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.


“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.

“How many films did Roger Corman make and never release? ONE.”

In the middle 1990s, some folks who’d optioned the rights to The Fantastic Four from Marvel had a problem. They’d not yet been able to secure proper financing for a film, and their option was set to expire if no film was made.

The solution? Make a hideous adaptation for almost no money — and then never release it. Of course, you can’t TELL the cast and crew that the film is destined for oblivion…

It’s that wrinkle — plus the inevitable leaks — that make the 1994 film notable enough to spawn a documentary. I saw the movie at a convention years ago, and holy hell is it ever bad, but I can’t wait to see this doc.

(Sure, they eventually made a big budget version and a sequel, but I’m not altogether convinced that either is actually any better than this one. While the bigger-budget FF movies made money, they were savaged by the critics, and rightly so. Consequently, the modern cinematic FF has not been even hinted at in the Marvel Cinematic Universe despite a history of overlap in the comics. It’s probably better this way, though, because otherwise they’d have to figure out a way to address why Captain America looks so much like the Human Torch.)

Grandpa Walton, Progressive Hero

The actor Will Geer was an icon in the 1970s because of his late-life success (and acclaim) playing Grandpa Walton, but (as with most folks in their 70s), he did quite a bit of living before that point.

Today, I found myself at his Wikipedia page. Go give it a read. Geer, a lifelong progressive, had quite a story — between organizing for labor, getting blacklisted, touring with folk singers in the 30s, introducing Woody Guthrie to Pete Seeger, etc. You know, normal stuff.

Turns out, he also inspired a character in a Richard Yates novel.

Merry Christmas from the Doctor, Romana, and K9

The presence of Mary Tamm marks this as, most likely, Christmas 1978. The slightly more iconic and long-lasting regeneration of Romana was, of course, played by Lalla Ward after Tamm left the role in 1979.

Ward married Tom Baker towards the end of her run, but it didn’t last (ah, “showmance“). She’s been married to Richard Dawkins since 1992.

Tamm, sadly, is one of the few companions as yet promoted to the Choir Invisible. She died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 62.

If you don’t control it, you don’t own it.

Disney proved that this holiday season by retroactively removing access to Christmas specials that were purchased for use via Amazon last year. More at the Guardian:

Disney’s Prep & Landing, a Christmas special first aired in 2009, has been available for customers to rent and buy on Amazon’s Instant Video service since Christmas 2011, when its sequel was aired and also uploaded.

For $2.99, customers could purchase the video, which Amazon’s site says lets them: “watch and re-watch it as often as you like… You may stream a purchased video while connected to the internet and access the video from Your Video Library on any other compatible device. You may also download the video.”

Now, though, the company has removed access to both episodes of Prep & Landing, not only preventing new customers buying or renting the show, but also preventing those who have already paid – under the promise that they could “re-watch it as often” as they like – from doing so.

That Amazon provided a credit is of little consequence; the fact that Disney pretended to “sell” this person a copy that, it turns out, they could deactivate at will is the problem.

Don’t go in for this kind of bullshit. Buy an unencumbered copy, which usually means a physical one. And, honestly, fuck Disney. They’ve proved over and over that they are an evil company, and do not deserve your love, your dollars, or your support.


There’s a seven minute prequel available now, ahead of the special next week.

The Doctor featured in it isn’t Matt Smith. Or Peter Capaldi. Or John Hurt.

I’ll say no more. Go. Watch.

The most disappointing fact I learned today

Basically, it’s probably not possible to get enough Ricin into a single Stevia packet to ensure lethality in a 125 pound victim.

While staggeringly lethal when inhaled or injected — like, less than 2 milligrams for the average adult human — Ricin is WAY less toxic when eaten. You need 30-40 milligrams per kilogram, which works out for about 2 and a quarter grams.

Stevia packets are light; they contain only a gram of the sweetener. I can see doubling the weight and not tipping your mark, but slipping in more than 225% additional weight to a single packet strikes me as troublesome to the point of implausible.

Oh well.

We are SO fucked

George R. R. Martin is apparently a big Breaking Bad fan.

The man who gave us Walder Frey, the Lannisters, and fucking Joffrey (plus all manner of as-yet-unseen vileness) believes that Walter White is a worse monster than anyone or anything in his books.

And so he’s apparently setting out to top him.

A bit on the Bechdel

The Bechdel Test is a means to get a reasonable guess as to the treatment of women in any given movie. To pass it, a movie must

  • Have at least two named, female characters
  • Who talk to each other
  • About something other than a man.

That seems really simple, but it’s shocking how few films actually pass it.

However, it’s also very important to note that failing it doesn’t make the movie bad, or even suggest that the movie treats women as decoration. As a friend of mine noted, the Bechdel Test is sort of like the BMI for movies: superficially useful, but a crappy way to measure the whole effort. The current poster child for this issue is Pacific Rim, which fails the Bechdel, but features a deeply fleshed out female character (Mako Mori) who has a distinct and independent narrative arc that isn’t dependent on a male character.

To address this, a new test — the Mako Mori Test — has been proposed. A film passes the MMT if it has

  • at least one female character
  • who gets her own narrative arc
  • that is not about supporting a man’s story.

It’s not quite as pithy — Bechdel was initially formulated as something like a joke pointing out how male-dominated film is — but it’s probably more accurate.

Birds of Prey Know They’re Cool

Tiny HD cameras have made high-quality video way easier to do; what these guys capture would impossible without it.

What is it? Oh, just point-of-view footage of a falcon diving at 200MPH+ to snag a duck from above. Taken with a camera mounted on the falcon’s back.

Link fixed.