My favorite music from the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films

With the forthcoming release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (see my video reaction to the film here), I’ve been thinking about all the great music that this series has given us over the years. These scores not only help create the world of the films, but they help imbue it with a whimsy and a poignancy that would otherwise be totally missing — especially the more incoherent films like At World’s End and Dead Man’s Chest. Below are some of my favorite tracks, and a few thoughts on each one.

Note: Geoff Zanelli does the music for the new film, replacing Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt. His work is fine, but he mostly re-uses memorable themes from the previous movies (think Don Davis in Jurassic Park III and you have a good idea of what the score is like).

He’s a Pirate – Written by Klaus Badelt for the original Pirates of the Caribbean, this track is oft-imitated, never equaled. It combines modern, bombastic action film sensibilities with a heavy emphasis on strings that make it one of the most memorable themes of all time.

Angelica – For On Stranger Tides, Zimmer collaborated with my favorite band in the world right now, guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. One of the results was this tango that features some beautiful riffs.

Jack Sparrow – The composers of the Jack Sparrow theme found a way to express his personality using a cello solo. It’s beautiful, silly, and grand.

Up Is Down – One thing the Pirates films are great at is crafting inventive visuals. In a memorable scene in At World’s End, Jack Sparrow uses the weight of his crew to flip his entire ship underwater. This fun track captures some of the whimsy and challenge of that task.

I Don’t Think Now Is The Best Time – This track is an extremely intricate one that plays at the end of At World’s End. As the climactic battle is coming to a head and all hell is breaking loose, Elizabeth and Will declare their love for each other. Almost every single theme in the Pirates movies shows up for a moment in this thing, but my favorite aspect of this track is how it manages to combine them, often layering one on top of the other, all while still managing to match the action on screen. It’s probably the track I’ve listened to more than any other.

For more reading, see my review of Hans Zimmer’s live tour.

The state of film criticism in Seattle

I was delighted to participate in this panel at the Seattle International Film Festival with fellow Seattle film critics Charles Mudede, Sara Michelle Fetters, and Zosha Millman. Brendan Harris moderated a discussion about the economics of film criticism, the role a film critic plays as an advocate of films and consumers, and past opinions we’ve regretted.

You can watch the entire panel here on Periscope.

Has Pixar lost its way?

Christopher Orr, writing for The Atlantic:

A well-regarded hollywood insider recently suggested that sequels can represent “a sort of creative bankruptcy.” He was discussing Pixar, the legendary animation studio, and its avowed distaste for cheap spin-offs. More pointedly, he argued that if Pixar were only to make sequels, it would “wither and die.” Now, all kinds of industry experts say all kinds of things. But it is surely relevant that these observations were made by Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar, in his best-selling 2014 business-leadership book.

Yet here comes Cars 3, rolling into a theater near you this month. You may recall that the original Cars, released back in 2006, was widely judged to be the studio’s worst film to date. Cars 2, which followed five years later, was panned as even worse. And if Cars 3 isn’t disheartening enough, two of the three Pixar films in line after it are also sequels: The Incredibles 2 and (say it isn’t so!) Toy Story 4.

The painful verdict is all but indisputable: The golden era of Pixar is over. It was a 15-year run of unmatched commercial and creative excellence, beginning with Toy Story in 1995 and culminating with the extraordinary trifecta of wall-e in 2008, Up in 2009, and Toy Story 3 (yes, a sequel, but a great one) in 2010. Since then, other animation studios have made consistently better films. The stop-motion magicians at Laika have supplied such gems as Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings. And, in a stunning reversal, Walt Disney Animation Studios—adrift at the time of its 2006 acquisition of the then-untouchable Pixar—has rebounded with such successes as Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6. One need only look at this year’s Oscars: Two Disney movies, Zootopia and Moana, were nominated for Best Animated Feature, and Zootopia won. Pixar’s Finding Dory was shut out altogether.

TL;DR: Pixar has lost its way artistically because it is now making a ton of sequels, and some of its recent movies haven’t been great.

I don’t really buy this argument for a few reasons. Firstly, the article itself acknowledges that Pixar has frequently figured out ways to make excellent sequels, best exemplified in the Toy Story series. Sure, Finding Dory and Monsters University were mediocre, but the concept of sequels is not inherently creatively bankrupt. Yes, the idea of Toy Story 4 fills me with dread, but I’m willing to take a wait and see approach to that film in the hopes that Pixar will find a good angle for it.

And secondly: Inside Out. That movie came out less than two years ago and is, by many accounts (including mine), a masterpiece. Any animation studio that can produce a film like that in its recent past still has something remarkable going for it.

I say let’s give it a few years and see how Coco turns out before we start making judgments.

Summer 2017 will be brutal at the box office

Ryan Faughnder, writing for The LA Times:

Last summer, sequels to “Star Trek,” “X-Men,” “Independence Day,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Alice in Wonderland” all performed worse than their predecessors.

Now, even though they could be poised for a repeat of that scenario, Hollywood studios are sticking with the same strategy. Why? At a time when the risks of failure in the movie business have become more costly, studios are still focusing their efforts on films that are perceived as safe bets, especially with overseas audiences that increasingly drive profits. Additionally, the movie business is notoriously slow to change course because of the time it takes to make big films. So, in some cases, it may be too late for studios to pull the plug on movies that already appear doomed long before they hit theaters.

“Man, this is depressing,” one prominent producer, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect studio relationships, said of the summer lineup. “It is just entirely sequels and franchises, and something’s got to give.”

The damage? An estimated 5-10% fewer ticket sales for the period between May and Labor Day, leading to possibly the worst sales revenue of the decade.

What’s fascinating to me are the institutional factors that continue to lead us into this era of non-stop comic book movies and franchises. No studio executive will ever get fired for greenlighting another Pirates film — the Pirates franchise has generated over $3.7 billion worldwide.

Valerian on the other hand…

Brief thoughts on ‘Alien: Covenant’

I had a chance to see Ridley Scott’s new film, Alien: Covenant, last night and I wanted to share a few thoughts on the film:

  • Overall, I am very torn about it. On the one hand, all the complaints that people had about scientists/crew members behaving stupidly in Prometheus are back with a vengeance. On numerous occasions, a character says “I’m just going to wander off by myself in this extremely dangerous location, but I’ll be right back!” Did these people learn nothing from Wes Craven’s Scream? The fact that it’s 20 years later and filmmakers like Ridley Scott are still using the same tropes of people acting super dumb is a disappointment.
  • On the other hand, I think this movie is one of the best prequels/requels/sidequels/sequels/whatevers ever made, in the sense that it not only improves upon previous films like Prometheus, but actually makes them more thematically resonant. The story, the plot, the ideas are really strong in this film — the characters are not.
  • Fassbender’s performance in Covenant is one of its highlights. Putting aside his blockbuster fare, Fassbender continues to choose roles that are artistically challenging, and his role in this film is no different.
  • There are Xenomorphs in this movie and they mostly look pretty weird because they are mostly CG creations. Remember when you first saw Attack of the Clones and there were a gajillion storm troopers that didn’t look quite right (because they were all CG and not practical)? That’s what it kind of feels like to see Xenomorphs move and behave in ways completely free from the constraints of their filmic predecessors.
  • DEFINITELY watch Prometheus before you see this film, if you want to be slightly less lost about WTF is giong on.

I think Covenant is definitely strong enough to recommend it. I just wish its profound ideas were in a better film. I discuss my thoughts further in this Periscope broadcast.


Forrest Wickman, writing for Slate, on the recent trend of supervillains using elaborate PowerPoint presentations to explain their plans:

But lately many supervillains have been taking things to a whole new level. Like wannabe entrepreneurs, they’ve begun preparing their own pitch decks, complete with slides and videos and futuristic holograms. If Game of Thrones has “sexposition” (in which the show uses nudity to hold the viewer’s attention while delivering dry plot exposition), superhero movies have what I’d call “decksposition.” It’s no less shameless, and a lot more dull, because decks are a lot less sexy than sex […]

But it’s Marvel Studios that’s combined these threads to make the holographic infodump a summer-movie staple. It started with the Iron Man movies, where, given Tony Stark’s entrepreneurial streak, it at least felt more natural to the territory. It’s plausible that a huckster like Stark might recap the night of his parents’ death via a hologram presentation at an MIT Alumni Honors event, as he does in his co-starring role in Captain America: Civil War.

The hologram technology Stark uses (which in the real world is still at least a few years off), is a regular feature of the Iron Man franchise. But by Iron Man 3, the series’ villains had started delivering their own evil TED Talks. In that 2013 movie, Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian explains the fictional technology he will use to try to take over the country, via a holographic livestream of his brain.

A few points. I think that due to the rise of superhero films, we are in the midst of a “supervillain arms race,” whereby the villains in these movies need to have plans of increasing complexity.

It follows that filmmakers would want to liven up the exposition a little bit. I’m not sure what a good solution is to this problem — just have less complex plans? Or make the telling of them less visually interesting? It’s a tough issue.

Also, Wickman was prompted to write this piece due to a similar scene in the new Guardians of the Galaxy, where the main villain uses a multimedia presentation to explain his plans.  As I tried to argue in our review of that film, the villain at least a character-based motivation for doing that.

/Film’s 2017 Summer Movie Wager

Every year on /Film, we choose our top 10 films of the summer by domestic box office gross. It’s always a fun time full of trash talking and week-by-week nailbiting results. Check out the episode here.

My picks are below:

  1. Despicable Me 3
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  4. Wonder Woman
  5. Transformers 5
  6. War for the Planet of the Apes
  7. Cars 3
  8. Dunkirk
  9. Pirates of the Caribbean 5
  10. The Mummy (2017)
  • Alien: Covenant
  • Baywatch
  • Captain Underpants

My biggest uncertainties? Putting Pirates so low, putting Despicable Me 3 at #1, and not having Captain Underpants in the top 10 at all.

Losing a generation of movies and TV

Over at IEEE, Marty Perlmutter has written a sobering assessment of the current state of digital preservation efforts at major studios:

Digital technology has also radically altered the way that movies are preserved for posterity, but here the effect has been far less salutary. These days, the major studios and film archives largely rely on a magnetic tape storage technology known as LTO, or linear tape-open, to preserve motion pictures. When the format first emerged in the late 1990s, it seemed like a great solution. The first generation of cartridges held an impressive 100 gigabytes of uncompressed data; the latest, LTO-7, can hold 6 terabytes uncompressed and 15 TB compressed. Housed properly, the tapes can have a shelf life of 30 to 50 years. While LTO is not as long-lived as polyester film stock, which can last for a century or more in a cold, dry environment, it’s still pretty good.

The problem with LTO is obsolescence. Since the beginning, the technology has been on a Moore’s Law–like march that has resulted in a doubling in tape storage densities every 18 to 24 months. As each new generation of LTO comes to market, an older generation of LTO becomes obsolete. LTO manufacturers guarantee at most two generations of backward compatibility. What that means for film archivists with perhaps tens of thousands of LTO tapes on hand is that every few years they must invest millions of dollars in the latest format of tapes and drives and then migrate all the data on their older tapes—or risk losing access to the information altogether.

That costly, self-perpetuating cycle of data migration is why Dino Everett, film archivist for the University of Southern California, calls LTO “archive heroin—the first taste doesn’t cost much, but once you start, you can’t stop. And the habit is expensive.” As a result, Everett adds, a great deal of film and TV content that was “born digital,” even work that is only a few years old, now faces rapid extinction and, in the worst case, oblivion.

Until a solution that is better than costly, quickly obsoleted LTO tapes is found, original versions of all of the cultural work we value is in danger of being lost forever.

The “Born Sexy Yesterday” trope

YouTube user Pop Culture Detective has created a fairly comprehensive, insightful essay about the film trope “born sexy yesterday,” in which grown (and frequently sexualized) women have the minds of children. From the essay:

“Born Sexy Yesterday” is about an unbalanced relationship. But it’s also very much connected to masculinity. The subtext of the trope is rooted in a deep-seated insecurity about sex and sexuality. The crux of the trope is a fixation on male superiority. A fixation with holding power over an innocent girl. But in order to make that socially acceptable, science fiction is employed to put the mind of that girl into a sexualized adult woman’s body.

It’s a fantasy based on fear — fear of women who are equal in sexual experience and romantic history, and fear of losing the intellectual upper hand to women.

Seeing all the examples laid out like this makes clear how ubiquitous and pernicious this trope really is.

Brief thoughts on the Hans Zimmer Revealed live concert tour

After watching Hans Zimmer’s Coachella set, I knew immediately I had to go see him live. So, this weekend, I drove 1000+ miles to Las Vegas, NV to see the latest stop on his Hans Zimmer Revealed tour. I wanted to just jot down a few thoughts quickly, with the possibility of a more expanded review later on:

  • Overall, I had an amazing time. The full set list included some of Zimmer’s greatest hits, as well as some deep cuts (e.g. True Romance, Sherlock Holmes). The whole concert was 3 hours long, including a 30-40 minute intermission in the middle and an encore. I felt like I got my money’s worth ($100+).
  • In my opinion, Hans Zimmer has done as much to shape the world of modern cinema as any director or piece of technology. His movie scores have not only left indelible impressions, but they’ve also influenced tons of other artists as well (for good or ill). Seeing him on stage, talking about his music, sharing stories about how some pieces came to be, was a delight. Zimmer himself performs in pretty much every song, sometimes on keyboard, sometimes on guitar/banjo, sometimes on percussion. His talent is monumental.
  • In terms of presentation, you could tell that everything was done according to Zimmer’s specifications. There was a band at the front of the stage, with lead soloists, and then behind them a small chamber orchestra and a choir(!). The light show was really intense and impressive. A gigantic screen behind all the performers showed some visualizations of songs that were being performed (There were no clips from movies though, I assume due to rights reasons). While some of the screen images bordered on cheesy (an issue with the Game of Thrones show as well), I appreciated the overall experience from a visual perspective.
  • My only complaint: The show was extremely loud, which itself is not a problem. However, some of the show was really just a bit too loud. I was really excited to hear Zimmer play the main track from Man of Steel, but when that track got intense, it just sounded like a lot of high-pitched noise. That was too bad, because I absolutely love it at a more manageable volume. A few other tracks suffered similarly from being not super well mixed and oppressive in their volume.
  • The encore was three of Zimmer’s tracks from Inception. On the one hand, they are amazing tracks and were performed exceptionally. On the other hand, damn you Zimmer for teasing me with the possibility of finishing a concert WITHOUT playing those tracks.

I felt like my entire life’s interest in film music, which probably started when I first bought a CD copy of the score for Crimson Tide at Circuit City (yeah), culminated in this concert. As Zimmer strolled through a collection of his greatest hits, I started to grasp precisely how much of my life has been spent listening to his music.

Moreover, I realized often his music is better than the movies they are in. Like when he started playing “Up Is Down,” I remembered, “Oh yeah, I DID listen to that amazing string-led track 50x even though I never saw the third Pirates movie more than once.”

Hans Zimmer is a legend in movie music. If you love film scores as much as me (and maybe even if you love it quite a bit less than me), know that this show is worthy of the work he puts out into the world.

I have shared more detailed thoughts about this concert on Periscope.

The Black List’s new AI service ScriptBook already seems to have huge problems

UPDATE: It now appears as though the blog post announcing ScriptBook has been taken down. My original post follows.

Earlier today, the well-regarded site The Black List, which surfaces some of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, announced the launch of ScriptBook, a new AI service for evaluating scripts:

Who is ScriptBook?

ScriptBook is a technology company that uses machine learning and natural language processing to learn about film scripts. By analyzing thousands of produced film scripts, movies and associated data, their algorithm can analyze a film script based simply on its words. By using AI, ScriptBook can provide a more objective analysis of a film script than any single human reader.

Why are we adding this product?

Our goal is to provide writers another tool to help them analyze their work. This product does not replace the evaluation service performed by our team of professional readers — instead, it offers a new, cutting-edge way to look at screenplays. It provides objective metrics and analysis on a very subjective endeavor. Our philosophy is that machine learning combined with real human taste and intuition can help us understand the world better than either alone. Increasingly, these tools are being used by studios and production companies to make decisions, so we want to offer such a tool to writers at the lowest price point possible.

For $100, ScriptBook will provide a 4-page analysis of your feature length script. The site provides a sample report for the Denzel Washington film Fences to show what a typical analysis might look like.

There are obviously lots of challenges with reading a script and offering useful suggestions for improving it. The idea that an AI could perform this analysis accurately feels pretty far-fetched. And apparently it is! Because even ScriptBook’s own analysis of Fences seems wildly off.

Film producer Keith Calder tore into ScriptBook on Twitter. I don’t think I have anything to add to this:

How Netflix treats great indie films

David Ehrlich, writing for Indiewire, on what it means to have your film on Netflix:

I don’t know if Netflix has the power to kill the movies, but the last few months have made one thing incredibly clear: Netflix certainly has the power to kill their movies, and it’s doing that with extreme prejudice. It’s not a distributor; it’s a graveyard with unlimited viewing hours. Netflix doesn’t release movies, it inters them.

And the problem is getting worse, because the movies that Netflix is buying — and funding — are getting better. When the company first got into the original features game with Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation,” the tepid response wasn’t much of a concern; the roll-out was a mess, and most theaters refused to play a movie that was premiering day-and-date with a streaming service, but the assumption was that Netflix would learn from their mistakes and better serve their filmmakers.

Cut to: Sundance 2017, when Netflix rolled up to the festival with several of the program’s most exciting titles already in its back pocket. One such title was Macon Blair’s giddily good “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.,” which would go on to win the coveted Grand Jury Prize, joining the ranks of films like “Whiplash” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Not only did the victory lend the streaming giant some much-needed credibility in the indie universe, it also gave them the opportunity to champion Blair as a major talent, and build some momentum for his next collaboration with “Green Room” director Jeremy Saulnier (which the streaming giant will eventually release). Surely they would make the most of it, right? Of course not. Netflix quietly uploaded the movie onto their platform in the middle of the night like it was a new episode of “Fuller House.”

I’m really torn about Ehrlich’s piece. On the one hand, I agree with his overall point: Netflix is buying up great movies and doing very little to promote them. And while being on Netflix might make you financially whole, it’s questionable what it may do for your career or for your movie being seen.

On the other hand, he makes numerous points I disagree with. For instance, he writes:

In fact, Netflix recently took steps to make it even more difficult for customers to find what they crave or stumble upon new delights, as the company made the myopic decision to replace its somewhat worthless star ratings with a completely worthless “thumbs up / thumbs down” approach. Good luck finding your way around that buffet when all of the food is divided into “good” and “rotten.”

Five star ratings are awesome for people who are really into movies and like refining their preferences. But the vast majority of people don’t give a crap about that, and just use one star or five stars. Not to mention there is wide disagreement about what the star ratings even mean. From a piece on The Verge about Netflix’s decision:

Switching to a binary thumbs-up / thumbs-down system might seem less granular than offering five stars, but [Netflix VP] Yellin said there’s an implicit understanding with thumbs-up / thumbs-down that people are doing it to improve their own experience rather than trying to rate it for the rest of the world. And at the end of the day, it’s really about just getting more people to rate things.

“What’s more powerful: you telling me you would give five stars to the documentary about unrest in the Ukraine; that you’d give three stars to the latest Adam Sandler movie; or that you’d watch the Adam Sandler movie 10 times more frequently?” Yellin said. “What you do versus what you say you like are different things.”

Later, in Ehrlich’s piece for Indiewire:

If a movie premieres on Netflix, is it still even a movie? In an age where the word “film” is often a misnomer and content is classified less by the intent of its production than by the means of its distribution, it could be said that movies — at least for the time being — are simply things that play in movie theaters. It may seem like a matter of semantics, but I think we’re talking about qualitatively different experiences. When Netflix buys a movie, it guarantees that the vast majority of people will never get to see it in its full glory. It’s the equivalent of a museum buying a work of art, locking it in a vault, and making photocopies so widely available that people lose sight of the fact that they’re missing out on the real thing.

In the era of peak TV, I can certainly agree that there is a lot of fluidity in the division between TV and film right now. But I also think the implication that the theatrical experience is an essential part of making something a “film” is a somewhat privileged viewpoint.

If Netflix never existed, the vast majority of Americans probably never would’ve seen Macon Blair’s I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore in a theater. They may never have even had a chance to. That film might never have even played in a theater outside a film festival or special event. But today, over 40 million Netflix subscribing households in the US can pull it up on their TV and access it instantly. The fact that most of them will not is a problem I think Netflix (and its filmmakers) will need to contend with. I don’t see how that makes it no longer a film, though.

See also: The Ringer’s piece on “The End of Independent Film As We Know It”

Watch Hans Zimmer’s spectacular Coachella performance

Hans Zimmer performed a set at Coachella that blew the roof of the place yesterday(it’s already on Reddit’s front page this morning). Those of us who weren’t there live could watch on Coachella’s live stream.

Unfortunately, Coachella only uploaded a small portion of the 60+ minute performance (seen above). That being said, here’s a list of the full set:

  • Inception – Half Remembered Dream
  • Inception – The Dream is Collapsing
  • Inception – Mombasa
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – One Day
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – Up Is Down
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – He’s a Pirate
  • The Lion King – Circle of Life
  • The Lion King – Under the Stars
  • The Lion King – This Land
  • Gladiator – The Wheat
  • Gladiator – The Battle
  • Gladiator – Elysium
  • Gladiator – Now We Are Free
  • Freedom
  • The Dark Knight – Why So Serious
  • The Dark Knight – Fear Will Find You
  • Aurora
  • Inception – Time

If you want to see Hans Zimmer live, there’s still a chance! Check out the tour dates on his website.

Visualizing the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies

Bloomberg has an incredible data visualization of every Fast and Furious movie (excluding the eighth):

The Fast & Furious blockbuster franchise unfolds over nearly 14 hours so far—and that’s before an eighth movie in the $4 billion series, The Fate of the Furious, arrives in theaters on Friday. The newest film will speak in a lucrative language that audiences have learned to crave: gear shifts, engine revs, car chases, angry banter about cars, and sips of Corona. Exactly how fast and how furious is the Fast & Furious cinematic universe? The family at Bloomberg decided to meticulously analyze all seven movies to track their evolution. We counted just about everything that could be turned into a meaningful metric, even screen time for men’s biceps.

Here are some of the biggest findings in my opinion:
  • The movies have grossed over $4 billion but it’s really Fast Five ($626MM), Fast and Furious 6 ($789MM), and Furious 7 ($1.5B) that sent the series’ box office receipts into the stratosphere.
  • As time has gone on, the movies have focused on cars and racing less and less, with less than one minute occupied with racing in Furious 7, compared to a luxurious 15:10 of racing screentime in Tokyo Drift. This makes sense, as the movies have shifted towards more of a heist model, compared with the undercover police intrigue from the first three films.
  • In contrast, the number of action scenes have significantly increased over time. Number of car action scenes, hand-to-hand-combat scenes, and explosions have all gone up dramatically from Furious movies 3-7.
  • Remarkably, despite how schlocky and unrealistic the series has gotten, reviews of the films have trended upwards over time, with Furious 7 receiving the highest RottenTomatoes score of all of them, 79%.

Check out the full rundown at Bloomberg’s site.

‘Fast and Furious’ movies with Corona being consumed averaged $87 million more box office than those that don’t

Reddit user LundgrensFrontKick has a fascinating analysis correlating Corona consumption in Fast and Furious movies with an increase in critical positivity and box office receipts. Those that feature Corona being consumed average $250 million domestically and have a combined 63% IMDB/Rottentomatoes score, while those that don’t average $163 million domestically and have a 57% IMDB/Rottentomatoes score:

“You can have any brew you want, as long as it’s a Corona.” With these beautiful words The Fast and the Furious announced its glorious partnership with Corona. Corona saw its zenith in The Fast & The Furious, but it got a massive push in Furious 7 when Dom famously turned down delicious Belgian beer in favor of a bucket of Corona. Corona and the Fast world have become synonymous with each other and have built a beautiful world in which nobody gets drunk or gains weight due to excessive drinking. However, after rewatching all the films I’ve come to realize Corona doesn’t play that big of a role in the Fast world. In my mind, the entire team are always incorrectly chugging bottled beer while cruising around the earth engaging in shenanigans. I am 100% serious when I say I was surprised when I compiled the numbers of Corona sightings.

See also: A brief history of Furious product placements.

[Thanks to Drew Wallner for bringing this to my attention]

Diving deeper into ‘Ghost in the Shell’

I wanted to share a few more pieces about Ghost in the Shell (aside from the one I posted the other day) that I’ve found to be particularly helpful in shaping a productive debate on the new film:

IFFBoston 2017 announces full lineup

The Independent Film Festival of Boston has announced their full lineup for the year (viewable here). When I lived in Boston, IFFBoston was an amazing experience, run by friendly people who had a passion for great film. I’d highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area.

Their full press release is below. Ty Burr from The Boston Globe has a rundown of highlights from this year’s program.


Boston (April 10, 2017) – The Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston) announced today the full lineup of films that will be screened at the 2017 festival. The fifteenth annual festival will take place April 26 – May 3, 2017. Tickets are on sale for the general public beginning on Tuesday, April 11th.

With over 100 films screening this year, IFFBoston will take place at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square, the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, and at UMass Boston. Events will include filmmaker Q&A sessions, panel discussions, visiting filmmakers, and parties  as part of an overall event that showcases the best in current American and International cinema.

“STUMPED” directed by Robin Berghaus will open the 15th annual festival on April 26th at the Somerville Theatre. This documentary is a portrait of Will Lautzenheiser, a filmmaker and educator who became a quadrilateral amputee after suffering from a life threatening bacterial infection. It follows his extraordinary journey and recovery from forays into stand-up comedy to being the third patient to undergo double arm transplantation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“BAND AID”, directed by Zoe Lister-Jones will close the festival on Wednesday May 3rd at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. It stars Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Jessie Williams and Fred Armisen.

Other notable films screening at the festival include:

  • Centerpiece Documentary Spotlight is THE B-SIDE: ELSA DORFMAN’S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY directed by Errol Morris. New England Premiere
  • Centerpiece Narrative Spotlight is THE HERO directed by Brett Haley. New England Premiere. Starring Sam Eliott, Laura Prepon and Nick Offerman.
  • Documentaries by local filmmakers include LETTING GO OF ADELE directed by Melissa Dowler; ANGELO UNWRITTEN directed by Alice Stone; OYATE directed by Dan Girmus
  • PATTI CAKE$, starring Bridget Everett and Danielle McDonald.
  • Joshua Z Weinstein’s critically acclaimed film, MENASHE.
  • Janicza Bravo’s LEMON, starring Brett Gelman, Judy Greer and Michael Cera
  • LANDLINE directed by Gillian Robespierre, and starring Milton’s own Jenny Slate.
  • ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL directed by Steve James
  • DEAN directed by Demetri Martin starring Martin and Kevin Kline

IFFBoston will team up with the Mass Production Coalition to present an inaugural Student Short Film Competition, whereshort films selected by local colleges will compete for a cash prize.

IFFBoston will again partner with the UMass Boston Film Series to present the 3rd Annual The Mass. Works-in-Progress Pitch Session. This competition spotlights local filmmakers at various stages in their careers and at different stages of production with their projects. The IFFBoston/UMB Film Series’ WIP event takes place before a general audience of filmgoers, potential funders, broadcasters, festival programmers, brand partners and industry insiders. The goal of the event is to create a unique coalition of awareness and support for local filmmakers.

There will be several panel discussions during the festival. All panel discussions will be free to the public and will take place at the Somerville Theatre. Panel topics and guests to be announced soon.

Among the Official Parties: The opening night party will take place at Orleans in Davis Square, Somerville. Saturday night’s Awards Party will be at Tasty Burger in Harvard Square, and the Closing Night Party will take place at Osaka Steak House in Brookline.

Among the awards to be presented on Saturday April 29th will be the 8th annual Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing. This award was created to honor the memory of beloved Boston documentary film editor Karen Schmeer who was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident in January of 2010. This award is presented by The Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship.

Xfinity is the Presenting Cable Media Sponsor of the 2017 Independent Film Festival Boston.

90.9 WBUR is the Presenting Radio Media Sponsors of the 2017 Independent Film Festival Boston.

Rule/Boston Camera is a Presenting Technical Sponsor of the 2017 Independent Film Festival Boston.

Talamas is a Presenting Technical Sponsor of the 2017 Independent Film Festival Boston. 




Narrative Features

BAND AID directed by Zoe Lister-Jones

LA BARRACUDA directed by Jason Cortlund & Julia Halperin

BEACH RATS directed by Eliza Hittman

CHUCK directed by Philippe Falardeau

COLUMBUS directed by Kogonada

DARA JU directed by Anthony Onah

DAYVEON directed by Amman Abbasi

DEAN directed by Demetri Martin

GOOK directed by Justin Chon

HEDGEHOG directed by Lindsey Copeland

THE HERO directed by Brett Haley

HIGH LOW FORTY directed by Paddy Quinn


LANDLINE directed by Gillian Robespierre

LEMON directed by Janicza Bravo

THE LITTLE HOURS directed by Jeff Baena

LOST IN PARIS directed by Dominique Abel & Fiona Gordon

MENASHE directed by Joshua Z Weinstein

PATTI CAKE$ directed by Geremy Jasper

POLINA, DANSER SA VIE directed by Angelin Preljocaj

SYLVIO directed by Kentucker Audley & Albert Birney

THE STRANGE ONES directed by Christopher Radcliff & Lauren Wolkstein

TORMENTING THE HEN directed by Theodore Collatos

TRIP TO SPAIN directed by Michael Winterbottom

YOUTHMIN directed by Arielle Cimino & Jeffrey Ryan

Documentary Features

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL directed by Steve James

ANGELO UNWRITTEN directed by Alice Stone


BURDEN directed by Timothy Marrinan & Richard Dewey


CITY OF GHOSTS directed by Matthew Heineman

THE CREST directed by Mark Christopher Covino

DEALT directed by Luke Korem

DINA directed by Antonio Santini & Dan Sickles

DOLORES directed by Peter Bratt

EDGAR ALLAN POE: BURIED ALIVE directed by Eric Stange

FINDING KUKAN directed by Robin Lung

FOR AHKEEM directed by Jeremy S. Levine & Landon Van Soest

THE FORCE directed by Peter Nicks

FURUSATO directed by Thorsten Trimpop

INTENT TO DESTROY directed by Joe Berlinger

LETTING GO OF ADELE directed by Melissa Dowler

MAINELAND directed by Miao Wang

THE MODERN JUNGLE directed by Charles Fairbanks & Saul Kak

ONE OCTOBER directed by Rachel Shuman

OYATE directed by Dan Girmus

RAT FILM directed by Theo Anthony

SPETTACOLO directed by Jeff Malmberg & Chris Shellen

STEP directed by Amanda Lipitz

STREET FIGHTING MEN directed by Andrew James

STUMPED directed by Robin Berghaus

SWIM TEAM directed by Lara Stolman

TROPHY directed by Christina Clusiau & Shaul Schwarz

WHOSE STREETS directed by Sabaah Folayan & Sabaah Jordan


Narrative Shorts

BAD DOG directed by Tom Putnam

CALL YOUR FATHER directed by Jordan Firstman

CLOUDY ALL DAY directed by Dylan Pasture

CTRL-Z directed by James Kennedy

CUBS directed by Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir

CYCLES directed by Joe Cobden

DOGS AND TACOS directed by Steve Bachrach

EINSTEIN-ROSEN directed by Olga Osorio

A FAVOR FOR JERRY directed by D.W. Young

GAME directed by Jeannie Donohoe

HUNT directed by Sean Temple

HUNTER directed by Jane Geisler

I’M IN HERE directed by Willy Berliner

ICARUS directed by Tom Teller

LAWMAN directed by Matthew Gentile

MEGAN’S SHIFT directed by Zeke Farrow

NIGHT directed by Joosje Duk

(OUT)CASTE directed by Shilpi Shikha Agrawal

THE PRIVATES directed by Dylan Allen

SLEEP TIGHT directed by Ani Simon-Kennedy

THE SNOW GIRL directed by Mixtape Club

SO IT GOES directed by Justin Carlton

STRAYS directed by Lance Edmands

THE SUB directed by Dan Samiljan

THEY CHARGE FOR THE SUN directed by Terence Nance

THRESHER directed by Alex Clark

WHEN JEFF TRIED TO SAVE THE WORLD directed by Kendall Goldberg


Documentary Shorts

BLIND SUSHI directed by Eric Heimbold

CIRCUS CITY, USA directed by Adam Wright

THE COLLECTION directed by Adam Roffman


DETECTED directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller & Jeremy Newberger

ELIAS’ STAND directed by Jyllian Gunther

FIBA ALLOW HIJAB directed by Tim O’Donnell & Jon Mercer

FOR YOU, ALEXIS directed by Douglas Gordon

THE GLORIOUS FUTURE directed by Laura Longsworth

GUIDED directed by Bridget Besaw

GUT HACK directed by Mario Furloni & Kate McLean

HAFE: THE STORY BEHIND directed by Sam Ketay

IF I DIDN’T MAKE IT directed by Casey Toth

IMAGINE KOLLE 37 directed by Michele Meek

JUANA directed by Navarro & Morales

LAVOYGER directed by Rachel Bardin

THE MEMORIES STATION directed by Derek Frank

NO HARM NO FOUL directed by Cheng Zhang

NOTHING COMPARES directed by Melissa Dowler

PIZZA BIRDY BATH WATERFALL directed by Tim O’Donnell

PREPARATIONS FOR THE FOREST directed by Daniel Mooney

RICH MAN DAN directed by Amy Augustino

SWIM FOR LIFE directed by Lise Balk King

TROLL: A SOUTHERN TALE directed by Marinah Janello

UBERMENSCH directed by Jesper Dalgaard

THE WATCHMAKER directed by Marie-Cécile Embleton

THE WIZARD OZ directed by Danny Yourd

WORKING STIFF directed by Sarah Hanssen

THE WORLD’S OLDEST MIME: A LIFE IN THREE ACTS directed by Riley Hooper & Noah Wagner

ZAIN’S SUMMER directed by Joshua Seftel

Amanda Peet explains why she never reads reviews

Amanda Peet, writing in The New York Times, on why she never reads reviews of shows that she’s in:

When I was 26, I made the mistake of reading a review of a play I was in. “Whale Music” is a little-known gem by Anthony Minghella, and I still had three weeks left in the run. We were an all-female cast, and everyone got a nice review in The New York Times, except me.

Anita Gates wrote that I was “trying” to play my character — who was the bohemian sidekick — “as a sort of British lower-class Joan Rivers.” I love Joan Rivers, but this was an intimate English drama about 20-year-olds on the Isle of Wight…Over the next three weeks, I tried my hardest to be the opposite of Joan Rivers. By the end of the run, nobody could hear me.

A critic’s opinion had infiltrated my performance, and, as much as I resented her for making me so ashamed, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Every night, I was performing against her review — trying to prove her wrong — instead of doing my job.

I vowed never again to read another review.

Peet’s essay is a reminder that there’s always someone on the other end of that review — a person who likely worked their ass off to be there, and who has aspirations and feelings too.

It’s also a testament to the fact that, if you’re a performer, reading reviews can be a taxing and unrewarding experience. Peet hasn’t read any reviews of her work in many years, and I’m sure it hasn’t hurt her life or career one bit. In my opinion, only those who significantly benefit from intense self-examination should read their own reviews. I’m not sure I include myself in the latter category.

What is the future of moviegoing?

Bryan Bishop, writing for The Verge, on the vibe at CinemaCon this year:

Hollywood has been facing stagnating ticket sales, intense competition from streaming services, and an IP-focused studio tentpole monoculture for years. None paint a particularly rosy picture for the future, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that one sentiment stood out above all others at this past week’s CinemaCon: denial.

The movie industry (at least as it pertains to theatrical moviegoing) is entering a period of stagnation and decline. If theater owners don’t figure out a way to make good use of their spaces in ways that will engage younger people and grow their audience, then AMC may soon be heading the way of GameStop.

There is a ton of potential in the tech that Bishop talks about in this article:

Earlier this year IMAX launched the first of its “VR Experience Centre” pilot locations in Los Angeles, but at the time the company’s chief business development officer Rob Lister explained that the larger opportunity wasn’t in standalone locations like arcades, but in building on the relationships IMAX already had with exhibitors — essentially bringing VR stations to a movie theater’s lobby, or taking over an actual theater itself. It’s easy to connect the dots: if studios shorten the release window, movies will likely run for a shorter time, and so theaters will have to find new ways to monetize the locations and screens they already have. Location-based VR is an option, and a company called Nomadic VR was demoing one of the most intriguing options yet on CinemaCon’s show floor.

Larger, standalone installations like The Void have already paired untethered VR with interactive, physical locations, but Nomadic’s solution is to take that similar idea and turn it into a modular, scalable system that can be easily installed — and regularly updated — in locations like movie theaters.

I’d love to be able to try VR experiences at my local theater. But innovating starts with acknowledging that the current path is not working. And that’s something that few in the industry seem willing to admit right now.