Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Podcasts

April 26, 2020

These are the podcasts I listen to, at least occasionally. Within each category they are roughly ranked. Since many people have more spare time during the pandemic, it seemed like a good time to write this.

In case anyone cares, I almost always listen using an app called Podcast Addict on my phone. It lets you download episodes to listen where reception might be spotty, keep a playlist of episodes you want to hear in the order you want to hear them, and have fine-grained control over the playback speed (I generally listen between 1.2 and 1.5 times normal speed). I used to listen primarily while driving, when I drove enough for that to make sense. Since retiring, and even more so during the pandemic, I listen mostly when running, using bone conducting headphones so that I can still hear my surroundings.

[Originally published on 4/26/2020, and updated on 5/14/2020]

Running:

  • Trail Runner Nation: The two hosts don’t take themselves too seriously, but still get real often enough to make it compelling. They also generally have good guests.
  • Running Stupid: This podcast is published pretty irregularly, and is often more stream of consciousness than planned, but I’m happy to say that the host is a friend.
  • Ultrarunner Podcast: The host has some obsessions and opinions that he has a hard time imagining anyone disagreeing with, but the range of guests is quite good.
  • Endurance Planet: I started listening to this before the current hosts took over in 2011, and before I found the other options above. Still, though, there are good nuggets often enough to keep me listening to most episodes.
  • For the Long Run: I wasn’t going to mention this one since I rarely listen to it, but since the host’s coach is David Roche, I do listen when he’s the guest. He (Roche) might be the most awesomely positive person I know of. Just today (4/26/2020) I was listening to him when I took a fall on a sidewalk, and right after that happened, Roche talked about saying yes, thank you when something bad happens.

Politics:

Movies:

  • Filmspotting: One of the if not the first podcast I started to listen to back when podcasts first came to the iPod in 2005. Filmspotting was called Cinecast back then, and had only been around for about 9 of their now 774 episodes. They review current movies, though definitely not all of them and with a focus on ones expected to be good. They also look back at older movies, and almost all episodes have a top five list, in the spirit of High Fidelity (which was set in Chicago, where this podcast is based).
  • The Next Picture Show: This is a spin-off of Filmspotting, and each pair of episodes compares and contrasts a current movie with an older film, such as Marriage Story with Kramer vs. Kramer. There are frequently spoilers, so don’t listen if you haven’t seen both movies and think you might want to someday.
  • The Treatment: This KCRW podcast almost always interviews people involved in a current movie or television show. Elvis Mitchell is the host, and often finds connections that the guests had never considered before.
  • Film Reviews: This KCRW podcast has short reviews of current movies.
  • Unspooled: The hosts review the AFI top 100 movies of all time. Sometimes one or both of them will not have seen the movie before, but they often have interesting guests who were involved in making the movie or have an interesting perspective on it.
  • Movie Crush: The host has guests (celebrities, to one degree or another) talk about their favorite movie in depth.

Money:

  • Planet Money: I first became aware of this podcast because of a 2008 episode of This American Life (see the “Other” category) called The Giant Pool of Money, about the financial crisis. The people who did that particular episode went on to create this podcast.
  • The Indicator from Planet Money: This is a spin-off from the main Planet Money podcast, runs every weekday, and is a short (under 10 minutes) look at some current financial story.

Growth:

  • The Happiness Lab: This is a Pushkin podcast (like four podcasts in the “Other” category), from a Yale professor who created a class about how to be happier. She uses actual science to point out ways that our brain often makes choices that make us less happy. She did one season, came back with many extra episodes to help people get through the pandemic, and season two has started.
  • One Extraordinary Marriage: I was looking for a podcast about improving marriages, and this is the best one I’ve found so far. The hosts are far more religious than I am, and it emphasizes sex a bit more than I would have chosen, but there are almost always good nuggets in every episode.
  • Unlocking Us: This is a new podcast from Brené Brown, which I heard about when she was on 60 Minutes recently. It’s not up to the level of her TED talk or her recent Netflix special (watch those if you haven’t already), but it’s still worth listening to.
  • Crooked Butterfly: This is done by a former special forces military guy, and is also tangentially about running. I originally heard him interviewed on Trail Runner Nation, and find his philosophy interesting, if a bit absolute/extreme, at times.

Beer:

  • The Beerists: This podcast seems good, though I’ve only listed to a couple of episodes so far.
  • Craft Beer Radio: This was a great podcast, but hasn’t published any new episodes since July 2019. I hope it returns someday.
  • Beer Guys Radio: This podcast is merely okay, but there aren’t many choices out there if you are not in the industry and don’t homebrew.

Other:

  • 99% Invisible: My wife turned me onto this Radiotopia podcast to listen to a couple of basketball-related episodes, about the introduction of the shot clock and the 3-point shot. But it’s so much more than that.
  • Against the Rules: This podcast by Michael Lewis (author of many excellent books including Moneyball and The Big Short) is from Pushkin. Season 2 recently started.
  • This American Life: If you know podcasts, or even public radio, you probably know this one already. I might have put it at the top of the “Other” list, but I wanted to give the first two more visibility.
  • Revisionist History: This podcast from Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers, The Tipping Point, etc.) is usually excellent. It’s part of the Pushkin family of podcasts.
  • Cautionary Tales: This is another Pushkin podcast, and is about things that went wrong. The host is Tim Harford, who is a frequent guest on other podcasts I listen to. Some parts are done as audio reenactments.
  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me: This should probably be higher, since my wife loves it. But for that reason I’ve mostly not listened to it so we have something to share for road trips. But now that we’ve moved to Hawaii there won’t be many of those, especially during the pandemic.
  • KQED Forum: I used to listen to more episodes of this, from the primary Bay Area public radio station, but still listen on occasion when the subject is one I want to learn more about from people I trust. The regular host, Michael Krasny, is a very good interviewer.
  • Twenty Thousand Hertz: This is a podcast about sounds, like the Wilhelm scream, which you should learn about if you haven’t already.
  • Solvable: At first I was really a fan of this Pushkin/Rockefeller Foundation podcast, about how to solve problems that seem unsolvable, like homelessness. But for whatever reason I haven’t listened to it recently. If I do, it could easily rise on this list.

Oscar® Predictions for 2019

February 6, 2020

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2019:

  • Picture: 1917
  • Director: Sam Mendes for 1917
  • Actor: Joaquin Phoenix for Joker
  • Actress: Renée Zellweger for Judy
  • Supporting actor: Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
  • Supporting actress: Laura Dern for Marriage Story
  • Original screenplay: Parasite
  • Adapted screenplay: Jojo Rabbit
  • Cinematography: 1917
  • Editing: Ford v Ferrari
  • Animated feature: Toy Story 4
  • Documentary feature: American Factory
  • International feature: Parasite (South Korea)
  • Production design: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
  • Costumes: Little Women
  • Makeup: Bombshell
  • Score: Joker
  • Song: “I’m Gonna to Love Me Again” from Rocketman
  • Sound editing: 1917
  • Sound mixing: 1917
  • Visual effects: 1917
  • Animated short: Hair Love
  • Documentary short: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone
  • Live action short: Brotherhood

Most years I have seen at least the Best Picture nominees, but this has not been a normal year (as of when I’m posting this I’ve only seen three out of nine). My primary source was GoldDerby, and this year I didn’t have the time to consult more sources. The ones that seem to have the least consensus are editing, visual effects, and live action short.

Oscar® Predictions for 2018

February 22, 2019

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2018:

  • Picture: Green Book (most people are predicting Roma)
  • Director: Alfonso Cuarón for Roma
  • Actor: Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Actress: Glenn Close for The Wife
  • Supporting actor: Mahershala Ali for Green Book
  • Supporting actress: Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Original screenplay: The Favourite
  • Adapted screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
  • Cinematography: Roma
  • Editing: Vice
  • Animated feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  • Documentary feature: Free Solo
  • Foreign language feature: Roma (Mexico)
  • Production design: The Favourite
  • Costumes: Black Panther
  • Makeup: Vice
  • Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Song: “Shallow” from A Star is Born
  • Sound editing: First Man
  • Sound mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Visual effects: Avengers: Infinity War
  • Animated short: Bao
  • Documentary short: Period. End of Sentence.
  • Live action short: Marguerite

My primary source was GoldDerby, though I also looked at metacritic. The ones that seem to have the least consensus are editing, production design, costumes (especially this one!), sound editing, and documentary short.

Oscar® Predictions for 2017

March 3, 2018

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2017:

  • Picture: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Director: Gillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water
  • Actor: Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour
  • Actress: Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Supporting actor: Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Supporting actress: Allison Janney for I, Tonya
  • Original screenplay: Get Out 
  • Adapted screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
  • Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049 (is the 14th time the charm for Roger Deakins?)
  • Editing: Dunkirk
  • Animated feature: Coco
  • Documentary feature: Faces Places
  • Foreign language feature: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
  • Production design: The Shape of Water
  • Costumes: Phantom Thread
  • Makeup: Darkest Hour
  • Score: The Shape of Water
  • Song: “Remember Me” from Coco
  • Sound editing: Dunkirk
  • Sound mixing: Dunkirk
  • Visual effects: War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Animated short: Dear Basketball
  • Documentary short: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
  • Live action short: DeKalb Elementary

My primary source was GoldDerby, though I also looked at PredictWise. The ones that seem to have the least consensus are picture, original screenplay, documentary feature, song, visual effects, and documentary short.

Oscar® Predictions for 2016

February 25, 2017

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2016:

  • Picture: La La Land
  • Director: Damien Chazelle for La La Land
  • Actor: Denzel Washington for Fences
  • Actress: Emma Stone for La La Land
  • Supporting actor: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight
  • Supporting actress: Viola Davis for Fences
  • Original screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
  • Adapted screenplay: Moonlight
  • Cinematography: La La Land
  • Editing: La La Land
  • Animated feature: Zootopia
  • Documentary feature: O.J.: Made in America
  • Foreign language feature: The Salesman (Iran)
  • Production design: La La Land
  • Costumes: La La Land
  • Makeup: Star Trek Beyond
  • Score: La La Land
  • Song: “City of Stars” from La La Land
  • Sound editing: Hacksaw Ridge
  • Sound mixing: La La Land
  • Visual effects: The Jungle Book
  • Animated short: Piper
  • Documentary short: The White Helmets
  • Live action short: Ennemis Interieurs

My primary source was GoldDerby, though I also looked at PredictWise. The ones that seem to have the least consensus are actor, costumes, and documentary short (the last being a dead heat between The White Helmets and Joe’s Violin).

Oscar® Predictions for 2015

February 25, 2016

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2015:

  • Picture: The Revenant
  • Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu for The Revenant
  • Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant
  • Actress: Brie Larson for Room
  • Supporting actor: Sylvester Stallone for Creed
  • Supporting actress: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl
  • Original screenplay: Spotlight
  • Adapted screenplay: The Big Short
  • Cinematography: The Revenant
  • Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Animated feature: Inside Out
  • Documentary feature: Amy
  • Foreign language feature: Son of Saul (Hungary)
  • Production design: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Costumes: Cinderella
  • Makeup: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Score: The Hateful Eight
  • Song: “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground
  • Sound editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Sound mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Visual effects: Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens
  • Animated short: Sanjay’s Super Team
  • Documentary short: Body Team 12
  • Live action short: Ave Maria

My primary sources were GoldDerby and PredictWise. The ones that seem to have the least consensus are costumes, sound mixing, and visual effects.

Oscar® Predictions for 2014

February 17, 2015

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2014:

  • Picture: Birdman
  • Director: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Actor: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
  • Actress: Julianne Moore for Still Alice
  • Supporting actor: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
  • Supporting actress: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
  • Original screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Adapted screenplay: The Imitation Game
  • Cinematography: Birdman
  • Editing: Boyhood
  • Animated feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Documentary feature: Citizenfour
  • Foreign language feature: Ida (Poland)
  • Production design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Costumes: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Makeup: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Score: The Theory of Everything
  • Song: “Glory” from Selma
  • Sound editing: American Sniper
  • Sound mixing: Whiplash
  • Visual effects: Interstellar
  • Animated short: Feast
  • Documentary short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
  • Live action short: The Phone Call

My primary sources were GoldDerby and PredictWise. Best picture and director are particularly challenging to predict this year.

The Films of Cinequest 2014

March 22, 2014

This was my 14th year attending Cinequest, a fairly major film festival in San Jose, California. I have generally seen 20 or so films each year, except in years when I was un- or underemployed, when I saw even more. Here is my rough ranking of the feature films I saw this year:

  1. Kiss Me, You Fucking Moron: This Norwegian coming-of-age movie just totally worked for me. The program categorizes it as a comedy/romance, but there was definitely some drama in the mix as well. The main characters are mostly part of a youth (15 to 18 years old as I recall) theater group, plus an alcoholic actor who the main character manages to talk into helping them put on a far more gritty play than they have ever done before. This was the U.S. premiere.
  2. Heart of a Lion: This Finnish drama was very hard to watch and punches you in the gut, but in a good way. The main three characters are a racist skinhead, who falls for a woman, who turns out to have a black child from a prior marriage. You know bad things are going to happen with this combination, but the character transformations that happen along the way all feel plausible and definitely moving.
  3. The Rugby Player: This is a documentary about Mark Bingham, who was on flight United 93 on 9/11. After discovering a love of and talent for rugby in high school, he went on to play at U.C. Berkeley, and somewhere along the way he came out as gay. The film talks with the people who knew him best, including close friends and his amazing mother. I had tears in my eyes on at least one occasion.
  4. East Side Sushi: This local Bay Area drama may have been improved by the world premiere vibe and all the filmmakers in the row immediately behind me. It was somewhat predictable in many ways, but not completely, and I definitely enjoyed it.
  5. Return to Zero: This drama about a couple who suffer a tragedy early on in the film seems likely to get a release. I was very impressed by Minnie Driver‘s performance. This was the world premiere.
  6. Sex(ed): The Movie: This is a documentary about sex education films throughout history, from as early as 1910, and it was a lot of fun. An earlier showing at the festival was the world premiere.
  7. The Grand Seduction: This was the opening night film of the festival. It reminded me in some ways of Local Hero, and while it was enjoyable it definitely wasn’t as good as that great little gem.
  8. SlingShot: This is a documentary about Dean Kamen, best known as the man behind the Segway. This film focuses on his work to use technology to bring clean safe drinking water to the parts of the word that need it most. My ranking is estimated since I had a conflict and missed the first half hour.
  9. Deep City: This is another documentary, in this case about a long-gone soul music label from south Florida. It was good, but didn’t measure up to Standing in the Shadows of Motown or the recent 20 Feet from Stardom.
  10. Under the Same Sun: This is a documentary-feeling fiction film about a Jewish businessman working with a Palestinian businessman to both bring more solar power to the area, and to be a catalyst for peace. While it would be very good if this could really happen, it seems unlikely.
  11. The Farmer and the Chef: I chose this documentary because it’s very close to home, meaning where I live. It’s about a small biodynamic farm in the Santa Cruz mountains, and the well known chef who works with the farmer. This was the world premiere, and the film could not be found on IMDb when I was writing this blog post.
  12. Hunting Elephants: This Israeli comedy had some good moments, but suffered from cartoonish characters (all but the lead character) and an inconsistent tone.
  13. Bite Size: This documentary about childhood obesity was fairly good, especially in how it showed families, friends, and society all conspiring to make change difficult. The actual documentary style was fairly straightforward, however. This was the world premiere.
  14. Above Dark Waters: This Finnish drama seemed pretty good at the time, but it has faded very quickly out of my memory so I dropped it down a few spots.
  15. Small Time: This was the closing night film, about a used car salesman whose son decides to work for him. It wasn’t that bad, but somehow I never really cared about any of the characters. This might have been the world premiere, but the program is slightly vague on that subject.
  16. The Illiterate: This drama from Chile is probably better than I’m ranking it, but since I slept through a fair bit of the running time, I’m putting it here.
  17. Life is Love: This documentary is about victims of human trafficking, and an inspiring woman in Cambodia who helps them. The subject matter is very important, but the film itself felt totally uninspired, so I was checking my watch frequently. An earlier showing at the festival was the world premiere.
  18. Class Enemy: This Slovenian drama didn’t seem believable and therefore didn’t really work for me, though I think most people liked it substantially better than I did.
  19. Inercia: Through maybe 2/3 of the running I time I was on board with this Mexican drama, but it fell off a cliff (in my opinion) after that. An earlier showing at the festival was the U.S. premiere.
  20. Cheatin’: This animated film by Bill Plympton had some great images and a few engaging sections, but would have been better as a short.
  21. It’s Only Make Believe: Since I almost always like Norwegian films, I was especially disappointed that this drama didn’t work for me. It was hard to watch and totally not worth it. An earlier showing at the festival was the U.S. premiere.
  22. Funny Money: This Vietnamese film was nominally a comedy, but I didn’t find it funny at all and I left about halfway through. This was the North American premiere.

My top four films have what seems like a common thread, namely characters (or actual people in the case of the documentary) who grow beyond what they would have imagined possible at the start of the film.

I wanted to list a few notable short films that I saw during the festival, in alphabetical order (literally ABC, as it turns out):

  • Adrift is simply a sequence of time-lapse (meaning faster than real time) shots of fog in the Bay Area. It’s beautiful, especially since most of the shots are taken in places where I have been when running or hiking, or that remind me of such places. And here’s the small world connection: I actually first saw this last summer, at an event at the Nojiri Lake Association in Japan.
  • The Brunchers was recommended by an ex-co-worker, and narrowly beat out Adrift as my favorite short of the Shorts 7 collection.
  • The Closest Thing to Heaven was shown before Sex(ed): The Movie. It’s about the life and love of a gay man, and the punch that put it over the top at the end (spoiler alert) was seeing a tombstone with my exact birthday (year included).

I also have an IMDb list of these and other Cinequest films, though definitely not all of them. You can find it here.

I hope to follow this post with another one about all of the beers that I tasted in downtown San Jose during Cinequest.

Oscar® Predictions for 2013

March 1, 2014

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2013:

  • Picture: 12 Years a Slave
  • Director: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
  • Actor: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
  • Actress: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
  • Supporting actor: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club
  • Supporting actress: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave
  • Original screenplay: Her
  • Adapted screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
  • Cinematography: Gravity
  • Editing: Gravity
  • Animated feature: Frozen
  • Documentary feature: 20 Feet from Stardom
  • Foreign language feature: The Great Beauty (Italy)
  • Production design: The Great Gatsby
  • Costumes: The Great Gatsby
  • Makeup: Dallas Buyers Club
  • Score: Gravity
  • Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen
  • Sound mixing: Gravity
  • Sound editing: Gravity
  • Visual effects: Gravity
  • Animated short: Get a Horse!
  • Documentary short: The Lady in Number 6
  • Live action short: Helium

My primary sources were GoldDerby and Awards Daily.

Oscar® Predictions for 2012

February 24, 2013

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2012:

  • Picture: Argo
  • Director: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
  • Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
  • Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
  • Supporting actor: Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook
  • Supporting actress: Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables
  • Original screenplay: Django Unchained
  • Adapted screenplay: Argo
  • Cinematography: Life of Pi
  • Editing: Argo
  • Animated feature: Wreck-It Ralph
  • Documentary feature: Searching for Sugar Man
  • Foreign language feature: Amour (Austria)
  • Production design: Anna Karenina
  • Costumes: Anna Karenina
  • Makeup: The Hobbit
  • Score: Life of Pi
  • Song: “Skyfall” from Skyfall
  • Sound mixing: Les Misérables
  • Sound editing: Skyfall
  • Visual effects: Life of Pi
  • Animated short: Paperman
  • Documentary short: Open Heart
  • Live action short: Curfew

For the first time in 17 years, I have not seen all of the Best Picture nominees before the ceremony, though I have seen seven of the nine. My primary sources were Awards Daily and GoldDerby.