Brief thoughts on Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’

I had a chance to see Jordan Peele’s Get Out last night and I thought it was great. A few (non-spoilery) observations:

  • Do yourself a favor: don’t see the trailer before you see this one. I went in almost completely fresh and I think I enjoyed it much more as a result. Also: since there are a few big surprises in the film, I’m going to be as vague as possible with my thoughts below.
  • Both Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele showed on Key and Peele that they could master virtually any genre stylistically, from hard-core action film to irreverent comedy. It’s one thing to be able to imitate a style for a two-minute sketch — it’s another to be able to sustain a horror film atmosphere for a little over two hours. Peele definitely does that here. As a debut film, Get Out is stylistically solid. Thematically, it’s spectacular.
  • There are so many layers of allegory here that it’s astonishing Peele was able to fit them all in. According to Peele, the target of the film is racism. “We were living in this post-racial lie. So I wanted to call that out,” he said in an interview with CNN. I look forward to discussing this further after the movie is out in theaters.
  • There are several memorable performances here for actors that weren’t really on my radar before: Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson both have amazing moments, but LilRel Howery really steals the show.
  • A few people have asked: is the film scary? Are there a lot of jump scares? I’d say there are very few hallmarks of conventional horror films here, like gore, body horror, or jump scares, though they are there in judicious amounts. It’s not a particularly violent film (although I definitely wouldn’t take a child to see this movie, like someone did for our screening last night). Instead, what the film does well is projecting an atmosphere of menace throughout.
  • If you can, see the movie with a lively crowd. This is one of those horror films that benefits from audience participation.

I also shared some thoughts on Periscope about it last night, so do check that out as well.

‘Logan’ movie review

I had a chance to see Logan this week and review it for /Film. It’s my favorite X-Men film.  It might even be my favorite superhero film. It’s up there with The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2. I loved it:

What makes Logan special is how it effortlessly navigates different genres and tones. It’s a road movie, but it’s also an action film with ambitious set pieces. It’s a sci-fi superhero film, but it’s also infused with a lot of humor and tenderness. Most importantly, it’s a fitting conclusion for one of the most iconic comic book character portrayals of the past 20 years.

Review: Slack Threads are great, but have a few big usability issues

I’m a Slack junkie, so I was excited when they recently announced they’d finally be rolling out a Threads feature. I was particularly keen to try it out since I recently launched a Slack community for the /Filmcast podcast. Would threads make it easier or more confusing to organize conversation in a freewheeling channel with hundreds of users?

Slack threads allow users to essentially convert any message into a thread, and then add replies to that thread. Replies are only one message deep (they cannot go further), and show up on the right-hand pane, which is otherwise used for giving info on the thread as a whole.

Slack also compiles all threads into a handy “All Threads” view that lights up whenever someone responds to any of your threads.

This feature is particularly beneficial for replying to earlier messages in channels. If a message appeared hours ago and the entire channel has moved onto a different topic of conversation, it’s a lot easier to make a thread and reply — the original user gets a notification, and the conversation can continue on that topic while the channel is blissfully unaware.

Overall, I think the threads work really well and help to declutter conversations when they are used correctly. However, there are a few issues with threads right now as they are currently implemented:

Converting messages to threads – The ability to convert any message into a thread doesn’t work too well with how people typically use Slack. In many of my Slack Teams, thoughts come out in a series of incomplete messages, often with crosstalk. A single one of these messages would be inappropriate to start a thread with. Thus, being able to group multiple messages into the start of the thread would be helpful.

Moreover, it would be really useful if the user could give some kind of cue (via the UI or otherwise) when they want to start a thread. In our Slack, we’ve taken to putting “Thread: [Topic here]” or something similar. But it’s not always clear what’s better as a thread, or what’s better as further conversation in the channel. Sometimes people use both to respond, creating confusion.

Ways to resolve
– Develop some kind of usage convention, or educate users on proper etiquette when it comes to creating threads
– If possible, allow users to group multiple consecutive messages into a thread

The “Also send to #channel” button – Slack offers you the ability to send any message in a thread back to the general channel. Let me be clear: This button is an abomination and must be changed or destroyed. It’s not that the concept of sending a thread message back to the channel is a bad one; it’s more that the messaging around it is very confusing.

Most people, when they see that checkbox, are going to want to send the message back to the #channel. Why wouldn’t you? Your message is important and the channel should read it, right? We have a lot of first-time users in our Slack and initially, every single one of them clicked on this checkbox. This resulted in exchanges like the one below in the channel itself:

The threads were making the actual channel much more difficult to read. Thus, we had to lay down a ground rule about not checking that checkbox. The results have been much better since.

In short, “Also send to #channel” is terrible messaging. It should say something like, “Do you think this message is important enough that you want to barge into the main conversation with it, interrupting everything else going on over there? Then check this box.” But I understand why they didn’t put that there. Maybe a happy medium would be appropriate?

Ways to resolve
– Do more to explain the dire consequences of sending a thread reply back to the channel
– Remove the button completely

Other thoughts: In addition to blanket “no sending threads back to channel” rule, our Slack has also developed some channels that are “thread only.” This means every single message must be a thread-starting message. This has led to much more organization and readability in channels like #oldermovies, where you can just scroll up and see a bunch of movie-specific discussions to dive into. It would be ideal if there was some way to “force” people into threads for certain channels, or get them to understand that by posting a message, they are actually starting a thread.

Overall: I really like the Threads and I hope Slack continues to take steps to improve their usability. But I  think that a lot more education could have gone into the roll-out, which would’ve saved a lot of confusion and headaches.

Inkoo Kang’s Takedown of ‘Silence’

Inkoo Kang rails against Silence’s unfortunate undertones:

At my first screening of Silence, George Lucas introduced Martin Scorsese’s new Japan-set spiritual drama at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre by praising it as a film that belongs in the 20th century. Whatever Lucas meant by that, Silence feels far older, even archaic, bemoaning as it does the arduousness of European colonialism. “It’s Hard Out Here for an Imperialist,” the period piece could be subtitled. Or, perhaps: “Sympathy for the White Devil.” That Silence asks its audience to care more about the narcissistic crisis of its Portuguese protagonist than the welfare of the 17th-century Japanese populace is howlingly infuriating and racially insulting.

See also: Jen Yamato’s excellent review.

I agree with many of the issues Jen and Inkoo bring up. I was quite torn about the film myself. You can hear my thoughts on the /Filmcast.

I re-watched Avatar

Star Wars: The Force Awakens recently passed Avatar at the box office to become the number 1 domestic grossing film of all time. Upon hearing this news, a lot of people had the same reaction: “Avatar was the #1 grossing film of all time? Oh yeah…”

Listeners of the /Filmcast will know that we’ve been discussing Avatar for a few months already. Specifically: how could a film rapidly become the highest grossing film of all time and leave absolutely no cultural footprint? (Side note: hundreds of people have already sent me the link to Scott Mendelson’s piece on this topic. If I get it one more time, I fear I may have a Col. Miles Quaritch-esque freakout. That’s an Avatar reference, for those of you who have no idea what the characters’ names in Avatar are).

Awhile ago, a listener gifted me an Avatar Blu-Ray, and after all the Avatar conversation recently, I felt I should revisit the film. So yesterday I popped in the disc and tried to see it through fresh eyes. Here are a few of my reactions:

In my opinion, the CG still holds up – James Cameron pioneered some pretty amazing filmmaking techniques for this film, which allowed him to use/position a camera as he would in a conventional filmmaking environment but see a reasonable approximation of the final product on-the-fly. This allowed the film to “feel” like it was being shot with actual cameras on Pandora, with the weight movement that those cameras would bring to a real-world shoot. Moreover, while the world of Pandora is very clearly CG and a bit too shiny/clean to look totally photorealistic, the blend between the practical and the CG elements felt really seamless to me. And what never gets lost are the characters’ emotions. Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldana) is still this movie’s best special effect.

Everything is great except Na’vi Sigourney Weaver. She creeps me the hell out.

James Cameron still knows how to direct action like nobody else – The final hour of this film is a spectacular series of set pieces, with the destruction of Home Tree, the battle between the Na’vi and the marines, and then Quaritch’s final face-off with Jake Sully. Great sense of geography, pacing, and stakes throughout. Awesome action choreography.

 James Cameron is not subtle – The Na’vi’s connection with the forest is not just metaphorical. It’s LITERAL. As in, there’s actually a neural network IN THE ACTUAL PLANET. Oof.

The Avatar Blu-Ray is terrible – Remember when Blu-Rays used to force you to stream special features? Because they might get updated in the future? Yeah, me neither. Awful.

 The arc of the whole movie is just bizarre – It’s not too much of a stretch to assume that Avatar is an allegory about white people and Native Americans. The film invites us to relive the colonization of America, only this time, from the POV of the natives. And as Sully and the Na’vi brutally ruin and kill the appendages of the American military in the film’s final set piece, we as the audience are invited to cheer them on. It all just felt very…weird.

I was reminded of Annalee Newitz’s great piece about how Avatar and the fantasy within it is a distinctly “white” fantasy:

These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color – their cultures, their habitats, and their populations. The whites realize this when they begin to assimilate into the “alien” cultures and see things from a new perspective. To purge their overwhelming sense of guilt, they switch sides, become “race traitors,” and fight against their old comrades. But then they go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed. This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It’s not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it’s not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It’s a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.

I remember seeing The Last Samurai and how that was a movie about someone who not only adapted to the ways of the samurai; he mastered them. The same happens in Avatar. Jake Sully doesn’t just barely squeak in as a member of the tribe; he rides Toruk to victory, which is considered one of the greatest honors and almost an impossible feat within Na’vi culture.

What does it say about white culture that it seems to be the only culture producing these kinds of narratives about redemption via assimilation into and mastery of other cultures? The film made me wonder. (P.S. If there’s, say, an Asian film about a guy who not only becomes assimilated into white culture but a master within it, leading a bunch of whites into victory, please let me know).

James Horner’s score is still beautiful – Still love the work of this brilliant man. RIP.

Ten of My Favorite Moments from Max Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is out in theaters this weekend, and if you haven’t yet, you should go see it. Walking out of Mad Max, I felt like I did when I’d first seen movies like Jurassic Park or Star Wars – a feeling like what I’d just seen was genre defining, and that all future films would be compared to this one.

This movie was satisfying in ways that the vast majority of summer blockbusters are not. While most films are happy to create entire worlds in shiny CG, George Miller apparently filmed hundreds of hours of vehicular action in Namibia, and did a lot of it practically. We feel the danger that these characters are in, and that’s probably because the actors and stunt doubles portraying them were also in danger too.

When it comes to visceral thrills, gorgeous composition, and spectacular action choreography, nothing will beat Mad Max: Fury Road this summer. Maybe for the next few summers. Probably also for the past 10-20 summers.

Anyway, here are a bunch of random moments from the film I really enjoyed. This is FAR from an exhaustive list – there were many dozens of moments that I thought were incredible. Spoilers ahead.

Opening chase scene, which ends with a spectacular car flip

Mad Max is led away in chains as Immortan Joe’s thugs drive towards the Citadel – the ultimate reduction of the titular character to rock bottom

 Dust storm juxtaposed with chase scene creates surreal beauty

Tornado absolutely rips apart many bad guys driving through it

SOME DUDE DOES THIS

Imperator Furiosa creates the most memorable tableau from the film as she recognizes the futility of her journey

Monster truck does spectacular jump in front of the War Rig, with people HANGING OFF THE SIDE

This quiet moment, representing the transition from the past to the future

This guy gets absolutely owned

My favorite shot from the film – the ultimate confluence of all elements in an action scene 

Observations on ‘Gone Girl’

I had a great time watching Gone Girl this afternoon at Seattle’s Sundance Theaters in the U-District. A few stray observations, in advance of the our /Filmcast review (which I’ll update this post with when it goes live in a few days):

  • Overall, I really enjoyed the film, but it’s definitely one that I’m still considering and turning over in my head. It is so perfect in its depiction of the media being gripped by missing white woman syndrome that it doesn’t even feel like satire (which might have been the intention). 
  • My friend/colleague Peter Sciretta points out (and I agree) that this film is primarily about media and public perception. Society is engineered to expect people to behave in certain ways when they are in the spotlight. Any deviation from that expectation is met with righteous, irrational anger. Why do we engage in these behaviors? For us, cable news has made real-life into a television show. We invest emotionally in these character arcs just like we would for The Sopranos, forgetting that actual lives are at stake and that these people will exist long after the spotlight has departed them. Gone Girl holds up a mirror to us and asks: Is this kind of thing productive? Is it fair? 
  • The film complicates the concept of modern marriage in America. Sure, marriage can be fun and meaningful, but if you think about it, it’s also kind of insane: you join in a bond and partnership that you will only break in the event of one of your death, no matter how much the other person changes, or no matter how horrible they become/behave. And you become so emotionally invested in this person that you are willing to do unthinkable things for them. You may be willing to kill for them. That is kind of nuts, and I like how Gone Girl explores that dynamic.
  • This movie twists and turns in ways that I did not expect. It’s not an exaggeration to say it becomes several different types of movies during its 150-minute runtime.
  • On that note, it was refreshing to me how Fincher chose to end the film. That’s all I can say without spoiling anything.
  • Fincher remains a master craftsman and his attention to detail is on full display here. I’m particularly impressed by the work of Set Decorator Douglas Mowat and Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, who are able to create some a pretty intense, effective juxtapositions of quaint suburban life and its seedy underbelly.
  • There are several sequences make great use of the close-up. Sometimes the close-ups come so fast and furious that you barely can register what is being shown before we’re off to the next thing. Love the details that the filmmakers are able to bring out of each scene and location. 
  • This film probably has the shortest opening credits sequences out of any David Fincher film, but the way it’s done feels very purposeful. Can’t say any more than that for now. 
  • This is far from my favorite Fincher film (that’s probably still Se7en), but there were definitely several moments in it when many elements of the film lock into place and create an exhilarating thrill of discovery. Nice work by Fincher and Editor Kirk Baxter in crafting these. 
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross do scoring duties again and acquit themselves well. The score is really understated this time, but still quite effective. 
  • Tyler Perry is great in this movie. Great. Seriously. Probably my favorite character in the film.

Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, Live at the Paramount Theatre

As long as I can remember, one of my favorite shows on public radio has been “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” (the NPR News Quiz). I recently attended one of their live shows at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle and had a lovely time. But I also learned many things about what goes into making this wildly popular radio show. Some recollections from the evening:
– Our guests were Luke Burbank, Paula Poundstone, and Maz Jobrani. Each of them had some great moments throughout the evening.
– The regular show is edited into a tightly paced, 51-minute program, but the live show goes on for over 2 hours. That’s because Peter often riffs with the panelists for a long time on a single question, then take the best sections and edit the result down to what you hear in the final show. In fact, their riff off the very first question, “fill in the blank,” went on for about 10 minutes, when its final form will probably end up being about 1-2 minutes at most. The same goes for the “Not my job” interview, which is way longer in person than it is on the final show.
As a result, the show is much slower paced than I was used to. At times, it was actually kind of a slog. But what felt really amazing was at the end when we finally finished the last segment, it really felt like we’d all accomplished something together. We’d collectively made an episode of a program that would be listened to be millions of people (or at least, we’d made the raw materials for said program). That felt pretty awesome, and unlike most of the other live shows that I go to.
– The most fascinating part of the show for me was when they recorded a segment about Scottish Independence, and then went back and RE-recorded the same segment but with a different outcome. See, the show was recorded during the Scottish vote, and while all signs pointed to a “No to Independence” vote, they wanted to cover their bases, so they recorded a slightly modified segment in which Scotland actually voted “Yes.” Different news outcome, somewhat similar riffs. I suppose the NPR audience is unforgiving when it comes to uncertainty about something like this, especially since “Wait Wait” takes a few days to be released after it is recorded.
– In addition to the hosts and panelists, there was a team of producers(?) behind them, sitting in relative darkness. At the end of the show, Peter had to go back and re-record a bunch of different intros and outros that he had flubbed the first time. From my perspective, it looked like the producers were taking copious notes throughout the show and then beaming him text to his iPad that they wanted him to repeat. The whole process took only 3-4 minutes and as Peter explained, they have it pretty much down to a science at this point. It struck me as ruthlessly, and impressively, efficient.
– After the show, they brought up the house lights and did a Q&A. Super fun and very nice of them, although a lot of the questions asked by my audience were pretty silly, unfortunately.
Is this an experience I’d recommend? I’d say only if you’re a die-hard fan of the show, as I am. Plus, I’m a public radio junkie, so I love seeing the “behind-the-scenes” stuff like this. But it is a pricey ticket for someone who isn’t a huge fan to see how the show is made, and what you see is not at all like the snappy program that we hear each week on the radio. As long as your expectations are set correctly, you’ll enjoy it greatly.

Shooting a Wedding with a Panasonic GH4

I had the honor of shooting a friend’s wedding last weekend in British Columbia, so I decided it would be a good opportunity to try doing a professional gig using the Panasonic GH4 and my brand new Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8 lens (a full review of that lens will come later, hopefully). I’ve shot dozens of weddings in the past, but I’ve used a Canon camera for every single one (occasionally supplemented with a Fuji X100). Could a Micro 4/3rds camera measure up to full frame?

Here are some of the pros and cons of shooting a wedding with a GH4, compared to, say, a Canon 5D Mark III.

Pros 

Weight – WOW this setup is light! You can pack a single small camera bag with the Panasonic GH4, a 12-35mm lens and a 35-100mm lens (the rough equivalent of a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm on a Canon 5d Mark III) and switch between them all day without feeling any impact on your back and shoulders. Those who have shot weddings using Canon gear will know the pain of which I speak. (One of my mentors actually got a pinched nerve from all of her gear!) By far this is the hugest advantage of using the GH4 compared to any full frame camera.

It also has other implications. Since you’re traveling lighter, you can carry more stuff and be more nimble and experimental when it comes to finding the right shot. For instance, the photo at the top of this page was taken using a bare LumoPro flash, remote triggered from behind the couple. But it was done in haste between group photos. If I’d had a heavier setup, I might not have been able to move as quickly to try and snap this shot.

Cost – Buying a Canon 5D Mark III and a 24-70mm and 70-200mm lens will cost you roughly $7000, give or take $500 or so depending on whether you buy all the stuff new. Through some deal-hunting and eBay-ing, I was able to purchase a GH4 with lenses of equivalent focal lengths to the above for about $3500 total. That is a huge difference in price, especially if you’re just starting out.

Drive mode – The GH4 can shoot up to 12 frames per second. It is SUPER fast. And at a wedding, this can be particularly useful when you’re trying to capture specific moments during a ceremony, or with interactions between the couple and their guests. Whenever I saw something interesting happening, I’d just let the drive mode rip and then have a ton of options to choose from in post.

File sizes – RAW files on the GH4 are significantly smaller than on the Canon 5D Mark III. This means fewer cards and more photos (P.S. This is also a negative, as I will discuss below).



Cons 

Shallow depth of field – I’ve already discussed this in previous posts, but obviously the shallow depth of field on the GH4 will never measure up to what you can get on a full frame camera. That’s particularly unfortunate for a wedding, because a lot of clients are looking for that creamy bokeh in their wedding shots. This camera, even at a 200mm focal length, really struggles to deliver on that front. You’ll have greatest success when there’s a lot of physical distance between yourself and the object.

Aesthetics – As of this writing, the GH4 retails for $1700. But because of its size and weight, it certainly doesn’t LOOK like a professional grade camera. People expect to see a Canon/Nikon-size full frame camera at weddings. It’s hard to look “legit” when you are toting the GH4 around. I realize this isn’t really a con from a photography perspective, but it’s worth noting for people considering this as a tool to build a career on.

Low light performance – The GH4 does just okay up to ISO 3200, but a Canon 5D Mark III blows this camera out of the water when it comes to low light performance. I took tons of shots in low light situations that were just completely unusable. Honestly, I wouldn’t go above ISO 1600 on the GH4, which is practically impossible at weddings (nearly all of which involve at least some low light situations).

On that note…

Megapixels – The GH4 has about 16 megapixels. The Canon 5D Mark III has around 22. I’m aware that megapixels don’t necessarily determine picture quality and that there were other factors involved, but there were definitely instances where I took photos with the GH4 that I needed to crop, and on a smaller sensor with fewer megapixels, you definitely “feel” that crop a lot more in terms of loss of quality. The resulting image can be muddier or noisier than the same image would have been on the 5D Mark III.

Conclusion

So overall, is this a setup I would recommend for weddings? Yes and no. This gig was for a friend, so it wasn’t a conventional client situation. I was pretty happy with the photos that I got and so was the couple. But I also was able to enjoy the evening – the camera was so light that the process of taking the photos wasn’t onerous at all from a physical perspective. This can’t be understated.

If you are already a videographer/photographer who has decided to go with the GH4 for the advantages that it provides, you should definitely feel good about shooting a wedding with it (but only if you have the 35-100mm lens). The drive mode in particular can be an amazing benefit, and the photos obviously have great focus and sharpness.

However, if you’re still deciding between a GH4 and a full frame or APS-C camera for wedding photography, there’s nothing that’s going to beat a larger sensor for getting great low light photos and shallow depth of field. If I had to choose only one type of camera to shoot weddings with for the rest of my life, it’d be a full frame camera. I’m fortunate to not have to choose, so I will probably use the two for different scenarios as time goes on, based on which advantages from each are important to me at the time.

Some messed up stuff happens in Pixar films


I had an amazing time at Pixar in Concert played by the Seattle Symphony, in which Pixar music medleys were performed over classic scenes from every single Pixar film. My only disappointment: because I know so many of these themes by heart, I wish I could’ve heard the full tracks played out, vs. just snippets of them in medley form.

Nonetheless, it was a moving, jubilant experience. I felt like my childlike dreams were being fully realized, hearing the works of Randy/Thomas Newman, Patrick Doyle, and Michael Giacchino in their full symphonic glory. If you have even a passing enjoyment of movie music (and an abiding love of all things Pixar, like me), do check this out if/when you have a chance.

I also realized that some heavy stuff happens in the openings of many Pixar movies. Here are events that occur in the first 10 minutes of Pixar films:

  • Ellie from Up finds out she’s infertile
  • Ellie from Up dies
  • Nemo’s mother and family is killed
  • Nemo is disfigured
  • Mr. Incredible heartlessly spurns a young admirer, who ends up becoming his murderous enemy
  • Remy almost gets killed by a woman with a shotgun in Ratatouille
  • Fergus loses his leg to a bear in Brave

Pixar: Mixing childhood joy with incredibly horrible tragedy since 1986.

I took Buzzfeed’s Clean Eating Challenge. Here’s what happened.

Recently on Twitter, I happened upon Buzzfeed’s Clean Eating challenge, a two-week “detox” diet that required you to consume almost no carbs, no alcohol/caffeine (easy for me, since I avoid those already), and absolutely no processed foods whatsoever. Since I’m always a fan of crazy ideas, I thought I’d take my dietary recommendations from a site that got popular by posting cat GIFs.

So I took the Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge, and I kept a mini-diary of each day of my journey. Here are my thoughts from each day, plus my pros and cons of going on the Challenge.

The Diary

Day 1 – Hooray! We’re having fun! Doing a detox and making our bodies better! Woohoo! Look at all this new and interesting food we’re eating. Wow, a shake for breakfast! Exciting! Damn, I’m hungry…

Day 2 – This day is agonizing. Hunger pains throughout, which can lead into mild mood swings and low energy. The hardest part is curbing the impulse snacking. If you need a hit of sugar normally, you can’t just pick up a soda or even an apple juice. Must stay away.

One of the things this cleanse has made me realize is how much I rely on food for emotional satisfaction. Often times we don’t need to eat. But maybe that cookie or that muffin at the lunchroom will make us feel better, and it’s only $1.50, so why not?

Day 3 – One of the most amazing things about the detox is you can eat a whole plate of food (usually greens), or a whole bowl of yogurt, and at the end of it, when you feel like your stomach should theoretically be full, it doesn’t feel that way at all and you are still incredibly hungry. But I actually feel a lot less hungry on today. My stomach is acclimating to the fact that it’s going to be getting less food. In fact, a remarkable realization I’ve had is that I’ve really been eating way more food than is necessary for me to stay alive. And I guess I just got use to that excess over time…

Day 4 – My weight is already declining. I’m down 2 pounds already. But will it stay off?

The thing that surprises me about this detox: the random cravings. For instance, today is Free Bagel Day at the office. Every Wednesday, our lovely admins put together this amazing spread of bagels with cream cheese, PLUS a toaster! And smelling those bagels all day – it was terrible. I desperately wanted to eat one. Which is weird because I don’t usually need to have the bagels, but with this low-carb cleanse, anything that smells like bread is heavenly to me.

Day 5 – Today, I seriously had thoughts about quitting this cleanse early. I’m not losing that much weight (not that I thought I was going to) but most importantly, I don’t feel like my life is that much better or different than pre-cleanse. But I choose to soldier on.

Day 6 – It’s interesting how SPECIFIC the cravings I get are. I’m hungry a lot of the time, but eating a pound of carrots isn’t going to help. I crave carbs specifically, in any form. The body needs carbs. Bread would be amazing. Just need a little bit of bread. Can’t I have some bread? No.

Day 7 – By this date, the desire for carbs has finally started to subside. In general, I feel like my stomach has shrunk and my body needs less food now. Plus the random cravings for processed foods and sugar are now much less frequent.

Day 8 – I had a cheat meal today to celebrate my birthday. Tried not to go out of control at Din Tai Fung, but the birthday comes but once a year…

Day 9 – If this detox was a flight, I’d say that on Day 9, I’ve finally reached cruising altitude. I’m still hungry much of the time, but I can now control that hunger and get used to it. It no longer controls me.

Day 10 – The stupidity of this cleanse has come into full focus for me. All that stuff I said in Day 9? Forget it. I’m in a bad mood, I’m irritable, I’m low-energy, and I don’t feel like working out. This detox is the worst and I hate it.

Day 11 – I hate my life.

Day 12 – Not a bad day. My body chemistry seems to be re-orienting to the new diet, but the hunger – it never goes away.

Day 13 – The end is in sight…

Day 14 – IT IS OVER. IT IS FINALLY OVER!

Now that all is said and done, what are my thoughts on the detox as a whole?

Pros

The recipes – A lot of the recipes are really tasty, and pretty much all of them are healthy. I’d say at least 70-80% of the recipes are dishes I would enthusiastically try again. We will definitely be adding some of these to our rotation, and already have started making “salad dinner” a regular staple of our meals together. By far, this is the greatest net positive on my life.

Weaning you off processed foods and carbs – Carbs are such a huge part of our daily lives. And there’s a reason for that: carbs are awesome! But they also make me feel super bloated and full. Living life with very few carbs for a couple weeks definitely made me understand what an impact this food type has on my body — and made me desire it less.

You will need less food afterwards – If you do this thing correctly, you should be much more conscious of your daily caloric intake, and are likely to want to eat fewer calories each day.

Cons

Time – If my lovely girlfriend Eva did not agree to do this cleanse with me and help prepare the overwhelmingly vast majority of the food, there’s no way I would have been able to successfully complete it. The food for this detox took, at minimum, over 20 hours to prepare over the course of two weeks. That is a staggering amount of work and probably renders this detox impossible for normal, busy people.

Expensive – We spent roughly $400 on groceries for two weeks. That is a lot of cheddar (or rather, not a lot of cheddar since there is pretty much no dairy in the cleanse). You can probably find ways to cut this price down through some creative shopping, but it’s an expensive proposition either way.

It ruins your social life – So much of our social interactions are wrapped up in food (see this beautiful Roger Ebert essay for more on this topic). When your daily meals are heavily regulated, you can’t really go out to restaurants with friends — or if you do, it’s super awkward as they order from the menu and you pull out some tupperware with roasted cauliflower. Make sure if you try to attempt a cleanse that you are willing to take a hit on your social life.

Caloric intake not properly calibrated – I’m somewhat of a large dude, so I probably consume around 2500-3500 calories per day. This detox reduces the caloric intake for males down to about 1500-1800. While my girlfriend had no problems managing this cut, I was constantly irritable and angry for the majority of the detox period. The detox drained me of my energy; I didn’t feel good working out because I could barely drag myself to work and back without collapsing in a heap. What good is a detox if you can’t exercise?

I’m not sure, but I know that for me, the caloric cutback was far too drastic and was not workable for a person of my size. Maybe it’s because I’m gluttonous, but I highly doubt that wanting a few more almonds to fill out the stomach qualifies as being out of control.

So in the end, was it worth it?

I’d say it was definitely worthwhile in some ways: it showed me how little food I could survive on, and it’s always character-building to see whether you can achieve a specific goal. [I should point out I lost several pounds, but put it back on quite quickly after the detox was over].

But there are a few major issues with this detox.

Firstly, it only lasts for two weeks. From conversations I’ve had with friends who have tried similar diets, that is not nearly enough time to have any kind of meaningful or lasting impact. Instead, it just gives you a taste of what it’s like to eat well. That may be enough for you to make good decisions going forward, but the Buzzfeed plan certainly doesn’t lay out a long term strategy.

And secondly, I think that rather than doing this detox, your time/money is better spent making sustainable eating choices that will make you better off in the long run. That means meeting with a nutritionist and/or incorporating some of these recipes (calorically adapted) into your daily life for your needs.

This detox really did a teach me a lot about my body and about how much food I eat on a daily basis. But overall, it’s not something I can wholeheartedly recommend because of its considerable time/money commitment, with no clear payoff. Solid recipes, though.

Fun with GIFs

Matt Zoller Seitz (probably one of the most talented film critics working today) recently wrote a piece urging critics to “write about the filmmaking.” That is, he was disappointed that critics didn’t write more often about filmmaking techniques and form, and how those elements can influence the effect a film has on us.

While I wasn’t a fan of Seitz’s tone and felt his piece ignored some of the economic realities of being a film critic these days, I did appreciate the overall message he was trying to get across. But one of the difficulties of writing about the filmmaking is that it’s really freaking hard, not just from a technical knowledge standpoint, but on a practical level. Since writing is NOT a visual medium, you need to first use words to communicate the details of a shot/scene that you want to discuss, and then you need to dive into in depth. If you’re writing a standard-length review, it can get cumbersome to accomplish all this (and I’m not even taking into account the possibility of spoilers, and the difficulties those can add to conventional reviews).

One way to circumvent this is to use screenshots or production stills as visual aids. I’ve recently started trying out GIFs as a method of getting across ideas and I think it’s pretty effective. I’ve produced two pieces for /Film using this method so far. I hope people find the entertaining, informative, and enjoyable. If so, there’ll be plenty more.

Why The Protector 2 is the most insane martial arts film of 2014
– My 5 favorite scenes from Season 4 Episode 2 of Louie, “Model.”

Panasonic GH4 Slow Motion Test Footage


After reading many glowing reviews of the new Panasonic GH4, I just had to get my hands on one of these things for myself. In addition being curious about the weight and ergonomics of Micro 4/3rds systems, I was particularly intrigued by the GH4’s ability to shoot in 96fps, something that no other prosumer DSLRs are currently capable of. This allows you to slow down footage to 25% its original speed at 24fps. While the bitrate isn’t great, I love me my slow motion.

I am not at all familiar with Panasonic’s line of cameras, so taking this out into the world for an hour at Pike Place Market was really a crash course. All of the buttons are in different places than on my Canon 5D Mark III. Most annoyingly, the position of the shutter/aperture dials on the GH4 is switched. That’ll take some time getting used to.

I hope to write more about my experiences with the GH4 in the future, and how it compares with my work on full frame cameras. In the meantime, here’s a brief video I shot today.