Another Fine Mess with Laurel and Hardy

The end of this week will feature the latest edition of my biennial Favorite Films list, so I suppose I have films on my mind.

Some of the earliest films I saw were short films, thanks to my dad and the Arlington County library which had them. And I do mean films! We had a projector at home, which was often used for birthday parties and other events. This inevitably meant those masters of movie comedy, Laurel and Hardy.

Now, I’m by no means a Laurel and Hardy scholar, for that sort of discussion, you’ll want to check out this excellent interview with film historian Leonard Maltin and general pop culture history maven Mark Evanier, but I am looking for ways to introduce my kids to these classic (Looney Tunes have gone over pretty well, but they’re not the biggest fans of live action… yet).

And as another argument to make sure Laurel and Hardy are in their cinematic upbringing, there’s this remembrance from Mark “Jedi” Hamill:

Bidding 2020 Adieu

Julie Nolke’s four-part time-travel series documenting 2020 has been great (links to part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 here). And Turner Classic Movies’ remembrances are great (even though they often make me verklempt).

This year, I’ve delved into the briar patch that can be Reddit — and I have to admit, their video is pretty good:

UPDATE: After debuting on their Twitter feed and via Facebook, TCM has finally put their annual remembrance on YouTube:

Warner Bros. Decides to Upend Theatrical Releases

Just shy of two weeks ago, Warner Brothers decided to drop a bombshell by saying that all their 2021 films would simultaneously go onto their streaming service, HBO Max, along with theaters, as reported in industry publications, Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

Some of the 2021 film slate (photos courtesy of Macall Polay/Warner Bros.)

This announcement broke a certain segment of the Internet the Thursday it dropped because –shockingly– Warner Bros. evidently didn’t let any of their producing partners know.

And that’s a big deal, not simply from being courteous to your business partners, but there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake since a big way production companies and above-the-line people get money is through profit participation in the theatrical ticket sales.

Now, Warners evidently wants to mitigate this by generously estimating what the ticket sales might have been and paying the profit participants thusly as they’ve done for the director and star of Wonder Woman 1984.

Of course, this may mean money is left on the table as far as directors, stars, and producing partners are concerned –to say nothing of potential problems with existing contracts. Director and lover of the big, big screen, Christopher Nolan is reportedly furious. And the director of the new version of Frank Herbert’s epic saga is absolutely incensed — in part, fearing that this move might tank the possibility of this kicking off a proper Dune franchise (a lot of books have been written in this series).

If you know The Business, a weekly news show about the entertainment industry led by veteran report Kim Masters, you might expect they have something to say about it and they do.

The week of the announcement, they devote much of the opening segment to it (where it really drives home how much Warner Bros. did not tell anyone this was coming). And the episode this past weekend is all about it.

We knew there would be more and more of shift to streaming in the next few years, but what falls out from this attempted unilateral shift by the Bros remains to be seen.

Keeping COVID Safe on Set

For my colleagues who are going back into production, stay safe.

Aimee La Joie has your back.

Stan Lee: Animated… and with a little Salt

As longtime perusers of the site may know, I count myself among the legion of Stan Lee fans. Being introduced to “The Man” at an early age helps.

So I was delighted to see this animated rendition of an outtake made by Stan Lee about what has been termed “the Queen Mother of dirty words.”

So, yeah, this is not safe for most workplaces or kids’ ears. But it’s delightful in a @#$%ing wrong way.

Raise the Fungal Radiation Shields!

I’d heard earlier that a particular radiation-loving fungus had been observed near Chernobyl, but this article by Stephen Johnson in Big Think explains how they’ve been testing it for SPAAACE TRAVEL.

Specifically, they’ve been testing it on the International Space Station with the idea that some form of this radiotrophic fungus could help shield astronauts bound for Mars.

So, in other words: really, really cool.

And will I work this into some future episode of Rogue Tyger? Yes. Yes, I will.

2020: The Year We… What’s With the Monolith?!?

I saw this last week, but decided to hold off, because I didn’t want to dwell on it, but here it is: a metal monolith was accidentally discovered in the middle of the Utah wilderness and although it’s probably made by humans, the level of effort to get it and “install” it like it’s some weird “think-piece” in the middle of nowhere is deeply weird.

In other words, it’s peak 2020.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen as more people venture out to look at it –despite its exact location not being public knowledge– but Stephen Colbert already has a film idea.

UPDATE: This is what I get for trying to do my posts in advance. As of Sunday, it disappeared!

SECOND UPDATE: Now a another monolith (or is it the same one?) has appeared in Romania!

THIRD UPDATE: Okay, so space elves did not abscond with the Utah monolith (Probably).

FOURTH UPDATE: And now there’s a monolith in California?!? COME ON, 2020!

FIFTH UPDATE: I don’t know if I can keep up with this…

Oh, and also as of 12/7/20, there’s a slightly different cousin monolith on the Isle of Wight.

My 50 Favorite Films: Prep for the 2020 Edition

This past weekend was Thanksgiving weekend, which meant it was time to rediscover how to make Thanksgiving leftovers last for multiple meals, play more board games than usual, and set up the Christmas tree. But it was also Thanksgiving weekend on an even year, which meant time to start prepping for my biennial Favorite Films sort.

I’m a lifelong movie buff and have watched literally thousands of movies. Not all of them are good. Some of the good films are, nonetheless, not my favorite films. As I discuss elsewhere, I rank the films by the criteria of quality, watchability, and resonance.

A Venn diagram of the films I've seen, films I love, films most people consider good, and other films I'd like to rank.
You have no idea how many bad films I’ve seen. So, so many…

The entire stack of films I sort through every few years numbers around 500 films or so. There’s usually something of a lag between when a film comes out and when we get to see it. No longer can I see every film when it first comes out in the theater (even more so this year) and I’m also no longer a film completist. This is one of the reasons I term this a list of “favorites” not a “best of.”

In truth, I try and start forming that list of 500 in October, so that if there are films that have been in the Favorite 50 that I know I haven’t seen in a while or others that I think I need to revisit, I have time to rewatch them. As with the new films, I’d rate this as rigorous, but not precise — and so another reason I term these favorites and not a “best of.”

Here are films I’ve either watched anew or for the first time in a long time and made sure were in the sort as part of the 500-odd films:

Yes, as in previous years, some of these films will about as far as the character who “just goes to check out that noise” in a creature feature, but hey, somebody’s gotta don the red shirt.

Expect this year’s list closer to Yule.

Voices Behind the Scenes of Atlantis: The Lost Empire

The longer weekend has allowed for some leisurely watching of some films, and one, which is very much in the style of the adventure tales we like to tell at Jabberwocky Audio Theater, is Disney’s 2001 film, Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Here’s some behind the scenes bits of the voice actors.

America and Mass Transit

WMATA/Shutterstock/Madison McVeigh/CityLab

Hey! Since we here in the United States are not traveling so much on this traditional week of travel, how about we take that time and read this longform article by Jonathan English all about mass transit in the United States. It unearths some assumptions about what mass transit is and can be and how those assumptions developed over the past 100 years or so.

Besides the fond memories evoked by seeing the picture above (I was there for the grand opening of Washington’s Metro — you were able to ride free all day), I also found his premises interesting.