Missing the Show

Seeing John Hodgman in Flight of the Conchords reminded me of this. Does anyone else miss the show? It’s hard to believe it finished less than a year-and-a-half ago. Seems like ancient new-media history now.

A favorite episode from long before the Scrabulous kerfuffle: Scrabble.
[Tags]The Show, Flight of the Conchords, John Hodgman[/Tags]

I’m Not There *****

Unlike Steve (who walked out before the end!), I loved I’m Not There. It worked so well for me precisely because it was only half-coherent. Like Dylan’s own music, you’re never really sure if it’s deeper than you can possibly grasp, just a cosmic joke, or maybe both. Cate Blanchett nearly steals the show as the only fully Dylan-esque Dylan, but 13-year-old Marcus Carl Franklin is a close runner up (below with Richie Havens):

[Tags]Dylan, I’m Not There, Music, Film[/Tags]

The Best Movie to Start at 11pm at the End of a Long Trial…

Anatomy of a Murder. David Denby put it best:

Otto Preminger’s “Anatomy of a Murder,” from 1959, is still the best courtroom drama ever made in this country, and, in its occasional forays out of the court, among the finest evocations of place—an Upper Peninsula Michigan resort area in the off-season, leafless, underpopulated, alcoholic, and forlorn. James Stewart, in one of his wonderful melancholy “late” performances, plays a former county prosecutor named Biegler, a lifelong bachelor who now spends his time with a non-practicing lawyer (Arthur O’Connell) and an unpaid secretary (Eve Arden), who sticks around for the wisecracks. The movie is leisurely, detailed, realistic, intensely companionable; you get a sense of how people exist at the margins of a profession without losing their dignity.

Although there are some distinctions between a murder defense in the 1950’s in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and modern-day patent litigation, the essence of trial technique is really not all that different.  Highly recommended.

Prosecutor: Lieutenant Manion, wasn’t your action against Barney Quill much the same thing as your action against Miller or the Lieutenant you slapped at the cocktail party — all done in the heat of anger, with a willful, conscious desire to hurt or kill?

Defendant: I don’t remember my action against Quill.

Prosecutor: How long had you known your wife was stepping out with Quill?

Defendant: I never knew anything like that. I trust my wife.

Prosecutor: You just occasionally beat her up for the fun of it, I suppose?

Defense Counsel: There has been nothing established to permit a question like that. He keeps trying to insinuate without ever coming to the point. Let him ask the Lieutenant, did he ever beat his wife.

Judge: I will sustain the objection. Do you want to re-phrase your question, Mr. Dancer?

Prosecutor: No thank you, Your Honor. I’ve finished.

[Tags]Otto Preminger, Anatomy of a Murder, David Denby[/Tags]

Bourne Execution

Two words: flawless execution.

I can enjoy almost any movie that is well constructed, regardless of genre, plot, etc..

It did help to sit pretty far back in the theater, though.

If the CIA were really as clever and technologically sophisticated as it appears in the Bourne movies, the United States wouldn’t have so many foreign policy disasters on its hands (egregious constitutional violations notwithstanding).

[Tags]Bourne Ultimatum, Movies, Queasycam[/tags]

Reduced to Quirk

Michael Hirschorn in this month’s Atlantic reduces my generation’s entire cultural zeitgeist to a single word: quirk.

Quirk, loosed from its moorings, quickly becomes exhausting. It’s easy for David Cross’s character on Arrested Development to cover himself in paint for a Blue Man Group audition, or for the New Zealand duo on Flight of the Conchords to make a spectacularly cheesy sci-fi video about the future while wearing low-rent robot costumes. But the pleasures are passing. Like the proliferation of meta-humor that followed David Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld in the ’90s, quirk is everywhere because quirkiness is so easy to achieve: Just be odd … but endearing. It becomes a kind of psychographic marker, like wearing laceless Chuck Taylors or ironic facial hair—a self-satisfied pose that stands for nothing and doesn’t require you to take creative responsibility. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Hirschorn makes a fair point which, I think, can be restated that much of the content I enjoy is really just candy.

The Atlantic seems to have recently figured out its readership (or at least figured out me). Hard to Swallow (by B.R. Myers, who more typically writes about Korean issues) is a pointed moral critique of modern food lovers (chowhounds?) and food writing (including Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, much read by my contemporaries). If I weren’t already a vegetarian, I might take umbrage.

“Insider baseball” pieces on Karl Rove and Michael Gerson are also excellent, and in the case of the former quite timely.

To wrap up this encomium, props to the magazine for its clean new website design, which I believe premiered today, and for including an embedded Youtube video in the online version of the quirk article.

Netflix Wishlist: IMDB Crosslinks

Add to my Netflix Wishlist (that is, the list of features I wish Netflix had, not the list of movies I wish I had): links from IMDB entries to the respective Netflix page (or, better yet, “add to Netflix queue” directly from IMDB). Links back to IMDB from Netflix would also be nice.

This seems like something that would be relatively easy to do with a Mozilla plugin. In general, Netflix would be a prime candidate for a developer/hobbyist ecology similar to that which has grown up around Amazon’s API. The only examples I could find were this Perl module and this Moveable-Type plugin. More development along these lines could be a key advantage for Netflix to preserve its now incumbent position in the market. (Does anyone have any local video stores left? Ours closed down about a year ago.)

Update: James points to an impressive list of Greasemonkey/Netflix scripts, two of which seem to do the job: Netflix links in IMDB, IMDB links in Netflix. Another featuer I’ve been looking for: Netflix Ratings Granulizer (allows partial stars in ratings). Thanks, Lazyweb! (Note that these sorts of screen-scraping hacks inevitably break when the content provider modifies its presentation; an open API would obviously be preferable).

Chaiyya Chaiyya

A reason to love YouTube: Chaiyya Chaiyya.

[Tags]Bollywood, Youtube[/Tags]

Advertisements… trailers?

Movie trailers linked from IMDB now apparently require you to watch an unrelated advertisement before the trailer starts.

And here I thought movie trailers were advertisements…

Netflix Should Have Standing Orders

One feature I’d like to see at Netflix: a “standing order” for films that match particular criteria. For example, I would be happy to have Netflix automatically add any Pedro Almodóvar film to my queue as soon as it enters the Netflix universe (Volver looks interesting). I also wouldn’t mind any film rated four stars by Roger Ebert to be dropped into the queue. You could even ask Netflix to add anything that its collaborative filters give a top rating based on your past preferences. Then you would just sit back and be surprised at what arrives for you.

Rather than “opt-in,” the system would become “opt-out” — similar to those discount CD clubs that were popular in the 1980’s, where you had to tell them if you didn’t want the pick of the month. (I built the bulk of my CD collection in that era by taking advantage of the occasional “3 for the price 1” deals.) The difference here is that you are actually likely to want the pick of the month.

A related feature would be “add all” matching a certain criteria with a single action — for example, all Hitchcock films.

This is pretty much how I select films anyway. Knowing that a film is directed by Robert Bresson or Akira Kurosawa (two of my favorite directors) tells me a lot more than a plot synopsis. I’d actually rather know nothing about the film itself in advance.

Ebert on Doom

Best quote from Roger Ebert’s response to a reader’s defense of ‘Doom’: “I am a believer in the value-added concept of filmmaking…”