Passion Counts: Patton Oswalt Edition

Lest any of you think I’m going to populate the blog with repeatedly grim tales of people being sucky (as I have for a couple Wednesdays and this morning), I just wanted to highlight the Patton Oswalt interview I linked in last week’s post about film distribution.

Patton Oswalt, circa 2018 (the time of the interview)

Really, if you are at all interested in his career or perspective on things (he is a tremendous film geek in addition to his other geekdoms), the hour will fly by. And it’s applicable to any creative industry.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Hollywood Accounting

Last Wednesday’s post about how some film distributors led to some discussion amongst friends on the Interwebs and elsewhere. One colleague who’s been a filmmaker and exhibitor pointed out how there are so many sticky problems with film distribution, it’s a difficult problem to handle — and there are definitely some issues with some of the smaller distributors. However, that made me think of how the major distributors engage in creative accounting that’s about as alluring as a blow to the nether regions. For example, did you know the Harry Potter films, in one way, didn’t make money?

They gaze in horror at the dark magic that is Hollywood accounting.

There’s nothing I can really add to this that will be additionally edifying, but for those of you who didn’t know about these shenanigans, now you know.

Video

Moon Knight: For when you might have to get a little bit crazy…

The comic collecting of my youth was dominated by some of the less popular titles (e.g. Rom), including some that came and went in various volumes of subsequent comic book series (e.g. Alien Legion) — what nowadays we might call “reboots”

One of my favorite examples of this was Moon Knight, because every new comic series of the character seemed to focus on different aspects of the mercenary-turned-“Fist of Khonshu.”

However, one of the most interesting aspects of this particular superhero is that, when not dressed up in his superhero regalia, he assumed multiple alter egos in different social strata to find out information — and sometimes you had to wonder which identity was real. The character certainly did. With that in mind, watch on:

As I may have mentioned elsewhere, I essentially stopped collecting almost all comics in the early 90s, which has led to what I find a very enjoyable situation: I understand the basics about most of the long-running superheroes and supervillains, but have no earthly idea about anything that’s happened in the comics for the past 30 years.

That means whenever I watch an Arrowverse show or MCU film, I can be delightfully surprised even if the plot is taken wholesale from some recent run in the comics. I have no problem with many a friend who has continued to follow their favored comic crusaders in the intervening decades, but my ignorance in these matters has, time and again, proven to be superheroic bliss.

So I really have no idea what’s happened to Moon Knight since 1994, but if they’re going for the crazy, I am here for it.

Da Vinci: Code for “Meh”

I had another post slated for today, but, I figured I’d be a bit more timely, considering the video above came out this past Sunday.

John Oliver can lambaste and rant with the best of them, and his snark regarding the pop culture phenomenon of The Da Vinci Code speaks to me. Why? Because I was convinced by a number of very energetic people to go forth and read now –right now– The Da Vinci Code and in the history of things people have urged me to watch or read or listen to “right now,” this is possibly the most mismatched. Tain’t my thing. Watch and perhaps you can guess why…

Video

The New Paradigm of Film Distributors Really Not Caring About Their Films

If you read last Wednesday’s post about standardization of suck that is the McDonald’s ice cream machine, you hopefully felt a little irritation — assuming you believe in truth, justice, and lovely intangibles.

Well, alas, I have more fuel for the ire fire, which I have a special interest due to my connection to filmmaking and knowing many a fellow indie producer who is either in this position or about to be.

Now, if you’re like me, you find this more than a little annoying. I mean, any indie filmmaker understands they need to wear multiple hats, often at once, to get their film completed and out into the world. But it really shouldn’t be too much to ask that people whose livelihood is based on your movie making money for them to care about, not the movie, but how to make sure that money maximizes money for them.

It reminds me of Patton Oswalt talking about having passion for the industry you’re in whether it’s running a comedy club booking stand-up comics or, say, distributing films. Enjoy the industry you’re in on one or more levels. There are so many other jobs you could do if you don’t care about this one. And I like that the discussion that especially when it comes to artistic and creative pursuits, it’s about being a fan and a ‘connoisseur’ of whatever the pursuit is… and you can be a fan at any budget level (some of that discussion begins at the 16:28 mark, but the whole interview is great).

While Deverett would possibly empathize, it’s clear he’s accepted this is the way things are, even if it’s more than a little irksome. In fact, if you watch his whole 4-hour interview or even some of the other segments, he points out all sorts of irksome aspects of the industry when it comes to film distribution. Film distributors in many cases are ripping filmmakers off. Brazenly. He even documents how he went after some “whoops” missing money from some of the territories a film of his was being distributed in. And he documents why is was so hard to do and holding people accountable is hard, expensive, and therefore unsustainable — this assessment from a lawyer and former film distribution professional!

So I won’t say, “Go forth and storm the barricades!” But I do want to give voice to that ire in the hopes that someone somewhere will figure out a way to beneficially disrupt a part of the film industry that seems to be doing its level best to standardize the suck.

Resolve to Reframe Your Worldview

Last Monday, I posted about lots of little things to add some joy or satisfaction to your day-to-day life. So from the micro to the macro, here’s a few overarching goals you might want to take on for this new year… or for the rest of your life in general.

“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin

Bear in mind, this list from Maria Popova for The Marginalian gets pretty heavy, but if you’re in the headspace where you’re thinking about how you want to live your life better writ large, there are worse ways than examining the notions presented by some of these folks.

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The Trash Heap Speaks Again!

Gen Xers and the like, this is not a drill! Let’s see what the Recylcotron has in store this time.

A Cold War that’ll Give You an Ice Cream Headache

Running contrary to the New Year’s notion of doing better for several years running is the McDonald’s Ice Cream machine, a notoriously finicky piece of equipment that has its own online dashboard of failure. And if the efficiency experts in your life don’t gnash their teeth at that, they likely will when they read Andy Greenberg’s article in Wired.

Photo: Gabriela Hasbun

It’s really infuriating to see miserable experiences be standardized, but to see the lengths to which people go to preserve a sucky status quo, well, it may not be surprising, but it is dispiriting (that said, it’s a fascinating read).

Nudge Your Way to a Happier New Year

You can pretty much bet I’ll be thinking about planning and goals for the new year all this month. I was particularly struck by a friend who had a very productive 2021, but decided an overall goal for 2022 was to be happier.

Sometimes, the eternal Internet meme factory helps.

With that in mind, I liked this very British list from The Guardian overall, though –besides the very British parts needing some translation to one’s own country– there are some that I must note a difference with:

  • #4 – I’m all about the first part of bringing fruit to work. The fruit in bed –especially the graphic– makes me wonder if the Guardian staff have some weird kink they feel should be more mainstream than it actually is (Michael Palin notwithstanding).
  • #5 – Is this a British thing or a non-American thing? Because I’m pretty sure many people would love to go down to a four-day workweek, only that’s not an option.
  • #8 – Dear Lord, no. Don’t do this to me. I hate texts enough and I can read fast. Don’t do this unless the person receiving them will enjoy it.
  • #99 – Is this a British thing? I would just make the bed quite nice.

On the other hand, I support the following.

  • #4 – As mentioned above: viva fruit at work. Fruit as snacks or even dessert aka something-sweet-after-dinner-because-you-can’t-do-cheesecake-or-ice-cream-every-night-come-on-now.
  • #7 – My gardening skills remain mainly in the realm of destruction, but I try and grow more each year.
  • #9 – Definitely something to put on the to-do list.
  • #11 – Absolutely yes. And slowly get rid of those horrid florescent fixtures as you can.
  • #12 – Really overdue for more of us than we all probably care to admit.
  • #15 – I’ve been doing this for some time and heartily recommend it.
  • #27 – Yes.
  • #30 – Oh, so thrilling.
  • #46 – A dialect/voice teacher advocated reading poetry aloud regularly and I find it quite good.
  • #78 – Oh yes. And if you can be sure your first day back from work isn’t Monday, definitely do so.
  • #91 – I’m not the only one to advocate this, the entire State of Wisconsin advocates it. It is both just and right (assuming it isn’t deadly to your digestive system).

Odds are your lists of “don’t agree/definitely agree” with the Guardian’s list will differ, but the important thing is that this is a great month to consider small ways to make your life a bit nicer.

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TCM Remembers, 2021

Once again, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) does an artful job of honoring the film artists lost in the past year. When you’re ready to be wistful, or perhaps outright verklempt, give it a watch.

For those interested, here are the editions for 2020, 2019, and 2018.