Category Archives: Raves

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“I’m standing in a very happy place right now” Behind-the-scenes of Hamilton

As I mentioned the other week, we saw Hamilton along with a good many millions of people at the beginning of the month… and that’s led to listening to the soundtrack non-stop the following weekend, at least one rewatch so far, and delving into all sorts of reading and watching of supplemental material.

Just about none has topped my theater geeky glee quite like seeing Adam Savage looking at the props used in Hamilton.

As many of you know, I worked on both sides of the stage for quite some time, and although I was never the best props maker, I had my moments, I loved most every minute, and there was always a special level of delight in making a prop and seeing it used on stage.

So many moment of “Squee!”

If this isn’t enough to give you your fix, you can also check out Adam Savage exploring:

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Happy Centennial, Ray Harryhausen

Somewhere in the Heavens, and in glorious Dynamation, Ray Harryhausen is celebrating his 100th birthday.

There’s nothing I can say that can surpass what many, many, many people in the film industry can say about Ray Harryhausen, so I’ll simply link to two videos. The first, a tribute made on his death:

The second, a review of all his creatures, set to music you know you want to do stop action animation dancing to:

Ready for another adventure so soon? Farewell, Ian Holm.

As he was 88, I guess I shouldn’t ask “so soon?,” but news of Ian Holm’s passing is sad news for me this Friday. We collectively have seen him in so much.

You can read more about him and his career from articles and related material at:

I know many people, and the articles, cite his turn as Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings movies or his absolutely chilling performance as Ash in Alien, but for me, Ian Holm burst into my memory in 1981.

The first film, Chariots of Fire, is included in the montage below. He didn’t win an Oscar for supporting actor, but he did win a BAFTA and one from Cannes and the moment you see below is about a nice a quiet payoff moment as you can want as a character actor.

The second film, Time Bandits, was another family favorite and, perhaps being exposed to it in my formative years, Ian Holm’s portrayal of Napoleon remains one of my favorites (one of the three times he played Napoleon).

Ian Holm as Napoleon in Time Bandits

As the years went on, it was always a pleasure to see him pop up on screen. He had incredible presence in the moment, yet didn’t skew the scene or chew the scenery: a consummate character actor. Even where he plays a major role, he’s part of a team.

So let’s close with something that Ian Holm (as Napoleon) professed to like: little things hitting each other!

What’s the cure for boredom? Brian Dennehy (R.I.P.)

I just re-watched Never Cry Wolf the other week, so Brian Dennehy’s ability to fully inhabit characters was fresh in my mind.

Sadly, Brian Dennehy has passed away at the age of 81.

One of the nice things about his work was that his characters were perfectly at east with who they were, be it an alien, a corrupt sheriff, or entrepreneurial pilot. If he turned out to be a villain, his character would metaphorically or literally shrug, as if to say, “Do you get surprised that a wolf is a carnivore?”

My all-time favorite scene with Brian Dennehy comes from Never Cry Wolf below:

The beauty of this scene is all the character and clues about motivation that Dennehy puts into Rosie. You think it’s just a fun, kooky scene when you first watch the film, but when Rosie turns up later in the film, you realize that everything he does is completely in line with what he told you in the beginning. His entire performance, as with so many of his others, is a kind of zen: totally in the moment.

That’s damn fine acting.

The Chess Game has Ended: R.I.P. Max von Sydow

A towering presence in cinema –literal and figurative– had died. Max von Sydow, an actor we’ve seen on screens since the 1950s, has died at the age of 90.

You can read (and listen) to accounts in the BBC, Variety, and NPR among many others.

What struck many of us moviegoers was the wide range of parts he would play… and could play with such quiet conviction. Here is a man who played the Son of God as well as the Eternal Adversary. But whether as tormentor or tormented, he would bring a bit of gravitas to whatever work he was in, even if the work was more than a little cartoony (I’m looking at you, Ming).

You never ask why Max von Sydow is in a film, but you may ask, “How much?”

His unequivocally prolific body of work means that audiences will find him in dozens of films for decades to come — and personally, that has always been a delight. Especially for some of his later work, where he moved from leading man to supporting character, his presence wasn’t always announced, so I adored his appearance in Intacto and wished for a few more scenes of him in Star Wars, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

It’s hard to wrap your head around him being gone.

As some have noted, he’s been a presence in our cinema lives for so long, it’s hard to imagine him not popping up again in this TV show or that movie, whether to be chilling or entertaining, but always affecting.

It’s been one amazing chess game, sir. Well played.

Wouldja Believe? It’s a Five-Year Blogiversary!

Obligatory if somewhat dated pop culture reference.

Back on March 1st, 2015, I re-entered the web world with a personal website, something I really hadn’t had since the 90s, which in Internet terms is ancient history.

Perhaps because March 1st doesn’t correspond with any other anniversaries in my life, I keep on meaning to do an annual retrospective about posts and such on the blog, but keep on forgetting.

This year, however, I made sure to set a reminder for myself. As with any eponymous blog, this post is mainly a self-indulgence, but for anyone who wants to go back and check some of the posts (over 400!), here’s an accounting of the “greatest hits” and some of the “deep cuts.”

Star Trek

Of course, these posts topped the list. My series, Crisis of Infinite Star Treks, lasted almost the full five years. There were long and short entries and ones that I thought were better than others. The three that seemed to best represent the series are:

Writing

I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of my posts about writing got so many views. Writing and trying to do more work as a writer is near and dear to me… and frankly, one of the reasons I’m online anyway.

Granted, most of the posts are mainly linking to or commenting on articles or resources I found online, but it’s been great to share what I know. Some of the most read have been:

Integrally linked to many of these articles are the posts which talk more about motivation (one of them is up there). That was led to several posts about finding purpose, meaning, and motivation… often explicitly disconnected from a paycheck. These were a lot of fun to write (and probably helped me work through some thoughts):

Personal Favorites… and other odds and ends

As indicated above, part of the fun of a blog is the ability to indulge your whims and flights of fancy, often without a care for deadlines or the editorial rigor you yourself might expect from a magazine article.

Many of the posts grow out of articles I read online that I want to expand on, which include.

Less fun, but very cathartic, has been writing remembrances

Finally, there’s a few that I enjoyed writing just for fun and I fully expect to add to that category in the next few years:

So for those of you who have popped over to this blog, thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed the links and the articles and the geekery.

I’ll probably do another of these sooner than five years hence.

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TCM Remembers, 2019

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) does a wonderful remembrance of the film artists we lost in the past year. I’ve mentioned it before, but it always makes me wistful and reminds me to rewatch a movie or three.

I thought this year’s was especially good, perhaps because of the many quotes from the people they used.

Check it out when you’re ready to be verklempt.

Get Ready for Flip & Burn: Expanse Season 4 this Friday!

I finished up my rewatch of seasons 1-3 of The Expanse this past weekend and it was just as good the second time.

If you don’t know this hard sci-fi series, the original trailer isn’t a bad way to gauge whether you’re interested or not:

There is a running theory that SyFy will cancel any series you love, like Lucy pulling away the football from Charlie Brown. SyFy did not disappoint, even as The Expanse got to be bigger and bolder and beloved by audiences, so they canceled it at the end of the third season. I mean, in fairness, it can’t have been cheap to produce, but perhaps Syfy resents spending more on something than Sharknado.

I loved the show since its slow-burning first season and continue to enjoy how they’ve layered in more complexity and world-building. That a big chunk of the show is the small-crew-in-lone-ship-encountering-adventure sub-genre certainly doesn’t hurt (as regular readers may recall, I like that sci-fi sub-genre so much, that’s the basis of my own not-nearly-as-hard-sci-fi show).

The Expanse is frequently compared to Game of Thrones for its multi-character storytelling and far-reaching world-building. I’d also point out that many of the characters and situations can feel very, very real even as they deal with fantastical occurrences. This is hard sci-fi, but with some of the Arthur C. Clarke-style sufficiently-advanced-technology-indistinguishable-from-magic.

Anyway, Amazon picked up the show and are about to drop season four this Friday. In fact, you can begin your binge watching with a modicum of solace as they’ve already renewed it for season five. Early looks at the series are positive and I have to agree with Alicia Lutes over at Vulture who urges you to check it out.

And if that’s not enough, there’s the season four trailer:

All Ready to Feel the Power of the Dark Crystal

Modern fandom is a tricky thing. Geek culture is ascendant in so many ways, often in service of mining intellectual property (IP) to find that latest multi-billion dollar franchise. And corporations appear so risk averse towards the potential market downside of new ideas that they will bet on IP, any IP, over people. At least, based on what I read in trade news about how studios are hungry for any known quantity, my premise is a studio executive will green light the next Battleship a dozen times before they say yes to developing the next Inception.

Thankfully, the studios also appear to be giving the keys of their IP kingdoms to people who love the originals more often than not. No longer will we have David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury. (Well, probably not, until late 90s nostalgia kicks in).

So when I heard word that there was going to be a prequel series to The Dark Crystal, a calculated move to hit us Gen Xers right in the feels, I was both excited and wary at the same time. And then they dropped this:

Now, for those of you who want to go deeper, there’s also a nine-minute “behind-the-scenes” promo that has a lot of the actors and producers involved. It’s here clearly to get one excited about the upcoming series

Do what you will this Labor Day weekend. I know some of my time will be spent returning to another place, another time… in the age of wonder!

One Giant Leap

This past weekend, there were numerous celebrations and commemorations of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I was lucky enough to be able to go to the National Mall where they had a special presentation –including a projection onto the Washington Monument itself– celebrating the achievement.

I posted on social media then that no video or pictures could do it justice (and for people to try and make it to the later showings that night or the following night). However, for countless people not in the DC area, that just wasn’t a possibility, so I’m happy to share a video captured of the event:

After you’ve tackled that, there’s also some behind-the-scenes fun:

Now that’s motivation!