brought with it.

Murphy could have stayed at the Bureau and risen in the ranks. His last role was as  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2022 at 1:44 pm

Reminding myself of the depths of my ignorance

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Just as adults generally tend to spend their time using skills they’ve already mastered (and thus gradually forgetting the awkwardness of learning a new skill and in time forgetting how to learn a new skill), adults also tend to focus on things they know and understand and avert their gaze from the vast jungles of ignorance all around them. This leads to the sublime confidence people often display when discussing things about which they know almost nothing (the Dunning-Kruger effect).

Venturing into some area of ignorance and spending a little time looking around helps one grasp how very much they do not know — and in considering that there are a great many such areas, each a familiar and well-known place for those with knowledge and experience in that area (though of course they, too, will have many, many areas in which they are the bumbling ignoramus instead of the practiced expert).

I enjoyed this brief video because it shows just how much some people know about something of which I am very ignorant. I suppose this falls under the category “Humility Lessons.”

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2022 at 11:22 am

“Princess Mononoke”: The masterpiece that flummoxed the US

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Princess Mononoke is currently available via Netflix, and it is certainly worth (re)watching. Stephen Kelly writes for BBC Culture:

In 1997, the British fantasy author Neil Gaiman received a call out of the blue from then-head of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein. “This animated film, Princess Mononoke,” Gaiman recalls him saying, “it’s the biggest thing in Japan right now. So I thought I’ve got to get the best to do it. I called Quentin Tarantino and said, ‘Quentin, will you do the English language script?’ And he said, you don’t want me, you want Gaiman. So, I’m calling you.” Miramax, a then-subsidiary of Disney, had acquired the rights to distribute Princess Mononoke, the newest film from Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, in the United States, and Weinstein wanted to fly Gaiman to Los Angeles to watch a cut of the movie.

“I had zero plans to do it,” Gaiman tells BBC Culture. “But the moment that changed everything for me was the scene where you’re looking at this large pebble. And then a raindrop hits it. And then another raindrop hits it. And then another raindrop hits it. And now it’s raining and the surface is slippery and wet. And I’m like, ‘I have never seen anything like this. This is real filmmaking. This is David Lean-level filmmaking. This is Akira Kurosawa-level filmmaking. This is the real deal.'”

When Princess Mononoke was first released in Japan on 12 July 1997, 25 years ago this week, it represented something of a departure for master animator and director Hayao Miyazaki. During the late 80s, Miyazaki had built his reputation (along with the success of Studio Ghibli, which he founded with fellow director Isao Takahata) on films like Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro; formally ambitious, thematically rich works, but generally affirming in tone and family-friendly in nature. But something changed during the 90s. Firstly, he began to bristle at the popular idea that Studio Ghibli only makes gentle movies about how great nature is. “I begin to hear of Ghibli as ‘sweet’ or ‘healing,'” he grumbles in Princess Mononoke: How the Film Was Conceived, a six-hour documentary about the film’s production, “and I get an urge to destroy it.” Yet even more significant was his growing despair at a world which he had increasingly come to believe was cursed.

“He used to be what he called leftist in sympathy, a believer in people power,” explains Shiro Yoshioka, lecturer in Japanese Studies at Newcastle University. “But for obvious reasons [the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the escalation in ethnic conflicts across Europe], his political beliefs were totally shaken in the early 1990s.”

Japan itself was also going through something of an existential crisis. The country’s bubble period, an economic boom during the late 80s, burst in 1992, stranding Japan in a seemingly endless recession. Three years later, in 1995, the country was hit by the Kobe earthquake, the worst earthquake to hit Japan since 1922. It killed 6,000 people, and destroyed the homes of tens of thousands more. Only two months after that, a terrorist cult by the name of Aum Shinrikyo launched a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo Metro, killing 13 and injuring thousands. Miyazaki, who was sickened by the materialism of the bubble period, was now living in a country traumatised and confused – both by its relationship with nature, and a creeping sense of spiritual emptiness.

“He began to think,” says Yoshioka, “maybe I should not make this entertaining, light-hearted stuff for children. Maybe I should make something substantial.”

A new anger

Set during the 14th Century, the Muromachi period of Japan, Princess Mononoke tells the story of Ashitaka, a young prince cursed by . . .

Continue reading. But perhaps it’s best to read the article after you’ve watched the movie. The article has many spoilers.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2022 at 12:56 pm

“Zero City,” a fascinating surreal late-Soviet movie

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Zero City (aka Zerograd) was released 34 years ago and is a stunning movie. You can watch the entire movie on YouTube in full HD. (Unless you understand Russian, you’ll want to turn on the English subtitles by clicking the little “CC” box in the screen’s menu bar.)

Politico has an interesting article on how the movie relates to current Russian events (and of what became of some of the participants in the movie), but it is chockablock with spoilers, so I recommend you watch the movie before you read the article in Politico.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2022 at 7:29 am

“Hard Boiled” now on Prime video

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I haven’t seen Hard Boiled (1992), a John Woo film that stars Chow Yun Fat and Tony Leung, for years, but it is vivid in my memory (though I had forgotten the very nice jazz intro scene). It’s the sort of film you’ll like if you like this sort of film. — update: Hey! Anthony Wong’s in it, too.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2022 at 10:31 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Excellent movie: “The Last Full Measure”

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The Last Full Measure on Netflix now is an excellent movie with an excellent cast. Based on a true story.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2022 at 2:19 pm

Norman Lear: “On My 100th Birthday, Reflections on Archie Bunker and Donald Trump”

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Norman Lear writes in the NY Times (gift link, no paywall):

Well, I made it. I am 100 years old today. I wake up every morning grateful to be alive.

Reaching my own personal centennial is cause for a bit of reflection on my first century — and on what the next century will bring for the people and country I love. To be honest, I’m a bit worried that I may be in better shape than our democracy is.

I was deeply troubled by the attack on Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 — by supporters of former President Donald Trump attempting to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Those concerns have only grown with every revelation about just how far Mr. Trump was willing to go to stay in office after being rejected by voters — and about his ongoing efforts to install loyalists in positions with the power to sway future elections.

I don’t take the threat of authoritarianism lightly. As a young man, I dropped out of college when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and joined the U.S. Army Air Forces. I flew more than 50 missions in a B-17 bomber to defeat fascism consuming Europe. I am a flag-waving believer in truth, justice and the American way, and I don’t understand how so many people who call themselves patriots can support efforts to undermine our democracy and our Constitution. It is alarming.

At the same time, I have been moved by the courage of the handful of conservative Republican lawmakers, lawyers and former White House staffers who resisted Mr. Trump’s bullying. They give me hope that Americans can find unexpected common ground with friends and family whose politics differ but who are not willing to sacrifice core democratic principles.

Encouraging that kind of conversation was a goal of mine when we began broadcasting “All in the Family” in 1971. The kinds of topics Archie Bunker and his family argued about — issues that were dividing Americans from one another, such as racism, feminism, homosexuality, the Vietnam War, and Watergate — were certainly being talked about in homes and families. They just weren’t being acknowledged on television.

For all his faults, Archie loved his country and he loved his family, even when they called him out on his ignorance and bigotries. If Archie had been around 50 years later, he probably would have watched Fox News. He probably would have been a Trump voter. But I think that the sight of the American flag being used to attack Capitol Police would have sickened him. I hope that the resolve shown by Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and their commitment to exposing the truth, would have won his respect.

It is remarkable to consider that  . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2022 at 12:43 pm

A man who planted trees

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Read the full report on this effort.

Hikmet Kaya, retired forest engineer from Turkey, standing in front of a land which he afforested while holding a photograph of it from 41 years ago when he started.

From that report:

Hikmet Kaya has proved that good intentions and hard work can yield big rewards. The retired Turkish forest management chief has posed proudly in front of the barren land that he and his team have transformed into a lush forest. He began his career in the town of Sinop in 1978 and while he retired 19 years later, his legacy has continued to grow—literally.

Working together with his team and villagers, he brought in and planted 30,000,000 saplings over the course of his tenure. Long after his retirement, these trees have continued to grow; and today, this barren stepped land has undergone an incredible transformation. During the 19 years of afforestation efforts, Kaya never stopped working. And 41 years after he first began this ambitious afforestation project, he returned to the now-lush land with a picture of the once-barren environment, highlighting what a huge difference there is in the landscape. Needless to say, he admits he’s very happy with the results.

It’s a wonderful example to set for the rest of the country. According to Global Forest Watch, Turkey has seen a 5.4% decrease in tree cover since 2000. Deforestation was the overriding cause of much of this decrease, so contributing to its reversal is critical.

Combatting deforestation often comes down to governmental policy changes, which makes it important for . . .

Continue reading. The report includes links to stories about individuals who are planting trees.

That brought immediately to mind this short movie:

At one time, it was thought that forests grew where there was water and good rainfall, but as we are incessantly told, correlation is not causation, and in this case the causation is the reverse of what was believed: it is the forest that causes the rainfall and water. In fact, the amount of water that the Amazon forest releases into the atmosphere is greater than the amount of water that flows in the Amazon river. (Of course, we’re putting a stop to that by deforesting the Amazon basin to grow cattle so McDonald’s can make cheap hamburgers.)

Update: And another real-life example:

Written by Leisureguy

22 July 2022 at 9:45 am

War and Peace: book and movie

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It’s no surprise that War and Peace is one of the books in my list of books I find myself repeatedly recommending, and in fact its entry includes a link to a free ebook of an excellent translation (along with a tactic on how to get a handle on the large number of characters you will encounter in reading it).

Colin Marshall in Open Culture points out a free four-part movie adaptation of the novel from 1966-67. Generally speaking, movies made from books fall short of the experience of reading the book and must also overcome things easy to convey in print but challenging to show on the screen — for example, a character’s internal state or a quick summary of action. For example, “He rode hard for three days and nights” is quick and easy to read and understand, but showing that on the screen requires a montage that can seem interminable. (In fairness, movies can also easily and quickly present some things difficult to portray in print — for example, a party scene in a movie presents immediately and directly the sounds of the party — the music, the snippets of overheard conversation, the sounds of drinks pour, glasses clinked, plates moved — along with the appearance of the guests and their garb, the physical setting, and what’s happening. All that is immediately evident, with no need at all for a detailed description.

Still, though I point out the movie — free — I would first recommend the book — also free.

Written by Leisureguy

5 July 2022 at 10:45 am

Posted in Books, Movies & TV

Side-by-side comparison: Great actors v. Good actors, using a scene from “Heat”

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Bilge Ebiri has an interesting article in Vulture, in which he discusses the movie Heat, and in particular the work of Robert de Niro and Al Pacino. The entire article is worth reading, but the icing on the cake is the same scene (in all important aspects) being done by two journeymen actors and then done by de Niro and Pacino.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 11:59 am

Posted in Art, Movies & TV

“The Need to Grow” — free to watch for one more day

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The documentary Free to Grow can be watched for free for one more day, so leap on it. From the link:

“No human being on the planet should miss this film.”
— Society of Voice Arts and Sciences

“Perhaps the best film on sustainability I have ever seen.”
— Teddy Grouya, Founding Director – American Documentary Film Festival

“I loved this movie…it was one of those environmental movies that gave me hope.”
— Todd James, Global News

Thanks to reader JvR for the tip.

NOTE: Once you sign up to watch (which you can do free for one more day), you have three days to actually watch the movie — so you get the weekend to see it if you sign up now.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 10:28 am

“The Wire” stands along

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James Poniewozik has an appreciative column about “The Wire” (gift link, no paywall):

When critics get to assessing a classic TV show, we have a weird tendency to turn into evolutionary biologists. We pull out the old television family tree and gauge the series’s achievement by how many branches we can trace back to it — how many series modeled one or another aspect on it. “Dragnet,” “The Simpsons,” “Lost” — you shall know them by their copycats.

And sure, influence is one measure of greatness. But so is inimitability. There is the painter who leaves behind a school of disciples, but there is also the artist who sees a color that no one has envisioned before or since.

“The Wire” premiered on HBO on June 2, 2002. In the two decades since, its reputation has only grown, as has its audience. It is one of those series, like the original “Star Trek,” that future generations will refuse to believe struggled with low ratings during its entire run. (Let alone that it was nominated for an absurd two Emmys, and won exactly none.)

But has anyone made another “Wire” since? Who — besides the creator, David Simon, in his later series — has emulated its sprawl, its complexity, its bucking of TV’s easy-to-digest episodic structure? TV fans and makers praise the show as a landmark and inspiration. Yet 20 years later, “The Wire” — like the cheese in the tune whistled by the show’s notorious drug bandit, Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) — stands alone.

To appreciate what “The Wire” was, you first have to consider what it wasn’t. It was nothing like the

Continue reading (gift link, no paywall).

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2022 at 6:26 am

Posted in Art, Movies & TV

How The French New Wave Changed Filmmaking Forever

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When innovations are broadly accepted into our daily experience, we tend to forget their innovative nature because now they just are the way things are. This brief video explains where some of the filmmaking techniques now in common use first arose.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2022 at 1:23 pm

“Ruin”: An animated short now, to be part of a feature film

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“Animation” does not mean what it once did — it’s gone far beyond that.

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2022 at 7:00 pm

Hayao Miyazaki, The Mind of a Master

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Via Open Culture:

I need to rewatch some of his movies.

Written by Leisureguy

10 May 2022 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Business, Movies & TV, Video

How Postwar Italy Created The Paparazzi

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Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2022 at 3:59 pm

Shugo Tokumaru / Katachi

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Written by Leisureguy

21 April 2022 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Music, Video

Why do so many cinematographers prefer this one camera?

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Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2022 at 9:25 am

Posted in Art, Movies & TV, Technology

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