“Every [film] has to come to an end, sometime.”

I think L. Frank Baum (the source of the amended quotation above) would understand. Like books, songs, and many other an enjoyable thing: all things come to an end.

Thanks to one of my siblings, I have a glorious poster of assorted iconic film endings hanging in my house.

The sharp-eyed among you will note the cunningly-placed “author watermark.”

Who doesn’t love a really solid ending to a film? Whether it’s funny, poignant, thought-provoking, or applause-inducing, a satisfying ending is what so often makes a good movie great.

So I had to give Vulture’s recent roundup of “The 101 Greatest Endings in Movies History.”

Do I agree with them all? No more than many of you probably agree with my 50 Favorite Films. But just as I take that exercise seriously (well, as seriously as one should), the team over at Vulture has clearly put a lot of thought into the piece — and their love of film from all over the globe and from all decades is on display.

It should go without saying that this list is chock full of spoilers. At least 101 of them and possibly more depending on your familiarity of the films on this list. And here’s the thing: there will be films on this list that you have not seen. I have seen literally over 10,000 films in my lifetime and there are films on this list that I have never checked out. Odds are you’re in the same boat.

If that’s the case, heed the words of Roy Scheider: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Go forth and enjoy some films with great endings.

Prepare for Brood X!

Denizens of the Washington metropolitan region share some experiences, like watching Hollywood films where they never get the geography right, there’s some problem on the Beltway, and also… Brood X.

And yeah, based on the map above, we’re not alone in dealing with the sudden and noisy appearance of billions of formidably-sized bugs all ready to fly right into your face.

Seriously, it’s clear from talking with many of my fellow Americans, they have not experienced this little Biblical reenactment and have a hard time imagining it. This will be my third installment.

Keith Matheny and Georgea Kovanis of the Detroit Free Press have a good rundown of the whys and wherefores of this torrent of red-eyed insect exuberance (that’s also the article where the map comes from).

But in the meantime, bear in mind that these Mirror Universe grape leaves do not back down from the appearance of a flyswatter like a fruit fly might. Heck, they don’t even get phased if you whack ’em with it. Not that you should. They’re just here to mate and go back into the soil, doing their part to contribute to the nutrients in the ecosystem.

But if you plan to record some audio, you probably want to do it before May.

Cue Rockin’ Blogiversary Music

Wait! How is this Star Trek-themed?

It’s been six years since I re-launched my personal website, which evidently is the “iron” anniversary, hence good ol’ shellhead above. As I mentioned in last year’s blogiversary post, I was going to try and make this more annual and — especially because last year felt like at least five years — it felt right to do a post.

So here are some highlights and personal favorites.

Star Trek

My series Crisis of Infinite Star Treks lasted the first five years of the blog. As it happened, there was also a Star Trek-related project that I worked on over that same five years. It came to fruition thanks to the pandemic — and to quote a certain Klingon, it was glorious.

Every Episode of Every Star Trek Series, Ranked

As I kind of expected, the traffic I get to this post and its related pages dwarfs just about everything else on the site. It’s like people are interested in Star Trek or something!

The pages that had the comments (with spoilers and snark) got far more hits than the pages with only titles — and of those, the “Whole Enchilada” got far and away the most traffic. Breaking it down by show, these are the pages that got the most traffic:

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  2. Star Trek: Voyager
  3. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
  4. Star Trek (the original series)
  5. Star Trek: Enterprise
  6. Star Trek: Discovery
  7. Star Trek: Picard
  8. Star Trek (the animated series)
  9. Star Trek: Short Treks

Mind you, I don’t think this tells me anything more than which series Trek fans most want to see some guy on the Internet’s ranking of — which reminds me: the fact that Voyager is right there at the top doesn’t surprise me. Based on conversations on Reddit, some of my fellow Trekkers love that show and, just like Enterprise, if you haven’t checked it out there’s a whole slew of episodes that are really good.

In fact, just as I’ve done a “Viewing Guide for Enterprise,” I will be doing a “Viewing Guide for Voyager” and some of the others later this year (if all goes well).

Theater and Creativity Amid Coronavirus

Many of my creative colleagues are depend on being physically on sets and on stages for their ducats, so I’ve been tracking how those industries are doing and posting about them this past year:

And more COVID

While I didn’t want to focus on the pandemic endlessly, I did find it cathartic to share some articles and videos and events related to it, so I created a tag, COVID Craziness, which has a little bit of crossover to theater coverage above. There’s plenty of joy and introspection.

Check it out when it seems right. I suspect for some people it’s too soon, but other’s it’s just right.

Most Visited Posts (apart from Trek)

Apart from the Star Trek ranking, in honor of this, the sixth blogiversary, these are the top six visited posts from the year (not necessarily written in the past year):

  1. Schedule Management: The 0-50-100 Method for Tasks
  2. The Nightmare that is 2020, Expressed in Sugar
  3. My 50 Favorite Films, 2020 Edition
  4. The Worst Derelict Spaceships to Board
  5. Voices Behind the Scenes of Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  6. The Differences between a Policy, Process, Procedure, and Work Instruction

So, it could be that Trek-loving project managers who also watch a lot of films are my niche.

Whatever the case, thanks for visiting and reading, and here’s to another year of maybe (just maybe) useful information.

Lessons Learned: Trilogy-writing Edition

Book one in the trilogy (image via JohnAugust.com)

In traditional project management, the last phase is closing. It means the project is accepted as ‘completed’ on some level of formality. Not only that, what with project managers loving to document things, they like to document ‘”lessons learned.” In other words, what will you do better next time? What might you try to avoid doing altogether? What definitely worked? While users of agile and lean frameworks may think of continuous improvement, a good concept to bear in mind, sometimes you only have the chance to really step back and evaluate what the heck happened at a bigger milestone.

“Post-mortems” in theater and film projects are where I first encountered “lessons learned,” so when I later crossed over into the office environment, they were not unfamiliar and something I’ve encouraged for both their pragmatic and cathartic benefits. This has also meant that I’ve always known it’s good and necessary to do lessons learned for creative projects.

So I was thrilled to see screenwriter and all-around storyteller John August detail some of his lessons learned after completing his foray into middle-grade fiction. (That’s the Arlo Finch series pictured above).

Long-time readers may recall I listen to the screenwriting podcast he and fellow scribe Craig Mazin do, called Scriptnotes. Long-time listeners of that podcast will already know August approaches most things with a thoroughly methodical, yet joyful frame of mind. You’ll see that on display in this list of 10 lessons learned. I’m not writing a trilogy per se, but a lot of the lessons here apply to my writing. Hope they work for you all as well.

International Legal Frameworks… IN SPAAACE!

Star Trek has influenced a lot of scientists and futurists, but recently, NASA namechecked the veteran sci-fi franchise when they talked about the Artemis Accords, a series of principles that they hope all spacefaring nations agree to, as covered by Ryan Britt for Inverse.

Good stuff.

(By the way, I was rather gratified to know that I already had the tag ‘Space Law‘ and also that there’s a novel called Space Lawyer, which I shall have to track down on principle).

Friday Movie Night: Cult Edition

What with my biennial Favorite Films sort, I have a soft spot for many an internet film list, especially when it’s clearly crafted with passion (as opposed to, say, the need to fill electronic print space on deadline).

So I was totally down with this list from the gang over at The Ringer detailing the top 50 cult films of all time.

Still from the wonderfully quirky UHF (Orion Pictures/Cinematographer: David Lewis)

Now, I would venture that the appear of cult films is often why they are not broadly popular: said films by definition have an unusual perspective. If they were foods, you’d take a bite and wonder what the heck you just tasted. And for some of these films, it’s a flavor profile and mouthfeel you just don’t like.

So don’t expect to love all the films in this list. I certainly don’t. But if this gives you something new to check out this weekend, well, that counts as a win.

Bringing the Real and the Imagined Alive: Remembering Michael Apted

Apted at the Peabody Awards in 2013 (Photo: Anders Krusberg)

When you talk with your filmmaking peers, it comes as no surprise they have always have a few filmmakers they follow closely, perhaps someone who isn’t necessarily a household name… or even necessarily an art house movie theater name.

Michael Apted was one of those filmmakers for me. He died at the age of 79, earlier in January (I’m just getting to writing this post now). You can read obituaries and remembrances from the BBC, the Guardian, Variety, and NPR among others.

One part of his career you see mentioned again and again is the Up series, documentaries made at seven-year intervals looking at a particular set of Britons starting in 1964. It has become –as I recall one reviewer putting it– “a time-lapse film of human lives.” It’s simple, straightforward, and extraordinary.

Apted continued to make fiction and non-fiction films for the rest of his career… and the fiction films included a James Bond spy film and an installment of the Chronicles of Narnia. His filmography is rightly described as “eclectic.” And with a background in both anthropology and theater, with a love of films and history, you can perhaps begin to see why he was one of the filmmakers I followed.

For those of you who have seen my biennial Favorite Films sort, none of his fiction films ever make it into my top 50 and –by virtue of me wanting each feature to stand on its own– that eliminates the Up series from competition (its heft comes from the whole package after all). But I would be hard pressed not to find something interesting an energizing about every single one of his movies. In part, I think it’s because he always finds ways to bring forward truth in the fiction.

Nowhere is this more on display for me than the natural double-feature of Incident at Oglala and Thunderheart. The former is a thought-provoking documentary about shootings and subsequent trials at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. The latter is Hollywood mystery thriller with Val Kilmer, Sam Shepard, and Graham Greene, among others, oh so clearly inspired by the real events, but distinctly different.

There are always bits worthy of note in all of his films. For instance, in 2001’s Enigma, you get a good breakdown of how codebreaking actually works versus the typical “hack the Internets” silliness sometimes on display in films.

Still from 2001’s Enigma (cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey)

So while my biggest disappointment is how the Up series will continue or end (something several people are now wondering), there are plenty of other films, big and small, I was hoping might pop up there.

Time to revisit some films…

Video

On-Screen Death: Championship Round

As some friends and fellow filmmakers know, I have offered to be the DC-area Sean Bean –the National Capital Area “kirareyaku,” so to speak– is he really the man (or woman) we’ve see die the most on screen?

Find out the answer in this video where film spoilers abound:

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.