Fri Aug 14 2020 13:48 July Film Roundup:
As countries I don't live in get the coronavirus under control, National Theatre and the weird musical channel have both died down, so our household is back to watching movies. Also I've been real busy with work and the Situation Normal proofread, so this Roundup goes well into August. Any concerns? Let me direct you to this humorous painted-script sign I have hanging on my wall: "My Blog, My Rules!" Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go "Live, Laugh, Love!"
- Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1999) - Back in May I said I regretted missing it the first time it was made available through Youtube, so all I can say now is the grass is always greener. Jesus Christ Superstar is way better. There are some good anachronistic gags here, but I think a lot of the enjoyment of this musical comes from nostalgic memories of the high school production where you played Asher and the butler.
- Amadeus (2017) - We loved this INCREDIBLY FICTIONALIZED story of someone with way more taste than talent. I gotta stress this is FICTIONALIZED, based on romantic myths about Mozart and his death, and apparently none of it happened this way. But what an archetype is created in this play. Great to watch.
Reading about this afterwards I'm glad I saw the play instead of the movie, because the movie introduces a bunch of additional plot elements that doesn't really matter. It won Best Picture, so I guess they know what they're doing?
- Psych 2: Lassie Come Home (2020): Fun for Psych fans, no reason to watch the movie otherwise. Except: let's say one of the actors in your ensemble cast suffers a stroke after the TV show has wrapped. The easy path would be to write them out of the made-for-streaming sequel movies, or else bring in someone else to play the character. Instead, Psych 2 is a film entirely about the character's stroke and its aftermath. This is another way in which Psych feels more like the product of a close-knit team than other shows. Another way is the constant in-joking and bringing back characters who died in season 4, which I'm kind of tired of.
- Christmas in Connecticut (1945): Apparently this film made boffo box office because it was released three days before V-J day. When everyone wanted to celebrate by going to the movies, this is the movie there was to see. Barbara Stanwyck is fun as always, and the scamtastic setup is fun, but the male lead is kinda Zeppo-ish and for the sake of variety I was rooting for the coded-gay architect who's just looking for a beard. (She picks Zeppo.) There was also a little subplot about hostility between different waves of American immigrants which I thought was interesting but didn't go anywhere.
This could definitely be remade as a Hallmark Christmas movie -- look at the super-white title! -- and in fact it was remade in 1992. Today it would be about an Instagram influencer, I guess.
- The Bride Walks Out (1936): Stanwyck-mania continues! Not a great film, although it kind of feels like a trial run for I Love Lucy: wacky neighbors, wife wants to work outside the home. Zeppo would be an improvement over the guy in this movie; he seems to actually dislike his wife and think of her as a burden. So why bother? Maybe it made more sense under Depression-era gender roles. Actually you know what this really reminds me of is Fig Leaves (1926), with the modelling wife and the misogynistic business partner.
Some good one-liners and a surprising amount of unnecessary vaudeville schtick. It's always fun to see a dramatization of the office in New York's City Hall where Sumana and I got our license.
- Door Ke Darshan (2020): An uninspiring Bollywood remake of one of our favorite films, Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) Not just another film with the same idea--they clearly copied some of the shots, reminding us of how powerful/funny those shots were in the original and how they're not those things here. The setup here is totally implausible, which primes us for comedy much wackier than is appropriate to the story. And we don't even get the wacky comedy! Despite the superior videography capabilities of 2019 India vis-a-vis 1989 East Germany, the characters in this movie are only able to muster one fake broadcast.
Rather than go on and on I'll present you with the result of our post-movie fix-it discussion: you can make an Indian version of Good Bye, Lenin!, but it needs to be set in 1947, with Mom a big booster of the Raj. Not in the cards for a low-budget picture like this.
During the fix-it discussion we were brainstorming other big world events that could provide the backdrop for a similar movie.
S: She could be in a coma through the Russian Revolution.
L: Yeah, call it Hello, Lenin!
I'm here all week! Because I can't go anywhere and there's nowhere to go!
(1) Fri Aug 21 2020 10:16 Presenting AT NASFiC:
Today at Columbus NASFiC 2020 I'm giving what is hopefully the definitive edition of my talk "How Game Titles Work". It had to wait until 2020, because the ultimate game title that proves all my crackpot theories wasn't released until last year. But now we should be good!
The talk starts at 2:00 PM Eastern time and you can watch it online for free. Because there's a lot of text on the slides, I'm making sure to put up a PDF of my slides before the talk, so you can follow along. After the talk I'll work on an HTML version with a transcript.
Later tonight, at 9:30 PM Eastern, I'll be giving a prerecorded reading of two unpublished flash pieces. Hope to see you there! (In the Discord.)
(2) Tue Aug 25 2020 23:07 Hundred Dollar Brain:
I just finished Len Deighton's 1966 computer-age thriller Billion Dollar Brain and unfortunately must report that it's much less computery than I'd hoped. Deighton wrote an excellent alt-history, SS-GB, so I'd been hoping for some retro SF or at least sciency fiction, but in this novel the titular Brain is naught but a minor piece of set dressing, to the extent that I kind of want to write the spy novel that seemed to be taking shape and which would have been really groundbreaking had Deighton gone there.
Basically, if you're using a computer with a telephonic voice interface to run a privately-funded spy ring in 1966, there's no guarantee the individual actions of your agents add up to what you're trying to do. You're incredibly vulnerable to the ELIZA effect. Someone else could be using your computer and your agents to run their own spy ring! (Again, this is not what happens in Billion Dollar Brain.)
I will reproduce the most technically sophisticated paragraph in the book, since it's clear Deighton at least talked to someone who knows computers and I like to see that rewarded:
"I don't want to bore you," Harvey said, "but you should understand that these heaps of wire can practically think — linear programming — which means that instead of going through all the alternatives they have a hunch which is the right one. What's more, almost none of them work by binary notation — the normal method for computers — because that's just yes/no stuff. (If you can only store yeses and noes it takes seven punch holes to record the number ninety-nine.) These machines use tiny chips of ceramic which store electricity. They store any amount from one to nine. That's why — for what it does — this whole set-up is so small.
No, please, bore me!
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