Seven from ’10.

In honor of the Oscar nominations announced on Tuesday, I thought I’d finally write up my “Best Movies of 2010” list.

But, first, a few thoughts on the Oscars…

Turning art into a competition is pointless. And the Oscars are probably more about popularity than art, anyway. That said, I like that the Oscar hype can shine a light on smaller movies. For example, since it is now a “Best Picture” nominee, maybe 127 Hours will finally make it to a movie theater in Birmingham, Alabama.

I also seem to be “up” on the Oscars more than usual this year. I’ve seen nine of the ten “Best Picture” nominees and all of the “Best Cinematography” contenders. There’s plenty of good stuff in both categories. If I were pulling for anybody, it’d be True Grit cinematographer Roger Deakins, who is way past due for Academy recognition.

Anyway, here are my favorite flicks released in 2010. Please note, the usual disclaimers (I didn’t see every movie that came out, these are just my personal favorites) apply…

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Maybe the most kinetic movie I’ve ever seen–this thing just moves. Charming cast, brilliant direction from Edgar Wright, amazing soundtrack… it’s a sweet, funny, unique movie, and it’s my pick for “Best Picture” of 2010.

Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers

Black Swan. It sucked me in an freaked me out. Darren Aronofsky made a movie that feels like a sister film to his Wrestler, but it’s even better. And much stranger.

True Grit. Another brilliant movie from the Coen Brothers? Not exactly surprising. But it’s nice to see one of their movies make a ton of money at the box office. I wonder if someone will let them make To the White Sea now. Oh, apparently not.

Splice. It’s like if Cronenberg made a Frankenstein movie. And it’s probably the most messed-up flick I’ve ever seen in a multiplex.

The Town. A crackerjack crime/suspense drama. With this movie and Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck has proven himself to be a heck of a director.

Easy A. Funny and charming post-John Hughes high school comedy.

How to Train Your Dragon. I would not have predicted that Dreamworks Animation would release a better movie than Pixar in 2010. But that’s what happened. Toy Story 3 is fine, but Dragon is better. I just hate I missed it at the theater.

A few honorable mentions: Megamind, Greenberg, Despicable Me, The Social Network, The King’s Speech.

Movie from 2010 on Netflix “Watch Instantly” that I need to at least “Watch ASAP”: Dogtooth.

Watched January 25…

I’ve been reading about how great Winter’s Bone is for months. Now that I’ve finally seen it, I don’t get the hype. I kind of hated it. Winter’s Bone has that Salt problem where the characters spend most of the movie behaving in ways that don’t make any sense. At least it’s well-photographed for the most part.

Also…

For any zombie-bargain hunters out there… Hide and Creep is going for less than seven bucks on Amazon at the moment. Oops… it went back up to $17.99 before I could publish this post.

Speaking of Hide… anybody else get DVD promotional emails from Amazon with the subject line “Amazon.com: Hide And Creep?” Or do they just send those to me for some reason?

Honda Element accessories. I think I need to get a roof rack before the Delicate Cutters play another out-of-town gig. Or maybe a trailer hitch.

Something else that would make gigging out easier: Nesting drum kits! They’re pricey though.

Speaking of drums… Groove wedge? TomBourine?

This is about my speed: old-school video games at GOG.com. Too bad the stuff there is Windows-only. But I guess I’d be willing to dual-boot the iMac to play a little Zork. (via Chris)

This made me laugh out loud. Literally. The State of the Web, Winter 2010. (via Wade)

Will Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein cut the f*** out of The King’s Speech? (via Roger Ebert)

Well, no, I don’t need a new stills camera. But this digital shooter from Fujifilm looks retro-tastic.

Two guys versus a computer? On Jeopardy? I’m getting a nerd John Henry vibe.

Oh. So this is how you get the CSS “max-width” property to work in stupid Internet Explorer…

p {
border:1px solid red;
max-width:800px;
width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 800? “800px”: “auto” );
}

Have a good weekend. (And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.)


Hello, Portland!

Any readers in the Portland, Maine, area will have a cool opportunity to see Interplanetary a month before its official DVD release.

Interplanetary in Portland, ME

Mr. Kevin Leavitt has organized a screening of the movie February 8th at Geno’s Rock Club in Portland. Admission is 21 and up. And free! And the latest Crewless short, Monster Hunt with James and Kevin, will also be shown. There’s additional info on the Facebooks.

If you attend the screening, do me a favor and thank Kevin for supporting indie monster movies.

Also…

Ha! The Wikipedia listing for “Thorsby, Alabama,” has a whole section (“Movies based in Thorsby”) dedicated to Hide and Creep.

This might be fun: inexpensive helicopter cam! (via Andrew)

Damn. Accessories for the AT899 lavalier mic are expensive.

Elvis Mitchell interviews talented and affable animator Bill Plympton (MTV’s Liquid Television, Idiots and Angels) on The Treatment.

Walter Murch, who knows more about cinema than most people, explains why 3D movies don’t work and never will.

Is Clerks director Kevin Smith full of shit? (Sadly, the answer appears to be “yes.”)

Cross your fingers, everybody–footage from an unfinished Orson Welles movie might get released (relatively) soon.

I love this stuff: theoretical physics interview (including parallel universes!) with scientist/author Brian Greene on NPR’s Fresh Air.


Commentary fun.

I’m hoping to release a series of bonus commentary tracks as podcasts to promote the Interplanetary DVD release (March 15! Pre-order today!). In case, you know, people just can’t get enough of me and various special guests talking about our little Mars movie. I jumped in head-first today, setting up a bunch of gear in my living room so I could record myself plus Zachary Kelley, who writes about movies at the excellent Lightning Bug’s Lair.

The trick was getting Zachary recorded, as he was home in South Carolina at the time. My plan was to record his stuff via Skype, as explained here. That didn’t seem to work for me, so I decided to just use the computer for the Skype part and send the audio out to my handy Zoom H4n audio recorder. Even that method was tricky–I think using my Focusrite FireWire audio interface for this was overkill, but it’s the only thing I had handy to get a decent-quality mic into my iMac.

Podcast recording setup

Zachary was using a USB mic on his end, and I think the overall sound quality is pretty solid. And it was great talking to Mr. Kelley on the phone after corresponding with him over email for the last couple of years. Today’s podcast (and, hopefully, three more) will be released shortly after Interplanetary is available on home video.

Also…

This looks cool: Iomega’s “Personal Cloud”. Best I can tell, it lets you use your home internet connection to set up your own Dropbox-type service. It’s supposed to be available soon.

If you’ve seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?), you remember “Black Sheep,” the showstopping number by The Clash at Demonhead. “Black Sheep” wasn’t recorded for the movie–it’s actually a song by the Canadian band Metric. My pal Whitney played another Metric song on her show on BlazeRadio Friday, and it blew me away. But don’t take my word for it… check out “Monster Hospital” for yourself.

John (Interplanetary producer, culinary genius, IT ronin) mentioned this Mac app, Coda, which promises “text editor + file transfer + svn + css + terminal + books + more.” Looks nice, but a little pricey considering how much HTML coding I do in OS X (not much). While researching Coda, though, I came across Komodo, a free app for OS X that does text editing and file transfer (just about perfect for my needs).

If this happens, it’ll be like we’re all living in a science fiction story: Two Suns? Twin Stars Could Be Visible From Earth By 2012. Unfortunately, it’s more likely not to happen anytime soon.


New year, new blog.

I started writing about my movie Interplanetary (and other stuff) at “Everybody on Mars is Dead” in 2007. I never intended for that to be my permanent blog, but as production and post-production on Interplanetary went on about three years longer than originally expected… well, it basically became my permanent blog.

But, as I wrote on Tuesday, Interplanetary is finally done. And it’s a new year (and a new decade), so I thought I’d start a new blog.

Welcome to “Tacos and Beer.”

tacos and beer

I’ll continue to write about Interplanetary, of course, but as that movie makes its way into the world, I expect the bulk of my posts here will be about other projects–some movie-related, some non-movie-related (for example, my band Delicate Cutters has a new album coming out later this year on Skybucket). And I’ll be writing about my pop culture obsessions (movies I didn’t make, TV, and gadgets, to name a few).

In case anybody is curious, I’m calling the blog “Tacos and Beer” because…

  1. Interplanetary producer John White’s post-wrap rallying cry was often “Tacos and beer!” (We showed up at Rojo many times with fake blood on our hands.)
  2. This will be a blog about things I like, and I like tacos and beer.

To ease the transition from “Everybody on Mars is Dead,” and to front-load the new blog with some content, I went ahead and copied all of the 2011 “Everybody…” posts to “Tacos and Beer.”

One more note: many thanks to Chris Hilleke for taking the photo of me that I used for the “Tacos and Beer” header banner.

Watched on January 17…

Take a relatively obscure story about England’s King George VI, tell it with first-class actors and bold, exciting cinematography, and you get The King’s Speech. You also get a movie that’s a “crowd-pleaser” in the best sense of the phrase.

Also…

New Interplanetary reviews! Here’s one from SexGoreMutants and one from 10kBullets.com.

And here’s a KillerReviews.com podcast that features a very in-depth (and positive) Interplanetary review. The Interplanetary stuff starts around the 24:50 mark.

And you can now “like” Interplanetary on Facebook.

Get power for your USB devices straight from the wall with FastMac’s U-Socket.

Very handy font resource for web designers.

I updated my About.Me page after seeing what a good job Laurel did with hers.

Should you work for free? Probably not. (via Coldewey.cc)


It’s really happening.

As far as I’m concerned, a movie’s not really done until it is available for pre-order on DVD at Amazon.com.

Well, my friends, Interplanetary is done.

Interplanetary DVD listing at Amazon.com

That Amazon link is pretty bare at this point. There is significantly more info about Interplanetary at our distributor’s website.

A few notes…

  • Looks like our flick is being released by Shock-O-Rama Cinema, not Camp Motion Pictures as I’ve written previously.
  • The commentary track also features producers Stacey Shirley and John White.
  • Aspect ratio is actually 1.85:1 (which is so close to 1.78:1, I don’t know if anyone will notice the difference).
  • Region 0! Playable worldwide, baby!

Interplanetary page at Shock-O-Rama Cinema's website

Be the first kid on your block to own an official Interplanetary DVD… pre-order yours today!

Also…

If you’d rather not deal with Amazon.com or the distributor, Interplanetary is available for pre-order at Buy.com, CD Universe, and DVD Empire.

Fangoria has done a little online coverage of Interplanetary here and here.

And, lastly but not least-ly, here’s a positive review from DVD Verdict!


… A Movie of Facebook?

Watched on January 13…

The recently-released Social Network Blu-ray and DVD sets include the excellent feature-length making-of documentary, How Did They Ever Make a Movie of Facebook? The only problem… from what I can tell, it isn’t available for rental at Blockbuster, Redbox, or Netflix.

Still, it’s well worth tracking down for students of filmmaking and David Fincher fans. I bought the Blu from Amazon just to watch the doc. After I lend it out to any interested parties, maybe I’ll sell it on eBay.

Watched January 15…

Not as classy or in-depth, but worth a look for fans of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, is the unfortunately-titled The Second Uncanny Issue of X-Men! Making X2. I just noticed this hour-long making-of doc was included on the X-Men 2 two-disc DVD set that I’ve had for years. There are several other behind-the-scenes featurettes on that set, including an enlightening “multi-angle study” of X2‘s Nightcrawler-Attacks-the-White-House opening scene.

Watched January 16…

There’s not much left to say about the Harry Potter movies at this point. After seven of them, the mythology has gotten a little too convoluted for my taste. And I’m still annoyed they killed off Sirius Black in… whichever flick it was that happened.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is another solid entry in the series. Well, half an entry (Part 2 arrives later this year), but Part 1 ends on a decent enough cliffhanger (just don’t go in expecting Han Solo frozen in carbonite or anything).

Also…

Get your week off to a great start with the trailer for a new John Carpenter movie!

How did I miss this? A new version of Handbrake (best free OS X video transcoder of all time!) was released earlier this month. And Firefox 4 Beta is now available.

This is one of the best Blu-ray covers/cases I’ve ever seen:

It’s the Social Network Blu-ray case. Not sure if you can tell from this photo (taken with the iPhone in low light, sorry), but it’s black with the movie’s tagline embossed on it. It forgoes the usual floating heads… heck, it forgoes the title of the movie. Kind of reminds me of the old Beatles “White Album” LPs.

I want to try this out at some point: Recording a Skype Call for a Podcast for Free (Mac).

This looks simple enough: Escape from “web-safe” fonts using CSS.

The real problem with Google’s Android phone OS. And the problem with Facebook.

Wow. If this is true, the screen resolution of the next iPad will be 2048×1536. That’s a lot of pixels! (via Dwight Silverman’s excellent TechBlog)


The Making of Star Wars.

When I was a young science fiction fan, way back in the 1970s, I thought Star Wars was just about the coolest thing ever. But it lived mostly in my mind. Since this was a time before VCRs became ubiquitous (never mind DVD players), the only way to see any relatively current movie was to make a trek to an actual movie theater. Star Wars had a long first run and a few theatrical re-releases. But I grew up in a rural area an hour away from the nearest movie theater, so I “only” got to see Star Wars three or four times.

I had some of the Star Wars toys and a well-read Marvel comic book adaptation of the film, and I’d occasionally find some kind of Star Wars-related book or magazine at the grocery store. All that stuff was nice, but, again, it was leaving a lot to my imagination. So I was thrilled when I learned about a Making of Star Wars TV special that would air in late 1977 (I seem to remember it being on CBS, though Wikipedia says it was on ABC). I probably checked the TV Guide repeatedly to make sure I had the correct date and time, then I sat down in front of the television, hoped for good reception (we were so rural we didn’t have cable), and watched the special live as it aired (no one in those days could have even dreamed about Tivo).

And I think that’s the only time I ever saw The Making of Star Wars. I believe it was issued on VHS as some kind of giveaway in the mid-1990s, but I never got a copy. Even having only seen it once, I still remember a couple of things about that special: C-3PO and R2-D2 were the “hosts,” and there was footage of an in-camera lightsaber effect–basically a stick covered with some kind of reflective material. And, of course, the special featured plenty of footage from the original movie, which I was more than happy to see in my own living room.

Now I have more Star Wars than I need. I have it on VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD. Heck, I think there’s a digital copy on my phone. And I still think Star Wars (the original version–don’t get me started on the “special” edition) is a fantastic film. But it’s not as special as it was back in the late 70s, when I couldn’t watch it whenever I wanted to, when seeing Star Wars on a screen, be it big or small, was an event.

If you’d like to watch the Making Of special that initiated all of this nostalgia, check out this GeekTyrant.com post. Hopefully the powers-that-be won’t file a copyright claim and have the video banned from the Internet. Better yet, maybe the whole thing will get remastered and show up on the inevitable Star Wars Blu-ray set.

Also…

Want even more behind-the-scenes Star Wars info? Check out this book: The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film.

Directors Joel and Ethan Coen discuss True Grit, one of the best movies of 2010, on NPR’s Fresh Air.

The iPhone is finally going to be available on a network other than AT&T. After years of rumors, the official announcement earlier this week struck me as anti-climatic. Jon Stewart, however, seems pretty excited.

You can watch Quentin Tarantino’s unfinished first film, My Best Friend’s Birthday, on YouTube.

And you can turn your real electric guitar into a Rock Band MIDI controller. (via Paul in the UK)

Last Exit to Nowhere has a new Escape from New York shirt.

Looks like the web video format fight is heating up as Google drops H.264 support from its Chrome browser. I’m okay with any kind of web video as long as it ain’t Windows Media Video.

Get website traffic info and more at Alexa.com.

Like Andrew says, “All that anyone cares about is how good the CGI is.”

When Kinder Surprise eggs are outlawed, only outlaws will have Kinder Surprise eggs. (via Stacey)