Real Princesses Roll for Initiative

If your 2019 has been bereft of geeky, geeky mashups thus far, have we got the video for you! Behold: nearly all the Disney princesses playing D&D (with Belle as DM, which just makes sense).

In case you not only like it, but love it, they apparently have a crowdfunding campaign going through February.

This Year, Resolve to Make Art

I thought I had already posted this article by Sean Kane from 2016, but evidently I hadn’t. So go ahead and read up on seven darn good scientifically-backed reasons why you should make art even if you’re not “any good” at it.

A perfect example of simply making art is Inktober, an annual event to do an ink drawing every day during October. I did this with my son –and moms and dads reading this, that’s reason enough to give it a go. Because while I tried things with shading and perspective that were hit or miss, he developed recurring story elements in the scenes he drew throughout the month that was a delight to witness (and on a parental note, it was a good transition to bedtime).

So go ahead, get your art on, whatever way you want to. You don’t need to share it with anyone. Science has your back.

I, for one, don’t welcome our net ‘bot overlords…

Though from reading Max Read’s piece in New York magazine, it’s kind of moot whether I welcome them or not: a huge portion of the Internet is fake.

I mean, it’s not that it’s a huge surprise that the Internet is full of automation to simulate traffic for ad revenue purposes, engage people for some Machiavellian monetization motives, or otherwise amplify some ill-conceived echo chambers…

But it’s depressing to have it validated to such a hefty degree.

Perhaps you, like me, remember those days pre-Netscape Navigator, exploring the Internet universe via Gopher and the like. The possibilities seemed as vast as Pangea, which is an accurate extrapolation of how long ago it was in Internet terms.

Will we survive an inversion when ‘bots outnumber us all? I don’t know. I just know that, Even now, spam bots are getting ready to comment on this post.

All that Glitters is not Gold

The stuff of dreams and nightmares (photo from Chris Maggio for The New York Times)

You’re just going to have to trust me on this one: go read Caity Weaver’s in-depth exploration on the history of glitter. You’ll get caught up in it much like glitter grabs ahold of you and never lets go.

After a 21-year Pause, More Art Enters Public Domain

2019 will bring many things, both planned and unplanned… but one of the planned events is one I had forgotten until people started circulating an article from the Smithsonian magazine by Glenn Fleishman: a mass of copyrights is expiring putting books, poems, music, films, and other art into the public domain.

This is very exciting, and not just because Jabberwocky Audio Theater will happily adapt 1920s sci-fi and adventure material as it did from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, long in public domain. No, this means a lot of works which haven’t been distributed and shared widely can and will be, allowing countless people the opportunity to experience the art anew. As the one article says, it’ll be like a yearly time capsule.

In addition, NPR did a brief piece about the coming mass expiration and Lifehacker has a list of some of the more prominent works that will be in the public domain. I suppose “expiration” has a bit too negative connotation, so let’s call it an artistic explosion.

Now I have another reason to be excited for January 1st every year.

The Bookstore is Dead. Long Live the Bookstore!

One of the biggest issues plaguing independent entrepreneurial creators (authors, artists, filmmakers, etc.) would be how to find an audience — and even if that nut is well and truly cracked: how do you maintain or even grow it?

That’s a topic for many another post, but amid forums and social media I follow where people discuss the topic, there’s the inevitable discussion of what Faustian bargain should be made with Amazon, the everything store that wants to be your alpha and omega. I was reminded of that when I came across this Axios article from October musing about the slide of Barnes & Noble.

It’s all the more interesting because independent bookstores have apparently made a resurgence, as per articles found on NPR, CBS, and a huge compilation of articles on the American Booksellers Association page (an interested party to be sure, but still…).

My 50 Favorite Films, 2018 Edition

It feels like it’s been too long, but really, it’s only been two years since my last 50 Favorite Films. This is my biennial tradition that, honestly, I’ve been doing offline for about 30 years, but now is available for online navel gazing. You can check out the 2012, 2014, and 2016 editions should you care to. For those who are interesting in how I sort films based on criteria of quality, watchability, and personal resonance, I have a post about that too.

This year I went through over 570 films in the sort, though importantly, I did not bother to do a detailed sort of all of the films, just what turned out to be about the top 100 or so. That saved tremendous time.

All the films sorted with the top 50 in the stack on the right.

Boy howdy was there a sea change in the ranking versus 2016. No less than 19 films in the Favorite 50 were not in the 2016 edition. Pretty much all of the “new” arrivals have been in the sort before and many have been in the top 50 before… and then there was the shakeup to the top 10 itself.

I always knew you’d come back one day…

Hush! I don’t want any spoilers. I do, however, have some 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.

Not stated in the ground rules is the obvious note that this list, like all subjective lists, is incredibly well-reasoned. So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) Die Hard
49) A Few Good Men
48) The Namesake
47) Memento
46) Heat
45) Breaker Morant
44) The Godfather, Part II
43) The Bridge on the River Kwai
42) Aliens
41) The Incredibles
40) Big Fish
39) The Court Jester
38) Midnight Run
37) Never Cry Wolf
36) Galaxy Quest
35) The Count of Monte Cristo
34) Minority Report
33) Star Wars
32) Arrival
31) The Princess Bride
30) Citizen Kane
29) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
28) The Lives of Others
27) Sullivan’s Travels
26) Airplane!
25) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
24) To Kill a Mockingbird
23) Cinema Paradiso
22) Sense and Sensibility
21) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
20) Saving Private Ryan
19) North by Northwest
18) Rob Roy
17) Unforgiven
16) Children of Men
15) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
14) Das Boot
13) The Shawshank Redemption
12) Field of Dreams
11) Once Upon a Time in the West
10) 2010
9) The Empire Strikes Back
8) Singin’ in the Rain
7) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
6) Black Hawk Down
5) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
4) Schindler’s List
3) Casablanca
2) Ran         
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: 23
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 23
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 18
  • Total Westerns: 2
  • Total War Movies: 17
  • Total Musicals: 2
  • Total Animated Films: 1
  • Total films with Liam Neeson: 2
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1986
  • Decade with the most favorites: 1980s (15 films), followed closely by the 2000s (13 films)
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Edge of Tomorrow

Viscerally, it feels like a huge shake-up — and seeing it laid out makes me realize a few things…

It’s an altogether grimmer list
There are less comedies, less animated films, and less musicals. Yes, those last two categories aren’t always lighter fare, but the musicals and animated films that left the list definitely were. There’s more war films on the list — I even have two military courtroom dramas for crying out loud! (That’s A Few Good Men & Breaker Morant, for those keeping score at home.) Just about every film in the top 10 either has war either overtly throughout or peeking obtrusively around the corner. Well, except for…

Singin’ in the Rain
My #1 film since at least 2008. It had a good run. Maybe it’ll return, but when we got to that part of the sort, I just knew it wasn’t going to claim the top spot this year. Instead, that distinction went to a film that hasn’t claimed that spot since it was first in theaters in 1981.

An Adventure for the Ages
I mean, Raiders has been a favorite since ’81 (along with many other great films from the year. Seriously, check out some of the top-grossing ones that were in theaters in 1981. It was a good year. It could be that I’m busy writing adventure stories myself and it could be it scratches that itch many of us are feeling of late to see Nazis punched, but regardless, it’s a rattlin’ good yarn.

I noted a few other trends or tendencies. While the top 50 remained at the average year of 1986, the top 100 averages to 1989. I’m pretty sure my favorites are getting newer overall.

I’m thinking that many a film is played out for me. This isn’t unprecedented as I noticed that with music ages ago. Some films may still be just as objectively good, but I’m not getting as much as I once did on repeated viewings. It’s also the best reason I have for Rogue One thundering in ahead of the original Star Wars. (The next highest film new to the sort was Spotlight, which came in at #55). Franchise films also did not fare as dismally as they did in 2016, though I noted the Marvel films did not do well (Guardians of the Galaxy did the best at #61).

So, there it is. A fun list… that hopefully has a couple titles you’ll want to watch or re-watch. For 2020, I’m probably going to see which of IMDb’s “top 250” I haven’t seen or haven’t rewatched in a while as well as whatever else filmmaker friends recommend. Happy Boxing Day! Hope you’re spending some of the next week in a cinema watching a damn fine film or two.

What does the fox say? Die Hard is a Christmas movie

I mean, yes, they’re biased, but 20th Century Fox knows their back catalog of movies and they know Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Behold!

Admit it, you’ll watch this before you break open the myrrh. 

Sorry Cinema Scrooges: Die Hard is a Christmas Movie

Now I have a Christmas ornament: ho, ho, ho…

It has come to my attention that some people out there on the Interwebs still cling to the notion that Die Hard, the celebrated action film starring Bruce Willis, is not a Christmas movie.

Look, Gremlins counts as a Christmas movie, Edward Scissorhands counts as a Christmas movie, and  –Lord help us all– Santa Claus Conquers the Martians counts as a Christmas movie. So yes, “the Christmas episode” of action movies does indeed count as a Christmas movie.

Consider the following:

  • The protagonist is there because he’s trying to re-unite with his estranged wife at Christmastime.
  • The antagonists are specifically there at the Christmas party because the Christmas party helps their plans.
  • “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (aka “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) is recited with alternate verses.
  • Halls, people, and pretty much everything gets decked.
  • Santa hats are used for great comedic effect.
  • The end of the film reunites the protagonist with his family, whom he now values more than ever, and they spend Christmas together.

Friends, there are many pressing questions about the holiday season from what the deal is with the Feast of Seven Fishes to the order to light Advent candles. Die Hard‘s place in the Christmas movie canon should not be one of them. Watch it with Yuletide joy… perhaps after the younger ones are in bed (there are some violent bits, after all). Twinkies are appropriate.

Yippee ki yay to all and to all a good night!

But, you know, maybe make sure to wear some shoes. Trust us on this.

Wish List for Santa, Updated

Here at the home stretch, I figured it was a good time to feature Brian Gordon and his gift of validation to parents everywhere, Fowl Language.

Don’t forget the bonus panel! And if you enjoy his work, consider supporting him and his ducklings via Patreon.

Welcome Yule!
(and I hope you all get some sleep)