Category Archives: lists

Rules of storytelling according to Pixar

Disney_Pixar Compilation Image

Okay, I’m totally stealing this from the On the Page FB feed:

On Twitter, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats has compiled the following 22 items of wisdom she’s received working for the animation studio over the years:

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Nice, huh?


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Challenging books: Adler and reading for one’s mind

It is easy to get excited about the idea of a classical education, especially if one naturally loves both books and history. We are trying to offer a modified classical education to our children via homeschooling. The modern idea for a classical education via classical books comes, in part, from Mortimer J. Adler and his book How to Read a Book.
Adler was an advocate of reading books more difficult than one’s current level can easily handle, thus stretching and elevating one’s mind. The best books require one to work at understanding them. The secret is that the process (the labor) of trying to understand is actually part of the joy of reading. Only reading books as escape, as easy pickings, is like eating only cake for dinner: in the short run it seems great, but in the long run it leaves one unfulfilled and anemic.
Adler also put together his canon of what a classical reading list should look like. I love reading lists; they give me more reasons to buy more books. But I hate reading lists too because they remind me of how much I have yet to read and that I am a notoriously slow reader. My desire is the get through the list below. I doubt I will read half the list before I die. Still, it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?

From Wikipedia: The following is an example list from How to Read a Book:

  1. Homer: The Iliad, The Odyssey
  2. The Old Testament
  3. Aeschylus: Tragedies
  4. Sophocles: Tragedies
  5. Herodotus: Histories
  6. Euripides: Tragedies
  7. Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War
  8. Hippocrates: Medical Writings
  9. Aristophanes: Comedies
  10. Plato: Dialogues
  11. Aristotle: Works
  12. Epicurus: “Letter to Herodotus“, “Letter to Menoecus
  13. Euclid: The Elements
  14. Archimedes: Works
  15. Apollonius: The Conic Sections
  16. Cicero: Works
  17. Lucretius: On the Nature of Things
  18. Virgil: Works
  19. Horace: Works
  20. Livy: The History of Rome
  21. Ovid: Works
  22. Plutarch: Parallel Lives; Moralia
  23. Tacitus: Histories; Annals; Agricola; Germania
  24. Nicomachus of Gerasa: Introduction to Arithmetic
  25. Epictetus: Discourses; Enchiridion
  26. Ptolemy: Almagest
  27. Lucian: Works
  28. Marcus Aurelius: Meditations
  29. Galen: On the Natural Faculties
  30. The New Testament
  31. Plotinus: The Enneads
  32. St. Augustine: “On the Teacher”; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine
  33. The Song of Roland
  34. The Nibelungenlied
  35. The Saga of Burnt Njál
  36. St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica
  37. Dante Alighieri: The New Life (La Vita Nuova); “On Monarchy”; The Divine Comedy
  38. Geoffrey Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales
  39. Leonardo da Vinci: Notebooks
  40. Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy
  41. Desiderius Erasmus: The Praise of Folly
  42. Nicolaus Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
  43. Thomas More: Utopia
  44. Martin Luther: Table Talk; Three Treatises
  45. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel
  46. John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion
  47. Michel de Montaigne: Essays
  48. William Gilbert: On the Lodestone and Magnetic Bodies
  49. Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote
  50. Edmund Spenser: Prothalamion; The Faerie Queene
  51. Francis Bacon: Essays; The Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum; The New Atlantis
  52. William Shakespeare: Poetry and Plays
  53. Galileo Galilei: Starry Messenger; Two New Sciences
  54. Johannes Kepler: The Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Harmonices Mundi
  55. William Harvey: On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; On the Generation of Animals
  56. Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
  57. René Descartes: Rules for the Direction of the Mind; Discourse on Method; Geometry; Meditations on First Philosophy
  58. John Milton: Works
  59. Molière: Comedies
  60. Blaise Pascal: The Provincial Letters; Pensées; Scientific Treatises
  61. Christiaan Huygens: Treatise on Light
  62. Benedict de Spinoza: Ethics
  63. John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; Essay Concerning Human Understanding; Some Thoughts Concerning Education
  64. Jean Baptiste Racine: Tragedies
  65. Isaac Newton: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Opticks
  66. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz: Discourse on Metaphysics; New Essays Concerning Human Understanding; “Monadology
  67. Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe
  68. Jonathan Swift: “A Tale of a Tub“; A Journal to Stella; Gulliver’s Travels; “A Modest Proposal
  69. William Congreve: The Way of the World
  70. George Berkeley: Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
  71. Alexander Pope: “Essay on Criticism“; “The Rape of the Lock“; “Essay on Man
  72. Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu: Persian Letters, Spirit of the Laws
  73. Voltaire: Letters on the English, Candide, Philosophical Dictionary
  74. Henry Fielding: Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones
  75. Samuel Johnson: “The Vanity of Human Wishes“, Dictionary, Rasselas, Lives of the Poets
  76. David Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature, Essays Moral and Political, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding
  77. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, On Political Economy, Emile, The Social Contract
  78. Laurence Sterne: Tristram Shandy, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy
  79. Adam Smith: The Theory of Moral Sentiments, The Wealth of Nations
  80. Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason; The Science of Right; Critique of Judgment; Perpetual Peace
  81. Edward Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Autobiography
  82. James Boswell: Journal; The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.
  83. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier: Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry)
  84. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison: The Federalist Papers
  85. Jeremy Bentham: Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Theory of Fictions
  86. Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France
  87. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust; Poetry and Truth
  88. Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier: Analytical Theory of Heat
  89. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit; The Philosophy of Right; Lectures on the Philosophy of History
  90. William Wordsworth: Poems
  91. Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Poems; Biographia Literaria
  92. Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice; Emma
  93. Carl von Clausewitz: On War
  94. Stendhal: The Red and the Black; The Charterhouse of Parma; On Love
  95. Lord Byron: Don Juan
  96. Arthur Schopenhauer: Studies in Pessimism
  97. Michael Faraday: The Chemical History of a Candle; Experimental Researches in Electricity
  98. Charles Lyell: Principles of Geology
  99. Auguste Comte: The Positive Philosophy
  100. Honoré de Balzac: Le Père Goriot; Eugénie Grandet
  101. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Representative Men, Essays, Journal
  102. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
  103. Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America
  104. John Stuart Mill: A System of Logic; On Liberty; Representative Government; Utilitarianism; The Subjection of Women; Autobiography
  105. Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species; The Descent of Man; Autobiography
  106. Charles Dickens: Pickwick Papers; David Copperfield; Hard Times
  107. Claude Bernard: Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine
  108. Henry David Thoreau: “Civil Disobedience“; Walden
  109. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Capital; The Communist Manifesto
  110. George Eliot: Adam Bede; Middlemarch
  111. Herman Melville: Moby-Dick; Billy Budd
  112. Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Brothers Karamazov
  113. Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary; Three Stories
  114. Henrik Ibsen: Plays
  115. Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace; Anna Karenina; What is Art?; Twenty-Three Tales
  116. Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Mysterious Stranger
  117. William James: The Principles of Psychology; The Varieties of Religious Experience; Pragmatism; Essays in Radical Empiricism
  118. Henry James: The American; The Ambassadors
  119. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil; The Genealogy of Morals; The Will to Power; Twilight of the Idols; The Antichrist
  120. Jules Henri Poincaré: Science and Hypothesis; Science and Method
  121. Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams; Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis; Civilization and Its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
  122. George Bernard Shaw: Plays and Prefaces
  123. Max Planck: Origin and Development of the Quantum Theory; Where Is Science Going?; Scientific Autobiography
  124. Henri Bergson: Time and Free Will; Matter and Memory; Creative Evolution; The Two Sources of Morality and Religion
  125. John Dewey: How We Think; Democracy and Education; Experience and Nature; Logic: The Theory of Inquiry
  126. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
  127. Alfred North Whitehead: An Introduction to Mathematics; Science and the Modern World; The Aims of Education and Other Essays; Adventures of Ideas
  128. George Santayana: The Life of Reason; Skepticism and Animal Faith; Persons and Places
  129. Lenin: The State and Revolution
  130. Marcel Proust: Remembrance of Things Past (the revised translation is In Search of Lost Time)
  131. Bertrand Russell: The Problems of Philosophy; Principia Mathematica; The Analysis of Mind; An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth; Human Knowledge, Its Scope and Limits
  132. Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain; Joseph and His Brothers
  133. Albert Einstein: The Meaning of Relativity; On the Method of Theoretical Physics; The Evolution of Physics
  134. James Joyce: “The Dead” in Dubliners; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses
  135. Jacques Maritain: Art and Scholasticism; The Degrees of Knowledge; The Rights of Man and Natural Law; True Humanism
  136. Franz Kafka: The Trial; The Castle
  137. Arnold J. Toynbee: A Study of History; Civilization on Trial
  138. Jean-Paul Sartre: Nausea; No Exit; Being and Nothingness
  139. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The First Circle; Cancer Ward
  140. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Philosophical Investigations

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>A New Year coming


This is a time for resolutions, and I will get to those, but first a reflection on this past year.

On life and family:
We (my family) have had a good year. Out girls turned eight and one. Our eldest started swim team and has progressed tremendously. She has also turned into a voracious reader, which makes us happy. Our youngest has continued to surprise us with her enthusiasm for just about everything. My job has, for the present, remained secure in the face of cutbacks and a lousy economy.

The biggest “event” by far was the accident my wife was in, and her ensuing injuries. Our youngest was in the accident as well but came away with only a scratch. My wife ended up with a broken pelvis and other painful injuries. That was more than six weeks ago and she is still in a lot of pain and needs a walker or cane to get around – plus strong pain meds. It will be a while for a complete healing, if that ever truly happens. We are hopeful and blessed at the continual gift of life.

What has been the most amazing experience of this year has been the outpouring of help and love we have received in response to Maricel’s accident. This has been a difficult journey for us in many ways and on many levels. I don’t know how we would manage without the graciousness and goodness of others.

What is hard for me to get my mind around is just how close my wife and daughter came to death. I am so thankful they are still alive. Once again we are learning how precious and beautiful life is.

On blogging:
I started this blog two years ago. My initial goal was to blog about movies and connect with other such bloggers. That I did, but quickly this blog became a place for me to explore other interests including (in no particular order) music, poetry, family, art, politics, chess, food, architecture, theology, religion, travels, and much more. In short it became an online journal of whatever I wanted to write about. This is what I think a personal blog should be.

I had high hopes of doing more with this blog. I was thinking of switching from Blogger to some better blogging tool (e.g. WordPress) so I could get more creative with the design and layout. I had plans to do more in-depth film studies and to write more poetry. I was also going to take a lot more pictures and do extended photo essays. Alas, like you I have a busy life. Blogging does not pay the bills, and it can get in the way of paying the bills or doing other important tasks. So blogging has been another thing that takes up precious time but also gives back some personal joys. Finding the balance is where it’s at.

The resolutions:
I am on the band wagon with most people this time of year. I resolve to lose weight and get in shape. My hope, as long as my knee can take it, is to run (or run/walk) a half marathon sometime in 2009. I am not built as a runner, but I think such a goal will encourage me to eat better, get outside more, lose weight, etc., etc. We’ll see. (Related to this resolution: climb a mountain, ride a century bike ride.)

I also resolve to purge our house and our lives of clutter. We are packrats. We could do better with less. So purging is the game plan. This also includes organizing our finances better, cleaning out the garage, setting up the painting studio again for my wife, and setting up a better music situation (for our guitars, piano, and other instruments). Again, we’ll see how that one goes. We have a lot of inertia to overcome.

I resolve to take more time off work and spend more time with my family. This includes doing more activities like camping and general vacationing. I always seem to have maxed out my paid leave hours (accrued) at work, so I need to use them, and my family needs me to use them. (Related to this resolution: go hiking with my family, take my kids to ball games, have friends over for dinner)

I resolve to finally brew my own beer. My wife got me all the stuff I need, but I’ve just been too lazy to actually do it.

I resolve to blog less and write more. I want to get back to revising my screenplay (and finishing another). I also want to write more poetry again.

Finally, but not really finally, I want to re-connect with my love for the arts. This includes going to galleries and museums more (taking my family of course), as well as read/writing about art. I got a college degree in art history and it still means something to me.

In conclusion:
I pray that this new year goes well for my family, for you, and for the world. I am deeply saddened by the violence, suffering, and death in the world. I want my kids to grow up in a better world. More importantly I want my kids to be the kids to grow into the kind of people who make it their life’s work to love their neighbors as themselves, to work for the kingdom here on earth as they long for it in their hearts, and to know that personal freedom is ultimately about character not mere actions. These are also areas in which I need to grow and mature. That, really, is my new year’s resolution. Of course, that should be my resolution every day.


Filed under family, Life, lists

faves: cinematographers

The camera takes center as Cocteau directs.

I became more interested in cinema when I began to understand the various working parts of the medium. My interest especially took off when I started to grasp the idea of cinematography and the role of the cinematographer. This growing realization came upon me sometime during my undergraduate years. Like the music connoisseur who finds new albums by seeing which musicians are listed in the credits and then following the trail, I began to find films based on who shot them. If I liked the cinematography of Apocalypse Now (1979), I would see that it was shot by Vittorio Storaro, and that fact would lead me to the films of Bernardo Bertolucci. Or I could look for a kind of aesthetic story by tracing a cinematographer’s oeuvre, such as Robby Müller shooting the great early films of Wim Wenders, for example Alice in the Cities (1974) and The American Friend (1977), and then shooting Repo Man (1984), and then To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), and then Down By Law (1986).

Recently I noticed something about myself as well. The cinematic image is like a drug for me. In fact I am frequently more moved, and more intrigued, by the images on the screen than the stories they tell. Narrative is often not my main reason for watching and liking films. I watch films in much the same way that I walk through a gallery or museum, going from one art work to the next, tying them together in my mind, creating connections. As the images move and shift in a film I take in each shot like the paintings in a gallery. Maybe this is because I was a professional photographer for a number of years. Or maybe that’s why I became a photographer.

With cinema the images are part of a narrative, and I do find the way those images serve the narrative to be interesting as well. But it’s still the images that get me first. The story is the excuse for their existence. I can’t say that’s a good approach to watching films, but I can’t help it. I guess I am wired that way. That may also explain why learning about cinematography and cinematographers opened up my appreciation of cinema as a whole.

Here is a list of some of my favorite cinematographers. These are the ones who’s work have most influenced my appreciation of cinema. Needles to say, there are many more I could and should list, but then it just gets unwieldy. There is so much great work out there. I have broken the list up into two groups, not as a designation of quality or capability, but of the place each has played in my development. The list is also not ranked. They could go in just about any order.

Freddie Young

There may be no more significant film in my cinephiliac development than Lawrence of Arabia (1962), which was the first of Young’s three academy awards for best cinematography. The other two were for Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Ryan’s Daughter (1970). But look at his other films, like: Treasure Island (1950), Lust for Life (1956), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), and You Only Live Twice (1967). Beautiful stuff.

Raoul Coutard

Coutard was THE cinematographer most closely associated with la nouvelle vague and, in particular, Jean-Luc Godard. He shot Breathless (1960), of course, but take a look at his list and you’ll see a what’s what of ground breaking films, including Week End (1967), maybe the most significant work of art in the latter half of the 20th century.

Vittorio Storaro

Storaro may have been the first cinematographer that I really noticed for what he did. For a while he was my favorite. His films include such seminal works as The Conformist (1970), The Spider’s Strategem (1970), Last Tango in Paris (1972), 1900 (1976), Reds (1981), Ladyhawke (1985), The Last Emporer (1987), and many others. He also has won three academy awards for best cinematography.

Robby Müller

Robby Müller does not get considered enough in the U.S. But look at his film list! I already mentioned some films above, others include The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1972), Kings of the Road (1976), Paris Texas (1984), Dead Man (1994), Breaking the Waves (1996), Dancer in the Dark (2000), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), and many more. His work with Wim Wenders was seminal in my development. All that angst was just what I needed at that time. Sometimes I still do.

Néstor Almendros

For me it was a revelation to discover Almendros was the cinematographer for Eric Rohmer. Some of those films includes such greats as La Collectionneuse (1967), My Night at Maud’s (1969), Claire’s Knee (1970), Chloé in the Afternoon (1972), and more. He was also the cinematographer for Truffaut. Some of those films inlcude Two English Girls (1971), The Man who Loved Women (1977), and The Last Metro (1980). But he also shot Days of Heaven (1978) which is stunningly lensed.

Sven Nykvist

Ah Sven. There are few filmmakers that have had as much influence on me as Ingmar Bergman, and Nykvist was his primary cinematographer. I don’t need to list those films, you know them. He also shot Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice (1986) and Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989).

Roger Deakins

Deakins is almost the defacto shooter for the Coens. He started with them back on Barton Fink (1991). Before that conspiracy he shot Sid and Nancy (1986) and Mountains of the Moon (1990). He also lensed Passion Fish (1992), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Kundun (1997), and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), plus a lot of other wonderful films.

Henri Alekan

I first heard of Alekan by way of Wings of Desire (1987). Only later did I realize that he photographed such great films as Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Roman Holiday (1953).

Dean Semler

For me Semler is the guy who shot The Road Warrior (1981). I can hardly think of a better way to use a camera than to build a cage around it, put it in the middle of the road and then, while its running, crash a car into it. That’ll give the guys at the lab heart palpitations, or at least it did back then.

Vadim Yusov

Yusov was the early cinematographer for Andre Tarkovsky. He and Tarkovsky cut their teeth together. His most famous film was Andrey Rublyov (1969). But Solyaris (1972) is worth a gander (as are all of Tarkovsky’s films). Tarkovsky is my second favorite filmmaker, right behind Jean Renoir. Or maybe they’re tied.

Karl Freund

I already wrote a post about Freund. Check it out. Don’t you just love that picture?

Many of these cinematographers are rather long in the tooth and several have passed on. Many were long past their prime by the time I “discovered” them. Fortunately their work survives and still lives. I have not been keeping up with the newer crowd who are re-setting the standards. But my point here was to list off those who played a part in my earlier development as a lover of cinema. I cannot say how many I have left off the list, but it is a lot. I hope you have your favorites as well.

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>podcasts for the movie crowd


I have become something of a podcast nut lately. There is a ever growing number of podcasts on just about every possible topic, including movies. The following is a list of the movie-related ones I have discovered. All are available in the iTunes store for free. I’m sure most of you know about these already.

NPR Movies is of the typical NPR genre: Staid, subdued, intelligent, and hosted by emotionally controlled individuals who come across more as radio hosts than film buffs. Not only film reviews, this show has a magazine format which includes good interviews and pieces on various aspects of filmmaking and the film industry. As one would expect from NPR, the production quality is exceptional. NPR also has a the ability to interview film industry notables. What is lacks, however, is cinephilia passion as well as deep analysis of films. (Something that is largely lacking in all the podcasts. I address this more in my comments at the end.)
Content: 4
Creativity: 3.5
Production quality: 5
Total Score: 4.2

Filmspotting is maybe the most representative of the cinephilia ethos. Filmspotting is my pick for the best overall podcast on the list. The hosts are true film fanatics who exude a love of all things cinema, but also back it up with knowledge. They also have a good chemistry as they banter their way through reviews, opinions, poll results, and lists. What keeps this podcast moving is the combination of wit, pace, and the ability of the hosts to draw connections between many films – as any good cinephile can do. This is currently my favorite of the film podcasts though its overall score is the same as NPR Movies.
Content: 4
Creativity: 4.5
Production quality: 4
Total Score: 4.2

Movies 101 is a rather straightforward version of film reviewing. Three people talk about a weekly list of films in a roundtable format. The hosts are knowledgeable and congenial. This show does not have nearly the energy of Filmmspotting or the slick production values of NPR, but it is a decent and intelligent movie review show. I have to say this show is not geared toward the younger crowd or the cinephile crowd, but a thoughtful middle-aged-plus crowd that likes their low cholesterol popcorn.
Content: 2.5
Creativity: 2
Production quality: 3
Total Score: 2.5

Movies You Should See is a hip, edgy (what does that mean exactly?), roundtable discussion of old and new films by enthusiasts (though not cinephiles – if such a distinction can be made) who talk as much about themselves as about the supposed topic. Most of the shows take looks at older films, which makes me happy. Although the production quality is fair and the conversations can seem to go on too long at times, the group is funny and their language is sometimes hilariously profane. The format, however, is simply a small group of 20/30 somethings gabbing about movies the way most any intelligent group would, which makes it both interesting and leaves one thinking, “don’t I already get enough of this in my own life?” Still, it is worth keeping in one’s queue.
Content: 3.5
Creativity: 3
Production quality: 2.5
Total Score: 3

For the most part these podcasts are a great addition to other film-related resources, like blogs and film mags. On the other hand, what I would love to hear is a podcast that incorporates deeper film criticism rather than the hosts merely having a conversation about current films and entertaining us with an unscripted light-weight debate.

I would like to hear a podcast that considers trends in film theories, connections with academic currents, film history, and aesthetics. I would also like to hear a podcast that finds and explores the kinds of living connections films have with the other arts, with culture and society, with language and psychology, and with the social sciences.

In essence, I would love to hear a podcast that incorporates the best of the film and media professors I had in college with the best of the film critics doing a combination of an off-the-cuff as well as scripted show, maybe something like Radio Lab for movies. (Ah Radio Lab, maybe the best podcast in the world.)

Do you know of any others worth listening to?


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>a quick, short list of films recently viewed with Lily (and sometimes the rest of the family)

>My posts have been few lately. Life is full.

The following films I have recently viewed with my daughter Lily, and occasionally the rest of the family. As I have mentioned several times before, I am introducing Lily to the history of film as part of her education. I have been making an effort to teach her about key directors as much as is reasonable.

So far we have been focusing on Hitchcock, Ford, and Hawks. But, of course, we have been watching films outside of that list of directors as well. I have also been trying to include a documentary or two.

We have also been working our way through some genres. I am introducing her to westerns, musicals, and mysteries.

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) I remember seeing this film when it first came out on video. Though it is not a great film, I find it thoroughly enjoyable for what it is. Lily is into mysteries at the moment, so I figured this might be a good choice. She loved it. Also, recently we saw some of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes stories, which Lily loved, and I love too. Those are the best Holmes adaptations in my book.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) In my attempts to educated Lily (and re-educate myself) in film language, we are watching some films from the 1930s and 1940s as a kind of level-set. Hitchcock is, of course, great for film language, story construction, and the thriller genre. The Lady Vanishes is a classic spy thriller at a time when some saw the coming troubles in Europe and others were dragging their heals.

Red River (1948) I have felt the need to introduce Lily to the Western genre. It is a genre so embedded within the American psyche. Red River is amazing; beautifully shot, acted, and paced. The ending comes up a little short, but overall a great example of the Western. This was Lily’s introduction to the Duke as well.

Jamaica Inn (1939) On a whim I threw this film in the list. It’s a great example of Hitchcock from his “British” period before moving to Hollywood. One can tell it is not a Hollywood film merely by how dark in tone and image it is. Lily found it interesting that she had already seen the two principle actors (Laughton and O’Hara) in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, especially that Laughton looks so different.

To Catch a Thief (1955) I have already written a post on To Catch a Thief when Lily and I watched it before. She wanted to see it again, so we watched it again. I like this film more and more with each viewing. Though it is often considered a more lightweight film from Hitchcock, I think there is a lot more there than at first glance.

For All Mankind (1989) Documentary on the Apollo program.

Baseball parts I, II & III (1994) Ken Burns film on “America’s pastime.” The first several parts are the most interesting in my opinion.

The Endurance (2000) The story of Ernest Shackleton’s amazing test of fortitude.

Also, recently I showed Lily several episodes of The Muppet Show, which she had never seen. She has seen a couple of the Muppet films, but never the show. She was going “what is this?!” She loved it. I used to love it too (and still do), but I forgot just how brilliant it was.

In the dock we have more westerns: My Darling Clementine, Stagecoach, The Man from Snowy River, and High Noon. I am also wanting to introduce her to film noir. I’m looking for suggestions as well.

I see two temporary problems going forward, however. First, the weather is getting better and the days are getting longer. This means it is becoming harder to put in a movie at 6PM or 7PM so we can make bedtime on time. We still want to enjoy the light outside. Second, it’s baseball season. I’m not a baseball nut. I don’t yet have a favorite team, I don’t play fantasy baseball, and I don’t do stats, but I just love the game. And I particularly like MLB on hi-def. Sometimes it’s better to enjoy the pleasant mindless joy of baseball viewing than a mind-engaging film.


Filed under family, lists, movies

>the tops…

>I do not like top ten lists at all, not one bit, but I do love them because they’re candy. I have avoided jumping into the ever present top-ten-film-list milieu because, I say, I just don’t see the point. Fact is, I really want to, but can’t make up my mind.

I also cannot rank films – I mean, it’s like choosing between steak and lobster, how can I pick a favorite? So what I have is a top 25 “pool” of films that seem to constantly swirl around my consciousness, that I find myself returning to over and over, and that send me into the closest thing to a religiously ecstatic experience I can find. This pool is also fed by underground springs and winding tributaries, and it empties into larger and larger pools until it connects with a vast ocean where all the films swim. Huh?

my top 25 favorite films (in alphabetical order):
Andrei Rublev (1966)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Au hasard Balthazar (1966)
BDR Trilogy (The Marriage of Maria Braun, 1979; Lola, 1981; Veronika Voss, 1982)
Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932)
Breathless (1960)
Hiroshima mon amour (1959)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
L’avventura (1960)
Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Rashomon (1950)
Rules of the Game (1939)

Singing in the Rain (1952)
Stalker (1979)
Street of Crocodiles (1986)

The American Friend (1977)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
The Blue Angel (1930)
The Godfather II (1974)
The Last Laugh (1924)
The Searchers (1956)
The World of Apu (1959)
Vertigo (1958)
Wings of Desire (1987)

25 films is really not a lot. If I had the inclination I could come up with a lot more, but to what end? At some point all cinephiles end up mentioning most of the same films over an over, and then throw in a few odd ones as if to say “I’m also a unique cine-hipster.” The truth is, great films are objectively great on some level. To recognize those films is to be human and, in some instances, thoughtful and observant too. So the above list isn’t really all that insightful. Consider it a kind of common ground.

But I can’t just stop there, for movies are like potato chips, and I gots the cravings…

My 25 favorite “makes-me-want-to-be-a-filmmaker” films that are not in my top 25 (in alphabetical order):
A Man Escaped (1956)

Alice in the Cities (1974)

Ashes and Diamonds (1958)
Catch-22 (1970)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Diamonds in the Night (1964)

Dog Star Man (1960s)
Goodfellas (1990)
Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

Jaws (1975)
La Strada (1954)
La Terra trema (1948)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Life of Oharu (1962)
Mirror (1975)

Orpheus (1950)
sex, lies, and videotape (1989)
Sunrise (1927)
The 400 Blows (1959)
The Civil War (1990)
The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936)

The Godfather (1972)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Vagabond (1985)

Week End (1967)

“Why stop there,” said the voice in my head, “you know you don’t want to.”

my 25 favorite films “no one” ever lists on their all-time favorite films lists (in alphabetical order):
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
A Room with a View (1986)
Airplane! (1980)

Barcelona (1994)
From Russia with Love (1963)

Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Halloween (1978)
La Belle Noiseuse (1991)

Jean de Florette (1986) & Manon of the Spring (1986)
Meshes in the Afternoon (1943)
Mindwalk (1991)
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
My Life as a Dog (1985)

Rear Window (1954)
Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
Stealing Beauty (1996)

Strozyek (1977)
The Boxer and Death (1963)
The Decameron (1971)
The Golden Coach (1953)
The Road Warrior (1981)

Vampyr (1932)
Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)
Window Water Baby Moving (1958)

I have come to the conclusion that top whatever film lists are like tee-shirts and bumper stickers – they have everything to do with telling others about oneself, of staking out some psychic and moral turf and saying “this is who I am… for now.” It’s also like a banker wearing a suit or a professor wearing a sweater with elbow patches; it’s a way for other like minds to say, “ah, you’re one of us!” You can take it or leave it, but when I look at the lists above I see an awful lot of myself up there.

…wait a minute, where are Dr. Strangelove? Umberto D.? The Earrings of Madam d…? Star Wars? Last Tango in Paris? Manhattan? Mulholland Drive? How could I have left them out? And where are Man with the Movie Camera? The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp? The Man Who Skied Down Everest? El Capitan? I just realized I haven’t listed a single film by the Coen brothers! Oh Lord, what have I done?!

I just don’t know where to stop. Or maybe I really don’t know where to begin. I vow in the future I will craft a true top ten list and stand by it… for a while.


Filed under lists, movies