Tag Archives: movies

Should we give up streaming and go back to CDs and DVDs?

Did you know you can still get DVDs from Netflix? Well according to this, you still can! And maybe you should.

I’ve been thinking about it recently for a number of reasons. One is the number of streaming services I pay for that I barely use. Sure I like the idea of being able to watch any movie at the drop of a hat. But do I….really? No, I do not. It’s a waste of money for the idea of instant gratification.

Second, streaming services may be making us less likely to hear and experience new things. I thought of that reading this piece in the Guardian. I find that happens to me with Spotify: it is trying so hard to match me with music that aligns with my taste that I get stuck in a rut. In some ways streaming is a gilded cage.

That’s why we should heed what Clive Thompson says and rewild our imagination. It’s more work, but more rewarding.

So get out your DVD player and order some movies or DVDs and watch something you’ve always wanted to but never seem to because it is not available online. You can even order a DVD player for cheap, here.


On Cabaret, 50 years later

1972 was a very good year for film. Many of the films listed at that link are now seen as classics. One of them, The Godfather, is getting much of the focus this year for its 50th anniversary. While I’m glad people are revisiting and paying attention to that great film, another great film celebrating that milestone that people should also revisit is Cabaret.

Like The Godfather, Cabaret is a period film set in around World War II. Perhaps because of that, neither film feels dated / stuck in the 70s, the way a film like The Candidate might. You can watch them as if they were made in any decade. You can also watch and rewatch both of them because they remain great, half a century later.

To get a sense of what makes Cabaret so special, I recommend this piece: Cabaret at 50: Bob Fosse’s show-stopping musical remains a dark marvel. For fans like me, here are two pieces that allow you to do a deeper dive on the film and its background: 1) Is Bob Fosse’s Cabaret An Unfaithful Adaptation? | by Keith Schnabel | Medium and 2) That Controversial Cabaret Lyric Change – The Official Masterworks Broadway Site.

If you want to stream it but don’t know how, check this out: Cabaret streaming: where to watch movie online?


On Marvel Movies, and how Robert Downey Jr made almost half a billion dollars from them

Here me out. You might think this story about how Robert Downey Jr. made $450m as Iron Man would be boring.It’s not. It was a fascinating journey for both Downey and Marvel over the last 14 years. In 2008 when the first Iron Man came out, both the actor and the company were down on their luck. However bad luck turned into good, and both parties went on their way to become incredibly successful.

Disney bet big on Marvel, and Robert Downey Jr bet big on himself, and the bets paid off big. After all his years struggling with addiction, it was good to see.

It was not without some twists along the way, so read the piece to see how it went down. Or I should say, went up.

P.S. Also a good intro to how the movie biz works and how actors get paid.

(Image linked to the article)



It’s an autumn weekend: a good time to watch a long movie


While short movies are fun, sometimes one wants to settle in and watch a good long movie. The problem with that, though, is many of them draggggggggg. No one wants that. We want to settle, not fidget. We need help.

Help is here in the form of this: 20 of the Best Long Movies That Are Actually Worth Their Runtime. “Lawrence of Arabia” is an obvious choice, but there are many others on the list that are great too, such as “Hamlet” and “Malcolm X”. Check out the list, then block of some time this weekend or next and get some quality screen time in. Snacks are optional, but recommended. 🙂


Noir: films old and new for cold rainy nights

It’s April and cold and rainy. A good time to watch film noir. Here’s a couple of blog posts that lovingly list 55 films, old and new, you should know about and hopefully watch:

  1. Film Noir in 50 Perfect Shots: Dark Beauty On Screen From 1940 to 1958
  2. 5 Classics of Cyberpunk Noir ‹ CrimeReads

(Image linked to in the second piece)

Thinking about things Christopher Nolan while watching Tenet

I have been a fan of Christopher Nolan for awhile, although that love is subsiding and Tenet did nothing to help reverse that. I saw it recently, and while I liked it, like was the strongest emotion I could muster. As this says, ‘Tenet’ Is a Must-Watch for Action Movie Fans | WIRED,  maybe it would have been better on the big screen. I mean, films like Interstellar and Inception were.

I had mostly thoughts about Nolan as an auteur and director while watching it, and basically thought

  • He still loves playing with Time: Interstellar, Dunkirk and many other of his films explore and play with time as an element in his films. Obviously he really goes all out here in Tenet. It makes his films challenging and thought provoking at times. Not to mention confusing. Speaking of confusing…
  • He hates dialog. Ok, not entirely, but it is really hard at times to understand what is going on in Tenet. Not just because of the complexity of Time, but because Nolan does terrible things to the film by often obscuring dialog with sound effects. I mean it was hard understanding Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, but it gets way worse in Tenet.
  • He loves reusing actors. That is one of the things I love about Nolan’s films. If he likes you, you are going to get to act in a number of his films. Tenet is no exception.
  • He hates colour. Tenet is one washed out movie. When I think of it, many of his films seem that way to me, but I could be wrong. He’s no Wes Anderson, that’s for sure. I think the most colour he used in any of his recent films was for the character The Joker in The Dark Knight. Meanwhile in Tenet I kept thinking of all these great location shots he filmed and how they all seem like one big drab filter is applied to them all.

Nolan is a smart guy, and that comes across in how he uses time in Tenet and other films. That said, I never felt that one needed to be a philosopher or physicist to watch this or any of his other films. They’re fun sci-fi / action films that are more middle brow than anything else. Don’t be intimidated by some commentary on the internet. Grab yourself a bag of popcorn and watch the film when you are the mood for an action blockbuster. Just take note of what I said above. 🙂

(Image is a link from the Wired article.)




What does Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ win mean for the Oscars?

Likely nothing. On the surface, it might seem like it will. But step back: every year some pattern emerges from the Oscar winners, and this pattern is seized on as meaning something meaningful.

The only pattern I can see as meaningful is how Netflix has been steadily gaining more and more nominations over the last few years. There is a meaningful trend. It could end any time, but I think it means that more American films will come from new organizations (e.g. Netflix, Apple, Amazon).

I thought Parasite was a great movie, and Boon Joon-ho is a great director.  But look over the last 10 or 20 years and see if you can find a trend in which films are winning. If you can, I’d love to read about your analysis.

P.S. This is a good piece that got me thinking about the meaning of a film winning at the Oscars: Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ makes Oscar history by repurposing the familiar – The Washington Post


If you can’t find a new movie to watch, you want to rewatch one of these

Why this list of movies? According to Five Thirty Eight, they are the most rewatchable movies of all time. Scanning the list, I see a few of the ones I tend to watch over and over again. Chances are you do too.


Meanwhile, here’s one of the many great scenes from Casablanca.

The modern history of comic based Hollywood movies is here

The modern history of comic based Hollywood movies is here (via VOX) and it’s great. It starts with this:

Though they both center on a certain caped crusader, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever (1995) couldn’t be more different. One is regarded as a cinematic treasure; the other is viewed as beautiful, colorful garbage

It goes on to review how films centred on superheroes have been progressing since Tim Burton’s Batman in the beginning of the 1980s and reviews films all the way to 2015. There’s been significant change in the genre in that 35 years, as you might expect. And it looks like it is about to undergo another change.

Like alot of genre films, it’s can be easy to dismiss genre films like this as something outside the mainstream of cinema and not worth discussing. My own view is that comic book films are films first and foremost, and when good directors like Nolan and Burton direct them, you end up with really good films. This has always been true for genre films, not just super hero movies.

For fans of such films, or film in general, it’s well worth a read and a consideration.

Elysium is like Blade Runner (and other reasons I really liked it)

If you were to read the reviews of Elysium in places like Rotten Tomatoes, you might think it was going to be mediocre at best. Instead, I think it is brilliant and will be appreciated more as time goes by. Here’s some random notes jotted down on why I liked it very much.

It follows the same pattern as Blade Runner: the longer I watched Elysium, the more it reminded me of Blade Runner. It is a immersive, dystopian world centered in Los Angeles. Only the poor live on earth, while the better off live off world, tended to by robots. In Blade Runner, the lowest form of life (the replicants) are in desperate need of expert attention to survive. In Elysium, it is the poor who need medical attention to survive. While they are trying to get help, they are being chased by killers trying to stop them.

While there are similarities in the story lines, there are also similarities in the reimagining of Los Angeles.  Ridley Scott imagined LA as a dystopian mixture of punk club and Japan, all cast in darkness. Blomkamp imagines it as a sunbaked shantytown with no end. Both are bleak places, and both represent a vision of the times they are in even as they are cast into the future.

Like Scott, Blomkamp has a great eye for detail. In particular, with the wealthy. There are all sorts of details, from the Versace healing beds, to the watch Jodie Foster wears to the luxury vehicle that Matt Damon’s character attacks midway through the film. The wealthy live in neat, opulent spaces while the property of the poor is caked with dirt, dark, piled up and messy, and Blomkamp does a great job of setting the stage with a high level of detail.

Overtime, the influence of Blade Runner has grown and grown, as has it’s stature as a film. I predict that as Blomkamp makes more films, he has a chance to have his films seen the same way. Elysium may not gain the following that Blade Runner has, but over time, I believe it will be appreciated more than it currently is.

It’s an big budget action film: District 9 was impressive in that it managed to be embody many genres, from Science Fiction, documentary, horror, buddy film, action film, with lots of politics and even romance throughout. (Watch it again: it is dazzling to see it all come together.)  Elysium is a big budget action film, and while that gives Blomkamp freedom in some ways, it restricts him in others.  I think some viewers were let down by those restrictions and were expecting something closer to District 9. I was happy that he got to make another film like this that had a good chance of attracting a similar audience. Why?

It’s agitprop: I think it is amazing that Blomkamp got to make an agitprop film. A big budget agitprop film, with big international stars.  Underlying all of the action and drama of the film is the message that immigration and health care restrictions are bad, and that the wealthy need to have a responsibility to share and help the less fortunate, not shun and ostracize them. To emphasize this, Matt Damon’s character is an ex thief and working class, and the woman he loves is a nurse, while his chief adversaries are cut throat politicians, CEOs, and the henchmen that do the ugly work on their behalf.

It’s not Costa-Gavras, but in this age when most big budget American films are based on cartoon characters, it is both extraordinary and influential. Maybe not influential for viewers who think about these ideas all the time, but for many people, this will have more influence on them than any serious documentary (which they would never go to) would have. Agitprop needs to go where people live, speak to them in their language: not have them come to it, speaking down to them.

It is the present dressed up as the future: watching Elysium, I was struck by how close this future is. LA is not a shantytown, but shantytowns exist everywhere.  There is no city in space, but in much of the world there are resort hotels and resort cruise ships which may as well be in space for the people that live there.  There are no flying cars or drones yet, but the drones are practically here and autonomous, if not flying, cars are just a few years away. It is a dystopia, but not a far off one. As well, immigration and health care are big topics of discussion in the United States of America right now: that they are a big part of Elysium can be no accident. Like much good SF, the future is near and drawn from the Now.

It has flaws: overlook them. There are a fair number of flaws with Elysium, but I felt that was because Blomkamp was taking current reality and moving it into the future, flaws and all. Or he was focused on illustrating a point. All SF has flaws — anyone who ever watched a SF film with time travel will tell you that. And to insert ideas into a fast paced action film risks introducing more flaws.  But to write off the film for those flaws is to miss out on a lot.

It nicely pays homage to other SF, including District 9, Wall-E, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and no doubt more. SF fans can enjoy watching the film just for references.