“The President has nothing but free time, Toby.”

Empire Online has an exhaustive and delightful retrospective up on The West Wing which is worth your time.

The closing quote is from Sorkin:

During one of our monthly cast lunches in the first season, Brad Whitford said, “No matter what we do from here on out, this show is the first line of our obits.” Martin, who was in Apocalypse Now, said, “I’m good with that”. Me too.

If you don’t have time for the whole thing (it’s long), DO make time for the 15 Things You Didn’t Know, which is fun despite the clickbaity headline.

VIGOROUSLY TOUCH FLIPPERS

If you have not seen last Sunday’s Simpsons Couch Gag, well, here’s your chance. It’s very, very weird and wonderful:

The onscreen text is brilliant:

AMUSEMENT IS CONTROL

HAIL HAIL MOON GOD WATCH WATCH YES YES

PUT IN THE EYE HOLE GROW LIKE PLANT

BEAM EPASODE NOW INTO EXO-SKULLS AND VIGOROUSLY TOUCH FLIPPERS

CONSUME NOW CONSUME IT RUB IT ON YOUR FLIPPERS

ALL ANIMALS CAN SCREAM

More Dana Gould on Robin Williams

From this Rolling Stone piece, which you should read all of:

This is another lesson you need to learn if you desire to go beyond just coping, if actual happiness is one of your goals. In fact, not long ago, I was sitting in the kitchen of a fellow comedian where I saw a sign that brought that point home. It sat atop his cabinets, and read, “Forget What You Want, Look At What You Have.” I remember thinking that this man, who had a career like no one could ever hope to dream of, stand-up success, sitcom success, movie stardom, he’d even won an Oscar, and yet, he was humble, gracious, sincere, caring. He knew where happiness lay. He, who had so much, still knew what was important and what was not. “This guy,” I thought, “he’s really got it together.”

I miss him.

Dept. of Extraordinary Films

Last night, Mrs Heathen and I went to see Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s awesome, high-wire act of a film, with some friends of ours. You probably know by now that he started shooting the story of Mason in 2002, when Mason (and the obviously unknown Ellar Coltrane who plays him) was six years old. The shooting continued, a few weeks every year, until 2013, which allowed Mason, his sister (played by Linklater’s own daughter), and his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) to age onscreen honestly and genuinely. Watching Mason grow and mature from scene is amazing and thrilling, but is balanced by the changes we see in Arquette (34 in 2002; 46 today) and Hawk (32 to 42) as they shift into middle age.

Stunts like this on film (or stage) can be interesting from a technical perspective, but fail when measured by more conventional means. That doesn’t happen here. What Linklater has done is absolutely amazing: it’s an astounding feat of logistics and focus over time, obviously, but also a film of stunning beauty, honesty, and grace. Of course, “real” aging on screen has been done in other ways, including within Linklater’s own filmography. The comparisons to Apted’s “Up” series are inevitable, and the film itself nods to another pop culture phenomenon with similar themes — but in all those examples, we’ve been obliged to wait out the clock in real time. Here, Mason literally grows up right in front of us in less than three hours, with no special effects or other trickery. It’s an incredible and unprecedented thing elevated even further by being, at its core, a great coming of age story (except it’s not just Mason’s; it’s the coming of age of his family, too).

The Guardian’s review is worth your time. Watch the videos. Then see this film. We may see it again, even.

(Oh, amusing note: Ellar Coltrane was born right about the time I moved to Houston in 1994.)

Because of course they are, and of course Will Ferrell is involved

A week or so ago, BoingBoing reminded us all of Manimal, a short-lived 1983 TV show — starring Simon MacCorkindale, which is a name I’d otherwise swear was made up — about a man with the power to turn into any animal (as long as it was a hawk or a panther, because budgets).

Inevitably, he used the power to solve crimes. Also inevitably, as they scheduled it against ratings juggernaut Dallas, it lasted only eight episodes. (Manimal and a few other similiarly short-lived 80s adventure shows were the subject of a large Metafilter post back in May, if’n you want to dig deeper.)

Now it turns out that, no word of it a lie, a revival film starting Will Ferrell is in development. Sadly, it appears my friend Chris’ proposed spinoff, “Maneril”, about a man who can change into any mineral, still languishes in development hell. Also, because I am a terrible person, I will point out that the otherwise brilliant idea for a fan-service MacCorkindale cameo in the film is unworkable due to his untimely death in 2010.

That settles it: True Blood is finishing strong

I said, earlier in the week on Twitter, that

Say what you will about TrueBlood sharkjumping, but Ted Cruz, “Republicunt,” and the T2 reference make me forgive a whole lot.

I can expand here, for funzies and setup:

Two characters — Eric and Pam — have to go undercover to a Republican fundraiser in Dallas for Ted Cruz (whom they NAME) while seeking an enemy (Sarah Newlin) for last-minute revenge.

Pam’s been given some of the best lines for years, but knocks it out of the park with her reaction to her sparkly and tacky gown: “Look at me; I’m a Republicunt!”

So I was happy, for sure, but it just got better when the director staged the surprise confrontation between Eric and Sarah in a “back of the house” corridor of whatever facility they were supposed to be in such that it was, almost shot for shot, a brilliant homage to Terminator 2‘s twin hallway sequences (in the mall, in the first confrontation between Arnie and the T-1000; and more specifically in the loonie bin when Sarah goes from running full tilit to an almost cartoon backpedal when Arnie comes around the corner). Robert Patrick, who played the T-1000, is a cast member on True Blood, which makes it even more fun.

But wait; there’s more!

Imagine my ecstasy this morning, then, to discover that Ted Cruz has been whining about being name-checked on the show!

Look, if you’re gonna bag on Republicans, Dallas, and Ted Cruz; coin the term “Republicunt;” insert homages to iconic SF films; AND get called out by real-life Republican assholes for doing it, as far as I’m concerned you can do no wrong. Nice going, TB!

Fortunately, the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal are all MUCH OLDER than we are.

Apparently, today, March 24, 2014, is the 30th anniversary of the day depicted in The Breakfast Club.

(The title is a lie. While Estevez, Sheedy (both born in 1962) and Nelson (1959!) definitely are, Hall and Ringwald were born in 1968, i.e. only two years before the Official Heathen Birth Year. As the film came out in 1986, this means the athlete and the basket case were 24, and the criminal was 27 — but at least the other two were roughly high school age, if you squinted a little.)

THE INTENSE OCCULT TRAINING THROUGH D&D PREPARED DEBBIE TO ACCEPT THE INVITATION TO ENTER A WITCHES’ COVEN

Back in the 1980s, when Dungeons and Dragons was fairly young, it was frequently attacked by religious nutjobs (along with pop music, dancing, etc.) as a gateway to the occult, or at least something likely to brainwash your kid into believing he really was an adventurer!

Today, this sounds kind of bizarre, but it really was a Thing. Two pieces of pop culture ephemera survive to tell the tale: Rona Jaffee’s terrible 1981 novel Mazes and Monsters, which was turned into an equally bad made-for-TV movie starring Tom Hanks a year later; and the inevitable Jack Chick tract first published in 1984, “Dark Dungeons“.

Seriously, take a minute and click through to read the TERRIBLE TALE of an innocent young co-ed seduced into the occult via polyhedral dice and graph paper!

Don’t you sort of wish there was MORE to the tale? Well, wish no more, gentle heathen, because someone’s turned that tract into a movie — with Chick’s blessing, amazingly.

Here’s the trailer.

(H/T: MeFi.)

Because a movie studio could fuck up a wet dream, that’s why

Faced with amazing fan response, uncontestable financial success, and unprecedented goodwill following the Kickerstar-backed Veronica Mars movie, Warner Bros. managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by completely ruining the digital download of the film they’d promised the Kickstarter backers.

The movie came out last week to very good reviews… but leave it to Warner Bros. to totally muck it up, screw over the goodwill from all those backers and scare people off from such future collaborations. That’s because one of the popular tiers promised supporters that they would get a digital download of the movie within days of it opening. But, of course, this is a major Hollywood studio, and due to their irrational fear of (oh noes!) “piracy” they had to lock things down completely. That means that backers were shunted off to a crappy and inconvenient service owned by Warner Bros called Flixster, which very few people use, and then forced to use Hollywood’s super hyped up but dreadful DRM known as UltraViolet.

Nice job, fuckheads.

My friend Chris Mohney is doing something interesting

PLAY will be a short film about childhood, playtime, and that sort of secret world we all lost when we grew up. Chris and his partner will rpoduce the footage using a dozen GoPro cameras strapped to a dozen children who are then turned loose in a New York playground. It sounds like a punchline, but it really does work — he’s got a little sample up on his Tumblr, shot from his son’s perspective. It’s immersive and cool, and the idea of having a broader pool of such footage to work from is pretty fascinating.

There is, inevitably, a Kickstarter to make the whole thing real. The goal is modest ($24K), and they’re almost 10% of the way there. Help ‘em out, if you’ve got a little extra in your pocket.

Are you watching *True Detective* on HBO?

Because, brother, if you’re not, you’re not living right. Only four episodes in, and this show is on a pace to be one of the best things ever on television.

Last night, the fourth episode of the thus-far-very-talky drama ended with a 6+ minute tracking shot — i.e., almost 7 minutes with no cuts or edits — that is, all by itself, the best action sequence I’ve seen in years.

No idea how long it’ll be up, but as of right now it’s on YouTube. Be aware this it’s basically one long spoiler, so stay away if you plan on catching up. A similarly spoilery recap is up at IndieWire, which includes HBO’s “behind the ep” feature free of HBO’s frankly awful web site. There’s another solid bit of discussion over at AV Club, naturally.

Just Ella

This short film (5-ish minutes) is pretty great. From the description:

“Just Ella” posits a future overrun by gibbering monstrosities. Ella takes refuge in a “the Ossington Safehouse, a collectively-run space dedicated to human sovereignty.” But despite doing the assigned tasks on the chore list, the Safehouse isn’t safe — the terrors outside are nothing compared to those within.

Contains perhaps the first cinematic example of autocomplete used for a dramatic reveal.

Widely linked, but I saw it over at JWZ’s place.

Dept. of Great Men Passing

Arthur Rankin, Jr. passed away at the end of January. He was 89.

With partner Jules Bass, Mr Rankin formed one of the most influential animation studios of his era; you know their work even if you don’t know their names. It was Rankin/Bass that gave us Rudolph, for example (the special will celebrate its 50th anniversary, by the way, this coming Christmas).

There’s a MeFi post worth your time, if you’re interested.

Mmm, crypto-Whedon

I came across this trailer a few minutes ago, for a rom-com (otherwise forgettable, I suspect) starting Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods, Much Ado About Nothing) and Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse).

The trailer includes Felicia Day plus a good chunk of the cast of Dollhouse, so I went over to IMDB, expecting to see that it was written or directed or produced by the guy who usually drives this particular company… and yet, no.

Interesting.

“You need a little bit of larceny in your heart to get a film made.”

This oral history of Swingers is pretty damn fantastic. They made it themselves, for almost no money (in film terms, anyway), as a labor of love, and somehow it turned into a cultural phenomenon.

Oh, and launched or boosted the careers of several folks, as it happens. I hadn’t realized, for example, that the director Doug Limon, went on to do the Bourne films, largely on the strength of Swingers.