Not Always Solemn with Possible Swearing: Inaugural Trivia

I don’t want ye olde blog to go without updates for too long, but I also gotta take care of some other stuff offline. I confess some of the delay in getting to those offline things has been checking out the many fun articles about all sorts of odd inaugural trivia. Enjoy! (there will be a test Thursday).

I’ve known some of the people involved with set-up and can confirm a bipartisan attention to detail. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Little (Mobile) Theater on the Prarie

The events of last Wednesday are still dwelling on my mind, so it was nice to catch this article by Lia Kvatum in the Washington Post Magazine about an itinerant creative who’s connecting communities to their history through theater. It provides some much needed light and joy… and the notion that we can communicate with one another.

Theatrical portraits of Hanson in Granite Falls, Minn. (Caroline Yang via the Washington Post)

Reading about how Ashley Hanson has been traveling to different communities and talking with the people reminds me of both how the Federal Theatre Project had a whole “think national, act local” approach to productions as well as the more recent Playback Theatre‘s attempts to translate personal experiences into short plays.

When it comes to theater, I am biased, what with it being a “non-trivial” portion of my working life, to say nothing of participating in some of the “walking theater” mentioned in the article (although my part got to be on stage). I believe live theater has a way of connecting and impacting people in a way that will make it just as relevant 100 years from now as it was 1,000 and more years ago. So I wish Hanson and others great success in hundreds more towns across America, because it means connecting and deep listening.

2020, but still Boldy Going

As will surprise no one who’s read my exhaustive ranking of all the Star Trek series, I’ve been watching all the new stuff. And it’s not just because those are going into the sort soon enough. A lot of it has been darn enjoyable in a 4th season Enterprise kind of way. They’re making connections and widening the Star Trek universe into quite the multiverse.

(via CBS)

Ryan Britt over on SyFy Wire details some of the things that we say last year.

Video

Mirror Universe: Workflowy Edition

On Monday, I hinted at New Year’s resolutions and general yearly planning. How am I going to do some of that planning? With Workflowy, an online (and offline) organizer I’ve used and touted since 2012.

The short version of why I like it so much is that it’s essentially an infinitely reconfigurable checklist. Or checklist of checklists. Or checklist of checklists of checklists. You get the idea.

That short explanation touches on one of the traps people can find themselves in, where an item might fit in two categories: say, “Stuff to do Today” and “Items to Research for Blog Posts.”

Their new “mirror” function allows for not just copying a task, but making it so any update on one of the mirrors updates all the mirrors. So you can your organizer can now go all Kwisatz Haderach: be many places at once.

Part of my new year’s planning? Updating my jumble of “Workflowy filing cabinets” into a leaner set of mirrored tasks.

Video

A Short Guide to Successful Traits

I’m working on some longer pieces on New Year’s and resolutions, but in the meantime, while “success” might be a long journey, this TED video about traits researchers have found in successful people is under four minutes.

I mean, granted, that means there’s no time for nuance, but if you’re raring to jump into your New Year goal planning, this might help motivate you.

Public Domain Day, 2021

Since I’ve written about it before, I suppose I should make a habit of celebrating the fact that New Year’s Day is also Public Domain Day, which in the U.S. means that, as of today, any copyrights from works released or otherwise published in 1925 have expired and said works are now in the public domain.

Montage via the Center for the Study of the Public Domain

I should mention that I’m not an entirely disinterested party in these matters. As the head of Jabberwocky Audio Theater, I have a keen interest in stories that might make good adaptations for audio fiction. I mean, we can and will continue to find works from the 19th century and earlier to use (adapting “Prince Prigio” last year was a lot of fun). But “new” old stuff would be fun to do as well.

We’re not likely to do an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, but as Ian Carlos Campbell argues over on The Verge, the Muppets should totally do a version of that quintessential novel of the Jazz Age.

Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, not surprisingly has a nice rundown of many noteworthy works available sans copyright — and also explains why it’s great to have many non-noteworthy works available as well.

I should also note that Public Domain in the U.S. is a bit different than worldwide rights, which vary widely. But it’s certainly worth exploring. What books or films do you want to see new adaptations of?

Video

Our Robot Overlords can Boogie

This video burst onto the Internet yesterday and is already over 5 million views. A lot of people have reacted in horror of the robot revolution they feel sure this heralds, but I’m thinking the more dancing, the less machinations.

Theater Strategy Post-Covid

I’ve been watching how theater and film productions have been coping with the pandemic (as you can see from June, July, and earlier in December). Safely producing new works is important not only considering my role in running Jabberwocky Audio Theater, but also thinking of my many colleagues whose livelihood requires being on stages and sets.

Federal Theater Project production of Macbeth, 1936 (Library of Congress)

So this article in Fortune, not my usual source for theater news, was an interesting read. Author Michael Barra puts forth some predictions about how theater may change, starting with Broadway and how the tourist percentage of audiences will drop, and then taking that change and extrapolating out to theater trends overall.

Considering how many performers are affected outside of Broadway, I hope cities and localities begin to look to how ‘creatives’ can help the economy (as, in truth, they have always done).

My 50 Favorite Films, 2020 Edition

It’s an even year, although the nicest thing you can say about 2020 is that it was odd. But, in any case, even years mean it’s time for my Favorite Films sort, something I have done offline for about 30 years and have done online for the past eight years. You can see my previous entries here (including how I do the sort by pairwise comparison).

You’ll have to read on to determine if The Godfather was deemed better or worse.

This year, the total of films sorted was a little over 400. Two years ago, it was around 570, but I was able to do a deeper culling as I added cards for the newly watched films for this year.

Just as with two years ago, there was some major shakeup in the top 10, along with 15 additions to the top 50 that were either new or sorted lower on a previous year. Some of the results are shocking. Why, Die Hard isn’t even my favorite Christmas film any more!

What?!? How does Smeerensburg replace Nakatomi Plaza?

Hush, you. One Christmas movie delivered because it clearly had correct postage.

Anyway, here are the ground rules:

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) The Hunt for Red October
49) Tangled
48) A Few Good Men
47) Casino Royale
46) The Court Jester
45) Koyaanisqatsi
44) Inception
43) Gattaca
42) Black Panther
41) Arrival
40) Hamilton
39) Big Fish
38) Ghostbusters
37) Das Boot
36) Amelie
35) The Godfather
34) Midnight Run
33) Minority Report
32) Never Cry Wolf
31) Breaker Morant
30) Rob Roy
29) The Godfather, Part II
28) The Count of Monte Cristo
27) North by Northwest
26) The Namesake
25) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
24) Schindler’s List
23) Citizen Kane
22) 2010
21) Children of Men
20) The Princess Bride
19) Singin’ in the Rain
18) Galaxy Quest
17) Once Upon a Time in the West
16) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
15) Guardians of the Galaxy
14) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
13) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
12) The Little Prince
11) Spotlight
10) Black Hawk Down
9) Field of Dreams
8) The Empire Strikes Back
7) Casablanca
6) The Lives of Others
5) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
4) Ran   
3) The Shawshank Redemption
2) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
1) Raiders of the Lost Ark   

And, as before, here are some…

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total Comedies: 7
  • Total Dramas: 30
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 27
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 23
  • Total Westerns: 1
  • Total War Movies: 13
  • Total Musicals: 4
  • Total Animated Films: 3
  • Total films with Liam Neeson: 2
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1992
  • Decade with the most favorites: 2000s (13 films), followed closely by the 1980s (12 films)
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Sense & Sensibility (1995)

All right, here’s some other thoughts…

What a lot of war

Okay, I guess it’s not the majority of films, but 13 is “nontrivial.” You pair that with all the dramas, and it does seem heavier. I’ve also noted that, in general, though I inhale TV shows these days — thanks to the omnipresent streaming services — really none of them are sitcoms. Evidently I get my comedy in the ‘quippiness’ inherent to many an action-adventure (the majority of the films in the 50).

Perhaps I should revisit a few more comedies for next time.

No Trek and Star Wars goes Rogue

In perhaps a strange turn of events, considering my epic Star Trek TV sorting earlier this year (whose sorting methodology I adapted from here) no Star Trek film is in the top 50.

Trek films 2, 4, 6, and 8 are all in the sort and “Wrath of Khan” has been in the Favorite 50 frequently. I guess the familiar is no longer the favorite.

Similarly, The Empire Strikes Back, perhaps always in my favorite list, has retired to a lower place behind young upstart Rogue One.

As with other longstanding films on the list, I guess the personal resonance only goes so far and I’m ready for new things, which may explain why…

Hamilton did have the votes

Because I maintained a strict personal blackout on the play, I didn’t know most of the details or any of the music about Hamilton (musicals not being my thing anyway, despite working on dozens of them in a former life). And then it came to Disney+ and blew us all away.

But Hamilton was a damn fine musical and if “concert films” like The Last Waltz and Woodstock are eligible for the sort (which they are), then Hamilton certainly was. And I watched it several more times after my wife and my initial watch just to be sure. I wasn’t going to throw away its shot.

Besides Hamilton and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being brand new entries to the sort that also got in the top 50, I also noticed the average age of the top 50 went from ‘1986’ in the 2018 sort to ‘1992’ now. I suspect that average will continue to rise in 2022.

As with the comedies, should I delve into the deeper trove of classic films? Maybe.

No Christmas in the Favorite 50

There’s always a few films that are undoubtedly favorites that, nevertheless, fail to break the top 50 — and that seems frequently the case with both spy-fi and holiday films.

While a Bond film actually broke into the top 50 this year (Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale), Die Hard, which supplanted the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street as my favorite Christmas film, was itself supplanted.

The interloper, Klaus, narrowly missed out by coming in at #54, so perhaps it’ll get in next time, as The Little Prince did this time. Die Hard is still in the overall 100 at #80. You really should check out Klaus though. It’s delightful.


So there you have it. Another sort in an altogether too long two year interval, this year being at least 14 years long. Here’s hoping there’s more joy in 2022, and if I’ve inspired anyone to check out some films, my job here is done.

2020 Additions to the National Film Registry

Apropos of the Laurel and Hardy post earlier this week, and the fact that Christmas with the extended Munsons always involves receiving and watching films on Christmas Day, the recent inductees into the National Film Registry include the 1927 classic “Battle of the Century.”

Back when Mutually Assured Destruction was less lethal and more delectable.

Dave McNary over at Variety details the other inductees.